Response to Lee Strobel’s “Five E’s of Evidence”

Case for ChristLee Strobel has a story. No, it’s not the Greatest Story Ever Told (though he gets to that). His story is his conversion from unpleasant atheist to humble Christian servant, using his tough legal mind and journalistic experience to verify the facts of the Jesus story.

He offers five reasons to accept the gospel story, each starting with the letter E. Let’s examine them and see if we can apply the eight lessons we developed from wading through Gary Habermas’s “minimal facts” argument for the resurrection.

E #1: Jesus was executed. We can be sure that Jesus was dead. The Romans were very good at killing people. Don’t imagine that Jesus survived and then revived in the tomb. In addition, non-Christian historians like Tacitus and Josephus confirm the death. [I’ll show Strobel’s argument in italics.]

I’m always startled when Christians wallow in the agony Jesus went through. Strobel takes us on a gory journey through the details of the beating, how crucifixion worked, and so on. That apparently makes his sacrifice more impressive (though I’m unimpressed).

Strobel’s Executed claim violates our Lesson 1: it’s just a story. Yes, the story says that Jesus was executed, but so what? That’s not history. I’ll grant that someone dying is a fairly easy claim to accept. There’s nothing supernatural there, but we must emphasize the difference between a story and history. Is the gospel more than a story? That must be shown.

As for the historians, they give us little more than “there are people called Christians” (more about Josephus here).

E #2: There were early accounts of the Jesus tale. Not only do we have four gospels, but 1 Corinthians 15 gives a creed stating that Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected on the third day. This creed has been dated by scholars to just a few years after the death of Jesus.

A creed is a statement of belief; it isn’t history. (I’ve written more about 1 Cor. here.)

As for the accounts being early, if you read in the paper the story of a three-days-dead man resurrecting from the tomb yesterday, you wouldn’t believe it. Why believe it in a 2000-year-old document? Does making it harder to verify somehow make the claim more plausible?

The Early Accounts claim violates Lesson 8: just because the consensus of New Testament scholars says so doesn’t make it true. Christian scholars are entitled to weigh in, of course, but let’s not forget their bias.

Don’t imagine legend crept in to the gospel story. Historian A.N. Sherwin-White argues that “the passage of two generations of time was not enough for legend to wipe out a solid core of historical truth.”

I’ve written in detail about Sherwin-White’s work here. In short, Sherwin-White wasn’t making an immutable rule about the growth of legend. Note also that his claim is that the truth isn’t erased, not that there’s a reliable way of retrieving it.

E #3: The tomb was found empty. “Nobody in the first century was claiming it was anything but empty.” The authorities said that disciples stole the body, but the disciples had no motive to, and that story simply confirms that the tomb was empty! The skeptics had to invent a story to explain away this embarrassing fact.

Apologists are drawn to weak skeptical arguments like sharks to chum. “Disciples stole the body” or “Jesus wasn’t dead and revived in the tomb” are fun to knock over, but this process is just misdirection. Apologists hope we won’t notice how weak the primary argument is.

Disciples are said to have stolen the body? Lesson 1: it’s just a story. Strobel says that skeptics invented the story, but of course that story comes from Matthew, not from skeptics.

75% of critical scholars accept the empty tomb as historical.

Lesson 8: the consensus of New Testament scholars doesn’t count for much, especially when this “75%” isn’t a valid poll.

Remember that the gospel accounts of the empty tomb come decades after the supposed event. Why would anyone expect there to still be naysayers (people who knew the truth who could rebut a false tale) to challenge the gospel story? Though the Naysayer Hypothesis is popular, it crumbles with a little investigation.

E #4: We have eyewitness evidence. In 1 Cor. 15, Paul mentions individuals who saw the risen Jesus by name and makes clear that there were 500 more. And the icing on the cake is when Paul challenges the reader to look them up to verify the claim! “No way would he have said that if it wasn’t true.”

500 eyewitnesses? That’s no evidence. And you know who agrees with me? The author of each of the gospels! None of the gospels repeat this claim. Perhaps the authors hadn’t heard of this rumor or knew it to be false; either way, Paul’s claim looks pretty weak.

“You’ll back me up on this, right guys? Guys … ?” Sorry, Paul, but you’re alone on this one.

(I write more about the claim of 500 eyewitnesses here.)

“I’ve seen people sent to the death chamber on a fraction of this kind of evidence.”

And now Strobel really jumps the shark. He’s seen people convicted by a single sentence written by a stranger? I doubt it. The Sixth Amendment demands that the accused be able to cross-examine a witness. Not only is Paul long dead, but we know very little about him. Strobel compounds this problem because he probably takes the conservative line by insisting that the thirteen Pauline epistles were indeed all written by Paul, though most scholars only acknowledge seven. In other words, Strobel doesn’t even accept the scholarly consensus about this “witness.”

E #5: The emergence of the early church. The Christian church emerged in the very city where Jesus had just been crucified. “Now, how do you sell [a false story] to people if they are there and they know better?”

No, the people weren’t there! The New Testament wasn’t written in Jerusalem just days after the events it claims to document; the many books of the New Testament were written in cities all around the Mediterranean decades later. Skeptics couldn’t read it and then step out their doors to do man-on-the-street interviews to verify the facts.

Weeks after the resurrection, Peter stood up publicly and proclaimed the gospel story. People didn’t say that it was nonsense. “History shows that on that day 3000 people” proclaimed the truth and joined the church.

No, it was a story. The “people” are just characters on a page that can be made to do whatever suited the author’s purpose. If this is history, that must be shown.

The 8 lessons

Some of the other lessons are relevant to dismantling Strobel’s simple argument.

  • 2. The natural trumps the supernatural. The God hypothesis might be right, but we need big evidence.
  • 4. “Given the story to this point …” Strobel often wants to assume part of the story as history as he evaluates what comes next.
  • 7. Evaluate similar claims with a similar bar of evidence. If you’re unimpressed with a particular claim from another religion, don’t expect us to be any more convinced by an analogous claim from Christianity.

Strobel said that he had rejected Christianity because he refused to be held accountable for his worthless life and because he was too proud to bend his knee to Jesus. The bigger issue is that he had no good reason to accept it.

[Heaven is like] when you hear someone talk about Hawaii like they’ve been there
but they only read about it in a brochure.
Kodie (commenter)

About Bob Seidensticker
  • RichardSRussell

    Bob, you have my appreciation for your willingness to wade thru these bogs of buffoonery, bluster, and bullshit for our benefit.

    • hector_jones

      Agreed. Lee Strobel is one of the biggest clowns in popular apologetics today.

      • MNb

        Are there popular apologetes who aren’t clowns? If yes I still have to meet him/her.

        • hector_jones

          There may be some who are jesters and not clowns. The lines are blurry.

        • Greg G.

          I wish they were mimes.

      • wtfwjtd

        And this guy is so popular, that’s what’s astounding. Is critical thinking really this bad among the faithful?

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

          My bet is that the thoughtful ones realize that their arguments have no impact on thoughtful atheists.

          They might make a show of arguing against atheists, but IMO their focus is exclusively internally. There’s plenty of business in simply helping Christians maintain their delusions.

        • wtfwjtd

          Good point. They can’t be too thoughtful, or ask questions that are too tough, as they might inadvertently sow seeds of doubt among the faithful. Just structure things so they look investigative, but don’t dig more than skin-deep, and this will keep the faithful happy and not only give them what they want, but keep them coming back for more.

        • Castilliano

          Actually, you’re quite correct.

          When a Christian armed only with curiosity, I found his “Case for Christ” very informative on lots of different aspects of Christ. As I studied more, and asked questions I and my peers could not resolve, I returned to that book, knowing he had addressed those specific questions, and he had!
          Except…not.
          Most (maybe all, it’s been awhile) of the questions I had fell at the end of one of the many “tough interviews”, where you’d think there’d be an excellent answer, a capstone of sorts. Except the tough questions were pooh-poohed as being unimportant or as being not an issue or that nobody really had doubts about the answer there. And Strobel did zero to follow up. “Tough”, my ass.

          WHAT! No, no, no, these are real questions, and you’re not actually giving me an answer (or any support for the lame answer you did give)!

          So, yes, Strobel does tackle many questions of doubt, but he’s only addressing whatever is comfortably addressed, and even then, as Bob’s post shows, Lee is using sleight of hand and obfuscation rather than historical research. When it comes to the meatier questions that he (or his interviewees) can’t tackle, his tough pursuit of answers falters completely, and get handwaved away.

          This handwaving away of flaws in Christian theology was a crucial step toward deism for me, leading eventually to my atheism. So thank you, Mr. Strobel, for your reporting being so full of hot air that it blew away the fog of my superstition.
          Cheers

        • wtfwjtd

          I hear you Castilliano, my journey from faith to non-belief followed a similar path. A few years back, I experienced several deaths in my family, and about that time I had a relative getting big into pushing Christian apologetics. Great, I thought, looking at this will really help strengthen my faith at a tough time. My first major shock was discovering that the gospels were written anonymously, decades after the fact, about other people’s alleged experiences. In other words, hearsay about hearsay. That was pretty much the end of what little Christian faith I had remaining right then and there; of course, with more investigation, it only got worse.
          So yes, apologetics can be very useful, but not in the way that the faithful necessarily have in mind.

        • Castilliano

          I’ve met quite a few people (online & IRL) for whom apologetics was a ladder out of Christianity rather than a buttress. I’d even say that most apologists I’ve parried with IRL knew only the basic arguments (i.e. Pascal’s, beauty=god, science requires faith). The only people, again IRL, I’ve seen who’ve mastered advanced apologetics have been ex-apologists (who knew how un-advanced those arguments were.)

          I have to wonder how many believers pursue rationality, thinking it’s in sync with their beliefs, only to steer their way out of religion.
          It somewhat reminds me of Boghossian’s style, where you equip theists with the tools of reason, and they’ll eventually undermine their faith-based system on their own.

          Hopefully, reason will continue winning.
          Cheers.

        • Pofarmer

          Was it you who reccomended “true beleivers”? If it was, what ans awesome book.

        • Castilliano

          Thank you!
          Oh, wait, no… 😉
          Which “True Believers” do you mean? (and why?)
          Cheers.

        • Pofarmer

          Eric Hoffer “True believers, the nature of Mass Movements.”

        • RichardSRussell

          I’m not sure where you heard of it, but I myself recommend it all the time in various fora. In fact, I’ve got a standing order for any copies that come in to my favorite used-book store, because I like to keep a stash on hand to give away. It’s my favorite work of non-fiction.

          If you’re as fond of it as I am, you might also be interested in my favorite work of fiction, Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth. I also keep a stock of those on hand to give away.

        • Pofarmer

          Thanks Richard. I couldn’t remember who reccomended it, but it is a wonderful book. I also love Letters from Earth. He hits a lot of the high points that Thomas Paine hits in “Age of Reason” but he is an easier read, IMHO. Thanks again for recommending it.

        • Nemo

          A friend of mine in college was talking about religion to me one day, and he mentioned that although he was a Christian who did accept Jesus and what not, he also stated that the only “evidence” of Jesus was second and third hand accounts from decades later, which he told me was a shoddy source. I didn’t inquire further, as I don’t usually discuss religion in person. Maybe I should have.

        • wtfwjtd

          I’ve long since figured out that many people become or remain a Christian based on feelings and emotion, or maybe for convenience or familial circumstances, rather than actually examining the underpinnings of Christianity to check its veracity. Once you decide to check, it collapses like a proverbial house of cards. So, the easiest course is not to look, especially if many of those around you would be displeased if you decided to de-convert. Go along to get along, it’s the usually the easiest path.

        • Norm Donnan

          The type of person you refere to is simply religious,just a cultural Jew or Christian or Muslim.
          WHen you know Gods spirit personally,you know what you know and others opinions who dont know God are irrelivent.
          Maybe you knew God,have known God or know about God but you dont know God personally,the rest is just religion,…and as we know,thats a waste of time.

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

          WHen you know Gods spirit personally,you know what you know and others opinions who dont know God are irrelivent.

          Scientologists are just as convinced. Should I believe them as much as I believe you?

        • Norm Donnan

          If you like Bob,you choose ,we all do.
          If your conscience and interllect let you sleep peacefully at night knowing when you die you return to the stardust that you came from,Im happy for you.
          As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes,”eat and drink for tomorrow we die”.
          Good advice Ide say if dust is all youve got to look forward to.

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

          I’d ask you for evidence that things end any differently, but I know you don’t have any.

        • Norm Donnan

          All you need to do is ask people who have been there I guess,or not. You choose,soon enough you will know for youself and it will be all the evidence you need.

        • MNb

          See, that’s why belief is so lame: first choose, then you’ll get the evidence. Sure. In science it works the other way round: first the evidence, then accept.

          “Im happy for you”
          Thanks. Makes your mission of god rather superfluous, doesn’t it? Or are you here to rob us atheists from our happiness by converting us? Robbing us from our peaceful atheist sleep perhaps?

        • Pofarmer

          Every time you ask for evidence you get the same answer. I pinned a creationist down on Daniel Finckes blog when he wanted to use The Fall as the reason that the world is, well, the way the world is. I wouldn’t proceed without evidence for the actual event, or of the perfect world before the event, and he wound up calling me confrontational and dissmissive before trying to move the goal posts and simply giving up. I didn’t even ask for proof, just evidence. He just assumed that he would get t spew his theology unchallenged, because that is what he had always been allowed to do.

        • MNb

          Very recognizable. Btw I never ask for proof when discussing scientific topics; that’s something for mathematicians and even then the conclusion is just as strong as the assumptions it’s based on. The example I always give is Pythagoras’ Theorem. As an experienced teacher I totally can give conclusive proof for it. My kids never fail to be impressed. What I don’t tell them is that I just as easily can disprove the Theorem by rejecting one of Euclides’ axioms.

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

          An interesting critique. Thanks for the personal reflections.

        • Retro

          Apologetics.com is/was the perfect example of this.

          Christian apologetic arguments are not designed to bring non-believers in, their primarily design is to keep believers from leaving.

          While apologists are busy insisting that the wall is needed for the believer’s own protection, the believers fails to notice that all the guns on the apologetic guard tower point inward…

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

          Hmm … I’m sensing a parallel with internment camps. Nice one.

        • Retro

          While comparing apologetics to an interment camp for the mind may seem offensive to some believers, I’d like to point out this viewpoint is taught in the Bible.

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

          And it is rather sad that apologetics.com shut down support for the forum. Too expensive? Not godly enough?

          The paradox with that organization is that their shows were always an echo chamber of conservative Christian thought. They’ve had atheists on just a handful of times.

          This is what amazes me about apologetics conferences. They propose to teach Christians about how to reach atheists, but they don’t have any atheists speaking? I’m not asking for atheists to have the last word, but it’s just a joke to have Christians telling the audience what’s effective. I’ve heard their presentations; no, that’s not what atheists say.

        • Kodie

          They are not interested in having an accurate portrayal of atheists. They want their Christians to be averse to becoming one. It’s the worst thing in the world to lose your faith. If you start to doubt, the apologetics are to work over the material into double-speak, and it will be over your head but it sounds right, and re-affirms your faith. Remember, you’ve been told that atheists are the worst and losing your faith is tragic and turns you into one of them.

          Then they come over here all fortified by their knowledge and expertise in apologetics and they know what atheists will be like and why we talk to them this way, because we’re threatened. They say we are threatened and want to rid the world of Christians so we won’t have to be reminded there’s a god judging us so we can do what we want. Anti-atheism is a strong instruction of their faith, that they can come here and are completely bulletproof. They’re expecting a lot of dark nonsense and science worship that is as over their head as the apologetics arguments, which are designed to divert the questions to their Christ-positive answers, and misrepresent how silly our scientific religion is, and persecuting derision of their beliefs. Who would want to be an awful Christian-hater who accepts evolution when god is so awesome! It’s possible they don’t invite an actual atheist to their conference for the atheist’s own safety… perhaps? They’ve heard how awful we are, so who would even attend? They don’t want to know what we think, they only want to hear our arguments again so they can hound us with their idiotic bullshit ripostes. Think like an audience of Norms. No amount of exposure to atheism has educated him about atheism.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes, atheism is just another religion, all of us filthy atheists secretly are in rebellion against god. Plus, we’re angry, hateful, miserable…they can’t let their flock realize the truth, that those atheists over there are not only free of a god belief, but this frees them from all that other religious BS, like hell, and torment, and guilt, and shame. If their flock realized half of the truth, the pews would be a ghost town in no time at all.

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

          I’m planning on going to a Christian homeschooling conference in a couple of weeks in the Seattle area. Ken “the Hamster” Ham will be a speaker.

          I think I’ll wear an atheist t-shirt. Maybe I’ll get into some interesting conversations.

        • Castilliano

          Definitely, but they may be too emotional (on their side) to be effective, at least as far as the conference goes.

          How about wearing science t-shirts?
          Or, if there is such a thing, a shirt that supports separation of church and state or the Constitution as secular.
          Then you’d be addressing specific education issues that mainstream Christians might side with you on. You may even raise a vocal group of Christians against Ken Ham’s attempts to dumb down their curriculum.
          Of course, if your atheism is outed, the worst of them will use that to attack those causes.
          My 2 g.p.
          Cheers.

        • Pofarmer

          Yes, critical thinking is that bad.

  • hector_jones

    the consensus of New Testament scholars doesn’t count for much …

    Say it isn’t so!

    • MNb

      If it makes you happy I’m totally willing to say it isn’t so.

      • hector_jones

        Thanks MNb. I know you are all about making people happy :-)

    • wtfwjtd

      Are you suggesting that they might, just might, be biased? It’s not like they have to take a statement of faith affirming the inerrant nature of the Bible, or that they might get fired if they post something contrary to this, or anything crazy like that. Oh, wait….

    • curtcameron

      And, to no one’s surprise, the consensus of UFO researchers agree that the Earth is being visited by alien spacecraft.

  • JIm

    About 50 years ago a baby named Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. There is an official state birth record, an archived newspaper report, and eye witness testimony from his family. And yet thousands of Christians insist that he was born in Africa.
    I don’t see Christians as being reliable witnesses to ANYTHING when it comes to their religious beliefs.

  • MNb

    @1: “We can be sure that Jesus was dead.”
    Excellent start! Sure we can. We don’t even need the Romans for this. It’s even better: we can be sure that Jesus was dead and remained dead.
    BobS, I guess your interpretation is right, but Strobel doesn’t even make the effort to express himself umambiguously. That’s “promising” for the rest.

    @2: “This creed has been dated by scholars to just a few years after the death of Jesus.”
    Quantify please. According to Pofarmer’s link

    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/

    it’s still at least 14 years after the event. For me that time span is more than enough to make up all kind of stuff about someone who died back then.

    “a solid core of historical truth”
    Oh, I’m totally willing to accept a solid core of a scatterbrained messias claimant who annoyed Pontius Pilatus enough to hang him at a cross without giving it much more thought.

    @3: Testis unus testis nullus. People make up stuff all the time and believe it themselves. There is no better evidence for the empty tomb than testimonies about kidnappings by aliens.

    @4: We have had that one before, haven’t we? Fifteen years ago I saw a hand up in the sky writing in the form of clouds “there is no god”. I have 1000 eyewitnesses, won’t tell you who they are or where they live, but can give you a few names: Ritchie, Jon, Ian, another Ian, Roger, Ronnie-James and Cozy.

    @5: That’s why I wrote recently that calling Paulus a christian is an anachronism. Before 70 CE christianity was a branch of judaism. There was no early church, there were groups who belonged to one of the five main streams. So it’s meaningless to say that “the christian church emerged in the very city where Jesus had been crucified.” Strobel assumes continuity where there was development.

    “he refused to be held accountable for his worthless life.”

    Wow. This only shows is a sad person, who needs a Big Bully high high up to the sky to get his life on the rails.

  • wtfwjtd

    “His story is his conversion from unpleasant atheist to humble Christian servant, using his tough legal mind and journalistic experience to verify the facts of the Jesus story.”

    This claim is almost as risible as his five “E”s, and just as false. I know, I know, he was an atheist “just like me”, blah blah blah, and then through tough-minded investigation he discovered the truth of the Jesus story.
    Yeah, right. More like, he started going to church with his wife, found it convenient to convert, and once he made up his mind he had to pick and choose some “stuff” to fit his new worldview, and make it sound “scientific.” Real Christian honesty on display, that would only be convincing to someone already of the same faith.

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

      If he says he was an atheist, I’m sure he was (though I agree: he wasn’t well schooled in atheist arguments; if he were his arguments would be a lot more insightful!). What infuriatese me is that he pretends that his books are serious journalistic scholarship when there nothing of the kind.

      He transparently goes into things looking to support his presuppositions. That’s fine, just don’t lie to us that it’s something else.

      • wtfwjtd

        “If he says he was an atheist, I’m sure he was… ”

        Yes, I’ll also give him that part, thanks for clarifying. It’s the nonsense that follows that’s so dishonest, all the while pretending to be on a quest for “real truth”.

        His pal Rick Warren pulls similar stunts. I saw a YouTube review by Steve Likes to Curse of his “Purpose Driven Life”(tm) crap, and he pretty much starts the book off with a disingenuous mangling of a quote and then spews a bunch of nonsense about it. And I have to wonder: who’s the one with morality problems again? If they start off being dishonest and telling half-truths, where does it go from there?

      • hector_jones

        I know an atheist who believes in ghosts. So I’m perfectly willing to concede that Lee Strobel was at one time an atheist.

        • Kodie

          I would of course agree that he was an atheist if he says he was. It doesn’t take a lot of arguments to convince someone there’s no god if they’re going to believe the horseshit that convinced them Christianity was true, either.

  • Greg G.

    “I’ve seen people sent to the death chamber on a fraction of this kind of evidence.”

    After seeing the arguments his “tough legal mind” comes up with, I’m inclined to believe him if he is referring to his clients… in traffic court, no less.

    • wtfwjtd

      There is so much low-hanging fruit here, it’s hard to know where to begin. Some guy said there was 500 witnesses? Hurray! Except…it’s just a guy *saying* there are 500 witnesses, and not actual witnesses. I won’t even get into the fact that Christ “appeared to” them just as he “appeared to” him–which was, of course, by revelation. I’m sure that would hold up in court just fine!

      • Greg G.

        Witnesses to what? Paul is just saying the 500 saw what he saw, and he didn’t see what they want us to believe the 500 saw.

        • wtfwjtd

          And the more closely I study Paul, the more I realize how little he actually saw. It don’t take much to convince some people, I guess.

  • Pofarmer

    “In addition, non-Christian historians like Tacitus and Josephus confirm the death.”

    That tired old trope? My first rule is when I come to the first big whopper, I quit reading, but I’ll soldier on for you, Bob.

    • wtfwjtd

      Keep reading Pofarmer, as I commented to Greg below, there’s a ton of low-hanging, and very rotten, fruit to pick through in this one.

  • Pofarmer

    ““the passage of two generations of time was not enough for legend to wipe out a solid core of historical truth.””

    And I’ve demonstrated that to be untrue, today, right now, in less than one generation certain “Faith healers” have started to by mythologized. The Church would be mythologizing Mother Theresa right now if there weren’t so many people watching.

  • Pofarmer

    “And the icing on the cake is when Paul challenges the reader to look
    them up to verify the claim! “No way would he have said that if it
    wasn’t true.””

    Uh, huh, Paul was far away from the scene of the events, there is no way that anyone could have looked up the claims. But, hey, let’s look at a more modern day version of the same thing happening. medjugorje. Even though there are newspaper accounts spelling out that nothing happened, that the local Bishop died saying it was all a hoax, people still believe and repeat that the Sun “danced in the sky” and that the apparition of Mary was apparent in the rustling leaves of a tree. There were people right there, with mass communications to say, “ya know what, nothing happened here”, and it doesn’t fucking matter.

    • wtfwjtd

      But he *did* say it, and it *wasn’t* true. What a bucket of horseshit for an argument.

      • Pofarmer

        Let’s think about this for a minute. The population in Jerusalem in Jesus time is estimated to be 40-60,000. It might swell to a quarter million for a feast such as passover. So, if it’s not passover, then He would have “appeared” to one out of every 8-12 people. That doesn’t get ignored. If there were 250,000, then he still would have appeared to 1 out of every 500, which would have gotten talked about, but we got-nuthin.

    • Greg G.

      Here’s where I like to turn to Acts 26 when Paul was testifying in Agrippa’s court. He calls the Jews as character witnesses to prove he isn’t insane, then starts telling a crazy story about Jesus appearing in his hallucination. If the empty tomb was such a good argument, why didn’t Paul use the Jews in Jerusalem to back up that story. Or why didn’t Luke have his Paul puppet use that argument?

      I call his testimony crazy because of verse 14 where Jesus speaks Aramaic but uses a Greek idiom (“kick against the goads”) that goes back to The Bacchae a few hundred years before. So we have Luke quoting Paul in Greek quoting Jesus speaking Aramaic quoting Euripides quoting Dionysus, a Greek god, translated back to Greek. Like Jesus is going to come down from heaven to quote a Greek god to kick off Christianity.

      • wtfwjtd

        “If the empty tomb was such a good argument, why didn’t Paul use the Jews in Jerusalem to back up that story.”

        Better still, why not just have the court GO to the empty tomb, and show them? You’d think that would be a slam dunk, but no…

        Had Paul pissed off all his religious pals so thoroughly that not one of them could come vouch for him at his trial? The man could be on trial for his life, for crying out loud, and yet none of these “witnesses” or anyone else shows up to vouch for him or his crazy story!

        “kick against the goads”
        Yes, Jesus quoting a Greek god to in defense of Christianity is hilarious, I’ll bet the 2nd century audience ate that up.

  • Pofarmer

    Strobels a buffoon, writing for other buffoons.

  • busterggi

    Lots of presupposition there Lee.

  • Doomedd

    “His story is his conversion from unpleasant atheist to humble Christian servant”

    I find it hilarious when people claim they were hardcore mean atheist and they turned to nice Christians. Converts claim they were transformed even if “born again” is not a part of their tradition. They seen to “forget” their pre-christian live and they describe their “atheist” past in ways that are foreign to actual nonbelievers. For example: they may claim they were atheist because they wanted to sin.

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

      Strobel says that as an atheist he was too proud to kneel to Jesus and unwilling to yield to Christianity’s demands for moral living. From that perspective, it sounds like he wasn’t much of an atheist at all.

      • wtfwjtd

        “as an atheist he was too proud to kneel to Jesus ”

        I hear this Christian straw man all the time, and I’m kinda sick of it, personally. If Jesus showed up at my front door today, and confirmed his identity to me(should be easy for him), I’d not only invite him in, serve him dinner, wait on him hand and foot, and kneel to him–I’d go one better, I’d probably kiss his feet!
        This is just some delusion the faithful have conjured up to have a (phony) reason to believe that this is why those filthy atheists don’t believe–they aren’t humble enough, or near as humble as they are. What a crock of baloney.

        • Pofarmer

          The act of self-denial seems to confer on us the right to be harsh and merciless toward others. The impression somehow prevails that the true believer, particularly the religious individual, is a humble person. The truth is that the surrendering and humbling of the self breed pride and arrogance.

          Hoffer, Eric (2011-05-10). The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (Perennial Classics) (Kindle Locations 1349-1351). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

        • wtfwjtd

          Now that’s more like it. I know several religious types who are the “humblest” people they know, and they take great pride in their humility.

        • Greg G.

          Numbers 12:3 NIV
          Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.

          That’s from one of the books that tradition tells us that Moses himself wrote.

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

          And he oughta know, right?? Who better to tell us that he was humble?

        • Greg G.

          Sure, he could have been faking humility, but only he could know for certain.

        • Retro

          Thanks for this quote, Pofarmer! I’m going to check out the book…

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_True_Believer

        • MNb

          That’s a good observation. It strikes me how arrogant many christians are towards people with different views. They seem to have a hard time to understand the story of the Good Samaritan.

        • Mick

          If Jesus showed up at my front door I’d look around for a millstone. If he’s got one, I’m in trouble!

          If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matthew 18:6)

      • hector_jones

        Was he also too proud to face Mecca on his knees three times a day and pray to Allah? Is he still?

        • MNb

          Five times actually. I am not too proud to do this once a year, but praying to Allah is a lot harder, like all kind of prayer.

      • Greg G.

        Christians have tried to tell me that I reject the Looorrrrddd because I want to live in sin. They are dumbfounded when I ask exactly what they are accusing me of. What do I do that they consider so sinful? The biggest difference is that they don’t go to church every Sunday while every Sunday I don’t go to church.

        • wtfwjtd

          My wife asked me the other day, “What fun stuff can we atheists do that Christians can’t?” I’ll be damned, I’m still scratching my head trying to think of something.

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

          Reminds me of Penn Jillette’s comment that he does indeed rape as much as he wants. And the amount he wants is zero.

        • MNb

          Possibly even less. Christians at least have the escape route of asking god, Jesus and/or Mary to forgive them.

        • wtfwjtd

          Less, as in not doing what this woman did?

          http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/oregon-mom-found-guilty-murdering-4-year-old-son-thought-gay-article-1.1746234

          Yea, I ain’t gonna be doing that anytime soon.

        • MNb

          Or fondling young boys, like Dutch bishop Gijsen did and the pope asking for forgiveness in the name of Jesus in advance.

        • Greg G.

          I was going to say that a Christian could do something an atheist cannot do and that is to pretend to know the will of God. Then I Googled to see if the question your wife asked was out there, but I found a Christian who makes that argument at http://www.rev-know-it-all.com/2013/2013—04-14.html

        • wtfwjtd

          We batted the question back and forth a little this evening, and we came up with this: We used to go to the lake on Sunday, and would enjoy a wonderful time. The Christian goes to the lake on Sunday, and they have a wonderful time, BUT feel guilty about it. And if they don’t feel guilty, then they feel guilty because they DON’T feel guilty. Take that, all you heathen atheists!

        • Kodie

          Wow. That makes no sense. I have heard Christians suppose even atheists have decent morals and suppose it to be written on our hearts by the god we do not acknowledge, but we have the morality just the same. To suggest that his heartfelt experiences and charity was due to his beliefs – that only beliefs bring you to the morally correct answer in every situation… is like, I don’t know about all Christians, but most of the ones I know are assholes like everyone else if it suits them at the time. Not calling them murderers and rapists, but the big morality question bugs me, because in a lot of day-to-day situations, there is a right way and a wrong way to behave, and statistically, the wrong-way people aren’t all atheists.

          I am going to attempt to draw a chart of morality:

          Evil—————Neutral—————Good

          At the far left, you have your basic murders, genocides, and slaveries. We will include rape here because I think Christians usually include rape as a bad thing to do to someone, for as much as they frequently defend rapists and blame rape victims, surely they themselves would never do such a thing as rape, excusing many examples of rape as not really rape.

          At the far right, I don’t know what you have. I don’t know any famous examples of comparable good committed by anyone. Freeing slaves? Pretty good. It seems like the “good” opposite of crimes on the “evil” end is simply not doing any of those things. The good in people is often the simple gesture of positive altruism like buying a homeless person a sandwich or dressing up like a superhero to wash windows at the children’s hospital, which is righter than neutral but not amazingly good as genocide is terrible; or simply not taking advantage of a situation where you’d dick someone over. Which to me, is neutral.

          Then there are the petty immoralities, wherein you only think of yourself and someone gets dicked over, you help yourself to someone’s share, you butt in front of them in line, or take the last piece of pie without asking if anyone else wanted it. You drive diagonally in the parking lot, or you make a lot of noise late at night to drive your neighbor mad or you don’t tip well, or you take up two seats on the bus. People are somewhat touchy about these things. They don’t like being policed by the citizens, their peers. This is petty outlaw city, where nobody enforces shit. People get defensive when you call them out because “hey, it’s just a piece of gum, it’s not like I murdered anybody!”

          And then, you get being gay vs. hating gay. Which is on which side of the chart? They want to defend hating gay because it’s their sacred beliefs, and to them, being gay is definitely on the side of crime. Us moral folks don’t think it’s wrong to despise a home intruder or an arsonist or a terrorist, so why is it wrong to refuse service to gay people? They can’t seem to be taught how it’s not a crime to be gay. A man fucking another man, to them, is something that can be controlled and should be controlled, like not stealing, not fucking another dude, just don’t do it. To elevate this criminal behavior to have equal marriages, does not compute. So, to you and me, hating gay is obviously worse than being gay (that’s to say there’s nothing wrong with it, and to me, neutral – it would not be a “good” behavior), but that equation doesn’t work for them, since they equate deviance from sexual norms as something that can be willed by the person, and as a crime, something one ought not do. They don’t even know why the rest of us have a problem with them hating who they want to hate. Marriage equality is like saying let’s make a program for arsonists to get free gasoline and matches, and the liberals are all for it, and they think we’d be nuts. In that way, they think that their conclusion is perfectly natural and moral, and why they don’t trust an atheist/humanist to come up with the correct moral answer. They are quick to judge and quick to hate, and obviously when they do it, it’s the best one can be.

          But how easily they defend immoral behaviors like judging and hating, they defend just about all circumstances of a reported rape. It is moral for them to oppress women and give men a lot of leeway for their behaviors. The guy who kept those women locked up in his rape house for years is a sick fuck. This young teen who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, that guy’s a sick fuck. Any other two people who have sex, even on videotape while she’s passed out drunk, is the woman trying to destroy the reputations of men. I have seen on Dr. Phil, a mother defend her teenage son who took part in a gang-rape, because allegedly, the girl was too drunk and begged each boy for sex, and when he didn’t want to anymore, he went upstairs and asked his friend, and they all did this girl like she asked for, like she was threatening them with a knife, fuck me or else, call your friends over to fuck me all night or I’ll cut your dick off, something like that happened? The mother justified her son’s behavior in that incident. I mean what was he supposed to do? The right thing? The moral answer is to listen to your partner’s needs and be considerate and allow several of your friends to have a go like she requested. They all made it sound like a lot of hard work but they were willing to pitch in, no matter what it cost their own self-respect. He’s young! He has his whole future in front of him, and this bitch had to go and cause him so many legal problems.

          So what I gotta get back to saying is most days, we are faced with right and wrong, and wrong doesn’t so much kill a lot of people, it might promote slavery in another country, perhaps, but these slights that are just supposed to roll off everyone as “just how people are” and not worry about it, they know what they do is wrong, they know they are making a decision that benefits themselves and hurts another person in a small way, and contributes to making the world worse than it has to be. And this is considered “neutral”. On the opposite side, the small “good” acts are uplifting and hopeful, but are they really “good” as genocide is evil, no. The viral videos and lists of the small good acts are the scraps we’re clinging to. Someone took a few minutes out of their day to make someone smile in a world where many are at best neutral (not being a dick) or giving someone a little dose of misery as they go along their oblivious, selfish way.

          I am not saying that Christians are worse altogether, they just claim they are better and know better. The guy who answered those letters made it sound like he was devoted to being a caring, listening, giving sort of guy, and maybe he has been, but he wants a lot of credit. His answer was nonsense. An atheist can’t sit with a terminally ill child or drive a bus for an orphanage or whatever? He was asked a question is there anything a Christian can do that an atheist cannot, and he didn’t really name any. He just warned the atheist not to think of others because we would probably hurt more than help; our right instincts are flipped, we’d step over the shooting victims to save the life of the gunman, or bring donuts to share at work but you’ll probably lick them, and giving poor people money, like giving a waitress an especially generous tip, is really just encouraging her to stay on welfare… or whatever. See, we’re always making the wrong choices when we do the right thing, so it’s better if we just refrain from attempting to do good things – and let Christians continue to take all the credit and hate on atheists while we sit on our thumbs letting Christians help the needy.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yea, his first reply was dumb, but he really went off the rails with that second reply. And like you said, with all that BS he still didn’t name one thing that a Christian could do that an atheist couldn’t!
          Where he *really* jumped the shark, was when he said that an atheist couldn’t or shouldn’t save someone’s life, because how was the filthy atheist to know if saving a life is “good” or “bad”? Seriously? This man has really been drinking cool-aid if he really thinks this is the way a non-theist thinks. What an arrogant asshole, to be so presumptuous to think that his and his morally bankrupt religion’s morals are so vastly superior to those who don’t share his religious dogmas.

        • Kodie

          Here’s where there is a problem that he doesn’t consider. It’s not only that god isn’t policing us, it’s that Christians typically enjoy the cultural privilege to do so. A lot of doing the right thing doesn’t seem that hard to do, and then there are the things atheists and Christians disagree upon. People can behave “like a Christian” without actually being one. If there is a social cost to being discovered, sitting aside to avoid making a huge moral error while lives are at stake would be the last thing an atheist should do. “Sorry, I was told I can’t put soup in a dish, or perform CPR, or send aid to hurricane victims,” would get the reply “What’s the damn matter with you?” “Well, sorry, but I’m an atheist, and I learned from a Catholic priest that atheists are exempt, as we could cause more harm than good due to our poor moral direction.”

          It’s only now getting to the point where a person in the right circumstances would be safe to admit one is an atheist. Exposing yourself when someone obviously needs help, and you have the time or skills or money to do so, would be the wrong thing to do – we know that. But that’s not where it hurts us. There are situations where doing the opposite of what a Christian would do is the correct response. How many have just gone along, stay in the closet, not made a fuss or drawn attention to themselves and actively done what they feel to be wrong because Christians control too much? And they get the luxury of believing everyone is Christian because they also get to define what atheism is, and how bad it is to be one and how horrible you are if they find out you are one. It’s really easy to pretend to be a Christian if the social cost is too high to admit you’re not, and do whatever Christians think is moral. He can’t tell if you don’t, and as long as he believes that you believe, you’re never doing the wrong thing or causing harm with your confusing sense of morality. (You may be doing the wrong thing by going along with their confusing sense of morality). If we’re so supposedly immoral, of course we’ll be honest and call ourselves out, right? We can’t have some social sense that allows us to detect potential for negative outcomes and judgments that are not in our favor, by which I mean the social sense like empathy that informs our moral response.

          I was also thinking how popular the notion they have of not feeding people who are hungry via public welfare. If they don’t come for food at the church, we can’t monitor their usage of the goods and proselytize them. They make up disgusting judgments to marginalize and blame the poor. Atheists are all liberals who are in favor of actually taking care of our neighbors regardless of what they believe, which is an example of how we do the wrong thing. That’s what he’s trying to say. It’s not that they hate the poor, they just hate how the poor are no longer dependent on church handouts.

        • wtfwjtd

          Great write-up Kodie. In response to your last paragraph, I really like what Adam Lee had to say about this behavior: I don’t really care what religious people say any more, I only care what they actually do. They can say they love poor people, or gay people all they want, but when their actions say they hate them, then I have to logically conclude that they actually hate them. It’s that simple.

        • smrnda

          For one, life is a more fun without he hassle of pleasing some god who can’t be bothered to show up and make their opinions clear. I can also laugh at religion, I don’t need to bother with a judgmental subculture, I don’t have to spend time lying about how much some gods means to me when I don’t care.

        • guest

          Sleep in on Sunday.
          Eat meat on Friday.
          Have premarital sex.
          Masturbate.

        • wtfwjtd

          Aw hell, Christians do all of those things, they just pretend they don’t, hide their guilt, and condemn those who admit to doing these things without the guilt . If you would have said doing all those things without the transparent hypocrisy or feeling guilty, now you’re getting somewhere.

        • Kodie

          I know Christians do all those things without guilt. From what I have gathered, nominal Christians are still Christians. They don’t go to church, they eat whatever whenever they want, they don’t have a hang-up about premarital sex or masturbation. If you press them about their beliefs, they still get angry about atheists ruining all the good stuff Christians do or oppressing Christians or ruining Christmas or shoving their atheism down people’s throats. They’re the “not all of us are like that” Christians who still think Jesus is real, and fuck you if you have something idiotic to say to them about they’re hypocrisy regarding where they get married, or how they honor the dead. They thank god for football games and awards and their children getting a B up from a C, and that the cancer diagnosis came back negative.

          I once got into it on another blog that wasn’t about religion but touched on religion as one of its topics, where I called this “weak beliefs” and OH MY GOD. Just because they’re not creationists and they don’t even go to church or follow the rules doesn’t mean their beliefs are weak. They are still strongly spiritual when their back is against the wall, and hate atheists for being militant and ruining everything they think is sacred, and don’t think there is anything wrong with a little prayer in school or the 10 commandments in a courthouse. When you think you live in a pretty secular area and then say you’re an atheist or protest any Christian display on government property, they FUCKING HATE YOU. FUCK YOU for hating their beliefs and trying to oppress them and turn everything atheist you mother fucking atheists.

        • wtfwjtd

          Those sound like unpleasant personal experiences Kodie, plenty of nastiness to go around there. I guess that goes to show that cultural Christianity is very prevalent, with a lot of picking and choosing (and hating) going on. One of the hallmarks of Christians I’ve found is they like to pile on the rules for everyone else, but exempt themselves from them. True hypocrisy at it’s finest. Not only that, but scapegoating–it’s those god-damned atheist’s fault that the world is in a mess today, if they’d only pay lip service to our wonderful Christian doctrine everything would be rosy. I’d say you ran into a whole passel of that kind of thinking in that last paragraph.Once again, Christianity at its finest.

      • Nemo

        Since evangelicals forcefully argue that their religion is the only one that isn’t about works, I find it hilarious that they imagine that NON Christians are the ones who don’t want to be held accountable.

    • Retro

      Excellent point Doomedd!

      What kind of a person is too proud to kneel to something imaginary? I’d say a sane and rational one.

      What kind of a person is too proud to kneel to Jesus, then pretends not to believe in this Jesus and calls himself an atheist? Someone who is simply PRETENDING to be an atheist!

      If Lee Strobel keeps this up, I think he’ll qualify as both a lunatic and a liar…

      • wtfwjtd

        Well said!

      • RichardSRussell

        Yeah, the “lunatic, liar, or lord” trilemma is just as intellectually bankrupt as Pascal’s Wager, but it’s probably the 2nd most popular meme in the intellectually bankrupt quiver of the apologists.

        • wtfwjtd

          And as BobS has reminded us, they forgot one “L”–legend. Add that, and now we’ve got something.(Not much, but something).

      • Kodie

        I was thinking about this some more. I don’t know who Lee Strobel is except what Bob writes about him, and to be honest, a lot of the names of authors he critiques are a confusing blur to keep straight. I certainly think it is possible to be an atheist, to call oneself an atheist, as I said above, even if one does not have all the arguments. There is always the question in our culture whether there is a god or not and most people say there is, and how obvious it is, and yet they are all believing in the same one, even if they disagree on principles. I was also thinking that it is perfectly honest for someone, I mean, without meaning to hurt anyone’s feelings or whatever, to label oneself an atheist if one is behaving how one thinks atheists behave.

        From the perspective of a Christian, I gather that the story changes. Strobel doesn’t need amazing arguments to consider himself an atheist at all. I do not like to play that “no true Scotsman” game with atheists. For whatever reason one thinks there’s no god, then there is no god for that person. I don’t think someone is pretending to be an atheist rather than led to conclude that he must be based on the wrong definition. What I’m saying is that after he converts, he reconstructs his path toward Christianity. He is prone to revise his story to fit a particular narrative.

        Now let’s take me for example. I have always been an atheist, but until I happened upon certain blogs and communities, I wouldn’t suppose to know any good reasons not to be a Christian other than it sounds like bullshit to me from the get-go, and I wasn’t indoctrinated. If a Christian came up to sell me his booklet or say he was going to pray for me, and I say, “get away, I don’t believe it and I don’t need to hear from you today.” Had I eventually converted to Christianity, how would I frame those previous interactions with well-meaning folks who only wanted to guide me to my lord and savior Jesus Christ? Probably pride. Probably too proud to listen, as if I had known the whole time that it was all true, and I had resisted because of my pride, my ego.

        Where I was going with all this is, we never seem to hear from these atheists who know there’s a Jesus. We never get these people before they become Christians, maybe someone like [forgot her name] the now-Catholic blogger who formerly blogged as an atheist. There is a difference between a-religious and a-theist, maybe areligious is not the right word, but empty seekers. I guess they call themselves agnostics. That guy, Robert Lawrence Kuhn, on PBS who interviews various clergy and atheists on a program called “Closer to Truth”, is he closer to truth? He doesn’t seem satisfied by anyone’s answers, but he doesn’t identify himself as an atheist with a god-shaped hole, but rather agnostic, and not in a “we can never know” kind of way. Certainly some people feel that need to fill in spiritually. I’ve watched his program a few times, and so it seems he favors religion at least by a margin but can’t pick one. Belief makes no sense, but he is requiring a religiously satisfying answer from an atheist. He visits too many theists looking for them to have more insight than he does, so he can’t just pick one, since they have all the obvious flaws that you’d expect.

        http://scienceandreligiontoday.blogspot.com/2008/09/were-getting-closer-to-truth.html

        So, after all this, what do I think? Does God make sense? To me, honestly, nothing makes sense!
        God? No God? Both hit circularities, regresses, dead-ends.
        Arguments?
        I love them all, but in the end, they all falter. Theistic arguments,
        atheistic arguments—none are dispositive. I’ve (half) joked that if I
        had to chose, I’d have to say that I find the atheistic arguments more
        palatable to swallow but the theistic conclusion more satisfying to
        digest. That doesn’t make sense, of course. And I guess that is my
        point. It’s not scientifically becoming to admit belief without reason.
        But to me, honesty trumps image.
        Throughout this multiyear adventure of producing and hosting Closer To Truth,
        perhaps I’ve progressed. I now see a richer, more textured picture of
        what a Supreme Being, if such a being exists, might be like.
        Many
        people seem certain of their beliefs. I wish I were certain. I may
        continue lurching and lapsing in my beliefs, but I will never cease
        wondering, striving, searching.
        As for me, for now, passionate uncertainty is closer to truth.

        If this guy eventually turned out to be a Christian, I would not be too surprised, and then how would he describe his journey and explain his certainty? I don’t expect him to settle for anything less than certainty, which he will never find, and he’s too educated to believe some of the dumbest and unrealistic ones. It seems like the deeper he digs, the more I think he thinks there’s a god but none of the jokers he’s interviewed in over 200 episodes so far has the right one. The way I see it, he wants another person’s theology to hit the right chord with him, then he second-guesses it, since why should I listen to that guy, he’s just a guy who doesn’t really know more than I do. Next!

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

          maybe someone like [forgot her name] the now-Catholic blogger who formerly blogged as an atheist.

          Leah Libresco (Unequally Yoked blog)

          “I’ve (half) joked that if I had to chose, I’d have to say that I find the atheistic arguments more palatable to swallow but the theistic conclusion more satisfying to digest.”

          Incredible. I can’t conceive of the fact that a particular theistic belief is pleasing being relevant to anything interesting. Heck, we could hammer out something even better if we’re just making stuff up, but so what? Is this guy in the realm of fiction or reality?

        • hector_jones

          I find it more palatable to swallow the argument that Jennifer Lawrence has never heard of me, but it’s more satisfying to me to digest the conclusion that Jennifer Lawrence is madly in love with me. So keep an eye out for your wedding invitation, it should arrive any day now.

        • Greg G.

          Congratulations in advance!

        • MNb

          I can’t conceive of that fact either, but I have never faced that dilemma. I have an aversion, ie a negative emotional attitude towards every single belief system I have ever met. Sure I like the Surinamese version of islam better than anything christian. Yesterday on the news there was an item about volunteers in Pakistan handing out anti polio vaccinations and how they needed protection against islamic bigots. Some interviewed Pakistani said that these vaccins made the kids infertile when grown up. These Pakistani most likely are sunni like my female counterpart.
          She was disgusted too of course; this time I was so disgusted I could not even think of a bad joke to tease her.

        • wtfwjtd

          I saw that, and thought it was nuts too. Sure, we can spin all kinds of pleasing platitudes and call them reality, but like Kodie so aptly put it–“Believing horse manure is chocolate ice cream don’t make it so”.

        • Retro

          Hey Kodie,

          You wrote: “For whatever reason one thinks there’s no god, then there is no god for that person.I don’t think someone is pretending to be an atheist rather than led to conclude that he must be based on the wrong definition.”

          By definition, one either believes in god, or one doesn’t. Those that have a belief are theists, and those who lack any belief are atheists.

          If Strobel said he was an atheist pretending to be a theist, what would you call him? A pretending theist?

          “He is prone to revise his story to fit a particular narrative.”

          And that’s kind of the point we’ve all been hinting at. It’s so easy for someone to make the claim, “I used to be x, but then I converted to y… so why don’t you convert to y too?”

          It’s all a very nice story written to persuade you to covert/re-commit to Jesus.

          My main point was that you don’t bother to rebel against something that you don’t believe to exist. The claim refutes itself.

          By any meaningful definition of the word, Lee Strobel was not an atheist.

        • hector_jones

          Or he was an atheist, but now that he’s a christian he’s replaced what he really believed as an atheist with a christian caricature of what an atheist believes.

        • Retro

          So then, he once was a real atheist, but now he’s a real Christian, and he’s only pretending that he used to be a christian caricature…

          I think I got it now.

        • hector_jones

          He might be pretending for rhetorical purposes. He might not be pretending. He might believe he used to be a christian caricature. Being a Christian is all about believing bullshit.

        • MNb

          That’s possible too.

        • Kodie

          He is describing himself as an atheist from the perspective of a Christian. I agree with your perception that a person could be pretending to be an atheist and pretending to convert, but I’m not that cynical. Christians do have a funny definition of atheism that does not agree with yours or mine, but I’d also suppose that a person could fit that profile honestly and then come to Jesus. Christians think everyone is an atheist who doesn’t believe like they do, whether that is a Buddhist or another kind of Christian or the poor sick atheist drug addicted prostituting homosexual sinner with a god-shaped hole who is mad at god, that when they finally find the right track, wherever they used to be is classified as atheism because they were without a spiritual relationship that they currently recognize. I don’t think they were pretending the whole time, I think they were not feeling it and now they do.

          Now there’s the other matter of how much do you know about the arguments for and against atheism and/or Christianity, and how much do you need to know to be convinced of either. I think it’s not very much, since I used to be that kind of atheist, but I would not say I was anything other than an atheist or not really an atheist. I just didn’t need and still don’t really need that much to remain one. I think religious claims are silly. If I ever became convinced of Christianity, I would positively have to revise my recollection of the past and consider that, from that angle, that I didn’t want to listen to the gospel before because I was too afraid to let Jesus into my life, or that I didn’t want to change and didn’t think I needed Jesus to get by, that I was being a “humanist” and thought myself god and too proud to kneel.

          Of course I don’t feel like that now, and I don’t foresee finding any of their arguments persuasive. But when someone tells me something, rather than tell them what they mean or what they think (and I do recognize that there are liars for Jesus), it doesn’t seem far-fetched for a converted Christian to revise the facts of his former life, especially if one considers they have a poor definition of what atheism actually is. Pretending is different than being honestly mistaken or misled.

        • Retro

          I agree, pretending is different than being honestly mistaken or misled.

          I think, however, that Strobel should be held to what he states here: “However, in the interest of total disclosure, let me add that my problems with faith were not solely intellectual. I had a vested interest in the non-existence of God because I was living a rather immoral lifestyle and did not want to be held accountable for my behavior. To me, atheism opened up a world of hedonism that I knew wouldn’t be acceptable to God if he existed. (Let me be clear: I’m not saying that all atheists are hedonists. I’m just saying that, for me, atheism cleared the way for me to live a self-indulgent, me-first, narcissistic life. And to be honest, to this day I can’t figure out why atheists would choose any other path, although I know many do.)” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2009/01/02/lee-strobel-answers-your-questions-part-1/

          AGAIN, let me point out that if you really don’t believe in the Christian god and the afterlife, then you really aren’t going to care about being held accountable to this imaginary being.

          I think Strobel is admitting that his atheism was based largely on emotional arguments. Likewise, Strobel is also admitting his conversion to Christianity was based on emotion as well, and not on actual evidence when he states:

          “How did I become a Christian? My wife’s conversion to Christianity (which deeply troubled me at first) resulted in a lot of positive changes in her attitudes and behavior, which I found winsome and intriguing. She invited me to a church, where I heard the Gospel explained in a way I could understand it. While I didn’t believe it, I realized that if it were true, it would have big implications for my life.”

          The fact that Strobel needed the Gospel explained to him “in a way he could understand it” shows that he’s already playing around with the definition of “atheist”. Atheists don’t reject Christianity simply because they can’t understand the Gospel.

          I reject Christianity because I do understand exactly what the Bible claims, and there is not sufficient evidence to back up these claims.

          While the changes in his wife might be proof that she believes Christianity to be true, it is in no way evidence that Christianity itself is true.

          Simple review: Strobel liked doing whatever he wanted, and disliked being accountable, so he was an atheist. At some point along the way, Strobel liked the changes in hiw wife and began to fear being held accountable, and so he became a Christian. Do you see how these are all emotional reasons? Emotions are not evidence.

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

          [Strobel:] “I’m just saying that, for me, atheism cleared the way for me to live a self-indulgent, me-first, narcissistic life. And to be honest, to this day I can’t figure out why atheists would choose any other path, although I know many do.”

          And in response to this unintelligible sentiment, I must again quote Penn Jillette:

          The question I get asked by religious people all the time is, without God, what’s to stop me from raping all I want? And my answer is: I do rape all I want. And the amount I want is zero. And I do murder all I want, and the amount I want is zero. The fact that these people think that if they didn’t have this person watching over them that they would go on killing, raping rampages is the most self-damning thing I can imagine.

        • wtfwjtd

          So Christianity cured him completely of his desire to “live a self-indulgent, me-first, narcissistic life”, eh? Yeah, I’ll bet. My advice to his wife: keep a very,very close watch on your husband. Ain’t no telling what he might do when he thinks that “God” (or you) isn’t looking.

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

          What? A powerful and charismatic man of God tempted to leave the straight and narrow path? I don’t think so!

        • smrnda

          I really love that Jillette quote – I suspect some people can’t function without some carrot and stick arrangement, though that says little good about them at all.

        • primenumbers

          Sounds like his description of his pre-Christian life as “atheist” is a rationalization as to why he behaved “badly” rather than a true statement to his actual beliefs at the time. His description of “I was living a rather immoral lifestyle and did not want to be held accountable for my behaviour” reads more like a Christian back-reasoning, because atheists just don’t describe things in such a way as to make you think they believe that there’s an external being to whom they’re accountable and is a source of morality.

        • Greg G.

          He was immoral because he was an atheist. Now he is immoral but forgiven.

        • primenumbers

          Is that why apologists often lie for Jesus?

        • Pofarmer

          Guy sounds like not such a deep thinker.

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

          Nicely put.

        • MNb

          “I do not like to play that “no true Scotsman” game with atheists.”
          I agree – I don’t accept that game with christians either. However I think it sad if someone is/was an atheist with the specific goal of doing whatever (s)he likes.

  • Nemo

    Seriously? This is the former atheist’s slam dunk? Pathetic.

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

      What he lacks in evidence he makes up on confidence. So it works out in the end. Or something.

  • smrnda

    On the comment about people being sentenced to death on less evidence, given the racist and classist nature of our criminal justice system and well publicized issues with the death penalty in Illinois (Stroebel’s home state, which eventually passed a moratorium on executions after a number of people on death row were determined to be innocent, and the death penalty was later revoked) I’m in agreement with him, but all this shows is that we have a shitty court system, not anything relevant to making a case for the resurrection.

  • SparklingMoon

    E #1: Jesus was executed
    ……………………………………………………………………….
    This is borne out by the Gospels inasmuch as Jesus described his own case as resembling that of the Prophet Jonas; and every Christian knows that Jonas did not die in the belly of the whale. If Jesus lay dead in the sepulcher, what resemblance would he have with Jonas who was kept alive in the belly of the whale?

    It is also known that after deliverance from the cross Jesus exhibited his wounds to the disciples.If he had been bestowed a glorious body after death,how was it that he still retained the wounds received by his previous body? Had there been some deficiency left in the glory and, if so, how can it be expected that those injuries would be healed till the Judgement Day? (Siraj-e-Munir)

    • Kodie

      “Every Christian knows” since that’s what it says in the bible. You are telling us what it says in the bible. Of course that’s what it says in the bible, do you think we’re illiterate? How are we supposed to argue with that, it’s in the fucking bible, every Christian knows that.

      • Pofarmer

        Ignorance as Wisdom, belief as truth.

      • SparklingMoon

        Jesus certainly had revelation of God Almighty and he must had delivered it further exactly to his followers but this revelation does not exist in its original words at this time that a reader may compare its translations ( exist at this time in other languages) to know the part that is revelation of Jesus and the part that is human interference and explanation.

    • Greg G.

      Good. You should approach the Bible with a skeptical mindset. You should do that with the Koran as well.

      • SparklingMoon

        God Almighty,in the Quran<has repeatedly converted the attention of the followers of Trinity to the mistakes of their faith and clearly described the true message of Jesus:

        "People Of the Book! exceed not the bounds in the matter of your religion, and say not of God anything but the truth. Indeed, the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was but a Messenger Of God and the fulfillment of glad tidings which he conveyed to Mary and a mercy for Him. So believe in God and His Messengers and say not: There are three gods. Desist, it will be the better for you. Indeed, God is only One God. His Holiness brooks not that He should have a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. Sufficient is God as a Guardian. Surely, the Messiah would never disdain to be accounted a servant of God, nor would the angels who are close to God. Those who disdain to worship Him and consider themselves above it will He gather all together before Himself." (4:172-173)

        "Those certainly are disbelievers who say: God is none but the Messiah, son of Mary: whereas the Messiah himself taught: Children of Israel, worship God Who is my Lord and your Lord. Surely God has forbidden heaven to him who associates partners with God, and the fire will be his resort. The wrongdoers shall have no helpers. Those certainly are disbelievers who say: God is the third of the three. There is no one worthy of worship but the One God. If they desist not from that which they say, a grievous chastisement shall surely afflict those of them that disbelieve. Will they not then turn to God and beg His forgiveness, seeing that God is Most Forgiving. Ever Merciful." (5:73-75)

        "We sent no Messenger before thee but We directed him: There is no God but I; so worship Me alone. But they say: The Gracious One has taken to Himself a son. Holy is He. Those whom they so designate are only His honored servants. They utter not a word more than he directs, and they only carry out His commands. He knows what lies ahead of them and what is left behind them, and they intercede not except only he whose intercession He permits, and they tremble with fear of Him. Whosoever of them should say: I am a god beside Him; We shall requite him with hell. Thus do We requite the wrongdoers. "(21:26-30)

        "The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a Messenger; many Messengers have passed away berore him. His mother was a paragon of truth and they both were in need of and ate food. Observe how We explain the si gns for their benefit, then observe how they are led away. Ask them: Do you worship beside God that which has no power to do you harm or good? It is God Who is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. Admonish them: People of the Book, exceed not the bounds in the matte r of your religion unjustly, nor follow the vain desires of a people who themselves went astray before and caused many others to go astray, and who strayed away from the right path. (5:76-78)

        (117)" Keep in mind, When God will ask Jesus, son of Mary: Didst thou say to the people: Take me and my mother for two Gods besides Allah? And he will answer: “Holy art Thou. I could never say that to which I had no right. If I had said it, Thou wouldst have surely known it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy mind. It is only Thou Who art the Knower of hidden things.*118)“I said nothing to them except that which Thou didst command me — ‘Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’ And I was a witness over them as long as I remained among them, (5:117-118)

        • SparklingMoon

          Wao! I never imagined that my next comments would appear so supernatural .

        • Greg G.

          It could be the “less than” symbol between the fifth and sixth words makes Disqus think it is HTML. If it isn’t that then “God Almighty,in the Quran” doesn’t like it when it is implied that he is less than something else, in which case I would count that as evidence that favors your position!

          You can try the “Edit” option. Replace the “less than” (“<“) with a space and hit “Save Edit”.

        • SparklingMoon

          God Almighty,in the Quran has repeatedly converted the attention of the followers of Trinity to the mistakes of their faith and clearly described the true message of Jesus:

          “People Of the Book! exceed not the bounds in the matter of your religion,and say not of God anything but the truth. Indeed, the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was but a Messenger Of God and the fulfillment of glad tidings which he conveyed to Mary and a mercy for Him. So believe in God and His Messengers and say not: There are three gods. Desist, it will be the better for you. Indeed, God is only One God. His Holiness brooks not that He should have a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. Sufficient is God as a Guardian. Surely, the Messiah would never disdain to be accounted a servant of God, nor would the angels who are close to God. Those who disdain to worship Him and consider themselves above it will He gather all together before Himself.” (4:172-173)

          “Those certainly are disbelievers who say: God is none but the Messiah, son of Mary: whereas the Messiah himself taught: Children of Israel, worship God Who is my Lord and your Lord. Surely God has forbidden heaven to him who associates partners with God, and the fire will be his resort. The wrongdoers shall have no helpers. Those certainly are disbelievers who say: God is the third of the three. There is no one worthy of worship but the One God. If they desist not from that which they say, a grievous chastisement shall surely afflict those of them that disbelieve. Will they not then turn to God and beg His forgiveness, seeing that God is Most Forgiving. Ever Merciful.” (5:73-75)

          “We sent no Messenger before thee but We directed him: There is no God but I; so worship Me alone. But they say: The Gracious One has taken to Himself a son. Holy is He. Those whom they so designate are only His honored servants. They utter not a word more than he directs, and they only carry out His commands. He knows what lies ahead of them and what is left behind them, and they intercede not except only he whose intercession He permits, and they tremble with fear of Him. Whosoever of them should say: I am a god beside Him; We shall requite him with hell. Thus do We requite the wrongdoers. “(21:26-30)

          “The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a Messenger; many Messengers have passed away before him. His mother was a paragon of truth and they both were in need of and ate food. Observe how We explain the signs for their benefit, then observe how they are led away. Ask them: Do you worship beside God that which has no power to do you harm or good? It is God Who is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. Admonish them: People of the Book, exceed not the bounds in the matte r of your religion unjustly, nor follow the vain desires of a people who themselves went astray before and caused many others to go astray, and who strayed away from the right path. (5:76-78)

          ” Keep in mind, When God will ask Jesus, son of Mary: Didst thou say to the people: Take me and my mother for two Gods besides Allah? And he will answer: “Holy art Thou. I could never say that to which I had no right. If I had said it, Thou wouldst have surely known it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy mind. It is only Thou Who art the Knower of hidden things.*118)“I said nothing to them except that which Thou didst command me — ‘Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’And I was a witness over them as long as I remained among them, (5:117-118)

        • SparklingMoon

          I tried two three times but did not work (even I tried to remove the comment but could not )

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

      Every Christian also knows that Jesus vanished after the walk to Emmaus, and he just appeared to the disciples in a room with a closed door. Obviously he was a phantom.

      • SparklingMoon

        The very next verses talk about an other person Thomas who also appeared among them and there is no description about the means of his entrance or existence among them:

        (20:24) But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.(20:25)They told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.” (John)

        There is no description here that how Thomas had appeared there but no body has explained this entrance of Thomas as a supper natural phenomena or his coming somewhere from above then why the same appearance of Jesus should be explained as something super natural. Here in these verses, the disciples of Jesus are talking about a Jesus who was saved from the cross with his same physical body that he had before cross. Thomas had a suspect that his companion had seen a spirit of Jesus therefore he said: “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”

        It states further: “After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

        And in the very next verses Jesus himself very clearly told that he was not a spirit but just a human being with the physical wounds of cross.He addressed to Thomas and said:

        “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”

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

          There is no description here that how Thomas had appeared there but no body has explained this entrance of Thomas as a supper natural phenomena

          You are not telling me that the appearance and disappearance of Jesus that I mentioned is as mundane as this mention of Thomas, are you?

          I’ll quote the verses if I have to.

        • Greg G.

          It doesn’t say that verse 20:25 was immediately after the previous half dozen verses. It could have been at any time during the next week that they had that discussion, according to the story.

        • SparklingMoon

          My purpose was to convert your attention to the fact that different words and different situations in the Bible are considered and explained, by the followers of Trinity, with extraordinary supernatural meanings for Jesus in comparison to other common people. The words of gospels are simple but their explanations are misguiding.

          For example there is a word son of God that is used in the Bible and in numerous instances this expression son of God is applied to prophets, to the righteous and to believers.The following are only some examples out of many:

          Israel is My son, even My first born. (Exodus 4:22)

          Also I will make him (David) My first born, higher than the kings of the earth. (Psalms 89:27)

          He (Solomon) shall be My son, and I will be his Father. (1. Chron 22:10)

          Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. (Matt. 5:9)

          Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. (John 3:1)

          But in the New Testament this word son of God is always explained for Jesus by the followers of Trinity as a real son of God. I mean Why?

        • Greg G.

          Christianity is based on the idea that the Old Testament is prophecy about Jesus. Many of the gospel miracles are the deeds of Moses, Elijah, and Elisha rewritten. Paul writes of Jesus more or less as a deity hundreds of times but barely more than a dozen times about him as a human and each of those times, there is an Old Testament parallel and some of those are direct quotes.

          I have seen an explanation that for early Christians God adopted people so they became “brethren”. Some thought Jesus was adopted, too.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Paul writes of Jesus more or less as a deity hundreds of times but barely more than a dozen times about him as a human and each of those times, there is an Old Testament parallel and some of those are direct quotes.

          Nope. In Hebrews 2:17-18, Jesus is described as “fully human in every way,” a high priest in service to God instead of a deity:

          For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

          Paul doesn’t offer an OT “parallel” for this, not that such a “parallel” refutes the plain fact that Paul at times talks about a human Jesus anyway.

        • Greg G.

          The Hebrews quote is a non sequitur with regard to “Paul writes”. Around the year 200, the scholarly consensus was that Paul wrote Hebrews but around the year 2000, the scholarly consensus is that Paul did not write Hebrews. Now skip over to Hebrews 8.

          Hebrews 8:4 NRSV
          4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law.

          That chapter seems to have the ideals of Plato in mind where things in heaven are perfect and earthly things are corrupt shadows. I’ve not gone into Hebrews much but it could be implying that an earthly crucifixion would be corrupt so the sacrifice would have to be heavenly to be perfect to cover all the sins of humanity.

          Paul doesn’t offer an OT “parallel” for this, not that such a “parallel” refutes the plain fact that Paul at times talks about a human Jesus anyway.

          What are your sources that say Paul wrote it?

        • wtfwjtd

          I’m no scholar on this, and I hate to wade into that mess of a book called Hebrews, but…Heb 5:7 says: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission”.

          I don’t know who is supposed to have written Hebrews, but it appears to have been written at a later date than the Paulean writings, according to Pofarmer’s link:http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/hebrews.html

          In Heb 1:9, Jesus is said to have been “made a little lower than the angels…” Isn’t there a biblical description of mankind to this effect? Of course, all this may be a moot point, with a later dating this book could be drawing on the gospels or other work for some of its convoluted (and crazy) references and theology.

        • Greg G.

          My interpretation of Paul is that he thought Jesus had been crucified at some unspecified time in the past and the OT described it in hidden terms about other people, that is, the hidden mysteries. If they were explicit, they wouldn’t be hidden mysteries.

          Hebrews seems to have a Hellenistic philosophical approach to the heavens. In one of Plato’s works, Timaeus, whose name is mentioned in Mark 10:46, describes the heavens as being in seven layers. Hebrews 8 sounds like it follows Plato’s ideas about heaven, too.

          I think Doherty goes over this in The Jesus Puzzle. I didn’t really get his explanation because I was unfamiliar with his sources. I want to become more acquainted with the literature, then go back and see if it makes more sense.

          I’m not sure which of the seven levels the angels were thought to exist in so there could be several layers between them and the earthly level.

          I suspect that to really understand Hebrews, one should be familiar with Plato’s universe. I don’t think it can be coherent with a modern worldview, as in how Levi was a part of Abraham when he tithed Melchizedek.

        • wtfwjtd

          I remember as a teenager when I was doing Bible quizzing, I got pretty familiar with several Pauline works, I & II Cor, Galatians, etc. Then I took a look at Hebrews, and whoa, I figured out even then that it felt all wrong to attribute it to Paul, it was so different from anything by Paul that I had studied. It seems clear that the author of Hebrews places Jesus on earth at least for a short period of time, anyway, before ascending back into the heavens. I’m sure you are right, a study of Plato would likely be helpful to try and sort through it. According to that link the likely date of authorship is in the 80-90 range, so it is later than the Pauline stuff.
          Speaking of Jesus being on earth for a short period of time, I’ve been reading Price’s “Shrinking Son of Man” and he talks of how one of the early branches of Christianity believed that Jesus didn’t become a son of god until he was baptized by JTB, with the Spirit of god descending on him making the transformation from man to god. This is one way to account for the lack of biographical details for Jesus’ early life, he wasn’t a god until he was baptized so the previous stuff was not important to Mark’s audience. At some later point Matthew and Luke felt the need to compete with the neighboring sun gods, who all had virgin births, so they “improved” the story with this addition for their audiences.

        • Greg G.

          In The Christ Myth Theory and Its Problems, Price shows that several scholars have traced Mark’s sources to older material that is not about Jesus at all. The bulk of the book minus the Bible text, can be seen at New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash. He hints that Mark may have relied on Galatians 2 for much of Mark 7 but I think Galatians was very important in Mark. The three main characters, besides Jesus, Peter, James, and John who were called the “pillars” in Galatians. Mark may have had that in mind when he had James and John asking Jesus if they could sit on either hand in glory while Peter is portrayed as wavering in his resolve, similar to how Paul says he changed his behavior when certain men came from James.

          However, Mark may have been ambivalent about Paul’s theology as Mark was writing an allegory, not a history lesson. It may have taken until Matthew’s time before people started asking about Jesus’ younger life, ancestry, and things like that as they began to think Jesus had been a first century person.

        • wtfwjtd

          Here lately, I feel like I’ve been looking at the historicity question from the wrong angle. In I Cor 15, rather than Paul telling us he knows just as much about Jesus as the other Apostles, maybe he’s telling us that they know as little about him as he does. In other words, exactly none of the writers or even the characters of the NT have ever met the guy, but they have all heard the same stories about him. Do you think this could be a fair assessment?

        • Greg G.

          Paul tells us he didn’t get any information from human sources. He speaks of long, hidden mysteries that are now being revealed, as in the verses Bob quoted. Everything Paul tells us about Jesus appears in the scriptures. I infer from those facts that he used no other sources. In 1 Corinthians 15, he uses the same word for “appeared to” for every other person that he used for himself as if he didn’t think they saw it in any way different than he did. Paul says Cephas was the first to see it, which would imply that he read it in the scriptures and he was not an illiterate fisherman.

          In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Paul talks about the Rapture. He uses the first person plural for those who will be alive when it happens, so expects it any time. He may have believed that the fact that the hidden mysteries were being revealed to that generation was a sign that the Messiah would come during that generation. He also discusses the Rapture in 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 and Philippians 3:20-21. All the ideas he expresses in those three passages appear to come from Isaiah 26:19-21, Daniel 7:11, Daniel 7:13, Daniel 12:2, and Isaiah 25:8, so even here he relies on the OT.

          So, I think they probably had heard about the Messiah and every generation for the previous 500 years expected to be the one that saw him and tried to find signs that he was coming soon. Cephas probably started reading out of context verses as being about the Messiah having been crucified long ago which convinced others that the Messiah was coming.

          Perhaps the idea would have died out with that generation but Jerusalem got destroyed which may have renewed interest in their religion to figure out why their God had allowed them to be routed. Then Mark wrote an allegory portraying the leaders of the movement as goofballs who were supposed to go meet him in Galilee but they never got the message because the women were afraid to tell. Those who didn’t see Mark’s irony took it as literal history.

          Whether there was a real Jesus or not, some believed in him and some didn’t so everything from that point would proceed the same way. Tacitus and Josephus would have received the same information either way.

          That is just one possible scenario.

        • wtfwjtd

          I have to wonder too, maybe there were some who thought the suffering messiah had to come first, and the king messiah would follow soon after. The writer of Hebrews seems to believe that Jesus was on earth for at least a short time as a god-man, got killed, rose from the dead, and then immediately went back to heaven, since he said there wasn’t anything for him to do on earth. This also made his “sacrifice” complete. It’s almost like Hebrews was written to answer the natural question,”Why didn’t Jesus hang around after he was raised from the dead?” Which people of course would be wanting to know.

          Maybe this is the way things started out, the Markian way–people first believed that Jesus wasn’t born a god, he became a son of god after he reached adulthood. This seems to be the writer of John’s angle too–Gnostics, I believe, also felt this way. Then the back story and all that disciples stuff was added later, as the faith was expanded to accommodate more belief systems.

          “Whether there was a real Jesus or not, some believed in him and some didn’t so everything from that point would proceed the same way. Tacitus and Josephus would have received the same information either way.”

          And, maybe some believed has had been killed in the recent past, and maybe some believed he had been killed in the distant past, and combined forces. In this sense.Jesus wasn’t really the founder of Christianity, as much as Christianity was founded on him. Either way, since none of the people in the NT had ever actually met him, just believing he had already been killed and raised would effectively work the same way, like you said above. And their message would be the same: “Jesus’s first time around was kind of a bummer, but the next time around is going to be very king-like; get on board so you don’t miss it.”

        • Greg G.

          And, maybe some believed has had been killed in the recent past, and maybe some believed he had been killed in the distant past, and combined forces.

          Ehrman says there were many variations of belief systems about Jesus than that and the diversity of beliefs were wider than what we have today in Lost Christianities. I think the opponents more likely went extinct. I don’t see many Christian denominations joining forces theologically. We have only 40K Christian denominations now because thousands died out.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes, Christianity is a pretty diverse mess today, no reason to assume the early years were any less messy.

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

          Still, in the NT that survived, we have elements of lots of variants of Christianity–the mystery religion stuff that smacks of Gnosticism, the strict Jewish element of the Ebionites in James and Peter, docetism in John where Jesus materializes as if he were a spirit, and so on.

          Gnosticism and Marcionism were as different from Roman Catholicism as today’s Mormonism is.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, yeah, that’s why Catholicism stamped them out.

        • Pofarmer

          Something else I have been thinking about. Shem poo pooed the idea that there might well be texts we don’t know about. However, we know there were various in-orthodox texts because the orthodox writers write against them and quote them. In many cases that is the only record of these texts we have. Also, if there were dozens, or whatever, messiah claimants running around, wouldn’t it make sense they all had their own story? We act like the only choice was the triumphant messiah or the suffering savior, but there is no way to know how many of what kinds of stories were being bandied about. Also, with Palestine occupied for a very long time, the suffering messiah angle might have gotten more traction, because the triumphant messiah types kept getting executed, so, obviously, the only way they were ever going to be triumphant was a full on glorious savior complete with heavenly armies and angels. How to get there? O.k. I’ll take my speculation hat off before I give Shem a heart attack.

        • wtfwjtd

          As I replied to Greg below, some people really seemed to have believed that Jesus had come, been crucified, and rose from the dead, but no one in the NT seems to have ever really met him, they’ve only heard stories about him. It’s almost like he was an embarrassment to them; “his first coming sucked, he got the crap beat out of him. But you just wait, the next time around is going to be fabulous”… It’s like Jesus wasn’t the founder of Christianity, it was built on him after his death. Like, OK, we got that suffering servant thing out of the way, now make way for the king…

        • Greg G.

          John 7:38 (NRSV)
          38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”

          What scripture was Jesus quoting? Nobody knows.

          Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18 reference the Book of Jasher.

          2 Chronicles 9:29 cites the Book of Nathan the Prophet, the Prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and the Visions of Iddo the Seer.

          Paul refers to Zeroeth Corinthians in First Corinthians 5:9. Colossians 4:16 refers to a letter to the Laodiceans.

          Matthew 2:23 says Jesus moved to Nazareth to fulfill a prophecy that “He shall be called a Nazarene.” This may not be a missing manuscript, Matthew may have just made it up.

        • wtfwjtd

          Price had a little section in his book I’m reading now about this; he said that Mark and Luke call him “Jesus the Nazarene,” while Matthew, John, and Acts always call him “Jesus the Nazorean”. Apparently the Nazoreans were the “keepers of the Torah”, or maybe “keepers of the secrets”. They were heirs, supposedly,of a sect called Rechabites, from Jeremiah’s time. He says they were “rather like Gypsies, or itinerant carpenters”. The village Nazereth may not have even existed at this time; he explains how Nazorean may have got changed to Nazarene over time, as it was unpalatable to many people that Jesus could have been a member of and potential heir-apparent to a religious sect. So, after a time, people thought maybe that was his home village, and was unaware of the original connection.

        • Greg G.

          I’ve looked at a couple of things about that the last few days. The first appearance of a word like that in Mark is different than the word “ Nazara used elsewhere and it does not appear in the parallel passages of Matthew and Luke so it may be an interpolation. Otherwise, Mark says Jesus was from Capernaum and the other three times may mean something entirely different like a religious affiliation.

        • Pofarmer

          One other thing that I didn’t realize until just recently. Galilee is not referring to a town, Galilee is basically a county.

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

          Israel (the northern kingdom) later became Galilee on the east and Samaria on the west.

          You’ve heard that joke about these two strangers who discover that they’re both the same religion, then the same sect, then the same flavor of that sect and so on, about five levels down, until they realize that they disagree on the final schism. Now they realize that they’re mortal enemies.

          Samaria and Judah were like that.

        • wtfwjtd

          I’ve often heard that the charade of Luke to get Mary to Bethlehem was proof of a real guy, because why would Luke add such a tortured, ridiculous story if he didn’t have to? Well, how about this: He made it up to “correct” Mark’s mistake of having his made-up guy come from the wrong place? And now it looks as if Nazareth could also be a made-up place. The “real” Jesus seems to get smaller and smaller…

        • Greg G.

          It isn’t clear that Mark was saying Jesus was from Nazareth. There are at least three passages that indicate he was from Capernaum. The word may have referred to his religion, as if reading from:

          Judges 13:7 (NRSV)
          7 but he said to me, ‘You shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the boy shall be a nazirite to God from birth to the day of his death.’”

          Matthew has Joseph and Mary being from Bethelehem to fulfill Micah 5:2, then ending up in Nazareth to fulfill a prophecy Matthew just made up. Luke has Joseph and Mary living in Nazareth but being forced to go to Bethlehem for a tax audit. If Joseph and Mary had to flee Judea to get away fromthe king, why would they take him to the Temple in Jerusalem when he was 8 days old, as in Luke 2:22?

        • wtfwjtd

          “Luke has Joseph and Mary living in Nazareth but being forced to go to Bethlehem for a tax audit.”
          I love how Price dismisses this nonsense as a “camel” that we’re supposed to swallow, but goes on, as he says, to strain out plenty of gnats too:
          Price makes the point that it’s impossible to reconcile Matthew’s account with Luke’s, one or both of them are just an outright invention. IIRC, the only detail they actually agree on is Jesus being born in Bethlehem, with the rest being contradictory of one another. Even the genealogies are fucked, with both containing errors. Besides, these are Joseph’s genealogies, what’s the meaning of them anyway? This shows me these writers hadn’t any more a clue on how to make sense of this mishmash than we do.

        • wtfwjtd

          That’s a good point about the nazirite; that was Samson the tough guy wasn’t it?

        • Greg G.

          I recall reading the story of Samson and I think it started that way. I didn’t make it past that verse today.

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

          Tangent: I’ve heard that Samson was originally a sun god (long hair = sun’s rays–get it?). Delilah cuts his hair, and there goes his strength.

          (Note to Philistines: if an enemy gets his strength from long hair, you can’t skimp on paying the barber.)

        • Greg G.

          I think I mentioned that story here a while ago. Samson sounds like the word for “sun” and Delilah sounds like the word for “night”.

          I don’t recall where I got this but it was thought that there was a solar eclipse. The unexpected darkness sent everyone scurrying to the local temple. Many were inside and many were on the roof praying for the sun to come back. Just about the time the sun began to peek out from behind the moon and daylight returned, perhaps everyone jumped for joy, which caused the roof to collapse.

          Add a mythical element to the story every time you tell it, then write it down and call it Judges. Voila!

        • wtfwjtd

          Robert Price confirms this. Seven braids of hair= The sun’s rays; cut off the hair(rays) and the sun loses its power.

        • Doomedd

          Thanks, I guess I should invent a rocket propelled clipper, just in case. Sun gods invasion could happen…

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, it’s always seemed like sort of a plot hole that Jerusalem would be some sort of safe place, when it’s just a few miles from Bethlehem, and where Herod would have been situated. Maybe Herod had a really short attention span?

        • Pofarmer

          That’s interesting. There is so much about these cultures that’s just so hard to tease out.

        • wtfwjtd

          Standing in line at McDonald’s this AM, and I noticed a sign that said something like ” Try the grand special sauce” And the Spanish was “nuevo salsita!” or something like that. And I’m thinking, wow, the literal translation there is a mile different, and it occurred to me, how would it be to translate a translated dead language across a 2,000 year cultural and and language gulf? A huge barrier to our understanding for sure.

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

          Our English/New Testament Greek dictionaries are modern inventions and didn’t come from the time of Jesus. Impressive work, but I agree that they’re fallible. And the problem is that when you’re wrong about a word or idiom or cultural practice, there’s very little to point out the error, let alone the correction.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes, and let alone all the funny business that likely occurred in those 350 years between the originals and our oldest current copies.

        • Pofarmer

          It sedEms to me, that when talking about the bible, you are at the mercy of the original Greek copiests, plus you are at the mercy of each level of translators. You can’t trust the earliest translators to be accurate, so now, we are correcting those who, closer in time or extant to when he language was still spoken, should have had a better idea what was being said. And, hell, right off the bat you are translating what should be Aramaic ideas into greek, so there could well e translation errrors in the fucking originals.

        • wtfwjtd

          I remember in college, I believe there was a phrase for this:”traduttore, traditore.” , “the “translator (is a) traitor”. That’s Italian, from Latin, I think.

        • Greg G.

          That sounds like a confession to treason.

        • Greg G.

          It’s worse than that. When Jesus converses with Nicodemus in John 3, Jesus says he must be born “again/from above”. The Greek word used can be taken either way like a pun. Nicodemus took it to mean “again” and asked if he was supposed to crawl back into his mother’s womb. Jesus explained that it was the other meaning. That confusion can only have happened in the Greek language. Would Jesus speak Greek to a Pharisee in Jerusalem during Passover?

          It seems that the Greek author wrote the story for its humor. The favorite Christian verse, John 3:16, was also part of that imaginary conversation.

        • Pofarmer

          I wonder if the later authors, geographically separated from the actual story, just didn’t realize that Nazorites(or whatever the hell they were) were a sect and not a city.

        • Greg G.

          The village Nazereth may not have even existed at this time;

          Several years ago I saw an article about some archaeologists who were digging for evidence of a first century settlement at Nazareth. They didn’t find anything. Their conclusion was that it must have been very small.

          A few years ago, there was a find that there was some evidence of a settlement in Nazareth that may have come from the first century. Ehrman mentions it in Did Jesus Exist? Nothing more has been said about it. Apparently, it was found when they were breaking ground for a museum for Mary, the mother of Jesus.

        • wtfwjtd

          Now hold on a minute, a museum for Mary, mother of Jesus? Now isn’t that just grand! My wife was getting ready for work, I just mentioned this to her. After a good laugh, we figured out what they would put in such a tourist trap– a few locks of young Jesus’s hair, maybe? Oh, and some photos of Jesus as a boy turning mud sparrows into real birds, perhaps? Maybe a few of his baby teeth, the dress she wore on the Journey to Jerusalem, etc. I guess there is no end to people’s gullibility, it sounds like the faithful are willing to believe just about anything. And how convenient, archaeologists “may have found” evidence of a 1st century Nazareth, coincident with the big museum grand opening, and then (poof) it disappears.

        • Greg G.

          It’s called The Mary of Nazareth International Center. More information on this can be found here:

          http://www.nazarethmyth.info/scandalsix.html

        • Pofarmer

          That would be a convenient find.

        • wtfwjtd

          That’s one tourist-trapping, money-making machine there!

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

          Rene Salm in The Myth of Nazareth argues that Nazareth was unoccupied at the time of Jesus. It was occupied decades later when the gospels were written, and those authors, writing for the present population, had no interest in verifying that Nazareth was occupied back then.

          I haven’t read the book, and I wonder how archaeologists can make such fine distinctions (yes, occupied in 80CE; no, not occupied in 10CE).

        • Greg G.

          On the website, one of the scandals is that some oil lamps that are distinctly Roman are identified as Hellenistic in a scholarly reference. If they are Greek, they could be from the BC era. If Roman, they are 2nd century. What’s a Greek urn, anyway?

        • Pofarmer

          “Then Mark wrote an allegory portraying the leaders of the movement as
          goofballs who were supposed to go meet him in Galilee but they never got
          the message because the women were afraid to tell.”

          Yes, it’s funny to see the disciples in Mark portrayed as basically complete morons.

        • Greg G.

          That’s one of the criteria for discerning the truth of the gospels – The Criterion of Embarrassment. Nobody would write such embarrassing things about their founders if it wasn’t true.

          Another is the Criterion of Aramaicisms which is that if a saying attributed to Jesus seems to have Aramaic roots, it probably came from Jesus because, apparently nobody else spoke Aramaic in first century Palestine. A gospel author certainly couldn’t have an Aramaic targum, could he?

          Perhaps the biggest one is the Criterion of (Double) Dissimilarity that is the theory that if a statement is different from the first century Jewish ideas and different from Christian ideas, then it is more likely to have come from Jesus because there was nobody else in the Roman Empire capable of independent thought and writing it down.

        • Pofarmer

          I would like to see these criteria applied to fictional charachters and see what happens.

        • Greg G.

          A billionaire dressing up in a bat costume to fight crime? Truth is stranger than fiction and that is too strange to be fiction.

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

          because there was nobody else in the Roman Empire capable of independent thought and writing it down.

          Well, yeah. No other religion has split off from another religion before.

        • Greg G.

          No other religion has split off from another religion before.

          That’s an interesting thought. Was Siddhartha a Hindu before he laid down the foundation for Buddhism? Would Ahkenaten becoming a monotheist count? Seems like a mention of any character in the narrative of the Greek Gods would split off a cult. Hmmm… good question.

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

          Where did the Zoroastrian religion come from? It gradually evolved from earlier stuff. Same with other religions.

        • wtfwjtd

          I think it originated somewhere in Persia, it was mostly stamped out when Alexander conquered most of Persia. Christianity ripped off its concept of Hell from it, I’ve seen.

        • wtfwjtd

          I compared Mark 7 to Galatians 2 as you suggested yesterday; what an eye-opener. I remember thinking years ago, “Wow, what a smart guy Jesus was, he really put those Teachers of the Law in their place.” Now I read it, and think, man, this guy’s an asshole, what a shitty reply to their simple question. Jesus goes off on some tirade that has little if nothing to do with the original question, and IIRC he does a good dose of misquoting along the way.
          Taking off the rose-colored glasses has given me a whole different perspective of the Bible.

        • Pofarmer

          There is a website by a Robert G. Price who goes through the gospel of Mark as allegory. He is one who really opened my eyes. I haven’t gone back through to see how he squarez with Helms and Robert M. Price, though. At least he’s not a Pisso conspiratist.

        • wtfwjtd

          That guy Truthsurge on YouTube has a great series of videos called “Excavating the empty tomb”, where he shows the similarities of Mark to Homer. There’s other cool stuff about the gospels too, one of my favorite parts is later in that series where he takes a federal witness checklist and sees how the gospels fare as “eyewitness testimony”. Hint: they all would be thrown out of court on multiple counts.

        • Pofarmer

          I have been listening to him today while doing some work that is basically following blinking lights. He just read an old testament package where they refer to wine as “the blood of grapes” and I just about did a face palm. I think that it is part 11a. What a great series.

        • wtfwjtd

          I’d love to have a DVD version of that, I’ve clicked on a few of the links but every time I’ve tried the link is dead.

        • Pofarmer

          Everything worked today on youtube on my smartphone.

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

          I’m a fan of MP3s so that I can listen to them. I realize that the video component is often the hard part, and I hate to discard that, but sometimes it’s the only way I’ll have time for it.

          (A random lament.)

        • Pofarmer

          I wish youtube had an audio only option so it wouldn’t chew up so much bandwidth just listening to s debate or talk like truthsurge.

        • Greg G.

          Have you tried to send him a Personal Message? Does YouTube still have that feature?

        • wtfwjtd

          I haven’t tried that yet, I may give it a shot. I don’t recall which episode had a link for a downloadable DVD, I think it was one of the early ones. I may go back and see if I can find it, and send him a note or something.

        • nakedanthropologist

          If you google “convert YouTube to mp4” or “convert YouTube to mp3” you can have audio and video copies of your preference. I’ve done this for multiple fan-made music videos, comedy sketches, and TheoreticalBullshit posts. It’s a good way to preserve your favorite YouTube stuff.

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

          I use http://www.flvto.com/

          But be careful that you don’t download unwanted programs or malware. These tools are useful, but they all seem to be a little dangerous.

        • Pofarmer

          One other thing that I listened to from TruthSurge, is he was comparing the apostles James and John, and how they are referred to, and how they ask to sit on either side of Jesus in heaven, as the “twins” from the Constellation Gemini. So,that also set off my ancient Astrology bells. Can it really be true that Mankind has been the victim of the Extremely Gullible for 2000 years?

        • wtfwjtd

          Do you really have to ask? (See note below, where Greg mentions the museum for Mary, mother of Jesus, in Nazareth.)The connections with the stars in the Jesus story are quite apparent, once you look for them. I’m reading Price right now, and at the moment I’m reading about the Magi and the “moving star” episode in Matthew. Yes, people can be very gullible.

        • MNb

          Except Price, Doherty and Carrier?

        • wtfwjtd

          Most skeptics, as do most historians, and even theologians, agree that the gospels are pretty much made up from other literature of the time. There seems to be a small core of the story that mainstream consensus holds to be historical–Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, and he was crucified by Pilate. Outside of this, there is little else, if anything, that is considered historical.The character of Jesus portrayed in the gospels is myth, but may have been based on an actual person. The gullibility is in accepting the mythical nature of this character or person as being real in its entirety, wouldn’t you agree?

        • MNb

          Yes and no. No, not only in accepting the mythical etc. I would expand it to “prematurely jumping to pleasing conclusions”. In other words, in my view you are only a skeptic if you especially and specifically apply your skepticism to your own views.
          I can’t judge Price and Carrier here, but Doherty doesn’t qualify. He’s a onesided skeptic – like climate change deniers and Holocaust deniers.

        • wtfwjtd

          I don’t necessarily feel that Jesus myth being more widely accepted would be a pleasing conclusion, more like an intriguing possibility. The value for me in this discussion is the discovery that the whole basis of my former Christian faith was more tenuous, more far-fetched, and more unlikely than I had ever imagined. Whether or not a majority of scholars endorse Jesus myth, or continue to hold the currently accepted view, is not really an important issue to me. I do enjoy the discussion, and I want to hear what both sides have to say.

        • wtfwjtd

          That was the “dioskuri”, I think he called it, literally “Zeus’s boys”. They are Castor and Pollux, (never Pollux and Castor), and they are depicted as flanking numerous gods of both Greek and Roman origin I believe. That this is the origin of James and John (sons of Thunder–a name also applied to Zeus) there is really no doubt.

        • Greg G.

          Is this what you were thinking of?

          http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/gospel_mark.htm

          Thanks for the heads up. I haven’t seen this.

        • Pofarmer

          That’s it. Don’t know about the Authors credentials.

        • Greg G.

          I didn’t notice at first that it was R.G. Price and not R.M. Price who is more famous.

          I’m about a quarter of the way through his essay. He thinks the mention of the Twelve in 1 Corinthians 15 is an interpolation. If we don’t read the gospels back into it, we don’t know who the Twelve would be so I wouldn’t insist that it is an interpolation. It could have been any group that was well-known then but otherwise lost to history. Mark probably made up the twelve disciples because of the 1 Corinthians passage.

          I am surprised at how many conclusions we have arrived at independently. He wrote the piece in 2007 while much of the extra-biblical material I have used is not that old. I don’t see a list of his references other than the OT correspondences.

          When I scanned the article looking for references, I saw his discussion on “Abba, Father”. I follow R. M. Price’s explanation that it is a lesson in Aramaic, as is the explanation of the name Bartimaeus, so his Greek readers know that Barabbas means “son of the father”. R. G. Price points out that Jesus wouldn’t be saying “Father” in Aramaic and Greek. That reinforces R. M. Price’s explanation.

          I found a refutation of this Price piece from a “mostly agnostic” at http://www.religiousforums.com/forum/scriptural-debates/99189-r-g-price-mark-refutation.html

          This guy takes him to task on the “Twelve” issue. The critic can’t seem to get his head around the idea that pretty much everything Mark wrote comes from other sources.

        • Pofarmer

          That essay is the one that really got me to questioning the Gospel stories. Then I found Ehrman…….. Then, the other day, I found the Revelations/astrology connections on vridar, and that almost did the same thing for me on Revelations.

        • wtfwjtd

          That is a thoughtful essay, I’m enjoying his take on the subject, looks like it’s right up Gregs’ alley. One of the things that caught my eye, was his talking about how Mark was once considered an “unimportant” gospel, until some diligent scholarship in the 18th century demonstrated that it was the lynch pin that held the whole thing together.

        • Pofarmer

          It’s been probably 2 years since I read it. I need to freshen up on it again.

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

          Given the poor record of early copies of Mark, it seems that people figured that Version 2 (Matthew and Luke) was more important. Why bother with that early version when Matt. and Luke tells us so much more?

          I’ve heard rumblings about a supposed 1st-century copy of Mark, but it’s unclear what scholars will conclude once the evidence is released.

        • wtfwjtd

          Growing up as a fundie, in our circles at least, I can confirm that Mark was indeed considered a more “minor” work than any of the other 3, mainly for the reason you mentioned. Whenever you would hear preaching or speaking from the gospels, or doing a little speaking myself, you rarely would use Mark; it was more “authoritative” to use Matthew, Luke, or John. Mark’s language and style aren’t as refined as the others, and the only time you would use Mark would be if you needed an angle that only he reported.

          A 1st century copy of Mark? Now that would be interesting, if it’s the real deal.

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

          Dan Wallace is the one in charge.

          I’ve heard lots of bluster from conservative podcasts and blogs who’ve already concluded that this is fantabulous evidence about something, and blah blah blah. Of course, they’re also the ones leading the parade complaining about the “Wife of Jesus” papyrus being declared authentic and how one needs to make conclusions carefully.

        • MNb

          Yep, that’s the one you mean. See my comment above.

          “complaining about the “Wife of Jesus” papyrus being declared authentic”
          I can’t be bothered to check, but this is simply stupid. How can a totally independent quote from an authentic copy of a 4th Century Coptic Gospel tell us something about Jesus himself? It only shows that some Coptics (ie Egyptian christians) were quite flexible regarding celibacy. That’s interesting enough of course, because it adds to the diversity of the umbrella religion called christianity.
          Storm in a glass of water.

        • wtfwjtd

          An interesting fragment that helps further our understanding of early Christian beliefs? Yes. Conclusive proof that Jesus had a wife? Eh, not so much. Put me down as, uh, “skeptical” for this claim.

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

          It’s hypothesized to be a 4th-century Coptic translation of a 2nd-century Greek original.

        • MNb

          See above – not too enthousiastic, even if it’s the real deal.

        • MNb

          You mean this?

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2014/02/first-century-manuscript-of-the-gospel-of-mark-update.html

          Only a glance teaches me that scholars won’t be able to conclude much anyway. If you click further you get this:

          http://www.hughhewitt.com/new-testment-scholar-daniel-wallace-on-the-gospel-of-mark-discovery-and-other-biblical-papyri-with-it/

          “there is a fragment of Mark, and it’s a very small fragment, not too many verses, but it’s definitely from Mark. And the most amazing thing about this is that it’s from the 1st Century.”

          1) The book isn’t there yet;
          2) Paleographers haven’t made out yet if it’s from the 1st Century indeed;
          3) It contains only a few lines.
          4) It’s not clear if these lines deviate from later copies (of course it should be the other way round, later copies deviating from these lines, but never mind).

          Admitted: for our understanding of early christianity it’s better than that Coptic Gospel where Jesus is talking about his wife. That’s either a forgery or stems from the 4th Century.

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

          Let’s see how reactions to this upcoming early fragment of Mark compare to the reactions right now about the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.”

          Side thought: suppose we found a 1st century fragment that said something religiousy, but we couldn’t place it. How do you know that that wasn’t part of an early copy of one of our canonical NT books? The oldest complete NT books we know and love are typically separated by centuries from the originals. Who knows what happened during that time, especially in the first century?

        • MNb

          That’s what historians like Jona Lendering call the known unknowns (there are a lot of them regarding Socrates). The question if there are such fragments belongs to the unknown unknowns.

          http://www.livius.org/theory/testis-unus-testis-nullus/

          Last paragraph.

        • Pofarmer

          “If we don’t read the gospels back into it, we don’t know who the Twelve
          would be so I wouldn’t insist that it is an interpolation.”

          Well, hell, the 12 could have been the 12 “Judges of the Heavens” if we want to take the Astrological interpretations from revelations, and assume( I know) that that was where’s Pauls information was coming from Revelation and Astrology.

        • wtfwjtd

          Twelve is a significant number, what with the 12 tribes, the 12 months, 12 Judges, etc. It would have been very easy for the author of Mark to take some reasonably famous personages of 1st century Christianity and fashion them into his made-up group of 12 disciples. Or, take a few known personages and make up the rest. Nowhere does Paul ever give us a list of the gospel’s 12 listed disciples; this is just read back into his writings later.
          Basically what I am saying I guess, among other things, I think Greg’s right, that mention of “the twelve” doesn’t necessarily need to be explained away as an interpolation. And, the 12 that Paul refers to is most certainly not the 12 that the gospels refer to.

        • Greg G.

          As much as Paul talks about Jesus, he tells us very little, but what he tells us can be found in the scripture of the day. When he talks about people, he seems to be talking about actual people. When I look at 1 Corinthians 15:5 in the KJV, it says “And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:” which makes me wonder if it is saying that Cephas was one of the twelve when he discovered “Christianity” in the scriptures. However, using that reasoning for verse 7 would have James being “all of the apostles”.

          The astrology/astronomy aspect might have influenced Paul’s influences but I’m don’t see a direct influence in his writings. Revelation seems to have a lot from some things you have pointed out. The Gospel of John probably does. Mark blends his sources almost seamlessly into a multi-level piece of literature. It would surprise me that there is a level with astrology.

          But I wonder if some of the stories were derived from stories about the gods of other cultures made up from the arrangements of the stars, then had their gods washed out but leaving a few recognizable traces of the astrology, when they are worked into the gospels.

        • Pofarmer

          Born of a woman, born under the law, could very easily be a reference to astrolgical prediction. Born to the constelation Virgo under heavenly laws. Jesus as “the lamb of God” could also very easily be astrological. The story of James and John also mirrors the astrology of Gemini. Of course, that is from Mark, which we know is heavily entwined with Greek mythology that would include astrology.

        • Greg G.

          Born/made of a woman, born/made under the law comes from Galatians 4:4. “Born of a woman” most likely comes from Isaiah 7:14. Paul explains “born under the law” in Galatians 3:10-12 and the NIV shows the Old Testament sources for the verses he quotes there. Matthew may have used that to come up with the born of a virgin interpretation, which may have the astrological allusions you mention.

          Paul refers to Jesus being the “Passover lamb” once, but I don’t think he thought that through as the Passover lamb was not a sin offering that Jesus was supposed to have been. But Paul’s idea would come from Genesis or Exodus.

          Mark has Peter, James, and John as the main characters after Jesus. I think Andrew’s name comes up once and Judas is mentioned twice but no others are mentioned again after they are introduced. Peter, James, and John are mentioned in Galatians as “pillars” but he shows disdain for them being above others. Peter is said by Paul to be afraid of the men who came from James. Mark picks up on that to make Peter afraid to admit to knowing Jesus. Mark takes James and John, being Paul’s disdained pillars and makes them vainglorious when they ask for an important position after the transfiguration when Jesus takes the throne. This is like the Greek mythology of Gemini, Castor and Pollux, but also draws on 2 Kings 2 where Elisha makes a request Elijah just before he is taken up. (Peter’s denials seem to be a turnabout of the 2 Kings 2 passage, too.)

        • Pofarmer

          Are you sure that these guys weren’t just witnesses?

        • Greg G.

          Paul insists he didn’t get any knowledge about the gospel from any person (Galatians 1:11-12) and specifies that he did not get it from Peter and James (Galatians 1:18-19). He says that his knowledge comes from scripture as long hidden mysteries (Romans 16:25-27; 1 Corinthians 2:7). When he says he received something from the Lord, it seems to be information from the scriptures (1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Psalm 41:9; Exodus 24:8; Leviticus 17:11; Jeremiah 31:31-34). He doesn’t think his knowledge is less than any of the other apostles (2 Corinthians 11:4-6). As far as I can tell, everything Paul knows about Jesus comes from reading scripture out of context as the hidden mysteries and he thinks that’s how his contemporaries got their knowledge as he uses the same word for “appeared to” as his own “appeared to” (1 Corinthians 15:5-8 Paul uses “optanomai“).

          There is no trace in the early epistles of anyone interacting with Jesus, no mention of his teachings, or even an anecdote.

          So, based on no evidence of a first century Jesus in the early epistles with lots of evidence that he was invented from misreading their scriptures, I am pretty sure they didn’t actual witness Jesus, alive or dead.

          We can do the same thing with the gospels but they drew on a wider base of literature.

        • Pofarmer

          So, basically, what you have is basically Paul, Cephas, and James building a religion based on a diety that was killed and rose from the dead, which really wasn’t all that novel at the time. 20-50 years later you have the Author of Mark creating a story about this religion, using Homeric themes and some scriptual references. Later Authors embellished the story with ever more details found in scripture. 300 or so years later Constantine formalizes it all and we are off to the races. I do find it really interesting that Paul never show any interest in going to the sight of the crucufuxion, or the tomb, or meeting the Lords mother.

        • Greg G.

          I think the Jews of the day, like the generations before them, were waiting for the prophesied Messiah to come and wondering why he hadn’t. The Jerusalem group and Paul were offering an explanation for why the Messiah hadn’t been in a hurry – because he had already saved them individually and that they would be raised from the dead – and that he was coming within that generation because their way of reading scripture out of context was a revelation of hidden mysteries. Paul and the Jerusalem group had a difference of opinion about whether it implied that the Jewish rituals were necessary.

          I expect that the destruction of Jerusalem literally wiped out the Jerusalem group and rendered Paul’s message essentially meaningless.

          Then along came Mark who may have simply been writing an allegorical explanation for the destruction of the city that they rejected the Messiah and basing it on Paul’s writings and the other literature of the day. That may have stirred up renewed interest in the religion. Perhaps there had been other ideas about that before but Mark’s storytelling may have made his writing stick out until the other gospel writers used it.

          That’s just the basic framework. I don’t have a detailed concept of the step-by-step progression of the religion. I try to not read too much into the text we have, especially not from texts that were not written at the time. I don’t think things worked out the way Paul and his contemporaries anticipated. They wouldn’t have expected that more texts would have been necessary if the Messiah had come.

          A generation or two later, it only matters that people thought there was a first century Jesus behind the stories. The results of the actions based on those beliefs would be the same whether the beliefs were true.

        • Pofarmer

          So then what to make of the thought, that Mark was probably written in Rome, almost definately in Greek, about deity of a minor religous cult several hundred miles away? What if the earliest manuscript pieces we have, around 200 A.D. are the earliest of the Canonical Gospels? In fact, what Christianity was is all the wild Apocryphal stuff that Constantine left out? So would Pauls letter have been in Rome? Maybe copies of some other early stuff? I think one thing that always bothered me a little bit is how Pauls writings and the Gospels always seemed a little disjointed. The ideas just never really clicked.

        • Greg G.

          Mark seems to rely heavily on Galatians, 1 Corinthians, and Romans. Some of the other letters may have an influence but there doesn’t seem to be a confirmation that he used them. So that implies that some of Paul’s letters had been collected. I expect that Mark would not have had an impact if it was not written within the lifetime of those who remembered the destruction of Jerusalem. Except to historical buffs, the events leading up to WWI don’t have near the emotional impact today as stories about 9/11, even though WWI has shaped our world more than 9/11.

          I think there are some wild apocryphal stuff that was included in the canon. Revelation may have been tenuously related with Paul and the Jerusalem group but could have come from another tradition. The writings from the day show divergence, reconciliations of some divergences, and rejections of others.

        • Greg G.

          Mark was probably written in Rome

          That would be my guess. Mark uses techniques of Greek compositition such as mimesis and chiasmus, though chiasmus was common. He combines sources from different cultures to create a story so compelling that it has been read for two thousand years, not as long as Homer but it has been taken more seriously. He seems to have a better understanding of the Greek literature (per Richard Carrier, whose degree is in the classics) than the Jewish literature (Mark 2:23-28 – Jesus’ reading of 1 Samuel 21:1-9). He is indifferent to the geography of his setting, as if he doesn’t expect his audience to know, either. Mark seems to have been an accomplished writer with a thorough knowledge of Greek literature and techniques so I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t simulate bad Greek to make it seem like a story of an Aramaic speaker using Greek as a second language. I can only speculate about that as I don’t know Greek, except for a few common roots, prefixes, and suffixes.

        • Pofarmer

          It would be fascinating to know who Mark was and why he wrote his story.

        • wtfwjtd

          “Mark probably made up the twelve disciples because of the 1 Corinthians passage.”

          Dang Greg, I had been thinking about this a few days ago and happened to re-read your post and see you’ve already gotten around to the idea that popped into my head. I think you may be onto something here, this seems like a very plausible idea. I know that you have shown that Mark uses Paul in other places, this seems like a logical place to come up with the number. Then it seems he could have come up with some famous 1st century names and assigned them to this inner group posthumously. Mixing fact with fiction could also have been a way of reconciling various opposing Christian factions, RM Price is feels this was one of the primary purposes of these early Christian writings.

        • Greg G.
        • Pofarmer

          Well, one problem is, as the fundies a few weeks ago amptly demonstrated, most folks don’t have any idea what the books of the NT are, or who they are attributed to, or why.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes, it’s hard to have any kind of Biblical discussion when they are ignorant of the basic facts about those books, and have even less idea what’s in them. I guess they take those “mystery religion” verses of BobS’s a little too seriously. They seem proud of their ignorance, and feel the less they know,the higher the confidence level,and the greater their demonstrated faith.

        • Pofarmer

          Most people only really know verses. Few have read the entire books. Even fewer have compared and contrasted the various books. Fewer still have taken the time to look at any textual or historical criticism. I think that’s why when someone like Jenna encounters it here it’s like cold water being dumped on them.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes, you tell them that Mark didn’t write Mark, the gospels are not eyewitness accounts, etc. and they respond to you like you’re telling them seriously that the moon is made of green cheese. People like Jenna more or less freak out to hear that someone could only see the Bible as just another (outdated) text that should be open to examination and criticism.There’s a serious level of disconnect that’s near impossible to break through to have a real, honest conversation about the Bible with them.

        • Pofarmer

          Thankfully, I am having that conversation with my kids, I wish I had had it with my wife before we got married, but, water under the bridge. My oldest came home yesterday talking about the “Miracle” where Elijah burns the pyre with water. He said, “And after that he slit the throats of 450 because they still worshiped Baal. That’s horrible, that’s not right.” So I asked what the priest told him, and it was the same old story about how it was morally correct to do it because told him to do it. I asked him what he thought about that and he said “That’s bullshit, moral is moral.” So we got to have a little discussion about objective morality and where morality comes from and how it develops. Good times. He also had a teacher pushing “Heaven is for real” on them, and he said, “But we know what those out of body experiences are, we can recreate them in the lab now.” Good ole “Through the Wormhole.” Consistently great series.

        • Greg G.

          A standing challenge I have for Bible believers is to have a hamburger cookoff where they light their charcoal using Elijah’s methods of water and prayer while I use methods that come from understanding chemistry, like lighter fluid and a match. The loser eats hamburger tartare. No takers, so far.

        • wtfwjtd

          That’s a good one Greg! A lot of fundies think the Bible is the literal, inerrant Word of God, but then you ask them to put their money where their mouth is, and , well, suddenly they backpedal. Point out the Elijah story,or one of my favorites, Mark 16:17-18: “And these signs will accompany those who believe:…when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all;…” Offer them a cup of Draino, or bleach, and suddenly the Bible is just “allegorical” or “figurative”.

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

          They’ll retreat by saying that the long ending of Mark was not authentic. OK, neither was the last chapter of John. And the epistles of John weren’t written by the same guy. And who wrote 1 and 2 Peter? Not Peter. Or the non-Pauline “Pauline” epistles?

          If some random mystery dude from long ago can write some stuff that sounds pretty good and can become canonical, the same argument could apply to the long ending of Mark.

        • wtfwjtd

          I read on one of the other blogs a few days ago that belief in the US that the Bible is a sacred book is fallen rapidly in the last few years–to “only” 79 percent. Seriously? Still 79 percent, 4 centuries after the start of the scientific revolution? We’ve got a long, long way to go, but at least maybe we’re finally starting to have the conversation. It’s good to see parents like you having that conversation, and I’m doing my best on that front too.

        • Pofarmer

          Have you by any chance read “Parenting beyond belief”.

        • wtfwjtd

          Not yet. Do you recommend it?

        • Pofarmer

          I haven’t read it yet either. Conversed with the author a little bit by email. Seems like a decent guy.

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

          Christianity sometimes looks like a mystery religion:

          “But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” (1 Corinthians 2:7)

          Jesus said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.” (Matt. 11:25)

          “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand’” (Luke 8:10).

          “Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 16:25–6)

        • Greg G.

          Yes, I think the Matthew and Luke verses come from Gospel of Thomas 62:

          Jesus said, “It is to those [who are worthy of My] mysteries that I tell My mysteries.

          Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is
          doing.”

          GThomas may have been inspired by the 1 Corinthians or the Romans passages.

        • wtfwjtd

          Is GThomas a dead sea scroll find?

        • Greg G.

          There were some fragments with about a dozen Gospel of Thomas sayings in Greek but I don’t know where they came from. The Coptic version was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. There was one Greek saying that does not match up with any of the Coptic sayings.

        • Pofarmer

          I thinK the fragments came from a gravesite.

        • Greg G.

          The Gospel of Thomas Collection says they were found in a city dump. I thought they were known much longer than the late 19th century. I knew they knew there was a Gospel of Thomas for a long time. It says they have 20 of them. My first guess was 18 but I backed down before typing it.

        • SparklingMoon

          When Jesus appeared,the people of Israel had been waiting for a human Messiah according to the prophecies of Old Testament and he had appeared on time as a Messiah for them to fulfill the prophecies of all previous prophets of Israel. Secondly, a prophet is always a human being (according to the tradition of God Almighty) who first practices the teachings of God himself and then motivates his addressers to follow him. If a prophet is an angel or a supernatural being then his examples can not be followed by other common people.

        • Greg G.

          Many of the letters traditionally attributed to Paul have been determined to have not been written by him. Of those that are authentic, If you read carefully, Paul speaks of Jesus hundreds of times but only thirteen or fourteen times does he say anything about Jesus that sounds like he was a human. Each of those times there is a verse from scripture that provides that same information and several of those, Paul quotes the verse directly. So Paul says nothing about a recent Jesus. He seems to think the crucifixion happened at some time in his distant past. Most of the other epistles are like this, too.

          The Gospel of Mark was the first gospel. Scholars have found most of the sources Mark used and pretty much everything he says about Jesus was written about somebody else in other stories.

          So there really is no reliable information about Jesus existing. It seems that one generation really wanted to be the one to see the coming of the Messiah and convinced themselves had come and suffered, got resurrected, and he was coming back to conquer. The next generation after the war, thought something had happened before the war.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    Someone dying is a pretty easy claim to accept, unless that person is seen alive. If I introduce you to my cousin walking down the street, you might reasonably infer that my cousin is not dead and that he never has been dead. If I told you that he had been killed in a car accident, you might reasonably ask what basis I have for thinking that to be the case.

    I often wonder why Jesus’s crucifixion is taken as being such an incontrovertible fact as the reports come from people who claim to have seen him alive afterwards. Moreover, there is good reason to think that these people had no first hand knowledge of the crucifixion as they had reason to be in hiding at the time it is supposed to have taken place.

    • wtfwjtd

      The book of Matthew reports that Herod thought Jesus was John the Baptist “risen from the dead”, and Peter tells Jesus that many people thought he was Elijah or Moses or one of the prophets who had “risen from the dead”. So yeah, the gospels themselves tell us that the eye witness testimony that is contained within their pages is unreliable. And my Christian friends wonder why I don’t find any of the resurrection account to be at all convincing…

      • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

        Are you sure? I don’t think that can be so because N.T. Wright says that nobody could have invented the resurrection since first century Jews had no conception of individual resurrection, just general resurrection.

        • Pofarmer

          Read it for yourself. Heck, there are resurrection stories in the old Testament attributed to Elijah or Elisha.

        • wtfwjtd

          Matthew seems sure: Matt 14:1-2 ; Matt 16:14. Heck, there was so many “resurrected” people running around in 1st century Palestine, it must have been hard to keep ’em all straight.

        • Greg G.

          2 Maccabees 7 is about a woman and her seven sons who refused to eat pork, each torured and killed one by one, but they accepted it so they would receive a better resurrection. For example:

          2 Maccabees 7:9
          9 And when he was at his last breath, he said, “You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.”

          2 Maccabees was written in the second century BC.

          EDIT: See Hebrews 11:35 for a New Testament reference to the story.

      • Jack Baynes

        Wasn’t there a bit about his disciples not recognizing him? That says to me that it may not have even been the same person.

        • wtfwjtd

          There was a bit in John about Mary (Magdalene) not recognizing him, she thought he was the “gardener”.You’d think if anyone would be able to recognize him, it would be her.

        • Greg G.

          Also, the Road to Emmaus pericope where two walked and talked with him.

  • The Thinking Commenter

    Extraordinary claims are supposed to require extraordinary evidence, not extraordinarily hilarious evidence lol. I doubt if he even believes what he says anyway.

  • guest

    For E #3 it’s worth pointing out that some bible historians don’t even think Jesus was buried at all. Leaving the corpse to rot on the cross was part of the punishment for crucifixtion. It was intended as a final humiliation and a way to send a message to other potential troublemakers. There’s no record of Romans allowing a crucified rebel to be taken off the cross.

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

      I heard that for the first time myself in one of Bart Ehrman’s recent interviews about his new book. His conclusion is that the burial of Jesus is highly unlikely.

      • wtfwjtd

        “His conclusion is that the burial of Jesus is highly unlikely.”

        …and that was kinda the whole point of the story, wasn’t it?

        • Pofarmer

          Well, if the burial is highly unlikely, the whole resurrection thingy is highly unlikely. Well, shoot. So, you have two things that biblical scholars supposedly generally agree on, the Baptism by John the Baptist, and the Crucifixion. Well, we’re told that now some are questioning the historicity of John the Baptist, so, heck. And at the time of the Jewish rebellion there would have been thousands and thousands crucified, so you have a general story about some dude getting crucified. Yeah, nobody could make that up.

        • wtfwjtd

          Here’s the gist of what we have, as far as I can tell: According to Paul, Jesus did a bread and wine ritual, he was betrayed, he was crucified, he was buried, he rose again, amen. Oh, and the Jews may have killed him. From the gospels, we maybe add: he was a from Galilee, he called disciples (though not necessarily the ones mentioned), he lived in Judea and Galilee, he was baptized by John the Baptist. From this list, we can confirm from Josephus and Tacitus that he was crucified by Pilate. He’s denigrated but his existence isn’t questioned by the Talmud, the Mishnah, and Selsus, and probably others.

          So, what are we left with, that seems to be confirmed from sources outside the NT? A man named Jesus lived in Judea, he was possibly baptized by John, and was crucified by Pilate in Judea during Pilate’s governorship there. Have I missed anything? I know you hate those references to Josephus and Tacitus, but most secular scholars seem to agree they are authentic, if tampered with. And Ehrman says the burial never happened, hence neither did the resurrection. Not much of a gospel left here, is there?

  • Jack Baynes

    How WOULD you falsify a claim that Jesus’s tomb was found empty, even if you had people who had been in the city when the resurrection supposedly taken place?

    Hey, do you remember when this Jewish preacher was executed? Was his tomb found empty a few days later?

    Why would I remember that?

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

      Yes, the “you must provide contemporary evidence” argument fails. Applying that to Merlin the magician, we’d be obliged to accept that he was a shape shifter.

    • Greg G.

      In Acts when Paul was testifying in Agrippa’s court, he appeals to the Jews as character witnesses to show that his crazy sounding claims couldn’t be crazy because Paul was not crazy. If the empty tomb story was true, Luke should have had Paul appeal to those same Jews about the empty tomb.

      The story seems to come from 1 Corinthians 15:3(-4) where Paul says Jesus died, was buried, and rose on the third day. But nearly everything Paul says about Jesus seems to have come from the Old Testament. The died and buried part comes from Isaiah 53 and the 3 days can be found in Hosea 6.

      Every other story in Mark can be traced to variations on the literature of the day and the other gospels rely on Mark so they cannot be taken as history.


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