Issue #33 Editor: Dennis McKinsey


Sept. 1985


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A national periodical focusing on Biblical errors, contradictions, and fallacies, while providing a hearing for apologists

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COMMENTARY

Did Jesus Exist (Part Two of a Two-Part Series)-- Except for Josephus probably no writer of antiquity has been more relied upon by apologists to prove the existence of Jesus than the Roman historian, Tacitus. In the Annals he related the measures taken by Nero to lessen the suffering brought about by the great fire in Rome in 64 A.D. as well as remove its traces and, then allegedly made the following statements: "But neither the aid of man, nor the liberality of the prince, nor the propitiations of the gods succeeded in destroying the belief that the fire had been purposely lit. In order to put an end to this rumor, therefore, Nero laid the blame on and visited with severe punishment those men, hateful for their crimes, whom the people called Christians. He from whom the name was derived, Christus, was put to death by the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. But the pernicious superstition, checked for a moment, broke out again, not only in Judea, the native land of the monstrosity, but also in Rome, to which all conceivable horrors and abominations flow from every side, and find supporters. First, therefore, those were arrested who openly confessed; then, on their information, a great number, who were not so much convicted of the fire as of hatred of the human race. Ridicule was passed on them as they died; so that, clothed in skins of beasts, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or committed to the flames, and when the sun had gone down they were burned to light up the night. Nero had lent his garden for this spectacle, and gave games in the Circus, mixing with the people in the dress of a charioteer or standing in the chariot. Hence there was a strong sympathy for them, though they might have been guilty enough to deserve the severest punishment, on the ground that they were sacrificed, not to the general good, but to the cruelty of one man." (Annals XV, 44). The number of problems associated with this paragraph are almost too numerous to mention: (1) It is extremely improbable that a special report found by Tacitus had been sent earlier to Rome and incorporated into the records of the Senate, in regard to the death of a Jewish provincial, Jesus. The execution of a Nazareth carpenter would have been one of the most insignificant events conceivable among the movements of Roman history in those decades; it would have completely disappeared beneath the innumerable executions inflicted by Roman provincial authorities. For it to have been kept in any report would have been a most remarkable instance of chance. That the founder of Christianity was put to death under Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate must have been discovered in the same archive which, according to Tertullian, also said the sun was darkened at midday when Jesus died. (2) The phrase "multitudo ingens" which means "a great number" is opposed to all that we know of the spread of the new faith in Rome at the time. A vast multitude in 64 A.D.? There were not more than a few thousand Christians 200 years later. (3) Death by fire was not a form of punishment inflicted at Rome in the time of Nero. It is opposed to the moderate principles on which the accused were then dealt with by the State. The use of the Christians as "living torches," as Tacitus describes, and all the other atrocities that were committed against them, have little title to credence, and suggest an imagination exalted by reading stories of the later Christian martyrs. (4) The Roman authorities can have had no reason to inflict special punishment on the new faith. How could the non-initiated Romans know what were the concerns of a comparatively small religious sect, which was connected with Judaism and must have seemed to the impartial observer wholly identical with it. (5) Suetonius himself says that Nero showed the utmost indifference, even contempt in regard to religious sects. Even afterwards the Christians were not persecuted for their faith, but for political reasons, for their contempt of the Roman state and emperor, and as disturbers of the unity and peace of the empire. What reason, then can Nero have had to proceed against the Christians, hardly distinguishable from the Jews, as a new and criminal sect. (6) It is inconceivable that the followers of Jesus formed a community in the city at that time of sufficient importance to attract public attention and the ill-feeling of the people. (7) The victims could not have been given to the flames in the gardens of Nero, as Tacitus allegedly said. According to another account by Tacitus these gardens were the refuge of those whose homes had been burned and were full of tents and wooden sheds. It is hardly probable that Nero would have incurred the risk of a second fire by his living torches. (8) According to Tacitus, Nero was in Antium, not Rome, when the fire occurred. (9) The blood-curdling story about the frightful orgies of Nero reads like some Christian romance of the Dark Ages and not like Tacitus. Suetonius, while mercilessly condemning the reign of Nero, says that in his public entertainments Nero took particular care that no lives should be sacrificed, "not even those of condemned criminals." (10) It is highly unlikely that he mingled with the crowd and feasted his eyes on the ghastly spectacle. Tacitus tells us in his life of Agricola that Nero had crimes committed, but kept his own eyes off them. (11) Some authorities allege that the passage in Tacitus could not have been interpolated because his style of writing could not have been copied. But this argument is without merit since there is no "inimitable" style for the clever forger, and the more unususal, distinctive, and peculiar a style is, like that of Tacitus, the easier it is to imitate. Moreover, as far as the historicity of Jesus is concerned we are, perhaps, interested only in one sentence of the passage and that has nothing distinctively Tacitan about it. (12) Tacitus is assumed to have written this about 117 A.D., about 80 years after the death of Jesus, when Christianity was already an organized religion with a settled tradition. The gospels, or at least 3 of them, are supposed to have been in existence. Hence Tacitus might have derived his information about Jesus, if not directly from the gospels, indirectly from them by means of oral tradition. This is the view of Dupuis, who wrote: "Tacitus says what the legend said." In 117 A.D. Tacitus could only know about Christ by what reached him from Christian or intermediate circles. He merely reproduced rumors. (13) What does it matter whether or not Tacitus wrote this passage? He could only have received the information, a hundred years after the time, from people who had told it to others. It doesn't matter, therefore, whether or not the passage is genuine. (14) In no other part of his writings did Tacitus make the least allusion to "Christ" or "Christians." (15) Tacitus is also made to say that the Christians took their denomination from Christ which could apply to any of the so-called Christs who were put to death in Judea, including Christ Jesus. (16) The worshippers of the Sun-god Serapis were also called "Christians." Serapis or Osiris had a large following at Rome especially among the common people. (17) The expression "Christians" which Tacitus applies to the followers of Jesus, was by no means common in the time of Nero. Not a single Greek or Roman writer of the first century mentions the name. The Christians who called themselves Jessaeans, Nazoraeans, the Elect, the Saints, the Faithful, etc. were universally regarded as Jews. They observed the Mosaic law and the people could not distinguish them from the other Jews. The Greek word Christus (the anointed) for Messiah, and the derivative word, Christian, first came into use under Trajan in the time of Tacitus. Even then, however, the word Christus could not mean Jesus of Nazareth. All the Jews without exception looked forward to a Christus or Messiah. It is, therefore, not clear how the fact of being a "Christian" could, in the time of Nero or of Tacitus, distinguish the followers of Jesus from other believers in a Christus or Messiah. Not one of the gospels applies the name Christians to the followers of Jesus. It is never used in the New Testament as a description of themselves by the believers in Jesus. (18) Most scholars admit that the works of Tacitus have not been preserved with any degree of fidelity. (19) This passage which could have served Christian writers better than any other writing of Tacitus, is not quoted by any of the Christian Fathers. It is not quoted by Tertullian, though he often quoted the works of Tacitus. Tertullian's arguments called for the use of this passage with so loud a voice that his omission of it, if it had really existed, amounted to a violent improbability. (20) Eusebius in the 4th century cited all the evidence of Christianity obtained from Jewish and pagan sources but makes no mention of Tacitus. (21) This passage is not quoted by Clement of Alexandria who at the beginning of the 3rd century set himself entirely to the work of adducing and bringing together all the admissions and recognitions which pagan authors had made of the existence of Christ Jesus or Christians before his time. (22) Origen in his controversy with Celsus would undoubtedly have used it had it existed. (23) There is no vestige or trace of this passage anywhere in the world before the 15th century. Its use as part of the evidences of the Christian religion is absolutely modern. Although no reference whatever is made to it by any writer or historian, monkish or otherwise, before the 15th century (1468 A.D.), after that time it is quoted or referred to in an endless list of works. (24) The fidelity of the passage rests entirely upon the fidelity of one individual (first published in a copy of the annals of Tacitus in the year 1468 by Johannes de Spire of Venice who took his imprint of it from a single manuscript) who would have every opportunity and inducement to insert such an interpolation. (25) In all the Roman records there was to be found no evidence that Christ was put to death by Pontius Pilate. If genuine, such a sentence would be the most important evidence in pagan literature. How could it have been overlooked for 1360 years? (26) And lastly, the style of the passage is not consistent with the usually mild and classic language of Tacitus.

Concluding Comments on the Existence of Jesus--What else, then, can be said about the historicity of Jesus? (1) Many writers, such as Renan, have attempted to write his biography but failed, failed because no materials for such a work exist. (2) If Jesus was an historical person, how is it that not only does the Talmud never mention him but Paul's Epistles do not tell a single special fact about the life of Jesus? Read the other Epistles of the NT. Nowhere in any of the early Christian documents do we find even the slenderest reference to the mere man Jesus, the historical personality as such, from which we might infer that the author had a close acquaintance with him. His life, as described in the gospels, seems to have been entirely unknown to the authors. His speeches and sayings are hardly ever quoted and where this is done, as in the Epistle of James or the Book of Acts, they are not quoted as sayings of Jesus. (3) What can Josephus or Tacitus prove? They could at the most merely show that at the end of the 1st century not only the Christians but their traditions and Christ-myth were known in Rome. When the latter originated, however, and how far it was based on truth, could not be discovered from Tacitus or Josephus. (4) And finally, it should be mentioned that some writers are notable for what they didn't say about Jesus: (a) Philo was born before the beginning of the Christian era and lived until long after the reputed death of Christ. He wrote an account of the Jews covering the entire time that Christ is said to have existed on earth. He was living in or near Jerusalem when Christ's miraculous birth and the Herodian massacre occurred. He was there when Christ made his triumphal entry in Jerusalem. He was there when the Crucifixion with its attendant earthquake, supernatural darkness, and resurrection of the dead took place--when Christ himself rose from the dead. Yet, these events were not mentioned by him. (b) Under the reign of Tiberius the whole earth, or at least a celebrated province of the Roman empire, was allegedly involved in a preternatural darkness of three hours. Yet, Seneca and Pliny the Elder, who recorded all the great earthquakes, meteors, comets, and elipses they could find and who lived during the period of Jesus, failed to mention the event. (c) Justus of Tiberius was a native of Christ's own country, Galilee. He wrote a history covering the time of Christ's reputed existence. This work perished, but Photius, a Christian scholar and critic of the 9th century, was acquainted with it and said, "He (Justus) makes not the least mention of the appearance of Christ, of what things happened to him, or of the wonderful works that he did" (Photius, Bibliotheca, Code 33).

Jesus and Other Gods--Christians contend all of the following pre-Christian sun-gods are mythological: Hercules, Osiris, Bacchus, Mithra, Hermes, Prometheus, Perseus, and Horus. Yet, all: (1) allegedly had gods for fathers and virgins for mothers; (2) had their births announced by stars and celestial music; (3) were born on the 25th of December (Solstice); (4) had tyrants trying to kill them when they were infants; (5) met with violent deaths; and (6) rose from the dead.

Why BE Exists--Nearly every time the editor of BE has appeared on the radio callers have asked two basic questions: Do you believe in God and why are you doing this? As these queries are undoubtedly of concern to some, they need to be addressed. With respect to the first, BE takes no position on the existence of God. It is not a topic with which we are involved. Possibly this means we are agnostics as some have alleged. If so, it's not a consciously thought out position but more one by default. Rationally analyzing a tangible writing that is clearly affecting the lives of millions is of much greater concern. The second question is generally answered in the following vein: Thousands of people throughout this Country are giving as essentially one-sided presentation of the Bible. People are hearing all the pros and none of the cons, all the positives and none of the negatives. As of now it's been a decidedly lop-sided affair. How can people rationally and objectively analyze anything when given only one side of the picture? Someone, somebody, some group needs to travel the land and give a more balanced description of the Bible. Someone needs to expose the negative aspects so a more sensible perspective is possible. BE tries to fill the void by teaching a kind of Sunday-School-in-Reverse, by telling people all the things they should have heard in Sunday School but didn't. Only via this strategy can a truly accurate assessment materialize. For millions to hear only one side of a story is dangerous, especially when religion or politics are involved. If, after hearing both points of view to an equal degree, they still wish to follow the Bible, then so be it. That's their decision to make. But attorneys for the plaintiff and the defendant should have their say before a judgment is rendered.

DIALOGUE AND DEBATE

Letter #109 from VT of Huron, California (Part a)

Dear Assistant Editor of BE. The challenge from Dennis McKinsey is to prove the point like an attorney in court. Heb. 11:1 ("Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen") is about all you are going to get as far as God's written Word is concerned.... this one verse and it alone is sufficient to prove the case.... How can I believe with perfect assurance?...Read the verses again if you have any doubt. (Heb. 11:3--"THROUGH FAITH we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things that were seen were not made of things that do appear?).... We can accept (lay hold on) or we can reject this declaration. This fact was a statement made, a declaration given. Perhaps no further PROOF will be given you. No additional declaration need be given.

Editor's Response to Letter #109 (Part a)

Dear VT. Surely you must realize you have failed to prove your point. How can faith be proof? You mean anything becomes true as long as I have faith that it's so? You mean that if I believe I'm omnipotent I really am? You mean that if I sincerely believe the god, Zeus, exists, then he really does? Remember, you said "faith is the evidence," the evidence of things not seen. That means faith, in effect, is proof. Faith, alone, is sufficient. To believe makes it true. The sky's the limit once you start down this road. In effect, anything anyone seriously believes becomes reality. The only limitation involved are the imaginations of millions. You said, "this one verse and it alone is sufficient to prove the case." How have you proved your case like an attorney in court? If Heb. 11:1 "is about all you are going to get as far as God's written word is concerned," then you aren't going to get very far. You say the verses provide "perfect assurance" to those with doubt. I've read them many times and never had any doubt minimized. Your concluding comment that "no additional declaration need be given" means that the verse is true simply because the Bible says so. In other words, anything the Bible says, regardless of evidence to the contrary, which flies in the face of nearly every point made by BE over the last 3 years. You have chosen to ignore a veritable mountain of data showing the Bible is anything but inerrant. "My mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts," comes into play when mere belief is taken as proof.

You said, "the fact was a statement made, a declaration given. Perhaps no further PROOF will be given you" and made two errors in the process. First, it's not a fact, it's a belief and there's a big difference. I've repeatedly argued this point with Mormons, Baptists, and others. They just can't seem to separate "fact" from "belief." They operate on the theory that believing something makes it so and fail to realize belief is not evidence. Mere assertions or statements in any book prove nothing. There is a real world out there that our thoughts and beliefs must conform to. It's not going to adapt to us; we must conform to it. We must learn its rules and regulations in order to survive; it's not going to learn ours. And to the extent that we ignore, fail to comprehend, or drift away from the real world, "out there," to that extent we enter the realm of neuroses, paranoias, and other mental illnesses. To quote the famous psychiatrist, Dr. Carl Jung, "I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those over 35, there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life." Learning how the world operates and changing our behavior and beliefs accordingly is what science, logic, and rationality are all about. Second, your comment that "perhaps no further PROOF will be given you" begs the question. What PROOF? There is merely your belief that you have in your possession an inerrant book authored by a supreme being--a book replete with problems you choose to ignore. Is your need for something to believe in, something to hold on to, that strong, VT? Are you insecure? Judging from your letters you seem to be a decent, reasonably intelligent fellow. I would ask that you not put yourself in a position worthy of pity. With your abilities you don't need faith to lean on; you can do it yourself.

Letter #109 Continues (Part b)

Heb. 11:1--NOW FAITH is the substance of things.... We learn in this chapter that unbelief is the worst sin anyone can commit. God has a remedy for every sin except the state (sin) of unbelief.... Now many people don't find faith a very satisfactory way and feel like the little girl who, when asked to define faith, said, "Faith is believing what you know ain't so." They look at it like it is to take a leap in the dark.... When that is what it means to a person, they do not have faith, because faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen"--which means faith rests on a foundation.

Editor's Response to Letter #109 (Part b)

Where does the 11th chapter of Hebrews say unbelief is the worst sin anyone can commit, VT? I think you embellished the text somewhat. The only unpardonable sin I can think of is related in Matt. 12:32 which says, "...but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come" (See also: Luke 12:10). Faith isn't so much believing what you know ain't so as believing what you ain't proved. And until it's substantiated the only foundation involved is quicksand.

Letter #109 Concludes (Part c)

...In a very real sense faith is only the instrument through which we receive salvation. Christ saves and not something we do on our own. Yes, we certainly believe in works. But works is a product of salvation.... Salvation is a free gift. We can do nothing to purchase it. We receive it by FAITH. Works follows the believers. ...the Bible doesn't teach salvation by works.... The Bible does not attempt to prove God. The Bible is written to TEACH, INSTRUCT, AND ADMONISH. It is not a book of apologetics. The OT has Christ on most every page. Some see this and some cannot.

Editor's Response to Letter #109 (Part c)

(1) You say Christ saves and not something we do on our own. Yet, according to Christian ideology you must accept Jesus as your savior. Isn't that doing something? In fact, you are initiating the act of salvation. Jesus doesn't save you; you save yourself by accepting him. You caused the saving, not he. It isn't a gift but something you earned by your own act. (2) You say we can do nothing to purchase it; yet, precisely the opposite is true. You must purchase it by doing something. (3) You say works are a product of salvation. If so, then those claiming to have been saved are guilty of deception because they all continue sinning. I've never met one even close to perfection. (4) As shown in the 3rd Issue of BE your comment that the Bible does not teach salvation by works is diametrically opposed to many verses. You might want to read it. (5) I couldn't agree with you more that the Bible does not attempt to prove God. That's just the problem; it doesn't attempt to prove much of anything. Assertions are made and you either accept them or you don't. (6) And finally, people don't see Christ on most every page of the OT; they impose him on most every page. They start with the assumption he's there and proceed to distort verses as expediency dictates. You might want to read BE's discussion of messianic prophecies and those to come.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Letter #110 from LG of Oxnard, California

Dear Dennis....I agree that the only way to confront fundamentalists and evangelists is to attack them directly at the source of their misguided beliefs. Trying to present scientific evidence to a group of people who don't have sufficient educational background is futile.

Letter #111 from BF of Louisa, Kentucky

Dear Dennis. In receipt of your Issue 32, excellent as always. Glad you are letting down the bars a bit in handling extra-biblical issues, such as alleged contemporary references to Jesus, etc. These areas do help us amateur BE activists. A bit of nitpicking on the last issue. Note correct spelling of Suetonius and on page 2, 2nd paragraph, line 6, freedmen, not singular; and quote mark needed on page 4, after "abolished," 4th line....

Editor's Response to Letter #111 Dear BF. Proofread as we may; sometimes they slip through.

Letter #112 form MN of Danvers, Illinois

Dear Dennis. As a reader of all 30 of your issues I want to congratulate you on a job well done. Although I have not always agreed with some of the points that you have made in individual arguments, I am in whole-hearted agreement with your strategy of confronting the biblical literalists with evidence from their own primary (really solitary) source. With that in mind, I would like to recommend to both you and your readers a book that I just recently purchased and read. It is entitled Beyond Fundamendalism by James Barr. The approach of this book is similar to your in that Professor Barr is severely critical of biblical literalists and uses the scriptures themselves to point out the fallacies of the fundamentalist position. ...He cites two such cases which would be sufficient to completely undermine the fundamentalist claim for both the infallibility of the scriptures as well as the infallibility of Jesus himself. Both cases involve Jesus making errors when referring to what are now considered OT scriptures. The first is found in Mark 2:25-26 when Jesus relates a story from 1 Sam. 21:1-6. The story involves the high priest Ahimelech. But Jesus incorrectly calls the high priest Abiathar (who happens to have been Ahimelech's son). The second case can be found in Matt. 23:35 where Jesus is talking about the death of Zacharias as related in 2 Chron. 24:20-21. The only problem with Jesus' recounting of this story is that he mistakenly refers to Zacharias as the son the Barachias when he is really the son of Jehoida. Personally, I find these two easily-verified biblical errors especially powerful arguments against not only literalism but also the infallibility of both the scriptures and Jesus himself. There seems no way the fundamentalists can explain these discrepancies and also maintain their theological position regarding the nature of the Bible.

Editor's Response to Letter #112

Dear MN. You selected two good arguments one could present to defenders of the Bible. They are, indeed, potent and only two among scores available. It's important to note, however, that fundamentalists and literalists are not the only defenders of the Book. Religious liberals and others of like persuasion often extol its reliability through reliance upon a less direct approach. Finding Adam and Eve, six days of Creation, the Flood, Jonah's whale, and many other aspects of Scripture hard to swallow they tend to embellish and allegorize profusely by reading meanings into statements and events and relying heavily upon symbolism and figurative interpretations. Consequently, BE does not refer to apologists as fundamentalists or literalists. Many of the Book's staunchest supporters are in neither category."Biblicists" is the preferred term because anyone defending the Bible or giving credence to its contents is covered, regardless of philosophical inclination.

Issue #34 Editor: Dennis McKinsey


Oct. 1985


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A national periodical focusing on Biblical errors, contradictions, and fallacies, while providing a hearing for apologists

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COMMENTARY

Biblical Geography (An Historical Bible Atlas May Be Needed)--Biblical geography, like biblical science and math, has too many inaccuracies to be viewed as part of the inerrant word of a perfect being. One need only view relevant accurate maps of that era to see notable examples are not hard to find: (1) "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east,...." (Matt. 2:1-2). Since the wise men were east of Jesus, how could an eastern star or a star east of them tell them anything? (2) "Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey" (Acts 1:12). The inaccuracy of this comment lies in the fact that Olivet, the Mount of Olives was just outside the wall of Jerusalem near the Temple, hardly a day's journey. (3) "And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim,...." (John 3:23). Nearly all critics agree there is no such place near salim. (4) "Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis" (Mark 7:31 RSV). The geographical knowledge of Mark's author is questionable in that it's hard to imagine going from Tyre to the Sea of Galilee by passing through Sidon, much less the region of Decapolis. Sidon is to the north of Tyre and the Sea of Galilee while Decapolis is to the south of Tyre and the Sea of Galilee. This assertion was made by Mark when there were no coasts of Decapolis, nor was the name so much as known before the reign of the emperor Nero. (5) "Again the devil taketh him up into an exceedingly high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world,...." (Matt. 4:8). How could anyone see the whole world from one spot, even the known world at that time? (6) "For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt" (Josh. 2:10) and "By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned" (Heb. 11:29) and "Pharoah's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains are also drowned in the Red Sea" (Ex. 15:4) and "But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of the Pharoah, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, before Baal-zephon" (Ex. 4:9) and (Ex. 14:22). The Bible repeatedly says the Israelites crossed the Red Sea when they fled Egypt. Yet, they crossed at Baal-sephon which is more than 100 miles north of the Red Sea. If anything, they crossed the Gulf of Suez, although a map of the Exodus in Westminster's Historical Maps of Bible Lands shows them crossing even north of the Gulf of Suez near Lake Balah. (7) "And it came to pass that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judea beyond the Jordan" (Matt. 19:1). The Jordan River being the eastern boundary of Judea, no "coasts of Judea" existed beyond it. The coast of Judea is the Jordan. (8) "And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;.... And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia and the name of the third river is Hiddehel; that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates" (Gen. 2:10-14). The geography of all this makes no sense. There is no Middle East river that divides and becomes the four rivers mentioned. (a) Havilah is a desert area southwest of Saudi Arabia, residing next to the Red Sea. There is no river encompassing the region. Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find any river. (b) The Gihon river is apparently the Nile because it encompasses "the whole land of Ethiopia." Yet, the Nile is nowhere near the alleged location of the Garden of Eden. (c) This geographical presentation makes the Nile and the Euphrates branch from the same river. (d) It sounds as if Eden is the entire Middle East since Ethiopia and the Euphrates River are Linked together. (e) What river has ever left the Garden of Eden area and parted into four rivers? (9) "And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes (or Gerasenes or Gergesenes--Ed.)" (Mark 5:1). How could this occur? Gadara and Gerara are both miles from the sea. They do not border it. (10) "The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus" (John 12:21). Bethsaida is in Gaulonitis, not Galilee. (11) "And leaving Nazareth (on the western side of the Jordan--Ed.), he came and dwelt in Capernaum (also on the western side of the Jordan--Ed.), which is upon the sea coast in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by way of the sea, beyond Jordan,...." (Matt. 4:13-15). Zebulon and Nephtali are not beyond the Jordan or across the Jordan. They are on the western side of the Jordan, not the eastern. Moreover, Capernaum is within the borders of Nephalim but not those of Zebulon. (12) "These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing" (John 1:28). Contending that Bethabara is an interpolation, the scholar Geihie says, "The most ancient manuscripts read Bethany instead of Bethabara, but no site of that name is now known on the Jordan." The RSV says "Bethany" not "Bethabara." Bethany was a suburb of Jerusalem and was not beyond the Jordan. (13) "Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth he came and dwelt in Capernaum,...." (Matt. 4:12-13). If this says Jesus left Nazareth and entered the province of Galilee to arrive in Capernaum, then the geography is poor. Nazareth is as much in Galilee as is Capernaum. If he left Nazareth and went to Capernaum, then he remained in Galilee, since that's the province in which both reside. (14) "And I answered, `Who art thou, Lord?' And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest" (Acts 22:8). (a) "Why would he be called Jesus of Nazareth when he was born in Bethlehem, which is far from Nazareth? (b) The Jews had every right to reject Jesus as the Messiah since he said he was from Nazareth which is in Galilee. As Scripture says, "Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David and out of the town of Bethlehem (which is far south of Galilee--Ed.), where David was?" (15) "Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses, From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates...shall be your territory" (Josh. 1:3-4 RSV). Israelite territory has never extended to the Euphrates River.

Questions of Ask--From time to time we all have contacts with the Bible's supporters and a few well-chosen questions can often have significant influence. In order to avoid queries which are generally ineffective, the following are offered as those which seem to have some effect: (1) Why are we being punished for what Adam did and why must women bear children in pain because of what Eve did, especially in light of Deut. 24:16 and other verses? (2) How could Adam and Eve have sinned since they were made perfect? The usual reply that they had free will is of no substance. They can have all the free will desired, but if they chose to sin then they weren't perfect. (3) Christians claim that in order to be saved you must accept Jesus as your savior. If so, then how are babies who die in infancy, the mentally infirm, those who lived long before Jesus, and those who lived in the New World before missionaries arrived, saved, and how could God be just if he condemned people because of where or when they were born. Don't let them escape via Romans 1 and 2. Belief in God and good works does not save. Only belief in Jesus. If belief in God and inherently knowing the good is all that's required, then many non-Christians are included. (4) How could Noah (Gen. 6:9) and Job (Job 1:1) have been perfect if all have sinned (Rom. 3:23)? (5) How could Paul have said we are saved through faith in Jesus when Jesus himself repeatedly said good works are the prerequisite? (6) Ask people if they believe. The answer is nearly always yes. Then ask if they would be willing to drink arsenic or handle deadly snakes since Mark 16:18 says, those who believe shall take up serpents and drink any deadly thing with impunity. (7) How can Num. 23:19 and 1 Sam. 15:29, which say God does not repent be reconciled with Ex. 32:14 and and 1 Sam. 15:35 which say he does? (8) How can Ex. 33:20 and John 1:18 which say no one has seen God's face be reconciled with Gen. 32:30 and Ex. 33:11 which say the opposite? (9) How can the Resurrection be of such importance when many others rose before Jesus? (10) How can Jesus be our perfect savior when he made many false and deceptive statements? John 7:8-10 (going to the feast), Luke 23:43 (with me in paradise today), Matt. 5:22 (ye fools), and Mark 8:34 (take up a non-existent cross) are good ones to use (Note also the Commentaries in Issues 2, 24, 25, 27, and 28) (11) How can the Bible be the epitome of morality and virtue when it used profanity such as that found in 2 Kings 18:27, Ezek. 23:20-21, and Song Sol. 5:4. (12) How can the various accounts of the Resurrection be reconciled? (13) Ask women how they can support the Bible in light of the demeaning status accorded them in 1 Cor. 11:3,9, Eph. 5:22-24, and other appropriate verses. (14) And how can Jesus, who is allegedly God, talk to God the Father and yet only one God exists? Don't let biblicists escape with the rationalization that there is only one God but three persons. All of the above are good opening questions and should have some effect on most respondents.

Who Killed Jesus?--For nearly 2,000 years many Christians have held Jews responsible for the death of Jesus. Ironically, they fail to realize that if their assertion is true they have proved Jesus to be a false prophet because he twice prophesied his death at the hands of Gentiles, not Jews. They need only read Mark 10:33-34 ("And they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles. And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him:....") and Matt. 20:19 ("And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him:....") to see they have refuted their own leader. Who, then, did kill Jesus according to the NT? Well, that depends on which gospel you are reading and in John's case, which verse. Since the narratives are too long to quote verbatim a synopsis of each is appropriate. Matthew says Roman soldiers aided by the multitude with some support from the chief priests, scribes, and elders were responsible (Matt. 27:24-44). Mark attributes his death to Roman soldiers aided by some chief priests directing the people and some scribes (Mark 15:11-31). Luke says the multitude, some chief priests, rulers, and soldiers were all involved (Luke 23:1-37). John (verses 19:15-18) is the only gospel clearly saying the Jews (the chief priests) crucified him ("Pilate saith unto them, shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar. Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away...)to Golgotha--Ed.) where they crucified him"). Yet, five verses later (#23) John says Roman soldiers were responsible ("Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus...."). No doubt Peter and Paul contributed to the confusion and helped generate anti-Semitic sentiment through such comments as those found in Acts 10:39 )"And we are witnesses to all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree") and 1 Thess. 2:14-15 ("...even as they have of the Jews: Who killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets") respectively. Majority vote would hold that Jesus was killed by Roman soldiers working in conjunction with some scribes and Jewish priests leading a multitude.

A Suggested Study Program--From time to time we are asked how one should study and analyze the Bible. Good Question! In order to criticize any writing one must first read it and in order to criticize effectively one must know the contents well. Unfortunately, the Shakespearian English of the most widely accepted version, the King James, ranges from difficult to incomprehensible in far too many instances. People understandably become discouraged while trying to plow through all those "begats" in Genesis. Years ago we surmounted this obstacle by buying three key books--The Layman's Parallel Bible, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, and Westminster's small booklet entitled Historical Maps of Bible Lands. The first contains four major versions of the Bible--the King James, the Revised Standard, the Modern Language, and the Living Bible--in parallel columns. A newer version is less reliable because the NIV replaced the Modern Language. The following procedure was found to be quite effective and is offered to anyone interested. Pick up the Layman's Parallel Bible and begin reading the KJV, the most difficult but the most important version. If the text is obscure, then read the Revised Standard which is clearer but not as widely accepted. Unfortunately, the RSV is in the 4th columm and should be in the 2nd. If the text is still vague, then read the Modern Language which is even clearer and more modernistic but farther from the King James. Unfortunately, the Modern Language is in the 2nd column and should be in the 3rd. If all else fails, turn to the least reliable but easiest to read version, the Living Bible, which isn't really a version but a poor paraphrase. Start at Gen. 1:1 and read to the end of Revelation. No doubt months will be involved but that's what is needed. Read for yourself and don't consult commentaries and other works which tell you how to view the narrative. Approaching the Bible with an uncluttered, unindoctrinated outlook devoid of pre-conceptions and expectations is of first magnitude in importance. Indeed, it's the key to effective critical analysys. Once the Book has been sufficiently mastered, commentaries and other apologistic works, which are nearly always nothing more than rationalizations, justifications, and obfuscations, can be viewed in proper perspective and effectively dealt with. It's important to observe the Bible through your own eyes, not those of others. One should not only devise an effective mechanism by which to read the Bible but create a system by which verses, data, and comments can be quickly retrieved for comparison with other parts of the Book. That's mandatory. Reading the Bible is of little use if verses cannot be recalled for comparison and analysis. That's where Strong's Exhaustive Concordance comes in. The key word is "exhaustive." Strong took every word in the KJV of the Bible and listed all the verses containing that word. So, one need only remember one word in any verse to find that verse. Remembering an entire verse is difficult but many can recall at least one word; and that's all that's needed. It provides one of the best, if not the best method, by which to arrange and retrieve biblical information in a systematic and orderly fashion. With an exhaustive concordance you can classify relevant biblical data without having to remember the Bible verbatim. With an exhaustive concordance, the Layman's Parallel Bible, a thin red ink pen for marking-up the latter, and a small booklet of biblical maps such as Westminster's Historical Maps of Bible Lands, one is ready to read, analyze, compare, and arrange the entire Book in a meaningful manner. The Editor of BE found this method to be highly effective. Hopefully others will obtain similar results.

DIALOGUE AND DEBATE

Letter #113 from RM of Annapolis, Maryland (Part a)

Dear Dennis.... The two errors made by Jesus in Mark 2:25-26 (Jesus calls the high priest Abiathar--Ed.) vs. 1 Sam. 21:1-6 (The high priest is actually Ahimelech--Ed.) and Matt. 23:35 (Jesus calls Zacharias the son of Barachias--Ed.) vs. 2 Chron. 24:20-21 (Zacharias is actually the son of Jehoida--Ed.) are not powerful arguments against scriptural infallibility as expressed by MN in Letter #112, Issue 33 but rather support the Bible's accuracy. After all, if Jesus walked this earth as a man, he would also error as a man. However, if Jesus is sinless, then it must be a sin to error.

Editor's Response to Letter #113 (Part a)

Dear RM. Three aspects of your analysis merit comment. First, your opening statement is a virtual admission that Jesus erred. Remember, Jesus is both God and man simultaneously, the God/man, and unlike all other men is perfect. How can a perfect being be mistaken as to facts? How do you know what he says is true if you once admit some of his commments are false? It's the same problem you have with the Bible itself. How do you know what's true if you admit certain parts are false? On that point the fundamentalists are correct. If you once admit that a comment by Jesus or the Bible is fallacious, the entire structure is brought into question. That's why firm believers defend every jot and tittle with such tenacity. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, was correct when he said, "If there be any mistakes in the Bible, there may as well be a thousand. If there be one falsehood in the Book it did not come from the God of truth." Second, you said that "the two errors made by Jesus...support the Bible's accuracy." How's that again! You'll have to talk long and hard to explain that one, RM. The Book has two significant errors which you don't deny. And that proves its accuracy? Third, what has sinlessness to do with the issue? We are discussing the much broader topic of perfection. Was Jesus perfect? Is the Bible inerrant? You ask, "after all, if Jesus walked this earth as a man, he would also err as a man." According to theology Jesus was a perfect being. So how could he have erred? You state that "if Jesus is sinless then it must not be a sin to err" which is another way of saying that Jesus does not sin but Jesus erred; therefore, his erring does not mean he is sinning. Yes, but it would mean he was imperfect and that's what we are discussing. Surely you aren't saying sinlessness is the same as perfection in all areas, many of which have nothing to do with morality? An interesting corollary to this whole issue is how Jesus can be perfect in light of Matt. 19:17 ("And he, Jesus, said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God"), John 14:28 ("...for my Father is greater than I"), and Luke 13:32 ("...and the third day I shall be perfected") which clearly show Jesus viewed himself as less than perfect.

Letter #113 Concludes (Part b)

BE issue #33, page 2, just before (18), states, "It (the name Christian) is never used in the New Testament as a description of themselves by the believers in Jesus." Surely the writer of Acts was a believer, and Acts 11:26 states, "And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." Acts 27:28 says, "Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." Paul then says that he wished everyone was of such as he. In 1 Peter 4:11-16, the text is about Jesus Christ. In verse 16, it states that god is glorified by the suffering of Christians. Surely the writer is a believer in Jesus.

Editor's Response to Letter #113 (Part b)

With all due respect, RM, I don't think you closely read what I said, namely, "Not one of the gospels applies the name Christian to the followers of Jesus. It is never used in the New Testament as a description of themselves by the believers in Jesus." The key phrase has been underlined. Apparently you consulted a concordance and looked up every biblical verse containing the words "Christian" and "Christians." We both know the KJV has only three such verses, none of which are in the gospels: Acts 11:26, 1 Peter 4:11-16, and Acts 26:28, which you incorrectly listed as Acts 27:28. I don't think you closely read the verses either, RM. Acts 11:26 says, "And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." "Were called!" Called by

others. Where does it say they called themselves Christians? Acts 26:28 says, "Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." Agrippa wasn't a follower or believer in Jesus. Moreover, "themselves" is plural while Agrippa is one person. And lastly, 1 Peter 3:16 says, "yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed. Where in this verse do the followers of Jesus refer to themselves as Christians? Even if a man were suffering as a Christian, that does not necessarily mean he is referring to himself as a Christian. It could very easily be a title or, even, epithet applied by others. If we assume this is a title applied by the author of 1 Peter and grant your assumption that he was a believer in Jesus, the fact remains that he was only one man.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Letter #114 from John Sikos, P.O. Box 443, Romeo, Michigan 48065-0443

Dear Dennis.... I am currently arguing with a baptist preacher from Romeo and I am saying that the Bible claims Saturday is the true and correct Sabbath. You seem to agree with me on page 2 of Issue #18. This baptist brings up Rom. 14:5 ("One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind," for his side (as I expected). If you could help me, I'd appreciate it!

Editor's Response to Letter #114

Dear John. That's one of their favorite verses, although it flies in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary. There is nothing in scripture to justify changing the sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. The Bible only refers to Sunday, the first day of the week, 8 times and none of these have anything to do with making Sunday the sabbath. By allowing anyone to determine for himself when the sabbath should be honored, Paul, in effect, rewrote part of the OT which clearly and repeatedly says Saturday is the sabbath. If your baptist friend is going to rely on Rom. 14:5, then you might ask him if an individual can pick any day of the week as his sabbath. If he says he can then you might ask how this is honoring the sabbath. All that individual is honoring is a sabbath or, to be more precise, a day which he chooses to call the sabbath. You might also look up the word "sabbath" in your concordance and note every verse showing Saturday, the 7th day, and not Sunday, the first day, is the sabbath. Show them to him and if he remains unconvinced, use my itemized refutation of the main "Sunday verses" on page 2 of the 18th issue. If he is still unpersuaded, then wait for my discussion of Paul, the Deceptive Disciple in some future issues and a far more extensive listing of the reasons Sunday can't be the sabbath. In the meantime you might consult some Seventh-Day Adventist literature. Probably no organization has studied this issue more closely than the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and the Adventists have issued some excellent free pamphlets on the topic. You could read them while waiting. I wouldn't recommend much else of theirs, however.

Letter #115 from MR of Richmond, Virginia

Dear Dennis. My daughter...teaches Sunday School where there are several millionaires sitting with us in class. She has lost her faith in this "religion of any kind" since reading my copies of BE, but still teaches once a month. She does a good job of it too as she points out things here and there from your paper. I am saving all my BE papers to keep for all my friends and relatives to read as I keep them on the table in full view. I take them with me at times. I agree with you 100% and just wish I could have read this stuff fifty years ago. Keep up the good work. I'm doing what I can to spread this truth. I was so glad to hear you on our WRVA talk show but I lost faith in religion at least a year before I heard you.... A lot of European countries have found out that religion is a fake and an anesthesia for the masses. People in power can control the religious groups. Keep them poor.

Editor's Response to Letter #115

Dear MR. Letters such as yours warm the cockles of my heart. Knowing I'm reaching people is a great motivator. Sometimes one gets weary climbing a mountain and your comments provide a welcome boost. If the class continues, I hope your daughter remains the teacher. It's better she do it than someone less enlightened.

Letter #116 form PA of Santa Rosa, California

Dear Dennis. I have been doing some study on the 10 commandments and the teachings of Jesus. Even though he says man is to keep the commandments, he himself seems to have violated most of them and taught others to do as well. According to Matt. 5:19 Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, says anyone teaching against or breaking the commandments is bad; yet, Jesus did not follow his own advice. #1 (Ex. 20:3)--Thou shalt have no gods before me. Jesus put himself before god when he said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me" (John 14:6). See also John 6:44 where "no man can come to Jesus except the Father draw him"). #4 (Ex. 20:8)--Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. Jesus and his disciples plucked and ate corn on the sabbath and Jesus said, "The sabbath was made for men and not men for the sabbath" (Mark 2:23-28). #5 (Ex. 20:12)--Honor your father and mother. Jesus told others to honor their father and mother to gain eternal life (Mark 10:17-22) and yet to be a disciple of Jesus a person must violate this commandment according to Luke 14:26. #7 (Ex. 20:14)--Thou shalt not commit adultery. In the OT anyone guilty of adultery was condemned to death and when a woman taken in adultery was brought to Jesus he let her go without condemning her even though she did not repent and ask forgiveness (John 8:3-11). #8 (Ex. 20:15)--Thou shalt not steal. Jesus taught a parable about a man who found a treasure in someone else's field and rather than tell the owner about it, he hid it and bought the field (Matt. 13:44). This seems like stealing to me. #9 (Ex. 20:16)--Thou shalt not bear false witness (lie). In John 7:8-10 Jesus said he wasn't going to the feast and then as soon as the others left, he went to the feast in secret. #10 (Ex. 20:17)--Thou shalt not covet. Jesus taught a parable about a merchant who saw a pearl and coveted it so much that he sold all he had and bought it (Matt. 13:45-46)l. This is a quick history of a few violations....

Issue #35 Editor: Dennis McKinsey


Nov. 1985


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A national periodical focusing on Biblical errors, contradictions, and fallacies, while providing a hearing for apologists

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COMMENTARY

Prophecy (Part One of a Four Part Series)--The Commentaries in Issues 3 and 10 discussed a topic near and dear to the heart of most believers in the Bible, namely, prophecy. Biblicists rely heavily upon the alleged perspicacity contained therein to demonstrate the Book's divine origin and reliability, while discounting evidence to the contrary. In light of the immense importance many attach to this subject, a concluding in-depth analysis is warranted. For our purposes, biblical prophecies can be grouped into three broad categories: (1) those which were incorrectly fulfilled, i.e., fulfilled in a manner different from that predicted; (2) those which have never occurred (a group too large to discuss in toto), and (3) NT references to non-existent OT prophecies. A critique of all three should begin with the third category as it is the smallest and most easily covered: (1) "As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, `Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way' (Mark 1:2 RSV)." There is no such prophecy in Isaiah. (2) "And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, `He shall be called a Nazarene (Matt. 2:23)." As was noted on page 3 of the 3rd Issue, "He shall be called a Nazarene does not exist in the OT. There is no such prophecy." Judges 13:5 ("For, lo, thou shalt conceive and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb") is not applicable because: (a) A Nazarite was not identical to an inhabitant of Nazareth; (b) Acts 24:5 ("...a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes") shows that a Nazarene was actually a member of a sect, not a resident of Nazareth; (c) and the man referred to was Samson, not Jesus. Moreover, Jesus was never called a Nazarene. (3) "then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; And gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me (Matt. 27:9-10)." There is no such statement in the Book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah 32:8-9 ("...Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord. And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle's son, that was in Anatoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver") doesn't apply because: (a) Matthew says 30 pieces of silver were involved while Jeremiah says 17 shekels of silver; (b) Jer. 32:9 says Jeremiah alone bought the field, while Matthew says "they" bought the field, and (c) Matthew is discussing blood money that was not approved by God or allowed in the treasury (Matt. 27:5-8), while that in Jeremiah was approved by God (Jer. 32:8, 14-15).

The second major category is composed of those prophecies which were incorrectly fulfilled: (1) "And he (God--Ed.) said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them 400 years" (Gen. 15:13) and "God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil 400 years" (Acts 7:6) versus "Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was 430 years" (Ex. 12:40). According to prophecy the Israelites were to be in bondage for 400 years, not 430. (2) "And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him saying,....And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession...." (Gen. 17:3, 8) and "For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for over" (Gen. 13:15) and (Ex. 32:13) versus "And he (God--Ed.) gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his (Abraham's--Ed.) foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to his for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child" (Acts 7:5) and "These (Abraham's descendants--Ed.) all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off...." (Heb. 11:13). Neither Abraham nor his descendants ever received the land that was promised. The prophecy failed. (3) "Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy graves in peace" (2 Kings 22:20). The prophetess, Huldah, predicted that Josiah would die in peace. Yet, 2 Kings 23:29-30 ("In his days Paraoah-nechoh king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates; and King Josiah went against him; and he slew him at Megiddo, when he had seen him. And his servants carried him in a chariot dead from Megiddo, and brought him to Jerusalem and buried him....And the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father's stead") shows this didn't occur. (4) "All the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to live there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; they shall have no remnant or survivor to live in Egypt. In Alexandria they established a cultural center in the 1st centruy A.D. (5) "...thou (the city of Tyre--Ed.) shalt be built no more...." (Ezek. 26:14) and "For thus saith the Lord God; When I shall make thee (Tyre--Ed.) a desolate city like the cities that are not inhabited; when I shall bring up the deep upon thee and great waters shall cover thee;....and shall set thee in the low parts of the earth,...that thou be not inhabited;....I will make thee a terror, and thou shalt be no more: though thou be sought for, yet shalt thou never be found again,...." (Ezek. 26:19-21) and "The merchants among the people shall hiss at thee (Tyre--Ed.), thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt be any more" (Ezek. 27:36) and (Ezek. 28:19). In other words, Tyre will be destroyed and never rebuilt. But, as the following verses show, Tyre existed throughout NT times and still exists today. "And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon,..." (Mark 7:24) and "And again, departing from the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, he came unto the sea of Galilee,..." (Mark 7i:31) and "Herod was highly displeased with them of Tyre and Sidon..." (Acts 12:20) and (Acts 21:3, 7, Matt. 15:21, 3:8). (6) "And of Naphtali he said, O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord; possess thou the west and the south" (Deut. 33:23). Naphtali received a district in the north of Palestine but none in the south or west. (7) "...and thou (Abraham--Ed.) shalt be a father of many nations" (Gen. 17:4). Only 4 nations appear to have descended from Abraham: the Jews, Ishmaelites, Midianites, and Edomites. (8) "And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap for ever, even a desolation unto this day" (Joshua 8:28). People live at Ai now and continued to live there after the prophecy. As Nehemiah said, "The men of Bethel and Ai, an one hundred and twenty three" (Neh. 7:32). (9) "Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man (Coniah--Ed.) childless, a man that shall not prosper in his day: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David and ruling any more in Judah" (Jer. 22:20) versus "And Josias begat Jechonias (Coniah--Ed.)" (Matt. 1:11 in the genealogy of Jesus) and "He (Jesus--Ed.) shall be great, and shall be called the son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:..." (Luke 1:32). According to the prophecy in Jer. 22:30 Coniah would have no descendants sitting upon the throne of David and ruling in Judah. Jesus was a descendant of Coniah according to Matt. 1:11 and will eventually sit upon the throne of David according to Luke 1:32. The moment Jesus sits upon the throne of David, the prophecy in Jer. 22:30 will become false. (10) "Therefore wild beasts shall dwell with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall dwell in her: she shall be peopled no more for ever, nor inhabited for all generations. As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighbor cities, says the Lord, so no man shall dwell there, and no son of man shall sojourn in her" (Jer. 50:39-40) and "Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. And the voice of harpers, and musicians...shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman...shall be found any more in thee..." (Rev. 18:21-22). The destruction of Babylon was prophesied in both the OT and the NT. Yet, at no time has Babylon been uninhabited. People lived there during NT times, (Matt. 1:11, 12, 17, Acts 7:43, 1 Peter 5:13) and continue to do so today. Moreover, hyenas and ostriches have never been the dominant inhabitants of Babylon. (11) "For thus saith the Lord; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel;...." (Jer. 33:17) and "...I have sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations" (Psalm 89:3-4) and "Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever and his throne as the sun before me. I shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven" (Psalm 89:35-37, 1 Chron. 17:12, 14) and (2 Sam. 7:13, 16). God said there would always be a Davidic king. Yet, the Davidic line ended with Zedekiah; there was no Jewish (Davidic) king for 450 years. Not until the Hasmoneans (Maccabeans) established a new dynasty with their King Aristobulus, was the Davidic line restored. Since the end of the Hasmonean dynasty there has never been a king of the Jews. No descendant of David is now ruling in the Middle East.

DIALOGUE AND DEBATE

Letter #117 from VT of Huron, California

(Part 2 in last month's Commentary quoted Acts 1:12 ("Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey") and then, said, "The inaccuracy of this comment lies in the fact that Olivet, the mount of Olives was just outside the wall of Jerusalem near the Temple, hardly a day's journey"--Ed.). Greetings; I'm not going to comment on all the points under Biblical Geography. In my small library there are some two or three books that cover most all the subject matter in Issue No. 34. For a quickie I'll comment on (2) Acts 1:12. Any good COMMENTARY will explain "A Sabbath Day's Journey...." It was less than one mile. Dr. Howard Hanke in his book Bible Survey states it was some 2,000 cubits or about 2/3 of a mile!... The Sabbath Day law was in the rabbinical ordinance. It just possibly had its origin in the MOSAIC PERIOD, when the Israelites were not to leave camp to gather manna on the sabbath. Anyone could travel from Jerusalem to the mount called Olivet without breaking this ordinance.... You see there is a very logical answer to the statement regarding the SABBATH DAY'S JOURNEY...Perhaps you need to let your readers know of your error at this point. Most all of your statements can be answered by just about anyone who would take the time and the effort to check with most any good commentary....I will concede that when a person is really not interested in TRUTH so much as they are of CONTROVERSY, they will not listen or take time to understand. (At this point VT proceeded to denounce secular humanism--Ed.).

Editor's Response to Letter #117

Greethings VT. If your're correct, then, there aren't very many good Commentaries around because I checked eleven of the most prominent and only 4 even discussed the problem. Wycliffe, Wesleyan, and Jamiseson-Fausset said a Sabbath Day's Journey is 2,000 cubits or 3,000 feet while Clarke said it's 7 1/2 furlongs. Yet, none of the four cited a Jewish source to substantiate their position. Clarke quoted Book 20, Capter 8, Sec. 6 in the Jewish Antiquities of Josephus to the effect that the Mount of Olives "lay over against the city and at the distance of five furlongs" which proves nothing. You stated the "Sabbath Day law was in the rabbinical ordinance." Could you provide chapter and verse. I consulted the Socino Edition of the Talmud and couldn't find any rabbinic ordinance or rule clearly stating a Sabbath Day's Journey is 2,000 cubits. Jewish sommentators in the Erubin and Pesahim of the Talmud refer to a tradition of 2,000 cubits, but can you relate an actual ordinance to that effect? I know of none, but I could have overlooked it. If you can provide an ordinance from the Mishnah, as opposed to opinions and beliefs from the Gemara (a Jewish commentary), I'd withdraw section 2 from last month's Commentary. Your evidence, however, must come from a Jewish source. From experience I've concluded that Christian commentaries are primarily rationalizations permeated with dishonest scholarship. Keep in mind that we are relying on extra-biblical information to determine the length of a Sabbath Day's Journey. The latter is mentioned only once in the entire Bible and nowhere is a definition given. Since the problem under discussion is found in the Book of Acts, Christians, not Jews, are obligated to provide an explanation. And in order to resolve dilemmas of this nature they have often relied upon the time-honored technique of referring to some extra-biblical writing they claim exists to prove their point. Can you cite one rabbinic ordinance that specifically states a Sabbath Day's Journey is 2,000 cubits long? Self-serving apologetic commentaries aren't sufficient, if, indeed, they are anything. The source must be original, not second hand or hearsay. Incidentally, VT, truth has a much higher priority at BE than controversy. Indeed, it's regretable the latter is mandatory. Unfortunately, winning battles requires firing bullets, And while we are on the topic of truth, would you please not insert three dots (...) randomly throughout your letters since reprinting gives readers the impression parts of your material are being omitted when there is nothing there. I'd also like to hear from those two or three books in your library.

Letter #118 from Ken Bonnell of Los Angeles, California (Part a)

Dear Dennis. Regarding "Biblical Geography" you err in item 2. "A Sabbath

Day's Journey" is not the distance a person can go in one day, but that walk which is permitted on the sabbath without violation of the commandment to rest on that day. It is quite short, almost 1,000 yards. (Ref. Webster's "Unabridged" Dictionary)

Editor's Response to Letter #118 (Part a)

Dear Ken. Webster probably got his information from Christian commentaries. In any event, you might note my prior response to VT.

Letter #118 Continues (Part b)

(Part 4 in last month's Commentary quoted Mark 7:31 RSV ("Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis") and said "...its hard to imagine someone going from Tyre to the Sea of Galilee by passing through Sidon, much less the region of the Decapolis.... This assertion was made when there were no coasts of Decapolis,...."--Ed.). The RSV translators screwed up about Jesus' journey into pagan territory.... Your criticism of the word "coasts" refers, of course, to the KJV, and you're right there. In the trip to Lebanon, Jesus is following the example of Elijah (1 Kings 17), and his "Syrophoenician" woman is a "Zarephathian."

Editor's Response to Letter #118 (Part b)

Although we disagree on one point Ken you are to be thanked for noticing a discrepancy. In regard to the former, how was the journey of Jesus a repetition of that of Elijah in 1 Kings 17? Elijah went from Gilead to the brook Cherith to Zarephath while Jesus went from Tyre to Sidon to the Sea of Galilee. They not only went in opposite directions but weren't even in the same area except for Elijah's trip to Zarephath. The discrepancy you noticed lies in the fact that I should have quoted the KJV rather than the RSV because the word "coasts" only appears in the former. My original criticism was that there were no coasts of Decapolis. Incidentally, you mentioned 1 Kings 17 which has a geographical error that could have been discussed in last month's Commentary. Verse 3 in the RSV says "Depart from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, that is east of the Jordan." The Standard Bible Atlas (1959) of the Standard Publishing Company and Boardman's Atlas clearly show the brook Cherith is west of the Jordan just north of the Dead Sea.

Letter #118 Continues (Part c)

(Part 8 in last month's Commentary quoted Gen. 2:10-14 to the effect that a Middle East river divides into the four rivers mentioned--Ed.). Four rivers do have their sources close to each other in the Anatolian highlands of Turkey: The Euphrates; the Tigris--the biblical Hiddekel; the Kizil, probably the biblical Pison, which empties into the Black Sea on the shore of Colchis where Jason found the Golden Fleece; the Arak river borders the Caucasas which is probably the "land of Kush" which the translators have confused with Ethiopia here (Gen. 2:13). The Arak was Gihon.

Editor's Response to Letter #118 (Part c)

To say that I am dismayed at your analysis, Ken, is an understatement. The degree to which it deviates from what I have come to expect from your letters is considerable. Apparently you have accepted some kind of apologetic literature and the concomitant errors. First, Gen. 2:10-14 says a river went out of Eden and divided into four rivers which has nothing to do with four rivers having their sources close to each other. Some of the rivers you mention have their source in the same general region, but what has that to do with emerging from the same river? Second, you state one was "the Kizil, probably the biblical Pison, which empties into the Black Sea on the shore of Colchis where Jason found the Golden Fleece." Upon what basis do you equate the two? Not only does "probably" imply you are unsure, but the text states the Pison river encompasses Havilah, an area in present-day Saudi Arabia and far from the Anatolian Highlands. What river has ever flowed through Saudi Arabia and emptied into the Black Sea? Moreover, the Kizil river doesn't empty into the Black Sea in or near Colchis but much farther east. Jason and the Golden Fleece? Now we are really into mythology. Third, how could you possibly conclude "the Caucasas was probably the land of Kush which the translators have confused with Ethiopia? Every map I've ever seen has shown Kush to be the ancient name of Ethiopia. Visualizing any connection with the Caucasus is a real challenge, since they are well over a thousand miles apart. By using the word "probably" you must admit you're speculating. If tranlators mistakingly called Ethiopia, rather than the Caucasus, the "land of Kush," then there are literally hundreds of confused scholars out there, because the KJ, the RS, the Modern Language, and many other versions equate Ethiopia with Kush, as do scores of cartographers.

Letter #118 Concludes (Part d)

` Now back to Matt. 28:1. It's KJV contains an internal contradiction. Can your readers find it!

Editor's Response to Letter #118 (Part d)

I may be wrong, Ken, but let me guess. Matt. 28:1 (KJV) says, "In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week,...." The sabbath, like all Jewish days, runs from sundown to sundown. How, then, could it begin to dawn, how could morning begin at the end of the sabbath? You can tell me if I've erred; my feelings have adjusted over time.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Letter #119 from Mark Potts, 8510-A, East 66th Place S., Tulsa, Oklahoma 74133

(Part a) Dear Dennis. I got the Oct. issue of BE recently and I want to discuss a few technical points with you....(After mentioning a possible error associated with a Sabbath Day's Journey which has already been covered, Mark continues--Ed.). Secondly, I'd like to see a fuller development of your objection to Rom. 1 and 2 as an answer to the question of what happens to people who never hear about Jesus, which I call the Pagan Problem. I've read this difficult passage very carefully in several versions, and nowhere does Paul explicitly say that ignorant Pagans get "saved" by believing in God and obeying morals. Rather, Paul asserts that pagans are "without excuse" (1:20) regarding knowledge of God, and that the (Jewish) law is "written in their hearts" (215). So the pagans apparently know about God and morality, but where does it say they can enter simply by being nice? Paul's explanation is like saying you know you have a certain disease (sin), but don't know that a cure (salvation) exists. Rom. 2:6-10 might be stretched to mean that pagans who unwittingly lead good lives get saved, but how could a baby, a paralytic, or a quadruple amputee perform good works under unevangelized conditions?

Editor's Response to Letter #119 (Part a)

You have covered the topic quite well, Mark, and forcused upon the key phrase (without excuse." I would make only one modification. Apologists seem to be saying Paul is contending you have a disease (sin) and have been provided with a cure you can choose to employ. But they neglect to mention it isn't Jesus. As I read Rem. 1:18-20 Paul is only saying God and his characteristics can be learned from nature and things around us so that those who claim not to know God or right from wrong are "without excuse." I doesn't say that is sufficient. Apparently you agree.

Letter #119 Continues (Part b)

Thirdly, I have a minor problem to pass along. In Rom. 14:14 Paul with his usual bombast declares, "I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean." Here Paul not only contradicts numerous assertions about uncleanness in the OT, but also conflicts with his other assertion in Eph. 5:5 that "no...unclean person...hath any inheritance in the king of Christ and of God." Nothing is inherently unclean, Paul says, yet he doesn't hesitate to label other people unclean.

Editor's Response to Letter #119 (Part b)

You might encounter some trouble with this one, Mark. Rom. 14:14 says nothing is unclean of itself. Apologists could allege that of itself mean inherently; that doesn't mean people can't become unclean later. You have to anticipate their response to avoid being embarrased.

Letter #119 Concludes (Part c)

A friend of mine says Christians have "the peace that preventeth all understanding." Perhaps you could devote an issue of BE to finding the right buttons to push when you are debating with an obtuse biblicist. It's not enough to know the right questions to ask and the right verses to quote; you need to know effective techniques for face-to-face deprogramming.

Editor's Response to Letter #119 (Part c)

We couldn't agree more, Mark. People are quite different and what alters some has little effect on others. That's why I suggested several issues ago that a national organization of knowledgeable biblical critics be created to, among other things, meet periodically and compare notes on the most effective techniques by which to deprogram the opposition.

Letter #120 from JJM of Center LIne, Michigan

Dear Mr. McKinsey. Keep up the good work with BE. I find the letter sections particularly instructive--each of your answers is a miniature lesson in argumentation....

Letter #121 from Jack Trimpey of LOTUS PRESS, Box 800, Lotus, California 95651 Dear Dennis. Your sample copy of BIBLICAL ERRANCY was most interesting and I will subscribe for a year. Your approach to the deplorable problem of religiosity is articulate and scholarly, but at the same time sensitive to the feelings of compulsively religious persons. Your publication is an excellect one for people who are attempting to grow by overcoming religious faith, and you place within reach easy-to-understand information for those who want to grow. Your stimulation of the readers' mirth response is as deft as a physicians striking for the patella knee reflex. No response--big problem. The letters you print, especially the testimonials from ex-christians, are priceless, and I hope to see more of them. We have all heard countless insipid tales from saved ones telling about how splendid it is to wield supernatural power in their daily lives; so it is truly exciting to read about someone who has miraculously overcome the mental disorder of religous faith, such as DB of Ontario, California. I suggest that you open direct communication between your readers. I, for example, would be delighted to exhcange some letters with DB of Ontario, California. Could you start a bulletin board for correspondence, or perhaps forward letters?

Editor's Response to Letter #121

Dear Jack. Your letter is one the most gracious and insightful ever received by BE. We do try to be sensitive to the feelings of even the most ardent apologists which accounts for the noticeable absence of demeaning humor and derogatory comments. With respect to DB's testimonial, he might contact you himself after reading this issue. As far as opening up a bulletin board or forwarding letters is concerned, I can assure you that these are only a few of the projects we've been considering. We'd like to: duplicate and distribute tape recordings of radio appearances, create a complete index of every subject discussed in BE, videotape speeches and forward copies to public access channels, create a bibliography of writings recommended as supplemental readings to BE with a short synopsis of each, give all the bureaucratic work that goes with increased subscriptions to others so more time can be devoted to research, compile a list of promising talk-show hosts and stations throughout the Nation, and obtain sufficient funds to buy a computer, a printer, and videotape equipment for producing BE and my own programs. Those are only some of the activities we'd like to initiate, but time and money are needed. Rest assured, Jack, we have big plans at BE.

Issue #36 Editor: Dennis McKinsey


Dec. 1985


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A national periodical focusing on Biblical errors, contradictions, and fallacies, while providing a hearing for apologists

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Prophecy (Part Two of a Four Part Series)--Last month's Commentary began listing those prophecies which were fulfilled in a manner different from that predicted and this month's Commentary will continue that enumeration: (12) "And Hazor shall be a dwelling for dragons, and a desolation for ever; there shall no man abide there, nor any son of man dwell in it" (Jer. 49:33). People never stopped living in Hazor and continue to do so. (13) "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not tast of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom" (Matt. 6:28) and "he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not tast of death, till they have seen the Kingdom of God come with power" (Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27). These prophecies show Christ's coming was to occur during the life of then existing persons. Yet, when did the Kingdom of God come with power? Second Peter 3:8 ("But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day") can't be invoked to escape from the problem because Jesus repeatedly stated that his contemporaries would see his return. All of them have long since passed away and people still await the Kingdom of God. (14) "But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven" (Matt. 26:63-64, Mark 14:61-62). The high priest never saw the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven. (15) God told Isaiah to promise Ahaz that Rezin and Pekah would not harm him. "And in the days of Ahaz the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son the Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but they could not conquer it....and the Lord said to Isaiah, "Go forth to meet Ahaz,...and say to him, `Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying, Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves,...thus says the Lord God; It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass" (Isa. 7:1-7). Yet, Ahaz and his forces were slaughtered by Rezin and Pekah. "Wherefore the Lord his God delivered him (Ahaz--Ed.) into the hand of the king of Syria; and they smote him, and carried away a great multitude of them captives, and brought them to Damascus. And he was also delivered into the hand of the King of Israel, who smote him with a great slaughter. For Pekah the son of Remaliah slew in Judah an hundred and twenty thousand in one day, which were all valiant men;...." (2 Chron. 28:5-6). God's promise (the prophecy) failed. (16) According to Ezekiel, Tyre will fall to Nebuchadrezzar and be destroyed by him. He will plunder Tyre's riches. "For thus saith the Lord God; Behold I will bring upon Tyrus Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, a king of kings.... He shall slay with the sword thy daughters in the field:...and with his axes he shall break down thy towers...he shall slay thy people by the sword, and thy strong garrisons shall go down to the ground. And they shall make a spoil of thy riches...." (Ezek 26:7-12) and "All they that know thee (the king of Tyre--Ed.) among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more" (Ezek. 28:19). Yet, Nebuchadrezzar did not take Tyre or make a spoil of its riches. His 13 year siege failed. He took the outworks but the town was on an island and remained impregnable. "Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon made his army labor hard against Tyre; every head was made bald and every shoulder was rubbed bare; yet neither he nor his army got anything from Tyre to pay for the labor that he had performed against it. Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchardrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall carry of its wealth and despoil it and plunder it; and it shall be the wages for his army. I have given him the land of Egypt as his recompense for which he labored...." (Ezek. 29:18-20 RSV). Tyre was not conquered by Nebuchadrezzar, so God gave him Egypt as compensation. No historian either Greek or Phoenician mentions Tyre being taken, plundered, and destroyed by Nebuchadrezzar. Alexander the Great actually conquered Egypt 240 years later. (17) "And the sword shall come upon Egypt, and great pain be in Ethiopia, when the slain shall fall in Egypt, and they shall take away her multitude, and her foundations shall be broken down. Ethiopia, and Libya, and Lydia, and all the mingled people,...shall fall with them by the sword.... And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I have set a fire in Egypt, and when all her helpers shall be destroyed.... Thus saith the Lord God; I will also make the multitude of Egypt to cease by the hand of Nebuchadrezzar King of Babylon. He and his people with him, the terrible of the nations, will be brought to destroy the land; and they shall draw their swords against Egypt, and fill the land with the slain. And I will make the rivers dry,...and there shall be no more a prince of the land of Egypt: and I will put a fear in the land of Egypt....And I will set fire in Egypt" (Ezek. 30:4-16) and "thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against Pharoah king of Egypt, and will break his arms,.... And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries. And I will stengthen the arms of the king of Babylon, and put my sword in his hand: but I will break the Pharoah's arms,.... I shall put by sword into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall stretch it out upon the land of Egypt" (Ezek. 30:22-26). (a) The multitudes of Egypt have never been taken away or dispersed among other countries. (b) Ethiopia, Libya, and Lydia never fell along with Egypt. They never fell to a common destroyer. (c) A large conflagration never occurred in Egypt. (d) Nebuchadrezzar never destroyed the land of Egypt. (e) A prince continued to rule in Egypt long after Nebuchadrezzar. (f) The rivers of Egypt were never made dry and (g) None of the evils which Ezekiel said Nebuchadrezzar would bring upon Egypt ever occurred. (18) "It (Egypt--Ed.) shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations" (Ezek. 29:15). Yet, in the 1820's Egypt took over and ruled the Sudan. (19) "And Babylon,...shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there;...and satyrs shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and their time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged" (Isa. 13:19-22) and "...but thou (Babylon) shall be desolate for ever, saith the Lord....to make the land of Babylon a desolation without an inhabitant" (Jer. 51:26, 29) and (Jer. 51:37, 43, Isa. 13:20). (a) There has never been any time since Isaiah that Babylon was uninhabited or desolate. (b) Arabians still visit there. (c) Shepherds still make their fold there. (d) Babylon has never been known for its dancing satyrs and dragons in the palaces. Since satyrs are mythological creatures, the prophecy could never have been fulfilled anyway. (e) Apparently Babylon's days have been prolonged since it still exists, and has continued to do so for over 2,000 years. (20) "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:17-19). Yet, one jot and one tittle did pass from the law before all was fulfilled. Indeed, Paul all but abolished any reliance upon the Old Law and Jesus ignored many maxims. (21) "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled" (Matt. 24:34). Jesus made this statement after listing a wide assortment of events that were to occur. Yet, the Son of man has not come like lightning shining from the east to the west, and all the tribes of the earth have not seen him coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Nor has he sent his angels with sounds of a trumpet gathering the elect from all parts of the world. The sun has not become darkened; the moon has not failed to give its light, and the stars have not fallen from heaven. Nearly 2,000 years have passed and this prophecy has never occurred, although Jesus strongly stated it would materialize in the lifetime of his generation. (22) "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25). The hour is coming and now is. "And now is" shows the dead were to hear Jesus' voice and become alive at that time. (23) "The stranger that is within thee (Jews--Ed.) shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low. He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail" (Deut. 28:43-44). According to this prophecy Jews would be borrowers and not lenders. If Jews had always been in debt instead of being great money-lenders, Christians would hale this as a great prophecy instead of the failure it is.

DIALOGUE AND DEBATE

Letter #122 from BW of Federal Way, Washington

Dear Mr. McKinsey. You are absolutely right. The Bible can't be explained by reason! I can't figure out a lot of things that are in the Bible. Some things can be proven historically, etc. but where is the proof that all the spiritual aspects are true? I just don't understand. However, I also don't understand a lot of Einstein's theories, but I believe them because they seem to work. I also believe the Bible because when I try its principles they seem to work quite nicely. Maybe I'm looking through rosey colored glasses but I happen to like the idea of a Hero who saved me from who knows what. I also like the idea of living forever in a place called heaven. It just all seems like a lot of fun to me and I know I'm enjoying having a relationship with Jesus. I know you probably think I'm silly, ignorant, not willing to face the facts, and on and on. I just have one question for you. If it's wrong what will happen to me? I will live a happy and satisfied life and take my chances of dying like a dog (no afterlife). I guess I really have two questions for you because here's the second one. If you are wrong what will happen to you?

Editor's Response to Letter #122

Dear BW. At least on one point you are to be commended. You didn't send us an apologetic response teeming with rationalizations, prevarications, and obfuscations seeking to prove black is white. You cut through the usual rhetoric and went straight to the heart of the matter. Tossing reason aside, you candidly admit that you believe the Bible because you "like the idea of a Hero who saved me from who knows what" and "the idea of living forever in a place called heaven." Unfortunately, BW, truthfullness is of far less importance to you than happiness and contentment. But if you are correct and accuracy and reliability are of no real importance, then people might just as well believe anything that creates good feelings. That this would leave millions vulnerable to every snake-oil salesman imaginable goes without saying. I don't know if you have children, BW, but, if so, is that what you want for them. Several years ago the slogan, "If it feels good do it" was making the rounds and biblicists were offended by the implicit immorality contained therein. Now you're telling us "If it feels good, believe it. Don't worry about the absence of reason or evidence." Secondly, you say you believe the Bible "because when I try its principles they seem to work quite nicely." I'm not sure what principles you're referring to. The powers which are supposed to accrue to believers and those who pray often fail to materialize, while its moral teachings can be found in many religious books. I don't blame you for qualifying your remark by saying they "seem to work." Only someone blind to reality would say they are quite reliable. Thirdly, if your comment that "I know I'm enjoying having a relationship with Jesus" is sufficient justification for belief, then others could justify their relationship with drugs, alcohol, cults, and the occult because they, too, are enjoyable to many. Goodness, healthfulness, and truthfulness are not substantiated by pleasure. Fourthly, your closing synopsis of Pascal's Wager is considerably weaker than you realize. Understandably, its influence is strongest on those who have lived in a Christian dominated society. You might want to read the Commentary on Pascal's Wager in Issue #22. Essentially, all you are saying is that wisdom lies in believing and not taking chances. But it's not that simple. Believe what? Do you know how many different religious beliefs there are? Following your logic, to really be safe one would have to accept tham all, which is impossible since many are mutually exclusive. Why should we assume that only Christian teachings could be valid? Fifthly, some Christian beliefs will bring damnation to their adherents according to other religions. Muslims, for example, hold that belief in the Trinity is a sure path to perdition. How can you be sure they are wrong? Aren't you gambling? You ask, "If I'm wrong what will happen to me?" According to many others you are wrong and plenty is going to happen to you. In fact, even within Christianity scores of sects and denominations have long since written off the others. Without even knowing the Christian group or tenets to which you adhere, I can assure you that more than one denomination has already written you off as hopelessly lost. How do you know they are wrong? And you accused me of gambling! Sixthly, the Bible attributes acts to God that can only be described as appalling, including killing, deceiving, causing adultery, ordering killings, playing favorites, practicing injustice, punishing many for the acts of one, and ordering cannabalism. (A much more extensive list is on page 5 of the third issue). What would be your feelings toward a book describing you in such a manner, BW? If God hasn't done anything to you so far, could it be he is just letting you hang yourself and on the Judgment Day in which you believe you're going to discover just how angry he has been from the beginning? Remember, you, not I, champion these characterizations. And lastly, you said, "I will live a happy and satisfied life and take my chances of dying like a dog (no afterlife)." You have even chosen to ignore the teachings of your own book which says your fate is comparable to that of a dog. "For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of the beasts is the same; as one dies so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage (pre-eminence--KJV) over the beasts; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to the dust again. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast does down to the earth?" (Eccle. 3:19-20 RSV). You can't begin to cover all the bases, BW, so the only sensible alternative is to adopt that to which the overwhelming preponderance of the evidence leads.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Letter #123 form Rev. DFS of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Dear Mr. McKinsey...I look forward to your publication every month and always find it interesting and enjoyable. One small suggestion. Could you keep the borders (esp. the right) more even to allow room to three-hole punch them without chopping through words. I punch them so I can keep them all together in a three-ring binder. Although only in the discussion stages right now I am looking into the possibility of having a weekly radio program. It would be 15 or 30 minutes long and on about 100 radio stations scattered around the nation. At first it will be taped. Later, at least once in a while it will be live with an 800 number call-in feature. This will probably be a quarterly hour program. It will be a religous program, but it will be non-Christian and a good percentage of shows will be along the lines of your letter--an honest, open-minded discussion of the Bible. I would like to know if you'd be interested in being a fairly frequent guest, or even occasionally a guest host. We will cover all expenses and be willing to pay reasonable fees. We could even give your publication ad time or promotional consideration. This is still in the very early stages and this inquiry, of course, is informal.

Editor's Response to Letter #123

Dear Rev. DFS. I'd be more than happy to appear on any program at any time of your choosing. Just call or write. In the past, I've asked readers to contact their local radio stations, especially those with call-in programs, for possible appearances by BE. Your comment on the right margin of BE is well taken. Recent reductions in print size have sought to alleviate a problem caused by trying to put too much information into too small an area.

Letter #124 from JG of Oak Park, Illinois

Dennis...As I am writing, I am watching the John Ankerberg Show. Dr. Walter Martin, a Baptist polemicist and another trinitarian fundie are debating two United Pentecostals who are anti-trinitarian fundies. Unfortunately, the trinitarian fundies won. If I were to debate Dr. Martin solely on the Trinity, I'm afraid I'd lose or perhaps draw. I could score devastating blows on history and philosophy but he'd win decisively on Greek scholarship, because I don't know Greek. Dennis, can you come up quickly with an anti-trinitarian argument that could beat any Christian trinitarian, even a smart fundie like Martin or a Ph.D. Jesuit or Dominican theologian?.... Since the vast majority of Christians are trinitarians, a fool-proof anti-trinity argument would be a great rhetorical device for any freethinker.

Editor's Response to Letter #124

Dear JG. You have focused upon one of Christianity's cardinal beliefs. The core of the apologetic argument in this regard is that there is only one god but three separate and distinct persons. Each is god, yet there is only one god. Trinitarianism is an impossible concept to grasp, comparable to that of believing in a black white horse. Your best strategy is to pen them down to specific details. How can god on earth talk to god in heaven or out there somewhere and, yet, only one god exist? Most Christians aren't even aware a problem exists. So you must first explain the imbroglio that's involved and, then, show why escape isn't an option. Both are important. After debating this issue on several occasions and recently spending over 5 hours with a couple of ministers and laymen from the Church of Christ, I've concluded the word "trinitarian" is useless and little more than doubletalk. If anything, Christians are tritheists, not trinitarians. They believe in three gods under the guise of three persons. They seek to make the Godhead a separate being when it's nothing more than an all-encompassing rubric such as "mankind." Spending your time showing biblicists they can't even conceive of what they are trying to describe is more profitable than trying to understand the belief yourself. Anyone attempting to visualize a black white horse is going to waste a lot of time. Clergymen often try to project the Trinity as a mystery beyond mere mortal powers which should be believed while not understood. Of course it's not a "mystery," which is nothing more than a euphemism, but an impossibility. Debating this issue is imprecise because the concept is so muddled, even for its proponents. If you discuss the topic with some apologists, JG, which I'd recommend, let me know what they say. There is no better way to develop an effective approach. Your quest for an effective strategy is to be complimented. That's precisely what others should be doing. No program to counter biblicists on their own turf exists and that's a major reason they have dominated the scene for so long. They've had a kind of privileged sanctuary to which to flee. Comfortable in the belief they have truth, and nothing but, they have never known a serious challenge in their own arena. If we turn on the floodlight of reality and enter the cave of darkness, some inhabitants are bound to leave or move closer to the exit as the light approaches. Have no doubt about that. Questions about what one should say to various apologetic positions are of crucial importance and always welcome. I may not have the best answer, because we are all learning, but I'll try. Incidentally, I saw the Ankerberg Show you mentioned. Many combative apologists resemble hired guns in the Old West. Removing threats to the territory is their primary concern and that's why we need more knowledgeable firepower. Are you sure the trinitarians won the debate? Remember, Ankerberg controls the videotape and decides what is broadcast. I'd recommend viewing the entire program before deciding. Christian broadcasts are even less reliable than Christian commentaries. Do you really believe starving Ethiopians are the primary recipients of all those donations? You don't have to be an auditor to know that when no policing apparatus, governmental or otherwise, is monitoring where millions of dollars are going and from whence they are coming, the opportunities for deception and corruption are multitudinous.

Letter #125 form Mark Potts, 8510-A East 66th Place South, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74123

Dear Dennis. Here is a mini-editorial for BE. Biblicists would have us believe the following: (1) In the beginning God created a perfect man and woman. But they became corrupt. (2) God sent the Flood to destroy wickedness in the earth. But the people after the Flood are just as bad as the ones before. (3) God gave us his Law through Moses. But following the Law can't save us. Now, according to the biblicists, God has devised a "plan of salvation" which we must accept. Given their description of God's success record, what basis do we have for assuming this latest scheme will work? Incidentally, I want you to evaluate the following argument. Biblicists have told me that Matt. 19:16-21 (salvation by works) just applies to the man whom Jesus is addressing and no one else. If that's the case, then John 3:1-21 just applies to Nicodemus and no one else. Similarly, Acts 16:30-31 applies only to Paul's jailer, while Rom. 10:9 applies only to the Christians in Rome for whom Paul wrote this letter. If salvation advice is directed toward a specific person, how do you tell if these spiritual instructions apply to one person or to everybody? A local preacher has been jailed recently for contempt-of-court. His church runs a day-care center, and he refuses to apply for state licensing, since that would be recognizing an authority other than Jesus. But his actions are plainly unbiblical since according to Rom. 13:1-7 the civil authorities receive their power from God....

Editor's Response to Letter #125

Dear Mark. Your constantly improving ability to critique the Bible provides good evidence that training programs (courses, seminars, institutes, etc.) need to be created, especially for the young, to teach people how to expose the Bible in every forum possible. Thousands of knowledgeable analysts could provide the balance this Country so sorely needs.

Letter #126 from JH of Visalia, California

Dear Dennis. You made a point that occurred to me some time ago. I asked a Fundamentalist preacher what saves a person from hell. And he said, "accepting Jesus as your savior." In that case, all those who never heard of Jesus (including those who lived and died before he was born) never had a chance to be saved. Which brings me to a more general question: what exactly is the virtue of believing in something? Or the wickedness of not believing in it? For that matter, what is the virtue of a virgin birth? On the same score, if one is saved by "faith" and belief, then heaven will have in it the pious sadists of the Middle Ages and "born again" criminals; while in hell will be the benign intelligence of people like Darwin, Freud and Russell.... Just some thoughts of my own. I really like your newsletter, and I'm glad you put it out. I find it exciting and informative. Also I'm very impressed by your thorough knowledge of the Bible and the deft way you use it.

Letter #127 from MM of Wyckoff, New Jersey

Dear Sir: I read your newsletter, every word, and enjoyed it very much.... Are you a non-profit, tax deductible religous publication? Your stuff should be put in bus and plane stations, public libraries, and maybe C-n Science Reading Rooms.

Editor's Response to Letter #127

Dear MM. BE is non-profit but, as yet not tax deductible.

Letter #128 from RA of Albany, Oregon

Dear Dennis. A great series! I shall venture some comments later on. I wouldn't change a thing about your format, if I were you. (Except, maybe, to charge us 7 or 8 dollars a year instead of 6 dollars!)

EDITOR'S NOTES: (1) Point of clarification: Although extra-biblical topics are not normally discussed in BE, they are by no means totally excluded. Indeed, not only would drawing a definite line of demarcation be quite difficult but some topics and information outside the Bible clearly impinge on the Book's validity. The Bible is the nucleus about which conversation flows, but we have never hesitated to include subjects such as the historicity of Jesus, the scientific problems associated with the Flood, and biblical geography when they are directly relevant to biblical errancy. (2) Several prominent leaders of atheist and humanist organizations have been using profanity, scandalous humor, and other vulgarisms in speeches, writings, and talk-show appearances throughout the Nation. BE wishes to divorce itself from such behavior in no uncertain terms. We find it not only personally repugnant but tactically irrational. The typical religious stereotype of those in what is loosely called the freethought movement is that of people engaged in immorality and license. Reprehensible conduct of this nature can only buttress their suspicions and provide ammunition to biblicists. The primary reason activities of this kind should be avoided is that they have no place in a decent environment.