Criticism of the Bible
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The view that the Bible should be accepted as historically accurate and as a reliable guide to morality has been questioned by many scholars in the field of biblical criticism. In addition to concerns about morality, inerrancy, or historicity, there remain some questions of which books should be included in the Bible (see canon of scripture). Jews discount the New Testament, Jews and most Christians discredit the legitimacy of the New Testament apocrypha, and a view sometimes referred to as Jesusism does not affirm the scriptural authority of any biblical text other than the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels.
- 1 Bible history issues
- 2 Translation issues
- 3 Ethics in the Bible
- 4 Internal consistency
- 5 The Bible and science
- 6 The Bible and archaeology
- 7 Unfulfilled prophecies
- 7.1 Messianic prophecies
- 7.2 Prophecies after the event
- 7.3 The success of Joshua
- 7.4 The destruction of Tyre
- 7.5 The protection of the King of Judah
- 7.6 The death of the king of Judah
- 7.7 The death of Josiah
- 7.8 The land promised to Abraham
- 7.9 The fate of Damascus
- 7.10 The fate of Jews who stay in Egypt
- 7.11 The return of Jewish prisoners of war
- 7.12 The strength of Judah
- 7.13 The identity of the conquerors of Babylon
- 7.14 Jehoiakim prophecies
- 7.15 New Testament
- 8 Notable critics
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Bible history issues
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The Hebrew Bible and Christian Bible are works considered sacred and authoritative writings by their respective faith groups that revere their specific collections of biblical writings. The Old Testament collection, or Hebrew Bible, was originally composed in Hebrew, except for parts of Daniel and Ezra that were written in Aramaic. These writings depict Israelite religion from its beginnings to about the 2nd Century BC. The New Testament was written in Koine (common) Greek.
At the end of the 17th century few Bible scholars would have doubted that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, but in the late 18th century some liberal scholars began to question his authorship, and by the end of the 19th century some went as far as to claim that the Pentateuch as a whole was the work of many more authors over many centuries from 1000 BC (the time of David) to 500 BC (the time of Ezra), and that the history it contained was often more polemical rather than strictly factual. By the first half of the 20th century Hermann Gunkel had drawn attention to the mythic aspects of the Pentateuch, and Albrecht Alt, Martin Noth and the tradition history school argued that although its core traditions had genuinely ancient roots, the narratives were fictional framing devices and were not intended as history in the modern sense.
While the limits of the canon were effectively set in these early centuries, the status of scripture has been a topic of scholarly discussion in the later church. Increasingly, the biblical works have been subjected to literary and historical criticism in efforts to interpret the texts independent of Church and dogmatic influences. Different views of the authority and inspiration of the Bible also continue to be expressed in liberal and fundamentalist churches today. What cannot be denied, however, is the enormous influence which the stories, poetry, and reflections found in the biblical writings have had, not only on the doctrines and practices of two major faiths, but also on Western culture, its literature, art, and music.
In the 2nd century, the gnostics often claimed that their form of Christianity was the first, and they regarded Jesus as a teacher, or allegory. Elaine Pagels has proposed that there are several examples of gnostic attitudes in the Pauline Epistles. Bart D. Ehrman and Raymond E. Brown note that some of the Pauline epistles are widely regarded by scholars as pseudonymous, and it is the view of Timothy Freke, and others, that this involved a forgery in an attempt by the Church to bring in Paul's Gnostic supporters and turn the arguments in the other Epistles on their head.
Some critics have alleged that Christianity is not founded on a historical figure, but rather on a mythical creation. This view proposes that the idea of Jesus was the Jewish manifestation of a pan-Hellenic cult, known as Osiris-Dionysus, which acknowledged the non-historic nature of the figure, using it instead as a teaching device.
Some critics express concern that none of the original manuscripts of the books of the Bible still exist. All translations of the Bible have been made from well-respected but centuries-old copies. Religious communities value highly those who interpret their scriptures at both the scholarly and popular levels. Translation of scripture into the vernacular (such as English and hundreds of other languages), though a common phenomenon, is also a subject of debate and criticism.
Translation has led to a number of issues, as the original languages are often quite different in grammar and word meaning. While the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy states that "inerrancy" applies only to the original languages, some believers trust their own translation as the truly accurate one—for example, the King-James-Only Movement. For readability, clarity, or other reasons, translators may choose different wording or sentence structure, and some translations may choose to paraphrase passages.
Because many of the words in the original language have ambiguous or difficult to translate meanings, debates over correct interpretation occur. For instance, at creation(Gen 1:2), is רוח אלהים (ruwach 'elohiym) the "wind of god", "spirit of god"(i.e., the Holy Spirit in Christianity), or a "mighty wind" over the primordial deep? In Hebrew, רוח(ruwach) can mean "wind","breath" or "spirit". Both ancient and modern translators are divided over this and many other such ambiguities. Another example is the word used in the masoretic text [Isa 7:14] to indicate the woman who would bear Emmanuel is alleged to mean a young, unmarried woman in Hebrew, while Matthew 1:23 follows the Septuagint version of the passage that uses the Greek word parthenos, translated virgin, and is used to support the Christian idea of virgin birth. Those who view the masoretic text, which forms the basis of most English translations of the Old Testament, as being more accurate than the Septuagint, and trust its usual translation, may see this as an inconsistency, whereas those who take the Septuagint to be accurate may not.
In the History of the English Bible, there have been many changes to the wording, leading to several competing versions. Many of these have contained Biblical errata—typographic errors, such as the phrases Is there no treacle in Gilead?, Printers have persecuted me without cause, and Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom of God?, and even Thou shalt commit adultery.
More recently, several discoveries of ancient manuscripts such as the Dead Sea scrolls, and Codex Sinaiticus, have led to modern translations like the New International Version differing somewhat from the older ones such as the 17th century King James Version, removing verses not present in the earliest manuscripts (see List of omitted Bible verses), some of which are acknowledged as interpolations, such as the Comma Johanneum, others having several highly variant versions in very important places, such as the resurrection scene in Mark 16. The King-James-Only Movement advocates reject these changes and uphold the King James Version as the most accurate.
Ethics in the Bible
Certain moral decisions in the Bible are questioned by many modern groups. Some of the most commonly criticized ethical choices include subjugation of women, religious intolerance, use of capital punishment as penalty for violation of Mosaic Law, sexual acts like incest, toleration of the institution of slavery in both Old and New Testaments, obligatory religious wars and the order to commit the genocide of the Canaanites and the Amalekites. Christian Apologists support the Bible's decisions by reminding critics that they should be considered from the author's point of view and that Mosaic Law applied to the Israelite people (who lived before the birth of Jesus). Other religious groups see nothing wrong with the Bible's judgments. One example that is often cited is the biblical law of the rebellious son:
"If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his home town. And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear of it and fear." (Deut. 21:18-21)
There are many places in the Bible in which inconsistencies—such as different numbers and names for the same feature, and different sequences for the same events—have been alleged and presented by critics as difficulties. Responses to these criticisms include the modern documentary hypothesis, the two-source hypothesis and theories that the Pastoral Epistles are pseudonymous.:p.47 Contrasting with these critical stances are positions supported by other authorities that consider the texts to be consistent. Such advocates maintain that the Torah was written by a single source, the Gospels by four independent witnesses, and all of the Pauline Epistles to have been written by the Apostle Paul.
However authors such as Raymond Brown have presented arguments that the Gospels actually contradict each other in various important respects and on various important details. W. D. Davies and E. P. Sanders state that: "on many points, especially about Jesus’ early life, the evangelists were ignorant … they simply did not know, and, guided by rumour, hope or supposition, did the best they could". More critical scholars see the nativity stories either as completely fictional accounts, or at least constructed from traditions that predate the Gospels.
For example, many versions of the Bible specifically point out that the most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses did not include Mark 16:9-20, i.e., the Gospel of Mark originally ended at Mark 16:8, and additional verses were added a few hundred years later. This is known as the "Markan Appendix".
The Bible and science
The universe, as presented literally in the Bible, consists of a flat earth within a geocentric arrangement of planets and stars (e.g. Joshua 10:12–13, Eccles. 1:5, 1 Chron. 16:30). Modern astronomy has provided overwhelming evidence that this model is false. The spherical shape of the earth was established with certainty by Hellenistic astronomers in the 3rd century BCE. The heliocentric nature of the solar system was conclusively established in the 16th century CE. Many modern Christians and Jews assert that these passages are written as metaphorical or phenomenological descriptions and not meant to be taken literally. This response is intuitive given the modern prevalence of the expression "the sun rises" despite that it is common knowledge in the English speaking world that the sun does not, in fact, rise.
Another common point of criticism regards the Genesis creation narrative. According to young Earth creationism, which takes a literal view of the book of Genesis, the universe and all forms of life on Earth were created directly by God sometime between 5,700 and 10,000 years ago. This assertion is contradicted by radiocarbon dating of fossils, as well as modern understanding of genetics, evolution, and cosmology. For instance, astrophysical evidence suggests that the universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old. Moreover, it would require an impossibly high rate of mutation to account for the current amount of genetic variation in humans if all humans were descended from two individuals several thousand years ago.
The Bible and archaeology
According to one of the world's leading biblical archaeologists, William G. Dever,
"Archaeology certainly doesn't prove literal readings of the Bible...It calls them into question, and that's what bothers some people. Most people really think that archaeology is out there to prove the Bible. No archaeologist thinks so." From the beginnings of what we call biblical archeology, perhaps 150 years ago, scholars, mostly western scholars, have attempted to use archeological data to prove the Bible. And for a long time it was thought to work. William Albright, the great father of our discipline, often spoke of the "archeological revolution." Well, the revolution has come but not in the way that Albright thought. The truth of the matter today is that archeology raises more questions about the historicity of the Hebrew Bible and even the New Testament than it provides answers, and that's very disturbing to some people.
Dever also wrote:
Archaeology as it is practiced today must be able to challenge, as well as confirm, the Bible stories. Some things described there really did happen, but others did not. The biblical narratives about Abraham, Moses, Joshua and Solomon probably reflect some historical memories of people and places, but the 'larger than life' portraits of the Bible are unrealistic and contradicted by the archaeological evidence.... I am not reading the Bible as Scripture… I am in fact not even a theist. My view all along—and especially in the recent books—is first that the biblical narratives are indeed 'stories,' often fictional and almost always propagandistic, but that here and there they contain some valid historical information...
This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom. And it will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel, YHWH, had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only in the waning period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai.
Professor Finkelstein, who is known as "the father of biblical archaeology", told the Jerusalem Post that Jewish archaeologists have found no historical or archaeological evidence to back the biblical narrative on the Exodus, the Jews' wandering in Sinai or Joshua's conquest of Canaan. On the alleged Temple of Solomon, Finkelstein said that there is no archaeological evidence to prove it really existed. Professor Yoni Mizrahi, an independent archaeologist who has worked with the International Atomic Energy Agency, agreed with Israel Finkelstein.
“Really, it’s a myth,”... “This is my career as an archaeologist. I should tell them the truth. If the people are upset, that is not my problem.”
The alleged fulfillment of biblical prophecies is a popular argument used as evidence by Christian apologists to support the claimed divine inspiration of the Bible. They see the fulfillment of prophecies as proof of God's direct involvement in the writing of the Bible.
According to Christian apologists, the alleged fulfillment of the messianic prophecies in the mission, death, and resurrection of Jesus proves the accuracy of the Bible. However, according to Jewish scholars, Christian claims that Jesus is the messiah of the Hebrew Bible are based on mistranslations and Jesus did not fulfill the qualifications for Jewish Messiah.
An example of this is Isaiah 7:14. Christians read Isaiah 7:14 as a prophetic prediction of Jesus' birth from a virgin, while Jews read it as referring to the birth of Ahaz's son, Hezekiah. They also point out that the word Almah, used in Isaiah 7:14, is part of the Hebrew phrase ha-almah hara, meaning "the almah is pregnant." Since the present tense is used, they maintain that the young woman was already pregnant and hence not a virgin. This being the case, they claim the verse cannot be cited as a prediction of the future.
Prophecies after the event
An example of an alleged after-the-fact prophecy is the Little Apocalypse recorded in the Olivet Discourse of the Gospel of Mark. It predicts the siege of Jerusalem and destruction of the Jewish Temple at the hands of the Romans in 70 AD. Most mainstream New Testament scholars concede this is an ex eventu (foretelling after the event), as are many of the prophecies in the Old Testament such as Daniel 11.
Another example is Isaiah's prophecy about Cyrus the Great. Traditionally, the entire book of Isaiah is believed to pre-date the rule of Cyrus by about 120 years. These particular passages (Isaiah 40-55, often referred to as Deutero-Isaiah) are believed by most modern critical scholars to have been added by another author toward the end of the Babylonian exile (ca. 536 BC). Whereas Isaiah 1-39 (referred to as Proto-Isaiah) saw the destruction of Israel as imminent, and the restoration in the future, Deutero-Isaiah speaks of the destruction in the past (Isa 42:24-25), and the restoration as imminent (Isiah 42:1-9). Notice, for example, the change in temporal perspective from (Isiah 39:6-7), where the Babylonian Captivity is cast far in the future, to (Isaiah 43:14), where the Israelites are spoken of as already in Babylon.
The success of Joshua
The Book of Joshua describes the Israelite conquest of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, the son of one of the aides to Moses. After Moses' death, God tells Joshua to conquer Canaan and makes predictions of his success. Amongst other things, Joshua was to be given a vast dominion that included all of the Hittite land, and the advantage of facing no one who could stand up to him.
While the Book of Joshua delineates many successful conquerings, the Canaanites were not amongst those conquered and the Israelites did suffer defeat. Judah, a leader of one of the twelve tribes of Israel, is unable to dislodge the Jebusites from Jerusalem and was forced to cohabit, while the Manassites, another of the twelve tribes, lack the strength to occupy several Canaan towns. Other bastions of resistance dot the landscape. Even after Joshua's death, the land is only partially conquered with the Canaanites remaining a significant external threat. Critics argue that Joshua never lives to see the full territory God promises him and that the substantial resistance put up by the indigenous population violates God's promise of battles in which no enemy was his equal.
The destruction of Tyre
- Ezekiel predicts that the ancient city of Tyre will be utterly destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and "made a bare rock" that will "never be rebuilt" (Ezekiel 26:1, , ). However, Tyre withstood Nebuchadrezzar's siege for 13 years, ending in a compromise in which the royal family was taken into exile but the city survived intact.
Apologists cite the text as saying that the prophecy states that "many nations" would accomplish the destruction of Tyre, and claim that this refers to later conquerors (Ezekiel 26:3), but skeptics counter that this was a reference to the "many nations" of Nebuchadrezzar's multinational force (Nebuchadrezzar was described by Ezekiel as "king of kings", i.e., an overking, a ruler over many nations), and that subsequent conquerors didn't permanently destroy Tyre either (it is now the fourth-largest city in Lebanon). Ezekiel himself admitted later that Nebuchadnezzar could not defeat Tyre (Ezekiel 29:18).
- Ezekiel said Egypt would be made an uninhabited wasteland for forty years (Ezekiel 29:10-14), and Nebuchadrezzar would be allowed to plunder it (Ezekiel 29:19-20) as compensation for his earlier failure to plunder Tyre (see above). However, the armies of Pharaoh Amasis II defeated the Babylonians. History records that this Pharaoh (also known as Ahmose II) went on to enjoy a long and prosperous reign; Herodotus writes that:
It is said that it was during the reign of Ahmose II that Egypt attained its highest level of prosperity both in respect of what the river gave the land and in respect of what the land yielded to men and that the number of inhabited cities at that time reached in total 20,000.
The prophecy in chapter 29 dates in December 588—January 587. 20 years later, in the year 568, Nebuchadnezzar attacked Egypt. F.F. Bruce writes still more exactly that the Babylonian king invaded Egypt already after the siege of Tyre 585—573 BC and replaced the Pharaoh Hophra (Apries) by Amasis:
The siege of Tyre was followed by operations against Egypt itself. Hophra was defeated, deposed and replaced by Amasis, an Egyptian general. But in 568 BC Amasis revolted against Nebuchadnezzar, who then invaded and occupied part of the Egyptian frontier lands.
Megasthenes also, in his fourth book of his Accounts of India, makes mention of these things, and thereby endeavours to show that this king (Nebuchadnezzar) exceeded Hercules in fortitude, and in the greatness of his actions; for he saith that he conquered a great part of Libya and Iberia.
On the other hand Nebuchadnezzar makes no mention of this campaign against Egypt in his inscriptions, at least that are currently known. It is too simple to argue with Herodotus, especially because his credibility was ever since contested. The forty years are not to understand as an exact number. This figure became a significant period of chastisement to the Hebrews remembering the forty years in the desert after the exodus from Egypt.
The protection of the King of Judah
- Isaiah spoke of a prophecy God made to Ahaz, the King of Judah that he would not be harmed by his enemies (Isaiah 7:1-7), yet according to 2 Chronicles, the king of Aram and Israel did conquer Judah (2 Chronicles 28:1-6).
In Isaiah (Isaiah 7:9) the prophet says clearly that a prerequisite for the fulfillment of the prophecy is that Ahaz stands firm in his faith. F.F. Bruce claims that this means Ahaz should trust God and not seek military help in the Assyrians, which Ahaz did.
The death of the king of Judah
- In predicting Jerusalem's fall to Babylon, Jeremiah prophesied that Zedekiah, the king of Judah, would "die in peace" (Jeremiah 34:2-5). However, according to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 52:9-11, he was put in prison until the day of his death.
Apologists maintain that Zedekiah did not suffer the same terrible death as all the other nobles of Judah did when Nebuchadnezzar killed them in Riblah. Jeremiah also told Zedekiah in his prophecy that he would have to go to Babylon, which the Apologists claim implies that he will be imprisoned. There are no historical records of what happened with Zedekiah in Babylon and a peaceful death is not ruled out.
The death of Josiah
- Prophetess Huldah prophesied that Josiah would die in peace (2 Kings 22:18-20), but rather than dying in peace, as the prophetess predicted, Josiah was probably killed at Megiddo in a battle with the Egyptian army (2 Chronicles 35:20-24).
Apologists allege that the prophecy of Huldah was partially fulfilled because Josiah did not see all the disaster the Babylonians brought over Jerusalem and Judah. The prophetess clearly stated that because of Josiah's repentance, he will be buried in peace. But the king did not keep his humble attitude. As mentioned in 2 Chronicles (2 Chronicles 35:22), he did not listen to God's command and fought against the Egyptian pharao Necho. It is quite possible that he did this "opposing the faithful prophetic party". Prophecy in the biblical sense is except in some very few cases never a foretelling of future events but it wants to induce the hearers to repent, to admonish and to encourage respectively; biblical prophecy includes almost always a conditional element.
The land promised to Abraham
- According to Genesis and Deuteronomy (Genesis 15:18, and Deuteronomy 1:7-8), Abraham and his descendants, the Israelites will unconditionally (Deuteronomy 9:3-7) own all the land between the Nile River and the Euphrates River for an everlasting possession. But a critic says it never happened, that they never owned all that land forever.
An apologist's counter-claim would be that a reading of Davidic conquests tells of the Israelite occupation of all the promised lands. F.F. Bruce writes:
David's sphere of influence now extended from the Egyptian frontier on the Wadi el-Arish (the "brook of Egypt") to the Euphrates; and these limits remained the ideal boundaries of Israel's dominion long after David's empire had disappeared.
Acts 7:5 and Hebrews 11:13 are taken out of context if used as evidence against the fulfillment of these prophecies. Stephen does not state in Acts that the prophecy was not fulfilled. Moreover, it does not seem any problem for him to mention side by side the promise to Abraham himself and that Abraham did not get even a foot of ground. This becomes understandable with the concept of corporate personality. Jews are familiar with identifying individuals with the group they belong to. H. Wheeler Robinson writes that
Corporate personality is the important Semitic complex of thought in which there is a constant oscillation between the individual and the group—family, tribe, or nation—to which he belongs, so that the king or some other representative figure may be said to embody the group, or the group may be said to sum up the host of individuals.
The letter to the Hebrews speaks about the promise of the heavenly country (Hebrews 11:13-16).
The fate of Damascus
- According to Isaiah 17:1, "Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins", but in fact Damascus is considered among the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.
An apologist's response to this statement is that this verse refers to the destruction of Damascus as a strong capital of Syria. This was fulfilled during the Syro-Ephraimite War.
The passage is consistent with 2 Kings 16:9, which states that Assyria defeated the city and exiled the civilians to Kir.
The fate of Jews who stay in Egypt
- According to Jeremiah 42:17, Jews who choose to live in Egypt will all die and leave no remnant. But history shows that Jews continued to live there for centuries, later establishing a cultural center at Alexandria. A Jewish community exists at Alexandria even to this day.
According to apologists, a more thorough examination of the surrounding text suggests that Jeremiah is stating that no refugees who flee to Egypt would return to Israel except for few fugitives. Jeremiah 42-44 had relevance mainly to the group of exiles who fled to Egypt. It emphasizes that the future hopes of a restored Israel lay elsewhere than with the exiles to Egypt.
The return of Jewish prisoners of war
- Isaiah and Jeremiah (Isaiah 27:12-13, Jeremiah 3:18, Jeremiah 31:1-23, and Jeremiah 33:7) predicted the return of the exiles taken from Israel by the Assyrians in 722 BC. It never happened. Following the conquest of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians in 721 BC, the 10 tribes were gradually assimilated by other peoples and thus disappeared from history. Unlike the Kingdom of Judah, which was able to return from its Babylonian Captivity in 537 BC, the 10 tribes of the Kingdom of Israel never had a foreign edict granting permission to return and rebuild their homeland. Assyria has long since vanished, its capital, Nineveh, destroyed in 612 BC.
Apologists, however, charge that Luke 2:36 states that Anna the Prophetess, daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher, was living as a widow in the sanctuary ministering to God with and fastings and petitions night and day. Thus, at least some (tiny) portion of Israel returned, since it was unlikely that a lone female would return to the land of Israel unaccompanied by kinsmen as safe escort.
Although the exiled Israelites from the Northern kingdom did not return from Assyria, apologists state that it must be considered that these passages also contain the expectation of the messianic days. Theologians point out that in Isaiah 27:12-13 Euphrates and the Wadi of Egypt represent the northern and southern borders of the Promised Land in its widest extent (Genesis 15:18) and thus they refer these verses to the return of the Israelites to Jerusalem in the last days, in the messianic time. Israelites will be gathered from wherever they have been expelled from the north, Assyria, to the south, Egypt. Jeremiah's prophecy of Israel's and Judah's return from the north in Jeremiah 3:18 is preceded by the request of Yahweh to the Israelites to come back (verse 14). After fulfilling this condition God will increase their number and none will miss the ark of the covenant (verse 16). All nations will then honour the Lord (verse 17). Consequently Christian scholars refer verse 18 to messianic times when there will be a kingdom united as in the days of David and Solomon. Jeremiah 31 should be seen in context with chapter 30. Some scholars argue that these chapters were written early in Jeremiah's ministry and refer to Northern Israel. Later these poems were updated and referred to Judah as well, probably by Jeremiah himself, when it was realized that Judah had passed through similar experiences to those of Israel. The Book of Consolation (Jeremiah 30:1—31:40) reaches his final, messianic scope in the establishment of a New Covenant between Yahweh and the House of Israel and the House of Judah.
The strength of Judah
- Isaiah 19:17 predicted that "the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt". Assuming that the 'terror' implied was a large-scale military attack of Egypt, it never happened.
According to theologians, the statement that the "land of Judah" will terrify the Egyptians is not a reference to a large army from Judah attacking Egypt, but a circumlocution for the place where God lives; it is God and his plans that will terrify Egypt. Verse 17 has to be understood in its context. The second "in that day" message from verse 18 announces the beginning of a deeper relationship between God and Egypt, which leads to Egypt's conversion and worshiping God (verses 19-21). The last "in that day" prophecy (verses 23-25) speaks about Israel, Assyria and Egypt as God's special people, thus, describing eschatological events.
The identity of the conquerors of Babylon
- Isaiah 13:17, Isaiah 21:2, Jeremiah 51:11, and Jeremiah 51:27-28 predicted that Babylon would be destroyed by the Medes, Ararat, Minni and Ashkenaz and Elamites. The Persians under Cyrus the Great captured Babylon in 539 BC. Daniel 5:31 incorrectly stated that it was Darius the Mede who captured Babylon.
Christian apologists state that the prophecy in Isaiah 13:21 could possibly have been directed originally against Assyria, whose capital Ninive was defeated 612 BC by a combined onslaught of the Medes and Babylonians. According to this explanation the prophecy was later updated and referred to Babylon not recognizing the rising power of Persia. On the other hand it can be mentioned that the Persian king Cyrus after overthrowing Media in 550 BC did not treat the Medes as a subject nation.
Instead of treating the Medes as a beaten foe and a subject nation, he had himself installed as king of Media and governed Media and Persia as a dual monarchy, each part of which enjoyed equal rights.
Jeremiah prophesied at the height of the Median empire's power, and thus he was probably influenced to see the Medes as the nation that will conquer Babylon. Several proposals were brought forth for "Darius the Mede" out of which one says that Cyrus the Great is meant in Daniel 5:31.
- The prophet Daniel states that in the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim, Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah (Daniel 1:1-2). The third year of Jehoiakim's reign was 605 BC, at which time Nebuchadnezzar was not yet king of Babylon. It was in 597 BC that Nebuchadnezzar takes Jerusalem, by then Jehoiakim had died.
Apologists respond that this is not a prophecy but a statement. Daniel 1:1 is a problem of dating. But already F.F. Bruce solved this problem explaining that when Nebuchadnezzar, son of king Nabopolassar, was put in charge over a part of his forces, he defeated Necho in the battle of Carchemish 605 BC. In this situation his father Nabopolassar died. Before Nebuchadnezzar as heir apparent returned to Babylon he settled the affairs in the Asiatic countries bordering the Egyptian frontier, which means also Judah, and took captives from several countries as, for example, also from the Jews.
- Jeremiah prophesied that the body of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, would be desecrated after his death (Jeremiah 22:18-19, Jeremiah 36:30-31). However, his death was recorded in 2 Kings 24:6 where it says that "Jehoiakim slept with his fathers". This is a familiar Bible expression that was used to denote a peaceful death and respectful burial. David slept with his fathers (1 Kings 2:10) and so did Solomon (1 Kings 11:43). On the other hand, 2 Chronicles 36:5-6 states that Nebuchadnezzar came against Jehoiakim, bound him in fetters, and carried him to Babylon. Judging from the treatment Zedekiah was accorded when the Babylonians bound him and carried him away to Babylon (Jeremiah 52:9-11), one might justifiably argue that his body probably was desecrated after his death. Jeremiah, however, predicted that Jehoiakim's own people would be his desecraters, that his own people would not accord him lamentations appropriate for a king, that his own people would cast his body "out beyond the gates of Jerusalem".
Apologists proposal for a partial solution:
In the 7th year of his reign, in the month of Kislev (December/January 598/97), Nebuchadnezzar himself left Babylon and undertook the subjection of rebellious Judah. In that same month, King Jehoiakim died in Jerusalem. (On the basis of a comparison with 2 Kings 24:6,8,10ff, with the Babylonian Chronicle, Wiseman 73, lines 11-13, Kislev is the ninth month. In the twelfth month, Adar, Jerusalem was taken. Jehoiachin's reign falls in these three months.) It is not impossible that he was murdered by a political faction who thereby sought more mild treatment for their country. His 18-year old son Jehoiachin was raised to the throne (2 Kings 24:8). Three months later Jerusalem was entirely surrounded by Babylonians. Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the city of Judah (al-ya-ahu-du), and on the second day of the month of Adar he comquered the city and took its king prisoner.
Also F.F. Bruce writes that Jehoiakim died in Juda before the siege of Jerusalem began. This would mean that Jehoiakim was desecrated after his death and in this way the prophecy of Jeremiah was fulfilled. The passage in 2 Chronicles 36:5-6 does not speak explicitly about Jehoiakim's death. Thus, it can be seen as a parallel to Daniel 1:1-2 which speaks about an event in the lifetime of the king of Judah (see paragraph above). 2 Kings 24:6, nevertheless, remains unclear.
- Part of the desecration prophecy was that Jehoiakim would "have no one to sit upon the throne of David" (Jeremiah 36:30), but this too was proven false. Upon Jehoiakim's death, his son Jehoiachin "reigned in his stead" for a period of three months and ten days (2 Chronicles 36:8-9, 2 Kings 24:6-8). Also, there are biblical genealogies that purport to show Jehoiakim as a direct ancestor of Jesus (1 Chronicles 3:16-17, Matthew 1:11-12).
Apologists say that if Jehoiakim had not been killed by his own people, on the condition that this supposition is true (see preceding paragraph), in all likelihood, Jehoiakim would have been put to death by the Babylonians. The Israelites anticipated what Nebuchadnezzar intended to do. In this case, most probable, Jehoiakim's son Jehoiachin would not have become king and Jeremiah's prophecy would have been fulfilled in its full sense. Jehoiachin's successor, Zedekiah, was no descendant of Jehoiakim, but his brother.
The double reckoning of Jehoiachin in Matthew 1:11-12 is made possible by the fact that the same Greek name can translate the two similar Hebrew names Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin. In this way in verse 11 Jehoiakim and in verse 12 Jehoiachin is meant. The verse Jeremiah 36:30 says that Jehoiakim's descendants will not be kings in Judah anymore. This does not mean that he cannot be an ancestor of the Messiah.
Jesus said in Matt. 24:2; Mark 13:2; Luke 19:44; Luke 21:6 that "no stone" of Jerusalem or of the Second Temple would be left upon another. This prophecy failed, as the wailing wall (a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple's courtyard,) still remains.
In reply, John Robinson writes that
it was the temple that perished by fire while the walls of the city were thrown down.
The imminence of the second coming
Jesus prophesied that the second coming would occur during the lifetime of his followers and Caiphas, and immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE (referred to as abomination of desolation in Matt 24:15).
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. (Matthew 16:27-28)
"When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes." (Matthew 10:23)
..Again the high priest (Caiphas) asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?""I am", said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Mark 14:61-62)
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us", they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now-and never to be equaled again. Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. (Matthew 24)
(see also Mark 13:1-30, Luke 21:5-35, Mark 13:30-31, Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27, John 21:22, Matthew 26:62-64, Mark 14:62)
It may be argued that Jesus was not speaking of the second coming in Matthew 16:28 but instead referred to a demonstration of his or God's might; a viewpoint which allows the fulfillment of the prophesy through a variety of traumatic events, notably, the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD. The temple's destruction is held by proponents to demonstrate that God was on the side of the Christian people rather than that of the Jews. However, at that time only some of Jesus' disciples still lived. In the same way Matthew 10:23 should be understood. Note, however, that this view (referred to as Preterism) is not the majority view among American denominations, especially by denominations that espouse Dispensationalism. Furthermore it is a misunderstanding that Jesus meant Caiphas in Mark 14:62. The word "you will see" is in Greek "ὄψεσθε" [opsesthe, from the infinitive optomai], which is plural and not singular. Jesus meant that the Jews, and not just the high priest, will see his coming.
This prophecy is also seen in the Revelation of Jesus to John.
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,... Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:1,7)
"Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book. ... Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done." ... He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:7,12,20)
Despite the strongly repeated promises to the seven churches of Asia (Revelation 1:4,11) in the 1st century CE, Jesus has not come quickly or shortly according to critics.
Apologists respond that the word "soon" (other translations use "shortly" or "quickly") does not have to be understood in the sense of close future. The Norwegian scholar Thorleif Boman explained that the Israelites, unlike Europeans or people in the West, did not understand time as something measurable or calculable according to Hebrew thinking but as something qualitative.
We have examined the ideas underlying the expression of calculable time and more than once have found that the Israelites understood time as something qualitative, because for them time is determined by its content.
...the Semitic concept of time is closely coincident with that of its content without which time would be quite impossible. The quantity of duration completely recedes behind the characteristic feature that enters with time or advances in it. Johannes Pedersen comes to the same conclusion when he distinguishes sharply between the Semitic understanding of time and ours. According to him, time is for us an abstraction since we distinguish time from the events that occur in time. The ancient Semites did not do this; for them time is determined by its content.
In this way expressions of time, such as "soon", do not mean that the denoted event will take place in close future but that it will be the next significant event.
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
The philosopher Porphyry (232-305 CE), in his Kata Christianon (Against the Christians), a book burned and banned by the church in 448 CE writes of Paul:
Another of his astonishingly silly comments needs to be examined: I mean that wise saying of his, to the effect that, We who are alive and persevere shall not precede those who are asleep when the lord comes—for the lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout... and the trumpet of god shall sound, and those who have died in Christ shall rise first- then we who are alive shall be caught up together with them in a cloud to meet the lord in the air... Indeed—there is something here that reaches up to heaven: the magnitude of this lie. When told to dumb bears, to silly frogs and geese—they bellow or croak or quack with delight to hear of the bodies of men flying through the air like birds or being carried about on the clouds. This belief is quackery of the first rate.
The apologists answer for the passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is that Paul speaks about his own presence at the last day only hypothetically. He identifies himself with those Christians who will still live in the time of Jesus' return but does not want to express that he himself will still experience this. That becomes fully clear some verses later in which he says that the Day of the Lord comes like a thief (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2). The comparison of the Day of the Lord with a thief is a word of Jesus himself (Matthew 24:43-44), which expresses the impossibility to say anything about the date of his second coming (Matthew 24:36).
- Isaac Asimov
- Richard Dawkins
- Albert Einstein 
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- Robert G. Ingersoll
- Thomas Paine
- Bertrand Russell
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- Bible conspiracy theory
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- Criticism of the Talmud
- Criticism of the Qur'an
- Christ myth theory
- Misquoting Jesus
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- Examples of authors who argue the Jesus myth hypothesis: Thomas L. Thompson The Messiah Myth: The Near Eastern Roots of Jesus and David (Jonathan Cape, Publisher, 2006); Michael Martin, The Case Against Christianity (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991), 36–72; John Mackinnon Robertson
- Freke, Timothy and Gandy, Peter (1999) The Jesus Mysteries. London: Thorsons (Harper Collins)
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- W.D Davies and E. P. Sanders, 'Jesus from the Jewish point of view', in The Cambridge History of Judaism ed William Horbury, vol 3: the Early Roman Period, 1984.
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- The role and function of repentance in Luke-Acts, by Guy D. Nave, pg 194 – see http://books.google.com/books?id=4CGScYTomYsC&pg=PA194&lpg=PA194&dq=%2B%22markan+appendix%22&source=bl&ots=ex8JIDMwMD&sig=oCI_C1mXVSZYoz34sVlgRDaO__Q&hl=en&ei=3pq_St6aGYnSjAefnOU2&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2#v=onepage&q=%2B%22markan%20appendix%22&f=false
- The Continuing Christian Need for Judaism, by John Shelby Spong, Christian Century September 26, 1979, p. 918. see http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=1256
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- Why did the majority of the Jewish world reject Jesus as the Messiah, and why did the first Christians accept Jesus as the Messiah? by Rabbi Shraga Simmons (about.com)
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- John Arthur Thompson, The Book of Jeremiah, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1980, page 552
- New Jerusalem Bible, Standard Edition published 1985, introductions and notes are a translation of those that appear in La Bible de Jerusalem—revised edition 1973, Bombay 2002; footnote to Jeremiah 30
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- New Jerusalem Bible, Standard Edition published 1985, introductions and notes are a translation of those that appear in La Bible de Jerusalem—revised edition 1973, Bombay 2002; footnote to Isaiah 21:1.
- F.F. Bruce, Israel and the nations, Michigan, 1981, page 96.
- Daniel's First Verse by F.F.Bruce
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- F.F. Bruce, Israel and the nations, Michigan, 1981, pages 88.
- New Jerusalem Bible, Standard Edition published 1985, introductions and notes are a translation of those that appear in La Bible de Jerusalem—revised edition 1973, Bombay 2002; footnote to 2 Chronicles 36:6
- New Jerusalem Bible, Standard Edition published 1985, introductions and notes are a translation of those that appear in La Bible de Jerusalem—revised edition 1973, Bombay 2002; footnote to Matthew 11:1.
- John A.T., Robinson, Redating the New Testament, London, 1976, page 20
- Dr. Knox Chamblin, Professor of New Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary: Commentary on Matthew 16:21-28—see last 4 paragraphs
- Theodor Zahn, F.F. Bruce, J. Barton Payne, etc. hold this opinion is the meaning of Matthew 10:23?
- Riemer, Michael (2000). IT Was At Hand. p. 12.
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- Online Interlinear New Testament in Greek—Matthew 26
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- Thorleif Boman, Hebrew Thought compared with Greek, W.W.Norton & Company, New York—London, 1970, page 139
- Witherington, III, The Paul Quest, InterVarsity Press, 2001, page 140
- See also 1Cor7:29-31, andRomans 13:12
- New Jerusalem Bible, Standard Edition published 1985, introductions and notes are a translation of those that appear in La Bible de Jerusalem—revised edition 1973, Bombay 2002; footnote to 1 Thessalonians 4:15: "Paul includes himself among those who will be present at the parousia: more by aspiration, however, than by conviction."
- Einstein: "The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."
- Brandt, Eric T., and Timothy Larsen (2011). "The Old Atheism Revisited: Robert G. Ingersoll and the Bible". Journal of the Historical Society 11 (2): 211–238. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5923.2011.00330.x.
- The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy, by C. Dennis McKinsey (Prometheus Books 1995)
- The Historical Evidence for Jesus, by G.A. Wells (Prometheus Books 1988)
- The Bible unearthed, by I. Finkelstein and N. Asherman (Touchstone 2001)
- David and Solomon, by I. Finkelstein and N. Asherman (Freepress 2006)
- The Jesus Mysteries, by T. Freke and P. Gandy (Element 1999)
- The Jesus Puzzle, by Earl Doherty (Age of Reason Publications 1999)
- Not the Impossible Faith, by R. Carrier (Lulu 2009)
- BC The archaeology of the Bible lands, by Magnus Magnusson (Bodley Head 1977)
- godless, by Dan Barker (Ulysses Press 2008)
- Why I became an Atheist, by John W. Loftus (Prometheus books 2008)
- The greatest show on earth, by Richard Dawkins (Blackswan 2007)
- The god delusion, by Richard Dawkins (Blackswan 2010)
- 101 myths of the Bible by Gary Greenberg (Sourcebooks 2000)
- Secret origins of the Bible by Tim Callahan (Millennium Press 2002)
- The Origins of Biblical Monotheism by Mark S. Smith (Oxford uni.press 2001)
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