Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – troopies, welcome Derek, a seminarian who is braving the leopard’s den

leopard with tail in mouthBack near Easter, I had a youngish Christian wanting to try out apologetics on me.  He’s back and I’m very pleased that he did return.  It’s not a easy thing to debate religion with an atheist, and one as aggressive as I am.

You can see his post attempting to refute my post about easter here.  I figured I’d make my answer here and there so we can have a nice fresh page to debate on.

Hah, and you think your post is long! :) Hi Derek, Again, thanks for returning.  I know that it can be uncomfortable to discuss Christianity and theism with an atheist.  I am definitely one of the more aggressive ones, so be warned.   And don’t worry about length.  You’ve certainly seen where I don’t give a hoot how long a post is. I’d love to have parakeets but I think my cats would terrorize them to death.  I need a big ol’ crow that could stand its own.

My point about the second class citizens is that the Bible has much about how second-class women are and has one very little bit about how everyone is supposed to be equal.  As always, the parts of the bible to be followed depend on the person, not some idea that the words are a divine truth. There are some sects that do not treat women as such, but most consider a woman less than a man, basing their nonsense on Paul.   Of course, most of these sects ignore the parts about women not teaching, because that’s rather inconvenient in the US.  IJM does good work (though there are some questionable things they’ve done as my research has shown).  However,  the basic idea of women as second-class is about as Christian as the idea of taking care of the least of these.

I’ve always been interested in the various sects of Christianity.  My former church was Presbyterian. It split because one woman said that this god told her that the church we had needed to be torn down and replaced.  The “new church” half was recognized by the Presbytery and the other considered well, I think heretics isn’t too strong a word since they didn’t believe the woman’s claims and kept the old church. They became an independent church.  It seems that splits like this are always happening in Christianity, there’s always someone who thinks that they have the “right” version.   Open theism is certainly a strange one.  It seems like a rather curious attempt to make God over into what reality indicates, a way to have a god but excuse its incompetence.  It certainly isn’t the god of Christianity it’s describing.

I’d like to ask you, why do you “lean” more towards Wesleyan Aminian theology? What makes it better than say Calvinism or Roman Catholicism?

Now, onto the other stuff.  There is no evidence that this cruxifiction happened at all.  If it happened on a Passover, one could recalculate it since Passover is based on lunar events.  There would also have been a Roman date which we also could figure out what it was in our calendar, and Romans are anything but “atemporal” as a people.  But we have neither.  And yes, dates are forced on other ancient documents.  We know Alexander’s birthday.  That we do not know one of the most important dates in your religion makes it seem very odd to me. I ask you to tell me what reference to Jesus are contemporary and non-biblical.  I want to know which ones you are talking about before I tear into them.  Again, there is no evidence anyone was cruxifed as this man.  But, assuming the story is true, then he was crucified as a danger to Rome.  He was also supposedly famous for doing miracles, so much so that he had over a legion’s worth of men (plus women and children) just outside of Jerusalem an occupied city.  And no one noticed this, in a country that was, as you said, known for revolts.  Or remarked upon this to the soldiers.  Knowing more than a few soldiers, I find that hard to believe considering how they gossip. 

Different accounts and different viewpoints does not excuse why entirely contradictory events were claimed.   These events cannot have occurred together.  There can’t be more than one “first into the tomb”.  There can’t be the thieves  tormenting Jesus and then not doing so.  There cannot be a Jesus so distraught in Gesthemane that he wept blood, and a Jesus that did not weep at all and had no trouble going to the cross.  The bible presents all of these as the “truth” and they cannot all be; so why consider any to be the truth and not just a set of stories?  Your example of breaking a leg in Hawaii can be proven by evidence of a certain event happening.  Your story will not say “ I broke my skull.”  It will not say “I was in Massachusetts”.  If it did, you would be providing misinformation, correct?  Since the Gospels do contradict themselves, they can be shown to be doing the same thing.   This is not simply different viewpoints or different emphases.  It is claims that one thing happened and then a completely different thing happened.   One of the events is not true (per you perhaps intentionally) and I know that the Bible says that lies and liars are not loved by this god, with no exceptions given at all.

This is not simply not mentioning something as in your second example, it is giving another event that precludes the priorly claimed one from happening.

You claim that we can’t hold the people writing then to the same standards as now.  Why not? They weren’t stupid.  They wrote the truth as often as we do, so it is anachronistic at all to expect them to write facts down and hold to those facts.  Writing to an audience does not require changing what are supposedly the facts. There is no evidence to show that Matthew and Luke were adding their “own recollections” since we have no evidence that the event happened at all or that they were there.  Another explanation, just as valid, is that they were adding stuff to make the story more appealing and that stuff never happened.  Humans can invent things or borrow things, Derek, and they could have been doing it then just like humans do it now with the claims of miracles and other nonsense.  The authors cannot be shown to be apostles or anything like that; they were written by people we do not know well at all over a span of decades at best.  We do not know their provenance and your arguments depend on believing things that are not true.   And no, it would not take an infinite amount of pages for any biography.

It may have not been an intentional hoax. Other religions pop up and I don’t think they are intentional hoaxes. Do you? People hear things and elaborate on them. And people aren’t necessarily stupid.  They can simply be ignorant and wanting to believe in such things.  It’s very attractive, a religion that says that even slaves will get magical rewards in heaven, that some omnipotent being loves you and will answer your prayers. Again, the friends aren’t saying that you broke your skull when you broke your leg or saying that you were in Massachusetts when you were in Hawaii.  That is what the authors of the gospels have done.  Your analogy fails again since we are not talking about omission.  We are talking about events that cannot happen concurrently and both be true.  The authors have no idea if the stories are true but report them as true, and they cannot be shown to be true via any other source.  Now, there were people writing in ancient times that did their best to cooroborate their stories, so it is no excuse to say it’s anachronistic again.  It was done, these people didn’t do it, so why?  It’s like now. People want to claim things as true and do their best to remain willfully ignorant of anything that contradicts them, for example creationists.  They have a reason to intentionally tell a false tale and it is for no beneficial purpose to those they tell it too.

Your analogy does bring up one more problem: why can’t this god keep its story straight?  It has supposedly influenced mankind over and over again? Why not now?  Why the confusion? And nice try but no, police do not automatically assume that just because stories are the same or similar, the witnesses have talked to get their claims to match. Nor do they assume that since there are differences, it must be true.  It always amuses me when Christians want to use both arguments “the gospels are the same so it must be true. The difference don’t matter at all”  and “the gospels are different so it must be true.  The differences matter very much.”  Which is it?

The timing issue and the cock are little things when it comes to the problems in the stories.  I’ve listed them in the blog post and some again in this post at the beginning.  I known that it’s constantly debated of what happened, when it happened and what does it “mean”.  That’s why we have Christian sects up to our eyeballs.  No one can agree on this nonsense that is supposedly some magical truth.  And no they do not agree on the MAIN points, Derek.  You want to pick and choose what you want to claim as “main points” so you can ignore the problems. You want to pick and choose what to take literally and figuratively.  Each Christian does that, and we have a million different variations of what is “really” literal and what is “really” figurative.  Again this is why we have so many sects, because Christians aren’t one big happy family.  I have called that the magic decoder ring.  And the magic decoder rings have changed since the scientific method has been around.  What was declared as true and inviolate has been shown to be untrue.  Yep, the claims of the earthquake is nonsense and the dead walking is even more hilarious.  But everyone used to think it literally true.  And now, since we know it’s not by evidence and investigation, those things become just figurative conveniently and why Matthew simply *must* have been using a mysterious “literary device” that no one can explain.   Now, I can say that the whole Christ story is figurative, that it’s just an ideal being put forth.  What tells you that it must be literal?  We have no evidence for the events in it, so why think it, and not the earthquake or the walking dead literally true? Does this mean that the miracles aren’t true, that no one was raised from the dead, fed fish and loaves or saw JC walking on water?  Or resurrected?

To me, this running around trying to find evidence, claiming bits figurative and literal is the best indication that most, if not all, Christians have very little faith.  Someone with faith, aka belief in the unseen, would not be so desperate as many Christians are when they are looking for evidence.  It is unfortunately easy to watch them intentionally lie to provide supposed “evidence”, they keep themselves willfully ignorant so they do not encounter things that might shake their faith.  We have had Christians, Jews, Muslims, looking for evidence for millennia and you have found nothing.  Does that mean that they never will?  No, but the prospects are certainly looking dim.

You have said that you believe that JC is real and this text doesn’t dissuade me from that.  Let me ask: what would dissuade you or are you blindly faithful and would never consider anything that might show you that you are wrong, either that atheism is correct or that another religion got it right?

Oh and earthquakes are easy to find. 2000 years is nothing when it comes to geological evidence.  So, if there is no evidence yet, there is no reason to think it’s hiding or worn away.  You might as well as say “we were created last Thursday and God is playing hide and seek for no reason or that we got the wrong god.”  If a god wants to hide all of the evidence, then it is intentionally damning honest people and that whole story about the lost lamb is complete nonsense.  I can see a vicious god like this but I don’t think that is the god you claim exists

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40 responses to “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – troopies, welcome Derek, a seminarian who is braving the leopard’s den

    • Poor Nick at deeperwaters. Rather than being courteous and leaving me a comment saying “I’ve written a refutation of your claims. I have decided to use them as a blog post since it’s easier formatting/I wanted a blog post/etc and you are welcome to come to my blog (url address) and respond”, Nick has to rely on wannabee minions telling me that he’s has some fabulous refutation. Alas, that is not the case, it’s nothing new. No wonder he isn’t trumpeting it himself, only the “choir” will think it’s anything worthwhile.

  1. Haha, thanks for the spotlight. I’ll get back with you when I can, and hopefully soon. I certainly have a lot to sink my teeth into! And I’m sorry if I was overly simplistic with my initial response. I’m never sure when starting these conversations exactly how deep it will go. And if there is anything I’ve learned from my wife, it is that I often go further than anyone else wants to. But now I’ll know that I need not skim any surface 🙂

    And one other point of clarification: I was not “wanting to try out apologetics on” you. I had come across another blog that I felt the need to correct, and was invited over and asked to comment on this one as a result. As I stated on the original post, I would not consider myself an apologist or someone who strives to be an apologist. My main interests are early church history and justice issues. I just wanted to make that clear because the tone was a bit more “Ali vs. Frazier” than I had anticipated or desired.

    Many of these questions have already been addressed by much more informed Christians than myself, so I may invite them as well (or others who have read their work) if I find that I’m not able to find time to produce as full of a response as I would like. But for a few preliminary comments that are not related to the overall post:

    -Women in the Bible: women were some of the early champions of Christianity because of what Scripture said, but that must be viewed in its context and understood correctly. The New Testament may describe women as second-class, but never PRESCRIBES it. I would recommend to you the great exegetical work of Philip B. Payne entitled “Man and Woman: One in Christ” to get a full understanding. Perhaps your local library could get it. The ‘second-class citizen’ interpretation is one that has been forced on Scripture by society and culture, but not by the authors themselves.

    -As far as open theism goes, it is an interesting theory. It’s why I only toy with it and think about it. It is interesting, but I’m not sure it squares up. Although I’m assuming the information you read on it was brief info from the internet. There are much better sources for understanding what it is, and most other commentators overgeneralize it. Again, if you were wanting to understand this more fully, I would recommend looking up the author Greg Boyd.

    -As far as Wesleyan-Arminian theology over other theologies, I believe it is the best systematic system that describes Biblical narrative and exhortation. However, there must be charity in this because some things aren’t as clear as others. When you are dealing with documents from a different place, time, culture, society, etc., one must admit that they may be misunderstanding something. A lot of great work has been done in the last 100-150 years, though, to help alleviate much of this. Does that mean I believe Catholics or other denominations aren’t Christian? Of course not. Now I could get into the specifics of what makes me choose Wesleyan-Arminian theology over others, but I get the feeling that you are more interested in making a point rather than actually knowing why I “lean” more that way. I could be wrong about that, just the impression I got. Also, it is peripheral to the matter at hand, at least for the time being.

    To conclude, I won’t touch on the above issues again until the main issue at hand is addressed. My mind just works better that way 🙂 I’d rather get 1 thing done well than 10 things done haphazardly.

    AND — my cat loves the birds, and they love her too 🙂 It can happen!

    • I’m sorry if I misrepresented you, but it certainly seems like you want to try out apologetics since you use all of the classic ones. At the moment, I am not interested in anyone else’s opinions. This is for you to tell me what you believe and why you think I’m wrong.

      Claiming “context” is a very common apologetic tactic. The New Testament never spoke out against treating women as second-class and it had plenty of times to do so. I find that indicates it supports it. There were some women who were early champions because the bible made promises of “wait until heaven, then you’ll benefit”. This not speaking against things is the same problem it has with slavery, it never says it’s wrong and indeed encourages slaves to behave no matter how bad the master is. The authors of the bible supported second-class citizenship for women. Paul said that they should not teach. Paul said that they should not speak in church. Paul said that childbirth was the only way for a woman to be saved. All 1 Timothy 2. That’s all from back then, no one modern forcing him to say such things. I have seen apologetics to excuse this in several ways: this was only for the people talked about in Timothy, and that it was only in the church, not outside of it, to allow for female teachers.

      Open theism doesn’t seem much more complex than any other version of Christianity. It strikes me a bit like Gnosticism, a way to understand a god but still allow for reality.

      For a religion that claims it is the ultimate truth, it is certainly unclear. I know we are dealing with documents from another time, but this seems to let God off the hook. There is no reason that God, if it exists, could not made things clear. Supposedly the bible is written/inspired by this god, and all I can say is “this is the best it could do?” Christians have been reinterpreting and reinterpreting the bible again and again. one might get the idea that this god mumbles, when at one point, god was all for “x” but a generation later, God was totally against “x”. And I am interested in what specifics made ;you chose W-A over others. I am making a point but I also am curious what made you decide that W-A was more correct than say, the RCC. I grew up in an area where Catholics are still looked on as not really Christians. So I am always curious on the interplay between them and other Christian sects.

      And just so I know, what do you consider the “main issue at hand”? If it is the events of Easter, I made my response and asked for some info and asked some questions. I am looking forward to your response.

      • I haven’t been scared off 🙂 No, like I had said, time is a real issue for me with work, family, other writing commitments, and school (especially with a 17-credit hour semester starting soon). So I want to give a detailed response worthy of your blog, but that would take some time. That is why I had mentioned that if it begins to take too long before I can even start thinking about the questions, then I was going to perhaps recruit someone else. I was personally more interested in you having a good and timely response rather than in your having, in particular, MY good and timely response. However, since you have made it clear that you are more interested in what I think, I will keep that in mind.

        And as far as issues of context go, my point is that nothing can be divorced from context, and I hope to pull that out in my response that will happen … at some point. I’m sorry, I really wish I could devote more time. But speaking of context:

        Let me explain — during a lull in schooling (Spring Break), I had some fun on another blog of friend of yours. I only intended on replying to his posts for a while, then getting back to my studies. My job was different at the time, so I could do that. Also, the topics he was discussing were a bit more up my alley and would require less careful thought and deliberation to formulate a response. But through that I was asked to take part in two other conversations. Yours is one of those. I probably should have said “I probably can’t do that right now”, but I wanted there to be some Christian witness provided, as not answering at all may have been confused for not having an answer at all.

        So that is my context. I will respond, since the response must come from me, I can’t guarantee it will be any time soon. As much as I would like to focus on this, it simply cannot be one of my top priorities at the moment. I do thank you, though, for your well thought out and passionate responses. You have a thoroughness to your responses that I greatly appreciate, and I certainly want to rise to the occasion that you have prepared.

  2. If I may, I wouldn’t mind adding a few points about this post by Vel.

    About the crucifixion, she writes, “There is no evidence that this cruxifiction happened at all.”

    This to me seems rather absurd. Concerning Jesus, the two facts about him which have pretty much universal consensus are his baptism and crucifixion. Concerning the crucifixion, the evidence we have is overwhelming, and fulfills many historical criteria. I found a great summary of it on a forum, courtesy of Socratic Christian, and I quote from him.

    “Let me list that evidence again: supported by 1 Cor. 15.3-5 which probably dates within about five years of the crucifixion. It’s also found in Paul’s other letters, Acts, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, the pseudepigraphical gospel of Peter. Also supported by Mara ben-serapion, Josephus, Tacitus, and the Babylonian talmud. Fulfills multiple attestation, early dating, embarrassment, lack of rejection, and coherence. Whether the Josephus passage is genuine or not (most scholars think the part of the crucifixion is at the very least) is irrelevant with all of those data points.”

    I could not describe it better. It fulfills a lot of historical criteria, and there is no good reason to reject this fact without a case of special pleading. Of course, if Vel thinks she can refute this evidence, she can feel free to do so.

    Concerning contradictions, I think we have a severe misunderstanding. A contradiction is defined as…

    Assertion of the contrary or opposite; denial

    Now, in these terms, a contradiction is when two sources each report an event, and one or both have information that, if true, means the other cannot be true. But you must understand, merely leaving out a detail does not equal a contradiction. The Gospel writers may have been telling the truth, and nothing but the truth, but not necessarily the whole truth. Let’s see Vel’s examples.

    Weeping in Gethsemane – Here one source says he wept, but another does not mention him crying. But that is not a contradiction, it simply means one Gospel did not mention the weeping.

    Thieves tormenting Jesus on the cross – Once again one source mentions it. The other source does not mention it, but does not preclude it.

    There are three principles to keep in mind with any argument based on contradictions.

    – It assumes that they are irresolvable, which some can be.

    – That the contradictions are in the peripheral details rather than the main narrative.

    – A contradictory fact in a later account does not discredit the earlier, more reliable account.

    Arguing from contradictions in this situation isn’t fashionable in academia, so I see no reason why it should be so here.

    Vel seems to have a problem with the fact we do not know the precise date of Jesus’ death. I am curious as to how this presents a problem. There are loads of events in history where we have no exact dates, but no serious scholar would use that as evidence it didn’t happen. We don’t know the precise date of the battle of Salamis, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

    Oh, and for the record, I am a bit of a cat lover too. I have two, one of which (Bilbo) was an adult stray I tamed and adopted myself. And I am sorry to hear that one of your cats has passed away, may him/her rest in peace.

    • SS, you omit the part on who was the first at the tomb or it doesn’t qualify as a contradiction? Is it also an omission by one writer?

      Two, the bible has been shown to be spurious, and work of men so to go ahead and say a chapter in the same book supports the narrative is beyond ridiculous. Several scholars have said the Josephus text is an interpolation. And while at it, Paul is the main architect of this Jesus story, to claim he is a reliable witness is beyond dishonest. The rest of the sources you claim, I haven’t read so I can’t comment on them.

      And while you are at, which year was he born, maybe from there we can work backwards to when he died

      • “Several scholars have said the Josephus text is an interpolation.”

        The bit about the crucifixion isn’t the part disputed.

    • @ Silverswiper

      Okay…you found convincing evidence where? On a forum? With a bible quote? Paul’s other letters and assorted chapters from the bible? Do you know what evidence is? Hint: it is not some word salad that happens to appeal to your preconceptions. Using bible quotes as evidence is akin to saying Harry Potter was a wizard that could talk to snakes, and using the book to back it up.

      The rest of your post can be summed up as one long rationalization. Period.
      The only one you are fooling, is yourself. A contradiction is an inconsistency that suggests that either one of, or both claims would be non factual. Do you have an apologetics dictionary you may be using?

      Some of us exist in a world of our own making, a micro bubble of religious dogma in which one needs to seek out justifications for those beliefs. Justification is the road to denial and rationalizations, which includes ignoring evidence that might be contrary to a belief system, and grasping at the thinnest of straws as a pathetic attempt at convincing oneself that a cherished story must be true.

      Some of us exist in an evidence based reality. Guess which one you are…

      • I could come to your first paragraph in time, but before that, let me ask you a small question. Why do you find the evidence unconvincing? As I have already said, the crucifixion of Jesus is one of the most certain facts about him. It has almost universal consensus among scholars of antiquity, not just Christian ones. Bart Ehrman says the crucifixion of Jesus under Pontius Pilate is the most certain element about him. John Dominic Crossan says the crucifixion is as certain a historical fact as anything can be. What I find odd is that Internet hyper-skeptics like yourself assume that you are so much smarter then actual specialists, both religious and irreligious, in these fields. I often suspect that often it is people like you, and not me, who is living in a world of their own making.

        Concerning contradictions, I noticed that you mostly simply denounced the rest of my points as mere “rationalizations” instead of dealing with them and showing why they were false. And if a contradiction is when one source does not mention an event that another similar source mentions, and if furthermore that is evidence that the event never happened, we are going to have to get rid of much of our history, as well as create some major problems for day-to-day communication.

        You are presuming much about me in the last part of your paragraph, and I would be interested to know where you got your information on my way of learning other than assuming that because I’m Christian, I must be like that. It’s called stereotyping, and it is not impressive. And I would seriously consider my point made above, that if you are going to reject facts like the crucifixion that almost all specialists accept, then you are not so different from the creationists who also deny history that all the specialists accept as true.

    • Hey, it’s SS who thought he had finished this discussion and left without answering questions. At the least, SS, have the courtesy to admit this and not come back as if there were no outstanding issues.

      SS, there is no “universal consensus” about JC’s baptism or cruxifiction. That is yet one more falsehood you insist on telling even though you cannot show that this claims is true. Since you cannot, it has become an intentional lie. I do have to wonder if you have any idea what “universal consensus” actually means. There is no “overwhelming” evidence for the cruxifiction. There is no evidence that fulfills “many historical criteria” because that is one more nonsense term that you have made up to try to sound scholarly without having to actually present what you claim. I ask you: what do you mean by “historical criteria”, SS? Please list them. And please do present this overwhelming evidence for the cruxifiction.

      You post this again ““Let me list that evidence again: supported by 1 Cor. 15.3-5 which probably dates within about five years of the crucifixion. It’s also found in Paul’s other letters, Acts, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, the pseudepigraphical gospel of Peter. Also supported by Mara ben-serapion, Josephus, Tacitus, and the Babylonian talmud. Fulfills multiple attestation, early dating, embarrassment, lack of rejection, and coherence. Whether the Josephus passage is genuine or not (most scholars think the part of the crucifixion is at the very least) is irrelevant with all of those data points.”

      There is little evidence that 1 Cor. 15 dates to “within 5 years of the cruxifiction” since we do not know when it was (and nice to see that your argument depends on a time when you claim that it’s not important to know what time the cruxifiction happened later). And golly, a mention of the cruxifiction is mentioned by Paul. We have mentions of Buddah’s miracles and exploits in other sources, same with Mohammed and does this mean that they are true? and yes, I do expect you to answer this, SS. Then we can see if you pick and choose your claims of historicity at your convenience. The only mentions of the cruxifiction we have are in the set of stories told by *believers*, some though to be using each other as sources. I do also like how Christians will insist that there are some books about JC that aren’t true enough to be in the Bible, but run to them when they need help supporting their faith. Tacitus mentions Christians, not Christ. And again, by claims like that, this means that any mention of worshippers of a god means that that god must exist. As the others, Josephus is mentioning a story, he was not a eyewitness, and neither can *any* of the other authors be shown to be that. The Talmud’s references are again hundreds of years after. And they mention a Yeshu who was stoned and hanged, not cruxified (anyone can see their problems here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_in_the_Talmud) So fail there too. Mara ben Serapion mentions a “king of the jews” in a book that was written at a period at least 70 decades after the supposed events, and he mentions nothing about this king rising again.

      So we have that these claims support “multipl attestation”, dating. There is nothing except the insistence of Christians that anyone was embarrassed by having a dead savior that was *prophecied* to be going to die. There was plenty of rejection since golly, we still have Jews! Alas, SS, to have a lack of rejection, we’d have to have many many people agreeing with the story and we don’t. As for “coherence”, please do explain what you mean by that.

      So, repeating the same nonsense makes no more true the umpteenth time around. Your claims are not facts, SS, and I do not need to resort to special pleading to have shown that. But please do show me if I do use special pleading. I wouldn’t want you to be caught in another false statement. I have refuted your claims, a very easy task since they are not evidence.

      And yes, you do understand what a contradiction is. And yes, a contradiction is made when two sources report an event and both claims cannot be true. And again, I am not talking about “merely leaving out a detail”. It’s fun to watch Christians deliberately ignore that part of my post. It is not just weeping in Gesthemane, it is showing that the character would not weep at all. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all mention the weeping, and John does not. Read John 17 and the prayer there. ““Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Compare this to the Jesus that asks repeatedly for an out.

      I do like how you either have no idea about what the bible actually says or are intentionally hiding it. In John, there are two people with no words mentioned. In Luke 23, we have “39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[” Mark has two thieves mentioned but not what they said. And well, Matthew27 says “44 In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” So, SS, you seem to be wrong. It does not say “some of the rebels”, it says all of the rebels. This is an instance of claiming two things and both cannot be true.

      I also like when Christians claim such things as Gesthemane is “peripheral details”. That’s just lovely. However, I am glad that you will claim that earlier works should be considered more true than later works about the same subject. So, this would mean that Mark’s version is more “right” than the others if we are to believe scholars. And that means that the later versions have no reason to be trusted as true, yes? Or is it that the parts you like in those later works should be trusted because you like them? A

      And oh noes, I’m unfashionable. Shucks, I’m so horrified. I mean, really, SS, you whine about how important it is to be fashionable in academia? Oh my. Poor thing, I guess that’s all you have left, accusing me of being unfashionable when you can’t show that I’m wrong. How nice.

      And SS, there is a problem with a religion that claims to be the truth that has no idea when its most important event happened. This is a religion that influences many many people, not some obscure fact about a battle. Battles happen all of the time, there is nothing extraordinary about that. There is quite a bit extraordinary about a supposed divine being comeing to earth, doing miracles and rising from the dead. People do horrible things because they think this religion to be real and that they have divine approval. All those important details (or do you want to claim that they are only “peripheral”) need to be supported with evidence. And you haven’t.

      Thank you for the kind words about my kitty, Mordred. I hope your cats are well.

      • Vel,

        I left our earlier discussion when I thought the time was right. You demand that I answer my questions, which I could have, but consider this. We had been at it for some time now, and we could have carried on with our discussion for a very long time. It is your blog, and it is reasonable to assume you would have the last word no matter what. We could have debated forever, but I left because I thought our discussion had burned out. I would appreciate if you acknowledge this, and allow us to carry on with the issues at hand.

        Yes, there is near universal consensus among scholars of antiquity, I cite Wikipedia once again just because you probably would consider that a sufficient source for me to convince you.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_of_Jesus#Accounts_of_the_crucifixion

        OK, now to the evidence. I have listed the sources we have once, so I may as well do it again. It is supported in Paul’s letters, especially 1 Cor: 15, it is sourced in all the canonical Gospels, the Gospel of Peter and the book of Acts. In non-Christian sources, Mara bar-Serapion, Josephus, Tacitus and the Babylonian Talmud. Now here are some definitions of the historical criteria I used here.

        Criterion of Multiple Attestation – When a historical event has multiple sources, it is more likely to be true. As we have seen, the crucifixion is attested to by countless written sources, both Christian and non-Christian.

        Criterion of Early Dating – The closer a source is to the events it describes, the more likely the events it describes are authentic. Basically, a source that is written 50 years after the event it describes is more likely to be true than a source that describes an event written 500 years afterwards. As we have seen, the crucifixion fulfills this criteria magnificently. The creed in 1 Corinthians is dated to at most 5 years after the death of Jesus. This kind of early dating is almost unheard of in ancient history, and is powerful evidence for the crucifixion having happened.

        Criterion of Embarrassment – If a source describes an event that would be embarrassing to the writer of the source, it is more likely authentic because it is unlikely a writer would invent it. The crucifixion is, once again, a great example. No-one in first-century Judaism would expect a Messiah who would die, let alone a death so humiliating. Messiah’s weren’t supposed to die, and death on a cross was one of the most wicked deaths one could die. Crucified victims were considered cursed, so it is extremely unlikely such writers as Paul would make up a story like that.

        Coherence – The theory which most effectively reconciles and explains all of the data available is more likely to be true than inconsistent theories. Look at all the evidence, what do you think is more coherent, the theory that Jesus really did die on the cross? Or that a bunch of writers, Jewish, Christian and Roman got together and said, “Hey, let’s make up a story about a crucified Messiah and some of us should actually worship him.” Ockham’s Razor.

        These criteria are used all the time by professional historians in determining authenticity, and there are many more criteria I haven’t mentioned.

        Let’s see how you deal with our non-Christian writers.

        Tacitus: You say he mentions Christians, not Christ. Here is what he has to say about Christ.

        “Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.”
        Annals (15:44)

        Josephus: He was not an eyewitness, for sure, but very few writers of that time (and even today) are. Very few writers in that time were privileged to have witnessed the events they describe. It would be absolute folly to say this means that they should be rejected for this fact.

        The Talmud: The Talmud, given it’s late date of composition, is not considered too reliable concerning Jesus. But it does give many references to him, and the word hanged in this context was often used to describe crucifixion victims.

        Mara bar-Serapion: He does not mention the Resurrection, correct, but that is not the issue here. He said that the Jews executed a wise king by hanging (once again, can be identified with crucifixion), which most scholars believe refers to Jesus, and last time I looked he did not write this document at least 70 decades after the event.

        And yes, the creed in 1 Corinthians is dated to less than five years after the death of Jesus. This fact is recognized by almost all scholars, Christian as well as non-Christian, and I will cite that in a source you can trust.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1_Corinthians_15#Resurrection_of_Jesus:_1-11

        You say my claims are not facts. How about this. Why not read some actual literature written by qualified Biblical scholars on the facts I have shown you here. And as I said, this fact of crucifixion is recognized by almost all of the scholars in the relevant fields, including non-Christian ones.

        It is clear we need to go back to the significance of expert opinion. If a doctor tells you that you have cancer, and your best friend (who happens to be an accountant) insists that you do not, who are you going to believe? If a qualified scientist tells you evolution is true, and a lawyer asserts it is not, who are you going to believe? If a credentialed Biblical scholar tells you Jesus was crucified, and some random blogger states he did not exist, who are you going to believe? Sure, scholarly consensus does not make a fact true, but it does go to show that those who know their stuff agree it was, and so we have good reason to trust their claims. I am constantly astonished how some Internet skeptics would persuade themselves into thinking they are so much smarter than the experts in the relevant fields, especially when many of these same skeptics use similar points to try and point out the falsehood of creation science (that almost all scientists reject it).

        And here’s the deal with crucifixion. We know that Jesus probably died in 30 or 33AD. We don’t know the exact date. So? As I said, there are plenty of events where precise dates are unavailable, but we still accept them as true. And there is nothing extraordinary about the fact that Jesus died on a cross, there is nothing necessarily supernatural about such an event, so I fail to see why you do not accept that fact. By admitting that Jesus died on a cross, hereby responding to the evidence that has convinced almost all experts in the relevant fields, you demonstrate your own honesty and you have acknowledged no new information that compromises your worldview.

        I still fail to see how some of your examples are contradictions. In John, it is perfectly possible that Jesus could have both uttered this prayer while at the same time asked for a way out. In the part with the thieves, some scholars believe the Gospel writers may have used a figure of speech called synecdoche. Merriam-Webster defines this term as “a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole (as fifty sail for fifty ships), the whole for a part (as society for high society)… or the name of the material for the thing made (as boards for stage)”. Just as Bible writers frequently used other figures of speech such as simile, metaphor, sarcasm and metonymy, they also used synecdoche. Two other times this figure of speech is used in the Bible include Genesis 8:4 and 21:7. Or it could be a contradiction.

        You see, I am not a Christian too focused on contradictions. Take the story of the cock crowing. Some harmonizers think it means the cock crowed six times. Right. I personally could not care less if the cock crowed 3, 6 or 600 times. The bottom line, while I think some contradictions can be solved without doing insult to common sense, I think harmonizing each and every one is quite unnecessary.

      • SS,
        No, it is not reasonable to assume that I would have the last word “no matter what”. That is an excuse you have invented to not answer questions. You are always welcome to leave whenever you want, but to come back and add to a discussion that you claimed you were sure was burned out is rather absurd. You have added nothing new that you haven’t claimed before. Repeating such nonsense does not make it any more true or more proof to refutation.

        Again, I do enjoy it when someone who has complained about wiki then proceeds to use it, complaingly “bitterly” that I find it an acceptable source since it has sources noted in the article. There is nothing on that page that says “almost universal consensus” or “near universal consensus” on the historicity of Jesus or the cruxifiction.

        The bible supporting the bible is meaningless. The cruxifiction is mentioned in Josephus, Tactitus, etc but as a story, not even believed by the people writing down the story. The Talmud mentions a man stoned and hanged by the Jews, not cruxified by the Romans. Bar Serapion mentions a king of the jews being killed, and that his wisdom lives on, not he himself.
        Multiple attestation fails when your story is coming from essentially the same source. We have people copying down stories long after the event, stories that have spread in the Christian community. And a dozen sources (the greater number from the bible itself) is not “countless”. You attempt to claim countless and that’s simply false and rather funny.
        We have one source that is claimed to have been written within 5 years of the event, but we can’t even show that the event ever happened, much less when it happened. Now, the wiki entry (horrors, I know) says that 1 Corinthians was likely written 53-57 AD, which if one is to believe the BC/AD dating, would be at least 48 years after the supposed cruxifiction, not five. (sources International Bible Encyclopedia, 1915, and the Pauline Chronology here: http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Pauline_Chronology.htm )We have other sources written decades to centuries after this happened. It is claimed that the creed, not 1 Corinthians 15 was written within 5 year after the event but the reasoning is very sparse why this should be taken as true. As the info in your link to wiki says, it is bible scholars, no other scholars noted nor does it say “all of them”(the link does have disagreement even between bible scholars) , that claim this date as true. SS, would you have any more info on why they think this is true? All I can see is that it can be said to prerserve an early claim, since we have no idea where it came from. It is not verifiable testimony because of that very fact.

        I do love the “criterion of embarrassment”. Unfortunately, the cruxifiction cannot be shown to be an embarrassment if the story required it from the beginning. Christians claim that it is obvious that the verses in Isaiah show a messiah that would be beaten and killed. If this is the case, then everyone would have expected this messiah to die in just such a way as claimed in the passion story. However, if you do wish to admit that the Isaiah stuff isn’t a prophecy then you may have a point here. Which version of Christianity should I believe? As for a cruxified victim being considered cursed, and I’m assuming you are using that verse from Deut to claim so, it seems to me that it is just as viable to read that verse as the cursed on hung on the tree, not that the hanging on the tree created a curse. You also need to demonstrate that “hanged” means cruxified by the Jews who wrote the Talmud and explain why it is them doing the killing and not the Romans.

        In regards to “coherence”. Nice strawman argument again, SS. I have not said that the story of the cruxifiction or the story of JC could only be an intentional hoax. So, your false dichotomy fails on your own dishonesty. It is as plausible to say that stories built up about a man who promised that everyone would be saved when he died and that they would get a wonderful afterlife. It doesn’t require one single man, it could be many wannabee messiahs making all sorts of claims. It’s a very appealing message in a slavery based culture so it spreads. It’s a great way to end the story with the magical disappearance and reappearance of the supposed messiah so it “shows” that the claims are “true”. This is just as plausible that someone was divine and human, who did miracles and who died on a cross only to be resurrected and wander around some more. It’s not just the dying on the cross that has to make the plausibility case here. Let me put it another way,which is more plausible? a man sailed around the Med for a few years after a war and came home, or that he met gods and monsters and came back to draw a magical bow that killed all of his wife’s suitors? In this case, what does Ockham’s Razor say?

        “Mara bar-Serapion: He does not mention the Resurrection, correct, but that is not the issue here. He said that the Jews executed a wise king by hanging (once again, can be identified with crucifixion), which most scholars believe refers to Jesus, and last time I looked he did not write this document at least 70 decades after the event.”

        You may wish to look again to get what may be better information that unfortunately doesn’t agree with your “last time” looked. “The letter was composed sometime after 73 AD but before the 3rd century, and most scholars date it to shortly after AD 73 during the first century” – wiki entry on Mara bar-Serapion, source Van Voorst, Robert E (2000). Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence. (addition on 7/27, for example of the things I got wrong, I evidently have trouble counting from 1 AD. It’s 40 years not 70 years after the supposed resurrection)

        Please tell me what determines if a Biblical scholar is qualified or expert. If my experience holds true, the qualifications is only if the scholar agrees with what the theist wants to believe is true. And again, “almost all” is yet to be supported with facts. I will indeed believe a doctor over an accountant in the matter of cancer, etc. However, I have a very objective way to distinguish who knows what they are talking about e.g. facts. And who does the “credentialing”, SS? It’s a shame that you have no respect for us “random bloggers:” who support our claims with evidence and facts which I have, and I have not simply stated that JC did not exist. Nice try to misrepresent me there, but I guess that may be all you have anymore. It’s also nice that just because someone is on the internet and is skeptical, you would wish people to disbelieve them just because of that. It’s too bad since being skeptical and on the internet does not control if someone is right or not. You have decided that those that agree with you “known their stuff” simply because of that agreement, and you want to pretend that since some Christians agree, why that must mean what they agree on is true because of that agreement. SS, a lot of imams agree on what Mohammed did, so does that mean that Islam is the right religion? Imams are experts in their religion so does that mean that they are right? Skeptics do not simply say that creationism is wrong because people agree that it is wrong. Yet another lovely misrepresentation. No, SS, if they do that then it is a stupid argument. What I and other skeptics do, is show why scientists agree that creationism is wrong, those facts that show it’s wrong.

        We do not know that Jesus died in 30 or 33 AD. There is nothing that supports this, and Christians themselves disagree about this. We can see this from the BC/AD dating convention. And it’s always cute to watch you avoid mentioning that the problem isn’t that a man can die on a cross, a plausible event, but that a man can be resurrected. Then we get the lovely claims that golly, since a man can die, there simply had to be a tomb and people said it was empty, why then it must be true that JC was resurrected. Oy. I don’t accept the cruxifiction as a fact because it has not been demonstrated as such. I am honest, and I certainly don’t have to agree with nonsense to show that real fact.

        What you fail at doesn’t really matter to me, SS. It is not possible for someone to be desperately trying to find a way out *and* having no desire for a way out. And ah, the usual figures of speech excuse, which is always a good turn on the magic decoder ring. As you say, a synecdoche puts the whole for a part, etc, but it does nothing to explain why one gospel says that both thieves tormented JC, and another says that one thief did and the other didn’t. But in case I’m just not seeing that, I want you to explain how a synecdoche explains that.
        I know you are not a Christian focused on contradictions. If you were, then I guess you wouldn’t be a Christian. It’s no surprise that you don’t want to look at contradictions because that shows your religion to be imperfect. But, to turn a popular complaint against atheists back on the theists, why do you spend so much time creating excuses for those contradiction if you aren’t “too focused” on them? Yep, some harmonizers claim it means oen thing and others claim it means something else. Funny how your god can’t make it clear. You don’t find it necessary because you pick and choose. No problem with that, since all Christians do it.

      • OK, now to the evidence. I have listed the sources we have once, so I may as well do it again. It is supported in Paul’s letters, especially 1 Cor: 15, it is sourced in all the canonical Gospels, the Gospel of Peter and the book of Acts.

        There are currently no extant documents attributable to any direct witness of these events. Biblical scholars acknowledge that the gospel narratives and book of Acts are secondhand accounts written by unknown authors several decades later. (In fact, the authors of Luke/Acts state this outright.)

        It’s also unlikely that the works attributed to Peter and John were written by them, because Acts 4:13 (NIV) claims that they were “unschooled, ordinary men.”

        And Paul never met a physical Jesus — his entire testimony was based on a revelation he purportedly had while traveling on the road to Damascus.

        So your evidence is based entirely on unsubstantiated claims. Real empirical evidence would include written affidavits attesting to Jesus’ arrest, trial, execution and death. In other words, the kind of incontrovertible evidence that a truly all-knowing and all-powerful entity would have left behind to quell any possible doubts that could be raised by skeptics.

      • Vel,

        I think that inference was a reasonable one. If I recall correctly (I may be mistaken in one or two cases) every time I have posted a comment on this blog it has had a reply from either you or another atheist blogger. Given this kind of consistency, and on top of the fact that it would be a very long time before we reached any kind of agreement, I think it is reasonable to infer that at some point I would have to leave a discussion with loose ends. And though the two are related, our discussion right now is more about the crucifixion than the Resurrection.

        I cite wikipedia (and we have been through this before) because I think it is would be good enough to convince you of a certain fact. If I cited apologetics websites that state, say, a consensus, that could be very well disputed by you. Establishing the validity of facts using wikipedia is a good way to get to the point rather than establishing the facts necessary for further debate.

        Your attempts at getting rid of Tacitus and Josephus do not add up. Like others, you say they write it as simply a story and did not even believe it themselves. Is there any evidence at all from the text to suggest this? Any footnotes saying that they doubted the story? There is no evidence that suggests they intended those passages to be understood as anything but non-fictional. They write it about as clearly as can be (especially Tacitus), and if their writing does not count, I would be intensely curious as to what a valid non-Christian reference would look like. And Mara bar-Serapion mentions a king of the Jews (recognized as Jesus by most), and not his Resurrection of course, but that is not the issue.

        In the NT, scholars try and identify the sources for a particular book, and if they are independent. An independent source is a piece of writing that is unique, with no traces of using a different source. So scholars have been able to use this criteria to identify loads of potential sources in the NT, including Mark’s Passion narrative, Mark’s first half of the Gospel, Q, M, L, and John’s sources. Not to mention all of Paul’s references to Jesus in his Epistles. Paul knew many of the original apostles personally, so his information is extremely useful in this study.

        I have never claimed that all of 1 Corinthians was written 5 years after the crucifixion, and as I have said, the crucifixion event is considered to have been either AD 30 or 33. So that would make the whole of 1 Corinthians written about 20-27 years after Jesus’s death. You speak of controversy between Biblical scholars. The objection in this case was from Robert Price (a mythicist) who wrote that criticism in a journal where he was the editor. Not necessarily the kind of peer-review one would hope for. And if you really do want to be convinced that 1 Corinthians 15 has a creed, and of its dating and location, I will give you information.

        http://carm.org/analysis-pre-pauline-creed-1-corinthians-151-11

        http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/49/49-2/JETS_49-2_225-234_MacGregor.pdf

        I will not answer the question whether the passages in Isaiah are a prophecy or not. What I can establish is that no Jews in that time and context ever interpreted those passages in the way that Christians do today. The Jews had many different ideas about what the Messiah would be like, some thought there would be two Messiah’s (one priestly, one military), and they had their own expectations of what the Messiah would do. But no-one, would ever, even in their wildest dreams, ever invent the idea that their Messiah would be killed, to say nothing of a death like crucifixion. This idea of a crucified Messiah was very hard for both Greeks and Jews to accept, but the Christians still preached their message. That is the criterion of embarrassment. Bart Ehrman writes,

        “The Christians did not invent Jesus. They invented the idea that the messiah had to be crucified.”

        What qualifies a scholar? If he/she has studied the Bible at research universities, submitted papers for peer-review and has earned degrees and doctorates in history of that time. And no, they do not need to agree with theists. There are thousands of Biblical scholars who are atheist, agnostic or Jewish, being a Christian is not a pre-requisite. Besides, if one argues that the consensus I discuss is because most Biblical scholars are Christian to some degree, I could discredit the consensus of scientists on evolution because most of them are atheist/agnostic. Almost all scholars do believe that Jesus was crucified, and here is your proof coming from non-Christian scholars.

        “Jesus’s death as consequence of crucifixion is indisputable.”
        (Gerd Ludemann, 2004) (atheist)

        “The passion of Jesus is a part of history.”
        (Geza Vermes, 2006) (Vermes is a Jewish, not Christian, scholar)

        “One of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate.”
        (Bart Ehrman, 2000) (agnostic with atheist leanings)

        And, once again, from Wikipedia.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historicity_of_Jesus#Basic_historical_facts

        If you feel I have misrepresented you, then I am sorry. Believe me, I find you to be quite intelligent and if this were on a more contentious topic I probably would not be doing nearly as well, but on a subject like this all the brains in the world cannot defeat solid scholarly consensus. That is the main problem with Internet skepticism. The Internet is at best a great place to obtain information on almost anything, at worst one of the most unreliable spawning point of mass, uncontrolled data flying at you, where you are often incapable of sorting fact from fiction. Of course, the fact that you are an Internet skeptic does not discredit you. However, a lack of credentials in relevant fields of study is a sign that one cannot trust one’s research in every topic at hand. Credentials do not make the person, but they are very important if one is seriously debating the topic. Amateurs like yourself should consider the words of Richard Carrier, one of the few mythicists with credentials in a relevant field of study.

        “Amateurs often disregard the crucial importance of field-familiarity, i.e. that one must have a long and deep acquaintance with a particular time and culture in order to make reliable judgments about the probable and improbably, the expected and unexpected, and all the other background assumptions necessary to understanding the significance of any particular fact or claim–in short, one must be cognizant not merely of the literary context of a statement, but its entire socio-historical context as well. And that is no easy thing to achieve.”

        Actually, we do have ways of determining when Jesus died. Though I did not notice this before, some scholars contend that we can calculate the precise date of crucifixion. I have provided a Wikipedia source so we can establish the fact, and an article with arguments for dating to Friday, April 3rd, AD 33.

        http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1985/JASA3-85Humphreys.html

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_of_Jesus#Year_of_the_crucifixion

        Contradictions are definitely a topic Christians should pay attention too. However, you say that if I studied these contradictions in depth, then I wouldn’t be a Christian. Not so, many Christian scholars acknowledge that some contradictions are very real, but that does not discredit their whole faith. Take Bart Ehrman. In his book “Jesus: Interrupted” he himself states that one can still be a Christian after all of this. He himself became agnostic after the problem of evil, not the contradictions.

        And I really find it annoying how you talk of magical decoder rings when dealing with contradictions. With your sort of tactics, one can effectively ridicule any attempt at harmonization by labelling it as an excuse. Here’s something you may want to know of. Compare the end of Luke to the beginning of Acts. In Luke, it looks as though Jesus ascended into heaven immediately after his meeting with the 12. In Acts, it is clear that there is a time span of 40 days in between Resurrection and Ascension. Now if the authors of the two books were different, you would definitely decry it as yet another contradiction. But even though not everyone thinks Luke the physician wrote Luke-Acts, scholarship mostly confers that whoever was the author wrote both books. Unless he was incredibly dull, he clearly intended it not as a contradiction. It is how literature works, the obvious isn’t always the right explanation. And if one does not rule out harmonizing at least some of the alleged discrepancies, he is one step closer to making sense of them.

      • Ss, the reason your posts always have a response is that you make baseless claims and someone has to counter that nonsense. You’ll always get a response if I know your claims are not what you claim them to be.

        Apologetics websites are indeed a problem since they suffer from the same lack of facts you do. And you are right, since it has been my experience that some Christian apologists lie intentionally I will always consider their claims to be suspect. I have no problem with wiki articles if they are well referenced. I seem to recall it being you who did not like them.
        You ask me if I can show any evidence in Tacitus and Josephus that they did not blindly accept their writing as fact. “As I proceed, therefore, I shall accurately describe what is contained in our records, in the order of time that belongs to them; for I have already promised so to do throughout this undertaking; and this without adding any thing to what is therein contained, or taking away any thing therefrom. “ He is transcribing what he has been told and presents them as the antiquities of the Jews. My reasoning is that he says that JC is called the Christ, he does not say he is the Christ, which to me is an example of someone writing things down as he has been told and not believing them. He may believe that there was a Jesus that was called the Christ, but not that the man was the Christ. I find it the same with Tacitus, he is reporting about a story about someone named Jesus but does not believe that he is what is claimed.

        How many kings have the Jews had, SS? And it’s amusing when you want to claim that the resurrection is not the “issue”. That is the very issue, SS. Is there any evidence for the cruxifiction and resurrection, the appearance to 500 people, etc …. because without the resurrection you have no religion
        You claim that there is evidence that they intended all they wrote as non-fictional. I ask you to present it.

        You have claimed that part of 1 Corinthians 15 was written 5 years after the cruxifiction, the creed. And you have yet to show evidence of this and early existence still does not mean the events are real. There are not “loads” of potential sources for the gospels. We have the author of Mark’s contribution. We have the four document hypothesis which accounts for Q, M, and L. This says that Mark, and the Q, M, L, a “proto-Luke” etc: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_document_hypothesis John’s Sources? Who are those and where can I find them? And what sources does Paul have? Did he know the above sources and did he use them? Then it’s the same sources being used again, he has nothing new. And there is nothing that shows that Paul knew the “original apostles”. The stories claim he did, that is all. It cannot be shown as anything more than name-dropping to establish his credentials.

        The cruxifiction may be considered to be in either 30 or 33 but again, no evidence of this occurring. Yes, the whole of 1 Cor was likely written 2+ decades after the supposed events. I do like to see you claim that Price’s objection isn’t worth anything but golly, if it’s on an apologists website, you know where they are the editors, it’s just perfectly fine. The Evangelical Theological Society’s journal supporting the story of Jesus? No, say it ain’t so! Here’s a quote from MacGregor “Hence, the terminus ante quem for the origin of the creed is ad 35, assuming the truth of the majority view that Jesus’ crucifixion occurred in ad 30 and Paul’s conversion in ad 32.” So his claims are based on something that cannot be shown to be true, because his “majority” is Christians who believe that the cruxifction did happen and they need to have it in ad 30. The age of Jesus is often claimed to be 30 or 33 and it seems that those ages are attached to magical numbers. From what the “historicity” wiki link you had, we have a rage of dates from 7 BCE to 36 CE, which would also make the claims here questionable.

        And the CARM paper, which also seems to have no peer-review. We also have the usual claims of everyone agrees, though that’s not quite true, since MacGregor has one date and Mr. Ryan another that they claim everyone agrees on. It only differs by a year but it is a difference to show that claims of “many” and “majority” aren’t so clut and dried.
        Of course you won’t answer if the passage in Isaiah are prophecy or not. Because if they aren’t prophecy, then you are claiming that your fellow Christians are wrong. If you claim they are prophecy, then your claims about the death of the messiah would be an embarrassment would fail. Yep, the Jews had different ideas on what the Messiah would be, and therefore it’s always entertaining when Christians try to use Jewish texts to claim that their claims are true. You often claim that no one would ever invent the idea that their messiah would be killed. Unfortunately that’s just more baseless opinion on your part. As Christians are often fond of pointing out to atheists, it’s rather hard to prove a negative. Cruxifiction was punishment for crimes against the state. It was seen as good to rebel against what the Romans were doing. Martyrdom is not a new concept, SS. Martyrdom with the nifty addition of resurrection is better. I would also mention one more supposed prophecy, the one that says Elijah will return before the Lord’s return. Now JC, says that John the Baptist is Elijah. But the messiah foretold isn’t JC. So what is wrong here. The reason I mention this is that the historicity of JtB is also considered historical and is used to help date unlikely events. Is the prophecy right or is this more problems for the Christ myth?

        So what is a research university? A Christian controlled one? I agree, a scholar must have the education, have done research and have submitted papers for peer-review, and that means not just to Christian publications for Christians to review. Many of your scholars don’t fulfill that one, but quite a few do. And please do try to discredit evolution by showing that many of the scientists are atheist/agnostic. I would enjoy seeing that.

        What qualifies a scholar? If he/she has studied the Bible at research universities, submitted papers for peer-review and has earned degrees and doctorates in history of that time. And no, they do not need to agree with theists. There are thousands of Biblical scholars who are atheist, agnostic or Jewish, being a Christian is not a pre-requisite. Besides, if one argues that the consensus I discuss is because most Biblical scholars are Christian to some degree, I could discredit the consensus of scientists on evolution because most of them are atheist/agnostic. Almost all scholars do believe that Jesus was crucified, and here is your proof coming from non-Christian scholars.

        Interesting quotes. And I still need evidence. I note that Ludemann says that there was no historical resurrection. So, again, we have no religion. I am not opposed to the idea of there being a Jesus being a man, but that is not the only answer that is plausible. I find the mythic version that there was no actual singular man to be just as plausible because of the confusion in the stories. But again, Christians are not talking about a man, they are talking about a resurrected man who appeared to 500 people. That is the claim you are trying to support, not that people can be cruxifed by Romans. Ehrman’s quote that the cruxifiction part of the story is the most certain of all of the claims is damning with faint praise because I can say that too with no problem. Yep, there was likely a Pilate, and yep, people do die from being cruxified. And that’s the best you have.
        You have misrepresented me when you claim I believe that the Christ myth was an intentional hoax. When you claim solid scholarly consensus, I just have to laugh since there is solid scholarly consensus on evolutionary theory but many Christians claim that it can’t be true and don’t give a damn about consensus except when it supposedly supports them. The geological scholarly consensus is that the ignorant claim of a world-wide flood covering mountains is ridiculous but we still theists who run to lunatics like Ron Wyatt or Walt Brown.
        And of course you want to cite Carrier’s quote but don’t want to give him credit for showing how your claims are wrong. I do have quite a bit of field-familiarity with this, and again, you try to claim I do not, just because I don’t have letters after my name. Oh well, I figured as much. Jesus Christ is a myth. Joshua Ben Joseph may not be, I will agree with you there. There could indeed be a historical man who thought he was a messiah that was killed. Now what?

        And we have a nice article on the dating of Friday April 3, from the university Oxford metallurgy department. Come again with how scholarly credentials are important? The one author is Colin J. Humphreys received a B.Sc. (Physics) from London University and a Ph.D. (Metal Physics) and the other author is W. Graeme Waddington received a B.Sc. (Physics) from Durham University and a D.Phil (Astrophysics) from Oxford University. His primary research interest is Solar Physics. I also cannot find a journal called JASA. Would you know what it stands for? Their conclusion is the darkening of the sun mentioned in the bible is a mistake or it really means there was a duststorm. A addition made later begs the question, what else was added. A duststorm that can make the sun go dark is rather dramatic. A dust storm also causes other things to happen than just getting dark and it seems that no one noticed such an event. They do not mention that earthquake either or the walking dead. Another possibility is that people knew this date had odd things happening and they chose it. Eclipses are predicatable as Humphreys et all show, even back then. And we still have a problem with your scholars postulating April 3 and April 7. Eclipses don’t cover four days.
        Christianity is based on how true its stories are. In that some of the stories can’t have happened and other stories cannot be shown to have ever happened, then this does challenge the faith. I know that one can call oneself a Christian no matter how much the religion has changed. There’s billions of people who do just that. And all of you are certain everyone else is wrong. I am sure you do find it very annoying that I talk of magic decoder rings. Most Christians do not like being shown that their religion is simply made up out of personal likes and dislikes, with everyone insisting that their interpretation is the right one. Yep, one can indeed ridicule harmonization since it depends on what the individual humans wants to make God “really mean” and what events the individual human wants God to have done. You all harmonize and you get different answers.

        You are indeed right that some of the gospels have JC vanishing right after chatting with the apostles and Act and I think John has JC hanging around(the gospel with the JC hung around doing so much there aren’t enough books to record it). It is clear that Acts is telling a different story than the gospels, it is not clear that Jesus did anything. There is no reason to not think that the author of Luke and/or Acts was that bright. It could just be a mistake that was made and when early Christians thought all of this nonsense was right from God, they felt they had to keep it. We have no idea what the author intended or if the author was the same for both as you acknowledged. It is not how literature works, making one claim one place and another in a different place if you are telling the same story. Beowolf doesn’t first fight the dragon and then Grendel, nor does he die when fighting Grendel and then die again when fighting the dragon. Harmonizing is an attempt to make a bunch of books make sense long after they were written, using modern assumptions of what God “must” have meant since what you read is silly. It’s like me saying “well, Edgar Rice Burroughs must have “really meant” that Tarzan was an American, so we can pretend that all that stuff that says he was an English lord was a dream.” Yep, it harmonizes it, it goes with the delusion of American Exceptionalism, but it’s isn’t true. SS, there may be no sense to be made.

      • I also cannot find a journal called JASA. Would you know what it stands for?

        Journal of the American Scientific Association. Here is an excerpt from their about/beliefs section:

        Our platform of faith has four important planks:

        We accept the divine inspiration, trustworthiness and authority of the Bible in matters of faith and conduct.

        We confess the Triune God affirmed in the Nicene and Apostles’ creeds, which we accept as brief, faithful statements of Christian doctrine based upon Scripture.

        We believe that in creating and preserving the universe God has endowed it with contingent order and intelligibility, the basis of scientific investigation.

        We recognize our responsibility, as stewards of God’s creation, to use science and technology for the good of humanity and the whole world.

        These four statements of faith spell out the distinctive character of the ASA, and we uphold them in every activity and publication of the Affiliation.

        Conspicuously absent from that list is any mention that they subscribe to the scientific method.

        It’s pretty obvious that this organization’s primary purpose is to bring the evidence into congruence with their preconceived beliefs (rather than the other way around) — as the second paragraph taken from this “article” on evolution clearly demonstrates:

        Since the publication of the “Origin of Species” the theory of evolution has become established in the various fields of science to such an extent that one must admit its well nigh universal acceptance. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of books and papers have been written against it but to no avail so far as the prestige of the theory among the rank and file of the scientists is concerned.

        Religious leader [sic] have attempted to stop the onrush on this theory because it seemed to conflict with the account of creation in Scripture but their attempts have gone largely unheeded. There is no use in duplicating work already done by others.

        If our organization is to do anything in this line it should be something different, something more fundamental than anything that has thus far been attempted. We shall have to be positive rather than negative. We shall have to construct rather than break down. If we do that, we shall have to start at the bottom, at the foundation.

        And it is just here that we, who believe the Scripture as God’s inspired truth, differ from most evolutionary scientists of today. Faith in God and in His word is not a refuge for a bewildered mind whose native capacities have failed to comprehend the intricacies of a complex universe. It is rather a starting point and an accompaniment to the normal functioning of the mind. It is a guide to truth. We must be willing to assert that we start with certain presuppositions, test their validity, and proceed from them to the logical conclusions.

        [Spacing and emphasis added for readability]</em]

        Doesn't sound like the author has made any effort to approach the topic with an unbiased mind.

      • Thank you Ron! Considering what the JASA is, it doesn’t surprise me that I found it hard to find anyone who referred to this paper actually cite the journal name and its origin. It is a shame when so many Christians attempt such obvious deception. They insist that they don’t like science when it shows them wrong, but do their best to imitate real journals so they be parasites using the well-earned trust and respect the scientific method has. I do see that the ASA has come around to accepting at least some bits of evolutionary theory http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Scientific_Affiliation , with their claims of theistic evolution aka evolutionary creationism, etc. If research does manage to create life from unloving components, I wonder how their “truth” will change then. Most likely, it’ll be the usual “but but then who created the elements” stuff, always looking for those gaps and unwilling to relinquish their presuppositions.

      • Vel,

        Well then, I may have been right in my inference. As it happens, I think I have said all that needs to be said on the topic of crucifixion for the time being. I will complete this last comment, and leave the final word to you, as was always inevitable as we have seen.

        Concerning Tacitus and Josephus, you are perfectly correct that they did not believe Jesus was the Christ. This was never my argument and no sensible person would try to argue it. However, your quote from Josephus does show my point in that he intended the events he describes to be taken as factual. Of course they did not believe that Christianity was true (though maybe it is just as well, since many insist on non-Christian references to Jesus), but they had no problem confirming that events like the crucifixion happened. But they do present a thorn in the side for any who wish to show Jesus never even existed.

        I have said it before, I will say it again. Right now all I have been trying to do is show the crucifixion to be historical, the Resurrection is indeed a huge issue for me, however given your extreme level of skepticism, as well as the fact that we already covered the Resurrection, it seems prudent to focus on the crucifixion as of now.

        I have tried to show evidence that 1 Corinthians 15 was written within 5 years after the crucifixion. It seems my evidence is not good enough for you. And you seem to doubt that Paul knew the original apostles. Interestingly, Bart Ehrman touched on this in an interview with a mythicist. When asked how do we know, he said, “Why shouldn’t we think it’s true? One can systematically doubt anything and everything, one can doubt the evidence for the Holocaust, but there is no reason here why we shouldn’t take his word for it.”

        The thing is Vel, I normally don’t have access to academic papers. If you really want to get the best data possible on the topic then read some commentaries, find articles from academic journals on the creed, read scholarly books about the creed. If you want to get in depth, be my guest, but let me know what you read at the end and if you still believe in your current views on the creed.

        Here’s the deal with the Isaiah passage. I’m not so keen on using Biblical prophecies evidentially, but I can tell you this. Perhaps this really was a prophecy, and Christians later realized this, but no Jew certainly interpreted the passage that way at the time. One can, of course, hypothesize that at least some Jews may have seen it that way, of course, since there is no evidence of this occurring, that sounds much like a baseless claim. It was seen as good to rebel against the Romans, but not so good to die. Then that would make just one more failed Messiah. Of course, the usual pattern is to either give up your attempts at rebellion, or find a new Messiah. One more strange piece of the Easter puzzle, why Jesus was proclaimed Resurrected from the dead, but no other Messiah seems to have been, even though they had followers aplenty.

        That’s the thing. I don’t discredit evolution because most of the scholars are atheist/agnostic. I see no reason, therefore, why you should discredit the findings of Biblical scholarship for the reason that most are (at least somewhat) Christian.

        I am thinking that perhaps you might want to consider taking a course on historiography. Please don’t take this as an insult, I’m not trying to suggest you are not smart (quite the contrary), but I really do think you could benefit from learning what is valid as evidence whenever one looks into the past. I probably would not be the right person to tell you, but if you have time, maybe you could take one through distance-learning or something, I think it would be very enlightening. After all, it can’t hurt to add some new knowledge now can it?

        The next part is interesting, would you yourself say that Jesus existed as a historical figure? Thereby coming to common ground with what scholarship has established as fact today? I would be very impressed if that happened, for while you may not believe in the divinity of Jesus, if this discussion has shown to you that belief in a historical Jesus is a better choice than a mythical one, then this may have been worth it.

        I for one, respect the consensus on evolution. I have no problem with it, and I think that some Christians are fools for trying to deny it. However, I must add that the Christ-myth theory is sort of an atheist equivalent to creationism, the parallels are striking.

        A) Both parties reject what the experts in the relevant fields almost universally accept as true.
        B) Both have popular support way out of proportion to their academic acceptance.
        C) Both parties leaders usually have little in the way of relevant credentials. There are exceptions, like Behe (a biochemist) and Price (who has credentials in Biblical studies), but by and large, they are not near as qualified as the experts in those fields.
        D) Both often will not, simply will not, be convinced by whatever evidence is presented, no matter how compelling.

        You say you have field familiarity. OK, do you have any credentials at all to speak of? Any in Biblical studies? Classics? Even just plain history?

        I think you and Ron spent way much time on that particular article, I now regret bringing it up. I just came across it and thought it may be interesting to share some of the contemporary arguments for the dating of the crucifixion.

        Luke the Evangelist was a very meticulous historian. He has had much endorsement from historians and archaeologists for his accuracy with people, places and customs, as well as his attention to detail. I think your assessment of him as not too bright needs some support before I start to consider it. But lets think, given his attention to detail and careful research, is it really more plausible he simply made a huge, blatant error? Or could something else be afoot? I think the answer is quite simple, Luke has catapulted 40 days into one for the purposes of his narrative. It is not unknown for writers of the time to do this. The point I am trying to make is that, given an example like this, it is not unreasonable to assume that all attempts at harmonization should immediately be rejected. As I said, literature is a complex subject, the obvious conclusion is not always the correct one.

        So, in conclusion, I have tried for over a week to show that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified under Pontius Pilate. I have offered evidence for the historicity of the event, cited the works of critical scholars in support of the event, and dealt with objections to believing the crucifixion was historical. In your last two comments, it seems that you may be willing to accept the crucifixion is true, while maintaining that Christianity is not. If this is the case, congratulations, my efforts may have been worth it after all. If you are still convinced Jesus is a myth, this may well be the last time I debate you, for it is apparent I cannot convince you of even one of the most widely accepted facts of ancient history. If I cannot convince you something like the crucifixion as true, it is unreasonable to suppose I can change your mind on anything once you have made it up yourself.

        Until next time,
        Silver Swiper

      • I’m figuring you’ll be back.

        It’s interesting that now Josephus and Tacitus didn’t believe in what they wrote. I guess there are a lot of unsensible Christians then. If he didn’t believe in the facts that he wrote, then he did not present them as fact. He presented them as what he was told, a story. Again, we have a possible cruxified man, no evidence of a man/god. The man/god is what never existed. Unless you’d like to present evidence of that? Do you?

        The Chrsitian claim that “but I only wanted you to admit the cruxifiction” is nonsense for one reason, you don’t believe in that man nor do you care about him. And you have no evidence of the man/god you claim will save you from your sins.

        We have no idea if the cruxifiction occurred and we have only dates that are retconned to fit. And no your evidence is not good enough for me, because of this. I can accept men were cruxified. I can even accept a man was cruxified in the spring. They are relatively comment events so why not believe that some man was cruxified. But to believe in what Christians believe, that a man/god did miracles that no one noticed, was cruxified because he distressed the Jews and Romans so much he got official recognition, had very noticeable event happen at his death and then resurrected and was wandering around for weeks after doing so many miracles that there would be not enough books in the world to record it is a completely different thing. Ehrman doesn’t believe in your Jesus, SS. I have shown why one shouldn’t blindly take the word of people who had things to gain by their stories. And again, I am not and have never said it was an intentional hoax, something you have accused me of and have not recanted.

        I have read commentaries, SS. They still fail, so trying to refer me to “better” apologists and more “sophisticated” theologians still fails. Your attempt seems to be nothing more than delaying the inevitable. I’ve read lots and lots of academic paper and I still hold my conclusions. You sound like those who insist that if I just pray the “right” way, I’ll eventually agree with you. Unfortunately, like them, your insistence that one more apologist will change my mind fails.

        Your problems with Isaiah are the usual ones and I can perfectly understand why you wouldn’t want to use them as evidence. But if they are true, then why not since we certainly should have no problem in seeing that the prophecy was about a certain event, right? But they aren’t that clear and rely on “interpretation” just like everything else. You can’t admit that your bible makes no sense and that generation after generation come up with new claims on what this god “really” meant. If the prophecy is true, then your God lied to his “chosen” people intentionally. If it’s not a real prophecy, your fellow Christians are wrong and are lying. If the messiah was supposed to die, be beaten, “pierced” then the death of a messiah isn’t embarrassing at all. And why would one messiah finally be claimed to be resurrected? It’s a better story, that one can continue after death, a simple change invented by human minds to allow for a movement to continue. “Aw man, he couldn’t have just died. I bet he vanished and came back so we would know that…” It can be fan-fiction with no problem.

        You said this, SS: “I could discredit the consensus of scientists on evolution because most of them are atheist/agnostic.” And now you say you don’t discredit evolution because that most scholars are atheist/agnostic. Rather convenient since you said you could do this and I asked you to do so. I’m guessing that you can’t and your claim false. I don’t discredit all biblical scholars because of their belief of lack of belief. I disagree with them because of the facts . In many cases, their claims are opinion, nothing more. They have no evidence to show that their interpretation is any better than anyone else’s. Most Christians who are apologists start with presuppotions and these baseless presuppositions are why I would disbelieve anyone’s opinion.

        Again, you want me to take some class in the belief that if I just would, I would agree with you. SS, I know quite a bit about historiography. I know what is valid as evidence and I have demonstrated that. I have shown that your “multiple attestations” etc may be valid but your claims that your bible stories fit them fail. But say I do take a formal course. And I come to the same conclusions since I know what evidence historians do use and I know that the bible stories still fail. What then?

        Jesus could have been a historical figure. That is not my view but I do think it’s a valid idea. There is nothing that shows me it is a “better” choice than a mythical Jesus that was based on more than one figure. We still have no evidence for the actual person you believe in. Our hypothetical dead wannabee messiah did not die for your sins nor ensures a magical afterlife. It’s just one more dead man in history, one that you hope exists because you have nothing else. And you are still as stuck as I am with finding our own meaning in life. But in my case, I’m not following a religion that advocates killing those those who disagree with me, that has caused innumerable wars and that does its best to restrict human rights to others because of a belief that is as baseless as any other religion.

        Your attempt to equate creationism with Christ as a myth also fails. There is not “almost universal” acceptance that Jesus was historical or to what degree he was historical. If it is so universal, then how can there be so much “popular support”. It would seem that one would have either one or the other. And ah, credentials. Yes, credentials are good but again, they aren’t everything and since apologists are not often credentialed in history, etc, I see no reason to believe them either.
        Nope, no magical credentials, SS. I didn’t go to a bible college where I was given a degree for agreeing with things that have no evidence. You do realize that most of your experts are that, yes? Can you show me how many historians agree that a magical man existed? Is the consensus that there was no Jesus Christ, Son of God? So, how does that work with your claims? But I’ve read the same books they were told to read, those books that say that God exists and so does his magical son. I’ve read books that say the opposite which few apologists do. I’m content with my depth of knowledge. It’d be fun to take some courses, but again, no one but a seminary would claim that magic can happen in a history class.

        I am sure that you do regret bringing up the article. It demonstrates that your claims aren’t very honest. We hve your claims that we need experts in a subject for a good article and that it should be in a peer-reviewed journal. What we got is assumptions from two people who were not experts in the fields they drew their conclusions from (one was indeed an astrophysicist, so he should be up on eclipses) and a journal that is built on presuppositions which have no place in the scientific method.

        Luke the historian claims he was a meticulous historian, that’s is all. And again, mentioning people, places and customs is not evidence that magical things happened, which is required for your religion. You made the claim that Luke was bright; it is up to you to support that. You wish to assume that Luke was using some kind of narrative device. But you have no explanation why. What purpose would it serve to compress 40 days of supposed important acts into one? You seem to think you know why so I would like to hear your reason. However, all I see is that you need to claim this, that it does not have an actual reason but you must assume it to make your harmonization make any sense. Literature is indeed a complex subject so we must have a “why”. If you just say “he must have” but have no reason, that’s just a hopeful guess.

        There is no reason to think Christianity is any more true than Islam, Shinto or any other religion. You have at best a historical dead guy that had myths built up around him, one that you have tried to shoehorn into the bible by trying to find “prophecies” to fit the myth of the resurrection. As I have said, the historical jesus may have indeed existed, but that’s not the one you care about. If I were dishonest, I’d have said early on that , yep, SS, I agree that there is a historical jesus just to see what you ‘d do for evidence of your religious claims. Christians seem to think they’ve won something when they see someone agree that there could have been some guy killed for no good reason. That seems a little sad to me, since we’re now at the end of evidence for your religion. It does now come to faith, and for very many Christians, that’s not enough. If they weren’t so ignorant, you’d have a lot more problems.

      • I think you and Ron spent way much time on that particular article, I now regret bringing it up. I just came across it and thought it may be interesting to share some of the contemporary arguments for the dating of the crucifixion.

        Hey, if you throw the ball out on the field, expect it to get played. :p

        It’s best to examine your sources for potential biases prior to using them.

        Luke the Evangelist was a very meticulous historian. He has had much endorsement from historians and archaeologists for his accuracy with people, places and customs, as well as his attention to detail.

        The interior set pieces of James Cameron’s “Titanic” are claimed to have been accurate right down to the carpeting and wall tapestries.

        Does that make the accompanying storyline factual, as well? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

        So, in conclusion, I have tried for over a week to show that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified under Pontius Pilate. I have offered evidence for the historicity of the event, cited the works of critical scholars in support of the event, and dealt with objections to believing the crucifixion was historical.

        You’ve presented no tangible evidence — i.e. arrest warrant, court documents, execution decree, coroner’s report, death certificate or interment release — attesting to these events.

        Where are the personal memoirs and teachings penned in Jesus’ own hand? Where are the contemporaneous accounts of his ministry? If Jesus was known far and wide across the land, then why didn’t that catch anyone else’s attention?

        And as Carl Sagan was fond of saying:

        “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

        So please don’t patronize me by attributing this paucity of evidence to extenuating circumstances (like the Siege of Jerusalem or the Fall of Rome), because apologists aren’t arguing for the the historical existence of just any mere mortal here; rather they are unabashedly arguing for the supernatural incarnation of their purported omni-deity — a being without excuse for failing to publish its edicts and guidelines in an indestructible format that’s accessible to all beings for all time.

  3. My interest would be to know why the dead men were resurrected and what happened to them thereafter. It would be fair to tell us what they told their families they had seen while in the land of the dead and while at it, were they dressed when they came out. I will be waiting when someone answers and you can let me know, my dear friend 😛

    • The story of the dead people in Matthew has been mentioned so much by Internet atheists it cannot afford to be ignored. I will cite a passage from one of my favourite books, “The Jesus Inquest”, that deals with that part of Matthew.

      “Earthquakes and opening tombs in Matthew: All of this is, frankly, a bit of an embarrassment. I wish that Matthew hadn’t written these things. But he did, and something has to be said about it. It raises all sorts of difficulties. It is difficult to know what Matthew himself intended us to make of it all. It is plain, for example, that he doesn’t believe that the final, general resurrection has happened, although at the beginning of his wakening dead story it looks as if he is about to say that it has. There’s no obvious room in any theology, ancient or modern, for Matthew’s half-cocked, not-quite-general resurrection. Is the earthquake supposed to be connected to the tomb opening? Is the earth literally shaking the dead awake with its outrage at the death of God? We don’t know.
      N.T. Wright, taking the Matthean bull bravely by the horns and not, like most writers, being horribly gored horribly by it in the process, has identified four broad possibilities.

      a) Matthew might have invented the story with the intention that it would illustrate dramatically and metaphorically what had happened to Israel’s God on the cross
      b) Matthew might have invented a story which fitted in and “fulfilled” texts like Ezekiel 37, Isaiah 26, Zechariah 14, and Daniel 12.
      c) Matthew might be echoing the tradition in the Gospel of Peter; in which the moment of the resurrection itself is seen.
      d) Matthew might know of a tradition that speaks of these phenomena and is trying to retell that tradition “in such a way as to give a biblically alert reader a sense of their meaning: this is the real return from exile, the dawn of the new age, and perhaps even the harrowing of hell.”

      N.T. Wright says (and for what it is worth I agree with his analysis), and (a) and (b) are unlikely. Anticipating the arguments in later chapters, there was nothing in pre-Christian Judaism that would associate even a small foretaste of the general resurrection with the death of a supposed Messiah. Even if such ideas crept into later Christian thinking, they crept in along with the resurrection of the Messiah, not his execution. For the dead to awake on Easter Day might, although highly theologically eccentric, be just comprehensible. For them to awake on Good Friday as the Messiah gave up the ghost would be plain exegetical gibberish.
      As to (c), almost everyone agrees that Peter is very late and that none of the canonical gospel writers knew either his book or his tradition.
      Which leaves us with (d). And as to the historicity of the events, one cannot improve over N.T. Wright. While acknowledging that things mentioned by one source only may be suspect, it remains the case that the events Matthew describes in 27:51-3, as well as being without parallel in other early Christian sources, are without precedent in second-Temple expectation, and we may doubt whether stories such as this would have been expected simply to “fulfill” prophecies that nobody had understood this way before. This is hardly a satisfactory conclusion, but it is better to remain puzzled than to settle for either a difficult argument for probably historicity or a cheap and cheerful rationalistic dismissal of the possibility. Some stories are so odd that they may just have happened. This may be one of them, but in historical terms there is no way of finding out.”

      I would have to agree.

      • SS,

        All you have is the usual magic decoder ring that all theists, especially Christians have. You want to claim that the parts you agree with are literal and the parts you don’t agree with or find ridiculous to be metaphor. And again, you cannot show that your version of this is any better than someone else’s.

        Excuse a), is the usual “but it’s a metaphor” claim. Excuse b) is interesting and shows that yep, stories can be retconned to fit supposed prophecies, so then why believe any of it? Excuse c) is referring to a Gospel of Peter which seems to be one of those books that humans decided didn’t belong in the bible. Excuse d) is “we don’t’ understand but it must mean something mysterious and important”. It’s interesting that the author of your book the Jesus Inquest didn’t mention one other possibility: that the story is a myth and was added, just like inches are added in a big fish story. It sounds really impressive, that this guy could raise whole bunches of dead, told to people who weren’t there and were credulous. I do find it amusing for someone to say that Matt went of “half-cocked” but then expects us to believe that all of the books of the bible were written/inspired by this god. So, what happened? God couldn’t control what went into the book it supposedly controlled?

        There is no historical events that are supported with the cruxifiction. Not one, SS. We have evidence that nothing as claimed by the bible has happened. And with you, and your author trying their best to reason away any possible physical evidence we might find, I would say that you know that there is no evidence too. You must try to excuse why such things don’t exist now. The events described in Matthew 27:51-3, are nonsense. There is no reason to decide that “oh we just don’t understand, but they must really truly *mean* something”. That is just the usual theist attempt to dissuade any further attempts at analysis because it threatens their religion; we don’t understand it, it doesn’t make any sense and therefore, don’t look too close or you’ll see it’s nothing special. It is just as easy to demonstrate that ridiculous claims were made for many supposedly religions leaders and that these were created to make the religious leaders sound more important and more magical. Mohammed, rather than just making up a new set of morals and stories for a new version of a god, now flys to Jerusalem and takes dictation from an angel. Siddartha Gautama, rather than just a person with a idea about how to live life, now tames enraged elephants and cuts 500 pieces of wood at a word. There is nothing “cheap” about that line of thought, but it surely does threaten the desires of theists. I have no idea how something is supposed to be “cheerful” in this case.

        There is also no reason to think that just because something is odd that it “probably” happened. That’s a Russell’s teapot excuse. Wow, a teapot circuling Zeta Reticuli, well, that’s very odd so therefore there is probably a teapot circling Zeta Reticuli. However, there is no evidence of this nor is there any way that a teapot that could get out there without assuming divine beings or aliens. Since we have no evidence of either now or for the last 2 10 or 100,000 years, there is no reason to think that there is any realistic probability that the teapot out there exists. Just like any god. There is indeed the ability to find out if this happened in historical terms, and that would be contemporary sources noticing that “many holy people” came to life. The Jews didn’t notice, and that’s very odd since some of those holy people would be those that they ostensibly knew were buried and who they were. But not a peep about those people suddenly being in the streets. And I always thought, if these people did raise, would that not be a pretty intense call to rebellion? Hey, Gideon and Deborah, David and Abraham rose, now lets stomp the Romans! And the Romans didn’t notice either, indeed, the entire city of Jerusalem did nothing different. And that is the event, that normalcy that shows that there was no chance of the magical event ever actually happening, aka that pesky problem of one event precluding another.

      • “Not one, SS.”

        Josephus: “…And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross…”

        Tacitus: “Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus…”

        Lucian: “…the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account…”

      • Vel,

        Right off the bat, you try to reduce these explanations that came from a scholarly book to “excuses”. And it seems you would go straight to the hypothesis of myth. But I could say that that in and of itself is a sort of excuse, “It is so weird that it must be myth.”

        If you are going to contend for that hypothesis, you are going to have to give some backup. And that may be harder than you think. Let’s think contextually, Matthew (or whoever wrote the Gospel), was an Jew. His writing style is covered with Jewish motifs, references to Scripture and he shows familiarity with Jewish laws and customs. He is writing to a Judaeo-Christian audience. N.T. Wright has demonstrated in his book that it is highly unlikely that any Jewish influences might possibly account for this story.

        If you are advocating a theory that it is simply myth, then you must explain several things. First, why would such a thoroughly Jewish writer just put a pagan-derived myth right in the middle of his narrative? Second, could you identify any possible pagan cults or myths that may have helped with the development of this Matthean “myth”? Third, what would be the purpose of inserting a random myth in the middle of the crucifixion (as I have tried to show, an almost certain historical fact) narrative. What purpose would it have? It is for these reasons, and many more I am sure, why these kinds of theories you are advocating are not being discussed in mainstream scholarship.

        I have already demonstrated that the crucifixion fills a multitude of historical criteria. Criteria of embarrassment (Christians would not make up the painful death of their leader), criteria of multiple attestation (confirmed by multiple Christian and non-Christian sources), criteria of early dating (1 Corinthians creed 5 years after event at most), criteria of coherence (fits with other historical elements) and criteria of rejection (no ancient sources dispute the event). If you are going to reject a fact like the crucifixion in light of all of the evidence I have presented, you will need to show how you can reject the crucifixion when it is supported by so many historical criteria without a huge double standard.

        I am not advocating that the story in Matthew is historical. I am content to remain agnostic about the exact nature and origin of the tradition. All I am trying to show is that it is foolhardy to simply dismiss the story as pure myth. If you do not want to believe it, you can do so without intellectual guilt. There is a difference between a positive claim for the truth of a worldview (i.e., the Resurrection in my case) and a negative claim in defence of it (defending the possibility of it happening). The way I see it, if Christianity can mount a positive case for itself that outstrips all competing religious views, then it has a giant advantage over religions and cults that also make truth claims.

      • Yes, Ss, I call the explanations from “scholarly books” excuses. And that’s what they are, attempts to excuse why a book, supposedly from a magical being and the “truth”, makes no sense.
        Alas, for you, I have not say “It’s so weird it must be myth”. No, I’ve shown why I think the stories in the bible are myths.

        No, it’s not harder than I think. Yep, the author of Matthew seems to have a Jewish audience in mind. So? It does not show any of the claims true nor does it show that it is impossible for people to make stuff up, and not need to follow any jewish influences.

        Religions are syncretic, so that’s why a writer might borrow from another religion. Hey, this concept is popular, it must apply to our religion because it sounds like a good idea”. Note, I am not saying that they add things because of a malicious intent, but because they want the cool stuff for their religion too.

        And you are still wrong in claiming that the cruxifiction was a fact. You have no evidence for this at all. It’s very handy to put in parts of other religions if you need them to convince others. Just like it’s great to claim that 500 people saw a magical man to convince others that the logical fallacy of appeal to popularity is true. Ohhh, 500 people, it must be true. People add details to improve stories all of the time, SS. Rather than having just George Washington, we get the ridiculous story that he cut down a cherry tree.
        You have claimed repeatedly that the cruxifiction is a fact (almost true, or whatever hedging you’ve done). It is no more “fact” than Mohammed’s ride on a magical horsie. You have not shown that the cruxifiction has fulfilled historical criteria and I have shown how it fails. I have no problem rejecting your claims since I find them flawed and I have explained why in detail. I have no double standard, and since you wish to claim I do, please do demonstrate it.

        I find it interesting that you claim you are content to not completely believe your bible and claim you are agnostic about what it says. It’s nice that you try again to convince yourself that an atheist only doesn’t *want* to believe the Christian religion. No, want doesn’t enter into it. I have looked at the evidence and to be intellectually honest with myself, I *can’t* believe such nonsense. You have yet to make a positive claim for the resurrection since you have yet to provide evidence for it. Your “If Christianity can mount a positive case” is a big “if” and has not been shown to be the case. Your claims are no more positive than the claims of other religions. You all insist that your god is “real”, but fail to demonstrate this any better than the next.

      • and SS? I screwed up a couple things in my latest posts, typing too fast and not thinking enough. Not enough to invalidate my points but there are some wrong things. I figured I’d like you and the others find them since it would give you something valid to call me on.

      • Vel,

        Let’s take a look at your responses to my points. I think I need to point out the significance of what I have shown. Matthew is, as I have shown, very thoroughly Jewish in almost every aspect of his Gospel. Anyone can make stuff up, you are quite right. However I have already stated reasons why I think it is unlikely Matthew would just insert a random piece of mythology in his work. Let’s take a closer look.

        I asked you three questions, and it seems you answered (at least partially) all of them. But I think your answer are far from decisive in making your point. Let me list my questions and your responses.

        1: Why would he put a pagan derived myth right in the middle of such a thoroughly Jewish narrative? I think it has been shown that there are no Jewish influences possible, so one must look to pagan mythology. Your response seemed to be along the lines of he did not need to follow along the lines of Jewish influences. Influences make and shape us all the time, if he had heavy Jewish influence, it seems unlikely he would leave those behind when writing this part of the Gospel. And that brings me to my next point. If this really was derived from pagan mythology, why is pagan influence more evident throughout the Gospel? It us unlikely to be in just one isolated part of the Gospel, one must show consistency with pagan influences throughout the Gospel.

        2: What pagan cults or myths could the story be derived from? I do not think you really answered this question, but this is necessary. If you think that pagan mythology is responsible, can you locate any particular areas of pagan mythology where this story may have come from?

        3: What purpose would inserting a random myth in the middle of (an otherwise factual) narrative have? I don’t see why Matthew would simply put one in for no reason. You do seem to say that religions are syncretic, they like to borrow the “cool stuff” for their own religion. But what is the point of just putting one there? What could he gain from it? I don’t see any good reason why he should, theological or otherwise.

        I have tried to demonstrate the factuality of the crucifixion event in my other comments, so there is no need to repeat my same treatise here. Once again, there is “no evidence”, I would be very curious just what be required to convince you of its historicity. You seem interested in comparing my stories to other religions. Let’s compare them. The story of Mohammed’s ride on a magical horse. How many historical criteria does it fill? If the evidence for it is comparable to the evidence for the crucifixion, you may be on to something, but you will have to show that first. Pretend to be a Muslim apologist and try to convince me of it’s historicity. I will try and show it false while leaving the crucifixion valid.

        As for the double standard, here is the deal. Many mythicists intend to show Jesus is a myth while leaving the facts and methodologies about other ancient people, places and events intact. Unfortunately, one cannot have their cake and eat it too. If you apply the same hyper-skeptical standards as they do to Jesus to other ancient figures, we will have to through out much of our knowledge from that time. Historian James Hannam has written a magnificent four part series on the existence of Jesus. Part four is very interesting because he shows that, using the mythicists reasoning, one can show Hannibal did not exist. Check it out.

        http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Is-Jesus-Christ-a-Myth-Part-4-James-Hannam.html

        And yes, I am content to remain agnostic about certain parts of the Bible. There is plenty of things we can never be quite sure about, but that’s the way the world works, and I have no problem with acknowledging that some questions may be impossible to answer for sure.

      • SS,
        You have already attempted to point out how Jewish Matthew is. I know that Matthew is considered very jewish, and have known it for a long time. You are pointing out nothing new. You have indeed pointed out why you don’t think Matthew would pick a “random piece of mythology” and I have pointed out why I do not think it is “random” and that there is no reason to think that Judaism isn’t just as syncretic as every other religion. Repeating your same statements again will make them no more true.

        Again, I don’t care if you want to claim that my answers are “far from decisive” from making my point. Of course you would say that in your attempts to claim that I am wrong. It’s not a great suprise that you disagree and your disagreement doesn’t make your claims correct. I’m still looking for evidence, not your opinion.

        You seem to think that Judaism is the only religion that has come up with certain ideas, and that is what you attempt to base your claims about how pristine Matthew is. However, Judaism is little different from other Bronze/Iron Age religions. We have a powerful but very human acting god. We have death and resurrection. Judaism can’t quite decide if it’s a monotheistic or polytheistic religion. Judaism changes and becomes Christianity. Your claim that Judaism is some monolithic unchanging thing has yet to be demonstrated as valid. We have sacrifices. We have hatred of anyone who is “other”. We have good and evil defined by cultural mores. The “pagans” had much of the stuff in the bible before it was written in the bible. So your claims that you can pick out pagan and non-pagan influence are suspect. If you wish, you can attempt to show those parts that you think are utterly unique to Judaism and we can see just how plausible those claims are. Whomever the author of the gospel of matthew was, we have little idea. We know they appear to be speaking to a Jewish audience, but we do not know what else they were using and why. We have what modern Christians have claimed is “really meant” by their god and book, and we know that many of those claims are less than well-supported by reality.

        People can make up new things, SS. People could have made up the idea of a messiah that has to die and then be “reborn” or resurrected. But we know that resurrection myths are nothing new in the ancient world. One just has to search the ‘net for “resurrection myth” and there are plenty of sites to view, all generally with the same info. Christians do try their hardest to claim that their resurrection myth is somehow special, that no other myths have *exactly* the same details, so that means that theirs is the true one. But again, people can add things, remove things, come up with other variants, and all that shows is that humans are great at making up stories and that none of them have to be true.
        You ask what purpose the resurrection myth has. Well, again, per Christian claims, there are prophecies in the bible that say that this messiah must die, must be tortured, etc. So, they needed to have those prophecies fulfilled, didn’t they? Or will you admit that the claims of prophecy by modern Christians are suspect and may not be referring to things they say they are? Resurrection myths are popular because they clam the fear of death in humans. That’s the gain from it. It makes humans feel better to believe that they do not have to fear death, that it is not the end. I’m sorry that you can’t see any “good reason” theological or otherwise that this myth has benefits. Your inability to see something doesn’t make that something not exist or false. We have myths claiming the healing and raising of the dead of humans, again, something not unique to Judaism/Christianity. We have gods providing food, again nothing special about J/C use of that myth.

        You also claim, falsely, that the gospel of Matthew is “an otherwise factual narrative”. Again, there is no evidence of this being true. There is nothing to support that the necessary events in Matthew are factual. So, there is no reason to be surprised that nonsense is added to the gospel, since other nonsense is already there. Why yes, there is mention of Herod and Pilate and Jerusalem. And in Greek stories there is mention of kings we know to have existed, places that we know to have existed. By this, Poseidon and Athena are as real as your god. Are you willing to agree? And yes, Ss, I do ask questions for a reason and I hope you do answer them. If you continue to not answer them, I think sometime in the future I may pull them all out to just see how bad you are at this.

        You have indeed tried to demonstrate the supposed “factuality” of the cruxifiction. And you have not succeeded, SS. You have not provided evidence that it occurred. You have stories about its occurrence written long after the supposed event. We have nothing that shows this event occurred, no geological evidence for the earthquake, no astronomical evidence of a darkening of the sun, no one noting that any of the essential events happened.

        You ask what would convince me of the cruxifiction’s historicity. Here are a few things: Christians knowing where their supposed messiah was buried. Contemporary records that mention the cruxifiction and trial of this supposed messiah. Contemporary mention of any of the essential events in the New Testament (and the entire bible) in external sources. Geological evidence for an earthquake happening when the sun darkened and evidence that people noticed that long dead people were wandering around. The bible itself not having contradiction after contradiction of what supposedly happened.. There is nothing that supports the bible myths any more than we have things that support that Poseidon and Athena made horses and olives and the winner, Athena, got Athens named after her. If you think you can show evidence that this never happened, please do so.

        It’s great to see you insist that other myths are false and claim your own true when you have no more evidence for that claim than the Muslisms have for Mohammed’s ride. Tell me, SS, how do *you* know that Mohammed didn’t ride on a magical horse and take dictation from an angel? You claim that there are these “criterion” that historians use: Criterion of multiple attestation – this requires independent sources, not people calling on the same sources (e.g. Christians or stories about Christians) for their writing. We have no more about Christians than we do for Islam, especially about the magical essential bits. Criterion of early dating – if the Qu’ran was written by Mohammed, divinely inspired or not, then it is right from the correct time period, and does not have the problems of the mysterious authors of the bible. Criterion of embarrassment – again, there is no reason to assume anyone was embarrassed by having a messiah that died and resurrected if the religion initially claimed that this would be the result, as Christianity did. Coherence – so we have a story about a man who wrote down what an angel said and got a book or we have a man who wrote down things he gathered/thought of and wrote a book. Which is more “coherent”? We have a man who died and resurrected or we have a myth about a man who died and resurrected and may not have even existed as an actual man at all but is a myth created by merging other myths? Which is more coherent in explaining the evidence we have? A myth that has little basis in reality can explain the problem of the missing tomb, the varying versions of the myths themselves, etc. Again, no one is saying that the myth is intentional hoax, that is a strawman that you have created in an attempt to cast doubt on mythicists.

        We have no contemporary independent accounts of such things like Mo’s ride, just like the essential claims of the bible. We have stories about it, just like your religion has. We have imams claiming that it’s true, long after the supposed event.

        And it’s even nicer to see you make claims like this “Many mythicists intend to show Jesus is a myth while leaving the facts and methodologies about other ancient people, places and events intact.” Really? Okay, show examples of this “many”. Please show where many mythcists believe that it is fact that Mohammed rode a magical horsie, that Buddha chopped 500 pieces of wood by waving at it, that Emperor Vespasian cured the blind with spit, etc, but mysteriously hold Christian myths to a higher standard. Surely, since you’ve made such a claim, you can support it. Right? and I’m being serious since I do want to know if “many mythicists” are as unreasonable as you claim.

        The problem with your and Hannam’s attempt to equate Jesus with Hannibal is that Hannibal is nothing special. One knows of generals, one knows of elephants, one knows of long marches in winter, etc. There is nothing here that is unbelievable. Hannibal is interesting but nothing special. Then we compare that to Jesus Christ, the messiah to billions, the man/god that was cruxified and was resurrected to rule heaven. We are not talking about Joshua Ben Joseph a wannabee messiah who did no miracles, who gathered no thousands of people to hear his word, who was just another wannabee messiah to the Romans. That man would be just as possible or mythic as Hannibal is per Hannam, but not Jesus Christ. It’s also cute when Hannam uses a strawman of his own: “(as long we can invent a motive for fabrication we can assume that fabrication exists).” Such a nice little strawman, attempting to claim that mythicists make stupid assumptions like this. Please do show where this happens. Hannam’s piece is only “magnificent” if one wants to believe it.

        I know you are content to remain agnostic about parts of the bible that you don’t like or don’t find “important”. No surprise there since *every* Christian does this. However, you want to pretend that the parts you like are inviolable facts when I have repeatedly shown that they are not. It is just the usual magic decoder ring mentality of all theists. You all think you are right and everyone else is wrong, all as much of an atheist as I when it comes to religions or sects not your own.

      • Vel,

        You say that there is no reason to think Judaism isn’t as syncretic as every other religion. I would only have to say that you may want to reconsider that statement. When one investigates 1st century Judaism and its beliefs, this idea of yours falls under close research. Yes, this was a feature in most pagan mythologies at that time (notably the Romans, with their habits of adopting new gods every day), but not so Judaism. The Jews carefully guarded their beliefs from outside influence. They saw themselves as a separate people and strongly resisted pagan ideas and rituals. The Jewish authorities were keen to ensure the holiness of the temple and that only one God was worshipped. Indeed, much of the Jewish unrest in that period was due to the desecration of the temple, including trying to put new gods in it. I think you’ll find that, given their hostility to pagan influences and emphasis on the worship of the one true God, your hypothesis becomes less and less plausible.

        Judaism is quite different from pagan religions of the time. I would investigate the many differences between them, and there are many, but it would take too much time to list them all here. If you really believe that one can show traces of pagan influence in the Gospel of Matthew, cite it.

        I am afraid we have a misunderstanding. While I am sure you are eager to discuss dying and rising gods (a very popular mythicist topic, even though it is thoroughly debunked in modern scholarship), I think you misunderstood my question. I was referring to the resurrection of all those people at the time Jesus died. I know of no pagan myth that remotely can be connected to this particular narrative, perhaps you could find those?

        I reject the myths of Poseidon and Athena for many reasons. As I said, the Gospels fill many historical criteria that many of these myths do not fill out half as well. I have listed them, but I will focus on major differences when comparing this particular myth.

        First, there is simply too short of time for mythologies to develop. These myths you speak of are usually hundreds of years removed from the events they supposedly describe. The Gospels were written 30-65 years after the death of Jesus, Paul’s letters even earlier, and the 1 Corinthians creed only a few years after the death of Jesus. The development of mythological elements in a historical character that fast is simply preposterous, to say nothing of a character that never existed at all.

        Second, genre. The Gospels differ significantly in comparison to these other mythologies you cite. I would read one of these myths in their primary form, and compare it to the Gospel of Mark. Mark has people fishing, debating, complaining, living normal lives. To quote C.S. Lewis,

        “I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that none of them is like this (The New Testament Record). Of this text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage…pretty close to the facts… Or else, some unknown writer in the second-century, without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative. If it is untrue, it must be narrative of that kind.”

        For the record, I don’t think evidence of an earthquake or darkening of the sun would come closer to convincing you the crucifixion happened. They are, after all, similar to the examples you give earlier of discovered people, places and customs in the Bible. These things could have been real, but they come no closer to showing the crucifixion was.

        Even though you try to show Muhammad’s stories plausible by the same standards as Jesus, your efforts are unconvincing. Determining independent sources can be hard, after all, how does one ascertain an independent account out of several accounts describing the same event? An independent account is an account that has unique material in it, that is, not copied from an earlier source. And as I have stated, scholars have identified independent sources such as the pre-Pauline creed, Mark’s Passion narrative, Q, M, L and of course, Mark itself. Early dating is nowhere near as favourable to Islam as Christianity, the earliest biography of Muhammad is dated to over 100 years after his death (Qur’an is not a biography), whereas John, our latest Gospel, is dated to at most about 70 years after the death of Jesus. If we look at other religious figures such as Zoroaster and Buddha, the length of time between their death and earliest account is even bigger. By contrast, the earliest written source on the life of Jesus can be dated to at most only five years after his death, though it is probably much earlier. I have tried to explain embarrassment in other posts, I am obviously not getting the message across. As I said, no Jewish people at the time expected the Messiah to die, if you have proof that shows otherwise, bring it up. Yes, some passages were later seen as prophecies of a dying Messiah, but even if those are interpreted the right way today, no Jew certainly saw them like that at the time.

        Here is the deal with contemporary accounts. Historically speaking, contemporary accounts of a person are very, very rare. For people like Hannibal, Alexander the Great, Nero, and countless others, contemporary accounts do not survive. And yet, no-one would seriously question their historicity on that basis. And though you may bring up the argument, “But Jesus is reported to have done miraculous things, so that casts doubt on him more than other characters”, let us, for the sake of the argument, assume that Jesus never did these things. Let us focus on a tangible, historical Jesus. Yes, I need to establish a divine Jesus, but right now I am simply trying to show the idea that Jesus never existed is rejected by almost all scholars of antiquity for very good reasons. And for the record, people like Vespasian and Alex the Great also had miracles ascribed to them, but we don’t conclude they never existed on that basis.

        And that was my point with trying to say that mythicists want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to show Jesus never existed, but leave all of our other knowledge of classical history intact. They still want to show that people like Scipio and Vitellius existed, that the battles of Actium and Alesia happened, etc. Unfortunately, if one applies mythicist reasoning to every other ancient character, demanding multiple contemporary accounts that do not contradict themselves and are written by direct eyewitnesses, then we can pretty much rewrite all of our knowledge of human history, all for the sake of proving one man never existed. Unreasonably so to me, since plenty of atheists concede Jesus existed but deny his divinity.

        Your next paragraph suggests that you are willing to accept a normal, human historical Jesus. If you are, then that is excellent. That is all I have been trying to do all along, I am merely arguing in this situation for a real, historical Jesus, the rest can come when that is established.

        I notice that, in other comments, you often point out how much Christians disagree on, and say this discredits Christianity being true. You often point out, “how do we know which version is right?” With all due respect, allow me to cover briefly some of the many branches of atheism.

        Some atheists believe there is objective morality, others do not.
        Some atheists believe there is meaning to life, others do not.
        Some atheists believe religion can be tolerated, others do not.
        Some atheists believe homosexuality and/or abortion is wrong, others do not.
        Some atheists believe in free will, others do not.
        Some atheists believe that materialism is true, others do not.
        Some atheists believe Jesus existed as a historical figure, others do not.
        Some atheists believe in state atheism, others do not.

        With all these differences in atheist thought, and many more that I have not shown, how do we know which version is right? I am sure you would reject the proposal that these differences show atheism is implausible. I suggest that you do not apply a double-standard to Christians for this same reason.

      • Back so soon?
        I need evidence, SS. Tell me where you found support for your claims about Judaism. We have Judaism going from what appears to be a polytheistic religion to a monotheistic one. Why the change?

        We have resurrection being introduced into Judaism in Matthew. Other religion had the idea. Chrsitian was Judaism completed with a messiah. It certainly changed. We have the idea of a son of a deity, something very familiar in other religions, not so in Judaism, where the messiah wasn’t part god.

        And again, where a Christian wants to pretend that their religion is unique. Dying and resurrecting as divine is nothing new. And I can chalk up the idea of the other dead rising as the idea of sympathetic magic. One person resurrects, so do others. And it could have been just a new idea, that since the son of God rose, then everyone important to God would of course have to live again too.

        Tell me how short time must be for myths to develop and how you know. You claim that the greek myths were hundreds of years removed from the events. But I see Christians insisting that oral tradition is just fine, at least for them when they want to claim veracity. We had stories told about Washington, etc within their life times and soon afteraward, so it seems that stories about people don’t need hundreds of years at all.

        I’ve read the myths in the primary form. We have people fishing, hunting, doing very mundane acts and then miracles happen. SS, do you think I haven’t read the myths to make such a silly claim that the myths don’t mention people living normal lives? It’s a common thing in myths, a common existence, then the rise into power/awareness. In this it was supernatural entities contesting, in the bible we have the same thing. Job comes to mind.

        If we had a day in the early ears of the first millennium that had an earthquake, the darkening of the sun, the rising of the dead that had contemporary independent evidence, then I would have much more belief in the claims of the bible. If we had any evidence of the supposedly global flood, the exodus of the Israelites, of any of the essential events of the bible I would be much more predisposed to believe in the claims of the bible. I know you want to pretend that I am an atheist would not believe in any evidence no matter what, but you are wrong. It’s easy to say that the mean ol’ atheist wouldn’t believe because you know you don’t have the evidence anyway. All of those events happening on the same day is implausible but not impossible and then one has to consider the possibilities. And yes, a possibility is that it may indeed by a god. But since we have no evidence of such things, there is no reason to think that a god was responsible for events that didn’t happen.

        Claiming my efforts are unconvincing is amusing but meaningless until you show how they are. Can you show me evidence that Mohammed didn’t fly to Jerusalem? No? Then how can you be sure? You claimed many sources and of course we have a handful. And if Mohammed didn’t write the Qu’ran, who did? Can you show that Mohammed didn’t? Again, oral tradition is claimed by Chrsitians if needed but disreguarded if any other religion claims it. And we have a piece written about JC, and an event that cannot be shown to have happened, the resurrection that was written 5 years after the supposed event. Embarassment doesn’t work if people know he will die and if it has already been prophecied so, and Christians claim that the prophecy in Isaiah is so “obvious”. I know we’ve gone through all of this before. You cannot show that no jewish people expected Jesus to die, but canoot show that. It seems to be no problem with them following him after he’s dead so it wasn’t the disasterous embarrassment that you claim it was. They accepted it because jews became Christians, and I certainly have proof of that.

        Yes, biographies are very rare. We don’t have biographies of JC since we have no idea about the vast part of his life. And no one questions Hannibal since he was a general and generals are known to have existed. Divine entities, not so much. So again, we can have a historical dead guy at best, which indeed common and known. I have no problem saying that there was no being that did miracles. I am pleased that you do admit that other people have had miracles assigned to them too. Again, historical jesus? Sure. But again, no magic needed. And no sole figure of Jesus needed. We can have a blending of stories of many different men until they all are attributed to the same person, something akin to the way that some Christians want to pretend that their god is “really” the gods of other religions, that it “must” be since only their god could do such things. I can postulate that Odysseus could have been multiple stories that were welded into one long adventure. I can say that Scipio probably existed as described. I cannot say that Jesus Christ existed as described since the description of Jesus that we have is only the divine one

        Christians disagree and I do like pointing that out since that shows that we have no idea of which, if any of you, has the truth. At the moment, you appear to be equally wrong. And “branches of atheism”. Sorry, no. Atheism is just the disbelief in gods/ or gods. Our beliefs about morality, life’s meaning, have nothing to do with atheism. We are democrats and republicans again having nothing to do with atheism. We do not disagree that there is no god/s. But if you think we do, please show how.
        Christians differences are based on what their god “really meant”, the basis of the religion.

        Atheists are quite sure that there is no god/s. We don’t debate on how god “doesn’t” exist.

      • ss, I think this is a new low you have gone to. You write

        Some atheists believe there is objective morality, others do not.
        Some atheists believe there is meaning to life, others do not.
        Some atheists believe religion can be tolerated, others do not.
        Some atheists believe homosexuality and/or abortion is wrong, others do not.
        Some atheists believe in free will, others do not.
        Some atheists believe that materialism is true, others do not.
        Some atheists believe Jesus existed as a historical figure, others do not.
        Some atheists believe in state atheism, others do not.

        What has all this got to do with atheism? I thought by now you must know atheism is simply a lack of belief in the existence of deities, beyond that, every atheist is likely to have her own opinions on every other matter. There is no code book that requires a certain belief among atheists. Each person is free to think for themselves and you can compare notes. Each believer can’t create their own bibles, they may interpret their religious books as they so wish, but it is not lost on anyone what they should be following.

    • My apologies, I was unaware I was offending anyone. I personally see no difference between this and Vel’s own take on the differences between Christianity. Of course, as with atheism, there are certain beliefs that Christians have in common, and then there are disagreements about specifics, such as inspiration of Scripture and otherwise. Vel was suggesting these differences in interpretation provide evidence against Christianity (how do we know which version is correct?), I am pointing out that all groups, atheist, Christian, Muslim and everyone one else will have disagreements on various issues both metaphysical, social, etc. So it seems unfair to suggest differences in agreement on various matters are evidence against the fundamental belief itself.

      • Nowhere in my response did I say you offended anyone, in fact, there is no suggestion from the questions that I thought you were trying to be offensive.

        You have chosen not to see the difference. The christian has a guide book, the bible, from which they are to follow its tenets, they have chosen, like everyone else to employ their reason in choosing what to and not to do, which really is fine by me. The atheist, on the other hand, has no such book. The only point of agreement is in their lack of belief, and as I said in the previous response, what each atheist believes beyond the lack of belief in gods is his/her own and if they can support it, well I have no problem. Your comparison is fallacious and as such can’t hold.

        In the case of christianity or any religious belief for that matter, if there are contradictions, it must matter and it becomes evidence against the fundamental belief itself

  4. Some stories are so odd that they may just have happened. This may be one of them, but in historical terms there is no way of finding out.

    Similar arguments could be made for:

    – Mohammad’s night flight to Jerusalem/Heaven
    – Joseph Smith’s angelic visitations
    – post-mortem Elvis sightings.

    Would you be willing to grant them the same credence you grant the biblical tales? And if not, why not?

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