Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker, who was “raised Presbyterian”, runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18: “I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He added in June 2017 in a combox: “If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Delighted to oblige his wishes . . .
Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But by 10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me, encouraged by Bob on his blog, he banned me from commenting there. I also banned him for violation of my rules for discussion, but (unlike him) provided detailed reasons for why it was justified.
Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. On 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like he himself: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could! He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 56 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.
Bob writes in his article, “Christians Reveal! How to Defeat Christianity” (5-13-20):
0. What evidence would prove a resurrection?
Koukl wants to establish the ground rules first. To prove a resurrection, he says, you’d need to show that (1) someone was dead and then (2) later alive. With that, you could claim a resurrection.
But read the gospels carefully, and you don’t find that! Matthew and Mark make clear that no men witnessed the death, so they don’t satisfy the first requirement. It’s true that women disciples saw Jesus dead, but conservative scholars like Koukl emphasize that women at that time were unreliable witnesses. (They do this to defend their argument that women finding the empty tomb was surprising and therefore historically accurate. I respond to that here.)
Apologists can clumsily salvage their argument by pointing out that Luke and John don’t have this problem. With these gospels, the male disciples stay to witness the death. But by pointing this out, they’ve created a new problem, that the Bible is contradictory and therefore unreliable.
First of all, the Gospel of John, of course, notes the fact that John the disciple was present at the crucifixion (Jn 19:25-27). That is sufficient in and of itself. The others do not have to mention this for it to be true. From whence comes this notion that they need to do that? It certainly is no requirement of the accepted laws of logic. The other Gospels simply mention (or highlight) the fact that women followers of Jesus — including Jesus’ mother — were present.
Why is that? We don’t know, but in my opinion (speculation), I think it is a sort of tribute to the loyalty and courage of women. I think that’s also why Jesus revealed Himself first to women after He rose from the dead, also to break up the chauvinistic notions prevalent at the time. That’s the kind of thing He habitually did.
Luke 23:47-49 (RSV) notes that a sympathetic Roman centurion and “all the multitudes” and “all his acquaintances” were present. Obviously, “all” is not literal, but this is often the case in Scripture. The ancient Jews did not think in linear rationalistic terms as we do today (influenced by classical Greek thought). Expressions and ways of thinking were often general, non-literal, or examples of hyperbole (as I have written about more than once with regard to the word “all”).
Even if Matthew and Mark had not mentioned that no men witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and/or His dead body, it wouldn’t prove that no men did, or (more specifically) that these authors thought no men did. That would require flat-out assertions to the effect of “no men were present at the crucifixion” or “no man saw Jesus’ dead body.” Or, “only women . . . ” And of course that is not the case.
So it’s the usual wishful thinking of the atheist, hoping for a contradiction where none is in fact demonstrable. Will they ever tire of this silly practice? I certainly tire of reiterating this elementary logical aspect and refuting atheist non-comprehension (or ignorance) of it times without number.
Furthermore, all four Gospels mention Joseph of Arimathea: a Pharisee sympathetic to Jesus, as definitely having seen Jesus dead (implied: also a witness to His crucifixion and death), since He laid Him in his own tomb (see Mt 27:57-60; Mk 15:43-46; Lk 23:50-53; Jn 19:38-40). John also mentions that Nicodemus: another Pharisee who admired Jesus, “came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes” (Jn 19:39), and helped to properly bury Jesus’ body, according to Jewish custom.
That’s an awful lot of men, for Bob to make the asinine claim that men were lacking as witnesses. And these include Joseph of Arimathea, according to Matthew and Mark; yet Bob claimed: “Matthew and Mark make clear that no men witnessed the death, . . . the Bible is contradictory and therefore unreliable.” Huh?! It’s as if Bob lives in an alternate universe, where the laws of logic don’t apply.
Bob, however, after making these silly claims, and asserting contradiction in the Bible where there is none, has to (for the sake of ironic comedic relief) contradict himself (as so very often):
There’s another problem. In his description of the burial, Koukl mentioned the application of spices by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus and the wrapping of the body with strips of linen. This comes from John.
All the Gospels mention Joseph of Arimathea doing this. John adds the additional person of Nicodemus (not in a contradictory fashion, but a logically complimentary one).
But both points conflict with claims that the famous fourteenth-century Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Jesus in that (1) the image on that shroud doesn’t show the enormous quantity of spices, and (2) the Shroud is a single large rectangle rather than strips (which was the Jewish custom according to John 19:40b).
The Shroud of Turin: marvelous relic though it may be, or is purported to be (one which I believe in), is — first of all — not required belief for Catholics or any other Christians. Secondly, it’s irrelevant to this question, which is dealing with the biblical accounts and historical evidences. Thirdly, as I’ve noted for years myself, the Shroud need not necessarily be the actual burial cloth of Christ. It can simply be a piece of cloth from His time that has a miraculous image of Him on it.
People could (again, logically speaking) simply be mistaken as to whether it was Jesus’ actual burial cloth. There may also very well be other proposed explanations to reconcile the Shroud with the biblical accounts of the burial wrappings of Jesus. None come to mind, but it doesn’t follow that they don’t exist.
In any event, introducing this non sequitur into the discussion doesn’t annihilate the fact that Joseph of Arimathea was mentioned as a male witness (and follower of Jesus) in the two Gospels that Bob claimed mentioned no such witness. That is the only contradiction present in this discussion, and it is because Bob foolishly stated: “Matthew and Mark make clear that no men witnessed the death.” Now, I can see that Bob might quibble that, “Joseph didn’t actually witness Jesus’ moment of death on the cross.”
To which I reply: “the accounts don’t deny that He watched Jesus die, so he may very well have seen that, seeing that he was present when it was time to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.” Secondly, it would seem that this detail doesn’t bother Bob, since he wrote: “women disciples saw Jesus dead.” If that’s all he thinks is required, then Joseph certainly met that criterion.
Conclusion?: Bob is dead-wrong: as he so often is, when he attempts “biblical exegesis.” This is what happens when one approaches the Bible like a butcher approaches a hog.
Photo credit: A Bearer at the Sepulchre (Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus), by Juan de Valmaseda (1487-1576) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]