Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Skeptical Response to the Resurrection: The Appearances of Jesus

As I said before, most scholars accept the historicity of the empty tomb, but virtually all scholars believe 
that the apostles had experiences in which they saw Jesus postmortem. Atheist and New Testament scholar Gerd Lüdemann said, "It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus' death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ."

Why are scholars--even skeptical ones--almost unanimous in the conclusion that the followers of Jesus at least thought they saw Him postmortem?

First, Paul says that Jesus appeared to him personally (1 Corinthians 15:8), and that prior to his conversion, he was a zealous, upwardly mobile Pharisee who persecuted the church (Philippians 3:5-6). After his conversion, Paul gave up prestige and worldly goods, was imprisoned several times, and was charged with treason for his faith. Paul's words about Jesus appearing to him are firsthand testimony, and combined with his actions following his conversion, they are highly credible.

Second, in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, Paul cites what is widely believed by scholars to be a creedal formula of the Christian faith passed down to him by his predecessors--dated to within five years of the death of Jesus: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles."

Lüdemann says in The Resurrection of Jesus that "the elements in the tradition [of 1 Corinthians 15:3-7] are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion of Jesus." Jewish scholar Geza Vermes says that the words of Paul are "a tradition he has inherited from his seniors in the faith concerning the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus." A. M. Hunter says, "The passage therefore preserves uniquely early and verifiable testimony. It meets every reasonable demand of historical reliability." Reginald Fuller concludes: "It is almost universally agreed today that Paul is here citing tradition."

This corresponds to the words of Paul in Galatians 1:18-19, where he talks about going up to Jerusalem three years after his conversion to become acquainted with Cephas (Peter), and where he also met "James, the Lord's brother," but none of the other apostles. And in 1 Corinthians 15:5-7, the only individuals he mentions by name are Peter and James, the two apostles he met when he went up to Jerusalem. Gary Habermas, who has done extensive research of the opinions of critical scholars, said: "The most popular view is that Paul received this material during his trip to Jerusalem just three years after his conversion, to visit Peter and James (Gal. 1:18-19), both of whose names appear in the appearance list (1 Cor. 15:5, 7). An important hint here is Paul's use of the verb historesai (1:18), a term that indicates the investigation of a topic."

So in this group that, according to 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, saw Jesus, we have Paul, the intellectual Pharisee who violently persecuted the church; Peter, the coward who denied Jesus three times when He was arrested and then went into hiding; James, the brother of Jesus who was skeptical of Jesus' claims during His lifetime (Mark 3:21, John 7:5); and the five hundred, most of whom were still alive at the time of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, and available for questioning, since the Christians were called to be "witnesses" (Acts 1:8).

Modern scholars have almost unanimously dismissed the idea that these individuals lied about the appearances, because they would not have given up everything, including their lives, for a known lie. The Christian faith is based on the fact of the resurrection, and if the early Christians knew that Jesus had not really risen from the dead, their subsequent behavior would have been incomprehensible. If James did not at least think he saw Jesus, how did he go from being a skeptic who believed that his brother was insane (Mark 3:21, John 7:5) to the head of the early church (Acts 15:13) to being stoned to death by a sanhedrin of judges (Antiquities of the Jews, 20:200)? Why was Paul willing to give up his prestige to suffer poverty, imprisonment, and persecution? And why did Peter overcome his cowardice to boldly proclaim the gospel if he was part of a conspiracy to deceive? Why sacrifice everything to be part of a small Jewish sect that was deemed heretical by other Jews and illegal by the Romans? And how could such a conspiracy survive the severe persecution of Christians by Nero beginning in 64 AD?

One might argue that it is not unusual for religious fanatics to be willing to die for what they believe. The 911 terrorists were brainwashed into thinking that they would get seventy-two virgins in Paradise for killing American infidels. (In other words, if they died killing debauched Americans, their reward would be an eternity of debauchery.) But the faith of the disciples of Jesus was based, not on expectation, but on experience. They claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus.

The primary hypothesis put forth by skeptics to explain the appearances and the subsequent faith of the disciples is that they all hallucinated. They had some kind of experience that deeply affected them for the rest of their lives, but it was psychological. The proponents of this theory postulate that the disciples experienced grief-related hallucinations after the death of Jesus, and they spread via chain reaction to what Lüdemann labeled "mass ecstasy."

But there are several problems with the hallucination theory: First, hallucinations by their very nature are psychological phenomena, so most psychologists say that they are private experiences. Since they are perceptions independent of external stimuli, it is no more possible to share the exact same hallucination with another person than to share the exact same dream. Second, even if "collective hallucinations" are possible in some situations, as psychologists Leonard Zusne and Warren H. Jones say may have been the case with the Marian visions, the criteria present during those events were not present when the apostles saw Jesus postmortem.

Zusne and Jones say that "emotional arousal is a prerequisite of collective hallucinations," and "all participants in the hallucination must be informed beforehand, at least concerning the broad outlines of the phenomenon that will constitute the collective hallucination."

So with that in mind, I'm going to compare the event at Fátima to the resurrection appearances. First, the large crowd that saw the "miracle of the sun" came expecting to see something miraculous. They had been told that something would happen that day.

The disciples, on the other hand, did not expect to see Jesus resurrected. The Gospels indicate that everybody was initially skeptical. The disciples did not believe the women when they returned from the tomb (Luke 24:11) and Thomas did not believe the disciples (John 20:25). Was their skepticism a later invention? Under the criterion of embarrassment, there is no reason why the faithlessness of the disciples should be emphasized unless it was authentic.

And Paul certainly didn't expect to see Jesus on the road to Damascus. He was probably the last person he wanted to see. Acts 9:1-2 says, "Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem." Then he saw a light from heaven and heard a voice, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" His travel companions heard the voice but saw no one.

What kind of a hallucination turns a murderous persecutor into a peaceful missionary? And who hallucinates a light that is so bright that it leaves him blind?

The second criteria Zusne and Jones give is emotional arousal. Those who witnessed the "miracle of the sun" at Fátima came to see something supernatural, so they may have been in a state of religious fervor, but the disciples had just seen their friend and rabbi being publicly flogged and crucified as a criminal, thus dashing their hopes that He was the awaited Messiah. The normal reaction would be depression and fear for their own lives, and that is exactly how the Gospels tell us they did react.

Also, James and Paul were not exactly the credulous type. The Gospels make it clear that James did not believe during Jesus' lifetime, and 1 Corinthians 15:7 tells us that Jesus appeared to him. Paul must have known everything about the teachings of the Way, including the claims of the resurrection, but that did not stop him from persecuting its followers. He was also highly educated and trained in Greek philosophy, and in 1 Timothy 4:7 he warns his followers to have nothing to do with worldly myths and old wives tales. In no way does he seem like someone who was prone to flights of fancy.

So even if the event at Fátima was, as Zusne and Jones hypothesize, collective hallucination "mingled with some celestial event," they say nothing about the postmortem appearances of Jesus. And with good reason, because the resurrection appearances do not meet the criteria they put forth. 

But Lüdemann gives a different explanation. He says that the extreme grief of the disciples led them to hallucinate the appearances. The first point to note here is that Lüdemann is not a psychologist, and Zusne and Jones, who are psychologists, say nothing about grief leading to collective hallucinations. This kind of hallucination may perhaps be experienced by a bereaved spouse, but it doesn't spread to the other family members, neighbors, and treating health care professionals.

Second, Paul felt no grief, nor is there any evidence of guilt prior to his conversion. He persecuted the Christians because he was zealous for his ancestral traditions (Galatians 1:14), and he was faultless in his legalistic righteousness (Philippians 3:6). He was well-educated and rational, and most likely he thought very highly of himself prior to his conversion. And yet he is our primary witness of the resurrection because he speaks of his own first-hand experiences.

The hallucination hypothesis has many problems, but even if it didn't, it wouldn't explain the empty tomb. Another naturalistic explanation is required to account for that, and as I have attempted to demonstrate in a prior post, none fit the evidence.

The question then remains: Why should we prefer one apparent violation of the laws of nature (the resurrection of a dead man) to others like mass hallucinations under impossible circumstances? That is a question of applying Bayes' Theorem to all the salient facts and weighing the probability of the resurrection against the naturalistic explanations. Several people have already done this and found that given the vanishingly small probability of the naturalistic explanations, the probability of the resurrection is high even if we assume that it has a very low prior probability apart from the specific evidence.

And the prior probability is not as low as some may think. As I pointed out in my post about Hume and Bayes' Theorem, it is not simply the probability of a violation of the laws of nature, but the probability of God raising His Son from the dead in order to prove His deity and victory over death. And in order to do that, He has to exist, so we have to view the prior probability in the context of arguments in natural theology for the existence of God. That is, the stronger the fine-tuning argument, the cosmological argument, the argument from moral law, and other arguments for God's existence, the higher the prior probability that God exists and therefore the more likely that He raised Jesus from the dead. Conversely, the stronger the atheological arguments, like the problem of evil, the less likely that God exists and therefore the lower the prior probability that He raised Jesus from the dead.

In the same way that the evidence in natural theology increases the prior probability of the resurrection, the resurrection is one more argument for the existence of God, specifically the God of the Bible. God intended it as proof to all (Acts 17:31). Thomas Arnold, former Professor of History at Oxford, concluded: "I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better, fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair enquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died, and rose again from the dead."

96 comments:

Darkknight56 said...

Are there any historical documents outside of the bible that confirms the death and, more importantly, resurrection of Christ?

Anette Acker said...

Hi Darkknight56,

First century Jewish historian Flavius Josephus said:

"At this time there was a wise man called Jesus. And his conduct was good and (he) was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders."

That doesn't by any means "confirm" the resurrection of Jesus. But there are reasons why it's difficult to find extra-biblical confirmation that Jesus was raised from the dead. (And I assume you mean non-Christians extra-biblical sources.)

First, contemporaries who were aware of the empty tomb or the appearances of Jesus would probably have either become followers of Jesus or denied it. A non-believer is not going to say that Jesus was raised from the dead and continue to be a non-believer. For example, Paul was a persecutor of the church, but he converted when Jesus appeared to him.

Second, the four Gospels are our best and earliest sources for information about Jesus. Of course they were not originally part of what we call the Bible. The Gospel of Thomas and other non-canonical Gospels were written in the second century so they are nowhere near as reliable.

However, even highly skeptical scholars like John Dominic Crossan and Gerd Ludemann agree that Jesus died by crucifixion. This is not in dispute, but I'd be happy to find quotes for you if you want.

As for the resurrection, we have to determine whether it happened based on the sources we do have. And I am focusing on the parts of the Bible that most scholars agree are authentic in making a case for the resurrection. (That doesn't mean that I think the other parts are inauthentic, of course, but for the sake of argument I am focusing on the parts that even skeptical scholars agree on.) For example, about 75% of scholars (including secular historian Michael Grant and Jewish scholar Geza Vermes) think the tomb was discovered empty by a group of women, like the Bible says. And almost all scholars think that Paul and the disciples had experiences in which they saw Jesus as the risen Christ.

And I have analyzed the naturalistic explanations for this data, and have argued that none of them hold together logically or fit the facts. The only explanation that fits is the one the Bible gives.

Darkknight56 said...

Just to let you know where I am coming from:

1. I don't doubt the existence of Jesus as an historical person,
2. I don't doubt his crucifixion, and
3. I'm even willing to concede the empty tomb.

Most religions make supernatural claims regarding some of their major figures. Mohammad, for example, ascended to heaven on a winged horse according to the Koran. It even had its witnesses so you have to ask:

1. Were they lying when they repeated what they saw, even under the pain of death?
2. Were they making it up?
3. Were they hallucinating when they all saw it?

Basically, all of the same questions one would ask regarding the resurrection of Christ. And Muslims would give many of the same answers as Christians and make the same major points, that is, these people held to their stories even under pain of torture and death.

Why aren't there secular writing regarding Mohammad's ascension? Because non-believers didn't want to be lumped in with believers who were undergoing torture and martyrdom for their beliefs.

Since Muslims were undergoing many of the same persecutions in their countries as Christians in theirs if you are going to say the resurrection is true because people held onto their stories even under pain of death then by the same criteria you have to say that Mohammad's ascension is also true.

I hope you realize that I'm not really Muslim; I'm just trying to make the point that if you apply the same set of criteria to supernatural events in other religions then you'd have to accept those events also as true.

clamflats said...

@ Darkknight56

If a does not equal b and c does not equal b it doesn't prove that a equals c.
I am confident that Anette will be able to present a case for the exclusivity of the Resurrection as compared to other religious claims.

I think if we are to use Anette's criteria for judging other non-biblical supernatural claims, they would have to include at least these criterion:
-There are multiple independent eye-witness or one step removed from eye-witness accounts.
-The majority of modern scholars agree on the facts.
-That the event is counter to the expectations of the witnesses.
-That the actions of witnesses, post-event, are drastically changed.
-That all alternate explanations have deficiencies.

I'm not sure that there is another claimed supernatural event that can be scrutinized in the same way.

Anette Acker said...

Wow, Clamflats, that was exactly what I was going to say to Darkknight56. Thank you.

Darkknight56,

I'm not sure if you're familiar with David Hume's argument against miracles, but in a nutshell, his point was that the miraculous is always the least probable explanation. In other words, he lumped all supernatural events together and sort of hand-waved them away.

And his argument became very popular with critics of Christianity who did not want to have to deal with the particular historical evidence that supports the resurrection, because nobody has been able to come up with viable naturalistic explanations for the empty tomb, the appearances of Jesus, and the willingness of His follower to die for their faith. All the explanations have logical holes, are excessively ad hoc, or lack explanatory power.

But non-theistic philosopher of physics, John Earman, wrote a book called Hume's Abject Failure, in which he used Bayes' Theorem to expose the fallacy in Hume's reasoning. Essentially, what he said is that the probability of the proffered naturalistic explanations have to be taken into consideration in determining the probability of the specific supernatural event.

Earman says:

"Hume is thus forced to leave the high ground and descend into the trenches where, as he must have been aware, there were opponents who had considered the contrary miracles argument and were prepared to argue on the basis of contextual details for the superiority of the New Testament miracle stories over heathen miracle stories. These opponents may or may not have been right. But Hume had no good reason for avoiding an engagement with them."

So he argues that it is possible to have a healthy skepticism toward miracle stories in general, while allowing for their possibility. Even if most miracle stories are most likely false, that doesn't mean that miracles are impossible. Hume's argument did not dispense with the need to "descend into the trenches" and deal with the specific historical facts supporting the resurrection.

I probably don't know anywhere near as much about Islam as you do (of course I know you're not Muslim, but you have a good Muslim friend, right?), so my question is this: What rational basis do we today have for believing that Mohammed ascended to heaven? Could it be myth? Could someone have lied? Could someone have hallucinated? Was someone tortured and killed around the seventh century for saying that Mohammed ascended to heaven? If so, how do we know this?

We have secular evidence (letters by Pliny the Younger, dated 112 AD) that Christians were tortured because they wouldn't worship the emperor. And, according to the letters, they were given a chance to recant. So this was not just bigotry against Christians--they were considered a threat. Pliny said that "their pertinacity and inflexible obstinacy surely ought to be punished."

All the facts have to be considered in determining whether it is rational to believe a particular miracle story.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette said...

We have secular evidence (letters by Pliny the Younger, dated 112 AD) that Christians were tortured because they wouldn't worship the emperor.

Keep in mind that governments weren't elected in a democratic way back then. People who gained political power gained it by force and violence. To hold onto it meant either assimilating the opposition or destroying them.

Since the letter was written in 112 AD, it means that those being tortured are NOT the ones who saw the resurrection so I'm not sure what this event has to do with that event.

Dying for a cause is nothing new and doesn't necessarily show the righteousness of their positions. Many Christians in the south were willing to die in order to keep slaves and slavery.

When Islam was first being started, the polytheistic leaders in power at the time in the middle east tortured and killed many in the new movement. Even as recently as the 1990's entire Muslim communities in the Balkans were wiped out by neighboring Christian militias.

So your criteria for determining if a supernatural event occurred is:

1. What rational basis do we today have for believing that the event happened?
2. Could it be myth?
3. Could someone have lied?
4. Could someone have hallucinated?
5. Was someone tortured and killed for saying it happened?
6. If so, how do we know this?

Yes, there should be some criteria for determining if a supernatural event occurred but the criteria should be applied equally to all assumed events. When you ask these questions do you use them to exclude all non-christian events such as Mohammad flying on a winged horse to heaven and only count those in the Christian religion?

Another criteria is - are there other, independent, lines of evidence supporting the events in question. Are there independent eyewitness accounts from people who actually saw the event in question? I'm afraid that both the resurrection and the flying horse are lacking here.

Anette Acker said...

Keep in mind that governments weren't elected in a democratic way back then. People who gained political power gained it by force and violence. To hold onto it meant either assimilating the opposition or destroying them.

True. And since the Christians were unwilling to worship the emperor or their gods, they were tortured and killed. However, those who renounced their faith were released.

Since the letter was written in 112 AD, it means that those being tortured are NOT the ones who saw the resurrection so I'm not sure what this event has to do with that event.

However, this would have been only about fifty years after the severe persecution of Christians by Nero, which, according to tradition, claimed the lives of Peter and Paul around 65 AD. Josephus said that James, the brother of Jesus, was stoned to death by a "sanhedrin of judges" in 62 AD. All of them had seen Jesus postmortem, according to 1 Cor. 15:3-8.

The book of Acts, which has been hailed by historian A. N. Sherwin-White and archaeologist Sir William Ramsey as historically accurate even in matters of detail, says that King Herod had James, the brother of John, put to death by the sword (Acts 12:2). James was one of the apostles, all of whom, according to 1 Cor. 15:7, saw Jesus.

So the people who were tortured and put to death in 112 AD knew about this, but they still refused to renounce their faith, even though it would have saved their lives.

Dying for a cause is nothing new and doesn't necessarily show the righteousness of their positions. Many Christians in the south were willing to die in order to keep slaves and slavery.

True, but the southerners thought they would win the war.

And, again, a number of those who did see Jesus were martyred and those who died later did so because of their testimony.

When Islam was first being started, the polytheistic leaders in power at the time in the middle east tortured and killed many in the new movement. Even as recently as the 1990's entire Muslim communities in the Balkans were wiped out by neighboring Christian militias.

Were they given a chance to recant? Religious bigotry is nothing new (I never claimed that because the Bolsheviks executed 28 Russian Orthodox bishops and over 1,200 priest in the first five years of Soviet power, therefore Christianity is true). But the early Christians were generally given a chance to renounce their faith, because the rulers didn't want martyrs--they wanted conformity. And as I said before, they followed the teachings and example of those who had seen Jesus postmortem.

Did any of those who saw Mohammed ascend to heaven die for their faith? If so, who were they and what documentation from around the seventh century do you have of this?

Yes, there should be some criteria for determining if a supernatural event occurred but the criteria should be applied equally to all assumed events. When you ask these questions do you use them to exclude all non-christian events such as Mohammad flying on a winged horse to heaven and only count those in the Christian religion?

Yes, the criteria should be applied to all putative supernatural events. And I have spent the past few months applying all those criteria to the resurrection of Jesus.

Now that you are here, I look forward to you applying the same criteria to the ascension of Mohammed.

Anette Acker said...

Another criteria is - are there other, independent, lines of evidence supporting the events in question. Are there independent eyewitness accounts from people who actually saw the event in question? I'm afraid that both the resurrection and the flying horse are lacking here.

Yes, Paul saw Jesus postmortem and wrote about it, and he started out as an enemy of the church-- something his contemporaries would have been well aware of. If you have that kind of first-hand evidence from someone who saw Mohammed fly to heaven on a horse, I would be very interested to hear about it.

Note: I just did a brief search on it and all I found was that Muslims believe Mohammed ascended alive to heaven and then came back. This is in the Qu'ran, so I guess Mohammed is the only witness of this event. Also, since he came back, there would be a dead body when he died.

Clearly, there are many possible naturalistic explanations for this story. And since that's the case, Bayes' Theorem does not help here.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette said...

Did any of those who saw Mohammad ascend to heaven die for their faith? If so, who were they and what documentation from around the seventh century do you have of this?

Relevance? As you pointed out earlier many people supposedly saw Christ's miracles but didn't want to die for the faith. It is not unusual for a humans to give their heroes bold deaths in order to preserve the faith. Not backing out of something that someone believes in, even under pain of death, is not unusual. Many of the Nazis who followed Hitler described him in heroic terms and thought he was a great man until the end.

Now that you are here, I look forward to you applying the same criteria to the ascension of Mohammad.

1. What rational basis do we today have for believing that the event happened? Not sure what you mean by 'rational basis'. It is supposed to be a supernatural event.
2. Could it be myth? Possibly.
3. Could someone have lied? Any ONE person can lie. The question is whether all of the witnesses lied.
4. Could someone have hallucinated? Pretty much the same response as previous question.
5. Was someone tortured and killed for saying it happened? Many Muslims were tortured and killed for their faith.
6. If so, how do we know this? Being Muslim in the Balkans, for instance, means dying for one's faith. Many men fought along side Mohammad and were thus willing to die for their beliefs. Why would they give up their lives for someone who would lie to them about his ascension?

Oh, lookee there. We just showed that Mohammad ascended to heaven. We have the eyewitness accounts and those who were willing to die for their faith. Now, onto the Hindu religion and their miracles.

Darkknight56 said...

I'm not really sure how Bayes theorem is helpful in determining whether the resurrection is true or not.

Bayes Theorem is a measure of probability. In the Wikipedia article describing it, an example is given of 100 students in a school where all of the boys and half of the girls where trousers. I think it was written by an English person as they use the word 'trousers' while we use the word 'pants'.

But I digress...

In the example the question is if you spot someone in the distance and this person is wearing trousers, what is the probability that the person is a girl. The assumption is that you can't otherwise tell the gender of the person. I didn't repeat all of the details here but the answer was 25%. The point here is that it was a 25% chance of being a girl and thus a 75% chance of being a boy but Bayes theorem never actually states, nor can it, that the person in the distance is actually a girl or a boy. It never makes any definitive statements about anything.

When I was referring to independent lines of evidence I was referring to documentation outside of the Bible (or Koran). Pointing out that Paul said this or was that is still basing your argument solely on the bible. It is akin to me referring to the Harry Potter books and saying that the events of Harry Potter is true because of the witnesses (Hermoine and Ron among others, some who later on died). Were Hermoine and Ron lying when they said that Harry did his magic?

Is there any documentation outside of the bible that testifies to the resurrection? Christ feed the 5,000 and lived in Jerusalem for 3 years performing miracles and the only recording of them are in the bible alone? Jerusalem was a town filled not only with Jews but Romans, Greeks, Arabs and others - none of which apparently reported any of these events to family and friends back home.

Anette Acker said...

So nobody died for the fact of Mohammed's ascension to heaven then? Many people, on the other hand, died for the fact of the resurrection of Jesus. They had seen Jesus postmortem and were willing to die for their faith in His resurrection.

And based on my cursory research, there were no witnesses to Mohammed's ascension. He simply dictated the experience afterwards. And then he died like any other person.

Oh, lookee there. We just showed that Mohammad ascended to heaven. We have the eyewitness accounts and those who were willing to die for their faith. Now, onto the Hindu religion and their miracles.

You showed no such thing because nobody saw it. It was a personal experience by Mohammed, so there were no witnesses.

But if you have evidence for Hindu miracles, bring it on!

I'm not really sure how Bayes theorem is helpful in determining whether the resurrection is true or not.

Bayes Theorem is a measure of probability. In the Wikipedia article describing it, an example is given of 100 students in a school where all of the boys and half of the girls where trousers. I think it was written by an English person as they use the word 'trousers' while we use the word 'pants'.


I briefly touched on this in an earlier blog post called "An Invincible Unbelief?" Also, if you're interested, you can look up Hume's Abject Failure on Amazon, and that will give you some information on it. William Lane Craig explained it well in his debate with Bart Ehrman. And finally, Lydia McGrew discusses it in The Argument from Miracles: A Cumulative Case for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

I am not aware of any strong skeptical responses to this argument; otherwise I'd tell you about them. But I've seen two poor attempts at refutation. If you're interested in seeing self-described "Internet infidel" Richard Carrier being taken out to the woodshed by a group of theists, it happened here.

The second example is someone on YouTube who argued that the "average infidel" thinks that the prior probability of the resurrection is zero, and therefore the probability remains zero after taking into consideration the facts supporting the resurrection and the proffered naturalistic explanations. Aside from the problem of how he knows that the "average infidel" thinks just like him, that's no refutation--it's just another way of saying that a confirmed naturalist will not be swayed by evidence. But that's dogmatism, not skepticism.

And John Earman (author of Hume's Abject Failure) is a non-theist, but obviously he's not helping you much here. His purpose was merely to "set the record straight."

Anette Acker said...

When I was referring to independent lines of evidence I was referring to documentation outside of the Bible (or Koran). Pointing out that Paul said this or was that is still basing your argument solely on the bible. It is akin to me referring to the Harry Potter books and saying that the events of Harry Potter is true because of the witnesses (Hermoine and Ron among others, some who later on died). Were Hermoine and Ron lying when they said that Harry did his magic?

Since the New Testament is a collection of writings, including letters, it is nothing like the Harry Potter books, which are fiction and are written by one author. The books of the NT were chosen because they were the earliest, most reliable documents.

As I said before, you are going to be hard pressed to find someone who admits to having seen Jesus postmortem but remains a non-believer. So you are not going to see documentation outside of the Bible where non-Christians claim to have seen Him but remained non-Christians. I used the example of Paul who became a Christian after he saw Jesus. If he had remained a persecutor of the church, he would not have testified to the resurrection of Jesus. He probably would have explained it away.

However, orthodox Jewish rabbi and theologian Pinchas Lapide concluded in The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective that Jesus was raised from the dead, but Lapide did not become a Christian. He did not think Jesus was the Messiah. He shocked a lot of people when he said: "I accept the resurrection of Jesus not as an invention of the community of disciples, but as a historical event."

Also, the early Jewish leaders claimed that the disciples stole the body of Jesus, which implies that the body was missing from the tomb. This was mention in the Gospel of Matthew, and the Jews were still saying that around 155 AD, as evidenced by the words of Christian apologist Justin Martyr to a Jew.

So that is the kind of response you will get from someone who knows the facts (the empty tomb), but doesn't acknowledge the resurrection.

Is there any documentation outside of the bible that testifies to the resurrection? Christ feed the 5,000 and lived in Jerusalem for 3 years performing miracles and the only recording of them are in the bible alone? Jerusalem was a town filled not only with Jews but Romans, Greeks, Arabs and others - none of which apparently reported any of these events to family and friends back home.

I've already answered your first question, and the answer to your second question is twofold: First, Jesus was known, even by the enemies of Christianity, as a wonder-worker. For example, in the second century, Greek philosopher and opponent of Christianity, Celsus, characterized Jesus as a sorcerer, which of course is a negative spin on the miraculous.

Second, Jesus did not spend much time in Jerusalem; He spent most of His life and ministry in Galilee. However, He was put on trial and crucified in Jerusalem while staying there for the Passover.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

Many people, on the other hand, died for the fact of the resurrection of Jesus. They had seen Jesus postmortem and were willing to die for their faith in His resurrection.

This fact you are referring to is only mentioned in the bible, similar to the story of Mohammad and the flying horse being only in the Koran. There are no independent lines of evidence for it. Impressed as they were, none of the 500 witnesses bothered to write it down. There is no corroborating evidence outside of the bible close to the time it happened in support of it.

You and the bible say there were 500 witnesses but who were they? What did they actually say they saw? How many were men vs women? How many were adults or children? How many were Jews? Greeks? Romans? If I went into a court and said to the judge that 500 witnesses saw the accident I was in (thus it wasn't my fault) but I couldn't produce any of them how much weight do you think the judge would give to their "testimony"? Your whole argument seems to be that the resurrection is true because the bible says so; in other words the bible proves itself.

As I said before, you are going to be hard pressed to find someone who admits to having seen Jesus postmortem but remains a non-believer. So you are not going to see documentation outside of the Bible where non-Christians claim to have seen Him but remained non-Christians.

Christ fed the 5,000 prior to the resurrection when it was supposedly safer to know Him and yet none of them apparently did not write down anything either. None of the 500 mentioned in the bible, and according to your theory thus became believers, also didn't write down anything. We don't even know who the 500 were. In the end both you and the Muslim have only their holy books to prove whether or not miracles really occurred.

Hmmm...I should do some research into Hinduism and see if their holy books also record witnesses seeing miracles occur. If so, would they actually have to be tortured and killed for their testimony or can we assume that their testimony is true even if they died a natural death?

I'm sure I have a Hindu friend somewhere.

Anette Acker said...

This fact you are referring to is only mentioned in the bible, similar to the story of Mohammad and the flying horse being only in the Koran.

Again, the NT consists of a number of different documents written by different authors. They were not originally part of what we think of as "the Bible." The Qu'ran, on the other hand, was dictated only by Mohammed. He was the author and also the only person could testify about the ascent to heaven because it was a private experience and could have been a dream, a hallucination, a lie, or a misunderstanding.

The four Gospels alone were independent sources. Even the synoptic Gospels describe events slightly differently, which indicates that there was no collusion. Paul's testimony was entirely independent and also he describes firsthand experience.

There are no independent lines of evidence for it. Impressed as they were, none of the 500 witnesses bothered to write it down. There is no corroborating evidence outside of the bible close to the time it happened in support of it.

How do you know none of them wrote it down? Luke begins his Gospel by saying that many had written down the events that happened among them. But this was 2000 years ago, and documents get lost.

As I said before, the Jewish leaders did concede that the tomb was empty by arguing that the disciples stole the body.

You and the bible say there were 500 witnesses but who were they? What did they actually say they saw? How many were men vs women? How many were adults or children? How many were Jews? Greeks? Romans? If I went into a court and said to the judge that 500 witnesses saw the accident I was in (thus it wasn't my fault) but I couldn't produce any of them how much weight do you think the judge would give to their "testimony"? Your whole argument seems to be that the resurrection is true because the bible says so; in other words the bible proves itself.

What do you think the phrase "critical Bible scholar" means, Darkknight56? It is a Bible scholar who doesn't take for granted that the Bible is true. I have been quoting critical Bible scholars extensively in the past three months. Gerd Ludemann, an atheistic Bible scholar, has featured prominently is all my posts recently because he has to make a number of important concessions even though his stated goal is to prove Christianity false. But the best he can do is argue that all the disciples, James, Paul, and all the five hundred hallucinated.

Most likely the five hundred were talking about what they had seen, because Jesus called the Christians to be "witnesses." And Paul implies that he knows them because he said that most of them were still alive at the time he was writing. So he could have identified them to whoever had asked.

Christ fed the 5,000 prior to the resurrection when it was supposedly safer to know Him and yet none of them apparently did not write down anything either.

Again, how do you know they didn't write anything down?

As I said before, Jesus was known as a wonder worker. Celsus described Him as a sorcerer just like the Jews did in Luke 11:15 and the Talmud.

Hmmm...I should do some research into Hinduism and see if their holy books also record witnesses seeing miracles occur. If so, would they actually have to be tortured and killed for their testimony or can we assume that their testimony is true even if they died a natural death?

All the facts have to be considered together just like the facts surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. The dating of the documents is relevant, the independence of the witnesses (Paul and James were skeptics), the number of witnesses and their subsequent actions. The question of whether or not they had anything worldly to gain by lying or to lose by refusing to recant is also relevant.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

How do you know none of them wrote it down? Luke begins his Gospel by saying that many had written down the events that happened among them.How do you know none of them wrote it down? Luke begins his Gospel by saying that many had written down the events that happened among them.

As we do these days, authors and others would sometimes quote others manuscripts. For some ancient Greek documents the only way we know certain writers, whose own writings didn't survive, wrote anything was because they were quoted by others. For these 500 as well as any of the 5,000 that were feed, not only did none of their writings survive but no one seems to have thought enough of their writings to quote them.

Besides, these people allegedly witnessed an actual God at work performing miracles in front of their eyes and no one thinks enough of their testimony to preserve their written accounts? I mean - really??

The four Gospels alone were independent sources.

According to Wikipedia the gospels were written at least 30 years after the crucifixion (why not right afterward) and after years of oral tradition being passed around. Oral tradition is not known for accurately passing down information and there is no way to know if events were embellished or not. Anyone who has taken a high school or college communications class knows that when information is passed on orally parts of the message either change, are added to, or are dropped from the original message. Since the events were written down long afterward the events and written to the Gentile, not the Jew, there is no reason to believe that the 500 even existed. Rome was in charge by this time and Jerusalem was just a memory by then so no one is going to question the addition of 500 supposed witnesses that no one later talks to. Historical accuracy was not a big deal back then.

In assembling the bible the church fathers had both a bias and a purpose in putting the books together so there is no reason to assume that they wouldn't embellish parts of it in order to bolster the church. That's why it is important to have documentation from the time period by others who have a more objective and unbiased view of the events.

Vinny said...

Suppose that the only extant writings composed between 1825 and 1875 concerning Joseph Smith and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints were the work of Smith and his most devoted followers. To be clear, I am not talking about the Book of Mormon itself, but about accounts written by the early Mormons describing how the church came to be founded in New York and how it eventually would up in Utah. Do you think it would be possible to write an accurate history based on these accounts?

The writings would no doubt contain historically accurate facts. Joseph Smith really was married to a woman named Emma and he really was killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois in 1844. The Mormons really did move from New York to Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, and finally to Utah. However, the accounts would also contain much dubious information such as the claim that eight men besides Smith saw the Golden Plates. The accounts would portray Smith as a modest and pious man whose primary concern was always the welfare of his followers. There would be little hint of Smith’s sexual improprieties. It might not even be clear that he practiced polygamy since he only told his closest followers about it and they tried to keep it quiet. If the accounts did disclose that he had multiple wives, it would be a very manageable number and the wives would be portrayed as being happy with the arrangement because Smith was such a good and loving husband.

Happily, historians are not limited to reading the accounts that Mormons wrote about themselves. We have plenty of accounts written between 1825 and 1875 by non-Mormons who interacted with Smith and his followers. We also have information from Mormons who became disenchanted and left the church. As a result we have a much better picture of what happened than we would if we had to rely exclusively on the Mormon version of events.

Our problem with determining what really happened in the early years of Christianity is that we lack an outsiders’ perspective on the events. It is possible that the New Testament writers were scrupulously honest. However, it is also possible that factual accuracy was sacrificed in order to advance the faith. If we take the New Testament accounts at face value, we might well have a picture of Christian origins that is as distorted as the picture of Mormon origins we would get by taking their stories about themselves at face value.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56:

Besides, these people [the 5,000 who were fed and the 500 who saw Jesus] allegedly witnessed an actual God at work performing miracles in front of their eyes and no one thinks enough of their testimony to preserve their written accounts? I mean - really??

The feeding of the 5,000 is mentioned in all four Gospels, so yes, people did consider it important enough to preserve.

But our discussion is about whether Jesus was raised from the dead. That is the bedrock of Christianity, and it depends on the veracity of certain alleged facts. It does not depend on the story of the feeding of the 5,000 being true.

However, as I said before, Jesus was known, even by His enemies, as a wonder-worker, and there would have been reasons for that reputation. If He had been like Mohammed and not done any miracles, then the Jews and Celsus would have just said that, rather than claiming He was a sorcerer.

As for the 500, according to Paul most of them were still alive when he wrote 1 Corinthians around 55 AD. He could not have said that if he was not prepared to answer follow-up questions about them.

According to Wikipedia the gospels were written at least 30 years after the crucifixion (why not right afterward) and after years of oral tradition being passed around.

As I said before, Luke said that many had written down the events that had take place among them. Are you saying that he made that up? There is no reason why, even if Luke was dishonest or careless, he would make up something as mundane as the fact that he was not the only person to have written about this.

Also, many scholars think that a source that has been named "Q" existed that contained the teachings and sayings of Jesus, but if so, it has disappeared.

Anette Acker said...

Since the events were written down long afterward the events and written to the Gentile, not the Jew, there is no reason to believe that the 500 even existed. Rome was in charge by this time and Jerusalem was just a memory by then so no one is going to question the addition of 500 supposed witnesses that no one later talks to. Historical accuracy was not a big deal back then.

The Gospels are classified as ancient biographies, which are intended to be historical, even though they were not as concerned with strict chronology as modern history. However, Luke starts out his Gospel by saying that he is about to write down the events in chronological order, so I think he did try to get the order of the events right.

As you probably know, Luke also wrote Acts. According to archaeologist Sir William Ramsay: "Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy...[he] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians."

Historian A. N. Sherwin-White said: "For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming."

In assembling the bible the church fathers had both a bias and a purpose in putting the books together so there is no reason to assume that they wouldn't embellish parts of it in order to bolster the church. That's why it is important to have documentation from the time period by others who have a more objective and unbiased view of the events.

Since most people have biases, we have to take that into consideration in arriving at the truth. For example, secular historian Thallus describes around 55 AD the darkness that took place when Jesus died and called it an eclipse of the sun. Most of his writing has been destroyed, but it was preserved by Sextus Julius Africanus, a Christian historian in the late 2nd and early 3rd century, who replied to Thallus' claim that the darkness was an eclipse, by saying that an eclipse of the sun cannot happen at Passover when the moon is full and diametrically opposite the sun. A solar eclipse can only happen during a new moon.

So Thallus mentions Jesus and the darkness that occurred when He died, but he gives a naturalistic explanation. Africanus, on the other hand, argues in favor of the biblical supernatural explanation by explaining why the naturalistic explanation fails.

However you wish to interpret the event, Africanus' response to Thallus (who wrote only about 20 years after the death of Jesus) is independent confirmation that darkness did cover the land when Jesus died. The question is why it happened.

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

This is why the criterion of embarrassment is important. The Gospels contain plenty of material that is embarrassing both to Jesus and the disciples (e.g., Jesus was rejected by the religious leaders, He was sentenced to death for blasphemy, His brothers didn't think He was the Messiah, the disciples were cowardly doubters, women discovered the empty tomb, etc.).

And we do have some extra-biblical perspectives on Jesus. Josephus gives the perspective of a Jew who seems to take a neutral stance on Jesus, saying that He was called "the Christ," that He was virtuous, that His followers reported that He rose from the dead on the third day, etc.

But we also get the opposition view, which is very similar in the work of Celsus and the Talmud.

Celsus said that He was the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier called Panthera, that His mother was a poor Jewish girl, that His "father" was a carpenter, that Jesus was a sorcerer, that His disciples were fishermen and tax collectors that were not respectable, and that the reports of His resurrection came from a hysterical female.

It should not come as a surprise to anyone who is familiar with the Gospels that the enemies of Jesus viewed Him that way. The Gospels are very explicit about it. In Luke 1:48, Mary says that God has had regard for "her humble state," and Matthew 1:19 says that Joseph initially though she had been unfaithful. In Matthew 12:24, Mark 3:22, Luke 11:15 we find out that people thought Jesus was a sorcerer. Matthew 9:11 tells us that the Pharisees criticized Jesus for having dinner with tax collectors and "sinners." And Luke 9:58 says that Jesus was poor.

The Talmud likewise gives the perspective of those who held Jesus in contempt, but says that He was to be "stoned" for practicing sorcery and enticing Israel into apostasy, but that He was "hanged" on the eve of the Passover. In John 10:31-33, the Jews get ready to stone Jesus for blasphemy for making Himself out to be God.

So both Celsus and the Talmudof confirm the facts in the Bible, but give a negative interpretation of them.

If Joseph Smith tried to hide his polygamy, then he was not forthright about the facts. However, the Gospel accounts give an honest account of every embarrassing fact.

However, the accounts would also contain much dubious information such as the claim that eight men besides Smith saw the Golden Plates.

But even skeptical scholars believe that the disciples, James, and Paul had experiences in which they saw Jesus postmortem. Paul talks about his own experience and repeats a tradition that goes back to the first few years after the crucifixion--that Jesus appeared to all the disciples, James, and 500 others. The authors of the four Gospels also talk of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

That's very different from Joseph Smith saying that eight people saw the Golden Plates with him. We would then just have to take his word for it.

Vinny said...

The Mormon accounts would contain plenty of information about how Joseph Smith was rejected by the religious leaders of his day. I guess that proves that everything in them is true, too.

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

No, it doesn't prove that everything in the Mormon accounts is true, but it does indicate that that part of it is true. I'm sure Joseph Smith was rejected by the religious leaders.

Likewise, the criterion of embarrassment, combined with the statements of Celsus and the Talmud, indicate that the synoptic Gospels truthfully state that Jesus was accused of sorcery.

But the only facts that are relevant here are the facts that support the resurrection, since that is the lynchpin of Christianity and the subject of our discussion.

I was just pointing out that even the enemies of Jesus simply affirmed the facts in the Gospel accounts and gave them a negative spin. And the Gospels are upfront about those embarrassing facts.

Vinny said...

Celsus and the Talmud tell us what some opponents of Christianity had to say at the time they were written, which is a century or more after Jesus is thought to have died. They cannot be used to establish what non-Christians might have said during the earliest years of the church.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

But our discussion is about whether Jesus was raised from the dead. That is the bedrock of Christianity, and it depends on the veracity of certain alleged facts. It does not depend on the story of the feeding of the 5,000 being true.

True but I'm trying to point out a repeating problem with the bible and especially within the New Testament. Within the NT there are numerous miracles that are done in full view of hundreds, if not thousands, but absolutely no documentation of said events outside of the bible by the people that saw them.

If He had been like Mohammed and not done any miracles,

According to the Koran, Mohammad - and with witnesses present - caused the moon to be split in half and then put back together again.

As I said before, Luke said that many had written down the events that had take place among them. Are you saying that he made that up? There is no reason why, even if Luke was dishonest or careless, he would make up something as mundane as the fact that he was not the only person to have written about this.

He would do it for the same reason anyone would do it - to give himself some credibility. "Hey, it wasn't just me" he'd be saying to the gentiles, "Others saw it, too."

We do it to this day. When selling medical cures such as copper bracelets, the salesman will say that thousands were helped knowing that most of the buyers will just take his word rather than check it out.

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

Celsus and the Talmud tell us what some opponents of Christianity had to say at the time they were written, which is a century or more after Jesus is thought to have died. They cannot be used to establish what non-Christians might have said during the earliest years of the church.

Celsus got his information from the Jews, who were the only non-Christians who would have known much about Jesus, since He spent most of His life and ministry in Galilee. And since it is basically a derogatory spin on what the Gospels say, most likely it is what the enemies of Jesus said from the very beginning. It is also consistent with what the Gospels say that the enemies of Jesus said about Him.

Josephus gave a more positive description of Jesus, and instead of saying that He was a sorcerer, he said, "he was perhaps the messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders." But Josephus, Celsus, and the Talmud all refer to Jesus as a wonder-worker.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56,

This is not a problem, because this was 2000 years ago and most ancient documents didn't survive. Still, we have four detailed accounts of the life of Jesus, and they may well be based on very early information. What are you expecting--a diary?

I've already said repeatedly that Jesus was known, even by His enemies, as a wonder-worker, so it is not necessary to have extra-biblical documentation of every miracle He did.

Luke Johnson, a New Testament scholar at Emory University, said:

"Even the most critical historian can confidently assert that a Jew named Jesus worked as a teacher and wonder-worker in Palestine during the reign of Tiberius, was executed by crucifixion under the prefect Pontius Pilate and continued to have followers after his death." (Italics added.)

According to the Koran, Mohammad - and with witnesses present - caused the moon to be split in half and then put back together again.

And who wrote the Koran? Just Mohammed. So if he said that he split the moon with witnesses present, we just have to take his word for it.

We do it to this day. When selling medical cures such as copper bracelets, the salesman will say that thousands were helped knowing that most of the buyers will just take his word rather than check it out.

So you think that Luke was trying to pull a fast one over on "the excellent Theophilus" by claiming that others had written about Jesus, when Luke really just made it all up out of whole cloth? This is a strange position to take since we have four Gospels and they are 2000 years old. Since many ancient documents get lost, most likely Luke was telling the truth when he said that "many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us."

Also, as I've said before, many scholars think that the Gospel writers used sources, like the Q Source and the Pre-Markan Passian Narrative.

Vinny said...

I have been known to put a derogatory spin on the gospels from time to time, but that doesn’t prove that anything I have to say goes back any farther than the moment that it pops into my head. The important point to note is that Celsus does not seem to be doing anything more that putting a derogatory spin on the gospel stories. That would indicate that his information came from Christians and the gospels themselves, not from any non-Christians who had some independent information about Jesus. There is nothing in Celsus, Josephus, or the Talmud to indicate that they had any source of information about Jesus other than what Christians were saying at the time those writings were composed.

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

The fact that Celsus just put a negative spin on what was already in the Gospels indicates that he knew nothing about any negative facts.

If Celsus had been an enemy of Joseph Smith, don't you think he would have found out about the sexual impropriety? It's not like Jesus didn't have enemies (He was, after all, crucified), and those enemies would have passed down their side of the story. Celsus only wrote about 100 years later.

Anette Acker said...

That would indicate that his information came from Christians and the gospels themselves, not from any non-Christians who had some independent information about Jesus.

Since Celsus said that Jesus was the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier named Panthera, he must have gotten his information from the Jews, because the Talmud says the same thing. Obviously no Christian would say that.

Vinny said...

Do you have any idea how many people the Romans crucified? There are accounts of hundreds and thousands of people being crucified in a single day. To his enemies, Jesus was just another troublemaker who got what was coming to him. There is no reason to think that distinct information about any individual victim of crucifixion would have survived in the oral tradition.

Any non-Christian who heard the story of Joseph finding out that Mary was pregnant would make the natural assumption that someone else was the father, and anyone who wanted to discredit Christianity, including Celsus himself, could have invented the story of a Roman soldier named Panthera. There is simply no basis to assert that it goes back to the time of Jesus.

Anette Acker said...

Do you have any idea how many people the Romans crucified? There are accounts of hundreds and thousands of people being crucified in a single day. To his enemies, Jesus was just another troublemaker who got what was coming to him. There is no reason to think that distinct information about any individual victim of crucifixion would have survived in the oral tradition.

The Romans crucified many people every day, and, according to the Gospels, Pontius Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent and didn't want to crucify Him. So the Romans were not His enemies.

The chief priests and Pharisees were the enemies of Jesus, and He was significant enough to be mentioned in the Talmud as someone who was to be stoned for practicing sorcery and leading Israel into apostasy. The Talmud is the oral tradition of the Pharisees, and it portrays Jesus exactly the way one would imagine from the Gospels that Pharisees viewed Jesus.

Any non-Christian who heard the story of Joseph finding out that Mary was pregnant would make the natural assumption that someone else was the father, and anyone who wanted to discredit Christianity, including Celsus himself, could have invented the story of a Roman soldier named Panthera. There is simply no basis to assert that it goes back to the time of Jesus.

Celsus stated it as if it were fact, so most likely he did not make it up. It was probably part of the Jewish oral tradition by then, which would explain why it's in the Talmud. Celsus was a Greek philosopher and would have been fairly well-educated, so presumably he didn't want to look like a fool by pulling things out of thin air.

How did we get off on this tangent, by the way? The subject was the resurrection appearances of Jesus and the possibility of mass hallucinations.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56,

I just want to make a follow-up comment comparing the miracles in the Gospels to Mohammed splitting the moon and the "miracle of the sun."

The latter seem like random displays of power--something that humans could easily come up with to try to convince others of the veracity of their religion.

However, all of the miracles in the Gospels were purposeful and profound. Jesus came to heal souls and bodies and His resurrection means that He conquered death on our behalf.

A while back, an atheist on AC said in the context of the problem of evil that if God exists, He must have "taken a half-day on Friday." And it occurred to me that on Friday, between noon and three, God was dying on the cross to solve the problem of evil.

Luke 23:44-45 says: "It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple tore in two."

Those are not random miracles like a spinning sun or splitting the moon in half--they are deeply symbolic. It is very fitting that the sun was obscured when Jesus was dying since He said, "I am the light of the world." And the thick veil of the temple kept the people out of the "holy of holies" where only the high priest was permitted to go once a year to make atonement for the people. The veil symbolizes our separation from God because of sin.

When Jesus died, it tore from top to bottom to symbolize that He atoned for our sins forever, so we have free access into God's presence. And His resurrection means that we can also have eternal life.

The miracles in the Gospels are not just random displays of power--they are purposeful and deeply symbolic events that are unlike the putative miracles of any other religion. And what is the chance that the simple followers of Jesus would be able to invent all that?

Historian Will Durant said:

"That a few simple men should in one generation have invented so powerful and appealing a personality, so lofty an ethic and so inspiring a vision of human brotherhood, would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the Gospel."

Anette Acker said...

Vinny,

I want to make sure you know that that was not intended to be a chastisement for getting off topic. I know some bloggers don't like it when comments are off topic and I honestly never understood why they care. Obviously, my comment to Darkknight56 also had little to do with my original post.

I was just trying to put this in perspective--if Jesus was raised from the dead, it really doesn't matter who came up with the idea that He was the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier named Panthera, nor does it matter why nobody found any dirt on Jesus. And it doesn't matter what happened to the diary entries of the 5,000 who were fed loaves and fishes.

You have to explain why Paul, Peter, James, and all the other disciples and apostles thought they saw Jesus postmortem, and were willing to sacrifice everything, including their lives, for this conviction. And why were they convincing enough that many of their followers over the next few centuries would likewise rather be killed by torture than renounce their faith?

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

What are you expecting--a diary?

Oh, gosh - no. I'm expecting tons of diaries, letters, documents and any other historical documentation. We are talking about a God-like being coming to this planet, living and dying amongst us, and then supposedly coming back to life. I expect such a being, who makes universes filled with billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars easier than you or I can make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to be able to preserve all of the documentation that was created by those who saw the miracles He performed.

I've already said repeatedly that Jesus was known, even by His enemies, as a wonder-worker, so it is not necessary to have extra-biblical documentation of every miracle He did.

Lot of people were considered wonder-workers; today, we call them magicians today. In Exodus the Egyptians had sorcerers who turned staffs into snakes.

More to the point, the purpose of extra-biblical documentation is to verify and authenticate historical events. We know, for example, that the Holocaust happened to the extent it did because of all of the independent lines of documentation, by all of the letters written by people who didn't know each other and who all described the same events. Hundreds, if not thousands, of such documents for it exist and all you have for an event more spectacular event is just 4 or 5 documents or so.

If you survey all of the major religions who claim miracles (let's limit this to Hinduism, Islam and Christianity) their holy books all describe miraculous events which are not supported by outside documentation. Now you claim that any documentation written by the 5,000 who witnessed the fish and loaves or the 500 who saw Jesus after his resurrection was lost but does this apply to the witnesses who saw Mohammad split the moon or the witnesses who saw miracles done within the Hindu religion, too?

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56:

You brought up a very interesting subject, which I would be happy to discuss, but I want to point out, like I did to Vinny, that my original arguments about the appearances of Jesus have not been answered yet. And according to 1 Corinthians 15:13-17, Christianity depends entirely on the fact of Jesus' resurrection. If it didn't happen, our faith is in vain, and the apostles would have been "false witnesses of God," according to Paul. He puts it in very black-and-white terms.

More to the point, the purpose of extra-biblical documentation is to verify and authenticate historical events. We know, for example, that the Holocaust happened to the extent it did because of all of the independent lines of documentation, by all of the letters written by people who didn't know each other and who all described the same events. Hundreds, if not thousands, of such documents for it exist and all you have for an event more spectacular event is just 4 or 5 documents or so.

What do you think is the difference in the literacy rate between mid-twentieth century European Jews and first century Galileen Jews? HINT: It's more than just a few percentage points. :)

The literacy rate (just the ability to read and write) among Jews in the 1940s was probably what it is today, but in the first century, a very small percentage of people (especially in rural areas) could read and write. It might have been higher among Jews, because their identity was tied to the Torah, which was read regularly to the people by their scribes, so literacy would have been prestigious. For example, the Gospel accounts say that Jesus had a custom of reading to the people in the synagogue. However, the literacy rate was almost certainly no higher than the single digits, and probably low single digits.

This does not mean that information about Jesus was not written down prior to the Gospels, but it does mean that the vast majority of the 5,000 did not go home and write about the miracle of the loaves and fishes in diaries and letters to relatives. Some would have written it down (Luke said that "many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us"), but nowhere near as many as wrote about the Holocaust, and the Holocaust was less than a century ago. Jesus, on the other hand, lived 2,000 years ago.

Anette Acker said...

First century Jewish culture was orally dominated, so witnesses to events like this would tell others about it. Now I know you think that cultures with oral traditions do not care about historical accuracy, but new research shows that that is false.

Greg Boyd says the following:

"Another orality expert, Joseph Miller, describes these oral tradents as '…professional historians in the sense that they are conscious of history and evidence.' Hence, he adds, 'oral historians are…no less conscious of the past than are historians in literate cultures.' (12) As a number of scholars have noted, oral tradents as well as the orally dominated communities they perform in consistently exhibit a keen capacity to distinguish historical fact from creative fiction. (13)

"Indeed, as we’ve already noted, both the oral tradent and the community share a responsibility to guard the accuracy of the oral tradition, as evidenced by the fact that communities typically interrupt oral performances if they discern the narrator getting something wrong. Because of this historical interest and the community’s checks and balances, some experts in the field of oral traditions have gone so far as to argue that history preserved in orally dominated communities may actually be more reliable than history written down by modern, individual historians! (14)"

Boyd also talks about the importance of eyewitnesses in Jewish culture. He says:

"Only by appealing to credible eyewitnesses could one certify a claim as factual (e.g., Jer 32:10, 12; Ruth 4:9-11; Isaiah 8:2). So too, bearing false witness was considered a major crime. Indeed, it was outlawed in the ten commandments (Exodus 20:16). The law of multiple witnesses also reflects the life-or-death importance of this commandment in ancient Judaism. (Deut 17:6-7; Num 35:30).

"This emphasis on the importance of eyewitnesses was quite explicitly carried over into the early church. The mosaic law regarding multiple witnesses was appealed to within the Jesus community (Mk 14:56, 59; Jn 5:31-32; Heb 10:28) and was made the basis of church discipline (Mt 18: 16; II Cor 13:1; I Tim 5:19). More broadly, the themes of bearing witness, giving a true testimony and making a true confession are everywhere present in the tradition of the early church (e.g., Mt 10:17; Mk 6:11; 13:9-13; Lk 1:1-2; 9:5; 21:12; 22:71; John 1:7-8, 15, 19, 32, 34). (18)"

In this cultural context, it is striking to note that Paul puts his reputation and the reputations of the other apostles on the line when he says point blank about the resurrection: "Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised" (1 Corinthians 15:15).

If you survey all of the major religions who claim miracles (let's limit this to Hinduism, Islam and Christianity) their holy books all describe miraculous events which are not supported by outside documentation. Now you claim that any documentation written by the 5,000 who witnessed the fish and loaves or the 500 who saw Jesus after his resurrection was lost but does this apply to the witnesses who saw Mohammad split the moon or the witnesses who saw miracles done within the Hindu religion, too?

My argument has not focused on the 5,000 who ate the loaves and fishes or even the 500 who saw Jesus postmortem because no names are given. (However, since Paul wrote a letter to his contemporaries claiming that 500 had seen Jesus, he would have had to be prepared to produce the witnesses.) I have focused on Paul, James, and the other apostles who were willing to give their lives for their testimony. Although we can't cross-examine them, that says something about their reliability.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56:

I want to add something to what I said about oral tradition in first century Jewish culture. William Lane Craig says:

"3. The Jewish transmission of sacred traditions was highly developed and reliable. In an oral culture like that of first century Palestine the ability to memorize and retain large tracts of oral tradition was a highly prized and highly developed skill. From the earliest age children in the home, elementary school, and the synagogue were taught to memorize faithfully sacred tradition. The disciples would have exercised similar care with the teachings of Jesus.

"4. There were significant restraints on the embellishment of traditions about Jesus, such as the presence of eyewitnesses and the apostles’ supervision. Since those who had seen and heard Jesus continued to live and the tradition about Jesus remained under the supervision of the apostles, these factors would act as a natural check on tendencies to elaborate the facts in a direction contrary to that preserved by those who had known Jesus."

As Greg Boyd says in the article from which I quoted earlier:

"It also explains the earlier noted high regard given to certain individuals in the early church (e.g. Peter, James, John) for their role as witnesses, teachers and preservers of the Jesus tradition, (e.g., Acts 1:15, 21-2; 2:14, 42; 3:1-11; 4:13, 19; 5:1-10, 15, 29; 8:14; 12:2; I Cor 15:1-8; Gal 2:9; Eph 2:20). All of this is what we should expect, given that the early church was a thoroughly Jewish, orally dominated culture."

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

However, since Paul wrote a letter to his contemporaries claiming that 500 had seen Jesus, he would have had to be prepared to produce the witnesses.)

No, not really. Paul mainly lived and died in Rome and traveled among the Gentiles in the area. Again,if someone is selling copper bracelets and says that thousands have been helped by it no one is expecting the salesman to bring the thousands of patients with him. It is a sales technique to give his sales pitch credibility. We call it appeal to peer pressure. He's saying "How can you not believe me when I tell you that these 500 also saw it?" or more to the point - "These 500 saw it - are you going to tell them that they are all wrong?" even though he never says who they are or produces them. It is used in politics and sales all the time. 3 out of 5 dentists recommend this toothpaste although they never mention who the 3 or 5 are.

I have focused on Paul, James, and the other apostles who were willing to give their lives for their testimony.

Oh, right. Only Christians die for what they believe is true but everyone else in every other religion go out as whimpering cowards. Don't you think that people who are Hindu or Muslim are willing to die for what they believe is true? Don't you think they portray their founding fathers as men of courage who are willing to die for their cause? Every great religious or political movement portrays their founding members in heroic terms. Religious movements are different only in the fact that their leaders are willing to die for supernatural events (splitting of the moon or the resurrection).

The other point is that the New Testament was written by believers who, of course, described their founding fathers in heroic terms. If the best Paul or James could do was pull a rabbit out of a hat or a coin from behind a child's ear would Christianity have taken off like it did? They weren't objective, not like an outsider would have been. They need to give their believers supernatural events in order to prove that their God was real - just like Islam has the flying horse and the splitting of the moon. I'm not up on my Hinduism but they also have miraculous events, too, for the same reasons. what good is having a God if He doesn't do any miracles?

that my original arguments about the appearances of Jesus have not been answered yet.

We don't know if 500 people really saw Jesus after his resurrection. There is no outside, independent, data to support it. We don't know that the 500 even really existed. We don't know if Paul (then Saul) was really struck down by a burst of light and that God really talked to him. All religions have stories of miraculous events and none of them have any outside, independent, support for them. There is no reason to believe that these are nothing more than stories designed to build up and encourage the faithful.

Anette Acker said...

No, not really. Paul mainly lived and died in Rome and traveled among the Gentiles in the area. Again,if someone is selling copper bracelets and says that thousands have been helped by it no one is expecting the salesman to bring the thousands of patients with him. It is a sales technique to give his sales pitch credibility. We call it appeal to peer pressure. He's saying "How can you not believe me when I tell you that these 500 also saw it?" or more to the point - "These 500 saw it - are you going to tell them that they are all wrong?" even though he never says who they are or produces them. It is used in politics and sales all the time. 3 out of 5 dentists recommend this toothpaste although they never mention who the 3 or 5 are.

Actually, Paul did not primarily live and travel in Rome. He traveled all over the eastern Mediterranean, starting in Jerusalem and ending in Rome, where he was martyred.

I have already said that being truthful witnesses was extremely important in the Jewish culture, and those who saw Jesus postmortem were called to be "witnesses." That would include the 500. If Paul made the claim that 500 (most of whom were still alive) saw Jesus but he couldn't respond to a request for names, his reputation would have been shot.

But again, my focus has been on Paul, James, and the other apostles, not the 500.

Oh, right. Only Christians die for what they believe is true but everyone else in every other religion go out as whimpering cowards. Don't you think that people who are Hindu or Muslim are willing to die for what they believe is true?

I already discussed this in my original post where I mentioned the 911 terrorists.

The apostles sacrificed everything, including their lives, for what they had seen and experienced, not for what they believed to be true. Paul said that if Jesus had not been raised, then they would have been false witnesses, and not just false witnesses against anyone, but against God. That's a pretty strong statement by a Jew.

He certainly thought he had seen Jesus postmortem, wouldn't you agree? If not, you'll have to explain what motivated him. Remember that as a well-educated Pharisee with a Roman citizenship, he had prestige and money before becoming a Christian, and afterwards he was imprisoned, persecuted, and killed.

Anette Acker said...

The other point is that the New Testament was written by believers who, of course, described their founding fathers in heroic terms.

They're not always described in heroic terms in the Gospels. Quite the contrary.

Also, Josephus says that James, the brother of Jesus, died by being stoned by a sanhedrin of judges.

We have historical evidence that Christians were tortured and killed for several centuries after the death of Christ. Pliny the Younger explicitly said that a true Christian could not be forced to curse Christ, so when he tried to determine whether someone was a Christian, he would tell him or her to do that.

There is plenty of evidence of heroism among the early Christians. In fact, a lot of people (like philosopher Justin Martyr in the second century) came to Christ when they saw the courage and conviction of the Christian martyrs.

As for Paul's death, tradition dates it during the persecution by Nero that started in 64 AD. That is likely true, since there is no indication that he traveled anywhere after Rome, and many Christians would have died during that wave of persecution. Also, Paul reveals in his letters that he was willing to sacrifice everything for Christ. He wrote a number of his letters from prison.

We don't know if 500 people really saw Jesus after his resurrection. There is no outside, independent, data to support it.

What kind of independent data are you looking for? Do you mean someone who sees a miracle but remains a skeptic? What makes you think this kind of person is unbiased and "independent"?

I already mentioned that secular historian Thallus described the darkness that filled the land when Jesus was dying as an eclipse of the sun. People usually interpret data according their pre-existing philosophy. If Thallus didn't believe in the supernatural, then to him the darkness would have to be an eclipse of the sun.

Likewise, the religious leaders who saw the miracles of Jesus but didn't believe He was sent from God would have to conclude that He was a sorcerer. Again, they interpreted the evidence according to their conceptual framework.

However, Josephus, writing in the first century, did describe Jesus as "perhaps the messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders." So he does seem to give a neutral perspective.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

What kind of independent data are you looking for? Do you mean someone who sees a miracle but remains a skeptic? What makes you think this kind of person is unbiased and "independent"?

It wouldn't be just one other person. Considering the number of people that saw the resurrected Jesus or even the feeding of the 5,000 several people from each event, all who don't know each other and who come from different political and cultural backgrounds and all describe basically the same event would be good and would insure that the event took place. Such a handful of people (or more) have no reason to conspire together and falsify such an historical event.

Likewise, the religious leaders who saw the miracles of Jesus but didn't believe He was sent from God would have to conclude that He was a sorcerer. Again, they interpreted the evidence according to their conceptual framework.

None of them who were literate wrote what they saw down or if they did then their writings did not survive to present day.

The apostles sacrificed everything, including their lives, for what they had seen and experienced, not for what they believed to be true.

As you pointed out Nero and others were persecuting and killing Christians left and right. They died because they were marked as Christians like many others. It didn't matter what they saw or didn't see; once they were identified as Christians they were doomed. Renunciation, if made (and I'm not saying they renunciated anything) would have been a waste of time and ineffectual.

He certainly thought he had seen Jesus postmortem, wouldn't you agree? If not, you'll have to explain what motivated him. Remember that as a well-educated Pharisee with a Roman citizenship, he had prestige and money before becoming a Christian, and afterwards he was imprisoned, persecuted, and killed.

People have religious visions all the time, well, almost all the time. Today people who are not otherwise mentally ill claim to see Jesus or the Virgin Mary or some god of their own religion. In Paul's case it could have been a combination of heat, illness and his own conscience getting to him - assuming he had such a vision at all. He may have been literate and educated according to the standards of his time but this was still a time where science and psychology were unknown and illnesses were due to devils, demon, and being born under the wrong sign. A present day sixth-grader has a better understanding of science and illnesses today than the most educated person of that time. Maybe all the persecution he was doing finally got to him (an attack of conscience) and he changed his ways. And the rest is heroic buildup by his followers.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56:

It wouldn't be just one other person. Considering the number of people that saw the resurrected Jesus or even the feeding of the 5,000 several people from each event, all who don't know each other and who come from different political and cultural backgrounds and all describe basically the same event would be good and would insure that the event took place. Such a handful of people (or more) have no reason to conspire together and falsify such an historical event.

Exactly. That's what I've been saying all along. The apostles saw Jesus, James saw Jesus, and Paul saw Jesus (in addition to Mary Magdalene and the 500). They came from different backgrounds and different ideologies (the disciples were followers of Jesus and Paul and James were skeptics) they all agreed.

And as for the 500, they are mentioned in 1 Cor. 15:3-7, which most scholars (including skeptical ones) say was a tradition that was passed down to Paul by his predecessors. So the original eyewitness (James and Peter) would have told Paul about this a few years after the crucifixion of Jesus. And at the time of Paul's writing, most of the 500 were still alive.

The fact that they are mentioned in the creedal formula of 1 Cor. 15:3-7 gives more weight to the 500, even though no names were given.

None of [the Jewish leaders] who were literate wrote what they saw down or if they did then their writings did not survive to present day.

The Jewish leaders would have been literate, but nevertheless, as I said before, they took their oral tradition very seriously. The Talmud is the oral history of the Pharisees and it mentions Jesus and calls Him a sorcerer.

As you pointed out Nero and others were persecuting and killing Christians left and right. They died because they were marked as Christians like many others. It didn't matter what they saw or didn't see; once they were identified as Christians they were doomed. Renunciation, if made (and I'm not saying they renunciated anything) would have been a waste of time and ineffectual.

We have extra-biblical evidence to the contrary. The Christians were given the opportunity to renounce their faith, and if they did, they were let go. If they didn't, they were tortured until they caved or died.

Anette Acker said...

People have religious visions all the time, well, almost all the time. Today people who are not otherwise mentally ill claim to see Jesus or the Virgin Mary or some god of their own religion. In Paul's case it could have been a combination of heat, illness and his own conscience getting to him - assuming he had such a vision at all.

People have religious visions almost all the time? Really? I have never had one.

I do know that uneducated people and children in developing nations occasionally claim to see Mary, but I have already addressed that objection in my original post.

If Paul's vision was a combination of heat, illness, and his conscience, why did his travel companions hear the voice but see nothing (Acts 9:7)? Why did Ananias meet him and restore his sight, and why did his experience coincide with the beliefs of the Christians in Damascus? Did all the other witnesses to the resurrected Jesus suffer the same illness, heatstroke, and pangs of conscience?

There is simply no evidence that Saul felt the least bit guilty about what he was doing. He was "zealous for his ancestral traditions" and "blameless in his legalistic righteousness."

He may have been literate and educated according to the standards of his time but this was still a time where science and psychology were unknown and illnesses were due to devils, demon, and being born under the wrong sign. A present day sixth-grader has a better understanding of science and illnesses today than the most educated person of that time. Maybe all the persecution he was doing finally got to him (an attack of conscience) and he changed his ways. And the rest is heroic buildup by his followers.

The fact that they did not know as much about science as we do does not mean that Paul was not a good thinker. He was trained in Greek philosophy, so he would have been a logical thinker. This means that that it would have occurred to him to check his experiences with other people. Mental illness did, after all, exist back then, regardless of how they were characterized.

Epicurus, Aristotle, Socrates, and Augustine were all born between 400 BC and 400 AD, and they were great thinkers.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

Exactly. That's what I've been saying all along. The apostles saw Jesus, James saw Jesus, and Paul saw Jesus (in addition to Mary Magdalene and the 500). They came from different backgrounds and different ideologies (the disciples were followers of Jesus and Paul and James were skeptics) they all agreed.

But your examples are all within the bible. My point was that there are no support outside of the bible for such events. It is still only in the bible.

We have extra-biblical evidence to the contrary. The Christians were given the opportunity to renounce their faith, and if they did, they were let go. If they didn't, they were tortured until they caved or died.

Many, many Muslims and Hindus also die for religion conviction. Many Muslims at the start also had the chance to renounce their religion and not die but they didn't take it. It doesn't say if the witnesses who saw Mohammad split the moon were ever put in the position of being given a chance to deny it or not. Muslim history does not parallel Christian history in every regard so that alone shouldn't be taken to mean that the moon event didn't happen. Should I assume that Islam and Hinduism are also true, then?

People have religious visions almost all the time? Really? I have never had one.

Sorry - I should have been more specific in saying some people, not all of them Christians, have religious visions.

I do know that uneducated people and children in developing nations occasionally claim to see Mary, but I have already addressed that objection in my original post.

Even after visiting it several times, I still would not consider France to be a third-world country. They seemed pretty advanced to me. Hot and cold running water and toilets - more than Paul ever had.

Why did Ananias meet him and restore his sight, and why did his experience coincide with the beliefs of the Christians in Damascus?

We don't know that it happened as no one - yet, again - has provided any documentation outside of the bible that it happened. Like all miraculous evens as recorded by the bible or the Koran or the Bhagavad Gita or the Vedas or the Upanishads they are all only recorded in their holy books. There is no documentation for any such miraculous events (splitting of the moon or the resurrection) outside of their holy books. You said that non-believers outside of Christianity wouldn't record Christian miracles because they didn't want to become believers and possibly suffer the persecutions that other believers did. Should I assume that the miracles recorded in the other holy books also were not recorded by non-believers for the same reason?

Did all the other witnesses to the resurrected Jesus suffer the same illness, heatstroke, and pangs of conscience?

We will never know because neither God nor the church fathers in Israel at the time thought that recording and preserving their testimony or their identities was worth the effort. If their identities or testimonies were recorded no one apparently thought it was worth keeping for future generations.

Are you willing to accept the miracle of Mohammad splitting the moon in two and putting it back together? After all, he did have several witnesses to the event so while one or two may lie or hallucinate, they all can't be lying or suffering the same hallucination.

Anette Acker said...

But your examples are all within the bible. My point was that there are no support outside of the bible for such events. It is still only in the bible.

And as I've said before, the New Testament is a collection of the earliest and most reliable documents written by a number of different authors.

And as I've also asked before, are you looking for documentation from skeptics who saw the resurrected Jesus or His miracles and remained skeptics? If so, what makes you think such people are unbiased? They would explain it away, just like the enemies of Jesus said He was a sorcerer and that the disciples stole the body.

Many, many Muslims and Hindus also die for religion conviction. Many Muslims at the start also had the chance to renounce their religion and not die but they didn't take it.

Do you have documentation of this?

It doesn't say if the witnesses who saw Mohammad split the moon were ever put in the position of being given a chance to deny it or not.

But the early Christians were.

Even after visiting it several times, I still would not consider France to be a third-world country. They seemed pretty advanced to me. Hot and cold running water and toilets - more than Paul ever had.

Actually, Fatima is in Portugal (and I know that's not a developing nation). But you have not addressed my argument.

You said that non-believers outside of Christianity wouldn't record Christian miracles because they didn't want to become believers and possibly suffer the persecutions that other believers did.

No, that is not remotely what I've said.

"Did all the other witnesses to the resurrected Jesus suffer the same illness, heatstroke, and pangs of conscience?"

We will never know because neither God nor the church fathers in Israel at the time thought that recording and preserving their testimony or their identities was worth the effort. If their identities or testimonies were recorded no one apparently thought it was worth keeping for future generations.


It has been preserved for future generations--in the Bible. Why are you completely dismissing that? As I've said before, there are critical Bible scholars out there who don't even believe in God (or Jewish ones who don't believe that Jesus is the Messiah), but they study the Bible to determine what parts they think are true. I'm going by what critical scholars have said in making my arguments.

And you never answered my question about whether you think all the witnesses to the resurrection had the same illness, heatstroke, and pangs of conscience.

In any event, I wanted to see if someone could come up with viable naturalistic explanations for the facts, and so far that has not happened. Since the specific facts are important in determining whether a supernatural event happened, it does not help you to keep bringing up Mohammed splitting the moon. I have already easily explained the facts in naturalistic terms: It's in the Koran. Mohammed wrote the Koran. Nobody else has testified about seeing Mohammed split the moon. Therefore, Mohammed could have lied or hallucinated. The facts are few and easily explained.

However, over the centuries critics of Christianity have tried to explain away the resurrection by proposing all kinds of hypotheses, like the stolen body theory, the swoon theory, the evil twin theory, the hallucination theory, etc. But every single one has failed.

Anette Acker said...

You said that non-believers outside of Christianity wouldn't record Christian miracles because they didn't want to become believers and possibly suffer the persecutions that other believers did.

Let's say Richard Dawkins and Victor Stenger went back in time to the forty days when Jesus appeared to people, and He appeared to them. Then afterwards they were teleported back to the present time (so there was no risk of persecution or martyrdom).

And let's say Dawkins had a Saul of Tarsus experience and became a Christian, but Stenger remained an atheist. Would you dismiss Dawkins' testimony because he was now a Christian, and only listen to Stenger because he remained a non-Christian? And would you expect Stenger to give a more objective account of what happened since he remained an atheist?

No, he would not be more objective. They would both be biased. So if you're trying to get at the truth, you would have to examine all the facts, to see who is likely to be right. And admissions by people who are biased against Christianity can be very telling. For example, Celsus and the Talmud said that Jesus was a sorcerer. They didn't simply deny that He was a wonder-worker.

And the Jews said that the disciples stole the body. They didn't just say that Jesus was still in the tomb, or that Joseph of Arimathea dropped the body in a common grave after the Sabbath, or that Jesus was never put in a tomb to begin with, etc. But the problem with the hypothesis that the disciples stole the body is that they wouldn't die for a known lie. They would have had everything to lose and nothing to gain.

But of course we also know that the Christians would have been biased, so we have to ask, given the facts, what is the likelihood that they would have lied or hallucinated? Why did they refuse to recant even in the face of torture and death?

I know you've said that you think there should be more documents, but it really doesn't matter because opponents of Christianity have not been able to come up with a plausible hypothetical explanation for all the facts that we do have.

When I said that Mohammed could have hallucinated or lied, that is just a plausible hypothesis. He could theoretically have split the moon and left no witnesses, so by no means have I disproved his statement.

Likewise, even if opponents of Christianity come up with a plausible naturalistic hypothesis that explains all the fact, it wouldn't disprove Christianity. But they've been trying for hundreds of years without success just to do that. That's why Hume made his argument against miracles--to, as John Earman argued in Hume's Abject Failure, try to stay "above the fray" and not have to "descend into the trenches" and deal with the facts. Because that has proved very difficult.

Anette Acker said...

I should correct something I said in my previous comment. I said that "opponents" or "critics" of Christianity try to come up with naturalistic explanations for the facts supporting the resurrection. But many of those who have exhausted every naturalistic explanation are not opponents of Christianity at all--they are liberal theologians and exegetes.

For example, Ferdinand Christian Baur was a theologian and church historian who didn't believe in the supernatural aspects of the primitive church, including the resurrection. However, he eventually concluded that the conversion of Paul was an unsolvable psychological puzzle which was a miracle in and of itself, and according to theologian and historian Philip Schaff, eventually led Baur to "bow before the greater miracle of the resurrection of Christ, without which the former is an inexplicable enigma."

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

Actually, Paul did not primarily live and travel in Rome. He traveled all over the eastern Mediterranean, starting in Jerusalem and ending in Rome, where he was martyred.

Acts 22:25-29 show that Paul was born a Roman citizen.

But of course we also know that the Christians would have been biased, so we have to ask, given the facts, what is the likelihood that they would have lied or hallucinated? Why did they refuse to recant even in the face of torture and death?

First, this could be asked of the first Muslims. Prior to their religion their society was a polytheistic one yet they fought and died for what they believed.

Second, I wouldn't describe myself, or many of the atheists on Ray's blog as "opponents of Christianity". I would say that our position is reflected in the works of Michael Shermer and others in that if you are going to make a supernatural claim for something whether it be the feeding of the 5,000 or the resurrection then you have to provide positive proof that it exists or happened. You have to do better than just saying that nothing else makes sense.

And Holy Books alone are not proof. The people who put together the new testament were not objective historians. Rather they were people who were starting a new religion and their interest was to gather together those documents that would help further their beliefs.

Also, if one's Holy Book was sufficient proof I'd have to accept "the truth" of Islam and Hinduism also.

We know that Paul died in prison in Rome but as far as I know he was not offered the opportunity to recant either the resurrection or his Christianity in general. If you are aware of any documentation that recorded these facts, I'd appreciate it.

I think we are coming from 2 different view points here. I think you want to limit the scope to just the documents within the New Testament to prove your point. It's like we are discussing the magic of Harry Potter and limiting our scope to just the text within the books. There are miraculous events happening within Harry Potter books and many if not all were seen by witnesses, both muggles and other wizards and by both good people as well as bad, and then I ask you to prove that Harry Potter didn't really do those things.

I, on the other hand, am trying to show the many similarities between Christian miracles as recorded in the bible and miracles as recorded by other holy books and the fact that no one's miracles are recorded as a part of general history.

Again, I have to ask you - do you think those miracles recorded in the Koran as well as those recording in Hindu scripture, and I will limit it to just those witnessed by others, really happened and thus prove their religion and gods or not?

Anette Acker said...

Acts 22:25-29 show that Paul was born a Roman citizen.

My children all have Norwegian citizenship (because I do), but none of them were born in Norway. They have not even spent much time there.

First, this could be asked of the first Muslims. Prior to their religion their society was a polytheistic one yet they fought and died for what they believed.

I have all along applied the exact same standards to the resurrection of Jesus as I have to Islam, Mormonism, and the Marian visions. You have yet to provide documentation that any Muslims were given the opportunity to recant and worship the non-Muslim gods before they were executed. The ball is in your court, my friend.

Second, I wouldn't describe myself, or many of the atheists on Ray's blog as "opponents of Christianity".

I used that phrase loosely as anyone who seeks to disprove the resurrection. But as I said, many liberal theologians have sought naturalistic explanation for the data. However, some scholars, like Bart Ehrman and Gerd Ludemann, are referred to as opposition scholars. That does not mean they hate Christians--they just present an opposing viewpoint. Others, like Jewish NT scholars like Pinchas Lapide and Geza Vermes, are referred to as neutral scholars.

I would say that our position is reflected in the works of Michael Shermer and others in that if you are going to make a supernatural claim for something whether it be the feeding of the 5,000 or the resurrection then you have to provide positive proof that it exists or happened. You have to do better than just saying that nothing else makes sense.

Why don't you tell me exactly what you mean by "positive proof."

And Holy Books alone are not proof. The people who put together the new testament were not objective historians. Rather they were people who were starting a new religion and their interest was to gather together those documents that would help further their beliefs.

Right. That is why, for the purposes of determining whether the resurrection happened, we have to study the New Testament critically. That is what I have been doing. I've been quoting Gerd Ludemann extensively--someone who is an atheist and whose stated purpose is to disprove Christianity. He will not concede anything unless he has to. If you can find a scholar whose stated purpose is to disprove Islam, I would be more than happy to consider his or her concessions about the Koran.

I think we are coming from 2 different view points here. I think you want to limit the scope to just the documents within the New Testament to prove your point.

No. I have also mentioned Josephus, the Talmud, Celsus, Pliny the Younger, and others. They all confirm what the Bible says.

Anette Acker said...

It's like we are discussing the magic of Harry Potter and limiting our scope to just the text within the books. There are miraculous events happening within Harry Potter books and many if not all were seen by witnesses, both muggles and other wizards and by both good people as well as bad, and then I ask you to prove that Harry Potter didn't really do those things.

Please see what I've said about the Harry Potter books before.

If I can be honest with you, I've noticed that you do not really seem to be engaging with my actual arguments, since you are repeating yourself rather than addressing my responses. And if you would like to agree to disagree, that's fine with me.

But then you can't continue saying that Christians have given no evidence for their beliefs. Over the past two months, as you know, I have had discussions on Atheist Central with a number of atheists (including Steven J.) on the cosmological argument, the fine-tuning argument, and the argument from moral law, and each time the discussion ended with the ball in the atheist's court. Maybe they just got tired of talking with me, but if so, someone else could have picked it up from there. As it stands, their final answer is "brute fact" or "I don't know," and that is not an explanation. And, for the record, my answer was not "God did it"--I explained how the evidence logically leads to God.

I also discussed burden of proof--since we have the burden of proof, the evidence of Christian theism has to outweigh the evidence against it. That is, we have to prove it by the preponderance of the evidence. We do not have to conclusively prove it (nor is that even theoretically possible).

I, on the other hand, am trying to show the many similarities between Christian miracles as recorded in the bible and miracles as recorded by other holy books and the fact that no one's miracles are recorded as a part of general history.

And I'm trying to show you the dissimilarities. So you have to respond to my response if we are going to make any progress here.

Again, I have to ask you - do you think those miracles recorded in the Koran as well as those recording in Hindu scripture, and I will limit it to just those witnessed by others, really happened and thus prove their religion and gods or not?

Who saw Mohammed split the moon? Please at least give a few names and tell me how scholars (including non-Muslim scholars) know that they existed and at least thought they saw Mohammed split the moon. And once you've done that, we'll discuss the issue of whether they hallucinated.

Anette Acker said...

You have to do better than just saying that nothing else makes sense.

This is where Bayes' Theorem becomes helpful, and I plan to discuss that in greater detail in a future post.

For now, I am just seeking to establish that every naturalistic explanation fails.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

I've noticed that you do not really seem to be engaging with my actual arguments, since you are repeating yourself rather than addressing my responses. And if you would like to agree to disagree, that's fine with me.

I'm sorry but I'm not trying to ignore your argument which if I understand it correctly is that since Paul was willing to die for his belief in the resurrection it must have really happened.

Another argument is that he said 500 people saw Jesus after the resurrection and, again, since Paul was willing to die and not recant then this must be true also.

And since James and other apostles were willing to die and not recant their experiences then it must have really happened.

Is this accurate? Am I missing anything?

And, for the record, my answer was not "God did it"--I explained how the evidence logically leads to God.

But you never cinch the argument by actually producing your God. At most, it would lead to an intelligent designer which could also be Allah.

Who saw Mohammad split the moon? Please at least give a few names and tell me how scholars (including non-Muslim scholars) know that they existed and at least thought they saw Mohammed split the moon. And once you've done that, we'll discuss the issue of whether they hallucinated.

Okay, well first there was - Hey, wait a minute here! I asked for information regarding the 500 and we don't have either their names or testimony. If names of such witnesses are going to be a requirement then I want the names of the 500, or at least most of them. Otherwise, you can't use a lack of name information to exclude one group of witnesses and not the other.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

For now, I am just seeking to establish that every naturalistic explanation fails.

Not really relevant even if true. I'm not sure what you mean by this but just because there is no naturalistic explanation for something (whatever that means) you still need to provide positive proof for your position. If you feel that a supernatural explanation for something is the answer then you have to provide proof of the supernatural. You have to show how resurrections are possible, that your God actually exists and that He has the ability to rise from the dead.

If I make the claim that a giant pink (supernatural, of course) flamingo created the universe I can't say that just because there is no naturalistic explanation for the creation of the universe or that we don't know the cause for its creation yet therefore my explanation of the giant pink flamingo must be true. Lack of proof for one cause is not, in itself, proof of something else.

Anette Acker said...

I'm sorry but I'm not trying to ignore your argument which if I understand it correctly is that since Paul was willing to die for his belief in the resurrection it must have really happened.

My argument is that all the facts have to be considered together. This is a much more difficult argument to develop than those we discussed on AC because it is so heavily dependent on a myriad of facts.

But you never cinch the argument by actually producing your God. At most, it would lead to an intelligent designer which could also be Allah.

That is true of the arguments for theism. But now I am discussing the preeminent argument for Christianity. The arguments have to be considered together.

Okay, well first there was - Hey, wait a minute here! I asked for information regarding the 500 and we don't have either their names or testimony. If names of such witnesses are going to be a requirement then I want the names of the 500, or at least most of them. Otherwise, you can't use a lack of name information to exclude one group of witnesses and not the other.

I have given you names: Peter, James, Paul, and all the apostles. Now you cough up the names of those who saw Mohammed split the moon. Man, your friend is going to have to train you better if you're going to make it as a Muslim apologist! ;)

"For now, I am just seeking to establish that every naturalistic explanation fails."

Not really relevant even if true. I'm not sure what you mean by this but just because there is no naturalistic explanation for something (whatever that means) you still need to provide positive proof for your position.


It is relevant. And I'll explain why when I discuss Bayes' Theorem.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

I have given you names: Peter, James, Paul, and all the apostles. Now you cough up the names of those who saw Mohammad split the moon. Man, your friend is going to have to train you better if you're going to make it as a Muslim apologist! ;)

Okay so if we are only considering those with names so I assume we can exclude the 500 then, correct? Are we limiting our witnesses to only those with names?

It is relevant. And I'll explain why when I discuss Bayes' Theorem.

Even if I agree that naturalistic explanations fail you still need to provide positive proof of the supernatural. Do you have positive evidence for the supernatural world? Pictures of heaven, for example?

Do you have any documentation by actual witnesses to Paul's death that he died the way you described - where someone offered him the chance to recant the resurrection specifically and he refused?

Anette Acker said...

Okay so if we are only considering those with names so I assume we can exclude the 500 then, correct? Are we limiting our witnesses to only those with names?

If we limit the group to those that can be identified by name, that would still be a sizable group, because we know the names of all the disciples of Jesus.

However, I have argued that the 500 should be included because they are mentioned in the tradition Paul cites in 1 Cor. 15:3-7, which most scholars (including opposition scholars) date to within a few years of the death of Jesus. And they believe that Paul received it from his predecessors. So Paul would have learned that from his predecessors and he knew that most of them were still alive at the time he wrote 1 Cor. So it is early information, but Paul also appears to have first-hand knowledge of them.

I am willing to concede that many of the 70,000 at Fatima had some kind of experience (I discussed this in my original post), but I'll concede nothing about Mohammed based on what you've said. Nobody has testified to seeing him split the moon.

Even if I agree that naturalistic explanations fail you still need to provide positive proof of the supernatural. Do you have positive evidence for the supernatural world? Pictures of heaven, for example?

Yes, we do have positive evidence of the supernatural: numerous reliable witnesses claim to have seen the resurrected Jesus. I am in the process of giving you evidence, and explaining why the witnesses are reliable.

Do you have any documentation by actual witnesses to Paul's death that he died the way you described - where someone offered him the chance to recant the resurrection specifically and he refused?

Did I say that Paul died after being offered the chance to recant? I don't remember saying that, but if I did, I must have misspoken. I do remember saying that many Christians were forced to recant and were tortured until they either caved or died. But church tradition tells us that Paul died by beheading--a very mild form of martyrdom, because he was a Roman citizen.

Still, Paul started out as an upwardly mobile Pharisee who was advancing in Judaism far beyond his contemporaries. He had everything possible going for him and gave it all up for persecution, imprisonment, and martyrdom. But when he talks about his early life, he says: "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:8).

That is the inexplicable psychological enigma Baur was talking about.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

Did I say that Paul died after being offered the chance to recant?

You mention that the various Christians were allowed to recant several times. For example, you wrote earlier Were they given a chance to recant?

However, I have argued that the 500 should be included because they are mentioned in the tradition Paul cites...

Hmmm. Uh, no. Both sides have to be judged under the same criteria. If I'm not allowed to have nameless witnesses then there is no reason to accept yours. We aren't going to have rules that exclude my evidence but co-incidentally support your side.

First, the large crowd that saw the "miracle of the sun" came expecting to see something miraculous. They had been told that something would happen that day.

Even if true, that they were told to expect something, they still wouldn't all be expecting to see the same thing. Having 10,000 people there means that they would have been 10,000 different things based on their personalities, stage of life, life experiences as well as personal expectations. A 20-year old woman would not be expecting the same thing as a 70-year old man.

Secondly, the apostles themselves had expectations. Theirs was a time before science where they, as well as most cultures, believed in some form of magic. Lightening happened because the gods threw bolts of lightening; crops grew well because they were in their god's favor; people were sick due to either demons or as punishment from their god(s). So, basically, if something strange, unusual or otherwise unexplainable happened then, lacking science and the scientific method, they would have ascribed it to some mystical event.

There is no proof outside of the bible that Paul had such a miraculous conversion. It is not mentioned in any historical documentation. There are no reliable documents outside of the bible that support the idea that the resurrection happened.

Plus you have no witnesses to the actual resurrection itself. Did any of you witnesses actually see Jesus rise from the dead? No. All this information comes down from oral tradition and while some may have repeated it faithfully, there is no reason to believe that everyone repeated faithfully. Oral tradition being what it is means that the version you hear today is more than likely not the version of 30 or 40 years ago. People embellish to make the story more exciting or to give it a moral. The story of Washington chopping down the cherry tree, for example, was repeated so often after his death many authors included it in history books as a true event even though it never really happened. Did they intentionally lie when they included it? Probably not. Most likely they believed it to be true at the time.

In this case most likely Christ's body was missing so the resurrection was added over time to the story to explain, in a supernatural way of course, why it was gone. You have no outside, supporting documents to bolster your interpretation of events.

Anette Acker said...

You mention that the various Christians were allowed to recant several times. For example, you wrote earlier Were they given a chance to recant?

We don't know exactly what happened when Paul died, but the book of Acts tell us about the first Christian martyr, Stephen, and later extra-biblical sources tell us that Christians were given the opportunity to recant.

In Acts 7, Stephen was given the chance to defend himself before the high priest, but after establishing that he was a Jew, he said: "Behold, I see the heavens opened and Jesus standing at the right hand of God." In other words, he said that Jesus was equal to God. And when the Jews heard that, they covered their ears and rushed at him, drove him out of the city, and stoned him to death. But if Stephen had stopped speaking after he gave the history of the Jews, they probably would have let him go. He voluntarily said what he knew would be blasphemy to the Jews, so he refused to recant.

Of course Pliny the Younger gives us evidence in his letter to Trajan that he gave Christians the opportunity to recant. Later emperors had the same policy.

As for Paul, he was often being questioned by Jews and Romans, and although the book of Acts shows him frequently outsmarting them, he never recanted. In fact, he took every opportunity to preach the Gospel, and in the letter to the Philippians he expresses pleasure that his imprisonment has led to "the greater progress of the gospel" (Philippians 1:12).

Hmmm. Uh, no. Both sides have to be judged under the same criteria. If I'm not allowed to have nameless witnesses then there is no reason to accept yours. We aren't going to have rules that exclude my evidence but co-incidentally support your side.

I will most certainly judge the moon-splitting episode by the same criteria as the resurrection. So if you can give me the names of roughly fifteen witnesses, one of which mentions that 500 others also saw the event, of course I will not exclude that evidence. Or we can just agree to exclude all unnamed witnesses. But you have not given me any names at all.

Even if true, that they were told to expect something, they still wouldn't all be expecting to see the same thing. Having 10,000 people there means that they would have been 10,000 different things based on their personalities, stage of life, life experiences as well as personal expectations. A 20-year old woman would not be expecting the same thing as a 70-year old man.

Well, the problem is that they didn't all see the same thing. Some saw the sun do one thing and some saw something else. Some very devout Catholics saw nothing at all.

So there's a lot of potential for religious fervor, where one person gets excited and another person says, "Yes, I saw it too!" But their stories didn't quite match up.

Anette Acker said...

Secondly, the apostles themselves had expectations. Theirs was a time before science where they, as well as most cultures, believed in some form of magic.

You are right that people filled in gaps in their scientific knowledge with superstitious explanations. But they did not believe that a person could be raised from the dead. They knew that that didn't happen.

The book of Acts at least twice shows people reacting very negatively to Paul when he talks about the resurrection (Acts 17:32, 26:23-24). And Pliny the Younger refers to Christianity as a "depraved and excessive superstition," and Tacitus calls it "a deadly superstition."

There is no proof outside of the bible that Paul had such a miraculous conversion. It is not mentioned in any historical documentation

True, so how do you explain the change in him?

Plus you have no witnesses to the actual resurrection itself. Did any of you witnesses actually see Jesus rise from the dead?

The witnesses knew that he died, and then the tomb was found empty and Jesus appeared to them. It is very easy to connect those dots--it's not necessary for them to have seen Jesus rise from the dead.

Oral tradition being what it is means that the version you hear today is more than likely not the version of 30 or 40 years ago.

According to just about all scholars (including skeptical ones), 1 Cor. 15:3-7 is a tradition that originates from within a few years of the death of Jesus. So they would have started preaching the resurrection right away.

When I talked about oral tradition, I was not referring to the facts that support the resurrection. It is not necessary to assume that oral testimony is reliable to accept those facts as true.

In this case most likely Christ's body was missing so the resurrection was added over time to the story to explain, in a supernatural way of course, why it was gone. You have no outside, supporting documents to bolster your interpretation of events.

Do you have a hypothetical explanation for what happened to the body and why Paul, James, Peter and the disciples were sure that Jesus had appeared to them?

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56,

I would like to briefly reply to something you said to a Christian on AC. You said that you wanted him to prove that the God of Christianity is the true God without referring to the Bible.

I think what you really mean to say is that you don't want us to use circular reasoning. That is, we should not argue that something is true just because the Bible says it is true. Is that correct? If so, of course I agree that circular logic is fallacious.

However, it is not fallacious to read the Bible critically and draw conclusions from it. We know that these are real first century documents and that Paul was a real person who wrote letters, several of them from prison. He talks about his conversion and his life as a Pharisee.

Critical scholars (including atheists) have also concluded that Paul cites tradition in 1 Cor. 15:3-7, when he talks about the resurrection of Jesus and the postmortem appearances. So that tells us that the disciples of Jesus preached the resurrection right away and that they claimed to have seen Jesus.

It is not necessary--or even possible--to dismiss the Bible in determining whether Christianity is true. In order to determine whether Jesus was raised from the dead--which is the bedrock of Christianity--you have to read the NT critically as a collection of documents. That is not circular reasoning.

Of course it is helpful to have extra-biblical sources to see if they agree or disagree with the Bible, and they all affirm the facts. In the second century, Celsus affirmed the Gospels' statement that people accused Jesus of sorcery, Pliny the Younger affirmed the book of Acts' description of Christians being martyred and given a chance to recant, and Justin Martyr affirmed, in his Dialogue with Trypho, what the Gospel of Matthew says about the Jews claiming that the disciples stole the body of Jesus.

So these facts are affirmed by extra-biblical sources. However, non-Christian sources are going to interpret the facts differently than the Bible. I am examining the question of whether any of those interpretations actually work.

Darkknight56 said...

What I think is missing here is a bit of context regarding the times that these letters were written.

You've been to Ray's website many times, I know. One thing I've learned is that religious beliefs trump objective truth almost all of the time. Whenever the discussion of evolution comes up, for example, inevitably someone on the Christian side will say it is false or a lie or not true. In turn, I'll ask them one of two questions. The first is "What do you think is evolution?" or "Can you define evolution?" If they respond they don't even come close to an acceptable definition.

The second question is "Have you ever picked up a book and read the evidence for evolution?" Again, they wouldn't even consider the possibility of doing so, being firmly convinced it is just a fairy tale.

In Ray's post called "Old News..." carl with a small 'c' wrote "I can't imagine someone KNOWING the God of this universe and then turning their back on Him because there was no evidence!?" implying that he would believe in his God no matter what the evidence said or whether or not there was any evidence for him.

Sooty refuses to examine the scientific evidence for evolution preferring instead to look for hidden codes in the scriptures.

Ray continually proclaims that there is no evidence for evolution despite all of the scientific studies available to him.

We live in a scientific age, an age of skepticism and a time when a wealth of scientific data is freely available to these people and yet they refuse to examine the data preferring their religious beliefs over the truth that is available to them.

Think how it must have been back then when they didn't even have this alternative way of looking at the universe. As you pointed out, most were illiterate and scientific thinking hadn't been introduced yet. Instead, most of their thinking involved magical thinking. It explained the world. It explained why bad things happened - mainly because the people sinned against God. They expected magical thinking and magical reasoning in their explanations. If a crew went out in a boat and only one survivor returned claiming that giant sea monsters sank their boat the people hearing it aren't going to be too skeptical. They are willing to believe it. (I'm referring to cultures in general back then and not necessarily to just the Israelites alone.)

Their religion also assured them life in the next world, eternal life. So, no. Those Christians who think they have a life-altering religious experience aren't going to question it and those who believed Christianity and that Christ was the promised Savior aren't going to be too skeptical and look for evidence to disprove it. It is an example of a bird in the hand being worth two in the bush. Here they thought they had eternal life with someone proclaiming to be the Savior, why should they question anything and risk not only throwing it away. What was the alternative??

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

I would like to briefly reply to something you said to a Christian on AC. You said that you wanted him to prove that the God of Christianity is the true God without referring to the Bible.

I think what you really mean to say is that you don't want us to use circular reasoning.


No, what I meant was that I wanted him to prove that God created the universe without referring to a single verse of scripture in the bible.

There are two reasons for this. One is that everyone kept saying that God is apparent to anyone looking at nature. Even the most remote native untouched by contact with a Christian can tell that the God of Christianity created everything. Since remote tribesmen (and women) have no access to the bible yet the existence of God should be apparent to even them I just want some Christian on the blog who makes that statement to prove it. Be the remote native and demonstrate how they should know that their God exists.

The second reason is that if I ask a Christian to prove his God he refers to the bible. If I ask a Muslim to prove his God he refers to the Koran. Ditto to the Hindu or devoted follower of any other religion with a holy book. Each will argue passionately from his book that his book is indeed true. They'll each say "Do other religions have so-and-so doctrines or beliefs." Muslims will say that the difference between the Koran and the bible shows that the Koran must be true and thus Allah is the true God. So, in short, arguing which holy books is the true holy book is pointless as each believer firmly believes his book is true.

Thus, if we take the holy books off the table, is there anything else that supports their contention that their specific God created everything.

Anette Acker said...

Think how it must have been back then when they didn't even have this alternative way of looking at the universe. As you pointed out, most were illiterate and scientific thinking hadn't been introduced yet. Instead, most of their thinking involved magical thinking. It explained the world. It explained why bad things happened - mainly because the people sinned against God. They expected magical thinking and magical reasoning in their explanations.

Well, not everybody was superstitious back then. As I said before, there were many philosophers who, in many ways, were better thinkers than people are today. Paul was brilliant and well-educated.

And the Gospels indicate that none of the disciples initially believed that Jesus had risen from the dead. People who are superstitious may believe that a ghost is present in the room, but they will not believe that the dead person would actually come alive again and have a meal with them.

People do not have to understand much about science to understand about cause and effect. That is, when people die, they stay dead. They may, however, come up with magical explanations for the unknown. They wanted explanations, but they didn't have science, so they gave everything supernatural explanations.

Do you see the difference between coming up with magical explanations for the unknown and not understanding about cause and effect in this world. Even the youngest children know that nature is predictable even though they don't have explanations. That's why they're terrified of someone dressed up like Mickey Mouse, because they know that it's very wrong for a creature to look like that. But they don't understand the explanation for it--that a human is dressed up.

Their religion also assured them life in the next world, eternal life. So, no. Those Christians who think they have a life-altering religious experience aren't going to question it and those who believed Christianity and that Christ was the promised Savior aren't going to be too skeptical and look for evidence to disprove it.

I think it is human nature to be more concerned with our immediate experience than with the afterlife. And that is particularly true if we are asked to give something up. We have to really believe to be willing to die for our faith. Most Christians don't have that kind of faith.

Do you remember during the Columbine shooting when the shooters pointed a gun into a classroom and asked who there was a Christian? Rachel Scott stood up and took a bullet that killed her. How many people would have had the conviction and courage to do that?

Anette Acker said...

So, in short, arguing which holy books is the true holy book is pointless as each believer firmly believes his book is true.

You do not see the possibility of reading the holy books critically?

If you're concerned about bias, should we toss out Tacitus, too? He had very strong opinions, referring to Rome as a place "where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular."

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

Well, not everybody was superstitious back then. As I said before, there were many philosophers who, in many ways, were better thinkers than people are today. Paul was brilliant and well-educated.

People can be superstitious to varying degrees. An educated man might be less superstitious than an uneducated one but both can be superstitious. And being educated back then isn't the same as being educated now. Educated back then meant being knowledgeable about poetry and oration as well as math and military procedures. However, they would still believe that famines are a sign of God's displeasure among other superstitions.

People who are superstitious may believe that a ghost is present in the room, but they will not believe that the dead person would actually come alive again and have a meal with them.

Jesus was not the first god to arise from the dead. Many, especially educated people like Paul, would have been aware of them.

They include:

Horus c. 3000 BCE
Osiris c. 3000 BCE
Attis of Phrygia c.1400 BCE
Krishna c. 1400 BCE (possibly as early as 5771 BCE)
Mithra of Persia c. 600 BCE
Dionysus c. 186 BCE

From: http://foreverinhell.blogspot.com/2009/03/other-gods-that-rose-from-dead.html

I'm not arguing here that their resurrections really happened but I am saying that the idea of gods rising from the dead is not new. Christians could have taken that idea and put their own stamp on it.

Do you see the difference between coming up with magical explanations for the unknown and not understanding about cause and effect in this world. Even the youngest children know that nature is predictable even though they don't have explanations.

Much of nature, such as famines and dry periods were not predictable. Gods would protect them from these events. Gods also brought good fortune when one offered favors to them.

Rachel Scott stood up and took a bullet that killed her. How many people would have had the conviction and courage to do that?

Are real Christians the only ones with courage and conviction? When facing death do all Muslims and Hindus (and atheists) cry and whimper, begging for mercy?

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

You do not see the possibility of reading the holy books critically?

You don't think Muslims and Hindus read their holy books critically or do you think they just gloss over everything, their holy books are just coffee table books?

In other posts when you talk of scholars supporting the bible are these euro-centric scholars or do they include most Muslim and Hindu scholars also? I expect euro-centric scholars support the bible while Muslim scholars endorse the Koran and Hindus support their holy books. Would this be true?

Daniel Gracely said...

Hi DarkKnight56,

I think it was Pascal who said that every man is different in what he personally finds are convincing arguments. I find much (maybe all) of what Anette has been stating reasonable, but it seems evident you do not. And so you and I would differ at least somewhat about what is reasonable or compelling argument. However, though I disagree with your position I realize how (presumably) it is frustrating for you to feel that every religionist just toots his or her own horn inside circular arguments according to whatever book he or she happens to believe is uniquely holy.

So I want to submit three things for evidence which don’t appear to have been mentioned so far in your exchange with Anette. Perhaps you will not find these reasonable either, but I offer them nonetheless.

The first is the Shroud of Turin. I think, if this item were supportive evidence of, say, the “missing link” in evolution instead of an evidence of Christianity, it would have been accepted long ago by its detractors. Even the generally liberal-slanted PBS channel ran a Secrets of the Dead episode generally favorable to the authenticity of the Shroud (while yet offering critical opinion of it). I also find the Wikipedia article pretty even-handed in describing views of both the Shroud’s adherents and detractors. Among the (to me) compelling evidences is the 3-D image that is revealed when the light and dark fibers are put through a spectrometer, a result so far irreproducible by its detractors, and certainly outside the capability of any artist, Medieval or otherwise. In fact, the realism of the image is so indisputably photographic that one of the Shroud’s detractors, an art historian, claimed in the PBS episode that the Shroud was really a photograph, photography having (apparently) begun in the 14th century, not the 19th.

The second thing I regard as evidence is prophecies in the Bible, such as that of Daniel 9:25, which predicts the timing of the Messiah’s cutting off, some 483 of our present calendar years subsequent to that prophecy. Understanding this prophecy necessitates some explanation, but I think if you google Hal Lindsay and Daniel 9:25, it will probably come up. Psalm 22 is another example of fulfilled prophecy, in which the Psalmist, some 1,000 years before Christ (and 400+ years before the invention of crucifixion), prophesied, saying: “They pierced my hands and my feet.” Incidentally, in the Hebrew “hand” includes the wrist, the very area in which the man in the Shroud shows nail wounds. As a former graduate student in art history, I can say with some confidence that I do not know of a single image of Christ in Medieval art showing wounds going through the wrists, rather than the hands.
(con’t)

Daniel Gracely said...

(part 2 of 2)
The last thing I personally find compelling is that Christianity, as opposed, say, to Islam, offers a concept of Deity that from eternity past has had a moral dimension. Islam does not have this. This is because in Islam Allah is a singular entity, which means he cannot be either selfless or selfish (i.e., good or bad), since in eternity past there was nothing besides Allah. In other words, for good or bad to potentially exist, there must always be an Another present. Otherwise selfishness or selflessness cannot exist. If, for example, there was only me and nothings besides, I could not be selfish or selfless.

In contradistinction to the Islamic view, the (Christian) Bible speaks of a “God” who in reality is a corporate One, not a singular Being. Here each Person seeks the good of the Other Persons at expense to Himself, while remaining constant to ‘His’ Corporate ideals. I think this combination—of 1) a plurality of Persons 2) who from eternity past has deliberately sought the glorification not of Himself, but of the other Persons, is unique to religion. This is best expressed in the Hebrew Bible, especially in the books of Moses, where the plural Elohym (rather than the singular Elowaw) is used in conjunction with a singular verb to express singularity of purpose despite plurality of Persons. I think in the Pentatuech Elohym is used some 400+ times, compared to the score or so of times the singular Elowaw is used.

Again, so far as I know, no other religion presents Deity this way. And so I find in the definition of Elohym as revealed in the Bible a solution to the problem of the One and the Many which has so often plagued philosophical thought.

Cordially,

Daniel Gracely said...

DarkKnight56,

Read "476" (current solar years) for "483" (prophetic years of 360 days each).

Anette Acker said...

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for stopping by. It's great to hear from you again, and I'm glad you joined the discussion!

You raised some very good points. I fully agree with you that different arguments are persuasive to different people. I'm not even so much trying to persuade Darkknight56 as trying to establish the fact that every naturalistic explanation for the historical facts supporting the resurrection fails. And those facts are the empty tomb, the appearances of Jesus, and the subsequent willingness of His followers to give up everything--including their lives--for the conviction that Jesus had risen.

Since there are many possible naturalistic explanations for the claims of other religions, this makes Christianity very unique. And even if the skeptic then claims that the supernatural is always the least likely explanation, that argument fails as well, as illustrated by Bayes' Theorem (which I will discuss later).

My goal is not to convert Darkknight56 (we see things too differently at this point), but to demonstrate that there is evidence for Christian theism and there are good rational reasons for being a Christian. He has said that he started commenting on AC in order to see if there was any evidence for the existence of God, and the Christian God specifically.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56:

People can be superstitious to varying degrees. An educated man might be less superstitious than an uneducated one but both can be superstitious. And being educated back then isn't the same as being educated now. Educated back then meant being knowledgeable about poetry and oration as well as math and military procedures. However, they would still believe that famines are a sign of God's displeasure among other superstitions.

Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:7: "But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women." There is no evidence anywhere that he is superstitious.

But it wouldn't matter because, as I said before, people didn't believe that a human being could rise from the dead and come back and make breakfast for them.

Jesus was not the first god to arise from the dead. Many, especially educated people like Paul, would have been aware of them.

They include:

Horus c. 3000 BCE
Osiris c. 3000 BCE
Attis of Phrygia c.1400 BCE
Krishna c. 1400 BCE (possibly as early as 5771 BCE)
Mithra of Persia c. 600 BCE
Dionysus c. 186 BCE

From: http://foreverinhell.blogspot.com/2009/03/other-gods-that-rose-from-dead.html


I went to the site and checked what she said about Horus (she links to another part of her blog) against Wikipedia, and she is just flat out wrong. And it looks like she just pulled her info from another atheist site. And then someone commented on her site saying: "You know you're made of awesome? If you were a guy I would probably marry you. That is just brillant. I plan on pointing this out as much as I can."

Remember what I said about bias? We have to take into consideration that many people have bias, so we should read everything critically. When I researched the violence of Mohammed, I avoided the Christian sites, and preferred to see how Muslims explained it. I don't genuflect at the altar of every Christian apologist I come across.

I found this on Wikipedia:

David J. MacLeod argues that the resurrection of Osiris differs from Jesus Christ, saying:

"Perhaps the only pagan god for whom there is a resurrection is the Egyptian Osiris. Close examination of this story shows that it is very different from Christ's resurrection. Osiris did not rise; he ruled in the abode of the dead. As biblical scholar, Roland de Vaux, wrote, 'What is meant of Osiris being "raised to life?" Simply that, thanks to the ministrations of Isis, he is able to lead a life beyond the tomb which is an almost perfect replica of earthly existence. But he will never again come among the living and will reign only over the dead. This revived god is in reality a "mummy" god.'... No, the mummified Osiris was hardly an inspiration for the resurrected Christ... As Yamauchi observes, 'Ordinary men aspired to identification with Osiris as one who had triumphed over death. But it is a mistake to equate the Egyptian view of the afterlife with the biblical doctrine of resurrection. To achieve immortality the Egyptian had to meet three conditions: First, his body had to be preserved by mummification. Second, nourishment was provided by the actual offering of daily bread and beer. Third, magical spells were interred with him. His body did not rise from the dead; rather elements of his personality - his Ba and Ka - continued to hover over his body.'"

Anette Acker said...

But it really doesn't matter whether or not he is right, for two reasons: First, the disciples of Jesus (who first proclaimed the resurrection) were products of their Jewish culture, and would have had nothing to do with the pantheon of Roman gods, and second, if there were dying and rising pagan gods, where are the historical facts supporting those events? This would not get around the problem of giving good naturalistic explanations for the facts we are dealing with here.

In fact, when C. S. Lewis tells the story of his conversion from atheism to Christianity, he says:

"Early in 1926 the hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew sat in my room on the other side of the fire and remarked that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was really surprisingly good. 'Rum thing,' he went on. 'All that stuff of Frazer's about the Dying God. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once.'"

"Rachel Scott stood up and took a bullet that killed her. How many people would have had the conviction and courage to do that?"

Are real Christians the only ones with courage and conviction? When facing death do all Muslims and Hindus (and atheists) cry and whimper, begging for mercy?


My point was that Rachel must have really believed to give her life for her faith at such a young age. She was an exceptional Christian, as evidenced also by what she wrote. Likewise, the disciples of Jesus and other martyrs must have really believed.

My point was not that other people die with a cry and a whimper, but that it is not common to be willing to die for our faith.

You don't think Muslims and Hindus read their holy books critically or do you think they just gloss over everything, their holy books are just coffee table books?

In other posts when you talk of scholars supporting the bible are these euro-centric scholars or do they include most Muslim and Hindu scholars also? I expect euro-centric scholars support the bible while Muslim scholars endorse the Koran and Hindus support their holy books. Would this be true?


It doesn't matter that Ludemann is European, because he is an atheist and his stated goal is to disprove Christianity. And he does not accept everything in the Bible as true--only what he has to accept. He is biased against the Bible.

How do you think Salman Rushdie feels about Islam? Do you think that if he was here discussing this with us, he would concede anything about the story of Mohammed splitting the moon just because he comes from a Muslim culture and background?

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56,

I want to clarify that I did not mean that I believe everything a Muslim says about Mohammed and the Koran, but that given the amount of misinformation I've seen about the Bible, I don't formulate opinions about Islam without getting the perspective of Muslims.

You said that Mohammed and the early Muslims were also persecuted, so I researched that. It turns out that the Koran says that persecution of a Muslim is worse than the death of an infidel.

The following story illustrates this teaching: In pre-Islamic Arabia, the poets were considered the conscience of their culture and were allowed to satirize whatever they wanted. One poet (a young mother) said something critical about Mohammed, who replied by saying: "Who will rid me of Marwan's daughter?"

A follower of Mohammed took up the challenge and broke into her home at night while she was asleep nursing a baby. What happened next is somewhat unclear. Some sources say that he cut the baby into pieces, raped the poet, and then stabbed her to death. An Islamic source said that he had poor eyesight, so "he had to grope for her." But the Islamic sources agree that he killed her, and that Mohammed later said that her life was not worth two goats.

And if that's not bad enough, many people converted to Islam after that because they saw the power of Islam.

But according to secular sources, the early Christians were peaceful and wouldn't even join the military. They were executed for reasons like:

Cannibalism--for the sacrament of Communion,

Incest--for calling each other "brother" and "sister," greeting each other with a kiss and expressing love for each other,

Atheism--for refusing to worship their pantheon of gods,

Causing disasters--for provoking the gods by their atheism and causing them to retaliate by sending famines, floods and other disasters,

Superstition,

Asocial behavor--for not participating in civic activities where the gods were worshipped, and for refusing to just add their God to the pantheon. The Romans had a the-more-the-merrier attitude towards their gods and would have welcomed the Christian God to join the party,

Worshipping a man who was a "sorcerer",

Apostasy from Judaism,

Lack of patriotism--for refusing to worship the emperor and join the military.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:7: "But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women." There is no evidence anywhere that he is superstitious.

We don't know for certain what he did and did not consider as "worldly fables fit only for old women." We don't have a complete and detailed biography of him so that isn't much of a defense.

But it wouldn't matter because, as I said before, people didn't believe that a human being could rise from the dead and come back and make breakfast for them.

Not as a normal event, no.

Are you saying that people from that time had no superstitions?

Close examination of this story shows that it is very different from Christ's resurrection.

Again, there is no expectation that other religions will map point-for-point to Christianity. No one expects Christianity to be a carbon copy of other religions or vice-versa. But other religions could serve as inspiration for some aspects of Christianity. People would take certain aspects of neighboring religions and adapt them to their own culture and put their own twist on it.

My point was that Rachel must have really believed to give her life for her faith at such a young age. She was an exceptional Christian, as evidenced also by what she wrote. Likewise, the disciples of Jesus and other martyrs must have really believed.

If the two "boys" who walked in and asked "Who here is an atheist?" and someone stood up and said "I am."and was subsequently shot and killed, would you consider that as an endorsement for atheism? What if they asked "Who here is a Muslim/Hindu/Shinto Buddhist?" and someone stood up and they shot him/her? I'm sure I can find people from each group who are willing to die for their beliefs.

It doesn't matter that Ludemann is European, because he is an atheist and his stated goal is to disprove Christianity. And he does not accept everything in the Bible as true--only what he has to accept. He is biased against the Bible.

How do you think Salman Rushdie feels about Islam? Do you think that if he was here discussing this with us, he would concede anything about the story of Mohammad splitting the moon just because he comes from a Muslim culture and background?


I know who he is from the media but I have no idea what his view are on many subjects. The most exciting thing I know about him is that his ex-wife is one of the hosts of "Top Chef".

My question was regarding your statement of most scholars endorsing or validating some aspects of the bible. Do these scholars include most, not all, Muslim and Hindu scholars or are they mainly European/American scholars?

Anette Acker said...

We don't know for certain what he did and did not consider as "worldly fables fit only for old women." We don't have a complete and detailed biography of him so that isn't much of a defense.

Can you point to something in the Bible that indicates that Paul was irrational or superstitious? That is, did he ever say anything in his canonical letters that has later been deemed scientifically false or an old wives' tale?

For example, he told Timothy to have some wine with his water to help with his stomach troubles and frequent illnesses, and that was good advice during the first century because the alcohol would kill the bacteria in the water. I can't think of anything Paul said that seemed like superstition.

Again, there is no expectation that other religions will map point-for-point to Christianity. No one expects Christianity to be a carbon copy of other religions or vice-versa. But other religions could serve as inspiration for some aspects of Christianity. People would take certain aspects of neighboring religions and adapt them to their own culture and put their own twist on it.

The Jews would not have been inspired by the Roman gods, and early Christianity was thoroughly Jewish. Also, the fact that there's a very vague similarity between Osiris and Jesus does not mean there's any connection. Considering how many gods the Greeks and Romans had, it would have been surprising if not a single one died and rose again in some sense. But Osiris only continued to exist in the afterworld.

If the two "boys" who walked in and asked "Who here is an atheist?" and someone stood up and said "I am."and was subsequently shot and killed, would you consider that as an endorsement for atheism?

It would tell me that this individual felt strongly about his or her atheism, but it would tell me nothing about whether or not atheism is true. Likewise, the fact that Rachel admitted at gunpoint to being a Christian means that she had very strong faith.

Your original argument was that most people would die for the hope of eternal life, and my response was that only those who believe strongly in it would. Faith is not an either/or proposition. How we react when our faith is tested tells us how strong it is.

My question was regarding your statement of most scholars endorsing or validating some aspects of the bible. Do these scholars include most, not all, Muslim and Hindu scholars or are they mainly European/American scholars?

Would you like it if I stopped quoting Ludemann so much and started quoted Indian-born Ravi Zacharias, who is the descendant of a line of Hindu priests? The problem is that Zacharias is an evangelical Christian apologist. Still, if you would find his opinions on the Bible more persuasive than Ludemann's, I'd be happy to comply. ;)

There are just not that many New Testament scholars that are Hindus and Muslims. In fact, I don't know of any. However, I have mentioned Jewish scholars Pinchas Lapide and Geza Vermes.

Darkknight56 said...

Yes, people have biases. This is one reason I'm trying to apply the criteria we are using to events in other religions.

You want me to be impressed with this poor girl's death. YOu want me to believe that since she was willing to die for her convictions then there must be something to what she believes in. However, if she was Muslim or Hindu, you would not be as impressed with her convictions; You wouldn't be saying "Wow, she had the courage of her convictions so there must be something to them." I get the feeling that you only would be impressed if someone died for Christian beliefs but not for their belief in Islam or Hinduism.

Recanting under torture is not a reliable measure of what actually happened, either. If a gunman was to walk into a Sunday school and threaten to kill each child if a parent did not recant, how many parents would not recant knowing it meant the death of their child? Romans, as well as others throughout history, have not only tortured individuals for their beliefs but if the person was married and had children everyone from grandma to infant child would be threatened, tortured, raped and killed. James, Paul and other apostles were not married and didn't have families so it was a bit easier for them to adhere to their beliefs under torture. who knows what they would have done if they were married and their children were threatened and tortured as a result of their beliefs. Would you refuse to recant if (God forbid) your children were placed in such a dangerous position?

Anette Acker said...

Pinchas Lapide actually believed that God raised Jesus from the dead, and Geza Vermes believes that a group of women found the tomb empty on Sunday morning.

Anette Acker said...

I said:

Considering how many gods the Greeks and Romans had, it would have been surprising if not a single one died and rose again in some sense. But Osiris only continued to exist in the afterworld.

Correction:

Considering how many gods the various pagans had (Osiris was an Egyptian god) . . .

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

Can you point to something in the Bible that indicates that Paul was irrational or superstitious? That is, did he ever say anything in his canonical letters that has later been deemed scientifically false or an old wives' tale?

Considering that all we know of him comes only from the New Testament it is hardly a complete biography. It doesn't say he has parents either but I'm pretty sure he had one of each. However, I make my assertion based on the fact that there was very little scientific knowledge at the time so humans, as they tend to do around the world, fill in the gap with superstitions. It doesn't mean that they don't have some remedies for some conditions but just because they did doesn't mean they still didn't have their superstitions.

The Jews would not have been inspired by the Roman gods, and early Christianity was thoroughly Jewish.

Are you kidding? Have you read the old testament? Moses wasn't on the mountain very long when they started worshiping a new god they created on the spot.

But Osiris only continued to exist in the after-world.

Christ exists only in heaven. Aren't you still awaiting His second coming?

It would tell me that this individual felt strongly about his or her atheism, but it would tell me nothing about whether or not atheism is true. Likewise, the fact that Rachel admitted at gunpoint to being a Christian means that she had very strong faith.

But like the atheist it would tell you nothing about whether or not Christianity is true.

Would you like it if I stopped quoting Ludemann so much and started quoted Indian-born Ravi Zacharias, who is the descendant of a line of Hindu priests? The problem is that Zacharias is an evangelical Christian apologist. Still, if you would find his opinions on the Bible more persuasive than Ludemann's, I'd be happy to comply. ;)

Yes, you can find an Indian or an Arab who agrees with the New Testament. What I'm asking is when you say "most scholars" are you referring JUST to European scholars alone or do most Muslim and Hindu scholars also agree that the New Testament and not their Holy Book is really true and accurate. By your answer I have to assume it is just European scholars. (NOTE: by European I mean not only those in Europe but in North, Central and South America - practically everywhere where Christianity reigns.)

Daniel Gracely said...

Hi Anette,
Just wanted to acknowledge your kind reply. I've been out of circulation for a while. My comment to DarkKnight56 is the first comment I've written on any blog in about 3 months. Anyway, I hope you and Rick are doing well.
Be blessed, sister,

Anette Acker said...

However, I make my assertion based on the fact that there was very little scientific knowledge at the time so humans, as they tend to do around the world, fill in the gap with superstitions.

Okay, let's say Paul and everyone else did that. That does not mean that they would easily accept the idea of someone rising from the dead.

In fact, we have two examples in Acts of people reacting very negatively to Paul talking about the resurrection. Acts 17:32 says: "When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered . . ." And in Acts 26:24, right after Paul mentions the resurrection, Festus shouted, "You are out of your mind, Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane."

So they may have thought evil came into the world because the first woman opened a box, that an evil look could bring a curse, and that too much education could drive one mad, but they did not think a person could rise from the dead. 1 Cor. 1:23, says that the message of the cross is foolishness to the Gentiles.

Are you kidding? Have you read the old testament? Moses wasn't on the mountain very long when they started worshiping a new god they created on the spot.

But they had just come out of Egypt, so no wonder they had been influenced by the pagan cultures.

The disciples of Jesus lived in first century Judea. They would have had very little interaction with Egyptians. The Jews at the time looked down on Gentiles and referred to them as "dogs." And many of the early Christians were devout Jews. I think we agree that this was true of Paul, and Acts 11:8 indicates that Peter was also very Jewish.

But like the atheist it would tell you nothing about whether or not Christianity is true.

I never said it did. I said that it said something about her conviction. I further said that most Christians would not die for their faith.

Yes, you can find an Indian or an Arab who agrees with the New Testament. What I'm asking is when you say "most scholars" are you referring JUST to European scholars alone or do most Muslim and Hindu scholars also agree that the New Testament and not their Holy Book is really true and accurate.

I honestly don't know what you're getting at here. There are plenty of Christians in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. But there may not be that many (or any) critical Bible scholars.

Since Ludemann and Ehrman are both skeptics, they are no more biased in favor of the Bible than you are. They just know more about it, so they realize that they have to make certain concessions. For example, both John Dominic Crossan and Ludemann have said that it is certain that Jesus died on the cross (which would rule out the swoon theory).

A hypothetical African Bible scholar would probably say that same thing. If he didn't, he would have to give a good explanation, if he wanted to be taken seriously. The rules of logic and human physiology and psychology are the same in Africa and Asia as they are here.

The point is not that European and American scholars accept everything about the Bible. Far from it! They are far more critical of the Bible than other historical documents. However, there are still certain facts that they can't deny, and I am basing my argument on those facts.

Anette Acker said...

Christ exists only in heaven. Aren't you still awaiting His second coming?

Did Osiris rise bodily from the dead? No, he did not. A story about Isis and Osiris says:

"Yet nothing that has died, not even a god, may dwell in the land of the living. Osiris went to Duat, the abode of the dead."

So there we see what the pagans thought of anyone dying and coming back to the land of the living. It didn't even happen in their mythology, a point that N. T. Wright makes in his extensively researched and scholarly tome, The Resurrection of the Son of God.

Anette Acker said...

We're doing great, Daniel. I hope things are going well with you and yours as well.

Darkknight56 said...

I do think we are straying a bit from the original question here.

I have a supernatural event - the splitting of the moon.
I have witnesses to the event.
None were hallucinating.
I assume the author of the holy book was honest, at least there is nothing to indicate he/they were lying.
It is possible some were tortured and killed over the event (although neither holy book records the deaths of anyone).
The reason it is not in mainstream history is because non-believers and skeptics kept it out.

Do you now accept the proof that Mohammad split and put back together the moon? If not, why not?

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

Did Osiris rise bodily from the dead? No, he did not. A story about Isis and Osiris says:

"Yet nothing that has died, not even a god, may dwell in the land of the living. Osiris went to Duat, the abode of the dead."

So there we see what the pagans thought of anyone dying and coming back to the land of the living. It didn't even happen in their mythology, a point that N. T. Wright makes in his extensively researched and scholarly tome, The Resurrection of the Son of God.


Again, we don't expect one culture to take myths and religious stories from other cultures without change. When the Romans, for example, adopted the Greek gods they made changes to the stories to make it more acceptable to the culture. The fact that there are differences shows cultural differences and preferences. It does not invalidate the idea that one religion was or wasn't influenced by another.

You are looking at differences and saying that they make a difference when all they do is show cultural differences and influences. A difference in the way Egyptian gods rise from the dead and you God rises from the dead still doesn't prove that your story is any more true than theirs. Isis could have risen and be accompanied by a marching band and the fact that Jesus's resurrection wasn't accompanied by a marching band doesn't prove either story.

You still need to look at similarities between religions; that can be even more telling that the differences. Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism all have miracles that were:

1. recorded in their holy books,
2. witnessed by various people, and
3. not recorded in mainstream history books mainly because of those pesky disbelievers, and
4. such events have no outside, independent, lines of proof that any of the miracles took place.

In addition, religions are tailored for where the culture lives. The Norse religion had ice monsters. People who live by the sea have sea monsters and demons (Neptune, for example). The desert is an integral part of the Judeo/Christian religion so it isn't surprising that Hell is a lake of fire. If Christian miracles really did happen then why do they have so much in common with miracles of other religions. I'm not talking point-for-point sameness; Islam has miracles that Christianity doesn't. Does that make Islam true and Christianity false? No, but it does seem strange that there is no more support for Christian miracles than those of other religions.

Anette Acker said...

Do you now accept the proof that Mohammad split and put back together the moon? If not, why not?

I have already given possible naturalistic explanations for the story of Mohammed splitting the moon numerous times, and unless you can refute those, we're done with Mohammed.

No, but it does seem strange that there is no more support for Christian miracles than those of other religions.

I have given you the historical evidence. Now it's up to you to find viable non-supernatural explanations for the empty tomb, the appearances of Jesus, and the Easter faith of the disciples. But before you respond, please take into consideration the arguments that I have already made, so that we don't go in circles.

Darkknight56 said...

I find it interesting that I have the same evidence for a supernatural event that you do and yet you refuse to accept it as true. Would there be any supernatural event from any other religion you would be willing to accept?

A combination of truth (Jesus, Paul and James really existed), half-truth, after-death myth building and hero-worship (the last two demonstrated with George Washington and the cherry tree) explains the resurrection very nicely and naturally.

Combine all that with the fact that there are no independent testimony for any of Jesus's miracles in the 33 years He was alive means that the claim of a supernatural aspect cannot be corroborated.

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56,

We seem to be having some difficulty communicating. I'm going to summarize my position again, and if it's still not clear, it might be best if we end the discussion here.

Clamflats summarized it very well, so you could read that.

But I'll elaborate by saying that we have specific historical evidence that supports the resurrection (the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances, and the Easter faith of the disciples), and most scholars agree with all these facts.

Skeptics have, especially in the past few hundred years, tried to come up with natural explanations for these facts, but all of them fail. It's sort of like a maze, where there are many directions you can take that lead to a dead end, but there is only one direction that will take you all the way through. And, in response to that dilemma, some skeptics, like David Hume and Bart Ehrman, will just throw up their hands and say, "Any explanation is more probable than the supernatural." But that path leads to a dead end as well, as illustrated by Bayes' Theorem.

Now the reason why the story of Mohammed immediately fails is because there is no evidence at all, except Mohammed's own word. And there are possible natural explanations for that.

In the words of Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that." At least for now, until I elaborate on it more in a future post.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

But I'll elaborate by saying that we have specific historical evidence that supports the resurrection (the empty tomb,

Oh, okay so you know where He was buried then, right? You have the tomb?

the postmortem appearances,

You have documentation from the 500 who saw Him? NO.

and the Easter faith of the disciples),

You have proof of their faith? NO.

what about the faith of Muslims who died for their religion? Oh, right, others who die for their beliefs don't count as they aren't dying for Christian beliefs.

and most scholars agree with all these facts.

What is meant by "most scholars"? How many scholars are there and out of the total population of scholars, how many are Christian and thus accept the resurrection already? How many scholars accept the story of the resurrection as true?

You say you have historical facts but you don't have the tomb, you don't have the testimony of the 500, you don't have any outside, independent, corroborating evidence for the resurrection. Remove the bible and there is no historical record or proof it ever happened. If the bible alone were taken off the table there would be no historical proof that the resurrection even occurred.

For example, if you were to remove all press and newspaper articles from consideration for, say, the Gettysburg address - let's say it was never covered or printed by any magazine or newspaper in the world - there would be enough historical evidence for its occurrence. Why is there much more proof for the Gettysburg Address than the resurrection?

Now the reason why the story of Mohammad immediately fails is because there is no evidence at all, except Mohammad's own word.

No, we have the witnesses who saw him do it. He wasn't alone when it happened.

And there are possible natural explanations for that.

Natural explanations for why the moon split in two? Like what? Any object striking it would have pulverized it.

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

The disciples of Jesus lived in first century Judea. They would have had very little interaction with Egyptians. The Jews at the time looked down on Gentiles and referred to them as "dogs." And many of the early Christians were devout Jews. I think we agree that this was true of Paul, and Acts 11:8 indicates that Peter was also very Jewish.

Not true at all. The Greeks, Romans, Jews, Egyptians - all of those people traded with each other. That was one of the reasons for the money-changers that are talked about in the New Testament. Cedars from Lebanon, oil from Greece and Rome, spices from different places. They may not have likened them but they wanted their money, goods and services.

More importantly:

...and the Easter faith of the disciples

Previously, you said about atheists dying for atheism:

It would tell me that this individual felt strongly about his or her atheism, but it would tell me nothing about whether or not atheism is true.

If a person dying for what they believe tells you nothing about whether or not their belief is true then this has to apply to the deaths of James, Paul and the others. Are you applying one standard to the apostles for their deaths and a separate one to everyone else who died for their beliefs? If atheist, Muslim or Hindu deaths don't tell you whether or not their beliefs are true then this has to be true for James, Paul and the others who died for Christianity. Their deaths are not indicative of what they believed is true or not.

AFollowerOfJesus said...

I'm sorry but I have to ask about when you say "most scholars". I'm assuming that you don't mean most scholars in the world but just those in the US and Europe mainly. It is pretty much a safe bet that we can eliminate most Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and any other non-Christian scholars, correct?

I'm just trying to get a better idea of what you mean by scholar and what are their backgrounds.

Also, when you say scholars - what fields are they scholarly in? Are they mostly religious scholars? If they were mostly historical scholars I'd have to wonder why then the Resurrection, if it was an actual historical event, isn't in most world history books, if any. Could it be that, despite your claim of historical evidence, most mainstream historians do not consider the resurrection to be an actual historical event?

What actually constitutes a scholar? Are they professors at (religious) universities? Who qualifies to be a scholar? I will have a master's degree by the end of this year so do I qualify as a scholar?

Can you tell me what fields of study these scholars have studied? I imagine that there are probably several fields but I'm interested in what the majority have studied?

Anette Acker said...

Hi A Follower of Jesus,

I'm assuming that you are referring to my statement that "most scholars accept the historicity of the empty tomb," is that correct?

I mean that, according to a study done by Gary Habermas, 75% of scholars who have expressed an opinion on the historicity of the empty tomb since (I believe) the 70s say that they believe that women found it empty on the third day.

These scholars include secular historian Michael Grant, Jewish scholar Geza Vermes, and atheist Jeffery Jay Lowder. Agnostic Bible scholar Bart Ehrman has said that "it appears to be a historical datum" that women found the tomb empty. (But he has gone both ways on the issue.)

As for scholars who say that the disciples at least believed that Jesus appeared to them, that is virtually unanimous.

Of course this does not mean that these scholars think Jesus was raised from the dead. If they did, they would be Christian. However, it means they have to come up with an alternative explanation for all the facts, and that has been very difficult.

Darkknight56 said...

Since you like Jeffery Jay Lowder - he reviewed Lee Strobel's book, "The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998."

In it Jeffery wrote regarding the quote from Josephus:

"For instance, Strobel defends the partial authenticity of the so-called "Testimonium Flavianum," the most famous reference to Jesus in the writings of Josephus. However, there is no discussion at all of the multiple reasons that have led some scholars--compatible with Christianity--to reject the Testimonium Flavianum in its entirety."

Later, in discussing the documentation that the church fathers gathered in establishing the New Testament, he points out that even Strobel admits, via Metzger, that the church fathers gathered and kept only those documentst that already agreed with their belief of what happened.

"In other words, Metzger admits that "church councils squelched equally legitimate documents because they didn't like the picture of Jesus they portrayed!" After all, consider the implications of these three criteria: (i) excludes a priori the testimony of non-Christian historians; (ii) rules out the possibility of books that did not conform to what Christians already believed; and (iii) ensures that only books popular with the Church were accepted. The implications of this are obvious. We have already seen why there is no reason to expect that first century non-Christians would have taken critical notice of Christianity. But suppose that assumption is entirely incorrect. If, say, the first-century Roman historian Suetonius had written a book entitled, "The Full Grave of Jesus," documenting in intricate detail that the Resurrection was a hoax, it would be an understatement to say that the early church would have excluded such a book from the New Testament. There would have been no reason for the church to include such a book in the canon. But in that hypothetical scenario, the church would not have included at least one important source for the historicity of Jesus, namely, the hypothetical book by Suetonius. Therefore, one can only marvel at Metzger's suggestion the early church's criteria guarantee that "the New Testament contains the best sources for the historicity of Jesus." To paraphrase a comment made by Strobel, these criteria were "loaded from the outset, like dice that are weighted so they yield the result that was desired all along" (p. 156). It would have been more accurate to say that the early church's criteria guarantee that "the New Testament contains the best sources for the historicity of Jesus, consistent with a Christian worldview.""

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/strobel-rev.html

Darkknight56 said...

Anette Acker said...

As for scholars who say that the disciples at least believed that Jesus appeared to them, that is virtually unanimous.

You still didn't really answer her question regarding how you define what is a scholar. You didn't tell her you meant just "religious scholars" and not scholars in other fields. I suspect that scholars in other fields are not so unanimous.

Of course this does not mean that these scholars think Jesus was raised from the dead. If they did, they would be Christian. However, it means they have to come up with an alternative explanation for all the facts, and that has been very difficult.

It's never up to others to disprove your argument, it is up to you to show beyond a reasonable doubt that it is true. You still have to prove that the New Testament is accurate and that the stories that are told in them are really true and that they really happened - something you haven't done yet, either.

Just out of curiosity, is there any argument someone could present to you that would convince you that the resurrection didn't happen? Any at all?

Anette Acker said...

Darkknight56,

You still didn't really answer her question regarding how you define what is a scholar. You didn't tell her you meant just "religious scholars" and not scholars in other fields. I suspect that scholars in other fields are not so unanimous.

When I say "scholars" I mean scholars who have expressed a written opinion on the subject. And mostly they are NT scholars, historians, and archaeologists. Physicists don't generally write about the empty tomb. ;)

Would it be okay with you if we just agree to disagree for now? Right now I feel very exhausted from discussions like this, especially when it means answering the same questions to a number of different people.

I don't want to seem like I'm snubbing you by not replying to your recent comments. You seem like a very nice person, and that's not at all what I'm doing. But as I've said before, I don't get the sense that we are making any progress in our discussions. We've talked about this for a while now and seem to be spinning our wheels. And since that is the case, I think the most constructive decision is to agree to disagree.

JusJuiceIt said...

Hi Anette,

Thanks very much for the post! In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, may He Bless you!

In response to EVERYONE.. here's a source showing all the non-biblical sources we have on the Historicity of Jesus Christ:

http://www.dokimos.org/mmlj/mmlj000.html

And here's another source confirming the source I just posted (to all you skeptics):

http://www.provethebible.net/T2-Divin/D-0201.htm

ONCE AGAIN TO EVERYONE.. I can a also give you over a dozen sources clearly saying "virtually every New Testament Scholar and 99% of Historians including the skeptics and non-Christians agree on these facts: the Crucifixion, empty tomb, and appearances to Paul, and the Disciples.. ALSO in those same sources that I can site to you, a couple of them attest to the fact that 75% of New Testament Scholars believe it was a BODILY appearance, in other words, resurrection.

To conclude my comment.. The single most important thing I could ever tell you about the evidence for Jesus, is to open your heart and sincerely ask Him to show you if He is who He claimed to be!.. I did, and there's not a doubt in my mind! But don't for one second take my word for it.. Do it yourself!

Stephen said...

A couple of points on this OLD posting I just came across:

1. Without Paul, there is no Christianity. Paul's personal visions and channelings of Jesus (and in some cases, like the Lord's Supper story, his teachings and instructions) make up what we know about Christ's resurrection.

2. Apart from the Gospel accounts, of course, which were written by Paul's followers, who are intent on diminishing the teachings and prophetic message of Jesus and making the religion ABOUT "Christ crucified and risen" and to be mere assent that he rose and therefore makes our sins magically disappear (which was NOT his teachings.)

3. The alleged Josephus quote ran like this: "Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named for him, are not extinct at this day."

I say "alleged" because all scholars admit this is a forgery inserted much later. If Josephus believed him to be more than a "man" then he would have been a Pauline Christian, not a Jew. No Jew would say "He was the Christ (Messiah)" about Jesus, not even today.

4. At one point someone here said, "Actually, Paul did not primarily live and travel in Rome. He traveled all over the eastern Mediterranean, starting in Jerusalem and ending in Rome, where he was martyred." Anette replied, "Acts 22:25-29 show that Paul was born a Roman citizen." Please note that "Rome" ruled the entire Mediterranean at that time. There is zero evidence that Paul lived in Rome. It was only tradition. And even none that Peter did, until Church Historian Eusebius in the 4th Century came up with both of these stories.