The Gospels

If this is your first visit to HAAM’s Atheist Bible Study, please read the Introduction before beginning.

THE NEW TESTAMENT - Introduction Prior to beginning the New Testament, I have a few explanatory notes and warnings. First, a reminder that I am NOT a bible scholar and do not claim any expertise. These notes are based on my observations and impressions as I read the bible thoroughly for the first time. Almost all of it is […]
PART FOURTEEN – MARK AND MATTHEW - Introduction Jews and Christians living at the time the gospels were written believed that the end of history was at hand, that God would very soon come to punish their enemies and establish his own rule, and that they were at the center of his plans. The gospels were written to confirm the identity of […]
Day 275 - Mark 1-3 You’ll notice two things right off the bat in Mark – the prose is terse and disjointed, and there is no birth story. Chapter 1 The author begins by referring to Jesus as Christ, or Messiah, depending on the version you read. They both mean Anointed One (Christ is Greek; Messiah is Hebrew). […]
Day 276 - Mark 4-5 Chapter 4 In 4:11-12, Jesus explains that the reason he speaks in confusing parables is so that the scriptures can be fulfilled (see Isaiah 6:9-10 for the source of this verse). But if he knows about this prophesy, and deliberately fulfills it, then it’s not really prophesy, is it? I mean, to be […]
Day 277 - Mark 6-7 Chapter 6 The chapter begins with Jesus returning to his home country (KJV); the NLT identifies this as Nazareth. There’s not a lot (if any) archaeological evidence for the town of Nazareth around that time. Next point of interpretation comes in v 3 – was Jesus a carpenter, or the son of a […]
Day 278 - Mark 8-9 Chapter 8 Verses 1-10 give us a repeat of the loaves and fishes story from chapter 6, but with a few details altered. 7 loaves instead of 5, and 4000 people instead of 5000, etc. Did this scenario really occur twice, or is it just a duplication, with 2 different oral traditions of […]
Day 279 - Mark 10-11 Chapter 10 This gives us Jesus’ famous words on the finality of marriage “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (v 7- 9). In doing so he refutes the OT law allowing divorce (Deut 24:1). I guess this is an example of why Christians regard the OT laws as […]
Day 280 - Mark 12-13 Chapter 12 Verses 1-12, the parable of the tenant farmers, is one that I don’t remember from Sunday school. In the church I attended as a child, we only read the soothing, feel-good parts of the gospels. This violent story was never mentioned. So I had to turn to an apologist site to […]
Day 281 - Mark 14 There won’t be a whole lot to comment on in these last few chapters of Mark, which deal with the end of Jesus’ life. Most of the icons in the SAB refer to contradictions, which of course won’t become apparent until we compare Mark to the other gospels. So for now just read […]
Day 282 - Mark 15-16 Chapter 15 Now we meet Pontius Pilate, who was the prefect (governor) of the Roman province of Judea under the emperor Tiberius. The guys in the last chapter were the religious leaders; this is the official ‘government’ trial. Pilate obviously realizes that the charges are trumped up (v 10), but he gives in […]
Day 283 - Matthew 1-4 There are 146 contradictions in the SAB associated with Matthew – more than in any other book of the bible; so this oughtta be good. Since we have already read Mark, we’ll begin to spot them right away. Chapter 1 The first 17 verses of chapter 1 are nothing but a boring genealogy […]
Day 284 - Matthew 5-6 Chapter 5 Verses 1-11 are known as the Beatitudes or the Sermon on the Mount. Such well-known platitudes; how can anyone criticize this speech? Even the SAB gives it a thumbs-up and calls it ‘nice sayings of Jesus’. Funny, I don’t see it that way. Several of these statements are blatantly incorrect – […]
Day 285 - Matthew 7-8 Chapter 7 This chapter starts out on a positive note. At least for v 1-5. I’m not so thrilled about v 6. It sounds xenophobic, in direct contradiction to the ‘love your enemies’ spiel from chapter 5. It sounds cold and arrogant. Apparently it is also one of the passages used by Jehovah’s […]
Day 286 - Matthew 9-10 Chapter 9 We get repeats of the stories of the paralyzed man, the dinner with the ‘disreputable sinners’, the lecture about wineskins, the bleeding woman, and Jairus’ daughter from Mark 2, but all have some details altered or embellished. For example, in Mark the girl was only ill; in Matthew, Jesus brings her […]
Day 287 - Matthew 11-12 Chapter 11 This chapter starts with an interesting little story that was never read in my church. John the Baptist is in prison, and John’s disciples come to ask Jesus if he (Jesus) is the Messiah, or if they should continue looking…. WTF? Jesus’ divinity really couldn’t have been all that apparent then, […]
Day 288 - Matthew 13-14 Chapter 13 This begins with a repeat of the parable of the seed from Mark 4, so there’s no need to repeat my comments. V 24 begins a new parable, about wheat and weeds. It took some thinking to figure out the point of it, and when I did, it’s nasty. A saboteur […]
Day 289 - Matthew 15-17 Chapter 15 We get a recounting of the lessons on rituals and purity from Mark 7, embellished a bit. V 12-13, about insulting the Pharisees, are new. The Pharisees were ultra-observant of the OT laws and traditions, which is why Jesus’ words would have ticked them off. He adds that their concerns can […]
Day 290 - Matthew 18-19 Chapter 18 We start with a rehash of Mark 9 – unless you become like a little child (credulous? simple?) you will never get into heaven, and if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. Next, the parable of the lost sheep – a Sunday school favorite, and always cute and […]
Day 291 - Matthew 20-21 Chapter 20 This chapter tells the parable of the vineyard workers – or, as the SAB calls it, the parable of the unfair, lying employer. I guess it’s supposed to illustrate the point made in v 16. And I disagree that the employer lied. What he did was legal, if unfair. But what […]
Day 292 - Matthew 22-23 Chapter 22 The parable of the wedding banquet conjures up warm fuzzy memories from childhood – one of my favorite Junior Choir songs. My mom had the whole book of Christian pop songs by the Medical Mission Sisters, which included one about ‘The Wedding Banquet’, and she would play the piano while I […]
Day 293 - Matthew 24-25 Chapter 24 The first 36 verses are pretty much just a rerun of Mark 13, with very little difference worth noting. The SAB notes a contradiction in v 14 – “Jesus says the gospel will be preached to all nations and then shall the end come. But back in 10:23, Matthew said the […]
Day 294 - Matthew 26 This chapter follows Mark 14 pretty closely for the first couple of stories – the elders plot to off Jesus, and then he is anointed with the expensive oil. But when we get to v 14, where Judas betrays Jesus, Matthew gets specific, naming the price as 30 pieces of silver; Mark only […]
Day 295 - Matthew 27-28 Chapter 27 Verses 3-10, about the death of Judas, were absent from Mark. So pay attention to the details – there’ll be another version of it in Luke. From v 6 we get the term ‘blood money’. The elders used it to buy the potter’s field, which is still called the Field of […]
PART FIFTEEN – LUKE AND JOHN - Introduction Not every story of Jesus is included in every gospel; several well-known ones (like the Prodigal Son) were absent from Mark and Matthew, so they must be in Luke and/or John. Luke is the last of the 3 synoptic gospels (those that are mainly biographical and share source material). Luke The gospel of Luke […]
Day 296 - Luke 1 Here’s a short helpful video to watch before starting Luke. Attention musicians – 4 gorgeous classical works in this first chapter alone! It starts with an intro, and I wouldn’t ordinarily think significant, except that the name Theophilus jumped out at me. Who the heck is that? Well…. In Greek it means ‘friend […]
Day 297 - Luke 2-3 Chapter 2 Now we get to the familiar birth story. The first 4 verses of chapter 2 have been extensively debunked by scholars because the timeline doesn’t fit. Quirinius didn’t become governor until 6 CE, and Herod the Great, who supposedly ordered all those baby boys killed, died a decade earlier. As well, […]
Day 298 - Luke 4-5 Chapter 4 Verses 1-13 retells the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, and it’s virtually unchanged from Matthew’s version. And I still say that hunger and heat can make anyone hallucinate. The next section, about Jesus being rejected in his hometown, barely resembles its counterparts in Mark and Matthew. Luke has […]
Day 299 - Luke 6-7 Chapter 6 These stories are becoming very repetitive. Here we are back to the one about breaking the Sabbath by picking grain (Mark 2 and Matt 12). It’s similar in all 3 gospels, except that in Luke it starts off weird in the KJV with “And it came to pass on the second […]
Day 300 - Luke 8-9 Chapter 8 This chapter starts with a listing of several women who were followers of Jesus; Luke is the only gospel to do so. Mary Magdalene is the only name I recognize. Next we’re back to the farmer sowing seed. I compared it to the versions in Mark and Matthew, and it’s pretty […]
Day 301 - Luke 10-11 Chapter 10 I feel a sense of deja-vu. Didn’t I read just read this stuff? Yup, it’s just a rehash and embellishment of the same topic in the last chapter (and Mark 6, and Matthew 10). Good grief! The version in Luke 9 was really short, so set that aside – maybe it […]
Day 302 - Luke 12-13 Chapter 12 Luke bounces all over the place with bits and pieces from previous gospels. It starts with a reference to the yeast and Pharisees (Mark 8 and Matt 16); then quickly moves on to the ‘do not be afraid’ speech from Matt 10. I don’t much care for the advice in v […]
Day 303 - Luke 14-16 Chapter 14 Jesus just can’t seem to help himself – he keeps healing people on the Sabbath! Does he ever heal on the other days of the week? This time it’s a man with ‘dropsy’ – an old-fashioned term for edema (swelling of the legs). These days in the developed world, that’s usually […]
Day 304 - Luke 17-18 Chapter 17 This chapter starts off with a mish-mash of verses plucked randomly out of context from Matthew. The bit about the millstone is Matt 18:6. The verse about forgiving seven times is Matt 18:21. Next is the mustard seed verse (Matt 17:20). And seriously, the mustard seed verse – has anyone tested […]
Day 305 - Luke 19-20 Chapter 19 Another of my favorite stories – Zacchaeus. Another fond memory for me because of another song (by the same composer as the Wedding Banquet and the Ten Lepers) – catchy tunes designed to teach bible stories to kids. And yet, apart from the name and a couple of lines of music, […]
Day 306 - Luke 21-22 Chapter 21 We open with the story of the widow’s offering (Mark 12), and then Jesus predicting the destruction of the temple (both reworded, but not different). The rest of the chapter is the end-times prophesy stuff from Mark 13 and Matt 24. But Luke splits it up – parts of Matt 24 […]
Day 307 - Luke 23-24 Here we are at the whole crucifixion story again. I wish I could find more to say, but we’ve been through these stories 3 times already. So here’s a little musical interlude – Ave Verum Corpus by Mozart; he’s only one of dozens of composers who set this dirge to music, but his […]
Day 308 - John 1-2 You’ll notice right away in John how the tone changes. John’s Jesus is barely a human being; John emphasizes Jesus’ divinity. Right from the beginning, we see familiar phrases like ‘in the beginning was the word’. I think of these types of sayings as “Christianese”. By this I mean common phrases and platitudes […]
Day 309 - John 3-4 Chapter 3 A man called Nicodemus asserts that Jesus’ miraculous signs are evidence that he is a man of god. But who cares? In every other gospel, Jesus stated that signs were unnecessary and that only evil people would demand them (e.g. Matthew 12:39). So why does he waste his time performing stupid […]
Day 310 - John 5-6 Chapter 5 Jesus is in trouble again for healing on the Sabbath. Here he heals a paralyzed man – but probably not the same man as in Mark 2, Matt 9 and Luke 5. (The details are pretty far apart. Notably this takes place at the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem). I find […]
Day 311 - John 7-8 Chapter 7 This doesn’t fit in with anything we’ve read so far and it’s completely unfamiliar to me. I doubt we ever read anything from it in my church. In the very first verse, we see a hint of the author’s prejudice against the Jews. In the KJV, it reads “… because the […]
Day 312 - John 9-10 Chapter 9 John tells the story of Jesus healing a blind man at the temple. It’s reminiscent of a similar story in Mark 8 because of the use of spit, but if it’s from the same source, then John smoked something before writing his version of it. Mark used only 5 verses; John […]
Day 313 - John 11-12 Chapter 11 Well isn’t this interesting! The woman who anointed Jesus turns out to be Mary, the sister of Martha. In the first three gospels, when this story is related, she is nameless. In Luke 7 she is even described as immoral or sinful, yet later in his gospel (ch 10), Luke tells […]
Day 314 - John 13-15 Chapter 13 Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. Hearing this passage read in church creeped me out as a kid, and I never really understood why anyone would do that or what the significance was. Note that it wasn’t recorded in any other gospel. Some churches take this story very seriously and actually do […]
Day 315 - John 16-18 Chapter 16 We start out with the conclusion of the victim speech from the last chapter. (God needs a better editor.) Then Jesus continues on his soapbox, talking about the holy spirit again. It’s just meaningless babble to me – nonspecific promises about intangible rewards and no evidence for any of it. After […]
Day 316 - John 19-21 Chapter 19 John’s account of Pilate’s soldiers mocking Jesus agrees with the accounts of Mark and Matthew, and the color of the robe (purple) agrees with Mark, so John likely copied from Mark. Predictably Pilate finds Jesus not guilty and wants to release him – but there is no ‘washing of hands’ or […]
Upcoming HAAM Events
Other Upcoming Events

For community events of interest to HAAM members, click here.

Save the Dates!

Monthly Meeting
November 18th

HAAM and Eggs Brunch
November 26th

Winter Solstice Party
December 23rd

Sign up for our Newsletter