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Are the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke in harmony with each other?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/1/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,368 times Debate No: 41485
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (9)
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As we quickly approach Christmas, the debate concerning the positive claims of Christianity continues. I think one of those important claims is the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some, if not most Christians would argue that the most important aspect of their faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However in order to be sacrificed, he had to be born first, and that is the question at the heart of the debate. When was Jesus born?

The growth of nonbelievers in the US is increasing, while fundamentalist Christians believe that those nonbelievers are waging a war on Christmas. It is not my intention to wage a war on Christmas. I, like many other nonbelievers, view the holiday as an opportunity to be with friends and family and reflect upon the year as well as life in general. For me, it is a time of introspection. It is a time to examine my life, and look fondly, yet sadly, at holiday seasons that have long since passed.

However, the question remains, are the Gospel narratives of Jesus's birth reliable sources of information?

I will be arguing that the birth narratives of Jesus as read in Matthew and Luke do not agree with each other and cannot be trusted as an historic event, making the Bible at least partly false, and therefore casts doubt on the reliability on the Bible as a whole.

Round 1: Opening arguments
Round 2: Rebuttals
Round 3: Additional rebuttals/arguments
Round 4: Closing arguments


What you have said is pure conjecture what is your real argument?

For example I have found discrepancies in the bibliography of Elvis therefore Elvis doesn't exist.
Debate Round No. 1


My opponent states that my introduction is based on conjecture and that I have no real argument. On the contrary, I base my argument on the New Testament gospels of Matthew and Luke, not mere conjecture. I would like to begin to lay the groundwork for my primary argument.

Inconsistent Genealogies

The Gospel of Matthew opens up with the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Reading this particular genealogy of Jesus should instantly raise several red flags for biblical inconsistencies, contradictions, and at least one false prophecy. Going over each of them could be an entire debate by themselves and would be rather time consuming.

It is a good idea to compare Jesus' genealogies in Matthew and Luke. As we do, we realize that they are inconsistent and do not match. For instance, both Luke and Matthew state clearly that Jesus arrived through the lineage of Joseph. Matthew 1:16 [1] states that Joseph's father was Jacob. However, Luke states that Joseph's father was Heli [2]. These two are not one and the same. The comparison of both genealogies continue to unravel from there.

Herod and the Flight to Egypt

Both gospels of Matthew and Luke say that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But that is where the two narratives part ways with regard to Jesus' birth. I'd like to explain why, starting with the story of the Herod and the Magi.

When we first read of King Herod, he is visited by Magi who inform him that they followed Jesus' star to Bethlehem in order to worship the newly born Jesus, as he was to be born the King of the Jews, and inquired of the Jesus' whereabouts that they may go worship him. Herod became distraught by this knowledge, and secretly met with his astrologers and later the Magi in order to find out Jesus' location so that he may go "venerate" him, too.

Who were the Magi?

The Magi were priests that belonged to the Eastern religion of Zoroastrianism [3]. The Hebrew word for magi, was magos [4], which was used describe astrologers. It should be noted that the Magi appear only in Matthew, and not supported by any other canonical gospel.

Another interesting note is that the "star" in question is said to have stopped over where Jesus was born. Stars do not act in this manner. As such, this brief passage is an absurdity as it defies the laws of physics.

Matthew 2:12 informs us that after worshiping Jesus, they returned to their homeland after being warned in a dream not to return to Herod.

In verse 13, we learn that Joseph was also warned by an angel of the Lord in a dream to flee to Egypt, that King Herod had sought to destroy the infant. Furious that he was deceived by the Magi, he sought to kill every child under the age of two. This passage has become more popularly known as the Slaughter of the Innocents.

The 1st century Roman-Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus, more commonly referred to as Josephus, mentions the crimes of King Herod I (74-4 BCE) and had scathing words for him. The description of Herod slaughtering infants could certainly fit his villainous nature as portrayed in the Bible. However, for all the terrible history that Josephus recorded about Herod, he never mentions any decree by Herod in which children in Judah under the age of two were to be slaughtered.

There is no evidence that The Slaughter of the Innocents was a historical event, and has been acknowledged by many biblical scholars as never actually happening. Which begs the question, if this passage in the Bible isn't true, then what else isn't true?

Another key piece of information, or perhaps more like the lack thereof, about the birth of Jesus as recorded in Matthew is the time of his birth. I propose that there is a lack of information because there is only one piece of evidence that we can use to even come close to approximating Jesus' birth; the reign of King Herod.

Multiple sources confirm that King Herod most likely reigned from 37 BCE until his death in 4 BCE, at which point his son, Archelaus, assumed control over Judea. Other than this, the author of Matthew records no other event that we can use to more accurately guess the time of Jesus' supposed birth. According to Matthew's author, we are forced to conclude that Jesus was born somewhere during or before 4 BCE.

In my closing arguments against the Gospel According to Matthew, I contend that the author's use of prophecy (Matthew 1:23, 2:6, 2:15 and 2:18) is nothing more than poorly retrofitting known written records for what I perceive as some socio-religious purpose. I say this because if we read those passages, specifically Matthew 1:23, in their full, proper context, then we come to the realization that these are not truly prophecies at all.

Luke's Side of the Story

The Gospel According to Luke tells a rather different story of Jesus' birth than that of Matthew. These are the details of Jesus' birth as recorded in Luke.

In Luke 2:1, we read that Caesar Augustus decreed that a census should be taken of the entire Roman Empire. Abiding by this decree, all citizens that fell under Roman control returned to their hometown to be counted for the census. We futher learn that Publius Sulpicius Quirinius was the governor of Syria while the census took place, which was recorded by Josephus as occurring between 6 and 7CE [5].

This is in direct conflict with Matthew simply by virtue of the fact that Matthew records Jesus' birth at least eight years prior. Moreover, Luke's gospel mentions that Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem, and while they were there, she gave birth to Jesus. Luke's author never mentions a prophetic dream in which Joseph was told to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt."

No angels. No slaughtered infants. No holy stars. No Magi. No Herod the Great.

Vice versa, Matthew's narrative never mentions a census."No Herod Archelaus. No Quirinius.

In summary, the birth narratives of Jesus as read in Matthew and Luke are in direct conflict with each other. How do apologists get around this problem? By performing all sorts of apologetical feats of wonder, from saying that Quirius was the two time governor of Syria [6] to Josephus got his dates wrong [7]. They'd rather cut off their own legs with a butter knife than admit even the slightest possibility that they might be wrong. But what I personally find unbelievable is that the birth of supposedly the most powerful, bravest, holiest, man that ever lived was never recorded with absolute certainty.

[1] The Gospel According to Matthew, genealogy of Jesus Christ,"
[2] The Gospel of Luke, genealogy of Jesus Christ,"
[3] The Magi,"
[4] Definition of Magi,"
[5] Emil Sch"rer,"Fergus Millar"(editor),"Geza Vermes"(editor),The history of the Jewish people in the age of Jesus Christ Vol I, (Continuum, 1973), page 424: "It was started ... in the earliest in the summer of C.E. 6." and completed "at the latest in the autumn of C.E. 7"


I will respond to my opponents claims dealing with the book of Matthew first, and then I will spend a short time in the Book of Luke just like he did. On the onset of this I will state that after rereading the opponents argument many times I can still boil his argument down to pure conjecture due to him not actually using any specific quotes to support his brash claims. I am incuding this not to defame my opponent, but rather so that he will hopefully answer my questions faithfully with actual supportive evidence in his next reply.

(1)“ Matthew 1:1-16 gives the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph, who was himself a descendant of King David. As Joseph's adopted Son, Jesus became his legal heir, so far as his inheritance was concerned. Notice carefully the wording of v.16 “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (NASB). This stands in contrast to the format followed in the preceding verses of the succession of Joseph's ancestors: “Abraham begat [egennēsen] Issac, and Isaac begat Jacob, ect.” Joseph is not said to have begotten Jesus; rather he is referred to as “the husband of Mary, of whom [feminine genitive] Jesus was born.”

Luke 323-38, on the other hand, seems to record the genealogical line of Mary herself, carried all the way back beyond the time of Abraham to Adam and the commencement of the human race. This seems to be implied by the wording of v.23: “Jesus... being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph.” This “ as was supposed” indicates that Jesus was not really the biological son of Joseph, even though this was commonly assumed by the public. It further calls attention to the mother, Mary, who must of necessity have been the sole human parent through whom Jesus could have descended from a line of ancestors. Her genealogy is thereupon listed, starting with Heli, who was actually Joseph's father-in-law, in contradistinction to Joseph's own father, Jacob (Matt, 1:16). Mary's line of descent came through Nathan, a son of Bathsheba (or “Bathshua,” according to 1 Chron. 3:5), the wife of David. Therefore, Jesus was descended from David naturally through Nathan and legally through Solomon.”

This is the argument that I use. The particular wording in the two gospels indicates that the Matthew genealogy is of Joseph, and the wording is very clear to not call Jesus the actual son of Joseph, but rather the Legal son of Joseph. The gospel of Luke records the genealogical line of Mary instead of Joseph which would then make sense why the Genealogies are different.

My opponent simply asserts the fact that the Magi were astrologers without explaining how this at all detracts from the bible. (2)”...The star the Magi saw in the East constituted an announcement that the Christ Child had been born. We know this because of the scope of Herod's command to his corps of butchers sent to Bethlehem: “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned form the Magi” ( Matt 2:16, NIV). Therefore the star must have appeared when Jesus was born, and it must have required the Magi more than a year to get to Jerusalem and have their interview with Herod. The star was not a forewarning but the announcement of an already accomplished fact. … Second, no worship of false gods or of deterministic powers of fate was involved in this pilgrimage of the Magi.... One last word about the star of Bethlehem.... This was plainly a supernatural star sent by God for their special guidance.” God used the Magi who were astrologers to announce the movement of a supernatural star to Herod. The case is it makes a lot of sense that he would use people that knew the stars to announce that a star was acting odd or appearing how it shouldn't. Who else would my opponent suggest God use to tell us the movement of the stars? (3) "No physical principles need be violated if a new causal agent is introduced. Norman Geisler, a leading American Christian apologist, puts it this way: 'belief in miracles does not destroy the integrity of scientific methodology, only its sovereignty. It says in effect that science does not have sovereign claim to explain all events as natural, but only those that are regular, repeatable, and/or predictable' . There is an important analogy here with human behavior, since persons, even with their finite powers, by freely choosing to start or end various actions, regularly bring about new events which otherwise would not have occurred by natural forces alone. If persons can change the physical world, how much more ought God to be able to do so!" The star appearing supernaturally is not disobeying the laws of physics it is just something God does that a human can't reproduce. The historical account of this is very trustworthy. I will not go into here on the historical reliability of the bible, since we are dealing specifically with Matthew and Luke, however I will state that it is very reliable.

What biblical scholars is my opponent referring to as not acknowledging the historical account of Herod's mass murder? Where is the proof that the account we have in Matthew isn't trustworthy? When my opponent says that the quoting of the old testament prophecies “as some socio-religious purpose” What does he mean? How is The Matthew 1:23 , or the Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Passage not a prophecy? Is my opponent claiming that Isaiah wasn't a prophet of God? Where is his proof for this?

(4)” If Luke dates the census 8 or 7 B.C., and if Josephus dates it in A.D.6 or 7, there appears to be a discrepancy of about fourteen years. Also, since Saturninus( According to Tertullian in Contra Marcion 4.19) was legate of Syria from 9 B.C., to 6 B.C., and Quintilius Varus was legate from 7 B.C. To A.D. 4 (note the one-year overlap in these two terms!), there is doubt as to whether Quirinius was ever governor of Syria at all.

By way of solution let it be noted first of all that Luke Says this was a “first” enrollment that took place under Quirinius (hautē apographē pr!3;tē egeneto). A “first” surely implies a second one sometime later. Luke was therefore well aware of that second census, taken by Quirinius again in A.D. 7, which Josephus alludes to in the passage cited above. We know this because Luke (who lived much closer to the time than Josephus did) also quotes Gamaliel as alluding to the insurrection of Judas of Galilee “in the days of the census taking” (Acts 5:37). The Romans tend to conduct a census every fourteen years, and so this comes out right for a first census in 7 B.C. And a second in A.D. 7.

But was Quirinius (who was called Kyrēnius by the Greeks because of the absence of Q in the attic alphabet, or else because this proconsul was actually a successful governor of Crete and Cyrene in Egypt around 15 B.C.) actually governor of Syria? … He is not actually called legatus ( the offical Roman title for the governor of an entire region), but the participle hēgemoneuontos is used here, which would be appropriate to a hēgem!3;n like Pontius Pilate (who rated as a procurator but not as a legatus).

Too much should not be made of the precise official status.... ,it may well have been that Augustus put Quirinius in charge of the census-enrollment in the region of Syria just at the transition period between the close of Saturninus's administration and the beginning of Varus's term of service in 7 B.C. It was doubtless because of his competent handling of the 7 B.C. Census that Agustus later put him in charge of the A.D. 7 census.”

This argument stands on the fact that the two accounts are actually recording different events that were transpiring about the same time. My last questions for my opponent is this. Will he accept these arguments as good objective evidence that proves that the two Gospels do not contradict each other, but rather that they are in harmony with each other? Is he doubting the historical reliability of the Bible, because he trusts Josephus over people that lived much closer to the time that these events transpired?

(1)Archer, Gleason L. "Matthew." New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties: Based on the NIV and the NASB. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998. N. location 7904 of 11027. E-book.
(2)Archer, Gleason L. "Matthew." New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties: Based on the NIV and the NASB. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998. N. location 7939 of 11027. E-book.
(3)Blomberg, Craig. "Miracles." The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity, 1987. 75. Print.
(4)Archer, Gleason L. "Matthew." New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties: Based on the NIV and the NASB. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998. N. location 9248 of 11027. E-book.

Debate Round No. 2


My opponent believes that the claims that I use to support my argument are brash and are nothing more than pure conjecture. I am happy to field his responses to my claims, which are almost based exclusively on the Bible, and respond to any question that he may have.

When confronted with this obvious problem of the discrepancies of Jesus' birth narratives apologists immediately begin to infer that the lineage as read in Luke 3 *must* refer to Mary's lineage because it's so vastly different from the genealogy in Matthew 1. However, Luke 3:23 clearly illustrates that this lineage is Joseph's, not Mary's:

"Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of *Joseph*."

A genealogy begins immediately in the next verse that is almost entirely different from the one read in Matthew. It doesn't mention Mary or her ancestry; only Joseph's. I would like my opponent to show me in either Matthew or Luke a passage that states that Joseph adopts Jesus as his own son.

Moreover, Jewish law states that adoption does not confer inheritance. Jewish children inherit tribal lineage through direct descent by their father (1). And both gospels clearly illustrate that Joseph was not Jesus' father. Therefore, I reject the text that my opponent has posted as the basis for his response to my objection of the disparity in the lineage of Jesus as read in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.


I mentioned the Magi simply to illustrate that Matthew is the only gospel that mentions them, and that they are not mentioned in Luke. If both Matthew and Luke truly mesh, then it would stand to reason that both gospels would include them, not just Matthew.

My opponent says, "God used the Magi who were astrologers to announce the movement of a supernatural star to Herod. The case is it makes a lot of sense that he would use people that knew the stars to announce that a star was acting odd or appearing how it shouldn't. Who else would my opponent suggest God use to tell us the movement of the stars?"

Are we to assume that the God imbued his chosen people with so little knowledge of astronomy that they had to refer to foreign astrologers for reliable information about the stars? Moreover, the Bible clearly states in multiple verses that the use of astrology is strictly forbidden. I would ask my opponent, does this mean that God broke his own commandment in this passage, but that's okay because he's God (2)?

Moreover, my opponent asserts that the historical account of the star in the birth narrative of Jesus says that it is "very trustworthy". I would like to know how my opponent can come to this conclusion since the Gospel of Matthew is the only known recording of such an event and not corroborated by separate, disinterested sources.

My opponent goes on to say, "The star appearing supernaturally is not disobeying the laws of physics it is just something God does that a human can't reproduce." Anyone with any knowledge of physics will immediately realize that such a statement is demonstrably false. Physics is a natural science, which occurs in a natural universe, and is therefore bound to natural laws. A supernatural event is, by definition, beyond the realm of natural laws:

"The supernatural (Medieval Latin: supernāt$3;rālis: supra "above" + naturalis "nature", first used: 1520"30 AD)] is that which is not subject to the laws of physics, or more figuratively, that which is said to exist above and beyond nature." (3 )

Moreover, my opponent said that the historical account of the star in the birth narrative of Jesus is "very trustworthy". I would like to know how my opponent can come to this conclusion since the Gospel of Matthew is the only known recording of this supernatural event and is not corroborated by separate, disinterested sources.

Additionally, there are strong similarities between Jesus and other god figures throughout the ancient Near East and Mediterranean with regard to birth narratives and attempts to kill the newborn, i.e., Zeus, Romulus and Remus, and even Moses (4).


My opponent In Matthew 1:22-23 we read, "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us")." This verse is often cited by apologists as proof of biblical prophecy. But is this verse truly a prophecy of Jesus as opponent suggests? I think that the answer is an emphatic and resounding, no. I have debated numerous apologists regarding this verse, and every single time, they tap dance around it once it is put in proper context.

The prophet being eluded to in Matthew 1:22-23 is Isaiah, and the particular verse is Isaiah 7:14:

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."

At first glance, it certainly seems like this verse may very well be prophetically speaking of Jesus Christ. But too few Christians have read this passage fully in its proper context, something they consistently attack biblical skeptics and biblical critics of doing. So let's take a closer look at this passage in its proper context by reading from Isaiah 7:1 - 8:10.

The passage begins with view of King Ahaz, king of Judah, who is set to battle two kings; Rezin of Aram, and Pekah of Israel, who have allied themselves against Ahaz. In verse 9, God instructs Ahaz to have faith in this forthcoming confrontation, because if does not, he will not stand. In verse 10, God tells Ahaz that he may ask for a sign to be assured of victory over Rezin and Pekah, to which Ahaz responds that he will not test the Lord. After which, Ahaz is swiftly rebuked:

"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[e] will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste." Isaiah 7:13-16

Please take note that verses 15 and 16 say in no uncertain terms, before the boy [Immanuel] is old enough to know right from wrong, the two kings [Rezin and Pekah] would be laid to waste.

Continuing on in Isaiah from 8:5-10, we learn that Immanuel's name and Rezin and Pekah's demise are realized.

Apologists repeatedly attempt to draw a parallel between Matthew 1:18 and Isaiah 7:14, citing the word "virgin" and wrapping this passage in prophetic clothes. But I wonder how many of them have actually spent even one minute looking at the definition of "virgin" as read in Isaiah 7:14.

According to Strong's concordance online, the word for "virgin" used in this 7:14 is "almah", which means a young woman, or or marriagable age. To be fair, as the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament states, "There is no instance where it can be proved that 'alm" designates a young woman who is not a virgin. The fact of virginity is obvious in Gen 24:43 where 'alm" is used of one who was being sought as a bride for Isaac (5)."

But is there a Hebrew word for virgin in the strictest sense of the word? As it turns out, there is; bethulah (6). It should be noted that bethulah occurs four times in Isaiah, but the word almah occurs only once.


I stated in my previous post that there are biblical scholars who doubt the Massacre of the Innocents as a historic event, to which my opponent asked for examples of such scholars. Here are a few:
G.A. Wells (7), Robert M. Price (8), Geza Vermes (9), E.P. Sanders (10), Stephen Harris (11), and Raymond Brown (12).

It should be noted that Harris and Brown are deceased. I am interested to know Bart Ehrman's position on the topic.


When faced with the problem of Quirius' census in 6-7CE, apologists make any number of inferences. Usually, that Quirinius was appointed governor over Syria twice, and therefore oversaw two censuses. But realizing that this tactic doesn't hold water, they sometimes infer that he was never truly governor. As my opponent states, "there is doubt as to whether Quirinius was ever governor of Syria at all." He goes on to say, "But was Quirinius actually governor of Syria? " He is not actually called legatus...too much should not be made of the precise official status."

But try as apologists will, even if Quirinius wasn't legatus over Syria, it doesn't matter. Matthew states that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great, not Herod Archelaus.


On Jewish Laws:
(2) Use of astrology/astrologers, forbidden by God,

Definitions of "supernatural":

More on the Virgin Birth:

Debunking Isaiah 7:14

Scholars Who Doubt the Massacre of the Innocents:


My opponent doesn't address my arguments properly, and he is using conjecture again to attempt to refute my argument. Could he please actually give me some quotes to sink my teeth in to so that I can respond with the scholors that I have learned from instead of him just using conjecture on the topic? What credentials does my opponent have to argue from his own authority?

Since we are not actually using debate rules I will go off on a tangent.

To the choirmaster. Of David. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. (Psalm 14:1, ESV)


for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23, ESV)

Debate Round No. 3


I am sorry that my opponent still feels that I have not been able to provide him with cogent responses. Throughout our debate, I have tried to answer his questions. Yet, he seems to avoid the troubling aspects of the Jesus' birth as read in Matthew and Luke. Furthermore, he has yet to provide evidence that would convince me that I need to re-evaluate my position.

In my second post during our debate, I said that there are biblical scholars who doubt that the Slaughter of the Innocents was a historic event. My opponent, seemingly not believing this statement, asked me for examples of those scholars. In my very next post, I included several of those scholars as a response to his demand.

Understandably, my opponent then asked me to provide quotes from biblical scholars who doubt the historicity of the Slaughter of the Innocents. Although I did not give him an exhaustive list of quotations, I nevertheless provided him with some quotes from a few biblical scholars, a few of which I hadn't previously thought of. I even referred him to a book by one of those scholars so that he could read those doubts for himself at his leisure. When I finished posting those quotes, he insisted that I keep sharing quotes from those authorities, as if he were trying to extend me a rope so that he could hang me with it.

Now my opponent asks of me, "Could he please actually give me some quotes to sink my teeth in to so that I can respond with the scholors that I have learned from instead of him just using conjecture on the topic?"

For the record, I previously gave him at least nine scholars to read from and five quotes. With this in mind, I would like my opponent to tell me how providing him with the examples that he asked for is mere conjecture on my part.

At this point, I feel that I have given him a sufficient number scholars and their quotes that he has asked for. Instead of spoon feeding him quotes, I think that my opponent should begin researching their works. Below is a list of scholars for him to review at his leisure:

Robert M. Price, Bart Ehrman, Geza Vermes, George Albert Wells, Tom Harpur, Neil Godfrey, John Dominic Crossan, Richard Carrier, John W. Loftus, Elaine Pagels, Marvin Meyer, James A. Robinson, Burton Mack, Raymond Brown, and Stephen L. Harris. Also, even though he is not a trained biblical scholar, I also suggest David Fideler.

My opponent goes on to ask, "What credentials does my opponent have to argue from his own authority?"

I find this question to be inane, and I fail to see the relevance of this question. However, since he asked the question I will answer it.

I am not a trained biblical scholar. I am a former evangelical Southern Baptist, self-motivated by years of indoctrination to learn about Christianity's foundations, claims, and parallels to other ancient mystery religions and deities. I stopped believing in 2007 when I began to think critically about what I believe and why, and I never looked back.

I am an amateur astronomer. Since I am not a professional astronomer, I am forced to rely on the authority of others to provide me with information related to astrophysics, as well as one of my personal favorite hobbies, archaeoastronomy. The same logic applies to any interest I may have. Just because I am not an expert in something doesn't mean I am disqualified from discussing it.

So, if my opponent is expecting me to tell him that I have a Ph.D in New Testament studies or Near Eastern mythology, he's not going to get it. I'm just a guy that pursues something that I find important and wildly fascinating.


There is something that I'd like to go over that my opponent asked earlier. He asked of me, "Will he accept these arguments as good objective evidence that proves that the two Gospels do not contradict each other, but rather that they are in harmony with each other? Is he doubting the historical reliability of the Bible, because he trusts Josephus over people that lived much closer to the time that these events transpired?"

Bart Ehrman is a historian and biblical scholar that has discussed the historical reliability of the gospels in great detail. In multiple debates with the likes of William Lane Craig (1), Craig Evans (2), Mike Lacona (3), and Dinesh D'souza (4), he lays the groundwork very clearly for his reasons why the historicity of the gospels is suspect and not reliable. Ehrman illustrates in vivid detail that miraculous claims in the Bible are the most unreliable sources of historic information, and cannot be treated as such.

Ehrman's position is also mine; that miracles by definition are extremely unlikely and cannot be relied upon as historic events. So, when we look at the hovering star that lead the Magi to the place of Jesus' birth, something that is not supported by any other gospel, it should be a foregone conclusion that this event most likely never happened.

Also, as I previously mentioned, the inclusion of Jesus' birth star is most likely lifted from other miraculous birth narratives like that of Abraham. The Chronicle of Jerahmeel includes a star that announced Abraham's birth, and even mentions his proposed death in infancy (5). As I previously mentioned, this is an old motif that spans many cultures throughout the ancient Near East and Mediterranean (6).

As Ehrman also demonstrates, the gospels were written by Greek speaking scribes who wrote down oral traditions decades after they supposedly occurred. Most biblical scholars agree that the earliest gospel we have is Mark written around 70 CE (7), while they also agree that Matthew was most likely written around 80-90 CE (8).

Luke's gospel was written as late as the latter part of the 1st century (9), as was John's. In fact, some scholars claim that John's gospel was written as late as 96 CE (10). However, Josephus published Antiquities of the Jews between 93-94 CE (11).

My point in mentioning the dates of the gospels is that Josephus was at least as close in time to some of the gospels as the gospel authors themselves, if not closer. Yet, he never mentions any of the gospels. Nor a magical star, Jesus' healing miracles, him turning water into wine, raising the dead, nor as I previously mentioned, the Slaughter of the Innocents. And the scant mention of Jesus Christ by Josephus has been suspected to be a forgery for years (12). So, my opponent's point about me "trusting Josephus over people that lived much closer to the time that these events transpired" is moot.

If there is an extra-biblical Jewish, Greek, or Roman historian that was a contemporary of Jesus that can confirm his existence or any of the miraculous events regarding the birth of Jesus, then I would like my opponent to name them.


1. "Did Jesus Raise from the Dead?" A debate between Bart Ehrman and William Lane Craig,
2. "Does the New Testament Misquote Jesus?" A debate between Bart Ehrman and Craig Evans,
3. "Can Historians Prove Jesus Rose from the Dead?" A debate between Bart Ehrman and Mike Licona,
4. "Theodicy, God and Suffering." A debate between Bart Ehrman and Dinesh D'zousa,
(5) Eleazar ben Asher ha-Levi, JeraM17;meel ben Solomon, et. al., The Chronicles of Jerahmeel, or The Hebrew Bible Historiale, Royal Asiatic Press, 1899, XXXIV.1
(6) Heroic archetypes,
(7) Theissen, Gerd and Annette Merz, The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide. Fortress Press, 1998, translated from German (1996 edition). p. 24"27.
(8) Duling, Dennis C. (2010). "The Gospel of Matthew". In Aune, David E. The Blackwell Companion to the New Testament. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 296"318
(9) Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. "The Gospels" pp. 266"268
(10) Fonck, Leopold. "Gospel of St. John." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 7 Aug 2009.
(11) Freedman, David Noel, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, (New York: Doubleday, 1997, 1992)
(12) Carrier, Richard, "Origen, Eusebius, and the Accidental Interpolation in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200", Journal of Early Christian Studies R32; (vol. 20, no. 4, Winter 2012), R32;pp. 489-514.


Roasted_Marshmellow forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by Cygnus 2 years ago
I've posted enough for now. You're up.
Posted by Roasted_Marshmellow 2 years ago
I will give you 1 more day to post any more quotes to support your position. Also, I am allowing you to use the comments in the debate. If you would like to comment on the quotes that would be great.
Posted by Cygnus 2 years ago
Instead of posting a whole quote, I'll post one of G.A. Wells' books for you to read at your leisure:

"In light of Herod's reputation for savagery toward his family, including his children, the legend of the massacre of the innocents is provided with a plausible background. Already, the work knowna s the Assumption of Moses, which probably originated at the turn of the era, depicts Herod as the king who "shall slay the old and the young, and shall not spare...And he shall execute judgements on them as the Egyptians executed upon them" (Assumption of Moses 6).

Nevertheless, while the murder of the innocents is consonant with Herod's character and consequently could reflect history, there are strong reasons to suppose that Matthew's account primarily derives from a powerful theme emboded in the popular Jewish understanding of the Bible." -- Geza Vermes, The Nativity: History and Legend, page 110

And wouldn't you know it, I found another NT scholar who doubts the miracles of the Bible, John Dominic Crossan. I've heard of him, but never really read his work.

Shall I continue?
Posted by Cygnus 2 years ago
Two of the scholars I failed to mention is Canadian theologian, Tom Harpur and 19th Century scholar, TW Doane. You asked for it, here they are:

"As we have already seen, the stories of the angels and the shepherds, in Luke, and of the wise men, in Matthew, are rewrites of Egyptian mythical themes from at least two thousand years earlier. They are portrayed in the art at Luxor. There is no historical evidence of Herod"s "slaughter of the innocents" either." -- Tom Harper, The Pagan Christ, p. 126

"The flight of the virgin-mother with her babe . . . is simply the same old story, over and over again. Some one has predicted that a child born at a certain time shall be great, he is therefore a "dangerous child," and the reigning monarch, or some other interested party, attempts to have the child destroyed, but he invariably escapes and grows to manhood, and generally accomplishes the purpose for which he was intended. This almost universal mythos was added to the fictitious history of Jesus by its fictitious authors, who have made him escape in his infancy from the reigning tyrant with the usual good fortune...When a marvelous occurrence is said to have happened 'everywhere', we may feel sure that it never happened anywhere" -- T.W. Doane, Bible Myths And Their Paralles In Other Religions, p. 172

"In broad outline and in detail, the life of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels corresponds to the worldwide Mythic Hero Archetype in which a divine hero's birth is supernaturally predicted and conceived, the infant hero escapes attempts to kill him, demonstrates his precocious wisdom already as a child, receives a divine commission, defeats demons, wins acclaim, is hailed as king, then betrayed, losing popular favor, executed, often on a hilltop, and is vindicated and taken up to heaven." -- Robert M. Price, Christ is a Fiction, 1997

Let it be known that there were star/birth legends prior to the advent of Jesus, including Abraham himself.
Posted by Roasted_Marshmellow 2 years ago
I am giving my opponent in the comments section the ability to actually quote scholars to me that question the validity of Herods Massacare. If he chooses to he may.
Posted by Roasted_Marshmellow 2 years ago
I was saying that you are not actually using quotes to prove your points. I was attempting to help your argument if you can read in between the lines, because I seriously dislike debating people that rely on their own opinion when putting tier argument forward instead of putting forth actual quotes from other scholars.
Posted by Cygnus 2 years ago
The direct link still isn't working. Try linking through the Google search I posted.
Posted by Cygnus 2 years ago
Thank you for posting. The link worked when I posted. However, here is the correct link:

If that doesn't work, try this:
Posted by Roasted_Marshmellow 2 years ago
As I was reviewing your argument I noticed that this last link:
Dos not work. I am giving you the opportunity to fix this in the comments section if you want.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by BennyW 2 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: While I agree with pro's position I will have to give this to con, since pro had some weak arguments.