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From Bethlehem to Calvary, there is a resounding void on the places and details of Jesus’ life and death which resonates throughout
the entire record of early Christian correspondence. And yet there is one striking and pervasive silence which seems paramount.
It can be summed up with one question: Where are the holy places?
In all of the Christian writers of the first century, in all the devotion they display about Christ and the new faith, not one of them expresses a desire to see the birthplace of Jesus, to visit Nazareth his home town. No one talks about having been to the sites of his preaching, the upper room where he held his last supper, the hill on which he was crucified, or the tomb where he was buried and rose from the dead. Not only is there no evidence that anyone showed an interest in visiting such places, they go completely unmentioned. The words Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Galilee never appear in the epistles, and the word Jerusalem is never used in connection with Jesus.
Most astonishing of all, there is not a hint of pilgrimage to Calvary itself, where humanity’s salvation was presumably consummated. How could such a place not have become the center of Christian devotion, how could it not have been turned into a shrine? Each year at Passover we would expect to find Christians observing their own celebration on the hill outside of Jerusalem, performing a rite every Easter Sunday at the site of the nearby tomb. Christian sermonizing and theological meditation could hardly fail to be built around the places of salvation, not just the abstract events."
The necessary conclusion, for Marcion, was that the God who gave the Jewish law must not be the God who saved people from their sins, which they incurred by breaking the law. In other words, the Old Testament God was not the same as the God of Jesus and his apostle Paul. There were literally two Gods.
Marcion argued that the God of the Old Testament was the Jewish God who created this world, chose Israel to be his people, and then gave them his law. No one was able to keep this law, however. So the Old Testament God was perfectly justified in condemning everyone to damnation. He was a just, wrathful God—not evil, just ruthlessly judicial. The God of Jesus, on the other hand, was a God of love, mercy, and forgiveness. This good God, superior to the God of the Jews, sent Jesus into the world in order to die for the sins of others, to save people from the wrathful God of the Old Testament. Salvation comes, then, by believing in Jesus’s death.
Marcion set out to prove his doctrine of the two Gods by writing a book called the Antitheses (i.e., the “contrary statements”). In it he showed that there were severe inconsistencies between the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus and Paul. The God of the Old Testament, for example, orders the Israelites to take over the promised land, first by destroying the city of Jericho (Josh. 6). He instructs them to go into the city and slaughter every man, woman, and child in it. Is this the same God, asks Marcion, who says, “Love your enemies,” “Turn the other cheek,” and “Pray for those who persecute you”? It doesn’t sound like the same God. Because it’s not.
The God of the Old Testament sent his prophets, one of whom was Elisha. One day, we are told in the Old Testament, Elisha was verbally harassed by a group of boys making fun of his bald head. Elisha called the wrath of God down upon the boys, and two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of them to death (2 Kings 2). Is this the same God who said, “Let the little children come unto me”? No, there are two different Gods.
Since the God of Jesus is not the God of the Old Testament and is therefore not the creator of the world, Jesus could not belong to this created order. He could not be born into this world as a flesh-and-blood being; otherwise he would belong to the God of the Jews, just as every other created being does. Jesus must have come from heaven, from the true God, directly. For that reason he was not an actual, physical human being. He only seemed to be. In other words, Marcion was a docetist… For this view he could again appeal to the writings of Paul, who stated that Jesus came into this world “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3). For Marcion, it was all an appearance."
Not only has the divinity of Christ been given up, but his existence as a man is being more and more seriously questioned.
Some of the ablest scholars of the world deny that he ever lived at all.
A commanding literature dealing with the inquiry, intense in its seriousness and profound and thorough in its research, is growing up in all countries, and spreading the conviction that Christ is a myth.
Jesus … will have to take his place with the host of other demigods whose fancied lives and deeds make up the mythology of the world."
(Because I’m inspired by the article)
1. Why don’t you just believe in Science?
We do. The idea that science is a monolithic force in opposition to religion is every bit as ignorant as the idea that all religious people are equivalent, or all religions believe the same things. This question is simply another way of stating the claim that religious people are less intelligent or logical than a non-religious person. So… yes. It’s offensive.
And science is not in-and-of-itself sufficient to provide morality, purpose, and direction for one’s life. Not even an atheistic life. You might believe in the pursuit of knowledge, but that’s an entirely separate thought from PRACTICING science, or ACCEPTING scientific theories. Science is an ideologically neutral subject that provides direction on how to investigate the world. One cannot worship or have faith in science any more than they can base their morality on a guide to cooking.
Science isn’t something that’s believed in. Science, to speak in the language of Karl Popper, is about conjectures; some conjectures are better than others. So science is about which conjectures one considers more probable than the next, and the stronger conjectures are supported by evidence though they’re falsifiable. However, the conjectures (that is to say, hypotheses, theories and laws) cannot be confused with the phenomenon they’re related to. Evolution by natural selection is not evolution the phenomenon. Evolution by natural selection is a theory attempting to model the phenomenon observed in nature. So when an atheist asks, “why don’t you believe in science?” they’re likely speaking to a creationist buffoon who’s in denial of the evidence for evolution.
Just because science isn’t a basis for morality, it doesn’t imply that religion must be that basis. Morality precedes religion—especially Christianity. More on this later.
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