C.S. Lewis Gets it Wrong: Liar, Lunatic, Lord … or Legend?

Some say that Jesus wasn’t divine but was still a great sage. C.S. Lewis has no use for this foolish argument. Here is his widely quoted rebuttal:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg—or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.

“Patronizing nonsense”? We have no problem with wisdom taken from the Koran or the story of Gilgamesh or the Upanishads or any other book of religion or mythology despite their being wrong about the supernatural stuff. Assuming that the Bible’s supernatural claims are false, why must that invalidate its wisdom, too?

But let’s return to Lewis’s famous trilemma: Jesus must have been a liar (he knew that he wasn’t what he said he was), a lunatic (he was crazy, so that explains his wild claims), or … maybe all that he said was true. In that case, he must be Lord.

But this ignores the ferociously obvious fourth possibility, that the entire Jesus story is legend.

We understand that stories can evolve into legends with time—the Iliad, Merlin, William Tell, John Henry, the Roswell UFO story, and so on. I wrote about the legendary growth of the Angel of Mons tale here. Are we to set aside all that we know about nature and imagine instead that a supernatural God sent supernatural Jesus to earth to do supernatural things? We need a lot of evidence to make that jump.

The plausible natural explanation for the Jesus stories is that they were told orally for decades, and they grew with the retelling, changing to fulfill prophecy from the Law or to ensure that Jesus took on the traits of competing religions. Remember that Palestine was the crossroads of Greek, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian cultures.

As Jewish Christianity was reinterpreted through Greek culture, the recipients wouldn’t have just known about Dionysus and Friends, many would’ve been followers, all the more reason to expect an amalgam as the result. (I’ve written more about Dionysus vs. Jesus here.)

I’ve discussed this with Christians in the past and have some idea of the objections that they raise. In the next two posts, I will discuss and hopefully resolve twelve Christian objections to the Legend hypothesis.

Whenever you find any statement in Christian writings
which you can make nothing of, do not worry.
Leave it alone.
— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Photo credit: Wikipedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

    Has it occurred to you that C. S. Lewis was an expert in myths and legends and so excluded that possibility because he knew the NT wasn’t legends?

    •“I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends and myths all my
    life. I know what they are like. I know none of them are like this.”
    ( C.S. Lewis)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Has it occurred to you that C. S. Lewis was an expert in myths and legends and so excluded that possibility because he knew the NT wasn’t legends?

      I know that’s what he said, but is he believable?

      A mythologist says that the Bible isn’t legend—OK, that’s an interesting data point. Doesn’t carry the day for me, though, as I’ve made clear above.

      • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

        Lewis was the chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge University. And you are?.
        •“I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends and myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know none of them are like this.”

        ( C. S. Lewis)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Huh? It’s not me vs. Lewis, but let’s imagine that it is. Some people are biased by religion. Maybe Lewis is one of them. As a result, “Lewis said so” is not the final word on any subject for me.

          Furthermore, many other experts have weighed in on the mythology question. Lewis isn’t the final word for them either.

          And if the Jesus story is plainly not a legend, defend that point yourself. Explain it to me. ‘Cause it sure looks like a legend to me.

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

          You didn’t engage my point at all. Name one expert in myths and legends that thinks the gospels are legends. And what exactly are your credentials that you think your opinion is comparable to that of the chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge University?

          We cannot all be experts in everything and so must rely on the experts. C. S. Lewis was an expert on legends and you believe he overlooked the possibility that the gospels are legendary. You need to demonstrate why you think your expertise in legends is greater than that of C. S. Lewis. Merely accusing him of “bias” (while assuming you have none) isn’t an argument but a statement of bigotry on your part.

          The tell-tale difference between legends and history is the presence of extraneous details in the later that is not present in legendary fiction, things like “Simon of Cyrene” carrying the cross (even mentioning his sons), naming the owner of Jesus’ tomb (Joseph of Arimethia); mentioning that Peter and the other disciples were 100 yards out in the lake when Jesus appears on the shore and they caught 153 fish, etc.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          John:

          You didn’t engage my point at all.

          Yeah, there’s a lotta that going around.

          Name one expert in myths and legends that thinks the gospels are legends.

          I can’t think of anyone on either side of this issue. So does that mean that I can’t (again!) ask you why the legend hypothesis is flawed?

          And what exactly are your credentials that you think your opinion is comparable to that of the chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge University?

          So then your argument is “Lewis said so!”?

          You fail.

          C. S. Lewis was an expert on legends and you believe he overlooked the possibility that the gospels are legendary.

          No, everything I’ve read from Lewis on the topic has been unconvincing.

          You need to demonstrate why you think your expertise in legends is greater than that of C. S. Lewis.

          Whoa. Enough with Saint Doctor Doctor Professor Pope Lewis, OK? I’m happy to accept that he was a brilliant scholar, snappy dresser, and considerate lover.

          Can you address my question?

          Or perhaps you already have. I’ve written quite a bit already on my position. Your response: “Yeah, but Lewis disagrees.” Should I conclude that that’s all you’ve got?

          The tell-tale difference between legends and history is the presence of extraneous details in the later that is not present in legendary fiction

          So we take the legend of Merlin the magician or Paul Bunyan, add in some random, specific details, and it becomes history? I didn’t know that.

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

          Yes you can name an expert on myths and legends who insists that the gospels don’t look anything like a legend: C. S. Lewis. Your statement otherwise either shows you have a problem with short-term memory loss or that you are a liar. Shall I charitably assume you’ve had traumatic brain injury?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Name calling? Check.

          Ignoring any points on which you have lost? Check.

          Golly, I wish you were on our team, with your loving and considerate approach to discussion and your deep scholarship. A suggestion for the tagline for your blog: “The best in content-free defense of Jesus!”

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

          What names? You’ve been repeatedly informed that C. S. Lewis was an expert on myths and legends. Then you say no experts have been produced on the subject. The conclusion is either that you are lying or that you have a memory loss problem. Which is it? Please explain: are you a liar or just not mentally capable?

          What points have I lost? You like to congratulate yourself a lot but you’ve yet to make an intelligent point.

          You spew insults because you don’t have any facts or reason.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          What names?

          If you don’t understand what name calling is, I’m sure you won’t take the definition from me.

          You’ve been repeatedly informed that C. S. Lewis was an expert on myths and legends.

          And in the dozen times you’ve mentioned Lewis, I’ve never questioned the facts that he was an expert in mythology and fabulously well endowed.

          Then you say no experts have been produced on the subject.

          Wrong again. I say that I’m looking for an argument from you. And you repeat (again and again) that Lewis said so. OK—that’s all you’ve got. Let’s move on.

          The conclusion is either that you are lying or that you have a memory loss problem. Which is it? Please explain: are you a liar or just not mentally capable?

          Take your pick. You’re the only one who can reason here.

          What points have I lost? You like to congratulate yourself a lot but you’ve yet to make an intelligent point.
          You spew insults because you don’t have any facts or reason.

          Wow. I don’t know that I’ve ever met someone so enraged before. Cool.

      • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

        •Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930), declared that
        Jesus was so imposing that he was “far beyond the power of men to invent” and
        that those who treat him as a myth are bereft of “the capacity to distinguish
        between fiction and the documentary evidence” (as quoted in
        Harrison 1968, 3).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Uh, OK. A quote won’t do it for me. I need reasons. Tell me why “The Jesus story is a legend” fails.

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

          Adolph von Harnack, a liberal history of religion professor, gives you some reasons. Read above.

          If von Harnack is correct, then perhaps you may want to consider whether you are “bereft of “the capacity to distinguish between fiction and the documentary evidence”.

  • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

    “We
    have more evidence for Jesus than we do for almost anybody in His time period.”
    (skeptic Bart Ehrman)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Sure, let’s accept that. OK–Jesus existed.

      Now that that’s out of the way, show me that the miracles in the gospel story are true. Ehrman doesn’t think they are.

      • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

        Good. We’ve made progress. We’ve eliminated the “legend” option. So now it sounds like you’re leaning toward the “liar” one. Give “Lord” some more thought. If He’s Lord, He could do the miracles.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Nope. I’m happy to accept that Jesus existed, but that’s it. As for the miracles, what explains them better than that they were a legend?

          You do realize that Ehrman is an atheist, right?!

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

          Ehrman is an agnostic (unless he’s changed his mind recently.)

          What explains the miracles pretty well is that Jesus is Lord.
          The “legend” option has been disposed of. The reason Lewis didn’t even offer it as an option is because he knew legends. You obviously don’t.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          OK, fair point. That probably is what Ehrman calls himself. My point was that Ehrman rejects the supernatural claims in the Bible just like I do. He’s an odd witness for your side of the issue.

          Uh, no, the Legend option hasn’t been disposed of. You’ve given me nothing except the strong impression that you’d like this argument to go away. (Making you feel uncomfortable?)

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

          The legend option has been disproven. We’ve called an expert witness, and he’s unequivocally rejected it. That you refuse to accept his testimony (and can’t produce a real expert in myths and legends to testify differently) is only evidence of your blind adherence to your faith. That is, you’re a closed-minded bigot who attacks other’s faith because of the absurdity of his own.

          (Wow–that just came out wrong. Sorry! I’ve got a bit of Tourette’s going on here, I think. Apologies about the slander!)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          John: We’ve all got our little disabilities, my friend. Not a problem. Thanks for your honesty!

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

          You hack into other people’s posts to alter them. That’s the only way you can make yourself look better.

          It’s fraudulent and unethical. You’re a liar.

          (Sorry! It’s those voices in my head again. Seriously–it’s totally cool with me to modify my comments when they get out of line, which they do frequently! I’m mean–if I have to resort to name calling, what kind of arguments do I have, really?)

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

          I’ve given the expert testimony of the chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge University. You aren’t able to produce anything. Then you hack into other people’s posts to make yourself look better.

  • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

    Paul’s letters
    written 15 to 25 years after Jesus and the gospels within 60 years at the most. If Jesus were a legendary figure, the detractors who were living would certainly have used that bit of information. And, no, you haven’t debunked that.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      What detractors? You mean the detractors in the gospel story?

      The gospel story is a story. Show that it’s history and we can elevate it to that level.

      And if your point is that naysayers would’ve destroyed the gospel argument so that we wouldn’t have it today, I’ve responded to that here.

      • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

        By “detractors”, I meant the 1st and 2nd century Roman/Greek and Jewish critics of Christianity. Obviously, if Jesus were a fictional character, that fact would have been noted by the Roman occupiers or the Jewish high priests. That no early critic of Christianity used that arguments is best explained by the fact that they knew they couldn’t get away with it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And by “detractors,” I don’t mean any of the enemies of the gospel mentioned in the gospels. Dismissing these, who do you have in mind?

          Can you drop the “if Jesus were a fictional character”? I’m happy to accept that the gospel story is based on an actual person.

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

          I just explained who I had in mind. Reread my post. Or do you have reading comprehension problems?

          (Y’know–scratch that. That was really out of line. I apologize for being such a jerk.)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          John: Hey–I appreciate the apology. I thought you were a little out of line, but it looks like you’re reining that back in. Bravo.

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

          You hack into other people’s comments to change them. I guess that’s the only way you can appear to win a debate. Then you congratulate yourself.
          You’re a total fraud.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I change your comments as a gentle way to encourage you to stop being such an asshole. Next step: banning.

  • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

    At least you have enough integrity to follow the logic and make a choice. Too bad it’s the wrong one.

  • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

    Lewis gave you reasons. You rejected them. It doesn’t look like you’re open to reason at all.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’ve already slapped Lewis silly. Now it’s your turn at bat. Enough whining–give me reasons.

      • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

        You haven’t “”slapped Lewis silly”. You give yourself far too much credit. You’re an ignoramous who doesn’t know the first thing about legends or the New Testament. Get a grip.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I haven’t? Show me.

          (Or are you unable to? Feels kinda impotent when you’ve got no rebuttals, doesn’t it?)

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

          You like to congratulate yourself a lot, rather than making an intelligent comment.

          Lewis was chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge University. You aren’t.

  • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

    you sound like a closed-minded bigot. Sad.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      You sound like someone who declares the truth of Christianity to be the most important thing ever and yet can’t defend it. Sad.

      • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

        I’ve produced the evidence of experts. You can’t. You can’t even explain where the universe came from.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ve produced arguments that you can’t refute. I think I like my position better.

          As for the universe, I agree: I can’t explain where the universe came from. But I’ve got company. You can’t either.

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

          You haven’t produced any documents. You congratulate yourself and hack into other people’s posts.

          I’ve produced the word of the chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge University.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yeah. I got it the first dozen times. And I’m amazed that such bravado is attached to such a paltry argument. “Lewis said so.” Yeah, got it. And that’s all you got. I’m bored with this conversation.

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

          But then you said that neither of us have produced any expert on the subject. So were you lying or do you have memory loss problems?

          Lewis is an expert on myths and legends. You’re not apparently capable of making an intelligent argument nor have much real knowledge of the content of that which you are constantly attacking.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          But then you said that neither of us have produced any expert on the subject. So were you lying or do you have memory loss problems?

          I do lie a lot—I’m an atheist, after all. And we know that all atheists lie.

          But in this case, it’s probably memory loss problems. Honestly, I’ve forgotten. So show me: where did I tell you that you hadn’t produced an expert?

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

          What were those “arguments”? You’re just lying. You’re an ignorant bigot who thinks he can dismiss a real expert on myths and legends. You’re a legend in your own mind.

  • http://www.covenantcaswell.org/ John Carpenter

    You don’t ever seem to actually make an argument at all. You just crown yourself the victor on every issue.

    Then you hack into other people’s posts to alter them to make yourself look better.

  • Anonymous

    Well if He was a lunatic everyone would have probably dismissed Him as so. But they didn’t.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Surely you can’t be saying that no lunatic has ever held sway over people or created a movement. Rasputin, Charles Manson? Some lunatics babble in the corner; many don’t.

  • D Hunter Sanchez

    You got a problem. 1 Cor 15 is a form of an early hymn dating back to the time of Jesus. 1 Cor was written in 57 CE (Robertson, Redating the NT). Hence, the hymn goes back further than that. Perhaps you need to listen to Habermas. There is little doubt among scholars that the first disciples of Jesus believed that they saw him risen from the dead. No time for legends to grow. Lewis’ argument stands.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I slap that argument silly here and here.

      “No time for legends to grow”?? I see stuff in the newspaper that is wrong about events that occurred yesterday. I’m supposed to believe a story from 2000 years ago? I suppose next you’ll be selling me swamp land in Florida.

  • D Hunter Sanchez

    Further, you need to explain how the first disciples were able to propagate legends in the very city where the events took place? Including how a number of converts were made in that same city? The legends concept is tantamount to a veteran of WWII making up stories about battles and retelling them among those who participated in those same battles. They would have an interest as well as the ability to contradict the stories.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      That was an unfortunate example to propose. Here is an article about people today who falsely claimed to have won the Medal of Honor. How could they get away with it? They do.

      You also seem to be vaguely pointing to the Naysayer hypothesis, which states that legends wouldn’t have been able to grow because the eyewitnesses would’ve been there to stamp them out. I’m afraid not.

  • D Hunter Sanchez

    Wrong. Read on son. Was Jesus saying he was just a human being? Or did those who were experts on the law actually understand what he was claiming? “You make yourself God.”

  • Robert

    In a 2011 review of
    the state of modern scholarship, Bart Ehrman (a secular agnostic) wrote:
    “He certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity,
    Christian or non-Christian, agrees” B. Ehrman, 2011 Forged : writing in
    the name of God ISBN 978-0-06-207863-6. page 285

  • Robert

    The Gospels and Jesus
    by Graham Stanton, 1989 ISBN 0192132415 Oxford University
    Press, page 145 states : “Today nearly all historians, whether Christians
    or not, accept that Jesus existed”.

  • Robert

    Many scholars agree that Jesus debated with fellow Jews on how best to live according to God’s will, engaged in healings and exorcisms, taught in parables, gathered male and female followers in Galilee, went to Jerusalem, and was crucified by Roman soldiers during the governorship of Pontius Pilate” The Historical Jesus
    in Context edited by Amy-Jill Levine et al. Princeton Univ Press ISBN
    978-0-691-00992-6 page 4

  • Robert

    Michael Grant (a classicist) states that “In recent years, ‘no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus’ or at any rate very few, and they
    have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant,
    evidence to the contrary.” in Jesus by Michael Grant 2004 ISBN 1898799881
    page 200

  • Robert

    “There are those
    who argue that Jesus is a figment of the Church’s imagination, that there never
    was a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical
    scholar who says that any more.” in Jesus Now and Then by Richard A.
    Burridge and Graham Gould (Apr 1, 2004) ISBN 0802809774 page 34

  • Robert

    Robert M. Price (a
    Christian atheist) who denies the existence of Jesus agrees that this
    perspective runs against the views of the majority of scholars: Robert M. Price
    “Jesus at the Vanishing Point” in The Historical Jesus: Five Views
    edited by James K. Beilby & Paul Rhodes Eddy, 2009 InterVarsity, ISBN
    0830838686 page 61

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Like any good theory, the Christ Myth theory explains quite a bit of the available evidence and resolves riddles that the conventional view can’t.

      But why bring it up? It’s not something that I argue for. I don’t say that the man didn’t exist (though that’s possible). I say that the supernatural stories about him are legendary.

      If you disagree, let me know where my post fails.

  • Robert

    You sort of are arguing that Jesus does not exist by bringing up events that never happened and people who never existed i.e. (“…the Iliad, Merlin, William Tell, John Henry, the Roswell UFO story, and so on.”). Its one thing to argue whether or not a certain event happened around a real person but it’s another thing to try to persuade others to accept the “legend theory” by choosing not only fictional events but fictional people.

    We all know that historically Merlin never existed but we do know that Jesus did and based on historical data/manuscripts it is far more plausible for Jesus to have performed miracles than Merlin conjuring creatures out of thin air.

    Ancient writers at the time of Jesus didn’t have the luxury of busting out a camera and preserving events for future generations to see. Instead all they had was the pen and parchment. That being said lets be honest with one another, after reading about those events and having not seen with our own eyes those events (so long ago) it’s hard to wrap ones mind around such things. After all it’s hard to believe that such things could have happened. How are we to believe that the dead were given life, the sick and lame were healed and Jesus saying He was the Son of God? But the fact still remains, these are recorded historical events centered around a real person. If the historical events (as written) don’t persuade you then I would
    venture to say there isn’t much other that would.

    • http://batman-news.com Anton

      “We all know that historically Merlin never existed but we do know that Jesus did and based on historical data/manuscripts it is far more plausible for Jesus to have performed miracles than Merlin conjuring creatures out of thin air.”

      Why is that? I’m a Christian, but I don’t consider the Christ narratives reportage. There are many good reasons for the Gospels to record, for example, the Transfiguration event: Jesus was being contextualized in the Jewish tradition by appearing with Moses and Elijah; he was symbolizing the intermediary between the human and the divine by being at the mountaintop; he was shining with the light returning to the Temple after the upheaval of its destruction. The notion that it literally happened isn’t what the story meant.

      These narratives were written long after Jesus supposedly lived, and were intended to serve liturgical purposes for the fledgling Christian communities. They weren’t records of historical events.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      You sort of are arguing that Jesus does not exist by bringing up events that never happened and people who never existed i.e. (“…the Iliad, Merlin, William Tell, John Henry, the Roswell UFO story, and so on.”).

      There actually was a John Henry. There actually was a Troy. There may well have been a King Arthur. Something actually did happen at Roswell (a weather balloon, for example). Even if there was no William Tell, there were Swiss heroes of old who fought tyranny. And then legend sprang up around the truth.

      That Jesus never existed at all explains the facts far better than that the gospel story is literally true, but legend explains things just fine for me.

      it is far more plausible for Jesus to have performed miracles than Merlin conjuring creatures out of thin air.

      Now we’re arguing for which insane story actually makes more sense, so I’m not sure what kind of mileage we’ll get out of this, but I’ll weigh in. The story of one man performing limited magic in a small space is one kind of crazy. A being creating the entire universe and then dropping by to help out his favorite species is a whole new level of crazy. No, the Jesus story is not in any way plausible.

      Ancient writers at the time of Jesus didn’t have the luxury of busting out a camera and preserving events for future generations to see. Instead all they had was the pen and parchment.

      Sucks to be them, I guess. Don’t tell me that it’s really hard to find compelling evidence from so long ago so we have to accept what little you’ve got. No, we don’t. Your fantastic claim needs fantastic evidence to support it.

      In a recent post I imagined the best possible account of supernatural events from ancient times. It wasn’t convincing.

      it’s hard to wrap ones mind around such things.

      We’re in agreement here.

      these are recorded historical events centered around a real person.

      Do you believe the Iliad? If not, why not?

      Read that post that I referenced and see if evidence that far exceeds that for Christianity, but points to a different god, would be convincing to you.

    • Dromedary Hump

      ” But the fact still remains, these are recorded historical events
      centered around a real person. If the historical events (as written)
      don’t persuade you then I would venture to say there isn’t much other that would.”

      Says the person who gets their history from the same book that proffers the historical nature of talking snakes, talking mules, the sun stopping in the sky, that the stars are set in a firmament, virgins give birth, and a thousand other absurdities. One has to wonder why the banned gospels, describing jesus as a pre-teen with a murderous temper, aren’t included as “history.” Well, we don’t really have to wonder, do we?

      Yep, the Bible is “recorded historical events” as much as those events detailed in the writings Indo-Aryans, of the Vedic Age , which describe monumental feats and wars between heavenly beings; or in the gospel of Sri Ramakrishna; or in the stories from Sumerian and Akkadian religions circa 2350 BCE. .. all of which include supernatural feats and causes for everything that Christians attribute to their god or should I say gods).

      Amazing, the profound self induced ignorance that passes for thought by today’s devout Xtian-centric sheep. .

  • Robert

    I’m elated to hear that you do believe that Jesus does
    exist. You believe Jesus existed, but what is your basis for that belief?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Not really. I have no opinion on the matter.

      And why would this elate you? That Jesus was an ordinary guy about which bizarre supernatural stories evolved is hardly anything to build a religion on.

  • Robert

    You believe Jesus existed, but what is your basis for that belief?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I don’t believe Jesus existed.

  • Robert

    I kind of figured you didn’t believe that Jesus existed. Tis ok though. But for arguments sake this conversation probably is not going to go much further. Trying to have a rational conversion with those who don’t believe that Jesus existed is akin to having a conversation with a person who thinks the earth is flat. No matter how much data is presented to them that the earth is round, they still choose to believe it’s flat.

    We could try to discuss the most important things that Jesus said but the truth is if you don’t possess the honesty to accept the fundamentals you can’t move on to deeper things. One could try to talk about deeper things such as the divinity of Jesus and His works and words. But if your not honest enough to admit that (historically) Jesus existed how can we go much further?

    To admit that Jesus existed is to admit that He spoke words and that His words need to be explored. So when CS Lewis says (and I’m paraphrasing) “either Jesus is the Son of God or he is a liar and a madman”, he (CS Lewis) is assuming that you believe Jesus is a real historical figure and that His words were accurately recorded.

    Have a great Thanksgiving, Christmas and also have a happy New Year my friend.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Trying to have a rational conversion with those who don’t believe that Jesus existed is akin to having a conversation with a person who thinks the earth is flat.

      And you say this because you’re well read on the scholarly work on this subject? All that Robert Price or Richard Carrier (both with relevant doctorates) have said on the subject? I’m impressed!

      I haven’t read their stuff, which is why I refrain from getting much into the topic.

      No matter how much data is presented to them that the earth is round, they still choose to believe it’s flat.

      You act like this is a long-standing and pernicious problem. I thought it was just a sideshow.

      if you don’t possess the honesty to accept the fundamentals you can’t move on to deeper things.

      What fundamentals do I not accept? And are we to assume that you’re the judge here, deciding what’s a necessary belief and what’s not?

      Must be sweet to have all that power.

      your not honest enough to admit that (historically) Jesus existed how can we go much further?

      We could discuss economic policy, but I don’t have any interest in that either. You gonna ding me for that as well?

      You must be a little hard of reading. I have no interest in the “did Jesus really exist?” question.

      when CS Lewis says (and I’m paraphrasing) “either Jesus is the Son of God or he is a liar and a madman”, he (CS Lewis) is assuming that you believe Jesus is a real historical figure and that His words were accurately recorded.

      And, as you could perhaps tell from reading this post, I’m happy to assume that he lived as a historical figure. The supernatural whoppers told about him, however, they were legends.

      Not hard to figure out when you actually listen to what the other guy has to say, eh?

  • Rylore

    Sorry, but you have it wrong, bub. Jesus is not and cannot be legend. He is a historical figure. It’s a fact. Try doing your homework and research it some time. We have many historical accounts about him. Just some of the men you can look into are: Cornelius Tacitus, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Tallus, Phlegon, Mara Bar-Serapion, Josephus ben Mattathias (aka Flavius Josephus), Lucian of Samosate, and The Babylonian Talmud.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Was Jesus a real person? Perhaps, but that’s not the interesting question.

      Did he do the miracles attributed to him? We have no good reason to think so. That the tales are legend explain the facts far better.

      Speaking of homework, you have actually read the works you cite? Show me one that (1) says more than simply “there are people who follow a man named Christ/Jesus” and (2) has a decent chance of actually having been written anywhere close to the time of Jesus.

      • Cooper

        You can’t say discredit the things that we learn from the bible as untrue just because it’s based on authority. 99% of everything we learn is based on authority. If you believe in history, which (for the most part) you haven’t actually been there to see, then you have no right to not believe what we learn here. You can’t pick and choose what to believe from history if it all comes from authority.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          We’re not talking about history; we’re talking about legend. Let’s not equate them.

          The discipline of History scrubs out supernatural events. The gospel story wouldn’t survive the process.

    • StEwPiD_MoNkEy

      I’m tired of reading this crap. It’s already been shown that either it’s a forgery or that the person writing doesn’t have first hand knowledge but is repeating what is known. Nothing more.

  • Ambrose

    If you don’t believe in Jesus the man it’s going to be a stretch for you to believe in Jesus the God.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Did a guy named Jesus/Yeshua exist in Palestine in the 1st century? Sure, there were lots of them. Did one of them kick off what we now know as Christianity? Could well be–that’s not hard to imagine.

      Jesus as a god, however, has precisely zero precedents. It’s very hard to believe, since every prior supernatural claim we’ve tossed into the “Mythology” bin.

  • ambrose

    There is only one Jesus the man and Jesus the God (the one of historical accounts and of the Bible). Yes, that is who we are talking about.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Are you going to simply assert that Jesus was a god? Or do you have evidence?

  • ambrose

    The answer lays with you. As I have said: If you don’t
    believe in Jesus the man you’re not going to believe in Jesus the God. The
    burden of proof does not lay with me to prove whether or not Jesus existed or
    that He is a God. The burden of proof lays with you…you have to take the baby
    steps towards Jesus the Man and work your way to Jesus the God.
    Have a Happy New Year Bob…Love ya brotha.

    • MNb

      “The burden of proof does not lay with me to prove … that He is a God.”
      Why not? Because you’re too lazy for some sound skeptical thinking?

      “…you have to … work your way to Jesus the God.”
      I wouldn’t know why. Just because you say so?
      All the best in 2014 as well – including some rationality.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Christianity is a big tent. I’m sure there are Christians who accept Jesus only as god and not as man, even if they’re not “Christian” in your mind.

      Given your attitude toward the burden of proof, I guess it’s your job to prove that Scientology and Islam and Quetzalcoatl worship are wrong.

    • StEwPiD_MoNkEy

      You obviously do not know how the burden of proof works. It’s simple. You make the claim, it’s your burden to prove it.

  • Timothy Carroll

    Have you heard of Josephus? How about Tacitus? Josephus was a Jewish historian who lived around the time that Jesus would have lived. Tacitus was a Roman historian who also lived during that time. Both of these men were not Christians. Yet, they, in their writings explicitly mention the man Jesus from Nazareth and testify to him as a living human being within time and in history. If Christianity were a myth created by men, then Josephus and Tacitus would certainly be the lunatics here mentioning a “fictional legend” as if he actually lived.
    I believe your 4th option to CS Lewis’ trilemma is simply untrue and based upon a “legend” itself i.e. That Jesus never existed.
    The fact that Jesus did live, die, and rise again was not only witnessed by hundreds of then living witnesses, and recorded by both Christian and non Christian writers, historians, is not only miraculous, but is the single most significant event in the world’s history.
    Also if the tomb were not empty, Christianity would have proven a farce and the greatest scheme ever.
    We can examine all the other religious claims any time you like. But when the smoke has cleared and the battle is over, the only one standing will be the Word of God and Jesus the risen God Man.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Have you heard of Josephus?

      Yep. Wrote about him, too. Look him up on this blog.

      If Christianity were a myth created by men, then Josephus and Tacitus would certainly be the lunatics here mentioning a “fictional legend” as if he actually lived.

      I don’t argue that Jesus didn’t live.

      I believe your 4th option to CS Lewis’ trilemma is simply untrue and based upon a “legend” itself i.e. That Jesus never existed.

      I don’t make such an argument. John Henry actually existed, and legends grew up around him. Also Julius Caesar, Caesar Augustus, and Alexander the Great. And many, many more actual figures from history.

      The fact that Jesus did live, die, and rise again was not only witnessed by hundreds of then living w itnesses…

      Eyewitnesses? A very weak claim. Show me the evidence. Also, look up “1 Corinthians” on this blog.

      Also if the tomb were not empty, Christianity would have proven a farce and the greatest scheme ever.

      Huh?? What does a not-empty tomb have to do with the legends that would be written forty years later?

      But when the smoke has cleared and the battle is over, the only one standing will be the Word of God and Jesus the risen God Man.

      Not if these arguments are an indication. Sorry for the frank judgment.

      • Timothy Carroll

        I get it. You simply do not “accept” the evidences.
        I Corinthians 15:3-6, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.” At least 500 eye witnesses as one time. This is not counting all the others that Jesus appeared to during the 40 days after His resurrection prior to His ascension.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          500 eyewitnesses? I’ve responded to that one here.

          We know for a fact that that’s not compelling evidence since none of the gospel writers chose to put it in.

        • MNb

          Ah, I get the chance to repeat a favourite comment.
          Yesterday I saw a finger pointing in the air. I heard a voice saying: “There is no god!” I had 500 witnesses. I won’t give you their names, their addresses, their identities.
          You are totally going to believe me, aren’t you?

    • MNb

      First of all: I think Jesus was historical. That doesn’t excuse your bad methodology.

      “Tacitus was a Roman historian who also lived during that time.”
      Tacitus wrote his book many decades after the crucifixion, when there was already a christian community in Rome. It’s obvious where he got his information from.

      “The fact that Jesus did live, die, and rise again”
      Neither Josephus nor Tacitus mentions the resurrection. It was demonstrably invented after the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem.

    • Merari

      The accounts of Josephus and Tacitus have been shown to be fraudulent with the relevant text added centuries later.

  • Stephen

    If Jesus didn’t make these claims then what reason would the pharisees and the sadducees have to crucify him?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      We have stories of mean Sadducees and Pharisees. If you claim that the gospels are history, you must give compelling evidence.

      What actually happened 40 years or more before the gospel stories were written is hard to figure out.

    • MNb

      How do you know the Pharisees and the Sadducees crucifified Jesus and not the Romans? The Bible and only the Bible? Then you use a circular argument: the Bibles says so, hence Jesus made these claims, hence these claims made it into the Bible. That doesn’t prove anything.

      • Doug Evans

        It proves everything, there is no record that Jesus broke any Roman law, but he did break Jewish law. And you have some odd Idea that the Bible is just a book, this book is a collection of eye witness accounts

        • MNb

          You have some odd idea (without a capital) what the term eye witness account means. You also have the odd idea that a circular argument can prove everything.

          “there is no record that Jesus broke any Roman law, but he did break Jewish law.”
          Irrelevant. The man in charge, Pontius Pilatus, was a Roman. His power rested on legions consisting of Romans. Crucifixion was a typical Roman punishment (see for instance Spartacus and his rebellious slaves).
          Hence Stephen’s question doesn’t prove anything.

        • 90Lew90

          What Jewish law did he break? I don’t think he broke the law on the Sabbath in urging clemency for the guy gathering sticks when he said that the Sabbath is for man, not man for the Sabbath. Otherwise, “not one jot or tittle…”. The Romans weren’t keen on rabble rousers. If Jesus wasn’t a rabble rouser himself (how can we know?), his early followers certainly were. What tends to happen to people who bring about instability or scare the horses? Much the same now as then.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Jesus said, “But now if you have a purse, take
          it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36).

        • Pofarmer

          Is there a record that Jesus broke Jewish law? If Jesus broke Jewish law, why was he being tried by the Romans, when the Jewish Authorities could full well prosecute those who broke Jewish religious law themselves?

        • stevek11

          He was not tried by the Romans, but by the Sanhedrin.

        • Pofarmer

          Once again if Jesus broke Jewish law he would have been stoned. the Sanhedrin could independently try and punish those who broke Jewish law.

        • Greg G.

          Matthew 27:11-26
          Mark 15:1-15
          Luke 23:1-25
          John 18:28-19:16

          The story has Jesus tried by the Sanhedrin first, then taken to Pilate, who was the prefect, the head Roman in Judea.

      • Pofarmer

        FWIW, breaking Jewish law would have also consisted of a punishment of stoning, not crucifixion.

  • GakuseiDon

    I’ve very, very late :), but: “Legend” can’t be one of the options, since CS Lewis was only talking about Christians who, though accepting that Jesus existed and **said the things recorded in the Gospels**, nevertheless thought that Jesus was only a great moral teacher. The sentence leading into your quote above is:

    “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that
    people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral
    teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing
    we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not
    be a great moral teacher…”

    So, though there are still criticisms that can be made, saying that Lewis forget “Legend” is not one of them, at least for the audience that argument was directed against.

    Josh McDowell popularized Lewis’ “Trilemma” and most criticisms of it tend to use McDowell’s explanation, which also ignores the premise in that lead-in sentence. But Lewis himself was only addressing Christians, not mounting an argument for non-Christians.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I don’t get how this saves Lewis. It’s an incomplete argument whether aimed at Christians or at non-Christians. Is he outlining a trilemma here? If so, he errs.

      • GakuseiDon

        It’s only an incomplete argument if it is aiming at people who don’t think that the Gospels accurately recorded Jesus’ words. Remember, Lewis is addressing people who thought that the Gospels DID accurately reflect what Jesus said. And with that as the premise, options like “legend”, “mis-represented”, “fiction”, etc, are logically excluded.

        Personally I go for “mis-represented”. I think that Jesus didn’t say much of what is claimed in the Gospels, and so for me the Trilemma is irrelevant. But it is directed towards those people who DO think the Gospels accurately reflect what Jesus said. Lewis’ point is: they can’t ‘pick and choose’. If Jesus said the nice moral things, they can’t ignore that Jesus also claimed to be able to forgive sins, etc. As Lewis writes, just before the passage with the Trilemma:

        “One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have
        heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the
        claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is
        really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man
        forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toe and I forgive
        you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a
        man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave
        you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money?
        Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his
        conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did… In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply
        what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any
        other character in history.”

        Thus the set-up for those who thought Jesus claimed to be able to forgive sins: asinine fatuity or God.

    • StEwPiD_MoNkEy

      irrelevant. It’s a false Trichotomy. (hehehehe) as there are other options. Just because one is pandering to a particular group, doesn’t mean we can forego logic.

  • Rob

    Hey guys, I still Jesus Christ isn’t a Legend! And that the followers of Jesus didn’t makeup this as story to match the prophecy. But I’ll tell you what a real legend is, which is being schemed today!

    The official return of Yeshua to Israel – a Jewish Orthodox initiative
    Orthodox Rabbi’s are scheming to deceive their children, the rest of the Jews that the name Jesus which they were taught to curse, and the rest of the world that Jesus is coming to Israel to restore it.
    They are planning to use the names of Jacob and Esau to come up with the name Jesus.
    Watch this youtube video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJ83bo0e7ns#t=799
    , these guys are deeply steeped in the Tanakh, and Jewish writings and Torah, something that Jesus disciples may have had access to a Tanakh, but I don’t think they spent the time organizing things like these guys are doing. They are creating a legend, who will be a real person who is supposed to be their king and restore Israel someday soon

  • Steve Beckle

    I have a problem with the whole LLL argument for a couple of reasons. First, it reduces Christianity to an exercise in logic, and excludes faith. Lewis says you have three choices, and obviously these two can’t be true, so that leaves the “Lord” choice. If this were the case, then any rational human being would be a Christian. I envision a “Lord, Liar, Lunatic” bumper sticker with the last two words crossed out (no pun intended). As a Christian, I believe that God moves in our hearts first (he pursues us) before we believe, so making this all an exercise in logic seems wrong. Secondly, why is the argument restricted to just Jesus? Joseph Smith claimed to be a prophet. Ask any Mormon if they believe that and they’ll say yes. They don’t believe he was a liar or a lunatic (although he was at least one, and maybe the second). But if a person believes he was neither liar nor lunatic, then Lewis’ logic results in Smith being a prophet. Lewis’ argument still requires faith. His arguments against Jesus being a liar assume you believe in miracles and the resurrection. His arguments against Him being a lunatic assume you believe His sayings and teachings. So it’s not a clear cut case of someone rejecting two logical arguments and being left with only one possible conclusion. That’s not faith.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      And it would be a problem to have evidence for Christianity and not have to take it on faith? Sounds like quite the opposite to me.

      God pursues us? Why does he play it so coy? Why not just make his existence clear?

      Good point about LLL as evidence for Joseph Smith.

      What is your response to the fatal flaw in LLL being the “legend” is omitted?

      • Steve Beckle

        Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith, it is impossible to please Him, so yes, I think it would be a problem. And I believe that we have to take even the “evidence” on faith, i.e. believe that the Bible is true. And yes, the “legend” is another argument, but it again reveals the need for faith, since someone who claims Jesus is a legend does not believe what others (the Gospel writers) said about him. As for why God is “coy”, I don’t claim to have all the answers. We see in a mirror dimly, as Paul said. And his existence is clear. Nature attests to His existence as Paul said, so that nobody is without excuse.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So some random dude writes Hebrews, and that’s the final word? Do you take every verse at face value? What if that conflicts with verses that demand that you use evidence, use your brain, and that sort of thing?

          Hard to imagine that a god that actually exists would cloak himself in the trappings of faith, making him look like all the other (nonexistent) gods. Why but for your god’s nonexistence would you celebrate faith?

          No one is without excuse? But doesn’t the Holy Spirit provide faith to who he provides faith to, making it a hit-or-miss kind of thing? Seems like those of us to whom the HS hasn’t deigned to give faith to have a pretty good excuse.

        • Steve Beckle

          You work it out with God. I don’t debate what I know is true. Have a nice eternity.

        • Dys

          You work it out with God.

          There’s no need to work anything out with what is, in all likelihood (based on a stunning lack of evidence), a fictional character. You’ve confused belief with knowledge. You don’t know if eternity is possible for humans. And the unverifiable nature of theological claims makes your assertion worthless.

          But failed apologists resorting to presuppositionalism is hardly novel. Just because it’s written in the bible, doesn’t make it true.

        • adam

          re: ‘god’

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Certainty without evidence–what fun!

          You’ll have to explain to me sometime how that works.

      • Shaun Thompson

        I love the why doesn’t God just make his existence clear question !!
        That was where this all started. God DID make his existence clear when he came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ !! But here we are debating either his doing that or who he really was

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          To me, this Problem of Divine Hiddenness is, to me, more of a problem for Christian apologetics than the Problem of Evil.

        • StEwPiD_MoNkEy

          I think you missed the point. You’re asserting that Jesus, if he ever existed, was divine. I’m for legend.

  • Truth first

    Are you claiming Jesus denied being the Son of God, or God? If God created the world, and Jesus was there when it happened, and the Bible actually says that the world was created BY Jesus, can he NOT be God?

    Col 1:16:
    For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

    Ephesians 3:8-9
    To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;

    1 John 2:23
    Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also. … “If you knew Me, you would know My Father as well.”


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