Inspecting "The Evidence of the Christ" - Part 2


This post is a direct response to a post made on Part 1 of this response can be found here.

Getting past the first few paragraphs of Phil Parsons' "The Evidence of the Christ" we can see that he finally begins defending Christianity from a historical perspective.

“God has arranged history (His story) around His Son.”

Unfortunately, he starts this line of reasoning with another play on words. As we saw with Son and Sun, the words “his story” and “history” are not etymologically related. Once again, it is disingenuous to put forth this type of creative word association as evidence of anything.

Next we get a long paragraph of biblical references that are intended to sound impressive. However, the logic seems to be “The Bible is true and I can show you in the Bible where it says so”. Every religious book in the history of mankind makes similar claims. Internal claims (even when said claims seem to be logically consistent) is not a good measure of historical accuracy. If it was then we could use any work of fiction as a foundation of belief for the events described therein.

Christians often use this same form of skepticism when evaluating the likelihood of earnestly held beliefs by fringe science and conspiracy groups like Bigfoot hunters and UFO watchers. It would be quite easy to gather a collection of written accounts from witnesses that claim to have seen Bigfoot. Then you could easily pick and choose from hundreds of those stories to form a very convincing and internally consistent Bigfoot “Bible”. However, the mere existence of such a collection lends no credence whatsoever to the claims made by Bigfoot hunters. Most reasonable Christians would wholeheartedly agree, yet they fail to see where this same reasoning presents issues for their own beliefs. Again, there is a difference between "claims" and "evidence that supports a claim".

All that being said, we still cannot completely dismiss the claims themselves. Witness testimony (quite literally in the case of the biblical "Testaments") is a method for passing information from one person to another. Witness testimony is used in court. Unfortunately, witness testimony is certifiably one of the least reliable forms of evidence that there is.

What Parsons fails to mention here is that even the earliest written book of the New Testament is estimated to have been written decades after Jesus died. This is the scholarly consensus given by the same legitimate historians that Parsons appeals to. Even worse, we don’t actually have the first written copies of the New Testament. The earliest manuscripts that we have discovered are tiny fragments (a few paragraphs at best) estimated to have been copied during the second century (101 CE – 200 CE). And the earliest complete manuscripts that we have discovered are estimated to come from around the fourth century.

Once you get past these inconvenient truths you are then faced with the fact that we will likely never uncover exactly what the original texts actually said due to the high number of textual variants among those earliest manuscripts. These variants were errors, or perhaps even purposeful alterations, made by scribes who were copying the texts by hand (this was long before the invention of the printing press after all). If God wanted us to hear “his story”, why wouldn’t he do a better job of preserving it? Why rely on the frail human passage of information at all? Was it outside his power to create an unchanging, indestructible text that could be read in any language?

Perhaps the most interesting fact about the Gospels is that they share entire swaths of text literally word-for-word as you can see in the image below. Rather than giving their own honest accounts of all events, the Gospel authors (which, according to historians, were unlikely to be the ascribed authors Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) simply copied each other or previous undiscovered sources for entire portions of their testimony. The value of a witness testimony as evidence is only as reliable as the testimony itself, and the Bible is far from being a reliable source.


Finally Parsons gets to his only piece of extra-biblical evidence.

“If you want to go outside the Bible, check out Josephus’s Antiquities… Josephus was just like Luke in the sense that he was someone who was reporting historical facts of Jesus as they played out before thousands and thousands of people.”

Josephus is an interesting historical figure and entire papers have been written about individual words taken from the quote Parsons uses in his article. And it is important to point out that the authenticity of this writing is still up for debate. In fact, the consensus is that a large percentage of this testimony is a fourth century forgery. Parsons continues this historical context line of reasoning by comparing Jesus to Caesar.

“I always find it interesting that no one doubts the existence of Ceasar, but people doubt the existence of Jesus. Both lived at the same time, and the evidence of Jesus and his miracles are equal if not greater than Caesar (”

First of all, very few nonbelievers doubt the existence of Jesus. Parsons doesn’t claim that all of them do, but it is an important point to note. Even most secular biblical scholars agree that there is reasonable Biblical evidence to confidently say that a radical Jewish preacher named Jesus lived about 2,000 years ago and was crucified. Most nonbelievers simply doubt that Jesus did the things that the Bible claims he did. Specifically, supernatural miracles. Even most Christians would doubt someone if they came up to them today and told them they just saw someone physically transform water into wine. So why should nonbelievers be expected to believe the same claim made in an ancient, error-ridden, non-contemporary, inherently biased source? The testimonies found in the Bible are wild, supernatural claims with no supporting physical evidence.

But maybe the Bible has an answer to this...

Matthew 14:31 says: Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

According to the Bible, if you doubt something you have little faith. Lack of evidence should be no problem for you.

Hebrews 11:1 says: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

2 Corinthians 5:7 says: We live by faith, not by sight.

According to the Bible, faith is believing without seeing. Evidence you can see is unimportant and we should literally prioritize wishful thinking.

1 Corinthians 2:5 says: … so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

According to the Bible, knowledge and wisdom are not synonymous with faith. To even seek out evidence would be to undermine God’s power.

So, knowing what the Bible has to say about faith vs. evidence, why does Parsons even attempt to satiate the demands of nonbelievers who want evidence? If God wanted them to rest their belief upon the quality and quantity of evidence why wouldn’t he just provide more of it?

According to Parsons:

“…faith in Jesus is built upon a mountain of evidence.”

But nonbelievers will need more than what has been presented here.

Inspecting "The Evidence of the Christ" - Part 1


This post is a direct response to a post made on The important lines will be quoted here, but you are encouraged to read it for yourself before continuing.

“In this age of knowledge, people do not want to accept something that has no proof.”

Credit must be given to the spirit of this recent blog post. The author, Phil Parsons, is absolutely right that nonbelievers – and people in general – do not want to accept something that has no proof. We do live in an age of information. In seconds we can find the answer to even the most obscure questions we can conceive.

“People want evidence to rest their eternity on; therefore because they assume Christianity has no evidence, they will not even entertain its possibility. Unfortunately, many of these people will not test their assumptions. Instead, they assume their assumptions are correct.”

Unfortunately for Christians, most answers to questions of a divine nature don’t actually stack up as well as they’d like. It is exceedingly rare to find a nonbeliever who describes themselves as being unable to muster the faith required to believe… Rather, they simply don’t find the evidence compelling. Let's take a look at what evidence is first referenced in an article that is attempting to contest that:

“…in Colossians 1:16… “all things were created through him and for him.” That means that our Universe points to Christ. So for example, the Earth revolves around the Sun. Why? Because it points to the reality that we must revolve around the Son of God as the light of our lives (John 1:9).”

It’s truly unfortunate that most Christians when asked for evidence will immediately turn to the Bible. Especially with such a poetic verse that is difficult to interpret as any kind of factual statement. We have to make a distinction between a "claim" and "evidence that supports a claim". The vast majority of the writings in the Bible can only be classified as claims, which have very little external evidence to support them. To see why this example is especially unfulfilling, let’s look at the etymology for the words Sun and Son.

Son – Old English sunu, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch zoon and German Sohn, from an Indo-European root shared by Greek huios.

Sun – Old English sunne, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch zon and German Sonne, from an Indo-European root shared by Greek hēlios and Latin sol.

In modern English we can see that these two words are not directly related. They are simply homophones, or words pronounced the same way but with different meanings. So not only are they not actually etymologically related, but it should be obvious that not everyone speaks English. Jesus certainly didn’t. He spoke Aramaic and in Aramaic the word for “son” was pronounced like “bar” and the word for “sun” was “shemesh”. Unless this coincidence was only intended for English speakers who like homophones, this probably shouldn't qualify as evidence for Christianity.

It is also implied in Parsons’ explanation that the Earth revolves around the Sun for the express purpose of providing evidence of Jesus. Which is to ignore the entirety of scientific knowledge relating to gravitational dynamics and planetary motion. The Sun is a single, relatively unremarkable star in a universe with billions and billions of stars. Many of which we now know to have their own planets also revolving around them. We know exactly why the Earth revolves around the Sun and we can even predict its future motion with complex mathematical models. It’s entirely natural and within our understanding of physics.

More than all that, it seems strange that Parsons would use John 1:9 as a Bible reference here, which makes no comparisons to “light” or “revolving” at all. John 8:12 would have been more fitting within the metaphor of Jesus as a source of light and life:

(John 8:12) Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

It’s a great passage and a strong metaphor used in literature long before the Bible (Greeks and Egyptians had their own Sun gods for example), but it’s not evidence for Christianity.

Next we get this claim:

“All humanity longs for marriage. Why? Because marriage is a symbol ordained by God to point to the union between Christ and His people. (Ephesians 5:32).”

This statement ignores anyone who does not long for matrimonial coupling. Not all humans are born with an innate need to bond with someone through marriage. Many couples just never feel the need to get hitched. Some people don’t even feel a need to “couple” at all, choosing a celibate lifestyle instead. What symbol should these individuals use for the metaphorical union between “Christ and his people” then if a desire for marriage is not instilled in them?

Even if we were to accept the premise that “All humanity longs for marriage”, it's difficult see how a metaphorical symbol qualifies as evidence. It is quite easy to use this logic to support almost any symbolic belief you can imagine. For example: “All humanity needs to breathe air. Why? Because it is a symbol to remind us of ‘prana’, the breath of life, the energy of all the universe. This is evidence in favor of Hinduism.” It is unlikely that many Christians would find that to be compelling evidence despite the identical line of reasoning.

It’s also worth noting here that Christianity did not invent the concept of marriage, nor did Judaism for that matter. Even Christian scholars will agree on this point. So how does a symbolic bond that predates Christianity get co-opted exclusively into Christian theology as evidence for its universal origins?

Then we get this confounding statement:

“Humanity longs for a King. Why? Because Christ is the Lord of lords and the King of kings.  (Revelation 17:14).”

Do we long for a King? History seems to point strongly in the opposite direction. The United States of America likely wouldn’t exist if not for the founding fathers’ adamant rejection of a monarchy. In fact, they had a few choice words to share on that system of governance and its moral failings. Ask any Christian (outside the context of “Jesus as Lord”) if they would want a king to rule over them and they would likely all answer the same. Again, it is difficult to see how any of this yet qualifies as “evidence for Christianity”.

So far we’ve covered only a single paragraph of “evidence” from the original post, so this examination will be split up into two parts. All of the points made by Parsons so far are can only be described as “cultural relativistic evidence”, or perhaps more succinctly: Platitudes. Christians often believe that because they find an idea to be common sense, poetic, or fulfilling in the context of their cultural background, that means it can be used as a supportive argument for the factual claims held by their religion. These are the kinds of arguments that all religions use to claim that theirs is the one true religion. Simply put, if the same logic can be applied to argue for the factual nature of any religion then it does not satisfy a standard of evidence that should have any bearing on realityMetaphors and word-play do not qualify as evidence.

Continue to Part 2