Guest Post: The Resurrection and Alternative Facts

Guest Post: The Resurrection and Alternative Facts March 27, 2017

This is a guest post by Michael J. Alter. Michael has published eight books including The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry (2015), Why the Torah Begins with the Letter Beit (1998), and What Is the Purpose of Creation: A Jewish Anthology (1991). The Resurrection is a scholarly work that refutes Jesus’s purported physical, bodily resurrection and those writings in support of it. Altogether one hundred contradictions and 217 speculations are examined. He has also appeared on Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable? show debating the topic of Jesus’s resurrection. Alter is currently working on a researched series dealing with theological controversies between Judaism and Christianity.

Guest PostThis article will be examining two facts claimed about Jesus’s resurrection (just in Matthew) to see what they can tell us about the reliability of the Gospels. The first topic deals with the issue of topography and the temple’s veils. Two veils existed when the temple stood, an inner and outer veil. These veils separated the sanctuary and the Holy of Holies. Nonetheless, it doesn’t matter which one Matthew was referring to.

Problem 1: ripping of the temple veil

When Jesus died, Matthew 27:51 states “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn from the top to bottom.” The pertinent question is, Could the centurion view the tearing of the temple’s veil? According to the author of Matthew (27:54), after Jesus died on the cross, the centurion made a specific declaration:

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” [NIV]

Matthew’s narrative suggests that the centurion, and perhaps others standing on Golgotha, saw the tearing of the temple’s veil. So could either of the temple’s veils be seen from Golgotha, the site of Jesus’s crucifixion? The answer is a resounding NO! As a matter of fact, numerous Christian commentators acknowledge this contradiction (Brown 1994, 2:1145-46; France 2007, 1083; Hagner 1995, 852).  Gundry (1993, 970), succinctly addresses the problem: “Since the traditional site of Golgotha lies to the west end of the temple whereas only the east end was veiled (not to mention intervening obstacles to view), either tradition has misplaced Golgotha or the centurion’s seeing of the veil-rending lacks historical substance.” In other words, this purported event recorded in Matthew is an alternative fact.

Problem 2: zombies

It must be asked, what were “all that had happened”? Matthew 27:51-53 provides its readers with the information.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn from the top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.  [NIV]

Earlier, in verse 45, the author also recorded “Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.” Therefore for a period of three hours, the land became dark. Commentators speculate on the meaning of the phrase “over all the land.” I will not address that issue.

The problem that is extensively discussed in the literature deals with the claim that “the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” My book, The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry, devotes thirteen pages to that topic (Issue 13, Contradictions #16-17; Speculations #27-29). Rather that go through a detailed analysis, let me quote several well-known and respected Christian commentators:

Dale C. Allison [Pittsburgh Theological Seminary] (2005, 127): “Mt 27:51-53 is a religious yarn spawned by the same source that gave us the legend of the seven sleepers of Ephesus and other transparent fictions—the human imagination. It may communicate theology; it does not preserve history.”

Hugh Anderson  [former Professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology, New College, Edinburgh] (1965, 45) “What we have here is surely not a historical note, but a theological reminiscence.”

Craig A. Evans [Houston Baptist University] (2001, 227): “Not only do we have late and obvious fictions, but in the transmission of the texts of the gospels themselves we are able to observe the infiltration of pious legends and embellishment…”

Donald A Hagner [Fuller Theological Seminary] (1995, 851-852) “…this passage is a piece of theology set for as history.”

Ulrich Luz [Swiss theologian and professor emeritus at the University of Bern] (2005, 587): “This is no historical report; it is a polemical legend told by Christians for Christians or, more precisely, a fiction largely created by Matthew for his readers.”

Some conservative Christian apologists rigorously criticized Michael R. Licona, a noted New Testament scholar and apologist.  Why the controversy?  His 2010 book, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, suggests the possibility that his account of the resurrected saints reported in Matthew 27 might be “apocalyptic imagery”. That topic is beyond the scope of this essay, but readers are encouraged to further examine on the Internet the controversy. (More on Mike Licona’s “heresy” and what it means for objective scholarship here.)

Going forward, the important take away message is the necessity to critically examine the Christian Bible and the claims made by commentators and apologists. A substantial body of material exists in the literature written by Christian commentators and apologists (and former Christians) that refute the belief that Jesus experienced a physical, bodily resurrection.  However, in reality, it is beyond the means of lay people to go to a Christian seminary and examine the voluminous writings on this topic.

Recently, the opinion was offered that there exist facts and alternative facts. Almost two thousand years ago, an alternative fact was presented to the people of that day that Jesus rose from the dead three days following his crucifixion.  Alternative facts were also offered that detailed events that preceded his purported resurrection. Today, those alternative facts still exist. Believers may wish to accept those alternative facts. However, alternative facts are not facts. Alternative facts are nothing more than alternative facts.

Knowledge is power. This phrase is often attributed to Francis Bacon, in his Meditations Sacrae (1597). In reality, it is correct knowledge and information that is the key for real power.  With Easter soon approaching, the topic of Jesus’s purported resurrection and the events surrounding that event are current and relevant. The question that must be asked is whether or not the accounts recorded in the Christian Bible can withstand a critical inquiry?

In closing, real knowledge and real facts are power. Do not let those with alternative facts, supposed “knowledge” and with impressive degrees such as a Ph.D. or Th.D. intimidate and mislead those with insufficient knowledge to refute the claim that Jesus experienced a physical, bodily resurrection.

There is not enough love and goodness in the world
to permit giving any of it away to imaginary beings.
— Friedrich Nietzsche

References

Allison, Dale C. 2005. “Explaining the Resurrection: Conflicting Convictions.” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 3(2): 117-33.

Anderson, Hugh. 1965. “The Easter Witness of the Evangelists.” In The New Testament in Historical and Contemporary Perspective. Essays in Memory of G. H. C. Macgregor, edited by Hugh Anderson and William Barclay, 35-55. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Brown, Raymond E. 1994. The Death of the Messiah: From Gethsemane to the Grave. Volume 2. New York: Doubleday.

Evans, Craig A. 2001. Jesus and His Contemporaries: Comparative Studies. Leiden: E. J. Brill.

France, R. T. 2007. The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Gundry, Robert H. 1993. Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Hagner, Donald. A. 1995. Word Biblical Commentary Volume 33b, Matthew 14-28. Dallas, Texas: Word Book.

Licona, Michael R. 2010. The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. Downers Grove: IVP Academic.

Luz, Ulrich. 2005. Matthew. 21-28. Translated by Rosemary Selle. Philadelphia: Augsburg Fortress.

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  • Sophia Sadek

    The Gnostics had a completely different perspective on the crucifixion. In their literature, a disciple took the place of Jesus on the cross. That story shakes up fundies far more than splitting hairs over rent veils.

    • Michael Alter

      Hello Sophia:

      And, according to Islam, Jesus did not die on the cross. Rather it was a likeness of him… In part, this belief is based on Jesus’s words recorded in Mt 12:40. Of course, other theories exist (i.e., for the presumed missing body).

      • Sophia Sadek

        It is also possible that the Muslim story derived from an extant copy or oral tradition from the Gnostics. Sufi libraries are famous for their collections of pre-Christian literature.

        • Michael Alter

          Hello Sophia:

          You raise an interesting question. However, this is a topic that I lack adequate information to respond.

  • busterggi

    For a world at a time when amazing miracles were routine its understandable that no one noticed them and wrote about them./

    Embarrassed I theorize.

    • Michael Alter

      Hello busterggi:

      Another more obvious reason that “no one noticed them and wrote about them” is that these purported events (and many others) were written 40 to 50 years after they were claimed to have occurred (ca. 70-80 c.e.). They were written to serve a theological agenda (see Allison and Hagner). Another rationale discussed in the literature (Luz) is that “it is a polemical legend”…

  • eric

    The reason the zombies weren’t reported by secular sources of the time is that nobody could see them in the preternatural darkness. Checkmate!11!!!111!

    • Michael Alter

      Hello Eric:

      This “checkmate” creates two obvious questions: How did the author of Matthew know about the presence of the zombies if nobody could see them due to the darkness? Who were the witnesses and where is their testimony?

      • Robert Templeton

        We could also discuss how what Jesus did and said in private at the Garden of Gethsemane was heard/written down when he was totally alone (with his dad in heaven, of course).

        • adam
        • Greg G.

          There’s a lot of the omniscient narrator who tells what people were thinking. Fiction writers do that. Historians don’t.

        • Ficino

          The diehard fundies will say that Jesus filled them in on all this “Jesus alone” stuff during the 40 days.

        • Kevin K

          Mine is when Satan takes Jesus to the high mountain.

          The conclusions are obvious. Satan is the author of those bible verses!!

        • Michael Alter

          Hello Robert:

          Your comment and those of Greg and Michael reinforce the same critical point. The Gospels are not reliable in many of the details that they record.

        • Peter_J88

          Being a good Christian he was actually journaling so it would have been preserved for all time.

      • Adam King

        The holy spirit told him duh.

        • Michael Alter

          Hello Adam:

          Thank you for writing. I assume that your comment is written not to be taken seriously [i.e., humor].

          However, this comment provides an excellent learning opportunity. Readers are encouraged to go on line [Concordance or Gopgle] and examine how many times the phrase “Holy Spirit” [Ruch ha-Kodesh] appears in the Jewish Bible [Ps 51:11 and perhaps Isa 63:10, 11]. Not many fingers! Then, carefully read the occurrence of that term in its full context. Respectfully, the ruach ha’Kodesh has nothing to do with the Christian concept of a Trinity, it deals with a concept of Divine Inspiration..

        • Steven Watson

          I may have said this already here (I’ve lost track of where I am commenting at the mo!) but similar can be said of “Messiah”. William Scott Green noted thirty years ago scholarship seemed to suggest “the best way to learn about the Messiah is to study texts where there is none”. It should be embarrassing how often this kind of forced eisegesis occurs but not an eyelid is bashed; and that is the trolls aside!

      • Peter_J88

        The real question at hand is did they eat brains or were they interested in all human flesh?

        • Michael Alter

          Hello Peter:

          I am humor challenged, so please forgive me.

          They could not eat the brains or the human flesh since they were “SAINTS” or “HOLY PEOPLE” [NIV] and obviously kept glatt kosher. I think they would prefer a hot corn beef and pastrami on seeded Jewish rye bread, New York style. This would be especially “true” since they had not eaten any good Jewish food in a long time.

          Take care.

    • Dang! Yet more evidence for Jeezus!

  • Greg G.

    I think the gospels come from the literature of the day. They Zombie Apocalypse story most likely comes from:

    Isaiah 26:19 (NRSV)
    Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise.
        O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
    For your dew is a radiant dew,
        and the earth will give birth to those long dead.

    Ezekiel 37:7-13 is a possibility but the New Testament authors really seem to like Isaiah.

    Matthew got the veil splitting from Mark 15:38. Mark 15:39 is the centurion saying “This is the Son of God.” Those two verses reflect Mark 1:10, where the heavens parted, and Mark 1:11 where God said “You are beloved son.”

    Matthew may have got the earthquake and splitting rocks from Zechariah 14:4 where the Mount of Olives splits.

    • Michael Alter

      Hello Greg:

      Your insightful comment (and citations) reaffirms the rationale that the authors of the Gospels were writing theology, not history (see. Allison, Anderson, Hagner, and many others).

      Thank you!

  • Michael Neville

    Considering that Mark, whose gospel predates Matthew, neglected to mention the zombies infesting Jerusalem (nor does Mark talk about earthquakes or temple veils) it’s reasonable to assume that Matthew got the zombies the old fashioned way. He made them up. Luke and John also forgot about the zombies.

    The lack of detail in Matthew is suspicious. Who were these “saints”? Where did they go after they left their graves? Did they interact with anyone? How long were they above ground? What happened to them afterwards? Since the shotgun hadn’t been invented yet, how did the Jewish inhabitants and Roman soldiers deal with the zombies? Lastly, why didn’t Pontius Pilate or any of his subordinates inform Rome about the zombies? Suetonius would have loved to talk about zombies in The Twelve Caesars but he never heard of them.

    • Greg G.

      (nor does Mark talk about earthquakes or temple veils)

      Mark 15:38 “The veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom.”

      • Michael Neville

        I misremembered. Thanks, Greg.

        • Greg G.

          I always prefer to have my errors pointed out before someone starts an argument over it.

    • Michael Alter

      Hello Michael:

      I agree with you 100 percent. Well stared!

    • Chuck Johnson

      Michael:
      “Since the shotgun hadn’t been invented yet, how did the Jewish
      inhabitants and Roman soldiers deal with the zombies?”

      Chuck:
      It wasn’t just the shotgun that hadn’t been invented. The concept of zombies and the word “zombies” hadn’t been invented, either.

      The risen dead were obviously alive and healthy, and not looking for brains to eat. – – – Just normal people, thrilled to be alive once again.

      The intention of the story is to tell the world how wonderful and all-powerful God is, not that He is a creepy conjurer.

      • Steven Watson

        We’re just pointing and laughing with the Zombie Apocalypse malarkey, mate.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Yes, I know.

      • Jim Jones

        > The risen dead

        If they were risen dead they were lichs, not zombies.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Jim:
          “If they were risen dead they were lichs, not zombies.”

          Chuck:
          That would not be the intention of the writers of the Bible or of modern superstitious Christians.

        • Jim Jones

          By definition, death is irreversible!

      • Michael Alter

        Hello Chuck:

        A good point…

        In other words, the writers were writing theology, not history.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Michael:
          “In other words, the writers were writing theology, not history.”

          Chuck:
          Yes.
          Or maybe they were writing amazing stories which then evolved into theology. But any time that I see the reported miracles in the Bible, that particular story is obviously theology, not history.

          If the miracles happened then, they would be happening now.

      • RichardSRussell

        There’s a fantasy short story just waiting to be told here, from the perspective of one of those saints who finds himself strolling around Jerusalem a century after he died, asking after his family (long dead) and what happened to his home and business (used to be where the Roman barracks are now) and his reputation (except nobody remembers him any more) and how he’s gonna eat and get a roof over his head (no job, crappy charity system) and eventually concluding he was better off dead. Thanks a bunch, Yahweh!

        • Chuck Johnson

          Or science fiction.
          You have put a skeptic’s spin on this question.

          A Christian apologist could write a competing story showing how wonderful the scenario would be. It all depends upon the intentions of the fiction writer.

        • RichardSRussell

          A Christian apologist could write a competing story showing how wonderful the scenario would be.

          Actually, I think one did. Goes by the pen name Matthew.

      • Michael Neville

        Maybe those people were glad to be out of their cramped coffins but I’d still keep my shotgun close at hand. Double taps are the preferred treatment for zombies.

  • Steven Watson

    Apollonius of Tyana; Marcus Aurelius’ Rain Miracle. At the time Mr Alter, YOURS would be the ‘alternative facts’. Context matters; the world has turned and that context is obsolete. We shouldn’t confuse the First with the Twenty First century, whatever our philosophical perspective.

    • Michael Alter

      Hello Steven:

      I agree with your comment that “We shouldn’t confuse the First with the Twenty First century, whatever our philosophical perspective.” Ideally we should attempt to listen/read the various texts through the lens of a first century listener/writer/reader. With that said, I will repeat the previous view [stated and quoted by scholars on both sides of the religious aisle] that these texts do not reflect history. They were written primarily to:
      A. Prove Jesus was the Messiah.
      B. To make disciples of all nations.
      C. To provide an orderly account…
      D. To achieve life through his name
      E. To be evangelistic in nature
      F. To be exhortatory
      G. To be theological
      [See The Resurrection A Critical Inquiry pp. 4-5 and numerous additional places in my 912 page text].

      If the accounts were known not to be historical, then its authors were presenting alternative facts…

      Thank you for your feedback.

  • Steven Watson

    If I remember rightly that curtain had the sun, moon and stars painted on it; or some such. I think the metaphor would be clear to those who didn’t understand the story literally. To add to what Greg G said, this is the other bookend to the heaven splitting and God speaking at the Jordan.

    You don’t think a Jewish/Jewish-derived audience wouldn’t get all these back references that litter Matthew do you? It was their living culture. The same goes for Homeric and Orphic allusions in the more Hellenistic orientated gospels.

    • Michael Neville

      The question is not that Matthew threw in a bunch of Jewish motifs into the gospel. The question is did it happen?

      • Steven Watson

        Outside the heads of the various Apostles and their scripture mining; no, I don’t think so. These were real events that took place in their heads that they interpreted according to their received culture and looked to confirm from their culture’s writings. The Gospel of Mark is carefully constructed cult literature.

        I am satisfied that what we have in the New Testament is for the most part the writings of an Hellenistic Jewish mystery religion or religions. We don’t know what ANY mystery religions esoteric teachings were; so it is hardly surprising to me that those of Christianity haven’t survived too well; if at all.

        We know there were three major wars that were catastrophic for most of the forms of ‘Judaism’ straddling the first and second centuries. I think these same events cut the proto-Orthodox from their roots, killed their leadership who knew the inner mysteries and left those half-educated in the cult to salvage what they could.

        They mistook the exoteric Gospel, written as though it took place in history if you were not fully aware of the source material, as the whole of the faith. Basically the thesis currently championed by Earl Doherty and Richard Carrier amongst others.

      • Michael Alter

        Hello Michael:

        I share your opinion. Here we have pure invention [embellishment, theology]

        However, I want to be 100% honest and up front. I believe that a Jesus actually existed. The unknown is how much of the accounts recorded in the Christian Bible are actual facts and not “alternative facts” to use a current phrase. I definitely respect the opinion of those who support the Christ Myth [that Jesus never existed], and especially the writings of Richard Carrier. However, I do not share the ultimate conclusion that he and others “passionately” write about.

        • Steven Watson

          Damnit! I may have to get hold of your book :-). Decent historicist argument is hard to come by! Civil historicist argument even harder. We may in the end still differ; but I, and probably others, appreciate what you are doing very much.

        • Michael Alter

          Hello Steven:

          Good news! My e-book only costs $9.99 [Kindle edition] or $8.49 Nook book. Of course, there are also the soft and hard copies. I deliberately priced the text at this low price so that it would be available to those who where less affluent (especially seminary students). Obviously, this book was not written to make money. The rationale is explained in the Preface.

        • Michael Neville

          I accept that an itinerant preacher named Yesua ben Yosef was wandering around Palestine in the first part of the 1st Century. I sincerely doubt the Biblical Jesus existed. When I look at the Bible with a skeptical eye too much of it is implausible and there’s no independent corroboration (I consider the Testimonium Flavianum to be a 2nd Century forgery and both Pliny and Tacitus were reporting what Christians said they believed).

          However I will be the second to admit that I’m a rank amateur concerning Biblical studies. My Catholic brother who really is a Biblical scholar will be the first.

        • Michael Alter

          Hello Michael:

          Apparently we share several opinions.

          One comment: Perhaps you are actually examining the Bible with a critical, thoughtful, and honest mind.

    • Michael Alter

      Hello Steven:

      A great point [symbolism/metaphor] that you raise. Maimonides and Josephus also discussed this issue.
      My text covers this material on pp. 140-143…

      Another interesting work is Daniel F. Gurtner’s “The Veil of the Temple in History and Legend.” JETS 49(1): 97-114.

      Finally, Denis MacDonald has written extensively on the hypothesis that the earliest books of the Gospels are based on the Homeric Epics. Those interested may find it interesting to examine his works.

      Once again, thank you.

      • Steven Watson

        Hello Michael. No; thank you for elucidating :-), and for the references. I’ll see if I can get hold of Gurtner.s article. I have several of Denis MacDonalds books; though I must confess ‘Two Shipwrecked Gospels’ seems a bit much.

        • Michael Alter

          Hello Steven:

          If you directly e-mail me [see my home page for the address] I will send you a copy of the article. As I stated in the article, real knowledge and real facts are power.

          Once again, thank you for taking the time to write.

        • Steven Watson

          I’ll do that, tah very much! I looked at ‘A Healing Touch for Empire: Vespasian’s Wonders in Domitianic Rome’ by Trevor Luke, to be found on academia.edu to get up to speed on what Greg G. wrote about of G. Mark’s blind man miracle; there are a lot of interesting bye-ways touching on this out there and there is a lot more than just the ‘Authorised Version’ of Christianity’s story occupying this probability space!

          Thank you again for your contribution.

        • Michael Alter

          Hello Steven:

          And, I appreciate that you took the time to write.

          Have a great day!

    • Greg G.

      Mark has the Homeric allusions. He used Latinisms and Aramaicisms but he explained most of the Aramaicisms but never the Latinisms. That suggests he was writing to Romans who could read Greek. It is said that students learned to read and write Greek by studying Homer. So Mark’s readers likely would have recognized them. It seems that Matthew missed them, though.

      The miracles in Mark are imitations of the miracles of Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and Hermes (walking on water). But the healing of the blind man with spit is probably from Vespasian’s propaganda, and Mark would expect his audience, who knew Latin, to have heard it and to recognize it. So I am leaning toward Mark not writing serious history but an ironic tale.

      • Steven Watson

        Isn’t Vespasian supposed to have said when dying “I do believe I am becoming a god”? That kind of humour belies him putting about miracle stories about himself. But I do see one of the functions of the Gospels as countering the Imperial Cult: “Euangelion” was certainly used in reference to Augustus.

        One curiosity of the Jesus miracle is what the blind man describes upon seeing – “I see men as trees, walking.” I read a very similar description, with no reference to G. Mark, of someone’s recovery from hysterical blindness. Not that it means anything other than something cribbed from the medical literature of the time to lend verisimilitude as has already been mentioned about other incidentals.

        One thing I hope we are bringing out is that there is a whole lot more to this literature than fundies of any stripe allow.

        • Greg G.

          Yes, Vespasian is quoted to have said that. He was known to use propaganda but not much is known about the early years of his being emperor. He was notified that he was chosen as emperor when he was in Egypt. It was right after the Year of Four Caesars so maybe nobody was willing to assume the job. Since his family was not notable, having favor of a god who help justify him with the superstitious people. We know about the healing of the blind man from Tactus, Suetonius, and Dio. The report the same story about that but are skeptical.

          That happened in about 69 AD, just before Mark is likely to have been written.

        • Steven Watson

          He and his brother had both been Consuls. Chief magistrates of Rome; hardly not notable. He had the Army and he had Egypt. The commander of the only peer forces that might have opposed him, the Rhine legions as I recall, had declared neutrality. The People… don’t count for a lot when you have the swords, the money, and the grain supply.

          Now I have actually looked into the tale, I’m inclined to think the healings (a lame man was also cured[!]) actually occurred; albeit probably staged without Vespasian’s knowledge, fake beggary isn’t unknown after all. It is described as taking place in Vespasian’s lavish public ‘Advent’ as the god Serapis.

          You are right where G. Mark gets this from… and then we have Josephos’ ‘ambiguous prophecy’. I can see where a Domitian Persecution legend got legs: G. Mark appears aimed square at his Dad! Of course the cult was probably unknown to the authorities at this time; else Pliny the Younger wouldn’t have been scratching his head about them later.

          Ironic tale or mystery meta-parable, this is getting further and further from being a yarn derived from simple fishermen!

        • Greg G.

          Now I have actually looked into the tale, I’m inclined to think the healings (a lame man was also cured[!]) actually occurred; albeit probably staged without Vespasian’s knowledge, fake beggary isn’t unknown after all. It is described as taking place in Vespasian’s lavish public ‘Advent’ as the god Serapis.

          That is what I think, too. He seems to have not been in on what was going to happen. But maybe that was part of the propaganda.

        • Steven Watson

          Note who the Prefect of Egypt and master of ceremonies for this gig is: Philo’s apostate nephew and later Titus’ second-in-command. I won’t fly off on an Atwillesque lunacy but it is suggestive.

        • Greg G.

          Ah, Tiberius Julius Alexander. I had never thought about that . Suetonius mentions a freedman named Basilides was with Vespasian when he was at the temple. A Basilides of Alexandria was a Gnostic teacher who claimed he learned from Saint Matthias and taught until 138 AD. Could that be the same?

  • Ficino

    Don’t we want to cleave to the principle that “alternative facts” are lies?

    It’s one thing to be unsure whether “a given x is F” is a fact. It’s another to put alternative facts on some sort of level with facts. If all statements are true, no statement is true.

    • Steven Watson

      I don’t think we can ever know what the original facts were. I, and several more knowledgeable than I, think there was a fracture in the first centuries of what became Christianity which put it adrift from its origins. Newton could reasonably hold there was fact here; with the Enlightenment of fifty or so years later, this could no longer be held to be so. The facts changed and we should change our minds. I don’t think any variant of Christianity has caught up with this.

      • Jim Jones

        ISTM that Paul lurched it off in one direction and later councils shoved it in different directions, probably not back where it had been. The gospels are just fan fiction, like those where Captain Kirk and Spock are gay lovers.

    • Michael Alter

      Hello Ficino

      You raise an important issue. Thank you! In my text, The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry I wrote that “it is the position of this text that the Gospels are not a biography, and they are not written to record history in a modern sense.” (p. 4) Later I wrote in response to J. P. Holding:

      “This text absolutely agrees one hundred percent with Holding’s statement; the gospel narrators probably lied in the modern sense of the word. When a witness in a court of law deliberately excludes, includes, or rearranges material according to his purposes, he is committing perjury. The authors and final redactors of the Gospel narratives were liars in a modern sense.” (p. 447)

      Therefore from the point of modern sensibilities they wrote lies. However, it should be remembered that even Paul wrote in Phil 1:18 “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” [NIV]

      Thank you again for your input.

      • Ficino

        I may be just overly picky about definitions. I realize that we don’t call every false statement a lie. We usually do call a lie a false statement made by someone who knows her/his statement is false. Yes, i think I’d agree that the authors and redactors of the gospels were liars in a modern sense.

        • Michael Alter

          Hello Ficino:

          We are in total agreement.

          Now then, If only Congress could work together for the good/welfare of the American people. Sorry, I am humor challenged.

          Thank you for your feedback.

      • Chuck Johnson

        Michael quoting Paul:
        “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way,
        whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of
        this I rejoice.”

        Chuck:
        And this tradition (pious lies) informs the mindset of many of today’s Christians.

        God, Jesus and the Bible are all more important than the truth.

        But the Christian leaders and their followers don’t stop to realize that if the advertising materials for the Christian sales pitch are deliberately fraudulent, then the contents of the Christian message will be similarly contaminated with fraud.

        • Michael Alter

          Hello Chuck:

          Well stated! Truth (“emet” in Hebrew) is what matters!

          Let me add one point in reference to those who evangelize and witness, regardless of their religion/denomination or that they are a “non-theist” – The best way to convince others is the way that you live your life. Your actions (behavior) and/or inactions, is all that you really need to “speak”….

          Thank you for your comment.

  • Jim Jones

    > either tradition has misplaced Golgotha or the centurion’s seeing of the veil-rending lacks historical substance.”

    Greeks were writing these stories 100+ years after the supposed events and a long way from the place they supposedly happened. Is it any wonder the events are obvious fictions?

    • Michael Alter

      Hello Jim:

      Yes, these narratives were definitely written long after Jesus had died. The unknown is how much longer did these accounts come to use in their final form/

      The Gospels definitely display an evolving higher Christology. I extensively discuss this topic with numerous examples throughout my text., The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry. An important presentation appears in my text’s analysis of of The Judas Episodes [Ch 10, Speculation #147 pp. 458-471].

      • Steven Watson

        The genuine Pauline epistles already have a high Christology. In forty years I haven’t seen anything to convince me this isn’t myth historicised and then walked back to myth again; a high Christology to a low Christology and then to a somewhat different high Christology later. Something broke.

    • Steven Watson

      They do seem to have had good Greek educations; that doesn’t necessarily make them Greek by ethnicity though. Can you clarify, please, if you are putting all the Gospels after the Bar Kochva War? This would better fit G. Mark’s ‘Abomination of Desolation’ reference; but only Luke/Acts is usually dated this late. That they are obvious (and well crafted) fictions argues even more they are not what they have been taken to be up to now.

      • Jim Jones

        It’s simply my position. I could be persuaded I am wrong with evidence.

        Wishful thinking won’t do it. So far, I see nothing else.

  • RichardSRussell

    Almost two thousand years ago, an alternative fact was presented to the people of that day that Jesus rose from the dead three days following his crucifixion.

    A minor element of that particular alternative fact was the time frame quoted. From sundown on Friday to sunrise on Sunday is at most a day and a half, not 3 — and even that assumes that the supposed resurrection happened mere moments before the “witnesses” showed up, not earlier Saturday night.

    • Michael Alter

      Hello Richard:

      The topic of three days is extensively discussed in my text. One problem is that there are actually four descriptions of the “three days” in reference to Jesus’s resurrection [Table 44, pp. 422-424 in my text]. The concept that part of a day counting a whole day is actually irrelevant. I hope that the readership excuses my bluntness. My rationale (the same as yours) is very simple and based on the narratives. For emphasis I will put this argument in all caps.

      SINCE NO PERSON WITNESSED THE PURPORTED RESURRECTION IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO CLAIM THAT THE RESURRECTION OCCURRED ON THE THIRD DAY. THE WOMEN ONLY EXAMINED AN EMPTY TOMB ON SUNDAY MORNING. EVEN WILLIAM LANE CRAIG ADMITS THAT IT MAY HAVE BEEN EMPTIED EARLIER.

      Finally, Wednesday crucifixion advocates point to Matthew 12:40 as their proof text, i.e., three days AND three nights = 72 hours. This topic is extensively debated and discussion can be found on the Internet. Or, of course, you can read about in my text (pp. 102-109 and elsewhere).

      Thank you for your comment!

    • Kevin K

      Heck, once the Sabbath started (Friday sundown), anything could have happened. So, three hours after he was pronounced dead, there is no confirmed accounting.

      Of course, we’re talking about whether Harry Potter did or did not actually die in the final battle with Voldemort. It’s fiction; you can make it say anything you like.

    • Greg G.

      and even that assumes that the supposed resurrection happened mere moments before the “witnesses” showed up, not earlier Saturday night.

      Or thirty seconds after the tomb was sealed.

    • Jonah mentions 3 days and 3 nights, and Jonah is cited in Luke. You could ma-a-aybe get 3 days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday), though that’s debatable if the tomb was empty before Sunday dawn. But you certainly can’t find 3 nights in there.

      Fail.

      • Michael Alter

        Hello Bob:

        Once again you are absolutely correct. This topic is extensively discussed in my text.

        And, of course, the Jonah text [My 12:40 and the book of Jonah] is the reason that Islam maintains that Jesus did NOT die on the cross. Almost two billion people refute the belief that Jesus literally died on the cross.

        Take care.

    • Given it’s Passover, what you can get with not too much of a stretch is two sabbaths: Friday being the first day of the feast of unleavened bread (no work – Lev 23:7), and Saturday being a regular sabbath. Relies on the last supper being the day before Passover and the crucifixion day being Passover, which you can kind of get from the insistence of the chief priests that the criminals be killed and taken down that day (before an evening Passover meal?)

      I’ve heard that stretched to Sabbaths on Thursday and Saturday and somehow the women weren’t able to fit in a visit on Friday. Now that really seems a bit of a stretch…

      • Kevin K

        Of course, since the gospels disagree as to the day of his execution, this is another area which cannot be adjudicated.

        • Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m not sure any of them mention a day of the week? Even deciding where Passover falls relative to execution date and what Sabbath comes afterwards isn’t clear (and there may be disagreement between gospels in that).

        • Pofarmer

          Isn’t it based on the “Last Supper” being a passover meal?

        • I forget which gospels are which. Yes, you are correct, at least some gospels suggest it is a passover meal. At the same time, though, if the day after Passover was still a public holiday there wouldn’t be crucifixions. And I think most gospels mention something about the feast in Jewish dealings with Pilate?

          From that you could conclude that they had a Passover feast the day before Passover. Or that the gospel writers didn’t know what they were talking about / hadn’t thought it through.

        • Greg G.

          The Synoptics have the crucifixion after the Passover but before the sabbath. Mark tells us Bartimaeus means “son of Timaeus”. He has Jesus pray “Abba, Father” as a translation. So when Barabbas shows up, his readers should understand it is an Aramaic name for “Son of the Father”. Some manuscripts have his name as “Jesus Barabbas.” When he is released and Jesus is killed, it is like the scapegoat ritual from Leviticus 16:5-22, where one goat is killed as a sacrifice for sin and the other goat carries the sin away. But that is an Atonement Day ritual which is later in the year.

          So John has Jesus as the Passover Lamb, which is stated by Paul (I forget the verse), so he dies the day the lambs are killed, that is, the day before Passover. However, the Passover is not a sin offering. John should have made the festival into Atonement Day.

        • Thanks. Better than relying on my memory (I hadn’t even connected it with the scapegoat. Interesting).

          I think the issue I raise with the day after Passover being a public holiday still applies.

          The Passover lamb is in 1 Corinthians 5. I think John is usually considered as after the synoptics, so would presumably have to be in sync with them talking about Passover. Though, as we are discussing, not completely in sync.

        • Greg G.

          I think the issue I raise with the day after Passover being a public holiday still applies.

          I’m not getting that. Preparation Day is when the meal is prepared and the lamb is killed at twilight. A new Hebrew day begins at sunset so the meal immediately follows all the preparation. but it is considered to be a different day.

          In the Synoptics, Jesus would have been arrested a while after the meal, at night, taken to trial and crucified during the daylight hours of Passover, the day before the sabbath. In John, the Jews are concerned about becoming defiled which would keep them from eating the Passover meal.

        • Surely your example shows the same potential conflict as mine? In the synoptics Jesus appears to eat the Passover meal the night before his crucifixion. In John, the Jews are worried about their preparations to eat the Passover the night of his crucifixion (one night later).

        • Greg G.

          For Leviticus 23:7-8, the NRSV says “you shall not work at your occupations” and the NIV says “do no regular work.” Since Pilate’s army enforced civil laws, I don’t think any of the Jews would be regularly employed in taking people into custody.

          Exodus 12:16 forbids work except for preparing food on the first day and the last day of the week of the fourteenth day of the first month to the 21st day.

          I think Exodus might make your case better but the Leviticus passage confounds it. I don’t think Mark was fully in tune with Jewish customs, though.

        • OK, you’re correct. My argument is based on the assumption that the first day of unleavened bread counted as a sabbath, so you could have two sabbaths in a row. That could have changed since the laws were given, and it could have been less strict than the sabbath and not called a sabbath.

          And yes, Romans might have been allowed to ignore these rules. And I agree with Michael Alter that none of this can be known unless we know which year the crucifixion is supposed to be, and thus whether Passover would even be the right day of the week.

          But I think you are still left with conflict between synoptics and John over where Passover falls. Which could certainly be because one or both of them was wrong…

        • Greg G.

          I don’t think it happened in any year. It’s just a fictional story. Beginning with Galatians 3:1, someone has apparently told the Galatians that Jesus was not crucified so he uses OT scripture to demonstrate that Jesus had to have been crucified instead of just appealing to Cephas and James as witnesses. They also must have said works were more important than faith judging by the amount of ink spilled over the rest of the letter.. The disdain that Paul expresses toward Cephas, James, and the circumcision faction indicates that it was probably them.

          Mark seems to have known about some of Paul’s letters, especially Galatians, as the three people identified in Galatians 2:9, Cephas, John, and James, are the most important characters, after Jesus, in gMark.

        • I suspect Jesus’ crucifixion was based on some real event. But I hold that view much less strongly than I used to.

          And, to be honest, since I can reasonably reject the resurrection that is considered so critical to Christian faith, I don’t need to care too much about the rest.

        • busterggi

          I love the believer arguments that crucifictions wouldn’t happen on a Hebrew holiday – they say the Romans executed Jesus and I doubt they gave any concern to local holidays.

        • Greg G.

          Also, Josephus reports crucifixion as late as Archelaus’ (Herod’s son) era and more during the war in Josephus adulthood but none in between. Plenty of Jews were killed were killed by Roman soldiers under Pilate, though. No reports of crucifixion, though.

        • Pofarmer

          Supposedly Pilates favorite method was simple beheading.

        • Jim Jones

          > Barabbas

          That ‘name’ always seemed jarringly incoherent to me.

        • Michael Neville

          “Release Roger” sounds much more coherent.

        • Greg G.

          The Mocking of Jesus pericope immediately follows the Barabbas story in Mark 15:15-20. So many elements in that passage match up with Philo’s Flaccus, Book VI 36-39, which is the Mocking of Carabbas. Even in Greek, the difference between Carabbas and Barabbas is the first letter.

        • Michael Alter

          Hello Pofarmer:

          Yes, and even N T Wright expressed his doubt if the last meal was a Passover seder.

          Thank you for writing.

      • Michael Alter

        Hello Joe:

        Excellent point…

        I too, discuss Lev 23:7 in my text…

        This concern that you raise deals with a host of issues, most important is chronology. If you just start with just the “Last Supper” we are lost… When was the last meal, was it a Passover Seder, Etc. Even N. T. Wright expressed his doubts!

        To determines these answers we must know what year Jesus died. Here there is no consensus. This topic is extensively examined in my text (pp. 31-110). Neither do we know the day of the week (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) of the crucifixion although Church tradition supports the latter. I even discuss the possibility of a wrong month…

        Thank you for your contribution

  • ColdFusion8

    When reading about Christianity, whenever you come across the words “tradition holds that”, you can almost always replace that with “we made this up”.

    • Kevin K

      Right. And some of the things that are held by “tradition” include the names of the authors of the gospels, as well as the locations, dates, and methods by which the apostles were martyred.

      A few years back, I wanted to drill down into the stories of the apostles, because of this whole “who would die for a lie” meme that Christians often use. And was frankly shocked at how little actual-and-real martyrdom I could discover. Everything was “by tradition”.

      It’s all made-up. All of it.

      • Michael Alter

        Hello Kevin:

        My text, The Resurrection A Critical Inquiry discusses these subjects in Chapter 1, Topics 2 & 3, pp. 4-12. I specifically identify and quote eight works that deal with “Introduction to the New Testament” and the “Origin of the New Testament.” These sources/authors substantiate your assertion.

        The topic of the supposed martyrdom of the apostles is extensively refuted in my [hopefully to be published] second volume tentatively titled The Resurrection & Christian Apologetics. Currently I have several readers examining my manuscript before submitting it to a publisher. This text will directly challenge Sean McDowell’s text The Fate of the Apostle Examining the Martyrodom account of the Closest Followers of Jesus (2015).

        Thank you for writing.

        • Kevin K

          I gave up on researching martyrdom of the apostles primarily because we have an excellent real-life, verifiable example of someone “dying for a lie.” The fraud and founder of Mormonism Joseph Smith was murdered by an angry mob. All he had to do was recant and he probably would have been spared. But no…

          So, whenever a non-Mormon Christian brings out that “who would die for a lie” meme, I counter with Joseph Smith. Pretty much shuts them right up.

          You can’t use Jim Jones or David Koresh for that, though. Because those people thought their version of religion was real. No matter; Smith suffices.

        • Jack Baynes

          Jim Jones and Koresh still works, though. Because the real question isn’t “Who would die for a lie?”, but “Who would die for something that wasn’t true?”. The “Who would die for a lie” question makes the assumption that all these Christian martyrs knew that Jesus wasn’t really God.

        • Steven Watson

          But there were hardly any of them until much later; and that just decades or so before Constantine put them in gravy. See The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom by Candida Moss.

        • Kevin K

          I think you misunderstand the meme.

          In the Christian apologist’s mind, the fact that the apostles were willing to be martyred counts as evidence in favor of a corporeal Jesus. Because those apostles would have, of necessity and by definition, seen the living man. Why would they martyr themselves if they were only advocating for a spirit Jesus, or a “lie” (as it were)?

          In the case of Jones, Koresh, et al, there isn’t any claim that they had first-hand experience with the corporeal Jesus. So, they could die for the idea of Jesus, whether or not his corporeality could be established. Regardless of the facts.

          There are a couple of problems with this meme, of course.
          1. Who says the apostles were martyred? As noted, everything is “by tradition”, meaning not verified. For all we know, they were as fictional as Jesus-meek-and-mild-and-only-temporarily-dead. Or if they did exist, they could have gone back to their villages and lived unremarkable lives as fishermen and such.

          2. Who says people aren’t willing to die for an intangible ideal? There are 19 Muslims who are certainly famous for having done so by flying planes into buildings. And countless others who wore suicide vests and such. Heck, the Russian Revolution had people dying in droves for an ideal without any god attached.

          3. Even if there were actual apostles and they were martyred, there’s still no evidence that they saw a flesh-and-blood Jesus. After all, Paul didn’t, and claimed that everyone else who saw Jesus saw him the way Paul himself did — as a spirit. We have no way of knowing what apostles thought or taught in regards to the Jesus.

        • Someone who says, “All of the apostles except John were martyred!” is poorly informed. That claim comes from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs from the 1500s. The best source (which itself was written well over a century after the crucifixion) gives 7, I believe, who were martyred.

        • Greg G.

          Best? Do we know that they weren’t Yorkshire men with Greek accents one upping each other over whose apostolic lineage had the most noble death?

        • Michael Alter

          Hello Bob:

          You are 100 percent correct. Even Sean McDowell’s recent text clearly identifies multiple problems with that assertion (i.e. the martyrdom). The literature is contradictory, embellished, and written hundreds of years AFTER the events supposedly occurred. Here we definitely have ALTERNATIVE FACTS. I extensively refute McDowell’s assertion in Volume II.

          Thank you for your input.

        • Jack Baynes

          That’s what I meant by “Who would die for a lie?” is the wrong question. There’s no reason to think that any Christian martyrs knew that it was a lie.

        • Kevin K

          Except the apostles, who by definition knew Jesus personally. That’s who’s being referred to in the meme.

          I know…it’s a stretch. But don’t blame me, it’s not my meme!

        • Jack Baynes

          Well as you say, we have no reason to think they were martyrs

        • Pofarmer

          Or even real.

        • Pofarmer

          I would actually be kind of interested in reading that.

        • Michael Alter

          Hello Perfarmer:

          Would you please clarify which “that” you are referring. I am having a senior moment.

          Thank you.

      • Pofarmer

        It’s all made-up. All of it.

        And that’s the crux of it. There’s zero reliable evidence for Jesus or any of the original 12 disciples. Hell, there’s zero reliable evidence for a “Paul”. No St. Peter, etc, etc. It’s not until we get into the second century that we have verifiable folks at least telling the tales.

        • Michael Alter

          Hello Porarmer:

          Although I do not believe that Jesus had a physical, bodily resurrection, I must be up front and admit that I believe a person called Jesus existed. However, “much” of the material was invented. To give one example, my text proves how the material on Judas is continually embellished (Chapter 10).

          The strongest argument that a Jesus actually existed is that Paul supposedly visited Jerusalem three years after Jesus’s death and met James and Peter. If James was really a step- brother or even a cousin, he would have known about Jesus’s existence. Here, I am assuming that there is some truth to the accounts in the “New Testament”

          I too, am troubled about the twelve disciples. In Volume II, I raise a lengthy argument that challenge the existence of the entire group. A shorter discussion is found in Volume I (Speculation #168, pp. 566-568 and Issue 107).

          Thank you for writing.

        • Pofarmer

          I find the James passage to be pretty weak tea. For one, it’s not uncommon at all for mere believers to be called brothers and sisters. For two, we don’t know what the original author wrote or exactly what he meant. We’re arguing over s vague passage that no one can even be sure is originally as it was written or even part if the original text. If Jesus had brothers and/or sisters and/or cousins, why do they completely fall out of the Church history?

        • Michael Alter

          Hello Pofarmer:

          I appreciate your strong and concise argument!

          A possible support for both sides of the argument is James 1:1…

          However, it must be asked Why does James omit so much potential information about Jesus… All that he acknowledges is that he is a servant of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Another terse remark is found in James 2:1 That’s it… Nothing else…unless I am mistaken.

          However, the James passage that I was referring to in my earlier post was Gal 2:18-19 Paul specifically declares that three years after the resurrection he visited “James, the Lord’s brother” (NIV)… The meaning of the word “brother” has been a contention between Catholics and Protestants [Jesus had cousins; Jesus had step-brothers; Mary never had sexual relations, etc. ]

          Richard Carrier and many others have written on this controversial topic.

          Take care

        • Greg G.

          Hi Michael,

          I can’t find my notes but I checked out all the uses of the forms of the Greek root “adelph-” in the Greek New Testament. In the gospels, it was about 50-50 between literal siblings and figurative in the religious sense. But in the epistles is was used about 190 times. There was a sister mentioned in a greeting at the end of one of Paul’s letters and two uses in a single verse of 1 John (IIRC) about Cain and Abel. Except for the verses in question, Galatians 1:18-19 and 1 Corinthians 9:5, every other use is clearly in the figurative, religious sense. That would mean that those two epistle verses are the only times any form of “adelph-” was used for actual brothers.

          But I have a different take on it. I say Paul used references of someone being “the Lord’s brother” as sarcasm, as in saying they were “playing God”.

          In most Pauline epistles, he says in the opening that he is a servant or apostle of Jesus by the will of God. But Galatians 1:1 has him also saying that he is definitely not sent by human authority. In Galatians 1:11-12, he insists he did not get his knowledge from human authority, just before saying he spent a fortnight with Cephas and met James. In Galatians 2:6, he says the leaders contributed nothing to him and, three verses later, he identifies the leaders as “Cephas, John, and James.” In Galatians 5:12, he really ramps up the sarcasm about the circumcisers in his wish that they go the whole way, that is, not just cutting off the foreskin. In Galatians 2:12, Paul had identified the circumcision faction where he casually mentioned that James sent people places, which is what he ranted about in Galatians 1:1.

          In 1 Corinthians 9, it seems that someone has argued that the Corinthians should not financially support Paul and he is defending his pay. He is arguing that the “brothers of the Lord” are going against the Lord’s wishes in the verses he quotes, so he means they are assuming the authority of the Lord. Three verses later, 1 Corinthians 9:8, he says “Do I say this on human authority? Does not the law also say the same?”

          So again, Paul uses “brother of the Lord” as an epithet regarding human authority superseding his perception of God’s will.

          Paul argues the importance of faith in Galatians. I think the Epistle of James is a response to Galatians beginning at James 2:8-10 citing Galatians 5:14 as a good start but works are important, too. For every example of Galatians citing faith, James counters with a similar argument for works. I posted James in the form of a Disqus-like blockquoting reply to Galatians. It’s about all of each epistle:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2013/11/25000-new-testament-manuscripts-big-deal/?repeat=w3tc#comment-2525624768

          It seems that James’ arguments would have been stronger with a few “Jesus said” mentions.

        • Michael Alter

          Hello Greg:

          Wow! What a great reply and assistance to me and Bob’s readership.

          The topic regarding siblings, cousins, sarcasm etc is extensive. Obviously, Catholics have a vested interest with the “brothers” being cousins if Mary was a perpetual virgin. Protestants, have a different take. The arguments and rationale of both sides are found in standard sources [dictionaries or encyclopedias and even bible commentaries]. This is a topic that will never be finalized due to the theological constraints of its advocates.

          Once again, some great input to the discussion.

        • Greg G.

          Michael,

          Are there any internal date references in Paul’s authentic epistles? The only one I have found for a date reference is 2 Corinthians 11:32 because it refers to King Aretas. But that is about a half century.

          Perhaps there is something more subtle that I have overlooked.

          Thanks for your article and especially for your followup participation.

        • Michael Alter

          Hello Greg:

          I do not know the answer to your question. However, I am sure that there must be a number of books dealing with bible chronology available on the Internet.

          One 1998 book that might be useful is: Jack Finegan. Handbook of Biblical Chronology. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson.

          There is an edited two volume work on Paul that includes a discussion of chronology. However its title slips my mind.

        • Greg G.

          Thank you, Michael,

          Most of what I find tries to tie it to Acts. I think Luke invented Paul’s story from the epistles and from Josephus’ writings.

        • Pofarmer

          The Gal passage is the one I was thinking of. I’ve read some of Carrier on the topic, as well as others, although I would be hard pressed to name them at this moment. I’ll admit, I’m not sure of the exact growth of the Catholic beliefs over time. It’s just interesting that all traces of Jesus “family” were pretty much immediately “lost.”

        • Michael Alter

          Hello Pofarmer:

          There is nothing wrong with being honest.

        • busterggi

          “Paul supposedly visited Jerusalem three years after Jesus’s death and met James and Peter.”

          Kindly note that even you use the word supposedly – there is no documentation for this – certainly none of of Jerusalem church left any records of Paul visiting them.

        • Michael Alter

          Hello busterggi:

          You are absolutely correct. In my text [pp. 722-730], I review a “contradiction” discussed in the literature. The issue relates to Gal 1:17-18 and Acts 9:23-26. Specifically some skeptics maintain that Luke’s account leaves no room for a three-year delay in Paul’s return to Jerusalem [Damascus-Arabia-Damascus-Jerusalem] This three year gap has been defended on various grounds. However, opponents assert that there is an unequivocal contradiction.

          And, to add to the argument of skeptics, as you stated above “there is no document for this…”

          Here, I am just the mere messenger…

          Thank you for your input.

        • busterggi

          Thank you actually engaging in civil conversation – its getting rarer.

        • Michael Alter

          Hello busterggi:

          Thank you for the nice words. Not let me attempt to respond…

          Everyone has the capability to carry on a civil conversation unless there is a pathological [mental, etc] or perhaps a medication problem. As a teacher, I saw this unfortunate reality with several of my former students.

          Assuming that our readership is healthy [which I do], there is no good reason that people are incapable of communicating without being offensive. I realize that the word “offensive” is open to interpretation [It is like what the Supreme Court said about pornography: People know what it is when they see it.] The issue is very simple, how would you like your children, husband/wife, relatives, friends, employees or yourself to be treated? Well, why not others?

          Now to play the “religious” game. Let’s assume that we have a soul. I know that it cannot be proven, but play the intellectual game. What is the real you? It is your soul or whatever you want to call it. Maybe is is electrical units or neuro-chemical transmitters jumping across synapses… Your skin, skin color, eye color, hair, sex, height, weight, materialism etc is all an illusion. The real us is our soul [there are different words for this term based on one’s culture] … On a soul level we are are ALL equal. Therefore, how can I be disrespectful to the real you if the real you and real me are equal. [No need to mention a God because this is an issue between humans.] If we could see each other with metaphorical spiritual glasses, people would not murder, rape, steal, etc. So if someone does not believe in a deity, we could still play the “game” and win…

          Now, if they decided to go down to the lowest level [which happens in life], we do NOT need to follow them there…

          There is a certain power (if that is the correct word to use) that accompanies words. Words have the real power to reveal and conceal. All people, from the lowly wood chopper to the President of the most powerful nation in the history of mankind must use their brain before they talk or send off the next tweet. I am definitely NOT perfect but I try [although not always success] to be a mensch.

          I sincerely appreciate your gracious words.

        • Pofarmer

          One other thing. Paul visits Jerusalem and where does he go? He goes to visit Cephas and James, and then he goes to the Temple. Wouldn’t there be mention of the place of the crucifixion, or of the tomb? These should be the holiest places in this religion, and he would be right there among them. It’s almost impossible to fathom that Paul wouldn’t have at least mentioned them.

        • busterggi

          Ken Ham was still working on them at the time.

        • Greg G.

          Must have been in the Immaculate Concept stage.

      • epicurus

        Regarding dying for a lie, I’ve wondered if any of the martyred disciples were just killed because they were considered the leaders of a group, and were not even given a chance to give some big grand speach about what they believed. Take Peter’s death. If he was in Rome, and was killed there, soliders might have come to take him away after identifying him, threw him in a cell and the next day or whatever just took him out and killed him because he was a leader of the chruch in Rome. Who knows what he thought he was dying for. Apologists often just default to the idea they wouldn’t die for a resurrection lie. Regardless of whether or not he believed he saw a ressurrected Jesus, maybe he thought he was dying for what he understood Jesus message to be – the coming kingdom, or something else.

        • Kevin K

          Well, I think Peter is probably the exception of the bunch. There is evidence of him being “real” (like Paul), and there is evidence of him dying for his religion.

          However, what I’m not sure of — and I’m certain someone will come along to set me straight — is whether we have confirmed writings from the hand of Peter that definitively declare he actually and really was a follower of the corporeal Jesus. That he saw, met, walked, ate with this person. Non-gospel verification, if you will.

          If that was the case, you’d think someone would have trotted it out by now. Instead, the best non-gospel evidence I’ve ever been presented with is Galatians 4:4 (from Paul, which is most likely an interpolation), and Josephus’ Testimonium Flavium (which is definitely an interpolation).

          But, as I say, someone will be along shortly.

        • epicurus

          This screen capture of a comment by Bart Ehrman to me -I subscribe to his pay site blog (all money to charity)- is sort of but not totally relevant.
          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f114b0f7ce0537eac1e7086acccbc7020df569b4d4f7aa62a0fcd6c96e6af4d7.jpg

        • Greg G.

          I would add the Galatians themselves to the list who knew some of the so-called disciples (“disciples” is only used in the gospels), and they were probably aware of John, as well, since Paul mentioned them together as “Cephas, John, and James.” Mark lists twelve “disciples” but only three are mentioned consistently as sidekicks, the same three that Paul mentioned in Galatians.

          Paul’s Cephas is Caiphas – Author of 1Peter and Hebrews by A.A.M. van der Hoeven describes the “twelve” as official positions at the temple.

        • Pofarmer

          Which still really doesn’t support an historical Jesus, as you well know.

        • busterggi

          “the Galatians themselves to the list who knew some of the so-called disciples ”

          Again, if you believe Paul. The Galatians themselves left no record of such eminent persons.

        • Greg G.

          I accept that there is a set of writings attributed to Paul that check out as mostly from the same writer, with some interpolations, of course. Perhaps, he was known by a different name.

          I think gMark fits best in the 70s and that aMark used some of the writings attributed to Paul as a muse for the story. Perhaps Paul’s travels around the Mediterranean inspired aMark to use the Odyssey about Odysseus’ travels around the Mediterranean and set them to travels around the “Sea” of Galilee.

        • Pofarmer

          Ehrman sees evidence for Jesus pretty much everywhere.

        • epicurus

          I generally avoid the myth debate -the context of my question and his comment in this case was on the disciples’ belief that they had seen a risen Jesus, here is the link to the whole post if you are interested
          https://ehrmanblog.org/questions-on-the-resurrection-and-my-personal-spiritual-experiences-readers-mailbag/

        • Pofarmer

          I’d have to look, but I think even Carrier says that there was a “Jesus” movement on Jerusalem led by “Cephas” who morphs into the apostle Peter, and James. That much is non controversial. But then, as I think has been noted elsewhere, Paul goes on to say that they got their knowledge of Jesus in the same way he did “From the scriptures.” No one really knows what the group was teaching, but there’s a pretty good indication that it was there. Whether or not one of them was an actual biological brother of Jesus, or if either one knew him, is pretty much open to debate, in my book. I swing to the “no” side.

        • Greg G.

          Sometimes I think about the description of the twelve being official temple positions (Paul’s Cephas is Caiphas – Author of 1Peter and Hebrews by A.A.M. van der Hoeven) and that “Cephas” is just how Paul thought “Caiaphas” was spelled. Then the early Christian movement was just another sect in the Temple. But I cannot convince myself that the man who was high priest for 18 years of Pilate’s rule would kowtow to James or his emissaries in Antioch.

        • Greg G.

          I think Galatians 4:4 is pretty consistent with Paul as he refers to Jesus Christ constantly (He uses “Jesus”, “Christ”, and either combination of the two about every five verses), but mostly in adulation. But everything he says about Jesus with some possibly factual content comes from the Old Testament literature. But there are several places where he insists that he got nothing from human sources, that it was revealed, and that it was revealed through scripture.

          “Born of a woman” could come from verses like Isaiah 7:14, 49:1, and 49:5 while “born under the law” could come from Deuteronomy 27:26 or Leviticus 18:5.

          But all of the epistles speak of Jesus in terms of Old Testament passages. It’s like that’s all they know about him. No wonder Paul could boast that his knowledge was not inferior to the “super-apostles”. He seems to know that they used the same source he used.

          But, as I say, someone will be along shortly.

          Just be patient. We’ve been waiting for Jesus for two thousand years.

        • Pofarmer

          My understanding is that there’s no good evidence of Peter ever being in Rome.

        • epicurus

          Yes, I was just playing along with the story, but outside of the convenient tradition of him in Rome, which may have arisen to bolster their claim to have authority over other churches, I don’t think there is any evidence of Peter in Rome. I listened to a lecture once where the speaker noted it was odd that if Peter was in or affiliated with Rome, that Paul never mentioned it in his letter to the Romans. Surely it would have been worth at least a mention.

    • Jack Baynes

      The church I went to growing up had stained glass images of people labeled St. Mark, St. Matthew, St. Luke , St. John. Which of course led me to believe that it was fact that people named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John actually wrote the books that bear their names. Which just strikes me as really weird, since it was a Lutheran church and one of Luther’s things was the idea that Christians should throw out all the cruft invented by the Roman church that wasn’t based in the Bible…

  • epicurus

    I read Mike Licona’s big book on the Resurrection a few years ago. I think it was his doctoral thesis that he spiffed up for a general audience – a general Christian audience – as he expresses lots of doubt in the book but always seems to find a way to make believing it ok, which is of course what one would expect since he is an apologist.

    • Michael Alter

      Hello epicurus:

      Yes, I too have read licona’s text. It is a lengthy and well documented source. I appreciate and respect the time that Michael spent writing his book. In my Volume II, I have a healthy interaction with his book. I particular, there are multiple “errors” that are represented in his text that deals with the Arguments to the Best Explanation (i.e. McCullagh).

      His research Non Christian Sources, the Apostolic Fathers, etc has numerous promoters. However there is a substantial body of literature/articles that challenge his ultimate conclusion, especially Josephus and Rabbinic sources. My text (Volume1) challenges many assertions regarding Jesus’s death and the appearances.

      Last his analysis of Crossan, Goulder, Craffert etc is detailed but, respectfully, in my opinion, flawed. I discuss that flaw in Volume II.

      Needless to say, I too, disagree with his finding. Nonetheless, Michael should be recognized for writing one of the strongest arguments in favor of Jesus’s purported resurrection. His book should be in ever seminary library.

  • evodevo

    Well, unless the Temple curtain was visible from the outside of the building, NO gentile would have been able to view it, torn or not …

    • Michael Alter

      Hello evodero:

      Thank you for your contribution to the discussion.

      There were two temple veils. However, it would be irrelevant even IF it/they were located outside of the building/temple. The reason, as explained by even Christian commentators is that it/they would be located on the wrong side of the building. There is an illustration (p. 162) and a map (p. 163) in my text that unequivocally presents a rebuttal to the proposal that the veil could be seen even from outside the building.

      If you do not have my book, The Resurrection: A Critical, please go onto the Internet a locate an illustration of the second Temple. They are plentiful. Next, locate a map of Jerusalem in the time of Jesus. The problem is self evident. Last, there would be the problem of obstacles obscuring the view If anyone stood at the site of Golgotha.

      Once again thank you for writing. And, I hope that my response clears up any misconceptions.