A response to “Is Jesus Christ an Alien in the Bible?” The prompt: Use what you have learnt thus far in our study of logic to analyse the argument presented in this video. Four questions given for response.
What line of reasoning is immediately dismissed as incorrect?
The speaker immediately dismisses the idea of spiritual intervention as more plausible than one of scientific intervention. He characterises this by describing the immaculate conception and noting that while we today, with our modern, “enlightened” naturalistic worldview, find nothing implausible with the idea of artificial insemination, for the minds of the first century, with their more “primitive” supernatural worldview, the idea of spirits is more plausible than that of artificial insemination.
How does this force the listener to entertain the proposed perspective on Jesus?
The underlying assumption on the part of the speaker is that of a naturalistic worldview by which things may only be understood through direct experience, and nothing may be understood which is impossible for the one understanding it.
Because the listener, presumably, ascribes to the same modern, “enlightened” worldview of a naturalistic, material universe, he is therefore forced to accept the conclusion that any supernatural intervention is an implausible explanation and that, therefore, Jesus and His conception must be understood through science. Since only one possible explanation through science is offered, the listener is forced to entertain only that one.
What evidence does the speaker give for his position, and how credible is his use of it?
The primary evidence which the speaker gives for his position is direct quotes from Jesus himself. From an impartial perspective, the use of this is not credible in the least as, immediately before giving the quotes, he explains why the Gospel of John (his primary source of the quotes) is not a trustworthy source.
However, if one runs, as he suggests, with the assumption that the Gospel of John is indeed a trustworthy source, his use of it is definitely not credible.
His first mistake is in giving the quotes entirely out of context. Little more need be said about this mistake as I’m sure anyone who’s read a newspaper will understand how meanings can be twisted when words are taken out of context.
His two further mistakes, in my opinion, both come down to a lack of knowledge of the original language.
In the first point, the speaker’s argument relies heavily on the idea that when Jesus refers to “this world”, he is speaking of this planet, earth. However, in most (if not all) instances of this word, the original Greek is “kosmos”, which is defined by Liddell & Scott (considered the authoritative dictionary of Classical Greek) as meaning “the world or universe”, the third definition given, following the primary definition as “(good) order”. Greek has, in fact, a word which refers to the physical “earth” or ground, and that is “gaia”. If the writer, (assuming for a moment that these are not the true words of Jesus), had intended to convey the idea of Jesus leaving this planet, he would have used the term “gaia”, rather than “kosmos”, which refers to the universe at large – which would necessarily preclude the idea that Jesus was an alien from another planet in the universe.
In the second point, the speaker actually delves into the world of the original language with an argument about the root form of “name” used in John 13. His first mistake is almost laughable – he assumes that Hebrew is the language of the New Testament! (Although one must concede that Jesus would most probably have been speaking Aramaic, and the use of “kyrios” in the Septuagint is often used as an argument for Jesus’ divinity, it remains that the speaker is assuming Hebrew to be the original language of the Gospel of John).
The speaker posits that the Hebrew words “shem” (name, S-M), “shamayim” (heavens, S-M-Y-M), and “shema” (to hear, S-M-?) share the same root. While it is true that Hebrew is formed with triconsonantal roots which give the base meaning to words, I do not believe there is any basis for connecting “shamayim” with the other two, particularly as it is used in specific contrast with “mayim”, or “water”, in Genesis 1. However, by doing so, the speaker claims that the root consonants (presumably S-M, although this isn’t made explicit) carry the meaning of “upward” or “higher”, rather than of having to do with sound as is traditionally understood, and that the word “shem” would be better understood as meaning “rocket ship”!
(It probably doesn’t bear saying that the speaker’s very pronunciation of the word “shamayim” indicates he has little knowledge of the Hebrew language. I doubt you would find a Hebrew speaker who would believe for a moment that “shem” meant, or could mean, anything other than “name”.)
In summation, the evidence which the speaker uses for his presentation is incredible on three counts: that he has already discredited the source as trustworthy; that he uses the quotes out of context; and that he pays no attention to the original language of the documents.
How would you respond to this presentation?
While the most sensible course of action, as discussed in class, would be either to question the foundation and reliability of the speaker’s worldview, or to prompt him to follow the premise through to other aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry, my first inclination (as demonstrated above) is to discuss the language issues.
Additionally, I might question why he has taken, for the sake of the argument, just one book of the Bible as truth, but has apparently discredited the rest of it.