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Victor on Weird Stuff

Victor Reppert has been kind enough to reply on his Dangerous Idea blog to my comments on his earlier posting. I’m replying to his reply, which will evoke a counter-reply, which will get a counter-counter-reply…until one or the other of us has some real work to do and has to break it off. Sigh. That is the damn problem with these discussions. They could go on for lifetimes, but we academics have to work them in between grading papers, committee meetings, publishers’ deadlines, etc.


Anyway, here is what he says:

“I have trouble seeing why people are so sure that he [the supposedly clairvoyant violin teacher] didn’t know, even if they are naturalists. Does he really know that this is naturalistically impossible? It might be less likely given naturalism than given supernaturalism, and thus the evidence might probabilistically support supernaturalism via Bayes’ theorem. (OK, OK, people accuse me of abusing Bayesian probability theory on a daily basis, so I’m already bracing myself). But the most we can say, I think, if my teacher knew that my rival had gone down and been upset, this might be difficult to explain naturalistically based on what we know about nature at this point. Why do we have to assume it was a guess that turned into an appearance of knowledge because of confirmation bias.

A few more details about the incident are relevant here. First, he said he had this “perception” just at the time when the rival went down. Second, my violin teacher never reported anything like this in the three years when he was my teacher. It’s not as if he brought up a bunch of them, and this one just happened to fit. He did mention other clairvoyant incidents, but didn’t claim to have a whole lot of them. Third, although spellers, like all competitors, experience the agony of defeat, nobody ever was quite as demonstrative as this guy. So I’m just not sure you can chalk it all up to guesswork and confirmation bias. In fact, in the absence of some good reasons to believe that he couldn’t have known something that was going on a couple of miles away in that school auditorium, I think the reasonable thing to say would be that he did know.


But, of course, we have to consider the not only the probability of the event given naturalism, but we must also consider the laws of supernature. How probable is the event given supernatural involvement. Is it the sort of thing God is likely to do, or not, if we suspect God? Of course, Keith and I disagree as to whether it is possible to consider the laws of supernature, but people who have beliefs about supernature have probabilistic expectations concerning what to expect from supernature. If you say that’s not enough for a law, well guess what. In quantum mechanics all you get are probabilities also. Are we worried that God isn’t observable? Well, science commits to unobservables all the time.

In considering miracles claims like the Resurrection, we can formulate a theory about what kinds of miracles God is likely to perform, and why he would perform them. Given this theory, we can ask whether the historical evidence is more likely to be the sort thing we should expect if the theistic theory is true, or whether it is more like the sort of thing we should expect if the theistic theory is false. There is a very large trail of historical evidence to look at.

Of course, you can end up deciding that yes, the historical evidence confirms the theistic story, but the atheistic account is more probable based on the total evidence, or relative to your priors.

Have the laws of nature been established by a firm and unalterable experience, as Hume suggests? I don’t think so. My experience is far from establishing the laws of nature on a firm and unalterable basis. What about yours?”

Response:

Is clairvoyance impossible given naturalism? I certainly see no reason to think so. We currently have no idea, given what we know about the natural world, how clairvoyance, ESP, etc. could possibly work, and no scientific (as opposed to anecdotal) evidence that it does work. However, it strikes me as dogmatic to say that such events could not someday be verified and scientifically explained. No, my point is that skepticism about anecdotal reports of clairvoyance or other paranormal occurrences is abundantly justified, to the point that we can very reasonably dismiss such stories without further ado.

Consider what we know about memory. I hope I do not embarrass Victor when I reveal that he is within a year or two of my age (58). This means that for him, as for me, seventh grade was a looooong time ago. Memory is not a recording device. It is a story teller. In telling stories to ourselves and others repeatedly, what gets locked in our memories is not what happens, but the stories we tell. It is far too easy to think that the foibles of memory only happen to other people while our memories are clear. So, Victor may–in all honesty, of course–be reporting details that did not happen. The plasticity of memory is naturally a problem with all reports of extraordinary occurrences (Let’s see, was that one angel, or two men in dazzling apparel, or just a young man dressed in white at the empty tomb?).

A principle of rationality that I endorse is this: “When you hear hoofbeats in the distance, think ‘Aha, horses!’ not ‘Aha, unicorns!’” In other words, try hard to give something an ordinary explanation before resorting to a weird one. What I have from Victor is not the original event but a report of an event that allegedly occurred 40+ years ago. That report is the “hoofbeats” here. How best to explain the occurrence of such a report? Even supposing that the event happened exactly as Victor reports it, it would be credulous in the extreme to conclude that this was a genuine case of clairvoyance. Humans have a strong tendency to underestimate the prevalence of coincidence, and paranormalists thrive in that lacuna of human rationality.

Let me illustrate with my own anecdote. Needless to say, World War II seriously disrupted relationships and friendships, sending people for years to distant locales. During the War, my father lost track of an old friend. One day, a couple of years after the War, he was walking down the streets of Atlanta and thought he saw the old friend walking down the block ahead of him. He increased his pace, moving to catch up. Just as he was about to catch up, he blunders into a man who just stepped out of a shop. He steps back to apologize and sees that the man he blundered into was the old friend he thought he was pursuing. Something paranormal? Nope. Coincidence? Yep. Of course, such events are so striking and surprising when they occur, that we have a hard time accepting that they are “just coincidence.” Yet, over the course of a normal lifetime, highly improbable events of some sort or another are almost certain to occur. On a given day, an event like that might be most unlikely, but at some point in the approximately 30,000 days of an 80 year life, it very well could happen.

Victor also notes, correctly, that in estimating the probabilities of miracles, we have to recognize that these estimates will rationally differ given people’s priors. Therefore, the degree of credulity or incredulity with which we approach a miracle report can be rationally different for different people. OK, but I am interested in miracle claims adduced for apologetic purposes. As I see it there are two kinds of religious apologetic–soft apologetic and hard apologetic. Soft apologetic endeavors to reassure the faithful that their beliefs are, for them, reasonable. Thus if a Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins type says that religious believers are all fools or knaves, a soft apologist would show that believers need be neither. Hard apologists, on the other hand, try to bludgeon people like me into belief. But if you are going to try to convince me, you have to work with MY priors, not yours. Soft apologetic is easy to do; hard apologetic is hard.

Is it reasonable for Victor to believe in some miracles, the Resurrection, say? Sure. Why not? Is it reasonable for me to disbelieve it? I defy anyone and everyone to show me that it is not.

Finally, Victor says that his experience is far from establishing the laws of nature on a firm and unalterable basis. Two questions here: (1) If so, does not this make the task of the apologist much harder in trying to convince the well-girded skeptic? If we really don’t have any firm basis for regarding certain things as physical impossible, and I am given evidence that someone rose from the dead, I could just pass this off as something that happens from time to time. No miracle is needed if no natural law had to be violated. (2) OK, well what then is wrong with the following?: A man applied to a welfare agency for public assistance and got back the following bureaucratic missive: “Dear Sir, Our records indicate that you are presently deceased, and therefore ineligible for public assistance. Should your condition have changed, please notify this office within the next thirty days.” Well, holy mackerel. Something is wrong here. If “firm and unalterable experience” have not shown us that the dead remain dead, what has gone wrong???

About Keith Parsons
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16947798364523082547 Rich Griese

    can you tell me your twitter name? I generally follow people with Twitter.

    Cheers! RichGriese@gmail.com

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10962948073162156902 Victor Reppert

    Keith: As a onetime College Bowl superstar, I would be a little careful in betting against people's memories. I was never a College Bowl superstar, but there are some things I will never forget from even longer ago than seventh grade. I can remember November 22, 1963, when I heard in the lunch line that President Kennedy and the governor of Texas had been shot. And then I remember hearing from my distraught music teacher that the President had died. I'm not in doubt about those things. I can recite your "Jerry Vines" sermon word-for-word to this day. I'll bet you remember every word Buddy Cooper told you about his conversation in Hoffmann's office about the conversation between Hoffmann, Mallard, and himself. Memory is fallible, except when it isn't.

    The brand of apologetics that I do is designed to tilt the probability curve in people's minds. What happens after that is between the person, their priors, and, maybe, God (if God exists).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16826568465831489492 Alex Dalton

    Keith: "That is the damn problem with these discussions. They could go on for lifetimes…"

    Alex: Hhahaha…So true. I am enslaved to several different conversations myself right now. It is hard to let someone else have the last word! I still owe you a late response on your late response on the thread on theistic explanation.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    Alex,

    Ditto. I've had to leave many loose strings just because I had no time for blogging. Contrary to the convictions of the Texas State Legislature and our esteemed governor, we academics actually do have real work to do.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    Victor,

    Au Contraire! I do not even remember who Buddy Cooper was, and if I once knew the details of a conversation between you, Hoffmann, and Mallard, I have long since forgotten. Please remind me, by private e-mail if it is not information for the public's ears.

    I imagine the conversation went something like this:

    Hoffmann: Vell who iss zis "C.S. Lewis??" I do not remember studying him at Heidelberg. Vas he some sort of English fairy tale writer? Vas ist das "Narnia?" How can I take him seriously iff he hass not read my definitive treatise on Bullsgeschichte???"

    Mallard: "Now, Manfred, be nice!"

    Hoffmann: "Vass iss "nice?" Mallard, you are nothing but a gnostic!"

    Mallard: "So what?? So what?? Nyahhh!"

    Yes, we got a quality education at Candler School of Theology.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11030669424412573308 Chris

    As you say in the original post, the 'event' described hardly rises to the level of being outside 'the ordinary course of nature.' But not only because people have hunches, intuitions, etc., all the time, but because the 'clairvoyance' in this case is entirely banal. The violin teacher was thinking about the spelling bee and imagined the rival going down and being upset about it. This turned out to be the case. –That's it? That the rival could in reality be defeated and would be upset is solidly within the bounds of normal occurrence; thinking that these things would/could/did occur is as well. Any small interest it may hold really hinges on the word 'awareness' – the violin teacher's or Victor's word choice? But even that, to me, is worth not much more than a shrug of the shoulders. I guess, given my atheist priors, that I still await the (standard atheist objection) headline, 'Psychic wins lottery – again!'

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    Chris,

    Ha, Ha!!! Yeah, I always felt that the old taunt applied especially to "psychics": "If you're so smart, why ain't you rich?"

    The study of anomalous psychology is fascinating in itself, and particularly as applied to the claims of religious apologists. One trick you have to be VERY careful of here is the old argumentum ad ignorantiam. A lot of times supposed witnesses of miracles, space aliens, or monsters will present a report which they expect you to take at face value and demand that you explain. If you are foolish enough to swallow the bait, and you fail to offer a convincing explanation of the purported phenomena, your failure to explain it away is taken as evidence of the authenticity of the claim.

    The right thing to do is to admit that you do not know what really happened. I once met a man who said that he saw Bigfoot. He was a seemingly very sensible man in his mid-20's who had worked as a camp counselor in rural Alabama. One night, when returning to the camp, he said that in his headlights, standing next to a stop sign, was a very large, furry, anthropoid creature. Neither moved for some seconds, until the creature simply walked off into the forest. The next day, he said, he went to the stop sign, and found it to be about seven feet tall. He said that the furry creature had been a full head taller.

    Now what really happened? I do not know. I do know that if all such reports were true, you could not take a picnic in the woods without Sasquatches begging for scraps.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14081104561562163389 Rosser

    You can't say "I don't know" as an atheist. Atheism is a truth claim.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16947798364523082547 Rich Griese

    Atheism is A-Theism, ie, not theism. It simply means that one does not buy the claims that theists make.

    Cheers! RichGriese.NET

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11030669424412573308 Chris

    Keith,

    I definitely agree about not offering 'explanations' for every story – 'I don't know' is often the best answer, since one most likely doesn't in fact know. Ad-hoc skeptical explanations can look as farcical as the events they are attempting to explain. If they are prominent enough, like J. Allen Hynek's 'swamp gas' remark about a UFO case (and he was a believer), they can end up being repeated as examples of skeptical obtuseness, closed-mindedness, etc. 'Debunking' is a perilous art.

    One small note about Bigfoot: I've read (although I can't factually verify) that Bigfoot sightings all occur in areas that are within the habitable range of bears.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14810269295574884025 Novelyn

    Right, but who cares? Of course Christianity isn't gonna be the path for everyone. The world is diverse and people have different personalities. I don't believe that Jesus is the only way for the entire world, what's the point of that? Maybe religion is the ultimate test to one's faith. I think more often than not, Christians undermine God and Atheists don't understand God at all. If you've never felt God's presence then you're not going to understand anything but your side of the argument until you do.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14081104561562163389 Rosser

    Novelyn, what do you mean by "path" and "way"? To what?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Keith Parsons said…

    Finally, Victor says that his experience is far from establishing the laws of nature on a firm and unalterable basis. Two questions here: (1) If so, does not this make the task of the apologist much harder in trying to convince the well-girded skeptic? If we really don't have any firm basis for regarding certain things as physical impossible, and I am given evidence that someone rose from the dead, I could just pass this off as something that happens from time to time. No miracle is needed if no natural law had to be violated.
    ==============
    Comment: This is an important point, and I fully agree with the point Keith is making here.

    However, a resurrection (in the sense of being dead and then coming back to life) does not necessarily imply a physical impossibility.

    Dying is a process that occurs over a period of time, and there may be no clear cut demarcation between when a person is partially dead and fully dead (with no physical possibility of returning to life).

    This is especially the case now that it has been discovered through recent resuscitation experiments, that it is possible for mammals and humans to be clinically dead for extended periods of time, then be revived, and to survive with minimal brain damage.

    It was previously believed that brain cells would quickly die when deprived of oxygen even for just a few minutes, and thus that brain damage would inevitably result from clinical death that lasted more than a few minutes.

    A known exception to this is cold-water drownings. The key being reduced body temperature during the period in which the person stops breathing.

    Any way, it appears that the brain damage previously observed in cases where a person had stopped breathing for several minutes and then was revived, was not due to brain cells dying off rapidly from oxygen deprivation, but rather was the result of biochemical chain reactions in the human body that typically occur when a person is revived after being clinically dead for a while. Some biological mechanisms kick in and cause self-destruction.

    Research into resucsitation will reveal more about these biological mechanisms, what conditions trigger the mechanisms, and how we can prevent these mechanisms from kicking in when a person is revived. Part of the story is lowering the body temperature, but there is a more complex biochemical story that (when I was looking into this a couple of years ago) has not been fully uncovered.

    In short, resurrections may soon become as common and as plentiful as blackberries, and we might soon have a plausible natural account for the resurrection of Jesus.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    P.S.

    The new scientific knowledge about resuscitation seems like a good example of science helping to resolve an issue in philosophy of religion: Did Jesus rise from the dead?

    Of course, this issue is not strictly a philosophical issue, because it is heavily involved with historical claims and assumptions, and it has become clear that this issue also involves some scientific/medical claims and assumptions. This question, at any rate, is best tackled by an interdisciplinary approach that includes philosophy, history, biology, chemistry, medicine, and biblical criticism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14810269295574884025 Novelyn

    Their general life path. When I said I don't think Jesus is the way for everyone, you know what I mean, why don't you pay attention to what I'm saying. Jesus is not the way, the answer–Jesus is not going to fit in everyone's life, but maybe Mohammed fits in others' lives better…so then Islam is the way for them. The way, being, their right religion, the thing they're meant to follow to lead them to enlightenment, or discovering God, or having a relationship with God. Mohammed, Jesus, Elijah…different concepts for different people, but it's all the same God. Therefore there's no one right answer.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14081104561562163389 Rosser

    Bradley, So are you suggesting that Jesus did not actually die on the cross and was buried alive without people knowing he was still alive and then "came to" all of a sudden; or He only died temporarily; or He faked the death?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Rosser said…

    Bradley, So are you suggesting that Jesus did not actually die on the cross and was buried alive without people knowing he was still alive and then "came to" all of a sudden; or He only died temporarily; or He faked the death?
    ============

    Response:

    Yes.

    More specifically, I am suggesting the following:

    If Jesus was in fact alive and well enough to walk on his own and talk somewhat coherently within a few days or a few weeks after he was crucified, then this would be very powerful evidence that Jesus had NOT been dead for 24 hours or more (i.e. without a heartbeat and not breathing) with his body temperature being between 60 and 100 degrees farenheit for that duration.

    The most likely explanation, on this assumption (that Jesus was alive and walking around after the crucifixion) is that he either did not die on the cross, or that he was only partly dead when removed from the cross and began breathing normally soon after being removed from the cross.

    There are many possible scenarios which would fit with this general explanation: (a) A Jesus look-alike was crucified instead of Jesus of Nazareth. (b) Roman soldiers were bribed to remove Jesus from the cross and turn Jesus over to a friend or supporter before he died. (c)Jesus appeared to die on the cross and the soldiers made a mistaken diagnosis of death, but was actually still breathing when removed from the cross. (d) Jesus really did die on the cross, but he was only partly dead when removed from the cross, and came back to life by natural causes soon after being removed from the cross, without any divine intervention.

    I don't firmly believe any one of these specific scenarios, but I do believe that IF Jesus was alive and walking about on his own a few days or a few weeks after the crucifixion, then it is probable that one of the above scenarios, or something very similar is what happened.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14081104561562163389 Rosser

    (If he was walking and alive after his death then) That would have to mean that EVERYBODY (or at least all who promoted the gospel) was fooled about his death, because the gospel hinges on his death and they were willing to die for that fact. Isn't this less likely? Would not somebody (especially those closest to him) of picked up on the thought he never actually died? (Unless, on separate topic, likelihood is not your goal here and instead "possiblities" to explain/understand supernatural events in a materialistic way is the goal.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Rosser said…
    That would have to mean that EVERYBODY (or at least all who promoted the gospel) was fooled about his death, because the gospel hinges on his death and they were willing to die for that fact. Isn't this less likely? Would not somebody (especially those closest to him) of picked up on the thought he never actually died?
    ============
    Comment:
    They might have been fooled (by someone) into believing that Jesus had died on the cross, but it is quite plausible that they simply were mistaken in this belief, and that the belief was held sincerely and on the basis of evidence (such as the testimony of female eyewitnesses that Jesus had been crucified, declared dead, removed from the cross, and his "lifeless" body placed into a tomb).

    The synoptic gospels imply that the male disciples went into hiding during the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. So, the eleven disciples or "apostles" who went on to preach the gospel were NOT eyewitnesses to Jesus' death, nor to his burial.

    I would question the assumption that all eleven disciples(the twelve minus Judas) were willing to die for the gospel, as well as the assumption that belief in the resurrection would be viewed by all eleven as what they would be dying for if they chose to "die for the gospel".

    If we assume, for the sake of argument, that all eleven were willing to die for the belief that Jesus rose from the dead, it is clear that they were willing to firmly believe that Jesus died on the cross, without having been an eyewitness to this event.

    They already believed in God and in miracles, and they already believed that Jesus was (at least) a great prophet, so it is plausible that there would be little skepticism on the part of these devout followers of Jesus about the claim that he had died on the cross and then risen from the dead.

    Given their background beliefs, this was a reasonable inference for them to make based on the evidence they had (e.g. the testimony of the women who were present at the crucifixion and burial of Jesus).

    (The fourth gospel speaks of "the beloved disciple" being at the cross, but scholars are unable to determine who this person was, and generally doubt that this person was one of the twelve. I have strong doubts about the account of the crucifixion in the fourth gospel).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00681934865643964687 JS Allen

    "Coincidence? Yep. Of course, such events are so striking and surprising when they occur, that we have a hard time accepting that they are "just coincidence.""

    How did you conclusively prove that this incident was just coincidence?

    "I defy anyone and everyone to show me that it is not."

    I see; it's not about conclusively proving that it's coincidence. It's just about refusing to be conclusively persuaded that it's not coincidence.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16947798364523082547 Rich Griese

    I think that until someone demonstrates that there even was an actual Jesus, talking about Jesus attributes, or events in Jesus life is mere speculation. Jesus legends have come down to us from Church dogma, but from an academic stand point we have no primary, or even secondary evidence for a Jesus character. For some reason historians have avoid research on this subject. I am not sure if it is because of the lack of primary and secondary evidence makes doing historical work impossible, or if the history industry is worried about a blow back from Christian supernaturalists, that already have a legendary Jesus they like, and that historical information can do nothing but expose the fact that are nothing but legendary based.

    Cheers! RichGriese.NET

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    JS Allen,

    Quine and Ullian in their great little primer on rationality, The Web of Belief, talk about epistemological conservatism. That is what I am recommending. That is the point of my aphorism about hearing hoofbeats and thinking "Aha! Horses!" not "Aha! Unicorns!" Epistemological conservatism enjoins us to evaluate hypotheses in the light of our previously established beliefs, and, in the absence of strong countervailing reasons, to accept the hypothesis that requires the least sacrifice of our grounded convictions. They comment:

    "[Epistemological] Conservatism is rather effortless on the whole, having inertia in its favor. But it is sound strategy too since at each step it sacrifices as little of the evidential support, whatever that may have been, that our overall system of beliefs has hitherto been enjoying (p. 67)."

    So, when a magician performs a trick, we say "sleight of hand" (horses) rather than "a miracle!" (unicorns). The reason is that we know that magicians are adept at sleight of hand and use it often while miracles, for most of us, are quite rare and exceptional occurrences, if they happen at all. So, the more conservative hypothesis is the sleight of hand one.

    Of course, epistemological conservatism is not indefeasible. Sufficient evidence can overcome our conservative assumptions. The defiance I expressed was not a refusal to be convinced, but a bet, based on many years of copious experience with the arguments of religious apologists, that the arguments cannot be produced.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Rich Griese said…
    I think that until someone demonstrates that there even was an actual Jesus, talking about Jesus attributes, or events in Jesus life is mere speculation. Jesus legends have come down to us from Church dogma…
    ===========
    Response:
    Your comments stike me as being hyperskeptical. Hyperskepticism is just as much a threat to science and scholarship as religious and supernatural bias.

    New Testament documents about Jesus date to the 2nd half of the first century (60-100 CE). The authentic letters of Paul show that there were followers of Jesus who believed he had died and risen from the dead and were preaching this new religion by 50 CE, only a couple of decades after the crucifixion. Paul claims to have met with some of the disciples of Jesus, such as Peter.

    Given that we have very early documents that provide details about the life and minstry of Jesus, the burden of proof falls on you and other Jesus mythicists to prove that Jesus was a myth. The burden of proof that Jesus was a real historical person has already been met with clear prima facie historical evidence, so it remains to skeptics to show that there is good reason to believe that these early documents are (contrary to appearances) fictional.

    Christian belief was very diverse in the first few centuries, so the existence of "Church Dogma" was too late to provide an historical explanation for the existence of the accounts of Jesus in the gospels and the authentic letters of Paul.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00681934865643964687 JS Allen

    Thanks, Keith.

    I was referring to your anecdote about your father, where you expressed certainty that the encounter was blind coincidence.

    Since there are certainly other naturalistic explanations besides blind coincidence, I wondered why you so confidently choose that explanation?

    I'm not a supernaturalist, but the "blind coincidence" answer seems nearly as vacuous as "God did it". In my experience, it's the standard cop-out for anything the atheist apologist can't explain. It's like the "naturalism of the gaps" complement of theists "theism of the gaps".

    Blind coincidence is sometimes the only conceivable answer, but I think people use it far too lazily and with far too little epistemic humility.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Correction:

    Paul's conversion is dated about 40 CE, and Paul persecuted Christians prior to his conversion.

    This implies that Christians were active in the 30s CE, the decade immediately following the (alleged) crucifixion of Jesus.

    The Christian movement of the 30s CE led to the writing of the gospels and the letters of Paul in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s of the first century.

    Church Dogma arose in later centuries, from the influence of the gospels and the letters of Paul, among other Christian writings.

    Here is the historical flow:

    Christian movement->NT writings
    ->Christian Dogma

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16947798364523082547 Rich Griese

    @ Bradley Bowen. Hyperskepticism appears to be and attempt to say "I don't like your (cont) http://tl.gd/7eas1j

    Cheers! RichGriese@gmail.com

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Rich Griese said…

    I think that until someone
    Jesus legends have come down to us from Church dogma, but from an academic stand point we have no primary, or even secondary evidence for a Jesus character.
    ==============
    Comment:
    If there is "no primary" evidence, how could there be any "secondary evidence"? I suppose that there are cases where there once was primary evidence, which is reflected in secondary sources, and then over time, the primary evidence disappears, leaving us with only the secondary evidence.

    What do you have in mind by "primary evidence"? Do you mean texts written by eyewitnesses to events in the life of Jesus?

    If that is what you mean by "primary evidence", then what do you mean by "secondary evidence"?

    If you are claiming that we lack eyewitness documents about Jesus' life, then most mainstream scholars would agree with you. Mark and Luke do not claim to have been eyewitnesses, nor do NT scholars believe them to have been.

    The gospels of Matthew and John were attributed to original disciples of Jesus who would have been eyewitnesses, but mainstream scholars have rejected these attributions and believe that they were written by second or third generation christians of unknown names.

    Many scholars do believe that the gospel of John is based on sermons of an eyewitness of the ministry of Jesus, but it has been through at least two significant revisions by other christian writers, so it is challenging to determine how much of this gospel goes back to the original eyewitness.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16641266062186767500 Keith Parsons

    Bradley,

    Excellent points. Here are some things we know about the Gospels:

    1) They were written by persons unknown, with the possible exception of Luke, who admits that he was not an eyewitness.

    2) They were not composed in their final forms, the forms in which we now have them, until forty to seventy years after the time of Jesus.

    3) They are inconsistent with each other and with many established facts.

    4) They contain many undeniably fictitious elements.

    5) They are based on orally transmitted traditions, and so inherit all of the unreliability that accrues to such traditions.

    6) Each has a theological ax to grind and, often explicitly, was written for an apologetic purpose.

    7) They have very little support from independent sources.

    8) They testify to many events which, were they reported in any other context, would be summarily rejected as improbable in the extreme.

    This is not what I say, but, as you note, what mainstream biblical scholars have known for years. True, fundamentalist biblical "scholars" inveigh against these claims, but such "scholars" are to real biblical scholars as "scientific" creationists are to real scientists.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16947798364523082547 Rich Griese

    Our earliest gospel copies are from the Chester Beatty Papria, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester_Beatty_Biblical_Papyri sometime after 200. Irenaeus in the 180s wrote lots about text wars. And we don't have a single document from before that. Irenaeus also makes a case for him only wanting 4 gospels. It is not unreasonable to consider that those four gospels were either created by or finally edited by him, or someone in his circle in Rome. If that is the case, we really cannot say anything about Christian history before Ireanaus time. We can only talk about what the authors/editors of Irenaeus time wanted us to think about earlier Christianity.

    So much of what the religion industry takes as assumptions comes simply from earlier Church dogma, not actual historical and archeological study on the subject.

    The problem at this point is that the religion industry has constructed a sort of narrative for Christianity, that it would be difficult for them to now admit that earlier they HAD really latched onto a number of undemonstrated assumptions that came from earlier Church dogma. So it may be the the religion industry never get on track.

    Cheers! RichGriese.NET

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Rich Griese said…

    Our earliest gospel copies are from the Chester Beatty Papria, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester_Beatty_Biblical_Papyri sometime after 200.
    =========
    Response:

    But fragments of the gospels exist which date as early as 125. See the list of NT papyri:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_New_Testament_papyri

    Checkout out p52, p90, and p104 in particular. p52 is the John Rylands papyri dated to 125, and it contains part of chapter 18 of the gospel of John. The gospel of John is generally considered to be the last gospel to be composed of the four cannonical gospels. This means that the standard dating of the synoptic gospels to the last quarter of the first century is supported by the existence of the John Rylands papyri, as well as by the existence of the other two papyri that date to 150 (p90 and p104).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    In the book Early Manuscripts & Modern Translations of the New Testament (1990), Philip Comfort notes that "In recent discussions about p52, scholars tend to date it closer to 100 than to 125…" (p.56).


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