Gospels and Contradictions, Mike Licona

There is a bit of a dustup among the Baptists in the south (not sure how to name this set of connections) over Mike Licona’s discussion of the “contradictions” of the Gospels, in which he makes a thoroughly helpful comparison of the Gospels to Plutarch’s own five accounts of the death of Caesar. His conclusions are unsatisfying to Albert Mohler.

HOUSTON (BP) — Mike Licona, an evangelical apologist whose interpretation of a portion of Scripture led to concerns over biblical inerrancy, joined the faculty of Houston Baptist University last fall and recently addressed what some claim are contradictions in the Gospels.

Houston Baptist University is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and has a ministry relationship with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. The SBTC does not place trustees on the HBU board or allocate Cooperative Program funds to the university.

Licona’s handling of Scripture, as voiced in an interview in November, drew concern from R. Albert Mohler Jr. of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Jim Richards of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and support from Robert Sloan, Houston Baptist University’s president, in subsequent comments to Baptist Press….

As he studied the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Licona began keeping a document of the differences he noticed. The document grew to 50 pages. He then read ancient biographies written around the time of Jesus because New Testament scholars often regard the Gospels as ancient biographies, he said.

Licona focused on Plutarch’s biographies. The assassination of Julius Caesar, he noted, is told in five different biographies by Plutarch.

“So you have the same biographer telling the same story five different times. By noticing how Plutarch tells the story of Caesar’s assassination differently, we can notice the kinds of biographical liberties that Plutarch took, and he’s writing around the same time that some of the Gospels are being written and in the same language — Greek — to boot,” Licona told Esposito.

“As I started to note some of these liberties that he took, I immediately started recognizing these are the same liberties that I noticed that the evangelists take — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,” Licona said.

“… If this is the case, then these most commonly cited differences in the Gospels … aren’t contradictions after all. They’re just the standard biographical liberties that ancient biographers of that day took.”…

Mohler, in comments to Baptist Press Feb. 6, said, “It would be nonsense to affirm real contradictions in the Bible and then to affirm inerrancy.”

“Even Dr. Licona concedes that we ‘may lose some form of biblical inerrancy if there are contradictions in the Gospels.’ What you lose is inerrancy itself,” Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said. “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy clearly and rightly affirms ‘the unity and internal consistency of Scripture’ and denies that any argument for contradictions within the Bible is compatible with inerrancy. An actual contradiction is an error.”

Mohler identified two other major problems regarding Licona’s methodology.

“First, we cannot reduce the Gospels to the status of nothing more than ancient biographies. The Bible claims to be inspired by the Holy Spirit right down to the inspired words,” Mohler said.

“The second problem is isolating the resurrection of Christ from all of the other truth claims revealed in the Bible. The resurrection is central, essential and non-negotiable, but the Christian faith rests on a comprehensive set of truth claims and doctrines,” Mohler said. “All of these are revealed in the Bible, and without the Bible we have no access to them.”

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Stephen W

    “What you lose is inerrancy itself,”

    Yup.

    “The Bible claims to be inspired by the Holy Spirit right down to the inspired words,”

    Where?

  • Phil Miller

    Ah, yes… the great evangelical past-time – eating their own!

    Michael Licona is same person who wrote a massive book (The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach) explaining why we can trust the Gospels accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, and why the resurrection should be considered a historic event. But not even that’s good enough to save him from the wrath of Pope Mohler.

    “First, we cannot reduce the Gospels to the status of nothing more than ancient biographies. The Bible claims to be inspired by the Holy Spirit right down to the inspired words,” Mohler said.

    Talk about a false dichotomy. I don’t believe Licona would say that the Gospels are “nothing more than biographies”. He seems to clearly be saying that Gospels are written in that genre. But they’re still Scripture.

  • EricW

    Mohler, in comments to Baptist Press Feb. 6, said, “It would be nonsense to affirm real contradictions in the Bible and then to affirm inerrancy.”

    Well, when one has a choice between a man-made-and-tweaked doctrine of “inerrancy” or the Bible we have, I think it might be better to make the doctrine fit the facts, even if it means losing the term “inerrancy,” than to try to make the facts fit the doctrine by coming up with absurd explanations about how a contradiction is not really a contradiction when for any other book or document it would be called a contradiction.

    So, re: Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 – Did the centurion personally speak with Jesus, or not? Did Jesus begin heading to the centurion’s house, or not?

    Inquiring minds want to know!

  • Joe Canner

    “They’re just the standard biographical liberties that ancient biographers of that day took.”

    There seems to be something missing here, either in the reporting of what Licona said or in Licona’s explanation. The question is: why do ancient biographers take liberties? Is it because they are fallible and mistake-prone? If so, then it is worth arguing about whether the Gospel writers fall into the same category. Is it because they are packaging the facts in a particular way in order to make a point? If so, then it behooves us to understand more about ancient biographies so we can have a better idea about what the Gospel writers were trying to say.

    I don’t think Mohler would be too thrilled with either of these two answers, but the latter seems like it would be more acceptable to evangelicals as well as being ripe material for research and discussion.

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    So why is Mohler’s position not anti-inerrency? Mohler is asserting that what are apparently differences in the text do not actually exist. Licona is actually trying to figure out a intellectually honest way to deal with the differences. I would say Licona is doing more to uphold the truth of the bible than Mohler.

  • Rick

    Adam #5-

    You bring up a good point. Licona is trying to deal with the text (as inspired), while Mohler seems to be trying to make the text conform to how he thinks it should be read.

  • Steve Sherwood

    Mohler, in comments to Baptist Press Feb. 6, said, “It would be nonsense to affirm real contradictions in the Bible and then to affirm inerrancy.”

    He is correct, but not in the way he thinks he is.

  • EricW

    “I believe in biblical inerrancy, but I also realize that biblical inerrancy is not one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. The resurrection is,” Licona told Esposito. “So if Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is still true even if it turned out that some things in the Bible weren’t. So it didn’t really bother me a whole lot even if some contradictions existed. But it did bother a lot of Christians.”

    It seems to me that Licona’s comment as reported here is doublespeak or nonsense. If some things in the Bible aren’t true, and if it has contradictions such that the parallel or related accounts or statements can’t both or all be true, then by definition “the Bible” isn’t “inerrant,” though much or parts of it may be.

  • Rick

    EricW #8-

    He is not saying there are contradictions, he is saying “if” there are, then we need to keep in mind that “inerrancy” is not a foundational doctrine of the faith, as opposed to the resurrection.

  • EricW

    @9 Rick:

    Well, there ARE contradictions* and hence “wrong”/”untrue” statements. E.g., there are parallel accounts which can’t both/all be true as reported/written and which are not simply examples of one being a “fuller” account and the other being an “abbreviated” or “telescoped” account.

    * Unless, like with the term “inerrancy,” non-contradictionists so change or qualify the meaning of the term “contradiction” that it doesn’t mean what “contradiction” means when applied to statements or texts other than the Bible.

  • EricW

    @9 Rick: But I agree that I misread Licona’s statement. By the way – where can we find Licona’s list of passages?

  • Rick

    EricW #10-

    I was simply clarifying Licona’s statement(s) in reference to your “doublespeak” comment. I was not commenting on whether there are actual contradictions (and the related literary style of the time).

  • Rick

    EricW-

    You may be able to find them at his website, Risen Jesus, but I have not checked.

    http://risenjesus.com/

  • Steve Sherwood

    It seems to me that Licona believes scripture to be fully inspired but probably not utterly inerrant (and, I’d agree with him). I recognize that he is not in a ministry/teaching context where he can say that.

  • RJS

    The post Wither the Fig, Whither the Wandering Saints deals with these same issues (and bring Licona into the discussion).

  • EricW

    Well, I’m watching the video interview the article is based on, and it seems that Licona is saying: “The reason these aren’t ‘contradictions’ is because the Evangelists ‘took liberties’ when they wrote their biographies of Jesus that were just like the ‘liberties’ that other biographers of the time took.” To quote him:

    “And, so, if this is the case, then these most commonly cited differences in the Gospels that skeptics like Ehrman ["like to refer to as"? (unclear)] contradictions aren’t contradictions after all. They’re just the standard biographical liberties that ancient biographers of that day took.”

    Listen to 5:13-5:31 at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJ8rZukh_Bc

    That’s fine with me, but just don’t continue to treat the Gospels as accurate factual historical accounts if you are going to say that the Evangelists “took liberties” when they wrote their “biographies” of Jesus. And don’t use “inerrant” – i.e., without error – to describe something that you have just described as at times reflecting artistic license unless you’re willing to say that when God inspires a person to change the facts or incidents to fit a desired way of writing things, it takes the writing out of the category of things that have to be true and without error in order to be said to be true and without error.

    Now he says the reasons the discrepancies in the Bible aren’t “contradictions” is because they are in fact only “differences.” 10:52 – 11:27

    Licona is not convincing. Or, rather, he’s convincing me that inerrancy can’t be maintained for the Bible if the term still means “without error.” But I think I already knew that.

  • Rick

    EricW-

    Good thoughts, and thanks for the link.

    However, does a “liberty” equal an “error”? Is it not just a “liberty”?

    Is an “error” not just a mistake, where a “liberty” is used to make a point?

  • EricW

    While one can take liberty to make a point, when one has, e.g., two discordant accounts – e.g., Matthew 8:5-13 vs. Luke 7:1-10 as I listed above – then they can’t both be right re: the places they contradict each other. Sure, maybe Matthew took the “liberty” to write that the centurion himself came to Jesus. But then Matthew’s account would no longer be correct re: what actually happened. In fact, it would be in error.

  • T

    I think it’s unfortunate that our common view of “inspired” means that it must also be “inerrant” in every miniscule detail so that we end up tripping over things like the accounts that EricW notes in 3 above, or similar details of Peter’s denials, etc.

    Scripture says of itself that is trustworthy. One can be a trustworthy and reliable witness and not tell the same story the same way every time. Trustworthy doesn’t mean robotic. Further, Matthew and Luke can both be trustworthy, reliable witnesses and tell the same story, differing on minor details, even if God inspired them both to speak. Scripture can be God-breathed and useful for all that it says it is useful for without being “inerrant” in the very modern way we have defined the term, especially when we push the “inerrancy” back onto some lost original manuscripts that none of us actually have. According to this “original manuscript” theory of inerrency, it would, I assume, be okay to say that our non-original manuscripts have these differing details, as long as we affirm that the originals, may they rest in peace, would not have these (meaningless and inconsequential) discrepancies, should we ever find them.

    Big picture: These intellectual games we have played (and some continue to play) to somehow protect scripture (as if it needed it) are only bringing us and Christ (and scripture) into disrepute.

  • Rick

    EricW-

    “But then Matthew’s account would no longer be correct re: what actually happened.”

    Perhaps Matthew was just cutting out the details of the messengers, and getting right to the point: Jesus and the centurion were communicating. However, we should also ask why Matthew left out those details, or why Luke included them. Perhaps the issues is not that one got the facts wrong, but that each was trying to communicate something about that situation.

  • EricW

    @20 Rick:

    Did the centurion personally speak with Jesus, or didn’t he?

    Did Jesus start heading to the centurion’s house, or didn’t he?

    Matthew doesn’t simply cut out details, assuming Luke’s account is correct. Matthew CHANGES them. Matthew and Luke CONTRADICT each other on these two details. Both can’t be correct re: what actually transpired between Jesus and the centurion and how the events and encounters transpired.

    Or maybe both of them made some changes to what actually happened when they wrote their biographies of Jesus such that they’re both at times incorrect re: who said what to whom and where. Or maybe they got their stories from different and differing sources and reported what they were told as they were told it happened.

    All the above creates problems for doctrines of inerrancy or beliefs that the Gospels are no less than actual factual historical accounts of “what Jesus said and did.”

    Maybe all we in fact have are what “Matthew” or “Mark” or “Luke” or “John” said that Jesus said or did, biographers who “took liberties” when they told their story of Jesus like “the standard biographical liberties that ancient biographers of that day took.”

  • Rick

    EricW-

    Perhaps Matthew is not being as chronlogical as Luke.

    It could have developed like this:

    http://carm.org/bible-difficulties/matthew-mark/who-brought-centurions-request-jesus

    However, I am not trying to defend inerrancy, I am simply pointing out the need to focus on what the authors are attempting to communicate.

  • Phil Miller

    All the above creates problems for doctrines of inerrancy or beliefs that the Gospels are no less than actual factual historical accounts of “what Jesus said and did.”

    Well, I don’t really believe in inerrancy, but I don’t have a problem referring to the Gospels as historical accounts. These details that people get hung up on aren’t necessarily things that the writers and readers of that period would necessarily care about. One could say that in some instances that they Gospel writers seem to play loose with the facts, but I think it goes more to the point that what they thought of as “facts” is probably different than what modern reader considers a fact.

  • Paul

    So the problem is that the 1st century gospel writers (biographers) might write a biography using 1st century type rules?

    Do our choices have to be reduced to Bible as inspired and inerrant (using 21st century rules of error) or else uninspired biographies not worthy of faith? Understanding genre seems (to me) to solve many of the supposed problems quoted in the article above.

  • Caleb G

    If inerrancy requires that the gospels report events exactly as they happened (e.g. evening news report or minutes of a meeting), then Licona cannot affirm inerrancy. But if inerrancy does not require this typing of reporting, then he could affirm inerrancy. Mohler seems to demand the first. Licona does not. This is the main issue.

  • Andrew

    The Gospels are what could be called historical theological proclamations. Each community that produced a Gospel took from the oral tradition, other written sources, and the theology that had developed within that community to proclaim their Jesus story (which yes, uses a lot of metaphor and poetic language). They were never mean to be read as strictly historical accounts, and this faulty modern notion of reading them as such simply pushes people away from the Faith because it becomes a charade when one looks at it with critical lenses.
    And if your faith rests on the question of whether Jesus really walked on water, or literally rose Lazarus from the dead, or talked to the centurion, than it’s my opinion that your Christianity is seriously misconstrued. One can discern from the Gospels Jesus’s major teachings, and the truth of the Resurrection (and I don’t think it even matters if it was a bodily Resurrection or not, the effect was the same) and it’s those beliefs that are the bedrock of Christianity and why it has lasted this long.

  • Mark E. Smith

    Listing some of those contradictions would have been helpful to this post.

  • EricW
  • http://www.rethinkingao.com Mike Beidler

    I’m curious … why defend something (i.e., inerrancy) that is demonstrably untrue? I much prefer Licona’s approach to Mohler’s. One grapples with the truth, the other attempts to bury the truth for fear that his faith will stand or fall based on the quality of the illusion.

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    Geisler’s article is exactly why I think Licona and others need to be speaking out like they do. What we are creating are Christians whose faith is like a Jenga game. I remember a friend at my Christian college whose entire faith was shaken because he was told by his Old Testament prof that it is likely that there are two or maybe even three authors of the book of Isaiah. For him that meant that his entire theology of scripture was destroyed. If there was anything that was not as he had been taught then everything that he had been taught was suspect.

    The theology of inerrency as Mohler is teaching it is very much recent and many made theology. And telling people that it is historic and based in scripture is not helping people find faith it is upholding faith until people run into someone that knows more biblical criticism than they do.

    We should be teaching people about faith, as Licona says, that the resurrection happened but whether it happened on the day of passover, or the day after passover doesn’t really matter much because the methods of history of the first century were not focused on the details but on the theological point of the story.

  • Paul D.

    Licona is a smart guy with potential. He needs to stop hitching his wagon to intellectually bankrupt evangelical denominations and their petty popes.

  • Matt

    Once again, who gives a rip what AM says or thinks?! Taking shots at the author of one of the best studies of the resurrection is baffling.

  • http://bit.ly/theoblog Daniel

    Mohler is an embarrassment. He still can’t get his head around the idea that debates over genre or context/style of the text is not the same thing as denying the text. He thinks that if you disagree with him that you disagree with God. And the embarrassing thing is that folks give him a platform to spew his assumed omniscience. /sigh

  • bobson

    Adam (#30)
    I have heard it before that the theology of inerrency is a recent construct, could you give a little history/detail?

    Andrew (#26) gets to the point of the matter in his first sentence. The bible (the gospels) are theological documents first, historical somewhere else down the list.

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    @bobson,

    at the risk of overly simplistic answer, the concept of inerrency is a modern concept because the conception of the bible as a type of work that is either right or wrong in a scientific way is modern.

    Go back pretty much as long a there has been Christianity and major Christian thinkers have questions whether different parts of scripture were intended as literal and come out assuming that they were not designed as literal.

    Christians have always viewed scripture as truthful and ‘God breathed’ but that is not the same (even though many want to mix them) as the modern conception of inerrant.

    It does not really matter whether you are thinking about Genesis 1 or the apparent contradictions of the gospels or the Old Testament timelines, the problems that theses scripture passages bring up are not modern problems. Christianity has long dealt with them without saying that either they are ‘true’ or all of scripture is ‘false.”

    There are some longer book length and article length treatments that will be more nuanced and thorough.

  • PastorM

    What is to be done with Mr. Licona? Is simply recanting his heretical remarks and donning sackcloth and ashes for an appropriate length of time, say the rest of his life, enough? Or, should he be forced to walk barefoot over hot coals until he acknowledges his error? Or, should he be burned at the stake as a heretic? What think you?

  • TJJ

    AM and his ilk are obnoxious and embarrassing. We can honestly wrestle with the scriptural texts we have or we can play games and pretend we have something we don’t have and impose atrificial and inaccurate categories on scripture texts. I am not sure i totally agree with Licona on this particular conclusion, but I fully support and applaud his efforts in working realistically with the Gospel texts we actually have before us.

  • Boz

    Mohler and Richards are policing the boundary of the Tribe. Determining who is ‘Us’, and who is ‘Them’.

    this is nothing new.

  • http://deeperwaters.wordpress.com/ Nick Peters

    I’m Nick Peters. I am Mike Licona’s son-in-law. Scot McKnight might recognize my name as the Ghost of Inerrancy Future in “Geisler’s Christmas Carol” with my wife being the Ghost of Inerrancy Past.

    I happen to be in the apologetics ministry as well and this about a decade before I married Mike’s daughter. I blog regularly at DeeperWaters.wordpress.com. When I got married, I was actually a student at SES and I had studied under Geisler and I admired him greatly. Then this whole nonsense thing broke out.

    This has been terribly disappointing. I do hold to Inerrancy. So does Mike. Still, both of us realize the battle is not for Inerrancy. If it turns out there is a bona fide contradiction in the Bible, well I have to rethink my view of Scripture still, but Jesus still rose from the dead. If one needs Inerrancy to have the resurrection, then ultimately, we have a position of fideism at the end of the day.

    The problem with Mohler and some commenters here is that Inerrancy is expected according to modern post-enlightenment standards. If the Bible is treated that way, we have a problem. Not only do I think we’ll destroy its credibility to skeptics, which we already do a great job of, but we’ll also miss the rich teachings it has for ourselves. We need to read the Bible in an ancient Jewish milleu instead of a modern American one.

    Geisler and Mohler together are doing more to damage Inerrancy than they think Mike Licona ever could and they are the problem today. It is viewpoints like theirs that are destroying the church by having us live under these modern standards of biblical understanding. Personally, I often think that as one of the “framers” of ICBI, that Geisler stacked the deck in favor of his dispensationalism. I think ICBI is workable as it is, but should probably be redone since it has been tarnished by Geisler.

    Anyway, I have written several articles on my own blog on this topic, but my latest is here: http://deeperwaters.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/the-future-of-biblical-scholarship/

    Blessings to you if you read this Scot, and even if you don’t. I do think Mike greatly admires you.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters

  • Beau Quilter

    Licona argues that major gospel agreements can be taken as true; it is only peripheral details that are in conflict:

    “For example, was there one or were there two angels at the tomb? No one says the tomb was not empty. Even if you couldn’t account for the difference between one and two angels — and I think you can — but even if you couldn’t, it’s still a major thing that Jesus rose and the tomb was empty.

    “… You may lose some form of biblical inerrancy if there are contradictions in the Gospels, but you still have the truth of Christianity that Jesus rose from the dead, and I think that’s the most important point we can make,”.

    Of course, by this logic, the accounts of Julius Caesar’s life have peripheral differences, but they agree that a comet appeared in the sky for seven nights after his murder and that his ghost appeared to Brutus before the battle at Phillipi. Thus we can accept as true, the divine anger at Caesars death and his ghostly appearances afterward.

  • http://www.davidsnet.ws/Biblical Peter Davids

    As a faculty member of Houston Baptist University, I am so happy for this controversy, for because of it we have gotten Mike Licona. I guess we turn out the winners. God works in mysterious ways.

  • http://deeperwaters.wordpress.com/ Nick Peters

    Beau. That does not follow. It does not follow that because some accounts agree on major details, that those details are still true. The case still has to be made for historicity. Multiple accounts close to the time does add to historicity, but it does not make the case entirely. The account of Caesar’s life meanwhile are largely long after he has died and would very easily also be done for political gain. The followers of Christ had nothing to gain and everything to lose.

  • Marshall

    W.V.O. Quine demonstrated mathematically that, given any set of foundations, one can add additional foundational points in order to prove any point, resolve any contradiction, climb any mountain … http://www.ditext.com/quine/quine.html
    Personally, I think that pinning one’s faith on being able to explain what “The Centurion” did concedes way too much to rational modernism, which thinks it knows everything.

  • Beau Quilter

    Nick

    You are correct that multiple ancient accounts do not make the supernatural events in Caesar’s life true. The same logic applies to the resurrection of Jesus. By the time the gospels were written, Christianity was growing and church leaders were supported by their followers. They had plenty to gain.

  • http://deeperwaters.wordpress.com/ Nick Peters

    Sorry Beau, but that’s incorrect entirely. Being a Christian was practically a death sentence even in the time of Emperor Trajan. Tertullian reminds us that as soon as disaster struck, the Christians were sent to the lions. The reality is that the Christian church had everything going against it. It was a new movement in a society that did not invite new. It went against polytheism in a society that adored it. It had a crucified king in an honor/shame society that would not accept such. It would have been nonsense to Gentiles and Jews alike. It’s important to note that many of the supporters of Christians were from the middle class and above. These were the people with the resources to investigate the Christian claim and see if it was true.

    Also, I do not accept the post-enlightenment supernatural/natural distinction. I just ask that we treat the Gospels to the same standard as other ancient documents. When we do that, they pass with flying colors.

  • http://donttakemyword.blogspot.com/ scott f

    @Nick (45)

    Just to point out, Trajan became emperor in 98 ad. Most scholars would place systematic persecution later still regardless of what Tertullian claimed.

    “These were the people with the resources to investigate the Christian claim and see if it was true.”

    By 98 AD there were unlikely to be too many eye-witnesses around. Plus Jerusalem was razed by 135. This kind of statement seems to me to assume a very modern situation in which one can check newspaper microfilms and get on a plane to visit sources.

    The big problem I see is that cults and movements are largely immune to refutation. Let’s say Paul was telling a crowd that Jesus rose from the dead and Mary Magdalene walked up and said that she had placed Jesus’ bones in an ossuary a year after his execution. Some in the crowd would laugh and walk away but Paul would go on to the next town and preach the same sermon. And some people would say that Mary was mistaken or crazy or drunk. The Millerites and Jehovah’s Witnesses survived pretty damning dis-comfirmation. Think of the Obama Birthers who continue to demand a “real” birth certificate.

  • http://deeperwaters.wordpress.com/ Nick Peters

    Hi Scott.

    Yes. I do know when Trajan lived. Systematic persecution was common under a number of emperors but first got a major start under Nero. The Christian church and Rome were hardly on good terms and the points still apply that Christianity was a mark of shame.

    Also, the time frame for the wealthy becoming Christians was not tied to the time of Trajan but early Christianity. Paul often had wealthy people convert, people who could have the resources to check which would involve time and effort.

    You say Paul would go on to the next town. Is there any evidence that he would? Why would he as a Jew have abandoned a path he thought a good one in acceptance of a path that if wrong would place him eternally separate from YHWH? What incentive could he have had? Do we have any evidence of anyone producing the body of Jesus at all?

    Let’s not go by hypotheticals. Let’s go by the evidence that we do have.

  • Beau Quilter

    Sorry Nick, but there have always been protected enclaves of Christianity, even in times of persecution. And Christians were not even remotely the only religious sect persecuted by the Romans from time to time. The argument that beliefs must be true when maintained against threat of persecution is, frankly, silly. Most major religions in the world have followers who cling to their beliefs in the face of persecution.

    And the idea that Christian groups were filled with wealthy, multi-lingual, and skeptical individuals capable of checking the veracity of supernatural claims that were decades old – well, by that logic, the claims of Mormons, the fastest growing religion in America, must also be true.

  • http://deeperwaters.wordpress.com/ Nick Peters

    Beau: Sorry Nick, but there have always been protected enclaves of Christianity, even in times of persecution.

    Reply: No?! REally? You mean not every second was spent hunting down Christians?! Wow!

    Sorry, but that’s already known. Nice straw man.

    Beau: And Christians were not even remotely the only religious sect persecuted by the Romans from time to time.

    Reply: Oh geez. This would be a good argument if I had said that. Too bad I didn’t. Strike two.

    Beau: The argument that beliefs must be true when maintained against threat of persecution is, frankly, silly. Most major religions in the world have followers who cling to their beliefs in the face of persecution.

    Reply: Little difference here. Most of those others had no incentive to join. Christianity was a guarantee to a life of shame from the community. With Islam, you got to go on those military raids and get wealth and of course, conversion at the point of the sword is an effective evangelism strategy. With Mormonism, America was a live and let live culture, as it still is, and did not mind novelty. Plus, Mormonism was addressing the problem as well of the origin of the Native American people. Polygamy was also a bonus and in an individualistic culture, thinking you are one of the people receiving God’s new revelation is a bonus.

    Finally, the apostles and first eyewitnesses were in a place to know that what they were spending the rest of their lives on was true. They could all stake it upon seeing the risen Christ. No one else had that. Not even the first followers of Muhammad could have claimed to have heard Gabriel.

    Beau: And the idea that Christian groups were filled with wealthy, multi-lingual, and skeptical individuals capable of checking the veracity of supernatural claims that were decades old – well, by that logic, the claims of Mormons, the fastest growing religion in America, must also be true.

    Reply: Hmmm. What part of “I do not accept the post-enlightenment supernatural/natural distinction” is so hard to understand? Okay. What fact of Mormonism was there to be verified? Could anyone claim to have seen what Joseph Smith saw? You had just him. Meanwhile, with Christianity, you had 500+ eyewitnesses to the risen Jesus who could testify to any witnesses who saw them.

    Now can we please move to real arguments?

  • John I.

    Thanks for your helpful comments and answers, Nick.

    There seems also to me to be the matter of intentionality. What parts of their descriptions did the writers intend to be subject to the kind of historiological verification that we do today? The wrapper details, like the precise manner in which the centurion meets Jesus, seem to be irrelevant to them–and to their readers. The gospel writers are not intentionally trying to deceive via their differing descriptions.

    If you asked people, who actually saw the centurion event happen, whether one description was wrong and the other right, I believe they’d think the question itself to be nuts. The difference in how Jesus met the centurion is not part of the point or significance of the story, and so is irrelevant. However, the story needs the centurion and Jesus to meet, so we do need some narrative wrapper to get us there. Anybody of the time who read both gospels would say that there is no real difference between the stories. In courts, judges call this sort of difference “de minimus” — something so slight that it has no legal relevance. Or as the people I grew up with would say, “same diff”.

    JI

  • http://deeperwaters.wordpress.com/ Nick Peters

    Hi JI. I think an excellent example of this can be found in J. Warner Wallace’s “Cold-Case Christianity.” In it, he describes a hold-up at a convenience store. He had two witnesses. One was the person behind the criminal in line. The other was someone who saw it from a different viewpoint and had been in the store to meet the clerk, a friend of his. Both eyewitnesses give testimony that would seem to show they were not looking at the same event, but both testimonies actually end up helping one another out.

    If the accounts have disagreements, they can’t be trusted. If they all agree, it’s collusion. With fundamental atheists, you can’t win either way.

    An excellent scholarly source showing the time the gospels were written is Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.

  • Beau Quilter

    Nick

    Seriously? This is your evidence that magic happened 2000 years ago? These aren’t real arguments. The gospels were not written by eyewitnesses, as any scholar will tell you. Paul was not an eyewitness, and his is the only word we have that there were “500 witnesses” – he doesn’t even imply that he talked to the 500. And 500 witnesses is a pretty paultry showing compared to the thousands of modern witnesses to appearances of Mary, or the thousands of people who claim to have been abducted by aliens. And, heck, you don’t have to take one man’s word that thousands have been abducted by aliens; you can research each individual eyewitness report!

    You seem to be ignorant of early Mormon history – they were ostracized, criminalized, mobbed, tar-and-feathered, and chased from state to state. But that’s beside the main point. Even today their claims about Jews coming to America are verifiably false from any scientific or historical vantage one cares to examine. But the failure of their claims under scrutiny doesn’t seem to stop seemingly intelligent Americans from joining the Mormon church in droves. Your argument that early Christians could have “verified” the resurrection is lame by comparison.

    It’s very clear that your arguments, Nick, are not designed to convince anyone to become a Christian; they can only be used as a false security for those who already believe.

  • Beau Quilter

    What’s more interesting to me than the differences between the gospels is their similarities. And when I say similarities, I’m talking about the verbatim similarities between the synoptic gospels. The synoptic gospels do not represent multiple eyewitnesses, they are clearly highly editorialized stories pulled verbatim from the same sources.

    The gospel of John, of course, written much later than the synoptics is the least likely gospel to be based on eyewitness reports. The reason John is so beloved and so readable is that the writer takes far more creative liberty in telling a memorable tale.

  • Beau Quilter

    Nick

    “What part of ‘I do not accept the post-enlightenment supernatural/natural distinction’ is so hard to understand?”

    This is such a strange thing to say. You say it as though I have somehow missed the lynchpin of your argument. In the first place what you accept or do not accept has little bearing on whether anyone else finds your arguments valid.

    More importantly, I find this attitude unfathomable in the 21st century. You might as well have said, “what part of ‘I believe in fairies’ is so hard to understand?”

    Quite honestly, your attitude is frightening to me. We no longer burn witches; we no longer hang Jews for blood-libel; we no longer try to exorcise evil spirits from the mentally retarded. Unfortunately, we still publish horoscopes, entertain’true’ ghost stories, and peddle faith-healers on TV. But I have hopes that these are just the vestiges of the brooding superstitions that kept humanity in the dark ages for so long.

    Whatever you choose to accept, I am glad that the current scientific establishment is not held back by a medieval belief in magic.

  • http://deeperwaters.wordpress.com/ Nick Peters

    In comes Beau Quilter once again!

    Beau: Seriously? This is your evidence that magic happened 2000 years ago?

    REply; I never said anything about magic. I spoke about miracles. The two are different. Nice straw man though.

    Beau: These aren’t real arguments. The gospels were not written by eyewitnesses, as any scholar will tell you.

    Reply: Richard Bauckham is a scholar. He wrote a whole book to demonstrate that they were. Therefore, some scholars will say otherwise. Let’s see. Endorsements of his book? N.T. Wright. James Dunn. Graham Stanton. Martin Hengel. Last I checked, those are scholarly names too. Darn it but those fundy atheist myths just die hard don’t they?

    Beau: Paul was not an eyewitness,

    Reply: Actually, we have his testimony that he was a witness to seeing the risen Christ. Now why on Earth would he make up something like that? Now you could say he was hallucinating or mistaken sure, but that’s a far cry from lying.

    Beau: and his is the only word we have that there were “500 witnesses” – he doesn’t even imply that he talked to the 500.

    Reply: Paul is writing to give his authoritative statement and challenging people to verify the claims that he’s presented. He’s not going to present something he knows to be false. This is also not Paul’s alone. This is an early Christian creed as scholarship will tell you. Try reading some and you’ll find out.

    Beau: And 500 witnesses is a pretty paultry showing compared to the thousands of modern witnesses to appearances of Mary, or the thousands of people who claim to have been abducted by aliens.

    Reply: Irrelevant. If there were more witnesses, you’d still deny it. I also don’t ipso facto rule out other claims like the ones you mentioned. I just like to see evidence of them. Now do you think these 500 never existed or they were all deluded or what?

    Beau: And, heck, you don’t have to take one man’s word that thousands have been abducted by aliens; you can research each individual eyewitness report!

    Reply: Trusting an early Christian creed is not taking one man’s word. This is material Paul got from someone else and therefore, he is not the source of it. It speaks to early eyewitness testimony of the appearances of the risen Jesus. Scholars do agree that the disciples claimed to see the risen Christ. Perhaps you should read Licona’s book and learn that.

    Beau: You seem to be ignorant of early Mormon history – they were ostracized, criminalized, mobbed, tar-and-feathered, and chased from state to state.

    Reply: Actually, no. I know about it, but I also know that there were perks to being a Mormon and that it was also in a culture where new was cherished instead of old and that it wasn’t an honor/shame culture like the biblical one was. THe differences are what mattered. Because of the individualism, one could take “mockery” a lot better. It wasn’t so in an honor/shame society.

    Beau: But that’s beside the main point. Even today their claims about Jews coming to America are verifiably false from any scientific or historical vantage one cares to examine. But the failure of their claims under scrutiny doesn’t seem to stop seemingly intelligent Americans from joining the Mormon church in droves. Your argument that early Christians could have “verified” the resurrection is lame by comparison.

    Reply: Actually, it isn’t. At the start, no one could verify that about Mormonism. However, the rich could easily have gone to the eyewitnesses of the risen Christ and received verification of the claims. They could have checked the Jerusalem area and the empty tomb claims and seen that it all happened. Christianity started itself with real people in a real place at a real time and recorded that. They also started themselves off in the backyard of Jerusalem and challenged anyone to disagree. They even went all the way with a physical resurrection, something that was completely an anomaly in thinking about the Messiah. It would have been easy to disprove, and yet it never was.

    Beau: It’s very clear that your arguments, Nick, are not designed to convince anyone to become a Christian; they can only be used as a false security for those who already believe.

    Reply: Not clear at all. I suspect that’s because the opposite is true. Your fundy atheism is keeping you from really interacting with the material, much like your claim that any scholar would say the gospels weren’t eyewitness accounts. I suspect you’ll be writing out a refutation to Bauckham to tell him what he doesn’t know. Right?

    Beau: What’s more interesting to me than the differences between the gospels is their similarities. And when I say similarities, I’m talking about the verbatim similarities between the synoptic gospels. The synoptic gospels do not represent multiple eyewitnesses, they are clearly highly editorialized stories pulled verbatim from the same sources.

    Reply: Of course there are similarities. That’s what usually happens when people see the same event! They can actually describe it the same way! The main point is the differences. Perhaps you should avail yourself of some of the work of Mark Goodacre. You might not have ever heard of him. He’s a scholar. I take it you’re not familiar with them.

    Beau: The gospel of John, of course, written much later than the synoptics is the least likely gospel to be based on eyewitness reports. The reason John is so beloved and so readable is that the writer takes far more creative liberty in telling a memorable tale.

    Reply: Lovely way to beg the question. It’s also the gospel that Bauckham thinks is most likely written by an eyewitness. Again, I don’t want just assertions. I want either arguments or good scholarly sources. So far, I’m seeing neither.

    Beau: This is such a strange thing to say. You say it as though I have somehow missed the lynchpin of your argument. In the first place what you accept or do not accept has little bearing on whether anyone else finds your arguments valid.

    Reply: No. It’s not a strange thing to say. I said earlier I don’t accept the distinction and you go off and repeat it again. Perhaps if you’d listened the first time you wouldn’t have brought it up again.

    Beau: More importantly, I find this attitude unfathomable in the 21st century. You might as well have said, “what part of ‘I believe in fairies’ is so hard to understand?”

    Reply: Oh! You find it unfathomable! Well I guess that settles it! Forget doing real historical study and seeing the philosophical mindset before or afterwards. You find it unfathomable so the case is closed. Let’s see how this works.

    I find it unfathomable to think the Christian account is untrue. Therefore, the Christian account is true.

    Also, fairies would not be a problem to my belief system. I’m sure they’d devastate yours, but not mine. I just don’t see the evidence. If they exist, would they be natural or supernatural by your standards? Now that’d be a question to consider. Natural and supernatural as used are incredibly hard terms to define. Does natural refer to just that which is material? What about such ideas as morality or triangularity or numbers? Are they natural or supernatural?

    Beau: Quite honestly, your attitude is frightening to me.

    Reply: Not surprising. People who actually read scholarship can be very frightening to those who don’t.

    Beau: We no longer burn witches;

    Reply; Ended by Christians.

    Beau: we no longer hang Jews for blood-libel;

    Reply: Inquisition material? Please. What are your sources on it. I’ll give you a Henry Kamen for mine with his scholarly work on the Spanish Inquisition. Got better?

    Beau: we no longer try to exorcise evil spirits from the mentally retarded.

    Reply: I suppose you also have hidden somewhere a refutation of Keener’s volumes “Miracles” where stories of demon possession are documented. To say not every case of sickness is caused by demons, something Christians didn’t affirm, does not mean none were. Also, as a Preterist, I’m not surprised demonic activity is less common and especially so here in America. Also, keep in mind that medical advances have been made by Christians throughout the years. Even the noted physician Galen took record of how Christians helped deal with a plague in the Roman Empire and in the Crusades, you had the Hospitallers who helped care for the sick.

    Beau: Unfortunately, we still publish horoscopes,

    REply: Note that everyone did Astrology for awhile as well. Tiberius would have his horoscope read and then had the astrologers thrown into the sea on the way out so no one could know his horoscope. This actually led in the medieval period to the rise of astronomy which, lo and behold, yeah. Christians did that one also. The reason we study astronomy today is because of the Christian church. For an excellent resource on this, see James Hannam’s “God’s Philosophers.”

    Beau: entertain’true’ ghost stories,

    Reply: I don’t go against all of them either. I’m skeptical, but I’m also open to evidence.

    Beau: and peddle faith-healers on TV.

    Reply: Wanna know who’s standing up to those the most? THat’s right. Christians.

    Beau: But I have hopes that these are just the vestiges of the brooding superstitions that kept humanity in the dark ages for so long.

    Whatever you choose to accept, I am glad that the current scientific establishment is not held back by a medieval belief in magic.

    Reply: Pleased to see you know so little about the medieval period. For one thing, historians are getting out of calling them the dark ages. That was an Enlightenment name. It was a time of great advancement.

    Shall we talk about Astrolabes, or the work of Roger Bacon on optics? How about Peter the Pilgrim and magnetism? How about measurements involving light? How about Nicole Oresme? How about the development of the mean speed theorem? How about the Merton Calculators?

    Fundy atheist myths sure do keep on fighting hard. Too bad they don’t have evidence.

  • bobson

    Adam (#35)
    Thanks. Good explanation, a good place to start.

  • Beau Quilter

    Whew!

    That’s quite a diatribe! I wonder if you’re even aware of how many of your shotgun references conflict with each other. Have you even read Bauckham? He would be the first to tell you that you’ve completely misunderstood his scholarship if you think that the similarities in the synoptic gospels occur because “That’s what usually happens when people see the same event! They can actually describe it the same way!”

    If you actually read Bauckham, you would see that he agrees with virtually all biblical scholars today that the similarities in the synoptics occur because the synoptic gospels were derived from the same sources in oral tradition. Now Bauckham (and N.T. Wright and a few others) will go on to argue those oral traditions can be traced back to multiple witnesses, and even many atheist historians would agree that some of those oral traditions may have a basis in a real rabbi named Jesus. But Bauckham would never claim, as you do, that the gospels use exactly the same words to describe events because mutliple people “can actually describe it the same way.”

    In fact, every scholar you referenced (Bauckham, Wright, Dunn, Stanton, Hengel and Goodacre) would explain to you that the synoptic gospels contain collections of oral traditions, and that when they have verbatim descriptions of events, they are quoting the same oral traditions. I (and huge range of other scholars) might disagree with them about the relative validity of those original oral traditions, but you don’t seem to understand the arguments of your own referenced scholars at even a cursory level.

    You also don’t seem to understand that you have the enlightenment to thank for your dismissal of magic as a “straw man”. Prior to the enlightenment, to any religious person, magic was simply another aspect of the supernatural realm of spiritual powers. In some circles, magic would have been distinguished from miracles, in that the former represented demonic powers while the later represented heavenly powers (this distinction was, by no means universal), but, whether the medieval mind considered magic or miracles, both were considered supernatural and real.

    You love to drop names, don’t you? Henry Kamen next. Apparently you haven’t read Kamen either. His thesis in The Spanish Inquisition: An Historical Revision is not that the Spanish Inquisitors never tortured Jews; he argues that they didn’t torture and imprison Jews exclusively, that they were no worse, perhaps than Spanish prisons (not that anyone would want to be caught dead in a Spanish prison), and that the inquisition in Spain was no worse than the religious persecution of Jews that was occurring in every other country in Europe. Kamen is by no means arguing that Jews were no persecuted at all in medieval Europe. (Please don’t tell me you’re a holocaust denier, as well)

    And your list of medieval science advances? First of all, astrolabes? Greek invention 150 BC. As for your other mentions, why bother with Peter the Pilgrim and the Merton calculators when you have giants like Copernicus and Galileo who predate the enlightenment? You see, nobody argues that scientific progress didn’t happen in the medieval era. Only that scientific progress exploded in the enlightenment era. And of course medieval scientists were Christians – they were either Christians or heretics. They could take their pick, practice science in line with the church or burn at the stake. Hard choice, right? Which is why Copernicus published his heliocentric view of the solar system posthumously, and why Galileo recanted heliocentrism in retirement.

    Nick, I have a suggestion for you. Don’t make shotgun references to writers you haven’t read. Your lack of scholarly depth works against your arguments.

  • http://deeperwaters.wordpress.com/ Nick Peters

    Beau: That’s quite a diatribe! I wonder if you’re even aware of how many of your shotgun references conflict with each other. Have you even read Bauckham? He would be the first to tell you that you’ve completely misunderstood his scholarship if you think that the similarities in the synoptic gospels occur because “That’s what usually happens when people see the same event! They can actually describe it the same way!”

    If you actually read Bauckham, you would see that he agrees with virtually all biblical scholars today that the similarities in the synoptics occur because the synoptic gospels were derived from the same sources in oral tradition. Now Bauckham (and N.T. Wright and a few others) will go on to argue those oral traditions can be traced back to multiple witnesses, and even many atheist historians would agree that some of those oral traditions may have a basis in a real rabbi named Jesus. But Bauckham would never claim, as you do, that the gospels use exactly the same words to describe events because mutliple people “can actually describe it the same way.”

    Reply: Of course they used oral tradition. Tacitus was best friends with Pliny and he didn’t even just accept his word. That was part of the historical process in writing an account. Also, when the writers were writing, it wasn’t just them. No one would sit at a desk and write. Instead, they would be in a place where people could come and go and most of them would give some comment on what could be said. If you think that my recommending Bauckham means that there was no oral tradition, then that is simply mistaken.

    Would I have any express problem with one gospel writer using another? No. That would not damage my theory. I’m just not conclusive on it yet. After all, many of Jesus’s sayings were put in a form that would be easy for memorization, something extremely important back then.

    Beau: In fact, every scholar you referenced (Bauckham, Wright, Dunn, Stanton, Hengel and Goodacre) would explain to you that the synoptic gospels contain collections of oral traditions, and that when they have verbatim descriptions of events, they are quoting the same oral traditions. I (and huge range of other scholars) might disagree with them about the relative validity of those original oral traditions, but you don’t seem to understand the arguments of your own referenced scholars at even a cursory level.

    Reply: Of course they used oral traditions. It’s not the case that the gospels just fell down from Heaven or as some writers think, the reference in John just means the Holy Spirit enabled some super memory power to help them understand. This is what anyone would do. They would get the oral traditions at the time and include them in their compilation. Matthew would have some of his own eyewitness material. Peter would have some of his through Mark. John had his own. The only one who would have relied most largely on others, as he explicitly states, would be Luke.

    Beau: You also don’t seem to understand that you have the enlightenment to thank for your dismissal of magic as a “straw man”.

    Reply: No. I do not dismiss magic. I say calling a miracle “magic” is a straw man. The two are different. Magic depends on one seeking to control other powers. Miracle refers to a direct act of God.

    Beau: Prior to the enlightenment, to any religious person, magic was simply another aspect of the supernatural realm of spiritual powers. In some circles, magic would have been distinguished from miracles, in that the former represented demonic powers while the later represented heavenly powers (this distinction was, by no means universal), but, whether the medieval mind considered magic or miracles, both were considered supernatural and real.

    Reply: The distinction is the key point. The two are not identical. I have no problem considering even magic real today. I don’t doubt there are dark powers at work.

    Beau: You love to drop names, don’t you? Henry Kamen next. Apparently you haven’t read Kamen either. His thesis in The Spanish Inquisition: An Historical Revision is not that the Spanish Inquisitors never tortured Jews; he argues that they didn’t torture and imprison Jews exclusively, that they were no worse, perhaps than Spanish prisons (not that anyone would want to be caught dead in a Spanish prison), and that the inquisition in Spain was no worse than the religious persecution of Jews that was occurring in every other country in Europe. Kamen is by no means arguing that Jews were no persecuted at all in medieval Europe. (Please don’t tell me you’re a holocaust denier, as well)

    Reply: Sorry, but I’m not denying that Jews were wrongly treated. Methinks you assume too much. As it turns out, I’ve read Bauckham and Kamen both. The death of any Jew in the Inquisition or any non-Jew was one too many. (I’ll state up front I would support the death penalty even today for capital crimes, but deconversion or converting another are not those) I was simply pre-empting any possible idea of an Inquisition as a reign of terror. It wasn’t. Kamen writes after all to deal with the myths that have arisen today about the Inquisition. (How many times have I read online large numbers like 50,000,000 people being killed at that time.)

    The only point I’m making here is that a number of wrong things were done, but it’s not what it’s made out to be commonly on the net.

    Beau: And your list of medieval science advances? First of all, astrolabes? Greek invention 150 BC.

    Reply: Got a source?

    Beau: As for your other mentions, why bother with Peter the Pilgrim and the Merton calculators when you have giants like Copernicus and Galileo who predate the enlightenment?

    Reply: Everyone knows about those two. The people they don’t know about were the giants whose shoulders they stood on. If it hadn’t had been for the people who came before, you wouldn’t have Copernicus and Galileo. They didn’t show up in a vacuum after all.

    Beau: You see, nobody argues that scientific progress didn’t happen in the medieval era.

    Reply: That’s news to me because I see it happening constantly, such as the idiotic graph that indicates that if it hadn’t been for the “dark ages” we could have been living on other planets by now.

    Beau: Only that scientific progress exploded in the enlightenment era. And of course medieval scientists were Christians – they were either Christians or heretics.

    Reply: Yes. They were Christians and it was because they were Christians that they sought to understand the universe all the more. Science arose where it did instead of in other cultures for a reason. It was part of explaining the grandeur of the universe and thus bringing glory to God.

    Beau: They could take their pick, practice science in line with the church or burn at the stake. Hard choice, right?

    Reply: Do you have an account of someone who burned at the stake for a scientific belief?

    Beau: Which is why Copernicus published his heliocentric view of the solar system posthumously, and why Galileo recanted heliocentrism in retirement.

    Reply: They knew their theories were controversial. It wasn’t so much for religious reasons but for scientific reasons. All the evidence that they had at the time went against a rotating Earth. Galileo was right on heliocentrism. His reasons were not good. His main argument involved the rise of ocean tides. He did not have enough evidence to have his theory accepted at the time. If anything was a major problem in the Galileo affair, it was ego. Galileo and the Pope both had big egos and it did not help that Galileo decided to write a dialogue picturing the Pope as a simpleton. Note that Galileo first had his major battles with the Aristotleans, the major scientists of the day, before going over to the church.

    Still, we would not have those two without the prior scientific advancements that were done earlier.

    Beau: Nick, I have a suggestion for you. Don’t make shotgun references to writers you haven’t read. Your lack of scholarly depth works against your arguments.

    Reply: They’ve been read. In fact, I have little problem with much of what has been said such as oral tradition, something I have referred to often elsewhere.

  • Beau Quilter

    Nick

    You win! I couldn’t possibly provide a rejoinder as entertaining as yours!

    Some of my favorite hightlights:

    “Tacitus was best friends with Pliny”

    “. . . the reference in John just means the Holy Spirit enabled some super memory power to help them understand.”

    “I have no problem considering even magic real today. I don’t doubt there are dark powers at work.”

    “I was simply pre-empting any possible idea of an Inquisition as a reign of terror. It wasn’t.”

    “Beau: Astrolabes? Greek invention 150 BC.
    Reply: Got a source?”

    (That was a particularly brilliant retort. I mean, who’s going to take the time to look up Hipparchus or Theon of Alexandria!)

    “That’s news to me because I see it happening constantly, such as the idiotic graph that indicates that if it hadn’t been for the “dark ages” we could have been living on other planets by now.”

    (Wow! ‘Gotcha’ to all us loonies who thought we could be living on other planets by now!)

    (Then on Copernicus and Galileo)

    “They knew their theories were controversial. It wasn’t so much for religious reasons but for scientific reasons. All the evidence that they had at the time went against a rotating Earth. Galileo was right on heliocentrism. His reasons were not good. His main argument involved the rise of ocean tides. He did not have enough evidence to have his theory accepted at the time. If anything was a major problem in the Galileo affair, it was ego.”

    (That is so historically accurate! Gosh, Galileo and Copernicus were such rubes, stumbling upon the truth about the solar system by pure accident! It was ego and bad science that were Galileo’s problem. That’s why the Roman Inquisition held a heresy trial against Galileo “for holding as true the false doctrine taught by some that the sun is the center of the world”)

    I concede defeat, Nick! I bow before your superior intellect.

    Please, please, I beg you, forward our conversation to your scholarly friends to show them how soundly you defeated me! Send it to your father-in-law so that he can read your brilliant assessment of New Testament scholarship to his students.

  • John I.

    Beau, do you have any persuasive uses of logic other than ad hominem, irrelevant appeals (to pity, to popularity, etc.), weak analogy, bandwagon, red herring, sweeping generalization, to quoque, etc.?

  • Beau Quilter

    John I.

    I will concede that this exchange between Nick and myself has gotten way off topic from the original post, and we are probably wearing out the welcome of the blog.

    But I’m frankly stumped at how you can apply your list (“ad hominem, irrelevant appeals (to pity, to popularity, etc.), weak analogy, bandwagon, red herring, sweeping generalization, etc.?”) to me, when it can be far more aptly applied to Nick.

    In fact, when it comes to sweeping generalizations, physician heal thyself.

    My original reason for posting, though it’s been lost in the shuffle, was simply to point that Licona’s analysis of the gospels, while challenging to ultra-conservatives like Mohler, still lies within the framework, and carries the biases of, fundamentalist Christian views of the Bible.

    Having said that; part of the reason I quote back Nick’s own words and then suggest that he pass our conversation onto Mike Licona and other scholars for discussion (I’m quite serious about that particular suggestion) is that I seriously doubt most of Nick’s arguments would be acceptable even to the scholars he’s trying to defend.


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