Responding to the Minimal Facts Argument for the Resurrection

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

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

Let’s see if the argument holds up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sources

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

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

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

The innocence of a child

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

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

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

Habermas again:

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

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

Naysayers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue with the remaining two “facts” here.

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

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 02/19/14.)

Image credit: British American

 

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  • arkenaten

    How does death by crucifixtion have any bearing on the resurrection?
    What was Habermas’s thinking behind this?
    It could just as easily be:
    Death by Chariot after being mowed down while jaywalking on his way to see his mate at the local bagel stall across the street.

    • jamesparson

      This would have make for cool artwork. Much better than Jesus “t” https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5ea138d2f8e381e48261d84fe4f8dc98ccbfb0d069435cdc34179818e2acd4d2.jpg s

      • Cozmo the Magician

        I’m afraid to click it.. but DAMN, i just gotta do it. Oh, I thought there was gonna be some goofy sick snark, not just a decent piece of art. You dissapoint ):

        • jamesparson

          I will work on it. :)

    • Joe

      How does death by crucifixtion have any bearing on the resurrection

      I think it a) establishes the event in a historical time, and b) negates the ‘swoon theory’ that Jesus wasn’t actually dead.

      • Greg G.

        But he was only on the cross for a few hours and never had his legs broke. Josephus says that he saw three of his friends crucified and pleaded to Titus to release them. Titus obliged and ordered them taken down and to be taken care of. One of them survived.

        • Pofarmer

          Which, doesn’t that imply their legs weren’t broken either? I just get the feeling this wasn’t a standard thing. The leg breaking in the Gospel story seems more symbolic.

        • Greg G.

          Right. The passover lamb is supposed to not have any broken bones and Jesus was being crucified at Passover on the day the lambs were killed.

      • arkenaten

        But any sort of death relevant to the time would have sufficed. Mauled by bear, chewed by lion, plague, leprosy etc…The human (blood) sacrifice is incidental to the actual resurrection.

        • Joe

          If it was ‘mauled by a bear’, then we would struggle to put any kind of hypothetical timeline on Jesus’ death.

  • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

    Even if someone knew for a fact that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead (which seems unlikely) how would they convince others? Weighing it against people who said he did, this would just be their word. People debunk false stories even now, but that doesn’t stop belief. Thinking this would be the case back then is absurd.

    • epicurus

      While there are apologists and some Christians who may have looked into things, the vast majority of Christians I ever knew, met, or engaged with have had almost no interest in whether their beliefs are true, and whether any claims against Christianity are legitimate. I really can’t see it being much different in the ancient world. Would 1st century Christians in Rome or Antioch have really cared if there was a story that there was a Roman solider or Jewish farmer in Jerusalem who had proof Jesus was still in a tomb, or that 5 disciples had denied the resurrection? I doubt it.
      Most Mormons dont know or care about its troubled past, and it’s all right there, easily accessible via newspapers, internet, and still existing govt records. Or, they may know, but uncritically accept the elder’s pablum answers, as I discovered on a one-day stop over in Salt Lake City when I walked around the temple grounds for something to do.

      • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

        In any case, they would have had no real way of checking it after the fact. Sure, this person claims it’s true. People tell lots of things now. How do we know? There were people at the time who didn’t accept Christian claims, but it was usually not for better reasons than those who accepted them. I think that the only group at the time who were consistently skeptical was the followers of your namesake. Lucian, a satirist and Epicurean, described the Christians as very gullible and easily taken in by con artists. He may have been prejudiced here, of course. It does seem plausible though (not that they were unique in this fault).

      • TheNuszAbides

        almost no interest in whether their beliefs are true, and whether any claims against Christianity are legitimate

        hmm … i’d agree that any level of objective interest is lacking [in the vast majority I “ever knew, met, or engaged with”] — that they are rendered, or render themselves, relatively incapable of sustained inquiry. I think a great many are interested … kind of like the stereotypical serial lecher is interested in their prospective sex partners. The interest merely lends itself to motivated reasoning, the standard suite of apologetics, etc. Sure, it’s shallow interest, but for all that they get wrapped up in special pleading it can be quite abiding/intense. The ones who go so far as to take up religious/academic pursuits may even put on a [believer-]convincing show of appreciating “challenges to their faith”, but their investigations will of course be devoid of rigor if they lack the CogDis capacity of, say, Hector Avalos or Matt Dillahunty.
        I was somewhat shocked the first time I questioned a [Catholic] who flat-out said that even if the Jesus Yarn is 100% mythical, it would be irrelevant to [the inspiring-if-utterly-ambiguous notion of a charismatic revolutionary in turn-of-the-Era Palestine] — because that level of non-interest stood quite apart from the Xians I grew up with, and most of the ones I’ve bumped into online.

  • kraut2

    Fact 1: Jesus died by crucifixion. Habermas points to the gospels, which are first-century writings that all report a crucifixion.

    http://khazarzar.skeptik.net/books/crux002.pdf
    “It is not impossible to find references to crucifixion in the ancient text
    material, but it takes more than the occurrence of a single term. It is not,
    of course, possible to draw the conclusion that crucifixions did not occur.
    There were probably suspensions in ancient times that cohered well with
    the suspension of Jesus. Yet that is not the problem. The problem is to
    determine with a decent level of probability that a text describes such a
    punishment. The overwhelming majority of texts are simply not comprehensible
    enough for that. ”

    as to the other claims, short and sweet:https://freethoughtkampala.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/examining-the-extra-biblical-evidence-for-jesus/

    “The following are names of some of the Roman historians of antiquity who lived in and around the Mediterranean region, including some of the very places that Jesus and his apostles are said to have moved about.

    Aulus Persius (60 AD)
    Plutarch (c. 46-c. 119 AD)
    Columella (1st cent. AD)
    Pomponius Mela (40 AD)
    Dio Chrysostom (c. 40-c. 112 AD)
    Justus of Tiberius (c. 80 AD)
    Quintilian (c. 35-c. 100 AD)
    Rufus Curtius (1st cent. AD)
    Livy (59 BC-17 AD)
    Quintus Curtius (1st cent. AD)
    Lucanus (fl. 63 AD)
    Seneca (4 BC?-65 AD)
    Lucius Florus (1st-2nd-cent. AD)
    Silius Italicus (c. 25-101 AD)
    Petronius (d. 66 AD)
    Phaedrus (c. 15 BC-c. 50 AD)
    Philo Judaeus (20 BC-50 AD)
    Pliny the Elder (23?-69 AD)
    Valerius Flaccus (1st cent. AD)
    Valerius Maximus (fl. c. 20 AD)
    Not a single one of these historians ever even mentions the existence of Jesus Christ, a man who was supposedly performing miraculous wonders and drawing crowds by the thousands, inciting the Jewish populace, aggravating the Roman authorities, and resurrecting from the dead. For if there were such a man, and he did the things the gospel writers claimed he did, is it possible for him to have gone unmentioned in Roman records? It is noteworthy that Jesus is not even mentioned anywhere in the official Roman historical records of the events in Palestine during the time of he is said to have existed.”

    • Greg G.

      Justus of Tiberius was from Galilee and a contemporary of Josephus. His writings are lost to us, probably because he never mentioned Jesus.

    • Cozmo the Magician

      I’m the most FAMOUS magician in the WHOLE world. Just ask anybody that never met me if you need some proof of how good I am.

    • Adam King

      Petronius was a novelist, not a historian. The list should probably be labeled “writers” rather than “historians.”

      • kraut2

        correct, I just copied the list without actually checking. My fault.
        And I only saw the movie, never having read the book…

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

      Surely they mention the sky turning dark and the zombie apocalypse? No?

      But I read it in Matthew!!

      • (((Mike)))

        More like “zombie apocryphalypse”.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    An earlier non-Christian source is Josephus…

    And by “earlier” we mean someone born after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus H. Christ who was writing 30-60 years later. Impress me not.

    • Greg G.

      The only mention of the crucifixion is a complete interpolation.

  • Michael Neville

    Crucifixion was a common means of execution by the Romans. So what? After the Spartacus Revolt, aka Third Servile War, some 6000 captured slaves were crucified along the Appian Way from Rome to Capua. That doesn’t mean any of them were resurrected.

    • Greg G.

      Crucifixion doesn’t seem to be all that common in Judea in the first half of the first century, according to Josephus. There were some crucifixions for some revolts after Herod the Great died and some during the war but none in between in Judea, except for the forged Testimonium Flavianum.

  • GubbaBumpkin

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

    Didn’t this exact thing happen in Mormonism? I have heard that some of the signers of the Book of Mormon “Testimony of Three Witnesses” and “Testimony of Eight Witnesses” later recanted. And yet, more than a century and a half later, Mormonism is still growing.

    Book of Mormon witnesses

    The Three Witnesses were Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer, whose joint testimony, in conjunction with a separate statement by Eight Witnesses,
    has been printed with nearly every edition of the Book of Mormon since
    its first publication in 1830. All three witnesses eventually broke with
    Smith and were excommunicated from the church.[1] In 1838, Joseph Smith called Cowdery, Harris, and Whitmer “too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them.”[2]
    In 1839 Cowdery published a tract rejecting the Latter Day Saints and
    in 1840 become a member of the Methodist Protestant Church.[3] In later years, all three testified to the divine origin of the Book of Mormon,[citation needed] and near the end of their lives rejoined one denomination or another of the Latter Day Saint movement.[citation needed] Harris and Cowdery rejoined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shortly before their deaths,[citation needed] and Whitmer founded the Church of Christ (Whitmerite).

    I’m just some random guy on Teh Interwebs, and I can shoot this one down with minimal effort. Do Habermas and other such apologists actually think through their “theories” and discuss them with skeptics? Or would that interfere with the book-publishing and royalty-collecting cycle?

    • Ignorant Amos

      All of them later recanted their recants as far as I remember though.

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

        I thought that even though some of the men were excommunicated after a falling out with Joseph Smith, they never recanted. No?

        I’ll look out for recanting evidence.

        • Ignorant Amos

          It’s been a while…I’ll see if I can find a lengthy post I did on this issue.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Testimony of Oliver Cowdrey…

          “Finally Oliver Cowdery arose, calm as a summer morning. I was within three feet of him. There was no hesitation, no fear, no anger in his voice, as he said: ‘May it please the court, and gentlemen of the jury, my brother attorney on the other side has charged me with connection with Joseph Smith and the golden Bible. The responsibility has been placed upon me, and I cannot escape reply.Before God and man I dare not deny what I have said, and what my testimony contains and as written and printed on the front page of the Book of Mormon. May it please your honor and gentlemen of the jury, this I say, I saw the angel and heard his voice—how can I deny it? It happened in the daytime when the sun was shining bright in the firmament; not in the night when I was asleep. That glorious messenger from heaven, dressed in white, standing above the ground, in a glory I have never seen anything to compare, with the sun insignificant in comparison, and these personages told us if we denied that testimony there is no forgiveness in this life nor in the world to come. Now how can I deny it—I dare not; I will not!'”

          “Oliver Cowdery and His Testimony: An Address Delivered by Judge C. M. Nielsen in the Twenty-fourth Ward Meeting House, Salt Lake City, Utah, February 20, 1910

          http://www.moroni10.com/mormon_history/cowdery-testifies-court.html

          Oliver Cowdrey had a falling out with the Church, but was received back in again. His last testimony can be read at….

          Samuel later recorded his delight in listening as Oliver described Joseph Smith, the personalities of heavenly messengers he said conversed with the prophet, and his extraordinary experience as scribe to Joseph during translation of the golden plates. As the weather eased and Oliver made plans to depart, Samuel asked him to write his testimony of the restoration through Joseph Smith of the priesthood of God. Oliver signed the document and dated it 13 January 1847. He and Elizabeth then continued on their way to Richmond. Because of ill health, they remained there until Oliver’s death on 3 March 1850. His account to Samuel may well have been his last written testimony.

          http://www.keepapitchinin.org/2010/08/23/guest-post-oliver-cowderys-last-testimony/

        • Ignorant Amos

          Martin Harris account….he shifts about a bit…actual witness, spiritual witness,recants his testimony, but at the end of the day, he recants his recant….

          On his death bed, Harris said: “The Book of Mormon is no fake. I know what I know. I have seen what I have seen and I have heard what I have heard. I have seen the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon is written. An angel appeared to me and others and testified to the truthfulness of the record, and had I been willing to have perjured myself and sworn falsely to the testimony I now bear I could have been a rich man, but I could not have testified other than I have done and am now doing for these things are true.”

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Harris_(Latter_Day_Saints)#Testimony_to_the_Book_of_Mormon

        • Ignorant Amos

          David Whitmer never recanted his witness statement per se, but he was called into question due to inconsistency in his retelling of it. In any case, he went to his grave defiant that what he had swore he witnessed happened.

          So all three, even if it is asserted they recanted after leaving the main Church body, certainly went to their death’s proclaiming their witness affidavit statements as true accounts.

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

          Sounds pretty compelling. Do the Christians know about all this? Because they’re pretty good about following the evidence, valuing eyewitness testimony, and all that. I’m sure that they’d convert to Mormonism if they knew this.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Ya’d think so, wouldn’t ya?…but alas…fakir’s are fakir’s.

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

      I’m just some random guy on Teh Interwebs, and I can shoot this one down with minimal effort.

      I suspect you’re not the target audience.

  • jekylldoc

    Here’s the version that makes the most sense to me (borrowing heavily from John Dominic Crossan and from Crossan and Borg):
    1. Jesus was executed, after staging a context which would lead to this event being interpreted as fulfillment of Messiah scriptures.
    2. The disciples were demoralized and afraid. After all, the Jewish leadership was against the Jesus movement and could turn them over to the Romans like they did Jesus.
    3. Someone saw Jesus in a vision. Crossan points out several examples, including the contemporary sailor who was lost in the events of “The Perfect Storm” and subsequently seen walking alive in his home town, which could serve as templates of this sighting. This sighting caused others to see him, or to claim to see him.
    4. After a little time passed, the church revived, with a sense that somehow their fellowship together brought back a feeling equivalent to Jesus’ presence. This seems to have involved an integration of Jesus’ “style” which emphasized forgiveness and peaceableness, with an updated interpretation of the “Messiah” concept.
    5. The combination of sightings and reviving movement were rendered in the style that would have been most natural at the time using supernatural interpretations to convey the sense of importance of the events. This became the story of the Resurrection. The disciples, after all, thought that the end of the world was at hand, that the powers of the world would be overthrown supernaturally, and that their job was to be like Jesus to hasten this event. When they said, “He is Risen” and “Jesus is Lord” they were expressing concepts we see as political but they saw as part of the supernatural alternative order.
    If you take spiritual matters seriously, as Paul surely did, this supernatural interpretation (which includes, for Paul, his own vision on the Damascus Road), makes sense in an ancient worldview. To moderns, it kinda doesn’t. Paul lived in a world without science, in which storms, earthquakes, dreams and visions could easily be “signs”.
    6. Contrary to Habermas’ assertion, there were contemporaries who resisted the stories and language of bodily resurrection. Luke’s “Emmaus Road” story is a friendly version of this skepticism. The short ending of Mark may represent a rather unsympathetic version.

    • Ignorant Amos

      As far as I’m aware, Crossan claims the story is a metaphor. He believes the body would’ve been thrown into a midden ate by dogs and other carrion consumers.

      WLC is scathing of Crossan’s hypothesis for that reason.

      What’s really driving Crossan’s scepticism is not historical, but philosophical, considerations, namely, Crossan’s anti-supernaturalism. As emerges under cross-examination in my debate with Crossan on Jesus’ resurrection, Crossan is, in fact, an atheist who thinks that God is just a construct of the human imagination which believers impose on reality.6 Therefore a supernatural event like the resurrection is a priori impossible, regardless of the evidence.

      • Greg G.

        How does WLC know that Crossan rejects the supernatural regardless of the evidence? Nobody has ever presented any viable evidence for the supernatural.

        • Michael Neville

          You forget that WLC has “the Holy Spirit” living in his heart, which is evidence enough for anything that strikes Lane Craig’s fancy.

        • rubaxter

          Did you mean actually mean beta-amyloid accreting in his brain?

        • Michael Neville

          Craig believes that evidence for or against God doesn’t really matter, because the “inner witness of the Holy Spirit” trumps everything:

          …it is the self-authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit that gives us the fundamental knowledge of Christianity’s truth. Therefore, the only role left for argument and evidence to play is a subsidiary role… The magisterial use of reason occurs when reason stands over and above the gospel… and judges it on the basis of argument and evidence. The ministerial use of reason occurs when reason submits to and serves the gospel. In light of the Spirit’s witness, only the ministerial use of reason is legitimate.¹ [emphasis in original]

          ¹Craig, Reasonable Faith, pp 47-48.

        • Joe

          You forget that WLC has “the Holy Spirit” living in his heart,

          It is most likely arterial plaque.

        • Greg G.

          80 mg daily of atorvastatin might fix that.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Nobody has ever presented any viable evidence for the supernatural.

          Except Gish Galloping lying toerag William Lame Craig thinks otherwise.

        • Greg G.

          I read the WLC quote that Michael Neville posted here

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2017/08/responding-to-the-minimal-facts-argument-for-the-resurrection/#comment-3454115726

          as an admission that argument and evidence are insufficient so he has to resort to the warm fuzzies.

      • jekylldoc

        Amos, if you read the points I laid out, “metaphor” is one possible interpretation, but not the only one. It is true that as a historian Crossan accepts standard historical practice of discounting claims to supernatural events. As he explains it, if we accept Christian claims to the supernatural but not claims about the Roman emperor, claims by Hindus about Krishna, claims about Hercules, claims about Pythagoras, and on and on, then we are not acting as historians, but as propagandists for Christianity.

        It is true that a historian could take into account aspects of the evidence and might conceivably conclude that Christians were the only ones who told the literal, factual truth about supernatural events, but in general it is very difficult to overcome the general tendency of humans to exaggerate facts for the purpose of making a point about significance. We could suppose that all other human groups do this, but Christians never would. But if we suppose that it is probably because we are arguing in the conditions of the modern world, and focusing on its issues, when in fact those weren’t the issues that they would have worried about then.

        I don’t know who WLC is, but I have read a few of Crossan’s works and find him a clear thinker. He may not always reach conclusions I like, but I usually find that when I disliked them it was for the wrong reasons.

        • Michael Neville

          WLC is William Lane Craig, professional Christian apologist and master debater.

        • jekylldoc

          Ah, thanks. I have a pretty good idea who Craig is, and I would have spelled his role as masterdebater.

        • Ignorant Amos

          There is some flaws in Crossan’s hypothesis though. I prefer Thomas Sheehan’s take.on the issue….lecture ten…

          https://itunes.apple.com/gb/itunes-u/historical-jesus/id384233911?mt=10

          Or…

          http://www.religioustolerance.org/symes01.htm

        • jekylldoc

          Thanks, I didn’t try to get the itunes reference (Apple and I are not on good terms) but the second (Symes?) seemed about right. In particular, I think he has the implications of I Cor 15 correct, and I had not really put that together before reading this.

      • Tommy

        But Dr. Craig, God is just a construct of the human imagination in which believers do impose on reality. And a supernatural event like the resurrection is a priori impossible, regardless of the evidence! 😀

        • TheNuszAbides

          i’m just (mildly) impressed that he can coherently articulate it in the abstract.
          probably just relative to my recent overdose of straw-bogeys getting dumped in these threads by theist pigeons. i learned not to admire WLC in general, years ago.

  • Pam

    These arguments from Christians all sound to me like arguing that the existence of a Sheriff of Nottingham proves that Robin Hood was real, or asking how Marian could have married Robin if he hadn’t rescued her, so the story of the rescue must be true.

    • Cozmo the Magician

      I’ve been to NYC, therefor Superman. Yeah, anybody can play that game… I’ll go for Bonus Points, i’ve seen a bust of Shakespear so MacBeth is 100% history.

      • Ignorant Amos

        Letters are received at 221b Baker Sreet, London, in the name of the private detective Sherlock Holmes. So he must be real.

        Almost immediately, the building society started receiving correspondence from Sherlock Holmes fans all over the world, in such volumes that it appointed a permanent “secretary to Sherlock Holmes” to deal with it.

        There was even a row about it when a museum set up for all things Sherlockian was opened.

        A long-running dispute over the number arose between the Sherlock Holmes Museum, the building society Abbey National (which had previously answered the mail addressed to Sherlock Holmes) and subsequently the local Westminster City Council. The main objection to the Museum’s role in answering the letters was that the number 221B bestowed on the Museum by the Council was out of sequence with the other numbers in the street: an issue that has since vexed local bureaucrats, who have striven for years to keep street numbers in sequence. In 2005, Abbey National vacated their headquarters in Baker Street, which left the museum to battle with Westminster City Council to end the dispute over the number, which had created negative publicity.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/221B_Baker_Street

        So much fuss over someone who never existed…now where have I seen something like that before, let me think on it for a wee while?

        • Cozmo the Magician

          Many years ago I worked in the mail room of a BIG multinational company whose local ZIP code is 12345. Yup, GE in Schenectady, NY has that unique ZIP code all to itself. EVERY year there was mail sent to Santa, the Easter Bunny, God, and a slew of other ‘people’ all delivered because the ZIP was 12345. My fave was envelope addressed ‘God North poal NY 12345’ at least the kid got the state and zip correct.

        • Greg G.

          I heard about a clerk at the Post Office who found an unsealed letter addressed to God with the shaky penmanship of an elderly person. He thought he should check it out. The old person said she had lost $100 cash that she was saving to have a dinner with her granddaughter and wanted God to help her.

          The clerk showed it to his co-workers and they all chipped in to fulfill her wish. They collected $96 and sent it to her.

          A few days later, they found another letter addressed to God in the same handwriting, so they had to open it. She thanked God for sending the money to her but she said it was $4 short. She added, “I bet it was those thievin’ bastards at the Post Office!”

        • Cozmo the Magician

          badump dish…

        • Cozmo the Magician

          actually, AFAIK, the post office is NOT allowed to open mail. The folks at GE COULD because it was adressed to them and delivered . The Union Alumni actually did answer and respond to many of the santa letters. Everything ‘can I please have a bycicle to give to my sister” and ‘grandma needs medicince’ kinda stuff. Try some google-fu on GE (general electric) SANTA 12345. I’ll bet you will get some hits.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          actually, AFAIK, the post office is NOT allowed to open mail.

          Legally, no. I know someone who opened their front door and found their mail carrier looking over their freshly-opened pay stub.

        • Greg G.

          Well, sometimes the mail sorting equipment opens the mail on occasion. Sometimes it is faulty equipment and sometimes it is because somebody tried to mail something in a paper envelope that needed to be put in other packaging.

          So, let’s say the letter was opened by a jam in a machine.

        • arkenaten

          Greg, that joke is older than my grandad! But it still gets a laugh!

        • Pam

          In Canada, Santa’s postal code is H0H 0H0. Apparently there are thousands of volunteers answering letters to Santa every year.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          Really? I thought if u needed a ‘hoe’ you would ask OUR president. I’m sure he could tweet one up for you. /snarkie snark snark and Truth.

        • epicurus

          That’s the code I’ve used for years when travelling in the US and dealing with a store or hotel whose computer only accepts 5 digit zips. I said it as a joke once and the hotel person laughed and said wow, that actually is a zip code.

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)
        • Cozmo the Magician

          LMFAO.

      • rubaxter

        I’ll go for the real Bonus Points: I’ve seen a re-enactment of the true-life travails of Rosencranz and Guildenstern, so Oberon and Ariel must be real.

      • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

        Edinburgh Castle has a wall with pictures of all Scottish kings in order, including both Duncan and Macbeth. I’ve also seen a bust of Shakespeare. Do I get double points for demonstrating conclusively the three witches are historical?

    • epeeist

      Yep, immediately I saw “Gary Habermas claims that the resurrection is well evidenced because most scholars accept it” I thought “affirmation of the consequent”.

    • epicurus

      You’ve probably seen the quote “If you don’t believe in the Wizard of Oz, how do you explain the Yellow Brick Road.”

      • Pam

        I haven’t heard that, but I will remember it :)

  • skl

    As a skeptic, I think Christians and atheists should try to find common ground and maybe quit with the verbal attacks back and forth. The two sides will never see eye to eye. But I think some common ground could be acknowledged, if not
    celebrated. For example,

    – I think we all can agree that evidence for the resurrection exists.

    – And I think we all can agree that the evidence is not sufficient to prove the resurrection occurred nor to erase any and all doubts a reasonable person might have that the resurrection occurred.

    • Otto

      – I think we all can agree that evidence for the resurrection exists.

      The evidence the resurrection story exists, evidence for the resurrection itself…not so much.

    • Sorrythatyouasked

      I can accept a position from someone who can provide credible evidence that an event occurred. It’s difficult to have an intelligent conversation with someone who is not even aware there is no credible evidence to support their belief.

      There is no firm credible evidence that a Jesus existed, let alone, performed any of the supernatural feats that he is credited. To prove a person came back from the dead requires a bit more then stories written long after the event by unknown authors.

    • eric

      – I think we all can agree that evidence for the resurrection exists.

      In the legal sense of ‘personal testimony’, yes. In the scientific sense, I’d have to say “not really.”

      Tell me Ski, if someone gives you their personal testimony that they saw someone fly through the air unassisted (and I’m not playing any sort of semantic tricks), does that count as “evidence” that someone did so? Keep in mind I didn’t just make that up – there are a few Catholics that were given sainthood because of personal testimony that they flew. Is that evidence that they did so? Because I can’t see why we should accept the biblical accounts as ‘evidence’ but reject other miracle testimonies as ‘not evidence.’

      • skl

        “Tell me Ski…”

        My name is SKL.

        “… if someone gives you their personal testimony that they saw someone fly through the air unassisted (and I’m not playing any sort of semantic tricks), does that count as “evidence” that someone did so?”

        Yes it does, but it wouldn’t be compelling evidence. If that’s all the individual had, I wouldn’t buy it.

        • Ignorant Amos

          What would it take to make you buy it then?

        • skl

          “What would it take to make you buy it then?”

          Nothing would make me buy it.
          That is, nothing would force me to buy it, give me no choice but to buy it. Nothing short of incontrovertible proof, which doesn’t exist.

          Without that, it just comes down to choice. Some choose to
          believe with X amount of evidence, some don’t.

          Chalk it up to bias or evolution or evolutionary bias.

          Identifying who and how many is on each side, and the
          constant arguing, all seems a waste of time.

          As I said, the two sides will never see eye to eye.

        • Otto

          >>>”…all seems a waste of time.”

          So why are you here clucking than?

          >>>”As I said, the two sides will never see eye to eye.”

          And why would they?

        • Michael Neville

          And why would they?

          Because that would make skl very happy or at least content or maybe less disgruntled.

        • Otto

          It is like pointing out that people that believe the earth is flat vs those who accept that it is a sphere will never see eye to eye….thanks for the observation Mr. Obvious.

        • wtfwjtd

          “It is like pointing out that people that believe the earth is flat vs those who accept that it is a sphere will never see eye to eye….”

          …while at the same time trying to imply that both positions have equal, but unsubstantiated, merit. Uh, no.

        • TheNuszAbides

          straining to find a noble cause in there somewhere … nope!

        • Ignorant Amos

          Nothing short of incontrovertible proof, which doesn’t exist.

          Semantics aside, what evidence would constitute incontrovertible, if it existed?

          Identifying who and how many is on each side, and the constant arguing, all seems a waste of time.

          Why? Can’t you think of one reason why some folk might think otherwise?

          As I said, the two sides will never see eye to eye.

          It isn’t about seeing eye to eye though, is it?

        • skl

          What would constitute incontrovertible proof? I don’t know.

          “It isn’t about seeing eye to eye though, is it?”

          What do you think it’s about?
          Perhaps it’s about fruitlessly trying to make one big eye.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I don’t know.

          If you don’t know,then the caveat “incontrovertible” is meaningless.

          What do you think it’s about?

          Well it’s not going to be about both sides being in full agreement on the subject.

          IMO, it is about demonstrating the ridiculousness of the assertion.

          Perhaps it’s about fruitlessly trying to make one big eye.

          I haven’t the foggiest idea what that comment is supposed to mean. Perhaps rephrasing it might help?

          What I do know is that the seeing “eye-to-eye” exercise is certainly going to be fruitless.

        • skl

          “If you don’t know,then the caveat “incontrovertible” is meaningless.”

          Good point. The “incontrovertible” is redundant if used to modify “proof”.

          Skl: “Perhaps it’s about fruitlessly trying to make one big eye.”
          I A: “I haven’t the foggiest idea what that comment is supposed to mean. Perhaps rephrasing it might help?”

          The two sides don’t see eye to eye. Each “eye” seems to be trying to win the other “eye” over to its side. So the goal, in a sense, is to have one “eye” not two; everybody believing the same thing, not different things.

          “What I do know is that the seeing “eye-to-eye” exercise is certainly going to be fruitless.”

          I think then we agree on that.

        • Ignorant Amos

          The two sides don’t see eye to eye. Each “eye” seems to be trying to win the other “eye” over to its side. So the goal, in a sense, is to have one “eye” not two; everybody believing the same thing, not different things.

          Ah right. I suppose that could be applicable to some on each side.

          My experience to date, is that the majority believers who we interact with, demand respect for their beliefs based on the scantiest of evidence. Such evidence, that if applied to the claims of competing religions, the believer would scoff at as ridiculous. Proselytising is not an evidence driven enterprise.

          Alternatively, skeptics usually want to point believers towards the evidence, or lack thereof, and let said believers arrive at the most rational explanation, based on reason and critical thinking, all by themselves.

          I think then we agree on that.

          Indeed.

        • al kimeea

          IMO, it is about demonstrating the ridiculousness of the assertion.

          Yes, and all the harm that has flowed from it and stains this beautiful blue marble still

        • Greg G.

          Is it still evidence if that someone was watching a Superman movie at the time?

        • Otto

          No it is not evidence, it is an anecdote.

        • epeeist

          Yes it does, but it wouldn’t be compelling evidence.

          It wouldn’t be compelling because the prior probability is low. It is low because you have seen many people but never one flying through the air unassisted. You are also aware of gravity and the theories about it and the properties of people.

          Similarly with the resurrection, you are aware of the fact that people die and none of them have come back to life. You are also aware of what happens physically and biologically to bodies once people die.

          In both cases it would take extremely strong evidence to increase your credence.

    • RichardSRussell

      There is also evidence that Harry Potter exists.

      To quote the immortal words of Ken Ham, “We have this book.”

    • Kev Green

      A real skeptic is willing to also consider the possibility that the claim he is considering isn’t true. Open-minded doesn’t mean refusing to accept reality. There simply isn’t anything beyond purely anecdotal evidence written down decades later to support the resurrection. We even have the Koran, a book believed by billions, that says it didn’t happen.

      Finding common ground means both sides are willing to give in a little bit. You want atheists to accept the possibility that a preposterous claim potentially has merit. What part of the Christian position do you expect them to give in on?

      • skl

        “Finding common ground means both sides are willing to give in a little bit.”

        I think that describes compromise rather than common ground.

        “You want atheists to accept the possibility that a preposterous claim potentially has merit. What part of the Christian position do you expect them to give in on?”

        The only thing I want, if you want to call it that, is
        for both sides to acknowledge that they will never see eye to eye.

        • Otto

          It isn’t a question of seeing eye to eye, it is a question of if people could potentially change their mind, and of course that happens all the time.

        • Ignorant Amos

          As a result of the power of the opposing argument. Of course a comprehensive look at the data, probability, and background knowledge, is key.

        • Michael Neville

          You want “we agree to disagree”. Unfortunately, that’s not the purpose of this blog. We examine Christianity with a skeptical eye. The visiting Christians usually come here to proselytize to the heathens and apostates. Very occasionally we see a theist who wants to discuss atheism. But most of the time we get missionaries missioning (missing? mishing?) at us.

        • skl

          “You want “we agree to disagree”. Unfortunately, that’s not the purpose of this blog. We examine Christianity with a skeptical eye.”

          The purpose of this blog then is preaching to the choir. That’s fine. But don’t expect the other choir to sing along.

        • Michael Neville

          But don’t expect the other choir to sing along.

          We don’t. We have other priorities and interests, as do they.

        • TheNuszAbides

          The purpose of this blog then is preaching to the choir

          nope, though it’s a happy enough coincidence that we show up to compare notes on apologetics and counterapologetics, share some yuks and quibbles, baptize theist visitors with fire via skepticism, ridicule, outrage etc.
          or are you [consciously or accidentally] implying that Bob is disingenuous in explicitly inviting Christians to make their case here?

        • TheNuszAbides

          But don’t expect the other choir to sing along.

          that’s not even worthy of any lurker who’s been paying attention.

        • Greg G.

          I gave in a little bit when I was a Christian and now I am an atheist who believes the whole Jesus story is a myth that came from Cephas, James, John , and Paul reading Isaiah’s metaphor of Israel as a hidden mystery about one stage of the expected Messiah.

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

          Christians deconvert every day. Other Christians switch from an intolerant flavor of Christianity to a more moderate one.

        • skl

          True. And some atheists convert to Christianity. There are always exceptions.

        • Ignorant Amos

          What do ya reckon the ratio is of atheists finding faith vis a vis those having a faith becoming atheist?

        • skl

          I don’t know, but I would assume the latter would have to be higher in number, at least over the last 60 years.

          Gallup shows the percentage of atheists in the U.S. growing from
          1% of the population to 18% over the last 60 years. Christians, while almost 70% of the population, have decreased by 28% over the same period. Protestants dropped 34%, Catholics 12%.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          What do ya reckon the ratio is of atheists finding faith vis a vis those having a faith becoming atheist?

          Practically every apologist swears he was an atheist when young, perhaps while in college. Extrapolate from there.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Fair observation…and given that apologists never lie…that method seems sound.

        • Greg G.

          Plus, apologists tend to use a definition of “atheist” that is the converse of the definition used by the ancient Romans. Apologists use of the word means they didn’t believe in the God they believe in now while ancient Romans meant that Christians were atheists for only believing in that one particular God thingy.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Given that the apologists we tend to see around here don’t seem to know how to define atheism accurately, I’d posit that it’s not just an issue with how the Roman’s expressed the term.

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

          Yes, atheists do convert to Christianity. But let’s not imagine that this is completely symmetric.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/10/i-used-to-be-an-atheist-just-like-you-2/

        • wtfwjtd

          …and interestingly, to most Christians there is no difference between switching versions of Christianity or deconversion; in both cases, the Christian making either change is going to roast in hell. Go figure.

      • james

        here is something funny, two apologists arguing against each other

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NUzoLbqJno

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      I think we all can agree that evidence for the resurrection exists.

      We can all agree that the claim has been made. It’s only “evidence” in a very loose sense, just like waking up alone in bed is evidence that my wife was abducted by aliens.

      And I think we all can agree that the evidence is not sufficient to prove the resurrection occurred nor to erase any and all doubts a reasonable person might have that the resurrection occurred.

      Given that the null hypothesis is that it didn’t happen and the evidence is woefully inadequate to contradict this, doubt is the only thing a reasonable person should have.

  • eric

    It seems to me the simplest way to refute #1 and #2 is to point out that they are true for multiple contradictory religions. Thus they can’t be “proof” of anything unless we’re willing to accept that contradictory histories may be true at the same time.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    There are people TO THIS DAY that believe Elvis is still alive and working at various odd jobs around the US. I have met people that are sure he was pumping gas, serving burgers, or driving cab. Now THAT is immortality.

    • Michael Neville

      Everyone knows that Elvis recently retired after running a Burger King in Great Falls, Montana. He sold the place to Tupac Shakur.

      • Cozmo the Magician

        Nope, and Noper and Nopes. He sold his last gold ring to by a plane he used on a secret mission to somewhere. Or something.

        • TheNuszAbides

          wait, you mean we’ve already run out of the sort of plane-owners who’d be overjoyed at the opportunity to give one to Elvis Himself?

    • Michael Neville

      There’s a guy works down the chip shop swears he’s Elvis.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QccPUSTMriM

      • Cozmo the Magician

        OMFSM, Awesome!

  • KarlUdy

    You state the second of the facts as:

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

    You then spend several paragraphs arguing the dubiosity of this fact, before ending with:

    I presume that the Paul and the gospel authors honestly believed, just like Christians today.

    Isn’t that essentially agreeing with Habermas’ Fact 2?

    • Greg G.

      No, Paul and the gospel authors were not disciples. The epistles never even use the word “disciple”, only “apostle”.

      • KarlUdy

        You are right that the epistles don’t use the word “disciple”, only “apostle”. However, this point is irrelevant. And your other statement that Paul and the gospel authors were not “disciples” is either erroneous, misleading or plain wrong.

        • Otto

          It is completely relevant, if Habermas wanted to say the apostles believed, or the gospel writers believed, he wouldn’t have specifically used the word ‘disciple’, it was intentional to refer to the people who were actually alive at the reported time and supposedly witnessed the actual event. Keeping with that theme when Bob refers to Paul and the gospel writers he is not referring to the disciples.

        • KarlUdy

          Otto, are you aware that “the disciples” and “the apostles”, along with “the twelve” are all terms used to refer to Jesus’ twelve disciples?

        • wtfwjtd

          Once again– Paul never, ever used the term “disciple”. “The twelve” is only used one time, and erroneously at that, in I Cor 15.
          Greg G just explained above the difference between the term “disciple” and “apostle” as they are commonly used in the New Testament. Did you miss his explanation?
          Besides, Paul was never considered to be one of the twelve disciples by anyone, anywhere, that I am aware of, so he could only ever be considered as an “apostle”. As Greg G pointed out above, the terms are not interchangeable.

        • KarlUdy

          wtfwjtd,
          “The Twelve” is used as an ellipsis for either the twelve disciples or twelve apostles in Matt 26:20, Mark 14:17, John 6:67, John 6:71, Acts 6:2, as well as “The Eleven” in Acts 2:14, in addition to the reference in 1 Cor 15 you mentioned.

          Matt 10:1,2 reads “1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles …”

          So the terms “disciple” and “apostle” are used interchangably in reference to the twelve, although they have different meanings in other contexts.

          However, in those other contexts, “disciple” has the wider meaning than “apostle”, so that although Paul was never considered part of “the Twelve”, he was called a disciple in Acts 9:26.

        • wtfwjtd

          The references in The gospels + Acts that use “apostle” and “disciple” interchangeably are simply clumsy attempts at reading the later gospel stories back into the epistles, which were written at earlier dates than the gospels(and Acts). Stating that the gospels were written after the epistles isn’t wishful thinking on my part–it’s the scholarly consensus.

          No writer of the epistles, whoever they were, uses the term “disciple”. Even that reference in Acts that you mention goes on to clarify that Paul had “seen the Lord on his journey, and that the Lord had spoken to him.” Paul clearly informs us in his known writings that this was by vision, not face to face. So any attempt at connecting Paul to a living, physical Jesus at a specific place and time here on earth fails. I’m willing to accept Paul’s own writings about his conversion experience at face value. Aren’t you?

        • KarlUdy

          wtfwjtd,
          You are right that the gospels were written after most of the epistles. However, the epistles do reference events and teaching from the gospels. 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 gives an account of the Last Supper, 1 Cor 7:10-12 references Jesus’ teaching on marriage, and 1 Timothy 5:18 quotes Jesus teaching as he sent out his disciples to preach.

          The gospels we have in the Bible today may not have been written at the time of these epistles (almost certainly not before 1 Corinthians, some were probably written before 1 Timothy though) but the message and account of Jesus’ life and ministry that was recorded in the gospels was obviously known by the believers when these epistles were written.

        • Greg G.

          1 Corinthians 10:18-22 develops a pattern where Paul makes an exhortation, asks a question, and answers the question with the same metaphors. He does this three times but the third answer is found at 1 Corinthians 11:30-31, which shows an interpolation seam. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 looks like it was borrowed from the gospels, probably from Luke (because of the “Do this in remembrance of me”), who got it from Mark.

          1 Corinthians 7:10-12 is Paul explaining Deuteronomy 24:1-4, which does not have a provision for wives divorcing husbands to Greeks who have laws that permit women to divorce. Mark 10:11-12 has Jesus telling this to Galileans who would never have heard of women divorcing husbands. Matthew drops that part and Luke drops the whole subject. There are other passages in Paul’s letters that have “the Lord” saying this or that but “Lord” is ambiguous and each time, there is an allusion to the OT. 1 Corinthians 14:21 has “says the Lord” but it is a quotation of Isaiah 28:11-12. Another is 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 which has “the Lord commanded” and refers to Deuteronomy 18:3-8.

          1 Timothy 5:18 quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7. It says it is quoting scripture, meaning Luke was already thought to be scripture by the person who forged 1 Timothy.

        • Otto

          Are you aware that Paul and the writers of the gospels are NOT disciples?

        • KarlUdy

          I agree that that is Habermas’ most likely intention in the use of ‘disciple’. I would argue that the gospel writers (Luke excepted) are from this group. Luke sourced his material from this group.

        • Otto

          There is no way you can say the gospel writers are from that group when we literally don’t know who the gospels writers were exactly

        • KarlUdy

          Can you say that the leakers of the conversations between Trump and Turnbull and Enrique Peña Nieto were from a particular group (eg White House staffers) when you don’t know exactly who the leakers were?

        • Tommy

          No.

        • Joe

          Not prima facie, no.

        • Otto

          That is a terrible analogy…

          There is a way to independently verify the information and trace it from the White House. There is no way to independently verify any of the pertinent information of the gospels, or know anything about the gospel writers outside of the religion.

        • KarlUdy

          I’m trying to understand your point. It looked as though you might have been saying that we can’t know that an author came from a certain group unless you know exactly who the author was. If that was not your point, what was it?

        • Otto

          No, you are claiming the Gospel writers are of the group referred to as the disciples. We most certainly don’t know that and in fact most actual scholars (not Christian apologists) would not agree with that.

        • Joe

          would argue that the gospel writers (Luke excepted) are from this group.

          On what basis would you argue that?

        • KarlUdy

          The named writers of the gospels have been attached to the writings since the earliest mention of the documents. Their attribution to the authors is not contested (although there are some who say John was written by Lazarus). Mark and Luke in particular, but also to a certain extent Matthew, are not likely targets for pseudopigraphical attribution. There is good evidence of eye-witness detail in the text. That’s probably enough to start with.

        • Joe

          The named writers of the gospels have been attached to the writings since the earliest mention of the documents.

          You obviously couldn’t see, but I made a shrugging motion when I read that sentence.

          Their attribution to the authors is not contested

          Yes it is.

          (although there are some who say John was written by Lazarus

          Another person who came back from the dead!

          There is good evidence of eye-witness detail in the text.

          How do you ‘determine eye witness detial’ from somebody writing a fictional account?

        • Greg G.

          Papias said he knew of Matthew and Mark but Matthew wasn’t written in Greek while the Matthew we have was written in Greek, so this is not the book Papias was talking about. But it does have a disciple named Matthew where Mark has Levi, so they assume the author knew his name.

          John has a mention that it was John’s testimony, but it doesn’t say that John wrote it, so it got that name.

          Luke and Acts were thought to be by the same author. Acts uses the first person plural on the sea voyages and one of Paul’s letters mentions a Luke on that trip, so the name Luke gets slapped on that one.

          That leaves one gospel with no name and a need to name one Mark, per Papias.

        • KarlUdy

          Are you saying that because the earliest written reference available to us linking the names to the gospels is in Papias, that Papias is the cause of such a link?

        • Greg G.

          Yes, I think it was something along those lines. The collection of writings we call the New Testament goes back to Irenaeus. Have you seen Irenaeus’ reasoning on why there are four gospels, no more, no less? He said it’s because there are four winds and four corners of the earth. He doesn’t seem to have been a deep thinker.

          If there is evidence out there that explains the names of the gospels, I would appreciate the chance to see it.

        • Ignorant Amos

          So much ignorance Karl.

          The named writers of the gospels have been attached to the writings since the earliest mention of the documents.

          Obviously. But what does that mean? Think about it. When was the earliest mention of the gospels? How is it problematic for you Christians?

          The gospels are not known about by early Church fathers until the second half of the second century. Nothing, nadda, zip, zero, zilch. This isn’t some atheist conspiracy theory. It is well documented in the scholarship of Christians that are being honest about the situation.

          The Four Gospels were unknown to the early Christian Fathers. Justin Martyr, the most eminent of the early Fathers, wrote about the middle of the second century. His writings in proof of the divinity of Christ demanded the use of these Gospels had they existed in his time. He makes more than three hundred quotations from the books of the Old Testament, and nearly one hundred from the Apocryphal books of the New Testament; but none from the Four Gospels. ~ The Rev. Dr. Giles says: “The very names of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are never mentioned by him [Justin] — do not occur once in all his writings” (Christian Records, p. 71).

          http://www.thenazareneway.com/gospels_second_century_writings.htm

          Their attribution to the authors is not contested…

          But outside fundamental Christian circles, they really are contested. That you are displaying unawareness of this means you are either ignorant, or lying about it. I don’t believe this detail hasn’t previously been pointed out to you, so I have to conclude the obvious.

          …(although there are some who say John was written by Lazarus).

          Who says this? There are many scholars that suggest gJohn has more than one author. Again, not some atheist conspiracy….

          1) There is no way that the Fourth Gospel was written by John Zebedee or by any of the disciples of Jesus. The author of this book is not a single individual, but is at least three different writers/editors, who did their layered work over a period of 25 to 30 years. ~ John Shelby Spong, Retired American Bishop of the Episcopal Church

          Other interesting insights to the nonsense in gJohn at…

          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-shelby-spong/gospel-of-john-what-everyone-knows-about-the-fourth-gospel_b_3422026.html

          Mark and Luke in particular, but also to a certain extent Matthew, are not likely targets for pseudopigraphical attribution.

          You’d do well to know the meaning of that big word before bandying it about erroneously.

          There is good evidence of eye-witness detail in the text.

          Nope…there really isn’t…and it is only fundamental woo-woo merchants that claim there is, real scholars, many of them Christian, know differently.

          That’s probably enough to start with.

          Given that you’ve erred in just about everything you’ve stated, then you will need to re-evaluate you starting position.

        • Pofarmer

          Karl keeps his reset button spooled up and ready.

        • KarlUdy

          Who says this?

          Ben Witherington III, among others.

          You’d do well to know the meaning of that big word before bandying it about erroneously.

          Let me put it another way. If the gospels were not written by those authors but were later fraudulent writings, there are more prominent names that would be put forth as suggested authors to lend credibility to them. That this did not happen, is evidence that the traditional attribution of authorship is genuine.

          But outside fundamental Christian circles, they really are contested. That you are displaying unawareness of this means you are either ignorant, or lying about it. I don’t believe this detail hasn’t previously been pointed out to you, so I have to conclude the obvious.

          Perhaps I was imprecise in my wording. Of course, those who believe in a late dating for the gospels do not believe the named authors to be the actual authors. My point was intended to be that there are no serious competing claims for authorship.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Ben Witherington III, among others.

          Witherington III is well aware of how controversial his thesis is considered in the academy. And Witherington himself states that the gospel with John’s name on it, the fourth gospel we should call it, as it survives is an editorial redaction by later followers of a strand of Christianity.

          Everything Witherington proposes is based on a lot of presumptions about the text itself.

          There is no more justification for thinking Lazarus penned some earlier unknown original that was subject to revision, than that any other unknown Tom, Dick, or Harry cobbled the nonsense together.

          That’s if there even was such a person as the character Lazarus. The figure of Lazarus is a theological literary device.

          In Christian theology, the biblical story of the raised Lazarus is often understood as a metaphor of Jesus’ own power to redeem humanity as a whole from death and destruction. The scripture readings and hymns for Lazarus Saturday focus on the resurrection of Lazarus as a foreshadowing of the Resurrection of Christ, and a promise of the General Resurrection.

          Even the name Lazarus means “God helped” in Hebrew.

          Let me put it another way. If the gospels were not written by those authors but were later fraudulent writings, there are more prominent names that would be put forth as suggested authors to lend credibility to them.

          Nope…the gospels got their names via contorted contrivances for sure, but the reasons seemed sound at the time with the limited knowledge at hand. The four gospels are not mention anywhere in the first 100 years of the belief.

          That this did not happen, is evidence that the traditional attribution of authorship is genuine.

          Nope. No serious scholar, Christian or otherwise, thinks that is the case. And noconvincing argument can be made to justify such thinking.

          My point was intended to be that there are no serious competing claims for authorship.

          An early dating of the gospels is academic to their authorship. The authors are unknown. Centuries of scholarship has come up zip point shit and only assertions. On the other hand, the current thinking is that the gospels are too late to have been written by anyone around at the time of the alleged events they report. There is no serious competing claims for authorship because they are anonymous and that’s what honest scholars now accept.

        • Greg G.

          not likely targets for pseudopigraphical attribution

          The writing would have to make a claim to be written by someone to be pseudepigraphal.

        • Greg G.

          An apostle is a spreader of a religion. A disciple follows an actual teacher. Since Paul did not tell us any teachings and everything he says about Jesus comes from the OT, he does show that he is following any teachings. The gospels are written as fiction, borrowing from the literature of the day for material. Jesus would have had to exist in order to have followers.

        • Ignorant Amos

          And your other statement that Paul and the gospel authors were not “disciples” is either erroneous, misleading or plain wrong.

          You really should learn the subject matter before spouting silly shit.

          Paul never met Jesus. Paul makes it clear that the others never met him either. Paul, like the others, knew what they knew from scripture and revelation. That is why Paul uses the term “apostle” i.e. messenger and not “disciple” i.e. pupil.

          Jesus is called an apostle in Hebrews 3:1…

          1 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.

          Was Jesus commissioning his own message, or was he his own pupil?

          Disciple always means pupil of someone. When Jesus had to be historicised in the gospels, the authors decided to make them pupils to follow the narrative of Jesus teaching the word. But in the epistles there is no physical Jesus doing the teaching. There was a spiritual message through revelation and buried in the scriptures.

        • KarlUdy

          Ignorant Amos,
          Paul makes it clear that he did meet the other apostles, but that this meeting was after he received his commissioning from Jesus.

          As I understand it, the reason Paul refers to himself as an apostle, not a disciple, is to establish the authority of the message he is giving. By claiming to be an apostle, he is not denying that he is a disciple.

          As I mentioned in another reply, Paul is called a disciple in Acts 9:26. In Acts, “disciples”, “believers”, and “church” are all used to refer to the whole group of believers in a place.

          “Apostle” literally means “sent one”, when Jesus is called an apostle in Hebrews it is most likely referring to Jesus being sent to earth to bring God’s message.

        • Greg G.

          Paul wrote a substantial part of the New Testament. If he was a disciple, we should see more teachings and preachings from the person he was a disciple of. Instead, Paul relies on Old Testament material. It’s like Paul hasn’t learned anything younger that 200 years old.

          Paul even states that his knowledge is not inferior to the knowledge of the “super-apostles”. How could he think that if he thought the “super-apostles” were disciples?

        • Tommy

          Instead, Paul relies on Old Testament material. It’s like Paul hasn’t learned anything younger that 200 years old.

          Can you explain what you mean by this?

        • Greg G.

          Paul mentioned “Jesus”, “Christ”, or either combination 300 times in his authentic epistles. That’s about once for every fifth verse, so he loved to talk about Jesus. But here are the facts he gave about Jesus and where the information came from in the OT.

          Past
          Descended from David > Romans 1:3, Romans 15:12 > 2 Samuel 7:12, Isaiah 11:10
          Declared Son of God > Romans 1:4 > Psalm 2:7
          Made of woman, > Galatians 4:4 > Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 49:1, Isaiah 49:5
          Made under the law > Galatians 4:4, Galatians 3:10-12* > Deuteronomy 27:26, Habakkuk 2:4, Leviticus 18:5
          Was rich, became poor > 2 Corinthians 8:9 > Zechariah 9:9
          Was meek and gentle > 2 Corinthians 10:1 > Isaiah 53:7
          Did not please himself > Romans 15:3* > Psalm 69:9
          Became a servant of the circumcised > Romans 15:8 > Isaiah 53:11
          For the Gentiles > Romans 15:9-12* > Psalm 18:49, 2 Samuel 22:50, Deuteronomy 32:43, Psalm 117:1, Isaiah 11:10
          Was betrayed > 1 Corinthians 11:23 > Psalm 41:9
          Took loaf of bread and wine > 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 > Psalm 41:9, Exodus 24:8, Leviticus 17:11, Isaiah 53:12 (“wine” = “blood of grapes” allusions in Genesis 49:11, Deuteronomy 32:14, Isaiah 49:26, Zechariah 9:15)
          Was crucified for sins > 1 Corinthians 2:2, 1 Corinthians 15:3, 2 Corinthians 13:4, Galatians 2:20, Galatians 3:13* > Isaiah 53:12, Deuteronomy 21:23
          Was buried > 1 Corinthians 15:4 > Isaiah 53:9
          Was raised > Romans 1:4, Romans 8:34, 1 Corinthians 15:4, 2 Corinthians 4:14, 2 Corinthians 13:4 > Hosea 6:2, Psalm 16:10, Psalm 41:10

          Present
          Sits next to God > Romans 8:34 > Psalm 110:1, Psalm 110:5
          Intercedes > Romans 8:34 > Isaiah 53:12

          Future
          Will come > 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54*, Philippians 3:20-21 > Isaiah 26:19-21, Daniel 7:11, Daniel 7:13; Daniel 12:2, Isaiah 25:8
          (* indicates that passage contains a direct quote from the Old Testament)

          PS: I think the 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 is an interpolation taken from Luke who got it from Mark.

        • Tommy

          O.K. I see your point. On another point, I wonder how many times the word “Jesus” occurs and how many times the word “Christ” occurs in the epistles. I would wager that the number of times the word “Jesus” appears you can count on your fingers. And another point, I find it odd that nowhere in the epistles does Paul have a name for believers “Christians” nor does he give an identity for his movement of believers/churches.

        • Greg G.

          I could have used the Custom Selection to drill down more.

          https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=jesus%2A&t=NIV&csr=12#s=s_primary_0_1

          “jesus*” occurs 212 times in 199 verses in your custom selection ‘ in ‘The Pauline Epistles” in the NIV.

          https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=christ%2A&t=NIV&csr=12#s=s_primary_0_1

          “christ*” occurs 395 times in 369 verses in your custom selection ‘ in ‘The Pauline Epistles” in the NIV.

          https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=jesus+christ&t=NIV&csr=12#s=s_primary_0_1

          “jesus” AND “christ” occurs in 164 verses in your custom selection ‘ in ‘The Pauline Epistles” in the NIV, including 79 exact phrases shown first.

          https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=christ+jesus&t=NIV&csr=12#s=s_primary_0_1

          “christ” AND “jesus” occurs in 164 verses in your custom selection ‘ in ‘The Pauline Epistles” in the NIV, including 85 exact phrases shown first.

        • Tommy

          Nice. I’ve lost the wager. 😉

        • Ignorant Amos

          Paul makes it clear that he did meet the other apostles, but that this meeting was after he received his commissioning from Jesus.

          So what, where did I state that Paul didn’t meet the other apostles. What I said was, that as far as Paul reports, the other apostles never claim tohave met Jesus either.

          As I understand it, the reason Paul refers to himself as an apostle, not a disciple, is to establish the authority of the message he is giving.

          Paul doesn’t refer to anyone as a disciple because he doesn’t know any. He only knows apostles. And he puts himself at the same level of rank as all the others, because their source of information is exactly the same as his own, scripture and revelation.

          By claiming to be an apostle, he is not denying that he is a disciple.

          By not showing he is a pupil to a teacher, he isn’t a disciple. Again, disciple and apostle are not synonymous. They were different things,Christian apologetics are claiming different.

          As I mentioned in another reply, Paul is called a disciple in Acts 9:26. In Acts, “disciples”, “believers”, and “church” are all used to refer to the whole group of believers in a place.

          Who cares. The Acts are fiction written well after Paul died, by some randomer. They are post gospels. The author who wrote them also wrote Luke where the idea of an historical Jesus with pupils is being set out.

          “Apostle” literally means “sent one”, when Jesus is called an apostle in Hebrews it is most likely referring to Jesus being sent to earth to bring God’s message.

          Apostolos literally means different things in different contexts. What we are talking about is how Paul uses it.

          BTW, who “sent” Jesus? Himself? Does it make more sense that YahwehJesus is the “sent one”, or that he was bringing “God’s message”…aka his own, in revelation, s the other apostles could take that message to the world?

        • Tommy

          That you would have to go to the gospels and book of Acts to interpret the epistles illustrates that fact that without the gospels and Acts, one wouldn’t assume (Jesus) Christ had any ministry or disciples.

        • G.Shelley

          You aren’t being clear. Are you arguing that the gospel authors were people who knew Jesus, and were his personal disciples, or that any Christian in the early church should be title “disciple”. Or something else?

        • KarlUdy

          “Disciple” as used in the New Testament has at least four possible meanings
          1) A follower of a teacher (eg disciple of John)
          2) One of the ‘Twelve’
          3) One of Jesus followers who was present during his earthly ministry
          4) A member of the early church / believer in Jesus as Messiah

          Apostle could mean
          1) One of the ‘Twelve’
          2) One personally commissioned by Jesus to spread his gospel

          Paul was a disciple as per 4) and an apostle as per 2)

          Habermas’ meaning in using disciple is likely 2) or 3)

          I would place the gospel authors as being disciples according to definitions 2) – Matthew, 3) Mark and John, and 4) Luke.

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

      KarlUdy is unlike a disciple because (assuming the story is true) Karl was told the story by other people, and the disciples saw it themselves and actually had a warrant to believe the incredible story.

  • Hans-Richard Grümm

    The pro-resurrection arguments all suffer from the same defect: they use a premise derived from experience to derive a conclusion which is contrary to experience. IOW, they cut the very branch on which they are sitting.

    #1: “Nobody would die for a lie”.
    #2: “Dead bodies do not become alive after two days”.

    Both are derived from experience, yet the evidence for #2 is much stronger than the one for #1. Yet #1 is used to contradict #2.

    • rubaxter

      Wow, you’ve pretty much summed up the sometimes-entertaining feeling of puzzlement that comes after seeing a really good magic trick, ala Penn and Teller…

      N’ah, that would be blasphemy.

    • Ficino

      Good point. But a precision: is #1 better worded as “Nobody would die for what s/he believed was a lie”?

      • Hans-Richard Grümm

        Yes, that would be a better wording!

      • TheNuszAbides

        too bad the apologists who use it incessantly are more interested in rhetorical rhyme than precision.

  • rubaxter

    Can I haz your Hobnob?

    The fact that one Gospel can claim dead saints walked the streets in apparent celebration of this resurrection shows the context of the times and the fact that resurrection can only be considered on the level of a “round up the usual suspects” for that milieu. That’s not even considering the other off-the-cuff resurrections Jeebus pulls off in a nonchalant “Pick a card, any card” manner.

    As for ‘who would die for a lie’, ask the poor fools in the 7th Cavalry or the Manson Family.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      Ha ha! I’ve received both the fake car keys and the ‘quantum’ LEDs. The quantum nature of the LED does not influence your probability of winning, since it merely lights up a number pre-printed on a plastic strip to resemble a segmented number display.
      The ‘quantum’ device also contains a battery, so you should dispose of properly, which means please do not just throw it in the trash.

      • Michael Neville

        Disposing of batteries depend on what type of batteries you have. Mercury batteries are hazardous waste. Zinc-air batteries can be placed in household trash.

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

      Yes, that is a tasty-looking chocolate-covered tomb door.

  • Herald Newman

    Why is it, that with the “minimal facts” apologetic, that apologists always forget the most important fact: Dead people stay dead? Never once have we established brain dead people coming back to life, and after 36 hours in a Jerusalem tomb Jesus would certainly have been brain dead, and probably starting to stink.

    Apologists, and Christian in general, love to ignore this little fact. They’ll argue that because some people sincerely believed, their (essentially) impossible story is more likely to be true.

    • wtfwjtd

      I always get the feeling that the underlying theme for Habermas’s “minimal facts” argument is this: The more outrageous, outlandish, and improbable a story’s claim is, the less evidence that is required to demonstrate its veracity.

      Seriously, the Jesus story seems plausible enough–though I’m not necessarily convinced that it actually happened, especially the way the gospels report it. But then–we get to that clunker of an ending, and for me, that’s where the wheels really fall off the wagon. It’s one thing to claim your magic man is wandering the countryside doing parlor tricks and healing a few folk. It’s quite another to claim that your magician can now do something that has never been done before. And that has, in fact, been shown to be quite impossible. And is still, to this day, quite an impossible feat.
      When we jump from a common narrative to an impossible occurrence, now we are going to need some serious coo-berating evidence; a couple of stories just don’t cut it any more. The apologist just can’t seem to grasp this, for whatever reason.

      • epeeist

        Perhaps he is channelling Tertulian:

        The Son of God was crucified: there is no shame, because it is shameful.
        And the Son of God died: it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd.
        And, buried, He rose again: it is certain, because impossible.

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

          And this guy is a scholar?

        • TheNuszAbides

          he may or may not have been a jurist (Britannica says “most likely not[ ]but[ ]disputed”). “Doc” Jerome said he was ordained (“challenged by some modern scholars”). otherwise i just see “literary pursuits” and “propagandist”.

          Tertullian is usually considered the outstanding exponent of the outlook that Christianity must stand uncompromisingly against its surrounding culture.
          Recent scholarship has tended to qualify this interpretation, however. Because he was a moralist rather than a philosopher by temperament—which
          probably precipitated his famous question, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”—Tertullian’s practical and legal bent of mind
          expressed what would later be taken as the unique genius of Latin Christianity. Like most educated Christians of his day, he recognized
          and appreciated the values of the Greco-Roman culture, discriminating between those he could accept and those he had to reject.

          –Enc.Brit. (Robert L. Wilken)

        • Kevin K

          Of course, you have to then give credit to all of the other dead-and-resurrected gods. Osiris, Mithras, Krishna…and on and on. Someone has to have a list.

          Wasn’t it Tertulian who said you could believe the claims of Christianity because they were no different from the claims of the other religions? At the time, they just wanted a place at the table, so it would make sense to say “we’re no different from any other religion; why single ours out?”

          Only later, when Christianity became the official religion of the empire, did that position change. Suddenly, all those other religions were lies, planted by Santa.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Wasn’t it Tertulian who said you could believe the claims of Christianity because they were no different from the claims of the other religions?

          i kept remembering it as “it must be believed because it is so unbelievable”, but here’s a more precise rundown:

          Credo quia absurdum is a Latin phrase that means “I believe because it is absurd.” It is a paraphrase of a statement in Tertullian’s work De Carne Christi (ca.203-206), “prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est”, which can be
          translated: “it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd”. The context is a defence of the tenets of orthodox Christianity against docetism:

          Crucifixus est Dei Filius, non pudet, quia pudendum est;et mortuus est Dei Filius, prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est;et sepultus resurrexit, certum est, quia impossibile.— (De Carne Christi V, 4)

          “The Son of God was crucified: there is no shame, because it is shameful.And the Son of God died: it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd.And, buried, He rose again: it is certain, because impossible.”

          another tidbit (^v from wiki-p.):

          The phrase does not express the Catholic Faith, as explained by Pope Benedict XVI:

          “The Catholic Tradition, from the outset, rejected the so-called “fideism”, which is the desire to believe against reason. Credo quia
          absurdum (I believe because it is absurd) is not a formula that interprets the Catholic faith.”

          which pretty much (in addition to his Montanism) explains why he’s not “St” or “Doc” Tertullian, despite his dozens of early apologetic screeds.

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

        Add to this that every Tom, Dick, or Harry god (or emperor) cheated death in the end. The Ancient Near East was full of ’em. So now Jesus did, too? Why should that be remarkable?

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

      The response I’ve heard is: Ah, but if people didn’t stay dead, then it wouldn’t be remarkable when Jesus did it, would it??

      • Tommy

        And thus they make the Resurrection trivial if they make that point. (Jesus came back to life? So what! It happens!)

        • Greg G.

          Jesus raised the ruler’s daughter in Mark 5:22,35, the widow’s son at Nain in Luke 7:11 and Lazarus in John 11:43.

          Elijah raised a boy. Elisha raised someone who was dead and buried while he was dead and being buried. Ezekiel 37:1-14 talks about an army of skeletons.

      • al kimeea

        But I thought Jebus was just a guy? At least, that’s another tack floating about. Apparently, we know more about the actual Jebus than we do about Genghis KHAAAAAN!

      • TheNuszAbides

        add to (or overlapping with) credulous-via-motivated-reasoning theists, Nones who are perfectly comfortable with the superhumanist fantasy that Exceptional Folks can accomplish Amazing Feats … not that I’m aware of anybody attempting to back this up, beyond, i dunno, treating Edgar Cayce as a sage or something.

    • G.Shelley

      If Jesus did come back, and he is the only person ever, that would be somewhere around 1 in 10 billion. So for this to be more likely than the other explanations – fake, fantasy etc, we would probably need to be able to say that their probabliity is less than 1 in 10 billion

      • Ignorant Amos

        Oh it would be a lot more than 1 in 10 billion.

      • Herald Newman

        There have been an estimated 100 billion humans who have lived in the history of our species.

        The Christian will likely concede that naturalistic returns from brain death are impossible, and that it was because Jesus was God that he was able to bring himself back from brain death.

        The null hypothesis should tell us to start with the assumption that there is no relationship between any action (natural or supernatural), and coming back from brain death. We should assign the probability of 0 to resurrection until such time that we can establish that resurrections can actually happen.

        • G.Shelley

          I would agree with this, I was thinking more on the lines of they are arguing that the disciples acting how they are described is a bit unlikely if Jesus didn’t rise, so he must have been resurrected without considering the probability of that event.
          Of course, once you bring in the supernatural and miracles, probabilities go out of the window, but they can also be used to argue anything. Perhaps the reason that the disciples acted like they did was a miracle itself – some god being came down and messed with their minds. Or gave them miraculous visions of a risen Jesus without an actual one.
          Or probably a hundred other possible explanations we can use if we are allowed to just make things up without regard to evidence and how likely something is.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        If Jesus did come back, and he is the only person ever

        Wrong. According to Christians, Lazarus also came back from the dead (John 11). Then there was a large zombie invasion after the very real but historically undetected earthquake (matt 27:52).

        • RichardSRussell

          I always enjoy asking Christian apologists about their take on the zombie apocalypse.

        • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

          I think Jesus is still different, because the claim is not that he rose mortal and lived life again (as most assume Lazarus etc. did), but rose to be immortal, having a body which was still an ordinary body (wounds on it, eating, etc.), but was somehow able to rise into heaven.

    • TheNuszAbides

      that minimal fact, plus the one about ‘returning from the dead’ being neither an original nor unique trope at the time, should be a one-two punch that at least gives Trubes pause. but then of course they wouldn’t be Trubes.

  • primenumbers

    Habermas treats his “minimal facts” as a solid foundation to reach out to his needed (and pre-determined) conclusion. This is not a sustainable conclusion because his minimal facts are already at the limit of what historical method can tell us. If historical method was capable of reliably achieving his needed resurrection as “fact”, then that would be a historical fact and his argument would be unnecessary.

    • primenumbers

      In other words, the reason this argument exists is because historical method doesn’t provide him with the answer he needs. He dresses up his argument as one of historical method to make it look appealing, but he is not using (but instead abusing) historical method. This is the apologetic twist – pretend you’re doing history to appear rational.

    • TheNuszAbides

      if only the people who lap up his work cared about the sustainability of conclusions. all that actually matters is the hot-air-and-emotional-buttons foundation; but there’s an extra marketing niche in dressing it up with academic flourishes. plus, of course, “tradition”.

  • MR

    It just seems to me like so much mental masturbation for Christian apologists to spend so much time and effort examining the historical claims of two thousand year old plus texts, when supposedly we’re talking about the most powerful force in the universe that is moving and shaking things up even as we speak.

    I mean, if God and Jesus are active agents in the world today, and they love us so much and want us to know them, why can’t Christians just point and say, “I’m talking about them. Then atheists would say, “Oh, well, why didn’t you say so?” Why all this effort to justify ancient, text fragments relating fantastical stuff that no one can verify, and no one in their right mind would believe if they had been discovered for the first time today?

    • Tommy

      Because if they did that. There would be no more apologists.

    • al kimeea

      why can’t Christians just point and say, “I’m talking about them.

      funny how when one of them appears, they’re quickly fitted for a sweater with very long sleeves

      • MR

        Or eaten with butter and jam.

      • TheNuszAbides

        well, that could just be the War on Christians in full effect 😉 — what’s more telling is that the clinic-bomber strain of Trube can’t be bothered to spring any of these schmucks from their institutions.

    • TheNuszAbides

      because people ask questions …. blahblah challenge our faith blahblah

  • Kev Green

    “Who would die for a lie?”

    See Jonestown or the Hale-Bopp cult.

    Why should we believe it impossible for people back then to be deluded by a charismatic cult leader? It happens all the time today. People have an enormous ability to overlook inconvenient truths when they’re being told what they want to hear.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Muslim suicide bombers.

    • Kevin K

      Joseph Smith was killed by an angry mob. If anyone knew he was a fraud and a charlatan, it was that fraud and charlatan.

      • RichardSRussell

        “The difference between a cult and a religion: In a cult there is a person at the top who knows it’s a scam, and in a religion that person is dead.” —anonymous

  • Trent Horn

    How do you know an ancient writing is a fictional story vs. a non-fictional recounting. What standard are you using? Let’s set aside the supernatural. Martyrdom happens all the time so on what basis are you saying the accounts of persecution and martyrdom we find in the New Testament, Josephus, Tacitus, and the early Church fathers in relation to early Christians and also the apostles are fictional?

    • Greg G.

      Historians discount accounts regarding miracles and magic. We can do that with the Gospel of Mark. We can also note that the miracles are replications of the miracles of Elijah, Elisha, those in the Homeric epics, and Vespasian propaganda. Then we can apply that to the non-miracle parts of Mark. What is left is travel from one missing adventure to the next. Mark is a piece of literature, not a historical document.

      Since we find so many stories of Mark in the other three canonical gospels, we can toss out the Markan bits and the other miracles. Then we can see that the other gospel authors were using other texts to attribute to Jesus. So we can rule out the gospels from the non-fiction ledger and into religious fictional literature.

      When we stop reading the gospels back into the epistles, we can notice that the early epistles only speak of Jesus in terms of Old Testament verses, not as a recent first century person.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Martyrdom happens all the time so on what basis are you saying the accounts of persecution and martyrdom we find in the New Testament, Josephus, Tacitus, and the early Church fathers in relation to the apostles are fictional?

      Even granting all the accounts of martyrdom and persecution are not fiction for the sake of argument, what do you think that verifies?

      • Trent Horn

        My response was to Bob’s assertion that the disciple’s proclamation and martyrdom’s was “just a story.” If the disciples like Peter and James knew Jesus and they proclaimed he bodily rose from the dead in the face of martyrdom and persecution then we need to explain that. Lying, hallucinating, or telling the truth seem to be the top 3 contenders for an explanation if minimal facts are correct.

        • Joe

          What about mistaken belief?

          How do you account for Islamic martyrdom?

        • Trent Horn

          Modern Muslim martyrs are not in a position to know their faith isn’t true, unlike the apostles. Plus, it’s much more likely to be mistaken about God giving you a new message to preach (which would be the case for Muhammad) then to be mistaken about talking to a friend who had just died. The latter would involve hallucination rather than merely being mistaken.

        • Greg G.

          There were many different Christianities back then. None of the early epistles were written by someone who knew anything about the gospel stories. How would you know what they were dying for?

          The noble deaths arose much later as if different Christian groups were trying to one up the noble death of their apostolic heritage. There are accounts of multiple deaths of some of them so we know that some of the accounts are fiction. We don’t know if any are not fiction.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Modern Muslim martyrs are not in a position to know their faith isn’t true, unlike the apostles.

          What about not-so-modern Muslim’s? What about the first converts to Islam?

          And certainly most of the Christians that were persecuted and martyred were not in a position to know their faith was true either.

          And we still haven’t established the apostles, who you’ve yet to list, actually seen a resurrected Jesus or just believed in a resurrected Jesus.

          Plus, it’s much more likely to be mistaken about God giving you a new message to preach (which would be the case for Muhammad) then to be mistaken about talking to a friend who had just died.

          Because Christianity isn’t a new message being preached, right? Behave yerself Trent. It’s no more likely to be anymore a new message about a god than any other revision of a religion. Catholicism, in it’s multitude of guises, is a new message. Then there is the many faceted new messages of Protestantism. All beliefs that come complete with their own martyrs.

          It’s fun to watch Catholics presuppose that everything in the NT is without flaw or misinterpretation, that they are direct descendants from the one true Faith, and that the apostles actually spoke with their “friend”, rather than it being made up. But there is no way Mo rode a flying horse and had a chat with an archangel, or Smith got his gold tablets from an angel and we have the actual eyewitness accounts of those that were there and seen it with their own eyes.

          The latter would involve hallucination rather than merely being mistaken.

          Or it is a mistaken interpreted account by the later authors, or made up as a literary motive and embellishment to put a celestial being on Earth.

          Have you ever heard of Ned Ludd? To all intents and purposes, he didn’t exist…but that didn’t stop their being martyrs to the cause built up around him.

          The British government sought to suppress the Luddite movement with a mass trial at York in January 1813, following the attack on Cartwrights mill at Rawfolds near Cleckheaton. The government charged over 60 men, including Mellor and his companions, with various crimes in connection with Luddite activities. While some of those charged were actual Luddites, many had no connection to the movement. Although the proceedings were legitimate jury trials, many were abandoned due to lack of evidence and 30 men were acquitted. These trials were certainly intended to act as show trials to deter other Luddites from continuing their activities. The harsh sentences of those found guilty, which included execution and penal transportation, quickly ended the movement.

          You seem to be under the impression that there is something special about the beliefs of the Christianity’s that the believers in other beliefs just don’t have and it’s nonsense.

          You are basing this all on a who knows how many hands account in an ancient book that some alleged followers witnessed a dead man walking. While at the same time, poo-pooing the claims of those that hold equally ridiculous belief claims. How bizarre is that?

        • Raging Bee

          Modern Muslim martyrs are not in a position to know their faith isn’t true, unlike the apostles.

          Assertion without evidence.

        • Ignorant Amos

          If the disciples like Peter and James knew Jesus and they proclaimed he bodily rose from the dead in the face of martyrdom and persecution then we need to explain that.

          Did Peter and James, or any of the apostles know Jesus? What’s the evidence they did? What if they just believed that Jesus resurrected as per Paul?

          Lying, hallucinating, or telling the truth seem to be the top 3 contenders for an explanation if minimal facts are correct.

          Well lying and hallucinating are more plausible than it being the truth, but that still doesn’t rule out belief…if the martyrs are not a retelling of stories by those later authors in the New Testament, or Josephus, Tacitus, and the early Church fathers, but really were persecuted, they still fall into the same problem that every other believer that was prepared to go to their deaths for misguided religious beliefs…ever.

          Or the whole story is an embellished work of fiction.

        • Rudy R

          Joseph Smith was considered a martyr. Does that prove the veracity of Mormonism?

        • Trent Horn

          Martydom doesn’t by itself prove veracity, only sincerity. I’m saying the apostles didn’t just make up the story. They were also in a position to know if it was not true. Joseph Smith was not a martyr. He died in a shootout in a jail and was still trying to protect the power he accumulated through his preaching so he had a motive to court danger through his activities that is not found in the disciples of Jesus.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Martydom doesn’t by itself prove veracity, only sincerity.

          Sincerity to what though? Sincere people have died or sacrificed their freedom for a cause that was erroneous loads of times.

          I’m saying the apostles didn’t just make up the story.

          We know where it came from already. Paul tells us. The apostles just have to believe the source. The story of Jesus is testament to itself that it is a progression of embellishment as time progresses.

          They were also in a position to know if it was not true.

          Only if you are the sort that takes the gospels and The Acts as accurate historical accounts and read them back into the Pauline corpus, but it is demonstrable that the gospels and The Acts are not accurate historical accounts at all.

          Joseph Smith was not a martyr. He died in a shootout in a jail and was still trying to protect the power he accumulated through his preaching so he had a motive to court danger through his activities that is not found in the disciples of Jesus.

          Oh please, serisly? The irony here is rife. You’d do well to learn what Mormon’s believe before making such a comment.

          https://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/content/images/gospel-library/manual/PD10052298/martyrdom-of-joseph-smith_1440564_prt.pdf

        • Rudy R

          The apostles could have sincerely believed in a falsehood, as did Joseph Smith. We don’t know that the the apostles were in a position to know, because the accounts were handed down orally before they were written and we only have copies of copies of copies of the Gospels and Epistles. Set aside that Joseph Smith was a charlatan, his followers believed he was a martyr.

        • Greg G.

          If the disciples like Peter and James knew Jesus and they proclaimed he bodily rose from the dead

          1 Corinthians 15:3-8 claims that Jesus died for sins, was buried, and rose on the third day according to the scriptures. How could Cephas, the twelve, the five hundred, James, and Paul have witnessed the “died for sins” part?

          According to which scriptures? The “died for sins” would be Isaiah 53:5. The buried part comes from Isaiah 53:9. The “raised on the third day” comes from Hosea 6:2.

          Paul uses the Greek word “optanomai” for each of the “appeared to”. That means he didn’t think Cephas’ and James’ “appeared to” was any different than his own. But Paul never says that he ever saw that happen. All he ever talks about was revelations from reading scripture. Everything he wrote about Jesus came from the Old Testament, primarily the prophets, Deuteronomy, and Psalms. This explains how Paul could say in 2 Corinthians 11:4-6 and 2 Corinthians 12:11 that his knowledge was not inferior to the “super-apostles”.

          Paul is telling us that Cephas saw this in the scriptures first. He was apparently able to convince a dozen others who spread the word to a half a thousand more before James and Paul became convinced as well.

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

          How could Cephas, the twelve, the five hundred, James, and Paul have witnessed the “died for sins” part?

          The Christians who argue that this was an early creed that dated back to a few years after the crucifixion shoot themselves in the foot, as you point out. If it’s a creed that’s something stated as a belief. It’s not an apologetic. “We believe X” is helpful if we’re wondering what they believe, but it doesn’t give (nor is it intended to) evidence to support that.

          And why call them “the twelve” if Jesus appeared only to the Judas-less eleven?

        • Greg G.

          Good points.

          And why call them “the twelve” if Jesus appeared only to the Judas-less eleven?

          It reads as if Cephas was not one of the twelve, either, as it doesn’t say the rest of the twelve (eleven). James is also out.

        • Pofarmer

          Which is just more evidence of interpolation.

        • Greg G.

          I don’t think it is interpolated. I think it is just being read incorrectly. Paul is not saying they saw a manifestation of Jesus, he is just saying they read something in the scriptures that lead them to believe the Suffering Servant was an actual person who died for sins, was intercessing in heaven, and then their “coming Messiah” beliefs fell in place on top of that. That is what he means by “according to the scriptures”.

          I think the twelve may have been a municipal office out of the temple. I read that there was a manager for each gate in Jerusalem and their superiors. Mark just made them disciples.

        • Pofarmer

          In this case I was referring only to the singular reference to the 12 in the Epistles of Paul.

        • Greg G.

          Mark gives Jesus three main sidekicks, the same guys mentioned in Galatians 2:9. Judas plays a significant role as the heel lifter in Psalm 41:9. Andrew gets mentioned a second time but none of the others appear again. They had to be mentioned for some reason and I am willing to accept that he got the number from 1 Corinthians 15. It’s as good a place as any. Mark may have used the names of the disciples to make some points, like Bartholomew might be Aramaic for “son of Ptolemy” to represent Egyptian Christians. Bartimaeus means “son of Timaeus” which might represent followers of Plato joining up, but he wasn’t a disciple so the names could be other characters and not disciples. But it seems that Mark was trying to get twelve names when he only needed four disciples.

        • Pofarmer

          12 is a theologically signifigant as well as astrologically signifigant number. You already mentioned the 12 gates of the temple. I don’t think that’s a random number. I still think, given that this is the only mention of the 12 in the Pauline Corpus, plus that it reads just fine without it, that this is a later interpolation to jive Paul with the Gospels. I’m with Truth Surge on this one.

        • Ignorant Amos

          There seems to be very little that is off limits as interpolation, or even a gloss insertion, in the Pauline Corpus by the looks of things.

          Why Many Interpolations in Paul’s Letters are Very Likely

          http://vridar.org/2017/05/26/why-many-interpolations-in-pauls-letters-are-very-likely/

        • Pofarmer

          Well, and once again I’ll just say, we’re generally arguing over uncertain translations of ambiguous passages of works that we don’t have any idea how they were originally written that we know have been changed. It’s crazy.

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

          There seems to be two literary tropes colliding here, the Twelve apostles vs. the Traitor. In Revelation there are two groups of 12 (12 Tribes + 12 Apostles, I’m assuming), but then this (as in 1 Cor.) conflicts with the Traitor story. You really can’t have them both.

          Have you read/thought much about this?

        • Greg G.

          No, I haven’t studied Revelation very much, for the same reasons I don’t do drugs.

          Josephus description of the temple shows a relationship to what we call astrology, the Four Elements of Greek thought, the seven planets (they include the sun and moon), and the structure of the universe as laid out in the OT. The twelves are analogous to the astrological signs.

          I can’t recall the details ATM, but there’s an OT story of two families with 12 brothers fighting that was probably from a myth about the 12 hours of the day battling the 12 hours of the night. Samson and Delilah is another story of that genre.

        • TheNuszAbides

          No, I haven’t studied Revelation very much, for the same reasons I don’t do drugs.

          with the drugs, you can skip study and just write a fresh one.

        • Philmonomer

          If the disciples like Peter and James knew Jesus and they proclaimed he bodily rose from the dead in the face of martyrdom and persecution then we need to explain that.

          I suspect Christ, and his followers, were already courting martyrdom and persecution before Jesus was killed. Indeed, we see this in the Gospels (and Acts) as to how they were perceived/received by many at the time. The disciples believed the Kingdom of God was at hand, and that people needed to prepare for the coming world order. Given that they were willing to court it before, should we be surprised they were willing to court it after he was killed?

          Once Jesus died, people in the movement then came to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead–this was the first fruits of the coming Kingdom. Some may have seen hallucinations, some may have been willing to believe. Some may have heard stories told and retold, embellished like Urban Legends. A friend of a friend heard it, or saw it, or knew of it. Things like that. People come to believe crazy stuff all the time. Which do you think is more likely, committed followers of Christ came, in his death, to see that it was all a sham, or committed followers of Christ came, in this death, to see the fulfillment of all that he said? Which is more likely a thing for committed followers to do? (What have other followers of other religious leaders done?)

          The top contender is that they were willing believers, where either some had hallucinations (sightings), and/or others came to believe in the (erroneous) stories of others’ hallucinations (sightings).

          Remember, indeed, the very first sighting of him! No one even recognized him! How completely bizarre.

          Finally, there have been thousands of Catholics who have seen Mary (including mass sightings of her). I suspect you don’t believe in those. Surely something similar happened here with Jesus.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Finally, there have been thousands of Catholics who have seen Mary (including mass sightings of her). I suspect you don’t believe in those. Surely something similar happened here with Jesus.

          Trent is a Catholic apologist.

          https://trenthorn.com/

        • Philmonomer

          Huh. It look like he probably does believe in the sightings of Mary.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          Lying, hallucinating, or telling the truth seem to be the top 3 contenders for an explanation if minimal facts are correct.

          You need to break that down further. It could be that the apostles were lying about having seen Jesus. Or it could be that the person telling the story about the apostles is lying.

        • TheNuszAbides

          there’s also a disappointing lack of imagination when they try to debunk any level of lying as though there could only be one motivation (or even a whopping two!) for doing so.

        • Raging Bee

          A lot of people doggedly supported Communist revolutionary movements in the face of persecution and martyrdom. Does that make Communism a valid ideology or political program?

        • Trent Horn

          Martyrdom doesn’t by itself prove validity. It proves sincerity. People die for things they sincerely believe in so this would preclude the disciples of Jesus lying about the resurrection if they willingly died for that belief.

        • Raging Bee

          If martyrdom doesn’t prove validity, then it doesn’t prove squat, and you’re just wasting everyone’s time talking about it.

        • Otto

          Self delusion…or just plain delusion, or being wrong.

        • Philmonomer

          Trent,

          FWIW, I feel like my explanation does a pretty good job explaining it. Indeed, I feel like it is overwhelmingly likely to be true (much, much more likely to be true than Jesus really rising from the dead.)

    • Joe

      How do you know an ancient writing is a fictional story vs. a non-fictional recounting.

      You don’t, and probably never will.

      What standard are you using?

      Parsimony. What standard are you using?

      Martyrdom happens all the time so on what basis are you saying the accounts of persecution and martyrdom we find in the New Testament, Josephus, Tacitus, and the early Church fathers in relation to early Christians and also the apostles are fictional?

      The basis of a lack of complementary evidence. Plus we know people don’t have milk running through their body, don’t we?

    • epeeist

      What standard are you using?

      All sorts of things, as Joe notes parsimony would be one thing. Others might include internal coherence without the presence of ad hoc features, internal consistency, external consistency (i.e. with other things for which we have solid evidence and with broad metaphysical principles), consilience over time. And of course, given that we can raise multiple hypotheses to explain a particular set of phenomena whether the ancient writing in question provides the best explanation.

    • Kevin K

      What standard am I using? Modern historical standards.

      I would expect that there would be contemporaneous eyewitness accounts of the non-miracle events associated with a person who preached to thousands, declared himself to be the new king by riding into Jerusalem in advance of Passover (a ANNUAL pilgrimage akin to the Hajj for Muslims today), overturning the money-changing tables at the temple (an act analogous to scaling the White House fence, getting inside the building, and socking Trump on the nose), and being executed after a show trial (which doesn’t make any sense the way the story is told).

      We have none of that. None. Show me one extra-biblical source who was in Jerusalem at the time and place who chronicles ANY of those events, and we can start having a discussion. You can’t.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        … who was in Jerusalem at the time…

        Even pinpointing the alleged time is tough, because of the failure of the NT accounts to align with known historical events and reigns.

        • Kevin K

          Yes, that 10-year difference between the stories does make it a problem…however, again, if those events had actually and really occurred, they should have been and would have been remarked upon by the people who were there at the time. And then there wouldn’t be a discrepancy in the dates — we’d have an historical account of “in the 9th year of Tiberius’ reign” or “in the 19th year of Tiberius’ reign”. There would be an historical anchoring point. No one questions when Tiberius became emperor, nor when he died and Caligula took over.

  • Tommy
    • al kimeea

      In a chopper no less

      • Tommy

        while under heavy enemy gunfire

        • Raging Bee

          …from the Grassy Knoll?

  • G.Shelley

    Habernas uses Mara Bar Serapion as evidence Jesus was crucified? If he is doing that, he isn’t even trying to be honese

    • Kevin K

      Gotta say that’s a new one on me.

  • G.Shelley

    Much of it seems to fall into the same flawed pattern that is common in apologetics – Look at something, declare it unlikely under an alternate hypothesis, then declare your favoured one wins by default.
    No effort is made to determine if yours is also unlikely (or even more unlikely), or to examine other facts that might fit the other hypothesis better.

  • Kitsune Inari

    And then there’s Fact #0: That Jesus was a real person that actually existed to begin with. This claim has as much evidential support as the claim that Dwayne Johnson is the tooth fairy does.

    • Objective Judgment

      Actually, considerably more. We know the tooth fairy does not exist so it would require special evidence, and anyway no-one is claiming that Dwayne is actually the tooth fairy. With Jesus, it would be entirely unsurprising that there was an inspirational Jewish preacher called Jesus in 1st century CE Palestine, and we have written accounts of him arguably written within living memory or based on oral accounts existing within living memory.

      • Greg G.

        But if Dwayne Johnson’s little girls thought the Tooth Fairy looked just like their daddy, would you be willing to dispel that idea if their Tooth Fairy was present?

        • Objective Judgment

          I’m sorry, I don’t know what this means.

        • Greg G.

          Dwayne Johnson, aka “The Rock”, movie star, former pro wrestler, former college football player, is big. He has two daughters so he likely played the role of Tooth Fairy to them. You probably wouldn’t want to anger someone with his size and muscles by hurting his daughters’ feelings by telling them there was no Tooth Fairy.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/349ed6fd2a8002252028782c8c8d042ab5311a7377e3ce80d4c2afd788425194.jpg

        • Objective Judgment

          Yikes. I concede the point.

        • Ignorant Amos
        • Kitsune Inari

          In addition to what Greg said, Dwayne starred the 2010 film “Tooth Fairy” as the titular fairy. This is where my joke comes from.

        • Objective Judgment

          Got it, sorry for being dense!

        • Greg G.

          I had forgotten about the movie, too. When KI mentioned it, I had a recollection of once deciding I would never pay to see that one.

        • MR

          You would never pay to see it, but if you were channel surfing and it just happened to be on….

        • Greg G.

          Heck, no. I’d be doing what I’m doing now.

          Maybe if I was in a foreign country with no internet available, one English TV channel, and it was on, then I would watch it.

          That happened when I was in Hanoi. It was a boy and his dog movie and I had missed the first few minutes but they kept mentioning small towns near where I grew up. It was followed by the sequel and it became clear that the setting was a town with a population of 125 right across the river from my hometown. I had never heard of those movies but discovered them on the other side of the planet.

        • MR

          Mm-hmm, Greg. You’re starting to sound like our apologist friends, here. “Oh, I’d NEVER do that, unless….” Move goal posts much? Change the subject and hope we won’t notice much? You know you wanna see it. C’mon, admit it. You can’t fool us. 😉

        • Objective Judgment

          My girls grew up just in time so I didn’t have to see it. Bullet dodged!

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

      Hold on–have you seen Dwayne Johnson and the tooth fairy in the same room together?

      Just sayin’.

  • Ficino

    I think a lot of the supporting details of the story are extremely fishy. Jesus harrows hell, triumphs over death, and then hides out and shows himself only to little groups? And why only to his disciples and not the whole of Israel, as he supposedly did in the form of God who gave the covenant to all Israel at once at Sinai? Why the mystification? He was afraid he’d be captured by the Romans again?

    From the POV of the people defending the story, Jesus’ resurrection is the MOST STUPENDOUS AND SIGNIFICANT event in history. The God that did it is omnipotent. Why is it so poorly evidenced? Why the cat and mouse games?

    • Kevin K

      Not merely why hide from the world while walking the Earth. Why hide in heaven now? What’s the point? Humans don’t seem to have gotten any better at morals/ethics/meta-ethics in the intervening 2000 years.

      It’s “The Dog Ate My Homework” all over again. We’re being told to accept that something happened without the least shred of empirical justification.

    • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

      Interesting point. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be kicked off till after the miracle of Pentecost showing the public that Jesus’ power had been delegated to his disciples.

      Just on the harrowing of hell, though, since I came from a denomination that denied hell, I tend to forget it is even a concept.
      None of the gospels talk about it: They just have Jesus dead, then resurrected.
      It only really comes from later letter(s) (Wikipedia says 1 Peter with a possible reference in Ephesians).

  • Kevin K

    It would be easy for Habermas to prove without a shadow of a doubt that his version of events is true.

    Produce the living Jesus.

    Absent that, his arguments don’t sway me any more than the claims of people who say they were abducted and anal-probed by aliens.

    • Herald Newman

      How would you know he produced the living Jesus? How would you confirm that the person you’re looking at is actually Jesus?

      • Kevin K

        A. Holes in his hands, feet and sides.
        B. Ability to magically heal the sick, change water into wine, make fig trees wither with a glance, walk on water, raise the dead, communicate instantly with everyone in their native tongues, etc.

        We’re talking about a risen god-man here. That’s the Habermas claim. One would expect that the risen Jesus would have the same magical abilities as the pre-risen Jesus.

        • Herald Newman

          My question goes deeper than that. We don’t have a way to determine any kind of supernatural causation, and that’s what we’re talking about here. If Jesus is actually using magic, there is no known methodology we have that can establish this, and at best we would have no explanation for what’s going on. To accept that this person was actually Jesus, and using supernatural powers to do is to accept an argument from ignorance.

          After all, what’s more likely: That Jesus is actually using magic, or that you’re being cleverly deceived? Assuming that Jesus was an alien with advanced technology seems much more likely than supernatural powers.

        • Kevin K

          Well, if someone with holes in his hands, feet, and side were to be produced or suddenly appear, speak perfect English in a Cleveland-tinged accent, and could change my water into wine, cure my hemorrhoids and male pattern baldness, and bring my father back from the dead (currently, a small piece of him is on my mantle) … I’d worship that sumbitch if that’s what he wanted. Because free wine, no hemorrhoids, and my dad back.

        • Greg G.

          Yeah, but the wine would have to be the best wine ever.

        • Kevin K

          I find the best wine ever to be the kind that is free.

        • Ignorant Amos

          No way…communion wine tastes like pish…and not of the angelic kind either.

        • Kevin K

          It’s been a while since I had communion wine, but you’re right. Plus, you only get a single sip!

        • Ignorant Amos

          It’s been a while for me too…but I can’t see the miserable bastards spending money on any improvement, especially as the fuckwits believe the stuff changes to the blood of Christ shortly after imbibing the crap.

        • Kevin K

          Vampirism!

        • Otto

          Symbolic ritual cannibalism

        • Michael Neville
        • Kevin K
        • TheNuszAbides
        • Otto

          Like angels pissing on your tongue!

        • Kevin K

          BTW and FWIW: Bringing someone back from the dead…really, really dead in the case of my dad (5 years post-cremation) would be a level of technological achievement that would be absolutely indistinguishable from a godly miracle…so, I’d accept whatever claim that creature made.

        • Ignorant Amos

          As per Arthur C. Clarke’s third Law.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Because free wine, no hemorrhoids, and my dad back.

          The mere promise of such things is enough to get most folk on the Christian train wreck.

        • Kevin K

          Of course, those promises are only fulfilled after you’re dead!

        • Herald Newman

          Fair enough

        • Kevin K

          The point being, what would change my mind? Evidence! You can bring a certain level of skepticism to that evidence, but at the end of the day, if all of the evidences line up, then you’re going to be a massive hypocrite yourself to not accept it. I bring the same level of skepticism as I would to a new scientific claim (like plate tectonics, for example, or confirmation of the Higgs field/boson). But when my skepticism is satisfied, then what’s left is either acceptance or denialism.

          I’m perfectly fine with accepting Habermas’ claim that Jesus was resurrected. Just as soon as Jesus shows up himself to tell me so.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Evidence! You can bring a certain level of skepticism to that evidence, but at the end of the day, if all of the evidences line up, then you’re going to be a massive hypocrite yourself to not accept it. I bring the same level of skepticism as I would to a new scientific claim (like plate tectonics, for example, or confirmation of the Higgs field/boson). But when my skepticism is satisfied, then what’s left is either acceptance or denialism.

          But only when the conclusion for the hypothesis is the best explanation for the data. It seems to me that just about every other hypothesised explanation of the “evidence” for the Resurrection is preferable to the conclusion that it was a supernatural event

          Edit to add missing underlined bit.

        • Kevin K

          Yes, but that’s true of all miracle claims, isn’t it? The default assumption is a natural explanation. Breaking the laws of physics in the way changing water into wine or reconstructing a human being out of charred bone dust would entail would beggar a natural explanation. That’s why I don’t ever bother arguing the “Argument From Miracles”. Gods can do what they want. But if you want me to believe those miracles actually occurred, then you’re going to have to show me evidence of it. Continuous flow of wine from a water well, for example, or perfect health for believers in whatever flavor of deity wills it so…and so on. As it is, we have the claims of miracles without the proof of miracles.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Yes, it is true of all miracle claims…and I’m not suggesting that it is exclusive to the Resurrection.

          As per Hume, miracles are the least probable explanation for any hypothesis.

          Given that every supernatural hypothesis ever claimed and subsequently solved in the history of mankind has not once been explained by something supernatural, I’m justified in holding the position I do, that any future explanation currently being explained by the supernatural, will turn out not to be that. “I have reasonable expectations based on prior evidence.”

        • Herald Newman

          The point being, what would change my mind? Evidence!

          I agree, evidence would change my mind. I just don’t know what evidence for the supernatural would look like, nor do I know how to distinguish it from something natural that we don’t understand.

          if all of the evidences line up, then you’re going to be a massive hypocrite yourself to not accept it.

          Not really. “Miracles” alone aren’t going to do it for me. Without a methodology to establish that what’s going is actually supernatural (which is, let’s face it, what we’re really talking about), I’d be jumping to conclusions.

          Matt explains some of the problems in this video

        • Kevin K

          It’s pretty easy, actually. Miracles are an intentional and deliberate breaking of the laws of physics. As of this writing, we certainly know more than enough about the laws of physics to judge miracle claims against that standard. That might not have been the case centuries, or even maybe decades ago … but that’s no longer the case. We DO know the physics involved in changing water into wine … and unless you’ve got the power of a fusion reactor in your back pocket, it ain’t gonna happen.

        • eric

          We don’t have a way to determine any kind of supernatural causation

          Strong, credible, reproducible empirical evidence consistent with biblical miracle accounts would lead us to accept that the bible was probably accurate in describing (at least some) miracle events. Whether Jesus was really a deity, or a trickster alien using secret technology or something else is a separate question. An important one to people in that hypothetical situation, yes, but the point is that we can evaluate whether the bible is trustworthy in its miracle accounts without knowing how Jesus did those miracles. For that, we’d just need good evidence that Jesus did them.

          In science it’s often the case that an understanding that something happens or happened precedes a causal explanation of how it happened. That Mercury’s orbit precesses was known decades before the how was figured out. That organisms share structural similarities was known centuries before Darwin wrote his Origin of Species. So I think in some hypothetical scenario where we have strong, credible etc… evidence that biblical miracles occurred, it would be reasonable to accept that they did so even if we couldn’t figure out how they occurred.

        • Herald Newman

          Let start off by acknowledging that what we’re trying to do is establish that Christianity is true. We’re not doing something like trying to establish that what we may think of as miracles are possible.

          Now suppose that somebody claiming to be Jesus stands before you and performs a bunch of miracles in front of you. Does this tell us that the supernatural is real? Does this tell us that there’s a God? Does this tell us anything about an afterlife, or what will happen to you when you die?

          None of the essential claims of Christianity can be established by empirical means! If you went and accepted Christianity, because somebody claiming to be Jesus was able to perform miracles in front of you, then you would have no way of knowing if what you believe about Christianity is true or false. You’re essentially banking on “I don’t understand this event, it must be supernatural, and Jesus’ claims must be true.”

      • Joe

        How would you confirm that the person you’re looking at is actually Jesus?

        “White guy, beard, thinks exactly the same way I do about abortion and homosexuality…..”

        • Herald Newman

          Probably good enough for many Christians. :)

  • watcher_b

    If you came to me and told me that your great great great grandfather died and came back to life and is alive today and then I asked me for evidence of such a claim, I would argue that providing historical evidence actually hurts your case. “Look, here is my great great great grandfather’s birth and death certificate! Here are letters of people who say they saw him come back to life!”

    But… where is he now? Not that seeing someone who claims to be your great great great grandfather would be proof enough, but that would be the first thing to show. Not the last. And not being able to show him at all would be a deal breaker. Everything else would just be a distraction.

    • Kevin K

      It’s basically Sagan’s dragon. He’s in my garage now.

      • watcher_b

        Exactly. Providing “historical evidence” for Sagan’s dragon is evidence against the existence of the dragon, not for it. Because it stinks of desperation, not of proof.

      • Joe

        You remembered to feed the dragon, didn’t you?

        • Kevin K

          He eats manna from heaven.

  • Sophia Sadek

    And then there is the Gnostic story that one of his disciples took his place on the cross. My all-time favorite.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/ Bradley Bowen

    Thank you for taking on Gary Habermas’s Minimal Facts case for the resurrection of Jesus. Habermas is one of the best defenders of the resurrection. He is a sincere believer who has made a sincere attempt to build a scholarly rational case for the resurrection. I agree with you that he failed in this attempt, but his failure shows, more than in the case of other Christian apologists, that the evidence is just not there to make a solid historical case for the resurrection. If Habermas fails at this attempt, then it is unlikely that less serious and less sincere apologists will succeed where he failed.

    I agree with you that the evidence for Jesus death by crucifixion is not as strong as Habermas and other apologists claim it to be. Every event in the life of Jesus is subject to reasonable doubt, including the very existence of Jesus. There is a significant chance that there was no Jesus at all (Dr. Carrier estimates the probability of Jesus’ non-existence as 2 chances in 3, and I would estimate the probability of Jesus’ non-existence as about 1 chance in 3).

    There is also a significant chance that there was an historical Jesus who was a preacher and/or healer in 1st century Palestine, but the whole crucifixion story was a fictional addition to the life story of that preacher/healer, and there is also a chance that there was an historical Jewish preacher named Jesus who was crucified in the first Century, but who survived the crucifixion, either by being rescued (e.g. removed from the cross by a friend or follower), or by mistake (e.g. a Roman guard mistakenly judged Jesus to have died, and removed him from the cross while he was still alive).

    There is also a chance that there was both a man named “Jesus” who was a preacher in first century Palestine, and also another man named “Jesus” who died on the cross as a martyr, but that these were two different people, and their life stories got mixed-up together in oral story telling. There is also a possibility that there was an historical Jesus who was a preacher in first century Palestine, and that the Romans came looking for him when he was visiting Jerusalem, but the Romans grabbed the wrong guy, in a case of mistaken identity, and crucified someone who looked like Jesus, leading many of the followers of the Jesus preacher to believe that their religious leader had been killed by crucifixion, etc, etc.

    I also agree with your skepticism and reasonable doubts about the claim that there were many (about 11) close followers of Jesus who died martyr’s deaths for the claim that they had seen Jesus alive and well after his crucifixion. First of all, there is no good evidence that any of the male disciples of Jesus’ inner circle were present at the crucifixion, nor that they were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ death. So, even if they did in fact see Jesus alive and well some days after Jesus was ALLEGEDLY crucified, they simply would NOT KNOW that Jesus had risen from the dead. They would at most, only know that Jesus was alive after ALLEGEDLY being crucified. They simply were not in a position to KNOW that Jesus rose from the dead, because they were not in a position to KNOW that Jesus had in fact died on the cross.

    Your doubts about the martyrdom of the disciples of Jesus are reasonable. John P. Meier is one of the leading Jesus scholars of our day. He has written a multi-volume set of books on the historical Jesus. In A Marginal Jew, Volume III: Companions and Competitors, Meier walks through the historical evidence that we have about the disciples of Jesus, and concludes that we know very little about these men.

    You make some good points about the “Who would die for a lie?” However, I don’t think you have dealt with Habermas’s argument fairly here. You should carefully read his argument on this point, and carefully quote his argument, and then show what the problems are in it.

    One additional problem with the “Who would die for a lie?” argument is that even if we knew that the original inner circle of disciples all died martyr’s deaths, this is NOT sufficient to show that they all died for the claim that they saw Jesus risen from the dead. Perhaps you hint at this point, but the problem is that this is a fairly granular detail. We have no eyewitness accounts of the martyrdom of these disciples, and we certainly don’t have any reliable records or transcripts of what they said to the authorities who captured them and ordered their executions. They could have died simply as brave defenders of the Christian way of life, or out of love for their community of Christian believers, or as rebels against the authorities who hassled and persecuted Christians. We simply have no good historical evidence indicating the specific words and professed beliefs of these men at the time of their alleged trials and executions. So, even if all of Jesus disciples died martyr’s deaths, this does not get us to the more specific conclusion that they died over the specific belief that they had personally witnessed the risen Jesus.

    • Ignorant Amos

      There is a significant chance that there was no Jesus at all (Dr. Carrier estimates the probability of Jesus’ non-existence as 2 chances in 3, and I would estimate the probability of Jesus’ non-existence as about 1 chance in 3).

      Carrier is being biased in favour of the minimal historical Jesus hypothesis with his estimate of 1 chance in 3 for historicity in order to give the benefit of the doubt to the minimal historical Jesus hypothesis. He actually thinks the probability really isn’t as good as 1 in 3 and likely to be as strong as 1 in 12,000 for no historical Jesus.

      In other words, in my estimation the odds Jesus existed are less than 1 in 12,000. Which to a historian is for all practical purposes a probability of zero. For comparison, your lifetime probability of being struck by lightening is around 1 in 10,000. That Jesus existed is even less than that. Consequently, I am reasonably certain there was no historical Jesus. Nevertheless, as my estimates might be too critical (even though I don’t believe they are), I’m willing to entertain the possibility that the probability is better than that. But to account for that possibility, when I entertain the most generous estimates possible, I find I cannot by any stretch of the imagination believe the probability Jesus existed is better than 1 in 3. ~Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus, p. 600.

      There is only a 0% to 33% chance Jesus existed. Furthermore, given my analysis in Chapter 3, this means the probability that minimal mythicism is true is about 67% to 100% (and most likely nearer the high end of that range). ~Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus, p. 606.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/ Bradley Bowen

        Thank you for the info.

    • Ignorant Amos

      The “who would die for a lie” argument is pathetic.

      There is nothing to suggest there was an alternative. It is an assumption that there was a choice being offered to recant their beliefs or face getting executed.

      Bob has dealt with this argument extensively at ….. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/08/who-would-die-for-a-lie/

      Richard Carrier even cites Bob’s work on this issue as among the best out there in Carriers own blog.

      I’ve taken down this gullible argument before (see A Digression on Witnesses Being Willing to Die). I’ll quote that below. As have others (a good quick summary with links to the best examples is provided by Bob Seidensticker, and we must add to that Matthew Ferguson’s excellent and more recent survey in March to Martyrdom). The argument has really been dead for decades. Why Christians keep using it astonishes me. That they think it is convincing is proof positive that Christians are hopelessly gullible. Which is ironic. Because it is precisely the gullibility of Christians that collapses the argument itself. People often believe unwaveringly in things on very poor evidence (“people die for all kinds of bullshit,” as a dear friend once said—the Heaven’s Gate cult being a prominent example, where all the evidence that their belief was false was available; they died for it anyway). That’s why the “No One Would Die for a Lie” argument is so sad. Christians today don’t even know that by believing that argument, they are in themselves illustrating the very reason why that argument is unsound.

      http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/9978

      Then there is the examples of folk who did indeed die for a lie.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/ Bradley Bowen

        I agree that this is a bad argument. But it is important to criticize Habermas’s specific version of the argument rather than some generic version of it, in a critique of Habermas.

        • Ignorant Amos

          But that would mean going to the time, effort, and expense, of reading Habermas.

          Does he make any variations on the theme that are unique and would make such an investment worthwhile?

          Or do you know of an online source that outlines Habermas’s thesis, or would that be down to me to go hoking about for?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/ Bradley Bowen

          Since you are clearly interested and well-informed on this issue, I would recommend that you purchase a copy of The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Habermas and Licona. This is one of the best efforts by a Christian apologist to make a case for this Christian belief. You can get a used paperback copy for about $13.00 through Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Case-Resurrection-Jesus-Habermas-Gary/dp/B008CMECKC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1502645350&sr=8-2&keywords=The+case+for+the+resurrection+of+Jesus

          Habermas has his own web site on the resurrection, and there is lots of free materials there (more than I’m sure you would want to ever read): http://www.garyhabermas.com/

          I have a copy of The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, and will see if I can locate some quotes that indicate a specific slant on the “Who would die for a lie?” argument.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Here in the U.K. it’s £30 so that’s a non starter.

          https://www.amazon.co.uk/Case-Resurrection-Jesus-Habermas-2004-04-01/dp/B0184W5Y3I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502646494&sr=8-1&keywords=Case+for+the+Resurrection+of+Jesus+%2804%29+by+Habermas%2C+Gary+R+-+Licona%2C+Michael+%5BPaperback+%282004%29%5D+Paperback+%E2%80%93+2004

          I’ll take a look at the website link…thanks.

          I have a copy of The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, and will see if I can locate some quotes that indicate a specific slant on the “Who would die for a lie?” argument.

          That would be grand.

        • adam

          “”Who would die for a lie?” ”

          Iraq has WMDs – George Bush.

        • TheNuszAbides

          kill for a lie is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish (though they could overlap somewhere, but who knows how much).

        • Ignorant Amos

          I think Adam’s implication is all those service personnel that died because of Bush….and in my case, Blair’s, lies about the extent of Iraqi WMD’s.

        • Jim Jones

          It’s on the interwebz too.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/ Bradley Bowen

          On pages 59 and 60 of The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Habermas responds to some skeptical objections to the “Who would die for a lie?” argument. So, if you borrow a copy of this book from a library, or look at a copy of it in a used book store, you can go directly to those pages to see if there is anything unique about Habermas’ presentation of this argument.

          Here is a quote from page 59 that gets at what I was thinking about (as needing to be directly and specifically addressed):

          Of course the convitiction of the disciples that Jesus rose from the dead and had appeared to them does not necessarily mean they were right. The skeptic might object, “Followers of other religions and causes have willingly suffered and died for their beliefs. Even atheists have willingly died for the cause of communism. This does not mean that their beliefs were true or worthy.” Agreed, but this misses the point: The disciples’ willingness to suffer and die for their beliefs indicates that they certainly regarded those beliefs as true. The case is strong that they did not willfully lie about the appearances of the risen Jesus. Liars make poor martyrs.

          No one questions the sincerity of the Muslim terrorist who blows himself up in a public place or the Buddhist monk who burns himself alive as a political protest. Extreme acts do not validate the truth of their beliefs, but willingness to die indicates that they regarded their beliefs as true. Moreover, there is an important difference between the apostle martyrs and those who die for their beliefs today. Modern martyrs act solely out of their trust in beliefs that others have taught them. The apostles died for holding to their own testimony that they had personally seen the risen Jesus. Contemporary martyrs died for what they believe to be true. The disciples of Jesus died for what they knew to be either true or false.

          Those are some of the specific points Habermas makes on this issue that should be directly and specifically addressed.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Thank you.

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

          Habermas hasn’t made the case that anyone actually died because they refused to deny they seen the risen Jesus. He presumes they did from very unsatisfactory accounts as Bob and Carrier point out.

          It is important not to forget that, in actual fact, we have no reliable record of any eyewitness dying for their belief. The closest we have are brief mentions, like that of the execution of James the brother of John in Acts 12. But that is not an “account,” containing few details about the circumstances of his death, or whether recanting would have saved him, or what it actually was he thought he was dying for. All real martyrdom accounts are of converts, not witnesses, except for that of Peter. But the account of his death is first found in the Gnostic Acts of Peter, a tale which includes, among other things, a talking dog, a flying wizard, and the resurrection of a tunafish.

          The Pauline corpus is clear that the super apostles, the twelve, and the 500, “seen” Jesus as he himself, Paul, did. The story developed from what Sheehan states was a metaphor, to what would later become an actual real life event as described in the fictional gospels.

          There is a set of Sanford lectures worth a listen that are available free on Itunes by Sheehan if you are interested.

          https://itunes.apple.com/gb/itunes-u/historical-jesus/id384233911?mt=10

          Carrier takes the view that the Resurrection, as Paul tells it, was an actual celestial event that happened in the lowest realm of the seven heavens. Where there is an exact copy of everything that was here on Earth. A place that was a common motif in Judaism. That the archons of the age who Paul says crucified Jesus, were Satan and his demonic hordes. And that he and the others, seen this event in a vision. He makes a convincing and well supported argument. Much of his evidence is well understood and acknowledged by the scholarship.

          Habermas seems to be building his case on too much conjecture and unsupported assertions. He needs to demonstrate his premises are true, before any conclusion can begin to be considered. Good luck to him on that exercise.

          All we have are unreliable sources for the deaths of these three men. Not one is by an eyewitness to any of the three deaths. Not one cites or names any source for how they know anything about their death. And either we have accounts that are wholly not credible (being the very least credible kinds of sources you can ever have), or tell us nothing usable for the argument (not why they died, what for, or whether they could escape by recanting)—in fact, in many cases, both. These are simply not at all reliable records for establishing these guys witnessed a real resurrection rather than a seeming revelation; or witnessed anything at all, for they may have been dying for greater causes than that. For Dr. Bass to think otherwise exemplifies gullibility.

          All other Apostle martyrdoms aren’t even attested in credible sources, much less described in any credible sources. They only appear in very late, very ridiculous, wholly unsourced propaganda. Garbage, as far as historical sources go.

          And that’s where we are.

          1. There are so many ways people will die for a lie that the premise that no one does or would is plainly false.

          2. No credible sources record any witness dying for any specific claim or belief (they say neither why they were killed, what they were dying for, or whether recanting would even save them).

          3. No eyewitness source exists or is even mentioned for their even having been killed at all.

          4. And what evidence we have, evinces the fact that the original Christian Apostles preached for decades unmolested, even in the heart of Jerusalem itself. If they were ever killed for any reason, even then, it was evidently extraordinary and unexpected.

          Any one of those facts ends this argument. All four just leaves a well beaten dead horse.

          So we have no reliable evidence supporting the resurrection here. Time to move on.

          http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/9978

          But my interest is sufficiently piqued…I may even pop along to the library and see what is available.

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

      Helpful points, thanks.