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June 09, 2014



Reading back my last comment (which was accidentally duplicated), I realize it sounds a little harsh, which I did not intend it to be. So, let me add that I don't think your argument is foolish or obviously wrong. But I DO think that you have far too much confidence in predicting human behavior based on such sparse evidence. As we know, human behavior can be irrational, whimsical, and downright bizarre. Even MASS human behavior can be very strange at times. So, it's not convincing at all to me when you try to say what these people would or would not have done. I just don't share your confidence. Not even a little bit.

And your assertion that such was the case, Ben, needs a factual argument with historisity on its side. "Well ya sure but maybe" just won't do.

I guess we'll never be able to make a reasonable analysis as to "why" the temple was sacked in 70 AD. Perhaps Roman cultists feared alien lizards were breeding in it. Sure, Roman patterns are known.... but that be damned because - I mean - sure ya okay but "maybe" the Roman cultists.......

This just shows that the case of historical context is so sound that the skeptic has no tools left but these silly moves....

Hi Ben, there are two things from reading along that I want to point out. In your dismissal of JBerr's comments, although I didn't see it mentioned, there is the testimony of those who claimed seeing the tomb empty/vouching for the resurrection AND being tortured and/or put to death for refusing to deny it. This circumstance is quite a bit more serious than your hand wave dismissal can credibly deny.

Then, in your comments to WL an irrational radical skepticism is on display, a point scblhrm has noted a few times.

I have a challenge for you to consider, answer this please:
1)you cant say for sure "there is no God"

2)everything you criticize in WL's argument is not ridiculous if there is a God.

3)If 1, why 2?

Brad B,

First of all, I can find no good evidence that any of the witnesses to the empty tomb (if there were any!) or any of the witnesses to the risen Jesus (if there were any!) were tortured or put to death for refusing to recant. But, if they were, that just goes to show how committed they were to their beliefs. It makes no problems whatsoever for the hypothetical story I told, much less for a general scepticism that Jesus' corpse was reanimated.

As for your challenge, I reject item (2). The ridiculousness of WL's views does not depend on their truth or falsity. If they happen to be true, that just means the real world is as ridiculous as WL's religious beliefs.

People were not killed for being Christian.

Peter didn't deny Christ out of fear.

In fact, Christ was not killed for believing His Story.

It's the Roman Cultists and the Breeding Aliens in the Temple.

-Cause "maybe aliens" trumps both historical context and historicity.

It takes a lot of faith to be Ben.

500 Years ago:


"Ben, we just had this dead body void of flow and acid-laden, and we brought it back to life with electrons and molecules."


"That is ridiculous. Everyone knows - on the uniformity of nature, which my paradigm cannot support the weight of - that that is impossible."

It takes a lot of faith to be Ben.

It's almost comical.

Materialism reduces the whole person to a particular arrangement of "parts".... neurons...quanta... etc.

It is therefore perfectly plausible to posit agent-directed re-formation of person A or B and so on. All that is needed is Agent and Knowledge.

The Christian - two millennia ago - peered into not merely that - but even beyond mere physicality.

As with Timelessness, the Immaterial, and so on, science inches us closer and closer to the Truths of God.

No wonder God commanded Man to subdue - master - his physical world. God knew that such would be but another vector by which Man would spy Him and His Truths.

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

Bodily resurrection is absurd in Greek/Roman thought. It's mentioned in literature over and over again, and also there is a story in Acts where Paul is scoffed at in Athens. Over and over the overriding philosophic system is Stoicism (the body is bad). Come on, Ben, this is basic historical stuff. It's obvious and almost no one who studies literature from the period argues otherwise. I'm sure there are random people who have different thought categories, but the establishment of the day rejected the body as good.

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

It's not that they couldn't act differently. It's that they never would have acted the way they did. Of course, in history, we don't say, we know for sure. We choose what is most likely, or highly probable. Historians do this thing all the time.

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

There are a host of others. Simon Bar Kochba for instance. Theudas. Anyways, the historical characters themselves are not the only evidence for what happens to the movements. You would really need to dig into the history of the period, read Josephus, etc.

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

First of all, there is a massive amount of evidence to shuffle through. Second, now you sound like a last generation Biblical scholar. Look, I can go on and on, but your really should just get N.T. Wright's book. He addresses all of your points directly. At this point I would have to start giving you quotes. There was a before and after for this book. Before, most scholars took a line like Rudolph Bultmann: that we can't know whether Jesus rose from the dead historically or not. After this book, the tide has shifted. So instead of me pasting quotes, you should just get it. Once again, titled 'The Resurrection of the Son of God', by N.T. Wright.

Thanks for the exchange.


I know that you're not speaking to me, but...

I argued for an empty tomb, not a resurrection.

I argued for it on the basis of the fact that an occupied tomb is a defeater for Christianity.

Because of this Christianity would not have spread like wildfire.

My thinking was based on two considerations.

First, few converts or prospective converts at beginnings of the church in Jerusalem would have converted or stayed converted because they would have been able to go see the body of Jesus in its tomb.

Second, the far more powerful opponents of Christianity would have been able to use the fact of the body of Jesus to fight against the movement. And even if they had not been successful, at the very least, they would have written something down that says that the body is there in the tomb for anyone to see.

But none of that happened.

JBerr noted that if you take into account the culture of the day, people just wouldn't follow a Messiah who got himself killed, unless they had very good reasons for doing so. JBerr goes all the way to saying that they would have had to see the risen Christ, or at least been told by someone they considered unimpeachably reliable the Christ was raised.

He may be right, but I don't need to go all the way there for my thesis. At the very least, they would have had to see the empty tomb for themselves, or at least been told by someone they considered unimpeachably reliable that the tomb was empty.

Of course, I haven't ruled out every possibility.

But given the points I have considered, I think you only question the empty tomb if you are in the throes of a theory that rules the empty tomb out a priori.

And every passing word you utter demonstrates that that is what's going on in your case Ben.


My point about the importance of God in the background info was more aimed at Ron's core challenge: that we have such powerful evidence that dead people stay dead that we can be agnostic about the explanation of the empty tomb and still reject the resurrection.

Ron's argument there is very challenging. And I don't think you get past it based only on the historical evidence. You need a theological ace in the hole to get past the argument. Because we really do have very powerful reasons to think that dead people stay dead.

I was arguing with Ben not about the explanation of the empty tomb, but about whether there was an empty tomb.

I don't need God for that argument. I also don't need any particular religious belief. Atheists can, should, and sometimes do, believe that the tomb was empty.

"I don't need God for that argument."

Poorly expressed.

I don't need to appeal to the existence of God in order to argue that the tomb was empty.


It's not that I'm not speaking to you. I think you have some challenging objections sometimes, and I enjoy hearing them. It's just that this time, it doesn't seem like we are going to make much headway. The issue here requires too much subjective judgment about how to weigh historical evidence, and I don't think we are even close to being on the same page with it.

You, like JBerr, keep insisting what people must have done under certain conditions (namely, the lack of an empty tomb). But this is terribly unconvincing. I don't know how people would have reacted to a nonempty tomb, nor if they would have discovered it had it actually been nonempty, etc. And, despite your insistence to the contrary, you don't know either. I gave a fairly colorful example of a plausible story where there is no empty tomb, but nevertheless the Christian movement is able to pick up speed. You disagree that it is plausible, and instead call it ridiculous. Okay, fine. But, I think your judgment here is way freakin' off!

Anyway, I'm not going to argue endlessly with you to try to get you to see it my way. Some topics interest me greatly, and I will pursue them at length. We have done that before, as you know. Just not this time.

Ben, your story doesn't even rise to the level of explaining why Christians would have said there is an empty tomb. So no, it's not plausible.


"Ya sure but well maybe the Roman alien cultists" gets - per Ben - him the right to offer that as his "plausible" explanation as to "why" the Romans sacked the Temple.

History is unimportant to him.

Poorly worded, so instead:

History is unimportant to his argument.

Three quotes:

“The Resurrection is the central theme in every Christian sermon reported in the Acts. The Resurrection, and its consequences were the “gospel” or good news which the Christians brought: what we call the “gospels,” the narratives of Our Lord’s life and death, were composed later for the benefit of those who had already accepted the gospel. They were in no sense the basis of Christianity: they were written for those already converted. The miracle of the Resurrection, and the theology of that miracle, comes first: the biography comes later as a comment on it. Nothing could be more unhistorical than to pick out selected sayings of Christ from the gospels and to regard those as the datum and the rest of the New Testament as a construction upon it. The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number of people who say they have seen the Resurrection.” (C.S. Lewis)

“The earliest converts were converted by a single historical fact (the Resurrection) and a single historical doctrine (the Redemption) operating on a sense of sin which they already had . . . against the old, platitudinous, universal moral law.” (C.S. Lewis)

And some metaphysical regressions to the Necessary:

“One is very often asked at present whether we could not have a Christianity stripped, or, as people who asked it say, ‘freed’ from its miraculous elements, a Christianity with the miraculous elements suppressed. Now, it seems to me that precisely the one religion in the world, or, at least the only one I know, with which you could not do that is Christianity. In a religion like Buddhism, if you took away the miracles attributed to Gautama Buddha in some very late sources, there would be no loss; in fact, the religion would get on very much better without them because in that case the miracles largely contradict the teaching. Or even in the case of a religion like Mohammedanism, nothing essential would be altered if you took away the miracles. You could have a great prophet preaching his dogmas without bringing in any miracles; they are only in the nature of a digression, or illuminated capitals. But you cannot possibly do that with Christianity, because the Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left. There may be many admirable human things which Christianity shares with all other systems in the world, but there would be nothing specifically Christian. Conversely, once you have accepted that, then you will see that all other well-established Christian miracles—because, of course, there are ill-established Christian miracles; there are Christian legends just as much as there are heathen legends, or modern journalistic legends—you will see that all the well-established Christian miracles are part of it, that they all either prepare for, or exhibit, or result from the Incarnation. Just as every natural event exhibits the total character of the natural universe at a particular point and space of time; so every miracle exhibits the character of the Incarnation.” (C.S. Lewis)

Ben, I can't unpack it all in a forum, so I referenced the book for you. It's a good read, as N.T. Wright is a remarkable writer. If you want to read someone formidable on this topic, that would be the person. Even more watershed is his book on Jesus.

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