Responding to the Minimal Facts Argument for the Resurrection (2 of 2)

Habermas Minimal Facts ResurrectionGary Habermas, a department chair at Liberty University, is known for his minimal facts argument for the resurrection of Jesus. We’ve exposed some weak thinking behind his first two facts in Part 1 here, and we’ll now look at his remaining facts.

You folks at home can join in as we play “Spot that fallacy”!

Fact 3: The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed: Paul was an enemy of the church but became a persuasive theologian and prolific church builder. His belief came from first-hand experience, and his martyrdom was documented by six sources.

But what could only be explained by an actual resurrection? So Paul gets religion and spreads the word—this isn’t surprising and happens in our own day. The sources we have are Paul’s own writings, Acts, and the writings of church fathers many decades later, all of which we must be skeptical of.

Was Paul knocked to the ground with a vision of Jesus? Maybe it was a complete fabrication. Maybe he just imagined it. Maybe the story grew in his mind until he wrote it down years later. The natural explanations are much more plausible than the supernatural one.

Fact 4: James the brother of Jesus was changed. Habermas takes us on a scavenger hunt through the Bible to pick up various pieces to create a life story for James that pleases him.

  • James and the rest of Jesus’s family weren’t believers. In fact, they thought he was crazy (Mark 3:21).
  • Next, James saw Jesus after his resurrection (1 Cor. 15:7).
  • Then James became a leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15—a vague reference).
  • Finally, James died as a martyr. Habermas must go outside the Bible to Josephus and Eusebius for this factoid. Their stories being contradictory points to the martyrdom of James as legend.

The James story varies depending on what pieces you pick up. Mark makes clear that the family of Jesus didn’t believe and never says that they changed their minds. We see this in John as well, where Jesus commanded “the disciple whom he loved” to take care of his mother after he died (John 19:26–7). Why would Jesus do this if his brother James was available? Both of these gospels were written long after the death of James. Perhaps they never mentioned James as part of the inner circle because he wasn’t.

And what does “James, the Lord’s brother” (Gal. 1:19) mean? That James was the biological brother of Jesus or simply that James was one of the Christian brethren (as in “brothers and sisters loved by God” from 1 Thess. 1:4)?

The basic facts of James’s life are tentative enough. The story can’t support the additional claim that he saw the risen Jesus.

Fact 5: The tomb was empty. This is a bonus “fact” because it isn’t as widely accepted as Habermas claims the previous four are. He says that “75% of scholars on the subject accept the empty tomb as a historical fact,” but we’ve already exposed the weakness of that approach.

He’s quick to use the flawed Naysayer Hypothesis again:

It would have been impossible for Christianity to get off the ground in Jerusalem if the body [of Jesus] had still been in the tomb. His enemies in the Jewish leadership and Roman government would only have had to exhume the corpse and publicly display it for the hoax to be shattered (p. 70).

First, I argue that it was a legend, not a hoax (that is, that it was inadvertently rather than deliberately false). Second, show me that valid evidence always stops a religion. Third, remember that the gospel stories were written decades after the events they claim to document. By that point, the legend had a life of its own. What the leadership might’ve done (or even did do) years earlier is irrelevant at that point.

Testimony of women

Women were the first to discover the empty tomb. This is startling, we’re told, because women’s testimony was never allowed in court, but what Habermas fails to show is that courtroom testimony is ever part of the story! He says that women playing this central role would never be part of an invented story, but I never argue that the story was invented.

Habermas’s argument completely fails when we consider that tending to the dead was women’s work in that culture. Having women—remember that these were trusted members of the inner circle—find the empty tomb was not startling but culturally mandatory (more here).

Straw man responses

Habermas sets up and knocks over the typical list of imagined responses (that I never make) such as the disciples stole the body, someone else stole the body, witnesses went to the wrong tomb, Jesus didn’t die but only swooned, the disciples were deceived by delusions or hallucinations, and, my favorite: Jesus was an alien. It’s curious that he treats the obvious one—that it was a legend—so superficially that there’s nothing more for me to address.

A slam-dung argument

If a body of any sort was discovered in the tomb, the Christian message of an empty sepulcher would have been falsified. Anything but an empty tomb would have been devastating to the Resurrection account (p. 71).

Can this guy have no appreciation of how religion actually works? He imagines it to be a house of cards, knocked down by a single contrary word.

Consider the Great Disappointment of 1844, where tens to hundreds of thousands of Millerites woke to the day that should never have dawned, the day after William Miller’s prediction of the end of the world. Some left the sect, poorer but wiser. Others refused to believe that they’d been following a ridiculous interpretation of reality and formed other sects, including the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

Or consider a more recent example. Pastor Jamie Coots died from snakebite a few days ago after refusing medical treatment. That was his ninth snakebite. He and his congregation knew better than anyone that God doesn’t protect believers against snakebite, and that if you handle poisonous snakes, you risk getting bitten and dying. I wonder if, as Coots lay dying, any friends said, “You have strong faith, brother.”

But the good news is that snake handlers finally got the message, right?

Of course not. Snake handlers could admit that all available evidence points to either no God or a God uninterested in protecting Christians from the obvious consequences of snake handling, but few will. They make themselves immune to the evidence.

Back to Habermas’s argument, the legend has little interest in what actually happened decades earlier—whether the tomb was empty, full, or nonexistent. Even if there were disconfirming evidence, the early religion could’ve shrugged it off just like snake handlers do. That Habermas doesn’t understand this makes me question how serious he actually takes his scholarship.

For some lessons learned from studying this argument, go here.

The resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of Christianity,
which stands or crumbles depending on whether this event actually occurred.
— Habermas and Licona,
The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, p. 149

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  • avalpert

    Your forgetting the most blatant evidence that falsification does nothing to dissuade or even stop the growth of a religion clearly based on embellished stories and fabricated legends – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    • MNb

      Or Scientology.

  • Pofarmer

    Do all the accounts of Pauls Matrydom include milk coming out of his neck?

    • Yuck–where does it say that?

      • Greg G.

        I found links that said Ignatius reported that Paul was beheaded. Others said milk came out when he was beheaded instead of blood. One site said that Ignatius said both but didn’t give the quote.

        I hated it when my brother would make me laugh while I was eating Cheerios and milk came out of my nose. I can’t complain though. Paul had it worse.

  • Greg G.

    Mark ends at verse 16:8 with the women being afraid to tell. Nobody would make that up unless the whole story was about the apostles getting caught up in the destruction of Jerusalem, or something like that. So Matthew and Luke were stuck with that part of the story and had to work around it. The story shows that it was made up saltationally. Paul says Jesus was crucified and resurrected but doesn’t actually say Jesus appeared in person to anyone. Mark says the women didn’t tell anyone at the end of the story. Matthew and Luke embellish the story even more.

    • wtfwjtd

      What about Paul’s bit in I Cor 15:5-7? Or do you feel that’s a later addition?

      • Greg G.

        No, I don’t think so but I suppose it is possible. I haven’t found any verses that would need to be called interpolations to keep them from being evidence of a historical Jesus.

        The same Greek word is used for “appeared to” (optanomai) throughout 1 Corinthians 15, so Paul doesn’t think the other apostles’ revelations were any different than his own. He argues elsewhere that he may not have their speaking ability but his knowledge is on par with theirs.

        1 Thessalonians 2 :13-16 is sometimes cited because it says the Jews crucified Jesus. But many scholars say it is an interpolation because Paul nowhere else says anything like that. Also, the passage says that God’s wrath has come because of the crucifixion. But the last verse of the previous chapter says the wrath has yet to come. Did it come during the time it took to write a dozen verses?

        But if the passage stands as is, it doesn’t specify when the Jews crucified Jesus or if the wrath came in Babylonian times. Nothing happened to the Jews in the middle of the first century that Paul could call the wrath of God unless it refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, but that would make it an interpolation because Paul supposedly died before then.

        • wtfwjtd

          That’s an interesting take Greg, I hadn’t really considered that possibility. But it does make sense in context, as Paul says that Christ “appeared to” him last of all, “as to one abnormally born”. He then states that he doesn’t deserve to be called an apostle, because he persecuted the church of God. Then, in an odd pivot, he claims to have “worked harder than all of them”–them, I suppose, being the other apostles.
          That argument about his speaking ability and knowledge is from II Cor 11:5, where he also derisively talks of the “super-apostles”. Who was he referring to here?

        • Greg G.

          I don’t think he specifies any names in 2 Corinthians but he is down on Cephas and James in Galatians and Cephas in 1 Corinthians. The way he speaks of them in Galatians 2:6 [And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those leaders contributed nothing to me. ] and in 2:9 [ 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars,], I suspect he refers to Cephas and James.

        • wtfwjtd

          Paul states that he is “not in the least inferior to the super-apostles”. This always seemed a rather strange statement to me; how could he possibly consider himself equal to men who had actually spent years physically walking and talking with Jesus himself?

          If Paul never says that Jesus ever appeared in person to anyone, maybe he didn’t know any stories about a physical Jesus. Some of his writing actually makes more sense with this view in mind.

          That mythical Jesus hypothesis is sounding more intriguing to me all the time….

        • Greg G.

          Paul thinks he has as much knowledge as the other apostles yet everything he reports about Jesus seems to come from the Hebrew scripture. Apparently he thinks their knowledge also comes from scripture.

        • wtfwjtd

          Holy freaking Moses, do you realize what you are saying here Greg? Either Paul didn’t know that Peter, James, and John had physically been with Jesus, or, he didn’t believe them! This, combined with his thinking he was their equal, is strong evidence for one of these positions; any other reading doesn’t make logical sense.
          If this is the case, Paul can be used as a star witness to cast doubt on at least two of Christianity’s central pillars–that the gospels are actual eyewitness accounts, and whether Jesus’s physical life on earth occurred at all.

        • Greg G.

          I don’t think Cephas, James, or John ever claimed to have known Jesus. They probably all believed that Jesus was crucified and resurrected in the mythic past, just like Paul. It was probably after the destruction of Jerusalem that anyone thought that Jesus had walked around in the early first century. Mark may have unintentionally created that meme by writing his gospel for the entertainment value. (That idea intrigues me, but I wouldn’t argue for it.)

          We see evidence of some relatively petty arguments between them such as the need for faith vs. works, adherence to food laws, and what a true apostle is but never a discussion about whether there had been a live Jesus, any of his teachings, or preachings. They never quote Jesus even when their argument would be strengthened by a “Jesus said”, though their ideas end up being said by Jesus in the gospels, including GThomas.

          Compare Mark 7:20-23 with Romans 1:29-31, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and Galatians 5:19-21 with Wisdom of Solomon 14:24-27. It looks like Paul got his rant from the Wisdom of Solomon, found in the OT Apocrypha, and Mark took it from Paul.

          We find

          Thomas 85
          Jesus said, “Adam came into being from a
          great power and a great wealth, but he did not become worthy of you. For had he been worthy, [he would] not [have experienced] death.”

          which sounds like

          Romans 5:12-14
          Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

          which may have been inspired by

          Wisdom of Solomon 2:24
          24 but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it.

          I just don’t see any evidence of anyone actually talking about a first century Jesus until the last third of the century.

        • wtfwjtd

          I forgot to mention, Paul considers himself the least among the apostles in I Cor 15, not because he hadn’t seen Jesus (I always assumed this was the reason), but because he had persecuted the Church of God. Here again, it’s very telling, not only what Paul does say, but also what he doesn’t say.

          There’s also the passage in Galatians ch 2 where Paul opposes Peter–if ever there was a place to pull out a “Jesus said” line for Peter this would be it. This is where we learn that Paul is to be an apostle to the Gentiles, and that Peter is sticking with the Jews. Once again, we see that Paul considers himself to be Peter’s equal in every way, in fact he believes he bested Peter in this confrontation.

        • Greg G.

          We see he same argument in Mark 7 with Jesus playing Paul and the Pharisees playing Peter. If that had actually happened, Peter would have agreed with Paul and there wouldn’t have been an argument.

          Robert M. Price points out that Paul doesn’t give Peter’s side but Paul mentions that his friend, Barnabas was led astray so Peter may have actually won. OTOH, I think Barnabas falling in line with Peter may have prompted Paul to provoke the argument.

          Mark 7:1-19 sounds like one of the more plausible scenarios as it doesn’t involve miracles but it appears to have come from the Galatians 2 argument, so scratch another Minimal Jesus story.

        • wtfwjtd

          If the Peter that Paul knew had actually, physically been with Jesus, the possibility that a dispute of this nature would have arisen between the two seems very, very remote indeed.

          I just found a great lecture by David Fitzgerald along these very lines:

          Looks like I have lots more reading to do! Fascinating stuff!

        • Greg G.

          Consider that if Paul’s revelation came from reading the scriptures and he saw no distinctio between his and the other disciples’s revelations and Cephas was the first to see this in the scriptures, then Cephas was not an illiterate fisherman. Any gospel that says he was is based on fiction.

  • Pofarmer

    I should probably feel bad about trolling Bad Catholic, but I don’t. What a pretentious nit wit.

    • Greg G.

      Tsk, tsk. I hope you like coal in your Christmas stocking.

  • Greg G.

    Acts 26:14 (NRSV) When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’

    Luke dramatized Paul’s revelations.”Kick against the goads” is an idiom from Euripides’ The Bacchae uttered by Dionysus. So we have Luke quoting Paul speaking Greek and quoting Jesus (coming all the way from heaven) speaking Hebrew quoting Euripides quoting in Greek the Greek god, Dionysus. Now that is meta!

  • Jason Wexler

    Aren’t all of these facts dependent upon Jesus having existed? He is just building a house of cards, each “fact” is dependent on each of the previous ones being true, and none of them are as well established as he claims.

  • wtfwjtd

    It’s still my contention that Paul came up with his conversion story to one-up people like Peter. And Acts 9:7 states “…the men traveling with Saul…heard the sound, but did not see anyone”. Not exactly a convincing eyewitness account, is it? And as Greg G has shown, Paul claims to have gained his knowledge of the gospel via supernatural revelation, not by teaching or other “human” method. So God zapped it into his head, or something, and the supposed resurrection event was apparently a non-factor.
    Another point: James Randi exposed self-proclaimed psychic Uri Geller on national television as a fraud. One might think this would have ended the psychic’s career, but one would have thought wrong. In fact, his popularity and people’s belief in his “powers” only increased.
    Joseph Smith was also killed for his beliefs. Does this mean that Christians like Habermas accept the book of Mormon as the inerrant word of God?

    • Greg G.

      There are three accounts of Paul’s conversion in Acts and they each contradict the others.Did his companions see the light or not? Did they hear anything? If you don’t like one account, try another.

  • smrnda

    On Paul’s ‘conversion’ – people have odd conversions all the time in the sense of sudden and abrupt shifts in their loyalty or beliefs. Part of this can be searching for an identity or an image, sometimes as a means of gaining attention or a following.

    Paul did leave behind some privilege, but he also got in on the ground floor in a new religion. Maybe he was sort of leaving the established company to get in on a new start-up that he thought had a future?

    • His story says that he left behind privilege (and many years earlier). That doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily true.

      • Pofarmer

        From what little Jewish thought I’ve read, most think Paul was pretty much a fraud. The more Greg goes through the textual evidence of what Paul taught, and the more I read Jewish and other thought, I’m inclined to agree.

        • MNb

          This is one reason I want to read Jona Lendering’s forthcoming book.

    • Many of those conversions have involved giving up privilege, such as middle class and rich people giving it up to become revolutionaries. It can be ascribed to guilt, but also finding a new sense of purpose. That by itself can be intoxicating, versus a privileged but empty life.

  • Pofarmer

    Hey, I finally found a little bit on the Jewish perspective of Paul as a Pharisee, this is not the article I originally read, but tracks along the same lines. It is also interesting to note that Paul reads and writes in Greek, not Hebrew.

    • Greg G.

      I may have to rework the HTML for that page so it is not so optically painful so I can read more.

      The page criticizes Luke for saying Paul studied at Rabbi Gamaliel’s feet while there is nothing in Paul’s writing to confirm that. I would suggest that Galatians 5:14 is Hillel-esque:

      For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

      Rabbi Hillel was a first century Pharisee, and Gamaliel’s great-grandfather, who is known for describing the whole Torah as “Don’t do what your neighbor hates. All the rest is commentary.”

      So I think that Luke’s inference from that Galatians verse that Paul studied the Hillel philosophy is one of his more reasonable embellishments. Studying at Gamaliel’s feet is still a stretch.

      I will digress here to mention that James rebuts Paul on that point.

      James 2:8-10
      8 You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

      James discusses “partiality” above this passage as if he was stung by Paul’s saying that God shows no partiality when talking about the reputed leaders in Jerusalem. After that, he seems to make a point by point rebuttal to Galatians. Paul makes a point about Abraham showing faith and James makes a point of Abraham doing works. Paul brings up the faith of Abraham’s wives and James brings up the works of Rahab the prostitute.

      This goes to the end of Galatians where James goes back and takes another crack at the last few topics. I wonder if the Epistle of James is a combination of two versions of the letter?

      In the opening introduction, James professes that he is a servant of God and the Lord Jesus but doesn’t say he was a brother. Jude has a similar introduction but says he is a brother to James but doesn’t say he was a brother to Jesus, too. Nor does Jude think he needs to distinguish which James he is a brother to. It seems there was one James and many misunderstandings.

  • Kingasaurus

    —“James and the rest of Jesus’s family weren’t believers. In fact, they thought he was crazy (Mark 3:21)”—

    I love this verse, because it’s a huge hint (among many others) that the miraculous birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are later fabrications.

    If Mary and Joseph were miraculously told by angels that their baby Jesus was the Messiah and he was virginally conceived, how could they (or their other children) ever think he should be restrained for preaching seemingly unorthodox things? Wouldn’t it be self-evident to them that anything he was preaching would be God-sanctioned, no matter how unusual their neighbors thought it was?

    Mark has no birth narrative, so he has no problem with the family of Jesus having no idea that he’s been specially chosen as the Messiah when baptized. Luke and Matthew conveniently remove that uncomfortable verse from Mark when writing their own versions, because it would make Jesus’ family look like they were suffering from amnesia.

    Habermas highlighting this verse to try to help him apologetically in one area hurts him everywhere else that counts.

    • A completely unrelated inconsistency: why does John the Baptist send out his disciples to ask if Jesus is the one? Didn’t he baptize Jesus and see the Holy Spirit descend? Didn’t he recognize Jesus as the messiah even when he was in the womb?

      Another case of amnesia.

      • Pofarmer

        Same thing when they find Jesus at the Temple.

      • wtfwjtd

        Here, straight from Matthew 11:4-5: …report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk…the deaf hear, the DEAD ARE RAISED, the good news is preached…”
        Great Flying Spaghetti Monster, and we atheists are accused of being stubborn. Are you friggin’ kidding me? How could someone see all that, and have doubts? And don’t get me started on that Dead Raising thing. We see this again and again in the New Testament: Matt 14:2, Matt 16:14, Matt 17:9, Matt 27:52, John 11:44, and many others, and I’m not even to the crucifixion yet! It’s like dead-risings in the first century are like UFO sightings today–everybody’s seeing them, so that makes them legit, right? I mean, that many people couldn’t be wrong, could they?
        It doesn’t help the gospel’s credibility any that when Jesus asks his disciples whom people think he is, he gets all kinds of wacko answers–all of people who had long since been dead(see Matt 16:13-17). Even King Herod thought Jesus is John the Baptist–you guessed it–risen from the dead!
        I guess whoever wrote this story didn’t realize he was being too cute by half with all these dead-raising inclusions, and actually undercuts his own credibility. This crescendos with the zombie apocalypse (yes, you read right) in Matt 27:52. And we are supposed to believe that the people who supposedly saw Jesus after his death weren’t imagining things? Really? REALLY??!!!

        Or maybe, just maybe, this is just a collection of stories, meant to entertain people. Just a thought….

        • Pofarmer

          If it were just a collection of stories, and the Gospels were meant to be read in one long sitting, at least Mark was, then, well, uhm. I’m not sure I really want to comtemplate how the Gullible have been led by the insane and called enlightened.

        • Acts makes the same point, by saying that when the disciples later perform miracles among the Greeks, they’re proclaimed gods in human form. Funny, that…

      • Pofarmer

        Wasn’t it John the Baptist who Mary’s cousin was pregnant with when she went to visit? The Baby who “leapt in the womb”?

        • right–that’s what I was thinking of.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, Jesus and John the Baptist were cousins, living fairly close by as kids, and they didn’t know who each other were.

        • Ron

          I’d caution against that line of reasoning based on the following:

          Luke places Joseph & Mary’s residence in Nazareth while Zechariah & Elizabeth are located many, many (for that time) miles away in the hill country of Judea. Furthermore, he doesn’t mention how they were related or whether or not Mary was herself pregnant at the time of her visit. So there’s no way of knowing the age difference between John and Jesus, and apologists tend to argue that they may have been born well over a decade apart. Finally, Luke 1:80 claims that John lived in the wilderness “until he appeared publicly to Israel.”

          Of course, this all assumes the text is reliable to begin with.

        • Pofarmer

          I know that certainly Catholics assume Mary was pregnant when she saw Elizabeth, and that’s what I was always taught. I wasn’t aware that Mary might not have been pregnant yet. And, I mean, god spoke to Mary to tell her she was Chosen rigjt before she got pregnant, if it were earlier than that, why would ther be any interutero gymnastics?

        • Ron

          Barring some mistranslation, verse 41 clearly identifies Elizabeth’s baby as the gymnast:

          “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

        • Pofarmer

          Luke 1vs 26-45

          The Birth of Jesus Foretold

          26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

          29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

          34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

          35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

          38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

          Mary Visits Elizabeth

          39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

          So, if Mary wasn’t showing, how did Elizabeth know she was pregnant and would be the Mother of the Lord? Thinking on it, that passage actually creates more problems than it solves. If Mary conceived when Elizabeth was in her 6th month, Mary really shouldn’t have been showing unless Elizabeth was well into her 9th month when she arrived. And if the baby John recognized Jesus in the womb, why wouldn’t he have recognized him later?

        • Ron

          I think you’re reading more into the passage than is given. Verse 35 only contains promise of a future conception, not that it had already occurred. And verse 41 states Elizabeth was moved by Mary’s greeting—i.e. news of Mary’s promised child—not because she was showing.

          Plus, Luke’s timeline places John’s birth sometime during King Herod’s reign and Jesus’ birth during the census held about a decade after Herod’s death.

        • Even if Mary were pregnant when she visited Elizabeth, she wouldn’t be the “Mother of the Lord.” That would have to be in the future.

          Presumably Elizabeth is able to see Mary’s future destiny.

        • Pofarmer

          Which makes the scenes later on when Mary doesn’t seem to know that Jesus is divine all the more puzzling.

        • It’s like the story of James above. Only if you pick and choose do apologists make the argument that they want. It makes more sense to treat each author as independent, without demanding that they fit into a unified whole.

          Mark says that Mary et al think Jesus is crazy. Matthew and Luke say that Mary knew before conception that her son would be special. Put them together and it gets messy, but leave them apart and you’re OK.

        • Greg G.

          Birth trauma sometimes diminishes one’s psychic abilities. It apparently annihilated to me.

        • wtfwjtd

          So, if Mary wasn’t showing, how did Elizabeth know she was pregnant and would be the Mother of the Lord?

          ’cause she was filled with the Holy Spirit! It says so right in verse 41, duh!

        • Greg G.

          Good point. How did she know her baby was jumping for joy and not telling her to get away?

        • Pofarmer

          The whole living in the wilderness thing was supposedly a hat tip to Elijah, according to Randal Helms, the Gospel Fiction. And also, isn’t it interesting, that there are so few clues in the texts as to the age of them or the dates, and yet where we do have clues, such as herod and the census, that they don’t line up. You would think someone close in time and geography to the events would have been more accurate.

        • wtfwjtd

          Wasn’t that whole census thing just made up? I remember Hitchens mentioning it, saying it was just a story element to get Jesus to be born in Bethlehem, so as to fulfill “prophesy”.

        • Greg G.

          Luke relied on Josephus a lot, especially Antiquities 18, 19, and 20 which covers the early first century. Luke may have rejected Matthew’s birth sequence because it involved the taking of so many innocent lives for no good reason. If God could save Jesus, why not the other babies? So Luke made something up using the first event in Book 18, which was the census.

        • I see with a more attentive reading of Luke that you’re right. I had always thought that the boys were separated by 6 months–that is, that Mary was pregnant when she went to visit Elizabeth.

          Not necessarily.

        • Funny thing is, I’ve heard Christians use this to argue on when Jesus was born, based on the date of John’s father attending the Temple, counting it down the decades before its destruction, by which they arrive at Jesus being born six months after John…somehow. It’s very complicated. Anyway, those who do this contradict themselves on the above evidence, but so what else is new? You have four different versions here.

        • Kingasaurus

          Of course, hiding behind all this is the reasonable assumption that when one cult or movement is attempting to subsume or recruit the followers of another, one way of doing it is to claim the “founders” of both were somehow related.

        • Even better: that the other guy actually acknowledged the supremacy of your guy.

        • Greg G.

          Or if the cult is trying to establish a pedigree and subsumes the history of an older cult.

  • cipher

    Can this guy have no appreciation of how religion actually works

    They have no understanding of how any cultural phenomenon works. They have no understanding of how the human mind works, or of their own motivation. Fundamentalists are the least introspective people on the planet.

    • Mark Martin

      very astute, i’ve had this thought for many years but never put it together so well. i’ve always found it very disconcerting that fundies are never introspective, they even attribute their own conscious to the “holy spirit”.

      while most won’t even admit it lest they sound like Muslims, but they still think that the bible has all of the knowledge you ever need right? i remember some verse in the OT where the man who follows his own moral compass should be put to death…

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Fact 5: The tomb was empty.

    I always found this one to be hilariously absurd. We are engaging in a discussion about whether the resurrection of Jesus H. Christ is historically accurate. The resurrection is recorded in only one place, the books of the Christian New Testament, written by religious fanatics long after the alleged events.

    And here we are asked to take as a “fact” another story element recorded in ony one place, the books of the Christian New Testament, written by religious fanatics long after the alleged events.

    It’s a fucking story! If you are reading a Paul Bunyan story, you are not entitled to cite as a “fact” a story element from chapter one to support the factuality of a story element from chapter eight. That we should even be considering this is over-the-rainbow crazy.

    Testimony of women

    I consider this another losing argument. The bit about women’s testimony not being admitted in court is by way of showing that women are not respected in that society, and so would not be used as witnesses in a fabricated account.
    But – what if you are appealing to the underclass? What if you have something new and subversive to offer? Do you ask people who are doing well under the current system to be the first to throw it off? Or do you appeal to those who are not doing well under the current system?

    • MNb

      “The resurrection is recorded in only one place”
      Testis Unus Testis Nullus.
      To his credit Habermas makes a lame attempt to apply the Principle of Embarrassment (women found the empty tomb), which is an excellent method. Only problem is, like BobS has made clear, that this is not an embarrassment (for the authors of the Gospels) at all.

      • Another potential misapplication of the principle of embarrassment is the example of Peter denying Jesus 3 times. Wow–why would the gospel writers put in something so embarrassing if it weren’t true??

        But of course if the author of Mark was a partisan of Paul and didn’t much like Peter, this would be a nice way of taking the rival down a peg or two. Later gospels used Mark and couldn’t eliminate the familiar story, even if they were more friendly to Peter.

        • Kingasaurus


          Part of the problem is the mistaken assumption that the “disciples” (or those close to them) wrote these things. So it immediately raises the question of “Why would these guys write stories that made themselves look bad, if it weren’t true?” Forgetting, for a moment, the other mistaken assumption that the early followers were so scrupulously honest that they would record and preserve things that put them in a bad light just to be thorough.

          Other than the answer of differing factions, this question also evaporates when you realize these things were written by later Greek-speaking Christians and not the “disciples” or their right-hand men.

          Mark (for example) has a theological purpose for making the disciples look like dummies. It isn’t honest reporting of embarrassing things that are historical. It’s something else.

        • Pofarmer

          All the disciples are pretty much dunces in Mark. Makes you wonder how someone all knowing could have chosen such clowns.

        • They’re like Watson to Jesus as Sherlock Holmes.

        • wtfwjtd

          More like Captain Hastings to Hercule Poirot, but close enough.

        • That is better. Hastings is a bit of a dunderhead.

        • Greg G.

          Or Moe, Larry, and Curly to Ted Healy.

        • I am well aware of the sages Larry, Moe, and Curly, but I appreciate your pointing out their creator. That was news to me.

        • Greg G.

          One must master Three Stooges lore before one can hope to understand the Bible.

        • “Oh! Wise guy, eh?”

          The wisdom of Saint Curly sees me through many difficult hours.

        • Ron

          Ha! The visionary Paul has that base covered:

          “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” 1 Cor 1:27

        • wtfwjtd

          Keep in mind the whole Gospel-Acts narrative Pofarmer. In Mark, and the other gospels, you have the supposedly illiterate dimwits parading around with the Master(TM), then the crucifiction (NOT a misspelling) happens, and *bippity-boppity-boom**, the dimwits are bold, brilliant pro-claimers of the enlightened Way. Get it?

        • Pofarmer

          Yep, the holy spirit gets sent, which is somehow God, and they are speaking in tongues and healing the sick and killing those who don’t do as they command and etc, etc.

        • wtfwjtd

          I suppose you are referring to Ananias and Sapphira? Only in the wacked-out world of the hard-core fundie does selling a piece of land, keeping part of the money, and giving the rest to a religious group qualify as a deed worthy of death. Oh yeah, the death sentence was because they “lied to the Holy Spirit”. That makes it all better, doesn’t it? Now there’s a just sentence–and we get to see the wrathful, vengeful God of the Old Testament as a nice bonus.
          Richard Carrier is right–people just don’t think this stuff through. The further in my rear view mirror my fundie days get, the nuttier it all seems.

        • MNb

          A misapplication indeed. In no way this example embarrasses the author of the story. Even if he was not a partisan of Paul it only reinforces the story: it stresses how afraid the apostles were of the Romans and how grave the danger was Jesus walked into – Jesus heroism is increased.
          Better examples are the authors writing down Jesus’ prediction that he would come back pretty soon, even if they knew it hadn’t happened yet and Jesus’ (in)famous words “Father, why has thou forsaken me”. This one has given theologians headaches for centuries, is unexplainable within the framework of Jesusmythology and has a perfect secular explanation – Jesus was reciting the Psalms to help him endure the pain while hanging.

        • wtfwjtd

          After witnessing the deaths of several (and I mean several) close friends and family the last few years, that quote of “father, why has thou forsaken me” took on a particularly poignant meaning for me. How could I pray for these suffering people, when God didn’t give a shit about his own son when he was dying? Why would he listen to me when he wouldn’t listen to him? When I mentioned this fact a few times, it pretty much ended the conversation about god or religion providing solace to the dying. And in my experience, religion was the last thing that the dying wished to talk about anyway.
          I had a few people try and tell me I was just angry with God. I simply informed them of the truth–they were angry that I wasn’t angry with god. Once again, a real conversation-ender, that.

        • How could I pray for these suffering people, when God didn’t give a shit about his own son when he was dying? Why would he listen to me when he wouldn’t listen to him? When I mentioned this fact a few times, it pretty much ended the conversation about god or religion providing solace to the dying. And in my experience, religion was the last thing that the dying wished to talk about anyway.

          I’m sorry to hear about your losses. You certainly understand first hand the human need for comfort in the face of, and in the aftermath of, death. Maybe people need to feel that their suffering, or the suffering of their loved ones, has meaning that can’t be encompassed by facile appeals to “God’s plan” or dismissive arguments that life and suffering have no “real” meaning.

        • wtfwjtd

          Thanks for the comment Anton, that’s one of the saner things I’ve been told on the subject. When it comes to death, none of us have any real answers, and all we can really do is try and help those who have suffered the loss make it through. The pain of a great loss, especially as caused by death, never really goes away. We just have to learn to survive with it as best we can, and realize that everyone that’s part of the human family will experience this eventually.

        • SparklingMoon

          How could I pray for these suffering people, when God didn’t give a shit about his own son when he was dying?
          In Matthew, chapter 26, verses 36 to 46, which relate that after getting information, through revelation, of his impending arrest, Jesus prayed to God all night,on his face, and in tears, and such prayer offered with such humility, and for which Jesus had ample time,could not go unaccepted; for the cry of an elect of God, addressed at a time of distress, is never turned down. How was it then, that the prayer of Jesus which he had addressed all night with a painful heart and in a state of distress was rejected?

          Jesus had said: The Father who is in heaven listens to me. Therefore, when his prayer addressed in such a state of distress was not heard,how can it be said that God heard his prayers? The gospels also show that Jesus (peace be on him) was certain at heart that his prayer had been accepted;he had great confidence in that prayer.That is why when he was arrested and put on the Cross, and when he found the circumstances not according to his expectations, he involuntarily cried ‘Eli, Eli lama sabachthani’, meaning, ‘My God, my God why hast Thou forsaken me. ‘,i.e., he did not expect that it would come to this — that he would die on the Cross. He believed that his prayer would be heard.

          So, both these references to the gospel show that Jesus firmly believed that his prayer would be heard and accepted, that his tearful supplications addressed throughout the night would not be wasted,whereas he had himself taught his disciples, on divine authority: When you pray, the prayer will be accepted. Further, he had also narrated the parable of the judge who feared neither man nor God. The purpose of this parable was that the disciples should realize that God undoubtedly answered prayers. Although Jesus knew from God that there was a great affliction in store for him, yet, like all righteous persons, he prayed to God, believing that there was nothing impossible for God and that God determined whether any events would happen or not.

          Therefore, the rejection of Jesus’ own prayer would have shaken the faith of the disciples. Was it possible to place before the disciples an example destructive of their faith? If they had seen with their own eyes that the prayer of a great prophet like Jesus, addressed all night with burning passion, was not accepted, the unfortunate example would have been very trying for their faith. Therefore, the Merciful God could not but have accepted this prayer. It is certain the prayer offered at Gethsemane was accepted.(Jesus in India)

        • In your two examples, I wonder if inertia is the explanation.

          In Mark’s day, they were just recovering from the destruction of the temple, so an any-day-now second coming to kick some Roman ass might’ve made sense. But why would the later gospels keep it? Perhaps because a beloved story couldn’t be dropped (see all the duplicate stories in the Old Testament–2 creations, 2 floods, 2 Goliaths, etc.).

          The “forsaken” thing makes sense from an adoptionistic viewpoint, which we see a lot of in Mark (Jesus became the messiah at baptism, and the spirit left the man behind at the cross). I guess that was a bit much, because the adoptionistic theme is pretty much scrubbed out in Matthew and Luke.

        • Greg G.

          Paul thought that he would be alive when the Lord descended from heaven per 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. Perhaps Mark got the idea from him. Ever since Christians have rationalized that their generation would be when it happened. Harold Camping wasn’t criticized by Christians for saying that the Rapture would happen soon, but only for specifying a date. Here is a list of (need I say “failed”) predictions for the second coming. Kent Hovind should be out of prison by his prediction for 2028.

          The kingdom was split for some time until the Assyrians invaded Israel during Hezekiah’s reign. The refugees fled south to Judea. The stories had diverged so the priests came up with a redacted version to keep everyone happy. By Josiah’s time, that generation had passed on so it was time for a reform. The priests brought out Deuteronomy. Perhaps it was freshly written or it was a text from before the divided kingdom. But then the Babylonians decided to visit and the plans didn’t get completed. By the time the exile ended, all the texts were revered. Friedman says they added a few bits but apparently didn’t delete anything.

        • wtfwjtd

          More evidence that Paul thought Jesus would ascend from heaven in his lifetime: I Cor 7:26-31. He speaks of the “present crisis”, “the time is short”, don’t get married, don’t mourn, etc.
          Notice Paul doesn’t use words like “return, second coming, come again,” etc. This in itself is very telling, that Paul didn’t seem to be aware of any earthly stories of Jesus that preceded or ran concurrently to his lifetime.

        • Greg G.

          1 Peter 1:20 He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake.

          It’s not just Paul, even the author of 1 Peter thinks that the revelation of Jesus indicates they are at the end of ages.

        • Pofarmer

          You would think folks would notice they kind of missed it.

        • I don’t think even that would have to be it (though it’s possible). One of the strongest principles of Christianity is that everyone is a sinner, and including the disciples in that category (as with Peter, but also Judas obviously) just reinforces it further. That wouldn’t be deemed to be embarrassing for Christians, but just a part of their belief system. Later we have Paul, who’s definitely viewed as a sinner, whose conversion story we’re well aware of. It’s a common theme in Christian literature.

        • Greg G.

          Mark was writing a fictional story and later Christians believed it was true. Parts may have been embarrassing to them but they weren’t for Mark. Mark combined the literature of the day to compose his story. For Peter’s denials he drew from 2 Kings 2:

          Mark 14:29-30 (NRSV)
          29 Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” 30 Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.”

          2 Kings 2:2, 4, 6, 11 (NRSV)
          2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.
          4 Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here; for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho.
          6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on.
          11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.

          2 Kings 2:1-12 is the story of Elijah ascending to heaven. Mark transvalues 2 Kings by turning Elisha’s three promises to not leave Elijah and yet they still become separated into Peter promising not to leave Jesus but then metaphorically doing it three times.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        … the Principle of Embarrassment (women found the empty tomb), which is an excellent method.

        I disagree. This is a method that was made up for Bible apologetics and is not routinely used for anything else. In Paul Bunyan and the Log Jam we learn that Mr. Bunyan is an animal torturer, repeatedly shooting his own favourite ox. This is an embarrassing admission. Surely this is evidence that this story is real, and Paul Bunyan is real.

        • No other explanation is even conceivable.

        • MNb

          Very wrong.
          1. It was not made up for Bible apologetics.
          2. It’s routinely used in History of Antiquity.
          3. It’s a well tested method.
          4. Your example is not what the Principle of Embarrassment means.

          “Sailing on their westerly course, they must have observed that they had the sun on their right. (Something that Herodotus, who was unaware of the earth’s spherical shape, was unable to believe.)”
          We know the journey must be true because Herodotus embarrasses himself here. If Herodotus had made the story up he would not have written that “they had the sun on their right”, given that he thought the Earth was flat.
          But of course you are still free to reject the scientific method.

    • I’ve heard that the early church was quite woman-friendly. Paul names women who are church leaders. Only later (second century?) did the patriarchy take over.

  • MNb

    “They make themselves immune to the evidence.”
    And this disqualifies Habermas as a scientist. You already know what I think about this.

    “That Habermas doesn’t understand this makes me question how serious he actually takes his scholarship.”

    I’m afraid, especially with these intelligent guys, that it goes a little deeper. They might not admit it, but they want to submit science to their belief system. Having found that Evolution Theory is too strong to tackle they try their shenangans on History of Antiquity. Their big advantage here is lack of empirical data.

  • natsera

    Did you ever read an old book called the Passover Plot? Whether true or not, it showed some fascinating ways in which Jesus and friends could have APPEARED to fulfill the prophecies. Of course, these people were well versed in what the prophecies were; all they had to do was make them happen.

    But it’s also telling that many if not most Jews of the time were not impressed by Jesus, because they also knew the prophecies, and that Jesus did not fulfill the most important one: peace on earth. The Christians eventually and conveniently decided that was going to happen after the Second Coming, but there is no such fable in Judaism. There would be far more naysayers if the Romans hadn’t killed off or enslaved most of the Jewish population, although I obviously can’t give you any numbers.

    • I know the title, but I don’t think I’ve read that book.

      Are you talking about the prophecies in Matthew, for example? Because those seem to me to be a bit strained (Bethlehem, virgin birth, etc.). What I don’t see is the OT making clear the qualities of the soon-to-arrive messiah and then, sure enough, Jesus fulfills them perfectly.

      • natsera

        Found it! It was written in 1965 by Dr. Hugh Schonfeld. It details how Jesus could have plotted out his own ministry to make it accord with the prophecies (for example, a person who was not a disciple could have arranged for the foal of a white ass to be tethered at the entrance to Bethany, and for it only to be released to someone who said “The master needs him.”) and how he could have arranged to be drugged on the cross (remember the part where they held up a rag soaked with vinegar?), so that he would be taken down while still alive, and then spirited away to be healed, so that he could appear to the disciples after his supposed death. Of course, I have no idea whether any of this is true or not, but it’s what got me thinking that the NT, rather than being a collection of myth, legend, oral history and genealogy, poetry, proverbs and philosophy like the OT, was actually carefully crafted propaganda designed to convert the heathens. And how do you convert the heathens, who believe in magic? By showing them magic, of course!

    • Reading that part about the wolf lying down the lamb, and the lion eating straw like the ox being one of the things which would happen under the Messiah, I was astounded that believers in Jesus as Messiah could simply ignore that, which has obviously not happened (the will to believe is strong however). It’s unsurprising very few Jews had ever become Christians back then, when the “proof” supposedly was, knowing that prophecy.

  • SparklingMoon

    Fact 3: The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed:
    Fact 4: James the brother of Jesus was changed.
    If it is considered that James and Paul ‘both’ had a change after resurrection of Jesus then it is notable that both got a different kind of change. ”Jesus’ brother James, son of Mary (as), was a righteous man. He followed the Torah in everything, believed God to be One without any partner, considered the flesh of swine to be unlawful, faced the Holy Temple while praying— as was the custom of the Jews —and considered himself a Jew in everything, with the exception of his belief in the Prophet hood of Jesus(as). Paul, on the other hand, turned people against the Holy Temple.

    As long as Jesus(as) lived, Paul was his sworn enemy, and, according to Jewish chronicles, he only turned to Christianity after Jesus’ death because he had some selfish desires which the Jews did not fulfil. Therefore, in order to avenge himself, he became a Christian and pretended that Jesus(as)had appeared to him in a vision.If Paul was indeed meant to appear as an Apostle after the Messiah, the latter should have foretold something about him. This was necessary because Paul had bitterly opposed Jesus(as) throughout his life, and had contrived to harm him in every way. How could such a person be trusted after Jesus’ death, unless he himself made a clear prophecy that, although Paul has been my bitter enemy and has done me great harm, he will become an Apostle and a holy man after I am gone.

    This was all the more important because Paul gave a teaching that was against the Torah, and declared eating the flesh of swine to be lawful, and even abolished the Divine commandment regarding circumcision, although it had been greatly stressed in the Torah and all Prophets—including the Messiah himself— had been circumcised. He also replaced the teachings of the Torah regarding the Oneness of God with the teaching of the Trinity,and declared it unnecessary to follow the commandments of the Torah, and turned away from the HolyTemple. It was, therefore, essential that some prophecy should have been made
    regarding this person who played such havoc with the Mosaic Law. But in the absence of any such prophecy in the Gospel, and in view of his hostility towards Jesus(as) and his opposition to the timeless commandments of the Torah, is there any reason at all why he should be accepted as a sage?

    The religion which is championed as ‘Christianity’ is, in fact, the religion of Paul and not that of Christ, for the latter never taught the doctrine of the Trinity. As long as Jesus lived, he only taught the Oneness of God and His being without partner. After he died, his James—who was his successor and a holy man— also taught the Oneness of God.But Paul unjustly opposed him and started preaching contrary to his true teachings,and went to the extent of creating a new faith. He set his followers against the Torah and taught them that there was no need for the Law after the Messiah’s Atonement, and Christians did not need to follow the Torah because the Messiah’s blood was enough to wipe away their sins.
    (Fountain of Christianity)

  • Pofarmer

    These 2 threads, and Kodies very clear prose the last few days, are really harshing my mellow. I feel like I am witnessing the NT being deconstructed by reading the NT. I notice that Karl Udy and Bruno and the other apologists have come and gone. We have SparklingMoon, here, who is confirming that Islam is a special kind of deluded. I mean, really, what are the ramifications of the world under the grip of a fairy tale?

    • MNb

      Alas I’m not convinced that homo sapiens will ever do without fairy tales, even after religion has gone.
      Never underestimate human capacity to delude him/herself.

      • Agreed. There are just too many ups and downs in civilization to imagine that it’s smooth sailing ahead.

    • wtfwjtd

      Deconstruction is kinda fun, eh Pofarmer? Dr David Fitzgerald calls such passages with interesting traits “weird textual features”, or WTF for short.

      • Pofarmer

        It’s a little unsettling, honestly. And knowing my wife is sitting here in the same room, a staunch Catholic, and can’t understand how I can’t beleive anymore. And there ain’t no goin back that I see.

        • Greg G.

          Once you see you were duped, it’s hard to unsee it.

        • wtfwjtd

          I know the feeling. Although my wife and I ditched denominational religion a few decades ago, it’s only been in the last few years that we took a long, hard look at Christianity itself, and found it to be an empty shell. It was a very strange feeling, it still is at times, almost as if…I was living someone else’s life. I have been very fortunate, my wife was interested in my “research”, and then she began doing her own. Once she found Christopher Hitchens, and others, we both pretty much went down the same path together. Like you’ve said, there’s no going back, or as Bob would say, it’s a one-way ratchet.
          Be patient, deconversion is a process, that takes time. As for spousal advice, that’s a tricky one. I would definitely council caution, moderation, and to repeat, patience.

        • Pofarmer

          Listening to Christopher Hitchens debates and talks on youtube was a strong lever for me to. I think my wife would be appalled by him. At least I avoided Michael Kelley.

        • Michael Kelley? Is he an evangelist?

        • Pofarmer

          Catholic Evangelist from Australia. Recently gave a talk here in town. Maybe I should go to these things just to see what they say? But, honestly, I don’t want any part of it, and I want to keep my kids as far away from it as possible. To me, he’s the Catholic version of a snake handler.

    • SparklingMoon

      Firstly, ”Many references in the gospels clearly point out that Jesus(peace be on him) did not die on the Cross; he was saved from it, and migrated to another land.Jesus’ (peace be on him) meeting the disciples after his Crucifixion; his travelling up to Galilee; eating bread and meat; his display of wounds on his body: staying a night with the disciples at Emmaus; fleeing secretly from Pilate’s jurisdiction; emigrating from that place, as was the practice of prophets; and travelling under the shadow of fear – all these events are conclusive that he did not die on the Cross; that his body retained its mortal character; and that it had undergone no change.”

      Secondly,”What is the aim of religion? It is only that man should have full faith in the existence of God and in His perfect attributes, and then deliver himself from his carnal passions and develop a personal love for Him. This, in fact, is the Paradise, which will find various manifestations in the Hereafter. To remain unmindful of the True God, and to keep away from Him, and not to love Him truly, is the Hell which will reveal itself in diverse forms in the Hereafter. The purpose of religion is to attain full faith in the existence of God and to love Him completely.

      Which religion and which book provides the means to achieve this purpose.The Gospel gives a point-blank answer: The door to Divine converse and dialogue is closed, the path to achieving conviction is forever barred, everything is confined to the past, and there is nothing for the future. It is indeed strange that while God can hear in this age, He
      cannot speak! Is there any consolation in the belief that He could hear and speak in the past but now He only hears and cannot speak? What is the use of a ‘God’ who loses his powers with the passage of time, just as man loses his faculties with old age? And what is to be gained from a ‘God’ (of Trinity) who cannot forgive the sins of his servants until he has been flogged, spat in the face, imprisoned for days, and then crucified? We are tired of this ‘God’ who was overwhelmed by the Jews—a helpless people who could not even hold on to their own kingdom. On the other hand, the God Whom we consider to be the True God is He Who appointed as His Messenger a poor and helpless man from Mecca,and showed a manifestation of His power and glory to the whole world at that very time, so much so, that when the Persian Emperor sent his soldiers to arrest the Holy Prophet(sa), the Omnipotent God told him to inform them, “Tonight my God has killed your god.”

      Just consider, in the first instance we have a man who claimed to be God,(according to the faith of Trinity) but ended up being arrested by a Roman soldier and thrown into jail, and his night-long prayers remained unanswered. In the second instance, we have a man(Prophet of Islam) who claimed only to be a Messenger, but God annihilated even the kings who stood up against him! The saying [Be the friend of the mighty, so that you may prevail], is of great value for a seeker after truth.(Fountain of Christianity )

      • Pofarmer

        Is layering a second layer of nonsense over nonsense supposed to make some kind of a rational argument?

        • wtfwjtd

          I was reading a deconstruction of a Jack Chick tract here recently, and I loved this bit of commentary(concerning the Mormon faith):
          “Auntie! Surely you’re not going to believe this unscriptural nonsense? What you need is some scriptural nonsense!”

        • SparklingMoon

          It is not Jesus (as) but the next coming people who had turned his message into a nonsense by their own nonsense explanations over explanation of his teachings and it is God Almighty Who according to His tradition had pointed out the mistakes (made by the followers of Jesus) in His next revelation (in the Quran) after Jesus.

          The revelation of the Quran has cleared Jesus from all blames and has presented his real person and mission: ”And when Allah will say, “O Jesus, son of Mary, didst thou say to men, ‘Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah?’”, he will answer, “Holy art Thou. I could never say that to which I had no right. If I had said it, Thou wouldst have surely known it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy mind. It is only Thou Who art the Knower of hidden things. (Quran5:117-119)

          Mary (the mother of Jesus) is praised in the Quran as a pious and righteous lady and affirms the fatherless birth of Jesus by saying:”Surely, the case of Jesus with Allah is like the case of Adam. He created him out of dust, then He said to him, ‘Be!,’ and he was.”(Quran3:60 ) and his fatherless birth is not interpreted as a source of his being a divinity or as a son of God but always is mentioned a human being: ” The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a Messenger; surely, Messengers like unto him had indeed passed away before him. And his mother was a truthful woman.They both used to eat food. See how We explain the Signs for their good, ”(Quran5:76)

          The people of Jesus ‘ time had tried to bring him to cross for proving a cursed person and Christian started to consider his death on Cross but God Almighty confirms his life after Cross in the Quran: ”And their saying, ‘We did kill the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah;’ whereas they slew him not, nor crucified him,but he was made to appear to them like one crucified.”(Quran: 158) God informs in the Quran that he had made a promise to Jesus that he would be saved by Him from a cursed death and He fulfilled his promise:”O Jesus,I will cause thee to die a natural death and will exalt thee to Myself,and will clear thee from the charges of those who disbelieve.”(Quran 3:56)

          Secondly,”The religions which have spread and are firmly established in the world through Prophets, holding sway over a part of the world and achieving survival and long life, none was false in its origin. Nor was any of those Prophets false … If we should discover mistakes in the scriptures of their religions or should observe the misconduct of their followers, we should not attribute these faults and shortcomings to the founders of these religions, inasmuch as the perversion of scriptures is possible and it is possible that mistakes of interpretation might find their way into the commentaries . But it is not at all possible that a person should fabricate lies against God and claim to be a prophet and then put forward his own compositions as the word of God falsely, and yet God should grant him respite like the righteous and allow him wide acceptance worthy of the truthful.(Gift for Queen)

        • Pofarmer

          THis is so nuts I don’t even know how to respond to it.

        • No, but it makes a double-thick layer of delicious nutty nonsense! With a glass of milk, that’s good eatin’!

  • Good post, Bob. The link to women as burial attendants doesn’t work, however.

  • avalpert

    I just watched some of Mermaids: The New Evidence – a fake documentary with fictional ex-NOAA doctor and all – and it spurred a bit of research on the initial reaction to its airing. Pretty amazing what people are readily willing to believe despite it flying in the face of all rational thought.

    Bottom line, the spread of a religion based on fictional stories, even of recent vintage, would be a wholly unsurprising and unremarkable event in the course of human history.

  • Greg G.

    I remember back when we were young, this topic was going to be a trilogy. This very article was even named “Responding to the Minimal Facts Argument for the Resurrection(2 of 3)”.

    • Pofarmer

      I dunno, I’m pretty well convinced. ;0)

    • That’s Satan playing his tricks, brother. It never said 3. It never said 3.

    • wtfwjtd

      Oh no! Are you suggesting that the sacred text has been tampered with?

  • wtfwjtd

    I’ve been having some more thoughts about this “empty tomb” thing (imagine that). Anyway, a couple of points: This is supposed to be the chief piece of apologist evidence for the authenticity of the resurrection story, and yet it wasn’t officially “discovered” until the fourth century.
    Also, I have a question for your near-eastern historians: Just how long would this “empty tomb” remain empty? John 19:41 gives a hint to where I am going with this: “in the garden (was) a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.” Wasn’t it a common practice to use a tomb for many bodies of several generations? And once the “empty tomb” had been used for (possibly multiple) subsequent burials, wouldn’t that make it pretty hard to refute the original “empty tomb” story?

    • Pofarmer

      “wasn’t officially discovered untill the fourth century”


      • wtfwjtd

        For starters, try reading up on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, among others:

        • I was confused as well. But you’re saying that the tomb was sort of agreed to centuries after the actual event. Is that it?

          Which does raise the question, if the empty tomb is that big a deal, how could it have been forgotten? But perhaps I’m only now understanding the point you initially made.

        • wtfwjtd

          Exactly. And not just forgotten, but very quickly forgotten. If this event was an actual historical event at an actual place, I contend that the location of said event would be a huge deal. Getting “lost in the shuffle” is just more evidence to me that the whole story is a just a legend.

        • Greg G.

          I like to point to Acts 26 where Paul is testifying in Agrippa’s court. He appeals to the Jews as character witnesses that he is not crazy before telling a crazy tale of his conversion and ministry. If Luke has him appealing to the Jews anyway, why not have them tell Agrippa about the empty tomb?

          It seems nobody thought that was such a great argument even then.

        • wtfwjtd

          Good point Greg, if ever there was a time to pull the ace-in-the-hole of the actual location of the actual event, that would be it. The lame old apologist argument that the location was obliterated when Christians were persecuted doesn’t fly here. I don’t think that argument ever had much merit, simply because many of the stories of early Christian persecution are just that, made-up stories.

        • Greg G.

          Better still, he could have called Mary Mag’dalene, Mary the mother of James, the other Mary, Salo’me, Jo-an’na, and the other women with them.

        • wtfwjtd

          Exactly! Why appeal to “them thar Jews” when there was supposedly a ton of eyewitnesses around that saw the alleged events? Couldn’t they have told the court that Paul wasn’t nutty as a fruitcake?

        • wtfwjtd

          …and another thought just occurred to me. Paul appeals to them thar’ Jews as a “character witness”, which I now realize is…nuts. If this was on the level, you know that Paul would have said something like, “the Jews know what a great guy I am, and BTW, they’re the dirty bastards that, only a few years ago, killed this Jesus fellow that I am so gaga about.” But he isn’t aware of this “fact” at all, obviously, as it gets no mention. Either Paul is a complete idiot, or…he just doesn’t know. I am a lot more inclined to think the latter.

        • Pofarmer

          I don’t think I had read ACTS 26 before. What an incredibly weak argument to convince a king. This isn’t even halfway believable fiction.

        • Greg G.

          How can you say that? It’s divinely inspired!

        • Pofarmer

          It’s just so sad that people become judgemental and hateful when you question this stuff. I’m so tired of acting like believing supernatural nonsense is just the way things go.

        • I recently got into a conversation about Christianity and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This believer felt that the FSM was offensive.

          I can see how offending someone isn’t the best way to begin a conversation, but I’m missing why comparing Christianity with other examples is inappropriate. Why should religion get special treatment? A stupid economic policy can be plainly evaluated without causing offense.

          Has anyone else been told that examples were offensive?

        • I recently got into a conversation about Christianity and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This believer felt that the FSM was offensive.

          But isn’t that what it’s intended to be?

          Whatever strategy you want to pursue is up to you, but I don’t know why you’re surprised that people become “judgmental and hateful” when you treat their deeply-held beliefs like a failed scientific hypothesis. They don’t hold these beliefs because of some rational assessment of their truth content, the cultural construct provides them solace, a sense of community, and meaning. Should these things be irrelevant to humanity? Or are people only allowed to derive comfort in the face of adversity from evidence-based beliefs?

          One of the other blogs here had a recent article about an award-winning picture of Filipino women conducting a Christian ritual in the aftermath of a devastating typhoon. The women weren’t picketing an abortion clinic, protesting marriage equality, or pushing pseudoscience in their schools. However, all the nice, safe, Western wiseguys could do was mock and patronize these believers. I realize that nonbelievers were very generous with donations after the typhoon. But the lack of empathy for these people, and the level of scorn for the way they struggled to maintain their community rituals after such devastation, makes me wonder whether there’s a clear understanding among nonbelievers that we all have needs that aren’t material.

        • Pofarmer

          “But isn’t that what it’s intended to be?”

          It’s not intended to be offensive, but it IS, I think, intended to promote people to think about their own belief. Sort of like the Outsiders Test for Faith.

          “They don’t hold these beliefs because of some rational assessment of their truth content, the cultural construct provides them solace, a sense of community, and meaning. ”

          Keep in mind, that, even today, people are willing to kill because of those beliefs. Oppression of Gays and Lesbians is over those beliefs. Spouses will abandon Spouses over a change in those beliefs. It’s not all just feel good mumbo jumbo, or as Kodie puts it, “Mystical woo woo”.

          “there’s a clear understanding among nonbelievers that we all have needs that aren’t material.”

          Rather, I think, the clear understanding needs to be that not everyone believes the same or handles situations the same way, and that needs to be addressed BY believers, not unbelievers.

        • It’s not intended to be offensive, but it IS, I think, intended to promote people to think about their own belief.

          By reducing it to a caricature? Like I said, if this is just a way to rib people online, fine. But it’s really supposed to promote greater understanding to parody people’s religious symbols?

          Keep in mind, that, even today, people are willing to kill because of those beliefs.

          But like I said, the Filipino women in the photo weren’t killing or harming or oppressing anyone. These rituals and symbols were meant to give them solace in the aftermath of a disaster. I still wonder whether patronizing them, or comparing them to murderers, is the best way we have of understanding their perspective or their behavior in this situation.

        • Pofarmer

          Let me get you a fainting couch, Anton.

          “But it’s really supposed to promote greater understanding to parody people’s religious symbols?”

          Humor can often hide truth. Anything that gets people to think. Quite often, people have not really been exposed to any other belief system.

          As far as the Filipino women, I could give a fuck less. Atheists have to go around all day, every day, for the most part, acting as if all these competing belief systems around them have the same amount of empirical background and everybody can believe what they want and that’s just hunky dory. Ya know what, that has got something like 50% of Christians in this nation believing in Young Earth Creationism. It’s a travesty. So if people can come on line and blow off a little steam, why the fuck should you care, honestly? We have to put up with these silly, outdated, unhelpful beliefs EVERY. FUCKING. DAY. Maybe we have immaterial needs too?

        • Let me get you a fainting couch, Anton.

          Classy as always.

          Anything that gets people to think. Quite often, people have not really been exposed to any other belief system.

          And I was trying to get you to think too, about the reason these people have their symbols and rituals. I guess only other people need to examine their worldviews.

          As far as the Filipino women, I could give a fuck less.

          I was just bringing it up as an example of how, sometimes, empathy is lacking in the way nonbelievers look at the purpose of myth and ritual in people’s lives. But if you don’t give a fuck, I guess that’s fine.

          So if people can come on line and blow off a little steam, why the fuck should you care, honestly? We have to put up with these silly, outdated, unhelpful beliefs EVERY. FUCKING. DAY. Maybe we have immaterial needs too?

          No, Po-man, you seem to have your shit together just fine. Obviously the Truth is its own solace.

        • Pofarmer

          “I guess only other people need to examine their worldviews.”

          Anton, I’ve BEEN THERE. I’ve wanted to believe so bad, but, nuthin. My examination is ongoing.

        • MNb

          “the purpose of myth … in people’s lives”
          As you may know I live in Suriname, with a lot of marroons around who only relatively recently have been christianized. There has been some speculation about a tsunami beginning at the Canary Islands reaching Suriname. Two marroon women immediately linked it to Noah and his Great Flood. They think it’s absolutely historical. Thanks to your co-christians (some of Dutch, other of American origin).
          Yes, I do give a fuck, because this irrationality may influence the way this danger affects them and the community I am part of. When I asked one of the two – I have known her for many years – if she had to choose between biblical myth and scientific prediction she without any hesitation picked biblical myth, because “else I would go mad”.
          I have nothing against “the Bible is a bunch of myths” christianity like yours, but you guys do a damn bad job promoting your brand of christianity. All American missionaries in Suriname are fundies; I suspect it’s the same in Africa. What do you do and your cobelievers against them? Nothing, because bashing some atheists on internet is so much easier?
          Fyi: I try to teach those people some actual science – math and physics.

        • adam
        • I agree with your point about offensiveness. I can make a point, and you can take it any way you want. I can’t keep you from being offended (though I’ll be more persuasive if I can avoid the offense).

        • Pofarmer

          Sometimes people are just looking to be offended.

        • If you say, “I am Napoleon!” and seem serious about it, then I’ll just walk away and hope you don’t notice me. If you make a claim about reality, I may do you the courtesy of taking your claim at face value.

          If that claim is “Germany bombed Pearl Harbor” or “There is a supernatural creator of the universe who answers prayers,” I may point out where those claims are not supported by the evidence.

          You’re not saying that some beliefs are off limits from criticism, right?

          I don’t know why you’re surprised that people become “judgmental and hateful” when you treat their deeply-held beliefs like a failed scientific hypothesis.

          Sure. If someone has a belief, they can get prickly when I challenge it. I’m wondering if I’ve crossed some objective line of decency.

          Should these things be irrelevant to humanity?

          No. Should they be immune to critique?

          If the issue was, “Look, I just like blue, OK? So get off my back!” then I’m probably at fault if I want to challenge a belief that causes no harm. If the belief actually can have harm, then I don’t see the problem.

          Or are people only allowed to derive comfort in the face of adversity from evidence-based beliefs?

          Do we really need to go there? Placebos are our only option in some cases? This is Marx’s “religion is the opium of the masses”—wouldn’t we be able to fix problems better if we saw them accurately rather than covering up the symptoms?

          To your typhoon aftermath point: if we need placebos, let’s at least try to minimize their use.

        • Thanks for the response, Bob.

          If you make a claim about reality

          I wasn’t talking about claims about reality or scientific hypotheses. I wasn’t talking about teaching pseudoscience or legislating homophobia. I was talking about symbols and rituals that serve a purpose in people’s existence. The traditions and rites that resonate in a community aren’t based on scientific facts, and the only reason to criticize or challenge or critique them is if they’re harming or oppressing people.

          I mentioned the Filipino women conducting a religious ritual after the devastating typhoon. I don’t think this ceremony was performed to do anything other than take a moment to honor the dead and suffering, and give the survivors solace. Isn’t that important?

          Do we really need to go there? Placebos are our only option in some cases? This is Marx’s “religion is the opium of the masses”—wouldn’t we be able to fix problems better if we saw them accurately rather than covering up the symptoms?

          I don’t think that a ritual is a “placebo,” it’s just something that provides comfort for the survivors of tragedy, and gives some sort of meaning and continuity to their broken lives. Nothing is going to “fix” the problem of dead relatives and destroyed villages; it’s just how people summon the strength to do the hard work of rebuilding and going on.

          Does this deserve to be critiqued, or does it serve a purpose?

        • I wasn’t talking about claims about reality or scientific hypotheses.

          “There is a supernatural being who answers prayers” is a claim about reality.

          I was talking about symbols and rituals that serve a purpose in people’s existence.

          If you have a cross in your house and that’s it, that’s one thing. But I’m sure you agree that some beliefs have an impact on the rest of society (“evolution is BS because the Bible says so,” “global warming is BS because God will take care of us,” and so on).

          Mocking your cross is one thing. Trying to correct unscientific beliefs that have an impact on society is another.

          The traditions and rites that resonate in a community

          Are we talking about different things here? If it’s just your thing (you wear magic underwear or keep kosher, for example), then I agree that I am crossing a politeness line in mocking a tradition that causes no harm. But the FSM has nobler goals than that.

        • Mocking your cross is one thing. Trying to correct unscientific beliefs that have an impact on society is another.

          These Filipino women praying seem to believe that such a ritual was necessary, and that the impact that their ritual had was positive: it provides them and their community solace, continuity, and meaning.

          Are any of those things not real? Or are they just not important because they’re not scientific?

        • You keep hiding behind an innocuous ritual that doesn’t cause much harm. Again, I think we’re on the same page.

          We could talk about that if you insist, but the harmful beliefs that are mocked by bringing up the FSM are where this conversation started.

        • Pofarmer

          “it provides them and their community solace, continuity, and meaning.”

          What do you think they expect from this ritual? What do you think they think of others who don’t participate in it?

        • BTW, here’s a post from the Camels with Hammers blog that goes into an atheist’s justifiable outrage at celebrating Jesus. FYI.

        • wtfwjtd

          “But isn’t that what it’s intended to be?”

          In a word, no. Pastafarianism was started as a way to highlight the absurdity of giving a 2,500 year old text–i.e., the Bible and “creationism”– equal billing to modern science in the science classrooms of public schools. Is it satire? Yes, and at times it can be rather biting satire. But its purpose is not simply to mock Christianity–that’s done easily enough without the FSM–it’s just a tool, to be used to accomplish a purpose, and that purpose is teaching modern science in the science classroom, and not teaching bronze-age mythology as science in the science classroom.

        • Kodie

          I read that article and the comments before responding and I don’t really know what you’re complaining about. That the photo is depressing and tragic is obvious. It is depressing and tragic as well that their religious beliefs are taking priority, that they are clinging to material objects that cannot help them at all, and saving them from the rubble. What is mocking and patronizing about seeing that in this picture? We are nice, safe Westerners talking to each other, not writing letters to the Filipino woman to beg her to stop depressing us by doing wrong things.

          It is tragic that this is the natural outcome of complacency when it comes to religion. Sure, at the most tragic time of some people’s lives, they reach for comfort. Now is not the time to bring it up, but when we bring it up other times, I mean, it’s just never the right time to discuss tearing people away from their comforting beliefs. We’re just talking to each other trying to make sense of it too. It is like saying to a person whose sibling just died from drunk driving and meanwhile took out another car that was full of babies, and say to your friend, well, this wouldn’t have happened if she just called a cab. Could’a, would’a, should’a.

          I don’t think a single person in the world (or ok, this blog or the other one you read) is considering to tell a person that they cannot, in this moment, find comfort in whatever silly ideas they find comfort in when they need this comfort right now, and this silly way is how they get it. The tragedy is that this always happens, and nobody prevented it from happening. We’re never allowed to talk about it because someone finds it too comforting and might get upset. We can’t take their magic source of strength and comfort away because then they’ll have nothing? I mean, right now, that would be the least effective thing to do to help them, and we do tolerate it an awful lot because it’s what they think they need and it’s immediately needed, just like, say, I might call my mother if my building burned down. It’s happened before and I don’t think anything very comforting came out of it. She’s not a comforting person, but she is my mother, after all. It’s supposed to work, but it’s not an effective method for overcoming a disaster. But if anybody told me then not to call my mother, because they know that doesn’t accomplish anything, least of all true comfort or strength, I probably wouldn’t have listened to them. But I know for the future not to expect that and maybe call and let her know I’m in a tough spot so she’s in the loop, but get my comfort someplace else.

        • Pofarmer

          That’s been my question, too. How the hell do you lose the tomb? How the hell do you lose the Ark of the Covenant.

  • SparklingMoon

    Fact 5:The tomb was empty.This is a bonus “fact” ….He says that “75% of scholars on the subject accept the empty tomb as a historical fact,”
    From the mere fact of Jesus not being in the tomb, can anybody in reason believe that he had gone up to heaven? May there not be other causes as a result of which tombs might remain empty.

    One observes with regret that while, on the one hand, it is said that he was made to live again and assume a spiritual body,that he met the disciples and went to Galilee and thence went to heaven, he is nevertheless afraid of the Jews for quite trivial things and, in spite of his glorious body, he fled secretly from the country, lest the Jews discover him; he made a journey of seventy miles to Galilee in order to save his life and time and again asked the people not to mention this to others. Are these the signs and ways of a glorious body? No, the truth is that it was not a new and a glorious body — it was the same body, with wounds on it, which had been saved from death; and, as there was still the fear of the Jews, Jesus, making use of all precautions, left the land.( Jesus in India)

    • The Christian story is that he walked around in his ordinary body for a bit (they sources can’t agree on how long) and then went to heaven.

      • wtfwjtd

        Not quite ordinary; remember, he could pass through walls, and then after 1 or 8 or 40 days (or pick your own number), he flew up into outer space while the disciples were watching.

        • Why not 1, 8, and 40 days?

          If God, Jesus, and that other guy can be one and not one, surely a little number prestidigitation isn’t hard.

        • wtfwjtd

          Speaking of which,am I the only one who thinks that Jesus praying to God is… a little weird?

        • Pofarmer

          God raping a woman to give birth to himself to make himself a sacrifice to himself isn’t weird?

        • SparklingMoon

          The mother’s ovum contains 23 chromosomes and so does the father’s sperm. As such, one can reasonably expect half the characters bearing genes of the child to be provided by the female and half by the male partner. This is the meaning of a literal son. There is no other definition of being a literal son which can be ascribed to any human birth.Scientifically, Mary could not provide the 46 chromosomes alone, 23 had to come from somewhere else. If God is the father then that presents several options. One; God also has the same chromosomes that humans have, and these must have been transferred somehow to the uterus of Mary. That is unbelievable and unacceptable; if God has the chromosomes of human beings it means he is no longer God. So as a consequence of belief in Jesus as the literal ‘Son’ of God, even the divinity of the Father is jeopardized.The second possibility is that God created the extra chromosomes as a supernatural phenomenon of creation. In other words, they did not actually belong to the person of God, but were created miraculously. This would automatically lead us to reject Jesus’ relationship to God as one of child and father, and would result in the all embracing relationship of the Universe to God, that is, the relationship of every created being to its Creator.

          Those things that appeared to be miracles in the early ages are no longer considered so. Miracles are so, only in relation to man’s knowledge in a specific period of time. When a special exercise of God’s power is displayed, apparently a law is broken. But it is not so; it is a hidden law that was already there and came into operation through God’s command. The people of that time could not have understood that law nor had they any control over it. The knowledge of man is limited whereas that of God is unlimited. If a law comes into operation that is beyond the scope of man’s knowledge, it looks like a miracle. But looking retrospectively at such instances with the hindsight of knowledge gained since, we can dismiss all such so called breaches of the laws of nature as merely natural phenomena which were not fully comprehended by the man of that age. There had to be a natural phenomenon responsible for the single parent birth of Jesus Christ, which was unknown to man of that period; it is not fully known to man even today. But science is advancing in that direction and more is being understood. A time may therefore come, when no one will be able to claim that the birth of Jesus was unnatural. They would have to agree that it was a natural but rare occurrence, so rare that it seldom occurs in human experience.(Christianity a journey from facts to fiction)

        • Pofarmer

          Isn’t it a lot easier to assume that a) the divinity story was made up or b) that Jesus is a myth? Occams razor and all that.

        • wtfwjtd

          Ok, you got me Pofarmer, your example is weirder than mine.

        • adam

        • You’d think that telepathy would be the way to do it.

          But hey–who hasn’t talked to himself?

        • wtfwjtd

          That’s very true–I admit it, I talk to myself out loud all the time, especially while working in the shop. And, I guess a god would have a little difficulty in having an intelligent conversation with anyone but himself.

        • adam

          UNBELIEVABLY weird, unbelievably…..

        • SparklingMoon

          he flew up into outer space while the disciples were watching.
          When we deeply contemplate the verses of religious books we find that their descriptions never present God as a person who is sitting somewhere above in the sky. Some people, by mistake, have interpreted His attribute ‘Most Highest’ by saying as He is sitting somewhere above in the heights of sky. (As a inhabitant of earth we are moving in the space and people living in different parts of the earth have different directions of their sky. God is Omnipresent according to all religions and if it is considered that He is a sitting in the height of sky then we have to decide a particular direction for Him and that is against His attributes.

          There is a difference between Sky and Heaven. It is described in religious books that God is in Heaven. Heaven is actually a name of the height of God’s attributes and His existence is in the height of His spiritual attribute (and it has no relation to physical height.) A person have to make a journey from the outer to depth of a particle to understand the meanings of this spiritual height or Heaven of God.

          Causes and effects of this Physical world lead to a world small in size, particles to sub particles that gradually become invisible and finally change into energy. Angels are the middle sources of these energies to transform God’s different spiritual attributes in this universe for the making and maintaining of its different particles.

          God’s Heaven is the highest height of His spirituality that locates inside each and every particle of this physical world and its all particles are physical manifestation of His different Attributes and taking their sustenance constantly (for their maintenance) from His Attributes through Angels( that are middle source as the sanctity of His spirituality stops Him to communicate a physical object).

          This thinking about Jesus that ”he flew up into outer space while the disciples were watching.” is scientifically and religiously wrong. According to the Laws of Nature a person can not survive in outer space with one’s physical body and religiously also a person can not enter into Heaven with one’s physical body therefore the descriptions of the Gospels need a right explanation.

        • wtfwjtd

          According to the Laws of Nature a person can not survive in outer space with one’s physical body

          We are certainly in agreement there. So are you saying that instead of being “taken up (into the sky) before their very eyes”, as Acts 1:9-11 states, that Jesus somehow just **poof** disappeared? Then why were the disciples “looking intently up into the sky”?

        • SparklingMoon-

          We are certainly in agreement there. So are you saying that instead of being “taken up (into the sky) before their very eyes”, as Acts 1:9-11 states, that Jesus somehow just **poof** disappeared? Then why were the disciples “looking intently up into the sky”?
          At the time of Jesus, people of twelve tribes of Israel had been waiting for a Messiah according to the prophecies of Old Testament and Jesus as a Messiah had to reform them. There existed only two tribes in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus as other ten had been scattered by a king Bakht Nasr in different places of Asia like Afghanistan Tibet Kashmir etc. Jesus had told in Gospels that he was sent for lost sheep of Israel and it was a part of his divine mission to visit these other ten tribes also to reform them. The against circumstances had compelled him earlierto move to Asia in search of other tribes as he could not continue his mission in Jerusalem further.

          As Jesus was already told by God about his survival therefore he had prophesied that he would remain between life and death for three days after cross and like prophet Jonah would be saved.The companions who had left him alone had gathered again around him after seeing this miracle. The last meeting of Jesus with his companion is stated: ”the eleven disciples went into Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had given them orders to go.And when they saw him they gave him worship: but some were in doubt.” (Matthew 28:16) Jesus departed his companion near a mountain and started his journey by climbing towards the upper part of the mountain to go to other side, and upper parts of high mountains are mostly covered by clouds therefore His companion could not see him more when he reached up to the height of mountain where clouds had covered the area .As it states in the Act 1:9: ”while they were looking, he was taken up, and went from their view into a cloud.”

          Secondly,Some descriptions and words ( Jesus taken into heaven ) that had been used by his companions were actually for his safety. According to the decision of Roman Court Jesus must be killed on cross and if, for example, had been caught alive,then must had been brought again to cross for killing. It was a device of his companion to stop his enemies for his searching.

        • Nerdsamwich

          The Mount of Olives is not that tall. In most of the US, it would be considered a small hill. There are no mountains worth the term in that area, much less mountains that reach above the clouds. You’re scraping the bottom of the barrel for your rationalizations.

        • Nerdsamwich

          “God is Omnipresent according to all religions…” This is just not true. Most religions have placed their gods in particular places; sometimes residing only in one specific object. The Greek gods lived at the top of Mount Olympus, the Norse pantheon inhabited Asgard, animist spirits dwell within basically every object you encounter. In the Bible, “the heavens” does actually refer to the actual, physical sky. YHWH started out as a storm god who rode through the air on a black cloud, chucking lightning bolts at those who angered him.Later, after the Hebrews had forsaken their other gods, they built YHWH a house to live in: the grand Temple. Omnipresence is a really recent idea, historically speaking.

  • stnwljksn

    a couple of problems.

    1. Bob, you’re spending time debating Gary’s assertions but that’s just it – these assertions aren’t Gary’s but are are from atheist, agnostic and skeptical scholars. So, in reality your not disagreeing with an evangelical you’re disagreeing with atheists, agnostics and skeptics of some of the greatest universities of the world.

    2. Which of these atheist, agnostic and skeptical scholars do you think are wrong?

    • Gary defends the resurrection, and his arguments fail. For more details, see the posts.

      • stnwljksn

        That’s not an argument, Bob. First you would have to show where Gary’s timeline and minimal facts argument fails in relation to the scholars he cites. The scholars he utilizes for his minimal facts presentation are all atheists, agnostics or skeptics. Are you saying that those scholars he cites are wrong as well especially about 1 Corinthians 15:3-8?

        • It’s a 2-post series. That’s the argument. I’m sure there are plenty of specifics in there for you to wrestle with.

          If you’re wishing that I’d responded to a different argument of Gary’s … well, I guess I didn’t.

        • stnwljksn

          Why don’t you interact with his minimal facts argument? Too worried that atheists and agnostics might expose your blog writings as mostly bull shit?

        • Kodie

          Are you ever worried that your illiteracy might cause problems for you once you graduate from your mom’s house school?

        • stnwljksn

          try again Kodie – Habermas’s minimal facts argument is based on the scholarship of atheists, agnostics and skeptics only. Bob should try interacting with that.

        • Kodie

          You should try talking without all that shit in your mouth.

        • adam


          You mean like Santa Claus is ‘based’ on St Nickolas

          Here is Bob interacting with the minimal fast argument:

        • adam

          Why dont you give it your BEST SHOT to expose Bob’s writings as mostly bull shit?

          I KNOW Bob just loves those kind of challanges.

          Or is that what you THINK you are already giving it YOUR best shot?

        • stnwljksn

          are you a caveman?

        • adam


          Is THIS your best shot at exposing Bob’s writings as mostly bull shit?

        • stnwljksn

          i simply ask that Bob interact with Habermas’s minimal facts argument. A real scholar/apologist would do such a thing. It’s not something I expect him to do it’s something I’d like him to do – it would offer him a higher level of integrity.

        • Greg G.

          Which of Habermas’ minimal facts has he not addressed?

        • Been there, bitch-slapped that. In fact, I wrote a whole post about that–two, in fact. Check ’em out.

        • Greg G.

          Bob lists five facts in his two articles on The Minimal Facts argument and addresses each one.

          Fact 1: Jesus died by crucifixion.
          Fact 2: The disciples believed that Jesus rose and appeared to them.
          Fact 3: The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed:
          Fact 4: James the brother of Jesus was changed.
          Fact 5: The tomb was empty.

          The Minimal Facts Approach to the Resurrection of Jesus: The Role of Methodology as a Crucial Component in Establishing Historicity was posted by Gary Habermas, Liberty University on August 2, 2012 and was originally published in the Southeastern Theological Review 3/1 (Summer 2012) 15–26. So it was posted several months before Bob wrote these two articles.

          On that page we find:

          Licona begins by listing my three chief Minimal Facts regarding Jesus’ fate:
          (1) Jesus died due to the process of crucifixion.
          (2) Very soon afterwards, Jesus’ disciples had experiences that they believed were appearances of the resurrected Jesus.
          (3) Just a few years later, Saul of Tarsus also experienced what he thought was a post-resurrection appearance of the risen Jesus (pp. 302-3).

          Third, I go back and forth on whether to count the testimony of James the brother of Jesus among the Minimal Facts. I have included it more than once as a Minimal Fact, and so do Licona and I in our co-authored volume on the resurrection.


          Lastly, I want to make a brief comment about the current research on the empty tomb. Licona’s comments might be misunderstood as saying that, in deciding against including the empty tomb among the Minimal Facts (pp. 461-4, p. 618), that he somehow differs from my own assessment on this. But I have never counted the empty tomb as a Minimal Fact; it is very obvious that it does not enjoy the near-unanimity of scholarship. From the very beginning of my research, I have been very clear about this. Of course, Licona knows this, so the comment is not being directed to him, but rather is made for the sake of clarification.

          So, Bob has addressed three of the Minimal Facts used by Habermas and Licona plus one that is sometimes a Minimal Fact and one that has been mistaken so often as one that Habermas had to explicitly deny it.

          Why don’t you interact with his minimal facts argument? Too worried that atheists and agnostics might expose your blog writings as mostly bull shit?

          Looks like the bullshit is on the other foot – yours.

  • Mark Dowd

    I know this post is really old, but all this crap just leads you to “questioning” his scholarship? By the time you get to the second comma in the first fucking sentence you already know enough to KNOW that anything he writes on a religious topic will not be scholarship but deceitful propaganda.

    I hate being coy. Call a spade a fucking spade.

    • Not how I roll. I want this blog to be somewhat attractive to Christians.

      Why spend a lot of time educating you about something you already know? Christians are my primary interest.

      • Mark Dowd

        I’m not saying you need to swear like I did in my comment, but it’s unnecessarily wishy-washy. There is no “question” at all that Habermas does not have a sincere commitment to honest scholarship, and that every point in the argument is a hack job thats worth less than the paper it’s printed on*. It’s like saying that you have “doubts” about Trump’s honesty, to use a current example.

        It may come down to a matter of taste. I read “The God Delusion” as a half-assed Catholic raised by half-assed Catholics that didn’t even know “atheist” was a word. I was an example of the “I didn’t know it was an option” kind of person he starts the book talking about. For all that he gets vilified as “strident” and “militant” I found the book to be extremely tame to read. Once I finished it, any vestiges of religion left in me died. There was no angst, no soul searching, no crisis. It was just “So that’s how it really is” and it was done.

        Everyone’s story is differwnt though, and the things they respond to will be different as well. I don’t have any complaints about most of the writing on your blog here, it’s just that one sentence that stuck out at me today. It gives him far more benefit of the doubt than he deserves.

        * I know it’s not printed on paper. That’s the joke.

        • If I say, “As that [adjective] WLC says…” then I must expect someone to demand that I justify the adjective. We’ll probably just have to accept that I need to pick a tone, and I won’t be as strident as you. But I can’t imagine that you can’t mentally translate in some improved words of your own if you so choose.

          What drives me crazy about criticism of Dawkins is them attacking the arguments as philosophically weak but then never specifying what the exact problem(s) are. Plantinga said that to call God Delusion sophomoric would be an insult to sophomores. OK, that’s a clever line, but back it up with evidence, bitch.

  • Did the author of this article intend to make appeals to possibility and merely dismiss historical facts? This is disappointing.

    I think we can see the facts that hit hard against skepticism such as Paul and James’s conversions from opposition via experiences of Jesus’s resurrection. The lack of explanation for the empty tomb and various witnesses stands out. The explanatory power goes to Jesus’s resurrection.

    • Michael Neville

      What is the historical evidence for the “empty tomb”. It’s a plot device in the fictional book called the Bible. That the Bible is fiction is shown in the conflicting accounts of the “various witnesses”. The explanatory power goes to why would any rational person think that Jesus was resurrected when there’s zip point zero evidence for it besides the collection of myths, fables and lies that is the Bible,

    • It’s a story. The conversions are just part of the story. Even if it was universally accepted that two men became convinced that their leader rose from the dead, so what? Lots of people believe nutty stuff.

      The quality of evidence Christians can point to is paltry.