Thursday, March 26, 2009

PAGAN PARADOX -- by Richard C. Speaks

O, harlot of Zion
Painted Jezebel
Are you burning
down in hell?

They dragged you screaming
from your throne
Dogs lapped your blood
And gnawed your bones

Enigmatic Ba'al
uttered not a sound
As the vengeful mob
pulled His altars down

The god of old
prevailed again
The love of flesh
replaced by sin


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

MATTHEW vs LUKE On The Nativity -- by Richard C. Speaks

Was Jesus really born of a virgin in King David's hometown of Bethlehem? The Gospels of Mark and John are silent on the subject of JC's immaculate birth. They both suggest that JC's birthplace wasn't Bethlehem, but Nazareth (Mark 6:1-5, 14:67, & John 1:37-46, 7:40-52, 19:19). Matthew and Luke both agree that JC was born in Bethlehem of the virgin Mary, but they tell conflicting accounts about all the details and incidents surrounding that divine event.

In a court of law such contradictory evidence would be catastrophic to the case for JC's Bethlehemic birth, as well as His Davidic linage. But blind faith is disdainful of any truth that questions, or conflicts with dogma. The believers just blur this disunity into a unified Xmas card tradition that borrows imagery from both versions; with three wise men following the Xmas star to Bethlehem, and baby Jesus in a manger, surrounded by bowing shepherds, and a choir of euphoric angels.

This is not gospel. This is a hybrid. A Christian crazy-quilt constructed, out of necessity, to cover up all the contradictions of Matthew and Luke. I think that's why the New Testament compilers stuck Mark's gospel between the two, when chronologically it should have come first, not Matthew. It was a put there to help obscure these glaring contradictions about JC's origins.

Matthew was the most dramatic, and had to be read first to imprint specific details (that exist no where else) upon the willing minds of believers, so they can harmonize the whole mess for themselves in their minds, and disregard the things that don't fit. People often see what they want to see. Even when it's not really there.

The only way to see through this smokescreen of dogmatic tradition is to examine both gospels individually with open eyes and an open mind.

Matthew begins with JC’s genealogy from Abraham down to Joseph.
"...and Jacob fathered Joseph, the husband of Mary." (1:1-17) Luke waits until the last half of chapter 3 (3:23-38). Luke’s contradicts Matthew's from the branch of King David all the way down to JC, "being the son, as it was thought, of Joseph, son of Heli." Luke’s genealogy was written in reverse order, starting with JC’s non-biological father, Joseph, and working all the way down to “Adam, the first son of God.” Matthew claimed that JC's Davidic branch was Solomon. Luke said it was Nathan. They couldn't even get the name of JC's paternal grandfather right. Some apologists have attempted to explain this away by claiming that Luke's genealogy is actually Mary's linage, but the text makes is quite clear that this was Joseph's family tree, not his wife's.

Let’s take a closer look at these miraculous birth stories.


MATTHEW 1:18-2:23

In Matthew's gospel, Joseph lives in Bethlehem. He doesn’t have to travel to get there. He's already there! The star of Bethlehem shines down upon Joseph’s house in Matthew(1:20, 24/ 2:9-11). The wise men come to Joseph's house, were Jesus was born.

The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage.
MATTHEW 2:10,11

Matthew doesn't mention any Augustus ordered taxation, and/or census. Matthew also neglects to report the miraculous birth of John the Baptist, which preceded JC's miraculous birth according to Luke. In Matthew, JC meets JTB for the very first time at JC's baptism. Luke claims the two were first cousins, and even precedes JC's miraculous birth with a miraculous birth story for cousin JTB. They don't appear to have any family connection in Matthew's version.

In Matthew's gospel the angels speak to Joseph, clearing up the matter of his blushing bride's suspicious pregnancy, and other important information, but Mary is left out of the heavenly loop (1:20-24, 2:13, 2:22). King Herod hears about the birth of JC, the Messiah and future king from Matthew's traveling wise man (How wise was that?), and he orders the murder of all they baby boys in the land (2:16-18). Being forewarned of this atrocity by a angel in a dream, Joseph flees Bethlehem with his family, and sojourns in Egypt to fulfill ancient prophecies (2:13-15). Too bad the angels neglected to warn everybody else! Sometime later, Joseph departs from Egypt, upon hearing of Herod's unlamented demise in another dream, and he moves his family to Nazareth (To fulfill another prophecy)(2:19-23). After that Matthew never mentions JC's un-dad again.


LUKE 1:26-2:21

In Luke, Joseph lives in Nazareth, and must travel with his pregnant wife, Mary, to Bethlehem to pay taxes, and be counted by Augustus’ census. (2:1-6). There is no room at the Inn, and JC is born in a manger (2:7). No wise men come lavishing gifts, but a bunch of scruffy shepherds abandon their flocks just to come into town, and fawn over cute little baby Jesus. They don't bring any gifts, and they don't stick around long, lest their flocks go astray (2:8-20).

In Luke's gospel Joseph and Mary stayed eight days in Bethlehem, and they were never in any danger. They even took the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for His (oddly necessary) circumcision, along with the ritual blood sacrifice of 2 turtledoves (2:21-38). After that they return home, in Nazareth, without further incident (2:39). No star of Bethlehem. No wise men. No jealous Herod. No mass-murdered baby boys. No flight into Egypt. No drama.

In Luke's account the angels talk to almost everybody, but poor, confused Joseph (Zacharias: 1:11-22, Mary: 1:28-38, shepherds: 2:9-15). Luke's Joseph gets the silent treatment from on high, just like the rest of us.


The Apocryphal Gospels THE PROTEVANGELION (13:1-12) and I INFANCY (1:4-21) both claim that Jesus was born in a cave on the outskirts of Bethlehem. God was even kind enough to pause time itself, so Joseph could run and fetch a midwife. The book of MARY also states that Joseph resided in Bethlehem.

And now the ninth month from her conception drew near, when Joseph took his wife and what other things were necessary to Bethlehem, the city from whence he came.
MARY 8:13

In the QURAN (Suras 3:45-59 & 19:16-36) we get yet another version of JC's immaculate birth that never mentions Joseph, or the town of Bethlehem. As a matter of fact, Muhammad referred to JC as the "son of Mary" almost every time. And that's quite a bit. "Isa, the son of Maryam." There's something fishy about Muhammad's overuse of this title. If JC wasn't the son of Allah, and he wasn't the son of Joseph...? Was Muhammad implying that the son of man was a bastard? Mary was a single mother, according to the Prophet. And she gave birth to JC alone, and in secret under a date tree. Very fishy.

In the Book (Quran), tell (the story of) Maryam (Mary), when she went away from her family (for prayer) to a place in the East (her chamber). She placed a screen (to hide herself) from them. Then We sent to her Our angel, and he appeared before her in the form of a man of respect in every way.

She said: “Verily, I ask for shelter from you with (Allah) Most Gracious: (Do not come near me) if you guard (yourself) against evil.”

He said: “I am a messenger from your Lord, (only to announce to) you, the gift of a righteous son.”

She said: “How shall I have a son, when no man has touched me, and I am not immodest (or indecent)?”

He said: “(It will still be) so. Your Lord says: ‘That is easy for Me. And (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign to men and a Mercy from Us.’ It is a matter (already) ordered.”

So she started to carry him (baby Jesus in her womb), and she went (to rest) with him to a far place.
And the pains of childbirth took her to the trunk of a palm-tree: She cried (in her pain): "Oh! If I had died before this! If I was a thing forgotten and not (even) seen!"

Then (a voice) cried to her from under (the tree): “Do not feel sad! Because your Lord has made (for you) a stream underneath you. And shake towards yourself the trunk of the palm-tree. It will drop fresh ripe dates (fruits) upon you. So eat and drink and cool (wet your) eye. And if you see any man, say, ‘I have promised solemnly to (Allah) the Most Gracious, and this day I will not enter into talk with any human being.’”

At the end she brought the baby to her people, carrying him (baby Jesus in her arms). They said: “O Maryam (Mary)! Truly an amazing thing have you brought! O sister of Haroon (Arron)! Your father was not an evil (adulterous) man, and your mother was not an immoral woman!”

Then she pointed to the baby (Jesus). They said: “How can we talk to one who is only a child in the cradle?”

He (the baby Isa) said: “Indeed I am a servant of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet. And He (Allah) has made me blessed where ever I be, and has commanded for me prayer and charity as long as I live. He(Allah) has made me kind to my mother, and not arrogant or miserable. And peace is on me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I will be raised (again) to life!”

Isa (Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary) was like this. (It is) a statement of truth, about which they dispute (without any use). It is not suited for (Almighty) Allah that He should father a son. Glory to Him (Allah)! When He determines anything, He only says to it, “Be”, and it is.

(Isa said:)
“And surely Allah is my Lord and your Lord. His (Alone) you therefore worship (and serve). This is the Straight Path.”
SURA 19:16-36

In the Apocrypha, and the Quran, JC was born with the power of speech. Just like the Buddha. Matthew and Luke wisely kept all of JC's miracles post-baptism.

Which version of the Nativity is true? Probably none of them. I'm not saying that there wasn't a real human being named some Aramaic version of Jesus bar Joseph behind all this mythology. The Jesus tomb, found at the foot of the Mount of Olives in 1980, proves that much. There might have even been a real human being, from some forgotten long ago, upon which the legendary Hercules was based. A remarkable person, or persons, who's exceptional qualities and deeds inspired repetitions, as well as inventions from the traveling bards of old. Time, and countless re-tellings have a way of turning men into demi-gods. That's probably how Paul Bunyan got so damn tall! Like JC, Hercules was also said to be the son of the god of gods. People used to worship Hercules too. They had faith in him long ago. Today Hercules is just a myth. A fictional character found in comic books and bad B-movies. Lot's of fictional characters are based upon real people. But fact is fact, and fiction ain't.

I should know. The Buddha and I have the same birthday! If they got the date right, that is. We all know they didn't get JC's birthday right. It wasn't during the Winter Solstice. Unless Luke was also wrong about the shepherds in the fields tending their sheep. Who can say?

The inconsistencies of the Gospels is reason enough cast doubt on their claims that JC was in fact: God sacrificing Himself to Himself. Even Muhammad had problems buying into such non-sense. The suicidal avatar of the Almighty God? What a downer! 

O People of the Book! Do not commit excesses in your religion: Nor say anything except the truth about Allah. Messiah Isa (Christ Jesus), the son of Maryam (Mary) was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He sent down to Maryam (Mary), and a Spirit created by Him: So believe in Allah and His messengers. Do not say ‘Trinity: Stop (saying so): It will be better for you: Because Allah is One Allah: Glory be to Him: (Far Supreme and Glorious is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And, Enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. Messiah (Christ) does not find it unworthy to serve and worship Allah, nor do the angels (find it unworthy), those (angels) nearest (to Allah): Those who find His (Allah’s) worship unworthy and (those who) are arrogant -- He will collect them all together to Himself (to answer for their actions).
SURA 4:171,172

Truly, in blasphemy are those who say that Allah is Messiah (Christ), the son of Maryam (Mary). Say (to them): “Who then has (even) the least power against Allah, if His Will was to destroy Messiah (Christ), the son of Maryam (Mary), his mother, and all -- Every one that is on the earth? And to Allah belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between. He (Allah) creates whatever He pleases. For Allah is able to do all things.”(Both) the Jews and the Christians say: “We are sons of God, and His beloved.” Say: “Why then does He punish you for your sins? No, you are only men (mere human beings) -- Of the (other) men He has created. He forgives whom He pleases, and He punishes whom He pleases. And to Allah belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between. And to Him is the final goal (of all).”
SURA 5:17,18

And remember! Allah will say (on the Day of Judgment): “O Isa (Jesus) the son of Maryam (Mary)! Did you say to men, ‘Worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah’? He (Isa) will say: “Glory be to You! It was not for me to say what I had no right to say. If I had said such a thing You would indeed have known it. You know what is in my heart, even though I do not know what is in Yours. Truly, You fully know all that is hidden and unseen. Never did I say to them anything except what You did command me to say, which is, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. And I was a witness over them while I lived among them. When You did take me up, You were the Watcher over them, and You are a Witness to all things.
SURA 5:116,117

And the Jews say Uzir (Ezra) is a son of God, and the Christians say Messiah (Christ) is the son of God. That is a saying from their mouth; (In this) they tell what the disbelievers of the old (days) used to say. Let Allah’s curse be on them. How they are deceived away from the truth! They hold their priests and their monks to be their lords besides Allah, and (they hold as Lord) Messiah (Christ), the son of Maryam (Mary); yet they were ordered to worship only One Allah. There is no god but He. Praise and glory to Him. (Far is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him).
SURA 9:30,31

They say, “Allah has fathered a son!” -- Glory be to Him! He (Allah) is Self-Sufficient! His are all things in the heavens and on earth! No reason do you have for this (lie about Allah)! Do you say about Allah what you do not know?
SURA 10:68

The Christians have faith that JC was God made flesh. The Muslims and Jews have faith that he was not. As for me, I require proof. Faith is belief without proof. A placebo.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.


Pre-programmed blinders and circular logic are what faith is all about. That's why Christians are so concerned about their children's early religious indocturnation, and in limiting their educational parameters. Too much objective thinking might spoil their brain-washing.

Skeptic Bible Study: The Jesus Timeline

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Nit-Picking Matthew's Prophetic Claims -- by Richard C. Speaks

In my last post I dismissed the author(s) of Matthew's gospel as less than truthful. I thought I'd better show you why by researching Matthew's use of the Old Testament (OT) to show that Jesus' short life was foretold centuries before. These are unique to Matthew. Lots of things are. Let's see how well these OT connections hold up under scrutiny. I think you'll be surprised.

The first Christmas according to Matthew
This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being an upright man and wanting to spare her disgrace, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.' Now all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: ‘Look! The virgin is with child and will give birth to a son whom they will call Immanuel.’ A name which means ‘God is with us.’
MATTHEW 1:18-23

This verse establishes that Joseph was of the royal bloodline. But it also establishes that JC wasn’t his biological son!

The Bible doesn’t tell us about Mary’s family tree. I suspect it might have been included if royal blood ran in her veins, but maybe not. The Good Book didn't put very much stock in female bloodlines, or mitochondrial DNA.

The son of man might have bled Port for all we know.

Here’s the OT passage the author(s) of Matthew were referring to. Does it really foretell the coming of JC?

Yahweh spoke to Ahaz again and said, ‘Ask Yahweh your God for a sign, either in the depths of Sheol or in the heights above. But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask. I will not put Yahweh to the test.‘ He then said: ‘Listen now, House of David: are you not satisfied with trying human patience that you should try my God’s patience too? The Lord will give you a sign in any case. It is this: the young woman is with child and will give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel. On curds and honey will he feed until he knows how to refuse the bad and choose the good. Before the child knows how to refuse the bad and choose the good, the lands, whose 2 kings are frightening you, will be deserted. Yahweh will bring times for you, your people, and your ancestral House, such as have not been seen since Ephraim broke away from Judah (the king of Assyria).’
ISAIAH. 7:10-17

Was this holy child, promised to king Ahaz, really JC?

I seriously doubt that Ahaz would have cared about what was going to happen a thousand years after he was dead. I think he would be far more concerned with his near future. Wouldn't you?
I think this prophecy was really about King Ahaz’s unborn son, Hezekiah; who did bring about a renaissance to the often troubled throne of David's progeny.

Consider the following:

In the 3rd year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah son of Ahaz became king of Judah. He was 25 years old when he came to the throne, and he reigned for 29 years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. He did what Yahweh regards as right, just as his ancestor David had done. He abolished the high places, broke the pillars, cut down the sacred poles and smashed the bronze serpent which Moses had made (Numbers 21:6-9); for up to that time the Israelites had offered sacrifices to it; it was called Nehushtan. He put his trust in Yahweh, God of Israel. No king of Judah after him could be compared with him-- nor any of those before him.
II KINGS 18:1-5

The part about the child being born of a virgin was just a mistranslation from Hebrew into Greek.

The “young woman" spoken of by Isaiah was probably Queen Abijah. The Israelites were often referred to metaphorically as a virtuous maiden in the Bible. Perhaps Abijah, daughter of the prophet Zechariah, mother of good King Hezekiah, may have been that paradigm of virtue they were referring to. The divine Mother of the just king.

The Good Shepherd cometh
After Jesus had been born in Bethlehem in Judea during the reign of King Herod, suddenly some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east asking, ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all his chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, ‘At Bethlehem in Judea, for this is what the people wrote: “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means the least among the leaders of Judah, for from you will come a leader who will shepherd my people Israel.

Here is the OT passage they were talking about. Does it really predict JC’s birth? You be the judge.

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, the least of the clans of Judah, from you will come for me a future ruler of Israel, whose origins go back to the distant past, to the days of old. Hence Yahweh will abandon them only until she who is in labor gives birth, and then those who survive of his race will be reunited to the Israelites. He will take his stand and he will shepherd them with the power of Yahweh, with the majesty of the name of his God, and they will be secure, for his greatness will extend henceforth to the most distant parts of the country. He himself will be peace! Should the Assyrian invade our country, should he set foot in our land, we shall raise 7 shepherds against him, 8 leaders of men; they will shepherd Assyria with the sword, the country of Nimrod with naked blade. He will save us from the Assyrian, should he invade our country, should he set foot inside our frontiers.
MICAH 5:1-5

This Messiah was coming to save his people from the Assyrians, not their sins.

Micah seemed to be hoping for a great warrior-king like David, who had been a good shepherd himself in his youth. Bethlehem was David's home town after all. A town whose origins go back to per-kingdom Israel, as depicted in the book of Judges.

I don’t think this has anything to do with JC.

Out of Egypt I have called my Son
So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod was dead. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: ‘I called my Son out of Egypt.’
MATTHEW 2:14,15

"When Israel was a child I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. But the more I called, the further they went from me; they offered sacrifice to Baal and burnt incense to idols."
HOSEA 11:1,2

Hosea was talking about back-sliders, apostates, and idolatry. Not JC. This wasn't even a prophecy! Matthew was just fishing for "My son" references anywhere he could find them. This is the fishiest one of all!

BTW. I'm amused by the Christian fish icons glued to so many bumpers. I have another take on the meaning of the JC fish. I see it as an admission that the NT is a very fishy book. Especially Mathew. Sorry for the digression. My mind works in mysterious ways.

The Slaughter of the Innocents
Herod was furious on realizing that he had been fooled by the wise men, and in Bethlehem and its surrounding district he had all the male children killed who were 2 years old or less, reckoning by the date he had been careful to ask the wise men. Then were fulfilled the words spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: A voice is heard in Ramah, laminating and weeping bitterly. It is Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they are no more.
MATTHEW 2:16-18

Does the OT really foretell the slaughter of the innocents? A story uncorroborated by Mark, Luke, John, or by any historian. Let’s see for ourselves.

Yahweh says this: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping bitterly: it is Rachel weeping for her children, because they are no more. Yahweh says this: Stop your lamenting. Dry your eyes. For your labor will be rewarded, Yahweh declares, and they will return from the enemy’s country. There is hope for your future after all. Yahweh declares, your children will return to their homeland.
JEREMIAH 31:15-17

There is nothing in Jeremiah about King Herod, JC, or the slaughter of the innocents. Jeremiah was predicting the return of the captive Hebrews in Babylon.


Nazarene or Nazirite?
So Joseph got up and, taking the child and his mother with him, went back to the land of Israel. But when he learnt that Archelaus had succeeded his father, Herod, as ruler of Judaea he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream, he withdrew to the region of Galilee. There he settled in a town called Nazareth. In this way the words spoken through the prophets were to be fulfilled: He will be called a Nazarene.
MATTHEW 2:21-23

Here is the only passage in the OT that comes close, but it doesn’t mention the town of Nazareth. This is about another "Chosen One" -- Samson the Nazirite hero -- A Herculean Hebrew who kicked some serious Philistine ass back in his day.

Was this another Hebrew into Greek error, or more pious fraud? See for yourself.

There was a man of Zorah of the tribe of Dan, called Manoah. His wife was barren; she had borne no children. The Angel of Yahweh appeared to this woman and said to her, ‘You are barren and have had no child, but you are going to conceive and give birth to a son. From now on, take great care. Drink no wine or fermented liquor, and eat nothing unclean. For you are going to conceive and give birth to a son. No razor is to touch his head, for the boy is to be God’s Nazirite from his mother’s womb; and he will start rescuing Israel from the power of the Philistines.
JUDGES 13:2-5

The Philistines were long gone before JC's time. The Babylonians had put the Philistines out of business centuries before then. Matthew was such a fibber!

What is a Nazirite? I'm glad you asked. Here's what Moses has to say:

Yahweh spoke to Moses and said, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say: “If a man or woman wishes to make a vow, the nazirite vow, to vow himself to Yahweh, he will abstain from wine and fermented liquor, he will not drink vinegar derived from one or the other, he will not drink grape juice or eat grapes, be they fresh or dried. For the duration of his vow he will eat nothing that comes from the vine, not even juice of unripe grapes or skins of grapes. As long as he is bound by his vow, no razor will touch his head; until the time for which he has vowed himself to Yahweh is completed, he remains consecrated and will let his hair grow freely. For the entire period of his vow to Yahweh, he will not go near a corpse....
(ect. ect. ect.)
NUMBERS 6:1-21

The word Nazirite means set apart unto God. Ultra-kosher. Pure. Which didn't fit ol' Samson very well either. This sure doesn't fit JC. Perhaps the prophets of old were talking about John, The Baptist, or maybe JC’s brother, James, the vegetarian. Definitely not JC, who didn't seem to sweat Levitical law. Consider the following passage:

"For John came, neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He is possessed.' The Son of man came, eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, A friend of tax collectors and sinners.' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds."
MATTHEW 11:18,19

The word Nazarene is'nt in the OT. As you can plainly see, Matthew was willing to take anything out of context to prove his gospel was backed up by the OT Prophets. Very fishy. Just like George Washington never telling a lie, chopping down a cherry tree before they were introduced to the New World, and chucking a silver dollar across the Delaware. So much for the truth. Fables are far more comforting.

As Paul once said:

You might as well say that if my untruthfulness makes God demonstrate His truthfulness, to His greater glory, then I should not be judged to be a sinner at all.

I'm not done with Matthew, but I think this is a good start. Stay tuned.

Betty Bowers Explains Prayer to Everyone Else