Were the gospels written a long time after the event?

April 30th, 2014 in Belief. Tags: , , , , ,

John's Gospel

I was asked recently, in the comments section of another blog, about how long the gospels were written after the time of Jesus’ death. I said it wasn’t long by ancient standards, so I thought it might be worth outlining the facts on this matter.

When were the four gospels written?

The date of Jesus’ death is not known for certain, though 30 CE is the most accepted date. After his death, his followers believed they had met with him alive again, and so began to spread what they saw as good news.

And so it is natural and obvious that they told and repeated stories about him. Sometimes they would have been written down, other times they would have been memorised. (Scholars have found that some of Jesus’ teachings are in easily memorised forms.) For many years, some of his disciples, who had been with him during his public teaching, were around to provide first hand information.

The New Testament books we have today

The gospels aren’t the first writings about Jesus that we have. Paul’s letters, beginning with Galatians and 1 Thessalonians about 20 years after Jesus died.

Historians generally think that the gospels were written from the various oral and written stories that had been circulating for some time. Perhaps the first eye witnesses were getting thin on the ground; perhaps churches asked for more authoritative or complete accounts of Jesus’ life and teaching.

Maurice Casey and James Crossley believe this happened as early as 40 CE, the date they assign to Mark, but most scholars believe the gospels we have today weren’t written until later than that. The following are what seems to be the most accepted dates.

  • Mark: 65-70 CE, just before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Roman armies.
  • Matthew: 75-85 CE (though some say 60-70 CE).
  • Luke: 80-85 CE.
  • John: 85-95 CE.

Thus the four gospels were probably written 35-65 years after Jesus died.

Comparison with other ancient biographies and histories

To obtain this information, I did a lot of internet searching plus looked up a few books I had. I don’t pretend that this is complete, but it gives a fair picture.

The table below shows the composition dates of a number of histories/biographies of famous, and lesser known, Roman and Jewish historical figures around the same time as Jesus.

Historical figure Life dates Biographer Date of writing Years from death to writing
Jesus 4 BCE – 30 CE Mark
Matthew
Luke
John
c 70 CE
c 80 CE
c 85 CE
c 90 CE
40
50
55
60
Alexander 356-323 BCE Arrian
Plutarch
Diodorus
Curtius
c 150 CE
c 100 CE
c 50 BCE
c 50 CE
473
423
273
373
Hannibal 247-183 BCE Polybius
Livy
166 BCE
c 20 CE
17
200
Hadrian 76-138 CE Cassius Dio
Augustan History
Aurelius Victor
c 230 CE
c 300? CE
361 CE
90
160
223
Pontius Pilate Died 40 CE ? Tacitus
Josephus
Philo
c 110 CE
c 75 CE
50 CE
70
35
10
Simon bar Kokhba Died 135 CE Personal letters ??
Jerusalem Talmud
Cassius Dio
?
C 400 CE
c 230 CE
0?
265
95
Rabbi Hillel 110 BCE – 7 CE ? Mishnah
Josephus
220 CE
No mention
213

It is clear that the gaps between events and writing of the gospels is in the lower part of the range of those shown here.

So is ancient history accurate?

We cannot know history to the same standard of certainty as we can most science, because history is not repeatable. (Some science e.g. some aspects of evolution, are likewise less certain.) But historians use objective methods to obtain reasonable probability on many matters. For a good summary of how this works, see Why History isn’t Scientific (And Why It Can Still Tell Us About the Past).

Like the gospels, most or all of the ancient histories mentioned in the table would have been based on eye witness reports handed down orally or in written form, but now lost – indeed many of them mention their sources.

Historians have more confidence in historical information if it is repeated in several independent sources. In the case of the gospels, large sections of Matthew and Luke appear to have been copied from Mark (albeit edited a little), but significant sections of Matthew and Luke, all of John and the references in Paul’s letters are all considered to be independent. Since the gospels were all written in different locations, the likelihood of each of the authors inventing the same important facts about the life of Jesus is very small. This allows historians to consider many aspects of Jesus’ life to be historical, although of course there are many details they cannot verify this way.

I will discuss the aspects of Jesus’ life which secular historians consider fairly certain in another post.

Read more on the historians’ conclusions on the gospels

Photo: John writing his gospel Flickr Creative Commons.

37 Comments

  1. Nice and accurate post. I think many would add five years each to the date ranges you have for Matthew, Luke and John, but that isn’t a very significant difference.

    What’s more important, you’ve show Jesus comes out reasonably well compared to several political bigwigs. That is even more true compared to several other, earlier Jewish religious leaders who are only mentioned by Josephus, and still more for more obscure people. And then you haven’t even thrown in Paul’s letters.

  2. I checked out a number of sources for the dates, and those ranges seemed to be the rough average. But of course all are estimates (and many based on the very questionable assumption that Jesus couldn’t predict the destruction of the temple), and minor changes don’t change much.

    Yes I omitted Paul because I was addressing the ‘charge’ that the gospels are too late. I also tried to reference other biographies of fairly famous people, but yes, I imagine “lesser figures than Simon and Hillel would not have much written about them. Thanks.

  3. I’m impressed by the late John A. T. Robinson’s suggestion that the liberal dating of the New Testament is more arbitrary than normally thought. I take seriously the idea the gospels (or at least the oral traditions on which they are based) are older than commonly thought. But no doubt the finished products were tampered with and amended.

  4. Yes, I think scholars are forced to make some questionable assumptions in the name of good historical method. It would normally be sensible to rule out paranormal or miraculous events like healing or genuine prophecy, but somewhat question-begging when studying Jesus who claimed to be God’s special messenger at least, and many believed him.

    For example, the conventional dating of Matthew’s Gospel depends a lot on the assumption that Jesus couldn’t have predicted the Roman destruction of the Jerusalem temple, so the gospel must have been written after that happened. But what if ….?

    But I go with the conventional historical conclusions as a neutral starting point.

  5. I am beginning to consider the ‘when’ aspect of composition to be of much less importance than the content and the fact that there are no corroborating accounts of these biblical events and certainly not a single contemporary account of the biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth

    What scholars do know carries far more weight than what is merely ( albeit insightful) speculation: the gospels are not autographs and not eyewitness accounts; written by Greek speaking men outside of Palestine who apparently had limited understanding and/or knowledge of the certain aspects of the political and geographical setting.

    That the documents were tampered with, suffering interpolation for example and that the author of Matthew includes over 600 verses found in Mark – almost Mark’s entire gospel – are other areas of serious concern which are, sadly, not normally addressed by the average Christian who is so often ignorant of these facts and usually has little interest beyond his or her faith-based belief.

  6. @unkleE

    I agree.

    Myself, I don’t have a problem at all with Jesus having the ability to (paranormally) predict the fall of Jerusalem. The healings, I admit, are more problematical for me, but I recognize that things can get exaggerated over time and with repeated retelling. Again, I have no problem imagining Jesus inspiring the faith and emotional power to produce – if nothing else – a placebo effect among the devout. That is where the exaggeration part may fit in. Having said all that, I admit I’m not willing to arbitrarily rule out the miraculous. It’s just that, for me at least, saying “okay, it’s possible” is far from saying “I believe it happened exactly the way it is written.”

    Therefore, I find the early dating quite credible.

  7. Hi One Sceptic, I think your comments are based on a few misunderstandings.

    1. The scholars don’t “know” the gospels were not written by eye witnesses, they just think they probably weren’t. Their conclusions on eye witnesses are of the same value as their conclusions which you seem to reject – they are all probable but not certain.

    2. It is common knowledge that Matthew and Luke almost certainly used Mark, there is no secret. In fact Luke 1:1-4 makes his dependence on earlier writings and oral reports quite explicit.

    3. And that is where the eye witnesses come in. Obviously there were eye witnesses, otherwise we wouldn’t have any reports. The only question is how far removed the eye witnesses were from the final gospels. The short time spans and the number of independent sources all mean that the main facts are almost certain (as my next post will show) but the details are less clear.

    For example, Maurice Casey, sections of whose book I am re-reading, believes Mark had direct access to “perfectly accurate” eye witness reports in Aramaic, probably including hearing the disciple Peter, and that Matthew and Luke had access to Aramaic writings by the disciple Matthew. Matthew was probably written in Palestine and John also contains material that dates from Palestine before 70CE, and probably much earlier.

    I think it is a pity that because of your unbelief, you don’t seem to have read what the best historians say, but seem to be basing your comments on something other than the historical evidence.

  8. Hi Doug. Maurice Casey, an eminent NT scholar, believes Jesus truly healed people, but he believes he was a “folk healer”, and so these weren’t miracles. I don’t agree with his conclusions, as many scholars don’t either, but it is an interesting perspective

  9. I think it is a pity that because of your unbelief, you don’t seem to have read what the best historians say, but seem to be basing your comments on something other than the historical evidence.

    I think it’s a pity that your scope is somewhat more narrowly focused than those who do not have a vested interest in preserving the theocratic bent that prevails among all believers.
    And I have read Ehrman. And he’s considered one of if not the best.
    You mention Sanders often enough and he does not believe they were written by eyewitnesses. “Highly unlikely.”

    So if we are to take these scholars word for the historicity of the person Jesus why should we now cast aspersions regarding their expert opinion re authorship and eyewitness testimony?

    We do not ”know” that Jesus rose from the dead. And the evidence is nil compared to what scholars can ”know” about the gospels.
    Only fundamentalist apologists like Licona etc still consider the gospels are eyewitness testimony and all the nonsense about tax collectors etc.
    Really!

    Casey’s Aramaic theory is very interesting and it would be nice ( for apologists and believers) if it had more merit.
    It is generally acknowledged that Jesus spoke and taught in Aramaic.
    but there is not a shred of evidence for an Aramaic gospel and Casey’s theory is shared by which other scholars?
    None that I am aware of and for one who continually cites consensus, Casey is ( as far as I am aware) a consensus of one.
    (another reason to throw cold water on the belief of autographed by eyewitnesses)
    Why do you regard Casey’s theory worthy when he is (in all likelihood) the only scholar who holds it?

    The overriding expert opinion – consensus – is that the gospels are not eyewitness accounts.
    Why do you now buck against this expert view and hedge your bets?

    It takes a true believer to be able to view these documents as through rose tinted glasses and blithely dismiss the contradictions, interpolations and outright historical inaccuracies and still claim they were eyewitness accounts.

    Are you aware, for example, the distance the pigs that Jesus cast demons into would have had to go to run headlong over a ‘cliff’ and perish?
    They would have had to have been damn fit pigs, that’s for sure! Check the geography.

    Are you aware of the geographic details surrounding the location of Nazareth described in Luke are simply not factual.

    The ”2nd census” of Quirinias nonsense; and the list goes on and on.

    And this is before we even begin to tackle the erroneous nonsense of supposed fulfilled prophecy ( the ludicrous lengths that Matthew went to to spin the Virgin Birth), the Resurrection of the saints who marched into Jerusalem, and all the paraphernalia surrounding the crucifixion.

    If these supposed eyewitnesses had to lie through their teeth why should any credence be given for the rest of what they wrote?

  10. By the way, these letters by Simon are indeed real and they date from around 135, 135 the latest. So he isn’t a good example of someone with comparable evidence, and there is also a mention of him by a contemporary, Justin Martyr, so he neither is a good example in terms of comparable contemporary references, but he is a good example of a highly significant person with historical accounts dating from a much later time after his death than the gospels date after Jesus’ death.

    And of course, if we should be sceptical about any Christian source as per New Atheist consensus, Justin Martyr goes into the bin bag as well.

  11. unkleE, I’m not sure who you are trying to convince that Jesus was most likely a real figure in History. I’ve talked to very few people who doubt this.

    It’s his resurrection and divinity which are doubted not that he ever existed at all. And there can’t be any concrete evidence to support this until he appears on ABC or BBC or any other Network for that matter.

    You are to be commended for the time you spent on your research, but I’m not sure why you felt the need………unless you know some doubting Christians ? 🙂

  12. Hi IN, my source suggested that it wasn’t yet clear if the letters were genuinely of Simon. Do you have a reference please?

  13. “So if we are to take these scholars word for the historicity of the person Jesus why should we now cast aspersions regarding their expert opinion re authorship and eyewitness testimony?”

    Hi One Sceptic, I’m sorry but you are still misunderstanding me. I have not cast aspersions on these two scholars- I respect them and reference them. What I was pointing out was that you have a very black and white approach to scholarship.

    It seems that if a scholar says what you want them to say then you will quote them and imply their conclusions are “known”, but if they don’t say what you want to hear then you don’t accept them.

    I said that few of their conclusions are “known”, but rather they are “probable”, and have the same authority and probability as many of their other conclusions that you don’t seem to accept.

    So let’s see if we can reach an agreement. I accept what the consensus of scholars concludes about Jesus. Do you?

    “We do not ”know” that Jesus rose from the dead. And the evidence is nil compared to what scholars can ”know” about the gospels.”

    Of course we do not “know” Jesus rose from the dead, but most scholars think it is probable that he was executed and buried, his tomb was later found empty, his followers had some visionary experience of him after he died that convinced them he was alive, and this was a significant factor in their belief in him as divine and their mission work. That is a good historical basis for belief in him – or not.

    “The overriding expert opinion – consensus – is that the gospels are not eyewitness accounts.”

    I have already agreed with this. But most scholars believe they are based on written and oral eye witness reports – otherwise where could the stories have come from? Remember, Ehrman and Sanders both believe we can know a lot about Jesus (see quotes here), and they couldn’t come to this conclusion as historians if they believed the gospels didn’t report at least some accurate history.

    “If these supposed eyewitnesses had to lie through their teeth why should any credence be given for the rest of what they wrote?”

    This comment shows you are not taking notice of the experts.

  14. Hi Ken, thanks for your comment.

    1. I have talked to many people who deny this.

    2. The major purpose of this website is to help people who want to find out more about christian belief, but not every post is aimed at convincing people. Often I just present interesting information or answer questions. In this case I was answering a question I was asked on another blog.

    3. There is evidence to support his divinity and resurrection, but it doesn’t prove it. We each make our choice.

    4. Thanks for your appreciation of my efforts even if you think them misguided. Yes, some doubting christians do visit, as do some sceptical non-believers, questioning christians and people simply interested. I write for them all.

  15. Hi IN, my source suggested that it wasn’t yet clear if the letters were genuinely of Simon. Do you have a reference please?

    It’s not online, but the edition makes this clear:

    Yadin et al., The Documents from the Bar Kokhba Period in the Cave of Letters.

    But any book on it should confirm it. There isn’t any doubt about the genuine status of this corpus. Most of it is well provenanced.

  16. But most scholars believe they are based on written and oral eye witness reports – otherwise where could the stories have come from? Remember, Ehrman and Sanders both believe we can know a lot about Jesus (see quotes here), and they couldn’t come to this conclusion as historians if they believed the gospels didn’t report at least some accurate history.

    Yes, most scholars do. But you have included both oral and written in this passage and not all scholars believe in both.

    Of all the prominent historians in this field Ehrman is the most scathing yet also the most balanced regarding what can and cannot be known regarding these texts.
    And as this post is primarily about the age of the gospels, then the dating you have offered – which experts differ marginally in opinion – is not that much in dispute and I apologize for going off on a tangent.

    Maybe if you write a post/s about the content of the gospels we could have a more open discussion about what experts know?

    Although, I am interested to know if you simply consider the Resurrection irrefutable and regard everything else as non-crucial additions to your faith; that if ( as has been happening ) much that was previously considered infallible in Christianity and has now been shown to be analogous or metaphor with little or no historical basis in fact has any bearing/impact on the way you view your faith?

    If so, is there any serious need (for christians)to be overly concerned with historical aspects of Christianity?

  17. “But you have included both oral and written in this passage and not all scholars believe in both.”

    Fair enough. I should have written “and/or”, for the mode of transmission wasn’t my main point. My main point was that the gospels are based on eye witness reports handed down. Everyone agree the stories were handed down orally, but I think more and more are accepting that some sources were written too.

    “Ehrman is the most scathing yet also the most balanced regarding what can and cannot be known regarding these texts.”

    What have you read by Ehrman?

    I have found that he can point out all sort of textual difficulties, but at the same time say that we can know a lot about Jesus and agree that very few textual variations make any difference. I am left with the feeling that his headline conclusions are more sensational than his actual study conclusions. But of course we are not dealing with textual variations here but transmission variations.

    I have just re-read the sections of ‘Misquoting Jesus’ about authorship and eye witnesses, and I think the views expressed there are more sceptical than most other scholars I have read, including for example Casey. I reference Casey, Sanders, Grant and Ehrman a lot because they are all non-christians, so if they concede a point that supports christian belief, I can be fairly sure that it is right. But I balance them against christian scholars like Wright, Bauckham, Keener and Evans. I think you would be fairer minded if you did something similar, instead of going with the most sceptical scholar you can find. In this case I would guess that is Ehrman, and probably all the others would disagree with some of his more extreme statements.

    “Maybe if you write a post/s about the content of the gospels we could have a more open discussion about what experts know?”

    I don’t mind going off at tangents provided it is a discussion and not just a series of statements. My next post will be something like that – about what most scholars regard as fairly certain about the life of Jesus.

    “I am interested to know if you simply consider the Resurrection irrefutable and regard everything else as non-crucial additions to your faith”

    No, I don’t think anything much is irrefutable. I think the parts of the NT that the scholars confirm gives me enough basis to accept that most of the parts they can’t confirm can reasonably be believed. The resurrection is part of that – there is enough evidence for the story that, if it didn’t involve the supernatural it would be easily believed. Since I don’t have a problem with the supernatural, I believe it.

    “if ( as has been happening ) much that was previously considered infallible in Christianity and has now been shown to be analogous or metaphor with little or no historical basis in fact has any bearing/impact on the way you view your faith?”

    Yes, I view my faith quite differently than I did as a young christian 17 year old. Some things I understand and believe with greater confidence (the story of Jesus) and some things I have far more scepticism about (the Old Testament up to King David).

    “is there any serious need (for christians)to be overly concerned with historical aspects of Christianity?”

    There certainly is for me. If the NT didn’t actually happen in history, there would be nothing to believe.

  18. I will prefer to focus on the single statement below for now rather than get into other minutiae until you post about gospel content, if you don’t mind, otherwise we will simply end up in futile point-scoring, which just becomes quite stressful.

    There certainly is for me. If the NT didn’t actually happen in history, there would be nothing to believe.

    This statement implies you are willing to suspend all sorts of common sense.
    If one reviews the text honestly, it can be clearly demonstrated that many of what some would regard as crucial aspects of the New Testament can be shown to be erroneous. The Virgin Birth is a perfect example.
    As I have heard it said often enough by others, and even Paul is supposed to have said it, without a risen Lord Christianity is meaningless.
    The question, then, is how much of it do you need to be the truth in order to continue to be a christian?

  19. Yes, I happily agree – let’s avoid stressful point scoring!

    “it can be clearly demonstrated that many of what some would regard as crucial aspects of the New Testament can be shown to be erroneous. The Virgin Birth is a perfect example.”

    I think this is far too strong a statement. Historical analysis deals in probabilities, and in evidence or lack of it. There are a few things ancient historians say are “fact”, and many things they say most likely occurred. There are fewer things they say definitely didn’t happen (it is very hard to disprove something happened – they have to be things contradicted by other evidence), but many things for which there is insufficient evidence to say, and so they cannot be considered historical – but this isn’t the same as saying they didn’t occur.

    For example, I have been researching family history, and there are many events that I cannot show for sure – e.g. when a child is born to an unmarried mother, I know the child was born, but I may not have good evidence about the father. Thus we cannot “know” the father, though we may suspect – but clearly there was a father!

    When we come to the virgin birth, it is a similar case. We “know” the child Jesus was born, but there is little historical evidence for Mary being a virgin (how could there be any evidence of this unless she was medically examined?). So many historians don’t accept it as a historical fact, but that isn’t the same as saying it didn’t occur.

    I accept it as true, but I don’t argue for it on historical grounds.

    “how much of it do you need to be the truth in order to continue to be a christian?”

    I don’t really know the answer to that. I accept what the historians find as being most likely the case, and I find that sufficient to continue to believe in most of the rest – there are few things in the NT I don’t believe. As an example, it is important that Jesus was a healer, but it wouldn’t matter if a particular miracle had and alternative explanation. It is important that Jesus rose from the dead, but it doesn’t matter if some appearance has not been remembered totally accurately.

  20. Your answer says a lot but at the same time says little.
    You say there are a few things that you don’t believe.
    I would be interested to know which parts these are, and why you don’t believe in them?

    But I would also like to understand how much would you tolerate being stripped from the account before it became untenable, or would you, like a scholar such as William Lane Craig or the biblical character Paul consider everything irrelevant if it turned out to be merely a story to use as a foundation for the Resurrection.

    I ask because very few, if any, such conversations actually focus on the reason why an individual becomes Christian ( or a follower of any religion for that matter) and remains so, cultural upbringing notwithstanding, rather they are simply wars of words until dialogue breaks down and each ”side” walks away apparently either feeling smug or frustrated.

    There must be something, some overriding reason that keeps you in the faith and this is what I wish to understand.
    And I don’t mean simply believing that Jesus is a god, for many people believe in many gods.
    And many people don’t, and this has minimal bearing on their ethics or morality (generally).

    I’m interested to know why? If you are up to sharing. If not…no probs.

  21. “I would be interested to know which parts these are, and why you don’t believe in them?”

    There is nothing I can think of in the gospels I would say outright didn’t happen, but there are a few things I either doubt (e.g. that dead people literally came out of their graves when Jesus died), or I accept that the historians don’t believe they are true (e.g. much of the birth stories). I doubt them because I think it is more reasonable than believing they definitely happened.

    “I would also like to understand how much would you tolerate being stripped from the account before it became untenable, or would you, like a scholar such as William Lane Craig or the biblical character Paul consider everything irrelevant if it turned out to be merely a story to use as a foundation for the Resurrection.”

    I’m not sure that’s a fair statement of Craig’s or Paul’s views, but I think there must be a minimum level of historical validity, even though I couldn’t define exactly what. I would have to believe that Jesus really lived, taught, healed, died and was resurrected, and that the evidence pointed to him being divine, but that’s about as close as I can get.

    I don’t think it has to be that way for everyone. If, for example, a person has a vision of Jesus or is miraculously healed after prayer, or has some other strong experience of God, I think it is quite reasonable for them to believe on that basis.

    “There must be something, some overriding reason that keeps you in the faith and this is what I wish to understand.

    The over-riding reason is that it is true, because the evidence points to it being true. If I thought it wasn’t true, I would be sad and might still admire Jesus or live with the same ethics as I do now, but I wouldn’t be a serious christian and I wouldn’t (for example) write this website.

    What about you? What’s your story? Why do you disbelieve?

  22. That you consider it is true is still not a reason to be a Christian.
    Many people are deist and spend their entire lives without being encumbered with religious doctrine.

    In fact, I could acknowledge that Jesus was divine and remain exactly as I am. It really wouldn’t bother me if this turned out to be true.
    This is not exactly what I am asking. It is not easy to frame the question.
    Let me try this;
    You don’t believe in a literal Hell, so what is the anticipated reward ( for you) for following the Christian religion?

  23. OK, got you. Believing it is true is a necessary condition to choosing to follow Jesus, but there needs to be a motivation, I think I agree. For me, the motivations would be:

    1. I think truth is a motivation for me. If it’s true, I want to be part of it (that’s true for things other than religion too).

    2. I believe God has given us all this life, but only some of us receive the gift of eternal life (life in the age to come). Of course I want that.

    3. I believe it is the best way to live – forgiveness, non-violence, serving others, motivation and help, etc. Why would I want to live any other way?

    4. I think, ultimately, if you “get” Jesus then you want to follow him.

    I don’t know if that is sufficient answer, but I think that covers it. What about you – what’s your story?

    PS I won’t be able to answer again for two days, sorry, I’ll be away.

  24. Sorry if I appear obtuse, but this is still not (in my view) a ( overriding) reason to be a Christian.
    These points merely highlight a desire to ”be like Jesus”: the way he acted, his morality, ethics etc.
    I can read the bible and agree that these are admirable qualities and embark on a life that tries to emulate them.
    I could even acknowledge that these were traits handed over by a divine being, and yet I could still remain the same individual without declaring a religious affiliation.
    So at the risk of sounding pedantic, surely there must be some single factor
    involved that makes you declare yourself christian?

  25. Not sure if I can help you any further. If those reasons don’t seem enough to you, I cannot imagine what would be. So to reiterate, these things lead me to choose to follow Jesus:

    It’s true, it’s good, I want to and the retirement benefits are out of this world!

  26. …the retirement benefits are out of this world!

    This is what I was really interested in. Care to elaborate?

  27. I’m happy to elaborate, but I’m still unsure what you’re getting at. When I answered your question, the “retirements benefits” were one of 4 reasons I gave to believe. I think the other three are sufficient reason to follow Jesus, but this one would be seen by many as the biggest I guess.

    Like I said, we are all given the gift of life here and now. But there is an age to come (to use the concept Jesus used) and those who choose can have ongoing life in that age (= eternal life). I don’t know anything about what that will be like, but Jesus talked about it so I believe in it.

    What is your interest in this? And maybe you could share a little of what you believe?

  28. Like I said, we are all given the gift of life here and now. But there is an age to come (to use the concept Jesus used) and those who choose can have ongoing life in that age (= eternal life). I don’t know anything about what that will be like, but Jesus talked about it so I believe in it.

    So it would be fair to say you are referring to life after death ( as we generally understand it)
    Okay.
    What do you suppose happens to those who do not follow Christianity? Me for instance?
    This part fascinates me, especially as the Church of England has renounced (?) the notion of Hell as a real place. Not that it ever was, of course.
    Maybe all Christianity will move toward eliminating this atrocious doctrine in time?

    My interest? Purely that…interest.
    Though I would be lying if I did not say I would not be happy if ( when?) religion eventually dissapears. But we’ve had that conversation! 🙂

    What I believe? Surely you realise I have no belief in religion or gods?

  29. “What do you suppose happens to those who do not follow Christianity? “

    I suspect it will be pretty much the same as they expect – when they die they die and that’s the end. I’m not sure about the “last judgment” – we get little info about that, and most of the pictures we have in our minds may not be literal.

    But that is what happens to those who miss out. But we don’t know how many that will be. I believe God’s grace may extend further than many people expect – certainly to people who were brought up in other religions and who did the best they could with the light they were given.

    “Surely you realise I have no belief in religion or gods?”

    Sure. I just wondered how you came to that view, whether you were brought up christian, why you discuss on blogs like this. Just interested. Thanks.

  30. Sure. I just wondered how you came to that view, whether you were brought up christian, why you discuss on blogs like this. Just interested. Thanks.

    I came to the view based on religion itself, the heinous things it is responsible for…still is. the lack of agreement between people even of the same religion, the erroneous biblical /koranic texts, the archaeological evidence that refutes much of the Old Testament and a fair amount of the New .
    But mostly, the indoctrination required to inculcate people into ‘faith’ and the fact that most religious people are unaware they suffer from indoctrination, are woefully ignorant of their own religious texts and spend a large part of their lives trying to justify the texts and their indoctrination. Even those that remain in more liberal forms of their religion.

    One only has to listen to the stories of deconvertees from Islam as well as Christianity. Some of their stories are truly horrific.
    Any system that has to resort to such means, covert or overt to control its adherents – and it is control – truly has no merit whatsoever and such actions are tantamount to abuse. In fact , when imparted on children it is abuse and maybe certain aspects should be seriously looked by various human rights organisations.

    The above and the fact that to date not a single shred of evidence has been produced that can remotely be suggestive of a deity.

    You did ask….

  31. I guess that means you most likely live in Australia, New Zealand or UK??

    Were they committed C of E or nominal? Did you go to church or Sunday School much as a kid?

  32. My mother still attends, the rest of the family , no.
    Attended Sunday school.
    More of a cultural identity rather than definite religious affiliation; which is further evidence that without constant reinforcement ( indoctrination) most people tend to not bother that much with religion at all.
    Of course, this cultural aspect comes rushing back when certain values are challenged, such as when faiths like Islam are suddenly ”in one’s face” as it were.

    Christians remind me of football supporters in as much as they will willingly go at each other at local level then when the World Cup is on and the ”enemy” is at the gates then suddenly ”We are all German, right?” or French or English or whatever.
    The big difference of course is although there are some who might regard players like Rooney, Zidan, or Beckenbauer as ”gods” – and they might have the odd punch up now and then, in truth, they neither truly believe this or insidiously persuade others to accept it either.
    That is the major crime of religion.

  33. Hi Sean, thanks for taking enough interest to make a comment. What difference do you think it makes if Paul didn’t write all 13 letters ascribed to him?

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