Why the Resurrection is Unbelievable (part 1)

by Luke Muehlhauser on January 10, 2011 in Historical Jesus

Richard Carrier, author of Sense & Goodness Without God, wrote “Why the Resurrection is Unbelievable” for The Christian Delusion. He begins:

Fifty years after the Persian Wars ended in 479 BC, Herodotus the Halicarnassian asked numerous eyewitnesses and their children about the things that happened in those years and then wrote a book about it. Though he often shows a critical and skeptical mind, sometimes naming his sources and even questioning their reliability when he has suspicious or conflicting accounts, he nevertheless reports without a hint of doubt that the temple of Delphi magically defended itself with animated armaments, lightning bolts, and collapsing cliffs; the sacred olive tree of Athens, though burned by the Persians, grew a new shoot an arm’s length in a single day; a miraculous flood-tide wiped out an entire Persian contingent after they desecrated an image of Poseidon; a horse gave birth to a rabbit; and a whole town witnessed a mass resurrection of cooked fish!

Do you believe these things happened? Well, why not? …You’ll say, for example, that these sorts of things don’t really happen because nothing like them happens today, certainly never when you’re around. Cooked fish don’t rise from the dead. Rabbits don’t pop out of horses. Temples don’t defend themselves with miraculous weather and floating weapons… You know these things because of your own experience, as well as that of countless other people, especially after centuries of scientific research. But you also know people lie… They also exaggerate, tell tall tales, craft edifying myths and legends, and err in many ways… as we all know, false stories are commonplace. But miracles, quite clearly, are not.

So what is more likely? That miracles like these really happen, while you and everyone else you trust, including every scientist and investigator for the last few centuries, just happens to have missed them all? Or that these are just tall tales? I think the latter. And I suspect you agree.

But that’s just one rule of thumb we all live by. Your doubts become stronger when you can’t question the witnesses; when you don’t even know who they are; when you don’t have the story from them but from someone else entirely; when there is an agenda, something the storyteller is trying to persuade you of; when the witnesses or reporters are a bit kooky or disturbingly overzealous. And so on. We all think this way, and rightly so.

…For all these reasons and more, we rightly dismiss [the miracles described by Herodotus] as fun tales that simply aren’t true.

Well, you can see where this is headed. Now, consider Matthew 27, which says that as Jesus died…

The veil of the temple tore in two from top to bottom, and the earth quaked, and the rocks were rent, and the tombs were opened, and many bodies of holy men who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection they entered into the holy city and appeared to many.

No other gospel or ancient writer mentions these spectacular events. Somehow everybody missed the earthquake and a horde of dead people wandering around the city.

We don’t hear this account from witnesses, and we don’t know their names. We don’t know who Matthew is, or when and where he wrote. We know he copied Mark, embellishing his story “with fantastic details like these.” But we don’t know Mark or his sources, either. Moreover, Matthew writes with a clear agenda to persuade you, and lived in a time even more superstitious and ignorant than our own. Carrier writes:

If this were any other religion, say the Heaven’s Gate cult or a growing sect of Victor Hugo worshippers, then that would be the end of it… if a bunch of well-dressed men went around knocking on doors claiming Victor Hugo rose from the dead, and all they had to prove it were their own creepy convictions, some wild miracle tales written decades after the fact by unknown persons who never even say how they know anything they claim to know, and some vaguely obsessive letters written by one guy who claims he saw Hugo’s heavenly ghost, you’d tell them to go away. And you’d never feel any need to inquire further. Because we all know poppycock when we hear it.

But these are weird times. We live in an age of science and reason, and yet millions of people seriously believe the world’s dead will rise again when an immortal superman flies down from outer space to destroy the earth.

Well said.

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{ 323 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob January 10, 2011 at 4:36 am

Anticipating the response from the McGrew types . . .

But the Gospel of Matthew was written by Matthew the disciple! Who was an eyewitness! And so with the Gospel of John! We have two eyewitness accounts that both saw Jesus after he died.

And so on.

Of course, none of that is true. The McGrews and their ilk are creduloids when it comes to the Christian canon. They are unable to use the common sense that they apply in every other aspect of their lives.

It’s an all to0 human phenomenon. Smart people coming up with clever devices to shore up the non-sense they were taught as kids. Non-sense that had they not been indoctrinated into, they would not spend 5 minutes looking into has adults, as the claims on their face are as ridiculous as a horse giving birth to a rabbit .

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Beelzebub January 10, 2011 at 5:29 am

With effective advertising and marketing, people will believe anything.

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Mike Gantt January 10, 2011 at 6:16 am

Luke, I am surprised that you are impressed by the reasoning of what you quoted. It’s one of those preach-to-the-choir sermons that is only strong enough to convince the already convinced or the weak of mind. (Let me hasten to say that I put you in the former, not the latter.)

By the way, you’ve said elsewhere on your website that it was the historicity of Jesus issue that, in large part, provoked your abandonment of faith. You have an extremely robust site that is very well-indexed, but could you save me some time and point me to those portions of it that deal specifically with this issue, why you doubt His historicity, and how strongly you doubt it. My early attempts at finding went unrewarded. It seems other issues (philosophical arguments about the existence of God, etc.) were predominating the materials I found.

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Haecceitas January 10, 2011 at 6:25 am


“Anticipating the response from the McGrew types . . .”

McGrew’s response, at least to “the resurrection of cooked fish” can be found here and here.

Here’s the text from Herodotus

PS. I hope all three of the links will show correctly since the code should be correct – despite the fact that the preview messes it up for some reason.

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Haecceitas January 10, 2011 at 6:32 am

The story about the temple of Delphi magically defending itself seems like the type of story that could easily be based on some actual natural events with a few layers of pious interpretation and embellishment having grown on top of that. The parallel to this would be the view that the details in Jesus’ appearance narratives contain all kinds of unhistorical embellishments. Which is why many Christian apologists don’t rely on such details.

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Reginald Selkirk January 10, 2011 at 6:46 am

Haecceitas – yes, the preview messes up, particularly if you include more than one link. Been there, done that.

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snafu January 10, 2011 at 8:07 am

why you doubt His historicity, and how strongly you doubt it.

Far be it from me to put words in other people’s mouths, but I think the majority opinion on this site would go something like this:

We don’t doubt the historicity entirely. After all, we have independent sources (Paul + Mark) for the stories, and the most likely underlying cause for that is that there was an itinerant Jewish preacher crucified by the Romans.

But as far as evidence of miracles goes, it’s nowhere near even getting off the ground for the reasons stated in the post.

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Steven January 10, 2011 at 8:23 am

Luke, I am surprised that you are impressed by the reasoning of what you quoted.It’s one of those preach-to-the-choir sermons that is only strong enough to convince the already convinced or the weak of mind.(Let me hasten to say that I put you in the former, not the latter.)By the way, you’ve said elsewhere on your website that it was the historicity of Jesus issue that, in large part, provoked your abandonment of faith.You have an extremely robust site that is very well-indexed, but could you save me some time and point me to those portions of it that deal specifically with this issue, why you doubt His historicity, and how strongly you doubt it.My early attempts at finding went unrewarded.It seems other issues (philosophical arguments about the existence of God, etc.) were predominating the materials I found.  

Preaching to the choir? Perhaps to some extent, but I wish I had chanced upon this website when I began questioning my Christian beliefs roughly a year ago. This, while certainly not able to convince the hardcore Christians who believe that they can provide proof of their God and all the other details, does an excellent job on explaining what it sets out to do. It’s a good read and by providing an example of other supernatural events with as much backing as the Gospels, provides a good read for a critical enquirer of the events leading up to the “resurrection”. For obvious reasons, I’m unable to answer the second portion of your comment.

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Garren January 10, 2011 at 8:26 am

I’ve noticed that many folks have trouble distinguishing between a skeptic claiming:

1) …that a Christian is epistemically in the wrong by holding a belief.

and
2) …that it is epistemically permissible for a skeptic to decline a belief.

Luke’s post has a title which implies (1) but — as I see it — the arguments aim at (2).

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Mike Gantt January 10, 2011 at 8:34 am

Preaching to the choir? Perhaps to some extent, but I wish I had chanced upon this website when I began questioning my Christian beliefs roughly a year ago. This, while certainly not able to convince the hardcore Christians who believe that they can provide proof of their God and all the other details, does an excellent job on explaining what it sets out to do. It’s a good read and by providing an example of other supernatural events with as much backing as the Gospels, provides a good read for a critical enquirer of the events leading up to the “resurrection”. For obvious reasons, I’m unable to answer the second portion of your comment.  (Quote)

@Steven
I was only speaking with regard to what Luke wrote on this specific post. As to the broader issue of his site, I agree with you completely. This site is far and away the most fair-minded, and its discussions the most productive, of any atheist or Christian web site I have visited so far. Granted, my exposure to such things is probably more limited that most, but I have had enough variety in my online experiences to make my opinion meaningful.

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Steven January 10, 2011 at 8:51 am

@Steven
I was only speaking with regard to what Luke wrote on this specific post.As to the broader issue of his site, I agree with you completely.This site is far and away the most fair-minded, and its discussions the most productive, of any atheist or Christian web site I have visited so far.Granted, my exposure to such things is probably more limited that most, but I have had enough variety in my online experiences to make my opinion meaningful.  

Alright then, thought you were saying something else. Oh, and again, beg your pardon if I came off rude by calling your argument “hilarious”–no offense was meant.

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Charles January 10, 2011 at 8:54 am

Mike,

Read anything by Bart Ehrman. Jesus, Interrupted is particularly good.

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Mike Gantt January 10, 2011 at 8:57 am

Alright then, thought you were saying something else. Oh, and again, beg your pardon if I came off rude by calling your argument “hilarious”–no offense was meant.  (Quote)

@Steven
None taken.

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Leomar January 10, 2011 at 9:13 am

Luke,

It’ll be a good idea to make an argument map of the resurrection, I found a great tool that works web and local, it’s called ARGUNET , it’s open-source and you can also use it for the KCA (which I’m still waiting :-) ).

http://www.argunet.org

Honestly, I think this is the only way to make progress in this things. After you finish you can upload the debate to their servers and embed it here. As you know a lot of specialist in this area you can use their help also, work on collaboration.

Nice post.

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Little James January 10, 2011 at 9:16 am

a horse gave birth to a rabbit

Perhaps Herodotus could finally give Ray Comfort the evidence he needs to accept evolution?

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Garren January 10, 2011 at 9:34 am

Leomar,

Interesting tool there. Your post reminded me that Craig included some argument maps in On Guard, his “Reader’s Digest”-style edition of Reasonable Faith.

Did a quick Google and found a PDF on the publisher’s site. There is a KCA map!

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Leomar January 10, 2011 at 9:34 am

Luke,

Oh, for completeness sake. For an organized collaboration you can use a versioning file system, or some simmilar type of system , like for example: Subversion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apache_Subversion

There is a nice interface on Windows for Subversion called TortoiseSVN.

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Leomar January 10, 2011 at 9:37 am

Garren,

Thanks.

Luke,

You can start from that one.

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Tommykey January 10, 2011 at 9:42 am

Sort of tangential, but when I read Herodotus years ago I found it interesting that he makes no mention of the Jews, considering he devotes so much attention to the Egyptians, even pondering that the people of Colchis may be related to the Egyptians because they both had woolly hair, and mentioning the practice of circumcision by the Egyptians. You would think that a group of people who were distinguished by their monotheism and claimed they were the creator god’s chosen people would have gotten some notice from Herodotus, but I don’t recall so much as even a single sentence about them in The Histories.

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Hendy January 10, 2011 at 9:43 am

Luke, quick correction.

But we don’t [know?] Mark or his sources, either.

I also agree regarding the inconsistency of the other gospel accounts either. Given that the point is to paint Jesus as a supernatural powerhouse… I don’t see any reason to omit something like this or particularly the Doubting Thomas incident.

While perhaps it hasn’t been done conclusively enough for Christians, it would be fantastic to see a project along the lines of:
- There is a body of works presenting the following characteristics with respect to authenticity, reliable authorship, level of method rigor, clearly stated evaluation method, what %, if any, of material is corroborated by other contemporary sources, etc.
- This body of works is almost unanimously deemed as unreliable with respect to the portions which deviate from one’s typical naturalistic experience
- The Bible is the same or worse in the listed categories as the presented body of works
- Therefore, the Bible is unreliable with respect to the portions which deviate from one’s typical naturalistic experience

Not an exact logical argument, but something like that. This seems to be at the heart of this discussion, and I state that it hasn’t been conclusively done, obviously, because many Christians claim that the Bible has some other feature which makes it more reliable than the works usually used for comparison. I don’t personally find such difficulties (as in the example, it would seem we have far more helpful factors like the report of all witnesses, a method for combing through inconsistencies, a list of who the sources even were, etc.) and it would seem that the case could be closed on this particular line of argument… but alas there are still balkers.

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Ralph January 10, 2011 at 9:57 am

I’ve noticed that many folks have trouble distinguishing between a skeptic claiming:1) …that a Christian is epistemically in the wrong by holding a belief.and2) …that it is epistemically permissible for a skeptic to decline a belief.Luke’s post has a title which implies (1) but — as I see it — the arguments aim at (2).  (Quote)

If the foundation of Christian’s belief in the resurrection is the gospels ( a very safe assumption), the argument actually aims at both.

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Garren January 10, 2011 at 10:20 am

Ralph,

“If the foundation of Christian’s belief in the resurrection is the gospels ( a very safe assumption), the argument actually aims at both.”

Rhetoric from apologists who try to use historical arguments to demonstrate the truth of Christianity aside, in my experience it’s the Christian belief that comes first. Christians are mostly concerned that historical method doesn’t rule out resurrection.

So while I think Richard Carrier’s arguments are great against Historical Arguments (in caps), I agree with Christians who don’t think they work to show that Christian belief in the resurrection is an intellectual fault. History just isn’t good enough to solve religious debates for us.

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Haecceitas January 10, 2011 at 10:24 am

If the foundation of Christian’s belief in the resurrection is the gospels ( a very safe assumption)

Not completely safe. People like Licona argue for the resurrection primarily on the basis of Pauline material that predates the Gospels by decades.

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Hendy January 10, 2011 at 10:40 am

@Garren:

…in my experience it’s the Christian belief that comes first.

Very good point. It would be interesting to know cases of those who have converted into a religion due to an argument like this. My experience would be the same — belief was implanted during childhood and only later explained to be justified via reasons a-z. Yet those who believe demand that a-z be disproved, which strikes me as odd since a-z never formed the basis for their belief in the first place.

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Luke Muehlhauser January 10, 2011 at 10:42 am

Leomar,

I definitely do not have time to map that.

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Leomar January 10, 2011 at 10:57 am

Luke,

Ok, It’s a shame to hear that. I understand.

But I think that at the long run you’ll save time, just my opinion. Using it as a ‘Tent-Pole Post’, you’ll no longer have to repeat things you can just reffer to. It’ll really make the difference also for this blog, I think.

Maybe John D. would like to do that, as he has that way of working with arguments.

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Ralph January 10, 2011 at 11:09 am

Ralph,Rhetoric from apologists who try to use historical arguments to demonstrate the truth of Christianity aside, in my experience it’s the Christian belief that comes first. Christians are mostly concerned that historical method doesn’t rule out resurrection.So while I think Richard Carrier’s arguments are great against Historical Arguments (in caps), I agree with Christians who don’t think they work to show that Christian belief in the resurrection is an intellectual fault. History just isn’t good enough to solve religious debates for us.  (Quote)

If special pleading is an intellectual fault, then Christians’ belief in the resurrection is an intellectual fault. Even if you come by the resurrection story only after having formed a belief about Christianity, one would still need to form a belief about it. That is, unless you’re claiming that primary Christian belief SHOULD override all your belief forming mechanisms – which is patently stupid. Absent that, believing in the resurrection story would still involve special pleading if you reject a similarly situated historical claim.

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Garren January 10, 2011 at 11:40 am

Ralph,

“Absent that, believing in the resurrection story would still involve special pleading if you reject a similarly situated historical claim.”

Only if one’s belief in the resurrection relies solely on historical evidence.

If, for example, God were to literally talk to you, satisfy your doubts, and then tell you Jesus rose from the dead, you would have a reason to believe Jesus rose from the dead that’s independent of historical arguments. It would be unreasonable to drop this belief just because you subsequently realize historical arguments alone are insufficient.

Weak evidence from one source doesn’t nullify strong evidence from another source.

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Joseph January 10, 2011 at 11:56 am

The only thing that’s hard to believe is how gullible people can be; but unfortunately, as history confirms, there’s always a segment of the population who will believe anything if it fills some psychological void in their lives.

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Steven Carr January 10, 2011 at 12:22 pm

‘People like Licona argue for the resurrection primarily on the basis of Pauline material that predates the Gospels by decades.’

You mean the letters where Paul says Jesus ‘became a life-giving spirit’, and tells Christians that the earthly tent is ‘destroyed’?

The letters written to early Christian converts, who were scoffing at the idea of their god choosing to raise corpses?

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Reginald Selkirk January 10, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Garren: Only if one’s belief in the resurrection relies solely on historical evidence.
If, for example, God were to literally talk to you,…

What if a Hindu claimed the Krishna literally spoke to her? Wouldn’t the possibility that she was mentally disturbed cross your mind?

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Taranu January 10, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Garren,
you said that: “Luke’s post has a title which implies (1) but — as I see it — the arguments aim at (2)”

I think the purpose of this post (and perhaps of the post series) is to point out that Christians apply a double standard. They treat miracle claims that support Christianity with much less skepticism than they treat miracle claims that don’t.

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Garren January 10, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Reginald,

“What if a Hindu claimed the Krishna literally spoke to her? Wouldn’t the possibility that she was mentally disturbed cross your mind?”

Yes. But that’s beside the point. I was challenging the notion that Christians necessarily engage in special pleading about the historical evidence when they believe their miracles happened and other religions’ miracles did not. If their belief originates outside the historical evidence, they don’t need to claim the historical evidence favors their belief in particular.

Put another way: a Christian can consistently admit the Historical Argument fails. (“Historical Argument” being the strong apologetics claim that secular history demonstrates Jesus’ resurrection as a fact which can’t be denied without being very skeptical of secular history in general.)

In fact, I recommend Christians be at least agnostic about the Historical Argument’s success.

Taranu,

“I think the purpose of this post (and perhaps of the post series) is to point out that Christians apply a double standard. They treat miracle claims that support Christianity with much less skepticism than they treat miracle claims that don’t.”

Yes, they do. But they can base this on pre-existing faith rather than a double standard toward historical method.

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Haecceitas January 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm

‘People like Licona argue for the resurrection primarily on the basis of Pauline material that predates the Gospels by decades.’You mean the letters where Paul says Jesus ‘became a life-giving spirit’, and tells Christians that the earthly tent is ‘destroyed’?The letters written to early Christian converts, who were scoffing at the idea of their god choosing to raise corpses?  

Exactly. I know what you’re trying to imply with selecting those citations. The thing is that you have to understand the text rather than pick individual phrases.

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Ralph January 10, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Ralph,“Absent that, believing in the resurrection story would still involve special pleading if you reject a similarly situated historical claim.”Only if one’s belief in the resurrection relies solely on historical evidence. If, for example, God were to literally talk to you, satisfy your doubts, and then tell you Jesus rose from the dead, you would have a reason to believe Jesus rose from the dead that’s independent of historical arguments. It would be unreasonable to drop this belief just because you subsequently realize historical arguments alone are insufficient.Weak evidence from one source doesn’t nullify strong evidence from another source.  (Quote)

Yup. Isn’t that exactly what I wrote on my first post???

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Silver Bullet January 10, 2011 at 2:46 pm

I didn’t realize that Jesus had such a good physique.

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Leomar January 10, 2011 at 3:48 pm

I didn’t realize that Jesus had such a good physique.  

LOL

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Leomar January 10, 2011 at 3:51 pm

BTW, the comment preview is not showing when using quotation tags.

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cl January 10, 2011 at 3:55 pm

You’ll say, for example, that these sorts of things don’t really happen because nothing like them happens today, certainly never when you’re around.

This is just an odd sort of retroactive genetic fallacy meets argument from personal incredulity.

Mike Gantt,

Luke, I am surprised that you are impressed by the reasoning of what you quoted. It’s one of those preach-to-the-choir sermons that is only strong enough to convince the already convinced or the weak of mind.

Same here. It felt like I just sat throught a church sermon from an overly passionate pastor. I’d be impressed if Luke actually challenged something – anything – in Carrier’s argument. I’m seldom persuaded by “yes” men and to simply nod along in agreement with everything Carrier or Alonzo Fyfe says doesn’t really strike me as critical thinking. Dissenters and devil’s advocates push boundaries.

Taranu,

I think the purpose of this post (and perhaps of the post series) is to point out that Christians apply a double standard. They treat miracle claims that support Christianity with much less skepticism than they treat miracle claims that don’t.

What you actually mean is, some Christians apply a double standard – just as anyone else with a belief system – but, as Garren questions – and as I tried to explain to the hardheads in This Is What It’s Like To Debate A Christian – Luke’s argument that one will become an atheist if they apply the same standards to their beliefs as they do to beliefs about other people’s gods, UFO stories, ghosts, or scientific beliefs – is incredibly juvenile, overconfident, and chauvinistic. It’s a false argument, plain and simple. Yet many of the faithful atheist masses embrace it with no less questioning that your average churchgoer. What is this, the First Church of the Scarlet A?

Garren,

I was challenging the notion that Christians necessarily engage in special pleading about the historical evidence when they believe their miracles happened and other religions’ miracles did not.

As you should. That’s another one of the bogus arguments that get touted like gospel truth by the faithful around here. Kudos.

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Ralph January 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm

Same here. It felt like I just sat throught a church sermon from an overly passionate pastor. I’d be impressed if Luke actually challenged something – anything – in Carrier’s argument. I’m seldom persuaded by “yes” men and to simply nod along in agreement with everything Carrier or Alonzo Fyfe says doesn’t really strike me as critical thinking. Dissenters and devil’s advocates push boundaries.

Oh puhleeeze…..everybody here knows that you have an axe to grind. What’s to challenge? Come on…enlighten us….or will this be another exercise of you pushing the burden of proof? The entertainment value of your ramblings fade rather quickly, if you ask me.

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cl January 10, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Ralph,

If I had an axe to grind, I wouldn’t even bother with argumentation. I’d opt straight for name-calling and derision like some of your other atheist buddies.

What’s to challenge? Come on…enlighten us…

I tried. You’re apparently too busy with personal details to even notice. Reread my comment.

…or will this be another exercise of you pushing the burden of proof?

You say “another” as if I committed this error before, yet – of course – you fail to include any evidence for your assertion. However, I can easily point to evidence of you attempting to reverse the burden of proof: in the thread of This Is What It’s Like To Debate A Christian, you “asked [David Rogers] to show how choosing Christianity over other religions would not involve special pleading.” [emph. mine]

Yet, David Rogers isn’t the one making that positive claim: you are, along with our host. Who retains the burden of proof, Ralphy Boy? Remember, the one making the positive claim. Say it again: the one making the positive claim. It’s up to you to prove that choosing Christianity over other religions would involve special pleading. This is all basic stuff.

Further, if you read Luke’s post Common Sense Atheism: Applying The Golden Rule, you’ll find – actually, you won’t find – either evidence or argument to support the assertion. Utterly ridiculous! If a believer pulled that, you know Luke and yourself would jump all over them. Talk about not applying the CSA Golden Rule! I mean, come on! At least make it worth our time.

So, since Luke failed in the aforementioned post, perhaps you can clean up for him by actually meeting the burden of proof? If not, perhaps you should come down off that high atheist horse?

The entertainment value of your ramblings fade rather quickly, if you ask me.

Ah, yes… the obligatory atheist snipe. What’s the matter? Can’t make your case without it, like the rest of the boys on your team? Sounds like it might be you who’s got the axe to grind, Ralphy Boy.

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Robert January 10, 2011 at 5:32 pm

“… with everything Carrier or A. F. says”

cl, you must have missed Saturday’s post

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Luke Muehlhauser January 10, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Silver Bullet,

Jesus was a stud, you see. And white. And a capitalist. And anti-slavery. And supported equality of the sexes.

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J. Simonov January 10, 2011 at 6:02 pm

cl:

This is just an odd sort of retroactive genetic fallacy meets argument from personal incredulity.

Surely you don’t reject the sentiment entirely though, do you? I mean, if an acquaintance tells you that his armchair just dictated its memoirs to him, that falls far enough outside your general experience of the way the world works to merit some skepticism, right?

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Jayman January 10, 2011 at 6:16 pm

(1) While I’m certainly no expert on Herodotus, Carrier seems to take some liberty in describing the miracles in Herodotus. (A) According to the prophet Aceratus, the armaments of the temple of Delphi came out of the chamber and were laid out before the temple (8.37). The armaments did not start fighting on their own as might be assumed from Carrier’s description. (B) Even for the materialist, it is possible that the “barbarian” army suffered casualties from lightning and collapsing cliffs (8.37). (C) The description of water taking out the Persians sounds similar to a tsunami (8.129). Also, the water itself did not wipe out the Persians. Some Persians survived the water and were killed by the Potidaeans. Herodotus notes that the Potidaeans and himself believed that this water attack occurred because the image of Poseidon was desecrated. Other than disagreeing over the cause of the water, it seems possible that the materialist could accept the bulk of the account. (D) Herodotus states that a man was cooking dried fish when the fish started to leap and writhe as if they had just been caught (9.120). While the witnesses took this as a sign there is no indication that the fish did not die on the fire as would be expected. Calling this a “resurrection” is a misrepresentation.

(2) The evidence for the resurrection of Christ appears stronger than the evidence for any of the miracles in Herodotus mentioned by Carrier. I see no reason why a Christian would have to apply a double standard in rejecting/doubting the miracles in Herodotus while accepting the resurrection of Christ.

(3) Papias is quite clear that Mark’s “source” was the apostle Peter. Peter’s belief in Christ’s resurrection is attested elsewhere of course, including in 1 Peter. I mention this because Carrier is simply wrong when he writes as if the evidence for the resurrection rests solely on Paul (I assume Paul is the one writing the “obsessive” letters).

(4) The mere fact that Matthew is trying to persuade the reader tells us nothing about his accuracy. Carrier and Luke are trying to persuade readers too.

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Rob January 10, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Do any of the Christians here believe the story in Matthew about graves opening up and a bunch of dead people shambling around Jerusalem?

If not, why not?

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Luke Muehlhauser January 10, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Good question, Rob.

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JS Allen January 10, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Rob,

I think it’s sloppy to talk about “do you believe ‘X’”, as if belief is a binary yes/no state. Belief is almost never a binary toggle.

I prefer to talk about probabilities and confidence levels. Robin Hanson just had two posts on the topic. In this post, he mentions Kant’s idea that our level of “belief” can be measured by how much are willing to bet. Solipsists are generally unwilling to provoke murderous psychopaths, for example, so that suggests that they don’t completely believe in Solipsism.

By that account, I am willing to bet my life that Christ was resurrected, but willing to risk almost nothing over the reality of dead bodies walking around when Christ died. I would wager considerably more that there was a lot of freaky stuff happening at the time Christ died, though.

Robin’s other post was just today, talking about the use of probabilities in belief. IMO, this is the only rational way to talk about belief. The world would be a much better place if people were more prone to reporting their beliefs with ranges and confidence intervals.

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Rob January 10, 2011 at 9:03 pm

JS Allen,

I think it is sloppy to ascribe positions to others that they do not hold.

I agree completely that our beliefs are held with various levels of certainty.

So answer my second question. Why do you think the shambling dead body story is unlikely?

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Steven Carr January 10, 2011 at 9:13 pm

JAYMAN
The evidence for the resurrection of Christ appears stronger than the evidence for any of the miracles in Herodotus mentioned by Carrier.

CARR
In fact it is so strong that even recent Christian converts scoffed at the idea of their god choosing to raise their corpses, and Paul was unable to produce a SINGLE piece of eyewitness testimony as to what a resurrected body was like.

All he could do was remind them that Jesus ‘became a life-giving spirit’ and remind them that they should not even expect resurrected beings to be made from the dust that corpses become.

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Hendy January 10, 2011 at 9:30 pm

@Jayman:

The evidence for the resurrection of Christ appears stronger than the evidence for any of the miracles in Herodotus mentioned by Carrier.

Why, exactly, is that? Just because Herodotus’ aren’t as extravagant as Carrier may have made them sound? For some other examples [1]:
- A man jumps into the sea in a costume after playing a harp and is carried by a dolphin to shore (1.24)
- A man regains his sight, after it was lost for 10 years, by a trial and error experiment of having various women urinate on his eyes (lucky guy) (2.111)
- Egyptian skulls are stronger than Persian skulls (3.12)
- A fountain containing water so low in density that nothing would float in it and which also contributed to long life (3.23)
- While I somewhat agree with your take on 8.37, Herodotus interjects words “supernatural” and “marvel,” and the fact that they shall be protected is prophesied by the oracle they consult. They also cite (in 8.38) that two warriors “of a stature more than human” pursued and slayed the retreaters.
- 8.55 confirms the “cubit length” fresh shoot sprouted from a recently burned olive tree in a short amount of time
- When trouble is near a priestess grows a long beard (8.104)
- I agree that there is no indication of a fish fry resurrection in 9.120

In general, I’d also like to hear your take concerning the point about Herodotus being more forthcoming with sources and method. I find his style in my skimming refreshing compared to the gospels. He interjects quite often with “at least so they say” or “according to so and so” and so on. Lots of names. Lots of places. Lots of meta-commentary about the story being reported. At least to me, this seems much more believable concerning someone’s report.

While the point is often made that the gospel writers didn’t claim to be eye-witnesses or writing a history book…. Luke explicitly states his intent to put together the best ever compilation of available stories (and then never mentions a source and also botches the Quirinius/Herod timeframe unless we make some hefty unsupported concessions) and John’s gospel features the flashy finish of declaring that we can trust the account because the beloved disciple that Jesus, himself, laid his head on is the one recounting them and writing them. I was under the impression that this was impossible given the timeframe of John’s gospel.

In any case, I think a strong qualitative difference exists between the manner of reporting. How do you think that affects reliability estimates?

[1] I found The Persian Wars online HERE.

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Patrick January 10, 2011 at 9:36 pm

I’m not sure most people’s beliefs are actually held to varying degrees of certainty. I think they’re held with varying degrees of seriousness. Political and religious beliefs often seem to be a form of rich fantasy roleplaying instead of what we would normally call a “belief.” People who treat political or religious beliefs precisely the same way they treat beliefs about, say, the weather, tend to look aberrant and creepy and fanatical to others.

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DaVead January 10, 2011 at 9:50 pm

The whole question being asked here is absurd. In what sense do you mean that the resurrection unbelievable? Unbelievable as in: the story is not believable as a literal, “objective”, set of time-indexed propositions describing what occured to the historical Jesus of Nazareth after he died? That’s not the story I get from the New Testament, and I don’t really understand why more people don’t see taking this kind of reading as an absurd exercise.

Carrier asks:

“Do you believe these things happened? Well, why not? …You’ll say, for example, that these sorts of things don’t really happen because nothing like them happens today, certainly never when you’re around.”

Do I believe they happened? What does he mean by “happened”? If he means “happened” in the strict, literal, dogmatically realist, scientific, naturalistically-friendly sense, as some kind of propositional description of events that the “objective” historian labels as True based on subjectively interpreted “evidence”, then of course not. Does anything “happen” in this sense of the word ‘happen’? We have a hard enough time agreeing and establishing what is “happening” -now-, or even what “happened” five minutes from now, or what is “happening” in 99.999% of the rest of the universe. Using this standard to discriminate between “real happenings” and “fake happenings”, I don’t know how anyone can possibly believe anything is “happening” or has “happened”. And of course, his argument for the conclusion that these miraculous events didn’t “happen” presupposes that we know what “happened” today. But does any description of any recent “happening” actually live up to these standards? This is hard to say when you probe the philosophical presuppositions at play here.

Do I deny the event of the resurrection? Of course not. The event of Jesus’s life, including the event of his resurrection, are meaningful, historical events that have had meaningful causal power in the progress of history and in the lives of everyone BCE-born. Do I talk about historical events in the way I described above? Of course not. That is silly, and doing so would inevitably throw away the vast majority of our past. To Herodotus the Halicarnassian and his community, those miraculous events were indeed historical. And it is -their- history after all, not ours. Their world, based on our only possible access to it, was a world in which horses could give birth to rabbits. Ours, sadly, is not. And our world is not their world. Their world is there and then, and ours here and now.

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DaVead January 10, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Also, I think we’re using the wrong definition of “believe” in calling the resurrection unbelievable. Asking the question in this way makes the answer religiously, theologically, and philosophically irrelevant to those living and believing with a different reality of the word believe. Take Langdon Gilkey’s definition of believe, for instance, which is much closer to a contemporary understanding of Christian belief:

“Belief, then, has itself a complex, essentially dialectical character. On the one hand, in entails participation in an objectively given tradition and thus in the community that bears that tradition. It involves at this point assent to and affirmation of the symbolic structure of that tradition and community, providing through those symbolic forms a perspective on or vision of reality, truth, and value. It thus entails submission to certain procedures of inquiry and of settling issues common to that community and entailed in that sumbolic understanding. To say “I believe” means to enter as a self into and participate in a communal world under a particular symbolic horizon and involved in particular ways of thinking and knowing, of feeling and experiencing, and of doing, acting, and relating.

On the other hand, to say “I believe” entails personal intellectual assent to that symbolic horizon and thus the requirement of criticism and reformulation, of personal experiencing and appropriating of the world thus embraced, and personal self-constitution and self-direction on the deepest level of our own being and acting. What we are and are to be is at once given to us by our destiny and yet is also self-chosen and refashioned by our freedom. Both a communal destiny and a personal act of commitment and assent are involved in genuine believing.”

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Ben January 10, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Hendy

I think one of the more famous examples is Lee Strobel, who had declared himself an Atheist before looking at the evidence.

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cl January 10, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Robert,

You’re absolutely correct. I retract the “everything” in my comment, and offer “almost everything” in its place.

Luke,

Sorry about that, and bravo. That’s the spirit I used to see much more of around here, when CSA first started.

J. Simonov,

Surely you don’t reject the sentiment entirely though, do you? I mean, if an acquaintance tells you that his armchair just dictated its memoirs to him, that falls far enough outside your general experience of the way the world works to merit some skepticism, right?

Like most things, I see reasonable middle ground. All sorts of errors are found in the extremes. So, no: I don’t reject the sentiment entirely. We’ve got to have some kind of yardstick, and we shouldn’t have our minds so open that our brains fall out. However, when it comes to what most people would describe as “supernatural” claims, or even “extraordinary” claims, we can easily get ourselves into all kinds of trouble by rigidly and dogmatically applying the sentiment. For example, let’s say the recent mass animal deaths had happened 2,000 years ago before the advent of digital documentation, instead of recently. I could easily see some overconfident skeptics using Carrier’s “logic” to arrive at the conclusion that 100,000 drum fish dying at the same time is too unlikely to be believed. After all, I’ve never seen even three fish die at the same time, let alone 100,000! Have you? Further, such people might conclude that thousands of blackbirds allegedly dying simultaneously just 100 miles away and within a few years is equally without warrant, and likely a “copycat myth.” Yet, those skeptics would be wrong – dead wrong – and for no other reason than overconfident faith in their “rationalist” sentiment.

To take another example, let’s say that God or gods or aliens really did visit the Earth at various times throughout the past. That would certainly account for many of the supposedly “mythical” stories we find throughout human history, yet, simply because we don’t see those things happening today, many skeptics say belief in them isn’t warranted, or that it’s “more likely” they didn’t happen. How can such assertions be truly sustained with evidence? Skeptics also said humans would never fly, never get to the moon, never run a four-minute mile, and never invent the telephone. And, each and every one of those skeptics relied on “logic” quite similar to Carrier’s. They were all wrong.

That’s the position I’m attacking. That’s what I meant by retroactive genetic fallacy meets argument from personal incredulity.

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Rob January 10, 2011 at 10:22 pm

“Using this standard to discriminate between “real happenings” and “fake happenings”, I don’t know how anyone can possibly believe anything is “happening” or has “happened”.”

If we ever meet, I will drop a cinder block on your foot. We can then discuss whether this event was real or fake.

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DaVead January 10, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Well, I would say that if you dropped a cinder block on my foot, the event would be real, and as real as real can be for me, in the moment. The question is if it’s feasible for an event even as mundane as that to be evaluated as “Real” by some methodogically and culturally relative historical analysis presuppositionally based in some hyper-realist, scientific, propositional, literal hermeneutic undergone by humans subjectively interpreting evidence 2,000 years later based on a worldview and a human reality completely divorced from the mode of being in which the event of my foot injury occured. There’s a lot of homework required there.

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MarkD January 10, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Eyewitness testimony is inherently flawed. A consultant of mine who studied under Ray Hyman gets out of jury duty by simply admitting that his PhD in Cognitive Psychology makes him doubt ALL eyewitness testimony.

Mark Twain, in A Connecticut Yankee… demonstrates the merger of magical thinking and primitive ideation when knights declare the eponymous Yankee a fire breathing dragon as he stands before the court.

A useful prior is that supernatural explanations are unjustifiable given current experience.

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Steven Carr January 10, 2011 at 10:50 pm

The miracles in the New Testament are just as convincing as the stories in the Book of Mormon.

Recycling old stories and remaking them is not confined to Hollywood. The anonymous Gospellers did the same thing 2000 years ago.

http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/mirc1.htm has examples of plagiarism that modern plagiarism detection software can easily find.

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reticularimus January 10, 2011 at 11:06 pm

cl wrote:
What you actually mean is, some Christians apply a double standard – just as anyone else with a belief system – but, as Garren questions – and as I tried to explain to the hardheads in This Is What It’s Like To Debate A Christian – Luke’s argument that one will become an atheist if they apply the same standards to their beliefs as they do to beliefs about other people’s gods, UFO stories, ghosts, or scientific beliefs – is incredibly juvenile, overconfident, and chauvinistic. It’s a false argument, plain and simple. Yet many of the faithful atheist masses embrace it with no less questioning that your average churchgoer. What is this, the First Church of the Scarlet A?

Falsity is not generally considered a property of an argument, even plainly and simply. I’ll guess that you meant bad, weak, invalid, unsound, uncogent or some such more appropriate attribute.

Claims of juvenility, overconfidence, and chauvinism seem to be attacks against the arguer, more so than the argument. When it comes to a proposition (premise) in an argument, its truth condition seems to be the status of interest.

Anyway, we don’t generally find many monotheists making wholesale arguments against any particular instance of monotheism or other, even though any such argument could be support in favor of all of the remaining instances of monotheism, including, presumably, the arguer’s preferred brand. I’ve always wondered what debates of this sort might be like. If ever a monotheist might sound like an atheist, I’d expect it would be in such a case. If you’re willing to put forth some arguments against your non-preferred brand of monotheism (since you probably don’t believe in at least one of the other ones), we can judge if you really do apply the same standards to your beliefs as you do to belief’s about other people’s gods. Have you ever even thought about what might be defective about other brands of monotheism?

cl wrote:
Further, if you read Luke’s post Common Sense Atheism: Applying The Golden Rule, you’ll find – actually, you won’t find – either evidence or argument to support the assertion. Utterly ridiculous! If a believer pulled that, you know Luke and yourself would jump all over them. Talk about not applying the CSA Golden Rule! I mean, come on! At least make it worth our time.

Good point! How about applying it to your claim of the “false” argument. Your “support” was just that the argument was “false”, plain and simple.

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Luke Muehlhauser January 10, 2011 at 11:18 pm

MarkD,

Yes. I often wonder if people who take eyewitness testimony and intuition more seriously than I do are simply not very educated in psychology and cognitive science…

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Kaelik January 10, 2011 at 11:27 pm

Invasion of the Postmodernists!

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Vlastimil Vohánka January 11, 2011 at 12:01 am

Luke,

Could you, please, write a post on what exactly is wrong, according to you, with the McGrews argument for the resurrection of Jesus, taking into account what they in their paper in the Companion to Natural Theology? That is, taking into account :
– their evidence (including certain consensus critical NT scholars) for the background facts, concering Jesus in the 1st century Judea up to his death and burial /inclusive/, +
– their evidence for the salient facts, concerning the testimony of the women, of the disciples, and of Paul, +
– their likelihood odds (i.e., Bayes factor) analysis of the salient facts vis-a-vis the resurrection, assuming the background facts?

Maybe in Part 2?

Thanks!

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Luke Muehlhauser January 11, 2011 at 12:05 am

Vlastimil,

Oh goodness no. That would take me years of historical study! I’m already busy enough trying to cover the kalam cosmological argument and the fine-tuning argument in some depth.

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Mike Gantt January 11, 2011 at 12:51 am

Jayman

@Jayman
Well said.

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Mike Gantt January 11, 2011 at 1:15 am

shambling

@Rob
Though I do not call myself a Christian, I believe the Bible and I believe this passage because Matthew wrote it.

Having said that, I do not think much about the passage because there’s not much I can do with it. It’s not a command I can obey. I have not found it repeated, expounded upon, or otherwise tied to any specific theme in the Scriptures so that I can trust God for some enduring truth. Yes, it does speak generally to resurrection but there’s enough coverage on that them already that I don’t need this passage to establish or enhance it. Since it is an isolated reference and not a repeated theme in Matthew or the Bible, I suppose archaeological research could one day dig up earlier manuscripts that might reveal this to be a late addition and therefore not part of what Matthew originally wrote (similar to the end of Mark 16). Therefore, I’m open to finding other references in the Bible or in life that reveal what Matthew or God were driving at here; I’m also open to the possibility that it might not belong.

I depart from JS Allen on some points but not on his general direction.

I don’t think you need to use the pejorative “shambling” to make your point.

Apparently, both you and JS Allen think about probabilities in these situations more precisely than I do. I wouldn’t know how to assign a probability to this event. I’d just say I believe it happened for the reasons I gave above, but then there’s not much dwelling on it for the reasons I gave above.

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Mike Gantt January 11, 2011 at 1:42 am

cognitive science

Luke,

That may be. Nonetheless, I think if there had been four people standing present at Nicole Brown Simpson’s home that fateful night, and they were all saying the same things about the key facts of the case, I think most people would want to know what they were saying. I also think their testimony might have brought more closure to the case than the DNA or gloves did.

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wissam January 11, 2011 at 2:21 am

Carrier is just iterating Hume’s criticisms of miracle claims. He is not even defending them (in the given text, at least). Anyway, Hume’s objections are highly controversial and would not persuade many philosophers these days.

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Steven Carr January 11, 2011 at 2:26 am

VV
their evidence for the salient facts, concerning the testimony of the women…

CARR
What women? The ones which the ‘Gospel of Mark’ claims never told anybody what had happened?

No Christian in the first century ever put his name to a document claiming he had ever heard of these women.

They only exist in the pages of the anonymous Gospels.

Your question is like asking How do you explain that the bricks were yellow, if there is no Oz?

Not one disciple ever wrote one word claiming he had seen an empty tomb.

Paul could not find ONE single piece of eyewitness testimony as to what a resurrected body was like, and had to tell people that they should not expect resurrected beings to be made of the dust that corpses became, and that Jesus had ‘become a life-giving spirit’.

The only definite fact we can get from Paul’s writings is that it appears that early Christian converts were scoffing at the idea of their god choosing to raise corpses, and Paul had to write explaining that they were idiots, because God gave a body as he wished to replace the earthly ‘tent’ which was ‘destroyed’.

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Steven Carr January 11, 2011 at 2:32 am

The McGrew’s argument is that nobody would make up a story involving women, because nobody believed the testimony of women.

A) This is not true.

B) Even the McGrew’s own Bible has people believing the testimony of a woman, smashing the McGrew’s claim that people would not believe the testimony of a woman.

John 4:39
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”

Another error in the Bible!

For the McGrew’s have spoken and it has been declared that the testimony of a woman was not believed.

Who are you going to believe about the credibility of a woman’s testimony? The Bible or the McGrews?

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Steven Carr January 11, 2011 at 2:39 am

And, of course, the first people to tell the reader about a resurrection in the Gospels is not a woman.

It is (take your pick, you have a wide choice)

A) A young man.
B) An angel
C) Two angels in clothes of gleaming lightning (in case the first one was not believed…)
D) Jesus himself ,as the women testified that the body had been moved. (Stupid woman, no wonder people never believed somebody who thought the body had been moved)

Personally, I always believe things where I am told that an angel announced them.

As the McGrew’s explain, if an angel tells you it, the probability of it being true is hugely increased – because angels don’t lie.

How does Carrier explain away the huge increase in probability caused by a truth-telling angel announcing the resurrection?

It is not like it was a demon, who would lie.

This was an angel who announced the resurrections.

What is the background probability of an angel lying? Next to nothing.

So game over for Carrier, as he cannot dispute that angels do not lie.

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James Onen January 11, 2011 at 2:46 am

Steven Carr, you’re comments are always a pleasure to read :-)

They tend to cut to the chase, which I highly appreciate.

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Mike Gantt January 11, 2011 at 2:52 am

Steven Carr

Steven, you stopped reading in John 4 too soon. Just a few verses later, the Samaritans made clear to the woman their independence from her testimony: “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42)

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Steven Carr January 11, 2011 at 2:57 am

JAYMAN
Peter’s belief in Christ’s resurrection is attested elsewhere of course, including in 1 Peter

CARR
It goes without saying that 1 Peter confirms not one detail of any resurrection story in any Gospel.

The closest we get is the following
‘He was put to death in the body but made alive in the spirit’

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Steven Carr January 11, 2011 at 3:01 am

I see Gannt has gone into denial mode. If the Bible claims people believed because of a woman’s testimony, deny it….

Steven, you stopped reading in John 4 too soon. Just a few verses later, the Samaritans made clear to the woman their independence from her testimony: “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42)

I shall highlight the relevant words for people who struggle to understand ‘….NO LONGER because of what you said’

They originally HAD believed because of a woman’s testimony.

The passage Gantt produced is simply confirmation that it was originally the woman’s testimony that had converted them.

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Mike Gantt January 11, 2011 at 3:09 am

Steven Carr

Steven, you don’t think Peter gets close in 1:3 when he writes “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”?

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Steven Carr January 11, 2011 at 3:22 am

No empty tomb there. No missing corpse. No women. No claim to have seen this resurrected being. No disciples testimony.

Just what is being confirmed – other than that the author was a Christian and believed Jesus had died and gone to Heaven? (Nobody else had ever died and gone to Heaven in the Bible before)

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Mike Gantt January 11, 2011 at 4:45 am

No empty tomb there. No missing corpse. No women. No claim to have seen this resurrected being. No disciples testimony.Just what is being confirmed – other than that the author was a Christian and believed Jesus had died and gone to Heaven? (Nobody else had ever died and gone to Heaven in the Bible before)  (Quote)

What then do you make of his claim in 2 Peter 1:16 regarding he and his fellow apostles (“we were eyewitnesses of His majesty”)?

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Zeb January 11, 2011 at 4:52 am

Rob

Do any of the Christians here believe the story in Matthew about graves opening up and a bunch of dead people shambling around Jerusalem?

Like JS Allen, I am pretty much agnostic about this – I don’t say it did not happen, in some sense, but I don’t find sufficient reason to believe that it did happen, whether literally or in some metaphorical or misunderstood sense.

I also agree with DaVead’s definition of belief. Believing the “unbelievable” things I do believe is a willful choice that is part of my practice of Catholicism, my participation in that community. That I know of, practicing that faith/participating in that community asks nothing of my in regard to claims about multitudes of walking dead in Jerusalem 33 CE.

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Steven Carr January 11, 2011 at 6:32 am

‘What then do you make of his claim in 2 Peter 1:16 regarding he and his fellow apostles “we were eyewitnesses of His majesty”)’

Almost nobody believes that 2 Peter, which is highly reliant on Jude, is by Peter.

And there is still no testimony of a resurrection in there.

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Mike Gantt January 11, 2011 at 6:46 am

‘What then do you make of his claim in 2 Peter 1:16 regarding he and his fellow apostles “we were eyewitnesses of His majesty”)’Almost nobody believes that 2 Peter, which is highly reliant on Jude, is by Peter.And there is still no testimony of a resurrection in there.  (Quote)

Steven,
And are you similarly suspicious about the authorship of Acts in which Peter proclaims to the centurion in Caesaria, his household, his relatives, and friends that “God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.” (Acts 10:40-41)

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Steven Carr January 11, 2011 at 6:50 am

Acts is not by Peter.

Where is this testimony?

You’ve had 2000 years to find one solitary word written by one person who claimed to have seen an empty tomb.

Where’s the beef? Where’s the evidence? Where’s the testimony?

Can’t Christians either put up or shut up? 2000 years of listening to them drone on about testimony when NOT ONE PERSON testified to an empty tomb…..

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Mike Gantt January 11, 2011 at 7:51 am

Acts is not by Peter.Where is this testimony?You’ve had 2000 years to find one solitary word written by one person who claimed to have seen an empty tomb.Where’s the beef? Where’s the evidence? Where’s the testimony?Can’t Christians either put up or shut up? 2000 years of listening to them drone on about testimony when NOT ONE PERSON testified to an empty tomb…..  (Quote)

Steven,
Even though the New Testament states in over 20 different places through various speakers and writers that Jesus had ascended to the right hand of God, I guess it would be a stretch to say that this implied He had vacated His tomb to get there.

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Steven Carr January 11, 2011 at 7:57 am

I guess the way people say a second gunman shot JFK implies there was a second gun.

How do you deal with all this testimony about the existence of the second gun?

The second gun is clearly a fact, because a second gunman implies a second gun.

But if there was a second gun, doesn’t that imply that there was a second gunman?

Can’t you find one person who saw a second gun or saw an empty tomb?

Of course, the first Christian writer says Jesus ‘became a life-giving spirit’….

And says the earthly tent is ‘destroyed’.

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Steven R. January 11, 2011 at 8:37 am

The whole question being asked here is absurd.In what sense do you mean that the resurrection unbelievable?Unbelievable as in: the story is not believable as a literal, “objective”, set of time-indexed propositions describing what occured to the historical Jesus of Nazareth after he died?That’s not the story I get from the New Testament, and I don’t really understand why more people don’t see taking this kind of reading as an absurd exercise.Carrier asks:“Do you believe these things happened? Well, why not? …You’ll say, for example, that these sorts of things don’t really happen because nothing like them happens today, certainly never when you’re around.”Do I believe they happened?What does he mean by “happened”?If he means “happened” in the strict, literal, dogmatically realist, scientific, naturalistically-friendly sense, as some kind of propositional description of events that the “objective” historian labels as True based on subjectively interpreted “evidence”, then of course not.Does anything “happen” in this sense of the word ‘happen’?We have a hard enough time agreeing and establishing what is “happening” -now-, or even what “happened” five minutes from now, or what is “happening” in 99.999% of the rest of the universe.Using this standard to discriminate between “real happenings” and “fake happenings”, I don’t know how anyone can possibly believe anything is “happening” or has “happened”.And of course, his argument for the conclusion that these miraculous events didn’t “happen” presupposes that we know what “happened” today.But does any description of any recent “happening” actually live up to these standards?This is hard to say when you probe the philosophical presuppositions at play here.Do I deny the event of the resurrection?Of course not.The event of Jesus’s life, including the event of his resurrection, are meaningful, historical events that have had meaningful causal power in the progress of history and in the lives of everyone BCE-born.Do I talk about historical events in the way I described above?Of course not.That is silly, and doing so would inevitably throw away the vast majority of our past.To Herodotus the Halicarnassian and his community, those miraculous events were indeed historical.And it is -their- history after all, not ours.Their world, based on our only possible access to it, was a world in which horses could give birth to rabbits.Ours, sadly, is not.And our world is not their world.Their world is there and then, and ours here and now.  

What a needless obfuscation of the matter! If you can’t determine if anything has happened, then there is no need to hold any religious beliefs at all since we can’t tell whether anything to validate said beliefs even happened. Without getting into any “philosophical” debates about the nature of what happens and reality and other–in my opinion–overtly silly stuff, what is meant by believe is something akin to “have reason enough to not doubt the veracity and reality of the account and hold it as something that, as best can be determined by human knowledge, did occur.” In other words, philosophy aside, it’s the sort of thing you do every day, like “knowing” your mom married your dad based on records and pictures, etc. That’s the point, not whether or not anything can truly be ascertained.

~This is Steven -no last name given- since it promises to be confusing with Steven Carrier also posting~

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JS Allen January 11, 2011 at 9:04 am

“Apparently, both you and JS Allen think about probabilities in these situations more precisely than I do. I wouldn’t know how to assign a probability to this event. I’d just say I believe it happened for the reasons I gave above, but then there’s not much dwelling on it for the reasons I gave above.”

First, assigning probabilities and confidence intervals is the opposite of precision. For example, I could say “I’m 99% certain that your journey from bed to the computer you’re using to read this message took place at an average speed of between 1 and 90 MPH”. That’s a safe statement, but not very precise.

Second, saying “I believe it happened” is vacuous. How do we know you really believe? What would you be willing to stake on that belief? There are inconsistencies between the 4 gospels, as we would expect. Which of those inconsistencies are you willing to stake your life on?

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Steven R. January 11, 2011 at 9:15 am

“Apparently, both you and JS Allen think about probabilities in these situations more precisely than I do.I wouldn’t know how to assign a probability to this event.I’d just say I believe it happened for the reasons I gave above, but then there’s not much dwelling on it for the reasons I gave above.”First, assigning probabilities and confidence intervals is the opposite of precision.For example, I could say “I’m 99% certain that your journey from bed to the computer you’re using to read this message took place at an average speed of between 1 and 90 MPH”.That’s a safe statement, but not very precise.Second, saying “I believe it happened” is vacuous.How do we know you really believe?What would you be willing to stake on that belief?There are inconsistencies between the 4 gospels, as we would expect.Which of those inconsistencies are you willing to stake your life on?  

Well, if the Bible is the word of God as is claimed, why would it be set to any doubt? Indeed if this word comes from an omniscient God, he would know the events really happened and there’d be no reason to doubt any of it. On the other hand, if the Bible isn’t the word of God, then I would think that the validity of the resurrection and other such events becomes incredibly dubious and unbacked.

~~

Sorry, *Steven Carr* not Carrier.

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JS Allen January 11, 2011 at 9:30 am

“Why do you think the shambling dead body story is unlikely?”

On the matter of shambling bodies, I’m more agnostic than incredulous. If forced to speculate, I’d guess that there was some crazy stuff going on which impacted certain people in such a way that they eventually interpreted it as dead bodies shambling about. But I’m not willing to stake much on that worthless speculation. I simply don’t know.

Compared to Christ’s resurrection, the evidence for shambling bodies is distinctly different, and I don’t think anyone comes to a belief in Christ’s resurrection based on a “sober evaluation of the evidence”, anyway.

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Ralph January 11, 2011 at 9:51 am

Ralph,If I had an axe to grind, I wouldn’t even bother with argumentation. I’d opt straight for name-calling and derision like some of your other atheist buddies.I tried. You’re apparently too busy with personal details to even notice. Reread my comment.You say “another” as if I committed this error before, yet – of course – you fail to include any evidence for your assertion. However, I can easily point to evidence of you attempting to reverse the burden of proof: in the thread of This Is What It’s Like To Debate A Christian, you “asked [David Rogers] to show how choosing Christianity over other religions would not involve special pleading.” [emph. mine]Yet, David Rogers isn’t the one making that positive claim: you are, along with our host. Who retains the burden of proof, Ralphy Boy? Remember, the one making the positive claim. Say it again: the one making the positive claim. It’s up to you to prove that choosing Christianity over other religions would involve special pleading. This is all basic stuff. Further, if you read Luke’s post Common Sense Atheism: Applying The Golden Rule, you’ll find – actually, you won’t find – either evidence or argument to support the assertion. Utterly ridiculous! If a believer pulled that, you know Luke and yourself would jump all over them. Talk about not applying the CSA Golden Rule! I mean, come on! At least make it worth our time.So, since Luke failed in the aforementioned post, perhaps you can clean up for him by actually meeting the burden of proof? If not, perhaps you should come down off that high atheist horse?Ah, yes… the obligatory atheist snipe. What’s the matter? Can’t make your case without it, like the rest of the boys on your team? Sounds like it might be you who’s got the axe to grind, Ralphy Boy.  (Quote)

I reread your post and nope….I see it not. And re: my posts on This Is What It’s Like To Debate A Christian, I will not rehash them here. Suffice to say that anyone with an objective mind can see that you’re just refusing to answer. The parody itself IS an accusation of special pleading that I’ve asked David Rogers to attack. I don’t understand how someone with a modicum of comprehension skills could fail to understand. I was needling him for whining when the site itself is consistent with the parody (he claims otherwise inspite of the obvious) and that he hasn’t presented a reason why the parody doesn’t work (not that the parody was meant to be a rigorous argument). A lot of posters here have given up on having a fruitful back and forth with you. I think I’m seeing the wisdom of that move. Ignorance is solvable, willful miscomprehension is not.

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Tony Hoffman January 11, 2011 at 9:55 am

One thing that occurs to me upon reading another entry on the historicity of Jesus is that I believe so many Christians are making the tacit calculation that the Resurrection must be credible because so many previous generations have believed in it.

Here’s a mental experiment that I think would be worth trying out: imagine that archaeologists discovered a cache of documents from the 4th Century AD, whose authenticity was beyond doubt, that provided a better historical record for a Resurrected figure very similar to Jesus. This was the true son of God, but he was born in a different place, he performed different miracles, he rose again from the dead but on the 12th Day, we have specific directions to his tomb (with a shroud!) that actually exist, etc. But his name was Susej, he gave different parables with slightly different morals, he had 24 disciples instead of 12, etc. Additionally, his teachings make even more sense with our modern sensibilities – he is explicit in condemning slavery, etc. We have much more detail from his whole life, better documentation, including named witnesses, and a complete match for historical accuracy against all independent sources. The documents also provided unprecedented historical evidence that the Catholic Church, in a move for political power, systematically destroyed all documents for Susej, and replaced them with those used in the New Testament.

It seems obvious to me that few if any present day Christians would correct their beliefs and begin praying to Susej. I believe that the persuasiveness of the historicity of Jesus is worth exactly that much – the amount it would sway present day Christians, given the discovery of the superior Susej Testament, to begin praying to Susej.

So, Christians – what would you do in the situation described above?

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JS Allen January 11, 2011 at 10:02 am

” The documents also provided unprecedented historical evidence that the Catholic Church, in a move for political power, systematically destroyed all documents for Susej, and replaced them with those used in the New Testament.”

LOL, all of the Protestants would convert to Tsirhcianity en-masse

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J. Simonov January 11, 2011 at 10:43 am

cl:

For example, let’s say the recent mass animal deaths had happened 2,000 years ago before the advent of digital documentation, instead of recently. I could easily see some overconfident skeptics using Carrier’s “logic” to arrive at the conclusion that 100,000 drum fish dying at the same time is too unlikely to be believed. After all, I’ve never seen even three fish die at the same time, let alone 100,000! Have you?

100,00 drum fish dying at the same time is too unlikely to be believed purely on someone’s say-so, which is what you’re liable to get from ancient sources. Do you disagree, and if so, why?

Further, such people might conclude that thousands of blackbirds allegedly dying simultaneously just 100 miles away and within a few years is equally without warrant, and likely a “copycat myth.” Yet, those skeptics would be wrong – dead wrong – and for no other reason than overconfident faith in their “rationalist” sentiment.

I honestly don’t see why you would disagree with the skeptics in this case. Such a case is unusual enough to have a lower prior probability, does it not, one that scant evidence is legitimately unable to compensate for? If we are discussing epistemology rather than ontology, the skeptic isn’t actually wrong, is she?

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Vlastimil Vohánka January 11, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Steven Carr,

Glad to see you spared Luke the years of historical research.

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Ralph January 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm

What you actually mean is, some Christians apply a double standard – just as anyone else with a belief system – but, as Garren questions – and as I tried to explain to the hardheads in This Is What It’s Like To Debate A Christian – Luke’s argument that one will become an atheist if they apply the same standards to their beliefs as they do to beliefs about other people’s gods, UFO stories, ghosts, or scientific beliefs – is incredibly juvenile, overconfident, and chauvinistic. It’s a false argument, plain and simple. Yet many of the faithful atheist masses embrace it with no less questioning that your average churchgoer. What is this, the First Church of the Scarlet A?

Okay, if you think this is a false argument then show us how you can sidestep the double-standard charge without admitting to something much worse. I see you saying that it’s not necessarily so, and that’s only trivially correct. I am confident that you will not be able to sidestep all charges of “using double standards” without admitting to something much more embarassing. Prove me wrong.

And don’t say that the burden is mine. The charge of “using double standards” or special pleading is merely a response to theistic belief. A scenario has been laid at your feet that is purported to demonstrate this. The proper response is NOT to simply say that it is NOT necessarily the case that a double standard is being applied. Tell us how it’s not the case.

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Ralph January 11, 2011 at 1:05 pm

IOW, instead of a logical claim, it’s really an empirical claim.

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Rob January 11, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Gantt,

I did not use “shambling” to be pejorative, but rather humorous and as an homage to writer James Morrow (check out Towing Jehovah) . How is it you picture the gait of these folks? Ambling? Marching? Striding?

Anyway, it is still not clear to me why those of you that buy the resurrection of Jesus story are disinclined or less inclined to swallow Matthew’s yarn about the horde of dead folks walking about. What is it, precisely, about this story that makes it less likely to be accurate history?

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Steven R. January 11, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Robert,You’re absolutely correct. I retract the “everything” in my comment, and offer “almost everything” in its place.Luke,Sorry about that, and bravo. That’s the spirit I used to see much more of around here, when CSA first started.
J. Simonov,
However, when it comes to what most people would describe as “supernatural” claims, or even “extraordinary” claims, we can easily get ourselves into all kinds of trouble by rigidly and dogmatically applying the sentiment. For example, let’s say the recent mass animal deaths had happened 2,000 years ago before the advent of digital documentation, instead of recently. I could easily see some overconfident skeptics using Carrier’s “logic” to arrive at the conclusion that 100,000 drum fish dying at the same time is too unlikely to be believed. After all, I’ve never seen even three fish die at the same time, let alone 100,000! Have you? Further, such people might conclude that thousands of blackbirds allegedly dying simultaneously just 100 miles away and within a few years is equally without warrant, and likely a “copycat myth.” Yet, those skeptics would be wrong – dead wrong – and for no other reason than overconfident faith in their “rationalist” sentiment.To take another example, let’s say that God or gods or aliens really did visit the Earth at various times throughout the past. That would certainly account for many of the supposedly “mythical” stories we find throughout human history, yet, simply because we don’t see those things happening today, many skeptics say belief in them isn’t warranted, or that it’s “more likely” they didn’t happen. How can such assertions be truly sustained with evidence? Skeptics also said humans would never fly, never get to the moon, never run a four-minute mile, and never invent the telephone. And, each and every one of those skeptics relied on “logic” quite similar to Carrier’s. They were all wrong.That’s the position I’m attacking. That’s what I meant by retroactive genetic fallacy meets argument from personal incredulity.  

Oh wow, where to begin with this one?

1. If a fisherman came to your house and told you about all those dying fishes, and he came from a family known for telling tall-tales, but there was no physical proof of his tales, would you believe him? If not, then why believe the tales from an age known for its superstitions?

2. Nothing about thousands of Blackbirds actually flies in the face of what is physically possible, so the skeptic would just say it is highly likely that a lot of birds died and legend made the number much bigger, assuming no trace evidence was left behind. On the other hand, people rising from the dead and a man resurrecting after three days IS, as far as we know not possible. Terrible example on your part.

3. …The skeptics about how far science would take us have nothing to do with the skeptics of unlikely tales that can’t be verified and which seem generally implausible. That’s quite fallacious and misleading and obviously those skeptics are besides the point.

4. Your argument also seems to be saying “Well, because skeptics have been wrong, we have probable cause to think that all of these fanciful claims can be right!”. Assuming that such logic is fallacious in the first place (and I don’t think it is), yours is even more so!

5. So why don’t you believe in all the myths and legends of other religions and cultures where miraculous, improbable, or seemingly exaggerated claims often occurred? Or are you willing to believe in all?

6. I see you fail to provide an adequate way to avoid being errant where no evidence is provided. That’s quite telling. Simply said, saying “it probably didn’t happen” due to the lack of proof to correlate that claim is the best route to take, even if it isn’t 100% right.

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Mike Gantt January 11, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Gantt,I did not use “shambling” to be pejorative, but rather humorous and as an homage to writer James Morrow (check out Towing Jehovah) . How is it you picture the gait of these folks? Ambling? Marching? Striding?Anyway, it is still not clear to me why those of you that buy the resurrection of Jesus story are disinclined or less inclined to swallow Matthew’s yarn about the horde of dead folks walking about. What is it, precisely, about this story that makes it less likely to be accurate history?  (Quote)

Rob,
I don’t know how to add meaningfully to what I’ve already said. It’s a cryptic and isolated passage. Therefore, if you’re reading the Bible looking for stuff to believe and obey in your everyday life there’s not a lot here to work with. Fortunately, there are plenty of other biblical passages where major themes are repeated, amplified, and expanded, and can be applied to daily living, so there’s no shortage of material for the truly interested. Besides, I gain new insight into the Bible over time so – who knows? – maybe one day I’ll have insight into this passage. For now, I just don’t have a lot to offer.

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Jayman January 11, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Hendy, the resurrection is: (A) attested in extant sources written by eyewitnesses (e.g., Paul, Peter, John); (B) multiply attested (nearly every NT work); (C) a matter of central concern for the NT authors; and (D) preached by those so sincere in their belief that they were willing to die for it. None of the examples from Herodotus fit all these criteria. Thus, one could be consistent and accept the resurrection of Christ but not the miracles in Herodotus (of course, one could also accept both or reject both).

Knowing the writer’s sources may be helpful. However, the historicity of any specific event has to be determined on a case-by-case basis. The Book of Acts depicts Luke as an eyewitness to part of Paul’s ministry. It also notes that he went to Jerusalem where he could learn about Jesus from the apostles. Even if the Gospel of John was written in the 90s that doesn’t rule out its being written by a disciple of Jesus.

JS Allen, the raising of the saints in Matthew reminds me of the apocryphal account of Christ (Gospel of Nicodemus?) saving the spirits from Hades. One could speculate that Matthew confused this spiritual raising of the dead with a physical raising of the dead.

Rob, note my points to Hendy above. Now let’s compare that to the raising of the saints in Matthew. The raising of the saints in Matthew fail all four of those points. It simply does not have as much evidence in support of it as the resurrection of Christ.

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Tony Hoffman January 11, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Jayman and Mike Gantt,

In my scenario described above, would you switch your worship to Susej if the historical records showed more reliably that he was the son of God and that Jesus was not? If not, why not?

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Jayman January 11, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Steven R, I’ll let cl defend himself for the most part but your comment did raise questions/concerns in my mind.

In (1) you assume that you can determine how superstitious an age is. How do you do this without circular reasoning and begging the question?

Also in (1) you conveniently switch from an individual known for telling tall tales to a culture allegedly known for being superstitious. Even if first-century Judea and Galilee were home to a superstitious culture that does not mean the authors of the NT were superstitious. To make your analogy work you need to demonstrate that the NT authors were superstitious.

In (2) you assume that man is in any kind of position to determine what is physically possible. Besides being arrogant, it is question begging. In order to have any kind of discussion with cl this point needs to be re-formulated.

In (5) you assume that the evidence for the “myths and legends” of other religions is equivalent to or better than the evidence for the “myths and legends” of Christianity. To catch cl applying a double standard you actually have to show that the evidence is equivalent. Common sense suggests that the evidence for any two claims will not be completely identical.

In (6) you seem to use the term “no evidence” to mean “insufficient [to you] evidence.” This hinders communication.

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Jayman January 11, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Tony, yes, it is possible that I could convert to a new religion that had better evidence in its favor.

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Silver Bullet January 11, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Silver Bullet,Jesus was a stud, you see. And white. And a capitalist. And anti-slavery. And supported equality of the sexes.  

Sounds like a dude, though not The Dude (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dudeism)

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Tony Hoffman January 11, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Jayman, specifically the question related to better HISTORICAL evidence only. But if that is what you meant, then don’t bother to confirm — I’ll take your silence as a confirmation that you meant that the historical evidence of Christianity is decisive for you. So much so that you would revise your beliefs in the light of new evidence.

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DaVead January 11, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Steven R.,

My point is that our way of knowing the everyday of happenings of the recent past don’t extend to events like the resurrection, for the same reasons I gave in my reply to Rob about his everyday example of dropping a brick on my foot. When dealing with historical events one’s modus operandi is always based in philosophical presuppositions. I realize you said you didn’t want to get into it (and I’m not really willing to engage in an on-going dialectic about it, but here’s some food for thought anyway), but consider just the tacit philosophical assumptions just in your reply…

How strong is the sense of “determine” you are using when you speak of “determining” what happened in the past? Why is it important that there be a “need” to hold religious beliefs? What kind of “need”? What do you mean by “validate”? For this next bit I’ll put a * after every term that can be interpreted in radically different and equally defended ways:

“have reason* enough* to not doubt* the veracity* and reality* of the account and hold it as something that, as best* can be determined* by human* knowledge*, did occur*.”

Like I said before, that’s a lot of homework.

Assessing religious claims is not the sort of thing you do every day. It is not like asking whether or not your mom married your dad based on records and pictures. That’s the point. Any book or class on the introduction to religious studies would teach you that.

I’m not opposed to the critical study of history that people like Carrier or the McGrews are engaged in… I just think they’re dealing improperly with their subject matter when they assess religious and scriptural claims and try to derive philosophical or religiously relevant conclusions. Most scholars of religion studies have left behind the question of the truth of religious claims. I think it’s time for philosophers of religion to do the same, and instead approach religion as a reality and world on its own. For instance, take this famous quote from Jonathan Z. Smith:

“What we study when we study religion is one mode of constructing worlds of meaning, worlds within which men find themselves and in which they choose to dwell. What we study is the passion and drama of man discovering the truth of what it is to be human. History is the framework within whose perimeter those human expressions, activities and intentionality is that we call “religious” occur. Religion is the quest, within the bounds of the human, historical condition, for the power to manipulate and negotiate ones ‘situation’ so as to have ‘space’ in which to meaningfully dwell. It is the power to relate one’s domain to the plurality of environmental and social spheres in such a way as to guarantee the conviction that ones existence ‘matters’. Religion is a distinctive mode of human creativity, a creativity which both discovers limits and creates limits for humane existence. What we study when we study religion is the variety of attempts to map, construct and inhabit such positions of power through the use of myths, rituals and experiences of transformation.”

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Paul King January 11, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Jayman, so far as we know Paul wasn’t a witness to the resurrection, and we can’t be sure that we have anything written by the disciples Peter or John.

The “multiple attestation” really only applies to some sort of resurrection associated with some sort of post-death “appearances”. Where we do find closer agreement it seems more likely to be due to copying from a single source.

As we see from the above the resurrection stories and even the nature of the appearances do not seem to be a central concern, in that most do not give much in the way of details. And – perhaps more significantly – Luke and Acts gives a very different and incompatible account of the post-resurrection appearances from that in Matthew. One of them must be badly wrong. But how can that be if we have reliable eye-witness testimony ? Surely a better explanation is that the stories were both elaborated from vague stories like those we have, and followed different trajectories.

And to answer your point D we do not know how many were specifically willing to die for the resurrection belief, let alone the actual stories. It seems to be an invention of apologists with little historical basis. We are told that Nero’s persecution of Christians was aimed at finding scapegoats for the great fire. The resurrection belief would not be a primary issue then. We can’t say that the leaders would have been given a chance to recant and abandon their religion – we can’t even say that they did not attempt to do so.

So the evidence is often vague, sometimes contradictory – and sometimes the invention of more recent writers. This does not seem like a sound basis for belief in a miracle.

My own view is that the primary basis for the resurrection belief was Jesus’ failure. Those who stuck with Christianity were deeply invested in their belief that Jesus was the Messiah and resolved their cognitive dissonance with the resurrection belief (as Jehovah’s Witnesses cope with the multiple failures of their religion’s predictions). The post-resurrection appearances were only common, mundane events. Dreams, a feeling that the deceased was present, mistaking a living person for the deceased (remember all the post-death Elvis sightings ?). This seems to me to account for all the actual evidence – and even explains the contradictory accounts of the post-resurrection appearances better than the idea that these were actual historical events.

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 1:23 am

Tony Hoffman

Tony,
Probably not, and the reason being that your hypothetical left out the critical issue: fulfillment of the messianic prophecies. The reason that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so important is not because it is a miracle, but because, coupled with His suffering, it is the only way that the Old Testament prophecies could be fulfilled. Therefore, the historicity of Jesus is indeed important, but no more so that the pre-historicity we have in the writings of Moses and the Prophets. Therefore, it’s not so much the testimony of generations that followed Jesus who inspire current faith as the generations that preceded Him.

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cl January 12, 2011 at 3:30 am

DaVead,

Well, I would say that if you dropped a cinder block on my foot, the event would be real, and as real as real can be for me, in the moment. The question is if it’s feasible for an event even as mundane as that to be evaluated as “Real” by some methodogically and culturally relative historical analysis presuppositionally based in some hyper-realist, scientific, propositional, literal hermeneutic undergone by humans subjectively interpreting evidence 2,000 years later based on a worldview and a human reality completely divorced from the mode of being in which the event of my foot injury occured. There’s a lot of homework required there. [to Rob]

BLAMMO! Excellent job of maintaining focus. FWIW, I don’t think Carrier provides the homework, at least, not in what’s offered here.

reticularimus,

I was using the phrase “false argument” loosely, in the sense of an argument that hasn’t met commonly agreed upon criteria for acceptance.

Claims of juvenility, overconfidence, and chauvinism seem to be attacks against the arguer, more so than the argument.

I offer them as plausible explanations for the poverty of the arguments, not as attacks against the arguer. If and when I wish to attack somebody, believe me, you’ll know. Hopefully, we’ll never get there.

Anyway, we don’t generally find many monotheists making wholesale arguments against any particular instance of monotheism or other, even though any such argument could be support in favor of all of the remaining instances of monotheism, including, presumably, the arguer’s preferred brand. I’ve always wondered what debates of this sort might be like. If ever a monotheist might sound like an atheist, I’d expect it would be in such a case.

Your use of “we” implies that I’m amongst that subset, yet, I’ve seen plenty of wholesale arguments from on monotheist against another. Personally, I feel most like an atheist when confronted with conspiracy theories.

If you’re willing to put forth some arguments against your non-preferred brand of monotheism (since you probably don’t believe in at least one of the other ones), we can judge if you really do apply the same standards to your beliefs as you do to belief’s about other people’s gods. Have you ever even thought about what might be defective about other brands of monotheism?

You bet. We could have an in-depth discussion about this, but, in the interest of brevity, let’s begin with something simple. More than one of the various teachings of the Watchtower organization would certainly fall under the category of “non-preferred monotheism” for me. Why? Well, one reason is the comparative lack of objective scholarship that went into translating the Hebrew/Greek into the New World Translation vs. the New International Version [you can research this for yourself if you're unfamiliar]. As another example, Paul in Romans alludes to the fact that the creation is “in bondage to decay,” which I see as consistent with the fact of entropy as demonstrated by modern science. Was this just an amazing coincidence, or, was Paul really speaking by the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit? At any rate, one reason I choose the NIV over the New World Translation is because a much more thorough, scholarly and non-sectarian committee oversaw the translation of the NIV, and one reason I choose the Bible as the truest approximation of metaphysical reality is because of uncannily poignant statements like the one Paul makes in Romans 8. Where’s the special pleading?

That said, I’m not one to simply “dismiss other religions,” as if the acceptance of a set of premises is an all-or-nothing proposal. Rather, I’m an advocate of examining claims on their own merit. Therefore, as I study various religions and compare them to Christianity, I can almost always find points of agreement as well as points of dissent. The question that forms the tagline of this blog presents a sort of false dichotomy if you will: I don’t necessarily dismiss, unilaterally, every other religion, every other god, every other UFO or ghost story, etc. I accept where I feel its justified, and deny likewise. I simply happen to believe that the Bible is the truest approximation of metaphysical and moral reality. That doesn’t mean I think every other religion is false.

Good point! How about applying it to your claim of the “false” argument. Your “support” was just that the argument was “false”, plain and simple.

Nonsense. My support is right there in the snippet you cited. Am I under any obligation whatsoever to accept as true a claim without evidence, especially when I know for a fact that said claim does not apply to me as its claimant asserts without evidence or even a hearing?

Steven Carr,

Can’t Christians either put up or shut up? 2000 years of listening to them drone on about testimony when NOT ONE PERSON testified to an empty tomb…..

And you claim Mike Gantt is the one in denial mode? LOL!

Ralph,

When I expressed my dissatisfaction with this post, you quipped,

Oh puhleeeze…..everybody here knows that you have an axe to grind. What’s to challenge?

I then explained that you missed what was plainly available to you, yet you continue, now saying,

I reread your post and nope….I see it not.

My comment January 10, 2011 at 3:55 pm opened with, “This is just an odd sort of retroactive genetic fallacy meets argument from personal incredulity.” That, right there, is “what’s to challenge.” If it were a snake, it would have bit you!

And re: my posts on This Is What It’s Like To Debate A Christian, I will not rehash them here.

Yet, after you typed those very words, you proceeded to rehash them. For example,

Suffice to say that anyone with an objective mind can see that you’re just refusing to answer.

Yet, I’ve now answered both there, and here. I deny the baseless assertion that acceptance of Christianity over other religions, UFO stories, ghost stories, etc. requires special pleading. The burden of proof is on the one who wishes to make that claim. What you ask of David Rogers is akin to a theist asking an atheist to prove God does not exist.

I was needling him for whining when the site itself is consistent with the parody…

Is the site consistent with the parody when Luke refuses to extend to his morality the same “common sense” he extends to classic utilitarianism? I think not, but I digress.

…and that he hasn’t presented a reason why the parody doesn’t work.

He doesn’t need to. You – or Luke for that matter – need to present a reason why it does. Hence, pushing the burden of proof applies to you, not me.

A lot of posters here have given up on having a fruitful back and forth with you.

And yet, “a lot” of posters here have told me that they find my comments invaluable, or that the appreciate my “strong, articulate criticism” of atheist arguments as it tends to break up the hive mentality. Those are just two from a single thread on my own blog, Suggestions Anyone? Why are you cherrypicking to prove your point?

Ignorance is solvable, willful miscomprehension is not.

Tell me about it. Here you are, seemingly willfully miscomprehending the beautiful simplicity of the burden of proof.

J. Simonov,

100,00 drum fish dying at the same time is too unlikely to be believed purely on someone’s say-so, which is what you’re liable to get from ancient sources. Do you disagree, and if so, why?

Yes, I disagree, and I’d like to point out that what you’re really doing here is asserting your own personal criterion for acceptance of a truth claim. The skeptic can sit and protest the “unlikeliness” all they want. These things happened. For the skeptic to claim as Carrier does is to use a retroactive genetic fallacy / argument from personal incredulity. It’s fine if he wants to say that’s why he doesn’t believe, but he doesn’t stop there. Rather, he attempts to foist his own criteria upon the rest of us, and is even willing to shower condemnation on those of us who resist and would dare think for ourselves!

I honestly don’t see why you would disagree with the skeptics in this case.

Because I don’t sit here and judge all past events based on our own limited exposure to current events. We’ve already agreed that the strategy is useful for a compass, but I think such “reasoning” is wholly fallacious as a means of arriving at reliable conclusions about the truth of what actually happened in the past.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. -Hamlet

Ralph,

Back for more, eh? Apparently you are not yet fully convinced of the futility of conversing with such a willfully miscomprehending boor as myself.

Okay, if you think this is a false argument then show us how you can sidestep the double-standard charge without admitting to something much worse.

Note that by “false argument” I simply mean an argument that hasn’t met its logical requirements. At any rate, did you see my “micro-response” to reticularimus? No double standard, whatsoever.

I am confident that you will not be able to sidestep all charges of “using double standards” without admitting to something much more embarassing. Prove me wrong.

Man, you still don’t get it, do you? You need to prove yourself right.

The charge of “using double standards” or special pleading is merely a response to theistic belief.

Not so. It is a positive claim about all who accept one brand of theistic belief over another. The situation is not such that you can pass the the burden of production to me [as distinct from the burden of proof].

Nonetheless, since you seem genuinely interested, see the aforementioned “micro-responses” to reticularimus, and then demonstrate where the special pleading is. You know, actually meet the burden of proof for this claim you make.

A scenario has been laid at your feet that is purported to demonstrate this.

Where? I have not yet seen on this site one successful argument for the claim that Christianity requires special pleading. Contrary, I’ve now taken the initiative – despite my interlocutors’ seemingly willful refusal to meet the burden of proof – and provided two reasons I choose my beliefs over others – reasons that are immune from the charge.

Steven R,

Re 1: On the basis of the fisherman’s sole testimony on that story alone, I wouldn’t commit myself to belief or unbelief, and superstition is arguably present in all ages.

Nothing about thousands of Blackbirds actually flies in the face of what is physically possible, so the skeptic would just say it is highly likely that a lot of birds died and legend made the number much bigger, assuming no trace evidence was left behind.

And, the skeptic would be wrong, precisely because of the little “filtering system” they’ve inadvertently set up for themselves.

The skeptics about how far science would take us have nothing to do with the skeptics of unlikely tales that can’t be verified and which seem generally implausible.

Sure they do: both rely on “but it hasn’t happened before” as their “logic.”

Your argument also seems to be saying “Well, because skeptics have been wrong, we have probable cause to think that all of these fanciful claims can be right!”

That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying, “but it hasn’t happened before” is not a reliable means of establishing what has happened before.

So why don’t you believe in all the myths and legends of other religions and cultures where miraculous, improbable, or seemingly exaggerated claims often occurred? Or are you willing to believe in all?

I do my best to invesitage each claim on its own merit. Is there something wrong with that?

I see you fail to provide an adequate way to avoid being errant where no evidence is provided.

You’re damn right I fail in that regard! How in the world could there be an “adequate” way to avoid being errant in the absence of evidence? Do you now see why I’m hesitant to accept Carrier’s retroactive genetic fallacy meets argument from personal incredulity? Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. At the same time, really weird things do happen, and what is science but the documentation of finding our preconceptions utterly shattered every few decades or so?

Simply said, saying “it probably didn’t happen” due to the lack of proof to correlate that claim is the best route to take, even if it isn’t 100% right.

Why? Because you say so?

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Steven Carr January 12, 2011 at 3:36 am

JAYMAN
(D) preached by those so sincere in their belief that they were willing to die for it

CARR
More myths.

Paul says in Galatians 6 that Christians were persecuted on the issue of circumcision.

Nobody ever died for preaching a resurrection – even if you include Stephen in Acts, who does not even mention a resurrection, claiming Jesus was in Heaven.

The fact remains that early Christian converts scoffed at the idea of their god choosing to raise corpses.

Which is why Paul had to write 2 Corinthians reminding them that even if the earthly tent is destroyed, they would get a new body, made in Heaven.

And the fact remains that not one person ever wrote a document naming himself as ever having touched a resurrected Jesus, seen an empty tomb or spoken to these alleged women.

It is all as well attested as the second gunman who shot JFK….

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cl January 12, 2011 at 4:28 am

A final note to hopefully hammer home the point, and then it’s off to bed for this “dipshit.”

If there’s one thing I am nearly 100% certain of, it’s that everybody here would agree to the claim that what’s true is true regardless of our inclinations about it. Right? Well, if you want to stick to what’s true, then tell me airplanes crashed into WTC on 9-11. Don’t sit there and tell me The Resurrection is Unbelievable, which — aside from being an incredibly misleading approach to language — remains essentially the subjective opinion of the person making it. If we wish to strive for precision and develop the habit of making only true statements — which, of course, is the standard Luke ostensibly holds his theory of morality to — how about, Why I Find The Resurrection Unbelievable? I mean, come on. For all we know, a bona fide resurrection could have happened to any one of the thousands upon thousands of people who’ve died and reported “supernatural” experiences. Absolutely not, you pout and protest, perhaps because you read a third-order source on Susan Blackmore’s critique in some book? What of those who’ve been “declared dead” by reputable medical professionals, who — presumably — are to be trusted to know the pertinent physiological requirements in any other instance regarding the human body? Some of you talk about the “special pleading” that I “require” for believing the Bible, well… which horn do you want to take? That people declared dead by reputable medical professionals come back to life? Or, that reputable medical professionals are somehow only wrong when it comes to understanding the requirements for clinical death? I mean, gimme a break. People wake up in the morgue. Surely you don’t think they call it “Lazarus syndrome” for no reason?

So, instead of relying on what in all honesty amounts to “it hasn’t happened before and I find it incredulous,” how about these for truth-finding criteria: I say stick to what you know, strive for maximum precision, try your best to limit yourselves to making only true claims, and — perhaps most importantly — respect the rights of others to reasonably disagree with you, without resorting to labeling dissenters as “dipshit”, “idiot”, “troll”, “racist,” etc. Of course, none of us are going to bat 100% on these, but the closer we get, the closer we’ll get to the truth of any given matter.

Atheists don’t have a monopoly on reason.

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cl January 12, 2011 at 4:50 am

Okay, last one:

Steven Carr,

And the fact remains that not one person ever wrote a document naming himself as ever having touched a resurrected Jesus, seen an empty tomb or spoken to these alleged women.

Well gee, not everybody had laptop computers and 4G phones back then either, now did they? Recall that the ability to document anything was quite the privilege for those who lived contemporaneously to the events in question. You seem to imply that the fact of third-party dictation is grounds for reasonable doubt regarding the authenticity of the subject matter. Well, do you equally lambast the authenticity of Pliny the Younger’s History, or Tacitus’ The Annals? If not, you should. In fact, you ought to lambast them more: the first known manuscripts appear anywhere from 700 to 1200 years after the time of writing, depending upon which authority one cites. To contrast, most of the 27 books which comprise the New Testament canon were written within mere decades. So what’s wrong with a third party recounting something a few decades after the fact?

Unless you are proportionately dubious of History and The Annals – which I would find really hard to believe, but couldn’t necessarily rule out – I’m left to wonder if perhaps some atheists are guilty of special pleading in their rejection of the New Testament, in an odd sort of converse of Luke’s “Golden Rule?”

Else, what hitherto undisclosed criteria are you alluding to?

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Steven Carr January 12, 2011 at 4:57 am

CL lambasts sceptics for even expecting evidence.

Just because there are zero manuscripts from the first century written by people who name themselves as touching this alleged resurrected body,seeing this tomb, hearing of these women, hearing of Judas,or Joseph of Arimathea means nothing.

Sceptics are guilty of special pleading for even expecting a named person to have written that these people exist.

CL
To contrast, most of the 27 books which comprise the New Testament canon were written within mere decades. So what’s wrong with a third party recounting something a few decades after the fact?

CARR
Gosh, Oliver Stone’s JFK was written within mere decades. It must be all true!

And less than one decade after the events, third parties are recounting how the Bush Administration planned 9/11. It must be true!

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 5:05 am

My own view is that the primary basis for the resurrection belief was Jesus’ failure. Those who stuck with Christianity were deeply invested in their belief that Jesus was the Messiah and resolved their cognitive dissonance with the resurrection belief (as Jehovah’s Witnesses cope with the multiple failures of their religion’s predictions).

Paul,

According to your view, where and when did the disciples get the idea of resurrection as a way to resolve their cognitive dissonance?

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Reidish January 12, 2011 at 5:25 am

CARR destroys History to save his anti-Christianity….yawn. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2010/07/09/eyewitnesses-and-the-gospels/

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Zeb January 12, 2011 at 5:42 am

Rob

What is it, precisely, about this story that makes it less likely to be accurate history?

Speaking for myself, I am relying on my trust in the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. The Church definitely teaches that Jesus’ resurrection happened; the other resurrections that day, not necessarily. And to answer the obvious questions: My trust in the Church is based on direct experience of God’s communication of his will. My belief in God is based on the argument from contingency and an intuitive sense of a God-like presence in my life. The vulnerable points I see in my belief structure are 1) the argument from contingency and 2) my reasons for taking that “direct communication” as from God.

When I became Catholic, I actually thought all details about Jesus were lost to history, except that there probably was such a guy. I thought the only way to get to any beliefs about him was through religion. Now I’m more open to the case made by New Testament historians, and I think the evidence supports the failed apocolyptic preacher hypothesis.

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Steven Carr January 12, 2011 at 5:46 am

CARR destroys History to save his anti-Christianity….yawn. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
——–
Just find the evidence that this empty tomb existed,or that these women existed.

It is right there next to the evidence for the Golden Plates or the Angel Moroni or the second gunman who shot JFK.

As Professor Hurtado showed, the only way to satisfy sceptics who ask for the name of a person who saw this Judas, is to engage in abuse.

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Steven Carr January 12, 2011 at 5:58 am

ZEB
My trust in the Church is based on direct experience of God’s communication of his will.

CARR
How does that work?

Do you hear voices? Do angels communicate with you? What was the last English sentence God communicated to you?

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 7:24 am

Zeb,

Thank you for the answer.

cl,

Lazarus syndrome is a natural phenomenon that indicates nothing more than our current state of ignorance on how to reliably determine when someone is “really” dead. Appealing to this rare occurrence (or something like it) is probably the way to go, if you seriously want to maintain belief in post-burial appearances of Jesus.

But to do so requires that you give-up the Resurrection. Probably not what your going for.

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Tommykey January 12, 2011 at 8:06 am

With regard to the Gospels, one thing that needs to be taken into consideration is who the audience for each Gospel was.

Mark is generally accepted as being the earliest of the Gospels. It ends with the women finding an empty tomb and a man in a white robe. I know that one of the arguments put forth by apologists is that if the resurrection was made up, the authors of the gospels would have described it as some spectacular event.

While I am no NT scholar, I think a case can be made that Mark was written for an audience in close geographic proximity to the places described therein. If the Resurrection had been described as some fantastical event seen by many, the audience would have questioned it because none of the them would have recalled it. When you describe the resurrection as described in Mark, it gives doubters no place to go. You can’t disprove it.

Matthew copies a lot of Mark but adds a lot of embellishments, such as the Magi, the massacre of the innocents, the lineage of Jesus to David via Joseph (even though Joseph is allegedly not the biological father of Jesus), the Temple being torn in two and tombs breaking open and the dead rising up and walking about Jerusalem.

However, since Mark rather anticlimatically describes the women finding an empty tomb, the author of Matthew is basically trapped by that. He can’t present a radically different version of the resurrection. He does add a scene of third party dialog between the tomb guards and the chief priests. One explanation for this is that the author of Matthew was trying to make the empty tomb story stronger by having its veracity confirmed by persons who had an interest in Jesus not being the Messiah.

With its references to “the Jews” as some kind of other (e.g. Matthew 28:15, “And this story has been circulated among the Jews to this very day”), and even the blaming of the crucifixion on the Jews collectively, Matthew likely was intended for a non-Jewish audience at some geographic distance from the events described. How many people of the time would travel to a different country to verify events described years, or maybe even decades, earlier?

If we assume an historical Jesus and apostles, the choice often presented to us is that either the Resurrection happened or the apostles lied about it. I think there can be a third option. Nothing happened to indicate that a resurrection took place, but the apostles could still have believed that it happened if they truly believed that Jesus was who he said he was. If their goal was to convince other people that it happened, they could have made up a story simply for the purpose of convincing others that there was a resurrection. It explains the empty tomb story, which can’t be disproven because there’s nowhere to go with it. It also counters the objection that the apostles would not have put themselves at risk for a lie.

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 8:20 am

Tommykey,

I don’t think it is even necessary to think the apostles made up anything. They had dreams about Jesus, that’s all. They talked to each other about these dreams. Over the following decades, this became the legend of the Resurrection.

This is all just speculation, but just seems to me a million times more plausible than the Resurrection, and 100 times more plausible than a deliberate conspiracy.

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 8:28 am

I don’t think it is even necessary to think the apostles made up anything. They had dreams about Jesus, that’s all. They talked to each other about these dreams. Over the following decades, this became the legend of the Resurrection.

Rob, according to your view, how did these dreams that the apostles experienced come to be recorded as the eyewitness attestation we read in the New Testament documents?

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 8:34 am

Gantt,

The Gospels were written 40 years and more later. Ever played telephone?

Remember the legend of Jessica Lynch? Mowing down Iraqi’s as she lay gravely wounded? It does not take long for legends to develop. We see it all the time now, and have countless examples throughout history.

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 8:37 am

How many people of the time would travel to a different country to verify events described years, or maybe even decades, earlier?

Tommykey, since we know that Jews of that time were dispersed throughout the Mediterranean world, and that many of them made the pilgrimmage to three feasts in Jerusalem every year (one of which was the Passover when Jesus was crucified, another of which was Pentecost when the apostles first began proclaiming the resurrection), why do you think Jews were so geographically distant that they had no means to check into these things?

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 8:47 am

The Gospels were written 40 years and more later. Ever played telephone?
Remember the legend of Jessica Lynch?

Rob, we know how the telephone game can produce a falsity and we know how the Jessica Lynch story produced a falsity – and we know it was not the same way. All I am asking you is how you believe falsity was produced in the specific case of the New Testament: that is, according to your view, what were the key steps in getting from the apostles talking to each other about their dreams to the 27 documents we have?

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 8:58 am

Gantt,

Did you miss the part where I said I was speculating? My story seems plausible, and is consistent with how the universe actually works, and we have many documented cases of legendary development.

But I can flesh it out. The apostles had dreams. Dreams during which Jesus spoke to them. They talked about this among themselves and to others. The others then passed the story along. In the re-telling, the crucial part about these conversations occurring in dreams was lost.

This does not require any mass hallucinations, any intentional deception, or anything supernatural. Just a well documented historical phenomenon and faulty humans telling stories down the years.

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 8:58 am

If we assume an historical Jesus and apostles, the choice often presented to us is that either the Resurrection happened or the apostles lied about it. I think there can be a third option. Nothing happened to indicate that a resurrection took place, but the apostles could still have believed that it happened if they truly believed that Jesus was who he said he was. If their goal was to convince other people that it happened, they could have made up a story simply for the purpose of convincing others that there was a resurrection.

Tommykey,
1) How could the apostles believe that the resurrection happened if “nothing happened to indicate that the resurrection took place?” That is, why would at least 11 grown men believe this?
2) Why were they willing to give false testimony about the resurrection? (For even if they somehow “truly believed it happened,” they would still know they were lying to say they personally witnessed it.) That is, why would at least 11 seemingly solid citizens be willing to perpetrate a such a great fraud on their family, friends, and countrymen – especially in the name of someone they proclaimed was so morally pure?
3) What benefit were they seeking to obtain by continuing to proclaim this falsehood in face of dangerous and even mortal threat that would have evaporated the instant they recanted the lie?

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Ralph January 12, 2011 at 9:06 am

cl,

My comment January 10, 2011 at 3:55 pm opened with, “This is just an odd sort of retroactive genetic fallacy meets argument from personal incredulity.” That, right there, is “what’s to challenge.” If it were a snake, it would have bit you!

That’s no challenge. It’s a stupid assertion from you. I don’t understand how you could mistake the two.

Yet, I’ve now answered both there, and here. I deny the baseless assertion that acceptance of Christianity over other religions, UFO stories, ghost stories, etc. requires special pleading. The burden of proof is on the one who wishes to make that claim. What you ask of David Rogers is akin to a theist asking an atheist to prove God does not exist.

Your assigning of the burden of proof is entirely misplaced. Instead of thinking of it as a logical argument, think of it as an empirical claim. Here is another example of an inconsistency in the appreciation of historical claims that bolsters the accusation of special pleading.

He doesn’t need to. You – or Luke for that matter – need to present a reason why it does. Hence, pushing the burden of proof applies to you, not me.

He does. If you’re complaining about the parody, you need to show how the parody doesn’t work.

“Ignorance is solvable, willful miscomprehension is not.”

Note that by “false argument” I simply mean an argument that hasn’t met its logical requirements. At any rate, did you see my “micro-response” to reticularimus? No double standard, whatsoever. Not so. It is a positive claim about all who accept one brand of theistic belief over another. The situation is not such that you can pass the the burden of production to me [as distinct from the burden of proof]. Nonetheless, since you seem genuinely interested, see the aforementioned “micro-responses” to reticularimus, and then demonstrate where the special pleading is. You know, actually meet the burden of proof for this claim you make. Where? I have not yet seen on this site one successful argument for the claim that Christianity requires special pleading. Contrary, I’ve now taken the initiative – despite my interlocutors’ seemingly willful refusal to meet the burden of proof – and provided two reasons I choose my beliefs over others – reasons that are immune from the charge.

And this is where you’re getting it wrong. It is NOT a logical argument but an empirical claim. And your microresponse to reticularimus is not getting anywhere.

Man, you still don’t get it, do you? You need to prove yourself right.

This article has shown that historical claims of similar evidential weight are not being treated the same by Christians. Now, this could be a case of special pleading. It may not be. There could be an infinite number of reasons why it could not be, i.e. my belief is based on revelation given to me by a blessed monkey, I dreamt that God told me that the resurrection happened. No one could discount that. But surely, a response along the lines of “It’s not necessarily special pleading, yada yada yada…” without showing how it’s not special pleading is entirely misplaced. There is prima facie evidence to show that it is. My contention is that Christians who would want to show that it’s not special pleading will have to admit to something like that or commit special pleading in another way.

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Zeb January 12, 2011 at 9:20 am

Steve Carr

How does that work?

Do you hear voices? Do angels communicate with you? What was the last English sentence God communicated to you?

What I take to be the communication of God’s will (that I should become Catholic) was not verbal. I can’t think of a good way to analogize the experiences that I believe to be God’s direct communication, but I often refer to it as a ‘silent voice,’ knowing that to be an intentionally paradoxical description that still gets the sense of it, at least for me. That I know of, God has never communicated to me in English or indeed in any of the forms of sensory stimulation in which other elements of life reach my consciousness; it is a unique sort of experience. (Although, philosophically I take all of life to be a communication from God, though not a linguistic one that can be interpreted symbolically and read literally. So in a sense every English sentence I have heard was communicated to me by God, but not in the sense that he was saying it to me so that I would take its meaning as being meant by him. I don’t think that’s how you meant the question though.)

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Steven R. January 12, 2011 at 9:30 am

Steven R,Re 1: On the basis of the fisherman’s sole testimony on that story alone, I wouldn’t commit myself to belief or unbelief, and superstition is arguably present in all ages.

That’s an awkward position to take, mostly because logically speaking, when there is no good reason to believe in something, the logical step to take is unbelief until proven otherwise. Why? Because an unbacked claim was made. “Innocent until proven guilty”, so on so forth.

And, the skeptic would be wrong, precisely because of the little “filtering system” they’ve inadvertently set up for themselves.

My main point is: so what? What the filtering system does is to try to obtain the best sort of accuracy as humanly possible. Nobody claimed it was infallible, but that isn’t reason enough to just go around giving more validity to dubious claims.

Sure they do: both rely on “but it hasn’t happened before” as their “logic.”
That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying, “but it hasn’t happened before” is not a reliable means of establishing what has happened before.

With your logic, if somebody was shot in the dark, we couldn’t dismiss the dark itself from being the criminal because “it (a murder committed by the darkness) hasn’t happened before” is not a reliable means of establishing what has happened before. Besides, you keep on ignoring my second key point: somethings are merely seen as not quite possible, so tales like the fish would be very suspect but not entirely dismissed by skeptics, but tales that fly in the face of what can physically happen are dismissed until there is some consistent way of establishing their validity. “Skeptics” also give ground to the fact that something

I do my best to invesitage each claim on its own merit. Is there something wrong with that?

No, but that’s not what I am criticizing. It’s your lax standards that border on the absurd, while using the “well, we can’t entirely be sure and can’t get 100% accurate results” if I’m more rigorous excuse for not even trying to take a position or exempting suspicious claims that you’d rightly dismiss if people known for exaggerating, being superstitious, etc. “witnessed”.

You’re damn right I fail in that regard! How in the world could there be an “adequate” way to avoid being errant in the absence of evidence? Do you now see why I’m hesitant to accept Carrier’s retroactive genetic fallacy meets argument from personal incredulity? Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. At the same time, really weird things do happen, and what is science but the documentation of finding our preconceptions utterly shattered every few decades or so?
Why? Because you say so?  

Kinda ironic that you take strange, weird, and supernatural tales with some seriousness on the basis of “because somebody said so.” I have no doubt that there’s some truth to some of the weird stories told, but we have to keep in mind that these people, like any other human beings, were likely to exaggerate events they didn’t understand, add tales of the supernatural to convey the full panic and fear of the situation, etc. so I don’t see a problem with the skeptic setting up some boundaries. Yes, it could be wrong, but when it comes to tales like people resurrecting, it is adequate enough to dismiss them simply on the basis that it has never happened before. I’m not afraid of taking a step because the floor can just randomly disappeared (not like sinkholes, but everything underneath me disappeared), even if “it has never happened before” because the claim is silly. It doesn’t match any of my experiences and I have no reason to believe that it can happen.

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 10:05 am

But I can flesh it out. The apostles had dreams. Dreams during which Jesus spoke to them. They talked about this among themselves and to others. The others then passed the story along. In the re-telling, the crucial part about these conversations occurring in dreams was lost.

Rob, that’s helpful but I’m still wondering how you think the “dream” part got lost and replaced by “what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled,” “reach here your hand and put it into my side,” “to us who ate and drank with him after He arose from the dead,” and the other statements like this that we have in the New Testament – which claims to be written by the same guys who had the dreams?

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 10:18 am

Gantt,

I think our main point of departure is who wrote the gospels. I’m no expert, and defer to current scholarly consensus. You think the disciple Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew, while I think that is almost certainly false. And so on.

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Paul King January 12, 2011 at 10:18 am

Paul,According to your view, where and when did the disciples get the idea of resurrection as a way to resolve their cognitive dissonance?  

Obviously without reliable accounts we can’t know. The where question is especially awkward as the Gospel of Matthew says that they all went off to Galilee and the Gospel of Luke has them staying in Jerusalem. I would say that as a result of whatever experiences they had, whether dreams, “sightings” or mere feelings of Jesus’ presence they convinced themselves that somehow Jesus was still alive and therefore still capable of fulfilling the Messianic prophecies. The rest was all added later – which explains why we see so little detail in the pre-Gospel books.

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 10:35 am

I would say that as a result of whatever experiences they had, whether dreams, “sightings” or mere feelings of Jesus’ presence they convinced themselves that somehow Jesus was still alive and therefore still capable of fulfilling the Messianic prophecies.

Paul, you don’t even speculate about how the apostles might have come up with this unprecedented idea that a murder-resurrection scenario would fulfill the prophecies?

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 10:43 am

I think our main point of departure is who wrote the gospels. I’m no expert, and defer to current scholarly consensus. You think the disciple Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew, while I think that is almost certainly false. And so on.

Rob, let’s assume for the moment that the apostles did not write any of the New Testament. What’s your view of how it came to have all the claims of eyewitness experiences with the resurrected Jesus that it has, given the scenario you have described? That is, who would have motive, opportunity, and means to take the legend that had developed and write the documents to make it look like the apostles were claiming to be sure that He had been raised from the dead? (Keep in mind that we’re speaking of the entire New Testament and not merely the gospels.)

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 10:54 am

Gantt,

Legendary developments with embellishments. We see this happen in the gospels themselves. Mark has a few, Matthew more, and then the wildest story of all in the Gospel of Peter with a walking or talking cross.

What do you think motivated the writer of the Gospel of Peter to write such a wild tale?

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Tony Hoffman January 12, 2011 at 10:54 am

Gantt: “Paul, you don’t even speculate about how the apostles might have come up with this unprecedented idea that a murder-resurrection scenario would fulfill the prophecies?”

I can’t stand it anymore. Learn some history. Take some comparative religion courses. Learn some social history. Read some Elaine Pagels. Learn about Antiquity. Some of them, or at least one, came up with the idea because it worked.

There were hundreds of religions, and as many versions of Christianity (Gnosticisim, mysticism, whatever) as there were itinerant preachers in 1st Century Judea. Religionists don’t need to do anything more than pick up the pieces that exist around them, misinterpret some things, embellish some others, gain some adherents who develop what exists and misinterpret and/or embellish some more, and success breeds its own success.

You misunderstand something fundamental: Religions don’t win adherents with a truthier product; they win adherents with better marketing.

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 11:11 am

Gantt,

Please read Jesus Interrupted. Not that I expect you to buy what Ehrman is selling, but at least so you will acquire a modicum of understanding about the perspective of so many of your interlocutors. Which I hope is the point.

http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Interrupted-Revealing-Hidden-Contradictions/dp/0061173940/

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 11:24 am

What do you think motivated the writer of the Gospel of Peter to write such a wild tale?

Okay, so let’s take your assumption the whoever wrote Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were motivated by whatever motivated the person who wrote the Gospel of Peter. I’ll then rephrase my question to “How do you think that the writers of M,M,L, and J (whoever they were) had the means and opportunity to write gospels which were accepted as authentic eyewitness apostolic testimony while whoever wrote the gospel of Peter got his rejected for the reason that it wasn’t considered so? (Again, this question is using your assumption that the apostles didn’t write the New Testament.)

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 11:29 am

Gantt,

The Gospel of Peter was eventually rejected by the historical victors over what was considered orthodox. So what? I have no reason to consider the canonical gospels somehow more legitimate than the Gospel of Peter.

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Tony Hoffman January 12, 2011 at 11:32 am

How do you think that the writers of M,M,L, and J (whoever they were) had the means and opportunity to write gospels which were accepted as authentic eyewitness apostolic testimony while whoever wrote the gospel of Peter got his rejected for the reason that it wasn’t considered so?

You are acting like an idiot who deserves ridicule.

For the same reason that Joseph Smith found some adherents while others found his claims to be obviously phony or beneath notice. For the same reason L. Ron Hubbard found some adherents while others found his claims to be obviously phony or beneath notice. You are acting as if you are ignorant that obviously false or probably false claims cannot find adherents. This makes you appear to be an idiot.

Learn. Some. History.

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 11:33 am

Religions don’t win adherents with a truthier product; they win adherents with better marketing.

Tony, then how did Jesus ever get His enterprise off the ground with the marketing slogan of “you’re going to be hated, persecuted, reviled, killed, etc. because of Me”?

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 11:36 am

The Gospel of Peter was eventually rejected by the historical victors over what was considered orthodox. So what? I have no reason to consider the canonical gospels somehow more legitimate than the Gospel of Peter.

Rob, I know. That’s why I rephrased my question for you – to take that into account.

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 11:37 am

“then how did Jesus ever get His enterprise off the ground with the marketing slogan . . . ”

Oh good grief.

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 11:40 am

Clarify your question then. You seem to think inclusion in the canon means something special. I do not.

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 11:43 am

For the same reason that Joseph Smith found some adherents while others found his claims to be obviously phony or beneath notice. For the same reason L. Ron Hubbard found some adherents while others found his claims to be obviously phony or beneath notice.

Tony, I wasn’t asking how Christianity gained adherents if it was false. If I had been, your answer would have been a good one. Rather, I was asking how whoever wrote the 27 New Testament documents had the means and opportunity get their documents accepted as authentically apostolic while others (e.g. the Gospel of Peter), attempting the same thing, were rejected.

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Paul King January 12, 2011 at 11:43 am

Paul, you don’t even speculate about how the apostles might have come up with this unprecedented idea that a murder-resurrection scenario would fulfill the prophecies?  

There are a number of reasons for that. Firstly I don’t accept that it is true. Granted the idea that Isaiah’s Suffering servant might be a prophecy of Jesus may go that far back, but the major Messianic prophecies are all delayed until the second Coming.because they were NOT fulfilled in Jesus’ lifetime (and still remain stubbornly unfulfilled). Secondly, I was giving my view on how the resurrection belief came about, not on later theological additions. And of course it is easy to find places where early Christians reinterpret prophecies as referring to Jesus – with scant regard to the context. Just look at the Nativity account in Matthew. And it is easy to see why Jesus’ death would have been regarded as important – in the thinking of the disciples if Jesus died instead of leading them into the Messianic kingdom, there “must” have been a reason. It cannot be because Jesus was a failure, overcome and defeated by the foreign tyrants.

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Clarify your question then. You seem to think inclusion in the canon means something special. I do not.

Rob, canonization was simply a recognition of widespread and appropriate acceptance of authenticity. For example, Paul’s letters to Corinth had been copied and distributed widely. Therefore, when the question of canonization came up, there were plenty of people, especially in Corinth where it mattered most, who could stand up and say, “Yeah, those are the letters he sent.” Therefore, it’s not the canonization per se that’s important – it’s all those witnesses attesting to the authenticity of the document tht led to the canonization.

Therefore, my rephrased question is: How is it you think that the writers of the New Testament (assuming they weren’t the apostles) were able to get their documents accepted as authentically apostolic when many other writers of many other documents (e.g. as the Gospel of Peter) were not able to get theirs accepted by that same standard?

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm

There are a number of reasons for that.

Paul, maybe I’m just dense but I’ve read your answer four times and can’t find the answer to my question. Would you please re-read my question and try to rephrase your answer? I’m after what you think inspired in Jesus’ apostles this unprecedented and innovative idea that a murder-resurrection scenario would pass muster with Jews looking for their Messiah.

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 12:19 pm

“Clarify your question then. You seem to think inclusion in the canon means something special. I do not.”

Rob, canonization was simply a recognition of widespread and appropriate acceptance of authenticity. For example, Paul’s letters to Corinth had been copied and distributed widely. Therefore, when the question of canonization came up, there were plenty of people, especially in Corinth where it mattered most, who could stand up and say, “Yeah, those are the letters he sent.” Therefore, it’s not the canonization per se that’s important – it’s all those witnesses attesting to the authenticity of the document tht led to the canonization.

Therefore, my rephrased question is: How is it you think that the writers of the New Testament (assuming they weren’t the apostles) were able to get their documents accepted as authentically apostolic when many other writers of many other documents (e.g. as the Gospel of Peter) were not able to get theirs accepted by that same standard?

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 12:28 pm

“were able to get their documents accepted as authentically apostolic”

???

Whoever wrote the gospels were long dead by the time of canonization.

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 12:37 pm

This seems to be your argument:

M, M, L, and J were canonized because they were widely accepted, and they were widely accepted because they were truthier.

But wide acceptance is not an accurate measure of truth.

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Whoever wrote the gospels were long dead by the time of canonization.

Rob, remember I’m asking about the New Testament, not just the gospels. And I’m asking how they came to be accepted as authentic. Just to take one example, how did whoever wrote 1 Corinthians get people to accept that it was written by Paul to Corinth?

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Gantt,

No idea. Why? Make your point.

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Paul King January 12, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Paul, maybe I’m just dense but I’ve read your answer four times and can’t find the answer to my question

My answer is that I didn’t speculate on it because it wasn’t true or of any particular relevance to what I was saying. Either reason would be sufficient on it’s own.

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Tommykey January 12, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Tommykey, since we know that Jews of that time were dispersed throughout the Mediterranean world, and that many of them made the pilgrimmage to three feasts in Jerusalem every year (one of which was the Passover when Jesus was crucified, another of which was Pentecost when the apostles first began proclaiming the resurrection), why do you think Jews were so geographically distant that they had no means to check into these things?

My initial reply to this seems to have disappeared.

Anyway, @ Mike Gantt, I wrote that Matthew strikes me as being aimed at non-Jews. if you are a potential Christian convert in Asia Minor in 100 CE, are you really going to travel all the way to the Galilee to see if you can find people whose grandparents claimed to have seen Jesus cast out demons, heal the sick, and walk on water before converting? People convert to religions because the message of the religion appeals to them.

Tommykey,
1) How could the apostles believe that the resurrection happened if “nothing happened to indicate that the resurrection took place?” That is, why would at least 11 grown men believe this?
2) Why were they willing to give false testimony about the resurrection? (For even if they somehow “truly believed it happened,” they would still know they were lying to say they personally witnessed it.) That is, why would at least 11 seemingly solid citizens be willing to perpetrate a such a great fraud on their family, friends, and countrymen – especially in the name of someone they proclaimed was so morally pure?
3) What benefit were they seeking to obtain by continuing to proclaim this falsehood in face of dangerous and even mortal threat that would have evaporated the instant they recanted the lie?

Mike Ganntt, why do young Earth Creationists continue to insist the Earth is only 6,000 years old when we have so many indicators that the Earth is much older than that?

What I am suggesting is that if the apostles believed that Jesus was the Messiah, then he must have rose from the dead. Thus they weren’t perpetrating a fraud in telling people about an empty tomb in order to get them to believe something that the apostles already believed.

Mind you, I am not saying that this is definitely what happened, I am just offering it as a possible scenario.

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 1:10 pm

This seems to be your argument:
M, M, L, and J were canonized because they were widely accepted, and they were widely accepted because they were truthier.
But wide acceptance is not an accurate measure of truth.

No, those are not things I’m saying. In fact, I’m not saying anything. I’m trying to ask you a question about your views. That question is, how do you think the writers of the 27 New Testament documents got them accepted and into circulation so that they’d be copied and distributed throughout the Mediterranean world such that they’d be widely acknowledged as authentic so that they’d one day be canonized. (I assembled the whole timeline to remove confusion, but all I’m asking you about is your view of the initial acceptance of the false documents (that is, they’d be false because they were not really written by the apostles according to your view). Again, I emphasize, I’m only asking about your view and I’m only asking about how you think the documents were able to be passed off as apostolic at the time they were written. Canonization or even widespread acceptance are not in the focus of this question.

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Tommykey January 12, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Tony, then how did Jesus ever get His enterprise off the ground with the marketing slogan of “you’re going to be hated, persecuted, reviled, killed, etc. because of Me”?

Actually, I thought the marketing slogan of Christianity was “Believe in me and you will have everlasting life.” The payoff was in the afterlife, even for those who were hated, persecuted, etc.

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Gantt,

Sorry brother, you are being incoherent. Read your last paragraph again. It reduces to “I’m asking you X, but just to be clear, I’m not asking you X.”

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Gantt,Sorry brother, you are being incoherent. Read your last paragraph again. It reduces to “I’m asking you X, but just to be clear, I’m not asking you X.”  (Quote)

I don’t see the problem you’re describing, but let me rephrase and reduce:

Since you believe that the 27 New Testament documents are untruthful and nonapostolic, how were their writers able to get people to accept them as truthful and apostolic? (For example, how did the writer of 1 Corinthians get the church in Corinth to accept 1 Corinthians as being from Paul to them. I’m not asking you to explain all 27 books but I do hope your explanation takes into account the to/from aspect of many of the documents.) If you don’t have an explanation, you can just tell me that and we’ll be done.

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 1:57 pm

“all I’m asking you about is your view of the initial acceptance of the false documents (that is, they’d be false because they were not really written by the apostles according to your view)”

When they were first written, it is unlikely anyone thought M, M, L, and J were written by any apostles because all the apostles were dead. The claim that these documents were written by apostles came decades later.

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Some of the letters attributed to Paul probably are from Paul. Some are not.

What is your point? This is getting tiresome.

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Gantt,No idea. Why? Make your point.  (Quote)

I don’t have a point to make with you. I’m just trying to find out if your view of the New Testament includes an explanation of how the documents came to be accepted as apostolic testimony.

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Some of the letters attributed to Paul probably are from Paul. Some are not.What is your point? This is getting tiresome.  (Quote)

Sounds like I’ve exhausted your patience. Let’s drop it.

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 2:04 pm

When they were first written, it is unlikely anyone thought M, M, L, and J were written by any apostles because all the apostles were dead. The claim that these documents were written by apostles came decades later.

But weren’t/aren’t the claims that they were written by the apostles in the documents themselves?

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Tony, then how did Jesus ever get His enterprise off the ground with the marketing slogan of “you’re going to be hated, persecuted, reviled, killed, etc. because of Me”?Actually, I thought the marketing slogan of Christianity was “Believe in me and you will have everlasting life.” The payoff was in the afterlife, even for those who were hated, persecuted, etc.  (Quote)

Yes, there was to be a payoff for the pain but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a terribly unattractive marketing message. If you were shopping for a religion – then or now – Jesus’ is the last one you’d pick. America’s marketing-oriented megachurches sure don’t preach a message like that.

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 2:13 pm

“But weren’t/aren’t the claims that they were written by the apostles in the documents themselves?”

No.

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 2:25 pm

What I am suggesting is that if the apostles believed that Jesus was the Messiah, then he must have rose from the dead. Thus they weren’t perpetrating a fraud in telling people about an empty tomb in order to get them to believe something that the apostles already believed.

Tommykey, maybe they could be given a pass if they’d merely used “empty tomb” as a circumlocution for “resurrection” as you seem to be implying, but since they said things like “we saw Him, we touched Him, we were eyewitnesses, we ate and drank with Him, there were many convincing proofs” then they’ve lost their excuse and have to stand in the dock as liars.

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 2:34 pm

My answer is that I didn’t speculate on it because it wasn’t true or of any particular relevance to what I was saying. Either reason would be sufficient on it’s own.  (Quote)

Paul, your belief that the concept of a murdered-resurrected Messiah pre-dated Jesus’ apostles and your belief that the dating of that concept is irrelevant to a discussion of whether or not the resurrection occurred leave me speechless.

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Paul King January 12, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Paul, your belief that the concept of a murdered-resurrected Messiah pre-dated Jesus’ apostles and your belief that the dating of that concept is irrelevant to a discussion of whether or not the resurrection occurred leave me speechless.  

a) I did not claim that the concept of a murdered messiah predated Jesus’ apostles. Although I am surprised that YOU do not, since it is a common idea amongst conservative Christians.

b) You have changed even the point that you believed I SHOULD be talking about, which was the belief that the death actually fulfilled the messianic prophecies. I am not aware that any informed person believes that. Christian doctrine is that the messianic prophecies have not been fulfilled and will not be until the Second Coming.
(I find it quite amazing that apologists should be so unwilling to admit that they could be wrong, yet unable to even accurately follow the thread of a conversation)

c) If you believe that the dating of either concept has any great relevance in itself to the question of whether Jesus was actually resurrected is something you will have to establish. It is certainly not obvious

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ildi January 12, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Yes, there was to be a payoff for the pain but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a terribly unattractive marketing message. If you were shopping for a religion – then or now – Jesus’ is the last one you’d pick.

One could say the same about Peoples Temple or Heaven’s Gate or a lot of cults, really.

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Mike Gantt January 12, 2011 at 4:29 pm

One could say the same about Peoples Temple or Heaven’s Gate or a lot of cults, really.

ildi, I was responding to Tony Hoffman’s remark, “Religions don’t win adherents with a truthier product; they win adherents with better marketing.” If you’re argument is that cults gain adherents without attractive marketing messages, then you’re quarrel is with him.

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ildi January 12, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Mike: “better” is not the same as “attractive”. Anyway, attractive is in the eye of the beholder. Cults like Christianity, Heaven’s Gate or Peoples Temple initially attract the same type of people, and being united against outsiders and suffering hardship and ostracism as a result may be part of the attraction.

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Tony Hoffman January 12, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Yes, there was to be a payoff for the pain but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a terribly unattractive marketing message. If you were shopping for a religion – then or now – Jesus’ is the last one you’d pick.

Are you done making an ass of yourself? Christianity is the religion with the most adherents in this world — the then and now world, the world we live in. Christianity is, by the data, the one the most people pick.

So you’re just spouting off opinions, with no regard whatsoever to facts as they exist. Maybe you should sit down and read some books or something. Because it appears you have nothing to teach anyone here but how poorly you are able to think.

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J. Simonov January 12, 2011 at 11:26 pm

cl:

Yes, I disagree, and I’d like to point out that what you’re really doing here is asserting your own personal criterion for acceptance of a truth claim.

Uh huh. It’s a pretty good criterion. Given our experience of drum fish, 100,000 of them dying at once does seem unlikely on its face, unlikely enough that just someone’s say-so and nothing else would incline me towards skepticism. I still don’t understand why you would disagree.

The skeptic can sit and protest the “unlikeliness” all they want. These things happened.

Well actually, in the hypothetical scenario we seem to be discussing in which we only have some dude’s say-so, we don’t know that for sure, right? Yes, in the real world example situation we’re riffing off of, it did…but we can say that confidently precisely because there is such overwhelming evidence capable of overcoming any reasonable skepticism. Which in a roundabout way, is my point.

For the skeptic to claim as Carrier does is to use a retroactive genetic fallacy / argument from personal incredulity. It’s fine if he wants to say that’s why he doesn’t believe, but he doesn’t stop there. Rather, he attempts to foist his own criteria upon the rest of us, and is even willing to shower condemnation on those of us who resist and would dare think for ourselves!

What a guy, that Carrier. Personally, I don’t read him as actually committing any formal fallacies; the bits quoted in the OP strike me as vernacular, but whatever. If you must get het up over his dismissal of Herodotus, and his presumption that you do too, have at.

Because I don’t sit here and judge all past events based on our own limited exposure to current events. We’ve already agreed that the strategy is useful for a compass,

Using current experiences as a compass is judging past events through a modern lens. Since you’ve already kind of met me halfway, I’ll go ahead and point out that of course this does not get us total certainty; does that allay your concerns somewhat?

but I think such “reasoning” is wholly fallacious as a means of arriving at reliable conclusions about the truth of what actually happened in the past.

But you use it routinely just to function on a daily basis. “Wholly fallacious” is perhaps a bit strong, no?

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. -Hamlet

Yeah, thanks. I too love the Bard, but your condescending usage is irritating.

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Kaelik January 13, 2011 at 1:05 am

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. -Hamlet”

I’m more concerned with the things in your philosophy that aren’t in heaven or earth.

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 1:16 am

Christianity is the religion with the most adherents in this world — the then and now world, the world we live in. Christianity is, by the data, the one the most people pick.

Tony, I think you are right about this. And I think the reason this is true, at least in part, is because you were also right when you earlier said “Religions don’t win adherents with a truthier product; they win adherents with better marketing.” The reason for our difference lies in the fact that I believe the Christianity you see today is not the way that Jesus taught, and that the reason Christianity has so many adherents today is that the church is a business and has done just as you said – they have continually changed the message so as to attract more adherents. If Christianity today faithfully promulgated the teachings of Jesus, you and I would be having a whole different conversation (and there would be no church).

My focus in the earlier exchange was about the faith that Jesus taught, and that the apostles embraced and wrote about in the New Testament. It indeed called for hardship and was very deficient from a marketing perspective. My interest was to find out if anyone viewing this post had an explanation for how writers unknown to us were able to fake apostolic authorship and get the 27 New Testament documents into circulation and accepted as eyewitness testimony when they weren’t.

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 1:31 am

“better” is not the same as “attractive”. Anyway, attractive is in the eye of the beholder. Cults like Christianity, Heaven’s Gate or Peoples Temple initially attract the same type of people, and being united against outsiders and suffering hardship and ostracism as a result may be part of the attraction.

ildi, from a marketing perspective the two terms are synonymous, for a marketing message is judged by how many customers it attracts – and it can’t be better if it’s not attracting more customers. That’s not to say that an effective marketing message can’t have elements of us-versus-them that promote social cohesion. However, please see what I wrote just above to Tony Hoffman for the significant distinction I make between the message of Jesus and the message that passes for Christianity today. “Cult” is an incendiary term, but I have to agree that today’s Christianity operates like a cult, a business, or even like an atheist social web, with its stress on group identity and us-versus-them mentality.

The message of God and the message of religion are radically different. The message of God is about a person relating to God. The message of religion is about a person relating to other people in the name of God (or even in the name of not-God).

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 2:09 am

a) I did not claim that the concept of a murdered messiah predated Jesus’ apostles. Although I am surprised that YOU do not, since it is a common idea amongst conservative Christians.
b) You have changed even the point that you believed I SHOULD be talking about, which was the belief that the death actually fulfilled the messianic prophecies. I am not aware that any informed person believes that. Christian doctrine is that the messianic prophecies have not been fulfilled and will not be until the Second Coming.
(I find it quite amazing that apologists should be so unwilling to admit that they could be wrong, yet unable to even accurately follow the thread of a conversation)
c) If you believe that the dating of either concept has any great relevance in itself to the question of whether Jesus was actually resurrected is something you will have to establish. It is certainly not obvious

Paul, a) I claim that the concept of a murdered-resurrected Messiah was present in the Old Testament but unrecognized until Jesus was raised from the dead and began explaining it to His disciples. b) Biblical doctrine is that the second coming of Jesus Christ has already occurred (http://bit.ly/f2iwox) and that all messianic prophecy has been fulfilled (http://bit.ly/e0kXTF). c) If you don’t believed Jesus was raised from the dead and thereby began revealing the previously unrecognized means by which the prophecies of suffering and glory for the Messiah could be reconciled, you have to have an alternative explantion for how that understanding came to exist.

By the way, I’m also still wondering if anyone here has an explanation of how the 27 documents of the New Testament, which claim to be written by the apostles and include eyewitness testimony of the resurrection, came to be accepted as authentic in places like Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, and others…if they were written by imposters based on embellished legend?

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Kaelik January 13, 2011 at 2:29 am

I’m also still wondering if anyone here has an explanation of how the 27 documents of the New Testament, which claim to be written by the apostles and include eyewitness testimony of the resurrection, came to be accepted as authentic in places like Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, and others…if they were written by imposters based on embellished legend?  

They don’t claim to be written by the apostles or include eye witnesses (depending on what you mean eye witnesses of).

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 2:41 am

They don’t claim to be written by the apostles or include eye witnesses (depending on what you mean eye witnesses of).

Kaelik, by eyewitnesses I mean, most of all, eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus (the believability of the resurrection being the subject of the original post here).

As for your assertion that the documents don’t claim to come from the apostles and don’t claim to include eyewitness testimony of His resurrection, I honestly don’t know what to think. If you said you didn’t believe that they came from the apostles and didn’t believe that they contained eyewitness testimony, I wouldn’t be so perplexed about what you’re thinking. But when you say that the documents don’t even claim these things I can’t imagine what you’re thinking. Could you please elaborate?

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ildi January 13, 2011 at 4:01 am

“Cult” is an incendiary term, but I have to agree that today’s Christianity operates like a cult, a business, or even like an atheist social web, with its stress on group identity and us-versus-them mentality.

I was referring to early Christianity under Paul’s charismatic leadership – they sold all their stuff and formed a commune and waited for the end of the world to come when their messiah returned within their generation’s lifetime – isn’t that the hallmark of a cult? If a cult attracts a large enough membership to become mainstream (and survives apocalyptic prophecies that don’t materialize) then it mogrifies into a religion.

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Rob January 13, 2011 at 4:19 am

Gantt,

Hearsay that a witness saw something is not an eyewitness; it is hearsay. The Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses, nor do they claim to be written by eyewitnesses.

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 4:32 am

nor do they claim to be written by eyewitnesses.

Rob, can we just focus on this second half of your second sentence (That is, leave aside for the moment whether eyewitnesses actually wrote it or not)? Can you help me understand why, given the numerous claims in the documents, you deem the documents not to be claiming these things?

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 4:50 am

if a cult attracts a large enough membership to become mainstream (and survives apocalyptic prophecies that don’t materialize) then it mogrifies into a religion.

ildi, I agree with you, and this is why I made the distinction in my second point to Paul King above between biblical doctrine and Christian doctrine (that is, church-based). In other words, I’m distinguishing what the apostles taught in the New Testament from what has been taught as Christianity since.

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Rob January 13, 2011 at 4:51 am

Gantt,

Cite chapter and verse in a gospel please.

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 5:49 am

Cite chapter and verse in a gospel please.

Rob, this list is not exhaustive but it should be more than enough to demonstrate the clarity of the claim:
Matthew 28:16-20
Luke 1:1-4
Luke 24:46-48
John 1:14
John 21:24-25
Acts 1:1-8
Acts 1:21-22
Acts 2:32
Acts 3:14-15
Acts 5:31-32
Acts 10:38-41
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
1 John 1:1-4
2 Peter 1:16-18

Please react.

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Tony Hoffman January 13, 2011 at 6:10 am

Gantt: “But when you say that the documents don’t even claim these things [that the gospels were written by the apostles] I can’t imagine what you’re thinking. Could you please elaborate?”

The gospels don’t claim to be written by the Apostles. Nobody knows who wrote them.

I am stunned that we are the ones breaking this news to you.

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Rob January 13, 2011 at 6:29 am

Gantt,

I’m at work. I looked up the first two. In neither passage does the author claim to be an eyewitness. In fact, in the second passage, the author explicitly states that he is reporting hearsay. I’ll look up the rest later.

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 6:36 am

I’m at work.

Rob, I’ll withhold response until you’ve had a chance to go through the whole list.

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ildi January 13, 2011 at 6:44 am

ildi, I agree with you, and this is why I made the distinction in my second point to Paul King above between biblical doctrine and Christian doctrine (that is, church-based). In other words, I’m distinguishing what the apostles taught in the New Testament from what has been taught as Christianity since.

So, you’re agreeing that Christianity today is a cult gone mainstream? No different from LDS today?

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 7:30 am

Nobody knows who wrote them.

Tony, assuming for the moment that this was true, how then could anyone be certain that the apostles didn’twrite them?

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 7:44 am

So, you’re agreeing that Christianity today is a cult gone mainstream? No different from LDS today?

ildi, yes.

Though it deserves to be added that as the Jews preserved the OT for the human race, so the Christian church preserved the NT for the human race. Even if neither group believes their own scriptures, they have preserved these writings so that it is possible today for any human being to read and believe what the prophets and the apostles have written. For this, we, the human race, can be grateful…even while we reject Jewish or Christian authority over those Scriptures and pursue Jesus Christ as Lord of all humanity.

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Tony Hoffman January 13, 2011 at 7:46 am

Gantt: “Tony, assuming for the moment that this was true, how then could anyone be certain that the apostles didn’t write them?”

I understand certain to mean highly probable, to the extent that one is willing to risk great consequences should one be wrong. But even then one can attain different levels of certainty. I am so “certain” that the sun will rise tomorrow that I will bet all that I own that it will rise tomorrow. I am so “certain” that political and economic order will prevail that I put virtually all my money into banks and the stock market. I am so “certain” that an individual stock will do well that I invest money in that stock.

In the paragraph above, what degree of certainty are you asking about? I would say that my certainty that none of the apostles wrote the gospels is somewhere between my 2nd last and last statements above.

Of course, none of that is required in a conversation like this. You are making the claim that the apostles wrote the gospels. What makes you certain that this is so, and how would you describe that level of certainty?

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ildi January 13, 2011 at 8:05 am

Though it deserves to be added that as the Jews preserved the OT for the human race, so the Christian church preserved the NT for the human race. Even if neither group believes their own scriptures, they have preserved these writings so that it is possible today for any human being to read and believe what the prophets and the apostles have written.

Do you also believe that the LDS preserved the Book of Mormon for the human race to read and believe? If not, why not? Also, why are you supposing that Jews and Christians don’t believe their own scriptures? Are you assuming you have an insight into the scriptures that the other religious seem to have missed, according to your lights? Bit of hubris there, isn’t it?

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 8:14 am

You are making the claim that the apostles wrote the gospels. What makes you certain that this is so, and how would you describe that level of certainty?

Tony, I have bet all that I own that the NT is the work of Jesus’ apostles, that it includes their eyewitness testimony, and that it describes the fulfillment of all that the OT promised. In other words, I have bet all that I own that God has saved the world through Jesus Christ, that everything the prophets said about Him in the OT and everything the apostles said about Him in the NT is true; and because everyone is going to heaven, we should all repent and follow Jesus Christ our Lord, forsaking religion in the process.

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Tony Hoffman January 13, 2011 at 8:17 am

M. Gantt, you missed the part where you explain why it is you’re as certain as you are that the apostles wrote the gospels.

Are you aware of the bias of wishful thinking, and considered the extent that you might be subject to it?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wishful_thinking

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 8:30 am

Do you also believe that the LDS preserved the Book of Mormon for the human race to read and believe? If not, why not? Also, why are you supposing that Jews and Christians don’t believe their own scriptures? Are you assuming you have an insight into the scriptures that the other religious seem to have missed, according to your lights? Bit of hubris there, isn’t it?

ildi,
Re: Book of Mormon question: I’m sure they did, but the Book of Mormon leads to the Mormon Church – the OT/NT lead to Christ.
Re: Jew/Christians: Because the Jews don’t believe their Messiah came and the Christians don’t believe their Messiah came back.
Re: Hubris: I’m simply reporting what I’ve read and understood from the Bible. Anyone else can do the same.

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ildi January 13, 2011 at 8:45 am

I’m simply reporting what I’ve read and understood from the Bible. Anyone else can do the same.

Guess what, Mike, that’s what everybody else IS doing. What makes you right and them wrong?

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 8:47 am

you missed the part where you explain why it is you’re as certain as you are that the apostles wrote the gospels.
Are you aware of the bias of wishful thinking, and considered the extent that you might be subject to it?

Re: Gospels: 1. They claim to be apostolic, 2. Antiquity considered them to be apostolic 3. None of the arguments I’ve heard to the contrary have been persuasive 4. No one else would have had the detail information or the understanding necessary.

Re: wishful thinking – By your definition is “the formation of beliefs…according to what might be pleasing to imagine instead of by appealing to evidence, rationality, or reality.” I never imagined the things I believe. Reather I learned about them from the Bible. Then, based on that evidence, and applying my own critical thinking skills, as well as all I know of reality based on my experiences in life, I decided that what I read was worthy to be trusted. More precisely, I decided that Jesus was worthy to be trusted. Wishes were never part of my equation.

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 8:48 am

Guess what, Mike, that’s what everybody else IS doing. What makes you right and them wrong?

ildi, that’s for you to decide.

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ildi January 13, 2011 at 8:58 am

Whatever gets you through the day, Mike… have a good one.

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Kaelik January 13, 2011 at 9:45 am

Kaelik, by eyewitnesses I mean, most of all, eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus (the believability of the resurrection being the subject of the original post here).As for your assertion that the documents don’t claim to come from the apostles and don’t claim to include eyewitness testimony of His resurrection, I honestly don’t know what to think.If you said you didn’t believe that they came from the apostles and didn’t believe that they contained eyewitness testimony, I wouldn’t be so perplexed about what you’re thinking.But when you say that the documents don’t even claim these things I can’t imagine what you’re thinking.Could you please elaborate?  

Is it your contention that the Chronicles of Narnia contains eye witness testimony to the fact that Jesus resurrected after having his head chopped off on a stone table, and that he is also a Lion named Aslan?

Or do you admit the possibility that a parable of Jesus might be written as fiction for the purpose of religious “instruction” or just because?

Do you believe the Testimonium Flavianum? Or do you accept the possibility that Christians might have found it morally permissible to edit documents which appeared to attest to the historical Jesus insufficiently, and modify them to be more clear about his real existence, which they believed to be the case?

Of the books of the new testament, between very few and none of the books claim to be written by the apostles. Many of them where given the names of suspected authors, but by most evidence these names can second century.

Obviously Paul’s letters are not an exception, because Paul is not an Apostle, so please do not ask about Corinthians/Romans/ect.

To my mind, the information we have best represents a series of some specific commentaries on the nature of Jesus’s heavenly death and resurrection, and many parables about Jesus, where a many years after the writing, many of these parables where taken at face value, and in many cases even edited to “clarify” the intent of the authors, who were attributed Apolistic names mostly in the second century to describe texts that had at no point claimed that specific author, because then, like now, finding out who the authors were would be an important direction of scholarship, but they lacked the rigorous process that would prevent errors like attaching a name of someone you have no evidence even existed outside the text itself.

There are of course, many relics of the original text that seem to indicate this state, such as Paul’s claim to be as close to Jesus as anyone, despite having never a physical person, and admitting that. Or Acts inability to know the actions that Jesus supposedly took in the Gospels. Or the progression of the Gospels from an original source except John, or how only John of the gospels even purports to be based on real events, and Mathew in particular reads exactly like a fictional work.

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Paul King January 13, 2011 at 10:31 am

b) Biblical doctrine is that the second coming of Jesus Christ has already occurred (http://bit.ly/f2iwox) and that all messianic prophecy has been fulfilled (http://bit.ly/e0kXTF).c) If you don’t believed Jesus was raised from the dead and thereby began revealing the previously unrecognized means by which the prophecies of suffering and glory for the Messiah could be reconciled, you have to have an alternative explantion for how that understanding came to exist.By the way, I’m also still wondering if anyone here has an explanation of how the 27 documents of the New Testament, which claim to be written by the apostles and include eyewitness testimony of the resurrection, came to be accepted as authentic in places like Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, and others…if they were written by imposters based on embellished legend?  

Your a) says nothing of great relevance so I will not repeat it.

b) Mike, you seem to confuse Biblical doctrine with “some guy on the internet says”. Neither of your links actually provides any real support that the Messianic prophecies have actually been fulfilled, simply stating that “Mike’s” (your ?) doctrine demands that they HAVE been fulfilled. I am sure that if you go to Israel you will not find a kingdom living in eternal peace and safety, but a troubled parliamentary democracy without even a constitutional monarch.

c) I consider it an attempt to “find” Jesus in scripture by drawing real (and sometimes invented) parallels between the Jesus story and the books of the Tanakh. Like modern apologists the early Christians sought justifications for their beliefs and were none too careful with the truth.

d) Not all of the NT books claim to have been written by Disciples or Apostles – none of the three synoptic Gospels do (and even John has only a vague note added by a redactor). And indeed the ancients did not claim that they were. In the early 2nd Century Papias reported the view of “John the Elder”- who he identified as a disciple – that Mark had assembled a Gospel from his memories of Peter’s teachings and did not get events in the correct order. And although he claimed that Matthew had written a book, it was described as a collection of sayings written in Hebrew – unlike the Gospel we have which is a narrative work written in Greek. It seems that books were accepted first and the attributions based on little evidence, much later.

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 11:25 am

Paul,

b) You overlooked the link that’s at the bottom of the page of the first link, which provides an extensive biblical explanation (approx. 25,000 words), covering all the relevant scriptures. The reason that the church missing the Second Coming is the same reason you don’t see what you’re looking for in Israel – that is, you’re both looking for something physical. Jesus was promising a spiritual – and hence invisible – kingdom.

c) I understand what you’re saying, but you’re still lacking an explanation for how someone first got the idea that a murdered-resurrected messiah would perfectly the messianic prophecies.

d) Your summary of the case for and against apostolic authorship of the New Testament is slanted and prejudicial; and your sources and references selective. There’s probably no point in our debating it.

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 11:30 am

Kaelik, thanks for letting me know what you are thinking. Just two follow-up questions for the sake of minor curiosity:
1) Re: “between very few and none of the books claim to be written by the apostles”
Which ones, do you think, those are?
2) Re: “Paul is not an Apostle” – Why then do you think he said he was?

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Kaelik January 13, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Kaelik, thanks for letting me know what you are thinking.Just two follow-up questions for the sake of minor curiosity:
1) Re: “between very few and none of the books claim to be written by the apostles”
Which ones, do you think, those are?
2) Re: “Paul is not an Apostle”– Why then do you think he said he was?  

1) Depends on how you count it. John has a claim to be based on someone who was close to Jesus, it might mean dictation, it might just mean a story claimed to come from that, it might just be an interpolation. Don’t know. Jude is argued about whether it is claimed to be Jude of the disciples or some guy named Jude, or something else. Peters are generally claimed to be in the text, which sets them apart. James claims to be James, but doesn’t claim to be an apostle, so that might be an apostle claim or not.

2) Because apostle mean different things, and I should have been more clear. It doesn’t matter if someone is an “apostle” because one of the definitions of apostle is “A missionary of the early Christian Church.” or “A leader of the first Christian mission to a country or region.” which conveys no actual evidence to the claim that Jesus even existed. On the other hand being an “Apostle” means being one of the 12 alleged disciples that specifically were Jesus’s good friends and sent out to preach after whatever. Paul not being ever listed amongst those. Those “Apostles” would have specific weight in testimony if they had actually seen a real human being named Jesus.

Paul does not have that authority, as he specifically states that he has never met Jesus in the flesh, and instead asserts that he had a vision of Jesus, something anyone can claim, that has no bearing on whether a real Jesus existed.

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Paul King January 13, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Paul,b) You overlooked the link that’s at the bottom of the page of the first link, which provides an extensive biblical explanation (approx. 25,000 words), covering all the relevant scriptures….

c)I understand what you’re saying, but you’re still lacking an explanation for how someone first got the idea that a murdered-resurrected messiah would perfectly the messianic prophecies.

d) Your summary of the case for and against apostolic authorship of the New Testament is slanted and prejudicial; and your sources and references selective.There’s probably no point in our debating it.  

b) If you meant me to read some other link then perhaps you should have provided that. However, more of the same is hardly an improvement.

c) Obviously even you don’t believe that simply being “murdered” (although Jesus was legally executed, and quite possibly guilty) is sufficient to fulfill any messianic prophecies. But given that we have a dead and failed “messiah” and a the rather ambiguous “Suffering Servant” prophecy it’s not hard to see the link. Indeed it’s rather harder to see how the author of Matthew could use Isaiah 7 as he did. The child of Isaiah 7 has to be born before the Assyrians conquer Israel and Aram (“Syria” in some Bibles) because that is his role in the prophecy. Clearly Jesus was born centuries too late for that.

d) What is “slanted” or “biased” against my points ? You certainly can’t claim that Papias was biased against Christians ! The man was a bishop ! A Church Father !

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm

b) If you meant me to read some other link then perhaps you should have provided that. However, more of the same is hardly an improvement.
c) Obviously even you don’t believe that simply being “murdered” (although Jesus was legally executed, and quite possibly guilty) is sufficient to fulfill any messianic prophecies. But given that we have a dead and failed “messiah” and a the rather ambiguous “Suffering Servant” prophecy it’s not hard to see the link. Indeed it’s rather harder to see how the author of Matthew could use Isaiah 7 as he did. The child of Isaiah 7 has to be born before the Assyrians conquer Israel and Aram (“Syria” in some Bibles) because that is his role in the prophecy. Clearly Jesus was born centuries too late for that.

Paul,
b) Here is the link for the extended biblical explanation (http://wp.me/PNthc-q3), which gives the scriptural support for the summary statement that you read.

c) It’s the murder-resurrection motif that you don’t seem to recognize (and there are, of course, two pieces to that). Even Bart Ehrman acknowledges, “No Jew prior to Christianity thought that the Messiah would be crucified.” People had varying expectations of exactly what the Messiah would do, but no one expected him to be killed and then resurrected. My question to you is, “If no one ever thought that the Messiah would be killed and resurrected, and you don’t believe that Jesus was ever resurrected, how did the idea arise to tell that story?

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ildi January 13, 2011 at 2:36 pm

My question to you is, “If no one ever thought that the Messiah would be killed and resurrected, and you don’t believe that Jesus was ever resurrected, how did the idea arise to tell that story?

Easy. Beloved leader is captured and executed. None of his followers expected this. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth ensues. People in shock and mourning have visions of their beloved leader. Word gets around that he’s been seen (a la Elvis and Jim Morrison). Story morphs into a resurrection story (a la Lazarus). Tomb and emptiness thereof are embellishments as the story grows and gets passed around.

Nothing magical or special about it, just the vagaries of cognitive biases.

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Paul King January 13, 2011 at 2:37 pm

b) As I said, it’s just more of the same. THere;s no real case, or even an attempt to engage with the genuine Messianic prophecies. (Not evne a recognition that Daniel 8 places the end times in the Hellenistic period prior to jesus birth).

c) You seem to be missing my points entirely. We have a person who the disciples firmly believed to be the messiah. He was killed. They came up with the belief that he had been resurrected as a consequence of cognitive dissonance and (quite normal) experiences. They then drew a link to scripture (a strained one, but no worse than those produced by later writers). So what is missing ? It’s all there. And no need for a real resurrection.

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Easy.

ildi, your scenario could have worked for any of the many “messiahs” who arose in those days. My question is, why was Jesus the first of these messiahs for whom the cognitive biases kicked in, and how did the cognitive biases lead His followers to a scriptural hermeneutic that had never before occurred to anyone else?

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 3:01 pm

b) As I said, it’s just more of the same. THere;s no real case, or even an attempt to engage with the genuine Messianic prophecies. (Not evne a recognition that Daniel 8 places the end times in the Hellenistic period prior to jesus birth).c) You seem to be missing my points entirely. We have a person who the disciples firmly believed to be the messiah. He was killed. They came up with the belief that he had been resurrected as a consequence of cognitive dissonance and (quite normal) experiences. They then drew a link to scripture (a strained one, but no worse than those produced by later writers). So what is missing ? It’s all there. And no need for a real resurrection.  (Quote)

Paul,
b) If you don’t think my book deals with the messianic prophecies then we must have different Bibles.
c) I get it all. What I’m asking, as I asked ildi, is, if what you’re describing is so normal why was Jesus was the first ever failed messiah to have this resurrection story told for him along with multiple references from the Scriptures to back it up? Are you saying cognitive dissonance never worked for any of the other failed messiahs of that age?

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ildi January 13, 2011 at 3:01 pm

My question is, why was Jesus the first of these messiahs for whom the cognitive biases kicked in, and how did the cognitive biases lead His followers to a scriptural hermeneutic that had never before occurred to anyone else?

How do you know that? Messiahs were a dime a dozen. The idea of a resurrected god who died to save his people was not an unknown concept for the times. You just know that this one took off. It was aided by Paul latching onto it and selling it as a religion for non-Jews. Paul himself believed in a spiritual not physical resurrection. Why do certain cults take off and others fall by the wayside? Why do some leaders gain followers and others not? As much as you wish it was otherwise, people sincerely believing something doesn’t mean it’s true. Elvis really is dead.

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Paul King January 13, 2011 at 3:22 pm

b) Mike your essay mainly deals with NT prophecies (and from the perspective of this discussion not very well with those). But really we are much more interested with the prophecies in the Tanakh, dealing with the messiah – the restoration of the Davidic kingship, the return of the Lost Tribes, and more. All those things that haven’t happened.

c) So when you said that I “didn’t recognise the murder-resurrection motif” you meant that I had explained it but didn’t explain why Christianity was a success ? Of course it’s hard to tell which religions will succeed. Who would have thought that the Mormons would do as well as they did, despite the obvious fraud (and persecution that never deterred Joseph Smith, the man who engineered the fraud) ? Or that the Jains would survive so long (a religion older than Christianity by centuries) ? Or that the Jehovah’s Witnesses would survive all their failures while the Millerites split and fragmented and mostly vanished ? I think that ildis has a good deal of the answer though. We know from the Bible that some gentiles were fascinated by Judaism. Paul’s Christianity offered an easy way in, excepting gentiles from the Jewish law – and that is in the Bible too.

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 4:12 pm

How do you know that? Messiahs were a dime a dozen. The idea of a resurrected god who died to save his people was not an unknown concept for the times. You just know that this one took off. It was aided by Paul latching onto it and selling it as a religion for non-Jews. Paul himself believed in a spiritual not physical resurrection. Why do certain cults take off and others fall by the wayside? Why do some leaders gain followers and others not? As much as you wish it was otherwise, people sincerely believing something doesn’t mean it’s true. Elvis really is dead.  (Quote)

ildi, you are acknowledging my point: that is, you don’t have an explanation for why cognitive dissonance was able to create to create a resurrection story, complete with a set of messianic prophecies, for Jesus when it couldn’t create it for any of the previous “dime-a-dozen” failed messiahs. That’s all I needed; I think we’re done.

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Mike Gantt January 13, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Paul,
b) You can wait all you want but all the prophecies were fulfilled in Christ.
c) As I’ve said, even Bart Ehrman will tell you that before Christianity there was no one who believed that a person could be crucified and still be the Messiah. As I said to ildi, you are implicitly acknowledging the point I was making: that you have no explanation for why this particular messiah’s followers were able to be the first to come up with a scriptural rationale for why a crucified person could be the messiah. It’s not a problem – I don’t expect you to. But if you ever do come up with one, by all means let me know.

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Rob January 13, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Gantt,

I looked up all of those passages. Excluding the epistles, those passages are explicitly hearsay.

If I tell you “I saw Smith kill Jones”, then you are aware of eyewitness testimony that Smith killed Jones. But if you then tell your friend, your friend is aware of hearsay.
With the gospels and Acts, we have hearsay, not eyewitnesses.

Paul had a vision. So what? 1 John and 2 Peter are forgeries.

When you, or any other apologist claim we have “eyewitness” testimony to the bodily resurrection of Jesus, you are either lying or hopelessly ignorant.

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ildi January 13, 2011 at 5:18 pm

ildi, you are acknowledging my point: that is, you don’t have an explanation for why cognitive dissonance was able to create to create a resurrection story, complete with a set of messianic prophecies, for Jesus when it couldn’t create it for any of the previous “dime-a-dozen” failed messiahs. That’s all I needed; I think we’re done.

Why don’t you explain why only Elvis of all the dime-a-dozen drug-OD’d musicians has come back to walk this earth? Where did people get this unique idea? After all, nobody expected rock stars to resurrect… maybe it’s because Elvis is King?

(I’m pretty sure I could find a Nostradamus prediction that would work…)

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Paul King January 13, 2011 at 10:39 pm

b) In other words you won’t discuss the Messianic prophecies, simply assuming that they must have been fulfilled.

c) You haven’t even shown that early Christians were the first. Ehrman wouldn’t count the beliefs of failed cults that were lost to history – how could he, when those beliefs are lost to us ? We know very little about other messianic sects, not even that of John the Baptist although he seems to have been more successful than Jesus in his own lifetime.

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Mike Gantt January 14, 2011 at 1:25 am

I looked up all of those passages. Excluding the epistles, those passages are explicitly hearsay.
If I tell you “I saw Smith kill Jones”, then you are aware of eyewitness testimony that Smith killed Jones. But if you then tell your friend, your friend is aware of hearsay.
With the gospels and Acts, we have hearsay, not eyewitnesses.
Paul had a vision. So what? 1 John and 2 Peter are forgeries.
When you, or any other apologist claim we have “eyewitness” testimony to the bodily resurrection of Jesus, you are either lying or hopelessly ignorant.

Rob, I take therefore that you concede my point, though I wish you’d been more explicit about it. For the point in contention was not whether or not the NT includes eyewitness testimony, but rather whether it claims to include eyewitness testimony. If you reject that claim, I respect your right to do that. By rejecting the claims, however, be aware that you’ve acknowledged that they’ve been made.

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Mike Gantt January 14, 2011 at 1:28 am

Where did people get this unique idea?

ildi, they got it from the NT. What I’m asking you is where the people who wrote the NT got it from.

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Mike Gantt January 14, 2011 at 1:38 am

Paul King

Paul,
b) I would, but since you’re dismissive of all the scriptures I cover in my short book, what would be the point?

c) Here’s the Ehrman quote: “No Jew prior to Christianity thought that the Messiah would be crucified.” When an agnostic like Ehrman to makes such a clear and unequivocal statement, given his academic status as a historian (which he obviously treasures), it leaves no room to say that he feels uncertain on the subject.

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Larkus January 14, 2011 at 2:35 am

ildi, they got it from the NT.What I’m asking you is where the people who wrote the NT got it from.  

It may not be known, where the authors of the NT got the idea from, but the idea, that you could come back to life from death was around for a while. Take Pelops or Eurydike for example.

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Mike Gantt January 14, 2011 at 3:04 am

It may not be known, where the authors of the NT got the idea from, but the idea, that you could come back to life from death was around for a while. Take Pelops or Eurydike for example.

Larkus, there’s no dispute that the idea of resurrection pre-dated the time of Christ. The Jews themselves had long held a hope in resurrection. It was a hope on which even Jesus and the Pharisees could agree. The question here, however, is how Jesus’ apostles (who were all Jews) hit on the idea that a crucified and resurrected Messiah was what the OT prophets had had in mind all along if Jesus and His resurrection hadn’t given it to them?

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ildi January 14, 2011 at 5:52 am

The question here, however, is how Jesus’ apostles (who were all Jews) hit on the idea that a crucified and resurrected Messiah was what the OT prophets had had in mind all along if Jesus and His resurrection hadn’t given it to them?

Jesus’ execution, their need to believe that they weren’t following a failed Messiah, combined with resurrection myths in the religions around them (and their own – Elijah) combined to form ad hoc interpretations of OT prophecies. This really isn’t rocket science, Mike. Maybe you should get your head out of your bible and read some history, sociology and psychology?

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Mike Gantt January 14, 2011 at 6:04 am

Jesus’ execution, their need to believe that they weren’t following a failed Messiah, combined with resurrection myths in the religions around them (and their own – Elijah) combined to form ad hoc interpretations of OT prophecies. This really isn’t rocket science, Mike. Maybe you should get your head out of your bible and read some history, sociology and psychology?

idli, for some reason I have not been able to state my question in a form that you understand or want to answer. Let me try again: I fully understand everything you say from “Jesus’ execution…” all the way through “…OT prophecies.” My question is: why did your non-rocket science formula work in the case of Jesus’ apostles but not work in the case of all the other disciples of failed messiahs before Him?

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ildi January 14, 2011 at 6:26 am

Mike, I very clearly understand your question; you are the one who wants to think that the NT describes a unique event that can only be explained through supernatural means. You’re not going to accept examples of equally unbelievable events that capture public imagination (why Bigfoot? why Nessie?) or other cults that gained popularity (LDS, Scientology) to show that given the right circumstances people will believe and follow just about anything.

On the one hand you are trying to assert that that Jesus’ followers could have only gotten the unique idea of resurrection from his actual resurrection, when the bible is chock-full of the idea already implanted in people’s heads; was John the Baptist Elijah resurrected? Was Jesus John the Baptist resurrected? Jesus himself resurrected Lazarus, so the apostles obviously got the idea from him.

On the other hand, you deny the uniqueness of the Elvis myth because people got the idea of resurrection from the bible, but you deny the uniqueness of only Elvis and not all the other iconic rock figures being sighted. Why not Buddy Holly? Why not Michael Jackson?

So, you set up your parameters to satisfy your foregone conclusion; probably what the apostles also did with OT prophecies.

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Tony Hoffman January 14, 2011 at 6:34 am

Yeah, Mike, you really need to get your head out of your ass. You’re spraying the comments here with half-baked and uninformed theories about authorship, eyewitness testimony, prophecy, and probabilities. I think you need to get out and read more. I would suggest some books on history, and any of the recent books on randomness (they’re very trendy right now).

Gant: “…why did your non-rocket science formula work in the case of Jesus’ apostles but not work in the case of all the other disciples of failed messiahs before Him?

Why did the New Orleans Saints win last year’s Super Bowl, and none of the ones previous?

Why did Grover Cleveland become the first President to gain a second, non-consecutive term?

Why did it rain so hard in Brisbane this year, and not in the 30 years previous?

Your question is similarly meaningful.

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Larkus January 14, 2011 at 7:18 am

My question is: why did your non-rocket science formula work in the case of Jesus’ apostles but not work in the case of all the other disciples of failed messiahs before Him?  

Who says that it didn’t work? Or more precisely, who says, that “all the other disciples of failed messiahs before Him” did not manage to deal with the cognitive dissonance they experienced because of the failure of their messiah?

There is more than one way to deal with cognitive dissonance in the light of prophetic failure. In the paper ‘When Prophecy Fails and Faith Persists: A Theoretical Overview’ Lorne L. Dawson distinguishes three kinds of adaptional strategies: 1. proselytization, 2. rationalization and 3. reaffirmation, and four kinds of rationalization: spiritualization, a test of faith, human error and blaming others.

Claiming that your messiah has been put to death indeed, in the flesh, and has been made alive in the spirit is just one way to spiritualize your messiah’s death, but not the only one.

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ildi January 14, 2011 at 7:31 am

Actually, Mike, I did answer your question; you just didn’t seem to like the answer. Let me elaborate. My supposition is the reason that Jesus won out as the resurrected Messiah over the other dime-a-dozen Messiahs is a) he made a point of getting caught, so he was tried and executed for treason; b) Paul, a Roman citizen (which gave him status with non-Jew) took up the cause; and c) Paul, a charismatic leader, also changed the requirements so non-Jews could join. Very similar to why R&B didn’t take off until it was sanitized and presented to white people by one of their own: Elvis, who was also very controversial at the time.

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Tony Hoffman January 14, 2011 at 7:40 am

Indeed. I would also wonder how it is we can explain that Frodo, the one true hobbit whose faith and innocence were enough to complete his mission, could have become its bearer of the ring among all other possible choices? How can we otherwise explain that his uncle Bilbo would be the one to find it in the Goblin mines, and bring it home to the Shire, among all other events that could have transpired?

The mind boggles.

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Mike Gantt January 14, 2011 at 7:48 am

Actually, Mike, I did answer your question; you just didn’t seem to like the answer. Let me elaborate. My supposition is the reason that Jesus won out as the resurrected Messiah over the other dime-a-dozen Messiahs is a) he made a point of getting caught, so he was tried and executed for treason; b) Paul, a Roman citizen (which gave him status with non-Jew) took up the cause; and c) Paul, a charismatic leader, also changed the requirements so non-Jews could join. Very similar to why R&B didn’t take off until it was sanitized and presented to white people by one of their own: Elvis, who was also very controversial at the time.

ildi, your answer would be a good one if my question had been, “Why did Jesus win out as the resurrected Messiah over the other dime-a-dozen Messiahs?” However, that was not my question. My question was and is, “Why did Jesus’ apostles get the idea for a crucified-resurrected Messiah as fulfillment of the OT prophecies when none of the previous dime-a-dozen Messiahs’ followers did?”

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Mike Gantt January 14, 2011 at 7:55 am

Yeah, Mike, you really need to get your head out of your ass. You’re spraying the comments here with half-baked and uninformed theories about authorship, eyewitness testimony, prophecy, and probabilities. I think you need to get out and read more. I would suggest some books on history, and any of the recent books on randomness (they’re very trendy right now).Why did the New Orleans Saints win last year’s Super Bowl, and none of the ones previous?Why did Grover Cleveland become the first President to gain a second, non-consecutive term? Why did it rain so hard in Brisbane this year, and not in the 30 years previous?Your question is similarly meaningful.  (Quote)

Tony, you are not very well read if you think the things I have been saying about the New Testament or Christ’s resurrection are uninformed or unsubstantiated by considerable scholarship. I acknowledge that there are disputes among biblical scholars about some of these issues, but you speak as if your reading has led you to think that there’s unanimity among the scholarly community that Jesus did not rise and that His apostles were not responsible for the New Testament documents. If that’s what you think, you need to broaden your reading list.

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ildi January 14, 2011 at 7:57 am

My question was and is, “Why did Jesus’ apostles get the idea for a crucified-resurrected Messiah as fulfillment of the OT prophecies when none of the previous dime-a-dozen Messiahs’ followers did?”

I’ve answered this in several ways; I’m not going to repeat myself.

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Mike Gantt January 14, 2011 at 8:01 am

Who says that it didn’t work? Or more precisely, who says, that “all the other disciples of failed messiahs before Him” did not manage to deal with the cognitive dissonance they experienced because of the failure of their messiah?
There is more than one way to deal with cognitive dissonance in the light of prophetic failure. In the paper ‘When Prophecy Fails and Faith Persists: A Theoretical Overview’ Lorne L. Dawson distinguishes three kinds of adaptional strategies: 1. proselytization, 2. rationalization and 3. reaffirmation, and four kinds of rationalization: spiritualization, a test of faith, human error and blaming others.
Claiming that your messiah has been put to death indeed, in the flesh, and has been made alive in the spirit is just one way to spiritualize your messiah’s death, but not the only one.

Larkus, I have no argument with anything you’ve written here. It just doesn’t address the issue. Of course, the various followers of various failed messiah dealt with their confusion and disappointment in different ways. I’m not disputing that. What I’m asking is “If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, where then did His disciples get the idea that no other disciples of no other failed messiah had ever gotten before them – that crucifixion and resurrection was the very way that the OT messianic prophecies could be shown to be fulfilled?”

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Tony Hoffman January 14, 2011 at 8:10 am

What I’m asking is “If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, where then did His disciples get the idea that no other disciples of no other failed messiah had ever gotten before them – that crucifixion and resurrection was the very way that the OT messianic prophecies could be shown to be fulfilled?

If Allah didn’t speak to Mohammed, then where did he get the novel ideas for the Koran? If God didn’t inspire Darwin, where did he get the Theory of Evolution? If God didn’t excite the imagination of Jim Jones, where did he get his religious ideas?

Um, because people come up with shit?

Have you ever heard of a meme?

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Larkus January 14, 2011 at 8:23 am

Consider one example from the paper ‘When Prophecy Fails and Faith Persists’, the now dead messiah, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson :

Rationalization (Spiritualization):

Shaffir and Dein demonstrate how rapidly the Lubavitch Hasidim reverted to such a mode of rationalization with the death of their living messiah, the Rebbe.24 Of course, in each of these instances the exact form of the rationalization invoked varies.

Consider, for example, the following passage from Shaffir’s excellent description of the Lubavitch reaction:

One of the Rebbe’s secretaries urged the members of the movement to remember that the Rebbe’s presence must continue to dominate every aspect of life (thus reiterating the Rebbe’s own recommendation when his predecessor had died). . . :

“The Alter Rebbe [the first Lubavitcher Rebbe] in Tanya [the first Lubavitcher Rebbe’s work outlining the philosophy of Habad] . . . quotes the Zohar, “A Tzaddik [an inspired leader] who departs from this world is present in all the worlds more than he was during his lifetime.” And the Alter Rebbe explains that the Zohar also means to say that the Tzaddik is present in this physical world more than during his life on this world. He also tells us that after the departure of the Neshomo [the soul] from this world, the Neshomo of the Tzaddik generates more strength and more Koach (power) to his devoted disciples.”25

In speaking to the Lubavitch, Shaffir was advised that miraculous things had occurred since the Rebbe’s death and that these happenings were attributable to his spiritual intervention on their behalf.

Rationalization (Human Error):

The third rationalization, attributing the failure of prophecy to human error (usually referring to the misunderstanding, miscalculation, or moral inadequacy of followers) is very common, especially in groups stemming from more traditional religious backgrounds. In the case of the Lubavitch, many members told Shaffir quite straightforwardly that the messiah “would have come, but we didn’t merit it . . . if we merited it, things would have worked out differently.”30 In the eyes of many of the faithful the error was theirs in even thinking that they could discern the mysterious ways of God. Soon new interpretations of past events and the words of the Rebbe were circulating widely in the movement, all showing how the followers had failed to read the signs correctly.

Reaffirmation:

Likewise, from the accounts of Shaffirand Dein, it is clear that the Lubavitch somewhat surprisingly took the physical death of their Rebbe as a challenge to proceed all the more zealously with their program of spiritual renewal and proselytization.38 A week after his death, for example, a day-long public “teach-in” was held at their headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. On this and other occasions, Shaffir notes, speaker after speaker drove home the same message: despite the overwhelming grief felt by all, immediate action must be taken to obey the Rebbe’s directives. His emissaries must turn their attention back to the most avid service of the salvific mission the Rebbe had so promisingly begun.39

As you see, the “non-rocket science formula” does work after all for disciples of at least one other failed(?) messiah. The early Christians used spiritualization (among other strategies) to cope with the death of their beloved messiah. The Lubavitch used spiritualization (among other strategies) to cope with the death of their beloved messiah, too.

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Mike Gantt January 14, 2011 at 8:26 am

If Allah didn’t speak to Mohammed, then where did he get the novel ideas for the Koran? If God didn’t inspire Darwin, where did he get the Theory of Evolution? If God didn’t excite the imagination of Jim Jones, where did he get his religious ideas?Um, because people come up with shit? Have you ever heard of a meme?  (Quote)

Tony, you keep ignoring the significance of the hundreds of years of multiplied messianic prophecies. None of your three examples have a parallel for that.

As for a meme, the concept might be relevant to our discussion if it had been predicted by hundreds of years of prophecy before anyone ever figured it out.

The crucifixion-resurrection of Messiah was a riddle written and repeated in plain view for over a thousand years. Yet no one figured it out until Jesus rose from the dead and explained it to His apostles. If He didn’t rise from the dead and explain it to them, how did His apostles figure it out?

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ildi January 14, 2011 at 8:44 am

The crucifixion-resurrection of Messiah was a riddle written and repeated in plain view for over a thousand years. Yet no one figured it out until Jesus rose from the dead and explained it to His apostles. If He didn’t rise from the dead and explain it to them, how did His apostles figure it out?

I’ve figured it out; we’re not interacting with a human but a computer programmed with a certain number of statements it eventually starts to repeat over time. Pretty realistic! I was fooled…

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Mike Gantt January 14, 2011 at 8:49 am

As you see, the “non-rocket science formula” does work after all for disciples of at least one other failed(?) messiah. The early Christians used spiritualization (among other strategies) to cope with the death of their beloved messiah. The Lubavitch used spiritualization (among other strategies) to cope with the death of their beloved messiah, too.

Larkus, as I’ve said, I have no argument with the research paper. In fact, whether it’s stated in the form of the “nonrocket science formula” laid out by ildi or in the form of a academic research paper like the one you quote, I agree with the thesis of both that many people will rationalize away failed prophecies. In fact, I wish more people would wake up to this counterproductive coping mechanism.

The New Testament is absolutely clear that the apostles expected Jesus’ return within that generation. Yet the church today claims that Jesus has not yet returned. It has – in effect, though not always in these words – said “Jesus didn’t come again when He said He would but we believe in Him anyway and He could be coming any moment.” It is sad to see such self-deception.

There is no need for them to be deceived though because Jesus came again just when He said He would, just as He said He would. Just as His first coming was prophesied in a riddle (the Bible more often calls it a mystery) so His second coming was prophesied in a riddle or mystery. The true revelation was that Jesus of Nazareth was God visiting us in the flesh. He is not coming back in the flesh again – He…is…God.

Therefore, there is no need for any true believer in Jesus Christ to rationalize away His failure. Christ has not failed. He reigns!

One of the things that makes Christ’s resurrection from the dead so profound is that if He had not been raised from the dead, we would not know to this day that a crucified and resurrected Messiah was what all those seemingly conflicting OT messianic prophecies were pointing to. For once you know the answer to a riddle, it’s not a puzzle anymore. But until you know the answer to a riddle, you can never figure it out…if, that is, it’s a good one.

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Larkus January 14, 2011 at 8:49 am

“If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, where then did His disciples get the idea that no other disciples of no other failed messiah had ever gotten before them – that crucifixion and resurrection was the very way that the OT messianic prophecies could be shown to be fulfilled?”

Maybe no other messiahs got themselves crucified before? The obvious failure of the death at the cross would then have to be reinterpreted as a victory. For example by spiritualization, “having been put to death indeed, in the flesh, and having been made alive in the spirit”

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Tony Hoffman January 14, 2011 at 9:10 am

I’ve figured it out; we’re not interacting with a human but a computer programmed with a certain number of statements it eventually starts to repeat over time. Pretty realistic! I was fooled…

I have found myself drawn back in for similar reasons. I find this discourse oddly compelling, in a way that communicating with a rational agent never is.

I think we’re narrowing in on the kind of inputs that cause it to punch out the “You have still not explained how any natural phenomenon could possibly explain my pet event.” response. I think it’s every 3rd question. Or possibly based on a prime sequence.

Ah, well, only more testing will tell…

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Rob January 14, 2011 at 9:16 am

You have to admire Gantt’s stamina. Or maybe he’s just on meth. Regardless, a great lesson in The Religious Condition.

http://www.thereligiouscondition.com/

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ildi January 14, 2011 at 9:32 am

You have to admire Gantt’s stamina. Or maybe he’s just on meth.

Computers never sleep…

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Mike Gantt January 14, 2011 at 9:58 am

Maybe no other messiahs got themselves crucified before? The obvious failure of the death at the cross would then have to be reinterpreted as a victory. For example by spiritualization, “having been put to death indeed, in the flesh, and having been made alive in the spirit”

Larkus, you actually have here the closest thing to an answer I have seen yet. Your first sentence indicates that you understand that there must be something different about the experience of Jesus’ apostles which causes them to come up with such a unique and unprecedented response to their leader’s death and that, oh by the way, must meet all the criteria of the accumulated testimony of Israel’s prophets about the Messiah – if you’re going to say that Christ’s resurrection itself does not account for the difference.

I won’t judge your answer further; instead, I’ll let you do it. Here’s a process you can follow. First, determine if, in fact, all other would-be messiahs died prematurely by some means other than crucifixion. Second, determine what it is about crucifixion that would inspire the apostles to think of resurrection as an appropriate follow-on activity for their leader when all the other forms of premature death experienced by the other would-be messiahs did not inspire such a response. Third, figure out how it came to be that this innovative response just happened to fit all the OT messianic prophecies in a better way than any other possible answer.

I trust you won’t spend too long on this effort before you realize that your nascent answer is not going to reach maturity – though again, I appreciate it for the reason I gave.

Here’s yet another way of asking my question. It’s a way you especially may appreciate given that it incorporates your vocabulary: Why were Jesus’ apostles the first followers of a failed messiah to discover the “spiritualization” strategy of rationalization that has been so effectively copied over and over by others since, and how were the apostles able to figure out that this spiritualization strategy would be fully supported by the OT messianic prophecies (for, alas, all those who have copied this strategy since do not enjoy this documentary support)?

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Paul King January 14, 2011 at 10:04 am

Paul,
b) I would, but since you’re dismissive of all the scriptures I cover in my short book, what would be the point?

c) Here’s the Ehrman quote: “No Jew prior to Christianity thought that the Messiah would be crucified.”When an agnostic like Ehrman to makes such a clear and unequivocal statement, given his academic status as a historian (which he obviously treasures), it leaves no room to say that he feels uncertain on the subject.  

b) Mike I’m not dismissive of the scriptures (less so than you in fact). I am dismissive of your “book” in the context of this discussion for a number of reasons. Not least the fact that it fails to address the very point you are now refusing to address. But since you want attention to it I will point out that you badly misrepresent 2 Peter. In fact 2 Peter says that there were important prophecies that had NOT been fulfilled at the time of writing and tries to explain away that fact by asserting that God’s sense of time is not like ours, so that the TIMELINE was misunderstood – that is clearly the opposite of your view that the timeline was correctly understood and the prophecies fulfilled but not recognised. So not only does 2 Peter not support your view it actually contradicts it.

c) As I have already pointed out, Ehrman is in no position to know the beliefs of cults that we have no knowledge of. In the absence of any knowledge of how the followers of other would-be Messiahs of the time reacted to failures how can we say what they did not believe ? Arguing that Ehrman must be right about things that neither he or any living man have any knowledge of is simply foolish.

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Vlastimil Vohánka January 14, 2011 at 11:16 am

Luke,

Tim McGrew has online his fresh talk (sermon) on some of his reasons for historical reliability of the NT. Popular level, but rich.

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2011/01/a_talk_on_undesigned_coinciden.html

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Kaelik January 14, 2011 at 11:25 am

Here’s yet another way of asking my question.It’s a way you especially may appreciate given that it incorporates your vocabulary:Why were Jesus’ apostles the first followers of a failed messiah to discover the “spiritualization” strategy of rationalization that has been so effectively copied over and over by others since, and how were the apostles able to figure out that this spiritualization strategy would be fully supported by the OT messianic prophecies (for, alas, all those who have copied this strategy since do not enjoy this documentary support)?  

1) Why do you think that they were the first person to come up with that? There are plenty of “historic” figures who died and were spiritualized to draw from. The fact that Jesus is the first Jewish claimed Messiah we know of who has it said that he did this does not mean it is the first instance with no precedent any more than elvis being the first rock star to not die actually means that he had no precedent.

2) You obsession with the old testament prophecy is hilarious. There is nothing about dying and resurrecting that fulfills any prophecies that aren’t so general as to be worthless. Anyone can take a generalized stupid prophecy and then twist it in their head to fit some arbitrary even that really happened. That is not evidence of anything.

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Mike Gantt January 14, 2011 at 12:10 pm

1) Why do you think that they were the first person to come up with that? There are plenty of “historic” figures who died and were spiritualized to draw from. The fact that Jesus is the first Jewish claimed Messiah we know of who has it said that he did this does not mean it is the first instance with no precedent any more than elvis being the first rock star to not die actually means that he had no precedent.
2) You obsession with the old testament prophecy is hilarious. There is nothing about dying and resurrecting that fulfills any prophecies that aren’t so general as to be worthless. Anyone can take a generalized stupid prophecy and then twist it in their head to fit some arbitrary even that really happened. That is not evidence of anything.

Kaelik,
1) Are you saying that you have evidence that prior to Jesus, there were claims that a person who’d been murdered and resurrected from the dead was the Messiah of Israel? A lot of people would be interested in that. As for Elvis, I think we can rule him out as there are no OT prophecies of his resurrection, nor do we have written testimony from credible witness who have seen him since he died.

2) I got my obsession with the OT messianic promises honestly – by reading the NT. Anyone who reads the NT will notice that the apostles were obessessed with the OT prophecies. In fact, if you pay attention to their preaching, they do not go about (as many on this site seem to believe) majoring on the miracles He performed. Rather, they emphasized two-pronged claim over and over in their preaching: Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah by virtue of 1) His resurrection from the dead, and 2) His fullfillment of the OT messsianic prophecies.

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Mike Gantt January 14, 2011 at 12:30 pm

b) Mike I’m not dismissive of the scriptures (less so than you in fact). I am dismissive of your “book” in the context of this discussion for a number of reasons. Not least the fact that it fails to address the very point you are now refusing to address. But since you want attention to it I will point out that you badly misrepresent 2 Peter. In fact 2 Peter says that there were important prophecies that had NOT been fulfilled at the time of writing and tries to explain away that fact by asserting that God’s sense of time is not like ours, so that the TIMELINE was misunderstood – that is clearly the opposite of your view that the timeline was correctly understood and the prophecies fulfilled but not recognised. So not only does 2 Peter not support your view it actually contradicts it.
c) As I have already pointed out, Ehrman is in no position to know the beliefs of cults that we have no knowledge of. In the absence of any knowledge of how the followers of other would-be Messiahs of the time reacted to failures how can we say what they did not believe ? Arguing that Ehrman must be right about things that neither he or any living man have any knowledge of is simply foolish.

Paul,
b) 2 Peter is one of the harder passages to understand regarding the Second Coming and indeed the evangelicals use its opaqueness to argue for a indefinite timeframe. The problem with this logic is that it makes little sense to ignore the meaning of the many clearer verses which indicate a definite timeframe in favor of the possible meaning of an indefinite timeframe from a singlepassage.
c) As I said to Kaelik, if you have evidence that prior to Jesus there were Jews making a claim that they had found the messiah and he was resurrected from the dead after having died in shame, I think there are a lot of people who are going to want to hear your story.

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Paul King January 14, 2011 at 12:52 pm

b) 2 Peter is very easy to understand in this respect. It really is very clear in arguing that the prophecies had not been fulfilled, that God’s understanding of time is not like ours and there is still tine for the world to end. Granted that the excuse is wearing more than a bit thin now, but it might have been more reasonable at the time of writing. And the only ones who need to ignore any other verses are those whose doctrinal commitments are in conflict with the test.

c) Clearly you take the view that in the absence of knowledge your imaginings must be accepted as truth. I explicitly stated that we do not and cannot know if Christians were the first Messianic cult to rationalise away their failure in this way because we know very little about minor sects that vanished long ago. Or even relatively important movements, like that lead by John the Baptist.

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Mike Gantt January 14, 2011 at 12:59 pm

b) 2 Peter is very easy to understand in this respect. It really is very clear in arguing that the prophecies had not been fulfilled, that God’s understanding of time is not like ours and there is still tine for the world to end. Granted that the excuse is wearing more than a bit thin now, but it might have been more reasonable at the time of writing. And the only ones who need to ignore any other verses are those whose doctrinal commitments are in conflict with the test. c) Clearly you take the view that in the absence of knowledge your imaginings must be accepted as truth. I explicitly stated that we do not and cannot know if Christians were the first Messianic cult to rationalise away their failure in this way because we know very little about minor sects that vanished long ago. Or even relatively important movements, like that lead by John the Baptist.  (Quote)

Paul,
b) Let’s assume for the moment that the meaning of 2 Peter appears crystal clear in arguing for an indefinite time frame. Are you saying that you would on that basis then reject the many other verses throughout the NT that say otherwise?

c) I take it you don’t have the evidence.

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Reginald Selkirk January 14, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Mike Gantt: I got my obsession with the OT messianic promises honestly – by reading the NT. Anyone who reads the NT will notice that the apostles were obessessed with the OT prophecies.

This is precisely the subject of the book by Thomas Paine. When Matthew says “He did X in order to fulfil the prophecy in Isaiah…” he actually turned to the OT verses referenced to see whether and what prophecy was indicated. In may cases, the relevant verses are not prophecies at all.

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Reginald Selkirk January 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm

jaymen: Hendy, the resurrection is: (A) attested in extant sources written by eyewitnesses (e.g., Paul, Peter, John)…

BZZZZZT! You lose. Paul was most certainly not an eyewitness to the resurrection. How wrong can you be?

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Mike Gantt January 14, 2011 at 1:33 pm

This is precisely the subject of the book by Thomas Paine. When Matthew says “He did X in order to fulfil the prophecy in Isaiah…” he actually turned to the OT verses referenced to see whether and what prophecy was indicated. In may cases, the relevant verses are not prophecies at all.

Reginald,
Paine was not unique to do this; indeed Jews had been explaining things this way long before he wrote The Age of Reason. However, Jews in the 1st Century didexpect a greater fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18 beyond Joshua (which Paine does not recognize in his book). They indeed saw Joshua as fulfillment just as Paine did, but they saw Joshua as initialfulfillment – foreshadowing a greater one who would come later. This Paine did not see. When you read the gospels you can see this expectation manifested as people would ask, “Is so-and-so the Prophet?” just as they would ask “Is so-and-so the Messiah?” It is no coincidence that Jesus’ name is…Jesus, for the Hebrew version of that name is Joshua. Thus Joshua who led the Israelites into the promised land foreshadowed the greater Joshua who would lead humanity into heaven. And this is but one of the ways the messianic prophecies work.

Thus when in Acts 3 Peter quoted Moses from Deuteronomy 18 saying “God shall raise up for you a prophet like me” as applying to Joshua of Nazareth by His resurrection from the dead, the words raise up took on grand and glorious new meaning to those fortunate enough to hear them. Mr. Paine didn’t see this at the time he wrote his book…but I’m sure he sees it now.

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Paul King January 14, 2011 at 1:38 pm

b) Of course I didn’t say that 2 Peter was arguing for an indefinite timeframe in any strong sense, only one that was (vaguely) extended beyond the time it was written (and it clearly is). If that contradicts other Bible verses then obviously either 2 Peter is wrong or the contradictory verses are wrong – or both are. We cannot, however, decide which simply by noting the existence of a contradiction as you seem to think.

c) Mike, you are the one making the positive claim, therefore you are the one who needs evidence. I am merely pointing out that that evidence is not available. I know it would be convenient for you if the situation were reversed – but, unfortunately for you, the truth does not change for your convenience.

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Luke Muehlhauser January 14, 2011 at 1:45 pm

So many flames, here!

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Mike Gantt January 14, 2011 at 1:56 pm

b) Of course I didn’t say that 2 Peter was arguing for an indefinite timeframe in any strong sense, only one that was (vaguely) extended beyond the time it was written (and it clearly is). If that contradicts other Bible verses then obviously either 2 Peter is wrong or the contradictory verses are wrong – or both are. We cannot, however, decide which simply by noting the existence of a contradiction as you seem to think.
c) Mike, you are the one making the positive claim, therefore you are the one who needs evidence. I am merely pointing out that that evidence is not available. I know it would be convenient for you if the situation were reversed – but, unfortunately for you, the truth does not change for your convenience.

Paul,
I think we’ve both made our case on these points, so I’ll let your words be the last.

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Vlastimil Vohánka January 14, 2011 at 5:49 pm

Luke,
Tim McGrew has online his fresh talk (sermon) on some of his reasons for historical reliability of the NT. Popular level, but rich.http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2011/01/a_talk_on_undesigned_coinciden.html  

On Ed Babinski on this:
http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2011/01/tim-mcgrew-replies-to-ed-babinskis.html

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Kaelik January 14, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Kaelik,
1) Are you saying that you have evidence that prior to Jesus, there were claims that a person who’d been murdered and resurrected from the dead was the Messiah of Israel? A lot of people would be interested in that.As for Elvis, I think we can rule him out as there are no OT prophecies of his resurrection, nor do we have written testimony from credible witness who have seen him since he died.

2) I got my obsession with the OT messianic promises honestly – by reading the NT.Anyone who reads the NT will notice that the apostles were obessessed with the OT prophecies.In fact, if you pay attention to their preaching, they do not go about (as many on this site seem to believe) majoring on the miracles He performed.Rather, they emphasized two-pronged claim over and over in their preaching: Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah by virtue of 1) His resurrection from the dead, and 2) His fullfillment of the OT messsianic prophecies.  

1) Once again, it doesn’t matter if the dead and resurrected were claimed to be the messiah of isreal. You yourself claimed that Elvis’s death and “resurrection” are copied from Jesus, but no one claimed Jesus was the King of Rock and Roll. If an Egyptian God/Man is murdered, resurrected, and therefore the messiah of the Egyptian people ushering in a golden age, it’s perfectly unreasonable to claim that the idea of a dead and resurrected mangod ushering in a golden age for his people is a revolutionary idea the likes of which no one had ever thought of before.

The idea of death/resurrection as a testament to being a savior is in no way unique to or originating from Jesus.

Additionally, it would do a great deal to your credibility if you would stop asking stupid questions that you pretend are your opponents arguments.

Only a blithering idiot could possibly think that “Are you saying that you have evidence that prior to Jesus, there were claims that a person who’d been murdered and resurrected from the dead was the Messiah of Israel?” constitutes an accurate summary of what I was saying.

2) I did not ask or state how you came to your obsession. I find your obsession comical, but not noteworthy or relevant. There are no prophecies fulfilled by Jesus that couldn’t have also been fulfilled by one of the Presidents of the United States, if the same logic were applied to them as is to Jesus.

You first came to your belief that Jesus was the messiah, and therefore must have fulfilled the old prophecies, and then have sought confirmation of this, and twisted yourself into knots to believe that this is the case.

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Tony Hoffman January 14, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Mike Gantt, you have made numerous assertions here. Near as I can tell, every one is obviously fallacious.

Please, take a deep breath, and try to demonstrate one. I think you should start with your assertion that the NT contains eyewitness testimony to the Resurrection. If you can demonstrate something so basic to your belief, we can move on from there.

Please quote (not reference) the one, most obvious and uncontestable passage from the NT that demonstrates that we have eyewitness testimony of Jesus’s Resurrection. Just one. The best one. That should be easy for you.

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Mike Gantt January 14, 2011 at 11:46 pm

Once again, it doesn’t matter if the dead and resurrected were claimed to be the messiah of isreal.

It matters a great deal. The apostles were all Jews and if they didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah, they never would have preached Him. They had come to believe He was the Messiah because He was a descendant of David, possessed unparalleled wisdom, and walked with God in an undeniable way. However, His crucifixion wrecked their faith in that idea. The resurrection restored it. Permanently.

The idea of death/resurrection as a testament to being a savior is in no way unique to or originating from Jesus.

It’s the idea of death/resurrection applying to the Messiah of Israel that was unique to Jesus. No one had ever claimed that before, and it also happened to pull together the varying aspects of the messianic prophecies in a way that no other explanation could.

There are no prophecies fulfilled by Jesus that couldn’t have also been fulfilled by one of the Presidents of the United States, if the same logic were applied to them as is to Jesus.

I know of no US president who was a descendant of David, was born in Bethlehem, and whose life experiences matched Isaiah 53, Isaiah 9, and Deuteronomy 18 – to mention but a few..

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Mike Gantt January 14, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Mike Gantt, you have made numerous assertions here. Near as I can tell, every one is obviously fallacious.
Please, take a deep breath, and try to demonstrate one. I think you should start with your assertion that the NT contains eyewitness testimony to the Resurrection. If you can demonstrate something so basic to your belief, we can move on from there.
Please quote (not reference) the one, most obvious and uncontestable passage from the NT that demonstrates that we have eyewitness testimony of Jesus’s Resurrection. Just one. The best one. That should be easy for you.

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. – 1 Corinthians in 15:1-8

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kilopapa January 15, 2011 at 2:58 am

@Mike Gantt

Paul includes his own “appearance” in the above list of people. What do you think Pauls appearance of Jesus looked like? A bright light with a voice? That’s what the book of Acts says.
Show me where Paul states that he saw a corpse that had recently been in a tomb.
In 1 Cor. 15:50 Paul writes -”I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood can not inherit the kingdom of God..” Mmm, no corpse there.

Paul writes of his frequent visions and revelations, and his ability to speak in tongues and prophesy, even mentioning a man who was caught up to the third heaven and had an out-of-body experience. Would you call that good, solid, reliable testimony? I’m not suggesting that someone with somewhat “out there” beliefs is automatically excluded from having reliable testimony. But at the very least it might be a reason to have honest doubts about the level of evidence that a particular person might require to believe something.

In your quote of Paul he speaks of “the gospel which I preached to you”.
Paul states the source of his gospel in Galatians 1:11-”For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which is preached by me IS NOT MAN’S GOSPEL. For I DID NOT RECEIVE IT FROM MAN,NOR WAS I TAUGHT IT, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

If that’s your best case for eyewitness testimony, then I bet that your glad you’re not in a court of law.

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Mike Gantt January 15, 2011 at 4:51 am

@kilopapa
Your questions veer slightly away from the one I was addressing, but I’m happy to answer them nonetheless.

What do you think Pauls appearance of Jesus looked like?

I don’t know any more than what is written in the book of Acts. Whatever Paul saw, however, he obviously thought it justified his inclusion in the list without qualification. It is equally apparent that he did not expect anyone in Corinth or on the list to challenge him about it – which makes people’s questioning about it today all the more puzzling.

Paul writes of his frequent visions and revelations, and his ability to speak in tongues and prophesy, even mentioning a man who was caught up to the third heaven and had an out-of-body experience. Would you call that good, solid, reliable testimony?

If all we knew about Paul were these unusual experiences we might be uncomfortable putting our weight on his testimony. However, since our knowledge of these things exists within the context of all the extant letters he wrote (these are not the writings of a mad man), the rest of the New Testament (which corroborates not only his impeccable character but also many of the events described in his letters), and the Old Testament (which gives thorough and profound meaning to Paul’s life purpose and mission), I think we can be quite comfortable putting weight on his testimony.

If that’s your best case for eyewitness testimony, then I bet that your glad you’re not in a court of law.

Decisions about Jesus Christ are not made in courts of law but in the courts of individual human hearts.

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Tony Hoffman January 15, 2011 at 8:18 am

Okay, Mike, got your response for the best example of eyewitness testimony to Jesus’s Resurrection as being 1 Corinthians 15: 1-8.

That is a complete failure according to the criteria. Here’s why:

None of the examples are of eyewitness testimony to Jesus’s resurrection.

Why not, you gasp?

Roughly speaking, an eyewitness is a direct witness to an event. Those who report what others saw are reporting hearsay. Eyewitness testimony is unreliable, but hearsay is way more unreliable.

Imagine this. You have been asked by a judge to provide what you say you have, which is eyewitness testimony to the Resurrection of Jesus.

So in response to the judge, you call forth as witness Paul. The judge says, “You have been named as an eyewitness to the Resurrection of Jesus. Tell us what you saw.”

Paul: “Well, I was born too late, but approximately 525 people saw Jesus after he died.”
Judge: “I don’t care what you say other people saw; I care about what you saw. What you say other people saw is hearsay, and is generally inadmissible as evidence because it is even more unreliable than eyewitness testimony, which is bad enough as it is, I might add.”
Paul: “Um…”
Judge: “So, you have been represented here as an eyewitness to Jesus’s resurrection. Did you in fact see Jesus’s resurrection?”
Paul: “Absolutely. Jesus appeared to me. After he died. Because I was born too late to see his resurrection.”
Judge: “So you didn’t know Jesus before he died?”
Paul: “Nope.”
Judge: “So how the freak did you know that whoever appeared to you was Jesus?”
Paul: “I just knew. He said so, or it was just super clear to me at the time.”
Judge: “So let me get this straight. You’re the best eyewitness to the Resurrection of Jesus, but all you an offer me is either hearsay (what you say other people saw), or your word that a vision you had was of a man you never met?”
Paul: “Yup.”
Judge: “Bailiff, get this guy out of here. I asked for an eyewitness to the claimed resurrection. Counselor, do you know what an eyewitness is?”

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Mike Gantt January 15, 2011 at 9:07 am

Tony Hoffman

Paul, I don’t know if you are a lawyer, but I am not, Paul was not, and most people are not. So let’s drop the legal jargon and talk common sense. If my brother writes me a letter telling me that he saw our mother fall down the steps, I have eyewitness testimony that my mother fell down the steps. And if I refuse to send her flowers with the excuse that I didn’t have “legal” eyewitness testimony about the fall, people would consider me to be engaging in word games – and rightly so.

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Tony Hoffman January 15, 2011 at 9:38 am

Gantt: “If my brother writes me a letter telling me that he saw our mother fall down the steps, I have eyewitness testimony that my mother fell down the steps.”

Noper. You are equivocating, because you are confusing who has the eyewitness testimony — the reader of the Bible or Paul. Paul says he has eyewitness testimony, but this does not then put the reader of the Bible into the position of Paul — it puts the reader of the Bible into the position of being a reader of the Bible.

The correct scenario is this. If you ask me if I was an eyewitness to my mother’s fall, and I answer yes, and then you ask me what I saw, and I respond, “Well, my brother is the one who saw, so I’ll have to go ask him. Oh, drat. He’s not here. Or dead. Still, all the same to you, because there was an eyewitness, once.”

This isn’t legal talk. This is simple talk. Children understand this. You are showing us, yet again, that you comprehend less than a child.

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Mike Gantt January 15, 2011 at 10:03 am

.

Paul = my brother
Christ’s resurrection = my mother falling down the steps
1 Corinthians = my brother’s letter to me
Bible reader = me (the letter reader)

Just as I have eyewitness testimony that my mother fell down the steps, so a Bible reader has eyewitness testimony that Christ rose from the dead.

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ildi January 15, 2011 at 10:16 am

To correct your analogy: people fall down the stairs all the time. In the U.S. 1,307 people died from falling down the stairs in 2000 alone. There would be nothing surprising about getting such a letter. However, what if your brother wrote you that he saw your mother after she died falling down the stairs? Even then you would rightly assume that he wasn’t lying. Grieving people often report seeing or feeling the presence of the dear departed. This is exactly the type of visitation Paul was talking about. No magic, nothing unique.

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Tony Hoffman January 15, 2011 at 10:43 am

Okay, so this is how you need to understand basic information?

Paul = Not an eyewitness to the Resurrection (in the passage you cite he states he was too young to have seen it himself)
Paul = Witness to another witness = hearsay

Other problems:
Brother = someone whose claims we can investigate
Paul = Not someone whose claims we can investigate

Rising from the dead after 3 days = an event never credibly witnessed by any human in history
Falling down the stairs = a mundane event

Children see these obvious dissimilarities. Do you ever wonder why it is that your faith makes it appear that you understand less than a child?

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Kaelik January 15, 2011 at 1:08 pm

It matters a great deal.The apostles were all Jews and if they didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah, they never would have preached Him.They had come to believe He was the Messiah because He was a descendant of David, possessed unparalleled wisdom, and walked with God in an undeniable way.However, His crucifixion wrecked their faith in that idea.The resurrection restored it.Permanently.

See, again, you are fucking retarded and don’t know what you are talking about.

This is not “Time for Mike to preach at people” this is a discussion of why we don’t believe the things we’ve already heard you preach.

You claim that the idea of resurrection fulfilling prophecies constitutes a novel idea. You are wrong. Centuries prior to Jesus Osiris died and resurrected to fulfill Egyptian messianc prophecies. He’s not the only one, either. Many resurrected messiahs predate Jesus. So since the idea is not unique, and was thought up by lots of people all over the place, there is no reason to believe that merely coming up with an idea that already existed several times before counts as evidence for anything.

It’s the idea of death/resurrection applying to the Messiah of Israel that was unique to Jesus.No one had ever claimed that before

It’s the idea of death/resurrection applying to the King of Rock and Roll that was unique to Elvis. No one had ever claimed that before. It is no more unique to hit upon the idea of resurrection fulfilling Jewish messianic prophecies than it was to hit upon it fulfilling Egyptian messianic prophecies, or indian ones. Or any of the other messiahs of various people who died and resurrected.

I know of no US president who was a descendant of David, was born in Bethlehem, and whose life experiences matched Isaiah 53, Isaiah 9, and Deuteronomy 18 – to mention but a few..  

Jesus wasn’t a descendant of David either. A man he is completely unrelated to had sex with his mother after his birth. If any alleged descendant of David ever had sex with any Presidents mother they would have equal claim.

But more importantly… No you don’t get to claim that made up stories written by people who never saw the alleged Jesus after they had already decided he was the messiah count as him fulfilling a prophecy. No more than me writing a story about how George Washington’s mother being raped by a crazy man descendant of David counts as evidence of Washington.

Jesus wasn’t born in Bethlehem, no one ever mentions that until some people who had never met him just assumed it was true because they blithely read Micah 5.2 without actually knowing Davids ancestry.

Isaiah 53 is about someone crippled who suffered their whole life. Jesus is nothing like that, and spends .05% of his life suffering. FDR wasn’t terribly reviled when he died, but he is now, and he at least was crippled by god and suffered his whole life. Jesus doesn’t match Isaiah 53, any more than Grover Cleveland or FDR.

Isaiah 9 is about someone showing up, making a new Israel, and then ruling it.

Jesus has neither ruled nor created Israel. Truman at least created Israel. Truman only half fulfills, but that’s more than Jesus who fulfills zero percent. This is my point, you genuinely take a prophecy about bringing back Israel, and declare that it is fulfilled because… Jesus didn’t bring back Israel. You are delusional.

Deuteronomy 18 first of all, is about a Prophet, not the son of god, and secondly demonstrates that Jesus is a false prophet, according to god.

“If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken.”

“But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded… is to be put to death.”

“there shall be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” “…This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”

So you see, the Romans were just carrying out God’s orders preemptively.

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Larkus January 15, 2011 at 1:39 pm

@Mike Gantt

Assuming, that Jesus was seen by his followers as the Messiah before his death,

and assuming that Jesus was the first messiah about which his followers claimed that he “survived” death in some spiritual form.

what would that prove?

Is it impossible for Jews to think, that a messiah could “survive” death in some spiritual form? No, the Lubavitch prove, that it is possible.

Is it impossible for Jews to think, that a messiah could “survive” death in some spiritual form without precedent ? I don’t think, that you want to claim that.

Is it so unlikely for Jews to think, that a messiah could “survive” death in some spiritual form without precedent, that a miracle is more likely? Apparently, that is just, what you think.

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Larkus January 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Is it impossible for Jews to think, that a messiah could “survive” death in some spiritual form to cope with cognitive dissonance? No, the Lubavitch prove, that it is possible.

Is it impossible for Jews to think, that a messiah could “survive” death in some spiritual form to cope with cognitive dissonance without precedent? I don’t think, that you want to claim that.

Is it so unlikely for Jews to think, that a messiah could “survive” death in some spiritual form to cope with cognitive dissonance without precedent, that a miracle is more likely? Apparently, that is just, what you think.

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Tony Hoffman January 15, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Mike, so, just to recap, I asked you to demonstrate that the NT contains eyewitness testimony to the Resurrection.

You couldn’t do it. The only thing, the best thing you could find, is a claim by a man who says he knew people who witnessed it (hearsay), and that he saw a vision of a man he never met when alive.

Do you understand that you may have been fooled by others yet? Do you think it’s possible that others could fool you?

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TRUTHOVERfaith January 16, 2011 at 3:46 am

Mike Gantt
“Whatever Paul saw, however, he obviously thought it justified his inclusion in the list without qualifications.”

And if his appearance of Jesus was significantly different than the others on the list than he very well might have felt obligated to offer some “qualification”. Yet he doesn’t. He doesn’t seem worried that he might look rather foolish to include a visionary appearance alongside people who supposedly saw, spoke with, touched, and spent forty days interacting with a flesh and blood resuscitated corpse.

Gantt
“It is equally important that he did not expect anyone in Corinth to challenge him about it…”

Challenge him how? By hopping on the next Delta flight out of Corinth?
And challenge about what? About “seeing” Jesus in the same manner as the others in the list? There would only be a need to challenge Paul if you put the Gospel stories of a corpse on top of Pauls letters, where he never mentions a resurrected corpse coming back to life.

Gantt
“..which make people questioning about it today all the more puzzling.”

The only thing puzzling is your inability to read Pauls epistles without your presuppositions that the Gospel stories must be true and they must match Paul because they’re in the Bible.

Gantt
…the rest of the New Testament(which corroborates not only his impeccable character…)

Yep. Those anonymous New Testament writers really offer an honest, objective opinion about a fellow Christian that they never claimed to have actually met.

Gantt
“Decisions about Jesus Christ are not made in the courts of law but in the courts of individual human hearts.”

And some people even make this decision with their human brain.

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Mike Gantt January 16, 2011 at 5:40 am

To correct your analogy:people fall down the stairs all the time.In the U.S.1,307 people died from falling down the stairs in 2000 alone.There would be nothing surprising about getting such a letter.However, what if your brother wrote you that he saw your mother after she died falling down the stairs?Even then you would rightly assume that he wasn’t lying.Grieving people often report seeing or feeling the presence of the dear departed.This is exactly the type of visitation Paul was talking about.No magic, nothing unique.  

ildi, my analogy was to illustrate common sense eyewitness testimony versus legal eyewitness testimony…and it stands on that basis.

Now, as to your different point that a resurrection from the dead is exceedingly more unusual than falling down steps, I quite agree. And for this reason, the letter includes references to over 500 witnesses including 14 that are specifically named and known. Moreover, we have 26 other letters corroborating this astounding fact. Moreover yet again, we have scores if not hundreds of prophecies from prior generations testifying in advance of this event. The majority of those writing these documents, which are gathered and bound into what we call the Old Testament (the prophets who prophesied what would happen) and the New Testament (the apostles of testified of what did happen), swore to their testimony with their blood – for the most common end of both prophet and apostle was martyrdom. Thus where an extraordinary claim has been made, extraordinary evidence has been provided. We don’t just have my brother’s letter – substantial as it is.

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Mike Gantt January 16, 2011 at 5:44 am

Paul = Not an eyewitness to the Resurrection (in the passage you cite he states he was too young to have seen it himself)
Paul = Witness to another witness = hearsay

Tony, you read Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15 “He appeared to me also” and understand Paul to mean “He did not appear to me also.” I take it from this that you are also comfortable with such concepts as “up” is “down,” “left” is “right,” and “black” is “white. ”

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Mike Gantt January 16, 2011 at 5:51 am

See, again, you are fucking retarded and don’t know what you are talking about.This is not “Time for Mike to preach at people” this is a discussion of why we don’t believe the things we’ve already heard you preach.You claim that the idea of resurrection fulfilling prophecies constitutes a novel idea. You are wrong. Centuries prior to Jesus Osiris died and resurrected to fulfill Egyptian messianc prophecies. He’s not the only one, either. Many resurrected messiahs predate Jesus. So since the idea is not unique, and was thought up by lots of people all over the place, there is no reason to believe that merely coming up with an idea that already existed several times before counts as evidence for anything.
It’s the idea of death/resurrection applying to the King of Rock and Roll that was unique to Elvis. No one had ever claimed that before. It is no more unique to hit upon the idea of resurrection fulfilling Jewish messianic prophecies than it was to hit upon it fulfilling Egyptian messianic prophecies, or indian ones. Or any of the other messiahs of various people who died and resurrected.
Jesus wasn’t a descendant of David either. A man he is completely unrelated to had sex with his mother after his birth. If any alleged descendant of David ever had sex with any Presidents mother they would have equal claim.But more importantly… No you don’t get to claim that made up stories written by people who never saw the alleged Jesus after they had already decided he was the messiah count as him fulfilling a prophecy. No more than me writing a story about how George Washington’s mother being raped by a crazy man descendant of David counts as evidence of Washington.Jesus wasn’t born in Bethlehem, no one ever mentions that until some people who had never met him just assumed it was true because they blithely read Micah 5.2 without actually knowing Davids ancestry.Isaiah 53 is about someone crippled who suffered their whole life. Jesus is nothing like that, and spends .05% of his life suffering. FDR wasn’t terribly reviled when he died, but he is now, and he at least was crippled by god and suffered his whole life. Jesus doesn’t match Isaiah 53, any more than Grover Cleveland or FDR.Isaiah 9 is about someone showing up, making a new Israel, and then ruling it.Jesus has neither ruled nor created Israel. Truman at least created Israel. Truman only half fulfills, but that’s more than Jesus who fulfills zero percent. This is my point, you genuinely take a prophecy about bringing back Israel, and declare that it is fulfilled because… Jesus didn’t bring back Israel. You are delusional.Deuteronomy 18 first of all, is about a Prophet, not the son of god, and secondly demonstrates that Jesus is a false prophet, according to god.“If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken.”“But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded… is to be put to death.”“there shall be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”“…This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”So you see, the Romans were just carrying out God’s orders preemptively.  

Kaelik, you write a lot of words but you still haven’t explained how Jesus’ apostles were the first Jews to promote the idea that the Messiah died a humiliating death followed by resurrection and that this was fulfillment of the OT messianic prophecies if Jesus didn’t actually rise from the dead and give them that idea.

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Mike Gantt January 16, 2011 at 5:58 am

Assuming, that Jesus was seen by his followers as the Messiah before his death,

and assuming that Jesus was the first messiah about which his followers claimed that he “survived” death in some spiritual form.

what would that prove?

It would prove that they got the idea from somewhere. I say they got it from seeing Jesus risen from the dead and hearing Him explain how the Scriptures had been prophesying this all along. Since you don’t think Jesus did those two things, how do you think the apostles got that idea? If the idea was as common among Jews as some of you guys are saying, how come no preceding group of followers of a failed messiah came up with it?

Is it so unlikely for Jews to think, that a messiah could “survive” death in some spiritual form without precedent, that a miracle is more likely?

Yes, in the 1st Century A.D. it was so unlikely that religious authorities conspired to kill Jesus precisely because they knew that this would bring His messianic claims and His following to an end.

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Mike Gantt January 16, 2011 at 6:06 am

Is it impossible for Jews to think, that a messiah could “survive” death in some spiritual form to cope with cognitive dissonance? No, the Lubavitch prove, that it is possible.

Larkus (by the way, the comment immediately above was addressed to you, too, though I forgot to type your name. Sorry.)

The Lubavitch case proves, as has been proven in many other cases, that disappointed followers of failed prophecies often spiritualize the prophecies as a way to rationalize their nonfulfillment. My contention is that they got this idea, directly or indirectly, from Jesus’ resurrection (for it was an unheard of strategy for failed messiahs prior to His time), the difference being that His resurrection was the real thing and all since have been counterfeits (His being prophesied as such from the beginning, theirs only invented after the fact to justify false prophecy).

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Mike Gantt January 16, 2011 at 6:15 am

Mike, so, just to recap, I asked you to demonstrate that the NT contains eyewitness testimony to the Resurrection.You couldn’t do it. The only thing, the best thing you could find, is a claim by a man who says he knew people who witnessed it (hearsay), and that he saw a vision of a man he never met when alive.
Do you understand that you may have been fooled by others yet? Do you think it’s possible that others could fool you?  

Tony, it was ungracious and disingenuous of you to invite me to give one example and then, after I complied, use it to say that I only had one example – especially after you had refused – Alice-in-Wonderland style – to even acknowledge what the example said.

I have not been fooled by my brother’s letter, nor by the many additional witnesses cited in his letter, nor by the 26 other letters which corroborate his letter with many more witnesses, nor by the 39 letters that preceded his letter by hundreds and hundreds of years – all testifying to the same essential set of facts.

The people behind these documents have not tried to fool us. They have laid down their lives that we might know the truth.

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Mike Gantt January 16, 2011 at 6:38 am

Challenge him how? By hopping on the next Delta flight out of Corinth?

TRUTHOVERfaith, you seem to have the mistaken notion that because 1st Century folks didn’t have air travel that they were therefore immobile. You should read more history. (Oh, and start with the book of Acts.)

The only thing puzzling is your inability to read Paul’s epistles without your presuppositions that the Gospel stories must be true and they must match Paul because they’re in the Bible.

When I began reading the Bible in my late 20′s as an agnostic, my only presuppositions were that it was a worthy classic of literature and that because people often disagreed about what it said, it must be impossible to understand. My reading of it confirmed my first presupposition as it was indeed elegant writing, but completely overturned my second because, while seemingly impossible to understand in every detail, it nonetheless spoke of central themes with a clarity and coherence that astonished me.

Yep. Those anonymous New Testament writers really offer an honest, objective opinion about a fellow Christian that they never claimed to have actually met.

In the New Testament Paul’s character is explicitly and implicitly acknowledged by Peter, James, the elders at Jerusalem, and believers in various cities. When Paul said farewell to leaders at Ephesus, they wept over his departure.

And some people even make this decision with their human brain.

Whether you want to assign human decision making to the brain or to the heart, it’s still made in the same place – inside the person.

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Tony Hoffman January 16, 2011 at 6:54 am

Gantt: Tony, you read Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15 “He appeared to me also” and understand Paul to mean “He did not appear to me also.” I take it from this that you are also comfortable with such concepts as “up” is “down,” “left” is “right,” and “black” is “white.

I asked for your best example of eyewitness testimony to the Resurrection. You gave me a man who confesses that he was too young to have witnessed it himself, and then hearsay.

A vision of a man who is dead does not make that person an eyewitness to a prior event, but a witness to a vision. We’re out of child territory and entering toddler with this stuff.

I never said you could only come up with one example. Learn. To. Read.

If that is your best example, your others will fail similarly. I just don’t want to waste too much of my time going through a lot of crap, especially seeing as how you appear to be deluded in a way that’s truly awesome.

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Larkus January 16, 2011 at 9:41 am

@Mike Gantt

I asked:

Assuming, that Jesus was seen by his followers as the Messiah before his death,

and assuming that Jesus was the first messiah about which his followers claimed that he “survived” death in some spiritual form.

what would that prove?

and you answered:

It would prove that they got the idea from somewhere. I say they got it from seeing Jesus risen from the dead and hearing Him explain how the Scriptures had been prophesying this all along. Since you don’t think Jesus did those two things, how do you think the apostles got that idea? If the idea was as common among Jews as some of you guys are saying, how come no preceding group of followers of a failed messiah came up with it?

So Jesus’ disciples did come up with a new idea. So what?

People do come up with new ideas all the time.

It doesn’t need a miracles to come up with a new idea. Especially if the new idea consists of transfering an old idea (other heroes/gods “survived” death in some spiritual form) into some new context (our messiah “survived” death in some spiritual form). Transfer is nothing miraculous. Transfer doesn’t need to happen, but transfer can happen.

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ildi January 16, 2011 at 10:00 am

Thus where an extraordinary claim has been made, extraordinary evidence has been provided.

Hearsay, visions and post hoc prophecies do not constitute evidence, much less extraordinary evidence.

Kaelik, you write a lot of words ….

error! error! does not compute! unable to process new data! system rebooting..

…but you still haven’t explained how Jesus’ apostles were the first Jews to promote the idea that the Messiah died a humiliating death followed by resurrection and that this was fulfillment of the OT messianic prophecies if Jesus didn’t actually rise from the dead and give them that idea.

I lost track, Tony; how many comments did it take to trigger? I don’t think three was right; maybe it’s a timed function?

My contention is that they got this idea, directly or indirectly, from Jesus’ resurrection (for it was an unheard of strategy for failed messiahs prior to His time)

This is an out-and-out lie. Prior to the beginning of this interminable thread I would have called you misinformed, but you’ve been given example of how this is not true, so at this point you are lying. Or so deluded that you truly cannot absorb any information that counteracts your meme. I know that you consider yourself to be the only true arbiter of biblical interpretation, but maybe if you hear it from one of your own?

“The resurrection myths about Jesus;” a Progressive Christian interpretation

The gospel of Mark was written in those tumultuous times (most likely about the year 70 CE in Syria) by an anonymous author who was not an eyewitness to the life of Jesus, nor did he have access to first-hand witnesses because they were by now dead. Mark’s author felt compelled to give the faithful hope by writing a biography of the earthly Jesus. His gospel (i.e. “good news”) would explain God’s plan for them through a descriptive life of Jesus, his martyrdom, resurrection and promise to come again. Thus began the literalist and eventually orthodox approach to the faith so familiar to Christians today.

But where would the author of Mark (hereafter referred to as Mark) find the details for his Jesus? They were not found in Paul’s writings that Paul said were received in a revelation from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-12), or in other epistles. There were some early oral traditions, and likely some written sayings of Jesus emerging by the sixth decade, but written biographical material was scant or non-existent. Had this material been available, Paul surely would have used it to help convert non-believers (e.g. when Paul debated with others about whether Jewish dietary laws had to apply to converts, and argued that they did not, he could have clinched his argument by quoting the words of Jesus now found in Mark: “nothing that goes into a man from outside can defile him.” (Mk. 7:15). However, Paul did not know this saying). Mark, being educated in Greek, set out to write his heroic biography according to the traditional model of Aristoxenus, namely: a miraculous or unusual birth; revealing childhood episode(s); a summary of wise teachings; wondrous deeds; and a martyrdom or noble death. Mark describes all but the first, although the later gospels of Matthew and Luke add the miraculous birth narratives (see also my article “Myths Surrounding the Birth of Jesus” in this website), and they also added resurrection details.

It is worth noting that as Mark set about to transform Paul’s humble/obedient, dying/rising Christ (Philippians 2:5-11) into the historical Jesus, he wrote in an era with different religions and pagan mystery cults that had hero myths similar to the Greek biographical model as well. The lives of god-man deities such as Osiris, Horus, Dionysus, Attis, Adonis, Bacchus and Mithras have many close parallels to the Jesus of the gospels.

Speaking of which…

You should read more history. (Oh, and start with the book of Acts.)

Lucky for me I have the super-duper extra-strength irony meter guaranteed to work up to eleventy!!11!!!!

Whether you want to assign human decision making to the brain or to the heart, it’s still made in the same place – inside the person.

Doubly so when your head us up your ass…

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Larkus January 16, 2011 at 10:13 am

@Mike Gantt

Everything is unheard of, until it is heard of. Being first to have an idea doesn’t require divine intervention.

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Kaelik January 16, 2011 at 10:15 am

Kaelik, you write a lot of words but you still haven’t explained how Jesus’ apostles were the first Jews to promote the idea that the Messiah died a humiliating death followed by resurrection and that this was fulfillment of the OT messianic prophecies if Jesus didn’t actually rise from the dead and give them that idea.  

Mike, you write a lot of words, but you still haven’t explained how Osiris’s apostles were the first egyptians to promote the idea that the King of All Egypt died a humiliating death followed by resurrection and that this was a fulfillment of egyptian prophecies if Osiris didn’t actually rise from the dead them that idea?

Once again, We’ve been over this. Lots of people have come up with the idea that someone came back to life. There is no reason to think that Jews are any different from Egyptians/Indians/Chinese. Coming up with an idea happens all the time. Rarely are those ideas true. In this case, it is obvious to any person with even a modicum of reading skill that Jesus didn’t fulfill any of the prophecies he is claimed to fulfill with his resurrection. Coming up with a false idea is not evidence that the idea is true.

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Larkus January 16, 2011 at 10:21 am

@ildi

It may be true, that there were myths about heroes/gods, that were victorious over death in some form, but they were not about messiahs!

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Rob January 16, 2011 at 10:22 am

Doubly so when your head us up your ass…  

Well played sir.

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Luke Muehlhauser January 16, 2011 at 11:24 am

Larkus,

Lol.

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NakkiNyan January 16, 2011 at 11:28 am

@Mike Gantt
No your analogy is severely flawed.

If you saw in a 100 year old book that someone would fall down the stairs and her neighbor which you don’t know personally said she fell down the stairs would you be warranted in believing it? maybe but you would try calling your mother just to check.

Now for a good analogy:
You saw in a 100 year old book that someone would fall down the stairs and her neighbor which you don’t know personally said she fell down the stairs and she was already buried. You look for an obituary and find none. You then see your mother come home 3 days later with a cast on.

Was she dead and buried for 3 days and then resurrected or was she in the hospital for 3 days? The neighbor insists she was. Should you take this person’s word for it or investigate?

Or better yet, sure there are others who say that she was buried but all the stories are different and some could not have happened because the circumstances in the stories make the other stories impossible. Maybe they are all wrong but instead are trying to fulfill this 100 year old story to make you give them money.

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Mike Gantt January 16, 2011 at 1:48 pm

@Mike GanttEverything is unheard of, until it is heard of. Being first to have an idea doesn’t require divine intervention.  (Quote)

Larkus,
Yes, you keep saying that. But until and unless you are able to give a human explanation for how Jesus’ apostles hit on this idea that had eluded all other Jews in similar situations, and how it just so happened, coincidence of coincidences, to fulfill all the OT messianic prophecies, then you give reasonable people no reasonable alternative to the quite reasonable divine explanation.

I say that the divine explanation is eminently reasonable for this simple reason: if there is a God, He’s capable of raising someone from the dead. If there’s no God, then being raised from the dead is impossible. What’s to get in a knot about?

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Mike Gantt January 16, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Coming up with an idea happens all the time.

Kaelik,
Then why can’t you or anyone else on this board come up with an idea for how Jesus’ apostles got the idea that crucifixion-resurrection was the perfect way to fulfill all the OT prophecies when no one else ever had? You keep saying it was easy – which only indicates that you have no appreciation for those prophecies.

People are fascinated with how Ray Kroc launched McDonald’s, or how Walt Disney birthed Mickey Mouse, or Sam Walton started Wal-Mart, yet none of you guys seem to have any historical curiosity about how the God-story whose success you hate so much was founded by it entrepreneurs, as you would have it.

In this case, it is obvious to any person with even a modicum of reading skill that Jesus didn’t fulfill any of the prophecies he is claimed to fulfill with his resurrection.

Here is but a sampling of many: Deuteronomy 18:15; Psalm 2; Psalm 16; Psalm 110; Micah 2:13; Malachi 4:2

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Larkus January 16, 2011 at 2:37 pm

@Mike Gantt

New ideas usually have eluded others in similar situations, until someone hit on them.

How was it that Samuel B. Fay hit on the idea for the paperclip that had eluded all others in similar situations although wire, as well as paper were around for hundreds of years?

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ildi January 16, 2011 at 2:38 pm

But until and unless you are able to give a human explanation for how Jesus’ apostles hit on this idea that had eluded all other Jews in similar situations, and how it just so happened, coincidence of coincidences, to fulfill all the OT messianic prophecies, then you give reasonable people no reasonable alternative to the quite reasonable divine explanation.

Here you go, lying liar for Jesus:

Ancient Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection

A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is causing a quiet stir in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it may speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days.

To make his case about the importance of the stone, Mr. Knohl focuses especially on line 80, which begins clearly with the words “L’shloshet yamin,” meaning “in three days.” The next word of the line was deemed partially illegible by Ms. Yardeni and Mr. Elitzur, but Mr. Knohl, who is an expert on the language of the Bible and Talmud, says the word is “hayeh,” or “live” in the imperative. It has an unusual spelling, but it is one in keeping with the era.

Two more hard-to-read words come later, and Mr. Knohl said he believed that he had deciphered them as well, so that the line reads, “In three days you shall live, I, Gabriel, command you.”

To whom is the archangel speaking? The next line says “Sar hasarin,” or prince of princes. Since the Book of Daniel, one of the primary sources for the Gabriel text, speaks of Gabriel and of “a prince of princes,” Mr. Knohl contends that the stone’s writings are about the death of a leader of the Jews who will be resurrected in three days.

Mr. Knohl said that it was less important whether Simon was the messiah of the stone than the fact that it strongly suggested that a savior who died and rose after three days was an established concept at the time of Jesus. He notes that in the Gospels, Jesus makes numerous predictions of his suffering and New Testament scholars say such predictions must have been written in by later followers because there was no such idea present in his day.

But there was, he said, and “Gabriel’s Revelation” shows it.

“His mission is that he has to be put to death by the Romans to suffer so his blood will be the sign for redemption to come,” Mr. Knohl said. “This is the sign of the son of Joseph. This is the conscious view of Jesus himself. This gives the Last Supper an absolutely different meaning. To shed blood is not for the sins of people but to bring redemption to Israel.”

Reasonable…. you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

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Mike Gantt January 16, 2011 at 2:38 pm

a 100 year old book

Your scenario only makes sense to you because you are insufficiently familiar with the 100 year old book. Its age is not its shame, but rather its glory. For its timeless wisdom outlasts all others.

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Tony Hoffman January 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Then why can’t you or anyone else on this board come up with an idea for how Jesus’ apostles got the idea that crucifixion-resurrection was the perfect way to fulfill all the OT prophecies when no one else ever had?

How did they come up with the idea? “They made it up.”
Why didn’t anyone else do it sooner? “Shame.”

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Mike Gantt January 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Ancient Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection

@ildi
Thanks for posting this article! It confirms what I have been saying about the scholarly consensus that no crucified-resurrected Jewish Messiah was ever posited before Christ. Maybe this stone will turn out to be authenticated or maybe it won’t. But even if it does, the contention that it actually posits the crucifixion-resurrection of the Jewish Messiah is already disputed as you will see on its Wikipedia article.

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Larkus January 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Then why can’t you or anyone else on this board come up with an idea for how Jesus’ apostles got the idea that crucifixion-resurrection was the perfect way to fulfill all the OT prophecies when no one else ever had?

How did they come up with the idea? You wrote earlier in this thread: “[...] disappointed followers of failed prophecies often spiritualize the prophecies as a way to rationalize their nonfulfillment.”

Crucifixion-resurrection was the perfect way to fulfill all the OT prophecies? It is not surprising, that the followers of a crucified messiah would consider crucifixion-resurrection as the perfect way to fulfill all the OT prophecies.

When no one else ever had? The article, that ildi cited calls into question, that no other “disappointed followers of failed prophecies” resp. messiah did “spiritualize the prophecies as a way to rationalize their nonfulfillment.” resp. the death of the messiah. Do you know, how many messiahs there have been before Jesus, and what became of them and their followers? How can you know how their followers did or did not deal with their deaths?

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Mike Gantt January 16, 2011 at 4:06 pm

How was it that Samuel B. Fay hit on the idea for the paperclip that had eluded all others in similar situations although wire, as well as paper were around for hundreds of years?

Larkus,
There weren’t a thousand years of prophecies about the invention of the paper clip.

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Mike Gantt January 16, 2011 at 4:11 pm

When no one else ever had? The article, that ildi cited calls into question, that no other “disappointed followers of failed prophecies” resp. messiah did “spiritualize the prophecies as a way to rationalize their nonfulfillment.”

Larkus,
Indeed the article does call the premise into question, just as you and others on this board have. The only difference is that the article acknowledges the widespread consensus on Christ’s being the first crucified-resurrected Jewish Messiah story, while no one on this board (except perhaps ildi who posted the article) has acknowledged this. In fact, some have denied it…vehemently. I hope they’ll read the article and adjust their positions accordingly.

As for whether or not this stone and its purported interpretation even succeed in overturning the widespread scholarly consensus on the subject – well, that is far from assured.

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Larkus January 16, 2011 at 4:17 pm

How was it that Samuel B. Fay hit on the idea for the paperclip that had eluded all others in similar situations although wire, as well as paper were around for hundreds of years?

Larkus,
There weren’t a thousand years of prophecies about the invention of the paper clip. Mike Gantt(Quote)

That’s why it took so long?

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Mike Gantt January 16, 2011 at 4:20 pm

How did they come up with the idea? “They made it up.”
Why didn’t anyone else do it sooner? “Shame.”

Tony, the resurrection is far more believable than that!

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Larkus January 16, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Mike Gantt,

you keep on mentioning “crucified-resurrected”. There are more ways, that a messiah could die, he could be stabbed, for example.

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Mike Gantt January 16, 2011 at 4:26 pm

By the way, the title of this post is flawed (and perhaps someone has already pointed this out; if so, my apologies for not catching it and giving you credit).

Titles which could have been true:
Why I Find the Resurrection Unbelievable
Why Some People Find the Resurrection Unbelievable
Why I Wish the Resurrection Was Unbelievable

However, that the resurrection is believable is amply demonstrated by the number of people down through the ages and including today who believe it.

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Mike Gantt January 16, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Mike Gantt,you keep on mentioning “crucified-resurrected”. There are more ways, that a messiah could die, he could be stabbed, for example.  (Quote)

Larkus,
That may be possible. However, the essential point that defied Jewish expectation was that He would die in humiliation. They expected their Messiah to be a triumphant leader. Of course, that part’s true in spades for Jesus – it’s just that the suffering had to come first and the glory had to be heavenly (that is, eternal…and not fleeting as it would have been on earth).

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ildi January 16, 2011 at 5:01 pm

It confirms what I have been saying about the scholarly consensus that no crucified-resurrected Jewish Messiah was ever posited before Christ.

Do you even keep track of your own arguments? You have been arguing that this idea was so unique and foreign to the Jews that the only ‘reasonable’ source was the reanimated corpse of their beloved leader. You discounted the much more reasonable hypothesis that the idea was borrowed from mythology common in the surrounding cultures. Now you’re discounting evidence there was already an executed-resurrected-messiah myth floating around among the Jews themselves.

Suddenly you’re interested in ‘scholarly consensus?’ I thought you were following your heart on this. Professor Knohl had already compiled evidence in his book The Messiah Before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls published in 2000, so the finding of the stone was icing on the cake.

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Timothy Underwood January 16, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Must start Victor Hugo cult….

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Mike Gantt January 17, 2011 at 1:23 am

ildi

You have been arguing that this idea was so unique and foreign to the Jews that the only ‘reasonable’ source was the reanimated corpse of their beloved leader.

Yes, I have been. And I continue to. (By the way, “reanimated corpse” is inconsistent with the way Jesus’ apostles described the resurrected Jesus.)

You discounted the much more reasonable hypothesis that the idea was borrowed from mythology common in the surrounding cultures.

How is that more reasonable? If you wanted to get Jews to accept somone as Messiah, the last thing you’d do is borrow mythology from the surrounding culture. Jews looking for the Messiah prided themselves on resisting foreign influences. The surest way to get a candidate for Messiah rejected would be to infuse your story with a pagan myth.

Now you’re discounting evidence there was already an executed-resurrected-messiah myth floating around among the Jews themselves.

It’s not just me discounting the professor’s interpretation of the stone – it’s the scholarly consensus. Have you not read the Wikipedia article? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabriel's_Revelation)

Suddenly you’re interested in ‘scholarly consensus?’ I thought you were following your heart on this.

Why do you think there’s a conflict between the two? Genuine biblical faith is not a departure from reason; rather it is the logical outcome of reason.

People who do not have faith have either never been presented with the evidence or else have been unreasonable in their analysis of the evidence.

I don’t base my faith on what the scholars say; I base it on what the prophets and the apostles say. Nonetheless, I consider what scholars say because their findings can add color or light to what the prophets and apostles have said.

Professor Knohl had already compiled evidence in his book The Messiah Before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls published in 2000, so the finding of the stone was icing on the cake.

For him it was the icing on the cake. Unfortunately for him, he hasn’t been able to get the scholarly community to eat his cake.

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Larkus January 17, 2011 at 2:50 am

Mike Gantt,

how many messiahs have there been before Jesus of Nazareth? How about this list of messiah claimants? Is there any messiah claimant missing on this list?

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Mike Gantt January 17, 2011 at 2:57 am

Mike Gantt,how many messiahs have there been before Jesus of Nazareth? How about this list of messiah claimants? Is there any messiah claimant missing on this list?  (Quote)

Larkus,
I’m not a Bible scholar and couldn’t opine on whether or not that list is exhaustive. I can, however, say that it’s another helpful link that has been added to this discussion.

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TRUTHOVERfaith January 17, 2011 at 3:18 am

Mike Gantt
“..you seem to have the mistaken notion that because 1st century folks didn’t have air travel that they were therefore immobile.”

No, Mike. Only that the average person living at that time probably had other, more pressing concerns that undertaking a 1000+ mile donkey trip to investigate some supernatural claim , in a time where supernatural claims were readily accepted and common.

Mike Gantt
“…while seemingly impossible to understand in every detail, it nonetheless spoke of central themes with a clarity and coherence that astonished me.”

Was it the talking donkey story that did it for you? Or the guy swallowed by the big fish?
The detailed descriptions of burning animal intestines and feces as a pleasing odor to the Lord?Maybe you’re just a big fan of barbaric, repugnant,revolting scenes of human/blood sacrifice?

Mike Gantt
“In the New Testament Pauls character is explicitly and implicitly acknowledged by Peter,James, the elders at Jerusalem and believers in various cities. When Paul said farewell to leaders at Ephesus, they wept over his departure.”

Wow! You’ve really enlightened me. I wasn’t aware of the amazing firsthand accounts that you just described. Letters from the hand of Peter and James! And from believers in various cities! Have you informed some credible historical society of your amazing discovery? This is earth shaking news, man. You must do something!

And as far as reading history goes, perhaps you need to read some books on the historical method, on how historians try to determine the historicity of events versus mythology.

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Larkus January 17, 2011 at 4:00 am

@ Mike Gantt

I wrote:

Mike Gantt, how many messiahs have there been before Jesus of Nazareth? How about this list of messiah claimants? Is there any messiah claimant missing on this list?

You wrote:

Larkus,

I’m not a Bible scholar and couldn’t opine on whether or not that list is exhaustive. I can, however, say that it’s another helpful link that has been added to this discussion.

So if I understand you right, you can’t opine, how many messiahs there have been before Jesus of Nazareth, but you can opine, that “no other disappointed followers of failed prophecies” resp. messiahs [before Jesus of Nazareth] did “spiritualize the prophecies as a way to rationalize their nonfulfillment.”

Please explain this discrepancy.

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Mike Gantt January 17, 2011 at 6:54 am

TRUTHOVERfaith

Only that the average person living at that time probably had other, more pressing concerns that undertaking a 1000+ mile donkey trip to investigate some supernatural claim , in a time where supernatural claims were readily accepted and common.

Aside from all the commercial activity of the cities lining the Mediterranean, there were teachers that went from city to city bringing news of Jerusalem and other cities. Morever, Jews from all these same cities traveled to Jerusalem annually for the celebration of select feasts in the temple there. Almost all New Testament teaching activity took place in or around Jewish synagogues throughout the Mediterranean world. Movement and interaction was great among peoples of that time. It is likely that most Jews heard about Jesus in their local synaogogue from someone who had himself been to Jerusalem during those days – especially those of His crucifixion, resurrection, and asecension which all took place at Jewish feast times.

Was it the talking donkey story that did it for you?

No, it was more passages like, “The good that I want to do, I don’t; and the evil I don’t want to do, I do,” which accurately and helpfully described the human experience of wanting to do right in a world that often doesn’t.

And as far as reading history goes, perhaps you need to read some books on the historical method, on how historians try to determine the historicity of events versus mythology.

You seem unaware that there are many credentialed and respected historians who regarded the New Testament as a set of fine historical documents…just as valid as any other documents that have come down to us from antiquity.

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Mike Gantt January 17, 2011 at 6:58 am

So if I understand you right, you can’t opine, how many messiahs there have been before Jesus of Nazareth, but you can opine, that “no other “disappointed followers of failed prophecies” resp. messiah did “spiritualize the prophecies as a way to rationalize their nonfulfillment.” resp. the death of the messiah.”
Please explain this discrepancy.

Larkus,
I wasn’t opining on that point. I was reportingto you 1) what the New Testament reveals on that subject, and 2) what the scholarly consensus (i.e. opinion) is on that subject.

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Mike Gantt January 17, 2011 at 7:01 am

It’s time for me to sign off of this blog.

Thanks to all of you who engaged with me here.

Going forward, I will be happy to entertain any and all comments or questions you have on my blog and answer them there.

Best wishes to all of you.

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Larkus January 17, 2011 at 7:22 am

@Mike Gantt

Best wishes to you, too.

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ildi January 17, 2011 at 7:28 am

It’s not just me discounting the professor’s interpretation of the stone – it’s the scholarly consensus. Have you not read the Wikipedia article?

Wiki? Really? Don’t get me wrong, I use Wikipedia a lot, but as a starting point. I’m no Biblical scholar, but my google-fu extends further than wiki:

From a December 2, 2000 New York Times article:

Working independently, Michael O. Wise, a Christian professor at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minn., and Israel Knohl, a Jewish professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem have recently published books arguing that some of the scroll texts were written by a suffering, Jesus-like messiah who lived at least 50 years before Jesus was born.

The two disagree about who this first messiah was as well as about other particulars. To Mr. Wise, author of ”The First Messiah: Investigating the Savior Before Christ” (HarperSanFrancisco, 1999), the messiah of the scrolls may have been a man named Judah who died a violent death around 72 B.C. To Mr. Knohl, who wrote ”The Messiah Before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” published by the University of California Press in October, he was most likely an Essene named Menahem who lived a generation later and was killed by Romans during the social upheaval that followed King Herod’s death in 4 B.C.

From a review of Kohl’s book by Eibert J C Tigchelaar of the Qumran Institute:

Ultimately we have to return to the Qumran hymns, one of the few pieces of solid evidence. Unfortunately the texts of the two versions of the hymns are incomplete, and some of the possible references to Isaiah 53 consist of half-broken words. Nonetheless, it is virtually certain that the concept of the suffering servant is combined with that of angelic or divine status. Of course this does not prove that Jesus’ predictions about his suffering are authentic. Aside from all speculative theories, Knohl’s booklet convincingly demonstrates that the Christian merging of the “son of man” and “suffering servant” concepts was not entirely unprecedented in Early Judaism.

From the Fall 2008 issue of vision.org titled The Dead Sea Stone, or “Gabriel’s Revelation”:
 

But Knohl is not referring to Jesus Christ. In 2000, he published a book titled The Messiah Before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls. His peers described the book’s thesis as “daring,” “bold” and “provocative.” One predicted that Knohl’s ideas would “elicit a storm of controversy.” Such a comment is understandable in that a widely held view in biblical scholarship is that people who lived during that time, referred to as the Second Temple period, had no expectation of a soon-coming messiah as expressed by the later New Testament writers. A common claim is that the idea of a savior—a “suffering servant”—was added later to justify the death of Jesus as Messiah.

Knohl’s claims are in many respects problematic, but they do falsify the idea that no one in the pre-Christian Jewish community expected a messiah. And Knohl is not alone in his views. Other researchers have also written of the messianic aspects of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other literature of the Second Temple period. Brant Pitre, in his volume Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile: Restoration Eschatology and the Origin of the Atonement, sees the idea of a suffering messiah as having been widespread, based on other writings of that time. One reviewer of Pitre’s book opined that his “analysis and conclusions . . . have quite huge implications” and that they “at least demand that the evidence be seriously reevaluated” (John A. Dennis, Review of Biblical Literature, June 2008).

I think for our purposes this pretty much puts into serious question your central thesis that the idea of a suffering/executed-resurrected Jewish messiah was such a radical and unprecedented idea that it only could have come from a reanimated corpse (or visitation speaking from beyond the grave).

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ildi January 17, 2011 at 8:29 am

Going forward, I will be happy to entertain any and all comments or questions you have on my blog and answer them there.

[Brave Sir Robin ran away. Bravely ran away, away!]

This has been fun, Mike. Probably not your intention, but I’m even more convinced than before that Christianity has the same roots in strife and unrest and the need for a better life mixed with hero/savior myths and charismatic leaders to move them into public acceptance as all the other world religions.

Thanks!

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Andrew EC January 17, 2011 at 3:35 pm

And shockingly — by which I mean, of course, not shockingly at all — comments at Mike Gantt’s blog are moderated. Kind of helps you look less foolish when you can censor the opposition….

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Rosita January 18, 2011 at 10:45 am

Did a quick Google and found a PDF on the publisher’s site. There is a KCA map!  

Interesting read. The arguments got “darker” and more fanciful the more I read. I made the mistake of assuming that the document represented a balanced viewpoint. That got dispelled fairly quickly, but not until I had tried desperately to see it from that perspective. Fail!

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