The last words of Jesus: the problem of the prophesy

This, my first post on this new religion-themed blog, is not meant to argue that the bible is wrong. I believe it’s wrong, but that’s just my take. Instead, this is meant as an introduction to the Atheist Papers. This new blog is designed to welcome the free exchange of ideas from all walks: bible literalists to militant atheists and people of all religious and spiritual beliefs. I’ll never criticize a person in these posts, and I expect my readers to do the same. Ideas, on the other hand, even mine, are open to criticism. I’ll start out by criticizing the crucifixion of Jesus.

I don’t believe Jesus actually existed. I don’t see any evidence. But the story is in the bible, which is often used as evidence (for what I believe are logical fallacies, but more on that at a later time). The story is pretty straightforward. We’ve heard it a hundred times. Eventually, he was nailed (or tied) to a cross (or a tree or wooden post) and left to die a slow, suffocating death. During these hours of suffocation, Jesus is said to have uttered short statements, generally assumed to be Jesus’ last words. His alleged final words are recorded as seven sentences between three (or four) books: Matthew/Mark, Luke, and John. In this post I will only address the Matthew and Mark verses and their implications.


Both Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 write identical last words. This verse is especially important, considering it appears twice in the new testament and refers back to King David in Psalm 22:1.

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”(which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

It is standard belief in Christianity that Jesus is one of three manifestations of a single supernatural agency that we refer to as the god of Abraham. If this is accepted, then to whom is Jesus speaking? Is he saying “Why have I forsaken myself?”

Even if we dismiss this–i.e., god and Jesus are two separate supernatural agencies–then it still means something troublesome to Christianity. It is a question that challenges the prophesy of the death and eventual resurrection of a messiah. Jesus is supposed to have predicted these exact events in Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Jesus must have known that this was a part of a prophesied plan. Indeed, he did. It was in the old testament. He needed not ask why.

If we go back to the original assumption–that Jesus and god are the same–then Jesus’ question on the cross indicates ignorance. God is supposed to be all knowing, which is something repeated in the bible at least 138 times. An all knowing god would not need to ask himself such questions.

Let’s finally assume that everything above is wrong. Jesus did know. The question implies something else that I have not considered. I will accept that as a possibility. But even if I am wrong on every account, it does nothing to bridge the gap between Jesus’ sacrifice and what a sacrifice really is. God sent himself to earth as Jesus, knew he would be executed and resurrected a few days later and ascend back to heaven to take his seat next to himself. That doesn’t sound like a sacrifice to me. It sounds like winning the lottery, but even better! If the Jesus story is true, then, as I’ve written before on a different blog, it was a ridiculously complicated scheme to do something really, really simple, especially for an all powerful god: forgive mankind their sins.

To conclude, I’ll offer one final piece of criticism: If the crucifixion story is true, it’s rather meaningless. I’d chalk it up to a constructed hero. Everyone needs a hero, even if they’re dead.

About Rayan Zehn

I'm a political scientist.
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