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Jesus a Legend: A Dozen Reasons

C.S. Lewis is famous for his Liar, Lunatic, or Lord trilemma—Jesus must be a liar (he knew that his claims of deity were false), a lunatic (he was crazy, which explains his nutty claims), or he was who he said he was, the Lord. But, of course, this ignores the bin into which we put similar claims—Legend. (For more background, read the introductory post.)

Let’s consider possible Christian rebuttals to the legend hypothesis.

“Legend” isn’t the consensus view among scholars. You lampoon Creationists for rejecting the scientific consensus, but you’re guilty of the same error here.

Who are these scholars? Are they Christian theologians as well? If so, could they be (dare I say it?) biased? Historians filter supernatural explanations out of history, labeling supernatural claims myth or legend.

Consider the consensus response of Muslim scholars to the gospel story. They reject it, and yet they have no bias against supernatural explanations and they’re experienced with ancient documents. If Christian scholars accept the gospel story but Muslim scholars don’t, then it looks like religious scholars can shoehorn data to fit their religious worldview. My conclusion: the consensus of religious scholars is quite different from a scientific consensus.

Jesus claimed to be God. The tomb was empty. The disciples believed they’d met the risen Lord. These facts can’t be simply dismissed.

The story says that Jesus claimed to be God. The story says that the tomb was empty. The story says that Merlin could change his shape. The story says that Grendel was a big, scary monster. We must go beyond the stories to figure out the actual history.

The empty tomb, the risen Jesus, the martyred disciples, and so on are part of the story. The entire story is suspect—the New Testament isn’t even internally consistent on whether Jesus remained on earth for one day or forty days—so Christians can’t use one part of the story (crucifixion plus empty tomb) to support another (resurrection).

And beyond the earliest days of the religion, early Christians were believers because they’d been converted, not because they were witnesses to supernatural events, just like today. The 9/11 hijackers believed in Paradise for martyrs, but that doesn’t mean that that’s true. We have no good reason to imagine that eyewitnesses wrote the gospels rather than someone simply documenting the Jesus story as it had developed within their church community.

Arguments explaining away the resurrection have all failed. These claim that Jesus “swooned” and wasn’t killed by the crucifixion, the women mistakenly went to the wrong tomb, the disciples stole the body, and the “risen Jesus” was just a hallucination. These are universally rejected by scholars.

Christians love these arguments because they’re easily knocked down, but I don’t use them and I don’t know of any modern atheist who uses them either. These arguments assume that the empty tomb is history; I say that it’s just a story.

The Jesus story is corroborated by non-Christian historians.

Josephus (born about 7 years after the death of Jesus), Pliny (31 years), Suetonius (39 years), and the others said little more than “there are people called Christians who worship a man called Jesus,” and sometimes a lot less than this. These are natural claims and do nothing to support the Bible’s supernatural claims. It’s not like we have an objective article from the Jerusalem Times written immediately after the each miracle.

You don’t think much of the evidence of the gospel story, but you must admit that it’s something. It’s more evidence than you have. You have no case without positive evidence of your own. For a scientific issue, you provide a scientific argument, but you’re in the domain of history now, and you must play by its rules. You have an alternate explanation of the gospel story? Then provide your historical evidence.

I don’t have contemporary evidence that refutes the claim that George Washington could fly. Must I provide evidence of contemporaries reporting Washington not flying before you’ll reject that claim? Couldn’t I simply refute such a claim by pointing to likelier explanations of the facts?

We will never have documentation by someone who saw Jesus not walk on water. Never. (And how compelling would that be anyway?) So what does that mean—that the gospels are historically accurate? No—the plausible natural explanation always trumps the supernatural.

The Christian claim is: Nothing explains the facts better than an all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent god creating the universe and sending Jesus to spread his message. This is about as remarkable a claim as could be stated, and yet it is tossed out lightly. Christians seem to imagine that “God did it” is as plausible as the natural explanation that stories grow with the retelling.

The Christian has the burden of proof, and it’s an enormous burden given this enormous claim.

The disciples died martyr’s deaths. Who would go do their death defending a lie?

I don’t argue that it’s a lie; I argue that it’s a legend. Both are false, but the error in a legend isn’t deliberate. (I’ve already responded to the argument “Who would die for a lie?”)

I don’t imagine a sinister mastermind behind the creation of Christianity, just like there is no reason to imagine one behind Zoroastrianism or Mithraism, and there is none behind the corruption of a message in the game of Telephone. It’s just a story—a legend that grew over time.

I admit that I don’t know that the gospel story is false, and I don’t know that the supernatural elements were added during the decades of oral history. What I’m saying is that this is the null hypothesis; this is where we start. Only with extraordinary evidence (which doesn’t exist) can a supernatural explanation replace this.

The gospel story, the story of the George Washington of Galilee, the savior who was going to come back any day now to save the Jews’ bacon but who still hasn’t returned after 2000 years, evolved during 40 years of oral transmission. It was finally written down during a time when supernatural explanations were accepted and, indeed, were often the most plausible explanation people had. It came from Palestine, the crossroads between Greek, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian cultures, each of which brought their own competing god claims.

Given our own experience with stories quickly getting out of hand (consider celebrities’ lives, for example), the Jesus story being a legend seems exceedingly plausible. The Christian position has the burden of proof, a burden that has yet to be met.

This list of Christian arguments is concluded in the next post.

If [Christianity] offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected,
I should feel we were making it up.
But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up.
It has just that queer twist about it that real things have.
— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Photo credit: Liliane Polak

About Bob Seidensticker
  • http://www.humblewonderful.com Tony

    I share with you the belief that there are legendary embellishments of the Jesus story. In fact although I do that from a non-christian position I would expect many Christians to agree with me. We would only disagree on the extent of the legend and how much is real.

    Unfortunately this discussion of whether Jesus was a legend is often framed as a competition between two perspectives – a) there never was a first century prophet called Jesus with a few disciples and a food based ministry that included woman and social outcasts and b) every thing the gospels describe is as factual as straight reportage with absolute accuracy.

    Both those alternatives are most commonly rejected by historians of peer accepted credibility. Jesus most likely existed in some form because there was no tradition in his time/place of entirely creating fictional people. Instead people embellished people who did exist. That was a common way of honouring great people (more so in Greco Roman culture which had heavily influenced first century Judaism). Furthermore in examples of more likely entirely fictional people (lke Robin Hood) you don’t need to kill them. They can evade capture infinitely.

    You do seem to be labouring under a materialist assumption that any whiff of miracle-believing renders an historian incredible which I think is unfair. You might be surprised to find that many people who work in first century history just don’t care for that mythbusters or myth defenders approach because its really not the point. It is what gets popular books sold though sadly. Even if we say from a modern perspective that someone had schizophrenia for example rather than was possessed by demons thats not what people then thought or interacted with. Its our history writ back then.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Tony:

      You do seem to be labouring under a materialist assumption that any whiff of miracle-believing renders an historian incredible which I think is unfair.

      I’m assuming it’s a story (not history) until we can show otherwise. Did a guy named Jesus exist as a charismatic rabbi? Sure, that could be. But the typical apologist’s approach, which takes the gospel story up to a certain point and say, “OK, smart guy–how do you explain that?” is without foundation.

      • http://www.humblewonderful.com Tony

        I guess all I’m saying is that asking something like whether or not Jesus actually healed blind people is not a particularly front and foremost historical question anyway. As you say it is an apologists question. While an apologist for Christianity (or atheism) can also be an historian the two are different work. Quite different. It’s a crying shame the two get confused.

        A historical question would be “Would healing have been a significant part of Jesus’ ministry?” and that would look at the Gospel accounts in the context of other writings, first century ideas of sickness and sin and so on. The consensus on that matter is probably, yes. Interestingly more important than Jesus miracle work was the way early Christians employed a shared meal to remember him. That’s the kind of detail that most excites a historian interested in the religious changes wrought by Christianity as it is something both old (reminiscent of the Passover) and new.

        The typical apologist books you may have read are much more accessible and sensationalist than the rather dull historical scholarship that goes on by Christians, Jews, Muslims and Atheists amongst others. One way to spot the difference is a good historian is a bit more humble about what we can truly know about the first century and how much is indeed lost. However in that darkness early Christian texts are very important historical documents. I say that as a non-believer in the resurrection or virgin birth.

        • http://www.humblewonderful.com Tony

          Note: I just read your post http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/07/ok-smart-guy-you-tell-us-what-happened/ which I quite enjoyed. I would fundamentally agree. You perhaps just use the word history more narrowly than I do. I think “story” has to be included in “history” in the ancient world just because there really wasn’t a strict factual reporting tradition as we know it in that time (is there now?). Embellishment and addition was the norm – not cynically but as a part of the art.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Understood. A common misunderstanding IMO is that “historical biography” didn’t follow the same rules that today’s biography does (I’m thinking here of What is a Gospel? by Talbert–very thorough on this point). Too often modern apologists read the gospels as if reading a modern biography, not realizing that the author had no such goal.

    • C.J. O’Brien

      Jesus most likely existed in some form because there was no tradition in his time/place of entirely creating fictional people. Instead people embellished people who did exist. That was a common way of honouring great people (more so in Greco Roman culture which had heavily influenced first century Judaism). Furthermore in examples of more likely entirely fictional people (lke Robin Hood) you don’t need to kill them. They can evade capture infinitely.

      Here I go, defending mythicism again, SORRY, but this just isn’t a good argument against it.

      First of all, you need to understand, that what was created initially was a mystery, a salvation figure found in scripture: a religious idea, not a character. The historicized (fictional) person as the development of that came later and would have followed a logic wholly other than the impulses of embellishment.
      Second, I think you’re not really considering carefully the categories you’ve set up. Embellishing a life story with elements like miraculous works and portentious birth was indeed a way of honoring great people: Augustus, say, or Alexander. But you can’t escape the type we’re dealing with: great people. In ancient Greco-Roman terms, these men were divine, and were universally considered so during their lifetimes, independently of the stories that may have arisen later. Their deeds, their mighty works, and the non-trivial fact that they were ordained by the gods to hold such great power and to occupy the very pinnacle of the steep pyramid that was status in antiquity, were all the proof of that one needed. Embellished stories were a reaction to their status, an acknowledgment of it, not an attempt to fabricate it or prop it up. On this analysis, I maintain that it is a category error to lump the “embellished oral tradition” model of the gospels in with the kind of stories that got handed around about conquerors and kings and then declare it typical and so plausible. Making a crucified criminal a savior and king is every bit as novel and atypical as would have been the pure fabrication of such a figure and so it has no advantage as an explanation on the grounds of mere plausibility.
      Pursuant to this, I’d also like to take a moment to highlight one consequence of this analysis, which is: it forces us to admit that, whatever the brute fact of his existence as an individual in the past (or not), Jesus of Nazareth is simply not a figure of history. Just as important as acknowledging this fact is acknowledging that this alone is certainly not a reason to believe Jesus didn’t exist; that case rests on many other considerations but the fact remains and it at least allows for the possibility of his non-existence where that possibility is excluded for the kind of figures about whom embellished stories illustrating divine status might have been written.
      Finally, the example of a folk-hero like Robin Hood in whose narratives “you don’t need to kill them” misses entirely the context in which the figure of Jesus came to be the protagonist of a historicized narrative. You do need to kill Jesus, because that was already established as his fate, long before there ever was a “gospel” more elaborate than the Pauline kerygma. “According to the scriptures” is the starting point; a novel eschatology of universal salvation is the context, and the salvation history of “Israel”, variously construed, is the literary raw materials, not an idealized folk figure like a social bandit.

      • Bob Jase

        Just like to point out that the legends actually do tell a fairly detailed story about Robin Hood’s death.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        CJ:

        You do need to kill Jesus, because that was already established as his fate, long before there ever was a “gospel” more elaborate than the Pauline kerygma.

        I’m not sure I’m following your point. The Bible is a sock puppet you can make say just about anything you want, so a conquering general messiah or a dying-like-a-criminal messiah are both supportable with the OT. But you seem to be saying that the dying-and-rising messiah is clearly the route that the Jewish messiah would take. This surprises me, and modern Jews would say that this doesn’t fit with their read of the OT.

        • Greg G.

          But you seem to be saying that the dying-and-rising messiah is clearly the route that the Jewish messiah would take. This surprises me, and modern Jews would say that this doesn’t fit with their read of the OT.

          But the OT verses that Christians cite as “prophecies” of Jesus’ death would be the verses first century Jews-to-be-named-later-as-early-Christians would have been read as being mythic history. By the second-century BC, some Jews began to read into the scriptures about a conquering Messiah to fulfill the promise of David’s seed on the throne. When that didn’t happen, some began to read into the scriptures that there had already been a suffering Messiah and they were waiting for him to return. According to Paul, some interpreted visions (see 1 Cor 15) as being proof that the Messiah was on his way.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          William Lane Craig uses as one of his arguments that the Jesus story was unexpected. In short, it’s an appeal to the argument from embarrassment–why would the early Jewish supporters of Jesus tolerate so bizarre a story … except if it were true?

          Yes, you can select different verses (as the gospel writers did) to imagine that your version of Jesus is the correct one, but I don’t see that reading as the obvious one.

          Or am I missing your point?

        • C.J. O’Brien

          A large part of the appeal of mysticism, in all its forms, is precisely that its justification is non-obvious; don’t mysteries have to be?
          By the turn of the era, 1st c. CE, messianism of the obvious variety would have seemed to have had a go with the Hasmonean king-priests, and failed. Roman hegemony was a stark fact. The mystical alternatives transvalued, subverted, reconfigured, and sometimes completely ignored traditional expectations of a great military and political figure. In texts like the composite 1 Enoch, the Ascension of Isaiah, the various expressions of Merkabah, or “chariot” mysticism, the sectarian scrolls found at Qumran, the Logos and other wisdom figures such as we find in the works of Philo, we can see the riotous diversity of messianism interrupted. Again, these were alternatives to mainstream beliefs, largely the output of sectarians, all such groups of which needn’t have been very large. Nascent Christianity was I think just another one of these, freely combining elements from the cultural melange of the Greco-Roman Near East, but using Jewish scripture as its primary source of revelation.

        • Greg G.

          There’s no Reply button in the post I am replying to so sorry about the misthread.

          Yes, you can select different verses (as the gospel writers did) to imagine that your version of Jesus is the correct one, but I don’t see that reading as the obvious one.

          Or am I missing your point?

          I don’t think there is an obvious reading. They got an idea into their heads and proof-texted the scriptures to support the idea. They may have found the conquering Messiah prophecies embarrassing after several generations had died off.

          Matthew found parts of Mark embarrassing where he omitted or edited but they would not have been embarrassing to Mark due to there not being a developed legend at the time. Early apologists were labeled heretics by later apologists as the theology developed.

          Would the early Christians wouldn’t have had the means or the stamina to refute the Gospel writers throughout the empire when they were in their 80′s? The Pastoral Epistles were likely written in the early second century yet show no awareness of the Gospel tradition, so that tradition was probably still small and under the radar.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Greg:

          There’s no Reply button in the post I am replying to so sorry about the misthread.

          It only nests 4 deep, so you have to scroll up to find the nearest Reply button. Or simply include the context, like you did, and post anywhere.

        • John Carpenter

          Name what parts of Mark were “embarrassing” to Matthew? Be precise. I don’t believe you can.

          Name early apologists who were called “heretics” by later ones. Be precise.

          Give any proof at all of early Christians who actually wanted to “refute the gospel writers”. Be precise.

          You’re repeating a bunch of nonsense.

        • Greg G.

          Name what parts of Mark were “embarrassing” to Matthew? Be precise. I don’t believe you can.

          Matthew has about 90% of Mark and about half of that is verbatim. The parts that are changed seem to be for theological reasons. What about the parts he omits? There’s the naked boy who was with Jesus in Gethsemane in Mark 14:51-52.

          Name early apologists who were called “heretics” by later ones. Be precise.

          From the Fifth Ecumenical Council in 553:

          IF anyone does not anathematize Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinaris, Nestorius, Eutyches and Origen, as well as their impious writings, as also all other heretics already condemned and anathematized by the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and by the aforesaid four Holy Synods and [if anyone does not equally anathematize] all those who have held and hold or who in their impiety persist in holding to the end the same opinion as those heretics just mentioned: let him be anathema.

          Give any proof at all of early Christians who actually wanted to “refute the gospel writers”. Be precise.

          Stupid question. The early Christians would have been too old or too dead to worry about the gospels that were written much later.

        • John Carpenter

          I didn’t ask you about which parts of Mark are omitted in Matthew but which Matthew is “embarrassed” by. Prove that. Matthew frequently condenses what he uses from Mark; Matthew writes more pithily.

          The story of the young man in Mark 14:51-52, by the way, is one of those details one finds in a real history and are not found in legends or fiction.

          Interesting quote from the 5th council. Since all of the people denounced were, indeed, false teachers and not orthodox apologists, you’ve only shown that you don’t know who is and who is not an orthodox apologist.

          You made a claim that early Christians wanted to refute gospel writers. You have no evidence of that. So instead of admitting that you just made your claim up (or borrowed it from someone else who made it up) you claim it’s a “stupid question.” No. It’s not asking you to prove your stupid claims is not stupid. It exposes that you are a fraud.

        • Greg G.

          Did you not see the name Origen in the list?

          Why are you so upset by this? Are you afraid that I am right? Do you feel those doubts that your faith is a waste of effort?

          It appears you have run out of thoughts but your fingers are still typing out of fear.

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

          JC:

          Greg has politely taken you to the cleaners and I’m sure will, with pleasure, do it again.

          My suggestion: be a little more cautious in the future before dismissing others’ arguments as “nonsense,” “stupid,” or “dumb.”

    • Kodie

      Both those alternatives are most commonly rejected by historians of peer accepted credibility. Jesus most likely existed in some form because there was no tradition in his time/place of entirely creating fictional people. Instead people embellished people who did exist. That was a common way of honouring great people (more so in Greco Roman culture which had heavily influenced first century Judaism).

      I’m sure it’s been said in so many words already, but didn’t the Old Testament entirely create a fictional person in the prophecy that there would be a messiah? Not to mention, like, lots of other characters. Jesus could have been made up because he was already made up, and you can say there wasn’t a tradition, but a really old book everyone says is the truth whispered by god already existed before Jesus would have.

  • avalon

    Reminds me of the story I read about William Tell. Considered a real person for about 700 years, it’s conclusive now that he never existed:
    http://divainternational.ch/spip.php?article99

    avalon

  • Overlapping Magisteria

    Do you have a source for the claim that the Muslim consensus is that Jesus is a legend? I was under the impression that Muslims do believe in Jesus, but just as a prophet, and not as the son of God.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      I agree. The part that the Muslims reject is the part about Jesus being part of the Trinity.

      • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

        Interesting thought though is that Muslims would not reject the miracle stories even if they provide an alternate crucifixion narrative.

  • Curt Cameron

    “The Christian claim is: Nothing explains the facts better than an all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent god creating the universe and sending Jesus to spread his message.”

    I’ve heard prominent Christians say that all they need is to find the explanation that best fits the facts, and, sure, an omnimax God who sent his son to die certainly explains the stories that we have.

    I don’t know if they’re being honest when they say that, or if they’re intentionally being deceptive to fool the yokels, but this is quite obviously not the way to come to the best conclusion. What you also have to factor in is the prior plausibility of that explanation that you’re proposing. I’m sure I could also explain the gospels by attributing them to a band of intergalactic magical aliens who are also responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and with enough time and creativity I could weave a story that explains everything that we have. However, my made-up alien story is not the best conclusion – even though it explains all the facts, there’s no reason to think that any of that happened because on its face it’s so implausible.

    Same with the omnimax God to explain the gospels.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      “God did it” is unfalsifiable, and it explains everything. As a result, it explains nothing.

      When someone tells me “God did it,” I’m no smarter than I was before, since this is just a repackaging of “I don’t know.”

  • Kodie

    If Jesus were not well-known for his resurrection stunt, or for example, if Christians were to read the story of Jesus in the gospels without the empty tomb or the walking around appearing to people, I mean disregard it, what would category would they put Jesus in then?

    If one could regard the notion of resurrection entirely as non-literally as one does (as many Christians do) the Garden of Eden story of creation, what happens?

    There are obnoxious preachers now, and although very popular with some Christians, deemed a charlatan by others. It’s so easy to try to judge someone when they are coming in through your tv or internet. I have very little trouble imagining a real person Jesus is based on. I wouldn’t say I have read a ton of history books, but I’m familiar with the concept of revisionism. For instance, Christopher Columbus. The pilgrims of the Mayflower and the “first Thanksgiving.” My own ma and pa. Things you don’t mention at a job interview, and things it’s impolite to speak about someone who has died. Etc.

    If a real Jesus said a bunch of similar stuff and then martyred himself in some attempt to take care of all y’all’s sins but did not resurrect, would that nullify that maybe he sincerely tried to do what you believe he did for the reasons he did them? I am thinking along the lines of me signing a contract I really wanted to make, but instead of getting it notarized and filed officially, it was tossed into a fire. Is that what would happen if Jesus did not resurrect?

    • Greg G.

      The Epistles talk about the crucifixion and resurrection alot but give no details. They have nothing about the teachings, acts, or anecdotes. There are three verses that appear to tie the Epistle Jesus to the first century but they fall apart on closer examination.

      Mark seems to be about the Epistle Jesus but nearly every passage in the Gospel of Mark seems to be taken from the Old Testament and Homer’s Odyssey with a few bits of Jewish and Greek literature thrown in. The other gospels are based on the stories Mark made up.

      There probably were several preachers named Jesus who came from Galilee and some got crucified but the New Testament is not about any of them.

      • http://industrialblog.powerblogs.com IB Bill

        I’m not sure what you mean by “Epistle Jesus,” but assume it’s something like “Jesus referred to in the Epistles.” That said, if you can go through Mark and show how it’s OT, Odyssey, Jewish or Greek literature — or made up, more power to you. You’ve got a book there.

        What section of Mark is the Odyssey, btw?

        • Greg G.

          You are correct about the “Epistle Jesus”. That Jesus was crucified and resurrected and is coming to a theater near you, but we are given no details, teachings, deeds, miracles, or anecdotes.

          The book part has already been taken care of. In The Christ-Myth Theory And Its Problems , Robert M. Price collects the writings of several scholars who have independently traced the roots of Mark’s writing. Price combines them and shows that nearly every passage is accounted for.

          Richard Carrier discusses Dennis MacDonald’s book “”The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark”.

          In Mark 5, Jesus sails to meet a powerfully strong man who says “My name is Legion, for we are many.” Odysseus sailed to meet Polyphemus, the Cyclops. Jesus casts out demons into pigs who run into the sea. Odysseus’ men escape to the sea from the Cyclops by holding on to the underside of his sheep, but earlier some of Odysseus’ men were turned into sheep by Circe. The name “Polyphemus” means “many talk about” – Poly+pheme. The Greek word translated as “many” in Mark is “polys”. “Legion” is from a Latin word for a group of many soldiers. Mark apparently chose it because it is similar to the Greek word “legos” which Mark uses immediately before Legion’s quote and is translated to English as “said” or “replied”, depending on the translation. Mark’s clues would make it just as clear to Greek readers of the day as John Goodman’s eyepatch in “O Brother! Where Art Thou?” that the character represents Polyphemus, the Cyclops.

          You can see even more Homer influence in Mark in the miracle stories and parables. I think Mark was probably trying to make his Odysseus references noticable to Greeks as they wouldn’t necessarily recognize the OT references and to present Jesus as superior to Odysseus.

        • John Carpenter

          That’s dumb. First, Jesus doesn’t sail to meet the man with the demons. He meets him by accident after crossing the lake.

          Mark was Jewish and probably couldn’t care less about “Homer references”. Get real.

          Lewis was the chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge University.
          “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.”

        • Greg G.

          That’s dumb. First, Jesus doesn’t sail to meet the man with the demons. He meets him by accident after crossing the lake.

          He didn’t carry the disciples across the lake on his back. He took a boat. Jesus takes a boat many times in Mark. The only places he took a boat in Matthew and Luke are where they copied Mark. There are no other accounts of Jesus traveled by boat. When he does take a boat, there tends to be an incident similar to one in The Odyssey.

          Mark was Jewish and probably couldn’t care less about “Homer references”. Get real.

          Mark could read and write the Greek language. Homer’s writings were considered the ideal for writing. It is ridiculous to think Mark did not read Homer or learn to write by emulating Homer’s work.

          Mark displays ignorance of Jewish customs. For example, Mark 10:12 talks about a wife divorcing her husband. That was Roman law, not Jewish law.

          Lewis was the chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge University.
          “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.”

          Lewis was biased.

        • John Carpenter

          First, your apparent inability to understand my simple post again gives evidence that your opinion is just plain dumb. My point wasn’t to deny that Jesus took a boat but the implied statement that he crossed the lake for the purpose of meeting the demoniac, which isn’t at all true. That Matthew and Luke use Mark as a source isn’t new. What’s your point? That Mark is copying Homer? Again, that’s just dumb. It’s ridiculous to think a Jewish person would really care about Homer. Get a grip on reality. Push “pause” on your “Zeitgeist: The Movie” and realize that the Jews are from a different cultural family than are the Greeks.

          Lewis was an expert on legends. You’re not. And you’re biased.

        • Greg G.

          All it says is that Jesus took a boat to a given area and met the demoniac there. There is nothing about that being the purpose.

          You don’t know who wrote Mark so you don’t know that he was Jewish. The internal evidence of the writing suggests that he was not Jewish and that he was indifferent to the geography of the area.

          You and Lewis apparently have a religious need for there to be an historical Jesus. I don’t really care whether there was or not. There is no contemporary evidence for him. The extra-biblical evidence does no more than tell us that there were people in the late first century who thought there had been an early first century Jesus but they seem to be too young to actually know that. The earliest writings about Jesus don’t support the idea that he was known to the writers. The gospels are based on Old Testament scripture and the Greek literature of the day. It shows that the story of Jesus was made up.

        • John Carpenter

          According to Papias, he was the same “John Mark” found in Luke and 2 Tim. and was, at the time of the writing of Mark, a disciple of Peter. That his Greek is poor, suggests that he’s not raised in a Greek speaking area.

          C. S. Lewis was an expert on myths and legends and knew that the NT was not one of those. You, on the other hand, show in almost every post, an ignorance of the actual content of the NT: for example, you said Jesus guessed 153 fish in John 21 or that the James of Galatians and of the Gospel of Mark were the same man, etc.

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

          According to Papias, Judas tried to kill himself but failed. Then his head swelled up so large that he couldn’t pass down a street big enough for a hay wagon. And then he died.

          He’s a fun source. Not particularly reliable, I wouldn’t think, but he does have some good tales from the early days.

        • John Carpenter

          Not proven. It’s a secondary source, a scholium attributed to Apollinaris of Laodicea. Responsible people don’t put that much weight on secondary sources.

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

          Can I quote someone with a doctorate in theology who says that Jesus didn’t get resurrected? Will that convince you that you’re wrong?

        • John Carpenter

          by the way, Mark chose “Legion” because — guess what? — it was the word for a Roman army, not because the first three words are the same as the Greek verb “to say” (legos).

          You’re post is just plain stupid.

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

          A little less “stupid” and “dumb” would make your arguments stronger. Show that your antagonist is stupid and dumb and trust us to figure that out.

      • John Carpenter

        Baloney. First, there wouldn’t be any need for Paul and the other epistle writers to write biographical details of Jesus since that would have already been understood by the church. Epistles are written to people who are already believers, in response to specific issues in the church. In the one case where there were questions about the resurrection in the Corinthian church, Paul stresses the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15.

        There’s no reflection of Homer’s legends in Mark’s gospel and your other attempt, with the story of the demoniac, is laughable. Matthew and Luke use much of Mark’s material but also have a common source, called “Q”, and both have unique material. John is mostly unique, written intentionally by a close disciple of Jesus to purposely supplement the other gospels.

        You have no evidence whatsoever of “several preachers named Jesus who came from Galilee”. You’re fantasizing.

        • Greg G.

          Baloney. First, there wouldn’t be any need for Paul and the other epistle writers to write biographical details of Jesus since that would have already been understood by the church.

          Paul talks about people teaching other Christs. He could have specified the one he was talking about in first century terms. He argues about many points that would have been more effective with a Jesus quote than Old Testament scripture. In 1 Corinthians 1:23, Paul says, “we preach Christ crucified”, not that he lived in the first century.

          Epistles are written to people who are already believers, in response to specific issues in the church. In the one case where there were questions about the resurrection in the Corinthian church, Paul stresses the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15.

          The accounts of Paul’s conversion in Acts are melodrama from Euripides. From Paul’s own hand, we can see that he was getting his information from the scriptures that he thought were hidden messages.

          Romans 16:25-26 (NIV)
          25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith—

          In 1 Corinthians 15, he uses the same words for himself that he uses for the others. He didn’t think their experiences were any different than his own. In Galatians, he tells us he didn’t learn anything from James or Peter or any man.

          There’s no reflection of Homer’s legends in Mark’s gospel and your other attempt, with the story of the demoniac, is laughable.

          The Cyclops name was Polyphemus, which means “famous” because poly- means “many” and -phemus means “talk about”. Mark has the demoniac say “My name is Legion, for we are many. “The name “Legion” comes from Legio, borrowed from the Latin word for “many soldiers”. The Greek word used for “said” is lego which immediately precedes Legio in the Greek text. He uses the Greek word polys for “many”. Mark is not trying to be coy about his source. He is clearly saying this refers to the Cyclops story in The Odyssey. The Odyssey also had Odysseus’ men turned into pigs by Circe. Though they get turned back into humans, they all drown in the sea. The men escape the Cyclops by clinging on to sheep that take them to the sea. The dialogue is similar to Homer’s in those two stories.

          John is mostly unique, written intentionally by a close disciple of Jesus to purposely supplement the other gospels.

          No it wasn’t. It doesn’t even say it was written by a close disciple. The writer claims it came from someone named John.

          You have no evidence whatsoever of “several preachers named Jesus who came from Galilee”. You’re fantasizing.

          Josephus lists 18 high priests of the temple from Herod’s time to its destruction. Four of them were named “Jesus”: Jesus ben Phiabi, Jesus ben Sec, Jesus ben Damneus and Jesus ben Gamaliel. Here are some people named “Jesus” for Palestine during the Roman era that we have records of: Jesus ben Ananias who was tried by the Romans, Jesus ben Stada who was crucified, Jesus ben Gamala, Jesus ben Pandira, Jesus ben Saphat, Jesus ben Sirach, Jesus ben Thebuth, and some versions of Matthew say that Barabbas was named Jesus.

          So Jesus was a common name in that area. Many people were crucified by the Romans. Do you really think there was only one person named Jesus crucified?

        • John Carpenter

          That’s all nonsense. Since he’s writing to Christian believers and writing in response to particular needs, there’s no need to review the history they already would have been familiar with. If he did repeat the gospels stories in his letters, you’d probably be saying he protests too much and that is evidence that the church didn’t know the biography of Christ which you’d say is evidence that he didn’t tell them that initially.

          There’s no other Jesus Christ he could possibly be referring to. Paul’s conversion is not “melodrama from Euripedes.” Sheer nonsense. I know it’s easy for you to make stuff up out of thin air, but your fantasy is fiction.

          The demons are named “legion” because (as is actually clearly explained in the text) they are “many”. (An army is made of many soldiers.) There’s no mystery as to the meaning of the name. It’s explained. Your attempt to tie it to a Greek myth is ridiculous. The only similarity with the Odyssey is a boat. Do you believe that every boat story is derived from the Odyssey? The accounts of the battle of Midway? The U-571 movie? You simply don’t understand that the Jewish world did not revolve around (or really even care about) Greek mythology.

          Are any of those men you mentioned preachers from Galilee? “Jesus” (Yeshua) was a common name at the time. The priests, as priests, obviously don’t fit the criteria you listed. You were hoping I wouldn’t notice that you couldn’t tie them to Galilee. I’ll give you one more chance: give evidence of preachers from Galilee named Jesus who were crucified, besides the Lord Jesus Himself. Either give evidence of your claim or apologize for making a misstatement. Or stand exposed as a fraud.

        • Greg G.

          There’s no other Jesus Christ he could possibly be referring to. Paul’s
          conversion is not “melodrama from Euripedes.” Sheer nonsense. I know
          it’s easy for you to make stuff up out of thin air, but your fantasy is
          fiction.

          Have you ever read an article about how many cliches we use from Shakespeare without realizing it? It was probably the same with the Greeks and Euripides.

          Acts 26:14 (NIV)
          14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

          The “kick against the goads” comes from about 500 years before Acts was written from Euripides The Bacchae. So you have Luke quoting Paul quoting Jesus quoting Euripides quoting Dionysus. Do you think Jesus would come down from heaven and instead of coming up with something original to say, he’s going to quote a Greek god?

          Did you notice that I used the word “probably”? Doesn’t that tell you that my statement is based on probability. I showed that there were many people named Jesus in the area during that time. It is known that many people were crucified during that time. If you understand mathematics, it is more likely that many men named Jesus were crucified than it is that nobody named Jesus was crucified. If you show me strong evidence that there was fewer than two people named Jesus crucified in Palestine during the Roman era, I will change my position.

        • Greg G.

          If he did repeat the gospels stories in his letters, you’d probably be saying he protests too much and that is evidence that the church didn’t know the biography of Christ which you’d say is evidence that he didn’t tell them that initially.

          No, it could be supplemental information about Jesus actually interacting with people in the recent past. Instead it seems that the gospel writers borrowed from Paul, even putting Paul’s argument into Jesus’ mouth.

          Compare Paul’s argument with Peter from Galatians 2 with Mark 7:1-19. If Jesus abolished the food laws, why would Peter change his behavior as if he worried about what James would do? Why would Paul have to explain it to Peter? Why would Barnabas be led astray by Peter’s argument?

          We also find “Abba, father” and “love your neighbor as yourself” in Mark and Galatians. The three main disciples in Mark are the three mentioned in Galatians and they seem to reflect the characterizations from Galatians where James and John are “reputed to be pillars” and ask to sit at either hand when Jesus comes into power while Peter changes his behavior in a wishy-washy way in both.

          So if Mark used Galatians, there is reason to think he borrowed the Last Supper from 1 Corinthians 11 and some eschatology from 1 Thessalonians.

        • John Carpenter

          Baloney. History is not, as you seem to assume, an exercise in creative writing.

          You apparently don’t understand the purpose of the epistles: to deal with specific issues. Now that you’re assertion that Paul never quoted Jesus has been debunked, you change your story to say that the gospel writers copied from Paul. You’re spouting fables.

          Uh, the point of Paul in Galatians 2 was that Peter was weak and succumbed to the pressure of the Judaizers. That you don’t understand that point shows that the problem is with you.

          The “James” of Galatians is James the brother of Jesus, as it says there, not James the son of Zebedee who was martyred early on (in about Acts 12). So you’re wrong that the “pillars” are the same as the apostles in Mark. So you really don’t have a clue as to what you are talking about.

        • John Carpenter

          HI Greg,

          Paul is writing to fellow believers in Jesus Christ. Do you really not understand that simple point. Context means everything when interpretating a text. He addresses “Christians”, people who believe in the same “Christ” he does. And in 1 Corinthians 11, he does indeed quote Jesus in the institution of the Lord’s Supper, reflecting the same words recorded in the gospels.

        • Greg G.

          Paul was writing about twenty years after his conversion. Any young people would have been interested in Jesus’ life. Anecdotes would have made his points stronger. Saying that the epistles were written to address certain concerns is Christian excuses.

        • John Carpenter

          So? That the epistles were written to address specific issues in the churches is not an “excuse” but a fact. Why not actually read the NT?

          People don’t normally write about facts they already know and over which there is no disagreement. When there was a problem with the Lord’s Supper in the Corinthian church, Paul does cite the account of Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper, quotes Jesus, and all in a way very similar to the gospel accounts.

        • Greg G.

          Paul writes about the crucifixion and resurrection over and over and over again. Why did he have to go over that so many times yet never discuss anything Jesus did or taught on earth? Why couldn’t he just quote what Jesus said about circumcision or doing works instead of quoting Old Testament verses? Why does the Epistle of James refute Galatians point by point using only Old Testament quotes and never using a quote from Jesus?

          I have shown that Paul never met Jesus. He doesn’t claim to have gotten an audible message from him. Acts is not a trustworthy document. We can see that because of the discrepancies between what it says about Paul and what Paul says about Paul. Paul may have exaggerated and boasted at times, but it’s more reasonable than Acts.

        • John Carpenter

          so. Paul does quote Jesus, in 1 Cor. 11. As above. The letters were written in response to specific situations. That’s a fact.

        • Greg G.

          Paul says he “received it from the Lord”. He does not say how he received it but we can be sure he didn’t receive it audibly as he never participated in any rituals with the early Christians nor does he ever claim to have met a living Jesus.

          You are clutching a straw.

        • John Carpenter

          We can’t be sure that he didn’t receive it audibly from Jesus. That’s your bias. Your problem is exactly that you are sure of what you assume. Acts tells us (at least 3 times) that Paul did hear from Jesus audibly. He does indeed claim to have met a living Jesus.

          You don’t seem to understand that your faith is not fact. You’ve embarrassed yourself with the Gadarene demoniac, John 21, etc.

        • John Carpenter

          No. We can’t be sure that Paul didn’t hear from Jesus audibly because Acts repeatedly tells us he did. Your problem is exactly that you think you can be sure of what you’ve chosen to believe.

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

          there wouldn’t be any need for Paul and the other epistle writers to write biographical details of Jesus since that would have already been understood by the church.

          Paul mentions the resurrection more than a dozen times. Why? Is it possible that he forgot to mention that??

  • http://industrialblog.powerblogs.com IB Bill

    “If one could regard the notion of resurrection entirely as non-literally as one does (as many Christians do) the Garden of Eden story of creation, what happens?”

    We Christians would have to find a new faith.

    “If a real Jesus said a bunch of similar stuff and then martyred himself in some attempt to take care of all y’all’s sins but did not resurrect, would that nullify that maybe he sincerely tried to do what you believe he did for the reasons he did them?”

    It would be a beautiful, but tragic, story of an idealist. The faith could be rewritten as a story of possibly the deepest sacrificial love ever seen, and the inspiration that generated. But it wouldn’t change that virtually every Christian church is wrong, doctrinally. Perhaps you end up with a faith where this man Jesus showed us a way of sacrificial love that helps you know God better, a prophet of love, somewhat analogous to Buddha, who pointed at a way.

    “I am thinking along the lines of me signing a contract I really wanted to make, but instead of getting it notarized and filed officially, it was tossed into a fire. Is that what would happen if Jesus did not resurrect?”

    In terms of seeing the crucifixion as a redeeming sacrifice for taking away the sins of the world, yes, the contract would not be fulfilled without the resurrection. Unless God decided, you know, that’s a great idea and I’ll go along with it. That’s just speculation and I don’t like to speculate what God is thinking. But without Jesus as God, we Christians have an idolatry problem.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      We Christians would have to find a new faith.

      Or you could decide that you’re too mature to have faith and simply drop the idea … ?

      • John Carpenter

        Everyone has faith. The atheist has faith in a universe that is either self-created (contrary to reason) or that is eternal (contrary to science).

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

          Wrong again. Most atheists trust the scientific consensus. No faith necessary. Where science doesn’t know, most atheists are happy to accept the uncertainty.

        • John Carpenter

          That’s self-serving nonsense. (And you haven’t shown me to be wrong about one thing yet.) If there is no God, then either the universe is self-creating (contrary to reason) or it is eternal (contrary to science.) Your simple-minded reply is to say “NO” but provide no way out of your dilemma — of course, because you can’t.

          Modern science is a product of the Christian world view and specifically of Christian scientists. Since atheism is rooted in an absurdity (a self-creating univese) it soon leads to absurdity and relativism both in science (like “chaos theory”) and ethics (as in the utilitarian genocides of communism).

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

          you haven’t shown me to be wrong about one thing yet.

          Then ready yourself for a lot more of that, because I’m certain that I can’t show you anything. You’re impervious. Congratulations—I imagine that was the goal.

          Your simple-minded reply is to say “NO” but provide no way out of your dilemma — of course, because you can’t.

          Science doesn’t know lots of stuff. What do we conclude from that? (Besides the fact that you win, of course.)

    • http://www.humblewonderful.com Tony

      Of course the resurrection can be taken non-literally and christianity survive. In fact there is very good theology that does just this. I cant remember names but perhaps Paul Tillich is one (I have only skimmed his work). Its a part of what gets called a/theism and weak theology.
      Have we really lost any sense of metaphor that we can’t see how a person might enter into a kind of eternal life through self-sacrifice? I’m not just talking about being remembered forever. I’m talking about the genuine timelessness of a moral act in that it stands outside of normal history (morality being fundamentally pre-reason). This is basic Socratic stuff (which could well have informed early Christianity) as well as Stoicism.

  • InfraredEyes

    The Lewis quote has always bothered me. He doesn’t allow for the possibility that a preacher in 1st century Palestine might have been so carried away by the prevailing messianic fervour that he came to believe in his own messiahood. In other words, he made an honest, if somewhat ludicrous, mistake.

    • John Carpenter

      That’s because C. S. Lewis knew legends. Do you know what Lewis’ day job was? He was the chair of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge University. Lewis: “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.”

    • John Carpenter

      that’s the “lunatic” option

  • Jireh

    @ Kodie

    If you would read the first 20 verses of 1Corintian Chapter 15 it might bring to light some of the questions you have.

    • Greg G.

      If you would read the first 20 verses of 1Corintian Chapter 15 it might bring to light some of the questions you have.

      All that tells us is that a bunch of people had visions equivalent to Paul’s vision, and his description reads like it was an hallucination. Paul never talks about a first century Jesus but seems to have in mind a Jesus who was crucified in the distant, undefined past. The Epistles of the alleged companions of Jesus agree with Paul on that.

      • Kodie

        No, it was actually helpful. It says right in the bible what the implications are for lack of resurrection. Invalidated Christianity. I can see why the impulse to believe it are so persistent even though I think it is impossible. I can see what that would necessarily do to the faith of Christians, because it says so in the bible and they believe the bible.

        However, that makes me think of a couple things. First, circular reasoning, and second, rationalization. The bible acknowledges that some people would be skeptical that that even happened because dead people do not rise. Similar to how I understand Lewis’s quote bearing on this article, it reverts to the premise as the conclusion. He must be because he has to be. He must have because he has to have.

        I do think that a realization or admission by Christians of the future that resurrection is also an allegory or a metaphor (as many now regard much of the bible, especially the magical and unrealistic parts) will not shake their faith. A metaphorical resurrection will still save their souls, because I’ve noticed an urge toward reconciliation of faith and reality, rather than admit it’s a steaming heap and give up faith. It must be true no matter what because it has to be. God is love even when he’s not. Major acts of destruction, both natural and man-made may anger and worry a person and cause them to question, and they eventually come around that this has made god sad and he is grieving with them, and this sick thought comforts them. So I think, really, resurrection is not real, cannot be real, and coming to terms with that will not shake the faiths of willful believers.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          I wrote about 1 Cor. 15 here: “500 Eyewitnesses to the Risen Christ? Not likely..”

          And I agree with your pessimistic assessment of Christians’ interest in reality. If the bones of Jesus were found tomorrow, and the resurrection disproved, what fraction of Christians would walk away? I imagine the same that walked away from Harold “May 21 Rapture” Camping or the Millerites in the Great Disappointment of 1844.

        • John Carpenter

          If the Jewish and Roman critics of Christianity could have produced a corpse of Jesus, they certainly would have. That within about 20 years, Paul challenges those who deny the resurrection to do something like that, to ask the 500 eye-witnesses that are still alive, demonstrates his confidence in the historicity of the resurrection.

        • Greg G.

          There were no claims that Jesus was recently crucified until four decades after it was supposed to have happened.

          Even the author of Acts didn’t think that was a good argument. In Acts 26, Paul testifies in Agrippa’s court. He calls on the Jews as character witnesses that he is not crazy. Then he starts telling a story about Jesus quoting the Greek god Dionysus. He could have called on certain Jews who knew that the tomb was empty as easily as relying on them for character witness.

        • John Carpenter

          Where does Jesus quote Dionysus in Acts 26? Cite that.

          Paul in Philippians 2 mentions that Jesus suffered death on a cross. Obviously he was referring to the Jesus of Christianity. Your attempts to muddle that are really just disingenuous.

        • Greg G.

          Acts 26:14.

          Paul was not talking about a first century Jesus. He thinks Jesus was crucified in the mythic past. Since he and the apostles were finding scripture that had always been there but never seen before, they thought it was a sign that the Messiah from the clear prophecies was coming in their lifetime. Well now, that didn’t happen, so some Christians changed the religion.

        • John Carpenter

          Paul was talking about the same first century Jesus the church has always believed in. You have zero evidence otherwise. Besides, Paul quotes from Jesus in 1 Cor. 11, about the Lord’s Supper, reflecting the same incident from the gospels. In 1 Cor. 15, he specifically rejects a mythic resurrection, claiming that the Jesus he is talking about has been seen raised from the dead by 500 people, most of whom are still alive.

          You’re spouting nonsense.

        • Greg G.

          Hebrews 8:4 If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law.

          1 Timothy 3:16 Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:
          He appeared in the flesh,
          was vindicated by the Spirit,
          was seen by angels,
          was preached among the nations,
          was believed on in the world,
          was taken up in glory.

          The author of Hebrews thought it was impossible for Jesus to have been on earth. The author of 1 Timothy says that Jesus appeared in the flesh but doesn’t say on earth, that he was seen by angels which implies he was not seen by men, and that he was preached in the passive sense instead of preached in the active sense.

          The phrase “according to the scriptures” in 1 Corinthians 15 does not mean “in accordance with” as they like to say. It really refers to them reading about the resurrection from out of context verses.

          You should actually read the Bible and not just what they tell you to read.

        • John Carpenter

          The saying in Acts 26:14 was a popular proverb and still is. In an agrarian society, it makes sense it would be widespread. To imagine, as you do, that Euripides’ Bacchae was the only place is appeared in about 500 years from it until Acts is absurd, as was your insertion of the Odyssey into the account of the Gadarene demoniac and your simply false statement that Jesus guessed that there were 153 fish in John 21, etc.

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

          If the Jewish and Roman critics of Christianity could have produced a corpse of Jesus, they certainly would have.

          Pliny the Younger talks about the Christian nuisance in the second century. He might well have liked to have gotten rid of them, but producing a corpse wasn’t an option. Were there other Jewish/Roman critics in the days after the death of Jesus (again, not in the gospel story)?

          That within about 20 years, Paul challenges those who deny the resurrection to do something like that, to ask the 500 eye-witnesses that are still alive, demonstrates his confidence in the historicity of the resurrection.

          … and this rebuts the argument I had in that post how, exactly?

  • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

    I admit that I don’t know that the gospel story is false, and I don’t know that the supernatural elements were added during the decades of oral history. What I’m saying is that this is the null hypothesis; this is where we start. Only with extraordinary evidence (which doesn’t exist) can a supernatural explanation replace this.

    I disagree. Surely the null hypothesis has to be to take a statement at face value, unless there are good reasons for not doing so.

    • Kodie

      What if we lived in a world where nobody believed in god. That was just obvious and natural as anything to believe. It wasn’t learned, it wasn’t taught, it wasn’t measured against theism or broken away from theistic beliefs one had as a child.

      There are very good reasons not to take statements at face value. We are intimately familiar with our own abilities to invent and embellish stories. People lie, and we catch on. This is something I think children are not taught to do. I saw a study where they take 3-4 year old kids who are old enough to know that lying is “wrong” – they were taught so by their parents, probably as you were and I was and Bob was and most children are. Not only did most of them lie anyway, the people running the study had a strong inclination to assert that lying is actually a healthy step in development. It’s not disobedience that needs to be trained out of them, but rather a clue that they are learning the difference between what is true and what is not true. They are individuating themselves and able to determine how they and other people gather information – if someone wasn’t in the room to see it, and you really want to eat that cookie, you actually have the ability to say something other than what is true. We are not machines that cannot tell a lie. Eventually many of us learn when and how much to lie or not lie, but it is still a tool in the toolbox.

      Now, children are also taught there’s a Santa Claus, right? The null hypothesis or a really convincing show? I mean, you tell a baby that Santa Claus is going to bring them presents, they neither understand you well, nor need a lot of elaborate hints. But ongoing, they are going to need to see him. They are going to need to see evidence that he was there. You can’t just state there’s a Santa Claus who magically brings all the little children all over the world presents and gets it done in one night. You have to do the whole ritual with the tree and the stockings and the cookies and the list, and maybe some reindeer tracks in the snow and bootprints in the living room of soot from the chimney. You’ve managed to convince a child there are elves, and distracted them from the reality of your credit card debt.

      A child does not take the facts of Santa Claus at face value. Even a child needs evidence.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        I agree. the null hypothesis is that, no, the guy with the unicorn story is incorrect. And the alien abduction story. And the 2000-year-old claim about gods.

        Karl said:

        Surely the null hypothesis has to be to take a statement at face value, unless there are good reasons for not doing so.

        Agreed. And since we have very plausible natural explanations for supernatural claims from 2000 years ago, that’s our good reason.

        • John Carpenter

          You don’t have a plausible explanation for the origins of the universe without God. And you certainly can’t account for the resurrection of Jesus.

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

          The Big Bang gave us the universe as it stands today, and what came before is unknown. So how do we get to “God dun it!” from that?

          What’s puzzling about the resurrection of Jesus? It was a story. It’s not believable today. I don’t see what’s left unexplained.

        • John Carpenter

          Something does not come from nothing. What came before “the big bang” is nothing (not “unknown”.) You apparently aren’t curious because you probably know, if you’re honest with yourself, that delving into that question will prove the absurdity of your faith. God the Prime Mover, the uncaused cause.

          The resurrection is believable today which is why millions (or billions) of people today believe in it.

          That you say in your second line that what came before the big bang is “unknown” and then in your last line that you don’t know what is left is unexplainable, shows how out of touch you are with the contradictions in your own belief system.

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

          Something does not come from nothing.

          Prove it. Or am I obliged to take your cosmological expertise as gospel?

          What came before “the big bang” is nothing (not “unknown”.)

          Is this the scientific consensus?

          You apparently aren’t curious

          It’s simply a fact that science says “I don’t know” about lots of stuff. So we conclude from this that I’m not curious? How does this follow?

          The resurrection is believable today which is why millions (or billions) of people today believe in it.

          Oh, so it’s a popularity contest? OK—most people in the world think that your worldview is nonsense.

          QED. You lose.

          That you say in your second line that what came before the big bang is “unknown” and then in your last line that you don’t know what is left is unexplainable, shows how out of touch you are with the contradictions in your own belief system.

          That you missed that the first paragraph talks about the Big Bang and the second one talks about the resurrection shows that you’re a waste of time. I’m losing interest in talking to someone too self-centered to be interested in anyone but himself.

        • John Carpenter

          Something cannot come from nothing. Since, according to your faith, something does come from nothing, the burden of proof is on you to show something coming from nothing.

          Before there was anything, there was nothing. The only way anything can come from nothing is if there is an uncaused Cause.

          Again, you either show you’re a liar or a lunatic (intellectually incapable.).You said that the resurrection is “unbelievable”. “Unbelievable” means not able to be believed. Since it is, in fact, believed by many people (by more people, by the way that your absurd faith) proves that it is believable. I didn’t say that it was a popularity contest. You either purposely misrepresented what I said (thus lying) or you didn’t understand it (because your intellectually incapable).

          What is “unexplainable” is the source of the universe. You just say “I don’t know”. That’s because you take it on faith that something came from nothing.

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

          I ask you to support your argument, so you just repeat it? Fail.

          No, I don’t argue that something comes from nothing. Stick with the facts.

          Initially there was nothing? Show me. Or is this just one more unsupported claim?

          Yup, I guess I must be a liar for demanding that you support your claims.

        • Greg G.

          Virtual particles come from nothing and they can cause themselves to exist. Why can’t a bunch of them come into existence in a universe-causing configuration? We have evidence for them but no evidence for a god.

          We have found the causes of thousands of things that were attributed to supernatural manipulations but not one of them has turned out to be anything but a natural event.

        • John Carpenter

          Nothing can come from nothing and nothing can cause itself to exist. You don’t have a clue as to what you’re talking about and your absurd insertion of the Odyssey into the Gadarene demoniac story suggests you’re not really reasonable. Creation is evidence for a Creator.

        • Greg G.

          You are only a few decades behind in your understanding of physics. Try reading Lawrence Krauss’ A Universe from Nothing.

        • John Carpenter

          Krauss is apparently an ideologue (committed to the faith of atheism) who as an theoretical physicists, rather than an empirical one, advanced what is best described merely as an hypothesis.

          It’s simply a fact of reason that something cannot come from nothing. Your faith proposes the opposite and so is unreasonable. I’m glad to have a faith that doesn’t require me to believe in the unreasonable.

          By the way, have you bothered to actually read John 21 yet?

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

          Yeah, that Krauss is an ideologue who can’t follow the facts where they lead is the only possible explanation for his disagreeing with you.

          It’s simply a fact of reason that the alpha particles that come out of a decaying nucleus have a cause (though they don’t) and that quantum particles contained within an energy well deeper than the particles’ energy can’t get out (though they do).

        • John Carpenter

          He doesn’t know what “nothing” is. He claims to prove that the universe came out of nothing but his idea of “nothing” includes something.

        • John Carpenter

          It turns out that Krauss couldn’t quite figure out what “nothing” means!http://www.firstthings.com/article/2012/05/not-understanding-nothing

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

          Nice catch! I really should’ve gone to First Things (published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life) first. They’re always at the cutting edge of physics.

        • John Carpenter

          You know what kind of person dismisses a well-reasoned article because he’s already decided not to like the source? A bigot.

        • John Carpenter
  • scenario

    As I look at it there are four possible versions of Jesus:
    Magical Jesus- Jesus is just what the bible says he is.
    Big Jesus – Jesus was a very important person in his time. Well known to rich and poor.
    Small Jesus – Jesus had a small following and at the height of his popularity spoke to a few hundred people at most. He eventually annoyed the government enough to get himself executed.
    Mythical Jesus – Jesus is entirely made up.

    What is the timeline:
    Jesus died around 35 c.e.
    Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians ~ 60 c.e.
    Gospel of Mark ~ 70 c.e.
    Gospel of John ~ 90 c.e.
    First sources outside the bible
    Flavius Josephus ~ 93 c.e.
    Josephis Antiquities of the Jews 93 or 94 c.e.

    Since the first mention of Jesus by any source outside of the bible consists of a few sentences written 60 years after his death, Magical Jesus and Big Jesus are very unlikely. So the choice is between Small Jesus and Mythical Jesus.

    The first mention of Jesus is in Paul’s letters. But Paul’s letters say almost nothing about Jesus, the man. The only mention is that he met James, the brother of Jesus. But the word brother can be interpreted as a religious title, rather than his blood brother.
    The Gospels were written 35 to 55 years after Jesus date of death by people who never met him. Each tell a different story about what Jesus was like.
    One thing that is unusual is that there is no description about any physical characteristic of Jesus in the bible. If Jesus was a real person, wouldn’t there be some kind of description about what he looked like? Any biography I have read mentions something about what the person looked like, directly or indirectly.

    So in my opinion, there is so little evidence that a real Jesus actually existed that the choice between Jesus as a small town rabbi whose followers made him into an important person long after his death and Jesus as a myth are about equally likely. I lean towards Jesus as a myth.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      scenario:

      But Paul’s letters say almost nothing about Jesus, the man.

      This is a fascinating topic. I’d like to write a post sometime summarizing “Jesus According to Paul”–no virgin birth, no raising of the dead, and perhaps not even a guy who died within his lifetime. Have you seen such a summary?

      I have “Paul and Jesus” by James Tabor that I’d like to read.

      • Greg G.

        Here is a link to Earl Doherty’s clarifications of some comments in Richard Carrier’s review of The Jesus Puzzle. Here is a link to Carrier’s article which may have more of what you are looking for.

        • John Carpenter

          According to Bart Erhman, Richard Carrier is not a serious historian. No credible historian rejects the historicity of Jesus, according to Erhman.

        • Greg G.

          Cite, please.

          Carrier says, “Twice Ehrman says I have a Ph.D. in “classics” (p. 19, 167). In fact, my degrees are in ancient history, with an undergraduate minor in Classics (major in history), and three graduate degrees (M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D.) with four graduate majors (Greco-Roman historiography, philosophy, religion, and a special major on the fall of Rome). One of those, you’ll notice, is in the religions of the Roman empire–which included Christianity (and my study of Christianity featured significantly in my dissertation work).”

          Most historians accept that there was a preacher named Jesus who got crucified. The problem is that the early Epistles don’t mention any preaching, teachings, or anecdotes, even in the Epistles written by his supposed disciples.

        • John Carpenter

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRx0N4GF0AY

          Here Ehrman says that no credible historian denies the existence of Jesus.

          You’ve repeated the nonsense that “the early epistles don’t mention . . .” 1 Corinthians has Paul quoting Jesus’ words for the Lord’s Supper, pretty much as found in the gospels. So every time you repeat that line you prove your ignorance. Besides, you apparently don’t even understand what the epistles were written for: to groups of believers who already knew the account of Jesus and to address specific issues in the churches.

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

          No one here wants to debate the Christ Myth theory except you. Drop it. Move on to supporting an interesting claim.

        • John Carpenter

          Oh, I get it. Greg G challenges me to provide a source. I do. And now no one here wants to discuss it.

          According to Ehrman, no serious scholar denies the historical Jesus. Carrier denies the historical Jesus. Guess that that makes Carrier according to Ehrman!

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

          No one wants to debate the Christ Myth theory. (Oh, sorry–I already said that.)

          We’re all on the same page. What’s to talk about? (Besides how smart you are, I mean.)

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

          And Robert Price, who has twice as many doctorates as Ehrman, says that Carrier is serious.

          Seems like an odd game to play, to draw conclusions from scholarly opinion, but it sounds like I won this round. Bazinga!

        • John Carpenter

          I don’t know who Robert Price is and Carrier is not serious. Educated people commonly cite scholarly sources. That you think that’s “odd”, suggests that you’re not educated.

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

          So because you’ve never heard of Robert Price (odd for someone as well educated as you–he must’ve written a dozen popular books on Christianity and has a popular podcast), I’m the one who didn’t cite scholarly sources? Yes, I think that’s quite odd. I’d never heard “scholarly sources” defined as “whoever JC likes.”

        • John Carpenter

          Are you a “liar” or a “lunatic” (that is, lacking the mental capacities to make reasonable arguments). You’re the one who said it was “odd” to cite scholars. I didn’t say you didn’t cite anyone. I said that since you think it is odd to cite scholars (which educated people commonly do) that that suggests you’re not educated. Either you intentionally misrepresented what I said (in which case you’re a liar) or you couldn’t interpret it correctly (in which case you lack the intellectual faculties for this debate.) Which is it?

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

          John: Either engage like an adult–no more name calling, and focus on the issues–or leave. Energetic arguments are great. Empty vitriol is not.

      • John Carpenter

        “No raising from the dead”? Are you totally ignorant? 1 Corinthians 15 makes a forceful argument for the historical resurrection of the Lord Jesus and then by extension of the physical resurrection of the believer. Paul mentions the eye-witnesses.

        And as for the crucifixion: ” I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2.)

        And teachings of Jesus:” For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is fore you. Do this in remembrance of me.”f 25In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor. 11).

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

          “No raising from the dead”? Are you totally ignorant?

          No, “no raising of the dead.” To minimize an already serious case of foot-in-mouth disease, I suggest you make sure you know what you’re talking about (to the best of your limited abilities, of course) before you shoot your mouth off.

        • John Carpenter

          1 Corinthians 15 is an extended argument by Paul for the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. You don’t have a clue.

        • John Carpenter

          Bob, you spew insults to try to cover the FACT that I proved you wrong with actual citations of the original document. Your claim that there is “no raising of the dead” in Paul’s letters shows either you’re intentionally lying about what’s in the letters or you really don’t know. When either your lies or ignorance are exposed with an actual citation, you respond with baseless insults. That’s par for the course for people like you.

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

          Well, it looks like I have yet more to learn at the feet of John
          Carpenter! Show me, Great Leader, where in Paul Jesus raises the dead.

    • Greg G.

      But Paul’s letters say almost nothing about Jesus, the man. The only mention is that he met James, the brother of Jesus. But the word brother can be interpreted as a religious title, rather than his blood brother.

      Paul used the specific Greek word for brother in Galatians 1:19 sixteen times and different forms of the word over 100 times. Then only time he was referring to a literal blood sibling was when he referred to someone’s sister. The only other time in all the Epistles that a form of the word refers to a literal brother is in 1 John and is about Cain killing his brother. The phrase in Galatians shows up in plural form in 1 Corinthians 9:5, translated as “the brethren”, and appears in a list between the apostles and Cephas. A similar list is in 1 Corinthians 15 so that the Brothers of the Lord may refer to the Twelve or to the 500, so it is more likely to have been used in the metaphorical sense in each case.

      What nailed the idea for me that Jesus is a myth is that the non-Pauline epistles don’t mention a first century Jesus either. Some are alleged to have been written by his companions but they don’t even have an anecdote. Surely if Jesus was remarkable at all, somebody would have made a remark about him. Even if he wasn’t remarkable, somebody should have remarked about that.

      • John Carpenter

        The non-Pauline epistles don’t mention Jesus? Really? Like, this in 2 Peter 1: “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,i with whom I am well pleased,” 18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.”?

        • Greg G.

          2 Peter is a second century work that draws on the gospels.

        • John Carpenter

          You state that as a fact. And that’s your problem. You take the nonsense that liberal theologians and historians have told you as if they were facts. They are not. 2 Peter purports to be from Peter in the 1st century and you have ZERO evidence otherwise.

          Besides, that’s all irrelevant. The statement was that”The non-Pauline epistles don’t mention Jesus”. 2 Peter proves otherwise and, like it or not, it’s a canonical epistle. So you were wrong. Again.

        • Greg G.

          Yes, I became aware of the 2 Peter passage recently and have changed my claim to pre-gospel epistles. Have you noticed that you’ve jumped into a 7 month old thread?

          You should pay more attention to people who are open to unmagical explanations. It’s ok to like fantasy but it’s kind of crazy to believe it.

          Have you looked at why most scholars reject both 1 & 2 Peter?

        • John Carpenter

          You’re not dealing with the topic. You said that no non-Pauline epistle mentions Jesus. You were wrong. It doesn’t matter if some modern scholars don’t think it was Petrine. It’s part of the NT now and it clearly recounts the transfiguration account.

          Yes, I have seen the arguments for and against 2nd Peter (although that’s not really relevant here). There’s no substantial reason to doubt the authenticity of 2nd Peter as from Peter.

          You’re someone who believes that Mark — with very rough Greek and so apparently wasn’t really fluent in Greek — based the Gadarene demoniac story on Homer for the sole reason that boats are involved, ignoring the reason for “legion” given in the text — that’s not serious. You’re not serious to suggest it. It’s sheer stupidity. If you want to be taken seriously, start to learn.

    • SparklingMoon

      Early Christians appear to have been fundamentally divided over both the nature of Jesus and whether to adhere to the Mosaic Law or not. In the second phase of Christian development, St. Paul acquired the most pivotal character in giving Christianity a new philosophy and ideology. There were fundamental differences of opinion between Paul and James the Righteous. While James looked after the Jerusalem Church, Paul was preaching in the West, particularly to the gentiles. The Western Church evolved along Pauline doctrinal lines, whereas the Church in Jerusalem developed along monotheistic teachings.

      The main stem of Christianity, however, which took care of and nurtured the development of Christian beliefs and philosophy in its early formative part was of Jewish stock. Jewish influence remained predominant throughout the early part of Christian history. The disciples of Jesus who learnt and understood Christianity directly from Jesus and witnessed it in the form of his life, belonged to this stock. They were the primary custodians of Christianity with deeply embedded roots in the holy soil of Jesus’ instructions and way of life. It was they who witnessed the Crucifixion and had seen Jesus survive from his attempted murder.

      The Community who followed James were known as ‘the Poor’, (Galatians 2:10, James 2:3–5) a designation mentioned both in the Sermon on the Mount and in the Dead Sea Scrolls.In many ways, Eisenman feels that the Ebionites were similar to the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls.They honoured James the Righteous, and believed Jesus to be their mortal Messiah, while Paul had become  an Apostate for the Law. They observed the Law and the Sabbath with great zeal.

      The Messianic Legacy, the source of the original teachings of the Ebionites, Gnostics, Manicheans, Sabians, Mandeans, Nestorians and Elkasites has been described as the Nazarene philosophy. They refer to Nazarene thought as:
      An orientation towards Jesus and his teachings which derives ultimately from the original Nazarene position, as articulated by Jesus himself, then propagated by James, Jude or Judas Thomas and their immediate entourage.’ Their beliefs were:
      1. strict adherence to the Mosaic Law
      2. recognition of Jesus as Messiah
      3. belief in the normal human birth of Jesus
      4. hostility towards Pauline views

      There is a collection of Arabic manuscripts kept in a library in Istanbul which contains quotes from a 5th or 6th Century text ascribed to the ‘al-nasara’, written in Syriac and found in a monastery in Khuzistan in south-west Iran near the Iraq border. It reflects the views of the Nazarene hierarchy escaping from Jerusalem after the destruction in 66 AD. It refers to Jesus as a human being and stresses the Judaic Law. Paul’s followers ‘abandoned the religion of Christ and turned towards the religious doctrines of the Romans.’(The Messianic Legacy. M. Baigent, R. Leigh, H. Lincoln, pg 135–138 )

    • Greg G.

      “The only mention is that he met James, the brother of Jesus. But the word brother can be interpreted as a religious title, rather than his blood brother. ”

      I’ve concluded that Paul was being sarcastic. In Galatians 5:12, he says that he wishes the agitators (thats is the group who believes in circumcision, namely Peter and James) would go the whole way and emasculate themselves. In chapter 2, he mentions that James sent two men to Antioch. In Galatians 1:1, instead of a normal greeting, he says he was sent by the Lord Jesus but not by men or a man. So in 1:19, he’s sarcastically comparing the man who sends men with the person Paul claims sends him.

      • John Carpenter

        That’s not the only mention of Jesus, see above. Paul specifically cites Jesus as the source of the Lord’s Supper and quotes Him directly. You don’t have a clue.

        • Greg G.

          You realize that Paul never met Jesus in real life, don’t you? In Galatians, Paul tells us that spending two weeks with Peter and meeting James did not add to his knowledge. How could that be if they had known Jesus? They didn’t know Jesus anymore than Paul did and that was only through reading the scripture of the day. The breaking bread and being betrayed comes from Psalm 41:9. Paul may have got the rest another way.

          Plutarch wrote a biography of Pompey, who lived in the mid first century BC. He talks about the pirates of Cilicia who followed Mithras and that their rituals were still practiced “to this day” which would be the mid first century. Justin Martyr wrote in the 2nd century that the Mithras cult copied the Eucharist rituals from the Jesus cult. So we know that the Mithrians and the Christians had similar rituals and some of the Mithrian rituals were practiced a 100 years before in and around Cilicia. Cilicia was a major city in Tarsus. That is where Paul of Tarsus came from. In Galatians, he tells us that he went to Cilicia after his conversion. If Paul was persecuting other religions, do you think he specialized in Christians? He may have picked it up from the Mithrians he persecuted while not realizing exactly who or what they were worshiping.

          Paul could not quote Jesus directly as he never heard him speak.

        • John Carpenter

          First, Paul claims to have met Jesus, beginning with Jesus’ appearance to him on the road to Damascus. You’re unthinking rejection of that claim is sheer assumption and bias on your part, an expression of your faith.

          Second, you’ve misrepresented what Paul says in Galatians. He says that Peter and James didn’t change his mind about the gospel, that he didn’t receive it from them. The reason: because he learned it from Jesus Himself, whom Paul claims to have known. Of course, you’ve rejected the parts you’ve arbitrarily chosen to reject in order to draw the picture you’ve decided to draw.

          In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul specifically quotes the words of Jesus used at the Lord’s Supper, reflecting closely the same words recorded in the gospels. Your citation of a psalm is bogus.

          Your stuff about the Mithras cult is sheer stupidity. First, Paul would have had no authority to persecute followers of that cult. He had authority to persecute Christians only because they were considered by the Roman authorities at the time as being a branch of Judaism. The authorities certainly would not have allowed him to persecute other legal cults in the empire. That you apparently don’t know that shows how seriously ignorant you are. Second, that Paul describes himself as a “Hebrew of the Hebrews”, and a Pharisee, means that he was thoroughly absorbed in that world. Just as earlier, in your likewise utterly stupid interpretation of the Gadarene demoniac, you seem to be completely ignorant of the fact that Jewish culture does not look to Greek mythology or Roman mystery religions for it’s ideas.

        • Greg G.

          First, Paul claims to have met Jesus, beginning with Jesus’ appearance to him on the road to Damascus. You’re unthinking rejection of that claim is sheer assumption and bias on your part, an expression of your faith.

          No, Paul never claimed that. Paul wrote in Galatians that he went to Syria after converting and Luke dramatized it into three versions, two of which are contradictory and one where Jesus quotes Dionysus.

          Second, you’ve misrepresented what Paul says in Galatians. He says that Peter and James didn’t change his mind about the gospel, that he didn’t receive it from them. The reason: because he learned it from Jesus Himself, whom Paul claims to have known. Of course, you’ve rejected the parts you’ve arbitrarily chosen to reject in order to draw the picture you’ve decided to draw.

          Please quote chapter and verse where Paul says he knew Jesus as a living person. Have you ever read any of the New Testament?

          .

          In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul specifically quotes the words of Jesus used at the Lord’s Supper, reflecting closely the same words recorded in the gospels. Your citation of a psalm is bogus.

          Paul never met Jesus so he had to have gotten it second hand except he says he never got any second hand knowledge from any man. He says he received it, which could be something he read or dreamed.

          Psalm 41:9 (NIV)
          9 Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.
          1 Corinthians 11:23 (NIV)
          23f The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,

          I’m sorry this stuff upsets you. Stop listening to apologists and preachers and the truth won’t be so painful to you.

          Do you know what Hellenization means? Alexander the Great brought Greek culture to the four corners of the known world plus opened trade routes into India. The Greek language became the common language in the region. Greek culture affected everybody. The Greeks brought the idea of an afterlife, Hell, and Satan to Palestine.

          Where do you get that Paul was authorized by the Romans to harass Christians? They were still considered Jews.

          Mark was not an observant Jew. He was educated in the Greek system. He incorporated Homer and Euripides into Mark. He incorporated some of Paul’s letters. Most of the miracles he attributed to Jesus are exaggerations of miracles done by Moses, Elijah and Elisha (see Randel Helms).

          Do you actually believe the demoniac story? If it makes you feel better, Mark may have been thinking of Psalm 107 and the drowning of Pharaoh’s army in Exodus, too. But you should read The Odyssey for yourself before pooh-poohing it. Also look at the mass feedings in Mark, the one by Elisha in 1 Kings (I think), and the two feasts Odysseus’ son attends.

        • John Carpenter

          Are you insane? You’re denying that Paul claims to have met Jesus? His conversion account is repeated about 3 or more times just in the book of Acts. The versions are not contradictory and there is no quotation of Dionysus in Acts 26. In Galatians he writes, “For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 1:12.)

          The only way that Paul could have legally persecuted Christians was because the authorities (who were Roman) allowed him to do so. The Romans allowed religious groups to police themselves and initially considered Christianity a sect of Judaism.

          You apparently exaggerate Hellenization and seem to view the ancient world exclusively through that culture. Jewish culture was different and Pharisees in particular resisted Hellenization..

          Prove that Mark was not an “observant Jew”. Mark’s Greek is very rough, suggesting that he was not a native Greek speaker or well-taught it as a second language. That you obviously don’t know that — a rather elementary fact for those who know the NT — suggests that your ignorant. Matthew frequently polishes his Greek. Mark did not incorporate Homer into his gospel and your attempt to show that from the Gadarene demoniac story is, frankly, laughable. That you keep repeating it suggests either that your hopelessly ideological or that you’re not too bright.

          Paul specifically quotes the Lord Jesus’ words for the institution of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11 and in a way that is very similar to those found in the gospels. There is no parallel from Psalms. You certainly have shown any.

        • Greg G.

          You probably think I will be in a pickle when I shuffle off these mortal coils to face the Devil Incarnate in the bowels of the earth.

          Did you recognize all four Shakespearean cliches? The “kick against the goads” would be a Greek cliche that the author of Acts probably didn’t realize came from Euripides Bacchae and was used by Dionysus. Acts 26:14 says Jesus spoke Aramaic so why would he translate a Greek cliche?

          Paul did not write any of the stories in Acts. His account is nothing like them. The Acts accounts are for entertainment, not to be believed.

          No credible scholar thinks 2 Peter was written by Peter. It mentions Tartarus which is a part of Hades where special tortures were done in the afterlife. Hades is a Greek idea. You keep saying I exaggerate Hellenization but nearly everything you mention has Greek overtones.

          Read Dennis MacDonald’s book The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark , then you can discuss the topic without being so laughable.

          I know a girl who spoke little English 5 years ago but will graduate with a degree in biochemistry and a goal of becoming a doctor. She has studied English literature and the classics while maintaining her GPA. Her English is still a bit rough. There is no reason Mark could not have been educated in Greek as a second language. I have already pointed out that Mark confuses Roman law with Jewish law or do you wish to argue that Mark accurately portrays Jesus making the error?

          Yes, Paul does claim to get revelation from Jesus. He never claims to have met him. He persecuted a group who worshipped a crucified savior who was dead before Paul met him. The Christians of that time only knew that savior through the scripture, the same way Paul did. He makes that clear in 1 Corinthians 15 by describing their revelations in the same words as his own.

        • John Carpenter

          Luke was a doctor who did research for his account which he produces as history. It has details that would not be included in something intended for “entertainment”. Your interpretations of the Gadarene demoniac and John 21, on the other hand, are not to be believed.

          If the book you mention is the source of your nonsense on the Gadarene demoniac, it’s simply not serious. What you’ve relayed is sheer stupidity.

          Many credible scholars believe Peter wrote 2 Peter,like E. M. B. Green, and more. In light of the absurdities you’ve written (two mentioned above), you obviously don’t know credible scholarship.

          Obviously Mark knew Greek. He just didn’t know it very well. You haven’t produced any evidence that Mark wasn’t an observant Jew. Where did Mark confuse Roman law with Jewish law? (Maybe in John 21! :))

          He claims to have met him in revelation. Apparently you don’t understand that. You state things as facts that are sheer conjecture and total nonsense. Paul claims to know Jesus personally; that’s what he’s saying in Galatians 1. What you write about 1 Cor. 15 is nonsense.

        • Greg G.

          I already told you that Mark 10:12 has Jesus talking about a woman divorcing her husband. This was Roman law, not Jewish law. Was Mark wrong about that and made up a story of Jesus saying that or is he accurately portraying Jesus making that mistake?

          Mark quotes the Septuagint and not the Hebrew scriptures.

          Mark 2:26 has Jesus talking about David and his companions eating the consecrated bread from the altar. This is from 1 Samuel 21 but David was lying about having other men and being on a secret mission for the king. He was actually running away and the king killed the priests for aiding David. Was mark quoting Jesus accurately being wrong or was he just not Jewish enough to understand the whole story?

          Mark 7:10 has Jesus quoting the ten commandments as if Moses gave them instead of God. Matthew 15: 4 corrects him.

          Mark 9:4 mentions “Elijah and Moses”. Would a real Jew do that? Moses would have pre-eminance over Elijah. Matthew 17:3 reverses them.

          Mark 10:19 Mark has Jesus naming the commandments. He includes “thou shalt not defraud”. Which commandment is that? Was that Jesus’ mistake or Mark’s? Matthew 19:18-20 omits that one and adds the one from Mark 12:31.

          Mark 14:10 says they sacrificed the Passover on the first day of unleavened bread. The sacrifice happens the day before. Matthew 26:17 recognized the problem and omitted it.
          The following verse has a man carrying a pitcher of water. That was women’s work so Matthew omits it.

          Mark 15:42 says evening had come and it was the day before the sabbath. The sabbath starts at the beginning of the evening. Matthew corrects Mark on this, too.

          Mark 15:46 says Joseph of Arimathea bought a linen cloth on the same sabbath evening. Matthew omits that.

          A Jewish person would not write so many Jewish faux pas.

          Mark wrote that the demoniac was in the Gerasenes, which was 30 miles inland. Can pigs run that far? Matthew says he was in Gadarenes, only 8 miles from the sea.

          Paul is being sarcastic in Galatians. He points out that James sends men to visit churches. In the opening, Paul says he was sent by the Lord and emphasizes that he was not sent by men or a man. When he calls James the brother of the Lord, he is saying James is acting like the Lord by sending people places. All through the letter he argues against circumcision and he identifies those “brothers” from Jerusalem as the ones who insist on it. In Galatians 5:12 he wishes they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves. That’s sarcasm!

        • John Carpenter

          Dude, the game is over. You lose. Your attempt to insert Homer into the account of the Gadarene demoniac is ridiculous. You proved you didn’t even know what is in John 21, etc. And then you misrepresented Pythagoras; no “153″ there. Do you understand that you’ve been exposed as ignorant? You’re copying all this from source? Stop mindlessly parroting the books that agree with you and start reading the Bible for yourself.

          As for your points about Mark:

          1. Do you even understand that the Romans were the power at the time and therefore their laws had to be addressed?

          2.David likely had some companions.

          3.Mark 9:4 “Elijah and Moses”, that’s just ridiculous. You’re grasping at straws. Or copying from a source that is.

          4.paraphrasing of the OT is common; defrauding is a type of stealing.

          5. Mark 14:10, you apparently have the wrong verse. Nevertheless, that type of precision (about exact days, etc) is a modern concern. Further, even today people will sometimes, have their Thanksgiving dinner, etc., a day before or after because of needs.

          That a man is carrying a pitcher of water is what makes that notable. A man carrying a pitcher of water would stand out as unusual which is what is required for the event. So it’s evidence of historicity.

          6.Your source, that you are mindlessly copying, misunderstands Mark 15:42. It says that the day before the Sabbath had started, with the coming of evening, just as Jews believe. Mark 15:42 says the day before the Sabbath had started with sunset. (Btw, consistent with the other gospels.) If you’d read the texts yourself, maybe you wouldn’t be so embarrassed when your stupid sources are shown to be wrong.

          7. Mark 15:46, so what if Matthew omits it? There’s nothing contradictory or wrong with it. And you got the detail wrong: it’s on the day before the Sabbath.

          Your source that you are mindlessly copying is junk and your too ignorant to understand that.

          Your statement about Galatians is nonsense. Dude, get real and examine how ridiculous your statements are. You’re exposed: you’re totally ignorant about the real NT but mindlessly accept whatever ridiculous garbage agrees with your biases.

        • Greg G.

          Dude, the game is over. You lose. Your attempt to insert Homer into the account of the Gadarene demoniac is ridiculous. You proved you didn’t even know what is in John 21, etc. And then you misrepresented Pythagoras; no “153″ there. Do you understand that you’ve been exposed as ignorant? You’re copying all this from source? Stop mindlessly parroting the books that agree with you and start reading the Bible for yourself.

          You have an interesting way of keeping score. I hope you don’t get a job in the banking industry because my excellent credit rating would be in trouble. I had missed one passage in the least important book of the New Testament several months ago, found out about later, and have corrected my claim before you came along. I misremembered one point of John 21 that does not affect the major point. I admitted both errors. When I have corrected your mistakes that affect your whole argument, you continue to repeat them.

          One small mistake you continue to make is calling Mark’s demoniac the “Gadarene demoniac”. That’s what Matthew calls him but we’re talking Mark.

          As for your points about Mark:

          1. Do you even understand that the Romans were the power at the time and therefore their laws had to be addressed?

          Have you read the passage? Mark has Jesus saying it and he’s not discussing Roman law with the disciples. Is Mark wrong or was Jesus?

          2.David likely had some companions.

          Did you read the story or are you writing it as we go? He escaped from his bedroom. Were there others with him and his wife? Let me know how it turns out after you finish rewriting the Old Testament.

          3.Mark 9:4 “Elijah and Moses”, that’s just ridiculous. You’re grasping at straws. Or copying from a source that is.

          Matthew copied nearly 50% of Mark verbatim. When Matthew changes something, you have to wonder why he did that. If it wasn’t a grammatical alteration, then he had a reason to do so.

          4.paraphrasing of the OT is common; defrauding is a type of stealing.

          Mark says Jesus mention “you shall not steal” third and “you shall not defraud” fifth. Was Mark wrong or was Jesus?

          5. Mark 14:10, you apparently have the wrong verse. Nevertheless, that type of precision (about exact days, etc) is a modern concern. Further, even today people will sometimes, have their Thanksgiving dinner, etc., a day before or after because of needs.

          But they wouldn’t be having the Passover Meal on just any day during Passover in Jerusalem. It would be like going out to watching the ball drop in Times Square on December 29th. Matthew was concerned about that precision. You’re trying to make excuses but I take it as an admission that you recognize Mark was wrong but you’re too stubborn to admit it.

          That a man is carrying a pitcher of water is what makes that notable. A man carrying a pitcher of water would stand out as unusual which is what is required for the event. So it’s evidence of historicity.

          I agree that it would be unusual but Matthew seems to have thought it was unthinkable. When you argue about the donkey, you say Matthew was an eyewitness. Now when Matthew alters Mark, you forget that. Using that kind of methodolgy, you could make J. R. R. Tolkien a great historian and Frodo Baggins a historical person.

          6.Your source, that you are mindlessly copying, misunderstands Mark 15:42. It says that the day before the Sabbath had started, with the coming of evening, just as Jews believe. Mark 15:42 says the day before the Sabbath had started with sunset. (Btw, consistent with the other gospels.) If you’d read the texts yourself, maybe you wouldn’t be so embarrassed when your stupid sources are shown to be wrong.

          Yes, it says that it was Preparation Day, the Day before the sabbath. Properly translated Bibles say that evening had come. That means it was no longer Preparation Day. It was then the sabbath.

          Here are my sources: American King James Version, American Standard Version, Aramaic Bible in Plain English (©2010), Darby Bible Translation, Douay-Rheims Bible, English Revised Version, English Standard Version (©2001), GOD’S WORD® Translation (©1995), Holman Christian Standard Bible (©2009), International Standard Version (©2012), King James 2000 Bible (©2003), King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.), NET Bible (©2006), New American Standard Bible (©1995), Webster’s Bible Translation, World English Bible, and Young’s Literal Translation all translate it that evening had already come.

          New International Version (©2011), New Living Translation (©2007), and Weymouth New Testament all see the problem and translate it as the evening was approaching.

          You didn’t even attempt to explain why Matthew saw the need to change Mark on this point.

          7. Mark 15:46, so what if Matthew omits it? There’s nothing contradictory or wrong with it. And you got the detail wrong: it’s on the day before the Sabbath.

          No, it was the day before the sabbath until sundown. It was evening and the Jewish day begins at sundown so it was the sabbath. Matthew follows Mark closely unless Mark commits a faux pas.

          Your source that you are mindlessly copying is junk and your too ignorant to understand that.

          Your statement about Galatians is nonsense. Dude, get real and examine how ridiculous your statements are. You’re exposed: you’re totally ignorant about the real NT but mindlessly accept whatever ridiculous garbage agrees with your biases.

          Your fear that your opponent is right and you are wrong is exposed when you offer poorly thought out replies and then start with accusing your opponent of being stupid and ignorant. It’s childish. Start thinking.

    • John Carpenter

      Mark and Matthew likely came before 70 AD as they do not suggest knowledge of the destruction of Jerusalem on that date.

      You have no proof that the gospel writers never met Jesus. You are simply assuming that based on your faith. The Bible very rarely has physical descriptions of the people recorded in it, like Paul. Luke specifically says he researched by interviewing eye-witnesses.

      The only mention of Jesus in the epistles is not mention of James in Galatians. Try: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is fore you. Do this in remembrance of me.”f 25In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor. 11).

      There’s more evidence for Jesus than for anyone else in His life-time.

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

        JC:

        Mark and Matthew likely came before 70 AD as they do not suggest knowledge of the destruction of Jerusalem on that date.

        Since you highly respect the guys with the doctorates, know that many disagree with this argument.

        You have no proof that the gospel writers never met Jesus.

        The burden of proof is yours.

        Luke specifically says he researched by interviewing eye-witnesses.

        So therefore we know that it’s true?

        There’s more evidence for Jesus than for anyone else in His life-time.

        Whoa—you don’t want to go there. Historians scrub supernatural claims out of historical accounts—Julius Caesar, Augustus, Alexander. They all had supernatural stories told about them. What does history say about these? That they were all legendary inventions.

        Sure, let’s give the Jesus story to the historians. You won’t like what they do with it.

        • John Carpenter

          I don’t believe you know what you’re talking about.
          Some commentators do not believe that the prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem sounds like it was written after the event, as the description is not specific.

          No, the burden of proof is yours. As they purport to have interviewed eyewitnesses (Luke) or imply that they were one (John’s “the disciple whom Jesus loved”) or imply first-hand knowledge, then burden of proof is otherwise. People are not guilty until proven innocent.

          It’s Bart Ehrmann who says that there is more evidence for Jesus than for anyone else in his time period. That some historians want to “demythologize” the gospels (that were never really myths in the first place) is an expression of their bias. That you blindly follow them is an expression of your naivete.

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

          No, the burden of proof is yours. As they purport to have interviewed eyewitnesses (Luke) or imply that they were one (John’s “the disciple whom Jesus loved”) or imply first-hand knowledge, then burden of proof is otherwise.

          Let me get your view straight. You’re saying that if I write some nutty nonsense about leprechauns or Superman or Merlin and put “I saw this myself” at the beginning, then you are obliged to consider it true until you can prove otherwise?

          People are not guilty until proven innocent.

          But stories are natural until proven supernatural.

          It’s Bart Ehrmann who says that there is more evidence for Jesus than for anyone else in his time period.

          ?! As a person! I’ll grant you that! Now: tell me why the supernatural part is worth believing.

          That some historians want to “demythologize” the gospels (that were never really myths in the first place) is an expression of their bias.

          So we must assume all supernatural tales are true first? That’s our starting point?

        • John Carpenter

          If you write anything — whether nutty or not — then it’s not to be taken seriously because you are not serious. Really: you didn’t even realize that C. S. Lewis was an expert on myths and legends.

          If a serious person (like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, etc.) write what they claim is historical, which cannot be contradicted, claim to be eye-witnesses or (like Luke) to have interviewed eye-witnesses, yes, that’s to be taken seriously.

          Actually, it’s your faith that is absurd: something coming from nothing. The resurrection has been examined and is more reasonable than is your faith.

      • Greg G.

        Mark and Matthew likely came before 70 AD as they do not suggest knowledge of the destruction of Jerusalem on that date.

        In Mark 11, Jesus curses an out of season fig tree, then he throws a Temple tantrum. The next day, they see the withered tree. If Jerusalem had already been destroyed, the Romans would want everyone in the Empire to know what happens to a city that causes trouble. Any reader back then would fill in the last part of the syllogism. It would be as fresh in their memories as 9/11 still is.

        You have no proof that the gospel writers never met Jesus. You are simply assuming that based on your faith. The Bible very rarely has physical descriptions of the people recorded in it, like Paul. Luke specifically says he researched by interviewing eye-witnesses.

        The writers of the gospels don’t claim to have met Jesus. Mark uses the omniscient narrator technique but never any first person accounts. Matthew and Luke copy his account. Why would an eyewitness copy the story of a non-eyewitness? The early church fathers guessed at the names for the authors. Luke never says he interviewed anybody. He uses stories from Josephus’ autobiography and applied them to Jesus in Luke and Paul in Acts. That puts Luke in the second century.

        There’s more evidence for Jesus than for anyone else in His life-time.

        Not true. We have zero physical evidence of Jesus’ existence. We have the cornerstone of a building form Caesaria commissioned by Pontius Pilate with his name and title. We have coins with the image of Roman emperors from the first century. We have writings or Philo, Paul, and Pliny the Elder but nothing written by Jesus.
        If you discount the supernatural claims, you have an ordinary teacher but the Epistles contradict that view because they never speak of Jesus being a teacher.

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  • scenario

    I haven’t seen any website or book that lists everything that Paul say’s about Jesus the man. Mostly, I have read blogs where the author states that Paul says almost nothing about Jesus the man and despite numerous posts denying it, no one has yet shown me a biblical quote that disputes the idea. I’ve also looked at websites written by Christians and they tend to agree.

    • Jireh

      Another scenario ,
      Check out Paul’s 4th letter from prison to the Phillipian Church. I think Chapt. 2 : 4-11 is a good starting point.

    • John Carpenter

      “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is fore you. Do this in remembrance of me.”f 25In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” ” (1 Cor. 11).

  • Erick

    Bob,

    I don’t understand how any of these arguments mean that Jesus is a legend. Let me explain my thinking.

    In order to believe your legend category, you must prove that the story and the followers who preached it were innocent and simply mistaken. While Lewis only addresses Jesus himself, the trilemma historically has also included the writers of the NT and the Apostles. It’s been around as an argument for a long time.

    If Jesus is just a story as you put forward, then it must either be a story meant for education, for entertainment, for intentional defrauding, or unintentional defrauding. If it is defrauding of either kind, then it falls under lie and lunacy. So you must prove that the story is entertainment or education.

    But wouldn’t you agree that considering the context of the story (the Jewish environment) a blasphemous story (of man claiming to be God and actually achieving victory through resurrection) would be non-entertainment and non-education? The context makes the entertainment possiblity is akin to Salman Rushdie trying to sell The Satanic Verses to Iran for their entertainment. Meanwhile, although Jesus as a story is meant to educate, it educates in a very non-Jewish way. In this case, lie and lunacy would be a better descriptor than legend, would it not?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Erick:

      In order to believe your legend category, you must prove that the story and the followers who preached it were innocent and simply mistaken.

      No, I don’t have to prove anything. The null hypothesis (our starting point) is that the story is just another legend. Legends we understand. Every society has many examples. The supernatural, on the other hand, not so much. Yes, there is supernatural belief in each culture, but it’s specific to each culture. I could explain the story of John Henry to a foreigner and get them to agree, yes, that’s a legend. But I couldn’t explain the story of Jesus and (without much difficulty) get them to agree that, yes, Jesus is a god.

      If it is defrauding of either kind, then it falls under lie and lunacy.

      You and I chat, and you tell me an interesting anecdote. I then retell it to someone else next week, but I misremember a few details, so I tell an incorrect story. Using your categories, this is “unintentional defrauding.” No, this is neither lie nor lunacy; it’s just a mistake. I assume that you’re very familiar with how this works? It’s hard to imagine any adult being so sheltered for this to be news.

  • scenario

    Erick

    I look at the evidence about the existence of Jesus. Israel at the time of Jesus was a fairly literate society by the standards of the time. There were several well know historians working in the area during the time and shortly afterwards who wrote books about the important people in the territory of Israel at the time and shortly afterwards. None of them mention Jesus. The first mention of Christians in a non-Christian source was almost 60 years after Jesus traditional date of death.

    If Jesus had thousands of people listening to his every speech as it says in the bible, some historian at the time would have at least mentioned him. This implies that either Jesus didn’t exist or he was a small town rabbi who became famous long after he died or maybe Jesus was an combination of several small town rabbis.

    Next, I look at what is said about him. The first documentation we have about Jesus are the letters of Paul. Paul states that he never met Jesus, he saw him in a dream on the way to Damascus. In all of his letters, Paul rarely quotes Jesus, or talk about what he looked like or what he did. He talked about church beliefs. You would expect that someone following a great leader would quote from him all the time.

    The next thing we get are the Gospels. The first one were written 20 years after the first of Paul’s letters and 40 years after Jesus traditional date of death. Mark starts with Jesus was already a man. Later gospels added stories about Jesus birth. Many of the stories about Jesus childhood are clearly written to conform to old traditional views of where the Messiah would come from. The Messiah must be descended from King David, born in Bethlehem, etc. Two of the Gospels explain how Jesus was related to King David through his father, but each of the Gospels gives a different list. Many of the things in the Gospel are either quoted directly from each other or contradict each other.

    There are very few things that appear in all four Gospels in essentially the same form. If they were writing about a real person, I would expect that a significant portion of the story would appear in all four Gospels. Something like thirty percent in all four, forty percent in three out of four etc.

    The way the Gospels were written, it looks like someone had a rough outline of the Jesus story and a list of prophecies that he had to fulfill and then wrote a story. Later writers read the first story kept what they wanted and added new stuff.

    Whether Jesus never existed or Jesus was a small town Rabbi, it is pretty clear that the writers of the Gospel made up much of the story of Jesus to meet the needs of the church. Jesus as a myth fits in better with the teachings of Saint Paul, but Jesus as a small town Rabbi is certainly possible.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Yeah, it’s almost like Paul started the ball rolling, and it kept going.

      • John Carpenter

        except, of course, for the problem with him actually persecuting the movement before he was converted to it. Hmmm, maybe he started it, abandoned it, began persecuting it, and then was converted to it again! Yeah that’s it.

        Or maybe you need to go back and start the ball rolling of actually learning what happened.

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

          Or maybe what he wrote (and what Acts wrote about him) aren’t actual history but just a story.

        • John Carpenter

          First, Paul says he persecuted it in his epistles, including Galatians 1 which even Bart Ehrman accepts as from Paul.

          Second, you have no reason to not accept Acts as history. Your pathological bias against everything Christian does not constitute a “reason”.

          I’ve yet to see you make a serious point.

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

          Is there a rule for what to accept as history?

    • Greg G.

      “Paul states that he never met Jesus, he saw him in a dream on the way to Damascus.”

      Paul never says that. That story is in Acts. It’s a dramatization. I think it’s based on a story from Euripides, IIRC.

      “In all of his letters, Paul rarely quotes Jesus, or talk about what he looked like or what he did.”

      Paul never quotes Jesus. Neither do any of the epistles. None of the epistles ever mention any teachings, a ministry or an anecdote. They quote the OT a lot, even when their argument would be much stronger with a quote from Jesus. They never say anything about Jesus that doesn’t come from the OT.

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

        Greg:

        None of the epistles ever mention any teachings, a ministry or an anecdote.

        Or healings or parables or driving out evil spirits or Great Commission or indeed Jesus performing any miracles at all. It’s almost like the epistles and the gospels are talking about two different guys.

        • Greg G.

          Yes, at least two. Somebody came up with the sayings and it could have been someone named Jesus. The Jesus from Mark 13 could have been Jesus son of Ananus that Josephus talked about. The Jesus in the epistles wasn’t either of them.

          Jesus in Mark was reluctant. Jesus in Luke couldn’t wait to be crucified and forgive all involved. Jesus in John was the Logos who did things simply to fulfill prophecies. Jesus in Matthew seems more Hebrew than Galilean. Then there’s the Jesus in Revelation, who is a completely different animal.

        • John Carpenter

          Different perspectives are not contradictory. Jews from Galilee are Hebrew.

        • Greg G.

          Did Jesus ride one donkey into Jerusalem as in Mark 11 or did he ride two as in Matthew 21? That’s not a difference of perspective. It’s two different stories made up from different understandings of Zechariah 9:9.

        • John Carpenter

          Matthew 21 does not say he rode two donkeys. You simply don’t understand the text. Get a commentary if you’re really interested. But, judging by your stupid comments about the Gadarene demoniac, I doubt you are.

          Besides, you obviously don’t even understand what a contradiction is. “One” is a sub-set of two. So even if Matthew was saying He rode two donkeys (which he wasn’t), it would only be a contradiction if Mark said, “he rode only one donkey” (which he doesn’t.)

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

          Do you not realize when you get your ass handed to you? Making an idiot of yourself isn’t winning many souls for Christ.

          Hold on–let me get some popcorn for the next installment of “When Greg Gave John a Thrashing.”

        • John Carpenter

          You boast but haven’t proven me wrong. You have to congratulate yourself because no one else will. Apparently you don’t even realize that C. S. Lewis was an expert on myths and legends. Get a grip.

        • Greg G.

          Mark says there will be one colt (singular) and to bring it (singular). Matthew says there will be a mother and a foal (plural) and to bring them (plural). This was done to satisfy a prophecy that the king would come riding a donkey AND a colt. Matthew says they put their cloaks on them (plural) for Jesus to sit on. Mark says there was exactly one donkey. Matthew says there were exactly two donkeys.
          Matthew misunderstood the poetry of Zechariah. It clearly means one donkey.
          Zechariah announces that the following verses are prophecy. So there are 17 verses of prophecy and they have Jesus fulfilling the most trivial of all. What Christians see as fulfilled prophecy are just where the gospel writers had no information so they cherry picked OT verses and made up a story to use them in.

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

          Zech. 9:9 is an example of synonymous parallelism. It does talk about 2 donkeys, but it only means one (that’s how that poetic form worked). Matthew misunderstood and read it to mean two actual donkeys.

          I write more here.

        • John Carpenter

          Yes, Zech. 9:9 is synonymous parallelism, a very common feature of Hebrew literature. If you think Matthew didn’t know that, you’re delusional.

          If you think you have anything worthwhile to write about it, you’re full of yourself.

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

          Another gentle and loving contribution from Brother Carpenter. Winning more souls for Christ, eh?

        • John Carpenter

          If you make a stupid point, expect for it to be called “stupid”. That you think you know more about Hebrew poetry than a 1st century Jew is ludicrous. Frauds like you should be exposed so that those reading this will know that your nonsense doesn’t deserve respect.

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

          Point out errors and stupidity is fine. Not being able to make meaningful contributions combined with vitriol is not fine.

          Bye.

        • John Carpenter

          More lies from you. Pointing out that C. S. Lewis was an expert on myths and legends is a very meaningful contribution. A quote from such an expert on the subject at hand is meaningful. Proving that GregG is blowing smoke with his nonsense about Phythoragus, the Gadarene demoniac, etc. . . . A lot of meaningful contribution. You refuse to accept them because you’re an ignorant bigot and hate being exposed. So you hack.

          You’re a hacker who should be banned from the internet.

        • John Carpenter

          Do you realize that if there are two donkeys then there is one donkey?

          Again, you apparently don’t know what a contradiction is.

          This incident illustrates the historicity of the documents. Why would Matthew alter Mark (likely written first and used by Matthew) to add another donkey when that is not at all necessary? Reason: because that’s what actually happened and as an eye-witness Matthew remembers that the donkey had a colt and so adds that detail.

        • Greg G.

          I understand math and two does not equal one. Mark says that there was exactly one donkey. Mark does not say there was more than one donkey. Matthew says there were exactly two donkeys. That is a contradiction.

          Matthew says it was done to fulfill a prophecy and quotes Zechariah 9:9 but he misreads it. The prophecy is that the king would ride a donkey but in the form of a doublet using two different descriptions of one donkey. Matthew screwed it up reading it as two donkeys. If Jesus rode two donkeys, then he didn’t fulfill the prophecy that Matthew insists he did.

          Maybe Jesus rode in on a 40 mule team. If one can mean two, then two could be three, and so on up to forty.

        • John Carpenter

          You don’t understand what a contradiction is. If Mark said there was “one donkey ONLY” it would be a contradiction. But if there are two donkeys then, by definition, there is one. Do you understand that that 1 + 1 = 2 and therefore where there are two there is one (and another one)? Are you really so stupid as not to understand that?

          Maybe you are. After your ridiculous interpretation of the Gadarene demoniac, John 21, Acts 26, etc., don’t be making statements about what you know! You can’t even read these simple texts correctly. And where’s that 153 you said was in the myth? You certainly don’t know more about Hebrew poetry than does Matthew. At this point it’s not clear that you can interpret simple English.

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  • Kevin Miller

    Compelling arguments here, Bob. Just curious if you’re at all familiar with the work of Rene Girard and mimetic theory. He argues for the preeminence of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures not because of any supernatural truth claims but because they expose the moral bankruptcy at the heart of the scapegoating mechanism, which we use to inoculate ourselves against violence.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Kevin:

      Memetics, yes, but not mimetics.

      Could you give another paragraph on what Girard’s point is? If scripture illuminates some truth, why is it not simply in the category of great literature (Shakespeare, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, and so on)?

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  • Ehcstein

    I DO NOT AGREE WITH YOU, BUT I APPRECIATE YOUR WRITINGS AS AT LEAST THEY TAKE NOTICE OF THE OPPONENTS ARGUMENT. I OFFER MY COMMENTS FROM A CHRISTIAN’S POINT OF VIEW (IN UPPER CASE):

    1. Who are these scholars? Are they Christian theologians as well? If so, could they be (dare I say it?) biased? Historians filter supernatural explanations out of history, labeling supernatural claims myth or legend.
    SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS IS THAT JESUS IS NOT A LEGEND. THIS CONCLUSION HAS BEEN REACHED BY CHRISTIAN, AGNOSTIC, ATHEIST, MUSLIM ETC. HISTORIANS AND IS BASED ON ANALYSIS OF ALL AVAILABLE DATA. IT IS HIGHLY IMPLAUSIBLE THAT JESUS WAS MADE UP.

    2. If Christian scholars accept the gospel story but Muslim scholars don’t, then it looks like religious scholars can shoehorn data to fit their religious worldview:
    YOUR STATEMENT THAT MUSLIM REJECT THE GOSPELS REQUIRES SOME REFINEMENT. IN FACT, MUSLIMS ACCEPT A LARGE PART OF THE GOSPELS. THEY SHARE BELIEVE WITH CHRISTIANS THAT JESUS WAS A MESSENGER FROM GOD, WAS BORN FROM THE VIRGIN MARY AND PERFORMED MIRACLES. MUSLIMS DO NOT BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION AND CANNOT BELIEVE THAT JESUS WAS “GOD HIMSELF” AS WE CHRISTIANS DO. THAT IS A MATTER OF FAITH (BUT NOT BLIND FAITH).

    3. The story says that Jesus claimed to be God. The story says that the tomb was empty. The story says that Merlin could change his shape. The story says that Grendel was a big, scary monster. We must go beyond the stories to figure out the actual history.
    SCIENTIFIC ENQUIRY IS LARGELY BASED ON MUTUAL TRUST. A SCIENTIST BUILDS FURTHER ON WHAT OTHER SCIENTISTS REPORTED IN THE SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE. THEIR INTERPRETATIONS MAY TURN OUT TO BE INCORRECT, BUT USUALLY NO ONE DOUBTS THE REPORTED OBSERVATIONS AND DATA. SOMETIMES, CORRUPT SCIENTISTS MAKE UP THEIR DATA BUT THAT IS VERY EXCEPTIONAL AND STUFF FOR NEWSPAPER HEADINGS. IN A SIMILAR WAY, THE OBSERVATIONS AND DATA REPORTED BY MARC, LUKE, JOHN, MATHEW, PAUL ARE MUTUALLY COHERENT, FULL OF HISTORICAL AND GEOGRAPHIC DETAILS HAT CAN BE INDEPENDENTLY CONFIRMED, AND DO NOT GIVE THE IMPRESSION OF HAVING BEEN MADE UP. THEY EXPLICITLY PROMISE THAT WHAT THEY HAVE WRITTEN IS TRUE AND THAT THEY WERE EYE WITNESSES. WHY SHOULD WE DOUBT OF THEIR HONESTY. MANY PEOPLE REJECT MIRACLES AS BY DEFINITION THESE TRANSCEND PHYSICAL LAWS. HOWEVER, IF GOD EXISTS AND TRANSCENDS THESE LAWS HE CAN PERFORM MIRACLES THROUGH ANYONE HE PLEASES. ONLY BY REJECTING THE EXISTENCE OF GOD A PRIORI, MIRACLES BECOME IMPOSSIBLE AND THEREFORE THE GOSPELS MUST HAVE BEEN MADE UP.

    4.The New Testament isn’t even internally consistent on whether Jesus remained on earth for one day or forty days—so Christians can’t use one part of the story (crucifixion plus empty tomb) to support another (resurrection).
    TO ME THE GOSPELS ARE CONSISTENT ABOUT JESUS HAVING BEEN RAISED FROM THE DEAD AND HAVING APPEARED DURING 40 DAYS TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE AT DIFFERENT LOCATIONS. CAN YOU FURTHER SUBSTANTIATE YOUR CLAIM?

    5. We have no good reason to imagine that eyewitnesses wrote the gospels rather than someone simply documenting the Jesus story as it had developed within their church community.
    YET, THE WRITERS OF THE GOSPELS THEMSELVES CLAIM THEY WERE EYE WITNESSES. JOHN FOR EXAMPLE WRITES AT THE END OF HIS GOSPEL “THIS IS THE DISCIPLE WHICH TESTIFIETH OF THESE THINGS, AND WROTE THESE THINGS: AND WE KNOW THAT HIS TESTIMONY IS TRUE.”

    6. Arguments explaining away the resurrection have all failed. These claim that Jesus “swooned” and wasn’t killed by the crucifixion, the women mistakenly went to the wrong tomb, the disciples stole the body, and the “risen Jesus” was just a hallucination. These are universally rejected by scholars. Christians love these arguments because they’re easily knocked down, but I don’t use them and I don’t know of any modern atheist who uses them either. These arguments assume that the empty tomb is history; I say that it’s just a story.
    YOU CAN SAY IT IS JUST A STORY, BUT THAT IS AN OPINION NOT AN ARGUMENT. IT SEEMS TO ME THAT YOUR OPINION IS BASED ON MISTRUST, BASED IN TURN ON YOUR PRECONCEIVED VIEW THAT MIRACLES ARE IMPOSSIBLE, BECAUSE GOD DOES NOT EXIST. BUT IF GOD DOES EXIST, MIRACLES SHOULD BE POSSIBLE. DON’T YOU HAVE ANY DOUBTS KNOWING THAT MANY OF THE GREATEST MINDS MANKIND HAS PRODUCED DID BELIEVE JUST THAT. YOU HAVE SELF-BRANDED YOURSELF AN ATHEIST BUT COULD YOU ACCEPT THAT PERHAPS YOU ARE WRONG?

    7. The Jesus story is corroborated by non-Christian historians.
    Josephus (born about 7 years after the death of Jesus), Pliny (31 years), Suetonius (39 years), and the others said little more than “there are people called Christians who worship a man called Jesus,” and sometimes a lot less than this. These are natural claims and do nothing to support the Bible’s supernatural claims. It’s not like we have an objective article from the Jerusalem Times written immediately after the each miracle.
    WE HAVE NO VIDEO RECORDING EITHER. OUR INFORMATION IS FRAGMENTARY BUT CONSISTENT WITH THE EXISTENCE OF THE HISTORICAL JESUS. JOSEPHUS REPORT DOES NOT PROVE JESUS’ RESURRECTION BUT IT DOES PROVE THAT HE WAS A HISTORICAL FIGURE THAT HAD SUCH AN IMPACT AS TO PRESENTLY HAVING 2 BILLION FOLLOWERS.

    8. You don’t think much of the evidence of the gospel story, but you must admit that it’s something. It’s more evidence than you have. You have no case without positive evidence of your own. For a scientific issue, you provide a scientific argument, but you’re in the domain of history now, and you must play by its rules. You have an alternate explanation of the gospel story? Then provide your historical evidence.
    I don’t have contemporary evidence that refutes the claim that George Washington could fly. Must I provide evidence of contemporaries reporting Washington not flying before you’ll reject that claim? Couldn’t I simply refute such a claim by pointing to likelier explanations of the facts?
    YOU REJECT THE POSSIBILITY THAT GOD PERFORMED MIRACLES THROUGH JESUS, BUT NOT THROUGH GEORGE WASHINGTON. THAT REJECTION IS NOT BASED ON ANY ARGUMENT OR EVIDENCE BUT ON YOUR PERSONAL VIEW THAT GOD DOES NOT EXIST. AS GOD DOES NOT EXIST, MIRACLES CANNOT BE POSSIBLE AND JESUS IS A LEGEND. BY CONTRAST, MY VIEW IS THAT GOD DOES EXIST. I FIND THAT MORE LOGICAL WHEN I LOOK AROUND ME EN INTO MY OWN MIND. I AM A SCIENTIST BUT I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH GOD EXISTING OR PERFORMING MIRACLES WHEN HE PLEASES. I ALSO FIND WHAT JESUS TAUGHT A GREAT TRUTH IN MY PERDSONAL LIFE EXPERIENCE. I THEREFORE TRUST WHAT EYE WITNESSES REPORTED OF HIM TOO. I KNOW SCIENCE IS BASICALLY DESCRIPTIVE AND HAS NO ANSWERS TO THE FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS OF ORIGIN, PURPOSE, CONSCIOUSNESS, LOVE, MORAL ETC. I DO NOT BUY IT THAT THIS IS THE BLIND PRODUCT OF A BIG EXPLOSION THAT AROSE SPONTANEOUSLY FOR NO REASON BECAUSE OF THE LAWS OF PHYSICS. WHO MADE THE LAWS OF PHYSICS? WHY ARE THEY AS THEY ARE, OR IS THAT QUESTION FORBIDDEN.

    9. The disciples died martyr’s deaths. Who would go do their death defending a lie?I don’t argue that it’s a lie; I argue that it’s a legend. Both are false, but the error in a legend isn’t deliberate.
    NO RESPECTED HISTORIAN DOUBTS THE CHRISTIAN PERSECUTIONS DURING THE FIRST 3-4 CENTURIES AND THAT MANY EARLY CHRISTIANS DIED FOR THEIR FAITH. HOW CAN YOU SAY IT IS A LEGEND. ON WHAT BASIS? MARTYRS SIMPLY PROVE THAT THEY WERE CONVINCED BY THE GOSPELS. STEPHEN, THE FIRST MARTYR, DIED A FEW DECADES AFTER JESUS CRUCIFIXION. NOT ENOUGH TIME TO BECOME A LEGEND.

    I MUST STOP NOW AND START DO SOME WORK. REGARDS

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

      E:

      SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS IS THAT JESUS IS NOT A LEGEND.

      No, the consensus of scholars of Christianity is that he’s not a legend. Big difference.

      MUSLIMS ACCEPT A LARGE PART OF THE GOSPELS.

      Yes, though they don’t accept the resurrection.

      USUALLY NO ONE DOUBTS THE REPORTED OBSERVATIONS AND DATA.

      I disagree. There were observations just a few years ago about Sathya Sai Baba. He was an Indian mystic with millions of followers who was said to have performed many miracles, including being in two places at once and raising the dead. Do you doubt those observations?

      THE OBSERVATIONS AND DATA REPORTED BY MARC, LUKE, JOHN, MATHEW, PAUL

      … sound just like legends. So let’s label them as such.

      No, they weren’t eyewitnesses.

      I gotta say, your bar is set pretty low for Christianity. Do you have a low bar of evidence for other religions, too?

      THE GOSPELS ARE CONSISTENT ABOUT JESUS HAVING BEEN RAISED FROM THE DEAD AND HAVING APPEARED DURING 40 DAYS TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE AT DIFFERENT LOCATIONS.

      Luke makes clear that Jesus went to heaven after one day. Inconsistent.

      When you find inconsistencies or (more importantly) when it sounds like a legend, it’s hard to make the case that it’s actually history.

      YET, THE WRITERS OF THE GOSPELS THEMSELVES CLAIM THEY WERE EYE WITNESSES.

      No, they don’t. And that bit from John is from an added-on chapter. (Read John 20 and see how it wraps up nicely. Then it lurches forward again in the last chapter.)

      Even if each gospel identified the author clearly and said that they were eyewitness accounts, so what? You believe everything you read?

      OUR INFORMATION IS FRAGMENTARY BUT CONSISTENT WITH THE EXISTENCE OF THE HISTORICAL JESUS.

      And the stories of Sathya Sai Baba are consistent with his being an actual miracle worker. Doesn’t mean that he was, though.

      JOSEPHUS REPORT DOES NOT PROVE JESUS’ RESURRECTION BUT IT DOES PROVE THAT HE WAS A HISTORICAL FIGURE

      Wrong again. You do know that that passage was added by Christians, right?

      THAT REJECTION IS NOT BASED ON ANY ARGUMENT OR EVIDENCE BUT ON YOUR PERSONAL VIEW THAT GOD DOES NOT EXIST.

      We start with the null hypothesis: God doesn’t exist. Then (if you’re open minded) you consider arguments that God does exist. The intellectual arguments that I’ve heard do not convince me, nor should they convince anyone.

      WHO MADE THE LAWS OF PHYSICS? WHY ARE THEY AS THEY ARE, OR IS THAT QUESTION FORBIDDEN.

      Why imagine it’s a “who”? And who made God–or is that question forbidden?

  • Ehcstein

    Bob, I enjoyed your latest post. This is what I have to say on it:
    ____________________________________________
    SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS IS THAT JESUS IS NOT A LEGEND.
    BS: No, the consensus of scholars of Christianity is that he’s not a legend. Big difference.

    “scientific consensus” means agreement amongst experts in the matter. In this case, scholars of Christianity, which include atheists

    ____________________________________________
    USUALLY NO ONE DOUBTS THE REPORTED OBSERVATIONS AND DATA.

    BS: disagree. There were observations just a few years ago about Sathya Sai Baba. He was an Indian mystic with millions of followers who was said to have performed many miracles, including being in two places at once and raising the dead. Do you doubt those observations?

    I was referring to scientific research, but you have a good point. The writers of the gospel were no scientists, and we should not blindly believe everything that is reported. Accepting a reported event does not automatically mean that you accept the explanation. My sister-in-law and her husband, for example, saw a UFO some years ago. I do not doubt that they did see a strange phenomenon in the sky, but I do not believe it had anything to do with extraterrestrial life. In the case of events reported in the gospels, I do not know the authors personally, but they give the impression of believing themselves in what they write. They went through great personal sacrifice to communicate to others what they considered the most important event in the history of mankind. Is there an alternative, more rational explanation of what they saw? Well, if you deny the existence of God, yes. In that case, anything will be more logical. If you are open-minded enough to allow the possibility that God exists, no.

    Sathya Sai Baba has been accused of sexual abuse, and his miracles have been shown to be fraudulent tricks. He is one of those charlatans able to draw millions of mainly uneducated people towards him for personal enrichment and honors. A similar case is Sun Myung Moon, who collected Rolls Roys cars. These people have no credibility. They are very much unlike Jesus and his disciples.
    ____________________________________________

    THE OBSERVATIONS AND DATA REPORTED BY MARC, LUKE, JOHN, MATHEW, PAUL
    BS: sound just like legends. So let’s label them as such.
    Many non-Christian scholars disagree with you. I recently read a book by Rodney Stark called “Discovering God”. who analyses the possibility that the Gospels are legends or myths in some depth and arrives at the conclusion that they are not. He is not a Christian, although he now finds the idea of God plausible, after having been an atheist. So there is still hope for you too ;-)
    ____________________________________________
    BS: No, they weren’t eyewitnesses.
    …this would imply that John and Mathew were not really apostles of Jesus or that Jesus did not even exist. This opinion challenges the scientific consensus by Christian, non-Christian and pagan scholars.
    ____________________________________________
    THE GOSPELS ARE CONSISTENT ABOUT JESUS HAVING BEEN RAISED FROM THE DEAD AND HAVING APPEARED DURING 40 DAYS TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE AT DIFFERENT LOCATIONS. Luke makes clear that Jesus went to heaven after one day. Inconsistent. When you find inconsistencies or (more importantly) when it sounds like a legend, it’s hard to make the case that it’s actually history.

    Where is the inconsistency? If Jesus was in heaven after 1 day, he could have appeared afterwards to his disciples on Earth or not?
    ____________________________________________
    YET, THE WRITERS OF THE GOSPELS THEMSELVES CLAIM THEY WERE EYE WITNESSES.

    BS: No, they don’t. And that bit from John is from an added-on chapter. (Read John 20 and see how it wraps up nicely. Then it lurches forward again in the last chapter. Even if each gospel identified the author clearly and said that they were eyewitness accounts, so what? You believe everything you read?

    OUR INFORMATION IS FRAGMENTARY BUT CONSISTENT WITH THE EXISTENCE OF THE HISTORICAL JESUS. And the stories of Sathya Sai Baba are consistent with his being an actual miracle worker. Doesn’t mean that he was, though.

    JOSEPHUS REPORT DOES NOT PROVE JESUS’ RESURRECTION BUT IT DOES PROVE THAT HE WAS A HISTORICAL FIGURE
    B.S. Wrong again. You do know that that passage was added by Christians, right?

    I repeat that scholars, independent of their personal beliefs, do not share your opinion that Jesus is a legend. Their may be a few, but it is not the consensus. Some scholars argue that the last sentence of John was added later. This might be the case, but their are plenty of similar passages. This one in John immediately comes to my mind: “But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.” Similar statements can be found regarding the empty tomb, and in general all accounts about miracles are written in a straight-forward style without adornments, fantasy and full of precise details about names, places. I love John 9:13 where a blind boy is cured by Jesus and then interrogated by the scribes. It is not irrational or naive to believe in miracles, after one accepts that God may indeed exist. Christianity is regarded as the fundament of modern science and many scientists have seen God confirmed in their research of nature. Indeed, Paul writes: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

    ____________________________________________
    THAT REJECTION IS NOT BASED ON ANY ARGUMENT OR EVIDENCE BUT ON YOUR PERSONAL VIEW THAT GOD DOES NOT EXIST.
    We start with the null hypothesis: God doesn’t exist. Then (if you’re open minded) you consider arguments that God does exist. The intellectual arguments that I’ve heard do not convince me, nor should they convince anyone.
    BS: You should be more modest. They may not convince you, but they convinced others who are at least as intelligent or instructed as you.
    ____________________________________________
    WHO MADE THE LAWS OF PHYSICS? WHY ARE THEY AS THEY ARE, OR IS THAT QUESTION FORBIDDEN.
    B.S. Why imagine it’s a “who”? And who made God–or is that question forbidden?
    Order, intelligence, moral, love, fine-tuning of the universe, life itself all make very plausible the idea of God who created not only all “things” but also space and time itself. The concept of eternity should not be understood as an infinitely long time, but rather as something being outside the restriction of time. The idea that God “is who he is” and was not created is a mystery. You can call it or he or she, but it will always remain a mystery.
    ____________________________________________

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

      E:

      “scientific consensus” means agreement amongst experts in the matter.

      No, there is no science in the question “are the Jesus miracles stories true?”

      And note that you must have a specific group of religious scholars. Muslim scholars, equally educated, will unanimously say that Jesus was not raised from the dead.

      (I think there’s a religious bias going on here.)

      In the case of events reported in the gospels, I do not know the authors personally, but they give the impression of believing themselves in what they write

      You’d believe any ancient book with an author that seemed earnest?

      They went through great personal sacrifice to communicate to others what they considered the most important event in the history of mankind.

      That’s what the stories and legends say, but why imagine that that’s history?

      Is there an al ternative, more rational explanation of what they saw?

      Who knows what they saw?? All we have are stories. Show that they’re reliable and then re-ask the question.

      Well, if you deny the existence of God

      I don’t deny it. I say that that’s where the evidence points. Show me better evidence that points in another direction, and I’ll consider that.

      Sathya Sai Baba has been accused of sexual abuse, and his miracles have been shown to be fraudulent tricks.

      And the gospel stories are too far in the past to have any naysayer evidence against them. So the Jesus story is less reliable, so that makes its supernatural claims more true?

      analyses the possibility that the Gospels are legends or myths in some depth and arrives at the conclusion that they are not.

      Do you then have a good argument that the Jesus story can’t be legend? Summarize it for us.

      …this would imply that John and Mathew were not really apostles of Jesus or that Jesus did not even exist.

      You’re bypassing the question. How do we know that Mark wrote Mark and that he was an associate of Peter? Because of the stories within the early church—very weak historically. I write more here.

      The “eyewitness” claim for the gospel authors kinda falls apart. We have no idea who even wrote these books, let alone that they were eyewitnesses.

      Where is the inconsistency?

      You’re telling me that Luke and Acts tell the same story of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus? I think you need to reread your Bible.

      I repeat that scholars, independent of their personal beliefs, do not share your opinion that Jesus is a legend.

      And I repeat that Muslim scholars, who have no problem with the idea of the supernatural, reject the idea of the resurrection of Jesus.

      Conclusion: interpretation of the Jesus story varies based on your religious beliefs. Religious scholars are unreliable sources here.

      “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

      So I have no excuse for not seeing the truth of the gospel claims? I burn in hell forever because I use my brain and don’t just take things on faith?

      And what do you think about that—you’re cool with it? No sense of injustice?

      They may not convince you, but they convinced others who are at least as intelligent or instructed as you.

      … and smarter people than you have rejected them. So where does that leave us?

      Order, intell igence, moral, love, fine-tuning of the universe, life itself all make very plausible the idea of God who created not only all “things” but also space and time itself.

      Some of these arguments I’ve already shredded, and I’ll get to the other with time.

      The idea that God “is who he is” and was not created is a mystery.

      So when I ask, “So who created God, then?” you just say that it’s a mystery and think that your question about the grounding of physics stands but that mine about the grounding of God doesn’t?

      • Ehcstein

        No, there is no science in the question ?are the Jesus miracles stories true?? And note that you must have a specific group of religious scholars. Muslim scholars, equally educated, will unanimously say that Jesus was not raised from the dead. (I think there?s a religious bias going on here.)
        I CANNOT DEMONSTRATE THE MIRACLE STORIES. I BELIEVE THEY ARE NOT JUST STORIES. BECAUSE IT MAKE MORE SENSE TO ME. I FEEL CHRISTIAN VALUES ARE RIGHT, AND THAT GOD IS REQUIRED TO ACCOUNT FOR MY EXISTENCE. I SEE NO CONTRADICTION BETWEEN SCIENCE AND THIS BELIEF.

        You?d believe any ancient book with an author that seemed earnest?
        NO, BUT HERE HERE WE HAVE MULTIPLE AUTHORS, AND HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL FACT ABOUT THE PERSECUTIONS, THE CONVERSION OF THE ENTIRE ROMAN EMPIRE,

        That?s what the stories and legends say, but why imagine that that?s history?
        TO ME, THE BASE LINE OF ANY DISCUSSION OF CHRISTIANITY IS TO AGREE THAT JESUS EXISTED, PAUL TOO AND THE OTHER WRITERS OF THE GOSPELS. ALSO THE EARLY MARTYRS, THE ROMAN PERSECUTIONS AND ALL ITS HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE. I WOULD SAY MOST ATHEISTS AGREE WITH THIS.

        Who knows what they saw?? All we have are stories. Show that they?re reliable and then re-ask the question.
        I CANNOT DEMONSTRATE ANYTHING. I MUST RELY ON FAITH, BUT I THINK IT IS INSTRUCTED, RATIONAL FAITH. THE CENTRAL MESSAGE OF THE GOSPEL ABOUT HONESTY, JUSTICE, LOVE, FORGIVENESS MAKES SENSE. I SIMPLY CANNOT BELIEVE THE AUTHORS OF THIS MESSAGE ARE SUCH BLATANT LIARS. I BELIEVE THE TRUTH ALWAYS ENDS UP WINNING. YOU MAY BELIEVE THAT IT WILL AND EVENTUALLY WILL KILL CHRISTIANITY

        I don?t deny it. I say that that?s where the evidence points. Show me better evidence that points in another direction, and I?ll consider that.
        THE BEST EVIDENCE FOR GOD IS THE FACT THAT WE ARE DISCUSSING HIS EXISTENCE

        And the gospel stories are too far in the past to have any naysayer evidence against them. So the Jesus story is less reliable, so that makes its supernatural claims more true?
        THE AGE OF THE GOSPELS IS IN ITSELF IRRELEVANT. THERE ARE MUCH OLDER BOOKS WHOSE AUTHENTICITY AND RELIABILITY IS UNQUESTIONED. FOR EXAMPLE, BOOKS WRITTEN BY THE GREEK PHILOSOPHERS.

        Do you then have a good argument that the Jesus story can?t be legend? Summarize it for us.
        HERE ARE SOME ARGUMENTS I FOUND ON THE WEB AFTER A 30 SECONDS SEARCH:
        * None of the most reputable first century historians (Josephus, Tacitus, et al) or other first century contemporaries of Christ (Biblical or extra-Biblical, e.g. the physician Luke, Roman officials, members of Jesus’ own family) of whom we are aware?excepting the Jewish religious leadership, who clearly had an agenda of their own?ever apparently disputed the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ supernatural claims and feats, although such accounts were all being quite widely circulated during their lifetimes.

        * There is solid evidence that Jesus really did claim to be unique among men in His relationship with God the Father, i.e. Divine in essence. Consider even the Christological titles. For instance, Jesus’ favorite self-title was probably ?the Son of Man? (note the definite article, e.g. Luke 18:31). Commonly thought to be a reference to His humanity, in light of Daniel 7:13-14 this term is no doubt more accurately regarded as a reference to His Deity. Even such radical ‘scholars’ as those on the Jesus Seminar seem inclined not to dispute Jesus’ use of this term to describe Himself.

        * Even critical scholars concede the historicity of Jesus’ healings and exorcisms, while denying the fact that any of them constituted real true-to-life miracles. Such denials, though, seem clearly based on presuppositions and worldviews.

        * Legends typically require a significant period of time to develop and gain credibility. In this case, within just twenty years of Jesus’ death, Christian doctrine, conviction, churches, creeds, martyrs, and sermons?every one unequivocally confessing Jesus as Lord?can all be handily documented.

        * Would Jesus’ disciples have been willing martyrs for a story they knew was pure fantasy and legend? Some men may be willing to die for what they believe to be true, though it isn’t. But who is, or has, ever been willing to die for the sake of a cause which they clearly know to be a lie? Remember, the disciples were eye witnesses to what actually had happened.

        * Can one realistically attribute to mere legend the historic, worldwide, ongoing impact of the life of this one individual?all of which includes the faith-profession of many of the world’s most respected, wise, thinking men and women?

        You?re bypassing the question. How do we know that Mark wrote Mark and that he was an associate of Peter? Because of the stories within the early church?very weak historically. I write more here.The ?eyewitness? claim for the gospel authors kinda falls apart. We have no idea who even wrote these books, let alone that they were eyewitnesses.
        THIS WEB PAGE “THE HISTORICAL RELIABILITY OF THE GOSPELS” DOES A GOOD JOB AT SUMMARIZING THE ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF THE GOSPELS’ AUTHENTICITY. http://www.4truth.net/fourtruthpbbible.aspx?pageid=8589952775

        You?re telling me that Luke and Acts tell the same story of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus? I think you need to reread your Bible.
        I ASKED “WHERE IS THE INCONSISTENCY”. YOU ARE ANSWERING WITH ANOTHER QUESTION. FIRST GIVE ME YOUR ANSWER.

        And I repeat that Muslim scholars, who have no problem with the idea of the supernatural, reject the idea of the resurrection of Jesus.
        Conclusion: interpretation of the Jesus story varies based on your religious beliefs. Religious scholars are unreliable sources here.
        DEFINITIVELY, BUT THERE ARE MORE COINCIDENCES THAN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CHRISTIAN AND MUSLIMS’ BELIEFS REGARDING JESUS

        So I have no excuse for not seeing the truth of the gospel claims? I burn in hell forever because I use my brain and don?t just take things on faith?
        And what do you think about that?you?re cool with it? No sense of injustice?
        NO, I DO NOT THINK THAT AND THE CHURCH DOES NOT PREACH THAT EITHER. THERE ARE ATHEISTS WHO ARE MORE “CHRISTIAN” THAN OTHERS WHO CALL THEMSELVES SO. AS PAUL PUTS IT IN ANOTHER VERY CONVINCING PASSAGE:
        “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, ?Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,? and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18 But someone may well say, ?You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.? (Jam 2:18)

        ? and smarter people than you have rejected them. So where does that leave us?
        TRUE, AND IT DEMANDS MODESTY AND OPENNESS OF MIND OF BOTH OF US

        Some of these arguments I?ve already shredded, and I?ll get to the other with time.
        THEN OUR EXISTENCE IS JUST STUPID LUCK, OR EVEN WORSE, BECAUSE WHY SHOULD WE CONSIDER OURSELVES LUCKY TO EXIST IF WE ARE TO DIE SOON. POOR US, WE BETTER TRY TO HAVE GOOD TIME WHILE WE ARE THERE…… ?
        NO, I PLACE MY BET ON THE CHRISTIAN FAITH WITH PASCAL. SEE http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal%27s_Wager

        The idea that God “is who he is” and was not created is a mystery.
        So when I ask, ?So who created God, then?? you just say that it?s a mystery and think that your question about the grounding of physics stands but that mine about the grounding of God doesn?t?
        EITHER THE UNIVERSE ALWAYS EXISTED, OR IT WAS CREATED BY GOD WHO ALWAYS EXISTED. BOTH OPTIONS SEEM ALMOST EQUALLY ABSURD, BUT I PREFER GOD, IF IT WERE ONLY BECAUSE THAT IS MORE OPTIMISTIC

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

          Ehcstein

          I CANNOT DEMONSTRATE THE MIRACLE STORIES.

          OK. Believe whatever you want, but don’t imagine that those of us who want evidence will find this compelling.

          HERE HERE WE HAVE MULTIPLE AUTHORS, AND HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL FACT ABOUT THE PERSECUTIONS, THE CONVERSION OF THE ENTIRE ROMAN EMPIRE,

          So if a religion is popular, it must be true? Only the supernatural can explain it?

          TO ME, THE BASE LINE OF ANY DISCUSSION OF CHRISTIANITY IS TO AGREE THAT JESUS EXISTED…

          OK. Doesn’t get us to anything supernatural, though.

          I MUST RELY ON FAITH

          OK. Not much of an apologetic.

          I SIMPLY CANNOT BELIEVE THE AUTHORS OF THIS MESSAGE ARE SUCH BLATANT LIARS.

          Who said they were?? There are reasons besides lying for something false being written on parchment. Novels are false. Instructive parables or fables are false. Legends are false. No one is a liar here.

          THE BEST EVIDENCE FOR GOD IS THE FACT THAT WE ARE DISCUSSING HIS EXISTENCE

          Is that how it works? So if we change to discussing Thor or Quetzalcoatl, that’ll make them exist?

          THE AGE OF THE GOSPELS IS IN ITSELF IRRELEVANT.

          If the goal is to find out if it’s true, whether it was written yesterday in Modern English or 2000 years ago in Greek, it makes a huge difference.

          THERE ARE MUCH OLDER BOOKS WHOSE AUTHENTICITY AND RELIABILITY IS UNQUESTIONED. FOR EXAMPLE, BOOKS WRITTEN BY THE GREEK PHILOSOPHERS.

          Ever wonder why that is? Probably because they don’t make supernatural claims.

          HERE ARE SOME ARGUMENTS I FOUND ON THE WEB AFTER A 30 SECONDS SEARCH:

          I said good arguments. 30 seconds of web surfing isn’t likely to give you something that I haven’t heard of and slapped silly already.

          Spend a few minutes searching on this blog for rebuttals.

          THIS WEB PAGE “THE HISTORICAL RELIABILITY OF THE GOSPELS” DOES A GOOD JOB AT SUMMARIZING THE ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF THE GOSPELS’ AUTHENTICITY.

          So instead of responding to my argument, you just ignore it and offer another that you prefer in its place? Are you afraid that actually engaging with a disbeliever will rock your boat of faith?

          I ASKED “WHERE IS THE INCONSISTENCY”. YOU ARE ANSWERING WITH ANOTHER QUESTION.

          Yes, a question with a trivial answer (that should answer your question). Since this is too difficult, Luke says that Jesus ascended in one day, but Acts says 40 days.

          THEN OUR EXISTENCE IS JUST STUPID LUCK,

          Does this outlook trouble you? You’d be driven to suicide unless you can be assured that your life is part of God’s Fabulous Plan®? You can’t figure out a reason to live; you’ve got to have it pre-digested and handed to you?

          And Pascal’s Wager is ineffective. It applies to the Christian as much as the atheist.

          EITHER THE UNIVERSE ALWAYS EXISTED, OR IT WAS CREATED BY GOD WHO ALWAYS EXISTED. BOTH OPTIONS SEEM ALMOST EQUALLY ABSURD, BUT I PREFER GOD, IF IT WERE ONLY BECAUSE THAT IS MORE OPTIMISTIC

          So you’re a physicist now? Having a Big Brother to look out for us might sound nice, but I’d prefer to follow the evidence instead of whatever religion makes me feel best.

        • Pofarmer

          “HERE HERE WE HAVE MULTIPLE AUTHORS, AND HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL
          FACT ABOUT THE PERSECUTIONS, THE CONVERSION OF THE ENTIRE ROMAN EMPIRE,”

          Before Constantine converted, Christianity in the early Roman Empire was relatively small, suggested at about 5% of those in the empire. Probably about right for 300 odd years. After Constantine converted, Christian conversion was forced, with the tip of a spear, so I don’t think that’s a fair argument.

        • John Carpenter

          Conversion to Christianity was not forced after the Conversion of Constantine. You’re historically wrong.

        • Pofarmer

          Not really. Christian sects were forced to conform to the Roman doctrine. Texts that didn’t agree were destroyed. Certainly, later on, conversions were forced, if not immediately.

  • 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)

    Basically, anyone who thinks the gospels are legends doesn’t know anything about legends.

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

      So your position is, “Lewis said it, I believe it, that settles it”?

      Not convincing. You tell me: what’s wrong with the argument.

      • John Carpenter

        Basically, people who know legends know that the gospels are not legends. You don’t know legends. That’s why you make the ridiculous statements you do.

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

          “Lewis said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

          Yeah. Got it. C’mon back when you want to engage by providing an actual argument.

        • John Carpenter

          Lewis was likely one of the best experts in the 20th century on myths and legends. One doesn’t get to be the chair of the literature department of a Cambridge college for nothing.

          Citing an expert is an argument. It’s you who don’t have an argument.

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

          I write an entire post. Your response is “Lewis disagrees.” Is that it? I was hoping for more.

        • John Carpenter

          You write an entire posts because you’re full of yourself, not because you actually know anything.

          Lewis was the chair of . . . never mind, you don’t care about real information that differs from your fact-free opinions. You’re a bigot.

    • Greg G.

      You keep quoting that. Lewis was talking about the Gospel of John. The last chapter of John tells about Jesus guessing how many fish were in the net of the fishermen. He said 153 and was correct.

      If you’ve studied geometry, you’ve heard of Pythagoras. There was a legend that he saw some fishermen and bet them he could guess the number of fish in the net if they would release them if he was right. It turns out that he was right.

      The Greeks didn’t know about irrational numbers. They represented fractions as the ratio of two integers. The closest of all their rational numbers to irrational numbers was for the square root of 3, which the Pythagorean cult revered -265 over 153. The symbol of the fish came from two circles that passed through the other’s center. The overlap plus a little extra for the tail made the fish that Christians stick on their cars to this day. The ratio of the length of the line between the circles’ intersections to the radius of the circles, a line that forms a cross in the fish, is the square root of 3. For them, it was 265 divided by 153.

      How could Lewis not see the legend in John 21? He must have been carefully avoiding poems, romances, vision literature, legends and myths that were too close for comfort.

      • John Carpenter

        I believe Lewis was speaking about the gospels generally.

        You really should read John 21 before commenting on what it says. Jesus doesn’t guess on how many fish were caught. The text simply reports that they caught 153 fish. So your entire case, based on not really reading John 21, is simply more evidence of your ignorance of the NT and your pattern of reading Greek mythology into it.

        The account reports that there were 153 fish because that is the kind of details one finds in history but not in legends.

        Perhaps Lewis didn’t see what you see in John 21 because he actually read it!

        • Greg G.

          I’ll take your word that Jesus didn’t guess. I haven’t read that chapter in a year or more but the rest clearly comes from the Pythagorean stories.

          I did research the quote and found that Lewis was referring to Bultmann who questioned the Book of John being a true account.

          Do you know that the “cast the first stone” story is not in the oldest versions of John? It was added a few centuries later.

        • John Carpenter

          Get a Bible or simply google it. Don’t take my word for it. That Jesus didn’t guess it, nor is it even said by Him, means that everything else you based on that is nonsense.

          Show with real citations. Just repeating that it comes from Pythagoras, doesn’t prove anything The “Zeitgeist” film proved that people like you make stuff up out of thin air or believe others who do so.

          Yes, the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1ff) is a later addition and in my opinion should not be considered canonical. Whether it’s historical or not, is debatable.

      • John Carpenter

        By the way, besides getting John 21 totally wrong, do you have any real evidence that the Pythagoreans revered the number 153? I don’t think it’s relevant to the story but it maybe relevant to the misinformation people like you constantly spread. I just googled it and couldn’t find a real source that said it. The only source was from another of those mythologizing propaganda sites. The one thing the “Zeitgest” movie proves is that people like you will make up “facts” out of thin air — or mindlessly repeat what others make up.

        So, cite a real source.

        • Greg G.

          I wouldn’t say I had John 21 totally wrong. I forgot one detail.

          Here is a pdf of Life of Pythagoras. See page 17, the beginning of Chapter VIII for the fish story. The intersecting circles explanation can be found here.

          Your Google-fu needs work.

        • John Carpenter

          Ok, you are even more wrong than I thought. You claim that there was a connection with 153. There is no number of fish mentioned there. The only similarity in the two stories is that fish are caught. In John 21, they catch the fish at Jesus’ direction; He doesn’t guess or mention the number (that’s the author’s comment) and there is no mention of returning the fish to the water. In what you’ve linked, the fish are not caught at the protagonists direction, there is no number 153 and the fish are returned to the sea.

          You got nothing. Aren’t you starting to get embarrassed by now?

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

        153 = 1^3 + 5^3 + 3^3. Pretty noteworthy to people interested in numbers.

        • John Carpenter

          Doesn’t appear in Pythagoras like your ignorant friend Greg G claimed.

          And what’s noteworthy about that? It’s how many fish they caught. It’s the kind of detail one finds in history, not in legends, just as Lewis described. Lewis was an expert on legends. You’re an ignoramus.

  • John Carpenter

    C. S. Lewis was an expert in myths and legends. He was an instructor first at Oxford University and then the chair of the Medieval literature department of Magdalene College of Cambridge University.

    “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)

    So the reason Lewis didn’t list “legend” as an option was because he knew the gospels were not legends.

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

      And I’m unconvinced. Give me an argument besides “Because Lewis said so.”

      • John Carpenter

        C. S. Lewis was an expert in myths and legends. He was an instructor first at Oxford University and then the chair of the Medieval literature department of Magdalene College of Cambridge University.

        Educated people have respect for true scholars. That you don’t suggests that you are not an educated person; that your an ideological bigot.

  • John Carpenter

    “I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this. Of this text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage – though it may no doubt contain errors – pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. 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. The reader who doesn’t see this has simply not learned to read. I would recommend him to read Auerbach. . . . These men [who believe the gospels are myth] ask me to believe they can read between the lines of the old texts; the evidence is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the lines themselves. They claim to see fern-seed and can’t see an elephant ten yards way in broad daylight. ” (C. S. Lewis, “Fern Seeds and Elephants”

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