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101 Questions about Christianity

Saleem Ahmad
The Review of Religions, April 1993

  1. If Jesus's mission was to the lost sheep of Israel, why was it confined to Palestine where only two of the original tribes had settled? Did that mean that Jesus had failed in his mission?

  2. Why should Jesus specifically forbid, on the one hand, preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles (Matthew 7:6, 15:24, 26) and yet on the other, tell the disciples to teach all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost? (Matthew 28:19)

  3. Why did Jesus prohibit the Gospel from being preached to the Gentiles during his ministry (Matthew 10:5, 7:6, 15:24-26) but after his 'resurrection' tell them to preach the Gospel to the whole world? (Mark 16:15)

    If Jesus really had made the latter statement, why was there such a fierce debate within the early Church (and particularly between Peter and Paul) as to whether the Gospel should be preached to the Gentiles? (Acts 15:6-30)

  4. Out of all the signs that Jesus could have given about himself, he chose to give the sign of Jonah: This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah. (Luke 11:29, Matthew 12:39, Matthew 16) Jonah was swallowed alive by a whale and remained in its belly alive for three days. For Jesus to have properly fulfilled the prophecy, he would need to enter the tomb alive and come out alive. Why should Jesus give this, of all signs, if he was to die and be resurrected?

  5. If Jesus's message was for the whole of mankind, why did he forbid his disciples to preach to the Gentiles? (Matthew 10:5-6)

  6. When Jesus was asked what the only way was to true salvation, he replied: keep the Commandments (Matthew 19:17). The first of the Commandments was to believe in the Oneness of God (Exodus 20:3). Why did Jesus answer so if he believed in and was part of the Trinity? Why did he not refer to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost?

  7. Jesus said that he had not come to change the Law of Moses (Matthew 5:17). The Law of Moses teaches that there is one God (Exodus 20:3). If Jesus was introducing the concept of Trinity, why did he not say that he was changing the Law of Moses or introducing a different understanding of it?

  8. Jesus prophesied that men of his generation would not pass away without witnessing his second coming and the falling of stars (Mark 9:1, 13:30). Why was this prophecy unfulfilled? Why was it that Jesus did not return within the lifetime of his generation?

  9. Why did Jesus forbid the disciples from calling people fools yet called the Jewish leaders with names like vipers and children of adultery? Is it conceivable that a Divine Being would behave in this way?

  10. According to Luke, when the Jews tried Jesus they asked him Are you the son of God? Jesus replied you say that I am (Luke 22:70) which could mean: you say that I am but I do not. If his divinity was something he came to tell the world, why did he not plainly say yes instead of couching his answer in ambiguous terms?

  11. In the Old Testament, the term Son of God was applied to David (Psalms 89:27), the nation of Israel (Exodus 4:22), the children of Israel (Psalms 82:6), and Solomon (1 Chronicles 22:10). Jesus also used it for the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). If Jesus was referring to himself as the Son of God in the literal sense, why did he not make it clear that he was differentiating between a symbolic reference and a literal meaning of the term?

  12. Jesus was the Messiah, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. He frequently made reference to himself as the suffering servant foretold in the Book of Isaiah (Matthew 8:17 & Isaiah 53:4; Luke 2:30 & Isaiah 52:10; Luke 22:37 & Isaiah 53:12). The Messiah of the Old Testament was, however, promised by God that he would not be killed (Psalms 34:19, Isaiah 53:10). How was it, therefore, that the Jews had succeeded in killing the Messiah if Jesus died on the cross?

  13. If Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray him, why did he continue to permit him as a disciple? Why did he not tell the other disciples so that Judas could be excluded from his closest circle of followers?

  14. If Jesus knew that one of his disciples would betray him, why should he say that all twelve disciples would sit upon twelve thrones? (Matthew 19:28)

  15. If Jesus knew that he was to die on the cross, why did he spend all night praying in the Garden of Gethsemane seeking deliverance: Father if it is possible may this cup be taken from me? (Matthew 26:39)

  16. Jesus had taught that man's prayers are answered (Matthew 21:22). Why was not Jesus's prayer answered in the Garden of Gethsemane? What effect would this incident have on the faith of his disciples and followers to see that a prayer had not been answered contrary to what Jesus had taught?

  17. If Jesus believed that his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane would not be heard, why did he tell his disciples earlier that prayers are answered?: Would any of you who are fathers give your son a stone when he asked for bread (Matthew 7:9-10) which means that God hears the prayers of man more than a father answers the wishes of his children and Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. And whatever you ask in your prayers, you will receive, if you have faith. (Matthew 21:22; John 11:41,42)

  18. If Jesus's prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was not to be heard, why was it something that he wanted the disciples to witness? If the prayer was not to be heard, what useful purpose does this story serve?

  19. Why should Matthew, Mark and Luke all report (Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42) that Jesus asked for the cup of suffering to be passed if possible yet John (John 18:11) reports that Jesus hastened for the crucifixion saying shall I not drink the cup the Father hath given me?

  20. Why did Pontius Pilate just simply ignore his wife's plea to have nothing to do with Jesus on account of her bad dream? (Matthew 27:19) If the very mission of Jesus was to suffer death, why should God Almighty show a dream to Pilate's wife which would cause her to try and persuade her husband to release Jesus? Would not that appear to counter God's own plan?

  21. If Pilate really wanted Jesus to die on the cross, why would he fix the crucifixion on a Friday evening knowing that the Jews would have to take him down before Sabbath and that such a little time on the cross was insufficient for him to die?

  22. If Jesus knew all along that he was destined to be crucified to death (indeed if that was his purpose in life), why did he exclaim on the cross Eli, Eli Lama Sabachthani meaning my God my God why hast thou forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)

  23. If Jesus was about to die, how was he able to say in a clear loud and audible voice that he was thirsty? (John 19:28)

  24. Why are Jesus's words on the cross: Eli, Eli Lama Sabachthani (Matthew 27:46) reported in their original Aramaic form? Could it be that Jesus's helpless cry left such a vivid impression of a man seemingly bereft of hope that anyone who heard them would remember the exact words?

  25. Vinegar is often considered to have a stimulating effect, rather similar to smelling salts. Why, in Jesus's case, did it suddenly lead to his death? (John 19:29, 30)

  26. How could an onlooker tell the difference between a man on the cross who had died and a man who had fainted (Mark 15:39) particularly when it is reported that it was dark at that time? (Mark 15:33, Matthew 27:45, Luke 23:44)

  27. If Jesus was dead when he was removed from the cross, why did his body release blood and water, since blood does not flow at all from a dead body? (John 19:34)

  28. Why did Jesus die before the other two who were crucified with him even though the legs of the other two were broken to hasten death? (John 19:32)

  29. It is reported that dead saints came out of their graves and made themselves known to many (Matthew 27:52). When the Jews saw this, why did they not immediately profess faith in Jesus? Where did these saints go? Who did they see? Why is there no account of this story elsewhere other than in Matthew's Gospel?

  30. If the above story of saints rising from the dead is not based on an actual historical event, what other statements are there in the Gospels which are not based on actual historical facts?

  31. Jesus said that the killing of prophets ended with the killing of Zacharias (Matthew 23:35-36). How was it, therefore, that the Jews had succeeded in killing another prophet?

  32. Crucifixion was meant to be an accursed death (Deuteronomy 21:23). If Jesus was crucified, did that mean he also suffered an accursed death?

  33. Why was it that a Roman soldier was so readily prepared to allow Joseph (a subjected citizen) to take down Jesus's body from the cross without checking and without Joseph having any apparent lawful authority?

  34. Why is there is no direct account by Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus that Jesus was dead when he was taken down from the cross? Surely, this eye-witness account would have settled the matter beyond dispute?

  35. Why should Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus take so much trouble to recover the body of Jesus when this would have been the duty of the nearest relative?

  36. Why did Pilate agree to release the 'body' to Joseph of Arimathea (a known Jew and follower of Jesus) if he was not sympathetic to Jesus?

  37. Crucifixion was a slow death. It usually lasted several days. Death followed from exhaustion, inability to respire properly as a result of being in an upright position or attacks by wild animals. Why did Jesus, who was a fit and healthy man used to walking the countryside for long distances, die so quickly in only a matter of a few hours?

  38. If Jesus really was expected to die in such a short time, why did Pilate express surprise at Jesus's death? (Mark 15:42-44)

  39. Why would the Jews bribe the soldiers to say that Jesus's disciples had stolen the corpse whilst they (the soldiers) were asleep? If the soldiers had truly related this story, they might have been asked how they knew that the disciples had stolen the corpse if they were asleep?

  40. Why did the Jews not go and check the tomb themselves? They had put much effort into getting Jesus crucified. A friend of Jesus had been allowed to take the body away. Why did they not visit the tomb before Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus did?

  41. Why did Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus not stay with Jesus in the tomb after taking down his body from the cross to witness the resurrection? Jesus had apparently told his followers that he would die and rise after three days. (Matthew 16:21, 17:23, 20:17-19) This report had even reached the Jews (Matthew 27:63). Why did not Joseph and Nicodemus remain with Jesus to witness the event?

  42. Did the Jews really believe that Jesus had died? If so, why did they ask the Romans for a guard to be placed outside the sepulcher? Matthew says the Jews explained this by saying that Jesus's disciples could spread false rumors about him rising from the dead. However, if the Jews really believed this to be the reason for the request, why could they not have asked the disciples to produce the risen Christ as proof? If the disciples had then done so, the Jews could then presumably rearrest Jesus.

  43. Why were the Roman authorities so disinterested about the apparent removal of the body if this is what the Jews were claiming?

  44. Why was the stone moved from the tomb (Matthew 28:2) if it was a supernatural rising?

  45. When Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Jesus saw him, he was wearing gardener's clothing (John 20:15). Where did Jesus get these clothes from? His own clothes had been taken by the soldiers who had divided them drawing lots (John 19:23). It was not through Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus because they are only reported of having taken in herbs, aloes and a linen shroud (John 19:39, 40). What was the significance of Jesus wearing gardener's clothing (as opposed to normal clothing)? Was it meant to be a disguise? If so, for what purpose?

  46. Why were the women who visited the tomb terrified if Jesus was dead (Mark 16:8)? What did they have to be terrified of if the Jews had succeeded in killing Jesus?

  47. If Jesus could conquer death and rise from the dead, why did he fear seeing the Jews after the crucifixion? particularly as death had no more power over him? (Romans 6:9)

  48. Why did Jesus disguise himself after the resurrection and appear only to the disciples? Surely, this was the great manifestation of his power and the fulfillment of the purpose of his creation. What was the purpose in keeping it all a secret now?

  49. If Jesus was the risen Christ, why did he meet his disciples behind closed doors and not in the open as he used to? (John 20:19)

  50. How many times did Jesus ascend to Heaven? Luke (23:43) states that Jesus told one of those crucified with him that he would be in Heaven that day with him. Does that mean that Jesus went up to Heaven after his death, came back to earth and then ascended to Heaven once more? According to John there appears to be yet another Ascension. When Mary Magdalene asked to touch him, Jesus forbade her saying that he had not yet ascended to the Father (John 20:17). Later Jesus appears to the disciples and actually invites Thomas to touch him, (John 20:27) which must mean that Jesus had ascended and returned. Thus, is it possible that there were three Ascensions?

  51. If Jesus was God and Jesus was dead for three days, does that mean also that God (heaven forbid) was also dead for three days?

  52. Why is it that there is not a single direct account of Jesus's life by any of the twelve disciples or anyone who knew him personally? Can the word of those who did not know him or have the opportunity to hear him personally vouch for the accuracy of some of the reported remarks?

  53. How was it that the Gospel writers were able to report accurately Jesus's words, without committing them to memory or putting them on paper, some thirty to thirty-five years after his death before the first Gospel was written? Furthermore, given that:

    (a) Those writing the Gospels did not hear the words directly from Jesus and it cannot, therefore, be said that the words left a lasting impression.

    (b) They would have been passed on by word of mouth and therefore risked personal comment being added.

    (c) There is no written record of Jesus's words in Aramaic (his spoken language) thus necessitating a translation at some stage. In the light of this, what weight can be placed on the reliability of some of the reported speeches? (Note this question does not relate to stories or parables since these can be more easily remembered.)

  54. Why is it that Mark (the first written Gospel) is the shortest account when one would expect it to be the longest? Did the memories of later authors (e.g. John - written some 30-50 years later) became clearer with the passage of time?

  55. If the Gospels are the word of God and the authors of the Gospels were divinely inspired, why are there so many contradictions in them? For example, why should God tell Mark that it was the third hour when Jesus was crucified (Mark 19:14) but tell John it was the sixth hour? (John 19:14). Why should God tell Matthew and Mark that the two who were crucified with Jesus reviled him (Matthew 27:44, Mark 15:32) but tell Luke that Jesus told one of them that he would be rewarded by being in Heaven with him that day? (Luke 23:39, 43) Why should God tell Matthew that the first ones to visit the sepulchre after the crucifixion were Mary Magdalene and the 'other' Mary (Matthew 28:1) but tell Luke it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the Mother of James and the other women (Luke 24:10) and tell John that it was only Mary Magdalene? (John 20:1)

  56. Why is it that there is so much confusion and disagreement between the Gospel writers over the account of the crucifixion and resurrection? Is it fair to say that nobody was entirely sure of what actually happened?

  57. The author of Mark asserts that Jesus was taken up to Heaven and sat on the right of God (Mark 16:19). This remark could only come from Jesus himself or an eyewitness account. Since it was not Jesus who reported it, does that mean that the eyewitness actually went to Heaven and saw Jesus sitting at the right side of God? If so, was that person also taken to Heaven and brought back to report the incident?

  58. The disciples are said to have witnessed the Ascension (Mark 16:19), Luke 24:50). This must have been the most incredible experience of their lives. Why is it that not one of them wrote a single word concerning it afterwards? Why is it that the only accounts related are by others who had no direct knowledge of the incident?

  59. In the story of Jesus's birth, it is said that a star led the Three Wise Men to Jesus's birthplace. Is it not against the Laws of Nature for a star to travel in this way? Can the phenomenon be reconciled with our present day knowledge of astronomy?

  60. If Jesus's central message was that of Trinity (a concept alien to the Old Testament), why did he not elaborate on the subject to explain the interrelationships clearly? Why did he leave it to Paul to explain?

  61. Is it credible to say that if all the acts of Jesus in his life-time were transcribed on paper, the world could not hold the books which would be written? (John 21:25). Is it merely an exaggeration? If so, what other exaggerations exist?

  62. If it is accepted, as it is by most scholars, that there have been additions, alternations and amendments to the original Gospels, what confidence can a reader have that a particular remark attributed to Jesus was not inserted later as an expression of the Christian faith at that time?

  63. If Jesus was God, why did he repeatedly emphasize the importance of the unity of God? For example:

    (a) Hear O Israel the first commandment is that Thy God is One and there is none other than He (Mark 12:28, 32, Matthew 22:34-40)

    (b) I can do nothing on my authority, as I hear, I judge and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. (John 5:30, 31)

  64. The Old Testament prophesied the coming of a 'Messiah'. This Messiah was never conceived as a divine figure. How did a prophetic figure become converted into a divine being?

  65. If Jesus was claiming divinity, why did he place himself on an equal footing with everyone else? My Father and your Father, My God and your God. (John 20:27)

  66. If Jesus was God, why did he forbid the reference of divinity to himself: Why call me good? Only God is good. (Matthew 19:16-17)

  67. If Jesus was claiming divinity, why did he liken himself to the Judges and Prophets of the Old Testament who had also been called gods, but in a metaphorical sense? (John 10:34-36, Psalms 82:6). If Jesus was applying the term 'Son of God' in a literal sense, why would he give this reference from the Old Testament which was clearly referring to people as sons in a metaphorical sense?

  68. Why should Jesus say he could do nothing of his own authority, if he was God? (John 5:30)

  69. If Jesus was God, why did he not know who had touched him? (Mark 5:30)

  70. If Jesus was God, why did he not know what was going to happen on the Day of Judgment? But of that day or that Hour no one knows, not even the Angels in Heaven, not the Son but only the Father. (Mark 13:32)

  71. If Jesus was God, why would he say that he was sent by God? (John 6:29)

  72. If Jesus was God, what need did he have to pray? (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16)

  73. If Jesus was God, why would he curse a fig tree when it had no fruit on it particularly as it was not the season for its bearing fruit? (Mark 11:12-14, Matthew 21:18-19)

  74. When Zebedee asked that his two sons might sit on the right and left of Jesus, why did Jesus say that the power was not with him but only with God? (Matthew 20:23)

  75. If Jesus was divine, why did he clearly refer to himself as a man (John 8:39-40) and separate himself from God in describing the relationship 'The only true God and Jesus Christ' (John 17:3)?

  76. If Jesus was God and therefore omniscient, why did he allow himself to be tricked by Judas?

  77. If Jesus was God, why did he die on the cross in a matter of a few hours when ordinary mortals usually lasted several days? If Jesus was weakened by bearing the sins of the whole world, why should he say that he was able to redeem the sins of the world?

  78. Jesus is reported to have said: He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me (Matthew 10:40, Luke 10:16, John 12:44). Who sent Jesus if he himself was God?

  79. According to Christian tradition, Jesus was in hell for three days after his death. How does one reconcile this with Jesus's remarks on the cross to one of those crucified with him that today you will be with me in Paradise. (Luke 23:43)

  80. If Jesus believed in and advocated the concept of original sin (i.e. that all children are born sinful) why did he say that unless a man received the Kingdom of Heavens as a child he would not enter it? (Mark 10:4-15). Why should he go to bless them instead of purifying them by baptism if that is what is required before a child can be cleansed of original sin?

  81. Forgiveness is a cornerstone of Christian belief (Matthew 5:38-40). Is forgiveness the appropriate action in all instances? If so, would it mean that there could be no penal system under the Christian Law for punishing offenders?

  82. If Jesus's teaching was intended for the entire world as a complete code for all mankind, why should Jesus confine it to one section of people -- the Jews only? (Matthew 10:5-6, Matthew 15:24)

  83. If Jesus's teaching ended in Palestine, why is it that there are so many remarkable similarities between the reported life histories of Jesus and Buddha? These similarities include:

    • Virgin birth
    • Temptation by the Devil
    • Resistance of the temptations
    • Teaching by parables
    • Injunction to love one's enemies
    • Early followers consisting of small groups of disciples
    • Death accompanied by an earthquake

    (Note: Buddha lived approximately five hundred years before Jesus.)

  84. If Jesus meant that he was literally the son of God, why should he confuse the issue by frequently referring to himself as The Son of Man a term from the Old Testament which did not imply divinity since the Son of Man (as understood in the Old Testament) was never a divine being?

  85. If the Trinity existed since the beginning of time, were the Jews misled by all the prophets before Jesus in being told to believe in the Unity of God? If the Jews were not spiritually advanced to understand the complex concept of the Trinity, does that apply to the prophets also?

  86. Why was it necessary for Jesus to die physically so that man could attain salvation? What significance does physical death have with spiritual life?

  87. According to the Doctrine of Atonement, the sins of the guilty are redeemed by the death of Jesus. Jesus was sinless. How can the sins of the guilty be borne by the death of an innocent man? Is it divine justice to punish an innocent person for the crimes committed by the guilty?

  88. If Jesus believed in the Doctrine of Atonement, why would he tell his disciples that if they forgave others, God would forgive them (Matthew 6:14, 15)? If Atonement forgives all sins, what further need is there to seek the forgiveness of others?

  89. If, as according to Paul, man can do nothing by himself to attain salvation (Romans 3:24, 3:28, 9:11, 9:16, Galations 2:16), what is the point of obeying the commandments? (Mark 10:17-19, Luke 10:25, Matthew 19:16-20)

  90. If Atonement forgives all sins, why did Jesus say that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would not be forgiven? (Matthew 12:31) Is there a distinction between forgivable and unforgivable sins? If so, how does one distinguish between the two?

  91. If it is Jesus's death which forgive sins, and not any personal effort on the part of the sinner (such as carrying out good works, restraining from evil habits, etc.), what motive is there for a person to avoid sin and evil conduct?

  92. If Jesus redeemed the sins of the world by his crucifixion, that could only atone for the sins of the world up to that point. What about sins after the crucifixion? If it also covers later sins, how does one reconcile that with Paul's remark that Jesus's sacrifice is for earlier sins and he cannot be crucified a second time (Hebrews 10:26, 66)

  93. If belief in the resurrection and atonement is essential, how was it that Jesus forgave the sins of an adulteress even though she did not believe in him nor in his redemption? (Matthew 8:1-11)

  94. Jesus taught his disciples to pray during his lifetime. He taught them also to pray after his death (Matthew 6:9-15). What further need is there to pray if Atonement forgives all sins?

  95. Paul was to feature as a major teacher and expounder of Jesus's message. Why is there no reference, directly or indirectly, by Jesus to his work? Jesus refers to true and false prophets coming after him as well as the Spirit of Truth but why no reference to Paul?

  96. If Paul's teaching was based on Jesus's words, why is not one word based on Jesus's parables, similitudes or the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount?

  97. Jesus was raised as a Jew. Accordingly, he was circumcised, fasted, abstained from the flesh of swine and prayed. It was also repeatedly said that he had not come to change the Law of Moses (Matthew 5:17). By what authority, therefore, did Paul abolish all these practices? What indication did Jesus give that after his death these practices would no longer be necessary?

  98. If salvation can only be attained by belief in Jesus's death and resurrection, why is there no reference to it whatsoever in the two greatest summaries of Jesus's teachings: The Sermon on the Mount and the Lord's Prayer?

  99. All prophets live their lives as examples for others. If salvation is only through belief in the Doctrine of Atonement - and that matters more than anything else - why was it necessary for Jesus to demonstrate all the numerous acts of kindness, compassion, forgiveness, healing, mercy, love of his enemies, the condemnation of empty ritual, etc.? If all these actions were not the central message of Jesus, is it not true that the majority of his works which comprise the main parts of the Gospels are rendered utterly irrelevant?

  100. If the return of the Prophet Elijah was to be fulfilled by another man (John the Baptist), why cannot the return of the Messiah (Jesus) similarly be fulfilled through another person? Is there any historical or religious record of the same prophet returning to this world?

  101. Jesus prophesied that there would be true and false prophets in the future (Matthew 7:15-20). We know that there have been false prophets but, why, according to Christian tradition, have there not been any true prophets? Were they all false? If no true prophet was to appear, why did Jesus make this prophecy?

Note: All quotations are from the Revised Standard Version.
Copyright 1993.