Scholarly Consensus for the Resurrection?

Jesus resurrectionTheologian Gary Habermas has for almost 15 years cataloged articles debating the empty tomb of Jesus and the resurrection. From the thousands he has collected in the last few decades, he concludes:

75% of scholars today say that resurrection or something like it occurred.

(He also cites the same percentage in favor of the empty tomb, but the resurrection is the more sensational claim.)

It would seem that scholars are heavily in favor of the resurrection conclusion. However, a closer look (informed in large part by an excellent recent article by Richard Carrier) shows a very different conclusion.

This is not peer-reviewed scholarship

Habermas admitted in 2012, “Most of this material is unpublished.” With his data secret, his conclusions are uncheckable. Carrier says that Habermas has denied repeated requests to review his data.

Habermas cites the ever-growing list of articles in his database (3400 at last count), but what does the 75% refer to? Is it 75% of the database articles? If so, how does he deal with multiple articles from one author? Or is it 75% of authors? If so, are professors and street preachers weighed the same? If it’s 75% of scholars, are experts in the fields of theology and philosophy given equal weight with experts in history? What journals and other sources does he search?

Habermas assures us that he is careful to include scholars both friendly and unfriendly to the resurrection idea, but how do we know without seeing the data?

Who’s motivated to publish?

Suppose someone has an opinion on the resurrection and is considering writing an article, pro or con. Are those defending the resurrection more motivated to write an article than those who reject the idea? Are resurrection defenders more likely to find a publisher?

Carrier gives Atlantis as a possible parallel. Even though belief in Atlantis is a fringe idea, there may be more published articles defending the idea of Atlantis simply because defenders are more motivated, and those who reject Atlantis may feel that this is uninteresting or that the few articles out there already address the issue.

That Habermas’s database can’t correct for motivation and hasn’t been peer reviewed makes his conclusions useless, but there’s more.

A Christian bias

What fraction of the pro-resurrection 75% are Christians? Not having the data, we don’t know, but I’ll guess 99%. I’ll grant that Christians are as smart as anyone else, but does their religion bias their conclusions?

Here’s why I ask: consider polling a group of Muslim scholars. They have no bias against the supernatural, and they understand the Jesus story. But ask them about the resurrection, and they will universally reject it.

The Christian might respond that Muslims are biased by their religious beliefs to dismiss the resurrection. And that’s true, but then why are Christians, who are biased to accept the resurrection, allowed to weigh in on this issue?

Is 75% a big deal?

Habermas admits that 25% in his database reject the resurrection claim. Even if we were inclined toward Habermas’s conclusion, is this the foundation on which to build the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. “Most” of some scholars accepting the resurrection ain’t it.

It’s like an Olympic figure skating event where just 75% of the judges picked the winner. That’s not a reliable route to validate such a fundamental truth claim.

Or maybe that 75% is compelling!

William Lane Craig defends Habermas’s conclusion this way:

[Ask those who reject Habermas] what source of information they have that leads them to disagree with over 75% of the trained scholars who have studied this question. How did they come by such insight? How would they refute the evidence of the resurrection which has led so many scholars to the contrary conclusion?

Habermas is happy to reject the conclusion of 99% of the experts who understand evolution (see his attitude toward evolution here, here, and here). Ditto for William Lane Craig. Neither is in a position to object to anyone rejecting the 75% conclusion about the resurrection.

There is no grounds by which a layman like Habermas can reject a consensus in science. This problem doesn’t exist within religion because there is no consensus! (I explore that more with the example of the Map of World Religions.)

Habermas ignores the all-important “excluded middle”

Habermas counts votes in only two categories. To see the mistake behind this, consider a 1979 ad for the Bic razor that claimed, “In our test, 58 percent found the Bic shave equal to or better than the Trac II shave.” Notice that the 58% is composed of two subsets: those who found the Bic better (it was the cheaper razor, so I’m guessing this was quite small) plus those who had no opinion. We can only guess, but suppose the fractions were 8% for Bic better, 50% couldn’t tell, and 42% for the Trac II. With this, the message is suddenly quite different.

That’s the problem with Habermas. He counts two categories of authors who cared enough to write a paper and succeeded in getting it published, (1) those in favor of the resurrection hypothesis and (2) those not. But don’t forget category 3, “Other,” composed of scholars who have no opinion or who couldn’t be bothered.

Historians may be the only category of scholar qualified to have a relevant opinion on the historicity of the resurrection (though Habermas doubtless includes many philosophers and theologians). Few historians of pre-Roman Britain or ancient Egypt or Ming dynasty China will have written about the resurrection, but the consensus of historians universally scrubs supernatural stories out of history. Historians are an enormous silent majority that Habermas doesn’t count and that would discard his conclusion if he did count them. Relevant scholars who reject or have no opinion on his hypothesis doubtless overwhelm those who accept it.

What biblical scholar can speak freely?

How many of the scholars in Habermas’s database signed a statement of faith at their place of employment? That is, how many are not free to follow the facts where they lead but have their jobs and even careers on the line if they stray?

Consider what happened to Mike Licona when he wrote a 700-page book in 2010 containing a single conclusion objectionable to fundamentalists. He lost two jobs and was out on the street. Christian scholars in such positions are unable to be objective, and every scholarly conclusion of theirs is suspect. Their statements of faith hang like a Sword of Damocles over their heads.

This includes Gary Habermas himself. The statement of faith at his Liberty University says, in part, “We affirm that the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, though written by men, was supernaturally inspired by God so that all its words are the written true revelation of God; it is therefore inerrant in the originals and authoritative in all matters.”

Dr. Habermas, about that conclusion of yours: is that you or your faith statement talking?

Recommendation to Habermas

Habermas says about his database, “The result of all these years of study is a private manuscript of more than 600 pages.” That’s an impressive project, and yet his argument crumbles under scrutiny. This frequently-cited database is no proxy for a simple poll.

A poll would have been far less work, and it actually would’ve provided useful information—just not the information that Habermas would like to see.

For a critique of Gary Habermas’s minimal facts for the resurrection, continue here.

If Christ has not been raised,
our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
— 1 Corinthians 15:14

Photo credit: Secret Stash

About Bob Seidensticker
  • RichardSRussell

    Imagine a survey of all the world’s leading scholars in 1000 BCE about whether the world was flat or not. Most of them would’ve looked at you like you were crazy for even raising the issue.

    Matters of fact are not resolved by opinion polls.

  • Y. A. Warren

    “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”— 1 Corinthians 15:14

    It is amazing to me that the worldview promoted by the life of the man (or myth) called Jesus becomes irrelevant to many of his supposed followers if the miracles aren’t literally factual. Not much of a value system for society, in that case.

    • smrnda

      I think a lot of people have such a set of beliefs that if there was no literal fall in an actual garden of Eden and not literal resurrection of Jesus, then their beliefs make no sense. Of course, these people have decided to have beliefs that are a house of cards – they’re refusing the ‘legendary or mythic’ option.

      I don’t personally follow that option, but it’s at least possible to go that way and not have to stick your head in the sand.

  • Jason

    I’m in academics, and as far as I can tell, the field of biblical studies (not necessarily religious studies) does have a higher proportion of religious people, and as you would expect, many many Christians. Some of those are fundamentalists who do things like argue for the resurrection (and pretend that’s a real scholarly position), but honestly, many are religious and probably believe in the resurrection but do secular academic work. Many of these people also write things about the Bible for faith based communities in their churches. My point is that if I polled 100 people at Society of Biblical Literature’s annual conference, I expect I’d find quite a few people who would say “the resurrection or something like it occurred”. This is not the same thing as a scholarly consensus based on academic publications.

    I feel sure that Habermas’ number is inflated. It must include religious publications.

    Can people name some scholarly articles NOT written in a religious context that actually argue for the resurrection? I did a quick search on JSTOR and the only thing I found was the following (but it’s pretty old): “The Resurrection of Jesus and the Historical Method,” by Daniel P. Fuller, Journal of Bible and Religion, Vol. 34, No. 1 (Jan., 1966).

    • Jason Wexler

      Many years ago, the university I attended had a deeply fundamentalist Christian professor of religion who convinced the administrators to allow him to overload his schedule so he could teach Greek when the Greek professor retired or passed on or what have you. Turns out he was under the mistaken impression that if he mistaught the Greek that seeing the original Greek Septuagint saying exactly what he believed would convince people of the rightness of Christianity. Apparently it never occurred to this professor that people may disagree with the bible not because they think it’s mistranslated but because it’s rubbish.

  • http://pleonast.com/users/closetatheist Mr. Two

    (Your link to the Mike Licona article has some extra stuff at the beginning [C:usersBob…].)

    Your comment here about speaking freely, and the article on Mike Licona, remind me of an incident at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida, where Marty Pickup dared during the annual lectures to suggest that the serpent in the garden wasn’t a literal serpent, at all! Apparently, Non-institutional Church of Christ doctrine holds that it was a literal snake controlled by Satan, even though Genesis never says it was Satan, but a couple of verses in Revelation seem to imply that it was Satan after all.

    Marty wasn’t technically fired, and the college administration attempted to defend him (and itself, by implication) but he left his full-time teaching position.

    The real problem wasn’t his position on whether the snake was real, it was on whether the author of Genesis had co-opted mythology to tell the story. Marty dared to include opinions of Bible scholars in his presentation — Bible scholars who actually cared about where the Bible came from.

    The NI-Church of Christ “community” is a small one, and although each congregation is supposedly autonomous, the informal ties result in an effective leadership comprising the noisiest, most fundamentalist preachers. Many of these people think the college shouldn’t even exist because it has Bible classes, which “usurp” the authority given to parents and the local church.

    It’s a small (non-)denomination, but google any Bible subject and a large number of the hits you’ll get are NI-COC church websites. And they don’t tolerate scholarship that doesn’t confirm to the doctrines established in the early 1900s and in the controversies that led to the splits of the 1950s and 60s!

    • Jason

      “Pickup dared during the annual lectures to suggest that the serpent in the garden wasn’t a literal serpent, at all!”

      I know this is not your main point but as an aside, the serpent in Genesis (according to the text) is definitely a literal serpent. As you say, there’s no mention of Satan or any other evil entity. The story was probably originally just a regular old etiology about where snakes came from and why they slither on the ground (as punishment for getting Adam and Eve in trouble).

      • Greg G.

        Right. If the serpent was really Satan, why were serpents given the slithering, dust-eating punishment?

        • Pattrsn

          And what the hell did the worms do?

        • Castilliano

          Oh, they know! They know! (shakes fist)
          Let’s just say a can was involved and leave it at that.

        • Greg G.

          Just be glad Adam and Eve didn’t do what the dung beetles did.

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

          You don’t even want to know …

      • http://pleonast.com/users/closetatheist Mr. Two

        It’s ironic for me personally, because it was when I realized that there was no Satan, that it was only a story about a snake, that I quickly became an atheist.

        It seems my entire life people in the church said either “it’s Satan in the form of a snake” or “Satan is using the snake” with no real argument for/against either case, so his coming down on one side wasn’t really what got him in trouble, it was his explanation as to why he picked the side he did.

        Which is why I brought it up, as it relates to being able to speak freely.

      • RichardSRussell

        A great work of literature that expands on this idea is Harlan Ellison’s Deathbird, literally one of the finest pieces of fiction I have ever read. I organized a dramatic reading of it at an AAI convention in Texas in the late 1990s, and half the audience was in tears before it was over.

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

          Sounds powerful. It’s novella sized?

        • RichardSRussell

          Novelet. Won the 1974 Hugo Award in that category. Probably easiest to find in the collection Deathbird and Other Stories. More info here.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          I recommend The Diaries of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain. It is mostly comic, but it contains a few sections that show Twain could hold his own writing romantic prose.

      • Pattrsn

        Also, at that point wasn’t Satan still one of the good guys?

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

          Good point. Another reason why the serpent = Satan idea doesn’t fit the story but is a late Christian addition.

        • Jason

          No. There are no good guys and bad guys in the Genesis creation story. The “fall of Satan” was a later idea based on an interpretation of Isaiah where a fallen star is mentioned. In terms of the original texts, the serpent in Genesis, the fallen star in Isaiah, and Satan in Job are separate entities with no connection. Most Christians take it for granted that these are all the same because the New Testament writers took it for granted.

          But yes, in Job, Satan is described as one of the sons of God, so he is kind of a good guy there. He’s presented as a kind of a trickster but not as an embodiment of evil (but later interpretation made Satan = Devil). The serpent in Genesis is just a snake that helps people get in trouble. Something along the lines of Br’er Rabbit.

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

          Just like Christians like to reinterpret the polytheistic “He has become like us” in Genesis as a reference to the Trinity.

        • Greg G.

          I think the oldest use of the word “satan” is in a psalm where the speaker says he will have a “satan” respond to his accusers, IIRC. Many bibles translate it as an evil person but it sounds more like a defense attorney. In Job, Satan sounds like a prosecuting attorney. Do try to not think of lawyer jokes.

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

          I’ve enjoyed the “Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean” podcast. There’s lots of material there, and series 8 (the latest one) talks about the evolution of Satan.

          Not a quick process, but there’s lots of good material here.

        • Greg G.

          Thanks. There are may interesting topics. Where do I start?

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

          My favorite was 7.2, about the combat myths that preceded the Bible. Gotta check that one out if you’re not familiar with the combat myth.

          I had little interest in the associations series (that’s this guy’s specialty). Some of the early ones might be basic for you, but I found them quite helpful.

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

      Thanks for the note about the link. Fixed.

    • smrnda

      “Many of these people think the college shouldn’t even exist because it
      has Bible classes, which “usurp” the authority given to parents and the
      local church.”

      Wow, let’s just decide ‘my ignorance is as good as someone else’s knowledge’ and inscribe that as the motto of the denomination? We can’t have professional scholars contradicting Ma and Pa and the local preacher when the say “If the King James English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for us.”

      • Greg G.

        The Bible’s authors never went to college, why should its readers?

        • Pofarmer

          But the Church says it invented colleges, so?

        • Greg G.

          They rue the day.

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

          Yes! Colleges are one of Christianity’s precious gifts to mankind! But good Christians must be wary of going there.

          It’s like sex. Sex is a filthy disgusting thing that you should only share with someone you truly love.

  • Greg G.

    William Lane Craig remarked in the opening statement of a debate with Bart Ehrman how much their paths were alike. They started out on fire for the Lord but became less fundamentalist as they progressed and learned. That’s probably typical of students who don’t go to Bob Jones or Liberty. Those who lose their faith along the way leave religion academics completely, unlike Ehrman. So those who are inclined to write articles on the Resurrection are mostly a self-selected group of Christians.

    I Googled “resurrection of jesus” and nine of the ten articles on the first page were positive and the tenth was the Wikipedia article that was deliberately neutral though there wasn’t much more than a mention of skeptics.

    You see what happened with Licona and the fundamentalists. If a religious studies scholar denies the resurrection of Jesus, the job prospects are limited but some are available. It’s the same with denying the existence of God. But if one questions the historicity of Jesus, it’s nearly impossible to find work as an academic. You can no longer call yourself a historian if Jesus isn’t an actual part of history.

    The Clergy Project is allowing many preachers who have lost their faith to explore new paths for their lives. I wonder how many scholars are in a similar situation with pressure to publish, publish, publish.

    • Pofarmer

      Isn’t the better question, why does any scholar of any stripe consider the resurrection of Jesus as having occurred at all? Do they believe in the resurrection of Voldemort as well? I think the proper scholarly opinion would be that approximately 2000 years ago a group of people started believing that a Jew named Jesus rose from the dead. Any more than that, and you have revealed yourself as an apologist, and not a scholar.

      • smrnda

        Credible historians also dismiss supernatural claims – Suetonius’ 12 Caesars makes a few, and I know historians reject those but accepts (with some reservations) the other details that are in the book.

        And I get very tired of people saying ‘but you’re just biased against the supernatural!’ Yes, I am, since there are pretty much no credible reports of such. I’m also biased against claims that a human being can lift 10,000 pounds with one hand.

        • Greg G.

          How can you be so reality-biased?

        • smrnda

          I know, it’s horrible. I mean, the other day I couldn’t find my keys. The fact that I looked in the pocket of my coat rather than wondering if space aliens had taken them just shows how I’m being misled by my bias. I mean, I totally didn’t think the aliens might have put them *back* in the left pocket while I was checking the right one.

      • Greg G.

        Jesus came into being backwards. Paul preached Christ crucified, Mark came up with a ministry, and Matthew and Luke provided conflicting birth scenes.

        • Pofarmer

          What about Paul going to Jerusalem to see Peter and James the Brother of Jesus? Who was Paul supposed to have been Persecuting?

        • Kingasaurus

          There is dispute whether “brother” means biological brother or just a title. It’s “Brother of the Lord”, not “Brother of Jesus.”, by the way. That is considered an important difference by some. All baptized Christians were “brethren”, so mythicists dispute what “Brother” means in this context. It’s not a slam-dunk.

          Paul’s “persecution” of the early Church isn’t necessarily historical the way it’s described. If early Christianity was just people having visions of a mythological figure, this “Paul” could have persecuted such a group before joining them.

          It’s the historical details of this “Jesus” that comes later, not the existence of the “Church” and its leaders. Many mythicists contend that Peter and James were real historical figures, but Jesus wasn’t.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, and don’t Catholics argue that “brother” in the Canaa wedding scene means something like “Cousin” instead of brother? They need to explain that away to get to the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary.

        • Kingasaurus

          Yes, they argue that. Or step-brother, postulating that Joseph was a widower with children from a previous marriage before he wed Mary.

          Not persuasive, IMO.

        • Pofarmer

          Which is why I think all Catholic Theology ultimately degrades into a pile of doggy doo upon examination. I also wonder if Paul didn’t make up the whole “I was against it before I was for it” bit to build street cred.

        • Kingasaurus

          Protestant Theology isn’t much better. “The Catholic Church Tradition is just the decisions of fallible humans and is wrong. In reality, all we need is this book. Which the fallible human Catholic Church Tradition put together.”

        • Pofarmer

          Good point. I guess I just look at the ridiculous at some of the Catholic Doctrine, and read some of the Catholic bloggers on Patheos who totally buy into it, and the response just has to be, “Really? This seems believable to you?” I suppose since I was raised with moderate Protestant theology, it doesn’t smack me quite as hard.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          I think one of the major problems with Catholic doctrine is the whole “infallibility” complex. They cannot admit they made a mistake. That would mean admitting that they have been misleading the faithful for centuries. Consider the trinity. The Bible states prominently that there is only one God. Then in the New Testament we have the story of Jesus, who may or may not also be God. And there’s the Holy Spirit. They couldn’t admit that they were wrong about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, so instead they had to go this whole “one God, three persons” route to save face.
          And don’t get me started on transsubstantiation.

        • Pofarmer

          The problem with the trinity for me, is that it says quite plainly that God sent the Holy spirit. It is pretty clear that the Holy Spirit is apart from God, or how else could he send it? Transubstantiation as a doctrine should have died with Alchemy, it’s just one more of Aristotle’s ideas that was wrong. The worst thing is they still use the outmoded ideas of accident and substance to defend it. That should have died 500 years ago.

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

          But do those references to the Holy Spirit unambiguously show it to be a separate person than God? Could it be just a turn of phrase where “God sent his Holy Spirit” could be like “I sent my best wishes”?

          Pulling the Trinity out of the NT was clearly a stretch, given how long it took for people to figure it out.

        • Castilliano

          Except, you aren’t sending a sentient being with your wishes who is you and not you both. (Are you?)

          The trinity is hard to assail because there’s no metaphor to use. Even the classic water in three forms metaphor (ice, liquid, vapor) was declared heresy way back when.
          So it’s a mystery, but obvious!
          Except Jesus flat out says “My Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28). He admonishes (himself?) for forsaking him on the cross. What?
          At best this triune god has a mental disorder given this.

          So are there three divine figures in the Bible? Yes, and more, but I don’t see how Christians turn those three into a equal/different, separate/same triune godhead when the Bible explicitly gives examples otherwise.
          http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/interp/jesus_god.html

          Silly business.
          Cheers

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

          Except, you aren’t sending a sentient being with your wishes who is you and not you both.

          I’m not sending a sentient being, and I’m not sure that God is definitely doing so either.

          Even the classic water in three forms metaphor (ice, liquid, vapor) was declared heresy way back when.

          Modalism!

          So it’s a mystery, but obvious!

          You’ll understand in heaven, my son.

        • MNb

          They are one and distinct at the same time. Just accept this mystery. Or rather not.

        • Greg G.

          There are many OT verses that mention the “angel of the Lord”. Is that where they got the idea?

        • Greg G.

          The Catholics accept the Deuterocanon as scripture. They point out that the Protestants had to throw out a sizable portion of the Bible to make their theology work. The early Christians make references to the OT Apochrypha but the modern Protestants tend to deny it.

        • Pofarmer

          Catholics kind of backhandedly use Apocrapha in their theology, even of they wouldn’t canonize it. There are some things that pretty clearly come from the Gospel of Thomas.

        • Greg G.

          The Jews failed to canonize the later writings in the first century after Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed but the Catholics used it all along, before there was a New Testament canon. Luther deleted the deuterocanon plus a few other books (James was one of them) but they were restored to the Protestant Canon.

          Most of Mark chapters 3 & 4 come from GThomas.

          I think Thomas borrows from some epistles, specifically Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Galatians, but possibly James and 2 Corinthians.

          1 Corinthians 4:8
          Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Quite apart from us you have become kings! Indeed, I wish that you had become kings, so that we might be kings with you!

          Thomas 81
          Jesus said, “Let him who has grown rich be king, and let him who possesses power renounce it.”

          Paul borrows from the OT Apocrypha:

          Romans 9:21 (NRSV)
          21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use?

          Wisdom of Solomon 15:7 (NRSV)
          7 A potter kneads the soft earth and laboriously molds each vessel for our service, fashioning out of the same clay both the vessels that serve clean uses and those for contrary uses, making all alike; but which shall be the use of each of them the worker in clay decides.

          Thomas borrows from the OT Apocrypha:

          Thomas 43
          His disciples said to him, “Who are You, that You should say these things to us?” “You do not realize who I am from what I say to you, but you have become like the Jews, for they (either) love the tree and hate its fruit or love the fruit and hate the tree.”

          Sirach 27:6
          Its fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree; so a person’s speech discloses the cultivation of his mind.

          Even the Gospels use them:

          Mark 12:18-23 (NRSV)
          18 And Sad’ducees came to him, who say that there
          is no resurrection; and they asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the wife, and raise up children for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no children; 21 and the second took her, and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; 22 and the seven left no children. Last of all the woman also died. 23 In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”

          Tobit 3:7-8 (NRSV)
          7 On the same day, at Ecbatana in Media, it also happened that Sarah, the daughter of Raguel, was reproached by one of her father’s maids. 8 For she had been married to seven husbands, and the wicked demon Asmodeus had killed each of them before they had been with her as is customary for wives. So the maid said to her, “You are the one who kills your husbands! See, you have already been married to seven husbands and have not borne the name of a single one of them.

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

          For the intertestamental books, it seems fair to say that they preceded the gospels. But what about the Gospel of Thomas? How can you argue that it preceded Mark?

        • Greg G.

          First of all, if one assumes a historical Jesus, it makes it harder to think a Gnostic religion could arise soon after, so they like to date GThomas and Gnosticism to the 2nd century. If you notice that Paul and the other epistle writers never mention anecdotes and teachings, only the crucifixion and resurrection with no specific time references, it looks like they were already pretty much gnostic so Thomas could be much earlier.

          Many epistle ideas are turned into Jesus quotes in the five gospels. Most come from Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Galatians and, possibly James, which is evidence that those were in circulation when these were written. Mark also has a couple of passages that appear to come from 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17. That could be because Thomas just didn’t have it or chose not to use any of the material. But the fact that it doesn’t quote from any other epistle favors that it was not written after the Pauline corpus was assembled. It puts Mark and Thomas in the same ballpark time-wise.

          New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash lists sources for Mark for nearly every passage as shown by various bible scholars. The largest gaps just happen to correspond to Thomasine parallels. It is most unlikely that if Thomas was copying from Mark, that he would focus on those sayings that are not identifiable in the literature that was available in the first century that we have today. That is most of Mark 3 through most of Mark 4, plus other locations mentioned in the link below.

          And if you don’t believe me, here’s an argument by a scholar. – Mark’s Use of the Gospel of Thomas

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

          Good stuff, though Thomas preceding Mark is a fringe opinion, isn’t it?

        • Greg G.

          Yes, I think so. That’s the sort of thing I was referring to in the first paragraph.

          When I was looking up the URL for the Davies article, I came across an interview. I haven’t read all the way through but I did see this:

          “I didn’t see any reason to think that Thomas’ sayings reflected a Gnostic point of view. Yet it appeared to me that virtually all scholarship on Thomas declared it Gnostic, denigrated it for being Gnostic, and concluded that it must therefore be late, derivative and inauthentic.” –Dr. Stevan Davies, Professor of Religious Studies at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pennsylvania.

        • Pofarmer

          “http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/”

          Not really. I think Bart Ehrman was mentioning it on his blog a little while back as being at least contemporary with the other Gospels. It really looks like just another story that was circulating very early on.

        • busterggi

          If you go by the numbers then not believing is a fringe opinion.

        • busterggi

          Less bullshit had time to be incorporated into it?

        • MNb

          Only catholic theology? What do you think the point of pastafarian theology is?

        • Greg G.

          I heard that decades ago. Never noticed whether it was Catholics saying, though. I didn’t realize then that the differences between Christians sects were so extreme.

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

          It’s amusing to see the contortions they go through to make Mary pure. She can’t have had sex, either before or after (what’s wrong with after if she’s already fulfilled her mission?).

          But then how can an impure human give birth to a perfect child? I know! Let’s make Mary’s conception the Immaculate Conception!

          But then how could Mary’s mother have been perfectly pure? Doesn’t that thinking demand an infinite sequence … ?

        • Pofarmer

          Look at how they get to the ascension and assumption or whatever. It basically goes that we don’t have Mary’s bones, and don’t know of her death, so she must have been assumed into heaven without dying. I think it’s probably at least as likely that she never existed so noone knew where she was, ever.

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

          so she must have been assumed into heaven without dying.

          Well, yeah. After you’ve eliminated all other options, that’s the only possible conclusion.

        • Ron

          But then how could Mary’s mother have been perfectly pure? Doesn’t that thinking demand an infinite sequence…

          It would, and according to Matthew’s genealogy, Jesus’ lineage traces back to Rahab (the prostitute in Jericho, Joshua 2:1) and Tamar (Onan’s widow who played the harlot with her father-in-law, Gen. 38)

          Oops!

        • Pofarmer

          That’s – awkward.

        • busterggi

          Mary was a Rusian doll.

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

          The root of the word for brethren is used about 192 times in the Epistles. In only two verses is it used in the sibling sense. In a greeting in Romans, Paul says hi to someone’s sister and in 1 John one verse has it as a noun and an adjective discussing Cain and Abel. There are two questionable usages: “brothers of the Lord” in 1 Corinthians 9 and “brother of the Lord” in Galatians 1:19.

          I would argue that those last two instances are in the literal sense but sarcastic. In 1 Corinthians, it seems that someone has questioned whether he should be getting money from the church. In Galatians, someone has preached againsthis faith message. The Epistle of James seems to be a point by point rebuttal to his arguments from chapter 3 on.

          Galatiam 5:12 says he wishes the agitators (circumsizers) would go the whole way and emasculate themselves. That’s sarcasm. He mentions James, Cephas, and John as reputed to be pillars, but it makes no difference to Paul. That’s disdain. In the very first verse Paul alters his normal greeting that he is sent by the Lord to point out that he was not sent by men or by a man. In chapter 2, he mentions that some men were sent to Antioch by James. Paul is saying that if James has the authority to have people obey him, he must be at the level of the Lord, or, in other words, the brother of the Lord.

        • carmel Ka

          The Gospel of Mark 6:3 and the Gospel of Matthew 13:55-56 state that a James, Joses (or Joseph), Judas, and Simon were the brothers of Jesus, the son of Mary. The same verses also mention unnamed sisters of Jesus. Another verse in the Epistle to the Galatians 1:19 mentions seeing James, “the Lord’s brother”, and none other of the apostles except Peter, when he went to Jerusalem after his conversion. The “brothers of the Lord” are also mentioned, alongside (but separate from) Cephas and the apostles in 1 Corinthians 9:5

        • Greg G.

          As I argue, when Paul calls people “brother/s of the Lord”, he is being sarcastic. Mark seems to have relied on Galatians 1 & 2 when he created the sidekicks for Jesus: Peter, James, and John. Perhaps Mark knew a few people who didn’t get Paul’s sarcasm and thought Jesus had a brother named James so he included it as an afterthought. Matthew relied heavily on Mark using 90% and about half was verbatim. The changes and omissions appear to be for theological reasons so Matthew didn’t have any real knowledge of Jesus, either.

        • Pofarmer

          I never did get around to reading that full article in Cephas being the head priest Caiphus. But if that is the case, then wouldn’t it be natural for Paul to refer to Cephus, and James, brother of the lord, in that way, if Cephus wasn’t just another brother, but was the leader of the Jerusalem movement? He wasn’t just another brother, he was the head of the Jerusalem sect, so maybe the term brother wouldn’t apply if he were ringleader. Just musing.

        • Greg G.

          If Kephas/Peter was Kaiaphas/Caiaphas, the high priest at the Temple for 18 years, but was intimidated by James’ minions in Antioch as reported in Galatians 2, then James apparently wielded much power in the sect. So “the Lord’s brother” would work sarcastically for James but not for Peter, unless it was in a more inclusive sense as in 1 Corinthians 9:5, imo.

          Perhaps Mark was in on the sarcasm. The Gospel of John says Caiaphas was the son-in-law of Ananias and Josephus says Ananias had five sons who became high priest, including the one who had James killed in the famous “brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ” passage. Making Peter and the other highly educated priests into illiterate fisherman could be Mark’s sarcasm. Having Jesus heal Peter’s mother-in-law so she could make him a sandwich could be more sarcasm as she would have been the wife and mother of the family that dominated the Temple hierarchy from the time the Romans took direct control of Jerusalem until the destruction of the Temple and city.

        • Greg G.

          You know how Xtians exaggerate persecution. He used to argue with them when he was thirteen. Then his parents moved to Syria and Cilicia. After he was old enough, he went back to Jerusalem. Maybe.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, and, correct me if I’m wrong, but Paul himself never fleshes out what his “persecution” amounted to, does he? I’ve seen Christians invent all kinds of things, but I don’t think Paul or anyone else ever qualifies what it was he was supposedly up to.

        • Nemo

          Regarding Paul’s persecution, did the Romans typically allow random Jewish people to go around arresting members of a different Jewish sect on blasphemy charges? If I recall, the inability of Israel to execute people for religious crimes was one reason they hated the Romans.

        • Greg G.

          The Romans were into bloodsports and public executions but even they thought the Judean justice system needed to be restrained. I’m not sure if they were the first to do it. I think the Jews resented pagan idols at or near the temple going back to the Maccabean era before the Romans.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, there was a program on the other day, claiming that the reason the Jews hated Herod so much, was that he built a temple to Ceasar at a port city that he had constructed, even though he had also built the Temple in Jerusalem. The Jews hated him for building the Temple to Ceasar, so getting the whole baby killing thing written in may have been retribution for that.

        • Greg G.

          You keep Rome happy so they don’t become meddlesome, you bring unprecedented prosperity to the region, you build the most magnificent structures the city has ever seen, you build a temple that puts Solomon’s temple to shame, but do they remember you as Herod the Temple Builder?

          No.

          But you kill one baby…

        • MNb

          One reason they hated Herodes (whether the great or his son Antipas) was that he was not fully Jewish. The family came from Idumea in the south.
          The baby killing thing means to indicate that Mattheus is going to tell a story about an important man. The narrow escapes of Moses, Oedipus and Paris of Troje have the same function.
          Of course it was also nice to describe Herodes the Great as a bloodthirsty monster.

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

          Like Mo, Sargon the Great was also carried to safety in a reed basket to new parents.

        • Pofarmer

          Man, I can’t keep all my stories straight and what I’ve read where. But, at some point, doesn’t Paul claim he was a Pharisee? Or is that what Christians claim Paul probably was? At any rate, I’ve seen Jewish arguments, very old Jewish arguments, saying no way was someone who argues this badly a Pharisee.

        • Greg G.

          Philippians 3:5
          New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
          5 circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;

        • Pofarmer

          Makes you wonder if Paul had just declared himself a Pharisee.

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

          Right. It’s just a story. A data point, surely, but not necessarily historical fact.

        • Greg G.

          Would it be like declaring yourself to be a Christian, a Fundamentalist, or a Southern Baptist?

        • Pofarmer

          Well, Pharisees were a religious sect, but they were also supposed to be trained in OT Jewish law. It seems like it would bolster Pauls arguments if he could claim to be an expert on the laws. The Jews just say that he argues so poorly that there is no way he was a full fledged, properly trained Pharisee. I may be able to find that back, but it will be a while.

        • Greg G.

          Galatians 1:14 I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors.

          That sounds to me like he was well ahead of his classmates when he was 13. He then went off to battle the Dark Side before he was ready and, consequently gave in to the Dark Side.

        • Pofarmer

          That’s almost word for word copying Josephus.

        • Greg G.

          Life of Josephus 2 Moreover, when I was a child, and about fourteen years of age, I was commended by all for the love I had to learning; on which account the high priests and principal men of the city came then frequently to me together, in order to know my opinion about the accurate understanding of points of the law. And when I was about sixteen years old, I had a mind to make trim of the everal sects that were among us. These sects are three: – The first is that of the Pharisees, the second that Sadducees, and the third that of the Essens, as we have frequently told you; for I thought that by this means I might choose the best, if I were once acquainted with them all; so I contented myself
          with hard fare, and underwent great difficulties, and went through them all.

          Pretty close. Try comparing Paul’s shipwreck in Acts 24-28 with Life of Josephus 3. Also, compare Acts 21:38 with Antiquites 20.8.5, 20.8.6, and 20.8.10.

        • MNb

          The province of Judaea was not typical. Unimportant as it was for the Romans it was not even governed by a consul.

          http://www.livius.org/pi-pm/pilate/pilate02.html

          “In case of
          an emergency, he and his auxiliaries were alone.”
          What to do then? Make sure you have some jewish friends, of course. Paulus could have been one. I don’t say it is an established fact; I just say it’s possible in this particular case.

        • Greg G.

          Luke turns some of Paul’s remarks into scenes from the Bacchae . Christians eat that up.

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

          Paul (née Saul) persecuted Christians in Acts 8:3 and 9:2.

  • Daniel Webb

    I actually emailed Habermas about five or six months ago and asked if he had published his 3400 source bibliography anywhere or if he was able to send it to me so that I could see how the sources broke down.

    After acting confused about what I was asking for, he then replied that he didn’t have the bibliography anymore because some friend of his was reviewing it and he didn’t have another copy.

    Made me wonder…is this 3400 source bibliography on looseleaf paper or something? In the age of Microsoft word and digital backups, I found his reply pretty unsatisfying.

    Bob (or anyone else interested), if you’d like me to forward those emails to you–just reply to my comment with a good email address.

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

      Thanks for asking, but it seems that Habermas has made his position clear–this is private information (maybe a competitive advantage) and he has no interest in making it public.

      Even if it were, most of the arguments above still stand. A poll is what we actually need, and even then, Christian authorities don’t trump historians.

      • Daniel Webb

        I agree. I had sent the emails to Richard when I got them since I knew he had confronted Craig and Habermas with those arguments.

        What bothered me most is that 75% soundbite has been used by Craig for quite a while–and it’s BS to present it as anything substantial.

        • Pofarmer

          When you don’t have anything substantial to present you revert to BS.

        • Ron

          “If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither, pound the table.”

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

          Craig is big on selecting pleasing fragments and then holding tight. I wrote about A.N. Sherwin-White’s “two generation” observation, and Craig misinterprets that.

          I must’ve heard Craig prattle on about the Guth-Borde-Vilenkin (sp?) theorem proving the origin of the universe, while Vilenkin’s own book is quick to point out:

          Is it a proof of the existence of God? This view would be far too simplistic. Anyone who attempts to understand the origin of the universe should be prepared to address its logical paradoxes. In this regard, the theorem that I proved with my colleagues does not give much of an advantage to the theologian over the scientist.

        • Daniel Webb

          Well, I’ve appreciated your take–looking forward to what you write next.

  • Ron

    I had this “minimal facts consensus” discussion with an apologist about two years ago. After requesting a list of names, he pointed me to the same article cited by Carrier:

    Resurrection Research from 1975 to the Present: What Are the Critical Scholars Saying?” in the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus (June 2005): 135-53.

    Only two paragraphs in we read:

    Since 1975, more than 1400 scholarly publications on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus have appeared. Over the last five years, I have tracked these texts, which were written in German, French, and English. Well over 100 subtopics are addressed in the literature, almost all of which I have examined in detail. Each source appeared from the last quarter of the Twentieth Century to the present, with more being written in the 1990s than in other decades.[1] This contemporary milieu exhibits a number of well-established trends, while others are just becoming recognizable. The interdisciplinary flavor is noteworthy, as well. Most of the critical scholars are theologians or New Testament scholars, while a number of philosophers and historians, among other fields, are also included. [my emphasis]

    So right off the bat he’s established that “most of the critical scholars are theologians.”

    Further in he notes:

    By far, the majority of publications on the subject of Jesus’ death and resurrection have been written by North American authors. Interestingly, my study of these works also indicates an approximate ratio of 3:1 of moderate conservative to skeptical publications, as with the European publications. Here again, this signals the direction of current research.

    Hands up if you’re surprised that the majority of publications on the subject of Jesus’ death and resurrection were authored by moderately conservative theologians who believe the resurrection really happened. Self-selection bias, perhaps? Nah, that couldn’t possibly be it.

    The remainder of his article is mostly apologetics, but of the few skeptics mentioned none are convinced of a resurrection. Crossman, to my knowledge, isn’t even convinced that Jesus made it to the tomb and Bart Ehrman’s lone statement (“Historians, of course, have no difficulty whatsoever speaking about the belief in Jesus’ resurrection, since this is a matter of public record. For it is a historical fact that some of Jesus’ followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution.”) merely affirms that historians agree people had beliefs — not exactly a ringing endorsement for the minimal facts consensus Habermas is trying to establish.

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

      The final nail in the coffin to me is the observation that historians are the actual experts here (not theologians or philosophers), and History always purges the account of any supernatural events.

      • Ron

        Agreed! But you have to be on guard for semantic word play. My apologist continuously employed terms such as “historical scholars” and “historical scientists” — a clever subterfuge to grant religious studies and philosophy equal standing under the history umbrella.

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

          Oh–I forgot my new slam-dunk argument that I learned from Ken “the Hamster” Ham: Were you there??

          Oh, you say that you weren’t there to see the resurrection? Fair enough–then let’s dismiss the claim as unsupported and unsupportable and move on.

        • Ron

          Well, I think Craig once admitted that he’d continue to believe in the resurrection even if he could hop in a time machine and witness absolutely nothing happening on Easter morning.

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

          I’ve heard that. Ham said, in effect, the same thing.

          Clearly they have their conclusion and aren’t staying there because the evidence points there. So why do they insist on participating in the debate if they have no use for evidence and reason?

        • Pofarmer

          To shore up the flock? Peacock strutting? Ego masturbation?

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

          Well, they are in rather powerful positions. I guess there are benefits to being charlatans.

        • smrnda

          Of course in the absence of a Tardis this is all just talk from him.

        • Pofarmer

          FUnniest line in a Doctor Who episode is when he is on a Bus and it’s Easter time. Young lady beside him makes a comment about Easter, and he says “funny story about that, what really happend was” and there was some calamity with the bus that cut the sentence short.

        • MNb

          Yes. He suffers from an infection called the Holy Spirit.

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

          I hear that can be cured (unless you’re determined to not take the cure).

    • smrnda

      Wow. That’s sure cherry-picking who you choose to look into. Some lack of diversity there as well – a bunch of American Christians are persuaded the resurrection happened.

  • wtfwjtd

    “Oh yeah? Well, I have super duper secret information that says the moon is made of green cheese!” I mean, really? So, 75 per cent of the Christian scholars on Habermas’s super duper secret list say the resurrection or something like it occurred, big deal. This surprises who? And somehow, I just don’t find this at all convincing. Go figure….

  • Nemo

    “75% of scholars today say that resurrection or something like it occurred”. Well then, you don’t have to worry about “secular indoctrination” then, if the overwhelming majority agree with you, right?

  • MNb

    Those scholars who have studied History of Antiquity accept the scientific method. One important point is that contradictions have to be eliminated. These scholars don’t acccept miracles, ie violations of natural law. We know Archimedes did not set Roman ships on fire with the aid of mirrors because physics shows it’s not doable for various reasons.
    Hence because of natural law the default position, if you accept the scientific method, is that the Resurrection is a myth (or legend). That should not surprise anybody with a clear view as all important characters in Antiquity play a role in legends: Diogenes of Sinope, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Contstantine the (not so) Great, you name them. There is no reason why Jesus should be an exception; it’s not surprising that we can trace how the legend of the Resurrection was build as early christianity developed.
    Scholars who think the Resurrection is a historical event usually haven’t studied History of Antiquity but something like theology, which is not a science.

  • Matt G

    If a random person is claimed to have come back to life after two days, how much evidence is considered sufficient to accept this claim as true?

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

      A lot more than we find in the gospels.

      Since I’m fallible and subject to biases and delusions, I say that we crowd-source a scientific claim like this. When there is a scientific consensus that a resurrection claim is authentic, then I’m on board.

    • Jason

      Good question. IMO, no amount of historical/textual evidence could back up any claim that contradicts a basic understanding of the natural world (e.g. a scientific phenomenon that has never been documented and based on everything we know is impossible). So first this random person would have to do it again and let us document his resurrection and monitor his vitals. Then when he was raised successfully, we could at least begin with the assumption that his claim is possible and begin the historical investigation.

      Since we don’t have time machines, historical methods can only allow us to discuss how likely it is an event occurred on a scale from impossible/extremely unlikely to possible to probable to perhaps very probable. If something is scientifically impossible, it can’t even move into the realm of historically possible or probable (no matter how much historical evidence).

      If someone discovers that resurrection is possible and we can document it, then we can begin the legitimate historical discussion about Jesus’ resurrection.

  • SparklingMoon

    There is the statement of Jesus: ‘But after I am risen again, I will go before into Galilee’ (Matthew26:32). This verse clearly shows that Jesus, after he had come out of the tomb, went to Galilee and not to heaven. Jesus’ words ‘After I am risen’ do not mean his rising up alive after he was dead; rather, as in the eyes of the Jews and the common people he had died on the Cross, he used words beforehand consistent with what they were to think of him in the future, and indeed, the man who was placed on the Cross, in whose hands and feet nails had been driven till he had fainted from pain, had become as good as dead; if such a man was saved from such a calamity and if he recovered his senses it would not be an exaggeration on his part to say that he had come to life again. There is no doubt that after so much suffering, Jesus’ escape from death was a miracle; it was no ordinary event. But to think that he had died is wrong. It is true that in the books of the New Testament words of this kind occur, but this is a mistake of the writers of those books, just as they had committed mistakes in recording several other historical events. Commentators who have made researches into these books admit that the books of the New Testament have two parts: (1) the spiritual instruction received by the disciples from Jesus (peace be on him) which is the essence of the teachings of the Gospel; (2) historical events — like the genealogy of Jesus; his arrest and his being beaten; the existence in his time of a miraculous pond, etc. These, the writers recorded by themselves; they were not revealed; rather, they were set down in accordance with the writer’s own ideas.(Jesus in India)

    • MNb

      The statement of Jesus is completely irrelevant for the subject.

    • Jason

      “These, the writers recorded by themselves; they were not revealed;
      rather, they were set down in accordance with the writer’s own
      ideas.(Jesus in India)”

      I would love for you to share some specific evidence (preferably textual or archaeological) that justifies your statement here. As you say, the gospels may not be 100% reliable, but then again they are our earliest surviving textual evidence about. Sounds like you’re reading something you trust more than the gospels. What is it?

      • SparklingMoon

        As you say, the gospels may not be 100% reliable, but then again they are our earliest surviving textual evidence about.
        ————————————————————————
        The gospel of St. Mark says that after coming out of the tomb he was seen going on the road to Galilee, and ultimately he met the eleven disciples when they were at their meal; he showed them his hands and feet which were wounded and they thought that he was perhaps a spirit. Then he said to them:
        ”Behold my hands and my feet, that it is myself; handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have (Luke 24:39) He took from them boiled fish and a piece of honeycomb and ate them in their presence.(Luke 24:42, 43)

        These verses show that it is certain that Jesus never went to heaven; rather, coming out of the tomb, he went to Galilee; — like an ordinary man, in normal clothes, with a human body. If he had been resurrected after death, how was it that this body of spirit could still have borne the wounds inflicted upon him on the
        Cross? What need had he to eat? And if he required food then, he must be in need of food even now.(Jesus in India)

        • Jason

          “These verses show that it is certain that Jesus never went to heaven”

          How can a text that is not 100% reliable show for “certain” where Jesus went? How do you know to trust the passages you cite and not something else? Is it possible that he neither went to heaven nor Galilee?

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

          It’s almost like the supernatural claims for Jesus are just fiction.

          Hmmm …

        • SparklingMoon

          How can a text that is not 100% reliable show for “certain” ……Is it possible that he neither went to heaven nor Galilee?
          ——————————————————–
          The revelation and sayings of Jesus had been mixed with human narrations in the Old Testament therefore they are not reliable 100% to consider their each and every word as a Revelation of God. Secondly, the Gospels still have verses that help to find truth about Jesus and his message as It is against the Law of God Almighty to remove the whole revelation of His prophets among the people that is the only source of guidance for their followers after a prophet.Thirdly, It is a tradition of God that He always in His next coming revelation points out the mistakes people had entered in His previous one and makes clear to guide His people.

          It is not the original words of the Gospels but human explanation (to support Trinity) has actually created a confusion to understand the real person and message of Jesus otherwise original words are very clear. According to the descriptions of the Gospels, Jesus was a last prophet of God in the progeny of Children’s Israel and his mission was to reform the twelve tribes of Israel and to maintain them on Mosaic Law in its original . He never talked about the heritage of Adan Eva’s sin into next coming generation or he never boasted his fatherless birth as a source of his being a son of God,or he never showed a wish to be crossed for sins of Others in the Gospels. He called always to God Almighty as a follower of Mosaic Law and described his mission to reform lost sheep of Israel.

        • Jason

          “The revelation and sayings of Jesus had been mixed with human narrations
          in the Old Testament therefore they are not reliable 100% to consider
          their each and every word as a Revelation of God.”

          My question is: If they are not 100% reliable, how do you know which parts to trust? You seem to trust the part about Jesus going to Galilee. I’m waiting for something beyond “because I said so” or “because that is what I believe.”

          “Thirdly, It is a tradition of God that He always in His next coming
          revelation points out the mistakes people had entered in His previous
          one and makes clear to guide His people.”

          Where did you learn about this tradition? How do you know it is God’s tradition?

          “It is not the original words of the Gospels but human explanation (to
          support Trinity) has actually created a confusion to understand the real
          person and message of Jesus otherwise original words are very clear.”

          Yes, I understand that the Trinity is an interpretation of the Bible and not explicit in the Bible itself. Aren’t you interpreting the Bible too (that is, if you reject certain parts as false and accept others)? When you say that Jesus never wanted to be “crossed” for others, aren’t you rejecting certain passages from the Gospels and Paul. e.g. Jn 3.16.

        • SparklingMoon

          Where did you learn about this tradition? How do you know it is God’s tradition?
          ——————————————————–
          There are two kind of Prophets;Prophets of Law and Reformer Prophets(who are sent later to reform the teachings of a law prophet when they are changed by the followers). Moses was a prophet of Law and all other prophets (described in the Bible) were Reformer Prophets who had appeared during the time of 1400 years to bring the followers of Moses back to original Mosaic Law (after having a revelation of God Almighty) Jesus was the last one who was sent as a Reformer Prophet for Mosaic Law for the people of Israel.

          The words of the Old Testament had been changed by its followers and Jesus had maintained it in its original form as he had claimed in the Gospels that he had come to maintain Mosaic Law :Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am come not to destroy, but to fulfill (Matthew 5.17) and in Gospels we find his whole massage is kindness and love, contrary to some hard teachings of Old Testament.

          There are many example in Gospels that present a contradiction between the practice of Jesus and the teachings of Old Testament.For example, it states in the Old Testament that stoning or death is a punishment for adultery but Jesus had not maintained this law to a woman in an adultery case. He only advised for repentance and nothing more : ”Go and sin no more”.(John 8:1-11) It does not mean by this practice of Jesus that he had changed the Mosaic Law because it was against his own teachings. He by himself had informed his followers that there could be no change in this law:

          ”For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, not one letter, not a dot, will dissappear from the law until all that must happen has happened. Anyone therefore who sets aside even the le ast of the law’s demands and teaches others to do the same, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them. the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:1 7 19) In this example Jesus had not changed the Mosaic Law but actually had maintained the Mosaic Law in its original form as was revealed to Prophet Moses. He had revelation of God therefore had made this decision according to the teachings of Mosaic Law.

          God had sent no prophet in the Children of Israel after Jesus to reform its followers therefore had saved the real teachings of Mosaic Law and the life and mission of its prophets in the revelation of the Quran for the guidance of his followers. As the revelation of the Quran is a Final Law for the guidance of all next coming people therefore God had make a promise to safeguard the integrity of His Word for all times to come “Verily,it is We Who have sent down this Exhortation, and most surely We are its Guardians.”(Quran15:10)

        • Jason

          Thank you for writing at length, but you are not answering my questions. I asked *how* you know what you know. In other words, I wanted you to provide evidence for your earlier claims. Now you are just elaborating on the claims. Do I understand from your reference at the bottom that you are Muslim and your basis for interpreting the OT/NT is the Quran? If so, please tell me how you know the Quran is true if the OT and NT are not 100% trustworthy. How do you evaluate the authority of the Quran?

        • SparklingMoon

          you are Muslim and your basis for interpreting the OT/NT is the Quran?how you know the Quran is true if the OT and NT are not 100% trustworthy.
          ——————————————————-
          All previous prophets and their revelations had been sent by God for the guidance of His people in different ages but the content of the Quran no doubt provides a foundation for a seeker to find out truth about religious teachings of previous prophets as the revelation of the Quran is safe in its original words. God Almighty verifies the truth of all previous Prophets in the Quran and repeatedly promotes the message that divine guidance is His general bounty that has sustained humanity in all ages and everywhere: “And We did raise among every people a Messenger, preaching: ‘Worship Allah and shun the Evil One.” (Quran 16:37) it also makes aware of their being changed by people: “The transgressors changed the word from that which had been given them.” (Quran 2:59) It is not a hidden matter that revelation of God in the Bible is not safe in its original words. Its descriptions about prophets alone are enough for a reader to know that Its revelation is mixed with human narrations. There exist a book free online to read: http://www.alislam.org/library/books/Introduction-Study-Holy-Quran.pdf
          and hope you will find all about this topic.

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

          So know that God is reliable because the Koran says so, and you know the Koran is reliable just because?

        • Greg G.

          The gospel of St. Mark says that after coming out of the tomb he was seen going on the road to Galilee, and ultimately he met the eleven disciples when they were at their meal; he showed them his hands and feet which were wounded and they thought that he was perhaps a spirit.

          The Gospel of Mark says nothing like that.

        • SparklingMoon

          The Gospel of Mark says nothing like that

          ——————————————————
          The Gospel of Mark says it in its Chapter 16:

          And when they went in, they saw a young man seated on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were full of wonder.
          And he said to them, Do not be troubled: you are looking for Jesus, the Nazarene, who has been put to death on the cross; he has come back from the dead; he is not here: see, the place where they put him! ”But go,say to his disciples and to Peter,He goes before you into Galilee: there you will see him,as he said to you.

          And they went out quickly from the place,because fear
          and great wonder had come on them:and they said
          nothing to anyone,because they were full of fear that …

          Now when he came back from the dead early on the
          first day of the week,he went first to Mary Magdalene…
          She went and gave news of it to those who had been
          with him, while they were sorrowing and weeping.

          And they, when it came to their ears that he was
          living, and had been seen by her,had no belief in it.

          And after these things he was seen in another form
          by two of them, while they were walking on their
          way into the country.
          And they went away and gave news of it to the rest;
          and they had no belief in what was said.
          And later he was seen by the eleven themselves while
          they were taking food; and he said sharp words to
          them because they had no faith and their hearts were
          hard, and because they had no belief in those who
          had seen him after he had come back from the dead.
          (Mark 16:5-14)

        • Greg G.

          The oldest manuscripts of Mark end at verse 8.

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

          Perhaps Moon hasn’t heard of Jamie Coots, the pastor who just died after believing Mark’s claim that God protects people against snake bite. That’s also in the long ending of Mark.

        • SparklingMoon

          Jamie Coots, the pastor who just died after believing Mark’s claim that God protects people against snake bite. That’s also in the long ending of Mark.
          ——————————————————-
          It is really surprising that in this scientific age a person can make such a grave mistake. If,for example, it is really said by Jesus in the Gospel then it does not mean that a follower should make it a daily game to put oneself before a snake to joke with the laws of nature. I have no personal information but have heard that snake venom has a thick protein and it becomes very dangerous for a human body when enters direct into blood from outside and a Human system shows a hard reaction against it.

          Secondly, It is a fact that Jesus also,like other prophets, used to talk in similes and metaphors. His followers should understand his sayings of metaphors and similes in the light of his other teachings that are told in clear words for their guidance. A prophet is sent only to reform and improve the moral condition of the people of his age therefore he used different methods to reform their inner condition .These words like dead or sick or blind or deaf or dumb or snake (or the name of any other animal) are used by prophets to show inner rough moral condition of different people.

          ‘Dead’ are called who totally stop to progress their morals in the light of reason. Sick are called who practice some morals and ignores some others and are in need of cure. ‘Blinds’ are who stop to use their sight to see the signs of God. ‘Deaf’ are those who loose their ability to hear the voice of God.The word ‘Snake’ is used in religious language for a person who confronts the people of God to stop the voice of God for spreading.In short, these words are similes that are used to describe the inner condition of different people and a prophet struggles to bring these lost abilities back to their people. He reforms them morally to make spiritually alive.

          These similes and metaphors are usually misrepresented in later times by some followers to make their prophets a supernatural being.They take these descriptions in their outward meanings. This verse about snake in the Gospel of Mark actually Jesus had given his companion this message that during their preaching they had to confront the enmity of some people but this enmity will turn into friendship if they would follow his moral teachings.He had further said that their practice of good morality would become a source to reform and heal other morally sick people.

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

          So “similes and metaphors” is your excuse? When the Bible makes clear that prayer works or God will protect you from snakes, and then it doesn’t happen, you just say that it was a metaphor?

          Where does this end? Heaven and hell are metaphors. So is god.

        • SparklingMoon

          So “similes and metaphors” is your excuse?
          —————————————————–
          Companions of Jesus fully understood his message from this simile of snake and got success in their preaching. There is no description in New Testament that after hearing this promise about snakes they began to start snake shows. The life of a prophet is an explanation of his teachings and his sayings should be understood in the light of his practice. There is no example in the life of Jesus that he had wasted his time in such irrelevant activities. He struggled for two things; first, to bring people back to their God Almighty and second to improve their moral condition to get love of God . It is a mistake to use or explain his sayings or teachings for other worldly purposes.

          Second, Prayer has a close relation to God’s blessing as a child generates mother’s milk by his crying.God Almighty shows two kind of His Mercy for His people. Firstly, He bestows a person many things without his doing any good action.For example parents,sun moon or earth or physical body with many abilities.His second Mercy begins when a person starts to use his abilities,bestowed by him. If a person use his intelligence for science he receives a knowledge for that field and as other people receive in other subjects a descent ion of knowledge where they use their abilities. Prayer is also one of those subjects that suck a knowledge from God to improve the condition. There is an interesting book ”Blessing of Prayers” about this subject of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad:
          http://www.alislam.org/library/browse/volume/Ruhani_Khazain/book/Barakat_uddua/?l=English#page/13/mode/1up

          Acceptance of Prayers does not mean to break the Laws of God but to get a guidance for right path to improve ones condition or to remove a calamity

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

          Why is snake handling irrelevant? Seems to me that it’s a bold profession of faith. Ordinary sissies take the Bible’s claim that prayers are answered, but these guys actually handle rattlesnakes. Wow.

          Every Christian knows that “ask and ye shall receive” doesn’t work, but pushing past a snake bite and picking up snakes again is pretty impressive. Stupid, but impressive.

        • SparklingMoon

          Why is snake handling irrelevant? Seems to me that it’s a bold profession of faith.
          ———————————————————–
          A person is free to select any profession to impress others but any activity that is against the traditions of prophets will be called irrelevant from religious point of view. The basic purpose of a religion is to inform about God and to improve human moral conditions and nothing else. Self invented methods and self made explanation that are against the teachings of a prophet always turn a religion into a personal shop to earn something for self.

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

          They’re not invented. Their version of the Bible (the King James Version, I imagine) says that handling snakes is no problem. What more dramatic way to build faith? “I just held a rattlesnake and God protected me! Isn’t God fabulous?!”

          I think we’re on the same page that it’s nuts. But I don’t see how a religious person like yourself can fault their methods or goals.

        • busterggi

          Hers does – she wrote it in the margin herself to make sure it would.

      • SparklingMoon

        the gospels may not be 100% reliable, but then again they are our earliest surviving textual evidence about.
        —————————————————————————–
        There exist many other Gospels also written in the time of Jesus except these four Gospels of New Testament. Clergy ‘whimsically declare some books to be divine and others to be forged. They judge these four Gospels to be authentic and the rest—about fifty-six of them—forged. But this belief is based on mere guesswork and speculation, rather than on any concrete evidence. They have had to make these decisions by themselves, for there is a marked discrepancy between these and the other Gospels. Researchers, however, believe that it is not possible to determine which of them is actually forged and which is not. This is why, on the occasion of King Edward’s coronation, the Church fathers of London presented him with the books which they presume to be forged along with the four Gospels, all bound in one volume. if these books had really been forged and were unholy, would it not be sinful to bind the holy and the unholy in a single volume? The fact is that these people are unable to say with any degree of conviction whether any of these books are authentic or forged, and everyone goes by their own opinion.’
        (Fountain of Christianity)

        • busterggi

          “Researchers, however, believe that it is not possible to determine which of them is actually forged and which is not. ”

          No, researchers who aren’t devout unquestioning Christians have determined that all are forged, none were written by the ‘authors’ as supposedly named.

        • Jason

          So are you following some other gospels that you think are the real ones? Or, are you saying you don’t know what to trust either? You seem to have very specific and decided ideas about God’s plan and what Jesus did? If your authority is not these gospels, what is it?

          “Researchers, however, believe that it is not possible to determine which of them is actually forged and which is not.”

          By forged, do you mean pseudonymous? Yes, scholars agree that the gospels were probably not written by the authors whose names are associated with them. But the four canonical gospels are older than any other gospels (Thomas, etc).

    • busterggi

      “had become as good as dead”

      “it would not be an exaggeration on his part to say that he had come to life again.”

      No, dead is dead, being really beaten up is NOT the same.

      And no, it would be an exaggeration to say a living person had come back to life when he/she never left.

  • avalpert

    Aw, you can come up with statistics to prove anything. Forty percent of all people know that.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    Who the heck cares what % of any group believes about anything? Consensus is NOT science. Things like a falsifiable theory make science. And science says except in certain conditions (like CPR or other method) you aint bringing the dead back to life. Especially after three days. Its a BS story like all other fairy tales. If it was marketed today as fiction I doubt you would find a publisher (unless you found one with a REAL dedicated editorial staff to fix all the blatant errors)


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