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June 09, 2014

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In situations like these, a tactic I call "Rhodes Scholar" is invaluable. It provides a way of knowing if an appeal to an authority is legitimate or not. The tactic hinges on the difference between informing and educating. When an article tells you what a scholar believes, you have been informed. When an article tells you why he holds his view, you have been educated.

-Greg Koukl, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions

The so-called 'facts' referred to in the vid are justified based on a supposed consensus of supposed historians. We're told neither who these people are nor why they believe these so-called facts. Without knowing these things we should apply the so-called 'Rhodes Scholar' tactic.

("Rhode's Scholar'" is just an unnecessary name for making the charge that this argument is fallacious and the fallacy committed is 'argument from authority.)

RonH, do you think all appeals to authority are fallacious? If not, how do you distinguish an appeal to authority that is fallacious and one that's not fallacious?

Ron:

Greg probably doesn't establish the historicity of the crucifixion and the empty tomb due to the fact that it takes a while to get there and establish them as facts, so he has to pass over it. If you are interested, I recommend a book by a historian. N.T. Wright's 'The Resurrection of the Son of God' will give you a cogent argument as to why crucifixion and empty tomb are historical fact, and it will also cover a host of opinions among historical Jesus scholars. For the most part, almost any historical Jesus scholar is going to agree with those two facts, because if not, there is no way to explain the rise of Christianity in the first century and beyond unless those two events were behind it. After that, we are going to get a host of opinions as to whether or not Jesus resurrected (resurrection: God re-formed Jesus in an eternal and indestructible body).

If you would like I can make you a very long list of prominent Jesus historians who believe that Jesus was crucified and that there was an empty tomb. You're welcome to argue that most of these people were already believers, but that is simply not true since by and large Jesus scholars are a skeptical lot. Rudolph Bultmann is sort of the father of historical Jesus study, and he is one of the most skeptical people you will ever read.

There is a small skeptical minority that might argue that one of those two didn't happen, but most of the time even they will basically say, "we can't know anything". They are extreme skeptics, like Dominic Crossan who does believe Jesus was crucified but that he was eaten by dogs. However, Crossan doesn't really think we can know that for sure either or that we can know much about Jesus in general, nor does he give us an argument to show why he think Jesus was eaten by dogs. He is just postulating, basically. That is pretty much the scope: either, "We can't know anything about Jesus", or he was crucified and there was an empty tomb. If not it gets really hairy explaining the rise of first century Christianity.

The empty tomb is not a historical fact. When Habermas did his survey, he found two very telling pieces of information about the opinion of historians/scholars. First, only about 75% of Biblical scholars accept the empty tomb, leaving 25% of scholars to be skeptical. Second, the opinion split more or less along "party lines." In other words, the Christian scholars accepted the empty tomb, and the non-Christian scholars mostly did not. Big surprise, huh?

Let's also remember that just because historians accept certain facts, that doesn't mean they do so with high confidence. So, for example, if you managed to successfully show that the best explanations for facts X, Y, and Z is that a corpse was supernaturally reanimated, that may as well just be very good evidence that one of the facts is wrong!

But truly, there's no need to go there. A person is free to accept the facts as given. If this is really the best evidence for the Resurrection, then that just underscores how weak the case is.

Hi Sam,

I don't think that it's as simple as 'fallacious or not'.

Here are some good things to have in your appeals to authority - roughly in order of importance.

1 expertise is required - I can't understand the evidence and arguments
2 the identity of the authority is known
3 the expertise is relevant
4 the authority is not biased
5 the question at hand is addressed directly by the authority
6 other fairly selected authorities agree and share the above characteristics

The argument at hand has big problems in all these areas - so it's on the fallacious end of the spectrum.

Ben's clearly identified a reason to think the authorities (whoever they are) have engaged in motivated reasoning.

...if you managed to successfully show that the best explanations for facts X, Y, and Z is that a corpse was supernaturally reanimated, that may as well just be very good evidence that one of the facts is wrong!

Ben's contribution put in a Bayesian way: The background knowledge

When you're dead, you're dead.
combined with evidence X, is an indication that either Y or Z is false.

I don't think that the mere fact of the permanence of death is to only background information.

I think the argument from the resurrection is best understood as an argument for Christianity given the existence of a personal, but infinite God, who communicates with His finite creatures. So what remains at issue is whether the Bible is that communication. And that is what the resurrection is supposed to address. Naturally, you would have to independently prove the thesis that the Infinite God is communicating with His creatures.

I don't think that the mere fact of the permanence of death is to only background information.
Can you say that another way?

WL,

In order for the existence of God to help, you would need a certain KIND of God, in particular a God who has some motivation to raise some people (or at least Jesus) from the dead. So, you would need more than just a personal, omnimax God who communicates with humans.

The human Mind takes no-flow, acidodic corpses and restores life.

500 years ago the Bens and RonHs would be pontificating about the absurdity......

Mind atop mater....

Childly obvious.

We already know its possible to degree X....with our Mind.

There are greater minds than ours..... and a Greatest.

Of course Love died. And is found alive again. That's what Love does there amid Self-Other. Ceaseless reciprocity amid Trinity's Relationality - to degrees we cannot measure....

That the Infinite Divine should likewise manifest in Time and Physicality is to be expected.

That God is love brings all these vectors seamlessly to Christ.

75% of Biblical scholars is one thing. But I'll bet the number is higher for New Testament scholars. I have read a lot of this stuff and also actually have a degree in this area, and let me tell you, there are not many people that study this stuff for a living that would dare say that there was no empty tomb or crucifixion. It's just too hard to account for the rise of early Christianity without those two events. Now of course, after that we get more variance about what people might think about the resurrection. But for the early church to have taken the shape it did, it just seems completely unlikely and weird that it would have happened without those two things. You would really have to start examining second temple Judaism and understand the history of the day, but of course, that is what scholars do.

Now, for the resurrection, of course, also for me that is historical fact. Why? For the same reasons that the crucifixion and empty tomb are. When you start pulling together the historical sources and examining first century Judaism, it is the best explanation that explains both the rise of early Christianity, and the facts presented at hand. For me, the evidence presented is enough for me to believe.

Sure, we can cry that people have biases (Ben doesn't have one of those, right??). But in history, the best historians are the ones who realize that everyone has a bias or a viewpoint and that they themselves are a part of history. There is no such thing as a bird's eye view, although it is possible to discern truth or point to something as a historical fact even though we are biased. Full objectivity is a myth.

That being said, the best evidence for Jesus' resurrection is the historical data itself, the literature from the second temple period and the first and second centuries. My (logical) belief in the resurrection comes from studying that data in the original languages and piecing things together. It is true that the resurrection is a powerful and strange claim (and it would have been even stranger for Jesus' disciples, and even more ludicrous for Greek culture). But sometimes in the universe, strange things happen.

But of course, many want to push God out and away from the world like the Epicurean philosophers. The idea of a God that is intimate with this creation is uncomfortable to say the least, so many will seek to arrange the data so that it comes out in that way. I can cry that they are biased, or I can look at how they read it (which is dead wrong in my opinion).

I think Ben's comment about the split among scholars is misleading in many ways. First, if you believed in the empty tomb and the cross, then you are going to have some sort of Christian faith probably. Skeptics like Crossan and Borg actually consider themselves to be Christians and believe that God exists, despite the fact they don't believe the resurrection occurred. However, if you didn't believe that one of those two occurred, then you are an extreme skeptic and of course you wouldn't be a Christian because it would be ludicrous (and if you ask me, Crossan's and Borg's continued belief is ludicrous too).

All in all, Ben is implying that Biblical scholars are a biased, foolish bunch. This has not been my experience at all, either reading or talking with them. Most Biblical scholars are extremely intelligent, and also (unfortunately) skeptical but also very diligent and careful. Textual criticism is not unlike scientific method and is very painstaking. So if a New Testament scholar or historical Jesus scholar came to a conclusion, it's likely that he or she did not do so frivolously, but did so based on the evidence they had seen. My thoughts are that if Ben and/or Ron or whoever got more into the data and would read arguments back and forth, that it's highly likely that they would accept the empty tomb and crucifixion.

Some questions concerning a lack of empty tomb and crucifixion:
A) If Jesus hadn't been killed and there is no empty tomb, then where in the world did the disciples get the idea that he had resurrected? Why would they have believed something so weird?
B) Why is all the literature first century and onward so unanimous that Jesus was indeed crucified? If he wasn't crucified, wouldn't there be something somewhere that says he wasn't?
C)How did early Christianity take the shape it did without a crucifixion? How did it take the shape it did without an empty tomb?

It's really too bad. Ben and RonH have such a commitment to naturalism that they cannot fathom Mind ever restoring life, ever pushing matter around. Their commitment to "matter pushes mind" rather than to "mind pushes matter" just rules out - ipso facto - no-flow acid-laden corpses being restored to flow, to normal pH, to "life".

But of course science has - again - brought the atheist's definitions to that of the theist, as in the Timeless Immaterial, and so on. Once again the cat is out of the bag, and the atheist has to change definitions.

Of course new limbs can grow....the day is coming. Got a liver cell? It's just a program, after all. Just punch in the necessary codes and……

Mind atop matter.

It's all a matter of degree.

But of course we'll hear again from Ben and RonH of the "absurdity" of such "events" and on the "uniformity of nature" (which their own presuppositions cannot endure the weight of). How unscientific of them, how unscriptural of them.

JBerr,

I don't think Ben has implied that Biblical scholars or anybody else is 'foolish' for believing the Bible is true.

Ben can speak for himself, but this is what I think:

Some Biblical scholars draw conclusions that go beyond the evidence.

Some Biblical scholars might do this because they are influenced by an evidence-independent will to believe.

If exhibiting such a will at one time or another in a limited number of areas were to define a fool, then we would all have to be called fools.

I wonder what background information should be included when it comes to punching in the proper codes to restore life, or to build organs, or so on? What degree of Mind atop Matter is the Ceiling?

Given naturalism, the Minds in the trauma bay ought to stop bringing dead bodies back to life, and we ought to stop using codes and blueprints for building organs.


Background information says it's impossible, per the naturalist.


It's odd that the naturalist would deny what his eyes see, and it's odd that the naturalist would be so unscientific, so unscriptural. Math and statistics really can sum to whatever number we want them to sum to after all if one just ignores background information. I guess that's good for naturalism.

Well, not really. Science is moving on....leaving those old-school "definitions" behind.


JBerr,

Thanks for the comment. But, let me clarify something.

First of all, I don't see that anyone here has disputed the crucifixion. That seems to me relatively certain---or at least, as certain as anything can be about the life of Jesus.

Second, and more importantly, I'm not trying to say that Biblical scholars are hopelessly biased in all things. As you note, we all have our biases, and that's just something we have to deal with. But sometimes, I hope you will agree, those biases become overpowering. So, how do we know when that has happened? Well, it seems to me that when opinion splits more or less down party lines, that's a big red flag.

You have offered a competing explanation for the split, that scholars who are persuaded by the empty tomb evidence would then be likely to subsequently become Christian. I disagree---as I said above, so-called facts like the empty tomb are pitifully weak evidence that a corpse was supernaturally reanimated---but perhaps you are correct despite my disagreement. Nevertheless, I think it's fair to say that the scholarly disagreement concerning the empty tomb prevents laypersons from rationally accepting the claim on scholarly authority. After all, which authority are we to trust? The 75% of scholars who accept the empty tomb, with unknown confidence? Or shall we instead trust the formidable 25% of scholars who do not accept it with ANY confidence at all? In this case, it seems to me that we have to weigh the evidence ourselves if we want to draw a rational conclusion.

Now, in answer to your questions (A), (B), and (C), let me say this. We don't have enough evidence to know how the earliest Christians got the idea that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Honestly, how can you expect me to explain how religious cultists who lived nearly 2000 years ago developed their legends and myths? I can spin my own random stories, but without evidence, who can say which if any of them is true?

But you asked, so I will give you one. Suppose the disciples are deeply distressed that their messiah has been killed. A few of them fall away from the movement, because they are able to admit to themselves that they were wrong. But a good number of them continue to believe that Jesus was the messiah, and try to make sense of his death. At this opportune time, one of the persistent believers declares that he has seen Jesus alive and well, albeit from a distance. The other disciples are skeptical at first, but it nevertheless makes a big impression on them. They search the Scriptures and reason that the messiah is supposed to suffer and be rejected. Another disciple then reports that he has seen Jesus too. (Think Elvis sightings.) This second report is enough to convince some of the others that Jesus is alive. But, if Jesus is now living, does that mean he really died? They decide that yes, he did really die, but since he is now alive again, that means God must have raised him from the dead. They search the Scriptures more to support their conclusion, and what they find is enough to satisfy them. And, now that the seed has been firmly planted, more detailed reports begin to trickle in. One of the disciples is jealous of the other two who saw Jesus, and so he claims not only to have seen Jesus but also to have talked to him. Others report talking to Jesus in their dreams, adding a spiritual element to the situation. And so it goes, snowballing as more and more Christians claim to have seen Jesus in one form or another.

So there you are. It's a random story I just made up. You can't expect more than that, given the utter lack of evidence. Is it likely? Not particularly. But it's a heck of a lot MORE likely than that Jesus' corpse was supernaturally reanimated!

So there you are. It's a random story I just made up. You can't expect more than that, given the utter lack of evidence. Is it likely? Not particularly.
And more importantly, it doesn't fit the facts.

There is no accounting, on Ben's story, for the empty tomb.

RonH is, I think, doing better on this. If I read him right, he's not trying to give an alternate story to explain the resurrection. Instead, he's just saying that given the background evidence for the permanence of death, there must be some story.

That position is fine as far as it goes. It's just that I don't think that the permanence of death is the only piece of background info relevant to the resurrection.

WL,

Obviously, it does not account for the empty tomb, since I was asked to give a story where the tomb was NOT empty.

What I obviously meant to say is that the claim of the empty tomb is not accounted for in that story.

You have a bunch of people saying that they saw Jesus after His death. There are, for example, similar claims about saints. But no one says or even assumes from these claims that the graves of the saints are therefore empty.

But the early church did not just say that someone saw Jesus after His death. It said that the tomb was empty. If that (utterly testable) claim were false, Christianity, as we know it, would not have developed.

WL,

Are you sure that the graves of the saints were never thought to be empty? I can think of one saint's grave in particular---the virgin Mary's---which was said to be empty following her resurrection. (For this, read the very end of the Transitus Mariae.)

Anyway, I don't understand why you would insist that Christianity would not have developed if Jesus' tomb was not really empty. Surely your creativity is not so stunted that you cannot imagine other possibilities. For example, how do you know the claim was testable? Did the disciples know where Jesus was buried? How can we say whether it was a mass grave or not? Did the empty tomb story arise too late, after the witnesses to Jesus had passed or moved away? Etc. And even if the claim was testable, you need to say that the claim would have been tested. But, this is quite a stretch. If the tomb was closed up, it may have been impractical for individuals to check it. Or, people could have simply thought it was too inconvenient to spend a day or more hiking out to see it. And then, suppose it WAS checked. Perhaps that would have ended the faith of the individuals who saw Jesus' body, but why think it would have halted the movement altogether? Cultists who believe that their leader has been raised from the dead seem unlikely to me to be persuaded by skeptical claims that the tomb is not empty. They might---might!---respond by altering their beliefs to accommodate a nonphysical resurrection. But even if that happened, why would it stop the spread of the original story about a physical resurrection? Do you seriously think that the skeptics would be able (to say nothing of willing) to track down and convince all the Christians to give up their already-hardened beliefs?

So as I said, I don't understand why you would find this line of argument convincing. You are trying to say what a bunch of cultists would have done 2000 years ago, without a lick of hard evidence to guide you. How can you hope to rule out the countless possibilities which do NOT involve a supernatural component?

These claims were testable, at least at the time of the early church:

    Joseph of Arimathea offered to bury Jesus in his tomb.
  1. Soldiers were dispatched to guard the tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea after Jesus' crucifixion.
  2. That tomb was, in fact empty.
The church, moreover, claimed that Jesus was in fact buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and that on the third day, that tomb was empty.

Had the three claims above turned out to be false, there would be no Christian church.


Funny numbering, obviously should be numbered 1, 2, 3. But the number 1 was left off of the first entry. Maybe I missed an LI tag. Sorry.

Let's call them 0, 1, and 2, to avoid confusion with what actually was posted.

0. Joseph of Arimathea offered to bury Jesus in his tomb.

1. Soldiers were dispatched to guard the tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea after Jesus' crucifixion.

2. That tomb was, in fact empty.

You have stated your position that if the above claims were false, then Christianity as we know it would not have arisen. But, this is not very different from your previous statement about point 2 by itself, and so I will simply refer you back to my most recent comment as a response.

#2 is the absolutely verifiable and falsifiable claim that Joseph of Arimathea's tomb was empty.

#0 and #1, also easily verifiable and falsifiable in the early days of Christianity, help to establish that Jesus, after His death, actually was buried there.

Together, these tend to confirm the claim that the tomb Jesus was buried in was empty. If that claim is false, then Christianity is provably false and would not have endured.

Because it did endure, it is likely that the tomb was empty. So we are left to explain how that might be.

Telling fanciful stories where early Christians didn't believe the tomb was empty but still believed Jesus was raised might have some entertainment value, but do little to undercut any explanation of the empty tomb.

For example, how do you know the claim was testable?

Take note of the three testable claims above.

Did the disciples know where Jesus was buried?

This is a joke right? Who else would have buried Him? He was buried in the tomb provided by Joseph of Arimathea.

Did the empty tomb story arise too late, after the witnesses to Jesus had passed or moved away?

Since the witnesses were the ones who actually started the story...Ummm...no.

And even if the claim was testable, you need to say that the claim would have been tested.

OK. I hereby say it would have been tested.

But, this is quite a stretch.

Really? Why? It's easier to just kill all the Christians than prove that they were wrong?

If the tomb was closed up, it may have been impractical for individuals to check it. Or, people could have simply thought it was too inconvenient to spend a day or more hiking out to see it.

Of course, part of the problem with this quibble is that the tomb was open. Yet another utterly testable claim.

And then, suppose it WAS checked. Perhaps that would have ended the faith of the individuals who saw Jesus' body, but why think it would have halted the movement altogether? Cultists who believe that their leader has been raised from the dead seem unlikely to me to be persuaded by skeptical claims that the tomb is not empty. They might---might!---respond by altering their beliefs to accommodate a nonphysical resurrection.

Which part of "Christianity, as we know it, would not have developed" do you think this goes against?

But even if that happened, why would it stop the spread of the original story about a physical resurrection? Do you seriously think that the skeptics would be able (to say nothing of willing) to track down and convince all the Christians to give up their already-hardened beliefs?

No. I just don't think there would be that many Christians to start with. And the movement, such as it was, would have about the same half-life as the view that Elvis is still alive and visiting Burger King's across the country.

So as I said, I don't understand why you would find this line of argument convincing.

Because I find it convincing to think that if there is a defeater of view-X, easily testable by people hostile to view-X, but view-X survives in spite of the prevalent hostility toward it, then that defeater probably does not obtain.

The fact that you don't find that convincing does much to confirm my beliefs about how enamoured you are by skepticism, but does little to persuade me that the rationale I just stated isn't pretty reliable.

You are trying to say what a bunch of cultists would have done 2000 years ago,

When did we establish that the early Christians were cultists? I thought you were just telling a (ridiculous) story about how it might be that the tomb wasn't empty in spite of the fact that its non-emptiness renders Christianity openly false.

Are you now saying that there's actually so much evidence for that attribution that you're entitled to put it forward as one of the facts of the case?

Because there's no evidence for all these fanciful tales about what early Christians might have believed in opposition to the written record of what they actually did believe.

And you're not entitled to the attribution of 'cultist' to the early Christians just because you made it.

Bottom line I'm not trying to say anything at all about what a bunch of cultists said 2000 years ago. I'm talking about what real historical Christians who actually wrote down what they believed, not the christians of skeptical fever dreams, believed and said.

Nice try at poisoning the well though.

without a lick of hard evidence to guide you.

'Hard' evidence? Don't know what that is. Have a fair idea of what evidence is though.

How can you hope to rule out the countless possibilities which do NOT involve a supernatural component?

Which of claims 0-2 involve the supernatural any more than, say, the claim that Elvis is (or isn't) buried in Graceland involves the supernatural?

Wow, okay. Well, I don't know what to tell you man. Not much I can say to that.

Except, I will point out the irony in you thinking my story is ridiculous, given that you believe the real story involves a reanimated corpse that levitates into the sky.

Most scholars... historicity and etc., don't wrestle so much with the empty tomb, and offer explanations of why it would be empty; stolen body and so on. The milieu of suicide isn't so much there surrounding the beginning years of Buddhism as the cultures were not such as we find in Jewish society's necessary outcomes for a Jew to follow Christ. With Islam we have family splits along party lines and each side taking off into today's lines, Etc. The 1st Century Jew presents a different set of pressures and with dissection of such we get to the reasoned approaches touched by JBerr. The body may have been stolen, or etc., but the 1st Century Jew had to have had motivation in what he felt was evidence, or experiences, or both, solely on "the person that was/is Jesus" as there were no family traditions to follow, no friendly culture (Rome, Jew, Etc), and most of us just want to have a good catch out fishing and call it a day. And this has to be something which multiplied rapidly/locally inside of such a container. Popularity does mean one is correct about such beliefs, as noted in Islam / Buddhism and so on, but the pressures inherent inside of that 1st Century container simply justify a reasoned conclusion that the 1st Century Jews did believe 0, 1, 2 of Jesus, and a lot of them, and rapidly, and locally, and spreading outward just as rapidly. In 70 AD the temple is leveled (rigid Jewish structures, rigid Roman structures, neither of which is friendly to the claims of Christ) and the cat is already, by then, running full speed.


Of course, we'll be growing livers and kidneys and biceps and triceps before long.... Got a cell? No need to appeal to the uniformity of nature, which the paradigm of atheism cannot even make sense of, to mock such acts of Mind atop matter. It'll be child's play 500 years from now. It's called "science". All quite in line with scripture and Mind and Matter. It's just a program.... And so on in varying degrees......

And with such circular deaths the atheists background information both of paradigm and of physical events and so on all begin to fall apart over time, while the theist's information sets begin to solidify over time....

As for what the resurrection "is", well it is obvious for anyone who understands Christianity's metaphysics and 5000+ year seamlessness. In regressions backwards or peering forward to the end of ad infinitum, we come to God and the ceaseless Loss of, Acquiescence of, all that is Self just as we come to those lines of all that is the Self ceaselessly found Edified, Alive, and so on in degrees unsearchable inside of Love's motions within all that is relationality's Trinity - such regressions are wonderful discussions on the nature of Being as all that is Self is found ever debased just as all is likewise found ever glorified. Inside of Marriage, Husbands and Wives each forever taste such losses, such gains, such Images. Such lines are within God and Trinity and of course relate likewise to the Uncreated Order's necessary modes of interactions with the Contingent/In-Sufficient Created Order, but such geography housed within the 5000+ year metaphysical and prophetical cogency from Genesis' singular "us" creating the world and moving forward, while leading us to expect the resurrection in more vectors than one, is another discussion for another day housed within a paradigm that can sustain the weight of the uniformity of nature.


Ben-

Nice try at both shifting the goalposts and ad hominem, I was arguing for the claim that the tomb was empty.

I never claimed to be arguing for the resurrection, and I freely admit that the argument from the empty tomb to the resurrection is a lot more difficult, and can probably only be achieved after significant headway has been made on other theological points first.

Instead of responding to my argument for the empty tomb, your reply is to pretend we were arguing about whether Jesus was raised and pretend that this makes me a crackpot.

These claims were testable, at least at the time of the early church...Had the three claims above turned out to be false, there would be no Christian church.

No such tests were available to the vast majority of new Christians involved.

On the order of a thousand in 40 AD.
On the order of a million in 400 AD.

Even for local people at the time, what set of available tests would justify positing that a man supernaturally re-animated?

Personal relationships, then as now, are the main thing.
Personal relationships put new people in pews and keep them there.
Even people who doubt.
Even people who disbelieve.

Personal relationships keep keep non-believers not just in pews, but also in pulpits.
We know this.
They probably keep non-believers in apologetics companies too.

People couldn't peek into a tomb in 30 AD or 33 AD and find it full/empty?

Huh?

Historisity.

RonH,

So atheists have no rational basis for their beliefs? You presuppose no God and then appeal to friends-make-me...... not impressed....

So you are saying that the Christians in Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost could not have gone out to the tomb to see whether it really was empty (and thereby decide whether the strangely compelling fisherman who told them about Jesus was really telling the truth at least in that much)?

Got it.

And if they had found the tomb not empty, would the Christian church have gotten along just fine?

Is it really necessary to say that an empty tomb by itself is not the point?

WL,

Where is the ad hom? Because I called your religious views ridiculous? Well, come on, you can hardly deny that they look pretty crazy from the outside. And anyway, it was when you first called MY views ridiculous that I was struck by the irony.

And I'm not shifting the goalposts either. I told you, I don't know what else to say to your refusal to take seriously any possibilities other than those compatible with your religion. So, I'm just letting it go. I'm not asking for further argumentation with new goal posts. Rather, the argument is over, as far as I'm concerned.

Ben,

Lots of tombs are empty for all sorts of reasons. You youself specified you were discussing a tomb which was NOT empty..... goal posts...

Some thoughts here, especially for Ben. First, I don't think we can use Habermas' survey to say there is a bias or 'party lines' in NT scholarship. As a matter of fact, I would say that from what I have seen even suggesting 'party lines' is absurd. NT scholars get rewarded when they have a fresh idea or new thesis, not because they fit in.

Anyway, such a survey doesn't really help us determine much, and I'm not all that interested anyways. If 99 percent of scholars said that Jesus never existed, I would not believe them due to my own analysis of the information I have read. Biblical scholars are extreme skeptics for the most part and would be capable of having a discussion over whether the color red is really red.
Everything that Ben is talking about is directly addressed in 'The Resurrection of the Son of God' written by NT Wright. If you are brave, Ben, then you will read his book. A good primer for that book are volumes 1 and 2 over 2nd temple Judaism and also Jesus. I will try to sort of sum up Wright's argument here for you (extremely difficult since his book is 750 pages long).
First, we need to understand something here: the idea of resurrection only appears in one context in the first century: in second temple Judaism. Resurrection to the Jews was the idea that God was going to perform some big eschatological event where he would bodily raise all people to a physical existence of immortality on the earth (some would say all faithful Jews would be raised, some would believe that all human beings would be raised, some that God would not resurrect anyone). There is no where else in antiquity where such a belief occurs. Greeks would have thought it was laughable. There are dying and rising Gods, but these are all cyclical, and occur within the terms of new age/stoicist/pantheist philosophy, etc.

The Christian claim is that what should have been an eschatological event for everyone happened to one person (not that a corpse was reanimated). Let's look at some of your claims in one of your posts:
"Suppose the disciples are deeply distressed that their messiah has been killed. A few of them fall away from the movement, because they are able to admit to themselves that they were wrong"

This shows that you are not all that familiar with second temple Judaism. When your Messiah is killed by the Romans, there is no movement. You are not a Messiah in second temple Judaism if you are killed. At best, the movement might have taken James, Jesus' brother, and proclaimed him Messiah and started a new movement. Cruficified people cannot be Messiahs. This happened over and over during the second temple period. The Messiah is a conquering king, not a crucified one.

Regarding the rest of that post: a historical explanation must be both necessary and sufficient in order for it to explain historical data. An empty tomb is necessary to explain the rise of early Christianity, because if not, everyone would have thought the disciples were seeing visions and wouldn't have believed them. An appearance is necessary, because an empty tomb alone would not account for the strange idea of Christians saying one person had resurrected in the middle of time. Both are also sufficient to explain the interpretations of scripture that arose and also the actions of the disciples.
Your own explanation, and all the other ones, are not sufficient to explain the rise of Christianity. There is no way on earth that the disciples would have ever said that one person who had come back from the dead had resurrected, and that this person was the Messiah unless they had actually seen that empty tomb and talked with the live Jesus. This belief is totally incredible and unprecedented. In fact, I still scratch my head that so many in the first century were ready to believe it. Greeks denied resurrection and scoffed at it, and Jews did not believe crucified leaders were Messiahs.
Underneath your comments I get a sort of sense that you think pre-modern people are stupid and gullible. I have lived with pre-modern cultures, and this is what I learned: no, they do not have the knowledge and technology we have in the first world. But they are not stupid. They especially know when a dead person is dead or not.

That's sort of the basicallity of Wright's argument, but of course it's much more complex and nuanced. You really should read through it, as I think it would be worth your time (and addresses in a very direct way all your arguments). However, it sounds like you are committed to only accepting what fits in to your Epicurean paradigm. Keep in mind that the event of the resurrection is not a "supernatural" event in the way that you are thinking. Christianity is creational monotheism, the idea that God is not the creation, but neither is He absent from this world. The Christian paradigm (and Jewish) is that God is an intimate part of our reality, not that he punches through the natural world to break it's laws. The resurrection is considered among early Christian theology to have been an act of new creation, which if God exists, would certainly be possible. You are welcome to just wave your hand and say that that is outside of your sense experience is impossible, but upon doing so you are ignoring the very strong historical data which is at hand that documented this event. You'll have to do some real twisting to get it to come out like you want.

L. Michael White--a new testament professor at the University of Texas at Austin--produced that PBS documentary, From Jesus to Christ, a long time ago. I took one of his classes in college, and he mentioned in class one day that a lot of people had complained that they didn't address the subject of the empty tomb on the documentary. Then he said that whenever somebody wants to know about the empty tomb, what they really want to know is whether the resurrection happened. He seemed to equate the empty tomb with the resurrection. I know he didn't believe in the resurrection, but I don't remember if he was saying that the resurrection, and therefore the empty tomb, is beyond historical inquiry. He might've been saying that, but my memory is fuzzy.

It could be that the reason belief in the empty tomb falls mostly along party lines is because a lot of scholars simply equate the empty tomb with the resurrection. Obviously, a person who believes the resurrection is going to be a Christian, and a person who doesn't is either not going to be a Christian or is going to be a "liberal Christian." So we should expect people who affirm the empty tomb to be Christians and people who deny the empty tomb to be non-Christians or "liberal Christians." (Of course there are at least a handful of non-Christians who affirm the empty tomb, which is why there are theories to account for it without resorting to a resurrection.) It's hard to say which is the cause and which is the effect, though, i.e. whether people are Christians because they think the tomb was empty or whether they think the tomb was empty because they are Christians. It's also hard to say whether people reject the empty tomb because they reject a resurrection, or whether they reject the resurrection because they reject an empty tomb. I don't think we can just assume that the party line division on the empty tomb is solely due to confirmation bias.

There are a lot of Christian scholars, like Raymond Brown, who have affirmed various things in the gospels but readily admitted that they couldn't be historically demonstrated. One example is the virgin birth, which Raymond Brown specifically addressed. With that in mind, I'm not sure how significant a consensus on the empty tomb would be. A Christian scholar might affirm the empty tomb, not because he finds the historical arguments persuasive, but because he subscribes to Biblical authority or the creeds of Christianity.

And if they had found the tomb not empty, would the Christian church have gotten along just fine?

We don't know when this story began circulating.

Suppose, once it was, someone did go check the tomb.

Suppose he found the tomb occupied by what he supposed was the body of Jesus.

All that person is likely to do is decline his invitation to join the club.

If anybody mentions the story, he might tell them: I looked and there's a body there.

But he's quite unlikely to bother or be able to do anything sufficient to slow the growth of the club to any significant degree.

He's not motivated and he's outnumbered.

The vast majority of early Christians did not check the Resurrection story or meet anyone who had.

When they did meet such a person, sometimes that person stayed mum.

I had friend tell me in a matter-of-fact way that their friend had 'healed' themselves of 'gluten sensitivity' with acupuncture.

The last I checked nothing, including Celiac disease, is known to be 'healed' by acupuncture and the very existence 'gluten sensitivity' is debatable.

The chances are, in other words, that my friend's other friend is mistaken.

At least that's what I think.

Whether I'm right or wrong in this particular case, even though I'd like to see my friend treat such matters more skeptically I gave only the slightest indication of my doubts. That's what I usually do. These things can create distance between friends. And I don't want that.

The point is even when people justly doubt the beliefs of family, friends, and others, they often have reasons not to express their doubts or to temper that expression and this has to be taken into account in the present discussion.

My friend doesn't seem to have looked into acupuncture or the gluten-free craze herself. This is common.

The point there is that false claims - even ones that are falsifiable - do get widely believed.

RonH,

"When they did meet such a person, sometimes that person stayed mum."

What is your evidence for this?

Historical circumstances mandate unusually rapid growth in conditions where the pain incurred by staying mum would be - predictably - much less than the pain of expressing belief. And the least pain would come from simple denial of the Crackpot's story.

You assert against probability and evidence.

With no evidence.

Ben-

I was arguing that the tomb was empty. I was pretty clear about that from the start. I was also pretty clear from the start that I don't think you can get all the way to the resurrection from just the historical facts (for reasons Ron has hinted at and that I acknowledged him for).

After I'd given my argument that the tomb was empty, you pretended that what we were arguing about is whether Christ was raised.

That's called shifting the goal posts.

As for ad hominem, I said that your story is ridiculous because it attributes beliefs to historical Christians that are contrary to the beliefs they actually took the trouble to write down and preserve. I do not thereby argue that you are a crackpot whose arguments can be dismissed on that ground alone. Instead they're to be answered using the typical tests on argumentation.

Maybe I'm being over-sensitive, but it seems to me that your remarks about irony are intended to make precisely that move. I believe in the resurrection, so any argument I might have about the plausibility of a theory is to be rejected on the ground that the arguments of anyone who believes in the resurrection can simply be dismissed.

And that is an ad hominem attack...to dismiss an argument because of an alleged flaw in the arguer.

Of course, it has not yet been established by evidence in this thread that the resurrection did or did not occur, is or is not ridiculous. (A major reason for this is that I have scarcely mentioned it except to say that I'm not arguing for it) You're just trying to smuggle that in the way you tried to smuggle in the Christian=cultist claim.

Ron-

In your latest remark, you are treating the testing of the resurrection claim as if it had been made among bored, self-satisfied Americans. Not in a society were there was hostility to Christ. So much, as a matter of fact, that Christ Himself actually got killed on trumped up charges!

The problem with the idea of an occupied tomb isn't with what the friend of a friend of Peter said about some homeopathic nonsense at a wine and cheese party. The problem with the idea of an occupied tomb is with Annas and Caiaphas who wanted the movement stamped out. Had the tomb been occupied, they would have had all the ammunition they needed to succeed.

RonH,

You may want to consider the psychological sway of getting stoned for what you believe is a Crackpot belief vs. the sway of a few ruffled feathers with my friend.

Rapid, painful growth......

Annas and Caiaphas who wanted the movement stamped out.
Maybe they DID use the occupied tomb to fight the movement. True believers are not swayed by such things. Their systems are self-sealing.

There's no record of their use of an occupied tomb to stamp out the movement (or anyone's).

Please refrain from falling into the Christians=cultists trap that Ben fell into. How true believers are swayed is not a point I'm willing to just give you because you ask for it.

An occupied tomb is, in fact, a defeater for Christianity. Whether you're a true believer or not. It's just a logical relationship that exists between claims no matter what anyone thinks.

If the tomb were empty there would have been much use of that fact by those hostile Christianity. I don't claim to know how true believers think in the case of disconfirming evidence. But I think I know how true deniers think. They don't just sit on the evidence.

Yes, like insisting that getting stoned for a crackpot idea is less stressful to people than a bit of ruffling my friend's feathers......self-contained...

There's no record of [anyone's] use of an occupied tomb to stamp out the [Christianity].
That's why I say 'maybe'.
How true believers are swayed is not a point I'm willing to just give you because you ask for it.
A 'true believer', needn't be a Christian. It's the person who, for example, continues to believe I'm a psychic after I show him how I got his personal information. It is anyone who displays this level of resistance.

I don't need or ask you to give me the point. True believer resources are available in the Bible. In it, 'the world' is discredited. In it, non-believers by nature deny 'the truth'; at best, they are 'crops' to be 'harvested' or 'fish' to be 'netted'. The system was self-sealing from the beginning containing all purpose answers for all objections. And these answers are used all the time - though not all Christians are true believers. 'New and old resources for the Christian true believer' could be a tag line for STR.

There's no record of [anyone's] use of an occupied tomb to stamp out the [Christianity].
That's why I say 'maybe'.
But it's hardly even 'maybe' then. If a simple defeater of Christianity had existed, like an occupied tomb, there's very little doubt that it would have been used, and the users of it would not have kept their light under a bushel as Christianity continued to thrive. They would have written something down.

Yes, I suppose those writings might be lost. But your 'maybe' is looking pretty thin just about now.

On the 'true believer' bit, I get it that you really, really want to be able to use the 'true believer' ad hominem against Christians.

Just this once.

But no.

Stick with your strong point: Empty tomb or not, dead is dead.

That's the most cogent atheist argument that's been raised in this thread.

RonH,

If you gave me a reason to stop believing the metaphysical regressions of Christianity, I'd believe you. If you gave me a reason to believe cause/effect are non-entity, I'd believe you. I like reasons. They're cool.


Top "reasons" to believe X.

Etc.

Nice of you to mention the psychic etc... repeating Ben's ad hominem style I see.... defect in the arguer --

Your argument that getting stoned for a crackpot idea is less motivating than my friend feeling a wee-bit miffed at me isn't reasonable. You're intelligent. That particular argument isn't. I have good evidence that the stoning bit IS a bit of background information..... I know you don't believe in psychics (etc).

You like reasons too.

Not all Christians are true believers. But there are such people among Christians - just as there are in all groups. Some of these people can propel movements that fly in the face of reason carrying along with them people who are not true believers.

And your evidence that thus is the case here isn't comparable - at all - to NT Write / (Jberr) Etc.

One must present a factual argument.

JBerr,

I'm sorry, but I don't buy your argument. As far as I can see, it mostly consists of more claims about how people who lived 2000 years ago would or would not have behaved. But, human behavior is a highly variable, unpredictable phenomenon. How can you have any confidence in predicting it here?

Let me give an example. You write:

"There is no way on earth that the disciples would have ever said that one person who had come back from the dead had resurrected, and that this person was the Messiah unless they had actually seen that empty tomb and talked with the live Jesus. This belief is totally incredible and unprecedented."

So, because we don't have accounts of people reacting this way before, you conclude that "there is no way on earth" they would have reacted that way in the case of Jesus. But, I think this clearly is insufficient to justify your confidence.

Another example: You say that Greeks would have found the Jewish notion of mass physical resurrections at a future eschatological event to be "laughable." Really? How do you know what some random Greek would have thought? Just because an idea is new or unconventional doesn't mean they would have found it laughable.

Another example: You claim that, without an empty tomb, the followers of a messiah claimant would have fallen away when the messiah was killed. But, again, how do you know what they would have done? How do ANY of us know? You suggested that this happened "over and over during the second temple period," but even if so, why couldn't Jesus' followers have reacted differently?

By the way, I am not at all convinced that messiah claimants were killed as often as you describe. I can only find two from the period you mention: Simon of Peraea and Menahem ben Judah. And in neither case do we know how their followers reacted to the deaths of their leaders.

So, anyway, I'm trying to say that your confidence to predict what these cultists would have done 2000 years ago is entirely misplaced. We can rarely say with confidence what people NOWADAYS will or will not do. How can you hope to do it for a bunch of cultists living 2000 years ago, when the evidence is so sparse?

JBerr,

I'm sorry, but I don't buy your argument. As far as I can see, it mostly consists of more claims about how people who lived 2000 years ago would or would not have behaved. But, human behavior is a highly variable, unpredictable phenomenon. How can you have any confidence in predicting it here?

Let me give an example. You write:

"There is no way on earth that the disciples would have ever said that one person who had come back from the dead had resurrected, and that this person was the Messiah unless they had actually seen that empty tomb and talked with the live Jesus. This belief is totally incredible and unprecedented."

So, because we don't have accounts of people reacting this way before, you conclude that "there is no way on earth" they would have reacted that way in the case of Jesus. But, I think this clearly is insufficient to justify your confidence.

Another example: You say that Greeks would have found the Jewish notion of mass physical resurrections at a future eschatological event to be "laughable." Really? How do you know what some random Greek would have thought? Just because an idea is new or unconventional doesn't mean they would have found it laughable.

Another example: You claim that, without an empty tomb, the followers of a messiah claimant would have fallen away when the messiah was killed. But, again, how do you know what they would have done? How do ANY of us know? You suggested that this happened "over and over during the second temple period," but even if so, why couldn't Jesus' followers have reacted differently?

By the way, I am not at all convinced that messiah claimants were killed as often as you describe. I can only find two from the period you mention: Simon of Peraea and Menahem ben Judah. And in neither case do we know how their followers reacted to the deaths of their leaders.

So, anyway, I'm trying to say that your confidence to predict what these cultists would have done 2000 years ago is entirely misplaced. We can rarely say with confidence what people NOWADAYS will or will not do. How can you hope to do it for a bunch of cultists living 2000 years ago, when the evidence is so sparse?

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