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Women at the Tomb Are Weak Evidence for the Resurrection

Let’s consider an incident from that first supposed Easter. All four gospels say that women were the first to discover the empty tomb. (Of course, who was actually at the tomb varies by the gospels, as do many other important details about the resurrection, which makes the gospels unreliable as history. But let’s ignore that for now.)

Many apologists point to the women as an important fact arguing that the gospels are reliable. Greg Koukl says:

Women, disrespected in the ancient world, are the first to witness the risen Christ. Why include these unflattering details if the Gospels are works of fiction?

I don’t know who argues that the gospels are fiction. I don’t think they’re history, but I certainly don’t think that they were deliberately invented. But let’s set that aside as well.

William Lane Craig says:

The discovery of the tomb by women is highly probable. Given the low status of women in Jewish society and their lack of qualification to serve as legal witnesses, the most plausible explanation … why women and not the male disciples were made discoverers of the empty tomb is that the women were in fact the ones who made this discovery.

That is, having women make this momentous discovery is embarrassing.

This is an application of the Criterion of Embarrassment, which argues that you’re likelier to delete something embarrassing than add it to your story. And if a story element is embarrassing, that points to its being historical fact.

But what’s embarrassing? Things that look embarrassing to us may not have been so to the author. For example, all four gospels show Peter denying Jesus three times. That’s pretty embarrassing … or is it?

Paul’s relaxed approach in converting Gentiles conflicted with the more traditional approach of Peter and James (the conflict is shown in Galatians 2:11–21, where Peter is called “Cephas”). Maybe supporters of Paul strengthened their case by circulating a story in which Peter looks foolish, and this story became part of the canon.

So our question becomes: is it embarrassing to have women discover the empty tomb? These apologists certainly think so, and historical records agree on women’s unreliability. Josephus, a first-century historian, stated, “Let not the testimony of women be admitted because of the levity and boldness of their sex,” and the Mishnah (a Jewish legal text written in 220 CE) concurs.

However, this flimsy argument is much more popular than it deserves to be.

Give the original authors credit for being good storytellers. As plot twists go, having women make the discovery instead of men isn’t particularly shocking. I find it hard to imagine an early Christian witnessing to an unbeliever and having the unbeliever say, “Whoa—hold on. You say women found the body? That’s a whole new ball game! I wasn’t on board before, but your story is sounding a lot more compelling now.”

But if you find it a powerful argument for the truth of the story, then you can imagine why that element might have become attached to the story.

The gospel story wasn’t made up. The point that women were unreliable witnesses is relevant only in rebutting the charge that the story was deliberately invented, a claim I don’t make. I’ve never heard this hypothesis except by apologists. Instead, what best fits the facts for me is that the story documented in the gospels (in incompatible versions, but that’s another story) is the result of forty or more years of oral history. Each gospel is a snapshot of the tradition of a different church community in widely different places (perhaps Alexandria, Damascus, or Rome?) and over decades of time.

Believers might demand, “Well, how do you explain the empty tomb?” But of course, that assumes the accuracy of the gospel story to that point. It’s like saying, “How do you explain Jack’s cutting down the beanstalk any other way than that there really was a giant climbing down after him?”

Who cares about women’s “unreliability”? Women discover the empty tomb, they tell men, the men verify the story, and then the men spread the word. If you don’t like women as witnesses, you’ve got the men.

That women were less reliable as witnesses in court doesn’t matter because there is no court in the story! The women were trustworthy where it mattered—in conveying the story to people who knew and trusted them.

Tending to the dead was women’s work in this culture. Instead of women discovering that Jesus had risen, imagine this incident:

On the first day of the week, at early dawn, Simon Peter and James entered the kitchen to prepare bread for the community. In the darkness of the kitchen, a voice called out to them saying, “Why do you tend to minor matters when there is the LORD’s work to be done?” And they took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.

What’s wrong with this story? It’s that preparing bread is women’s work in this culture. It makes no sense to have men come across Jesus in the kitchen. And the same is true for men dealing with the dead. According to the Women in the Bible web site:

It was the women’s task to prepare a dead body for burial. … Tombs were visited and watched for three days by family members. On the third day after death, the body was examined. … On these occasions, the body would be treated by the women of the family with oils and perfumes. The women’s visit to the tombs of Jesus and Lazarus are connected with this ritual.

The Bible also gives clues to women’s role in mourning in Jer. 9:17–20 and 2 Sam. 14:2.

Mark focuses on reversals, and the other gospels followed Mark’s lead. Richard Carrier gives a detailed discussion of this topic and argues that a philosophy of “the last shall be first” led Mark to add this touch.

Given Mark’s narrative agenda, regardless of the actual facts, the tomb has to be empty, in order to confound the expectations of the reader, just as a foreign Simon must carry the cross instead of Peter, a Gentile must acknowledge Christ’s divinity instead of the Jews, a Sanhedrist must bury the body, and women must be the first to hear the Good News.

Seeing the gospel story as no more supernatural than any other myth from the past best explains the facts.

Religion—it’s like Wikipedia.
Anyone can write something in.
— Bill Maher

(This is a modified version of a post originally published 4/8/12.)

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About Bob Seidensticker
  • http://www.Yeshua21.com/ Wayne

    It’s also interesting that some adherents of the “it is embarrasing therefore true” argument seem also to think that Paul purposely left the story of the woman out of his recapitulation of the historical witnesses of the resurrected Christ for that very reason (see I Corinthian 15:3-8). I have this is second hand, but my impression is that N.T. Wright may be arguing something like this… If so, I can only say that this seems very unlikely to me–very out of character for a man who seems to go out of his way to mention the women who played important roles in his ministry and in the various churches that he ministered to.

    http://jeshua21.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/a-myth-is-a-story/

    • SparklingMoon

      All four gospels say that women were the first to discover the empty tomb. (Of course, who was actually at the tomb varies by the gospels, as do many other important details about the resurrection, which makes the gospels unreliable as history. But let’s ignore that for now.)
      ———————————————————————————————
      It is not the descriptions of Gospels that had made them unreliable but the wrong explanations of its simple words that had been made by other people,had come in later centuries. They had turned the meanings of their simple words according to their wishes ,Their new meaning were never described by any prophet nor existed in their religious books. Is there any description about Trinity or sin of Adam in that meanings that are invented by the followers of Trinity? Is there any description in Old Testament that people of Israel should wait for a God in the form of human to give sacrifice for their sins ? If Jesus was a new person and had not come according to the prophecies of Old Testament then where is that human Messiah had been promised by God to be sent at that time.
      In gospels ,Jesus simply claims:”I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He had brought nothing new but had reformed Mosiac law and presented it in its original form before the people of Israel . His three years in Jerosulm were devoted for these people with a struggle to maintain them again to Mosaic Law. As it is said by Jesus in Matthew 5:17-20: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one title shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

      No doubt, he had said in gospels that he would be given a new life but there is no description that this life would be a spiritual one or he would be in hell for three days for the sin of people or he is going to cross for the sake of inherited sin of Adam. In gospels he had prayed to God almighty whole night to be saved from the pain of cross.
      It is the other people who had made such stories intentionally or unintentionally later to cover his person as people had many questions about his Birth and death. A birth without father? If was a true Messiah appointed by God then why had been brought to cross like cursed people?If had been really died then where is his physical body? If had been seen by his followers then where had gone after his meeting ?

      • SparklingMoon

        Matthew (chapter 12, verse 40) says that just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, so the Son of Man shall be three days and three nights in the bowels of the earth.
        38)Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”
        39)But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, but no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet.40)For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.(Matthew 38-40)

        Now it is clear that Jonah did not die in the belly of the fish; the utmost that happened was that he was in a swoon or a fit of fainting. The holy books of God bear witness that Jonah, by the grace of God, remained alive in the belly of the fish, and came out alive; and his people ultimately accepted him. If then Jesus (on whom be peace) had died in the belly of the ‘fish’, what resemblance could there be between a dead man and the one who was alive, and how could a living one be compared with one dead? The truth rather is, that as Jesus was a true prophet and as he knew that God, whose beloved he was, would save him from an accursed death, he made a prophecy in the form of a parable, revealed to him by God, in which he hinted that he would not die on the Cross, nor would he give up the ghost on the accursed wood; on the contrary, like the prophet Jonah, he would only pass through a state of swoon.
        A prophet cannot lie. Jesus compared his three days’ stay in the tomb to the three days of Jonah in the belly of the whale. This only shows that just as Jonah remained alive for three days in the belly of the whale, so did Jesus remain alive for three days in the tomb. The Jewish tombs of those days were not like the tombs of to-day; they were roomy and had an opening on one side, which was covered with a big stone.

        As in the parable he had also hinted that he would come out of the bowels of the earth and would then join the people and, like Jonah, would be honoured by them. So this prophecy too was fulfilled; for Jesus, coming out of the bowels of the earth, went to his tribes who lived in the eastern countries, Kashmir and Tibet, etc. viz. the ten tribes of the Israelites who 721 years before Jesus, had been taken prisoner from Samaria by Shalmaneser, King of Assur, and had been taken away by him. Ultimately, these tribes came to India and settled in various parts of that country. Jesus at all events must have made this journey; for the divine object underlying his advent was that he should meet the lost Jews who had settled in different parts of India; the reason being that these in fact were the lost sheep of Israel who had given up even their ancestral faith in these countries, and most of whom had adopted Buddhism, relapsing, gradually into idolatry.
        Dr.Francois Bernier, on the authority of a number of learned people, states in his book”Travels in the Moghul Empire’ Page 930-932 that the Kashmiris in reality are Jews who in the time of the dispersal in the days of the King of Assur had migrated to this country. (Jesus in India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmed)

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Moon:

          just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, so the Son of Man shall be three days and three nights in the bowels of the earth.

          Didn’t happen, did it? Jesus wasn’t gone 3 days and 3 nights.

          I guess the Bible is wrong.

          A prophet cannot lie.

          I remember the story of a guy who was impressed by his girlfriend because she was a virgin. How did he know? Because she told him. But what if she’s lying? He had an answer for that, too: virgins don’t lie.

          I think your error is of the same form.

        • SparklingMoon

          Didn’t happen, did it? Jesus wasn’t gone 3 days and 3 nights. I guess the Bible is wrong.
          ————————————————————————————-
          It is right that all words of Gospels or old testament or New Testament are not revealed one as their words were written by human beings later. We can not take each and every word of Gospels as a matter of faith but those sayings of Jesus that are described in Gospels and later had been fulfilled, with the passage of time, must be considered the words of God because a Prophet always makes a prophecy after having information by God.

          This prophecy of Jesus (Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth) had proved its truth by its fulfilment. The important message in the prophecy was that Jesus would not die on cross. This message was given by God to him and he had belief in its truth.

          John Prophet remained in the condition of swoon, after coming out of the mouth of fish
          and when Jesus was removed from Tomb it can not be expected that he had also recovered from his swoon condition. He was removed Saturday and Sunday night, as all Gospels had described that first day of the weak (Sunday)he was not found there at morning time. A person can not recover in one day after loosing so much blood on cross for three four hours .

          ”There is the statement of Jesus: ‘But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee’ (Matthew: chapter 26, verse 32). This verse clearly shows that Jesus, after he had come out of the tomb, went to Galilee and not to heaven. Jesus’ words ‘After I am risen’ do not mean his rising up alive after he was dead; rather, as in the eyes of the Jews and the common people he had died on the Cross, he used words beforehand consistent with what they were to think of him in the future, and indeed, the man who was placed on the Cross, in whose hands and feet nails had been driven till he had fainted from pain, had become as good as dead; if such a man was saved from such a calamity and if he recovered his senses it would not be an exaggeration on his part to say that he had come to life again. There is no doubt that after so much suffering, Jesus’ escape from death was a miracle; it was no ordinary event. But to think that he had died is wrong. It is true that in the books of the New Testament words of this kind occur, but this is a mistake of the writers of those books, just as they had committed mistakes in recording several other historical events. Commentators who have made researches into these books admit that the books of the New Testament have two parts: (1) the spiritual instruction received by the disciples from Jesus (peace be on him) which is the essence of the teachings of the Gospel; (2) historical events — like the genealogy of Jesus; his arrest and his being beaten; the existence in his time of a miraculous pond, etc. These, the writers recorded by themselves; they were not revealed; rather, they were set down in accordance with the writer’s own ideas.(Jesus in India by Mirza Ghulam Ahmed)

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Moon:

          We can not take each and every word of Gospels as a matter of faith

          So how do you tell what’s right and what’s wrong? Just pick and choose based on your desires or presuppositions?

        • SparklingMoon

          So how do you tell what’s right and what’s wrong? Just pick and choose based on your desires or presuppositions?
          ———————————————————————————–
          Human reason is a great blessing of God that is bestowed by God to use it and reach to Truth. Second,personal desires or presupposition have no place and value in exploration of Truth.

          As it is considered and described in Trinity that Jesus had moved towards God in the sky with his same physical body that he had on cross . This conception is against the laws of nature that a physical body can leave this earth and enter into space without arranging a particular atmosphere that is on earth for survival . Second very important to note that God is not a physical being sitting somewhere above in the sky on left or right side He exists inside of this physical world as a Spiritual Being. There exist a very ethereal and spiritual world inside of this physical world where exists His Heaven. His Heaven is not a physical place but the name of the highest height of His spirituality. A person can not enter in that realm with his physical body as is considered by the followers of Trinity.

          Laws of nature and true revelation can not be contradicted as universe is a practical manifestation of God’s Laws and revelation is a theory of His Laws. The condition of a Prophet in the hand of God is also like his law who work according to His Will and speaks what is told to him by God.

          A prophet is always a human being because his person is an example for his people to follow him. He motivates people towards God by practising high morals. If Jesus was a God then how his example and teachings could be practicable for his followers. Second,from the time of Adam to this time there are always human Reformers who are sent by God Almighty for human beings .

          It may be considered a worth if Jesus himself had described in Gospels, this theory of Trinity in open words that he was a part of God and had come in this world to take the sin of people and according to the plan of God he must had to take cross and he walked himself towards cross to take it. But there is nothing told or acted by Jesus . This invented Trinity has deprived people of their real God almighty and worship,for Whom Jesus had come to call.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I don’t know who argues that the gospels are fiction.

    Present! Fiction = not true. So I, and you, are both arguing that the story of the resurrection is fiction.Do we have photographic evidence that the women were at the tomb? Do we have a ticket for loitering that they were issued for being there? No! We just have a plot point in a story told by true believers a full generation later.
    Perhaps you were thinking of literature rather than fiction.

    Given the low status of women in Jewish society…

    But what if the people you are trying to recruit are also low status? And after all, aren’t you more likely to be successful in recruiting to a new system people who are not doing well under the current system, than in recruiting those who are successful under that system? Identity politics.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Reginald:

      Fiction = not true.

      Fiction = the genre that novels are written in; that is, deliberately and knowingly not true. Like a lie (though novels have no intent to deceive).

      So I, and you, are both arguing that the story of the resurrection is fiction.

      I’m arguing that it’s not true.

      But what if the people you are trying to recruit are also low status?

      There is evidence that early Christianity appealed to women more than some of the competing religions (that’s the case in the US today).

  • MNb

    “It was the women’s task to prepare a dead body for burial.”
    This simply means the principle of embarrassment, which indeed is quite powerful, does not apply. On the contrary, it would have been embarrassing if men had done so.

    Btw the same applies to Jesus’ last words at the cross. The simple explanation is that he was reciting all the psalms to help him endure the pain. What the witnesses heard was a part of Psalm 22.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      MNb:

      What the witnesses heard was a part of Psalm 22.

      And a simpler explanation might be that the pairing of Jesus and these words was done by the gospel writer.

  • smrnda

    I actually think having women see the empty tomb might have been a smart move by the writer, in terms of making the story harder to discredit.

    If women were not considered credible witnesses, and women saw the empty tomb, then you’ve got a reason why the authorities disbelieved the report other than that it wasn’t true; they wouldn’t listen to the eyewitnesses because of some bias on their part. You’ve got a reason why there was no Official Tomb Inspection by any ruling body to determine whether or not it was empty – the authorities didn’t care what women said, so that’s the end of their investigation. It’s a way to say ‘hey, we’ve got some eyewitnesses, but just nobody would give them a chance in a court of law!’

  • Greg G

    I think Mark wrote a midrash to explain the destruction of Jerusalem. He drew from Greek fiction for elements in his story which he made obvious to his Greek readers so he knew he was writing fiction.

    He wrote about the cursing of the fig tree, then the Temple tantrum, and then the withering of the tree. Late first century readers couldn’t help but fill in the syllogism. The Parable of the Evil Tenants in the next chapter adds to the theme.

    Mark ends with the women being afraid to tell, which is what would have been expected of them. Thus, the Disciples didn’t go to Galilee but stayed in Jerusalem until the end. Matthew and Luke added to that ending because they didn’t like the theology.

    I think Mark was familiar with Galatians and based much of the story on it. There’s the “Abba, Father” and “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Mark puts Paul’s argument from Galatians 2 into Jesus’ mouth in Mark 7. The three main sidekicks in Mark are Peter, James, and John, the three mentioned in Galatians. Peter eats with Gentiles but stops when James’ agents arrive and he is wishy-washy in Mark. James and John are “reputed to be pillars” in Galatians and asked to sit at Jesus’ side in Mark.

    Matthew and Luke had no actual history besides Mark and Q so they had to base their stories on it, supplemented with Old Testament verses that Jesus would have done had he existed.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Greg:

      How does the fig tree and temple cleansing fit in to the destruction of the temple? Your thinking is intriguing, but I’m not following.

  • C.J. O’Brien

    Look, the story originates in Mark, and the last line is “And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” (Mark 16:8 ESV)
    “They said nothing to anyone“: I can’t think of a clearer indication that here we inhabit a literary, yes, fictional world. It’s a quite deliberate undermining of the very notion that factual reporting is of any interest to the author. Mark’s ending calls for reader-response: Will you be afraid? Will you turn away trembling, or will you set out on “the way” and meet Jesus in Galilee? (Which means nothing more than to return to the beginning and understand the story in its entirety now that the ending is revealed.)
    By way of support for this, I would also point out that, in Mark, the opposite of faith is not doubt or unbelief, it is fear. The whole pericope is supposed to galvanize faith, to inspire the reader (used here as shorhand for “hearer”) to cast aside the fear that would have been the standard response in antiquity to the notion of abandoning traditional ways for a counter-cultural lifestyle.

    • SparklingMoon

      Gospel Mark:
      He said to them, “Don’t be amazed. You seek Jesus, the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen. He is not here. Behold, the place where they laid him! 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He goes before you into Galilee. There you will see him, as he said to you.’” 8 They went out,* and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had come on them. They said nothing to anyone; for they were afraid. 

      Gospel Mathew:
      7 Go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead, and behold, he goes before you into Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.”8 They departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring his disciples word. 9 As they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them,
      saying,  “Rejoice!”They came and took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Go tell my brothers * that they should go into Galilee, and there they will see me.”

      These verses clearly say that the women who were told by someone that Jesus was alive and was going to Galilee, and who were also told quietly that they should inform the disciples, were no doubt pleased to hear this, but they went with a terrified heart, — they were still afraid lest Jesus might still be caught by some Jew.

  • Greg G

    Bob,

    Even today, the mention of “9/11″ or “the Towers” makes us think of what happened nearly a dozen years ago. So it would have been with the destruction of Jerusalem across the Roman Empire. The Roman propaganda would make sure of that to squelch any other rebellions.

    In Mark, on the way to the Temple, Jesus curses the fig tree. He next goes to the Temple and drives people out and turns over tables.

    The next day, they notice the withered tree. Mark is suggesting that causing the ruckus was equivalent to cursing the tree so the destruction is equivalent to the withering. The sentiment of the story seems to come from Isaiah 5 where the master wants to rip out the vineyard because he didn’t like its grapes.

    Mark 12 starts with the Parable of the Tenants. The vineyard is the one from Isaiah 5 while the tenants are the suitors from the Odyssey. The moral is that what was supposed to be for Jews would be given to others.

    It seems to me those passages are Mark’s whole theme with the book ending with the women not telling.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Greg:

      The fig tree story never made much sense. This helps, thanks.

      • Greg G

        Here’s an interview of Richard Carrier on TheThinkingAtheist that was posted today. He mentions a few of the points I made.

        This is where I was first introduced to Mark’s use of Homer – Review of The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark (by Dennis R. MacDonald; Yale University, 2000) by Richard Carrier. I ordered the book this morning. The last time I priced it, it was about $54 but today there was a paperback for $29.

        I think I have posted this link before. Robert M. Price discusses Mark’s sources in New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash.

        Price mentions that Mark 7 is similar to Paul’s argument in Galatians but doesn’t cite Galatians as a source for Mark. I came up with that idea on my own but I would be surprised if someone hasn’t already discussed it. So you can’t use me in an argument from authority.

        • http://www.Yeshua21.com/ Wayne

          In the Carrier piece, note that he says:

          “My own hypothesis is that Mark ended the Gospel thus in order to set up a pretext for why little of his particular story had been heard in the Christian community until he wrote it down. If we suppose that the resurrection as preached by Paul was of a spiritual nature, and therefore had nothing to do with empty tombs, then to suddenly disseminate such a story would raise eyebrows unless the author were ready with an explanation. And by building an explanation into his story he essentially covers himself.”

          I don’t think it was necessarily a “pretext” or a “cover”–perhaps just a plausible way of reconciling the emerging tradition of the women at the tomb with older traditions that did not include them. In any case, I don’t believe Paul would leave the story out purposely.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Bob Price argues that the women-at-the-tomb story parallels that in several other earlier traditions where the women anointed the dead body to raise it from the dead. Mark, in this view, gives a familiar story with a twist.

        • C.J. O’Brien

          Bob Price argues that the women-at-the-tomb story parallels that in several other earlier traditions where the women anointed the dead body to raise it from the dead. Mark, in this view, gives a familiar story with a twist.

          I’m surprised that Price espouses this view, because it seems untenable to me in light of the fact that in Mark Jesus has already been annointed for burial, albeit while he was still alive, by the woman at Bethany. Of which act Jesus says explicitly : “She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.” (Mark 14:8 ESV) Of course such traditions as you allude to could lie behind that story.
          The women at the tomb are not sympathetic figures in Mark. Not only do they display the most faithless, spirit-denying emotion there is, “fear, great amazement” but they set out early on the first day of the week apprehensive about doing a traditional duty that is unnecessary and redundant. In this way they are like a number of other ironic figures in the gospel who cling to traditions and familiar ways, not seeming to realize that membership in the Kingdom entails a rejection of all such in favor of discipleship and servanthood “on the way”. As I said before, they act only as foils for the correct response to the good news.

        • Greg G.

          As Robert M. Price points out in The Christ-Myth Theory and Its Problems, various scholars have traced the roots of nearly every passage in Mark to the literature of the day. Much comes from the Old Testament and Homer. There isn’t much left to attribute to emerging traditions.

          From New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash which is like an outline of the book:

          Crossan (p. 274) and Miller and Miller (pp. 219, 377) note that the empty tomb narrative requires no source beyond Joshua (=Jesus, remember!) chapter 10. The five kings have fled from Joshua, taking refuge in the cave at Makkedah. When they are discovered, Joshua orders his men to “Roll great stones against the mouth of the cave and set men by it to guard them” (10:18). Once the mopping-up operation of the kings’ troops is finished, Joshua directs: “Open the mouth of the cave, and bring those five kings out to me from the cave” (10:22). “And afterward Joshua smote them and put them to death, and he hung them on five trees. And they hung upon the trees until evening; but at the time of the going down of the sun, Joshua commanded, and they took them down from the trees, and threw them into the cave where they had hidden themselves, and they set great stones against the mouth of the cave, which remain to this very day” (10:26-27). Observe that here it is “Jesus” who plays the role of Pilate, and that Mark needed only to reverse the order of the main narrative moments of this story. Joshua 10: first, stone rolled away and kings emerge alive; second, kings die; third, kings are crucified until sundown. Mark: Jesus as King of the Jews is crucified, where his body will hang till sundown; second, he dies; third, he emerges alive (Mark implies) from the tomb once the stone is rolled away.

          The vigil of the mourning women likely reflects the women’s mourning cult of the dying and rising god, long familiar in Israel (Ezekiel 8:14, “Behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz;” Zechariah 12:11, “On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo;” Canticles 3:1-4, “I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him but found him not; I called him but he gave no answer,” etc.).

  • Vorjack

    Another point: women were far more likely than men to receive visions in the ancient world. There’s a reason that the great oracles, like the Oracle at Delphi, were women. If we’re to assume that the experience at the tomb was a religious vision then it would make sense that female characters were the ones to experience it.

    Or to go in another direction, if we accept the theory that Christianity began with an intense religious experience following the death of a failed apocalyptic prophet, then it would most likely be women who were at the center of the story.

    • http://www.shouldchristiansprosper.com James H. Hooks

      You’ve made two interesting points in this string of excellent arguments. As a man of God myself I am opting to not participate in this discussion, but I wanted to tell everyone that I have enjoyed your comments and researched answers just as much as I enjoyed the original post.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        :)

        Welcome, James. Going forward, feel free to point out issues or facts that any of us might’ve missed or errors in any post.

    • Greg G.

      Or to go in another direction, if we accept the theory that Christianity began with an intense religious experience following the death of a failed apocalyptic prophet, then it would most likely be women who were at the center of the story.

      I used to hold that idea because so many scholars seem to hold it but I don’t think it makes sense. They came up with the Messiah prophecy by reading out-of-context Old Testament verses a few hundred years before the Christian era. If Christianity began with an apocalyptic prophet, we should see something about him in the earliest Epistles. None of them mention a ministry, teachings or anecdotes. When they make arguments, they cite Old Testament verses and their own reasoning when it would have been stronger to just say “Jesus said it”, if they had known there had been a prophet. They still expect the Messiah to come. They talk about the crucifixion and resurrection a lot but give no details except what they seem to have derived from out-of-context Old Testament verses on suffering. They don’t talk about it as being a recent event.

      • MNb

        “They came up with the Messiah prophecy”
        That’s quite one sided. Due to the Roman conquest of the Hebrew nation many believers were quite desperate and wondered what went wrong and what would happen next. As a result the area was ridden with Messiah claimants in the first half of the First Century. A historical Jesus claiming to be one makes perfect sense. What his followers made of his teachings after he died and did not return is another matter. There is a nice 21st Century equivalent: Pastafarianism. That has become much more than Bobby Henderson ever intended when he wrote his letter.
        In this context Vorjack’s hypothesis makes a lot of sense as well.

        • Greg G.

          Due to the Roman conquest of the Hebrew nation many believers were quite desperate and wondered what went wrong and what would happen next.

          But the idea that the Messiah idea came from trying to make sense of a failed preacher is all backwards. The Messiah prohecies were big even before the Book of Daniel was written 160 years before the Roman occupation. The Jewish religion is still waiting for this Messiah today. They didn’t get that from first century Christians.

          When the Romans came to town, the resulting angst that you mention apparently prompted some early first century Jews to revisit the scriptures for more clarification. They began to notice all the verses about suffering and came up with the idea that the Lord had been sacrificed at some time before the Old Testament was written.

          If Christianity was based on an actual person, we should be able to see something about this person in the earliest Christian writings but we see no mention of a preacher or teacher in the Epistles. All we see there is a crucifixion and a resurrection with no details, except what they may have inferred from Old Testament writings.

          The story of an actual person comes after the destruction of Jerusalem when there would have been nobody to dispute the stories except, perhaps, some tired, old men who had lost everything, which would have destroyed their credibility.

          So, what I see in that theory is a major religious movement that was hundreds of years old being reduced to a failed prophet which is bass-ackwards of a failed prophet giving rise to a major religious movement.

  • Rick

    Bob,

    Your post is interesting, but basically simply your opinion piece that your version seems more reasonable than the possibility that the Gospels are narrative history. I know you have written on various aspects before and are trying to build on that body of work. But this piece, as a stand alone itself, contains no evidence to support your contention. It is simply atheist philosophy without any evidence to suggest your version is better than simply accepting the historicity of the accounts themselves.

    It’s one thing to say, “I think my version is more cohesive.” It’s completely different to conclude that we should ignore texts that have been validated to have originated nearly two thousands years closer to the incidents themselves, very likely within the lifespan of the eyewitnesses*, simply on the basis of your philosophical analysis and personal preference.

    Rick

    *Even Wikipedia gives likely dates well before 100AD for the writing of all four gospel narratives.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Rick:

      contains no evidence to support your contention

      The contention that tending to the dead was women’s work? You need to reread the post.

      It is simply atheist philosophy without any evidence to suggest your version is better than simply accepting the historicity of the accounts themselves.

      “Accepting the historicity of the accounts”? Just like that? The resurrection account, that the Creator of the universe came to earth and was resurrected by himself is just about the most ridiculous claim imaginable. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. But it means that a mountain of evidence is required to overcome the inertia of the Principle of Analogy.

      we should ignore texts that have been validated to have originated nearly two thousands years closer to the incidents themselves

      Who’s doing that? Is it you? ‘Cause it sure ain’t me.

      Even Wikipedia gives likely dates well before 100AD for the writing of all four gospel narratives.

      No disagreement.

      • Rick

        “contains no evidence to support your contention” … The contention that tending to the dead was women’s work? You need to reread the post.

        I commented on what I saw. Philosophical argumentation, not evidence.

        “Accepting the historicity of the accounts”? Just like that?

        No, as I wrote to another poster in this thread, understanding the character of the Biblical narratives as historic based on how they have been predominantly understood through history. After a time span of nearly 2,000 years, you and other outspoken atheist philosophers are trying to overturn that. You are the one who needs to come up with documentary evidence that contemporary witnesses disagreed with the narrative histories being written to document the events as the Bible and other historic texts record them. Simply saying it doesn’t sound reasonable isn’t enough.

        Lots of things you believe don’t sound reasonable to most folks.
        Quantum mechanics—not reasonable but true.
        Light having an absolute speed limit—not reasonable but true.
        Matter from nothing at some point—not reasonable.
        Order from disorder in the genome—not reasonable.

        But we can’t take everything that seems to be unreasonable and assume its false. Some unreasonable things are true, after all. God interjecting himself into humanity and providing a savior—not reasonable, but lots of evidence says something very unique happened. We all have to decide what we choose to trust in regarding those events.

        “we should ignore texts that have been validated to have originated nearly two thousands years closer to the incidents themselves” … Who’s doing that? Is it you? ‘Cause it sure ain’t me.

        I guess by ignoring I meant you were trying to deny their truth content. Thanks for pointing out that I hadn’t said that quite precisely enough. You aren’t ignoring them—you are addressing them but trying to suggest that their content is false. Sorry for the confusion.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          I commented on what I saw. Philosophical argumentation, not evidence.

          (1) Just out of curiosity (doubting that I can meet your tough standards), what would count?

          (2) Since I’ve provided evidence, though subpar in your mind, and you’ve provided none, can we conclude that tending to the dead was indeed women’s work?

          understanding the character of the Biblical narratives as historic based on how they have been predominantly understood through history.

          Most people throughout history see the Bible as fairy tales (just like how you see Hindu stories). I don’t think you want to go there.

          After a time span of nearly 2,000 years, you and other outspoken atheist philosophers are trying to overturn that.

          Let’s focus on just what I said: tending to the dead was women’s work. That’s step 1. (Dismissing the crumbling edifice that is Christianity is step 2. First things first.)

          You are the one who needs to come up with documentary evidence that contemporary witnesses disagreed with the narrative histories

          I’m sure that I will never have contemporary evidence that rejects the gospel story. What do we conclude from this?

          Lots of things you believe don’t sound reasonable to most folks.

          Good examples. That is some crazy stuff that would be dismissed as lunacy except that those claims have become the scientific consensus.

          But we can’t take everything that seems to be unreasonable and assume its false.

          Yes.

          God interjecting himself into humanity and providing a savior—not reasonable, but lots of evidence says something very unique happened.

          It amounts to a very unconvincing pile, I’m afraid. It’s no more convincing than most other religions’ story.

          by ignoring I meant you were trying to deny their truth content.

          Yes, that sounds better. Thanks for the clarification.

        • Rick

          Bob,

          Let’s focus on just what I said: tending to the dead was women’s work. That’s step 1. (Dismissing the crumbling edifice that is Christianity is step 2. First things first.)

          OK, I will grant you number 1. Step 2 doesn’t follow from that. You are saying tending bodies was women’s work, and that is what is recorded is (ready for this?) that is the event that was occurring when they discovered an empty tomb. So confirming the likelihood of an event leads us to crumbling the edifice of Christianity? I am clearly not smart enough to connect those dots.

          It amounts to a very unconvincing pile, I’m afraid.

          A stellar example of undercutting my logic with evidence. I think. You don’t buy it so it is an unconvincing pile. Hmmm.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          Step 2 doesn’t follow from that.

          Obviously!

          A stellar example of undercutting my logic with evidence. I think.

          Gee, thanks. I didn’t actually imagine that I’d provided any evidence, but perhaps my very words are more compelling than I thought. Perhaps they’re divinely inspired.

          If you do want evidence, though, you could read the other posts on the blog. You already knew that, so I didn’t bother repeating it.

        • SparklingMoon

          Lots of things you believe don’t sound reasonable to most folks.
          ———————————————————————————–
          A wise person should adopt a religion whose teachings on the principles of comprehension of the Divine should be acceptable to all, and which should be supported by reason. This faith of Trinity is rejected by human reason and also there is not available any documentary proof from the continuous teachings of the previous Prophets. Neither the scriptures of Old Testament nor any other heavenly book has taught it.The Jews who have borne witness for more than three thousand five hundred years that they were never instructed in the doctrine of Trinity, nor had any of their Prophets predicted that God or a son of God in the true sense would appear on earth.

        • SparklingMoon

           God interjecting himself into humanity and providing a savior—not reasonable, but lots of evidence says something very unique happened.
          ————————————————————————————
          Jesus has never claimed himself as a God interjecting into humanity that is described in Trinity.
          In John, chapter 10 verses 30-37, Jesus is reported to have said that he was no different from other righteous ones who had been called gods or sons of God in the scriptures. The Jews having heard that Jesus called himself the son of God, charged him with blasphemy, started throwing stones at him, and were much infuriated. What should have been the attitude of Jesus when the Jews attempted to stone him because he called himself the son of God, which in their estimation amounted to blasphemy? How could he have either disclaimed or established his claim? He could have adopted one of two attitudes. If he was truly the son of God, he should have answered, ‘My claim is true. I am indeed the son of God and I have two proofs in support of my claim. One is that in your books it is written that the Messiah is the son of God, rather he is God Himself, and he is All-Powerful, knows the unseen and does whatever he wishes. If you doubt this, bring your books, and I will show you the proof of my Godhead from these books. You charge me with blasphemy because of your misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of the Scripture. Your books proclaim me God and All-Powerful then why do you say that I blaspheme? You should instead worship me because I am God.’

          His second proof should have been, ‘Come and behold the signs of Godhead in me. As God Almighty has created the sun and the moon and the planets and the earth, I too have created a portion of the earth or a planet or some other part of the universe. I can even now create something of that kind and demonstrate my Godhead. I have more power and strength than is manifested in the miracles of the Prophets. It would also have been appropriate for him to furnish his opponents with a detailed list of his works as God and to challenge them whether Mosesas or any other Prophet of Israel had performed such works.

          But Jesus set forth none of these proofs. All he did was to offer these statements:
          ”Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shown you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, ‘For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy and because that thou being a man makest thyself God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your law, I said, ye are gods?’ If he called them gods unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?”

          Now, it is worthy of reflection whether for repelling the charge of blasphemy and for establishing that he was truly the son of God the only appropriate answer was, ‘If I have called myself the son of God, how have I offended you considering that some of those who appeared before me were called gods.’

          It is thus clear that Jesus never claimed to be God or son of God in the true sense. He claimed to be in the same category as those who had been given such titles metaphorically and confessed that his claim was of the same kind.(Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 6, pp. 133-136)

        • Rick

          It is thus clear that Jesus never claimed to be God or son of God in the true sense.

          Really? What did he mean in John 10:30—”…I and the Father are one.”

          Do a search on “Jesus Claimed to be god.” I found many articles citing dozens of places where he said just that. “You are right in saying that I am,” for instance during the trial. Lots of places. Not sure why this is even controversial.

          As for your other points, Jesus did refute the challenge in each instance, being somewhat circumspect early in his ministry and more direct later, likely to protect his opportunity to train the disciples and not be killed before that task was completed. The fact that you might imagine some other way he could have done it does not mean that what is recorded is false.

        • SparklingMoon

          Jesus did refute the challenge in each instance, being somewhat circumspect early in his ministry and more direct later, likely to protect his opportunity to train the disciples and not be killed before that task was completed.
          ————————————————————————–
          Is such an attitude worthy of the Prophets who are always ready to lay down their lives in the way of God? The true Messengers of God , who convey His message, do not fear anyone in conveying the messages of God. Then how is it that Jesus who called himself God Almighty was afraid of the helpless Jews?

          It is thus clear that Jesus never claimed to be God or son of God in the true sense. He claimed to be in the same category as those who had been given such titles metaphorically and confessed that his claim was of the same kind.

          This is not all. On several occasions he confessed his human deficiencies. When he was asked to indicate when the Judgement would take place, he confessed his ignorance and declared that no one knew of that hour except God Himself.

          It is obvious that knowledge is a characteristic of the soul and not of the body. If the soul of Jesus was Divine and he was God Himself, then how is it that he confessed his lack of knowledge of that Hour? Does God Almighty forget His knowledge? It is written in Matthew 19:16:
          ”And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.”(Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 6, pp. 133-136)

        • SparklingMoon

          The fact that you might imagine some other way he could have done it does not mean that what is recorded is false.
          ———————————————————————————
          The Unitarian sect of the Christians whose members held a discussion with the Trinitarian sect of Christianity in the third century under the direction of the Roman Emperor, and who were held to be in the right and the Emperor had sided with them.

          The followers of John the Baptist who are still found in Syria and who have throughout believed that Jesus was a human being, a Prophet and disciple of John the Baptist.

    • MNb

      “simply accepting the historicity of the accounts themselves.”
      Why don’t you apply this principle to the legends told about Diogenes of Synope, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar?
      Let me think ….. ah, they aren’t your personal superheroes.

      • Rick

        You mean apply it to stories that have been understood since their origin (as far as I know) to have been legendary and fictional in their character? You are asking why don’t I apply the same understanding to the Biblical narratives, which have been predominantly understood since their origin as history? I guess I’m applying the principle of how they have been predominantly understood through history in both cases.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          When Julius Caesar stopped at the Rubicon with his army, wondering whether he should really go for it, a spirit appeared and urged him to cross and seize his destiny. Suetonius records this incident, and I don’t think there was an implied wink that this was just a bit of fiction to spice up the story. The readers of his history assumed that it was as factual as every other bit.

          You mean apply it to stories that have been understood since their origin (as far as I know) to have been legendary and fictional in their character?

          I don’t know what you’re referring to, but you weren’t referring to the supernatural elements that grew on the stories of the great men of history–at least not all of them.

        • Greg G,

          You mean apply it to stories that have been understood since their origin (as far as I know) to have been legendary and fictional in their character? You are asking why don’t I apply the same understanding to the Biblical narratives, which have been predominantly understood since their origin as history?

          Biblical narratives have only been taken seriously by Bible believers who understood the other stories as legend and ficitional. Those who took what you insist were legends thought the Bible stories were legends for more than two thousand years. Justin Martyr was defending against pagans saying that Christianity borrowed from older religions. I agree with everybody about other people’s religions.

      • MNb

        Which shows you reject the scientific branch called History of Antiquity, Rick. Back then they didn’t give a dime for separating fact and fiction. People back then wouldn’t have understood our modern obsession in this respect. Read this.

        http://www.livius.org/ea-eh/edges/edges.html

        Well educated people 2000 years ago – and everyone who could write and read was well educated – knew this was fiction. Still they maintained this idea for hundreds of years. So it’s you who has to explain why any part of your favourite book should be an exception and assumed to be historical.

        “I guess I’m applying the principle of how they have been predominantly understood through history in both cases.”
        You guess wrong, because you don’t want to understand how well educated people thought during Antiquity. The reason why you don’t want to do that is also obvious – you’d have to change your belief system.
        In other words, your approach is teleological, ie unscientific and in permanent danger of using logical fallacies.
        Fyi, even Augustinus of Hippo knew not everything in the Bible could be factual.

        • Rick

          MNb,

          …you don’t want to understand how well educated people thought during Antiquity.

          You are welcome to believe this about me or anyone else, but you are in no position to make such a judgmental statement. I’m not sure what kind of response you expect from this kind of insult.

          The reason why you don’t want to do that is also obvious – you’d have to change your belief system.

          The same charge could be made about you or anyone else in a discussion where disagreement occurs. But you don’t advance an argument by advancing this particular point. I have no clue how to pursue this sort of discussion because no answer would satisfy your disdain here. I’m sorry you’re so angry at me. But I don’t know what sort of answer you want here.

    • Greg G.

      Hi Rick,

      But this piece, as a stand alone itself, contains no evidence to support your contention.

      This post is titled Women at the Tomb Are Weak Evidence for the Resurrection. Does he really need evidence to question other evidence as weak?

      He cites Jeremiah 9:17-20 (NIV):

      17 This is what the Lord Almighty says:
      “Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come;
      send for the most skillful of them.
      18 Let them come quickly
      and wail over us
      till our eyes overflow with tears
      and water streams from our eyelids.
      19 The sound of wailing is heard from Zion:
      ‘How ruined we are!
      How great is our shame!
      We must leave our land
      because our houses are in ruins.’”
      20 Now, you women, hear the word of the Lord;
      open your ears to the words of his mouth.
      Teach your daughters how to wail;
      teach one another a lament.

      The Criterion of Embarrassment would not apply in this case in the first century because the women would have been expected to be there wailing. It would have been embarrassing to have men make the discovery.

      We can see the Criterion of Embarrassment in action with Mark’s story ending with the women not telling anyone. The other gospels add to the story to involve men as credible witnesses. A scribe even adds a new ending to Mark.

  • Rick

    Does he need evidence? Bob’s metanarrative is that the Christian belief in a risen savior is false. As to this particular point, yes, I think he needs more evidence than simply an opinion as to whether or not the women being the first witness supports his narrative rewrite of history as it has been understood over 20 centuries.

    As to your point that it is reasonable to expect that women would have been first on the scene and would have been the first witnesses, therefore making the case that the Biblical story is reasonable and supporting its truthfulness, I think we are in agreement. What you contributed does indeed suggest agreement with the traditionally understood narrative that the women were the first witnesses. Your emphasis that they should have been and indeed were the first ones there, and that they witnessed something unique enough to report to the men was a helpful perspective. I hadn’t previously thought about the Jeremiah passage in this regard, so thanks to Bob and for presenting it and to you for emphasizing it.

    Whether or not the “criterion of embarrassment” applies seems to be moot if the story is true and reasonable in other regards.

    • MNb

      “Bob’s metanarrative is that the Christian belief in a risen savior is false.”
      One problem with you christians is that you use words like proof, evidence, true and false in ambiguous meanings and always to your own advantage.
      Bob’s metanarrative is the scientific method. He uses it to find out which parts of the Gospels consist of historical events and which parts are fiction. That’s not the same. So Bob is familiar with well established methods like the Principle of Embarrassment and Testis Unus Testis Nullus. He repeatedly has shown to be willing to admit that he is wrong. The condition is that you use such established methods as well. You don’t.
      I am a Dutchman. I can tell you that for many Dutch christians his conclusions are no brainers. Since long they are used to the idea that their belief system is about the metaphorical meanings of legends – indeed, legends. That’s why they talk about deeper meanings.

      • Rick

        MNb,

        So Bob is familiar with well established methods like the Principle of Embarrassment and Testis Unus Testis Nullus. He repeatedly has shown to be willing to admit that he is wrong.

        I find Bob to be refreshingly upbeat and low key in his approach. But your assertion that he repeatedly admits that he is wrong is curious. I’m not aware of any instances where someone said something that made Bob do a turnaround based on an argument presented in contradiction to his basic views. He admits minor typo’s and grammatically rough patches of writing, but if he has made more significant admissions of error, could you give me a reference to those?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Rick:

      I think he needs more evidence than simply an opinion as to whether or not the women being the first witness supports his narrative rewrite of history as it has been understood over 20 centuries.

      My claim is that handling the dead was women’s work. I’ve provided evidence. Are you saying that handling the dead was not women’s work? Greg Koukl and WLC haven’t argued this that I’ve seen. If you are, show me the evidence to back up your point.

      As to your point that it is reasonable to expect that women would have been first on the scene and would have been the first witnesses, therefore making the case that the Biblical story is reasonable and supporting its truthfulness, I think we are in agreement.

      Huh? Women being first = support for the Bible story? I don’t follow. Please explain.

      What you contributed does indeed suggest agreement with the traditionally understood narrative that the women were the first witnesses.

      Given that the discover of the empty tomb is part of the story, then sure. Of course, that discovery didn’t have to be first clue to the resurrection. The story could’ve been written in lots of other ways. Jesus could’ve appeared in a more masculine setting–down by the fishing boats, for example.

      Whether or not the “criterion of embarrassment” applies seems to be moot if the story is true and reasonable in other regards.

      I’m glad we agree. Koukl and WLC don’t.

      • Rick

        My claim is that handling the dead was women’s work. I’ve provided evidence. Are you saying that handling the dead was not women’s work? Greg Koukl and WLC haven’t argued this that I’ve seen. If you are, show me the evidence to back up your point.

        I agree with your point. That is why it was actually more reasonable than I had previously thought that the women were the ones who would have gone to the tomb. I already admitted this and thanked you for the new information. As for Koukl, he was responding to some who suggested the women were unlikely to have been the first witnesses unless that was actually what happened, because they would have been considered unreliable back then. I’m agreeing with Koukl, in his view that the inclusion seems to validate the story, and with you, that the version presented is reasonable. I think you simply have another reason why the narrative as recorded is most likely accurate. That may not have been your objective, but that was the result for me. You strengthened my confidence in the Biblical narrative. We are in agreement that the women are likely to have been the first to the scene on that Sunday (resurrection) morning.

        Regardless of whether the criterion of embarrassment applies, the fact that women finding the empty tomb and the risen Jesus first is consistently recorded. To my knowledge there is no documentation of that version being contested. If you have such evidence, it would certainly strengthen your case.

        Huh? Women being first = support for the Bible story? I don’t follow. Please explain.

        As you pointed out, based on the Joshua passage you cited, it is likely that they were the ones to go to the tomb on Sunday morning to tend to the body. But it was gone. Not sure why you are confusing yourself with the evidence you provided. Greg G. Quoted the entire passage and I commented to him the same way.

        Given that the discover of the empty tomb is part of the story, then sure. Of course, that discovery didn’t have to be first clue to the resurrection. The story could’ve been written in lots of other ways. Jesus could’ve appeared in a more masculine setting–down by the fishing boats, for example.

        But as usual, you assume the whole thing is an elaborate fabrication or great conspiracy. The fake story about the women finding the tomb was made up. The authors decided it would strengthen their case to make it women who find the tomb instead of men, so they go counter culture of their day and put out the story, which is used by several independent authors and is never contradicted. You find this more reasonable than the possibility they recorded what happened? I can’t make that one fly.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          I’m agreeing with Koukl

          That there is something embarrassing about the women being the first witnesses? As I’ve made clear in the post, I don’t see why.

          Regardless of whether the criterion of embarrassment applies

          If the CofE strengthens an argument, it’s quite important to know whether it applies or not. I’m saying it doesn’t.

          But as usual, you assume the whole thing is an elaborate fabrication or great conspiracy.

          I’ve never made such a claim. Ever.

          The fake story about the women finding the tomb was made up.

          If you’ll reread the post, you’ll see that my point is that the women finding the tomb is not embarrassing. A simple point, really.

          The authors decided it would strengthen their case to make it women who find the tomb instead of men

          If women finding the tomb is embarrassing, which is not what I’m arguing. A simple point, really.

          You find this more reasonable than the possibility they recorded what happened? I can’t make that one fly.

          I find lots of options far, far more reasonable than the possibility that someone was raised from the dead by the omnipotent creator of the universe, yes. How that is startling I can’t imagine.

    • Greg G,

      Does he need evidence? Bob’s metanarrative is that the Christian belief in a risen savior is false. As to this particular point, yes,

      I was responding to “But this piece, as a stand alone itself”. If it is a stand alone piece questioning whether the evidence that apologists present is good doesn’t need evidence that it is false. He only needs to show that it is weak on its own. I think he succeeded with what he presented.

      Koukl and Craig use the women as evidence that the resurrection is true, as if nobody would have written that part if it wasn’t true. Bob shows that the women finding the empty tomb would have been written that way even if it was false, because that’s what people would expect.

      so thanks to Bob and for presenting it and to you for emphasizing it.

      You’re welcome. Glad to be of help.

      Whether or not the “criterion of embarrassment” applies seems to be moot if the story is true and reasonable in other regards.

      The CofE is moot because it is not embarrassing. The thing is that the whole story appears to be fiction. Mark uses many literary techniques. Scholars have identified sources for nearly every passage in Mark to the Jewish and Greek literature of the day. The other gospels rely on those fictions. The early Epistles never mention Jesus as a teacher or minister or as a first century figure.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        The early Epistles never mention Jesus as a teacher or minister or as a first century figure.

        It’s amazing how little of the familiar gospels story of Jesus is omitted from Paul’s epistles. If anyone missed it, I summarized the “Gospel of Paul” a few months ago.

      • Rick

        Greg,

        Mark uses many literary techniques. Scholars have identified sources for nearly every passage in Mark to the Jewish and Greek literature of the day. The other gospels rely on those fictions.

        You state these ideas as if they are established as uncontroversial fact. They are anything but. These ideas have been refuted by conservative scholars and they are not the mainstream view. If you follow Bob’s mantra that the consensus view of the majority of scholars in the field are to determine the most reasonable conclusion, then these ideas are fringe at best. The fact that most of the writers at this particular blog may agree with your assertion does not make it so.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          If you follow Bob’s mantra that the consensus view of the majority of scholars in the field are to determine the most reasonable conclusion

          You misunderstand. Bob has made it clear that, in his mind, the consensus view of historians and scientists is binding on those of us outside those fields.

          Theologians or other religious scholars–nope (partly because, of course, there is no such consensus!).

  • Greg G

    Oops! I’m afraid I lost my train of thought up there.

    Craig and Koukl use the women making the discovery plus the C of E as evidence that the resurrection story is true. If the C of E is moot, then the women are not evidence for the truth of the whole story. Craig’s and Koukl’s argument fails because their premise is false. Bob’s piece is vindicated on that point alone.

  • Greg G

    It’s amazing how little of the familiar gospels story of Jesus is omitted from Paul’s epistles.

    Omitted? I assume you posted in the middle of an incomplete edit. Doncha just hate that?

    But it’s not just the Pauline epistles, it’s every single epistle and you can throw in Revelation. 1 Timothy 6:13 does mention Jesus and Pilate in the same breath but compare it with 1Tm 3:16, you see that he was seen by angels, which implies “not seen by men”, and that he was preached rather than an active verb. That makes verse 6:13 look like an interpolated margin note of a pseudepigraphal letter.

    Galatians 1 calls James “the brother of the Lord” but I can give nearly 200 reasons to think the phrase is metaphorical and possibly sarcastic.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Greg: I wonder if someone has distilled down the “Gospels of all of the New Testament except for the gospels” that would summarize this picture of Jesus.

      • Greg G,

        That sounds like an interesting project but I expect you would find a few pictures of Jesus, even though this collection was assembled with the intention of creating one picture.

        I have been comparing the Epistle of James with Galatians lately. It seems to me that Peter, or maybe James, visited the Galatians. When Paul heard what had been preached, he fired of the epistle. He insists he got his message not from them and tells of his big argument with Peter. Then he reiterates his message of Christ crucified and that faith is what redeems a person. He discusses Abraham and a dubious interpretation of the word “seed” being singular. He seems to have missed Genesis 13:16. Near the end in verse 5:14, he quotes a verse from Leviticus about “Love your neighbor as yourself”.

        James seems to be a response to that epistle. Fairly early, he mentions the Leviticus verse as a point of agreement, then goes on to emphasize the importance of deeds in pposition to Paul’s theology. He takes up the question of Abraham and gives a whole different interpretation by pointing out that Abraham’s faith led to action.

        It could be that Paul was responding to James, too.I’ve read that it has been argued both ways but I haven’t seen those.

        Has anybody still reading the comments of this post given this any thought?

  • Hypatia’s Daughter

    In many ancient societies, the testimony of ONE woman would be discounted in a court, but it would be accepted if two or more women corroborated the same story. I think it is significant that all four Gospels have at least two women witness the empty tomb.
    From the Mishnah link: “Women are not considered reliable witnesses when two kosher witnesses are needed, for example on monetary issues, capital crimes and sexual crimes; but concerning issues of prohibitions where one witness is believed, a woman is also believed……….On certain issues a woman is believed if she is not specifically testifying on the topic but rather telling about an incident…….A woman’s testimony is considered reliable when she is testifying about something that would be discovered in another manner, even without a witness .”
    Think of it the other way around. What reason would the male apostles have for being at the tomb. To prove Jesus was really dead? To await his resurrection? One opens a can of theological worms with this scenario. But as women tended the bodies and mourned for the dead, the story is more plausible without opening that can and so they HAD to find the risen Christ first.

    • Greg G,

      If by “more plausible”, you mean slightly less implausible, I agree.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      HD:

      In many ancient societies, the testimony of ONE woman would be discounted in a court, but it would be accepted if two or more women corroborated the same story.

      I think it is significant that all four Gospels have at least two women witness the empty tomb.

      Doesn’t John have just one?

      I’ve heard from one source that women’s testimony counted for half that of men (4 women = 2 men, etc.).

      But let’s not get too hung up on the legal thing. There is no court here, just women and men who knew each other very well. When a man’s sister or trusted female buddy says something, he’d have years of experience to know how much to trust it.

      What reason would the male apostles have for being at the tomb.

      Precisely. If you wanted men to be the first witnesses (and they kinda were anyway, since they come running when the women tell the story), you’d have to find a more masculine situation (down by the fishing boats?). You could rewrite the story that way, but the women as first witnesses fits well with the culture of the time.

  • Greg G

    Happy Easter, Rick.

    I think it’s important to ask what you know and how do you know it. Historians and scientists describe their methods in detail so that a person can double check them. A scientific claim is most robust when it makes predictions that can be verified.

    Theologians tend to back up rhe authority of their opinions with personal warm fuzzy feelings. If a religion is true, it would be important to get it right but all religions rely on and embrace methods of knowing that are pretty much guaranteed to lead you astrayand prevent you from going in the right I direction. Many scholars who have escaped from faith still bend over backwards to allow for the existence of Jesus by telling us that John is independent of the Synoptics.

    Several scholars have independently traced passages in Mark to the literature of the day. Some of the scholars are Christians. The studies by themselves are not so controversial. It’s when you collect them together, as Bob Price has done, you see that nearly every passage is accounted for. That’s makes a powerful statement.

    When I looked at the source material for MacDonald’s claims about Mark using the Odyssey in the passage about the demonaic named Legion, I saw that the Cyclops was named Polyphemus. I looked at the Greek text of Mark and saw that it practically screams “I’m talking about the Cyclops here!”

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Greg:

      Theologians tend to back up rhe authority of their opinions with personal warm fuzzy feelings.

      And they’re often tied to a ministry or college through a faith statement. Whenever they say something, I have no idea whether that’s them honestly following the facts where they lead or if that’s the faith statement talking.

      • Rick

        And they’re often tied to a ministry or college through a faith statement. Whenever they say something, I have no idea whether that’s them honestly following the facts where they lead or if that’s the faith statement talking.

        And your readers could be asking the same about you. Is it Bob’s real opinion, or is he clinging to what he previously wrote just for consistency? Is he dogmatically clinging to Dawkins and Harris so he can be thought one of the atheist elite? Why is that any different? The claim can be made about any of us.

        So instead simply look at what they say and refute it. To do otherwise is ad hominem attack, and in Greg’s case with his comment, it is generalizing. Neither advances the argument, but instead simply paints with a broad brush.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          And your readers could be asking the same about you.

          Nope. I’ve signed no faith statement. My job isn’t depending on my adhering to such a statement. Contrast this with the third rail that Mike Licona touched when he made a single suggestion that the Bible might contain an error in a 700-page book. He lost two positions in short order.

          “Heresy!” was applied to Licona; there is no parallel in my situation. I’ll be happy to correct myself. When Mike Licona did, he suffered serious consequences.

          Is he dogmatically clinging to Dawkins and Harris so he can be thought one of the atheist elite?

          Oh–good point. Dawkins is the Atheist Pope®, and I do have to do what he tells me.

          But aside from that, my point stands!

          So instead simply look at what they say and refute it.

          Yes, of course. That’s what this entire blog is supposed to do.

          To do otherwise is ad hominem attack

          Are you saying that such an attack was made recently? I have not noticed this.

        • Rick

          Bob,

          Licona’s departure had to do with questioning one passage that is somewhat controversial, and he did have some consequences. Kind of like when Anthony Flew departed your atheist fold. He was excommunicated in a similar way.

          The ad hominem attack comment was in regard to the broad brush you and Greg used to generalize what unnamed theologians do in your opinion.

          Theologians tend to back up rhe (sic) authority of their opinions with personal warm fuzzy feelings.

          That is really the general tendency of theologians? Must not be much serious business to attend to in those theologian colleges. Some noted ones do that (Osteen, Jakes, etc.) But most I have listened to do a much more credible job.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          Licona’s departure had to do with questioning one passage that is somewhat controversial, and he did have some consequences.

          Tell me about it. One passage in a 700-page book and the guy loses his job.

          Wow–I guess some people take those faith statements seriously.

          Kind of like when Anthony Flew departed your atheist fold. He was excommunicated in a similar way.

          An interesting point. I don’t know enough about the two situations to make a strong statement. What I remember, however, is that Flew’s conversion to deism was seen by many atheists as Christian opportunists taking advantage of a doddering old man. That obviously has no parallel in the Licona story.

          The ad hominem attack comment was in regard to the broad brush you and Greg used to generalize what unnamed theologians do in your opinion.

          And I’m still not seeing it. An ad hominem statement is something of the form, “You’re voting for that guy? He hates dogs, y’know.” The point is: what does dog hating (if we simply accept the charge as true) have to do with whether his political policies are good?

          I’ve seen no such ad hominems. Show me.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          The ad hominem attack comment was in regard to the broad brush you and Greg used to generalize what unnamed theologians do in your opinion.

          Let’s conclude this topic. You do realize that an ad hominem is a specific kind of fallacy, not simply an attack, right? You’ve done nothing more than a drive-by so far, but I want you to substantiate your charge or withdraw it.

        • Greg G,

          So instead simply look at what they say and refute it. To do otherwise is ad hominem attack, and in Greg’s case with his comment, it is generalizing. Neither advances the argument, but instead simply paints with a broad brush.

          If I refer to mnay, I can’t list them all but here are a few:

          As I shared with my professors years ago when I was in college, if all the evidence in the universe turned against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate. –Kurt Wise

          We can know the truth, whether we have rational arguments or not. –William Lane Craig

          I turned the corner and saw in front of me this frozen waterfall, a couple of hundred feet high. Actually, a waterfall that had three parts to it — also the symbolic three in one. At that moment, I felt my resistance leave me. And it was a great sense of relief. The next morning, in the dewy grass in the shadow of the Cascades, I fell on my knees and accepted this truth — that God is God, that Christ is his son and that I am giving my life to that belief. –Francis Collins

          The scientific aspects of creation are important but are secondary in importance to the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ as Sovereign, Creator, Redeemer, and Judge. –Answers in Genesis, first Statement of Faith.

          Those scholars who disagree with Romans 1:20 about invisible things that are clearly seen would be a shorter list.

          Invisible things are clearly imagined, though. The above statments would work just as well for any religion. If you begin with the wrong religion and reject actual evidence to the contrary, you guarantee that you will stay on the wrong path.

          I am open to new evidence and will change my mind accordingly. I was a Fundamentalist when I was young but I could figure out that they believed many things that were not true for bad reasons and they wanted me to do it, too. I still accepted that Jesus was a historical figure until a year ago, until after I read Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist? Then I read a couple of books that pointed out that the Epistles don’t support that Jesus was a first century person, that nearly every passage of the Book of Mark is from literature contemporary to him, and that even the Book of John uses Mark’s stories. I realized that there is no real evidence for Jesus.

          I have presented details and links to details about these arguments in the comments under several blogs including many of Bob’s. I discuss it with both theists and atheists.

  • Rick

    Mr. Moon,

    The Unitarian sect of the Christians whose members held a discussion with the Trinitarian sect of Christianity in the third century under the direction of the Roman Emperor, and who were held to be in the right and the Emperor had sided with them.

    The followers of John the Baptist who are still found in Syria and who have throughout believed that Jesus was a human being, a Prophet and disciple of John the Baptist.

    I have no idea what this has to do with the conversation, let alone the women finding the risen Jesus.

  • Rick

    Mr. Moon:

    Is such an attitude worthy of the Prophets who are always ready to lay down their lives in the way of God? The true Messengers of God , who convey His message, do not fear anyone in conveying the messages of God. Then how is it that Jesus who called himself God Almighty was afraid of the helpless Jews?

    He wasn’t afraid of them. The time was not complete in his mission for the crucifixion. Jesus never showed fear of the authorities. He simply dealt with them appropriately for each occasion.

    It is thus clear that Jesus never claimed to be God or son of God in the true sense. He claimed to be in the same category as those who had been given such titles metaphorically and confessed that his claim was of the same kind.

    I’ve already answered this. He did claim to be one with the Father, seven times in John alone he is quoted using the Father’s name “I AM” in association with seven different symbols (bread of life, the door or gate for the sheep, the way, the truth and the life, etc.), which to the Jews would have been a clear claim of divinity. Did you do the search I suggested?

    This is not all. On several occasions he confessed his human deficiencies. When he was asked to indicate when the Judgement would take place, he confessed his ignorance and declared that no one knew of that hour except God Himself.

    Jesus had the authority to lay down his qualities of divinity for a time in order to take on the characteristics of humanity for his mission of being the perfect teacher, example, leader, and ultimately a sacrifice. He didn’t know when the time was while He was on Earth because he was in the form of a man, with some of the limitations of humanity. Yet He retained the character of the Father all the while.

    It is obvious that knowledge is a characteristic of the soul and not of the body.

    I have no idea what this means to you, nor how it is relevant.

    If the soul of Jesus was Divine and he was God Himself, then how is it that he confessed his lack of knowledge of that Hour? Does God Almighty forget His knowledge? It is written in Matthew 19:16:
    ”And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.”

    As mentioned above, Jesus laid down certain abilities during His time as a human. Be certain he has reclaimed them now, following the resurrection.

    Your previous comments show you may have a different understanding of the trinity from traditional Christians hold. There is one God. He manifests or shows Himself in three different ways, which has been described in various ways including, in the last couple of centuries, the trinity. But Christians only worship ONE God.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Rick:

      He did claim to be one with the Father

      I have to agree with you on this one. It seems easy to find passages in which Jesus claims to be god in the gospels. I don’t know what the argument would be to reject this.

  • Rick

    Bob,

    Here’s a recap.

    Rick:

    The ad hominem attack comment was in regard to the broad brush you and Greg used to generalize what unnamed theologians do in your opinion.

    Bob:

    Let’s conclude this topic. You do realize that an ad hominem is a specific kind of fallacy, not simply an attack, right? You’ve done nothing more than a drive-by so far, but I want you to substantiate your charge or withdraw it.

    I’m not sure what your urgency is to pursue this matter. What happened was Greg answered a post I made with unsubstantiated charges that

    Theologians tend to back up rhe (sic) authority of their opinions with personal warm fuzzy feelings.

    You then piled on with the statement:

    And they’re often tied to a ministry or college through a faith statement. Whenever they say something, I have no idea whether that’s them honestly following the facts where they lead or if that’s the faith statement talking.

    So you and Greg painted with a broad brush that any theologian who is associated with an organization with a faith statement is to be discounted as a source. I responded that the same could be said about you, since you clearly have a belief system rooted in atheism, and the same charge could be made about anyone who has an expressed position. Having a conclusion doesn’t mean that conclusion is false and that any statement made in support of it is the stuff of bias. It could actually be correct, after all. Even your positions could be correct. I fully acknowledge that in spite of your clear bias on issues about which you blog.

    None of this advances the discussion about the merits of the issues at stake—it simply diverts to charges of bias and allows you to negate whole classes of people who might have an otherwise had a position to advance.

    You want me to withdraw my charges or defend them? OK, perhaps this isn’t the classic example of ad hominem attack, but it certainly is an attack aimed at the integrity of those making claims rather than addressing the validity of the claims themselves. So what do you want to call it? Here is multiple choice:
    a) Ignoring the real issues
    b) Distracting with a rabbit trail
    c) Dodging and weaving rather than discussing the case at hand
    d) Strawman argumentation
    e) Generalizing rather than addressing the topic

    Take your choice and feel free to re-characterize at will.

    I’m not sure why you directed your ire at this particular dead end. In case you haven’t noticed, there are lots of topics where folks like me chime in, go back and forth a couple of times and then let it drop because there is no meaningful communication happening. You will always get the last word because this is your life. The rest of us do what we have time for and go away for long periods when we do actual life.

    You’ll probably have a snappy retort and put me in my place. Whatever. No ill will on my part, just the way it is. I don’t take it personally. It’s your blog, and you have to feel good about yourself at the end of every conversation. I get that. I can deal with it. I don’t have the time or energy to try to one-up you every time. So there will be more conversations with you and others that I let simply drop. It’s just the nature of the beast, I’m afraid.

    The alternative is for folks who disagree with you to never comment at all, but then who would you and your fellow travelers have to provide entertainment? Sometimes I’ve just gotta keep smiling and do what I can, I guess. And remind you that there are folks who don’t drink from the same Kool-Aid fountain that you do.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Rick:

      I’m not sure what your urgency is to pursue this matter.

      My only urgency is that I don’t want this issue that you brought up to get dropped. Perhaps you were going to get to it. I was just reminding you of this unfinished business.

      any theologian who is associated with an organization with a faith statement is to be discounted as a source.

      I think you’ve got it right, as long as we’re clear that discounted doesn’t mean dismissed. When someone signs on with I’m Not To Be Trusted University, I don’t know if they are following the evidence in a scholarly fashion or not. Maybe they are. Could be that they almost always are. But they’ve put a cloud over themselves.

      I responded that the same could be said about you, since you clearly have a belief system rooted in atheism

      Gee, I thought I’d made the distinction pretty clearly. Let me try again: some scholars have signed faith statements that deliberately tie their hands. That’s one of the reasons they must sign them. Universities want to ensure that their staff gives an approved message to the students and that any books or presentations by those professors will also toe the line. The professor’s job is on the line.

      In stark contrast, I have signed no such statement.

      See the difference?

      Having a conclusion doesn’t mean that conclusion is false

      Of course. A prof who has signed such a statement of faith might actually be following the facts where they lead. The problem is: how am I going to know?

      allows you to negate whole classes of people who might have an otherwise had a position to advance.

      Does it? That’s cool–tell me how. I’d love to dismiss everything said by a class of people who say uncomfortable things, but I’ve found no such way. Nor have I ever made such a dismissal.

      perhaps this isn’t the classic example of ad hominem attack

      Uh, yeah. Perhaps I agree.

      it certainly is an attack aimed at the integrity of those making claims rather than addressing the validity of the claims themselves.

      I made an attack on the idiocy of faith statements. The people who sign them have put a cloud of doubt over their heads, forcing me to question what is actually speaking when they open their mouths–their own minds or their faith statement contract.

      I’m not sure why you directed your ire at this particular dead end.

      Someone making a charge needs to back it up. “Ad hominem!” seems to be your favorite knee-jerk response. (You do make thoughtful comments as well; I’m only talking about a subset here.) Problem is, you don’t seem to know what it means.

      In case you haven’t noticed, there are lots of topics where folks like me chime in, go back and forth a couple of times and then let it drop because there is no meaningful communication happening.

      I don’t like drive-by charges that aren’t substantiated. If an error is made and you find it, that’s great. Point it out. The irony which perhaps compels me here is that an ad hominem is a type of fallacy … and yet you seem to be using the term fallaciously.

      No ill will on my part

      Great to hear.

      you have to feel good about yourself at the end of every conversation. I get that.

      So what do you think this blog is? My therapy? You get to dismiss stuff you disagree with as just my ramblings in my journal, my Dear Diary entry about how a Christian was mean to me today and so therefore Christianity must be wrong?

      No, I’m actually trying to find the truth. If I make a mistake, then I need to understand that. I don’t feel particularly good about making the mistake, but when I do I’m pleased that I’ve become smarter and won’t make that mistake again.

  • Rick

    When someone signs on with I’m Not To Be Trusted University, I don’t know if they are following the evidence in a scholarly fashion or not. Maybe they are. Could be that they almost always are. But they’ve put a cloud over themselves.

    I’m not familiar with a university by that name. And to dismiss anyone who works for an institution with a faith statement is disingenuous on your part. It lets you dismiss what may be legitimate arguments on a flimsy basis. The statements I quoted from you and Greg were cases in point. You’ve continued to ignore that and I’m not going there again.

    I made an attack on the idiocy of faith statements.

    Unlike some, they are willing to state clearly what they believe.

    I don’t like drive-by charges that aren’t substantiated. If an error is made and you find it, that’s great. Point it out. The irony which perhaps compels me here is that an ad hominem is a type of fallacy … and yet you seem to be using the term fallaciously.

    I’ve already agreed there may have been imprecision in my use of the term and gave you some alternative ways to characterize it. The horse is dead.

    So what do you think this blog is? My therapy? You get to dismiss stuff you disagree with as just my ramblings in my journal, my Dear Diary entry about how a Christian was mean to me today and so therefore Christianity must be wrong?

    That is not what I said, so I see no reason to respond to this point. What I said was you have the time, energy and motive to always have the last word. No comments were made about therapy, journals or diaries. Your restating it that way is typical of the way you sarcastically reframe the debate with derision rather than taking comments seriously. Disdain and parody aren’t great ways to advance your case.

    No, I’m actually trying to find the truth.

    Glad to hear it. I thought you were advancing atheism and ridiculing Christianity. I must be wrong.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Rick:

      to dismiss anyone who works for an institution with a faith statement is disingenuous on your part.

      “Disingenuous” meaning insincere? I’m quite sincere. And I’m not dismissing anyone, as I’ve made plain several times now.

      It lets you dismiss what may be legitimate arguments on a flimsy basis.

      My advice to Christian scholars: don’t sign a faith statement. It means that I can’t trust that you’re behind what you’re saying. I don’t want to discount your legitimate arguments because of the cloud you put over yourself.

      Unlike some, they are willing to state clearly what they believe.

      … at the moment. When Licona veers a teensy bit off the straight and narrow, he loses two jobs. Ouch! The lesson for Christian scholars: honesty is not the best policy.

      I thought you were advancing atheism and ridiculing Christianity. I must be wrong.

      You are indeed wrong. You’ll notice that I’ve signed no faith statement. I have no jobs at stake. Unlike many Christian scholars, I have the luxury to follow the facts where they lead.

      It is true that I don’t come to your conclusion. When I get compelling evidence that your view is correct I will indeed adopt it since I don’t like backing the wrong horse. Until that happy day, I follow the evidence where it leads to the best of my ability.

    • Greg G.

      Hi Rick,

      I quoted from you and Greg were cases in point. You’ve continued to ignore that and I’m not going there again.

      I made an attack on the idiocy of faith statements.

      Unlike some, they are willing to state clearly what they believe.

      A person can state what they believe without signing a faith statement. A fatih statement is something else. A person who signs a typical faith statement is saying their faith trumps the evidence. It means that they promise to be as dishonest as necessary to maintain their faith.

      • Rick

        You’re welcome to hold that view, but it is false. Faith statements are more like a full disclosure for employers to let employees know what positions the organization stands for. If the employee doesn’t agree, they are free to seek employment elsewhere. It isn’t reasonable for faith based organizations to hire folks who hold different views, then expect them to uphold the standards of the organization. It also lets donors know that they aren’t contributing to organizations that would support issues counter to their own deeply held positions of conscience.

        If you contribute to any organizations, I will bet you know what they stand for. That is all this is about. Trying to make it into some sort of nefarious underhanded contrivance is off target and clearly not helpful in the discussion of the meaning of the prodigal son.

        But that should be Bob’s call to moderate. I don’t even care enough to see how you got onto this rabbit trail. I just see it as a side issue here, for what it’s worth.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          Faith statements are more like a full disclosure for employers to let employees know what positions the organization stands for.

          For this discussion, the relevant point is that faith statements are binding. Once you sign it, you’re stuck.

          That’s what got Licona into trouble. His organization used it as a contract–and it’s hard to fault them for doing so. But then the problem that I’ve raised becomes evident: the scholar can’t say something without his audience wondering if that’s him or his faith statement talking.

        • Rick

          Point taken. They still serve a purpose. In the case of Richard Sternberg’s firing,, no faith statement existed, but he was punished for straying outside the bounds of what some considered the atheist orthodoxy. At least if there had been a faith statement, he would have known he was straying outside the lines.

          And besides, if as you say, “the scholar can’t say something without his audience wondering if that’s him or his faith statement talking.,” the same problem exists for Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, or you. If they say something outside the bounds of secular humanism, they risk alienating the ever fine-tuned sensitivities of their respective constituencies and losing their status as high priests of the atheist movement. That would be economic suicide for them.

          And further, the academic who finds himself at odds with a faith statement has no gun to his head. He can speak his mind and risk the consequences if he feels strongly about the issue.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          They still serve a purpose.

          I understand the purpose. I’m simply highlighting the (often ignored) downside.

          [Sternberg] was punished for straying outside the bounds of what some considered the atheist orthodoxy.

          I doubt that Sternberg had a membership card in the secret Union of Atheists (Dang! I’ve said too much …). If you’re saying that a group of which he wasn’t a part criticized him, yeah. So what? Am I supposed to apologize for that?

          And I’m not sure what atheism has to do with anything. A guy slips in a paper from a field considered to be unscientific (not sure I have the right word here) into a journal for which he’s quitting that month … yeah, that raises eyebrows among scientific people. It might have annoyed some vegetarians and cat lovers, too, but how is that relevant? The point is that it wasn’t following the usual scientific protocols for publication.

          If they say something outside the bounds of secular humanism, they risk alienating the ever fine-tuned sensitivities of their respective constituencies and losing their status as high priests of the atheist movement.

          So everyone’s signed a faith statement in your mind, either literal or virtual? Gee–I wonder why they have them then. You were going on about the important purpose that they serve–are you backing away from that now?

          And further, the academic who finds himself at odds with a faith statement has no gun to his head. He can speak his mind and risk the consequences if he feels strongly about the issue.

          Bart Ehrman can be the head of the UNC-Chapel Hill theology department as a fundamentalist or as an atheist. No faith statement was required, and he could keep his job whether he wrote books praising God or pulling back the curtain. It didn’t work that way for Licona.

        • Greg G.

          You’re welcome to hold that view, but it is false. Faith statements are more like a full disclosure for employers to let employees know what positions the organization stands for. If the employee doesn’t agree, they are free to seek employment elsewhere. It isn’t reasonable for faith based organizations to hire folks who hold different views, then expect them to uphold the standards of the organization. It also lets donors know that they aren’t contributing to organizations that would support issues counter to their own deeply held positions of conscience.

          That may be the primary purpose of a statement of faith but we’re talking about the unintended consequences. Here’s an excerpt from the Statement of Faith from the Answers in Genesis website last updated on 12/12/12:

          By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.

          They are saying that their interpretation of scripture trumps anyone else’s interpretation of evidence by definition. They have been shown to ignore evidence, misrepresent evidence, and misreperesnt interpretations of the evidence. Having that behavior codified in a statement of faith so that donors will contribute is reprehensible.

          My view is not false. Your view is just incomplete.

          …the same problem exists for Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, or you.

          None of them have agreed to a statement of faith, a statement of non-faith, nor stated that they agree on all related topics.

          And further, the academic who finds himself at odds with a faith statement has no gun to his head. He can speak his mind and risk the consequences if he feels strongly about the issue.

          But the fact that they signed to and have not spoken against a ridiculous statement of faith undermines their credibility.

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