The Godless Engineer is a popular atheist Facebook page with a very large following. He is also a mythicist. He regularly posts videos on his Facebook, website and Youtube presenting his mythicists view. As some of you might already know, I am not a mythicist. I actually think there is a historical Jesus and we can learn some things about him. The reason why I am writing this refutation is because I like our (atheist) side to have good arguments and the arguments presented by the Godless Engineer aren’t good, in fact, I think they are based on ignorance. I have discussed the faults in his arguments with him and he seems reluctant to change his mind about them even though he hasn’t debunked any of my counter arguments.
This blogpost is going to be a refutation of some of the things the Godless Engineer claims in his video: Christianity is not about Jesus.
The Introduction to the Video: Christianity is not about Jesus
Right of the bat the Godless Engineer makes a huge mistake (and he makes the mistake again in his movie on the 1:12 mark)
“Isaiah has a whole chapter dedicated to the Messiah called “The Suffering Servant.” – The Godless Engineer
This, in fact, is a classical (Christian) mistake. The Godless Engineer is referring to Isaiah 53 which is always interpreted by Christians as being about Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are solid reasons for thinking Isaiah 53 isn’t about Jesus or the coming Messiah.
First, the word messiah appears nowhere in the text. Just look op the text for yourself. Second, there is not a single Jewish interpretation from prior to the time of Jesus that interprets this passage from Isaiah as being about the coming messiah. Thirdly, when the passage is read in context, you’ll find out that the suffering servant is about Israel.
“He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.” – Isaiah 49:3
Scholars have noticed this for years. I’ll give an example of two of them.
“In Isaiah 53, for example, the suffere is called not the “messiah” but the “servant of the Lord”, and the passage speaks about his sufferings in the past tense, as something that has already happened at the time of writing (six hundred years before Jesus). As interpreters have long noted, if read in context, the author actually tell us who this servant of the Lord is. In Isaiah 49:3 the prophet declares, “And he said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.'”
It is Israel who is God’s servant, who has suffered for the sins od the people and so brought healing. Isaiah 53 was written during the Babylonian Exile when the Babylonian armies had taken the leaders of Judah hundreds of miles away and forced them to live in Babylon. Isaiah is lamenting the exile but indicating that the suffering will bring atonement for the sins of the people, and God will restore their fortunes. He is not talking about the future messiah.
An even more important point is this: there were no Jews prior to Christianity who thought Isaiah 53 (or any of the other “suffering” passages) referred to the future messiah. We do not have a single jewish text prior to the time of Jesus that interprets the passage messianically.” – Bart Ehrman – Did Jesus Exist? (p. 166)
“Second Isaiah also contains the famous Servant Songs. The identity of the servant in these passages has been a puzzle to biblical interpreters for centuries, especially because the servant is at times a collective figure and at times an individual figure. In chapter 49 the servant is described as a prophet but with a universal message, rather than a message for the Israelites alone. The servant or prophet is first identified as Israel herself. Yet in verse 5 it would appear that the prophet/servant has a mission to Israel, to bring her back to Yahweh. But it is the famous and difficult passage in Isaiah 53 that most movingly describes the suffering and sorrow of Yahweh’s servant.
There have been many attempts to equate this man of sorrows with all kinds of figures. Early on, Jesus’ followers saw Jesus as the suffering servant of Yahweh in Isaiah. The NT writers borrowed passages from Isaiah when constructing their narratives of Jesus’ life and death. He depicted as the innocent and righteous servant who suffered for the sins of others. In the teachings of Paul, however, Christians are identified as the servant who suffers with and for Jesus. Despite these later theological interpretations, the anonymous writer of Second Isaiah was not writing about a remote Nazarene teacher and charismatic healer who would love more than five hundred years later. Examined in its original context, it appears most likely that the servant is Isreal herself, described metaphorically.” – Christine Hayes – Introduction to the Bible (p. 311/313)
So what does this mean? What this means is that followers of Jesus went looking for passages in the Old Testament that talked about someone suffering and said that it was about Jesus. In other words, they pulled the words of Isaiah out of context. Why? Because they wanted to prove Jesus was the messiah who was “prophesied” about in the Old Testament. The ancient Jews had different understandings of what the messiah would be; a cosmic figure of grandeur or a judge that would overthrow the forces of evil here on earth. One thing the messiah wasn’t supposed to do according to the ancient Jews was suffer and die. That’s why Jews have a hard time accepting Jesus as their messiah.
So why does this matter? The Godless Engineer likes to argue that there is a blue print available in the Old Testament for Jesus (he says so himself here) when actually there is not. All there is, is Christians pulling verses out of context and reading things into passages that are actually not there at all. So his “blue print” argument is unsound.
Jesus: Not the Messiah
Although Christians like to think there is tons and tons of evidence for the coming of Jesus in the Old Testament, there is none. Jesus didn’t even live up to the expectations of the Jewish messiah:
1. Build the Third Temple (Ezekiel 37:26-28).
2. Gather all Jews back to the Land of Israel (Isaiah 43:5-6).
3. Usher in an era of world peace, and end all hatred, oppression, suffering and disease. As it says: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall man learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4).
4. Spread universal knowledge of the God of Israel, which will unite humanity as one. As it says: “God will be King over all the world – on that day, God will be One and His Name will be One” (Zechariah 14:9).
If an individual fails to fulfil even one of these conditions, then he cannot be the Messiah and Jesus failed miserably in fulfilling these messianic prophecies. The question would now be: would the followers of Jesus really make up a suffering messiah? This, of course, doesn’t make any sense. If you are going to make up a messiah and you want to convince first century Palestinian Jews this person actually was the messiah, you are not going to make him suffer since that was not what the messiah was supposed to do according to the ancient Jews. It’s not in the best interest of the early Christians to make up a messiah who suffered and died, therefor it is likely that Jesus did suffer and die. The crucifixion therefore passes the “Criterion of Dissimilarity” and in order to be crucified, you had to be alive first. The Criterion of Dissimilarity is one of the criterion commonly used by scholars to establish historically reliable material; the criterion maintains that if a saying or deed of Jesus does not coincide with (or works against) the agenda of the early Christians, it is more likely to be authentic. Paul doesn’t call it the stumbling block for no reason.
“But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” – 1 Corinthians 1:23
Isaiah and the Virgin Birth
The video continues to sum up a whole list of prophecies about the messiah supposedly given by Isaiah in the book of Isaiah.
“Isaiah lays the ground work for a lot of things about Jesus. Like, just a short list of the things would be: being a teacher, being a judge, being sent by God, the whole intent behind parables, being born of a virgin, called Immanuel, his ministry would begin in Galilee, Son of God, Prince of peace, inheriting the thrown of David, having a just character, ruling in heaven, he would be called a Nazarene, he would be wise, he would have the psychic ability of reading minds, he would have a ministry of miracles” – The Godless Engineer
There is all kinds of wrong here with that statement, I’ll just pick a few and debunk them to show you they were not prophecies about Jesus, but passages that were taken out of the original context after the life of Jesus to prove he actually was the messiah.
A classic example is the virgin birth and Immanuel. In our bibles we can read the following:
“Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:13/14
If you look at the Hebrew text of the passage and not the Greek translation, the text uses the word “almah” which just means “young woman” and doesn’t mean sexual virgin. The Hebrew word “almah” got translated to the Greek word “parthenos”. Parthenos meaning a woman who was a sexual virgin. Hence the mistake by Matthew later in his Gospel.
So if the passage is about a young woman, then it most probably isn’t about Jesus. Yale University Biblical scholar Christine Hayes explains what the passage is actually about when read in context and also tells us who this Immanuel most probably is:
“Isaiah offers Ahaz a sign of the truth of his prophecy, namely that a young woman who is pregnant will bear a son and call him Immanuel meaning “El is with us” (Isaiah 7:14). Although Christians read this passage out of context as a prophecy of the birth of Jesus, in context the verse most likely refers to the king’s wife, who would soon bear Hezekiah. Hezekiah was a celebrated king who kept Judah intact through the Assyrian Crisis and about whom it is said “El was with him” (2 Kings 18:7). The famous verses in Isaiah 9 announcing: “for unto us a child is born” – a wonderful counselor, mighty god, everlasting father, prince of peace (again verse utilised in Christian liturgies to this day as a reference to to the birth of Jesus) – are understood by most scholars as a praise for King Hezekiah.” – Christine Hayes – Introduction to the Bible (p. 272)
So, again we are looking at something Christians living after Jesus took out of context to prove to others Jesus was the Messiah. Those are some pretty bizarre lengths to go to if Jesus never existed in the first place.
The Nag Hammadi Library
The Godless Engineer then goes on to make another mistake.
“There were vastly different sects of Christians or Jewish Christians in the first century. The Nag Hammadi Library or the Gnostic Gospels really kinda point out the vast differences in these various Jewish sects” – The Godless Engineer
This is demonstrably wrong. The Nag Hammadi texts are generally dated as being from the 4th century B.C.E while the vast majority of scholars date the original compositions as being from the 2nd and 3rd century B.C.E and not the first century. Before the Nag Hammadi library our only source about Gnosticism were the pro-orthodox church fathers from the 2nd, 3rd and 4th century who were its most vocal opponents.
There is no evidence the Christian-Gnostics were active in the first century. One of the most important Christian-Gnostics, Valentinus, was born in the 2nd century and another important Christian-Gnostic group, called the Sethians, were thriving in the middle of the second century.
Paul and Jesus
One of the favourite arguments used by the Godless Engineer to prove Jesus was a mythical figure is the argument that Paul never places Jesus here on earth.
I find this claim to be pretty bizarre since Paul clearly tells us Jesus was born out of a woman.
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law” – Galatians 4:4.
Last time I checked, being born meant you were psychically present here on earth.
Another argument regularly used by the Godless Engineer is that Paul tells us he only got is information through revelation and scripture. Where does Paul do that for instance? Well, for instance in the letter to the Galatians:
“I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” – Galatians 1:11/12
But Paul almost immediately follows up with the following:
“But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.” – Galatians 1:15/17
This is an important issue for Paul because he wants to prove to the Galatians that his gospel message did not come from Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem (the original disciples and the church around them) but from Jesus himself. His point is that he has not corrupted a message from someone else; his gospel came straight from God, with no human intervention. Remember that Paul was setting up churches everywhere and he need to rely on some sort of authority when the churches were having a crisis. And what greater authority could there be than God or Jesus himself?
So couldn’t Paul have made up the whole Jesus figure? Not likely. Remember that Paul once started out as a Christian persecutor. That would mean that he already had information about what Christians believed. Why else persecute them? So what could that information be? Most probably the kind that was blasphemous. Calling someone the messiah when he was crucified and had died was blasphemous in the eyes of Paul who himself was a Pharisee. Hence the reason to persecute the Christians.
Although I am with the Godless Engineer on a lot of things, he really jumped the shark with his whole “did Jesus exist?” series. The video series to me prove a lack of knowledge of the Bible and the unwillingness to change one’s mind when presented with evidence.