Why the Gospel of Mark Is Likely NOT an Eyewitness Account

Why the Gospel of Mark Is Likely NOT an Eyewitness Account August 1, 2014

How do we know that Mark wrote the gospel of Mark? How do we know that Mark recorded the observations of an eyewitness?

The short answer is because Papias (< 70 – c. 155) said so. Papias was a bishop and an avid documenter of oral history from the early church. His book Interpretations was written after 120 CE.

Jesus died in 30, Mark was written in 70, and Papias documents Mark as the author in 120 (dates are estimates). That’s at least 50 years bridged only by “because Papias said so.”

Looking through the wrong end of the telescope

But how do we know what Papias said? We don’t have the original of Papias, nor do we have a copy. Instead, we have Church History by Eusebius, which quotes Papias and was written in 320.

And how do we know what Eusebius said? The oldest copies of his book are from the tenth century, though there is a Syriac translationfrom 462.

Count the successive people in the claim “Mark wrote the gospel of Mark, which documents an eyewitness account”: (1) Peter was an eyewitness and (2) Mark was his journalist, and (3) someone told this to (4) Papias, who wrote his book, which was preserved by (5) copyist(s), and (6) Eusebius transcribed parts of that, and (7) more copyist(s) translated Eusebius to give us our oldest manuscript copy. And the oldest piece of evidence that we can put our hands on was written four centuries after Mark was written.

That’s an exceedingly tenuous chain.

The sequence of people could have been longer still; we simply don’t know. Papias was the bishop of Hierapolis, in western Asia Minor. Mark might have been written in Syria, and no one knows how long the chain of hearsay was from that author to Papias. No one knows how many copyists separated Papias from Eusebius or Eusebius from our oldest copies.

Trash talk

It gets worse. Eusebius didn’t think much of Papias as a historian and said that he “seems to have been a man of very small intelligence, to judge from his books” (Church History, book III, chapter 39, paragraph 13). Evaluate Papias for yourself: he said that Judas lived on after a failed attempt at hanging and had a head swollen so large that he couldn’t pass down a street wide enough for a hay wagon. Who knows if this version of the demise of Judas is more reliable than that in Matthew, but it’s special pleading to dismiss Papias when he’s embarrassing but hold on to his explanation of gospel authorship.

Even Eusebius’s Church History is considered unreliable by modern scholars.

The story is similar for the claimed authorship of Matthew. A twist to this story is that Papias said that Matthew wrote his gospel in Hebrew (or perhaps Aramaic), which makes no sense since Matthew used Mark, Q, and the Septuagint Bible, all Greek sources.1

The other gospels besides Mark

What about the other gospels? That evidence comes from other documents with simpler pedigree but later dates.

  • Irenaeus documented the traditional gospel authorship in his Against Heresies (c. 180). Our oldest copy is a Latin translation from the tenth century.
  • Tertullian also lists the four traditional authors in his Against Marcion (c.208), but he doesn’t think much of Luke: “[Heretic] Marcion seems to have singled out Luke for his mutilating process.” Our oldest copy of Tertullian’s book is from the eleventh century.
  • The oldest manuscript labeled “gospel according to Luke” dates from c. 200.
  • The Muratorian fragment, a Latin manuscript from the seventh century, may be a translation of a Greek original from the late second century (or maybe from the fourth). It lists many books of the New Testament, including the gospels of Luke and John.

Evidence arguing that the gospels document eyewitness accounts is paltry. Perhaps only faith will get you there.

If we submit everything to reason,
our religion will have no mysterious and supernatural element.
If we offend the principles of reason,
our religion will be absurd and ridiculous.
— Blaise Pascal

1Randel Helms, Who Wrote the Gospels? (Millennium Press, 1997), 41.

 (This is an update of a post that originally appeared 7/20/12.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia

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  • MNb

    “That’s an exceedingly tenuous chain.”
    But far from uncommon when the research field is History of Antiquity. The same applies to biographies of Alexander the Great. So that’s not the real problem; it’s a rather weak point. Moreover it looks way too much like Ol’ Hambo’s infamous “where you there?”. If indirect evidence is acceptable in Evolution Theory it’s acceptable in History of Antiquity too.
    The first problem is that there isn’t any indirect evidence for the hypothesis “Mark was an eyewitness”. Yeah, he himself suggests so, but without external confirmation the suggestion is worthless: Testis Unus Testis Nullus.
    But the real problem is this.


    An eyewitness would not have made such errors.
    Of course lots of christians know this. That makes it a shame that also lots of christians don’t know this.

    • Not much is riding on any aspect of the life of Alexander. I’m sure you’re right that, if you poke at each of the many claims made, you’ll find that some are quite tenuous.

      And then we find the same for the authorship of the gospels. Here, however, much more is riding on the scholarship behind the claim, at least for the Christian.

      The Vridar post defends Mark against claims of geographical illiteracy. Is that the point you wanted to make?

      • MNb

        No, the Vridar post doesn’t defend Mark – it gives a secular explanation for the errors a la Greg. This explanation means the author was not an eyewitness.

    • Greg G.

      Mark is also written in the omniscient narrator perspective. For example, how could Mark have known what Jesus prayed in Gethsemane when the disciples were sleeping? It’s indicative of storytelling.

      • Dr. Arthur Frederick Ide

        Many scholars argue that the naked youth who followed Jesus out of the garden was Mark (Mark 14:51-52), thereby giving him access to hearing Jesus prayer. It is included in the Secret Gospel of Mark (the Mar Sabba MS discovered by Morton Smith whom has been discredited by some scholars for his work on the Magician Jesus). Smith argued for the authenticity of the secret gospel, based on a letter from Clement of Alexandria (Morton Smith, Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press) 1973), and when he was attacked by “scholars” responded abruptly,(Smith, Morton. “On the Authenticity of the Mar Saba Letter of Clement,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 38 (1976): 196–99.) winning apologies for their aspersions. Smith’s finding, had been bound into the endpapers of Isaac Vossius’ 1646 printed edition of the works of Ignatius of Antioch, and interpretation is the buttress of his Morton Smith, The Secret Gospel: The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel According to Mark, London, UK: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1974.

        • Greg G.

          Some think the passage is an allusion to Amos 2:16, Micah 2:8, or Genesis 39:12. Some think Mark is referring back to the Gerasene demoniac who was naked but put on his clothes or to Bartimaeus who took off his cloak in Mark 10:50.

          It has been said that the boy in Gethsemane left behind a lot of dirty linen.

        • Jim Jones

          > Many scholars argue that the naked youth who followed Jesus out of the garden was Mark

          And some believe he was the son of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Since all are fiction it hardly matters.

        • Greg G.

          I suspect that the author intended that the mysterious naked boy in Gethsemane is the mysterious young man in a white robe at the tomb in Mark 16:5.

        • Dr. Arthur Frederick Ide

          You merit a plus! Mark, Jesus, Mary Magdalene are all fake as is god, and Christianity. The bible is the biggest lie of all–and it helped to create Islam as Muhammad was a plagiarist–and Islam, like Christianity, is among the most vicious and murderous of cults in the name of god.

        • Al

          What is your evidence that “Mark, Jesus, Mary Magdalene are all fake as is god”?

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          Isn’t Mark’s Gospel supposedly written by the same Mark you are referring to? If it was, it’s kind of strange for him to refer to himself in third person and as a naked youth. I’m not much of a historian. Maybe it was common for people back then to refer to themselves in the third person when recounting an event. I don’t think Paul does this though.

        • Greg G.

          Paul talks about a man who was taken up to the third heaven but in the next few verses it becomes apparent he was speaking of himself in 2 Corinthians 12:2-7.

        • Dr. Arthur Frederick Ide

          It is considered to be the same individual who allegedly wrote both books, but the problem is that none of the original texts exist–but were redacted and issued from scriptorium in an effort to curry favor with Constantine I and succeeding emperors.

        • Do you support the authenticity of the Secret Gospel of Mark? That’s very much a minority opinion among scholars, as I understand the issue.

        • Dr. Arthur Frederick Ide

          It is far more authentic than the traditional Gospel of Mark. All of the gospels were created after the Epistles were written since none of the epistles spent much time on the man Jesus but pushed the fiction of a Christ–a warrior–as the original letters noted in reflecting on Matthew 10:34. Reality is different, as none of the bible books are authentic nor do any deal with reality. No scientist would attempt to prove a theory based on the book containing the theory. The bible defies critical inquiry and scientific research. It is a lie.

        • The consensus is that it’s a hoax.

          I do agree that the Bible has no useful science in it.

  • The funniest thing is that many Christian apologists themselves are eager to use these very same arguments when it comes to dismissing similar accounts about Buddha’s or Muhammad’s lives…
    Strangely enough, this logical thinking magically does not apply to the Gospels.

    • 90Lew90

      No offence but Buddha and Mohammad do not belong in the same sentence. I know Hitchens argued that “there is no Eastern solution” but I think he was being belligerent. Buddhism is a philosophy and as far as I’m concerned a wise one. Whatever way we look, people have a “spiritual” impulse and tend, especially when things get shit, which is often, to need help. There is ample evidence of how easily satisfying to the simple mind Christianity is on that score. The starting point with Buddhism is that the Buddha was not a god. He has been deified but followers seem prone to doing that. At its core Buddhism is about self-mastery; the idea being that a contented person who loves himself will then love others more readily. It is the idea that self-mastery brings about a compassionate, healthy mind. That appeals to me and I think there’s truth in it, and not just because it’s exotic. I’ve looked at it quite a lot. And apart from all that, meditation is proven to work. Nobody dies bloody deaths and goes through excruciating pain for everyone’s sins. Nobody indulges in that pretty horrible death cult stuff. It’s about life. Sit around and concentrate hard on the sheer beauty of lotus flowers for a bit. That’s more like it! 🙂 (I have a soft spot for Buddhism…)

      • Well, I wasn’t trying to put Buddha and Muhammad into the same box! 🙂
        My point is that Christians display a more than decent mastery of critical thinking when analyze other religions and philosophies, while at the same time refuse to do the same when it comes to THEIR beliefs.

        • lbholly

          All religious people tend to look at outside beliefs skeptically while looking at those through rose colored glasses

      • MNb

        My soft spot for buddhism has largely disappeared since I read what Mano Singham (ex-Sri Lanka) wrote about it.


      • Forgive me, but that does not seem to be the case. Buddhism rests on the starting premise of “life is suffering” then goes from there to say that suffering is caused by desire, and that by giving up desire one can attain nirvana, or a state of non-being. This seems very similar to that “death cult” stuff, in my opinion. Not to mention the idea of karma, wherein people are punished for sins in their past lives (which they do not remember and cannot change) through reincarnation to lesser forms, or in various hells. Thus they do go through excruciating pain for their sins, if not others. Buddhists are also not immune to violence-Sri Lanka and Myanmar are current proofs. This is is not about life, but how life is suffering, with escape as the goal. What you describe seems to be a very watered-down, secular Western form.

        • 90Lew90

          Thanks for your response. I’m a bit tired now. But I do have a couple of things to say. First I think you should re-read the post that you fired off a response to. I am not under any illusions about how revered people get deified. And yes you’re completely correct to point out to me my error (did you google it?) that the starting point of Buddhism is that life is suffering. I think that is entirely correct. Look around. Forget about the mysticism. That attaches to all good ideas. Buddhism is (as far as I can see) the only ancient one that seems most immune to gathering bullshit like a rolling stone. I find religion poisonous, but people need to respond to that need. I don’t have all the answers but I don’t think that, with all our very justifiable objections to organised religion, we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you get my meaning.

        • I am already familiar with the basic tenets of Buddhism. My disagreement with it (and others’, I suspect), is not that life contains suffering. Few can doubt that. It’s the idea that life simply *is* suffering-full stop. While it certainly does have that, there are many pleasures as well, fleeting though they (and all things) may be. The story of the Buddha (though I have no idea of its accuracy) seems to me the very pained reaction of a sheltered prince to the sudden discovery that life contains suffering, and becoming quite overwhelmed by this. I can sympathize to a degree, but it hardly seems like a good basis to build a philosophy (or religion) from.

    • I’m always interested to note that Christians are as savagely skeptical as I am when it comes to other religions.

  • KarlUdy

    How did what we now call Mark’s gospel come to be so called? Sinaiticus and Vaticanus and several other Greek manuscripts have the “Kata Markon” (according to Mark) attribution.

    Has a credible explanation for Mark’s gospel coming from a different source been presented? Remember, the dating of the text as an authentic first century document is generally held, and Mark is hardly a prime target for a pseudopigraphical work.

    And regarding what you have to say about the “other gospels”, you omit the Diatessaron, which is strong evidence that the early Christian community accepted the four traditional gospels as authentic, and no others, especially when taken with Irenaus’ comparing of the four gospels with the four winds, etc. Both Irenaus and Tatian (author of the Diatessaron) were 2nd century writers.

    • Pofarmer

      Vaticanus and sinaiticus, are both dated 4th century. Well after Bob’s timeline.

    • What Pofarmer said.

      Curiously, I saw the Codex Sinaiticus just a couple of weeks ago in the London library. Cool.

      To your point: the path through Papias was the most reliable route that I could find. Mark can’t be pseudepigraphical since it doesn’t make any claim to authorship (unlike 2 Peter or Titus, for example).

      I’ve heard of no alternate suggestions for authorship.

      What does the Diatessaron have to do with the authorship question?

    • MNb

      What does anything you write have to do with the question if the author of the Gospel of Mark was an eyewitness?

    • Greg G.

      Mark was written in a chiasmic format. It combines OT stories with Homeric stories using mimesis . Most of the miracles are exaggerations of those performed by Moses, Elijah, and Elisha. The travels around the “Sea” of Galilee in the first two thirds of the story echo Odysseus’ travels around the Mediterranean. The Passion shows similarities to the Death of Hector in the Iliad. Nearly every deed of Jesus in Mark was performed by fictional characters in the Greek and Hebrew literature of the day.

      • Al

        What is proof that Mark used Homeric stories? You make so many assertions here but you offer no evidence for them. That’s not going to carry any weight here.

        • Greg G.

          I have presented a portion of the evidence many times in this forum. Dennis R. MacDonald, John Wesley Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the Claremont School of Theology in California, wrote a rather thick book full of evidence for it. Review of The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark by Richard Carrier would be the best place to start. I recommend reading that book first, followed by Randel Helms’ Who Wrote the Gospels so that you see Mark did the same thing with the miracles from the OT and when he refers to oral traditions, you realize where the stories actually came from.

        • Al

          Carrier is ” is an atheist activist, author, frequent public speaker, and blogger. He is a trained historian and one of the leading current proponents of the Christ myth theory.”

          That last statement says it all. No reputable historian believes Christ was a myth. There is just to much evidence for His existence.

          Here are the credentials for Randel Helms’ “is an American professor of English literature, a writer on J. R. R. Tolkien and critical writer on the Bible.” So where are his credentials that he has studied the Bible at any seminaries?
          Where is the proof “Mark did the same thing with the miracles from the OT and when he refers to oral traditions”?

        • “Never do anything for the first time,” eh? Good policy.

          I suppose if you were the dean, you’d just rehash old stuff and discourage your scholars from making any new forays into anything new.

          Yes, everyone knows that the Christ Myth theory is a fringe theory (coincidence: I’m going to hear Carrier debate this at the AAA conference this Saturday).

        • Pofarmer

          I really, really wish I could see that.

        • Greg G.

          Carrier was not a mythicist when he wrote the reviews I referred you to.

          Helms agrees with you except that he shows the relationships between the Old Testament miracles of Moses, Elijah, and Elisha and the Jesus miracles. Scholars refer to Gospel Fictions and Who Wrote the Gospels.

          Are you afraid of the evidence? Why are you using the ad hominem fallacy? Address the arguments directly.

        • Al

          It is true the some of the miracles of Christ did mirror some of the miracles of the OT. That does not mean Jesus Himself did not do miracles. They are not fictions.
          The evidence for Jesus doing miracles is undeniable. He did many in public and even His enemies acknowledged He did them. They believed that His miracles were from Satan. They never deny He did miracles.

        • The evidence for Jesus doing miracles is undeniable

          Don’t just make a bold claim; give us an argument. I fear that all your “evidence” will be from your story–not much evidence.

        • Pofarmer

          I wonder if he realizes that it’s all from the same story in the same book? Yeah, probably not.

        • Ron

          No reputable historian believes Christ was a myth. There is just to much evidence for His existence.

          Great! What is it? Extant works bearing Jesus’ name? Samples of his handiwork as a carpenter? Portraits, paintings or drawings of Jesus dating back to his lifetime? Legal documents attesting to his birth, arrest, trial, execution, and death? A burial chamber inscribed with his name? A bill of sale for a burial chamber made out to Joseph of Arimathea? Contemporaneous accounts detailing Jesus’ life and ministry outside of the New Testament canon?

          Please present this preponderance of historical evidence attesting to Jesus’ existence.

  • RichardSRussell

    I know that a lot of people just uncritically assume that the gospels were written by 4 people actually named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. A large subset of these think that all 4 knew Jesus personally, and a large subset of those think the 4 were among the 12 disciples. My understanding is that all of these assumptions are wrong, but I don’t recall seeing any definitive listing of what to believe instead.

    • MNb

      “a lot of people just ….”
      Such naivity never ceases to amaze me. The latest RCC authorized Dutch translation:


      “Hoewel het boek gewoonlijk ‘het evangelie volgens Marcus’ genoemd wordt, vermeldt de schrijver zijn eigen naam niet. Vanaf de tweede eeuw n.Chr. wordt het evangelie toegeschreven aan Marcus en wordt zijn naam in de handschriften genoteerd. Daarmee verwijst men naar een Marcus die tolk en vertaler van Petrus geweest zou zijn. Soms wordt deze Marcus ook wel geïdentificeerd met Johannes Marcus, een medewerker van Paulus en Barnabas die in het boek Handelingen genoemd wordt.”

      “Though the book usually is called “the gospel according to Marcus, the author doesn’t mention his own name. From the 2nd Century on the Gospel is attributed to Marcus and his name gets noted down in the manuscripts. This refers to a Marcus who is supposed to have been an interpreter and translator for Petrus. Sometimes this Marcus is identified with Johannes Marcus, a co-worker of Paulus and Barnabas who is mentioned in the book Acts.”

      You can be sure that this is officially approved by the RCC. Now I can’t judge how well substantiated these (and other) claims are, but nowhere the page says that the author of the Gospel of Marcus personally know Jesus, let alone that he was one of the apostles.
      The same for Lucas.
      This Dutch translation does mention claims that Mattheus (because of 9.9) and Johannes (because of 21:20) had known Jesus personally, but is very, very far from definitive on them.

      • The last chapter of John (21) is widely acknowledged to have been tacked on. Read the prior chapter (20) and you’ll see that it winds up and ends nicely … and then 21 clumsily starts up again.

        • MNb

          The translation doesn’t take a position, but only mentions the claim.


          “Over de vraag of deze identificatie historisch betrouwbaar is of gezien moet worden als een literair motief waarmee een verder onbekende auteur zijn boek gezag wil verlenen, bestaat discussie.”

          “There is discussion about the question if this identification (21:20, MNb) is historically reliable or must be read as a literary motif used by a further unknown author to render his book authority.”

          Similar for Matthew.
          I don’t know (ie I’m not familiar with the subject) and am not terribly interested. My point is just that even an official RCC publication recognizes that it’s far from sure that the authors were eyewitnesses, to put it mildly. Regarding Marcus you have the RCC entirely on your side. So I simply don’t see an excuse for christian ignorance.
          If you should be happy with that company I leave entirely up to you.

      • Plutosdad

        I’ve met many people who either assume they were all apostles (maybe except Luke, because there was no Luke apostle) or they assume the opposite: we have translations of translations and I’ve heard people say we don’t know the original languages anymore and have nothing written in them. Both of these are wrong, but it is what is assumed by many people I have spoken to who don’t really care to investigate either way.

        • Al

          We don’t have any originals for Plato or Socrates. The earliest copies are over 1000 years after they lived. The copies of the gospels on the other hand are within 150 years. We have a fragment of the gospel of John to about 110-125. There is even a possibility that we may have fragments of Mark to about 80.
          There is nothing like it from ancient writings.

        • Jim Jones

          > We have a fragment of the gospel of John to about 110-125. There is even a possibility that we may have fragments of Mark to about 80.

          Mere wishful thinking, and certainly not able to prove these books are not as fictional as the Harry Potter novels.

        • Al

          This is not fictional thinking but based on what scholars have found. If the gospels are “as fictional as the Harry Potter novels” then so is all of ancient history. You need to be consist.

        • Pofarmer

          if we are to be consistent, we throw out all the supernatural stuff, and look at the non supernatural stuff. In the case of Jesus, we find that even the non-supernatural stuff is often referenced back to “prophesies from scripture” so that is really supernatural stuff too. If you are going to be consistent, you declare Jesus a legend like Achilles or Hercules. Maybe you declare him a myth, like Zuess or Poseidon. But if you are being consistent with what we know about Ancient aliterature and Ancient history and historians, you certainly don’t declare him the one and only son of god, who impregnated his mother with himself, to make himself a sacrifice to himself. That is not at all “consistent” with what we do with other ancient historical figures, unless you want to declare that Ceasar Augustus really was born of a Virgin, and Mohamed really did ride on a winged horse to mecca or wherever.

        • Al

          Throwing out supernatural stuff proves nothing because you can’t prove it does not exist. You only assume it doesn’t. Not even science can rule it out.

          Jesus is one of the best attested historical figures of ancient history. He fits well in the OT historical context.

        • Greg G.

          If you don’t rule out supernatural stuff, then history is a magical kingdom full of gods and wizards. When you screen out the magic, the events of ancient history are very much like the events of recent history,

          The Gospels in the New Testament are closer to the fictional literature of the day.

        • Al

          Not true. If the evidence leads to a supernatural conclusion, then so be it. To rule it out from the beginning could lead to absurd conclusions or lies.

          I agree that most of history follows from naturalistic explanations. When it comes to the gospels, the miracles of Christ cannot be explained from naturalism. Only the supernatural will do.

          What scholars say that “the New Testament are closer to the fictional literature of the day”?

        • Greg G.

          But if the evidence leads just as likely to contrived supernatural conclusion, we should rule out the supernatural.

          The miracles of the New Testament can be explained as fiction writing.

          What scholars say that “the New Testament are closer to the fictional literature of the day”?

          The Jesus Seminar for starters. They rejected over 80% of the deeds and 80% of the sayings of Jesus from the gospels. Yet they accepted Mark 2:23-28 as being plausible yet I think it is absurd because the person who wrote that passage did not read the back story of 1 Samuel 21.

        • Al

          The Jesus Seminar???? Get serious. Do you know how they went about determining which sayings of Jesus were authentic and which were not?

          So you have no evidence for your claims.

        • Greg G.

          There were 150 scholars involved. The only refutation you can offer is how they voted? You can’t address their arguments?

          What real evidence do you have that the events were real and not just stories? That’s a trick question because there is no good evidence.

        • Al

          Crossan believed that the body of Jesus was wild dogs. There is nothing in the gospel accounts that comes close to this crackpot idea. Funk didn’t know how to understand the gospels and he also came up with ridiculous ideas.

          Voting to determine if Jesus said something or not is not how scholarship is done.

        • Greg G.

          Voting to determine if Jesus said something or not is not how scholarship is done.

          So you reject the scholarly consensus? Why did you cite billions of believers in the New Testament?

        • Al

          I don’t reject all scholarly consensus. The Seminar was very liberal and not mainstream.

          Billions of people over the past 2000 years have believed the message of the NT. There are over a billion today who believe it.

        • Billions of people have believed the Koran. Maybe you’re backing the wrong camel.

        • Greg G.

          BTW, in another window I was seeing you as Stephen P on this page but the email notifications I am getting for your responses identify you as “Al (Guest)”. Now you show up as Al.

        • Al

          Not stephen P

        • Stephen P has a different email name than Al. Do you think they’re the same?

        • Greg G.

          I had several responses labeled Stephen P that suddenly turned into Al posts. I see a Stephen P post still exists. They both have the (Guest) label. Their argument styles and positions are not the same. I suspect a Discus error.

        • Show us that the preponderance of evidence points to the supernatural explanation.

          Yes, perhaps miracles can’t be explained by naturalism, but you’ve already assumed the supernatural! All we have as evidence is stories of miracles. Do you believe everything you read?

        • Al

          The resurrection of Christ cannot be explained by natural causes. I don’t assume the supernatural but am open to it when it may be the best explanation.

        • There is no resurrection. There’s the story of a resurrection that can very easily be explained naturally.

          Someone asked you (but you avoided because it was uncomfortable): what would get you to change your mind? Or is your mind not changeable?

        • Pofarmer

          How does ruling out the supernatural lead to absurd conclusions or lies?

        • We follow the evidence. The evidence doesn’t support supernatural claims, so we dismiss them. It’s really pretty simple.

          I don’t think anyone here is pushing the Christ Myth theory, so let’s not waste time going down that road.

        • Al

          Your not as crazy as I thought. You reject the Christ myth theory.There is hope for you.

          There are many arguments for the existence of God. You know that if you follow Dr Craig. One of the best is the life of Christ. There is no other way to understand Him correctly without God.

        • yeah, after that condescension, I’m so ready for the cleansing blood of the Lamb.

        • MNb

          I reject Jesus Myth Theory. I accept Christ Myth Theory. There is quite a difference.

        • And the holy books of other religions? How do we evaluate them?

        • Al

          Which ones?

        • All of them. Or are you unaware that Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and so on have holy books?

        • Al

          Never read em.I have seen some quotes but not many. In fact I can’t think of one except “”What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Talk about nonsense…

        • Hey, did you hear the one about the god who was pissed that the fig tree didn’t have fruit because it wasn’t the right time?

          Hey, did you hear the one about the god who walked on water? He also turned water into–get this!–wine!

          Hey, did you hear the one about the god who somehow was so furious that people were imperfect (the way he made them!) that he knocked up some chick to give birth to himself so he could get sacrificed to himself!

          Nutty stuff, right? What kind of drugs were these people on? And then today they say that this all makes sense with a straight face.

        • And now that we’ve put that to bed, we’re back to the original point: you’re afraid to offer a single algorithm for winnowing all strange claims–the Bible and other holy books, religious miracles, new creatures like Bigfoot or Nessie, fiction, pseudoscience, claims for miracle cures, history, and so on–into True and False categories.

          Or perhaps you do have such a technique? Show us.

        • Al

          If you want to disprove miracles are impossible then all you to do is disprove the existence of God. I’m not even asking you for it to foolproof. Go for it and if its good enough I’ll become an atheist. If you not, you should become at a minimum a theist.

        • God damn–again with the proving? You don’t like to learn, do you?

        • MNb

          Your god is immaterial. Immaterial beings by definition don’t have means to interact with our material reality. Neither has any such mean ever been shown.
          Your god is as meaningless as a square circle.
          But of course this will not be good enough for you, fond of double standards as you are.

        • Pofarmer

          THe very fact that you ask the question, provides the answer. You know you cannot provide sufficient evidence, so, you attempt to shift the burden. We do not need to dissprove what you so obviously cannot prove.

        • Greg G.

          Julius Caesar was once the most powerful man on Earth but we would not be justified in calling him a god. If a powerful space alien came for a visit, we would not be justified in calling it a god because there could be something more powerful. If we found Zeus, we would not be justified in calling it a god because there could be a being a million times more powerful yet hides from Zeus for ineffable reasons. But we would not be justified in calling MegaZeus a god for the same reason that there could be a TeraZeus and we would not be justified in calling it a god, either.

          The only being we could justify calling it a god would be an omnipotent entity.But MegaZeus could certainly give a person or a squirrel the perfect illusion of being omnipotent and still hide from it. A being that thought it was omnipotent would necessarily be agnostic about a more powerful being because it would not have the ability to detect such a being but would be unable to distinguish whether this was because there was no other being or if it was a delusion from a more powerful entity.

          Therefore, there cannot be an entity that is truly omnipotent which means we would never be justified in calling any entity a god.

        • Don’t you mean that there can never be an entity that knows that it is omnipotent (or that we can never know that any particular being is omnipotent)?

        • Greg G.

          I’m saying that no entity can really know that it is omnipotent. The Problem of Solipsism would vex it as it could be a brain in a vat fed sensory impulses that convinces it that it is immaterial, its decisions are carried out in its own sandbox that seems to be everything to the entity. Such an entity would have to be an agnostic as to whether it was created by a greater being that hides from it so as not to infringe upon the entity’s free will. Pascal’s Wager would be a problem for the entity. It would have to guess what morality is favored by its hypothetical maker. It could be gods all the way up, each with their own doubts..

        • So not only can we not believe a being that says it’s omnipotent because it could be lying (could even be an advanced alien) but also because we can’t trust that it has correctly evaluated its own status.

        • Al

          Depends what you mean by the word “god”. The God of Scripture is way beyond Zeus or any other so called gods.

          When Christians call Jesus God they are referencing the God of the OT. Many statements in the NT point to Jesus as being the God who is revealed in the OT and this is God is omnipotent.

        • Greg G.

          You should learn how to scroll. Your argument was addressed in the second and third paragraphs. An omnipotent being is impossible.

        • Al

          What??? How do you know that “A being that thought it was omnipotent would necessarily be agnostic about a more powerful being because it would not have the ability to detect such a being but would be unable to distinguish whether this was because there was no other being or if it was a delusion from a more powerful entity”?

          Do you know what omnipotent means?

        • Greg G.

          If an omnipotent entity was the top of the chain of being and tried to detect a higher being, it would sense no other being. If a sufficiently powerful entity gave a person the delusion of being omnipotent and the deluded person tried to detect a higher being, the sufficiently powerful entity would give the same sensation that a truly omnipotent being would have. So there is no way a being could verify that it was omnipotent and not a deluded ordinary being or a deluded brain in a vat. Every sense of omnipotence could be real or a delusion.

          How could an immaterial being be omnipotent? It can’t do things that I can do. I ate an Arby’s Smokehouse Brisket sandwich. An immaterial being can’t do that.

        • Why is Yahweh that big a deal? He had to recon the Sodom and Gomorrah thing himself; he didn’t just know.

          So much for being omniscient. I imagine his other omni- properties came gradually, don’t you think?

        • Greg G.

          “The sound of one hand clapping” is a meditation exercise to understand the interconnectedness of everything. The sound of clapping implies that there is another hand and arms connected to a body, the food eaten to produce the arms and fuel them, the rain and sun that grows that food, and so on.

          You dismiss it because you don’t understand it. The Bible makes less sense when you understand where it comes from.

        • Al

          Your right I don’t understand it. It amazing how you can make nonsense look like something brilliant.

        • And if you don’t understand it, it must be bullshit.

          Gosh, I wish I were as smart as you …

        • Al

          Start reading some smart people and you might just get there.

        • MNb

          Well, those smart people don’t include you and your sources ….

        • Is there any point in continuing this conversation? You got more arguments from your Big Book o’ Christian Apologetics or are you about done?

          I don’t know that I’ve learned a single thing from our conversation. I think we’ve devolved into the insult phase.

        • Jim Jones

          Give me the year of birth and the year of death of ‘Jesus’. Prove it.

        • MNb

          Gibe me the year of birth and the year of death of Aristophanes and Polycarpus of Smyrna. Prove it.
          Atheist stupidities are not any better than christian ones.

        • Jim Jones

          How many gay men are murdered in the name of Aristophanes? How many children are indoctrinated in his name? When will his prayer be printed on every US dollar bill?


        • Where do you get this stuff? Are you just tossing out apologetics from a book and then going down to the next one as each one fails?

          I’ve written much about this. Start with this one:

          25,000 New Testament Manuscripts? Big Deal.

        • Pofarmer

          I’m trying to figure out how that comment is even relevant.

        • Read the post. Respond to it.

        • Pofarmer

          mwas refering to Als comment. He just barfs up random apologetics.

        • Whoops! I responded to the wrong person–sorry. I meant to reply to Crazy Al.

        • Al

          You might have written much about it but you don’t understand it. The gospels are the best attested documents from ancient history.

        • Greg G.

          Best attested? There is nothing to back up the stories. Two of them copy text from one other. The fourth appears to draw on it too, though not directly through text, it uses similar story telling techniques for common stories. The subsequent gospels were rejected for being too unbelievable but they did shift the Overton Window enough to make the four seem reasonable in comparison.

        • Al

          Archaeology backs up the NT. So does secular historians who mention people and some events in the NT. Luke-Acts has over 70 historical details correct.

          If the gospels “were rejected for being too unbelievable” how is that billions of people over the past 2000 years believe in them?

        • 70 details? I should count the ones in Wizard of Oz. Let’s start with Kansas–I’ve actually been there.

          Hard time reading? Greg was saying that the subsequent gospels were unbelievable.

          The Gospel of Peter has a talking cross (though Mark Goodacre makes a compelling case that it’s a typo–not “cross” but “crucified one”). But then the canonical gospels have quite a lot of nutty stuff in them.

        • Al

          The gospel of Peter does not predate the 4 gospels.The nutty stuff is not in the gospels but in atheism.

        • God dammit, I never said it did. Neither did Greg. Maybe if you read aloud or use your finger to follow along you’ll get it better.

          Yet another meaningless driveby in your last sentence. You do understand that this is just shooting blanks, right? You got an actual argument besides “Your stuff is crap!”?

          Bring it.

        • Greg G.

          All the other gospels are derivative from Mark, with the possible exception of the Gospel of Thomas.

        • Greg G.

          Archaeology doesn’t back up the New Testament all that well. They’ve never found a first century Nazareth.

          Gone with the Wind mentions people and events from the Civil War era but it’s still fiction.

          Luke used Josephus as a source. Judging his historical details as correct by comparing him to Josephus is just documenting how well he could read Josephus. It’s where he misreads Josephus that really gives this method away. See The Reliance of Luke-Acts on the Writings of Flavius Josephus by Paul Tobin and Luke and Josephus – Secular Web (Richard Carrier) by Richard Carrier for a primer on this issue.

          If the gospels “were rejected for being too unbelievable” how is that billions of people over the past 2000 years believe in them?

          How many of those billions would have been able to give the correct answer to how long it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun without guessing? How many of them would have accepted the idea of the Earth orbiting the Sun? How many billions have not accepted those stories over the past 2000 years?

        • Al

          Are all archaeologists claiming Nazareth does not exist because they have exhaustively searched for it? You need to read this article at-http://www.normangeisler.net/articles/Bible/Reliability/2012-IsNazarethAMyth.htm

          We know Gone with the Wind is a fiction by the author of it. The author does not claim its history.

          What conservative evangelical authors have you read? Why read Carrier when he is not a scholar in the field?

          Your last points are irrelevant to the discussion.

        • Greg G.

          You should always have spaces at either end of a naked URL because the software will include it in the link.


          Holden confirms that there is no evidence that Nazareth existed in the first century despite diligent efforts by archaeologists. He offers excuses for why there isn’t be any evidence. It’s a habit with apologists.

          I’m not sure why there is a discussion of Luke’s claims about Nazareth since it was written so late. Mark should be the primary source.

          Here’s one of my arguments:

          Jesus began to preach in Galilee and gained fame throughout the region. It was reported that he was home when he returned to Capernaum. People gathered there until there was no more room for them.

          After the Transfiguration, they returned to Capernaum and went to the house. Whose house was it? Apparently, it was Jesus’ home.

          Matthew 4:13-16 says Jesus moved to Capernaum to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-2, which mentions Galilee, land of the Gentiles, but Nazareth would have fulfilled that as a prophecy, being in Galilee. Matthew 2:23 says Jesus’ family moved to Nazareth when they returned from Egypt to fulfill a prophecy that “He shall be called a Nazarene. “Perhaps Matthew was thinking of Judges 13:5 that said Samson would be a “nazirite”, which is described in Numbers 6:1-21 as a person consecrated to God and has nothing to do with a location.

          Luke 4:14-16 has Jesus travel and preach in Galilee, then returning to Nazareth. Luke 4:23 has the people asking Jesus to do what he did in Capernaum but Luke never has him go there.

          In Mark 3:19b-21, Jesus goes home and his family heard about what he was doing and came to seize him. If Jesus had moved from Nazareth to Capernaum, it would have taken at least two days for his family to get there but the story seems to move much faster as if the family lived nearby.

          The epistles don’t mention that Jesus came from Nazareth. Mark didn’t think of Jesus coming from Nazareth. Matthew misunderstood Mark about that.

        • [sigh] And I’ve already slapped Geisler’s argument silly. Look it up for more. (Or are you not interested in any opposing ideas?)

        • Al

          Not again. You really need to up your game if you want to be taken seriously.

        • MNb

          Don’t worry – very few people over here want to be take seriously by you.

        • You too lazy to look it up? Would you read it if I gave you the link? Or do you just feel icky when you see arguments against your beliefs?

        • Al

          I don’t go and tell you to read the Bible to make my case. You should know your arguments well enough to articulate them in a couple of sentences.

        • In other words, “No, I don’t feel like reading other posts.” If you meant that, just say so.

          No, I don’t know my arguments well enough to take a 1000-word post and write it in a couple of sentences.

          But I guess that’s all for the good. You didn’t want to read anything that might challenge your views anyway, right?

        • MNb

          “They’ve never found a first century Nazareth.”
          Also a fan of Ken Humphreys?


        • Greg G.

          That link has one broken link and another that goes to a page that is debunked by




          I read Humphries when I still thought there was a historical Jesus in there somewhere so I rejected it.

          I have seen several arguments on Nazareth but there is no good evidence that it existed in the first century.

          I met Frank Zindler a few weeks ago. I recognized the name but couldn’t place it. Actually I had heard of him as president of an atheist organization and seen his name in Jesus Myth articles but hadn’t made the connection that it was the same person. He mentioned the former but not the latter. I began to read up on him and found that most of the Nazareth myth information goes back to him.

        • Salm’s The Myth of Nazareth argues against a living town of Nazareth during the purported time of Jesus. I haven’t read much on this–are you saying that this theory is discredited?

        • Greg G.

          The link in MNb’s post is to an article by James McGrath which links to http://www.cleveland.com/religion/index.ssf/2009/12/archaelogists_in_nazareth_say.html . Ehrman mentioned the find in Did Jesus Exist? Salm addresses the find on his web site http://www.nazarethmyth.info/scandaleight.html .

          The link in McGrath’s article that mentions Ken Dark didn’t work for me. Salm addresses Ken Dark in the update at the bottom of the page at the link above as well as the book by the lead archaeologist.

          So it seems that a Christian church group was building a Christian tourist attraction so, at the last minute, they found artifacts from the first century that were so significant they stopped the archaeology to finish construction on the museum. It sounds like a publicity stunt to me.

        • Pofarmer

          WHich secular historians?

        • ?? So then you have no retort?

          OK, I guess the points in that post stand.

        • Al

          No one doubts that there are more manuscripts for the NT than for any work of antiquity. No doubts we have more copies closer to the time of the events in the NT than for any other ancient writings.

        • All true. And, as you’ve now learned by reading the post, all irrelevant.

          We’ve got a handful of NT manuscript fragments before the major complete codices (Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and maybe a few others) from the 4th century.

          That’s very impressive historically but very little on which to build a claim of the supernatural.

        • Al

          At least we have it established that the gospel accounts are superior in quality, number of manuscripts and written closer to the events than any other histories of the ancient world.

          The supernatural claims of the gospels are a different issue. There is nothing in science that rules out the supernatural. Nothing in logic or reason that rules it out either. Nothing in philosophy either.

        • Greg G.

          How can you claim the gospel accounts are closer in time to the events if you can’t establish that the events actually happened and the events appear to be unlikely to have ever happened?

        • Al

          We know there was a Herod, a Pilate, we know there were Romans in the 1st century, we know the Romans crucified people, etc.

          If you reject the events in the gospels then you will have to reject any events in ancient history as well. Are you willing to do that?

        • Greg G.

          You are not making sense. I can reject Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer as a true history without rejecting the existence of Abraham Lincoln. Do you disagree? By the same token, I don’t have to reject facts inserted into a fictional story for verisimilitude just because the rest of the story is false. I don’t have to reject the possibility that three guys could conceivably walk into a bar just because a lot of jokes start out that way.

          Someone noted the characters mentioned in Luke and Acts that are verified by other historians of the time. It turned out that all but one of them were mentioned by Josephus and most were mentioned only by Josephus. I added two more names to the list that Luke used who also are mentioned only in Josephus.

        • Al

          If apply your skepticism for the gospels being true history to other secular historians then we conclude its all fiction. Are you willing to be consistent?

        • Greg G.

          I reject the parts of stories of ancient history that are supernatural because they are absurd. For a while, I rejected the supernatural parts of the gospels for the same reason. Now I reject the gospels because they appear to be derived from the fictional stories of the day. The supernatural parts are swept away just on that basis.

        • Al

          Of course you offer no counter facts for your non-belief in the supernatural. All you do is assert and think that is enough. The problem is that the positive evidence for the supernatural is to strong to dismiss out of hand.

        • MNb

          I have given one you prefer to ignore.
          There is no reliable methodology for separating correct claims about the supernatural from incorrect ones. Why should I accept Jesus’ Resurrection if you reject the fairies in my backyard, who do such a great job tending my flowers, so that they blossom more beautifully?

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes! You’ve wrote about those fairies on many occasions, and I can’t disprove it, so it must be true! At least, that’s what some people hanging around here would say…

        • Al

          Because of the eyewitness and the historical reliability of the gospels. When multiple people over the course of time claim to see the same person and are willing to die for it then you have good grounds to believe its true.

          How many people have seen your fairies? Are you willing to die for this claims?

        • Pofarmer

          Good Lord man. People die for false beliefs all the time. Millions of people claim to have seen or been abducted bu aliens. Their’s no evidence for that, either.

        • Greg G.

          The ancient people were superstitious. They believed in lots of supernatural events that we now know have natural causes. Nothing has ever been shown to be supernatural. How gullible are you?

        • Al

          Even if that were true that would not make the life of Christ a myth. Here is what the great C.S. Lewis who was an expert on myths said:
          ““All I am in private life is a literary critic and historian, that’s my job. And I am prepared to say on that basis if anyone thinks the Gospels are either legend or novels, then that person is simply showing his incompetence as a literary critic. I’ve read a great many novels and I know a fair amount about the legends that grew up among early people, and I know perfectly well the Gospels are not that kind of stuff” (C.S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, 209)”

          How could you be so gullible as to embrace atheism and the Christ myth nonsense?

        • Ah, so C.S. Lewis thinks the gospels are history, so they must be. Uh huh.

        • Greg G.

          Even staunch defenders of the historical Jesus reject the extrabiblical sources and the gospels as reliable evidence for Jesus. Mark’s sources have been identified. Every deed attributed to Jesus was an exaggeration of an event from the literature of the day. Other gospels are dependent on Mark.

          That leaves the early epistles that don’t mention a teaching, preaching Jesus. The Pauline epistles deemed authentic mention Jesus 1500 times but Paul only gives information about him a few dozen times. Most of that info is found in Isaiah which is by far the book most quoted by Paul. The rest of the information can be found in other OT passages. Paul seems to think Isaiah was writing about a Jesus from Isaiah ‘ own time. Even other epistles do the same. For example, 1 Peter 2 quotes from several verses in Isaiah 53.

          So epistle Jesus was a literary creation, too.

        • MNb

          Do you even realize that it’s the task of historians of Antiquity to separate fact from fiction in every single ancient text? And that they are pretty good at it? And that the supernatural typically are not accepted as historical?

        • Al

          How have historians dealt with the resurrection of Christ? What counter facts do they present that disproves it happened?

        • Show me a book that declares the miracles of Jesus to be history that’s not theology or religion.

          I’ve never seen any such book that represents the consensus view of historians. They’ll acknowledge his existence as a person in history but not the supernatural.

        • Pofarmer

          A historian has to say that it didn’t happen, because people rising from the has never been shown to be possible. Ie, it’s made up. Reality alone dissproves it. It’s no different than the MO Angel and other stories from today. Not a single one holds up to careful scrutiny.

        • Al

          You sound like Hume. If we have eyewitness accounts of a resurrection then that is excellent evidence that it did happen. For the past 2000 years no one has disproved the resurrection with any counter facts.

          Your refusal to accept the facts only show your bias.

        • Greg G.

          You don’t have eyewitness accounts.

          What kind of counter facts could there be to refute a story of complete fiction written decades after the supposed events just after the city of the supposed events had been ravaged by war?

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, but we don’t have eyewitness accounts, which has been explained to you, which apparently you don’t get. Even of we did have eyewitness accounts, which we don’t, they are notoriously unreliable. And yes, I suppose I am biased, so what? I am also open to evidence.

        • MNb

          Hume happened to be instrumental for the scientific method (together with Descartes). Saying that the Resurrection was a historical event is not a scientific statement.
          Plus not providing counterfacts does not imply that there are facts. The only fact about the Resurrection is that people have written about it. Trying to make more of it only shows antiscientific bias.

        • And do we have eyewitness accounts?

          Remember how flabby your argument for Markan authorship was? Now it comes back to bite you. Since you’ll accept any whisper of evidence to argue that the gospels come from eyewitnesses, your foundation is now flimsy.

          No one need disprove (wait–haven’t we been over this, Slow Learner?), just provide the preponderance of evidence.

          Your refusal to adapt your argument show that argument and evidence play no role in why you believe. As a result, why hope that you have a convincing argument?

        • You seem allergic to reading my other posts. If you did, however, you’d see lots of your elementary errors corrected so you could avoid some of your foot-in-mouth disease. Just a thought.

          Historians universally scrub the supernatural out of history. Are you willing to submit the gospels to the historians to see what they’d do?

        • Al

          Those historians that do that are biased like you. They don’t give facts against the supernatural but just assert it like you do. That won’t work here.

          BTW- assertions are not facts.

        • MNb

          Oh of course, that is your methodology – how silly of me. Historians who don’t write what you like to read are biased by definition and thus can be dismissed. In other words: correct is what makes your underbelly feel warm and cozy.

        • Pofarmer

          I think Al is firmly in crazy town.

        • Greg G.

          Even Crazy Town needs a village idiot.

        • Uh, no, Chester–every historian. Theologians like to imagine that Jesus is part of history, but you won’t find a history book that is the consensus view of that category of history professionals that contains supernatural claims.

          Tough medicine, I suppose, but I think it’s good for you.

        • Al

          Chester, when a historian studies the gospels he forced to deal with the supernatural. There is no way around separating the supernatural out of the gospels and the rest of the NT.

        • Uh, yeah, I get it. The NT imagines a world full of supernatural magic. Do you believe every story that has supernatural magic in it? Maybe the NT is just legend.

        • Pofarmer

          We know there was a Herod, but we can be certain the killing if the newborns never took place. We know there was a Pilate, but we also know that the pharisees could have had Jesus stoned on their own authority for religious crimes, there was no need to get Roman authority. We can reasonably say there was no star of Bethlehem. All these things are literary creations.

        • MNb

          “We can reasonably say there was no star of Bethlehem.”
          A bit of nit picking: there were too many. About 16, 17 candidates.

        • primenumbers

          We also know Pilate would never have released the criminal Barabbas. Given Barabbas’s name smacks of literary creation, we can be pretty darn certain the whole story is pure fabrication.

        • Greg G.

          For Al’s benefit, in Mark 10:46-52, Bartimaeus is introduced as the son of Timaeus, a Greek name, so the Greek readers learn that “bar” means “son of”. In Mark 14:36, Jesus prays “Abba, Father” to teach his readers that “Abba” means “father”. This phrase most likely comes from Galatians 4:6 or Romans 8:15. When the readers are introduced to Barrabbas in Mark 15:7, they should recognize the scapegoat scenario (Leviticus 16:5-22) of two men called “Son of the Father”.

        • smrnda

          The description of Dublin in Ulysses by James Joyce is quite accurate, but that does not mean that there was really a Leopold and Molly Bloom.

          Ancient history is going to be on a bit shakier ground than modern events.

        • Al

          Here is what someone who was an expert on myths and history and knew the difference between myth and history said about the gospel accounts:
          “All I am in private life is a literary critic and historian, that’s my job. And I am prepared to say on that basis if anyone thinks the Gospels are either legend or novels, then that person is simply showing his incompetence as a literary critic. I’ve read a great many novels and I know a fair amount about the legends that grew up among early people, and I know perfectly well the Gospels are not that kind of stuff” (C.S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, 209)”

        • C.S. Lewis “just knows.” I didn’t know that he was the last word on the subject.

        • Al

          How does one go about establishing if an event happened in the ancient past? What is required?

        • Greg G.

          Physical evidence would be the best evidence. Claims of something happening without evidence are just probability statements. Improbable claims are not considered likely while plausible claims would be more likely.

        • Wrong again. There is a larger number (which, as I’ve made clear, is irrelevant). They were probably written closer to the events they purport to document than historical accounts that we have. There’s no reason to claim “superior in quality” (whatever that means).

          And, once again, your argument devolves into: “You can’t prove the supernatural wrong.” You’re right but, again, that’s irrelevant. We don’t prove things in science; we follow the evidence. And there’s no evidence to point to the supernatural.

          So have these arguments convinced anyone else? Have you had better luck elsewhere? Cuz I’m wondering why you use these arguments. They’re popular but ineffective. Don’t you want something better?

        • Al

          I’m just laying the groundwork. There is nothing to rule out the supernatural from a number of different disciplines.

          Now all I need to do is to give examples of the supernatural. That can be done by looking at the gospels where we see Christ doing things that only God could do. Even today there is a lot of evidence for the supernatural in countless accounts of people being healed and prayers answered.

        • MNb

          Could you be so kind to answer my question first?

          Could you provide a reliable methodology that separates correct claims about the supernatural from incorrect ones? If not I’ll stick to my beloved fairies, who tend the flowers in my backyard so well to make them blossom beautifully.

        • Al

          Multiple eyewitnesses. Jesus is killed by the Romans on a Friday that was witnessed publicly. Put in a tomb that is guarded by guards and the tomb was empty on the third day. Christ was seen on multiple occasions by over 500 people.

          Now what evidence do you have for your fairies? If you don’t have any evidence that can be checked you are lying.

        • Greg G.

          The stories are fictional accounts that don’t agree that it was on Friday. The guards were a supplement to a growing legend. Paul speaks of the appearances to others as he does of his own appearance, which seems to be an idea he got from reading the scriptures, not a physical or spiritual story. Those are embellishments in Acts.

          He has flowers growing in the garden. You could see them and smell them. That’s hard evidence that is just as good as you accept for the existence of the universe implying God’s existence.

        • Al

          Again, where are your counter facts that prove this was a fiction?

        • MNb

          Again, what counterfacts do you have to prove that I’m lying about the fairies in my backyard?

        • Al

          I have none. It is you who is making the claim that there are fairies in your backyard. You have the burden to prove it. Let’s start with some eyewitnesses. Who else has seen them?

        • MNb

          Then you should not complain about others not providing counterfacts against the Resurrection – against god – either. Unless you want to be a hypocrite of course; that’s my bet.
          It is you who is making the claim that there was a Resurrection. You have the burden to prove it. Let’s start with some eyewitnesses. Who were they? What were their names and addresses?

          My primary eyewitnesses are me and my son, like your apostles. My secondary eyewitnesses are some unnamed people living in my town, like your 500.

        • MNb

          And it’s you who is making the claim that Jesus resurrected. Hence you have the burden to prove it. Let’s start with some eyewitnesses. I will provide you with exactly as much information about the identities of my eyewitnesses for my fairies as you for the Resurrection.

        • It’s just a story. You’ve got a long way to go to show that this is history.

          Seriously–how old are you? If a Mormon or Muslim were making similarly weak arguments, you’d be all over them.

          500 people? Wrote a post about that. You won’t read it.

          About the fairies: you’re not demanding of MNb evidence that you don’t demand of yourself, are you? Don’t ask him for photographic evidence or notarized statements when you don’t demand the same for the Jesus story.

        • MNb

          My flowers blossom beautifully. I have multiple eyewitnesses for it. I don’t have to tell you who they are, because neither do you.

        • Al

          I didn’t ask you about your flower blossoms but you made a claim you see fairies in your yard. Have your neighbors seen these fairies?

        • MNb

          I have exactly as many witnesses as you for the Resurrection. I provide you with exactly as much information about their identities as you about the identities of your witnesses of the Resurrection.
          Have the neighbours of Jesus’ tomb seen him walking out?

        • Uh, yeah, and when we look at the other guys’ holy books, we see their gods doing things that demands the supernatural. Are they right, too?

        • Pofarmer

          Show me a single supernatural claim verified by science. Show me an answered prayer that is outside the boundaries of chance.

        • Al

          The resurrection of Christ was a historical event that is proved historical methods. Even today there are cases of people being prayed for that were healed. In some of these cases doctors will confirm this. The book, Miracles by Keener has dozens of cases that confirm this.

        • Pofarmer

          Bart Ehrman, Mathew Ferguson, and Richard Carrier disagree, to name Only three who are qualified to make the judgement. If the ressurection was an obvious historical event, why didn’t the pharisees and the Jewish leadership immediately convert? This was their Messiah, fer petes sake, walking among them after he had been dead! Performing miracles!

        • Al

          They have no counter facts against the resurrection. All they can do is express their opinions.

          Many in the Jewish leadership did covert. See Acts 15:5

        • Pofarmer

          Acts is fantasy, much of it copied from Josephus, and not reliable. What do contemporaneous Jewish records show? Josephus wrote extensively about Jewish cults, and yet no mention of christianity except two throw away passages that are now judged interpolations.

        • Al

          Acts predates Josephus. Luke was a first rate historian who is known to have gotten dozens of historical details correct.

        • Pofarmer

          I’m actually kinda flabbergasted by the utter nincompoopery of that claim. There are many, many things that serperate acts from first rate history,

        • Al

          “There are many, many things that serperate acts from first rate history,” Such as?

        • Pofarmer

          Let’s just start with that first passage you listed from Luke. What isn’t in there that we would expect to find in a first rate history?

        • I need to add that word to my vocabulary. (Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities to use it lately.)

        • Greg G.

          I gave you links that show that Acts borrows from Josephus. You ran away from them. For example:

          Acts 21:38 Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?”

          The Egyptian comes from Antiquities of the Jews 20.8.6
          Moreover, there came out of Egypt about this time to Jerusalem one that said he was a prophet, and advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the Mount of Olives, as it was called, which lay over against the city, and at the distance of five furlongs.

          The Assassins come from Antiquities of the Jews 20.8.5 and the word used is Sicarii, the earliest known usage is by Josephus and seems to be a word of his own devising:
          Certain of those robbers went up to the city, as if they were going to worship God, while they had daggers under their garments, and by thus mingling themselves among the multitude they slew Jonathan and as this murder was never avenged, the robbers went up with the greatest security at the festivals after this time; and having weapons concealed in like manner as before, and mingling themselves among the multitude, they slew certain of their own enemies, and were subservient to other men for money; and slew others, not only in remote parts of the city, but in the temple itself also; for they had the boldness to murder men there, without thinking of the impiety of which they were guilty.

          The people led into the wilderness also comes from Antiquities of the Jews 20.8.6 but is not about the Egyptian
          And now these impostors and deceivers persuaded the multitude to follow them into the wilderness,

          Acts conflates three passages into one verse.

          See The Reliance of Luke-Acts on the Writings of Flavius Josephus by Paul Tobin for more.

        • … unless Luke is “first rate” because he matches well with Josephus (because he copied Josephus). Something to consider?

        • Ron

          Cool! On what page does Keener present confirmed cases of prayer restoring the limbs of amputees?

          And please introduce us to this resurrected Jesus. When can you arrange a meeting?

        • Al

          I have the book on kindle so I don’t know the pages. Read it and he does footnote a lot.

          If you want to be introduced to the resurrected Christ then read the gospels. Bibles are not that expensive or read it online at Bible gateway.

        • Ron

          Ok. Then could you please list the footnotes cited for the people who had their lost limbs restored through prayer?

          And I’ve already read the Gospels many times, but never met this physically resurrected man named Jesus; which is why I’m asking you to arrange the meeting. Can you do that?

        • Al

          Get the book and you can look up all the references to your hearts content.

          Do you believe in your heart that Christ died and rose again?

        • Ron

          Why should I purchase yet another apologetics text just to follow a couple of footnotes? You claim they’re there, so why not just cite them?

          And the only way I can believe the astounding claim that Jesus rose from the dead is to meet him physically in the flesh—just as his disciples did. When can you arrange the meet-up?

        • Al

          Because it might changed your mind. Unless you have closed it already which would mean no amount of evidence will change it.

          Forget about meeting Jesus in the flesh in this world. Not many have had that privilege. You will meet Him in the judgement when you will be judged by Him.

        • Ron

          It’s rather presumptuous to conclude I’ll reject the evidence before you’ve even presented it, don’t you think? So why not just cite the footnotes confirming that prayer restored lost limbs and let me decide for myself? And lest you’ve forgotten, 1 Peter 3:15 instructs you to provide answers to everyone who asks—i.e., real answers, not deflections and excuses.

          As for meeting Jesus, Hebrews 13:8 states that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” If Jesus willingly revealed himself in the flesh to his disciples almost two thousand years ago, what reason would he have for not doing so today?

        • al

          You have the gospels as your primary evidence. Read them. Ask questions and get answers from knowledgeable sources. Bob is not one of those sources. Sorry.
          Jesus did not promise to reveal Himself in the flesh. He did say, blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. There is enough for you to believe.

        • Ron

          If there were actually enough there for me to believe I’d still be a believer, wouldn’t I? But a critical reading of the bible was what led to my loss of faith in the first place. That’s why I now heartily recommend it as the first step to becoming an atheist.

          So at the risk of being repetitive, could you now kindly supply those footnotes documenting the restoration of lost limbs through prayer?

        • So faith is good?

          Not for me, Chester. And how about you? Is faith a means of knowing in other aspects of your life–crossing the street, doing household repairs, and so on?

        • Al

          Yep. You can’t live life without faith.

        • MNb

          So you use a definition of the word faith that’s convenient to you as well. I live without faith the way your belief system is based upon. I do live with some metaphysical assumptions indeed, but they are justified because they produce positive results. You faith doesn’t (and no, your stories about prayers that cure don’t count).

        • And when do you use faith? Just in places where reason doesn’t help? I’m missing why it’s useful.

        • MNb

          “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe”
          Then you are not blessed, because just believe is not enough for you. Someone who just believes doesn’t need arguments, let alone evidence and proof.

        • So in other words, the evidence is paltry and you just have to take it on faith, and if you can’t do that, then it sucks to be you. Is that it?

        • Wrong answer.

          Correct answer: Uh, yeah, Keener doesn’t have any solid evidence of limbs being regrown, just fuzzy claims of things that science can’t necessarily disprove–cancer remission, and so on.

          A big mound of crappy evidence is no better than a small mound, and it still stinks.

        • Greg G.

          Keener collects reports of miracles. He does not confirm that they are real.

        • Al

          He does confirm some. He does admit some cases could be explained naturally but not all. There are a number of people being healed of blindness and cancers.

        • smrnda

          This isn’t sounding like incredibly compelling evidence at this point. A collection of anecdotes, many unconfirmed, with healing that could be attributed to natural means isn’t groundshaking evidence.

        • MNb

          “The resurrection of Christ was a historical event that is proved historical methods”
          Nope. These apologist methods – its’ an insult to call them historical, ie scientific – are nothing but ad hoc arguments. You have been askes a couple of times to explain your method. You prefer not to answer them. Hence you’re just another dishonest apologist.

        • I’ve posted a public challenge to Habermas and Keener (one that I’m sure you’ll never bother to read) to provide one–not dozens but one–case that they will stand behind and that they think will convince skeptics.

          The claim of dozens works to their advantage. When one crappy claim fails they say, “No problem–I got plenty more!”

          Miracles happen? Convince science and I’ll believe you.

        • Al

          Remember, I need only one miracle to prove that miracles are possible. It would also prove God exist. It would also prove atheism to be false.
          Convincing someone about something does not mean its true or false. There are all kinds of factors involved in convincing people of anything.

        • And we need only one bona fide example of alchemy to prove that you really can turn base metals into gold.

          Like you, alchemy proponents had mountains of flimsy evidence. And like you, it was 100% crap.

          Just because you’ve got a big pile of dung doesn’t mean that there’s a jewel in there somewhere. It could all be dung.

        • Greg G.

          I don’t know about that. As high as Al piles dung, there could be diamonds forming within.

        • There could be. Al seems to imagine that out of a thousand flimsy claims of miracles, say, you just gotta have some that are real, even if they’re very few. Nope–they could all be crap.

          With all the evidence for alchemy, there could’ve been something there. There wasn’t. Not a single supernatural claim was validated.

        • MNb

          Oh, but thanks to Quantum Mechanics we totally can turn base metals into gold. The little problem though it that it costs a lot more than digging it up.


        • One atom at a time, the way it was meant to be done.

        • Al

          This is still way, way more than you got for atheism. Go figure.

        • Wrong again. I’ve pointed you to 25 reasons. You’re just afraid to take a look.

          And who again has the burden of proof? Last time I checked, my 25 reasons are just gravy. The burden of proof rests on your broad shoulders.

        • Pofarmer

          “Remember, I need only one miracle to prove that miracles are possible. ”

          Well, there ya go, have at it.

          “It would also prove God exist.”

          Not necessarily.

        • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

          The resurrection of Christ was a historical event that is proved
          historical methods.

          “Proven”, says no scientist, based on pre-suppositional “evidence”.

          Even today there are cases of people being prayed
          for that were healed.

          In some cases, people recover from an illness or injury without prayer. But go ahead and pray all you want, it won’t stop your recovery unless you reject medicine in favor of prayer alone. There are people who do that, and a lot of them die. If you ever deny a child medical care and the kid dies, then you deserve to go to jail as they did.

          In some of these cases doctors will confirm this.

          In some cases, doctors will confirm what? That the patient recovered? Fundy Xtians are evolution deniers, but only a few are biology-deniers who shun medicine. Why then should anyone be impressed if a humble but competent Xtian doc (he wouldn’t even have to be Xtian) handed the credit over to Jesus just to make the family who came to him feel good?

          The book, Miracles by Keener has dozens of cases that confirm this.

          Oh goody – somebody wrote a book about so much evidence, and that means that it’s all scientifically valid! Heheeeeeeeeeeeeee, I really need to get out for a walk, I know – but this is getting to be way too much fun!

        • Al

          In his book he mentions a couple of doctors who had xrays of the patient with advanced cancer. The patient is prayed for and the cancer is gone. Lots of cases like this.
          In other cases, there were people who blind from birth and were prayed for and gained their eyesight.

          If Christianity is true, we should not think these things are not possible. This creates a huge problem for the atheist though. He has to deny it if he wants to hold on to his atheism. The best way to do this is to keep your head in sand and deny, deny, deny.

        • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

          I don’t have to deny anything to support my disbelief in what theism apologists have failed to prove. Making grandiose claims is far different from proving them true.

          By the way, if I disbelieve the stories told in the bible, it’s because I understand how bullshit artists work. Moreover, if we all accept that the many thousands of different god claims prior to Jesus were all bullshit, and the stories told of Jesus similarly look like bullshit, then it stands to reason that they are probably…can you guess?

        • Pofarmer

          “The patient is prayed for and the cancer is gone. Lots of cases like this.”

          My niece had an experience with this. Wrong X-rays.

          “In other cases, there were people who blind from birth and were prayed for and gained their eyesight.”

          The cure for blindness! Overnight! I’ll expect it on all the morning TV. shows.

          “The best way to do this is to keep your head in sand and deny, deny, deny.”

          Winnie the Pooh said it best. “Think, think, think.”

        • Al

          Don’t close your mind so fast. Follow Pooh’s reasoning. There is far more to the world than your backyard. The example of your niece would not nullify other cases where they had the right x-rays.

        • Pofarmer

          Uhm, my atheism is the result of opening my mind.

        • You’re saying this evidence is compelling? This would be the story of the century. Show me the tens of thousands of scientists who are on board.

          What’s to deny? There more evidence for the tooth fairy.

        • Al

          Of course there is evidence in science that points to the supernatural. The origin of the universe, fine tuning, design, origin of life and the fine tuning of this planet that makes our lives possible. are all best explained by the supernatural.

        • Is this the consensus view? That’s news to me. Show me.

        • Pofarmer

          Ues, this is why something approaching 90% of the members of the National acadamy if Science are atheists, because the scientific evidence obviously points to God,

        • Greg G.

          Just as a puddle is supernaturally fine tuned to fit a pothole.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          You have to be careful to not make an argument from ignorance. 1,000 years from now scientists may have well-evidenced explanations for these phenomena. But I must ask, how does one differentiate between something that is natural and something that is supernatural? It could be the case that what you deem supernatural isn’t according to your definition of supernatural.

          Another question, it is attested in the hadith (sayings attributed to Muhammad which detail the chain of transmission) that Muhammad split the moon. Do you deny this miracle? If not, then what case do you have to accept the miracles of Jesus? If you do accept this as a historical event, then you must also accept Muhammad’s prophethood along with the Qur’an’s claim that Jesus was not resurrected.

        • Al

          Science makes arguments from ignorance all the time. If we must wait ” 1,000 years from now scientists may have well-evidenced explanations for these phenomena” then what are people to do in the meantime? We already know that when people die they stay dead unless we have evidence that someone did indeed come back from the dead. That is exactly what we have in the resurrection. It cannot be explained by naturalistic causes.

          There are no miracle accounts in the Koran. There is no evidence that Muhammad split the moon. There is evidence that Christ rose from the dead.

        • MNb

          There is as much evidence for Mohammed splitting the Moon as for Jesus’ Resurrection: zilch.
          Typically you don’t want to answer the crucial question: how do you separate correct claims about the supernatural from incorrect ones? You can’t use science, ie you can’t use methods of historical research, because science per definition only investigates the natural. That’s why a synonym for the scientific method is methodlogical naturalism.
          Your methodology is simply what makes you feel good, nothing more.

        • Al

          Not true. We have multiple eyewitnesses over a course of weeks coupled with the empty and the body never being produces as solid evidence that Christ did rise from the grave. No naturalistic explanation can explain how Christ rose.
          To reject the evidence for the resurrection is not based on any counter evidence but purely on bias.

          Who were the eyewitnesses to Mohammed splitting the moon?

        • MNb

          “We have multiple eyewitnesses over a course of weeks”
          Who were the eyewitnesses of the Resurrection? What were their names? Where did they write their accounts? Can you provide me with copies of their accounts?
          Hence you don’t have eyewitnesses.
          You have a book that claims there were eyewitnesses. The difference is crucial.

          “Who were the eyewitnesses to Mohammed splitting the moon?”
          The author(s) of the Quran – just like the Gospels.
          Same difference.

          I’ll tell you what. Last week it was written in the sky, where I live, that there is no god. It was written in pink clouds. I have 500 eyewitnesses. I won’t tell you who or where – well, somewhere in South-America.
          Are you going to believe me? No? Then I don’t have to accept your claim either.

        • Al

          The copies are the 4 gospels, Acts and I Corinthians 15.

          The first bio of Alexander the Great was written 400 years after his death. Yet historians accept it as reliable.

          Julius Caesar Crosses the Rubicon, 49 BC. Who were the eyewitnesses and when was it recorded? It was recorded first by one person years after it happened and then mentioned by others later who were not there.

        • Pofarmer

          Alexander and Julius Ceasar both had biographers traveling WITH THEM. The only SURVIVING accounts are those recorded years later. In the case of Ceasar, we have many contemporaneous accounts, plus his own surviving writing. You are simply and completely wrong on these two counts.

        • We have cities named after Alexander. We have coins and statues with the likeness of Julius. This is serious evidence. Al’s gospels don’t quite reach the same standard.

        • Al

          We have not only the gospels that are read in churches but countless churches down through the centuries. We have church history. We have some of the sayings of Christ. We have letters from those who were with Christ.

          What sayings of Alexander do we have that was either written by him or by eyewitnesses?

        • Pofarmer

          Uhm, we have nothing written by Jesus. And some of the saying attributed to him, unfortunately, come from the Geek septuagint, and represent Greek ideas and translations, not Hebrew. The Sermon in the Mount is only one example.

        • Who cares? Seriously–who cares? If it turns out that we are wrong about some facet of Alexander’s life, who cares? We still have the many cities named Alexandria, the accounts of his enemies, coins and statues with his likeness, and so on (none of which we have for Jesus, BTW). Alexander’s place in history is secure.

          But for you, apparently, the facts about the much more poorly evidenced life of Jesus are vitally important. You might look at several translations of a verse to make sure you have the right nuance. The books of the Bible are correct just because people say they are.

          The story of Alexander doesn’t need the supernatural. Historians scrub that out. But remove all the supernatural stuff from the life of Jesus, by contrast, and you’re left with nothing.

          You mention church history–yes, we have a lot of that. It’s just tradition. History is something else.

        • al

          We know more about the personal life of Christ than anyone in ancient history. It is well evidenced in comparison to Alexander. Who else do you know from the ancient world that has 4 independent accounts of their lives?

          Can’t remove the supernatural stuff from the life of Christ. If you do then you don’t have the Christ of history.

          History shows the impact He has had on history. Theology has shown how many have wanted to understand Him. Who in history has had this kind of impact?

        • Greg G.

          Can’t remove the supernatural stuff from the life of Christ. If you do then you don’t have the Christ of history.

          From the gospels for sure, but since the miracles are exaggerations of those performed by Moses, Elijah, and Elisha, the literary dependence is another reason to doubt them beyond their impossibility and ancient gullibility.

          So then you don’t know anything about Jesus at all.

          Who in history has had this kind of impact?

          Alexander the Great brought the East and West together and Hellenized the world. The myth of Jesus would never have been conceived without the Greek influences.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          It’s not that I’m trying to say that you’re wrong but could you give some examples of Jesus’ miracles that are exaggerations of those performed by Moses, Elijah, and Elisha?

          There were many people who could read the Old Testament before the New Testament was written and could rewrite or reinterpret anything they saw fit from it as some prophecy of Jesus or deed of Jesus and no one could tell the difference. Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe Jesus roughly translates to “Savior” as well. That sounds like an appropriate name to give to someone that would fit the conception of the awaited Messiah (which I think is the Hebrew version of “Christ”). I believe modern Jews believe the Messiah is still yet to come with the exception of Messianic Jews.

        • Pofarmer

          Randal Helms writes about it in “The Gospel Fictions.” Off the top of my head, The raising of Jarius daughter is directly from either Elijah or Elisha. The feeding miracles(why are their two?) are also from them. The rolling away the stone at the tomb is evocative of Daniel and the lions den. The Virgin birth is taken haphazardly from Isiah. Being from Nazareth appears to be a prophecy from a text we no longer have. Oh, the “Wild man and the demonic pigs” appears to be a riff on the cyclops and the sheep from the Illiad. It’s quite and extensive list and a pretty short read. Don’t know if you could find a pdf or torrent of it.

        • The feeding miracles(why are their two?)

          Bob Price has pointed out the hilarity of including them both. In the first one, the disciples say, “But how are we going to feed all these people?” And then in the second one (after having witnessed the first), they ask the same thing.

          Doesn’t sound much like history.

        • Al

          No problem here. It could have happened twice. Sounds historical to me given that food was not always easily gotten and it was an another sign of Who Christ was.

        • Yeah, sure–you can completely ignore the main point and pretend that you’ve responded to it. No one will notice the subterfuge.

        • Pofarmer

          Yeah, the disciples are a little thick, kinda like Al. Of course, there is a long history of couplets in the Bible, starting in Genesis.

        • Al

          I must be dense. What main point did I miss?

        • Pofarmer

          The point that there were two feeding miracles, and the disciples were as stupid about the second one as the first one.

        • Al

          Why is it historically impossible to have 2 similar events from happening? After all if Jesus could feed 5,000 with little whats to stop Him from doing it again?

          He also raised more than one person from the dead. Should we assume that didn’t happen?

        • That’s not the point! Are you dense or deliberately spinning this because it’s embarrassing?

        • I fear that you are, or perhaps you don’t read carefully.

          There are two feedings of the multitudes. It’s fine for the apostles to wonder how they were going to do this the first time. But then they wouldn’t have done so the second time! They’d just seen it done.

          Best explanation: there were two similar stories floating around, and the gospel author clumsily cobbled them together. Clue #23,793 that this ain’t history.

        • Al

          This is my 2nd response to this issue. I addressed this with Pofarmer also but its not showing up on my screen
          Having 2 feedings does not necessarily mean these 2 events did not happen.
          Having 2 feedings just reinforces Christ power to feed them. After all, the people were fed in the desert for 40 years during the time of Moses.

          There is more than one account of Christ raising the dead. Does that mean the 2nd one didn’t happen? Of course not.

        • Imagine that I’ve repeated my prior comment, which responds to this issue and which you apparently don’t understand.

          (People aren’t satisfied if you don’t address their concerns squarely–just a tip for how it works at the Big Kids’ table.)

        • Al

          Imagine that you go to the store twice in one day, should we assume that you only went once since the 2 events are similar?

          If you want to play with the big boys like Dr Craig and Habermas then you are going to have to up your game. Otherwise, they will continue to ignore you.

        • And now Al’s getting into trash talking. Yipes!

          Al, I don’t know if you don’t get the point or are deliberately avoiding the point because you realize that I’m right. Either way, you lose.

          Back to the kids’ table.

        • Pofarmer

          I will copy Al’s own post from up the thread.

          “I must be dense. What main point did I miss?”

        • Wisdom from the mouths of babes, eh?

        • Pofarmer

          I dunno, do you think Al is a real mark for traveling salesmen? His gullibility seems to know no bounds. But multi level marketers have him on speed dial.

        • MNb

          No, I don’t think so. See, he is hyperskeptical of everything that is even vaguely threatening him. Though if the salesmen manage to make their schtick fit into his belief system everything can happen.

        • MNb

          Slowly reread what BobS wrote above:

          “It’s fine for the apostles to wonder how they were going to do this the first time.”
          So in your analogy of going to the store: the first time you will be surprised that there is a new owner. Not the second time.
          In exactly the same way it doesn’t make sense that the apostles wondered what would happen the second time, because they already knew. Your hypothesis of happening it twice hence is incoherent.
          I’m pretty sure Craig and Habermas understand this as well. Craig is only a big liar and hypocrite, btw.

        • Al

          It would not be a good thing for Bob to step into the ring with Dr Craig. He would embarrass not only the atheists there but the Christians.

          You are dense. Bob or anyone else could go to the same store twice on the same day and no one would think they were the same event.

        • MNb

          Stubbornly and dishonestly neglecting the point:

          “Bob or anyone else could go to the same store twice on the same day and no one would” be surprised to see a new owner the second time. In exactly the same way the apostles would not wonder what Jesus were going to do, because just like BobS or anyone else they already knew.

          How is your attempt doing to disprove the fairies in my backyard? Not too well, so it seems. Of course you reject them – for the same reasons I reject the Resurrection. You being stubborn and dishonest though you just can’t admit it.

          If a dishonest moron like you says I’m dense I take it as a compliment, so thanks.

        • Hmm. I thought it would be a good idea, but you’ve shown with previous comments how perceptive you are. I’ll have to reevaluate given this new opinion of yours.

        • Pofarmer

          “Having 2 feedings just reinforces Christ power to feed them. After all,
          the people were fed in the desert for 40 years during the time of Moses.”

          Yeah, about that……….

        • carmel Ka

          What is the text you reffer to with the “double”?

        • Pofarmer


        • Mark 8:4 says, “His disciples answered, ‘But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?'”

          That introduces the second feeding of the multitude. The first is Mark 6:31-44.

        • carmel Ka

          I notice now, thanks.
          But makes sense in a way to feed people and “make a double” for good reason 🙂 never noticed before

        • Al

          The better explanation is that it happened twice. In one case 5000 (Matthew 14:13-21 ) were fed and in the other 4000.(

          Mark 8:1-13) There are also other details that are different in each account. The account in Matthew 15:32-39 is also mentioned in Mark 8.
          The accounts in Matthew 14:13-21 is not the same as in Matthew 15:32-39. For example in the first account 12 baskets are left over while in the 2nd account 7 baskets are left over.
          Hope this helps.

        • And you still don’t get it. Yes, I understand we’re talking about two events. I’m also talking about something else, but I won’t bother repeating it yet again, since you can’t get this quite simple point.

        • MNb

          That “better” explanation of yours is inferior, because it doesn’t explain the ignorance of the apostles at the second event.

          Mc 6:37 “And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?”
          Mc 8:4 “And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?”

          That second question doesn’t make sense, because it already was answered in Marcus 6. But I guess that someone like you would go to the same store twice on one day and be surprised the second time as well that there is a new owner. Do you still expect me to enjoy sharing eternity with you? I think the prospect sucks worse than the other option your brand of christianity offers.

          BobS wrote: “the gospel author clumsily cobbled them together.”
          Rather the Gospel author was so impressed by Jesus’ supposed badassery that he didn’t mind to tell the same story twice and didn’t care about something as silly as consistency. That’s an attitude that survives among apologists until this very day, as you confirm extensively on this very blog.

        • Greg G.

          Dennis MacDonald has the two feedings as being modeled on the two feasts that Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, attends. One he walks to and one he sails to, just like Jesus. One of the Odyssey tales has 4500 people in attendance while Mark’s stories have 5000 and 4000. MacDonald shows parallels in the speech of the characters with Jesus being given the lines of the most powerful character from the Odyssey scenes (or a reversal, when the character shows weakness). This surrounds an exaggeration of Elisha’s miracle from 2 Kings 4:42-44.

          I recommend reading MacDonald’s The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark followed by Helms’ Gospel Fictions so that where Helms refers to “oral tradition” you know the Homeric parallel.

        • Pofarmer

          Well I dunno. Isn’t the ending of John, or maybe Acts, where they say enough miracles were performed to fill many books, and yet, from anywhere? Nuthin.

        • The ending of John has that.

          There were historians at the time. How could John have overflowing books full of miracles, but these historians didn’t get the memo?

        • Al

          You miss understand what John wrote. Here is what he said:
          “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they *were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself *would not contain the books that *would be written.” John 21:25

          Looks like you didn’t the memo.

        • Ron

          How many miracles did Jesus perform? Let’s examine “John’s” claim…

          It’s been estimated that there are currently 129.9 million unique books in the world, which means that it’s possible to write at least that many books. Given one miracle per book and 365 days per year, Jesus would have had to perform over 118,000 miracles per day each and every day of his (alleged) three-year ministry. Yet all we’re granted is a sparse account of 40 miracles spread across four (relatively short) gospels. Talk about short-selling someone’s accomplishments.

          Besides, why would the same God who (allegedly) poofed the universe into existence from absolutely nothing at all suddenly have problems poofing the requisite number of books enumerating all of its miracles into existence as well?

        • The “books” I referenced were metaphorical books. My point stands.

        • Greg G.

          Here are all the miracles in Mark with the OT references and allusions. The explanations for these can be found at New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price. Some of the OT verses add color while the primary source is Homer, as in the Gerasene demoniac borrows from the Cyclops story. The Withered Fig Tree should be read in the context of the Temple Tantrum which is embedded within it.

          The Man with an Unclean Spirit (Mark 1:23-26; Nahum 1:15; 1 Kings 17:18)

          Healing Simon’s Mother-in-law (Mark 1:30-31; 1 Kings 17:8-16; 2 Kings 4)

          Healing a Leper (Mark 1:40-45; Exodus 4:6-7)

          Healing Palsy (Mark 2:1-12; 2 Kings 1:2-17)

          The Withered Hand (Mark 3:1-6; 1 Kings 13:1-7)

          Stilling the Storm (Mark 4:35-41; Jonah 1:4-6; Psalm 107:23-29)

          Exorcism of the Gerasene Demoniac (Mark 5:1-20; Isaiah 65:4; Psalm 107:10)

          The Daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:21-43; 2 Kings 4)

          The Afflicted Woman (Mark 5:25-34; Leviticus 12:7)

          Feeding the Five Thousand (Mark 6:30-46; 2 Kings 4:42-44)

          Jesus Walking on the Water (Mark 6:47-56; Psalm 107:23-30; Job 9:8)

          Syrophoenician Woman’s Daughter (Mark 7:24-30; 1 Kings 17:8-16; 2 Kings 8:7-15)

          Deaf and Dumb Man (Mark 7:31-37; Isaiah 29:18; Isaiah 35:5-6)

          Feeding the Four Thousand (Mark 8:1-9; 2 Kings 4:42-44)

          The Blind Man Near Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26; Isaiah 29:18; Isaiah 35:5-6)

          Exorcism of the Epileptic Boy (Mark 9:14-29; Exodus 32; 2 Kings 4:32-35)

          Healing of Blind Timaeus (Mark 10:46-52; Isaiah 29:18; Isaiah 35:5-6, 8)

          The Withered Fig Tree (Mark 11:12-14, 20; Psalm 37:35-36)

        • MNb

          Are you familiar with the hypothesis of the Q-document? It’s the result of thorough text criticism. That hypothesis is based on the very fact that the four Gospels are totally not independent. You have two at best, plus Paulus. Problem is that they don’t confirm each other. Yeah, afaIc it’s enough to accept a historical Jesus. But a Resurrection – no way.

        • MNb

          Jesus had zero impact on history. His followers, beginning with Paul and followed by the Churchfathers had. Jesus was just one of many messias claimants.

        • The gospels aren’t independent. What does it say about the eyewitness-ness of Matthew and Luke that they had to copy Mark?

          I’d like you to name me one thing about the Bible, Christian belief, or the spread of Christianity that can’t have a natural explanation.

        • Pofarmer

          WE don’t have 4 independent accounts. I thought that was clear. I guess not.

          :”Can’t remove the supernatural stuff from the life of Christ. If you do then you don’t have the Christ of history.”

          Excellent. Let’s put him in the same category as John Frum or Hercules.

          “History shows the impact He has had on history. ‘

          History shows the impacts CHRISTIANS had on history. No Jesus required. Just like no Moroni is required for the impact that Mormons are having on history.

        • The legends about Alexander grew up in his own time. Did you hear the one about how he supernaturally calmed the waves? Historians scrub that part but keep that he conquered Persia.

          Before Julius crossed the Rubicon, a spirit appeared and urged him to seize his destiny. We know this because Suetonius, a historians Christians like to point to, said so. And, again, historians scrub this bit out but keep the part about him crossing the river.

          See how history works? Seriously–you don’t want historians to have their way with the gospels. The result would be some ordinary dude walking around some forgotten corner of the Roman Empire; The End.

        • MNb

          “some ordinary dude walking around some forgotten corner of the Roman Empire; The End.”
          That’s basically it, yes. There are a few things more we safely can assume (messias claimant, died at the cross, perhaps even the empty tomb), but every single historian of Antiquity will complain that we can know precious little. That’s why research of early christianity so quickly jumps to Paulus.

        • MNb

          “Yet historians accept it as reliable.”
          No, they don’t. They don’t accept Alexander’s claim that he was a descendant from Hercules or whatever Greek (demi-)god. They don’t even accept the legend of the Gordian knot as a historical event.
          You don’t even know basic facts. The first bio of Alexander was written shortly after he died. It is lost though; the first bio of Alexander we still know was written – not 400, but – about 300 years after his death. It specifically mentions its sources.
          The important thing though is that we have a few independent sources on Alexander plus lots of supporting archeological evidence. From this we can largely reconstruct his life.
          There is nothing comparable regarding the Resurrection. No archeological evidence. No independent sources.
          You can use the example of Alexander to defeat some (not all) arguments for Jesus Mythology (I do that myself), but no way you can use it to prove anything positive about Jesus.

        • al

          I never said historians accept everything about him. They do consider it pretty reliable. As I said, the first bio we have is centuries after Alexander.

          The gospels were written within the life times of the eyewitnesses. We have 5 independent sources for the resurrection. These sources have never been shown to be factually false. They do line up well with what we know of the times. There are a couple of places of where Jesus was buried and raised. The birth of church and the missionary efforts of the church point to the resurrection.

          No reputable scholar denies Jesus existed. Not even Bob would support you. Your out on a limb.

        • Pofarmer

          God dammit man, you are frustrating.

          “the first bio we have is centuries after Alexander.’

          We know that there were other biographies because the FUCKING AUTHOR who lists his own name and qualifications LISTS HIS FUCKING SOURCES WHICH WERE ALREADY EXISTING BIOGRAPHIES.

          “The gospels were written within the life times of the eyewitnesses. ”

          We absolutely do not know this, and the scholarly consensus is that it is not true.

          “We have 5 independent sources for the resurrection. ”

          We do not. We have Paul, who absolutely has no first hand knowledge by his own admission. We have whoever wrote Mark, who is agreed to have been in Rome, far from events, at any rate. You have Matthew and Luke which copy about 90% of Mark, and add their bits to it for theological reasons. About everything Matthew adds is to satisfy his prophecy fetish. Then you have John, which, interestingly enough, is based on Greek innovations in Theology. “in the beginning was the word” etc, etc. Which shares many of the same stories, but differs significantly in the last supper accounts, resurrection accounts, and birth accounts.

          “These sources have never been shown to be factually false. ”

          Yes, they have. The “killing of the innocents” by Herod, most certainly did not happen, for one. There was nothing like the “Star of Bethlehem” for another one, not to mention shepherds wouldn’t be out with the flocks in the winter. If there were “Wise men” why are their no corroborating stories from other nearby cultures? Zip, nada. The cult was so small that Josephus never mentions it by 90 A.D.

          “The birth of church and the missionary efforts of the church point to the resurrection.”

          Uhm, no, “True believers” by Eric Hoffer explains the phenomena quite nicely, as does Richard Carrier in “Not the impossible faith.”

        • MNb

          Are you really that stupid? Where did I deny a historical Jesus? I wrote exactly the opposite: I use sometimes the example of Alexander to defeat some of the arguments of Jesus Mythology.
          Repeating your mistakes ad nauseam don’t make them anymore acceptable. They have been refuted many times on this very page.
          For the rest you simply don’t address what I wrote above. Well, I guess I should thank you. You’re just another disgrace for your very own belief system.

        • “Christianity has never been proven to be false.”

          Woo hoo! That’s something to hang your hat on, Al. Nice one, and I’ll even agree with you. That’s some solid grounding of your supernatural beliefs.

          Do you begin your prayers, “Dear Lord who hasn’t been proven not to exist …”?

        • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

          There are zero eyewitness accounts of any NT events. The earliest account was written 40 years later, and that really is too late for anybody in those days who lived the hard lives poor, traveling apostles. When you live like Peter and crew did, you are lucky if you live for 40 years at all, much less be old enough at the time to have followed any savior-claimant 40 years earlier.

          Anyway, if Mark did talk to Peter, and he wrote it for Peter, then why wasn’t it named the gospel of Peter?

        • Al

          Even if a document is written decades after an event by an eyewitness of the event then that would be considered an eyewitness account. This is exactly what we find with the gospels.
          Tradition has it the Peter and Paul died in the 60’s. Thy were probably born a few years after Christ and were probably in their 50’s. John was probably in his 80’s-90’s when he died.

          Good question. Don’t know why the gospel was not named after Peter.

        • Pofarmer


        • Al

          Then those who believe this are not reading with any comprehension. Here are a couple of reasons why you should believe the gospels are eyewitness accounts:

          ” And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.” John 19:35

          “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” Luke 1:1-4

          This is so clear that to deny it is a deliberate deception.

        • MNb

          It’s clearly a self-reference indeed. “It’s true because I say it’s true.” Totally convincing.

        • Pofarmer

          It was a nice try.

        • I am literally smacking my head over and over and over and over. Because you’re right–it was there in front of me all along! All I can blame is my own pigheadedness.

          Kidding! I am smacking my head, but for a different reason. You’re actually saying that because the Bible says that it is accurate or that it is an eyewitness account, that therefore it’s true? And that’s all there is to it?

          The Gospel of Peter says, “But I Simon Peter and Andrew my brother took our nets and went to the sea.” The Infancy Gospel of Thomas begins, “I Thomas, an Israelite, write you this account.” So therefore, we’re obliged to take these as eyewitness accounts, right? You’re not going to reject things just because, right?

        • Al

          Yea. When we have multiple eyewitness accounts for something we should believe it unless we have good reasons not to.

          The gospel of Peter and Thomas are not eyewitness accounts. They were written after the apostles died.

        • MNb

          I have multiple eyewitness accounts for something you should believe: that a few days ago it was written in the sky with pink clouds that “god doesn’t exist”. All the good reasons you can bring up not to apply to the Resurrection.
          So either you have to believe both or neither. Pick your choice.

        • Al

          Who are these eyewitnesses? Just because something is written in the sky does not make it true.
          You need to do better. I have seen others make a better case against the resurrection than you have. They to have failed though.

        • MNb

          Yeah, who are those 500 eyewitnesses of the Resurrection? Just because some unknown guys write something down and copy each other it doesn’t make their claims true.

          You need to do better. I have seen others make a better case for the Resurrection. They too have failed though.

        • Al

          If a newspaper reports that 5000 thousand people saw a sporting event does he have to report all the names of the people who were there for it to be true?

        • MNb

          Since when is a sport event a supernatural one?
          If I report that I have 500 witnesses confirming the fairies in my backyard, do I have to report all the names of the people who were there for it to be true that they tend my flowers, so that they blossom more beautifully?
          If you don’t have to do that for the Resurrection why are you asking me to do it for my fairies?

          Stupid Al, you can’t win this little game of mine, no matter how hard you try, because I’m just using your own arguments against you. I can do that because you don’t have a reliable method to separate correct claims about the supernatural from incorrect ones. To rub it in I even use your own formulations. Do you enjoy it?

        • Al

          We already have the names of over a dozen people (Peter, John, Thomas etc) who saw the risen Christ. No need to mention the names of the over 500.

          We don’t have any of the names of people you say have seen your fairies. Just give me the names, addresses and phones numbers of the dozen or more and will see if you are telling the truth.

        • So you admit that the “500 eyewitnesses” is weak evidence? The gospel authors would certainly agree, since they didn’t include that claim.

        • MNb

          I have a few names for you as well. Eric, Martin, Sonia, Ismani, Karin etc. who can provide testimonies for the fairies in my backyard. No need to mention the names of the over 500.

          Now give me the names, addresses and phones numbers of the dozen or more (beginning with Peter, John, Thomas etc.) and we will see if they witnessed the Resurrection indeed. Oh wait – you can’t give me the phone numbers, because they didn’t have them back then. Well, Eric, Martin, Sonia, Ismani, Karin etc. happen to be people who don’t own phones either.

        • I’ll bet the 500 have all died. Surprising then that Al still points to them as evidence.

        • Perhaps you can’t read. The gospels of Peter and Thomas say that they’re eyewitness accounts!

          Hello?? What more do you need?

        • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

          Even if a document is written decades after an event by an eyewitness of the event then that would be considered an eyewitness account. This is exactly what we find with the gospels.

          We do? How?

          Tradition has it the Peter and Paul died in the 60’s. Thy were probably born a few years after Christ and were probably in their 50’s.

          That’s close, but no cigar!

          We do know how Peter died, or how it is believed that happened anyway. He may have planned to tell his story for Mark to write down, but it would take more to believe he actually did.

          John was probably in his 80’s-90’s when he died.

          How is this known? I’m not saying that nobody lived to be that age, but most who did were pampered their whole lives. If John hiked around by foot and by boat the way Peter and Paul did, I would hardly expect this at all. Besides the hot Mediterranean sun, and the damage caused from excessive walking stress, there’s bug-born diseases, more diseases in most city water supplies, filthy public bath water, uncontrolled rats, lead toxicity in the aqueducts, spoiled food, probable exposure to fleas and bedbugs in every bed they slept on, (passing on diseases to share), plus the travel experience aboard boats of that period must have been unimaginably stressful and filthy. I know I wouldn’t want to be them!

          Good question. Don’t know why the gospel was not named after Peter.

          It really should have been, if it was Peter’s story!

        • And how do we know that the gospels aren’t being wrongly interpreted as eyewitness accounts? They don’t say that they are (at least the synoptics). How would a non-eyewitness gospel look compared to an eyewitness one?

        • what are people to do in the meantime?

          Hold your horses, Chester. I realize that “God dun it” is a quick, snappy, and evidence-free answer that you’re just dying to whip out, but science takes its time. Actually following the evidence to find the real story doesn’t happen at our pleasure.

          they stay dead unless we have evidence that someone did indeed come back from the dead. That is exactly what we have in the resurrection. It cannot be explained by naturalistic causes.

          It’s a story. There—explained.

          There is no evidence that Muhammad split the moon. There is evidence that Christ rose from the dead.

          Ri-i-i-ight. Cuz your books says one thing and the other guy’s book says something else, so he must be wrong.

        • Tell us–do you have better luck at other blogs? What other atheists do you engage with? Do you ever adapt your arguments based on what you hear?

        • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

          There is evidence that Christ rose from the dead.

          Only because you think it’s evidence. It isn’t scientific, you don’t know the difference, and you don’t want to because you would much rather be the smug, ignorant asshole that you are than to deal with reality.

          You are much too comfortable living in a world where you don’t have to take responsibility for your own actions and the harm which you leave in your wake. When you Xtians complete your total destruction of the US and the rest of the world, it won’t be you, it will be your imaginary friend Jesus who shut down science education, all funding for further studies and remedial actions, and gave enough missiles to Israel to kill 1000% of all the remaining Palestinians. Can’t imagine why anybody would want to persecute Xtians for being such ignorant, aggressive, obnoxious, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, and violent assholes!

        • Al

          Help me out. Is historical documents that are used by historians considered scientific?

          Are you on drugs?

        • Pofarmer

          There are historical methods for handling ancient documents. Matthew Ferguson discusses them extensively on his blog, which I will attempt to link to. One of those methods is that you scrub the supernatural, because Ancient literature and documents are full of supernatural tales that cannot be true, because, reality. That you decide not to do this with the Gospels os merely special pleading. http://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com/

        • Al

          Ruling out the supernatural from the start is not the way to understand reality. As I said before, to do that would mean you would have to know the history of the universe exhaustively at all times and places.
          Just because there are supernatural beings in other writings does not mean that the gospels are myths because they contain miracles. If we have good evidence and reason to believe in God, then miracles follow. It is not special pleading because we have good evidence and reason from the gospel accounts that miracles did occur.

        • MNb

          “Ruling out the supernatural from the start is not the way to understand reality.”
          That may be so, but then you reject the scientific method, including historical research. Plus you have to develop a method to separate correct claims about the supernatural from incorrect ones. Thus far you – like every single apologist – spectacularly have failed to do so.

          “As I said before, to do that would mean you would have to know the history of the universe exhaustively at all times and places.”
          And this is a non-sequitur that leads you to the god of the gaps, which is a logical fallacy. That we don’t know (yet) a naturalistic explanation for things doesn’t mean there isn’t one. For the Resurrection there is a perfect naturalistic explanation: it’s a piece of fiction, just like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

        • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

          No, but you are pathetically uneducated. Carbon dating is a tool for determining the age of manuscripts, and multiple corroborations of statements through testament or circumstantials (including artifacts) are usually required before they are regarded as historical fact.

        • MNb

          No, those historical documents are not scientific, simply because with precious few exceptions nobody cared back then about separating fact from fiction. That’s a modern obsession.
          The research of the content of those documents is scientific. That means rejecting all supernatural claims. You still can believe, according to science, but your belief by definition can’t be backed by science. If historical research aspires to be scientific the same applies.
          Christian historians accept this position as well.

        • al

          If historical documents are ruled out as evidence for something happening in the past and no cared about separating fact from fiction then we can’t really know the past.

          Who said that “rejecting all supernatural claims” is science? Good science will follow the facts and reasons to their logical conclusion. If the best explanation is a supernatural one then so be it. There is nothing in science that can rule out the supernatural. It has no way to do so.

        • MNb

          “If historical documents are ruled out as evidence”
          That’s not what I wrote, moron. I wrote specifically

          “The research of the content of those documents is scientific.”

          “we can’t really know the past.”
          So what? You can’t really know if you will fall downward or upward when you jump off a bridge either, because of the Problem of Simple Enumeration and theories making the prediction being based on unproven assumptions.

          “Who said that “rejecting all supernatural claims” is science?”
          David Hume and all scientists after him. Note that with “rejecting” I mean “not incorporating in scientific research”. I mention this because you’re not only stupid, but also dishonest.

          “Good science will follow the facts and reasons to their logical conclusion.”
          That’s philosophy. So you don’t even know the difference. Science does something more: it tests those conclusions by means of observations and experiments.

          “If the best explanation is a supernatural one”
          then that explanation by definition is not scientific and that explicitely includes history. Moreover you have the nagging little problem to develop an objective standard to decide what’s best and what not. You’re invited, but I’m sure you won’t even try.

          “There is nothing in science that can rule out the supernatural.”
          I never claimed that. See above.

          The problem with researching the supernatural is the question I have asked you a gazillion times on this page: which methodology does provide reliable results?
          At this point you remain dishonestly silent. Your only try was to smuggle in science again by referring to witnesses – ie observations.

        • Al

          Do you realize you can’t do science without philosophy? I thought I answered your question. We can know that the supernatural-intelligence is involved when the naturalistic forces can’t explain something adequately. The origin of life and intelligence are a couple of examples. Hope this helps.

        • MNb

          Do you realize that hardly a scientist cares about philosophy when doing scientific research? Do you realize that science uses two objective methods (deduction and induction), but philosophy only one (deduction)? Do you realize that science thus always wins when philosophy conflicts with it?

          “I thought I answered your question.”
          You didn’t. This

          “when the naturalistic forces can’t explain something adequately.”
          is not a method – it’s a god of the gaps. A couple of hundreds of years ago science couldn’t explain thunder and lightning. Anno 2014 science can’t explain superconductivity at relatively high temperatures. Are you going to argue that this


          is god’s way to combat his eternal boredom?
          Abiogenesis is well underway to explain the origin of life. Neurobiology is well underway to explain intelligence. Are you going to deconvert as soon as scientists have formulated satisfactory theories about the origin of life and intelligence? Or when a primitive lifeform is created in a lab? Don’t think so – just more dishonesty.

        • “rejecting all supernatural claims” is history (though perhaps science as well).

          Historians are not your friends, sorry.

        • Hey–being in the majority is harder than it looks.

        • Pofarmer

          which arguments from ignorance does science make?

        • al

          Origin of the universe, life, and how all the necessary components formed this planet to where it is today. Throw in the causes of global warming.

        • Pofarmer

          Lol. None of those are arguments from ignorance.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          “There is no evidence that Muhammad split the moon. There is evidence that Christ rose from the dead.” Oh man, you should have a talk with SparklingMoon (who’s unfortunately been absent from these comment sections recently). The Qur’an explicitly states that Jesus wasn’t even crucified, but that it just appeared that way.

          “…what are people to do in the meantime?” Enjoy life? Continue to investigate nature? There’s no rush or necessity to know where life or the universe all came from. I can certainly find the motivation to get up in the morning without knowing these things and knowing that there is a god or that there isn’t doesn’t hinder me in the least.

          “That is exactly what we have in the resurrection. It cannot be explained by naturalistic causes.” That is, unless someone ever discovers a naturalistic way in which people can be resurrected, or the resurrection did not happen in the first place (which means the explanation would not matter).

          I certainly don’t make absolute claims that some phenomena are possible and others aren’t (unless they are logically contradictory, like a square circle). You’ve made it clear you think likewise, so let me ask you something. If a handful of people claimed to witness someone rising from the dead, or raising the dead, or turning any kind of metal into gold today in the 21st century, would you accept those claims? If they said that this person was a prophet of the same god you believe in but said your religious views were incorrect, quoting the so-called prophet, would you change your religious beliefs and accept the testimony of these “eyewitnesses”?

        • al

          The Quaran was written 600 years after Christ and it got one of the best attested facts of ancient history wrong. That is the resurrection of Christ.

          Sure you can do all kinds of things without acknowledging their source. What you can’t do is give thanks for the good things in life. After all, to whom does the atheist give thanks to for the good things in his life? Nature?

          If someone were to make such claims I would want to talk to the eyewitnesses first. For me to change my belief in Christ they would have to perform more and greater miracles than Christ. He would have to rise from the dead. Then I would want to know what message he brings and test it by scripture. This would be just the start.

          What would it take for you to believe in God?

        • MNb

          The Resurrection is not fact. It’s fiction.
          Prove me wrong.
          Note: we can even reconstruct how the fictional story developed, beginning with the short version of Marcus, which – how nice for the scientific method! – also happens to be the oldest one. Each later version adds new elements to the story, exactly what we would expect from fiction coming from four or five authors.

          “If someone were to make such claims I would want to talk to the eyewitnesses first.”
          You have as many eyewitnesses for the Resurrection as I have for my claim that pink clouds wrote “there is no god” in the sky.

          “What would it take for you to believe in God?”
          That’s a nice one. I can be specific here: assuming god is loving and omnipotent and everything I would be convinced if potential victims of natural disasters (like earthquakes and tsunami’s) were warned let’s say two weeks before by means of a collective nightmare.
          Now you. What would it take for you to deconvert?

        • al

          Here is some evidence for the resurrection that mentions the eyewitnesses:

          ” For I delivered to you [b]as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to [c]James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as [d]to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” I Corinthians 15

          I can’t interview these eyewitnesses. Their dead.

          Give me better explanations for the origin of life, the complexity of this world, meaning, the life of Christ than what Christianity tells me. Or give me some good evidence for atheism being true. This would go a long way to convert me.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          By “better”, do you mean “sounds nicer” or “is more backed by evidence”? I’m not sure that “An all-powerful being” is the best explanation for the origin of life or complexity of the world according to the second definition, but it depends on the person according to the first definition. I do agree that Christianity is probably the best way to go with finding out about the life of Christ though (I mean, “Christ” is in the name of the religion!).

          Paul says that Christ appeared to a whole bunch of people in a particular order ending with Paul himself. I thought that Paul never actually met Jesus, and only had some kind of vision. I’m not sure why anyone is keen to view this as a historical meeting between Paul and Jesus and not just something Paul would have liked to believe or just imagined (or both). I had a dream with Michelle Pfeiffer once. I doubt she was trying to send me a message through her “spirit”.

        • Paul says that Jesus appeared to 500 … but for some reason none of the gospel authors thought this anecdote was compelling and didn’t put it in.

        • Ron

          It’s such a nice round number, too. And I always found it odd that Jesus wandered Jerusalem for 40 days after his death, yet no one took notice or cared enough to let it affect them: not Pilate, not Herod, not the Sanhedrin, not his executioners…not even the ‘multitude’ that had been screaming “Crucify Him!” Talk about a tough crowd. Jesus must’ve lived during an era when bodily resurrections were a common occurrence.

        • Great point.

        • Al

          If you read even multiple newspaper accounts on events you will not find them reporting the same details. That does not mean they are doing anything wrong.

        • We know that the claim of 500 eyewitnesses is crap because the gospels tell us so. If it were worthwhile, convincing, reliable, well-known evidence, they’d have used it.

        • Al

          That does not follow. The primary witnesses to the resurrection were the apostles. That alone is enough to establish it happened. Keep in mind the authorities never produced the body which if they did would have stopped Christianity immediately.

        • MNb

          The primary witnesses to the fairies in my backyard are me and my son. That alone is enough to establish they are there to tend my flowers. Keep in mind you never produced any evidence they don’t to refute my claim.

        • Al

          How about some neighbors? How old is your son?

        • MNb

          How about the names and addresses of your 500 witnesses? How old were they? How old were the apostles?

        • Then you’re saying, like the gospel authors, that the “500 eyewitnesses” story is crap.

          OK, that works for me.

        • Greg G.

          Why would authorities produce a body after the gospels were written decades later? Nobody said the Romans crucified Jesus until after Jerusalem was destroyed. The gospels are fiction.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, it seems rather obvious, given that the Gospel of Mark was written in Rome, in Greek, probably after 70 A.D. that it would have been rather difficult for the authorities to produce a body buried somewhere around Jerusalem which had been destroyed, which there more than very likely never was anyway.

        • Pofarmer

          Actually, the eyewitnesses would have been the 12 disciples, the apostles were listed as Cephas, James and Paul,and others later on.

        • Or perhaps the remaining 11 disciples.

        • Pofarmer

          “Keep in mind the authorities never produced the body which if they did would have stopped Christianity immediately.”
          Ya know, probably not. Cognitive dissonance would have just caused them to say that he was raised in a spirit body. They were too invested. It is a well known phenomena, and there have been posts on it at Patheos. Once again, you outta read “True believers” by Eric Hoffer. He explains the process brilliantly.

        • MNb

          I tell you that I have 500 witnesses for the fairies in my backyard. Of course if you ask someone else you will not find him/her reporting the same details. That does not mean I am doing anything wrong.

        • Pofarmer

          That’s funny, that’s the same “evidence” that Richard Carrier uses to argue for mythicism.

        • Al

          What evidence does Carrier have that Christ was a myth?

        • (1) Read his books and online writings.

          (2) Why worry about this? Is it because you would prefer to attack a tangential issue than provide good evidence for your own beliefs?

        • Al

          The more time I spend reading crackpot ideas the less time I can spend here. If you think he has good ideas then bring it to the table for discussion.

        • Time is short? Then focus on bringing quality arguments in favor of Christianity to the table, not the shit that you’ve been serving us (and that most of us have debunked 20 times already).

          You’re not even an intellectual appetizer. Bring us something substantial.

        • Greg G.

          Carrier uses Bayes Theorem to show that the Jesus story is very unlikely to be true.

          Edited fat-finger tpyo.

        • Al

          That’s a new one. Using “mathematical manipulation of conditional probabilities” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayes'_theorem) to determine if the Jesus is true is stupid.

        • Greg G.

          You have proved that you are no judge of what is stupid.

        • Tell that to Christian apologist Richard Swinburne, who used Bayes Theorem in his The Existence of God.

          What an idiot, amiright??

        • Pofarmer

          He wrote a 750 page peer reviewed book. I think it would be rather difficult to summarize.W

        • Better explanations? “God dun it”–is that the explanation that we have to beat?

          This would go a long way to convert me.

          I don’t believe you. You have no use for evidence.

        • Pofarmer

          “Note: we can even reconstruct how the fictional story developed,
          beginning with the short version of Marcus, which – how nice for the
          scientific method! -”

          Just to pick nits, but your really need to start with Paul.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          “The Quaran was written 600 years after Christ and it got one of the best attested facts of ancient history wrong. That is the resurrection of Christ.” Do you mean the death of Christ? The resurrection is WAY more disputed than his death, which most people agree on (if only for the reason that everybody dies as far as we know). Besides, if the Qur’an is actually divinely revealed truth, that means it was correcting one of the most believed inaccuracies of ancient history.

          “To whom does the atheist give thanks to for the good things in his life?” I guess I would say I have an undirected sense of gratitude for the good things in my life. If there has to be a “who”, it would have to be everyone who played a part, no matter how little, in making all the good things in my life a reality. The construction workers who built my house, my parents who raised me, my friends who I’ve made fond memories with. If there is a god somewhere in there, well I’m thankful to him/her/it as well.

          “I would want to know what message he brings and test it by scripture.” But what if he claims that your scripture is wrong? The point of this exercise is to test your consistency with regards to how you treat evidence for other religions compared to your own. You can’t interview Paul or Mark yet you still accept their claims. You shouldn’t have to talk to these eyewitnesses either. The quality of the evidence for this hypothetical, modern miracle-man is essentially the same as the quality of the evidence for the miracles of Jesus.

        • Pofarmer

          “He would have to rise from the dead.”

          Pssst. Your are tacitly admitting that rising from the dead is well, impossible, but extraordinary, so extraordinary that we should require reams of extraordinary evidence to prove it. Pssst.

        • Al

          And what are the characteristics of “extraordinary evidence” and whose says this is required?

        • What evidence, extraordinary or otherwise, would it take for you to convert to another religion?

        • Al

          Good evidence and reason. What extraordinary or otherwise could you bring to the table to make me think atheism is true?

        • Tell me more. Give me an example. What evidence and reason would convince you that Scientology or Mormonism were true?

          I’ve already answered your question about evidence for atheism, and you’ve already ignored it, several times. Memory failing you?

        • Al

          Let’s take Mormonism. Smith claims to have had some golden plates that were given to him by an angel. There is no evidence for the plates. He claimed there were ancient Jews in America. Or something like that. No evidence. Some Mormon doctrines contradicts Scripture. Scientology is even worse.

          Assertions is not evidence. That is all you have ever given.

        • Ever opened a Book of Mormon? Apparently not. Right in the beginning is the statement from the men who saw the golden plates.

          In fact, the evidence for Mormonism spanks that for conventional Christianity. I’ve written more here.

          In fact, the mistake that Mormonism makes is making testable claims. On these, it fails. Christianity’s advantage is not making testable claims! That’s right–Christianity wins by being more vague and thereby wriggling away from any demands for evidence. And then loyal Christian zombies like you don’t question this wee problem … but then look pretty foolish when they brag about Christianity’s “evidence.”

        • wtfwjtd

          The evidence to support Mormonism is far better, with numerous eye witnesses, and puts the evidence for Christianity to shame. You mean Al here isn’t a mormon? Oh, let me guess, he has a different standard for testing the claims of Mormonism than that of Christianity? Who would have thought?

        • Al

          I keep asking Bob for the evidence that atheism is true. Can you give me some facts that can be examined for atheism being true?

        • wtfwjtd

          The evidence is all around you. Atheism is the null hypothesis, the default position. We assume a natural explanation for everything in the absence of evidence of any god or gods. Show me a picture of your god or gods, let me speak to him or them, and I’ll become a believer. Here’s a little test for you: Mark 16:17-18 says:”And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
          Can you do all of this stuff? Jesus says if you are a believer, you can. If Christianity is true, you can; if Christianity is false, then you can’t. Prediction: You personally can’t do any of this stuff, therefore Christianity is false.

        • … and I keep giving it to you and you keep ignoring it, and then you ask again.

        • Al

          Christianity can be falsified. Here’s how:
          1-disprove the existence of God
          2-disprove that Jesus did not rise from the dead
          3- show the gospels to be fakes.

          Now where is the evidence for atheism being true? I don’t want assertions but facts that can be examined. Can you do that? Please???

        • Christianity can be falsified. Here’s how:

          1-disprove the existence of God

          2-disprove that Jesus did not rise from the dead

          3- show the gospels to be fakes.

          Learning disability? Just stupid? Determined not to learn anything?

          We’ve already been over the fact that science and history can’t prove anything. We look for a preponderance of evidence.

          Now where is the evidence for atheism being true?

          You’re a waste of time, aren’t you? We’ve been over this, how many times now? First: the burden of proof is yours. I don’t have to lift a finger in this project.

          Second: click on the All Posts button above. I mined that list for 25 arguments for atheism. Do some work.

          Do you care? If not, you probably should leave.

        • Al

          You certainly could disprove those 3 items if you have some counter facts and reasons. Take #2. Give some other facts and reasons that are superior in explaining how Christ was alive after being whipped, crucified hours, stabbed in His side and 3 days later He is seen alive? Or, produce the His body. Do that, and you will have disproved Christianity.

          We both bear the burden of proof. You refuse to do so and expect us to believe atheism is true by mere assertion.

        • MNb

          We don’t have to provide those facts and reasons because he wasn’t alive.
          Demanding to produce his body is silly. We don’t have the body of Socrates either. Must I conclude he resurrected too?

        • Al

          On what basis are you claiming He was not alive after being crucified and stabbed in the side?
          Claiming its silly to produce His body would actually destroy Christianity. Jesus as seen alive for days by others and He predicted He would rise again.

          Socrates was never seen again after he died.

        • MNb

          On what basis are you claiming that there are no fairies in my backyard tending my flowers to blossom more beautifully? There are enough confirming observations by others.

          How do you know that Socrates was never seen again after he died? Maybe some unknown neighbour did. How close minded of you to rule out that possibility a priori.

        • Al

          Ok. Give me the names of your neighbors so I can talk to them and verify your story.

          What records do we have that Socrates was seen again after he died?

        • MNb

          OK. Give me the names of the 500 witnesses of Jesus’ Resurrection plus their accounts, so that I can read them and verify the story.

          You have my record that Socrates was seen again after he died. If you ask him nicely BobS might be willing to confirm. I have a supernatural connection with the past, so my record is reliable. BobS once told me confidently he has one too.

          Remember: “Ruling out the supernatural from the start is not the way to understand reality.”

        • You have my record that Socrates was seen again after he died. If you ask him nicely BobS might be willing to confirm.

          I can confidently and without hesitation vouch for the fact that I read that MNb claimed that.

        • Give me the names and contact information of some of the people in the 500 “eyewitnesses” of the risen Jesus.

          Dead ones don’t count.

        • Pofarmer

          “stabbed in His side” That’s only in the Gospel of John, like the earthquake and the zombie apocalypse, but, I digress.

          Let’s say that Jesus does resurrect. He’s God. Not the son of God, not a demigod, not a man with Godlike powers, but, God himself, all powerful, all knowing, etc, etc. God, the God. Paul says that he “appeared” to Cephas, James, and himself, basically. The mention of the 500 and the 12 is seen as an interpolation by some, but hey, I digress again. He’s God. He’s walking through walls, etc, etc. So, He appears to a couple dudes, or the 12. We can safely rule out the 500, because, well, there’s absolutely no evidence of it, but, shit, I digress again. He’s God, he can go where he wants, do what he wants. So he goes to his disciples, tells them to spread the world, and tells them he’s going to come back and kick ass with an army of Angels. Tells them they’ll be persecuted for their beliefs and takes off. Why not appear to the Sanhedrin? Why not appear to all the Pharisees to make his point? Why not appear to Pilate and say “Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah? Why not just go ahead and convert the Romans? Hell, why not just go ahead and call down the army of Angels right now and get the ass whoopin’ over with and save the Jews and all the world? Why only stay on Earth a day? Or 8 days, or 40 days depending on the story? If he was on earth 40 days, walking around as God, performing miracles and walking through walls and so forth and so on, you don’t think word would have gotten back to Pilate and he would have had it checked out? The Pharisees wouldn’t have found out about it and there would be something written in the Jewish literature? There would be popular accounts from Historians and writers of the time period, which there were? Why do we only have a vague story by Paul, with no timeline, followed up 40 years later by anonymous hagiographies, that would have been talking about events starting nearly 100 years earlier? And written hundreds and thousands of miles from the sources of those events? Well, shit, I suppose I digressed again, it’s hard to stay on course.

        • Ron

          The default position is that clinically dead people remain dead and slowly decay away to nothing after extended periods of burial. So the onus of producing bodies falls squarely upon those who insist this Jesus fellow returned from the dead and still exists—a claim that runs counter to all other observed cases of death.

          As I’ve asked you several times already: When can you arrange for us to meet this physically resurrected man named Jesus?

        • Look up “proof” and then come back and rewrite this blather without the word.

          What you have is a story, just like all the other supernatural stories.

        • Pofarmer

          “I think what we have here, is a failure to communicate.”

        • or perhaps a failure to think.

          If Al won’t use his brain, I wonder if God will ask for it back.

        • MNb

          You haven’t provided any fact that proves
          – the existence of god;
          – the Resurrection.

          You only have provided assertions: that the NT is to be accepted, that god created life etc.
          Typical the apologist double standard – ask much more from the opposite view than you need for your own.

        • Pofarmer

          Multiple eyewitness attestation, with names and everything. And the Chuch of Mormonism started. I mean, it’s a lock, really, by Al’s own standards, he has no cause to disbelieve.

        • Al, whaddya think? Going to go shopping for holy underwear?

        • MNb

          Concrete example please. I gave you one for my conversion.

        • Pofarmer

          What it won’t look like, is ancient texts that read much like fiction.

        • Greg G.

          Carl Sagan says extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If you say that you have a house cat, it’s an ordinary claim so you would likely be believed. If you claim you have a house dragon, it is an extraordinary claim so people will be skeptical until you provide whatever evidence that is out of the ordinary to support the claim.

          A resurrection is an out of the ordinary claim so it should not be believed until out of the ordinary evidence has been supplied.

        • Pofarmer

          Ya think Al has ever read Carl Sagan?

        • Greg G.

          I would be surprised if he recognized the name.

        • MNb

          Of course not. Al typically only reads what confirms his pre-determined conclusions.

        • The Koran was dictated by a frikkin’ angel! The New Testament was written by ordinary fallible boneheads like you and me. So when both the NT and the Koran say something about the resurrection, I wonder if the Koran has the better pedigree.

          Good point about the giving thanks. It’s been a real problem not knowing any imaginary beings to give thanks to. I’ll have to make do with the actual people in my life.

          Drop the eyewitness claim. Your evidence is flimsy.

        • hector_jones

          To whom does the Christian give blame for all the bad things in life? While you are busy thanking God for kittens and sunsets, why do you leave out ebola and hurricanes?

          I’ll tell you what it would take for me to believe in God – credible, convincing evidence. I’ve seen all the evidence you’ve seen and I don’t find it credible or convincing. Sorry, Chester.

        • MNb

          You already know the answer, Hector.
          Something good? Praise the lord.
          Something bad? Blame Homo Sapiens.
          A pathological worldview.

        • MNb

          I thought I only pulled off a nice insulting exaggeration. But this evening I read this:


          I don’t think the world will be better off without religion, but mankind certainly will be better off without quite a few denominations. Raised secularly as I am I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like to be religious like that.

        • Al

          Of course. It is man that causes the evil in the world. Why do you think we make laws and people break and we jail them when they do?

          It is man who is pathological.

        • MNb

          I grant you that you are a fine example of your own statement. Now only if you would behave accordingly ….

        • Al

          I’m in good company with you.

        • MNb

          You would be in good company with me if you didn’t praise your imaginary sky daddy for anything good in the world. I certainly don’t.

        • Al

          So you give thanks for the good things in your life to evolution? The sun? Gravity? What?

        • MNb

          Neither evolution, nor the Sun nor gravity are moral events. So why do you bring them up as examples of “good things”? Why should anyone give thanks for them? If you do you should give thanks for natural disasters as well. “Thanks, my dear god full of divine love, for the hurricane that destroyed everything I possessed and killed off my relatives.”
          Or blame your god for them, just as you please. You’re contradicting yourself. Stupid and dishonest to your black christian core. Then again you already admitted you’re a pathological case.
          Nope, you’re not in my good company in any way.

        • Pofarmer

          See, here’s the problem. Your worldveiw is such that you can’t comprehend the fact that we’re just here. There is no one to thank for it and no purpose to it. We are alove, be happy with that and revel in it.

        • Al

          Thank you for admitting this. Life is ultimately without purpose for you. You live and then you die (cease to exist) and that’s all.

        • Pofarmer

          See, that’s where you get it wrong. The universe has no purpose, my life most certainly does.

        • Al

          Your fooling yourself. If the universe has no purpose and life has no purpose then you cannot have purpose. Here today, gone tomorrow forever and shortly forgotten.

        • MNb

          That this non-sequitur is so popular among christians doesn’t make it any better. In fact you show the exact opposite of what you think you’re arguing for. Pathologic as you are you need an imaginary sky daddy to give your life meaning. You are not capable of doing it yourself. Because of your religious prejudices and your lack of imagination you are not capable of understanding that atheists totally can give their life meaning, that they are actually happy to take up that responsibility themselves. They don’t want to shift it to some ignorants from the Middle East who died 2000 years ago and more.

          “Here today, gone tomorrow forever and shortly forgotten.”
          Exactly – a very comforting thought. All my many flaws will be shortly forgotten as well. As I’m only here today I focus on today and do my utter best to make the best of it. That’s the meaning of my life. Plus I don’t get distracted by fruitless worries about afterlife. As I don’t pray and don’t go to church/mosque (unless I feel like) I have a lot more time to spend in a useful and/or pleasant way than you.

        • Al

          Its not a non-sequitur to say that if the universe has no purpose and life has no purpose then your life has no purpose either.

          Here is a quote from a famous atheistic philosopher:
          ““That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”

          – Bertrand Russell, “A Free Man’s Worship”

          What a thought this is and one all atheists should think deeply about. After that, think what Christianity offers. It is truly night and day.

        • So your logic is: “atheism makes me sad, so therefore Christianity is true”?

          I’ll leave you with a quote from the atheist pope:

          The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

          — Richard Dawkins

        • MNb

          Your comment of Russell’s quote only shows that he is way above your league. He doesn’t write anything that contradicts my previous reaction.
          In the first place Russell doesn’t mean with soul what you mean. It’s a metaphor for (wo)man’s lifestyle, worldview, political views and ethics.
          In the second place my lifestyle etc. are indeed safely built “within the scaffolding of these truths”.

          “After that, think what Christianity offers.”
          I already told you I have done that long ago. It offers spending eternity with stupid morons like you, in the end resulting in utter boredom at best. Heck, even chess will become unattractive in Heaven. That’s not unyielding despair, that’s eternal despair. In case you didn’t get it the previous time: in my eyes Heaven sucks as bad as Hell.

          “It is truly night and day.”
          Indeed. Entering Heaven with you is entering night without any prospect of having a sunrise again.
          Btw Russell was not an atheist. He was an agnost who lead his life as an atheist. As such he is a fine example to follow indeed, much more than that goofy messias claimant you are so fond of.

          “Its not a non-sequitur to say”
          Because you say so? I think you way too stupid to grant you any authority on such matters, especially if you don’t care to address in any way the point I raised in my previous comment. Egghead as you are I’ll repeat it:

          “As I’m only here today I focus on today and do my utter best to make the best of it. That’s the meaning of my life. Plus I don’t get distracted by fruitless worries about afterlife. As I don’t pray and don’t go to church/mosque (unless I feel like) I have a lot more time to spend in a useful and/or pleasant way than you.”

          Christianity, especially your homophobic and misogynist brand, has precious little to offer that attracts me compared with this and compared what I have done with my life the last few decades. I guarantee you, if anyone manages to convince me there is a god I still won’t convert to christianity. Even the liberal versions of islam are more attractive to me: no disgusting doctrines about original sin, broken world and atonement.

        • Al

          Your last statement says it all. If the truth leads to Christianity you will not believe it no matter what. That’s an indicator of a closed and biased mind. Truth is not about what is attractive but what comports with reality.

          I never Bertrand contradicted your view but elegantly spells out the implications of it.

          Here is what Christ said about hell: ” These will go away into eternal punishment,……” Matthew 25:46,

          “29 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matthew 5

          Hell is such an awful place that words fail to describe how horrible it is.

          How could one life a life “on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”? Building a life on despair leads to death.

        • So MNb is closed minded? OK, show us how it’s done. Show us how an open-minded scholar like yourself evaluates the evidence of the many competing worldviews to conclude that Christianity is correct?

          And tell us what would get you to switch to another religion (without using some form of the word “proof”).

        • Al

          Christianity is true because Christ said it is. Since Jesus was God-in-the-flesh He carries the highest authority. Any belief system that contradicts what He taught is false.

          To get me to switch would require them to show that Jesus was just a mere man and not the God-man.

        • Jesus, Santa Clause, and the Easter bunny are just pretend. “Cuz the Bible says so” doesn’t have any weight.

          You’re closed minded. You’ve made perfectly clear that your only use for evidence is to use it (clumsily) against others. Your beliefs aren’t built on evidence, ergo, you’re closed minded.

        • Wrong again. The atheist’s life doesn’t have any more inherent despair than the Christian’s.

        • Al

          Sure the atheist does if he is consistent. Russell makes that point very clear.
          The Christian has hope. Survives death and has eternal life. You don’t get that in atheism. You get it all in this life.

        • If Russell bugs you, go argue with him. I’m quite consistent as an atheist to find purpose and meaning in life, thanks. (Have you looked up those big words in the dictionary yet? I’m guessing you don’t find anything absolute or transcendental about the definitions.)

        • Al

          The only reason you find purpose and meaning is because of your self-deception and your life is going well.

        • Again: “purpose” and “meaning” are words with definitions. Show me why an atheist can’t use them.

          Here you go:

        • Al

          You can use these words “purpose” and “meaning” but you can’t account for these concepts in atheism. If you cease to exist at death and the universe itself is meaningless then there can be no meaning for your life. Russell makes this point brilliantly as do other atheist.

        • MNb

          Russell wrote that the Universe is without purpose and meaning; Dawkins repeated it. Neither of them wrote that thus human life is without purpose and meaning. They don’t make the point

          “If you cease to exist at death and the Universe itself is meaningless then there can be no meaning for your life.”

          That you’re too stupid to see that this is a non-sequitur doesn’t imply Russell is. He never wrote that there can be no meaning for your life. He wrote that you can’t derive it from the Universe or from god.

          Key word: humanism. Has been around for several centuries. Even many christians are humanists. Many atheists just cut god away and are left with something valuable. You’re close minded not to get this.

        • No, don’t give me an empty claim. These words have definitions. Don’t assign meanings as you choose; look them up in the dictionary. Prove your point with the definitions.

          (Or are you admitting that you can’t?)

        • MNb

          How is finding purpose and meaning in teaching math and physics to kids living in the middle of the South-American jungle (that’s what I do) self-deception? Especially considering the fact that this I way I offer them the chance to improve their lives?

        • MNb

          “Survives death and has eternal life.”
          That’s not hope. That’s horror.
          “You get it all in this life.”
          Which is all I need.
          See how biased and close minded you are? You never wondered why the christian heaven would be so attractive. You never wondered why you want to go there. You never wondered why you should prefer heaven to hell – you never got further than a few quotes from 2000 years ago.
          I asked myself these questions and came to the conclusion that even if you were right and presenting the truth in every single respect – the biggest if in the Universe – then I’d still rather not convert to your brand of christianity. Because what I’d get is horror worse than the way you describe Hell.

        • MNb

          “Building a life on despair leads to death.”
          Building a life on false hope leads to death as well. Plus you hope for something utterly undesirable. Plus your false hope distracts you from what really matters.

          “How could one life a life ….”
          Simple – by making the best of the years that I do live. I already told you. The fact that I have to tell you again – that we have to tell you everything over and over again – shows you are the one with a closed and biased mind.

          “If the truth leads to Christianity you will not believe it no matter what.”
          Wrong. If the truth leads to your particular brand of christianity I will have free will (according to you) and rather choose Hell. I’ll believe and still refuse to worship your monster god; he isn’t worth it.

          “These will go away into eternal punishment,……”
          Spending eternity with the likes of you is eternal punishment.

          “Hell is such an awful place that words fail to describe how horrible it is.”
          Even then it can’t be worse than spending eternity with bigots like you under supervision of the monstrosity you call god.

          It’s not my fault that christian bigots like you make Heaven look so unattractive that I’d rather prefer Hell. Even if your brand of christianity were the truth – which I obviously dispute as there are many good reasons for it – I’d still refuse to worship your god, simply because he is a worse piece of s**t than his counterpart. Not only you have made that clear by your stupidity and bigotry, all in his holy name, your very own Holy Book does as well:


          Like Bon Scott sung 35 years ago:


          Like I wrote, I have carefully thought this over.
          To put it in simple terminology for you, so that even you can understand: there might be a chance that I can play chess in Hell, but in Heaven that chance will be zero. Yup, it’s also a metaphor (for the importance of imperfection), but I’m sure you won’t understand it.

        • Al

          I’m not going to respond to this. Its not worth it when you call me names.

        • Entering Heaven with you is entering night without any prospect of having a sunrise again.


        • Pofarmer

          You mean christianity offers false hope?

        • hector_jones

          While you are at it, you should think about what Santa Claus offers. You’d be a fool not to want to get in on that by not believing.

        • Pofarmer

          Do you actually understand what Russell is saying? He is saying embrace the reality, realize it, and build on that. It is what it is.

        • You’re channeling Al the Child again.

          Look up “purpose” in the dictionary and see if you can find your definition. If not, stop pretending that you get to redefine words.

        • And this is an argument of the form “Atheism has a property I don’t like; therefore it’s false.”

          You really need to provide quality arguments that show that your supernatural beliefs are true (despite appearances). Whether a worldview has nice or bad properties isn’t relevant to the question of accuracy.

          (Of course, if you’ve been giving us your best material so far, then perhaps not …)

        • Ultimate purposes are cool. Do you have one? I mean one in which you can point to a grounding more substantial than just wishful thinking and tradition on your part?

          If not then you admit the same damn thing: you live and then you die and that’s all.

        • God created everything, but we can’t have him responsible for anything bad, right? It would hurt his feelings.

        • Pofarmer

          Yep, man causes evil. Man also causes good.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          Do you consider unnecessary pain to be evil? According to the Garden of Eden story, God’s punishment for Eve was to make child birth painful for her and all subsequent women for the sin of disobeying the pointless command of not eating a fruit.

          Today we have painkillers to counteract the pain of childbirth. So let me ask you this, if a woman at a hospital disobeyed a doctor’s order but the order was something pointless like “don’t look out a window” but the woman disobeys anyway, would it be justified for the doctor to deny her painkillers so that she would experience the full pain of labor?

        • Al

          Most pain we experience is the result of sin. The world is fallen i.e. been cursed by God because of sin.

          Disobeying the doctor’s order not to look out the window is not the same as disobeying the Lord God. God demands perfection from His creation. To disobey Him, is in essence to rebel against Him and thus to incur His wrath.

          The doctor does not have such authority over the patient. However, the doctor might have other reasons to deny the painkillers that are medically sound. Looking out the window would not be one of them.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          So the point is that you disobeyed someone of great power. God demands perfection. I suppose you believe that God made us perfect. But a perfect person does not sin, so God didn’t make us perfect, or else we would not sin (unless I’m missing something).

          You’re probably familiar with the problem of heaven with regard to free will. If God values free will so much that he allows us to do whatever evil we want, then we will presumably have free will in heaven. If we have free will in heaven then there is the possibility that there will be sin in heaven. Then God, in his “perfect justice” will turn heaven into basically another Earth (full of things like painful childbirth) as a result of this sin (which will eventually happen given our sinful nature), so heaven cannot be the perfect world it’s supposed to be. Then some random billions of years later, God will send another Jesus to some random part of heaven to die for everyone’s sins again so that we can get into a new heaven. Then people will sin there, and God will send yet another Jesus to this new heaven to die for everyone’s sins so that we could get into the NEW new heaven! And so on.

          You’ll probably say, “We’ll still have free will, but we will be made to have a perfect nature so that we will not sin.” The response to that is invariably: “Well then why the heck didn’t he make us that way in the first place if that’s what he wants?” Isn’t that the way we started? How did we get from perfect nature to sinful nature? If we gained our sinful nature by sinning, then that means we already had a sinful nature. That can only come from our supposed creator (unless someone else had a hand in our creation).

        • Maybe it’s an infinite regress. The Garden of Eden was supposed to be heaven, but then (D’oh!) things got messed up. But God made Heaven 2.0, and then the obligatory free will thing will mess that up.

          Repeat indefinitely.

          My own view is that heaven has both free will and the wisdom to use it properly. There won’t be evil simply because no one will voluntarily want it. Here on earth, you could hit yourself on the head with a hammer, but you just don’t want to, so that’s not much of a problem.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          “My own view is that heaven has both free will and the wisdom to use it properly. There won’t be evil simply because no one will voluntarily want it.” Couldn’t that have been the case in Eden though? God apparently didn’t want it that way.

          And who’s to say that some indeterminate time after Earth has come and gone and everyone is in Heaven/Hell that God doesn’t come up to some poor schmuck and say, “You see this tree? Don’t eat it’s fruit” and start the whole debacle all over again?

        • carmel Ka

          In heaven or hell we will be spirit and all presence of God (already a constraint let’s say:) ,
          and I agree with Bob, we will get the wisdom to use our free will properly such as building ourself an unsinful state .

          @Bob-I hope to be a finite regress 🙂 indefinite is too much painful…also infinite is abstract term in a finite human mind.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          “In heaven or hell we will be spirit and all presence of God (already a constraint let’s say:)” I’m not sure how this answers my questions. A spirit has free will, right? So isn’t it still plausible that a spirit might sin in heaven (and hell)? What’s this “constraint” that you speak of?

          “…we got the wisdom to use our free will properly such as building ourself an unsinful state.” Is “building yourself an unsinful state” something that we can try to reach but never achieve, or can it be achieved? Even if we do go on for some period of time without sinning, we’ll eventually just sin again because of our so-called sinful natures, right? Or is it that, once you’re in Heaven, God doesn’t care what you do anymore even if you sin?

        • carmel Ka

          you will get your wisdom not to sin by yourself – try&learn in an infinite/finite regression till reach the finest state(heaven).
          I prefer finite regression 🙂

          but others said: your spirit in heavan/hell is an onthological choise from here/earth and you set up your state already, and that’s it.

          Such said God respect your chosen state freely

          🙂 God leaves all spirit from hell to go to heavan but none take the offer(can;t stand God) and come back to hell 🙂

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          “:) God leaves all spirit from hell to go to heavan but none take the offer(can;t stand God) and come back to hell :)” What if you don’t believe in hell, heaven, or God? If you go to hell, then, you will now know that God exists and then you can ask God to forgive you. If this happened to me then I sure wouldn’t pass up the offer for heaven, especially to ask God some questions.

          I don’t choose to not believe in God because believing something is not a choice. If someone says to you, “Believe x!” without anything further like a reason to believe it or even fully defining what x is, then you can’t say, “Okay, I choose to believe x!” What you believe is outside of your control. You can, however, avoid things that might sway your beliefs or opinions, but that’s usually because many people don’t want some of their beliefs to be wrong or opposed (especially their religious beliefs). I am exposed to many different claims that there is a god and an afterlife and don’t find them believable because the evidence is usually based on emotion or ignorance of science (and misapplication of logic). Sometimes the evidence itself is contradictory to reality or someone else’s beliefs, so I can’t know who’s right (i.e. Christianity v.s. Islam).

          Basically, if I go to hell, it isn’t because I choose to. And if I go to hell, I certainly won’t “lock myself in”.

          “you will get your wisdom not to sin by yourself – try&learn in an infinite/finite regression till reach the finest state(heaven).” I would respond to this but I have no idea what it means. Sorry.

        • Al

          Yes. God made Adan and Eve without any corruption or sin. They did though have limitations even in this state such as the need to eat. The ability not sin was not part of their state otherwise they would not have sinned. Being “perfect” does not necessarily mean the inability to sin. Jesus was perfect and yet He was tempted to sin by Satan.

          Our choices are based on the desires of the hear i.e. soul-spirit. In this world our hearts are corrupted by sin while in heaven we will have new hearts that will not be corrupted by sin. In heaven we will not want to sin because hearts will no affinity for sin. It would be like having the desire to eat rocks. No one is tempted to do so and so they don’t.

          Why God allowed Adam and Eve to sin is one of the great questions of the ages. I don’t know.

        • MNb

          “Being “perfect” does not necessarily mean the inability to sin. Jesus was perfect and yet He was tempted to sin by Satan.”
          But Jesus didn’t give in to that temptation, so apparently Adam and Eve were still a little less perfect – they had some corruption or sin within them.

          “one of the great questions of the ages. I don’t know.”
          Oh, but I do. I even have three answers.

          1. Your god is a sadist.
          2. Your god is not a abrahamistic one.
          3. There is no god.

          Pick your choice.

        • carmel Ka

          Sin is a verb , what somebody does with consequences: in a way or another. Since Adam and Eve didnt follow God , it was a perfect choise for them(since they never repent afterthat) but not for God (expectation was to repent and forgive them).
          They were dealing with alternatives/”free will” same as we do all the days. The jews presented the story since they were obssesed with rules/conduite and consequences that follow.

        • MNb

          Sin is a meaningless word.

        • hector_jones

          I think you have to be quite deluded to believe that Adam and Eve were real people who lived in a real garden somewhere and who really disobeyed this god character by eating fruit from a tree.

          Why didn’t God just put the tree somewhere else if he didn’t want anyone touching it? Why didn’t he put a fence around it at the very least? Where is this tree now? If it was so important to God why does it seem to have completely disappeared without a trace? The Yahweh character in the bible story is an idiot and kind of a dick. But you think this stuff really happened? Oh my.

        • Pofarmer

          Shit man, church’s entire theologies are built on the premise that this happened, or that it’s a reasonable approximation of the human condition. Kind of scary, actually.

        • hector_jones

          It’s so obviously a myth, on the same level as any Greek or Roman myth. Many people who call themselves Christians recognize this fact.

          And yet there are far too many Christians out there like Al who have no trouble recognizing the mythical character of the Greek and Roman Gods, but are wilfully blind to their own myths and cling to the nonsensical idea that the Book of Genesis is history.

        • Pofarmer

          Al has asked several times on various threads “Why would you turn down what Christianity has to offer?” Well, it ain’t real, for one. Even those who know the fall, and the flood, aren’t real, still think that “the fall” is somehow relevant to why people are the way we are. Well, it ain’t. Christopher Hitchens had it exactly right. “We are evolved primates, not fallen angels.” The Christian worldview falsifies itself every day. Why do we have hospitals? Why aren’t people just cured in churches? Why are we flying among the stars? Isn’t that where heaven was supposed to be? The belief just keeps morphing.

        • Pofarmer

          Lol. If they’d “repented,” then the story wouldn’t match the world we see. It’s an allegory about how the world is, not the reason the world is at it is. Fantasy.

        • Jesus was tempted? Satan offered Jesus stuff that was already his, and he was tempted?

          It’s hard to imagine that all-wise Jesus felt temptation like any of us would.

        • Why will hearts have no affinity for sin in heaven? And whyever that is, why can’t that property exist here on earth?

        • Al

          The “property” only existed in Adam and Eve, After them, all men come into the world with a bent towards evil. The only exception was Christ.

          If there is one thing that the atheist would agree with the Christian is that there is evil in the world. The problem for the atheist is that he can’t account for it in his worldview.

        • Doesn’t answer the question. Why did God deliberately make life here messed up? If he could’ve had it so that people just don’t sin, did he just forget?

          What’s hard about evil? Sin is something that the atheist neatly deals with by dropping the god assumption. Easy.

        • Al

          Don’t know why God allowed evil in the world.

          I know that atheist can’t account for evil. “dropping the god assumption” means that what we call evil is not evil but really nature in process.

        • Perhaps your worldview has enough puzzles and “I don’t knows” that you need to reconsider it.

          Look up “evil” in the dictionary and tell me why that concept is unavailable to the atheist.

        • Al

          The concept of evil is available to the atheist and the atheist does recognize evil but what the atheist can’t do is account for it in atheism.

        • MNb

          Science and specifically the research of Frans de Waal accounts for evil.
          You have been told before that atheists never are just atheists.

        • Look up “evil” in the dictionary and tell me that an atheist can’t account for that.

          It’s not that hard.

        • Pofarmer

          There was no adam and eve, there was no garden of eden. There was no talking snake. There was no magic fruit. It’s allegory ya nutjob. Ancient superstitious people trying to understand what they saw in the world. It’s a fuckin’ story people.

        • hector_jones

          “Why God allowed Adam and Eve to sin is one of the great questions of the ages. I don’t know.”

          It’s almost as if God did it on purpose and set Adam and Eve up for the fall. What a dick. Or it’s a story and it never happened, something I was able to recognize as a child. Wake up.

        • God gets furious over disobeying an order when they had the moral understanding of a 2-year-old? Dude’s got a short fuse. He needs to check his meds.

        • MNb

          “God demands perfection from His creation.”
          Then he should have done a better job creating Homo Sapiens, imperfect as it is in all kinds of respects.

          In addition to DigaagWaRiz: let’s suppose you or some other christian apologist is capable of solving this dilemma. Then why does your perfect god send you and your fellow believers through the Vale of Tears called Earth first? You guys all totally deserve to go to Heaven of course, unlike Digaag and me for instance. God being perfect, hence omniscient, of course also knows that you and your cobelievers deserve it. According to your theology he created your soul at the conception; all the years afterwards are just a waste.
          At this point I always offer a deal. As you know I don’t want to go to Heaven any way. I’m perfectly OK with eternal oblivion: ashes to ashes, dust to dust in the most literal meaning of the expression. I am willing to follow Jesus’ example and sacrifice myself. I give my existence right here and now, so that you can die and enter Heaven also right here and now. Thus you will skip the rest of your life, which is according to you miserable by definition. You will also be cured of your pathologies.
          What do you say? Deal?
          Nah, I won’t hold my breath for it.

        • hector_jones

          If I demanded perfection from something I created I would make it the best I could in the first place. I wouldn’t deliberately make it imperfect when I was capable of making it perfect, then give it ‘free will’ whereby it could somehow choose to be perfect or not, then get angry and torment it in hell for eternity when it failed to be perfect. Your God is an asshole.

        • Pofarmer

          We are evolved primates, not fallen angels.

        • Greg G.

          Nice job, MNb! You must be clairvoyant. Guess how many fingers I’m holding up behind my back.

        • Al

          Man. Man is the cause of the evil in the world.
          Natural disasters are not moral events.

          Why don’t you find it convincing? Billions and billions and others have.

        • MNb

          Thanks for confirming what I wrote just underneath some 16 hours before. You should read the one I added – about the pathology of your worldview.

        • And the value of the billions to your argument is … ?

        • MNb

          “Natural disasters are not moral events.”
          Underneath you asked me:

          “So you give thanks for the good things in your life to evolution? The sun? Gravity?”
          Dishonest to your black christian core. Then again you already admitted you’re pathological.

        • hector_jones

          So man created ebola and hurricanes? Fascinating. Do explain how exactly we did that. I’m all ears.

          Billions and billions weren’t convinced by the evidence. They were taught to believe by their parents, starting at an age when their minds weren’t developed enough to understand how to think critically and to reason based on evidence. Then when they got older they cherry picked and rationalized the evidence in order to support a conclusion already arrived at for other reasons. You are a perfect example of this.

          I have to laugh at how you are back to the argument that numbers means truth. Whatever happened to the genius who wrote:

          Well Chester, truth is not determined by how many people agree with it. Deal with it.

          Apparently he’s not dealing with it so well after all.

        • Al

          Man did not create ebola and hurricanes. At least as far as I know. Even if he did that would not mean these things are evil in and of themselves.

          It is true that parents teach their children all kinds of things at an “age when their minds weren’t developed enough to understand how to think critically and to reason based on evidence.” If we had to wait until their minds were “developed enough to understand how to think critically and to reason based on evidence” we would have to wait until they were about 25 years old.

          What makes you think the when you got older you ” cherry picked and rationalized the evidence in order to support a conclusion already arrived at for other reasons” to be an atheist? In fact, there is no evidence for atheism.

          If billions and billions believe something then there must be something to it. Doesn’t mean its true but that it carries a a lot of persuasiveness.

        • Thought experiment: what do you suppose would happen if Christianity was taught to people only after they became adults, that it was an adult activity like smoking, driving, and voting. Would Christianity still thrive?

        • If billions and billions believe something then there must be something to it.

          So Islam then–is there something to it?

          And if you respond, “Sure, it’s a comforting tradition, but there’s no truth to the supernatural claims,” does that apply to your religion as well?

        • hector_jones

          Man did not create ebola and hurricanes. At least as far as I know. Even if he did that would not mean these things are evil in and of themselves.

          So this leaves you arguing that bad things like ebola and hurricanes are really morally good things, but you can’t possibly explain how. Let me guess: “God works in mysterious ways” is all you’ve got.

          If we had to wait until their minds were “developed enough to understand how to think critically and to reason based on evidence” we would have to wait until they were about 25 years old.

          25 years? Ridiculous. Funny how you insist that a zygote is fully human at conception, but you need to push the development of critical thinking skills to an absurdly late limit to make a bad point. The point is religion capitalizes on the innocence of youth because it knows how hard it would be to convince adults hearing the garbage for the first time. That’s why you aren’t a muslim or a buddhist.

          What makes you think the when you got older you ” cherry picked and rationalized the evidence in order to support a conclusion already arrived at for other reasons” to be an atheist? In fact, there is no evidence for atheism.

          Nice try. But I’ve been an atheist for a long time, and my parents didn’t teach it to me. They tried to teach me the opposite, although they didn’t put a lot of effort into it, so I was free to follow where the evidence actually leads.

          You keep saying ‘there’s no evidence for atheism’. You’ve been told repeatedly how arguments from evidence actually work. Yet you persist in this bad argument. It’s tragic, really.

          If billions and billions believe something then there must be something to it. Doesn’t mean its true but that it carries a a lot of persuasiveness.

          What about billions of buddhists and muslims? I guess there must be something to it. Lots of persuasiveness. They must have been convinced by the evidence, right? Because billions of people couldn’t believe something if it weren’t for all that evidence, right? That is your argument, after all.

        • Hans-Richard Grümm

          But the existence of *claims* of a resurrection can be explained by naturalistic causes – just like the existence of *claims* that Mohammed split the moon,

        • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

          Of course there is evidence in science that points to the supernatural.

          You understand nothing about science. If science could ever observe anything which you call “supernatural”, then it would not be supernatural at all. Science attributes nothing to what it cannot observe, therefore it attributes nothing, nor has it ever, to “the supernatural”.

          You attribute anything that remains unknown to “supernatural” (stupidest word ever invented by far) ideas, just as the ancient Norse attributed the sound of approaching thunder to Thor’s hammer crashing down on the sky. You are truly no less ignorant than they were for the science which you reject, but at least they can be excused for not having access to atmospheric studies, or a developed means for conducting their own. You are infinitely more stupid than they were for rejecting what can be understood with just a few mouse clicks, and insisting that what remains to be discovered means anything other than that.

        • MNb

          Could you provide a reliable methodology that separates correct claims about the supernatural from incorrect ones? If not I’ll stick to my beloved fairies, who tend the flowers in my backyard so well to make them blossom beautifully.

        • I’m sorry–as Mr. Al’s representative, I must inform you that Mr. Al doesn’t accept questions not in the form of a haiku, and he doesn’t reveal his proprietary methodology.

          Thank you for your understanding.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, you’ve pointed put why philosophy is useless, at least. Do you also believe the supernatural stories of,the Hopi Indians?

        • Greg G.

          At least we have it established that the gospel accounts are superior in quality…

          Bart Ehrman notes that there are more discrepancies in the New Testament manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.

        • Al

          Do you know how they calculated these discrepancies?

        • Greg G.

          I would suppose they started counting up from one.

        • Al

          No. That number comes from taking all manuscripts into account. Here is what an expert in the field says how these discrepancies are counted:
          ““From one point of view it may be said that there are 200,000 scribal errors in the manuscripts, but it is wholly misleading and untrue to say that there are 200,000 errors in the text of the New Testament. This large number is gained by counting all the variations in all of the manuscripts (about 4,500). This means that if, for example, one word is misspelled in 4,000 different manuscripts, it amounts to 4,000 ‘errors.’ Actually in a case of this kind only one slight error has been made and it has been copied 4,000 times. But this is the procedure which is followed in arriving at the large number of 200,000 ‘errors.’” http://danielbwallace.com/2013/09/09/the-number-of-textual-variants-an-evangelical-miscalculation/

        • Greg G.

          Your argument is that slight discrepancies shouldn’t count as discrepancies even when they are discrepancies? You are accepting anything an apologist says without thinking.

          There are approximately 138,000 words in the Greek New Testament. Taking the figure of 25,000 extant manuscripts (not all Greek), it would take only six independent scribal errors per manuscript to make Ehrman’s claim true. That’s five one-thousands of one percent per word of the words.

          There are about 5800 Greek manuscripts. That would take only 24 independent scribal errors per manuscript to exceed the total number of words. That’s less than a two one-hundredths of a percent per word error rate.

          Therefore I am skeptical of the apologetics that oppose Ehrman’s claim on this. I wouldn’t be surprised if your per word error rate exceeds those rates just on using the wrong homonyms for “your”.

        • Al

          Even Bart acknowledges these variants are of no consequence for the most part.

        • Greg G.

          No, he argues that most of the variants are of no consequence but that some are major and some conflict enough to confuse Christian doctrine.

          Have you withdrawn the common apologetic that copies of an error are being counted multiple times?

          EDIT: Let’s not forget about the apparent intentional alterations.

        • Hans-Richard Grümm

          I need not rule out a hypothesis in order to realize that it is not the most plausible explanation of the data. In addition, you must rely on the absence of supernatural events to talk about the quality, number of manuscripts etc. After all, every surviving Gospel manuscript could have supernaturally appeared ex nihilo, without having been written by anyone. Or the memories of its authors may have been supernaturally changed, etc.
          This means that in order to argue for the supernatural claims in the Gospels, you must exclude all supernatural influence in the making and tradition of the Gospels. This doesn’t look like a self-consistent argument.

        • Greg G.

          The fact that the original manuscripts naturally decayed and were not supernaturally preserved argues against a divine origin, too.

    • The standard line is that Matthew and John were apostles and Mark and Luke were one step removed. But this and the naming is just tradition.

  • busterggi


    Apparently it took centuries to decide which Mark is the supposed author and the conclusions aren’t based on anything but opinion. Even if a disciple named Mark existed there is no direct evidence that he was literate, most likely he wouldn’t have been as the great majority of the population wasn’t.

  • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

    Yep. Mark wrote his gospel for Peter, who was an eyewitness, and although it was said to be Peter’s story it would be named Mark instead. We know it was Mark writing for Peter because 50 or more years later Papias said so. But we don’t really have that from Papias, we have that from a guy named Eusebius, who said 200 years after Papias that Papias said it was Peter who had told Mark what he had seen, and so his story is the gospel of Mark. That’s all true, because we believe! Now the great miracle of all this is that no text from Eusebius exists from the time that Eusebius lived. It got copied again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and agian, until finally, in the 10th Century of our Lord a copy was made which was preserved which we can look at today. And although it’s unlikely that Mark really could talk to Peter in AD 70, Papias could not have possibly spoken to Mark after AD 120, and Eusebius, who thought Papias to be a real dufus, probably knew no more about any of them who were involved in this telephone game than anyone else knows today, the account of Eusebius was reliable. Its a reliable account because we believe! It remained reliable, even after its 500-years, hand-copied edition. Isn’t the bible just amazing?

    • Hallelujah!

    • Greg G.

      There is also a question of whether Papias was referring to the writing now known as The Gospel According to Mark. We can be certain that when Papias spoke of the one by Matthew, it is not the text we have received.

      • Stephen P

        Indeed. And Papias said that the one by Matthew was hard to interpret. Well, we all know one book of the bible that fits that description. My guess is that the “Matthew” that Papias referred to was actually a now-lost Aramaic predecessor of Revelation.

        • Pofarmer

          I think the whole damn thing is based on a celestial rising God cult on which Revelation is based. Read revelation with open eyes, and it most definately is ancient astrology.

  • Al

    Is there any evidence in history that someone else other than Mark wrote the gospel that bears his name? Any church documents that says someone else wrote it?

    • I know of none.

      • Al

        So without anyone else being connected to it then we are on solid grounds that Mark did indeed write this gospel.

        • Wrong again. But instead of correcting you, I’ll just let that turd sit there and stink.

        • Greg G.

          No, only that the church fathers had no idea who wrote it from the beginning. They had Papias’ word that there was one by Matthew and one by Mark and assigned names to anonymous writings.

        • Al

          If the names on the gospels are the only ones in history connected to those gospels then we are forced to conclude they wrote them. Since there are no counter facts we are on solid ground for believing that those individuals wrote them.

        • MNb

          Like I showed underneath even the RCC disagrees with you ….

        • Al

          What does the RCC say?

        • MNb

          Scroll down a bit. Or aren’t you even capable of managing your mouse?

        • Al

          not capable. sorry.

        • MNb

          You realize that I’m going to use this against you, don’t you? Here is what I wrote just one “page down”:

          The latest RCC authorized Dutch translation:


          “Hoewel het boek gewoonlijk ‘het evangelie volgens Marcus’ genoemd wordt, vermeldt de schrijver zijn eigen naam niet. Vanaf de tweede eeuw n.Chr. wordt het evangelie toegeschreven aan Marcus en wordt zijn naam in de handschriften genoteerd. Daarmee verwijst men naar een Marcus die tolk en vertaler van Petrus geweest zou zijn. Soms wordt deze Marcus ook wel geïdentificeerd met Johannes Marcus, een medewerker van Paulus en Barnabas die in het boek Handelingen genoemd wordt.”

          “Though the book usually is called “the gospel according to Marcus, the author doesn’t mention his own name. From the 2nd Century on the Gospel is attributed to Marcus and his name gets noted down in the manuscripts. This refers to a Marcus who is supposed to have been an interpreter and translator for Petrus. Sometimes this Marcus is identified with Johannes Marcus, a co-worker of Paulus and Barnabas who is mentioned in the book Acts.”

          You can be sure that this is officially approved by the RCC. Now I can’t judge how well substantiated these (and other) claims are, but nowhere the page says that the author of the Gospel of Marcus personally know Jesus, let alone that he was one of the apostles.
          The same for Lucas.
          This Dutch translation does mention claims that Mattheus (because of 9.9) and Johannes (because of 21:20) had known Jesus personally, but is very, very far from definitive on them.

        • wtfwjtd

          ….and I’m on solid ground for believing everything I have read about the Flying Spaghetti Monster, sauce be upon him, and since you have no proof he doesn’t exist, I am forced to conclude that he does! Hmm, speaking of pasta, I think maybe I need to visit the kitchen for a little snack. Christianity isn’t the only religion that eats their god, you know.

        • Pofarmer

          You really do have a tenuous grasp on reality going on.

        • Greg G.

          There are epistles that were a tribute to Paul and Peter by the early church yet analysis has shown that they were not written by the same person that wrote other epistles attributed to them. If they were wrong about those then it is shaky ground to assume they were right about the gospels. You need to show their reasoning. Do you even know any?

        • Ri-i-i-ight. We have little more than tradition to assign names to the gospels, but that’s all we got, so we’re going forward, confident that these are the actual authors.

          Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s how the scholars do things. Or not.

        • MNb

          It’s even worse – giving names to the authors is meaningless, because we know exactly zilch about them. Compare: I tell you that I had a pupil called Vincent. What value has that information?

        • What I think our old pal Al is trying to say is that these aren’t just names but are people about whom we can read in the gospels. That is, assigning the name Matthew to the gospel of that name means that you can look in the gospel and see that that person was a follower of Jesus from the beginning and should be a reliable eyewitness.

        • MNb

          I think the same about our old friend, but he is simply wrong. At best there are unfounded speculations, like the ones mentioned by the Dutch RCC translation.

        • Al

          Ok. Name other names associated with the 4. If you can, then i will need to see that. Otherwise your just blowing smoke again.

        • Pofarmer

          Why would that matter? What other sources would we have that would let us know? We know there were lot’s of other Gospels that Chriatians were using in the early years, but we only know about some of those because they are mentioned in other works. In one post you seem to think we know everything there is to know about the first century, and in the next you seem to think we know absolutely nothing.

        • Al

          No, we don’t know everything about the 1st century. Not even close. We do know that the 4 gospels as far back as we can go have always had those names associated with them. Certainly the early church that was around while the apostles were alive knew who wrote the gospels and they make no mention of anyone else.

          These other “gospels” don’t appear until much later. They begin to appear in the 2nd century and beyond. This is why in part they were not considered apostolic i.e. written by an apostle or an eyewitness.

        • Pofarmer

          The Gospel of Thomas and some of the Gnostic Gospels are contemporary with the 4 acknowledged Gospels. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/index.html

        • Al

          The earliest dates that I have seen for Thomas is the 2nd century. There is no record of it being used in the early church. Same goes for the gnostic gospels.

        • Greg G.

          Mark’s Use of the Gospel of Thomas by Stevan Davies argues that GThomas was Mark’s source for most of the parables. That would imply Matthew and Luke used it, too. Some argue that the Gospel of John is written against the Gospel of Thomas.

        • Al

          What other scholars make this claim that “GThomas was Mark’s source for most of the parables”?

        • Greg G.

          Try “The early camp” heading in the Wikipedia article on GThomas.

        • MNb

          If you had taken the effort to click Pofarmers’ link (I know, I know, it’s too hard for you, so I shouldn’t ask) you now had known that the earliest date for Thomas is 50 CE. I asked a Dutch scholar – you know, a pro, someone who has studied history of Antiquity, not someone who tries to please underbellies like your favourite sources – about the site. He said it was a bit outdated, but still a good start. He uses it himself now and then.


        • Greg G.

          The ancients thought Mark was an abridged version of Matthew. The ancients didn’t know what they were talking about. How could they have known the source of Mark if they didn’t have a record of it existing before Matthew?

          From the Wikipedia pages for each of the Gospels:


          Most modern scholars reject the tradition which ascribes it to Mark the Evangelist, the companion of Peter, and regard it as the work of an unknown author working with various sources including collections of miracle stories, controversy stories, parables, and a passion narrative.

          The anonymous author was probably a highly educated Jew, intimately familiar with the technical aspects of Jewish law, and the disciple Matthew was probably honored within his circle.

          According to a Church tradition dating from the 2nd century, he was the Luke named as a companion of Paul in three of the letters attributed to Paul himself; this view is still sometimes advanced, but “a critical consensus emphasizes the countless contradictions between the account in Acts and the authentic Pauline letters.”[

          According to most modern scholars, however, the apostle John was not the author of any of these books.

        • Oh, boy! Nuthin’ I like better than to sit down with my old pal Al and repeat a point that I’ve already made but that he was too closed minded to absorb!

          I have no other candidates. Your conclusion (that we therefore are on firm grounds to say that the traditional names are then the actual authors) is laughably naive, however.

          (Do you get slapped around like this at the other atheist sites you hang out at? Or are you able to convince them?)

        • smrnda

          Solid ground? More like ‘speculation.’ we don’t really have enough facts to determine authorship there.

        • Al

          There are no other names in history that are associated with the 4 gospels than the ones that we know today. Its always been Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

        • MNb

          Those names are meaningless. Last fourteen years I have had a pupil called Vincent. Now you still know exactly zilch – you don’t even know if I’m right, because you don’t have the means to check.

        • So therefore, those must’ve been the authors, right?

          Hey–supporting a preconception is pretty easy!

        • Al


        • And you don’t even realize when you’re being mocked.

          OK, I’ll just let my sarcasm stand.

        • smrnda

          We don’t know who B Traven really was. Look him up.

        • busterggi

          So if I find an anonymous note I should assume Mark wrote it?

        • Greg G.

          You can also assume it was something Peter said but the words are not necessarily in the same order.

        • Al


        • MNb

          Well, the oldest versions of Marcus are also anonymous.
          Given your incapibility of logic the next question becomes: if Busterggi finds an anonymous note and say 20 years later I write the name Mark on it, should we assume Mark wrote it?

    • Andrew

      I don’t know of any other titles for Mark, but Papias does refer to a ‘Gospel of Mark’ that is clearly not our Gospel of Mark.

  • wtfwjtd

    Great post Bob! Yes, it’s a long, tortured chain from the so-called book of “Mark” to Eusebius, a known forger and “Church historian”.
    In more modern times, the documentation and multiple eye-witness accounts that attest to the veracity of, say, Mormonism, or Sathya Sai Baba, put those of Christianity to shame. And yet, the same Christians who uncritically swallow the Gospel tales of their cherished holy book as being absolutely true, based on a few flimsy “eyewitness” claims, dismiss and reject both of these later religions and holy men as false. Talk about an absurd double-standard!
    As Ken Humphreys likes to say, “It isn’t history, it isn’t true, its just more…rubbish from the New Testament.”

    EDIT: Maybe I missed when I first read your post, but you might link to your video you did on this subject, I like how you visually illustrate your points there!

    • Thanks! I’ll probably post on the video soon. (That video was a lot of fun but a lot of work as well. Perhaps I’ll have more time so that I can use that technique to convey some of these ideas.)

    • MNb

      Ah, Ken Humphreys the great conspiracy theorist …. the atheist version of Ken Ham so to say, though he seems to make a lot less money.

      • wtfwjtd

        Yes, Mr. Humphreys is kinda “out there” with some stuff, but he has some fun videos, that are entertaining to watch. I’m sure you are right, it’s much more profitable to spout nutty stuff as a “creation scientist”, you have a large, gullible audience to work with.

        • MNb

          To his credit he seems to have removed his page on “how christians destroyed pagan texts” – at least I couldn’t find it last 20 minutes.

          “with some stuff”
          A lot of stuff – compare with the pages of Jona Lendering.

          So I’ll go with this one, that shows how Humphreys is very fond of the correlation implies causation fallacy.


          This one is fun too:


          Because never mind the facts:


          “you have a large, gullible audience to work with”
          Well, our friend Humphreys seems to have an audience to work with that is equally gullible. He is one of the reasons I don’t think our world will become a better place if religion disappears.

        • wtfwjtd

          I like his dissections of various gospel stories, I think some of that is pretty well done. I watched one here a while back about the John the Baptizer story, he was showing how the gospel story didn’t square up with known dates about some of the real characters in that one.
          I didn’t think his stuff was quite as far out as JL, but then again, I haven’t seen nearly all of it.

        • MNb

          “I think some of that is pretty well done.”
          I distrust all conspiracy theorists, especially if they don’t care about empirical evidence and systematically use logical fallacies. The default position with Humphreys is: don’t trust him, like we don’t trust Ken Ham. He isn’t any better.

  • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

    If Mark wrote this story for anybody else, then why would it be named the gospel of Mark?

    • Greg G.

      The reasoning may have been that Papias spoke of a gospel written by Mark and one written by Matthew. Mark 2:13-14 speaks of Levi being called. The parallel passage in Matthew 9:9 has “Matthew” substituted for “Levi”. The idea was that Matthew would have known his own name so that gospel must have been Papias’ Matthew and the other was Mark.

      I saw that explanation years ago but couldn’t point to it or verify for the life of me.

      • Mudhammutt (DaveUcannotta)

        That still doesn’t compute. It only seems to imply that Matthew wrote his own book (based on unknown testimony, perhaps multiple sources, or oral tradition), and that Mark wrote his book for Levi, not Peter. Then in that case the latter book should have been named “Levi”?

        • Greg G.

          Papias said there was one from Mark and one from Matthew so they had to have one of each. We know the Matthew we have is not Papias’ Matthew because his was not originally in Greek. They had no idea who wrote them so they matched names.

          John has an internal reference about being the testimony of John. Luke may have named because in Acts, he uses the third person plural except for a boat trip when he uses “we”. They had two names left and two unnamed gospels.

          You may be right but Papias didn’t say “Levi”. That is if there was anything to that theory and I remember it reasonably accurately.

  • Pofarmer

    So, is there any room for common ground with someone like Al, or do both sides just present their points? I would think we could come to the agreement that the Gospels,are not eyewitness accounts. That is well supported by scholarship. I would think we could come to agreement that historians, not theologians, must scrub supernatural claims from their work, if for no other reason than there were so many supernatural claims in the ancient world. But, apparently even this is too much to ask. As Bart Ehrman says, the Bible is interesting as literature, even if you don’t believe the divine stuff, and I think that’s somewhat true. But, wouldn’t it be nice if we couldget people to focus and think on the latest science on things like cognition and morality and social interaction? Nah, that’s probably too uncomfortable.

    • MNb

      What do you think with someone who on this very page admits he is not even capable of scrolling a mouse downward a bit?

  • carmel Ka

    So, Mark wrote the second Gospel preached by St. Peter, whose disciple was. This certifies it to us directly by popes like bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, in the year 140 Clement of Alexandria said: ,, when Peter preached the word of God in the city of Rome and, prompted by the Holy Spirit, preach the gospel, many who were present Mark entreated him since he had a long time ago Peter and remembered his words as they write them on together. Mark composed the gospel and so it imparts to those who had demanded from him, for which Peter once found aa nor hindered in nothing to be done, but neither gave haste. “(Clement of Alexandria to Eusebius, Hist, eccl.II, 15). Second Gospel is used by Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Origen, and Tertullian. Muratori fragment is mentioned in lists of the Fathers: Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nazianzus.

    • And this does what to challenge the points made in the post?

      The convoluted story for the naming of the second gospel was the best and most reliable I could find. Yes, there are other routes, and I note some of those as well. If you’ve got a sequence more reliable than the very unreliable one above, show us.

  • Pofarmer

    Al, would you please register with disqus so I can go directly to your inane posts.

  • Interesting piece. After reading it, and many comments, it makes we wonder why we bother discussing the depths of these things sometimes? I know that some will use it to try and prove their belief system in some way, but ultimately to me, I don’t see a point. I don’t think it brings anyone closer to a “truth” of any kind. I think without looking deeply into the bible, just by skimming over the general points we can conclude that it isn’t factual in many areas.

  • Master Atheistic

    Was your student Vincent van Gogh or Vincent Price? Are you three hundred years old? Does gawd favour you like he did Noah?

    • You’ve lost me. Maybe we should start with the basics: this is an atheist blog.

      • Master Atheistic

        Ah, sorry Bob. I was being sarcastic and we all know that sarcasm doesn’t come across on the internet. I was trying to extract the urine out of your pet religiotard, Al as he is obviously totally clueless as to the absurdity of the “I have a student called Vincent” comparison to his idiotic “The book was written by Mark because that is the name given to it” bullshit. I apologise and thanks for the article. It was very interesting. What do you think of the idea that the Vespasian emperors of Rome invented the mythical jesus messiah person in order to quell the rebellious messianic Jews?

        • I’ve heard of that theory (from a fairly recent book, I believe?), but I’ve heard little to recommend it.

          I think the Jesus Myth theory has a lot to recommend it, but I frankly haven’t had any time to read up on it. Even if it’s correct, it’s too esoteric for my work.

        • Master Atheistic

          I think that it is certainly worth investigating as there really is no evidence whatsoever for the existence of the jesus guy at all. Richard Carrier makes a very cogent argument for jesus being a mere myth:

          I only just came across the Vespasian theory but it is quite interesting:

        • Master Atheistic

          Sorry, I’m getting confused. It was the Flavian emperors. Apologies.