Did Jesus Exit? – Part 12

Back in Part 10, I took a look at Mark and (in the Comments section) Q, and determined that they both represent Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person. Now I’m looking into the M-source, the unique material used by the author of the Gospel of Matthew, to see whether M also represents Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person.

One problem with M, at least in terms of the material that G.D. Kilpatrick concluded was from M (in Origins of the Gospel of St. Matthew, 1946), is that it does not include narratives, only sayings and parables of Jesus. So, we would not expect to find as much clear evidence for Jesus being a flesh-and-blood person in M as we found in Mark or Q.

For one thing, an angel or a spirit could, in theory, say anything it wanted to say. So, the words coming from Jesus cannot provide conclusive evidence for his being (or being represented as being) a flesh-and-blood person.

However, if Jesus were represented as saying “I have a physical body, and can feel pain, and I can be injured or killed.” this would be very strong evidence that Jesus was being represented as a flesh-and-blood person, because believers in Jesus would assume Jesus to be honest and truthful, so they would not view these words as an attempt by Jesus to deceive others into believing he had a physical body when he was actually a spirit or an angel.

But since Jesus is generally represented as teaching, or at least discussing, religious beliefs and moral values, there is no reason to expect that he would make such claims about himself, or that he would claim to be a physical person.

Furthermore, if Jesus was a flesh-and-blood person, that would be a fairly obvious fact for the people who were his disciples and the people who came to listen to him speak. There would be no point in Jesus saying “I have a physical body” when the people listening to him could see his body with their own eyes, when they could hear his voice, and touch his arm, and see him eating food.

The expectation that M would probably not provide clear evidence of Jesus being represented as a flesh-and-blood person is what in fact turns out to be the case, as far as I can tell from a quick review of the passages in Matthew that come from M.

Three passages provide some significant support for Jesus being represented as a flesh-and-blood person, and one passage provides significant evidence against Jesus being represented as a flesh-and-blood person. Four passages provide some weak support for the view that M represented Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person. Most passages from M seem to me to provide no relevant evidence for or against M representing Jesus as having a physical body.

I found one passage from M that provides significant evidence against the idea that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood person:

For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. (Matthew 18:20, NRSV)

Jesus had followers in many different towns and cities in Palestine, so this passage suggests that Jesus was either able to be in many places at the same time, or else that he was able to travel long distances in the blink of an eye. Either way, this stongly suggests that Jesus was a spirit or an angel, and NOT a flesh-and-blood human being.

Of course, this saying can be fit in with the belief in a flesh-and-blood Jesus. Christians believed that Jesus died and rose from the dead (at least by the time the Gospel of Mark and the early letters of Paul were written). So, such a saying could have been attributed to the risen Jesus, who had obtained a ‘glorified’ body, which could have been thought of as being radically different than an ordinary physical body, having special supernatural powers and properties.

In other words, given the belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus, a Christian could hold that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood person prior to his resurrection, and that after the resurrection Jesus had an extraordinary supernatural body that is radically different from a typical human body.

So, although this one verse clearly points to the idea of a Jesus who was NOT a flesh-and-blood person, it is possible to fit this passage into a larger framework in which Jesus is represented as having been a flesh-and-blood person during his ministry in Palestine, up until his death and resurrection.

One more consideration is that this alleged M passage might not be from M. The scholars from the Jesus Seminar comment on this passage:

“Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name” has rabbinic parallels and was probably a standard feature of Judean piety. Since it was a part of common lore, Jesus cannot be designated as its author.
(The Five Gospels by Robert Funk, Roy Hoover, and The Jesus Seminar, p.217)

A similar comment appears in another scholarly commentary on Matthew:

Just as contemporary Judaism handed on sayings to the effect that wherever two or three discuss words of Torah [OT Law] they are attended by the divine presence, so also Matthew’s church proclaims that when it gathers in Jesus’ name, Christ himself is present.
(The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VIII, p.379, “The Gospel of Matthew”- commentary by M. Eugene Boring)

If this idea was part of common lore, then Matthew and/or some people in his Christian community were probably aware of this idea and so that awareness could have been the source of this passage, rather than a written M source. This is a plausible alternative explanation for the origin of this particular passage, so this raises significant doubt about the assumption that Matthew 18:20 was based on the M source.

There are three passages that I think provide some significant support for the view that M represented Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person (assuming these passages were taken from the M source):

[Jesus responds to criticism from some Pharisees:] “Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.”
(Matthew 12:5-7, NRSV)

Then he [Jesus] left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen! …”
(Matthew 13:36-43, NRSV)

Then the disciples approached and said to him [Jesus], “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He [Jesus] answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.”
(Matthew 15:12-13, NRSV)

There is, however, a significant problem with these passages. There is good reason to doubt that these three passages are actually from M.

The commentary on Matthew 12:5-7 in The New Interpreter’s Bible suggests that the author of Matthew created this passage, with a bit of inspiration from Q for verse 6:

In rabbinic debate, a point of law (Halaka) could not be established on the basis of a story (Haggadah), but required a clear statement of principle from the Torah. Matthew, conditioned by this rabbinic context, adds an example from Num 28:9-10…. Since the priests sacrifice according to the Law on the sabbath, sacrifice is greater than the sabbath. But mercy is greater than sacrifice, as the divine declaration makes clear (Hos 6:6 again….), so mercy is greater than the sabbath.
The declaration that “something” greater than the Temple is here is Matthew’s adoption of a Q formula (cf. 12:41-42)…

(The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. VIII, p.278)

If the author of Matthew is the creator of this passage (with some inspiration from Q), then this passage was not based on the M source.

The same commentary provides reasons for doubting that Matthew 13:36-43 came from the M source:

Since the language, style, and theology of this interpretation are thoroughly Matthean, most scholars regard it as his own composition, even if (an earlier form of) the parable of the weeds may derive from Jesus himself.
(The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. VIII, p.310)

Finally, the same commentary casts doubt on the view that Matthew 15:12-13 came from the M source:

The scene changes again, and the disciples become the only addressees. Into the Markan story Matthew inserts vv. 12-14, mostly composed by him (with a Q point of contact; cf. Luke 6:39).
(The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. VIII, p.333)

So, the passages that provide the clearest evidence that M represented Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person, might well not be from the M source. Since there is significant doubt that these three passages are from M, I won’t bother to go into the reasons why I interpret these passages as representing Jesus as having a physical body.

============
UPDATE

The four M source passages that I believe provide some weak support for the view that M represents Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person are:

Matthew 5:27-28 refrain from lust
Matthew 5:38-41 endure pain and discomfort for the sake of others
Matthew 19:10-12 castration and celibacy as a way to be devout
Matthew 25:34-45 feed the hungry, give drink to thirsty, clothing to the naked, care for the sick, visit prisoners

Although a spririt or angel could give such advice and commands, Jesus would seem more sincere and more authoratative in giving such bodily-oriented advice and commands if he himself had a physical body. Also, the fact that he frequently deals with physical desires and needs suggests that he has experience with these things.

Three M passages clearly indicate that Jesus had a body, and four passages provide additional but weak support for the view that M represents Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person, whereas only one passage clearly indicates that Jesus did not have a body.

Although there is doubt about each of the three passages that clearly indicate a physical Jesus, doubt that they are actually from the M source, there is a significant chance that at least one of the three passages was from the M source. So, the combination of the three passages provides some added support to the four less clear passages.

I conclude that the M source leans in the direction of representing Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person, though this is less clear than in the case of Mark and Q.

To be continued…

  • Lothars Sohn

    Hi, this is certainly an interesting and fair examination of the biblical texts, far more objective than what I’m accustomed to in skeptical blogs and forums.

    If I understand correctly the theory of the mythological Jesus:

    1) shortly before 50 AD, a bunch of Jews created a mystery religion about a non-existing man having died and risen from the dead twenty years ago, a story where they were important characters

    2) Saul of Tarsus, a pharisee persecuting these heretics experienced powerful hallucinations and began believing in this spiritual Jesus who never walked down a street

    3) within the next thirty years, the followers of the cult misunderstood what Paul was teaching and started believing that Jesus was also a true man, and they wrote gospels relying on oral traditions describing the actions of a mythological Jesus who actually never was.

    If I’m right and this is really what mythicists believe, I think I’ve the right to shout very loudly:

    “Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence!”

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

    • Greg G.

      Not quite. The Jews had clear prophecies of a coming Messiah and they had been hoping for him to come for centuries. In the early first century, one sect began to read the OT verses on suffering and such, (pretty much the same verses modern Christians cite as fulfilled prophecies) as hidden meanings about the Messiah having come in the past but since the hidden meanings were being revealed, they began to believe the Messiah’s coming was imminent. Romans 16:25-26 sums it up pretty well.

      25 Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith…

      The early epistles only mention Christ crucified and resurrected but the only details given can be found in OT verses. They never mention a teacher or a preacher, they quote OT verses to make a point but never quote Jesus, and you never find an anecdote even in the letters from his alleged companions.

      A source for nearly every passage in Mark has been been noted by various scholars. See New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash and they all seem to come from the literature of the day in the traditions of Greek mimesis and Jewish midrash.

      Mark was probably written after Jerusalem was destroyed. People may have been interested in why the gods allowed that and Mark provides an answer.

      Jesus was a common name. There may have been many guys named Jesus who were itinerant preachers, descended from David (and who wouldn’t be considering the number of Solomon’s wives and concubines), who rode to Jerusalem on a donkey, and got crucified by Pilate. It’s just that the Epistles don’t seem to be about any of them and the Gospels are about the Jesus of the Epistles who was originally thought to be from the time when all the other myths of other cultures happened.

      The extra-biblical evidence tells us there were Christians in the late first century who thought there was a real Jesus. We know that existed but they were too young to know that Jesus existed.

      So there is no good evidence for a real Jesus but the lack of a discussion of him in the early Epistles as a living person is evidence that the early first century Christians didn’t think Jesus was a first century person.

    • Bradley Bowen

      Thanks for the compliment. I have no big axe to grind on this question. I have a tiny axe to grind, in that it would help my case against the resurrection to show that there is a significant probability that Jesus did not exist. There are plenty of other problems with the resurrection claim, though, so I’m not desperate to see mythicism established as the best theory. My own view, at present, is that Jesus very probably did exist. As a skeptic, I’m interested in carefully examining the case for the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis that Ehrman has put forward, and I’m also interested in taking a closer look at the arguments of contemporary mythicists for their views.

      The claim that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist does not seem to be an ‘extraordinary claim’ to me. Nor is the claim that Jesus did exist, assuming that we are talkiing about the Minimal Jesus Hypothesis, which says nothing about Jesus actually performing miracles (like walking on water or turning water into wine or raising the dead or rising from the dead). So, I think it is just ordinary historical evidence that is required to (potentially) establish one or the other of these opposing claims.

  • Greg G.

    Compare Matthew 18:20:

    For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. (Matthew 18:20, NRSV)

    with Gospel of Thomas Saying 30:

    Jesus said, “Where there are three gods, they are gods. Where there are two or one, I am with him.”

    Matthew 12:1-8 comes from Mark 2:23-28. Luke also has a similar passage at 6:1-5. Mark quotes Jesus saying “when Abiathar was the high priest” but 1 Samuel 21:1-7 says it was Abiathar’s father who was the high priest. Matthew and Luke drop the name but both failed to notice that David was lying about others being with him. If Mark was right, then you have Jesus being human, you know, “to err is human”. But maybe it was Mark being human.

    Matthew 13:24-30 is the Weeds Parable and Matthew 13:36-43 is the explanation, both of which correlate to Gospel of Thomas saying 57:

    57) Jesus said, “The Kingdom of the Father is like a man who had [good] seed. His enemy came by night and sowed weeds among the good seed. The man did not allow them to pull up the weeds; he said to them, ‘I am afraid that you will go intending to pull up the weeds and pull up the wheat along with them.’ For on the day of the harvest the weeds will be plainly visible, and they will be pulled up and burned.”

    “He who has ears, let him hear”, or something similar, is a clue that you will find a correlation in the Gospel of Thomas for the preceding verses.

    As for Matthew 15:12, the previous verse (15:11) correlates to part of Gospel of Thomas Saying 14, the following verse (15:13) correlates to GoT Saying 40, and the verse after that (15:14) correlates to GoT saying 34.

    Part of GoT 14:

    For what goes into your mouth will not defile you, but that which issues from your mouth – it is that which will defile you.”

    correlates with Mark 7:1-19, which seems to be taken from the argument between Paul and Peter in Galatians 2. If the passage from Mark had actually happened, then there would have been no argument in Antioch. Peter and Paul would have been in harmony.

    Gospel of Thomas Saying 1 says:

    And He said, “Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death.”

    This suggests to me that the sayings of Thomas are to be taken as metaphor, not to be taken literally, and not necessarily actually spoken. If the Mark 7 passage didn’t happen, we can certainly discount Saying 14. If the sayings are not reliable, the actions in the narrative associated with the sayings should be taken with skepticism.

    • Bradley Bowen

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

      Greg G. said…

      If the Mark 7 passage didn’t happen, we can certainly discount Saying 14. If the sayings are not reliable, the actions in the narrative associated with the sayings should be taken with skepticism.

      =================
      Response:

      I agree with your point.

      However, the historicity of the passages from the M source is not critical for my current question at issue: Does the M source represent Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person? Non-historical stories and sayings can still point to how Jesus was conceived of by the author of M (or by the community that produced the M source traditions).

      • Lothars Sohn

        Hello Bradley.

        Actually, I believe that what I call the epidemiological razor of Ockham is deeply flawed, as I explain here

        http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/08/04/deconstructing-the-popular-use-of-occams-razor/

        and I’m skeptical about the general, absolute validity of the “extraordinary evidence” principle, tough it depends on the way one determines how something is “extraordinary” in the first place.

        Why is it the case for Jesus performing miracles?

        Because the existence of God is extremely unlikely, and therefore such things cannot occur?

        Otherwise, I still think the myth theory is very implausible.

        Does one dispose of reliable historical examples, where the first followers of a cult believed THE most central character was spiritual, mythological, and within ONE generation this very important aspect of the belief system gets largely lost?

        I’d be pleased to know one.

        Kind regards from Germany.

        Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

        http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

        • Greg G.

          Why is it the case for Jesus performing miracles?

          The word “miracle” gets bandied about relentlessly. When the events are scrutinized, they turn out to not be miracles. Ancient literature is filled with miracle claims. Humans have been calling things miracles that are not miracles at least as long as we have history. But none of them have been shown to be an actual miracle. Until we have good evidence of any miracle, it’s a better bet to assume the miracle claim is wrong.

          Does one dispose of reliable historical examples, where the first followers of a cult believed THE most central character was spiritual, mythological, and within ONE generation this very important aspect of the belief system gets largely lost?

          I’d be pleased to know one.

          How about Eleanor Rigby?

          Top 5 fictional characters Britons think are real:
          1. King Arthur – 65%
          2. Sherlock Holmes – 58%
          3. Robin Hood – 51%
          4. Eleanor Rigby – 47%
          5. Mona Lisa – 35%

          Top 5 historical figures Britons think are myths:
          1. Richard the Lionheart – 47%
          2. Winston Churchill – 23%
          3. Florence Nightingale – 23%
          4. Bernard Montgomery – 6%
          5. Boudica – 5%

          Two thousand years ago, most people were illiterate. Travel was difficult for most. The city they would have needed to go to investigate the story was destroyed. There would have been a disconnect between the pre-destruction followers and the post-destruction followers who would have had to rely on texts they couldn’t read. The story of Jerusalem would have been spread as propaganda by the Romans to discourage any other rebels. Religious answers were always popular. The story of Jesus cursing the fig tree, then having a Temple tantrum, and later finding the tree withered wouldn’t need the syllogism spelled out that the last part was the withered city.

          For Jesus, the earliest writings about him do not describe him as a real person. The earliest writings that do describe him as a real person do not seem to be written by anyone who knew him to be real. Scholars have found the roots to nearly every passage in Mark to be based on the Greek and Jewish literature of the day. There’s nothing left to be “oral traditions”. The other writers base their stories on Mark’s fictions.

          I am open to evidence. I’m hoping Bradley can find something to convince me that Jesus actually existed.

          • Lothars Sohn

            Hello Greg, thanks for your thoughtful and challenging remarks!

            I don’t view “miracles” as violation of natural laws, but as wonderful actions of God using natural laws from another realm.

            Among all examples in your interesting list, there is no one concerning a mythological non-existing figure who

            1) was first thought of as a myth

            2) became a real person for his follower WITHIN 50 years

            As I say, I’d be interested finding one.

            Kind regards from Germany.

            Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

            http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

          • Greg G.

            Hi Lothars Sohn,

            Thanks for your response.

            Among all examples in your interesting list, there is no one concerning a mythological non-existing figure who
            1) was first thought of as a myth
            2) became a real person for his follower WITHIN 50 years

            1) The early epistle authors don’t seem to have ever thought of Jesus as a myth. They thought he was historical in the undefined past.
            2) I’m not sure what “within 50 years” of never existing would mean.

            In the late first century, they had decades old documents, such as Paul’s letters, discussing events that happened a couple of decades before {edit: before the letters were written} and about someone who was crucified at some unspecified time in the past. When I grew up less than two decades after World War II, it seemed like ancient history to me. It would have been even further back in time for late first century Christians.

            For fictional people who were thought to be real I gave you Eleanor Rigby. I could add Ned Ludd, Sherlock Holmes, and the characters discussed here. Religious examples would be pretty much anyone mentioned in Genesis. The characters seem to be gods of polytheism written as humans to accommodate monotheism. The illiterate masses would have accepted the stories as history when they were read to them as written word was thought to be sort of magical. Coming from priests, they wouldn’t be able to refute the stories.

        • Bradley Bowen

          Lothars Sohn said…
          and I’m skeptical about the general, absolute validity of the “extraordinary evidence” principle, tough it depends on the way one determines how something is “extraordinary” in the first place.

          Why is it the case for Jesus performing miracles?
          =============================
          Response:
          Before we get into the logic and details of the extraordinary evidence principle, I have a few questions to ask you.

          Do you believe that Uri Geller could bend spoons with his mind? That Jeane Dixon was a true psychic who could see the future? Do you believe that Sylvia Browne is a true psychic who can solve crimes without ordinary detective work? Do you believe that James Van Praagh talks to dead people?

          Do you believe that Peter Popoff and Kathryn Kuhlman and W.V. Grant could heal all sorts of diseases with just prayer and faith?

          Do you believe that Maharishi Mahesh Yogi can levitate himself by the power of meditation? Do you believe that Joseph Smith had magic glasses that allowed him to translate a foreign language from golden plates? Do you believe that Sun Myung Moon was murdered and then rose from the dead? Do you believe that Jim Jones (of Peoples Temple) had all 12 gifts of the Holy Spirit, including prophecy and supernatural healing?

          I don’t believe any of these people could do what they claimed to have done. Do you?

          Since these are mostly Americans, perhaps many of the names will be unfamiliar to you (?) If so, just address the examples about which you have some familiarity.

          • Lothars Sohn

            Hello Bradley, thanks for your challenging (and quite funny!) questions :-)

            I believe that without any external help, all these folks are completely helpless before achieving such things.

            But if they find something or someone who grants them these powers, I’m open to the possibility they could do it. (tough I doubt it’s always going to be good for them).

            Whether or not they really found such a source is uncertain.

            My other questions remain.

            Have seen you’re an associate professor if I’m not wrong, what’s your domain of research?

            Kind regards from Germany.

            Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

            http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

          • Greg G.

            But if they find something or someone who grants them these powers, I’m open to the possibility they could do it. (tough I doubt it’s always going to be good for them).

            Whether or not they really found such a source is uncertain.

            The people he lists are frauds and charlatans. James “The Amazing” Randi exposed some of them himself. They have no power yet people are easily fooled by them. Bradley’s point, if I am not mistaken, is that if people today can be bamboozled, why wouldn’t we consider that possibility for illiterate people in pre-scientific times?

            There are people who oppose Harry Potter for fear that reading one of the books might make a kid believe in witchcraft. The irony is that those people believe that there is some power in witchcraft because they read the Bible.

          • Lothars Sohn

            Hello Greg,

            all these people might be frauds, this doesn’t change the fact my worldview happen such things to happen.

            You’re entirely right that the disciples of Christ MIGHT have been deluded, but this in and of itself isn’t going to be a likely naturalist explanation.

            There were many other messianic movements whose leaders die violently, but they don’t came out shouting “He is risen!”.

            On many grounds, it seems likely the grave of Jesus was empty.

            But I cannot prove the resurrection, it demans faith which I define as HOPE in a situation where the evidence don’t suffice to know what is true.

            Lovely greetings from Germany.
            Liebe Grüsse aus Deutschland.

            Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

            http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

          • Bradley Bowen

            I have been out of the university for many years.
            I’m still interested in philosophy, which I studied at Sonoma State University (BA), University of Windsor (MA), and University of California at Santa Barbara (candidate for PhD, but did not complete my dissertation).

            My primary interst is in philosophy of religion, specifically the the issue of the alleged resurrection of Jesus. I also am interested in ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, logic, philosophy of language, philosophy of science, and just about any other area of philosophy.

            I was exposed to the Critical Thinking movement at Sonoma State University (Dr. Richard Paul taught Critical Thinking courses there. He and Linda Elder are authors of Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Professional and Personal Life). I attended University of Windsor because they have some leaders in the field of Informal Logic and produced the Journal of Informal Logic (Dr. Ralph Johnson and Tony Blair – authors of Logical Self-Defense).

          • http://lotharson.wordpress.com/ Lothars Sohn

            Hello Bradley, thanks for your honest answer! :=)

            Unfortunately, in the Western World, the elite is viewed as those academics having published countless articles…

            or the firm leader having gained an incredible amount of money for that matter :-(

            Do you want to become a philosopher?

            As a Christian,I do believe we ought to interpret the Bible (and other religious texts) critically, but without considering the Supernatural to be extremely unlikely.

            Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
            http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

          • Bradley Bowen

            Lothars Sohn said…

            I believe that without any external help, all these folks are completely helpless before achieving such things.

            But if they find something or someone who grants them these powers, I’m open to the possibility they could do it.

            ==================
            Response:

            Why “external” help? Do you mean supernatural help? Like from God or angels or fairies or wizards?

            Why not “internal” help? Like finding psychic powers in one’s own mind?

            Of course IF a person FINDS supernatural help, THEN they will be able to perform supernatural feats.

            Of course IF I find some magic beans, THEN I can grow a giant beanstalk and climb up it to find a goose that lays golden eggs.

            Of course IF I find a lamp with a magic genie in it,THEN I can get my three most fantastic wishes to come true.

            Of course IF God (or the devil) whispers into my ear who will win the next Super Bowl, THEN I can place some big bets and win millions of dollars.

            But this tells us NOTHING about how to evaluate such beliefs and claims (magic beans, magic lamps with genies in them, God who shares knowledge of the future, etc.)

            There are a few different reasons for treating these claims differently than other ordinary claims. First, they are contrary to existing scientific knowledge. This is the Humean point against miracles. A ‘miracle’ is by definition a violation of a law of nature. So, miracles start out with a massive amount of counter-evidence. Levitation is contrary to the laws of physics. So, if someone claims to be able to levitate himself by the power of meditation, he is claiming to be able to violate basic laws of physics.

            Second, the track record of supernatural and magical claims is horrible! That was part of the point of my list of people who have performed ‘amazing’ supernatural feats. Whenever such claims are carefully and objectively investigated, the claims turn out to be false or unsubstantiated. So, we have strong inductive evidence that when Suzy says “I just witnessed a miracle” we can infer that it is highly probable that, were we to carefully and objectively investigate this claim it too would either turn out to be false or unsubstantiated, just like the millions of examples of similar claims before that one.

            A third reason is that billions of people believe this kind of shit, and this has been going on for thousands of years. People are ignorant, stupid, uncritical, gullible, superstitious, and easily deceived. Even smart and well-educated people are often superstitious and gullible. Humans have a bias or tendency to believe in ghosts, fairies, demons, spirits, gods, magic, curses, etc. Many people believe this stuff fervently, and, for example, cause their own children to die horrible deaths because they believe, without good reason, that faith healing or magical cures are preferable to modern scientific medicine.

            We should demand extraordinary evidence for supernatural claims or magical claims or psychic claims if for no other reason than that we need to break the human tendency and bias towards stupidity when it comes to such claims.

            We need to push hard in the opposite direction. Maybe one day if the human race becomes more rational and we are all critical thinkers who demand reasons and evidence for important claims, then perhaps we could back off a bit and be less demanding. But there have been over two thousand years of stupidity and superstition dominating human thought. We must fight back against the darkness so that there will be at least a small chance that future generations will not live in perpetual ignorance and superstition.

          • http://lotharson.wordpress.com/ Lothars Sohn

            Hello Bradley, you raised very important and challenging issues.

            Rather than turning this Secular Outpost into a real book, I’ll start a new conversation on my blog in the future, if you don’t mind.

            I don’t know when I’ll have sufficient time for that but I’ll try to keep you in touch, provided of course this would be a interesting dialog for you too.

            Now I’m going to sleep :=)

            Lovely greetings from Germany.
            Liebe Grüsse aus Deutschland.

            Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
            http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

          • R2D3

            Scroll down this page to the start of D. Keith Mano’s article, The Bethsaida Miracle, in National Review, 21 April 1997:

            http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?action=printpage;topic=7430.0

            “The story in St Mark about Jesus healing a blind man has two parts. Newly sighted people cannot make sense of what they see right away, and Jesus recognized this and performed the miracle of helping the man readjust his brain patterns. A true miracle occurred.

          • Greg G.

            Why would Jesus need spit? It was a belief that spit had curative properties, per Pliny the Elder, I think, so many healers used it for magic spells. Matthew sees the problem and omits the spit from the miracles. In the second century, Justin Martyr tells us that people were already pointing out the similarities of the Jesus stories with Pagan stories and offers this excuse:

            And when the Devil brings forward Asclepius as the raiser of the dead and healer of all diseases, may I not say that in this matter likewise he has imitated the prophecies about Christ? –Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho

            The tales of Asclepius were well-known and already old by the first century.

    • Sauls Thomas

      all brains no balls

      for the lying “mental cases” @ FTB

      groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.atheism/WHwp_OkxH34

      ,,,..,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.

      homo = atheist?

      ,,.,.,,,,.

      • Greg G.

        Brilliant! You have clueless capitalization, lack of punctuation, and incoherent sentence fragments but too many correctly spelled words so you must be a Poe.

  • Sauls Thomas

    …//../.

    all brains no balls

    for the lying “mental cases” @ FTB

    groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.atheism/WHwp_OkxH34

    ,,,..,.,.,.,.,.,.,.,.

    homo = atheist?

    ..//./

    • Bradley Bowen

      Just take two clozapine and call me in the morning.

  • Bradley Bowen

    There is fifth M passage that I think provides some weak support for the view that M represents Jesus as a flesh-and-blood person:

    Matthew 6:16-18 On Fasting


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