The CruciFICTION Series: Part 1 – The Problem With the Gospels

The CruciFICTION Series: Part 1 – The Problem With the Gospels

By Quran and Bible Blog Contributor stewjo004

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بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

“And bragging like it’s some kind of joke: “We killed the “Messiah” Jesus, the son of Mary, the “Messenger” of God!” But they did not kill him, nor crucify him, it was only made to appear that way to them. Those who argue over it are full of doubts, they have no definite knowledge to follow, only guesses and assumptions; but it is for certain they did not kill him. Rather God raised him up towards Himself. God has always been the Ultimate Authority and the Source of all Wisdom.”

 –  The Quran, Surah An-Nisa, 4:157-158

            Jesus’ (peace be upon him) Crucifixion is one of the most fundamental doctrines in mainstream Christianity. For many people looking into Islam it’s often considered strange that Islam denies the event, and there is no doubt that this tale, after the status of Jesus (peace be upon him), is the most contentious issue in Muslim/Christian dialogue.  In this series, we are going to explore various historical and theological arguments against the tale known as the “passion of the Christ”.[1]  Due to the length, the series will be broken into separate parts.  Part 1 will discuss the contradictions, inconsistencies, historical inaccuracies and proven fabrications that show the passion narrative is not 100% reliable.

Point 1: “The Passion” narratives are contradictory, inconsistent, have historical inaccuracies and proven fabrications inserted into the text which means they are not 100% reliable.

            The first thing that has to be established is whether the gospels are 100% reliable. I would argue that they are not for three reasons:

  1. The accounts contain contradictions
  2. The accounts contain a plethora of historical errors
  3. Strong evidences of fabrications being inserted into them such as the ending of Mark (16:9-20)  or the lady taken in adultery (John 8:1-11)

Defining Terms –

            Before getting into details of the contradictions, first we need to define what is meant by a proper contradiction. To keep this definition as simple as possible, it means that you basically cannot say something that makes the other thing you said impossible.  For example, let’s take a look at a commonly quoted alleged New Testament contradiction. We have two accounts explaining how Judas died:

  1. Judas hung himself: “So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.”[2]

  2. Judas fell down and his bowels spilled out: “With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.[3]

Neither statement about Judas contradicts the other, because neither statement makes the other impossible. The statements can be harmonized by stating: Judas hung himself and then his body fell down and the intestines spilled out. In order to make the set of statements contradictory, we would have something like:

  1. Judas hung himself at lunch time
  2. Judas hung himself at night

Since one makes it impossible for the other to have happened, we would then have a contradiction since both cannot be true. Now let’s look at actual contradictions in the gospel accounts.

A.  The Mary Magdalene Problem –

            Here is what Matthew says happened at the tomb when Jesus (peace be upon him) was resurrected:

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it… But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.”[4]


So, in Matthew’s account Mary Magdalene sees an angel at the tomb and hears the angel announce that Jesus (peace be upon him) has risen from the dead, and as she was running away from the tomb to tell the disciples about what happened, she meets Jesus.

            Okay, fair enough.  Now here is John’s version:

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon, Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”[5]

In John, Mary Magdalene finds the tomb empty, and then runs to the disciples and tells them that the body of Jesus (peace be upon him) had been stolen.  The problem is, if Mary Magdalene met Jesus at the tomb, then why does she say that the body is stolen in John? Since some people are visual learners, here are the events in diagram form:

B.  Jesus’s False Promise –

            Luke says that Jesus (peace be upon him) made a promise to the robber who was crucified with him:

“Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”[6]

This was during the crucifixion.  However, in John, Jesus says to the disciples after the resurrection:

“Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”[7]

Where is the Father?  He is in heaven according to Matthew.[8]  What was the promise that Jesus made to the robber again?  He would see Jesus in heaven the same day (i.e. on that Friday, the day of the crucifixion).  Yet John says that Jesus (peace be upon him) did not yet ascend to the Father (in heaven) on Sunday.[9]

            To make matters even more odd, when coupled with the “Creed of the Apostles” which may be based on 1 Peter 3:18-20, Jesus (peace be upon him) is supposed to have gone to hell after the crucifixion:

“Jesus who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, buried and descended into hell.”

C.  Jesus’s Arrest or Death on Passover –

            All four Gospels agree that the crucifixion took place on Friday.[10]  The Synoptics say that the Friday on which the crucifixion happened was the first day of Passover.  Jesus (peace be upon him) and his disciples are said to have sat down and ate the Passover meal in an event called the Eucharist:

Matthew’s Version (emphasis ours):

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the day the lambs for the Passover meal were killed, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and get the Passover meal ready for you?” Then Jesus sent two of them with these instructions: “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, where is the room where my disciples and I will eat the Passover meal?’ Then he will show you a large upstairs room, prepared and furnished, where you will get everything ready for us.” The disciples left, went to the city and found everything just as Jesus had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, Jesus came with the twelve disciples. While they were at the table eating

Luke’s Version (emphasis ours):

“Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.  Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked. He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

Now, according to the Synoptics, Jesus (peace be upon him) was arrested after having the Passover meal with his disciples.[11]  He was then crucified the next day in the morning.  But John says that the incident occurred one day earlier on the day of preparation for the Passover (emphasis ours):

“When Pilate heard these words, he took Jesus outside and sat down on the judge’s seat in the place called “The Stone Pavement” (In Hebrew the name is “Gabbatha.”) It was then almost noon of the day before Passover…they crucified him; and they also crucified two other men, one on each side, with Jesus between them.”[12]

 

“Early in the morning Jesus was taken from Caiaphas’ house  to the governor’s palace The Jewish authorities did not go inside the palace, for they wanted to keep themselves ritually clean, in order to be able to eat the Passover meal.[13]

John says that Jesus (peace be upon him) was arrested and taken to Pilate early in the morning of the day of preparation for the Passover meal which means that he was arrested the night before. So that means Jesus (peace be upon him) would have never been able to have the Eucharist incident in Mark.  As C.K. Barrett, the president of the Society for New Testament Studies (1973) and one of the greatest NT commentators of all time from the UK stated (emphasis ours):

“According to John the crucifixion happened on Nisan 14, the day before the Passover, the last supper must have been eaten the preceding evening. Thus the events are set a day earlier than in Mark, and the last supper is no longer the paschal meal; Jesus died at the same time when the Passover sacrifices were being killed in the Temple. Here again is a real contradiction; it seems impossible to reconcile the dates.[14]

Now one might wonder what was gained in changing the dates. John wanted to make the crucifixion coincide with the time of the slaughter of Passover lambs for his theological theme. In John’s opening, he makes the point that Jesus (peace be upon him) is the “Lamb of God” that will “take away the sins of the world.”[15] John’s entire goal was to make Jesus “the true Passover lamb” (by the way, he is the only one who presents Jesus (peace be upon him)  in this fashion). He was trying to make Jesus (peace be upon him) fulfill a prophecy in John 19:36 with a description that the Old Testament uses for the Passover lamb. Because John’s timeline corresponds intimately with his Crucifixion theology, some scholars have been led to dismiss this tale as a fabrication.[16]  Even Christian apologist Mike Licona conceded this as a contradiction during his debate with Professor Bart Ehrman.[17]

            What is most concerning about this particular contradiction is the manipulation of a story to fit a theological agenda. If a gospel author can manipulate the timing of the alleged crucifixion for mere correlation with a Jewish custom, then what other aspects of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) life and words could have been modified?  With that being said, we will now take a look at the historical inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the Passion narrative.

D.  Jesus’s charges during the night trial are not based on anything –

            This may come as a surprise to readers but neither claiming to be “the son of God” or “the Messiah” are blasphemies deserving of death in Jewish law.  The late Geza Vermes, one of the most distinguished scholars of ancient Judaism explained that:

“…no Jewish law of any age suggests that messianic claim amounted to the crime of blasphemy… It would therefore seem that the Synoptic tale of the night proceedings against Jesus lacks real foundation.”[18]

The son of God in the Jewish context has nothing to do with being divine. It is simply used as a claim to King David’s (peace be upon him) bloodline. This comes from the following verses in the Psalms:

“I will proclaim the LORD’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father.”[19]

God promises to David concerning his son Solomon, and then each new king in the line of David:

“I will be his father, and he will be my son…”[20]

The Jews as a nation are also called the “son of God”,[21] and the king is called the “son of God” because he represents and embodies the people.[22]  As Geza Vermes explained (emphasis ours):

“It is common knowledge that before the New Testament, the Hebrew Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls regularly speak of ‘Sons of God’ and occasionally refer to God in figurative speech as ‘begetting’ or ‘procreating’ a human being. In the Bible and in writings produced during the centuries that followed the completion of the Old Testament, ‘Son of God’ occurs in a variety of meanings. In addition to the angels already discussed, among the humans ‘Son of God’ was the title of anyone believed in some way to be linked to God. Every male Israelite could pride himself on being a ‘son of God’, and reciprocally he was in a position to call God his Father. In the course of time the phrase was also applied – more and more restrictively – to the good Jews, to the especially holy Jews, culminating with the king of the Jews and finally with the Messiah, the most holy and powerful future ruler of Israel about whom we read in the Florilegium, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ‘I will be his Father and he shall be my Son. He is the Branch of David.’ It is universally agreed among experts that in Judaism the phrase [‘Son of God’] is always used metaphorically; it never designates a person who is believed to be simultaneously man and God, a human being who also shares in some way divine nature.[23]

As can be seen, it appears the gospel authors were again inventing history, and tried to misconstrue the titles “son of God” and “Messiah” as being blasphemous statements to the Jews. The reality is that if Jesus (peace be upon him) said this in his culture, what he was claiming was to be pious Jew who was the Messiah to lead the Children of Israel.

E.  Jesus’ trial couldn’t have come to a verdict that day –

            Let’s now take a look at what the Mishnah rules are on capital punishment (emphasis ours):

“Civil suits are tried by day, and concluded at night. But capital charges must be tried by day and concluded by day. Civil suits can be concluded on the same day, whether for acquittal or condemnation; capital charges may be concluded on the same day with a favourable verdict; but only on the morrow with an unfavourable verdict. Therefore trials are not held on the eve of a sabbath or festival. In civil suits, and in cases of cleanness and uncleanness, we begin with [the opinion of] the most eminent [of the judges]; whereas in capital charges, we commence with [the opinion of] those on the side [benches].”[24]

Mark,[25] Matthew,[26] and John,[27] say that Jesus’ (peace be upon him)  trial with the Jews took place at night. According to the Jewish law as read above, this can’t be true unless the Jewish leaders and the high priest were altogether ignorant or perhaps involved in an evil conspiracy where they bent their own law.  We can say that is not far out there, but if that’s the case then why isn’t this mistake criticized in the gospels, when the Jews are criticized for other things, such as washing their hands? Now some might try to argue that the Mishnah (from which that Sanhedrin quote comes from) is not a valid proof for trials during Jesus’ (peace be upon him) time because its redaction date is about 200 C.E. However, Vermes explained that the Mishnah is not the only evidence available:

“…the Mishnah passage is not the only relevant evidence. First-century AD sources, such as Philo and the Dead Sea Scrolls, also testify to the illegality of court business on Sabbaths/feast days. Thus Philo writes: ‘Let us not…abrogate the laws laid down for it’s (the Sabbath’s) observance and…institute [on that day] proceedings in court’ (Migration of Abraham 91), and the Damascus Document from Qumran states just as firmly that “no one shall judge” on the Sabbath day (10:17-18).”[28]

He also stated:

“…the reliability of the account of Jesus’ appearance before the Sanhedrin and his condemnation to death is seriously undermined by the repeated contradictions and historical and legal improbabilities of Mark’s account, which has been copied in substance by Matthew. Luke and John further muddy the waters.”[29]

F.  Rome wouldn’t have sentenced Jesus to crucifixion –

            Joel B. Green, a professor of New Testament interpretation at Fuller Theological Seminary, says about Rome’s policy when it came to crucifixion (emphasis ours):

“In the context of any discussion of the material aspects of crucifixion it is crucial to remember that Rome did not embrace crucifixion as its method of choice for execution on account of the excruciating pain it caused. The acts of the crucifixion resulted in little blood loss and death came slowly, as the body succumbed to shock. This form of capital punishment was savage and heinous, but for other reasons. Executed publicly, situated at a major crossroads or on a well-trafficked artery, devoid of clothing, left to be eaten by birds and beasts, victims of crucifixion were subject to optimal, unmitigated, vicious ridicule. Rome did not expose its own citizens to this form of heinous punishment, but reserved crucifixion above all for those who resisted imperial rule.”[30]

Generally, it is argued that Rome is supposed to have crucified Jesus (peace be upon him) due to the political threat that he posed by claiming that he was the “King of the Jews”. For one, there is no explicit verse anywhere in the Bible where Jesus claims to be the king of anyone. Jesus, according to Christians, was not the military messiah that the Jews were expecting but more of a passive spiritual messiah. In the gospels there is no indication that Jesus intended to usurp the Roman Empire and thus there is no reason to execute him as a rebel. Jesus (peace be upon him) was even supposed to have been asked about this matter during the trial (emphasis ours):

“Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.”[31]

In the passage we can see that Jesus (peace be upon him) clearly denied any kingship. As a result, Jesus (peace be upon him) was found innocent by Pilate. Further evidence comes from another incident in the Bible. When Jesus (peace be upon him) thought that people wanted to make him King he left to a mountain by himself:

“When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”[32]

Jesus even told his followers to pay their taxes:

“Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.”[33]

How is an obedient subject of the Roman Empire condemned to a rebel’s death that the Romans didn’t even prefer to inflict? Some may argue that what Jesus (peace be upon him) personally believed or practiced didn’t matter because the Jews told Pilate that Jesus was a threat. Okay but, if Rome believed the Jews that Jesus was a threat, then why didn’t they immediately crack down on all of Jesus’s (peace be upon him) followers after his execution? Nothing like that happened until many years later. People were allowed to convert to Christianity and follow Jesus’ (peace be upon him) teachings. The earliest official Christian persecution by Rome was during Emperor Nero’s rule around 54 to 68 CE. However, this had nothing to do with the charges against Jesus (peace be upon him). Also, John actually says that Pilate didn’t fall for the accusations and continued to say Jesus (peace be upon him) was innocent:

“As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”[34]

 

Now think about that for a second. Imagine a judge today declared someone was innocent, but then sentenced them to the most painful death penalty that the country didn’t like doing anyways. Does that make any sense?

            Another point worth noting is Pontius Pilate being threatened by the mob. Of the Gospels, only Matthew describes Pontius Pilate as refusing involvement in Jesus’ (peace be upon him) crucifixion:

“So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.””[35]

Pilate’s behavior seems unlikely given what we know about the man. The historian Josephus says that Pilate’s method of crowd control was to send his soldiers into the mob and beat them (often killing them) into submission:

“However, the Jews were not pleased with what had been done about this water: and many ten thousands of the people got together, and made a clamour against him; and insisted that he should leave off that design. Some of them also used reproaches, and abused the man; as crowds of such people usually do. So he habited a great number of his soldiers in their habit; who carried daggers under their garments; and sent them to a place where they might surround them. So he bid the Jews himself go away. But they boldly casting reproaches upon him, he gave the soldiers that signal which had been before­hand agreed on. Who laid upon them much greater blows than Pilate had commanded them; and equally punished those that were tumultuous, and those that were not. Nor did they spare them in the least. And since the people were unarmed, and were caught by men prepared for what they were about, they were a great number of them slain by this means: and others of them ran away wounded. And thus an end was put to this sedition.”[36]

Pilate was eventually recalled to Rome because of his brutality in putting down another revolt by the Samaritans:

“But when this tumult was appeased, the Samaritan senate sent an ambassy to Vitellius; a man that had been consul, and who was now president of Syria; and accused Pilate of the murder of those that were killed. For that they did not go to Tirathaba in order to revolt from the Romans; but to escape the violence of Pilate. So Vitellius sent Marcellus, a friend of his, to take care of the affairs of Judea; and ordered Pilate to go to Rome, to answer before the Emperor to the accusations of the Jews. So Pilate, when he had tarried ten years in Judea, made haste to Rome: and this in obedience to the orders of Vitellius; which he durst not contradict. But before he could get to Rome, Tiberius was dead. [A.D. 37, Mar. 16.]”[37]

So he was a man who wasn’t exactly timid to Jewish demands.

            The final point worth noting on Rome and crucifixion is that both Matthew 27:38 and Mark 15:27 say that Jesus was crucified between two robbers (Luke just calls them criminals; John simply calls them men). This brings up a new problem: the Greek in the account says the robbers were: λῃσταί  (lēstai) along with the plural λῃστάς  (lēstas), according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon.[38]  So the men who are supposedly up on the cross are essentially bandits and not thieves like a pickpocket for example. So the question arises what was the penalty under Roman law for bandits? According to the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Roman Law:

“Latro (latrunculus). A robber, bandit, highwayman…. In the earlier law a latro was treated like a thief unless his crime was combined with a graver one (murder or use of violence. vis). Later, robbery (latrocinium) committed by a group of armed bandits became a special crime involving the death penalty by hanging (see FURCA)…”[39]

“Rapina. Robbery. Rapina was considered a form of furtum (theft) committed with the use of violence (vis)’ Only movables (vi bona rapta) could be the object of rapina. Rapina was a private wrongdoing (delictum), prosecuted only at request of the person injured, under a praetorian, penal action, actio vi bonorum raptorum, which if brought within one year of the time of the robbery, could lead to the condemnation of the convicted defendant to a four-fold value of the things stolen as a penalty to be paid to the plaintiff. After a year the condemnation was only in simplum (see ACTIONES IN SIMPLUM).The condemned robber was branded with infamy…”[40]

G.  Luke’s Extra Court Case –

            Mark, Matthew, Luke and John all agree that Jesus was brought before Pilate to be sentenced, but Luke adds another trial by Herod.[41] In this trial Jesus was supposedly mocked and ridiculed by Herod. Why would such a major event be completely absent in the other gospels? I’m not saying there is a contradiction but it would be really weird for the other gospels to not record this event especially considering that John was written after Luke. Luke, it seems, just wanted to add more drama to the story.

H.  Barabbas the Rebel and the Paschal Privilege –

            The story of the release of Barabbas in conjunction with the Passover is related by all four gospels.[42] This event is known as the “Paschal privilege” where the Roman governor has the right to offer a criminal amnesty.  But, there are serious problems to this story. First, the narratives themselves are different in how the offer is made. Second, in Mark and Matthew, the people persuaded by the chief priests who were present shouted and clamored for the death and crucifixion of Jesus. This story is again weird. How is it that Jesus, who was a popular religious figure and whose reputation was that of a miracle healer and Prophet loved by so many including those in Jerusalem, became an outcast and hated criminal in a matter of minutes in the eyes of the same Jewish population before Pilate? This same crowd only a short time ago was so passionate about Jesus that the chief priests were afraid of the people revolting if they tried to arrest Jesus.[43] On this issue, Vermes remarked:

“It is hard, indeed almost impossible, to imagine a nationalist Jewish crowd encouraging the Romans to kill one of their own countrymen.”[44]

Third, Barabbas was in prison for insurrection, according to the gospels. That means he was already found and declared guilty. Why would a revolutionary trying to overthrow the Roman government be freed by Pilate whose job was to keep order and maintain Roman rule in his jurisdiction? When this is added to the fact that Jesus was found innocent by Pilate, it becomes even more ridiculous. How is it that someone found guilty of insurrection is freed and Jesus who obeyed Roman law and taught his followers to pay taxes is the one that is killed? This would be like if the U.S. let Bin Laden go after 9/11 and let the local boy scout leader who they know didn’t rob the local convenience store where the employee got killed get the death sentence.

            Last but not least, there is no evidence to prove that a special Passover amnesty existed. Vermes stated:

“Such an amnesty is nowhere mentioned outside the Gospels, not even in Josephus, who was so well informed about first-century AD matters, and the evangelists themselves fail to agree on its precise nature… Hence the historicity of the amnesty is questionable.”[45]

I.  The Prophecies used in Judas’s death –

            Alright so Judas is supposed to have betrayed Jesus to the Jewish leaders for some money.[46] According to Matthew, this is what happened to Judas (emphasis ours):

“When Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was filled with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” he said. “What is that to us?” they replied, “You bear the responsibility.” So Judas threw the silver into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the pieces of silver and said, “It is unlawful to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” After conferring together, they used the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day.  Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on Him by the people of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord had commanded me.”[47]

In Volume 1 of his two-volume work on the crucifixion, Professor Raymond E. Brown said about this:

“That conglomeration of words cited by Matt exists nowhere in the standard OT.”[48]

The same was noted by Vermes:

“The quotation is said to be of Jeremiah, but it is invented or is more exactly a garbled mixture of Zechariah 11:12-13 and Jeremiah 18-2-3, 36:6-15.”[49]

As can be seen, the passage cites a prophecy that is attributed to the prophet Jeremiah. The problem is there is no prophecy like this in the entire book of Jeremiah. Christians have tried to reconcile the problem by mixing together Jeremiah 18:2-3 and Zechariah 11:12-13. This is disingenuous because as we read, the author cited Jeremiah, not Jeremiah and Zechariah.

            In the passage in Matthew, Judas’ manner of death is mentioned as hanging himself. Acts talks about the same incident, but the details differ (emphasis ours):

“(With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, ‘May another take his place of leadership.[50]

As can be seen, a totally different prophecy is cited for the incident. One would think that the same prophecy would be applied for the same incident like the incident of Jesus going into Jerusalem on a donkey where the same prophecy from Zechariah 9:9 is quoted (though with variants). So it can be reasoned that the two authors are retelling different stories and the only real similarity is the person involved.

J.  Matthew’s Walking Dead –

            Perhaps one of the most complicated aspects of the whole resurrection story is where Matthew claims that at the moment when Jesus dies, a massive earthquake strikes and opens tombs and dead people are made to rise again (emphasis ours):

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.[51]

The story of many dead saints rising from the graves and appearing to many people is really what helps show the exaggeration of the authors. No ancient source mentions this, which is incredible. The historian Josephus doesn’t mention it, nor do any Roman sources. Even Peter and Paul make no mention of this incredible and miraculous event that would have dwarfed all of the other miracles combined. It obviously leads to the question of whether Matthew simply made the story up for drama.

K.  Jesus Appearances to the Disciples –

            According to Paul, Jesus appeared to the 12 apostles (emphasis ours):

“…that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. ”[52]

In the Gospels, we know that there were not 12 disciples soon after the crucifixion because Judas had died. Some might argue that “the twelve” is merely a “title” and doesn’t actually mean how many disciples there are. This is inconsistent with the fact that the Gospels treat the disciples as 11 when Judas was no longer around. If it had been a special designation for the disciples despite their actual number, the gospel authors would have kept using “the twelve” throughout but didn’t. Luke says that Jesus appeared to “the eleven” and ate honeycomb and broiled fish in their midst in the upper room.

“And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them… They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.”[53]

John complicates the issue when the author says that Thomas was not around when Jesus appeared as related in Luke. This causes two problems:

  1. The author makes the mistake of saying “the Twelve”: “Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.”[54]
  2. That means that the number of disciples that were present should have been ten at the most and not eleven as Luke claims.

Paul and John both say “twelve”, Luke says “eleven” and John implies “ten”. Which one is true? Scholars like Dr. William Lane Craig have tried to reconcile this conundrum by proposing a sequence of events where Jesus is suggested to have first appeared in Jerusalem then the disciples went back to Galilee and after that they returned to Jerusalem for Pentecost. Is this harmonizing attempt coherent?  The late Raymond E. Brown disagreed. Such a sequential harmonizing according to him:

“…does violence to the Gospel evidence.”[55]

Brown in the same book actually suggested that the several appearances recorded in the gospels are actually fictitious inventions stemming from one single appearance.[56]

Conclusion

            As has been hopefully demonstrated, the New Testament contains contradictions and historical inaccuracies in the stories about the supposed trial, death and resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him). Seeing that the unknown authors of these gospels can’t even get the story straight, the reliability of the New Testament as a whole is seriously questionable. Christians will next argue that the crucifixion is true based on the multiple independent eyewitness accounts. This will bring us to the second point…at a later time. Alright guys, hopefully this was not an information overload. Let me know what you thought about the beginning of the series so far in the comment section below.


[1] Also see the article “The Crucifixion in the Bible and the Quran: A Critical Examination”: https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/the-crucifixion-of-jesus-in-the-bible-and-the-quran/

[2] Matthew 27:5.

[3] Luke 1:18.

[4] Matthew 28:1-9.

[5] John 20:1-2.

[6] Luke 23:43.

[7] John 20:17.

[8] Matthew 6:9, 23:9.

[9] John 20:17.

[10] Mark 15:42; Matthew 27:62; Luke 23:54; John 19:31.

[11] Mark 14:12-46; Matthew 26:19-50; Luke 22:7-54.

[12] John 19:13-18.

[13] John 18:28.

[14] C.K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John: An introduction with Commentary, 2nd edition (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1978), p. 48.

[15] John 1:29, 36.

[16] E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus (England: Penguin Books, 1995) p. 72.

[17] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFAoWE11JRg (8:00 mark).

[18] Geza Vermes, The Passion (England: Penguin Books, 2005), p. 102.

[19] Psalm 2:7.

[20] 2 Samuel 7:14.

[21] Exodus 4:22–23; Hosea 11:1.

[22] Ps. 80:15; see also Psalm 89:27, with “firstborn”.

[23] Geza Vermes, The Nativity (England: Penguin Books, 2006), pp. 53-54.

[24] Sanhedrin 32a.

[25] Mark 14:30-53.

[26] Matthew 26:31-57.

[27] John 18:28.

[28] Vermes, The Passion, op. cit., p. 49.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Joel B. Green, “Crucifixion,” in The Cambridge Companion to Jesus, ed. Markus Bockmuehl (England: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 91.

[31] John 18:33-38.

[32] John 6:14-15.

[33] Mark 12:17.

[34] John 19:6.

[35] Matthew 27:19.

[36] Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, Chapter 3:2.

[37] Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, Chapter 4:2.

[38] https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/lestes.html

[39] Adolf Berger, Encyclopedic Dictionary of Roman Law (Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1953), p. 538.

The book is available online: http://musicians4freedom.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Encyclopedic-Dictionary-of-Roman-Law-Adolf-Berger.pdf

[40] Ibid., p. 667.

[41] Luke 23:6-12.

[42] Mark, 15:6-15; Matthew 27:15-20; Luke 23:17-19; John 39-40.

[43] Mark 14:1-2; Matthew 26:3-5; Luke 22:2.

[44] Vermes, The Passion, op. cit., p. 61.

[45] Ibid., p. 95.

[46] Mark 14:43-46; Matthew 26:47-50; Luke 22:47-54; John 18:2-12.

[47] Matthew 27:3-10.

[48] Raymond E. Brown, The Death of the Messiah: From Gethesemane to the Grave, A Commentary on the Passion Narratives in the Four Gospels, Vol. 1 (New York: Doubleday, 1994), p. 648.

[49] Vermes, The Passion, op. cit., p. 53.

[50] Acts 1:18-20.

[51] Matthew 27:51-53.

[52] 1 Corinthians 15:4-8.

[53] Luke 24:33-42.

[54] John 20:24.

[55] Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to New Testament Christology (New York: Paulist Press, 1997), p. 168. 

[56] For examples of more inconsistency please refer to Faiz’s article “Raymond Brown and the Resurrection of Jesus”: https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/raymond-brown-and-the-resurrection-of-jesus/

 

13 thoughts on “The CruciFICTION Series: Part 1 – The Problem With the Gospels

  1. Walter R.M Shaad

    lol reminds me how Madmanna had a hard time with Heathcliff on this topic…”the Hammer of Islam vs the Anvil of christianity”, i guess the hammer broke the anvil that day, must have been of low quality casting and no hardened metal top plate…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. stewjo004

      @ Suninearth
      Hi. All the words say in the image is what the Bible verses quoted above say. The pic is there to make it easy to see the issue with the order of events of Mary’s visit to the tomb:
      Matt says Mary’s at the tomb, she meets Jesus(as) who introduces himself to her and he gives her greetings

      John says Mary’s at the tomb, ran to tell the Disciples someone stole Jesus’s(as) body.

      Why would she tell them someone stole Jesus’s (as) body if she met Jesus(as) at the tomb?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. stewjo004

        @ Suninearth

        Sorry, I forgot to mention the matter gets even more confusing when we bring the ending of Mark into play. Mark (the earliest gospel) is generally to considered by most textual critics at 16:8:
        “8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

        (There are two more endings but they’re generally considered forgeries by scribes to “spice up” the ending and push theological agendas)

        So now Mark says Mary didn’t say anything to anyone which contradicts John who says she told the Disciples that Jesus’s(as) body was stolen. What has to be remembered is that the reality of these “gospels” is that they were used by different communities and were never meant to be read together. Most books in the Bible really are glorified fanfictions. If you read the gospels side by side and not one completely and then another etc. you will REALLY start to see the issues come up. Space and keeping it related to the passion narrative is the only thing that stopped that section from being longer.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. stewjo004

    As a note to everyone looking at the story of Judas death again they appear to be contradictory and I didn’t catch it.

    Acts:
    18(With the reward of his wickedness Judas bought a field, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines spilled out. 19This became known to everyone living in Jerusalem; so they called that field in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20“For it is written in the book of Psalms: ‘May his dwelling be deserted; let there be no one to live in it,’d and, ‘May another take his office.’e

    http://biblehub.com/bsb/acts/1.htm

    Matt:
    3When Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was filled with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. 4“I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,” he said. “What is that to us?” they replied. “You bear the responsibility.” 5So Judas threw the silver into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. 6The chief priests picked up the pieces of silver and said, “It is unlawful to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7After conferring together, they used the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. 8That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on Him by the people of Israel, 10and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord had commanded me.”a

    http://biblehub.com/bsb/matthew/27.htm

    Prof. Bart Ehrman mentions this particular passage in “Did Jesus Exist?” In proving that Isa(as) existed he is arguing that the multiple oral traditions are proof of his existence. He says Judas’s death was two different traditions from the book:

    “One of the reasons this passage is interesting is that in his earlier Gospel account Luke says nothing about the death of Judas. Neither does Mark or John. The most famous account of Judas’s death is in the Gospel of Matthew, where we are told that after he performed the foul deed, he repented of what he had done and tried to return the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests. They refused to take the money, and so he flung it
    down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself. The priests were unable to put the money into the Temple treasury since it was “blood money” (used to betray innocent blood), and so they used it to buy a field to serve as a cemetery. For that reason the field came to be known as the “Field of Blood” (Matthew 27:3–10).

    These two accounts of Judas’s death cannot be reconciled. In one Judas buys the field, in the other the priests do; in one it is called the Field of Blood because Judas bled all over it, in the other because it was purchased with blood money; in one Judas dies by hanging himself, in the other he falls headfirst and bursts open in the midst. These differences show that Luke had an independent tradition of the death of Judas, which was at least as early as the one in Matthew. There are reasons for thinking that at the heart of both stories is a historical tradition: independently they confirm that a field in Jerusalem was connected in some way both with the money Judas was paid to betray Jesus and with Judas’s death. Moreover, it was known as the Field of Blood. Matthew calls it a “potter’s field.” Is it possible that it was actually a field of red clay used by potters, and so— because of its color—called the Field of Blood, which in one way or another was connected with the death of Jesus’s betrayer? However one resolves this issue, two points are of particular importance. One is that Matthew and Acts give disparate accounts of the event so that Acts here is an independent tradition.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mr.heathcliff

    mark
    42 When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. 45 When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph.

    john
    31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.

    38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.

    ////

    joseph of a requests the body in mark. pilate wonders, ” Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead”
    pilate gets confirmation from centurion, ” When he learned from the centurion….”

    so centurion is confirming joseph of a that jesus is already dead.

    john says :

    After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus ( Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; ).

    i have added marks text to johns. does pilates wondering make any sense ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mr.heathcliff

      john
      31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.

      adding MARK TO john:

      38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus(44 Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead…. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph.). Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.

      does anyone see anything odd here?

      Like

      1. stewjo004

        @ Mr. heathcliff

        Yeah I get the same feeling of “something bubbling underneath the surface when reading this” like take this weird passage for example:

        13That same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven milesa from Jerusalem. 14They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15And as they talked and deliberated, Jesus Himself came up and walked along with them. 16But their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.

        17He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”

        They stood still, with sadness on their faces. 18One of them, named Cleopas, asked Him, “Are You the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in recent days?”

        19“What things?” He asked.

        “The events involving Jesus of Nazareth,” they answered. “This man was a prophet, powerful in speech and action before God and all the people. 20Our chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death, and they crucified Him. 21But we were hoping He was the One who would redeem Israel. And besides all this, it is the third day since these things took place.

        Like what? How do you not know who he is? This happens several times and the Christians cant account for it like read the excuses yourself:

        https://www.gotquestions.org/recognize-resurrected-Jesus.html

        Like

  4. mr.heathcliff

    QUOTE :
    First, a group of unnamed Jews approach Pilate and request that the legs of the condemned be broken and that their bodies taken away. Pilate agrees to the first part of this petition for the soldiers to break the legs of the condemned. No information is provided about the second part of the request, “and that they might be taken away.” Later, the second appearance has Joseph of Arimathea approaching Pilate and requesting Jesus’s body.

    Alter, Michael J.. The Resurrection: a Critical Inquiry (Kindle Locations 6134-6137). Xlibris US. Kindle Edition.

    John 19: 30 reports that a nameless group of Jews requests the legs of those condemned be broken: “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” In the next verse it appears that Pilate instructs that the legs of the condemned be broken: “Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.” This action conflicts with Mark 15: 44 who describes Pilate as being completely unaware of Jesus’s death and totally surprised: “And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling upon unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead.” Why is Mark’s Pilate surprised by Jesus’s sudden death since he specifically ordered the bones of the condemned to be broken; in addition, that action would have resulted in an almost immediate death. A review of the chronology follows:

    Alter, Michael J.. The Resurrection: a Critical Inquiry (Kindle Locations 6141-6149). Xlibris US. Kindle Edition.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. mr.heathcliff

    ” Why is Mark’s Pilate surprised by Jesus’s sudden death since he specifically ordered the bones of the condemned to be broken; in addition, that action would have resulted in an almost immediate death. A review of the chronology follows”

    adding MARK TO john:

    38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus(44 Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead…. WHEN he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph.). Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.

    huh?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: The CruciFICTION Series: Part 2 – The Other Sources – The Quran and Bible Blog

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