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« Teaching Activity | Main | God in a Box »

April 04, 2007


Only through humility can we love.

Theresa said..."Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and the Savior of our World. He gave His all for us and one day He will return."

If you have been "born-again" (John3:3) then "Jesus" has already "returned to earth".

If you think a person will come riding in the clouds...join the Jews and Muslims waiting for their "savior".

If you think a person will come riding in the clouds...keep waiting.


I read every word you write!

I'm riveted.

The "two claims" I was talking about TO step, were in HIS post.

The "two claims" you need to defend are the "resurrection" and the "ascension", both historically, theologically, and philosophically.

I know you think that defending them historically is all it takes and the rest will take care of itself if we can establish your "facts".

Good luck.

Only through humility can we love.

This is the deep "truth" of christianity.

And you will find that it "corresponds" to your everyday affairs.

Preach On Brother!

Tom, I find it undeniably amusing that you are the one preaching on this thread. I (and I presume others) grasp the idea you are pushing - but it IS NOT the point of discussion right now, as much as you want it to be.

I sadly agree with John on this, that it is quite clear you are attempting to engage on your terms. He (and I) have clearly tried to cooperate and participate to some extent on your terms, but you have made no similar concessions that I can see. As you would say, this is not something that can be explained to you - you will have to get it yourself. I'm sorry, I had hoped this would become more fruitful. I also need to admit that I skimmed or skipped your last several posts - I am already familiar with a lot of what you laid out as far as I can tell, but it really isn't the point of discussion right now anyways.

John, I am sorry for the delay in response, but I hope you were able to enjoy the weekend without being mired in this thread. I needed to take care of other business, and did not have much time to be online.

I don't have any other objections at the moment - just the Josephus question. The other thing I would want to do, once we walk through your case, is to attempt to build the "best alternate" model. I realize this may be very difficult for you to help with, but I hope you will understand what I attempt to do and why I need to do it. I want to get rid of this "fuzzy discomfort" and create a solid real model of what happened in 2000 if there is no god, and then compare that model to what you believe happened and see where each has its strengths and weaknesses.

We can continue this by email if you want, though perhaps it would be more helpful to someone else later on if available online. Also, I want to thank you again for your time and for working through this with me.

Step -

I bookmarked this link, so we can continue here as long as this thread is supported by STR's server if this works for you.

I'm not exactly sure what "the Josephus" objection is. Can you explicitely state it for me?

I went back through Tom's post about the Josephus reference and noticed that he searched for the "most "unfriendly"" translation of Josephus. Tom also stated that his purpose for doing this was not to be fair or accurate but "to illustrate the difficulty with using this passage as testimony."

Again, respectfully, this has nothing to do with fact #1 - Jesus Christ died on the cross. Tom thinks I am using this Josephus to establish the resurrection as a historical fact. I am not. I am using the Josephus reference as 1 of 9 ancient documents that attests to the fact that Christ died. If we know He died, then we know He lived. This is important..and I know this sounds silly...but if don't have significantly good reasons to believe He lived and died, then we can't even ask if He rose from the dead can we?

From Tom's post..."For it seemed to them that having been dead for three days, he had appeared to them alive again, as the divinely-inspired prophets had foretold -- these and ten thousand other wonderful things -- concerning him. And even now the race of those who are called 'Messianists' after him is not extinct."" (R. Eisler's reconstruction.)

Josephus wrote this within the same generation that witnessed Christ's death, so this text is early and it is written by someone who is not friendly to the "messianist's" movement (Josephus's words). And let's be clear what we have here; even Josephus is saying (in the most unfriendly translation that Tom could find) that Christ died and his disciples thought he rose from the dead.

This man is no friend of Christ's followers, and he's putting pen (or quill) to papyrus and telling us (2) things about Roman history. This is a valuable resource.

Step wrote: "I want to get rid of this "fuzzy discomfort" and create a solid real model of what happened in 2000 if there is no god, and then compare that model to what you believe happened and see where each has its strengths and weaknesses."

Exactly! We are on the same page my friend. And that's why I am taking this approach. First we take only the facts that the most skeptical, secular historians give us - not that the most skeptical scholars are always right, but because we want to look at the resurrection through the eyes of the toughest critics, and then we see which existing model is the best explanation, or we construct one of our own.

What I am very against, and I think you are too, is Tom's approach of constructing "any old theory we'd like" without factual constraints.

Anymore thoughts on these two facts? I really don't mind discussing them more if we have any reasonable doubt.


Continuing here is fine with me. I did write an entire response that somehow disappeared, so I will have to recreate it later tonight.

But in short, no I don't have any reasonable doubts about Jesus having existed and his believers thinking they saw him after his crucification.

OK, Jesus died, but I think his followers "lied" about seeing him after his death.

Many people "believed he rose from the dead" as the outside sources attest.

I'll try to refrain from preaching. I didn't mean to get all evangelical on you. I know what you mean about a disdain for people when they get all "preachy". It bugs. "beliefs" are a product of many years of searching, researching, wondering, weeping, and paradigms shifting. I was the one that closed the theology library in college, sat waiting by the fire-escape door in the theology wing for the theologians to arrive, sought every university library in every city I was sent for work after college.

It is not easy step. Forgive me if I jump to conclusions.


You are like an attorney putting "witnesses" on the stand that support your story.

My job is to "cross examine" and "discredit" your witnesses.

And, I admit, pose an alternative. Although we haven't got to that point yet I guess.


Is it possible that your source texts have been altered over the years?

Sorry, step, if we're not at that point yet then tell me when it is time to ask that question.

Tom -

Maybe what you're missing here is that we're not using controversial sources to establish facts. We don't want to use sources or establish something and call it a fact, if it isn't accepted by virtually all skeptical secular historians.

The position you have taken, is the one of the radical skeptic who doubts every bit of evidence, no matter how unreasonable the objection is. And, please do not let me stop you! Seriously - I understand that you are following a different method here and your litmus test is - "can I doubt it?"....and I don't mean for this to be insulting, I just don't find anything interesting or intelligent in such an endeavor. An 8th grader armed with a search engine can cast doubt.

The interesting questions are the reasonable ones. Is it possible source texts have been altered? Sure it is - anything is possible. Is it reasonable? In other words are there any good reasons to believe they have been altered? No.

Again - bear with me here because I have a few more facts to present, then let 'er rip with the alternate theories. Seriously, let's take our collective best shot. But first, we've got to establish facts. And what better approach then to take the data that even the most skeptical secular scholars accept and use those points as our facts. Otherwise, our skeptical objections will not be reasonable. And if you've studied this as much as you say you have, you want to level, clear reasonable objections at the resurrection model. Right?

Ok Step....We've got two facts:

1. Christ died by crucifixion.
2. The disciples believe they saw the Risen Jesus.

the third fact of history....

3. The conversion of skeptics/foes.

Both Paul and James (the brother of Jesus) were unbelievers of Jesus as God before the resurrection event. Again - let me make this fact explicitely clear. We are not admitting that Paul or James actually saw Christ, rather simply that they converted, that they had a change of mind. My list of evidence for this fact, from uncontroversial sources follows shortly.

Your thoughts?


Tom, those were excellent posts. By excellent I mean short. ;)

(I hope you know I'm just joking with you, as I said you and John both have more knowledge and scholarship than me and I respect that.)

Back on topic - do you have any references that claim the followers were "lying"? If not, then we can keep that as part of the alternate explanation that we will begin constructing.

Regarding the discrediting, it is probably more a question of translation and interpretation. That reading of Josephus that Tom provided was quite different from what we might otherwise find - what is the range of acceptable translations, and are those fringe translations or are both "mainstream" and supported by numerous scholars? John, do you accept that translation of Josephus for the purposes of this discussion (not as the "correct" one, but willing to work from it anyways unless we later need to examine the source more closely)?

This leads right into Tom's question, which is a good one. How do we trust the source texts? I suspect this may be a key part of our alternate model of events, but I'll leave that to Tom for now to construct (assuming you are accepting that challenge?)

To sum up: John, we can proceed with your next step, I believe. Tom has the burden to put more evidence on the table of questioning whether the followers were lying about seeing Jesus after his death, but we all agree that many other did believe this. Does everyone agree that John will proceed with his next step, and Tom will start constructing his alternate model - or will that get too complicated again?

Thanks guys. Peace.


There is another issue. Syncretism.

The issue is that several "religions" that had a "mythical" (mystical, or psychical) interpretation of the dying god-man story.

Many of the "follwers of Jesus" would also be "followers of Osiris-Dionysus", or Adonis.

Step, how do I prove somone is lying?

By "more reasonable" do you mean "more documents"?

Is this how we determine "truth"? Who has more documents on their side?

By "more reasonable" you mean "more simple"?

I'm afraid history isn't so simple.

No - I mean more reasonable. "History isn't so simple" is right. We can't make it up as we go along. We have to work with what we're given. So, we're using the most widely accepted data to establish our facts list.

So far we have:
1. Christ died by crucifixion
2. The disciples believe they saw the Risen Christ.
3. The conversion of foes and skeptics (Paul and James)

and the fourth fact is

4. The empty tomb.

Ok - let 'er rip Tom! Please explain why or how the resurrection of Jesus Christ is false. Keep in mind we must use facts in constructing our alternate theory. The four facts above are our constraints. They are our ties to ancient history. If we can't know these four facts, then we can't know anything about history.

Step - you too my friend - what's our best alternate explanation?

I'll give you my best shot tomorrow...(but even it doesn't account for these four facts, so it doesn't really qualify).

Take care fellas,

John said..""History isn't so simple" is right. We can't make it up as we go along. We have to work with what we're given. So, we're using the most widely accepted data to establish our facts list."

I mean there is a lot more that you have not accounted for.
Of course, when we are working with ancient texts we have to "take what we are handed".

I will introduce more "widely accepted data", but I want to emphasize the "data" that changes our lives is not "widely accepted"…it is only accepted by you the individual, and the "data" is an experience of "rebith".

Our facts list is sufficiently large to discuss for now. I think I can show under the category of "conversion of foes and skeptics" that most "foes and skeptics" experienced the "saving power of christ" for themselves and this is what converted the "foes and skeptics".

But you have to remember the other types of people that were not "foes" or "skeptics"...that "believed in" their dying-god man. These religions were what are called "syncretic". That means they did not consider people with other names for their gods, to have necessarily different gods. They understood that other people had "different names" for their gods, and some were very similar,the way Jesus is similar to Osiris-Dionysus which "predated" the historical Jesus.

Besides the syncretism that dominated the religious landscape at the time of Jesus, we must account for the Greek speaking world and how the religion of Jesus every left the confines of Jerusalem. Of course for that we will need to account for Peter and Paul.

Paul was not "converting skeptics"…he was writing pastoral letters to the meditteranean cities where he travelled and assembled together as "churches". These "churches" were not Jewish, they did not worship in synogogues. They worshipped outdoors, like the greek style amphitheatre, or in someone's home. These people were not hostile to Paul, they were "easily converted". Paul emphasized baptism like John the Baptist. These people already had their own "death-rebirth" rituals associated with other gods like Dionysus.

It is funny, since it partly has to do with circumscision, but there was a question that had to be settled of whether anyone who was not jewish (and not circumsicsed), could even BE a Christian. Peter and James debated this point. Since many texts in the OT refer to "israel", especially the messianic ones, they had to be "reinterpreted". Finally it was enough to have "circumscision of the heart" and christians were "spiritual isreal".

If you want to talk about "conversion" of foes and skeptics we are going to have to include the Heresies and the Catholic Inquisition, and the conversion of barbaric europe.

John said..."The four facts above are our constraints. They are our ties to ancient history. If we can't know these four facts, then we can't know anything about history."

As I've said before these are not "facts" they are "disputed facts". And you can never "know" them with certainty.

Tom wrote: "As I've said before these are not "facts" they are "disputed facts". And you can never "know" them with certainty."

Tom you haven't presented any facts. So discarding the facts I've presented, which we know with a high degree of certainty, for a nebulous set of facts that exist in your mind only is unreasonable, disingenuous and irrational.

It is irrational to throw away a set of facts that we know with a high degree of certainty, for want of a set of facts with 100% certainty that don't exist because we don't happen to like what the known facts suggest. That is a boy's philosophy. You're a grown man. We must draw our conclusions about history with what we know, not what we imagine.


Sorry to disappear for so long, guys. I've been here, just haven't been able to squeeze in a decent length response. I'll be gone until Sunday, most likely.

I also haven't come up with anything solid at all - I was hoping Tom would, but not so far. John, we may have to just take your best shot and mine.

I think we moved over to the April 13th blog "Christ and the Mystery Religions"...

Tom -

It's 'ball in your court' at this thread. The facts are on the table. Now is your time to "inductively" draw conclusions from those facts.

Remember - the theory you're working towards presenting of what happened must take into account all four facts:

1. Christ died by crucifixion
2. The disciples believe they saw the Risen Christ.
3. The conversion of skeptics and foes.
4. The empty tomb.

What is your best explanation?

I look forward to your reply.


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