And Bible Prophesy
I was looking on your website and found information against Josh McDowell's, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. I was wondering if you know of any Atheists who have dealt with the majority of the arguments in his book. I particularly want to hear what Atheists have to say about the Bible Prophecy section.
From: "Positive Atheism" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: WebMaster:_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Tuesday, March 07, 2000 2:22 AM
Much has been said both about the so-called historically fulfilled prophesies, such as the final chapters of Daniel and especially those alleged to concern the advent of Christ. I am not sure what you mean when you ask about Bible prophesy, so I will briefly address these two points as being representative of two basic arguments.
The final chapters of Daniel represent prophesy that was allegedly fulfilled in history and described in secular writings. There is so much disagreement among Christians as to how to properly interpret this passage that few atheists have bothered writing about it. Most importantly, though, nobody can demonstrate that the Book of Daniel was written before the events supposedly foretold took place.
Also, the traditional interpretation of these chapters (amillennial; post-millennial) are disputed by the premillennialists, who wish to make these chapters apply to the "last days" rather than to the several decades after Daniel is said to have lived. (They've done the same thing to Matthew 24, which until 100 years ago was said to predict the fall of Jerusalem in C.E. 70.)
However, if I were a Christian, I would favor the traditional interpretations simply because they make the books appear more intact. I don't understand why the premillennialists want to trash what appears, on the surface, to be a strong case for Daniel's prophetic talents. Nevertheless, this case falls apart when the historicity of the writings attributed to Daniel are examined; most Christians rely on Christ's mention of this piece and investigate no further. In reality, the so-called predictions cannot be placed prior to the events they allegedly predict; there is no solid case for these books having been written when they are said to have been written.
The so-called fulfillments of the Messianic prophesies differ than those of the type in Daniel in that the "fulfillments" are described exclusively in the Gospel accounts and cannot be independently verified by secular sources. The best introductory book I've seen on this is called "Gospel Fictions" by Bible scholar Randel Helms. In it, he makes a very strong case that the Gospel "accounts" were built around the Old Testament -- the only "scripture" they knew. The earliest Christians saw Christ everywhere in the Old Testament, and this is how such unlikely stories developed as that of Christ stealing an ass (or did he steal two? it depends upon which account you read).
C. Dennis McKinsey has written extensively on Biblical Errancy, an has published the "Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy" on Prometheus. Much of his material comes from his having read the most popular apologetics volumes that fly off the shelves of Christian bookstores (only because you need to constantly feed yourself with apologetics lest you come to doubt the claims of the Christian religion).
G. A. Wells has thoroughly questioned the historicity of Jesus himself in several of his books, most of which are still in print. I would also try to track down the books by Hyam Maccoby which were very helpful to me when coming out of the fundamentalist fog. (Maccoby's books, published in England, are tough to find, but I've seen many of them in the used book search engines.)
If you have any specific questions, I'd be glad to tackle them. The most important thing to remember about McDowell is that his "scholarship" is slipshod at best. His obvious mistakes are such blatant examples of dishonesty as to render suspect anything else he says that cannot be easily and thoroughly verified (such as claiming that the sun exists). McDowell likes to fill his books up with obscure, unverifiable, and basically useless claims, which he grabs from whatever source will help him appear to make his case -- no matter how flimsy the source material may be. The classic example is his use of the Josephus passage in the "Evidence" books; no Christian apologist who is both honest and informed would point to the Josephus passage in making a case for Christianity. See my writeup on Josephus.
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