Was Jesus really fraudulent, dishonest, sacrilegious, and conspiratorial?

[Modified May/2000, added more on the cannibalism thing/drinking blood]

Our visitor continues from the previous part...

Well, maybe God did answer the last two prayers about illuminating the text and showing me the real Jesus. Sometime after making those requests, maybe minutes, maybe weeks, I saw connections between verses that I either hadn't seen before or whose possible significance I hadn't considered. After a while I put them down on paper and on disc, and they make up the rest of this letter. It seems very possible that I've been barking up the wrong tree (Christianity) all these years.

It has occurred to me that the New Testament is a well-designed fraud. Maybe God allowed it in order to test people, and maybe He made sure that there would be tell-tale flaws in it so that either by virtue of a reader's honesty and intellect, or spiritual perception, or by God's grace, the reader would notice something amiss and avoid being snared.

Just a quick summary/overview comment or two here...

'Conspiracy' theories about Jesus and the early church are much, much harder to prove than normal theories, because:

1. you have to give evidence that the conspirators KNEW better (where would you get data like this about Jesus and the apostles and the others?!)

2. you have to give evidence that they had motives for this, as well as continuing motives for spending something like 70 years working on this (in spite of NO ostensible "gains" other than persecution, deaths as criminals, fleeing from the authorities, lions, virtually penniless existence and poverty-level lifestyles, etc...)

3. you have to give evidence that they were fraud-level 'bad characters' and successful fraud-level geniuses!

4. you have to explain how a conspiracy wide enough to cover all the books of the NT (multiple authors) and all the decades represented there could have been conceived, orchestrated, and controlled within first-century Jerusalem(!)--without even a formal church authority at the time

5. you have to explain how a 'new testament' that was only collected into a unity as such a century after the main apostles had died, COULD have somehow perpetuated this conspiracy;

6. you have to explain how--in a church where divergent voices were always heard (either in the church or around the 'edges' of the church)--NO ONE knew about this and NO ONE blew the whistle

In short, the data and evidence requirements for fraud-theories are typically so far beyond our ability to do even more than imagine some fuzzy scenario, that they are generally not worth the time nor considered by the scholars...[Not to mention that the skeptics and critics find the NT "teeming" with errors, and wouldn't come close to believing it was either 'well-designed' or successful as a fraud!]

Well, if the NT is a sham, I wish I could say that my honesty and intellect showed me, but I'd have to acknowledge God's grace. My entry into the realm of (quasi?)-Christian faith was through a portal of fear. Although I was conscious that the emotional pitch of the AoG minister after the scary movie was a manipulative situation, I was still afraid that the fear might be legitimate.

See, this is what makes me believe that faith might never had been a part of your experience at all, and that your awareness of the fear dominance is a clue that you need to write this prior experience off as useless (or at least 'educational')...

Maybe some of that fear, extended over the years to include fear of anything that would cause me to doubt that the NT is of God, has inhibited me from doing something final about this theology that hasn't delivered on its promises.

Again, this doesn't at all sound like faith...this doesn't sound like you had ANY confidence in the NT at all. This looks like you had no confidence and was afraid of getting anti-confidence as well.

I wonder if I'm like someone who bought a used car 24 years ago, still hasn't gotten the thing to start, but can't accept that it has been a waste of his time, money and effort. This has occurred to me, but I've neither accepted nor rejected the analogy.

Don't wait any longer--get rid of that car, man, and get the right one!!!! Someone scared you into buying a lemon--get rid of it. I admire your perseverance, but wish you had invested that in something with higher potential--like a REAL relationship with the Living and Loving Lord!

I'd like to have your thoughts on any of the above or below. If you just don't have the time or inclination to try to answer this, please let me know of a book, article, web site, or person who you think might be able to help me.

As I indicated above, it sounds like you started off in a pathological setting (btw, I experienced the same type of event when I was a college student, but I just kept arguing with them until they wrote me off as an unrepentant heathen. It left such a bad taste in my mouth. A couple of years later I trusted Christ and found a huge difference between what I experienced that earlier night, and what I have experienced for the last 25 years!). I can only encourage you to clear as much of that garbage out of your head and try to approach the issue a-fresh (as difficult as that will probably be).

Let's see if I can help give you some starter-answers or information for the below questions...


I've looked at some things Jesus did in light of the Old Testament and for a while now I've been stumped by a question arising out of the 2 considerations below. The question is , "Is it possible that Jesus is the type of prophet AGAINST whom God warns us?". Please address the question with respect to these considerations, but if you think there are problems with the individual considerations or the way I've presented them, please feel free to deal with them as you see fit.

1.) In the Old Testament God warns His people that He will test them with false prophets who may announce to them a miraculous sign or wonder. If that sign or wonder takes place, they must not listen to him when he tells them to follow other gods. (Deut.13:1-5). The relevant point is that even a false prophet can correctly announce signs and wonders. This warning is given again in the New Testament in Matt. 24:24, Mark 13:22, and in Rev. 13:13-14, where the false prophet actually performs the wonders himself.

When Jesus is accused of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub he reasons with the people, saying that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. The devil is not going to allow one of his servants to undo the work of his other servants. Therefore Jesus must be doing it by the power and authority of God. That sounds reasonable, but perhaps it's not that simple. In war, physical or spiritual, deceptive tactics are used. In the demonic realm, one tactic for spiritual attack could start with afflicting someone. If that wasn't enough to get the person to doubt, hate, or reject God, a healing or exorcism could be staged in a way which might lead the grateful victim to worship the apparent healer. If the apparent healer was not God, then the demons would have perhaps succeeded in snaring the victim's soul, which is more valuable to their kingdom than temporal misery. The people listening to Jesus' response probably weren't soldiers, much less officers, so they probably couldn't have seen the fallacy of his reasoning. Here's the point: Jesus appears to be using specious reasoning, and that is hard to reconcile with his claim to be "...the way, the TRUTH, and the life." (John 14:6)

My job title in the firm I work for is "Vice President, Strategy and Research". One of the maxims of market competitive "warfare" concerns a strategy you mention above. When a competitor tries a new product or service in what is called a 'test market', a firm tries to evaluate whether they can 'beat' the new product or not. If they CAN, they deliberately let the 'test market program' SUCCEED--exactly the strategy you describe above. If they CANNOT beat it, they try other tactics to cause the pilot program to fail. A typical way to make the test market product LOOK GOOD (by selling successfully) is to make the firm's competitive product LOOK WORSE. This is typically done by raising prices in that market, reducing advertising, slowing deliveries. In this way it LOOKS LIKE the new, test product is winning, and hopefully the competition will be 'deluded' into rolling the product out worldwide.

It is important to note that when the firm makes their own product LOOK BAD, they only do so IN THAT TEST MARKET. In other words, they do NOT raise prices worldwide to discourage sales(!!!), but only do so in that test market (hoping to sustain those losses with their other global market sales).

This is almost a standard marketing competitive tactic in the very large consumer goods market. And your comments note that this is a possible construal of Jesus' actions in the passage. The main problem with such an interpretation can be seen in the scope of the exorcism ministry of Jesus and His disciples. Jesus' exorcism ministry was extensive as opposed to a single event or two. This would be a clear indication of a direct assault on Satan's sphere of influence.

BBC (in. loc. Matt 12.25-26) summarize it thus:

"But a demon's retreat that meanwhile drew attention to another of Satan's servants would only be a strategic retreat; such possible activity of magical exorcists contrasts with the wholesale exorcizing of the masses that Jesus undertakes, which clearly signifies a defeat of Satan (12:29). This extensive scope of Jesus' anti-Satan campaign can be noted from the large number of exorcisms recorded about Jesus, and the wide geographical scope of those. There are eight individual demon-confrontations recorded (Mark 1.24; Luke 8.33; Matt 9.32; Matt 15.28; Matt 17.18; Matt 12.22; Luke 13.10; Luke 8.2). And there are several summary statements that would indicate very large scale activity, extending even outside of Judea: And Jesus was going about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. 24 And the news about Him went out into all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, taken with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. 25 And great multitudes followed Him from Galilee and Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.(Matt 4.23ff)

And when evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill (Matt 8.16)

And when evening had come, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. 33 And the whole city had gathered at the door. 34 And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.(Mark 1.32)

And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons.(Mar 1.39)

And while the sun was setting, all who had any sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on every one of them, He was healing them. 41 And demons also were coming out of many, crying out and saying, "You are the Son of God!" And rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Christ.(Lk 4.40ff)

This large-scale 'assault' extended to His disciples: These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying, "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 "And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' 8 "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give. (Matt 10.5ff)

And they went out and preached that men should repent. 13 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.(Mark 6.12)

Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them two and two ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come...And the seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." 18 And He said to them, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. 19 "Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you. 20 "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven."(Luke 10.1,17-20)

So, this large scope of Jesus' anti-Satan activity would be a strong indication that His attack was in earnest. He was overcoming demonic activity not just "in a test market", but "globally"!

Furthermore, it should be noted that Jesus would not let the demons do 'evangelism' for him. If His use of this 'strategic retreat' strategy had been as you conjectured, He would have had more to gain by letting the demons 'witness' for Him with high melodrama perhaps. But instead we note:

And when evening had come, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. 33 And the whole city had gathered at the door. 34 And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.(Mark 1.32)

And while the sun was setting, all who had any sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on every one of them, He was healing them. 41 And demons also were coming out of many, crying out and saying, "You are the Son of God!" And rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Christ.(Lk 4.40ff)

This is counter-productive, if He was 'staging' the whole thing; it makes so much more 'strategic retreat' sense to allow the demons to do a little more 'witnessing' that the meager amount recorded LATER in the gospel accounts.

These two considerations build quite a strong case that the (1) assault on Satan's kingdom was very, very real; and (2) that correspondingly, the argument of Jesus was entirely on track. [Actually, a similar type of argument shows up in the rabbinical literature: the minor/extracanonical tractate (of the Babylonian Talmud) Massekhet Derekh Erets Zutta 5: "A house in which there is disunity will assuredly be destroyed at the last."]

So, it would seem that this individual problem doesn't actually exist, when seen in the bigger picture. We simply have no reason to doubt Jesus' honesty, and indeed have reasons to trust it.

Let's now turn to the second issue....


What bothers me is that despite this pattern of behavior, when Yeshua is speaking to the high priest, he says in John 18:20: 20"I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret." (I looked at 6 versions of both passages, and for Mark 4:11, three used "secret" and three used "mystery". All 6 used "secret" in John) It just doesn't appear to be true that he said nothing in secret.

Obviously Jesus had some private conversations one-on-one with people, and no doubt had private 'teaching' type conversations with individuals with specific questions or individualized needs. But what is view in John 18 is the denial of some secret 'cult' that was different that the message He had proclaimed to the world.

If you look at Jesus' teaching practice, there was nothing that was any different from rabbinical models, with the exception of the nature of the authority (i.e., He did NOT trace his authority back through the lineage of sages back to Moses; rather HE was the authority behind His statements!--cf. "He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes" Matt 7.29):

1. He spoke in parables to the crowds (like a rabbi--we have 2,000 rabbinic parables on record!):

"Rabbis commonly taught in parables; although the subjects of many parables centered on royal courts, teachers explaining points to common folk probably often used more down-to-earth parables like the harvest stories Jesus uses here. (REF:BBC, in.loc. Mark 4.1-2) 2. He used graphic illustrations (like a rabbi): "Jesus is a master of the graphic illustrations in which Jewish teachers sought to excel:(REF:BBC, in.loc. Mark 4.21-23) 3. His teaching was totally public, but He did teaching 'advanced topics' to His disciples in private, but these did NOT contradict His public teachings (like a rabbi): "Although rabbis offered particular special teachings only to small groups of disciples (e.g., teachings on creation and on God's throne-chariot), they had a tradition that one must teach the law openly, in contrast to false prophets, who taught "in secret." (REF:BBC, in.loc. John 18.20)

 "Sometimes Jewish (and other ancient) teachers had some special esoteric teachings that they could confide only in their closest pupils, because they were not for public knowledge. (REF:BBC, in. loc. Mark 4.33)

"Jewish teachers often explained more mature subjects to their disciples in private. (REF:BBC, in.loc. Mark 9.28-30)

But even the nature of what little 'private' instruction Jesus gave indicates that it was simply further articulation and detail of already publicly-given teaching. So, even in the passage you bring to our attention in Mark 4, we can see this.

The summary verse in 33 points out that the 'private' instruction to the disciples were explanations of the public teaching in parables:

"And with many such parables He was speaking the word to them as they were able to hear it; 34 and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples. This group of 'disciples' was not narrowly defined by the Twelve. Thus vs. 11 (NIV): "When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. Wessel in EBC (in.loc.) notes the distinction between Jesus' teaching and that of secret cults: "Mention is made of 'others around him.' These are followers of Jesus whom Mark distinguishes from the Twelve. This indicates that Jesus' teaching is not narrowly limited to the Twelve. He is no gnostic revealer whose esoteric teaching is only for the fortunate few. He came to reveal the truth to all who were open to receive it. And the Bible Knowledge Commentary comments on the summary verse 33:
  "These verses summarize the purpose and approach of Jesus' parabolic teaching (cf. vv. 11-12). His practice was to speak the Word (cf. 1:15) to them, the crowds plus the disciples, through parables which He adapted to their levels of understanding. Because of misconceptions about God's kingdom, Jesus . . . did not teach about it without using a parable (in figurative speech). But to His own disciples privately (kat' idian; cf. 6:31-32; 7:33; 9:2, 28; 13:3) He explained (lit., "kept on explaining") everything about His mission as it related to God's kingdom. And even the 'hidden' aspects of the public parables were supposedly easy to understand, for those who approached them correctly. In fact the disciples and other followers received a "mild rebuke" from Jesus, when they had to ask Him to explain them(!). So, EBC (in.loc.Mark 4.13): "There is a slight rebuke in Jesus' statement. The implication is that the meaning of the parable of the sower was clear and understandable. If the disciples could not understand this clear parable, how would they understand more obscure ones? Cranfield comments, "The blindness of men is so universal that even the disciples are not exempt from it" (Gospel of Mark, p. 97). So far we have seen that (1) Jesus' teaching methods were the same as rabbinical methods, including 'advanced topics' for dedicated students; and (2) most, if not all, of His 'private' instruction was simply a 'repeat with more clarity' of His public teaching. So there would be nothing out of line about Jesus' statement at the Trial of "I taught nothing in secret".

Now, your letter refers to the 'secret' theme in 4.10-11, so let's look at that briefly:

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables The two most important things to note about this passage (for our purposes) are: (1) that the giving of the 'secret' to the disciples is NOT actually ascribed to Jesus; and

(2) the 'secret' is simply the understanding of the publicly-given parables, NOT some private esoteric teaching.

On the first point, we can note that other passages with a similar motif indicate that it is God the Father that does the 'revealing'. For example, "At that time Jesus answered and said, "I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes. 26 "Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight. (Matt 11.25ff)

"And Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. (Matt 16.17)

And on the second item, we can note that the 'secret' is also contained in the public parables. So Wessel (EBC, in.loc.): "These verses are among the most difficult in the entire Gospel. It is important to look carefully at the terminology. The word translated "secret" (v. 11) is mysterion. Although it occurs only here and in the parallels (Matt 13:11; Luke 8:10) in the Gospels, Paul uses it frequently in his epistles (twenty-one times); and it is found in the Book of Revelation four times (1:20; 10:7; 17:5, 7). In the NT it does not mean something only for the initiated few. The emphasis is on God's disclosure to man of what was previously unknown. It is proclaimed to all, but only those who have faith really understand. Here in Mark the mystery is the disclosure that the kingdom of God has drawn near in the person of Jesus Christ, or perhaps as G.E. Ladd suggests, the mystery "is that the Kingdom that is to come finally in apocalyptic power, as foreseen in Daniel, has in fact entered into the world in advance in a hidden form to work secretly within and among men" (A Theology of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974], p. 94)...The secret has been given to the disciples because they have responded in faith, but to "those on the outside" (i.e., men hardened by unbelief; cf. ch. 3), "all things," i.e., the entire significance of Jesus' person and mission, are "in parables." And the Knowledge Bible Commentary sets this in the wider context of the audiences in the gospel:
  "These verses must be viewed in the context of unbelief and hostility (cf. 3:6, 21-22, 30). To those who believed, to you (emphatic first position in Gr.), the disciples, God had given the secret of the kingdom of God (cf. 1:15). But to those on the outside (of the circle of disciples, the unbelieving crowd) everything, His whole message and mission, was stated in parables. The word 'parables' here has the special sense of 'enigmatic speech.' The crowd did not really understand Jesus.

"Both groups were confronted by Jesus and His message (cf. 1:14-15). God enabled the disciples to see in Him the 'secret" (mysterion) about the kingdom. This refers to the disclosure of God's present kingdom plan which is to be an Age of 'seed-sowing' (cf. 4:13-20; 13:10). It was previously hidden to the prophets, but now was revealed to people of His choice (cf. Rom. 16:25-26).

"The basic 'secret,' common to all the kingdom parables, is that in Jesus, God's rule (kingdom) has come into human experience in a new spiritual form. The disciples had believed in Jesus. God had already given (dedotai, perf. pass.) them this 'secret,' though so far they understood little of its full impact.

"On the other hand those blinded by unbelief saw in Jesus nothing but a threat to their existence. They rejected Him and did not come to know the 'secret' of God's kingdom. Jesus' parables served to conceal its truths from them.

"Jesus' audiences were not denied the opportunity to believe in Him. But after they persistently closed their minds to His message (cf. 1:15), they were excluded from further understanding of it by His use of parables. Yet even the parables, which veiled the truth, were meant to provoke thought, enlighten, and ultimately reveal it (cf. 12:12). They uniquely preserved people's freedom to believe, while demonstrating that such a decision is effected by God's enabling (cf. 4:11a).

So, on the basis of this closer look at the dynamics of Mark 4.11-12, we can see that what is in view is NOT 'teaching of secrets' which was only 'in secret'. The 'secret' message was present in the public and proclaimed word, yet appropriated in more detail and clarity only by those with open and interested hearts.

So, as in the first issue we looked at, there doesn't seem to be any reason to doubt Jesus' honesty at all.

Let's look at the third issue...


2.) In the OT God repeatedly forbids the eating of blood, and in Lev. 17:10-12 says that one who does so must be cut off from his people. Being cut off, whatever that means, is the same penalty as is required by Lev. 18:29 for the previously mentioned sins of incest, adultery ( a serious enough sin to be included in the Ten Commandments), homosexuality, and bestiality, in verses 6, 20, 22, & 23 respectively. It's also the penalty for a violation of the Sabbath, another of the Ten (Ex. 31:14).

At the last supper Jesus institutes a ritual that is symbolic of drinking blood. (Luke 22:19) Today this element of communion is so well established and accepted that perhaps we need to look at it from a fresh perspective in order to see an aspect of it that has been overlooked. Here's an imaginary (PG-17 rated) scenario for this purpose. Suppose you're a committed Christian and OT student familiar with Lev. 17-18, and you're visiting a new church. After a few hymns or songs the leader tells everyone to "stand up and (perhaps you're expecting him to say "greet your neighbor") while remaining in place, turn to anyone but your spouse and make a few pelvic thrusts in their direction." Would you think to yourself, "The motion is only symbolic, so there's no problem here."? Could such a spiritual leader be perfectly attuned to God's heart and word? If that leader had performed some signs and wonders, would you have been wise if you had trusted in him wholeheartedly?

At this point I have to confess that I am impressed with your apparent honesty to face these questions. Although these questions don't actually turn out to be real problems, the fact that (1) you can see them in the passages at all; and (2) that they seem to bother you, suggests an honest and truth-loving heart...and, it shows that you are thinking about what is going on in the text--the first real step to coming heart-to-heart with the radical message of Jesus Christ.

Now, about this question...

The short answer is: the event WAS symbolic, but not of drinking Christ's blood. It was symbolic (in the Jewish context of the 1st century) of sharing in His covenant-effecting sufferings.

Let's look at the background and detail of this event.

First, the relevant passages:

And while they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it; and gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is My body." 23 And when He had taken a cup, and given thanks, He gave it to them; and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 "Truly I say to you, I shall never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." (Mark 14.22-25)

And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29 "But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." (Matt 26.26ff)

And when the hour had come He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. 15 And He said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." 17 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, "Take this and share it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes." 19 And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. (Luke 22.14ff)

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 25 In the same way He took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. (1 Cor 11.23)

Second, let's make some observations from the text and from the historical context:
  Overall, this means that the disciples would NOT have associated sharing the cup with some blood-consumption at all (so efforts to portray violent nausea as their probable response, as Vermes, have missed the point), but rather with identification with the benefits of the kingdom, promised by Jesus, and achieved via His sacrificial, and violent, death as the Lamb of God.

Again, a closer, more detailed look at the historical context shows us that Jesus is still drawing upon identifiable Tanakh/OT images, motifs, and scriptural warrants as He accomplishes His work for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He again does not manifest anything that would even slightly qualify Him as a 'false' prophet.

[New material added here on March 24, 2000 and May 7th, 2000]------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There is another passage which has a similar set of images and issues, and one in which the issue SHOULD be even more pronounced--John 6. Let me cite a few verses from it (John 6.26-63). I will highlight the 'physical' images (metaphorical) in BOLD and the spiritual (literal) phrases in ITALIC:

"Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled. 27 “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal.” 28 They said therefore to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” 30 They said therefore to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus therefore said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 They said therefore to Him, “Lord, evermore give us this bread.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 “But I said to you, that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. 37 “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day. 41 The Jews therefore were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 And they were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46 “Not that any man has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 “I am the bread of life. 49 “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.” 52 The Jews therefore began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 Jesus therefore said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 “For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me. 58 “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate, and died, he who eats this bread shall live forever.” 59 These things He said in the synagogue, as He taught in Capernaum. 60 Many therefore of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 ”What then if you should behold the Son of Man ascending where He was before? 63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. "

Notice several things about this passage:

1. The images shift back and forth between "eating/drinking" and "accepting/believing".

2. The metaphor of flesh/blood are 'mixed', the standard tip-off to metaphor (e.g., "I am the living bread", "I am bread which descended from heaven", bread is actually 'flesh', eating/drinking somehow don't consume Jesus since that is the condition for 'abiding' in Him and since He would still be around at the 'last day').

3. The "participation" theme is quite explicit, especially since it is paralleled to Jesus' dependence on the Father (vs.57). The "as...so" parallel construction there highlights this point: Just as Christ draws His life from the Father through participation in His life, so too the follower of Christ is to draw life from Jesus. The first term of the comparison (i.e. Jesus drawing life from the Father) makes the second term (i.e. drawing life from Christ because of absorption of His life and death) obvious.

4. The objections of the grumblers in the passage have nothing to do with the offensiveness of cannibalism; they get lost in either the logistics (e.g., how can a living person share His flesh and still continue to live?) or in the demands for total dependence on Christ for eternal life ("you have no life, if you don't have me"). If they were understanding this rather completely literally (as opposed to some "moving metaphor complex" of "bread/flesh/life/object of trust") their objections and responses would have been markedly different. In fact, they were arguing among themselves about his meaning, indicating that it was certainly not an obvious reference to cannibalism. Carson has an interesting image of this (his comm. on John, Eerdmans):

"The Jews began to argue sharply among themselves. The very (emachonto) is very strong. Any dullard could see that Jesus was not speaking literally: no-one would suppose Jesus was seriously advocating cannibalism and offering himself as the first meal. But if his language was figurative, what did he mean? Perhaps one argued for this view, another for that, all of them repeating the same literal, unintelligent question to get at the point: How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

5. It is interesting to note that Jesus expands the metaphor of 'bread/flesh' to include the 'blood' (symbol of His violent and sacrificial death) in vs.53. This would highlight the necessity of participating in His death--not just in His victorious future life.

6. But there may be something stronger is this reference to "drinking of blood"--perhaps a reference to violence against Jesus.

If we look at references to "drinking of blood" (and eating of flesh) in the OT, a number of passages make reference to this (without, by the way, Cannibalistic or ritualistic overtones):

This might indicate further that Jesus is alluding to His coming rejection and death. [The passage in 1 Chr 11.19: "nevertheless David would not drink it, but poured it out to the Lord;  19 and he said, “Be it far from me before my God that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of these men who went at the risk of their lives? For at the risk of their lives they brought it.” Therefore he would not drink it. ", shows the link between accepting responsibility for someone's death (or risk of death) and "drinking blood"--it was a way of saying "I am responsible for this death", not "I am a cannibal"...]

Jesus' usage of this metaphor here is quite in keeping with Jewish and proto-rabbinic  usage of the day, and not at all sacrilegious:

1. Rabbinic literature would use the 'eating and drinking' metaphor for absorption in Torah and good works. The midrash on Ecc. 2:24 says specifically that "All references to eating and drinking in the book of Qohelet signify Torah and good works." Jesus' use of 'eating and drinking' herein would have been in good rabbinic style.

2. . Bread is also very frequently used metaphorically in the rabbinics for 'doctrine'. For example:

"It is written: For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah stay and staff every stay of bread, and every stay of water,’ the mighty man, and the man of war; the judge and the prophet, and the diviner, and the elder; the captain of fifty; and the man of rank, and the counsellor, and the wise charmer, and the skillful enchanter. And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. 27 ‘Stay’ — this means the masters of the Bible...Every stay of bread’ — this means the masters of Talmud, 31 for it is said: Come, eat of My bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled" (Chagigah 14a)
3. Even Josephus could refer metaphorically to 'drinking of blood' without it being a problem:
For hitherto they [warriors of the Jewish resistance before the fall of Jerusalem] had fed themselves out of the public miseries, and drank the blood of the city. [Wars of the Jews, 5:344]

4. And, to be even more clear, the rabbi's even spoke of 'eating the Messiah' when he appeared (and without any cannibalistic overtones or objections), and by that meant a sharing and enjoying of His benefits--exactly what Jesus is referring to here:

"R. Giddal said in Rab's name: The Jews are destined to eat [their fill] in the days of the Messiah.[ lit. "Israel shall eat the years of Messiah"]  R. Joseph demurred: is this not obvious; who else then should eat — Hilek and Bilek? — This was said in opposition to R. Hillel, who maintained that there will be no Messiah for Israel, since they have already enjoyed him [literally, "devoured him"] during the reign of Hezekiah. [Sanh. 98b, Hillel's words repeated in 99a]

Again, as we saw in the Last Supper, the idea is that of intimacy with the Messiah--the closest possible alignment and identification with His life and scandalous death. The images and metaphors used were part of the rabbinic 'stock' of ideas by which to express messianic and salvific hopes (although some of the way Jesus used them seemed to be aimed at 'shocking' them into listening to what he was saying--instead of operating on their own messianic models.). One main difference, however, is that the intimacy/participation is with His comprehensive mission (including His humiliation--cf. 'take up your cross and follow Me'), not just the politically 'victorious' one.

Let's look at the fourth/last issue now...


In case I haven't given you enough to read, here's another question: Is there anything in the OT or in Jesus' words to indicate that God would be inspiring another set of written scriptures?

The answer to your question is "Yes" and "Yes"--we have data to support both. Let me give a quick run-through of some of the main pieces of evidence. Since scripture was produced by prophets (mostly), all we have to do is show that future prophetic activity was expected by the OT and/or by Jesus.

[We must also keep in mind that the Tanaakh/OT itself was not 'indicated' beforehand by God. God did mention prophets in the giving the Law in Deuteronomy, and He commanded Moses to write the Law down, but the vast majority of the OT canon (major and minor prophets, and the writings) were not 'foretold' as a 'set of written scriptures'--it only occurred as the situation demanded God's in-breaking Word. So, we will look for a similar pattern: prediction of prophetic activity, without much precision of content or scope.]

1. Let's look at the Tanakh/OT expectations first; there was definitely an expectation of prophetic activity in the future.

First of all, the Tanakh/OT anticipates additional prophetic disclosures of a very large scale, as can be seen from the very late prophecy of Joel 2.28ff (quoted in Acts):
  "And it will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. 29 "And even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. This would indicate a wider practice of prophecy in the future, than even in the OT.

Secondly, we should note the promise of the 'prophet like unto Moses' (Deut 18) that was still considered unfulfilled by the Jews of Jesus' day.

Thirdly, to this we can add the obvious promise of the reappearance of the prophet Elijah in Malachi 4.5:

"Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. Fourth, we have the promise of the 'messenger' of the covenant in the same book (3.1f):
  "Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the Lord of hosts.
2. Next, let's consider what first-century Jews thought the Tanakh/OT taught about future prophecy: First, one of the raging rabbinical debates at the time of Jesus was whether or not prophecy had ceased. The slightly minority position among the rabbi's was that it was STILL active, and a 'lower level' of prophetic activity was assumed by many (including Josephus and Ben Sira). Some of the messianic figures of the period were called 'prophets'. This would indicate that at least some of the teaching leadership of the period understood the Tanakh/OT to teach this.

Secondly, some of the more popular understandings of Jesus at the time were of these same 'future' prophetic roles:

"Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples, saying, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." (Matt 16.13) Thirdly, John the Baptist was held to be a prophet by the people (Matt 21.26):
  "But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the multitude; for they all hold John to be a prophet."
3. And Jesus certainly sets the expectations of future prophetic revelation (and even of its being written down): First, Jesus certainly refers to future revelations to the Disciples:
  "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. (John 16.12) Secondly, He describes some of the future leaders as 'prophets' in His message on the future (Matt 23.33):
  "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell? 34 "Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, Thirdly, Jesus characterized their future ministry as 'scribes', implying a 'written' aspect of their teaching ministry:
  Have you understood all these things?" They *said to Him, "Yes." 52 And He said to them, "Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old." (Matt 13.51)
So, even this quick overview shows that a future prophetic burst of activity was expected during the Messianic age, and that this was also confirmed by Jesus.

So the answer to your question is "yes" and "yes"--both the Tanakh/OT and Jesus predicted future prophetic activity (i.e., future direct revelation from God).


Thank you for your time and effort in trying to help me deal with these questions.

You are certainly welcome, friend, although I don't have a good sense that what I have said will help much. If these last four questions had come alone, I would have assumed that your questions were purely 'intellectual'. But when coupled with the initial story of your lack of spiritual experience, it leads me to think that you need to re-think your starting point and method. To begin with a fear-induced view of the faith and a fear to question the New Testament, and then to end up thinking that God had graciously revealed to you--through the New Testament written in Jesus' honor--that Jesus was dishonest, fraudulent, and conspiratorial, seems bizarre in the extreme to me (and probably to you as well!). I cannot begin to speculate at what other factors might have gone into this process, based on the very little data in your letter.

I really think you should consider 'starting over', by abandoning the virtually indefensible 'hoax' theories, and then evaluating the New Testament and the person of Christ afresh. Harness your honesty and your apparent interest in knowing God--on His terms. I hope I have helped encourage you  (in these few questions) that there are probably reasonable and honest understandings of some of these kinds of issues, and that in following this process with me, that you might have developed some beginning confidence in the historical documents, and indeed, in the honesty and character of Yeshua. If I might be able to try to help again in the future, please let me know...I personally have experienced myself the kind of discomfort/agony you have felt in this torturous process...for I too have attempted, and do attempt, the road of honesty.

Glenn Miller, June 29/98

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