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July 01, 2009

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William Lane Craig has the best site in my opinion on the ressurection. He address' a lot of questions or issues anybody may have on the great event!

Check it...

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/PageServer

Isn't the above related to the "falacy of origin"? Attacking a belief because of origin (time, place or circumstance)?

Example:
- You believe Christianity only because you were born in a Christian family (place)
- You believed in God before you examined the evidence (time)
- You believed in God when faced with death in the battlefield (circumstance)

It matters not how you came to believe, only what you believe.

If we assume that our God given ability to use reason,rationality and logic were mean't to be used to come to truth...then yes we all need some kind of "evidence" to drive us to the conclusions we make. The only other option would seem to be.. the "blind" faith thing....which is another word for futile.

You're exactly right Kpolo! It's called the Genetic Fallacy.

The best evidence is the Apostles themselves.
If they had not seen the risen Christ, would they really have gone to death [some in brutal ways] for a lie? OK, maybe one or two may have tried to fool the world. But 11 of them? Not bloody likely [Cockney accent implied]. And especially not Thomas - his doubt would have given him an out.
That, and that alone, screams out through History to the evidence of the resurrection.

What matters? In what context is this? Belief does not matter regardless of evidence if the context is one of salvation (James 2:19). Belief without faith is meaningless. Faith in Jesus to provide salvation even if without a pedigree of evidence is completely satisfactory.

If the context is one of salvation, is it really the claim of this blog that faith alone (in Christ's sacrifice to bring salvation) is not enough? ... that it requires faith plus knowledge of sufficient evidence to "justify" the faith before salvation occurs?

If so ... I would need to see scripture references to back that up. Because I have not seen evidence in my Bible readings to support this belief.

SAM
People die for 'lies' all the time. The problem is, when it comes to religious experience, humans can delude themselves very well. Not to mention the concept of the 'pious fraud.' Someone who feels they are doing God's work He just needs a little help. (This is my reading of Joseph Smith. He belived he was called of God. He just felt that if exageration helped convince people to believe, so much the better).
How do we know the apostles were not pious frauds? Who exagerated some mystical experince with the intent of doing good.

topher,

You said:

    How do we know the apostles were not pious frauds?
I would suggest we do so by evaluating the evidence.

Do you agree?

>> "People die for 'lies' all the time."


"Sure". We'll grant that. The argument is, did what they die for actually happen, or where the honestly mistaken. The evidence at least tells us that those that died did because they actually thought Jesus was God did die and did rise on the third day as a testament to his dieity. Wether or not that is the case, is a matter of different dialogue. What you could not say confidently is that they died to perpetuate a myth that they knew was such. The evidence absolute does not support that hypothesis.

To address your question,

"How do we know the apostles were not pious frauds? Who exagerated some mystical experince with the intent of doing good. "

If by mystical experience you mean insense laden rejection of intillectual inquiry, again, I would suggest that reading the text will support no such hypothesis. On several occassians we have the apostles testifying to the actuality of these events. We also have instances where the apostles themselves didnt even recognize that Jesus was before them (after his death). The apostles knew that people dont rise from the death. And we would expect some of them to be caught completely off guard , atleast, if they are basing thier beliefs in reality.


"16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty."


But that is my point. I was raised Mormon (although I am no longer) and I can tell you that Mormons have records of people who, for example, during the dedication of the Kirkland Temple claim to have seen angles, or a bright light around Joseph Smith, etc...We have the testimony of his own family who accepted him as a prophet.

We know Smith was a fraud from the evidence by those around him who were not taken in, something we do not have with the apostles of Jesus' time, (thought in Acts we do have evidence that the message of Jesus was not completly clear by his followers i.e. the conflict between Peter and Paul).

We also have evidence that not all early christian groups belived that Jesus raised from the dead, like the Ebionites (I don't know if I spelled that correctly) It seems that the impact of Jesus was contested from the beginning.

In other words, how are the apostles different from Joseph Smith? other then the fact that we have records from the time of Smith that counter his account. It Smith had been born 2,000 years ago would we all be Mormon?

I see the point you are getting at, but it is worth nothing that their are some serious differences between the foundation of Mormonism (Which in essense borrows extensively from Christianity), and Christianity. The same could be said of some of the later gnostic writings that sprang up around 110 AD. We also, in the case of mormonism have hard archaeological evidence contrary to Josephs testimony (such as the irrefutable fradulence of the book of Abraham), which frankly is enough to cast fatal doubt on the mormon religion.

With that said, the simple unbelief of some early "christians" as a bare fact isint enough to refute the belief that Jesus did infact, rise physically from death (not that thats what you were suggesting). The question becomes, does a phantasmal theory (such as hallucinations, Ghostly appearances and so fourth) support the text, or rather give satisfactory explanatory scope. Given the fact that we can assume that the apostles were aware of appiritions, (I would cite 'doubting thomas'), and given the fact that the apostles ate with Jesus and given the fact that it would be almost as miraculous as the resurrection itself if infact the 500 saw a Ghostly Jesus giving a sermon shortly before his departure, also given the surgence of belief in Christ's bodily resurrection that is attested to in a few non-biblical sources, we can atelast establish that regardless of conflicting beliefs, the apostles knew the difference between phantasmal visions and a physical body. We also have the earliest sources atleast attesting to the physicality of his resurrection as well, whereas the more suspect accounts dont arrive until much later. Let me say that I acknoweldge that we can assume people didnt beleive the apostles. This is also in the Biblical narrative and we would expect such dissent for such a radical claim.

In contrast, the historical record of mormonism suffers from far more than disbelief within his inner circle, which of itself doesnt neccessairily disprove him, but in conjunction with the historical evidence doesnt really help his case. The cases here I would suggest, are fundamentally different. To your had josef been born 2000 years ago question, there are heretical offshoots that are ancient and in some senses your question has allready been tested. The claims of Islam far predate the claims of Mormonism.


Hi Neon Genesis Evangelion, NGE for short. You shoud've continued in your scripture reference, there's more there that pertains. Here's a little more of the quote:

"2Pe 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 2Pe 1:17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, [fn] with whom I am well pleased," 2Pe 1:18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 2Pe 1:19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,"

The eyewitness accounts were one level, but eyes and ears can lie, some who heard the words of God thought they were hearing thunder. Revelation is true of necessity, because God can swear by none higher. The more sure word of prophecy is more highly esteemed by Peter according to vs.19.

>It doesn't matter if you believe Jesus' resurrection before you investigate it or after investigation; what matters is the evidence you have for it. A belief is justified by the evidence for it, not when it was formed.

Posted at 04:18 AM in AA:Greg, Apologetics | Permalink ShareThis


I believe faith itself is evidence (Heb. 11:1). I know that it does not originate from me. It is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). I experience it every waking moment as proof on a personal level that God saved me.

It's nice to look at external evidence and flash it about to unbelievers, but even if they decide to believe on account of it, I doubt that they are actually saved.

It takes spiritual life infused by God to save us, and after that, faith develops through hearing the word of God. Faith cannot exist before or apart from the spiritual new birth.

Another ridiculously obvious point from STR that I'm sure enjoys a long future of belaboring.

--Henry

Brad, your right to say it, but may I say I was placing emphasis on the non-mythological intent of the writers. Atleast, by their admission

Don't most of the traditions that have the apostles dying for their faith come from too long after the fact to be historically credible?

I think Greg Koukl is repeating something he said in response to the caller on the June 28 radio program who was asking about Papias and the gospel of Mark. That caller, writing under the screen name tcampen, posted more comments on the subject in an earlier thread. I posted a response to him in that thread, and my response didn't appear at first, then appeared, then disappeared. I don't know why. Maybe the site is having technical difficulties. Regardless, here's what I wrote in response to him, in the hope that he'll see it here and in the hope that others will benefit from it:

tcampen,

Papias probably was a disciple of the apostle John. Multiple sources who had access to his writings say so, and the one source who argues otherwise, Eusebius, is inconsistent on the issue. I've discussed this subject in depth in threads here and here.

When Papias discusses the gospel of Mark (Eusebius, Church History, 3:39), he refers to his source as "the elder", a term that the early Christians associated with the apostle John (2 John 1, 3 John 1). As I've argued elsewhere, it's unlikely that there was some other prominent early church leader named John with whom the apostle was confused. The John known by Papias probably was the apostle, the son of Zebedee.

Regardless, Papias' source seems to be somebody older than he was, since he refers to the individual as "the elder" and considers him a source of information on events of earlier times. Papias lived in the late first century and into the second century. He was a contemporary of the apostles. The timing of his life is more significant than the timing of his writing.

But there's no good reason to date what he wrote a few decades into the second century. Greg Koukl referred you to Richard Bauckham's Jesus And The Eyewitnesses (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006), and Bauckham discusses the dating of Papias' work there (pp. 13-14). Even if we accept the suggestion of Philip of Side, to the effect that Papias wrote sometime during the reign of the emperor Hadrian, that emperor was in power from 117 to 138. The assumption that Papias wrote around 130 or 135 is a rough estimate based on the assumption that Philip of Side is reliable on this matter. Bauckham doubts his reliability. And Hadrian came to power in 117, so a date under Hadrian could be as early as that year. But even if Papias did write as late as, say, the year 135, the fact remains that he lived earlier and was drawing information from his earlier experiences.

People pass on information from generation to generation. If the gospel of Mark had initially circulated anonymously, or had initially been attributed to some other author, we wouldn't expect to see universal agreement, from Papias and his source onward, concerning Mark's authorship of the document. But that's what we do see. You can speculate that all of the sources were mistaken, but that isn't the most likely scenario.

The traditional gospel authorship attributions are widely attested early on. We have testimony from sources representing a wide diversity of locations, personalities, theologies, etc. Multiple heretical, Jewish, and pagan sources corroborate the traditional attributions in some manner. See here. We know that both the early Christians and their early enemies were willing to question document attributions and discuss such controversies publicly, as we see with 2 Peter and Revelation, for example. The authorship of Mark wasn't disputed.

And there's significant internal evidence for authorship by Mark. See, for example, here.

Here's some of the other relevant evidence:

"All four Gospels are anonymous in the formal sense that the author's name does not appear in the text of the work itself, only in the title (which we will discuss below). But this does not mean that they were intentionally anonymous. Many ancient works were anonymous in the same formal sense, and the name may not even appear in the surviving title of the work. For example, this is true of Lucian's Life of Demonax (Demonactos bios), which as a bios (ancient biography) is generically comparable with the Gospels. Yet Lucian speaks throughout in the first person and obviously expects his readers to know who he is. Such works would often have been circulated in the first instance among friends or acquaintances of the author who would know who the author was from the oral context in which the work was first read. Knowledge of authorship would be passed on when copies were made for other readers, and the name would be noted, with a brief title, on the outside of the scroll or on a label affixed to the scroll. In denying that the Gospels were originally anonymous, our intention is to deny that they were first presented as works without authors. The clearest case is Luke because of the dedication of the work to Theophilus (1:3), probably a patron. It is inconceivable that a work with a named dedicatee should have been anonymous. The author's name may have featured in an original title, but in any case would have been known to the dedicatee and other first readers because the author would have presented the book to the dedicatee....In the first century CE, most authors gave their books titles, but the practice was not universal....Whether or not any of these titles originate from the authors themselves, the need for titles that distinguished one Gospel from another would arise as soon as any Christian community had copies of more than one in its library and was reading more than one in its worship meetings....In the case of codices, 'labels appeared on all possible surfaces: edges, covers, and spines.' In this sense also, therefore, Gospels would not have been anonymous when they first circulated around the churches. A church receiving its first copy of one such would have received with it information, at least in oral form, about its authorship and then used its author's name when labeling the book and when reading from it in worship....no evidence exists that these Gospels were ever known by other names." (Richard Bauckham, Jesus And The Eyewitnesses [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006], pp. 300-301, 303)

"Nevertheless the fact remains that it is utterly improbable that in this dark period, at a particular place or through a person or through the decision of a group or institution unknown to us, the four superscriptions of the Gospels, which had hitherto been circulating anonymously, suddenly came into being and, without leaving behind traces of earlier divergent titles, became established throughout the church. Let those who deny the great age and therefore basically the originality of the Gospel superscriptions in order to preserve their 'good' critical conscience, give a better explanation of the completely unanimous and relatively early attestation of these titles, their origin and the names of authors associated with them. Such an explanation has yet to be given, and it never will be. New Testament scholars persistently overlook basic facts and questions on the basis of old habits....Another comment on the name Matthew: apart from the first Gospel, to which he gives his name, Matthew plays no role in primitive Christianity. He appears only in the lists of apostles. He is only mentioned rather more frequently at a substantially later date in apocryphal writings on the basis of the unique success of the Gospel named after him. That makes it utterly improbable that the name of the apostle was attached to the Gospel only at a secondary stage, in the first decades of the second century, somewhere in the Roman empire, and that this essentially later nomenclature then established itself everywhere without opposition. How could people have arrived at this name for an anonymous Gospel in the second century, and how then would it have gained general recognition?...the First Gospel [Matthew] already established itself quickly and tenaciously in the church at the beginning of the second century...this writing [the gospel of Mark], quite novel in earliest Christianity, managed to establish itself in the communities and to be used extensively by such self-confident authors as Luke and the author of the First Gospel - in the case of Matthew around eighty percent and of Luke more than sixty percent - only because a recognized authority and not an anonymous Gentile Christian, i.e. a Mr. Nobody in the church, stood behind it....Therefore nothing has led research into the Gospels so astray as the romantic superstition involving anonymous theologically creative community collectives, which are supposed to have drafted whole writings." (Martin Hengel, The Four Gospels And The One Gospel Of Jesus Christ [Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000], pp. 55, 71-72, 80-81)

Vinny,

I've addressed the issue of the suffering and death of the apostles in an article at:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/08/early-christians-willingness-to-suffer.html

I think Greg Koukl is repeating something he said in response to the caller on the June 28 radio program who was asking about Papias and the gospel of Mark. That caller, writing under the screen name tcampen, posted more comments on the subject in an earlier thread (http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2009/06/two-good-topics-on-the-podcast.html). I posted a response to him in that thread, and my response didn't appear at first, then appeared, then disappeared. The same thing happened in this thread. Maybe my post has been disappearing because it's too long. I don't know. Regardless, I've posted my response to tcampen at my own blog:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2009/07/evidence-for-new-testament-authorship.html

I hope he'll see it, and I hope others here will benefit from it.

Joe H., I don't think any Christian here is saying that we need a high level of knowledge for salvation. Salvation is a free gift - but don't you need to know that in order to accept it?

My 4-year-old nephew will be old enough soon to be able to make th decision to follow Christ. He doesn't have to know everything in order to have that saving faith. But in order for me to explain, I have to know certain things.

And when gets to high school and his friends ask or attack his faith? Shouldn't I equip him with proper knowledge of evidences about what our faith is that he can share that faith with others? Didn't Jesus Himself use the resurrection as evidence for why the disciples should believe?

Saving faith doesn't require much head knowledge to be real but a growing faith does. And the sceptical world that we live in does too. If we want to reach that world, we can't just be focussed on our salvation but theirs.

"People die for lies all the time."

People die for what they THINK is the truth. Whether is it or not is another question. People rarely if ever die for what they KNOW is a lie. The only reason they would die for a known lie is for some gain--political, monetary etc. Since the Apostles eschewed all of these things, those motivations cannot apply.

The real question isn't whether the Apostles died for a lie (i.e. they were delusional fools thinking they spoke the truth about a resurrection that really didn't happen, but whether they died KNOWING they were lying. They claimed to have seen the risen Lord, touched his body, ate with him and had many dozens of corroborating witnesses. Unlike an individual mystical vision of an angel, these accounts can be tested.

The Apostles, then, either KNEW they were lying or they spoke the truth.

The accounts do not support the delusional hypothesis.

To be fair, the delusional hypothesis does apply to subsequent followers, since they did not claim to be eyewitnesses with corroborating testimony, but it cannot apply to those who claimed to have seen and talked with Jesus alive after his death.

>My 4-year-old nephew will be old enough soon to be able to make the decision to follow Christ.

>>Usually following Christ starts with a sense of self despair and loathing of one's sinful state.

Richard,

"The Apostles, then, either KNEW they were lying or they spoke the truth."

I don't think we're in a position to know the states of mind of these guys or how and where they really died or much about them at all. We have to have more doubt about earlier history than later. At some point, we have to have doubt about calling it history at all. We also have to give extra scrutiny to ancient stories recounting supernatural events like ressurections - unless we are used to witnessing ressurections.

By definition, a pious lie is intended to serve a greater good. If dying for a greater good entails dying for something you know to be a lie, well, why be surprised that someone dies holding to a lie?

RonH

Ron H,

"We have to have more doubt about earlier history than later. At some point, we have to have doubt about calling it history at all."

No we don't. And we may not be in a position to determine with excruciating certainty whether the Apostles believed they were dying for a lie or the truth, nevertheless we are in a position to make a determination of their state of minds. And that determination may have eternal consequences.

All that follows from a claim that we are unable to discern intent is that we will never know (at least on earth) if Jesus is who the Bible authors steadfastly claimed He is. But, it does not remove the issue of whether it is true. This position requires neutrality, and I don't think(I am making an assumption) that you are neutral. It would be my guess that you believe the Bible false and not discernible.

We are not mind readers but we still maintain tools to discern intent. These tools are applied in a court of law all the time and can also be applied to the Gospels.

>> "By definition, a pious lie is intended to serve a greater good. "

Sure, but that has almost nothing to do with the nature of the belief in question. The belief here is that Jesus was actually God, was actually raised physically from the dead, for our salvation, and so on. The text just doesnt support the conclusion that this was a perpetuated myth rather than atleast a genuine belief that Jesus had actually risen (not taking into account wether this is actually true or not). For what evidential reason do we have to suggest that the disciples died to perpetuate a 'pious lie' of this nature, given some of the offensive tenants of the Gospels. If all we have is the text and cant gauge the mental state of the disciples, shouldent we look there first, then? Not only that, what exactly, in your opinion, is this greater good? Another religion? "Eternal Life"? Could you give me textural support? Arent you gauging thier mental state by suggesting that they might have done this to perpetuate a pious myth? Do we know them to be liars, if, as you say, we have no idea as to the mental state of them? Or is this just pure conjecture?

The key to understanding the origins of Christianity was inadvertently given near the beginning of the comment thread.

"We also have instances where the apostles themselves didnt even recognize that Jesus was before them (after his death)."

Accounts in which people are said to have spent the day with Jesus without recognizing him show how the idea that Jesus returned in physical form got started in absence of an actual physical resurrection. I suspect that these are among the oldest of the post-crucifixion stories. With time, such accounts lead to claims that someone actually saw Jesus, and this time, they recognized him. And that leads to construction of even more elaborate and detailed accounts. It's amazing what people will convince themselves is true when they desperately want it to be true.

Unfortunately, the historical record of the first century is far too inadequate to support the conclusion that the miraculous, supernatural events described in the NT actually occurred.

" With time, such accounts lead to claims that someone actually saw Jesus, and this time, they recognized him. "

Or the disciples, as any rational human who knows that the dead dont return to life, were stunned to discover that they were actaully standing before the risen Jesus. And again, we can refer to the text where we see very human examples of a natural reaction to such a revelatory event (thomas asking to touch Jesus -- appealing to evidence for such an outstanding claim).

Again, on one hand we have some who would say that we cannot know authorative intent, yet at the same time their is an appeal to authorial intent via suggesting that they convinced themselves otherwise, or created an intentionally deceptive 'pious lie' and formed this as a basis for belief. We can discuss the textural support for that claim (is thier is any), but until then, were really just kind of speculating based off of our cultural bias.

>Any rational human who knows that the dead dont return to life.

True enough, but rational people also know that you can't turn water into wine, feed 5000 with a handful of fish, etc., etc. And yet supposedly, these witnesses has seen all of the these thing. They'd had years of stunning observations. So, what's so surprising about a resurrection if you start with a belief that Jesus is God?

>We're really just kind of speculating based off of our cultural bias.

I'd say that there is a lot of speculation by everyone involved. That's the problem. As I said, the historical record of the first century is far too inadequate to support the conclusion that the miraculous, supernatural events described in the NT actually occurred. All anyone has is speculation.

>>The same thing happened in this thread. Maybe my post has been disappearing because it's too long.

Jason, if there are a lot of links in a comment, sometimes the spam catcher thinks it's spam and grabs it. I'll go check for your comment there. I usually do check through the spam comments, and if I find that anything legitimate was caught there, I post it when I find it. Sorry about that!

Joe said:

"It's amazing what people will convince themselves is true when they desperately want it to be true."

As we see in your posts.

Paul didn't "desperately want the resurrection to be true". Neither did his travel companions. James probably didn't either. And the early Jewish enemies of Christianity, who acknowledged the empty tomb and the guard at the tomb, didn't "desperately want" such things to be true. The early enemies of Christianity who acknowledged that Jesus performed apparent miracles (which they attributed to Satan, sorcery, etc.) didn't "desperately want" Jesus to have supernatural power. The early enemies of Christianity who acknowledged the traditional authorship attributions of documents like the gospels didn't "desperately want" those attributions to be true. Etc.

You write:

"Unfortunately, the historical record of the first century is far too inadequate to support the conclusion that the miraculous, supernatural events described in the NT actually occurred."

That's an assertion, not an argument. Historians regularly reach thousands of confident conclusions about ancient history, including many conclusions about early Christianity, despite the fact that we know less about ancient history than modern history. Many scholars, including non-Christian scholars, accept historical facts such as the empty tomb and that the early Christians believed that they saw Jesus risen from the dead. We can then reason our way to the best explanation of such facts, as we do with other historical matters, including other matters of ancient history.

The reasons why scholars believe in things like the empty tomb and the fact that the early Christians thought they saw Jesus risen from the dead have been widely discussed in many contexts. If you've read much on the subject, you should know what arguments are given. You would need to interact with such arguments rather than just asserting that "the historical record of the first century is far too inadequate".

Amy wrote:

"Jason, if there are a lot of links in a comment, sometimes the spam catcher thinks it's spam and grabs it. I'll go check for your comment there. I usually do check through the spam comments, and if I find that anything legitimate was caught there, I post it when I find it."

There's no need to repost it. I posted a link to what I wrote at my web site, so people can read it there if they're interested.

Thanks for the explanation, though, and for the offer to repost what I wrote. I wasn't aware of the spam catcher. My post did have a lot of links, which I changed to URLs, and the post was removed under both forms.

>Paul didn't "desperately want the resurrection to be true", etc.

Speculation, pure and simple. You have no idea what these folks did or did not want.

>Historians regularly reach thousands of confident conclusions about ancient history, including many conclusions about early Christianity, despite the fact that we know less about ancient history than modern history.

You are confusing "confidence" about non-supernatural historical claims versus "confidence" about one of the most spectactually supernatural claim in history. For example, there is an enormous difference between accepting the Iliad's claim that the Greeks attacked Troy and accepting the Iliad's claim that the gods directed the action during said historical event.

>You would need to interact with such arguments rather than just asserting that "the historical record of the first century is far too inadequate".

Please list all documents written by Jesus himself. Please provide a list of all contemporaneous records of Jesus's life and death. List all documents written by Roman or Jewish authorities at the time of the Jesus's resurrection that provide evidence of the resurrection. Please provide a list of Roman or Jewish documents listing the names of all those present at the crucifixion who were later killed by the Jews or Romans for their beliefs.

Joe wrote:

"Speculation, pure and simple. You have no idea what these folks did or did not want."

We have "no idea" what the early Jewish enemies of Christianity wanted, despite our possession of the writings of Philo, Josephus, the Talmud, Christians describing how Jewish non-Christians responded to them, etc.? Would you argue that we have no way of determining whether it's probable that the early Jewish enemies of Christianity wanted Jesus' tomb to be empty or wanted Jesus to have performed miracles, for example? We have "no idea" of what Paul wanted, despite possessing documents he wrote and comments about him from other sources who were historically close to him? Would you also say that we have "no idea" about the motives of men like Josephus and Tacitus, despite our possession of some of their writings and the writings of other sources who had information about those men and the context in which they lived? Explain why you think that such data give us "no idea", but instead only "speculation". Historians regularly comment on the probable motives of such historical figures, much as we reach conclusions about the probable motives of relatives, friends, co-workers, witnesses in a court of law, etc. Explain why you think we're all wrong to do so.

Earlier, you wrote:

"Accounts in which people are said to have spent the day with Jesus without recognizing him show how the idea that Jesus returned in physical form got started in absence of an actual physical resurrection....It's amazing what people will convince themselves is true when they desperately want it to be true."

If we can't discern anything about the motives of these ancient sources, then why think that the early Christians would have "desperately wanted" Jesus' resurrection? If we have "no idea" about the motives of such sources, then maybe the early Christians "desperately wanted" Christianity to be false, "desperately wanted" Jesus to remain dead, etc. Such conclusions seem irrational, but, supposedly, you don't think they would be irrational. According to you, we have "no idea" whether the early Christians would have wanted Christianity to be true. You're undermining your own theory about the origin of belief in Jesus' resurrection. Your theory depends on assumptions about Christian motives, yet you tell us that we have "no idea" about such motives.

You write:

"You are confusing 'confidence' about non-supernatural historical claims versus 'confidence' about one of the most spectactually supernatural claim in history."

You'll need to explain why that distinction allegedly has the significance you're suggesting. See here.

You write:

"For example, there is an enormous difference between accepting the Iliad's claim that the Greeks attacked Troy and accepting the Iliad's claim that the gods directed the action during said historical event."

The two are different, but you haven't shown that they're different in the sense you've implied. You haven't explained why we supposedly couldn't or shouldn't conclude that something supernatural occurred, whether in ancient Greek history or in ancient Christian history.

You write:

"Please list all documents written by Jesus himself. Please provide a list of all contemporaneous records of Jesus's life and death. List all documents written by Roman or Jewish authorities at the time of the Jesus's resurrection that provide evidence of the resurrection. Please provide a list of Roman or Jewish documents listing the names of all those present at the crucifixion who were later killed by the Jews or Romans for their beliefs."

Asking for evidence we don't have doesn't explain the evidence we have. Historians regularly reach conclusions about ancient history without having the sort of evidence you're asking for above. Historians regularly accept what Josephus tells us about a Jewish figure whose writings aren't extant today, what Tacitus reported about events that supposedly occurred decades or longer before the time when he wrote, etc.

And why would you want something like a document written by Jesus or a document written by a Jewish source around the time of Jesus' resurrection if such documents would leave us with "no idea" of the motives of such sources? You've said that we have "no idea" what Paul's motives were, for example, despite our possession of some of his writings. If we supposedly know as little about early Christianity as you suggest, despite possessing such documents from the early Christians themselves, as well as some documents from relevant non-Christian sources, then what would be the significance of documents like the ones you refer to above?

>We have "no idea" of what Paul wanted, despite possessing documents he wrote and comments about him from other sources who were historically close to him?, etc.

>If we can't discern anything about the motives of these ancient sources, then why think that the early Christians would have "desperately wanted" Jesus' resurrection?, etc.

I think that I typed in haste when I used the phrase “no idea”; the phrase overstates the point I was trying to make.

I think it’s fine to say that might have some idea about what people wanted, but in the end, we are all still speculating about motives based on a handful of documents. And those documents have certain problems. For example, since we don’t have the original manuscripts, we don’t actually know which words were actually written by the historical figure known as Paul, nor do we know if Paul was honestly describing his motives when he wrote the documents. The same holds for the writings attributed to others.

You speculate about motives, and I speculate about motives, and we can both provide reasons for our speculations, but in truth, neither of us really knows, because all we have is a handful of ancient text. We can talk about what is “probable”, but that’s about it. I think that it’s quite logical and reasonable that Jesus’s immediate follows would have wanted him to return from the dead, and that they would have been used to idea of amazing, miraculous things, and that they would have recognized his physical being in all circumstance. You might disagree. Who knows who’s right? I’ve said, the record is very incomplete, and that opens the door to concluding what we want to conclude.

>Asking for evidence we don't have doesn't explain the evidence we have, etc..

My point was simply to demonstrate that I conclusion that the historical record is woefully inadequate was not based solely on “just asserting”. Yes, we have a handful of documents that are copies of long gone original manuscripts, but consider what we are missing. By contrast, consider the historical record available with respect to the founding of Mormonism.

>Historians regularly reach conclusions about ancient history without having the sort of evidence you're asking for above.

…But not about supernatural events.

>You haven't explained why we supposedly couldn't or shouldn't conclude that something supernatural occurred, whether in ancient Greek history or in ancient Christian history.

Do you believe that the Greeks and Trojans fought a battle in the area now identified as Troy? Yes or no.

Do you believe that the gods directed the action at Troy? Why or why not?

What evidence would you require before you would believe that supernatural events occurred at Troy? Is there enough evidence in the Iliad itself? Does the archeological evidence of a conflict at Troy support the conclusion that something supernatural occurred?

Do you believe all accounts of all supernatural events found in the various historical records of the world? Why or why not?

>>Please provide a list of all contemporaneous records of Jesus's life and death. [etc.]

You're asking for this book here that discusses extra-biblical sources. Probably the source most close to the events (within one to seven years) is the pre-biblical creed recorded in 1 Corinthians that discusses his death, burial, and resurrection. You can read about that in the book I linked to. The date of the creed isn't in dispute as far as I know.

1 Corinthians is "extra-Biblical"?

Joe wrote:

"I think that I typed in haste when I used the phrase 'no idea'; the phrase overstates the point I was trying to make....We can talk about what is 'probable', but that’s about it."

What you're saying now is a long way from what you said earlier. You've gone from saying that we have "speculation, pure and simple" and "no idea" to saying that we have "what is 'probable'". I agree that we're discussing probabilities. That's what historical research seeks, probability.

You write:

"And those documents have certain problems. For example, since we don’t have the original manuscripts, we don’t actually know which words were actually written by the historical figure known as Paul"

If you're going to reject the reliability of the New Testament text, then you need to also reject the text of every other ancient document. Even a textual scholar as anti-Christian as Bart Ehrman will acknowledge (as he did in his debate with James White this past January) that we have better evidence for the text of the New Testament than we have for any other document of antiquity. And he acknowledges that most Christian scribes were honest and were trying to preserve the original text of the New Testament:

"It is probably safe to say that the copying of early Christian texts was by and large a 'conservative' process. The scribes - whether non-professional scribes in the early centuries or professional scribes of the Middle Ages - were intent on 'conserving' the textual tradition they were passing on. Their ultimate concern was not to modify the tradition, but to preserve it for themselves and for those who would follow them. Most scribes, no doubt, tried to do a faithful job in making sure that the text they reproduced was the same text they inherited." (Misquoting Jesus [San Francisco, California: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005], p. 177)

There's a general assumption of textual reliability among Christianity's early enemies, both heretics and those who didn't even profess to be Christians. Although charges of textual change were sometimes made by Christianity's early enemies, the general assumption seems to be that the text is reliable. Christians, heretics, Jews, and pagans argue over the same texts.

If you want us to believe that our text of Paul is unreliable, you'll need to do more than point out that we don't have the original documents. Textual scholars have explained why we don't need to have the original documents in order to reach conclusions about what the original text probably said. Are you familiar with the arguments for the reliability of the text? If so, why do you disagree with those arguments?

And in the context of this discussion, you would have to argue for the corruption of multiple documents, not just one. For example, I pointed out earlier that Paul, when he was an enemy of Christianity, wouldn't have wanted to believe in Jesus' resurrection. Paul's anti-Christian background is referred to in many places (Acts, Galatians, etc.). If you wanted to deny that we have sufficient evidence to conclude that he had such an anti-Christian background, and you wanted to do so on the basis of the alleged unreliability of the New Testament text, then you would need to argue against multiple passages in multiple documents, not just one passage in one document.

You write:

"nor do we know if Paul was honestly describing his motives when he wrote the documents"

People usually tell the truth. Even a liar has to tell the truth most of the time in order to seem believable when he lies. We don't assume that somebody is lying as our default position.

I've been arguing that Paul, as an anti-Christian Pharisee, wouldn't have wanted to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. In multiple places in his writings, corroborated by other sources and unchallenged by any early source, he says that he was a Pharisee and a persecutor of the church (Philippians 3:5-6, etc.). Those are highly verifiable and falsifiable claims. And he sometimes made such claims when writing to people who were critical of him and were in contact with others who were critical of him, as we see in 1 Corinthians 15:9 and Galatians 1:13. It's unlikely that Paul would have referred to his background as a Pharisee and persecutor of the church in such contexts if he didn't actually have such a background. It's even more unlikely that if he made such claims falsely, we would have no record of anybody challenging the claims and, instead, see those claims corroborated elsewhere.

I ask you again, is it likely that an anti-Christian like Saul of Tarsus would want to believe that Jesus rose from the dead?

You write:

"I’ve said, the record is very incomplete, and that opens the door to concluding what we want to conclude."

The record doesn't have to be complete in order for us to reach some conclusions about what's probable. That's why historians reach so many confident conclusions about ancient Jewish history and ancient Roman history, for example, despite the incompleteness of the historical record. The people who were alive during the period of time we're discussing had access to more of the ancient sources than we have access to today, and they often describe the sources no longer available to us or reflect those sources in some other way. Thus, we can reach conclusions about what those sources probably said or didn't say on some subjects, even though those sources are no longer extant.

We have a large amount of information about the claims that circulated in the earliest generations of church history. In addition to the New Testament documents, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, and other early Christian sources discuss a vast amount of claims and counterclaims that were circulating in their day and in earlier generations. Justin Martyr gives us some of the details of disputes between Jews and Christians regarding the meaning of particular Old Testament passages, Irenaeus discusses a large variety of heretical beliefs in detail, Origen interacts at length with a treatise written against Christianity by a second-century source, etc. Anybody who has read much of the patristic literature should know that there are many places where even highly obscure beliefs are mentioned and interacted with. We hear of the theory that Revelation was written by Cerinthus, we hear of a minor dispute over whether Paul wrote 2 Timothy, etc. We don't have every conceivable piece of information we'd like to have. The same is true of Greek history, American history, etc. But we don't need all of the information we'd like to have in order to have enough information to reach probable conclusions on a large number of issues.

On the issue of whether Paul was a persecutor of the church before seeing the risen Jesus, I'm not aware of any significant challenge to that view of his background in the thousands of pages of literature we have from the earliest centuries of church history. To the contrary, Paul's background as a persecutor of the church is widely affirmed, and those who affirm it don't seem to expect it to be challenged.

Again, if Paul was a Pharisee and a persecutor of the church, as the evidence suggests, is it likely that he would have wanted to believe that Jesus rose from the dead? The same sort of question could be asked of other relevant sources, as I explained above (Jewish enemies of Christianity wouldn't have wanted to acknowledge that Jesus' tomb was empty, etc.).

And even your suggestion that Christians would have so easily believed in a resurrection is dubious. If I want a million-dollar paycheck, that desire isn't going to convince me that my employer is paying me a million dollars each week. People usually realize that not everything they desire to be true is true. My desire for a million-dollar paycheck is eventually going to have to face the reality that the ink on my paycheck doesn't refer to a million dollars, the reality that the teller at the bank didn't deposit a million dollars into my account, etc. It's not as though the desires of the early Christians would be the only factor involved in determining their beliefs. You'll need to explain why it's allegedly probable that the early Christians who thought they saw the risen Christ were all mistaken. A vague reference to what they supposedly would have desired isn't sufficient.

You asked about non-Christian miracle claims. I've written an article on that subject here.

>>1 Corinthians is "extra-Biblical"?

No, not 1 Corinthians, the creed recorded there is pre-biblical--it predates the writing of 1 Corinthians. Check out that book; Dr. Habermas explains why scholars know this. Or watch this where he explains it (it's pretty short--but it's visual, so it's better to watch than to listen). You can refer to this (the text he's discussing) as you watch. Again, this is not controversial among scholars. He explains on the video that even an atheist scholar dates the creed at three years after the crucifixion, and of course beliefs predate creeds. I'm not sure you could get any closer than that. So there's your contemporaneous record. :)

By "speculation, pure and simple", I mean that I think that it’s much more difficult than people think to divine the motives of people who lived thousands of years ago. As I said, I speculate, you speculate, who knows who’s right? I already noted that I got carried away with “no idea”. So can we move on?

>If you're going to reject the reliability of the New Testament text, then you need to also reject the text of every other ancient document.

I’m not “rejecting” anything outright and in its totality. I’m raising the possibility of error, especially with respect to supernatural claims. Historians understand the error is an inevitable part of the human historical record. And supernatural claims need much more support than non-supernatural claims.

>"It is probably safe to say that the copying of early Christian texts was by and large a 'conservative' process.

Probably, probably. So you suppose, so you speculate.

>The general assumption seems to be that the text is reliable.

Reliable in what sense? Reliable in saying that Christians existed? No argument there. But reliable in their description of supernatural events? That’s the key question. The Iliad is “reliable” is many ways, but highly questionable in others.

>People usually tell the truth.

Usually, yes. But always? And people are not always honest with themselves when it comes to motives.

>For example, I pointed out earlier that Paul, when he was an enemy of Christianity, wouldn't have wanted to believe in Jesus' resurrection. I've been arguing that Paul, as an anti-Christian Pharisee, wouldn't have wanted to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

And so he changed his mind and hopped on the Christian bandwagon. Who knows why? But was it because he witnessed the resurrection or met the physical Jesus? If not, why should he be believed with respect to these events? If he didn’t witness the resurrection, then his martyrdom could have easily been for something that is not true. I’m sure he thought it was true, but again, he wasn’t there.

> The record doesn't have to be complete in order for us to reach some conclusions about what's probable, etc.

No, not when we are talking about non-supernatural claims.

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.

>We have a large amount of information about the claims that circulated in the earliest generations of church history, etc.

We also have a large amount of information about the existence of the early Mormons and about the claims circulated by the early Mormons. Does that make the supernatural aspects of these claims true?

>And even your suggestion that Christians would have so easily believed in a resurrection is dubious.

Really? Consider all the religious beliefs of all the peoples of the world. Consider the amazing things that people believe. Now, you would probably say that all these beliefs are wrong. And yet, people believe.

>You'll need to explain why it's allegedly probable that the early Christians who thought they saw the risen Christ were all mistaken.

Well, we don’t actually know who believed what. We know that eventually there was a small group of people in the Middle East who came to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. And that’s about it.

We don’t know if the people in this mid-first century group were the same as the people who were physically present at the execution and/or present in the immediate aftermath of the execution. There is no independent documentation of who was present, or of who claimed what after the event, or who was later killed for his beliefs, etc. The non-biblical record lacks the fine detail needed to confirm critical points.

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.

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.

>You asked about non-Christian miracle claims. I've written an article on that subject here.

That’s nice. But why not simply answer my questions about the Greeks and Trojans? I think that they are pretty simple and straightforward.

Look, I’m not arguing that Jesus didn’t exist or that there were no Christians in the first century who believed that Jesus was a resurrected god. The existence of a man named Jesus, the existence of people who believed amazing things…there is nothing supernatural here. The existing historical documents are reliable enough to support this.

But if you’re going to claim that something happened in the first century that is the most amazing, stupendous, miraculous and fantastical in the entire history of the human race, well then, you’re going to need much, much more than what is available.
There is nothing in the history of the planet to match a visit from God Himself, a visit filled with miracles, a visit in which a dead human being rises from the dead. Can you think of anything more spectacular?

And yet.

We don’t have a single documents written by Jesus himself. We don’t have a single contemporaneous record from any source of Jesus's life and death. Even in the Bible, we have no record at all of the vast majority of Jesus’s life. Jesus walks around for three year performing the most amazing feats, including rising from the dead, and we don’t have a single contemporaneous document that provides evidence of miracles or resurrections. Apparently, no one in authority thought that these amazing events were worth recording. Pilate kills a man, that man comes back to life, and Pilate doesn’t bother to let anyone in Rome know about it. We have no record of the Jewish revolt against the Romans that would have inevitably followed the return of an invisible Messiah. We have no independent list of names of those present at the crucifixion, so we don’t even know if those who were later killed by the Jews or Romans were the same as those who were on the scene to witness any resurrections.

At the very least, we would have to conclude that God is bit negligent.

We have a record of what a small group of people came to believe in the first century, and that’s about it. But when it comes to the supernatural claims, as I said, the record is woefully inadequate.

Amy,

"No controversy" among scholars about the dating of this creed? "No controversy" doesn't sound that the historical scholars I know of, but I admit that I'm too lazy to try to find the dissenters.

We're talking about this creed?

"After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time."

So, five hundred people see a man killed by the Roman up and walking around...and there's no contemporaneous record of this? The Romans don't notice that a man they've executed has appeared before five hundred people in the religious capital of an occupied and very restless people? Not very likely.

Joe, watch the short video. You were asking for contemporaneous reports, and I'm giving you one.

By contemporaneous, I mean "at the same time as", that is, an account that dates to the time of the event itself. Even three years after the fact is not contemporaneous.

...Besides, as I've said before, I'm not arguing against the claim that a small group of people in th middle of the first century came to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

And just to clarify, when I said...

So, five hundred people see a man killed by the Roman up and walking around...and there's no contemporaneous record of this?

..."contemporaneous" refers specifically to Roman records.

>>By contemporaneous, I mean "at the same time as", that is, an account that dates to the time of the event itself. Even three years after the fact is not contemporaneous.

Are you serious? Besides, watch the video--some critical scholars (not conservative) date it to 30AD.

Also, I'm not sure why Roman records are more contemporaneous than a Christian one. It seems to me that whoever saw the risen Jesus probably became a Christian, so anyone who could have reported it, you'll automatically dismiss (because, in fact, they did report it, and here you are dismissing it). Quite a catch 22.

Watch the video. Seriously. It's short.

Yes, I'm serious. The resurrection is a mega-event. It's the greatest event of all time. It should have left an enormous mark on Roman history at the time that it occurred. But it didn't.

Roman records are not "more contemporaneous", but they are independent. Unlike the writers of the Bible, Pilate would have nothing to gain by reporting a resurrection. So, a report of a resurrection by a Roman would carry more weight. But no report. If even Pilate had converted upon hearing of the resurrection or upon seeing Jesus, you might think that this would leave a mark on Roman history. But no mark.

>Some critical scholars (not conservative) date it to 30AD.

And so we can conclude that some do not date it 30AD. So where does that leave us?

>>And so we can conclude that some do not date it 30AD. So where does that leave us?

WATCH THE VIDEO. You asked for a contemporaneous report, and this is one. Look at the evidence for yourself. Atheists other than you who are also scholars in this area accept this as a contemporaneous report. You might as well listen to what they have to say.

Jesus did not appear to the Roman officials, leading a revolt (He had no intention of creating a physical kingdom, though you assume that He would have...although why you assume that, I don't know--it makes no sense in light of the full story of the Bible). But the people He did appear to reported it. (Refer back to my comment about the catch 22 that you're placing your standard of proof into.) And to say that a record of an event that was created only three years after the event is not contemporaneous enough to qualify as contemporaneous is just silly.

The book gives more examples of non-biblical material. If you want us to take your objections seriously, then you need to be serious about examining the evidence against them. The video is pretty short.

The question is not "did Jesus intend to lead a revolt", 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.

There is no Catch-22. One can report and record amazing events without being converted by them. And again, had prominent Romans like Pilate been converted, this still would have left a mark on "pagan" Roman history, if for no other reason than it would have created headaches for the Empire. 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?

I understand that people reported a resurrection. In the Bible. But is that enough, given the claim in question? The Mormons have several witnesses who claim to have seen Joe Smith's tablets. Do you believe them?

I'll try to get to the video tomorrow, but again, I'm not arguing against the proposition that there were people who believed that Jesus was God. If you want to call three years after the fact "contemporaneous", then I won't argue sematics. Three years seems like a long time, given the amazing events of Jesus's life, but I don't want to quibble over definitions. In any event, that still leaves a very suspicious absence of independent sources such as Roman and Jewish histories dating to the time of Jesus.

I suspect that your non-biblical sources are mostly accounts stating that Christians existed. That's not the same as confirming the supernatural. They are the equivalent of 1860s newpaper reports stating that Mormons exist.

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