Archbishop Bemoans the Absence of God

Following recent announcements by the Pope that seem to overturn the Catholic Church’s longstanding teachings on women priests, the literal truth of the Bible and homosexuality, the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Anglican Church, has weighed in with an interesting comment of his own: the recent terrorist attacks on Paris made him doubt the presence of G_d!

This is extraordinary particularly since progressive Christianity appeared to be moving away from the nonsensical notion of an bearded old man looking down from above to a ‘Presence’, an ‘Intelligence’ that is ever-present, all- powerful and all-knowing, not a person but an energy and information field not unlike the concept of the Zero Point Field of quantum physics.

The ancient Hebrews believed there were many gods but theirs, YHWH, could be located in a portable tent (yes, really!!) or later an inner room in the Jerusalem Temple. They were YHWH’s chosen people, showered with benefits when the observed his/its laws and subjected to punishments verging on the vindictive when they did not.

The G_d of the New Testament was portrayed as the ‘Father Within’ who could be both a source of inspiration and comfort, but also a harsh judge and exterminator.

So, Archbishop, which G_d are you referring to? Is yours a G_d that happily withdraws from the world allows untold suffering to ensue? One must assume so. An ever-present, all-powerful and all-knowing Intelligence would be, well, ever-present, all-powerful and all-knowing!

The question of how an all-powerful, loving G_d could create a world of such suffering, misery and disease is one of the great contradictions in Christianity. Theologians conclude that it is because G_d allows humans to make our own choices, but if we choose unwisely we must suffer the consequences. This is the doctrine of free which is supposed to explain away most of the tragedy and hardship in the world.

But it doesn’t. Did those people in that Parisian theatre choose to be brutally slaughtered by these medieval butchers, any more than the passengers on that Russian airliner or London bus, the occupants of the Twin Towers and those unfortunates beheaded by sadistic scum in the Syrian desert?

I think not. But one thing I do know – the faith represented by Archbishops and Popes is built on shaky foundations and has a lot more explaining to do!

 

©David Lawrence Preston, 22.10.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Front cover 201 things

Balboa Press/Hay House, 2015

 

 

 

The truth about Ascension and Pentecost

Pentecost and Ascension

In 1st Century Palestine (and throughout the Western World), the Earth was believed to be flat. Heaven, where God lived, was above the clouds and hell below ground. So when two of the gospels, ‘Mark’ and ‘Luke’, said that the risen Master was carried up to heaven and placed at the right hand of God,[1] this accorded with the worldview of their readers, as did Acts when the author (the same man who wrote the Gospel of Luke) wrote that the disciples watched as Yeshua was ‘lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.’[2]  Interestingly, the other two gospels have nothing to say on the subject.

Now we know there’s nothing unusual about New Testament books contradicting each other, but here something even more remarkable happens: the same author, the man who wrote both ‘Luke’ and Acts, contradicts himself.  In ‘Luke’s’ Gospel he says the Ascension happened soon after the post-resurrection appearances, probably the same day; in Acts he says the Christ figure appeared for forty days before a cloud took him away.

Of course, very few people – apart from a handful of nutters willing to disregard 500 years of scientific knowledge – still believe in a three-storey world with hell below and a heaven above. The prospect of a man being physically lifted up into the sky on a cloud is ludicrous now we know the Earth is a globe and there’s only space above the clouds; but, if you are to take Christianity literally and the Bible as factual truth, you are required to believe that this actually happened!

Yeshua’s return

The early Christians believed that their prophet, Yeshua bar Yehosef, would soon return to Earth to establish the Kingdom of God and save those who believed in him from eternal annihilation. Many modern day Christians still believe this and it is regularly expounded from church pulpits on Sundays. Most do not specify a timescale. The Gospel writers clearly thought it would happen in their own time since Yeshua has promised it within a generation.

Most do not feel the need to explain why it has not yet happened, nor do they explain how he will return. If he really is ‘up there’ somewhere, can we expect him to float down on another cloud or strap on a parachute, or what? If so it would be worth seeing!

Pentecost

Two Gospels end with Yeshua’s ascension; ‘Acts of the Apostles’ begins with the events of Pentecost.

At Pentecost, Acts says the disciples were gathered in Jerusalem when a sound came from heaven, tongues of fire rested on each of them and they were filled with the ‘Holy Spirit’.  They began to speak in other languages and onlookers thought they were drunk.  Cephas (Peter) then delivered a speech aimed only at Jews announcing Yeshua as the Messiah and urging them to repent and be baptised.

Thus began a chapter in the life of the early church in which the disciples (now called ‘apostles’) travelled widely spreading their message, not always to receptive audiences. Resistance among Jews who did not believe in Yeshua as the Messiah grew. There were many reports of riots among sceptical Romans and Jews. Some apostles  died horrible deaths; some were executed. But somehow the religion spread, and much of the credit is due to the tent maker, mystic, man of letters, former Pharisee and religious fanatic, Paul of Tarsus.

Whether you believe the Ascension and Pentecost stories are literally true is, of course, a matter for you. But looked at through 21st Century eyes, there are plenty of reasons to doubt!

©David Lawrence Preston, 3.5.2017

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Balboa Press, 2015

 

[1] Mark 16:19 (in the coda); Luke 24:51

[2] Acts 1:9

Easter Myth #10: Yeshua’s immediate followers believed he was the Son of G_d

Ten Easter Myths

Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists don’t believe that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. Most Christians aren’t aware of the inconsistencies in the scriptures because they have never read them from cover to cover. The gospels are riddled with factual errors, contradictions and unsupported statements that challenge the very basis of the religion.

This series presents ten myths about the Easter stories drawing on Gospel sources and historical records from the period.

Myth #10: Yeshua’s contemporary followers believed he was G_d’s messenger

There is no concrete evidence that Yeshua was seen as G_d’s unique messenger around the time of his death, let alone the Messiah or Son of G_d.

But beliefs about him continued to evolve. As the 1st Century CE progressed, Christians began to experience his memory in new ways. His followers came to believe that he was more than just a great prophet and teacher, but the very incarnation of G_d. By the time the Fourth Gospel was written around the turn of the century he was no longer seen as a person of flesh and blood, but a supernatural being free of restrictions in time and space. He had become G_d.

Today, Easter – the day he is said to have come back from the dead – is unquestionably the most important day of the Christian calendar, although Christmas is celebrated more enthusiastically. Christians believe it because the gospels say it happened, or so they think. But the gospels are far from clear on the nature of the ‘resurrection’ or the timing of the ‘Ascension’, and most Christians aren’t even aware of the inconsistencies in the scriptures.

The Easter stories transformed Yeshua’s abject shame and defeat into a noble sacrifice, the triumph of life over death, victory over the Romans and his ultimate vindication before G_d. Easter became the crux of traditional Christianity, marking the beginning of the process by which a humble but brave teacher and religious zealot from Galilee became transformed in the minds of his later followers into their saviour, Messiah, judge, way-shower and G_d.

 

©David Lawrence Preston, 11.2.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Balboa Press 2015

Easter Myth #9: Early Christians quickly adopted the sign of the cross

Ten Easter Myths

Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists don’t believe that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. For instance, the Easter stories are highly dubious as factual accounts.

On Easter Day Christians believe their saviour came back to life and was seen in corporeal form for several weeks before ascending on a cloud to ‘heaven’. This is the very basis of their religion.

They believe it because the gospels say it happened, or so they think. But most Christians aren’t aware that the gospels are riddled with factual errors, contradictions and unsupported statements that challenge the very basis of the religion.

This series presents ten myths about the Easter stories drawing on Gospel sources and historical records from the period.

Myth #9: Early Christians quickly adopted the sign of the cross as their symbol

The cross (or crucifix) is the main symbol of Christianity. In churches it is often shown on a portrait or statue showing a contorted male in agony, festooned with thorns and dripping with blood. At Easter time, wooden crosses are carried through the streets in many countries.

However, the earliest Christian art (dating from the 1st Century) doesn’t show the sign of the cross but the fish (signifying Yeshua’s connection with the fishing trade). The cross was considered shameful since crucifixion was reserved for the lowest criminals. The first reference to Christians using the cross as a symbol date from around 200 CE in North Africa. Christians there traced the sign of the cross across their foreheads. This has remained part of the baptism ceremony although nowadays it is usually made across the abdomen as a form of blessing or protection.

The use of the crucifix as a symbol owes much to Paul of Tarsus. He wrote, ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of G_d;’ and, ‘May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.’[1]

Personally I would prefer to see the benign image of the statue of Christ the Redeemer which looks on the world from the top of Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro as the universal symbol of love and compassion. I think Yeshua would probably agree.

 

 

©David Lawrence Preston, 11.2.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Balboa Press 2015

[1]1 Corinthians, 1:18 and Galatians 6:14

Easter Myth #8: The risen Yeshua appeared to hundreds of ordinary people

Ten Easter Myths

Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists are extremely doubtful that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. For example, the Easter stories are highly dubious as factual accounts.

Easter is unquestionably the most important day of the Christian calendar. On Easter Day Christians believe their saviour Yeshua came back to life and was seen in corporeal form for several weeks before ascending on a cloud to ‘heaven’. This is the very basis of their religion.

They believe it because the gospels say it happened, or so they think. But most Christians aren’t aware of the inconsistencies in the scriptures.

Myth #8: The risen Yeshua appeared to hundreds of ordinary people

Paul of Tarsus claimed that the risen Yeshua appeared to over five hundred people. We have no way over verifying this number of people felt they had had this experience; however they all had one very important thing in common –  Paul’s letters state that  all were Christian believers.

Why? If the Jewish people as a whole, or both Jews and gentiles, were his intended audience, why not appear to believers and non-believers alike?

Psychologists tell us that we are just as likely to see what we believe as believe what we see. In other words, our beliefs colour our perceptions. There’s no verifiable evidence for a physical resurrection, just the words of a handful of devoted people keen to show that G-d vindicated Yeshua even though its chosen people had not recognised him as the Messiah?

It seems surprising to non-Christians that otherwise reasonable people in the 21st century should so readily believe tales such as these, but we should remember that closed communities tend to conform to the prevailing beliefs of the group, whether Christians, Scientologists, Muslims or Jehovah’s Witnesses etc.

Of course, the resurrection cannot be verified. You either believe that the gospel writers told nothing but the truth, or you don’t. (If you do, you still have to explain which of the conflicting New Testament versions you believe.)

Regardless of the facts, whatever you decide to believe is true – for you. That’s the way the human mind works.

©David Lawrence Preston, 1.3.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Balboa Press 2015

Easter Myth #7: The Gospels’ accounts of Easter Day are accurate and consistent

Ten Easter Myths

Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists don’t believe that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. Indeed, the Easter stories are highly dubious as factual accounts, and they are the very basis of the religion.

Christians believe these stories because the gospels say they happened, or so they think. But most Christians aren’t aware of the inconsistencies in the scriptures. The gospels are riddled with factual errors, contradictions and unsupported statements that challenge the very basis of the religion.

This series presents ten myths about the Easter stories drawing on gospel sources and historical records from the period.

Myth #7: The Gospels’ accounts of Easter Day are accurate and consistent

Between them the gospels report dozens of sightings of the risen Yeshua, but their stories differ. Most began and ended mysteriously. Usually he ‘drew near’ then ‘disappeared from sight’.

  • The First Gospel ended with the body missing and an angel telling the disciples to return to Galilee where they would see him. They were clearly not expecting this, and fled in terror.[1]

Decades later, twelve extra verses were added in which the Christ figure ‘appeared’ to them several times. He spoke to them and was immediately whisked away to heaven. The NRSV New Testament says in the footnotes that some authorities mark these verses ‘doubtful’. Nowhere does either the original author or the later contributor claim that Yeshua had risen in bodily form.

  • In the Second Gospel, Mary Magdalene and another Mary encountered Yeshua by the empty tomb, but they didn’t recognize him. Clearly he wasn’t the man they remembered from just a few days earlier. He told them to tell the disciples to return to Galilee where they would see him. Several sightings are reported.

The writer adds an interesting postscript: the Jewish leaders, petrified of what would happen if the word got out that Yeshua had come back to life, paid the soldiers guarding the tomb to spread the story that the disciples came by night and stole the body while they were asleep. ‘This story is still told among the Jews to this day,’ he wrote fifty years later.[2]

  • The Third Gospel added several more appearances in which Yeshua ‘came near’ and ‘stood among them’, showed them his wounds, ate fish, then vanished (there are no such claims in ‘Mark’ or ‘Matthew’). Later, he ‘withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven.’[3] All of this happened on Easter Sunday. None of these stories concurred with the other gospels. Moreover, far from fleeing to Galilee, the disciples stayed in Jerusalem and ‘were continually in the temple.’
  • In the Fourth Gospel, Mary Magdalene discovered the empty tomb and went to fetch Cephas and ‘the disciple who Yeshua loved.’[4] They ran back to the tomb, then the two disciples ‘returned to their homes.’ (It’s not clear where these ‘homes’ were. It’s implausible that they had homes in Jerusalem). Mary then encountered two angels by the tomb who told her Yeshua had risen. She turned round and he was standing behind her, but she did not recognise him. He told her not to touch him because he had not yet ‘ascended to the Father.’[5] She then reported back to the disciples.

Later, says the author, he ‘stood among’ the disciples and invited ‘doubting’ Thomas to touch his wounds.[6] He also he appeared to the disciples on various occasions, once while they ate bread and fish for breakfast and one in which he appeared on a beach and gave the disciples some advice on fishing.[7]

  • Acts of the Apostles, written by the same author as the Third Gospel, merely says he ‘presented himself alive’ to the disciples over a forty day period before the momentous events of Pentecost.

Once again we find ourselves wondering which, if any, of these accounts is correct, since they can’t all be right!

There seems little doubt that some of Yeshua’s followers felt the presence of their Master after his death and others thought they saw visions. We must not be too sceptical – it’s not unusual for bereaved people to ‘see’ a departed loved one or imagine they are around them. Their experiences, whatever they were, may have felt very real, because many of them later suffered and died for their faith.

But surely if a body had come back to life in a physical sense it would have been reported in the historical records of the day!

The only things the four gospels agree on is that the tomb was empty on the third day and Mary Magdalene was one of those who discovered it. None explains how Yeshua was encountered in the garden fully clothed, considering the burial clothes were left in situ.

The church likes to sweep aside the differences as if they don’t matter, but they do. They cast doubt on the accuracy of all four versions bearing in mind that none of the authors were eye-witnesses and at least forty years had passed before their accounts were written.

 

©David Lawrence Preston, 11.2.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

 

Balboa Press 2015

[1] Mark 16: 5-8

[2] Matthew 28:15

[3] Luke 24:50-51

[4] John 20:2

[5] John 20:17

[6] John 20:19-20

[7] John 21:4-6

Easter Myth #6: Yeshua’s disciples expected him to resurrect

Ten Easter Myths

Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists don’t believe that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. The Christmas stories, for instance, are known to be complete fabrications based on stories passed down from other traditions, edited to make them appear consistent with ancient Hebrew prophecies. The Easter stories too are highly dubious as fact.

Easter is unquestionably the most important day of the Christian calendar. On Easter Day Christians believe their saviour came back to life and was seen in corporeal form for several weeks before ascending on a cloud to ‘heaven’. This is the very basis of their religion.

They believe it because the gospels say it happened, or so they think. But most Christians aren’t aware that the Gospels are riddled with factual errors, contradictions and unsupported statements that challenge the very basis of the religion.

This series presents ten myths about the Easter stories drawing on Gospel sources and historical records from the period.

Myth #6: Yeshua’s disciples expected him to resurrect because he had told them so

According to the gospels, Yeshua repeatedly told his disciples that he would be killed and then resurrected on the third day[1] and this was his destiny as foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures. And yet according to these same sources, nobody – not even his closest disciples – expected him to rise again.

When the post-Easter Christ figure/apparition ‘appeared’ to them, all the witnesses were surprised, so much so that most did not recognise him. How could this be? If he had told them he would return and they believed in him why did it come as such a surprise?

Or were the sightings of the risen prophet inventions of the gospel authors? The writers of the Second, Third and Fourth Gospels went to some lengths to insist that the risen Yeshua was not a ghost, nor was he a badly injured man hobbling around. Even though he could appear and disappear at will, he ate, drank and could be touched.

However, not one of these authors could have been present at the events they describe. All were writing at least fifty years later using hearsay as their source material. There’s not a single piece of evidence, not even a sentence in any of the contemporary non-gospel records of the time. If his closest disciples were sceptical, why shouldn’t we?

 

©David Lawrence Preston, 11.2.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Balboa Press 2015

 

[1] E.g. Mark 9:31 and 10:34; Matthew 16:21 and 17:23; Luke 9:22 and 24:7; John 20:19

Easter Myth #5: Disciples witnessed the ‘resurrection’

Ten Easter Myths

Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists don’t believe that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. The Christmas stories, for instance, are known to be complete fabrications based on stories passed down from other traditions, edited to make them appear consistent with ancient Hebrew prophecies. The Easter stories too are highly dubious as factual accounts.

Easter is unquestionably the most important day of the Christian calendar. On Easter Day Christians believe their saviour Yeshua came back to life and was seen in corporeal form for several weeks before ascending on a cloud to ‘heaven’. This is the very basis of their religion.

They believe it because the gospels say it happened, or so they think. But most Christians aren’t aware of the inconsistencies in the scriptures. The Gospels are riddled with factual errors, contradictions and unsupported statements that challenge the very basis of the religion.

This series presents ten myths about the Easter stories drawing on Gospel sources and historical records from the period.

Myth #5: Several of Yeshua’s disciples witnessed the ‘resurrection’

The fact is, according to the gospels themselves, nobody saw him walk out of the tomb. Even Paul of Tarsus – his main apostle and for many the actual founder of the Christian religion – believed that Yeshua returned in changed form, not as a resuscitated corpse

The earliest reference to a resurrection appears in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, written around a quarter of a century after the crucifixion. But Paul never claimed a physical resurrection; he believed that Yeshua had reappeared in changed form, transformed into a spiritual body. Perhaps that’s why he was not easily recognized in the Easter stories.

Three of the gospel writers did not agree. They went to some lengths to insist that the risen Yeshua was not a ghost, nor was he a mutilated man hobbling around. In their versions he could appear and disappear at will, ate, drank and could be touched.

Why make it up? When Yeshua died, his disciples were scared and confused. Their hopes that he was the one to liberate his people were shattered. Then, as the decades rolled by, successive generations of Christians began to see him as the personification of G_d. But how could G_d die? How could they execute G_d as a common criminal? Why didn’t he try to escape so he could continue his ministry? They had a lot of explaining to do, and the startling explanation they came up with was resurrection.

©David Lawrence Preston, 10.2.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Balboa Press, 2015

 

 

Easter Myth #4: Yeshua was given a decent burial

Ten Easter Myths

Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists don’t believe that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. The Christmas stories, for instance, are known to be complete fabrications based on stories passed down from other traditions, edited to make them appear consistent with ancient Hebrew prophecies. The Easter stories too are highly dubious as factual accounts.

Easter is unquestionably the most important day of the Christian calendar. On Easter Day Christians believe their saviour Yeshua came back to life and was seen in corporeal form for several weeks before ascending on a cloud to ‘heaven’. This is the very basis of their religion.

They believe it because the gospels say it happened, or so they think. But most Christians aren’t aware of the inconsistencies in the scriptures. The Gospels are riddled with factual errors, contradictions and unsupported statements that challenge the very basis of the religion.

This series presents ten myths about the Easter stories drawing on Gospel sources and historical records from the period.

Myth #4: Yeshua was given a decent burial

While Yeshua’s crucifixion is referred to in other sources, the circumstances of his burial are vigorously contested.

It was unheard of for a crucified person to receive a decent burial; this was part of the punishment. It was normal practice to leave crucified bodies on the crosses until the vultures had torn off the flesh, then remove the bones and take them to the sulphur pits outside Jerusalem which were used as a crematorium. Alternatively the naked body would be left on the cross so that vultures could attack, which was considered an excellent deterrent to other would-be insurrectionists. Any remains would then be placed in a shallow grave or eaten by dogs.

To say this, of course, would not have suited the gospel writers. Instead they wrote that Pilate gave permission for Yeshua’s body to be taken by an influential admirer, Joseph of Arimithea, and placed in a tomb that he had constructed for himself. With Mary Magdalene and another Mary looking on, a large stone was rolled across the entrance and an armed guard positioned close by.

Quite why Pilate would have given permission for the body of this particular troublemaker to be given this special treatment is unclear, except it set the scene for what followed next.

©David Lawrence Preston, 10.2.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Balboa Press, 2015

Easter Myth #3: The gospels accurately recorded Yeshua’s last words

Ten Easter Myths

Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists don’t believe that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. The Christmas stories, for instance, are known to be complete fabrications based on stories passed down from other traditions, edited to make them appear consistent with ancient Hebrew prophecies. The Easter stories too are highly dubious as factual accounts.

Easter is unquestionably the most important day of the Christian calendar. On Easter Day Christians believe their saviour Yeshua came back to life and was seen in corporeal form for several weeks before ascending on a cloud to ‘heaven’. This is the very basis of their religion.

They believe it because the gospels say it happened, or so they think. But most Christians aren’t aware of the inconsistencies in the scriptures. The Gospels are riddled with factual errors, contradictions and unsupported statements that challenge the very basis of the religion.

This series presents ten myths about the Easter stories drawing on Gospel sources and historical records.

Myth #3:  The gospels accurately recorded Yeshua’s last words

It was normal for victims of crucifixion to suffer for many hours in the heat of the day, then slip into a coma before being pronounced dead. Usually it took over twenty-four hours but the gospels say Yeshua died relatively quickly. But what were his last words?

  • According to ‘Matthew’ he let out a cry, ‘My G_d, my G_d, why have you forsaken me?’[1] – hardly the cry of a man who had participated willingly in his fate.
  • In ‘Luke’, he cried more nobly, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’[2]
  • In ‘Mark’, he merely breathed his last.[3] ‘Mark’ claimed that Pilate was surprised that Yeshua died so soon.[4]
  • In ‘John’ he said nothing profound, but took the opportunity to ask ‘the disciple who he loved’[5] to take care of his mother.

Interestingly members of the public were not allowed to get close to the crucifixion scene. Only the Roman guards would have heard words spoken by the condemned – certainly not the gospel authors!

©David Lawrence Preston, 10.2.2017

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston

Balboa Press, 2015

[1] Matthew 27:46. This is a quote from Psalms 22.1.

[2] Luke 23, 46

[3] Mark 15:37

[4] Mark 15:44

[5] There are several references to ‘the disciple who Yeshua loved’ in the Fourth Gospel. Those who think it was the author himself are mistaken because the gospel was written many decades after the events they purport to describe. It is clearly a fabrication.