The Instigator
Pro (for)
15 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
2 Points

The New Testament is not a reliable historical document

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/7/2011 Category: Society
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,638 times Debate No: 19649
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (19)
Votes (5)




I. Introduction

I would like to thankmy friend for debating this topic with me. Given the last debate, I can tell this will be tough.

II. Thesis

In spite of the Christian argument that says the Bible does not contradict known history, the New Testament is an unreliable historical document. The New Testament contains some gross historical mistakes that shows the New Testament is mostly false.

III. Definitions

New Testament: The 27 books of the New Testament that tells the story of Yeshua and the "fulfillment" of the Tanach.

IV. Rules

A. Structure

Round 1: Acceptance
Round 2: Opening Arguments
Round 3: 1st Rebuttals
Round 4: 2nd Rebuttals.
Round 5: Closing statements.

B. Technical

A. Voting

Please read the entire debate before voting.

Conduct: A violation of any rule results in an automatic conduct loss of the conduct vote.

Spelling: I am not too picky about spelling; but please spell appropriately. Points may be awarded for superb spelling/grammar and/or structure.

Please post a detaied RFD. An RFD that may be deemed a "vote bomb" may be nullified.

B. Attacks

A display of any anti-sematic behaviour, or behaviour that constitutes ad hom. attacks will result in an automatic loss.

C. Sources

Please do not plagarise. Plagarism is an automatic loss.

D. Forfeiting.

If you desire to resign the debate, please do so honorably---do not troll or prolong the debate.

E. Structure

The arguments should be clear and easy to follow. Please tag the arguments (i.e,, contention 1; premise 1 etc.)

V. Acceptance

In round 1, please post that you have read and agree to abide by the rules to the debate. Moreover, you are more than welcome to post your thesis and/or any other definitions you see fit.

You may post a summary of your arguments.

If you troll this debate, you will be blocked and reported.

Only members rated as good or better than me may accept.

VI. Burden of Proof

The burden of proof is on me. I must prove the New Testament is historically unreliable.

Good luck!



It is an honor to debate Mr.Infidel once again, I look forward to an exciting disputation. The defense accepts the terms appointed by Pro and agrees to abide by said rules throughout the remainder of this debate. A couple of points to be addressed:

- Con will be defending the authenticity of the New Testament

- Other books banned from the Bible, such as the Apocrypha, will not be defended by Con

Let the debate commence; may we arrive at truth.
Debate Round No. 1


It is once again a real honor to debate with someone like you. You have always proved yourself to be a tough opponent and I thank you for that.

I. The Gospels

I. The Nativity

As Christmas draws nigh, I would like to expand on the nativity of Jesus Christ. It is very clear that the gospels cannot agree on almost anything concerning the nativity.

A. The Genealogies

The genealogies of Jesus that are presented in Matthew 1 and Luke 2-3 are hopelessly contradictory. Penina Taylor points out that there are indeed several kings that are missing and make several historical mistakes. Take a look at this chart that was made by Penina Taylor [1]:

Genealogy from David to Jeconiah according to Matthew (items in red are missing from this genealogy)

David — Solomon — Rehoboam — Abijah — Asa — Jehoshaphat — Jehoram — AhaziahJoashAmaziah — Azariah (also called Uzziah) — Jotham — Ahaz — Hezekiah — Manasseh — Amon — Josiah —Jehoahaz (annointed by the people) Jehoiakim (annointed by Pharaoh) — Jeconiah (also called Jehoiachin and Coniah) — AssirShealtiel Zerubbabel

Genealogy from David to Jeconiah according to Luke (items in red are missing from this genealogy)

David — Nathan — Matththah — Menan — Melea — Eliakim — Jonan — Joseph — Judah — Simeon — Levi — Matthat — Jorim — Eliezer — Jose — Er — Elmodam — Cosam — Addi — Melchi — Neri —Jeconiah (also called Jehoiachin and Coniah) Assir Shealtiel Zerubbabel

Genealogy from David to Jeconiah according to the Tenakh

David — Solomon — Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:21) — Abijam (1 Kings 14:31) — Asa (1 Kings 15:8) — Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:41) — Jehoram (2 Kings 8:16) — Ahaziah (2 Kings 8:25) — Joash (2 Kings 11:2) — Amaziah (2 Kings 14:1) — Azariah (also Uzziah) ( 2 Kings 15:1) — Jotham (2 Kings 15:32) — Ahaz (2 Kings 16:1) — Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:1) — Manasseh (2 Kings 20:21) — Amon (2 Kings 21:18) — Josiah (2 Kings 21:26) — Jehoahaz (annointed by the people)(2 Kings 23:30) — Jehoiakim (annointed by Pharaoh) (2 Kings 23:34) — Jeconiah (also called Jehoiachin and Coniah) (2 Kings 23:6) — Assir (1 Chronicles 3:17) Shealtiel Zerubbabel (Jeremiah 2:2)

It becomes quite clear when looking at the genealogies of Jesus parallel that there can be no possible way of reconciling their differences. Moreover, Matthew states that there are 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 generations from David to the Babylonian exile, and 14 generations from the Babylonian exile to the birth of Christ. [2] As we see from the names that are highlighted in red, this is impossible.

B. The date of Jesus' birth

According to Matthew and Luke, Jesus was born during the reign of king Herod the Great; however, there is the problem of the Census of Qurinius that is presented in Luke 2. The census is highly improbable for at least 3 reasons: firstly, it would require that millions of people embark on a chaotic pilgrimage to their anscestral home towns, including all the Jews of Hellenistic dispora; secondly, tehre is absolutely no evidence of such a pilgramege taking place; and third, a Jewish revolt occured from a similar census. [4] [5]

It indeed only takes one glimps of a map of Rome to see how improbable this event is:

Jews for Judaism notes: "It is unusal that an event of this magnitude should go unnoticed. Yet no contemporary writer mentions this disruptive census or the turmoil it would have engendered. Indeed, if this census took place in Judea it is strange that Josephus never mentioned it in any of his writings." [6]

Moreover, there is the simple problem that Herod and Qurinius never reigned simultaneously together. This fact alone creates a contradiction. [7]

C. The slaughter of the infants

Likewise in the book of Matthew, Matthew is the only person to record the event of Herod's slaughter of the inocent.

Matthew 2:16-18
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
"A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more."

Yet again, there is not a single shred of evidence to support this notion. [8] Moreover, the prophecy that Matthew quotes is entirely out of context. [9] Finally, the flight into Egypt is also out of context. Reading Hosea 11:1 IN CONTEXT, it is clear that G-d's "son" is ISRAEL, not Jesus.

II. New Testament Forgeries

It is quite clear from the New Testament that most of the books attributed to their original writer is a forgery. The famous book of Revelations is clearly an example of a forgery. 3rd century Christian scholar of Alexandria, Egypt, named Dionysius, argued that the book could not have been written by John, the son of Zebedee, because the writing stye is so different from teh Gospel of John that they could not have been written by the same person. Likewise, Dionysius argues that Revelation was written by the heritic named Cerinthus, who forged the account to show that there would be a litera future paradise of a thousand years here on earth. [10]

Let's recap

1. The nativity stories are hoplessly at odds with one another;
2. There exists forgeries within the New Testament.

Thank you!



[2] Matthew 1:27

[3] Matthew 2:1, Luke 1:5




[7];[point c]


[9] Jeremiah 31:15, the quoted proof text, is clearly not talking about an event like Matthew discribes.

[10] Ehrman, Bart. Forged: Writting in the Name of God. page 21



I apologize for my delayed response; my opponent has burdened me with strong arguments that have required a thorough investigation. Now, onto the debate.

I. The Gospels

1. The Nativity

A.) The Genealogies

My opponent introduces an interesting argument. As it would seem, both genealogies (Matthew & Luke) contradict each other. There is only one explanation for such a controversy; the genealogies in Matthew and Luke are two separate genealogies. Matthew is following the line of Joseph (Jesus’ legal father), through David’s son Solomon, while Luke is following the line of Mary (Jesus’ blood relative), though David’s son Nathan. There was no Greek word for “son-in-law,” and Joseph would have been considered a son of Heli through marrying Heli's daughter Mary. Through either line, Jesus is a descendant of David and therefore eligible to be the Messiah. [1]

B.) The Date of Jesus' birth

The issue regarding the Census Quirinius in Luke is quite a controversial topic in mainstream theology. Allow me too address this contention with some possible reasons. Firstly, as stated by historian A. N. Sherwin White, The censuses were taken in different provinces over a period of time. However, Caesar Augustus was the first one in history to order a census or tax assessment of the whole provincial empire. Luke uses the present tense to indicate that Augustus ordered censuses to be taken regularly throughout the empire rather than only one time.

Secondly, papyri collected in Egypt, have shown that the Romans undertook periodic censuses throughout their empire. In Roman Egypt, for example, from A.D. 33 until 257 A.D., 258 different censuses were taken at 14-year intervals. This evidence has been known for a number of years, and substantiates Luke’s reference to Augustus’ census, but it seems to work against the Lucan account in terms of the year when Jesus was born. Why? Because the 14-year intervals do not intersect with the year of Jesus’ birth in 4 B.C.

The mentioning of the census in Luke 2:1 is the only historical reference of this census from antiquity, yet it rests on a plausible reconstruction of events. Edwin Yamauchi comments, "…this is a case where we do have something recorded in the New Testament which is not directly correlated by extra-biblical evidence. This doesn’t mean that it did not happen, however, because there are many things that occur only in a given text without corroborative evidence of other texts or inscriptions." But what about Luke’s reference, "this was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria?" When Luke says this was the "first" census that took place under Quirinius, the Greek word prote, usually translated "first," according to some Greek scholars can also be translated "prior." If that is Luke’s meaning, then, he would be referring to a census taken prior to the one taken when Quirinius was governor in 6 A.D. Is it possible that a prior census was taken, or even taken by Quirinius himself?

Well, historians know that Quirinius had a government assignment in Syria between 12 B.C. to 2 B.C. He was responsible for reducing the number of rebellious mountaineers in the highlands of Pisidia. As such, he was a highly placed military figure in the Near East and highly trusted by Emperor Caesar Augustus. Augustus, knowing of the turmoil in Herod the Great’s territory, may well have put his trusted friend Quirinius in charge of a census enrollment in the region of Syria just before the end of Herod’s life. The time period from 7 to 6 B.C. also coincides with the transition period between the rule of the two legates of Syria: Saturninus from 9 to 6 B.C. and Varus from 7 to 4 B.C. The transition of power between these two men took place between 7 to 6 B.C., and Augustus again may have appointed his friend Quirinius to step in and conduct a census taxation when he could not trust anyone else. [2] [4]

C.) The Slaughter of Infants

Historian, Robert Eisenman argues that the story may have its origins in Herod's murder of his own sons, an act which made a deep impression at the time and was recorded by Josephus as well as in the 1st century Jewish apocryphal work, the Assumption of Moses, where it is cast as a prophecy: An insolent king will succeed [the Hasmonean priests]… he will slay all the young. [3][4] Other arguments against historicity include the silence of Josephus (who does record several other examples of Herod’s willingness to commit such acts to protect his power, noting that he "never stopped avenging and punishing every day those who had chosen to be of the party of his enemies") [5] and the views that the story is an apologetic device or a constructed fulfilment of prophesy.[6] [7]

"When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son." Hos. 11:1 (NIV)

My opponent's reference to this verse is irrelevant. Regardless of who God is referring to in this specific instance; Jesus descends from the line of David, then from the line of Abraham whom was father of the Israelites. [8]

II. New Testament Forgeries

Most, if not all attempts to denounce the New Testiment as forgery are usually based merely off of the differing styles of writing; as my opponent has done.

My opponent brings to rise Dr. Bart Ehrman, a leading controversial, liberalist thinker whom attacks the New Testiment by means of "exposing" lies within. Ehrman goes on to assert that many New Testament books that do claim authorship within the text, such as Ephesians, Colossians, and the letters of Peter and James, are not written by the claimed authors. It should be noted that this is not based on manuscript evidence. It’s based largely on the style of the text, and there are many conservative scholars who are not convinced by these arguments. Thus, Ehrman is stating liberal opinion as fact. [9]

Ehrman writes with little regards for a just and balanced examination of the apostolic writings. Instead, he degrades the writer of 1 Timothy and rephrases his words. Ehrman does not appear to care about the writer’s reasoning, but rather to slant the writer’s words about the birthright of men and rephrase them as being against the equal value of women. Ehrman libels using the stigma of degrading women saying, “Paul allegedly taught that women had to be silent, submissive and pregnant.” Yet, the writer of 1 Timothy instructs women to be modestly dressed as women of godliness and to be of good works being in peace (with all submission). The Greek word behind peace is often mistranslated “silence”. Yet, Paul used the same Greek word telling the men and all to “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Tim. 2:2). Was Paul telling everyone to shut up and not say a word for the rest of their lives? No, but Ehrman’s paraphrase implies such as he directs this toward with bias. Ehrman has a contradiction of interest with the virtue of submission being essential to primitive Christianity. The writer of 1 Timothy never says that women must be pregnant. Either Ehrman’s dishonesty or his prejudice is shown here. For the Apostle Paul wrote that Eve was saved by childbearing as the antecedent of “she” is Eve in 1 Timothy 2:15. [10]

Onto Pro.

[3] Assumption of Moses 6:2–6
[4] Robert Eisenman, James The Brother of Jesus, 1997, I.3 "Romans, Herodians and Jewish sects," p.49; see also E. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, 1993, p.87-88
[5] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XV
[6] Paul L. Maier, "Herod and the Infants of Bethlehem", in Chronos, Kairos, Christos II, Mercer University Press (1998), p.172-175
Debate Round No. 2


I. Introduction

I want to thank my partner for his replies. You are a most formidable partner in debates and would like to extend a thank you. I am arguing that the New Testament is an unreliable historical document; not that it is false. There is a world of difference.

II. Conceded arguments

My partner never attacked the fact that it is highly unlikely for a census of the magnitude that occurs in Luke 2 to have occured. Please extend.

III. The Gospels

A. The Nativity

i) Genealogies

My partner uses the argument that Matthew is using Joseph's genealogies whereas Luke is using Mary's. However, there are serious problems with this assertion.

Problem 1: Both gospels clearly state they are tracing Mary's genealogy from Joseph. [1]

Problem 2: This theory is improbable because, as D. A Carson points out, "The theory with least difficulties is that Matthew gives the descendants of David down the royal line (i.e. who was the heir to the throne at any given time), but Luke gives the particuar line to which Joseph belonged." [2]

Problem 3: The Messiah MUST come from David THROUGH Solomon. According to prophecy, the Messiah will be a descendant of David through Solomon [3]; hence, it makes no sense for Luke to bring Jesus through Nathan.

Problem 4: Agreed on people. Matthew and Luke have some interesting points of conversion. As noted in round 1, there are some points in which Matthew and Luke agree. Those particuar people are: David, Salathiel, Zorobabel, and Joseph.[4] Although both skip genealogies, both have those four people in common; which is quite interesting.

Problem 5: Jechoniah. Matthew specifically lists Jechoniah as part of David's anscestry [4] which is quite interesting considering that he was cursed. [5] Likewise, Luke lists two of Jechoniah's sons, although not directly mentioned to have come from Jechoniah. Either way, Jesus is cursed to have Jechoniah as his anscestor.

To resolve this issue, the Ryrie study Bible says: "A curse was pronounced on Coniah (the same as jechoniah), so that none of his descendants would prosper sitting on the throne of David. Had our Lord been the natural son of Joseph, He could not be successful on the throne of David because of this curse. But since he came through Mary's lineage, He was not affected by this curse." [7]

The only problem with this, is Mary (assuming Luke is her genealogy) comes from Nathan instead of Solomon. Moreover, only the father can bring forth a legal lineage.

ii) The date of Jesus' birth.

Remember, we are debating the historical reliability of the New Testament, not if the census really happened. Your argument from Edwin Yamauchi means nothing in this debate. Likewise, my partner concedes that there is no extra-biblical evidence for this event. I have shown how highly unlikely this event was.

Moreover, we know for a fact that if Jesus was born during the reign of King Herod, it was before 6 BCE. However, if it was during the Roman census, it was 6 CE. [8] There is no way around it.

iii) Slaughter of the infants.

My argument has not been attacked at all. I have shown that the "prophecy" that was used to support the slaughter of the innocent is out of context; likewise, so is Hosea 11:1. We can easily prove Jesus CANNOT be the subject of Hosea 11 for two reasons: (1) It directly gives consensus that ISRAEL is the subject [9] and (2) It talks about the sins of Israel, [10] which contradict the doctrine of sinless Jesus.

To put it all together: When the New Testament quotes the Old Testament, be VERY skeptical!

IV. Forgeries

Nothing here to say. My partner makes the ad hominem fallacy on Bart Ehrman rather than attacking the argument itself.

V. Recap

1) The nativity scene is hopelessly contradictory.
2) The timeline of the events surrounding Matthew and Luke's nativity are impossible to reconcile.
3) The New Testament misuses the Old Testament
4) There are forgeries within the New Testament.

Thank you.


1.Matthew 1:16; Luke 3:23

2. Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Lk 3:23–38). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press. Quoted from;

3. 2 Samuel 7:12-16; see also 1 Chronicles 17:11-14, 2 Chronicles 7:17-18. For more, please see

4.;(page 6)

5. Matthew 1:11-12

6. See Jeremiah 22:2 where Jechoniah was cursed so that none of his descendants would prosper on the throne.

7. Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update. Chicago: Moody, 1995. Page 1339-340. Print.


9. Hosea 11:1

10. Hosea 11:2-3


At this point in time, there is nothing I can really address. All of my opponent's arguments hold water; I currently cannot find adequate evidence to refute his contentions. I hope that my opponent will forgive me for my withdrawal, as I feel ashamed that I cannot defend my position with absolute certainty. Running out of time, I refuse an attempt to respond with a lack of knowledge on the subject; this would be unfair to my opponent and to the voters.

I hereby surrender this debate to Mr.Infidel; maybe one day we can debate this resolution again. I thank Mr.Infidel for his time, and for any of his time that I have selfishly wasted. As of now, the resolution stands as is; so I would urge the voters to vote in my opponent's favor.

Vote Pro.
Debate Round No. 3


Thank you for an honorable forfeit.


Thank you for a scholarly debate. Extend Pro's arguments.
Debate Round No. 4


Vote pro!

Thanks for the scholarly debate.


Vote Pro.
Debate Round No. 5
19 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Buckethead31594 6 years ago
I didn't want to argue with possibilities, I wanted to argue with evidence; that of which I have not found yet.
Posted by Buckethead31594 6 years ago
Yes, indeed, this was a waste of Mr.Infidel's time...
Posted by bjrscj 6 years ago
I think there are a lot of legitimate questions out there in regard to this topic. However, I don't find most of yours that compelling, Mr. Infidel. I think out of all of them, the genealogy was the best. As for never hearing about all five babies Herod killed, why would we? Bethlehem is currently a relatively small place, and 2,000 years ago, it was anything but a bustling metropolis. Among all of Herod's other antics, why would the death of a few infants be noticed?

As far as your other arguments, there is a really interesting debate you can get on iTunes if you search for the unbelievable podcast, 10/15/11 (a great podcast where atheists and Christians debate). Just listen to the Christian's intro to get a sense of how reading into things with a Western mindset does the text a disservice. You have to remember that the author makes the meaning in the context of his/her day, in the genre they're using, for the purposes they're writing. Reading it like a modern, Western, democratic, capitalist causes us to impose a lot of expectations and apparent discrepancies where none may exist.

Anyway, I could go on with my semi-informed ideas, but this topic is being done by people who actually know what they're talking about. I highly recommend the unbelievable podcasts to hear some good rebuttals to your claims, as well as to bolster arguments for your side.
Posted by Mr.Infidel 6 years ago
Thank you, 16adams and buckethead
Posted by Buckethead31594 6 years ago
Indeed, they are impressive. I expected no less.
Posted by 16kadams 6 years ago
con was owned
Posted by Mr.Infidel 6 years ago
How are my arguments?
Posted by Mr.Infidel 6 years ago
Okay. Sounds good. Until then, I will be writing up my arguments.
Posted by ReformedArsenal 6 years ago

I can't take this until after finals, which is the week before Christmas. I think we should put this off until after New Years.
Posted by Mr.Infidel 6 years ago
ReformedArsenal, I have challenged you personally.

16adams, history in general.
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by InVinoVeritas 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: concession
Vote Placed by wiploc 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con conceded.
Vote Placed by innomen 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Obvious loss, but points to con for his concession.
Vote Placed by ReformedArsenal 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Although I don't think that MI's arguments hold as much water as Buckethead thinks, I'll award David conduct points because of the FF.
Vote Placed by thett3 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con told me to vote Pro