8 Lessons Learned from the Minimal Facts Argument

Habermas Minimal Facts ResurrectionWe’ve made it through Gary Habermas’s minimal facts argument from The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (dismantled here). As we catch our breath, let’s sift through the debris to identify the poor arguments and lessons learned. Some will be familiar, but I hope that a few will help crystalize errors about which you hadn’t been fully aware. These are both problems to avoid in our own arguments and errors to find in others’.

1. It’s a story

I can’t count the number of times that “It’s just a story!” went through my mind as I read this book. For example, Habermas says:

Surely the disciples did have some kind of experience (p. 128).

Yeah, in the story. That doesn’t make it history.

All we can start with is that it’s a story. We have lots of stories—about Alexander the Great and about John Henry. About George Washington and about Merlin the magician. Which are history and which are not?

It’s not like we have security-camera evidence documenting the gospel story. The default position for this and indeed for all supernatural stories is that it is not history. Only with overwhelming evidence can we conclude otherwise.

2. The natural trumps the supernatural

A plausible natural explanation always beats a supernatural explanation.

Habermas seems to have no idea how profoundly crazy his claim of a supernatural creator of the universe is. My response: like who? To whom can we compare this creator so we can ground Habermas’s claim in something we already accept?

There is no universally accepted supernatural creator of the universe. There isn’t even a single supernatural claim that’s universally accepted. (By “universally accepted,” I’m thinking of something like “germs cause some disease.”)

[The resurrection] is the only plausible explanation that accounts for [the historical data] (p. 141)

Habermas’s claim doesn’t look like anything that either science or society has accepted. What it does look like is all the other religions that Habermas himself rejects. He nonchalantly tosses out his supernatural explanation with unjustified confidence without even acknowledging that it’s a startling claim. To him, I suppose it isn’t. The objective outside observer doesn’t share that view.

3. Avoid straw man arguments

The minimal facts argument is only effective when presented to someone who is eager to accept the resurrection or who has thought little about how historical claims are weighed. I won’t revisit that evaluation here, but we can probably agree that you must respond to your opponents’ best arguments, not caricatures of them.

4. “Given the story up to this point …”

A common argument for the historicity of a Bible story begins by demanding that we take the story up to a certain point as a given. For example, “Given the Jesus story up through the crucifixion, how do you explain the empty tomb?” (The challenge is often abbreviated, as in “How do you explain the empty tomb?” with the story assumption taken for granted.)

Compare that with the story of Goldilocks. “Given that this little girl woke up with three bears standing over her, doesn’t it make sense that she would run away?” Sure, but that’s a bold initial assumption.

Given the empty tomb, the immensely large rock, Jesus being dead, and the guards ensuring that there was no hanky-panky, then I’ll agree that resurrection can be considered. But those are big givens, which I won’t grant. Just because the gospels sort of say that doesn’t make it history.

Conclude with four more lessons learned in Part 2.

At Lourdes, you see plenty of crutches
but no wooden legs.
— John Dominic Crossan

Photo credit: Keene Public Library

Response To an Angry Christian (2 of 2)
The Inadequate Deist Argument
Response To an Angry Christian
25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid (Part 11)
About Bob Seidensticker
  • MNb

    Excellent piece. Once again I can only add:

    “Which are history and which are not?”
    This question is addressed (not answered) here:

    http://www.livius.org/theory/maximalists-and-minimalists/

    • Greg G.

      There are 110 comments for this article and 108 of them are in the thread started by Karl. Basically, I guess I am only replying here to prove I’m not too old to be a rebel.

  • KarlUdy

    Bob,

    There are two points I would like to make in response to your post. The first is regarding your second point …

    I agree that there is no “universally accepted creator of the universe”. There is also no universally accepted explanation for how the universe comes into being. Should we then conclude based on this lack on consensus that there is no possible explanation of how the universe came into being? Or in other words, that the universe did not come into being?

    I don’t think that you want to imply that a lack of consensus implies that an idea is “profoundly crazy”. And I also think it is unwise to attribute a belief that the majority of people (including a large proportion of well-educated people – yes, even scientists, too) subscribe to, as profoundly crazy. Going around saying that most people in the world are crazy, or deluded, is the domain of conspiracy theorists or people who have even less of a grasp on reality.

    And I also want to respond to your first point …

    You say that “it’s just a story” (emphasis mine). I can agree that it is a story, as is every account of a historical event, but to assert that it is just a story requires a demonstration that there is no basis to the events. Of course, there was no security camera evidence, but if that is what is required for a proposed historical account to be trusted, then our history books are going to be a lot thinner (Try pre-history running up to the beginning of the 20th century).

    Do you decide that none of the accounts of Alexander the Great are true because some of them have problematic elements? I don’t think so. I think you also regard the accounts that include supernatural elements as being generally trustworthy in the remainder of their accounts.

    Why, then, do you treat the gospels differently? The minimal facts that Habermas proposes are not supernatural per se. He uses them together to come to a supernatural conclusion, but if you object to that, it is a completely different objection to fobbing off the minimal facts themselves with “it’s just a story”.

    • smrnda

      I’ll handle the stories one – overall, I see no evidence for the supernatural. When I read accounts of Alexander, or the 12 Caesars, or any other ancient figure, I pretty much just *remove* anything supernatural from the accounts. An account only becomes truly troublesome if it is so full of the supernatural that after it’s removed, nothing much remains. The gospel story relies, mostly, on the resurrection. For me, I personally think that a legend emerged is more plausible than an actual resurrection.

      I actually think we should be more honest about what shaky ground we are probably on for much of history.

      • KarlUdy

        Scholars in the Jesus Seminar seem to have made a pretty good career out of sorting the supernatural from the natural in the gospels.

        I actually think we should be more honest about what shaky ground we are probably on for much of history.

        I must commend you for being fair here. I disagree with your conclusion, but I can’t accuse you of double standards.

        • smrnda

          My take on the latter is based on the fact that in the last hundred years or so, our ability to create records, verify claims and document evidence has increased so drastically that when I think of times long ago, I realize how easy it would have to be for fake information to become widely known, and how hard it would be for a person to verify a fact.

          I have no specific examples on hand of areas which I consider unreliable, though an area that I like to think about is crime.

          These days, there is such a thing as forensic evidence. There was a time before DNA, security cameras, microfiber analysis and even before fingerprints. How many ‘guilty’ people were never caught because the criminal simply shaved his mustache and called himself a new name? How many innocent people got tortured into confessing?

          The older the events, the more one can end up with just a shell of information, compared to the wealth of information that exists for more recent events. Compare WWII to some Roman military action – we would have information on the WWII event down to the names of specific individual soldiers who would have just been a faceless, nameless blob in the Roman case.

        • KarlUdy

          Agree totally that we cannot know what was not recorded, or even what may have been recorded but has not come down to us.

          I do wonder though how much cause we have to be skeptical of what was recorded and has been passed down to us?

        • Kodie

          How much cause to be skeptical depends on whether it is even plausible. Some things are not interesting enough to be clouded in a great deal of doubt and skepticism, for example, what people say they ate. If the current knowledge is that they had potatoes introduced to crop farming much later than the ancient account, but they claim to have some kind of food that sounds a lot like a potato, that’s kind of boring anyway. It could be most fascinating to an area of anthropology, but really, nobody cares what someone said they ate for dinner. We do not doubt that they ate. We might have to question the full account if in one part, it talks about potatoes that we already know didn’t grow there until introduced many centuries later, and in another part, make a claim that the potatoes gave them the power to see through walls. Poetically, they might be talking about “yadda yadda yadda” some weird guy who ate potatoes invented the window, or they were eating some plant that contained a drug that induced hallucinations, but probably we are talking about claims of supernatural powers. Wouldn’t you get pretty skeptical at that point? Or are you completely gullible?

          Because you sound like you are willing to believe more than is possible based on your belief that so much of it seems historical. A lot of the Jesus story could still be true – a man lived, men did live then, right? He was a rabbi with a following, so far nothing out of the ordinary. He even might have been killed and betrayed by one of his followers. Things like that could happen. Buried in a tomb? Sure. Guarded in the tomb? Ok. Disappeared bodily from a constantly guarded and sealed tomb and surely nobody had any incentive, now we are getting into “are you shitting me the only thing you can think of here is resurrection?????” The only reason we care about this particular person is that he was propped up to take care of everyone’s sins. We don’t even know if he existed as a man, but it seems pretty convenient at the time that this figure would provide people with what they really wanted – a way out.

          To put it another way, it’s pretty easy to make up a fairly believable account of some imaginary person’s life, fitting into the landscape like Jesus does, and then add in the supernatural elements so he becomes a superhero figure, absolving everyone’s sins. You find that believable because of the attending biographical details of a fairly regular type of guy. We’re hardly skeptical about the typical aspects of the life and times of a person who lived in that place at that time, but for you, that makes it all the more believable that he resurrected, because otherwise, who would “record” the ordinary events of just some guy with few remarkable or outstanding qualities for a rabbi at the time? We don’t have any other personal accounts of any specific rabbis at that place and time, so of course Jesus was special! And how could he be special? He resurrected, he said nobody gets to heaven and his father except through him and then he disappeared completely. You are building a complete fiction out of believable facts about an ordinary person, because otherwise, who would have written it all down?

          I don’t know, someone interested in selling a new religion that you could get forgiveness of your sins instantly. How does that happen?

        • wtfwjtd

          We have great cause to be skeptical of recorded ancient supernatural stories; no one can do those things now,so reason and logic would suggest that no one has ever been able to do them(in spite of all the gospel promises to the contrary).

        • Greg G.

          I do wonder though how much cause we have to be skeptical of what was recorded and has been passed down to us?

          When the vast majority of what was recorded belies its source material and the source material is about somebody else we should be skeptical of what is left.

      • MNb

        “I actually think …”
        Scholars like my compatriot Jona Lendering totally do.

        “An account only becomes truly troublesome if it is so full of the supernatural that after it’s removed, nothing much remains.”
        In fact no. Scholars just establish “this is what we can know”. They study the rest not to derive information about the subject (in this case Jesus) but about the authors.

    • wtfwjtd

      I hate to burst your bubble, but…when you remove the supernatural from the gospel stories, you aren’t left with much at all. You just have a self-proclaimed rabbi going around with a bunch of his buddies, making pronouncements about certain things, giving his own take on a few ancient Jewish and middle-eastern religious and cultural practices. So what? And a lot of the “wisdom” of Jesus is, frankly, deluded ramblings that no ethical person would endorse–for example, “take no thought for tomorrow”, “he who doesn’t hate his (family) is not worthy of following me”, “I didn’t come to bring peace but a sword”, and on and on.
      No, as with all “revealed wisdom” religions, without the supernatural you have no story left that’s worth talking about. With Alexander, Socrates, and others, there’s still plenty to talk about without the supernatural.

      As for how the universe came into being, there is plenty of scientific consensus on this subject, although honesty demands that we include the fact there is more than just a single theory. And among the peer-reviewed scientific community, I doubt very much you are going to get very many “goddunitletsforgetaboutit” approaches, as that’s not science, it’s theology.

      • KarlUdy

        I agree with you that to take the supernatural out of the gospel stories leaves them hollow (although I would argue that Jesus’ teachings alone would be of comparable importance to Socrates as a basis for Western thought). However, that does not discount their importance as historical documents. Many ancient historical documents are contracts, spells or letters between private individuals of no historical significance. However, the content of those documents can help to shed light on the culture, etc of the time. Similarly, the content of the gospels apart from the supernatural is of serious historical interest.

        I’m curious as to what you consider to be the scientific consensus on how the universe came into being.

        • MNb

          There was a Big Bang – ie a point with enormously high temperatures and enormously high density.

        • KarlUdy

          What caused the Big Bang?

        • Pofarmer

          We don’t currently know, why must we assume a reason?

        • KarlUdy

          Are you suggesting there may have been no reason?

        • Pofarmer

          What would the reason be? Must the existence of something imply intelligence? Do the complex structures of snowflakes indicate each one is intelligently designed?

        • KarlUdy

          I’m suggesting there must be a reason, and it is reasonable that the cause for the universe to come into existence is outside of the universe. What do you think it might be?

        • Greg G.

          The assumption you make for that reason is no better than the evidence your assumption is based on.

        • Pofarmer

          Is there a reason that it rains? Is there a reason for sunspots? Is there a reason for supernova?

        • KarlUdy

          Yes. Yes. And yes. But what do you think is the cause for the universe?

        • Kodie

          A magical sky daddy created everything you see, of course. As you say, that’s not an unreasonable answer when you don’t have the real answer. But you also think it’s reasonable to think demons cause disease.

        • Pofarmer

          So, what is the reason for rain? What is the reason for sunspots? What is the reason for Supernova?

        • Pattrsn

          Because nothing can’t exist

        • GubbaBumpkin

          To avoid confusion, “reason” in the entire preceding conversation should be replaced with “cause.”

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

          You’re a very inquisitive guy. That’s great–so why stifle that curiosity by saying, “Oh, wait a minute. I know! God dun it!!”

          Replacing “I don’t know” (an honest analysis that focuses attention on problems that haven’t yet been solved) with “God dun it!! :-)” isn’t helpful. By doing precisely not that, we’ve produced the science behind the internet, by which we are now communicating. And myriad other technological marvels.

        • Pattrsn

          and it is reasonable that the cause for the universe to come into existence is outside of the universe.

          That is one hell of an assumption

        • Greg G.

          A cause acting on nothing does not yield an effect in our common understanding of temporal causation. But when we apply relativity, it is not necessarily possible to determine which event happened first so a cause could be the effect of its sister cause and vice versa or several interlinked causes could be a ring with an indeterminate beginning.

          This is just basic rocket science. What’s so hard about that? 80)

        • MNb

          It isn’t reasonable. See above.

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

          Well, no, not for snowflakes. But for sand dunes? Duh! Gotta have a designer for those!

        • Greg G.

          I have an intelligently designed ice maker in my refrigerator. Are you trying to imply that all that snow and ice in my driveway, yard, and streets between home and work was put there by random chance?

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

          What causes the alpha particle to fly out of the decaying nucleus? Nothing, according to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics.

          The Big Bang might’ve been a quantum event as well. Why demand a cause?

        • MNb

          Prove that the Big Bang needed a cause. There are quite a few natural phenomena which can’t be explained in causal terms. The nuclear bomb is one of them.
          Are you aware that Sean Carroll recently totally debunked the Cosmological Argument?

          http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2014/02/24/post-debate-reflections/
          Some points of this article plus a few of myself added:
          If we grant you causality: prove the chain of cause and effect is linear and not circular.
          If we grant you causality and linearity: prove the chain of cause and effect is finite and not infite (if you can’t you’re arguing for a god of the gaps).
          If we grant you causality, linearity and finity: prove the Big Bang had only one cause. I’d rather argue, given the about 30 natural constants of the Universe, that there where the same amount of causes, which would lead us to polytheism.
          Still I doubt if you are going to convert to Hinduism because of this argument, in which case your question is an intellectually dishonest one.

        • Greg G.

          After the supernatural events have been removed from Mark, we are left with events that are still problematic. Near the end of chapter 2, Pharisees pop up to challenge Jesus and the disciples for doing something, as if Pharisees had nothing better to do on a sabbath than to hang out in grain fields. Jesus then discusses 1 Samuel 21 but the Pharisees would have clobbered him because Jesus has completely misread the whole story. It would have been a bad example anyway because the whole village dies in the next chapter as a result of David getting bread there.

          Jesus did away with the food laws in Mark 7 but Paul and Peter argue in Galatians 2 over that with Peter arguing against Paul and Jesus.

          When Paul writes about divorce, his model is Deuteronomy 24:1-4 so what he says makes sense in context with his Gentile audience. When Mark puts those words in Jesus’ mouth to his disciples, the part about women divorcing their husbands makes no sense.

          Paul writings tell us he never saw Jesus. He came to know Jesus from reading the Jewish scripture. He thinks his knowledge of Jesus is as good as the knowledge of the other disciples. In 1 Corinthians 15, he describes the appearance of Jesus to the other apostles using the same words that he describes his own, as if there is no distinction. If Cephas was the first to find Jesus in the scriptures, then he was not an illiterate fisherman.

          These events must be tossed and makes us more suspicious about the other non-supernatural events in the story. Nearly every element in Mark, supernatural or not, seem to have come from the literature of the day. Take away those and it’s more hollow than you think.

          The subsequent gospels exaggerate the hollowness. Luke uses Josephus as a source for history and even modifies his stories into Jesus stories.

          EDIT: There is a scientific concensus that the Big Bang happened because that is what the evidence shows. What caused the Big Bang is speculation and hypotheses. If or when some sufficiently strong evidence is found that can confirm or suggest the cause, then there will be a concensus.

        • wtfwjtd

          We are in agreement on this point–studying the gospels for clues that “shed light on the culture”, as you put it, is a worthwhile and useful exercise. But assuming that all the supernatural elements of the story is true simply because a story may give us cultural information about an ancient civilization, even if that cultural information is accurate, is way, way further than we go with any other ancient account that includes both the supernatural and such info.

          Notice, we don’t do it backwards, as you suggest–first accept the supernatural elements of a story as historical fact, and then look for culturally relevant information in the text.

          To re-iterate, I totally agree with you–throw out the supernatural first, like we do with every other ancient historical account, and then study what’s left for useful information.

          As for scientific consensus on the universe’s origins, multi-verse theory, either the Smolin Selection theory, or the Chaotic Inflation theory, have very widespread acceptance within the scientific community. Trying to sum either of these up in a sentence or two would be a silly exercise; people have devoted volumes, and entire careers, to defining and refining these, a simple “goddunnit” don’t do either of them justice.There’s plenty of material in print and online, I urge to do your own research on the subject to get a better idea of what these theories entail, and why the scientific community embraces them.

      • SparklingMoon-

        I hate to burst your bubble, but…when you remove the supernatural from the gospel stories, you aren’t left with much at all.
        ———————————————————————–
        You are right that descriptions of New Testament are not free from the element of supernatural or superstition but we can not attribute such things to Jesus. He was an honoured Prophet of God and was sent for the guidance of his people. It is impossible that he should have taught such things. It is impossible that his teaching should have upset the mental balance of his followers and driven them from the path of reason into the morass of superstition. These superstitious elements were added to the Gospels at some later time. Jesus is not responsible for them, nor are his disciples. The responsibility for the introduction of these superstitions into the text of the Gospels lies on those Christians who came later, who were no longer spiritually sensitive, and who preferred popular applause to strict truth.

    • Pofarmer

      Let’s think about this for a minute Karl.

      Birth stories. Conflicting, with the earliest Gospels having none at all. LIfe-basically full of supernatural tales, mixed in with tales that are not only supernatural, but with events that are historically innaccurate. Trial and death? Four different stories, with the earliest works having no direct knowledge. Once again, the accounts include things that are known to be ahistorical and make sense only as symbolism. Family? Mother never seen or heard from outside the Gospels. No history of life after crucifixion. Father? No record, even in the gospels. Siblings? Well, some are reputed to be, but the Catholic Church tries to deny them, so? What are you left with Karl? You are left with a guy, running around to people far away from the reputed events spreading the message of a man he never claims to have met, who then goes and meets with other men, who, in their own writings, also right nothing of the physical man. I think you have a tougher hill than you think. Richard Carriers, “Not the Impossible Faith” would be a good read for you.

      • KarlUdy

        One wonders what you would expect from four accounts of the life of Jesus. Perfect unison? But that would then be simply four copies of one account, and you would likely dismiss it as a lone voice.

        I don’t know what you think is ahistorical.

        I don’t know why you think the gospels make no record of Jesus’ father. Joseph was his legal father (even if not his physical father) and called his father in Luke, and that Joseph was also the father of Jesus’ siblings is not contested by the Catholic church.

        It sounds like you have created (or been fed) a spin on the gospels designed to make them seem as far-fetched as possible. Frankly, anyone could create such a spin about anything (even things we both think are meaningful and important) but their doing so reveals more about them than the truth or otherwise of the matter at hand.

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

          Imagine someone putting words on paper that would convince you that his supernatural story is correct, while the Jesus story isn’t. The words could be anything–what could they be?

          If you can think of nothing that would convince you (I can’t, speaking for myself), then you can understand the problem skeptics have being convinced by the gospel story.

        • KarlUdy

          OK, so your asking me to think of something that someone could write that would convince me that the Jesus story is wrong, and also that their own supernatural story is true.

          This doesn’t seem like a well-thought through experiment. There would need to be considerable contradictory evidence for me to believe the Jesus story is not true. If there was good evidence showing the NT documents to be forgeries then that would be a start. For that same writing to also convince me of some other supernatural story … I don’t know what it would take, not because nothing would convince me, but because I know almost nothing about this hypothetical story.

        • MNb

          “There would need to be considerable contradictory evidence for me to believe the Jesus story is not true.”
          There seem to be quite some geographical errors in Marcus.

          “If there was good evidence showing the NT documents to be forgeries then that would be a start.”
          Wrong question. The word “forgery” applies as little here as the word “western democracy” applies to ancient Athens. All Antique authors mixed fact and fiction. That’s why both sides need good evidence: the parts we assume to be historical and the parts we assume to be mythical. We have very good evidence that the infanticide is a myth for example.
          Hey, that’s exactly what BobS wrote about in this article.

        • Greg G.

          The development of Christianity is not a conspiracy. It’s a comedy of errors. The ancient scriptures had David’s seed always being on the throne but hat lasted only a few generations. Then some scriptures were written that blamed that on the people not following the rules but a Messiah would come and restore the throne if they were good.

          When the Greek rulers began to try to usurp the religion, the Messiah coming any day now idea arose. One sect began to read the texts as if there were hidden mysteries within that the Messiah had been crucified long ago. The fact that theses mysteries were being revealed (by reading verses out of context) was all the proof they needed that the Messiah was about to come.

          After the destruction of Jerusalem, Mark wrote his gospel, possibly just as an allegory to explain the destruction. It appears to have jump started the idea but from the writings they had, mostly Mark, Thomas, and a few epistles, they came up with the idea that Jesus had actually existed in the early first century.

        • MNb

          “It’s a comedy of errors.”
          Well, there was some smart politics involved as well.

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

          There would need to be considerable contradictory evidence for me to believe the Jesus story is not true.

          There is—in the overwhelmingly compelling story that I showed you. You would quickly see the gospel story as the sham it is compared to the truth of this new story (whatever it is).

          I don’t know what it would take, not because nothing would convince me, but because I know almost nothing about this hypothetical story.

          Your imagination is your only limit. We imagine any set of characters on any number of pages—you pick.

          You know that long, long list of problems with the gospel story that atheist whiners always throw at you? All gone. To the extent that a document can be noncontradictory and error free and still give a supernatural explanation for the universe, this is it.

          If this perfect story (perfect because if there were any flaw, you’d change it) won’t convince you, then maybe you’re believing for some reason besides compelling evidence.

        • Kodie

          So you’re saying it would take more evidence for you to change your mind than it takes for you to believe what you believe.

        • Pofarmer

          Didn’t you just describe Islam?

        • Pofarmer

          Ahistorical.

          No star of bethlehem.
          No census as it is ” recorded”.
          No slaughter of children.
          No eclipse.
          No zombie Apocalypse.

          I’m sure there’s much more. Without writing a ginormously long post, what it all comes down to is that you have a tiny, tiny kernel of what may be some historical figure. The entire confabulated story is a supernatural tale. You have four stories fictionalizing historical figures.

        • KarlUdy

          So what you’re saying is that things that are recorded as happening in the gospels that you cannot verify by other historical sources you assume are ahistorical.

          Considering the NT document manuscripts are more numerous than any other ancient document by a long way, and knowing that we only possess a fragment of the totality of ancient documents you do a disservice to historical investigation by assuming that what they record cannot be history unless it is mentioned in another document that we also possess.

        • Pofarmer

          No Karl. What I am saying is that there were plenty of others writing at the time

          “The following is a list of writers who lived and wrote during the
          time, or within a century after the time, that Christ is said to have
          lived and performed his wonderful works:

          Josephus

          Philo-Judaeus

          Seneca

          Pliny the Elder

          Suetonius

          Juvenal

          Martial

          Persius

          Plutarch

          Justus of Tiberius

          Apollonius

          Pliny the Younger

          Tacitus

          Quintilian

          Lucanus

          Epictetus

          Silius Italicus

          Statius

          Ptolemy

          Hermogones

          Valerius MaximusArrian

          Petronius

          Dion Pruseus

          Paterculus

          Appian

          Theon of Smyrna

          Phlegon

          Pompon Mela

          Quintius Curtius

          Lucian

          Pausanias

          Valerius Flaccus

          Florus Lucius

          Favorinus

          Phaedrus

          Damis

          Aulus Gellius

          Columella

          Dio Chrysostom

          Lysias

          Appion of Alexandria”

          And none of them mention the things I listed as happening the Gospels as happening. Furthermore, an eclipse during a full moon? don’t happen. There were other cultures, Babylonians, phoenecians, sumerians, aztecs, Chinese, doing pretty complicated astronomy at the time. None of them mention anything like the star of Bethlehem, for starters. And “Stars and Portents” were always used to signify the births and deaths of great men. It’s a literary device. We have records of Roman Census. We know that they didn’t “Go to the homes of their anscestors.” That’s stupid on a lot of levels. It was an invention to get the baby Jesus to Bethlehem to fulfill some scriptures. There are histories of Herod surviving. None of them, even the unfriendly ones, mention anything like the slaughter of the innocents in the bible. Another invention to tie Jesus to Moses. So, yes, we can make conclusions based on available evidence, even if it is somewhat more sparse than the Gospel accounts.

        • KarlUdy

          How many of these writers were in Palestine?

        • Pofarmer

          Ah, now, if you are going to limit it to Just writers who we know were in Palestine, then you have to throw out Paul, right? The other Four Gospels were written in Greek, and considered to be written far away from events too, so what does that leave you with?

          This is a Good read.

          The Christ, byJohn E. Remsberg. He talks about the Authors at length.

          http://positiveatheism.org/hist/rmsbrg00.htm

        • KarlUdy

          Paul was in Palestine for at least some of his life. The reason I mention this is that most of the writers you mention were probably not familiar or interested in any of the goings on in Palestine.

          Although, if there was a Jew who had never been to Palestine in your list, then what they say or do not say would also be of interest.

        • Pofarmer

          Josephus certainly was. The biographers of Herod certainly were.

        • KarlUdy

          So there may be half a dozen or so names in your list that could reasonably be considered to possibly know about Jesus.

        • Greg G.

          That’s compared to the list of Christians who supposedly lived at the time but don’t tell anything about him that doesn’t come from the Old Testament. Paul never met Jesus and got his information from scripture but thinks his knowledge of Jesus and the gospel is less than the other apostles of his time.
          None of the early epistles support the teacher/preacher Jesus. They only know a suffering servant who was crucified from Isaiah 53 and was resurrected three days later from Hosea 6.

        • adam
        • Greg G.

          It’s not even about the Messiah. The early Christians were quote mining the Old Testament and calling it history that must have happened in the mythical past. That these long hidden messages were being revealed to their generation was a sign that the Messiah was coming within their generation.

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

          Perhaps if they had computers back then, they would’ve come up with the stupid Bible Code idea 2000 years earlier.

        • MNb

          “quote mining .. and calling it history”
          A very popular procedure back in those days.

        • Kodie

          I’d like to examine this another way. The “chosen one to save us all” was born in a place and time when nobody could accurately record him, and rather few people ever heard of him or knew him. Let’s have the most important event in human history occur anonymously and obscurely as can be, and depend on word of mouth to get around, after a few centuries, when it could have easily faded into the past as anonymously and obscurely as it arrived.

          That sounds like something a perfect deity would think of to help his children.

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

          For a solar eclipse that lasts 3 hours instead of the usual few minutes? Who cares where they were?

          (Matthew 27:45)

        • MNb

          “So what you’re saying is that things that are recorded as happening in the gospels that you cannot verify by other historical sources you assume are ahistorical.”
          That’s the safe bet. Read what a scholar writes about this:

          http://www.livius.org/theory/maximalists-and-minimalists/

          Minimalism has had the best results. Why should the Bible be an exception?

          “the NT document manuscripts are more numerous”
          Irrelevant. All these manuscripts are mutually dependent. That’s where the hypothesis of the Q-document – accepted by many christians – comes from.

        • Greg G.

          Minimalism has had the best results. Why should the Bible be an exception?

          Checking your source’s sources is also a good practice. The New Testament is exceptional because so many of those writers’ sources are still available to us. When we eliminate the events that were attributed to somebody else in the source’s sources, we can dispense with the rejecting the supernatural claims and minimalism. There also isn’t much left for Jesus to have done.

        • MNb

          Yes. Scholars largely agree there is very little we can know about the guy. The consensus seems to be that it doesn’t matter too much for understanding the success and development of christianity from at least 70 CE, when the temple of Jeruzalem was destroyed. Before it was just one of many jewish sects.

        • Ron

          There are millions of copies of Harry Potter in circulation. Does that make the story any more factual?

        • Greg G.

          There are fewer versions among the Harry Potter copies, too. There are more textual variations among the New Testament documents than there are words in the New Testament.

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

          Makes it darn-near historical! Steven King, too.

        • KarlUdy

          How many were hand-copied before the invention of the printing press?

          And, as with The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter was never intended to be treated as fact.

        • Ron

          What degree of certainty is there that the Gospel narratives were ever intended to be treated as fact?

        • KarlUdy

          About as certain as you could be about any ancient literary document.

        • Ron

          Yet Paul—the most prolific and contemporaneous NT author—fails to incorporate anything found within those narratives into his own writings. Strange, no?

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

          So what I hear you saying is that, no, the number of copies isn’t especially interesting. A million manuscripts of Homer wouldn’t make the Iliad true, for example.

          Is that right?

        • KarlUdy

          The number of copies doesn’t change the genre.

          It does affect our confidence in the accurate preservation of the received text.

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

          Perhaps you’ve read my post, “25,000 New Testament Manuscripts? Big Deal.”

        • Greg G.

          So what you’re saying is that things that are recorded as happening in the gospels that you cannot verify by other historical sources you assume are ahistorical.

          No, it’s that we can verify that the words and actions attributed to Jesus can be verified from other sources as having been previously attributed to someone else that leads us to conclude the Jesus version is ahistorical.

        • wtfwjtd

          And let’s not forget here, that outside the gospels, there is zero, as in 0, references to a historical Jesus in any of his contemporaries’ works. Not even a passing mention, let alone any biographical details.

        • MNb

          “No star of bethlehem.”
          Actually too many.

          “No census as it is ” recorded”.”
          There was the census of Quirinius of course. The Romans were not such fools that they send everybody back to their places of birth. This is an excellent example of mixing fact and fiction.

        • Pofarmer

          Yes, that’s why I said “As recorded.” The census was said to be under Herod, when the only possible match is of Quirinius, and if you take the Census under Quirinius, I wonder if it makes Jesus too young to have been crucified in the reign of Pontius Pilate. Haven’t done the math.

        • MNb

          The math is impossible because we have no idea at what age Jesus was crucified. He might very well have been 40. Who kept record those days?
          I don’t even think it very interesting. Far more interesting is the question why the story of the Census was included. The best explanation I have seen is that the author wanted Jesus to be born in Bethlehem. Of course there is also a literary component: the image of a woman in advanced state of pregnancy having to travel such a distance on the back of a donkey is so strong it doesn’t even fail to impress us cynical modern readers.
          I’ve said before that some parts of the Bible deserve a Nobel Price for Literature retroactively.

        • wtfwjtd

          “Far more interesting is the question why the story of the Census was included. The best explanation I have seen is that the author wanted Jesus to be born in Bethlehem.”

          That’s exactly what Hitchens says, since the “prophecy” had the “Messiah” as the line of David the story writer needed to get Jesus to Bethlehem somehow, and the clumsy census inclusion was it. BTW, this is why he thinks there actually was a historical man named Jesus at sometime, somewhere, because of the way the story is tortured and cobbled together.

        • Greg G.

          The prophecy that and Luke thought required Jesus to be born in Bethlehem is Micah 5:2. Luke probably objected to God allowing all those babies to die while protecting baby Jesus, so he used the first event Josephus tells about in Antiquities 18. Luke draws heavily on Antiquities 18, 19, and 20 for information and story lines in Luke and Acts.

          The coming from Nazareth seems a little strange. Mark suggests that Jesus lived in Capernaum.

          Mk 2:1 And when he returned to Caper’na-um after some days, it was reported that he was at home. Mk 2:2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them.

          If it was reported that he was home and crowds gathered in Capernaum, they must have known he lived in Capernaum.

          Mk 9:33 And they came to Caper’na-um; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?”

          Whose house were they at?

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

          The census story makes no sense. You go to your ancestor’s home town? Which ancestor? How many generations back? Why would the Romans have made such a demand when they want to go to where you are now to collect their taxes?

          Would the contemporary audience have swallowed this story?

        • avalpert

          As I understand it Luke was writing for a Roman audience – I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they wouldn’t blink at that story being told of what was required out in the hinterlands of the empire. To them, that would be a foreign world where that was surely possible.

        • Greg G.

          I used to make that argument but I’ve changed my mind. I think Luke could mean just where you were born or where your home was. So Joseph wasn’t going to Bethlehem because David, his distant ancestor was from there but because Joseph himself was from there and it was an amazing coincidence that his distant ancestor was from there, too.

          Josephus says the census was to record the property so if Joseph had a vineyard there, he might have had to be there for the accounting of it. If the owner couldn’t be found and taxed, the land may have been forfeited. Joseph wouldn’t have been subject to the census in Galilee but he would have to go if he didn’t want to risk the loss of an income-producing property.

          Or it could have been that itinerant workers had to return to their regular home to be counted so the place they happened to be working that month wouldn’t be burdened with extra taxes.

          The pregnant wife was just bad luck. His risk analysis was that he needed to go and she needed to go with him. He may have thought the baby wouldn’t come for another month..

          Once I read Antiquities 17 and 18, the end of one carries into the other, I saw that the census was not merely a head count. They were accounting for property, too.

          So, the story isn’t as implausible as I once thought. There is still plenty of reasons to think it is not true.

          Why did Luke pick that event to frame the Nativity? Perhaps for no other reason than it was the first event in Antiquities 18, one of his favorite sources.

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

          So Joseph wasn’t going to Bethlehem because David, his distant ancestor was from there but because Joseph himself was from there and it was an amazing coincidence that his distant ancestor was from there, too.

          Why were Joseph and Mary far away in Nazareth then? Maybe because the census was only for Judea and not Galilee, and Joseph lived in Nazareth but had holdings near Bethlehem? But it says that the whole world was taxed.

          Luke 2:4 says that the trip was “because he belonged to the house and line of David.”

          They were accounting for property, too.

          That would make sense. If you have a herd of sheep, the size of the herd is essential to document.

        • Greg G.

          I had forgotten about verse 4.

          Just noticed something I’d never seen or heard argued. Apologists say that one genealogy was Mary’s and one was Joseph’s. Luke 2:5 says they were engaged so would Joseph’s lineage count for a child born out of wedlock?

        • Pofarmer

          Would Joseph’s lineage count for a child who’s father is supposed to be God? I’ve seen that argued for the two geneologiies, but it rings hollow. The numbers of generations are symbolic for each writer, and the names are just fill in. Plus, nobody kept the geneologies of women, plus, in a society that was mostly illiterate, geneologies would have been very, very hard to get after the destruction of the temple.

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

          I’m missing your point. How do you deduce that Jesus was born out of wedlock?

        • Greg G.

          Luke 2:5-7 (NRSV)
          5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

          Luke 2:5-7 (NIV)
          5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

          Luke explicitly mentions that they were engaged but never mentions that they got married before the birth. He is probably trying to maintain that she was still a virgin.

          Now some might say that being is engaged is as good as being married but a lot of married folks will tell you it’s better.

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

          About Mary’s vs. Joseph’s geneologies: that may be the most desperate claim that I’ve heard apologists. There are two obviously different geneologies and apologists have to hammer the story to fit their beliefs.

          Why give any geneologies? Yeah, I know that he’s supposed to be from the bloodline of David, but he’s not! His mother’s lineage doesn’t matter, and Joseph isn’t his father.

          Ah the problems being born as a demigod …

        • Ron

          Have you read this:

          Where was Jesus Born?

          The archaeological evidence suggests that the Bethlehem located in Judea was unoccupied during the Herodian period, but that another Bethlehem in Galilee was not.

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

          Fascinating. I’d heard that said about Nazareth–that it was indeed inhabited around 70 when the gospels began to be written (see “The Myth of Nazareth” by Salm), but not before.

          I hadn’t heard the same question about Bethlehem.

        • Pofarmer

          At that point in history a woman and a child were basically property. I doubt it elicited much response except possibly in women.

        • Greg G.

          Matthew uses 90% of Mark and half of that is verbatim. The parts that are changed or omitted seem to be for theological reasons, not as simple historical revisions.
          The differences between Luke and Matthew seem to be due to theological implications as well. Luke wouldn’t have Jesus coming from a genealogy through the illicit affair that produced Solomon. Luke wouldn’t have God allowing Herod to slaughter babies while saving only Jesus.
          The synoptics have Peter as the most important disciple. John has the unnamed Beloved Disciple who is Not Peter and who supplants Peter as the first disciple for events of the synoptics.
          Matthew and Luke are derived directly from Mark textually while John appears to be derived from Mark but orally, possibly.
          Nearly every passage in Mark can be traced to the literature of the day. Mark shows great skill as an author combining Greek, Hebrew and Christian literature using mimesis and putting the stories into a chiastic structure. That shows that he is well-trained in composition. He understands The Odyssey much better than he understands the Hebrew literature and Palestine geography which shows he is more likely not from Judea or Galilee, so his penchant for chiasm isn’t from that region, which indicates that Mark was probably quite fluent in Greek. The fact that the gospel is written in poor Greek may be a style choice by Mark to make it appear to be coming from someone who was not fluent in Greek. Since Mark was using fictional stories to write fictional stories, he was most likely writing the gospel as an allegorical story, not as history. The name “Legion” was probably a wink to his Greek audience that the story was about Polyphemus, the Cyclops which should have been quite obvious in that era.
          That the other gospel writers failed to pick up on those clues should indicate that their judgment determining early first century stories is questionable.

        • KarlUdy

          Which book are you getting this from?

        • Greg G.

          The bulk of Price’s The Christ Myth Theory can be found here, where he pulls together various scholars, most of whom assume a historical Jesus, but their combined work shows little left over to be historical information. Some parts not accounted for by Price are accounted for here. You can find more by going to Catholic websites that list New Testament dependencies on the Deuterocanonical works, which the Protestants call “The Apocrypha”. Here is some more.

          Richard Carrier gives a nice review of MacDonald’s book here.

          Many sources confirm that Mark uses a rough style of Greek but Carrier discusses it above.

          Here is one chiastic structure of Mark.

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

          Interesting. I’d heard that Mark’s poor Greek portrayed him as sort of an honest but not-too-bright man, with the erudition taken up by later writers, particularly John.

        • Greg G.

          The complexity of the mimesis and the chiastic structure should inform us that Mark was very talented and intelligent. Richard Carrier was impressed by his deep understanding of the Homeric epics. That understanding implies to me that he was fluent in Greek. Carrier said it might be intentional to use such low Greek as a transvaluation of the high Greek of Homer.

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

          I’m trying to find a modern parallel to Mark’s dialing back his language. Maybe Twain’s use of vernacular speech in Huck Finn?

          I don’t know Greek, so I don’t know what this might be comparable to.

        • Greg G.

          Faulkner?

          I’m thinking of the diction he uses for his characters.

          How about the King James Bible? I understand it was translated into a style of English that was a couple of centuries old at the time.

          Look at how important the Gospel of Mark is today and throughout history. Maybe your next book should be in pidgin Greek.

        • MNb

          “The differences between ….”
          Which is nicely explained by the hypothesis that the Gospels (including the non-canonical ones) were written with the specific goal in mind to unify the fresh religion.

        • Kodie

          One wonders what you would expect from four accounts of the life of
          Jesus. Perfect unison? But that would then be simply four copies of one
          account, and you would likely dismiss it as a lone voice.

          Aren’t you the one who keeps reminding us that it’s not a legend because people learned and recited their history lessons word for word so there would be no mistranslation or elaboration? It’s too short of a time-frame, you keep insisting, for a legend to arise, because they all would have had the same set of facts memorized to recite.

        • KarlUdy

          Half-right. I do say that the oral transmission method was reliable. I do say it is too short a time frame for a legend to arise. I do not say that they all had the same set of facts memorized. In fact, I mentioned Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses where he identifies different eyewitness testimony evident in the different gospels.

        • Kodie

          You’re hedging your bets. That’s not how you get the truth.

        • Greg G.

          Even if it were true that the time frame was too short, you have to base that on the assumption that parts of it was true. The addition of a historical Pilate puts the story circa 30AD but that doesn’t mean the story didn’t start before then.

          The Messiah coming soon idea goes back to the 2nd century BC. Are there any internal clues in Paul’s letter to date them besides 2 Corinthians 11:32 about King Aretus that puts that event anywhere from 9 BC to about 38 AD?
          Most of Mark comes from material that was already 500 years old. He drew on some of Paul’s letters but he got his information from centuries old scripture as well.

        • MNb

          I can’t help myself:

          http://www.livius.org/men-mh/messiah/messianic_claimants00.html

          Mind you, these are the ones we know.

          “he got his information from …”
          Of course. The very fact he could write means he was well educated and was familiar with all kind of ancient literature.

        • Greg G.

          The Messiah came dozens of times. It was harder to get it right than he expected.

        • Pofarmer

          “I do say it is too short a time frame for a legend to arise. I”

          Absolutely and completely false. I copied and pasted a passage from a website to one of Bob’s threads where an individual was clearly being mythologized, and he died sometime in 1965.

          Here’s the example.

          “”In our day God did mighty miracles in the ministry of William Branham.
          Dead were raised, cancer was immediately healed, blind eyes opened, deaf
          ears opened, mute tongues spoke, secrets of the heart and life were
          revealed by the thousands, creation of life was spoken, a blizzard was
          calmed, withered limbs were immediately healed, I heard that 2 girls
          born without eyes got eyes in the prayer line, and much more. “”

          So, 50 odd years ago.

          How much easier would it be to fact check things today than it would have been 2000 years ago? Richard Carrier also talks about this extensively in “Not the impossible faith”

        • Kodie

          It has just enough excuses to keep you on board.

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

          Kodie’s right. You’re walking a fine line here. You must argue that the authors couldn’t have made an error, and yet you must whip up a reason why the gospels differ so much.

        • Pofarmer

          You also have to make the assumption that it wasn’t CREATED as myth.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          One wonders what you would expect from four accounts of the life of
          Jesus. Perfect unison? But that would then be simply four copies of one
          account, and you would likely dismiss it as a lone voice.

          Since you went there, the canonical Gospels, especially the synoptic three, are known not to be independent. They describe the same events sometimes verbatim. Three school children turning in similarly identical essays on what I did over summer break would be expelled for plagiarism.

          And of course, by mentioning four accounts, you bring to mind the other Gospels that were not approved by the church and incorporated into the New Testament. Classic Texas sharpshooter fallacy.

          … and that Joseph was also the father of Jesus’ siblings is not contested by the Catholic church.

          Say what? The Holy Roman Catholic Church has generally opposed the claim that Jesus had siblings.

        • wtfwjtd

          …and the idea that there are but four gospels? That’s just a number the church pulled out of its…you know. It was an agreed-upon arbitrary number used as a way to whittle down the dozens of Jesus accounts that the church had to pick from. You don’t like what this one says? Then pick another!

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

          Irenaeus said: “There are four gospels and only four, neither more nor less: four like the points of the compass, four like the chief directions of the wind. The Church, spread all over the world, has in the gospels four pillars and four winds blowing wherever people live.”

          http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/father10.htm

        • adam

          Typical politician Irenaeus….
          How so little has changed in politics….

        • Ron

          Sounds similar to that scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

          “And the LORD spake, saying, “First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then shalt thou count to three— no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count. Neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.”

          Book of Armaments, Chapter 2, verses 9-21

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

          Brilliant scene. Those facial expressions are spot on.

        • Greg G.

          When I saw the statue of the Virgin Mary in the front of the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, I recognized the thing in her hands as the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bas%C3%ADlica_de_Nuestra_Se%C3%B1ora,_Ciudad_Ho_Chi_Minh,_Vietnam,_2013-08-14,_DD_03.JPG

        • MNb

          “the canonical Gospels, especially the synoptic three, are known not to be independent.”
          Of course not. That’s where the entire Q-document hypothesis comes from!

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

      There is also no universally accepted explanation for how the universe comes into being. Should we then conclude based on this lack on consensus that there is no possible explanation of how the universe came into being?

      Science has discovered the explanation for uncountably many natural phenomena. Science delivers. Religion, on the other hand, has produced zero supernatural claims that are universally accepted.

      I don’t think that you want to imply that a lack of consensus implies that an idea is “profoundly crazy”.

      His view is actually fairly widespread … and it’s still profoundly crazy. As I make clear, that doesn’t mean that it’s not true. But at first glance it’s crazy.

      And I also think it is unwise to attribute a belief that the majority of people (including a large proportion of well-educated people – yes, even scientists, too) subscribe to, as profoundly crazy. Going around saying that most people in the world are crazy, or deluded, is the domain of conspiracy theorists or people who have even less of a grasp on reality.

      Yeah, right. The whole world is out to get you.

      Down, boy. I’m saying that, to an objective unbiased observer (in this case, someone who’s never heard any claim like this, of course), this will have any of a number of attributes: incredible, outrageous, crazy, insane, whatever.

      to assert that it is just a story requires a demonstration that there is no basis to the events.

      That’s our starting point. Dorothy’s house squashed a witch in “Wizard of Oz.” We start with the assumption that it’s just a story and then wrestle whether it’s history or not. Same with the gospel.

      that is what is required for a proposed historical account to be trusted, then our history books are going to be a lot thinner

      History universally scrubs supernatural claims out of the accounts. Should those supernatural claims be left in? We’re going to need some pretty high-quality evidence. Security camera evidence might work. Not much else will do.

      Do you decide that none of the accounts of Alexander the Great are true because some of them have problematic elements?

      So in the same way that the supernatural elements are rejected off the bat with Alexander, you propose the same thing with the gospel story?

      I think you also regard the accounts that include supernatural elements as being generally trustworthy in the remainder of their accounts.

      So you want to scrub the supernatural out of the gospel? If not, then why bring this up?

      Why, then, do you treat the gospels differently?

      You’ve read my stuff for so long and yet are so confused? I’m the one demanding that they be treated the same!

      The minimal facts that Habermas proposes are not supernatural per se. He uses them together to come to a supernatural conclusion

      So it’s not surprising that objective critics might find problems with his steps.

      • MNb

        “So in the same way that the supernatural elements are rejected …”
        Yes! Yes!
        Oh wait – you weren’t asking me.

      • KarlUdy

        I’m saying that, to an objective unbiased observer (in this case, someone who’s never heard any claim like this, of course), this will have any of a number of attributes: incredible, outrageous, crazy, insane, whatever.

        Interestingly, in our quest to find an objective unbiased observer (and that would appear to be a fruitless quest as we would discount anyone who has considered these questions, and who with any normal mental capacity has never considered these questions?), the idea that there is a supernatural creator seems plausible, natural even. Most children (who would be the closest to objective unbiased observers we could find) seem to intuitively believe that there is a supernatural creator. So I think you’re completely wrong (not crazy, just wrong) on this.

        That’s our starting point. Dorothy’s house squashed a witch in “Wizard of Oz.” We start with the assumption that it’s just a story and then wrestle whether it’s history or not. Same with the gospel.

        Actually we usually know before we read the first sentence whether we are supposed to read something as fiction or non-fiction. No informed person thinks the gospels were written as fiction. Whether a non-fiction document accurately represents reality is a separate question. The Hitler Diaries are non-fiction but not true. Contra The Wizard of Oz, The Hitler Diaries necessitated a presumption of truth when reading them (and it must be noted that it was not the content, but forensic analysis that exposed them as forgeries). If you want to compare the gospels with The Hitler Diaries, then go ahead, but to compare the gospels with The Wizard of Oz is either deceptive or ignorant.

        So you want to scrub the supernatural out of the gospel? If not, then why bring this up?

        As I went on to say, because none of Habermas’ minimal facts are supernatural. You can’t reject them simply because the gospels record supernatural events elsewhere, or because Habermas uses these non-supernatural events to come to a supernatural conclusion. Argue with his logic in coming up with a supernatural conclusion if you must (which by the way would be far more compelling if you actually interacted with his logical argument instead of insisting it must be wrong because the conclusion is supernatural.)

        • Pofarmer

          Agency detection, it’s evolution.

          Some very informed people think the
          Gospels are exactly fiction.

        • KarlUdy

          I would be interested to know which very informed people think that the gospels are literary fiction.

        • Pofarmer

          Richard Pervo and Randal Helms, for starters.

        • KarlUdy

          I’m not sure from checking their works on amazon whether they would say that the gospels are literary fiction, or propaganda not based on historical fact. There is a difference, you know.

        • Pofarmer

          Consider Randal Helms book is called “The Gospel Fictions.” I have read it. You should to. He ties most everything in the NT back into it’s sources in the OT.

        • KarlUdy

          Tell me, are his conclusions that the gospels are a similar sort of writing to The Hitler Diaries, or a similar sort of writing to The Wizard of Oz?

        • Greg G.

          Randel Helms does assume their are oral traditions that lead up to what he calls the fictions. I suggest reading Dennis R. MacDonald’s The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark first, so you realize that Helms’ assumption of tradition isn’t actually so. MacDonald explains the Greek practice of mimesis very well and you can see how Mark uses it on the Hebrew stories the same way as he does the Greek literature.
          I have read that both Helms and MacDonald are Christians, or they were after writing these books.

        • KarlUdy

          I don’t disagree that there is mimesis of the OT in the gospels. However, this is not a very strong argument against their historicity. I am much more skeptical about the links to Homer.

        • Greg G.

          Here is but one example.

          Legion and the Cyclops
          from Odyssey 9.101-565 and Mark 5:1-20.

          Odysseus and his crew, in a convoy, arrived at the land of the Cyclops.
          Jesus and his disciples, with “other boats,” arrived at the land of the Gerasenes.

          On the mountains “innumerable goats” grazed.
          [On the mountains "about two thousand" swine grazed.]

          Odysseus and crew disembarked.
          Jesus and his disciples disembarked.

          They encountered a savage, lawless giant who lived in a cave.
          They encountered a savage, lawless demoniac who lived among the caves.

          He asked if Odysseus came to harm him.
          He asked if Jesus came to torment him.

          The giant asked Odysseus his name.
          Jesus asked the demonaic his name.

          Odysseus answered, “Nobody.”
          The demonaic answered, “Legion.”

          Odysseus subdued the giant with violence and trickery. [Circe had turned Odysseus's soldiers into swine.]
          Jesus subdued the demons with divine power and sent them into the swine and then into the sea.

          The shepherd called out to his neighbors.
          The swineherds called on their neighbors.

          The Cyclopes came to the site asking about Polyphemus’s sheep and goats.
          The Gerasenes came to the site to find out about their swine.

          (Polypemus usually depicted nude.)
          The demoniac, once naked, now is clothed.

          Odysseus and crew re-embarked.
          Jesus and his disciples re-embarked.

          Odysseus told the giant to proclaim that he blinded him.
          [Jesus told the healed demoniac to proclaim that he had healed him.]

          The giant asked Odysseus, who was now aboard ship, to come back.
          The demoniac asked Jesus, now aboard ship, if he could be with him.

          Odysseus refused the request.
          Jesus refused the request.

          Odysseus and crew sailed away.
          Jesus and disciples sailed away.

          The above comparison’s come from MacDonald’s book.

          Isaiah 65:4
          who sit inside tombs,
          and spend the night in secret places;
          who eat swine’s flesh,
          with broth of abominable things in their vessels;

          The Cyclops name was Polyphemus, which means “famous” or, literally, “many (poly-) talk about (-phemus)” in Greek.

          The name Legion comes from the Latin word, ” Legio”, for a group of many soldiers. The root of the Greek word, “lego”, means “to speak” is used immediately before Legio in the Greek texts of Mark, as if the author was emphasizing the similarity between the two words. The sentence ends with “for we are many” and the Greek word for “many” is polys.

          There are two miracle feedings in Mark that seem to exaggerate Elijah feeding many with little food. Odysseus’ son, Telemauchus, attends two feasts. He walks to one and so does Jesus. He sails to the other and so does Jesus. MacDonald gives more corresponding details.
          Mark has Jesus strategically taking the speaking roles of each of the strongest characters or transvaluing the words into a stronger statement throughout.

          The first ten chapters of Mark have Jesus traveling around the Sea of Galilee and has many references to The Odyssey where Odysseus traveled around the Mediterranean. The Passion draws on Hector’s death in The Iliad.

          MacDonald documents many details, some he admits might be tenuous, but most are strong correlations and in the same order or reverse order, which I think might be a combination of mimesis and chiasm.

        • KarlUdy

          I’m not convinced, mainly because the two accounts appear to have been shoehorned together. This should be apparent by the fact that over 400 verses of the Odyssey is said to match up to 20 verses of Mark.

          What’s more, the order of the two accounts needed to be re-ordered to match.

        • Greg G.

          MacDonald’s criteria is that the elements match up in exact order or exact reverse order, not just any order. I stated that the reversals may be related to chiasm applied to mimesis. I don’t recall that MacDonald discussed chiasm but that would account for the reversals. That is just one story that I had typed out already. MacDonald shows the same thing over and over. You can only say “It’s only a coincidence” so many times before it’s an established pattern.

        • KarlUdy

          The problem is that the stories do not match up either in exact or in exact reverse order. Read them in their originals yourself to check.

        • Greg G.

          I have read the originals. There are sections where the elements are reversed, which is how chiasm often works.

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

          Knowing the correct answer beforehand sure is handy.

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

          The point is that many very informed people don’t think that it’s biography.

        • Kodie

          Most children think there’s a monster under the bed too.

        • Ron

          Interestingly, in our quest to find an objective unbiased observer (and that would appear to be a fruitless quest as we would discount anyone who has considered these questions, and who with any normal mental capacity has never considered these questions?), the idea that there is a supernatural creator seems plausible, natural even.

          For starters, you might try reading Daniel Everett’s Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle.

          Here is the book description:

          A riveting account of the astonishing experiences and discoveries made by linguist Daniel Everett while he lived with the Pirahã, a small tribe of Amazonian Indians in central Brazil.

          Everett, then a Christian missionary, arrived among the Pirahã in 1977–with his wife and three young children–intending to convert them. What he found was a language that defies all existing linguistic theories and reflects a way of life that evades contemporary understanding: The Pirahã have no counting system and no fixed terms for color. They have no concept of war or of personal property. They live entirely in the present. Everett became obsessed with their language and its cultural and linguistic implications, and with the remarkable contentment with which they live–so much so that he eventually lost his faith in the God he’d hoped to introduce to them.

          Over three decades, Everett spent a total of seven years among the Pirahã, and his account of this lasting sojourn is an engrossing exploration of language that questions modern linguistic theory. It is also an anthropological investigation, an adventure story, and a riveting memoir of a life profoundly affected by exposure to a different culture. Written with extraordinary acuity, sensitivity, and openness, it is fascinating from first to last, rich with unparalleled insight into the nature of language, thought, and life itself.

          And from a book review:

          … As a young man Daniel travels to the Amazon river with his family to learn the language of an obscure tribe of indigenous river dwellers called the Pirahña Indians, and to convert them to Christianity. Their language is not related to any other known language. Parts of it are truly unique: they have no words for numbers, and colors can only be relatively described–green is “the color like grass” or blue is “the color like sky.” Time, too, is different–you are unable to describe something from before you are born–the past no longer exists. They have no creation myth, and worship no deities.

          They do not have much interest in the world outside of their own area, and to them everything is transitory, even life. They routinely die of diseases that we take for granted in the first world, and their life expectancy is abysmal. Yet, paradoxically, they are considered the happiest people in the world. They live genuinely for the moment and care deeply about one another, sharing communally and having few tribal laws. The book’s title comes from how they say good night–they pride themselves on self-sufficiency, and this is expected of everyone in the tribe.

        • Greg G.

          It would be easier to follow the plot if the words weren’t in alphabetical order. I think you must use “blockquote” for the HTML.

        • Ron

          Fixed. My laptop has a buggy palm rest and the comment accidentally posted in mid-edit.

        • Greg G.

          I understand. It happens to me quite a bit. Sometimes when there are many comments, my smart phone can’t handle the Disqus section in memory so replying is sluggish. Just trying to cut&paste or scroll to where you want to be in the post is a problem. Sometimes I go ahead and post, then edit from there.

        • MNb

          Yes, while I am not sure if we can call the Piraha atheists it’s awesome that they never developed a concept of any god.

        • Greg G.

          Whether the Piraha of babies are atheists seems to be a semantic argument. Sure, anyone who is not a theist can be said to be an atheist but what kind of atheist? An implicit atheist would be someone who has never contemplated theism while an explicit atheist has contemplated it and rejected it. Implicit atheism seems to be an irrelevant concept in the context of atheists in a largely theistic world, other than to show that theism is not necessarily the default concept.

        • MNb

          It’s in so far a semantic argument that we need to define atheism first.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirah%C3%A3_people

          “they lost interest in Jesus when they discovered that Everett had never seen him.”
          That’s quite an argument to call them atheists.
          But I don’t think it too relevant what exactly they are.

        • MNb

          I’m not interested in a quest to find an objective unbiased observer. I’m interested in developing objective unbiased methods of research. There are two as far as I can see. Both are used by science.

        • TheNuszAbides

          if i recall correctly that KU is Mormon (or even if he is any other literalist subset of xtian, but *especially* if Mormon), this “bias” of yours (or perhaps we should call it a bent) is unlikely to even slightly pique his curiosity. belief (considered or otherwise) in Great Man Theory does that to a brain.

        • MNb

          No, JohnH2H is a Mormon. I don’t know what KU is. Otherwise you’re right.

        • TheNuszAbides

          ah, thanks for clarifying. i must have seen both lads referenced in the same sentence one time too many.

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

          the idea that there is a supernatural creator seems plausible, natural even.

          Yes, if you already accept the supernatural, the idea of the supernatural isn’t that big a deal.

          You just want to say that finding an objective observer is hard so therefore you can dismiss my point?

          And are you just annoyed at my choice of words here? Is that all it is?

          No informed person thinks the gospels were written as fiction.

          And no informed person thinks of them as biography.

          far more compelling if you actually interacted with his logical argument instead of insisting it must be wrong because the conclusion is supernatural

          Who are you talking to? Me? I never said this.

        • KarlUdy

          You just want to say that finding an objective observer is hard so therefore you can dismiss my point?

          No. I’m saying finding an objective observer is hard. But even if we go with the closest we’ve got (children), the evidence seems to be against your claim.

          And no informed person thinks of them as biography.

          Now that depends on how you define biography. They, of course, are not modern like biographies, but you’ll hardly find anyone who does not think they attempt to present as truth, which means they are non-fiction, even if they are fraudulent or in error.

        • Kodie

          What makes you think children have reliable insight about the supernatural? They lack critical thinking skills and are not analytical. If you tell them there are fairies or demons or ghosts or god or Santa, they fall for fantasy. They are gullible and unable to analyze the truth claims of a theist.

          Why is this the 2nd time you use children as an example in this thread? If that is the best you can come up with, you also lack critical thinking skills and unable to be analytical. I know it’s fallacious, but your actual intelligence is questionable onto this point, in that it doesn’t make your argument more believable that you can’t seem to recognize terrible evidence that doesn’t support it at all.

        • KarlUdy

          I bring up children because Bob wants to consider how objective, unbiased would react to the claim that there is a supernatural creator. When I first brought it up, I mentioned it’s not a perfect choice, but the best we’ve got.

        • Kodie

          Well, they can be not exposed to a wide enough sample to choose from and quite easily find nonsense and fantasy sensible. They’re not “the best we’ve got,” they’re actually terrible to use as an example. Perhaps you are going to tell us that children have some visionary qualities that help them see real things that grown-ups can’t actually see, and aren’t the gullible and uneducated types of beings they tend to be when told a fairy story or imagine monsters in the dark. I can “see” monsters in the dark too, I just know that it’s light and form making indeterminable shapes that I fear could be monsters but for the fact I’m old enough to know there is no such thing.

          If you get a group of people who don’t know there’s no such thing, and they naturally invent a fantasy world, this is not even close to “the best we’ve got.”

        • KarlUdy

          Actually, I suggested children because almost every adult will have previously thought about whether or not there is a supernatural creator

        • Kodie

          I don’t think every adult now has previously thought about whether there was or wasn’t. I was nearly an adult before I questioned what I really thought about it and why, but I don’t think most adults now have ever thought about whether it’s true or not, at least not to the extent you go to find scholarly theological texts that support your presuppositions.

        • Pofarmer

          I know I hadn’t. And when I did? Bam!

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

          “but when I became a man, I put away childish things”

          1 Cor. 13:11

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

          Makes me think of the trailer for the upcoming “Heaven is for Real” movie (based on a book about a supposedly true story).

          We’re meant to believe that a 4-yo boy has a near-death experience and now he’s got all sorts of inside information about heaven and the people he sees there. OK, that’s an intriguing claim, but how to test it? The kid grows up in a Christian environment, and we’re supposed to believe that the boy’s story hasn’t been tainted?

          Weak.

        • wtfwjtd

          Interesting how those NDE’s always correspond to the person’s own religion and background. I’m shocked, shocked I tell you…

        • wtfwjtd

          Small children also readily believe that the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus are real. How does this help your claim?

        • KarlUdy

          Adults generally don’t believe in the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus. But many (most?) adults believe in a supernatural creator. So it is not so easy to pin children’s belief in God on their intellectual deficiencies.

        • wtfwjtd

          But many adults don’t readily express these disbeliefs to children, to whom all these supernatural claims look alike. It’s also pretty easy to get a small child to call a cat a dog, and have them believe that is grammatically correct. I still don’t see how polling small children on their belief in the existence of the supernatural would help your case, or anybody’s case for that matter.

        • adam

          What if it is not an intellectual deficiency but an emotional one?

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

          Why is Jesus not Santa Claus for adults?

          Adults know that Santa isn’t real because they provide the presents under the tree. Jesus makes far more outrageous claims … but they’re not testable.

          At any point where the claims get too testable (“Wait a minute–if this god is so loving, why is there so much crap in the world?”) you’re told somehow that that question is invalid or blasphemous or shows no faith or whatever.

        • Greg G.

          Adults put presents under the Christmas tree because they lack faith in Santa Claus. If they don’t put presents under the tree and Santa doesn’t deliver, it’s because they didn’t have enough faith.

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

          Thank you, brother. I see that I’ve been doing it wrong all these years. You have strengthened my flagging faith!

        • KarlUdy

          At any point where the claims get too testable (“Wait a minute–if this god is so loving, why is there so much crap in the world?”) you’re told somehow that that question is invalid or blasphemous or shows no faith or whatever.

          It might help you to read the Bible, one of the longer books is an exploration on that exact question. Why would these questions be included in the Bible if we’re not supposed to ask them?

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

          I meant “you’re told” by other Christians.

          If you’re referring to Job, that’s not especially helpful. The lesson from Job is that God will do whatever he damn well pleases. Deal with it.

        • KarlUdy

          That’s not the lesson from Job. You’re an author, so you should hopefully understand how subtext works.

        • MNb

          “but they’re not testable”
          Well, he made at least one. He promised his apostles he would come back during their lifetime (Matth 10:23, 16:28 and 23:36). That hasn’t happened.

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

          And, as Kodie noted, the monster under the bed.

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

          Now that depends on how you define biography.

          Go into the “biography” section of the library. That’s how “biography” is defined.

          They, of course, are not modern like biographies

          No, they’re not. The genre is “ancient biography,” and it’s very different from our journalistic version of biography.

          you’ll hardly find anyone who does not think they attempt to present as truth

          The author might think that he’s presenting a truth, but again this is quite different from our idea of biography. A hagiography (a celebration of a perfected image of a person) is one type.

        • MNb

          “which means they are non-fiction”
          You should talk to some historians of Antiquity – you know, the scholars who study this kind of stuff. They will tell you that every single Antique author used myths and legends to illustrate their stuff. It’s what the readers back then expected and understood.

    • MNb

      “There is also no universally accepted explanation for how the universe comes into being.”
      Because we lack empirical data.
      Tell me, how are you going to provide us with empirical data regarding which creator should be universally accepted?

      “to assert that it is just a story requires a demonstration that there is no basis to the events.”
      No. The Bible was not written as a historical record. Writers from Antiquity didn’t separate fact from fiction like we do. Because we think this separation important the burden is ours to determine again and again which elements of the stories are factual and which ones are fictional. That’s why we have historians of Antiquity.

      • KarlUdy

        Come now, there are other paths to knowledge besides empirical data. What can empirical data tell us about what is outside the universe?

        And the writers of Luke and John clearly testify that they are recording things that really happened. They may be in error, but to come to that conclusion you must demonstrate that their accounts are wrong.

        • Pofarmer

          What other paths Karl? How do they work, and how do we verify the results?

          So, the Gospels say they are recording real things, unverified by other sources. I mean, it’s not like they had a motivation to storytell.

        • KarlUdy

          Logic for one.

        • Pofarmer

          How can logic alone be a path to knowledge?

        • Greg G.

          Logic proceeds from its premises which are as reliable as their empirical observations.

        • KarlUdy

          But logic allows you to know things that empirical observation on its own could not tell you

        • Pofarmer

          I think when you say logic, you mean philosophy? The danger here, is that philosophy without empirical backing can lead you to “know” things that are completely untrue.

        • KarlUdy

          No. We can use the law of the excluded middle, for example to come to a conclusion that we cannot physically observe.

        • smrnda

          I think the idea that ~(A ^ ~A) is a fairly uncontroversial assumption. The idea that this is some kind of bold assumption, on par with assuming any number of religious dogmas is just absurd.

          On things outside the universe, what evidence can there be of something outside of the universe? I take ‘the universe’ to mean the total of everything we can observe. If something is totally outside the universe, we cannot have any knowledge about it – anything we can think is pure speculation.

        • KarlUdy

          I think the idea that ~(A ^ ~A) is a fairly uncontroversial assumption.

          So we agree that logic is an additional way of knowing things to empirical data?

          Do I need to go on and explain that there are still more ways we can know things?

        • smrnda

          I am a mathematical formalist, and I think that ‘logic’ and ‘mathematics’ are abstract formal systems that humans created because they seemed to model the universe. This is why some mathematical ideas end up seeming rather odd and counter-intuitive, such as the idea that there are an equal number of integers and perfect squares. In any finite list, that doesn’t work.

          Another issue is that things we know about mathematics are things we know about formal axiomatic systems that we invented, much like we know about strategy for board games.

          I’m not sure what other ways there are to know things, so I would appreciate an example. There are times when we know things using empirical data in a sloppy way, but this is normally because the choices being made don’t warrant a more thorough investigation. I have not conducted an exhaustive survey of all stores in my area that sell food, though I have noted some general trends in terms of price and selection that I use to make a call on what to buy where.

        • KarlUdy

          Another way we know things is by being told or taught. Much of the mathematics that you know, you first knew because you were taught it. We know our alphabet because we were taught it.

        • smrnda

          I think we’re not quite using words the same way.

          If we take something like the alphabet, it’s a human invention. Knowing it means being exposed to it and learning to recognize it. It’s learning to recognize something in the external universe through frequent exposure – the existence of the alphabet isn’t something that’s in dispute, it can be empirically verified quite easily. Same with recognizing numbers and other mathematical symbols. The meanings of these things are conventions that are agreed upon, at least agreed upon among certain populations.

          So learning these things is just learning things about the physical universe where, at every step of the way, the existence of what you are learning can be empirically verified. Young children aren’t aware of this learning process consciously much of the time since it’s more or less automatic for things like language, even written knowledge, but it’s not something that’s totally removed from the way we investigate the universe empirically.

          I mean, take a child who is taught the alphabet, with some letters swapped. That child will later find out that they write “MVSEVM” instead of “MUSEUM” or “WANDALISM” instead of “VANDALISM.” But this is no different than having been given any wrong fact you happen to find out was wrong later – this child would just eventually learn that the way they were taught to use letters varies from how everyone else uses them.

          I guess what I’m really wondering about is knowledge that exists about things outside of the physical universe – how does anyone know anything exists outside of the universe? How would anyone know?

        • Greg G.

          I guess what I’m really wondering about is knowledge that exists about things outside of the physical universe – how does anyone know anything exists outside of the universe?

          By revelation.

          How would anyone know?

          By revelation which can be confirmed by another revelation, ad infinitum.

        • KarlUdy

          I agree, revelation is the main way that we can know about what is outside of the physical universe.

          Incarnation,a form of revelation where something from outside of the physical universe actually becomes physical would be a form of revelation which can be verified to some extent.

        • smrnda

          OK. So if something new, a new thing that has matter, appeared out of nowhere that would be something from either outside the universe, or something sent by teleporter. Either way, that would be quite an event.

        • KarlUdy

          Indeed. Which is why Jesus is such a big deal.

        • avalpert

          As is the tooth fairy – each with just as much evidence for their wonders.

        • smrnda

          True, but Jesus is a bit hard to verify. He also was sort of born in the normal way and we only have the Bible (not even in every gospel) stating the virgin birth.

          Now, if a full grown Jesus had materialized out of nowhere?

        • Pofarmer

          Born of a woman. Next.

        • Greg G.

          Revelation is no better than guessing. If it’s right, it’s revelation. If it’s wrong, it’s was just a bad guess. Of course that makes it impossible to ever guess right.

        • adam

          How are revelations separated from delusion or organic brain disfunction?

        • Greg G.

          By revelation? That’s a good point. In the secular world, when a person is claiming to have revelations, it can be a sign of delusion or brain dysfunction. In a religious context, those problems seem normal.

        • Pofarmer

          To some Extent? To some extent? How do you verify something to some extent?

        • KarlUdy

          I meant that the availability of verification is available to some, but not necessarily all … therefore “to some extent”

        • Pofarmer

          If verification is not available to all, it’s not verification.

        • Kodie

          If you mean “I feel it in my heart” or whatever is a means of verification, it is not. VERI-FI-CATION. IS. NOT. EXCLUSIVE. TO. SOME. AND. INACCESSIBLE. OR UNDEMONSTRABLE. TO. ANOTHER. PERSON. It means that if it’s true, I can verify it. If you say you’re Karl Udy, I might check your ID, and maybe you show me a card you had printed up with your picture – I cannot verify who you are, because you’re the only one saying you are who you say you are. I need some external accredited agency such as the DMV to have enough access to prove you are who you say you are, which is technically the only way they’ll hand you a card they’ve designed to be difficult to forge. I can be 99.9% you’re Karl Udy since I have an external agency verifying that you are. If you just tell me you’re Karl Udy, I cannot verify that with anyone but you. And let’s assume you are Karl Udy, and you know that. It’s not “verified to some extent” because you know you are. If I don’t have your license or passport or a mutual friend that I trust, and depending on the situation, I cannot verify for my own needs that you are Karl Udy, even if you actually are. I need some verification, not just what you say and what you know – that’s not good enough to pass security.

        • TheNuszAbides

          shh, he’s not ready to trot out his theory of ‘warm truth, hot truth and cold truth’ yet.

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

          Sounds like a claim crying out to be tested.

          Has this “revelation” told us anything that science has later confirmed? Science has learned quite a bit about the universe in the last 500 years, and Christianity has been around for much longer.

          A revelation of “You’re a good boy” or “You should’ve helped that old lady” or “You should be a doctor” isn’t very testable. But about the universe? Let’s see the evidence.

        • KarlUdy

          How about, ‘destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’

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

          What does that tell us about the universe? You said, “revelation is the main way that we can know about what is outside of the physical universe.”

          I don’t see how your “destroy this temple” tells us anything about the physical universe, inside or out. If you’re saying that this was a fulfilled prophecy, I obviously am not convinced.

        • MNb

          Tell me – how come that christian revelation gives other results than Papua revelation regarding “what is outside of the physical universe”?

        • KarlUdy

          I am not familiar with any supposed incarnation of a transcendent God in Papuan culture.

        • MNb

          Exactly my point, Karl. Apparently revelation is not a trustworthy method as its results depend on culture and thus are subjective. Guess what? Science – for instance Archimedes’ Law – is as correct on Sicily some 23 Centuries ago as it is on Papua New Guinea now.
          See the difference?

        • Pofarmer

          expound.

        • Kodie

          How do these examples apply? Mathematics isn’t something you are merely taught, you are taught to test it. If someone says 3+5=25, we can count 3 fingers on one hand and 5 fingers on another and get 8. We’re not just taught that it’s 8, we’re taught to check that it is actually 8. “Show your work” and all.

          The alphabet is a system we agree to. We’re taught it so that we may communicate with each other. We learn language so that we’re not illiterate and incommunicable. There are other alphabets and languages we could also learn so we can communicate with people who write and speak in those languages. I don’t know how you apply these examples to knowing that Jesus is real – we’re told that too, but we don’t have to believe that it is true just because some people claim to know that it is.

        • MNb

          Math is totally deductive and hence part of the scientific method. Up to now you have completely failed to give us “another path to knowledge”.

        • Pavlos

          I’m not really interested in joining this discussion, but I would like interject here and mention that knowledge is not merely the retention of information. To have knowledge you must have a justified true belief (those are the necessary and, arguably, sufficient conditions for knowledge).

          So, no, being taught something does not equal knowing it.

        • KarlUdy

          I guess we all know a lot less than we think then, as I’m sure most of what I’m reading in these comments is what people have read or been taught by others, and have never investigated first-hand.

          I would like to ask also where you get your knowledge about “knowledge”?

        • smrnda

          In some sense, you can test knowledge in an experimental way. A lot of this is going to be trial and error. If someone asks for 2 coffees and you give them 1 coffee, or 3 coffees, they will say you are wrong. If we’re looking at language, note how kids will point at things they don’t know the names of, or the neologisms that foreign speakers come up with when they try to name things in a new language.

          People are taught that 2 + 2 = 5, but it’s really just that we have conventions for numbering (the Arabic numerals) and that, through a lot of exposure, trial and error, we figure out the answers. Take 2 things, put 2 next to them, and count them and you get 1,2,3,and 4.

          If you think about things one is taught, one thing people learn is how to fact-check. A child might be told that NYC is the largest city in the US in terms of population. As they get older, they learn how to verify a claim like that. In a new city you ask someone how to get somewhere. As time goes by, you get better at finding how to get places as you know more of the city yourself.

          So learning strictly by having someone tell you something is normally just a beginning, bootstrapping phase that will later be replaced by more active learning.

        • KarlUdy

          Which for most people, for the vast majority of what they consider they “know”, they never actually get around to.

        • smrnda

          I will agree, also because I’m a software developer who notices many programmers who have spent years simply cutting and pasting things they don’t understand because they know it works.

          I’m thinking that a difference might be in some areas, someone is, has or could do the checking. I find for many claims made in religion there isn’t a way anyone can check. Person A may simply accept that NYC is the largest city in the US in terms of population because someone else told them, and person B might actually go out and look up some research and come close to verifying it.

          The problem I have with some claims is that they’re kind of impossible for anyone to verify.

        • Pavlos

          Indeed, that’s true. The term “knowledge” colloquially has come to mean not much more than “retention of information.” However, philosophers have been interested in epistemology (the philosophy of knowledge) since, at least, the ancient Greeks. They held that knowledge must not itself change or be changeable in any respect, however they also outlined two different, and opposing, approaches to the acquisition of knowledge: 1) Empiricism, which states that all knowledge comes through the senses, and 2) rationalism, which states that knowledge is a matter of reason.

          In both approaches, however, there were certain conditions which were necessary and sufficient for having knowledge (as I mentioned earlier: a justified true belief). Since then many philosophers have weighed in on the issue and have determined that those three conditions are merely necessary, but not sufficient.

          In any case, this leads to your correct and astute observation that “we know a lot less than we think we know.” Some philosophers, in fact, have gone much further than that to declare that we know almost nothing at all. The reason being that “truth” is a necessary condition, and objective “truth” is elusive because it is determined largely by our perception. So if it’s impossible to determine what truth is, then how can we really know anything at all? I wouldn’t go so far, in fact I don’t, because I do not extend these requirements beyond the observable reality we all have in common. So “truth” as it relates to an agreed upon reality need only be inter-subjective, not necessarily objective, but almost never entirely subjective (unless we are talking purely about personal preference).

          To answer your question, I got my information (I’m careful not to call it knowledge) from the various philosophy classes I have taken, and the informal readings I have done on my own.

        • MNb

          Are you going to dispute that F = m*a means the same for every single human? That me observing things falling down is different from a Chinese seeing them falling down? That science – for instance internet – works?

        • KarlUdy

          I think what Pavlos is suggesting is that you may not actually know these things, even if you think you do.

        • Pavlos

          Actually the opposite. Remember, in my comment I said “Some philosophers, in fact, have gone much further than that to declare that we know almost nothing at all.” But then “I wouldn’t go so far, in fact I don’t, because I do not extend these requirements beyond the observable reality we all have in common.”

          In other words, we can speculate about the subjectivity of external reality being dependent on our perception which is inherently subjective and, therefore, possibly unreliable; thus, concluding that we have no way of knowing what is real and what isn’t, but I see no value in that at all. So observing something falling down (a shared observation) is inter-subjective and therefore true in that sense. By observing it we can then meet the minimum necessary conditions of knowledge and, thus, say we know it happened.

          I just wanted to be clear on this point because you said that *I* am suggesting we may not know some obvious (or agreed upon) things we think we know. I do not contend that at all. I think that if the truth of the matter is identifiable (by whatever means possible; empiricism or rationalism) and we believe the claim, and we are justified in believing it, then we can claim to know it.

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

          (Benford’s Law shows the paradoxical results of truncating an infinite list. In an infinite list, the number of each digit used in each number is 10%. But with truncated lists [the house numbers on streets, for example] there is a preference for smaller digits.)

        • MNb

          No. You haven’t addressed the point of assumptions. Euclides totally has made clear that all logic must begin with some assumptions. Either they or your conclusions must be confirmed by observation. Or you won’t have knowledge.
          It’s totally possible to construct a coherent and internally consistent model of the Universe based on the assumption that the Earth is flat. According to your view “we know that the Earth is flat”.

        • MNb

          That’s correct, but you will still need to start with assumptions that totally can be observed physically.

        • Greg G.

          Some criticize science because the it can’t prove itself. I think this is a good thing. Something that proves itself is circular and need not correspond with outside reality. Science must be grounded in reality. Presuppositionalists think their position is strong because it justifies itself but it disengages itself from reality.

        • MNb

          “I think this is a good thing”
          So do I. I think the vast majority of scientists will jump a hole in the sky (as the Dutch expression goes) if someone invents a third objective path besides deduction and induction.

        • MNb

          That’s a false dilemma. Induction is logic plus empirical observation (it’s a bit more complicated, but this will do for now). Experimental physicists need to have mastered a lot of math.

        • MNb

          In other words: following the path of deduction (which includes logic) and following the path of induction (which includes logic as well) should lead us to exactly the same destination; if we’ve got there we can claim knowledge.

        • Greg G.

          Yes, you said it better than I did.

        • MNb

          That’s not a separate path. Induction follows the rules of logic as well as deduction.

        • Greg G.

          One can use other paths but the ideas you get are either confirmed by empirical data or they do not give reliable information no matter how good it makes you feel. If we can’t detect anything outside the universe, we can only speculate but some speculations will be less plausible than others.
          We can examine the methods that Luke and John used to show that their conclusions are unreliable..

        • MNb

          “there are other paths to knowledge besides empirical data.”
          Just one: deduction. We have knowledge when induction (ie empirical data) and deduction (ie formulating theories and hypotheses) give the same results.
          If you have any other objective path (so faith doesn’t count) please tell me.

          “What can empirical data tell us about what is outside the universe?”
          Nothing directly. But there is a theory of physics (the multiverse) that is internally consistent and correctly describes all the known empirical data, which makes a claim about what is outside our Universe. You don’t have anything like it.

          “that really happened”
          If you mean with “really happened” actual historical events you are antiscientific. It’s well known that the writers of Antiquity mixed up fact and fiction.

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

          I’ll add that the multiverse is a prediction of inflation theory, which is very well supported by evidence.

        • MNb

          Thanks. I had this one in mind but was too lazy to look it up.

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

          You’re seriously going there? You’re demanding positive evidence that Luke and John are wrong because, absent that, we are obliged to take their supernatural accounts at face value?

          And this is how you treat the other guy’s religious books?

        • Greg G.

          Luke clearly tells us he gets his information from other sources. We can identify many of his sources and they were not eye witnesses. So Luke doesn’t know what happened so his claim is irrelevant.
          John has events that Mark invented so his claim to know what happened is not reliable.

      • Greg G.

        Writers from Antiquity didn’t separate fact from fiction like we do.

        For some, the narrative is more important than the truth. But we still have that today – David Barton, Fox News…

    • SparklingMoon-

      You say that “it’s just a story” (emphasis mine). I can agree that it is a story, as is every account of a historical event, but to assert that it is just a story requires a demonstration that there is no basis to the events.
      ———————————————————————-
      The books collected into the New Testament do not constitute the utterances of Jesus nor of his disciples. Jesus was a Jew and so were his disciples. If any of Jesus’ utterances were to be found preserved in their originality, they could only be in the Hebrew language. So also with the utterances of his disciples. But no copy of the New Testament in ancient Hebrew exists in the world. The old copies are all in Greek.So copies of the New Testament written down in Latin or Greek must have been written down long after the time of Jesus, at a time when Christianity had begun to penetrate into Roman territory and Roman imperialist power had become divided into the Italian and Greek parts.

      Jesus declares clearly that he had come not to destroy but to fulfil the older books. Thus in Matthew (5 : 17-18) we read : Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets : I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.From this it is evident that the mission of Jesus was to restore Mosaic teaching, but the New Testament as we have it today teaches that the Mosaic teaching was abrogated completely by Jesus. It is quite clear, therefore, that the present New Testament is not what Jesus taught and preached. The teaching of Jesus must have been a reproduction of the teaching of Moses, except for what the Scribes and Pharisees had themselves added to it. But the New Testament seeks to correct not only what the Scribes and Pharisees had invented but also what Moses and subsequent Prophets had taught in their time,This position is contradictory. One part of the New Testament teaches one thing, another part quite another. When a book contradicts itself, it cannot be the work of the same author, at any rate, of a sane author. The books of the New Testament are said to have been dictated by the disciples of Jesus, and we cannot say that the disciples were not sane. The great disciples of Prophets always possess a high degree of sanity. We must, therefore, conclude that the disciples did not dictate any such thing. They talked as they went about. Those who heard them passed on the substance of what they heard to others. When these others sat down to record what they had heard,they added many of their own thoughts. The result was the New Testament as we know it today, a bundle of contradictions.(The New Testament Examined)

      • Greg G.

        If any of Jesus’ utterances were to be found preserved in their originality, they could only be in the Hebrew language. So also with the utterances of his disciples. But no copy of the New Testament in ancient Hebrew exists in the world. The old copies are all in Greek.So copies of the New Testament written down in Latin or Greek must have been written down long after the time of Jesus, at a time when Christianity had begun to penetrate into Roman territory and Roman imperialist power had become divided into the Italian and Greek parts.

        Actually, Aramaic was the most common language among Jews in first century Palestine. Things would most likely have been written in Greek because that was the lingua franca of that period as a result of Alexander’s conquest. It was like English is today. When two people who speak different languages as their native tongues will commonly communicate in English. I know two women from India who communicate with one another in English because they don’t speak the other’s language.

        Also, if someone was literate enough to write, it is likely they would be educated in Greek.

        But you are correct that the gospel writers were not written in the region they write about and were written decades after the things they wrote about were supposed to have happened. But the Jesus the epistles tell about was an imaginary person from their distant past while the gospels are about the same imaginary Jesus having existed in the first century but created only as a literary Jesus.

        So after you try to demonstrate that the New Testament gospels are unreliable, you start quoting Matthew. You’ve undercut yourself.

        • SparklingMoon-

          Actually, Aramaic was the most common language among Jews in first century Palestine.
          ——————————————————————
          Nations do not easily give up their language. It is for them as valuable an inheritance as any property or other possession.In Eastern Europe there are people who for three or four hundred years have lived under Russian rule, but their languages remain intact to this day. France has ruled over Morocco and Spain over Algiers for a long time. Yet the language of these subject peoples is still Arabic. Two thousand years have passed since the time of Jesus. Yet the Jews have not forgotten their language. Even today in parts of Europe and America, Jews speak Yiddish, a corrupt form of ancient Hebrew. If this long time spent amongst other peoples has not destroyed the Jewish language, could a brief association with the Romans destroy it ?Roman rule in Palestine had begun only about fifty years before the advent of Jesus. This is not long enough for a people to forget their language.But there are other important considerations also to be kept in view:
          (i) Nations which attain to any importance in history do not
          give up their language, and the Jews were a very important people indeed. (ii) The religion of the jews was recorded in Hebrew, and for this reason particularly, it was impossible for them to give up their language. (iii) In the scale of civilization and refinement, the Jews did not regard themselves as inferior to the Romans, but rather
          superior, and this must have made them proud of their language and reluctant to give it up. (iv) Jews in the time of Jesus were awaiting the advent of their King who was to re-establish Jewish rule. Looking forward to such a future, they could not have been so negligent in protecting their language. (v)The oldest manuscripts of the New Testament are in Greek. But in the time of Jesus, the Roman Empire had not become divided into two halves. The centre of the Empire was still Rome. The Roman and Greek languages are very difficult. If Roman influence had at all penetrated Jewish life, it should have resulted in the assimilation of Latin (and not Greek) words into the Hebrew language. Yet the oldest manuscripts of the Gospels are all in Greek. This proves that the Gospels were written down at a time when the Roman Empire had become divided and its eastern possessions had become part of the Greek Empire, so that the Greek language had begun to exert its influence on Christianity and its literature. (vi) Phrases such as the following which are preserved in the Gospels in their original form are all Hebrew phrases. (I)”Hosanna “(Matthew 21:9) (2)”Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani” (Matthew 27:46) (3)”Rabbi”(John 3:2) (4)”Talitha cumi” (Mark 5:41). (The New Testament Examined)

        • Greg G.

          You can name a few languages that have been maintained but I can point to South America and Central America where the native languages have been replaced by Spanish and Portuguese. Most of Canada speaks French and English. Almost 50% of the population of Toronto was born outside of Canada yet their common language is English. Native Americans in the US use mostly English and many of their languages exist only because they are taught in schools. Languages are dynamic while they are in use and change.

          Hebrew was practically a dead language but has been revived for religious reasons.

          Greek was the lingua franca when Rome came to power. They even used it as a common language. Josephus, a Jew, wrote in Greek for his Roman audience.

          Matthew 21:9 comes from Mark 11:9. The verse comes from Psalm 118:25 but “Hosanna” could be a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew “yasha na” but some think it is Aramaic. Matthew 27:46 comes from Mark 15:34 and Mark got it from Psalm 22:1. “Rabbi” seems to be Aramaic. This link says the word was not used in Hebrew until a hundred years after the Gospel of John was written.. “Talitha cumi” could be Aramaic or Syriac, but since it comes from Mark, it is likely Aramaic.

          So, the phrases that might be Hebrew tend to come from the scripture that was 500 years old at the time it was recorded into the gospels instead of actually coming from Jesus. But that is the case with most of what is said about Jesus. Even then the writers were drawing on centuries old writings for information about Jesus instead of recently obtained information. That shows that Jesus is a myth.

          EDIT: Since you brought up John 3, that conversation could only happen in Greek. The “born again” and “born from above” confusion comes from a Greek homonym. It was probably a humorous episode that got passed around but it is fictional. As you point out, “rabbi” is not Greek but the rest of the conversation has to be. Nicodemus would not have been confused if Jesus spoke Hebrew or Aramaic or any other known language.

          So much for Christianity’s favorite verse – John 3:16.

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

          The “Son of God” movie had people address Jesus as “Rabbi” 5 or 6 times. That’s honest to the gospels, but I’ve heard the point you make above–that it’s not authentic to the supposed time of Jesus.

        • SparklingMoon-

          Languages are dynamic while they are in use and change ..Greek was the lingua franca when Rome came to power.
          ———————————————————–
          This example of Canada or US can not be applied to the time of Jesus. Language may be changed at this time during the time of one or two generations for the reason of our organized schooling system where each and every child have to visit school. If children have to pass their mostly time of the day among the people who speak other language like English or national language of the country and they are taught regularly national language then it will effect their mother language.The situation was totally different one in the time of Jesus as children learn the language what their parents used to teach them.

          Secondly,Jewish authors of that time (of Jesus) wrote in their own language or in some corrupt form of it. If their language had changed, we should have had books of the time written in a language other than Hebrew.

          Thirdly,from the Acts it appears that even after the crucifixion, Jews spoke Hebrew.It is written: ”And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans ? And how hear we, every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and in strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,Cretans and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this ? Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.” (Acts 2:4-13)

          It is evident that at this time the language spoken in Palestine was Hebrew. Speaking any other language was extraordinary. Among the names mentioned is Rome, which means that the Roman language was not spoken in Palestine and whoever spoke it seemed a stranger. We are not concerned here with the merits of the narrative but we only wish to point out that this passage from The Acts proves conclusively that even after the crucifixion the language of the Jews was Hebrew. Those who knew other languages were exceptions. When some of the disciples spoke these other languages-among them Latin, some people thought they were drunk and talking nonsense. If the country as a whole used Roman or Greek, no such reaction was possible.

          It is clear, therefore, that the language which Jesus and his disciples spoke was Hebrew, not Latin or Greek. So copies of the New Testament written down in Latin or Greek must have been written down long after the time of Jesus, at a time when Christianity had begun to penetrate into Roman territory and Roman imperialist power had become divided into the Italian and Greek parts. Books of this kind, composed one or two hundred years after Jesus by unknown authors and attributed by them to Jesus and his disciples, can be of little use to any believer today. It was necessary, therefore, that we should have had another book sent to us from Heaven, free from these defects and one which readers could regard with certainty as the very word of God(The NewTestament Examined)

        • Greg G.

          Who did Jesus speak Hebrew with? Most people didn’t. See Structure of the Hebrew Scriptures(Old Testament) and Apocrypha;

          While exiled in Babylon, the people of Israel learned to speak Aramaic, a language related to Hebrew. They eventually adopted it as their native tongue. By the time of the birth of Jesus, Hebrew had been abandoned by the Jews except for use in religious services, and in literary and scholarly usage. Many people also spoke Greek.

          People spoke Latin in Rome back then but nobody speaks it now except as a hobby. Nobody spoke Italian, Spanish, Portugeuse, or French back then. It’s because Latin evolved into other languages as it absorbed new words and speech patterns.

        • SparklingMoon-

          Jesus was appeared as a last prophet among the people of Israel and all prophets of Israel of the Bible had received their revelation in Hebrew language. As it is a tradition of God Almighty always to send His revelation to a prophet in a language that is spoken by his first addressers and the only addresser of Jesus were people of twelve tribes of Israel. After his migration from Jerusalem (after cross) to Asia, Jesus had the only language of Hebrew to communicate with the people of other ten tribes of Israel.

        • Greg G.

          As it is a tradition of God Almighty always to send His revelation to a prophet in a language that is spoken by his first addressers and the only addresser of Jesus were people of twelve tribes of Israel.

          If I wanted to convince people that I could distinguish real revelation from fake revelation, I would say this sort of thing, wouldn’t you? Every religion tries to sell the idea that they understand revelation but others don’t.

          Practically every deed attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Mark had been attributed to someone else in the most popular Hebrew and Greek literature of the day. The other gospels are based on the same stories from Mark. The epistles don’t support the gospel Jesus either and their theology is based on out of context verses. If you eliminate everything that was previously attributed to others and out of context quote mines, you are left with no Jesus.

          The Hebrew scriptures prophesy that David’s seed would always be on his throne. That ended when the Babylonians visited. The Hebrew scriptures prophesy that a Messiah would come and restore that throne. We are still waiting 25 centuries later,

          If your religion depends on these, it is as hollow as Christianity without a real Jesus and a Messianic claims that never happen.

        • SparklingMoon-

          The Hebrew scriptures prophesy that David’s seed would always be on his throne.That ended when the Babylonians visited.The Hebrew scriptures prophesy that a Messiah would come and restore that throne. We are still waiting 25 centuries later,
          ————————————————-
          The kingdom of David that is promised in the Bible is not worldly or teritorial kind of but of spiritual and that is saved by other prophets who had appeared after him like Isaiah, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah,Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and Jesus who had tried to maintain the followers of Moses back to its real teachings. After the advent of Jesus, Prophet of Islam had saved all the real teachings of previous prophets in the book of the Quran.

          Secondly,Jesus had appeared as a Messiah on time according to the Prophecies of Old Testament and restored the throne of spirituality of David by bringing the people of Israel back to Mosaic Law. Do not see or Judge the truth of Jesus in the mirror of this Christianity that is prevailed in the name of Trinity but try to find the real Messiah after reading Gospels as these books are not empty of all truth. There is an interesting book ‘Jesus in India’ that is free to read online to find some truth about Jesus:
          http://www.alislam.org/library/books/jesus-in-india/ch1.html

        • Greg G.

          The throne was restored spiritually? That belief requires ultimate spiritual gullibility and no critical thought. If it was restored spiritually, then spiritually it was never lost. It was there spiritually, before David. David establishing the throne on earth would then be meaningless. The scriptures about his seed remaining on the real throne forever are meaningless. The prophecies about the real throne are all meaningless. If it is a spiritual throne, then it isn’t David’s because he sat on a real throne, or so the Bible says. If the real throne is meaningless, then a spiritual throne would be meaningless.

          Jesus didn’t appear at all. The gospel writers took Old Testament passages out of context and wrote stories about Jesus doing something like that to make it look like a prophecy. Most of them were not prophecies about the Messiah at all. That’s how desperate they were for material. They had no knowledge of Jesus because he wasn’t there where the books were written and he never ended up in India.

        • SparklingMoon-

          Jesus didn’t appear at all….. Jesus is a myth.
          —————————————————
          If jesus did not appear at all then what are we doing all here on this page? Most wanted and most discussed person of the time of our world is, according to you, nothing more than a myth. If Jesus is a myth then each and ever every personality of our history is also a myth. I accept that his real person is hidden beneath a myth (of Trinity) but his appearance two thousand years ago according to the promise of God, is not a part of any myth. His promise of resurrection to this end time also has a close relation to bring him out of this myth for the guidance of his followers. It is also important for other nations also as Mirza Tahir Ahmad has explained:

          ”The person of Christ is vitally important to the contemporary world. His importance does not remain confined to the Christian world alone but also to other major religions such as Judaism and Islam in particular. If these powerful religions were to unite in one common understanding about the nature of the person of Christ, his first and also his promised second advent, then such an understanding would lead to the resolution of many problems confronting mankind today. Unfortunately, even the very basic facts about the life of Jesus, his purpose, ideology and person are completely misunderstood. In their perception of these aspects, these religions are so strongly at odds with each other that a bitter rivalry among them becomes inevitable.” Again I refer you a book to read ‘Christianity: A Journey from facts to Fiction’
          https://alislam.org/library/books/christianity_facts_to_fiction/chapter_7.html

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

          If jesus did not appear at all then what are we doing all here on this page?

          Trying to encourage the Christians to see the truth? Or was that a trick question?

          If Jesus is a myth then each and ever every personality of our history is also a myth.

          History scrubs out the supernatural. Take the supernatural away from the story of Julius Caesar, and you still have a great general and leader. But take it away from the story of Jesus, and you have nothing.

          his appearance two thousand years ago according to the promise of God, is not a part of any myth

          I would say “legend,” but anyway I see negligible evidence for the supernatural claims.

        • Greg G.

          If jesus did not appear at all then what are we doing all here on this
          page? Most wanted and most discussed person of the time of our world is,
          according to you, nothing more than a myth.

          You answered your question. Most of the world takes religion seriously but they are all contradictory. Most religions are, therefore, wrong. at best. All religions make similar mistakes in understanding the world. The problem is believing things that cannot possibly be known. None of them provide useful information that can be built upon to infer greater knowledge that can be confirmed.

          It is difficult to arrive at rational conclusions when the most important influence in your life is wrong. Beliefs matter. Mankind has benefited by leaving God out of explanations. The world becomes more understandable when you’re not thinking “God works in mysterious ways.” Science, medicine and technology has expanded tremendously because people, even religious people, quit trying to include the supernatural in their understandings. The religious world has benefited by contact with those who rely on natural explanations.

          God had a thousand years to fulfill those promises. We call them the Dark Ages.

          We have no valid reason to think that ghosts, elves, or gods exist. Fear of death and confirmation bias are common reasons to believe but are not valid reasons. We do better when don’t believe in them.

          It makes no difference to me whether the New Testament writings record the account of a real Jesus. It is just an interesting thing to consider. At first glance, there appears to have been a Jesus of the New Testament. You look deeper and find that the evidence outside the religious writings only tell us that there were believers who relied on the early texts but had no other way to know if Jesus actually existed. Most of the religious texts about Jesus were rejected by the educated believers because they were too unbelievable for them.

          That leaves the gospels and epistles. Mark was the first to be written. Matthew and Luke copy that gospel verbatim in several places. John has common stories with Mark. But nearly every deed Mark records for Jesus can be found to have been done by somebody else before. So the gospels tell us nothing and do not provide evidence for Jesus.

          The epistles tell us nothing about Jesus that isn’t found in the Old Testament. So they are not evidence for a real Jesus either.

          But take a closer look at the epistles and we can find evidence that the authors didn’t know Jesus and didn’t know anyone who did. They were expecting a Messiah and looking for a reason to believe he would come before they died. Paul explains how they were reading out of text verses as a long hidden mystery and concluded that Jesus had been crucified and resurrected in the past at some undetermined time and place. This is strong evidence that the Jesus character was made up by an early first century Jewish sect and the gospels were about that made up character rather than any of the real people named Jesus who did live at the time.

          The page at the link you provided argues that Matthew 13:25-40 is referring to Paul as “The Enemy”. There is no indication of that. The “enemy” is more likely to be a reference to Satan. I agree that Paul didn’t much care for James or Peter according to Galatians and the two Corinthians letters. The Epistle of James seems to be a point by point rebuttal to Galatians. They seem to have major disagreements but neither quotes Jesus or cites his teachings. It’s like neither party ever heard of a real Jesus.

        • SparklingMoon-

          You are right what you have written that ” All religions make similar mistakes in understanding the world. The problem is believing things that cannot possibly be known. None of them provide useful information that can be built upon to infer greater knowledge that can be confirmed.”

          It is really regretful that mostly religion at this time had been turned into myth by the explanations of their some followers and their study is now like a wandering into a dark jungle. The difference between you and me is that you reject the whole conception of religion by calling it a myth and I reject the only part of a religion that is turned into myth with the passage of time. I give you information about the writings of a person Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of India (1835-1908) with the hope that you will find answers of you all questions about religion.He was no doubt a Muslim but his books deals with all religions like Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism ,Islam etc. and he had brought all of them out of their myths that had been woven by other people around their reality. He had raised his pen about all possible topics of religion and made them comprehensible for readers. There are available his some books (translated in English) about different religion free to read on the following page and a person have a choice to select any book according to one’s interest:
          https://www.alislam.org/topics/messiah/index.php

        • MNb

          “I reject the only part of a religion that is turned into myth with the passage of time.”
          Sounds very similar to believing in a god of the gaps.

        • Greg G.

          Thanks for the information. I was once into religion but have been away from it long enough to see it objectively, including my old subjective view. A real religion should be able to withstand scrutiny without requiring cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias. We should be able to eliminate these as science does for any causes of bias and still arrive at that one religion as different that any other. Starting with a religion and finding reasons to confirm it is the wrong method as one naturally selects supporting evidence while rejecting and ignoring disconfirming evidence. One should apply critical thinking instead to eliminate false beliefs.

          For example, many people have a superstition that full moons cause weird things to happen. If something strange goes on and they see a full moon or within a few days of it, the correlation is put into memory more strongly than if there is no full moon. A study was done comparing emergency room visits and full moons at a few hospitals for a year. The results showed an increase in the number of visits during full moons. People thought they were on to something until a critical thinker pointed out that emergency room visits always increase on weekends and that particular year, full moons happened to be on weekends. After correcting for that, the full moons were unrelated to increased emergency room visits.

          Another study showed that people who attend church are less likely to die than the rest of the population. Christians touted those findings. But that division automatically put the sickest people outside the group. People who were too sick or too old to go to church are more likely to die than people who are well enough to go. So one should look a little closer.

          Albert Einstein came up with the Theory of Relativity. One of the implications of it was that light should be affected by gravity. An eclipse was going to occur and there was a star that should be behind the sun but visible if Einstein’s theory was correct. Astronomers did the test to see if it could be confirmed. The star was not only seen, it was seen precisely where the theory said it would be.

          That’s how critical thinking can work. You should try to disprove your beliefs, eliminate the false ones, and take those that you can’t test with a grain of salt.

          I went to the link you provided. I clicked on the Messiah topic. There was a claim that there were 73 divisions of Islam. That made me curious as to how these divisions were made. I compared it with other lists of sects of Islam and they came up with different numbers. One that caught my eye was Lahorism, which split off from Mirza’s group after he died. It smacks of choosing arbitrary distinctions between groups until you have the number you want to match. That’s cherry picking. They are looking for reasons to believe false things.

          When you start seeing how you were tricked into believing your religion, you may feel anger for a while, but you should allow it to subside. Those who fooled you are fooled the same way.

          If there was a religion that was true, it should be inimitable. No fake religion should be able to approach it. No sect should be able to separate from it without looking silly. However, all religions look more alike than different;.

        • SparklingMoon-

          A person who worships only one God that makes him free from the slavery of the whole universe see the whole world from His view of point. What you have heard about full moon and death ratio or longer life of church or mosque goer are personal inventions of some religious people to have more customers. If a church or Mosque going can make a life longer than others then a Pastor or Imam of a mosque must have the longest life than all other people of his community as they mostly live in these worship places. I think,it is not the building of a mosque or of a church but exercise of walking towards these places or to meet with one another and pass happy time is that help to make a life longer. Prayer is an other topic that help a person to have guidance of God for right direction but it may be offered any where. According to my religious information the people who love God’s creature and always ready to help them are given a longer life by God.

          Secondly, I have not suggested you to read all topics or all books existed on this website as its some subjects relate to other religions and without their primary knowledge it would be difficult to understand them completely. I have referred this page to have information about Jesus as the writer, in his books, has talked about all topics that have turned Jesus and his religion into a myth. He has discussed his real mission, his life after cross, his migration to Asia, the meanings of his resurrection, the meanings of his second comings in different books. He was a Muslim and therefore you will find abundant references from the Quran but also from the Bible and other religious books. His all books are also available on google. I would like to suggest some particular chapters of his some books to find some fundamental information about religion that are common features of all religions and something more about Jesus:
          About God Almighty https://www.alislam.org/library/browse/book/The_Essence_of_Islam/?p=1#page/40/mode/1up
          About Revelation, Inspiration, Vision And Dream
          https://www.alislam.org/library/browse/book/The_Essence_of_Islam/?p=2&l=English#page/31/mode/1up
          About Angels
          https://www.alislam.org/library/browse/book/The_Essence_of_Islam/?p=2&l=English#page/143/mode/1up
          About Soul
          https://www.alislam.org/library/browse/book/The_Essence_of_Islam/?p=2&l=English#page/381/mode/1up
          About Heaven and Hell
          https://www.alislam.org/library/browse/book/The_Essence_of_Islam/?p=2&l=English#page/427/mode/1up
          The Natural, Moral And Spiritual States Of Man.
          https://www.alislam.org/library/browse/book/The_Essence_of_Islam/?p=3&l=English#page/5/mode/1up
          Jesus and the Advent of the Messiah
          https://www.alislam.org/library/browse/book/The_Essence_of_Islam/?p=3&l=English#page/169/mode/1up

        • Greg G.

          I’m sorry I didn’t make my point clear enough. I wanted to emphasize the importance of critical thinking. I discussed the full moon superstition to show that the lack of critical thinking is not just a problem with religion. Everybody is susceptible to it. The claim that people who go to church are less likely to die was not an advertizement for church, it is that people who really want things like that to be true will jump on logical fallacies in order to maintain their beliefs. You seem to do that with your comment about people who help animals live longer, but you have no proof of that beyond a wish that it is true. Finally I gave an example of a scientific theory put to the test. If its theories had not held up to observation, it would have been discarded. Religion doesn’t care about the failure of its predictions.

          It’s not that I can’t understand the information you provide. It’s very similar to the claims of the Christian religions. The claims may differ on the face but they are based on the same methods of thinking that leads to error and maintaining the errors.

          Most of the world is religious but every religion is in the minority most people have the wrong religion. Since humans have a tendency to be wrong about religion, you should take that into consideration about your own. Religion manufactures imaginary fears and provides imaginary solutions. Religions are very good at exploiting the foibles of the human mind.

          Look at your religion as an outsider looks at it. Look at your religion as you look at religions you think are wrong. It is scary at first but when you see behind the curtain. When you realize your fears are unfounded, Then you might feel anger at having been fooled. Eventually you become bemused by it all.

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

          The Greek context from which the NT came is pretty important. If it had been written in Aramaic or Hebrew, you might be able to pretend that the story was genuine and hadn’t been corrupted by foreign ideas (a weak argument, but make-able).

          But with their being in Greek, all bets are off. Now you must insist on a cosmopolitan context with other gods, traditions, stories, and so on likely known to the author(s).

    • Jason

      “You say that “it’s just a story” (emphasis mine). I can agree that it is a story, as is every account of a historical event, but to assert that it is just a story requires a demonstration that there is no basis to the events. ”

      The burden of proof is on the person who claims a text is more than a story. The same goes for the accounts of Alexander the Great, etc.

      • KarlUdy

        What proofs do we have that the accounts of Alexander the Great are more than a story?

        • MNb

          Why do you think scholars don’t think the Gordian Knot story is actually historical? Why do you think they reject his claim to be descending from Hercules?

        • Greg G.
        • Jason

          Since Alexander was a public figure who led a major military campaign, the type of evidence we have for him is much better than for Jesus, who died before his sect spread beyond Palestine. Not only do we have lots of textual evidence about Alexander, we also have lots of archaeological evidence. He minted coins in his lifetime with his picture on them and founded many many cities from Egypt to Afghanistan. This is real physical evidence on the ground and we can weigh it against the textual evidence. So with Alexander, at least, there’s no doubt that he lived and accomplished some of the basic things stated in the stories about him. That’s already more than we can say about Jesus. I personally think some type of messianic figure along the lines of what’s presented in the gospel of Mark probably did exist, but the evidence is just not nearly as secure as it is for Alexander. However, beyond basic existence and military accomplishments, the stories about Alexander (e.g. the Alex Romance, Plutarch’s Biography, all of which incorporate contemporary accounts) have to be scrutinized with just as much skepticism. Any historian with real standards must begin with the assumption that the details about Alexander’s life are embellished and highly legendary. If someone wants to prove that a particular thing actually happened, the burden would be on them to find additional evidence. If this person tried to prove that Alex was actually a god or performed a supernatural feat, he would be laughed at. I understand that many people think secular academics have a double standard, but that’s just not the case.

          Do you realize that the archaeological record is non-existent for the historical Jesus and doesn’t appear until more than a 100 years after Jesus for later Christians (i.e. the 2nd cent. CE)?

        • Greg G.

          I personally think some type of messianic figure along the lines of what’s presented in the gospel of Mark probably did exist, but the evidence is just not nearly as secure as it is for Alexander.

          The epistles would support the Messianic stuff but not anything like a ministry. All they tell us appear to come from the Old Testament but tend to be in the form of out of context verses.

          Robert M. Price has collected the works of scholars who have traced the sources for Mark. Individually, they are interesting and hard to dispute, but not enough to persuade anyone, including most of the scholars themselves, that the rest of Mark is no different. Taken together, that is exactly what they do. See New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash. Price seems to have missed this one on the parables. So practically everything we think we know about Jesus from the epistles and Mark was attributed to someone else before they were attributed to Jesus.

        • Jason

          Paul’s epistles?

          I don’t see any reason to trust the details of Jesus’ ministry from the gospels, but the basic idea of some kind of a prophet proclaiming the end of time who was from Nazareth and was killed by crucifixion for starting trouble was probably an historical reality. It’s possible that not even this much is true, but if we absolutely assert that it could not be true, then we are in fact being harder on Jesus than other ancient figures (*please note I’m not asserting the truth of any supernatural claims). So we can’t be absolutely sure, but this seems like a reasonable place to start.

          Is it possible that the story of him being from Nazareth is just a story? Yes, it is. But there are times when some cautious speculation within the context of the stories makes sense. Matthew and Luke work really hard to show that Jesus had connections not only with Nazareth but also Bethlehem. The latter was important because it became a way of connecting Jesus with David and OT prophecy. If people were just making up stories, then they would have simply made him from Bethlehem and that would be it. The elaborate travels of Mary and Joseph in Mt and Lk at least suggest the authors of those text had sources that claimed he was from Nazareth, even though they really needed him to be from Bethlehem. Of course the story that Jesus was from Nazareth could also be just a story, in which case nothing I’ve said has any grounding in reality. I suppose I’m simply trying to illustrate that, yes, Bob is right. At the end of the day, these are all stories and we can never have much certainty. But it is possible to use internal textual evidence cautiously as long as remember that we are on unstable ground. For those of us who don’t worship ancient historical figures, this kind of cautious speculation works perfectly fine. I don’t NEED Jesus to have existed or not. Either way is okay with me. I just want to understand the possibilities.

        • Kodie

          I’m inclined to agree with you but only because I don’t really read any of the scholarly research into whether or not Jesus really existed. It would not be absurd for there to exist someone who was subversive and charismatic, just as there exist figures like that now. The way you wrote about it sounded a lot like conspiracy theorists. There is always some nut who starts “noticing” things and posting them on their blog, and people follow them and start pointing out what they perceive are cracks in the official story and fancy themselves investigators to uncover the truth and expose the cover-up. It is entirely possible for a person described like Jesus to exist at any time and in any place. So what?

        • Jason

          “It is entirely possible for a person described like Jesus to exist at any time and in any place.”

          Actually, no. The stories we find in the gospels or simply the basic idea of a Jewish Messianic prophet could not have appeared in, say, ancient China or Africa. You are over generalizing my point. The Dead Sea Scrolls,for example, give really important evidence for understanding the various forms of Judaism in Palestine at that time. Messianism, resurrection, and apocalyptic beliefs were really common at that particular time and place. In fact Jesus probably wasn’t that special at all, but it’s clear that the stories we have are products of their time.

          Kodie, I’ve read a lot of your posts and like your spirit but your final “so what?” only makes sense if you are simply trying to point out to a Christian that a small amount of evidence for Jesus can’t support the idea of worshipping him. I agree, but there are other more subtle issues worth discussing

        • Jason

          I’ll also add that the gospel stories would not even make sense in earlier Judaism (e.g. the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel). They also would not have made sense in later rabbinical Judaism.

        • MNb

          “In fact Jesus probably wasn’t that special at all”
          You safely can replace “probably” by “surely”.

          http://www.livius.org/men-mh/messiah/messianic_claimants00.html
          Frankly I think this more problematic for christians than a mythical Jesus. Some way or another christians need to argue that Jesus was unique.

        • Greg G.

          The existence of Jesus is an academic question to me. I accepted the historical Jesus even after I learned many of the arguments against the historical Jesus as I didn’t see how there could not have been no Jesus. When I read Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist> I expected to see the best case for Jesus, and probably did, but it was weak.

          The early epistles do not support a preacher or a teacher, nor do they quote him. They do quote the OT quite often. Rather than simply eliminate the supernatural claims from Mark, just start by eliminating the deeds previously attributed to others in the most popular Hebrew and Greek literature of the day. That also eliminates the supernatural and leaves little else.

          The prophecies of David’s seed on the throne led to the Messiah eschatology of Daniel 7. A century and a half later, a sect picked up on that but imagined that Jesus had already been crucified long ago. The end of time idea comes from Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54, and Philippians 3:20-21 where every element of those three passages, save the “twinkling of an eye” flourish, can be found in Isaiah 26:19-21a, Daniel 7:11a, 13a; 12:2, and Isaiah 25:8a.

          The epistles created a myth of a crucified and resurrected Jesus in the undefined past and Mark wrote an allegory that many have taken as history.

        • Joe

          Going around saying that most people in the world are crazy, or deluded, is the domain of conspiracy theorists or people who have even less of a grasp on reality.

          That’s just so profoundly brilliant, mister logic expert person. It’s so brilliant I don’t even want to read any more. That’s how brilliant it is. One can only have so much brilliance in one day. Brilliance overload.

        • KarlUdy

          What’s this? Halley’s comment?!

        • Joe

          Sorry I meant to post a comet. I didn’t know it was the comments section. I thought it was the comets section.

  • Nox

    Habermas is attempting to downplay the problems with the resurrection account by burying them in the question’s initial premise, and phrasing it as an empty tomb mystery you need a risen Jesus to solve.

    Since we know that Jesus was crucified (no, we don’t know that, that’s part of the problem), and we know that his body was placed in a particular tomb (no, we don’t know that, that’s part of the problem), and we know that shortly afterward this tomb was found to be empty (no, we don’t know that, that’s part of the problem) then any valid origin of the resurrection story has to explain how the tomb came to be empty.

    Look at how much of his book Habermas spends arguing that the apostles could not have stolen the body. Look at how much of his book Habermas spends arguing that Jesus could not have survived being crucified.

    The goal is to get you to ignore any questions of how this story came about, or whether there ever was a tomb.

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

      The volume of Habermas’s material makes it look like a smokescreen. If you’re eager to find justification for your Christian beliefs, this would be a great book for you.

  • SteveK

    Below is a summary of what appears to be a level-headed debate on the minimal facts and what they suggest. Lots of agreement, but of course in the end there is disagreement. Compare this to what you read on this blog.

    http://winteryknight.com/2015/08/13/gary-habermas-and-james-crossley-discuss-the-minimal-facts-case-for-the-resurrection/

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

      Thanks for the link. Can you highlight the best arguments from the Christian side? I won’t be getting to that article for a while.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X