When you look into a subject, sometimes you’re shocked to find that the perceived wisdom of our day is totally and completely wrong. Totally. When I became a Christian, I discovered lots of these on the subject of my faith.
From Hitler being a Christian, to Jesus not existing, to the Bible being created at the Council of Nicaea, there really is a lot of misinformation out there. Here’s a short list of 8 of the daftest myths I’ve come across, written for Christian Today.
8 thoughts on “The 8 silliest myths about Christianity”
I agree with almost the whole list. I will, however, dispute the first and the last entries.
1. People do not consider Hitler to have been a Christian because he made a few vague references to God in his speeches. People consider Hitler to be a Christian because he explicitly called himself a Christian. He publicly stated, “I am now, and ever shall be, a Catholic.” Now, it is certainly possible that his view on Christianity changed throughout the years, and it is certainly true that the vast majority of Christians deplore his actions and philosophies, but that does not mean he was not a Christian.
8. None of the synoptic gospels record Jesus giving any clear claim to be God. The “I am” statements come from the last gospel to be written, and one which was written around 60 years after Jesus’ death. Even within the gospels, it is clear that the crime for which Jesus was crucified was claiming to be King of the Jews– he was not executed for claiming to be God. It is very likely that the “I am” statements in John are the result of a later escalated Christology not shared by the earliest Christians.
Hi there! Thanks for the response. I’d say, that for 1), it depends what your definition of Catholic or Christian is. For example, if someone says they are a Christian, but does it only to curry favour with the populace, while privately stating how they hate the religion, does that mean they’re a Christian? While we can’t be sure of Hitler’s motives in that statement, we do know that privately he said he hated Christianity. And if they reject all fundamental teachings and tenets of the faith, can they be called a Christian? As that article mentions, when the Nazis defined ‘Positive Christianity’ it wasn’t at all related to any normal definition of the faith – but just to Hitler and the Nazi Party. That would be sin in the eyes of orthodox Christians – creating an idol. (Added to all the other hideous sins they committed).
8) I’d argue that the synoptics are clear too: eg Matt 26:63-64, clearly in response to the leader’s question, and referring himself as the ‘Son of Man’ of Dan 7. Also he allowed people to worship him, and was worshipped as a child.
Good to talk!
Thank you for taking the time to answer!
1) I completely agree that it’s not quite the black-or-white situation that atheists and Christians often attempt to make it. Certainly, at least towards the end of his life and career, Hitler’s private life and thought strayed far from mainstream Christianity. However, it seems fairly likely that he had been raised, and spent the majority of his life, as an orthodox Christian; and that it wasn’t until after his rise to power that his views on the subject began to evolve. It is well known, for example, that Martin Luther’s “On the Jews and their Lies” was an extremely influential text in the development of the Nazi ethos.
8) Jesus does not refer to himself, directly, as the Son of Man, in Matt 26:63-64. The council member asks him if he is “the anointed one, the son of God,” to which Jesus replies, “You have said so.” He then continues by saying that, “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
That said, unlike Bart Ehrman, I do believe that it is quite likely that Jesus taught his followers that he, himself, was destined to be the Son of Man. However, I will agree with Ehrman– and the vast majority of scholarship– that the “one like a son of man” referenced in Daniel 7 was not interpreted as being equivalent to Yahweh until after the establishment of Christianity; and that the first-century Jews to whom Jesus preached would have understood his conception of “the Son of Man” to be a judge granted divine authority by God, but not Yahweh, himself.
Thanks. Good to engage with someone who knows their stuff. Still can’t agree, though. 🙂
On 1) being raised as a Christian doesn’t define someone as a Christian. Also what are the details? What does the phrase ‘spent majority of his life’ as an orthodox Christian mean to you? Hitler rejected fundamentals of the faith, as well as its most basic commands.
Given that Luther’s anti-Semitism is not Biblical, can it be blamed on Christianity? I don’t know enough about Luther’s thinking to argue this point though. Bizarre that anti-Semitism is connected with Christianity, I think, when Jesus and most of his early followers were Jewish. Any Christian associated with such ideas should be ashamed. As you know the church currently gets criticism from the outside world for exactly the opposite, ie being pro-Israel.
Anyhow, I think there’s enough evidence to say that Hitler’s personal views were not in line with orthodox Christianity, and neither were those of the Nazis. They rejected basic doctrines such as the Apostle’s Creed and also obviously ignored basic commands.
As to 8) I would argue against your interpretation. Why would Jesus saying he is a non-divine Messiah be considered blasphemy and lead to cloth tearing? Jer 23:6 makes a clear statement that the Messiah will be Yahweh, and there are other slightly more debatable passages in Isaiah. I’m always a little suspect of what ‘majority of scholarship’ means, but what’s the evidence that Jews of the time didn’t think the Messiah and/or the Son of Man would be Yahweh? Can it be applied to all Jews of the time in that specific period? Also, again – Jesus allowed himself to be worshipped.
Thanks again for taking the time to converse with me! I always find these conversations engaging!
1) Again, I completely agree that this is a murky subject. It’s certainly clear that the views of Hitler and the Nazis, towards the end of the war, were quite different from those of the majority of Christianity. However, I would argue that this is a relatively short period of history, and that earlier in the rise of Hitler to power, his views were far more orthodox.
Also, while it may seem like Christian anti-Semitism is peculiar, the historical precedent for it dates back to at least the 2nd Century. Marcion and his followers explicitly rejected Judaism, even going so far as to reject the Old Testament in their Biblical canon. By the end of the 4th Century, Christian bishops and monks were organizing violent pogroms against the Jews– Saint Cyril, the bishop of Alexandria, was extremely hostile towards the Jews, even going so far as to say that it would be sinful to legally punish Christians who had murdered Jews and burnt down their synagogues. Christian anti-Semitism continued, with fervor, all through the Middle Ages and into the Inquisition period. Again, as I mentioned, Martin Luther wrote the incredibly anti-Semitic “On the Jews and their Lies,” which I’m sure he would argue was quite Biblical, despite modern protestations to the contrary. Even today, there are extremely anti-Semitic organizations like the KKK and numerous neo-Nazi groups which identify, strongly, as Christian groups.
8) Jeremiah 23:6 does not say that the Messiah will be Yahweh. It says that the Messiah’s name will be “Yahweh is our righteousness.” My name is Joseph, which is derived from the Hebrew name that translates as “Yahweh shall add.” That doesn’t mean my parents thought I was Yahweh. The name “Joshua” is from the Hebrew for “Yahweh saves,” but I think you’ll agree that no Jew ever considered that famous Judge of Israel to be Yahweh.
As for the evidence that Jews did not think the Messiah would be Yahweh, there’s volumes upon volumes of scholarship on this fact. It’s not even a point of contention– even the most conservative Evangelical scholars universally agree that the Messiah was not expected to be Yahweh, himself, by Jews prior to Jesus. This can be very clearly seen even in the Old Testament, itself. The word “messiah” simply means “anointed one.” It was applied to very human kings and judges and prophets throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. The concept of a future Messiah-to-come came after the destruction of the first temple and the subjugation of Israel, when Jews came to believe that a new leader would rise up and restore Israel to its rightful place. They thought this coming leader would be a “messiah” in the same sense that the great king David was a “messiah.” That is, they felt that this leader would be anointed by God, himself, to restore Israel to its greatness. Prior to Christianity, the Jews had a number of disparate views on exactly how the coming Messiah would be presented to the world, but none of them thought he would be Yahweh, himself.
As for Jesus allowing himself to be worshiped, I’ll certainly mention that the historicity of that claim is questionable. However, even if Jesus did allow himself to be worshiped, that says nothing at all about whether or not he thought himself to be Yahweh. There were certainly ancient Jews who gave worship to other beings, besides Yahweh, including angels and kings. Again, this is apparent throughout the Old Testament’s writings.
Hiya, thanks again. Just a quick response…
What’s your evidence that Hitler had orthodox Christian beliefs earlier in his life? I suspect an underlying problem in this discussion is that you and I would differ on how to define a Christian. Interestingly my dictionary states, “someone who believes in and follows the teachings of Jesus Christ” – I like that. As to violence done in the name of Christ – it’s a scandal. Was it due to Biblical illiteracy? At points in church history, very low knowledge of what the BIble actually says. Also, Marcion was considered a heretic, so not really fair to use him in your argument, I don’t think. 🙂
To 8) – could you cite the scholarship you refer to? I suspect your interpretation of Jer 23:6 is debatable, and given other verses such as Is 9:6 I’d argue it’s clearly prophesying a divine Christ.
So, again, why would the religious leaders call what Jesus said blasphemy? And how would a normal mortal find himself on the ‘clouds of heaven’ in glory?
1) For sources on Hitler’s orthodox Christian beliefs, you can read pretty much any biography written about him. He was raised in the Catholic Church, sang in the choir, and even considered pursuing Holy Orders to become a priest.
I really don’t think that one could accuse Saint Cyril of Alexandria or Martin Luther of “Biblical illiteracy.” Again, these men felt that their anti-Semitism was entirely Scripturally justified.
Marcion was declared a heretic, but he was certainly someone who “believed in and followed the teachings of Jesus Christ,” so I think it’s quite fair to mention him.
8) For scholarship asserting the Jewish expectations of the Messiah, I can recommend the work of various scholars: Gary Habermas, Craig Evans, and Bart Ehrman all tend to be very accessible to the average reader. I’ll agree that Isaiah 9:6 ascribes some level of divinity to the messiah, but I would still argue that this is not claiming that the messiah is equivalent to Yahweh.
Blasphemy is a charge which covers a great range of offenses besides claiming to be Yahweh. The fact that a penniless, itinerant preacher from the backwoods of Galilee would be claiming to have been anointed by God to be the ruler of Israel would certainly have been considered blasphemous. Nor did I ever claim Jesus thought himself to be a “normal” mortal. I simply don’t believe that he claimed to be Yahweh.
Singing in a choir as a child – even wanting to be a priest as a child – says nothing about a person’s religious belief, in my opinion. Church often just a cultural activity, such as in the UK until recently. As an adult Hitler didn’t attend church and showed no signs of anything approaching Christian faith – but please do correct me if I’m wrong with evidence to the contrary.
As to Biblical illiteracy – it’s a hypothesis in my mind. Would like to study it one day. If wider Biblical literacy in a culture, is it less likely to cultivate wrongdoing in church such as anti-Semitism? As I say, a hypothesis.
I hadn’t thought Habermas’ expert field was beliefs of Judaism in pre-Christ period, which work are you referring to?
What’s your evidence for blasphemy covering the claim to be a Messiah?