Friday, August 23, 2013


Welcome to The Wise Fool blog. Are you looking for a challenge to your faith, a second opinion on Scripture, or a skeptical perspective on the Bible? You are in the right place.

I have not read the Bible. I have studied it. ;-)

Focusing on the first five books of the Old Testament (the Torah, or Law) and the first four of the New Testament (the Gospels), I have worked diligently to pass on what I have learned about its stories, its prophesies, its God, and Jesus, to you. So, please, allow me to show you around the blog:

Are you looking for selected highlight studies on the Torah? Oy vey! I have you covered right here.

Or perhaps you would like to baptize yourself with the Gospel study highlights instead? Seek, and you shall find.
Over on the right sidebar, you will find some interesting links, including my chapter-by-chapter summary of the Bible, studies about what each of the first five books of the Bible reveal about God's character, and, under the search box, a link to the Site Map for a complete listing of posts.
Did the Old Testament really foreshadow the advent of Christianity? Start exploring the truth with Scapegoat, about the Day of Atonement, and continue with the Foreshadowing tag.
Christianity often claims to be beyond the (Jewish) Law, so to speak. Yet this detailed study on what God said about His Law contradicts that view, and several other tenets of Jesus' faith.
Learn more about God's nature by exploring the tags on God's Heart, Justice, Omnipotence, Omniscience, Plan, and Promises. See how God changes His promises in God's Altered Promise.
Women in the Bible, while sometimes honored, are often denigrated. See for yourself in Virginity, Rape, and Bitter Justice, and then follow through with the Women tag.
Prophesies bolsters Jesus' claim on being the Messiah, but, following the Prophesy tag, you can see how they were all taken out of context. Even Isaiah 53, the best "match", is systematically countered in a detailed study of its context.
Free Will is often used to get God off the hook for condemning people, but the doctrine of the Elect counters that. Start exploring this theme through By Invitation Only, and continue studying through the The Elect tag.
Studying Judgement Day, you will find its anticipation within a life span from Jesus' time. Check out the Be Ready study, and continue with the Judgement Day and End is Near tags.
Hell was not just a metaphor for eternal separation from God. Read about the origin of Hell in Cut Off Your Reason, and see how the concept evolved by following the Hell tag.
The Synoptic Problem; the issues in reconciling the disparate accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke... Want to study the Synoptic Problem? A great start is with By Prayer and Fasting. Then continue on to the Mark the Source, Matthew the Aggregator, and Luke the Editor tags.
Through incongruity in the anecdotes, recorded "unknowable" information, and the differences between the Gospels, we can see that some of the Gospel content is flat-out fiction. See for yourself in the Inequity of Time study, and go further with the Evidence of Fiction tag.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Good News

The Good News
Almost five years ago, I began blogging the Bible, with detailed skeptical analysis covering the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and the Gospels. Last week, I finally finished my intended scope of analysis. Overall, it has been a challenging and enriching experience, but I am ready for a break! :-)

Before I go, I thought I would give you some highlight posts from the Gospels, as I had done for the Torah when I finished that about two years ago. So without further ado, here are the posts I would rank as the most important ones to consider. The top five from the Gospels are:

  1. John the Baptist Leads the Way? - Ever wonder why baptism is so prominent in Christianity? It has to do with prophesy, but a closer look at these prophesies reveals considerable discrepancies to what we find in the Gospels.
  2. Why Jesus Spoke in Parables - Do you believe God/Jesus really wants to save everyone? Jesus' reference to an Old Testament prophesy proves otherwise.
  3. The Unforgivable Sin - Only one sin is explicitly claimed as being unforgivable. What does this one exemption say about God?
  4. Foundation of Sand - Speaking of Jesus' teachings, at the completion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said those who did not obey were destined for disaster. A review of His teachings seems to illustrate just how few people actually do obey.
  5. An Easy Yoke - According to Jesus, His burden is light, meaning that following Him is easy. However, another, more-complete review of His teachings up to that point would seem to prove otherwise.

Beyond those top five, below are a collection of hand-selected posts which, I believe, are also instrumental in more-fully revealing the truth of Christianity. If you missed these before, or this is your first time here, I think it is worth taking a look:

  • Damnation by Association - To those who believe that we each individually make the choice to accept or reject Jesus' offer of Salvation, Jesus' words suggest otherwise.
  • The Fall of a Sparrow - To those who believe that the accidents and catastrophic disasters in this life are not under the direct control of God, Jesus' words indicate differently.
  • Preparing the Way Out of Context - This is a deeper investigation into how the prophesy within Malachi, prophesy which contradicts Christianity, was inappropriately applied John the Baptist.
  • Misquoted and Misguided - You know you are in trouble when Jesus misquotes Scripture, and this study examines one of those misquotes, and examines its true, contextual meaning.
  • Walking on Fluid Myth - With just a small amount of scrutiny, we can easily see that stories like Jesus walking on water are likely myth, and may have even originally been intended to communicate Gnostic knowledge.
  • By Invitation Only - To those who believe that your Salvation is an individual choice of free will, Jesus' (and Paul's) words explain that it is God who chooses the Saved, not the other way around.
  • The Signs of the Times - Jesus berated a mostly illiterate audience for not knowing the Scriptural signs of the times, but a detailed look into Daniel's prophesy reveals that Jesus was the one in the wrong.
  • Tasting a Deceased Kingdom - The end of the world is nigh! Or, at least it was near. That was the message preached by Jesus; that the Kingdom of God was coming soon, not 2000 years later.
  • Understanding Grief - Everyone knows that there are apparent contradictions in the Gospel accounts. Most of them are only weak differences that can be explained away thanks to the lack of explicit language. But when the authors repeatedly took opposing sides on the same issues, like the Disciples understanding Jesus' fate, such differences cannot be reconciled.
  • Cut Off Your Reason - While there is a trend within Christianity now to accept the mantra "we are not perfect, just forgiven", Jesus advised taking extreme measures to avoid sin to live perfect, as you will see in this study, which also includes an investigation of prophetic Hell.
  • Inequity of Time - While there are many subtle differences in the Gospels, discrepancies like the one studied here illustrate how the Gospel authors manipulated the message as they saw fit.
  • Lazarus, Lying About - The story of Jesus resurrecting His beloved friend, Lazarus, is plagued by absurdities, and John's description of its impact creates one of the strongest possible arguments from silence of the other three Gospels against the story being true.
  • Enter, Stage Jerusalem - Jesus took measures to ensure that His entrance into Jerusalem appeared prophetic, yet a look at that prophesy reveals another extraction from context.
  • Entrapment in the Temple - Jesus zealously cleared the Temple courtyard of dove-sellers and money-changers, forgetting how God's Law essentially established their necessity there.
  • Near the end of Jesus' teaching career, He revealed many signs which would accompany the end of the world. I did a series of posts called "The End Back Then", with Temple Tragedy, Jesus' Return, and Be Ready being particularly worthy of attention.
  • Denial of a Difference - This study of Jesus' prophesy of Peter's denial reveals, yet again, how the Gospels have some contradictions which are not possible to resolve, even though some Christians deny such contradictions exist.
  • Finally, everyone who knows of Christianity has likely heard the story of Judas' betrayal of Jesus. However, through a series entitled "Judas Fish", the details of the story appeared to be rather fishy. The stench of lies is most completely and thoroughly revealed in the study of The Aftermath of Judas' betrayal.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Damage Control

The resurrected Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, to Peter, to two disciples who did not recognize Him, and to the Eleven Disciples (some of whom had doubts).

According to John, Jesus also appeared to a group of seven disciples who had been on an overnight fishing trip. Jesus appeared on shore, helped them be successful at fishing, and then hosted a breakfast of fish and bread on the shore. None of the disciples dared ask Him "Who are you?". This study picks up as a continuation of that appearance.

Damage Control
The Gospels, as we know them today, came into their final forms decades after Jesus had died. Decades. Besides making it challenging to memory to recall exactly what was said, when, where, and by whom, this time lapse also created other problems, and opportunities, for advancing the Christian cause. As the Gospel of John wraps to a close, we come to a couple examples of how this lag was leveraged for advantage.

Peter's Fate
After a beach breakfast of bread and fish, John 21:15-17 recorded that Jesus had a conversation with Peter, where Jesus famously asked Peter if he loved Him and told him to feed His sheep three times. This appears to be granting Peter special significance among all of the other Disciples. This is similar to, yet very different from, how Matthew 16:17-19 granted that significance to Peter, which you may remember from a previous study.

In John 21:18-19, Jesus continued on to tell Peter:
"I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then He said to him, "Follow Me!" NIV
It does seem odd that this information is juxtaposed next to Jesus' instructions to feed His sheep, as it would be difficult to feed anyone's sheep when you are dead, and hardly sounds like a reward for all of that sheep feeding! ;-)

More significant, though, is that the language used here, that extra clarification of what Jesus meant, suggests a "fulfilled prophesy", not one that was yet to be fulfilled. In other words, Peter was likely already dead by the time that the author wrote those words. The other three Gospels were also likely written after Peter's death, at least in the form we recognize them today.

Based on the information available, it appears that Peter was killed around 64 AD, and that he likely died on a cross as well, but upside-down. The legend is that Peter requested that configuration, but soldiers carrying out crucifixions were known to occasionally nail people up in non-standard ways as a form of twisted entertainment for themselves. Regardless of which reason is more likely, we should recognize that it is entirely possible that Peter was crucified upside-down.

In looking back over the Gospels, and even ahead into Acts and some of the Epistles, Peter's prominence permeates the pages more so than any other Disciple, except, perhaps, for the later addition of Paul. I believe that it is important to consider this in attempting to piece together the puzzle of early Christianity. To that end, I submit the following theory:

Peter was a zealous believer. He did not "die for a lie", because he wholeheartedly believed in the resurrected Jesus without a trace of doubt. His zeal and confidence were inspirational to other believers, especially the new ones who had not witnessed Jesus personally. However, Peter was not the brightest light in the chandelier. He may have been a "fool for Christ" in a couple senses of the words.

So we find that the story of Peter assembled after his death becomes a tale of him acting and speaking rather foolishly at times while he was with Jesus in the Gospels, but eventually portrayed more as a champion of the faith after the Resurrection, and particularly after the receiving of the Holy Spirit. While Peter was (in my opinion) a real person, his story became that of a mythologized martyrdom; a flawed and foolish soul who became purified and perfected through faith in Jesus and the reception of the Holy Spirit. Peter became the banner, the rallying cry, that we mere mortals could hope to become like when the perfections of Jesus seemed a little too out of reach. His story was powerful, inspirational, and effective, and John leveraged that tool to persuade and encourage his flock of believers.

It should be noted that, while, in Peter's mind, he did not "die for a lie", that does not mean that it was true, especially given the other disciples' doubts after seeing the resurrected Jesus. Peter may have just been credulous, especially if his foolish nature recorded in the Gospels bears any resemblance to what was his true character. As it happens from time to time in life, we sometimes discover that that which we had resolved as real turns out to be a product of our own delusion.

The Beloved Disciple's Fate
As the story continues in John 21:20-23, it seems that that "Follow Me!" command Jesus gave Peter was literal, not figurative. They started walking somewhere, and Peter noticed that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. Peter mentioned that to Jesus, but Jesus deflected his concern in an awkward, problem-creating way. In John 21:23, we read:
Because of [how Jesus replied], the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; He only said, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?" NIV
This is an interesting verse for a several reasons.

First, we should consider that this rumor was strong enough that John felt the need to explicitly counter it in the Gospel.

Next, given the rumor's strength and the need to counter it, this beloved disciple was likely dead, or pretty close to being so, by the time that this Gospel was written. Based on available information, it appears that John died in 100 AD, and, as it happens, most scholars believe John to have been written in the 90-100 AD time frame.

Following those lines of thought, we should ask how it would be possible for a rumor to be that strong after so much time when it would have had plenty of chance for correction by the Disciples? A possible, if not probable, answer is that everyone thought that the rumor was a true statement, but the events of time forced John to re-evaluate reality to curtail the damage to the faith that this beloved disciple would enact upon his death.

Finally, we need to consider the divine aspect here. Jesus, if He was God and had omniscience, would have known how His words would be misconstrued to cause this rumor to be circulated. So for Jesus to have given that reply makes Him appear negligent with His word choices.

When you consider this claim of Peter's death as prophesy and a passage that would mitigate the damages potentially caused by the beloved disciple's death, it appears that John is making an effort to handle the delayed Second Coming to the best of his advantage. Without any of the other three Gospel to back him up, there are doubts as to whether or not this event happened, or if John simply dreamed up this scenario to bolster the faithful and to control a once-promising, now-damaging, "rumor".

Friday, August 2, 2013

Who Are You?

Jesus, resurrected, appeared to Mary Magdalene, either while she was at Jesus' tomb alone or while she was headed back to tell the Disciples about the empty tomb. Jesus may have appeared to Peter. Then He appeared to two disciples who had difficulty recognizing Him.

Next came appearances to the Disciples, along with some contradictions, such as where the appearances occurred (Galilee or Jerusalem). Not only were there contradictions, but there were doubts among the Disciples; some resolved, others not.

After that appearance, John 20:30-31 contains a "false end" to his Gospel, which explains that Jesus did much more than just what was recorded in his Gospel, but that the author had selected what had been included "that you may believe". In the study below, we will examine some of what was appended to the Gospel beyond that point.

Who Are You?
Mary Magdalene first thought the post-resurrected Jesus was a gardener. Jesus appeared in a "different form" to two other disciples. In one way or another, even among the inner circle of the remaining Eleven Disciples, there were doubts upon seeing Him again. This lack of recognition is as conspicuous as it is suspicious. Let us look at the final case of mistaken identity found in the Gospels; one presented exclusively by John.

You will find the story in John 21:1-14, and it goes like this:
Seven disciples of Jesus went out on an overnight fishing trip, but caught nothing. Jesus was on the shore in the morning, but they did not recognize Him. He instructed them to cast their net off the right side of the boat. When they did, they caught so many fish that the net almost broke, prompting "the disciple whom Jesus loved" to recognize that it must be Jesus standing on the shore. So they all went into the shore to meet with Him, and found that Jesus was already cooking fish and bread. Along with some of the fresh catch, Jesus gave thanks and gave it to them. This was Jesus' third appearance to the disciples. (My paraphrase)
These disciples did not recognize Jesus visually (John 21:4), and there is no indication of them recognizing His voice (John 21:5-6). This seems odd, especially in light of the fact that they already knew that Jesus was living again and could pop up anywhere. However, they were on the order of 100 yards (91.4 meters) away from Him, so perhaps we can just explain their lack of recognition with the distance...

Perhaps, until we factor in another rather peculiar verse which followed. In John 21:12 we read:
Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask Him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. NIV
The language here is bizarre, if we are referring to a visual and auditory recognition of Jesus. In other words, if Jesus looked like Jesus, and sounded like Jesus, why would there be any question in their minds tempting them to ask "Who are you?" They "knew" it was Jesus instead of seeing that it was Him. So what is going on here?

According to John 21:14, this was Jesus' third appearance to the disciples, with the first two happening when Jesus had appeared inside of locked houses (John 20:19, John 20:26). In other words, according to John, this third appearance was Jesus' first public appearance where He could have easily been seen by anyone. Yet, based on the implications of John's chosen language, no one else would have recognized Jesus.

Adding this up, it appears that John may have been offering a defense as to why so few people saw this resurrected Jesus, and why it was only select disciples who did.* Jesus did not look and sound like Jesus anymore, so only certain people were able to recognize Him. That is suspicious, to say the least; suggesting that these appearances were but apparitions of the fictional kind, or, perhaps, those of an imposter.

(*Note: 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 records that Jesus had appeared to more than 500 disciples at once, but it also claims that Jesus appeared to the "Twelve", which would have been difficult, given that Judas had allegedly left the group and died by then, thus leaving only Eleven. The 1 Corinthians' and Luke's accounts both contradict this anecdote here of this being Jesus' third appearance to the disciples.)