From: Brian Holtz []
Sent: Thursday, May 29, 2003 10:52 PM
To: Bob Norsworthy III
Subject: RE: Jesus

> Jesus not claiming to be son of God? What Bible are you reading?

The one in which Jesus says:

The title of 'God' is never reliably applied to Jesus anywhere in the New Testament. (In many translations of 2 Pet 1:1 and Titus 2:13, the description "God and Saviour" is seemingly applied to Jesus, but the scholarly consensus regards these two letters as late and pseudoepigraphic.) Acts quotes [2:22, 2:36, 3:13, 10:38, 17:31] Peter and Paul describing Jesus in terms of a man appointed to an office, but never calling him God.  The gospel authors never explicitly claim Jesus to be God, and the closest they come is the vague language of Jn 1: "the Word was God" and "became flesh". John quotes Thomas exclaiming [Jn 20] "my Lord and my God", but immediately states [20:31] as a creed merely "that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God". The "mystery" of Jesus' nature was hardly clarified by the Apostles [e.g. Phil 2:6, Rom 1:4, Col 1:15, Col 2:9], whose epistles never claim Jesus had any kind of identity with God. (Christian scribes tried to change that; cf. the differing manuscripts for Rom 9:5, Acts 20:28, and 1 Tim 3:16.) 
Thus, just as Jesus failed to leave clear teachings about salvation, hell, divorce, circumcision, and diet, he also did not effect a competent revelation of who precisely he was. Depending on e.g. various 4th-century Roman emperors, there waxed and waned such Christological heresies as Ebionism, Docetism, Adoptionism, Dynamic Monarchianism, Sabellianism, Arianism, Marcionism, Apollonarianism, Nestorianism, Monophysitism, and Monothelitism. The doublethink of the "trinity" is not found in the Bible, but instead was invented to reconcile Jewish monotheism with Jesus' idiosyncratic Sonship claims.
> How can you misinterpret "I and the Father are one"?

In this the one instance in the gospels [Jn 10:33ff] in which Jesus' identity with God is explicitly discussed, Jesus cites a Psalm [82:6] as a precedent for his metaphor, and hastily retreats to his formulation of being "God's Son", adding vaguely that "the Father is in me, and I in the Father" (which 1 Jn 2:15 says is true of anyone who acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God).  When at another time [Jn 5:18ff] the Jews characterized the "Son of Man" title as "making himself equal with God",  Jesus answered not by claiming identity but by drawing distinctions:

Thus Jesus retreats the only two times he is accused of claiming identity or equality with God. In the Passion story, Jesus was mocked or accused as a faith healer, prophet, king of the Jews, Messiah, and "Son of God" [Jn 19:7] -- but never as divine or as a god. When Jesus died, onlookers are said to have exclaimed not that Jesus was God, but rather the "Son of God" [Mat 27:54].

> "Go, your sins are forgiven [by Me]? That's as plain as day.

You might as well expand your interpolation: "Go, your sins are forgiven [and I am thereby making the only clear claim of ontological identity with God in my entire ministry]". Calling this "plain as day" is laughable.

> it's clear He was of sound mind. If He weren't, one
> or both of the following would have occured;

Sorry, but the gospel evidence is just too scanty and unreliable to make such a confident prediction.

> His followers would have
> abandoned Him, He would have had at least one breakdown.

As it turns out, both happened: Jn 6:66, and Mk 11:14-16.

> He backed it up with wisdom, miracles and authority all witnessed by
> hundreds of people.

There is not a single first-hand account of any alleged miracle by Jesus. The miracles ascribed to Jesus seem not to have been very convincing [Mt 11:20, Lk 10:13, Jn 6:66, 10:32, 12:37, 15:24], and seem explainable by a combination of conventional faith healing, exaggeration, and mythologizing.

> His ministry failed?

Yes; Paul salvaged it by converting Jesus' failed Torah-abiding imminently-apocalyptic Jewish ministry into a successful Torah-transcending vaguely-apocalyptic Gentile ministry.

> It takes more faith to believe
> in your claims than it does the Bible. None of what you say is
> supported by the Bible, history, science or anything.

The Bible asks you to believe in decades-old hearsay reports of miracles. I merely ask you to open your eyes to the obvious contradictions in a text that is available right now in your own living room.

> I will be putting my rebuttals to your claims on my website soon. [..]
> I can make arguments that are just as plausible as yours.

Then I invite you to test your best arguments in my atheist cage match challenge. (If your best argument is your site's Trilemma piece, then I rest my case.)

> I pity you. Such a waste of intelligence.

Do you pity me for the actual eternity you think I'll waste in hell, or just for the seeming eternity that I waste trying to enlighten Christians? :-)  Your pity is wasted in either case: hell is a myth, and enlightening Christians isn't my (first-order) goal.

> It's clear from your incessant
> tedium that you're not trying to convince anyone of your beliefs. You're
> trying to convince yourself.

I'm indeed more interested in testing my beliefs than in evangelizing anyone. I hold that the best-tested beliefs will inevitably triumph on their merits and independent of any intentional evangelism.

> "I'm master of my own destiny, I will not
> submit to any god because I know better how to conduct my life."
> Can you not see the arrogance of that position?

Can you not see the arrogance of putting words in my mouth? Is my actual value system so persuasive that you cannot disagree with a direct quotation of it?

> If that's the case, what's your money on? You? HA! I
> take God.

My "money" is on critical rationality as mediated by the marketplace of ideas. Such rationality will outlive not only your Mesopotamian tribal deity but also all the other deities that have been or will be invented by superstitious humans.

> At least what I believe is backed up by existing manuscripts and archaeology.

There isn't a shred of archaeological evidence for the supernatural claims of the gospels -- the text of which undermines its own claims in scores of instances