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July 01, 2009

Comments

It should be obvious to most, if not all, readers by now that Joe doesn't know much about the study of history. At one point, he says that we have "no idea" what the motives of ancient sources were. Then he says that we have probabilities. Then, after I explain that I'm arguing for probable conclusions that support Christianity, he responds by dismissing probabilities as "speculation". He raises the issue of textual transmission, but then abandons it after I respond. He claims that we need records from non-Christian sources who were writing at the time of the events in question, even though he comments elsewhere that he accepts reports of other historical data written after the events in question. (He isn't questioning the existence of Jesus, for example, even though the sources who refer to His existence do so after His death.) He keeps raising the issue of the supposed need for more evidence for supernatural claims, and he keeps asking about supernatural claims outside of Christianity, yet he doesn't interact with the two articles I linked on those subjects. He asks:

"How 'probable' is it that human being rose from the dead? How many times has this happened in the human history? That’s why there is such a big difference between the 'confident' conclusions of historians with regards to 'ancient history' versus 'confidence' about supernatural events. I think that we need much, much more than 'probable' here."

Consider the deep irrationality of Joe's position. If we were to follow Joe's reasoning consistently (something Joe hasn't been doing), we would need "much, much more than 'probable'" conclusions in order to accept the first earthquake we ever heard of, the first snowfall we ever heard of, the first suicide we ever heard of, etc. You can't know "how many times has this happened in the human history" for an event unless you hear of such an event for the first time. There is no second time without a first time. It's not as though supernatural events are the only ones we hear of for a first time. In a sense, every historical event could be said to be unique in some manner.

Having a historical precedent for something is helpful, but not necessary. If Joe wants us to believe that a lack of previous resurrections is as significant as he suggests, then he needs to argue for that position rather than just asserting it. He hasn't done much arguing so far. He has done a lot of asserting, though.

If we "need much, much more than 'probable' here", then Joe is suggesting that we should reject some conclusions that are probable. But why? Is a possibility preferable to a probability just because the probability isn't as high as we'd like it to be? No. I would agree with Joe that it would be preferable to have higher probabilities or certainties, but a preference isn't equivalent to a need. If the resurrection of Jesus is probable, then we should believe that it occurred, even if we'd prefer to have a higher probability or a certainty.

There are many other problems with what Joe has said. But my time is limited, and Joe doesn't seem to have much interest in being reasonable on these matters.

Jason,

You just don't get it, do you?

It's not just that the story of Jesus is the first time we've heard of God coming to Earth in human form, performing countless supernatural acts and rising from the dead. This is, in fact, the only time we've heard of such events. Your snowflake and earthquake comparisons fail, because we've seen many snowflakes and earthquakes since the first ones. World War II was a "unique historic event", but there's nothing new about war. This isn't about historical precedent, it's about arguably the most amazing, fantastical claim in the history of the species.

Let me put it this way. If I handed you a family history that I had written, and this history said that my great-grandfather was born in 1885 and is dead today, how much evidence would you demand from me before you would accept my statement that my great-grandfather is dead? Would you need a death certificate, obituary, a body buried in a cemetary? I doubt it. You would have no problem agreeing that there is a very high probability that my great-grandfather is dead. No evidence is needed, because human males very, very, very rarely live 125 years.

But what if I said that my great-grandfather was alive and well and living it up in the Playboy Mansion with Hugh Hefner? Now what evidence would you require before you accepted my claim? I'm guess that you'd want a little more than my words on a piece of paper. If fact, this time, you'd demand extensive evidence for my claim, because it's very unlikely that there is a man alive today who born in 1885. Human males don't live to be 125 years old or, for that matter, rise from the dead. But wait, I say,just because this is the first time you've heard of a 125 year old man partying with Hef,that's no reason to reject my claims or demand far more evidence than when I said that my great-grandfather was dead. Why, I have a letter that I recieved from him the other day, so that makes it "probable" that I'm telling the truth.

You never did answer the Troy questions. I take that to mean that you understand that one requires far more evidence to support a supernatural claim than a non-supernatural claim. You can write all the articles that you want, but why not deal with a real life historical example?

But, hey, if you want to dismiss me as "deeply irrational", there's not much I can do about it.

>>the question is "why didn't the people who saw the invincible Jesus revolt anyway". It's not about Jesus's intent. It's about how ordinary humans behave.

I think this could very well be why Jesus appeared to those who knew Him and His teachings. There were times before His crucifixion when some of the people decided they wanted to "make Jesus king by force," and He had absolutely no interest in that. Instead, He said, "My kingdom is not of this world," and He made it very clear that God was gathering people and creating a different kind of kingdom based on new, spiritual birth, and not on people's regular birth into a people group. His new kingdom was not a political kingdom. Jesus made this very clear to the people who followed Him to the end.

So you've answered your own past question about why Jesus didn't appear to everybody. He knew human nature as well as you, so He appeared to those who understood that He was not here to create a physical kingdom and that He had no interest in political revolt on the part of His followers. Thus, no political revolt. Instead, the people who saw Him went out to spread the new, non-political kingdom, as Jesus had commanded.

>>Do you really believe that an post-execution resurrected man can be seen by 500 people in Jerusalem without this having an immediate and profound effect on the Roman Empire?

It had an extremely profound effect on the empire, and it was remarked on by the Roman officials as the movement gained strength and came to their attention. It's in the book.

>>I suspect that your non-biblical sources are mostly accounts stating that Christians existed. That's not the same as confirming the supernatural.

Of course it's not. But all you asked for was a contemporaneous record created by people who claimed to have witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus, which I have provided. I don't expect you to believe it's true only because some people said so. But it does meet your criteria for one area of evidence--contemporaneous report of the resurrection. I understand that it's necessary but not sufficient.

As for the Mormons, I have many reasons to believe the Book of Mormon isn't either an ancient book nor true words about God, including philosophical, theological, archeological, literary, scientific, and historical reasons.

>You asked for a contemporaneous record created by people who claimed to have witnessed the death and resurrection of Jesus.

But the people who witnessed the resurrection did not create the record in question.

Paul created the record. Paul did not witness the resurrection. And before he even talked to the witnesses, he'd already decided that Jesus rose from the dead. We don't actually know what people told Paul, we just have to trust Paul. Given the nature of the claims involved, I'd like something a little stronger than this.

>He appeared to those who understood that He was not here to create a physical kingdom and that He had no interest in political revolt on the part of His followers.

And there were as many as 500 of these extraordinarily self-controlled people in Jerusalem in 30AD? And nobody blabbed the news to someone who didn't understand the whole "no revolt" thing? No one accidently set off a chain reaction in a city on the edge of exploding? It's just Jesus and 500 of his closest friends, and nobody else gets wind of the the whole invincible messiah thing? I can't say it's impossible, because the historical record is so terribly incomplete. I don't know how to further test the proposition. But it's really, really pushing the envelope of believability.

>It (appearance before 500 people) had an extremely profound effect on the empire.

Eventually, eventually. But not at the time that it allegedly happened. One does not expect such a delayed explosion with 500 witnesses involved. Further, the resurrection is only the last of a series of miracles. 5000 saw Jesus create food out of thin air, and who knows how many saw the other alleged miracles? But for some reason, no explosion at the time. Not what I'd expect from my fellow humans.

>As for the Mormons, I have many reasons to believe the Book of Mormon isn't either an ancient book nor true words about God, including philosophical, theological, archeological, literary, scientific, and historical reasons.

Yeah, I have the same problems with Christianity. But what can one do? At least the 19th century was kind enough to leave us an extensive historical record. The first century? Not so much.

>>Paul created the record.

No, he did not. The creed is the record and it predates 1 Corinthians.

>>One does not expect such a delayed explosion with 500 witnesses involved.

There was not a delayed expansion (if that's what you mean). Read Acts.

>>But for some reason, no explosion at the time.

On the contrary, like I said, they did want to make Jesus king by force before the crucifixion (when people who "had in mind the things of men [i.e., political kingdom] and not the things of God [new life in a spiritual kingdom]" saw what Jesus could do). After Jesus made His purpose clear--that He did not come to instigate a political revolt and establish a political kingdom, His followers had no need to revolt. Those who were gathered together--the 500--were His followers. Now imagine that someone else [not one of His followers] more politically minded heard Jesus had risen from the dead and wanted to use that to start a revolt. How many followers would he gather to himself without Jesus at the head to rally people? Not many.

And anybody who heard about the resurrection would likely ask somebody in the know about Him and would be told that Jesus wanted them to "make disciples of all men," not overthrow the Romans.

>>No one accidently set off a chain reaction in a city on the edge of exploding?

By telling people that Jesus died for our sins, rose from the grave, and is seated at the right hand of God, initiated the New Covenant spoken of in Jeremiah, will change our hearts, make us new, and give us the Holy Spirit? I still don't see why that would start a political rebellion in the name of Jesus.

But regardless of this, by the time 40 years had passed, there was enough unrest and rebellion in Jerusalem (not in the name of Jesus) for the Romans to destroy the city.

>>nobody else gets wind of the the whole invincible messiah thing?

Obviously people did get wind of it because it spread pretty quickly. But of course it was the version being preached that spread and not the story of a political messiah who came to take on the Romans because nobody was telling that story.

>>But what can one do?

I think one can do a lot. Philosophers theorized the need for a rational creator, for a creator of order, for the real existence of objective goodness and beauty, long before Christianity. Philosophy also supports the idea of God's personhood, His non-physcialness, etc. Archeologically, we have lots of artifacts confirming names and places in the Bible, so we know it wasn't completely invented at a much later date, but has some connection (at least) to reality. Historically, I think the case for the resurrection is very good. In fact, I read a book by a Jewish scholar who has been convinced by the evidence that the resurrection occurred. He has not become a Christian, so he can't be considered biased! Theologically, I find that Christianity fits well into the full story of the Bible--that it's a coherent whole. There are many ways to think about whether or not Christianity fits with reality, and I have found that it does.

With respect to the lack of revolts, I think that you have far, far more faith in people's willingness to cooperate with grand theological plans that I do. I don't think that people behave in the manner that you've described.

When I say that "Paul created the record", what I mean is that the written record, the historical record, the physical record was created by Paul and not by the witnesses. "The Creed" is the set of words recorded by Paul. There is no way to know if the unwritten, unrecorded creed existed in a form identical to the word recorded by Paul. There are no other records. Trust Paul if you'd like, but the record is Paul's, and not the witnesses.

When I was seven, my cat died. And learned something about the world. Cats die, dogs die, hamsters die, people die. And they don't come back to life. That's just the way the world works.

We can agree that 99.99999999 % of all the people that have ever lived have either died or will die. If you're going to claim that there is an exception to this rule (not to mention, exceptions about rules concerning bread, wine-making and walking on water), you're going to have to do better than "I think the case is very good" or "I think the case is probable".

It's not really good enough to cite a few ancient texts when the claim put forth is so extraordinary. It's good enough for you, but it's not good enough for me. And so I guess that means eternal damnation for me? What an extraordinarily sick, twisted, perverse and horrific god you serve. So it goes.


I don't know whether anybody other than Joe, Amy, and I are reading this thread. But for the potential benefit of readers other than Joe, I'll comment on some of Joe's claims as I have time to do so.

Joe writes:

"It's not just that the story of Jesus is the first time we've heard of God coming to Earth in human form, performing countless supernatural acts and rising from the dead. This is, in fact, the only time we've heard of such events. Your snowflake and earthquake comparisons fail, because we've seen many snowflakes and earthquakes since the first ones. World War II was a 'unique historic event', but there's nothing new about war. This isn't about historical precedent, it's about arguably the most amazing, fantastical claim in the history of the species."

Notice that Joe is changing his argument in the middle of the discussion, as he's done before. He's trying to maintain his appeal to historical precedent while claiming, at the same time, that "this isn't about historical precedent". But the standard he then goes on to suggest as something other than historical precedent, namely whether something is "the most amazing, fantastical claim in the history of the species", is a standard he doesn't argue for. He just asserts it. He'll need to explain why he thinks the resurrection is a more "amazing, fantastical" claim than the claim of the creation of the universe and all other miracles claimed throughout history. And even if the resurrection were the most "amazing, fantastical" claim ever made, how would Joe's conclusion follow? He needs to explain the alleged logical connection between the "amazing, fantastical" nature of a purported event and the supposed need for as much evidence as Joe claims we need.

If Jesus "performed countless supernatural acts" prior to rising from the dead, then we did hear of "such events" prior to the resurrection. Long before Jesus' resurrection, people made claims about the creation of the world, and miracles are reported in the Old Testament, for example, including resuscitation from the dead, which is similar to resurrection. If Joe only needs something vaguely similar to World War II in order to conclude that World War II occurred, then he shouldn't object to vague precedents for Jesus' resurrection, such as those mentioned above.

How does he know that "we've seen many snowflakes and earthquakes since the first ones"? You can't get to "many" unless you have a first one. The reason why "there's nothing new about war" to Joe is because he's concluded that other wars occurred. But how did he reach the conclusion that the first war he believed in occurred? Would somebody who hears of some sort of event for the first time wait until he has evidence that the event is "much, much more than 'probable'", as Joe put it earlier, before concluding that the event occurred? When you first heard of an earthquake, first heard of a new animal that was discovered, etc., did you make the sort of vague demands for "much, much more than 'probable'" conclusions that Joe is making? I doubt it.

It's not as though a being who would be able to perform something like a resurrection would only be able to do it if it had been done before. Humans often do things in life that they hadn't done before (get married, give their life to save the life of another person, etc.). Does Joe somehow know that there is no being who could possibly perform a resurrection and, therefore, we can only look to nature to see if resurrections naturally occur?

As I said earlier, Joe needs to explain why the specific evidence cited for Jesus' resurrection is insufficient. Things like hostile corroboration (Jewish acknowledgment of Jesus' performance of miracles and the empty tomb, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus upon seeing the risen Jesus, etc.) and the willingness of resurrection witnesses to suffer and die for their belief that they saw the risen Christ are unusual. If Joe wants us to believe that such things aren't unusual enough, and that we need more, then he needs to explain why. The evidence specific to Jesus' resurrection has to be addressed. It's not enough to make vague references to how "fantastic" the concept is or to tell us that you can imagine people being mistaken about such things. The issue isn't what you can imagine. The issue is what's probable in light of the specific evidence we have.

You still don't get it. Answer the Troy questions, and you'll get it.

If you would demand more evidence from me to support a claim that my great-grandfather was partying with Hefner than to support a claim that my great-grandfather was dead, then you get it.

By the way, I didn’t change arguments in mid-stream. The point of many of my earlier comments was that not only is the historical record quantitatively inadequate (not enough physical material), but in addition, there are significant uncertainties associated with what little we do have. It’s all one long argument.

In reality, scholars do not agree about when the various documents were written, they do not agree about authorship, they do not agree about the degree of later intercalation, and they do not agree about the motives of those involved. Ironically, even the earliest account of people apparently saying that there was a physical resurrection is a second-hand account by someone who was not present at the event. You can use the word “probabilities” if you’d like, but given the nature of the claims, we don’t need “probabilities”, we need “certainties”.

Obviously, the evidence is enough for you. So be it.

>>There is no way to know if the unwritten, unrecorded creed existed in a form identical to the word recorded by Paul.

That's your opinion. However, atheist scholars who have an in-depth knowledge of the field have come to a conclusion on this, and the conclusion is that the creed predates Paul's writing. You don't have their expertise and knowledge, so I can understand why you're skeptical. This is why I directed you to the quick summary of why experts believe differently than you do in this instance. If you're going to dismiss their professional opinion, particularly if you do so without hearing the evidence, just know that this is based on your skeptical feelings rather than on actual facts and scholarship.

>Atheist scholars who have an in-depth knowledge of the field have come to a conclusion on this, and the conclusion is that the creed predates Paul's writing.

As the young earthers are fond of saying...were they there?

But on a serious note, the creed contains the reference to the 500 witnesses, right? Well, then there's a error somewhere; either it's Paul's error or it's the witness's error. It is not even remotely "probable" (if I may use the word) that the Jewish Messiah returns from the dead in the time and place and question without grabbing the immediate attention of the Roman authorities and/or without leaving a contemporaneous mark on Roman history. Doesn't happen, didn't happen. If Paul correctly recorded the creed, he record something that didn't happen.

I want to address some more of the many errors in Joe's posts. He writes:

"You would have no problem agreeing that there is a very high probability that my great-grandfather is dead. No evidence is needed, because human males very, very, very rarely live 125 years. But what if I said that my great-grandfather was alive and well and living it up in the Playboy Mansion with Hugh Hefner? Now what evidence would you require before you accepted my claim? I'm guess that you'd want a little more than my words on a piece of paper. If fact, this time, you'd demand extensive evidence for my claim, because it's very unlikely that there is a man alive today who born in 1885. Human males don't live to be 125 years old or, for that matter, rise from the dead. But wait, I say,just because this is the first time you've heard of a 125 year old man partying with Hef,that's no reason to reject my claims or demand far more evidence than when I said that my great-grandfather was dead. Why, I have a letter that I recieved from him the other day, so that makes it 'probable' that I'm telling the truth....We can agree that 99.99999999 % of all the people that have ever lived have either died or will die. If you're going to claim that there is an exception to this rule (not to mention, exceptions about rules concerning bread, wine-making and walking on water), you're going to have to do better than 'I think the case is very good' or 'I think the case is probable'."

The problem with Joe's analogy is that it's highly disanalogous.

We reject Joe's account of the man who lives to age 125, because we know that he's making up a story that he doesn't believe. We don't know that about the resurrection witnesses.

Since Joe is such a poor communicator, and he doesn't put much effort into his posts, we often have to guess at what he's trying to say. It seems that he's referring to somebody who lives to the age of 125 by natural means. Thus, he comments that "human males very, very, very rarely live 125 years". And he goes on to comment that "99.99999999 % of all the people that have ever lived have either died or will die". Apparently, he meant to refer to the percentage of humans who remain dead, since Christians don't deny that Jesus died.

But Christians don't argue that Jesus rose from the dead by natural means. As I said earlier, in one of my many comments that Joe ignored, does Joe somehow know that there is no being who could possibly perform a resurrection and, therefore, we can only look to nature to see if resurrections naturally occur? A theist, agnostic, or anybody else who doesn't deny that there's a being who could perform a resurrection won't limit himself to what naturally occurs. Where's Joe's case for atheism? Why should we think that the probability that Jesus would rise from the dead would be determined by how often resurrections naturally occur? If there is a being who could perform a resurrection, then that being could choose to resurrect one person after having not resurrected every previous person, much as a man who meets several thousand women during the course of his life without marrying them could choose to marry the next woman he meets. The context in which Jesus lived (first-century Israel, His status as a religious teacher, His claims about His identity, His reported miracles, His expectation that He would rise from the dead, etc.) make Him a far more plausible candidate for resurrection than an ordinary farmer in Italy in the first century B.C. or an ordinary factory worker in the United States in the twentieth century. It's not as though the fact that God didn't raise that farmer or that factory worker from the dead counts as some sort of significant evidence against Jesus' resurrection.

Joe only gives us one witness to the man who lives to age 125. We have more than one witness for the resurrection.

Joe doesn't tell us much about that one witness. We know more about some of the resurrection witnesses (for example, that Paul was from Tarsus, was trained under Gamaliel, was a Pharisee, was a persecutor of the church, etc.).

Joe's witness isn't corroborated by any hostile witnesses. Some of the claims of the resurrection witnesses are so corroborated, as I explained earlier.

We don't have much information by which to judge the genre of the claims of Joe's witness. Was he joking, for example? In contrast, we have a large amount of evidence that the gospels are of the genre of Greco-Roman biography, that the earliest Christian and non-Christian sources interpreted the resurrection accounts as historical accounts, etc.

Joe's witness didn't suffer or die for the claims he was making. See my linked article, earlier in this thread, regarding the suffering and deaths of multiple resurrection witnesses.

What if we changed Joe's example, to make it more similar to what we have with regard to Jesus' resurrection? Instead of having a narrator of the account who implies the falsity of that account, as Joe does with his story, give the account a narrator who believes in the account, as we have with the New Testament and other sources relevant to the resurrection. Instead of Joe's frivolous "partying with Hef" atmosphere, give the account the more serious atmosphere we have with early Christianity. Add more witnesses. Add more information about the witnesses. Add more information about the larger context. Have the witnesses suffer and die for a belief system that has this man's living to age 125 at its core. Add hostile corroboration of the claim that the man is alive at age 125. Put the accounts in historical genres, like Greco-Roman biography. Put the man alleged to be 125 years old in a context in which he's a religious teacher, makes high claims about his own identity, has a reputation for performing miracles (including among his enemies, who would have an interest in denying the miracles, but affirm them instead), and has his living to 125 seen as supernatural rather than something accomplished by natural means. (Thus, the odds against living so long by natural means wouldn't apply.)

In other words, as I said above, Joe's analogy is disanalogous. The rarity of living to 125 by natural means isn't comparable to the likelihood that God would raise Jesus from the dead, since such a resurrection wouldn't occur by natural means. And the quality of the evidence we have for the testimony of Joe's witness is much less than the quality of the evidence we have for the testimony of the multiple witnesses of the resurrection.

But even in cases like the one Joe describes, how much evidence do people usually look for? Just within the last several days, I saw a story online about a man who's 107 years old. Is that rare? Yes. Was the news story sufficient to convince me that the man probably exists? Yes. Even when an older age is reported, such as 110 or 115, do we dismiss the report if it has the sort of evidence we have for Jesus' resurrection (multiple witnesses, the willingness of those witnesses to suffer and die for their testimony, hostile corroboration, etc.)? No. As J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig explain:

"It was soon realized that if one simply weighed the probability of the event against the reliability of the witness, then we should be led into denying the occurrence of events which, though highly improbable, we reasonably know to have occurred. For example, if on the morning news you hear reported that the pick in last night's lottery was 7492871, this is a report of an extraordinarily improbable event, one out of several million, and even if the morning news's accuracy is known to be 99.99%, the improbability of the event reported will swamp the probability of the witness's reliability, so that we should never believe such reports. In order to believe the report, Hume's principle would require us to have enough evidence in favor of the morning news' reliability to counterbalance the improbability of the winning pick, which is absurd. Probability theorists saw what also needs to be considered is the probability that if the reported event has not occurred, the witness's testimony is still the same as it is. Thus, to return to our example, the probability that the morning news would announce the pick as 7492871 if some other number had been chosen is so incredibly small, given that the newscasters had no preference for the announced number, that it counterbalances the high improbability of the event reported. What Hume would have to say in the case of the resurrection, for example, is that if Jesus did not rise from the dead then it is highly probable that we should have exactly the testimony we do to the facts of his empty tomb, post mortem appearances and the disciples' belief in his resurrection. But clearly if Jesus had not risen, then the testimonial evidence, rather than being what it is, might be to any of a wide range of envisionable scenarios. A further factor neglected by Hume is the remarkable increase in probability that results from multiple, independent testimony to some event....The second problem with Hume's argument is that he incorrectly assumes that miracles are intrinsically highly improbable. With respect to the resurrection of Jesus, for example, there is no reason to think that the hypothesis 'God raised Jesus from the dead' is highly improbable relative to our background information. What is improbable relative to our background information is the hypothesis 'Jesus rose naturally from the dead.' Given what we know of cell necrosis, that hypothesis is fantastically, even unimaginably, improbable....But such evidence is simply irrelevant to the probability of the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead." (Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview [Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2003], pp. 569-571)

Moving on to some of Joe's other errors, he writes:

"But as to why one would want to believe that Jesus came back from the dead, that’s relatively easy. Who wouldn’t want to believe that the Messiah had come, who wouldn’t want to believe that the Messiah could not be killed by the hated Romans, who wouldn’t want to believe that the Messiah would return soon to bring the Kingdom of God on Earth? Some dreams die very hard."

N.T. Wright, after studying religious movements in Israel around the time of Jesus' death, commented:

"So far as we know, all the followers of these first-century messianic movements were fanatically committed to the cause. They, if anybody, might be expected to suffer from this blessed twentieth century disease called 'cognitive dissonance' when their expectations failed to materialize. But in no case, right across the century before Jesus and the century after him, do we hear of any Jewish group saying that their executed leader had been raised from the dead and he really was the Messiah after all." (cited in Paul Copan and Ronald Tacelli, editors, Jesus' Resurrection: Fact or Figment? [Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000], p. 183)

If what happened with Christianity is what we would expect to happen, if Joe's explanation is as "easy" as he claims, then why didn't it happen with other messianic movements in that ancient Jewish context?

Joe goes on to compound his error:

"So I hear that someone said that they saw Jesus, and then I think that maybe I saw Jesus, even though I didn’t recognize him at the time, and….we’re off and running."

Consider the absurdity of Joe's speculative scenario, for which he offers no evidence. How likely is it that such a scenario occurred with the resurrection appearances of 1 Corinthians 15, for example? Peter seems to have been involved in at least three of the appearances ("to Cephas", "to the Twelve", "to all the apostles"). Was he mistaken all three times? What about the more than 500? If they were hallucinating, for example, did they all hallucinate at the same time and not realize that they were hallucinating and that the hallucinations were inconsistent with each other? Or, if they mistook somebody for Jesus, did all of them make that same mistake at the same time? Wouldn't they likely attempt to communicate with Jesus if they thought they saw Him? Did they all mistake the communication as a communication with Jesus? Did the thought that they had seen somebody else instead never occur to them? If the early Christians were as careless as you suggest, then why do all of the gospels agree in presenting them as doubtful and as wanting confirming evidence, such as the empty tomb and touching Jesus or seeing Him interact with the physical environment around Him? Were the early Christians highly careless, then they realized the importance of being highly careful when they wrote the gospels? Is that the most likely scenario? What about James and Paul, who had been opponents of Jesus? Would a Pharisee who had been persecuting the church likely follow your scenario of "I think that maybe I saw Jesus, even though I didn’t recognize him at the time"?

Hey, I like the way you refuse to address me directly. "Joe says this, Joe says that, Joe's errors". I’m still here, you know. Failing to address me directly....very classy, very Christian.

Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention that my great-grandfather is alive because he sold his soul to Satan. So, his survival is a supernatural thing, too. It's just like the resurrection. And there aren't any other witnesses, because he's invisible. Remember, you opened the door to the supernatural. Anything is possible. Probabilities are irrelevant. Prove that my great-grandfather isn't invisible.

But look what you did in analyzing my claim about my great-grandfather. You didn't accept my word for it, did you? You rejected it because you wanted much more evidence before you would accept it. You went through an exercise in which you compared the evidence for my GGF to the evidence for Jesus’s resurrection. You see, the amount and quality of the evidence matters after all! You DO require much more evidence for extraordinary claims. Significantly, you didn't go through the same exercise with respect to my alternative claim, the claim that my great-grandfather was dead. In that case, you took my word for it. It's only the extraordinary claim that has to be examined in great detail. It's only this claim that requires extraordinary evidence. Good, you got it!

I did enjoy all of the extensive speculation though. I guess that is what you must do when you don't have much direct physical evidence or documentation. People would behave this way, you say; people would behave that way, you say. Now, can you take an ancient text and talk about “probabilities”? Of course, you can. However, in doing so, you make the classic mistake of assuming that the NT is a completely accurate historical document. It’s not that NT is completely false, in an historical sense. But there is usually little or no corroborating evidence with respect to critical details.

But if I do the same sort of speculating about human behavior, it’s an “error”, it’s “absurd”. If I say that countless people have died for things for things that they wanted to believe, even though they were wrong, that doesn’t count. If I say that some of Jesus’s followers desperately wanted to hold on to the dream of heaven on earth, why, that can’t possibly matter. If I say that you can’t show a risen dead man to 500 people without the place blowing sky high, that’s not reasonable. Only Jason is allow to say how people would behave. Only you can use this approach. Right. Got it.

By the way, most of your arguments work quite well to support Mormonism, too. Persecuted witnesses; can't rule out supernatural events just because they've never happened before; only one case in the 19th century involving golden plates, despite the abundance of new religions popping up at that time, etc. Hey, Mormonism is true!

I think that you’re on to something with “the context in which Jesus lived”. But it doesn’t make him a more likely far more plausible candidate for resurrection. What it definitely does do is make it far more likely that people would inaccurately believe that he had been supernaturally resurrected than “an Italian farmer”. You’re actually on to something here. It’s not at all a surprise that Christianity emerges when and where it does. The time was ripe for this, just as the historical context of the late 18th century was ideal for political movements like the American revolution.

You know, you’re free to introduce the supernatural if you’d like. That’s fine, but it renders historical analysis completely pointless, because there is no way to disprove a supernatural event. You can make any supernatural claim you want, and I can’t prove you wrong. It doesn’t really matter how much evidence does or does not exist. Once you start with a supernatural conclusion, any and all evidence can be used to support the claim. It’s really a waste of time to test the claim, because you can counter any argument that I might make by saying, “it’s supernatural, the normal rules don’t apply”. It’s the ultimate cheat code. Of course, it’s used by most religions, rendering it impossible to disprove their claims, too.

All Christian apologetics comes to “the witnesses”. All the rest is fluff and filler. You believe the “witnesses”, that’s the argument, that’s the list. Ironically, you do not have faith in Jesus, in fact, you have faith in your fellow humans. It’s the stories of people that you trust, not God. But you know, I have hundreds of witnesses who swear that they’ve been probed by aliens. They often agree on the details, despite the fact that they were not all taken captive at the same, many have suffered grievously for their insistences that they’ve been probed. And yet they don’t recant. Further, they have far more concrete evidence than we have for Jesus’s resurrection. We have alien autopsy photos, secret government documents, and Area 51. Guess little green men are real, too. And Bigfoot.

And what about Troy? Why are you so afraid to test your basic concepts with a different historical example?

I’ve been trying to figure out, in a broader sense, what is happening in this discussion. And I think that I’m beginning to figure it out. The game is rigged. Let me explain.

I’ve tried to argue that the alleged events of the early first century are the most amazing and fantastical of all time. Water doesn’t turn into wine, humans don’t walk on water and they don’t come back from the dead.

Now, since this isn't the way the world works, I would think that we would require an extraordinary amount of evidence before we would accept such claims. But you simply pull out the “supernatural” card and say that the need for extraordinary evidence disappears, and that probabilities and other rules don’t apply. (Of course, later, you will become very fond of the word "probable".) Very neat, very convenient.

This tells me two things.

First, it tells me that the resurrection is an example of an untestable, unbeatable hypothesis. Any evidence against the hypothesis can be explained away using the all-purpose, cheat code, “it’s a miracle” gambit.

Second, it tells me that you lack extraordinary evidence or you simply would have used that evidence, rather than use the “probabilities don’t apply” excuse. It’s important to dismiss the need for extraordinary evidence, because that evidence does not exist.

So, what about the evidence in hand? Well, the evidence consists entirely of “witness statements” by a handful of men. These is no physical evidence of miracles, there are no non-Christian contemporaneous account of events. Further, most of these statements were first recorded decades after the supernatural events s in question, and critically, most of the crucial details about the alleged supernatural events are not recorded until decades later. (How many times does Paul talk about water into wine, feeding the 5000, empty tombs, etc.)

Yes, it’s just a handful of witnesses. Write down the full names of all the people who claim to have seen the physical body of Jesus after the execution. How many names do you have? What about the 500? Well, we don’t have their statements, do we? In any event, the claim of 500 witnesses is simply not believable.

Of course, there is little or no independent corroborating evidence to support the critical details of these witness statements. Independent sources confirm that there were people making these amazing claims, but that’s about it.

Why do we believe this handful of men? Well, we believe it because they allegedly died for their beliefs. In the end, that’s the only argument in apologetics. So, now we get into the realm of predicting how humans would behave and we have to accept every word of the NT as historical truth.

But predicting human behavior is a tricky business, and humans have died for many mistaken beliefs, and we have no corroboration for the critical details of the NT, a set of documents written by people who could hardly be considered “disinterested observers”. For example, there are no Roman records saying "we killed Thomas today for saying that Jesus physically rose from the dead". And some of the claims (500 witnesses) are absurd, given the way people behave. Certainly, there is essentially no corroboration for the miraculous aspect of the NT.

So, what we need here is much more evidence, evidence that we’re not going to get because we’re talking about the first century here. This has been my point all along.

But you say that you don’t have to provide that evidence. All you need is a handful of people saying that the events occurred. The events are supernatural. They can’t be tested, probabilities are irrelevant, the rules don’t apply.

And we’ve come full circle. The game is rigged.

>>Since Joe is such a poor communicator, and he doesn't put much effort into his posts, we often have to guess at what he's trying to say.

Jason, we do encourage people to argue vigorously in their comments about the arguments, and I appreciate the arguments you've laid out here, but a personal statement like this one is not helpful.

---

Joe,

>>First, it tells me that the resurrection is an example of an untestable, unbeatable hypothesis. Any evidence against the hypothesis can be explained away using the all-purpose, cheat code, “it’s a miracle” gambit.

I don't think that's what he was trying to say. He was merely saying that if a miracle is the result of agent causation outside the normal workings of nature, then arguing against it by citing the normal workings of nature doesn't really do the trick. Here's an example of this: Suppose I drop a set of car keys off my balcony. They'll fall and hit the ground, correct? This is what happens when a thing is dropped from a height. But what if someone is down below and catches the keys before they hit the ground? He's working against the forces of nature that would normally work on the keys, and he can do this because he can engage in agent causation. You could argue all day long that gravity will cause the keys to hit the ground, but that doesn't change the fact that an agent can step in and change the normal course of nature. That's a rough analogy, but I think it gets the idea across that agents with wills can disrupt normal forces by redirecting the usual events into something unusual, and the usual doesn't automatically disprove the disruption.

What does do the trick is looking at the non-supernatural aspects of the miracle that can be observed. For example, a man is dead, then a man is alive. Forget the resurrection for a moment, both of those things--a dead man and a live man--are something that's observable. As I've said before, the book I mentioned talks about these kinds of observable facts (accepted even by critics).

>>So, what we need here is much more evidence, evidence that we’re not going to get because we’re talking about the first century here. This has been my point all along.

Here's where I need to call you out. You don't know what the evidence is. You won't even watch a short video (as far as I know) responding to your specific question. It's a lot easier to call for more evidence then to start with the evidence you're already being offered, and when you won't look at what is offered, it's hard to believe you want more.

Actually, I tried to watch the video the other day, but it took too long to download and made my home PC unhappy, so I gave up.

Any chance you can summarize what you think are the key points and/or strongest evidence? In your opinion, what is the point of the video?

>What does do the trick is looking at the non-supernatural aspects of the miracle that can be observed.

And a "non-supernatural aspect" would be the response of ordinary humans in Jerusalem and/or the response of the Roman authorities. The response of humans is a non-supernatural thing. But the response that we see is not the response that we expect if the said supernatural event had occurred.

Observable facts. What sorts of observable fact do we have here? We have evidence that people said that Jesus's physical body rose from the dead. And that's about it.

No doubt some people said that Jesus's physical body rose from the dead, although almost all of the detailed accounts of the believers date to several decades after the event. And the total number of direct witness statements by named witness is quite small. Obviously, saying that something happened doesn't make the resurrection itself a fact. Even dying for what you think it true doesn't make something a fact. That the witness statements exist is a fact. But one shouldn't confuse human statements with actual historic events.

Yes I want more. Why is it unreasonable to expect a document written by Jesus himself or an account of the events written by local Roman authorities? Further, we don't have the statements of any number of other people who were in and around the area at the time of the crucifixion. What is the actual number of people claiming that Jesus rose from the dead? How many people close to the event thought that these people were wrong? What has surived, in terms of historical records, is just a tiny fraction of what might have survived. Again, consider the historical record with respect to Mormonism. It must be several orders of magnitude greater.

It appears as though even Jesus's closest followers couldn't agree on what the post-execution Jesus real was. Physical being? Spiritual being? Ghost with privledges? What does it mean to "appear" to someone? I'd love to be able to interview everyone who was close to the scene, but I can't do that.

Yes, I want more. What's offered isn't enough.

>What does do the trick is looking at the non-supernatural aspects of the miracle that can be observed.

Would dead people walking the streets of Jerusalem count as an aspect of the miracle that can be observed? Well, if there were lots of dead people walking the streets, do you think that the authorities would notice, not to mention, every man, woman and child in the town? Now Pilate is not just dealing with an executed rebel come back to life, but he has a major zombie outbreak as well. But, somehow, with the exception of one gospel, somehow, this escape the historical record.

Joe wrote:

"Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention that my great-grandfather is alive because he sold his soul to Satan. So, his survival is a supernatural thing, too. It's just like the resurrection. And there aren't any other witnesses, because he's invisible. Remember, you opened the door to the supernatural. Anything is possible. Probabilities are irrelevant. Prove that my great-grandfather isn't invisible."

I never said that "probabilities are irrelevant". To the contrary, I'm the one who's been arguing for probabilities, while Joe has inconsistently accepted or rejected probabilities, depending on which of his posts you read. At one point, he'll dismiss probabilities as "speculation". At another point, he'll say that we need "much, much more than 'probable'" conclusions. But at other points, he'll appeal to probabilities, and he'll make comments like the ones above, as if I've argued that "probabilities are irrelevant".

What I've rejected is naturalism. A rejection of naturalism isn't equivalent to saying that "anything is possible", and it's not equivalent to saying that "probabilities are irrelevant". Where's Joe's argument for naturalism?

The fact that an assumption of naturalism would result in our avoiding belief in false supernatural accounts doesn't justify belief in naturalism. The same naturalism that prevents you from accepting a false supernatural account would also prevent you from accepting a true supernatural account. If Joe wants us to avoid having an "open door to the supernatural", if he wants us to assume that the supernatural isn't even possible, then he'll need to argue for that position, not just assert it.

Why does Joe ask for more evidence, such as documents written by Jesus, if he thinks that miracles aren't even possible? Since he criticizes me for having an "open door to the supernatural", the implication is that he wants the door closed. If he allegedly already knows that the supernatural is impossible, then his request for more historical evidence is irrational.

Earlier in this thread, I discussed several problems with Joe's analogy of a man living to age 125. He's now changing that analogy rather than defending his original one. But the new analogy only addresses some of the problems I raised with regard to the original analogy, without addressing the other problems.

Joe didn't just "forget to mention" the details he's now adding. Rather, his new analogy contradicts the previous one, which suggested a natural scenario rather than a supernatural one. The readers should keep in mind that our rejection of Joe's analogy is partly a result of our knowledge that he's making up a story he doesn't believe and is, as a result of his new analogy, contradicting himself. In contrast, we don't have such knowledge that the resurrection witnesses were making up a story they didn't believe, and they didn't claim that Jesus rose naturally, only to replace that claim shortly thereafter with an assertion that He rose supernaturally.

But what if we were to separate Joe's new analogy from the fact that we know that he's making it up and the fact that he's contradicting himself? It would still be problematic, for reasons like the ones I discussed with regard to Joe's previous analogy. Remember, his story is so vague that we can't even discern the genre of it. And since we don't have knowledge of any previous people being made invisible and living to age 125 as a result of "selling their souls to Satan", why should we think that such things would occur with the man Joe refers to? As I explained earlier, we have reason to think that Jesus is a good candidate for resurrection (the claims He made, His reputation as a miracle worker, etc.). In contrast, why should we think that Satan would want to preserve the life of the man Joe refers to and make him invisible? If he uses such attributes given to him by Satan in order to "party with Hef", why should we think that Satan would be so concerned with having people "party with Hef" as to give the man powers that, as far as we know, he hasn't given to others? A lot of people "party with Hef" or do something comparable without needing an unusually long life or invisibility to do it. And given that we've never heard of the man Joe refers to before, it seems doubtful that his life was so productive for Satan that the long age and invisibility are a reward from Satan. We could speculate about things this man might have done for Satan, things Satan would reward, but we have no evidence to that effect. And how would invisibility keep other people from knowing of this man? The visibility of a person's body isn't the only factor that determines whether other people can detect his presence and activity. Joe has taken an analogy that's frivolous and makes little sense and has made it even more frivolous and senseless.

He could change the analogy to make it better. But that would be a further admission of the inadequacy of his original analogy, which would make my point. Ideally (from Joe's perspective), what he'd want to do is present a scenario that's probable by my standards, but with as low of a probability as possible. But the same can be done with natural scenarios. If you suspect that your spouse is committing adultery, you'd like to have clear evidence that it's true or clear evidence that it's not true. If the evidence leaves you with something like a 51% probability, you'd prefer more clarity. But we don't always have as much clarity as we'd like. And we have more clarity for Jesus' resurrection than we have in circumstances like those in Joe's analogy, as I've explained in previous posts.

Can Joe rule out Satanic miracles by assuming naturalism and thereby avoid having to make a decision that would be more difficult to make for a supernaturalist? Yes, but such an approach would only be as good as the assumption of naturalism that it depends upon. And Joe hasn't made a case for that assumption. Without naturalism, Joe has an "open door to the supernatural".

Joe writes:

"Significantly, you didn't go through the same exercise with respect to my alternative claim, the claim that my great-grandfather was dead. In that case, you took my word for it. It's only the extraordinary claim that has to be examined in great detail."

The normalcy of death is something I "examined in great detail" for years prior to hearing your claim that somebody died. It's not as though the only information I would have relevant to the subject would be gathered after hearing your report of one person's death.

The expected frequency of an event is independent of whether the event is supernatural. Since people normally die, unless there's some sort of intervention to prevent what normally occurs, it's assumed that a person will die. Similarly, if a supernatural event is expected to keep happening, I assume that it keeps happening unless I have evidence to the contrary. For example, the Bible suggests that angels are frequently, if not always, active in the universe. I assume, then, that they're probably active at this point in time. On the other hand, some natural and supernatural events aren't expected to happen so frequently. For instance, though bodies normally remain in their grave, sometimes grave robbers will steal a body. My normal expectation is that a body will remain in its grave, but I would conclude otherwise if I had evidence that a body was stolen in a particular case. Similarly, though dead bodies normally remain dead prior to the general resurrection in the future, I would conclude otherwise if I had evidence of a resurrection prior to that time. Both natural and supernatural events can be expected to occur normally (people normally die, angels are normally active in the universe) or not expected to occur normally (bodies aren't expected to be stolen from graves, dead bodies aren't expected to be resurrected prior to the general resurrection). My expectation that people will die isn't a result of the non-supernatural nature of death. Rather, it's a result of the evidence I have that death is normal when no other factor is interfering. Grave robbery is non-supernatural, but I don't just assume that people will have their body stolen from their grave. I distinguish between death and grave robbery not because one is natural and the other is supernatural, but rather because their expected frequency is different.

Joe writes:

"It's only this claim that requires extraordinary evidence. Good, you got it!"

If you had said that the man lived to age 125 because his doctor invented a medicine that prolonged his life, which would be a natural rather than supernatural scenario, I would have wanted evidence for that natural scenario. Just as I distinguish between the normalcy of death and the abnormalcy of living to age 125 supernaturally, I also distinguish between the normalcy of death and the abnormalcy of living to age 125 naturally. Again, the distinguishing factor is the expected frequency of an event, not whether the event is supernatural. A supernatural event can be expected to be frequent, as my angel example above illustrates. Thus, I'm not applying what you call "requiring extraordinary evidence" to all supernatural events.

Since a resurrection like Jesus' resurrection isn't what's expected to normally occur, it makes sense to want evidence that something abnormal occurred. That's why Christians point to the testimony of the witnesses of the resurrected Christ. And that's not what you call "extraordinary evidence". Rather, you want a further step to be taken. You want the testimony of the witnesses to be "much, much more than 'probable'". But all I've asked, in your example of a man living to age 125, is that the scenario in question be probable. As I said earlier, a 51% probability would be sufficient, even though we'd prefer to have a higher probability. A preference isn't equivalent to a need, as I explained earlier. Thus, it's misleading for you to act as though I'm agreeing with you. I'm not.

Earlier, I asked you to explain why it would be reasonable to reject a 51% probability. You never explained why. It's another of the many claims you've made that you can't defend.

You write:

"If I say that some of Jesus’s followers desperately wanted to hold on to the dream of heaven on earth, why, that can’t possibly matter. If I say that you can’t show a risen dead man to 500 people without the place blowing sky high, that’s not reasonable. Only Jason is allow to say how people would behave. Only you can use this approach. Right. Got it."

No, you don't get it. We explained why the scenarios you suggested are less likely than our alternatives. That's not equivalent to saying that the factors you've mentioned "can't possibly matter". There's a difference between possibility and probability.

You write:

"By the way, most of your arguments work quite well to support Mormonism, too. Persecuted witnesses; can't rule out supernatural events just because they've never happened before; only one case in the 19th century involving golden plates, despite the abundance of new religions popping up at that time, etc. Hey, Mormonism is true!"

You keep giving us arguments by analogy minus the argument. I doubt that you know much about the history of Mormonism.

And your gold plate comment is a distortion of what I said about Christian belief in Jesus' resurrection. I said, quoting N.T. Wright, that other Jewish messianic movements around the time of Jesus didn't believe that their deceased leader was resurrected. I was responding to your claim that we would expect people to believe in a resurrection. I was citing N.T. Wright to refute your bad argument, not to suggest that "Hey, Christianity is true!" just because of factors like the ones you mention above with regard to Mormonism.

You write:

"You know, you’re free to introduce the supernatural if you’d like. That’s fine, but it renders historical analysis completely pointless, because there is no way to disprove a supernatural event. You can make any supernatural claim you want, and I can’t prove you wrong. It doesn’t really matter how much evidence does or does not exist."

We can have sufficient evidence for an event even if the event can't be disproven. Much of what men like Josephus and Tacitus reported can't be disproven, yet historians often trust such reports. Josephus is our only source for many events he reports about ancient Israel, for example. But if we have reason to trust Josephus on a particular issue, then we can accept his testimony, despite our inability to disprove what he wrote if what he wrote is false. If a witness in a court of law testifies that he saw the suspect pull his car into his driveway at 9 P.M., we don't have to be in a position to disprove the witness' claim if it's false in order to be able to trust the claim.

Christians don't just argue that the resurrection hasn't been disproven. Rather, we argue that the evidence suggests that the resurrection is probable.

If a claim is made that a body has been resurrected, then the claim could be disproven by producing the dead body. Similarly, if a man who was supposed to have been healed of blindness wasn't healed, then his ongoing blindness would disprove the claim that he was healed.

You can add qualifiers to your comments above that you didn't initially include, but it's not my responsibility to anticipate how you'll change your argument in the future. Your comments above, without any further qualifiers that you might want to add later, are demonstrably wrong on multiple points.

You write:

"Ironically, you do not have faith in Jesus, in fact, you have faith in your fellow humans."

It's not as though the two are mutually exclusive. Does your trust in one friend prove that you don't trust another? Does your trust in your eyesight when you read a book prove that you don't trust the author of the book? If your eyesight can be a vehicle that you trust to bring you to trust in the author, then why can't the same occur with the witnesses of the resurrection?

You write:

"I have hundreds of witnesses who swear that they’ve been probed by aliens. They often agree on the details, despite the fact that they were not all taken captive at the same, many have suffered grievously for their insistences that they’ve been probed. And yet they don’t recant. Further, they have far more concrete evidence than we have for Jesus’s resurrection. We have alien autopsy photos, secret government documents, and Area 51. Guess little green men are real, too. And Bigfoot."

You're giving us more arguments by analogy minus the argument. You provide no documentation, and, in the case of Bigfoot, your analogy only consists of saying "And Bigfoot." You can't use the assumption of naturalism to rule out alien abductions or Bigfoot, since neither concept is inherently supernatural, and saying that the two concepts would be historically unprecedented would be insufficient reason to reject either concept, for reasons I explained earlier. Thus, you would need to argue that alien abductions and Bigfoot are unlikely by other means. And those means are available to any Christian. No Christian is obligated to believe in alien abductions or Bigfoot if the evidence doesn't suggest that either is probable.

You've repeatedly demonstrated that you don't know much about the evidence for Jesus' resurrection. And I doubt that you know much about the analogies you're raising (Troy, alien abductions, Bigfoot, etc.). You draw misleadingly selective, undocumented parallels while ignoring distinctions.

The same reasoning you're using above could be used to justify absurd conclusions on natural matters as well, not just supernatural matters. If alien abductions and Bigfoot are supposed to demonstrate that we shouldn't trust eyewitness accounts and other forms of evidence involved in these cases, then we should apply that reasoning consistently. Reject eyewitness testimony in courts of law. Reject eyewitness testimony in scientific experiments. If somebody fabricates some "alien autopsy photos" (or misidentifies photos of something else, as if they're photos of an alien autopsy), then we should also reject the use of photos as evidence in our daily lives, in magazines, in courts of law, in scientific research, etc.

If you're going to claim that you're only saying that eyewitnesses can be wrong, that photographic evidence can be misleading, etc., then why make such an undisputed point? Law courts don't use such forms of evidence because those forms of evidence are never misleading. Rather, they use such forms of evidence because they're generally reliable.

You've given us no reason to think that the evidence for Jesus' resurrection is misleading us. Rather, you've irrationally claimed that we need conclusions that are "much, much more than 'probable'", because you can't deny that the evidence suggests the probability of the resurrection. Our choice is between the probable scenario that I, Amy, and other Christians have argued for and the possible scenario you've argued for. A probability is better than a possibility, regardless of whether the matter under consideration is considered natural or supernatural.

You write:

"And what about Troy? Why are you so afraid to test your basic concepts with a different historical example?"

I gave you a link to an article in which I address multiple examples of miracle claims outside of the Bible that critics of Christianity often cite. You haven't addressed my treatment of any of those examples. The general principles involved in those examples would be applicable elsewhere. I'm not going to keep reinventing the wheel and keep writing lengthy treatments of every parallel you want to raise. Your treatment of these issues tends to consist of something like two words, such as "And Bigfoot", or a small number of sentences, like your vague comments on Troy. And I'm supposed to research each of those issues and write an analysis of each one, even though you're the one who made the parallels to begin with and you keep ignoring the parallels I've already addressed in the article I linked? Do your own research. Make your own case. I've already offered far more than you have.

You write:

"I’ve tried to argue that the alleged events of the early first century are the most amazing and fantastical of all time."

And I responded to that claim. You haven't interacted with my response. Again, you need to explain why something like the resurrection of Jesus or turning water into wine is more "amazing and fantastical" than the creation of the universe, the parting of the Red Sea, the resuscitations from the dead referred to in the Old Testament, etc.

You write:

"Water doesn’t turn into wine, humans don’t walk on water and they don’t come back from the dead."

That's irrelevant, for reasons Amy and I have both explained to you. And whether miracles have occurred in recent history is a disputed issue. You can't just assume that everybody will agree with your assessment that miracles don't occur any longer. If your point is that miracles of a particular type don't occur, then that's a bad argument as well, since, as you said earlier with regard to historical precedents for World War II, all we need is something vaguely similar. If miracles of some type have occurred recently, then why should we think that miracles of another type couldn't have occurred earlier? But even if there were no miracles today, it wouldn't follow that there weren't any in the past. I've explained why already, more than once.

You write:

"Now, since this isn't the way the world works, I would think that we would require an extraordinary amount of evidence before we would accept such claims."

You keep repeating bad arguments already refuted. The first time you heard of earthquakes, they weren't part of how you thought "the world works". Did you need an "extraordinary amount of evidence" before you accepted earthquakes and everything else you accepted upon hearing of it for the first time?

And I've already linked you to an article that addresses the claim that we need extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims. See here. You should interact with such counterarguments rather than just repeating assertions that have already been answered.

Objecting that we don't have any documents written by Jesus, for example, doesn't make your explanation of the evidence we do have better than the Christian explanation. And if the Christian explanation is better, it's not much of a response to complain that the Christian explanation isn't better by a wider margin. When you have to complain that probabilities aren't enough, and that you want something "extraordinary" instead, you're playing with a losing hand.

There's another good article on the idea that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence here.

The blog I write for, Triablogue, has a listing of resurrection-related articles here. One of the articles addresses Matthew 27:52-53 in particular, an issue Joe just brought up. As I explain in the article, Joe's comment about "zombies" is wrong, and he's wrong on some other issues related to the passage. In fact, our articles on the resurrection address a large number of the errors in Joe's posts here.

Errors are in the eyes of the beholder. Believe as you wish.

By the way, I do understand what you're saying.

When your witnesses are persecuted, it means that they are telling the truth. When my witnesses are persecuted, it's meaningless.

When you have many witnesses, we know that events must have happened. When I have many witnesses to an event, it still didn't happen.

When you present fantastical events as fact, ordinary evidence will suffice. When I propose fantastical events, ordinary evidence will not suffice.

When you say make a statement based on human behavior, you're right. When I make a statment based on human behavior, I'm wrong.

I get it. I'm the one in error.

By the way, Jesus is unique in one respect. I can't think of another founder of a religion and/or significant religious figure of the last couple of thousand years who did not leave at least one written sentence attributed to his or her own hand. Now that's extraordinary evidence, but it's going in the wrong direction.

Not that it makes a bit of difference.

See you in Hell (turns out that it's only Muslims who go to Heaven).

Joe writes:

"When your witnesses are persecuted, it means that they are telling the truth. When my witnesses are persecuted, it's meaningless. When you have many witnesses, we know that events must have happened. When I have many witnesses to an event, it still didn't happen. When you present fantastical events as fact, ordinary evidence will suffice. When I propose fantastical events, ordinary evidence will not suffice. When you say make a statement based on human behavior, you're right. When I make a statment based on human behavior, I'm wrong."

You're misrepresenting what I've said. You're also making some assumptions you need to justify.

I've repeatedly explained that I'm making probability claims. I'm not claiming that something "must have happened". And, as I explained to you earlier, my rejection of your conclusions isn't equivalent to saying that the factors you raise are "meaningless". Probability judgments, whether in a court of law or in historical research or in some other context, involve the weighing of multiple factors, sometimes with one line of evidence running contrary to another.

A witness in a court of law may have had one potential reason to lie, but a few potential reasons to tell the truth. If I make a judgment that it's probable that he was telling the truth, it doesn't follow that I was saying that he "must" have been telling the truth and that his potential motive for lying is "meaningless".

And it would be unreasonable to string together a series of vague references to alien abductions, Bigfoot, etc. in an attempt to dismiss the evidence for the witness' credibility. You would need to go into more detail about the alleged parallels in alien abduction cases, the Bigfoot controversy, etc. and explain how those details allegedly are relevant to the testimony of the witness under consideration. As I explained earlier, in one of many comments you've ignored, your reasoning would lead us to reject many natural claims that we commonly accept, not just supernatural claims.

The readers should notice Joe's tendency to misrepresent what his opponents believe and make vague generalizations where more detail is needed. Notice which of us has gone into more detail. Notice which one has provided more documentation for his claims. Notice which of us has been more consistent in his argumentation.

Has Joe given us any justification for having a "closed door" to the supernatural? Has he made a case for naturalism? Has he explained why we're supposed to reject a 51% probability if it involves something Joe considers "fantastical"? Has he interacted with the details of my explanation for why I reject his two contradictory analogies involving a man who lives to the age of 125? Has he interacted with the distinctions I've made regarding why I expect something like death or angelic activity to occur frequently, whereas I don't expect such a frequent occurrence of something like grave robbery or a resurrection prior to the general resurrection? Has he interacted with the evidence I cited for Saul of Tarsus' motives for not believing in Jesus' resurrection? Has he interacted with what I cited against his position from scholars like J.P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, and N.T. Wright? Has he interacted with what I said about the problems with his position from the details of 1 Corinthians 15? Has he interacted with the articles I linked regarding the idea that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence? Has he interacted with my article on Matthew 27:52-53? Has he explained what sort of "extraordinary evidence" he required to believe in earthquakes, lions, submarines, and everything else in life that he heard of for the first time? Etc.

If Joe doesn't know much about these subjects, or he doesn't have time to participate in such a discussion, then he should say so. But to act as if his claims haven't been answered, and to misrepresent my position as he does above, doesn't make sense.

Joe writes:

"I can't think of another founder of a religion and/or significant religious figure of the last couple of thousand years who did not leave at least one written sentence attributed to his or her own hand. Now that's extraordinary evidence, but it's going in the wrong direction."

You don't explain why qualifiers like "significant" and "the last couple of thousand years" would be relevant. And you don't explain what the lack of written statements is supposed to suggest. Is it supposed to suggest that Jesus didn't exist? If so, why? And how, then, do you explain the affirmation of His existence by the early enemies of Christianity (Josephus, Tacitus, Trypho, Celsus, Lucian, etc.)? The vast majority of relevant scholars, including non-Christians, affirm the historicity of Jesus. If you don't think He existed, then you're in a tiny minority whose position is so radical as to be considered absurd even among mainstream non-Christian scholarship.

If, on the other hand, you're saying that our lack of documents from Jesus suggests something else, then what does it allegedly suggest? It was commonplace in ancient times to use scribes. Jesus traveled with His disciples, and if one or more of them took notes of His teachings, then He would have no need to write those teachings Himself. Given Jesus' view of the authority of His apostles, as we see in chapters 13-17 of John's gospel, for example, there would be an ongoing source of revelation for His followers without His leaving those followers any documents of His own.

There are many figures of antiquity who didn't leave us any extant writings. Two examples close to Jesus' context are Gamaliel and John the Baptist.

If our lack of documents from Jesus is supposed to qualify as "extraordinary evidence", Joe, then you should have no objection to classifying the evidence I've cited for Jesus' resurrection as "extraordinary". My evidence is surely more significant than yours. That's why our lack of documents from Jesus isn't much of an issue among scholars, even those who aren't Christians.

And I note, in closing, that if something like a lack of documents from Jesus is to be classified as "extraordinary", then the term "extraordinary" doesn't mean "supernatural". But if it doesn't have the meaning of supernatural, then what does it mean to say that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence? Does "extraordinary" just mean "unusual"? If so, then it can be applied to many natural events, including everything you hear about for the first time. There was a first time you ever heard of an earthquake, a lion, a submarine, etc. Did you require "extraordinary evidence" from your mother or school teacher before believing her about such things? Even if some eyewitnesses tell you that they've seen a lion, you would need to reject their claims. After all, as you've told us, eyewitness reports about alien abductions and Bigfoot have been unreliable. So don't trust the eyewitness reports about lions. Don't trust any video tapes of lions that you've seen either, since you can't trust the witnesses who attest to the authenticity of the tape. Don't trust your eyesight either, if you ever think you see a lion. Your eyesight is ordinary, not extraordinary. And you need extraordinary evidence. I'm sure that you didn't believe your mother when she told you about lions. You demanded extraordinary evidence.

Do you have any evidence beyond the following? For all your verbiage, and grandstanding ("notice Joe does this" - who are you talking to?) I don't believe that you've given more than the following.

1) There are documents in which someone says that Jesus physically rose from the dead. Most of these apparently date to several decades after the event, in particular, the documents that contain details of the event date to long after the event. These documents are a part of compellation done by people with a strong vested interest in a particular version of historical events. Scholar do not agree on wrote what, when the documents are written and the extent of later intercalation.

2) There are non-Christian historians that say that there were people that believed that Jesus rose from the dead. None of these historian were in Jerusalem in AD30. None had first-hand knowledge of events at that time and place. None reported the disturbances expected when dead men walk. By the way, what is remarkable about Josephus is his writings suggest that nothing much of significance happend in Jerusalem in AD30.

Anything else?

By the way, by "extraordinary", I mean that it's extraordinary that God would come to Earth and fail to leave His own words in His own hand. What a monumental blunder. Since I don't expect blunders from God, that leads me to suspect that Jesus wasn't all that god-like.

(Need to retype one of the above sentences.)

Scholar do not agree on who wrote what, when the documents were written and the extent of later intercalation.

And may I add, that I'm obviously not a scholar myself, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that scholars can't agree, the evidence in question must be less that iron-clad.

Oh, one other thing.

Is Paul the only person who has ever been converted to a religious faith after a period of time in which the person was hostile to a particular religious faith? No. Persecutors do occasionally convert to the faith that they are persecuting. People do change from hostility towards a faith to embracing that faith. It happens.

Now is this a rare event? Yes. But weren’t there many, many persecutors of early Christians? Did any others convert? I don’t think so; at I’ve never heard of another case. So, the “background rate” at which persecutors convert is very low, but it’s not zero.

And so, given the large number of persecutors, we’d predict that at least a few who were hostile persecutors would convert in the first century. The one who converted happened to be Paul. It was a rare, but not impossible event. And that’s all you need to explain Paul.

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You write:

"For all your verbiage, and grandstanding ('notice Joe does this' - who are you talking to?) I don't believe that you've given more than the following."

This is a public forum. Other people can read what we write.

You write:

"There are documents in which someone says that Jesus physically rose from the dead. Most of these apparently date to several decades after the event, in particular, the documents that contain details of the event date to long after the event. These documents are a part of compellation done by people with a strong vested interest in a particular version of historical events. Scholar do not agree on wrote what, when the documents are written and the extent of later intercalation."

If you're concerned about issues like the lateness of documents and "later intercalation", then you shouldn't have ignored so much of what I and Amy wrote earlier about 1 Corinthians 15 and about textual transmission, for example. Why should we offer you more when your responses so far, when you've even attempted a response, have been so insufficient?

If you want more information on such issues, then you can consult the Triablogue archives, where I've written on issues like these many times. You can search those archives using Google or by clicking on the relevant labels at the end of the posts. Our posts are organized by categories, like Resurrection, Textual Transmission, etc.

You write:

"By the way, what is remarkable about Josephus is his writings suggest that nothing much of significance happend in Jerusalem in AD30."

That's an assertion, not an argument. In contrast, I've provided an argument, not just an assertion, about what Josephus does and doesn't mention. I did so in my article on Matthew 27:52-53, which I referred to earlier. Apparently, you still haven't read it.

You write:

"Anything else?"

Yes. I've provided more of an argument than what you describe, and your suggestion that the two items you listed are the only relevant ones is ridiculous. You say nothing of hostile corroboration of the empty tomb and Jesus' performance of miracles, for example, even though I raised that point many times.

Your (inaccurate) summary of my argument for my position doesn't address my arguments against your position. You've failed to address a large number of criticisms that have been raised against your claims.

You write:

"By the way, by 'extraordinary', I mean that it's extraordinary that God would come to Earth and fail to leave His own words in His own hand."

You're still not defining "extraordinary" for us. Rather, you're just telling us about something to which you'd apply that term. But what does the term mean, as you're using it? Why don't you interact with what I said on this subject in my last post? You keep posting vague responses that don't interact with the details of what people have said.

"Since I don't expect blunders from God, that leads me to suspect that Jesus wasn't all that god-like."

That's a good argument. Except for the fact that you haven't established that a lack of extant writings from Jesus is a blunder.

Joe wrote:

"And may I add, that I'm obviously not a scholar myself, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that scholars can't agree, the evidence in question must be less that iron-clad."

A conclusion only needs to be probable, not "iron-clad". There are scholars who disagree with your naturalism and other philosophical and historical claims you've made in this thread. Thus, your own beliefs aren't "iron-clad" by your own standards. That doesn't prevent you from holding those beliefs and trying to persuade others that they're true.

You write:

"Is Paul the only person who has ever been converted to a religious faith after a period of time in which the person was hostile to a particular religious faith? No. Persecutors do occasionally convert to the faith that they are persecuting."

You keep raising such issues without addressing objections to your own position. Why is this discussion such a one-way street? Because I can defend my beliefs, whereas you can't defend yours.

My argument concerning Paul doesn't require that he be the only person who has ever converted to a religion he had opposed. And Paul didn't just convert to a religion he had opposed. He did so under particular circumstances, namely as a result of seeing the risen Christ. There's a difference between a conversion done for non-evidential reasons and a conversion done for evidential reasons.

You write:

"But weren’t there many, many persecutors of early Christians? Did any others convert? I don’t think so"

Paul became an apostle and one of the most influential leaders of the early church. Thus, there would be reason to go into more detail about his background than the backgrounds of others. We hear of others who converted, but we don't know the full extent of their involvement in opposing Christianity. The priests of Acts 6:7, for example, would have opposed Christianity as part of the mainstream Jewish religious hierarchy, but we aren't told the extent of their opposition. Whether those who converted were persecutors, and the extent to which they were involved in such activity, isn't an issue that's discussed much. Converting from opposition to Christianity in an environment like the one in first-century Israel is significant, even if the opposition didn't involve the sort of persecution Paul participated in. Jesus' brothers, for example, would face opposition for their conversion, regardless of whether they had opposed Christianity in the manner Paul did.

You write:

"And so, given the large number of persecutors, we’d predict that at least a few who were hostile persecutors would convert in the first century. The one who converted happened to be Paul. It was a rare, but not impossible event. And that’s all you need to explain Paul."

You aren't explaining what happened to Paul on the road to Damascus. The fact that people sometimes convert to a religion they had opposed doesn't suggest that somebody in early Christianity will convert on the basis of seeing the risen Christ. You can convert without doing so on the basis of seeing a resurrected person. The circumstances under which Paul converted need to be explained, not just the fact that he converted.

Is there any more evidence than I already thought there was? Nope.

...But I have enjoyed the remarkable rationalizations.

I think my favorite rationalization was the one where a god-on-earth...a god capable of rising from the dead...needs a scribe. That was a good one.

Joe writes:

"I think my favorite rationalization was the one where a god-on-earth...a god capable of rising from the dead...needs a scribe."

I didn't say that a scribe is needed. Not everything that's done is done out of necessity.

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You should also know that this is not typical of str. I find str to be somewhat unusual in the charitable nature with which they interact with people like myself. Perhaps you've spent time here before and already know that, but I thought I'd just throw that out there.

I'd like to comment on one of Jason's arguments, though I haven't read this entire exchange. The frequent personal attacks jumped out at me as I skimmed this, but also Jason's response to your point about your grandfather living a busy life at the age of 125. The point, Jason, is that we believe it to be wrong not because we know he's making it up but because we know people don't live to be 125 and if they did they wouldn't be partying at the Playboy mansion. You would contend that we know it didn't happen because we believe he's making it up, but in fact it's more like the opposite. We know he's making it up because it doesn't happen.

The resurreciton is different, you say, because Christians don't argue that Jesus rose by natural means. I didn't notice Joe saying that his grandfather lived to 125 by natural means either, yet you dismiss that out of hand. We know of nobody rising from the dead by either natural or super natural means, so we dismiss that as well.

BTW, Matt Slick and I discuss how we all dismiss claims similar to the resurrection when the evidence is much greater on his CARM podcast. You can listen to me discuss it with him here. It's the call regarding the resurrection.

If Jesus didn't write down the words himself, then someone else did it for him. Given the choices that he made, he needed a scribe.

Ok, I confess. I gave up on taking this discussion seriously a day or so ago when it was clear that you were the only one whose interpretation and understanding of human behavior is correct. And then, of course, you kept declaring different lines of argument invalid; must be nice to have that power. And it didn't help that you apparently expected me to do silly things like document alien abduction stories (there must be thousands of them out there!).

However, since you kept talking about how little Joe knows, I really thought that maybe there was some evidence that I didn't know about. But I guess not. As Dennis Green once said, the Bears are who we thought they were.

Despite Jason's assertions, there doesn't appear to be that much that Joe doesn't know. But if it makes Jason feel good to think so, Joe says enjoy.

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Concerning my posts here, he writes:

"I'd like to comment on one of Jason's arguments, though I haven't read this entire exchange. The frequent personal attacks jumped out at me as I skimmed this, but also Jason's response to your point about your grandfather living a busy life at the age of 125. The point, Jason, is that we believe it to be wrong not because we know he's making it up but because we know people don't live to be 125 and if they did they wouldn't be partying at the Playboy mansion. You would contend that we know it didn't happen because we believe he's making it up, but in fact it's more like the opposite. We know he's making it up because it doesn't happen."

If Jon had read my responses, instead of just "skimming" the thread, he'd know that I addressed Joe's analogy from both perspectives. I addressed what we know about Joe's intention in giving us the analogy, and I addressed the problems with the analogy apart from that knowledge. I went on to address the problems with Joe's second analogy, which was supernatural rather than natural. In other words, Jon admits that he's only "skimmed" this discussion, and he goes on to misrepresent what I've said.

He writes:

"We know of nobody rising from the dead by either natural or super natural means, so we dismiss that as well."

Earlier, in this thread, I repeatedly addressed the issue of historical precedent. Jon doesn't interact with anything I said on the subject. Apparently, he missed everything I said about this issue when he "skimmed" the discussion. Or he chose to ignore what I said.

But it's "insulting" for me to point that out.

Joe writes:

"If Jesus didn't write down the words himself, then someone else did it for him. Given the choices that he made, he needed a scribe."

If He chose to use a scribe, then how did He need a scribe in any relevant sense?

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Though I didn't read the entire post here, I did address a couple of your erroneous claims. I didn't address your bad historical precedent argument, but I did address your argument about how Jesus was raised super naturally rather than naturally and refuted it. Your claim about how we know Joe's assertion is wrong is misguided so I corrected it. I selected a couple of your bad arguments and refuted them, but instead of addressing that you'd rather point to a different argument and ask why I didn't address that.

I expected you to claim that my arguments were refuted and point vaguely to somewhere in this thread where I might find the refutation.

Guys, you all need to simmer down a little. Jason, we have not had problems with Jon here, so there's no need to bring other problems here, nor is it helpful for you to provoke him. Jon, likewise, although I recognize that you did not start this. I need you all to stick to vigorously debating the arguments without the personal attacks. Jason, this is the second time I've had to ask you this. Any deviation from this will be deleted (I'm going to go back through the comments now and do this very thing for some of the comments). If any of you can't refrain from doing this, I'll get tired of deleting pretty quickly, and you will be blocked.

Jason, you're the newbie here, and both Joe and Jon have been here for awhile and regularly interact with all of us. It would be helpful if you would address them both directly when interacting with their arguments rather than speaking about them to us. That's just not the way things work here, also it encourages commentary on them personally (which I don't want to see), and it's a style better used for blog posts on your own blog rather than on comments, which are here for interaction. You are, however, welcome to respond on your own blog in whichever style you like and leave a link here in the comments to your post. Thanks.

Joe, you said, "Is there any more evidence than I already thought there was? Nope." Again, you don't know what the evidence is. There's only no more evidence than you thought there was because when people point you to new evidence, you haven't looked. I encourage you to take some time to find out the evidence that's actually offered before making claims that "the only evidence" we have is A, B, C, and that's it. It's much more than what you've said here, and it encompasses many disciplines, not just history.

What, specifically, is "new" and not covered under my A, B and C above? Just put it in your own words.

Jon wrote:

"Though I didn't read the entire post here, I did address a couple of your erroneous claims. I didn't address your bad historical precedent argument, but I did address your argument about how Jesus was raised super naturally rather than naturally and refuted it. Your claim about how we know Joe's assertion is wrong is misguided so I corrected it. I selected a couple of your bad arguments and refuted them, but instead of addressing that you'd rather point to a different argument and ask why I didn't address that."

Saying that my arguments regarding historical precedent are bad doesn't demonstrate that they're bad. And since your response to me appealed to historical precedent, ignoring what I said on that subject doesn't make sense.

How did you refute what I said about the distinction between a natural and supernatural resurrection? Appealing to historical precedent doesn't refute what I said about that distinction, for reasons I explained earlier. And you acknowledge that you didn't address what I said on that subject.

You write:

"Your claim about how we know Joe's assertion is wrong is misguided so I corrected it."

I said that we know that Joe's analogies are wrong for multiple reasons, and you only addressed one of them. You appealed to precedent for what we know about naturally living to age 125, but I did the same. Since I made the same point that you're making, how is your repetition of the point I made a refutation of my position? I also discussed some other problems with his analogy, both the natural one and the supernatural one. I didn't just say that I reject Joe's analogy because I know that he's making it up. I went on to address how I would respond to the analogies even without knowing that he was making up a story. You're ignoring most of what I said, even where I agreed with what you're saying. Why would it be wrong for me to say that we reject Joe's analogies because we know that he's making them up if I afterward go on to address the problems I would have with the analogies even if we didn't know that he was making them up?

Jason, I see your historical precedent argument as independent of your argument about natural and supernatural causes. I addressed the later and you say that in addressing the later your answer about the former is a response to what I had said. OK. Let's talk about that. I pointed out that I didn't read the whole thing in case something I said was addressed elsewhere and I missed it, so if you think it was, fine. Let's cover that.

Let's use your earthquake example. Suppose an earthquake had never been observed. Scientific books never mentioned such a thing or imagined that they happen. You had no reliable eyewitness testimony that one had occurred. Finally 4 independent witnesses claimed that the earth split open, the ground shook, and buildings collapsed as a result. Should you believe it, without any images, but merely at their word? I say it's perfectly rational to doubt that it happened.

As more evidence mounts however, suddenly it could start to become rational to accept it. Suppose you had pictures, thousands of eyewitnesses, news reports, scientists explaining how it happened and why. Obviously not all of that is required to tip the scales towards belief, but clearly that much evidence does tip the scales. Why? Because the alternative explanations (claims of phony pictures, lying scientists and peer review boards, etc) is more implausible than the acceptance of the earthquake.

What about a resurrection? You appeal to precedent as if biblical testimony of other dead people rising provides the precedent, but that's purely question begging. It should be obvious that the accuracy of the biblical reporting is the very thing in dispute. You can't assume your conclusion.

We know of billions of living things that have died and not come back to life. We know of practically an infinite number of cases of solid bodies failing to pass through solid rock. We know of no humans that were dead for 3 days that came back to life, whether naturally or supernaturally. Let's grant you every assumption that I don't believe. Let's assume the gospels weren't anonymous. Let's assume they were written by people that claimed to be eyewitnesses or believed themselves to be eyewitnesses. Let's assume they were written shortly after the events, say maybe just 10 years as opposed to multiple decades. Should we believe it?

Absolutely not. Why? For the exact same reason we would not believe 4 independent temperature sensing devices if they indicated that water was 600°C at atmospheric conditions. The temperature of water has been measured many times and never been observed to be that hot under those conditions. And thermocouples are far more reliable than eyewitness testimony, which is notoriously unreliable.

The reason I ignored your other points about Joe's analogy regarding his grandfather living to 125 is because most of what I saw was irrelevant. Nobody denies that better additional evidence makes an extraordinary claim more plausible. The point is good evidence is needed for unusual claims and extraordinary evidence is needed for extraordinary claims. A resurrection is far more extraordinary than a person living to the age of 125. So obviously the evidence has to be better.

The primary evidence we have, even if we grant all of your assumptions about authorship and dating, is really just about the worst sort of evidence you could ask for. Documents written decades after the fact by devoted, superstitious followers. We reject similarly extraordinary claims (600°C water) that come with much better evidence. Why treat the resurrection differently?

Jon wrote:

"Let's use your earthquake example. Suppose an earthquake had never been observed. Scientific books never mentioned such a thing or imagined that they happen. You had no reliable eyewitness testimony that one had occurred. Finally 4 independent witnesses claimed that the earth split open, the ground shook, and buildings collapsed as a result....As more evidence mounts however, suddenly it could start to become rational to accept it. Suppose you had pictures, thousands of eyewitnesses, news reports, scientists explaining how it happened and why. Obviously not all of that is required to tip the scales towards belief, but clearly that much evidence does tip the scales. Why? Because the alternative explanations (claims of phony pictures, lying scientists and peer review boards, etc) is more implausible than the acceptance of the earthquake."

I doubt that most people had even "4 independent witnesses" for the first claim of an earthquake that they heard. And they didn't wait for anything close to "pictures, thousands of eyewitnesses, news reports, scientists explaining how it happened and why" before believing in that earthquake.

There was a first earthquake in history. Before that time, if you had said that we know that an earthquake won't happen, because it would be unprecedented, you would have been wrong.

If you thought you saw the earthquake with your own eyes, would you reject your perception of what you thought you saw, since eyesight is ordinary rather than extraordinary evidence? If earthquakes have never happened before, do you need evidence you've never had before (something more than eyesight)? If not, then how do the two terms "extraordinary" relate to each other in your phrase "extraordinary evidence is needed for extraordinary claims"?

Say you watch hundreds of apples fall from a tree in your back yard, and none of the apples stop falling before hitting the ground. You would conclude that it's probable that the next apple that falls under the same conditions will hit the ground as well. But you wouldn't deny that something different could happen if another factor became involved. A human could reach out his hand and catch the next apple before it hits the ground.

A lack of previous resurrections would suggest to us that a body won't be resurrected without some other factor involved. The Christian claim is that there was another factor. A human can catch an apple, and God can resurrect a human. And God can have a reason for wanting to resurrect one person after letting every previous person remain dead, much as a man can have a reason for marrying one woman after having met thousands of other women he didn't marry.

As I said earlier in response to Joe, a theist, agnostic, or anybody else who doesn't deny that there's a being who could perform a resurrection won't limit himself to what naturally occurs. He should want evidence for something like a resurrection before believing that it occurred, but he shouldn't judge the upfront likelihood of it by nature alone.

You write:

"You appeal to precedent as if biblical testimony of other dead people rising provides the precedent, but that's purely question begging. It should be obvious that the accuracy of the biblical reporting is the very thing in dispute."

I've said that we don't need precedent. I've also responded to what Joe said about miraculous claims by citing the Old Testament claim of resuscitations from the dead prior to Jesus' resurrection. I was responding to Joe's comments on how other miracle claims relate to the claim of Jesus' resurrection.

You write:

"For the exact same reason we would not believe 4 independent temperature sensing devices if they indicated that water was 600°C at atmospheric conditions. The temperature of water has been measured many times and never been observed to be that hot under those conditions. And thermocouples are far more reliable than eyewitness testimony, which is notoriously unreliable."

Your claim that "we would not believe" needs to be argued, not just asserted. See my citation of J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig above, in one of my responses to Joe.

For your analogy to be more analogous, you would have to add a context of religious significance, like that of Jesus. To repeat what I said earlier to Joe, we have reason to consider Jesus as a significant candidate for resurrection (His status as a religious teacher, His claims about His identity, His reputation as a miracle worker, His expectation that He would rise from the dead, etc.). Why would God perform a miracle in your water example? The more reason we have to expect God to intervene in a context, the more reason we have to consider the involvement of something other than the tendencies of nature.

Your reference to the alleged "notoriously unreliable" nature of eyewitness testimony also needs to be argued, not just asserted. We rely on eyewitness testimony in our everyday lives, in courts of law, in scientific experiments, and in many other contexts. In your water example above, who "measured" and "observed"? Largely eyewitnesses whose testimony you're relying upon. The same is true of your observations about dead bodies remaining dead. Eyewitness testimony is sometimes unreliable, but not generally.

What would be the resurrection parallel to your analogy's observation that "the temperature of water has been measured many times and never been observed to be that hot under those conditions"? The parallel would be our observations about dead bodies remaining dead. But observing what happens to dead bodies when no other factor is involved doesn't tell us what to expect when the intervention of God is involved, just as watching apples in your backyard fall to the ground doesn't tell you what will happen if you reach your hand out and catch one as it's falling. If your water example (which you got from Arif Ahmed) assumes that "those conditions" remain, in the sense that no other factor can be involved other than what was previously involved, then you'll need to justify that assumption.

You write:

"The point is good evidence is needed for unusual claims and extraordinary evidence is needed for extraordinary claims."

The assertion that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence is vague and would need further explanation. See here and here.

You write:

"The primary evidence we have, even if we grant all of your assumptions about authorship and dating, is really just about the worst sort of evidence you could ask for. Documents written decades after the fact by devoted, superstitious followers."

Saying that these people are "devoted" doesn't tell us how they came to be devoted. See my comments earlier in this thread about the background of Paul, for example. And if you think that eyewitness testimony and the testimony of contemporaries of eyewitnesses is "just about the worst sort of evidence you could ask for", then you must not have much of an imagination or much knowledge of what sort of evidence we have for other events of antiquity. And there are many factors involved that you don't mention (the earlier dating of the creed of 1 Corinthians 15, the willingness of relevant sources to suffer for the claims they were making, hostile corroboration, etc.).


Why did people use scribes when those same people were presumably literate and capable of doing the writing themselves? Why do I use a word processor to write a 100-page report when I could do the same report in long hand? People use scribes and I use a word processor because the alternatives are onerous and time consuming. In the strictest sense of the word, I don’t “need” a word processor; I’m capable of writing a 100-page report by long hand. And in the strictest sense of the word, great philosophers did not “need” scribes. But humans find scribes and word processors enormously useful, and the alternatives onerous, and in that sense, they “need” these things.

So, our “need” for scribes and word processors is directly related to our human limitation. I can’t blink a document into existence, and great religious figures couldn’t blink documents into existence either. But Jesus could have blinked his own gospel into existence. He didn’t. Despite the extraordinary significance of the accounts, the accounts of Jesus were left to others to tell. This strongly suggests that Jesus was as limited as any other human. At the very least, the use (or “need”) for scribes is not very god-like.

Oh, I know, I know, we’re not allowed to say what God should or should not do. I must say tha the list of arguments that one is not allows to use around here is endless. Still, I can’t help but think that just one more miracle (a blinked autobiography) would have been enormously useful.

Thanks, Joe. That's a wonderful argument against Jesus' supernature(and certainly against his deity). While we are making up arguments that weigh against theism, lets try two more:

p1. Jesus walked around.
p2. If Jesus had supernatural powers(but especially if he was God), he wouldn't have walked around.
C. Ergo, Jesus did't have supernatural powers and certainly wasn't God.

Or this one: If there were a God he would have given me a free pizza five minutes ago. I didn't get a free pizza five minutes ago. Ergo, atheism is the case.

Wow, I didn't know atheism was so easy!

Like I said, the list of arguments one is not allowed to use is endless.

We're not talking about a pizza. We're talking about the word of God. Slight difference.

By the way, I'm not an atheist. I just don't think that Jesus was God. Many of his closest followers had the same opinion.

The rejection of the assertion that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence tells us one thing.

There is no extraordinary evidence.

On second thought, just strike and/or disregard the following...

"Many of his closest followers had the same opinion."

I can see this leading to endless arguments about who believed what, when they believed it, what scholars say about it, etc. The sentence is not important, and I'm just not up for endless arguments.

Joe said, "By the way, I'm not an atheist."

Yeah, but after my pizza argument for atheism, you should be. I mean if your scribe argument carries any weight then so does my pizza argument.

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