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by Richard Carrier
THE monstrous scientific paradox (as coming ages will regard it) comprehended in the conception of an almighty, omnipresent, and infinite Being, "the Creator of innumerable worlds," ("by him [Christ] were all things made that were made," John i. 3-10), being born of a frail and finite woman, as taught by both the oriental and Christian religion, is so exceedingly shocking to every rational mind, which has not been sadly warped, perverted, and coerced into the belief by early psychological influence, that we would naturally presume that those who, on the assumption of the remotest possibility of its truth, should venture to put forth a doctrine so glaringly unreasonable and so obviously untenable, would of course vindicate it and establish it by the strongest arguments and by the most unassailable and most irrefragable proofs; and that in setting forth a doctrine so manifestly at war with every law and analogy of nature and every principle of science, no language should have been used, nor the slightest admission made, that could possibly lead to the slightest degree of suspicion that the original authors and propagators of this doctrine had either any doubt of the truth of the doctrine themselves, or were wanting in the most ample, the most abundant proof to sustain it. No language, no text, not a word, not a syllable should have been used making the most remote concession damaging to the validity of the doctrine, so that not "the shadow of a shade of doubt" could be left on any mind of its truth. Omnipotent indeed should be the logic, and irresistible the proof, in support of a thesis or a doctrine which so squarely confronts and contradicts all the observation, all the experience, the whole range of scientific knowledge, and the common sense of mankind. How startling then, to every devout and honest professor of the Christian faith ought to be the recent discovery of the fact, that the great majority of the texts having any bearing upon the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus Christ, -- a large majority of the passages in the very book on which the doctrine is predicated, and which is acknowledged as the sole warranty for such a belief, -- are actually at variance with the doctrine, and actually amount to its virtual denial and overthrow. For we find, upon a critical examination of the matter, that at least three-fourths of the texts, both in the Gospels and Epistles, which relate to the divinity of Christ, specifically or by implication either teach a different and a contrary doctrine, or make concessions entirely fatal to it, by investing him with finite human qualities utterly incompatible with the character and attributes of a divine or infinite Being. How strange, then, how superlatively strange, that millions should yet hold to such a strange "freak of nature," such a dark relic of oriental heathenism, such a monstrous, foolish and childish superstition, as that which teaches the infinite Creator and "Upholder of the universe" could be reduced so near to nonentity, as was required to pass through the ordinary stages of human generation, human birth, and human parturition, -- a puerile notion which reason, science, nature, philosophy, and common sense, proclaim to be supremely absurd and self-evidently impossible, and which even the Scriptures fail to sustain, -- a logical, scriptural exposition, of which we will here present a brief summary: --
On the other hand, those few divine epithets or titles which are used in application to Jesus Christ, as Lord, God, Savior, Redeemer, Intercessor, &c., it has been shown were all used prior to the birth of Christ, in application to beings known and acknowledged to be men, and some of them are found so applied in the bible itself; as, for example, Moses is called a God in two instances, as we have shown, and cited the proof (in Ex. iv. 16, vii. i), while the title of Lord is applied to man at this day, even in Christian countries. And instances have been cited in the bible of the term Savior being applied to men, both in the singular and plural numbers. (See 2 Kings xiii. 5, and Neh. ix. 27.) Seeing, then, that the most important divine titles which the writers of the New Testament have applied to Jesus were previously used in application to men, known and admitted to be such, it is therefore at once evident that those titles do nothing toward proving him to be the Great Divine Being, as the modern Christian world assume him to be, even if we base the argument wholly on scriptural grounds. While, on the other hand, we have demonstrated it to be an absolute impossibility to apply with any propriety or any sense to a divine infinite omnipotent Being those finite human qualities which are so frequently used with reference to Jesus throughout the New Testament. And hence, even if we should suppose or concede that the writers of the New Testament did really believe him to be the great Infinite Spirit, or the almighty, omnipotent God, we must conclude they were mistaken, from their own language, from their own description of him, as well as his own virtual denial and rejection of such a claim, when he applied to himself, as he did in nine cases out of ten, strictly finite human qualities and human titles (as we have shown), wholly incompatible with the character of an infinite divine Being. We say, from the foregoing considerations, if the primitive disciples of Jesus did really believe him to be the great Infinite, both their descriptions of him and his description or representation of himself, would amply and most conclusively prove that they were mistaken. At least we are compelled to admit that there is either an error in applying divine titles to Jesus, or often an error in describing his qualities and powers, by himself and his original followers, as there is no compatibility or agreement between the two. Divine titles to such a being as they represent him to be, would be an egregious misnomer. We say, then, that it must be clearly and conclusively evident to every unbiased mind, from evidence furnished by the bible itself, that if the divine titles applied to Jesus were intended to have a divine significance, then they are misapplied. Yet we would not here conclude an intentional misrepresentation in the case, but simply a mistake growing out of a misconception, and the very limited childish conception, of the nature, character, and attributes of the "great positive Mind," so universally prevalent in that semi-barbarous age, and the apparently total ignorance of the distinguishing characteristics which separate the divine and the human. We will illustrate: some children, on passing through a wild portion of the State of Maine recently, reported they encountered a bear; and to prove they could not be mistaken in the animal, they described it as being a tall, slight-built animal, with long slender legs, of yellowish auburn hue, a short, white, bushy tail, cloven feet, large branchy horns, &c. Now, it will be seen at once that, while their description of the animal is evidently in the main correct, they had simply mistaken a deer for a bear, and hence misnamed the animal.
- The essential attributes of a self-existing God and Creator, and "Upholder of all things," are infinitude, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, and any being not possessing all these attributes to repletion, or possessing any quality or characteristic in the slightest degree incompatible with any one of these attributes, cannot be a God in a divine sense, but must of necessity be a frail, fallible, finite being.
- Jesus Christ disclaims, hundreds of times over, directly or impliedly, the inherent possession of any one of these divine attributes.
- His evangelical biographers have invested him with the entire category of human qualities and characteristics, each one of which is entirely unbefitting a God, and taken together are the only distinguishing characteristics by which we can know a man from a God.
- Furthermore, there issued from his own mouth various sayings and concessions most fatal to the conception of his being a God.
- His devout biographers have reported various actions and movements in his practical life which we are compelled to regard as absolutely irreconcilable with the infinite majesty, lofty character, and supreme attributes of an almighty Being.
- These human qualities were so obvious to all who saw him and all who became acquainted with him, that doubts sprang up among his own immediate followers, which ultimately matured into an open avowal of disbelief in his divinity in that early age.
- Upon the axiomatical principles of philosophy it is an utter and absolute impossibility to unite in repletion the divine and the human in the same being.
- And then Christ had a human birth.
- He was constituted in part, like human beings, of flesh and blood.
- He became, on certain occasions, "an hungered," like finite beings.
- He also became thirsty (John xix. 28), like perishable mortals.
- He often slept, like mortals, and thus became "to dumb forgetfulness a prey."
- He sometimes became weary, like human beings. (See John iv. 6.)
- He was occasionally tempted, like fallible mortals. (Matt. iv. i.)
- His "soul became exceeding sorrowful," as a frail, finite being. (Matt. xxvi. 38.)
- He disclosed the weakness of human passion by weeping. (John xi. 35.)
- He was originally an imperfect being, "made perfect through suffering." (Heb. ii. 10.)
- He "increased in wisdom and stature" (Luke ii. 52); therefore he must have possessed finite, changeable, mortal attributes.
- And he finally died and was buried, like all perishable mortals. He could not possibly, from these considerations, have been a God. It is utterly impracticable to associate with or comprehend, in a God of infinite powers and infinite attributes, all or any of these finite human qualities.
- Dark, intellectually dark, indeed, must be that mind, and sunk, sorrowfully sunk in superstition, that can worship a being as the great omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent "I AM," who possessed all those qualities which were constitutionally characteristic of the pious, the noble, the devout, the Godlike, yet finite and fallible Jesus, according to his own admissions and the representations of his own interested biographers.
- The only step which the disciples of the Christian faith have made toward disproving or setting aside these arguments, objections, and difficulties, is that of assigning the incarnate Jesus a double or twofold nature -- the amalgamation of the human and divine; a postulate and a groundless assumption, which we have proved and demonstrated by thirteen arguments, which we believe to be unanswerable, is not only absurd, illogical, and impossible, but foolish and ludicrous in the highest degree. (See vol. ii.)
- This senseless hypothesis, and every other assumption and argument made use of by the professors of the Christian faith to vindicate their favorite dogma of the divinity of Jesus, we have shown to be equally applicable to the demigods of the ancient heathen, more than twenty of whom were invested with the same combination of human and divine qualities which the followers and worshippers of Jesus claim for him.
- Testimony of the Father against the divinity of the Son. The Father utterly precludes the Son from any participation in the divine essence, or any claim in the Godhead, by such declarations as the following: "I am Jehovah, and beside me there is no Savior." (Isaiah xliii. ii.) How, then, we would ask, can Jesus Christ be the Savior? "I, Jehovah, am thy Savior and thy Redeemer." Then Christ can be neither the Savior nor Redeemer. "There is no God else beside me, a just God and a Savior; there is none beside me." (Isaiah xiv. 21.) So the Father virtually declares, according to "the inspired prophet Isaiah," that the Son, in a divine sense, cannot be either God, Savior, or Redeemer. Again, "I am Jehovah, thy God, and thou shalt not acknowledge a God beside me." (Hosea xiii. 4.) Here Christ is not only by implication cut off from the Godhead, but positively prohibited from being worshipped as God. And thus the testimony of the Father disproves and sets aside the divinity of the Son.
- Testimony of the mother. When Mary found, after a long search, her son Jesus in the temple, disputing with the doctors, and chided or reproved him for staying from home without the consent of his parents, and declared, "thy father and I sought thee, sorrowing" (Luke ii. 48), she proclaimed a twofold denial of his divinity. In the first place it cannot be possible that she regarded her son Jesus as "that awful Being, before whom even the devout saints bow in trembling fear," when she used such language and evinced such a spirit as she did. "Why hast thou thus dealt with us?" (Luke ii. 48) is her chiding language. And then, when she speaks of Joseph as his father, "thy father and I," she issues a declaration against his divinity which ought to be regarded as settling the question forever. For who could know better than the mother, or rather, who could know but the mother, who the father of the child Jesus was? And as she acknowledges it was Joseph, she thus repudiates the story of the immaculate conception, which constitutes the whole basis for the claim of his divinity. Hence the testimony of the mother, also, disproves his title to the Godhead.
- Testimony or disclaimer of the Son. We will show by a specific citation of twenty-five texts that there is not one attribute comprehended in or peculiar to a divine and infinite Being, but that Christ rejects as applicable to himself -- that he most conclusively disclaims every attribute of a divine Being, both by precept and practice, and often in the most explicit language.
- By declaring, "The Son can do nothing of himself" (John v. 19), he most emphatically disclaims the attribute of omnipotence. For an omnipotent Being can need no aid, and can accept of none.
- When he acknowledged and avowed his ignorance of the day of judgment, which must be presumed to be the most important event in the world's history, he disclaimed the attribute of omniscience. "Of that day and hour knoweth no man, neither the Son, but the Father only." (Matt. xxiv. 36.) Now, as an omniscient Being must possess all knowledge, his avowed ignorance in this case is a confession he was not omniscient, and hence not a God.
- And when he declares, "I am glad for your sakes I was not there" (at the grave of Lazarus), he most distinctly disavows being omnipresent, and thus denies to himself another essential attribute of an infinite God.
- And the emphatic declaration, "I live by the Father" (John vi. 57), is a direct disclaimer of the attributes of self- existence; as a being who lives by another cannot be self-existent, and, per consequence, not the infinite God.
- He disclaims possessing infinite goodness, another essential attribute of a supreme divine Being. "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God." (Mark x. 18.)
- He disclaim divine honors, and directed them to the father. "I honor my Father." (John viii. 49.) "I receive not honor from men." (John v. 41.)
- He recommended supreme worship to the Father, and not to himself. "The true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth." (John iv. 21.)
- He ascribed supreme dominion to the Father. "Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever." (Matt. vi. 13.)
- It will be seen, from the foregoing text, that Christ also acknowledges that the kingdom is the Father's. A God without a kingdom would be a ludicrous state of things.
- He conceded supreme authority to the Father. "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me." (John vii. 16.)
- He considered the Father as the supreme protector and preserver of even his own disciples. "I pray that thou shouldst keep them from the evil." (John xvii. 15.) What, omnipotence not able to protect his own disciples?
- In fine, he humbly acknowledged that his power, his will, his ministry, his mission, his authority, his works, his knowledge, and his very life, were all from, and belonged to and were under the control of the Father. "I can do nothing of myself;" "I came to do the will of him that sent me;" "The Father that dwelleth within me, he doeth the work," &c. "A God within a God," is an old pagan Otaheitan doctrine.
- He declared that even spiritual communion was the work of the Father. (See John vi. 45.)
- He acknowledged himself controlled by the Father. (See John v. 30.)
- He acknowledged his entire helplessness and dependence on the Father. "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do." (John v. 19.) 41. He acknowledged that even his body was the work of his Father; in other words, that he was dependent on his Father for his physical life. (See Heb. xvi. 5.)
- And more than all, he not only called the Father "the only true God" (John xvii. 3), but calls him "my Father and my God." (John xx. 17.) Now, it would be superlative nonsense to consider a being himself a God, or the God, who could use such language as is here ascribed to the humble Jesus. This text, this language, is sufficient of itself to show that Christ could not have laid any claim to the Godhead on any occasion, unless we degrade him to the charge of the most palpable and shameful contradiction.
- He uniformly directed his disciples to pray, not to him, but the Father. (See Matt. vi. 6.)
- On one occasion, as we have cited the proof (in Matt. xi. ii), he even acknowledged John the Baptist to be greater than he; while it must be patent to every reader that no man could be greater than the almighty, supreme Potentate of heaven and earth, in any sense whatever.
- Testimony of the disciples. Another remarkable proof of the human sireship of Jesus is, that one of his own disciples -- ay, one of the chosen twelve, selected by him as being endowed with a perfect knowledge of his character, mission, and origin -- this witness, thus posted and thus authorized, proclaims, in unequivocal language, that Jesus was the son of Joseph. Hear the language of Philip addressed to Nathanael. "We have found him of whom Moses, in the law and the prophets, did write -- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." (John i. 45.) No language could be more explicit, no declaration more positive, that Jesus was the son of Joseph. And no higher authority could be adduced to settle the question, coming as it does from "headquarters." And what will, or what can, the devout stickler for the divinely paternal origin of Jesus Christ do with such testimony? It is a clincher which no sophistry can set aside, no reasoning can grapple with, and no logic overthrow.
- His disciples, instead of representing him as being "the only true God," often speak of him in contradistinction to God.
- They never speak of him as the God Christ Jesus, but as "the man Christ Jesus." (i Tim. ii. 5.) "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God." (Acts ii. 23.) It would certainly be blasphemy to speak of the Supreme Being as "a man approved of God." Christian reader, reflect upon this text. "By that man whom he (the Father) hath ordained" (Acts xvii. 3), by the assumption of the Godhead of Christ, we would be presented with the double or twofold solecism, 1st. Of God being "ordained" by another God; and 2d. That of his being blasphemously called a "Man."
- Paul's, declaration has been cited, that "unto us there is but one God -- the Father." (i Cor. iv. 8.) Now, it is plain to common sense, that if there is but one God, and that God is comprehended in the Father, then Christ is entirely excluded from the Godhead.
- If John's declaration be true, that "no man hath seen God at any time" (John iv. 12), then the important question arises, How could Christ be God, as he was seen by thousands of men, and seen hundreds of times?
- God the Father is declared to be the "One," "the Holy One," "the only One," &c., more than one hundred times, as if purposely to exclude the participation of any other being in the Godhead.
- This one, this only God, is shown to be the Father alone in more than four thousand texts, thirteen hundred and twenty-six of which are found in the New Testament.
- More than fifty texts have been found which declare, either explicitly or by implication, that God the Father has no equal, which effectually denies or shuts out the divine equality of the Son. "To whom will ye liken me, or shall I be equal with, saith the holy One." (Isaiah XI. 25.)
- Christ in the New Testament is called "man," and "the Son of man," eighty-four times, -- egregious and dishonorable misnomers, most certainly, to apply to a supreme and infinite Deity. On the other hand, he is called God but three times, and denominates himself "the Son of God" but once, and that rather obscurely.
- The Father is spoken of, in several instances, as standing in the relation of God to the Son, as "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts iii. 2.) "Ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." (i Cor. xi. 3.) Now, the God of a God is a polytheistic, heathen conception; and no meaning or interpretation, as we have shown, can be forced upon such texts as these, that will not admit a plurality of Gods, if we admit the titles as applicable to Christ, or that his scriptural biographers intend to apply such a title in a superior or supreme sense.
- Many texts make Christ the mere tool, agent, image, servant, or representative of God, as Christ, "the image of God" (Heb. i. 3), Christ, the appointed of God (Heb. iii. i), Christ, "the servant of God" (Matt. xii. 18), &c. To consider a being thus spoken of as himself the supreme God, is, as we have demonstrated, the very climax of absurdity and nonsense. To believe "the servant of God" is God himself, -- that is, the servant of himself, -- and that God and his "image" are the same, is to descend within one step of buffoonery.
- And then it has been ascertained that there are more than three hundred texts which declare, either expressly or by implication, Christ's subordination to and dependence on the Father, as, "I can do nothing of myself;" "Not mine, but his that sent me;" "I came to do the will of him that sent me" (John iv. 34); "I seek the will of my Father," &c.
- And more than one hundred and fifty texts make the Son inferior to the Father, as "the Son knoweth not, but the Father does" (Mark viii. 32); "MY Father is greater than I;" "The Son can do nothing of himself" (John v. 19), &c.
- There are many divine titles applied to the Father which are never used in reference to the Son, as "Jehovah," "The Most High," "God Almighty," "The Almighty," &c.
In like manner we must conclude, from the repeated instances in which Christ's biographers have ascribed to him all the foibles, frailties, and finite qualities and characteristics of a human being, that if they have in any instance called him a God in a divine sense, it is an egregious misnomer. Their description of him makes him a man, and but a man, whatever may have been their opinion with respect to the propriety of calling him a God. And if the two do not harmonize, the former must rule the judgment in all cases. The truth is, the Jewish founders of Christianity entertained such a low, narrow, contracted, and mean opinion of Deity and the infinite distinction and distance between the divine and the human, that their theology reduced him to a level with man; and hence they usually described him as a man.
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