Test Drive a Foolproof Method for Separating History From Legend

Let me share with you an article that I enjoyed. And when I say “enjoyed,” I mean, “was baffled by.”

The article is “The Bible and Miracles: Fact or Fantasy?” and it proposes rules for separating history from myth and legend. It concludes that the Bible’s miracles are history.

Four simple rules

The author proposes four rules for identifying historical accounts.

1. Unlike myths, biblical miracles are presented in a historical context, that is, in conjunction with actual historical events, many of which can be verified by archaeology.

Yes, myths are often unconnected with human history, but that’s a quibble for this conversation (more on the distinctions between myths and legends here). Let’s consider legends instead, which typically are presented in a historical context. For example, the legend of King Arthur and Merlin the shape-shifting wizard was set in England around 600. The legend of William Tell was set in Switzerland around 1300. The legend of Jesus the miracle worker could be set in Palestine around 30.

Archeology supports biblical miracles no more than it does the supernatural stories in the Iliad. Yes, there was a Jericho and yes, there was a Troy, but archeology gives no support to the supernatural.

2. Miracles are presented in a simple, matter-of-fact style. No fanfare, sometimes not even a comment.

I don’t think that Jesus’s miracles are treated any more matter-of-factly than Merlin’s magic, the gods’ supernatural actions in the Iliad, or Paul Bunyan’s overlarge feats.

Fiction can also be presented in a matter-of-fact style. Witches and wizards can do magic (Harry Potter), and vampires and werewolves fight (Twilight).

3. Miracles occur in a framework of reason and logic. There are no miracles just for the sake of miracles. They are not performed for show; they are not “magic tricks” designed to entertain the reader.

The Bible’s miracles are not entertainment, but they are done as demonstrations. Jesus performed his miracles “so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Matthew 9:6).

4. Miracles are performed in the presence of hundreds, sometimes thousands of witnesses; and many of the witnesses are still alive at the time the events are written down.

No, the stories claim that miracles were performed in the presence of many eyewitnesses. There is no independent historical documentation of a single miracle. I discuss the weakness of Paul’s claim of 500 eyewitnesses to the risen Jesus here.

Let’s test drive these rules

To illustrate a false claim, the author gives this example:

Even now, over 200 years after the fact, would anyone believe someone today who wrote that George Washington calmed the Delaware River and walked across it while his soldiers rowed?

We have the author’s own foolproof 4-part method to separate miracle from legend. Let’s try it out on this example.

1. “Washington walked across the Delaware River” is in a historical context. No one doubts that the Continental Army crossed that river the night of December 25, 1776 to attack enemy forces in Trenton.

2. Matter of fact style? Check. It’s easy to imagine the story told in this style.

3. Not performed as a trick or entertainment? Check. Washington had to get across somehow, and he could’ve walked across the water as a morale booster for the troops.

4. Performed in the presence of hundreds of witnesses? Check. History records 2400 soldiers in the group that crossed with Washington.

You might argue that Washington walking on water is nonsense, and those soldiers would rebut the claim. But if that’s the case, show me the letters from these men saying, “There’s a crazy rumor going around that General Washington walked on water. Let me make clear: I was there, I saw Washington, and it didn’t happen like that.” You can’t provide those letters? Then you begin to understand the weakness in the Naysayer Hypothesis, the idea that a claim that lasted until today must not have been defeated by any contemporary naysayers and so must be true (more here).

According to the author’s own checklist, he would be obliged to accept this account of Washington walking on water as an actual miracle. Since this account about Washington would be written in Modern English, it would be more reliable and accessible than gospel stories written in 2000-year-old Greek from an ancient culture (more here).

Parallel the gospel story with a modern analogy

The author bristles at the concern that the gospel story is unreliable history because it was initially passed on as oral history and written long after the events. He proposes a parallel. Compare Jesus known only through gospels written decades after his death with Mahatma Gandhi known only through the film Gandhi (1982), which was produced decades after his death.

To understand the early readers of the gospels, consider ourselves learning about Gandhi only through the film. But the author wants us to imagine a very different Gandhi. This Gandhi does the things that Jesus did: he proclaims himself divine, heals the sick, and multiplies loaves and fishes. Would you believe it?

Now go further. Would you believe that this Gandhi died and resurrected? That He died for your sins? Would you drop everything to accept this Gandhi’s call to follow Him?

Of course not. That’s a helpful parallel, and this Christian author has nicely demonstrated that the gospel claim is ridiculous. If you wouldn’t believe an account of Gandhi doing miracles, produced decades after his death, why believe the same thing for Jesus?

[SFX: record scratch]

Nope, that’s not the conclusion of this author. He tries to salvage his situation, not by running from, but actually embracing his ridiculous situation:

No one could have fabricated a story as that told in the gospels with the expectation that people would believe it. Yet believe it they did. Why? Because it happened, that’s why! And the apostles that preached the gospel must have demonstrated its truth by performing the same miracles. It’s the only answer that makes sense. No one in their right mind would have concocted those stories,* because no one in their right mind would believe them without reason.

* I argue that the gospel story is legend, not that it was deliberately invented.

Wow—you can’t make this stuff up! This author admits that the gospel story is crazy but tries to salvage his position by spinning this as a good thing. It’s so crazy it has to be true. It’s like early church father Tertullian who is quoted as writing, “I believe because it is absurd.”

Yeah, seek out the absurdity. That’s a good way to find truth. Or maybe not.

This reminds me of Sathya Sai Baba, an Indian spiritual leader who died in 2011 with millions of followers. He is claimed to have performed almost all of Jesus’ miracles, including raising from the dead. That the absurd stories are true is the only answer that makes sense, right?

The Son of God died:
it is wholly believable because it is absurd;
he was buried and rose again,
which is certain because it is impossible.
— Tertullian, early church father

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 6/25/14.)

Image via See-ming Lee, CC license

 

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Doubting Thomas

    I have a genius new invention: Kevlar covered shoes!!!! It’s to help these idiots avoid serious injury when they repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot.

    Anyone know how much ad space in Christianity Today costs?

    • Joe

      Anyone know how much ad space in Christianity Today costs?

      Fifty shekels of silver. Oh wait, I confused it with the price you pay for a women you’ve previously violated.

      • Doubting Thomas

        How did you know that I previously violat……oh….nevermind.

    • Glad2BGodless

      Made me laugh!

  • Ctharrot

    “No one could have fabricated a story as that told in the gospels with the expectation that people would believe it. Yet believe it they did. Why? Because it happened, that’s why!”

    Or because human beings are wonderfully imaginative primates prone to credulity, and will believe all manner of tall tales, especially those that tend to make us feel special, saved, loved, destined, avenged, etc. The notion that our default setting is one of careful skepticism, in particular during antiquity, is almost adorable.

    • Joe

      Here’s that quote after Occam’s Razor has been applied:

      No one could have fabricated a story as that told in the gospels with the expectation that people would believe it. Yet believe it they did. Why? Because people are gullible, that’s why!

      • Lark62

        According to Lucian of Samosata, gullibility was the defining characteristic of early christians.

        And, proving that there is nothing new, modern christians use Lucian’s accusation that christians were gullible and would believe any conman as proof that Jesus existed and rose from the dead.

      • TheMountainHumanist

        or

        No one could have fabricated a story as that told in Dianetics with the expectation that people would believe it. Yet believe it they did. Why?

  • GalapagosPete

    “Yet believe it they did. Why? Because it happened, that’s why!””

    Some people also believe the Earth is flat and our lizard alien overlords live among us.

    • Greg G.

      Why would people believe in lizard alien overlords if they didn’t exist?

      • Pofarmer

        Hey Hey Hey watch it there buddy. We welcome our new lizard alien overlords.

      • Cozmo the Magician

        My invisible imaginary pet dragon ‘Fluffy’ wants everybody to know that Dragons are NOT lizards. Nor are they aliens.

        • GalapagosPete

          That’s exactly what they want us to think!

  • Joe

    No one could have fabricated a story as that told in the War of the Worlds with the expectation that people would believe it. Yet believe it they did. Why? Because it happened, that’s why! Even though the chances were a million-to-one, they said.

    • Guy Fawkes

      Of COURSE it happened! Here’s further proof!
      https://youtu.be/IO4OCOm5D3E

    • Len

      And still they come.

      • Joe

        That’s why we need to build the wall!

    • David Cromie

      What is it about America that it breeds so much paranoia among its citizenry (hence the support for the NRA, for example)?

      • JP415

        What is it about America that it breeds so much paranoia among its citizenry (hence the support for the NRA, for example)?

        Theories:

        1. The first American settlers were people trying to get away from government, so that anti-government mindset became ingrained in our culture from the beginning;
        2. The U.S. government engaged in so much secretive, devious behavior during the Cold War, such as spying on Martin Luther King and John Lennon, infiltrating leftist groups, and conducting unethical experiments (e.g. Tuskegee Experiment) that the general public developed a lingering sense of suspicion of government in general;
        3. There’s something in the drinking water. (And it was probably put there by the CIA.)

      • Joe

        Not being American, I can’t answer fully.

        There does appear to be a sort of “national psyche” that is very libertarian, very anti-authority, and that naturally breeds paranoia. Throw religion in the mix and it’s not a good recipe.

      • Annerdr

        I’ve thought a lot about this. I’m a white person who grew up in the US Southeast.

        Here, education is considered government control. I have a friend who was horrified that I let my son stay at the school after care program (while I worked). She said that son was “in the hands of the government” too much. “Government” is considered external, outsiders, imposing regulations randomly. It’s very tribal here, very us v. them. We express our distrust of those who are new, who speak differently from us, who don’t understand the unspoken honor code of the South.

        It began during slavery, in my opinion. When you “own” people who would kill you for their freedom, paranoia is a correct mindset. Ever since then, through the Civil War, Reconstruction, and to present day, black people have been treated as a threat. They have been lynched, underpaid, undereducated, and over charged. They have been denied jobs and promotions and honors due to them. We have used local government and businesses and schools and police and religion to keep white people in power over everyone else.

        Knowing this, the paranoia has remained – paranoia of white people toward darker skinned people, paranoia of POC toward white people, and paranoia toward the federal government who would force us together. Here, in the South, even if I am not racist, it’s rare for me to find a POC willing to be my friend. The lines have been drawn and it has traditionally been very dangerous to cross those lines. The 1960s improved things tremendously and I hope that we will have another bump toward decency with the social changes that we are currently experiencing.

        • Greg G.

          I worked with a black woman who had moved up north from Texas. She had a great personality and I enjoyed talking with her and joking around. One day she told me that she told her friends in Texas about that and they seemed incredulous. They asked, “And he talks to you?” She said she told them about the swimming pool at her apartment complex and they said, “And they let you swim in it?”

        • Annerdr

          The history is such a huge wall between people. It’s awful.

        • Annerdr

          In the town where I grew up, when the public pool at the local community center was forced to allow people of color swim, they closed the pool.

  • Michael Neville

    In Lord of the Rings Gollum caused a magical ring to fall into lava, which caused a volcano to erupt, earthquakes to happen, and a huge tower to come toppling down. Thousands of men, elves, dwarves, orcs and assorted other sentient critters saw and felt that happen. According to the author’s criteria, that actually happened.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyzE9thQIPo

    • Sonyaj

      Exactly! What is there to dispute? It was filmed as it was happening, FFS! I saw it with my own eyes, as did everyone else in the theatre with me.

  • Greg G.

    4. Miracles are performed in the presence of hundreds, sometimes thousands of witnesses; and many of the witnesses are still alive at the time the events are written down.

    In that case, Josephus must have been right that Caesar Vespasian was the Messiah prophesied to rise out of Judea to rule the world.

    Tacitus, Histories 4.81
    In the months during which Vespasian was waiting at Alexandria for the periodical return of the summer gales and settled weather at sea, many wonders occurred which seemed to point him out as the object of the favour of heaven and of the partiality of the Gods. One of the common people of Alexandria, well known for his blindness, threw himself at the Emperor’s knees, and implored him with groans to heal his infirmity. This he did by the advice of the God Serapis, whom this nation, devoted as it is to many superstitions, worships more than any other divinity. He begged Vespasian that he would deign to moisten his cheeks and eye-balls with his spittle. Another with a diseased hand, at the counsel of the same God, prayed that the limb might feet the print of a Caesar’s foot. At first Vespasian ridiculed and repulsed them. They persisted; and he, though on the one hand he feared the scandal of a fruitless attempt, yet, on the other, was induced by the entreaties of the men and by the language of his flatterers to hope for success. At last he ordered that the opinion of physicians should be taken, as to whether such blindness and infirmity were within the reach of human skill. They discussed the matter from different points of view. “In the one case,” they said, “the faculty of sight was not wholly destroyed, and might return, if the obstacies were removed; in the other case, the limb, which had fallen into a diseased condition, might be restored, if a healing influence were applied; such, perhaps, might be the pleasure of the Gods, and the Emperor might be chosen to be the minister of the divine will; at any rate, all the glory of a successful remedy would be Caesar’s, while the ridicule of failure would fall on the sufferers.” And so Vespasian, supposing that all things were possible to his good fortune, and that nothing was any longer past belief, with a joyful countenance, amid the intense expectation of the multitude of bystanders, accomplished what was required. The hand was instantly restored to its use, and the light of day again shone upon the blind. Persons actually present attest both facts, even now when nothing is to be gained by falsehood.

    • Glad2BGodless

      Interesting!

    • JP415

      Nice! I have another one to add to the pile.

      During the consulship of Paulus Fabius and Lucius Vitellius, the bird called the phoenix, after a long succession of ages, appeared in Egypt and furnished the most learned men of that country and of Greece with abundant matter for the discussion of the marvelous phenomenon. . . . That it is a creature sacred to the sun, differing from all other birds in its beak and in the tints of its plumage, is held unanimously by those who have described its nature. As to the number of years it lives, there are various accounts. The general tradition says five hundred years. Some maintain that it is seen at intervals of fourteen hundred and sixty-one years. . . . For when the number of years is completed and death is near, the phoenix, it is said, builds a nest in the land of its birth and infuses into it a germ of life from which an offspring arises, whose first care, when fledged, is to bury its father. This is not rashly done, but taking up a load of myrrh and having tried its strength by a long flight, as soon as it is equal to the burden and to the journey, it carries its father’s body, bears it to the altar of the Sun, and leaves it to the flames. All this is full of doubt and legendary exaggeration. Still, there is no question that the bird is occasionally seen in Egypt.  — Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial RomeBook 6, Chapter 28

      Idea: it would be useful to have a database of these kinds of story as a handy debate reference tool.

      http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Tacitus/Annals/6B*.html

      • Greg G.

        Thanks. I read that probably twenty years ago but didn’t remember the source.

        • JP415

          I forgot to mention: the historians Suetonius (writing around the time of Tacitus, give or take a few years) and Dio Cassius (writing a century or so later) also tell the same story about Vespasian, so now we have three independent sources for the story. And good sources, too — Tacitus, Dio, and Suetonius are some of our best historians for the early Roman Empire. Tacitus in particular is considered the gold standard for ancient history. You could make a strong case for this being the best-attested miracle story in antiquity — far more impressive than anything involving that obscure Jesus guy, whoever he was.

        • Greg G.

          Suetonius says that multitudes witnessed the event. He and Dio give other miracles, too.

        • JP415

          . . . and plenty more in the works of Herodotus, Livy, and Plutarch, as you probably know. Miracles were a dime a dozen back then. Some of these Christian apologists (like the guy who wrote the post that Bob referenced) know the Bible very well, but they’re not that well read outside their own narrow field.

        • Otto

          I think Heaven and Hell was Dio’s best album

        • JP415

          It’s like a rainbow in the dark!

      • Jim Jones

        The Christ: A Critical Review and Analysis of the Evidences of His Existence by John E. Remsburg, published 1920

        Free to read online.

        Chapter 2 alone is a good read.

        LOTs of references.

        • Greg G.

          Thank you for that link. I had heard about Remsburg’s book for years and have seen extracts and references.

          The first Bart Ehrman book I read at least a dozen years ago described how margin notes would get copied into the text by the next copyist. When I started to think about the “brother of the so-called Christ” in Antiquities of the Jews, I thought it looked like such a margin note copied into the text. It was rather satisfying to see that Remsburg had written that a hundred years ago.

        • Pofarmer

          It seems like all that’s old is new again.

        • sandy

          Thank you! Did Jesus Christ Really Live? (ca. 1922)

          by Marshall J. Gauvin has a similar argument but a much shorter essay and he references Remsburg. Looks like the Jesus myth was getting busted 100 years ago and not just in recent times.

  • eric

    I like how #3 contrasts with his final defense. “Miracles occur in a framework of reason…but if you think one is just bats**t crazy, that would make it true too!” is a bit like “your honor, my client was nowhere near the scene of the shooting….and besides, it was self-defense!”

    • You think you’ve trapped him, Mr. Atheist Smart Guy? Forget it! He has all the bases covered.

  • Otto

    Why do I get the sneaky suspicion that the only miracles this guy’s method works on are Christian miracles….?

    • Meh. I don’t think it works on any. His secret: he peeks from under his blindfold so that he can tell the correct answer.

  • eric

    A lot of the counter examples given in the OP and in poster’s comments fail #1: as known fictions, intentional fictions, they aren’t really placed in an historical context.

    But certainly other religious claims would count. Joseph Smith is accredited many prophecy-type miracles…by his followers. Without having read it, I’m still certain the Koran has miracles too (and IIRC, the Koran even recognizes Jesus as a miracle-worker). There are many books not in the Protestant bible (gnostic tracts, books like Tobit) that contain miracles presented in a nearly identical framework. Protestants are also unlikely to accept Catholic saint-based miracle claims such as the flying monk of Cupertino. Then of course there’s Hinuism, Buddhism, heck even dead or nearly dead religions such as Zoroastrianism.

    The number of claims that (a) would pass the author’s four criteria (b) but not be accepted by the author or other Christians as credible, is likely to be very, very long.

    • Catholic tradition is full of miracles, but a fundamentalist (which I’m guessing the author is) would likely not accept them. And those Catholic miracles are reputedly due to the same Jesus that he worships!

    • JP415

      “Without having read it, I’m still certain the Koran has miracles too . . . ”

      As I understand, the Koran contains a few miracles stories and the Hadith (the orally transmitted stories about Muhammad’s life) contain many more. Two famous ones spring to mind:

      1. Muhammad allegedly split the moon in half and then reassembled it in front of a crowd of pagans, as a demonstration of Allah’s might. Some Muslim fundamentalists claim that a large channel on the moon (the Rima Ariadaeus) is physical proof of this miracle.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Splitting_of_the_moon

      2. At the Battle of Battle of Badr (c. 624 A.D.), a host of 3,000 angels descended from Heaven to help Muhammad defeat the Quraysh tribe of Arabia.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Badr

      These are two of the most famous ones, but apparently the Koran and Hadith describe other ones. In any case, these events occurred in front of large crowds of people, none of whom bothered to refute the stories. So they must be true!

      • I’m confused. I thought I heard that the Koran had no miracles in it. Or maybe that it had no miracles performed by Mohammed.

        But your examples seem to contradict that. Perhaps I’m thinking of something else? Let me know if you can straighten out my confusion.

        • JP415

          I’m not an expert on the matter, but this is what Wikipedia (maybe not the best source) says:

          According to historian Denis Gril, the Quran does not overtly describe Muhammad performing miracles, and the supreme miracle of Muhammad is finally identified with the Quran itself. However, several miracles are reported in the Quran and miracles “appear early and often in the hadith”and the hadiths are indispensable in elucidating Muhammad’s miracles.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracles_of_Muhammad

          My impression is that the language of the Koran is very poetic and ambiguous, and therefore scholars don’t fully agree on the meaning of some of the passages. Christian apologists have often pointed out that Muhammed himself never performed any miracles, and that all Islamic miracles are attributed to Allah (in contrast to Christ, who could perform miracles by his own power). As far as I can tell, this seems to be correct.

          Some years ago, a journalist named Kenneth Woodward published a cross-cultural study of miracles called The Book of Miracles and it has an entire chapter on the miracles of Muhammad. Most of the sources are from the Hadith, as I remember, and there are a lot of them — I should go back and re-read it when I get a chance.

          https://www.amazon.com/Book-Miracles-Christianity-Buddhism-Hinduism/dp/0743200292

          Anyway, that’s what I know. I suppose I’d have to ask an Islamic scholar to get a definitive opinion on the subject.

        • Helpful, thanks.

        • Guy Fawkes

          Christ was “performing miracles of his own accord” but only due to the fact that he was part of the Holy Three-In-One, right? It’s on his agency for the triune God that he could work miracles, not as a man. Or am I reading something incorrectly?

        • JP415

          Christ was “performing miracles of his own accord” but only due to the fact that he was part of the Holy Three-In-One, right?

          I honestly don’t know. I don’t understand the nature of the Trinity, and I’m not sue that anyone does. When Jesus turned water into wine, was he utilizing his innate God powers or was he channeling power from Jehovah? Who knows. I leave that question to the theologians.

        • Judgeforyourself37

          I just hope that the wine was a nice Shiraz, or Cabernet, and not Ripple .

        • Greg G.

          He had a fast-acting strain of yeast. He could have made a fortune but the FDA crucified him because he cheated on the testing on humans by healing them.

        • JP415

          And then he ascended to Heaven by using a jet-pack concealed within his robe!

          This all reminds me of Heinrich Paulus (1761 – 1851), the theologian who tried to find “rational” explanations for the miracles of Jesus (e.g. Jesus wasn’t walking on water — he was walking along the shore next to the water, and an optical illusion made it look like he was walking on water. That sort of thing.)

        • David Cromie

          It is all academic, since there is no evidence that any man-god named JC ever existed.

  • RichardSRussell

    “It’s not supposed to make sense! It’s faith! Don’t ya know what faith is? Faith is when you believe somethin’ that nobody in their right mind would believe!”

    —Archie Bunker, responding to Meathead on All in the Family

  • Glad2BGodless

    The art by See-Ming Lee reminds me of a Nick Cave sound suit.

    • TheMountainHumanist

      I once knew a madam of a “Asian massage parlor” — her name? Not making this up…”Mee No Ho”

      • Michael Neville

        Notice that I am refraining from asking how you know Ms. Mee No Ho was an “Asian massage parlor” madam.

        • TheMountainHumanist

          I worked for the local paper and I covered the story when the cops busted it…

  • axially/tilted

    #3- “They are not performed for show; they are not “magic tricks”
    What about those “my magic is better than your magic” episodes between Moses/Aaron and Pharaoh/his Magicians?

    • Kevin K

      What about making wine from water?

      • Glad2BGodless

        I’m for it!

        • axially/tilted

          I’ll drink to that!

      • axially/tilted

        The loaves and fishes?

        • Kevin K

          Heck, the walking on water thing was totally unnecessary. He had calmed the storm already. Walking water was nothing more than showboating.

        • axially/tilted

          How about the parting of the Reed, uh, I mean, the Red Sea?
          Something tells me that we could do this all day 😉

        • Greg G.

          Feeding the 5000 then doing an encore.

        • axially/tilted

          All the while those who ‘witnessed’ this magi, I mean, ‘miracle’, the first time wondered how in the name of Jehovah could he possibly pull this off again?
          The incredulity of these guys is admirable. /s

        • Len

          Showboating? More like showwalking 🙂

        • Kevin K

          Ha! I see what you did there.

        • Judgeforyourself37

          Didn’t your mom stretch the food when money was tight? I know that I did. I would add extra bread crumbs to that meatloaf, or more pasta to the mac and cheese. We ate a lot of tuna casseroles, scrambled eggs, when eggs were cheap from a nearby farmer.
          Add some exaggeration to what many of us had to do and you have that good old “loaves and fishes” routine.
          When will folks learn that the bible is not history, it is tales told and retold over the centuries.

        • axially/tilted

          Not only is it not history. It’s also bad fiction.

      • Greg G.

        I can turn wine into urine.

  • Kevin K

    #1 … The Labors of Hercules are set in an historical context. As are the Gitas — the tales of Lord Krishna’s adventures as a god-man on Earth.

    Oopsie.

  • Benny S.

    “No one in their right mind would have concocted those stories, because no one in their right mind would believe them without reason.”

    And thus, the apologist has unintentionally strengthened the reasonableness of “The Book of Mormon”….

    • Bob Jase

      And Dianetics.

      • TheMountainHumanist

        Hail Lord Xenu

        • GalapagosPete

          And Lady Xena. Or she’ll kick your arse.

  • Bob Jase

    This confirms my belief that Captain America really existed – surely no event in recent history is better documented than WWII. There are numerous historical persons in the stories from FDR to Churchill to Hitler to Mussolini to Tojo and more – no one would use persons from so many different countries if their existance could not be demonstrated. There are still millions of witnesses alive that remember the war personally. Just because there are legends accumulated afterwards doesn’t discredit the confirmable facts.

    • TheMountainHumanist

      I remain a Bucky denier

    • Glad2BGodless

      A counterfeit implies an original!

  • The witnesses to Sai Baba’s “miracles” are also still alive mostly-you can even talk with them, not just read their own accounts. Both these things are better than what we have for Jesus, yet I don’t see these Christians converting because of it.

    • Jim Jones

      Joseph Smith saw Jesus, God and others. And most people don’t believe that either.

      • Did Joe see Jesus and God? I don’t remember that, but I do know that he saw an angel, and getting evidence from an angel should be good enough.

        The gospels, by contrast, aren’t even eyewitness accounts. Joe wins.

        • Jim Jones

          Yep. Well, visions of them, just like Paul saw Jesus (bit no one with him did).

      • Indeed. Not only that, but he had eleven witnesses that swore they’d seen the golden plates with their own eyes. Most never recanted, some even after being expelled from the LDS Church. Beat that, mainstream Christianity.

        • Guy Fawkes

          Most if not all of them explained later that they didn’t see them with their eyes, they saw them “with their heart” and could attest to the “heft” of the plates because they lifted a crate that supposedly contained them.

        • One said something like that. I don’t know about the rest.

  • Idaho Spud

    The points that religious idiot tries to make about bible miracles being true, are so stupid, I lost interest after reading a small part of this post.

  • Tommy

    If Jesus’ miracles were in any other religious book besides the Bible, the apologist would not believe them.

    • Greg G.

      You don’t hear many accepting the Infancy Gospel of Thomas tale of a boy bumping into young Jesus, then dropping dead from Jesus’ curse.

      • Otto

        So that is why we don’t hear much about young Jesus in the other Gospels…Jesus was in Juvenile Detention and the records were sealed.

        • Len

          Any idea when they’ll be opened? Or is that like the Ark (in Raiders of the Lost Ark)?

      • JP415

        Big Lebowski quote: “Don’t you f*ck with Jesus!”

      • Kuno

        Is that the one with the dragons?

        • Greg G.

          Are you thinking of Bel and the Dragon? That is Old Testament apocrypha involving Daniel. The Septuagint has it as Daniel 14.

        • Kuno

          No, I was thinking of the Gospel of pseudo-Matthew, apparently.

          “And, lo, suddenly there came forth from the cave many dragons;
          and when the children saw them, they cried out in great terror. Then
          Jesus went down from the bosom of His mother, and stood on His feet
          before the dragons; and they adored Jesus, and thereafter retired.

          — The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, Chapter 18”

        • Greg G.

          I don’t think I ever read that. I think I would have remembered. It must be one Christians like to keep secret.

  • safetynet2razorwire

    Excellent! Or we could simply refer to Monty Python….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrzMhU_4m-g

  • Jim Jones

    The BEST evidence is criticism.

    Look at Glycon. We know about him mostly because of Lucian, a non-believer. If only we had that for Jesus.

    Having a large and influential cult within the Roman Empire in the 2nd century; Glycon had been mentioned earlier by Horace. However contemporary satirist Lucian provides the primary literary reference to the deity. Lucian claimed Glycon was created in the mid-2nd century by the Greek prophet Alexander of Abonutichus. Lucian was ill-disposed toward the cult, calling Alexander a false-prophet and accusing the whole enterprise of being a hoax: Glycon himself was supposedly a hand puppet.

    The evidence for Glycon is vastly better than that for Jesus. There are coins with his image and contemporary references (and images?). Even though Paul lived at the time and place of Jesus, he never saw him, never even tried.

  • David Cromie

    First of all, there is no contemporary, 1st cent. CE evidence, whether written or archaeological, that a man-god, named JC ever existed. Secondly, no archaeologist has yet found the city of Jericho, which, if it ever existed, would not have had ‘walls’ since no walled city at that time is known to have existed. In any case, how could the sound of trumpets bring down a city’s walls? So it goes on with walking on water and the miraculous catch of fish (which would have sunk the boat had they tried to haul them on board), for example.

    However, the biggest hurdle of all, is to adduce the irrefutable, falsifiable, evidence that any ‘god’ has ever existed.

    • Greg G.

      the miraculous catch of fish (which would have sunk the boat had they tried to haul them on board)

      The Miracle of the Floating of the Over-filled Boat! See, the Bible attests to miracles in a very subtle way… or something.

    • A Robert Price observation about there being 153 fish: the boys see Jesus, and someone stops to count the frikkin’ fish? “You guys go on ahead with the son of God. I’ve just got to count how many fish we caught!”

      The best guess I’ve heard is that Pythagorean influences made 153 an interesting number. I’ve seen several curious facts about it (153 = 1^3 + 5^3 + 3^3), so perhaps one of them is why that was a special number. More evidence that the gospels aren’t simply a historical document, I think.

  • Rudy R

    No one in their right mind would have concocted those stories,* because no one in their right mind would believe them without reason.

    But humans do believe in things without good reason. Argumentum ad populum is one such faulty logic that is used for reasoning in the Bible article. Christians like to justify their belief based on the billion plus believers in the world, but those numbers, although seem compelling, don’t explain how those theists came to believe in Christianity, which is faith.

    • Kevin K

      People believe that aliens stick probes up our butts, FFS.

    • Guy Fawkes

      Flat Earthers. 9/11 Truthers. There are many, many such believers. “This is so crazy it must be true” is a HORRIBLY slippery slope to go down! Amazing how the indoctrination can cause someone to be so blind to the way logic and reason work.

  • Ficino

    Someone on another board said, how can I believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob exists, when Abraham, Isaac and Jacob didn’t exist?

  • Greg G.

    Jesus and Mo test an irony meter:

    http://www.jesusandmo.net/comic/test/

  • JustAnotherAtheist2

    May I make an unrelated request? A while back someone on one of these posts offered an extensive explanation for why the Exodus never happened. It was all good stuff and I thought I bookmarked the page but apparently not.

    Does anyone recall what post that conversation might have happened on? Or maybe the member and I can search their comment history?

    Thanks.

    • Greg G.

      How about:

      http://disq.us/p/1oettlk

      Ignorant Amos has posted some interesting stuff on the topic.

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        Thanks, that wasn’t it (the original was a series of posts with the last one going into the size of the desert and how it would only take a few days to cross), but I’ll read your post and dig through IA’s comments. ☺️

  • wtfwjtd

    “Science is facts. Religion is faith. I prefer facts.” –Sheldon Cooper, on Young Sheldon

    The ultimate goal of the apologist: convincing the gullible that “facts” and “faith” are, in fact, interchangeable.

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      Up to and including solipsistic questioning of all knowledge. When you can’t demonstrate your side, just pretend everyone is full of shit, I guess.

      • Otto

        Oh I hate that one…”You can’t know that ANYTHING is true…therefore my bullshit is true”

        • JP415

          Stephen Law called it “going nuclear” — attempting to destroy the idea of objective truth altogether. Of course, people only do it when they’re losing the argument.

  • Judgeforyourself37

    Have you ever spoken to the widow/er who had been married for many years to their beloved spouse? If you have, you may have learned as you spoke at length with them that they felt the presence or even “saw” their loved one. My late father in law, really wanted to move as he would walk into a room and “see” his late wife. They had lived in that home for over fifty years.
    A person who has had a strong influence in your life, especially if that person has been a vital part of your life, will have a “presence” that continues after his or her death.

  • Edwin North

    ha ha…no

  • Michael Murray

    3. Miracles occur in a framework of reason and logic. There are no miracles just for the sake of miracles. They are not performed for show; they are not “magic tricks” designed to entertain the reader.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbY8MH1TpEw