The fanciful first page of the New Testament

by Michael Nugent on September 8, 2009

How soon is the first fiction in the New Testament? Try the first page. The title is the Gospel of Matthew. In reality, nobody knows who wrote any of the Gospels, other than they were Christians who spoke Greek and lived outside Palestine between about 65-95 CE.

It was much later, maybe as late as 180 CE, that the names Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were attached to these books, in order to give them credibility and authority.

At that time there were many rival Christian Gospels, only some of which ended up in the Bible. The main theological dispute among early Christians was whether Jesus was totally human or totally divine. The faction that eventually won out, and that evolved into today’s Christianity, argued that Jesus was both totally human and totally divine. This enabled them to include contradictory stories about Jesus into what became their New Testament by about 300 CE.

First contradiction in the New Testament

How soon is the first contradiction in the New Testament? Again, try the first page. It begins with a lengthy genealogy of Jesus, to prove he was descended from David and Abraham. The list starts when Abraham begat Isaac, and ends when Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary. But the very next paragraph tells us that Joseph was not the father of Jesus, which means Jesus was not related to anyone in this lengthy genealogy.

In reality, this is a clumsy attempt to merge two contradictory myths: that the Jewish messiah would be descended from King David, and that Jesus had a virgin birth. And the virgin birth myth has a mix of two sources: somebody mistranslated the Old Testament Hebrew word for ‘young woman’ into the New Testament Greek word for ‘virgin’, and early Christians were seeking converts among Greek and Roman Gentiles who were familiar with existing gods who were believed to have been born of virgins.

First absurdity in the New Testament

How soon is the first absurdity in the New Testament? Again, try the first page. It introduces the central theme of the Christian story. We are so used to hearing this fantastic story, and we know so many people who sincerely believe it to be true, that we can easily become desensitized to how utterly absurd it is.

The story suggests that the creator of the universe deliberately interrupted the laws of nature, in order to impregnate a virgin female of one specific tribe, of one of millions of species of sentient life, on one small planet in one small solar system, in one of hundreds of billions of galaxies in an ever-expanding universe, in order to give birth to himself, so that he could die and return to life and write his story in a book, in order to save the descendants of this human virgin mother from the spiritual consequences of a talking snake persuading one of her ancestors to eat a piece of fruit, and furthermore the creator of the universe wants me personally to benefit from this.

In reality, none of this ever happened. It is a cumulation of fictional stories, invented in more primitive times to convey messages through metaphor.

Fanciful first page sets the tone

That fanciful first page sets the tone for the unreliability of the New Testament as a coherent guide to who Jesus was or how Christianity evolved. Many scholars have researched the historical Jesus, and their quest has been well recorded by writers like Albert Schweitzer, David Boulton, and Bart Ehrman.

All of these studies faced the same underlying problems: nobody wrote anything about Jesus during his lifetime, none of the writers of the New Testament had never met him, none of their original texts exist, and the copies that do exist are riddled with centuries of errors in both transcription and translation.

It is on such shaky foundations that the Christian faith is built.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Derek September 8, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Good analysis of the first page of the New Testament, Michael. It's things like this that help show just how poor the Christian faith is at explaining anything that really pertains to life as we know it.

2 Michael Nugent September 14, 2009 at 2:48 pm

I agree. The Bible stories may have helped to explain certain things, to the satisfaction of certain people, almost two thousand years ago. Both science and ethics have evolved since then, and unquestioning belief in these stories is now a hindrance to human development.

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