Islam’s holy book is called the Qur’an. This holy book is a record of the many messages that Mohammed received from Allah, the God of Islam. These messages were relayed to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel. They started to arrive in 609 AD, and they continued to arrive at random intervals until Muhammad’s death in 632 AD.
Christianity’s holy book is called the Bible, although technically, only the New Testament part is relevant to Christianity. This New Testament contains four Gospels, each of which records the life & teachings of a man called Jesus. Christians believe this Jesus was the son of their God. They believe he was first crucified in Jerusalem 2000 years ago, and then miraculously resurrected back to life shortly afterwards. Each of these four independently written Gospels maintains this Jerusalem resurrection was witnessed by many individuals.
Islam’s pedigree therefore seems to be based entirely on Mohammed’s unsubstantiated & unverifiable claims that he received messages from Allah via the angel Gabriel. Christianity’s pedigree on the other hand seems to be based on many witnesses to an alleged resurrection in Jerusalem. On the face of it, Christianity’s pedigree seems more robust than Islam’s pedigree. However, as I am now about to demonstrate, Christianity’s cornerstone, the alleged resurrection of Jesus in Jerusalem, may also be based entirely on one man’s unsubstantiated and unverifiable claims.
Most Christians will automatically disagree of course, but let’s take a closer look at the resurrection claims found in the four Christian Gospels and see what happens. This alleged resurrection was apparently witnessed by many worthy individuals, but unfortunately, the only supporting evidence, is the evidence found in the Gospels themselves. Obviously the original Gospel authors believed Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem, otherwise they wouldn’t have written their Gospels, but why did they believe this? The answer to this question varies, depending on who you ask.
Those wishing to maintain the existing status quo [Christian apologists, Christian theologians & some scholars of ancient history], claim the Gospel authors believed this because these authors actually witnessed the resurrection or were close associates of eye witnesses. Apologists therefore argue the Gospels are historically accurate eye witness accounts. They do this because it’s the only evidence they have and, therefore, it’s essential they establish the authenticity of this Gospel evidence. All very well, but establishing this authenticity comes with a price tag. The average life span back then was less than 60 years, and the alleged resurrection happened c 30 AD. Therefore, if you claim these Gospels are based on eye witness accounts, you must also claim these Gospels were written before c 70 AD , otherwise your reliable eye witnesses were just children at the time of the alleged resurrection.
However, many other scholars of ancient history claim the Gospels were probably written between 65 AD and 100 AD. If true, all eye witnesses of this alleged resurrection would have been long dead when these Gospels were written. This implies the resurrection accounts in the Gospels are based on second-hand hearsay evidence. This is not a problem because this second-hand evidence was provided by Peter & by Paul, both of whom Christians regard as impeccable sources. More knowledgeable Christians readily accept that Peter first told Paul about the Jerusalem resurrection when they first met. They also readily accept that Paul then relayed this information to his early Christian communities. Christian apologists even make a virtue out of the fact that Paul was actively preaching about the resurrection only a few decades after it allegedly happened.
Thus there are really two possible scenarios to be considered. For convenience I will label them the “Early Gospel Scenario” and the “Late Gospel Scenario”. The “Early Gospel Scenario” asserts the resurrection accounts are historically accurate eye-witness accounts, implying the Gospels were written before c 70 AD. The “Late Gospel Scenario” asserts the Gospels were written between 65 AD and 100 AD, implying the resurrection accounts are based on second-hand hearsay evidence provided by Peter originally and then later relayed by Paul.
In the “Early Gospel Scenario”, Peter’s original claims are automatically validated by the independent eye witness accounts, and it becomes all too obvious why Christian apologists continually strive to convince us their Gospels really are based on historically accurate eye witness evidence. However, in the “Late Gospel Scenario”, you cannot use the Gospels to validate the veracity of Peter’s original claims. The Gospels accounts are themselves based on Peter’s claims, and thus they cannot be used to validate these claims. Therefore, in the “Late Gospel Scenario” Peter’s claims have to be accepted at face value. Presumably, this is what the original Gospel authors did 2000 year ago. They just accepted Peter’s claims, as passed on by Paul, and then simply immortalised these claims in their ensuing Gospels. This “Late Gospel Scenario” therefore implies that Christianity is also based entirely on one man’s unsubstantiated & unverifiable claims, in this case, claims that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem. We should therefore think twice before claiming Christianity’s pedigree is more robust than Islam’s pedigree. As I’ve just demonstrated, it could be just wishful thinking.
My past experience with Christians leads me to conclude that most Christians will just rubbish these suggestions and continue to claim their Gospels are historically accurate eye witness accounts that can be trusted, but at least you now know why they do so. Christians, however, should note the implications of the “Late Gospel Scenario” and start acknowledging the tacit nature of their assumptions that Peter told Paul the truth about the Jerusalem resurrection. Until Christians can demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that their Gospels were written before c 70 AD, there will always be the possibility that Peter simply lied to Paul about this Jerusalem resurrection. If he did lie, we would never know, because Paul would simply relay Peter’s lies unknowingly, the Gospel authors would simply immortalise Peter’s lies unknowingly, and the world would end up with Gospels portraying a Jerusalem resurrection that never actually happened.
Christians will no doubt bulk at any suggestion that Peter lied about this Jerusalem resurrection, but I can think of several reasons why he may have done so. I’ve addressed this issue in The Christianity Myth, which you can now read free of charge. So there you have it. A distinct possibility that Islam is based entirely on the psychotic hallucinations of a chronic epileptic suffering from Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, and another distinct possibility that Christianity is based entirely on simple lies told by a simple peasant fisherman from Galilee. In my humble opinion, it’s about time we consigned both these ancient belief systems to the dustbin of history.
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