The Secular Outpost
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Not as unintentionally funny as some of his others, mind you—this is more along the lines of straight fundamentalist preaching.
Professor of physics at Truman State University
In the tract, there is an interesting alleged prophecy:
“…his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.” Isaiah 52:14
Below this quotation is a cartoon of the crucifixion, and someone who is looking at Jesus on the cross comments “I don’t recognize Him.”
The problem with this alleged fulfillment of prophecy is that if it is true that the man on the cross was so badly beaten as to be unrecognizable, then the testimony of eyewitnesses at the crucifixion of Jesus cannot prove that Jesus was one of the men on a cross, at least not based on a visual identification of Jesus.
This would cast significant doubt on the alleged death of Jesus, and thus on the resurrection of Jesus, and thus on the deity of Jesus.
Dilemma: Either the prophecy was not fulfilled by Jesus, implying that Jesus was not divine, or the prophecy was fulfilled by Jesus, and we are left without the most important evidence for his divinity.
Bradley: interesting theory… but we don’t need this sort of nitpicking argument to disprove Christianity. There are plenty of stronger arguments. Meanwhile, Christians love arguing with this sort of thing, because it’s such a minor point, and they can always fall back on the old “divine inspiration” argument. “We see the truth in this, shame you can’t… we’ll pray for you.”
If you are trying to convince people they are living a lie, you need to make them think clearly, not get them bogged down in petty intellectual exercises. Otherwise, it just sounds like you are angry and picking holes in anything you can see.
Even to disbelievers, this is particularly appalling logic, and demonstrates your saddening lack of knowledge on Biblical events and prophesy.
You wholly disregard the situations surrounding the crucifixion. It was not a private process; each event was done under the eyes of the public, with the greatest scrutiny coming from those that sought Jesus out most, in the pharisees.
Considering how great their hatred was of him, they would have certainly had at least one to confirm not only the crucifixion, but the torture preceding it.
And that’s a response from less than a cursory glance at the crucifixion. Winning people over with a false delineation of the scriptures does wonders at discrediting the secular movement.
Learn yourself on what you’re saying so you don’t make the rest look bad by the massive truth/fiction dichotomies which saturate your arguments.
I think Jake’s point is a good one–so long as there was some continuity of observation up to the crucifixion, Bradley’s argument doesn’t work.
On other Messianic prophecies, see my “Fabulous Prophecies of the Messiah.”
Response to baz…
You say my dilemma is a “nitpicking argument”, that makes “such a minor point” and invites Christians to a “petty intellectual exercise.” But you don’t say WHY you think the dilemma is nitpicking, minor, or petty.
I don’t see how you read my comment as angry, but whether I’m angry, grumpy, mildly irritated, or perfectly content is of no relevance to your point.
Response to Jake…
“Even to disbelievers, this is particularly appalling logic, and demonstrates your saddening lack of knowledge on Biblical events and prophesy.”
I will address the first objection about my “appalling logic” for now. You need to SPECIFY the inference with which you disagree. Otherwise, it is difficult for me to know what you disagree with.
The overall logic of my dilemma is a deductively valid argument:
(1) Either A or not A.(2) If A, then B.(3) If not A, then C.Therefore,(4) Either B or C.
A: The prophecy applies to Jesus.B: The most important arguement for Jesus’ divinity is undermined.C: Jesus is not divine.
I think your objections are to my premises rather than to my logic.
2nd response to Jake…
OK, now for Jake’s 2nd point about my “saddening lack of knowledge on Biblical events and prophesy.”
It is amazing how much Jake can infer about me from the few sentences that I posted.
Jake says: “You wholly disregard the situations surrounding the crucifixion. It was not a private process; each event was done under the eyes of the public …”
I did not state nor imply that crucifixions were private events. The fact that crucifixions were public does NOT get around the problem of visually identifying a person on a cross (in public) who is so badly beaten as to be unrecognizable.
Jake says: “the greatest scrutiny coming from those that sought Jesus out most, in the pharisees. Considering how great their hatred was of him, they would have certainly had at least one to confirm not only the crucifixion, but the torture preceding it.”
You are now offering an argument that is NOT based (primarily) on the Gospel witness to the crucifixion, but which appears to be based on speculation. Was the beating and flogging of Jesus in public view? I don’t think that is clear in the Gospels. I get the impression that the flogging was NOT in public view. Also, I don’t think it is clear that one or more Pharisees carefully and continuously monitored the events from trial to crucifixion. In any case, the Gospels do not provide us with testimony from Pharisees who claim to have been at the trial and crucifixion. So, where are your historical “facts” coming from?
What is your evidence that the Pharisees hated Jesus? That does not jive with what I have read about the historical Jesus. I believe the primary tension was between Jesus and the Jewish priests who ran the temple in Jerusalem. I think Jesus was much more in line with the Pharisees ideologically and politically.
In any case, your second objection appears to be based on speculation rather than historical facts, so you need some real data before accusing me of a “saddening lack of knowledge” about the crucifixion.
CAUTION: Anyone claiming to have knowledge about the Pharisees, will probably have to eat his/her words later.
There are three sources of information about the Pharisees: (1) the NT, (2) Josephus, and (3) early rabbinic literature:
“Because we have no surviving text written by a committed Pharisee and no archaeological finds that mention them, the reconstruction of the Pharisees’ aims and views must depend on the writings of third parties: the NT writers, the 1st-century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, and the authors of rabbinic literature. None of these outsiders, however, was primarily interested in explaining who the Pharisees were.” (“Pharisees” in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p.1043).
Each of these three sources of information is problematic:
“In general, the Gospel writers, who wrote several decades after Jesus, manifest little accurate and consistent knowledge about Jewish leadership and groups from the period before the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70.” (“Pharisees” in HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, revised edition, p.842).
“First, to a surprising extent what Josephus actually writes about the Pharisees is negative, at times sharply so. Such passages are commonly thought to have been uncritically reproduced from sources harboring ill will for the Pharisees (see Schwartz). An alternative explanation questions Josephus’s claim to be a Pharisee, noting that his writings betray little evidence of support for peculiarly Pharisaic beliefs and practices. The problem remains unresolved (see Mason).” (“Pharisees” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, p. 609)
“The general trend today is to see early rabbinic literature as the product of a small elite, which only gradually came to exert influence over larger circles of Jews toward the end of the 2nd century C.E. That elite claimed notable Pharisees among its founders, but it also took over the role of temple-related teaching. It probably originated not simply among the Pharisees but in a surviving coalition of priests, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and others. Rabbinic literature should no longer be used, therefore, as direct evidence for the Pharisees.” (“Pharisees” in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p.1044).
I won’t make a knowledge claim about the Pharisees, but I will point out that the prominent Jesus scholar E.P. Sanders would probably disagree with Jake’s view of the Pharisees:
“The seriousness with which Pharisees would have regarded Jesus’ departures from their norms is a matter of some debate. E.P. Sanders (1990) has suggested that even if the conflict stories in the Gospels are historically reliable (and Sanders regards this as dubious), no significant conflict was involved. Disputes between groups within the Pharisaic movement, he suggests, were at least as substantial as were Pharisaic differences from the Sadducees. Yet the Pharisees had learned to tolerate those who did not share their views, worshiped with them at the Temple, and certainly did not regard those whose opinions on details of observance differed from their own as ‘sinners’ outside the pale of true Israel.” (“Pharisees” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, p. 612).
Oh dear, Bradley. Just because we hurt your feelings, that doesn’t mean you have to start acting like a religious nutcase. You’re even using the argument of a “Jesus scholar” (whatever that is) to back up your atheist argument!
The *whole tract* is full of some serious bullshit, and yet you want to spend all this time advancing the theory that either _everyone_ recognised Jesus on the cross, or _no-one_ did?
For anyone who might have an “appalling lack of knowledge” about the role of the Pharisees in the crucifixion of Jesus, here is a comment from the leading Jesus scholar, John Meier:
“In particular, when treating Jesus’ relationship to the Pharisees, one should bear in mind that the earliest strata of the Gospel traditions supply no basis for thinking that Jesus’ clashes with the Pharisees were the major reason why he was put to death. Indeed, as to both issues and actors, there is a remarkable ‘disconnect’ in the Gospels between Jesus’ disputes with the Pharisees during the public ministry and his arrest and execution at the end of his life. The whole Marcan Passion Narrative, as well as the primitive form of the Johannine Passion Narrative, never presents the Pharissees as a group taking part in the trial, condemnation, or execution of Jesus. … Especially in contrast to their abundant presence in the stories of the public ministry, the Pharisees as a group or most notable by their absence in the Passion Narrative.” (A Marginal Jew, Volume III, p. 339).
response to baz:
Here is what I won’t spend any time on: arguing about Jesus with someone who does not even know what a Jesus scholar is.
A bit of background knowledge that may help someone to avoid revealing his/her ignorance next time:
A “Jefferson scholar” is a scholar who specializes in study of the life and thinking of Thomas Jefferson.
A “Lincoln scholar” is a scholar who specializes in study of the life and thinking of Abraham Lincoln.
A “Hume scholar” is a scholar who specializes in study of the life and thinking of David Hume.
A “Kant scholar” is a scholar who specializes in study of the life and thinking of Immanuel Kant.
Now for the really tough part.
Hang in there. Focus your mind…take a deep breath…
A Jesus scholar is…
wait for it…
… a scholar who specializes in study of the life and thinking of Jesus of Nazareth.
Thanks for playing.
Wow, Bradley. Really hit a nerve, didn’t we?
I can see why some religious people accuse atheists of being dogmatic, fundamentalist or of requiring faith. You’re really no better than most of the die-hard Christian apologists; hold your position no matter what the evidence presented against it. And it doesn’t seem to matter to you if you have to resort to veiled ad hominem attacks.
Why the anger? Methinks thou dost protest too much…
@baz: “I can see why some religious people accuse atheists of being dogmatic, fundamentalist or of requiring faith. You’re really no better than most of the die-hard Christian apologists; hold your position no matter what the evidence presented against it.”
How? Bradley is merely making a point (albeit a nitpicky point). I think most of us would agree that Chick’s tracts never make even partially valid arguments… yet we, including Bradley, decide to pick them apart anyways for the sake of intellectual analysis. This is what Bradley was doing. He was not being a “religious nutcase” of any sort. As for Jesus scholars– there exist “Jesus scholars” who study the historical Jesus and schools of thought, not religious thought. These are the kinds of scholars quoted by Bradley.
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