I was in talks with an atheist today who leads up one of the most vehement Anti-Christian organizations. We had some contact in the past previously, and whereas usually I could ward off his attacks about how Jesus’ story borrowed from Mithra or how Jesus’ father was actually roman centurion and other such nonsense, this time he unloaded upon me a novel, devastating apologetic critique against Christ and his nature. To be honest it caught me off guard, so much so that my throat seized in my chest and all I could think of was “That’s it. They got us.” They presented some facts to me about Jesus that are essentially irrefutable. The minute he proposed them to me I became keenly aware that this would forever change the face of Christian apologetics, and maybe Christianity as a whole.
I’m sorry everybody. I wish there was a way to refute these claims about Jesus, but there just isn’t. This is the most successful assault on the integrity of Christ and his character, and even the history of the Word of God that we have ever faced, and we have been breached. What they tell me about the life of Jesus… it’s too compelling and irrefutable. It’s unassailable, indisputable and incontestable. In light of these new revelations my worldview has collapsed. My paradigms have all shifted. My mind has been blown with the staggering, relentless truths of these claims.
This is what the atheist told me about Jesus. Its not verbatim, but it is a very close approximation.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and then move to Greece when he was three. He didn’t know anything about Hebrew culture at all until Joseph immigrated with his wives to Nazareth in A.D. 14. This is because He spent fourteen years living in majority Greek nations until he arrived in Israel when he was in his early teens. And know what? He hated the people there, and he thought they hated him. At the synagogue, which on his first day he attended wearing his full embroidered Greek tunic, he had difficulty fitting in. Furthermore, Jesus only spoke broken Aramaic which he had learned from watching traders and merchants in the streets of Delphi, which didn’t help matters. Thankfully though, after several years, and through the efforts of a friend named Judas Iscariot, Jesus adapted to the culture and eventually was converted to Judaism, and his desire to commit a Hellenized jihad came to an end.
You can imagine how this devastated me. Nothing in my behavior over the last few years would have equipped me refute this sort of attack on the character of Jesus, especially in light of my defense of Ergun caner. Their formulation of it is genius- diabolically so. Because I was so shook up, I even deigned to contact my frenemy James White to ask him about this, in one last ditch effort to grab unto a glimmer of hope. James told me was more than willing to help. He pulled out the scriptures and showed me in the Gospels where the writers gives explicit and clear textual evidence that this is not the case. He read me scriptures and pointed out how these claims are impossible, and how we have clear evidence that leads us to be confident in the true and unedited story of Jesus found in the Bible. He told me that the atheist’s story was just made up, and that we could easily prove he was lying if we just looked at the facts with an open mind.
But that doesn’t matter. Regardless of all the “evidence” against this that James and other people like him are more than willing to provide me, I can’t believe it. I must trust this atheist and take him at his word. I believe that the new account of Jesus’ life and his history growing up in Greece, and the ramifications it has on the gospels and the story of Jesus cannot be rebutted merely by appealing to “vast quantities of easily verifiable data and documentation” that would state otherwise. No way. Thankfully, many Christians and other “top-men” have agreed and jumped ship in solidarity with me, supposing as I do that this is too irrefutable, too clever, and too believable to not be true.This is the new normal for us, and the quicker we accept it, the better.
Sincerely, your friend
Please note that Peter Lumpkins didn’t actually write this. This is a work of satire
There is a well known apologetic that is given as evidence regarding the resurrection of Christ. Preachers, teachers, theologians and laypeople point to the deaths of the Apostles as circumstantial evidence concerning that event. They say things like “People will die for a cause if they believe it to be true, but they won’t die for a lie. The 12 Apostles suffered horrendous deaths as martyrs for the cause- now why would they endure such profound suffering if they believed it a lie?
It seems to be a given that almost all the Apostles were martyred and that their gruesome, grotesque end is known. They say things like “Church tradition has it that……” or ” Church history tells us that….” and that seems to be the end of it, as if such matters are settled and secure. They have an assumed confidence in the historicity of these accounts, supposing we have sufficient certainty to know what actually happened, and in turn recount this to others without impunity.
There are several problems with this though, the least of which is that even a cursory examination of the accounts of the deaths of the apostles show gaps, contradictions, conflicting testimony, unreliable witnesses, suspect testimonies and incredible uncertainty. The whole thing really is a complete mess, and it seems that if someone told me “Church tradition has it that they all died a martyr’s death” and I would ask them “What traditions? What church fathers” No one would even have a clue. Its a good line, but it harder to back up once you go deeper than surface-level sound clips.
To offer an example, the one I want to focus on is the supposed martyrdom of Bartholomew the Apostle. Finding primary sources for the Martyrdom of Bartholomew has been a nightmare. What we typically see is “Some local traditions have him going to India. Other traditions record him as serving as a missionary in Ethiopia. Mesopotamia, Parthia, and Lycaonia”. In the NewAdvent entry on Bartholomew by John Fenlon, we read without sources or citations “Other traditions represent St. Bartholomew as preaching in Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, Armenia, Lycaonia, Phrygia, and on the shores of the Black Sea. One legend, it is interesting to note, identifies him with Nathanael. The manner of his death, said to have occurred at Albanopolis in Armenia, is equally uncertain; according to some, he was beheaded, according to others, flayed alive and crucified, head downward, by order of Astyages, for having converted his brother, Polymius, King of Armenia.” I find that incredibly unhelpful and have not been able to track down most of those so-called traditions. To that end after some careful research I’ve managed to dig up the most relevant and recent sources for the evidence of the Martyrdom of just one of the Apostles.
1. The Biblical Evidence. There is no biblical extant evidence of the fate of Bartholomew. The Scriptures are wholly silent on the matter.
2. Hippolytus of Rome [170-235] . Though in his own day he was considered to be a prolific writer, the details of his life and his writings were quickly forgotten and little is known about him. He wrote that “Bartholomew, again, preached to the Indians, to whom he also gave the Gospel according to Matthew, and was crucified with his head downward, and was buried in Allanum, a town of the great Armenia. [Hippolytus. "On the Twelve Apostles of Christ." Ante-Nicean Fathers, Vol. 5.] Hippolytus does not give us sources for this account, and likewise his authorship of said source is highly disputed. That is to say- we don’t even know if he actually wrote it. But if he did, it is also interesting to note that Hippolytus reports natural deaths for four of the twelve disciples [John, Matthew, Thaddeus, and Simon the Zealot, which would contradict Eusebius and others regarding other apostolic deaths.
3. Eusebius of Caesarea, [AD 263 – 339] Recounts only that Bartholomew went off to India. ” Pantænus was one of these, and is said to have gone to India. It is reported that among persons there who knew of Christ, He found the Gospel, according to Matthew, which had anticipated his own arrival. For Bartholomew, one of the apostles, had preached to them, and left with them the writing of Matthew in the Hebrew language, which they had preserved till that time.” [Eusebius. Church History. Book V. Chapter 10.]
4. Jerome. [ 347 – 420] In his commentary on Matthew he mentions a number of no-longer-extant apocryphal gospels, including a document entitled The Gospel of Bartholomew [Sometimes called the Questions of Bartholomew] This document is strongly Nestorian [The Nestorian heresy taught that Jesus existed simultaneously as two distinct entities: the human Jesus, mortal and finite; and the divine Logos or "Word of God," which had existed with God the Father throughout all time] and was condemned as heretical by the Gelasian decree. The Questions of Bartholomew describes several conversations between Jesus and the Apostles, after the Crucifixion, Christ’s Harrowing of Hell, and the Resurrection. Jesus explicitly grants Bartholomew power and authority over the denizens of Hell, which gives him the ability to question Satan about his battle with Heaven. Written possibly as early as the 6th century, it does not cast light on his death
5. There is a non-Biblical document called the “Martyrdom of Bartholomew” written as early as the 5th century, which claims that Bartholomew was martyred by King Astyages in Armenia: “Then the King rent the purple in which he was clothed, and ordered the holy apostle Bartholomew to be beaten with rods; and after having been thus scourged, to be beheaded.” Interestingly enough, in this book the demons are speaking amongst themselves about how to recognize him, and they are given this description “And the demon answered and said: He has black hair, a shaggy head, a fair skin, large eyes, beautiful nostrils, his ears hidden by the hair of his head, with a yellow beard, a few grey hairs, of middle height, and neither tall nor stunted, but middling…His voice is like the sonnet of a strong trumpet; there go along with him angels of God, who allow him neither to be weary, nor to hunger, nor to thirst; his face, and his soul, and his heart are always glad and rejoicing; he foresees everything, he knows and speaks every tongue of every nation.”
6. Moses of Chorena, a writer who lived either in the late 5th century or sometime in the 7th century, wrote “There came then into Armenia the Apostle Bartholomew, who suffered martyrdom among us in the town of Arepan. As to Simon, who was sent unto Persia I cannot relate with certainty what he did, nor where he suffered martyrdom. It is said that one Simon, an apostle, was martyred at Veriospore. Is this true or why did the saint come to this place? I do not know I have only mentioned this circumstance that you may know I spare no pains to tell you all that is necessary.” [ History of Armenia . Section IX]
7. The Acts of Phillip. A bizarre, mystical, Gnostic apocryphal late 4th century book. In a later addition to it we read “And the Saviour said: O Philip, since you have forsaken this commandment of mine, not to render evil for evil, for this reason you shall be debarred in the next world for forty years from being in the place of my promise: besides, this is the end of your departure from the body in this place; and Bartholomew has his lot in Lycaonia, and shall be crucified there; and Mariamne shall lay down her body in the river Jordan. [Addition to the Acts of Phillip. Paragraph 52]
8. Allegedly there is an old Roman Breviary which states “In Great Armenia Bartholomew led the king, Poplymius, and his wife, in addition to twelve cities, to the Christian belief. These conversions very much enkindled the jealousy of the clergy there. The priests succeeded in stirring up the brother of King Polymius, Astyages, to such an anger that he gave the gruesome order to have Bartholomew skinned alive and then beheaded. In this martyrdom he gave his soul back to God.” I have not been able to locate any source for it.
So here’s where we are; concerning the apostolic work of St. Bartholomew we have only unreliable and contradictory statements. The earliest accounts have been lost. The first that have been preserved originated between 450 and 550 in the eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire with traces of Nestoriansim. His manner of deaths range from being beaten, beheaded, flayed, crucified, and a host of others ends. He is said to have died in dozens of different places and countries, and most of the information that supposedly sheds light on his death was written hundreds of years after his actual death, in unreliable, unbelievable, fantastical sources. I would suggest that during the first several centuries after Christ, stories about Him, the apostles, and their lives — not to mention writings on the meaning of Christ’s life, the duties of a Christian, and predictions about the end of the world — exploded into existence and the adventures of Bartholomew consists entirely of that- stories, traditions, myths and legends.
To that end, the title of this post is a bit misleading but it makes its point well. While we have stronger and more solid evidence for the martyrdom of other Apostles, the point I want to make stands; we don’t even know that Bartholomew was martyred. We don’t know how, why or where or even IF. We don’t with any certainty know a single detail about his death, other than that he indeed did die. Appeals to Church history and Church tradition are useless and confusing, and so because we want to speak the truth, we need to be precise. I think it’s fair to say something like “While we have a mess to sort our regarding which apostles died where how and why, its reasonable to conclude that many of them if not most of them probably were martyred for their faith” It doesn’t have the impact that “They were all martyred for their faith and suffered this specific gruesome fate..”, but the purpose is not maximum impact, but maximum truth so that God may be glorified.
I recently had the opportunity to check out a local Church’s church bookstore. Perusing their selection got me thinking;
What is the purpose of a church bookstore? Apart from being a small source of revenue, which undoubtedly must be the secondary or even tertiary purpose, I would have imagined that it would be a place where you honor and glorify Christ by presenting to your congregation the best books that they can read to build their faith. This should represent what the pastor, elders and church leadership recommend as being the most thoughtful, engaging, edifying, provoking, and biblically faithful resources that they can give their members in order to build their sanctification and help them understand the purposes and character of God.
As a pastors job is to shepherd the flock and feed them God’s word, a bookstore [or even a church library- they have the exact same purpose] can serve as a small part of that. During the sermon you should be teaching doctrine that will more or less agree the theology being espouse in a bookstore, and likewise the books compliment the messages being preached from the pulpit. Simply put; the very act of stocking certain books and authors is a implicit and tacit endorsement of that authors theology. The books in the bookstore function like little sermons and teaching lessons that you are unable to deliver, but would like to. When you carry certain books, you are telling your flock “we want you to read this books, and we agree with what is being taught.” Not only that, but you are saying that the book is safe, that the theology can be trusted, and that you support what is being written about. Unlike a for-profit bookstore, the motivations are a little different.
Given this, every book should be vetted by either the pastor, elders, or a qualified layperson who understands law and gospel, sin and grace, and knows how to properly handle the scriptures so that they can, in the words of Chris Rosebrough “Compare what people are saying in the name of God to the word of God.” You don’t have to agree with everything that the author says, in this book or in others they have, however. The purpose is not to nitpick every tiny minutia that the book relates, but rather to determine if they authors are being faithful to the scriptures in their exegesis, interpretation, extrapolation and application, so that you can feel confident that you have your due diligence in caring for people’s souls.
So why do so many Church bookstores or lending libraries have such rotten books? And not to put too fine a point on it, but why do so many churches sell books from authors who are either heretics, flaming heretics, false teachers, bible twisters, narcegetes [narcissistic eisegeters] and every other variety of bizarre purveyors of theological poison? These are books where it can be demonstrably and objectively proven that the authors are misusing God’s word, and that they are teaching things that can’t either can’t be found in scripture, or that scripture condemns.
They should be places where you can let your guard down, not have to raise it up. They should be places where you can learn about biblical prayer without being exposed to gnostic witchcraft involving a mythical figures named Honi and circlemaking practices. They should be places where you can learn to see Jesus in the Old Testament and not be a breeding ground for teaching you how to make the Bible about you so that you can narcisistically insert yourself into the text. They should be places where you can read about the glories and mysteries of heaven, as revealed in scriptures, and not have some five year old boy regale you with delusions and lies about how “for real” he thinks heaven is.
The bookstore is where you learn about how to manage your finances well so that you can give sacrificially to the Church and to your neighbour. Its not a place where you should find yourself exposed to the health and wealth/prosperity gospel- the theological abortion that would feed on your greed and lust of the world as it chains you to the lie that is the “american dream”. The bookstore should be a places where you get a clear articulation of the gospel and the forgiveness of sins that Christ has provided for you on the cross through his death and resurrection, not where you die on the altar of self-esteem. Its not supposed to be a place that leaves you embroiled in “moralistic therapeutic deism” by enslaving you to Christless Christianity by a man with big shiny teeth who will drag you to hell as he smiles and talks about “your best life now.” The bookstore ought to build your sanctification, not your self esteem. Promote the sure word of the faith delivered “once for all”, not mysticism and spiritual whimsicality.
From a personal standpoint, when I see that sort of thing, it demonstrates to me that the church leadership is not acting with wisdom and discernment. It show they are failing to be watchmen and good shepherds over their flocks. This is because they are allowing and encouraging into their midsts purveyors of scriptural strychnine . How then can I submit to them and trust them to feed my soul on a Sunday morning when they’re giving the enemy the knife to slit my throat the other six days of the week? I’m not saying they don’t love the Lord or love people, but in a way they are showing hatred towards their brothers and sisters by exposing them to the worst that Christianity has to offer. I instinctually question how committed they are to be sound teachers and exegetes of the Word when they tolerate the sloppy molestation of that very same Word by other preachers and teachers in their own homes.
What say you? Do you trust your Church bookstore?
A few weeks ago a friend off mine posted this picture on facebook. I asked her what ”valid” means and she told me “ valid = real, noteworthy, substantial, precious.” Therefore to frame this another way, the feelings of every single person, no matter what they are, and regardless of their nature, are real, substantial and precious. It doesn’t take more than a few seconds to see the deep flaws and perverse logic of such a statement. I jumped on MS paint and within a few minutes I had created these two beauties.
and then this one, which I posted to her facebook wall
She promptly deleted my post, which I suppose demonstrates the hypocrisy and irrationality of such a proposition. The people who promote this mindset don’t believe it themselves, nor do they practice it. It is enabling childishness and selfishness under the guise of love and tolerance. It enables emotional immaturity in such a way that those who cling to it are being hurt by their belief in it, even as they believe they are being helped. Put the lie to it. Don’t believe it. And don’t fall for it.