The Alpha course is presented as a discussion about the meaning of life, and nobly calls for an unbiased discussion about why we are here.
I have always, to date, found this to be a noble and good gesture and one thing that I until recently applauded. It is no doubt been an excellent way to garner new believers and has excellent conversion process. I have been mulling over for a while now about doing an Alpha course, so it is with surprise that I was told about the dark side of Alpha, that I was previously unaware of. I must admit, I am now sure I will be doing the course soon enough to experience myself the brainwashing, deceit and indoctrination that I am now know to look out for.
You see, the Alpha course appears it is not a discussion at all and luckily the course material is free online and we can read the opening script ourselves, which is along the lines of (http://run.alpha.org/sites/alpha.org/files/389-week-1-who-jesus.pdf):
ALPHA 2010 Talk 1:
…Is Jesus just a myth? Did he even exist?...
There's evidence first outside the New Testament. For example, the Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius speak about him. The Jewish historian Josephus, writing very close to Jesus' time said this:
"Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man — if it is lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles."
These claims are not discussed they are accepted as truth and moves straight along. Now while I don’t want to promote that Jesus never existed, it is strange to me that a course that presents itself as a discussion, in fact is not a discussion at all, and this common trend right from the outset repeats itself over and over again.
To give an example, Tacitus’s account of Christ is a second century account written in 116AD (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus#Tacitus_on_Christ) not a first hand or contemporary account at all. He is writing on the hearsay on others. His writing on the persecution of Christians by Nero is not known by any contemporary source or historian at the time. It is also strange that (according to the bible) this happened to take place at the time when Paul is freely preaching in Rome:
Acts 28 “…Paul’s Arrival at Rome…For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!”
No mention of hindrance there I see. The claim of Suetonius is also dubious. Suetonius (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seutonius) born in 69AD. He write about the event of the great fire, in 64AD – 5 years before his birth. It is again no coincidence I feel, that this “strong evidence” for Christ comes to us second hand, and again I repeat – no contemporary account of Jesus exists from historians at the time.
What of Josephus? Again born after Jesus’s death in 37AD (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titus_Flavius_Josephus) – the work quoted and in question tells us an interesting story (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus#Testimonium_Flavianum).
In fact from the Wikipedia page itself, we find that the Testimonium Flavianum is not accepted by all scholars as an acceptable account of Jesus. Quoting from the page:
“Of the three passages found in Josephus' Antiquities, this passage, if authentic, would offer the most direct support for the crucifixion of Jesus. The general scholarly view is that while the Testimonium Flavianum is most likely not authentic in its entirety, it originally consisted of an authentic nucleus with a reference to the execution of Jesus by Pilate which was then subject to interpolation.”
This is worth exploring, and it transpires we have no early copies of this work:
“The earliest secure reference to this passage is found in the writings of the fourth-century Christian apologist and historian Eusebius, who used Josephus' works extensively as a source for his own Historia Ecclesiastica.”
So the earliest account of this passage existing is in the fourth century. We can then conclude that from the evidence proposed as factual and not worth discussion, there is in fact not one person who has written about Jesus at the time of his life.
No first-hand accounts at all.
This is astounding since one would reasonably expect there to be some historical accounts of the time written by people who knew Jesus. Again I wish to state that I am not claiming he did not exist, but I am highlighting the dishonesty that is presented as fact, without discussion by the courses own work. This is not a discussion. This is dishonestly purporting things that are not accepted as facts by historical scholars, as though they are factual and accepted.
Is it not astounding to you that this is done? The course then moves onto the New Testament, as proof of Jesus, and if you follow of page 3 of the PDF it claims that various figures of antiquity are accepted as existing, despite being far fewer documents written about them – for example:
“So, Herodotus and Thucydides were both written in the 5th century BC. The earliest copy that we have is around AD 900 so there's a 1300 year gap. For each of these works we have 8 copies........ And yet no classical scholar would doubt their authenticity.
… The New Testament, written between 40 and 100 AD, the earliest copy we have is AD 130. And we have full manuscripts AD 350. So, at most, there's a 300 year gap. And not just 8 or 20 manuscripts: we have, 5,309 Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts, 9,300 others.”
A convincing argument one would think. Yet again, when one scratches at the surface, it begins to unravel. It is true that at 350AD the manuscripts are copied and translated many times, and there then exists thousands of copies being written and distributed, but what is not mentioned is the fact that these copies are known as pseudepigrapha, not written by the people they claim to be, and not original. So we are left on relying on copies of copies, of translations of translations. Again these are second hand, none written in his lifetime. The earliest copy he alludes to in 130AD is in fact a scrap of paper, not a copy of the NT – (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rylands_Library_Papyrus_P52). A scrap of second century papyrus – again a second hand account - is not a “copy” of the NT as stated. So if the gospels written hundreds of years after Jesus’s death are not accepted as historical fact then why are historical figures such as Herodotus accepted then with less evidence? Well the answer is simple – it is a lie. There is not less evidence. The amount of copies is not relevant to its accuracy. Many copies of something does not make it more true, if there is no original to look at. What matters is how many first hand contemporary accounts, or coins perhaps of a Roman Emperor etc exist. For Herodotus as an example, we have the first hand copy written by himself preserved for all to see which matches – this is the key - the later copies we have of the work. Contrast with the bible, where there is NO first-hand accounts to compare any of the copies against. How can we verify their accuracy if there is nothing to compare it to? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Histories_%28Herodotus%29).
You see, ladies and gentlemen, the dishonesty peddled as truth is once again only observable if you spend ages trying to work out the muddle that has been presented as fact. It is dishonest, there is no discussion at all, and is not even accepted by biblical scholars as factual or beyond criticism or discussion. There must come a time, when we realise that rather than putting our faith in the dishonesty asserted as fact from the pseudo-scientific community MUST give way to actual scholars dedicating their lives to finding what is actually true, and pure, and correct. We cannot allow these charlatans to deceive us time and time and time again.
And why should we? Why should we give up our critical faculties to these priests, ministers and self-appointed prophets? What right do they have to demand that we think as they do? How dare they suggest we sacrifice our humanity on the altar of deference? That refusal is eternal punishment and death? That we can, and must accept the gift of idiotic bliss given to us as in chalice of eternal life and salvation? If we will only give up our scepticism. Our ability to think for ourselves. Our inquiry into the truth - then you can have this gift. And this is also what you must tell your children – that totalitarian acceptance of this dictatorship is required – unless they also want death and torture! What parent can say this to their child?
I put it to you that this is no gift worth taking. It is presented as the chalice of life, but it is a Goblet of corruption and ignorance. To accept this is to accept your life is meaningless. The ultimate irony I feel because the Alpha course asks why we are here – and answers with this: You were born to die. To suffer like Christ – a man who we cannot even be sure existed. Why? Because God made us that way and it is good, and you deserve it because he said so. And you must love him and worship him while fearing his command at the same time. And only then, if you don’t stumble into the wrong path, or falter, you might taste true life, if you are lucky.
I offer you the alternative – truth and life now that you can feel, love and experience in reality with all the beauty, purity and excitement that comes with that. I hope you value truth as I do.
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