Is It Loving to Warn People about Hell?

Is It Loving to Warn People about Hell? June 12, 2014

fritz3Fritz is an odd fellow.  Patriotism runs deep in his family but he takes it to the next level, enjoining his children to faithfully recite the pledge of allegiance and sing the national anthem once a day every day of their lives.  Loyalty to the United States of America is extremely important to him, and he feels it is unforgivable to let a day pass without verbally acknowledging one’s debt to his country.  But that’s not the weirdest thing about Fritz.

See, Fritz also believes some rather idiosyncratic things about death and what comes after.  He believes that after you die, true patriots will be welcomed into giant cathedrals made of chocolate, where they can eat all the furniture and light fixtures and even the walls as much as they like and never get sick.  On the other hand, he also believes that the unpatriotic will be revived by giant feces-covered wasps with legs made of shards of glass.  He believes that the wasps will spend eternity mutilating the ungrateful louts who failed to appreciate the freedoms they had been given when they were alive.  Every night, Fritz reviews these scenarios with his three impressionable children, sometimes going into enough descriptive detail about the giant wasps to give them nightmares.  He does this because he loves them, and he is trying to warn them.

You have to understand that Fritz truly believes that patriotism is the most important character trait a person can have, and he is authentically convinced that giant shard-legged wasps await those who lack this trait.  So every night he makes sure his children grasp the gravity of their situation by reminding them of what happens to the children who don’t honor their country.  When his children tell their friends what they believe about life after death, they get really funny looks.  Some kids laugh at them and some just avoid talking to them as much as possible.  One concerned parent reported the situation to Child Protection Services but since Fritz is such a loving, nurturing father (and a fantastic citizen to boot!) they just shake their heads and hope that one day Fritz’s kids will grow up to see how bizarre and unhealthy those beliefs truly were.

No one who knows Fritz could doubt the sincerity of either his love for his precious children or his belief that his expectations of the afterlife are correct.  But is he loving his children when he terrifies them with these stories of giant shard-legged wasps?  Is that even the right question we should be asking?

We’re Asking the Wrong Question

It doesn’t really matter how sincerely Fritz believes the things he is telling his children.  The bottom line is that he is damaging them emotionally and psychologically by telling them such grotesquely awful stories about what will happen to them if they don’t keep in line with his particular set of beliefs.  His love for them is genuine but he is still harming them. The sincerity of his love doesn’t cancel out the maladaptation that he is causing.  So asking “Is he doing it in love?” is really asking the wrong question.  A better question would be “Is he harming them?”  The answer to that is yes, and the sincerity of his love does not erase that fact.

Many parents who love their children still exhibit dysfunctional patterns of relating to them, don’t you agree?  There are codependent parents, alcoholic parents, obsessive-compulsive parents (“No wire hangers!!!”), and even physically abusive parents who love their children but who are also stuck in patterns of relating which are unhealthy and harmful despite the love that resides within.  Perhaps they simply learned this pattern from their own parents and they are only following the model of parenting they were taught.  Asking “Does the abusive parent love her child?” would be a misleading question.  It changes the subject from the health of the behavior in question to the related but non-decisive matter of feelings.  It wouldn’t make much practical difference how much love motivates the parent’s behavior if the end result is still harm.  So let’s dispense with that question, shall we?  It’s a red herring.

“But what if Fritz is right?” you might ask. “I mean, what if you assume for just a moment that giant feces-covered wasps with broken glass for legs really may be coming to get us after we die?”  Are you kidding me with this?  Is this really a legitimate question?  Can you tell me how many fingers I am holding up right now?  And would you care to tell your story to these friends of mine in the pretty white lab coats?  The question is hardly worth rewarding with an answer.  The only thing that might inspire a more serious response would be if millions of people started passing along this same crazy belief to their children so that “the weird ones” were no longer Fritz’s kids but the kids whose parents didn’t perpetuate this grotesque horror story.  It still wouldn’t make it less insane just because a lot of people bought it.  It would just be less novel.

Just like it is with Hell.  The only difference between having giant wasps coming to mutilate you day and night and being thrown into a lake of fire where you will be burned alive day and night for eternity is the number of people who pass along such madness to their children.

Is it loving for them to do that?  Is that really the right question we should be asking?  Is it possible that such a fate really awaits those who don’t believe the right things?  Are you kidding me with this?  Why does your grotesque horrific belief deserve respect and Fritz’s doesn’t?  Because more people were taught yours?  You got anything better than that?  Because from where I’m standing, I see harm.  I see nightmares and I see not-so-subtle instances of psychological abuse happening all over the place and I see no reason to sit idly by while people keep doing this to malleable young children.  It’s an awful, horrible fear tactic used to intimidate people and coerce them into conformity to a group and to a prescribed set of beliefs.  And frankly, I find it despicable.  It doesn’t erase the harm you are causing that you love the people upon whom you foist this social and psychological mistreatment.  If that is love, it is indistinguishable in practice from hate.  It matters little what feelings motivate you if the end result is harm.  It should stop, either way.

So let’s start asking better questions and not get sidetracked by rationalizations designed to absolve people from responsibility for what they teach their children.  When you were six, you believed whatever you were told.  But now you’re a grown-up.  It’s time to start taking personal responsibility for what you teach the people in your care to believe.

 

 

 

 


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  • And if Fritz’s children don’t grow up to be logical well adjusted adults knowing that Fritz was “just doing it for their own good”, they will repeat these horror stories (probably with embellishments) to their children and their children’s children, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…

  • Personally, I’m going for the 72 virgins.

  • Hey, as long as we’re dreaming, I always say I would much prefer 72 cougars.

  • Ha! Experience counts, eh?

  • This is a man whose grasp of reality is very shaky. He could well be one of those people who could drown his children in a bathtub to “save” them from hellfire.

  • I think the problem is the Protestant/Roman Catholic version of hell, not the reality of hell, which is actually simply exposure to the Divine Energies of God. It’s not a judicial punishment, but the result of experiencing God, and not liking it.

  • I always find it highly ironic that people feel so comfortable taking an idea like Hell, which we only talk about because the Bible talks about it, and then completely revamp the concept, rewording it and reframing it into terms that are more philosophically palatable. The way you just described Hell is completely foreign to the way the people who first said there was such a thing spoke of it. But I’m also familiar with the Orthodox rationalization that virtually any changes you make to your religion over the years (like all the robes and ornamentation and iconography, etc) has been just “a maturing process.” It’s quite convenient.

  • Jackie

    Good piece as always Neil, but the abuse will not stop as long as the abusers believe they are protecting children. They cannot see it as harm, any more than instilling a fear of running into the street or of touching a hot stove is harm. Those admonishments by a parent could produce a paranoia in the child that lasts a long time, but the parent would argue that the dangers are real, therefore the teaching is necessary. I’ve heard a Christian give the example of a vaccine. It hurts, the child may cry in pain, but it must be done for his ultimate good. Getting back into the believer’s brain is not hard for me; I was there for years. From that perspective, teaching a child about hell is a moral mandate.

  • I agree. And yet…

    The point I’m raising is that what you said may help us understand the mind of Fritz, but it sidesteps the reality that Fritz is still causing harm. So what needs to happen is that we need to do all that we can to show them that their actions are based on a lie. If they won’t quit as long as they think they think their afterlife scenario is real, then I think we need to explore ways to help them see that it’s just stories.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    I still don’t see the right question here. The right question is, “Is there any evidence that Hell is real, and are we intellectually honest enough to grapple with it?”

  • JACK

    What in hell (pardon the pun) did blairmulhulland say? Sorry, Blair, but I don’t understand a thing you said.

  • You are right, Esther. That IS a good question, isn’t it? Perhaps we should show more respect for Fritz’s beliefs in shard-legged wasps and such as well. Because…well, I’m not sure why. For fun, maybe. So let’s explore that a second.

    Is there any evidence that Hell is real?

  • Jackie

    I thought maybe it was just me, but I too have no clue what he/she said.

  • I can actually explain it, I’m just not sure I care to. It’s just another way to rationalize something that shouldn’t make sense at all.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Yes there is, but I’m afraid that a fuller explanation would involve getting into the kind of details that you’ve described as “boring” in the past. You’ve made it clear that you view the pursuit of the evidences for Christianity as a dull and pointless endeavor. So if your intent is merely to waste my time, I’m disinclined to bother humoring you. As I’ve said before, you have a lifetime to get your hands dirty for yourself, which is the fatal flaw in your favorite toddler analogy. The choice is up to you.

  • I’ve said talks about the historicity of the gospels are brain-numbing, you are correct. I spent years doing that for myself as a Christian and clearly they didn’t do much for me.

    But you sound as if you have evidence for the existence of Hell. And I’m explicitly asking you to share it. So please do not insult me by dismissing my question in such a facile way.

  • Is that what “the evidence” is for you? Does your evidence for hell rest on the historical reliability of the gospels? Because if that’s all you’ve got, you’re right. That would be a waste of our time.

    When I say “evidence,” I mean that you’re going to have to give me something better than the claims of an ancient religious text. That’s another claim, not evidence of a claim.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    If I said “The Bible says it, that settles it,” that would indeed be a waste of your time and mine. But then I didn’t say that, did I?

  • Indeed. That would be lame.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    So then, in the words of The Princess Bride, it appears we are at an impasse. I claim that there’s a cumulative, multi-pronged case to be made for the reliability of Scripture, using the tools of a lawyer, an historian, an archaeologist, a philosopher and a scientist. Scripture does in fact make various miraculous claims, including the claim that God became incarnate and spoke with authority on a variety of topics, including Hell. Hence, finding the cumulative case for Scripture compelling, I find that I cannot ignore what it clearly states about Hell, among other things. You, on the other hand, claim that you find no compelling evidence for the Old or New Testament, including the gospels, Acts and the epistles. Furthermore, you claim that you could not possibly make a fuller study of the evidential case than you already have. There’s nothing left for you to learn. The book is closed. So what could I say that you would not instantly wave away with the claim that you’ve already “been there, done that,” whether you really have or not?

    You are not a toddler. You’re a grown man making a deliberate choice to abandon the investigation of the truth. The least you can do is to own it.

  • I thought we were supposed to be able to recognize Christians by their love. It looks like Esther uses a different definition of that word than the rest of us.

  • Your assertion that anything has been abandoned is incorrect. And forgive me Esther, but I was likely fervently studying the historicity of the Bible as a fully-committed Christian while you were still in diapers. That would sound like a dismissal of your argument except that as yet we haven’t gotten to one. It is instead an injunction not to lecture me on sincere truth hunting since I’ve been at it for many years. You have no right to impugn either the sincerity of my search or my willingness to completely revamp my worldview based on updated evidence. In fact, that’s virtually an encapsulation of the last five years of my life.

    You seemed insulted that I would ask if you’ve got anything besides the claims of the Bible as “evidence.” But it almost sounds like that’s what you’re saying you have. Do you have any evidence for this horrific notion outside of the claims of a deeply flawed religious text?

  • Sam Daniels

    No parent who has ever existed has not somehow screwed with their children’s minds in some way or another. “For their own good”. It’s a fact of life, and most people work through this damage as adults. I think you worry about this too much.

    That being said, how is it that the question of “hell” always gets more attention in these discussions than the cognitive dissonance caused by time-bound humans positing “eternity”? It seems to me that this is where the problem lies. Logically there is neither endless pleasure OR pain in any “eternal” scenario, since there would be no way to distinguish one moment from the next. There would be only the Now, with the arc of time forever removed. It would be impossible to DO anything, since there would be no time. Even a song has a beginning, middle, and ending.

  • kenny

    I’m reminded of Mark Driscoll admonishing every human on earth.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XicnbW06fbk

    I think he lies awake at night. The trauma is deep and lasts a lifetime.

  • This was really well written.

    Clearly, the damage is done by people to other people. There is no obvious involvement of a “god” (other than, perhaps, Circules, the god of circular reasoning.)

  • David

    I’ve heard you say that you transport your children to church activities. Why do you take your daughters, whom you no doubt love, to activities run by organizations that promote the fear of hell? Aren’t you exposing them them to potential harm just as you describe in this post? I know you are not espousing these views yourself, and perhaps you can’t prevent your daughters from taking part in these activities. I get that. I do wonder, though, why you are a participant (even if that participation is limited to providing transportation).

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Do you not see the distinction between reasoning one’s way TO the acceptance of a document, by a variety of means, and merely accepting the claims that it makes without any further investigation? You claim to have reached your conclusion based on facts and evidence. My claim is no different. In fact, you seem decidedly less interested in discussing the evidence than I am. You’ve admitted in the past that the evidential question was actually less of a factor in your loss of faith than your sense that it offered you nothing in the here and now. All that to say that when I raise the question, “What about the evidence for the Bible?” it’s more than a little silly for you to go “Besides that.” Is that not the central, overriding question?

  • So…

    We’re supposed to take as authority the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which weren’t actually written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, were written over thirty years after the death of the hero, contain geneologies which conflict with each other, and describe towns that didn’t exist at the time, a census that never happened, a wholesale slaughter of young children that never happened, can’t agree on whether there was a zombie uprising in Jerusalem or who was at the tomb of the hero. And we’re supposed to just accept from these books that hell exists, a concept not mentioned in the Old Testament, because I guess God just forgot to bring up that really important bit of data when he was telling his people to stone homosexuals to death and not wear garments of mixed fibers.

    Okay then…

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Well, well, I see someone’s been reading his Bart Ehrman. ;-) Okay then, just for fun…

    1. You seem very confident in your claim about the authorship of the gospels. What’s your reasoning for the unqualified statement of knowledge that not ONE of them was written by the authors whose names they bear?

    2. Even granting we know the “30 years” part for a fact, you seem to believe that a document written 30 years after the events it describes is automatically suspect. Is this how the study of ancient historical documents actually works? Would you like some counter-examples?

    3. Are you familiar with the quite plausible proposal that the two genealogies are giving Joseph and Mary’s ancestral records separately?

    4. Which towns do you have in mind?

    5. Are you making your claim about the census because you believe the Romans never took a census requiring people to return to their hometowns (not true, see this quote from a 104 AD census: “The census by household having begun, it is essential that all those who are away from their [administrative districts] be summoned to return to their own hearths so that they may perform the customary business cultivation which concerns them”), or because of the question regarding Quirinius’ dates as governor? This is certainly an interesting question, but hardly the grand conundrum it’s been made out to be. The “Lapis Tiburtinus” stone inscription refers to a ruler who governed Syria over two separate periods, one in the days of Augustus. We also know Quirinius had legions in the area under his authority at the time. Luke said Quirinius was “governing Syria,” but that doesn’t mean he was a “governor,” it could mean that had governing authority. Nathaniel Lardner has an in-depth discussion of this in Volume 1, pp. 260-345 of his 17-volume work Credibility of the Gospel History. Would you like a link?

    6. Do you have an ancient source which specifically contradicts the account of the slaughter of the innocents, or are you merely relying on an argument from silence? Did you know that Marco Polo never mentions tea, silk, or the Great Wall in his record of traveling to China. Or that Ulysses Grant’s memoirs never mention the Emancipation Proclamation? Or that there’s no record of Columbus’ triumphant entry in the archives of Barcelona? Are you sure you really want to hang your case against Christianity on this type of argument?

    Back to Herod, have you read Josephus’ account of the life of Herod? Are you aware of how capricious and paranoid he was? He murdered family members at the drop of a hat, and he was capable of wiping out Jews wholesale if he regarded them as seditious. He even tried to arrange for a number of them to be rounded up and murdered after his death, just so that there would be wailing at his death (though obviously, not for him). Furthermore, given how small the town of Bethlehem was, do you think it’s reasonable to assume that if it happened, other contemporary sources MUST necessarily have included an account of the mini-slaughter? Would Herod’s slaughter of his own sons and wife not be much more interesting and important events for an historian like Josephus to focus on?

    7. You say the gospels can’t agree on the resurrection of the saints. Do you have contradictory passages from two or more of the gospels on this point?

    8. On the women at the tomb, once again, are you referring to actual contradictions, or merely incompleteness of detail in some of the sources? Are you, for example, regarding Luke’s list as necessarily complete, even though he even says there were “other women” besides those mentioned by name? Are you also assuming that John tells us only Mary went to the tomb, even though she reports to Peter that “WE do not know [οὐκ οἴδαμεν] where they have laid [the body]?”

    The problem is that it takes very little effort to spit out an objection, but it takes time and research to answer it. I would challenge you to make that investment. You just might be surprised at what you learn.

  • MIchael E

    My evangelical parents tormented me about the rapture which is really kind of worse than the death thing in many ways. At any given moment we could be left behind for years of torture by the Beast and his caste of characters. As a young teen, I lived in fear that my faith wasn’t good enough for me to make the cut and I would be left behind for at least 7 years of torment. Whenever my parents were late coming home, I thought I had just missed the train. It wasn’t until I got off to college that this fear started to subside. As a deconverted Christian, I now think it was pretty insane.

  • MIchael E

    The virgin birth was what finally did in my faith. Even Stroebel punts on this one. He basically says that you just have to believe by faith because the evidence is not all that compelling. First, Paul never once mentions that Jesus was born in a Christmas pagent like three of the Gospels portray. One can conclude that he must not have known about it or else he would have written about it in just about every chapter that he wrote. In this case, silence speaks volumes. Second, the author of Mark, the first Gospel written, did not know about it either. I guarantee if someone wrote my autobiography and I had born in a manger to a virgin, that part of my story would get top billing. But there is more. None of the Gospels mention it after the first chapter or two. If the big pagent happened as they described, wouldn’t they have referred to it throughout the rest of the story? Of course they would have. The only possible explanation is that the story was globbed on in some post production process long after the original work was written.

    I came to all of this a Christian who desperately wanted to be wrong. But like a child who might learn that a parent or loved one is really a criminal, eventually the reality of the story is that this entire part of the story is made up.

    Precisely why Lee Stroebel says you just gotta trust God on this one. Now when pressed he always says that, but that’s another story to tell later.

  • Thank you for writing this. I think you made your point quite well that Hell often is used to the point of real harm with children. Speaking from personal experience, the concept of being thrown into a lake of fire for being “bad” had quite drastic effects on my early childhood. During that time, the fear reduced me to tears on two occasions I can remember.

    I agree that asking if the fright is being done “in love” is the wrong question to be asking. I think the harmful effects of the caregiver should be the focus, regardless of what socially acceptable precepts led the person to do the harm. All in all, I enjoyed reading this.

  • David W

    Ahh, good ol’ Esther, I think this thread is about to turn into a carbon copy of a previous thread. Shall we cut to the chase here? This is part of a comment(not mine) from that thread which really encapsulates the problem.

    ” “…I’ve come to the conclusion that for me to be a Christian, I would need to embrace the fantastical claims of the past contained in an imperfect copy of copies of letters and books (of which are disputably inaccurate), its claims about the future which is unknowable, and largely ignore the reality and experiences of the present, where there is no direct evidence of a supernatural divinity intervening in anything.””

  • David W

    Did you read those Frank Peretti books? This present darkness etc?

    I did, and, sadly, I really believed that the events described would actually occur. Fortunately, I escaped the madness. =D

  • “Even granting we know the “30 years” part for a fact, you seem to believe that a document written 30 years after the events it describes is automatically suspect.”

    I have difficulty believing that if the son of God came to earth on a special mission that he didn’t turn to the people around him and say, “Hey, guys, make sure you write what I just said down.” Or, why didn’t he write his own story, in order to ensure that all of the details were correct? Or are you going to tell me that the son of God was illiterate? Or that he just didn’t have time while he was here on earth? Or that he wrote it, and it got lost? Whichever excuse you manage to dredge up for that, it makes God look like an idiot.

    “Are you familiar with the quite plausible proposal that the two genealogies are giving Joseph and Mary’s ancestral records separately?”

    Who cares what Jesus’ step-dad’s genealogy is, even assuming either genealogy is correct? Joseph wasn’t the father. His ancestry could have been Chinese, for all it mattered. Plus, if the text isn’t making it clear whose genealogy is being referred to, isn’t that rather poor writing? Why didn’t Jesus write that down himself to make sure that detail was correct?

    “Which towns did you have in mind?”

    Bethlehem, specifically. It didn’t exist until faith tourists started asking about it on pilgrimages to the holy land.

    “Are you making your claim about the census because you believe the Romans never took a census requiring people to return to their hometowns (not true, see this quote from a 104 AD census: “The census by household having begun, it is essential that all those who are away from their [administrative districts] be summoned to return to their own hearths so that they may perform the customary business cultivation which concerns them”), or because of the question regarding Quirinius’ dates as governor?”

    First, there is a difference between returning to you town of residence for a census, and returning to the town from which your ancestors hail. Second, that census didn’t take place when Jesus would supposedly have been born, and if it did, the Romans would have written it down. Because unlike anyone in backwards ancient Israel, the Romans were good record keepers.

    “Do you have an ancient source which specifically contradicts the account of the slaughter of the innocents, or are you merely relying on an argument from silence?”

    Do news outlets put out stories every day about how President Obama didn’t order the National Guard to gun down students at Princeton University today? Of course I’m relying on the argument from silence here.

    “You say the gospels can’t agree on the resurrection of the saints. Do you have contradictory passages from two or more of the gospels on this point?”

    Only one gospel mentions this. I guess seeing a bunch of zombies running around Jerusalem wasn’t a big deal back then, so no one else, including the Romans (who, remember, were really good record keepers) thought to write it down. “Oh, look. The dead rose again today. That’s like, the third time this month.”

    Which all leads back around to the main topic: the fact that it’s so easy to find points within the gospels to dispute does not make their claims about hell credible. One would think that an all-knowing, all-loving deity who wanted to get his all-important message to the world to save them from the hell (that he created, remember) would be able to write a clear, consistent, historically unassailable story.

    “Is this how the study of ancient historical documents actually works?”

    But the gospels aren’t supposed to just be ordinary historical documents, are they? They make very bold claims. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, not contradictory, poorly written stories that apologists have to make circuitous arguments to justify through mental gymnastics and misinterpretation.

  • markkoop

    I don’t think you adequately addressed that last question. I think it is a good exercise to grant the truth of Fritz’s beliefs for the sake of argument. What would be a responsible way to behave with children if he were right? Would we want to warn our kids somehow if wasps were an actual threat?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    That’s a lot of assumptions you’re making Michael. I say this with complete sincerity—I have compassion for you if you literally lost your faith over reasoning that was this full of holes. If these are the absolute best arguments you can muster, I’m not really sure where to start.

    First of all, you’re assuming Paul’s primary purpose was to give a record of every miraculous detail of Jesus’ life. But the story of Jesus had already been widely circulated and accepted by mouth at the time Paul was writing, so why would he need to re-tread all that ground? Recall that he’s writing epistles to CHURCHES, as in, large groups of people who ALREADY believe the story! The purpose of Paul’s epistles is to help them work out other theological disputes, like the question of whether we will rise after death, the question of whether Jewish converts still have to keep kosher, and on and on. Sometimes, he’s literally just writing a thank-you note to a church who’s been praying or supporting his ministry. “Thank you for all the support, and oh by the way, did you know that Jesus was born of a virgin?” Do you see how the purpose of a letter is different from the purpose of a gospel?

    As for Mark, he was taking sermon notes from Peter, hence the highly condensed nature of the gospel. All the fact that it doesn’t mention the virgin birth implies is that Peter chose not to include it in his sermon, focusing instead on Jesus’ ministry and Passion. We already have two gospel accounts of the virgin birth, so why is it so vitally important that all four have one? And Luke, who provides the most detailed account, has been repeatedly proven as a meticulous, accurate historian in multiple other areas. Would you like some examples?

  • MIchael E

    Ester: Paul was under extreme pressure to prove the validity of his claims that Jesus was a divine being. It is beyond imagination that if he knew about the grand and glorious Christmas story that he would not have used that fact in his sermons of the time. Virgin birth was a big deal to the Romans who generally believed it to be a requirement for diety. If Paul had known and could prove it, he would have mentioned it over and over again. And the same goes for Mark. Mark, the oldest and likely most accurate of the Gospels leaves out two things–the virgin birth and any sightings of the risen Christ.

    Like the author of this blog, I have spent several years in a classroom learning about the reasons for belief in the Christian faith. My beliefs are not full of empty holes, they are the most logical conclusion to make from the evidence provided to me.

  • trappedpentecostal

    WHOOPS! I didn’t mean to say Bethlehem didn’t exist before the gospels were written. I meant Nazareth. Sorry.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Michael, first of all, where is the “over and over” coming from? Are you saying Paul should have shoe-horned it in even when he was discussing a completely different topic? Are you saying he should have added it as a P.S. even when he was just writing a thank-you note? You’re not making sense here. Furthermore, Paul preached publicly to skeptical audiences on multiple occasions, including one in Rome that went “from morning to evening” — see Acts 28:17-29. We don’t have word-for-word details on all of his sermons, but if was spending ours taking them through “the Law and the Prophets,” as in the Rome address, that kind of implies that he would hit the Virgin birth on the way, doesn’t it? Once again, you need to understand the concept of knowing your audience. Paul was a master rhetorician. He would change his speeches in these fascinating, nuanced little ways depending on the makeup of a crowd. He spoke according to what his audience needed to hear. The letters to the churches were simply never intended to re-hash the gospels. That’s not why Paul wrote them.

    Michael, I can offer you things that, given the state of apologetics education in our churches and seminaries, I’m fairly certain you were not taught in your classroom. But only if you ask for it. I’ve offered to demonstrate Luke’s reliability for you. Do you not want to hear it? If you so desperately wanted the skeptical arguments to be wrong at one time, are you not eager to learn why your deepest wish might be true?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    *if he was spending hours

  • trappedpentecostal

    Funny how to get accepted into Christianity by Christians, people don’t need to know anything about Biblical history or theology, but they are encouraged to “just believe” or “you have to take it all on faith!” However, in order to get out of it, you can’t just “not believe,” you have to hold an MDiv in order to refute every bad argument and bit of flawed logic that Christians have to present.

  • trappedpentecostal

    “Michael, I can offer you things that, given the state of apologetics education in our churches and seminaries, I’m fairly certain you were not taught in your classroom.”

    Oh good. The “you just didn’t do the right Christianity” argument. Glad to see that base is being covered here.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    “I have difficulty believing that if the son of God came to earth on a special mission that he didn’t turn to the people around him and say, ‘Hey, guys, make sure you write what I just said down.’ ”

    *facepalm*

    Okay, do you not understand how a culture built on oral testimony works? Do you not understand that a basic creed containing the fundamentals of Christian doctrine was circulating considerably less than 30 years after Christ’s crucifixion? That Gerd Ludemann, among others, puts it at 3 years at the outside? In fact almost certainly a good deal less than that, since that’s the outside date for the conversion of Paul, who was already persecuting large groups of believers that had formed?

    “Who cares what Jesus’ step-dad’s genealogy is, even assuming either genealogy is correct? Joseph wasn’t the father. His ancestry could have been Chinese, for all it mattered.”

    Ummmm, maybe because Joseph was Jesus’ LEGAL father? And therefore, if Joseph weren’t of the line of David, as is demonstrated in his genealogy, Jesus would not have the LEGAL right to the throne of David? Again, do you not understand Jewish culture?

    “I meant Nazareth, sorry!”

    That’s good, because I was going to ask whether you were aware of and had adjusted for the most up-to-date archaeological evidence on Bethlehem:

    http://goo.gl/WAJ5il

    But as for Nazareth, I assume you follow Rene Salm’s lead in discounting the work of Yardenna Alexandre? As far as I can tell, all Salm and his ilk have to offer is speculation and conspiracy theory.

    Regarding the handling of the census, Jewish records were kept in their ancestral cities, because the Jews were obsessed with their ancestors. This was the best way for the Romans to handle a census for the Jews. It may not have been the most convenient way to handle it for other peoples under Roman rulership, because records weren’t necessarily kept the same way in every culture. The Romans always worked with what they had. Given the scope of the empire, it’s illogical to expect every census to be handled the exact same way.

    “That census didn’t take place when Jesus would supposedly have been born, and if it did, the Romans would have written it down.”

    First of all, there are huge gaps in the extant 1st century Roman records we’ve uncovered. So if there were such a record, there’s by no means a guarantee a) that it’s survived til today, and b) that we would have uncovered it if it had.

    Secondly, it’s helpful if we cross-refer to Luke’s Greek in Acts 11:28 here, which reads, “One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over all the world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)” The Greek for “all the world” here is exactly the same as in the birth account: “ὅλην τὴν οἰκουμένην·” sometimes mistranslated as “all the Roman world.” We have independent records of the famine and the extent of it, and we know it only covered Judea. So “over all the land” appears to be the best interpretation here. This in turn indicates that the census was likely restricted to the land of Judea, Herod’s personal dominion—still large, but not the entire empire.

    Also, the verb ἐγένετο (“came to pass”) is here being used to refer to something completed well AFTER the immediate setting of the passage. So one interpretation is that the bureaucratic wheels stalled for a number of years, and the census was only formally completed under Quirinius’s governorship. It was not uncommon at that time for censuses to take decades to complete. (For example, we have records of a 40-year census in Gaul.) And in fact, we know from Josephus that Herod had just fallen out of Augustus’s favor at the time of Jesus’ birth, and taxation was frequently used as a punishment for those whom the emperor now regarded as “subjects” (his reference to Herod upon their falling-out). However, Herod got back into Augustus’s good graces shortly afterwards, so it makes sense that Augustus would have halted the collection of the money.

    Now, consider the chronology: Herod dies in 4 B.C. His son Archelaus takes the throne instead. Rome gives him a decade at it, then concludes that he’s a disaster and deposes him. Quirinius comes in around 6 A.D. to wrap up loose ends and pick up the money from what was previously Herod’s dominion. It makes perfect sense: “You guys haven’t been taxed in a while, time to clean house.”

    “Do news outlets put out stories every day about how President Obama didn’t order the National Guard to gun down students at Princeton University today? Of course I’m relying on the argument from silence here.”

    Yeah, because a group of Ivy League students at Princeton University has exactly the same measure of cultural relevance to today’s media as a small handful of infants from a backwater Jewish town would have to a Roman historian… or maybe not. I notice you haven’t responded to my evidence for how such an action would dovetail perfectly with Herod’s character either.

    “I guess seeing a bunch of zombies running around Jerusalem wasn’t a big deal back then, so no one else, including the Romans (who, remember, were really good record keepers) thought to write it down.”

    It needn’t have looked like the zombie uprising you’re describing. All it says is that the people of Jerusalem reported appearances of the dead (presumably family members) after Jesus’ resurrection. Not hordes running around all at once for everyone to see. Once again, you don’t seem to understand what a blip on the radar Jerusalem was for the Romans. From the Romans’ perspective, “Some Jews said they saw their dead gram and gramps alive again” isn’t exactly front-page material. See also my earlier point about the gaping holes in our surviving records of 1st century Roman documentation—or for that matter, 1st century documentation in general.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    It’s not a matter of “you didn’t do it right.” It’s a matter of whether today’s churches and seminaries, across denominations, are making a priority of giving their students nothing but the absolute best when it comes to the scholarship of Christianity.

  • “Okay, do you not understand how a culture built on oral testimony works?”

    Yes, I do. And why should I trust what a culture built on oral testimony has to say? Why has your deity not provided anything more historically solid than stuff written a generation later on another continent altogether? Why would your deity choose to give his only warnings about hell to a backwards, illiterate people, instead of people that could actually record the information reliably? As I said earlier, this makes your god look like an idiot. “Hey, I know how I’ll communicate my special message to my creation! I’ll have them all play a big game of telephone!”

    Does your god not understand how “proof” and “evidence” work? Because he seems to have a really hard time providing any proof that hell actually exists, or that he himself actually exists.

    “First of all, there are huge gaps in the extant 1st century Roman records we’ve uncovered.”

    How convenient.

  • My point is that it’s the wrong question. It’s a misleading question. Why should be begin by assuming it’s not crazy to believe in giant mutilating wasps or lakes of fire eternally consuming the undead? Neither belief should be given credence at all. Assuming the veracity of either might make you sympathetic to the insane, but I don’t see that it is a truly beneficial direction to go.

  • My point is that it’s the wrong question. It’s a misleading question. Why should be begin by assuming it’s not crazy to believe in giant mutilating wasps or lakes of fire eternally consuming the undead? Neither belief should be given credence at all. Assuming the veracity of either might make you sympathetic to the insane, but I don’t see that it is a truly beneficial direction to go.

  • “By a variety of means.” I don’t think this means what you think it means. When I started this discussion by saying “The Bible says so” isn’t sufficient “evidence” that there is an afterlife where people are tortured, you responded:

    I claim that there’s a cumulative, multi-pronged case to be made for the reliability of Scripture, using the tools of a lawyer, an historian, an archaeologist, a philosopher and a scientist.”

    …which makes it sound like you’ve got about five things when really you’ve still just got the one, namely the Bible. I am telling you that your ancient religious text is not evidence for your claim, it is yet another part of the claim. You cannot use the claim to validate the claim.

    Do you have anything besides the words of the Bible to evidence that there is a state of torture awaiting those of us who do not believe in the afterlife?

  • “By a variety of means.” I don’t think this means what you think it means. When I started this discussion by saying “The Bible says so” isn’t sufficient “evidence” that there is an afterlife where people are tortured, you responded:

    I claim that there’s a cumulative, multi-pronged case to be made for the reliability of Scripture, using the tools of a lawyer, an historian, an archaeologist, a philosopher and a scientist.”

    …which makes it sound like you’ve got about five things when really you’ve still just got the one, namely the Bible. I am telling you that your ancient religious text is not evidence for your claim, it is yet another part of the claim. You cannot use the claim to validate the claim.

    Do you have anything besides the words of the Bible to evidence that there is a state of torture awaiting those of us who do not believe in the afterlife?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    And I’m saying that your question is ridiculous. If I bring you multiple eyewitness testimony of a car accident, and furthermore, I bring you multiple lines of evidence for their reliability, it’s ridiculous for you to state, without argumentation, “Right, well I know I can’t trust those witnesses, so give me something else or I refuse to believe the accident ever happened.” It looks even worse when I ask you to explain your reasons for discounting the evidence, and you refuse to engage. Why should I let you get away with that?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    And I’m saying that your question is ridiculous. If I bring you multiple eyewitness testimony of a car accident, and furthermore, I bring you multiple lines of evidence for their reliability, it’s ridiculous for you to state, without argumentation, “Right, well I know I can’t trust those witnesses, so give me something else or I refuse to believe the accident ever happened.” It looks even worse when I ask you to explain your reasons for discounting the evidence, and you refuse to engage. Why should I let you get away with that?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    And I’m saying that your question is ridiculous. If I bring you multiple eyewitness testimony of a car accident, and furthermore, I bring you multiple lines of evidence for their reliability, it’s ridiculous for you to state, without argumentation, “Right, well I know I can’t trust those witnesses, so give me something else or I refuse to believe the accident ever happened.” It looks even worse when I ask you to explain your reasons for discounting the evidence, and you refuse to engage. Why should I let you get away with that?

  • Please see my comment added above (just now getting around to replying). To keep this analogy honest, you are not bringing multiple eyewitness testimonies. It’s more like bringing the written statements of one person who was not even there, but who says he knows several people who were there, and you can trust him to report all of their words correctly. And even the piece of paper he hands you is clearly a copy of a copy of a copy of a transcription, like an email forward or a meme that’s clearly been passed around hundreds of times. It’s not multiple eyewitness testimonies. It’s copied copies of third-hand reporters telling us what other people say happened.

  • Please see my comment added above (just now getting around to replying). To keep this analogy honest, you are not bringing multiple eyewitness testimonies. It’s more like bringing the written statements of one person who was not even there, but who says he knows several people who were there, and you can trust him to report all of their words correctly. And even the piece of paper he hands you is clearly a copy of a copy of a copy of a transcription, like an email forward or a meme that’s clearly been passed around hundreds of times. It’s not multiple eyewitness testimonies. It’s copied copies of third-hand reporters telling us what other people say happened.

  • Please see my comment added above (just now getting around to replying). To keep this analogy honest, you are not bringing multiple eyewitness testimonies. It’s more like bringing the written statements of one person who was not even there, but who says he knows several people who were there, and you can trust him to report all of their words correctly. And even the piece of paper he hands you is clearly a copy of a copy of a copy of a transcription, like an email forward or a meme that’s clearly been passed around hundreds of times. It’s not multiple eyewitness testimonies. It’s copied copies of third-hand reporters telling us what other people say happened.

  • Please see my comment added above (just now getting around to replying). To keep this analogy honest, you are not bringing multiple eyewitness testimonies. It’s more like bringing the written statements of one person who was not even there, but who says he knows several people who were there, and you can trust him to report all of their words correctly. And even the piece of paper he hands you is clearly a copy of a copy of a copy of a transcription, like an email forward or a meme that’s clearly been passed around hundreds of times. It’s not multiple eyewitness testimonies. It’s copied copies of third-hand reporters telling us what other people say happened.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Wow, Thought2Much, the chronological snobbery is thick. Good to know that not only can I not trust any historical documents from cultures that rely on oral tradition, (because I just KNOW that oral tradition is unreliable, because… because), but 1st century Jews were teh stoopid anyway! I mean seriously, these guys were just fishermen, how could anyone expect them to remember and talk intelligently about their years of study and interactions with a beloved Jewish rabbi? And pay no attention to that Greek doctor behind the curtain, who carefully collected eyewitness testimony for his own detailed account of the gospel events and the Acts of the apostles, and whose work has been independently verified as an astonishingly accurate treasure trove for 1st century research! Wouldn’t want to let facts interfere with our presuppositions now would we?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Wow, Thought2Much, the chronological snobbery is thick. Good to know that not only can I not trust any historical documents from cultures that rely on oral tradition, (because I just KNOW that oral tradition is unreliable, because… because), but 1st century Jews were teh stoopid anyway! I mean seriously, these guys were just fishermen, how could anyone expect them to remember and talk intelligently about their years of study and interactions with a beloved Jewish rabbi? And pay no attention to that Greek doctor behind the curtain, who carefully collected eyewitness testimony for his own detailed account of the gospel events and the Acts of the apostles, and whose work has been independently verified as an astonishingly accurate treasure trove for 1st century research! Wouldn’t want to let facts interfere with our presuppositions now would we?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Wow, Thought2Much, the chronological snobbery is thick. Good to know that not only can I not trust any historical documents from cultures that rely on oral tradition, (because I just KNOW that oral tradition is unreliable, because… because), but 1st century Jews were teh stoopid anyway! I mean seriously, these guys were just fishermen, how could anyone expect them to remember and talk intelligently about their years of study and interactions with a beloved Jewish rabbi? And pay no attention to that Greek doctor behind the curtain, who carefully collected eyewitness testimony for his own detailed account of the gospel events and the Acts of the apostles, and whose work has been independently verified as an astonishingly accurate treasure trove for 1st century research! Wouldn’t want to let facts interfere with our presuppositions now would we?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Neil, you are simply stating that we know none of the gospels were written by eyewitnesses. What is your argument for this statement? What is your take on the early dating of the Apostles’ Creed? Why are you also dismissing the book of Acts as completely irrelevant in all of this, when it provides evidence up close to the facts of the claims, motivations and actions of the people who founded this religion?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Neil, you are simply stating that we know none of the gospels were written by eyewitnesses. What is your argument for this statement? What is your take on the early dating of the Apostles’ Creed? Why are you also dismissing the book of Acts as completely irrelevant in all of this, when it provides evidence up close to the facts of the claims, motivations and actions of the people who founded this religion?

  • Do the gospels even claim to be written by eyewitnesses of the events? No, they do not.

    And my point stands that you have got a one-trick pony here. Your entire case rests, not on myriad sources but one source. And claiming its reliability is part of the claim. So when I ask how we can know the undead are tortured in a lake of fire, and I ask for evidence, you refer me back to this single source, but you talk about it like it’s a whole bunch of different people weighing in on something when in reality, it’s a single book. A book riddled with problems, inconsistencies, factual mistakes, and biases. Your whole kingdom rests on a book. And you’re changing the subject. Can you or can you not provide evidence for the torture of the undead apart from the words of the Bible?

  • Do the gospels even claim to be written by eyewitnesses of the events? No, they do not.

    And my point stands that you have got a one-trick pony here. Your entire case rests, not on myriad sources but one source. And claiming its reliability is part of the claim. So when I ask how we can know the undead are tortured in a lake of fire, and I ask for evidence, you refer me back to this single source, but you talk about it like it’s a whole bunch of different people weighing in on something when in reality, it’s a single book. A book riddled with problems, inconsistencies, factual mistakes, and biases. Your whole kingdom rests on a book. And you’re changing the subject. Can you or can you not provide evidence for the torture of the undead apart from the words of the Bible?

  • Do the gospels even claim to be written by eyewitnesses of the events? No, they do not.

    And my point stands that you have got a one-trick pony here. Your entire case rests, not on myriad sources but one source. And claiming its reliability is part of the claim. So when I ask how we can know the undead are tortured in a lake of fire, and I ask for evidence, you refer me back to this single source, but you talk about it like it’s a whole bunch of different people weighing in on something when in reality, it’s a single book. A book riddled with problems, inconsistencies, factual mistakes, and biases. Your whole kingdom rests on a book. And you’re changing the subject. Can you or can you not provide evidence for the torture of the undead apart from the words of the Bible?

  • Do the gospels even claim to be written by eyewitnesses of the events? No, they do not.

    And my point stands that you have got a one-trick pony here. Your entire case rests, not on myriad sources but one source. And claiming its reliability is part of the claim. So when I ask how we can know the undead are tortured in a lake of fire, and I ask for evidence, you refer me back to this single source, but you talk about it like it’s a whole bunch of different people weighing in on something when in reality, it’s a single book. A book riddled with problems, inconsistencies, factual mistakes, and biases. Your whole kingdom rests on a book. And you’re changing the subject. Can you or can you not provide evidence for the torture of the undead apart from the words of the Bible?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Uh, John 19:35? Also, the entire opening passage of John’s first epistle?

    Another thing: You do realize that we don’t have the autographs of any historical author of antiquity, right? And that most ancient authors’ degree of removal from the events they write about is considerably greater than that claimed by the apostles? Last I checked, ancient history departments weren’t being thrown into a dazed paralysis over this. You’re just begging the question without even bothering to be subtle about it. You’re also simply asserting that the Bible is not the work of multiple authors. I’m asking you again: What is your reasoning for this statement?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Uh, John 19:35? Also, the entire opening passage of John’s first epistle?

    Another thing: You do realize that we don’t have the autographs of any historical author of antiquity, right? And that most ancient authors’ degree of removal from the events they write about is considerably greater than that claimed by the apostles? Last I checked, ancient history departments weren’t being thrown into a dazed paralysis over this. You’re just begging the question without even bothering to be subtle about it. You’re also simply asserting that the Bible is not the work of multiple authors. I’m asking you again: What is your reasoning for this statement?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Uh, John 19:35? Also, the entire opening passage of John’s first epistle?

    Another thing: You do realize that we don’t have the autographs of any historical author of antiquity, right? And that most ancient authors’ degree of removal from the events they write about is considerably greater than that claimed by the apostles? Last I checked, ancient history departments weren’t being thrown into a dazed paralysis over this. You’re just begging the question without even bothering to be subtle about it. You’re also simply asserting that the Bible is not the work of multiple authors. I’m asking you again: What is your reasoning for this statement?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Uh, John 19:35? Also, the entire opening passage of John’s first epistle?

    Another thing: You do realize that we don’t have the autographs of any historical author of antiquity, right? And that most ancient authors’ degree of removal from the events they write about is considerably greater than that claimed by the apostles? Last I checked, ancient history departments weren’t being thrown into a dazed paralysis over this. You’re just begging the question without even bothering to be subtle about it. You’re also simply asserting that the Bible is not the work of multiple authors. I’m asking you again: What is your reasoning for this statement?

  • You can’t answer it, can you? Or you won’t. So I’ll try one more time.

    Can you or can you not provide evidence for the torture of the undead apart from the words of the Bible?

    We can debate the reliability of the gospels till the cows come home (and incidentally the fourth gospel’s historicity and authorship are by far the most suspect of all of them, even for conservative scholars), but it’s just another example of your M.O. No matter what the subject, you cannot speak to me without trying to redirect the discussion to the reliability of your religious text.

    Is. that. all. you. can. talkabout?

    Give me something. ANYTHING. Which is evidence for this atrocious concept of torture of the undead aside from this single ancient religious text. Please. I”m waiting.

    [Edit: I’ll give “half credit” for mentioning the fourth gospel since it does claim first-hand knowledge, although I still have to point out that even in that one, no author is named.]

  • You can’t answer it, can you? Or you won’t. So I’ll try one more time.

    Can you or can you not provide evidence for the torture of the undead apart from the words of the Bible?

    We can debate the reliability of the gospels till the cows come home (and incidentally the fourth gospel’s historicity and authorship are by far the most suspect of all of them, even for conservative scholars), but it’s just another example of your M.O. No matter what the subject, you cannot speak to me without trying to redirect the discussion to the reliability of your religious text.

    Is. that. all. you. can. talkabout?

    Give me something. ANYTHING. Which is evidence for this atrocious concept of torture of the undead aside from this single ancient religious text. Please. I”m waiting.

    [Edit: I’ll give “half credit” for mentioning the fourth gospel since it does claim first-hand knowledge, although I still have to point out that even in that one, no author is named.]

  • You can’t answer it, can you? Or you won’t. So I’ll try one more time.

    Can you or can you not provide evidence for the torture of the undead apart from the words of the Bible?

    We can debate the reliability of the gospels till the cows come home (and incidentally the fourth gospel’s historicity and authorship are by far the most suspect of all of them, even for conservative scholars), but it’s just another example of your M.O. No matter what the subject, you cannot speak to me without trying to redirect the discussion to the reliability of your religious text.

    Is. that. all. you. can. talkabout?

    Give me something. ANYTHING. Which is evidence for this atrocious concept of torture of the undead aside from this single ancient religious text. Please. I”m waiting.

    [Edit: I’ll give “half credit” for mentioning the fourth gospel since it does claim first-hand knowledge, although I still have to point out that even in that one, no author is named.]

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Take a breath Neil. You’re starting to foam at the mouth a little bit. Frankly, this is becoming unproductive, so I don’t plan to spend any more time responding to you personally. You simply don’t want to engage, and you’ve made that clear.

    I guess Peter’s Pentecost sermon doesn’t count either. Or any of the numerous other records of the apostles’ witness in Acts, which you still persist on ignoring completely. As for John not naming himself as the author, please, do I have to bring up Xenophon, Julius Caesar, etc. again to show why this contemporary notion that third person references don’t count is completely bogus and silly? But then again, John uses the first person in Chapter 1, verse 14 anyway (“We have seen his glory”). Moreover, there are numerous little details unique to his accounts of stories related in the other gospels, bearing the stamp of somebody who is vividly recalling them for himself. There’s no doubt that the author was a Jew native to Palestine. The gospel reports intimate details of Jesus’ life and interactions with the disciples that could only have come from someone in Jesus’ inner circle. The most reasonable conclusion based on all the evidence is that the author was the disciple John. If you’re genuinely interested in examining the question further, try B. F. Westcott…

    http://goo.gl/NaTn2h

    or Joseph Lightfoot:

    http://goo.gl/bbhT48

    With regard to your question, there’s other interesting stuff one could investigate pertaining to Hell, like the experiences of people who worship Satan, practice the occult, or who claim to have dealt first-hand with demonic possession. I like to proceed with caution when it comes to such claims, but there are people more expert than I in those areas who offer some pretty convincing testimony that there’s evidence of the demonic in the here and now. But even without that line of evidence, your fixation on sweeping away the entire cumulative case for Scripture to argue your point is baffling and irrational, especially for someone who claims to have a case based on reason and evidence. At no point have I argued that we should believe the Bible “just because,” or “take it on faith.” Rather, I have argued that there is a logical, multi-pronged, cumulative case to be made for its reliability. My question to you is, what is YOUR case for challenging the claim that the Bible is a reliable document whose claims about Hell, among other things, should be taken seriously? It seems that you won’t or can’t answer that.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Take a breath Neil. You’re starting to foam at the mouth a little bit. Frankly, this is becoming unproductive, so I don’t plan to spend any more time responding to you personally. You simply don’t want to engage, and you’ve made that clear.

    I guess Peter’s Pentecost sermon doesn’t count either. Or any of the numerous other records of the apostles’ witness in Acts, which you still persist on ignoring completely. As for John not naming himself as the author, please, do I have to bring up Xenophon, Julius Caesar, etc. again to show why this contemporary notion that third person references don’t count is completely bogus and silly? But then again, John uses the first person in Chapter 1, verse 14 anyway (“We have seen his glory”). Moreover, there are numerous little details unique to his accounts of stories related in the other gospels, bearing the stamp of somebody who is vividly recalling them for himself. There’s no doubt that the author was a Jew native to Palestine. The gospel reports intimate details of Jesus’ life and interactions with the disciples that could only have come from someone in Jesus’ inner circle. The most reasonable conclusion based on all the evidence is that the author was the disciple John. If you’re genuinely interested in examining the question further, try B. F. Westcott…

    http://goo.gl/NaTn2h

    or Joseph Lightfoot:

    http://goo.gl/bbhT48

    With regard to your question, there’s other interesting stuff one could investigate pertaining to Hell, like the experiences of people who worship Satan, practice the occult, or who claim to have dealt first-hand with demonic possession. I like to proceed with caution when it comes to such claims, but there are people more expert than I in those areas who offer some pretty convincing testimony that there’s evidence of the demonic in the here and now. But even without that line of evidence, your fixation on sweeping away the entire cumulative case for Scripture to argue your point is baffling and irrational, especially for someone who claims to have a case based on reason and evidence. At no point have I argued that we should believe the Bible “just because,” or “take it on faith.” Rather, I have argued that there is a logical, multi-pronged, cumulative case to be made for its reliability. My question to you is, what is YOUR case for challenging the claim that the Bible is a reliable document whose claims about Hell, among other things, should be taken seriously? It seems that you won’t or can’t answer that.

  • When backed into a corner, compare your interlocutor to a rabid animal. You stay classy there, Esther.

    The emotion you detect on your screen is exasperation at your stubborn addiction to changing the subject back to the only arena in which you feel at home. You are quite correct that testimonies from the occult world are a highly flimsy base upon which to build a case for anything. Which once again leaves a book. Disengage if you must, but as your book does not for me constitute evidence of posthumous torture, we have made no case worth noting here. For one thing, I could supply dozens of credentialed interpreters from your own religious tradition who profess loyalty to the same religious text but who insist that even the book you’re pushing doesn’t make the claim in question.

    You’ve simply got to give me something better than the claims of a religious text.

  • When backed into a corner, compare your interlocutor to a rabid animal. You stay classy there, Esther.

    The emotion you detect on your screen is exasperation at your stubborn addiction to changing the subject back to the only arena in which you feel at home. You are quite correct that testimonies from the occult world are a highly flimsy base upon which to build a case for anything. Which once again leaves a book. Disengage if you must, but as your book does not for me constitute evidence of posthumous torture, we have made no case worth noting here. For one thing, I could supply dozens of credentialed interpreters from your own religious tradition who profess loyalty to the same religious text but who insist that even the book you’re pushing doesn’t make the claim in question.

    You’ve simply got to give me something better than the claims of a religious text.

  • When backed into a corner, compare your interlocutor to a rabid animal. You stay classy there, Esther.

    The emotion you detect on your screen is exasperation at your stubborn addiction to changing the subject back to the only arena in which you feel at home. You are quite correct that testimonies from the occult world are a highly flimsy base upon which to build a case for anything. Which once again leaves a book. Disengage if you must, but as your book does not for me constitute evidence of posthumous torture, we have made no case worth noting here. For one thing, I could supply dozens of credentialed interpreters from your own religious tradition who profess loyalty to the same religious text but who insist that even the book you’re pushing doesn’t make the claim in question.

    You’ve simply got to give me something better than the claims of a religious text.

  • When backed into a corner, compare your interlocutor to a rabid animal. You stay classy there, Esther.

    The emotion you detect on your screen is exasperation at your stubborn addiction to changing the subject back to the only arena in which you feel at home. You are quite correct that testimonies from the occult world are a highly flimsy base upon which to build a case for anything. Which once again leaves a book. Disengage if you must, but as your book does not for me constitute evidence of posthumous torture, we have made no case worth noting here. For one thing, I could supply dozens of credentialed interpreters from your own religious tradition who profess loyalty to the same religious text but who insist that even the book you’re pushing doesn’t make the claim in question.

    You’ve simply got to give me something better than the claims of a religious text.

  • Patrick

    If you we’re talking with a rational, logical person, your points would be valid. But you’re not, you’re discussing hell with a Christian. If your position is hell has no “credence at all,” the discussion will end quite quickly. So I agree with markkoop, your only hope is to assume hell is real, for the sake of argument, and then ask them if frightening children with hell is psychologically beneficial. Try to get them to wait until the kids are older, and hope by that time they can see through the BS. But since hell is so ingrained in the sadomasochistic core of Christianity (slaves for Christ, passion of Christ, etc.), I think it’s a lost cause.

  • Patrick

    If you we’re talking with a rational, logical person, your points would be valid. But you’re not, you’re discussing hell with a Christian. If your position is hell has no “credence at all,” the discussion will end quite quickly. So I agree with markkoop, your only hope is to assume hell is real, for the sake of argument, and then ask them if frightening children with hell is psychologically beneficial. Try to get them to wait until the kids are older, and hope by that time they can see through the BS. But since hell is so ingrained in the sadomasochistic core of Christianity (slaves for Christ, passion of Christ, etc.), I think it’s a lost cause.

  • Patrick

    If you we’re talking with a rational, logical person, your points would be valid. But you’re not, you’re discussing hell with a Christian. If your position is hell has no “credence at all,” the discussion will end quite quickly. So I agree with markkoop, your only hope is to assume hell is real, for the sake of argument, and then ask them if frightening children with hell is psychologically beneficial. Try to get them to wait until the kids are older, and hope by that time they can see through the BS. But since hell is so ingrained in the sadomasochistic core of Christianity (slaves for Christ, passion of Christ, etc.), I think it’s a lost cause.

  • Patrick

    If you we’re talking with a rational, logical person, your points would be valid. But you’re not, you’re discussing hell with a Christian. If your position is hell has no “credence at all,” the discussion will end quite quickly. So I agree with markkoop, your only hope is to assume hell is real, for the sake of argument, and then ask them if frightening children with hell is psychologically beneficial. Try to get them to wait until the kids are older, and hope by that time they can see through the BS. But since hell is so ingrained in the sadomasochistic core of Christianity (slaves for Christ, passion of Christ, etc.), I think it’s a lost cause.

  • Awww, Esther. It’s so cute that you think any of the things you talk about have any eternal implications. It’s also a little sad, but it’s cute.

    And by the way, I have great respect for many ancient cultures, but I have much more respect for the ones that were actually literate, and were able to improve the human condition through science and engineering, such as Egypt, Rome, and China. The only thing ancient Israel gave the world is religious strife through Christianity, a nasty thing that still hangs around us today.

    It’s not chronological snobbery. You will find few people who have greater respect than I do regarding the achievements of the ancients, and those achievements are great and they are many. No, what I have is literacy snobbery.

    I see no reason to base my life decisions on documents based on hearsay that were originally generated by a superstitious culture that only knew how to pass on information orally. If your deity exists, yet doesn’t understand my skepticism, then he, once again, is only proving himself to look like an idiot.

  • Awww, Esther. It’s so cute that you think any of the things you talk about have any eternal implications. It’s also a little sad, but it’s cute.

    And by the way, I have great respect for many ancient cultures, but I have much more respect for the ones that were actually literate, and were able to improve the human condition through science and engineering, such as Egypt, Rome, and China. The only thing ancient Israel gave the world is religious strife through Christianity, a nasty thing that still hangs around us today.

    It’s not chronological snobbery. You will find few people who have greater respect than I do regarding the achievements of the ancients, and those achievements are great and they are many. No, what I have is literacy snobbery.

    I see no reason to base my life decisions on documents based on hearsay that were originally generated by a superstitious culture that only knew how to pass on information orally. If your deity exists, yet doesn’t understand my skepticism, then he, once again, is only proving himself to look like an idiot.

  • Awww, Esther. It’s so cute that you think any of the things you talk about have any eternal implications. It’s also a little sad, but it’s cute.

    And by the way, I have great respect for many ancient cultures, but I have much more respect for the ones that were actually literate, and were able to improve the human condition through science and engineering, such as Egypt, Rome, and China. The only thing ancient Israel gave the world is religious strife through Christianity, a nasty thing that still hangs around us today.

    It’s not chronological snobbery. You will find few people who have greater respect than I do regarding the achievements of the ancients, and those achievements are great and they are many. No, what I have is literacy snobbery.

    I see no reason to base my life decisions on documents based on hearsay that were originally generated by a superstitious culture that only knew how to pass on information orally. If your deity exists, yet doesn’t understand my skepticism, then he, once again, is only proving himself to look like an idiot.

  • Awww, Esther. It’s so cute that you think any of the things you talk about have any eternal implications. It’s also a little sad, but it’s cute.

    And by the way, I have great respect for many ancient cultures, but I have much more respect for the ones that were actually literate, and were able to improve the human condition through science and engineering, such as Egypt, Rome, and China. The only thing ancient Israel gave the world is religious strife through Christianity, a nasty thing that still hangs around us today.

    It’s not chronological snobbery. You will find few people who have greater respect than I do regarding the achievements of the ancients, and those achievements are great and they are many. No, what I have is literacy snobbery.

    I see no reason to base my life decisions on documents based on hearsay that were originally generated by a superstitious culture that only knew how to pass on information orally. If your deity exists, yet doesn’t understand my skepticism, then he, once again, is only proving himself to look like an idiot.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Thought2Much, I’ve addressed all the claims you’ve put forward, which included such egregious blunders as the claim that Joseph’s lineage would have been irrelevant in Jesus’ cultural context. You’re the one being consistently evasive, relying on threadbare arguments and crackpot conspiracy theorists over hard evidence. In fact, your handling of the evidence is so shallow and careless that it’s beginning to look like you simply don’t want to put in the effort required to critically examine your personal beliefs. Sounds a lot like your caricature of Christianity.

    With regard to your last comment about oral tradition and literacy in the ancient Jewish culture, which is full of fresh howlers, I will simply refer you to the critical examination and rebuttal of these objections in Part 3 of Eddy & Boyd’s _The Jesus Legend_. Would you like to recommend a source to me in exchange?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Thought2Much, I’ve addressed all the claims you’ve put forward, which included such egregious blunders as the claim that Joseph’s lineage would have been irrelevant in Jesus’ cultural context. You’re the one being consistently evasive, relying on threadbare arguments and crackpot conspiracy theorists over hard evidence. In fact, your handling of the evidence is so shallow and careless that it’s beginning to look like you simply don’t want to put in the effort required to critically examine your personal beliefs. Sounds a lot like your caricature of Christianity.

    With regard to your last comment about oral tradition and literacy in the ancient Jewish culture, which is full of fresh howlers, I will simply refer you to the critical examination and rebuttal of these objections in Part 3 of Eddy & Boyd’s _The Jesus Legend_. Would you like to recommend a source to me in exchange?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Thought2Much, I’ve addressed all the claims you’ve put forward, which included such egregious blunders as the claim that Joseph’s lineage would have been irrelevant in Jesus’ cultural context. You’re the one being consistently evasive, relying on threadbare arguments and crackpot conspiracy theorists over hard evidence. In fact, your handling of the evidence is so shallow and careless that it’s beginning to look like you simply don’t want to put in the effort required to critically examine your personal beliefs. Sounds a lot like your caricature of Christianity.

    With regard to your last comment about oral tradition and literacy in the ancient Jewish culture, which is full of fresh howlers, I will simply refer you to the critical examination and rebuttal of these objections in Part 3 of Eddy & Boyd’s _The Jesus Legend_. Would you like to recommend a source to me in exchange?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Thought2Much, I’ve addressed all the claims you’ve put forward, which included such egregious blunders as the claim that Joseph’s lineage would have been irrelevant in Jesus’ cultural context. You’re the one being consistently evasive, relying on threadbare arguments and crackpot conspiracy theorists over hard evidence. In fact, your handling of the evidence is so shallow and careless that it’s beginning to look like you simply don’t want to put in the effort required to critically examine your personal beliefs. Sounds a lot like your caricature of Christianity.

    With regard to your last comment about oral tradition and literacy in the ancient Jewish culture, which is full of fresh howlers, I will simply refer you to the critical examination and rebuttal of these objections in Part 3 of Eddy & Boyd’s _The Jesus Legend_. Would you like to recommend a source to me in exchange?

  • Patrick

    Ester is a perfect example of why this entire discussion – should we push back on Christians teaching hell to children – is completely pointless. She (he?) believes very strongly in something without any evidence. She starts with that Truth, based on no evidence. But she is completely convinced. Then she attacks criticism of her beliefs as lacking evidence or filled with “assumptions”!! Talk about chutzpah! I’ve noticed this is how more intelligent Christians debate. Always along these lines:

    Christian: Jesus was crucified and rose again on the third day.

    Atheist: Well, leaving aside the impossibility of rising from the dead, don’t you think it’s strange there is no mention of this resurrection anywhere in any secular literature of the time?

    Christian: That’s the Argument from Silence, so invalid! I win, ergo, Jesus was resurrected!

    Sure, that nobody mentioned the resurrection of Jesus is not, by itself, a refutation. But the fact there is no evidence for it in the first place is. As Hitchens noted, “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

    Make claims with absolutely zero evidence, then pick apart any criticism of your baseless claims as “baseless in fact.” The Christian will always change the subject from his/her ridiculous claims, made without evidence, to your criticism of those claims. What evidence do we have for hell? None! So why are we even seriously debating its existence? Because a ridiculous cult has brainwashed the minds of millions, and we’re living in a minority among them.

    Fortunately, time is on our side. What happened in Europe will happen in the US, even in the deep south. The bottom line is that Christianity is fundamentally silly, and people are starting to understand that more and more. The idea of a loving God sending someone to a place to be tortured for eternity is a perfect illustration of this. Outside of the brainwashed, and yourng children, nobody can take this seriously.

  • Patrick

    Ester is a perfect example of why this entire discussion – should we push back on Christians teaching hell to children – is completely pointless. She (he?) believes very strongly in something without any evidence. She starts with that Truth, based on no evidence. But she is completely convinced. Then she attacks criticism of her beliefs as lacking evidence or filled with “assumptions”!! Talk about chutzpah! I’ve noticed this is how more intelligent Christians debate. Always along these lines:

    Christian: Jesus was crucified and rose again on the third day.

    Atheist: Well, leaving aside the impossibility of rising from the dead, don’t you think it’s strange there is no mention of this resurrection anywhere in any secular literature of the time?

    Christian: That’s the Argument from Silence, so invalid! I win, ergo, Jesus was resurrected!

    Sure, that nobody mentioned the resurrection of Jesus is not, by itself, a refutation. But the fact there is no evidence for it in the first place is. As Hitchens noted, “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

    Make claims with absolutely zero evidence, then pick apart any criticism of your baseless claims as “baseless in fact.” The Christian will always change the subject from his/her ridiculous claims, made without evidence, to your criticism of those claims. What evidence do we have for hell? None! So why are we even seriously debating its existence? Because a ridiculous cult has brainwashed the minds of millions, and we’re living in a minority among them.

    Fortunately, time is on our side. What happened in Europe will happen in the US, even in the deep south. The bottom line is that Christianity is fundamentally silly, and people are starting to understand that more and more. The idea of a loving God sending someone to a place to be tortured for eternity is a perfect illustration of this. Outside of the brainwashed, and yourng children, nobody can take this seriously.

  • Patrick

    Ester is a perfect example of why this entire discussion – should we push back on Christians teaching hell to children – is completely pointless. She (he?) believes very strongly in something without any evidence. She starts with that Truth, based on no evidence. But she is completely convinced. Then she attacks criticism of her beliefs as lacking evidence or filled with “assumptions”!! Talk about chutzpah! I’ve noticed this is how more intelligent Christians debate. Always along these lines:

    Christian: Jesus was crucified and rose again on the third day.

    Atheist: Well, leaving aside the impossibility of rising from the dead, don’t you think it’s strange there is no mention of this resurrection anywhere in any secular literature of the time?

    Christian: That’s the Argument from Silence, so invalid! I win, ergo, Jesus was resurrected!

    Sure, that nobody mentioned the resurrection of Jesus is not, by itself, a refutation. But the fact there is no evidence for it in the first place is. As Hitchens noted, “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

    Make claims with absolutely zero evidence, then pick apart any criticism of your baseless claims as “baseless in fact.” The Christian will always change the subject from his/her ridiculous claims, made without evidence, to your criticism of those claims. What evidence do we have for hell? None! So why are we even seriously debating its existence? Because a ridiculous cult has brainwashed the minds of millions, and we’re living in a minority among them.

    Fortunately, time is on our side. What happened in Europe will happen in the US, even in the deep south. The bottom line is that Christianity is fundamentally silly, and people are starting to understand that more and more. The idea of a loving God sending someone to a place to be tortured for eternity is a perfect illustration of this. Outside of the brainwashed, and yourng children, nobody can take this seriously.

  • Patrick

    Ester is a perfect example of why this entire discussion – should we push back on Christians teaching hell to children – is completely pointless. She (he?) believes very strongly in something without any evidence. She starts with that Truth, based on no evidence. But she is completely convinced. Then she attacks criticism of her beliefs as lacking evidence or filled with “assumptions”!! Talk about chutzpah! I’ve noticed this is how more intelligent Christians debate. Always along these lines:

    Christian: Jesus was crucified and rose again on the third day.

    Atheist: Well, leaving aside the impossibility of rising from the dead, don’t you think it’s strange there is no mention of this resurrection anywhere in any secular literature of the time?

    Christian: That’s the Argument from Silence, so invalid! I win, ergo, Jesus was resurrected!

    Sure, that nobody mentioned the resurrection of Jesus is not, by itself, a refutation. But the fact there is no evidence for it in the first place is. As Hitchens noted, “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

    Make claims with absolutely zero evidence, then pick apart any criticism of your baseless claims as “baseless in fact.” The Christian will always change the subject from his/her ridiculous claims, made without evidence, to your criticism of those claims. What evidence do we have for hell? None! So why are we even seriously debating its existence? Because a ridiculous cult has brainwashed the minds of millions, and we’re living in a minority among them.

    Fortunately, time is on our side. What happened in Europe will happen in the US, even in the deep south. The bottom line is that Christianity is fundamentally silly, and people are starting to understand that more and more. The idea of a loving God sending someone to a place to be tortured for eternity is a perfect illustration of this. Outside of the brainwashed, and yourng children, nobody can take this seriously.

  • For someone who is an atheist, it is interesting that you are still using Protestant arguments.

    The concept of hell as an actual physical place that is judicially designated for the wicked only appears in Western Christianity in the second millenium (and popularised by Dante’s Inferno). By contrast, my description is actually an accurate reflection of first millenium theology. Hell, while alluded to, was never doctrinally fleshed out in the way that modern Protestants and Roman Catholics view it. Rather, Church Fathers like Isaac the Syrian spoke of God’s limitless love, and how the damned will not perceive it for what it is, but as a scourge.

    Based on this, I concur that it is terrible to simply scare people by warning them of the fires of hell, since nobody living or dead is yet subject to that judgment. My faith is much more positive than that, and Christianity should be much more positive than simply scaring people with bad theology. To us, hell is already a reality here on earth, since we are separated from God and suffer for it as a consequence. People are already experiencing it (or at least a foretaste, since we have our bodies and the beauty and life of the cosmos to enjoy in compensation). The gospel is a positive message of how Christ has defeated death and hell, and that we can leave our state of separation that is becoming our hell, and be united to Him and part of His Kingdom. There is no point in warning someone of some imaginary place. Hell is real for those who do not know God. We want to pull them out of that place and give them something better.

    As to your other comment, robes and ornamentation are not the same as dogma, they are simply a cultural way of expressing worship. Such things can change over time to an extent, but Orthodox dogma has always been the same, and is not innovated but merely clarified in response to heresies. By this standard, Orthodoxy itself has never changed. Icons actually predate Christianity – they were venerated by Jewish Pharisees. Archaeology has proved this, as well as proving the existence and veneration of icons in the Early Church. There is no “maturing process” in Orthodoxy. The Faith was given to us fully and completely by Christ. All our dogmas and rituals date from the time of Christ in one form or another.

  • For someone who is an atheist, it is interesting that you are still using Protestant arguments.

    The concept of hell as an actual physical place that is judicially designated for the wicked only appears in Western Christianity in the second millenium (and popularised by Dante’s Inferno). By contrast, my description is actually an accurate reflection of first millenium theology. Hell, while alluded to, was never doctrinally fleshed out in the way that modern Protestants and Roman Catholics view it. Rather, Church Fathers like Isaac the Syrian spoke of God’s limitless love, and how the damned will not perceive it for what it is, but as a scourge.

    Based on this, I concur that it is terrible to simply scare people by warning them of the fires of hell, since nobody living or dead is yet subject to that judgment. My faith is much more positive than that, and Christianity should be much more positive than simply scaring people with bad theology. To us, hell is already a reality here on earth, since we are separated from God and suffer for it as a consequence. People are already experiencing it (or at least a foretaste, since we have our bodies and the beauty and life of the cosmos to enjoy in compensation). The gospel is a positive message of how Christ has defeated death and hell, and that we can leave our state of separation that is becoming our hell, and be united to Him and part of His Kingdom. There is no point in warning someone of some imaginary place. Hell is real for those who do not know God. We want to pull them out of that place and give them something better.

    As to your other comment, robes and ornamentation are not the same as dogma, they are simply a cultural way of expressing worship. Such things can change over time to an extent, but Orthodox dogma has always been the same, and is not innovated but merely clarified in response to heresies. By this standard, Orthodoxy itself has never changed. Icons actually predate Christianity – they were venerated by Jewish Pharisees. Archaeology has proved this, as well as proving the existence and veneration of icons in the Early Church. There is no “maturing process” in Orthodoxy. The Faith was given to us fully and completely by Christ. All our dogmas and rituals date from the time of Christ in one form or another.

  • For someone who is an atheist, it is interesting that you are still using Protestant arguments.

    The concept of hell as an actual physical place that is judicially designated for the wicked only appears in Western Christianity in the second millenium (and popularised by Dante’s Inferno). By contrast, my description is actually an accurate reflection of first millenium theology. Hell, while alluded to, was never doctrinally fleshed out in the way that modern Protestants and Roman Catholics view it. Rather, Church Fathers like Isaac the Syrian spoke of God’s limitless love, and how the damned will not perceive it for what it is, but as a scourge.

    Based on this, I concur that it is terrible to simply scare people by warning them of the fires of hell, since nobody living or dead is yet subject to that judgment. My faith is much more positive than that, and Christianity should be much more positive than simply scaring people with bad theology. To us, hell is already a reality here on earth, since we are separated from God and suffer for it as a consequence. People are already experiencing it (or at least a foretaste, since we have our bodies and the beauty and life of the cosmos to enjoy in compensation). The gospel is a positive message of how Christ has defeated death and hell, and that we can leave our state of separation that is becoming our hell, and be united to Him and part of His Kingdom. There is no point in warning someone of some imaginary place. Hell is real for those who do not know God. We want to pull them out of that place and give them something better.

    As to your other comment, robes and ornamentation are not the same as dogma, they are simply a cultural way of expressing worship. Such things can change over time to an extent, but Orthodox dogma has always been the same, and is not innovated but merely clarified in response to heresies. By this standard, Orthodoxy itself has never changed. Icons actually predate Christianity – they were venerated by Jewish Pharisees. Archaeology has proved this, as well as proving the existence and veneration of icons in the Early Church. There is no “maturing process” in Orthodoxy. The Faith was given to us fully and completely by Christ. All our dogmas and rituals date from the time of Christ in one form or another.

  • For someone who is an atheist, it is interesting that you are still using Protestant arguments.

    The concept of hell as an actual physical place that is judicially designated for the wicked only appears in Western Christianity in the second millenium (and popularised by Dante’s Inferno). By contrast, my description is actually an accurate reflection of first millenium theology. Hell, while alluded to, was never doctrinally fleshed out in the way that modern Protestants and Roman Catholics view it. Rather, Church Fathers like Isaac the Syrian spoke of God’s limitless love, and how the damned will not perceive it for what it is, but as a scourge.

    Based on this, I concur that it is terrible to simply scare people by warning them of the fires of hell, since nobody living or dead is yet subject to that judgment. My faith is much more positive than that, and Christianity should be much more positive than simply scaring people with bad theology. To us, hell is already a reality here on earth, since we are separated from God and suffer for it as a consequence. People are already experiencing it (or at least a foretaste, since we have our bodies and the beauty and life of the cosmos to enjoy in compensation). The gospel is a positive message of how Christ has defeated death and hell, and that we can leave our state of separation that is becoming our hell, and be united to Him and part of His Kingdom. There is no point in warning someone of some imaginary place. Hell is real for those who do not know God. We want to pull them out of that place and give them something better.

    As to your other comment, robes and ornamentation are not the same as dogma, they are simply a cultural way of expressing worship. Such things can change over time to an extent, but Orthodox dogma has always been the same, and is not innovated but merely clarified in response to heresies. By this standard, Orthodoxy itself has never changed. Icons actually predate Christianity – they were venerated by Jewish Pharisees. Archaeology has proved this, as well as proving the existence and veneration of icons in the Early Church. There is no “maturing process” in Orthodoxy. The Faith was given to us fully and completely by Christ. All our dogmas and rituals date from the time of Christ in one form or another.

  • I’m still finding it amusing that the really important bits of information that could help prove Esther’s case are always missing. Somehow, every other mundane detail of the ancient world is known to her, and she’s able to vomit it all back up here at will, but the parts that would actually tell us anything were “lost.” God seems to have trouble keeping his paperwork in order. Poor God. Good thing he has Esther to set us all straight.

  • I’m still finding it amusing that the really important bits of information that could help prove Esther’s case are always missing. Somehow, every other mundane detail of the ancient world is known to her, and she’s able to vomit it all back up here at will, but the parts that would actually tell us anything were “lost.” God seems to have trouble keeping his paperwork in order. Poor God. Good thing he has Esther to set us all straight.

  • I’m still finding it amusing that the really important bits of information that could help prove Esther’s case are always missing. Somehow, every other mundane detail of the ancient world is known to her, and she’s able to vomit it all back up here at will, but the parts that would actually tell us anything were “lost.” God seems to have trouble keeping his paperwork in order. Poor God. Good thing he has Esther to set us all straight.

  • I’m still finding it amusing that the really important bits of information that could help prove Esther’s case are always missing. Somehow, every other mundane detail of the ancient world is known to her, and she’s able to vomit it all back up here at will, but the parts that would actually tell us anything were “lost.” God seems to have trouble keeping his paperwork in order. Poor God. Good thing he has Esther to set us all straight.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Thought2Much, I guess I’ll take that as a no on recommending an actual source that you found convincing for my own further reading. So much for the mutual exchange of ideas!

    Neil, this is just an addendum to my earlier comment to apologize for a mis-reading of part of yours—you were not actually discounting the verse in John based on the fact that it was third person, but on the fact that it did not mention and self-identify with “John” by name. However, that’s not a very sustainable standard for judging the authenticity of ancient writ. Once again, I encourage you to peruse the internal and external indicators of John’s authorship. I also especially encourage you to have a look at the reliability of Luke, who explicitly explains that Acts is Part 2 of his own gospel.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Thought2Much, I guess I’ll take that as a no on recommending an actual source that you found convincing for my own further reading. So much for the mutual exchange of ideas!

    Neil, this is just an addendum to my earlier comment to apologize for a mis-reading of part of yours—you were not actually discounting the verse in John based on the fact that it was third person, but on the fact that it did not mention and self-identify with “John” by name. However, that’s not a very sustainable standard for judging the authenticity of ancient writ. Once again, I encourage you to peruse the internal and external indicators of John’s authorship. I also especially encourage you to have a look at the reliability of Luke, who explicitly explains that Acts is Part 2 of his own gospel.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Thought2Much, I guess I’ll take that as a no on recommending an actual source that you found convincing for my own further reading. So much for the mutual exchange of ideas!

    Neil, this is just an addendum to my earlier comment to apologize for a mis-reading of part of yours—you were not actually discounting the verse in John based on the fact that it was third person, but on the fact that it did not mention and self-identify with “John” by name. However, that’s not a very sustainable standard for judging the authenticity of ancient writ. Once again, I encourage you to peruse the internal and external indicators of John’s authorship. I also especially encourage you to have a look at the reliability of Luke, who explicitly explains that Acts is Part 2 of his own gospel.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Thought2Much, I guess I’ll take that as a no on recommending an actual source that you found convincing for my own further reading. So much for the mutual exchange of ideas!

    Neil, this is just an addendum to my earlier comment to apologize for a mis-reading of part of yours—you were not actually discounting the verse in John based on the fact that it was third person, but on the fact that it did not mention and self-identify with “John” by name. However, that’s not a very sustainable standard for judging the authenticity of ancient writ. Once again, I encourage you to peruse the internal and external indicators of John’s authorship. I also especially encourage you to have a look at the reliability of Luke, who explicitly explains that Acts is Part 2 of his own gospel.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    What is your definition of “evidence?” Also, do you have any recommended reading that led you to this deeply thought-out conclusion?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    What is your definition of “evidence?” Also, do you have any recommended reading that led you to this deeply thought-out conclusion?

  • I am not the one here making an extraordinary claim. It is not the burden of the person rejecting an extraordinary claim to provide anything. It is the burden of the person making the extraordinary claims (Jesus was the son of the Hebrew deity, born of a virgin, performed miracles, came back to life, ascended to heaven, hell exists, heaven exists, etc.) to back up those claims with evidence. While you provide reams of circumstantial “evidence” (“Hey, there *could* have been a big census around the time that Jesus was born, but those records are spotty, and HEY LOOK OVER THERE while I type a wall of text talking about stuff that sort of pertains to the Bible but never really provides actual evidence”), they don’t actually show anything that you are trying to prove. Like a poor marksman, you keep missing the target.

  • I am not the one here making an extraordinary claim. It is not the burden of the person rejecting an extraordinary claim to provide anything. It is the burden of the person making the extraordinary claims (Jesus was the son of the Hebrew deity, born of a virgin, performed miracles, came back to life, ascended to heaven, hell exists, heaven exists, etc.) to back up those claims with evidence. While you provide reams of circumstantial “evidence” (“Hey, there *could* have been a big census around the time that Jesus was born, but those records are spotty, and HEY LOOK OVER THERE while I type a wall of text talking about stuff that sort of pertains to the Bible but never really provides actual evidence”), they don’t actually show anything that you are trying to prove. Like a poor marksman, you keep missing the target.

  • I am not the one here making an extraordinary claim. It is not the burden of the person rejecting an extraordinary claim to provide anything. It is the burden of the person making the extraordinary claims (Jesus was the son of the Hebrew deity, born of a virgin, performed miracles, came back to life, ascended to heaven, hell exists, heaven exists, etc.) to back up those claims with evidence. While you provide reams of circumstantial “evidence” (“Hey, there *could* have been a big census around the time that Jesus was born, but those records are spotty, and HEY LOOK OVER THERE while I type a wall of text talking about stuff that sort of pertains to the Bible but never really provides actual evidence”), they don’t actually show anything that you are trying to prove. Like a poor marksman, you keep missing the target.

  • Patrick

    Hello Esther, I’m not going to play the “define X” game, sorry. It’s another convenient diversion. I would be happy to believe in the Christian God, I’d be happy to believe in Jesus Christ as his “only begotten son,” I’d be happy to believe in Allah, and his prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), I’d be happy to believe in Janism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Mormonism, Scientology, or the great Ju-Ju up the mountain. I just need some evidence. Once you or anyone else produces that, we can examine it and have a fruitful discussion. Let’s stay focused on that, shall we, not these silly diversions? I repeat: “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” The ball, as always, is in your court.

    As to the US moving in the secular direction of Europe, there are some welcoming trends, based on recent polls. But basically I’m relying on faith. :-) Faith that once people are exposed to more info on religion, they can draw their own conclusions. The internet has been a great boon, as have the more aggressive stance of many atheists (the so called “New Atheists”), who have successfully brought light to the dark world of religion. There is a long way to go, but reason, once it takes root, spreads fast. Just look at how quickly the “gay marriage” debate was won. In 20 years, we’ll view it as we viewed equal rights for African Americans, something that no reasonable person could have ever opposed. Again, time will tell, but I’m an optimist.

  • Patrick

    Hello Esther, I’m not going to play the “define X” game, sorry. It’s another convenient diversion. I would be happy to believe in the Christian God, I’d be happy to believe in Jesus Christ as his “only begotten son,” I’d be happy to believe in Allah, and his prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), I’d be happy to believe in Janism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Mormonism, Scientology, or the great Ju-Ju up the mountain. I just need some evidence. Once you or anyone else produces that, we can examine it and have a fruitful discussion. Let’s stay focused on that, shall we, not these silly diversions? I repeat: “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” The ball, as always, is in your court.

    As to the US moving in the secular direction of Europe, there are some welcoming trends, based on recent polls. But basically I’m relying on faith. :-) Faith that once people are exposed to more info on religion, they can draw their own conclusions. The internet has been a great boon, as have the more aggressive stance of many atheists (the so called “New Atheists”), who have successfully brought light to the dark world of religion. There is a long way to go, but reason, once it takes root, spreads fast. Just look at how quickly the “gay marriage” debate was won. In 20 years, we’ll view it as we viewed equal rights for African Americans, something that no reasonable person could have ever opposed. Again, time will tell, but I’m an optimist.

  • MIchael E

    I’m probably about like Patrick, I would be willing to restore my faith with evidence that is similar to what is used to make a point in a criminal trial. For a God who has the power to create a universe with a trillion suns, why all of the drama? In a trial, if you were going to prove that Jesus was risen, wouldn’t you at least want someone see him get up and walk? We simply get a “he is not here message.” Maybe he was just somewhere else. And of course the eye witnesses were different in each of the four gospels as well. Any defense attorney and trial would laugh at these inconsistencies. I amy very much of a Bayesian point of view–fantastic claims require fantastic proof points. What we have does not even come close.

  • MIchael E

    I’m probably about like Patrick, I would be willing to restore my faith with evidence that is similar to what is used to make a point in a criminal trial. For a God who has the power to create a universe with a trillion suns, why all of the drama? In a trial, if you were going to prove that Jesus was risen, wouldn’t you at least want someone see him get up and walk? We simply get a “he is not here message.” Maybe he was just somewhere else. And of course the eye witnesses were different in each of the four gospels as well. Any defense attorney and trial would laugh at these inconsistencies. I amy very much of a Bayesian point of view–fantastic claims require fantastic proof points. What we have does not even come close.

  • MIchael E

    I’m probably about like Patrick, I would be willing to restore my faith with evidence that is similar to what is used to make a point in a criminal trial. For a God who has the power to create a universe with a trillion suns, why all of the drama? In a trial, if you were going to prove that Jesus was risen, wouldn’t you at least want someone see him get up and walk? We simply get a “he is not here message.” Maybe he was just somewhere else. And of course the eye witnesses were different in each of the four gospels as well. Any defense attorney and trial would laugh at these inconsistencies. I amy very much of a Bayesian point of view–fantastic claims require fantastic proof points. What we have does not even come close.

  • Patrick

    Even if Christians could show it’s very likely Jesus rose from the dead and walked among us (they have no credible evidence for this, of course, but let’s pretend for a second), it still says nothing about the truth of modern Christianity. Perhaps Jesus was just trying to reform Judaism, perhaps he was not claiming to be the Messiah, perhaps he wanted us to learn more about Allah (he is mentioned often in the Koran, by the way, and is considered a legitimate prophet by Muslims). It’s a moot point anyway, since we have little evidence the man even existed, much less that he rose from the dead.

  • Patrick

    Even if Christians could show it’s very likely Jesus rose from the dead and walked among us (they have no credible evidence for this, of course, but let’s pretend for a second), it still says nothing about the truth of modern Christianity. Perhaps Jesus was just trying to reform Judaism, perhaps he was not claiming to be the Messiah, perhaps he wanted us to learn more about Allah (he is mentioned often in the Koran, by the way, and is considered a legitimate prophet by Muslims). It’s a moot point anyway, since we have little evidence the man even existed, much less that he rose from the dead.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Michael, Thomas Sherlock’s _Trial of the Witnesses_ is a really informative and fun read if you’re interested in perusing the evidences from a legal stand-point. Also, Edmund Bennett’s _The Four Gospels From a Lawyer’s Standpoint_ gives you, as the title suggests, a lawyer’s evaluation. Both of those are freely available on google books. You could go look them up and read them in two evenings, a rather trivial investment of time if this is so important to you. Finally, for a modern source, there’s J. Warner Wallace’s _Cold-Case Christianity_, which brings a fresh perspective to the discussion that draws on his work as a cold-case detective.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Michael, Thomas Sherlock’s _Trial of the Witnesses_ is a really informative and fun read if you’re interested in perusing the evidences from a legal stand-point. Also, Edmund Bennett’s _The Four Gospels From a Lawyer’s Standpoint_ gives you, as the title suggests, a lawyer’s evaluation. Both of those are freely available on google books. You could go look them up and read them in two evenings, a rather trivial investment of time if this is so important to you. Finally, for a modern source, there’s J. Warner Wallace’s _Cold-Case Christianity_, which brings a fresh perspective to the discussion that draws on his work as a cold-case detective.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Michael, Thomas Sherlock’s _Trial of the Witnesses_ is a really informative and fun read if you’re interested in perusing the evidences from a legal stand-point. Also, Edmund Bennett’s _The Four Gospels From a Lawyer’s Standpoint_ gives you, as the title suggests, a lawyer’s evaluation. Both of those are freely available on google books. You could go look them up and read them in two evenings, a rather trivial investment of time if this is so important to you. Finally, for a modern source, there’s J. Warner Wallace’s _Cold-Case Christianity_, which brings a fresh perspective to the discussion that draws on his work as a cold-case detective.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Patrick, it’s hardly a silly diversion if your definition of evidence is so disconnected from reality that you’re determined to declare by fiat that nothing I say in response to you constitutes “evidence.” Let’s pick apart the logic in your first comment for starters: You say we have “no outside source mentioning the Resurrection,” where by “outside” you mean “non-Christian.” If by “mentioning,” you mean “affirming as true,” this makes no sense because if an historian such as Josephus or Tacitus had declared their belief that Jesus rose from the dead, they would no longer be “an outside source” by your definition, because they would have become Christians! If instead you mean “referring to the claims of other Christians,” even your own side acknowledges that the resurrection was widely embraced and proclaimed very shortly after Christ’s crucifixion. Now if you’re going to take the “myther” route and try to claim Jesus probably never existed, well, I admire your stubbornness, but I’m afraid Richard Carrier and his ilk are a bit of a laughing-stock among educated atheists. You’re welcome to take it up with your own kind on that one.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Patrick, it’s hardly a silly diversion if your definition of evidence is so disconnected from reality that you’re determined to declare by fiat that nothing I say in response to you constitutes “evidence.” Let’s pick apart the logic in your first comment for starters: You say we have “no outside source mentioning the Resurrection,” where by “outside” you mean “non-Christian.” If by “mentioning,” you mean “affirming as true,” this makes no sense because if an historian such as Josephus or Tacitus had declared their belief that Jesus rose from the dead, they would no longer be “an outside source” by your definition, because they would have become Christians! If instead you mean “referring to the claims of other Christians,” even your own side acknowledges that the resurrection was widely embraced and proclaimed very shortly after Christ’s crucifixion. Now if you’re going to take the “myther” route and try to claim Jesus probably never existed, well, I admire your stubbornness, but I’m afraid Richard Carrier and his ilk are a bit of a laughing-stock among educated atheists. You’re welcome to take it up with your own kind on that one.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Patrick, it’s hardly a silly diversion if your definition of evidence is so disconnected from reality that you’re determined to declare by fiat that nothing I say in response to you constitutes “evidence.” Let’s pick apart the logic in your first comment for starters: You say we have “no outside source mentioning the Resurrection,” where by “outside” you mean “non-Christian.” If by “mentioning,” you mean “affirming as true,” this makes no sense because if an historian such as Josephus or Tacitus had declared their belief that Jesus rose from the dead, they would no longer be “an outside source” by your definition, because they would have become Christians! If instead you mean “referring to the claims of other Christians,” even your own side acknowledges that the resurrection was widely embraced and proclaimed very shortly after Christ’s crucifixion. Now if you’re going to take the “myther” route and try to claim Jesus probably never existed, well, I admire your stubbornness, but I’m afraid Richard Carrier and his ilk are a bit of a laughing-stock among educated atheists. You’re welcome to take it up with your own kind on that one.

  • Patrick

    Eshter, you have once again failed to produce any of your evidence, you are simply looking to pick holes at what I’ve written, while making incorrect assumptions. How many times do I have to say this: it’s not about me, it’s about you. Specifically, the evidence for your fantastical beliefs. You are making the extraordinary claims, you have chosen to organise your life around certain beliefs, not me, I’m just pointing out there is insufficient evidence for that. But perhaps I’m wrong? You can make a believer out of me if you provide that ever elusive evidence. More time on that, please, Esther, less time rebutting what I’ve supposedly written…

    And by the way, I didn’t say “outside source,” for the resurrection, you did. Twice. I said there is no credible evidence. Why put that in quotes and attribute it to me? Then you go on to attack my use of the word “mentioning,” also in quotation marks. But I never used that word, either! I’m not sure you understand the concept of quotation marks… You attribute specific quotes to me which I never said, then try to debunk those imaginary quotes. Very strange.

    As to Carrier and other Mythicists, I don’t agree at all with their theory that Jesus never even existed. I do believe a Jew named Jesus lived, had a following of some sorts, got out of line, and was crucified. I’ll give you all of that, although it’s hardly a concession, since this could define many people living in Palestine at the time. Jesus was a common name, messiah wanna be’s were quite common. Still are. So, again, you have found a topic to discuss (Jesus mythicism) that has nothing to do with your non-existent evidence.

    Why do you keep changing the subject, Esther? Although I grant you it’s clever technique, a way to play this game and “win”: force atheists to prove a negative, which of course is impossible, while never really bothering to give any specific evidence for your beliefs. As I’ve said, it’s tiresome, and quite frankly, boring. The topic that opened this post was “hell,” and I believe you were asked to provide evidence for your belief in hell, which you never bothered to do. Until you can come up with something, I’m going to disengage from this discussion.

  • Patrick

    Eshter, you have once again failed to produce any of your evidence, you are simply looking to pick holes at what I’ve written, while making incorrect assumptions. How many times do I have to say this: it’s not about me, it’s about you. Specifically, the evidence for your fantastical beliefs. You are making the extraordinary claims, you have chosen to organise your life around certain beliefs, not me, I’m just pointing out there is insufficient evidence for that. But perhaps I’m wrong? You can make a believer out of me if you provide that ever elusive evidence. More time on that, please, Esther, less time rebutting what I’ve supposedly written…

    And by the way, I didn’t say “outside source,” for the resurrection, you did. Twice. I said there is no credible evidence. Why put that in quotes and attribute it to me? Then you go on to attack my use of the word “mentioning,” also in quotation marks. But I never used that word, either! I’m not sure you understand the concept of quotation marks… You attribute specific quotes to me which I never said, then try to debunk those imaginary quotes. Very strange.

    As to Carrier and other Mythicists, I don’t agree at all with their theory that Jesus never even existed. I do believe a Jew named Jesus lived, had a following of some sorts, got out of line, and was crucified. I’ll give you all of that, although it’s hardly a concession, since this could define many people living in Palestine at the time. Jesus was a common name, messiah wanna be’s were quite common. Still are. So, again, you have found a topic to discuss (Jesus mythicism) that has nothing to do with your non-existent evidence.

    Why do you keep changing the subject, Esther? Although I grant you it’s clever technique, a way to play this game and “win”: force atheists to prove a negative, which of course is impossible, while never really bothering to give any specific evidence for your beliefs. As I’ve said, it’s tiresome, and quite frankly, boring. The topic that opened this post was “hell,” and I believe you were asked to provide evidence for your belief in hell, which you never bothered to do. Until you can come up with something, I’m going to disengage from this discussion.

  • So you’re not suggesting books that actually provide new, more compelling evidence than we’ve seen so far from any Christian anywhere, but books that only provide excuses… er, sorry… apologetics for why we should be happy with the poor evidence we have and just believe anyway. Color me unimpressed.

    You don’t actually understand what “evidence” is, do you? It’s as if you’re saying, “I have a baseball signed by Hank Aaron.” We say, “Cool, let’s see it.” You then proceed to provide us with stock photos of baseballs, with Hank Aaron’s stats and biography, and with articles written about major league baseball, but no actual autographed baseball. We then press you and say, “Those aren’t baseballs signed by Hank Aaron. Do you actually have what you are claiming to have?” You then become defensive and post more pictures of generic baseballs, more information about Hank Aaron, and then long, meandering descriptions of baseball history that are only tangentially related to Hank Aaron or baseball in general. We then get fed up and say, “I don’t believe you have a baseball signed by Hank Aaron.” This is the point you declare you’ve addressed all of our concerns, and therefore you were right all along. Do you not understand that this is what you are doing? Or do you understand but just not care, because you get to show off that you’ve read books about Christianity?

  • So you’re not suggesting books that actually provide new, more compelling evidence than we’ve seen so far from any Christian anywhere, but books that only provide excuses… er, sorry… apologetics for why we should be happy with the poor evidence we have and just believe anyway. Color me unimpressed.

    You don’t actually understand what “evidence” is, do you? It’s as if you’re saying, “I have a baseball signed by Hank Aaron.” We say, “Cool, let’s see it.” You then proceed to provide us with stock photos of baseballs, with Hank Aaron’s stats and biography, and with articles written about major league baseball, but no actual autographed baseball. We then press you and say, “Those aren’t baseballs signed by Hank Aaron. Do you actually have what you are claiming to have?” You then become defensive and post more pictures of generic baseballs, more information about Hank Aaron, and then long, meandering descriptions of baseball history that are only tangentially related to Hank Aaron or baseball in general. We then get fed up and say, “I don’t believe you have a baseball signed by Hank Aaron.” This is the point you declare you’ve addressed all of our concerns, and therefore you were right all along. Do you not understand that this is what you are doing? Or do you understand but just not care, because you get to show off that you’ve read books about Christianity?

  • So you’re not suggesting books that actually provide new, more compelling evidence than we’ve seen so far from any Christian anywhere, but books that only provide excuses… er, sorry… apologetics for why we should be happy with the poor evidence we have and just believe anyway. Color me unimpressed.

    You don’t actually understand what “evidence” is, do you? It’s as if you’re saying, “I have a baseball signed by Hank Aaron.” We say, “Cool, let’s see it.” You then proceed to provide us with stock photos of baseballs, with Hank Aaron’s stats and biography, and with articles written about major league baseball, but no actual autographed baseball. We then press you and say, “Those aren’t baseballs signed by Hank Aaron. Do you actually have what you are claiming to have?” You then become defensive and post more pictures of generic baseballs, more information about Hank Aaron, and then long, meandering descriptions of baseball history that are only tangentially related to Hank Aaron or baseball in general. We then get fed up and say, “I don’t believe you have a baseball signed by Hank Aaron.” This is the point you declare you’ve addressed all of our concerns, and therefore you were right all along. Do you not understand that this is what you are doing? Or do you understand but just not care, because you get to show off that you’ve read books about Christianity?

  • MIchael E

    If you were trying to win a cold case in the court of law, and had four different accounts of how people noticed that the body was missing, you would lose. If you were not simply trying to win a case, but prove that this was the only person in the history of human history to rise and walk after being dead, you would lose the jury 0 to 12. The evidence for the Resurrection is 1)all written by people who have committed their life to that supposed truth and 2)only believable to those who believe the story.

    Apologetics books are all written for people who believe but need to be assured that what they believe make sense. They are total nonsense for someone who does not believe in the grand story. Reading an apologetics book is a litmus test for belief. If it makes sense, you are a believer. If you shake your head, you know you are not a believer.

    Every one of the Stroebel books have the same approach. Bring in the best Christian minds in the world and then find people to defend the alternative who have a mixed history of actually more aligned to their religious belief than to science. All of these trial books are the same way.

  • MIchael E

    If you were trying to win a cold case in the court of law, and had four different accounts of how people noticed that the body was missing, you would lose. If you were not simply trying to win a case, but prove that this was the only person in the history of human history to rise and walk after being dead, you would lose the jury 0 to 12. The evidence for the Resurrection is 1)all written by people who have committed their life to that supposed truth and 2)only believable to those who believe the story.

    Apologetics books are all written for people who believe but need to be assured that what they believe make sense. They are total nonsense for someone who does not believe in the grand story. Reading an apologetics book is a litmus test for belief. If it makes sense, you are a believer. If you shake your head, you know you are not a believer.

    Every one of the Stroebel books have the same approach. Bring in the best Christian minds in the world and then find people to defend the alternative who have a mixed history of actually more aligned to their religious belief than to science. All of these trial books are the same way.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Your exact wording was “no mention of this resurrection anywhere in any secular literature of the time.” How is that substantially any different from “no outside (e.g., non-Christian) sources mentioning the resurrection?” Oh look, you even used the word “mention!” Try to read your own comments a little more carefully.

    I’m glad to hear you’re not swimming against the stream of reputable scholarship when it comes to the existence of Jesus, but as you seem to have forgotten already, your original comment stated that “we have little evidence the man even existed.” So you can understand my raised eyebrow.

    You were asking about the evidences. Where would you like me to start? The resurrection? A very good place to start:

    1. Women were second-class citizens in Jesus’ culture. One consequence of this is that a woman’s testimony counted for only half of a man’s in the court. Yet women are given the most prominent role in discovering the empty tomb. (Digression: If you’re going to bring up that tired old bit about “contradictions” which aren’t really contradictions regarding which/how many women went to the tomb, I already covered that on this thread, so save it. End digression.) A forger trying to pass off Jesus’ story as genuine wouldn’t have put women in the foreground of the climax. And if the disciples were making it up, you’d think they would come out of it in a much less embarrassing way. They abandon Jesus to a man when he is first arrested, Peter specifically denies any association with him when questioned point-blank, the men scoff at the women at the first resurrection report, and all the disciples are cowering in a locked room for fear of the Jews in the account of Jesus’ resurrection appearance to the group.

    2. But why would the disciples make up such a story anyway? We know from the behavior of Muslim terrorists and the Heaven’s Gate cult that men will willingly die for something they believe to be true. It’s much harder to find examples of men willing to die for what they *know* to be *false*. Yet we find the disciples throughout Acts repeatedly risking death, preaching loudly and openly that they have physically seen the risen Jesus until they’re thrown into prison, and enduring hatred and scorn from their own people. I have a friend named Eric who put it this way: If I were making up a new religion for myself (we’ll call it “Eric-ism”), ideally I would want to end up with people sending me wine and flowers, beautiful women hanging around, etc. In fact, that sounds suspiciously similar to the beginnings of other religions like Islam and Mormonism. It couldn’t be farther removed from the life of danger, labor and suffering chosen by the first disciples.

    3. Then there’s the conversion of James, the brother of Jesus. James is hardly ever mentioned in the gospels. He appears to follow the rest of Jesus’ family in shunning him as kind of a nutcase. But then we find him in Acts as a pillar of the church. This runs counter to what we observe with every other failed messianic figure among the Jews. Bar-Kokhba had men at his beck and call when he was leading his revolt, but when he was defeated, *nobody* wanted anything to do with him. He was a figure of shame. But James only joins the apostles *after* the crucifixion. It’s also rather peculiar that the Bible gives no details of James’ conversion—no encounter with the resurrected Jesus or anything. Nobody trying to craft a smoothly flowing work of fiction would leave an awkward gap like that in his narrative.

    4. Who moved the stone? The Jews’ own traditionally accepted version of the events, confirmed in the gospel, is that the disciples stole the body. Whether they accepted the resurrection accounts or not, not even the people who had Jesus put to death could deny that his tomb was empty. But as discussed in point 2, for the disciples to voluntarily spread a falsehood in exchange for a lifetime of hardship and a gruesome death is simply bizarre.

    There’s also the sudden embracing of the cross, a symbol of torture, and the sudden institution of rituals like the Lord’s Supper and worship on Sunday vs. Saturday—all this springing up and spreading outward from the very place where the beloved Messiah was ostensibly crucified, even though every other messianic movement died with its leader.

    That’s just a few starter pellets, narrowly focused on the resurrection. I have plenty more, including general internal marks of eyewitness testimony within the gospel records themselves. But I doubt you’ll still be listening by then anyway.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Your exact wording was “no mention of this resurrection anywhere in any secular literature of the time.” How is that substantially any different from “no outside (e.g., non-Christian) sources mentioning the resurrection?” Oh look, you even used the word “mention!” Try to read your own comments a little more carefully.

    I’m glad to hear you’re not swimming against the stream of reputable scholarship when it comes to the existence of Jesus, but as you seem to have forgotten already, your original comment stated that “we have little evidence the man even existed.” So you can understand my raised eyebrow.

    You were asking about the evidences. Where would you like me to start? The resurrection? A very good place to start:

    1. Women were second-class citizens in Jesus’ culture. One consequence of this is that a woman’s testimony counted for only half of a man’s in the court. Yet women are given the most prominent role in discovering the empty tomb. (Digression: If you’re going to bring up that tired old bit about “contradictions” which aren’t really contradictions regarding which/how many women went to the tomb, I already covered that on this thread, so save it. End digression.) A forger trying to pass off Jesus’ story as genuine wouldn’t have put women in the foreground of the climax. And if the disciples were making it up, you’d think they would come out of it in a much less embarrassing way. They abandon Jesus to a man when he is first arrested, Peter specifically denies any association with him when questioned point-blank, the men scoff at the women at the first resurrection report, and all the disciples are cowering in a locked room for fear of the Jews in the account of Jesus’ resurrection appearance to the group.

    2. But why would the disciples make up such a story anyway? We know from the behavior of Muslim terrorists and the Heaven’s Gate cult that men will willingly die for something they believe to be true. It’s much harder to find examples of men willing to die for what they *know* to be *false*. Yet we find the disciples throughout Acts repeatedly risking death, preaching loudly and openly that they have physically seen the risen Jesus until they’re thrown into prison, and enduring hatred and scorn from their own people. I have a friend named Eric who put it this way: If I were making up a new religion for myself (we’ll call it “Eric-ism”), ideally I would want to end up with people sending me wine and flowers, beautiful women hanging around, etc. In fact, that sounds suspiciously similar to the beginnings of other religions like Islam and Mormonism. It couldn’t be farther removed from the life of danger, labor and suffering chosen by the first disciples.

    3. Then there’s the conversion of James, the brother of Jesus. James is hardly ever mentioned in the gospels. He appears to follow the rest of Jesus’ family in shunning him as kind of a nutcase. But then we find him in Acts as a pillar of the church. This runs counter to what we observe with every other failed messianic figure among the Jews. Bar-Kokhba had men at his beck and call when he was leading his revolt, but when he was defeated, *nobody* wanted anything to do with him. He was a figure of shame. But James only joins the apostles *after* the crucifixion. It’s also rather peculiar that the Bible gives no details of James’ conversion—no encounter with the resurrected Jesus or anything. Nobody trying to craft a smoothly flowing work of fiction would leave an awkward gap like that in his narrative.

    4. Who moved the stone? The Jews’ own traditionally accepted version of the events, confirmed in the gospel, is that the disciples stole the body. Whether they accepted the resurrection accounts or not, not even the people who had Jesus put to death could deny that his tomb was empty. But as discussed in point 2, for the disciples to voluntarily spread a falsehood in exchange for a lifetime of hardship and a gruesome death is simply bizarre.

    There’s also the sudden embracing of the cross, a symbol of torture, and the sudden institution of rituals like the Lord’s Supper and worship on Sunday vs. Saturday—all this springing up and spreading outward from the very place where the beloved Messiah was ostensibly crucified, even though every other messianic movement died with its leader.

    That’s just a few starter pellets, narrowly focused on the resurrection. I have plenty more, including general internal marks of eyewitness testimony within the gospel records themselves. But I doubt you’ll still be listening by then anyway.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Your exact wording was “no mention of this resurrection anywhere in any secular literature of the time.” How is that substantially any different from “no outside (e.g., non-Christian) sources mentioning the resurrection?” Oh look, you even used the word “mention!” Try to read your own comments a little more carefully.

    I’m glad to hear you’re not swimming against the stream of reputable scholarship when it comes to the existence of Jesus, but as you seem to have forgotten already, your original comment stated that “we have little evidence the man even existed.” So you can understand my raised eyebrow.

    You were asking about the evidences. Where would you like me to start? The resurrection? A very good place to start:

    1. Women were second-class citizens in Jesus’ culture. One consequence of this is that a woman’s testimony counted for only half of a man’s in the court. Yet women are given the most prominent role in discovering the empty tomb. (Digression: If you’re going to bring up that tired old bit about “contradictions” which aren’t really contradictions regarding which/how many women went to the tomb, I already covered that on this thread, so save it. End digression.) A forger trying to pass off Jesus’ story as genuine wouldn’t have put women in the foreground of the climax. And if the disciples were making it up, you’d think they would come out of it in a much less embarrassing way. They abandon Jesus to a man when he is first arrested, Peter specifically denies any association with him when questioned point-blank, the men scoff at the women at the first resurrection report, and all the disciples are cowering in a locked room for fear of the Jews in the account of Jesus’ resurrection appearance to the group.

    2. But why would the disciples make up such a story anyway? We know from the behavior of Muslim terrorists and the Heaven’s Gate cult that men will willingly die for something they believe to be true. It’s much harder to find examples of men willing to die for what they *know* to be *false*. Yet we find the disciples throughout Acts repeatedly risking death, preaching loudly and openly that they have physically seen the risen Jesus until they’re thrown into prison, and enduring hatred and scorn from their own people. I have a friend named Eric who put it this way: If I were making up a new religion for myself (we’ll call it “Eric-ism”), ideally I would want to end up with people sending me wine and flowers, beautiful women hanging around, etc. In fact, that sounds suspiciously similar to the beginnings of other religions like Islam and Mormonism. It couldn’t be farther removed from the life of danger, labor and suffering chosen by the first disciples.

    3. Then there’s the conversion of James, the brother of Jesus. James is hardly ever mentioned in the gospels. He appears to follow the rest of Jesus’ family in shunning him as kind of a nutcase. But then we find him in Acts as a pillar of the church. This runs counter to what we observe with every other failed messianic figure among the Jews. Bar-Kokhba had men at his beck and call when he was leading his revolt, but when he was defeated, *nobody* wanted anything to do with him. He was a figure of shame. But James only joins the apostles *after* the crucifixion. It’s also rather peculiar that the Bible gives no details of James’ conversion—no encounter with the resurrected Jesus or anything. Nobody trying to craft a smoothly flowing work of fiction would leave an awkward gap like that in his narrative.

    4. Who moved the stone? The Jews’ own traditionally accepted version of the events, confirmed in the gospel, is that the disciples stole the body. Whether they accepted the resurrection accounts or not, not even the people who had Jesus put to death could deny that his tomb was empty. But as discussed in point 2, for the disciples to voluntarily spread a falsehood in exchange for a lifetime of hardship and a gruesome death is simply bizarre.

    There’s also the sudden embracing of the cross, a symbol of torture, and the sudden institution of rituals like the Lord’s Supper and worship on Sunday vs. Saturday—all this springing up and spreading outward from the very place where the beloved Messiah was ostensibly crucified, even though every other messianic movement died with its leader.

    That’s just a few starter pellets, narrowly focused on the resurrection. I have plenty more, including general internal marks of eyewitness testimony within the gospel records themselves. But I doubt you’ll still be listening by then anyway.

  • So, where is this risen Jesus now? Where can I find him? Can I invite him to dinner?

    Oh, you say he went up to heaven, huh? Where he can’t be seen by anyone? And therefore there’s no evidence he’s still alive? How very, very convenient for you.

    I now look forward to a verbose diatribe about cloud formations and ancient Palestinian climate patterns that show how a person could have gone up into the clouds and then magically teleported to heaven where no one could see it happen…

  • So, where is this risen Jesus now? Where can I find him? Can I invite him to dinner?

    Oh, you say he went up to heaven, huh? Where he can’t be seen by anyone? And therefore there’s no evidence he’s still alive? How very, very convenient for you.

    I now look forward to a verbose diatribe about cloud formations and ancient Palestinian climate patterns that show how a person could have gone up into the clouds and then magically teleported to heaven where no one could see it happen…

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Thought2Much, actually, a number of skeptical arguments have become outdated as fresh archaeological evidence is turned up. I could recommend something in that area too if you were actually interested, but it’s clear that you’re much better at pretending to know things you don’t know than you are at actual argumentation.

    Michael, the Strobel books are fine as far as they go, but they’re not that detailed, and they only cover so much. If you’re not interested in advancing to the next level, suit yourself, but my offer stands. Every book I’ve named so far is just appetizers for the spread I could offer you. I could probably even recommend much better sources from your own perspective than what you’ve likely dipped into. That way you could actually see the best both sides have to offer. But I’m curious to know which skeptical sources did in fact lead you to your conclusion. Based on your own study, what do you think is the best explanation of the disciples’ behavior? This isn’t a trick question—I’m interested in your response.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Thought2Much, actually, a number of skeptical arguments have become outdated as fresh archaeological evidence is turned up. I could recommend something in that area too if you were actually interested, but it’s clear that you’re much better at pretending to know things you don’t know than you are at actual argumentation.

    Michael, the Strobel books are fine as far as they go, but they’re not that detailed, and they only cover so much. If you’re not interested in advancing to the next level, suit yourself, but my offer stands. Every book I’ve named so far is just appetizers for the spread I could offer you. I could probably even recommend much better sources from your own perspective than what you’ve likely dipped into. That way you could actually see the best both sides have to offer. But I’m curious to know which skeptical sources did in fact lead you to your conclusion. Based on your own study, what do you think is the best explanation of the disciples’ behavior? This isn’t a trick question—I’m interested in your response.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Thought2Much, actually, a number of skeptical arguments have become outdated as fresh archaeological evidence is turned up. I could recommend something in that area too if you were actually interested, but it’s clear that you’re much better at pretending to know things you don’t know than you are at actual argumentation.

    Michael, the Strobel books are fine as far as they go, but they’re not that detailed, and they only cover so much. If you’re not interested in advancing to the next level, suit yourself, but my offer stands. Every book I’ve named so far is just appetizers for the spread I could offer you. I could probably even recommend much better sources from your own perspective than what you’ve likely dipped into. That way you could actually see the best both sides have to offer. But I’m curious to know which skeptical sources did in fact lead you to your conclusion. Based on your own study, what do you think is the best explanation of the disciples’ behavior? This isn’t a trick question—I’m interested in your response.

  • Patrick

    Ah, finally, your evidence for Christianity! Or at least the resurrection. Thank you. First a point of clarification, my issue was your use of quotation marks for things I did not say. If you want to quote me, please use my exact words. If you want to paraphrase what I said, then you’re free to leave out the quotation marks. Now I will examine your evidence. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time, as I’m off to meetings (in the Middle East, by the way), so this is off the top of my head, not time to research. I will follow your numbering system:

    1 – Yes, women supposedly found the empty tomb of Jesus. I do think that’s an interesting detail. And as an aside, I think Mark was a literary genius. His gospel is the most moving for me. “Why hast thou forsaken me” is a fantastically ambiguous ending to a very moving work. In any case, having women instead of men find the empty tomb is hardly evidence for the resurrection, is it? Perhaps Mark, writing a generation after the death of Jesus, needed to explain why so few ever heard about the supposed resurrection? And by the way, women were accepted as valid witnesses in courts at the time, so it wasn’t completely strange that women could bear witness to this so called “miraculous” event. It’s also highly unlikely that a criminal in the eyes of Romans and Jews would have been buried in a tomb. He would have been dumped in an unmarked grave, after his body was left to rot for days/weeks. As evidence for a man actually rising from the dead, claiming his missing body was “discovered” by women is very weak gruel, you have to admit that, right? As to the apostles looking bad during the arrest, they looked bad throughout the so called ministry of Jesus in other stories, as well. Jesus performs a miracle. Later, he performs a similar miracle, and his followers are shocked. Eh? They just saw him perform a similar miracle earlier, why the shock? It’s like those Jews in the wilderness with Moses, their stupidity is unbelievable. God performs miracles in front of their eyes, but the minute he turns away, they’re back worshipping other idols. Beggars belief. But probably acceptable usage when composing myth, which is what the people at the time understood these stories to be (myths to get at fundamental truths, not to be taken literally).

    2 – Ester, I’m writing this a camel’s ride from where Mohammed made up his own stories about God, Jesus, and various other prophets (yes, Jesus is a prophet in the Koran). The fact that Christians died for their religion is not evidence of that religion. Your addition of “*know* to be *false*” changes nothing. Martyrdom is common in many religions, including Judaism, Islam, even Buddhism. The passion one holds a belief is not correlated to the truth of that belief. It’s linked to actual evidence, facts on the ground…

    3 – Who knows about James? He was probably the brother of Jesus, yes, but what he did in real life is a great mystery. You can hardly take the gospels as reliable sources. I do believe Paul is a better source on James, however, since he knew him, met him, and considered him a rival in the church. I view James as a Jew who was trying to reform Judaism, Paul as the genius who rethought the life of Jesus so as to incorporate Gentiles. Paul turned Christianity into a sort of “Judaism lite” for the masses. But it’s all speculation, mine and yours. The mysterious life of James, what little we know of it, is certainly not proof of anything.

    4 – There is no consensus among Jews that someone moved the stone, what are you talking about? You have documented writings from any Jew who was skeptical of Christians that the stone was moved? Josephus doesn’t mention it, who else was there? There is no evidence that Jesus was even buried in a stone grave, and that, as I’ve already said, is highly unlikely for a poor criminal. And the quick acceptance of the cross as a symbol is also incorrect, or at least not based on fact. You have nothing about the cross being a symbol of Christianity until much later, after the cult had grown. I don’t doubt many Christians believed strongly that Jesus was the messiah, just like there were many other cults that worshipped a different messiah. Josephus documents this, as well. Doesn’t prove anything, Esther.

    Your evidence differs little from evidence Muslims give on the life of Mohammed. His passionate followers conquered half a continent, during his life and soon after his death. Now there’s passion! Your evidence is not fundamentally better in any way from other religions. You are making the error of starting with your “Truth,” then working back to cherry pick “facts” which support your case. Conveniently discounting that your evidence is not better than what other religions claim as evidence.

    And final point, even if the resurrection was true, even if a Jew named Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead (and you have provided no evidence for this, just 3rd hand eye witness accounts from unknown sources), why does that make anything about Christianity true? Why couldn’t Jesus have been brought to life to preach Islam to the masses? As I’ve noted, Muslims claim Jesus as a prophet, as well. You are still making a leap from “a man named Jesus was resurrected” to “the selected books of the New Testament, written by men, selected for inclusion in the New Testament by men, represent Jesus’ vision of God.” But that is really a moot point, since your “evidence” for a man having risen from the dead is so weak we don’t even need to go there.

    Do you really want to psychologically scar children about the existence of hell and devils based on an author’s choice of women finding an empty tomb, or how passionately many people believe in one particular cult? Seriously?

    But thank you for presenting your “pellets” of evidence on the resurrection. I do appreciate it. Let the truth of the resurrection stand on your evidence. Amen.

  • Patrick

    Ah, finally, your evidence for Christianity! Or at least the resurrection. Thank you. First a point of clarification, my issue was your use of quotation marks for things I did not say. If you want to quote me, please use my exact words. If you want to paraphrase what I said, then you’re free to leave out the quotation marks. Now I will examine your evidence. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time, as I’m off to meetings (in the Middle East, by the way), so this is off the top of my head, not time to research. I will follow your numbering system:

    1 – Yes, women supposedly found the empty tomb of Jesus. I do think that’s an interesting detail. And as an aside, I think Mark was a literary genius. His gospel is the most moving for me. “Why hast thou forsaken me” is a fantastically ambiguous ending to a very moving work. In any case, having women instead of men find the empty tomb is hardly evidence for the resurrection, is it? Perhaps Mark, writing a generation after the death of Jesus, needed to explain why so few ever heard about the supposed resurrection? And by the way, women were accepted as valid witnesses in courts at the time, so it wasn’t completely strange that women could bear witness to this so called “miraculous” event. It’s also highly unlikely that a criminal in the eyes of Romans and Jews would have been buried in a tomb. He would have been dumped in an unmarked grave, after his body was left to rot for days/weeks. As evidence for a man actually rising from the dead, claiming his missing body was “discovered” by women is very weak gruel, you have to admit that, right? As to the apostles looking bad during the arrest, they looked bad throughout the so called ministry of Jesus in other stories, as well. Jesus performs a miracle. Later, he performs a similar miracle, and his followers are shocked. Eh? They just saw him perform a similar miracle earlier, why the shock? It’s like those Jews in the wilderness with Moses, their stupidity is unbelievable. God performs miracles in front of their eyes, but the minute he turns away, they’re back worshipping other idols. Beggars belief. But probably acceptable usage when composing myth, which is what the people at the time understood these stories to be (myths to get at fundamental truths, not to be taken literally).

    2 – Ester, I’m writing this a camel’s ride from where Mohammed made up his own stories about God, Jesus, and various other prophets (yes, Jesus is a prophet in the Koran). The fact that Christians died for their religion is not evidence of that religion. Your addition of “*know* to be *false*” changes nothing. Martyrdom is common in many religions, including Judaism, Islam, even Buddhism. The passion one holds a belief is not correlated to the truth of that belief. It’s linked to actual evidence, facts on the ground…

    3 – Who knows about James? He was probably the brother of Jesus, yes, but what he did in real life is a great mystery. You can hardly take the gospels as reliable sources. I do believe Paul is a better source on James, however, since he knew him, met him, and considered him a rival in the church. I view James as a Jew who was trying to reform Judaism, Paul as the genius who rethought the life of Jesus so as to incorporate Gentiles. Paul turned Christianity into a sort of “Judaism lite” for the masses. But it’s all speculation, mine and yours. The mysterious life of James, what little we know of it, is certainly not proof of anything.

    4 – There is no consensus among Jews that someone moved the stone, what are you talking about? You have documented writings from any Jew who was skeptical of Christians that the stone was moved? Josephus doesn’t mention it, who else was there? There is no evidence that Jesus was even buried in a stone grave, and that, as I’ve already said, is highly unlikely for a poor criminal. And the quick acceptance of the cross as a symbol is also incorrect, or at least not based on fact. You have nothing about the cross being a symbol of Christianity until much later, after the cult had grown. I don’t doubt many Christians believed strongly that Jesus was the messiah, just like there were many other cults that worshipped a different messiah. Josephus documents this, as well. Doesn’t prove anything, Esther.

    Your evidence differs little from evidence Muslims give on the life of Mohammed. His passionate followers conquered half a continent, during his life and soon after his death. Now there’s passion! Your evidence is not fundamentally better in any way from other religions. You are making the error of starting with your “Truth,” then working back to cherry pick “facts” which support your case. Conveniently discounting that your evidence is not better than what other religions claim as evidence.

    And final point, even if the resurrection was true, even if a Jew named Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead (and you have provided no evidence for this, just 3rd hand eye witness accounts from unknown sources), why does that make anything about Christianity true? Why couldn’t Jesus have been brought to life to preach Islam to the masses? As I’ve noted, Muslims claim Jesus as a prophet, as well. You are still making a leap from “a man named Jesus was resurrected” to “the selected books of the New Testament, written by men, selected for inclusion in the New Testament by men, represent Jesus’ vision of God.” But that is really a moot point, since your “evidence” for a man having risen from the dead is so weak we don’t even need to go there.

    Do you really want to psychologically scar children about the existence of hell and devils based on an author’s choice of women finding an empty tomb, or how passionately many people believe in one particular cult? Seriously?

    But thank you for presenting your “pellets” of evidence on the resurrection. I do appreciate it. Let the truth of the resurrection stand on your evidence. Amen.

  • Patrick

    Ah, finally, your evidence for Christianity! Or at least the resurrection. Thank you. First a point of clarification, my issue was your use of quotation marks for things I did not say. If you want to quote me, please use my exact words. If you want to paraphrase what I said, then you’re free to leave out the quotation marks. Now I will examine your evidence. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time, as I’m off to meetings (in the Middle East, by the way), so this is off the top of my head, not time to research. I will follow your numbering system:

    1 – Yes, women supposedly found the empty tomb of Jesus. I do think that’s an interesting detail. And as an aside, I think Mark was a literary genius. His gospel is the most moving for me. “Why hast thou forsaken me” is a fantastically ambiguous ending to a very moving work. In any case, having women instead of men find the empty tomb is hardly evidence for the resurrection, is it? Perhaps Mark, writing a generation after the death of Jesus, needed to explain why so few ever heard about the supposed resurrection? And by the way, women were accepted as valid witnesses in courts at the time, so it wasn’t completely strange that women could bear witness to this so called “miraculous” event. It’s also highly unlikely that a criminal in the eyes of Romans and Jews would have been buried in a tomb. He would have been dumped in an unmarked grave, after his body was left to rot for days/weeks. As evidence for a man actually rising from the dead, claiming his missing body was “discovered” by women is very weak gruel, you have to admit that, right? As to the apostles looking bad during the arrest, they looked bad throughout the so called ministry of Jesus in other stories, as well. Jesus performs a miracle. Later, he performs a similar miracle, and his followers are shocked. Eh? They just saw him perform a similar miracle earlier, why the shock? It’s like those Jews in the wilderness with Moses, their stupidity is unbelievable. God performs miracles in front of their eyes, but the minute he turns away, they’re back worshipping other idols. Beggars belief. But probably acceptable usage when composing myth, which is what the people at the time understood these stories to be (myths to get at fundamental truths, not to be taken literally).

    2 – Ester, I’m writing this a camel’s ride from where Mohammed made up his own stories about God, Jesus, and various other prophets (yes, Jesus is a prophet in the Koran). The fact that Christians died for their religion is not evidence of that religion. Your addition of “*know* to be *false*” changes nothing. Martyrdom is common in many religions, including Judaism, Islam, even Buddhism. The passion one holds a belief is not correlated to the truth of that belief. It’s linked to actual evidence, facts on the ground…

    3 – Who knows about James? He was probably the brother of Jesus, yes, but what he did in real life is a great mystery. You can hardly take the gospels as reliable sources. I do believe Paul is a better source on James, however, since he knew him, met him, and considered him a rival in the church. I view James as a Jew who was trying to reform Judaism, Paul as the genius who rethought the life of Jesus so as to incorporate Gentiles. Paul turned Christianity into a sort of “Judaism lite” for the masses. But it’s all speculation, mine and yours. The mysterious life of James, what little we know of it, is certainly not proof of anything.

    4 – There is no consensus among Jews that someone moved the stone, what are you talking about? You have documented writings from any Jew who was skeptical of Christians that the stone was moved? Josephus doesn’t mention it, who else was there? There is no evidence that Jesus was even buried in a stone grave, and that, as I’ve already said, is highly unlikely for a poor criminal. And the quick acceptance of the cross as a symbol is also incorrect, or at least not based on fact. You have nothing about the cross being a symbol of Christianity until much later, after the cult had grown. I don’t doubt many Christians believed strongly that Jesus was the messiah, just like there were many other cults that worshipped a different messiah. Josephus documents this, as well. Doesn’t prove anything, Esther.

    Your evidence differs little from evidence Muslims give on the life of Mohammed. His passionate followers conquered half a continent, during his life and soon after his death. Now there’s passion! Your evidence is not fundamentally better in any way from other religions. You are making the error of starting with your “Truth,” then working back to cherry pick “facts” which support your case. Conveniently discounting that your evidence is not better than what other religions claim as evidence.

    And final point, even if the resurrection was true, even if a Jew named Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead (and you have provided no evidence for this, just 3rd hand eye witness accounts from unknown sources), why does that make anything about Christianity true? Why couldn’t Jesus have been brought to life to preach Islam to the masses? As I’ve noted, Muslims claim Jesus as a prophet, as well. You are still making a leap from “a man named Jesus was resurrected” to “the selected books of the New Testament, written by men, selected for inclusion in the New Testament by men, represent Jesus’ vision of God.” But that is really a moot point, since your “evidence” for a man having risen from the dead is so weak we don’t even need to go there.

    Do you really want to psychologically scar children about the existence of hell and devils based on an author’s choice of women finding an empty tomb, or how passionately many people believe in one particular cult? Seriously?

    But thank you for presenting your “pellets” of evidence on the resurrection. I do appreciate it. Let the truth of the resurrection stand on your evidence. Amen.

  • Patrick

    Ah, finally, your evidence for Christianity! Or at least the resurrection. Thank you. First a point of clarification, my issue was your use of quotation marks for things I did not say. If you want to quote me, please use my exact words. If you want to paraphrase what I said, then you’re free to leave out the quotation marks. Now I will examine your evidence. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time, as I’m off to meetings (in the Middle East, by the way), so this is off the top of my head, not time to research. I will follow your numbering system:

    1 – Yes, women supposedly found the empty tomb of Jesus. I do think that’s an interesting detail. And as an aside, I think Mark was a literary genius. His gospel is the most moving for me. “Why hast thou forsaken me” is a fantastically ambiguous ending to a very moving work. In any case, having women instead of men find the empty tomb is hardly evidence for the resurrection, is it? Perhaps Mark, writing a generation after the death of Jesus, needed to explain why so few ever heard about the supposed resurrection? And by the way, women were accepted as valid witnesses in courts at the time, so it wasn’t completely strange that women could bear witness to this so called “miraculous” event. It’s also highly unlikely that a criminal in the eyes of Romans and Jews would have been buried in a tomb. He would have been dumped in an unmarked grave, after his body was left to rot for days/weeks. As evidence for a man actually rising from the dead, claiming his missing body was “discovered” by women is very weak gruel, you have to admit that, right? As to the apostles looking bad during the arrest, they looked bad throughout the so called ministry of Jesus in other stories, as well. Jesus performs a miracle. Later, he performs a similar miracle, and his followers are shocked. Eh? They just saw him perform a similar miracle earlier, why the shock? It’s like those Jews in the wilderness with Moses, their stupidity is unbelievable. God performs miracles in front of their eyes, but the minute he turns away, they’re back worshipping other idols. Beggars belief. But probably acceptable usage when composing myth, which is what the people at the time understood these stories to be (myths to get at fundamental truths, not to be taken literally).

    2 – Ester, I’m writing this a camel’s ride from where Mohammed made up his own stories about God, Jesus, and various other prophets (yes, Jesus is a prophet in the Koran). The fact that Christians died for their religion is not evidence of that religion. Your addition of “*know* to be *false*” changes nothing. Martyrdom is common in many religions, including Judaism, Islam, even Buddhism. The passion one holds a belief is not correlated to the truth of that belief. It’s linked to actual evidence, facts on the ground…

    3 – Who knows about James? He was probably the brother of Jesus, yes, but what he did in real life is a great mystery. You can hardly take the gospels as reliable sources. I do believe Paul is a better source on James, however, since he knew him, met him, and considered him a rival in the church. I view James as a Jew who was trying to reform Judaism, Paul as the genius who rethought the life of Jesus so as to incorporate Gentiles. Paul turned Christianity into a sort of “Judaism lite” for the masses. But it’s all speculation, mine and yours. The mysterious life of James, what little we know of it, is certainly not proof of anything.

    4 – There is no consensus among Jews that someone moved the stone, what are you talking about? You have documented writings from any Jew who was skeptical of Christians that the stone was moved? Josephus doesn’t mention it, who else was there? There is no evidence that Jesus was even buried in a stone grave, and that, as I’ve already said, is highly unlikely for a poor criminal. And the quick acceptance of the cross as a symbol is also incorrect, or at least not based on fact. You have nothing about the cross being a symbol of Christianity until much later, after the cult had grown. I don’t doubt many Christians believed strongly that Jesus was the messiah, just like there were many other cults that worshipped a different messiah. Josephus documents this, as well. Doesn’t prove anything, Esther.

    Your evidence differs little from evidence Muslims give on the life of Mohammed. His passionate followers conquered half a continent, during his life and soon after his death. Now there’s passion! Your evidence is not fundamentally better in any way from other religions. You are making the error of starting with your “Truth,” then working back to cherry pick “facts” which support your case. Conveniently discounting that your evidence is not better than what other religions claim as evidence.

    And final point, even if the resurrection was true, even if a Jew named Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead (and you have provided no evidence for this, just 3rd hand eye witness accounts from unknown sources), why does that make anything about Christianity true? Why couldn’t Jesus have been brought to life to preach Islam to the masses? As I’ve noted, Muslims claim Jesus as a prophet, as well. You are still making a leap from “a man named Jesus was resurrected” to “the selected books of the New Testament, written by men, selected for inclusion in the New Testament by men, represent Jesus’ vision of God.” But that is really a moot point, since your “evidence” for a man having risen from the dead is so weak we don’t even need to go there.

    Do you really want to psychologically scar children about the existence of hell and devils based on an author’s choice of women finding an empty tomb, or how passionately many people believe in one particular cult? Seriously?

    But thank you for presenting your “pellets” of evidence on the resurrection. I do appreciate it. Let the truth of the resurrection stand on your evidence. Amen.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Patrick, hey, you’re the one who chose to make a big fuss about the fact that I attributed the word “mention” to you because you hadn’t used it, even though you actually did. Don’t blame me for your bad memory.

    I’m sorry you won’t be around to continue this discussion. I was just getting started! But to your responses:

    1. You can leave the smarmy lit. crit. out of this discussion. I suppose you’re really big on the “different Jesuses” riff too. *eyeroll* I’m not even sure what you mean by saying that “Why hast thou forsaken me?” is the “end” of Mark’s gospel. Did you mean to refer to Verse 8, the last verse before the spurious interpolation, which reads, “They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid”? I assume you would make predictably heavy weather of this merely because it ends abruptly before the details of the resurrection appearances. But the fact that Peter and other apostles were proclaiming that they’d seen Jesus alive again shortly after the crucifixion really isn’t in dispute among scholars on either side. It’s not like we need to have the complete fragment of Mark’s particular gospel to know that. The logical conclusion is that we’ve simply lost Mark’s original ending.

    As to the role of women, my point was not that a woman’s testimony was never accepted in court under any circumstances, but that in the Jewish culture, it was valued much less than that of a man. When you’re trying to sell a likely story, you want to put it in terms calculated to appeal to your audience. That particular detail is one among many that would not naturally appeal to a Jewish audience. For example, when Josephus undertakes to “describe this form of government which was agreeable to the dignity and virtue of Moses…” he includes the statement, “But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex (21) Nor let servants be admitted to give testimony, on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment.” (Antiquities 4.8.15)

    John Dominic Crossan’s speculative opining about Jesus’ burial is completely out of step with actual Jewish practice and has been thoroughly debunked by Craig Evans here:

    http://goo.gl/IlSOFX

    Your assertion that Jesus’ body would have been “left to rot for days/weeks” is simply bizarre given the Jews’ obsession with burial and ritual purity, most especially during Passover-tide, when Jesus was crucified. “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is accursed by God; you shall not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23) This is perfectly consistent with the gospel record of the Jews insisting that the Romans take the bodies down off the crosses and bury them because the Jews are preparing for the Passover. Moreover, we know from historians like Josephus that the Romans were unusually solicitous of the Jews’ various rituals and obsessions, even allowing them to use blank coins because of the Old Testament ban on graven images.

    Finally, as to your claim that “the people at the time understood these stories to be myths… not to be taken literally,” I’m not quite sure which “people” you have in mind, but words like, “He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe,” here referring to a very specific and clinical detail about Jesus’ crucifixion, hardly have the ring of myth.

    2. I’m well aware that martyrdom is common in other religions. But the difference between the apostles and other religions’ martyrs is that the latter die for ideas and promises, while the former defied death for the sake of a *physical fact* that they claimed to have *witnessed*. So either they had all suffered the same mass hallucination, were all collaborating in a grand deceptive conspiracy to the end of making their lives as crappy as possible, or were actually telling the truth. Some atheist scholars realize this, so they try to milk the hallucination theory for all it’s worth. If that’s your favorite theory too, milk away, but don’t pretend it’s just like Muslim terrorists.

    3. I’m only relying on the gospels to inform me about James insofar as I’m noting that he’s almost completely absent from them! That’s my point—he suddenly shows up in Acts when he was simply not in the picture before. This guy is a mover and shaker in the early Church, and yet he wasn’t even in Jesus’ inner circle while Jesus was alive. If Jesus was crucified and *didn’t* rise from the dead, why would James risk his neck (or rather his bones, we know from Josephus he was stoned by a mob) to perpetuate the myth of the resurrection? Did he really just want to try bacon that badly? Paul includes an appearance to James in his post-resurrection appearances litany to the Corinthians, so by your theory, James couldn’t have been merely a dupe, he had to have either been in on the conspiracy or suffered the same physical hallucination as the other apostles.

    4. I didn’t have a specific contemporary reference in mind here, but the fact that the Jews never produced a body is fairly indicative. The Jewish leaders originate the stolen body hypothesis in Matthew. I was under the impression that this was what skeptical Jews typically argue for, but let me get back to you on the details of that.

    As to the revering of the cross, Paul is harping on the power of the cross, boasting in the cross, etc., etc. less than two decades after Christ’s estimated crucifixion, in letters to churches who are expected to regard this as familiar language. He also explains in his letters that he is merely passing on the training and beliefs he himself received from the apostles. I would say that counts as “sudden” when you’re talking about a complete reversal of cultural attitude towards a symbol formerly considered too obscene even to mention in public, and it can be traced straight back to the apostles.

    Which other Jewish messiahs did you have in mind whom their followers worshiped as God after humiliating defeat and execution, to the point of orchestrating radically new patterns of behavior around belief in that messiah? Maybe I’m just forgetting that Josephus passage.

    As for your comparison with Islam, I doubt that your Muslim friends would agree with you there. Mohammed prides himself on NOT performing any miraculous signs in the Koran, saying that the Koran itself is the only miracle anyone should need. No doubt his followers were passionate—gather a large band of loyal men together, promise them the spoils of military victory and unlimited sexual fulfillment now and in the afterlife, it’s amazing what you can accomplish! Both Islam and Christianity flourished at the point of the sword. The difference is in who was holding the sword.

    On your final point, Jesus’ resurrection and his claim to divinity are inseparably linked. In the gospels, the former is explicitly predicted and carried out as proof to back up the latter. The same witnesses to Christ’s resurrection were also witnesses to the teachings and claims of Jesus. If you grant their truthfulness and reliability on the crucifixion and resurrection, where’s the logic in simultaneously regarding everything else they report as suspect?

    Have fun storming the castle.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Patrick, hey, you’re the one who chose to make a big fuss about the fact that I attributed the word “mention” to you because you hadn’t used it, even though you actually did. Don’t blame me for your bad memory.

    I’m sorry you won’t be around to continue this discussion. I was just getting started! But to your responses:

    1. You can leave the smarmy lit. crit. out of this discussion. I suppose you’re really big on the “different Jesuses” riff too. *eyeroll* I’m not even sure what you mean by saying that “Why hast thou forsaken me?” is the “end” of Mark’s gospel. Did you mean to refer to Verse 8, the last verse before the spurious interpolation, which reads, “They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid”? I assume you would make predictably heavy weather of this merely because it ends abruptly before the details of the resurrection appearances. But the fact that Peter and other apostles were proclaiming that they’d seen Jesus alive again shortly after the crucifixion really isn’t in dispute among scholars on either side. It’s not like we need to have the complete fragment of Mark’s particular gospel to know that. The logical conclusion is that we’ve simply lost Mark’s original ending.

    As to the role of women, my point was not that a woman’s testimony was never accepted in court under any circumstances, but that in the Jewish culture, it was valued much less than that of a man. When you’re trying to sell a likely story, you want to put it in terms calculated to appeal to your audience. That particular detail is one among many that would not naturally appeal to a Jewish audience. For example, when Josephus undertakes to “describe this form of government which was agreeable to the dignity and virtue of Moses…” he includes the statement, “But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex (21) Nor let servants be admitted to give testimony, on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment.” (Antiquities 4.8.15)

    John Dominic Crossan’s speculative opining about Jesus’ burial is completely out of step with actual Jewish practice and has been thoroughly debunked by Craig Evans here:

    http://goo.gl/IlSOFX

    Your assertion that Jesus’ body would have been “left to rot for days/weeks” is simply bizarre given the Jews’ obsession with burial and ritual purity, most especially during Passover-tide, when Jesus was crucified. “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is accursed by God; you shall not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23) This is perfectly consistent with the gospel record of the Jews insisting that the Romans take the bodies down off the crosses and bury them because the Jews are preparing for the Passover. Moreover, we know from historians like Josephus that the Romans were unusually solicitous of the Jews’ various rituals and obsessions, even allowing them to use blank coins because of the Old Testament ban on graven images.

    Finally, as to your claim that “the people at the time understood these stories to be myths… not to be taken literally,” I’m not quite sure which “people” you have in mind, but words like, “He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe,” here referring to a very specific and clinical detail about Jesus’ crucifixion, hardly have the ring of myth.

    2. I’m well aware that martyrdom is common in other religions. But the difference between the apostles and other religions’ martyrs is that the latter die for ideas and promises, while the former defied death for the sake of a *physical fact* that they claimed to have *witnessed*. So either they had all suffered the same mass hallucination, were all collaborating in a grand deceptive conspiracy to the end of making their lives as crappy as possible, or were actually telling the truth. Some atheist scholars realize this, so they try to milk the hallucination theory for all it’s worth. If that’s your favorite theory too, milk away, but don’t pretend it’s just like Muslim terrorists.

    3. I’m only relying on the gospels to inform me about James insofar as I’m noting that he’s almost completely absent from them! That’s my point—he suddenly shows up in Acts when he was simply not in the picture before. This guy is a mover and shaker in the early Church, and yet he wasn’t even in Jesus’ inner circle while Jesus was alive. If Jesus was crucified and *didn’t* rise from the dead, why would James risk his neck (or rather his bones, we know from Josephus he was stoned by a mob) to perpetuate the myth of the resurrection? Did he really just want to try bacon that badly? Paul includes an appearance to James in his post-resurrection appearances litany to the Corinthians, so by your theory, James couldn’t have been merely a dupe, he had to have either been in on the conspiracy or suffered the same physical hallucination as the other apostles.

    4. I didn’t have a specific contemporary reference in mind here, but the fact that the Jews never produced a body is fairly indicative. The Jewish leaders originate the stolen body hypothesis in Matthew. I was under the impression that this was what skeptical Jews typically argue for, but let me get back to you on the details of that.

    As to the revering of the cross, Paul is harping on the power of the cross, boasting in the cross, etc., etc. less than two decades after Christ’s estimated crucifixion, in letters to churches who are expected to regard this as familiar language. He also explains in his letters that he is merely passing on the training and beliefs he himself received from the apostles. I would say that counts as “sudden” when you’re talking about a complete reversal of cultural attitude towards a symbol formerly considered too obscene even to mention in public, and it can be traced straight back to the apostles.

    Which other Jewish messiahs did you have in mind whom their followers worshiped as God after humiliating defeat and execution, to the point of orchestrating radically new patterns of behavior around belief in that messiah? Maybe I’m just forgetting that Josephus passage.

    As for your comparison with Islam, I doubt that your Muslim friends would agree with you there. Mohammed prides himself on NOT performing any miraculous signs in the Koran, saying that the Koran itself is the only miracle anyone should need. No doubt his followers were passionate—gather a large band of loyal men together, promise them the spoils of military victory and unlimited sexual fulfillment now and in the afterlife, it’s amazing what you can accomplish! Both Islam and Christianity flourished at the point of the sword. The difference is in who was holding the sword.

    On your final point, Jesus’ resurrection and his claim to divinity are inseparably linked. In the gospels, the former is explicitly predicted and carried out as proof to back up the latter. The same witnesses to Christ’s resurrection were also witnesses to the teachings and claims of Jesus. If you grant their truthfulness and reliability on the crucifixion and resurrection, where’s the logic in simultaneously regarding everything else they report as suspect?

    Have fun storming the castle.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Patrick, hey, you’re the one who chose to make a big fuss about the fact that I attributed the word “mention” to you because you hadn’t used it, even though you actually did. Don’t blame me for your bad memory.

    I’m sorry you won’t be around to continue this discussion. I was just getting started! But to your responses:

    1. You can leave the smarmy lit. crit. out of this discussion. I suppose you’re really big on the “different Jesuses” riff too. *eyeroll* I’m not even sure what you mean by saying that “Why hast thou forsaken me?” is the “end” of Mark’s gospel. Did you mean to refer to Verse 8, the last verse before the spurious interpolation, which reads, “They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid”? I assume you would make predictably heavy weather of this merely because it ends abruptly before the details of the resurrection appearances. But the fact that Peter and other apostles were proclaiming that they’d seen Jesus alive again shortly after the crucifixion really isn’t in dispute among scholars on either side. It’s not like we need to have the complete fragment of Mark’s particular gospel to know that. The logical conclusion is that we’ve simply lost Mark’s original ending.

    As to the role of women, my point was not that a woman’s testimony was never accepted in court under any circumstances, but that in the Jewish culture, it was valued much less than that of a man. When you’re trying to sell a likely story, you want to put it in terms calculated to appeal to your audience. That particular detail is one among many that would not naturally appeal to a Jewish audience. For example, when Josephus undertakes to “describe this form of government which was agreeable to the dignity and virtue of Moses…” he includes the statement, “But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex (21) Nor let servants be admitted to give testimony, on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment.” (Antiquities 4.8.15)

    John Dominic Crossan’s speculative opining about Jesus’ burial is completely out of step with actual Jewish practice and has been thoroughly debunked by Craig Evans here:

    http://goo.gl/IlSOFX

    Your assertion that Jesus’ body would have been “left to rot for days/weeks” is simply bizarre given the Jews’ obsession with burial and ritual purity, most especially during Passover-tide, when Jesus was crucified. “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is accursed by God; you shall not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23) This is perfectly consistent with the gospel record of the Jews insisting that the Romans take the bodies down off the crosses and bury them because the Jews are preparing for the Passover. Moreover, we know from historians like Josephus that the Romans were unusually solicitous of the Jews’ various rituals and obsessions, even allowing them to use blank coins because of the Old Testament ban on graven images.

    Finally, as to your claim that “the people at the time understood these stories to be myths… not to be taken literally,” I’m not quite sure which “people” you have in mind, but words like, “He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe,” here referring to a very specific and clinical detail about Jesus’ crucifixion, hardly have the ring of myth.

    2. I’m well aware that martyrdom is common in other religions. But the difference between the apostles and other religions’ martyrs is that the latter die for ideas and promises, while the former defied death for the sake of a *physical fact* that they claimed to have *witnessed*. So either they had all suffered the same mass hallucination, were all collaborating in a grand deceptive conspiracy to the end of making their lives as crappy as possible, or were actually telling the truth. Some atheist scholars realize this, so they try to milk the hallucination theory for all it’s worth. If that’s your favorite theory too, milk away, but don’t pretend it’s just like Muslim terrorists.

    3. I’m only relying on the gospels to inform me about James insofar as I’m noting that he’s almost completely absent from them! That’s my point—he suddenly shows up in Acts when he was simply not in the picture before. This guy is a mover and shaker in the early Church, and yet he wasn’t even in Jesus’ inner circle while Jesus was alive. If Jesus was crucified and *didn’t* rise from the dead, why would James risk his neck (or rather his bones, we know from Josephus he was stoned by a mob) to perpetuate the myth of the resurrection? Did he really just want to try bacon that badly? Paul includes an appearance to James in his post-resurrection appearances litany to the Corinthians, so by your theory, James couldn’t have been merely a dupe, he had to have either been in on the conspiracy or suffered the same physical hallucination as the other apostles.

    4. I didn’t have a specific contemporary reference in mind here, but the fact that the Jews never produced a body is fairly indicative. The Jewish leaders originate the stolen body hypothesis in Matthew. I was under the impression that this was what skeptical Jews typically argue for, but let me get back to you on the details of that.

    As to the revering of the cross, Paul is harping on the power of the cross, boasting in the cross, etc., etc. less than two decades after Christ’s estimated crucifixion, in letters to churches who are expected to regard this as familiar language. He also explains in his letters that he is merely passing on the training and beliefs he himself received from the apostles. I would say that counts as “sudden” when you’re talking about a complete reversal of cultural attitude towards a symbol formerly considered too obscene even to mention in public, and it can be traced straight back to the apostles.

    Which other Jewish messiahs did you have in mind whom their followers worshiped as God after humiliating defeat and execution, to the point of orchestrating radically new patterns of behavior around belief in that messiah? Maybe I’m just forgetting that Josephus passage.

    As for your comparison with Islam, I doubt that your Muslim friends would agree with you there. Mohammed prides himself on NOT performing any miraculous signs in the Koran, saying that the Koran itself is the only miracle anyone should need. No doubt his followers were passionate—gather a large band of loyal men together, promise them the spoils of military victory and unlimited sexual fulfillment now and in the afterlife, it’s amazing what you can accomplish! Both Islam and Christianity flourished at the point of the sword. The difference is in who was holding the sword.

    On your final point, Jesus’ resurrection and his claim to divinity are inseparably linked. In the gospels, the former is explicitly predicted and carried out as proof to back up the latter. The same witnesses to Christ’s resurrection were also witnesses to the teachings and claims of Jesus. If you grant their truthfulness and reliability on the crucifixion and resurrection, where’s the logic in simultaneously regarding everything else they report as suspect?

    Have fun storming the castle.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Patrick, hey, you’re the one who chose to make a big fuss about the fact that I attributed the word “mention” to you because you hadn’t used it, even though you actually did. Don’t blame me for your bad memory.

    I’m sorry you won’t be around to continue this discussion. I was just getting started! But to your responses:

    1. You can leave the smarmy lit. crit. out of this discussion. I suppose you’re really big on the “different Jesuses” riff too. *eyeroll* I’m not even sure what you mean by saying that “Why hast thou forsaken me?” is the “end” of Mark’s gospel. Did you mean to refer to Verse 8, the last verse before the spurious interpolation, which reads, “They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid”? I assume you would make predictably heavy weather of this merely because it ends abruptly before the details of the resurrection appearances. But the fact that Peter and other apostles were proclaiming that they’d seen Jesus alive again shortly after the crucifixion really isn’t in dispute among scholars on either side. It’s not like we need to have the complete fragment of Mark’s particular gospel to know that. The logical conclusion is that we’ve simply lost Mark’s original ending.

    As to the role of women, my point was not that a woman’s testimony was never accepted in court under any circumstances, but that in the Jewish culture, it was valued much less than that of a man. When you’re trying to sell a likely story, you want to put it in terms calculated to appeal to your audience. That particular detail is one among many that would not naturally appeal to a Jewish audience. For example, when Josephus undertakes to “describe this form of government which was agreeable to the dignity and virtue of Moses…” he includes the statement, “But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex (21) Nor let servants be admitted to give testimony, on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment.” (Antiquities 4.8.15)

    John Dominic Crossan’s speculative opining about Jesus’ burial is completely out of step with actual Jewish practice and has been thoroughly debunked by Craig Evans here:

    http://goo.gl/IlSOFX

    Your assertion that Jesus’ body would have been “left to rot for days/weeks” is simply bizarre given the Jews’ obsession with burial and ritual purity, most especially during Passover-tide, when Jesus was crucified. “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is accursed by God; you shall not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23) This is perfectly consistent with the gospel record of the Jews insisting that the Romans take the bodies down off the crosses and bury them because the Jews are preparing for the Passover. Moreover, we know from historians like Josephus that the Romans were unusually solicitous of the Jews’ various rituals and obsessions, even allowing them to use blank coins because of the Old Testament ban on graven images.

    Finally, as to your claim that “the people at the time understood these stories to be myths… not to be taken literally,” I’m not quite sure which “people” you have in mind, but words like, “He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe,” here referring to a very specific and clinical detail about Jesus’ crucifixion, hardly have the ring of myth.

    2. I’m well aware that martyrdom is common in other religions. But the difference between the apostles and other religions’ martyrs is that the latter die for ideas and promises, while the former defied death for the sake of a *physical fact* that they claimed to have *witnessed*. So either they had all suffered the same mass hallucination, were all collaborating in a grand deceptive conspiracy to the end of making their lives as crappy as possible, or were actually telling the truth. Some atheist scholars realize this, so they try to milk the hallucination theory for all it’s worth. If that’s your favorite theory too, milk away, but don’t pretend it’s just like Muslim terrorists.

    3. I’m only relying on the gospels to inform me about James insofar as I’m noting that he’s almost completely absent from them! That’s my point—he suddenly shows up in Acts when he was simply not in the picture before. This guy is a mover and shaker in the early Church, and yet he wasn’t even in Jesus’ inner circle while Jesus was alive. If Jesus was crucified and *didn’t* rise from the dead, why would James risk his neck (or rather his bones, we know from Josephus he was stoned by a mob) to perpetuate the myth of the resurrection? Did he really just want to try bacon that badly? Paul includes an appearance to James in his post-resurrection appearances litany to the Corinthians, so by your theory, James couldn’t have been merely a dupe, he had to have either been in on the conspiracy or suffered the same physical hallucination as the other apostles.

    4. I didn’t have a specific contemporary reference in mind here, but the fact that the Jews never produced a body is fairly indicative. The Jewish leaders originate the stolen body hypothesis in Matthew. I was under the impression that this was what skeptical Jews typically argue for, but let me get back to you on the details of that.

    As to the revering of the cross, Paul is harping on the power of the cross, boasting in the cross, etc., etc. less than two decades after Christ’s estimated crucifixion, in letters to churches who are expected to regard this as familiar language. He also explains in his letters that he is merely passing on the training and beliefs he himself received from the apostles. I would say that counts as “sudden” when you’re talking about a complete reversal of cultural attitude towards a symbol formerly considered too obscene even to mention in public, and it can be traced straight back to the apostles.

    Which other Jewish messiahs did you have in mind whom their followers worshiped as God after humiliating defeat and execution, to the point of orchestrating radically new patterns of behavior around belief in that messiah? Maybe I’m just forgetting that Josephus passage.

    As for your comparison with Islam, I doubt that your Muslim friends would agree with you there. Mohammed prides himself on NOT performing any miraculous signs in the Koran, saying that the Koran itself is the only miracle anyone should need. No doubt his followers were passionate—gather a large band of loyal men together, promise them the spoils of military victory and unlimited sexual fulfillment now and in the afterlife, it’s amazing what you can accomplish! Both Islam and Christianity flourished at the point of the sword. The difference is in who was holding the sword.

    On your final point, Jesus’ resurrection and his claim to divinity are inseparably linked. In the gospels, the former is explicitly predicted and carried out as proof to back up the latter. The same witnesses to Christ’s resurrection were also witnesses to the teachings and claims of Jesus. If you grant their truthfulness and reliability on the crucifixion and resurrection, where’s the logic in simultaneously regarding everything else they report as suspect?

    Have fun storming the castle.

  • Patrick

    Esther, I asked for evidence, you came up with women (not men!) supposedly finding the empty tomb, according to an unknown author. Something about the brother of Jesus. A very contrived justification why Christian martyrdom is better than Islamic martyrdom (too funny, btw). It’s weak gruel, Esther. Let’s be brutally honest: it’s laughable evidence. You only believe it because you accept it first as truth, and you grasp for whatever straws available. Which is why women supposedly finding the empty tomb is so very significant for you. On this you have organized your life. In your defense, I’m surrounded now by Muslims who have done the same. I’m a short flight away from fundamentalist Jews who have done the same. All based on their own laughable evidence. You claim a man rose from the dead, Esther! Walked on water! Brought the dead back to life! And it must be true, because (wait for it) two women (not two men!) found his empty tomb, according to an anonymous guy who wrote about it long after it supposedly happened…

    If you had grown up with no knowledge of Christianity and at age 21 someone had presented this to you as “evidence,” as a religion on which to base your entire life because two women supposedly found an empty tomb, you’d look on it as you do Scientology, Islam, or Greek myths. I asked you for evidence, Esther, you have not delivered.

    I’m reminded of the believer who said he believed because it is so absurd. As in, “How could anyone make this up, it’s too ridiculous! Ergo, it must be true!” To his credit, he was honest to himself. The evidence is absurd.

    If you want to base your life on Christianity, Esther, by all means, go for it, what do I care? I just wish you would leave children out of it. Especially when it involves so much psychological damage, as is the case with hell.

  • Patrick

    Esther, I asked for evidence, you came up with women (not men!) supposedly finding the empty tomb, according to an unknown author. Something about the brother of Jesus. A very contrived justification why Christian martyrdom is better than Islamic martyrdom (too funny, btw). It’s weak gruel, Esther. Let’s be brutally honest: it’s laughable evidence. You only believe it because you accept it first as truth, and you grasp for whatever straws available. Which is why women supposedly finding the empty tomb is so very significant for you. On this you have organized your life. In your defense, I’m surrounded now by Muslims who have done the same. I’m a short flight away from fundamentalist Jews who have done the same. All based on their own laughable evidence. You claim a man rose from the dead, Esther! Walked on water! Brought the dead back to life! And it must be true, because (wait for it) two women (not two men!) found his empty tomb, according to an anonymous guy who wrote about it long after it supposedly happened…

    If you had grown up with no knowledge of Christianity and at age 21 someone had presented this to you as “evidence,” as a religion on which to base your entire life because two women supposedly found an empty tomb, you’d look on it as you do Scientology, Islam, or Greek myths. I asked you for evidence, Esther, you have not delivered.

    I’m reminded of the believer who said he believed because it is so absurd. As in, “How could anyone make this up, it’s too ridiculous! Ergo, it must be true!” To his credit, he was honest to himself. The evidence is absurd.

    If you want to base your life on Christianity, Esther, by all means, go for it, what do I care? I just wish you would leave children out of it. Especially when it involves so much psychological damage, as is the case with hell.

  • Patrick

    Esther, I asked for evidence, you came up with women (not men!) supposedly finding the empty tomb, according to an unknown author. Something about the brother of Jesus. A very contrived justification why Christian martyrdom is better than Islamic martyrdom (too funny, btw). It’s weak gruel, Esther. Let’s be brutally honest: it’s laughable evidence. You only believe it because you accept it first as truth, and you grasp for whatever straws available. Which is why women supposedly finding the empty tomb is so very significant for you. On this you have organized your life. In your defense, I’m surrounded now by Muslims who have done the same. I’m a short flight away from fundamentalist Jews who have done the same. All based on their own laughable evidence. You claim a man rose from the dead, Esther! Walked on water! Brought the dead back to life! And it must be true, because (wait for it) two women (not two men!) found his empty tomb, according to an anonymous guy who wrote about it long after it supposedly happened…

    If you had grown up with no knowledge of Christianity and at age 21 someone had presented this to you as “evidence,” as a religion on which to base your entire life because two women supposedly found an empty tomb, you’d look on it as you do Scientology, Islam, or Greek myths. I asked you for evidence, Esther, you have not delivered.

    I’m reminded of the believer who said he believed because it is so absurd. As in, “How could anyone make this up, it’s too ridiculous! Ergo, it must be true!” To his credit, he was honest to himself. The evidence is absurd.

    If you want to base your life on Christianity, Esther, by all means, go for it, what do I care? I just wish you would leave children out of it. Especially when it involves so much psychological damage, as is the case with hell.

  • Funny that Esther can’t save everyone some time and actually post the best that her side has to offer, she has to refer us to lots and lots of books.

    Yes, Esther, we know you’ve read lots and lots of books. Good for you. You get a gold star. Yet you still haven’t presented anything convincing to someone that doesn’t already believe this stuff.

    Or is “women were at the tomb instead of men” the best you’ve got?

  • Funny that Esther can’t save everyone some time and actually post the best that her side has to offer, she has to refer us to lots and lots of books.

    Yes, Esther, we know you’ve read lots and lots of books. Good for you. You get a gold star. Yet you still haven’t presented anything convincing to someone that doesn’t already believe this stuff.

    Or is “women were at the tomb instead of men” the best you’ve got?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Wow, that was quick. I was just giving you the first few things that came to mind off the top of my head, but you’re already giving up on trying to defend the first few bad arguments of yours that I mowed down. This is the tip of the iceberg for me, and the best stuff you can muster to attack even just that tip is falling apart if I look at it cross-eyed?

    You: Jesus couldn’t have been buried in a tomb anyway, we know how this worked and the Jews would have left a criminal’s body sitting around rotting for days!

    Me: Um, no they wouldn’t, here’s an essay with a boatload of original documentation showing how silly that theory is.

    You: Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyaaaah!

    My favorite part is how you’re refusing to engage with the obvious asymmetry between the nature of the first Christian apostles’ persecution and other kinds of religious martyrdom, acknowledged even by scholars like Gerd Ludemann, with the compelling argument that “LALALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU AND THEY ARE THE SAME THEY ARE THEY ARE THEY ARE CUZ I SAID SO!” And a military leader who starts a religion by promising earthly gain to a bunch of men and proceeding to conquer a bunch of land with them sounds exactly like how Christianity got started because because because because because BECAAAAAUSE! Do you want me to take what you say on faith, or do you want me to actually make an honest comparison?

    Thought2Much, your standard for satisfactorily answering the question “Was the resurrection an actual historical event?” consists of “Do you or do you not have Jesus in your basement right now, ANSWER THE QUESTION!” That’s so far off the ranch from the perspective of any reputable philosopher or historian that I don’t see why I should bother engaging with you. You’re off in la-la land my friend.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Wow, that was quick. I was just giving you the first few things that came to mind off the top of my head, but you’re already giving up on trying to defend the first few bad arguments of yours that I mowed down. This is the tip of the iceberg for me, and the best stuff you can muster to attack even just that tip is falling apart if I look at it cross-eyed?

    You: Jesus couldn’t have been buried in a tomb anyway, we know how this worked and the Jews would have left a criminal’s body sitting around rotting for days!

    Me: Um, no they wouldn’t, here’s an essay with a boatload of original documentation showing how silly that theory is.

    You: Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyaaaah!

    My favorite part is how you’re refusing to engage with the obvious asymmetry between the nature of the first Christian apostles’ persecution and other kinds of religious martyrdom, acknowledged even by scholars like Gerd Ludemann, with the compelling argument that “LALALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU AND THEY ARE THE SAME THEY ARE THEY ARE THEY ARE CUZ I SAID SO!” And a military leader who starts a religion by promising earthly gain to a bunch of men and proceeding to conquer a bunch of land with them sounds exactly like how Christianity got started because because because because because BECAAAAAUSE! Do you want me to take what you say on faith, or do you want me to actually make an honest comparison?

    Thought2Much, your standard for satisfactorily answering the question “Was the resurrection an actual historical event?” consists of “Do you or do you not have Jesus in your basement right now, ANSWER THE QUESTION!” That’s so far off the ranch from the perspective of any reputable philosopher or historian that I don’t see why I should bother engaging with you. You’re off in la-la land my friend.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Wow, that was quick. I was just giving you the first few things that came to mind off the top of my head, but you’re already giving up on trying to defend the first few bad arguments of yours that I mowed down. This is the tip of the iceberg for me, and the best stuff you can muster to attack even just that tip is falling apart if I look at it cross-eyed?

    You: Jesus couldn’t have been buried in a tomb anyway, we know how this worked and the Jews would have left a criminal’s body sitting around rotting for days!

    Me: Um, no they wouldn’t, here’s an essay with a boatload of original documentation showing how silly that theory is.

    You: Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyaaaah!

    My favorite part is how you’re refusing to engage with the obvious asymmetry between the nature of the first Christian apostles’ persecution and other kinds of religious martyrdom, acknowledged even by scholars like Gerd Ludemann, with the compelling argument that “LALALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU AND THEY ARE THE SAME THEY ARE THEY ARE THEY ARE CUZ I SAID SO!” And a military leader who starts a religion by promising earthly gain to a bunch of men and proceeding to conquer a bunch of land with them sounds exactly like how Christianity got started because because because because because BECAAAAAUSE! Do you want me to take what you say on faith, or do you want me to actually make an honest comparison?

    Thought2Much, your standard for satisfactorily answering the question “Was the resurrection an actual historical event?” consists of “Do you or do you not have Jesus in your basement right now, ANSWER THE QUESTION!” That’s so far off the ranch from the perspective of any reputable philosopher or historian that I don’t see why I should bother engaging with you. You’re off in la-la land my friend.

  • Off the ranch?

    Esther, is Jesus alive or dead right now? It’s a perfectly legitimate question.

    If he died (for a second time, if we grant the resurrection as being true in the first place), then that kind of invalidates your entire belief system, does it not?

    If he’s alive, why can’t I invite him to dinner? Oh wait, because the Bible claims he took any evidence that he’s still alive with him up into heaven. This doesn’t strike you as an excuse that even a small child could see through quite easily? “Hey, you say Jesus is still alive! Where is he? Can we see him?” “Uhhhh… no… because he… uhhhhh… went up to heaven? Yeah, that’s it! He went up to heaven!”

    Like I’ve said before: how convenient for you and other believers that any evidence of Jesus still being alive is completely inaccessible to us.

    Yet, I’m somehow off in la-la land for requesting evidence that Jesus is still alive. What’s next? “Oh, he’s here, he just… moves so fast you can’t see him! That’s it!”

  • Off the ranch?

    Esther, is Jesus alive or dead right now? It’s a perfectly legitimate question.

    If he died (for a second time, if we grant the resurrection as being true in the first place), then that kind of invalidates your entire belief system, does it not?

    If he’s alive, why can’t I invite him to dinner? Oh wait, because the Bible claims he took any evidence that he’s still alive with him up into heaven. This doesn’t strike you as an excuse that even a small child could see through quite easily? “Hey, you say Jesus is still alive! Where is he? Can we see him?” “Uhhhh… no… because he… uhhhhh… went up to heaven? Yeah, that’s it! He went up to heaven!”

    Like I’ve said before: how convenient for you and other believers that any evidence of Jesus still being alive is completely inaccessible to us.

    Yet, I’m somehow off in la-la land for requesting evidence that Jesus is still alive. What’s next? “Oh, he’s here, he just… moves so fast you can’t see him! That’s it!”

  • Esther O’Reilly

    You’re off in la-la land for making up your definition of evidence out of thin air and then asserting that nothing else should count by any rational standard. Your argument, boiled down to its essentials, runs like this: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Jesus’ resurrection is an extraordinary claim. I’m not sure what ‘extraordinary evidence’ is, but whatever you have, I think it’s not good enough. Therefore Jesus didn’t rise from the dead!” If you want someone who can actually make a case and argue for it, read some stuff by the atheist philosopher J. L. Mackie. Learn from your own side.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    You’re off in la-la land for making up your definition of evidence out of thin air and then asserting that nothing else should count by any rational standard. Your argument, boiled down to its essentials, runs like this: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Jesus’ resurrection is an extraordinary claim. I’m not sure what ‘extraordinary evidence’ is, but whatever you have, I think it’s not good enough. Therefore Jesus didn’t rise from the dead!” If you want someone who can actually make a case and argue for it, read some stuff by the atheist philosopher J. L. Mackie. Learn from your own side.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    You’re off in la-la land for making up your definition of evidence out of thin air and then asserting that nothing else should count by any rational standard. Your argument, boiled down to its essentials, runs like this: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Jesus’ resurrection is an extraordinary claim. I’m not sure what ‘extraordinary evidence’ is, but whatever you have, I think it’s not good enough. Therefore Jesus didn’t rise from the dead!” If you want someone who can actually make a case and argue for it, read some stuff by the atheist philosopher J. L. Mackie. Learn from your own side.

  • Patrick

    There’s really nothing more to say, Esther, as I more or less knew from the beginning. No doubt your “evidence” is just the “tip of the iceberg,” nudge, nudge, wink, wink. The best is yet to come!

    There is no need to engage because you haven’t provided anything on which to engage. How can anyone take seriously your belief that because people were willing to die for Christianity, it must be true? Or that women finding an empty tomb (according to a story written a generation after it happened by an author whose real name you don’t even know) is incredibly significant! Uh huh… You crave deeper engagement so you can discuss the refutation, not your flimsy evidence. The quicker you get off that “evidence” of yours, the better. I get it. But I’m not going to play that game.

    Only someone in a cult could take these arguments seriously. You think there is a difference between Christian martyrdom and Islamic martyrdom? And that makes *your* version of martyrdom more sincere, more indicative of the truth?? It’s just too laughable, Esther, I’m sorry. But if that’s what you are pinning your hopes on, what is there to say?

    I’m going to disengage now, Esther, as I’ve taken up too much space on the comment section of this nice blog. All the best to you, keep fighting the good fight.

  • Patrick

    There’s really nothing more to say, Esther, as I more or less knew from the beginning. No doubt your “evidence” is just the “tip of the iceberg,” nudge, nudge, wink, wink. The best is yet to come!

    There is no need to engage because you haven’t provided anything on which to engage. How can anyone take seriously your belief that because people were willing to die for Christianity, it must be true? Or that women finding an empty tomb (according to a story written a generation after it happened by an author whose real name you don’t even know) is incredibly significant! Uh huh… You crave deeper engagement so you can discuss the refutation, not your flimsy evidence. The quicker you get off that “evidence” of yours, the better. I get it. But I’m not going to play that game.

    Only someone in a cult could take these arguments seriously. You think there is a difference between Christian martyrdom and Islamic martyrdom? And that makes *your* version of martyrdom more sincere, more indicative of the truth?? It’s just too laughable, Esther, I’m sorry. But if that’s what you are pinning your hopes on, what is there to say?

    I’m going to disengage now, Esther, as I’ve taken up too much space on the comment section of this nice blog. All the best to you, keep fighting the good fight.

  • Patrick

    There’s really nothing more to say, Esther, as I more or less knew from the beginning. No doubt your “evidence” is just the “tip of the iceberg,” nudge, nudge, wink, wink. The best is yet to come!

    There is no need to engage because you haven’t provided anything on which to engage. How can anyone take seriously your belief that because people were willing to die for Christianity, it must be true? Or that women finding an empty tomb (according to a story written a generation after it happened by an author whose real name you don’t even know) is incredibly significant! Uh huh… You crave deeper engagement so you can discuss the refutation, not your flimsy evidence. The quicker you get off that “evidence” of yours, the better. I get it. But I’m not going to play that game.

    Only someone in a cult could take these arguments seriously. You think there is a difference between Christian martyrdom and Islamic martyrdom? And that makes *your* version of martyrdom more sincere, more indicative of the truth?? It’s just too laughable, Esther, I’m sorry. But if that’s what you are pinning your hopes on, what is there to say?

    I’m going to disengage now, Esther, as I’ve taken up too much space on the comment section of this nice blog. All the best to you, keep fighting the good fight.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    You’re simply asserting that we can’t possibly know who wrote the gospels. You also seem to be assuming that the resurrection story didn’t even get started until a generation after Jesus’ crucifixion, which isn’t true, and you’re also assuming that if an eyewitness chose to put his recollections in writing decades after the fact (as it appears John did), we can’t trust his memory. When I interviewed my next-door neighbor about his experiences of WWII, I assure you his memory was quite fresh. I could lay out a compelling case for the authorship of all four gospels, but you’re determined to ignore anything I say at this point, so okedoke then. As for martyrdom, note that I’ve studiously avoided hanging Christianity on the willingness of second or third-hand believers to die for their beliefs. It is specifically the willingness to face death on the part of *the people claiming to have physically experienced the risen Christ* that I’m saying is fundamentally disanalogous to other martyrs. Once again, you need to rely on mass hallucination or mass deception to explain it away.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    You’re simply asserting that we can’t possibly know who wrote the gospels. You also seem to be assuming that the resurrection story didn’t even get started until a generation after Jesus’ crucifixion, which isn’t true, and you’re also assuming that if an eyewitness chose to put his recollections in writing decades after the fact (as it appears John did), we can’t trust his memory. When I interviewed my next-door neighbor about his experiences of WWII, I assure you his memory was quite fresh. I could lay out a compelling case for the authorship of all four gospels, but you’re determined to ignore anything I say at this point, so okedoke then. As for martyrdom, note that I’ve studiously avoided hanging Christianity on the willingness of second or third-hand believers to die for their beliefs. It is specifically the willingness to face death on the part of *the people claiming to have physically experienced the risen Christ* that I’m saying is fundamentally disanalogous to other martyrs. Once again, you need to rely on mass hallucination or mass deception to explain it away.

  • If someone claims to know of a person that was not only resurrected from the dead, but is still alive after 2000 years, that is an extraordinary claim. Can any sane person really say this isn’t an extraordinary claim? This is such an extraordinary claim that even firsthand eyewitness accounts of it should be suspect to any reasonable person, let alone the inconsistent hearsay finally penned in the gospels a generation later on another continent. Shouldn’t a claim this extraordinary require some really compelling evidence in order to be believed? Would it be unreasonable to set a really high bar for the validity of evidence, and the type of evidence, that would be required to prove this is true?

    If you’re claiming a person resurrected 2000 years ago is still alive, then wouldn’t being able to speak with said person be better evidence than “he went up to heaven”? How is it unreasonable to want to be able to do that? And wouldn’t it be even better if said person were documented to have lived throughout the 2000 years that have passed since the claimed resurrection? Would it be unreasonable want to do that? And if the other claims of the Bible are true, should this 2000 year-old person not still be able to heal the sick, walk on water, and do other amazing things in full view of us all? That would be extraordinary evidence, would it not?

    Yet we don’t have any of that, Esther. All we get is second- or third-hand accounts written 2000 years ago by people who weren’t on the same continent as any of the events they describe, and “he went up to heaven,” making the entire thing completely unfalsifiable. This barely passes muster for ordinary evidence, let alone the kind of evidence needed to make a reasonable person believe the claims you’re making.

    It is not up to me to prove that Jesus is not still alive. The burden of proof is on you, and you alone, to prove he is still alive, because you are making that claim.

  • If someone claims to know of a person that was not only resurrected from the dead, but is still alive after 2000 years, that is an extraordinary claim. Can any sane person really say this isn’t an extraordinary claim? This is such an extraordinary claim that even firsthand eyewitness accounts of it should be suspect to any reasonable person, let alone the inconsistent hearsay finally penned in the gospels a generation later on another continent. Shouldn’t a claim this extraordinary require some really compelling evidence in order to be believed? Would it be unreasonable to set a really high bar for the validity of evidence, and the type of evidence, that would be required to prove this is true?

    If you’re claiming a person resurrected 2000 years ago is still alive, then wouldn’t being able to speak with said person be better evidence than “he went up to heaven”? How is it unreasonable to want to be able to do that? And wouldn’t it be even better if said person were documented to have lived throughout the 2000 years that have passed since the claimed resurrection? Would it be unreasonable want to do that? And if the other claims of the Bible are true, should this 2000 year-old person not still be able to heal the sick, walk on water, and do other amazing things in full view of us all? That would be extraordinary evidence, would it not?

    Yet we don’t have any of that, Esther. All we get is second- or third-hand accounts written 2000 years ago by people who weren’t on the same continent as any of the events they describe, and “he went up to heaven,” making the entire thing completely unfalsifiable. This barely passes muster for ordinary evidence, let alone the kind of evidence needed to make a reasonable person believe the claims you’re making.

    It is not up to me to prove that Jesus is not still alive. The burden of proof is on you, and you alone, to prove he is still alive, because you are making that claim.

  • If someone claims to know of a person that was not only resurrected from the dead, but is still alive after 2000 years, that is an extraordinary claim. Can any sane person really say this isn’t an extraordinary claim? This is such an extraordinary claim that even firsthand eyewitness accounts of it should be suspect to any reasonable person, let alone the inconsistent hearsay finally penned in the gospels a generation later on another continent. Shouldn’t a claim this extraordinary require some really compelling evidence in order to be believed? Would it be unreasonable to set a really high bar for the validity of evidence, and the type of evidence, that would be required to prove this is true?

    If you’re claiming a person resurrected 2000 years ago is still alive, then wouldn’t being able to speak with said person be better evidence than “he went up to heaven”? How is it unreasonable to want to be able to do that? And wouldn’t it be even better if said person were documented to have lived throughout the 2000 years that have passed since the claimed resurrection? Would it be unreasonable want to do that? And if the other claims of the Bible are true, should this 2000 year-old person not still be able to heal the sick, walk on water, and do other amazing things in full view of us all? That would be extraordinary evidence, would it not?

    Yet we don’t have any of that, Esther. All we get is second- or third-hand accounts written 2000 years ago by people who weren’t on the same continent as any of the events they describe, and “he went up to heaven,” making the entire thing completely unfalsifiable. This barely passes muster for ordinary evidence, let alone the kind of evidence needed to make a reasonable person believe the claims you’re making.

    It is not up to me to prove that Jesus is not still alive. The burden of proof is on you, and you alone, to prove he is still alive, because you are making that claim.

  • Empire1432

    This guy is really a lunatic.

  • Empire1432

    This guy is really a lunatic.

  • Thank you for summing that up. That’s what I’ve been trying to say.

    And rather than simply presenting her case in light of the issues we’ve raised, Esther prefers to berate YOU for not reading further and “looking harder” until such a time as you can be convinced of her viewpoint. Now, suddenly, the onus is on YOU and she proceeds to snicker and condescend that it is a flaw on YOUR part that you remain unconvinced. This is not effective apologetics, unless your only aim is to frustrate and alienate.

  • Thank you for summing that up. That’s what I’ve been trying to say.

    And rather than simply presenting her case in light of the issues we’ve raised, Esther prefers to berate YOU for not reading further and “looking harder” until such a time as you can be convinced of her viewpoint. Now, suddenly, the onus is on YOU and she proceeds to snicker and condescend that it is a flaw on YOUR part that you remain unconvinced. This is not effective apologetics, unless your only aim is to frustrate and alienate.

  • Thank you for summing that up. That’s what I’ve been trying to say.

    And rather than simply presenting her case in light of the issues we’ve raised, Esther prefers to berate YOU for not reading further and “looking harder” until such a time as you can be convinced of her viewpoint. Now, suddenly, the onus is on YOU and she proceeds to snicker and condescend that it is a flaw on YOUR part that you remain unconvinced. This is not effective apologetics, unless your only aim is to frustrate and alienate.

  • David W

    Heya Esther, welp, so far I haven’t heard you mention anything that wasn’t discussed in that previous thread.

    This was mentioned in that previous thread as well, but I will repost it here for those that were not involved in that discussion.

    First, you said: “It is specifically the willingness to face death on the part of *the people claiming to have physically experienced the risen Christ* that I’m saying is fundamentally disanalogous to other martyrs. Once again, you need to rely on mass hallucination or mass deception to explain it away.”

    A poster, (not me), from that previous thread said ” The fact that Mormons continue to believe their own fantastic stories–and willingly took tremendous risks–despite all the evidence to the contrary tells that we cannot assume that early Christians had any reliable evidence for their beliefs.

    We know the true story of Joseph Smith because we have contemporary sources from outside the Mormon movement. We have the reports of non-Mormons who dealt with Smith and ex-Mormons who left the fold. That is precisely the kind of data we lack for Christianity. What we have for Christianity are the kind of insider reports that must be taken with a huge grain of salt.”

    The whole ‘wouldn’t die for a lie’ meme goes nowhere.

    Once again, it comes down to what I posted earlier in this thread.

  • David W

    Heya Esther, welp, so far I haven’t heard you mention anything that wasn’t discussed in that previous thread.

    This was mentioned in that previous thread as well, but I will repost it here for those that were not involved in that discussion.

    First, you said: “It is specifically the willingness to face death on the part of *the people claiming to have physically experienced the risen Christ* that I’m saying is fundamentally disanalogous to other martyrs. Once again, you need to rely on mass hallucination or mass deception to explain it away.”

    A poster, (not me), from that previous thread said ” The fact that Mormons continue to believe their own fantastic stories–and willingly took tremendous risks–despite all the evidence to the contrary tells that we cannot assume that early Christians had any reliable evidence for their beliefs.

    We know the true story of Joseph Smith because we have contemporary sources from outside the Mormon movement. We have the reports of non-Mormons who dealt with Smith and ex-Mormons who left the fold. That is precisely the kind of data we lack for Christianity. What we have for Christianity are the kind of insider reports that must be taken with a huge grain of salt.”

    The whole ‘wouldn’t die for a lie’ meme goes nowhere.

    Once again, it comes down to what I posted earlier in this thread.

  • I personally thought those books were awesome. Maybe it’s because I was raised Catholic, but they never scared me. I just thought “Angels swinging blades and battling demons…COOL!”

  • I personally thought those books were awesome. Maybe it’s because I was raised Catholic, but they never scared me. I just thought “Angels swinging blades and battling demons…COOL!”

  • Esther O’Reilly

    David, once again, that’s completely disanalogous. If the Mormons were risking their lives for the claim that Joseph Smith had risen from the dead and appeared to them bodily, that would be one thing. Instead, they were following his charismatic leadership while he was alive, then simply persisting in the belief that the various promises of the religion he had founded were true (e.g., that one day they’ll all become mini-gods and have their own planets, etc., etc.) That’s hardly unusual or out of the ordinary. People fall for charismatic charlatans and start up strange cults built around false hopes for the future every day. Furthermore, built into that comment is the sincerity of the Mormons: “they continue to believe their own fantastic stories,” so dying for a lie isn’t even in the picture there. Smith himself certainly wasn’t intending to die, and he certainly got his money’s worth out of his new religion while he was alive. So, what exactly was your point?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    David, once again, that’s completely disanalogous. If the Mormons were risking their lives for the claim that Joseph Smith had risen from the dead and appeared to them bodily, that would be one thing. Instead, they were following his charismatic leadership while he was alive, then simply persisting in the belief that the various promises of the religion he had founded were true (e.g., that one day they’ll all become mini-gods and have their own planets, etc., etc.) That’s hardly unusual or out of the ordinary. People fall for charismatic charlatans and start up strange cults built around false hopes for the future every day. Furthermore, built into that comment is the sincerity of the Mormons: “they continue to believe their own fantastic stories,” so dying for a lie isn’t even in the picture there. Smith himself certainly wasn’t intending to die, and he certainly got his money’s worth out of his new religion while he was alive. So, what exactly was your point?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    David, once again, that’s completely disanalogous. If the Mormons were risking their lives for the claim that Joseph Smith had risen from the dead and appeared to them bodily, that would be one thing. Instead, they were following his charismatic leadership while he was alive, then simply persisting in the belief that the various promises of the religion he had founded were true (e.g., that one day they’ll all become mini-gods and have their own planets, etc., etc.) That’s hardly unusual or out of the ordinary. People fall for charismatic charlatans and start up strange cults built around false hopes for the future every day. Furthermore, built into that comment is the sincerity of the Mormons: “they continue to believe their own fantastic stories,” so dying for a lie isn’t even in the picture there. Smith himself certainly wasn’t intending to die, and he certainly got his money’s worth out of his new religion while he was alive. So, what exactly was your point?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    David, once again, that’s completely disanalogous. If the Mormons were risking their lives for the claim that Joseph Smith had risen from the dead and appeared to them bodily, that would be one thing. Instead, they were following his charismatic leadership while he was alive, then simply persisting in the belief that the various promises of the religion he had founded were true (e.g., that one day they’ll all become mini-gods and have their own planets, etc., etc.) That’s hardly unusual or out of the ordinary. People fall for charismatic charlatans and start up strange cults built around false hopes for the future every day. Furthermore, built into that comment is the sincerity of the Mormons: “they continue to believe their own fantastic stories,” so dying for a lie isn’t even in the picture there. Smith himself certainly wasn’t intending to die, and he certainly got his money’s worth out of his new religion while he was alive. So, what exactly was your point?

  • “People fall for charismatic charlatans and start up strange cults built around false hopes for the future every day.”

    Yup. Just look at how it worked out for that Jesus fellow and Christianity.

  • “People fall for charismatic charlatans and start up strange cults built around false hopes for the future every day.”

    Yup. Just look at how it worked out for that Jesus fellow and Christianity.

  • “People fall for charismatic charlatans and start up strange cults built around false hopes for the future every day.”

    Yup. Just look at how it worked out for that Jesus fellow and Christianity.

  • “People fall for charismatic charlatans and start up strange cults built around false hopes for the future every day.”

    Yup. Just look at how it worked out for that Jesus fellow and Christianity.

  • David W

    The point I am making is patently obvious.

    Based on your track record here, I can only assume that you are either being purposely obtuse, OR, that you are sincerely unable to critically examine your supernatural beliefs through any lens other than the lens that pre-existing belief in the truth of Christianity gives you.

  • David W

    The point I am making is patently obvious.

    Based on your track record here, I can only assume that you are either being purposely obtuse, OR, that you are sincerely unable to critically examine your supernatural beliefs through any lens other than the lens that pre-existing belief in the truth of Christianity gives you.

  • David W

    The point I am making is patently obvious.

    Based on your track record here, I can only assume that you are either being purposely obtuse, OR, that you are sincerely unable to critically examine your supernatural beliefs through any lens other than the lens that pre-existing belief in the truth of Christianity gives you.

  • David W

    The point I am making is patently obvious.

    Based on your track record here, I can only assume that you are either being purposely obtuse, OR, that you are sincerely unable to critically examine your supernatural beliefs through any lens other than the lens that pre-existing belief in the truth of Christianity gives you.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Well David, unless I’m misreading something, your point seems to be: “Joseph Smith decided to found a new religion that involved more $$ and sex for him, even accumulating enough power to have his very own standing army. He counted on his army to rescue him from prison, but when he realized he’d miscalculated he died climbing out the window with a six-gun in his hand. And this is exactly like Jesus claiming to be God in a culture where the penalty for claiming to be God was death, living a life of poverty, promising that anyone who followed him would have *more* suffering in this life, and deliberately making it maximally easy for himself to be arrested and killed in a horribly painful way. Also, the followers of Joseph Smith thought he was awesome, and they continued to believe that he had found some magic plates and they would get their own planets someday after his death. And this is exactly like the disciples of Jesus preaching that he had physically risen from the dead and shown his new body to them to prove it, the falsehood of which claim would mean they were all either fantastically bat-shit insane or lying for no discernible cause.”

    Right?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Well David, unless I’m misreading something, your point seems to be: “Joseph Smith decided to found a new religion that involved more $$ and sex for him, even accumulating enough power to have his very own standing army. He counted on his army to rescue him from prison, but when he realized he’d miscalculated he died climbing out the window with a six-gun in his hand. And this is exactly like Jesus claiming to be God in a culture where the penalty for claiming to be God was death, living a life of poverty, promising that anyone who followed him would have *more* suffering in this life, and deliberately making it maximally easy for himself to be arrested and killed in a horribly painful way. Also, the followers of Joseph Smith thought he was awesome, and they continued to believe that he had found some magic plates and they would get their own planets someday after his death. And this is exactly like the disciples of Jesus preaching that he had physically risen from the dead and shown his new body to them to prove it, the falsehood of which claim would mean they were all either fantastically bat-shit insane or lying for no discernible cause.”

    Right?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Well David, unless I’m misreading something, your point seems to be: “Joseph Smith decided to found a new religion that involved more $$ and sex for him, even accumulating enough power to have his very own standing army. He counted on his army to rescue him from prison, but when he realized he’d miscalculated he died climbing out the window with a six-gun in his hand. And this is exactly like Jesus claiming to be God in a culture where the penalty for claiming to be God was death, living a life of poverty, promising that anyone who followed him would have *more* suffering in this life, and deliberately making it maximally easy for himself to be arrested and killed in a horribly painful way. Also, the followers of Joseph Smith thought he was awesome, and they continued to believe that he had found some magic plates and they would get their own planets someday after his death. And this is exactly like the disciples of Jesus preaching that he had physically risen from the dead and shown his new body to them to prove it, the falsehood of which claim would mean they were all either fantastically bat-shit insane or lying for no discernible cause.”

    Right?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Well David, unless I’m misreading something, your point seems to be: “Joseph Smith decided to found a new religion that involved more $$ and sex for him, even accumulating enough power to have his very own standing army. He counted on his army to rescue him from prison, but when he realized he’d miscalculated he died climbing out the window with a six-gun in his hand. And this is exactly like Jesus claiming to be God in a culture where the penalty for claiming to be God was death, living a life of poverty, promising that anyone who followed him would have *more* suffering in this life, and deliberately making it maximally easy for himself to be arrested and killed in a horribly painful way. Also, the followers of Joseph Smith thought he was awesome, and they continued to believe that he had found some magic plates and they would get their own planets someday after his death. And this is exactly like the disciples of Jesus preaching that he had physically risen from the dead and shown his new body to them to prove it, the falsehood of which claim would mean they were all either fantastically bat-shit insane or lying for no discernible cause.”

    Right?

  • You’re right. That’s nowhere near as silly as believing in the son of a god who sacrificed himself to appease the wrath of his father (who is actually himself) and forgive the sins of the people that his father is unable to forgive without someone being tortured and killed (because, reasons), then going back up to heaven, leaving no evidence that he’s actually still alive, and showing that his father’s sacrifice of his own son was really more of just a temporary inconvenience. You’re right, that makes so much more sense than any of that silly Mormonism stuff.

  • You’re right. That’s nowhere near as silly as believing in the son of a god who sacrificed himself to appease the wrath of his father (who is actually himself) and forgive the sins of the people that his father is unable to forgive without someone being tortured and killed (because, reasons), then going back up to heaven, leaving no evidence that he’s actually still alive, and showing that his father’s sacrifice of his own son was really more of just a temporary inconvenience. You’re right, that makes so much more sense than any of that silly Mormonism stuff.

  • You’re right. That’s nowhere near as silly as believing in the son of a god who sacrificed himself to appease the wrath of his father (who is actually himself) and forgive the sins of the people that his father is unable to forgive without someone being tortured and killed (because, reasons), then going back up to heaven, leaving no evidence that he’s actually still alive, and showing that his father’s sacrifice of his own son was really more of just a temporary inconvenience. You’re right, that makes so much more sense than any of that silly Mormonism stuff.

  • You’re right. That’s nowhere near as silly as believing in the son of a god who sacrificed himself to appease the wrath of his father (who is actually himself) and forgive the sins of the people that his father is unable to forgive without someone being tortured and killed (because, reasons), then going back up to heaven, leaving no evidence that he’s actually still alive, and showing that his father’s sacrifice of his own son was really more of just a temporary inconvenience. You’re right, that makes so much more sense than any of that silly Mormonism stuff.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    It’s not that the stuff Mormons believe is silly. It’s that I have absolutely nothing to convince me that it’s true. In fact, every available piece of evidence we have tells us Smith was a lying liar who lies, and milked it to the full.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    It’s not that the stuff Mormons believe is silly. It’s that I have absolutely nothing to convince me that it’s true. In fact, every available piece of evidence we have tells us Smith was a lying liar who lies, and milked it to the full.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    It’s not that the stuff Mormons believe is silly. It’s that I have absolutely nothing to convince me that it’s true. In fact, every available piece of evidence we have tells us Smith was a lying liar who lies, and milked it to the full.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    It’s not that the stuff Mormons believe is silly. It’s that I have absolutely nothing to convince me that it’s true. In fact, every available piece of evidence we have tells us Smith was a lying liar who lies, and milked it to the full.

  • And we have evidence that Jesus is still alive because… oh wait, we don’t, because… he went up to heaven! But I’m sure that bit is 100% true. That part’s totally legit.

  • And we have evidence that Jesus is still alive because… oh wait, we don’t, because… he went up to heaven! But I’m sure that bit is 100% true. That part’s totally legit.

  • And we have evidence that Jesus is still alive because… oh wait, we don’t, because… he went up to heaven! But I’m sure that bit is 100% true. That part’s totally legit.

  • And we have evidence that Jesus is still alive because… oh wait, we don’t, because… he went up to heaven! But I’m sure that bit is 100% true. That part’s totally legit.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Also, nice to see you getting in the “Christian theology is weird!” objection. I look forward to your dissertation against quantum physics. I can’t understand it, so clearly it’s a lot of B.S. SO WEIRD, DUDE!

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Also, nice to see you getting in the “Christian theology is weird!” objection. I look forward to your dissertation against quantum physics. I can’t understand it, so clearly it’s a lot of B.S. SO WEIRD, DUDE!

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Also, nice to see you getting in the “Christian theology is weird!” objection. I look forward to your dissertation against quantum physics. I can’t understand it, so clearly it’s a lot of B.S. SO WEIRD, DUDE!

  • And we have evidence that Jesus is still alive because… oh wait, we don’t, because… he went up to heaven! But I’m sure that bit is 100% true. That part’s totally legit.

    (Oops. Hit reply in the wrong spot. Blasted comment system.)

  • And we have evidence that Jesus is still alive because… oh wait, we don’t, because… he went up to heaven! But I’m sure that bit is 100% true. That part’s totally legit.

    (Oops. Hit reply in the wrong spot. Blasted comment system.)

  • And we have evidence that Jesus is still alive because… oh wait, we don’t, because… he went up to heaven! But I’m sure that bit is 100% true. That part’s totally legit.

    (Oops. Hit reply in the wrong spot. Blasted comment system.)

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Also, nice to see you getting in the “Christian theology is weird!” objection. I look forward to your dissertation against quantum physics. I can’t understand it, so clearly it’s a lot of B.S. SO WEIRD, DUDE!

  • And we have evidence that Jesus is still alive because… oh wait, we don’t, because… he went up to heaven! But I’m sure that bit is 100% true. That part’s totally legit.

    (Oops. Hit reply in the wrong spot. Blasted comment system.)

  • David W

    Esther, you said: “Well David, unless I’m misreading something, your point seems to be: “Joseph Smith decided to found a new religion that involved more $$ and sex for him, even accumulating enough power to have his very own standing army. He counted on his army to rescue him from prison, but when he realized he’d miscalculated he died climbing out the window with a six-gun in his hand. And this is exactly like Jesus claiming to be God in a culture where the penalty for claiming to be God was death, living a life of poverty, promising that anyone who followed him would have *more* suffering in this life, and deliberately making it maximally easy for himself to be arrested and killed in a horribly painful way. Also, the followers of Joseph Smith thought he was awesome, and they continued to believe that he had found some magic plates and they would get their own planets someday after his death. And this is exactly like the disciples of Jesus preaching that he had physically risen from the dead and shown his new body to them to prove it, the falsehood of which claim would mean they were all either fantastically bat-shit insane or lying for no discernible cause.”

    Right?”

    No, that’s not my point.

  • David W

    Esther, you said: “Well David, unless I’m misreading something, your point seems to be: “Joseph Smith decided to found a new religion that involved more $$ and sex for him, even accumulating enough power to have his very own standing army. He counted on his army to rescue him from prison, but when he realized he’d miscalculated he died climbing out the window with a six-gun in his hand. And this is exactly like Jesus claiming to be God in a culture where the penalty for claiming to be God was death, living a life of poverty, promising that anyone who followed him would have *more* suffering in this life, and deliberately making it maximally easy for himself to be arrested and killed in a horribly painful way. Also, the followers of Joseph Smith thought he was awesome, and they continued to believe that he had found some magic plates and they would get their own planets someday after his death. And this is exactly like the disciples of Jesus preaching that he had physically risen from the dead and shown his new body to them to prove it, the falsehood of which claim would mean they were all either fantastically bat-shit insane or lying for no discernible cause.”

    Right?”

    No, that’s not my point.

  • David W

    Esther, you said: “Well David, unless I’m misreading something, your point seems to be: “Joseph Smith decided to found a new religion that involved more $$ and sex for him, even accumulating enough power to have his very own standing army. He counted on his army to rescue him from prison, but when he realized he’d miscalculated he died climbing out the window with a six-gun in his hand. And this is exactly like Jesus claiming to be God in a culture where the penalty for claiming to be God was death, living a life of poverty, promising that anyone who followed him would have *more* suffering in this life, and deliberately making it maximally easy for himself to be arrested and killed in a horribly painful way. Also, the followers of Joseph Smith thought he was awesome, and they continued to believe that he had found some magic plates and they would get their own planets someday after his death. And this is exactly like the disciples of Jesus preaching that he had physically risen from the dead and shown his new body to them to prove it, the falsehood of which claim would mean they were all either fantastically bat-shit insane or lying for no discernible cause.”

    Right?”

    No, that’s not my point.

  • David W

    Esther, you said: “Well David, unless I’m misreading something, your point seems to be: “Joseph Smith decided to found a new religion that involved more $$ and sex for him, even accumulating enough power to have his very own standing army. He counted on his army to rescue him from prison, but when he realized he’d miscalculated he died climbing out the window with a six-gun in his hand. And this is exactly like Jesus claiming to be God in a culture where the penalty for claiming to be God was death, living a life of poverty, promising that anyone who followed him would have *more* suffering in this life, and deliberately making it maximally easy for himself to be arrested and killed in a horribly painful way. Also, the followers of Joseph Smith thought he was awesome, and they continued to believe that he had found some magic plates and they would get their own planets someday after his death. And this is exactly like the disciples of Jesus preaching that he had physically risen from the dead and shown his new body to them to prove it, the falsehood of which claim would mean they were all either fantastically bat-shit insane or lying for no discernible cause.”

    Right?”

    No, that’s not my point.

  • Slippery Moths 891

    Godless in Dixie, I take much offense to this post. My children must be taught the fears of the bad place, for we don’t know when some of us will be left behind. Praise be to Emperor Wasp, emporer of emporers, prince of bees, almighty stung.

    “Do unto humans as they wish to do unto you” Nest 5:16

    Wasp Bless

  • Slippery Moths 891

    Godless in Dixie, I take much offense to this post. My children must be taught the fears of the bad place, for we don’t know when some of us will be left behind. Praise be to Emperor Wasp, emporer of emporers, prince of bees, almighty stung.

    “Do unto humans as they wish to do unto you” Nest 5:16

    Wasp Bless

  • Slippery Moths 891

    Godless in Dixie, I take much offense to this post. My children must be taught the fears of the bad place, for we don’t know when some of us will be left behind. Praise be to Emperor Wasp, emporer of emporers, prince of bees, almighty stung.

    “Do unto humans as they wish to do unto you” Nest 5:16

    Wasp Bless

  • Slippery Moths 891

    Godless in Dixie, I take much offense to this post. My children must be taught the fears of the bad place, for we don’t know when some of us will be left behind. Praise be to Emperor Wasp, emporer of emporers, prince of bees, almighty stung.

    “Do unto humans as they wish to do unto you” Nest 5:16

    Wasp Bless

  • Quantum physicists can observe phenomena, make predictions based upon their observations, then conduct experiments to confirm or falsify those hypotheses. Then, other quantum physicists run those experiments again to confirm whether the original group of physicists was correct in their conclusions. Quantum physicists have been doing this for going on 100 years now, and have a huge amount of validation of their theories through repeatable observation and experimentation, with degrees of certainty measurable to ridiculous decimal points of precision. As strange as quantum mechanics is (and I make zero claims that I actually understand any of it), don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because I don’t understand something, I think it must not be true.

    Saying that your best piece of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus can’t be observed because he went up to heaven is a much different story. Unlike a hypothesis postulated by a quantum physicist, this assertion is non-falsifiable. It’s completely untestable. Do you not see how silly and childish this assertion is? It’s a clumsy bit of hand-waving to try to explain away the inconvenient fact that no one had evidence that this claimed resurrected demigod was still alive. It’s as ridiculous a notion as Joseph Smith’s assertion that the golden tablets he translated were whisked away to heaven by Moroni. If you can’t see how the silly claims of your own religion aren’t any different from the silly claims of any other religion, then you are just showing that you are incapable of thinking outside of your own indoctrination.

  • Quantum physicists can observe phenomena, make predictions based upon their observations, then conduct experiments to confirm or falsify those hypotheses. Then, other quantum physicists run those experiments again to confirm whether the original group of physicists was correct in their conclusions. Quantum physicists have been doing this for going on 100 years now, and have a huge amount of validation of their theories through repeatable observation and experimentation, with degrees of certainty measurable to ridiculous decimal points of precision. As strange as quantum mechanics is (and I make zero claims that I actually understand any of it), don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because I don’t understand something, I think it must not be true.

    Saying that your best piece of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus can’t be observed because he went up to heaven is a much different story. Unlike a hypothesis postulated by a quantum physicist, this assertion is non-falsifiable. It’s completely untestable. Do you not see how silly and childish this assertion is? It’s a clumsy bit of hand-waving to try to explain away the inconvenient fact that no one had evidence that this claimed resurrected demigod was still alive. It’s as ridiculous a notion as Joseph Smith’s assertion that the golden tablets he translated were whisked away to heaven by Moroni. If you can’t see how the silly claims of your own religion aren’t any different from the silly claims of any other religion, then you are just showing that you are incapable of thinking outside of your own indoctrination.

  • Quantum physicists can observe phenomena, make predictions based upon their observations, then conduct experiments to confirm or falsify those hypotheses. Then, other quantum physicists run those experiments again to confirm whether the original group of physicists was correct in their conclusions. Quantum physicists have been doing this for going on 100 years now, and have a huge amount of validation of their theories through repeatable observation and experimentation, with degrees of certainty measurable to ridiculous decimal points of precision. As strange as quantum mechanics is (and I make zero claims that I actually understand any of it), don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because I don’t understand something, I think it must not be true.

    Saying that your best piece of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus can’t be observed because he went up to heaven is a much different story. Unlike a hypothesis postulated by a quantum physicist, this assertion is non-falsifiable. It’s completely untestable. Do you not see how silly and childish this assertion is? It’s a clumsy bit of hand-waving to try to explain away the inconvenient fact that no one had evidence that this claimed resurrected demigod was still alive. It’s as ridiculous a notion as Joseph Smith’s assertion that the golden tablets he translated were whisked away to heaven by Moroni. If you can’t see how the silly claims of your own religion aren’t any different from the silly claims of any other religion, then you are just showing that you are incapable of thinking outside of your own indoctrination.

  • Quantum physicists can observe phenomena, make predictions based upon their observations, then conduct experiments to confirm or falsify those hypotheses. Then, other quantum physicists run those experiments again to confirm whether the original group of physicists was correct in their conclusions. Quantum physicists have been doing this for going on 100 years now, and have a huge amount of validation of their theories through repeatable observation and experimentation, with degrees of certainty measurable to ridiculous decimal points of precision. As strange as quantum mechanics is (and I make zero claims that I actually understand any of it), don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because I don’t understand something, I think it must not be true.

    Saying that your best piece of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus can’t be observed because he went up to heaven is a much different story. Unlike a hypothesis postulated by a quantum physicist, this assertion is non-falsifiable. It’s completely untestable. Do you not see how silly and childish this assertion is? It’s a clumsy bit of hand-waving to try to explain away the inconvenient fact that no one had evidence that this claimed resurrected demigod was still alive. It’s as ridiculous a notion as Joseph Smith’s assertion that the golden tablets he translated were whisked away to heaven by Moroni. If you can’t see how the silly claims of your own religion aren’t any different from the silly claims of any other religion, then you are just showing that you are incapable of thinking outside of your own indoctrination.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Okay, if that’s not your point, which details in my mis-reading do you dispute?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Okay, if that’s not your point, which details in my mis-reading do you dispute?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Okay, if that’s not your point, which details in my mis-reading do you dispute?

  • I recommend you stop reading the “Paris school” re-interpretation of Orthodoxy (or Stephen Freeman’s blog) and start reading what the church father’s wrote for yourself. I recommend a blog post by Fr. Aiden Kimel, an Orthodox priest, to get a more honest picture of the many views of Orthodox hell. http://afkimel.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/what-is-orthodox-hell/

    I was an Orthodox Christian for many years until I started reading and researching Orthodoxy for myself and discovered there is no such thing as “the Orthodox Church”. There is no “mind of the Fathers”. There are many Orthodoxies. The various theologies in the Orthodox Church are as numerous in Orthodoxy as they are in Protestantism . They are just not as clearly defined because Orthodoxy is more vague and ambiguous than Protestant dogma.

  • I recommend you stop reading the “Paris school” re-interpretation of Orthodoxy (or Stephen Freeman’s blog) and start reading what the church father’s wrote for yourself. I recommend a blog post by Fr. Aiden Kimel, an Orthodox priest, to get a more honest picture of the many views of Orthodox hell. http://afkimel.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/what-is-orthodox-hell/

    I was an Orthodox Christian for many years until I started reading and researching Orthodoxy for myself and discovered there is no such thing as “the Orthodox Church”. There is no “mind of the Fathers”. There are many Orthodoxies. The various theologies in the Orthodox Church are as numerous in Orthodoxy as they are in Protestantism . They are just not as clearly defined because Orthodoxy is more vague and ambiguous than Protestant dogma.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Yes, but you seemed to be implying in general that because Christian theology doesn’t make sense to you, it’s too fantastic to be true. If I misread that, forgive me.

    You’re very fond of the falsifiability criterion, but this criterion simply isn’t applicable to all areas of knowledge. I can’t put the crossing of the Rubicon in a test tube and see if it happens again. Also implicit in your argument is that the closure of the physical realm is a given. I get that loud and clear, but I simply disagree that we must assume this up-front. Finally, you have these arbitrary ideas of what God “would have” or “should have” done if He really wanted to provide “good” (translated “good enough for Thought2Much”) evidence for the claims of Jesus’ disciples given that Jesus had in fact risen from the dead. But consider this: If Jesus has already risen from the dead in your thought experiment, if you’re hypothetically granting that his claim to divine power was substantiated through this miracle, then right there you should realize that you’re dealing with something completely beyond and other from our ordinary human experience. You are, in fact, dealing with God, a God who’s powerful enough literally to suspend the laws of nature at will. It’s been convincingly argued that such a God must exist beyond our space-time continuum. He would be able to see the entirety of human history spread out in full, like a movie reel. So why is it so ridiculous to suggest that such a God MIGHT know something we don’t?

    Reputable scholars on both sides agree that the people in Jesus’ inner circle had established the resurrection tradition almost immediately after the commonly accepted date for Christ’s crucifixion. So the question of exactly when the first gospel was written down, which you keep harping on, isn’t even the most important question. The question is “What were the people in Jesus’ inner circle *saying* in the next few years following his death?” We have the answer for that. It’s not a mystery. I may think Gerd Ludemann’s arguments are silly and unsustainable, but at least he GETS IT when it comes to understanding the options that are actually on the table here: exotic mass hallucination, deceptive collusion, or truth-telling. The first option is what he chooses to run with, but it’s so exotic that we’re frankly already venturing into the paranormal with it anyway.

    The second option defies all logic. Imagine somebody like Peter saying: “Welp, my beloved Messiah was tortured, horribly killed and buried, so all those hopes and dreams we had about him are G-O-N-E. He really was just a nutcase, or a sado-masochistic liar, or… I’m not sure, but whatever he is he wasn’t God because he’s fertilizer now. Hey, I know what I’ll do—I’ll start a new religion to convince everybody that he DID rise again, like he said he would. I’ll make sure to rub the Jewish leaders’ faces in it, and hey, maybe I’ll get Rome’s attention while I’m at it too. That way everyone in power will hate me—win-win! Maybe I’ll get to go to prison that way. If I’m really lucky, I’ll get stoned to death by a mob or maybe killed by the Romans just like Jesus was. Meanwhile, look at everything I’m getting out of this: no extra sex or big $$ (following Jesus’ teachings about that sort of thing anyway, ‘cuz I still think he was a pretty neat guy, even though he was a total fraud, nutcase, whatever…), a crappy life on the road spreading my hoax, prison, beating etc. from all the people I’m planning to piss off… yep, that’s the life for me! Oh yeah, and if I AM killed in the end, I know I’ll have eternal life in heaven because… oh right, there is no eternal life in heaven because I’m making this whole thing up.”

    God’s left exactly enough evidence. He hasn’t bombarded us all with blinding visions and miracles to the point where we no longer have to get past our pride or use our brains to figure anything out, but he doesn’t demand that we take a blind leap in the dark either, contemporary Christian music notwithstanding.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Yes, but you seemed to be implying in general that because Christian theology doesn’t make sense to you, it’s too fantastic to be true. If I misread that, forgive me.

    You’re very fond of the falsifiability criterion, but this criterion simply isn’t applicable to all areas of knowledge. I can’t put the crossing of the Rubicon in a test tube and see if it happens again. Also implicit in your argument is that the closure of the physical realm is a given. I get that loud and clear, but I simply disagree that we must assume this up-front. Finally, you have these arbitrary ideas of what God “would have” or “should have” done if He really wanted to provide “good” (translated “good enough for Thought2Much”) evidence for the claims of Jesus’ disciples given that Jesus had in fact risen from the dead. But consider this: If Jesus has already risen from the dead in your thought experiment, if you’re hypothetically granting that his claim to divine power was substantiated through this miracle, then right there you should realize that you’re dealing with something completely beyond and other from our ordinary human experience. You are, in fact, dealing with God, a God who’s powerful enough literally to suspend the laws of nature at will. It’s been convincingly argued that such a God must exist beyond our space-time continuum. He would be able to see the entirety of human history spread out in full, like a movie reel. So why is it so ridiculous to suggest that such a God MIGHT know something we don’t?

    Reputable scholars on both sides agree that the people in Jesus’ inner circle had established the resurrection tradition almost immediately after the commonly accepted date for Christ’s crucifixion. So the question of exactly when the first gospel was written down, which you keep harping on, isn’t even the most important question. The question is “What were the people in Jesus’ inner circle *saying* in the next few years following his death?” We have the answer for that. It’s not a mystery. I may think Gerd Ludemann’s arguments are silly and unsustainable, but at least he GETS IT when it comes to understanding the options that are actually on the table here: exotic mass hallucination, deceptive collusion, or truth-telling. The first option is what he chooses to run with, but it’s so exotic that we’re frankly already venturing into the paranormal with it anyway.

    The second option defies all logic. Imagine somebody like Peter saying: “Welp, my beloved Messiah was tortured, horribly killed and buried, so all those hopes and dreams we had about him are G-O-N-E. He really was just a nutcase, or a sado-masochistic liar, or… I’m not sure, but whatever he is he wasn’t God because he’s fertilizer now. Hey, I know what I’ll do—I’ll start a new religion to convince everybody that he DID rise again, like he said he would. I’ll make sure to rub the Jewish leaders’ faces in it, and hey, maybe I’ll get Rome’s attention while I’m at it too. That way everyone in power will hate me—win-win! Maybe I’ll get to go to prison that way. If I’m really lucky, I’ll get stoned to death by a mob or maybe killed by the Romans just like Jesus was. Meanwhile, look at everything I’m getting out of this: no extra sex or big $$ (following Jesus’ teachings about that sort of thing anyway, ‘cuz I still think he was a pretty neat guy, even though he was a total fraud, nutcase, whatever…), a crappy life on the road spreading my hoax, prison, beating etc. from all the people I’m planning to piss off… yep, that’s the life for me! Oh yeah, and if I AM killed in the end, I know I’ll have eternal life in heaven because… oh right, there is no eternal life in heaven because I’m making this whole thing up.”

    God’s left exactly enough evidence. He hasn’t bombarded us all with blinding visions and miracles to the point where we no longer have to get past our pride or use our brains to figure anything out, but he doesn’t demand that we take a blind leap in the dark either, contemporary Christian music notwithstanding.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Yes, but you seemed to be implying in general that because Christian theology doesn’t make sense to you, it’s too fantastic to be true. If I misread that, forgive me.

    You’re very fond of the falsifiability criterion, but this criterion simply isn’t applicable to all areas of knowledge. I can’t put the crossing of the Rubicon in a test tube and see if it happens again. Also implicit in your argument is that the closure of the physical realm is a given. I get that loud and clear, but I simply disagree that we must assume this up-front. Finally, you have these arbitrary ideas of what God “would have” or “should have” done if He really wanted to provide “good” (translated “good enough for Thought2Much”) evidence for the claims of Jesus’ disciples given that Jesus had in fact risen from the dead. But consider this: If Jesus has already risen from the dead in your thought experiment, if you’re hypothetically granting that his claim to divine power was substantiated through this miracle, then right there you should realize that you’re dealing with something completely beyond and other from our ordinary human experience. You are, in fact, dealing with God, a God who’s powerful enough literally to suspend the laws of nature at will. It’s been convincingly argued that such a God must exist beyond our space-time continuum. He would be able to see the entirety of human history spread out in full, like a movie reel. So why is it so ridiculous to suggest that such a God MIGHT know something we don’t?

    Reputable scholars on both sides agree that the people in Jesus’ inner circle had established the resurrection tradition almost immediately after the commonly accepted date for Christ’s crucifixion. So the question of exactly when the first gospel was written down, which you keep harping on, isn’t even the most important question. The question is “What were the people in Jesus’ inner circle *saying* in the next few years following his death?” We have the answer for that. It’s not a mystery. I may think Gerd Ludemann’s arguments are silly and unsustainable, but at least he GETS IT when it comes to understanding the options that are actually on the table here: exotic mass hallucination, deceptive collusion, or truth-telling. The first option is what he chooses to run with, but it’s so exotic that we’re frankly already venturing into the paranormal with it anyway.

    The second option defies all logic. Imagine somebody like Peter saying: “Welp, my beloved Messiah was tortured, horribly killed and buried, so all those hopes and dreams we had about him are G-O-N-E. He really was just a nutcase, or a sado-masochistic liar, or… I’m not sure, but whatever he is he wasn’t God because he’s fertilizer now. Hey, I know what I’ll do—I’ll start a new religion to convince everybody that he DID rise again, like he said he would. I’ll make sure to rub the Jewish leaders’ faces in it, and hey, maybe I’ll get Rome’s attention while I’m at it too. That way everyone in power will hate me—win-win! Maybe I’ll get to go to prison that way. If I’m really lucky, I’ll get stoned to death by a mob or maybe killed by the Romans just like Jesus was. Meanwhile, look at everything I’m getting out of this: no extra sex or big $$ (following Jesus’ teachings about that sort of thing anyway, ‘cuz I still think he was a pretty neat guy, even though he was a total fraud, nutcase, whatever…), a crappy life on the road spreading my hoax, prison, beating etc. from all the people I’m planning to piss off… yep, that’s the life for me! Oh yeah, and if I AM killed in the end, I know I’ll have eternal life in heaven because… oh right, there is no eternal life in heaven because I’m making this whole thing up.”

    God’s left exactly enough evidence. He hasn’t bombarded us all with blinding visions and miracles to the point where we no longer have to get past our pride or use our brains to figure anything out, but he doesn’t demand that we take a blind leap in the dark either, contemporary Christian music notwithstanding.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    See, here’s what you don’t seem to get in all your attempts to make a parallel between Christianity and Mormonism, Islam, Buddhism, etc.: For Jesus to die and NOT rise from the dead kills Christianity all by itself, because Christianity hangs on one highly specific, concrete event in history that either did or didn’t happen—namely, the resurrection. Paul makes this crystal clear in his letters: If Jesus did not rise again, that’s it, lights out, everybody can go home now. But Joseph Smith never made the claims of his religion dependent on his ability to perform miracles or rise from the dead. So his death only added MORE lustre to his name and fame, not less! There’s nothing remotely paranormal about his cult followers using the glorious martyrdom of their beloved leader as further fuel for their religion, because they were never waiting for the other shoe to drop. There was no other shoe. That was never the basis for their religion. Similarly, Mohammed didn’t found Islam on his own ability to perform miracles or rise from the dead. He used sheer force of will and physical incentives to sway his followers, and all they had to do was take what he said on faith. Again, nothing extreme or paranormal there. That’s the fatal disanalogy.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    See, here’s what you don’t seem to get in all your attempts to make a parallel between Christianity and Mormonism, Islam, Buddhism, etc.: For Jesus to die and NOT rise from the dead kills Christianity all by itself, because Christianity hangs on one highly specific, concrete event in history that either did or didn’t happen—namely, the resurrection. Paul makes this crystal clear in his letters: If Jesus did not rise again, that’s it, lights out, everybody can go home now. But Joseph Smith never made the claims of his religion dependent on his ability to perform miracles or rise from the dead. So his death only added MORE lustre to his name and fame, not less! There’s nothing remotely paranormal about his cult followers using the glorious martyrdom of their beloved leader as further fuel for their religion, because they were never waiting for the other shoe to drop. There was no other shoe. That was never the basis for their religion. Similarly, Mohammed didn’t found Islam on his own ability to perform miracles or rise from the dead. He used sheer force of will and physical incentives to sway his followers, and all they had to do was take what he said on faith. Again, nothing extreme or paranormal there. That’s the fatal disanalogy.

  • And you don’t have the proof that Jesus rose from the dead, Esther. I don’t trust 2000 year-old eyewitness second- and third-hand testimony. That’s not proof. That’s hearsay. I don’t trust much recent eyewitness testimony, because people’s senses are too easily fooled, and their memories too easily distorted.

    Even if the original disciples would die for Jesus (and it’s debatable just how persecuted the original Christians actually were), even if they actually believed he had somehow been resurrected… people believe all kinds of things that actually blatantly go against reality.

    We have people today who still follow men who claim to know when the second coming of Christ will be, and have continued to follow these men after multiple incorrect predictions.

    We have creationists who believe that samples of every animal in the world were jammed into a 450 foot ark for a year, and that the earth is only 6000 years old, despite the fact that all of the radioactive elements with very long half-lives say otherwise.

    We have 9/11 truthers, moon landing hoax believers, etc.

    I know people firsthand that have claimed that God turned their mercury fillings to gold. And when their dentists and other people told them they looked like regular fillings, they claimed that they must have only been gold temporarily.

    Many people believe that homeopathic medicine does something apart from placebo effect.

    Who knows how the stories of Jesus being resurrected got started? Could a rumor have spread that Jesus came back to life, and everyone believed it, even though no one saw it themselves (Because so-and-so said he heard someone reputable say it was true, and why would either of them lie? Sound familiar?)? Maybe. Could the persecution of the disciples have been manufactured later, in order to make the first Christians appear to be brave martyrs? Perhaps. Did some people start saying that Jesus came back (not even the disciples themselves), but went up to heaven, and people believed that? Quite possible. 2000 years later, all we have is hearsay and fanciful stories about any of those things.

    People are all too easily manipulated, and will believe any number of ridiculous things without any proof whatsoever. That’s just as true now as it was 2000 years ago. So the fact that people may or may not have endured persecution for what they believed to be true does not necessarily make the thing true, no matter how much you want it to be true. The fact that people believed something is not evidence, no matter how hard you try to shoehorn it into that category.

    So I’m sorry, but if you don’t have a man who can be validated as being 2000 years old and able to perform the miracles as indicated in the Bible, you only have stories about the resurrection, not evidence of the resurrection. Do you not understand the difference?

  • And you don’t have the proof that Jesus rose from the dead, Esther. I don’t trust 2000 year-old eyewitness second- and third-hand testimony. That’s not proof. That’s hearsay. I don’t trust much recent eyewitness testimony, because people’s senses are too easily fooled, and their memories too easily distorted.

    Even if the original disciples would die for Jesus (and it’s debatable just how persecuted the original Christians actually were), even if they actually believed he had somehow been resurrected… people believe all kinds of things that actually blatantly go against reality.

    We have people today who still follow men who claim to know when the second coming of Christ will be, and have continued to follow these men after multiple incorrect predictions.

    We have creationists who believe that samples of every animal in the world were jammed into a 450 foot ark for a year, and that the earth is only 6000 years old, despite the fact that all of the radioactive elements with very long half-lives say otherwise.

    We have 9/11 truthers, moon landing hoax believers, etc.

    I know people firsthand that have claimed that God turned their mercury fillings to gold. And when their dentists and other people told them they looked like regular fillings, they claimed that they must have only been gold temporarily.

    Many people believe that homeopathic medicine does something apart from placebo effect.

    Who knows how the stories of Jesus being resurrected got started? Could a rumor have spread that Jesus came back to life, and everyone believed it, even though no one saw it themselves (Because so-and-so said he heard someone reputable say it was true, and why would either of them lie? Sound familiar?)? Maybe. Could the persecution of the disciples have been manufactured later, in order to make the first Christians appear to be brave martyrs? Perhaps. Did some people start saying that Jesus came back (not even the disciples themselves), but went up to heaven, and people believed that? Quite possible. 2000 years later, all we have is hearsay and fanciful stories about any of those things.

    People are all too easily manipulated, and will believe any number of ridiculous things without any proof whatsoever. That’s just as true now as it was 2000 years ago. So the fact that people may or may not have endured persecution for what they believed to be true does not necessarily make the thing true, no matter how much you want it to be true. The fact that people believed something is not evidence, no matter how hard you try to shoehorn it into that category.

    So I’m sorry, but if you don’t have a man who can be validated as being 2000 years old and able to perform the miracles as indicated in the Bible, you only have stories about the resurrection, not evidence of the resurrection. Do you not understand the difference?

  • And you don’t have the proof that Jesus rose from the dead, Esther. I don’t trust 2000 year-old eyewitness second- and third-hand testimony. That’s not proof. That’s hearsay. I don’t trust much recent eyewitness testimony, because people’s senses are too easily fooled, and their memories too easily distorted.

    Even if the original disciples would die for Jesus (and it’s debatable just how persecuted the original Christians actually were), even if they actually believed he had somehow been resurrected… people believe all kinds of things that actually blatantly go against reality.

    We have people today who still follow men who claim to know when the second coming of Christ will be, and have continued to follow these men after multiple incorrect predictions.

    We have creationists who believe that samples of every animal in the world were jammed into a 450 foot ark for a year, and that the earth is only 6000 years old, despite the fact that all of the radioactive elements with very long half-lives say otherwise.

    We have 9/11 truthers, moon landing hoax believers, etc.

    I know people firsthand that have claimed that God turned their mercury fillings to gold. And when their dentists and other people told them they looked like regular fillings, they claimed that they must have only been gold temporarily.

    Many people believe that homeopathic medicine does something apart from placebo effect.

    Who knows how the stories of Jesus being resurrected got started? Could a rumor have spread that Jesus came back to life, and everyone believed it, even though no one saw it themselves (Because so-and-so said he heard someone reputable say it was true, and why would either of them lie? Sound familiar?)? Maybe. Could the persecution of the disciples have been manufactured later, in order to make the first Christians appear to be brave martyrs? Perhaps. Did some people start saying that Jesus came back (not even the disciples themselves), but went up to heaven, and people believed that? Quite possible. 2000 years later, all we have is hearsay and fanciful stories about any of those things.

    People are all too easily manipulated, and will believe any number of ridiculous things without any proof whatsoever. That’s just as true now as it was 2000 years ago. So the fact that people may or may not have endured persecution for what they believed to be true does not necessarily make the thing true, no matter how much you want it to be true. The fact that people believed something is not evidence, no matter how hard you try to shoehorn it into that category.

    So I’m sorry, but if you don’t have a man who can be validated as being 2000 years old and able to perform the miracles as indicated in the Bible, you only have stories about the resurrection, not evidence of the resurrection. Do you not understand the difference?

  • Balls. The commenting system doesn’t allow HTML list items. :/

  • Balls. The commenting system doesn’t allow HTML list items. :/

  • mikespeir

    I think we can safely conclude from this thread that for some Christians Hell is still an indispensable tenet of the Faith.

  • mikespeir

    I think we can safely conclude from this thread that for some Christians Hell is still an indispensable tenet of the Faith.

  • Yes, I agree. And Christians typically use cyclical logic in their arguments. I recently saw this posted on someone’s blog…”Arguing with a Christian is like playing chess with a pigeon: You could be the greatest player in the world, but the pigeon will still knock over all the pieces, crap on the board, and strut around triumphantly.”

  • Yes, I agree. And Christians typically use cyclical logic in their arguments. I recently saw this posted on someone’s blog…”Arguing with a Christian is like playing chess with a pigeon: You could be the greatest player in the world, but the pigeon will still knock over all the pieces, crap on the board, and strut around triumphantly.”

  • Yes, I agree. And Christians typically use cyclical logic in their arguments. I recently saw this posted on someone’s blog…”Arguing with a Christian is like playing chess with a pigeon: You could be the greatest player in the world, but the pigeon will still knock over all the pieces, crap on the board, and strut around triumphantly.”

  • Esther O’Reilly

    I guess by your standards, all ancient history is hearsay. If you showed me an ancient document chronicling the doings of Alexander the Great, and I retorted, “That’s hearsay! Show me the proof!” you would laugh me out of the ancient history department, for good reason.

    You also write:

    “Even if the original disciples would die for Jesus (and it’s debatable just how persecuted the original Christians actually were), even if they actually believed he had somehow been resurrected… people believe all kinds of things that actually blatantly go against reality.”

    I must stress this for the umpteenth time: The disciples were not merely “willing to die for Jesus,” and they were not merely going by someone else’s word for it that Jesus had been resurrected. They were claiming that they had direct, physical experiences of Jesus. So if you’re going to grant this for a thought experiment, you need to recognize that every single one of your examples is a completely cruddy analogy to the apostles’ claims. Yes, of course people can be manipulated into believing silly things, believe they “feel cured” of some illness when the remedy is worthless, etc., etc. NONE of those things even comes close to staking your life on the claim that your best friend rose from the dead, talked to and ate with you, and spent days with you in his risen body. People who vote for Ron Paul, follow Harold Camping, etc., aren’t suffering from hallucination en masse, they’re just naive people choosing to believe something without sufficient evidence.

    You continue to speculate:

    “Who knows how the stories of Jesus being resurrected got started? Could a rumor have spread that Jesus came back to life, and everyone believed it, even though no one saw it themselves (Because so-and-so said he heard someone reputable say it was true, and why would either of them lie? Sound familiar?)? Maybe. Could the persecution of the disciples have been manufactured later, in order to make the first Christians appear to be brave martyrs? Perhaps. Did some people start saying that Jesus came back (not even the disciples themselves), but went up to heaven, and people believed that? Quite possible. 2000 years later, all we have is hearsay and fanciful stories about any of those things.”

    The Book of Acts alone pretty much puts the kibosh on this paragraph. I don’t have the time or the space to enumerate all the undesigned coincidences with Paul’s epistles, all the fine details of historical accuracy, and other internal and external indicators that this is a document written by a companion of Paul who had ample opportunity to interact personally with the first apostles. The fact that it ends abruptly before Paul’s execution under Nero, even though it chronicles all other major events in Paul’s life, convincingly places the dating no later than the early to mid 60s. At the very least, we have no reason to assume that the author was unable to get a reliable account of what the apostles were saying and doing in the months after Jesus’ resurrection. And anyway, we have Paul himself telling us what the disciples taught! “For I have delivered unto you that which I also received,” etc. Here I yield the floor to Bart Ehrman, darling of skeptical NT scholarship, in an interview with an atheist podcaster:

    Bart: “We have one author who actually knew Jesus’ relatives and knew his disciples…Paul.”

    Interviewer: “How do we know that?”

    Bart: “Because we have Paul’s letters.”

    Interviewer “How do we know he didn’t lie about it?”

    Bart: “Why would he lie about it?”

    Interviewer: “Um…well…”

    ***

    “How do we know Paul wrote his letters?”

    “Well how do you know Cicero wrote his letters?”

    “Well, uh, I’m not a historian, so I dunno much about Cicero…”

    “Well I am a historian, and I’m telling you!”

    “Bu-bu-but there are historians who would disagree with you, right?

    “No.”

    “Oh…”

    Check out the full interview here, it’s quite entertaining:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRx0N4GF0AY&

  • Esther O’Reilly

    I guess by your standards, all ancient history is hearsay. If you showed me an ancient document chronicling the doings of Alexander the Great, and I retorted, “That’s hearsay! Show me the proof!” you would laugh me out of the ancient history department, for good reason.

    You also write:

    “Even if the original disciples would die for Jesus (and it’s debatable just how persecuted the original Christians actually were), even if they actually believed he had somehow been resurrected… people believe all kinds of things that actually blatantly go against reality.”

    I must stress this for the umpteenth time: The disciples were not merely “willing to die for Jesus,” and they were not merely going by someone else’s word for it that Jesus had been resurrected. They were claiming that they had direct, physical experiences of Jesus. So if you’re going to grant this for a thought experiment, you need to recognize that every single one of your examples is a completely cruddy analogy to the apostles’ claims. Yes, of course people can be manipulated into believing silly things, believe they “feel cured” of some illness when the remedy is worthless, etc., etc. NONE of those things even comes close to staking your life on the claim that your best friend rose from the dead, talked to and ate with you, and spent days with you in his risen body. People who vote for Ron Paul, follow Harold Camping, etc., aren’t suffering from hallucination en masse, they’re just naive people choosing to believe something without sufficient evidence.

    You continue to speculate:

    “Who knows how the stories of Jesus being resurrected got started? Could a rumor have spread that Jesus came back to life, and everyone believed it, even though no one saw it themselves (Because so-and-so said he heard someone reputable say it was true, and why would either of them lie? Sound familiar?)? Maybe. Could the persecution of the disciples have been manufactured later, in order to make the first Christians appear to be brave martyrs? Perhaps. Did some people start saying that Jesus came back (not even the disciples themselves), but went up to heaven, and people believed that? Quite possible. 2000 years later, all we have is hearsay and fanciful stories about any of those things.”

    The Book of Acts alone pretty much puts the kibosh on this paragraph. I don’t have the time or the space to enumerate all the undesigned coincidences with Paul’s epistles, all the fine details of historical accuracy, and other internal and external indicators that this is a document written by a companion of Paul who had ample opportunity to interact personally with the first apostles. The fact that it ends abruptly before Paul’s execution under Nero, even though it chronicles all other major events in Paul’s life, convincingly places the dating no later than the early to mid 60s. At the very least, we have no reason to assume that the author was unable to get a reliable account of what the apostles were saying and doing in the months after Jesus’ resurrection. And anyway, we have Paul himself telling us what the disciples taught! “For I have delivered unto you that which I also received,” etc. Here I yield the floor to Bart Ehrman, darling of skeptical NT scholarship, in an interview with an atheist podcaster:

    Bart: “We have one author who actually knew Jesus’ relatives and knew his disciples…Paul.”

    Interviewer: “How do we know that?”

    Bart: “Because we have Paul’s letters.”

    Interviewer “How do we know he didn’t lie about it?”

    Bart: “Why would he lie about it?”

    Interviewer: “Um…well…”

    ***

    “How do we know Paul wrote his letters?”

    “Well how do you know Cicero wrote his letters?”

    “Well, uh, I’m not a historian, so I dunno much about Cicero…”

    “Well I am a historian, and I’m telling you!”

    “Bu-bu-but there are historians who would disagree with you, right?

    “No.”

    “Oh…”

    Check out the full interview here, it’s quite entertaining:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRx0N4GF0AY&

  • Esther O’Reilly

    I guess by your standards, all ancient history is hearsay. If you showed me an ancient document chronicling the doings of Alexander the Great, and I retorted, “That’s hearsay! Show me the proof!” you would laugh me out of the ancient history department, for good reason.

    You also write:

    “Even if the original disciples would die for Jesus (and it’s debatable just how persecuted the original Christians actually were), even if they actually believed he had somehow been resurrected… people believe all kinds of things that actually blatantly go against reality.”

    I must stress this for the umpteenth time: The disciples were not merely “willing to die for Jesus,” and they were not merely going by someone else’s word for it that Jesus had been resurrected. They were claiming that they had direct, physical experiences of Jesus. So if you’re going to grant this for a thought experiment, you need to recognize that every single one of your examples is a completely cruddy analogy to the apostles’ claims. Yes, of course people can be manipulated into believing silly things, believe they “feel cured” of some illness when the remedy is worthless, etc., etc. NONE of those things even comes close to staking your life on the claim that your best friend rose from the dead, talked to and ate with you, and spent days with you in his risen body. People who vote for Ron Paul, follow Harold Camping, etc., aren’t suffering from hallucination en masse, they’re just naive people choosing to believe something without sufficient evidence.

    You continue to speculate:

    “Who knows how the stories of Jesus being resurrected got started? Could a rumor have spread that Jesus came back to life, and everyone believed it, even though no one saw it themselves (Because so-and-so said he heard someone reputable say it was true, and why would either of them lie? Sound familiar?)? Maybe. Could the persecution of the disciples have been manufactured later, in order to make the first Christians appear to be brave martyrs? Perhaps. Did some people start saying that Jesus came back (not even the disciples themselves), but went up to heaven, and people believed that? Quite possible. 2000 years later, all we have is hearsay and fanciful stories about any of those things.”

    The Book of Acts alone pretty much puts the kibosh on this paragraph. I don’t have the time or the space to enumerate all the undesigned coincidences with Paul’s epistles, all the fine details of historical accuracy, and other internal and external indicators that this is a document written by a companion of Paul who had ample opportunity to interact personally with the first apostles. The fact that it ends abruptly before Paul’s execution under Nero, even though it chronicles all other major events in Paul’s life, convincingly places the dating no later than the early to mid 60s. At the very least, we have no reason to assume that the author was unable to get a reliable account of what the apostles were saying and doing in the months after Jesus’ resurrection. And anyway, we have Paul himself telling us what the disciples taught! “For I have delivered unto you that which I also received,” etc. Here I yield the floor to Bart Ehrman, darling of skeptical NT scholarship, in an interview with an atheist podcaster:

    Bart: “We have one author who actually knew Jesus’ relatives and knew his disciples…Paul.”

    Interviewer: “How do we know that?”

    Bart: “Because we have Paul’s letters.”

    Interviewer “How do we know he didn’t lie about it?”

    Bart: “Why would he lie about it?”

    Interviewer: “Um…well…”

    ***

    “How do we know Paul wrote his letters?”

    “Well how do you know Cicero wrote his letters?”

    “Well, uh, I’m not a historian, so I dunno much about Cicero…”

    “Well I am a historian, and I’m telling you!”

    “Bu-bu-but there are historians who would disagree with you, right?

    “No.”

    “Oh…”

    Check out the full interview here, it’s quite entertaining:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRx0N4GF0AY&

  • Thought2Much

    I can’t tell if you’re being purposely obtuse or if you’re really just that dense. You don’t see how the historical evidence for the existence of Alexander the Great is radically different from the evidence required to show that Jesus rose from the dead? Do you really just not see it? Do you not understand the differing nature of the claims being made? Seriously?

  • Thought2Much

    I can’t tell if you’re being purposely obtuse or if you’re really just that dense. You don’t see how the historical evidence for the existence of Alexander the Great is radically different from the evidence required to show that Jesus rose from the dead? Do you really just not see it? Do you not understand the differing nature of the claims being made? Seriously?

  • It’s like trying to teach physics to a person that refuses to believe gravity exists. There’s just nowhere to go from there.

  • It’s like trying to teach physics to a person that refuses to believe gravity exists. There’s just nowhere to go from there.

  • I’m not reading any school. In fact, it’s funny you bring up Fr Aiden, because I was reading that very post the other day, and to some extent I agree with it. I’m sorry you got lulled into some false sense of patristic consensus, and then threw the baby out with the bathwater when you realised it was not the case. Frankly, there is a lack of consensus because defining hell is a Western juridicial concern. We’re too busy on da Eastside talking about theosis and Christ trampling down death by death to worry about whether hell is an actual physical place God sends people or not. It’s an afterthought based on the rest of our theology (where there is indeed consensus!). Really what settled this was not some “school” (and I’ve never heard of it to be honest), but Isaac the Syrian (specifically) and Gregory Palamas (more generally). It is true that in the 20th Century there has been a renaissance of Orthodox theology, which was stifled and Westernised for about 400 years, but you are pretending that those Latin-influenced views were the original ones. This is not the case.

  • I’m not reading any school. In fact, it’s funny you bring up Fr Aiden, because I was reading that very post the other day, and to some extent I agree with it. I’m sorry you got lulled into some false sense of patristic consensus, and then threw the baby out with the bathwater when you realised it was not the case. Frankly, there is a lack of consensus because defining hell is a Western juridicial concern. We’re too busy on da Eastside talking about theosis and Christ trampling down death by death to worry about whether hell is an actual physical place God sends people or not. It’s an afterthought based on the rest of our theology (where there is indeed consensus!). Really what settled this was not some “school” (and I’ve never heard of it to be honest), but Isaac the Syrian (specifically) and Gregory Palamas (more generally). It is true that in the 20th Century there has been a renaissance of Orthodox theology, which was stifled and Westernised for about 400 years, but you are pretending that those Latin-influenced views were the original ones. This is not the case.

  • mikespeir

    I believe I might have thought to ask if he would be willing to bet his life that Cicero wrote those letters or if, maybe, he thought it would be good to mandate that opinion for others on pain of, IDK, hellfire?

  • mikespeir

    I believe I might have thought to ask if he would be willing to bet his life that Cicero wrote those letters or if, maybe, he thought it would be good to mandate that opinion for others on pain of, IDK, hellfire?

  • mikespeir

    I believe I might have thought to ask if he would be willing to bet his life that Cicero wrote those letters or if, maybe, he thought it would be good to mandate that opinion for others on pain of, IDK, hellfire?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Thought2Much, your arbitrary declaration of what counts as “good enough evidence” for something, however extraordinary, is hardly comparable to a law of physics. I’m a little amused by the self-importance required just to make that statement. Again, philosophers like J. L. Mackie ultimately come down on the skeptical side, but they’re not arrogant enough to say THAT. I suppose this is about David Hume, isn’t it? A very clever fellow to be sure, but his philosophy stinks, and you don’t have to be a Christian philosopher to see that it stinks. I’ll refer you to the agnostic philosopher John Earman on that one:

    http://www.amazon.com/Humes-Abject-Failure-Argument-Miracles/dp/0195127382

    For my part I have to wonder if you’re being purposely obtuse when you insist that even if Jesus really did rise from the dead, in a validation of his own predictions and claims to divine power, we have no evidence that he’s still alive today. What part of “timelessness of God” do you not understand? Your problem is that you simply don’t want to acknowledge what we really know, and what the stark simplicity of the options are based on that knowledge. No other option has the explanatory power to account for all the evidence we have.

    Mike, I suppose you would have gallantly joined forces with Mr. Clueless Infidel Guy in spectacularly missing Bart’s point, which is that these documents are subject to the same historical method any good scholar would apply to other ancient works? That’s pretty funny if so. Mind you, I’ve read Bart’s stuff, and I couldn’t disagree more with his judgement, but dude is a scholar, and he understands you can’t just wave your hands over this stuff and say “Pfffft! It’s just a bunch of 2000-year-old documents anyway, what can we possibly know about any of it? *nose wrinkle*” That’s why when the Infidel Guy squirms around and tries to say “Well, um, okay so maybe Paul probably did write those letters,” Bart’s going, “PROBABLY? He DID!” One of these guys knows his stuff, and I’m afraid it’s not Infidel Guy.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Thought2Much, your arbitrary declaration of what counts as “good enough evidence” for something, however extraordinary, is hardly comparable to a law of physics. I’m a little amused by the self-importance required just to make that statement. Again, philosophers like J. L. Mackie ultimately come down on the skeptical side, but they’re not arrogant enough to say THAT. I suppose this is about David Hume, isn’t it? A very clever fellow to be sure, but his philosophy stinks, and you don’t have to be a Christian philosopher to see that it stinks. I’ll refer you to the agnostic philosopher John Earman on that one:

    http://www.amazon.com/Humes-Abject-Failure-Argument-Miracles/dp/0195127382

    For my part I have to wonder if you’re being purposely obtuse when you insist that even if Jesus really did rise from the dead, in a validation of his own predictions and claims to divine power, we have no evidence that he’s still alive today. What part of “timelessness of God” do you not understand? Your problem is that you simply don’t want to acknowledge what we really know, and what the stark simplicity of the options are based on that knowledge. No other option has the explanatory power to account for all the evidence we have.

    Mike, I suppose you would have gallantly joined forces with Mr. Clueless Infidel Guy in spectacularly missing Bart’s point, which is that these documents are subject to the same historical method any good scholar would apply to other ancient works? That’s pretty funny if so. Mind you, I’ve read Bart’s stuff, and I couldn’t disagree more with his judgement, but dude is a scholar, and he understands you can’t just wave your hands over this stuff and say “Pfffft! It’s just a bunch of 2000-year-old documents anyway, what can we possibly know about any of it? *nose wrinkle*” That’s why when the Infidel Guy squirms around and tries to say “Well, um, okay so maybe Paul probably did write those letters,” Bart’s going, “PROBABLY? He DID!” One of these guys knows his stuff, and I’m afraid it’s not Infidel Guy.

  • mikespeir

    No, I didn’t miss any points. I made one. Ignore it if you will.

  • mikespeir

    No, I didn’t miss any points. I made one. Ignore it if you will.

  • mikespeir

    No, I didn’t miss any points. I made one. Ignore it if you will.

  • mikespeir

    No, I didn’t miss any points. I made one. Ignore it if you will.

  • “For my part I have to wonder if you’re being purposely obtuse when you insist that even if Jesus really did rise from the dead, in a validation of his own predictions and claims to divine power, we have no evidence that he’s still alive today.”

    Now you’re purposefully misrepresenting what I have said. This discussion is over.

  • “For my part I have to wonder if you’re being purposely obtuse when you insist that even if Jesus really did rise from the dead, in a validation of his own predictions and claims to divine power, we have no evidence that he’s still alive today.”

    Now you’re purposefully misrepresenting what I have said. This discussion is over.

  • “For my part I have to wonder if you’re being purposely obtuse when you insist that even if Jesus really did rise from the dead, in a validation of his own predictions and claims to divine power, we have no evidence that he’s still alive today.”

    Now you’re purposefully misrepresenting what I have said. This discussion is over.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Then I guess I’ll wind it up with some of your own words:

    “Esther, is Jesus alive or dead right now? It’s a perfectly legitimate question.

    If he died (for a second time, *if* we grant the resurrection as being true in the first place), then that kind of invalidates your entire belief system, does it not?

    If he’s alive, why can’t I invite him to dinner? Oh wait, because the Bible claims he took any evidence that he’s still alive with him up into heaven.”

    Right there in your second paragraph, you’re hypothetically granting the truth of the resurrection, because the truth is that you’re not primarily concerned with Jesus’ initial resurrection. Instead, you’re obsessed with this idea that Jesus needed to hang around on earth for another 2000 years, chilling at your favorite restaurant and continuing to perform random miracles, in order to prove that he was “stayin’ alive,” as it were. The very fact that you’re suggesting he could have “died a second time” after rising from the dead once shows that you have no clue what the resurrection actually entails about Jesus.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Then I guess I’ll wind it up with some of your own words:

    “Esther, is Jesus alive or dead right now? It’s a perfectly legitimate question.

    If he died (for a second time, *if* we grant the resurrection as being true in the first place), then that kind of invalidates your entire belief system, does it not?

    If he’s alive, why can’t I invite him to dinner? Oh wait, because the Bible claims he took any evidence that he’s still alive with him up into heaven.”

    Right there in your second paragraph, you’re hypothetically granting the truth of the resurrection, because the truth is that you’re not primarily concerned with Jesus’ initial resurrection. Instead, you’re obsessed with this idea that Jesus needed to hang around on earth for another 2000 years, chilling at your favorite restaurant and continuing to perform random miracles, in order to prove that he was “stayin’ alive,” as it were. The very fact that you’re suggesting he could have “died a second time” after rising from the dead once shows that you have no clue what the resurrection actually entails about Jesus.

  • And I would just like to point out once again that what I asked for at the beginning of this thread was evidence for Hell besides referencing the words of the Bible. And once again Esther spent all her energies moving the discussion back to the topic she really wanted to discuss: ancient historiography and the reliability of the gospels.

    Unless the occult reference was serious, in which case I’d be happy to entertain anything concrete. Otherwise, this has been a very long detour from the topic of this post. Again.

  • And I would just like to point out once again that what I asked for at the beginning of this thread was evidence for Hell besides referencing the words of the Bible. And once again Esther spent all her energies moving the discussion back to the topic she really wanted to discuss: ancient historiography and the reliability of the gospels.

    Unless the occult reference was serious, in which case I’d be happy to entertain anything concrete. Otherwise, this has been a very long detour from the topic of this post. Again.

  • And I would just like to point out once again that what I asked for at the beginning of this thread was evidence for Hell besides referencing the words of the Bible. And once again Esther spent all her energies moving the discussion back to the topic she really wanted to discuss: ancient historiography and the reliability of the gospels.

    Unless the occult reference was serious, in which case I’d be happy to entertain anything concrete. Otherwise, this has been a very long detour from the topic of this post. Again.

  • And I would just like to point out once again that what I asked for at the beginning of this thread was evidence for Hell besides referencing the words of the Bible. And once again Esther spent all her energies moving the discussion back to the topic she really wanted to discuss: ancient historiography and the reliability of the gospels.

    Unless the occult reference was serious, in which case I’d be happy to entertain anything concrete. Otherwise, this has been a very long detour from the topic of this post. Again.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    No, that was serious. In fact, I find it interesting that current and ex-Satanists/occultists report direct contact with demons far more frequently than Christians report direct contact with angels/visions of God.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    No, that was serious. In fact, I find it interesting that current and ex-Satanists/occultists report direct contact with demons far more frequently than Christians report direct contact with angels/visions of God.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    No, that was serious. In fact, I find it interesting that current and ex-Satanists/occultists report direct contact with demons far more frequently than Christians report direct contact with angels/visions of God.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    No, that was serious. In fact, I find it interesting that current and ex-Satanists/occultists report direct contact with demons far more frequently than Christians report direct contact with angels/visions of God.

  • David W

    “Unless the occult reference was serious, in which case I’d be happy to entertain anything concrete. ”

    Absolutely! Anything concrete would be amazing. The Christians in my life, and those I encounter online, often assert with confidence that such concrete evidence exists, however, they always fail to produce anything other than heresy.

    For them, the fact that there is no physical evidence of supernatural events, and the fact that the occult never occurs when video cameras are present, and the fact that not a single event had ever survived skeptical inquiry isn’t at all troubling to them.

  • David W

    “Unless the occult reference was serious, in which case I’d be happy to entertain anything concrete. ”

    Absolutely! Anything concrete would be amazing. The Christians in my life, and those I encounter online, often assert with confidence that such concrete evidence exists, however, they always fail to produce anything other than heresy.

    For them, the fact that there is no physical evidence of supernatural events, and the fact that the occult never occurs when video cameras are present, and the fact that not a single event had ever survived skeptical inquiry isn’t at all troubling to them.

  • David W

    “Unless the occult reference was serious, in which case I’d be happy to entertain anything concrete. ”

    Absolutely! Anything concrete would be amazing. The Christians in my life, and those I encounter online, often assert with confidence that such concrete evidence exists, however, they always fail to produce anything other than heresy.

    For them, the fact that there is no physical evidence of supernatural events, and the fact that the occult never occurs when video cameras are present, and the fact that not a single event had ever survived skeptical inquiry isn’t at all troubling to them.

  • I’ve got a question about the original subject matter of the post (and mostly because I do believe that asking if the beliefs cause harm is more important than figuring out if the beliefs are real). Does Fritz’s actions rise to the level of abuse? If so, is this a level of abuse that should be actively prevented by government institutions like child services?

    I come from a legal background, and “I did it because I love them” isn’t a defense to quite a few forms of abuse. I understand, though, that labeling Fritz’s actions as “abuse” may be controversial, but should we avoid controversy when a child’s well-being is at stake?

  • I’ve got a question about the original subject matter of the post (and mostly because I do believe that asking if the beliefs cause harm is more important than figuring out if the beliefs are real). Does Fritz’s actions rise to the level of abuse? If so, is this a level of abuse that should be actively prevented by government institutions like child services?

    I come from a legal background, and “I did it because I love them” isn’t a defense to quite a few forms of abuse. I understand, though, that labeling Fritz’s actions as “abuse” may be controversial, but should we avoid controversy when a child’s well-being is at stake?

  • vivianomie

    My biggest question is if Fritz really believed hell was a possibility for his children, why put them at risk by having them in the first place? I never understood that as a Christian, and I certainly don’t understand why hell-believers do it now.

  • vivianomie

    My biggest question is if Fritz really believed hell was a possibility for his children, why put them at risk by having them in the first place? I never understood that as a Christian, and I certainly don’t understand why hell-believers do it now.

  • vivianomie

    My biggest question is if Fritz really believed hell was a possibility for his children, why put them at risk by having them in the first place? I never understood that as a Christian, and I certainly don’t understand why hell-believers do it now.

  • vivianomie

    My biggest question is if Fritz really believed hell was a possibility for his children, why put them at risk by having them in the first place? I never understood that as a Christian, and I certainly don’t understand why hell-believers do it now.

  • So you would offer the testimony of occultists as evidence for…something? Can you be a little more specific? Since we are discussing evidence, after all, I will need you to be specific so that I can examine what you feel should be considered such.

  • So you would offer the testimony of occultists as evidence for…something? Can you be a little more specific? Since we are discussing evidence, after all, I will need you to be specific so that I can examine what you feel should be considered such.

  • So you would offer the testimony of occultists as evidence for…something? Can you be a little more specific? Since we are discussing evidence, after all, I will need you to be specific so that I can examine what you feel should be considered such.

  • So you would offer the testimony of occultists as evidence for…something? Can you be a little more specific? Since we are discussing evidence, after all, I will need you to be specific so that I can examine what you feel should be considered such.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    They will report that they have talked personally with demons and/or Satan and have acquired paranormal powers of perception/prophecy, etc. There are also a variety of cross-cultural testimonies about supposedly demon-possessed people. One priest was called in to pray for a man who was catatonic, and the instant he began praying, the man sat up, pointed at the priest and said “Leave him alone! He’s mine!” Sometimes there are natural phenomena that seem unexplainable by natural means. For example, Craig Keener reports that during a sudden, several-day period of overwhelming depression, he was taking a walk with some friends on a clear day when a giant tree fell within inches of them. The tree was later examined, and nobody could find any flaws or rotting that could explain its sudden fall physically. Keener didn’t tell anybody else about the incident, but when he was speaking to a Christian friend from Africa later on, his friend opened conversation by asking if Keener was alright, because he said God had shown him the entire 3-day period, including a vision of the tree being shaken by a demon.

    So, stories like that are interesting, but I don’t hang my faith on them, and I don’t rush to accept every similar account that I hear. Obviously I would want to take each incident on a case-by-case basis and look for confounding factors. For example, one friend of mine told me her son has seen demons, but he also had a drug problem. Needless to say, it seems there’s likely to be a connection there. The same could be true of the various metal bands who experimented with black magic. I would want to be asking, “So exactly what else were you guys doing besides black magic?” At the same time, of course I believe that demon-possession is possible today, and anyone who’s literally inviting Satan and his demons to come have their way with him is playing an exceedingly dangerous game.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    They will report that they have talked personally with demons and/or Satan and have acquired paranormal powers of perception/prophecy, etc. There are also a variety of cross-cultural testimonies about supposedly demon-possessed people. One priest was called in to pray for a man who was catatonic, and the instant he began praying, the man sat up, pointed at the priest and said “Leave him alone! He’s mine!” Sometimes there are natural phenomena that seem unexplainable by natural means. For example, Craig Keener reports that during a sudden, several-day period of overwhelming depression, he was taking a walk with some friends on a clear day when a giant tree fell within inches of them. The tree was later examined, and nobody could find any flaws or rotting that could explain its sudden fall physically. Keener didn’t tell anybody else about the incident, but when he was speaking to a Christian friend from Africa later on, his friend opened conversation by asking if Keener was alright, because he said God had shown him the entire 3-day period, including a vision of the tree being shaken by a demon.

    So, stories like that are interesting, but I don’t hang my faith on them, and I don’t rush to accept every similar account that I hear. Obviously I would want to take each incident on a case-by-case basis and look for confounding factors. For example, one friend of mine told me her son has seen demons, but he also had a drug problem. Needless to say, it seems there’s likely to be a connection there. The same could be true of the various metal bands who experimented with black magic. I would want to be asking, “So exactly what else were you guys doing besides black magic?” At the same time, of course I believe that demon-possession is possible today, and anyone who’s literally inviting Satan and his demons to come have their way with him is playing an exceedingly dangerous game.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    They will report that they have talked personally with demons and/or Satan and have acquired paranormal powers of perception/prophecy, etc. There are also a variety of cross-cultural testimonies about supposedly demon-possessed people. One priest was called in to pray for a man who was catatonic, and the instant he began praying, the man sat up, pointed at the priest and said “Leave him alone! He’s mine!” Sometimes there are natural phenomena that seem unexplainable by natural means. For example, Craig Keener reports that during a sudden, several-day period of overwhelming depression, he was taking a walk with some friends on a clear day when a giant tree fell within inches of them. The tree was later examined, and nobody could find any flaws or rotting that could explain its sudden fall physically. Keener didn’t tell anybody else about the incident, but when he was speaking to a Christian friend from Africa later on, his friend opened conversation by asking if Keener was alright, because he said God had shown him the entire 3-day period, including a vision of the tree being shaken by a demon.

    So, stories like that are interesting, but I don’t hang my faith on them, and I don’t rush to accept every similar account that I hear. Obviously I would want to take each incident on a case-by-case basis and look for confounding factors. For example, one friend of mine told me her son has seen demons, but he also had a drug problem. Needless to say, it seems there’s likely to be a connection there. The same could be true of the various metal bands who experimented with black magic. I would want to be asking, “So exactly what else were you guys doing besides black magic?” At the same time, of course I believe that demon-possession is possible today, and anyone who’s literally inviting Satan and his demons to come have their way with him is playing an exceedingly dangerous game.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    They will report that they have talked personally with demons and/or Satan and have acquired paranormal powers of perception/prophecy, etc. There are also a variety of cross-cultural testimonies about supposedly demon-possessed people. One priest was called in to pray for a man who was catatonic, and the instant he began praying, the man sat up, pointed at the priest and said “Leave him alone! He’s mine!” Sometimes there are natural phenomena that seem unexplainable by natural means. For example, Craig Keener reports that during a sudden, several-day period of overwhelming depression, he was taking a walk with some friends on a clear day when a giant tree fell within inches of them. The tree was later examined, and nobody could find any flaws or rotting that could explain its sudden fall physically. Keener didn’t tell anybody else about the incident, but when he was speaking to a Christian friend from Africa later on, his friend opened conversation by asking if Keener was alright, because he said God had shown him the entire 3-day period, including a vision of the tree being shaken by a demon.

    So, stories like that are interesting, but I don’t hang my faith on them, and I don’t rush to accept every similar account that I hear. Obviously I would want to take each incident on a case-by-case basis and look for confounding factors. For example, one friend of mine told me her son has seen demons, but he also had a drug problem. Needless to say, it seems there’s likely to be a connection there. The same could be true of the various metal bands who experimented with black magic. I would want to be asking, “So exactly what else were you guys doing besides black magic?” At the same time, of course I believe that demon-possession is possible today, and anyone who’s literally inviting Satan and his demons to come have their way with him is playing an exceedingly dangerous game.

  • So, stories like that are interesting, but I don’t hang my faith on them…

    Nor will I.

    But I asked for evidence that Hell exists, evidence other than telling me the Bible says it. You have offered anecdotal stories which you are as willing as I am to dismiss. Ghost stories are not convincing to me, and it sounds as if they are not to you, either. So do you have anything else which can serve as evidence for this horrific atrocity?

  • So, stories like that are interesting, but I don’t hang my faith on them…

    Nor will I.

    But I asked for evidence that Hell exists, evidence other than telling me the Bible says it. You have offered anecdotal stories which you are as willing as I am to dismiss. Ghost stories are not convincing to me, and it sounds as if they are not to you, either. So do you have anything else which can serve as evidence for this horrific atrocity?

  • So, stories like that are interesting, but I don’t hang my faith on them…

    Nor will I.

    But I asked for evidence that Hell exists, evidence other than telling me the Bible says it. You have offered anecdotal stories which you are as willing as I am to dismiss. Ghost stories are not convincing to me, and it sounds as if they are not to you, either. So do you have anything else which can serve as evidence for this horrific atrocity?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    I’m not exactly ready to dismiss all of them, only the ones where a natural explanation is easily presenting itself, or whether it would seem pointless if demons were actually involved. For example, a family moves into a house and reports that strange things are happening and it’s haunted. I don’t see why demons would pick a random house in which to perform quirky parlor tricks. Or some Africans come to a missionary and say, “There’s a man who can turn himself into a leopard!” The missionary says that’s not possible, and I agree. I don’t think Satan has the power to transplant souls and bodies. But as I consider reports of both good and bad spiritual activity on earth, I’m always thinking in terms of intelligent orchestration. Would a flying pink elephant serve a particular purpose of God’s? No. Would sending his son to manifest himself in a miraculous way, die and rise again? Closer. Would sending demons to flit invisibly around some random family’s house serve a deeper satanic purpose? It doesn’t seem like it. Spiritually oppressing a man who was going to accomplish some work of God, or inhabiting a willing servant on earth? That’s closer. I especially think that for anyone who’s actively involved in black magic, worshiping Satan, etc., that person is setting himself up for a nasty shock. That opens the door for all kinds of things to enter in. So I wouldn’t rush to dismiss reports in that area. Satan is called “the Prince of this World” after all. It makes sense that he would be more willing to offer tangible spiritual manifestations to his followers than God is.

    However, my faith in hell ultimately rests on my belief that Jesus Christ was God incarnate on earth, proving it with his resurrection, and thus spoke with authority on the matter. Anything else is extra. There’s one thing we do agree on—all the truly terrible things about Hell were said by Jesus.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    I’m not exactly ready to dismiss all of them, only the ones where a natural explanation is easily presenting itself, or whether it would seem pointless if demons were actually involved. For example, a family moves into a house and reports that strange things are happening and it’s haunted. I don’t see why demons would pick a random house in which to perform quirky parlor tricks. Or some Africans come to a missionary and say, “There’s a man who can turn himself into a leopard!” The missionary says that’s not possible, and I agree. I don’t think Satan has the power to transplant souls and bodies. But as I consider reports of both good and bad spiritual activity on earth, I’m always thinking in terms of intelligent orchestration. Would a flying pink elephant serve a particular purpose of God’s? No. Would sending his son to manifest himself in a miraculous way, die and rise again? Closer. Would sending demons to flit invisibly around some random family’s house serve a deeper satanic purpose? It doesn’t seem like it. Spiritually oppressing a man who was going to accomplish some work of God, or inhabiting a willing servant on earth? That’s closer. I especially think that for anyone who’s actively involved in black magic, worshiping Satan, etc., that person is setting himself up for a nasty shock. That opens the door for all kinds of things to enter in. So I wouldn’t rush to dismiss reports in that area. Satan is called “the Prince of this World” after all. It makes sense that he would be more willing to offer tangible spiritual manifestations to his followers than God is.

    However, my faith in hell ultimately rests on my belief that Jesus Christ was God incarnate on earth, proving it with his resurrection, and thus spoke with authority on the matter. Anything else is extra. There’s one thing we do agree on—all the truly terrible things about Hell were said by Jesus.

  • test

  • test

  • test

  • Sorry, I just wrote something here and it didn’t go through so I was testing with something slightly smaller and less thought out before attempting again…feel free to delete.

  • Sorry, I just wrote something here and it didn’t go through so I was testing with something slightly smaller and less thought out before attempting again…feel free to delete.

  • Hi Esther,

    I know this post is about a week old and comments have dried up, but I’ve been back reading and would like to state some things. We’re engaged on Neil’s comment before and my experience was similar to what others have experienced on this post.

    First, your arguments style is arrogant, childish, and generally off-putting. Here are some reasons why I find that to be the case:

    1. You often caricaturize your opponents position with obnoxious quotes that often don’t represent their position.

    2. You belittle people with things like *facepalm* and generally sounding like a teen annoyingly responding via text to her mom’s request to keep curfew.

    3. The constant slew of attempting to pigeonhole your opponent’s position into the same philosophy or point of view as some famous skeptic/apologist writer. Here and there might not be helpful and interesting but the frequency of it leads me (and likely others) to believe that you do this as a tactic to parade your knowledge of famous works rather than address the actual arguments and critiques put forth. This isn’t helpful to discourse, and again makes you seem arrogant. Perhaps demonstrating your knowledge of the content from these famous thinkers would prove more impressive than the name drops.

    Anyways, now that that is out of the way, I wanted to address your evidence. It’s not actually evidence in favor of your position. You mostly (if not completely) offered evidence AGAINST alternate theories/positions. Most people responding to you are asking for positive affirmation of your position (that the gospel accounts are accurate), and you’ve mainly given reasons that (some) other explanations are not likely.

    To offer an analogy, everyone is asking you for evidence that it was Mr. Green in the conservatory with the revolver, and you’re focused on discrediting the theory that it was Mrs. White in the kitchen with the lead pipe.

  • Hi Esther,

    I know this post is about a week old and comments have dried up, but I’ve been back reading and would like to state some things. We’re engaged on Neil’s comment before and my experience was similar to what others have experienced on this post.

    First, your arguments style is arrogant, childish, and generally off-putting. Here are some reasons why I find that to be the case:

    1. You often caricaturize your opponents position with obnoxious quotes that often don’t represent their position.

    2. You belittle people with things like *facepalm* and generally sounding like a teen annoyingly responding via text to her mom’s request to keep curfew.

    3. The constant slew of attempting to pigeonhole your opponent’s position into the same philosophy or point of view as some famous skeptic/apologist writer. Here and there might not be helpful and interesting but the frequency of it leads me (and likely others) to believe that you do this as a tactic to parade your knowledge of famous works rather than address the actual arguments and critiques put forth. This isn’t helpful to discourse, and again makes you seem arrogant. Perhaps demonstrating your knowledge of the content from these famous thinkers would prove more impressive than the name drops.

    Anyways, now that that is out of the way, I wanted to address your evidence. It’s not actually evidence in favor of your position. You mostly (if not completely) offered evidence AGAINST alternate theories/positions. Most people responding to you are asking for positive affirmation of your position (that the gospel accounts are accurate), and you’ve mainly given reasons that (some) other explanations are not likely.

    To offer an analogy, everyone is asking you for evidence that it was Mr. Green in the conservatory with the revolver, and you’re focused on discrediting the theory that it was Mrs. White in the kitchen with the lead pipe.

  • Hi Esther,

    I know this post is about a week old and comments have dried up, but I’ve been back reading and would like to state some things. We’re engaged on Neil’s comment before and my experience was similar to what others have experienced on this post.

    First, your arguments style is arrogant, childish, and generally off-putting. Here are some reasons why I find that to be the case:

    1. You often caricaturize your opponents position with obnoxious quotes that often don’t represent their position.

    2. You belittle people with things like *facepalm* and generally sounding like a teen annoyingly responding via text to her mom’s request to keep curfew.

    3. The constant slew of attempting to pigeonhole your opponent’s position into the same philosophy or point of view as some famous skeptic/apologist writer. Here and there might not be helpful and interesting but the frequency of it leads me (and likely others) to believe that you do this as a tactic to parade your knowledge of famous works rather than address the actual arguments and critiques put forth. This isn’t helpful to discourse, and again makes you seem arrogant. Perhaps demonstrating your knowledge of the content from these famous thinkers would prove more impressive than the name drops.

    Anyways, now that that is out of the way, I wanted to address your evidence. It’s not actually evidence in favor of your position. You mostly (if not completely) offered evidence AGAINST alternate theories/positions. Most people responding to you are asking for positive affirmation of your position (that the gospel accounts are accurate), and you’ve mainly given reasons that (some) other explanations are not likely.

    To offer an analogy, everyone is asking you for evidence that it was Mr. Green in the conservatory with the revolver, and you’re focused on discrediting the theory that it was Mrs. White in the kitchen with the lead pipe.

  • Hi Esther,

    I know this post is about a week old and comments have dried up, but I’ve been back reading and would like to state some things. We’re engaged on Neil’s comment before and my experience was similar to what others have experienced on this post.

    First, your arguments style is arrogant, childish, and generally off-putting. Here are some reasons why I find that to be the case:

    1. You often caricaturize your opponents position with obnoxious quotes that often don’t represent their position.

    2. You belittle people with things like *facepalm* and generally sounding like a teen annoyingly responding via text to her mom’s request to keep curfew.

    3. The constant slew of attempting to pigeonhole your opponent’s position into the same philosophy or point of view as some famous skeptic/apologist writer. Here and there might not be helpful and interesting but the frequency of it leads me (and likely others) to believe that you do this as a tactic to parade your knowledge of famous works rather than address the actual arguments and critiques put forth. This isn’t helpful to discourse, and again makes you seem arrogant. Perhaps demonstrating your knowledge of the content from these famous thinkers would prove more impressive than the name drops.

    Anyways, now that that is out of the way, I wanted to address your evidence. It’s not actually evidence in favor of your position. You mostly (if not completely) offered evidence AGAINST alternate theories/positions. Most people responding to you are asking for positive affirmation of your position (that the gospel accounts are accurate), and you’ve mainly given reasons that (some) other explanations are not likely.

    To offer an analogy, everyone is asking you for evidence that it was Mr. Green in the conservatory with the revolver, and you’re focused on discrediting the theory that it was Mrs. White in the kitchen with the lead pipe.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Ernest, many folks are in fact following a particularly popular handful of skeptics. I see David Hume’s conversation-stopping arguments recycled over and over again. Rene Salm is in fact the go-to guy for Nazareth conspiracy theorists. Richard Carrier and others are the go-to guys for “mythers.” Bart Ehrman’s misleading books have been best-sellers. And on the list goes. I don’t go in-depth on all of their arguments and why they fail simply because folks don’t ask me to, and they complain my comments are too long as it is. So in the interests of brevity, I try instead to point out some counter-sources where anyone who’s actually interested can read up on it for himself. When folks reply by saying, “You’re just naming another book!” that’s my clue that they’re not serious. The stakes in this discussion are eternally high. “I can’t be bothered to read another book” seems like a rather childish complaint in light of that stark fact. Why insist that I spend even more time summarizing and breaking down every single argument point by point when a) you could carve out some of your own to read the full version for yourself, and b) it’s clear that you really don’t want to hear it anyway?

    There is a cumulative case to be made for the gospels, Acts, the epistles, etc., but I haven’t been asked to lay it out in full here. One legitimate aspect of the argument, though not the only one, involves examining the explanatory power of other hypotheses and finding them wanting. So we examine a hypothesis like “The apostles were hallucinating,” or “The apostles stole the body,” and see if it would explain all the data we have. If we find that they lack explanatory power, their probability goes down. Meanwhile, we look at the accumulated evidence from things like un-designed coincidences, external corroborations of the gospel authors’ reliability, indications of authenticity, marks of history vs. myth, early dating of the resurrection tradition, etc., etc. to build the positive case. We also take into account the prior probability that there is a God at all. All these things gradually come together like puzzle pieces. If I show you one piece and you say, “Come on, that doesn’t prove anything!” you’re missing the point.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Ernest, many folks are in fact following a particularly popular handful of skeptics. I see David Hume’s conversation-stopping arguments recycled over and over again. Rene Salm is in fact the go-to guy for Nazareth conspiracy theorists. Richard Carrier and others are the go-to guys for “mythers.” Bart Ehrman’s misleading books have been best-sellers. And on the list goes. I don’t go in-depth on all of their arguments and why they fail simply because folks don’t ask me to, and they complain my comments are too long as it is. So in the interests of brevity, I try instead to point out some counter-sources where anyone who’s actually interested can read up on it for himself. When folks reply by saying, “You’re just naming another book!” that’s my clue that they’re not serious. The stakes in this discussion are eternally high. “I can’t be bothered to read another book” seems like a rather childish complaint in light of that stark fact. Why insist that I spend even more time summarizing and breaking down every single argument point by point when a) you could carve out some of your own to read the full version for yourself, and b) it’s clear that you really don’t want to hear it anyway?

    There is a cumulative case to be made for the gospels, Acts, the epistles, etc., but I haven’t been asked to lay it out in full here. One legitimate aspect of the argument, though not the only one, involves examining the explanatory power of other hypotheses and finding them wanting. So we examine a hypothesis like “The apostles were hallucinating,” or “The apostles stole the body,” and see if it would explain all the data we have. If we find that they lack explanatory power, their probability goes down. Meanwhile, we look at the accumulated evidence from things like un-designed coincidences, external corroborations of the gospel authors’ reliability, indications of authenticity, marks of history vs. myth, early dating of the resurrection tradition, etc., etc. to build the positive case. We also take into account the prior probability that there is a God at all. All these things gradually come together like puzzle pieces. If I show you one piece and you say, “Come on, that doesn’t prove anything!” you’re missing the point.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Ernest, many folks are in fact following a particularly popular handful of skeptics. I see David Hume’s conversation-stopping arguments recycled over and over again. Rene Salm is in fact the go-to guy for Nazareth conspiracy theorists. Richard Carrier and others are the go-to guys for “mythers.” Bart Ehrman’s misleading books have been best-sellers. And on the list goes. I don’t go in-depth on all of their arguments and why they fail simply because folks don’t ask me to, and they complain my comments are too long as it is. So in the interests of brevity, I try instead to point out some counter-sources where anyone who’s actually interested can read up on it for himself. When folks reply by saying, “You’re just naming another book!” that’s my clue that they’re not serious. The stakes in this discussion are eternally high. “I can’t be bothered to read another book” seems like a rather childish complaint in light of that stark fact. Why insist that I spend even more time summarizing and breaking down every single argument point by point when a) you could carve out some of your own to read the full version for yourself, and b) it’s clear that you really don’t want to hear it anyway?

    There is a cumulative case to be made for the gospels, Acts, the epistles, etc., but I haven’t been asked to lay it out in full here. One legitimate aspect of the argument, though not the only one, involves examining the explanatory power of other hypotheses and finding them wanting. So we examine a hypothesis like “The apostles were hallucinating,” or “The apostles stole the body,” and see if it would explain all the data we have. If we find that they lack explanatory power, their probability goes down. Meanwhile, we look at the accumulated evidence from things like un-designed coincidences, external corroborations of the gospel authors’ reliability, indications of authenticity, marks of history vs. myth, early dating of the resurrection tradition, etc., etc. to build the positive case. We also take into account the prior probability that there is a God at all. All these things gradually come together like puzzle pieces. If I show you one piece and you say, “Come on, that doesn’t prove anything!” you’re missing the point.

  • David W

    Hey Esther, you keep rehashing comments you have made in previous threads, particular the first giant thread.

    Is it possible for you to just refer all of us to whatever apologetics site you are most fond of, and then be done with the topic on this site?

    You have made your point loud and clear, you think the Bible is accurate, and that the resurrection is the best explanation. Readers here understand that this is your position.

  • David W

    Hey Esther, you keep rehashing comments you have made in previous threads, particular the first giant thread.

    Is it possible for you to just refer all of us to whatever apologetics site you are most fond of, and then be done with the topic on this site?

    You have made your point loud and clear, you think the Bible is accurate, and that the resurrection is the best explanation. Readers here understand that this is your position.

  • You can pretty much read anything Tim McGrew says, and you will have heard everything she has to say, except with her it’s heavily laced with the arrogant condescension of a woman who hasn’t been around long enough to discover how misleading one’s own confidence can be.

  • You can pretty much read anything Tim McGrew says, and you will have heard everything she has to say, except with her it’s heavily laced with the arrogant condescension of a woman who hasn’t been around long enough to discover how misleading one’s own confidence can be.

  • You can pretty much read anything Tim McGrew says, and you will have heard everything she has to say, except with her it’s heavily laced with the arrogant condescension of a woman who hasn’t been around long enough to discover how misleading one’s own confidence can be.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    David, as long as folks stop asking questions or challenging me to a back-and-forth, I don’t have any reason to keep answering them. :-) But as I recall, quite a few people were pleased to join the fray in that particular thread on both sides, and there are always new folks coming in trying to bluster their way through.

    If you’re looking for a website, Apologetics 315 is a nice one-stop hub for a lot of different material that takes up various strands of the case. I see some nice stuff from John Lennox, J. Warner Wallace, etc. on their home page right now, along with some external links on Mormonism, philosophical arguments, etc. You’ll find some things that are targeted expressly at Christians (tactics for conversation with non-Christians, etc.), and probably some stuff I personally wouldn’t agree with. For example, I find most of Paul Copan’s OT stuff to be unconvincing. But most of the resources are things anyone could profit from.

    My bedtime reading at the moment is Eddy & Boyd’s _The Jesus Legend_, which is an up-to-date and thorough analysis of the arguments for and against the claim that the miraculous aspects of Jesus’ story developed gradually over long decades of distortion and embellishment.

    I think the Book of Acts is one of the strongest pieces of evidence we have pointing to the truth of Christianity, and Luke is one of the NT’s most thorough historians. So I recommend looking into Luke’s reliability as an author, how his work meshes together with Paul’s epistles, and the marks of history in his work. _Evidence and Paul’s Journeys_ is one nice source on Luke’s accuracy, and Blunt’s _Horae Paulinae_ is an in-depth examination of the network of un-designed coincidences between Luke and Paul.

    Earlier in this thread I gave some sources on the authorship of John, so if you want to examine the other side of that particular argument, those are good places to start.

    Philosophically, for discussions of Hume’s arguments and why they don’t work, there are a number of contemporary rebuttals from Adams, Leland, Campbell, etc., and a more technical contemporary exploration by Jonathan Earman.

    That’s just a sampler I suppose, but I think it should interest anyone with an open mind.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    David, as long as folks stop asking questions or challenging me to a back-and-forth, I don’t have any reason to keep answering them. :-) But as I recall, quite a few people were pleased to join the fray in that particular thread on both sides, and there are always new folks coming in trying to bluster their way through.

    If you’re looking for a website, Apologetics 315 is a nice one-stop hub for a lot of different material that takes up various strands of the case. I see some nice stuff from John Lennox, J. Warner Wallace, etc. on their home page right now, along with some external links on Mormonism, philosophical arguments, etc. You’ll find some things that are targeted expressly at Christians (tactics for conversation with non-Christians, etc.), and probably some stuff I personally wouldn’t agree with. For example, I find most of Paul Copan’s OT stuff to be unconvincing. But most of the resources are things anyone could profit from.

    My bedtime reading at the moment is Eddy & Boyd’s _The Jesus Legend_, which is an up-to-date and thorough analysis of the arguments for and against the claim that the miraculous aspects of Jesus’ story developed gradually over long decades of distortion and embellishment.

    I think the Book of Acts is one of the strongest pieces of evidence we have pointing to the truth of Christianity, and Luke is one of the NT’s most thorough historians. So I recommend looking into Luke’s reliability as an author, how his work meshes together with Paul’s epistles, and the marks of history in his work. _Evidence and Paul’s Journeys_ is one nice source on Luke’s accuracy, and Blunt’s _Horae Paulinae_ is an in-depth examination of the network of un-designed coincidences between Luke and Paul.

    Earlier in this thread I gave some sources on the authorship of John, so if you want to examine the other side of that particular argument, those are good places to start.

    Philosophically, for discussions of Hume’s arguments and why they don’t work, there are a number of contemporary rebuttals from Adams, Leland, Campbell, etc., and a more technical contemporary exploration by Jonathan Earman.

    That’s just a sampler I suppose, but I think it should interest anyone with an open mind.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    *Sorry, I accidentally mixed two different meanings of “contemporary” in there—what I meant was that Adams, Campbell etc. were contemporaries of Hume, while Earman is writing in the present day. The former explain intuitively why his philosophy is flawed while Earman explains it in probabilistic terms.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    *Sorry, I accidentally mixed two different meanings of “contemporary” in there—what I meant was that Adams, Campbell etc. were contemporaries of Hume, while Earman is writing in the present day. The former explain intuitively why his philosophy is flawed while Earman explains it in probabilistic terms.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    *Sorry, I accidentally mixed two different meanings of “contemporary” in there—what I meant was that Adams, Campbell etc. were contemporaries of Hume, while Earman is writing in the present day. The former explain intuitively why his philosophy is flawed while Earman explains it in probabilistic terms.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    *Sorry, I accidentally mixed two different meanings of “contemporary” in there—what I meant was that Adams, Campbell etc. were contemporaries of Hume, while Earman is writing in the present day. The former explain intuitively why his philosophy is flawed while Earman explains it in probabilistic terms.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Ernest, I also wanted to say one more thing to you—as you may or may not recall, I spent many comments trying to engage your logical/philosophical questions on that last thread. I patiently listened to your objections and descriptions of areas where you were confused, then carefully tried to lay out answers as intuitively and clearly as I could. I took you seriously, and I didn’t belittle you for asking questions. I assumed you were serious as well, which is why I recommended serious further reading. So for you to come back now and act like I brushed you aside then, when in fact I poured a lot of time into trying to understand and respond to your comments, is frankly rather underhanded and hurtful.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Ernest, I also wanted to say one more thing to you—as you may or may not recall, I spent many comments trying to engage your logical/philosophical questions on that last thread. I patiently listened to your objections and descriptions of areas where you were confused, then carefully tried to lay out answers as intuitively and clearly as I could. I took you seriously, and I didn’t belittle you for asking questions. I assumed you were serious as well, which is why I recommended serious further reading. So for you to come back now and act like I brushed you aside then, when in fact I poured a lot of time into trying to understand and respond to your comments, is frankly rather underhanded and hurtful.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Ernest, I also wanted to say one more thing to you—as you may or may not recall, I spent many comments trying to engage your logical/philosophical questions on that last thread. I patiently listened to your objections and descriptions of areas where you were confused, then carefully tried to lay out answers as intuitively and clearly as I could. I took you seriously, and I didn’t belittle you for asking questions. I assumed you were serious as well, which is why I recommended serious further reading. So for you to come back now and act like I brushed you aside then, when in fact I poured a lot of time into trying to understand and respond to your comments, is frankly rather underhanded and hurtful.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Ernest, I also wanted to say one more thing to you—as you may or may not recall, I spent many comments trying to engage your logical/philosophical questions on that last thread. I patiently listened to your objections and descriptions of areas where you were confused, then carefully tried to lay out answers as intuitively and clearly as I could. I took you seriously, and I didn’t belittle you for asking questions. I assumed you were serious as well, which is why I recommended serious further reading. So for you to come back now and act like I brushed you aside then, when in fact I poured a lot of time into trying to understand and respond to your comments, is frankly rather underhanded and hurtful.

  • David W

    “David, as long as folks stop asking questions…” “…I don’t have any reason to keep answering them. ”

    Bummer, that sounded like a ‘no.’

  • David W

    “David, as long as folks stop asking questions…” “…I don’t have any reason to keep answering them. ”

    Bummer, that sounded like a ‘no.’

  • David W

    “David, as long as folks stop asking questions…” “…I don’t have any reason to keep answering them. ”

    Bummer, that sounded like a ‘no.’

  • David W

    “David, as long as folks stop asking questions…” “…I don’t have any reason to keep answering them. ”

    Bummer, that sounded like a ‘no.’

  • “When folks reply by saying, “You’re just naming another book!” that’s my clue that they’re not serious. The stakes in this discussion are eternally high. “I can’t be bothered to read another book” seems like a rather childish complaint in light of that stark fact.”

    You are the one claiming that the stakes are eternally high. Pointing someone to a books seems rather dismissive in the light that stark fact.

    Imagine if every time you tried to preach the gospel to someone they said, “Go read ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins”. In fact, you’ve probably experienced something similar to that. Isn’t that a conversation stopper? To me, that’s an indicator that the person is not serious about having a conversation.

    “Why insist that I spend even more time summarizing and breaking down every single argument point by point when a) you could carve out some of your own to read the full version for yourself, and b) it’s clear that you really don’t want to hear it anyway?”

    Maybe I should clarify. I’m not insisting that you summarize popular arguments or break them down point by point. I’m asking that you present your own arguments. Surely you don’t agree with every source you site. Surely you have your own opinion and distinct way of presenting your ideas.

    You are absolutely right that if someone wanted to hear the latest (insert famous apologist argument here) they would go carve out their time to do so. The idea is that, you’re right, I don’t think anyone is interested in addressing those arguments. They’re interesting in addressing the arguments of the person they’re engaging with.

    I’m not advocating that we absolutely throw out any knowledge of popular philosophical ideas. On one end of the spectrum there’s two people discussing completely novel ideas about which they haven’t studied. On the other there are two people who do nothing but site authorities and then counter by siting other authorities.

    I’m just telling you that you lean too heavily on the authority citing side of the conversation. So much so that it seems dismissive and an attempt to parade your knowledge of sources.

  • “When folks reply by saying, “You’re just naming another book!” that’s my clue that they’re not serious. The stakes in this discussion are eternally high. “I can’t be bothered to read another book” seems like a rather childish complaint in light of that stark fact.”

    You are the one claiming that the stakes are eternally high. Pointing someone to a books seems rather dismissive in the light that stark fact.

    Imagine if every time you tried to preach the gospel to someone they said, “Go read ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins”. In fact, you’ve probably experienced something similar to that. Isn’t that a conversation stopper? To me, that’s an indicator that the person is not serious about having a conversation.

    “Why insist that I spend even more time summarizing and breaking down every single argument point by point when a) you could carve out some of your own to read the full version for yourself, and b) it’s clear that you really don’t want to hear it anyway?”

    Maybe I should clarify. I’m not insisting that you summarize popular arguments or break them down point by point. I’m asking that you present your own arguments. Surely you don’t agree with every source you site. Surely you have your own opinion and distinct way of presenting your ideas.

    You are absolutely right that if someone wanted to hear the latest (insert famous apologist argument here) they would go carve out their time to do so. The idea is that, you’re right, I don’t think anyone is interested in addressing those arguments. They’re interesting in addressing the arguments of the person they’re engaging with.

    I’m not advocating that we absolutely throw out any knowledge of popular philosophical ideas. On one end of the spectrum there’s two people discussing completely novel ideas about which they haven’t studied. On the other there are two people who do nothing but site authorities and then counter by siting other authorities.

    I’m just telling you that you lean too heavily on the authority citing side of the conversation. So much so that it seems dismissive and an attempt to parade your knowledge of sources.

  • “When folks reply by saying, “You’re just naming another book!” that’s my clue that they’re not serious. The stakes in this discussion are eternally high. “I can’t be bothered to read another book” seems like a rather childish complaint in light of that stark fact.”

    You are the one claiming that the stakes are eternally high. Pointing someone to a books seems rather dismissive in the light that stark fact.

    Imagine if every time you tried to preach the gospel to someone they said, “Go read ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins”. In fact, you’ve probably experienced something similar to that. Isn’t that a conversation stopper? To me, that’s an indicator that the person is not serious about having a conversation.

    “Why insist that I spend even more time summarizing and breaking down every single argument point by point when a) you could carve out some of your own to read the full version for yourself, and b) it’s clear that you really don’t want to hear it anyway?”

    Maybe I should clarify. I’m not insisting that you summarize popular arguments or break them down point by point. I’m asking that you present your own arguments. Surely you don’t agree with every source you site. Surely you have your own opinion and distinct way of presenting your ideas.

    You are absolutely right that if someone wanted to hear the latest (insert famous apologist argument here) they would go carve out their time to do so. The idea is that, you’re right, I don’t think anyone is interested in addressing those arguments. They’re interesting in addressing the arguments of the person they’re engaging with.

    I’m not advocating that we absolutely throw out any knowledge of popular philosophical ideas. On one end of the spectrum there’s two people discussing completely novel ideas about which they haven’t studied. On the other there are two people who do nothing but site authorities and then counter by siting other authorities.

    I’m just telling you that you lean too heavily on the authority citing side of the conversation. So much so that it seems dismissive and an attempt to parade your knowledge of sources.

  • “When folks reply by saying, “You’re just naming another book!” that’s my clue that they’re not serious. The stakes in this discussion are eternally high. “I can’t be bothered to read another book” seems like a rather childish complaint in light of that stark fact.”

    You are the one claiming that the stakes are eternally high. Pointing someone to a books seems rather dismissive in the light that stark fact.

    Imagine if every time you tried to preach the gospel to someone they said, “Go read ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins”. In fact, you’ve probably experienced something similar to that. Isn’t that a conversation stopper? To me, that’s an indicator that the person is not serious about having a conversation.

    “Why insist that I spend even more time summarizing and breaking down every single argument point by point when a) you could carve out some of your own to read the full version for yourself, and b) it’s clear that you really don’t want to hear it anyway?”

    Maybe I should clarify. I’m not insisting that you summarize popular arguments or break them down point by point. I’m asking that you present your own arguments. Surely you don’t agree with every source you site. Surely you have your own opinion and distinct way of presenting your ideas.

    You are absolutely right that if someone wanted to hear the latest (insert famous apologist argument here) they would go carve out their time to do so. The idea is that, you’re right, I don’t think anyone is interested in addressing those arguments. They’re interesting in addressing the arguments of the person they’re engaging with.

    I’m not advocating that we absolutely throw out any knowledge of popular philosophical ideas. On one end of the spectrum there’s two people discussing completely novel ideas about which they haven’t studied. On the other there are two people who do nothing but site authorities and then counter by siting other authorities.

    I’m just telling you that you lean too heavily on the authority citing side of the conversation. So much so that it seems dismissive and an attempt to parade your knowledge of sources.

  • “So for you to come back now and act like I brushed you aside then, when in fact I poured a lot of time into trying to understand and respond to your comments, is frankly rather underhanded and hurtful.”

    I said that my experience was similar. I did experience a feeling of slight dismissal with some of your replies, especially in regards to pigeonholing my ideas and offering an authority rebuttal. I think my approach of asking questions rather than ‘spaining to you what I thought contributed to that conversation being more successful, but I still find your approach in general arrogant and dismissive.

    “One legitimate aspect of the argument, though not the only one, involves examining the explanatory power of other hypotheses and finding them wanting.”

    I argue the legitimacy of this approach in order to make a positive case. Disproving it was Mrs. White does nothing to legitimize the claim that it was Mr. Green.

    You mentioned them briefly, but I would be interested in you lightly expanding on any one of the pieces of positive case you feel that you have.

  • “So for you to come back now and act like I brushed you aside then, when in fact I poured a lot of time into trying to understand and respond to your comments, is frankly rather underhanded and hurtful.”

    I said that my experience was similar. I did experience a feeling of slight dismissal with some of your replies, especially in regards to pigeonholing my ideas and offering an authority rebuttal. I think my approach of asking questions rather than ‘spaining to you what I thought contributed to that conversation being more successful, but I still find your approach in general arrogant and dismissive.

    “One legitimate aspect of the argument, though not the only one, involves examining the explanatory power of other hypotheses and finding them wanting.”

    I argue the legitimacy of this approach in order to make a positive case. Disproving it was Mrs. White does nothing to legitimize the claim that it was Mr. Green.

    You mentioned them briefly, but I would be interested in you lightly expanding on any one of the pieces of positive case you feel that you have.

  • “So for you to come back now and act like I brushed you aside then, when in fact I poured a lot of time into trying to understand and respond to your comments, is frankly rather underhanded and hurtful.”

    I said that my experience was similar. I did experience a feeling of slight dismissal with some of your replies, especially in regards to pigeonholing my ideas and offering an authority rebuttal. I think my approach of asking questions rather than ‘spaining to you what I thought contributed to that conversation being more successful, but I still find your approach in general arrogant and dismissive.

    “One legitimate aspect of the argument, though not the only one, involves examining the explanatory power of other hypotheses and finding them wanting.”

    I argue the legitimacy of this approach in order to make a positive case. Disproving it was Mrs. White does nothing to legitimize the claim that it was Mr. Green.

    You mentioned them briefly, but I would be interested in you lightly expanding on any one of the pieces of positive case you feel that you have.

  • “So for you to come back now and act like I brushed you aside then, when in fact I poured a lot of time into trying to understand and respond to your comments, is frankly rather underhanded and hurtful.”

    I said that my experience was similar. I did experience a feeling of slight dismissal with some of your replies, especially in regards to pigeonholing my ideas and offering an authority rebuttal. I think my approach of asking questions rather than ‘spaining to you what I thought contributed to that conversation being more successful, but I still find your approach in general arrogant and dismissive.

    “One legitimate aspect of the argument, though not the only one, involves examining the explanatory power of other hypotheses and finding them wanting.”

    I argue the legitimacy of this approach in order to make a positive case. Disproving it was Mrs. White does nothing to legitimize the claim that it was Mr. Green.

    You mentioned them briefly, but I would be interested in you lightly expanding on any one of the pieces of positive case you feel that you have.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Ernest, have you ever played Clue? If you have, you know that the game is played entirely by process of elimination. If I can check off Mrs. White, the probability of Mr. Green’s involvement goes up. Of course, the same is true for the other possible perpetrators, but as we continue to rule out everybody except for Mr. Green, Mr. Green’s case accumulates more and more promise. Finally, there’s nobody else left. So, I’m not sure if a Clue game is the best analogy for your purposes. But a real detective case, or the “Sherlock Holmes model,” does in fact provide a nice illustration of the methods used in pursuing the truth of Christianity. Holmes is constantly examining and ruling out alternate possibilities as he gets closer to the solution. Any good detective does! There’s that famous quote: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” At the same time, of course he is picking up on any positive clues, great or small, that would show him which of the remaining hypotheses is true. And, like the case for Christianity, it is frequently an accumulation of small things which seem insignificant in and of themselves, but put together form a larger puzzle that points to only one solution.

    I’m not sure why you’re saying that it’s trivial or shallow for me to recommend further reading on a topic simply because that topic has eternal import. If there are people who are applying their expertise to a thorough examination of the evidence and the arguments, touching on many more things than I can remember off the top of my head for a brief blog comment, writing and thinking clearly and able to lay popular misconceptions to rest, why is it trivial to suggest that people see if they can learn something from these writers? I certainly learn something from them.

    I already did expand on many if not all of what I mentioned there back in the Phil Vischer thread, so I’m not sure if you want me to repeat myself. I forgot to mention the argument from prophecy though, which I didn’t get into as much. Would you like me to expand on that?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Ernest, have you ever played Clue? If you have, you know that the game is played entirely by process of elimination. If I can check off Mrs. White, the probability of Mr. Green’s involvement goes up. Of course, the same is true for the other possible perpetrators, but as we continue to rule out everybody except for Mr. Green, Mr. Green’s case accumulates more and more promise. Finally, there’s nobody else left. So, I’m not sure if a Clue game is the best analogy for your purposes. But a real detective case, or the “Sherlock Holmes model,” does in fact provide a nice illustration of the methods used in pursuing the truth of Christianity. Holmes is constantly examining and ruling out alternate possibilities as he gets closer to the solution. Any good detective does! There’s that famous quote: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” At the same time, of course he is picking up on any positive clues, great or small, that would show him which of the remaining hypotheses is true. And, like the case for Christianity, it is frequently an accumulation of small things which seem insignificant in and of themselves, but put together form a larger puzzle that points to only one solution.

    I’m not sure why you’re saying that it’s trivial or shallow for me to recommend further reading on a topic simply because that topic has eternal import. If there are people who are applying their expertise to a thorough examination of the evidence and the arguments, touching on many more things than I can remember off the top of my head for a brief blog comment, writing and thinking clearly and able to lay popular misconceptions to rest, why is it trivial to suggest that people see if they can learn something from these writers? I certainly learn something from them.

    I already did expand on many if not all of what I mentioned there back in the Phil Vischer thread, so I’m not sure if you want me to repeat myself. I forgot to mention the argument from prophecy though, which I didn’t get into as much. Would you like me to expand on that?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Ernest, have you ever played Clue? If you have, you know that the game is played entirely by process of elimination. If I can check off Mrs. White, the probability of Mr. Green’s involvement goes up. Of course, the same is true for the other possible perpetrators, but as we continue to rule out everybody except for Mr. Green, Mr. Green’s case accumulates more and more promise. Finally, there’s nobody else left. So, I’m not sure if a Clue game is the best analogy for your purposes. But a real detective case, or the “Sherlock Holmes model,” does in fact provide a nice illustration of the methods used in pursuing the truth of Christianity. Holmes is constantly examining and ruling out alternate possibilities as he gets closer to the solution. Any good detective does! There’s that famous quote: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” At the same time, of course he is picking up on any positive clues, great or small, that would show him which of the remaining hypotheses is true. And, like the case for Christianity, it is frequently an accumulation of small things which seem insignificant in and of themselves, but put together form a larger puzzle that points to only one solution.

    I’m not sure why you’re saying that it’s trivial or shallow for me to recommend further reading on a topic simply because that topic has eternal import. If there are people who are applying their expertise to a thorough examination of the evidence and the arguments, touching on many more things than I can remember off the top of my head for a brief blog comment, writing and thinking clearly and able to lay popular misconceptions to rest, why is it trivial to suggest that people see if they can learn something from these writers? I certainly learn something from them.

    I already did expand on many if not all of what I mentioned there back in the Phil Vischer thread, so I’m not sure if you want me to repeat myself. I forgot to mention the argument from prophecy though, which I didn’t get into as much. Would you like me to expand on that?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Ernest, have you ever played Clue? If you have, you know that the game is played entirely by process of elimination. If I can check off Mrs. White, the probability of Mr. Green’s involvement goes up. Of course, the same is true for the other possible perpetrators, but as we continue to rule out everybody except for Mr. Green, Mr. Green’s case accumulates more and more promise. Finally, there’s nobody else left. So, I’m not sure if a Clue game is the best analogy for your purposes. But a real detective case, or the “Sherlock Holmes model,” does in fact provide a nice illustration of the methods used in pursuing the truth of Christianity. Holmes is constantly examining and ruling out alternate possibilities as he gets closer to the solution. Any good detective does! There’s that famous quote: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” At the same time, of course he is picking up on any positive clues, great or small, that would show him which of the remaining hypotheses is true. And, like the case for Christianity, it is frequently an accumulation of small things which seem insignificant in and of themselves, but put together form a larger puzzle that points to only one solution.

    I’m not sure why you’re saying that it’s trivial or shallow for me to recommend further reading on a topic simply because that topic has eternal import. If there are people who are applying their expertise to a thorough examination of the evidence and the arguments, touching on many more things than I can remember off the top of my head for a brief blog comment, writing and thinking clearly and able to lay popular misconceptions to rest, why is it trivial to suggest that people see if they can learn something from these writers? I certainly learn something from them.

    I already did expand on many if not all of what I mentioned there back in the Phil Vischer thread, so I’m not sure if you want me to repeat myself. I forgot to mention the argument from prophecy though, which I didn’t get into as much. Would you like me to expand on that?

  • Where the Clue analogy fails benefits my position more than yours. Within the framework of the game, there are a finite number of *known* possibilities. Knowing that there are only 324 possible solutions means that yes, if we rule out 323 of them, we can be reasonably certain that we have a good case. This is all heavily contingent on the positive information we have about the number of possibilities we have.

    This rarely happens in reality where possibilities are almost endless. You generally see this type of negative case made in fiction, like Sherlock, or my personal favorite, Columbo. This is an interesting and entertaining plot device, but I can’t say that it works in reality.

    So in order to make a strong inference like in Clue you would need to know the number of possibilities (x) then eliminate all other possibilities (x-1). Or at least most of them.

    Also as you noted, even in these fictional cases, the negative case isn’t satisfying on its own. Usually, the detective catches the perpetrator in the act or gets a confession or finds substantially positive pieces of evidence. Even in the case of Clue, we eventually have to open the manilla folder to substantiate our claims and get a satisfying ending to the game.

    This kind of thing is very prevalent in apologetics and I can see why. Making a large case against any number of alternate theories can provide a large amount of content to write about, making it appear as if there is a substantial, multi-pronged case. It can make a lack of positive evidence less apparent. How many books are there about the “Liar, Lunatic or Lord” claim in which the author spends a substantial amount of time disproving the liar and lunatic prongs. Completely ignoring that descriptions of people aren’t typically so nicely subdivided, nor is that an accurate representation of the only conclusions we could reach about Jesus.

    In fact, that framework was set up by the apologists.

    “why is it trivial to suggest that people see if they can learn something from these writers?”

    Done sparingly and in the right context it might not be. Done too frequently and in conjunction without your commentary on the work, it seems dismissive.

    Also, it’s rare that an author cited has “laid to rest” much of what we’re discussing. Again, imagine if I cited Dawkins as someone who has laid to rest the ideas of theists, or that Darwin’s “Origin of Species” laid creationism to rest. It wouldn’t really further the conversation, and it would seem dismissive.

    “I already did expand on many if not all of what I mentioned there back in the Phil Vischer thread, so I’m not sure if you want me to repeat myself. I forgot to mention the argument from prophecy though, which I didn’t get into as much. Would you like me to expand on that?”

    Yes.

  • Where the Clue analogy fails benefits my position more than yours. Within the framework of the game, there are a finite number of *known* possibilities. Knowing that there are only 324 possible solutions means that yes, if we rule out 323 of them, we can be reasonably certain that we have a good case. This is all heavily contingent on the positive information we have about the number of possibilities we have.

    This rarely happens in reality where possibilities are almost endless. You generally see this type of negative case made in fiction, like Sherlock, or my personal favorite, Columbo. This is an interesting and entertaining plot device, but I can’t say that it works in reality.

    So in order to make a strong inference like in Clue you would need to know the number of possibilities (x) then eliminate all other possibilities (x-1). Or at least most of them.

    Also as you noted, even in these fictional cases, the negative case isn’t satisfying on its own. Usually, the detective catches the perpetrator in the act or gets a confession or finds substantially positive pieces of evidence. Even in the case of Clue, we eventually have to open the manilla folder to substantiate our claims and get a satisfying ending to the game.

    This kind of thing is very prevalent in apologetics and I can see why. Making a large case against any number of alternate theories can provide a large amount of content to write about, making it appear as if there is a substantial, multi-pronged case. It can make a lack of positive evidence less apparent. How many books are there about the “Liar, Lunatic or Lord” claim in which the author spends a substantial amount of time disproving the liar and lunatic prongs. Completely ignoring that descriptions of people aren’t typically so nicely subdivided, nor is that an accurate representation of the only conclusions we could reach about Jesus.

    In fact, that framework was set up by the apologists.

    “why is it trivial to suggest that people see if they can learn something from these writers?”

    Done sparingly and in the right context it might not be. Done too frequently and in conjunction without your commentary on the work, it seems dismissive.

    Also, it’s rare that an author cited has “laid to rest” much of what we’re discussing. Again, imagine if I cited Dawkins as someone who has laid to rest the ideas of theists, or that Darwin’s “Origin of Species” laid creationism to rest. It wouldn’t really further the conversation, and it would seem dismissive.

    “I already did expand on many if not all of what I mentioned there back in the Phil Vischer thread, so I’m not sure if you want me to repeat myself. I forgot to mention the argument from prophecy though, which I didn’t get into as much. Would you like me to expand on that?”

    Yes.

  • Where the Clue analogy fails benefits my position more than yours. Within the framework of the game, there are a finite number of *known* possibilities. Knowing that there are only 324 possible solutions means that yes, if we rule out 323 of them, we can be reasonably certain that we have a good case. This is all heavily contingent on the positive information we have about the number of possibilities we have.

    This rarely happens in reality where possibilities are almost endless. You generally see this type of negative case made in fiction, like Sherlock, or my personal favorite, Columbo. This is an interesting and entertaining plot device, but I can’t say that it works in reality.

    So in order to make a strong inference like in Clue you would need to know the number of possibilities (x) then eliminate all other possibilities (x-1). Or at least most of them.

    Also as you noted, even in these fictional cases, the negative case isn’t satisfying on its own. Usually, the detective catches the perpetrator in the act or gets a confession or finds substantially positive pieces of evidence. Even in the case of Clue, we eventually have to open the manilla folder to substantiate our claims and get a satisfying ending to the game.

    This kind of thing is very prevalent in apologetics and I can see why. Making a large case against any number of alternate theories can provide a large amount of content to write about, making it appear as if there is a substantial, multi-pronged case. It can make a lack of positive evidence less apparent. How many books are there about the “Liar, Lunatic or Lord” claim in which the author spends a substantial amount of time disproving the liar and lunatic prongs. Completely ignoring that descriptions of people aren’t typically so nicely subdivided, nor is that an accurate representation of the only conclusions we could reach about Jesus.

    In fact, that framework was set up by the apologists.

    “why is it trivial to suggest that people see if they can learn something from these writers?”

    Done sparingly and in the right context it might not be. Done too frequently and in conjunction without your commentary on the work, it seems dismissive.

    Also, it’s rare that an author cited has “laid to rest” much of what we’re discussing. Again, imagine if I cited Dawkins as someone who has laid to rest the ideas of theists, or that Darwin’s “Origin of Species” laid creationism to rest. It wouldn’t really further the conversation, and it would seem dismissive.

    “I already did expand on many if not all of what I mentioned there back in the Phil Vischer thread, so I’m not sure if you want me to repeat myself. I forgot to mention the argument from prophecy though, which I didn’t get into as much. Would you like me to expand on that?”

    Yes.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    It seems you’re ignoring an important fact, namely that strictly separating “positive” from “negative” is overly rigid and artificial. In reality, these things often converge. This is why I refer to “explanatory power.” We have some curious facts on the table. We want to know which hypothesis BEST explains all of them. The strength of our hypotheses rests on how well they explain all these different curious facts. In a murder case, we want to know why the bottle of nail polish was knocked over, why this door was unlocked, why that handkerchief was wet, and so forth. After some investigation, we see that all the facts we observe would be a matter of course if Fred did in fact do it. But of course, it would be fallacious to conclude “Therefore Fred did it.” We’re not done until we’ve also examined whether these things would be just as well explained or better if Adam, Bob, Carol, Danny, or Eddy did it. This is why you see apologists taking the time to examine multiple alternatives. What I’ve just described is a thumbnail sketch of the process of inference to the best explanation. It was first developed by Charles Sanders Peirce in the 19th century, and it’s where Conan Doyle drew inspiration for the character of Holmes. This is one of my favorite branches of philosophy, and I would love to give you some resources on it if you’re interested.

    You raise the problem that we have no way of knowing how many explanations there are. This is known in philosophical parlance as “the argument from indifference.” I don’t see it as a problem. To make an analogy to the game of chess, it’s impossible for a human to analyze every single possible move to its conclusion, like a computer does. But humans still play many fine games of chess, because we have something computers lack, which is pattern recognition. I don’t need to try to examine every alternative, because I know there are only five moves worth analyzing at all. I could play 1. a4 on move 1, but I know this is a lousy way to start a chess game, so I don’t even bother going there. This is akin to some of the sillier skeptical scenarios, like “The apostles ate some hallucinogenic mushrooms,” or “Jesus had an identical twin,” or “Jesus swooned on the cross and revived in the tomb.”

    Finally, you’ve wildly misread my point about recommended reading. I said “laid to rest popular misconceptions,” by which I meant laying to rest ideas that are simply erroneous—based on sheer ignorance, outdated facts, flawed arguments, etc. So if I encounter a myther who says “There’s no evidence Jesus even existed!” I refer him to somebody who can explain why he is simply suffering from a misconception. If someone says “Here’s an example of a contradiction in the New Testament!” or “Here are ten errors in the New Testament!” I might explain how he’s misusing the word “contradiction,” or point out places where he himself is mistaken that the NT authors have made an error.

    I’m glad you’re interested in the argument from prophecy. I need to take a week off of blogging for various reasons, but I will bookmark this and come back.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    It seems you’re ignoring an important fact, namely that strictly separating “positive” from “negative” is overly rigid and artificial. In reality, these things often converge. This is why I refer to “explanatory power.” We have some curious facts on the table. We want to know which hypothesis BEST explains all of them. The strength of our hypotheses rests on how well they explain all these different curious facts. In a murder case, we want to know why the bottle of nail polish was knocked over, why this door was unlocked, why that handkerchief was wet, and so forth. After some investigation, we see that all the facts we observe would be a matter of course if Fred did in fact do it. But of course, it would be fallacious to conclude “Therefore Fred did it.” We’re not done until we’ve also examined whether these things would be just as well explained or better if Adam, Bob, Carol, Danny, or Eddy did it. This is why you see apologists taking the time to examine multiple alternatives. What I’ve just described is a thumbnail sketch of the process of inference to the best explanation. It was first developed by Charles Sanders Peirce in the 19th century, and it’s where Conan Doyle drew inspiration for the character of Holmes. This is one of my favorite branches of philosophy, and I would love to give you some resources on it if you’re interested.

    You raise the problem that we have no way of knowing how many explanations there are. This is known in philosophical parlance as “the argument from indifference.” I don’t see it as a problem. To make an analogy to the game of chess, it’s impossible for a human to analyze every single possible move to its conclusion, like a computer does. But humans still play many fine games of chess, because we have something computers lack, which is pattern recognition. I don’t need to try to examine every alternative, because I know there are only five moves worth analyzing at all. I could play 1. a4 on move 1, but I know this is a lousy way to start a chess game, so I don’t even bother going there. This is akin to some of the sillier skeptical scenarios, like “The apostles ate some hallucinogenic mushrooms,” or “Jesus had an identical twin,” or “Jesus swooned on the cross and revived in the tomb.”

    Finally, you’ve wildly misread my point about recommended reading. I said “laid to rest popular misconceptions,” by which I meant laying to rest ideas that are simply erroneous—based on sheer ignorance, outdated facts, flawed arguments, etc. So if I encounter a myther who says “There’s no evidence Jesus even existed!” I refer him to somebody who can explain why he is simply suffering from a misconception. If someone says “Here’s an example of a contradiction in the New Testament!” or “Here are ten errors in the New Testament!” I might explain how he’s misusing the word “contradiction,” or point out places where he himself is mistaken that the NT authors have made an error.

    I’m glad you’re interested in the argument from prophecy. I need to take a week off of blogging for various reasons, but I will bookmark this and come back.

  • If a fact simply negates one possible hypothesis it does not yield explanatory power to others.

    Your case so far is built on negating other explanations rather than bolstering your own.

    In my personal opinion strategies like these are used to make the lack of evidence of harming your position look far more multi-pronged an impressive than they are actually are.

    My point about lacking knowledge of how many possibilities applies when you are attempting to build a case only out of negating other possibilities.

    In the chess analogy giving me 5 or 6 opening moves that aren’t good doesn’t tell me about anything about moves that are good given the number of possibilities. However if there were only 6 opening moves and you told me why five of them are bad did you have made a better case.

    I still contend that many of the subjects you point people to authorities about have not in fact been put to rest, and dismissing them and behaving as if they have been paints you arrogant and dismissive.

  • If a fact simply negates one possible hypothesis it does not yield explanatory power to others.

    Your case so far is built on negating other explanations rather than bolstering your own.

    In my personal opinion strategies like these are used to make the lack of evidence of harming your position look far more multi-pronged an impressive than they are actually are.

    My point about lacking knowledge of how many possibilities applies when you are attempting to build a case only out of negating other possibilities.

    In the chess analogy giving me 5 or 6 opening moves that aren’t good doesn’t tell me about anything about moves that are good given the number of possibilities. However if there were only 6 opening moves and you told me why five of them are bad did you have made a better case.

    I still contend that many of the subjects you point people to authorities about have not in fact been put to rest, and dismissing them and behaving as if they have been paints you arrogant and dismissive.

  • If a fact simply negates one possible hypothesis it does not yield explanatory power to others.

    Your case so far is built on negating other explanations rather than bolstering your own.

    In my personal opinion strategies like these are used to make the lack of evidence of harming your position look far more multi-pronged an impressive than they are actually are.

    My point about lacking knowledge of how many possibilities applies when you are attempting to build a case only out of negating other possibilities.

    In the chess analogy giving me 5 or 6 opening moves that aren’t good doesn’t tell me about anything about moves that are good given the number of possibilities. However if there were only 6 opening moves and you told me why five of them are bad did you have made a better case.

    I still contend that many of the subjects you point people to authorities about have not in fact been put to rest, and dismissing them and behaving as if they have been paints you arrogant and dismissive.

  • I really don’t understand why Christians feel the need to scare their children with Hell when positive reinforcement is so obviously better than negative reinforcement. Why not instead describe Heaven and how awesome it will be (my sister says there will be ice cream and roller coasters) and just tell children they won’t get to go there if they’re bad? At last that wouldn’t give them nightmares.

  • I really don’t understand why Christians feel the need to scare their children with Hell when positive reinforcement is so obviously better than negative reinforcement. Why not instead describe Heaven and how awesome it will be (my sister says there will be ice cream and roller coasters) and just tell children they won’t get to go there if they’re bad? At last that wouldn’t give them nightmares.

  • Esther, your entire argument boils down to “Hell is real because it says so in the Bible”.

    Even if you could claim the Bible to be a historically accurate document, that doesn’t give it a free pass on its supernatural claims. From a logical standpoint, “Timmy told the truth” does not lead to the conclusion “Everything Timmy said was true”.

    To give a real-life example: Isaac Newton made valuable contributions to science and mathematics through his writings on Gravity and Calculus; that does not automatically validate anything he had to say about Alchemy.

    If this is the only “evidence” you have for the existence of Hell, then its essentially worthless.

  • Esther, your entire argument boils down to “Hell is real because it says so in the Bible”.

    Even if you could claim the Bible to be a historically accurate document, that doesn’t give it a free pass on its supernatural claims. From a logical standpoint, “Timmy told the truth” does not lead to the conclusion “Everything Timmy said was true”.

    To give a real-life example: Isaac Newton made valuable contributions to science and mathematics through his writings on Gravity and Calculus; that does not automatically validate anything he had to say about Alchemy.

    If this is the only “evidence” you have for the existence of Hell, then its essentially worthless.

  • Esther, your entire argument boils down to “Hell is real because it says so in the Bible”.

    Even if you could claim the Bible to be a historically accurate document, that doesn’t give it a free pass on its supernatural claims. From a logical standpoint, “Timmy told the truth” does not lead to the conclusion “Everything Timmy said was true”.

    To give a real-life example: Isaac Newton made valuable contributions to science and mathematics through his writings on Gravity and Calculus; that does not automatically validate anything he had to say about Alchemy.

    If this is the only “evidence” you have for the existence of Hell, then its essentially worthless.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Hi again Ernest. I apologize for the delayed response. Real life, etc. I’m going to bow out after this but wanted to address your last comment. You begin by saying:

    “If a fact simply negates one possible hypothesis it does not yield explanatory power to others. Your case so far is built on negating other explanations rather than bolstering your own. In my personal opinion strategies like these are used to make the lack of evidence of harming your position look far more multi-pronged an impressive than they are actually are.”

    First of all, I think I might have aided the confusion in my first comment or two by conceding to your language of “positive” versus “negative” evidence. I apologize for not being clearer from the beginning. What I should have said, and then began trying to clarify a couple comments ago, is that this is all the same evidence. In a crime context, they refer to “the evidence” before a hypothesis has even been decided on. It’s the data. It’s the stuff we know. That’s why it’s a misconception to say, “Well this fact merely negates one of the hypotheses, it doesn’t help us with anything else.” (And you don’t really mean “negate” anyway, because we’re not talking about deduction here. A hypothesis either rises or falls in probability, but it can’t logically reach absolute 0.)

    In our case, the data include everything we have—the marks of eyewitness testimony, the marks of historical accuracy, the behavior of the apostles, etc. Our job is to see how good a job each hypothesis does of explaining it all. It doesn’t make sense to refer to a piece of evidence as “yielding explanatory power” to a hypothesis either. The hypothesis either has the power to explain the data or it doesn’t. In the case of Jesus’ resurrection, we already know that if Jesus actually rose from the dead, all the curious facts we observe would be perfectly and simply explainable. The explanatory power is already there. The question is whether there’s any other hypothesis that comes close.

    If you are trying to make a probabilistic point, you’re still making an error. If I set aside a possibility as not probabilistically viable, I’ve cut the pie which represents our probability space into fewer pieces. Unless setting aside that explanation has an asymmetrical effect on the relative odds of the other explanations, the probability of every other explanation has just gone up. To give an example from the history and philosophy of science, the Ptolemaic view of the solar system could not explain Galileo’s discovery that Venus has a full cycle of phases. So both the Copernican and the Tychonic views received a boost in probability, because that phenomenon is consistent with both of them.

    So yes, actually, a process of determining that hypothesis after hypothesis except for Jesus’ resurrection fails to account for all the facts leads us progressively closer to the resurrection. You remain fixated on this idea that there could be infinitely many potential explanations for the facts, but probability is the key factor here, not infinity. We could already create indefinitely many explanations within each hypothesis class. Peter thought he saw Jesus and told the others. Then again, maybe it was Thomas. Repeat for all apostles, family members and anyone who might have known Jesus. We’re already up to hundreds of “explanations,” but they’re all within one probabilistically dubious category (one person had a shaky, easily misinterpreted perception of Jesus and consequently convinced himself and everyone else to bet their lives that Jesus was risen). Or even better, the disciples stole the body at 1:00:00, 1:01:00, 1:01:01, 1:01:02, and onward in an infinite series. But again, it’s irrelevant because given what we know, that whole family of hypotheses is very unconvincing. It’s all about quality, not quantity.

    Ernest, you say you want to be convinced that Christianity is true, but you’re doing it by offering me the philosophical equivalent of a closed fist and demanding that I open it. You have this strange set of hang-ups based on shaky philosophy and poor reasoning that you simply refuse to give up. Do you want to be respected? This is respecting you: I am telling you not what you want to hear, but what you need to hear. And I am saying you will never make progress in searching for the truth unless you learn to recognize when you are out of your depth. You can’t exercise by watching other people do push-ups.

    Finally, you asked that I expand a little bit on the argument from prophecy that Jesus was who he said he was—a person sent from God, with divine power and a divine purpose to rescue humanity from their sins. There are a number of passages I could point to, one obvious example being Isaiah 53. This is unquestionably a Hebrew text, dated to long before the time of Christ and first translated into Greek by Jews. I would simply suggest that you read the chapter and ask yourself honestly, “Who is this referring to?” No scholarly Jewish source of repute interprets it as referring to anyone other than the Messiah until 1000 A.D. That was the first time any Rabbi got the theory started that it was referring to the nation of Israel, and even after that date there are many Jewish scholars who maintain the individual interpretation. An honest examination of the text and comparison with the history of Israel reveals that the “nation” hypothesis is completely unconvincing. Some Jewish sects have linked it to a modern-day failed Messianic figure like Menachem Schneerson, but there is simply no individual in the course of history who fits the description as seamlessly as Jesus. This should give us pause considering the highly explicit theological statements about this person that the Hebrew writer is making—that the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, that he was bruised for our iniquities, and so on. It can be examined in conjunction with other clearly messianic passages in Isaiah like Chapter 9, which say that this figure will be called “the Mighty God” and that his kingdom will be everlasting.

    A similar passage comes from David’s 22nd Psalm, also part of the Hebrew canon long before Jesus’ time. David was often melodramatic in his poetry, but the details are eerily specific in this particular Psalm: He is suffering and being mocked publicly, his “bones…out of joint,” and as the Septuagint translates it, “they have dug [or pierced] my hands and my feet.” In some later text families, this phrase reads “like a lion they are at my hands and my feet,” due to the subtle difference in vowel pointing between the Hebrew for “dig” (ka’aru) and “lion” (ka’ari). So this is probably a corruption of the original, but even so, why the hands and feet specifically? He also says that his garments are being divided and gambled for among his persecutors. All this fits remarkably well with the gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion.

    One could say “The authors just made all those details up to force the story to fit the prophecy and give Jesus a significance he didn’t have.” But this goes back to the inherent weakness of the hypothesis that the apostles were creating a fiction. Again, we need to ask ourselves honestly how well this hypothesis matches the data. The same people reporting these details are claiming that Jesus proved his power and divine significance by rising from the dead. The author of John’s gospel claims to have been an eyewitness to the crucifixion and provides the detail about the Romans parting Jesus’ garments and casting lots for the remainder. In the book of Acts, Luke refers by name to the apostle John as working with Peter to spread the resurrection story on pain of imprisonment and risk of death. If Jesus was in fact not who he said he was, then the apostles were either lying or insane in a way that gave them fantastic hallucinations. Neither of those hypotheses has the explanatory power required to fit the data.

    For further reading on Messianic prophecy, I recommend Volume 3 of Michael Brown’s _Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus_, even though it is aimed at a Jewish audience. It still provides a good examination of the objections to the argument.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Hi again Ernest. I apologize for the delayed response. Real life, etc. I’m going to bow out after this but wanted to address your last comment. You begin by saying:

    “If a fact simply negates one possible hypothesis it does not yield explanatory power to others. Your case so far is built on negating other explanations rather than bolstering your own. In my personal opinion strategies like these are used to make the lack of evidence of harming your position look far more multi-pronged an impressive than they are actually are.”

    First of all, I think I might have aided the confusion in my first comment or two by conceding to your language of “positive” versus “negative” evidence. I apologize for not being clearer from the beginning. What I should have said, and then began trying to clarify a couple comments ago, is that this is all the same evidence. In a crime context, they refer to “the evidence” before a hypothesis has even been decided on. It’s the data. It’s the stuff we know. That’s why it’s a misconception to say, “Well this fact merely negates one of the hypotheses, it doesn’t help us with anything else.” (And you don’t really mean “negate” anyway, because we’re not talking about deduction here. A hypothesis either rises or falls in probability, but it can’t logically reach absolute 0.)

    In our case, the data include everything we have—the marks of eyewitness testimony, the marks of historical accuracy, the behavior of the apostles, etc. Our job is to see how good a job each hypothesis does of explaining it all. It doesn’t make sense to refer to a piece of evidence as “yielding explanatory power” to a hypothesis either. The hypothesis either has the power to explain the data or it doesn’t. In the case of Jesus’ resurrection, we already know that if Jesus actually rose from the dead, all the curious facts we observe would be perfectly and simply explainable. The explanatory power is already there. The question is whether there’s any other hypothesis that comes close.

    If you are trying to make a probabilistic point, you’re still making an error. If I set aside a possibility as not probabilistically viable, I’ve cut the pie which represents our probability space into fewer pieces. Unless setting aside that explanation has an asymmetrical effect on the relative odds of the other explanations, the probability of every other explanation has just gone up. To give an example from the history and philosophy of science, the Ptolemaic view of the solar system could not explain Galileo’s discovery that Venus has a full cycle of phases. So both the Copernican and the Tychonic views received a boost in probability, because that phenomenon is consistent with both of them.

    So yes, actually, a process of determining that hypothesis after hypothesis except for Jesus’ resurrection fails to account for all the facts leads us progressively closer to the resurrection. You remain fixated on this idea that there could be infinitely many potential explanations for the facts, but probability is the key factor here, not infinity. We could already create indefinitely many explanations within each hypothesis class. Peter thought he saw Jesus and told the others. Then again, maybe it was Thomas. Repeat for all apostles, family members and anyone who might have known Jesus. We’re already up to hundreds of “explanations,” but they’re all within one probabilistically dubious category (one person had a shaky, easily misinterpreted perception of Jesus and consequently convinced himself and everyone else to bet their lives that Jesus was risen). Or even better, the disciples stole the body at 1:00:00, 1:01:00, 1:01:01, 1:01:02, and onward in an infinite series. But again, it’s irrelevant because given what we know, that whole family of hypotheses is very unconvincing. It’s all about quality, not quantity.

    Ernest, you say you want to be convinced that Christianity is true, but you’re doing it by offering me the philosophical equivalent of a closed fist and demanding that I open it. You have this strange set of hang-ups based on shaky philosophy and poor reasoning that you simply refuse to give up. Do you want to be respected? This is respecting you: I am telling you not what you want to hear, but what you need to hear. And I am saying you will never make progress in searching for the truth unless you learn to recognize when you are out of your depth. You can’t exercise by watching other people do push-ups.

    Finally, you asked that I expand a little bit on the argument from prophecy that Jesus was who he said he was—a person sent from God, with divine power and a divine purpose to rescue humanity from their sins. There are a number of passages I could point to, one obvious example being Isaiah 53. This is unquestionably a Hebrew text, dated to long before the time of Christ and first translated into Greek by Jews. I would simply suggest that you read the chapter and ask yourself honestly, “Who is this referring to?” No scholarly Jewish source of repute interprets it as referring to anyone other than the Messiah until 1000 A.D. That was the first time any Rabbi got the theory started that it was referring to the nation of Israel, and even after that date there are many Jewish scholars who maintain the individual interpretation. An honest examination of the text and comparison with the history of Israel reveals that the “nation” hypothesis is completely unconvincing. Some Jewish sects have linked it to a modern-day failed Messianic figure like Menachem Schneerson, but there is simply no individual in the course of history who fits the description as seamlessly as Jesus. This should give us pause considering the highly explicit theological statements about this person that the Hebrew writer is making—that the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, that he was bruised for our iniquities, and so on. It can be examined in conjunction with other clearly messianic passages in Isaiah like Chapter 9, which say that this figure will be called “the Mighty God” and that his kingdom will be everlasting.

    A similar passage comes from David’s 22nd Psalm, also part of the Hebrew canon long before Jesus’ time. David was often melodramatic in his poetry, but the details are eerily specific in this particular Psalm: He is suffering and being mocked publicly, his “bones…out of joint,” and as the Septuagint translates it, “they have dug [or pierced] my hands and my feet.” In some later text families, this phrase reads “like a lion they are at my hands and my feet,” due to the subtle difference in vowel pointing between the Hebrew for “dig” (ka’aru) and “lion” (ka’ari). So this is probably a corruption of the original, but even so, why the hands and feet specifically? He also says that his garments are being divided and gambled for among his persecutors. All this fits remarkably well with the gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion.

    One could say “The authors just made all those details up to force the story to fit the prophecy and give Jesus a significance he didn’t have.” But this goes back to the inherent weakness of the hypothesis that the apostles were creating a fiction. Again, we need to ask ourselves honestly how well this hypothesis matches the data. The same people reporting these details are claiming that Jesus proved his power and divine significance by rising from the dead. The author of John’s gospel claims to have been an eyewitness to the crucifixion and provides the detail about the Romans parting Jesus’ garments and casting lots for the remainder. In the book of Acts, Luke refers by name to the apostle John as working with Peter to spread the resurrection story on pain of imprisonment and risk of death. If Jesus was in fact not who he said he was, then the apostles were either lying or insane in a way that gave them fantastic hallucinations. Neither of those hypotheses has the explanatory power required to fit the data.

    For further reading on Messianic prophecy, I recommend Volume 3 of Michael Brown’s _Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus_, even though it is aimed at a Jewish audience. It still provides a good examination of the objections to the argument.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Hi again Ernest. I apologize for the delayed response. Real life, etc. I’m going to bow out after this but wanted to address your last comment. You begin by saying:

    “If a fact simply negates one possible hypothesis it does not yield explanatory power to others. Your case so far is built on negating other explanations rather than bolstering your own. In my personal opinion strategies like these are used to make the lack of evidence of harming your position look far more multi-pronged an impressive than they are actually are.”

    First of all, I think I might have aided the confusion in my first comment or two by conceding to your language of “positive” versus “negative” evidence. I apologize for not being clearer from the beginning. What I should have said, and then began trying to clarify a couple comments ago, is that this is all the same evidence. In a crime context, they refer to “the evidence” before a hypothesis has even been decided on. It’s the data. It’s the stuff we know. That’s why it’s a misconception to say, “Well this fact merely negates one of the hypotheses, it doesn’t help us with anything else.” (And you don’t really mean “negate” anyway, because we’re not talking about deduction here. A hypothesis either rises or falls in probability, but it can’t logically reach absolute 0.)

    In our case, the data include everything we have—the marks of eyewitness testimony, the marks of historical accuracy, the behavior of the apostles, etc. Our job is to see how good a job each hypothesis does of explaining it all. It doesn’t make sense to refer to a piece of evidence as “yielding explanatory power” to a hypothesis either. The hypothesis either has the power to explain the data or it doesn’t. In the case of Jesus’ resurrection, we already know that if Jesus actually rose from the dead, all the curious facts we observe would be perfectly and simply explainable. The explanatory power is already there. The question is whether there’s any other hypothesis that comes close.

    If you are trying to make a probabilistic point, you’re still making an error. If I set aside a possibility as not probabilistically viable, I’ve cut the pie which represents our probability space into fewer pieces. Unless setting aside that explanation has an asymmetrical effect on the relative odds of the other explanations, the probability of every other explanation has just gone up. To give an example from the history and philosophy of science, the Ptolemaic view of the solar system could not explain Galileo’s discovery that Venus has a full cycle of phases. So both the Copernican and the Tychonic views received a boost in probability, because that phenomenon is consistent with both of them.

    So yes, actually, a process of determining that hypothesis after hypothesis except for Jesus’ resurrection fails to account for all the facts leads us progressively closer to the resurrection. You remain fixated on this idea that there could be infinitely many potential explanations for the facts, but probability is the key factor here, not infinity. We could already create indefinitely many explanations within each hypothesis class. Peter thought he saw Jesus and told the others. Then again, maybe it was Thomas. Repeat for all apostles, family members and anyone who might have known Jesus. We’re already up to hundreds of “explanations,” but they’re all within one probabilistically dubious category (one person had a shaky, easily misinterpreted perception of Jesus and consequently convinced himself and everyone else to bet their lives that Jesus was risen). Or even better, the disciples stole the body at 1:00:00, 1:01:00, 1:01:01, 1:01:02, and onward in an infinite series. But again, it’s irrelevant because given what we know, that whole family of hypotheses is very unconvincing. It’s all about quality, not quantity.

    Ernest, you say you want to be convinced that Christianity is true, but you’re doing it by offering me the philosophical equivalent of a closed fist and demanding that I open it. You have this strange set of hang-ups based on shaky philosophy and poor reasoning that you simply refuse to give up. Do you want to be respected? This is respecting you: I am telling you not what you want to hear, but what you need to hear. And I am saying you will never make progress in searching for the truth unless you learn to recognize when you are out of your depth. You can’t exercise by watching other people do push-ups.

    Finally, you asked that I expand a little bit on the argument from prophecy that Jesus was who he said he was—a person sent from God, with divine power and a divine purpose to rescue humanity from their sins. There are a number of passages I could point to, one obvious example being Isaiah 53. This is unquestionably a Hebrew text, dated to long before the time of Christ and first translated into Greek by Jews. I would simply suggest that you read the chapter and ask yourself honestly, “Who is this referring to?” No scholarly Jewish source of repute interprets it as referring to anyone other than the Messiah until 1000 A.D. That was the first time any Rabbi got the theory started that it was referring to the nation of Israel, and even after that date there are many Jewish scholars who maintain the individual interpretation. An honest examination of the text and comparison with the history of Israel reveals that the “nation” hypothesis is completely unconvincing. Some Jewish sects have linked it to a modern-day failed Messianic figure like Menachem Schneerson, but there is simply no individual in the course of history who fits the description as seamlessly as Jesus. This should give us pause considering the highly explicit theological statements about this person that the Hebrew writer is making—that the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, that he was bruised for our iniquities, and so on. It can be examined in conjunction with other clearly messianic passages in Isaiah like Chapter 9, which say that this figure will be called “the Mighty God” and that his kingdom will be everlasting.

    A similar passage comes from David’s 22nd Psalm, also part of the Hebrew canon long before Jesus’ time. David was often melodramatic in his poetry, but the details are eerily specific in this particular Psalm: He is suffering and being mocked publicly, his “bones…out of joint,” and as the Septuagint translates it, “they have dug [or pierced] my hands and my feet.” In some later text families, this phrase reads “like a lion they are at my hands and my feet,” due to the subtle difference in vowel pointing between the Hebrew for “dig” (ka’aru) and “lion” (ka’ari). So this is probably a corruption of the original, but even so, why the hands and feet specifically? He also says that his garments are being divided and gambled for among his persecutors. All this fits remarkably well with the gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion.

    One could say “The authors just made all those details up to force the story to fit the prophecy and give Jesus a significance he didn’t have.” But this goes back to the inherent weakness of the hypothesis that the apostles were creating a fiction. Again, we need to ask ourselves honestly how well this hypothesis matches the data. The same people reporting these details are claiming that Jesus proved his power and divine significance by rising from the dead. The author of John’s gospel claims to have been an eyewitness to the crucifixion and provides the detail about the Romans parting Jesus’ garments and casting lots for the remainder. In the book of Acts, Luke refers by name to the apostle John as working with Peter to spread the resurrection story on pain of imprisonment and risk of death. If Jesus was in fact not who he said he was, then the apostles were either lying or insane in a way that gave them fantastic hallucinations. Neither of those hypotheses has the explanatory power required to fit the data.

    For further reading on Messianic prophecy, I recommend Volume 3 of Michael Brown’s _Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus_, even though it is aimed at a Jewish audience. It still provides a good examination of the objections to the argument.

  • “First of all, I think I might have aided the confusion in my first comment or two by conceding to your language of “positive” versus “negative” evidence. I apologize for not being clearer from the beginning. What I should have said, and then began trying to clarify a couple comments ago, is that this is all the same evidence. In a crime context, they refer to “the evidence” before a hypothesis has even been decided on. It’s the data. It’s the stuff we know.”

    The labels of “negative” and “positive” I use are descriptions of the evidence as they apply to a particular hypothesis. An argument or piece of evidence I label as “negative” is something that harms a particular hypothesis. Something “positive” helps a particular hypothesis.

    You have presented your hypothesis that the Gospels are an accurate recording of the events they describe and we are now evaluating your case for this particular hypothesis. So far, the supporting evidence you present is “negative” in that it only serves to lessen the likelihood of other hypothesis. This does no good for your hypothesis.

    “(And you don’t really mean “negate” anyway…)”

    Yes I do. Negate isn’t always used in mathematical terms.

    “The marks of eyewitness testimony”

    What’s this? Doesn’t this go against mainstream scholarship?

    “the marks of historical accuracy”

    And what of these?

    “the behavior of the apostles”

    The “behavior of the apostles” is irrelevant. If the text is unreliable (which is what we’re trying to determine) then we may not actually know how they behaved.

    “In the case of Jesus’ resurrection, we already know that if Jesus actually rose from the dead, all the curious facts we observe would be perfectly and simply explainable.”

    First, that’s a big “if”. Second, we do? What do we know about resurrection and how it works? What do we know about the effects a divine resurrection would have on people in antiquity? These are the exact questions we’re trying to answer. Are you saying the “facts” are exactly what we would find if Jesus rose from the dead. How did you determine that?

    “The explanatory power is already there. The question is whether there’s any other hypothesis that comes close.”

    “Jesus rose from the dead” doesn’t explain anything. It raises even more questions. So it doesn’t yield explanatory power, and the hypothesis isn’t supported by any positive evidence. So far, no good.

    “If you are trying to make a probabilistic point, you’re still making an error. If I set aside a possibility as not probabilistically viable, I’ve cut the pie which represents our probability space into fewer pieces. Unless setting aside that explanation has an asymmetrical effect on the relative odds of the other explanations, the probability of every other explanation has just gone up. To give an example from the history and philosophy of science, the Ptolemaic view of the solar system could not explain Galileo’s discovery that Venus has a full cycle of phases. So both the Copernican and the Tychonic views received a boost in probability, because that phenomenon is consistent with both of them.”

    This assumes that we understand how big the “pie” is and how many possible explanations there could be. Even if ruling out one possibility does raise the likelihood of others, we don’t know if its to any significant degree. If there are 5 possibly hypothesis and 1 is eliminated, that’s more significant than if there are 100. The less we know about something, the more viable explanations there *could* be. Since we know very little about these claims and the times they were written in, there could be a multitude of explanations for why these texts exist as they do now.

    “So yes, actually, a process of determining that hypothesis after hypothesis except for Jesus’ resurrection fails to account for all the facts leads us progressively closer to the resurrection. You remain fixated on this idea that there could be infinitely many potential explanations for the facts, but probability is the key factor here, not infinity. We could already create indefinitely many explanations within each hypothesis class. Peter thought he saw Jesus and told the others. Then again, maybe it was Thomas. Repeat for all apostles, family members and anyone who might have known Jesus. We’re already up to hundreds of “explanations,” but they’re all within one probabilistically dubious category (one person had a shaky, easily misinterpreted perception of Jesus and consequently convinced himself and everyone else to bet their lives that Jesus was risen). Or even better, the disciples stole the body at 1:00:00, 1:01:00, 1:01:01, 1:01:02, and onward in an infinite series. But again, it’s irrelevant because given what we know, that whole family of hypotheses is very unconvincing. It’s all about quality, not quantity.”

    Painting with such a broad brush here. Again, given what we know (which is very little), almost any hypothesis is unconvincing. That’s the point. There are an almost infinite number of explanations and none are convincing enough because we don’t have enough information to make a qualified guess, much less try to convince anyone else that our particular explanation is the right one.

    Of course, spending your entire apologetics career debunking all the other possibilities will net you plenty of material to exhaustively go over. Time would be better spent bolstering your own case, but as I and many others have tried to point out, there’s not much of one to be made for the resurrection.

    “You have this strange set of hang-ups based on shaky philosophy and poor reasoning that you simply refuse to give up.”

    You have been the one demonstrating poor reasoning and a poor understanding of how to make a case. Projecting this onto me does not help you.

    “And I am saying you will never make progress in searching for the truth unless you learn to recognize when you are out of your depth. You can’t exercise by watching other people do push-ups.”

    Maybe the problem is that you’re trying to regurgitate faulty arguments before you’ve waded in the shallower waters of epistemology. Learning how to build a case, how to form a hypothesis and then support it might save you the trouble of having to argue for weak positions. Perhaps one day you will, and I hope it comes soon.

    I will respond to you prophecy stuff later. Time for bed.

  • “First of all, I think I might have aided the confusion in my first comment or two by conceding to your language of “positive” versus “negative” evidence. I apologize for not being clearer from the beginning. What I should have said, and then began trying to clarify a couple comments ago, is that this is all the same evidence. In a crime context, they refer to “the evidence” before a hypothesis has even been decided on. It’s the data. It’s the stuff we know.”

    The labels of “negative” and “positive” I use are descriptions of the evidence as they apply to a particular hypothesis. An argument or piece of evidence I label as “negative” is something that harms a particular hypothesis. Something “positive” helps a particular hypothesis.

    You have presented your hypothesis that the Gospels are an accurate recording of the events they describe and we are now evaluating your case for this particular hypothesis. So far, the supporting evidence you present is “negative” in that it only serves to lessen the likelihood of other hypothesis. This does no good for your hypothesis.

    “(And you don’t really mean “negate” anyway…)”

    Yes I do. Negate isn’t always used in mathematical terms.

    “The marks of eyewitness testimony”

    What’s this? Doesn’t this go against mainstream scholarship?

    “the marks of historical accuracy”

    And what of these?

    “the behavior of the apostles”

    The “behavior of the apostles” is irrelevant. If the text is unreliable (which is what we’re trying to determine) then we may not actually know how they behaved.

    “In the case of Jesus’ resurrection, we already know that if Jesus actually rose from the dead, all the curious facts we observe would be perfectly and simply explainable.”

    First, that’s a big “if”. Second, we do? What do we know about resurrection and how it works? What do we know about the effects a divine resurrection would have on people in antiquity? These are the exact questions we’re trying to answer. Are you saying the “facts” are exactly what we would find if Jesus rose from the dead. How did you determine that?

    “The explanatory power is already there. The question is whether there’s any other hypothesis that comes close.”

    “Jesus rose from the dead” doesn’t explain anything. It raises even more questions. So it doesn’t yield explanatory power, and the hypothesis isn’t supported by any positive evidence. So far, no good.

    “If you are trying to make a probabilistic point, you’re still making an error. If I set aside a possibility as not probabilistically viable, I’ve cut the pie which represents our probability space into fewer pieces. Unless setting aside that explanation has an asymmetrical effect on the relative odds of the other explanations, the probability of every other explanation has just gone up. To give an example from the history and philosophy of science, the Ptolemaic view of the solar system could not explain Galileo’s discovery that Venus has a full cycle of phases. So both the Copernican and the Tychonic views received a boost in probability, because that phenomenon is consistent with both of them.”

    This assumes that we understand how big the “pie” is and how many possible explanations there could be. Even if ruling out one possibility does raise the likelihood of others, we don’t know if its to any significant degree. If there are 5 possibly hypothesis and 1 is eliminated, that’s more significant than if there are 100. The less we know about something, the more viable explanations there *could* be. Since we know very little about these claims and the times they were written in, there could be a multitude of explanations for why these texts exist as they do now.

    “So yes, actually, a process of determining that hypothesis after hypothesis except for Jesus’ resurrection fails to account for all the facts leads us progressively closer to the resurrection. You remain fixated on this idea that there could be infinitely many potential explanations for the facts, but probability is the key factor here, not infinity. We could already create indefinitely many explanations within each hypothesis class. Peter thought he saw Jesus and told the others. Then again, maybe it was Thomas. Repeat for all apostles, family members and anyone who might have known Jesus. We’re already up to hundreds of “explanations,” but they’re all within one probabilistically dubious category (one person had a shaky, easily misinterpreted perception of Jesus and consequently convinced himself and everyone else to bet their lives that Jesus was risen). Or even better, the disciples stole the body at 1:00:00, 1:01:00, 1:01:01, 1:01:02, and onward in an infinite series. But again, it’s irrelevant because given what we know, that whole family of hypotheses is very unconvincing. It’s all about quality, not quantity.”

    Painting with such a broad brush here. Again, given what we know (which is very little), almost any hypothesis is unconvincing. That’s the point. There are an almost infinite number of explanations and none are convincing enough because we don’t have enough information to make a qualified guess, much less try to convince anyone else that our particular explanation is the right one.

    Of course, spending your entire apologetics career debunking all the other possibilities will net you plenty of material to exhaustively go over. Time would be better spent bolstering your own case, but as I and many others have tried to point out, there’s not much of one to be made for the resurrection.

    “You have this strange set of hang-ups based on shaky philosophy and poor reasoning that you simply refuse to give up.”

    You have been the one demonstrating poor reasoning and a poor understanding of how to make a case. Projecting this onto me does not help you.

    “And I am saying you will never make progress in searching for the truth unless you learn to recognize when you are out of your depth. You can’t exercise by watching other people do push-ups.”

    Maybe the problem is that you’re trying to regurgitate faulty arguments before you’ve waded in the shallower waters of epistemology. Learning how to build a case, how to form a hypothesis and then support it might save you the trouble of having to argue for weak positions. Perhaps one day you will, and I hope it comes soon.

    I will respond to you prophecy stuff later. Time for bed.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    I’m budgeting my time here so I won’t bother to keep dissecting your arguments, but I have to ask–what exactly IS your background in philosophy?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    I’m budgeting my time here so I won’t bother to keep dissecting your arguments, but I have to ask–what exactly IS your background in philosophy?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    I’m budgeting my time here so I won’t bother to keep dissecting your arguments, but I have to ask–what exactly IS your background in philosophy?

  • The only way I can see this as relevant is that it might make you feel better about this missing someone less educated than you. So if a pissing match is going to make you feel better then yes I’m less formally educated in philosophy than you.

    I spent the better part of 18 years thinking heavily about apologetics on both sides of the aisle though if that makes any sort of difference to you. I doubt it though.

    Still none of this is relevant to the fact that you haven’t put forth a worthwhile case for your hypothesis.

  • The only way I can see this as relevant is that it might make you feel better about this missing someone less educated than you. So if a pissing match is going to make you feel better then yes I’m less formally educated in philosophy than you.

    I spent the better part of 18 years thinking heavily about apologetics on both sides of the aisle though if that makes any sort of difference to you. I doubt it though.

    Still none of this is relevant to the fact that you haven’t put forth a worthwhile case for your hypothesis.

  • The only way I can see this as relevant is that it might make you feel better about this missing someone less educated than you. So if a pissing match is going to make you feel better then yes I’m less formally educated in philosophy than you.

    I spent the better part of 18 years thinking heavily about apologetics on both sides of the aisle though if that makes any sort of difference to you. I doubt it though.

    Still none of this is relevant to the fact that you haven’t put forth a worthwhile case for your hypothesis.

  • “Finally, you asked that I expand a little bit on the argument from prophecy that Jesus was who he said he was—a person sent from God, with divine power and a divine purpose to rescue humanity from their sins.”

    I’m afraid I may have misunderstood what you were going to argue based on your brief description. When you said prophecy, I assumed that we were going to discuss what prophecy was, and how it works in demonstrating specific claims. You’ve put the cart before the horse a little bit and went ahead and assumed that it even exists, and that it’s an accurate epistemology. So I’ll ask a few questions that probably need to be answered before delving into your argument. I understand you are finished replying here, so I won’t hold it against you for not answering, but if you ever want to discuss more, you can e-mail me at ernestleecking@gmail.com.

    What is your criteria for a prophecy as opposed to a prediction (the Jets will win the Super Bowl next year), or even just a simple description of events to come (The women’s World Cup will be held in Canada next year)?

    I would assume one criteria is that it has to have some supernatural significance/markers. How would you determine that?

    Another place where you’ve maybe placed another cart before yet another horse is in the issue of the scriptural reliability itself. This issue hasn’t been laid to rest yet, and I don’t think your argument from prophecy has any ground to stand on if it hasn’t. We need to verify the prediction and the events it predicted in some way or else we have nothing.

    “One could say “The authors just made all those details up to force the story to fit the prophecy and give Jesus a significance he didn’t have.” But this goes back to the inherent weakness of the hypothesis that the apostles were creating a fiction. Again, we need to ask ourselves honestly how well this hypothesis matches the data.”

    This is not my hypothesis so why bother?

    I hold to a more broad hypothesis if you want to tackle it. It’s this:

    We don’t have enough reliable information to tell if the accounts are an accurate representation of anything that happened. This fits the (lack of) data remarkably well.

    “The same people reporting these details are claiming that Jesus proved his power and divine significance by rising from the dead. The author of John’s gospel claims to have been an eyewitness to the crucifixion and provides the detail about the Romans parting Jesus’ garments and casting lots for the remainder. In the book of Acts, Luke refers by name to the apostle John as working with Peter to spread the resurrection story on pain of imprisonment and risk of death.”

    Do we have good reason to believe the author of John was the apostle John? Do we have good reason to believe that the author of John was correct when he said he had been an eyewitness to the crucifixion?

    “If Jesus was in fact not who he said he was, then the apostles were either lying or insane in a way that gave them fantastic hallucinations. Neither of those hypotheses has the explanatory power required to fit the data.”

    This is a false choice. Again, this is a bad technique for apologists to try to make their case less flimsy, by setting up the false choice, and spending way more time discounting the others than supporting their own.

    I encourage you to spend some time studying outside of the realm of professional apologetics, and in the realm of standards of evidence and epistemology. Again, feel free to e-mail me at ernestleecking@gmail.com.

  • “Finally, you asked that I expand a little bit on the argument from prophecy that Jesus was who he said he was—a person sent from God, with divine power and a divine purpose to rescue humanity from their sins.”

    I’m afraid I may have misunderstood what you were going to argue based on your brief description. When you said prophecy, I assumed that we were going to discuss what prophecy was, and how it works in demonstrating specific claims. You’ve put the cart before the horse a little bit and went ahead and assumed that it even exists, and that it’s an accurate epistemology. So I’ll ask a few questions that probably need to be answered before delving into your argument. I understand you are finished replying here, so I won’t hold it against you for not answering, but if you ever want to discuss more, you can e-mail me at ernestleecking@gmail.com.

    What is your criteria for a prophecy as opposed to a prediction (the Jets will win the Super Bowl next year), or even just a simple description of events to come (The women’s World Cup will be held in Canada next year)?

    I would assume one criteria is that it has to have some supernatural significance/markers. How would you determine that?

    Another place where you’ve maybe placed another cart before yet another horse is in the issue of the scriptural reliability itself. This issue hasn’t been laid to rest yet, and I don’t think your argument from prophecy has any ground to stand on if it hasn’t. We need to verify the prediction and the events it predicted in some way or else we have nothing.

    “One could say “The authors just made all those details up to force the story to fit the prophecy and give Jesus a significance he didn’t have.” But this goes back to the inherent weakness of the hypothesis that the apostles were creating a fiction. Again, we need to ask ourselves honestly how well this hypothesis matches the data.”

    This is not my hypothesis so why bother?

    I hold to a more broad hypothesis if you want to tackle it. It’s this:

    We don’t have enough reliable information to tell if the accounts are an accurate representation of anything that happened. This fits the (lack of) data remarkably well.

    “The same people reporting these details are claiming that Jesus proved his power and divine significance by rising from the dead. The author of John’s gospel claims to have been an eyewitness to the crucifixion and provides the detail about the Romans parting Jesus’ garments and casting lots for the remainder. In the book of Acts, Luke refers by name to the apostle John as working with Peter to spread the resurrection story on pain of imprisonment and risk of death.”

    Do we have good reason to believe the author of John was the apostle John? Do we have good reason to believe that the author of John was correct when he said he had been an eyewitness to the crucifixion?

    “If Jesus was in fact not who he said he was, then the apostles were either lying or insane in a way that gave them fantastic hallucinations. Neither of those hypotheses has the explanatory power required to fit the data.”

    This is a false choice. Again, this is a bad technique for apologists to try to make their case less flimsy, by setting up the false choice, and spending way more time discounting the others than supporting their own.

    I encourage you to spend some time studying outside of the realm of professional apologetics, and in the realm of standards of evidence and epistemology. Again, feel free to e-mail me at ernestleecking@gmail.com.