Conspiracies and the Cross by Timothy Paul Jones is one of the best Christian answers to the theories of Dan Brown and Barbara Thiering and others who seek to undermine the Christian story of Jesus. The unbeliever can learn a lot from this book - if only learn how not to refute Christianity!

Conspiracies and the Cross, Timothy Paul Jones, Front Line, A Strang Company, Florida, 2008

Page 15 notices how the authors of the four gospels of the New Testament, Matthew and Mark and Luke and John, never say, "I and Jesus did such and such" or mention that they are based on eyewitness testimony.
MY COMMENT: When the gospels don't claim to be eyewitness testimony, that means that all the bits that Christian scholars say read like they are such testimony prove nothing. Scholars don't agree on what bits seem to have come from eyewitnesses. They only think or assume that certain portions are based on what witnesses said. If an account shows a bit of detail that is more than necessary they assume that it was taken from an eyewitness. But that could be accounted for in many different ways. The gospellers could have imported some revised true stories about the life of some Jewish saint into their gospels. The John gospel claims to use an eyewitness testimony but it doesn't say whose testimony it is using so it is no good. The gospels do not even pretend that eyewitnesses were consulted.

Page 21 uses the testimony of Papias to try and show that Mark and Matthew wrote the gospels of Mark and Matthew that we have
MY COMMENT: But the book says Papias got his information from associates of associates of the apostles - hardly very reliable! If it was really that well-known that Mark and Matthew wrote the gospels, then why didn't they use their names especially when lots of fake gospels were circulating. Did Mark and Matthew not wish to add authenticity to their writings? Plus the book says Papias was familiar with these gospels we have. But Papias wrote that Mark was incomplete and jumbled and says that Matthew had to arrange the gospel in an orderly manner. This is really a denial that Mark wrote a gospel. All he did was take notes and Matthew turned them into a gospel. It follows then that if Papias had any of our New Testament gospels in mind, he was saying that the gospel we currently call Mark was the real gospel of Matthew. The bad Greek in Mark would indicate that Matthew the tax-collector did not write it for tax-collectors were generally good writers. It would indicate that whoever wrote Mark had to do it without consulting others and do without their help. He probably was making the whole thing up when he was that reclusive! This would raise the question of how anybody knew who wrote his gospel! The other gospel called Matthew in the New Testament was written by somebody else. We can doubt the reliability of a testimony about the authorship of the Mark gospel coming from Turnkey where Papias lived when the gospel of Mark was written in Rome!

The book admits on page 64 that the early Church did not depend on gossip and tradition to work out if some text came from the apostles. It quotes the letter of Seraphion. Seraphion when he heard of the gospel of Peter rather than just reject it outright, compared it with available New Testament writings to see if it could be true or could be Peter's work. He decided it was false. He didn't say, "There is no reliable tradition that Peter wrote this gospel therefore I reject it." Page 64 also confesses that there is more ancient papyri for this gospel than there is for the gospel of Mark. Christians use the fact that a lot of fragments of the gospels went about to show that the gospels were taken seriously by the Church and regarded as having an origin among the apostles or their close associates. They suppose the apostles or their close associates must have produced them when they were so well known and so popular. Christians don't want to take the gospel of Peter seriously so they ignore it. They don't suppose that it had an apostolic origin despite the fragments all over the place. They are totally unfair and biased. This Peter gospel speaks of Jesus being an apparition not a man and speaks of witnesses to the resurrection itself. The four gospels never speak of such witnesses but merely of people who saw Jesus after he rose which is a different thing. Its being authentic would undermine the Christian faith.

There is every reason to deny that Mark and Matthew really wrote the gospels bearing their names.

Page 22, Polycarp learned from eyewitnesses that Matthew wrote his gospel among the Hebrews and in Hebrew. He learned that it was written while Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome. Mark wrote the gospel of Mark after Peter and Paul died in Rome. Luke wrote a gospel and then finally John wrote his gospel.
MY COMMENT: The book should not be using this testimony for it contradicts the evidence that Mark appeared first and Matthew came after. It contradicts nearly every modern scholar. Also Matthew, from internal evidence, was not written during the time Peter and Paul were alive. The testimony is unreliable. The Gospel of John was not written by the apostle John for its version of Jesus is antinomian in temperament. His Jesus advocates the idea that you can lie, get drunk, claim to be a god as long as you love. The other gospels however have a Jesus who was morally strict.

You might say if somebody was lying about the authorship of a gospel why would they say or let people think it was Mark who wrote it for he was not a well-known figure or an apostle? But what about the gospel of Mary Magdalene and the Gospel of Judas and the Recognitions of Clement (attributed to Clement of Rome). None of these figures were as important as the twelve apostles. There is less chance of being caught out too if you pretend that the real author is somebody of lesser importance.

Polycarp was a liar.

Page 29, mentions the view of some scholars that the ancient gospel of Thomas has a Jesus who was just a wandering sage who did not do miracles or rise from the dead. This silence could mean denial or that the beliefs about Jesus of miracle and resurrection were considered insignificant. The book gives a date range from 100 AD to 150 AD for this gospel.
MY COMMENT: Jesus says in the gospel that he is there when a piece of wood is split up. He seems to stress his presence in nature as a pantheistic deity. He wants to be found in nature and not in Heaven as a resurrected god. He said that a lion that eats a human is lucky for it becomes a human. He seems to be saying that the lion assimilates human flesh and becomes human in that sense. He is hinting that we are animals for eating animals or plants for eating plants. It does not sound like he believed God would raise dead bodies up. To raise Jesus for example would be raising the animals and plants he ate. The gospel of Thomas claims to have been written by Thomas the Twin. That automatically gives it one over on the gospels of the New Testament. While it is true the author could have been lying, at least we have a testimony be it right or wrong that the gospel came from the pen of an apostle. Also the gospel takes the form of oral traditions and all scholars agree that the original Church used oral traditions about Jesus. It is a better match with the apostles than the gospels.

The gospel of Thomas is a good challenge to Christian nonsense.

Page 38, Morton Smith allegedly discovered a portion of Mark's gospel copied from the second century writings of Clement of Alexandria into a book. The copy was made into the book in eighteenth century writing. We have only photographic copies of it. The writing was retouched to make it look eighteenth century. The writing refers to error being mixed with truth like dirt being mixed with salt. This was a mistake for Smith didn't know that granular salt didn't exist in the time of the second century. The copy was a hoax.
MY COMMENT: People see all sorts of things in photographs. We need the original which is missing before we can accuse anybody of a hoax. Photos are just not the same. Also, Jesus said in the gospel of Mark that everybody would be salted with fire. That sounds like granular salt until you think of Jesus meaning that everybody would be flavoured with the fire. Also dirt can be mixed with granular salt and non-granular salt as well. The ancients couldn't grind the salt down very well but they broke it down enough to flavour their food.

Page 38 gives us no reason to assume that the missing portion of Mark claim is based on a hoax. Recent books have shown that the portion does seem to have been cut out of Mark for it contains poetic chiasms (patterns) that match the pattern of the much of the existing gospel Smith tried to use the portion to prove that Jesus was a profligate libertine but it fails to do that. A real forger wouldn't abuse his forgery like that. He would have it saying what he wanted to say.

The portion belongs to Mark.

Page 54, states that the claim of scholar Elaine Pagels that the bodily resurrection of Jesus was not important for early Christians until after the apostles died is false.MY COMMENT: The book mentions Acts 2:31 where Peter says that Jesus was raised in fulfilment of the psalm which said that his flesh would not decay. First it is not Peter saying this but the author of Acts saying that Peter said it. Second, neither Peter or the author were claiming infallibility for Peter in saying this thing. The author only reports. Thirdly, the psalm doesn't mention anybody actually dying. It was always been taken by Jews to refer to David getting very sick and almost dying but the Lord will keep him from dying and rotting. Peter seems to be basing his belief in bodily resurrection on a warped and fanciful interpretation of a line from the Bible rather than on apparitions of Jesus or touching Jesus. Mark 8:31, 9:9,10, 31/10:34 are cited by the book as showing a belief in physical resurrection. The Mark gospel is picked out for the author thinks it was written when the apostles were still alive. But it only says Jesus will rise but not how he will rise or if it will involve his body or not. Perhaps a magical body would be made from one cell of it. After all Paul said the body was the seed of the resurrection body. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 said that the Messiah died and was buried and rose again. This does not necessarily indicate that Jesus rose bodily or that the apostles could verify it. Seeing an apparition - even one that you can touch does not mean that you are entitled to assume a bodily resurrection. Pagels view is unrefuted.

Chapter 4 of the book outlines much of the fake evidence and false claims that the words of Jesus and the text of the New Testament was altered. It says none of the variations between ancient New Testament texts are important . For example, John 1:18 in some manuscripts is one and only Son and in others it is the one and only God. The book contends that it doesn't matter which version is right for the gospel says Jesus was the only Son of God and was God anyway. It affects no doctrine.


MY COMMENT: The references to Jesus being God are so few in the New Testament you would wonder why anybody would want to distort one of them leaving us unsure if it calls Jesus God or not. The only son possibility is the one that should be assumed. Plus, it is a fact that the John gospel does not say Jesus was God. When it says the Word who was God became flesh it does not clearly indicate that the Word actually became a man - Jesus Christ - in the Greek. The variation does affect doctrine. Scholars state that Paul says the Church is the body of Jesus and we are his arms and legs and means it as more than a metaphor. Yet they say Paul would not have thought we are God or that Jesus is not a man anymore. The ancients had a funny way with religious language. Paul once wrote that he was no longer alive but Jesus was alive in him. That sounds like he was claiming to be Jesus. He wasn't. The book ignores an important point by saying the variations between the manuscripts don't matter for they don't affect doctrine. A God who inspires scripture and who can't preserve the text is not a God in whom we can have much confidence. The scripture is left with variations from what he wants. Many Christian doctrines from the Bible hang on one verse from the Bible or even one word. For example, Jesus said at the end of the Matthew gospel, go and baptise in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If Jesus said go and baptise in the names of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit it would demolish the doctrine of the Trinity for those who depend on this verse to justify believing in the Trinity. It would be giving them three gods or personages not three persons in one God or one name. When it is that strict, how do you know that you are not basing a doctrine on one word or line that was altered from its original meaning?

The book is uncertain (page 82) if the story in John 8 about Jesus saving the adulteress belongs in the Bible. That is a whole portion. The Jews brought the woman to Jesus to ask what should be done with her for they thought she should be stoned to death for adultery. Jesus said that he who is without sin must be the first to throw a stone at her. He said he approved of her being killed if those judging her were better than her. This contradicts modern Christianity's refusal to punish adulterous people by murdering them as long as it is the virtuous that carry out the killing. Jesus let her go just the same way the courts have to let the guilty go if the accusers make a mess of their statements. Doctrine is affected by the inclusion or omission of the text.

Page 84 says that the forged ending of Mark's gospel which contains the resurrection appearances Jesus made after his crucifixion says nothing that the Bible already says. The book says that even if it is fake it still changes nothing that the Bible believers believe about Jesus. It says that the resurrection appearances are implied in the gospel of Mark at 9:9 and 14:28 anyway. True but it doesn't say they happened as promised or if they will provide evidence that Jesus was raised.

Also the gospel says there were strangers at the tomb after the body disappeared. They could have taken the body. It never hints that they were angels or supernatural. And it is surprising that Christians think it is terrific to imagine that there was no human being who could have stolen the body when they believe angels who could have stolen it were there! The men at the tomb told the women who had come to the tomb and found it open not to be amazed and that Jesus had gone before his followers into Galilee. That sounds like they were saying that Jesus did not rise as a result of a miracle so there was nothing to be amazed about and that he had gone to Galilee on foot and was there then. He must have went on foot and have been staying somewhere there to await reunion with his friends. That sounds anything but supernatural. A supernatural being is not going to vanish from the tomb and appear in Galilee to wait for his friends when there is nobody about.

The Mark account is indicative of a hoax, was Jesus let go before the crucifixion? Were the believers led to believe he had in fact died on a cross and got buried? Mark never says the women saw into the tomb - they were just told Jesus wasn't in it. That would explain what an all too human Jesus was doing in Galilee.

The ending promises that believers will take up snakes and drink poison and not die and heal the sick and so on. The book says the Old Testament promise such powers. But it never says they will be given when the risen Messiah will appear. It is only the forged ending that has Jesus giving such powers at that time. Luke 10:19 has Jesus promising the apostles his protection. The book deceitfully says that what is said in the forged ending is said here anyway. The verse says nothing about people getting bitten by snakes and poisoned without any ill-effects. The ending does affect doctrine and says things the Bible does not say.

If Jesus did not say what the ending says he said, then other Bible verses saying similar things does not help one bit. Jesus is still being said to have said what he didn't say. The account is false. If the account is false, then
Christians have put the word of man in the word of God.

The book says the ending is a fifth witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ (page 84). It is not. First of all its magical Jesus does not fit the indications in the real Mark that Jesus may not have been a supernatural being after his resurrection. Secondly, Mark does not testify to the resurrection. So what you have is Matthew, Luke and John and the forger testifying. That is really three for one testament is dubious.

The Christians are lying to cover up proof that their scriptures are not divinely inspired at all.



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