Responding to the Minimal Facts Argument for the Resurrection

Habermas Minimal Facts ResurrectionGary Habermas claims that the resurrection claim is well evidenced because most scholars accept it. That claim crumbles for many reasons (more here). Let’s move on to consider his larger argument, the minimal facts approach to the resurrection as documented in The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Mike Licona (2004).

I like the idea. Habermas wants to minimize the number of facts necessary to build his foundation and use only claims granted by “virtually all scholars on the subject, even the skeptical ones.” He thinks four such “facts” are sufficient to show that the resurrection actually happened. (Going forward, I’ll use Habermas as a stand-in for the two authors.)

Let’s see if the argument holds up.

Fact 1: Jesus died by crucifixion. Habermas points to the gospels, which are first-century writings that all report a crucifixion. From outside the Bible, he gives Lucian, Mara Bar Serapion, and the Talmud, but these all appear to be second-century writings and don’t add a lot. An earlier non-Christian source is Josephus, but Josephus’s two references to Jesus appear to have been added or modified by later scribes (more here).

Habermas concludes, prematurely, “Clearly, Jesus’ death by crucifixion is a historical fact supported by considerable evidence.” The story does gradually became widespread, though this was long after the time of Jesus. That doesn’t make it “historical fact.”

Fact 2: The disciples believed that Jesus rose and appeared to them. The disciples went from cowards hiding from the authorities to bold proclaimers of the gospels, even to the point of martyrdom.

Yes, that’s what the story says, but let’s be skeptical about stories. We don’t take at face value the story about Merlin being a shape-shifting wizard. We don’t even unskeptically take the very un-supernatural claim that Arthur was king of England. Why then take elements of the supernatural Jesus story as history, even the natural ones?

In the second place, the “Who would die for a lie?” argument (that the disciples’ deaths is strong evidence) also fails. In brief, the historical evidence for apostles’ martyrdom is weak (more here).

Finally, the claim that the gospels document eyewitness history is also suspect when we don’t even know who wrote them (more here).

The gospel mentions emboldened disciples, but until we have good evidence otherwise, this is a story rather than history. Both “But they were eyewitnesses!” and “But they died for their faith!” are poorly evidenced claims.

The sources

Habermas gives Paul as one important source. It is rather incredible that Christianity was so strongly shaped by Paul, someone who wasn’t even a disciple of Jesus. Paul claimed to have known Peter, James, and John and claimed apostolic authority, but some random dude is just going to step in and declare that he’s got it all figured out, and he becomes part of the canon? Paul is authoritative, just because.

Habermas argues that 1 Corinthians 15:3–5 is an early creed and so is very close to the events it claims to document. But a creed is simply a statement that is taken on faith, not evidence or an argument. His argument that these verses look distinct from the rest of Paul’s epistle could just as easily argue that they were added later. Note also that Paul’s Jesus story reads as mythology and is not grounded in history (more here).

Other authorities are church fathers Clement and Polycarp. Habermas argues that they were taught by the apostles, but his evidence comes from 150 years after the death of Jesus.

The innocence of a child

The credulity of Habermas is a little hard to believe. He says:

[The disciples] denied and abandoned [Jesus], then they hid in fear. Afterward, they willingly endangered themselves by publicly proclaiming the risen Christ (p. 56).

It’s just a story, and an untrustworthy one at that since we have a poor view of the original events (more here). Is this history? Show us.

Habermas again:

The apostles died for holding to their own testimony that they had personally seen the risen Jesus. Contemporary martyrs die for what they believe to be true. The disciples of Jesus died for what they knew to be either true or false (p. 59).

Habermas says that what we read is consistent with apostles seeing a risen Jesus, but of course that’s begging the question. Habermas assumes what he’s trying to prove. The honest interpretation is that we just have a story about Jesus and his apostles, and the stories of martyrdom developed decades later. Neither is history.

Naysayers

Here’s a common error that Habermas repeats several times.

If the news spread that several of the original disciples had recanted, we would expect that Christianity would have been dealt a severe blow (p. 60).

This is the Naysayer Hypothesis—the idea that a false story would have crumbled after the corrections of naysayers, those people who knew the truth. Here again, Habermas starts with the assumption that the Jesus story is correct and then wonders what would happen in various situations. This is backwards. Instead, start with the documents that we know exist and see where the evidence points.

I list 10 reasons why the Naysayer Hypothesis is flawed. To give just one, ask yourself why anyone who knew that Jesus was not divine would spend his life stamping out the brush fires of Christian belief throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.

And one final quibble: notice the word “recant” above. The only people I’ve heard who suggest that the disciples deliberately invented the story (and had something to recant) are apologists. I presume that the Paul and the gospel authors honestly believed, just like Christians today.

Since the original disciples were making the claim that Jesus rose from the dead, his resurrection was not the result of myth making. His life story was not embellished over time if the facts can be traced to the original witnesses (p. 60).

And again Habermas starts with an assumption, this time that the gospels come from the disciples’ eyewitness accounts. Habermas acts as if he can’t tell a story from history.

Next time: The remaining “facts” in Part 2

Our objective is to arrive at
the most plausible explanation of the data.
— Habermas and Licona,
The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, p. 83

Photo credit: British American

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Greg G.

    Galatians 1:11-12
    11 For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; 12 for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

    Romans 16:25-27
    25 Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith

    Ephesians 3:3,5
    3 and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words,

    5 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:

    Paul didn’t receive knowledge of Jesus through human contact but from the scriptures of the day. Even Pseudo-Paul who wrote Ephesians knew it. In 1 Corinthians 15, when Paul writes about Christ appeared to Cephas, the twelve, James, and the other apostles, he uses the Greek word “optanomai” which is the same word he uses for how Christ appeared to him as if he thinks the appearances are similar to his. When Paul defends his apostleship against the super-apostles.

    2 Corinthians 11:5-6
    5 I think that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. 6 I may be untrained in speech, but not in knowledge; certainly in every way and in all things we have made this evident to you.

    If Paul knew there were people who had known a real Jesus, how could he make that statement? The following is what he thought of the other apostles.

    Galatians 2:6-9
    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. 7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter making him an apostle to the circumcised also worked through me in sending me to the Gentiles), 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who were acknowledged pillars, recognized the grace that had been given to me, they gave to Barnabas and me the right hand of fellowship, agreeing that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.

    Paul doesn’t help the argument of Habermas and Licona. The idea that Jesus was crucified in the first century didn’t arise until Mark wrote about it after the destruction of Jerusalem, when it was too late for Naysayer Argument. Even if the apostles died for their beliefs, it doesn’t help the argument because the beliefs of the apostles were not what Habermas and Licona think.

    • wtfwjtd

      Also note how Paul’s apostolic creed of I Corinthians 15:3-5 begins: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance”…
      How would this help Habermas’s case? Even taken at face value Paul is just a messenger boy. He’s merely “passing on what he received”, not what he saw or witnessed or experienced.

      • KarlUdy

        The “received/passed on” wording is the same as that used by someone who has been taught in Greek philosophical schools or Jewish rabbinical schools. It indicates that a process not dissimilar to an actor learning lines has happened. And it is part of the evidence that this is a quote of an earlier creed as opposed to a later addition.

        • Greg G.

          A creed is a statement of faith. It is recited in lieu of evidence. There is nothing in it that couldn’t have been “received” from OT scripture.

        • KarlUdy

          So you think that Christ dying, being buried, rising on the third day, and appearing to the twelve is something Paul received (ie memorized) from the OT?

        • Greg G.

          Yes, I was writing a different response to you that addressed this when you posted your question. The one part that doesn’t come from the OT is the interpretation of “appearing to” which is read backwards into 1 Corinthians from the gospels by Christians for over 19 centuries.

        • KarlUdy

          How could it have been read backwards from the gospels when it was written in 1 Corinthians before the gospels were written?

        • Greg G.

          Ephesians 3:5 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:
          Even the writer of Ephesians thought that what the apostles believed came from a mystery that was being revealed, not something they actually experienced. They believed that Jesus was a mythical figure who was crucified and resurrected in the deep past, much like the deeds of the Greek gods, for example. Many sects believed a Messiah was coming. Their sect believed that he came once at some undefined time in the past, but the fact that they were learning about it by this new way of reading the scriptures (that is, taking verses out of context) was a sign the Messiah was coming within their lifetimes. That’s what was revealed to them.
          After Mark wrote the story of a first century Jesus, people started reading that idea into 1 Corinthians. Before that, it had an entirely different meaning – that the other apostles experience and revelation were no different than Paul’s as he describes theirs the same way he describes his own.
          He also argues that his knowledge is equal to other apostles and he didn’t learn anything from them. If they had actually seen a risen Jesus, he would have been amazed, but they didn’t tell him anything he didn’t have revealed from scripture.

        • KarlUdy

          Where do you get these novel ideas from?

        • Greg G.

          The seed of doubt about the historicity of Jesus sprouted a few years ago but I didn’t embrace it because of the scholarly consensus. I began to study the material and their methods versus the methods of historians and the idea became less credible. I had read and heard Carrier but I also read a dozen books by Ehrman. I expected Ehrman to give the best possible case for the existence of Jesus, but it was very weak. So, I read Doherty’s The Jesus Myth (I think that’s the title of the book, but I have a feeling I’ve misremembered) and he made much better arguments.

          Then I read Price’s The Christ-Myth Theory. He shows that various scholars have accounted for nearly every passage in Mark having come from earlier sources, such as the most popular Greek literature and Hebrew literature. I have found that Mark also used Christian literature, too. Since there is nothing there that can actually be from the so-called “oral traditions”, it’s a created fiction. The other gospels rely on it, so they don’t have much “oral tradition” either.

          Read Dennis R. MacDonald’s The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark first to see how Mark uses mimesis to turn The Odyssey into Jesus’ travels around the Sea of Galilee and the Death of Hector in The Iliad into the Passion story. Then read Randel Helms’ Gospel Fictions to see how Mark has Jesus doing the miracles of Moses, Elijah, and Elisha. It becomes apparent that Mark is applying mimesis to the OT, too. Also, when Helms talks about Mark relying on traditions in the setting for the miracles, you realize that Mark is relying on Homer. Note: As far as I know, MacDonald and Helms are Christians and believe in a historical Jesus.

          Then when you read the non-miracle stories, even they don’t seem plausible anymore. Mark 7:1-19 seems to come from the argument between Paul and Peter in Galatians 2, but Paul voices Jesus’ argument against Peter and since Barnabas was led astray, Peter may have bested him, which doesn’t make sense that Peter would oppose the argument if Jesus used it. In Mark 2, the Pharisees popping up in a grain field on a Sabbath doesn’t sound plausible but Jesus’ complete misreading of 1 Samuel 21 is pretty pathetic.

          Notice that the early epistles do not support the Minimal Historical Jesus Theory in any way. They do not tell anything about a teacher or his teachings, a preacher or his preachings, or a single quote, or a single anecdote. They only talk about Jesus being crucified and resurrected but never give any details that cannot be found in Hebrew scripture of the day.

          The complete lack of evidence doesn’t tell you there was no Jesus. For that you just have to look at the epistles signs that they were imagining a hero from the past.

        • KarlUdy

          If Carrier and Price’s arguments are so compelling, why do they remain on the outer fringes of NT scholarship, and the vast majority of NT scholars reject their findings?

          Price is on record as being skeptical on Jesus’ historicity unless his skeleton or diary is found. Pity the historians and archaeologists who are forced to provide such a level of evidence of any ancient persons to establish their historicity.

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

          If Habermas’s arguments about the resurrection are so persuasive, why are Muslim scholars not convinced? They have no bias against the supernatural. And yet they reject it to a man.

          Perhaps it’s because religion is involved. Muslim scholars know that there are right and wrong answers, and they can’t follow the evidence where it leads.

          Same for Christian scholars?

        • KarlUdy

          I would agree that many Muslim scholars would reject the resurrection because they have a prior commitment to the teachings of the Koran.

          And many atheists reject the resurrection because they likewise have prior intellectual commitments. Just as no Muslim can conclude that Jesus rose from the dead and remain a Muslim, an atheist likewise cannot come to that conclusion and remain an atheist.

          Who then can judge rightly? Perhaps we should leave all these decisions to people who don’t think at all.

        • Kodie

          I would agree that many Muslim scholars would reject the resurrection
          because they have a prior commitment to the teachings of the Koran.

          And many atheists reject the resurrection because they likewise have
          prior intellectual commitments. Just as no Muslim can conclude that
          Jesus rose from the dead and remain a Muslim, an atheist likewise cannot
          come to that conclusion and remain an atheist.

          That doesn’t make a lot of sense. Many atheists are former theists with their prior commitment to the teachings of the bible and their church. You seem to be excluding and excusing a group of people on the basis that you agree with them, then they must have clear intellectual intentions and followed the “evidence” that you cling to. No, instead you blame people not believing this fairy story because they have already formed an opinion. You are forgetting that many atheists used to be Christians and followed without thinking, and then, like you, supported their opinions with weak apologetics in the form of this scholarly business.

          Who then can judge rightly? Perhaps we should leave all these decisions to people who don’t think at all.

          Or if they do, they think we’re really stupid. I have been reading your posts and other Christians’ posts here for a while, and you do try to think or try to act like you think. You read books, you study the scholarly accounts rather than merely be some fool for Jesus. You want to be right, and you think you can do that by making sure with the experts who rationalize all your beliefs in a scholarly format that you can bank on. But when it’s taken down for you, you protest. So, it’s pretty much, if they say it could have happened, then it could have, and anyone who says resurrection is impossible, you are only to say “prove it could not have happened” and “read this fat book and you might be convinced.”

          It’s still wishful thinking, do you know that? You want it to be true. If my white t-shirt turned blue in the washing machine and I told you it’s because a blue fairy lives in the laundry room and turns things blue randomly (it has happened before), you would say it’s probably the dye from the new blue socks that got in the wrong load of laundry. But if I don’t want that to be true, I could be like you and say other people in my apartment building have had their laundry turn blue and some believe it’s a fairy. The way you are talking is about the blue fairy. It’s what you want to be true so even if everything could have another cause, what you believe is documented and supported by others, and you have no reason to disbelieve it so far. You are saying atheists who don’t believe in blue fairies know it was probably the dye – or possibly another cause, like a vandal or something is wrong with our water supply, something realistic, even if less near-fetched than a blue garment running dye. And you are insisting that since it could also have been the documented and supported fairy belief, you are going with that because we can’t prove it’s not, but that people who deny it outright have already formed their opinions and are not open to accepting that it may have been blue fairies.

        • Greg G.

          Wait, are you referring to the Blue Fairy from the movie A.I.? David, the mecha, could see dead people (in a different movie) so his belief in the Blue Fairy should be taken seriously. The Blue Fairy had Meryl Streep’s voice and we know Meryl Streep exists, so…

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

          And many atheists reject the resurrection because they likewise have prior intellectual commitments.

          I suppose so, but don’t pretend there’s any parallel here. For a Muslim or a Christian, there are capital-letter Right and Wrong choices here. There’s Paradise vs. enjoying God’s Eternal Wrath™ in a lake of lava.

          It don’t work that way with atheists. Atheists have egos like anyone else and may not like admitting to mistakes, but they don’t have these big league issues holding them back from evaluating the evidence fairly.

          Just as no Muslim can conclude that Jesus rose from the dead and remain a Muslim, an atheist likewise cannot come to that conclusion and remain an atheist.

          Seriously? That’s a parallel?

          I’d be delighted to celebrate God’s existence and Jesus’s sovereignty. How about overwhelming evidence first? A fair thing to ask? There’s no atheist hell yawning out before me if I make the wrong decision.

        • Pofarmer

          What about the many former theists, including myself, who have become atheists? What were/are we invested in?

          And, as far as that goes, why do you accept the resurrection? What in your life indicates to you that someone reviving after two days clinically dead is possible? What makes this reasonable to believe?

        • MNb

          “many atheists reject the resurrection because they likewise have prior intellectual commitments.”
          Yes. My prior intellectual commitments are simple:
          1. Science works;
          2. When science conflicts with philosophy and or theology science wins. Period.

          The Resurrection provides an excellent example. Theology says it happened because of faith; science says it is a myth because it violates natural law and because we rather well can reconstruct how the myth developed.

        • Greg G.

          Hi Karl,

          Price’s request is akin to Nye’s debate response to the question of what it would take to change his mind – “evidence”. The historical Jesus proponents sound like Ham’s answer – “I have this book.”

          For example, if all we had about Pontius Pilate came from the gospels, I might be skeptical of his existence. If all we had was the inscripted stone with his name on it found in Caesaria in 1961, I would accept him as a historical person.

          I can’t read the minds of every scholar but if I may generalize from a small sample who have weighed in on the question, most often it seems they are comforted by concensus. Many have never even questioned the historical Jesus. They have not read Carrier, Price, and Doherty because they are considered fringe.

          Most scholars start out on fire for the Lord and enter the field to re-enforce their beliefs. When they find that scholarship doesn’t support their beliefs, they either drop out or become a biblical historian. If they question the existence of Jesus, they cannot even consider themselves a historian. If a scholar questions a fundamentalist belief, they will be forced to find work at non-fundamentalist universities and colleges. If they question the existence of God, they will be relegated to working in secular universities. If they question the existence of Jesus, well, there aren’t many schools willing to teach the New Testament as complete mythology. Consequently, without a scholarly job title, they would necessarily be classed as fringe.

          Many of the methods employed by Jesus scholars seem to be designed to confirm the assumption that Jesus exists, rather than to test whether he existed. The Criterion of Embarrassment works just as well to confirm the non-existence if you start with that assumption. Vridar.org has started a series discussing Casey: Taking Context out of Context. Casey argues that the reason Paul doesn’t have much to say about Jesus is that it was a “high-context” society, so Jesus didn’t need to be talked about (though Paul found it necessary to repeat the crucifixion and resurrection repeatedly). Even if that was true, the argument would argue for a Gnostic Jesus as well or better. But a high-context society would need to be insulated, monocultural, and old to establish the context, and the early Christian society was none of those, so it seems to me that those scholars who do argue against a mythic Jesus are grasping at straws.

        • Pofarmer

          “and the vast majority of NT scholars reject their findings?”

          Because they are invested in their opinion?

        • busterggi

          Some people will do or say anything to keep their jobs.

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

          Consider Mike Licona who said the wrong thing and lost his.

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

          Price is on record as being skeptical on Jesus’ historicity unless his skeleton or diary is found. Pity the historians and archaeologists who are forced to provide such a level of evidence of any ancient persons to establish their historicity.

          Now consider William Lane Craig: he has said that even with a time machine, he wouldn’t trust any evidence he would find because his own personal experience trumps that. Or consider Ken Ham, who in his recent debate said that nothing would change his mind. Even about a young earth, he said that it was impossible to show him convincing evidence against it because he knows such evidence doesn’t exist.

          Don’t facepalm because of Robert Price. You’ve got far worse examples within the Christian tent.

        • MNb

          “he made much better arguments.”
          You’re deluding yourself. I am familiar with his arguments and he provides zero evidence in the form of historical data. Now these are extremely hard to get, but a sceptical mind soon realizes that every single argument of Doherty applies to a historical Jesus with lots of myths and legends attached to as well. If we then realize that it was not common in Antiquity to make up entire fictional characters it becomes clear that Doherty’s myth theory falls under Ockham’s razor – it gives rise to several more questions he typically never asks.
          His methodology essentially isn’t better than Ken Ham’s of AIG: picking the stuff that seems to back his pre-determined conclusion.

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

          I’ve not gotten into the Jesus Myth debate. Have you read Price and Carrier on the subject? I wonder if they’re any more or less convincing.

          I’m sympathetic to the Ockham’s razor thing. That’s the glaring error with Habermas here (just to take one example): a plausible natural explanation is more than enough to dismiss a supernatural claim.

          And I see how it applies with the Jesus Myth theory: real men in history can give rise to legends. Not that hard to imagine. But I’m just on the sidelines here and haven’t read up on the subject.

        • Greg G.

          Jesus started out as a legendary resurrected, heavenly being, then became a human. That’s backwards of a real person becoming a legend.

        • avalpert

          Kind of like Superman instead of Batman?

        • busterggi

          And it must be noted that Superman, the god-like being, existed before Batman, the wonder-working human, was created – in direct response to the former’s growing popularity.

        • MNb

          Neither am I an expert. I have never heard of Price, but have followed Carrier’s blog for a while. I haven’t noticed he brought up new information or new arguments.
          After Doherty I had enough, to be honest. But I won’t contradict that Carrier might be up to something, simply because I’m not familiar enough with his writings.

        • Greg G.

          I don’t agree with everything Doherty argues but I don’t toss out everything he says because of what I disagree with.

          You argue against the mythical Jesus. What compelling evidence do you have for a historical Jesus and that the New Testament is about that person?

        • MNb

          What compelling evidence do you have for a historical Diogenes of SInope and that that source is about that person?
          What compelling evidence do you have that that Diary mentioned underneath is about Alexander the Great and not about someone else?
          Or take Socrates. How do we know Plato and that Greek general talk about the same person or about the Greek philosopher at all?
          Again: my point is that Jesus-mythologists only apply their methodology to one single persona. That’s pseudoscience.
          If Doherty were consistent he would at least argue that Diogenes of Sinope and Socrates are mythical too and probably Alexander the Great – the first biography we have dates from more than 200 years after his death.

          My other point is that they don’t answer questions following from a mythical Jesus:
          1. We know that there was no shortage of messias claimants. Why did the authors of the Gospels and Paulus take the effort to invent an entire fictional character iso picking one of those claimants? Note that that was highly unusual during Antiquity, so you better give an excellent reason, backed with evidence.
          2. How did the two (at least two according to the hypothesis of the Q-document, which Doherty accepts as well) independent authors of the Gospels manage to have that much of the story in common? Again: back your answer up with evidence.
          3. Why did those authors include silly stuff like Jesus’ prediction of his Second Come Back in the stories, when they already knew that these predictions had not come true when they wrote their stories down? This is called the Principle of Embarrassment btw, a well known, well tested method to find out the reliability of an account.

          Last point: there is a third account that confirms the historicity of Jesus: Polycarpus (whose historicity is beyond reasonable doubt) claimed to be the pupil of one of the apostles. Apostles without a messias don’t make sense.
          As soon, but not before, Jesus-mythologists address these points I’ll start to take them seriously.

          I am not sure if Jesus is historical, not as sure as about say Alexander the Great. When we apply the methods we used to establish the historicity of Alexander the Great and Diogenes of Sinope the hypothesis that explains the known facts best is a historical Jesus with many myths attached. I’d say we can be sure for at least 90%.

          Taking this doubt as an argument for a mythical Jesus is inconsistent with the scientific method as used in historical research.

        • Greg G.

          Again: my point is that Jesus-mythologists only apply their methodology to one single persona. That’s pseudoscience.

          The difference is that there is compelling evidence that Jesus was made up. There is no evidence that anyone in the early first century thought Jesus was a person who had existed in the first century unless you read the gospels the gospels back into the epistles. The gospels appear to be made up from existing myths and legends, not “oral traditions”.

          1. We know that there was no shortage of messias claimants. Why did the authors of the Gospels and Paulus take the effort to invent an entire fictional character iso picking one of those claimants? Note that that was highly unusual during Antiquity, so you better give an excellent reason, backed with evidence.

          I have been documenting that at length the past few weeks in the comments of CrossExamined. Paul never knew Jesus. Everything he knows about Jesus can be found in the Hebrew literature. He claims revelations from the scriptures about long hidden mysteries now being revealed. He says he has spoken to Cephas and James, but doesn’t think he has less knowledge about the gospel than they do. In1 Corinthians 15, he uses the same word for “appeared to” for Cephas and James and others that he used for himself, as if he didn’t think their revelation was any different than his own. These long hidden mysteries were from reading verses out of context as history. The Jews of that time were looking for the Messiah and at least one sect began to read that the Messiah had died for sins (Is. 53:5), was buried (Is 53:9), and rose on the third day (Hosea 6:2). They seemed to believe that the Messiah was going to return in that generation (1 Thessalonians 4:17) because this information was being revealed after all that time.

          The reason no other Messiah claimant would do is because they were expecting a grand entrance with trumpets and dead people rising, followed by the living.

          1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
          15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever.

          1 Corinthians 15:51-54
          51 Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

          Philippians 3:20-21
          20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.

          How does he know this? The 1 Corinthians passage says it’s a mystery. The 1 Thessalonians passage says it’s from teh word of God. Every element of those three passages (except for the “twinkling of an eye” bit) can be found in

          Isaiah 26:19-21a
          19 Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise.O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a radiant dew, and the earth will give birth to those long dead.
          20 Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the wrath is past.
          21a For the Lord comes out from his place…

          Daniel 7:11a, 13a; 12:2
          7:11a I watched then because of the noise of the arrogant words that the horn was speaking….
          7:13a As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven….
          12:2 Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

          Isaiah 25:8a
          8a he will swallow up death forever.

          2. How did the two (at least two according to the hypothesis of the Q-document, which Doherty accepts as well) independent authors of the Gospels manage to have that much of the story in common? Again: back your answer up with evidence.

          What common story elements are you referring to? Much of the common stuff likely came from the Gospel of Thomas.

          3. Why did those authors include silly stuff like Jesus’ prediction of his Second Come Back in the stories, when they already knew that these predictions had not come true when they wrote their stories down? This is called the Principle of Embarrassment btw, a well known, well tested method to find out the reliability of an account..

          The Principle of Embarrassment works well to confirm a historical Jesus if you assume a historical Jesus first. Matthew wrote that believing there had been a real Jesus, but the evidence points to him being wrong about that. The Embarrassment criterion is irrelevant.

          Last point: there is a third account that confirms the historicity of Jesus: Polycarpus (whose historicity is beyond reasonable doubt) claimedto be the pupil of one of the apostles. Apostles without a messias don’t make sense.
          As soon, but not before, Jesus-mythologists address these points I’ll start to take them seriously.

          What do you find compelling about Polycarp? He was born about 69 AD. It is claimed that he knew John the Apostle. His only surviving work is his Letter to the Philippians. He praises Paul alot. He quotes from Matthew and Acts but not Mark, Luke or John. He quotes from Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 2 Thessalonians, and heavily from 1 Timothy and 1 Peter. The only Johannine reference he makes is to 1 John 4:2 which says “For everyone who does not confess [that] Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is an antichrist”. ! John is thought to have been writen in the mid-90s to refute Gnosticism. the belief that Jesus was only spiritual, way too late to be of value for the historical. Paul said Jesus was descended from David because 2 Samuel 7:12 says he was supposed to be. He also said Jesus was born of a woman because Isaiah 7:14 says so and it sounds like a prophecy.

          The only writing attributed to Polycarp doesn’t give much hint that he actually knew John or his teachings. It doesn’t tell us anything about Jesus, or anything else, that doesn’t come from from Christian literature that was available in the 2nd century.

          What am I missing?

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

          If you listen to podcasts, I’ll recommend Price’s “Bible Geek” podcast. It’s a firehose (and isn’t the most efficient way to learn), but it can be quite interesting.

        • Pofarmer

          “real men in history can give rise to legends.”

          Which is true, but isn’t it at least as true that legends can arise with no man at all? Was John Henry a real person? Paul Bunyan? King Arthur? Hercules? I would guess the further back in time you go, the more of these mythical stories there were(or thinking about modern movies, maybe not?) but it was the way they explained things and promoted what were seen as positive character traits. That at least most of the Gospels were composed in Greek, by Greek speakers, based on Greek translations of the Bible, ought to give one pause, as well. And, Ehrman and Carrier and Price, I think, all agree on this. That certain parts of the Gospels, but especially the Sermon on the Mount, are based on mistranslations in the Greek Septuagint, and not on the Hebrew Pentateuch. The whole thing is a puzzle, but the real puzzle is why anyone today takes it seriously. Well, my theory is that it became very tightly ingrained back in the day when not believing could get you killed, and even today not believing can have social consequences, so we have essentially “selected” for believers, cause not being a believer could terminate your existence.

        • MNb

          Fictional characters were set in the past.
          Your theory is too simple and unspecific.

        • Pofarmer

          From the perspective of the writers of the NT, Jesus is both in the past and geographically distant.

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

          Paul’s Jesus is set in the indistinct past. But then with the (later) gospels, his life is put into focus. Sounds like a move from myth to legend to me.

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

          Good point. Perhaps it’s unclear what Ockham would strip away.

          John Henry was a real person. Arthur might’ve been–though Merlin obviously not. There’s a process done often enough that it’s given a name (I’m forgetting) where a god becomes “historical,” and that happened to Hercules, I’ve read.

          we have essentially “selected” for believers, cause not being a believer could terminate your existence.

          The example that comes to mind for me is the aftermath of a natural disaster like Haiti or Banda Ache. Lots of people have “miraculous” stories where they survived out in the ocean on a door for 3 days, or they held onto a tree while everyone else was swept away. All the people who could rebut that (“Oh, God saves people, does he? Well, he didn’t save me, and I’ve got 3 kids who depend on me!”) are all dead!

        • avalpert

          “The whole thing is a puzzle, but the real puzzle is why anyone today takes it seriously.”

          ” so we have essentially “selected” for believers”

          I really don’t see much of a puzzle in it at all. Human beings are programmed to see patterns and cause and effect where none exists because it served an important evolutionary role in protecting them from predators (better to assume every splash of orange in green is a lion than to not).

          As our language, curiosity, thought etc. developed further (ignoring for now the order and drivers) this ingrained trait was useful both for expanding our engineering/science capabilities and our mythology of the world.

          When you add in our social nature, which drives us to use markers that connect us socially be it skin color or overarching mythology, and our cognitive biases that drive us to dig in on our beliefs the development and entrenchment of religion within our social framework seems inevitable.

          That, in the relatively short time in the span of human history since the enlightenment we have broken that framework down as much as we have is something I find far more remarkable than the observation that the framework persists for most of humanity.

        • Greg G.

          Hi MNb,

          I am familiar with his arguments and he provides zero evidence in the form of historical data.

          What kind of evidence would you expect for someone who didn’t exist? There is nothing but the textual evidence in the New Testament for Jesus and Doherty shows that the epistles don’t say what believers think they say. If you reject the miracle Jesus of the gospels, you are left with the Minimal Jesus, but the epistles don’t support that theory at all.

          Now these are extremely hard to get, but a sceptical mind soon realizes that every single argument of Doherty applies to a historical Jesus with lots of myths and legends attached to as well.

          But when you peel away the myths and legends, you are left with an ordinary person with more myths and legends that is not described by the earliest writings. You have to star peeling back the story about the Pharisees popping up in a grain field on a sabbath (Mark 2), that Jesus declared the food laws invalid (Mark 7) but Peter argued against Paul when Paul got in his face for following them. So even the non-myths and non-legend stories don’t hold up either. Every story about Jesus in Mark comes from the literature of the day.

          If we then realize that it was not common in Antiquity to make up entire fictional characters it becomes clear that Doherty’s myth theory falls under Ockham’s razor – it gives rise to several more questions he typically never asks.

          Would you say that the prophecies about David’s seed would remain on the throne and the coming Messiah are not about a completely fictional character? That is the character that the early Christians believed in. Doherty says they believed that the Messiah had come at some undefined time in the past to be the suffering servant who was crucified and resurrection but was about to return during that generation because they were uncovering hidden mysteries in the scripture.

          His methodology essentially isn’t better than Ken Ham’s of AIG: picking the stuff that seems to back his pre-determined conclusion.

          Then you aren’t as familiar with his arguments as you thiknk you are. He argues against every verse and claim that are used to support the historical Jesus. From Now an eBook: Doherty’s Rebuttal of Ehrman’s Case for the Existence of Jesus:

          This book-length rebuttal by Earl Doherty to Bart Ehrman’s much anticipated and unexpectedly disappointing case for an historical Jesus (“Did Jesus Exist?”, published March 2012) first appeared in installments from March to August 2012 on the Vridar blog (under copyright), and is now being offered in e-book form, with extensive minor revisions.

          It addresses virtually every claim and argument put forward by Ehrman in his book, and demonstrates not only the faultiness and inadequacy of those arguments, but the degree to which the author has been guilty of a range of fallacy, special pleading, and clear a priori bias against the very concept of mythicism and those who promote it.

          What evidence do you have that you think supports a historical Jesus? I’d like to see something.

          EDIT: I would like to add that my position on the historical Jesus is opposite my a priori bias. I was persuaded by the evidence that Jesus was made up that was left over after rejecting all the poor evidence that Jesus was made up.

        • Greg G.

          This morning, the title of Doherty’s book came to me. It was The Jesus Puzzle.

        • Pofarmer

          What about appearing to the 500? What about the dead saints gallavanting through Jerusalem? You would think somebody would have recorded that. No way the Jewish leaders of the day could have just ignored it. Given the superstition of the day, you would think there would have been temples and shrines put up everywhere, and yet, it appears that christianity started outside of jerusalem.

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

          What about appearing to the 500?

          We know what the authors of the gospels thought about this “evidence”: not much. They either didn’t think it was historical or had never heard of it because it never appears in any gospel.

        • MNb

          If they thought about it at all – I’d rather say they didn’t know the concept of “evidence”.
          Note that it’s perfectly possible to state a historical Jesus and reject the empty tomb and the Resurrection. Those are the weak spots.

        • wtfwjtd

          But the idea that Paul had been taught about Jesus in “schools” flatly contradicts the way that Paul himself said he knows about the gospel of Jesus. He claims over and over that the gospel wasn’t revealed to him by “any human source”, it was by “revelation of a mystery”, and that Jesus appeared to him “last of all, as one abnormally born.” Does this sound familiar? It should–this is a strikingly similar way that Mohammed, Joseph Smith, and many others have received their knowledge from God about salvation.
          If Paul really was “schooled” about Jesus, either the teachers were lousy, or Paul was a terrible student. See Bob’s classic post “What did Paul know about Jesus?–not much” for more on this. He didn’t even know about the miracle stories of Jesus, among other glaring omissions. This would be unforgivable ignorance of Christianity’s core tenet, as Christianity’s very existence is literally based on the supernatural.
          A far more plausible explanation is also the simplest: Paul’s version of Christianity was one of many competing versions, and a few hundred (or more) years after his death, his writings and those of others who also had fairly compelling versions of Christianity were merged, in an attempt to create a more unified whole.

    • wtfwjtd

      This is a great post Greg, and got me to thinking. In the references you have given above, Paul makes it crystal-clear that he was given the message of the gospel by supernatural revelation. Why would he do this? My take on this is fairly straightforward; there is obviously some animosity that exists between Paul and Peter. Can you imagine, every time they meet anywhere, especially with a crowd, Peter pulls out the ol’ Ken(the Hamster) Ham canard: “Yes, the gospel of Jesus is great. So Paul, were you there? I was!” No doubt, this filled the vain and boastful Paul full of rage and envy any time it happened. How could he trump this? Simple: Paul can “see” Jesus after he was resurrected; even Peter wasn’t making this claim. This is where his apostolic authority comes from–the road to Damascus, etc. Plus, he can embellish on this tack even further–with out-of-body experiences, visions of heaven(see II Cor 11-12), even seemingly miraculous survival stories. This, along with being supernaturally gifted with his take on the gospel, outta put that uppity Peter in his place.
      Referencing any of this as “proof” of the resurrection is ludicrous. The gospel was divinely revealed to Paul, end of story. ….that is, if you believe the tales that Paul tells. I myself am a little skeptical, I’m afraid.

    • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

      That’s very interesting. One question, however. It was my understanding that “Peter” and “Cephas” are the same person, i.e. “the rock” in Greek and Hebrew respectively. So this reference to Peter and then Cephas confuses me. Was it translated that way, or did the original text have the name in both of these languages (assuming you know)?

      • Greg G.

        I asked Richard Carrier whether they might be two people and he was certain they were the same person. Bart Ehrman mentioned in a book that he questioned it when he was younger but found the name was rare so it’s quite unlikely for there to be two of them, which was also Carrier’s reasoning.

        Paul talks about Cephas in 1 Corinthians but Peter is only discussed in Galatians where Paul alternates using both names in a span of three or four verses.

        I have noticed that Paul talks about the reputed pillars in Galatians and that those three happen to be the three main sidekicks of Jesus. The argument in chapter 2 seems to be transformed into Mark 7:1-19. Galatians 5:14 reflects Rabbi Hillel’s statement about the Torah “Don’t do what your neighbor hates. All the rest is commentary.” Jesus says that is the second greatest commandment in Mark 12:31. So Mark may have taken the name Peter from Galatians.

        I have also noticed that Paul is extremely sarcastic in Galatians. In Galatians 5:12, he wishes circumcisers would go the whole way and emasculate themselves. In the opening he points out that he is sent by the Lord (as usual) but “not by men or a man”. He notes that James sends people to Antioch in chapter 2. So when he calls James “the Lord’s brother”, he is probably being sarcastic about him ordering people around the way the Lord does.

        So, when Paul calls Cephas “Peter”, I wonder if he is sarcastically using a nasty play on his name. Just a thought.

        • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

          Hmm, that idea does make sense. I certainly noticed how the epistles portray Paul and Peter as rivals, something you don’t expect if they had served under a human Jesus (or if Peter was actually his designated successor, as the Gospels have it). Paul’s caustic personality comes across clearly these as well (or whoever wrote them).

  • RichardSRussell

    If anyone would like a PDF copy of my 4-page “Resurrection Chronology”, which summarizes the crucifixion and resurrection accounts of the 4 gospels in 4 adjacent columns, so you can compare for yourself just how raddled they are, e-mail me directly at
    RichardSRussell@tds.net

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

      That does make a clear and convincing case that the end game in each gospel is unique.

  • KarlUdy

    If you want to argue against Habermas’ minimal facts argument you need to either show that at least one of the facts doesn’t hold, or that together they can’t be used to come to the conclusion he does.

    Your response to the actual facts amounts to simply casting doubt by saying we can’t be sure. That Jesus was crucified is as well established a historical fact as just about any event we have from the 1st century. And you yourself say

    I presume that the Paul and the gospel authors honestly believed

    . So despite your wish to cast doubt on the fact of it, you seem to come to the same conclusion as Habermas.

    As to your comments regarding 1 Corinthians 15. I have pointed out previously that there are no variant readings of those verses, and that they appear in the earliest manuscripts, and are also in manuscripts and traditions from multiple locations all over the Mediterranean from Lyon to Alexandria. Furthermore you are ignoring the reasons that scholars believe it is a quotation of an early creed as opposed to a later addition.

    If you want to show that the facts together don’t form the conclusion Habermas comes to, then you are doing the whole discussion a disservice by breaking it up into two posts with two facts in each post. If you feel it is necessary to break it up into two posts then it would be better to have one post to argue the facts and another to argue the conclusions.

    • avalpert

      “That Jesus was crucified is as well established a historical fact as just about any event we have from the 1st century”

      No, it isn’t – not even in top 50. This is one of those silly throwaway lines that can only be spoken by someone who hasn’t given it a seconds worth of honest thought.

      How about this, when a contemporary Roman emperor makes an arch commemorating the event that survives to this day we can put it in the same league of other events in 1st century Judea, let alone the rest of the world.

      • KarlUdy

        By what means would a historian determine a Roman emperor’s reign to have been during the first century?

        • avalpert

          Is this a serious question?

          Coinage, contemporary busts of them, contemporaneous mentions of them within and outside of Rome, the accounts of 1st century historians, corroborating archaeological evidence…pretty much the full repertoire of evidence available to historians, none of which exist for Jesus’ life let alone specific events in his life.

          *note I am not suggesting that a first century Jewish cult leader named Jesus didn’t existed just that the evidence for it is far below that of many other people/events

        • Greg G.

          *note I am not suggesting that a first century Jewish cult leader named Jesus didn’t existed just that the evidence for it is far below that of many other people/events

          I wouldn’t doubt that either. Josephus lists 18 high priests from the Second Temple era and four of them are named Jesus. There may have been many religious leaders named Jesus and some of them may have been crucified by Pilate. I deny that the NT epistles are about any of them and the gospels are not about those Jesuses, either.

        • KarlUdy

          Granted, there are no busts of Jesus or coins with his image from the first century. However, there are accounts of first century historians, and supporting archaeological evidence. And textual evidence of Jesus’ death would eclipse that of any event associated with an emperor.

        • Greg G.

          Those accounts attest to there being people who believed that there had been an early first century Jesus, but they were in no position to know that for certain, but they may have read Mark or heard someone preach about it.

        • KarlUdy

          You talk about “knowing for certain”. What do mean?

          While Pliny probably fits the description you are talking about, Josephus and Luke are both close enough to the source to count as more than hearsay.

        • Greg G.

          Josephus was born circa 37, so it’s close but no cigar. He would have had to get his information from written material from the late first century. Luke is dependent on Josephus for a great deal of the information he doesn’t share with Mark and Matthew, so he is later still.

          Harry McCall posted Even if the Entire Testimony of Josephus on Jesus is Authentic, It’s Apologetically Worthless.

        • avalpert

          You realize Pliny was born ~30 years after Jesus’ supposed crucifixion – in what possible way could anything he said serve as a contemporary account of his life?

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

          By “eclipse,” are you referring to the thousands of copies of the same damn thing over and over?

          As for first-century historians, some of them record the doings of emperors with whom they were contemporaries. Not so for Jesus.

          For the son of God, he made a rather small splash.

        • avalpert

          Um, no there are no account of Jesus among contemporary first century historians – zero, zilch. And there is no archaeological evidence of Jesus’ life – again zero. And no, the textual evidence of his death does not eclipse that associated with even minor events of various emperors – in fact, the textual evidence of his death is entirely limited to writing in a later period by religious zealots who cannot in any way be considered reliable historical sources.

          Like I said, this is merely the ramblings of someone who has not given the issue a moment of honest thought.

        • Pofarmer

          I particularly like this from John E. Remsberg, “The Christ.”

          “Contemporary writers have left us not one word concerning him. For
          generations afterward, outside of a few theological epistles, we find no
          mention of him.

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

          Josephus

          Philo-Judaeus

          Seneca

          Pliny the Elder

          Suetonius

          Juvenal

          Martial

          Persius

          Plutarch

          Justus of Tiberius

          Apollonius

          Pliny the Younger

          Tacitus

          Quintilian

          Lucanus

          Epictetus

          Silius Italicus

          Statius

          Ptolemy

          Hermogones

          Valerius MaximusArrian

          Petronius

          Dion Pruseus

          Paterculus

          Appian

          Theon of Smyrna

          Phlegon

          Pompon Mela

          Quintius Curtius

          Lucian

          Pausanias

          Valerius Flaccus

          Florus Lucius

          Favorinus

          Phaedrus

          Damis

          Aulus Gellius

          Columella

          Dio Chrysostom

          Lysias

          Appion of Alexandria

          Enough of the writings of the authors named in the
          foregoing list remains to form a library. Yet in this mass of Jewish and
          Pagan literature, aside from two forged passages in the works of a
          Jewish author, and two disputed passages in the works of Roman writers,
          there is to be found no mention of Jesus Christ.

          Philo was born before the beginning of the Christian era, and lived
          until long after the reputed death of Christ. He wrote an account of the
          Jews covering the entire time that Christ is said to have existed on
          earth. He was living in or near Jerusalem when Christ’s miraculous birth
          and the Herodian massacre occurred. He was there when Christ made his
          triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He was there when the crucifixion with
          its attendant earthquake, supernatural darkness, and resurrection of the
          dead took place — when Christ himself rose from the dead, and in the
          presence of many witnesses ascended into heaven. These marvelous events
          which must have filled the world with amazement, had they really
          occurred, were unknown to him. It was Philo who developed the doctrine
          of the Logos, or Word, and although this Word incarnate dwelt in that
          very land and in the presence of multitudes revealed himself and
          demonstrated his divine powers, Philo saw it not.

          Josephus, the renowned Jewish historian, was a native of Judea. He was born in 37 A.D., and was a contemporary of the Apostles. He
          was, for a time, Governor of Galilee, the province in which Christ
          lived and taught. He traversed every part of this province and visited
          the places where but a generation before Christ had performed his
          prodigies. He resided in Cana, the very city in which Christ is said to
          have wrought his first miracle. He mentions every noted personage of
          Palestine and describes every important event which occurred there
          during the first seventy years of the Christian era. But Christ was of
          too little consequence and his deeds too trivial to merit a line from
          this historian’s pen.”

          It goes on at length.

          http://positiveatheism.org/hist/rmsbrg02.htm

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

          A great list, thanks.

    • Greg G.

      Fact 1: Jesus died by crucifixion.

      1 Corintihians 15:3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,

      Paul “received” this from

      Isaiah 53:5 (NRSV)
      5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
      crushed for our iniquities;
      upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
      and by his bruises we are healed.

      1 Corintihians 15:4a and that he was buried,

      Paul “received” this from

      Isaiah 53:9 (NRSV)
      They made his grave with the wicked
      and his tomb with the rich,
      although he had done no violence,
      and there was no deceit in his mouth.

      1 Corintihians 15:4b and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,

      Paul “received” this from

      Hosea 6:2 (NRSV)
      After two days he will revive us;
      on the third day he will raise us up,
      that we may live before him.

      Psalm 16:10 (NRSV)
      For you do not give me up to Sheol,
      or let your faithful one see the Pit.

      Psalm 41:10 (NRSV)
      But you, O Lord, be gracious to me,
      and raise me up, that I may repay them.

      Paul tells us that he didn’t receive his gospel from any human (Galatians 1:11-12). Elsewhere he says it was from revelation through the scriptures. The verses he uses are taken out of context. As explained in my other post, Paul doesn’t think the other apostles “received” their information by a method different than his own. So Fact 1 is a completely imaginary event.

      Fact 2: The disciples believed that Jesus rose and appeared to them.

      My first post showed that this is not a fact either.

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

      Your response to the actual facts amounts to simply casting doubt by saying we can’t be sure.

      Right. You’re saying that I have to prove beyond any doubt that one of these “facts” is false?

      I’m simply saying that these facts are each too tenuous to support much of anything, let alone the remarkable claim of a resurrection.

      That Jesus was crucified is as well established a historical fact as just about any event we have from the 1st century.

      And I showed why I disagree.

      So despite your wish to cast doubt on the fact of it, you seem to come to the same conclusion as Habermas.

      Lots of people believe nutty things. What Paul one of them? Seems so to me.

      As to your comments regarding 1 Corinthians 15. I have pointed out previously that there are no variant readings of those verses, and that they appear in the earliest manuscripts, and are also in manuscripts and traditions from multiple locations all over the Mediterranean from Lyon to Alexandria.

      Yes, and … ? How does this dismiss the concerns that I raised?

      Furthermore you are ignoring the reasons that scholars believe it is a quotation of an early creed as opposed to a later addition.

      Remind me.

      If you want to show that the facts together don’t form the conclusion Habermas comes to, then you are doing the whole discussion a disservice by breaking it up into two posts with two facts in each post.

      As you pointed out, all I have to do is cast sufficient doubt on one fact. (I think I cast plenty of doubt on each, actually.)

      • KarlUdy

        Right. You’re saying that I have to prove beyond any doubt that one of these “facts” is false?

        I’m simply saying that these facts are each too tenuous to support much of anything, let alone the remarkable claim of a resurrection.

        You do not need to prove beyond any doubt to make your case. It would help if you could give enough to doubt to make a conclusion on the balance of probability, or even reasonable doubt.

        You say, re the first point

        The story does gradually became widespread, though this was long after the time of Jesus. That doesn’t make it “historical fact.”

        What is the time frame of the news of Jesus’ death becoming widespread? And what time frame would make it too slow for you to consider it historically credible?

        And re the second point, you say

        Yes, that’s what the story says, but let’s be skeptical about stories.

        Any historical account is a story – are you saying we should be skeptical of historical accounts in general? The idea that there should be an a priori presumption of skepticism or disbelief about what is reported as having happened is untenable in any field.

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

          If the conclusion is the resurrection, then a tiny bit of doubt in the facts that build the argument should be enough.

          I’m not making an issue about time frame/time period.

          As I noted about Merlin and Arthur, we are skeptical about stories about the past. If the issue isn’t of much importance (I dunno–what Julius Caesar had for his last meal, maybe), then you won’t find a lot of squabbling over the evidence. But if there is much at stake–the existence of a supernatural creator of the universe, say–then the evidence must be unimpeachable.

        • KarlUdy

          If the conclusion is the resurrection, then a tiny bit of doubt in the facts that build the argument should be enough.

          This is fallacious. Either the facts are dubious, or the argumentation is dubious, or the argument is sound. To reject an argument because you don’t approve of the conclusion is simply prejudice.

          I’m not making an issue about time frame/time period.

          Then why say:

          The story does gradually became widespread, though this was long after the time of Jesus. That doesn’t make it “historical fact.”

        • Kodie

          Even if you had stacks of actual lifetime evidence of a figure known as “the” Jesus we’re all talking about existing, the resurrection of that person is unbelievable. That so many people suspend their disbelief over these flimsy accounts of this man and his death and resurrection does not make it more believable. And furthermore, it’s not just that he supposedly resurrected, but in doing so, absorbed all the sins of humans of the world if we are to believe in him, this opens up another set of unbelievable circumstances you cannot prove. You wish it to be true. You think you have enough to show you that it is true or could be true, despite never such a thing being evidenced or possible.

          And then you charge atheists with a defect causing us not to believe in the impossible. This story is built into many scholarly efforts, giving you reason to believe people who know a lot more about it than you do have studied it very closely and report to you the firm truth! You don’t really know, but you fancy yourself smarter than the average Christian – effectively persuaded to the confidence of your belief by people pretending to be smart, making you feel smart.

          The only doubt you can cast on the atheist account of events is the length of time from one (alleged) event to its official documentation is sufficiently short to be merely possible that the story survived intact and unembellished, therefore never proven impossible. I’m not exactly sure about all the effort to expose Jesus as having never existed anyway, but if only to say if he never even existed, this extremely diminishes the chance that he ever resurrected, or even the tomb story where a body disappeared and everyone had an alibi, 2000 years ago. If Jesus did exist in fact, and for some reason, we also have historical confidence in every event starring him in the bible, relatively, you think you have us. Why would all his sermons and crucifixion, etc., be true, and then they went over the top with raising him from the dead? Christians like to use “he existed” to leap to the conclusion that he then resurrected to a real heaven and a real god, and all the attendant details like salvation.

          But the way you warp facts to your conclusion, so that’s ok? It’s wrong to dismiss a whole historical account because the conclusion is impossible (not unlikely, impossible), but it’s right to build up a series of poorly documented, unlikely, iffy, rumors and legends in order to support the impossible event of a god-man’s resurrection…. right? The details of his life, if he existed or if he did not, are not really relevant. You are not as concerned with the existence of Jesus’s neighbor who did not resurrect and promise you salvation.

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

          To reject an argument because you don’t approve of the conclusion is simply prejudice.

          Uh huh. Ain’t doing that.

          Then why say:

          The story does gradually became widespread, though this was long after the time of Jesus. That doesn’t make it “historical fact.”

          A widespread story doesn’t make it a “historical fact.”

          I think we have more interesting issues to worry about than your parsing my sentence structure.

      • Rick

        Seems like a pretty low standard, and you only meet it based on your own self-grading. That doesn’t sound very objective, nor consensus based, as you say you like to do. Actually, to defeat an argument, you need to show it to be false, not simply unlikely in your own subjective and biased judgment (as you admit to being an atheist opposed to Christian evidences), without presenting your own evidence. You must do much more than simply cast doubt on a single fact.

        Instead, though, your approach is frequently the use of arguments from your own sense of what is reasonable as if that is sufficient to overturn evidence that exists from the first century. The evidences of Jesus’ life and death by crucifixion are numerous even from non-Christian sources. See “Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources” for just one article on this topic. You can’t simply dismiss such evidence with a wave of your rhetorical prose.

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

          Seems like a pretty low standard, and you only meet it based on your own self-grading.

          I give my arguments, and my distinguished colleagues on the other side of the aisle can evaluate them or dismiss them or whatever. If there’s a better way to wrestle with these issues, let me know.

          That doesn’t sound very objective, nor consensus based, as you say you like to do.

          Consensus matters in science, as I’ve made clear. The “consensus of New Testament scholars” doesn’t mean much on issues of the supernatural.

          Actually, to defeat an argument, you need to show it to be false, not simply unlikely in your own subjective and biased judgment (as you admit to being an atheist opposed to Christian evidences), without presenting your own evidence. You must do much more than simply cast doubt on a single fact.

          When the argument is a chain of claims, each link is essential. When that argument is claimed to support an immense conclusion (like the one Habermas makes) then casting doubt on just one link is sufficient.

          But to make sure I understand your point, tell me what evidence you think I need to present.

          You can’t simply dismiss such evidence with a wave of your rhetorical prose.

          And you can’t dismiss my arguments with a wave, as you try to do here. I’ve made specific points in the post. If they’re wrong, show me.

        • Rick

          I didn’t dismiss your arguments. I didn’t even address them directly. I said what you confirmed. You have a very low bar set for your personal standards of argumentation. Everyone with whom you disagree seems to need a fully developed case. You only need to dream up some reason that to you seems sufficient to cast any doubt on their concept and poof you win. If someone here said the same thing to you, would you accept their challenge? Obviously not, since I suggested you didn’t meet my standard for disproving this particular topic, and you don’t seem to accept that as sufficient. You make my point. Thanks.

          By the way, since you brought it up, has anyone replying to you said that

          The “consensus of New Testament scholars” … [means] much on issues of the supernatural.

          I don’t recall reading that, though I don’t read everything here. Some do suggest that the consensus of New Testament scholars has bearing on what the text actually says and what it means. As for whether it is true, that is a different topic on which scholars have other means of validation.

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

          I didn’t even address them directly.

          Yes, that was my point.

          You have a very low bar set for your personal standards of argumentation.

          Uh, OK. I’d be curious to see what leads you to this conclusion.

          Everyone with whom you disagree seems to need a fully developed case. You only need to dream up some reason that to you seems sufficient to cast any doubt on their concept and poof you win.

          Since you didn’t address my last clarification, I guess I have to assume that you didn’t get it. Should I make it again? Habermas’s claim is immense. A little doubt is, indeed, all I need and poof, I win.

          That’s just the situation we’re in, whether you like it or not. Now, if you think I didn’t meet the standard of “a little doubt,” then you might have a case to show that my point is flawed.

          You don’t seem to be in the mood to respond to my arguments. If that mood ever strikes you, however, show me specifically how my argument did nothing to dent Habermas.

          If someone here said the same thing to you, would you accept their challenge?

          I’m not seeing this parallel situation where I’m the one in the hot seat. Habermas is making an insanely large claim, and I’m not.

          Asymmetric.

          You make my point. Thanks.

          Dang! You’re always cleverly turning the tables on me an making me look like a babbling idiot. How does that always happen? Probably ’cause you have Truth® on your side.

          I don’t recall reading that, though I don’t read everything here.

          Read more Gary Habermas and you’ll see it.

          This comes from my post responding to a silly Gary Habermas argument.

        • Rick

          You’re talking past my point. I’m not addressing Habermas or whatever you may have done to show there is doubt in his argument. My point was solely about your choice to avoid actually making a positive case for what you believe, and instead settling for the low bar of making up stuff that seems reasonable to you, and which you seem to think casts doubt on others’ positions.

          Someone comes up with a pretty good case, but you find fault with it. Since you don’t call into their talk show if they have one, you just blog your discovery of the fault to your fellow travelers — but it’s never answered by the one with whom you disagree. Shazam! You declare yourself the winner.

          You make no positive case for your uncaused universe including:

          >>Matter from poof nothing!

          >>Laws of physics and silly things like gravity and light bam fill in the blank (I, Bob have no clue)!

          >>Order in stars and planets and the frivolous little universe thingy from zing zilch!

          >>Information content in DNA from presto thin air!

          >>It all just gulp happened!

          >>And that is really the wait for it best explanation!

          Why? Because scientists say so! Really! But don’t expect solid answers because I (Bob) am above giving them… I only cast shadows of doubt.

          Sounds like different standard of proof for your side. Somehow, it hasn’t convinced me. I think that’s what really irritates you about Christians. We don’t necessarily wave a white flag and bow down to your prodigious blogosphere.

          There’s too much at stake. And you haven’t convinced all of us with your shadow of doubt minimalism in the face of so much evidence that all has to be wrong for your atheistic naturalism perspective to be correct.

          You might be right. But you haven’t been convincing. At least not to all of us.

          But most who oppose you have been driven away by the negativity and closed-mindedness here, or only (like me) drop by occasionally to see if anything has changed. Sadly, it hasn’t seemed to. But I keep hoping!

          So I’ll let you have the last word and be back in a while. Later!

        • Kodie

          It seems reasonable that all the things around you respond to the environment, then your straw man argument does not stand at all. In fact, it’s ridiculous stuff like that you can’t comprehend that makes it easy to find fault with a magical invisible omni-god making a dollhouse to play in, and everything that goes along with thinking that’s more reasonable. Try again, Rick! If you must!

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

          I’m not addressing Habermas or whatever you may have done to show there is doubt in his argument.

          OK, fair enough. Then I’ll assume we’re on the same page that I only need to show that one of his claims is doubtful for me to upset his argument.

          My point was solely about your choice to avoid actually making a positive case for what you believe, and instead settling for the low bar of making up stuff that seems reasonable to you and which you seem to think casts doubt on others’ positions.

          Done. See “OK, Smart Guy—YOU Tell Us What Happened” from 7/30/12.

          And, as part of this Habermas series, I’m planning to hit this again. Look for “So How Does an ATHEIST Explain the Resurrection Story?” (tentative title) in about a week.

          But I’m missing the “low bar” criticism. Habermas makes a claim; I show why the claim is flawed. I’m not sure your point—is this the easy way out? This is what a coward would do? Clarify.

          you just blog to your fellow travellers, your discovery of the fault is never answered by the one with whom you find fault.

          My goal is to get Christians to hang out here. I like having flaws shown to me. Have you encouraged any Christians to come here? If not, you’re not part of the solution.

          Shazam! You declare yourself the winner.

          Touche! My sole goal in life is to surround myself with sycophants who praise me. I’m planning on having four living creatures with wings who never stop saying, “Holy, holy, holy is Bob Almighty.”

          (Whaddya think? We all need stretch goals, I figure.)

          You make no positive case for your lack of cause universe including:

          These sound familiar. Did you respond to my answers last time? Or is your goal just a drive-by?

          Matter from poof nothing!

          Not my view. Who says this?

          Laws of physics and silly things like gravity and light from wait for it fill in the blank!

          Wait for it … huh??

          If this is the Transcendental Argument, search here and you’ll find my response. If it’s not, I have no idea what you’re saying.

          Order in stars and planets and the frivolous little universe thingy from zing zilch!

          Again, your adorable snark is making me wonder what the hell you’re talking about.

          I’m guessing it’s this: Where did the universe come from? Answer: don’t know. Why–is this relevant?

          Information content in DNA from presto thin air!

          Are you asking about abiogenesis? There are intriguing hypotheses but no consensus. Tough problems take decades of work.

          Why? Because scientists say so! Really!

          I’ve clarified this point a dozen times and gotten nothing. I guess by asking the question you can walk away thinking that you’ve thrashed me good. Who wants to actually engage, right?

          But I’ll make it a baker’s dozen: you and I are laymen and have no option but to accept the scientific consensus (where there is one) as the best provisional explanation for that phenomenon.

          You got something better? Show me.

          But don’t expect solid answers because I (Bob) am above giving them… I only cast shadows of doubt.

          I’m loving the snark! Wear a black turtleneck—that would round out the persona. I’m already intimidated!

          As you’ve seen above, I have, yet again, given answers. Last time I got zilch in reply. Maybe you’ll deign to respond.

          I’ll pray.

          Sounds like different standard of proof for your side.

          More true than I think you realize!

          Somehow, it hasn’t convinced me. I think that’s what really irritates you about Christians. We don’t necessarily wave a white flag and bow down to your prodigious blogosphere.

          I’ve seen zero white flags. I don’t recall a single correction or concession from you in our 20 years of email discussions. Your concern is laudable, but I don’t hold my breath for you or any Christian to change your mind or even concede a single point.

          in the face of so much evidence that all has to be wrong for your atheistic naturalism perspective to be correct.

          You’ve changed the subject. If you want to go there, I await your list of evidence.

          But you haven’t been convincing. At least not to all of us.

          I’m certain that you will never change your mind. Congratulations–I’m sure you see that as a victory.

          But most who oppose you have been driven away by the negativity and closed-mindedness here

          I suspect that few Christians would enjoy hanging out at the site of the most gentle atheist interested in exploring the flaws in Christianity.

          Sadly, it hasn’t seemed to. But I keep hoping!

          Does evidence fuel this hope? I can’t imagine what that would be.

  • Joe

    Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

    Naysayers! Two whole cities of them, lol. Not to mention all the other naysayers in the Bible. Paul complained about naysayers all the time. It was like his favorite hobby or something. There I just disproved Jesus. You’re welcome, Christianity.

  • Jason Wexler

    Small quibble, but isn’t it more accurate to say that the Gospels can’t be placed earlier than the late first century (and the second century for John), rather than they were written in the late first century. My understanding is that the earliest reference we have to the Gospels is the early to mid second century, while many historically verifiable Christians from the turn of the second century seem to be both unaware of the Gospels and some reject that such a thing could or should exist.

    • Greg G.

      Luke’s dependence on Josephus puts Luke at the very end of the first century at the earliest but probably in the second century.

      • Jason Wexler

        That was kind of what I was getting at, the fact that Mark mentions the Jewish War puts him after 70 CE, and Matthew references Mark puts him after Mark, and Luke references Mark, Matthew and Josephus’ “Antiquities of the Jews” puts him after 96 CE. But those are only floors as it were, dates which can’t be made earlier by virtue of those references; it does not mean that Mark was written in 70 CE and Luke in 96 CE and Matthew at some indeterminate date (usually assumed to be 90 CE) between them. Given that Clement of Rome and another late first century bishop (whos name I would have to get by rewatching one of Richard Carrier’s lectures on the historicity of the Gospels) both specifically rejected the idea of Gospels in 98 CE and I think 106 CE respectively. The first reference to Mark is a fragment from Bishop Papias in 125, while Matthew is first mentioned in 130 also by Papias; Luke is directly attested by a fragment from 160ish and John also by a fragment from around 180. Further we know the oldest extant copy of the texts are in the Vatican codex from the fourth century, we know that numerous scribes and bishops in the late Roman era (third and fourth century) liked to add and delete text to support their ideas, most notably Eusibius who is probably responsible for the vandalism of Josephus, so its not outside the realm of possibility that the dating references currently used are forgeries themselves, which actually means the gospels could be both older or more recent than generally believed.

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

          Where does Mark reference the Jewish Wars (you mean like the siege of Jerusalem)?

          I understand that Luke could’ve used Josephus as a source, but that’s just educated speculation, isn’t it? I hesitate to adopt a view that’s not the consensus view among historians.

        • Jason Wexler

          My understanding is that the consensus among historians and other scholars of the subject is that Mark’s inclusion of a prophecy of the destruction of the temple is worded in a way to suggest that it’s retrodiction, written after the temple was destroyed in what you called siege of Jerusalem and I called the Jewish war.

          Most literary analysis and especially biblical scholarship is educated speculation, so yes while it’s possible that Luke used Josephus as a source, it isn’t known for certain. All but the last two or three sentences I wrote previously generally fall within the purview of the accepted consensus view of biblical scholars (who aren’t literalists). The speculation about textual vandalism is certainly plausible but rarely if ever discussed by biblical scholars, at least in the direct way I did.

        • Greg G.

          I see. When I read your post the first time, I thought you meant Jewish Wars by Josephus and it looked like Bob did, too.

        • Jason Wexler

          I apologize for being unclear, I often forget that Jewish War is a short hand name I give for that conflict because I can’t remember it’s actual name in the history books. Knowing that there is also a book by that title makes it all the more embarrassing.

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

          “The First Jewish-Roman War,” I believe.

        • avalpert

          It’s generally called the First Jewish-Roman War or first Jewish Revolt- so your name is close enough

        • Greg G.

          Luke 2:42-47 appears to come from Life of Josephus 2, which is thought to be from 97 or later.
          A few weeks ago in the comments of another article, someone quoted a couple of letters from the early church fathers to show that the gospels were in circulation in the early second century, one from Matthew and one from Luke, but I showed that each quote could have come from the Gospel of Thomas instead.

    • Jim Jones

      I like post 135 CE (the Bar Kochba revolt) as the time of the first gospel. It would provide the impetus for creating documents separating Christians from Jews.

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

        I’ve heard that, but that late dating makes me wonder how the prophecy of the end (“There are some standing here who will not taste of death until all these things come to pass”) could’ve still been put on Jesus’s lips. Wouldn’t there be some tweaking to address the obvious fact that Jesus was wrong?

        • Pofarmer

          It all kinda makes sense if it were a play.

          What if Mark really were a performance piece? Maybe one set before the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple, and performed after. It starts with Jesus being an adult, and covers a short time span, so you only need one set of actors. Then it ends with the women running away and telling no one that Jesus had arisen, which maybe could be used to explain why the great stuff never happened, because they didn’t tell anybody? You could perform the whole thing quite simply with common props.

        • Jim Jones

          > It all kinda makes sense if it were a play.

          Some have suggested that Mark is supposed to be read over part of a year as part of a religious service.

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

          Interesting. The theater was well established in Greece and Rome by this point, and I wonder how the gospel story compares to other fiction of the time.

  • ImRike

    I’m just reading another interesting view of the resurrection: “Doubting Jesus’ Resurrection” by Kris Komarnitsky. The more I read, though, the more I lean towards the side of mythicism.

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

      Intriguing. Personally, I find the Jesus Myth theory to be a diversion from the standpoint of my argument arsenal–it’s just too much of a diversion.

      Still, it looks interesting. I need to read more.

      • ImRike

        Oh, Komarnitsky obviously believes in a historical Jesus and he is quite convincing in his arguments about the resurrection. So you see, I have to keep reading, too.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      Richard Carrier is recommending that as the best-stated case for a historical Jesus.

  • MNb

    Because of Dutch philosopher of religion Emanuel Rutte ao, who argues for chistianity because “scholars agree on the empty tomb” I suspect that apologetics a la Habermas are much more common then we atheists may assume. These apologists very conveniently forget something.
    Let’s for the sake of argument grant Habermas his points. Let’s assume his methodology is valid, his results reliable and his conclusion correct. So historical research conflicts with the natural sciences; apparently this is possible. Well, if it’s possible one time it’s possible twice or more often too. If natural sciences have to give way once, then more often. Not only the results of scientific research – and I cannot stress enough that historical research is a solid branch of science, while Habermas obviously makes a historical claim – have to be consistent, so has the methodology.
    Habermas, if being scientifically sincere and claiming to be rational, has to apply his methodology to similar islamic, hinduistic and boeddhist etc. claims as well. We’ll likely end up with a whole set of supernatural (ie defying natural sciences) claims, including Surinamese bakru’s and yorka’s.
    How is Habermas going to approach this problem? Let me guess – by putting his christian head firmly in faithist sand.

  • MNb

    We know that fundies have chosen biology as their battleground as they can’t accept evolution. It’s my impression that many liberal christians – liberal in the first place meaning that they accept a less strict interpretation of the Bible and thus do accept evolution – prefer history, especially History of Antiquity. It’s important indeed for us atheists to think about and develop a strategy to counter excessive christian claims, certainly the empty tomb but above all the Resurrection.
    So good job, BobS.

    • Castilliano

      I can’t say I even care about the empty tomb except it’s a good example of where the four gospel stories conflict, and at on important event where there should be no conflict.
      Okay, four conflicting stories agree a tomb was empty.
      Therefore Jesus rose from the dead? Wow, wait, what? You really think the most plausible reason a body goes missing is that the body moved itself?

      It’s like seeing a used, empty coffin in a graveyard. Therefore vampires!
      Or an empty Egyptian sarcophagus. Therefore The Mummy!
      Scientist’s cadaver missing? Frankenstein’s Monster! (duh)

      The “empty tomb” argument is one of the most horrible proofs ever constructed: it’s internally inconsistent and has no plausibility outside of faith’s presumptions.

      But I’ll give the fundies this, it does serve as a good distraction (caltrops argument) from their other flawed arguments.

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

        Fair enough, but keep in mind what you’re giving up with this concession (I realize that it’s just for the sake of argument). You don’t take a story halfway through as a given and then say, “OK, given that Dorothy’s house has just landed on a witch and she’s seen the Munchkins and the Good Witch, where else would the yellow brick road go to but Oz??”

        If the end part of the story is nutty, that doesn’t say much about the first part.

        • Castilliano

          What concession?
          I’m just highlighting the dead end of the road apologists are trying to plow.
          Why would they even go there?
          The evidence for the empty tomb comes from conflicting stories, therefore it’s actually excellent evidence of the unreliability of scripture, therefore unreliability of the empty tomb’s existence too.
          That should end their foolish tactics, but it doesn’t.

          So then why do apologists push so hard to prove there was a missing body when there are so many “not resurrected” reasons the body could be missing. Who jumps to such a conclusion, ever?
          Even a saint or Pope, if their body went missing, resurrection would not be the first hypothesis. (Though, sadly, it would likely turn up eventually.)

          It’s just silly, hence all the silly parallels I drew.
          It boggles my mind, especially as a former Christian, why an apologist, who is supposed to thinking tactically, would ever think bringing up the empty tomb would serve them any good.
          “Let me highlight some of the most obvious discrepancies in the Bible, so I can prove this room was empty because everyone knows a missing body means the body was resurrected.” /s
          *sigh*
          I really wish I’d been exposed to the “empty tomb” argument as a Christian, just so I could have been an atheist sooner.
          Cheers.

        • TheNuszAbides

          So then why do apologists push so hard to prove there was a missing body when there are so many “not resurrected” reasons the body could be missing. Who jumps to such a conclusion, ever?

          the endless supply of weak/lazy imagination, against which we all must struggle.

        • Kodie

          It was 2000 years ago, on a night just like tonight… the worst crucifixion I ever seen….

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RryZV8NK9-Q

      • MNb

        For someone who doesn’t care you lay out a quite detailed strategy to counter the empty tomb argument.

        • Castilliano

          :)
          I just made that up as I typed.
          Cheers.

  • Scott F

    That’s funny. Even Bart Ehrman accepts that Jesus was crucified. Unless you are a mythicist (in which case the crucifixion is WAY too late in the story to start your argument!) it is hard to explain why an executed messiah would be a useful addition to the legendary elements of the tale. Plus Romans crucified people all the time, so it is historically plausible. If you want made-up stuff, check out the rationalizations that the evangelists had to spin in order to explain the execution.

    As to the belief that Jesus had been “seen” by his followers, I see no reason not to accept Paul’s testimony of the EXISTENCE OF THE BELIEF – even if I don’t trust him to have all the details. Judging by Paul’s report of his own encounter with an supposedly risen Jesus, these “appearances” could be the product of all sorts of stress-induced psychological experiences that had been smoothed out in the retelling into a somewhat coherent mash-up. For all its conjectural aspects of my theory, given the lack of activity we have seen from this risen messiah in the last 2000 years, the dream/vision story is still a better explanation than an actual Son of God delivering on his promises.

    So, I grant Habermas and Licona two of their “minimal facts”. I just don’t see how it helps their argument much.

    • Ron

      I agree. I’ll grant apologists the existence of a historical man right up to the discovery of an empty tomb. But they’ll have to provide better evidence for a resurrected messiah—i.e. real empirical evidence, not ad hoc explanations and “just so” hypotheses. If this was the singular most important supernatural event in all of human history—as they like to assert—then you’d expect the omni-max deity who orchestrated it all to leave a trail of evidence convincing enough to extinguish all doubts about the historical certainty of that event. Yet it appears that this supernatural entity wasn’t even capable of keeping the original manuscripts describing the event congruent… or in circulation.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        I’ll grant apologists the existence of a historical man right up to the discovery of an empty tomb.

        I might grant it ad arguendo, but I would have to point out how absurdly slim the evidence for even that is. Ehrman failed badly in that book.

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

          Robert Price’s position, as I understand it, is that a historical Jesus would certainly be the default position, but there is now so much evidence supporting a mythical origin of Christianity that the burden of proof has now fallen on the person who argues for a historical Jesus.

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

      it is hard to explain why an executed messiah
      would be a useful addition to the legendary elements of the tale

      Say you worship Dionysus. Dionysus defeated death. Now you’re getting pretty excited about this new Jesus guy–maybe you should worship him instead. But what’s that? You say that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead? Even Dionysus did that.

      Maybe this newly converted Christian will add some cool elements of his old religion before he passes the story along.

      • Pofarmer

        Yep. My God is more spectacular than your God.

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

          Not anymore–’cause I just changed the story, and now my God does all the stuff your god does, and more!

          Bam! Who just got pwned??

    • Greg G.

      There were sects of Jews who were looking forward to the Messiah, especially since the Maccabees era, and wanted it to happen in their lifetime, just like Christians and the return of Christ for centuries.

      One sect began to read about the suffering servant who died for the iniquities of others in Isaiah 53 as being a hidden mystery history and thought their new understanding was because it was being revealed to that generation because the Messiah was on his way.

      That suffering servant was not crucified as a criminal by the Romans so it doesn’t have that taint. The hope of the Messiah was their good news.

    • Jim Jones

      > Even Bart Ehrman accepts that Jesus was crucified.

      Ehrman wants it to be true. There’s no evidence for an actual Jesus, any more than there is for an actual Batman.

      • busterggi

        I’ve held bats, I’ve never held an angel.

        • avalpert

          I’ve held a pin so I’ve probably held thousands of angels

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

          (I’ve heard that the original was actually, “How many angels can dance on the point of a needle?” which makes for a substantially smaller dance floor.)

  • GubbaBumpkin

    An earlier non-Christian source is Josephus, but Josephus’s two
    references to Jesus appear to have been added or modified by later
    scribes

    Fucquinet. Josephus was not born until after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus H. Christ, and the brief alleged mention of Jesus H. Christ was not written until after 90 AD. So if Habermas or anyone else even thinks this is a contender for evidence, he is clearly out of touch with the standards of evidence.

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

      Agreed. And then, with a straight face, he’s going to add hearsay from even later sources and call that evidence?

      The guy’s desperate.

  • Kodie

    The incentive is built into the naturally unbelievable story – you can
    only get to god through me. Anyone who denies Jesus is sent to hell for
    failing to regard an unbelievable story as true. God’s not interested in
    leaving evidence. Only scholars are willing to delve into the subject,
    honestly understanding how unbelievable it must seem, well, I believe
    honestly… however much other incentives to keep it up may enter into
    it. What it comes down to, from my perspective, is that Christians have
    insecurity about how unbelievable and impossible it must seem, for it to
    be true, they have to piece together whatever clues they can. Note the
    difference between people who just use the bible to support their
    arguments and people who feel the need to study, write, or read in order
    to launch this legend into a status of historical event.

    From a gullible Christian perspective, this gives strength as the apostles dying for a lie – who would study their whole lives and publish with confidence if what they found did not support their unbelievable conclusion? Legends don’t form that quickly, oral education was different, they spoke to eyewitnesses! None of that matters. Jesus said you have to go through him to get to god in heaven after you die; he is dictating the terms of his will. If you want salvation, all you have to do is believe he has the magic powers, and oh, of course, he died gruesomely over some kind of heresy declaring himself the messiah…. but then he was laid to rest in a tomb, and disappeared! If I were making up a story, I would make sure to show all the necessary steps too. If you read fiction or watch movies or tv shows, you may note how sharp the dialogue is and how the story unfolds as it would, chance meetings, and other events or remarks that don’t make sense until they are called back, as if the characters or plot could have been any different. The author may not know where the story ends up until they get there, but they can and do change things around retroactively to fit a conclusion – even to the point of a formula for the kinds of stories people really like a lot. And if you took literature at the high school level, you know all about foreshadowing and theme.

    When people read the accounts of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection as if it happened in order and wasn’t authored to meet an amazing conclusion that only happens in movies and books (and only the ones with magical or science-fiction elements), I kind of have to wonder how stupid they are. Nothing in real life has ever shown anything similar. We live in a world where we become aware that some people are skilled liars and have ulterior motives, and yet, willingly let down our guard and constantly impress ourselves what good judges of character we are, and what fools someone else is who isn’t on board. They channel what should be embarrassment into a whole persecution complex. We’re prejudiced and bigoted against the people who hold magical beliefs and want to suppress it… sure, if you’re wanting to build the foundation of an entire government on magical beliefs.

    But I mostly find negatives in the little arguments that don’t make any sense, like, atheists are going to be sorry, or atheists should try living in a Muslim theocracy. These pathetic little cracks show desperation in their arguments, and I like to think they have to know that. As for having a god-shaped hole, I think a lot of people have an unmet need to be known truly and loved completely that can only be filled by an imaginary person. Their formula for marriage or morals in order to please god, who “knows them” inside, what they really want and like, and when they’re dissatisfied by their own choices in life, and how utterly jealous that they have to say atheists deny god so we can actually be ourselves, but then that the love of another person cannot compare, and happiness (or hedonism) in life cannot compare, I have to wonder what they think heaven is like and what they’re looking forward to. All they see is an ideal order of religion, that if everyone fell in line with god, there would not be so many problems in society; if they could control us through law, if nothing else, it would be their proof that life has to mean something, but the world as it is seems to be both evidence that god exists, and evidence that life on earth blows and heaven is going to rock.

    I don’t understand, if it’s so obvious, why we need scholars, except that it is obviously hard to believe and meant not to be believed except by self-selected people with the willingness to disregard reality for a bonus afterlife. The bible pretty much lays it out there – if someone said to you, “only a fool washes their clothes in a bargain-brand detergent,” doesn’t that make it sound like spending more money is worth it? A competing brand, “only a fool spends more than they need to on laundry detergent.” The ads are playing on the consumer’s ego – we want to spend our money smartly. People like to save money, but they also like to be validated in their intelligence to spend more on a brand product that isn’t conspicuous as a car or a pair of sunglasses, and admits it’s more expensive than other brands in the aisle of the store. The “objective” actors in the commercial are impressed with the product, so you should spend more. Maybe it is actually better, but after being persuaded, can you rationally decide? Can you break and try another brand to see if it’s worse? Is it worse? Will you rationalize spending more for identical (or worse) results because your ego won’t let all of this house of cards make you be a fool? And when you kind of know you’re a fool and people criticize you, just call them haters and keep believing the impossible to idiotic. When you die, you’re really going somewhere else, a much nicer place than earth. Only a fool turns that down! Only a fool ignores the advertisement for (free*) salvation!

    Scholarship on the subject (whether historical in these example, or scientific-like in the Discovery Institute or fine-tuned planet) only serves to raise this ridiculous fiction up to a superficially intellectual level for people who think they’re too smart to fall for an obviously strange and unbelievable tale on faith alone, or that we’re too stupid that we can’t compete with the “new” results of their investigation, and that we would simply prefer them to keep it quiet, keep this upsetting-to-atheism’s-agenda! information hidden from the public, because we aren’t actually interested in following the evidence and only are interested in turning everyone against god and establishing an atheist state. They are hypocrites to a fantastic degree, attempting to suppress the offense and threat of science and history in favor of seemingly academic and scholarly accounts that, even if they were true, still have the unignorable problem of “yadda yadda yadda”, salvation. They call us “brainwashed” and “indoctrinated” to deny Jesus, while creating a delusion about how important or factual their information would be if it were ever to get out into the schools.

    And we do know it would be dangerous. It not only has no factual basis and doesn’t belong garbaging up our education system, kids could and would be convinced. It has that air about it to the uneducated and vulnerable. By making these scholarly efforts to legitimize a fictional subject, people who might not otherwise be fooled are persuaded and convinced. What is actually dangerous is how this defeats the also-Christian value of ‘Murica. It’s delusional to believe that the reason the US persists as a world power is Jesus’s love. It boils right down to that. It doesn’t have to do with science, technology, or commerce (or whatever measure you can use). Our taxes (that churches don’t pay) go mostly to fund the military, our mighty world football team, and if we pray before the game, we’ll win. It’s so stupid. Being a nation other countries hate and make fun of doesn’t get through to them, it only fortifies them, as if we’re embarrassing ourselves to care about other people, to develop in any other area than Christianity. I wish we would be a lot more practical and a lot less delusional as a country, but even education emphasizes a lot more memorization and recitation and not as much thinking and comprehension.

    I guess this is long enough or too long. :)

    • Pofarmer

      Kodie, I read throught this in bits and chunks, because I read a part of it and go “aha” and want to reply and get distracted. And then, right above this great piece of prose, we have another whacked out apologist muslim comment by Sparkling moon, who would convert you forcibly if they could. But, anyway. Don’t you wonder how, in 2014, that anybody can believe that 2000 years ago and more people were rising from the dead? And it’s not just Jesus. Elijah raised the dead, and was supposedly assumed into heaven without dying. Daniel survived death by Lions, and Shadrach, Meesach, and Abed Nego survived the flames of the Babylonian ovens, among others. The world was full of miraculous stories that nobody believes anymore, and yet, with no evidence whatsoever, at least not in the scientifically verifiable kind, you have millions of people that believe that 2000 years ago a Jewish miracle worker died and absorbed all our sins. Let’s not even get into the conversation that sin is a concept that’s incongruent with reality. It’s on television, on the radio, people believing the most outlandish things, because of FAITH! The further I get from that faithful time in my life the more I shake my head and just go, “wow”. Yes, Christians do good things, but they could do those same things if they were not Christians. Civic organizations could provide every social function now provided by Chruchs. Church’s are misseducating and therefore causing harm to millions, probably billions, but that’s O.K., because JESUS! The whole thing is making me ill.

      • Kodie

        I was not brought up in any faith, and when I was young, I thought religion was sort of quaint or cultural, like a nationality – most people in America “come from” somewhere else, whether it was themselves or their parents or a long time ago. I thought having a religion was like that. I wouldn’t say I grew up in the most diverse neighborhood, but I was certainly exposed through a few people there and in school to a variety of nationalities and religions outside of European or Christianity, and through TV also, about the “melting pot” of America, so I was pretty tolerant of people having religions and even wished I had one. I didn’t at the time know that with my mind I could actually choose one any more than I could choose to be Chinese or Irish; it’s just something you’re sort of born with and traditions shared in families. We didn’t talk about atheism or religion much in my family – my grandfather was the atheist. My mother had said she was an atheist but I think she might have been lying, and my father is not an atheist, but, together, they did have strong opinions about “the magic show,” “holy rollers,” and “bible thumpers”. I guess most people in my area were Catholic, but even most people I knew grewing up didn’t talk about their beliefs either. Just enough that I knew they had them and some basics of Christianity, and enough to know that Christianity was the majority and the norm (just like people of white, European descent, like, duh).

        When I got older, and I gave it some real thought, I guess at some point, I became starkly aware that grown people actually literally believed some things. Not fundie literalist garbage either, stuff like the resurrection. I assumed most people acknowledged evolution, it was simply the Jesus part, the magical guy who knows you, talks to you, gives you advice, and will meet you in heaven when you die. What? Having previously thought this was kind of a nice story (not having actually read the bible), I get that people like to pray and when they have no power at all, it feels natural to say “thank god it all turned out ok!” I still, this is the most problem I have being an atheist, especially amongst other atheists who used to be Christians, who have studied the bible and can argue these finer points of history vs. fantasy. You get someone convinced, not of magic, but of written reports from a scholar who has dug into the history of an area and a people, where the magical event is buried in academic arguments. I just say A doesn’t seem to go straight to B like it might seem here; and anyway, people don’t just disappear and resurrect.

        What grown person believes that any of this could happen? Who are these people afraid of an invisible man in the sky, and asking him for favors? I had, in my late teens and early 20s (not having been taught at home or school), gone through a stage where I couldn’t distinguish between magic and reality, to say, because it wasn’t Christian, I thought psychics and ghosts and stuff like that were not entirely out of the question or in the same category, but I eventually realized. It is the kind of thing you’re supposed to grow out of, yes? Everyone wishes they could see the future or cast a spell of some kind to alter reality, and it’s just a superstition. That is where I consider the firm line between not really understanding religion and understanding it but being surprised.

        Consider how many theists seem to think we are against “religion”. I was all for it. To them, as to me when I was younger, religion is attendance in church, the going through the motions, maybe some quiet reflection on your place in the world as another of “god’s children” – you know, just human – and set a moment aside to feel love for your family even if the rest of the week they drive you nuts and you yell at them. I even get all the metaphors and agree with some of them. But then you get the protest against religion – “it’s a relationship”, now you’re talking crazy. That is the bad part. That’s where you, a grown person, are proudly admitting you see things and hear things that aren’t there, worried that I don’t, and aren’t just going through the innocuous motions. I used to like the tradition of holding hands in a circle and “thanking god” for whatever, hope we have a good show tonight, or for bringing loved ones together, and now I don’t. Now it creeps me out that some people think that’s actively summoning a deity for support.

        • Pofarmer

          ;”and now I don’t. Now it creeps me out that some people think that’s actively summoning a deity for support.”

          The last time we were at my wifes family, they all said the meal prayer, and then through in a hail Mary for good measure. I actually had a mild panic attack, thinking how nuts this is, and I’m in a room with 20 or 30 other people who vehemently believe this is a very “powerful” prayer.

    • Castilliano

      No worries about length, it’s tremendous writing.
      I would recommend you tailor it to a theist audience (not necessarily fundie) and get it published, even if only in a newspaper editorial or perhaps through social media. Please.
      Kudos.

      • Pofarmer

        Would love to see it as a lead post on a blog on Patheos.

      • Kodie

        I’m pretty sure I was just rambling from thought to thought again, but thanks. :)

  • SparklingMoon

    Jesus died by crucifixion. Habermas points to the gospels, which are first-century writings that all report a crucifixion.
    ————————————————————
    It was stated in the Holy Book (Old Testament) that whoever was hanged on the wood was accursed. According to the agreed view of all who know the language, ‘curse’ has reference to the state of one’s heart. A man would be said to be accursed when his heart, having been estranged from God, becomes really dark; when, deprived of divine mercy and of divine love, between him and God there arises hatred and contempt and spite and hostility, so much so that God and he become mutual enemies.
    It is clear that the significance of the word accursed, is so foul that it can never apply to any righteous person who entertains love of God in his heart. Can we say that Jesus’ heart was ever really estranged from God; that he had denied God, that he hated Him and had become His enemy? Can we ever think that Jesus had ever felt in his heart that he was estranged from God, that he was an enemy of God, and that he was immersed in the darkness of unbelief and denial? If, then, Jesus had never been in such a state of mind, that his heart was always full of love and the light of Divine Knowledge, is it for you, wise people, to ponder. It is a pity that once a man has given utterance to something, when he has taken his stand upon a particular belief, he is not inclined to give up that belief,however much the absurdity thereof be exposed.
    Let it also be noticed that this not only detracts from the prophet hood and apostleship of Jesus (as) but it is also derogatory to his claim to spiritual eminence, holiness, love, and knowledge of God, to which he has repeatedly given expression in the gospels that he is the Light of the world, that he is the Guide, and that he stands in a relation of great love towards God; that he has been honored by a clean birth, and that he is the loved Son of God. How then, in spite of these pure and holy relations, can a curse, with all its significance, be attributed to Jesus? No, never. Therefore, there is no doubt that Jesus was not crucified, i.e., he did not die on the Cross, for his personality did not deserve the underlying consequence of death on the Cross.Not having been crucified,he was spared the impure implications of a curse, and no doubt it also proves that he did not go to heaven, for going to heaven formed part of this whole scheme and was a consequence of the idea of his having been crucified.(Jesus in India)

  • busterggi

    Let’s see – zero contemporary written evidence that Jesus ever lived, contradictory accounts by later anonymous authors with theo-political agendas as to when the crucifition & resurrection happened as well as what happened afterwards, hearsay accounts of visions of a risen Jesus – whose followers don’t even recognise when they see him and first greatest follower, Paul, who never met the man.
    Pretty minimal.

    • MNb

      Let’s see – zero contemporary evidence that Alexander the Great ever lived or Diogenes of Sinope. Now what?

      • Wyatt

        The Babylonian Royal Diary, kept for millenia, mentions Alexander. This is why we are absolutely certain about the precise date of his death; the diary records the day that ‘The King Died’ to use its words. This is a day to day account of the most important events befalling Babylon/Babylonia, not a narrative historical account.

        There is a contemporary administrative document from Bactria, written in Aramaic, that records the moment of Alexander’s arrival in Bactria in pursuit of the main assassin of Darius III, Artaxerxes V or Bessus. Indeed, the same documents record the moment that Bessus reached Bactria too, and as the documents both name him as King Artaxerxes and Bessus we have absolute confirmation about his status as a usurper.

        These two references to Alexander by contemporary sources are indisputable in authenticity. It means that these days, we actually do have direct evidence of his existence.

        • MNb

          Can you show me a contemporary sample of that Diary? No? Then how do you know it’s a contemporary account?
          That’s the logic of Jesus-mythologists.

          Now the same questions for Diogenes of Sinope please.
          My point is that Jesus-mythologists are guilty of ad hoc arguments – they don’t apply their methodology to anyone else than Jesus.

        • busterggi

          You are god-of-the-gapping like crazy – apply your arguements to yourself and maybe you can see how enpty they are.

        • avalpert

          There is a world of difference between not having the contemporary copy of a contemporary account and not having a contemporary account.

          There is a world of difference between having independent corroborating evidence of existence across independent accounts and medium (such as coins, statues, inscriptions) as we do with Alexander and having no corroborating evidence across medium and what post-hoc accounts exist being quite contradictory as we do with Jesus.

          The comparison is weak, applying the same level of scrutiny across the two doesn’t put them in the same league at all. That of course doesn’t mean some cult leader named Jesus (or something close enough) didn’t exist in first century Judea but to pretend it is as certain as Alexander the Great is ridiculous and makes you look defensive. It shouldn’t be too much to ask for someone to embrace that a 1st century cult leader of a tiny sect won’t leave the same historical evidence for existence as an emperor conquering his way across the known world.

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

        I’ll add: coins with Alexander’s face and name. Dozens of cities named after him. Statues.

        Alexander had a substantial impact on the world during his lifetime. Not so Jesus.

        • MNb

          How do you know they are contemporary?
          And now the same question for Diogenes of Sinope please.

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

          I know little of Diogenes.

          I’ve read that the many Alexandrias popped up during Alexander’s brief rampage through Asia. I can’t point you to evidence for that.

        • MNb

          Perhaps I must make my points more clear.
          I brought up Alexander and Diogenes because of the Jesusmythologist (JM) argument that “there are no contemporary accounts of Jesus”. There are none of Alexander the Great and Diogenes either.
          Next is “but we have archeological evidence for Alexander the Great but not for Jesus”. Well, according to Jerry Coyne more than 97% of all fossils are lost for us forever. We are not going to reject (parts of) Evolution Theory because of this. Note that we also have a good secular explanation (just like we understand why we never will have than only few fossils) why there is no archeological evidence and why there are no contemporary sources on Jesus: the guy was unimportant and unimpressive during his life.
          All we have about Diogenes of Sinope are later quotes; certainly no archeological evidence (just like many transitional fossils will always be missing). Still no JM ever has argued that he is a myth too.
          The inevitable conclusion is that JM methodology sucks, because it’s just an elaborated ad hoc argument. And you know as well as I do that wrong methodology invariably gives us unreliable results.
          I cannot help but pointing out another similarity. Just like WLC has called Young Earth Creationism an embarrassment Richard Carrier has criticized many of his co-JM’s.
          Food for thought.

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

          I brought up Alexander and Diogenes because of the Jesusmythologist (JM) argument that “there are no contemporary accounts of Jesus”. There are none of Alexander the Great and Diogenes either.

          But with Jesus, you’d expect there to be. There were a handful of serious historians who lived during the life of Jesus who should’ve reported on Matthew’s solar eclipse during crucifixion or the zombies walking around.

          Are you saying the same was true with Alex?

          the guy was unimportant and unimpressive during his life.

          Of course.

          All we have ab out Diog enes of Sinope are later quotes

          As with Socrates, whom we know of only through the writings of Plato?

          The inevitable conclusion is that JM methodology sucks

          Not my view, though I don’t care much about the Jesus Myth theory.

          Just like WLC has called Young Earth Creationism an embarrassment Richard Carrier has criticized many of his co-JM’s.

          Right—he’s saying that there are a lot of weak arguments within JM. But he’s also saying that there are sufficient good ones to make it a viable hypothesis.

        • MNb

          “But with Jesus, you’d expect there to be. There were a handful of serious historians who lived during the life of Jesus who should’ve reported on Matthew’s solar eclipse during crucifixion or the zombies walking around.”
          You’re shifting goal posts. I’m not talking about solar eclipses during crucifixions or zombies walking around, I’m talking about a messias claimant named Jesus. Why would any serious historian pay attention to (from his point of view) some fool (out of many) walking around in some remote part of the Empire? He could meet such fools around the next corner.

          “Are you saying the same was true with Alex?”
          I don’t understand this question.

          “As with Socrates, whom we know of only through the writings of Plato?”
          Worse – there is also a Greek general who wrote about Socrates and completely contradicts Plato. So any JM arguing that Jesus must be a myth because of the contradictions should also argue that Socrates is a myth – if consistent, which I strongly doubt.

          “Not my view”
          Then your view is wrong. Any methodology designed for one special case and not applied to other cases is flawed and unscientific.

          “there are sufficient good ones to make it a viable hypothesis”
          Like I wrote I am not too familiar with Richard Carrier, so I’m willing to give him a break. From what I have read on his blog he only brings up negative evidence (to paraphrase: “the evidence for Jesus is seriously flawed, hence a myth”) and exactly zero positive evidence. Plus he refuses to apply his methodology on other cases. I seriously hope I’m wrong here because I think it a disgrace if an atheist scholar (like Doherty) claims to be rational and messes with science at the same time. After all we don’t accept all this from the IDiots from Seattle either.
          You always ask: where is the evidence for a divine being? If you are consistent you also should ask: where is the evidence for a mythical Jesus? Exegesis a la Doherty doesn’t cut it.

        • avalpert

          You doth protest too much. The evidence for the mythical Jesus is the gospels – heck, there should be no question that there is a mythical Jesus the only rational question is is there anything that is the non-mythical Jesus.

          Asking for evidence that there isn’t a non-mythical Jesus is exactly the same as asking for evidence that there is no god of any sort at all. What kind of positive evidence would you expect there to be? Isn’t that the words and deeds attributed to him are all derivative of others writings that predate the period in which Jesus is said to have lived not some sort of positive evidence for a mythical Jesus? Is it dispositive, of course not – but what dispositive evidence of the non-existence of a random dude named Jesus in the first century do you really expect to find?

          At the end of the day, it’s a distraction. Whether there is any non-mythical Jesus isn’t an interesting question – that the ‘Jesus’ of Christianity is a complete myth in any meaningful sense is all that matters.

      • cest_moi

        there are, however, no stories relating supernatural activities by either of those individuals to make any accounts questionable, contemporary or otherwise

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

          I’m not so sure. The Alexander Romances might’ve appeared shortly after the death of Alexander (dating is uncertain), and I think they make a lot of supernatural claims about him. Historians do indeed scrub supernatural claims out of history, but it still is a historical fact that these (false) claims were sometimes made about great men.

        • cest_moi

          true that ……. my comment was poorly phrased

          a better way to express it would be that any accounts relating supernatural activities and events to these men are universally accepted as embellishments as any stories witth those elements should be

  • TheNuszAbides

    holy comment lode!
    i hope a lot of these are short or easily skipped/skimmed.

    but mostly i wanted to praise the playmobil angel and the delicious chocolate-topped digestive biscuit that was miraculously uneaten by the Risen Whatsit.

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

      That “stone,” miraculously rolled away, does look rather tasty.

      • TheNuszAbides

        hrm… odd.
        when i posted that, the comment count was over 2,000.

        now it’s 148.

        bright side: timesaver!

  • Steve

    I applaud your faith, it is monumental. It has to be—- to believe what you do!

    • Kodie

      How monumental does someone’s faith in a person not rising up from the dead have to be? Believe it even though it doesn’t make any sense and there’s no credible evidence.

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

      Steve: Someone hijacked your Disqus account and used it to write a brainless, content-free comment!

      After you change your password, come back and give us something substantial to back up this position.

    • https://plus.google.com/103783311760679881592/about Ophis

      Has it escaped your notice that a certain other belief system has for centuries been justified by its adherents using explicit appeals to faith?

    • Greg G.

      Anybody know how to replace an irony meter on a Samsung hand-held? Mine is now toast.

    • Cognissive Disco Dance

      OMG worst case of projection ever.


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