Judas and the Field of Blood (From the Archives)

As I mentioned in a recent post, there is great difficulty fitting together the information in Matthew and Acts about Judas’ death and his connection with a field known as “The Field of Blood”. One has him buy the field, while the other has the authorities do so with his money. One has Judas fall headlong and burst open, the other has him hang himself. (To see the lengths to which some will go to harmonize them, click here).

If we speculate and combine the two, we might end up with Judas buying a field for use to bury foreigners who die while in Jerusalem. But then we might begin asking uncomfortable questions about whether there was a particular person from Galilee who died in Jerusalem and whom Judas might want to bury there.

If you ask me whether I think there is good evidence that Judas moved Jesus’ body and buried it elsewhere, and then either killed himself or died suddenly either by accident or because of an illness (perhaps resulting from prelonged contact with a decomposing corpse), I would certainly answer no. That isn’t the point of this post.

What is the point is that, from a historian’s perspective, it will always seem like a more probable explanation than the one Christians more usually give, namely that God transformed Jesus’ body into a resurrection body and removed it from the tomb. Historical study always deals in probabilities, and a unique supernatural event can never be considered more probable.

Here, once again, we see the challenge of historical study to Christian faith. It is not that historical study in general disproves the stories of the astounding and the supernatural on the pages of Scripture. It is that historical study can rarely reach the verdict that the most likely reason we have a miracle story in an ancient text is because a miracle actually occurred. This is no different than the general tendency of juries not to explain deaths in murder trials in terms of supernatural agents and miracles. It is merely that, on the whole, deaths have some cause that is more mundane, and the criminal justice system is designed to deal with those cases. Whether we need to leave a category for “X Files” is another question, but if so, we also need to come up with some sort of ground rules about how to investigate them too.

So what do you think? Can Christians ever be justified on historical grounds in claiming that divine action is the reason the body was not in the tomb? Can we even be certain on historical grounds that the body wasn’t in the tomb? And must we not admit (as I have felt compelled to) that no religious experience, however powerful, can be used to confirm the whereabouts of a body 2,000 years ago? And if all this is the case, then where does that leave Christian belief in the resurrection? Do we simply make a historical argument and then follow it with a leap of faith? Do we reinterpret the meaning of resurrection faith as something experiential and existential rather than historical? Or is some other course open to us?

  • Brianspringer

    I believe we Christians should take John P. Meier’s advice and consider the resurrection outside history. I find the rules of academia rather unfair to me as a believer because they bracket out my commitments. Which is ironic because a secular enviorment is suppose to allow people of all backgrounds to work together but it seems that is only true so as long as they don’t express them.
    As for the other miracle stories that depends largely on what the author is trying to accomplish. Most scholarly works try to see where the miracle stories fit into Jesus’ career rather than disprove them.
    So bottom line, I would say that in an academic enviorment the best option would be for us to see where miracles fit in rather than offer a natural explaination. But this is another sad example of us as a modern society divorcing faith from reason.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

    Historical study always deals in probabilities, and a unique supernatural event can never be considered more probable.

    In light of a book such as John Earman’s Hume’s Abject Failure: The Argument Against Miracles this statement is demonstrably false.

    Can Christians ever be justified on historical grounds in claiming that divine action is the reason the body was not in the tomb?

    If the hypothesis that Jesus rose from the dead best explains the evidence we have then, yes, a Christian can be justified in believing Jesus rose from the dead.

  • Brad C.

    I think that when we try to judge an event like a resurrection on historical grounds we get into very weird territory, as it becomes solely a battle of presuppositions with regards to how we treat the evidence.  How does one judge the probability of resurrection?  I don’t think it is something that can fit into the category of probable or not.  Probable things first have to be possible, and there are too many steps we need to take first before even getting to the question of whether the resurrection of Jesus is even possible.

    Something I have found useful is to take it out of its historical context.  What type of evidence would we need to believe that somebody today was resurrected?  I think it would be a whole lot more than 4 interdependent anonymous reports.  The significance of Jesus’ resurrection can be recognized, and the fact of it can be taken as an act of faith, but to say it is the most probable historical explanation for the evidence we have in the gospels I think goes far beyond what we can ascertain for the documents we have.

    • Trey

      Excellent post. I pretty much agree with every thing you said here. When the story is taken out of its historical context and imagined as an event happening in the here and now almost no one would accept as true a story about a ressurrected person based on the testimony of anonymous 3rd and 4th generation ‘witnesses’ removed from the event by 50 or more years. The problem as noted is made worse that the 4 accounts are in some instances commingled with Matthew and Luke relying heavily on Mark. Christianity is truly an exercise in faith.

  • Gary

    That’s why I think religion and the physics of cosmology have some things in common. So you do not think a miracle can describe an event historically, because the probability is too small (question not addressed to anyone in particular)? I would agree. However, I have no problem believing the probability was high enough for a quantum effect in the bubble soup of universe-creating space to create this universe 5 billion years ago, which just happens to be optimized for life, and which just happened to evolve life. So maybe I should reconsider the probability of resurrection. Of course, I still don’t think science, history, and religion should be combined in academic studies. So if I was an historian, I would not include a resurrection as a real event in a historical paper, same for a scientific paper, or in school. But I wouldn’t have a problem accepting it if I was in a religious meeting. They have to be partitioned.

  • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

    Was the original Empty tomb passage (Mk15:40-16:8) some early addition not by the original author of gMark?
    Considering:
    1) Resurrection “after three days” (Mk8:31,9:31,10:34) not matching the (about) forty hours (max) (from Friday 3PM to Sunday 7AM).Note “Luke’ will replace all “after three days” by the “on the third day”. But “Matthew will equate this 40 hours with “after three days” and “on the third day” and “three days and three nights”! 2) Peter not considered as one of the disciples (16:7). Compare with 8:333) Jesus is already anointed for burial (prior to his arrest): Mk14:8-9. No other attempt for anointing is necessary (but the women did not know about it!).4) The ‘empty tomb’ passage starts by “retroactive” “data”: The three women who cared after Jesus all over Galilee, and with many other female followers, came with Jesus to Jerusalem & witnessed the cross (15:40-41), and which day was the one of the trial & crucifixion (15:42): why are these women with their past endeaviours not introduced before (contrary to Lk8:1-4 and, partly, to Mt20:20,27:56) and the day of execution mentioned after the facts (contrary to Jn19:14)? Likely because “Mark” had no plan to use them!5) Naming of Women: “Mark” was not prone to name women (and to mention them!), that is prior to the ‘empty tomb’ passage. Before Mk15:40-16:8, only two women are named: Mary (6:3), Jesus’ mother and Herodias (6:17,19,22), wife of tetrarch Herod Antipas (4 namings within 649 verses). And, as quoted earlier, the anointing women (14:3-9), despite her act being qualified as momentous, is glaringly anonymous (other women not named: Jesus’ sisters –but the brothers are!–(6:3), the bleeding one (5:25-34), Herodias’ daughter (6:22-28) and the Syrophoenician (7:25-30)). But, suddenly, at 15:40, three women are named (their names appear again in 15:47 (minus one) and 16:1) (8 namings within 16 verses). I doubt that abrupt change of pattern could come from a same writer. I doubt that abrupt change of pattern could come from a same writer.6) The parable of the tenants does not foresee Jesus’ “honorable” burial:Mk12:8 Darby “And they took him and killed him, and cast him forth out of the vineyard.” (parable of the tenants)If, as commonly accepted (including myself), the “they” stands for the chief priests, “him” for Jesus (the Son) and the “vineyard” for Jerusalem, then the parable (a disguised (alleged) prophecy) appears not to anticipate Joseph of Arimathea (not “they”, as the ones who killed Jesus) to carry and lay (not “cast forth”) the body of Jesus into a tomb. Instead, something like “… and he was taken out of the vineyard.” would be expected.7) The verse before the ‘empty tomb’ seems well-suited for a gospel ending, more so relative to a Gentile audience under Roman rule:Mk15:39 “So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God [or "was a son of God". In GMark, this is the only time Jesus is declared "Son/son of God" by a sane person]!”This is a very positive & cheerful final note, much better than “They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”, inviting doubts & questions.Note: Dominic Crossan, in ‘the Historical Jesus’, pages 415-416, also suspects the original gospel ended at 15:39.”after three days” (Mk8:31,9:31,10:34) not matching the (about) forty hours (max) (from Friday 3PM to Sunday 7AM).Note “Luke’ will replace all “after three days” by the “on the third day”. But “Matthew will equate this 40 hours with “after three days” and “on the third day” and “three days and three nights”! 2) Peter not considered as one of the disciples (16:7). Compare with 8:333) Jesus is already anointed for burial (prior to his arrest): Mk14:8-9. No other attempt for anointing is necessary (but the women did not know about it!).4) The ‘empty tomb’ passage starts by “retroactive” “data”: The three women who cared after Jesus all over Galilee, and with many other female followers, came with Jesus to Jerusalem & witnessed the cross (15:40-41), and which day was the one of the trial & crucifixion (15:42): why are these women with their past endeaviours not introduced before (contrary to Lk8:1-4 and, partly, to Mt20:20,27:56) and the day of execution mentioned after the facts (contrary to Jn19:14)? Likely because “Mark” had no plan to use them!5) Naming of Women: “Mark” was not prone to name women (and to mention them!), that is prior to the ‘empty tomb’ passage. Before Mk15:40-16:8, only two women are named: Mary (6:3), Jesus’ mother and Herodias (6:17,19,22), wife of tetrarch Herod Antipas (4 namings within 649 verses). And, as quoted earlier, the anointing women (14:3-9), despite her act being qualified as momentous, is glaringly anonymous (other women not named: Jesus’ sisters –but the brothers are!–(6:3), the bleeding one (5:25-34), Herodias’ daughter (6:22-28) and the Syrophoenician (7:25-30)). But, suddenly, at 15:40, three women are named (their names appear again in 15:47 (minus one) and 16:1) (8 namings within 16 verses). I doubt that abrupt change of pattern could come from a same writer. I doubt that abrupt change of pattern could come from a same writer.6) The parable of the tenants does not foresee Jesus’ “honorable” burial:Mk12:8 Darby “And they took him and killed him, and cast him forth out of the vineyard.” (parable of the tenants)If, as commonly accepted (including myself), the “they” stands for the chief priests, “him” for Jesus (the Son) and the “vineyard” for Jerusalem, then the parable (a disguised (alleged) prophecy) appears not to anticipate Joseph of Arimathea (not “they”, as the ones who killed Jesus) to carry and lay (not “cast forth”) the body of Jesus into a tomb. Instead, something like “… and he was taken out of the vineyard.” would be expected.7) The verse before the ‘empty tomb’ seems well-suited for a gospel ending, more so relative to a Gentile audience under Roman rule:Mk15:39 “So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God [or "was a son of God". In GMark, this is the only time Jesus is declared "Son/son of God" by a sane person]!”This is a very positive & cheerful final note, much better than “They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”, inviting doubts & questions.Note: Dominic Crossan, in ‘the Historical Jesus’, pages 415-416, also suspects the original gospel ended at 15:39. The ‘empty tomb’ passage starts by “retroactive” “data”: The three women who cared after Jesus all over Galilee, and with many other female followers, came with Jesus to Jerusalem & witnessed the cross (15:40-41), and which day was the one of the trial & crucifixion (15:42): why are these women with their past endeaviours not introduced before (contrary to Lk8:1-4 and, partly, to Mt20:20,27:56) and the day of execution mentioned after the facts (contrary to Jn19:14)? Likely because “Mark” had no plan to use them!5) Naming of Women: “Mark” was not prone to name women (and to mention them!), that is prior to the ‘empty tomb’ passage. Before Mk15:40-16:8, only two women are named: Mary (6:3), Jesus’ mother and Herodias (6:17,19,22), wife of tetrarch Herod Antipas (4 namings within 649 verses). And, as quoted earlier, the anointing women (14:3-9), despite her act being qualified as momentous, is glaringly anonymous (other women not named: Jesus’ sisters –but the brothers are!–(6:3), the bleeding one (5:25-34), Herodias’ daughter (6:22-28) and the Syrophoenician (7:25-30)). But, suddenly, at 15:40, three women are named (their names appear again in 15:47 (minus one) and 16:1) (8 namings within 16 verses). I doubt that abrupt change of pattern could come from a same writer. I doubt that abrupt change of pattern could come from a same writer.
    6) The parable of the tenants does not foresee Jesus’ “honorable” burial:Mk12:8 Darby “And they took him and killed him, and cast him forth out of the vineyard.” (parable of the tenants)If, as commonly accepted (including myself), the “they” stands for the chief priests, “him” for Jesus (the Son) and the “vineyard” for Jerusalem, then the parable (a disguised (alleged) prophecy) appears not to anticipate Joseph of Arimathea (not “they”, as the ones who killed Jesus) to carry and lay (not “cast forth”) the body of Jesus into a tomb. Instead, something like “… and he was taken out of the vineyard.” would be expected.7) The verse before the ‘empty tomb’ seems well-suited for a gospel ending, more so relative to a Gentile audience under Roman rule:Mk15:39 “So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God [or "was a son of God". In GMark, this is the only time Jesus is declared "Son/son of God" by a sane person]!”This is a very positive & cheerful final note, much better than “They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”, inviting doubts & questions.Note: Dominic Crossan, in ‘the Historical Jesus’, pages 415-416, also suspects the original gospel ended at 15:39.
    7) The verse before the ‘empty tomb’ seems well-suited for a gospel ending, more so relative to a Gentile audience under Roman rule:Mk15:39 “So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God [or "was a son of God". In GMark, this is the only time Jesus is declared "Son/son of God" by a sane person]!”This is a very positive & cheerful final note, much better than “They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”, inviting doubts & questions.Note: Dominic Crossan, in ‘the Historical Jesus’, pages 415-416, also suspects the original gospel ended at 15:39.

  • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

    Let’s think about that:
    Mk16:8 “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fledfrom the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.”If the disciples did not learn about the “rising” of Jesus and were not reminded about some future “vision” of him, they would never interpret something (like dreams) or someone (as in Lk24:15-16) as being an emanation of the resurrected Christ! And that would explain why Peter and the other disciples never said anything about the empty tomb and, above all, the “rising”, because they (or anyone else) had not been told (see Note at end of posting)!

    But how could someone know about the empty tomb and the women’s experience? And be so sure that anyone of those, at any time, did not divulge the ‘empty tomb’ event? The only solution appears to be that the ‘empty tomb’ story was not known before, and therefore generated for the gospel.

    Note: There are many clues in Mark’s gospel and Paul’s epistles that Peter, James and company never became Christians (and believed in the resurrection).

  • Paul D.

    Bernard, do you know of any longer discussion or article on the topic that is available online?

    • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

      to Paul D.
      My two preceeding posts are from material on that webpage of mine,
      http://historical-jesus.info/hjes3.html
      where I give more details about ‘the empty tomb’.

  • Anonymous

    Just to be clear, does the argument in the original post assume that Judas was a historical person whose existence is assured by historical methods?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Is’nt there a version where Judas is crushed by a chariot? I thought one of the church fathers said something about that.

    Beallen, blggghh, if I may speculate on James’ position. The theory that the post discusses in its introduction does assume Judas is historical. I don’t think it would work for a fictional Judas. Nor would a theory that presumes a fictional Judas necissarily be suitable with a historical Judas. If you do not entertain a historical Judas, this is not a theory you will care for. I don’t read communist magazines because I don’t beleive in communism.

    I don’t think a person could curently feel confident that eithier position is “assured”. I would not say it is impossible to ever know for sure, beyond a doubt. But I do like to hear theories. In this case while it is possible that such a a scenerio took place, its clever, a bit of an Agatha Christie twist. How ever I could think of a number of competeing theories that also explain the “empty tomb” legend. I have to lean toward theories that are the least complicated, even though that may not be so.

    James, on the real issue of the post; since we have no well documented case of a phenominon like a dead person rising, yes, it would be foolish to believe a man rose from the dead, how ever attractive the idea. I believe that Christianity has a central philosophical statement about reality, and that is it has a purpose, and that purpose is defined by “good”. It is an optimist message. So at its heart is the message that a man did cheat death. And so can you. I think that is the emotional hook and it is expressed in the legend of a dead man who rose up to God to be his king of creation. But I think there are differnet ways to intepret facts of the text. They could as Beallen suggest, tell the story of a mythical dead man, as real as Thor. In such a case its the tale itself that allows others to acheive real victoy over death. It is possible that Jesus was physically translated out of death and physically assumed with some hypothetical being by means we cannot now comprehend. In such a case, the hope of Jesus victorylies in tapping that unkown means.  

  • Paul D.

    @facebook-1355591760:disqus Papias wrote that Judas was so fat and bloated he got crushed by a passing chariot. So there were at least three stories about Judas’ death circulating among early Christian traditions.

    • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

      to Paul D. and Michael Wilson:
      It seems Papias (110-120) knew also about ‘Acts’ because the following, from his surviving writings, appears to provide an explanation (awkwardly!) on how Judas “having fallen down headlong, burst in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.”(Ac1:18b Darby):”Judas walked about in this world a sad example of impiety; for his body having swollen to such an extent that he could not pass where a chariot could pass easily, he was crushed by the chariot, so that his bowels gushed out.” (attributed to Papias by Oecumenius & Theophylact)It is also the first time this Judas is mentioned, outside the gospels & ‘Acts’.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

        Would it specifically imply he knew Acts? It may have been that the idea that Judas guts spilled out was a graphic detail that stuck with people. It may have come from a undetermined source or Act’s may have gotten the bowels spilling out from the chariot tale. It’s like the association of the field of blood, Luke did not get it from Matthew, it was just a story out there circulating, so it may also be with the story that Judas guts spilled out when he died.

        • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

          Anything is possible. But someone falling on the ground is very unlikely to have his abdomen opened, and in such a way the bowels would gush out. That must have puzzled Christians then, raising doubts. So it looks Papias had a chariot to send Judas on the ground with a lot of force. That, and a huge protuding and stretched belly!
          Papias also offered fixes on Mark’s gospel (about being out of order) and Matthew’s logias (about different Greek versions).

  • http://www.gentlewisdom.org.uk/ Peter Kirk

    The central issue here is surely whether the historical method rejects on principle all possible “miraculous” events and accepts only those which can be explained by current science. If so, it is tied to a materialist belief system which is fundamentally opposed to Christianity and indeed to any traditional religion. Of course if you presuppose that Christianity is wrong you conclude that.

    However, if the historical method is open to the possibility of miracles, then, although one can hardly calculate the probability of the Resurrection, it can surely be allowed as one possible explanation of the historical records – and if the other explanations seem extremely improbable, as here, the Resurrection has to rise to the top of the pile.

    • Beau Quilter

      Peter and Jayman

      I think you’ve been watching William Lane Craig debates. Craig likes to use John Earman (as though he is a definitive historical authority) to say that miracles can be made historically likely if other explanations are less likely.

      Even if a majority of historians were to accept that weird assertion (they don’t), the inconsistencies of the gospels, the fact that they were written decades after the events by authors who were demonstrably plagiarists and not eyewitnesses, and by men who were biased to believe and spread the story – makes all kinds of alternate explanations more historically probable than a resurrection.

      WL Craig constantly repeats that the post death appearances of Jesus have multiple attestation by independent witnesses. With over 90% of Mark having been copied by Matthew and Luke, what on earth is his definition of “independent”. And with the gospel of John having been written well after 90 AD, what on earth is his definition of a “witness”. 

      The most likely historical explanation for resurrection story? It’s a big fish tale that grew with the telling.

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

        Beau Quilter, I’ve read John Earman’s book myself. Essentially he shows, using Bayes theorem, that as long as miracles are not ruled out from the outset that it is possible for enough evidence to accumulate to make a miracle the best explanation of the evidence. The fact that he is not an historian is irrelevant. His argument stands or falls on its own. I realize many historians employ methodological naturalism, it’s just that I find it an indefensible position.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

          It is a sensible position. I think the idea that time could be different for people depending on there position would be the sort of thing that wouldn’t be accepted unless evidence showed no other possibility.

        • Beau Quilter

          Earman is an academic philosopher, and his argument will ultimately stand or fall on the weight of scholarly peer review (Earman understands this process and participates in it himself).

          However, even if you grant the possibility of the supernatural, Craig’s case for the reliability of historical evidence for a resurrection is ridiculously weak. Even if the copying process has shown small variation in the gospels over the centuries, the fact remains that the gospels are not independent (with huge verbatim sections in the synoptic gospels), they are not reliable as witnesses (Matthew and Mark are anonymous, Luke was admittedly not present), and they are written long after the events in question (especially  John – nearly a century later if not more) in a language not likely spoken, much less written, by the Jewish disciples of Jesus. Paul only saw Jesus in a vision, and while he mentions 500 witnesses, he is at best repeating hearsay. He certainly doesn’t claim to have met 500 witnesses, and may have simply been repeating what someone else told him.  

          Another fond saying of WL Craig’s: “The majority of New Testament scholars believe in the historicity of the resurrection.” 

          This is a statement calculated to deceive. Craig does not say that the majority of New Testament historians believe in the historicity of the resurrection – that would be false. Instead he uses the over-arching term “New Testament Scholars”, the majority of whom are theologians, not historians. 

          When a theologian asserts a belief in the historical resurrection, it is not an assessment of evidence, it is simply a statement of belief. It’s possible that a theologian bases this on evidence, but historical evidence is not the theologian’s field of expertise, and it’s more likely that he/she is simply making a statement of faith.

          So Craig is appealing deceptively to what he purports to be scholarly expertise, but which is, in truth, simply a statement of what theologians believe, regardless of evidence. 

          It’s akin to making the statement: “The majority of Christians believe that Jesus is the Christ.” Well … of course they do!

          • Beau Quilter

            One more gaping hole in WL Craig’s argument: 

            He always adds that the willingness of the disciples to die for their beliefs gives credence to the belief itself, i.e. the resurrection.

            1. History is filled with poor, deluded men dying for false beliefs; 9/11 is a recent example.

            2. Where is Craig’s evidence that the disciples were willing to die for their beliefs? The same anonymous, late-written, plagiarized, Greek language accounts of the resurrection that he started with. (Well that … and Catholic tradition).

          • Anonymous

            “Matthew and Mark are anonymous, Luke was admittedly not present”

            All the gospels are anonymous. Luke’s name is mentioned in neither the Acts of the Apostles nor the Gospel attributed to him.

            • Beau Quilter

              Thanks Scott, you’re quite right. All the gospels are anonymous.

  • Geoff Hudson

    It wouldn’t have been a story concocted around Judas Maccabeus, by any chance, would it?  May be this Judas was not such a hero (to the Jews that wrote their history) as you might think.  In fact to the priests, like Alcimus, this Judas would have been regarded as a traitor.  A sort of tradition of Judas is continued where a number of Judas’s appear in the writings attributed to Josephus that are clearly all interpolations.  Here the various Judas’s are seen as prophets by the writer.    

  • Geoff Hudson

    And Judas Maccabeus did die in the field, and it was a field of blood. But the field was not a literal one, but a field of battle.

  • Geoff Hudson

    In his battle with Bacchides (Ant. Book 12), Judas was surrounded: 

    “and came behind him, and took him into the middle of their army; so being not able to fly, but encompassed round about with enemies, he stood still, and he and those that were with him fought; and when he had slain a great many of those that came against him, he at last was himself wounded, and FELL and gave up the ghost, and died in a way like to his former famous actions.”

    This further raises the possiblity that the myth of Judas the betrayer was based upon Judas Maccabeus who FELL in a battle field. And the information about his intestines spilling out is
    consistent with a war wound.    

  • Anonymous

    So Michael, is it your opinion that there was a historical Judas with a high degree of probability? If not, then is essentially a literary analysis, correct?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

      I think it more likely than not, but I wouldn’t be able to say precisely how high a probability or how much of what or how much of what is associated with Judas is true. It is altogether possible that Jesus was not betrayed by a follower, not betrayed by anyone, betrayed by an anonymous individual, or one who’s names was not remembered. Or maybe it was a Judas but he was only a part of a wider entourage and his role was increased when memory of who the twelve were faded. I don’t think the case for him being a literary invention is conclusive, though I can understand that some may favor that position. Like Jesus, his primary contribution to the present is the stories he is depicted in not what ever he may or may not have done in life.

      • Anonymous

        … his primary contribution to the present is the stories he is depicted in …

        In other words, this is primarily a literary analysis, correct?

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

          What is this? This post? I think this post is on whether one could ever entertain a miracle as an explanation. The lead in is specualtion on a historical source for the literary activities of Judas.

          • Anonymous

            So Michael, what differentiates Judas from other characters known only from literature like Patroclus, Sir Lancelot or Friar Tuck? We don’t usually make up explanations for why the historical Patroclus would choose to wear Achilles armor. We only do that as a literary analysis. So when the original post is talking about what Judas probably did or didn’t do, it seems very much like what someone would say about why Lancelot did or didn’t have an affair with Guinevere. 

            • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

              It only seems very much like that to the uninformed and yo-yos.

  • Geoff Hudson

    We have Judas in a battle FIELD, who FELL and died of his wound, possibly a wound to the stomach, and in a ‘field’ of undoubted BLOOD - Judas and his soldiers was surrounded.  Judas loomed very large indeed in the Jewish psyche.  I have to ask why?

  • RSBrenchley

    Maybe there was no empty tomb. Paul doesn’t mention a tomb at all, and uses the resurrection appearances as evidence (1 Corinthians 15:4ff). Mark has no resurrection appearances, so he needs other evidence for Jesus having risen. Hence the ‘young men’ at the empty tomb.

  • Joseph Wallack

    “Here, once again, we see the challenge of historical study to Christian
    faith. It is not that historical study in general disproves the stories
    of the astounding and the supernatural on the pages of Scripture. It is
    that historical study can rarely reach the verdict that the most likely
    reason we have a miracle story in an ancient text is because a miracle
    actually occurred.”

    JW:
    Oh James, the only thing impossible about the original ending of “Mark” is that you can not read it by itself. There is absolutely nothing impossible about what the author wrote in 16:1-8.

    Joseph

  • http://twitter.com/idmillington Ian Millington

    Jayman, Bayes theorem relates two terms for the probability of the event happening. The probability that the event could happen, and the probably it happened given the evidence. One always appears on either side of the equation. WLC, and Earman obfuscate this by using rather tortuous forms of Bayes theorem. But the simple fact is, to use Bayes theorem to provide that the ressurection could *ever* be likely, given *any* evidence. You have to provide a value for how like it is. The number you get out will just be depend on the number you put in. Bayes theorem tells you nothing at all about whether it is possible, it is just a big mirror for your prejudices.

  • Geoff Hudson

    Acts, Chapter 1 is all fictitious.  It has been inserted to provide a smoother transiton to Chapter 2 where original Acts once began. Chapter 2 was about the God-fearing Gentiles (not Jews as in 2.1) receiving the Spirit and worshipping God in their own language (not Hebrew).  They had come from all over the Mediterranean area to Rome, and they were all living in the same house (2.2), a large tenemented building for workers.

         

  • Gary

    Hawking, “The Grand Design”, pg 164…”That multiverse idea is not a notion invented to account for the miracle of fine-tuning. It is a consequence of the no-boundard condition as well as many other theories of modern cosmology….for it means that our cosmic habitat – now the entire observable universe – is only one of many, just as our solar system is one of many….the fine-tunings in the laws of nature can be explained by the existence of multiple universes”. Page 118, “The laws of M-theory therefore allow for different universes with different apparent laws….which means it allows for 10(exp500) different universes, each with its own laws.”
    To save typing, I edited out some text where “…” appears. My conclusions = Hawking recognises that there are things called miracles (or I’d name them “low probability of occurrance events X infinite opportunity = miracle”), but they obviously have a very low probability of occurance. Even if the probability is near zero, if you have an almost infinite number of universes, there will be some universes perfect for life, since for some a miracle will occur. However, using the same logic, if there are 10 (exp500) universes, there will be some where Jesus lived, and a resurrection occurred  :-)
    Don’t take too much as deep theology, I am only trying to compare current cosmology and current religious doctrine. This is with the deepest respect to Hawking.

    • Trey

      @Gary This is a tortured bit of argumentation. What Hawkings is saying is that the fact that our universe is finely tuned for life should not be surprising if there is a multiverse with an infinite number of ‘universes’ since infinity allows for all possible outcomes to occur – some/most ? universes will be incapable of supporting life while others – a few – will have the parameters to support life. So to follow your argumentation if there are some universes where Jesus lived and a resurrection occurred there must be some where Allah is god, others where Krishna is god etc. So I guess I am not sure where you are going with this since we can only speak to the reality of our universe.

      • Beau Quilter

        Trey

        The real problem with your argumentation is your use of the word “infinite”, which Hawking does not apply to the multiverse. 

        Even if (unlike Gary), you do buy into the idea of multiple universes, these universes are not infinite in number (although the number is ridiculously large). They are the result of each “possible” Feynman particle history. So while some of these possible histories may be quite remarkable, and even follow separate physical laws than our history – it does not follow that impossible histories result. Or histories that include beings that live in an imaginary realm outside of natural particle physics.

  • Gary

    @Trey..”This is a tortured bit of argumentation. What Hawkings is saying is that the fact that our universe is finely tuned for life should not be surprising if there is a multiverse with an infinite number of ‘universes’ since infinity allows for all possible outcomes to occur – some/most ?”…that’s is actually what I said. And the Allah and Krishna comments are valid too. Guess you didn’t see I was pulling Hawking’s leg, so to speak. If you want my personal belief, I believe in the Big Bang, but do not belief in 10(exp500) universes. Having dealt with quantum mechanics, I know that given boundary conditions, not all solutions to a wave equation are equally probable, even though there may be an infinite number of solutions….thus I do not believe that 10(exp 500) universes exist, all with potentially different physical laws. This extrapolation from a quantum event creating a macro-expanding universe times 10(exp500), I do not buy. I do buy into the multidimensional aspects of string theory. It is important to note, if there does NOT exist an almost infinite number of universes, then it is INDEED a miracle that our universe is fine-tuned for life, and the strong anthropic principle cannot be explained by Hawking. Hawking indirectly admits it would be a miracle, even though he does not believe in God…at least in this current book.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

    Ian Millington, I do not need to provide the a priori likelihood of a resurrection for my point to stand (a unique supernatural event could be considered more probable than competing theories). You can plug any positive value you like into that part of the equation and it is possible that a posteriori evidence will make the resurrection more likely than not. To insist otherwise is to admit that you will not change your mind in light of any conceivable evidence.

    • Beau Quilter

      So Jayman

      In terms of historical evidence, do you find the resurrection more probable than competing theories?

  • http://twitter.com/idmillington Ian Millington

    Jayman, that’s as true as it is lacking in information. Yes, if you start with non-zero as the ground probability, then it is possible to get any value from the conditional probability if you put in other numbers. 

    The point I’m making is that for all those “probabilities” you have to plug in numbers. And what you get out is just the numbers you put in. In the absolute atheistic case, you can put in zero as the probability of a resurrection. Then you get zero for the probability of a resurrection given the evidence. Or you can put 1/10billion for the former (one person resurrected among all historical humanity, say), and then you find that it is pretty easy to stack up a bunch of probabilities to multiply together to get 10billion, so its pretty easy to make the resurrection very likely.

    But its all just a mirage. It isn’t telling you anything at all, because you’re just choosing numbers. Craig chooses numbers so the result comes out right for him. I could do the same.

    And *even* if you could objectively calculate the probabilities (which you can’t), Bayes works on a closed model assumption. You can do Bayes calculations in freshman math because the problems you are given assume closed worlds. Either A or B happened. To do a calculation for the resurrection, you’d need to find a way to close the world. Folks like Craig are good at this, they choose a couple of options, one of which is the resurrection, and others are the “atheist” point of view. But that is just a failure of imagination. The number of things that *could* have happened, to some microscopic probability, to leave the textual record we have, is practically infinite.

    So Bayes is just never going to work.

    [This, incidentally is a problem with all probabilistic models, and one of the reasons that the highly quantitative and accurate probabilistic models of banks can't cope with extraordinary events.]

    Bayes theorem in historical research, as I said, is just a mirror for your prejudices.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

    Beau Quilter, I do find the resurrection to be the best theory on the matter because it explains all the data in the most parsimonious and least ad hoc manner.

    Ian, I agree that using Bayes theorem in historical research is very problematic if not impossible. But skeptics routinely state that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. This saying is usually fleshed out in a formula something like Bayes. My point was, that even if we play by the skeptic’s rules, it is at least possible that the resurrection is still more likely than not.

    At this point in time, I favor an approach using the criteria of authenticity and comparing theories much like Licona does in his book on the resurrection. This reduces the weight given to prior prejudices we bring to the question. But skeptics balk at such a method when it comes to the supernatural because it makes the supernatural seem too plausible for their liking. If you think you have a better approach to history in general or the supernatural in particular I would like to hear it.

  • http://twitter.com/idmillington Ian Millington

    Jayman, well the skeptic doesn’t deprecate the supernatural because of its role in a particular historical calculation. But because it has *never* been shown to exist. 

    For the same reason that if you posited a bunch of historical events were contingent on the actions of the luminiferous aether, a good starting point would be to say: “well, let’s not worry about the historical stuff, let’s just make sure that this luminiferous aether actually exists.”.

    Supernatural processes may be a very good explanation for the resurrection, but arguing about them in relation to the resurrection is backwards. Lets first establish that the supernatural isn’t just a  fantasy. Then we can apply it to historical reasoning.

    One might say “well the resurrection is the only supernatural event to have ever happened”, in which case I think it is untrue by definition to claim this is the “least ad hoc” explanation. On the other hand, I think most believers want to claim that supernatural events do happen, and that the claim that the resurrection was one is based on their knowledge of the dynamics of such processes: it is not ad hoc, because God intervenes supernaturally quite regularly. 

    Okay, so let’s not worry about 2000 years ago, let’s actually see if *any* supernatural events are more than just wishful thinking.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

    Ian:

    But because it has *never* been shown to exist.

    In other words, methodological naturalism is based on the belief that the supernatural has never been shown to exist. A methodology of debateable merit is based on a debateable assertion.

    Supernatural processes may be a very good explanation for the resurrection, but arguing about them in relation to the resurrection is backwards. Lets first establish that the supernatural isn’t just a  fantasy. Then we can apply it to historical reasoning.

    Okay, so let’s not worry about 2000 years ago, let’s actually see if *any* supernatural events are more than just wishful thinking.

    Do you see the problem here? You want to start by seeing if any supernatural events are more than wishful thinking before allowing for supernatural explanations in history. But in order to see if a supernatural event (even if it is relatively recent) is more than wishful thinking we’d have to do history.

    You’ve also simply avoided answering the question of how we should investigate the supernatural. Suppose I grant that we need to study recent claims of the miraculous before studying Jesus’ resurrection, how should we proceed? I would assume that an objective historian would apply the same general method to both the recent alleged miracle and the ancient alleged miracle. But if we apply the same method in both cases then what difference does it make which event we investigate first?

  • Paul D.

    “Suppose I grant that we need to study recent claims of the miraculous before studying Jesus’ resurrection, how should we proceed?”

    I believe James Randi has provided one set of criterion for establishing the validity of miraculous events.

    “But if we apply the same method in both cases then what difference does it make which event we investigate first?”

    It makes sense to me to start from the general to the specific. We don’t have to resurrect someone to prove that miraculous events are possible. We don’t have to empirically demonstrate a Roman emperor crossing the Rubicon River to show Caesar could have done it. Anyone crossing any river will demonstrate that the basic event is a plausible explanation for more specific historical events.

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

      Paul D, it is my understanding that Randi would set up some kind of laboratory test to test the abilities of a person who claims to have paranormal/supernatural abilities. However, I do not get the impression that he would perform a test for just any miraculous event. In other words, it is a test for a very specific kind of paranormal/supernatural ability. Nonetheless, there have been experiments/investigations where the investigator (not Randi) has become convinced that something paranormal/supernatural is occurring. But skeptics still dismiss such investigations.

  • http://twitter.com/idmillington Ian Millington

    Jayman, its very simple, and you don’t need to assume anything. 

    You just say: there are two possible explanations here, if each was true, they would have consequences. Where would those consequences differ? 

    If there are any situations where they would differ, you can go check. You do that enough times and one explanation will dominate.

    On the other hand, if there are no possible situations where a natural and supernatural explanation would differ, then the supernatural explanation is subvenient on the natural. Or put another way, a supernatural explanation is never needed. You can make the argument that Jesus’s resurrection was supernatural then, but it tells you nothing, because it means the data we have must also be completely explainable in natural terms.

    The key thing about deciding where the two sets of consequences would differ is that both the skeptic and believer can do that together. You don’t need to agree with the other hypothesis, you just need to both be able to work through the consequences. And you agree on a point of difference between the explanations.

    In situations where that’s been done (and there have been many) the supernatural explanation has never checked out.

    I’ve tried to read everything in this area I can find. I’ve read many tens, probably hundreds of times this has been tried: “Does God supernaturally heal people, or is it wishful thinking?”, “Does God answer prayer, or is it wishful thinking?”, “Does God grant a gift of a supernatural language, or is it wishful thinking?”, “Can people have supernatural knowledge of the future, or is it wishful thinking?” People have been brave enough to find points of differentiation, and go out and try them. Many in the hope of it finding for the supernatural. All these have been tried, some of them tens of times, always its gone in the direction of wishful thinking.

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

      Ian, I completely disagree that a supernatural explanation has never checked out. Skeptics will always prefer the natural explanation (no matter how lame) to the supernatural explanation. I think Licona has shown in his recent book on the resurrection that the “resurrection hypothesis” has more explanatory power (i.e., its predicted consequences are confirmed) than common naturalistic explanations.

      I believe in his upcoming book (Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts), Craig Keener will provide many modern-day miracle accounts. According to a radio interview (see Apologetics 315 blog), he has even come across people being brought back to life from the dead.

  • http://twitter.com/idmillington Ian Millington

    Well Jay, if you think it has checked out, maybe you’d care to give an example. Of something that a skeptic and a believer agreed would lead to differentiable consequences, where the believer’s consequence checked out?Anything?Its not about whether one explanation is better than the other. Its about whether something that everyone agrees is differentiable, checks out. Post-hoc explanations can be as creative as you like, as anyone who’s read anything by UFO believers or moon-fake advocates knows. I can explain anything you give me in terms of fairies, if you like, and I can create any number of complicated fairy theologies that show great explanatory power. But until we can show that fairies actually exist, its all moot.

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

      Ian, I disagree that it does not matter that one explanation is better than another. It makes no sense not to go with the best explanation of the evidence we have.

      Regarding your request for a case where the believer’s consequences checked out, I’m not sure if you are asking about Jesus’ resurrection in particular or a modern-day example. I’ll comment on both.

      In the case of Jesus’ resurrection, the resurrection hypothesis is rooted in our earliest sources and would predict such things as the empty tomb, the appearances to the disciples, and the rise of Christianity. Naturalistic explanations do not make such predictions unless they employ the post-hoc explanations you condemn. And even then the skeptic usually has to create multiple, just-so stories to explain everything.

      Here is a modern-day paranormal case from Randi’s Prize:

      Another workplace incident, reported by German parapsychologist Hans Bender, is also worth mentioning at this point. It occurred in 1967 in a lawyers’ office in the Bavarian town of Rosenheim. Investigators watched and filmed as decorative plates jumped off the walls, paintings began to swing and drawers opened by themselves. There was rogue electrical activity, too: lights and fuses kept blowing, and the telephones all rang at once, with no-one on the line. As many as forty people were said to have witnessed the events, including power technicians, police officers, doctors, journalists and the firm’s clients. In this case, the disturbances were associated with a nineteen-year-old secretary named Annemarie Schneider. When she walked through the hall, the lamps behind her began to swing and light fixtures exploded, the fragments flying towards her. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute in Munich, called in to help, used monitoring equipment to systematically eliminate every physical cause, including variations in the supply of current, electrostatic charges, static magnetism, loose contacts and faulty equipment. Critically, they also ruled out manual intervention and concluded that the electrical deflections could only be due to some unknown energy that depended in some way on Schneider.

  • Gary

    Jayman quoted “Another workplace incident, reported by German parapsychologist Hans Bender”…I don’t think I’d put too much stock into parapsychology. Actually, I don’t put too much stock into psychology either…I think it is a rather in-exact science, although I am sure many won’t agree. As far as transient electrical phenomena occurring in Germany in 1967, I think it is more likely that a US military aircraft was performing some jamming exercises and strange things happen. Garage door openers magically open when a EA-6B happens to hit the right frequency and energy in San Diego during training exercises in our modern days. Strongly generated EM fields can easily cause the phone to ring by magic. Other aircraft (not the EA-6B) could cause a sonic boom and move pictures on walls. Since these are all transient, it would come and go, and not be readily tracable to the cause. Good old military deniability….if it is classified, it is deniable. UFO’s…not likely. More likely, a classified plane the US wants to deny exists, of course until it’s funding might get cut, then the Air Force will disclose it, to maintain funding (aka B-2, F-117). Of course, I am saying the 67 event probably had a more likely cause than something paranormal, but I don’t have any evidence. Now the resurrection, that may be a different story. But no evidence either.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

    Gary, you provided the kind of lame explanation I expected. You didn’t even check your theory against the account to see if it made any sense.

    (1) The details of the incident are not based solely on the work of a parapsychologist. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute concluded an unknown energy dependent in some way on secretary Annemarie Schneider was the cause of the activity.

    (2) The fact that the disturbances were caused, in some way, by the presence of Schneider rules out the aircraft explanation.

  • Gary

    With all do respect, nothing said would rule out a jammer, or other EM emitter for the electrical disturbance. I don’t think it worth my while to try and find a connection to a person, and the disturbance. Any scientists that connects the disturbance to the presence of a particular person needs to turn in his degree. Military industrial complex equipment, yes….human with nothing but their presence, no. Sorry. BTW…is there some paper published by the scientist, not the parapsychologists? Parapsychologists do not count. Your acccount, “they also ruled out manual intervention and concluded that the electrical deflections could only be due to some unknown energy that depended in some way on Schneider”…exactly how could they determine that there was a dependency upon some woman, no matter how “Hot” she was. I think the scientist hadn’t had a date since grad school.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

    Gary:

    Any scientists that connects the disturbance to the presence of a particular person needs to turn in his degree.

    Why? Because it conflicts with your worldview?

    exactly how could they determine that there was a dependency upon some woman

    Again, try to read the account: “When she walked through the hall, the lamps behind her began to swing and light fixtures exploded, the fragments flying towards her. . . .” Also note that the disturbances went away when she was fired.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

    Gary, I can’t read German, but the article by the scientists is (according to Wikipedia): Friedbert Karger, Gerhard Zicha 1967: Physikalische Untersuchungen des Spukfalls in Rosenheim. In: Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie und Grenzgebiete der Psychologie. Aurum, Freiburg im Breisgau. There are also videos on the internet.

  • Gary

    I read, but I do not comprehend. If it were valid, some enterprising scientist would base his PhD and future nobel prize on the incident. I respectfully decline the info….besides, I would need to see the basis for electric field strengths strong enough to blow fuses, originating from the picowatts (or less) of electrical activity of a human brain, body, etc. This is why snake oil sold 100 years ago. Here again, nothing to do with resurrection. I would still make a case for a possibility of it happening, once in a millennium, but a very special case.

    • Gary

      And I can’t explain the physics of it (resurrection).


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