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500 Eyewitnesses to the Risen Christ? Not Likely.

The apostle Paul throws down the gauntlet in 1 Cor. 15:6, and many apologists see it as powerful evidence in favor of the resurrection story. Paul in effect dares his readers to go check out his claim if they want. Who would make a claim like this, making himself vulnerable to readers catching him in a lie (or at least an embarrassing error), if he didn’t know it were true?

[Jesus] appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have [died]. (1 Cor. 15:6).

But this confident defense of the resurrection wilts under scrutiny.

Let’s think this through. Imagine that we’re in that church in Corinth and we have just received Paul’s letter.

1. Who are these 500 eyewitnesses? Names and addresses, please? To find out, someone would need to send a letter back to Paul, at that moment 200 miles across the Aegean Sea in Ephesus. If a church member had the money, time, and guts to write this letter, why would Paul have deigned to reply?

Even if Paul had witnessed Jesus in front of the 500 (he hadn’t), it’s possible he wouldn’t have known a single person in the crowd. And even if Paul thought the number was accurate, “500 eyewitnesses” might be all he knew, and he wouldn’t have been able to back it up with any evidence.

2. How many will still be around? Paul writes 1 Corinthians in about 55CE about a supposed event that occurred over 20 years earlier. Of the 500 eyewitnesses, how many are still alive and still in Jerusalem, ready to be questioned?

3. Who could make this trip? Jerusalem is 800 miles away, and getting there would involve a long, dangerous, and expensive trip.

4. How many candidates for this trip? Paul had only started the church in Corinth a couple of years earlier. There would probably have been less than 100 members.* Would even one have the means and motivation to make the big trip to Jerusalem?

5. Who would challenge Paul? If the founder of the church says something, who’s likely to question it? There might well have been people who were unimpressed by Paul’s message, but these would never have joined the church. Others within the church might have become disappointed and left. Even if these people had wanted to embarrass Paul, they wouldn’t have been in the church community to learn of the claim.

6. What did the eyewitnesses actually see? Let’s imagine that we have the money and daring to make the trip, we have a plan for whom to interview in Jerusalem, and we’re rebellious enough to spit in the face of our church’s founder to see if he’s a liar.

After many adventures, we reach Jerusalem. What will the eyewitnesses say? At best they’ll say that, over 20 years ago, they saw a man. Big deal—that’s uninteresting unless they saw him dead before. Had they been close enough to the movement to be certain that they recognized Jesus? Human memory is notoriously inaccurate. There’s a big difference between the certainty one has in a memory and its accuracy—these don’t always go together.

7. So what? Suppose all these unlikely things happen: we make the long trip, we search for eyewitnesses, and we conclude that Paul’s story is nonsense. If we successfully make the long trip back, what difference will this make? Even if we had the guts to tell everyone that Paul’s story was wrong, so what? Who would believe us over the church’s founder? We’d be labeled as bad apples, we’d be expelled from the church, and the church would proceed as before. And Paul’s letter would still be copied through the centuries for us to read today!

In my recent post on the Shroud of Turin, I noted that our very first historical record of the Shroud is a letter stating that the shroud was a fake. That’s done nothing to steer people away from a belief they want to hold. As with the Naysayer Hypothesis, apologists imagine that this argument is far stronger than it is.

Who would imagine that a supernatural claim written two thousand years ago would be compelling when we wouldn’t find it compelling if written two minutes ago?

Let’s consider two possible conclusions about this verse.

1. The resurrection happened supernaturally as the gospels describe it. (Let’s suppose that the gospels all tell the same story.)

2. Tales circulated orally in the years after the crucifixion among Jesus’s followers, with the number of eyewitnesses to the risen Christ growing with time.

Why imagine a supernatural story when a natural story explains the facts?

If you can’t be a good example,
then you’ll just have to serve as a horrible warning.
— Catherine Aird

Photo credit: University of Michigan

* Prof. Philip Harland’s “Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean” podcast #1.5 (“Paul and the followers of Jesus at Corinth, part 2”) argues that each house church would’ve only had dozens of members.

(This is a modified version of a post originally published 12/21/11.)

About Bob Seidensticker
  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

    To find out, someone would need to send a letter back to Paul

    Why would they have to write a letter? Below you note the possibility of travel. Both the Corinthians and the eyewitnesses could travel. You can’t have it both ways.

    The past tense at the start of the passage implies this is a summary of something Paul had told the Corinthians before. For all we know the Corinthians could have had contact with the 500 witnesses in one manner or another. Recall from 1 Cor. 1 that the church was divided into factions, with some saying they followed Cephas (Simon Peter). This implies familiarity with Peter, a witness to the resurrection in his own right, and another means by which the Corinthians could verify Paul’s statement.

    If a church member had the money, time, and guts to write this letter, why would Paul have deigned to reply?

    Based on Paul’s evident care for his churches it seems more likely that he would reply to such a letter than that he wouldn’t. I’m not sure why we are supposed to doubt that a prolific letter writer would not reply to a letter.

    Even if Paul had witnessed Jesus in front of the 500 (he hadn’t), it’s possible he wouldn’t have known a single person in the crowd.

    But he knew that some from that crowd had died. Clearly he knew at least some of them even if he was not present at the appearance in question.

    Paul writes 1 Corinthians in about 55CE about a supposed event that occurred over 20 years earlier. Of the 500 eyewitnesses, how many are still alive and still in Jerusalem, ready to be questioned?

    Paul says “most” were still living. If Paul had access to this knowledge there would be nothing preventing the Corinthians from also acquiring this knowledge.

    Who could make this trip?

    The letter itself (and others from early Christianity) indicates Christians (not just Paul) did make trips. It’s not very unlikely.

    Who would challenge Paul?

    Paul’s letters routinely indicate disputes between Paul and other factions. But I’m not aware of any dispute over the resurrection. It would not be unlikely that if Paul was challenged on the resurrection that such a challenge would leave behind traces in Paul’s letters.

    At best they’ll say that, over 20 years ago, they saw a man.

    At best? I would think at best they would say: “I’m a relative of Jesus and have known him his whole life. I saw him publically executed in Jerusalem by the Romans. I saw the resurrected Jesus over a period of 40 days.”

    • MNb

      “For all we know the Corinthians could have had contact with the 500 witnesses in one manner or another. ”
      For all we know that contact could have been made by telepathy. There is exactly as much evidence for it. Telepathy is not valid you say? The same for resurrections.
      You are the one who can’t have it both ways.

      “This implies familiarity with Peter … and another means by which the Corinthians could verify Paul’s statement.”
      Yeah, exactly the normal procedure 2000 years ago. If a leader makes some some supernatural claim – quite common back then – contact his opponent.

      “Clearly he knew at least some of them”
      The only thing that’s clear is that your apologetic fantasy works one way.

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

        Mnb, your thoughts are pretty incoherent but I’ll give it a go anyway.

        For all we know that contact could have been made by telepathy. There is exactly as much evidence for it. Telepathy is not valid you say? The same for resurrections.

        I was alluding to the possibility that the Corinthians could have known the witnesses directly. Resurrection is not a means of communication so seems irrelevant to this point.

        Yeah, exactly the normal procedure 2000 years ago. If a leader makes some some supernatural claim – quite common back then – contact his opponent.

        Some in Corinth considered themselves followers of Peter. Do you think these followers of Peter would not have talked to him about the resurrection?

        The only thing that’s clear is that your apologetic fantasy works one way.

        I’m the one actually pointing out what the ancient sources say. Bob failed to provide positive evidence for his theory.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Jayman:

      Why would they have to write a letter?

      Because it’s easier than traveling? Or have I misunderstood your question?

      I’m not sure why we are supposed to doubt that a prolific letter writer would not reply to a letter.

      “Paul: Hey, don’t take this the wrong way or anything, but some of the guys here in Corinth were wondering about the ’500 eyewitnesses’ thing in your last letter. I’m not trying to say that anyone was doubting your word, but we’d kinda like some evidence. So would you mind providing names and addresses. It’s not like we want to check up on you or anything … but we want to check up on you.”

      But he knew that some from that crowd had died. Clearly he knew at least some of them even if he was not present at the appearance in question.

      Who says he knew anything? This could’ve just been the story going through the grapevine.

      The letter itself (and others from early Christianity) indicates Christians (not just Paul) did make trips. It’s not very unlikely.

      Huh? How much of an investment of time and effort would it be for someone to make a trip exclusively to make sure that the leader of our church isn’t a liar? To go from Corinth to Jerusalem and back? Seems to me that it’d be quite a lot. Seems to me that it’d be far, far more work than it’d be worth. Seems to me that the claim “See that?! Paul says 500 eyewitnesses! There’s absolutely no way he’d say that if it weren’t absolute truth, because otherwise it’d be so easy to have his credibility undercut” is nonsense.

      Paul’s letters routinely indicate disputes between Paul and other factions.

      Paul and Peter? Sure. Paul and some random dude in his church? That’s a different story. If the dude had a dispute, he might simply leave. In a tiny church, how many are going to have the temerity to confront their spiritual leader?

      I would think at best they would say: “I’m a relative of Jesus and have known him his whole life.

      That’s where Paul dumps relatives of Jesus? Into the “500 random people” bin??

      I saw the resurrected Jesus over a period of 40 days.”

      Why would they say that? Luke makes clear that Jesus only hung around for 1 day.

    • Nox

      Paul’s letters routinely indicate disputes between Paul and other factions. But it is only Paul’s side of those disputes that are included in the new testament (the canon of which was selected based on being similar to the beliefs of dominant factions in the church in the 4th Century who already believed in the resurrection). We don’t get to hear the other side of the story.

      If someone from Corinth did go to Jerusalem to track down some of these witnesses and then wrote his own letter stating “I asked around the christian community in Jerusalem and no one had ever heard anything about Jesus resurrecting”, would that epistle make it into the new testament?

      If one of the apostles themselves wrote a sworn statement stating “Jesus is definitely dead. I saw the body myself. I can show you where it’s still buried” would that gospel make it into the new testament?

      Or would the church burn those documents out of history as they did with so many other heresies?

      We have only Paul’s word about what his opponents were saying. And Paul routinely lies.

      Also, Acts 9 indicates Paul was not a witness (since his entire knowledge of Jesus came from a dream he had after Jesus had left), and the gospels indicate only eleven to thirteen people ever saw Jesus alive after his death.

  • MNb

    The Ancients were way more flexible with numbers than we in the 21st Century. For instance Herodotus writes that the Persians fielded 5 million soldiers at Thermopylae. More likely is 15 000. It’s probably the same here. Paulus probably uses “500″ in the meaning of “many”, like children often like to do.

    “people who were unimpressed”
    More likely “who couldn’t care less”. Always keep in mind that Paulus, like any other ancient author, did not write for us 21st Century skeptics. It follows that “500″ is meaningless.

    • smrnda

      Agreed. I don’t think the numbers of Israelites in Exodus is very feasible either. I don’t know if this is intentional distortion, or just that they didn’t have very good means of assessing populations and crowd sizes.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      The Ancients were way more flexible with numbers than we in the 21st Century.

      Yes. How many people actually attended Woodstock, anyway?

  • ZenDruid

    I’ll believe there were 500 witnesses if I see 500 individual sworn and notarized depositions. The few anecdotes available don’t even agree on the important details.

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

      So how do you suppose to transport the modern American justice system to ancient Palestine? Or is this just your way of saying that you won’t believe this, no matter how good the evidence is?

      • ZenDruid

        The commandment about bearing false witness refers to statements in court, right?

        Or is this just your way of saying that you won’t believe this, no matter how good the evidence is?

        Evidence? Where? What good evidence? All you have, Karl, is some disreputable campfire stories from the Iron Age, and some overhyped fan fiction from the intervening centuries.

      • Reginald Selkirk

        He is pointing out that one story claiming 500 eyewitnesses is not the same as 500 eyewitness accounts. Do you think that one story claiming 500 eyewitnesses deserves to be described as “no matter how good the evidence is“? That is his point, that the evidence is not good.

  • Bob Jase

    This is the 21st century and the US has (supposedly) one of the best educated populations in the world.

    Yet a burn mark on a grilled cheese sandwich or an oil stain in a driveway or a Cheeto by the ‘magic’ of paredolia can still bring thousands of worshippers to witness it as a miraculous appearance of Jesus.

    So I have no problem believing 500 primitive uneducated people a couple thousand years ago couldn’t have the same experience – only it was taken as gen-u-wine magic at the time.

  • C.J. O’Brien

    I don’t doubt some actual event lies behind the passage, likely the event known as Pentecost and narrated in Acts 2. At the time “the Risen Christ” didn’t yet mean what it had come to mean for the author of Luke/Acts another 80 years or so after Paul and under the influence of the preceding narrative gospels, the storyline of which is clearly foreign to Paul.

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

      How do you come to a mid-second century dating for the writing of Luke/Acts?

      • C.J. O’Brien

        For starters, the “consensus dates” for the gospels are something of a sham. The scheme correctly depends on how early Mark is dated, but since Mark is generally though not universally believed to evince awareness of events that took place in 66-70 CE, that would only set the earliest date it could have been written. But in the consensus view somehow that becomes a firm date for when it was actually written. And then you allow an arbitrary 10 to 20 years not based on any evidence to say Matthew and Luke also were written nearly as soon as it was possible to write them.
        As to specifics, I think the Pauline corpus and Luke/Acts in nearly their final form (and John, for that matter) were the result of the Marcionite controversy and its fallout in the mid-2nd c, though the gospel of Luke was substantially based on an existing proto-docetist rewrite of Mark, now lost in the original. The final author/redactor of Luke was also the author/compiler of the legendary materials that comprise Acts. I am aware that this does not agree with the standard view. If you consider that alone an argument against it, I doubt we can have a meaningful discussion. I’ve read plenty of books on NT criticism and commentary, the synoptic problem and the reception history of the texts; I doubt a paraphrase in a comment box is going to change my mind.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          CJ: You’re drawing a distinction between the date that for the original autograph (“first draft,” perhaps) and the date after which no more changes were made (“final draft”). If someone rejects the idea of tweaks (hard to imagine anyone rejecting that completely, since the long ending of Mark and several other biggies are pretty universally agreed to have been added), then you’re right that there may not be much common ground for discussion.

        • C.J. O’Brien

          In the case of Luke, I’m arguing more than that there were tweaks. The Marcionites had a narrative gospel, call it proto-Luke, that was docetist or docetism-enabling, and which was fully revised and updated by a later author along proto-Catholic, anti-docetist lines. That author also wrote and compiled Acts to form a sequel. Around the same time, the Pauline letters were redacted and expanded to better suit proto-Catholic and anti-Marcionite beliefs, and the pseudepigraphical leters were composed for the same purpose.

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

          Why could Mark not have been written before 66-70?

        • Ritchie

          Karl:

          Why could Mark not have been written before 66-70?

          Because it’s talk of the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem (Mark 13:2) which took place at the climax of the First Jewish-Roman War in 70 AD.

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

          Because it’s talk of the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem (Mark 13:2) which took place at the climax of the First Jewish-Roman War in 70 AD.

          OK, so by reading the whole chapter, it is clear it is a prophecy of the future destruction of the temple.

          But what I want to know is how you can make a case that this dates Mark after these events without begging the question?

        • Ritchie

          OK, so by reading the whole chapter, it is clear it is a prophecy of the future destruction of the temple.

          But what I want to know is how you can make a case that this dates Mark after these events without begging the question?

          The tone is prophetic, yes. But the question is whether this is a genuine before-the-event prophecy, or an after-the-event account written as a prophecy.

          In those terms, the latter is to be preferred since it does not depend on any supernatural occurrances.

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

          So Jesus did not prophecy the destruction of the temple because the record is from after the destruction of the temple, which we know because prophecy can’t happen. Sounds suspiciously circular to me.

        • Ritchie

          So Jesus did not prophecy the destruction of the temple because the record is from after the destruction of the temple, which we know because prophecy can’t happen. Sounds suspiciously circular to me.

          We can never know for certain what happened in the past. History is about piecing together the most likely series of events. Which is more likely: that this was a bona fide prediction written by a person who could genuinely see into the future, or this was written after the event by someone who had no such abilities?

        • Greg G.

          Hi CJ

          In the case of Luke, I’m arguing more than that there were tweaks.

          The quote from Acts 21:38 where Paul is thought to be the Egyptian who led some assassins into the desert is a smoking gun that Luke used Josephus as a source. The elements from that verse come from three consecutive but unrelated stories. When I first compared the shipwreck stories in Josephus and in Acts, I thought they must have been on the same ship but the wording is so similar one looks like a copy. Josephus says he would discuss law whith scholars when he was 14 years old and Luke has Jesus doing it when he was 12. Then there are a couple of dozen more corresponding stories. If it was just coincidence, there should be just as many in Matthew, Mark and John but the coincidences are only in the parts of Luke that are not synoptic passages. So if Luke and Acts are dependent on Josephus, including his autobiography that was written around 97AD, then Luke must be later than that.

          Luke is considered by many to be a great historian because he got so much history right. If he got his information from Josephus and those doing the rating are comparing him with Josephus, no wonder he looks good.

  • smrnda

    Here’s something I don’t understand. Most Christians dismiss the Book of Mormon. However, The Mormons actually *name people* who were supposedly witnesses either to the golden plates themselves or Joseph Smith’s translation process. They don’t have 500, but they have names.

    The other issue is that the Mormons faced strong opposition. (I didn’t say persecution since, well, they were breaking some laws and I wanted a more neutral term.) In spite of this, nobody said Joseph Smith and co. were frauds, they all stuck to the story.

    But yet, Christians typically won’t accept the validity of the book of Mormon, even with named eyewitnesses. Somehow this seems inconsistent. Paul says that 500 people saw Jesus, no names, and 500 is taken as a credible number, yet named witnesses of the book of Mormon are getting dismissed.

    If the argument is made that Mormonism goes against Christian theology, well, Jesus went against Jewish theology. He said things that were unprecedented from any previous scriptures or traditions. Yet Christians don’t seem to think that Jews are right to reject Jesus on this account, but they reject the Mormons.

    Either way, doesn’t add up.

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

      smrnda, I’m no expert on Mormonism, but I’ll respond to your comment. Feel free to correct any errors I make about Mormonism.

      Most Christians dismiss the Book of Mormon. However, The Mormons actually *name people* who were supposedly witnesses either to the golden plates themselves or Joseph Smith’s translation process. They don’t have 500, but they have names.

      The NT names people who witnessed the resurrected Jesus. More importantly, one can grant (at least for the sake of argument) that Joseph Smith made translations from golden plates and still have no reason to become Mormon.

      The other issue is that the Mormons faced strong opposition. (I didn’t say persecution since, well, they were breaking some laws and I wanted a more neutral term.) In spite of this, nobody said Joseph Smith and co. were frauds, they all stuck to the story.

      But Joseph Smith and company did not witness the events described in the Book of Mormon. They may have been sincere in their faith but they did not undergo persecution for a belief in events they witnessed directly. This is different from the first Christian disciples who underwent persecution for belief in events they witnessed with their own eyes.

      But yet, Christians typically won’t accept the validity of the book of Mormon, even with named eyewitnesses. Somehow this seems inconsistent.

      You need to spell out the inconsistency. The Book of Mormon should be judged on its contents, not on how many people witnessed the golden plates or the translation process.

      Paul says that 500 people saw Jesus, no names, and 500 is taken as a credible number, yet named witnesses of the book of Mormon are getting dismissed.

      Atheists often doubt the very existence of the 500 witnesses of the resurrected Jesus. I have not heard of anyone doubting the existence of the Book of Mormon witnesses. But, again, how the Book of Mormon came into existence is far less important than whether its contents are true or not.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Jayman:

        The NT names people who witnessed the resurrected Jesus.

        40 years of oral history before being written down? Mormonism is far better.

        This is different from the first Christian disciples who underwent persecution for belief in events they witnessed with their own eyes.

        We have stories of Christian eyewitnesses. We have stories of disciples dying for their belief. Is the Christian story any better than the Mormon story?

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

          Bob:

          40 years of oral history before being written down? Mormonism is far better.

          Your post is about a passage that names names and you date it to 25 years later. Plus Paul was an eyewitness and in contact with other eyewitnesses. Whether an eyewitness speaks 25 or 40 years after the events is not much concern to me.

          We have stories of Christian eyewitnesses. We have stories of disciples dying for their belief. Is the Christian story any better than the Mormon story?

          Even Mormons admit the historical accuracy of the NT is far better supported than the Book of Mormon. This undermines the claim that the NT is just stories (a line you could probably use for countless historical claims).

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Jayman:

          Paul was an eyewitness and in contact with other eyewitnesses.

          Huh?? How do we know this? Some dude has a wild story and so therefore it’s an eyewitness account?

          Even Mormons admit the historical accuracy of the NT is far better supported than the Book of Mormon.

          Then argue with Mormons. I don’t admit this. The Mormon argument (aside from the fact that it’s complete nonsense, of course!) beats the conventional Christian argument on every point.

        • Ritchie

          Plus Paul was an eyewitness

          An eyewitness to what? He certainly never saw Jesus as a man. He just had a vision of him on the road to Damascus – after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.

          Even Mormons admit the historical accuracy of the NT is far better supported than the Book of Mormon.

          That is not a high bar. ‘More historically accurate than the book of Mormon’ is not the same as ‘historically accurate’. There are, in fact, several historical inaccuracies in the NT. Take, for instance, the nativity. According to Matthew and Luke, Jesus was supposed to have been born during the reign of King Herod, who died in 4 BC. In both Matthew and Luke, Jesus was supposedly born during a great census, but there could not have been one in Judea before 6 AD. According to Luke, it was supposed to have been conducted by the governor Quirinius, but he was never governor while Herod was alive. What is going on here, exactly?

      • MNb

        Define true. You see, 1 Kings 7:23 and 2 Chronicles 4:2 are false. The infanticide as described by Mattheus also is false. The census that urged Joseph and Maria to return to Bethlehem (also false; no Roman census worked that way) took place several years after Jesus’ birth.

        http://www.livius.org/su-sz/sulpicius/quirinius.html

      • Reginald Selkirk

        But, again, how the Book of Mormon came into existence is far less important than whether its contents are true or not.

        Uh, sure. But how do we judge whether to believe it is true?

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

          Reginald Selkirk:

          Uh, sure. But how do we judge whether to believe it is true?

          Compare its contents to the historical record we find in other sources (see my comment on April 11, 2013 at 10:18am).

        • Reginald Selkirk

          1) There is an entire genre of literature known as historical fiction. The authors build their plots around historical events and incorporate their characters.
          2) Fine, let’s look at how well the NT books compare to the historical secular records: While the NT does OK on the really big picture; the existence of a Jewish Roman subject state approx 200 years ago, it does poorly on key details, as someone has alread listed above. The Slaughter of the Innocents never happened. While there was a census in that general date and area, it certainly was not administered in the fashion described, requiring everyone to travel to wherever their ancestors lived hundreds of years prior. The timeline of who ruled when simply doesn’t work out. The magi did not sight a star in the East, follow it, and wind up in the West. The major earthquakes, darkness and zombies reported to follow the resurrection of Jesus H. Christ are not corraborated at all.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      smrnda:

      The Mormons actually *name people* who were supposedly witnesses either to the golden plates themselves or Joseph Smith’s translation process.

      That’s true, and our evidence is far higher quality–written in modern English. No cultural gulf to cross. And much more of it–newspaper accounts, diaries.

      nobody said Joseph Smith and co. were frauds, they all stuck to the story.

      Well, Smith had a reputation as a con man. I think he was at least hauled before a court on it, if not convicted. And I think some of the original group who swore that they had seen the plates later recanted. Still, Mormonism beats conventional Christianity easily. Same for alien abduction stories.

      • vorjack

        “Well, Smith had a reputation as a con man. ”

        Supposedly Smith was arrested and tried in Chenango County, NY, for engaging in the northern tradition of treasure seeking. There seems to exist records of a preliminary hearing, but the results of the hearing and any further trial are unknown.

  • avalon

    Bob,
    First, a correction: according to my bible reference notes this appearance didn’t happen in Jerusalem, it (supposedly) happened in Galilee on the Mount of Olives.
    This tale contradicts the other gospel accounts of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances (read together Jesus appears here, there, and everywhere at the same time). It also contradicts the account that says he appeared to the 11 apostles there (perhaps they brought 489 friends).
    But mainly, this is an interpretation of Isaiah 9:1-2 “The gloom will be dispelled for those who were anxious. In earlier times he humiliated the land of Zebulun, and the land of Naphtali; but now he brings honor to the way of the sea, the region beyond the Jordan, and Galilee of the nations. The people walking in darkness see a bright light; light shines on those who live in a land of deep darkness.”
    This ‘appearance’ may have been nothing more than a “bright light”. In any case, the later writings in the gospels seem to have dropped the story altogether.

    avalon

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    Thanks. I never considered the great distance between Corinth and Jerusalem for this passage. Paul is kind of like the awkward high school kid who says “I swear, I really do have a girlfriend! She just lives out of state…”

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

    Bob:

    Huh?? How do we know this? Some dude has a wild story and so therefore it’s an eyewitness account?

    I’m not aware of anyone who doubts that Paul had a conversion experience. His claims about other resurrection eyewitnesses could be confirmed by his readers who also had contact with at least some of those witnesses. The alternative is to suggest a massive conspiracy theory. No thanks.

    Then argue with Mormons. I don’t admit this. The Mormon argument (aside from the fact that it’s complete nonsense, of course!) beats the conventional Christian argument on every point.

    The important comparison is between the contents of the NT and the contents of the Book of Mormon. The NT itself contains multiple documents from different authors written close to time of the events described. It is confirmed in numerous places by external written sources and archaeological finds. On the other hand, the Book of Mormon has no support in written sources or archaeology. I heard a Mormon apologist say (paraphrase) Biblical archaeology is possible because we know where biblical places are, but Book of Mormon archaeology is not possible because we can’t identify any of the places or people. In fact, the Book of Mormon makes historical claims that are egregiously wrong. For example, it claims that Old World plants and animals (e.g., horses) existed in the New World prior to Columbus’ visit.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Jayman:

      I’m not aware of anyone who doubts that Paul had a conversion experience.

      That’s certainly not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about Paul being visited by a person of the creator of the universe. I doubt that, and most people on this planet do as well.

      The alternative is to suggest a massive conspiracy theory.

      It’s easier if you simply respond to the arguments I’ve already made. No one’s talking about a conspiracy theory. Careful–people will think that you’re tossing out irrelevant stuff just to obfuscate the issue!

      The important comparison is between the contents of the NT and the contents of the Book of Mormon.

      I’m comparing these two from an evidence standpoint–how old the story is, how big the gulf is between us and the source document, how much information there is, how long the period of oral history was, and so on. The B of M beats the NT on just about every point.

      The NT itself contains multiple documents from different authors written close to time of the events described.

      The BoM is a single book translated by the eyewitness to the entire event. The time gap is minimal. The language is modern English.

      the Book of Mormon has no support in written sources or archaeology.

      That’s true, though let’s not get too excited here. The “archeological evidence” in the NT amounts to a reference to a place and–sure enough!–we’ve found evidence that that place actually exists.

      This is worth crowing about? That the NT gets some place names and names of historical figures correct? Big deal.

      the Book of Mormon makes historical claims that are egregiously wrong.

      Agreed. It’s laughable. But then believers will grasp at straws to support their beliefs, won’t they?

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

        Bob:

        It’s easier if you simply respond to the arguments I’ve already made. No one’s talking about a conspiracy theory.

        You are suggesting that the Corinthians would have some great difficulty verifying Paul’s statements and that this would allow Paul to misinform, bend the truth, or lie to his readers. But your claim about being able to verify statements is only plausible if we assume the many other writers who imply it was quite possible were wrong. Perhaps conspiracy theory is not the best term but suggesting such widespread incompetency sounds ludicrous (especially in light of the evident competency noted at the end of this comment).

        I’m comparing these two from an evidence standpoint–how old the story is, how big the gulf is between us and the source document, how much information there is, how long the period of oral history was, and so on. The B of M beats the NT on just about every point.

        But you’re conveniently omitting the evidence concerning the contents of the BOM and NT. Once the contents are compared the NT wins hands down, as even Mormon apologists admit. Your comparison is superficial.

        The BoM is a single book translated by the eyewitness to the entire event. The time gap is minimal. The language is modern English.

        Joseph Smith was not an eyewitness to the contents of the BOM. The BOM describes events that allegedly occurred in the New World between about 600 BC and 400 AD. So that’s at least a 1400 year gap, whereas all the NT documents were written within living memory of Jesus’ ministry. While the BOM we know is written in English it was allegedly translated from some Egyptian-like text (which we know far less about than Greek). Of course the language a book was written in is irrelevant for judging its contents.

        This is worth crowing about? That the NT gets some place names and names of historical figures correct? Big deal.

        That the NT is confirmed by archaeological evidence in numerous places is one line of evidence that it is generally historically reliable. If the authors knew of people and places from an earlier time and a distant place this is yet another reason to doubt your claims that the Corinthians could not validate Paul’s statements.

        • Ritchie

          Jayman:

          [quote]You are suggesting that the Corinthians would have some great difficulty verifying Paul’s statements and that this would allow Paul to misinform, bend the truth, or lie to his readers.[/quote]

          There is a huge grey area between a factually accurate report and a deliberate lie. Personally, I think it likely that Paul had some sort of religious experience on the road to Damascus, but that does not mean that experience was truly authentic. People have religious experiences all the time, and they can be induced by all kinds of stimuli and influences. A person can be absolutely convinced in their beliefs, and yet still be mistaken – indeed it can be argued that religion is particularly conducive to this sort of delusion.

          [quote]But your claim about being able to verify statements is only plausible if we assume the many other writers who imply it was quite possible were wrong.[/quote]

          Which other writers? Are you talking about the gospel authors? Would this be surprising if their writing supported each other if they were reporting the same rumours and stories?

          [quote]Once the contents are compared the NT wins hands down, as even Mormon apologists admit.[/quote]

          Does it? What outside sources actually support the NT? The empty tomb? The life of Jesus? The resurrection? Can these be verified at all?

          [quote]That the NT is confirmed by archaeological evidence in numerous places is one line of evidence that it is generally historically reliable.[/quote]

          Then what conclusions should we draw from the passages which are all but disproved by archaeology? The exodus from Egypt, for example. There is no evidence at all that the Egyptians kept an entire race captive for 400 years. Nor is there any evidence of a sudden, dramatic collapse of society which must surely have followed the Egyptians losing all their food, fresh water, livestock, crops, the eldest male child in every family, the Pharoah, their entire standing army, as well as their slave population and all the treasure they looted as they went. And all, apparently, at the very zenith of Egypt’s empirial power. There is no sign of Egyptian society suddenly collapsing as it surely must have if the Exodus was true, nor any trace of a huge nomadic group wandering the Sinai desert for 40 years, nor of their encampment at Kadesh-barnea, nor of the battles they allegedly fought at Edom, Arad and Heshbon. At every turn, archaeology turns up empty-handed. The only sensible conclusion is that it simply did not happen. What are we to make of this?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Ritchie:

          Don’t use [quote]. Instead, use [blockquote] except with angled brackets (less than/greater than) instead of square ones.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Jayman:

          Perhaps conspiracy theory is not the best term but suggesting such widespread incompetency sounds ludicrous

          Again: I’ve written a whole post on this. If you reject my argument, that’s fine, but respond to the points I’ve already made.

          But you’re conveniently omitting the evidence concerning the contents of the BOM and NT. Once the contents are compared the NT wins hands down, as even Mormon apologists admit. Your comparison is superficial.

          So you agree with me then? On the various factors by which historians compare historical claims, the BoM spanks the NT on most of them.

          As for content, I think what you’re saying is that the Mormon claim is clear enough that it can be checked and is found (very!) wanting. And that’s true. But the reason that the NT doesn’t fail on this point is that it’s not clear enough to check. You’ve got uncheckable claims of miracles in the NT. I’ll grant you–we don’t have evidence to match up against these to show that they’re a joke, as with the BoM. So that’s worth bragging about? That your claims have been removed from checkability? Sounds to me like that’s a strike against the NT, not for.

          Joseph Smith was not an eyewitness to the contents of the BOM

          Dude–Jo was an eyewitness to a frikkin’ angel from God! Wow–what does it take to impress you? And how do we know that Jo was an eyewitness to this? Because he wrote it all down himself!

          Seriously, bro, it’s really not that hard.

          that’s at least a 1400 year gap

          And what got us over that gap? Not the human copyists who got us over the 2000-year gap for the NT books but a gosh-darn angel from God and gold plates! You gonna trust an angel or fallible humans?!

          That the NT is confirmed by archaeological evidence in numerous places is one line of evidence that it is generally historically reliable.

          That the NT is correct about historical events (one could argue that it’s not, but forget that) is the bare minimum to get to the starting gate. Again: big deal.

  • http://hausdorffbb.blogspot.com Hausdorff

    Doesn’t Paul’s account of 500 eyewitnesses contradict the gospels? As I recall from my reading, when Jesus was resurrected he only talked to a handful of people and then ascended to heaven. Is there a passage somewhere at the end of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John (that is perhaps vague) that allows for this?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Hausdorff: Perhaps “contradict” is too strong a word, but the gospels have no mention of this remarkable claim by Mark. Apologists must argue both that Paul’s claim is important and yet each of the gospel’s omission of this factoid is unimportant.

      • http://hausdorffbb.blogspot.com Hausdorff

        I suppose you are right, to really be a contradiction I suppose the gospels would need to specifically say that Jesus only visited the people it mentioned. Perhaps it would be better to call it a discrepancy.

    • C.J. O’Brien

      The answer is that a completely different conception of “the Risen Christ” from that of the narrative gospels underlies the Pauline text. “According to the scriptures” for Paul meant revelation based on a mystical exegesis of the Bible and charismatic prophesy and glossalia during worship. This figure “appearing” to 500 has more of the flavor of the descent of the Holy Spirit narrated as Pentecost in Acts.

      Also of interest in this connection may be Galatians 3:1, in which Paul admonishes his “foolish” correspondents to remember that “before your eyes, Jesus Christ was portrayed as crucified”. This is a troublesome passage, and the standard translation and commentary on the verse obscure the sense somewhat, because, in the standard apologetic view, what could Paul have meant but something like “I forcefully and publicly preached to you of the crucifixion”? But the sense of the Greek is more like “The crucifixion was demonstrated publicly right before your eyes.” It goes well beyond “I told you about it,” and strongly implies a specifically visual experience on the part of the Galatians. Paul didn’t have a PowerPoint deck, so what is he talking about, exactly? It sounds to me as if the crucifixion and resurrection were cosmic events that the faithful could experience directly in times and places well removed from any specific earthly occurence.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        CJ: Interesting thinking. If you’re aware of the Bible Geek podcast, you might want to submit that observation for critique and comment by Dr. Price.

  • Greg G

    Hi Jayman

    Paul was an eyewitness and in contact with other eyewitnesses

    Paul only talks about his own revelation experience, not an eyewitness account. He describes the other accounts the same way he describes his own. He thinks theirs were revelations and not eyewitnessed events, too.

  • Selah

    Bob ,
    All truth , Biblical truth ( 1Cor 15:6 ), passes thru (3) stages. First it is ridiculed , secondly it is violently opposed ,and thirdly it is accepted as being self-evident. All you nay-sayers out there are worse than the chief priests and soldiers who concocted lies such as : Jesus’s disciple’s came at night and stole him away while we were sleeping.
    Jesus had an important appointment He had to keep with 11 of His disciples at the mountain in Galilee and just as it was then it is now: When they saw Him , they fell down and worshiped Him but
    some DOUBTED.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      All truth , Biblical truth ( 1Cor 15:6 ), passes thru (3) stages. First it is ridiculed , secondly it is violently opposed ,and thirdly it is accepted as being self-evident.

      A cute story, but it simply isn’t true. The existence of high temperature superconductors was immediately and widely accepted. That’s because the people who made the discovery had solid evidence, and the results were readily replicable. It is easy to think of many other examples of things that were not ridiculed, things that were not opposed, things that were never accepted.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        RS: I think Selah was talking about biblical truth. And information about superconductors was most certainly not in the Bible!

        Now that I think of it, no scientific truth was …

    • trj

      Let us know when the Bible gets to step 3. So far, most people on Earth don’t consider its “truths” to be self-evident.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Selah:

      First it is ridiculed , secondly it is violently opposed ,and thirdly it is accepted as being self-evident.

      (As has already been noted,) it’s been 2000 years, and still the majority of the world think that the Christian message is nonsense. Yikes! You’re a long way from it being universally accepted as self-evident.

      If God exists, he gave me this brain to use. And I’m using it by demanding evidence to accept your remarkable claim.

      It’s not good enough for me. Shouldn’t be good enough for you, either.

  • Greg G

    When Paul writes “according to the scriptures” he only tells us information that can be found in the Old Testament. I think that’s what he meant by it rather than how later generations who reflect on the gospels interpret it.

    The experience that Christians call the Holy Spirit is not unique to that religion. I experienced it in that context but I have had similar emotional experiences in other contexts. Other religions also have their own “mountaintop experiences”.

    I looked at the concordance for Galatians 3. The only questionable word would be what is translated as “portrayed”. The first meaning for prographo is “written before”. The second meaning is “portrayed”. You can see the “pro” for before and the “graph” for write. So Paul is apparently saying that he showed them what was written in the scriptures. Translators often allow their theology to guide their translation. The word is used 6 times in 4 verses. Jude 1:4 has a peculiar double usage to get both meanings. Every other time it is the literal meaning.

    • C.J. O’Brien

      So Paul is apparently saying that he showed them what was written in the scriptures.

      prographo is modified by ois kat opthalamous, “before your eyes,” though, and is clearly being used in a different sense than, for instance, in Romans 15:4, where it means fore-written, “written in the scriptures”. To get at the sense of what may be an idiomatic expression, it’s not valid to just “average” two standard definitions as you do with “portrayed” and “written before”. Paul is saying something like “presented to your eyes as crucified,” even “placarded as crucified”, so unless Paul is using visual aids I’d say we’re dealing with ecstatic visions and not just emphatic (verbal) preaching. In some way, Paul expected the Galatians to be able to recall their experience of the crucifixion.

      *I do agree that for Paul and his followers, “the good news” was, as you say, “information that can be found in the Old Testament,” I just dispute that Gal 3:1 is saying only this with prographo.

      • Greg G.

        Hi CJ,

        prographo is modified by ois kat opthalamous, “before your eyes,” though, and is clearly being used in a different sense than, for instance, in Romans 15:4, where it means fore-written, “written in the scriptures”. To get at the sense of what may be an idiomatic expression, it’s not valid to just “average” two standard definitions as you do with “portrayed” and “written before”.

        From what I read, “before your eyes” does have a stronger meaning in the Greek so it would likely be more like “in your face” in today’s English. Since neither Paul nor the Galatians actually saw Jesus crucified, it follows that the message was related somehow. At least one person there was literate but it’s likely that most were not so it was either read or acted out in a skit.

        Paul was quite agitated throughout the letter to the Galatians.

    • MNb

      “he only tells us information that can be found in the Old Testament”
      You mean Hosea 6:1-3? It’s quite far fetched to assume that this describes “how that Christ died for our sins”. Of course it’s possible that Paulus believed it, but how do we know?

  • smrnda

    Just wanted to clarify that I’m not a Mormon and do not endorse any aspect of the LDS belief system.

    I can agree that, though the book of Mormon has named, recent ‘witnesses’ of sorts, that its problem is that it gets its history of the Americans completely wrong. So maybe they’re about even in terms of evidence then.

    On ‘nobody called Joseph Smith a fraud’ – I mean his followers, not the population at large.

  • Greg G

    Hi Selah

    It’s more like acceptance of a religion ebbs and flows, followed by a period when followers leave or die off faster than they can be replaced, and then they are forgotten. All extant religions are in Stage 1 or Stage 2. Most religions are Stage 3.

  • http://www.jordanrichmond.com Jordan Richmond

    Hi Bob – let’s back it up even further. What would be Paul’s motivation for being the founder of the church? He was on the fast track to being one of the most influential Jewish religious leaders. He gave that up to join the cause he was fighting. It’s not like his life as an apostle was a cakewalk. He ultimately was imprisoned and killed. What’s in it for him?

    Thanks,
    Jordan

    • ZenDruid

      How better to fight something than to destroy it from within? From my perspective, Saul/Paul did as much as he possibly could to divorce the Christian message from some very accessible ideas, i.e. the gospel of Thomas, and injected a bunch of messianic nonsense to force a regression to Pharisaic doctrine.

    • Greg G.

      Hi Jordan,

      Paul was probably a true believer but not what most people think he believed. The Old Testament had a clear prophecy that David”s seed would always be on the throne but it failed thanks to the Babylonians. They blamed it on God holding a grudge from when their ancestors didn’t follow the Law strictly enough. They believed that if they behaved, God would restore David’s seed to the throne. They began to read other verses out-of-context to support the idea of God sending a Messiah. After a few hundred years of this not happening, one sect began to read verses on suffering as being a story about Jesus having been sacrificed long ago.

      Paul originally opposed that idea but in his studies, it all began to make sense to him. He claims he didn’t learn it from any person. It was all revealed to him in his studies. He never tells us anything about Jesus that he didn’t read “according to the scriptures”. In fact, none of the Epistles tell us about a ministry or teachings, only about the crucifixion and a resurrection. The other evangelists seem to be teaching a different message than his. Paul thinks that faith is what is important but the Epistle of James tells us that works are more important.

      After the fall of Jerusalem, the gospels were written by a generation born too late to know the facts, based on a misunderstanding that the Jesus the early Christians talked about was a first century person.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Jordan:

      I like Greg’s analysis.

      He was on the fast track to being one of the most influential Jewish religious leaders.

      I don’t even know that Acts and the Pauline epistles argue this, but let’s suppose they do. That’s a story. Is there any chance that this new Christian is going to modify his story to make him appear like an especially bad person? “And if Jesus can sanctify a sinner like me, you know he’ll do it for you!”

      It’s not like his life as an apostle was a cakewalk. He ultimately was imprisoned and killed. What’s in it for him?

      Why does anyone stick with their religion when the going gets tough? He feels that he’s found the right path and he’s going to be rewarded in the afterlife. Doesn’t sound like his beliefs are true, but doesn’t sound hard to believe that someone would think that.

    • MNb

      “What would be Paul’s motivation for being the founder of the church?”
      The same as the motivation of every single person who founded a church – power.

      “He was on the fast track to being one of the most influential Jewish religious leaders.”
      That’s wisdom from hindsight. There is no way Paulus could know that. The Romans did not give him any attention; neither did Flavius Josephus. So much for his influence.

      “He gave that up to join the cause he was fighting. It’s not like his life as an apostle was a cakewalk. He ultimately was imprisoned and killed. What’s in it for him?”
      I have another question for you. What other source besides Paulus himself do we have for this information? Exactly, none. You are proving the reliability of the NT by assuming the reliability of the NT.

  • Greg G
    He was on the fast track to being one of the most influential Jewish religious leaders

    I don’t even know that Acts and the Pauline epistles argue this, but let’s suppose they do. That’s a story. Is there any chance that this new Christian is going to modify his story to make him appear like an especially bad person? “And if Jesus can sanctify a sinner like me, you know he’ll do it for you!”

    Paul does say that he was advanced in Judaism beyond his years in Galatians 1:14 and in the previous verse he talks about his persecution of the church of God and how he tried to destroy it. If Paul means that he was a 13 year old with the reading level of a 20 year old, how much destruction could he wreak? Or was he a 30 year old with the reading level of a 90 year old?

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

    Reginald:

    There is an entire genre of literature known as historical fiction.

    Are you suggesting all the NT writings were intended as historical fiction but misunderstood as actual history by all the sources that come down to us?

    While the NT does OK on the really big picture; the existence of a Jewish Roman subject state approx 200 years ago, it does poorly on key details, as someone has alread listed above.

    I’m not arguing for inerrancy. I notice many of your examples pertain to the infancy narratives, which we would expect to be the least reliable parts of the Gospels since they were the most distant events and witnessed by a relative few. I agree the scene from Matthew of the tombs opening up is problematic historically. Your objections to the slaughter of the innocents and the earthquakes and darkness at Christ’s crucifixion seem to be arguments from silence (and there are some possible references to the darkness in other sources).

    • Ritchie

      Just to play Devil’s advocate, let us please not forget Matthew also claimed the dead saints of Jerusalem woke up out of their graves and walked around the town witnessed by many. An event which could arguably count as the most incredible miracle in the whole NT, but apparently was so inconsequential that no-one at all bothered to record it – even the other gospels. Even Matthew never says what actually became of them.

      Either that or the gospels are not, in fact, strictly accurate historical accounts. They contain, at best, exaggerations, rhetorical flourishes and incredible events just to make their story more exciting. And where does that leave us when evaluating the veracity of their supernatural claims, such as Jesus’ miracles or the resurrection itself? Why should we have any confidence in ANY of their miracle claims?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Jayman:

      Are you suggesting all the NT writings were intended as historical fiction but misunderstood as actual history by all the sources that come down to us?

      Modern Christians misunderstand them as history, yes, but are you saying that the first-century Christians saw them as such?

      Your objections to the slaughter of the innocents and the earthquakes and darkness at Christ’s crucifixion seem to be arguments from silence (and there are some possible references to the darkness in other sources).

      Sorry for jumping in here, but there’s no argument from silence. We don’t need to hear eyewitness evidence that a zombie apocalypse didn’t happen to have good reason to doubt such a claim.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

    Ritchie:

    Take, for instance, the nativity.

    I’m not arguing for inerrancy. The nativity is the oldest part of the story and so we would expect it to be the least accurate.

    Personally, I think it likely that Paul had some sort of religious experience on the road to Damascus, but that does not mean that experience was truly authentic.

    In Galatians Paul says he conferred with the Jerusalem disciples to see if he had run his race in vain. The Jerusalem disciples agreed with his gospel, although disputes arose over Gentile/Jew observance of the Torah.

    Which other writers? Are you talking about the gospel authors? Would this be surprising if their writing supported each other if they were reporting the same rumours and stories?

    Any ancient writer, Christian or non-Christian, who noted how people and information traveled.

    Does it? What outside sources actually support the NT? The empty tomb? The life of Jesus? The resurrection? Can these be verified at all?

    It’s obviously a vast area that can’t be covered in comments. I’m not claiming that each and every event in the NT is corroborated by an external source. However, the amount of corroboration implies we can trust the sources even when we can’t corroborate them on each point.

    According to Matthew, Justin Martyr, and Tertullian (at least), even the Jews believed the tomb to be empty. They proposed that the disciples stole the body.

    An outline of the life of Jesus can be found in Josephus (even once interpolations are removed).

    Obviously you will be hard-pressed to find someone who believe the resurrection occurred but did not become a Christian. It’s unreasonable to expect non-Christian corroboration on that point.

    The exodus from Egypt, for example.

    The exodus from Egypt is not part of the NT.

    Just to play Devil’s advocate, let us please not forget Matthew also claimed the dead saints of Jerusalem woke up out of their graves and walked around the town witnessed by many. . . . Even Matthew never says what actually became of them.

    I agree that’s a puzzling passage. As your last sentence indicates, it’s not even clear what to make of it on a literary level.

    • Ritchie

      Firstly, how do you do quotes on this site? I’ll put your bits in quotation marks for now:

      “I’m not arguing for inerrancy.”

      A sensible position, but I wonder if you fully appreciate the implications of this. If the NT is not inerrant then there is no reason to believe its more extraordinary claims. We really are taking Jesus’ resurrection on the strength of the gospels alone, and if the gospels are unreliable in such matters, then what does that leave us with? Do you recognise how weak the Christian position is if the gospels are unreliable sources?

      “In Galatians Paul says he conferred with the Jerusalem disciples to see if he had run his race in vain.”

      I’m not exactly sure what this means. Are you claiming Paul’s “vision” related to him Jesus’ whole biography? Because in fact, Paul demonstrates a shocking lack of knowledge of the events of Jesus’ Earthly life. He only alludes to the most vague and elementary parts of Jesus’ story – such as that he was betrayed and crucified, which it would take no divine revelation for him to know. He was, after all, rather familiar with Christianity before his conversion, having persectued Christians so fiercely.

      “According to Matthew, Justin Martyr, and Tertullian (at least), even the Jews believed the tomb to be empty.”

      We’ve alreasy established Matthew as an unreliable source. And the other two are 2nd-3rd century figures. They are separated from Jesus by well over a century. They cannot possibly be first-hand witnesses – they can only be reporting hearsay which has had more than a hundred years to stew and mutate.

      “An outline of the life of Jesus can be found in Josephus (even once interpolations are removed).”

      1) Josephus gives only two brief mentions of Jesus. He does not give anything anywhere near as detailed as an outline of Jesus’ life.
      2) We do not know for a fact the extent of the interlopations. One reference to Jesus may well be an interlopation in its entirety, and the second could plausibly be talking about a different Jesus altogether – there aren’t even enough details in it to identify it as THE Jesus.
      3) Josephus was born in 37AD. Like Justin Martyr and Tertullian he was simply not alive through Jesus’ alleged lifetime, and is not a first-hand witness.

      “I agree that’s a puzzling passage. As your last sentence indicates, it’s not even clear what to make of it on a literary level.”

      With respect, I do not agree at all. I think it’s perfectly clear that the author of Matthew (at least) felt able to invent extraordinary miracles as rhetorical flourshes – even ones so easily checked and falsified as this. Which casts a damning shadow of doubt over his whole gospel – and others.

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman

        Ritchie:

        Firstly, how do you do quotes on this site?

        Use the blockquote HTML tag.

        Do you recognise how weak the Christian position is if the gospels are unreliable sources?

        There’s plenty of room between “inerrant” and “unreliable”.

        I’m not exactly sure what this means.

        It means his revelation was confirmed by people who knew Jesus by other means.

        And the other two are 2nd-3rd century figures. They are separated from Jesus by well over a century. They cannot possibly be first-hand witnesses – they can only be reporting hearsay which has had more than a hundred years to stew and mutate.

        Justin and Tertullian are first-hand witnesses to what Jews were still saying in their own day. And Justin was in dialogue with a Jew. This shows the empty tomb was known to Jews from the time of Matthew to the time of Tertullian.

        Josephus gives only two brief mentions of Jesus. He does not give anything anywhere near as detailed as an outline of Jesus’ life.

        I don’t see why an outline can’t be brief.

        We do not know for a fact the extent of the interlopations. One reference to Jesus may well be an interlopation in its entirety, and the second could plausibly be talking about a different Jesus altogether – there aren’t even enough details in it to identify it as THE Jesus.

        I won’t delve into it, but I find the arguments persuasive.

        Josephus was born in 37AD. Like Justin Martyr and Tertullian he was simply not alive through Jesus’ alleged lifetime, and is not a first-hand witness.

        True, but he lived and wrote within living memory of Jesus’ ministry.

        • Ritchie

          Use the blockquote HTML tag.

          Thanks.

          There’s plenty of room between “inerrant” and “unreliable”.

          Is there? Matthew claims the saints rose up like zombies. That almost certainly didn’t happen. Doesn’t that cast doubt over his other miracle claims about Jesus too?

          It means his revelation was confirmed by people who knew Jesus by other means.

          Again, I’m still lost here. Paul saw a vision of Christ while he was alone. How can one go elsewhere and have that independently verified by a third party?

          Justin and Tertullian are first-hand witnesses to what Jews were still saying in their own day.

          But the Jews of their day are seperated from Christ by a hundred years too.

          This shows the empty tomb was known to Jews from the time of Matthew to the time of Tertullian.

          Do we have any Jewish sources on this? Is there any evidence on what the Jews thought on the matter from the Jews themselves? Or are we only to hear their opinions via Christian scholars such as Justin Martyr and Tertullian?

          I won’t delve into it, but I find the arguments persuasive.

          As you say. But you still cannot escape the fact that Josephus was no first-hand witness to Jesus. He can only be reporting stories he has heard from others.

          True, but he lived and wrote within living memory of Jesus’ ministry.

          Barely. Antiquities of the Jews was written 93-94 AD. In Rome. Anyone old enough to lave remembered seeing Jesus (let’s say 10) would have been 70 at the time of writing Antiquities. Possible, though a stretch for those times.
          But even if he was recounting stories he had heard earlier in his life, in Jerusalem, he is still simply not a first-hand source. He can only be as reliable as his sources, and he does not state what his sources are. This alone makes it second-rate in terms of evidence. I realise this is important to apologists since this is the earliest non-Christian reference to Jesus, but that does not justify fondly imagining this evidence to be stronger than it is. It really just highlights how weak the evidence for a historical Jesus (much less a miracle-working one) is. The fact that we do not have even a single account or mention by anyone who actually claims to have seen the living Jesus (the gospels are anonymous, and Paul only saw a post-death ‘vision’ of him) is extremely suspicious and telling – especially when there were perfect candidates who should have noticed, but failed to. Philo of Alexandria, for example, was a Jewish philosopher and prolific writier with an interest in Jewish off-shoot religions and who lived in Jerusalem during the years of Jesus’ alleged ministry, and he fails to mention anyone matching Jesus’ description, despite mentioning other ‘false messiahs’ to pour scourn on them. There is also Justus of Tiberius, who wrote a history of Galilee in 80AD and does not mention a Jesus. The Roman Seneca the Younger lived until the 60s AD and wrote extensively on philosophy and ethics, yet has apparently never heard of the teachings of Jesus.
          Stacked up against this curious silence from people who were actually there and SHOULD have noticed Jesus, the evidence for him seems rather thin.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

          Ritchie:

          Doesn’t that cast doubt over his other miracle claims about Jesus too?

          Not necessarily. He needs to be judged on his entire work and not just one verse.

          Again, I’m still lost here. Paul saw a vision of Christ while he was alone. How can one go elsewhere and have that independently verified by a third party?

          We don’t know exactly what Paul saw and heard during his conversion experience so I will be abstract. Suppose in his vision that Jesus told Paul X and Paul did not know about X prior to this event. He later learned by independent means that X was true. This gives some credence to his conversion experience.

          Do we have any Jewish sources on this?

          I’m not aware of any from the first couple centuries.

          Barely. Antiquities of the Jews was written 93-94 AD. In Rome. Anyone old enough to lave remembered seeing Jesus (let’s say 10) would have been 70 at the time of writing Antiquities.

          You’re assuming that he first learned anything about Jesus when he wrote Antiquities. However, he lived in Palestine before that.

          It really just highlights how weak the evidence for a historical Jesus (much less a miracle-working one) is.

          How does that make the case weak relative to other figures from Jesus’ time? There was far more written about Jesus than for the vast majority of first century people. Arguments from silence are unimpressive.

          The fact that we do not have even a single account or mention by anyone who actually claims to have seen the living Jesus (the gospels are anonymous, and Paul only saw a post-death ‘vision’ of him) is extremely suspicious and telling

          The Gospels are only anonymous in the sense that the name of the author does not appear in the main text. The unanimous agreement on the names of the Gospels indicates the author was known (probably placed on the other side of the scroll so the scroll could be identified without having to be unrolled). And John explicitly states he was an eyewitness. The NT also contains books by Peter, James, and Jude.

        • Ritchie

          Jayman:

          Not necessarily. He needs to be judged on his entire work and not just one verse.

          The problem here is how we can judge the gospels. They are recounting extraordinary events whose support by outside evidence is gossamer-thin at best. If we are to accept the gospels, we have to take an awful lot – including supernatural claims – on blind faith. Under these conditions, noting that they contain false miracle claims is highly relevant.

          Suppose in his vision that Jesus told Paul X and Paul did not know about X prior to this event. He later learned by independent means that X was true. This gives some credence to his conversion experience.

          Yes, it would if that was indeed the case. But the fact is that Paul does not tell us. And without any more information, we are simply at an impasse. Taking someone’s word for it that they checked is like taking someone’s word for it that they are being honest – it is something you should evaluate yourself, not take on trust. Certainly Paul never seems to demonstrate much knowledge of the events of Jesus’ life, nor any incredible truth which could only have been discovered through divine revelation. And if he had received such information through his vision, it is singularly odd that he does not mention it anywhere. Surely he would trumpet it from the rooftops in his new-found zeal to convert the heathens?

          I’m not aware of any from the first couple centuries.

          Then, this is a serious historical problem. You are asking us to accept what the Jews did and did not believe via non-Jewish (indeed, anti-Jewish) sources. Justin Martyr and Tertullian could easily be fighting strawmen.

          You’re assuming that he first learned anything about Jesus when he wrote Antiquities. However, he lived in Palestine before that.

          True, but he still does not state from what sources.

          How does that make the case weak relative to other figures from Jesus’ time? There was far more written about Jesus than for the vast majority of first century people. Arguments from silence are unimpressive.

          Because the claims for Jesus, if true, would make him the most extraordinary person (if we could call him such) to have ever lived. A man who ministered to thousands, leaving a trail of absolutely astonishing miracles in his wake, healing the sick and raising the dead, only to be publically crucified and resurrected himself? It is utterly beyond reason that such a person would leave such a flimsy papertrail. Jesus was not just another peasant – he was, allegedly, God incarnate. For such a person as this, the argument from silence is very compelling.

          The Gospels are only anonymous in the sense that the name of the author does not appear in the main text.

          That is not the only sense. There are active reasons to doubt they were written by the people they claim to be written by. For example, they never refer to the disciples of Jesus in the first person, singular or plural. They include events which the disciples could not possibly have been witness to – such as Jesus alone in the wilderness or in Gethsemane, or the conspiracy between the guards and priests to arrest Jesus. There is also the Synoptic Problem, which positively shows the gospels are not independent accounts at all.

          And John explicitly states he was an eyewitness.

          That is exactly what a forger writing in John’s name would claim.

          The NT also contains books by Peter, James, and Jude.

          Again, their authorship is no more certain that that of the gospels. No credible historian doubts that 1 Peter and 2 Peter were written by different people, for example.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Jayman:

          Suppose in [Paul's] vision that Jesus told Paul X and Paul did not know about X prior to this event. He later learned by independent means that X was true.

          And then he wrote it all down and that’s supposed to be believable?

          Then let me tell you what happened to me. Jesus appeared to me and said that 9973 was prime. I tested the number myself and, sure enough! It’s prime.

          Do you believe me?

          You’re assuming that he first learned anything about Jesus when he wrote Antiquities. However, he lived in Palestine before that.

          He’s simply noting the delta between event and first writing. It’s an important metric.

          There was far more written about Jesus than for the vast majority of first century people.

          Unimportant. We reject the supernatural tales for all the other ones. Yes, Jesus has lots written about him. That doesn’t mean that we should accept his supernatural stories when we reject the others.

          The unanimous agreement on the names of the Gospels indicates the author was known

          That there is agreement means that that agreement must be true? No, that’s not how we find the truth.

          I have a short video summarizing where the authorship for Mark comes from here. Spoiler: the argument is pretty weak.

          And John explicitly states he was an eyewitness.

          You mean in chapter 21? I think that one was added …

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Jayman:

      The nativity is the oldest part of the story and so we would expect it to be the least accurate.

      By “oldest,” you mean the farthest from the actual events? OK, but you’re sounding like a skeptic here. You’re saying that errors in oral stories accumulate over time and that this affects the accuracy. I’m not disagreeing, mind you, just noting an interesting agreement.

      According to Matthew, Justin Martyr, and Tertullian (at least), even the Jews believed the tomb to be empty.

      So the story had legs. Lots of stories do. Doesn’t mean that they’re true. The story was that the Jews believed the tomb was empty. How far does that take us to any sort of historical certainty?

      An outline of the life of Jesus can be found in Josephus (even once interpolations are removed).

      I find the idea of a interpolation-free Josephus to be very tenuous. Sure, it’s possible that Josephus wrote about Jesus, but the evidence is so threadbare, why even go there? If that’s any measurable fraction of your argument, you don’t have much of an argument.

  • Steve V

    Based on your methods of validating historical events, nothing that happened in the past ever happened, or maybe it did or didn’t depending on whatever anyone wants. I’m curious how it is you know that Paul did not see the 500 witnesses when you say “(he hadn’t)”. How, exactly, 2000 years later, without the use of a time machine, can you draw such an absolute conclusion? Are you also able explain the testimony of Colton Burpo as something that didn’t happen? Can you also explain the hundreds of documented answers to prayer experienced by George Mueller as something that never happened or would you define it as intentional falsehood? I could share my testimony of what God has done in my life but I won’t because I know it would only be trampled on and disregarded as nonsense. The man whose testimony you are trashing (Paul) was an “intellectual” who was trying to destroy the Christians but then ended up becoming a believer and ended up dying for that same faith. He was neither stupid, insane, or intentionally deceiving others for some kind of personal gain. Not only did he die for what he professed and believed but prior to that he suffered greatly as described in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27. Are you calling this man a liar or a deceiver? How do you explain Paul, was he stupid, that is known not to be true, was he nuts, his writings after conversion discount that, he clearly retained his sanity, was he deceiving others intentionally for personal gain, that is clearly not true, the man suffered and died for his faith and testimony which 2000 years later you have somehow concluded is falsehood.

    • Ritchie

      Based on your methods of validating historical events, nothing that happened in the past ever happened, or maybe it did or didn’t depending on whatever anyone wants.

      Nonsense. There are many ways of verifying historical events. Good quality, first-hand eyewitness testimony, for example. It is just that we have no good evidence for Jesus – no first-hand eyewitness testimony – no historical accounts at all written by anyone who was even alive during his alleged lifetime. In history, we go for the most probable explanation, and supernatural events are always the least probable.

      I’m curious how it is you know that Paul did not see the 500 witnesses when you say “(he hadn’t)”. How, exactly, 2000 years later, without the use of a time machine, can you draw such an absolute conclusion?

      Then you misunderstand. Bob is not saying that those 500 witnesses definitely did not exist. He is saying there is a relevant historical difference between the Bible CLAIMING 500 witness to its events, and us actually having 500 individual witness testimonies to the Bible’s events. The second would be very good evidence. The first, which is what we actually have, is not at all. Christian apologists sometimes like to confuse the two. That is the point.

      Are you also able explain the testimony of Colton Burpo as something that didn’t happen? Can you also explain the hundreds of documented answers to prayer experienced by George Mueller as something that never happened or would you define it as intentional falsehood?

      People have made miracle claims for many religions. They cannot all be right. Your mistake is in accepting the miracle claims of anyone who claims to support the Christian religion, and dismiss those of anyone who claims to support the others. Why don’t you find the miracle claims of Muslims, or Hindus, or Sikhs convincing?
      The intercessory power of prayer has in fact been scientifically tested many times, and has never been found to have any relevant affect.

      I could share my testimony of what God has done in my life but I won’t because I know it would only be trampled on and disregarded as nonsense.

      No, you would simply be asked to support you claims with some sort of evidence. If you can do this, then what is the problem?

      Are you calling this man a liar or a deceiver?

      No, but he simply never met Jesus as a man. All he is ever relaying in his writings are his religious BELIEFS, not facts. He was clearly sincere in his faith, as are millions of religious people around the world, but that does not make that faith justified.

      • Steve V

        Ritchie (and Bob):
        I have no interest in everlasting, drawn out, mind numbing conversation which appears completely unprofitable so I’m assuming this will be my last entry. From my perspective, you live in a very small box, which is the limit of your intellect. Living only within the confines of those things that have the evidence that meets your lofty standards. Within such a small box, looking forward, everything that has yet to be discovered does not exist, because it has not been proven, this is your self imposed standard of reality. Looking backwards, molecules at one time did not exist and Earth was indeed flat because there was not sufficient evidence to prove otherwise (your standard). Volumes of history that do not meet your standard of proof need to be pulled out of the schools or be redefined as fiction.
        Perhaps you are enamored with your own intellect or you just love to argue because you have a gift for it, or perhaps it puts money in your bank account. I don’t know, you may or may not know yourselves, but God does know. I am not your judge, He is. We must all give an account for our lives and only those who accept God’s forgiveness, which He has provided through Jesus, will be forgiven and enter Heaven.

        You wrote:
        “Nonsense. There are many ways of verifying historical events. Good quality, first-hand eyewitness testimony, for example. It is just that we have no good evidence for Jesus – no first-hand eyewitness testimony – no historical accounts at all written by anyone who was even alive during his alleged lifetime. In history, we go for the most probable explanation, and supernatural events are always the least probable.”

        I assume by your criteria of “first-hand eyewitness testimony” you are referring to the testimony of John who wrote the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelations and Peter who wrote 1 Peter, 2 Peter and was also killed for his faith, hung upside down because he deemed himself as unworthy of being crucified in the same way as his Lord, Jesus. These men saw Jesus and spent three years with him, but you discount testimonies of people in whatever way happens to suit you. John’s eye witness testimony, which you reject: 1 John 2-4. Peter’s eye witness testimony, which you reject: 2 Peter 1:16-18.

        You wrote:
        “Then you misunderstand. Bob is not saying that those 500 witnesses definitely did not exist. He is saying there is a relevant historical difference between the Bible CLAIMING 500 witness to its events, and us actually having 500 individual witness testimonies to the Bible’s events. The second would be very good evidence. The first, which is what we actually have, is not at all. Christian apologists sometimes like to confuse the two. That is the point.”

        Acts 13:30-31, Paul while preaching mentions the “other witnesses” of the resurrection to a large group, defining them as “witnesses to our people”, meaning Jews, as if it were a commonly known fact. Many of the men he spoke to rejected his testimony and to them he said “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.” Acts 13:46,47

        I will not discuss the issue of miracles, or what God has done in my life, or what I know of how He did the things He’s done, because you are not in a position to benefit from any such discussion. You are currently steadfast in your rejection and your hearts and minds are shut tightly.

        I sincerely hope that you open your hearts and call on Jesus and come to understand that he really is who he said he is.

        • Ritchie

          From my perspective, you live in a very small box, which is the limit of your intellect. Living only within the confines of those things that have the evidence that meets your lofty standards.

          These standards are not lofty. I accept only that for which there is good evidence. That is a perfectly rational and sensible safeguard against accepting false claims. The fact that the Jesus story does not meet this standard does not mean the standard is lofty – it means the Jesus story is not well-supported by evidence, and thus, likely false.

          Within such a small box, looking forward, everything that has yet to be discovered does not exist, because it has not been proven, this is your self imposed standard of reality.

          There is a practically infinite number of things that MIGHT POSSIBLY exist. How are we to sift those that really do exist from those that do not? The answer is evidence. Of course we will continue to make new discoveries, but we will not do so by blind faith. Again, the only thing which adds to our knowledge – the only thing that has ever added to it – is evidence. Without it we are just guessing.

          I don’t know, you may or may not know yourselves, but God does know. I am not your judge, He is.

          A threat. Classy. Why don’t you threaten us with a voodoo curse while you’re at it? I would be just as terrified.

          John who wrote the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelations and Peter who wrote 1 Peter, 2 Peter

          We cannot verify the authorship of any of these texts. None of them even CLAIM to be written by John or Peter – they are simply named after them. And the names appear to have been attributed to them many years after they were written. No sensible historian is in any doubt, for example, that 1 Peter and 2 Peter were written by different authors. If one wasn’t written by Peter, why should we have any confidence that the other was?

          Acts 13:30-31, Paul while preaching mentions the “other witnesses”

          A swing and a miss.
          This is exactly the same problem. These are not independent, verifiable witness testimonies. This is a CLAIM to witnesses. This is no evidence at all.

          I will not discuss the issue of miracles, or what God has done in my life,

          Fine. That is your perogative.

          …because you are not in a position to benefit from any such discussion.

          You mean because you cannot back up your claims.

          You are currently steadfast in your rejection and your hearts and minds are shut tightly.

          Our minds are not shut. They are wide open. We just need to see some evidence. If God was real, why should evidence for him be hard to provide? We merely seem stubborn and closed-minded to you because you cannot, in fact, provide any evidence.
          What you want is for us to take a leap of faith and believe in something without any evidence for it. That is something we will not do. And that is not closed-minded – it is perfectly rational.

          I sincerely hope that you open your hearts and call on Jesus and come to understand that he really is who he said he is.

          And I sincerely hope one day you open your eyes and see Christianity for the ritual superstition it is.

        • Steve V

          As I mentioned at the beginning of (what I thought would be) my last post, this method of argument is without end and of no apparent value. God has decided that He will not be found strictly by intellectual discovery but by faith in the information He has provided and by calling out to Him from our hearts in faith. The information He has provided is sufficient for faith if a person is willing, but if a person is unwilling, there is no amount of evidence that will suffice. Reality is not defined by what we are able to prove with evidence, it is not bound within the obvious limitations of our human senses and intelligence. There are things which exist that are beyond our senses and intelligence, they don’t cease to exist simply because we are unable to perceive them with our limited faculties.
          You say that you hope I will see Christianity for the ritual superstition it is. This can never be, because I have known the power of God to break the bonds of sin that held me, I have known the unseen forces of evil by personal experience, I know some things of hell, and I know that I long in the depths of my heart to be with Jesus more than I want to live in this fallen world.

        • Ritchie

          God has decided that He will not be found strictly by intellectual discovery but by faith

          A popular view, but a curious one when examined. Why on Earth should God value blind faith so highly? Faith is, after all, belief in something for which there is no, or insufficient, evidence. Why is that a good thing? Doesn’t that, by definition, imply belief in something which is propbably false? What does God gain by concealing his existence and forcing his believers to make an irrational leap in logic? I know you said you have witten your last response, so you might never reply to this, but if you read it, I invite you to consider this question seriously, and in depth. If God was real, what does he gain by hiding from us?

          There are things which exist that are beyond our senses and intelligence, they don’t cease to exist simply because we are unable to perceive them with our limited faculties.

          That may be true. But the same argument can be used to justify a belief in unicorns, or fairies, or voodoo, or astology, or reincarnation, or ghosts, or vampires,. or any other supernatural claim. Being beyond our ‘limited faculties’ means a force or being is beyond our ability to verify. And thus we have no way of sifting the false supernatural claims from the real ones.

          I never intended to threaten you, I was merely stating what God says in His word which applies to all men, I apologize if I came across any other way.

          I appreciate this was not your intent. I did not take offence. But please consider, for a moment, that the proposition offered by Jesus is “Love me or burn in Hell.” The choice to accept Jesus is not a free one. It is coercion plain and simple by the fact that Heaven is offered to those who accept, and Hell to those who refuse.

        • Steve V

          Ritchie: Thanks for your response and I apologize for not keeping my word as I’m writing another time.
          Do you really want to know if God exists?
          Do you think that you will you be harmed in any way if you talk to Him, with honesty, in private?
          He loves you greatly, and He’s so kind to respond, even when the most feeble prayers of honesty are offered by someone seeking Him. Even if someone, being honest with themselves, concludes that they cannot talk to God with honesty, they can make their first prayer asking that they would be able to talk to Him with honesty. He would answer such a prayer, and has more than once for me. This is how far He reaches out in love to a seeking person. There is really only one obstacle He will not move aside on our behalf, and that is our coming to Him by our own free will, because He is not a tyrant and He has no interest in forced love, because forced love, is not love.
          I know that you have so many questions, and they are before you like impassable mountain range, but would you be willing to set them aside, just for a moment, and talk to Him?
          Jesus has promised, “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

        • Ritchie

          would you be willing to set them aside, just for a moment, and talk to Him?

          Absolutely. In fact I was a sincere Christian as a child. Honest prayer is nothing new for me.
          What do you suggest I pray for, exactly? It would have to be something tangible so that I can verify my prayer’s success. Some kind of miracle would obviously be most convincing. Should I ask for something to materialise right in front of my eyes, perhaps, or for a prophetic vision of some kind?
          I fear that you will feel like I am mocking you here, but I promise I am being quite sincere. The trouble with asking for things like strength, courage or faith is that you cannot objectively conclude that the prayer really was answered. These things are just a state of mind, which is affected by all sorts of things besides divine intervention. What we need is something miraculous, tangible and objectively verifiable. You do, after all, believe God genuinely intervenes in the world to perform such things, do you not?

        • Steve V

          Ritchie,
          Isn’t it an awful site when we see children bossing their parents around and the parents not only allow, but foster such behavior? We know that it’s completely wrong, that it is not as it should be. We as sinful, created beings are not in a position to make demands of God “show me a miracle”! In (Matt. 12:38-) the Pharisees and teachers of the law also asked Jesus for a sign and He refused them to their faces. Not because He was unable, but because He knew their hearts, that they were not really seeking to draw near to God. He goes on from there (through v. 42) about the lack of sincere repentance.
          I think that I’ve said enough now, maybe too much…
          I sincerely hope that you seek Him (by the method He has provided) and find out how much He loves you.
          Regards, Steve

        • Ritchie

          Isn’t it an awful site when we see children bossing their parents around and the parents not only allow, but foster such behavior?

          I am not making demands – I am praying for something. You were the one who suggested I pray, which I am perfectly willing to do. When you pray for things, do you receive them or not?
          If so, then what is wrong with me putting that to the test? If not, then you are admitting that prayer doesn’t, in fact, work after all.
          As Bob points out, the Bible does not, in fact, state any stipulations for prayers working. It states that Jesus’ followers will be able to perform miraculous deeds through the power of prayer. Now do you know of anyone who actually claims to be able to do this?

        • Steve V

          Hi Ritchie, final post here for me.
          You said:
          “I am not making demands – I am praying for something. You were the one who suggested I pray, which I am perfectly willing to do. When you pray for things, do you receive them or not?
          If so, then what is wrong with me putting that to the test? If not, then you are admitting that prayer doesn’t, in fact, work after all.
          As Bob points out, the Bible does not, in fact, state any stipulations for prayers working. It states that Jesus’ followers will be able to perform miraculous deeds through the power of prayer. Now do you know of anyone who actually claims to be able to do this?”

          Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t (or His response may be later rather than immediate). God is not a heaven bound miracle dispenser. There certainly is stipulation to God answering prayer. God does say that He answers prayers that are in accordance with His will (1 John 5:14). He doesn’t move mountains around all the time because someone wants to relocate something, that’s a silly argument. God answering prayer is a great blessing, it’s not a joke. Prayer isn’t to be used as a method to test God, it’s the method of drawing near to God in humility and respect. It is not God who needs to prove Himself to us by moving things around at our whim, but it is we who need to draw near to Him in the method and way He has provided.

        • Ritchie

          Steve V:

          Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t

          Here’s my issue: it seems to me that many of those who advocate the power of prayer are simply counting the hits and ignoring the misses. If your attitude to prayers is that ‘Sometimes they are answered and sometimes they are not’ for reasons that we mere mortals are never privileged to know, then how do you know if your prayers are actually doing anything? It seems to me that most Christians keep their prayers rather vague and limited to things that might realistically happen anyway, and then, if their prayers seem to come true, they attribute it to a deity who intervened in the world on their behalf, but if not, then that’s okay too because it was all part of God’s divine plan. Under such conditions, belief in the effectiveness of prayer can be maintained under any circumstances. A person could offer prayers every day of their life and not have a single one answered, and the power of prayer would still be beyond criticism.
          In short, you do not really know whether prayer actually works. You just BELIEVE it does.

          Prayer isn’t to be used as a method to test God, it’s the method of drawing near to God in humility and respect.

          In other words, when you advise atheists such as myself to pray, you are not really asking us to put Christianity to the test. You are simply asking us to make a blind leap of faith – the very blind leap of faith that we oppose on principle.
          I’m afraid, for me at least, that is simply not good enough. I am an atheist precisely because I see no reason to believe in a god or gods. And asking me to put my critical faculties to one side and just take a leap of faith anyway will not persuade me.
          I hope one day you see the circular logic you are employing here.

        • Steve V

          Ritchie: I forgot to mention, I never intended to threaten you, I was merely stating what God says in His word which applies to all men, I apologize if I came across any other way.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Steve:

          this method of argument is without end and of no apparent value

          I share your frustration in conversations like these, but I hope you’re not putting the blame on the atheists in this conversation …

          God has decided that He will not be found strictly by intellectual discovery but by faith in the information He has provided

          Isn’t it weird that God would provide us with a big, powerful brain that demands evidence but then not actually provide that evidence. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that faith is celebrated because God doesn’t actually exist.

          The information He has provided is sufficient for faith if a person is willing, but if a person is unwilling, there is no amount of evidence that will suffice

          That’s what the Muslims say! And the Hindus and the Scientologists and …

          There are things which exist that are beyond our senses and intelligence, they don’t cease to exist simply because we are unable to perceive them with our limited faculties.

          And just because science can’t tell us about it, don’t pretend that you have a way that does.

          I have known the power of God to break the bonds of sin that held me

          No chance this is wishful thinking? Confirmation bias? Your mind deceiving you?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Steve:

          We as sinful, created beings are not in a position to make demands of God “show me a miracle”!

          Read your Bible. “Ask and ye shall receive.”

          Jesus said that if you have faith as tiny as a mustard seed, you will be able to move mountains. Jesus said that prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. Jesus said that whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Jesus said that all things are possible to him who believes. Jesus said, ‘Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it.’

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Steve:

          God is not a heaven bound miracle dispenser.

          And Jesus makes clear that he is. I think you need to reread your Bible.

          God does say that He answers prayers that are in accordance with His will (1 John 5:14).

          So you grant yourself license to ignore uncomfortable passages? Doesn’t sound like an honest reading of your holy book. Shouldn’t you let it speak for itself rather than making it into a sock puppet?

        • Steve V

          Hi Bob,
          You said:
          “And Jesus makes clear that he is. I think you need to reread your Bible.”
          To read a verse, and to understand God’s word as a whole, are two very different things.
          You said:
          “So you grant yourself license to ignore uncomfortable passages? Doesn’t sound like an honest reading of your holy book. Shouldn’t you let it speak for itself rather than making it into a sock puppet?”
          Bob, it is you who is having some difficulty understanding God’s word and misusing scripture to suit your purposes and it is the atheists, not Christians, that require God to behave as a sock puppet.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Steve:

          To read a verse, and to understand God’s word as a whole, are two very different things.

          Some Christians hammer the Bible to take the shape of their faith, not the other way around. Can we at least agree that this is a bad approach?

          it is you who is having some difficulty understanding God’s word and misusing scripture to suit your purposes and it is the atheists

          There are 42,000 denominations of Christianity. It’s gotta be the most fertile religion ever. There’s no single correct reading of the Bible, and I think that is a problem for you. You have an interpretation that you like, but the other guy has a conflicting one. Who’s right? The Bible is ambiguous. It’s a mirror–you see yourself in it.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Steve:

          everything that has yet to be discovered does not exist, because it has not been proven, this is your self imposed standard of reality.

          An interesting sci fi premise, perhaps, but this isn’t my view of reality.

          I assume by your criteria of “first-hand eyewitness testimony” you are referring to the testimony of

          They don’t even claim to be eyewitness accounts (if we ignore the vague reference in the tacked-on last chapter of John).

          Peter … also killed for his faith, hung upside down

          How do you know? Hippolytus tells us, but this is early third century. Not much evidence to this claim besides tradition.

          Paul while preaching mentions the “other witnesses” of the resurrection to a large group

          Yeah, so? It’s a story.

          You are currently steadfast in your rejection and your hearts and minds are shut tightly.

          And that’s what the people in the other religions say about you. Does that cause you to lose any sleep? If not, why should it me?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Steve:

      (This will overlap with the good points that Ritchie made.)

      I’m curious how it is you know that Paul did not see the 500 witnesses when you say “(he hadn’t)”

      You misunderstand. Paul said that he saw Jesus in a vision, not as an actual risen-from-the-dead person like the 500. That’s what he “hadn’t” claimed.

      Are you also able explain the testimony of Colton Burpo as something that didn’t happen?

      A kid has an experience (or not) and then, after it’s filtered through what his father thinks and wrote, we’re supposed to see a genuine visit to heaven? Color me unconvinced.

      Can you also explain the hundreds of documented answers to prayer experienced by George Mueller as something that never happened or would you define it as intentional falsehood?

      I’ve written about that here.

      I could share my testimony of what God has done in my life but I won’t because I know it would only be trampled on and disregarded as nonsense.

      You’re not convinced by the Muslim’s personal testimony (for example), so you can imagine why I’m unimpressed by your personal testimony. Doesn’t mean that you didn’t have it; doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist. But I need evidence … and I’m not getting it.

      He was neither stupid, insane, or intentionally deceiving others for some kind of personal gain.

      Is that the evaluation you apply to Merlin the magician?

      Maybe “legend” is another category you should consider.

      Not only did he die for what he professed and believed

      It’s a story. Why believe it when its conclusions are so unbelievable?

  • Greg G

    Hi SteveV

    John who wrote the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelations and Peter who wrote 1 Peter, 2 Peter

    While I agree with Ritchie about the questionable authorship of those books, let’s suppose they are authentic. What do those Epistles tell us about Jesus’ life, ministry, teachings, or anecdotes? Why don’t they tell us anything at all? Why didn’t anybody describe Jesus’ life as a first century person until Jerusalem was in ruins and only then did writing about him become popular when Iit would have been difficult to dispute?

    • Steve V

      Hi Greg G,
      There is one thing that I have learned very well from my brief discussions on this site, and I will take it with me, along with my sorrow, as I leave. And that is, if someone does not really want to know God, there is a never ending number of reasons or excuses not to believe or even to sincerely seek Him out. In such a situation, no amount of discussion is beneficial, it becomes nothing more that a process of going through the unending list of reasons not to believe. And yet for the person that really does want to know Him, He is true to His promises, He lovingly responds to the faith that they exercise in Him.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Steve:

        for the person that really does want to know Him, He is true to His promises, He lovingly responds to the faith that they exercise in Him.

        You can perhaps understand how believers in other religions feel the same way. They use their faith to convince themselves that their god is responding (in his own way) to their needs.

        • Greg G.

          And where did the idea of God being omnipotent and omniscient come from? That’s not what we see in the Old Testament, and I don’t think it’s claimed in the New Testament either, is it?

          Matthew 19:26 ESV
          But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

          Revelation 19:6 ESV
          Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.

          Luke 1:37 ESV
          For nothing will be impossible with God.”

          Isaiah 40:28 ESV
          Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

          Psalm 147:5 ESV
          Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.

          Job 42:2 ESV
          “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Greg:

          Good stuff, thanks. Have you seen much discussion on this change? God walks around the Garden and says, “Hey–where is everyone?” God tells Abraham that he hears that Sodom and Gomorrah are bad and he’ll send some angels to gather some intel.

          You give OT examples, but I wonder if they’re hyperbole. I wonder if Jews in OT times really mean the omnipotence and omniscience as modern Christians do.

      • Kodie

        The most important reason not to believe is that it’s not actually true. Why don’t you let that tumble around your noggin for a while. What you think you see is an illusion, what you think you feel is an illusion, what you put all your faith in is but an illusion. There is no devil out here on the other side and no hell when we die. There are no benefits that I can see for even starting the process of kidding myself, so yeah, it may be a complete waste of your time to try to convince anyone. For one, the story you tell is untrue, and secondly, nothing you say is a bit convincing.

        • Steve V

          Hi Kodie,
          You said: “The most important reason not to believe is that it’s not actually true. Why don’t you let that tumble around your noggin for a while. What you think you see is an illusion, what you think you feel is an illusion, what you put all your faith in is but an illusion. There is no devil out here on the other side and no hell when we die. There are no benefits that I can see for even starting the process of kidding myself, so yeah, it may be a complete waste of your time to try to convince anyone. For one, the story you tell is untrue, and secondly, nothing you say is a bit convincing.”
          You, are now declaring what is true and what is not? If you have empirical evidence that God is not real, please share it with the world. I’ll save you some time with that. There is not currently, nor will there ever be, empirical evidence that either proves or disproves Gods existence. Any such proof would end all discussion on the matter, it does not exist. God has designed it this way because faith is the avenue He has chosen to draw near to Him and know that He is real. The lack of such evidence only shows His word as true yet again. You have also declared that I am delusional and untruthful.

        • Kodie

          God has designed it this way because faith is the avenue He has chosen

          A delusion. The lack of evidence for god does not show or prove anything is true “yet again,” much less a first time. The way you have to warp your brain to comprehend that it is the way it is is absurd deduction on your part. Would you believe anything else because it wasn’t evident, then it must be real because obviously, it designed itself to be inevident? Everything that is inevident must be real because they all designed themselves to only be taken on faith, so everything is real. Not just god, but everything that doesn’t seem to exist. You are delusional, I’m not going to lie to you.

        • Steve V

          Hi Kodie,
          You said: “The most important reason not to believe is that it’s not actually true.”
          Still waiting for your evidence on this…

        • Kodie

          I do not have the burden of proof, and you do. Your proof is that no evidence exists. Your premise and deduction is because god designed it this way on purpose. That is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. So far, no god does exist except if you imagine one does and explain his intentions very poorly. You have made a declaration that god exists, god designed a system by where he does not seem to exist. On purpose. Proof? He’s inevident!

          I’m sure that satisfies your wee brain.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Steve:

          God has designed it this way because faith is the avenue He has chosen to draw near to Him and know that He is real. The lack of such evidence only shows His word as true yet again.

          Whaaa … ? Faith is the least reliable route to reality. It’s worse than flipping a coin because, with a coin flip, you feel no obligation to the decision and can back out later.

          If a religion were nonsense, it would celebrate faith. Since Christianity celebrates faith, that’s a red flag for me.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Kodie:

          I do not have the burden of proof, and you do.

          I’ve heard famous apologists do this song and dance to argue that they don’t have the burden of proof. I’m thinking: Wait a minute–showing that your god exists is a burden to you? You wouldn’t seize every opportunity? You wouldn’t shout the Good News from the rooftops? Weird.

        • Kodie

          His proof that god exists is that god is inevident, and he’s asking me for proof that god doesn’t exist. He proclaims god is inevident by god’s own design and he’s asking me for proof that that’s not true. The cotton candy fairies told me to tell Steve that they exist and actually god’s hands are tied, because his inevidence is their design. He wants to come out and play, but the cotton candy fairies keep making him disappear. Prove that’s not true, Steve!

        • Steve V

          Hi Kodie,
          It was you that said: “The most important reason not to believe is that it’s not actually true.”
          Still waiting for your evidence on this… You made the statement as if it were a fact, but it’s not, it’s assmuption.
          As I’ve said, Gods existence (like many other things) cannot be proven or dis-proven scientifically, this does not mean that God, Black Holes, or whatever mystery you choose, do not exist.

        • Ritchie

          Steve V:

          As I’ve said, Gods existence (like many other things) cannot be proven or dis-proven scientifically, this does not mean that God, Black Holes, or whatever mystery you choose, do not exist.

          1) We do have evidence that black holes exist.

          2) You are correct that having no evidence for X does not mean that X doesn’t exist. But it does mean that we have no reason to believe in X. There are an infinite number of things which MIGHT exist, from fairies, ghosts, hobgoblins, voodoo sorcery and whole pantheons of gods. We cannot possibly believe in everything. The logical, rational, sensible thing to do is to only believe in things which have reason to believe in – things we have evidence for. That is the atheist’s position. To do otherwise – to pick a particular unevidenced proposition out of the infinite number of possible ones and then say “There’s no evidence for this, but I’ll believe in it anyway simply because I want to” – that is extremely foolish. It is an absurd folly of the religious to make a virtue out of blind faith.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Kodie:

          His proof that god exists is that god is inevident, and he’s asking me for proof that god doesn’t exist.

          And the more evidence you provide that God doesn’t exist just adds weight to his argument. Bam! You got pwned!

        • Greg G.

          Hi Steve V.

          You, are now declaring what is true and what is not? If you have empirical evidence that God is not real, please share it with the world.

          You need to define the god before empirical evidence can be employed. What kind of God do you want disproved? If the god you believe in is omnipotent and omniscient, consider this.

          If God granted you the ability to prove everything there is to know about the universe but God didn’t want you to be able to prove he existed, he could still make it impossible for you to prove his existence.

          If we discovered that the gods of the Greek Pantheon were real and immortal, we can’t call them gods because there could still be a god a million times more powerful. Call him MegaZeus. MegaZeus can’t be god because there could be TeraZeus. The only thing we could call God would have to be omnipotent and omniscient.

          But TeraZeus would be capable of creating a disembodied spirit with an illusion of omnipotence and omniscience, yet hiding from it for ineffable reasons in his mysterious ways. The God that was otherwise omnipotent and omniscient would not be able to tell that it was or if there was a TeraZeus pulling its strings. Any attempt to find out if there was a TeraZeus would give negative results, either because there was no TeraZeus or TeraZeus blocked that knowledge. So God could not be omniscient because there is something he could not know and God could not be omnipotent because he doesn’t have the powers to find out. TeraZeus could do the same to God as God could do to you.

          I have shown that anything less than an omnipotent, omniscient being could not be God. I have shown that an omnipotent, omniscient being cannot actually exist. Therefore, God does not exist. QED

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Greg:

          And where did the idea of God being omnipotent and omniscient come from? That’s not what we see in the Old Testament, and I don’t think it’s claimed in the New Testament either, is it?

  • Greg G

    Hi SteveV

    Many of us are former believers who reluctantly gave up our faith only to find that it gave us back our intellectual integrity. If it seems like there are a never ending number of reasons to not believe then you should stop believing, too.

    An omnipotent being can achieve any desire by any means. That means suffering is unnecessary. Since there is suffering, the omnipotence chose for there to be unnecessary suffering. If the being is not omnipotent, maybe it didn’t choose unnecessary suffering. Or there is no such being.

    If I’m right, I will have a serene eternity just like before I was born. If you’re right, you have to spend eternity with an omnipotent sadist or a being who can’t prevent suffering. Good luck with that.

  • Greg G

    There are 42,000 denominations of Christianity. It’s gotta be the most fertile religion ever. There’s no single correct reading of the Bible, and I think that is a problem for you. You have an interpretation that you like, but the other guy has a conflicting one. Who’s right? The Bible is ambiguous. It’s a mirror–you see yourself in it.

    The Bible is the big book of multiple choice. If you oppose slavery you show where Leviticus says “Love your neighbor as yourself” but if you want to justify slavery, it’s a few pages away. Calvinism and Arminianism have a dozen and a half verses each that disprove the other but they can’t determine which should be followed.

    Science can compare disputes to reality. When Einstein said that light could be affected by gravity, someone realized that during an eclipse, a starcthat was behind the sun should be visible if Einstein’s theory was correct. The star was seen precisely where the theory predicted.

    It’s not wrong to test God. It’s just that it’s futile. The excuses are that God is tricky are just excuses. It’s more likely that the assumption that there is something to test is wrong.

  • Greg G

    Hi Bob

    You give OT examples, but I wonder if they’re hyperbole. I wonder if Jews in OT times really mean the omnipotence and omniscience as modern Christians do.

    The early stories had Yahweh in a fistfight with Moses over circumcision, wrestling with Jacob and had to use magic to dislocate his hip, and they blamed a loss in battle because the enemy had iron chariots.

    The Priests rewrote the old stories and dropped God interacting directly with people, required sacrifices at the Temple, and made God a cosmic deity.

    My guess would be that the idea of omniootence may not have come up until they were exposed to Plato’s ideals.

    When all the versions were put back together and redacted, God was a cosmic being who directly interacted with people.

    That allowed God to be come intimate and infinite.

  • Norm

    Just watched an interview with an atheist who after spending 2 years to disprove the claims of Christianity, became a born again Christian.One of the things he looked into was the claim of over 500 eye witnesses to His resurrection .As a law trained journalist and the editor of the Chicago Tribune he was probably well equipped to check the authenticity of the claims of Christianity and found them to be convincing. His name is Lee Strouble. If your interested in how he came to his conclusions you could google ,Kerryshook.org .the interview was called,God the son-apersonal message.#8105

    • Ritchie

      Norm:

      His name is Lee Strouble.

      I assume you mean Lee Strobel. And I am fairly familiar with him. I have read a chapter-by-chapter critique of the book The Case for a Creator, and it is as weak a piece of Creationist propaganda as they typically trot out. There is not a single argument he presents which is new, nor very convincing – he just apparently thinks they are.

      As a law trained journalist and the editor of the Chicago Tribune he was probably well equipped to check the authenticity of the claims of Christianity

      Alone this is simply an appeal to authority. Which is insufficient. He has to actually provide this evidence, not merely claim that it exists.

      If your interested in how he came to his conclusions you could google ,Kerryshook.org .the interview was called,God the son-apersonal message.#8105

      Far be it from us to not follow up a source of information when presented, so I actually watched the video.
      He got my back up right from the beginning by his patronising assertion that all atheists just are projecting their terrible relationships with their fathers onto God. Do I even need to debunk this 6th Grade pop-psychology nonsense? Sadly for Lee, things don’t really get much better.
      Then he throws out the hedonist hypothesis – that atheists are living lives of moral-free debauchery and reject God because moral rules would spoil their fun. Now admittedly atheism *doesn’t* provide anything in the way of moral guidelines (how could it, since it is a position of non-belief?) but you do not need religion for that – and nor does it prove the historical truth claims of any given religion.
      Finally he gets on to investigating Christianity. He asks two big questions: 1) Did Jesus claim to be divine, 2) Did he really rise from the dead. Note here that he takes it as a given that Jesus existed at all, yet this is actually what he is trying to prove. So he assuming at least part of his conclusion already.
      He refers to the gospel of Mark as Jesus’ first biography. Again, what is implied (though not officially stated) is that he is assuming the truth of Mark’s gospel. This is exactly the sort of problem we have with the evidence for Jesus – there are significant problems with the gospels as historical documents, but Lee seems quite happy to ignore that and accept them as being genuine historical biographies.
      His evidence for the resurrection is similarly weak.
      1) Execution – was Jesus really dead? He is simply assuming a Jesus who was crucified. He actually calls this ‘one of the most solid facts of ancient history’. Yet he does not provide any evidence for this. He is simply assuming his own conclusions.
      2) Early accounts. He claims the earliest account of Jesus dates from within 2 years of Jesus’ death. What accounts he is referring to, I have no idea. There certainly were no independent (ie, non-Christian) accounts. The earliest one of those was the one by Josephus who wrote an account in 93 AD. Even the earliest gospel, Mark, is dated to around 70AD. Possibly he is referring to the works of Paul? But of course, Paul never even claimed to have seen Jesus. He is merely a believer, not a witness.
      3) Empty tomb. Lee says that everyone admits the tomb was empty. Yet again he merely assumes there was such a tomb. The counter claim which he is attacking is the idea that Jesus’ tomb was occupied. But this is a strawman. The real null hypothesis he should be seeking to disprove is the idea that there simply was no tomb. And he provides no evidence for this at all. He says the ‘opponents’ of Christians made up a story that the body was abducted, presumably referring to the references from Justin Martyr and Tertullian referenced above. But again, second-hand arguments from their very opponents are of little use. They could easily be fighting strawmen.
      4) Eyewitnesses. Bob’s objections to the eyewitnesses don’t even seem to have occurred to Strobel. He is just taking for granted that there were 500 witnesses – because the gospels say so. He is not critically analysing the gospels, he is merely assuming that they are factually accurate. I cannot account for this logical blindspot in him except to that he is either an appalling investigative journalist, or this is merely the effect of religious faith on a person’s critical faculties.
      He claims there is this ‘huge avalanche of evidence’ for Jesus. But what is it? That is all we atheists are asking. Strobel seems to be simply applying armchair deduction to gospels which he is simply accepting uncritically. Strobel should be trumpeting the evidence itself, not giving his twee personal anecdotes or merely CLAIMING evidence. As it is, there is nothing compelling here.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Norm:

      I’ve already laughed at Lee Strobel’s arguments here. As Ritchie said, his approach is quite elementary–good for a training-wheels Christian but not serious apologetics.

      My biggest beef with Strobel is that he portrays himself as this tough-minded journalist looking to get to the bottom of the story. He’s going to follow the evidence where it leads. The result? A book in which he interviews only Christians.

    • Steve V

      Hi Norm,
      Just an FYI; the degree of proof required (here on “Cross Examined”) is so high that most of the ancient history that is currently taught as fact in schools would not qualify. There must be multiple, certified, confirmed, non-religious people present at all times who can confirm what happened two thousand years ago. No information documented by “Christians” at the time can be considered credible for any number of reasons.
      Atheists at the present age now know more about what happened, or more importantly, what didn’t happen two thousand years ago, than the eyewitnesses that were there at the time…

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Steve:

        Just an FYI; the degree of proof required (here on “Cross Examined”) is so high that most of the ancient history that is currently taught as fact in schools would not qualify.

        Wrong. I accept the consensus of historians. Historians agree that Alexander conquered Asia. Historians reject the claim that Jesus rose from the dead (that’s theology).

        I doubt that I’m harder on Christian claims than you are on claims of other religions. Do you just accept the claims of Hindus, Scientologists, Mormons, and Wiccans? Or do you tell them that they must provide really, really convincing evidence for their supernatural claims? If the latter, then join the club.

        Atheists at the present age now know more about what happened, or more importantly, what didn’t happen two thousand years ago, than the eyewitnesses that were there at the time…

        To avoid being considered a joke, you must respond fairly to the other person’s argument.

      • Norm

        Nothing that a NDE wont fix Im sure

        • Kodie

          You say that like I could buy a NDE at the store near the aspirin. Or are you threatening people?

        • Norm

          Lol,I like that,good to see youve still got your sense of humor.

  • Greg G

    Hi SteveV and Norm

    You don’t have plausible eyewitness testimony. The earliest writings are the Epistles but they don’t talk about a ministry or a teacher. They only talk about a crucifixion, burial and resurrection they read about in the scriptures. See Romans 16:25-26. Paul describes the revelation to the others in the same words that he uses to describe his own non-eyewitness account. The 500 only saw the hidden mystery that was revealed by the scriptures. The supposed companions of Jesus never mention an anecdote.

    Mark wrote a fictional story. We can trace the rootsvof nearly every passage to the literature of the day. For example, Mark tells us about Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus. Timaeus would be known to his Greek readers from Plato but he informs his Greek readers that “bar” means “son of” in Aramaic. Later Jesus is quoted saying “Abba, father” which comes from Galatians. The next chapter has Jesus, son of the Father, with another guy named “Son of the Father”. This sets up the scapegoat scenario. It’s a literary device otherwise he could have just pointed out the connection. John mentions the story but he misses the subtlety. So we have proof that John is not an independent witness.

    Matthew copies 90% if Mark, nearly half is word for word. The changes are for theological reasons not historical. That isn’t from an eyewitness either.

    We don’t have any eyewitness accounts of Jesus.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Responding to Greg:

      The earliest writings are the Epistles but they don’t talk about a ministry or a teacher. They only talk about a crucifixion, burial and resurrection they read about in the scriptures.

      I’ve written about how little Paul knew here.

  • Norm

    Ok guys, thanks for your input. I guess in the end we will all find out for ourselves.I do hope you all get to put your finger in His hand and your hand in His side through your own spiritual experience before you die.There is nothing wrong with questioning anything but I dont think the questions your asking can be proved to you in the way you require,but Im sure a personal experience will more than suffice.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Norm: The two options in your mind seem to be your way and not-your-way. Remember that humans have created bazillions of religious traditions throughout history. Since you think that all the others are wrong, I’m not sure why yours isn’t likely to be wrong as well.

  • Greg G

    Hi Norm

    Nothing that a NDE wont fix Im sure

    NDEs come in different flavors, mostly being like the view of the afterlife of the culture the person was raised in. With that kind of variability, it seems to be a product of one’s psychology and not an observation of something real.

    We have ways to acquire reliable knowledge. Religion can’t use those ways. It relies on interpretation of the least reliable methods of getting real information. We don’t accept substitutes for good evidence. Religion depends on the substitutes.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Greg:

      Imagine a Hindu or Muslim waking from surgery. Their relatives tell them that they almost died but the doctors saved them. The patient says, “I had this weird sensation, like I was floating. And then a bright light, a beautiful light. And then I met a man named … I think it was ‘Jesus’ or something? He was telling me about how he died for my sins. Crazy stuff–I’ve never heard this before. But it was as real as me talking to you now.”

      As you say, it’s always in the context of what they already know.

    • Norm

      Greg ,creation is all the evidence most people need.They get it,from the most simple mind to the highest intellect most get it.Its only in the last few generations since science has begun to explain a little of how some things work and instead of stopping there ,now tells you things they carnt possiably know with absolute authority,and you believe them.When I hear evolution explained,I think “how embarrassing,people actually believe this”,just like you do with faith.Science is awesome,its just that they should teach science,not fairy tales.Same with your interpretation of scripture,even if it was shown to you all on video,you wouldnt believe it,you would say its photo shopped or something.Thats why I say you need to have your own personal experience,only then will you get it like when Thomas said “Iwont believe it unless I can stick my finger in the nail holes” and when others say “your dreamin”,it wont mean a thing because you will know.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Norm:

        When I hear evolution explained,I think “how embarrassing,people actually believe this”

        When I hear non-biologists reject not just what a single biologist says but the consensus view of the entire community of biologists, I think, “How embarrassing that they would elevate themselves to be the judge of a field in which they aren’t capable of even evaluating the evidence.”

        even if it was shown to you all on video,you wouldnt believe it,you would say its photo shopped or something.

        What would it take to get you to convert to some new religion? Would you be skeptical of the claims of evidence that they would provide?

        That’s a thought experiment that might show that atheists being skeptical of your claims are acting reasonably.

  • JD Henry

    So, the main argument seems to be Paul was a liar. Or, Peter and James were liars. Don’t know why they would lie, since they gave their lives eventually for the cause (not to mention all the beatings, being stoned and left for dead, and imprisoned). But hey, I will defer to your greater wisdom…

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

      Perhaps you didn’t read so good. Paul could’ve been a liar (just inflating his story for effect), but that’s not the point. A likelier story would be that Paul heard the story in no more detail than you know it–500 eyewitnesses to the risen Christ. That’s it. So he passed it along.

      Gave their lives? No, I don’t think so. I burst that poorly inflated balloon here.

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