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flat earth

There is a widely known criticism that the Bible teaches a flat earth and that Christians in the past used to all believe in a flat earth, bullying any poor rebellious scientist or explorer the argued otherwise. It is a very prominent accusation leveled against Bible believing Christians with some very reputable figures behind it. Robert J. Schadewald, former president of the National Center for Science Education, claims that many of the early church fathers were flat-earthers.[1] Massimo Pigliucci, chair of the Department of Philosophy at CUNY-Lehman College, claims that for most of western history Christians believed in a flat-earth.[2]  Famous medical officer and historian Charles Singer writes, “The sphericity of the earth was, in fact, formally denied by the Church, and the mind of Western man, so far as it moved in this matter at all, moved back to the old confused notion of a modulated ‘flatland’, with the kingdoms of the world surrounding Jerusalem, the divinely chosen centre of the terrestrial disk.”[3]

I’m sure you are, like myself, reminded of the story of Columbus, in which our history textbooks taught us in elementary school and onward that Columbus was the one who discovered the earth was round and that he had to convince his superiors that he would not sail off the edge of the world in order to get funding for his expedition. But Columbus lived in the 15th century, so that must mean that prior to the 15th century everyone (including the authors of the Bible from the first century and earlier) thought the earth was flat too, right?

Naturally, pictures like this come to mind when thinking of Columbus and declaration that the earth was round.

Naturally, pictures like this come to mind when thinking of Columbus and his declaration that the earth was round.

So I began to research the issue myself and found that the vast majority of Christians maintained the same views, but a few were divided on the issue. There are Christians that do believe in a round earth and do not believe the Bible teaches a flat earth. But there are also Christians who maintain that, yes the earth is round, but agree that the Bible teaches the earth is flat.[4] Worse, there are Christians that do not believe in a round earth, but do believe the Bible teaches a flat earth. They are known as the Flat Earth Society, www.flatearthsociety.org. So to find clarity on the subject I researched the history of the flat earth myth as well as what the Bible actually says about the subject. Here are my findings:

Is the Earth Flat?

No, the earth is not flat, obviously. It is round and spherical, with a slight bulge at the equator due to the earth’s rapid rotation.[5] So then the question naturally follows; where and when did the flat earth myth originate?

History of the Flat Earth Myth:

When we look back at history it is easy to speculate that people thought the earth was flat, since it obviously appears to be flat and they did not have the ability to fly at high altitudes or travel into space to see earth’s curve. However, such speculation is shallow and inaccurate. Some ancient civilizations actually did understand the earth to be curved, especially those civilizations that were sea faring nations. After all, their boats and ships were traveling over the horizon and not falling off the edge of the earth. Additionally, the curve of the earth could be seen in that when ships appeared on the horizon, their mast would appear first, then the hull. Likewise, from the sailors perspectives, the tops of mountains would appear on the horizon before the shores did, evidence of the earth being curved.

Outside of how objects appeared on the horizon, there were other inclinations to the ancient Greeks that the earth was round. For example, during a lunar eclipse the earth casts a circular shadow on the moon as it slips into the shadow regardless of the earth’s orientation. This would only be possible if the earth was round.[6]

The first documented claim that the Earth was round came from Pythagoras in the sixth century BC.[7] Aristotle (384-322 BC) reasoned the earth was round.[8] As did Euclid, Aristarchs, Crates, Strabo, Ptolemy, and so on and so forth.[9]  Eratosthenes (276-196 BC), director of the great Library in Alexandria, Egypt, actually calculated the circumference of the earth! One day he read that in the Egyptian town of Syene the sun cast no shadows on vertical objects every year on June 21, meaning the sun was directly overhead. So naturally on June 21 Erathosthenes placed vertical sticks in the ground to see if the same results would happen in Alexandria. But in Alexandria, the sticks did cast a shadow. He figured the shadows must be due to the curve of the earth, so he measured the degree of divergence from the shadows on the ground to the sticks, which was about seven degrees. He then hired a man to pace out the distance from Syene to Alexandria, which came out to 800km. Since seven degrees is roughly 1/50 of the circumference of a circle, all one must do is multiply 50 x 800 and you get 40,000 km for the circumference of earth.[10] The current estimate of earth’s circumference is 40,075 km at its widest, and an average circumference of 40,041km.[11] It is remarkable how close Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the earth in the 3rd century BC with basic geometry.

According to physicist and cosmologist Dr. John Hartnett, “There is a common myth that ancient peoples thought the earth was flat. Some may have thought so, but most others certainly did not.”[12]

You may be thinking to yourself, well that is ancient Greece and Rome, but when Christianity came around in the first century everything changed, right? Wrong. When considering Christian early church fathers and theologians, only two within the entire history of early Christian theology can be accused of believing in a flat earth: Lactantius of the 4th century (200+ years after the origin of Christianity), and a 6th century Egyptian monk named Cosmas Indicopleustes (400+ years after the origin of Christianity).[13] Both men’s writings were almost completely ignored by the church, their writings having very little to no impact in medieval scholarship.[14] It should also be noted that Cosmas’ writings, being from Egypt, were not in Latin. His writings were not translated into Latin until 1706,[15] so no one in Europe would have been influenced by his writings until 1706.

In the 7th century lived Venerable Behe, an English monk known for his scholarly work in history, theology and science. More importantly, Behe considered the earth a spherical orb.[16] Saint Hildegard (1098-1179), Roger Bacon (1220-1292), Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), John Buriden (1301-1358) and Nicholas Oresme (1320- 1382) all maintained a round earth.[17] University of California Santa Barbara emeritus professor of history, Jeffrey Burton Russell, writes, “A few–at least two and at most five–early Christian fathers denied the sphericity of earth by mistakenly taking passages such as Ps. 104:2-3 as geographical rather than metaphorical statements. On the other side tens of thousands of Christian theologians, poets, artists, and scientists took the spherical view throughout the early, medieval, and modern church. The point is that no educated person believed otherwise.”[18]

This image comes from Saint Hildegard’s Liber Divinorum Operum from the 12th century, showing the four seasons on a curved earth.

This image comes from Saint Hildegard’s Liber Divinorum Operum from the 12th century, showing the four seasons on a curved earth.

13th century scholar and astronomer Johannes de Sacrobosco wrote, “If the earth were flat from east to west, the stars would rise as soon for Westerners as for Orientals, which is false.”[19] Clearly there was no widespread notion of a flat earth among scholars. As world renowned paleontologist and science historian Stephen Jay Gould writes, “There never was a period of ‘flat earth darkness’ among scholars (regardless of how many uneducated people may have conceptualized our planet both then and now). Greek knowledge of sphericity never faded, and all major medieval scholars accepted the earth’s roundness as an established fact of cosmology.”[20]

The following image appears comes from Johannes de Sacrobosco’s Tractatus de Sphaera (On the Sphere of the World) written in 1230 AD. It showcases the knowledge that the appearance of ships on the horizon testified to a curved earth.

The following image comes from Johannes de Sacrobosco’s Tractatus de Sphaera (On the Sphere of the World) written in 1230 AD. It showcases the knowledge that the appearance of ships on the horizon testified to a curved earth.

Furthermore, the claim that 15th century explorer Christopher Columbus was the first to discover that the world was round is, and by now you should agree, false. Also false, is the claim that Columbus’ expedition was opposed because the royal authorities thought he was going to sail off the edge of the planet. Columbus’ expedition was actually opposed because it was widely known that the earth was round, but more importantly it was known how large the earth was (remember the works of Eratosthenes). What wasn’t known was the existence of North and South America. So it was assumed that traveling west from Europe to India would mean traversing one large super ocean, and thus, be too far of a journey. In other words, Columbus’ voyage was opposed because no one thought he could logistically make it across such a vastly massive ocean. As Samuel Morrison, a renowned maritime historian, wrote on the subject, “The sphericity of the globe was not in question. The issue was the width of the ocean.”[21] Gould agrees, “As a major critique, they argued that Columbus could not reach the Indies in his own allotted time, because the earth’s circumference was too great.”[22]

Even NASA’s website, in explaining the curvature of earth’s surface, makes reference to the claim that Columbus’ expedition being opposed due to belief in the earth being flat is a false notion.[23]  Additionally, Columbus was a Bible believing man.[24] So surely there would be some conflict between his faith and his knowledge of the earth being round, if the Bible taught such. There, however, was no such conflict, because the Bible does not teach a flat earth. So where did this historically-incorrect myth come from? It can be sourced back to 19th century American writer Washington Irving, who concocted the flat earth claims in his 1828 biography about Columbus called,  History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus.[25] This biography has since, in more modern times, been highly criticized for its false claims.

 

Russell writes, “It was he [Irving] who invented the indelible picture of the young Columbus, a ‘simple mariner,’ appearing before a dark crowd of benighted inquisitors and hooded theologians at a council of Salamanca, all of whom believed, according to Irving, that the earth was flat like a plate. Well, yes, there was a meeting at Salamanca in 1491, but Irving’s version of it, to quote a distinguished modern historian of Columbus, was ‘pure moonshine. Washington Irving, scenting his opportunity for a picturesque and moving scene,’ created a fictitious account of this ‘nonexistent university council’ and ‘let his imagination go completely…the whole story is misleading and mischievous nonsense.’”[26]

This picture is taken from the 16th century astronomy textbook, On the Sphere of the World.

This picture is taken from the 16th century astronomy textbook, On the Sphere of the World.

So we’re up to the 15th century and still there is no case for Christianity propagating a flat-earth cosmology. There is hardly any mention of it anywhere in history at this time. Moving onto the 17th century, there is still no history of flat earth claims and Christianity. There is however historical record that Jesuit missionaries introduced the round earth cosmology to Ming China, which was still at that time under the impression earth was flat. That is, Christian missionaries introducing the round earth to other parts of the world, which doesn’t sound like the works of a religion that believes in a flat earth. Moving onto the 18th century, the age of Enlightenment, where there was popular skeptical inquiry of religion from all of academia. Yet no where during this time do we see Christianity criticized for flat-earth cosmology.[27] Not one word from Franklin, Condillac, Condorcet, Diberot, Gibbon, or Hume about a flat earth? It seems rather odd that these men would not have used such a fallacy as ammunition against Christianity. That is, unless, there was no grounds for making such a claim.

Russell writes, “In my research, I looked to see how old the idea was that medieval Christians believed the earth was flat. I obviously did not find it among medieval Christians. Nor among anti-Catholic Protestant reformers. Nor in Copernicus or Galileo or their followers, who had to demonstrate the superiority of a heliocentric system, but not of a spherical earth. I was sure I would find it among the eighteenth-century philosophes [sic], among all their vitriolic sneers at Christianity, but not a word. I am still amazed at where it first appears.”[28]

So where did it first appear? Claims that Christianity maintained a flat earth mentality did not appear until the 19th century, which alone should raise some scepticism being 1,800 years after the origin of the religion. Irwing’s Columbus biography, though the beginning of published flat-earth claims against Christianity, did not take hold until the time ofAntoine-Jean Letronne (1787-1848), who was an academic with anti-religious prejudices that were evident in his 1834 book On the Cosmographical Ideas of the Church Fathers.[29] This was subsequently followed by William Whewell’s 1837 book History of the Inductive Sciences, in which Whewell points out Lactantius and Cosmas to prove that the entire medieval period adopted a flat-earth cosmology, ignoring the overwhelming majority of other Christians that did not maintain a flat-earth cosmology.[30]

 

Also during the 19th century, Darwin’s Evolution theory began to take shape, which naturally met opposition from Christians. And so it was claimed that religion and science were at odds with one another. At least, that is what was declared by John Draper’s 1874 book The History of Conflict Between Religion and Science, and Andrew Dickson White’s 1896 book, A History of Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. In both books gross exaggerations are made of Christians, including the claim that Christianity is a flat earth believing religion. Unfortunately these claims have persisted today in academia, despite modern academia’s criticism of both books for their false dichotomization of western history as a war between science and religion.[31]

Russell writes,The reason for promoting both the specific lie about the sphericity of the earth and the general lie that religion and science are in natural and eternal conflict in Western society, is to defend Darwinism. The answer is really only slightly more complicated than that bald statement. The flat-earth lie was ammunition against the creationists. The argument was simple and powerful, if not elegant: ‘Look how stupid these Christians are. They are always getting in the way of science and progress. These people who deny evolution today are exactly the same sort of people as those idiots who for at least a thousand years denied that the earth was round. How stupid can you get?’ But that is not the truth.”[32]

Biologist, chemist, and geologist Dr. Jerry Bergman writes, “This history clearly supports, not a war of religion against science, but instead a war of evolutionary propagandists against religion.”[33] Gould writes, “I would not be agitated by these errors if they led only to an inadequate view of the past without practical consequences for our modern world. But the myth of a war between science and religion remains all too current, and continues to impede a proper bonding and conciliation between these two utterly different and powerfully important institutions to human life.”[34]

If one searches the history books for flat-earth believing Christians they might be put off at the miniscule amount that can be unearthed. If it is so transparent that the Bible taught a flat-earth, then why would the overwhelming majority of Christians in the entire history of Christianity NOT believe in a flat earth? The most reasonable and obvious answer is that the Bible does not teach that the earth is flat.

Oh, how I wish that was the end of the story for the flat earth. But it is not. In the late 19th century John Dowie began a campaign in the little town of Zion, Illinois to propagate the theology of a flat-earth. After he died in 1906, Wilbur Voliva took over as the organizations leader until he, himself, died in 1942. It is noteworthy that the movement was very unsuccessful in converting most of the Zion residents to their flat earth dogma, and after the death of Voliva, the movement died.[35]  They were, however, not the only flat earth organization.

Another flat earth organization is the one founded by Charles K. Johnson of LancasterCalifornia, who died in 2001. The organization is known as the Flat Earth Society of America. Again, like that of Zion’s small organization, they never had more than 100 members.[36] Johnson also went onto to claim that the sun was as far from earth as San Francisco is from Boston and that the sun and moon were both the same size, about 51 km in diameter.[37]

The Flat Earth Society today is led by Daniel Shelton, who oddly enough believes in evolution and global warming, but not in a round earth…[38] This is troubling for those who claim that creationists believe in a flat earth (aside from the fact that creationists don’t make this claim), since Shelton believes in evolution, something creationists do not adhere to. So out of the few remaining flat-earth believers, we see a belief in evolution. Both are theories that creationists do not adhere to. With all this considered, it can be concluded that claiming creationists preach a flat earth is incredibly false. However, as troubling as it might be to know that there are Christians that still maintain that the earth is flat, it is worth while to note that Shelton’s following is only in the hundreds, maybe a thousand.[39] While the rest of the Christian population in America totals 228 million as of 2008.[40] A thousand flat-earthers versus over two hundred million Christians that don’t believe in a flat earth (not counting the billion other Christians worldwide) should be enough to convince skeptics and critics, that a flat-earth cosmology is not a part of Christianity.

Lastly, before I end this segment on the sad history of the flat earth myth, I think it would be appropriate to share one humorous quote from Shelton: “I haven’t taken this position just to be difficult… To look around, the world does appear to be flat, so I think it is incumbent on others to prove decisively that it isn’t. And I don’t think that burden of proof has been met yet.”[41] That is, the work of countless astrophysicists, cosmologists, and other bright minds amidst rigorous scientific disciplines for the last 100 years in combination with the countless photos of earth from space, have yet to provide Shelton with sufficient proof. It is humorous to say the least. But it is even more laughable when people try to project this dogma onto Christianity as a whole.

What The Bible Doesn’t Say:

So we can agree that the flat earth myth isn’t rooted in Christianity. Yet, still, those that maintain a flat earth in modern times are almost solely Christian. Clearly there is a connection, and that has lead many to thumb through the Bible and point out the many verses that seem to suggest the earth is flat. After all, even if Christians have historically not believed in a flat earth, if the Bible teaches a flat earth and the Bible is supposed to be the inherent word of God, then we have a serious problem, don’t we? How can the Bible be the word of an all-knowing God if it describes the earth as flat?

Schadewald points out the versus he believes testifies to a flat earth, “Disregarding the dome, the essential flatness of the earth’s surface is required by verses like Daniel 4:10-11. In Daniel, the king ‘saw a tree of great height at the centre of the earth…reaching with its top to the sky and visible to the earth’s farthest bounds.’ If the earth were flat, a sufficiently tall tree would be visible to ‘the earth’s farthest bounds,” but this is impossible on a spherical earth. Likewise, in describing the temptation of Jesus by Satan, Matthew 4:8 says, ‘Once again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world [cosmos] in their glory.’ Obviously, this would be possible only if the earth were flat. The same is true of Revelation 1:7: ‘Behold, he is coming with the clouds! Every eye shall see him…’”[42]

The following verses (all NIV) are used to support the claim that the Bible teaches a flat earth:

 

Job 37:3- “He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth.”

Job 38:13- “…that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?”

Psalm 104:2-3- “He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.”

Daniel 4:11 – “The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth.”

Matthew 4:8 – “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.”

Revelation 1:7 – “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.”

Revelation 7:1 – “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.”

At first glance, yes, these verses seem to convey a flat four cornered earth. But as with all situations involving quoting the Bible one should always take into consideration context and use of language, and never isolate verses by themselves to pass judgment on them. Alone and out of context, a verse can mean whatever you want it to. So with that said, here is an explanation for these verses.

“He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth.” (Job 37:3): This verse, and others like it that refer to the “ends” or “edges” of earth, are commonly brought up as evidence of a flat earth since a round earth obviously does not have edges or ends. In the case of this verse, and others like it in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word used is “nk”[43] which is translated into, “ends” or “extremities” meaning lands far away. Which in proper context would denote a meaning of lighting striking all over earth, even in the remote far away regions. According to prominent apologist James Patrick Holding “… Job 37:3 hardly requires a flat-earth reading — it merely states that lightning occurs all over the earth. Even if it did teach a flat-earth reading, it would prove only that Elihu believed such a thing — not everything reported in the Bible is endorsed in the Bible.”[44] Holding makes a point to bring up that Elihu was speaking when this was said, and as is commonly pointed out, Job’s friends (one of which is Elihu) came to confide him with theology which proved to be inaccurate. So even if this verse is taken as the earth being flat (which it should not), it would then only be chalked up to the inaccurate theology of Elihu.

“…that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?” (Job 38:13): Theologian Paul H. Seely, who believes the Bible DOES teach a flat earth, argues, “In a clearly cosmological context, not just local, this verse speaks of dawn grasping the earth by its ‘extremity or hem’ …and shaking the wicked out of it. The verse is comparing the earth to a blanket or garment picked up at one end and shaken. A globe is not really comparable to a blanket or garment in this way. You cannot pick up a globe at one end. It does not even have an end.”[45]

However, Holding argues that the verse is being taken out of context, and when the previous verse (12) is taken into consideration the context can be clarified, “Are the wicked literally ‘shaken’ by the sunrise? Is the bringing of dawn accompanied by the sight of nighttime burglars rolling through the dusty streets of villages like tumbleweeds? Clearly this verse refers to no more than the visible horizon that the dawn ‘grasps’ as the sun rises. It is phenomenological and poetic in every sense of its expression.”[46] Holding’s argument is on point. If we are to take the description of the earth having edges literally, then one must also take the rest of the verse literal, which would necessitate wicked people being shaken from a flat earth after the sun somehow grabs a hold of its edges to shake it. Though no one would honestly believe the author meant this.

Methodist bible scholar and theologian Adam Clarke takes a different approach: “That the wicked might be shaken out of it? – The meaning appears to be this: as soon as the light begins to dawn upon the earth, thieves, assassins, murderers, and adulterers, who all hate and shun the light, fly like ferocious beasts to their several dens and hiding places; for such do not dare to come to the light, lest their works be manifest, which are not wrought in God.”[47] Thus again, we see a more proper use of this verse is that of a poetic and metaphorical nature, not literal.

 “He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.” (Psalm 104:2-3): Anyone who has read Psalms knows it is a book of symbolic poetry. Beams of chambers on waters, wind with wings, wrapped with light as a garment; all metaphors one would expect in poetic writings, not literal descriptions.

“The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth.” (Daniel 4:11): This verse provides probably the most imperative lesson on context. That is, if one were to actually read all of Daniel 4 they would see that this verse is describing a vision, a King’s dream. Do the fantastic details of YOUR dreams constitute literal reality? Of course not. So we should not therefore penalize the Bible for containing the description of a King’s fantastic dream. Furthermore, the King was not a Jew, but a pagan. According to Holding, “The Daniel passage is actually a statement by a pagan king, which doesn’t mean that the Bible endorses that view. And it is a vision, and is therefore not intended to be a picture of reality…”[48]

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.” (Matthew 4:8): How could Jesus see the all the Kingdoms of the world from a high mountain unless the world was flat? Theologian Albert Barnes explains, “It is not probable that anything more is intended here than the kingdoms of Palestine, or of the land of Canaan, and those in the immediate vicinity. Judea was divided into three parts, and those parts were called kingdoms; and the sons of Herod, who presided over them, were called kings. The term ‘world’ is often used in this limited sense to denote a part or a large part of the world, particularly the land of Canaan. See Romans 4:13, where it means the land of Judah; also Luke 2:1, and the note on the place.”[49]

Expositor John Gill takes another approach, pointing out the supernatural aspects of Satan’s visit to Jesus, “Now the view which Satan gave Christ of all this, was not by a representation of them in a picture, or in a map, or in any geographical tables, as some have thought; since to do this there was no need to take him up into a mountain, and that an exceeding high one; for this might have been done in a valley, as well as in a mountain: and yet it could not be a true and real sight of these things he gave him; for there is no mountain in the world, from whence can be beheld anyone kingdom, much less all the kingdoms of the world; and still less the riches, glory, pomp, and power of them: but this was a fictitious, delusive representation, which Satan was permitted to make; to cover which, and that it might be thought to be real, he took Christ into an high mountain; where he proposed an object externally to his sight, and internally to his imagination, which represented, in appearance, the whole world, and all its glory.”[50]

So we have two different possibilities, one in which Jesus is literally taken to a mountain top to see the regions of Canaan which was commonly referred to as the kingdoms of the “world.” The other possibility being a supernatural apparition from Satan which corresponds to their instantaneous arrival to a mountain top, which is only possible via the supernatural. Besides, even if the earth was flat, you still couldn’t see all the kingdoms of the world on the simple premise of atmospheric haze preventing visibility to far off lands. Something any ancient man standing on a hill or mountain top would be aware of. That is, visibility is not infinite and cannot go as far as one may physically travel.

“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.” (Revelation 1:7): Here is another verse being taken far from context. The book of Revelation is a book of prophecy for the end times and the second return of Christ. Thus there are a few ways that this verse can be understood. The one popular explanation is that the return of Jesus will be widely publicized on television, internet, etc. It is today, in this modern time, very possible for “every eye” to see Jesus. The other, more agreed upon, explanation is related to the Day of Judgment in Revelation 20 when God judges the entire earth, and thus “every eye” would see Jesus sitting to the right of God’s throne, clothed in the clouds, a common symbol for majesty and glory. Obviously, Jesus’ second return will have supernatural implications, and thus it may be very possible for Jesus to appear to every individual at a supernatural level when He returns. Just as it is possible for God to be anywhere and everywhere at once since He is not bound by our natural dimensions, likewise Jesus would not be either, and it would therefore be possible for everyone to see Him at once.

One can go still further to say that even if the earth was flat, Jesus appearing in a cloud in the sky would still not make it possible for everyone to see him considering the horizontal distance of the known land. Even the ancients were well aware of the vast size of the earth regardless of whether the earth was flat or round. A vision in the skies in one area would hardly be visible at all a thousand miles away. It is therefore more appropriate to understand this verse in a supernatural sense.

“After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.” Revelation (7:1): This verse seems to suggest a flat rectangular earth with four corners. The four corners are not in relation to corners on a flat surface, but are in fact reference to the four points on a compass.[51] This is supported by Ezekiel’s similar reference to the four corners of Israel (Ezekiel 7:2). Gill agrees, “Four angels are mentioned, in allusion to the four spirits of the heavens, in Zec 6:5; and though the earth is not a plain square with angels, but round and globular, yet it is said to have four corners, with respect to the four points of the heavens; and though there is but one wind, which blows sometimes one way, and sometimes another, yet four are named with regard to the above points, east, west, north, and south, from whence it blows.”[52]

At that, it is clear to see that the charges of flat-earth cosmology leveled against the Bible can hardly stand in the face of critical analysis of the text. The Bible doesn’t speak of a flat earth. But then why do modern flat earthers tend to be Christians? A key consideration is that people who believe in a flat earth draw their conclusions from their own visual experience regardless of whether they’re Christian or not. Those who are Christian however, will come across particular verses, like those mentioned above, and fit them into their pre-conceived opinion of the earth being flat. Others are roped into it by the teachings of their pastors. Either way, they are, unfortunately, all the more brazen about it since they feel justified in their beliefs since (in their opinion) the word of God agrees with them, and are much less likely to change this opinion on the earth since such a change could be perceived as compromising on God’s word. This is the reason why the few remaining flat earthers tend to be Christian.

What the Bible Does Say:

So if the Bible doesn’t preach a flat earth, does it preach a round earth? Some would argue that it does:

Isaiah 40:22- “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.”

Now granted, in context, this language is metaphorical. So then what is meant by the “circle” of earth? It could be a genuine remark at the sphericity of earth, since the word used for circle; “chud,” refers to a circular, spherical or round object according to Barnes.[53] Gill writes, “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth,…. Or, ‘the globe’ of it; for the earth is spherical or globular: not a flat plain, but round, hung as a ball in the air; here Jehovah sits as the Lord and Sovereign; being the Maker of it, he is above it, orders and directs its motion, and governs all things in it.”[54]

Seely disagrees, arguing that if Isaiah wanted to describe the earth as a sphere he would have used the word “dur” which means “ball.”[55] The counter argument, however, is that dur can have multiple meanings as well. Case in point: Dur is used in Isaiah 29:3 to describe camping around a city to lay siege to it. In this context, dur must be used in accordance with encircling or rounding around the city, since one cannot obviously camp spherically over a city, at least not in ancient times. Therefore one cannot argue that Isaiah would have used “dur” if he wanted to convey a sphere, since it too has multiple meanings. So it remains possible that Isaiah was referring to earth as a spherical object.

The last reference I would like to make that the Bible supports a round earth is a deduction from the following verses:

Job 26:10- “He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness.”

Luke 17:31-34- “On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left.”

Matthew 24:47- “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”

After reading those verses we can establish from Job that as one side of the earth is in daylight, the other is in night, from Luke that when Jesus returns some will be in bed while others will be working out in the field, and from Matthew that Jesus’ return will be in an  instant, like a flash of lightening.  The implications are this; that the sudden instance Jesus returns there will be people in bed at night and others out in the field working during the day. This could only be possible if earth was spherical with people experiencing daylight while others experienced night.

Thus, between Isaiah 40:22 and a deduction from Matthew 24:47, Luke 17:31-34 and Job 26:10, one could assert that with some confidence that the Bible speaks of a round spherical earth.

Final Thoughts:

It is my hope that after reading this you can agree that Christianity has never been one that maintains a flat earth cosmology and that the Bible does not teach a flat earth. Unfortunately, this myth has spread like an infectious disease, being gladly accepted by those with a predetermined dislike for Christianity and religion in general. Dr. Danny Faulkner, Chair of the math and Science Dept and Professor of Astronomy and Physics at the University of South Carolina, declares, “Many critics of creationists attempt to malign by suggesting that what creationists teach is akin to belief in a flat Earth. This attack is easy to refute, because the Bible does not teach that the Earth is flat, and virtually no one in the history of the church taught this. In fact, the belief in a flat Earth is a 19th century myth that was concocted to discredit critics of Darwinism. The supposed lesson of this myth was that the Church got it wrong before, so the Church has a chance to redeem itself by getting it right on the issue of evolution. This false lesson has been indelibly impressed upon common perception.”[56]

Bergman writes, “The idea that Christians once commonly believed in a flat earth for theological reasons is a myth. The story was invented to promote the claim that Christians have widely resisted scientific advancement due to doctrinal constraints.”[57]

Unfortunately, historically and scripturally inaccurate portrayals of Christianity (or in this case Intelligent Design, which is not affiliated with any religion) remain today.

Unfortunately, historically and scripturally inaccurate portrayals of Christianity (or in this case Intelligent Design, which is not affiliated with any religion) remain today.

Russell writes, “Contortions that are common today, if not widely recognized, are produced by the incessant attacks on Christianity and religion in general by secular writers during the past century and a half, attacks that are largely responsible for the academic and journalistic sneers at Christianity today. A curious example of this mistreatment of the past for the purpose of slandering Christians is a widespread historical error, an error that the Historical Society of Britain some years back listed as number one in its short compendium of the ten most common historical illusions. It is the notion that people used to believe that the earth was flat–especially medieval Christians. It must first be reiterated that with extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat.”[58]

 flat earth t shirt

With that I’m left with the image of a thought provoking T-shirt from an anti-religious T-shirt brand. The T-shirt shows a flat earth and reads, “Teach the Controversy.” I completely agree! Even though the T-shirt is obviously under the influence of the false notion that Christianity teaches a flat earth. I say, let us indeed teach the controversy. The controversy that Christians never maintained a flat earth cosmology which was unfairly smeared on them by a handful of biased historians in an effort to propagate an unnecessary and unwarranted war between science and religion. Let us all become properly educated on the controversy and put an end to this ignorance of religion and history which blemishes our culture.


[1] Schadewald, R., (Winter 1981) “Scientific Creationism, egocentricity, and the flat earth,” Skeptical Inquirer, Pp. 44

[2] Pigliucci, M., (2002) Denying Evolution; Creationism, Scientism and the Nature of Science, (Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates) pp. 38.

[3] Singer, C., (1917) Studies in the History and Method of Science, (Oxford: Clarendon Press) pp. 352

[4] Seely, P.H. (1997) “The geographical meaning of ‘Earth’ and ‘Seas’ in Genesis 1:10,” Westminster Theological Journal 59(2): pp. 231-256.

[5] Cain, F., (September 2009) “Earth’s Circumference,” http://www.universetoday.com

[6] Williams, A. & Hartnett, J., (2005) Dismantling the Big Bang, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books) pp. 24.

[7] Russell, J.B. (August 4, 1997) “The Myth of the Flat Earth,” http://www.veritas-ucsb.org

[8] Williams, A. & Hartnett, J., (2005) Dismantling the Big Bang, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books) pp. 23-24.

[9] Russell, J.B. (August 4, 1997) “The Myth of the Flat Earth,” http://www.veritas-ucsb.org

[10] Sagan, C., (1980) Cosmos, (London:MacDonald & Co.) pp.14-15.

[11] Cain, F., (September 2009) “Earth’s Circumference,” http://www.universetoday.com

[12] Williams, A. & Hartnett, J., (2005) Dismantling the Big Bang, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books) pp. 23.

[13] Bergman, J., (August 2008) “The Flat-Earth Myth and Creationism,” Journal of Creation, 22(2) pp. 116.

[14] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 3, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[15] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 3, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[16] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 1, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[17] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 3, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[18] Russell, J.B. (August 4, 1997) “The Myth of the Flat Earth,” http://www.veritas-ucsb.org

[19] As quoted in Robert Kulwich’s “What Columbus Already Knew,” (Oct 2010) http://www.npr.org

[20] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 2, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[21] Morrison, S.E. (1942) Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus, (Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co.) pp. 89.

[22] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 2, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[23] www-spof.gsfc.nasa.gov/stargaze/Scolumb.htm

[24] Lang, J.S. (1999) 1,001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible but Never Thought to Ask, (New York, NY: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) pp. 19.

[25] Bergman, J., (August 2008) “The Flat-Earth Myth and Creationism,” Journal of Creation, 22(2) pp. 117.

[26] Russell, J.B. (August 4, 1997) “The Myth of the Flat Earth,” http://www.veritas-ucsb.org

[27] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 3, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[28] Russell, J.B. (August 4, 1997) “The Myth of the Flat Earth,” http://www.veritas-ucsb.org

[29] Russell, J.B. (August 4, 1997) “The Myth of the Flat Earth,” http://www.veritas-ucsb.org

[30] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 3, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[31] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 5, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[32] Russell, J.B. (August 4, 1997) “The Myth of the Flat Earth,” http://www.veritas-ucsb.org

[33] Bergman, J., (August 2008) “The Flat-Earth Myth and Creationism,” Journal of Creation, 22(2) pp. 120.

[34] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 5, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[35] Bergman, J., (August 2008) “The Flat-Earth Myth and Creationism,” Journal of Creation, 22(2) pp. 115.

[36] Bergman, J., (August 2008) “The Flat-Earth Myth and Creationism,” Journal of Creation, 22(2) pp. 116.

[37] Bergman, J., (August 2008) “The Flat-Earth Myth and Creationism,” Journal of Creation, 22(2) pp. 116.

[38] Wolchover, N., (June 2011) “Ingenious ‘Flat Earth’ Revealed in Old Map,” http://www.livescience.com

[39] Wolchover, N., (June 2011) “Ingenious ‘Flat Earth’ Revealed in Old Map,” http://www.livescience.com

[40] This is according to the 2012 Census, Table 75, which can be accessed here: http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0075.pdf

[41] Wolchover, N., (June 2011) “Ingenious ‘Flat Earth’ Revealed in Old Map,” http://www.livescience.com

[42] Schadewald, R.J. (1995) “The Flat-Earth Bible,” http://www.lhup.edu

[44] Holding, J.P. (December 2000) “Is the ‘Erets (Earth) Flat?” http://www.answersingenesis.org

[45] Seely, P.H. (1997) “The geographical meaning of ‘Earth’ and ‘Seas’ in Genesis 1:10,” Westminster Theological Journal 59(2): pp. 239.

[46] Holding, J.P. (December 2000) “Is the ‘Erets (Earth) Flat?” http://www.answersingenesis.org

[47] Clarke’s commentary can be accessed here: http://bible.cc/job/38-13.htm

[48] Holding, J.P. (December 2000) “Is the ‘Erets (Earth) Flat?” http://www.answersingenesis.org

[49] Barnes’ Notes can be accessed here: http://bible.cc/matthew/4-8.htm

[50] Gill’s Exposition can be accessed here: http://bible.cc/matthew/4-8.htm

[51] Hodge, B., (2006) “Don’t Creationists Believe in Some ‘Wacky’ Things?” as written in Ken Ham’s The New Answers Book 1, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books) pp. 199.

[52] Gill’s exposition can be accessed here: http://bible.cc/revelation/7-1.htm

[55] Seely, P.H. (1997) “The geographical meaning of ‘Earth’ and ‘Seas’ in Genesis 1:10,” Westminster Theological Journal 59(2): pp. 238.

[56] Faulkner, D., (August 2001) “Geocentrism and Creation,” http://www.answersingenesisi.org

[57] Bergman, J., (August 2008) “The Flat-Earth Myth and Creationism,” Journal of Creation, 22(2) pp. 114.

[58] Russell, J.B. (August 4, 1997) “The Myth of the Flat Earth,” http://www.veritas-ucsb.org

When skeptics think of the founders of a religion, they tend to think of corruption, lies, or simple-minded fairy tails. Considering Christianity, some skeptics tend to think of the first Christians as Romans trying to use this new religion as a means to gain control over theRoman Empire, and to keep the people subordinate. As if Roman authorities adopted Christianity only to maintain absolute power in the empire. But, if one would only study history, they would realize that this is nowhere near the case. The first 300 years after Christ’s death, was one of persecution, imprisonment, and execution for Christians all overRome.

 

First you need to know the Biblical back story as recorded in Acts. Before Christians were even inRome, they were in Judea, a Jewish territory on the outskirts of theRoman Empire. Here Christianity was seen as a blaspheming cult. One devout Jew, a man by the name of Saul was a persecutor himself, putting many Christians into prison. Though eventually, through a divine experience with Jesus and temporary blindness, Saul converted to Christianity and became known as Paul. With his conversion, Paul immediately began to travel throughout theRoman Empireon multiple journeys, spreading the good news. Since he inherited his father’s Roman citizenship, he was well suited to preach all overRometo the gentiles, not just the Jews as many of the first Christians did. Paul’s missionary journeys would land himself inRomemany times.

 

At the time of Paul’s conversion, there were already a few Christian communities in Syria, Phoenicia, and areas of Asia Minor, but by the end of Paul’s life these Christian communities were flourishing as well as new ones in Romeand Greece.[1] The spread of Christianity throughout the Mediterranean was aided by the relative peaceful time experienced throughout the empire as well as a strong period of commerce connecting many regions of the empire, like the 60,000 miles of Roman roads.[2] Not to mention, everyone was speaking the same language; Greek. Meanwhile, in Jerusalem where Christianity began, Jews were becoming more and more hostile towards Christians which lead to a migration of many Christians into regions of Syria and Asia Minor to escape the persecution. By the year AD 100 it is estimated there were 300,000 Christians within the Roman Empire.[3]

 

This rise in population was not an easy one however. Persecution all started with Emperor Nero in the summer AD 64. A very long and dry summer. Romecaught fire, and burned much of the central part of Rome. Nero seized this as an opportunity to begin to build a massive new palace for himself amidst the destruction. Rumors began to circulate that Nero purposely set fire to the city to clear the grounds for his new palace. At that time Christians in Romewere a small underground group amongst slaves and poor people, making them the perfect scapegoat. Nero blamed the fire on them, and ordered all Christians to be arrested. During this persecution Christians were thrown to wild beasts and eaten alive in arenas throughout the empire, others were crucified.[4] Those that were “thrown to the beasts” were tied securely to stakes or other solid objects when beasts like lions, tigers and leopards (usually starved and tortured themselves) were released to devour them. Lions, tigers and leopards were efficient killers though, killing victims in one bite or paw swipe bringing forth death quickly. To increase the duration of the execution, Romans began using bears, crocodiles and wolves to kill the victims… a very slow and painful death.[5] It is during Nero’s persecution that St. Peter St. Paul are traditionally believed to have been killed.[6] Though the exact number of those killed is unknown, Roman historian Tacitus wrote that is was a “large number” of Christians.[7] Ironically enough, Nero’s antics were notorious for being cruel and immoral, something that drove even more people to accept the high moral standards of Christianity.[8]

 

Historically Romans were very tolerant on other religions entering their empire. The problem with Christians is that they believed their God was the one and only God, with all others being false. Christians also refused to participate in Roman religious ceremonies. By Roman political standards, this made them traitors.[9] Emperor Domitian unleashed another government sponsored persecution of Christians in AD 95, though little is known of the size and severity of it.[10] It is believed by some scholars that Domitian’s anti-Christian campaign lead to killing of his own cousin Flavius Clemens, which testifies to Christianity entering the political realm as far as the royal family.[11]

 

During the beginning of the 2nd century one of the most famous Christian martyrs Ignatius of Antioch was thrown to the beasts in the Roman Coliseum in AD 107.[12] Yet Christianity kept growing. The Christian population was such a significant growth that governor of Bithynia, Pliny the Younger wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan in AD 112 regarding Christianity as being “contagious.”[13] Between AD 161 to 180 Emperor Marcus Aurelius intensified persecution on Christians in which arrest, torture, property confiscation and execution were commonplace.[14] Sometimes the Christian persecution wasn’t government sponsored but instead carried out by Roman citizens themselves in the form of angry mobs.[15] It was during this period of persecution that the brilliant Justin Martyr was executed, for which the term “martyr” is now used.[16] In Greek, it is from “martus” which means, “witness” or “one who testifies,” in this case, for Christ. But after Justin martyrs execution it over time became the meaning as one who dies for his faith.”[17]

 

In AD 177 there was a persecution of Christians when Easter fell on the same day as the festival of hilaria, the Goddess of Cybele. Both the Christians and Romans in the city of Lugdunumheld a public procession for their respective celebrations, which turned to conflict. The priests of Cybele declared all Christians traitors, arrested them, and forced them to perform the Roman rituals. When the Christians refused they were taken to the arenas to be killed by wild beasts. Records indicate that 48 Christian leaders were executed for this conflict.[18]

But Christian populations were not shrinking during these persecutions. They were in fact, still growing. By the end of the 2nd century, theologian Tertullian wrote, “We are but of yesterday, yet we overspread your empire; your cities, islands, forts, assemblies, camps, palace, senate, forum all swarm with Christians.”[19]Rome was emerging as the central church for Christianity, sinceRome itself was the heart of the empire in which Christianity was spreading. It was also visited frequently by Peter and Paul which further signified it’s prestige among other Christian centers. This is also a time when many Christian apologists began debating Roman intellectuals on the divinity of Jesus and the false Roman Gods.

 

By the 3rd century Rome was in decline. A decline many were attributing (falsely) to the now massive portion of the population that was Christian. Emperor Decius, bent on restoring Rome to its former glory, hosted a series of public rituals to rally the Roman citizens. Christians of course refused to participate which enraged Decius, who then launched a brutal assault on Christians in AD 249. This persecution was carried on by his successors Gallus and Valerian as well.[20]

 

Later, Emperor Diocletian unleashed a persecution in AD 297 so violent and long it was named the Great Persecution, lasting 5 years.[21] Ironically, Diocletian was originally tolerant of Christians to the point where it is believed his own wife and daughter were Christians.[22] But the power Christians began to seize in the government was seen as a threat to his seat as the emperor. In an effort to maintain his power and restore Rome to its former glory, Diocletian, like many emperors before him, began executing Christians. First he declared that all government officials that did not participate in rituals to the imperial Gods be removed from power. Next came the arrest and execution of Christian clergy in AD 303 and 304. All churches were to be destroyed. Romans were also confiscating the land of the arrested and executed Christians, seizing it for themselves.[23]

 

Not all Christians kept strong to their faith during these persecution periods though. To escape death or torture, some self-proclaimed Christians submitted to imperial edicts and turned over their copies of scripture to the Romans, which were sadly destroyed. Persecuted Christians began to refer to these other “Christians” as “traditors.” Later, some of these traditors tried to become pastors and were subsequently denied because those, “unwilling to suffer for their faith were not worthy to be ministers of the church.”[24] In the end, the Christian population was too large and proved too costly for Diocletian to continue persecuting.Rome itself became divided into a west and east empire as it continued to decline.

 

In AD 306, Constantinecame to power in the west, and in AD 312 right before battle, Constantinesaw a vision of a cross on fire in the sky, which he perceived to be an omen of victory. Sure enough, Constantinewon the battle, and eventually became a Christian. In AD 313, he and the eastern emperor declared freedom for all religions in Rome, officially ending all Christian persecution. In AD 324, Constantineseized the eastern empire, reuniting Romeas one again. A year later, Constantinebrought 300 bishops together to the city of Niceato debate and declare authority to the state of Christianity in Romeand for the world.[25] Now secured, Christianity effectively ended the gladiatorial games and inhumane executions.[26] And even after theRoman Empire collapsed, Christianity continued its spread into the rest of the world.

 

After reviewing the historical facts surrounding Christianity’s rise to power inRome, it is clear that its rise was forged from persecution. This is important to understand as the Christian scriptures were already circulating and the theology was established long before the persecution ended and authority inRomehad been established. This alone should squelch many untrue conspiracies of corruption and attempts to control people with religion, in which many claim is the only reason Christianity took power. To read more about this and similar debunked conspiracies, I encourage you to read my other articles in the conspiracies section.


[1] Gardner, J. L. (ed), (1981) Reader’s Digest; Atlas of the Bible. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY., pp. 204

[2] Gardner, J. L. (ed), (1981) Reader’s Digest; Atlas of the Bible. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY., pp. 205

[3] Gardner, J. L. (ed), (1981) Reader’s Digest; Atlas of the Bible. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY., pp. 205

[4] Matthews, R. (2005) The Age of the Gladiators: Savagery & Spectacle in Ancient Rome, Chartwell Books, Inc.,Edison,NJ,  pp. 95

[5] Matthews, R. (2005) The Age of the Gladiators: Savagery & Spectacle in Ancient Rome, Chartwell Books, Inc.,Edison,NJ,  pp. 94

[6] Lang, J. S., (1999) 1,001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible  But Never Thought to Ask, Thomas Nelson,  Inc., Nashville, TN, pp. 106

[7] Gardner, J. L. (ed), (1981) Reader’s Digest; Atlas of the Bible. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY., pp. 207

[8] Lang, J. S., (1999) 1,001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible  But Never Thought to Ask, Thomas Nelson,  Inc., Nashville, TN, pp. 106

[9] Matthews, R. (2005) The Age of the Gladiators: Savagery & Spectacle in Ancient Rome, Chartwell Books, Inc.,Edison,NJ,  pp. 95

[10] Gardner, J. L. (ed), (1981) Reader’s Digest; Atlas of the Bible. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY., pp. 206

[11] Gardner, J. L. (ed), (1981) Reader’s Digest; Atlas of the Bible. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY., pp. 206

[12] Gardner, J. L. (ed), (1981) Reader’s Digest; Atlas of the Bible. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY., pp. 207

[13] Gardner, J. L. (ed), (1981) Reader’s Digest; Atlas of the Bible. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY., pp. 205

[14] Gardner, J. L. (ed), (1981) Reader’s Digest; Atlas of the Bible. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY., pp. 206

[15] Gardner, J. L. (ed), (1981) Reader’s Digest; Atlas of the Bible. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY., pp. 207

[16] Gardner, J. L. (ed), (1981) Reader’s Digest; Atlas of the Bible. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY., pp. 207

[17] Lang, J. S., (1999) 1,001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible  But Never Thought to Ask, Thomas Nelson,  Inc., Nashville, TN, pp. 462

[18] Matthews, R. (2005) The Age of the Gladiators: Savagery & Spectacle in Ancient Rome, Chartwell Books, Inc.,Edison,NJ,  pp. 96

[19] Gardner, J. L. (ed), (1981) Reader’s Digest; Atlas of the Bible. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY., pp. 205

[20] Gardner, J. L. (ed), (1981) Reader’s Digest; Atlas of the Bible. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY., pp. 208

[21] Matthews, R. (2005) The Age of the Gladiators: Savagery & Spectacle in Ancient Rome, Chartwell Books, Inc.,Edison,NJ,  pp. 96

[22] Gardner, J. L. (ed), (1981) Reader’s Digest; Atlas of the Bible. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY., pp. 208

[23] Matthews, R. (2005) The Age of the Gladiators: Savagery & Spectacle in Ancient Rome, Chartwell Books, Inc.,Edison,NJ,  pp. 96

[24] Lang, J. S., (1999) 1,001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible  But Never Thought to Ask, Thomas Nelson,  Inc., Nashville, TN, pp. 268

[25] Gardner, J. L. (ed), (1981) Reader’s Digest; Atlas of the Bible. The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY., pp. 208

[26] Matthews, R. (2005) The Age of the Gladiators: Savagery & Spectacle in Ancient Rome, Chartwell Books, Inc.,Edison,NJ,  pp. 115

Ok, let’s face it, there are a lot of Christian denominations. We’re talking thousands! To be honest I’ve only known what a few of them actually believe of why they have the name they do, so I did a little research to find out what some of the most popular are all about.

 

Catholicism:

The one that started it all. Started inRomeoriginally to oversee all other Churches the Catholic Church became very modified over hundreds of years. In which they acquired many traditions and practices, many of which are not mentioned nor commanded anywhere in the Bible but were instead products of adopted traditions from other religions, political movements, and philosophical movements over the years. The Catholics believed that the Bible, along with the Church leaders and traditions, were the ultimate authority. One method by which the Catholics maintained a monopoly on Christianity was by only allowing Bibles to be produced in Latin, a language that was dying out and the majority of lay people did not understand.  Therefore, the only access the layperson had to the Bible was through the Church authority. These actions among other corrupt actions taken by Church leaders led to an eventual revolution.

-J.S. Lang (1999) “1001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible,”New York: Thomas Nelson Inc., pp. 283

The Protestant Reformation:

Launched by Martin Luther and others, the Reformation was a “back to the Bible” campaign. The key belief being that the Bible was alone the authority and guide to each man, not the doctrines and traditions of the church. This ran contrary to the Catholics way of doing things, which the reformers felt had become corrupt and ineffective (as indeed it had). One of the greatest outcomes of the Reformation was the Bible being translated into various languages for people to read themselves. Every denomination that came from this reformation is considered Protestant.

-J.S. Lang (1999) “1001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible,”New York: Thomas Nelson Inc., pp. 283

Lutherans:

With the Reformation came the Lutherans, followers of Martin Luther’s back to the Bible campaign.  Martin Luther one morning nailed a Ninety-five Thesis to a church door that addressed the corruption of the church. He was excommunicated and his life threatened but he continued forward writing many theological works. In many ways Lutherans practice or appear to carry out services like Catholics (hence their nickname of Catholic-lite) but maintained a priority of the Bible being the only authority.

-J.S. Lang (1999) “1001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible,”New York: Thomas Nelson Inc., pp. 284

Anglicans:

The Anglican Church started with King Henry VIII inEnglandwho wished to divorce his current wife, but his request was denied by Pope Clement VII of the Catholic Church. Protestant Thomas Cranmer saw this as an opportunity to override the Pope’s authority and convinced English clergy to separate from the Pope’s authority and make the King the true head of the Church of England. This of course made it possible for King Henry to divorce his wife, and thus the Anglican Church was born. The Anglican theology is overall a confusing mix of Catholic and Protestant beliefs.

-http://www.gotquestions.org/Anglicans.html

Anabaptists:

After the reformation came another split as some Christians felt that even the Protestants were not faithful enough to the New Testament. Their name came from their belief that only adults should be baptized, not infants (as many Catholics and protestants like Lutherans do). They were called “rebaptizers” which is where the name Anabaptist comes from. They asserted that infant baptism is NEVER mentioned in the New Testament, which is true.  The Anabaptists also followed a very high moral code as outlined by Jesus. These differences lead to harsh persecution from Catholics and Protestants. Mennonites and the Amish are a branch of the Anabaptists.

-J.S. Lang (1999) “1001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible,”New York: Thomas Nelson Inc., pp. 148-149

The Amish:

Stemming from the Mennonites and Anabaptists are the Amish. We all know about the Amish and their strict lifestyle. Why the simple life? Their belief is that Bible should be taken literally, with an emphasis on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount with its strong stance on non-violence. Compared to all other denominations they live most accordingly to the Bible’s command to avoid worldliness.

– J.S. Lang (1999) “1001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible,”New York: Thomas Nelson Inc., pp. 149

The Quakers:

Started by George Fox originally as the Society of Friends, taking their name from John15:15, “… but I have called you friends.” They believed that Christian worship was too ritualized and shallow. True Christian life was to live by the Bible and be guided by the Holy Spirit (or as they referred to it as the “Inner Light”). Like the Minnonites, they had a strong stance on non-violence. As they became larger they became named the Quakers and were harshly persecuted by other Christians.

-J.S. Lang (1999) “1001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible,”New York: Thomas Nelson Inc., pp.150

The Baptists:

Like the Anabaptists, the Baptists are named because of their belief in adult baptism or “believers baptism” which maintains that as long as you’re old enough to understand baptism and willingly want to be baptized, you may be baptized. This is can be done as young as 5-yrs old. Just like the Anabaptists, the Baptists point out that no infants were ever baptized in the Bible, but instead believers were.

-J.S. Lang (1999) “1001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible,”New York: Thomas Nelson Inc., pp.151

The Methodists:

Originally a university group called the Holy Club, they believed that the Church of England was a shallow Christian Church. They believed that the Christian lifestyle needed to be focused on prayer, fellowship, and Bible study. The name Methodist comes from their stance that “one who lives according to the method laid down in the Bible.” People inAmericaandEnglandwere desiring a much deeper Christian lifestyle and latched onto the Methodists launching a Methodist revival in the 1700’s.

– J.S. Lang (1999) “1001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible,”New York: Thomas Nelson Inc., pp.152

Episcopalians:

Episcopalians are actually an organization of the Anglican Church here in theUnited States. They get their name from the Greek word “Episcopal” which means Bishop. In 1789 they became independent but remain Anglican in that they’re a mix of catholic and protestant beliefs, but throughout its history it has adopted many liberal theologies and interpretations of the Bible which has strained relations with the Anglican Church.

-http://www.gotquestions.org/Episcopalians.html

The Mormons:

Also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, many Christians do not consider the Mormons a denomination of Christianity but instead a cult. This is because they do not maintain the Bible as the authoritative text on God, but instead believe that other books; the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, supersede the Bible’s authority. TheChurchofJCLDSwas founded by Joseph Smith, who claimed he was visited by an angel, which revealed to him Golden Tablets, which Smith then translated into the Book of Mormon. Oddly, the tablets have never been seen by anyone else, and the Book of Mormon contains many verses that are word for word identical to passages from the King James translation of the Bible, which leads to the fair assessment that he copied them out of the Bible. Because of this and many other facets of the Mormon teachings which contradict the teachings of the Bible, they have been labeled a cult, and though they claim to be Christian, almost all other denominations do not consider them to be.

-J.S. Lang (1999) “1001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible,”New York: Thomas Nelson Inc., pp.152

Seventh-Day Adventists

A pastor by the name of William Miller predicted that Christ would return and the world would end onOctober 22, 1844. His followers spent all that day waiting, but of course it never happened. That day is historically known as the Great Disappointment. Miller disconnected himself from the movement, but his followers remained. They are known as the Seventh-Day Adventists because they worship on the seventh day, Saturday. This was the original day of Sabbath, as still practiced by the Jewish. The Sabbath was moved to Sunday in Christianity because that was the day Jesus resurrected from the dead. An interesting side note is that many Seventh-Day Adventists are strict vegetarians, which the Bible does not command.

– J.S. Lang (1999) “1001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible,”New York: Thomas Nelson Inc., pp.152

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Originally called “Bible Students,” Jehovah’s Witnesses are named for their strong evangelical practices, as I am sure many of you have had them come to your door at one time or another. Started by Charles Taze Russell in the 1870’s, he started a publishing house, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, which publishes their own translation of the Bible called the New World Translation. Mind you, the NWT has serious alterations in many key areas of the Bible, most notably the divinity of Jesus which JW’s deny. Like the Mormons, the JW’s contradictory beliefs lead one to not consider them Christians though they are often associated with Christians.

– J.S. Lang (1999) “1001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible,”New York: Thomas Nelson Inc., pp.153

Pentecostals:

The term Pentecostal comes from Acts 2 with its description of baptism by the Holy Spirit, which happened to Jesus’ disciples during Pentecost. This baptism by the Holy Spirit is more important than baptism by water for the Pentecostals, which one could make an argument for based off Biblical accounts of people “saved” despite not being baptized in water, like the criminal crucified next to Jesus. Pentecostals are also strong believers in the spiritual gifts of Christians as mentioned in 1 Corinthians and Romans. This is why many Pentecostals use speaking in tongues and prophesying heavily.

-J.S. Lang (1999) “1001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible,”New York: Thomas Nelson Inc., pp.154

The Evangelicals:

Evangelical is often considered a denomination though it is more so a term for any Christian that evangelizes. Today it brings with it the connotation of a conservative Christian. Evangelicals believe the Bible to be accurate and true in all aspects.

-J.S. Lang (1999) “1001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible,”New York: Thomas Nelson Inc., pp.159

Unitarians:

Unitarians have the most liberal theology of all Christian denominations. They recognize all spiritual religions and faiths. They also don’t have a conversion process, one may self-identify themselves as a Unitarian and do not need to denounce their current faith. Though it should be pointed out that their beliefs contradict Biblical teaching that Jesus in the only route to heaven (John 14:6). http://www.uua.org/beliefs/index.shtml

 

These are the most popular ones I know of. In case you’re wondering which denomination I am… I am none of these. My faith is non-denominational. I conduct myself in accordance to the Bible and it’s teachings as the literal truth of God. If anything, I’m closest to an evangelical.

…first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a massive conspiracy to cover up the truth which has been kept suppressed for thousands of years. This is what many skeptics think at least. Popularized by Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and the pseudo-documentary Bloodline, these works were inspired by Laurence Gardner’s The Magdalene Legacy, Charles Pellegrino and Simcha Jacobovici’s The Jesus Family Tomb, and Margaret Starbird’s The Woman With the Alabaster Jar and Mary Magdalene, Bride in Exile. According to these sources there is plenty of historical evidence indicating that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, but early church leaders suppressed the truth about the marriage. So did Jesus marry Mary Magdalene?

First, it is important to know who Mary Magdalene is. We all know who Jesus is, but Mary Magdalene seems to be this woman of mystery that is only referenced a handful of times in the NT. Luke 8:2 speaks of Jesus casting seven demons out of her, followed by her witness to the crucifixion and empty tomb as recorded in Matthew 27:56 and Luke 24:10. Tradition holds that she was also the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11, but the Bible does identify this woman, so it would be an assumption to identify her as Mary Magdalene. This tradition of believing John 8 pertains to Mary Magdalene was popularized by Bishop Gregory of the Roman Church in the 6th century.

As you can see, the Bible talks very little about Mary Magdalene, so the skeptics believe there is a cover up of her true relationship with Christ. Even though there are dozens of other biblical characters that have small appearances in the NT as well, Mary Magdalene’s situation MUST be a cover up. Zacchaeus the tax collector has a small role in the NT, maybe there is a conspiracy to conceal his true relationship with Jesus as well [insert sarcasm font]. But let’s play devil’s advocate and say Jesus really did have a relationship with Mary Magdalene. Why would this be covered up? Well according to skeptics this would mean Mary would be next in line for leader of the church after Jesus died. So power hungry church leaders, denied her place in the story. They also feared that Jesus being married would make it difficult for them to teach that sex is a sin[1], and also prevent them from keeping women in their place as second class citizens. Quite the accusations! I wonder what evidence these skeptics are using to make such audacious claims?

Why, apparently the evidence has been right in front of your face the entire time!!! In the Bible that is… Where you ask? Let’s take a look see:

v     According to Laurence Gardner the wedding dinner mentioned in John 2 was actually Jesus and Mary’s wedding.[2] The scripture doesn’t say that…but… ya know, why would Jesus talk about a wedding unless it was his own? Riggggght.

v     Gardneralso points out that Magdalene comes from the word migdal which means “powerful tower” in Hebrew. Therefore, she must be from a royal family, and by marrying the messiah they would be creating a dynasty![3] That’s a stretch…

v     Another skeptic points out that Jewish tradition holds that all males must marry.[4] Jesus would have had to marry to fulfill His duties as a Jewish man. If Jesus remained unmarried, how come the Pharisees did not question His single status? How come the disciples did not question His single status? Obviously because He was married, duh!

v     Margaret Starbird also maintains that Jesus would have had to have married for the same reasons, but also would have had to have kids to maintain the Davidic lineage from which the Messiah was supposed to have come from.[5]

v     Dan Brown points out that the Gospel of Mary and the Gospel of Philip reveals their relationship. It is written in the Gospel of Mary that Jesus “loved [Mary] more than any other woman.”[6] The Gospel of Philip says, “There were three who had been walking with the Lord in every time: Mary his mother, his sister, and Magdalene- the one they call his companion… The Messiah loved [Mary Magdalene] more than all the disciples, and he was kissing her.”[7] Sounds convincing… if the Gospel of Mary and Philip were actually trustworthy texts. But more on that later.

v     Many medieval paintings and other artworks depict Jesus and Mary Magdalene in poses and situations that suggest they were in a relationship or possibly even marriage. How scandalous!

v     Skeptic Simcha Jacobovici even teamed up with James Cameron to reveal that a dig site nearJerusalemturned up the bones of Jesus Christ, Mary Magdalene and their child! So not only was Jesus a father, but he also didn’t resurrect from the dead. Uh-oh… thanks a lot James Cameron. I’ll never watch Titanic again!!!

What’s a Christian to think? Jesus married Mary Magdalene, had a child, and never resurrected from the dead! Has Christianity as we know it been turned upside down?

Do You Know Anyone Named Mary or Jesus?

 

Raise your hand if you have ever met someone named Jesus, or met someone named Mary. Ironically Jesus Christ wasn’t the only one named Jesus, and Mary Magdalene isn’t the only person named Mary in the history of mankind. More specifically, let’s look at popular names from the first century. Jesus was the 6th most popular name amongst Palestinian Jews, making up about 3.8% of the male Jewish population.[8] While Mary comes in first, being the most popular female name amongst Palestinian Jews, compromising a strong 21.3% of the female population.[9]

So when some construction workers discover a tomb near Jerusalemfull of ossuaries with the names Mariamme, Judas, Matthew, Joseh, Mary and Jesus, do you think WOW, THE TOMB OF JESUS CHRIST!!! Well if you know how popular the names Mary and Jesus were you wouldn’t get that excited at all. But when you’re a creative movie producer named James Cameron with no formal education on such things, or a secular scholar of Jewish decent named Simcha Jacobovici who is better versed in Marxism than rabbinics,[10] such things don’t cross your mind.

Even more interesting is that not too far from this tomb, another tomb was found by the name of Dominus Flevit. Inside this tomb ossuaries were found with the names Joseph, Judas, Mary, John, Lazarus, Martha, Matthew, Salome, Simon, and (drum roll please) JESUS![11] One can only imagine how many hundreds of undiscovered ossuaries and graves exist out aroundJerusalem bearing the names Jesus and Mary.

Where’s the proof of the marriage?

 

Even if Jesus wasn’t buried with Mary, they could have been married. According to Baigent, the banquet in John 2:2 is for Jesus’ wedding hence why he was being “called” and had responsibility over the wine.[12] However, the word used in the original Greek for “called” is the word kaleo which means to invite, bid, or call.[13] It’s also used in Matthew 22:2-3 when Jesus speaks of a king that arranges a wedding for his son, asking the servants to go and call the guests to the wedding. Same happens in Matthew 22:8-9, Luke 14:8, and Luke 14:12-24. It’s clear that it is not Jesus being called to the wedding as a groom, but instead the guests of the wedding are being called to show up.

What about the claim that first-century Jewish men had to be married and have children? This claim makes it sound like that was the only option for Jewish men. But it was also popular and admired for men to devote themselves to celibacy for the sake of a divine task or purpose. For example the Jewish sect known as the “Essenes” commonly remained unmarried their entire lives which was revered by kings and nobility.[14] So yes, most Jewish men married, but many did not for devotional purposes (Matthew 19:12).

Now onto the Gospel of Mary. Before you can take anything in the Gospel of Mary seriously you have to first recognize that the original account of Mary was written long after the original NT gospels were written. The Gospel of Mary also never specifically identifies the “Mary” it is referring to. Is it Jesus’ mother? Is it Mary Magdalene? Or is it one of the thousands of other Marys that lived in the first century? And even if it did claim to be authored by Mary Magdalene, since the original was written in the mid to late second century, Mary Magdalene would have already have been deceased and could not have possibly written it.[15] Lastly even if Jesus did love Mary more than the other disciples that doesn’t mean there was sexual activity involved. So the Gospel of Mary hardly qualifies as sufficient evidence.

Then there is the Gospel of Philip, which was written even later than the Gospel of Mary, the late-second century at the latest, but most likely the third century.[16] Sure, the Gospel of Philip says Jesus kissed Mary, but there is a hole in the text (one of many holes) right after this statement. In other words, we don’t know where Jesus kissed Mary. And considering that kissing was a very common form of greeting in first centuryJudea as it is in many parts of the world still today, it shouldn’t be a shocker that Jesus kissed Mary. Kissing as a form of greeting can also be read in Acts 20:37, Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26, 1 Peter 5:14. Let’s think about it, Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, does that mean Judas and Jesus were having a love affair? Hardly. Kissing was a common greeting among close friends, not certified evidence of a love affair.

The Gospel of Philip does refer to Mary as Jesus’ companion though, from the Coptic version of the Greek word koinonos, which skeptics claim translates to “consort” or “spouse.”[17] But this is an inaccurate translation of koinonos, which is accurately defined as “a fellow participant with a shared goal.”[18] The word appears 10 times in the New Testament and not once does it imply any sexual relationship. Read Luke 5:10, 2 Corinthians 1:7, 8:23, 1 Peter 5:1, Matthew 23:30, 1 Corinthians 10:18, Hebrews 10:33, or 2 Peter 1:4, and ask yourself if there is anything sexual in nature about those relationships. Even in the gospel of Philip the usage of koinonos doesn’t specify anything sexual.

Lastly, all the paintings and other artworks of Jesus in suggestive poses with Mary are not earth shattering. All the artworks were created over one-thousand years after the lifetime of Jesus. Historical paintings are not photographs of history. They’re imaginative reconstructions. Many artists painted Jesus in medieval clothing, not because Jesus wore medieval clothing during his ministry but simply because artists did not know how people dressed in the first century. In Reader’s Digest’s Atlas of the Bible, much of the artwork depicting the life of Jesus in the hundreds of years after his death were examined, to which it was concluded; “It was common for artists to incorporate various non-biblical details in their portrayals of the gospel stories.”[19] Personally myself, I’d take a collection of eyewitness accounts recorded less than 100 years after Jesus’ death over paintings and other artworks created over a thousand years after Jesus’ death.

Clearly, this conspiracy has no solid legs to stand on. When you already have a conclusion in your mind, you can find just about anything to serve as evidence when you spin it and misinterpret it. Which is exactly what is found in this conspiracy. As theologian Timothy Paul Jones states, “The marriage of Jesus didn’t become part of the church’s story of Jesus for a single reason: no reliable proof exists for such a marriage.”[20]

The Origin of the Mary Magdalene Conspiracy

 

So how did this conspiracy first come about in the first place? A Frenchman named Pierre Plantard aspired to be the King of France. To do so he tried to provide documentation linking a royal blood line between Jesus and Mary Magdalene to the Kings of France and then ultimately to himself. The documentation was based off nonsensical reinterpretation of a 19th century priest named Beranger Sauniere who lived in a tiny village in France called Rennes le Chateau. Sauniere supposedly used secret evidence of Jesus to blackmail the Roman Catholic Church. This is the foundation for the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Messianic Lineage. Problem was, Plantard’s evidence was forged. In 1993, Plantard admitted under oath that his claims were completely false.[21]

So, with the evidence not holding up, and the origin of the conspiracy itself based on fraud, I believe it is safe to say at this time that Jesus did not marry Mary Magdalene.


[1] The Bible does not say sex is a sin, but that sexual immorality is a sin.

[2] Laurence Gardner, The Magdalene Legacy, (Thorsons Element 2005) Pg 152.

[3] Laurence Gardner, The Magdalene Legacy, (New York, NY: Thorsons Element 2005) Pg 9-13.

[4] Michael Baiget, The Jesus Papers (New York,NY: Harper Collins 2006) Pg 107

[5] Margaret Starbird, Mary Magdalene, Bride in Exile (Rochester,VT: Bear 2005) Pg. 89

[6] Gospel of Mary 5:5

[7] Gospel of Philip 59:6-11

[8] Judas was also a popular comprising of 6.3% of the male population. Joseph 8.3%, Lazarus 6.3% and John 4.7%.

[9] T. Ilan, Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity, part 1 (Tubingen,Germany: Mohr, 2002).

[10] Pellegrino and Jacobovici, The Jesus Family Tomb, Pg 136

[11] Antonio Lombatti, “Inscriptions of the ossuaries of Dominus Flevit,” June 27, 2007. http://www.antoniolombatti.it

[12] Michael Baiget, The Jesus Papers (New York, NY: Harper Collins 2006) xiii

[13] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies of the Cross (Lake Mary,FL: Frontline 2008) Pg. 147.

[14] Philio of Alexandria, Hypothetica, vol IX, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1941) 8:11.

[15] J. Y. Leloup, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene (Rochester,VT: Inner Traditions, 2002) Pg. 5-6.

[16] “Gospel of Philip” in Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, ed.E. Ferguson (New York, NY: Garland, 1990)  Pg. 74

[17] Starbird, Mary Magdalene, Bride in Exile, Pg. 74. Gardner The Magdalene Legacy Pg. 129-130. Brown, The Da Vinci Code Pg. 246.

[18] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies of the Cross (Lake Mary,FL: Frontline 2008)  Pg. 148

[19] Reader’s Digest, Atlas of the Bible, An Illustrated Guide to the Holy Land (Pleasantville, NY: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1981)

[20] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies of the Cross (Lake Mary,FL: Frontline 2008)  Pg. 151

[21] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies of the Cross (Lake Mary,FL: Frontline 2008)  Pg 149

When you think about the Bible’s history as being passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years, it’s very reasonable to assume that there has been intentional alteration of the text over the years. That is, intentional alteration by kings or other authority figures, who wanted to use religion as their leverage over the people. This was a conspiracy theory I personally believed in the past, and books like Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, Richard Dawkin’s God Delusion and Elaine Pagels’ The Gnostic Gospels and Beyond Belief  build a case to support this theory of corruption. Christians like to think the massive copying of NT manuscripts was done via a motivation to preserve Christ’s divine message, but what if instead the motivation lie with men wanting to preserve their own power?

In the Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown presents a story that asserts the early Church was power hungry. That they literally stole Jesus from His original followers, and modified the message to expand their own power and solidify their own political agenda. In the Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels writes of the Gnostic Gospels and other lost gospels that she learned in Harvard were “suppressed” by the early church.  Pagels concluded that the early Christians wanted to centralize power to one overseer (a bishop), so they preserved gospels that mentioned only one God, but suppressed all other gospels that spoke of multiple Gods.[1] Pagels also believed that early church leaders wanted power expanded in particular cities so that power would be given to overseers in those cities in which Jesus had once lived, so gospels that spoke of spiritual resurrections of Jesus were suppressed while other gospels that spoke of a bodily resurrection was preserved.[2] She also ascribed to church leaders wanting to exclude female leadership in Church, so manuscripts that referred to God as the Mother were suppressed while those that referred to God as the Father were preserved.[3] And when people tried to speak out against Gospels being suppressed, Pagels refers to text from the church leader Clement that says that they must receive the “death penalty.”[4] Let’s be honest, no conspiracy theory seems legit unless lives are being threatened[5]… This tactic was used in the pseudo-documentary Bloodline as well.

The one thing almost all these critics agree on is that the NT manuscripts were hand picked with bias among a multitude of manuscripts to incorporate into a Bible.[6] Some critics believe that no one in the first and second century considered the NT manuscripts sacred until a late second-century pastor named Irenaeus of Lyons declared Matthew, Mark, Luke and John the authentic author’s of Jesus’ life. Many others, like Dan Brown and the members of the Jesus Seminar, believe that what was considered scripture was in fact determined by Emperor Constantine during the Council of Nicea in the 4th century. Dan Brown goes further to suggest that the concept of Jesus being the Son of God wasn’t established until the Council of Nicea.[7] W.H.C. Frend writes in The Rise of Christianity, that the first time the 27 books of the NT are even mentioned together is in a letter written by a pastor named Athanasius of Alexandria in A.D. 367 years after the council of Nicea.[8] Since there is no prior mention of all 27 being deemed authoritative prior to the Council of Nicea, Rend concludes that it was the council itself that gave the scriptures authority. This would of course mean the Council could have corruptly chosen particular manuscripts out of the long list of available manuscripts, to decide which to give authority to, thus tying into Pagels’ earlier mentioned theories.

In other words, the motivation to create the Bible was not to safeguard and preserve the truths of Jesus, but to safeguard and preserve political agendas and the Church’s power. Anyone who tried to say otherwise was violently suppressed. Any manuscripts that said otherwise were suppressed. Corruption at it’s finest… If this isn’t a conspiracy I don’t know what is.

Conspiracy Theory vs. History

Ok, so you’ve heard all the conspiracies, now let us actually study history to get to the truth of the matter. The first thing we need to establish is what kind of corruption we are talking of. You’ll notice the critics above never suggest the manuscripts were rewritten to suit an agenda, but instead particular manuscripts were accepted and others rejected to suit an agenda. Yet, the average layman conspirer tends to think that the manuscripts were rewritten down the line to fit a personal agenda. This is actually the one case where I can say; that is impossible! The manuscripts weren’t a few copies you could locate and rewrite. Gospel manuscripts were all over Europe, the Middle East andNorth Africa being written and copied in massive numbers. There is a reason we have thousands of copies in existence today. It would be impossible during this time in history for anyone to track down every manuscript and rewrite them. The only possible way to corruptly alter God’s message would be to pick particular manuscripts to give authority too and suppress the rest. And that is the conspiracy the critics above prescribe to and accuse the Church of doing. So is that what happened?

Yes, the Church authorities did pick particular manuscripts as divine scripture and denounce the rest. But here is what everyone needs to understand: The manuscripts were not chosen based off of corrupted agendas, but instead based on their authenticity and accuracy, something that had already been established hundreds of years earlier by church leaders. After the NT manuscripts were written and spreading, Christianity was becoming popular in the Roman Empire. Understandably, cults and Christian spin-offs began to emerge and produced their own “gospels.” These other gospels, mostly from the Gnostics[9], strongly contradicted the original gospels. As time went on in the second and third centuries, more and more manuscripts started to appear in circulation. This of course became a great concern for the Christian Church.

So of course the Church eventually was forced to decide which manuscripts were the true testimony of Christ and which were false, to settle the matter once and for all. This would be the Council of Nicea in A.D. 327, the purpose behind which being to arrive at a consensus regarding what scriptures possessed the most accurate portrayal of Jesus.[10] The council was able to determine which manuscripts were accurate based on how closely the manuscripts were written to the lifetime of Jesus. Unlike the Gnostic gospels, the NT manuscripts were found in much larger numbers written much closer to the lifetime of Jesus. If you’re deciding which ones are the most accurate portrayal of Jesus, it’s a no brainer; go with the manuscripts written by eyewitnesses closer to the lifetime of Jesus. As you read on though, you’ll see that the NT manuscripts were actually decided long before the Council of Nicea.

Some other claims critics make about the Council of Nicea are straight up false. Brown claims the council was divided between Christians and Pagans. This is incorrect, the council was divided between two different sects of Christians, one believing Jesus was a creation of God (known as the “Arians”) the other believing Jesus was God incarnate. He also states that the final vote at the Council was a very close vote which decided whether Jesus was the Son of God. This is not true. Out of the more than 300 church leaders at the council, only two did not sign the Creed of Nicea which proclaimed Jesus to be the Son of God.[11]

Based off that though, critics run with it to say that these beliefs were concocted at the council and finalized there. This is just not the case though. Take for example Pagels’ earlier claim that the bodily resurrection was used to expand the church’s power in particular cities. History tells us this is just not the case. In A.D. 155 Bishops Anicetus and Victor of the Roman church demanded that all Christians observe Easter, the holiday celebrating the bodily resurrection of Christ.[12] Ignatius of Antioch wrote of the bodily resurrection of Jesus in a letter to the church in Smyrna in the end of the first century.[13] This is important to know because the contrary text Pagels references that insists the resurrection was spiritual not bodily, she read from the Gospel of Mary (a rejected text), of which the authorship is still questioned to this day. But we do know it was written in the mid to late second century. In other words, she is siding with one gospel with questionable authorship written long after the four original gospels, which themselves testify to a bodily resurrection. Furthermore, other manuscripts from the NT written earlier than the Gospel of Mary also testify to a bodily resurrection. Acts 2:31, Galatians 1:1, and 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, 14 all testify to a bodily resurrection and were written during the lifetime of eyewitnesses to Jesus in the mid to late first century. This breaks down Pagels’ theory because history tells us that the bodily resurrection of Jesus was solidified with Christians long before the false Gospel of Mary and long before any council established the New Testament.

“The flaw in Pagels’ logic is [that] she uses an effect produced by an orthodox belief to explain the origin of the belief itself. She might as well argue that Elvis fans made up his existence because they like his music so much… Pagels declares in her conclusion that ‘it is the winners who write history- their way.’ Ironically she seems to miss the fact completely that orthodoxy ‘won’ because history was on its side.”

-Sophia De Morgan, Theologian.[14]

 

“When arguments over power began to plague the Roman church in the second century, Christians had already recognized the physical resurrection of Jesus as a crucial element to their confession of faith for several decades.”

-Timothy Paul Jones, Theologian[15]

Let us also recall that Pagels’ claim that the Church preserved gospels claiming there to be only one God, suppressing others that testified multiple Gods, in an effort to centralize power. Anyone who knows basic history, or has even read the Old Testament for that matter, can testify that the Jewish faith established their God to be one and only one God, thousands of years prior to Christ. Just flip back to Deut. 4:35-39, 6:4; 1 Kings 8:60; or Isaiah 45:5, 14, 18, 21-22; 46:9 and you’ll see that the Jews were pretty dead set on there being only one God. Obviously as Christianity spread through the Roman Empire, non-Jewish converts that once believed in multiple Greek Gods would begin to later draw up their own manuscripts that were heavily influenced by the polytheism inRomeprior to Christianity. Naturally any manuscripts that declared there to be many Gods would be found contradictory to thousands of years of Jewish religion as well as contradicting the other NT manuscripts dated much closer to the lifetime of Christ, and therefore suppressed for good reason.

Even more damaging to the conspiracy theory of these critics has been the discovery of actual lists of divine manuscripts. Early church leaders, worried about the new Gnostic manuscripts floating around, compiled a list of what they considered divine authoritative texts. The deciding factor was based off authorship. Only texts written by eyewitnesses or apostles that consulted eyewitnesses were considered genuine. By the mid-second century, no more eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life were alive. This was known as the Apostolic Era. So a finalized list of authoritative books could then be recorded by Church leaders to be sent out to churches to prevent the infiltration of other false gospels written after the Apostolic Era. There is the Muratorian Fragment from the mid-second century in Rome; the Eusebius of Caesarea’s Church History from the fourth century Palestine and Asia Minor; and the Athanasius of Alexandria’s Easter letter from fourth century Alexandria, all of which contain a list of manuscripts they considered to be the authoritative texts. Surprisingly, they all contain the same books in the list found in our NT today[16], except for Eusebius of Caesarea’s Church History which questioned the authenticity of James, Jude, 2nd Peter, and  2nd and 3rd John.[17] Yet their overall uniformity testifies to the overall standard of agreement among early church leaders as to which manuscripts were indeed the true portrayals of Jesus.[18]

Here is something many people also aren’t aware of either. Church leaders of the 2nd and 3rd century quoted the New Testament extensively in their own personal writings. Justin Martyr (AD 100-165) quoted the NT 330 times, Irenaeus (AD 120-202) quoted the NT 1,819 times. Clement (AD 150-216) did the same 2,406 times. Origen (AD 185-253) 17,922 times. Tertullian (AD 155-220) 7,258 times. Lastly, Hippolytus (AD 170-236) quoted the NT 1,378 times. In fact, you could destroy ever New Testament manuscript in the world, and re-create it from the quotes of these men alone! That’s how many times they quoted the NT.[19] This provides great evidence that what is in the NT today was already determined as authoritative long before the council of Nicea in that all these early church fathers quoted the scripture so often!

All and all, to believe that the power struggles in the past corrupted the true story of Christ today is to deny the historical facts that are out there. The NT manuscripts were always deemed authoritative divine texts long before the council of Nicea. As Timothy Paul Jones concludes, “The New Testament Documents were inspired, written, and recognized as authoritative over several centuries, yet a definite standard governed the entire process, and this standard wasn’t the word of a powerful emperor or bishop. It was a dogged determination to make certain that every authoritative text had its source in someone who witnessed the actual events.”[20]


[1] Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, (New York, NY: Random House, 1979) Pg. 47

[2] Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, (New York, NY: Random House, 1979) Pg. 27

[3] Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, (New York, NY: Random House, 1979) Pg. 66

[4] Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, (New York, NY: Random House, 1979) Pg. 34

[5] Pagels is guilty of misquoting Clement by taking his text out of context. Clement wasn’t stating that heretics need to receive the “death penalty,” he was describing what happened in the ancient Jewish temple when sacrifices were made improperly and not properly offered to God. From 1 Clement 41:1-3, The Apostolic Fathers I, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985).

[6] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, (Orlando,FL: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006) Pg 95

[7] Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code (New York,NY: Doubleday Publishing 2003) Pg. 231

[8] Bart D. Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus (HarperOne, 2005) Pg. 36

[9] Before the time of Christ there was a movement known as the “Gnosis” which is Greek for “knowledge.” The Gnosis, which would be later named the Gnostics, lay claim to the story of Christ to be their own shortly after its initial expansion into the Roman world. They began to spread their own view about who Jesus was and what the bible really meant. Eventually they began to write their own doctrine and propagate it to people claiming it to be the true word of God.

[10] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies and the Cross (Lake Mary,Florida: FrontLine, 2008) Pg. 52

[11] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies and the Cross (Lake Mary,Florida: FrontLine, 2008) Pg. 52

[12] R. Cantalamessa, Easter in the Early Church: An Anthology of Jewish and Early Christian Texts (Collegeville, MN: Liturigal Press, 1993) Pg 34-37.

[13] Ignatius, Pros Smynaious, Pg. 186-187

[14] Sophia De Morgan, “Gnostic Gnonsense: A Critical Review of The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels,” Answering Infidels, www.answeringinfidels.com  Nov 2007.

[15] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies and the Cross (Lake Mary,Florida: FrontLine, 2008) Pg. 55

[16] These lists contained over 20 of the 27 NT books we have today. Clearly the texts had recognized authority long before any councils gave them authority.

[17] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies and the Cross (Lake Mary,Florida: FrontLine, 2008) Pg. 61

[18] It should also be noted that there were also lists written by early church leaders from the mid-second century with a list of manuscripts that were rejected. This all long before the council of Nicea.

[19] Alex McFarland, The 10 Most Common Objections to Christianity (Ventura,CA: Regal Books, 2007)

[20] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies and the Cross (Lake Mary,Florida: FrontLine, 2008) Pg. 67

I just finished an amazing book written by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand. Wurmbrand was an orphaned Jewish boy who turned to atheism due to his horrible life in Romania. He would later accept Christ as his savior and become a church leader, but when the Nazis and then later the communist Russians took Romania over Wurmbrand would be tortured and jailed for 14 years (2 of which in solitary confinement) for being a Christian. His wife would be arrested and forced to work three years of slave labor, leaving their only son to fend for himself on the streets of Romania since helping the family of imprisoned people was against the law.  In 1966, Wurmbrand would be ransomed to America, where despite very numerous and real death threats, he confessed and revealed his bodily scares to the US Senate to reveal the atrocities the communists were committing against Christians in the Soviet Union. The following are excerpts I’ve taken from his book, “Tortured For Christ:”

“My wife and I were arrested several times, beaten, and hauled before Nazi judges. The Nazi terror was great, but only a taste of what was to come under the communists. My son, Mihai, had to assume a non-Jewish name to prevent his death. But these Nazi times had one great advantage. They taught us that physical beatings could be endured, and that the human spirit with God’s help can survive horrible tortures.” Pg. 13

“On a train, a Russian officer sat in front of me. I had spoken to him about Christ for only a few minutes when he broke out with a torrent of atheistic arguments. Quotations from Marx, Stalin, Voltaire, Darwin and others against the Bible just flew from his mouth. He gave me no opportunity to contradict him. He spoke nearly an hour to convince me that there is no God. When he finished, I asked him, ‘If there is no God, why do you pray when you are in trouble?’ … He bowed his head and acknowledged, ‘On the front when we were encircled by the Germans we all prayed!’” Pg. 23

“The tortures were sometimes horrible. I prefer not to speak too much about those which I have passed; it is too painful. When I do, I cannot sleep at night.” Pg. 34

“A pastor by the name of Florescu was tortured with red-hot iron pokers and with knives. He was beaten very badly. Then starving rats were driven into his cell through a large pipe. He could not sleep because he had to defend himself all the time. If he rested a moment, the rats would attack him. He was forced to stand for two weeks day and night. The Communists wished to compel him to betray his brethren, but he resisted steadfastly. Eventually, they brought his fourteen year-old son to the prison and began to whip the boy in front of his father, saying they would continue to beat him until the pastor said what they wished him to say. The poor man was half mad. He bore it as long as he could, then he cried to his son, ‘Alexander, I must say what they want! I can’t bear your beating anymore!’ The son answered, ‘Father, don’t do me the injustice of having a traitor as a parent. Withstand! If they kill me, I will die with the words ‘Jesus and my fatherland.’’ The communists enraged, fell upon the child and beat him to death, with blood splattered over the walls of the cell. He died praising God. Our dear brother Florescu was never same after seeing this.” Pg. 34

“We Christians were sometimes forced to stand in wooden boxes only slightly larger than we were. This left no room to move. Dozens of sharp nails were driven into every side of the box, with their razor-sharp points sticking through the wood. While we stood perfectly still, it was all right. But we were forced to stand up in these boxes for endless hours; when we became fatigued and swayed with tiredness, the nails would pierce our bodies. If we moved or twitched a muscle- there were the horrible nails.” Pg. 35

“It was a deal: we preached and they beat us. We were happy preaching; they were happy beating us- so everyone was happy… The following scene happened more times than I can remember. A brother was preaching to the other prisoners when the guards suddenly burst in, surprising him halfway through a phrase. They beat him down the corridor to their ‘beating room.’ After what seemed an endless beating, they brought him back and threw him- bloody and bruised- on the prison floor. Slowly he picked up his battered body, painfully straightened his clothing and said, ‘Now, brethren, where did I leave off when I was interrupted?’ He continued his gospel message!” Pg. 41

 

“When one Christian was sentenced to death, he was allowed to see his wife before being executed. His last words to his wife were, ‘You must know that I die loving those who kill me. They don’t know what they do and my last request of you is to love them too. Don’t have bitterness in your heart because they killed your beloved one. We will meet in heaven.’ These words impressed the officer of the secret police who attended the discussion between the two. He later told me the story in prison where he had been sent for becoming a Christian.” Pg. 43

“But Christians are more than just mere men; they are children of God, partakers in divine nature. Therefore, tortures endured in Communist prisons have not made me hate Communists. They are God’s creatures, how can I hate them? But neither can I be their friend. Friendship means one soul in two breasts. I am not one soul with the Communists. They hate the notion of God. I love God.” Pg. 54

“St. Macary said, ‘If a man loves all men passionately, but says only about one man that him he cannot love, the man who says this is no more a Christian, because his love is not all embracing.’” Pg. 54

“I have seen Christians in the Communist prisons with fifty pounds of chain on their feet, tortured with red-hot iron pokers, in whose throats spoonfuls of salt had been forced, being kept afterward without water, starving, whipped, suffering from cold- and praying with fervor for the Communists. This is humanly inexplicable! It is the love of Christ, which was poured out in our hearts.” Pg. 55

“Later, Communists who had tortured us were sent to prison, too. Under communism, Communists, and even Communist rulers, are put in prison almost as often as their adversaries. Now the torturer and the tortured were in the same cell. And while non-Christians showed hatred toward their former inquisitors and beat them, Christians took their defense, even at the risk of being beaten themselves and accused of being accomplices with communism. I have seen Christians give away their last slice of bread (we were given one slice a week) and the medicine that could save their lives to a sick Communist torturer, who was now a fellow prisoner.” Pg. 55

“A minister who had been horribly beaten was thrown into my cell. He was half-dead, with blood streaming from his face and body. We washed him. Some prisoners cursed the communists. Groaning he said, ‘Please don’t curse them! Keep silent! I wish to pray for them.’” Pg. 57

“It was in prison that we found the hope of salvation for the Communists. It was there that we developed a sense of responsibility for them. It was in being tortured by them that we learned to love them.” Pg. 58

“Only love can change the Communist and the terrorist… Hatred blinds. Hitler was anti-Communist, but one who hated. Therefore, instead of conquering them, he helped them win one-third of the world.” Pg. 59

“How was Norway won for Christ? By winning King Olaf. Russia first had the gospel when its king, Vladimir, was won. Hungary was won by winning St. Stephen, its king. The same with Poland. In Africa, where the chief of the tribe has been won, the tribe follows… We must win rulers, leaders in politics, economics, science, and the arts. They mold the souls of men. Winning them, you win the people they lead and influence.” Pg. 59

“The world was horrified about what happened on the streets n China. In view of everyone, the Red Guard exercised its terror. Now try to imagine what happens to Christians in a Chinese jail, where no one else sees! I heard that when a renowned Chinese evangelical writer and other Christians refused to deny their faith, their captors cut off their ears, tongues and legs. Christians are still in Chinese prisons today.” Pg. 63

“A flower, if you bruise it under your feet, rewards you by giving you its perfume. Likewise, Christians, tortured by Communists, rewarded their torturers with love.” Pg. 63

“By not loving the Communists and those from other captive nations, and by doing nothing to win them for Christ (under the pretext they are not allowed to do so, as if the first Christians asked permission from Nero to spread the gospel), Western church leaders do not love their own flocks either, if they do not allow them to participate in this spiritual battle around the world.” Pg. 64

“Sabina Wurmbrand’s entire family (who was Jewish) died in Nazi concentration camps. Sabina and Richard had the privilege of inviting a Nazi who had been at this camp to their home. They fed him, loved him, and brought him to Christ.” Pg. 70

“They [Western rulers] wish drug addiction, gangsterism, cancer, and tuberculosis would disappear, but not evil systems such as communism, which has claimed more victims than all these together. Ilya Ehrenburg, the Soviet writer, says that if Stalin had done nothing else all his life than to write the names of his innocent victims, his life would not have been long enough to finish the job.” Pg. 73

“There is only one force that can change evil governments. It is the same force that enabled Christian states to take the place of the heathen Roman Empire, the force that made Christians of savage Teutons and Vikings, the force that overthrew the bloody Inquisition. This force is the power of gospel, represented by the Underground Church that works in all captive nations.” Pg. 74

“Christ does not belong only to America, England and other democratic countries. When He was crucified, one of His hands was stretched out toward the west, the other towards the east. He wishes to be the King not only of the Jews, but also of the Gentiles, of the Communists, and of the Western world. Jesus said, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16:15).” Pg. 77

“I have decided to denounce communism, not in the sense in which those who are usually called ‘anti-Communists’ do it. Hitler was anti-Communist and was nonetheless a tyrant. We hate the sin and love the sinner.” Pg. 84

“Many Christians there [Communist countries] don’t build houses for themselves. To what good? They will be confiscated at their first arrest. Just the fact that you have a new house can be a greater motive for you to be imprisoned, because the others wish to take your house.” Pg. 84

“The Underground Church is a poor and suffering church, but it has few lukewarm members.” Pg. 84

“’The truth shall make you free,’ said Jesus (John 8:32). But, the same freedom, only freedom, can give you truth. And, instead of quarreling about nonessentials, we should unite in this fight for freedom against the tyrannies in this world.” Pg. 87

“Even if you think that, after all I have passed through, I suffer from a persecution complex, you must ask yourself what this dreadful power of communism is that makes its citizens suffer from such complexes. What power is it that made men from Communist East Germany take a child in a bulldozer and pass through barbed wire at risk of being shot with their whole family? The West sleeps and must be awakened to see the plight of captive nations.” Pg. 89

“I met with a Christian who had suffered under the Nazis. He told me that he is entirely on my side as long as I witness for Christ, but should not say one word against Communism. I asked him if Christians who fought against Nazism in Germany were wrong if they should have been confined to only speaking from the Bible, without saying a word against the tyrant Hitler. The reply was, ‘But Hitler killed six million Jews! One had to speak against him.’ I replied, “Communism has killed thirty million Russians and millions of Chinese and others. And they have killed Jews too. Must we protect only when Jews are killed, and not when Russians or Chinese are killed?’ The answer was, ‘This is quite another thing.’ I received no further explanation.” Pg. 91.

“They [Communists] know only the masses. Their word is that of the demon in the New Testament when asked what his name was: ‘We are Legion.’ Individual personality- one of the great gifts of God to mankind- must be crushed. They imprisoned a man because they found him with a book by Alfred Adler, Individual Psychology. The officers of the secret police shouted, ‘Ah, individual- always individual! Who not collective?’ Jesus wishes us to be personalities. Therefore there is no possibility of compromise between communism and us. The communists know it. In their magazine Nauka I Religia (Science and Religion), they have written, ‘Religion is incompatible with communism. It is hostile to it… The content of the program of the Communist Party is a death blow to religion… It is a program for the creation of an atheistic society in which people will be rid forever of the religious bondage.’” Pg. 92

“Their [Christians] answers to atheists were simple, ‘If you were invited to a feast with all kinds of good meats, would you believe that there has been no one cook them? But nature is a banquet prepared for us! You have tomatoes and peaches and apples and milk and honey. Who has prepared all these things for mankind? Nature is blind. If you believe in no God, how can you explain that blind nature succeeded in preparing just the things that we needed in such plentitude and variety?’” Pg. 96

“Foreign visitors would see a crowded church in Moscow- which was the only Protestant church in the city- and remark what freedom there is. ‘Even the churches are overflowing!’ they would joyously report. They did not see the tragedy of one Protestant church for seven million souls!” Pg. 99

“The atheists put much skill and zeal into ridiculing and criticizing Bible verses… Bible verses remain true, even if the Devil quotes them.” Pg. 100

“A professor of communism demonstrated at a meeting that Jesus was nothing but a magician. The professor had before him a pitcher of water. He put a powder in it and it became red. ‘This is the whole miracle,’ he explained. ‘Jesus had hidden in his sleeves a powder like this, and then pretended to have changed water into wine in a wonderful manner. But I can do even better than Jesus; I can change the wine into water again.’ And he put another powder into the liquid. It became clear. Then another powder and it was red again. A Christian stood up and said, ‘You have amazed us, comrade professor, by what you are able to do. We would ask only one thing more of you- drink a bottle of your wine!’ The professor said, ‘This I cannot do. The powder was a poison.’ The Christian replied, ‘This is the whole difference between you and Jesus. He, with His wine, has given us joy for two thousand years, whereas you poison us with your wine.’ The Christian went to prison.” Pg. 101

On one occasion a Communist was giving a lecture on atheism. All factory workers were required to attend; among these workers were many Christians. They sat quietly hearing all the arguments against God and about the stupidity of believing in Christ. The lecturer attempted to prove that there is no spiritual world, no God, no Christ, no hereafter; man is only matter with no soul. He said over and over that only matter exists. A Christian stood up and asked to speak. Permission was given. The Christian picked up his folded chair and threw it down. He paused, looking at it. He then walked up and slapped the Communist lecturer in the face. The lecturer became very angry. His face flush red with indignation. He shouted obscenities and called for fellow Communists to arrest the Christian. He demanded, ‘How dare you slap me? What is the reason?’ The Christian replied, ‘You have just proven yourself a liar. You said everything is matter… nothing else. I picked up a chair and threw it down.  It is truly matter. The chair did not become angry. It is only matter. When I slapped you, you did not react like the chair. You reacted differently. Matter does not get mad or angry, but you did. Therefore, comrade professor, you are wrong. Man is more than matter. We are spiritual beings!’” Pg. 102

“In prison, the political officer asked me harshly, ‘How long will you continue to keep your stupid religion?’ I said to him, ‘I have seen innumerable atheists regretting on their deathbeds that they have been Godless; they called on Christ. Can you imagine that a Christian could regret, when death is near, that he has been a Christian and call on Marx or Lenin to rescue him from his faith?’” Pg. 102

“When an engineer has built a bridge, the fact that a cat can pass over the bridge is no proof that the bridge is good. A train must pass over it to prove its strength. The fact that you can be an atheist when everything goes well does not prove the truth of atheism. It does not hold up in moments of great crisis.” Pg. 102

“Many communists commit suicide. So did their greatest poets, Essenin and Maiakovski. So did their great writer Fadeev. He had just finished his novel called Happiness in which had explained that happiness consists in working tirelessly for communism. He was so happy about it that he shot himself after having finished the novel. It was too difficult for his soul to bear such a lie. Joffe, Tomkin- great Communist leaders and fighters for Communism in Czarist times- likewise could not bear to see how communism looks in reality. They also ended in suicide.” Pg. 104

“By converting those who persecute Christians, we would free not only their victims, but the persecutors themselves.” Pg. 113

“When the Russians occupied Romania, two armed Russian soldiers entered a church with their guns in their hands. They said, ‘We don’t believe in your faith. Those who do not abandon it immediately will be shot at once! Those who abandon your faith, move to the right!’ Some moved to the right, who where then ordered to leave the church and go home. They fled for their lives. When the Russians were alone with the remaining Christians, they embraced them and confessed, ‘We too, are Christians, but we wished to have fellowship only with those who consider the Truth worth dying for.’” Pg. 114

“’Your religion is anti-scientific,’ the judge taunted at another trial, to which the accused girl- a student- answered, ‘Do you know more science than Einstein? Than Newton? They were believers [in God]’… ‘I am sure, Mr. judge, that you are not such a great scientist as Simpson, the discoverer of chloroform and many other medicines. When asked which he considered to be his greatest discovery, he answered: ‘It was not chloroform. My greatest discovery has been to know that I am a sinner and that I could be saved by the grace of God.’” Pg. 132

“Christians practiced self-baptism to prevent arrest of their leaders. Sometimes baptisms took place in a river, with the baptizer and the baptized both wearing masks so that no one could identify them in a photograph.” Pg. 133.

“It is estimated that approximately 160,000 Christians were martyred in 1997.” Pg. 134

“In one place, eighty-two Christians were placed in an asylum for madmen. Twenty-four died after a few days because of ‘prolonged prayer!’ Since when does the lengthy prayer kill? Can you imagine what they went through?” Pg. 134

“Paul says, ‘All things work together for good’ (Romans 8:28). I have seen children who were raised as Christians and taken from their parents and put into Communist schools. Instead of being poisoned by atheism, the faith they had learned at home was spread to the other children!” Pg. 135

“The proof that I am right is that the Underground Church flourished under communism in the Soviet Union, is flourishing in Communist Asia, and is growing in the Middle East today.” Pg. 136

“When you listen to those who loudly deny God, it seems that they really mean it. But life shows that many of them, although they curse God with their lips, in their hearts have a great longing.” Pg. 137.

“Atheists are men who do not acknowledge the invisible sources of their life. They have no sense for what is mystery in the universe and in life. Christians can help them best by walking themselves not by sight, but by faith, leading a life of fellowship with the invisible God.” Pg. 145

“We must love our neighbors as ourselves. Communists and other persecutors are our neighbors as much as anyone else.” Pg. 145

“I am not so naïve as to believe that love alone can solve these problems. I would not advise the authorities of a state to solve the problem of gangsterism only by love. There must be a police force, judges and prisons for gangsters- not just pastors. If gangsters do not repent, they must be jailed. I would never use the Christian phrase about ‘love’ to counteract the appropriate political, economic, or cultural fight against Communists and other tyrants, who are nothing but gangsters on an international scale. Gangsters steal a purse; they steal whole countries. But the pastor and the individual Christian have to do their best to bring to Christ rebellious nations- whatever crimes they commit- as well as their innocent victims. We have to pray for them with understanding.” Pg. 146

“When I was beaten on the bottom of the feet, my tongue cried. Why did my tongue cry? It was not beaten. It cries because the tongue and feet are both part of the same body. And you free Christians are part of the same body of Christ that is now beaten in prisons in restricted nations, that even now gives martyrs for Christ. Can you not feel our pain?” Pg 150

‘I speak on behalf of my brethren who lie in countless nameless graves. I speak on behalf of my brethren who now meet secretly in forests, basements, attics, and other such places. The message I bring from the Underground Church is: ‘Don’t abandon us! Don’t forget us!’ Pg. 143

“Now I have delivered the message from the faithful, martyred Church- from your brothers and sisters suffering in the bonds of atheistic communism, and under attack across the world from Indonesia to Africa. Don’t abandon them.” Pr. 150

Pastor Richard Wurmbrand; 1909-2001.

 

*Christians are still persecuted to this day in the following countries:

-Cuba

-Colombia

-Chiapas (Mexico)

-Nigeria

-Mauritania

-Morocco

-Algeria

-Tunisia (currently in reconstruction)

-Libya (currently in reconstruction)

-Egypt (currently in reconstruction)

-Sudan

-Eritrea

-Ethiopia

-Somalia

-Comoros

-Belarus

-Azerbaijan

-Turkey

-Lebanon

-Jordan

-Gaza Strip

-Syria

-Iraq

-Kuwait

-Saudi Arabia

-Yemen

-Qatar

-Bahrain

-Oman

-Iran

-Pakistan

-Afghanstan

-Tukmenistan

-Uzbekistan

-Tajikistan

-Kazakhstan

-Kyrgyzstan

-India

-Nepal

-Tibet

-Bhutan

-Sri Lanka

-Maldives

-Burma

-Bangladesh

-Malaysia

-Vietnam

-China

-North Korea

-Laos

-Indonesia

-Brunei

-Philippines