Ben, the current Christian to visit these pages with his claims, has declared that he has evidence that Jesus Christ, the son of his god and the supposed savior of humankind existed. He has directed me to a series of guest posts on his blog that supposedly contain this evidence (this post will deal with the first two, and yes, it’s very much the same stuff I’ve posted before. This is for Ben to comment on since he refuses to post my comments on his blog). He’s also claimed that this evidence is also in “academic libraries”, a recognizable and typical logical fallacy called appeal to authority. If Ben has actually gone to academic libraries, he’d realize that they are not filled only with verified claims. An academic library will have those as well as long superseded claims, that have been demonstrated as false by additional research and complete guesses by authors. Ben may have a background in physics and math, but he does not seem to have a background in research or the writing of academic papers.
Hope against hope, I went out to look at the “evidence” that Ben thinks is so persuasive just in case it was something new. Nope, nothing new at all. It’s a rehash of William Lane Craig’s nonsense and other apologists. Their claims are only valid if you have the presupposition that Christianity is true and if you do not consider how your arguments affect your own religion. In other words, I have never seen one person convert because of the supposed evidence these folks offer, deciding that JC really did exist from the evidence and then deciding to worship him. So if you’ve seen rebuttals to those poorly constructed claims by good ol’ WLC, you’ve seen the rest of the posts on this topic here and don’t need to waste your time.
Ben, you do need to come here and show me how you think this nonsense is actual evidence and rebut my points. That is, if you really do think it’s that great. If not, then you should be willing to admit that and not just ignore how it fails in order to keep your willful ignorance intact.
I’ve found, in my decades of dealing with the false claims of Christians, that they often invite guest posters when they want to trot out a claim but not take personal responsibility for it. They believe that this tactic will give them plausible deniability when it comes to needing to defend the claims made by the guest poster. They will often turn around and when confronted with the failure of the claims claim that “well, *I* don’t believe that, it was just the “guest poster”. So you can’t expect me to defend what they said.” Is that what Ben is doing? That remains to be seen.
Christians like Ben, are correct that if their supposed savior can be shown not to have existed as claimed, then their religion is worthless. Even Paul acknowledged this in 1 Corinthians 15, and his only answer is since Christians exist, then the religion must be true. Like Paul, modern Christians have a problem in that their claims are not based on reality, but on stories told to them. Paul relies on hearsay, and hearsay that not all of the “gospels” agree on. Paul runs into the problem that people that supposedly were around for the claimed events don’t even believe in them. Modern Christians who live thousands of years after such events have it even harder, and as we’ve seen, have to resort to apologetics again and again. They sometimes try to claim that they are only trying to claim a historical Jesus, but it is more than clear that they do not believe in some itinerate Jewish man who claimed he was the messiah, did no miracles, and did nothing to be noticed and also believe that this human is savior of the human race. They believe in a divine being that did miracles, and *that* Jesus, the one that Peter supposedly denied three times, is no where to be found.
First post by Ben’s guest starts with the poster claiming that it is the weight of the evidence that will turn the tide in his favor to show that it is more probable that the resurrection occurred than it didn’t. This is a remarkable “tell” to show that the evidence itself is not terribly convincing at all, even to Christians. Even for them, it’s only “probably” true, but for them faith is not enough so they must gin up claims to convince themselves of such things.
Since we know that the claims of the gospels were held suspect by people perhaps only 60 years after the supposed events, this shows that the poster’s claim that the claims of the gospels were “common knowledge” is false. The poster claims that the gospels are “eyewitness testimony”, which can be shown false by simply reading the gospels. If it were from a certain person’s perspective, who was watching the events at the tomb, events that are completely different from gospel to gospel? Why are they so wrong in number of men/angels, who entered the tomb, what was found there, etc? The claims of “eyewitness testimony” presented as if eyewitness testimony is never questioned is also an indication that the poster has little knowledge about just how inaccurate eyewitness testimony is.
Now, unsurprisingly the poster does the expected. He first tries to claim just how wonderfully accurate the stories are and then turns on a dime to make the usual excuse that the errors are what make it true, because *only* real humans would make such mistakes. A perfect story would be indication that it was made up. As always, Christians can be light on their feet when they must contradict themselves. They unfortunately don’t realize that their gospels are a great example of the game of “telephone” where a phrase is whispered along a line of participants, and it gets mangled by the time it gets to the end. Discrepancies *do* invalidate eyewitness testimony. Anyone who’s been at a criminal trial knows this. Unfortunately, the poster seems to never have participating in one of those. Perhaps if he did, he’d know not to try to lie to the jury as he is attempting in his post.
This poster also tries to claim that the “evidence of the empty tomb” is very important in his second post. Alas, for our poster, he doesn’t seem to realize that no one knows where this supposed tomb is and there is no reason to assume that this story is an actual occurence. There are at least three claimants for where this magical place, the most important place in Christendom is and no one agrees. The poster assumes that there is an actual tomb when there has never been one shown to exist. All we have are details in a story and nothing to support them, much like we have a lot of details about how Isis resurrected Osiris but not a scrap of actual evidence to support that claim either.
Details can make a story seem more real, make it more relatable, but it does not make it true. I would also say that the continual improvement to the story makes it interesting too, like a story told by a fisherman. The gospel of Mark has very little about the resurrection. The women come upon the tomb, find it empty and run. The last few verses after that scene, with its claims of immunity of poison, etc is not on the earliest copies of Mark. Then we have more and more additions, in the later gospels. JC showing up unrecognizable, the apostles coming to the tomb, the finding of the burial cloths. Then JC shows up after the whole thing, hundreds of people come to see him which leads to the point that the author of John has JC doing so many things after he was resurrected, the “whole world” could not contain the books about those stories. My, JC got busy after he was dead, but again, for the claims of so many events by JC existing, it’s again curious that so many people doubted the stories about him so soon after these events supposedly happened. It’s gotten so bad that Paul has to claim that JC came to him but no one else could see JC, since well wouldn’t it be embarrassing if he got the description wrong.
It also seems that our poster has no idea what “historical evidence” actually means. He wants to claim that stories recorded in one single source is incontrovertible historical evidence and he wants to claim that the belief of other people in stories is evidence of the truth of the claims. If this were so, then the claims of the Book of the Dead would be just as much evidence for the Egyptian gods as would their belief in those gods. Thus, the Christian God is just as “probably” real as Amon-Re, Isis, etc. Our poster also claims that since women were used as eyewitnesses in the tale, this means that it must be true, though he also admits that it was no problem for women to be used as witnesses. If there is no problem then claiming that their use is nothing special as he would also try to claim. Christians often have a problem with the wanting their cake and eating it too in their need for evidence to support their flagging faith.
Our poster also wants to claim that since the apostles preached in Jerusalem, the story must be true since it would be easy enough to find contradicting evidence and there was none found. There was no body of Jesus to be found so, per the poster, it *must* have been magically resurrected. The Jews who were written to have a “polemic” must have really said that too. All of what Silverswiper claims is based on the assumption that there was a JC in the first place. There is no evidence that any of the story happened. No one noticed the supposed earthquake or sky darkening. No one noticed the dead “saints” walking the streets. No one noticed a man who supposedly gathered a Roman legion’s worth of men (plus their women and children) just outside of an occupied city. No one noticed a man raising the dead or causing trouble in the temple. The Jews don’t notice JC either, so it’s rather hard for them to be claimed to “know” that the tomb was empty when this supposed messiah avoided their notice (yes, there is one mention of a Joshua who was a sorcerer, funny how he was hanged by the Jews rather than cruxified by the Romans and didn’t come back at all).
It was all in a story. I may as well say that all of the events of Die Hard took place in reality too, and it’s just magic that no one saw helicopters crash or a terrorist fall 30 stories in Los Angeles. Why Hans Gruber must have resurrected too!
This sentence by the poster is probably the best one out of these first two posts about supposed evidence. “The empty tomb is a well-supported historical fact. It is easily explained by Jesus’ actual resurrection.” Nice circular reasoning there, isn’t it? The empty tomb is supported by the resurrection which is supported by the empty tomb. But again, we have no tomb at all to start with.
Second piece of this review of supposed evidence will be up when Ben’s guest poster finishes his four part series.
87 thoughts on “Not Polite Dinner Conversation – Yep, just as I thought, nothing new as “evidence””
A consummate essay, Club. “The empty tomb is a well-supported historical fact”…. This guy clearly has an odd definition of “history” and “fact” in his head. By that logic The Cat in the Hat is real! Wohoo!
Apologetics just doesn’t get any better. I wonder when the penny will drop for these people and they realize that if the story they believe in were true then they really shouldn’t have to be working so desperately hard to make excuses.
Club, on another matter, I have no idea how you feel about this subject but there’s an abortion debate going on over on Prayson’s blog, and the Christian crazy being demonstrated is beyond terrible. If it’s something you’re up for here’s the link.
Thanks, both of you. I’m guessing you both know that the “evidence” gets even worse, which I will be addressing as soon as Ben’s guest finishes his claims up. It’s always a sad thing when “sincerity of belief” is cited as evidence.
I ran across Stephen Jay Gould’s definition of fact on another blog:
“In science, ‘fact’ can only mean ‘confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.’ I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.”
“Fact” pretty much means that in any realm. It is the purest meanest deception to try to claim otherwise.
I’d seen Gould’s description a while back, and it is truly perfect. Something that needs to be repeated and presented to these young bright-eyed apologists who’re simply making fools out of themselves.
I did leave a comment on Prayson’s blog about abortion. He’s such a lovely example of how Christianity makes no human being better. His lies are quite amazing.
If he doesn’t allow it up or removes my post, I’ll post it as my own blog post.
Cool. I feel that kind of blind, religiously inspired position has to be confronted.
Ben, when I said scientists make poor theologians, I gave two examples why this was so Sir Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal. Now tell me atheists who you think make poor theologians unless you are implying that all scientists are atheists!
I have said before that scientists make poor theologians. Look at Blaise Pascal and Sir Isaac Newton. If Ben would concentrate on physics and math and leave apologetics to lazy people he would be in his turf.
As to the gospels being eyewitnesses, anyone who says that hasn’t read the chapter 1 of Luke.
I find that atheists make poor theologians. I could be wrong on this.
You definitely are wrong on that!
To claim someone is a “poor theologian” is to claim that “someone doesn’t agree with my interpretation”.
Not at all. Nevertheless, I hope the irony of your indignation is obvious.
Seems not. Please to tell us about this supposed irony.
Makagutu claims that (A) “scientists make poor theologians”. I countered with (B) “atheists make poor theologians.” After all, it would seem that one ought to at the very least believe in the reality of the object of one’s study.
How can one take offense at B without also taking offense at A? I think they are both stereotypes and should both be rejected.
Ben, when I said scientists make poor theologians, I gave two examples why this was so Sir Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal. Now tell me atheists who you think make poor theologians unless you are implying that all scientists are atheists!
Er, why exactly did Pascal make a poor theologian?
I find that Pascal was a poor theologian because his famous “wager” fails rather badly when it is pointed out that it only works if there is one god of certain attributes.
Many scientists who try to also be theologians suffer from a lot of compartmentalization and they do not apply the careful thought they use in their science to their religion.
You should read his pensees where he argues for faith after telling us to abandon reason. On second thought, I think he was a good one, asked people to believe contrary to reason
You should probably be more careful when passing judgement on a thinker like Pascal. I think he was an excellent theologian; his account of sin, for instance, is one of the best going. Which is not to say I agree with him on every point. Certainly I’m not familiar with the details of his epistemology, but I suspect matters may be a little more complicated than makagatu presents them as being. As for the wager fragment, I would say that it is in large part an analysis of the nature of belief, and the degree of control we can exercise over what we believe – to that extent, I find it plausible and interesting. Nor do I believe the more apologetic element is simply worthless.
Suppose you’ve fallen down a well. You judge that the probability that someone should be walking by is low, but your expected utility if someone hears you shouting is extremely high. By far the most rational course of action, in this case, is to act as if someone were passing by, and start shouting.
Likewise, suppose you assigned a low, but not merely negligible, probability to the proposition that there is one god with certain attributes (the triple-Os, at least). To enjoy fellowship with such a being, it’s fair to assume, would be pretty great. It’s quite natural to assign such an extremely high expected utility to possibility of such fellowship. If so, then it’s rational to act is there is a god, and so offer prayer and worship and so on. But I agree that the appeal to infinity doesn’t make prayer etc rational in every case. If I assign a finitely small probability to the proposition that hugging this tree will bring me infinite utility (and it’s hard to see why I shouldn’t assign such a value), then by the same token it would become rational to hug the tree, and so on for any possible course of action.
Why should we be more “careful”, Alex? Just because you think he was an excellent theologian? What will happen if we aren’t “careful”? Pascal’s account of sin is as silly as any other theists. It’s no surprise that you insist that you don’t agree with him on every point, because it is no surprise that theists always disagree on what they want to pretend their god really wants, and thus we have hundreds of sects all sure that they and only they have the “truth”. It’s also rather amusing for someone who claims he is such a student of theology that you claim you aren’t “familiar” with the details of someone you think is “excellent”. If you don’t know his details on his theories and ideas, how do you know he is “excellent”? Because you agree with *some* of his stuff?
Makagutu has read and is familiar with Pascal’s epistemology and thus does know more than you about how complicated things may be. He doesn’t just claim that he somehow knows that they simply must be complicated if he disagrees with the conclusions someone else has reached.
Show us how the apologetic element isn’t worthless if you think so, Alex. Vague claims aren’t going to impress many people, and certainly aren’t impressive to people who have actually read the works involved. Many atheists are extremely well-read in theology because we gave the idea of religion all of the chances we could, because it is very hard to give up the belief that one is special in the universe and has a magical being as a best friend. However, the theology and evidence don’t support such concepts.
If I have fallen down a well, why would I judge the probability of someone walking by is low? What is the nature of the environment around me? This is the problem of theistic claims, they make assumptions that cannot be supported by evidence. If I know that I am a thousand miles from any person, the expected utility of shouting is still extremely low, there is no rational reason to yell. If I know that there is no evidence for any magical being, the expected utility of shouting aka prayer is also extremely low and there is no rational reason to believe or pray. I may as well save my resources, voice, energy, and in the case of religion, time, money, effort, in doing something for myself to get anything done.
Now, the problem with Pascal’s Wager is that is assumes only one god and that one is praying to the right one. It ignores the equal possibility that there are other gods and by praying to the wrong one get the “right” one angry at you and thus you suffer. This is where the arrogance of a theist comes into play, assuming that they and only they have the right answer. Unless you can show evidence that other gods don’t exist? Can you, Alex?
We have no evidence to assume the existence of a omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent god, and even theists can’t agree on what exactly their god is. We have hilarious things like the ontological argument which fails so dramatically since it insists that anything we can imagine must exist, which can be shown not to be true at all.
As I said, prayer is rational if you believe that the probability of theism is low but not negligible. The supposed worry about praying to the ‘wrong god’ is a confusion. If you believe that the probability of theism is non-negligible, you believe that the probability that there is one and only one deity is non-negligible. There are interesting issues about reference here, sure, but if theism is true, the unadorned English word ‘god’ should do just fine in picking out the one god that, by hypothesis, there is. You might be worried that there’s a non-negligible probability that Islam is true, and so that you’ll be damned if you don’t believe that Muhammed was God’s messenger. But if you’re going to be damned for that, then that’s what you’re going to be damned for, not for directing prayer towards the ‘wrong god’.
As for Pascal: I don’t know his epistemology well, but I know about his understanding of sin, and that has sufficiently impressed me that I judge him to be an excellent theologian. And no, it’s no surprise that I don’t agree with him at every point – it would be surprising if I agreed with any other human being on every single point. That’s not a problem specific to theology. I *suspect* the matter is more complicated, because I know Pascal to be a brilliant and subtle thinker, and therefore consider it a priori unlikely that all he has to say on the subject of epistemology has been successfully summarised in a single dismissive sentence by some guy on the internet.
Also, you don’t understand the ontological argument. I don’t think it’s an especially good argument, but you would do better to understand it before rejecting it.
Again, Alex, prayer is not rational since there is *no* evidence at all that your god or any god exists. If there is a 0.0000001% (random number I chose) chance that a god exists, we must also consider that there is even a smaller chance that a specific god exists, e.g. your particular version of the Christian god because no one has evidence of their god. Now, there is as much chance or more that quantum mechanics will have all of the air in the room you are in vanish. Do you keep an oxygen tank at hand because it’s rational, per your argument? Do you jaywalk in NYC because it is possible that Spider-Man will swoop down to save you? I’m guessing not, but if your claims that even low possibilities are worthy of action then one should being doing just as I describe.
The problem of praying to the wrong god is not a “confusion” whatever that means. The theist who uses Pascal’s Wager assumes he knows the attributes of a god and that god exists. He discounts that any god that doesn’t fulfill his version. If one believes in the probability of a supernatural being or beings existing is non-negligible, that does not equal that one believes that the existence of only one deity of your version is non-negligible. Those are two entirely separate assumptions: supernatural entities exists versus my supernatural entity is the only one that exists.
You assume that any god will respond to the generic “god” invocation, and as always a theist has no evidence that any gods exist much less that it will react as they imagine. It seems that you are working from the same assumption that the ancient Greeks did with their supposed veneration of any god that they may have missed as related in the story of Acts 17. Now considering that all gods that humanity claims exist are very particular on how they are invoked, why should I think that suddenly your god will do what you say? It’s also great to see you insist that you somehow *know* what someone will be damned for. The Judeo-Christo-Islamic god gets very upset if other gods are prayed to other than him, to the point of killing people for it. You know, “thou shalt not have other gods before me”, directing believers to kill those of your family and household who worship other gods (Deut 13), killing those people itself in Revelation (Rev. 20), etc, etc?
One could also ask why that this god never ever actually helps someone in need? Over all of human history, there is not one instance of magical aid that can be shown to have happened. Lots of claims of “miracles” from all religions but nothing shown to be any more true than the next. So, we have actual reality, no magic has happened, against the possibility that magic could occur which is supported by nothing.
Again, it’s no surprise that you pick and choose what you want to believe is “excellent” theology. Considering that religion is a problem based on absolutes supposedly from a magical omnipotent being, it’s always amusing that theists don’t agree. One would think that if there is some ultimate truth, then there would be no confusion, but that isn’t the case. All of you make the same claims that it’s you that is right and us atheists just see the same claims made in different flavors and none of you can show that you are more right than the next guy.
And it’s again unsurprising that you can’t refute Mak’s statemenet, but make vague claims that he simply must be wrong. It carries over into your vague claim that I also simply don’t understand the ontological argument “correctly” and thus am somehow wrong. Tell me *how* I’m wrong, Alex, don’t just say I am in hopes that your claim will stick and no one will counter it. Explain just how great it is and why if you think it is such a thing. I do understand it quite well and know how and why it fails. Just like the cosmological argument (special pleading at its best), the teleological argument (“intelligent design” when ignoring lovely things like crystal formation) etc. What do you find as a good argument for your god? What would evidence would tell you that your god doesn’t exist?
So you think the probability of theism is negligible. Fair enough, but that doesn’t touch my point, which is that prayer is rational if you think the probability of theism is not negligible.
Assume for the sake of argument that there is one omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenovolent creator. The idea is that it would be rational to seek fellowship with such a being. How does one seek fellowship with such a being? By prayer. Even if you are worried that this deity might be of an exclusivist bent, there’s still no reason to think that generic prayer would be a special risk. When deities are portrayed in exclusivist terms, they are usually supposed to demand a) some form of worship and b) specific beliefs. If such is the case, then you’d be damned if you do pray and damned if you don’t. Your best bet, over all, would be to try give some worship you think might be acceptable, and hope for the best.
No indeed it’s not at all surprising that I apply intellectual discrimination in the area of theology. Why wouldn’t I?
You are wrong about the ontological argument because there is no standard form of the ontological argument such that its premisses entail the proposition that ‘anything we can imagine must exist’. As I said, I don’t think it’s an especially good argument, but I don’t give the least credence to your claim to understand it well and know how it fails. The cosmological argument is not special pleading; I find it, and arguments from fine-tuning and religious experience, to be compelling. If the phrase ‘my god’ is taken to mean ‘a god that exists eternally in three distinct persons’, I would take eg. a document of verified antiquity making accurate and detailed predictions about Muhammed to show that my god doesn’t exist.
No, Alex, I know that the probability of theism is negligible. If you think it isn’t, show me any evidence for it you have to support your claims have any probability at all.
Prayer is still not rational, because it is against a probability that cannot be shown as anything but infinitesimal, and is involving a god that has not ever done anything or is likely to do anything. As I stated, the use of resources on a probability that is negligible is a bad bet. If there is a sextillion to one chance that a god will answer, is it worth wasting resources on it? Where is the break point between rational and delusional? 100 to 1? 1,000,000 to 1? 1,000,000,000 to 1? In that there is no evidence for any god, especially a god that will do anything for a human, it is still not rational to waste the time to pray to it. It is the same that it is not rational to write a letter to Santa Claus to get presents, to do a Wiccan spell, to mix alchemical potions to make gold, etc. Or do you find it rational to do those things too? If so, I’d like to why and if not, I’d still like to know why not?
I can assume for the sake of argument that there is a omni-everything creator. However there is no evidence for one and all religions claiming one say that this being is intent on making itself known. If it is omnibenevolent, why would it hide, Alex? In the Old Testament, this god had no problem with chilling out with humans, but as humans asked questions, this god has retreated into what few gaps there are left. Your god is nothing like the OT god at all and that is because this god must be changed to excuse its nonexistence.
There is plenty of reason to assume that a generic prayer is a risk, Alex. Have you read your bible? What happens when people don’t worship this god and only this god? They are killed by the thousands, right from the “flood” through the golden calf episode, the supposed wars between the Israelites and other tribes, people being killed for marrying the wrong people, We have Jesus Christ himself saying that anyone who doesn’t follow his father’s laws will be killed, and that anyone who doesn’t accept JC as savior are to be brought before him and killed.
Now, I will admit that you do postulate a omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent being, which is not the god of the bible, the qu’ran, the Torah, etc. There is no omnibenevolence there at all. That is a recent development created by modern believers who don’t want to believe their god will damn anyone for such stupid things as the bible says. However, the problem for the theist is that this omnimax deity doesn’t exist any more than the vicious primitive ones do.
I find intellectual discrimination being abused by theists. For instance. you make up excuses and apologetics like every other theist. You ignore the things you don’t and invent things that you do like.
There is a standard form for the ontological argument. I’ve done my research, Alex, and do know where from which I speak. It does require that as long as we can imagine something, it must exist for it to apply to the idea of a god. It depends on assuming that god is somehow “perfect” which has yet to be defined. There is no reason to think that any idea isn’t “perfect”, and thus this is where I get that the ontological argument is that anything we think of can be construed as “perfect” and thus must exist. I can imagine a god better than yours, so does that mean it must exist? I can imagine a better thai chili pepper than the one I see here. Does that mean it must exist?
You claim that the cosmological isn’t special pleading. I am curious, how does that work? The cosmological argument claims that only “god” doesn’t need a cause. This is special pleading, that one idea is exempt from a rule because it is inconvenient to have it fit the rule e.g. *everything* must have a cause, but God doesn’t need a cause because you need it to be the only creator. You can’t say why this god doesn’t need a cause, only that it does. I could turn this around and say that the universe doesn’t need a cause and then say, when asked why it doesn’t, just say that it’s defined that way like theists do. I am content to say that we don’t know if the universe had a cause, what that cause was, *yet*. We do know that no god that is described by any human can be shown to be the cause or the only cause. No evidence that any god did anything, much less that any specific god created the universe.
The argument from fine-tuning is only compelling if one is ignorant of the universe. How much of the universe is utterly inimical to human life? The vast bulk which indicates that the universe wasn’t made for us, we evolved from it to fit its physical laws. What if we meet some aliens who are quite different from us but who say that the universe was created for them and only them? A rather silly idea but just as probable, if not more than your probability for your god. Who then is the “chosen people”?
And religious experience? Whose religious experience? The ones of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church? The Roman Catholics who are sure that their saints intercede with this god? The claims of miracles by Hindus? Benny Hinn? Claims by animist shamans that body parts of albino humans will get results from their gods and spirits? In that religious experience varies according to the believer and there is no universal “truth” to be found in all theists’ claims, it seems that it is pretty contradictory evidence?
Yes, since you are a self-described Christian, I do define “your god” as the trinity nonsense from the Christian bible. This document is a compilation of various books that are indeed old. There are holy books just as old or older than yours, Alex, and there are plenty of books just as good as the ones in the bible that didn’t make the cut. Shall we believe in what they say just because they are old?
I do like how you say that you would accept an document of “verified antiquity” making accurate and detailed predictions about Mohammed as evidence that your god doesn’t exist. Now, you know how Jews feel when they find your claims about Jesus Christ as being just as ridiculous since there isn’t an “ancient and verified” document that makes accurate and detailed predictions about Jesus Christ. Or how I feel when I see all religions making claims that their supposed holy books make accurate and detailed predictions and seeing that those claims are nonsense. I can read those books, and I can see that those claims of how accurate and detailed they are untrue. I know the bible quite well and no, it doesn’t make accurate and detailed claims about Jesus Christ. We have an OT that says that the messiah, a regular man, will be respected by world leaders when he’s alive, that he will be born of a young woman, that he will be of the branch of David. Then we have the NT that decided it was a virgin, that this messiah will have to die to actually fulfill anything claimed in the OT, and that God himself impregnates this virgin to make a demigod, making any ancestry of the line of David nonsense since lines don’t pass along women in the culture that these myths come from. Then we get the claims of prophecies in the NT, all of which are hilarious when Christiansn claim that some vague phrase “really means” whatever they claim. We also get the treat of all of those Christians disagreeing on what parts “really mean” what, with predictions of the “end times” failing all over the place.
It comes down to why should we believe any of you since you don’t even believe each other?
Of course they’ve read Chapter 1 of Luke. They IGNORE it or handwaive the implications
On the one hand, I do appreciate your enthusiastic interaction with my blog (trying to keep me honest). On the other hand, I am less than impressed with the sour tone you bring to the conversation. Is it really necessary to bring up my “willful ignorance”, hint at cowardice for allowing a guest poster, accuse Christians of trying to “lie to the jury”, and ridicule Christians for attempting to find evidence–the very thing you demand they do? You raise a handful of interesting points. These are not among them.
I trust that silverswiper will reply in person sometime soon. And yes, I fully endorse his guest posts, it’s my blog after all. In the mean time, I’d like to raise a few concerns of my own.
You seem to accuse me/us of circular reasoning. I honestly don’t see why. At no point have we assumed that the resurrection is true while assembling evidence. Neither have we assumed that Christianity as a whole is true in this argument. I’d like you to point out precisely where we have assumed our conclusion (the resurrection). I suspect you can’t.
You claim that “Paul runs into the problem that people that supposedly were around for the claimed events don’t even believe in them” and also “it’s again curious that so many people doubted the stories about him so soon after these events supposedly happened.” Could you please elaborate? This sounds like something worth discussing but I’m not quite sure what you mean.
A bit of epistemology. I’ve noticed you don’t like probabilities. They seem like a sign of weakness in your books. Is that your view? If so I disagree. Very little in life can be proven with mathematical certainty. The rest requires weighing of evidence. Nothing in history is mathematically certain. Evidence and probability is all we have. This is no weakness. That’s just how history (and life) works.
You claim that you can rule out the gospels as eyewitness testimony just be reading them. I doubt that is the case. A book I found very helpful was Richard Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.” He makes a very interesting case that the gospels consist of eyewitness accounts compiled into ancient biographies. I’ve written a little bit about this on my blog. The point is, I hope you won’t mind if I disagree with your assessment. I too have thought carefully about it and I have different conclusions.
Where have we said that a single source is “incontrovertible historical evidence”? I don’t recall claiming that.
You suggest that no one knows where the empty tomb is (today I presume). I grant that. How is that relevant to our argument? We never said that you can go check the tomb yourself. The claim is that the historical evidence points to Jesus’ tomb (wherever that was) being found empty shortly after his death. It does not follow that we still know where the tomb is (it’s been 2000 years after all). You offer a red herring.
Lastly, (and I’m sure I’ve missed a great deal) you suggest that “modern Christians have a problem in that their claims are not based on reality, but on stories told to them.” Well, isn’t that the whole point of this discussion? It’s hard to take your pontifications on these matters seriously. To do so would be to shortcut the dialogue and descend into “yes it is, no it isn’t.”
More false claims of “sour tone”, Ben. It’s a shame that you feel that you must misrepresent me. I guess that “sour tone” means “Velkyn isn’t agreeing with me so she must only be sour and not have an argument”. Tsk. Yes, it’s really necessary to bring up your willful ignorance and remark on the actions of other Christians in regards to your actions. It is very valid to ridicule Christians for trying to find evidence to support their beliefs like it would be to ridicule an adult who tried to support the existence of Santa Claus. I demand that Christians realize that they have not yet found evidence for their beliefs. I demand that Christians support their claims and not make ridiculous claims that “sincere belief” is evidence that their god exists.
And yes, Ben, you have assumed the resurrection is true before assembling evidence. There is no evidence for an “empty tomb” but you insist it did exist and predicated every argument on that assumption.
You wish me to elaborate on how Paul runs in to the problem of people who were supposed around for the events don’t even believe in them. Well, Ben, your bible claism that there was an earthquake strong enough to break the earth open in Palestine, that the dead saints walked around, and that the sun went dark over the whole area. And no one noticed these events. Not everyone in the middle east had any idea that this supposedly happened. Now, why is this, Ben?
I like probabilities quite a lot. I don’t like nonsense made up about them to try to excuse the supernatural. I know that the sun will appear to rise in the east tomorrow. I know that antibiotics will generally cure an infection if the bacteria haven’t developed resistance. I know that electricity will kill me if I get too much of it. I know that apples will not suddenly start to fall “up”. All you are left with to defend your supernatural nonsense is to claim that the world is some Seussian chaos where “anything” can happen. Alas, for you, it doesn’t.
And Ben, I dont’ care what you “doubt”. If you think that I cannot rule out the gospels as eyewitness testimony, you need to show me why. I know of Bauckham’s book and it depends on claiming that the people mentioned in the Bible are all real characters. Which is along the lines of saying that “since President Nixon was mentioned in a book that means that whole books is true.” Then Forrest Gump is a real fellow. The problem I have with claiming that the gospels are from eyewitnesses is that they diverge significantly. We have no moment in Gethsemane in John. There is no doubt in that version of Jesus and many find Gesthsemane to be very important. I have mentioned that the gospels have the apostles hiding in terror in one version and then going right to the temple to worship in another. Both instances cannot be what “really” happened and they drastically change the stories and characterizations of the characters.
To avoid the problem that the tomb is no where to be found does impact the claims you’ve made since they depend on the tomb existing. As I’ve written to Silverswiper, your tomb is just as mythic as Atlantis. Your entire argument hangs on the claim that the tomb existed as claimed in the bible. If it has not, and it’s just part of a story, then what, Ben? There is no historical evidence that points to the tomb existence at all or that a man/god was resurrected in one, only the Bible. We have had Christians claim that they “know” where Jesus was born and buried but failed in showing them when asked. We have claims that Christians know that the Exodus happened but we have no evidence and the same for Golgotha. It is no red herring, it is a demonstration that for all of the claims of holy sites, the most important one is missing. Now, I know this will probably end up with the claim that the tomb isn’t important, it’s the sacrifice. But considering how the tomb is the centerpiece for your argument that JC, son of God really existed, it presents a problem.
Hi Ben, sorry to jump in, but I have to pick up on your claim that the gospels were written by eyewitnesses. That is total bunk. I’m surprised you’d even say that. Here’s just a short video.
I didn’t claim they are written by eyewitnesses directly. Rather I think Richard Bauckham is on target in his book “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.” He claims that they gospels represent eyewitness testimony in the same way that other ancient historians wrote biographies by interviewing eyewitnesses. Luke 1 gives us a clue here. Luke doesn’t claim to be an eyewitness, he claims to have collected eyewitness testimony after investigating. Bauckham explores this in detail.
Eyewitness testimony doesn’t mean one eyewitness per book (matthew mark luke and john). It means that many of the named characters in various short stories in the Gospels were potentially interviewed and vouched for those stories in their communities where the gospel books were first received.
Bauckham makes an empirical case that these names are likely genuine by analyzing the names in the gospels against all known references to named individuals in ancient Palestine at the time. So each book involves multiple eyewitnesses. Only in the case of John does Bauckham make a case that they author himself was an eyewitness. I’ve written a post on this on my blog http://bennasmith.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/baby-names-witness-protection-and-the-real-jesus/
Collecting eyewitness testimonials two generations after the death of the god-man character?
I hope you see where i’m going with this….
Same generation. Bauckham argues, and I think convincingly, that the authors interviewed eyewitness precisely because they were becoming scarce as the first generation began to pass away. Mark, for example, is thought to be a collection of Peter’s teachings which he verbally delivered repeatedly throughout his life and were compiled in writing for use after his death.
Pure conjecture. The gospels were penned at least 80 years after the alleged death of the character. That’s nearly three generations. And even if the authors did “interview” sources why not name these people?
Honestly, the hoops you apologists have to leap through to make excuses is quite astonishing. Don’t you ever stop to wonder, “Hey, you know, if this was real it really shouldn’t be this hard to believe in it…”
I suggest you read the book yourself. I thought it was convincing and offered good reasons without religious assumptions.
Ben, i’ve read many books on the subject, and I’m not about to read another written by a Christian apologist who “claims” to buck nearly 200 years of scholarly work.
You’d be doing yourself a favour if you didn’t try to cite just one (Christian) author and act like it meant something.
It does mean something. You appeal to the status quo. I have good reason to think the status quo is incorrect. Those reasons, not the author’s authority, that are of interest to me.
I don’t expect you to agree without checking the reasons yourself. Whether you do so will depend on how important this issue is to you. After all, we have limited time in life to research. If you are satisfied with the status quo, so be it.
By status quo you’re meaning 200 years of biblical scholars who’ve all arrived at the same conclusions.
Fine, delude yourself with this single aberrant work squeezed out by a Christian apologist. Good luck finding something to back it up. Like I said: the hoops you have to jump through just to make excuses for this story are quite astonishing.
A less than charitable conclusion.
Ben, hard to be charitable when you’re ignoring the facts as they are. You are simply doing what deluded people do to maintain their delusion. I don’t like saying it, but i’m not going to shy away from saying it.
I’m not ignoring the facts. I’m challenging the status quo…that is unless the status quo has been elevated to the status of fact. I see no reason to think so. What am I missing?
Let’s just see if any other (non-apologist) scholar supports the claims made by this Christian theologian…
Likewise, I could say, “let’s see if anyone who has not presupposed methodological naturalism has concluded that the status quo is correct.” A fair question. I don’t know the answer.
wow, a claim from personal ignorance.
Also not charitable.
So? It certainly seems to be true. I have no reason to offer you charity, Ben. I’m not tolerant of nonsense.
Ben, you said you had a way for me to honestly contact this god. I’ve asked for it already. Do I need to ask for it again?
Ben, Josephus wrote a lot about the Roman Emperors. Now, his writings are I believe also claimed to be ancient biographies, since he collected stories from people. He has some people doing magical things, like emperors and has claimed that Vespasian is the real messiah that Jews were looking for. Does this mean we can trust any ancient biography as being the truth? If it does not, do you understand why I do not accept your or Bauckham’s claims? And do you understand it seems that you are only picking and choosing sources that agree with your presuppositions?
No, you shouldn’t blindly trust a biography. What you should do is check and see whether the biographer is trustworthy on empirical matters – like archeology, naming patterns and frequency, historical consistency with other known events. If they can be trusted on “natural” matters, then one can keep on an open mind towards their supernatural claims.
This is Bauckham’s approach. It stands in stark contrast with attempting to assess whether each individual story in the biography is credible–an impossible task. The status quo has produced a plethora of historical Jesus figures using that procedure. Each historian tends to pick and choose which stories they think are most likely and build a portrait of Jesus from there. Oddly enough, the Jesus they discover looks a lot like themselves. The fact that the status quo can’t give us a conclusive portrait of Jesus (after multiple quests) casts doubt on their method (among other reasons).
But you want us to trust blindly, Ben. In that we don’t rarely know the authors of the bible’s books, we have no way to know if they are trustworthy or not. Since the entire bible fails on so many matters, including “natural” ones, there is even less reason to trust it on supernatural claims.
Bauckham made bad assumptions. He thought he knew the authors of the gospels, etc. He could not have. And there is no “impossibility” to asses each individual story in a biography. It’ll take a while but it’s not impossible. And it’s always fun to watch you complain on how people pick and choose, when you do it yourself. You’ve found a Jesus who looks just like you but tsk, if anyone else did the same thing. The fact that the “status quo” can’t arrive at a Jesus casts doubts on the source material *and* on the method.
Vel, would you like to know how to become a Christian?
I suppose the first step is to consider Jesus’ question “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29). Your answer to that question (perhaps a healthy “I don’t know”) will play in important role. God is a person. If you wish him dead, he likely won’t show up (but you never know of course).
If you do choose to investigate with an open mind, something strange may happen. To quote James S. Stewart (in Moser’s The Severity of God),
“This is a very wonderful thing which happens: you begin exploring the fact of Christ, perhaps merely intellectually and theologically–and before you know where you are, the fact is exploring you, spiritually and morally … You set out to see what you can find in Christ, and sooner or later God in Christ finds you. That is the self-verification of Jesus.”(p. 91)
I hope that helps.
Well, Ben, once I believed in Jesus as messiah. And then I slowly lost my faith. I prayed to Jesus and God to help me keep it and got no answer. So, we know that JC, if he exists, has failed once. So, I’ll say at this point, that JC is a fictional character unless he can prove differently. Since that was good enough for Thomas to say, then it should be good enough for me to say honestly too. I’ve investigated Christianity, God, and other religons for years and still do.
I always do love how Christians will claim that I don’t have an open mind when their claims fail. It’s so convenient isn’t it, Ben? Blame me when you could just as conceivably blame your god and savior for not fulfilling your promises. But then that would show them as not what you’ve claimed. No ben, I don’t wish God dead. I wish to know it exists. I do love how you again fall back on the usual false claims of theists about atheists. It’s sad but it does show that I’m accurate in my predictions.
Alas, for you, I do have an open mind. I am here waiting for your god to answer my prayer “God, Jesus, please help me understand why nothing shows you exist. Please show me why the claims of your believers appear to fail and why they feel that they must lie about me and my motivations. If you exist, please help this lost sheep and find me. You supposedly know everything so you know exactly what I need.”
Now, I’m expecting more excuses. What will they be?
Have you read his book? http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Short-Introduction-Richard-Bauckham/dp/0199575274 It’s pretty short, cheap, accessible, and a good read.
I don’t think you’re giving it a fair treatment.
To tell you the truth, i really couldn’t care less. Personally i think jesus was nothing more than a metafictional character invented by 1st Century Judean crisis cultist… a character fashioned in the frame of Simon of Peraea. That is where the evidence points, but even if the man did live he was by no means the son of some bipolar Middle Eastern god, and he most definitely didn’t perform any supernatural magic tricks.
Here’s two links to my thoughts on the matter.
yes, I’ve read it. And you and SS have done a great job in using all of his arguments. So why bother buying it?
Regarding your prayer–it sounds quite sensible to me. No excuses from me. I also pray that he will make himself evident to you. In the mean time, we can try and keep each other honest–intellectually speaking–regarding the evidence for and against Jesus as God.
So, how long do I have to wait? today? Next week? 30 years from now?
if both sets of prayers fail, then we have a problem. I have prayed that prayer before. I have had Christians claim to have prayed for exactly what you have claimed. And over the decades nothing has happened. Why? It seems that we are left with few choices: God likes me as I am; God doesn’t care; God doesn’t exist or God has always intended me to go to hell and be tortured for eternity. None of these seem to be the actions of a omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient god.
If my prayer is so sensible, and that I have prayed the same prayer for decades, staring with when I was losing my faith, we have the problem of this prayer getting no response. That is where the usual Christian excuses come in. We also have the problem of your claiming to pray for me too, which hundreds of Christians have claimed to be doing for me and that their prayers fail too. Since I know we have no evidence of prayers actually working, this does not surprise me at all. Now that you know your prayers and the prayers of your fellow Christians don’t work, one wonders why you keep claiming they do.
We seem to have a limit to possible answers to this problem here. 1. The Christian god likes me exactly as I am and agrees with me, doing nothing to change my mind. 2. The Christian god doesn’t care what anyone prays about and does whatever it wants. 3. The Christian god has intentionally made me to be eternally tortured in “hell” and I never had a chance to believe. 4. The Christian god doesn’t exist.
Now, I’m sure I forgot a few possibilities but the first 4 from the top of my head show vast problems with your religion. If the answer is 1, 2, or 4 shows that your bible, where most Christian claims come from, cannot be trusted as an accurate source. If it is #3, then your god isn’t what many Christians claim. All of this shows that there is little reason to think that there is any evidence to support that Jesus Christ and this Christian god are the same thing or exist.
It is good to know that my posts have received such a warm welcome. However, there are a few things in your review I must contend with, if it is alright with you.
I am familiar with the Jesus and Mo comics, and while I admit the drawing is kinda cool, the substance is lacking. Let’s take a look. In the first frame, I don’t quite get where the sources come for that. Of course we can criticize the Bible, only inerrantists (which I am not) would say you couldn’t. The second frame has quite a few dubious assertations. Appeals to emotion, I hope I didn’t do anything like that. Ignoring inconvenient evidence, I was not aware I ignored evidence that does not deconstruct my case. Refusal to engage in enquiries that may discredit your predetermined conclusions, um, aren’t I doing that right now? Isn’t that what loads of Christians do in debates with atheists? The third frame suggests we try to make our opponents disprove our accounts. Thing is, right now I’m the one making the claims, the burden of proof is one me. So I don’t think the graphic accurately reports the facts this time, at least not in my case.
You start with a paragraph saying my evidence is nothing new. To some extent, that is true. But unfortunately that is the case with many arguments on both sides. The Biblical difficulties atheists bring up in debates have been there for centuries, nothing new. Problem of evil, also quite old. Yet we still argue for them. Why? Because they are what we have, and for the record, even though the evidence itself may not be exactly “new”, what is often knew is the way one approaches the facts. For example, the Biblical miracles were there for all to see for centuries until the enlightenment, when philosophers took a new approach to the facts to make, for example, the argument against miracles. You seem to think my rehash is of Bill Craig’s, well, no. I am not a, what is the term? A “Craig Fan-Boy.” I have serious reservations about many of his arguments, particularly his Kalam argument. For the record, I would have to give credit to much of my insights to Charles Foster and his book “The Jesus Inquest”, it really is THE unsung hero of Resurrection apologetics, in my opinion. It might be worth checking it out.
Before I move on, I might be able to shed a little light on your statement, “I have never seen one person convert because of the supposed evidence these folks offer”. Here are a few people who have.
J Warner Wallace
It might help if I clear up a misunderstanding here. Ben did not use this tactic that you speak of. I asked Ben if I could write a few guest posts, and he agreed. There’s nothing wrong with that now is there?
Your first take on my beginning post is flawed. I don’t know where you get the idea that the evidence is not terrible convincing at all, even to Christians. I started with the basics, nothing more. It actually is quite convincing. As noted above, many people have in fact been turned by this evidence, even atheists agree it is pretty strong. Take a quote by Anthony Flew (though he became a deist at some point, he never believed in the Resurrection all the way up until death),
“The evidence for the resurrection is better than for claimed miracles in any other religion. It’s outstandingly different in quality and quantity, I think, from the evidence offered for the occurrence of most other supposedly miraculous events.”
Saying that this shows that our faith is only probably true, you got it right on the nose. Thing is, the debate is riddled with uncertainty. We cannot unambiguously prove/disprove God, otherwise there would be no debate. Nevertheless, we make judgements based on what is more probable given the facts at hand. Does that mean I’m right? Hardly. I could be totally wrong about this whole thing, just as you could be totally wrong.
You say contradictions do invalidate eyewitness testimony. You also give a link to Wikipedia (when is it not wikipedia) supporting your claims. I checked out the article, and found that your citation is invalid. You probably referred to the bottom bullet point on the jury guidelines. However there is a misunderstanding. The guideline says, “Are there inner contradictions in the testimony?”, note the singular “testimony”. I think you are confusing contradictions in one testimony with contradictions between different testimonies. In that case, your claims are unwarranted. You find contradictions in almost any historical event with multiple sources. Be it the crossing of the Alps, the great fire of Rome, or the sinking of the Titanic. However, the contradictions are only in the minor, peripheral details, these do nothing to undermine the main sources of evidence.
Your take on the empty tomb is interesting. I think your argument hinges on the fact that we don’t know where the tomb is, therefore it never existed. That seems remarkably akin to saying “There is no body and no murder weapon, therefore there was no murder.” There are plenty of instances where ancient writers report a place archaeologists haven’t found, but there is no reason then to assume it never existed, especially when the report is accurate on other counts. This line of argument is remarkably similar to God-of-the-Gaps, where atheists make these claims where there is no evidence for them YET. Take the following examples.
Skeptics doubted the existence of the village Emmaus… Until it was discovered.
Skeptics doubted the existence of Nazareth… Until it was discovered.
Skeptics doubted the existence of the Pool of Bethsaida… Until it was discovered.
Skeptics doubted the existence of Synagogue in Capernaum… Until it was discovered.
It’s remarkably consistent, “OK, you verified that detail of the Bible, but explain THAT one genius.”
I have offered reasons why we should consider the empty tomb as historical, and they should be assessed using the historical method. Oh, and the Osiris analogy holds no water. When we read an ancient source, we criticize it to determine if it is, say, historical or mythological. There are plenty of reasons to accept the Gospels as historical and the Osiris accounts as not.
Your next point is a reference to the alleged pattern of legendary development in the Gospels. Unfortunately, it has some major problems. True, Mark has no appearances, but I think that can be attributed to the fact the original ending has been lost. The ends of scrolls were extremely vulnerable, and there is textual evidence to support this. Additionally, we find an anomaly in this pattern. Many of the most fantastic appearances, such as the appearance to the 500, were mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15, written well before any of the Gospel accounts. The hypothesis of legendary development fails.
You took a slippery slope with my reference to women. It makes a lot more sense when you say, “Women could be witnesses if there were no men available, yet they were definitely second best, and if one were to make up a story, it is unlikely they would credit women with the discovery.”
The line of reasoning you took by saying “There was no body of Jesus to be found so, per the poster, it *must* have been magically resurrected.” I never ever said that. You need to see it in proper context. As N.T. Wright says,
“This is the kind of position we are in, I suggest, with the empty tomb and the appearances. We have seen that they are, by themselves, insufficient to generate early Christian belief. Bring them together, however, and they form, in combination, a sufficient condition.”
My point in my second post was to prove the empty tomb, not the full meal deal. All the evidence must be put together to make the case.
Your next statement seems to make you out as a Jesus mythicist. That is unfortunate, plenty of atheists believe he existed without being a historical figure. I am not about to start a debate on the existence of Jesus, though I would recommend the book, “Did Jesus Exist” by Bart Ehrman if you want an honest examination of the facts. Let’s assume though, for the sake of the argument, that Jesus did exist.
Overall, I think that you have presented no criticisms that really undermine my case. The way I see it, the argument still holds.
SS, it’s you opinon that the substance is “lacking” in the Jesus and Mo comics. I find them full of substance and they do a lovely job at showing that both Christian and Islam are ridiculous. Now, SS, if you want to show “how” they are lacking, you are welcome to do so, but vague claims are meaningless.
I also find that all Christians are “inerrantists” of various sorts. You are sure that at least some of the bible is inerrant, yes? I would say that since you are a Christian, at least the claim of Jesus Christ being the divine son of God and responsible for all humanity’s salvation is totally inerrant to you since your religion is based on that belief. And you determine this inerrancy how? From my experience, Christians simply pick and choose the parts that they like and call them inerrant and then insist that the parts that they don’t like, the parts that are inconvenient for their version of Christainty, to be totally human based, metaphor, etc. All excuses to rewrite a primitive collection of myths into something that they can claim to be the one true religion.
You haven’t done much appeal to emotion, SS, but you have appealed to baseless claims about supposed evidence for your religion’s claims. So, do all of the people you’ve cited as “experts”. Strobel, Wallace, etc all cite the same nonsense as you do, making assumptions and then trying to find evidence that fits their version of the events of the bible. I’ve read them all and they are hilarious in how consistently they ignore their own predjudices. Just like you do. All of the claims that they make about how false other religions are can be directly applied to Christianity to show how false it is. Strobel has claimed he was an atheist, but alas, no evidence of this seems to be available until he decided he wanted to sell books. If he were looking for evidence to prove or disprove god, then it’s rather amazing on how poor Lee interviewed not one person that was an atheist. It’s called stacking the deck, SS. And it’s deceitful. There is no evidence that Habermas converted because of evidence. He was raised Christian and at best he claims he had doubts about Christianity, which many many Christians have told me that they have too, and that does not make them atheists. Simon Greenleaf (died in the 1850s) has no evidence that he was converted (his granddad was a pastor). This quote is not from someone who is attempting to disprove the Christian God, since it assumes that the Christian God exists “It should be pursued as in the presence of God, and under the solemn sanctions created by a lively sense of his omniscience, and of our accountability to him for the right use of the faculties which he has bestowed.”. If he were trying to pursue any evidence to where it led and not hold a presupposition, this sentence would not be written as it has been. If one actually reads the words of those who Christian apologists claim were converted, one finds that they have intentionally misrepresented the facts. J Warner Wallace also is amusing in his attempts to characterize himself as an atheist. It’s always a good tell when someone tries to call all atheists angry. It’s also very interesting that for someone who was a police detective, he finds only circumstantial evidence, not one actual piece of hard evidence for these events that he claims are true. He’d have quite a time in an actual trial with such nonsense. He claims that “abductive reasoning” is what he uses, which is no different than the claims you have made or the claims that WLC has made. Abductive reasoning is simply someone claiming that their baseless conclusion is the “best” answer and not having to actually prove it. It’s Occam’s Razor, but alas for anyone familiar with facts, it is not *always* the supposedly simplest answer that is the right one. Defining “simplest” is always a sticking point for those arguments.
SS, claiming falsely that atheists find your arguments strong is again an attempt claim something that is false. No, atheists do not find your arguments strong. If one simply searches the internet on “historical jesus evidence” one will find hundreds of atheist sites that come to the same conclusion, that the evidence supporting the existence of a historical Jesus Christ, son of God, performer of miracles is very much lacking. Some atheists think tht there could have been a person that legends built up around, but again, that’s not the Jesus that you worship is it? Claiming that there could have been one Jewish rabbi that lived in Palestine around 1 CE isn’t the same as claiming that there was a divinity walking around doing miracles. You also repeatedly claim that people have been converted by this evidence, but again cannot cite them for even your best attempts can be shown to be unsupported.
You also quote Anthony Flew. He claims that the evidence for the resurrection is better than evidence for miracles in other religions. That’s rather damning with faint praise, since no religion has evidence of its supposed miracles. Flew was raised Christian, became a philosopher and atheist and in his dotage was a deist and notably suffering from dementia. We have him also saying that he did not believe in a god like the Christian one or the Islamic one since both are despots. Not exactly a stellar recommendation for your supposed Jesus Christ or evidence for its existence at all. I’d suggest you familiarize yourself with what the man actually said http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antony_Flew , in context, as Christians love to put it, and see what he really believed, not what you want to make him believe.
Your arguments have already been shown as totally wrong, SS. You have yet to provide any evidence for your religion’s claims. We have no tomb, no contemporary reports of the essential events of your religion’s claims. We have no artifacts to support the claims of your religion. Yes, archaeologists have found some of the cities mentioned in the bible. By that reasoning, since we know that New York City exists, that means that Spiderman and the Avengers exist too. Archaeologists have found Troy and we certainly know that Athens exists. Does that mean that Zeus and Hera, Poseidon and Heracles existed too?
And it’s always nice to see someone whine about Wikipedia. If you have a problem with it, cite where the link is wrong. You see, SS, Wikipedia is often an excellent source of information since the articles often have long lists of references that one can check if one doesn’t trust the wiki source. In the wiki about eyewitness testimony, it says “Do his statements seem inherently improbable: e.g., contrary to human nature, or in conflict with what we know?Remember that some types of information are easier to observe and report on than others.Are there inner contradictions in the testimony?” Well, seems that the first bit shows directly that the gospels fail, since the claims conflict with what we know e.g. the other testimonies. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eyewitness_memory Is it possible for two people to be “first” into a chamber? No, it isn’t. Is it possible for a earthquake to have happened that was so violent that it tore the temple curtain and have no evidence that it happened or no one noticing it? No. Is it possible for the dead “saints” to have been walking around and no one noticing? No. Oh and testimony can mean all of the testimony in a case, e.g. “The jury heard ten days of eyewitness testimony.” You try to claim thath the differences aren’t “important” as many Christians do, but those difference are important since they comprise the evidence you claim. If we cannot trust what the story says about something as basic as if JC was there in the garden or not, then there is no reason to think that the other details are true. Were there angels or weren’t there? makes a difference if you want to claim that the tomb was opened by magic.
If we don’t know where the tomb is, then that makes one wonder, why did Christians forget this rather important fact? We have thousands of tombs in Palestine, the existence of a tomb is nothing special. However the existence of a tomb where the most important occurrence to Christendom is special. And you have no idea where it is. If there is no person remembered that fulfills the attributes of the supposed murder victim, no body is found, no murder weapon, and no events around the murder claimed to have happened noticed by millions of people, then the evidence certainly seems to indicate that there was no murder. It’s rather like claiming that Atlantis exists but we have no highly advanced city shown to exist anywhere that Atlantis was claimed to have existed, no ruin, no evidence for a castastropic event, and no one noticing that there was a supposed catastrophic event. I assume you don’t believe in Atlantis for the exact reasons I don’t believe in Jesus Christ’s existence. There may have been a island city that was destroyed by Thera, but that isn’t the magical Atlantis that believers invoke. It can sound like a god of the gaps argument that since there is no evidence that there is no god. Nope, we’ve not found any evidence for your god *yet*. The problem for you is that people have been looking desperately for thousands of years for this evidence and still have not found it. Your arguments are just as weak, or weaker since we also know that your god doesn’t cause disease with its “wrath”, as they were back in 1 CE where gods were a dime a dozen and everyone made the same claims for their favorites.
Yes, as above, we’ve found some of the things mentioned in the Bible, but not one of the things that are important to the bible’s unique claims. Nothing about the exodus, nothing about the Flood, nothing from the supposedly fabulous temples and palaces, nothing about the events around the suppose resurrection, etc. We’ve found cities and places and if that makes the case for a god’s existence, then Isis and Horus are just as valid as your god since the temples and cities of ancient Egypt also exist. Always good to see you baselessly claim that the Osiris analogy “holds no water” and of course present absolutely nothing to support that claim. You see, SS, this is when you are to show why it holds no water but you can’t. You can’t even mention *one* instance of these supposedly “plenty of reasons” that the gospels should be take as historical and the Osiris story as not.
There is no evidence of the “original ending” of Mark being lost; you claim “textural evidence” supports that it was lost. Cite it. I do like that you have admitted that the mention of the 500 in Corinthians was before the gospel accounts were written, so we have no idea which came first, and we have no evidence that the event occurred at all. So, no the idea of legendary development doesn’t fail at all. Since we have no good idea what was written when, and we have no “originals”, we have no idea who was cribbing from whom. As for the women, a “slippery slope”? Nope, not at all. My point still stands that if there is no problem with women being witnesses, then there is no problem. If one is to believe at least one of the gospels, the apostles were hiding in fear, so much they would let the body of their supposed revered teacher to rot. Of course, there is the problem of the other gospel that has them not hiding at all and going right back to Jerusalem to worship in the very temple that they were supposedly criminals to. More lovely contradictions. And again, you, and N.T. Wright, want to claim a tomb and appearances as if they were real but there is NOTHING that supports that beyond the contradictory stories in your supposed holy book. It’s just more presupposition, nothing more.
I have already demonstrated in my last post why I found this Jesus and Mo comic to be inaccurate. And the other ones I’ve seen aren’t much better.
I think we have a misunderstanding here. Inerrancy is the belief that all the Bible is completely without error. I don’t believe that this is true, and neither do the majority of even conservative scholars. We try to determine what is true and what is not by the tools of Biblical criticism, like textual criticism, redaction criticism, form criticism, etc. In fact, there are loads of ways we can criticize the Bible. But criticism is not bad, we do it so we can have an accurate picture of what the Bible really says. And for the record, atheists are fond of saying the Bible is pure myth. The Bible is composed of many genres, including historical. One must understand genre to understand a book of the Bible.
I never said these guys were experts, not by a long shot. They write for the more popular audience, while others write for a scholarly one (and atheist books can be both popular and academic as well).
Now you try to claim none of these guys were swayed by the evidence. I suggest you read up about their background. Here are some links.
Most of your discussion of these guys is trying to claim none of these guys did their investigation properly, and I can’t use them for my arguments. Fair enough, you think some atheists become Christians for the wrong reasons, I think some Christians become atheists for the wrong reasons. However I’m not here to debate the merits of any of these guys, the old line goes “Truth is truth even if no-one believes it. A lie is a lie even if everyone believes it.” It is dishonest to try and tally up the number of ex-Christians or ex-atheists to make your case, it doesn’t work. My point in mentioning these guys was to put to rest your claim that no-one has converted because of the evidence. Were these guys skeptical of Christianity? Yes. Were they swayed by the evidence? Yes. Did they do it the right way? Maybe not, but that is irrelevant to the discussion.
You then state atheists do not find my arguments strong. Yes, that is true. But you see, if they did, they wouldn’t be atheists now would they? They find all the arguments for theism false in some way, the same way Christians find the arguments for atheism false in some way. This is how the endorsement from Anthony Flew is so significant. He never believed in the Resurrection, he had nothing to lose from saying the evidence was terrible, but he still admitted the evidence was extremely good. Once again, you try to explain this away by discrediting him. Let’s assume that, by the time he became a deist, he had deteriorated. Nonetheless, I think you would agree he was one of the greatest atheist philosophers of the 20th century? Here’s the thing, he admitted this evidence was good before he became deist, not just after. His other arguments against God are a red herring and irrelevant to the point I am trying to make. He didn’t believe in a personal God, but nonetheless, he still confessed the evidence was strong. It is definitely telling coming from a prominent atheist.
Concerning your next point, I think you are mistaken. You are taking the reasoning of absence of evidence is evidence of absence. Saying we have no artifacts, I don’t see how that disproves Christianity. The early church was not particularly interested in relics like later Christians, consequently, virtually none have survived. Besides, even if they did, it would be hard to prove they really were artifacts from Jesus’s time. Take the Shroud of Turin, some say it was Jesus’ burial cloth, others do not. It doesn’t matter to the case much, since there is no way to definitely prove it was. And artifacts only prove so much, they do nothing to confirm actual events, we need written accounts for that.
As far as wikipedia goes, I agree it is a good source of references, but it is not used as a legitimate source in universities for the same reason I prefer not to use it as a main source, ANYONE can edit it. A teacher of mine told me that a professor told her and her classmates to each change one thing on wikipedia, and see if it was fixed by the end of the day, about half of their changes remained unedited at the end of the day. Another teacher told me of a time where he read that Stephen Harper (the current Canadian prime minister) was dead. If you want to use it to find references, great, I do that too. But perhaps you could source the references instead of the main article.
Your defence of the wiki article, you say that where the Gospels fail is when they conflict with what we already know, here’s the thing, we don’t know for sure. There is no problem at all with witnesses honestly disagreeing with each other on peripheral details, memories can be distorted, details forgotten, this is the norm in real cases. In fact, discrepancies are plentiful in other ancient accounts. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the discrepancies concerning minor details in the accounts of the Great Fire of Rome, but does that mean Rome didn’t burn? Not at all. Just because the minor details are in question does not mean the major ones are threatened. A perfect account of separate accounts would be highly suspicious. But all the major facts my argument relies on are not threatened by contradictions, the contradictions are in the minor details, and do nothing to deconstruct my case.
The examples you cite are quite trivial. For instance, it is certainly no problem when we say a group of people is “first”, we might say, “this group of soldiers entered the battle first.”
Concerning the location of the empty tomb, I think I see where you’re coming from. Your argument goes like this.
1. If there was an empty tomb, the Christians would remember where it was and revere it.
2. We don’t know where the tomb is.
3. Therefore, there was no empty tomb.
I would argue against the first premise. As said before, the early Christians weren’t interested in relics or stuff like that. Second, after the fall of Jerusalem, the massacre of the population and the destruction of virtually all the city, it would be surprising if the tomb could still be found. Besides, even if we did have a tomb claimed to be Jesus’ tomb, so what? It would be almost impossible to confirm it really was Jesus’ tomb, just like the Shroud of Turin, and even if we could, that proves nothing but that the tomb was empty, a fact affirmed by a majority of New Testament scholarship, including critical ones such as Allison, Bostock, Carnley, Ehrman, Fisher, Grant and the late Vermes.
One thing about these events you want there to be evidence for is that it would be difficult to prove these things by archaeology. Finding remains of chariots in the red sea would prove nothing, finding an inscription referring to the house of David proves nothing. We can find archaeological evidence of people, places and customs but very rarely actual events.
And you say that I should have elaborated on the analogy to Osiris. OK, I can do that. Three things need to be stated.
First, though Palestine was a place where foreigners often told stories of their Gods, none of these religions ever had much of a hold in Palestine. The Jewish leaders worked very hard to ensure the Jewish people were not corrupted by them, as a result, many of these practices were suppressed. But once the Temple was destroyed, then we start to see these mystery religions start to have a step up in Palestine. Second, these stories of dying and rising Gods are clearly in the genre of mythology, and the people who spoke about them never contended otherwise. On the other hand it is the consensus of scholarship today that the Gospels are a form of Greco-Roman biography, a historical and non-fiction genre. Third, if one cherry-picks myths that have some similarities to Jesus’ resurrection, it is inevitable you’ll find a few that partially fit. But citing those is not good enough, one has to make a connection from the myth to Jesus. For example, Morgan Robertson wrote a story called “The Wreck of the Titan”. Look it up. The similarities between it and the Titanic are so much that one could easily mistake them for the same ship. One can find parallels to almost anything, but one has to establish a connection.
You want textual evidence that the original ending of Mark was lost? Yeah, sure, I will gladly provide it. If you need more, let me know.
Click to access bbr18a04_stein.pdf
Your next part makes little sense. Yes, the mention of the 500 was before the Gospels were written, as were a large number of other appearances. You speak of us having no idea which came first, no, 1 Corinthians is undisputedly earlier than the Gospels. Look up the dating for 1 Corinthians. And your take on the women is still no better. Let’s see. I want to sabotage an enemy nuclear power plant deep behind enemy lines. I can send in a ordinary, inexperienced group of rifle grunts, or a group of big, tough and buff paratroopers. Who would I pick? You see, if they wanted to make this story up, they would have almost certainly used men as the first witnesses. Just because women could be witnesses doesn’t mean they were a preferable choice, their inclusion as first witnesses gives great support to the authenticity of the empty tomb.
And speaking of presuppositions, I would be careful with wielding those. Because you see, both Christians and atheists have biases, presuppositions and inclinations. Both Christians and atheists suffer from confirmation bias and other psychological factors. The knife can cut both ways, so keep that in mind when you accuse me of it.
So, let’s step back. I have offered three pieces of evidence concerning the empty tomb (Jewish polemic, women witnesses, disciples preaching in Jerusalem), you have not been able to show my evidence false. Now there are a few things I would suggest. First, discussing here, on this post might not be the most fruitful. As I have indicated, you need to have all the evidence at hand to get in a good discussion. So if I were you, I would get to my other two posts and write about them, then we can continue our discussion in a greater perspective. I also ask you a question. Whether it be Jesus mythicists, or young-earth creationists, some people will simply not be convinced. At all. Skeptics will be skeptics, as I say. Atheists claim to be open-minded, so I have a question for you. What evidence would be good enough for you to accept Christianity as true? If you are wondering what would persuade me atheism is true, it is the Resurrection that must be defeated. Break that, and you break me. So ask yourself that question, and let me know so that I am confident my efforts are not futile.
So, until next time.
Oy, this is a long one.
Yes, SS, I know what inerrancy is, it is the belief that the bible is completely without error. And Christians like you simply want to pick and choose what you like and claim that *those* parts are without error, whilst claiming those parts you don’t like are error-prone and thus don’t have to be obeyed by you. It’s the same cherry picking that all theists do and I’ve dubbed it the magic decoder ring. Each variety of Christian claims the same thing, that they have the “right” answers, and all claim that they use Bible criticism, textual criticism, redaction criticism, form criticism, etc. And why yes, there are “loads” of ways you can criticize the bible and other Christians who you think are wrong. What amuses me, as an atheist is that you all use the same things to try to claim you are the only right ones. The bible is pure myth since it has no more validity than the greek myths on describing what was really going on in the world at those time. Or shall we consider greek myths, Chinese myth, etc to also be various genres such as historical? And yes, dear, I do know what generes are. It rather helps to have an English major as a husband, but I knew about generes long before that.
I find it hilarious now that you want to claim that your Christian apologists, the ones that you trotted out as *converted* as now not experts. Then what are they? They certainly portray themselves as experts, getting paid for their expertise. You’ve cited their expertise in these subjects. And now you want to claim that they are just guys “writing for the more popular audience”? That’s an interesting excuse since these guys are using the exact same apologia as the supposed “experts”. Hmmm, is WLC an expert? How can we tell since none of you can produce evidence that your god exists and your religion is any more valid than the next? You are correct in that atheist books can be both popular and academic. Problem is that they use the same arguments too, just presented in different education levels.
I’ve already read the biographical links about your guys being swayed by evidence and know exactly what they said. We have people who cannot show that they were atheists, that they never knew about Christianity, etc. We have Christians who claim that they had doubts, and this does not make an atheist. I welcome anyone who wants to look at your links to see just what they actually say.
No, SS, I do not think some atheists became Christians for the wrong reasons. I am saying that there is nothing that says that they were atheists to begin with with any degree of trustworthyness. And it does not surprise me one whit that you now do not want to discuss these people who you are so sure converted because of “evidence”. The truth is the truth, no matter if no one believes it, however just because someone believes in something doesn’t make it the truth. It’s the old argument of the conspiracy theorist, the desperate need to think that they know something special.
Sorry, SS, but you yourself claimed that “As noted above, many people have in fact been turned by this evidence, even atheists agree it is pretty strong.” This is not you claiming that atheists do not find your arguments strong, as you now claim is the truth of the matter. You then try the typical Christian attempt at claiming that Christians and atheists find “all of the arguments” for each side “false in some way”. No, SS, that is not the case. I would find the arguments for Christainity strong if they were supported by evidence. You have yet to present any that cannot be used to support the existence of any god. Since those arguments are used to support gods that *you* do not believe in, there is no reason I should believe in the god you do believe in.
The quote from Anthony Flew is always amusing when Christians bring it up as if it were a talisman. The man did not believe in your god, SS, so he certainly didn’t find the evidence that great at all and only said it was “better” than most other evidence. This is not saying the evidence is “good” e.g. the evidence for Bigfoot is better than the evidence for the Yeti, yet there is no good reason to think that either exist. He did not believe in the Christian god or its supposed son; per your religion Antony Flew is damned to hell. The quote ““The evidence for the resurrection is better than for claimed miracles in any other religion. It’s outstandingly different in quality and quantity, I think, from the evidence offered for the occurrence of most other supposedly miraculous events.” Is from a man who also said “I should clarify that I am a deist. I do not accept any claim of divine revelation though I would be happy to study any such claim (and continue to do so in the case of Christianity). For the deist, the existence of evil does not pose a problem because the deist God does not intervene in the affairs of the world.” I do not find him the “greatest atheist philosopher of the 20th century”. I find no philosopher any better than anyone else. And it’s just great to see you claim that his arguments against your god are just “red herrings”. No, SS, they aren’t. They show that Mr. Flew is not the person you try to claim. You have claimed he has found your religion’s claims “good” and “strong” and that is not the case at all. They are the “better” ones in a field where no supernatural claims are well supported. It’s like how some Christians find the need to lie about Einstein too, in their need to claim that all good decent people are really Christians and “really” agree with them.
You wish to claim that you cannot see how the lack of artifacts disproves Christianity. Well, considering that Christians claim that their god has physically interfered in this world repeatedly and have consistently claimed that such things like an empty tomb is evidence of the fact, there should be some relics, like that empty tomb. You baselessly claim that the early church wasn’t interested in relics. Considering the number of relics comeing from those times, that claim is demonstrably false. Many have survived, unless you wish to claim that the Catholic Church is lying and can prove that they are. I do agree that they are lying but your claims of your empty tomb are just as vapid. And we can prove that they are from the time that JC is purported to have existed. The Shroud of Turn has failed those tests but nothing says the rest will.
Written accounts make nothing any more real than the written accounts of Islam, Hinduism, etc. No historian takes written accounts from one source as evidence without having artifacts, contemporary separate accounts, etc into consideration. You want to claim that artifacts aren’t important. Unfortunately for you, they are. I’d recommend taking an anthropology or archaeology course to learn how history is understood.
I never said that wiki was used in academia. Unfortunately, it is still a good source to find primary sources. Yep, anyone can edit it and that’s why one goes to primary sources. And I don’t care about your anecdotes. If you don’t like a wiki entry, tell me what is wrong with it and then we can have it corrected. And sorry, SS, I don’t do research for those who want to baselessly claim I’m wrong. It’s up to you to show me if I’m wrong.
The gospels do conflict with what we already know, wiki article or no wiki article. We know that there was no earthquake with a darkening of the sun on any day even close to when JC supposedly existed. As a geologist, I know that earthquakes leave evidence of their occurrence. And it’s always hilarious to watch a Christian say that their resurrection story is just “peripheral details”, and those details always change from Christian to Christian depending what they find important. For such a supposedly important, supposedly world changing event, golly all we got is the usual human fallible memory. Pity God couldn’t do something about that isn’t it? As for Rome burning, many cities burned, there is nothing supernatural or special about it. The burning of a city is not the magical resurrection of a man, his appearance to hundreds, his doing of so many actions that the “whole world” could not hold all of the books describing them. Extraordinary events need extraordinary evidence.
The “major facts” of yoru argument are not facts at all, SS. You have no evidence for a tomb, empty or not. You have no evidence of the magical occurrences on those days. And if you think that the ‘sincere belief” of people make something true, then I’m sure that the folks who drank the kool-aid at the People’s Temple are feeling ever so much better that their religion is just as valid as yours.
Alas for you the bible doesn’t’ say “this group of soldiers entered the battle first”. No, Matthew has that only the women were at the tomb, no one went into the tomb and they met JC outside of it and touched him. Mark has that only the women went to the tomb, entered, saw the man in white and ran away. Luke has that only the women came, entered the tomb and then told the apostles. Peter goes to look. John has Mary M seeing the stone had been moved, not entering, running back to the disciples . Peter and the “other disciple” run for the tomb but the other disciple gets there before Peter and looks in. Peter then enters. Mary then see JC out in the garden, and is forbidden to touch JC. You’d think Mary would at least correct the story since she was supposedly there, if she existed at all. One thing this recitation again shows is that why would eyewitnesses not mention who this other disciple is? And the gospel of John is always a good one since it ignores what’s in the gospels when it says that the apostles didn’t’ understand that JC had to rise from the dead, even though they had been told multiple times.
You are also wrong in your claim that “virtually all of Jerusalem was destroyed”. The second temple was destroyed, the city was serving as the Roman capital of the province shortly thereafter. The Romans ruled the city until around the 4th century and then the Byzantines were there, building things in Jerusalem, like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. As for relics and the early church? Hmmm, seems like they were popular “11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” Now, I suppose it might make a difference in what you call the early church but in the 5th century CE, we have theologians saying that relics are good and the “Grace remains with every part” – Theodoretus.
Yes, it would be impossible to claim it was really JC’s tomb. Unfortunately, your argument depends on being able to identify that tomb and that it existed. The emptiness of the tomb is no fact at all, it is a belief, same as the belief that there was a tomb in the first place containing a dead man/god. And SS, Ehrman does not say that the tomb was empty because of the resurrection. Nice try but no cigar. Here’s some of what Ehrman says about the tomb: “Why was the tomb supposedly empty? I say supposedly because, frankly, I don’t know that it was. Our very first reference to Jesus’ tomb being empty is in the Gospel of Mark, written forty years later by someone living in a different country who had heard it was empty. How would he know?” Ehrmann goes onto postulate a scenario where the body is removed in a very human but perhaps implausible sequence of events. He goes onto say “Is this scenario likely? Not at all. Am I proposing this is what really happened? Absolutely not. Is it more probable that something like this happened than that a miracle happened and Jesus left the tomb to ascend to heaven? Absolutely! From a purely historical point of view, a highly unlikely event is far more probable than a virtually impossible one…” All from his book Jesus Interrupted. One thing I did find is that Bart has his own website where you can join a membership and have a chance to ask him questions. It’s all for charity, which is cool: http://ehrmanblog.org/membership/ I may just have to sign up!
Finding the remains of chariots in the red sea would not “prove nothing”. What a pitiful attempt to lie about archaeology and completely understood since archaeology shows that your bible claims fail. Archaeology, geology, etc do show events. They show events all of the time. A burial is an event. A city fire is an event. A flood is an event. A battle is an event. Four decades of supposedly millions of people wandering over a small area is an event. And you know how we know all about those people, places and customs, from the events that left artifacts where they are. So we have an event that required a an inscription about the House of David and that would prove something. If we found a mass of chariots in the Red Sea, surrounded by a mass of sediment churned up by walls of water, we would wonder what caused such a thing? Then one goes to myths and legends to see if those record anything that might have a kernel of truth.
No one ever said that a religion had to have a hold for people to know about it. I don’t believe in Christianity but it unfortunately influences my life. There were temples to other gods in Palestine and the Jewish leaders failed in their attempts to keep things “pure”. It is not the “consensus of scholarship today” that the gospels are some kind of biography, but nice appeal to authority there. I will ask you to tell me the differences between these supposed “biographies” and myths. Please tell me about these scholars who say that the magical stories of the gospels are “non-fiction”. Let me guess, they’re all Christians.
And ah, then you claim that the stories must be identical to show a “connection”. Why? There are plenty of syncretic myths, which pick and choose from a variety of common mythic themes. I do suggest reading Joseph Campbell’s books on myth to any Christian. Maybe then you’ll realize that you aren’t the special chosen people you pretend to be. The connection is that the Jews were in an area that had trade with Egypt and were exposed to those myths just like the Jews were exposed to the myths of Babylon and grabbed the flood story there with a few alterations.
As for your links about the ending of Mark, not impressive. The first argues that the author of mark *must* write the fulfillment of prophecy since he mentions prophecy (but admits that the author didn’t always do that). If, as the paper’s author claims, the believers already knew the ending, why does it need to be repeated to them? The author also says that chap 16:1-8 is all about Jesus and not the people who met him after his resurrection. This seems to undercut the author’s argument that there need to be another ending. Interesting ideas but very weak. And it doesn’t explain why nonsense was added to the end that obviously doesn’t fit. This shows that the authorship is certainly not what is claimed by many Christians. And Tektonics, one of my favorite Christian sites to show how deceitful Christians can be. And it’s only your arguments given again.
1 Corinthians was written long after the supposed events, but before the gospels. Now, wouldn’t it be great to make claims about things happening and then having a story that was supposedly true and happened 60+ years ago agree with you? If I claim right now that my goddess, Sekhmet was seen by 500 people 10 years ago, and then I claimed to have a true story from 10 years ago that confirmed the citing, but was only written now, wouldn’t you be a little doubtful that anyone saw anything magical?
I do love your attempt at an analogy with the women and the paratroopers. Problem is that we know exactly why we want to send in paratroopers. In your bible, we have no good idea what they “really” meant, though I will admit each Christian is sure that they and they alone know. You seem to like to cite Bart Ehrman so I’ll give you his take on it: http://ehrmanblog.org/the-women-and-the-empty-tomb/
SS, if you want to claim I have used presuppositions, do so and support it. Trying to claim “but but we both do it so it’s okay for me to do so”, just makes me giggle at you. Trust me, I’m not frightened of your baseless threats. You want to make accusations, then do so and support them. If you can’t, it’s just more false witnessing.
You have offered claims that a tomb was empty and have claimed that Jews would never have extrapolated a resurrection even after they were told about it repeatedly by JC, that women witnesses were second class (funny how the religion says all are equal and the book is supposedly talking to believers who accept this, not Jewish law), and disciples preaching in Jerusalem (not prove to have happened at all). So, there we have it.
It’s always great to see someone say that they have to have *all* of the evidence at hand for a “good discussion.” No, one has to have enough evidence to prove one’s point. Claiming “all” is needed is just an excuse of impossible standards to fulfill. Yes, I know some people simply won’t be convinced. So? That doesn’t mean I can’t be. It’s always nice to see the ol’ Christian argument “but you’ll never accept anything I say, so you are just stubborn and I’m right.” Now, as soon as I give some examples of evidence that would be good enough, I’m expecting you to say “but but, then you’ll just claim it’s aliens, etc” Well, your god should be good enough to dispel that opinion, yes and know exactly what it would take. Alas, despite my prayers, it hasn’t seen fit to help me believe in it yet. Guess that story about Thomas and the lost sheep is just the usual BS. I’m not greedy, how about a chatty burning bush just for me? Yep, I’d investigate it but if it honestly had no other possibility, I’d believe. I might not worship such a god but belief is entirely different. How about every amputee from war in the US regaining their limbs?
And now you’ll claim that my requests are too “selfish” or would make God reveal himself and then were would be free will? Well, dear, I find that a god that isn’t willing to heal people because someone might want evidence to be a prick and I know that the bible god cares nothing about revealing himself removing free will because of the exodus stories, JC saying miracles are to prove that god exists, etc. I’ve shown that your arguments about the empty tomb are circular and gee if you think “sincere belief” is evidence, well, nothing can help you. It becomes since I believe, Jesus must exist, and Jesus must believe since I am sure that the empty tomb exists and the empty tomb can only exist because Jesus exists.
And tsk, Ben has offered to tell me just how to find god but has yet to give me the magic formula.
Well, you are kinda right, this is a long one. Because I want to focus on your more recent post, I will note a few things in your last comment and then leave the final word to you. I’ll try and keep it short, so I’ll only focus on relevant issues.
The early church (by which I mean prior to Constantine) was not interested in relics at first. Look it up. You say the number of relics that come from the time Jesus died shows my claim is false. No, the relics would of course come from that time, but that doesn’t mean it was the early Church that made an effort to obtain them.
You say the Gospels conflict with what we know, that there was no darkening of the sun, for instance. However, there actually might be some secular corroboration for this one. Two historians from that time, Thallus and Phlegon, apparently mentioned it, attributing it to a solar eclipse. Their work has gone missing, however, and this is preserved only by Julius Africanus, we have to be careful about him, he was a Christian, but remember that he is unlikely to lie about what these guys said. That could have been checked at the time. It’s actually quite interesting how these things can be preserved for people like you and me.
You say I have no evidence for events of those days, empty tomb, appearances of Jesus, etc. I have a question, what exactly counts as “evidence” to you? Evidence in law is defined as…
“data presented to a court or jury in proof of the facts in issue and which may include the testimony of witnesses, records, documents, or objects.”
I have presented the evidence for the empty tomb. You have to challenge this evidence, but saying it is (at least dubious) evidence rather than no evidence at all would save time.
Almost the whole city of Jerusalem was destroyed and levelled. Josephus records that only parts of the west wall remained intact to be used by the garrison, and adds,
“but for all the rest of the wall [surrounding Jerusalem], it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it [Jerusalem] had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.”
Ehrman argues that the tomb was not empty because of the Resurrection. I know that, but note that he definitely agrees that the tomb was empty in the first place, that was all I was trying to prove.
Archaeology can indicate an event, but cannot objectively prove that one happened. A mass of chariots at the bottom of the sea might indicate an event happened, but does not prove it was the chariots that pursued the Israelites. It could have been that they were on a fleet of ships when it sank, it could have been a different battle or event. Archaeology can only show probabilities that events happened, although often these are quite good.
You say it is not the consensus of scholarship today the Gospels were a kind of ancient biography. That is simply not true. Don’t believe me? See for yourself (look under genre).
In my links I attempted to give evidence that an ending at Mark 16:8 is inconsistent. Did you check out the actual evidence that it was inconsistent, or did you cherry pick parts that make it look like it says something entirely different? And I would check out the pdf. It is long, but worth the read if you want evidence the original ending to Mark was lost. And why would people add a longer ending? Simple, they wanted to touch it up a little bit.
Are you an atheist? When you look at the evidence do you do so with the belief that atheism is true? Then you have presuppositions, just like everyone else. Don’t be ashamed, it makes you look much better when you just confess that you do rather than argue that you don’t.
I will continue with this on your next post. So until then, ciao!
SS, I said mine was a long one, not yours. If I had meant yours, I would have said “That is a long one.
I did look up how the early church was about relics. And found that they were taking Paul’s hankerchiefs because they supposedly healed people, just like people think today. I think Acts is early enough, yes? And I ask you, are early Christians the “church” you claim? Because I know that early Christians varied widely in what exactly they believed. Those beliefs were so varied that they had to have councils to declare which were the “right” ones. So whatever you claim early Christians did, it’s likely I can show that they didn’t.
No, there is no secular corroboration for the darkening of the sun, SS. I know all about the claims of Thallus and Phlegon and nothing shows that they were not just reporting stories they had heard. We have no actual date shown as the date of the supposed resurrection or cruxifiction so we have no way to know if an eclipse fell on that date. Eclipses are predictable and can be run backward to find out dates in the past. There is also no evidence of any time within decades of the supposed death of JC that has an earthquake of sufficient magnitude to rip the curtain in the temple or roll rocks at the same time as an eclipse. There is no reason to think that Julius Africanus was or was not a liar, so you claiming that “he is unlikely to lie about what these guys said” is one more baseless claim.
You ask what counts as evidence to me. Well, evidence is that which supports an assertion. However, the claim that something happened is not evidence that it happened. For example, I claim I have seen aliens in my backyard. That is not evidence of this. Evidence would be footprints, photos, physical artifacts, a stranger confirming my sighting, etc, so yes your definition is a good one. Your claims about the bible’s recitation of events being evidence are not correct. As I have said, the bible is the claim, not the evidence. The bible claiming that JC was resurrected and that this resulted in the empty tomb is only a claim, not evidence. The quaaba stone in Mecca is claimed to be evidence of Islam’s truth and Allah in stories. I ask you, would you accept the existence of the Quaaba stone in Mecca as evidence that Islam is the one true religion and Allah is its god? It’s evidence. Why do you doubt the stories?
Josephus also claims that Vespasian did miracles. Should I believe him in that too? I do now agree with you that Jerusalem was largely destroyed (much it seems by the Jews themselves), but when Josephus claims a “million” people were killed, that’s a mite ridiculous. He also claims, as you note, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe Jerusalem had ever been inhabited”. That isn’t true at all. Seems Joe seems to have forgotten the west wall and the towers Titus left standing. (Rocca, Samuel (2008). The Forts of Judaea 168 BC – AD 73. Oxford, United Kingdom: Osprey Publishing) and again shows himself to be a poor source of truth.
And we’re back to your claim that *all* you were trying to prove is that the tomb was empty. Ehrman says that the tomb was empty *and* it has nothing to do with magic. For your claim to work, and your JC to be real, the tomb has to be empty by magic. You cited Ehrman as someone who agrees with you but they don’t, since you don’t agree with them that the tomb was empty by simply natural means.
You said that archaeology can’t indicate events. Now you say it can after being shown you were wrong. And it can prove that events objectively happened, unless you want to claim your god magically changed physics so we only “think” they happened. You intentionally leave out the details I gave about the chariots. We need chariots and chaotic deposition and then we can be much more sure that this was because of a castastrophe like the supposed walls of water closing in. If the chariots were on a fleet of ships, then we would have the ship wreckage. I mean, really, SS, do you even think when writing this stuff? It couldn’t’ have been battle since there were no opponents’ artifacts. Archaeology should be able to show much of the bible, but it doesn’t. Now why is this? Why do we see no flood deposit ? Why no Sodom and Gomorroah? No Exodus, etc etc. As you say, with archaeology one can see such things with “probabilities”, but NONE of the bible stuff is shown at all. Again, we are stuck with a very lower probability that the bible’s claims are true.
Nice wiki link My, it must be true this time! And mentions of consensus are from a most interesting source: Burridge, R. A. (2006). Gospels. In J. W. Rogerson & Judith M. Lieu (Eds) The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 437 You can’t show it’s a concensus, you show me a Christian book that claims such a thing. Hmmmm. With all of your insistence that we go to the primary, how does this book support that claim?
Yes, Ss, I did check out the links. Everyone else can too and see that I didn’t cherry pick anything. It’s nice ot know that people can just “touch up” the bible. Again, so much for this book to be trusted as any kind of divine revelation.
Yeesh. Yes, SS, I am an atheist and no, I do not have presuppositions about atheism or theism. The reason I am an atheist is that there is no evidence for your god or any other. The supposed holy books are ignorant texts from an ignorant people (not that it was their fault). I once was a Christian (cue the claims I wasn’t). I believed what I was told by people I trusted. I wanted to believe it because who doesn’t want to imagine that they are the special friend of the omnipotent being that created the universe. I grew to doubt this god because of reality, rather like Thomas. The claims and reality didn’t match up. I prayed to this god to help restore my faith. As you can see, it did nothing, because if a magical omnipotent being would help, you’d think I’d notice. I’m sure you’ll have excuse why this god failed in that or ignored its own words that it wants all lost sheep to find it. I did not start out saying “God doesn’t exist.” I did start out saying “God exists but it seems he doesn’t and I’m going to find out why.” So, SS, cease your wishful thinking that I have presuppositions. I don’t and thus I have nothing to “confess:” Keep up with these false claims and I just have to shrug and point to the intentional bearing of false witness against me.
Hi, new to the scene. I admit, didn’t read all of the comments above. Very lengthy!
First, I’m not posting as a Christian. I am posting as someone who was trained in Greek and Roman history. As such, I can say, pretty much definitively, that the only extra-biblical mention of the actual man Jesus was in Josephus, Antiquities. Yes, there are mentions of Christians, or followers of Chrestus (sic), but absolutely nothing else about Jesus ever having lived.
And, on top of that, I am deeply suspicious of the authenticity of the passage in Josephus. If the entire thing is not a later insertion, it has certainly been very heavily doctored. Very, very heavily doctored. Anyone, I think, with a decent command of Greek should be able to spot how the grammar is not cohesive, how certain passages read like schoolboy exercises in composition, etc. The best example is the phrase ‘and he was the Christ’. This is so obviously stuck in there that it’s…well, obvious.
In fact, I am very much inclined to dismiss the whole thing as something later Christians stuck into the text. The only reason I’m not fully convinced is that, if someone were going to invent the passage, why not come up with something better? I mean, seriously. This is the best you can do?
So, somehow, I think there is a reasonable case to be made that, some kernel, however tiny, of this was written by Josephus. Something he mentions, like “Jesus the wonder-worker” in a larger discussion of the context of the times. And wonder-workers were a dime a dozen back then. From there, the passage was elaborated into what we have.
BUT–that is direct evidence. Quite frankly, from any logical perspective, the idea that there was Christianity (I mean, can we accept that it exists?) without some sort of founding figure, whether it was Jesus or Fred the Carpenter, is borderline ludicrous. Sorry, it just is. Even the Greek philosophical schools, like Stoicism or Epicureanism had a founding figure. Religious beliefs do not coagulate out of thin air.
BUT–this is not to say that the real Jesus was anything like later Christianity portrayed him (unlikely to the extreme), or even as he was presented in the NT. In fact, there are a welter of alternative ‘gospels’ that portray Jesus in a lot of different ways. What this indicates is that the name Jesus carried weight, so people used him as a peg for whatever belief they wanted to propagate. This doesn’t happen with a non-existent person. (In fact, the portrayal of Jesus in the NT is very different from what he later became in Christian dogma. This is what I discuss on my blog. http://commentingonthebible.wordpress.com/ (Caveat: classicists are known pagan sympathizers; that’s why Gibbon blamed Christianity for the Fall of the Roman Empire.)
Then there’s the whole Paul thing. Don’t know if you realize this–if so, my apologies–but the authentic letters of Paul were written about 20 years before the gospels. As such, they don’t have a lot of the accretions–legends, etc–that the gospel stories contained. Paul states that he never met Jesus, but that he knew a number of people that had. One of them was James, brother of Jesus, (hence the moniker; it’s meant to be ironic) who was the head of the Jesus followers in Jerusalem. Paul is very matter of fact about this, to the point where he relates the argument he had with James about Gentile converts. (See the discussion about Galatians on my blog, Esp Galatians 2.) There is no inkling that Paul had doubts about Jesus’ existence.
In sum: there is no smoking gun definitive proof. It is possible that some may be found some day, but currently, there’s nothing. However, if you understand how history is written, you would have to realize that there is simply so much evidence about what happened later that to say that Jesus didn’t exist is just very highly improbable.
Or, try this. Astronomers have (IIRC) never actually seen these other planets they’ve discovered. Rather, they are able to deduce their existence by their gravitational pull. The affect the stars they revolve around. To explain these wobbles (often in the light that is emitted from the star), astronomers can demonstrate that there is an unseen body there that is causing this effect. In fact, black holes are a more extreme example of this same phenomenon.
So no, we can’t see Jesus, but we can see the effect of his gravitational field.
James, are you a Christian?
Since Josephus mentiones other ‘wonder workers’, does that mean that those people are just as magical as JC is supposed to be?
And sorry, there is no reason to think that since there is so much evidence about what happened later that to say JC didn’t exist is just very improbable. that would mean that the greek gods are just as likely to have existed as JC. and please to tell us “how history is written”. Explain on how that works for us.
We have evidence from gravity measurements, light meaurements, etc to show that extrasolar planets exist. All well withing how physics work. Again, since other gods have influenced history by their suppose existence, they are just as valid as JC. We can see their influence too.
That’s very helpful. Thanks!
PS. Arguing that Jesus never existed and that Jesus was not God, or that there is no God in the sense that Christians posit are not the same thing. Jesus’ existence as a human is, theoretically, a verifiable proposition. God’s existence, or that Jesus was divine are not verifiable in the same manner. They are articles of faith. Nothing more, nothing less. I mean, we’ve been through all the supposed arguments for God’s existence dating back to Aristotle’s Prime Mover, and none of them hold water. Kant sort of put the kibosh on trying to use logic to prove God.
So, James, are you a Christian? Then, do tell me who you worship, Jesus Christ Son of God or an jew who claimed he was the messiah and had no magical powers?
if you worship a human, interesting. If you worship a divinity, then we have no eidenec for it, and have no more reason to worship it as we do to worship Zeus. And it’s always nice to see people claim that one can’t use logic to prove God when so many other Christians are sure it does. Always so hard to tell who is telling the truth when it comes to religion. Each theist is sure that their answer is the only right one.
Alas, James, your god has been claimed to interact and influence the physical world. Since that claim has been made, believers have to show that this is indeed the case. Can you?
Is there any historical (and by this I specifically do mean non-Gospel) evidence for any of the other players? Like Pilate, Caiaphas, etc? Or the Apostles? I’m curious to know the “authenticity” of anything. Did the Romans keep records in Judea?
I guess I’m curious because 2000 years ago isn’t *that* long (particularly given it was a Roman state), and for instance there’s no doubting that other religious figures such as Muhammed and Baha’u’llah were real people. Why is it different here?
I guess, where’s the line of people we KNOW existed, as a fact, and the people we’re arguing about? Like Paul. Was he real?
If a disclaimer is necessary: no beliefs (Christian, athiest, or otherwise) to speak of.
this is something that you can google. There is some evidence for Pilate, one of the most important is the Pilate stone that has a inscription about him. The notorious Josephus mentions him too, though not in relation to Jesus Christ. And thre is some confusion of what rank he held. There does not appear to be much evidence for a Caiaphas though Josephus again mentions him but not in relation to JC. There is an ossuary that was claimed as his but is debated on its authenticity, since strangely it doesn’t mention the “occupant” as having been high priest at all: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caiaphas_ossuary And, as far as I know, there is no evidence for the named apostles other than in the gospels and the later church claims about martyrdom.
Mohammed was probably a real person but was he taking dictation for Gabriel or flying on magical ponies? Probably not. The fellow who started Bahai is at least in the 19th c. and there are supposedly actual photos of him, so it’s a lot easier to substantiate his existence. Joshua ben Joseph may have been a real person too, but he was not Jesus Christ Son of God and that’s the character being defended and worshiped.
As for Paul, could there have been a convert to early Christianity? Of course. Was there one that was a Pharisee that hated Christians? Less likely, but still possible. Was there one that had an unusual experience to convert him? Still possible but even less. Was there one that had JC/God directly talk to him? Even less. And one that did miracles? Well, even less than that. So, “Paul” as a convert may have existed, though the story strikes me as one of those “too good to be true” stories. Nothing sells like having an “enemy” join one’s ranks.
But the magical parts? No evidence of this at all. And again we have the same problem as we have had with Jesus. The possible historical, non-magical characters are not the ones that Christians hold in such high regard.
I just looked a little and found this book preview, authored by someone who is not himself a Christian, and it looks fascinating. (I mean, I’m reading this thread, right? I’m already interested). I’m going to see if I can find a copy.
Nothing of the little I’ve been looking up thus far suggests that the Gospels are anything but oral traditions.
Bart Ehrman is a very good writer. you can find more info about him here: http://www.bartdehrman.com/ and of course on wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bart_D._Ehrman At the moment, I think Dr. Ehrman is an agnostic, though he was a Christian and went to seminary school. I’ve read several of his books and a lot of libraries have them. I’d also like to get one of his courses that Great Courses offers: http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=6593 That isn’t the only one, just search the site for Ehrman up in the search box.
Ehrman appears to believe that there was someone who was Jesus of Nazareth, but this is not the Jesus Christ, son of God and performer of miracles. There could very well have been a regular old rabbi wandering around and that could be considered historical, but the magical Jesus is not historical at all. In my opinion, one cannot conflate the two when making claims of historicity since the rabbi isn’t what Christians are concerned with.
OK, I think I see the problem here.
Yes, the Christians are concerned with the ‘magical Jesus’. But the magical Jesus is historically best explained as a shell that grew around the human Jesus of Nazareth. I thought Ehrman was very clear on that. This is why it’s possible to discuss the human Jesus while leaving the magical Jesus out of this.
I will assume the fault is mine for not catching this nuance in your definition. But if we cannot distinguish between the two, we have absolutely no common ground for a rational discussion. Without the distinction between the ‘two Issues’, we’re arguing about faith, which is not amenable to rational discussion.
The problem is that Christians do not distinguish between the two. They are only interested in the existence of the magical Jesus. If they wish to deny the divinity of Joshua ben Joseph, that is more than fine with me. however, I think their religion has a problem with that e.g. “Who do you say that I am?”
Again, JBOJ, are you a Christian?
And I agree, faith is not rational, but we have Christians who claim to have evidence for their magical god. If you are correct and this is a matter of faith only, why do they need such evidence?
I’m not writing as a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, or a pagan. I am writing as an historian, which means that whatever I believe is irrelevant.
And I’m not much concerned whether Christians can or do distinguish between the historical Jesus and the magical Jesus. If I were writing as a Christian, that might matter. But I’m not, so it doesn’t.
As for why Christians feel the need for proof, ask them. More germane to the discussion is why do you feel it’s so all-fired important to deny that there was an historical Jesus? If you don’t believe in his divinity, what difference does it make what others believe?
And it was commonly believed that both Julius and Augustus Caesar became gods upon their death. If they didn’t become gods, does that mean they didn’t exist either? And both Gaius and Nero believed that they were gods incarnate. If they weren’t actual gods, does that mean they didn’t exist?
Bart Ehrman is indeed an agnostic now, having begun as a Christian. He believes in a human Jesus of Nazareth; is he wrong, too?
The point is, Christianity started with someone, at a fairly discreet point in time. Given the four Caesars above, people being or becoming divine wasn’t all that outlandish a belief at the time–the four of them and Jesus all died within a span of just over 100 years, with Jesus towards the later end.
Christianity had to start with someone. The most likely explanation is that it began with a charismatic sage/teacher/preacher. Diogenes the Cynic was something like this, and a number of people followed his example for several hundred years after his death. So why not Jesus? Especially since a man becoming divine after death was not unheard of at the time? People believed it about Julius and Augustus; why such a stretch that people believed it about Jesus?
How, in god’s name, does it make more sense to say that a couple of guys were at a bar one night and thought it would be a great joke to claim that some dude named Jesus said all this stuff? And then they devoted the rest of their lives to perpetrating this joke? And, despite the competition from literally hundreds of other, similar preachers, it was their lie that was more convincing than the stuff all those other guys were saying?
Mass movements, generally, are started by charismatic figures. And charismatic figures are not, generally, exactly eager to give credit to someone else. So if one of the guys in on the joke happened to be a charismatic figure who could convince others of his message, why do you suppose he wouldn’t want to take the credit for himself? That is simply contrary to human nature.
And what about someone like Socrates? We know about him through Plato; did Plato make Socrates up? There isn’t exactly a whole lot of evidence for Socrates, either, once you get past Plato. Substitute “Bible” for “Plato”, and the situation isn’t all that different. It takes an awful lot to start a mass movement. Generally, it takes someone with a gift for attracting people.
If you read Mark closely, you would notice that, at points, Jesus’ divinity is very ambiguous. Which is another way of saying that it took a while for the idea of Jesus being divine to sink in and really take hold. That’s a process. So, again, how does it make sense that someone invented a guy named Jesus?
Thanks JBOJ, for coming out with the “what different does it make what others believe?” Well, JBOJ, I can be pretty sure that you are a Christian, though what version I am not sure. Consider these things: We have Christians trying to force their version of their religion on everyone here in the United States. We have Christians who murder their children because of what they think some imaginary being is telling them. We have Christians who think that they can tell me what I can do with my body because of this belief of theirs. And this belief is based on nothing more than stories. They want me to obey their god and do what they calim this god says to do, though none of them can prove that this god even exists or that their religion contains any real truths. People kill each other because they think that some magical being supports their actions. This is why it makes a difference. This is why religion is so very harmful.
This is why Jesus Christ is different than Nero or Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great. People don’t say that I’ll be damned to eternal torture and that they have the right to control me because Julius Caesar supposedly became a god. We have evidence of these leaders. Again, we have NOTHING confirming the existence of Jesus Christ. For someone who claims he is a historian, this should be understood by you. We have myths about people and then we look to see if anything conforms their existence. We have statues, coins, contemporary accounts, and the fact that emperors are nothing special. What do we have that is similar supporting the evidence of Jesus of Nazareth? Well, we have that there were indeed wannabee messiahs running around Palestine. We have some of their names too. So, could there have been a Jesus of Nazareth? Yes. Does there have to be one? In my opinion, no. The stories of the “sackful” of messiahs can generate a wholely formed character of one that never actually existed, just like I can come up with a character of a WWII pilot without there having been one pilot that this character “must” be.
I am glad that you agree that resurrection wasn’t unknown to the society as SS seems to try to claim. Thank you.
Ehrman may be wrong.So? Do you think he can’t be wrong since he’s a professor? There may have been no Jesus of Nazareth either. He is more likely right than the Christian who claims that JC was magical. I may be wrong too. You can say I’m wrong. I can show the reasons that I’ve used to come to my conclusions.
Yes, Plato could have made Socrates up. Again, no one is killing each other over Socrates and what he “really” meant. and I know that in Mark Jesus isn’t nearly as magical as in, say, John. This still does not mean that we must have jesus of Nazareth. It’s certainly easier with him. But to claim that Jesus of Nazareth was some charismatic character isn’t a lock. The story itself is appealing, saying that even slaves will get paradise will appeal to many people.
and very nice strawman argument “How, in god’s name, does it make more sense to say that a couple of guys were at a bar one night and thought it would be a great joke to claim that some dude named Jesus said all this stuff?” I never said this and would also say that I never even came close to this. It’s a shame that you must claim that I have. Could your scenario be the case? Possibly but unlikely. I’ve gone over possible scenarios. One could be that people heard of a man who claimed to be messiah. Then we have more stories attributed to him. Joshua is a common name so it gets attached. Then the prophecies start being tacked on. We need no one to “be in on the joke”.
I was under the impression that we were discussing history. Appears I was wrong. I have no interest in having a discussion on religion. If I wanted to do that, I’d go back to arguing politics on right-wing blogs (I’m anti-RW, BTW).
As for my beliefs, ‘pantheist’ probably comes closest.
“Whatever.” Nice response. JBOJ, *you* are the one who asked me questions about religion and then when I respond you say “whatever”? Oh well. 🙂
We are discussing history, JBOJ. I have pointed out to you that history isn’t just stories from one source. It is corroborating evidence to show that what could be just myths are reality. You seem to not agree with that basic concept when you claim that there must be an historical Jesus. Let me ask you something that I noted on Proudfoots’ blog. Do you believe that there was a historical Heracles?
Well, a pantheist believes god is in everything, yes? I’ve found that idea more interesting than regular monotheism. However, it seems to require an attempt to redefine the concept of “divine”.
I think it entirely possible Ehrman is wrong. Am undertaking a reading of his book ‘Did Jesus Exist?’ to discover whether there is any ‘there’ there.
Your posts about it look good. So many folks who want to claim a historical Jesus seem to rely on the “lord liar lunatic” without even considering “legend”.
Glad you spotted that – I often encounter proselytizers who use the ‘even atheists admit Jesus existed’ as a gambit, and Lewis’s ‘lord, liar, lunatic’ trilemma depends on no one imagining that the obvious ‘legend’ possibility.
Indeed. 🙂 We do have people like JBOJ evidently unable to comprehend that not all stories have to have a real person at their base. Fictional characters can be compilations of people. I see that JBOJ hasn’t replied to my question about Heracles. I do hope he will, and maybe since it’s a holiday weekend in the US, he’ll get back to this next week.
My apologies, I didn’t realize that you were so omniscient that to disagree with you was to be wrong. Wow.
It’s not whether I can’t comprehend it, it’s that I don’t agree with you. Can you get the difference there?
Second, the whole Herakles thing was a really poor analogy. I thought I’d do you the favor of letting it slide rather than pointing that out. You are confusing myths with religious movements. They are very different things, and if you can’t comprehend that, well, I don’t know. I’m too dense to be able to comprehend what that means.
As for ‘whenever’, what else can I say when you seem not in the least interested in what I have to say? Gods, I hate to pull credentials, but I have several degrees in history, including Greece and Rome. I have an idea of what was going on when Jesus was alive. I spent an entire year reading and discussing Tacitus’ Annales–in Latin. I know what sources exist, I know what value they have, I have a good idea of what the overall scene was like, I’ve spent time with professors–of history, not theology–going over everything I said or wrote with a fine-toothed comb…I have the chops for this. I know what I’m talking about. I’m not saying I’m always right; I’ll let you do, or at least imply, that. You can disagree without necessarily being wrong, but a lot of what you have said is rather beside the point.
I say ‘whenever’ and invent ‘strawman’ arguments because you do not take the trouble to come up with an explanation for how this happened. How did it happen? How? If it wasn’t some guys in a bar, then how?
And when has there been a similar situation, in recorded, historical time?
The point remains is that…a person or persons unknown started talking about someone they called Jesus. They said he said and did all this stuff, and they said this about a guy who had just recently died; at a time when there were a fair number of people alive who could remember whether this guy ever lived.
Then, within about 20 years, they had convinced so many people that this Jesus dude existed that Pliny the Younger wrote the emperor for advice on how to handle these Christians. Damn, that is one fancy bit of persuading.
And a similar situation has occurred…when? No, don’t give me the lame-o Herakles story, or any other legend that began no one knows when. The thing with Jesus and Christianity is that it has a very definite starting point, where Herakles simply doesn’t. His story is already in place by the time we get our first written records of him. And he was someone who had lived ‘long ago’, not 20 or 30 years before. So that’s where your analogy completely breaks down.
OTOH, the best analogy seems to be the beginning of Islam: a charismatic figure convinced a lot of people he had a message from the Divine. He was so convincing that he organized a powerful state that became a powerful empire and all within about a century.
Did Mohammed really have a message from Allah? Or did he just claim that? Or did other people just make that part up?
If you really understood historical analogies, you could toss out something like King Arthur. Did he exist? Actually, it seems he did. Did he have a Round Table and a pal named Lancelot? No. How about a magician named Merlin? Well, probably not, but there was a Myrrdin who lived a hundred years or so later who was probably the basis for that part of the story. The Holy Grail part was tacked on later (but not the Holy Hand Grenade–that was definitely true). And, btw–Arthur was supposed to have a second coming, too. He is a person who became a legend. But, in some way, he was a person.
As for people who say you will be damned for not believing in Jesus, that has no bearing on whether there was a Jesus at the beginning of the story. People say George Washington cut down a cherry tree. He didn’t, but that has no bearing on George’s existence.
That’s why I say ‘whatever’. I’m talking about history, and you complain about what people say about Jesus. Don’t like what they say? Too bad. Can’t help you, but you’re hijacking the discussion. Can we stick to the point, here? I don’t want to discuss things that annoy you.
Now it’s time for you to put up, or shut up. Give me a convincing account of how Jesus came to be revered and considered divine. How?
Here’s mine: he was a very charismatic figure. He lived in a area that was basically Jewish, but had a lot of Hellenistic (look it up) influence. He preached a message that sort of merged the two traditions. He had a personality that attracted a lot of different people from different backgrounds, who all took away different pieces of Jesus’ message. And we really don’t–can’t–know, truly, what that message was. But there is a real chance it did not include anything about eternal life or damnation. Because so many different people had such different interpretations, a lot of stories were told about him, to the point that Paul and James (who was considered to be Jesus’ brother) completely disagreed on what Jesus’ message was. They worked out a compromise, which gave them a starting point, which led to something that could reasonably be called Christianity by sometime around 80-90 CE. However, a lot of the ‘basic’ beliefs of Christianity, like Jesus’ exact relationship to God the Parent, or the Trinity, & c would not be worked out for another 200-300 years.
Now, your explanation has to include a plausible scenario for why Paul and James came to this agreement. Saying it was all made up isn’t good enough. You have to explain why anyone would think it was a good idea to make up this story. And who made up the story? The Gentiles? Or the Jews? Who benefited from it? And if Paul disagreed with James, why acknowledge that James was Jesus’ brother? Why not deny that, since it, prima facie, gives James the upper hand?
See, it’s not enough to just deny crap. You have to explain why these little peripherals were invented. And you have to explain why these persons unknown chose to base their religion on a condemned criminal? That was rather an embarrassment, wasn’t it? Why not someone more like the Bhudda, who was sort of above it all?
So, what’s your story? And it better be cohesive, internally consistent, and have no reference to what Christians came to believe by 100 CE, let alone since then. It better focus on Jesus, in and around 50 CE. Was Paul real? Did he write his letters? If not, who did, and why? Were they a pack of lies? To what purpose?
As for the definition of divinity, go read Joseph Campbell’s entire “Masks of God” series. Now you’re going to complain about how I keep throwing references at you. Well, that’s because I’ve been reading about this stuff for a very long time. The stuff you’ve put out there sounds a lot like the discussions I had in my first year of university: a lot of facile and snidely superior cynicism (not to be confused with Cynicism), the sort of callow crap that you get the first time you read Hume or Kant.
So, go ahead. Tell me your story. In detail. And leave Herakles or any similar figures out of it. They are nothing like what we’re discussing. And the fact that I even have to explain that is what makes me feel like saying ‘whatever’.
Nice start, JBOJ. Hmmm, now where have I said I was omniscient or that someone was wrong only because they disagree with me?
You have not done me any favors, JBOJ. I do love the claim that it was just you taking pity on poor lil’ ol’ me by ignoring things. Tell me how Heracles is a “really poor analogy”. You keep saying it but you’ve yet to explain why. Again, do you believe that there was a historical Heracles?
It’s great that you think myths are not religious movements. So, please do tell me how they are “very different things”. You seem to be quite sure I’m so very “dense”, so surely you can explain to this poor dense woman.
You have asked me questions, JBOJ and when I’ve responded, you said “whatever.” I would hazard that this demonstrates that you are not interested in what I have to say if it disagrees with your view of the world. I understand what you have to say and I have told you why I disagree with it. That is certainly not being “not in the least interested in what you have to say”. I am very interested in what you have to say, or I would not be discussing things with you. You seem to be confusing someone being interested in what you have to say and accepting what you have to say with no question.
It’s nice that you have “several degrees in history”. You’ve tried to pull your credentials from the very first when you mentioned those degrees. I don’t have degrees but I’ve also done a lot of research and I also have an idea of what was going on when Jesus was claimed to have existed. I also know what sources exist, what value they have and I have read many of them, nicely translated into English. I also have the chops for this, even if I don’t have a formal degree. I have not said I’m always right. Please do show me where you think I’ve said this. Oh and I do already know what Hellenistic means.
You have said this: “You can disagree without necessarily being wrong, but a lot of what you have said is rather beside the point.” I have shown why I disagree with you. I have given examples but it seems that you decide not to acknowledge them, claiming that they are “beside the point”, without explaining how.
I have explained how myths can arise, JBOJ. I will repeat what I have already said “One could be that people heard of a man who claimed to be messiah. Then we have more stories attributed to him. Joshua is a common name so it gets attached. Then the prophecies start being tacked on. We need no one to “be in on the joke”.” Again, to be clear, we have people hearing of a claimant as messiah. We have stories attributed him “I was healed!” . We have a name associated with this man, a common name is easy. Then the prophecies are said to be fulfilled by him, by more stories by people who weren’t completely familiar with those prophecies “He was born of a virgin!” comes out rather than a young woman will bear the messiah. We have many people claimed to have done miracles, to be the messiah in recorded historical time. They are not shown to be true claims but only stories.
There is no evidence that there were people who saw this guy ever living. There are stories that there were. There are stories that people see angels constantly, and there are people who say they’ve seen Elvis. Do you believe them without question or are these to be considered stories? Yes, within about 20 years other people believed these stories and were Christians. And yes Pliny the Younger wrote about Christians. People write about the believers of religions. Does that mean all religions are true because they have believers? No it is not “one fancy bit of persuading”. It’s a common bit of persuading that religious leaders to all of the time. Trust me, everyone will be rewarded with heaven if you believe in Jesus. Trust me, we’ll all go to paradise if we kill non-believers. Trust me, cut of your penis and the aliens will take you to their perfection.
We have no “very definite start point” for Jesus. Christians have no firm idea of when he lived or died, we have no date for either. We have claims that it was around a certain time, but around that certain time no one noticed the suppose events going on. It is the same for claims about the Exodus. We have claims that it was possibly around one pharaoh or another but no evidence supports those claims. You claim that the story for Herakles has no start point. So, the story of Herakles has been around *forever*? Or could it be we simply don’t know the start date anymore? Your argument appears to depend on “if we don’t’ have information then the person didn’t exist”, which is pretty much my argument, since we don’t have information, the person didn’t exist. There is no more evidence for Jesus than Herakles. We have stories and believers, that’s it. We have external evidence for Mohammed. The others, not so much.
I agree that King Arthur is another good analogy. He has the same problems as JC. King Arthur, as described in the tales, did not exist. Every essential detail about King Arthur cannot be shown to exist at all. There are hypotheses that there could have been a warlord from the end of the Roman era that may have been the start but again we have stories from centuries afterward as the basis for those claims. No other evidence. As I have said before, there is no need for one certain person to be the basis of a myth. There were many warlords so the character could have come from the imagination about them. And things can be tacked on to a legend as well as they can be tacked on to a real person. To claim that in some way a character is a person is rather silly when I can say the same thing about Darth Vader. But do we have a real person that was the kernel for Darth Vader or is he invented from a idea about what a human could be?
I believe that the claim that people will be damned for not believing in Jesus does have bearing on this. Legend does influence the credulous, just like the story about George Washington has bearing on his existence. *You* are the one who said ““what different does it make what others believe?” and you appear to have said that to dismiss my points. I am not “hijacking” anything if I am responding to your questions.
I have already given an account on how the myth of Jesus could have come about. I find it quite convincing, and it’s telling when you say “Now it’s time for you to put up, or shut up. Give me a convincing account of how Jesus came to be revered and considered divine. How?” You appear to have already determined that anything I say is not “convincing” since you do not agree with it. Your scenario is also possible, JBOJ, but it is not the only possibility. There is no evidence for your proposed man. There is then no evidence for him having a brother, only stories. We have no evidence that Paul existed as described as the bible claims. We do know that there were different version of Christianity around and we do know that they fought for dominance. Still no real one person needed, and I find it evidence that JC is mythical since we have claims that some of these people knew him directly and still had no idea what the “real” message was. There is no evidence that *anyone* had the real answer, so claiming Paul and James disagreed and then compromised means only that stories were agreed on, still no real person needed. I already know that calling James “brother” and what that really means has not been agreed on, so I have no idea on why Paul disagreed with him or why he would mention it. I also do not see that James being a “brother” would give him the upper hand since early Christianity seems to discount human relationships as giving one authority about what should be believed. As for who made up the story? I don’t know, and thus I don’t know for what purpose, though I can guess that consolidating power is useful.
I am not “just denying crap”. I am presenting my reasons and for you to claim I have not is amusing but rather silly in a written medium. As for why believers would keep the story about being a condemned criminal? The idea of martyrdom was considered a good thing. Why would it be embarrassing to have as your leader someone who stood up to the state and was “killed” for it and then rose again to show how right he was? As for Paul, there was someone who wrote letters, at least some of them. He seemed to be looking for power, telling the various churches to follow him and no one else’s version of Christianity. He may have believed what he said, but again that doesn’t make it true.
I’ve read Joseph Campbell. So, again you are wrong since surprise, no complaints about references at all. So, you want me to read 4 books I’ve read before. I wonder if it surprises you that someone is as least as well read as you are. I’m not asking Joe Campbell, JBOJ, I’m asking you. Divinity started out meaning the supernatural; pantheists seem to have redefined it to mean the natural world since the supernatural has no evidence to support its existence.
And JBOJ, acting like a bully and trying to tell me what to leave in or out won’t work. Sorry, but those things you don’t like and demand to not see are what show that you could be wrong. It’s also charming that you accuse me of being snide, facile and callow. Please do show our audience where I was such things, JBOJ.
I wrote a long, impassioned and probably intemperate reply to your comment. There was a glitch when I went to post my reply, and maybe my reply didn’t post?
If not, all the better. I would like to extend my sincere apologies for what I believe has been churlish behaviour. I don’t necessarily retract what I said, but I regret the hell out of the way I said it.
What irked me were the repeated questions about my beliefs. I have not been a Christian in three decades, so I was sincere in my statement that my belief (or lack thereof) affected my belief in a living Jesus. I went through the denial phase and the atheist phase and I’ve settled into a pantheism that does not equate sacred with supernatural.
The only other thing I will add is that, in historical analysis, it is not enough to deny evidence. That evidence exists; it has to be explained in a very complex way because it presents a very complex problem. To say ‘I don’t believe the evidence’ is a start, not a final position.
This is certainly a topic on which reasonable people can disagree. I believe my position is based on a strong foundation of historical analysis, but that does not mean you have to agree with me.
James, brother of Jesus
Unfortunately, there does seem to have been a glitch and there is no sign of your prior post in the backend of things here at the blog, JBOJ. I accept your regrets.
I honestly find it odd that someone who says that they’ve been a pantheist for thirty years to have taken James Brother of Jesus as a screen name to very very odd. I am curious why you chose that, if you’d care to share. I know Christians who have called themselves pantheists because they didn’t want the baggage of the term Christian. I can understand that, since many Christians have shat all over that term with their actions. I make no claim that you are this or something else entirely.
I have denied the evidence and I have shown how evidence supports my view. I am sorry if I am not “complex” enough for you in my explanation. I find that I am and I find that simple complexity of explanation does not guarantee having the truth; in many cases I find that “complex” explanations are no more than smoke and mirrors, aka baffle them with bullshit. 🙂 I have not said in any way simply “I don’t believe the evidence”. Please don’t try to claim that I have. I have started with “These are the claims. This is the evidence presented. I have evidence contrary to that.” And thus I reach a conclusion”.
The name JBOJ was meant ironically. I was discussing starting my blog with a friend and it started as a bit of a joke.
And didn’t mean to imply simple answers are wrong; just that complex questions require complex answers.
I admit that I don’t understand this joke. I also do not agree that complex questions require complex answers, not that the idea of a character created from imagination is comples.
I also do still expect you to support your accusations about me. I use the responses to see if I indeed am guilty of such things. However, if I get no response I find I can safely assume that I am not.