Friday, May 29, 2015


179. Jesus And The Historians. Part One


Recently, this mote came across a book (1), “Zealot, by Reza Aslan”. This is a book about historical Jesus. What are my credentials to say anything on this subject? Let me mention them right at the outset. I am a secular humanist, who does not believe in any religion, but passionately loves God. I also practice mysticism, but am still a novice. Furthermore, I am not unbiased, because I have tremendous respect for Jesus Christ. I also love Jesus.

The following are my impressions about this book in particular, and about other scholars in this area in general. After reading the book I had the overwhelming feeling of unfairness of the process to Jesus. I was mystified by the lack of uniform criteria for judging the authenticity of the data about the life of Jesus. It was as if the author had a preconceived conclusion. He selected the data which supported his contention and rejected or ignored the data which opposed his contention. This is not the way of science. I did research in cell biology for 6-7 years, I know what I am talking. I think scholars in other fields pursue the truth in a similar way: go the way the evidence leads you.

; don’t choose certain facts and ignore other facts, but consider all facts ( see blog 97 for more detail).


Let me give an example. The author himself acknowledges on page xx the importance of Q source (the material unique to the gospels of Mathew and Luke) and the gospel of Mark, which was the earliest of all gospels. He relied on them because they were ‘the earliest and thus the most reliable’.

Now won’t you set a criterion right from the beginning of your research, that if a narrative is present, in broad details, in all the three gospels, then it is correct. Of course there might be minor variations because they were written by different person(s) separated from each other in time and space. If a fact is mentioned in all four gospels or in all three gospels and in the letters of Paul, it should be considered indisputable. That does not necessarily mean that it is true, but it means that it was perceived as such by the gospel writers, unless all of them were lying. The only other possibility is that they were mistaken about what they saw or heard due to disease of mind: what they saw or heard was not real (although they thought it was real); it was a hallucination.

The investigator has to distinguish between these three possibilities: correct, lying, or impairment of the mind. Hallucinogic drugs, fatigue, or lack of sleep can temporarily cause the mind to play tricks.


Truth must be distinguished from correct, the two are not synonymous. For instance, New Testament is full of stories of people possessed by demons. Modern science will consider them to be suffering from epilepsy or hysteria, but people in those days truly believed that they were possessed by demons. The people were mistaken but not deliberate liars.

The scholars also take into consideration that the incidents written in the gospels have passed through many hands and thus may be polluted. But they, and the letters of Paul, are all that we have. Paul’s letters were written by him with no intervening persons, so are extremely important (although Aslan is not sure about some letters; see page 264). Josephus’s ‘Antiquities’ is of little help because, it does not throw any light on the life-history of Jesus.

Careful consideration should also be given to whether a reported incident is a fact or an opinion; is it just mentioned as an observation or the name of the observer is actually mentioned. For instance, this mote noted that mention is made in gospels of Mark, Mathew, and Luke, of a voice from heaven, after the baptism of Jesus, but no mention is made of the name of person(s) who heard the voice.


Now let us first consider the trial of Jesus by the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. It is a detail of the final hours of his life which has been mentioned in all four gospels and by Paul.( Mark 15:1; Mathew 27:11; Luke 23:13; John 18:29-40, 1 Timothy 6:13 )  Aslan goes at great length to advocate the notion that the trial never happened, although in one place he grudgingly concedes the possibility.

He uses very strong language. Here is what he has to say: ‘The story of Jesus’ trial as narrated by gospels was a drama, purely fictitious, concocted by Mark, and one should completely dismiss it. The Roman Governor would not even have sat in the same room as Jesus, what to talk of granting him a trial. The trial was a pure fantasy, did not make any sense at all, was never held, there was no need of a trial; etc. ( pages, 148-149, 152-154, 156,158)’


To be continued


(1) Zealot___The life and times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan. Published by Random House, 2013

Friday, May 22, 2015


178. Saint Paul. Part Three


He was guided by Holy Spirit and Jesus. Here is what he said:


“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace”. (Acts 20:22-24)


20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:19-20 )


He worked for his living and was not a burden on society. Here is what he declared:


“I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”( Acts 20:33-35)


He asked a very important question, which had and has puzzled humanity for ages :


“ Well then , you might say, ‘Why does God blame people for not listening ? Haven’t they simply done what He made them do?’

20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?” ( Romans 9:19-21)


There was a great confusion amongst the new Christians who were originally non-Jews (Gentiles) as to what foods they were supposed to eat or not eat. For instance Jews did not eat pork but other nations ate pork. Jews who converted to Christianity like St Peter and other Apostles did not eat pork. St Paul clarified the matter ( same problem was about circumcision ). He has mentioned it in many of his letters. Let me quote:

14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.             (Romans 14:14-17)


This mote believes in one God. Christians have Holy Trinity. I would like to quote what Paul said:

6 But for us, “There is only one God, the Father. Everything came from him, and we live for him.
There is only one Lord, Jesus Christ. Everything came into being through him, and we live because of him.” (1 Corinthians 8:6)

St Paul had the power to perform some type of miracles. Here is one mention of it:

11 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: 12 So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.13 Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. (Acts 19:11-13)

St Paul and the Apostles had a very hard life. What kept them going? St Paul gives a moving answer:

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of[b] faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-18)

Friday, May 15, 2015

177. Saint Paul. Part Two


He had  several visions. I have already described his vision of Jesus. Here are two more:


“And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us”. (Acts 16:9)

 “Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace:”  (Acts 18:9)

He hints of another vision, but does not describe it in detail:


12 I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses—(2: Corinthians)


On the way to Rome to stand trial before Caesar, Saint Paul was shipwrecked. The episode is written in great detail. I will be brief:


Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement.[a] So Paul warned them, 10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” ( Acts 27 )

20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you. 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”

30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”

33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board. 38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.

39 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. 40 Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. 41 But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.

42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.

To be continued

Friday, May 8, 2015

176. Saint Paul. Part one



The most moving lines in Bible, as for as this mote is concerned, are the following, said by Saint Paul:


“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love. Death cannot, and life cannot. The angels cannot, and the demons cannot. Our fears for today, our worries for tomorrow, and even the powers of hell cannot keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

“My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them”.


Paul’s words are important, because they have been written by him, in his two thousand years old letters, or by his close disciple, Luke, in Acts. You probably know who Paul was. His original name was Saul. He never met Jesus. He persecuted early Christians with zeal. One day as he was going to Damascus, on a horse, he had a vision of Jesus, which I have described in detail, in blog 164. However for the sake of continuity I will narrate it again:


“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul (see footnote), Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

—Acts 9:3–9


Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

—Acts 9:17–19


Paul was chosen by Jesus to spread Christianity to all nations, which he did. No other single person, except Christ himself, is responsible for Christianity being the number one religion of mankind. Here is what Jesus said to Ananias: “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15-16).

And suffer he did, and travel he did. He was beheaded in Rome in mid-60s. He spread Christianity in distant lands and wrote letters of guidance to disciples, such as Timothy, Titus and Philemon, and to Christian communities, such as; Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, and Thessalonians.


I cannot improve upon his own account of his suffering:


I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, and I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, know that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands. (2: Corinthians)

He also had some sort of physical suffering. He asked God to take it away. The answer of God is revealing:

7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,] a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.(2:Corinithians)


To be continued