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June 25, 2010

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The impact of this emperor on daily life probably faded in the 150 years after his death. Perhaps he founded no religions.

Meanwhile, Christianity and its impact was growing.

The difference was such that mentions of Jesus eventually became more frequent than mentions of the emperor.

Where did the 150 years come from? Assuming it's right, that's how long it took for total mentions of Jesus to catch up to total mentions of the emperor.

RonH

The quiz is worth taking. It has encourged me to read the book Habermas co-wrote.

I did not know the fact you mention either.

The test presupposes a middle of the road Evangelical understanding of Christianity. Which I believe is not entirely true to Scripture.

I passed it with flying colors, mimicking how most Evangelicals would answer.

Compare the cumulative number of mentions of Amr ibn Hishām to the cumulative number of mentions of Mohammed.

Same thing.

RonH

I'm an evangelical and my percentage started slipping noticeably in the 5th and 6th levels.
I did succumb to a few tricks and an itchy trigger finger a few times, though.

Not sure what follows from that exactly @ronh, care to expound?

chris,

Sure thing. I will say it a few other ways.

Challenge: “If Jesus had really risen from the dead, wouldn’t more ancient, secular historians have written about him?

Habermas: Within 150 years of their lives, Jesus is mentioned by an equal number of secular sources as the Roman emperor of his day.

RonH: There is an obvious explanation for this: during that 150 years Christianity grew! So: mentions of Christianity grew more frequent. So: mentions of Jesus grew more frequent. Anyone (emperor or not) who doesn't found a movement that grows for decades is likely to be mentioned less and less over time. Under these circumstances, it is inevitable that accumulated mentions of Jesus will outnumber accumulated mentions of the emperor. This is true whether or not Jesus was resurrected and so pointing it out has no bearing on the historicity of the resurrection. If you want to say the resurrection is the only thing that can explain the growth of Christianity that is another kettle of fish.

RonH: Apparently 150 years is the earliest point where you feel you can make this claim about secular mentions. But really, isn't coming back from the dead more noteworthy than anything any emperor ever did? Why should this process take 150 years if it is due to the resurrection? Why didn't Jesus immediately overtake the emperor in mentions? Doesn't the growth of Christianity already explain the growth in secular mentions of Jesus?

RonH: Find a man from Jesus's time around whom a religion was founded and you have found an apple appropriate to compare to Jesus for this purpose.

Any clearer chris?

RonH


I was referring to the comment after that in regards to muhammed, so..no not clearer.

Historian Paul Maier on secular sources and the historicity of Jesus.
http://www.4truth.net/site/apps/nl/content3.asp?c=hiKXLbPNLrF&b=784399&ct=1740233

Ron, if you argue about everything, people will not listen to you about anything.

:) @ Todd.
I wonder if Eric checked his watch?

chris,

I intended Amr ibn Hishām to correspond to the emperor in Dr. Habermas's apologetic while Mohammed corresponds to Jesus.

Amr ibn Hishām's fame and the emperor's fame faded while the fame of the Jesus and the fame of Mohammed grew.

I say this is expected because both Mohammed and Jesus founded movements that grew fantastically while the other two did not.

If the fame of Jesus is really evidence that he returned from the dead then the fame of Mohammed is evidence that the Koran is divinely inspired.

Clearer?

RonH

PS. Thanks for responding as you did.

Hi Daron,

Thanks for the link. According to it, Tacitus, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, and Pliny the Younger all mention Jesus in the context of Christianity.

Remember: Habermas's claim is that these secualar mentions support the historicity of the resurrection. They don't do that at all. They do support the historicity of Christianity.

RonH

Hi Ron,
I wonder if he did make that claim. I've always heard the secular sources listed in response to the hard-bitten skeptic who says that Jesus never existed.
I think the claim may be set in Amy's wording and not in Gary's writing. I could be wrong, though.

I actually agree with you on the point that listing them and their statements alone, without argumentation, says nothing about the Resurrection.In my mind that takes a couple of steps, using these sources.

Habermas audio interview
http://imagesaes.316networks.com/namb/Habermas_interview_on_the_Resurrection.mp3

Speaking of Mohammed, I'm unfamiliar with any discussions about the secular mentions of him as an existing historical figure. Never once have I encountered that kind of demand to prove that he existed, although it seems nobody ever doubts he did. That seems odd to me, given the fact that people still (or more accurately, now) try to deny Jesus' very existence.
But Mohammed is just the kind of person you would expect to be mentioned historically. He killed people.
He robbed them, put them, to the sword, took over their cities and enforced his political/religious schema. The movement he founded did this with extraordinary zeal and took him as their inspiration.
Jesus' claim to fame is far different and would be highly unlikely to appear as fact in non-Christian sources.

yeah Ron, that does clarify a little bit, though I'm not sure how this follows exactly

"If the fame of Jesus is really evidence that he returned from the dead then the fame of Mohammed is evidence that the Koran is divinely inspired."

Is there a claim that Mohammed's fame is proof the Koran is inspired; I'd be unfamiliar with that line of reasoning.

Daron,

Habermas made the claim in the quiz.

Search for "Within 150".

Jesus also is just the kind of person you would expect to be mentioned historically: He is the answer to the questions like, "Where did all these Christians come from?" This is exactly what is going on with the sources detailed in your link.

And, Jesus is this sort of person for this kind of reason regardless of which other things that are said of him are true.

RonH

And so it does, Ron. I stand corrected.

Jesus also is just the kind of person you would expect to be mentioned historically: He is the answer to the questions like, "Where did all these Christians come from?" This is exactly what is going on with the sources detailed in your link.
Exactly! So the very existence of Christians is evidence itself of Jesus' life (and death and Resurrection, actually). And so the secular mentions we have of Jesus are just what you'd expect. When responding to the problem of all these Christians they say "the Christians worship Jesus as a God and claim He rose from the dead". What else are they going to say? 'We went back in time and saw Jesus Resurrect'? So, as Wright, Habermas, Craig, Maier, etc., say, we have early attestation that the Christians had spread widely and were preaching Jesus as Incarnate and resurrected God. Thus, these claims did not build over time and claims that Jesus never lived are refuted by the historical evidence of the Christians themselves.

Second, as I said, the secular historians would be highly unlikely to be reporting the historicity of Jesus' actual claims to fame - that He did Resurrect and that He was God.
On the other hand, they would mention Mohammed, and I suspect they have, as the guy who pirated, ambushed, killed, kidnapped and subjugated - as opposed to the guy who went to heaven on a horse.
What I'm saying is that we would expect certain mentions of these men in certain contexts. In Jesus' case, we get exactly what we would expect.

As for comparing Mohammed to a political leader, you have just to compare him to himself, as that is what he was. And it seems that his followers wrote first of him about 100 years after his death and non-Muslims sources are scanty to non-existent.
I don't think we have much of an apple here.

Chris,

It doesn't matter if there is or not such a claim about Mohammed. Such a claim is analogous to the claim made by Habermas about Jesus.

My point is that if the claims are analogous then we should accept or deny them *together*. I think they are.

Habermas made the Jesus claim but I think he would deny the Mohammed claim.

It's The Golden Rule for arguments.

Daron,

Jesus is the answer to those questions (Where did all these Christians come from?) regardless of which other things that are said of him are true including that he lived.

I am not claiming Jesus didn't live. But whether he did or not he is still the answer to those questions.

Christianity still explains these mentions of him - especially mentions that get more common as time passes.

This is true for mentions of Jesus that don't explicitly mention Christianity. As it happens, Tacitus, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, and Pliny the Younger all get to Jesus by way of Christianity.

RonH

Hi Ron,

Jesus is the answer to those questions (Where did all these Christians come from?) regardless of which other things that are said of him are true including that he lived.

How does Jesus answer the question of the existence of Christians (note what and who a Christian is) if Jesus didn't exist?
How is there a secular claim that Jesus was Crucified under Pontius Pilate and that His followers say He rose again if there was no Jesus in the first place?

Skeptics really have to try to think themselves, if only a little bit, into the context of the time. It was easy in the 19th century to start to pretend that Jesus didn't exist, but nobody at the time did. They knew He existed and there isn't one source that says He didn't (which brings up my favourite answer to those demanding sources - where's your source that most assuredly would exist that says 'come on you silly Christians - there wasn't even a man named Jesus...'?). His existence, death and even Resurrection were so well attested that even those of other beliefs had to roll Him into their Gnostic faith.
Nobody would think that these tens and then hundreds of thousands of people were worshipping and following a man made up out of whole cloth.

Then, once you accept that Jesus lived you have to look at the claims that these people were making and ask yourself what explains these claims?
The answer is as the historians now say, that He was Crucified, that the Tomb was empty, and that His followers (at least thought) they saw Him again.
The existence of Christians, with their claims of Christianity, are in themselves historical evidence of the truth of the Resurrection.

It doesn't matter if there is or not such a claim about Mohammed. Such a claim is analogous to the claim made by Habermas about Jesus.
This is not so. Mohammed's fame can easily be explained as I mentioned several times above - by his conquests and exploits. He was followed in his exploits by family and others of his own society who continued them. His sociological movement did not depend upon his religious claims.

This is not the case with Jesus. The movement that followed His earthly ministry was precisely and directly based upon the religious claims (Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Divine message, etc.)

"Ron, if you argue about everything, people will not listen to you about anything."

Todd - I have come to the same conclusion. I used to try to debate him not because I thought he would change his mind, but because it would be good practice for using some of the tactics that Greg recommends.

Now I scan through the comments and just don't read the ones written by RonH.

It's a waste of time to try to convince someone that the sky is blue when they are only holding a different position so that they can be a contrarian.

Habermas made the Jesus claim but I think he would deny the Mohammed claim.
I'm sure Habermas would accept the existence of Mohammed, as everyone does, on apparently scantier evidence than that of Jesus' life. I would presume he would deduce from the historical record what can be deduced: such things as Mohammed's claims to be a prophet, his movement from Mecca to Medina, his military achievements, etc. What can be deduced historically about Jesus is that he was Crucified and that His followers lived and died for the belief that they had seen Him alive again - authenticating His message to them.

As another point on this, notice what the Gentile historian, Luke, wrote of Paul. He said that he went into the synagogues debating the Jews and proving from scripture that Jesus was the Christ. Notice what he didn't argue: that Jesus lived, or was Crucified, or that His followers said he lived. He proceeds from these known facts to showing how these demonstrate that He was the Messiah foretold in their Law and Prophets.

The answer is as the historians now say, that He was Crucified, that the Tomb was empty, and that His followers (at least thought) they saw Him again.

Those that accept the historicity of Jesus living and Jesus being crucified stop short of accepting the historicity of Jesus resurrecting.

They say we only have confidence in the historicity of the belief that the event took place - not of the event itself.

Why?
Bueller??

With some exceptions, like Jewish historian Pinchas Lapide.
http://www.google.ca/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=pinchas+lapide&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&redir_esc=&ei=FvsoTNr-EcvKnAeXvKWpAQ

Adding to my question above (or perhaps restating it). Don't all of the "cases" below draw from the same pool of evidence/data, and if so, why is (4) considered weak by some but not (1)-(3)?

1) The case for the existence of Jesus.
2) The case for the crucifiction, death and burial of Jesus.
3) The case for the early belief in a resurrected Jesus.
4) The case for a resurrected Jesus.

Daron,

I actually agree with you on the point that listing them and their statements alone, without argumentation, says nothing about the Resurrection.

I would call it 'counting' rather than 'listing'. But I feel like you have acknowledged my point. Respect.

In my mind that takes a couple of steps, using these sources.

Fine - I know that your discarding a bad argument doesn't mean you're wrong.

RonH

Hi Ron,

Fine - I know that your discarding a bad argument doesn't mean you're wrong.
I would have to have possessed the argument to have discarded it. The question is "why are there not more sources", regardless of what the "if" of the question is ("if" Jesus was resurrected, "if" Jesus lived, "if" His Disciples thought He was God, etc.). They "why aren't there more sources" is answered by the fact that there are plenty of them and they are good.
Whatever this objection was supposed to weigh against (His life, death, Resurrection, etc.) it doesn't.

Hi Steve,
Yep, that's how I see it as well.

Regarding whether or not Habermas made a bad argument (sorry, Amy, for blaming you), I have realized he didn't.
I misread the argument as I based my thinking on the comments here, and then felt it would only be a semantic quibble were I to dispute the characterization.
I've changed my mind about it being a quibble.

Habermas, in the quiz, is removing a defeater. He is not making a positive argument. I think both the defeater and the positive case would involve a non sequitur.

Habermas is not saying:

1) If Jesus Resurrected there would be X number of historical sources for this.
2) There are X number of sources.
3) Therefore, Jesus Resurrected.

I think premise 1 is logically false.
But this isn't Habermas' argument, I don't believe.
And the premise is just as false in the argument against which he is responding. That would be:


1) If Jesus Resurrected there would be X number of historical sources for this.
2) There are not X number of sources.
3) Therefore, Jesus did not Resurrect.

But Habermas responds:


4) There are X number sources.
5) Therefore, the above argument fails.

Even though the negative argument contains a non sequitur it fails not only on flawed premise 1 but also on the incorrect second premise. Because the second premise is factually (not logically) wrong, the argument above fails to defeat anything, not just the Resurrection.

"A question for biblical skeptics"

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2010/06/question-for-biblical-skeptics.html

And the skeptic response would be??

re Reppert's question, that is about how we know of Socrates: through the writings of his followers.

RonH,

Re: your comment, "My point is that if the claims are analogous then we should accept or deny them *together*. I think they are."

I will paraphrase Pascal to counter your point. The rise of Christianity as a religion of non-violent suffering martyrs who loved and prayed for their persecutors is disanalogous to the rise of Islam that spread through violent subjugation of dissidents. (Pascal went on to assert that the co-existence of both religions simultaneously without the annihilation of Christianity bears evidence of miraculous intervention.) Consider that the rise of Buddhism in India says nothing about the spread of Taoism in China.

Were any of the extant ancient references to Mohammed written by independent, non-Muslim sources? If not, then the references themselves are also disanalogous, since Jesus appears in writings by both believer and skeptic at a time when the prevailing political and social climate was violently hostile to the spread of Christianity.

The examples couldn't be more dissimilar, with the followers of Mohammed expanding by military conquest, and the followers of Christ spreading through non-violence against hostile opposition, while garnering a general representation among ancient sources.

Sage S,
Not the analogy I made.
RonH

Daron,

It is reasonable to ask

If Jesus had really risen from the dead, wouldn’t more ancient, secular historians have written about him?

The Habermas reply

Within 150 years of their lives, Jesus is mentioned by an equal number of secular sources as the Roman emperor of his day.
is unimpressive.

Habermas leaves the emperor unnamed. Let's say it was Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus, born Tiberius Claudius Nero (November 16, 42 BC – March 16, AD 37). I can't name anything Tiberius did as emperor. I'm not proud of that but I suspect many others can't either.

Had Habermas said...

Within 150 years of their lives, Jesus is mentioned by an equal number of secular sources as Tiberious.

...I would have asked: Who's Tiberious? Was he emperor?

Habermas says it took 150 years for Jesus to gain the secular 'historian' mentions needed to overtake the Tiberius in total secular mentions and offers the resurrection as the reason Jesus caught up. But coming back from the dead is the sort of thing that would bring instant fame. It doesn't take 150 years for people to realize it's something special. So resurrection doesn't work well for explaining why Jesus caught up at that time.

What does work well as an explanation is Christianity: As it grew, mentions of it grew. Mentions of Jesus flowed naturally. I don't have Habermas's list but, again, Tacitus, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, and Pliny the Younger all mention Jesus in the context of Christians and Christianity.

One more point: 'historian' at that time didn't mean what it means today. These weren't tenured university professors of history. Sources were much less numerous and for that reason, at least, less reliable. Independent critics and rivals were less numerous. Much of what you see in these documents is just flatly stated without one named source let alone multiple independent sources.

So we have to accept that the farther we look back, the less we know. And the statement, often made by apologists, that if we doubt Biblical sources we need to doubt much in ancient history should only lead us to reply: Yes, we need to doubt much of ancient history.

Of course there are people and events in ancient history that have multiple independent lines of evidence going for them. The mere mention of Jesus by a historian 150 years after the fact can't count as independent evidence of His resurrection.

The original complaint stands unharmed by Habermas's reply. The mentions he mentions are too few, too late, for the wrong reasons, and not very reliable or independent anyway.

I do appreciate your staying on the topic.

RonH

RonH,

So we have to accept that the farther we look back, the less we know.

That's a very large blanket statment. Are you speaking for everyone here - even for those who have confidence in their knowledge about ancient history? Are you saying these people don't really know because nobody can know?

What is the relationship between the knowledge lost and time? If I go back 100 years what kind of knowledge do I lose compared to yesterday? If I go back 1000 years, what kind of knowledge do I lose?

Hi RonH
But Jesus did get instant fame for His Resurrection and it was published far and wide. It was also written about scarcely 20 years later by the best historian of ancient times, the secular Greek, Luke.

I don't have Habermas's list but, again, Tacitus, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, and Pliny the Younger all mention Jesus in the context of Christians and Christianity.
All proving He lived and demanding a reason for His fame and the spread of Christianity. You are still pounding on the fact that the secular sources are supposed to demonstrate the Resurrection itself. If you know the arguments you know this is not the among the evidences used for the Resurrection. I showed above what Habermas is actually answering here.
Sources were much less numerous and for that reason, at least, less reliable.
Good point. So Habermas' point is made. Rather than saying "there should be more sources" the investigators should say "are there appropriate sources?" Was Jesus mentioned by those who should have mentioned Him? Yes. Where are the sources showing He didn't exist? This question needs to be asked because of the very points you bring up above: namely that this large Christian movement gained attention and, rather than burning and banning them, debunking them would have been most effective.

Less reliable? It doesn't follow.

Yes, we need to doubt much of ancient history.
Indeed. Good of you to admit this. In Jesus' case we have the best historian of ancient times, we have multiple independent accounts, and we have secular sources within a generation of the events. If, in order to doubt this we have to doubt all history then the critic can take his historical questions and sink them in a bag. He has no business saying "this should be written" or "that should be written" or "where are the historical sources?". If he can't trust the study of history he has no business appealing to it. So he has to face Christianity on other grounds: internal consistency, making sense of the human condition, making sense of Creation, the testimony of the Holy Spirit, the philosophical arguments from teleology, ontology, morality, reason, first cause, etc., changed lives, and so on. In my experience the skeptic, the man who claims to be moved only by evidence and reason, find himself ignoring evidence, dealing poorly with arguments (present company included) and finally, as you have above, doubting our knowledge in whatever realm the evidence impacts.
The mere mention of Jesus by a historian 150 years after the fact can't count as independent evidence of His resurrection.

The original complaint stands unharmed by Habermas's reply.

I already addressed the original complaint and Habermas' reply. He is responding to the claim that there are not enough secular sources by showing that there are many and they are early. He is not claiming that they prove the Resurrection, he is removing the defeater. The skeptic's claim that there should be more or of a different kind is pure subjective assertion. There are many sources and in order to doubt their usefulness the skeptic has to doubt history.

RonH,

"Not the analogy I made."

Yes, it is. You're comparing ancient historic references to Jesus and Muhammed within their respective cultures. The very nature of these historic references is markedly different, as the references to Jesus and Christianity come from numerous sources across the spectrum of relative friendliness, neutrality, or hostility to the message of Christianity (i.e., Jesus' historical Resurrection), while references to Muhammed come much later on, and almost entirely from Muslim sources. So your analogy of the similarity between early historic references is simply inaccurate.

Also the socio-political conditions in which references were written was disanalogous, which bears on the comparability of the two cases. In a politically hostile environment we would not always expect to see references to a new religious movement due to political advantage. Such things have a way of getting censored for the purposes of the ruling regime. While in countries where most early Muhammedan references appear, the social climate was in fact Muslim, with a natural tendency to write about their founder. However, despite the cultural disparity between the new followers of these religions, we see far more references to Jesus and at dates much closer to his life than we do of Muhammed, even though the latter enjoyed the support of his nation which Jesus did not.

You needn't respond to this comment, of course, but hopefully you will consider its applicability to your thoughts without dismissing it offhandedly.

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