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More on selective hyperskepticism — answering the “Jesus never existed” historical fallacy

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It is important, as we go on to deal with understanding the deadlock on discussions about design theory, to understand how many evolutionary materialists and fellow travellers address evidence and reasoning.

For example, in recent weeks, here at UD, we have had to address how not even self-evident first principles of reason are regarded by many objectors to design thought.

Similarly, once record (or testimony) does not fit the preferred narrative, it is going to be dismissed as inadequate and/or delusional or as suspected of fakery.  In effect, after all, our senses and perceptions are not utterly reliable, so if something does not fit the lab coat clad evolutionary materialist narrative, something must be wrong.

The case of Jesus of Nazareth is emblematic, as it is frequently projected that there is insufficient evidence to ground the bare existence of such a figure.

For instance, we can find the dean of the New Atheists, Dr Richard Dawkins (late of Oxford University) in an interview with the September 2012 Playboy magazine (HT: UD News):

DAWKINS: The evidence [Jesus] existed is surprisingly shaky. The earliest books in the New Testament to be written were the Epistles, not the Gospels. It’s almost as though Saint Paul and others who wrote the Epistles weren’t that interested in whether Jesus was real. Even if he’s fictional, whoever wrote his lines was ahead of his time in terms of moral philosophy.
PLAYBOY: You’ve read the Bible.
DAWKINS: I haven’t read it all, but my knowledge of the Bible is a lot better than most fundamentalist Christians’.

Of course, this confident manner, breezy and contemptuous dismissal is the very opposite to what Paul wrote c. 55 AD, to the Corinthians regarding the core facts of the gospel transmitted to him through the official testimony communicated by Peter, James, John and other leading witnesses in Jerusalem, c. 35 – 38 AD. Testimony and record sealed in the blood of the martyrs.

In this context, it is worth the while to first pause and view Strobel’s 101 level summary presentation on The Case for Christ, as a first level response to the arguments that the world’s most famous carpenter and itinerant preacher never existed, or the like skeptical arguments:

[vimeo 17960119]

This is of course just a preliminary.

Likewise, dismissive skeptics would be well advised to pause and ponder Morison’s challenge in his famous, Who Moved the Stone, before they trash their own credibility as reasonable and responsible thinkers:

[N]ow the peculiar thing . . . is that not only did [belief in Jesus’ resurrection as in part testified to by the empty tomb] spread to every member of the Party of Jesus of whom we have any trace, but they brought it to Jerusalem and carried it with inconceivable audacity into the most keenly intellectual centre of Judaea . . . and in the face of every impediment which a brilliant and highly organised camarilla could devise. And they won. Within twenty years the claim of these Galilean peasants had disrupted the Jewish Church and impressed itself upon every town on the Eastern littoral of the Mediterranean from Caesarea to Troas. In less than fifty years it had began to threaten the peace of the Roman Empire . . . .

Why did it win? . . . .

We have to account not only for the enthusiasm of its friends, but for the paralysis of its enemies and for the ever growing stream of new converts . . . When we remember what certain highly placed personages would almost certainly have given to have strangled this movement at its birth but could not – how one desperate expedient after another was adopted to silence the apostles, until that veritable bow of Ulysses, the Great Persecution, was tried and broke in pieces in their hands [the chief persecutor became the leading C1 Missionary/Apostle!] – we begin to realise that behind all these subterfuges and makeshifts there must have been a silent, unanswerable fact. [Who Moved the Stone, (Faber, 1971; nb. orig. pub. 1930), pp. 114 – 115.]

In this context, we should ponder Simon Greenleaf (a founding figure for the modern theory of evidence) on what he termed the error of the skeptic, viz., what I have descriptively labelled selective hyperskepticism, in his Testimony of the Evangelists:

. . . the subject of inquiry [i.e. evidence relating to the credibility of the New Testament accounts] is a matter of fact, and not of abstract mathematical proof. The latter alone is susceptible of that high degree of proof, usually termed demonstration, which excludes the possibility of error . . . In the ordinary affairs of life we do not require nor expect [mathematically/logically] demonstrative evidence, because it is inconsistent with the nature of matters of fact, and to insist on its production would be unreasonable and absurd . . . The error of the skeptic [–> what I have descriptively termed selective hyperskepticism] consists in pretending or supposing that there is a difference in the nature of things to be proved; and in demanding demonstrative evidence concerning things which are not susceptible of any other than moral evidence alone, and of which the utmost that can be said is, that there is no reasonable doubt about their truth . . . .

Greenleaf went on to provide some tested, glorified common sense, long since court case tested rules of evidence, as summarised in the same Testimony of the Evangelists; on the strength of his magisterial Treatise on Evidence:

1] THE ANCIENT DOCUMENTS RULE: Every document, apparently ancient, coming from the proper repository or custody, and bearing on its face no evident marks of forgery, the law presumes to be genuine, and devolves on the opposing party the burden of proving it to be otherwise. [p.16.]

3] On Inquiries and Reports: If [a report] were “the result of inquiries, made under competent public authority, concerning matters in which the public are concerned” it would . . . be legally admissible . . . To entitle such results, however, to our full confidence, it is not necessary that they be obtained under a legal commission; it is sufficient if the inquiry is gravely undertaken and pursued, by a person of competent intelligence, sagacity and integrity. The request of a person in authority, or a desire to serve the public, are, to all moral intents, as sufficient a motive as a legal commission. [p. 25. Cf here especially the archaeologically well supported, historical backbone of the NT, Luke-Acts, given Luke’s famous preface and thesis statement at the beginning of Luke Ch 1: “1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.]

4] Probability of Truthfulness: In trials of fact, by oral testimony, the proper inquiry is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but whether there is a sufficient probability that it is true. [p. 28.]

5] Criteria of Proof: A proposition of fact is proved, when its truth is established by competent and satisfactory evidence. By competent evidence is meant such as the nature of the thing to be proved requires; and by satisfactory evidence is meant that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind [in British usage, the man in the Clapham Bus Stop], beyond any reasonable doubt. [pp. 28 – 9.]

6] Credibility of Witnesses: In the absence of circumstances which generate suspicion, every witness is to be presumed credible, until the contrary is shown; the burden of impeaching his credibility lying on the objector. [p. 29]

7] Credit due to testimony: The credit due to the testimony of witnesses depends upon, firstly, their honesty; secondly, their ability; thirdly, their number and the consistency of their testimony; fourthly, the conformity of their testimony with experience; and fifthly, the coincidence of their testimony with collateral circumstances. [p.31.]

8] Ability of a Witness to speak truth: the ability of a witness to speak the truth depends on the opportunities which he has had for observing the facts, the accuracy of his powers of discerning, and the faithfulness of his memory in retaining the facts, once observed and known . . . It is always to be presumed that men are honest, and of sound mind, and of the average and ordinary degree of intelligence . . . Whenever an objection is raised in opposition to ordinary presumptions of law, or to the ordinary experience of mankind, the burden of proof is devolved on the objector. [pp. 33 – 4.]

9] Internal coherence and external corroboration: Every event which actually transpires has its appropriate relation and place in the vast complication of circumstances, of which the affairs of men consist; it owes its origin to the events which have preceded it, it is intimately connected with all others which occur at the same time and place, and often with those of remote regions, and in its turn gives birth to numberless others which succeed. In all this almost inconceivable contexture, and seeming discord, there is perfect harmony; and while the fact, which really happened, tallies exactly with every other contemporaneous incident, related to it in the remotest degree, it is not possible for the wit of man to invent a story, which, if closely compared with the actual occurrences of the same time and place, may not be shown to be false. [p. 39.]

10] Marks of false vs true testimony: a false witness will not willingly detail any circumstances in which his testimony will be open to contradiction, nor multiply them where there is a danger of his being detected by a comparison of them with other accounts, equally circumstantial . . . Therefore, it is, that variety and minuteness of detail are usually regarded as certain test[s] of sincerity, if the story, in the circumstances related, is of a nature capable of easy refutation, if it were false . . . . [False witnesses] are often copious and even profuse in their statements, as far as these may have been previously fabricated, and in relation to the principal matter; but beyond this, all will be reserved and meagre, from fear of detection . . . in the testimony of the true witness there is a visible and striking naturalness of manner, and an unaffected readiness and copiousness in the detail of circumstances, as well in one part of the narrative as another, and evidently without the least regard to the facility or difficulty of verification or detection . . . the increased number of witnesses to circumstances, and the increased number of circumstances themselves, all tend to increase the probability of detection if the witnesses are false . . . Thus the force of circumstantial evidence is found to depend on the number of particulars involved in the narrative; the difficulty of fabricating them all, if false, and the great facility of detection; the nature of the circumstances to be compared, and from which the dates and other facts to are be collected; the intricacy of the comparison; the number of intermediate steps in the process of deduction; and the circuity of the investigation. The more largely the narrative partake[s] of these characteristics, the further it will be found removed from all suspicion of contrivance or design, and the more profoundly the mind will rest in the conviction of its truth. [pp. 39 – 40.]

12] The degree of coherence expected of true witnesses: substantial truth, under circumstantial variety. There is enough of discrepancy to show that there could have been no previous concert among them, and at the same time such substantial agreement as to show that they all were independent narrators of the same great transaction, as the events actually occurred. [p.34. All cites from The Testimony of the Evangelists (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Classics, 1995). The First Easter’s timeline gives a good case in point, given the focal issue here. You may find it profitable to also examine Edwin Yamauchi’s review and W L Craig’s remarks on the resurrection vs the current version of the hallucination hypothesis. Craig’s critical assessment of the Jesus Seminar is also well worth the time to read it.]

In this context, Habermas’ UCSB lecture on the minimal facts is well worth viewing:

[youtube ay_Db4RwZ_M]

Also, Paul Maier on the historicity of Jesus vs fashionable skeptical narratives:

[youtube XAN3kQHTKWI]

It is further worth a pause to note Paul Barnett’s summary of the record of early non-Christian sources on the basic facts of the early Christian movement and particularly the existence of Jesus as an historical figure:

On the basis of . . . non-Christian sources [i.e. Tacitus (Annals, on the fire in Rome, AD 64; written ~ AD 115), Rabbi Eliezer (~ 90’s AD; cited J. Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth (London: Collier-Macmillan, 1929), p. 34), Pliny (Letters to Trajan from Bithynia, ~ AD 112), Josephus (Antiquities, ~ 90’s)] it is possible to draw the following conclusions:

  1. Jesus Christ was executed (by crucifixion?) in Judaea during the period where Tiberius was Emperor (AD 14 – 37) and Pontius Pilate was Governor (AD 26 – 36). [Tacitus]
  2. The movement spread from Judaea to Rome. [Tacitus]
  3. Jesus claimed to be God and that he would depart and return. [Eliezer]
  4. His followers worshipped him as (a) god. [Pliny]
  5. He was called “the Christ.” [Josephus]
  6. His followers were called “Christians.” [Tacitus, Pliny]
  7. They were numerous in Bithynia and Rome [Tacitus, Pliny]
  8. It was a world-wide movement. [Eliezer]
  9. His brother was James. [Josephus]

[Is the New Testament History? (London, Hodder, 1987), pp. 30 – 31. Cf. McDowell & Wilson, He Walked Among Us (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1993) for more details; free for download here.]

A video presentation on such extra-bliblical support:

[youtube 4bLlpiWh9-k]

Likewise, we can trace and summarise the chain of custody of the NT accounts, thanks to McDowell and Wilson:

The chain of custody on the NT
The chain of custody on the NT

Cumulatively, the weight of textual evidence for the NT is overwhelming relative to the rest of classical literature, and grounds the authenticity of the text beyond reasonable dispute. The credibility of the basic narrative rests on the patent fact that it is eyewitness lifetime record, maintained in many cases at the price of peacefully surrendering one’s life to judicial murder or mob lynching rather than deny solemn, sacred trust of truth. A testimony that within a generation shook the foundations of Rome and drew the ire of the demonically mad emperor Nero, as the Christian movement grew and became unstoppable. All, backed up by a pattern of archaeological-historical confirmation and support summed up by Craig Evans in his 2004 Benthal public lecture:

The story told in the New Testament Gospels—in contrast to the greatly embellished versions found in the Gospel of Peter and other writings— smacks of verisimilitude. The women went to the tomb to mourn privately and to perform duties fully in step with Jewish burial customs. They expected to find the body of Jesus; ideas of resurrection were the last thing on their minds. The careful attention given the temporary tomb is exactly what we should expect. Pious fiction—like that seen in the Gospel of Peter— would emphasize other things. Archaeology can neither prove nor disprove the resurrection, but it can and has shed important light on the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ death, burial, and missing corpse . . . .

Research in the historical Jesus has taken several positive steps in recent years. Archaeology, remarkable literary discoveries, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and progress in reassessing the social, economic, and political setting of first-century Palestine have been major factors. Notwithstanding the eccentricities and skepticism of the Jesus Seminar, the persistent trend in recent years is to see the Gospels as essentially reliable, especially when properly understood, and to view the historical Jesus in terms much closer to Christianity’s traditional understanding, i.e., as proclaimer of God’s rule, as understanding himself as the Lord’s anointed, and, indeed, as God’s own son, destined to rule Israel. But this does not mean that the historical Jesus that has begun to emerge in recent years is simply a throwback to the traditional portrait. The picture of Jesus that has emerged is more finely nuanced, more obviously Jewish, and in some ways more unpredictable than ever. The last word on the subject has not been written and probably never will be. Ongoing discovery and further investigation will likely force us to make further revisions as we read and read again the old Gospel stories and try to come to grips with the life of this remarkable Galilean Jew.

In this context, it is finally worth doing some summing up on the minimal facts:

The minimal facts method only uses sources which are multiply attested, and agreed to by a majority of scholars (ranging from atheist to conservative). This requires that they have one or more of the following criteria which are relevant to textual criticism:

  1. Multiple sources – If two or more sources attest to the same fact, it is more likely authentic
  2. Enemy attestation – If the writers enemies corroborate a given fact, it is more likely authentic
  3. Principle of embarrassment – If the text embarrasses the writer, it is more likely authentic
  4. Eyewitness testimony – First hand accounts are to be prefered
  5. Early testimony – an early account is more likely accurate than a later one

Having first established the well attested facts, the approach then argues that the best explanation of these agreed to facts is the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . . . [Source: “Minimal facts” From Apologetics Wiki. Full article: here. (Courtesy, Wayback Machine.)]

Why is that so?

The easiest answer is to simply list the facts that meet the above criteria and are accepted by a majority to an overwhelming majority of recent and current scholarship after centuries of intense debate:

[THE TWELVE “MINIMAL FACTS”]

1. Jesus died by crucifixion [–> which implies his historicity!].

2. He was buried.

3. His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.

4. The tomb was empty (the most contested).

5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus (the most important proof). [–> Note, the fact-finding is a cautious statement as to what the disciples believed based on their individual and collective experiences; this is not a miracle claim]

6. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers.

7. The resurrection was the central message.

8. They preached the message of Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem. [–> dating to the 30’s AD, per the consensus on the source and timing of the recorded (c. AD 55) creedal summary with identified lead witnesses found in 1 Cor 15:1 – 11]

9. The Church was born and grew.

10. Orthodox Jews who believed in Christ made Sunday their primary day of worship.

11. James was converted to the faith when he saw the resurrected Jesus (James was a family skeptic).

12. Paul was converted to the faith (Paul was an outsider skeptic).

[Cf. Habermas’ paper here and a broader more popular discussion here. NT Wright’s papers here and here give a rich and deep background analysis. Here is a video of a pastoral presentation of a subset of the facts. Habermas presents the case as videos here and here, in two parts. Here is a video of a debate he had with Antony Flew.]

The list of facts is in some respects fairly obvious.

That a Messiah candidate was captured, tried and crucified — as Gamaliel hinted at — was effectively the death-knell for most such movements in Israel in the era of Roman control; to have to report such a fate was normally embarrassing and discrediting to the extreme in a shame-honour culture. The Jews of C1 Judaea wanted a victorious Greater David to defeat the Romans and usher in the day of ultimate triumph for Israel, not a crucified suffering servant.  In the cases where a movement continued, the near relatives took up the mantle. That is facts 1 – 3 right there. Facts 10 – 12 are notorious. While some (it looks like about 25% of the survey of scholarship, from what I have seen) reject no 4, in fact it is hard to see a message about a resurrection in C1 that did not imply that the body was living again, as Wright discusses here. Facts 5 – 9 are again, pretty clearly grounded.

So, the challenge is to explain this cluster or important subsets of it, without begging questions and without selective hyperskepticism. The old Deist objections (though sometimes renewed today) have deservedly fallen by the wayside. [Also, cf. ten video shorts on popular myths here.]

We may briefly compare:

“Theory”
Match to four major credible facts regarding Jesus of Nazareth & his Passion
Overall score/20
Died by crucifixion
(under Pontius Pilate) at
Jerusalem
c 30 AD
Was buried, tomb was found empty
Appeared to multiple disciples,
many of whom proclaimed
& suffered for their
faith
Appeared to key
objectors who then became church leaders: James & Paul
Bodily Resurrection
5
5
5
5
20
Visions/
hallucinations
5
2
2
1
10
Swoon/recovery
1
3
2
2
8
Wrong tomb
5
1
1
1
8
Stolen body/fraud
5
2
1
1
9
Quran 4:155 -6: “They did not slay him, neither crucified him.” 1 1 1 1 4
 “Jesus never existed” 1 1 1 1 4
 “Christianity as we know it was cooked up by Constantine and  others at Nicea, who censored/ distorted the original record” 1 1 1 1 4
“What we have today is ‘Paulianity,’ not the original teachings of Jesus and his disciples” 2 1 1 2 6
Christianity — including the resurrection —  is a gradually emerging legend based on a real figure
5
1
1
1
8
Complete legend/pagan copycat (Greek, Persian, Egyptian, etc)
1
1
1
1
4

(I have given my scores above, based on reasoning that should be fairly obvious. As an exercise you may want to come up with your own scores on a 5 – 1 scale: 5 = v. good/ 4 = good/ 3 = fair/ 2 = poor/ 1 = v. poor, with explanations. Try out blends of the common skeptical theories to see how they would fare.)

Laying a priori anti-supernaturalism aside as a patent case of worldview level question-begging closed mindedness, the above table shows that there are two serious candidates today, the resurrection as historically understood, or some version of a collective vision/hallucination that led to a sincere (but plainly mistaken) movement.

The latter of course runs into  the problem that such collective visions are not psychologically plausible as the cultural expectations of a resurrection would have been of a general one in the context of the obvious military triumph of Israel. Nor, does it explain the apparently missing body. Moreover, we know separately, that the culturally accepted alternative would have been individual prophetic visions of the exalted that on being shared would comfort the grieving that the departed rested with God. So, an ahead of time individual breakthrough resurrection — even, one that may be accompanied by some straws in the wind of what is to come in fulness at the end — is not part of the mental furniture of expectations in C1 Judaism.  Where, hallucinations and culturally induced visions are going to be rooted in such pre-existing mental “furniture.”

Where, also — tellingly — the women who bought spices and went to the tomb that morning plainly expected to find it occupied by a dead prophet, one unjustly judicially murdered as so many others had been.  (And if you doubt the account that reports how these women became the first to discover the tomb and to see the risen Messiah, consider how dismissive C1 Jews were to the testimony of “hysterical” — that very word in English is rooted in the Greek for womb, hustera (reflecting a very old prejudice . . . ) — women. Such an embarrassing point would only be admitted if the reporter was seeking to tell the full truth as best as he could, regardless of how poorly it would come across to his audience; a C1 audience, not a C21 one.)

The Easter event cuts across all reasonable cultural expectations, and obviously forced a much closer — transforming — look at messianic prophetic passages such as Isa 52 – 53 which plainly led to an aha moment.

Notwithstanding, I can understand how someone can come to a conclusion that the famous carpenter from Nazareth turned itinerant preacher ran into troubles with local and colonial authorities and paid with his life. Then, maybe someone is willing to argue that (despite the problems) some of the followers had visions that convinced them that he was risen from death and against all odds stood in the teeth of concerted powers to the point where at length after a bloody trail of woe, persecution and peaceful martyrdom, the Christian faith prevailed.

But the sort of dismissiveness about the bare historicity of the carpenter from Galilee — itself BTW, a major point of admitting an embarrassing fact that in those days was enough to make many inclined to dismiss — does not come across as reasonably warranted by evidence.

Frankly, it comes across as smacking of ideological desperation to lock out of consideration a major but unwelcome worldview alternative, ethical theism in the Judaeo Christian tradition.

And, in that context, the matter sheds a telling light on the attitudes and agendas that seem to lurk in the background of debates over things like the design inference.

In short, I am appealing for a less polarised, less intransigently hyperskeptical approach to evidence and warrant. And, not just for the design issue. I frankly fear that the locked-in agenda approach is a big part of a march of folly now in progress at all sorts of levels across our civilisation. A civilisation that, to me, seems to be on a collision course with reality — and which is inclined to forget that those who despise the lessons of history bought with blood and tears doom themselves to pay much the same price yet again.

change_challCan we not find a better way? Before it is too late? END

 

74 Replies to “More on selective hyperskepticism — answering the “Jesus never existed” historical fallacy

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Jesus — the man who never was?

    (A look at selective hyperskepticism in the face of historical, documentary evidence and linked archaeology etc. Towards understanding what we are dealing with.)

  2. 2
    harry says:

    kairosfocus,

    He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
    –John 14:21

    Once Christ has made Himself known to a believer, as He promised He would, the reasonableness of the evidence for His being a real, historical figure has as much value as the reasonableness of the evidence that one’s spouse or children really live or lived, which is to say it is of little significance, being evidence of that which we are already certain.

    Even so, for those who haven’t yet experienced the living Christ, presentations such as yours here have great value. Good work.

  3. 3
  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    Harry, many people have become filled with questions or are even utterly quite confused about evidence and credibility, so it is important to address the matter. Especially in a context where there is a big push to imply Christians are delusional and should be disqualified from public office. With clear signs that the degree of hostility and blame shifting is now reaching the lunatic fringe who seem to believe admitting one is a Christian deserves a shot through the head. And yes, I am noticing the utter telling want of taking such as it would be taken if such had credibly on eyewitness testimony happened with any of the PC-favoured designated victim groups. Indeed, as has happened with much less credible evidence and sometimes in the teeth of credible evidence. The double standard is telling and sobering. So, a bit of re-balancing is in order. KF

  5. 5
    harry says:

    kairosfocus,

    I frankly fear that the locked-in agenda approach is a big part of a march of folly now in progress at all sorts of levels across our civilisation. A civilisation that, to me, seems to be on a collision course with reality — and which is inclined to forget that those who despise the lessons of history bought with blood and tears doom themselves to pay much the same price yet again.

    Amen.

    Only it will likely be a much higher price. The Old Testament records God’s wrath being inflicted upon pagan nations the people of which had no excuse for not behaving according to the natural moral law their Creator had written upon their hearts.

    What will happen to a society that has first abandoned Christianity, which the severely punished gentile nations of the Old Testament did not have, and then abandoned the natural moral law as well?

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    Harry,

    Romans 1 world, that’s what. As in, already in progress . . .

    Cf my personal blog here: http://kairosfocus.blogspot.co.....ny-of.html

    KF

  7. 7
    harry says:

    kairosfocus,

    Rosaria Butterfield’s talk wasn’t what I expected, but it was quite powerful. It demonstrated that nobody is so lost in the darkness of our times that Christ can’t bring them into the light. God’s power and goodness is infinitely greater than our sinfulness.

    Christians need to make the distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual fornication. One’s orientation is morally neutral. One’s behavior is what is sinful. Fornication, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual, is sinful behavior. One’s orientation, and the temptation to sin which it presents, can be a heavy cross, whether that orientation be homosexual or heterosexual, but the orientation itself is not sinful. Behavior is what can be sinful.

    I would propose that artificial contraception used by heterosexuals to render sexual relations infertile, is just as much an abuse of God’s plan for human sexuality as are infertile homosexual relations. Homosexual relations are unnatural in a way that heteroexual relations rendered infertile by contraception are not, but such heterosexual relations are still unnatural in their own way, rejecting as they do the procreative aspect of God’s plan for human sexuality.

    Christian couples have no right to close the door to God’s own plan for the immortal souls He intends on bringing forth through their union to eventually spend an eternity of joy with Him. Not only that, God is a jealous God. He wants to reign in us entirely. Letting Christ reign over every area of our lives except the fruit of our union with our spouse, as though we know better than Him about such matters, is a recapitulation of the the sin of Adam and Eve, thinking we can be like God, deciding for ourselves what is good and what is evil, and decide for ourselves regarding matters in which we cannot possibly be competent — as though we can know the eternal ramifications of deciding to reject the procreative aspect of God’s plan for human sexuality.

    Thanks for bringing Rosaria’s talk to my attention, even if your intention was to bring your blog to my attention and not Rosaria’s talk in particular.

    By the way, I did not make the remarks above thinking I needed to persuade you of anything. I am assuming you would agree with me. If not, I would be curious to know what you think.

    God bless you.

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    Harry, The testimony is significant and a lesson. Also, some things are just too controversial or triggering or lending to mischaracterisations to trespass on my invitation to contribute at UD, so I will host elsewhere and link as reasonable. Indeed it is only because of the issue of resistance to evident truth that this OP is here at UD. The bottomline is, we see resistance to first principles of reason and to outright history based on readily accessible primary sources, so the intransigence on the design inference is utterly unsurprising. KF

  9. 9
    bFast says:

    Yea know, I find that these discussions about the existence of Jesus always focus on the extrabiblical sources. However, the Biblical sources are every bit as valid as the extrabiblical ones, and they have a heck of a lot more volume to say about it.

    We have four rich biographies / biographers: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
    In addition we have the writings of Paul, Peter and James the brother of Jesus. All of these attest to the historicity of Jesus. How many similarly rich biographies do we have about, say, Shakespeare or Buddha?

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    BF, Indeed, the minimal facts approach pioneered by Habermas is exactly a way to address how to use texts perceived to be even significantly unreliable but which are among the closest sources to events. Things like embedding of v early materials in summaries, creedal declarations and early hymns being cited, traces of the rhetorical settings, exegetical use of the acknowledged scriptures at that time [cf Phil 2:5 – 11 i/l/o Isa 45 esp 18 – 23], markers of seeking to tell the truth even when embarrassing in that setting [ e.g. in Gosp Philip . . . late, not reliable, not in the canon etc, I find — instead of Dan Brown’s fantasies — an echo of what, Mary Magdalene was the FIRST witness to the resurrection and was sent with a message to the apostles], points that naturally intersect with culture and circumstances leading to archaeolgical cross-checks etc. The resulting cross section of twelve minimal facts generally acknowledged, then cries out for cogent abductive explanation. Hence the tabulation above, which directly documents why the common skeptical alternatives to the historic Christian view collapse, once anti-supernaturalism is not allowed to impose itself question-beggingly. The sheer lack of response to that substantial framework is illuminating. But, we are dealing with a deeply polarised, message dominance situation, which is not conducive to actually facing the weight of evidence on its credible merits. KF

  11. 11
    Seversky says:

    Personally, I have no difficulty with the possibility that there existed in the Middle East around two thousand years ago an itinerant preacher, son of a carpenter, called Jesus in English. I can also allow that he was the founder of the religion we now know as Christianity. The crucial question is whether that is all that he was.

    Unless you believe that the likes of Mormonism and Scientology were both divinely inspired then the possibility exists that all religions are human inventions Any faith claiming to be the One True Faith will have to show why if it is to convert people.

    There are a number of ancient documents which are the written accounts that comprise the evidence for the existence of this man. The oft-cited Ancient Documents Rule provides certain guidelines for whether or not we can assume them to be authentic but validating an ancient document as authentic does not necessarily validate the contents as being true. The rules concerning hearsay, including multiple hearsay, can also apply. Quoting from this review of the rule in the Santa Clara Law Review:

    I. INTRODUCTION

    This article analyzes whether statements in a document properly authenticated as “ancient” pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 901(b)(8) are subject to the rule against multiple hearsay. I conclude that the rule against multiple hearsay applies to such statements in ancient documents. In order for a given statement in an ancient document to be admissible to prove the truth of the matter asserted, the statement must either be within the personal knowledge of the author or qualify under a separate exception to the hearsay rule. For each level of hearsay present within the document, the party offering the hearsay evidence must demonstrate that an exception to the hearsay rule applies.

    Federal Rule of Evidence 802 provides that “[h]earsay’ isnot admissible except as provided by these rules or by other rules prescribed by the Supreme Court pursuant to statutory authority or by Act of Congress.”2 Rule 803 sets out a number of exceptions to this rule, including the following: “(16)[s]tatements in ancient documents” and “[s]tatements in a document in existence twenty years or more the authenticity of which is established.”3 Authenticating a document as “ancient” is accomplished by satisfying the straightforward standards of Rule 901, including 901(b)(8).”‘ The legal question is thus presented: does authenticating a document as “ancient” ean that every statement contained in it is automatically excepted from the hearsay rule by operation of Rule 803(16)?

    Rooted in Rule 805 is a general rule against hearsay within hearsay.’ “Hearsay within hearsay, or multiple hearsay, occurs when a witness, W, attempts to testify that A told W what B said.”‘ Multiple hearsay is “wholly inadmissible when any single out-of-court statement fails to qualify under an exclusion from or exception to the hearsay rule. In other words, the testimony is inadmissible if A’s statement is admissible but B’s is not or if B’s statement is admissible but A’s is not

    VII. CONCLUSION

    The rule against multiple hearsay should apply to statements in ancient documents. While the language of the ancient document rule is ambiguous on this point, this conclusion is driven by the legislative history of Rule 803(16) and the treatment of multiple hearsay in ancient documents underthe common law. In order for a statement in an ancient document to be admissible to prove the truth of the matter asserted, the party seeking to have the statement admitted must demonstrate that the statement is either: (1) within the personal knowledge of the author; or (2) falls under a separate exception to the hearsay rule. For each level of hearsay within the ancient document, the proponent of the admission of the statement must demonstrate that it falls within an exception to the hearsay rule. This conclusion is confirmed by the few cases that have addressed the issue expressly, and is also supported as good policy.

    Couple that with the following excerpted from Jesus, Interrupted by Bart D. Ehrman.

    Who Wrote The Gospels?

    Though it is evidently not the sort of thing pastors normally tell their congregations, for over a century there has been a broad consensus among scholars that many of the books of the New Testament were not written by the people whose names are attached to them. So if that is the case, who did write them?

    As we have just seen, the Gospels are filled with discrepancies large and small. Why are there so many differences among the four Gospels? These books are called Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John because they were traditionally thought to have been written by Matthew, a disciple who was a tax collector; John, the “Beloved Disciple” mentioned in the Fourth Gospel; Mark, the secretary of the disciple Peter; and Luke, the traveling companion of Paul. These traditions can be traced back to about a century after the books were written.

    But if Matthew and John were both written by earthly disciples of Jesus, why are they so very different, on all sorts of levels? Why do they contain so many contradictions? Why do they have such fundamentally different views of who Jesus was? In Matthew, Jesus comes into being when he is conceived, or born, of a virgin; in John, Jesus is the incarnate Word of God who was with God in the beginning and through whom the universe was made. In Matthew, there is not a word about Jesus being God; in John, that’s precisely who he is. In Matthew, Jesus teaches about the coming kingdom of God and almost never about himself (and never that he is divine); in John, Jesus teaches almost exclusively about himself, especially his divinity. In Matthew, Jesus refuses to perform miracles in order to prove his identity; in John, that is practically the only reason he does miracles.

    Why did the tradition eventually arise that these books were written by apostles and companions of the apostles? In part it was in order to assure readers that they were written by eyewitnesses and companions of eyewitnesses. An eyewitness could be trusted to relate the truth of what actually happened in Jesus’ life. But the reality is that eyewitnesses cannot be trusted to give historically accurate accounts. They never could be trusted and can’t be trusted still. If eyewitnesses always gave historically accurate accounts, we would have no need for law courts. If we needed to find out what actually happened when a crime was committed, we could just ask someone. Real-life legal cases require multiple eyewitnesses, because eyewitnesses’ testimonies differ. If two eyewitnesses in a court of law were to differ as much as Matthew and John, imagine how hard it would be to reach a judgment.

    A further reality is that all the Gospels were written anonymously, and none of the writers claims to be an eyewitness. Names are attached to the titles of the Gospels (“the Gospel according to Matthew”), but these titles are later additions to the Gospels, provided by editors and scribes to inform readers who the editors thought were the authorities behind the different versions. That the titles are not original to the Gospels themselves should be clear upon some simple reflection. Whoever wrote Matthew did not call it “The Gospel according to Matthew.” The persons who gave it that title are telling you who, in their opinion, wrote it. Authors never title their books “according to.”

    Moreover, Matthew’s Gospel is written completely in the third person, about what “they” — Jesus and the disciples — were doing, never about what “we” — Jesus and the rest of us — were doing. Even when this Gospel narrates the event of Matthew being called to become a disciple, it talks about “him,” not about “me.” Read the account for yourself (Matthew 9:9). There’s not a thing in it that would make you suspect the author is talking about himself.

    With John it is even more clear. At the end of the Gospel the author says of the “Beloved Disciple”: “This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true” (John 21:24). Note how the author differentiates between his source of information, “the disciple who testifies,” and himself: “we know that his testimony is true.” He/we: this author is not the disciple. He claims to have gotten some of his information from the disciple.

    and the question of whether Jesus Christ, the Son of God, ever existed becomes much more problematical.

  12. 12
    harry says:

    Seversky @11,

    for over a century there has been a broad consensus among scholars that many of the books of the New Testament were not written by the people whose names are attached to them.

    This is because Scripture scholarship went to hell in a hand basket in the mid 19th century, beginning with faithless, “scientific” textual criticism of the Scriptures by German “scholars.” This spread like a disease to many denominations

    Why do they contain so many contradictions?

    These “contradictions” are a sign of the authenticity of the Gospels. If they were contrived they would agree in every detail. This is why a police detective would get suspicious if every witness to a crime, even though all of them saw things from their own unique perspective, had exactly the same story in every detail. Honest accounts of events by multiple witnesses will not be identical in every detail. That is to be expected. That rings true. The Gospels ring true.

    It is not like these modern “scholars” were the first ones to notice contradictions among the four Gospels. St. Augustine’s Harmony of the Gospels beautifully addressed these apparent contradictions 1,700 years ago. He noticed and resolved many more apparent discrepancies than contemporary “scholars” have “discovered.” These modern “scholars” have no idea how they reveal their ignorance when they behave as though they have discovered a contradiction in the Gospels that is devastating to their veracity; they make a big deal out of a matter that the Church was already aware of when it decided which writings were to be considered “Gospels.” These discrepancies were resolved by Christian scholars long, long ago. These crackpots would only be amusing if there weren’t naïve Christians who take them seriously.

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky,

    The primary issue here is of course, Jesus never existed. The point is, that those who dismiss the historic evidence, do so by selective hyperskepticism in the teeth of serious evidence.

    On the secondary issue, was Jesus only a carpenter who got into trouble and was killed for it, that is a matter that pivots on many further factors and issues.

    In which context, the mere assertion that religions may all be “man-made” is not adequate to fatally undermine confidence. The issue being, not whether something may potentially be false in the abstract but whether there is a reasonable case on the matter that provides good warrant sufficient to make serious decisions on.

    For me, for example, that God is, is a matter of ontological, cosmological, moral and to a lesser extent teleological issues. (Yes, lesser extent.)

    And, personally, I have no real doubt because I have met him, not least in his saving my life decades past. Millions of others have met him too in similarly miracle-working, life transforming power.

    Pivotally, in a world that requires a necessary being root, and in which I cannot reasonably hold that moral governance is a delusion, I find it a sobering challenge that God as serious candidate necessary being will either be impossible due to incompatible core characteristics or else actual as integral to the framework of a possible world. A possible world in which morality very much seems a real feature.

    Next, we come to the historic, Judaeo-Christian tradition and its documentary foundation.

    First, history is not hearsay, and sound record does not evaporate into dismissible myth merely because of skeptical convenience. To start with, on pain of the principle that sound history was bought with blood and tears so those who neglect or dismiss it doom themselves to pay much the same price again, there manifestly was a past, and good report on that past will stand reasonable scrutiny of record and traces.

    I note Greenleaf, with my enumeration and labels, first, 3rd – 5th, 7th – 9th rules:

    1] THE ANCIENT DOCUMENTS RULE: Every document, apparently ancient, coming from the proper repository or custody, and bearing on its face no evident marks of forgery, the law presumes to be genuine, and devolves on the opposing party the burden of proving it to be otherwise. [p.16.]

    3] On Inquiries and Reports: If [a report] were “the result of inquiries, made under competent public authority, concerning matters in which the public are concerned” it would . . . be legally admissible . . . To entitle such results, however, to our full confidence, it is not necessary that they be obtained under a legal commission; it is sufficient if the inquiry is gravely undertaken and pursued, by a person of competent intelligence, sagacity and integrity. The request of a person in authority, or a desire to serve the public, are, to all moral intents, as sufficient a motive as a legal commission. [p. 25.]

    4] Probability of Truthfulness: In trials of fact, by oral testimony, the proper inquiry is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but whether there is a sufficient probability that it is true. [p. 28.]

    5] Criteria of Proof: A proposition of fact is proved, when its truth is established by competent and satisfactory evidence. By competent evidence is meant such as the nature of the thing to be proved requires; and by satisfactory evidence is meant that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond any reasonable doubt. [pp. 28 – 9.]

    7] Credit due to testimony: The credit due to the testimony of witnesses depends upon, firstly, their honesty; secondly, their ability; thirdly, their number and the consistency of their testimony; fourthly, the conformity of their testimony with experience; and fifthly, the coincidence of their testimony with collateral circumstances. [p.31.]

    8] Ability of a Witness to speak truth: the ability of a witness to speak the truth depends on the opportunities which he has had for observing the facts, the accuracy of his powers of discerning, and the faithfulness of his memory in retaining the facts, once observed and known . . . It is always to be presumed that men are honest, and of sound mind, and of the average and ordinary degree of intelligence . . . Whenever an objection is raised in opposition to ordinary presumptions of law, or to the ordinary experience of mankind, the burden of proof is devolved on the objector. [pp. 33 – 4.]

    9] Internal coherence and external corroboration: Every event which actually transpires has its appropriate relation and place in the vast complication of circumstances, of which the affairs of men consist; it owes its origin to the events which have preceded it, it is intimately connected with all others which occur at the same time and place, and often with those of remote regions, and in its turn gives birth to numberless others which succeed. In all this almost inconceivable contexture, and seeming discord, there is perfect harmony; and while the fact, which really happened, tallies exactly with every other contemporaneous incident, related to it in the remotest degree, it is not possible for the wit of man to invent a story, which, if closely compared with the actual occurrences of the same time and place, may not be shown to be false. [p. 39.]

    In short, the pivotal issue, is whether or no the NT documents are reasonably to be regarded as primary, credible historical sources in the core affirmations relevant to the twelve minimal facts as adduced. As to custody chain, that is sufficient to show that the substantial core is authentic, textual critical debates do not affect this. Nor do I need to try to argue some theory or other of inspiration etc. (Not least, lions don’t need to be defended, just unleashed.)

    The Rylands codex fragment suffices to bookend the NT as C1, especially when we see the usage of 25 of 27 documents by 96 – 115 AD — and recognised as sacred scripture of implicit authority and authenticity on par with the received OT tradition — in the circle of the first three writing Fathers. Likewise, the recognition of early creedal traditions and hymns dating in the case of 1 Cor 15:1 – 11 to 35 – 38 AD clearly shows the sort of documentation we are dealing with.

    As to the various skeptical theological attitudes, first I cite the late Bultmannian turned Evangelical by dint of actually encountering the transforming power of God, Eta Linneman . . . yes, she who literally tossed her own earlier works in the garbage and asked others to do the same, eventually going to Indonesia as a Missionary teacher:

    Theology as it is taught in universities all over the world . . . is based on the historical-critical method . . . . [which] is not just the foundation for the exegetical disciplines. It also decides what the systematician can say . . . It determines procedure in Christian education, homiletics and ethics . . . . Research is conducted ut si Deus non daretur (“as if there were no God”). That means the reality of God is excluded from consideration from the start . . . Statements in Scripture regarding place, time, sequences of events and persons are accepted only insofar as they fit in with established assumptions and theories . . . .

    Since other religions have their scriptures, one cannot assume the Bible is somehow unique and superior to them . . . . It is taken for granted that the words of the Bible and God’s word are not identical . . . the New Testament is pitted against the Old Testament, assuming that the God of the New Testament is different from that of the Old, since Jesus is said to have introduced a new concept of God . . . . Since the inspiration of Scripture is not accepted, neither can it be assumed that the individual books of Scripture complement each other. Using this procedure one finds in the Bible only a handful of unrelated literary creations . . . . Since the content of biblical writings is seen as merely the creation of theological writers, any given verse is nothing more than a non-binding, human theological utterance.

    For historical-critical theology, critical reason decides what is reality in the Bible and what cannot be reality; and this decision is made on the basis of the everyday experience accessible to every person [i.e. the miraculous aspect of Scripture, and modern reports of miracles — regardless of claimed attestation — are dismissed as essentially impossible to verify and/or as merely “popular religious drivel”] . . . . . Due to the presuppositions that are adopted, critical reason loses sight of the fact that the Lord, our God, the Almighty, reigns. [Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1993), pp. 83 – 88 as excerpted. Emphases in original; parenthetical notes in square brackets: [ ].]

    Likewise, the exchange between Robinson and Dodd, described in Wikipedia’s article on J A T Robinson, c 2012, is revealing on a major attitude-presupposition problem in academic theology:

    Although Robinson was within the liberal theology tradition, he challenged the work of colleagues in the field of exegetical criticism. Specifically, Robinson examined the New Testament’s reliability, because he believed that very little original research had been completed in the field during the period between 1900 and the mid-1970s. Concluding his research, he wrote in his work, Redating the New Testament,[13] that past scholarship was based on a “tyranny of unexamined assumptions” and an “almost willful blindness”.

    Robinson concluded that much of the New Testament was written before AD 64, partly based on his judgement that there is little textual evidence that the New Testament reflects knowledge of the Temple’s AD 70 destruction. In relation to the four gospels’ dates of authorship, Robinson placed Matthew at 40 to after 60, Mark at about 45 to 60, Luke at before 57 to after 60, and John at from 40 to after 65.[14][15] Robinson also argued that the letter of James was penned by a brother of Jesus Christ within twenty years of Jesus’ death, that Paul authored all the books that bear his name, and that the apostle John wrote the fourth Gospel. Robinson also opined that because of his investigations, a rewriting of many theologies of the New Testament was in order.[16][17][18]

    C. H. Dodd, in a frank letter to Robinson wrote: “I should agree with you that much of the late dating is quite arbitrary, even wanton, the offspring not of any argument that can be presented, but rather of the critic’s prejudice that, if he appears to assent to the traditional position of the early church, he will be thought no better than a stick-in-the-mud.”[19]

    When it comes to Ehrman, his opening remark is not a reasonable representation of the circumstances. Yes, many have sought to find any way to avoid the conclusion that there is a substantial core authentic record in the NT that comes from indisputably primary witnesses and authors.

    The Gospels and Acts have never had any historic dispute as to authors, save for which John is meant. And, the evidence points to John bar Zebedee. Taking jut the epistles of Paul that are too strong for the critical methods to throw into serious dispute, Rom, 1 Cor, Gal, 1 Thess alone are more than sufficient to ground the historical and theological core of the NT church.

    By AD 64 – 67, The Christian faith enters mainstream Roman history with the patently false accusation of arson by Nero, and the judicial murders surrounding it. Likewise Josephus’ account of the Jewish war and circumstances suffices to document Jewish-Christian issues, perspectives and chief characters intersecting by the 60’s, and that without any serious problems over the alleged insertions in one text.

    Probing into the self-consciously historical report to a patron, Lk-Ac, we find a backbone history from c 4 – 6 BC to 62 AD, which has abundant archaeological corroboration and uses MK as a primary trustworthy source. Luke’s historical interest and the known deaths of his three principals across the 60’s connected to circumstances in Judaea and Rome, suffices to justify a date for Lk-Ac as at least initially complete draft, 57 – 62 AD or thereabouts. Which is the context of Robinson’s famous conclusion that there is no good reason to hold that any NT book is post 70 AD. That puts Mk into the window 40 – 60 AD, likely 50’s.

    And in any case even later dating will not undermine the core 12 minimal facts, which are what has to be accounted for on any reasonable theory of the passion of Jesus of Nazareth and its connexion to the beginnings of the Christian movement as a global phenomenon.

    Notice, as summarised, the criteria that earned the sort of super-majority support that put the listed specific items on the list in the OP, one by one:

    Multiple sources – If two or more sources attest to the same fact, it is more likely authentic

    Enemy attestation – If the writers enemies corroborate a given fact, it is more likely authentic

    Principle of embarrassment – If the text embarrasses the writer, it is more likely authentic

    Eyewitness testimony – First hand accounts are to be prefered

    Early testimony – an early account is more likely accurate than a later one

    The challenge here is then to account for the twelve credible facts.

    My own quick and dirty remark on them, in the OP, is:

    That a Messiah candidate was captured, tried and crucified — as Gamaliel hinted at — was effectively the death-knell for most such movements in Israel in the era of Roman control; to have to report such a fate was normally embarrassing and discrediting to the extreme in a shame-honour culture. The Jews of C1 Judaea wanted a victorious Greater David to defeat the Romans and usher in the day of ultimate triumph for Israel, not a crucified suffering servant. In the cases where a movement continued, the near relatives took up the mantle. That is facts 1 – 3 right there. Facts 10 – 12 are notorious. While some (it looks like about 25% of the survey of scholarship, from what I have seen) reject no 4, in fact it is hard to see a message about a resurrection in C1 that did not imply that the body was living again, as Wright discusses here. Facts 5 – 9 are again, pretty clearly grounded.

    A glance at the tabulation will show there are two serious alternatives, the collective hallucination that led to sincere transformation, and the historic Christian view. Where the former faces a major problem with the vera causa principle and a linked problem that hallucinations can only come from pre-existing mental furniture, which does not run along the lines of the early Christian report. The second, cuts across a major worldview commitment by many in our day.

    This balance of difficulties provides more than adequate explanation for the commonplace attempts to sweep away the whole historic question. But those attempts manifestly fail.

    And we have not yet touched the millions transformed by living encounter with God in the face of the risen Christ, conveyed by the very same scriptures and the Power behind them.

    This is the reason why the skepticism cannot in the end succeed. Too many people know the truth from the inside, and too many others see or have seen the impact of the truth in these lives.

    And the incidents in an English class at Umpqua Community College this past week, are only the latest in a very long line on that impact and what it means in lives.

    It also highlights the demons that we are letting loose in our civilisation as so many have set out on demonising and discrediting Bible-believing Christians as ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked, even as destructive threats to our civilisation.

    The blood of the martyrs who — peacefully — will not surrender truth to save life speaks against all such, even as it spoke to both Pliny the Younger in Bithynia and Trajan [likely in Rome] c 112 AD.

    KF

  14. 14
    Bob O'H says:

    The primary issue here is of course, Jesus never existed.

    And the best evidence that he did is that the mythicists’ best efforts are so awful.

    Frankly, I find it difficult to see how Christianity could have appeared without a real Christ to st<rt it. So even if the Gospels and other early writings are not entirely accurate, I'm sure there's a kernel of truth there.

  15. 15
    Andre says:

    Bob

    As a Christian I am very aware of the fact that the Gospels could be biased. But he is affirmed by non bias sources and absolutely acknowledged by sources hostile to him. Three very different sources corroborate his existence absolutely, thus I have no problem with the claims of the Historical Jesus. To deny he ever existed is ludicrous.

  16. 16
    LarTanner says:

    Re.: “I’m sure there’s a kernel of truth there.”

    I assume most people agree with you; the real point of contention is how big that kernel actually is.

    Increasingly more people seem willing to accept that the kernel might be pretty small and that the gospel stories, Pauline epistles, and ensuing Christological doctrines are exactly what they appear to be (with respect to the person of Jesus): imaginative interpretations of events (some real) and fact, and of their precursor interpretations.

    The neutral observer has no issue with the Christian Jesus deriving from an historical individual or from a composite of individuals. Neither does the neutral observer discount the possibility that the texts bundled together as the New Testament are entirely true: such a person weighs and considers the entire spectrum and hopes to locate the truth along it.

  17. 17
    Andre says:

    Lartanner…

    The Christians of that time worshipped him as God. They noted his miracles. The Roman historians of the time records that the crazy Christians worshipped him as God and his enemies accused him of being a sorcerer that got his powers from the devil.

    The historical accounts and the hostile accounts matter of factly corroborate the Gospels.

    I’ll tell you why I consider the bible account true. The Bible says there will be no sex in heaven. Just imagine you are trying to sell a new religion and your punchline to a bunch of males is No sex in heaven… Don’t think it will sell well unless it is true. Which man do you know in this universe that is going to willingly give up sex? Hell has a better chance of freezing over. Literally.

  18. 18
    LarTanner says:

    Andre,

    Early Christians had several different views/interpretations of Jesus, from not divine at all to fully divine. The Gospel of Judas considers Jesus an alien from Barbelo.

    I am interested in where it’s dais there will be no sex in heaven. I’m just unfamiliar with which text mentions this, and when the text might have been written.

    I do agree with you that Christianity’s marketing program was the best the world had seen to date.

  19. 19
    Virgil Cain says:

    Strange that our modern dating system (calendar) is based on the existence of a person that didn’t exist.

  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    LT, start with the twelve minimal facts. KF

  21. 21
    bornagain77 says:

    LarTanner states:

    I do agree with you that Christianity’s marketing program was the best the world had seen to date.

    Well, while I agree that eternal life with our loved ones in the presence of almighty God is a mighty fine ‘marketing program’, I think persecution here and now in this life, as was witnessed recently at the school shooting, mitigates that eternal life ‘marketing program’ rather effectively so as to separate the sheep from the goats:

    China on course to become ‘world’s most Christian nation’ within 15 years – 19 Apr 2014
    Excerpt: By 2030, China’s total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the United States as the largest Christian congregation in the world, he predicted.
    “Mao thought he could eliminate religion. He thought he had accomplished this,” Prof Yang said. “It’s ironic – they didn’t. They actually failed completely.”
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new.....years.html

    Knowing our world: The three major reasons for persecution of Christians worldwide – Denyse O’Leary
    Excerpt: The world-wide picture is sobering. Pew Research Center, Newsweek, and The Economist all agree that Christians are the world’s most widely persecuted group.
    Marshall and team offer information about three quite different reasons for persecution by different types of regimes (pp. 9–11):
    First, there is post-Communist persecution, following the collapse of Communism in the late 1980s, where the regimes
    ” … have since retreated to an onerous policy of registration, supervision, and control. Those who will not be controlled are sent to prison or labor camps, or simply held, abused, and sometimes tortured.”
    The most intense persecutor is the still Communist (not post-Communist) regime, North Korea (pp. 9–10). There, “Christians are executed or sent to prison camps for lengthy terms for such crimes as the mere possession of a Bible.”
    Second, in some countries, “Hindu or Buddhist religious movements equate their religion with the nature and meaning of their country itself.” They persecute minority tribes as well as religions (pp. 10–11). These countries include Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan.
    Third, of course the Muslim world where
    “Even though the remaining Communist countries persecute the most Christians, it is in the Muslim world where persecution of Christians is now most widespread, intense, and, ominously, increasing. Extremist Muslims are expanding their presence and sometimes exporting their repression of all other faiths. … Even ancient churches, such as the two-thousand-year-old Chaldean and Assyrian churches of Iraq and the Coptic churches of Egypt, are under intense threat at this time. (p. 11).”
    http://www.thebestschools.org/.....worldwide/

    Index of persecution of Christians in countries worldwide 2015
    http://www.statista.com/statis.....worldwide/

    Verse:

    Matthew 13:5-6
    “Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. “But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

  22. 22
  23. 23
  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    LT: Jamaica’s gospel sweetheart, on standing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOe_rJa1Pks KF

  25. 25
    kairosfocus says:

    LT: More from Carlene D — Holy . . . : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGuiMq2FcGk KF

  26. 26
  27. 27
  28. 28
    bornagain77 says:

    Thanks kf.

    Here is one for you:

    Mandisa – Esther – Born For This – music video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxFCber4TDo

  29. 29
    LarTanner says:

    KF (20), If you mean Habermas, those “minimal facts” are not facts, strictly speaking. A neutral observer will see it’s self-evident that his facts are actually beliefs or conclusions.

    I will not go through any of the twelve beliefs but rather will say that none of them undermines or is undermined by my approach, which agrees that the Jesus character in the Gospels derives from at least one actual human being and that the Jesus narrative derives from some events that really happened.

    There is a good deal of agreement in our positions.

    Sly and the Family Stone, “Thank You(Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”

  30. 30
    kairosfocus says:

    BA77, thanks. Indeed there comes a time and place for almost suicidal courage to stand. Which, is written into my name with martyr’s blood. And this past week we saw some ordinary people in an ordinary town hitherto only known for fly fishing having to stand peacefully, one by one, for the truth of the gospel in the face of demonic hate, at the cost of their lives. KF

  31. 31
    kairosfocus says:

    LT,

    you of course know or should know every one of those minimal facts comes from multiple primary eyewitness lifetime sources passed down in good chain of custody or repository. Indeed, the best we have from antiquity.

    In the main they are supported by opposition forces, and/or are notorious by impact on world history.

    There is no reasonable doubt that these twelve minimal facts of history have been scrutinised as none other, often in extremely hostile ways. And of course, summary historical facts, save as stated directly by eyewitnesses are always conclusions from investigations. That does not prevent them from being accurate facts.

    Here, facts to moral certainty.

    Not one of these facts in and of itself is a miracle claim, but they report the conviction of the apostles and other martyrs sealed with their blood at the hands of judicial or mob murder.

    A sealing that continues to this very day as I just had to note.

    Rather than face them and face why they are so plausibly so as historical facts of unequalled strength, you have tried to demote them to mere opinions and beliefs. Never mind that the list is actually based on a survey of the range of scholarship across a generation in something like 3,000 sources on scholarship, across the spectrum.

    Let me again clip my summary on inherent reasonableness:

    That a Messiah candidate was captured, tried and crucified — as Gamaliel hinted at — was effectively the death-knell for most such movements in Israel in the era of Roman control; to have to report such a fate was normally embarrassing and discrediting to the extreme in a shame-honour culture. The Jews of C1 Judaea wanted a victorious Greater David to defeat the Romans and usher in the day of ultimate triumph for Israel, not a crucified suffering servant. In the cases where a movement continued, the near relatives took up the mantle. That is facts 1 – 3 right there. Facts 10 – 12 are notorious. While some (it looks like about 25% of the survey of scholarship, from what I have seen) reject no 4, in fact it is hard to see a message about a resurrection in C1 that did not imply that the body was living again, as Wright discusses here. Facts 5 – 9 are again, pretty clearly grounded.

    So, the challenge is to explain this cluster or important subsets of it, without begging questions and without selective hyperskepticism. The old Deist objections (though sometimes renewed today) have deservedly fallen by the wayside.

    Let me add a summary from an eyewitness relative to the criterion of embarrassment and truthfulness with a rhetorically massively disadvantageous case c 55 AD:

    1 Cor 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

    18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

    20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach[b] to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    Not, a man from a palace or a great school, but a Carpenter from a village that provided labour to Sepphoris.

    A Jew, and even within Judaism, from a despised backwater, from a town that even within the Galilee was looked down on. (Never mind, obscurity was sought for protection from demonstrated murderous powers, that family of blood, the Herods.)

    An itinerant homeless preacher dependent on support from a circle of women.

    With a circle of ordinary men as close followers.

    Viewed as a threat and dealt with decisively: a potential rebel or trigger nailed by Rome and accursed to Israel as hanged on a tree.

    To the Greeks, in the main not even at the near threshold of the schools of the Rhetors much less the Stoics or Epicureans.

    That should have been the end of the story.

    But, as Morison highlights, it was not, making the why that was not so, a supremely challenging point. Even, before we get to the millions transformed across 2,000 years:

    [N]ow the peculiar thing . . . is that not only did [belief in Jesus’ resurrection as in part testified to by the empty tomb] spread to every member of the Party of Jesus of whom we have any trace, but they brought it to Jerusalem and carried it with inconceivable audacity into the most keenly intellectual centre of Judaea . . . and in the face of every impediment which a brilliant and highly organised camarilla could devise. And they won. Within twenty years the claim of these Galilean peasants had disrupted the Jewish Church and impressed itself upon every town on the Eastern littoral of the Mediterranean from Caesarea to Troas. In less than fifty years it had began to threaten the peace of the Roman Empire . . . .

    Why did it win? . . . .

    We have to account not only for the enthusiasm of its friends, but for the paralysis of its enemies and for the ever growing stream of new converts . . . When we remember what certain highly placed personages would almost certainly have given to have strangled this movement at its birth but could not – how one desperate expedient after another was adopted to silence the apostles, until that veritable bow of Ulysses, the Great Persecution, was tried and broke in pieces in their hands [the chief persecutor became the leading C1 Missionary/Apostle!] – we begin to realise that behind all these subterfuges and makeshifts there must have been a silent, unanswerable fact. [Who Moved the Stone, (Faber, 1971; nb. orig. pub. 1930), pp. 114 – 115.]

    Ironically, your attempted dismissal is a back-handed compliment to the strength of the case.

    And, to the explanatory gap between the historic Christian understanding and the next “best” attempt.

    Wheel an tun an come again . . .

    KF

    PS: The martyrs of Umpqua stand in witness against those who have for decades sown contempt, slander and utterly unjustified blanket hostility to Christians, setting up a climate of such polarisation and demonisation that the madman is now hearing voices of permission to murder on sight. For shame!

  32. 32
    kairosfocus says:

    LT:

    I draw your attention, this very week and this very day the anniversary of the Yom Kippur attack in 1973, that so nearly destroyed Israel when the Syrians broke through:

    Pliny the Younger was governor of Pontus/Bithynia from 111-113 AD. We have a whole set of exchanges of his letters with the emperor Trajan on a variety of administrative political matters. These two letters are the most famous, in which P. encounters Christianity for the first time.
    Pliny, Letters 10.96-97
    Pliny to the Emperor Trajan

    It is my practice, my lord, to refer to you all matters concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better give guidance to my hesitation or inform my ignorance? I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished.

    Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.

    Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ–none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do–these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshipped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.

    They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food–but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.

    I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded.
    Trajan to Pliny

    You observed proper procedure, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those who had been denounced to you as Christians. For it is not possible to lay down any general rule to serve as a kind of fixed standard. They are not to be sought out; if they are denounced and proved guilty, they are to be punished, with this reservation, that whoever denies that he is a Christian and really proves it–that is, by worshiping our gods–even though he was under suspicion in the past, shall obtain pardon through repentance. But anonymously posted accusations ought to have no place in any prosecution. For this is both a dangerous kind of precedent and out of keeping with the spirit of our age.

    The martyrs of Bithynia speak.

    KF

  33. 33
  34. 34
    Dionisio says:

    Interesting discussion.
    Thank you KF for the insightful OP, thank y’all for your comments.

  35. 35
    kairosfocus says:

    D,

    thanks.

    Notice, Pliny the Younger, c 112 AD:

    in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.

    Sounds far too closely familiar for comfort, 1900 years later.

    KF

  36. 36
    LarTanner says:

    KF (31 and 32):

    It simply, factually cannot be said that “every one of those minimal facts comes from multiple primary eyewitness lifetime sources passed down in good chain of custody or repository.”

    We do not have good enough warrant either for “eyewitness” or “good chain of custody,” which is not to say we have no warrant at all or nothing substantial to say. Bart Ehrman’s scholarly and popular work covers this ground, but then so does the entire field of biblical criticism

    In any case, onlookers can sort through Habermas and his “minimal facts” arguments for themselves. They can review Ehrman and other scholars of biblical texts and history.

    Song – It Don’t Matter to Me

  37. 37
    kairosfocus says:

    LT,

    there you go again asserting away the facts.

    I suggest that you start with the fact that we have four gospels, one with a vol 2 which has a lot of eyewitness testimony on the period 4 bc – 62 ad, plus several epistles with a lot of very early materials embedded.

    Where as already shown, a lot of the substance reported is exactly what someone in C1 – 2 making up stories would not do, utterly embarrass himself rhetorically again and again with both Jewish and Greco-Roman audiences . . . which is exactly the sort of thing that set up the pattern just seen where the Roman Governor of Bithynia did not know just how to try Christians but was confident that being such a suspect person and “obstinate” in the face of an order to desist from such a “superstition” from so august a person should cost you your life. An attitude that is already resurfacing. .

    The extra-biblical witnesses come later though some are within the window.

    Next, you have archaeological support, which lends considerable credibility to the sources.

    As Robinson said, there is no good reason to put the Gospels outside the eyewitness window, and the same can be said for the core Pauline deposit. And on chain of custody cf the timeline in the OP above.

    The early Christian deposit is collectively the best attested body of evidence of anything documentary from antiquity; it is only serious prejudice that has led many to think they can despise and dismiss it to the point of the fallacy of confident manner dismissal of the bare historicity of the world’s most famous carpenter.

    Once witnesses show themselves reasonably credible, there is no good reason that we cannot learn from them.

    And notice, the list of facts in view — recall, this is the majority to consensus view across relevant scholarship in the past generation, on methods outlined above — does not include any declaration of any supernatural event, though it leaves us the challenge to explain why the core C1 leaders were so convinced they surrendered life rather than deny what they believed to be truth known by being eyewitnesses.

    So, it is pretty plain that we are here dealing with selective hyperskepticism.

    Which is the point of the OP.

    KF

  38. 38
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: It should be clear enough what this issue of witness and record is showing on the epistemological questions connected to ID. We are dealing with an ilk not open to self-evident first principles of reason, starting with the import of distinct identity. We are dealing with those who will not respond reasonably to eyewitness testimony and credible record coming from exceptionally good chain and repository. We have no reason to be confident that such can be trusted with the reconstruction of a deep past of origins on inference to best explanation informed by traces of the past and observed credibly adequate causal factors. Indeed, such will predictably exert selectively hyperskeptical dismissals driven by a priori commitment to evolutionary materialist scientism dressed up in a lab coat or its fellow travellers. This is a part of the accelerating intellectual disintegration of our civilisation that frankly has me extremely pessimistic as marches of folly increasingly take over everywhere we care to look. KF

  39. 39
    LarTanner says:

    Thank you, KF.

    The neutral and interested observer can review from different scholarly sources when the four canonical gospels were written, where, by whom, and for what possible reasons. That observer can also assess whether the canonical gospels seem to have corroboration outside themselves for specific events.

    I cannot comment on your charge of my own “selective hyper-skepticism.” I agree that there probably was a historical Jesus. I have come to believe that there really might have been an historical figure behind King Arthur. I figure there was probably a real Buddha and a real Mohammed. I am not sure if there was a Homer. I think William Shakespeare was Shakespeare. I think Oswald killed Kennedy.

    It’s a strange and confusing world, my man. People and our stories don’t make it any less so.

  40. 40
    Andre says:

    And LarTanner knows that he can’t know…. Well how do you know that you can’t know?

  41. 41
    kairosfocus says:

    LT,

    Pardon but your hypothetical, neutral interested reviewer will first need to address issues such as this from c 55 AD:

    1 Cor 15:1 15 Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

    3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me . . . 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

    As in, the summary traceable to c 35 – 38 AD, of the testimony of the chief witnesses, this being recorded to a partly hostile audience with invite to check it out on grounds that the majority of the witnesses were alive at the time. Summary, paid for in the blood of the witnesses to the point that they re-wrote the meaning of the word for witness to mean witness sealed in the courage that surrenders to judicial or mob murder rather than falsely recant supremely important truth.

    Further to this, Lk-Ac is the historical backbone of NT studies and passes the test of multiple archaeological support in a context of showing habitual detailed accuracy.

    This two-volume work covers c 4 BC – 62 AD, is self consciously historical and somehow otherwise inexplicably does not go into the shortly following deaths of three principals and the epochal Jewish War from 66 AD though precursors are clearly evident 57 – 59 AD. This work clearly points to earlier oral and written sources and per analysis uses Mk as a major trusted source, dating that to likely 50 – 60 AD.

    Lk and MK, per embarrassment, as well as 1 Cor 15 almost go out of their way to make a case that rhetorically undermines the case save to one realising this is painful and inconvenient truth telling. And of course neither Mk nor Lk are Apostles, but there is no serious historic dispute to authorship: Mk records Peter’s report and Lk an associate of Paul records on commission a historical writeup. Which turns out to fit the times very well.

    The hostility of the “neutral onlookers I leave to this as a handy summary:

    Although Robinson was within the liberal theology tradition, he challenged the work of colleagues in the field of exegetical criticism. Specifically, Robinson examined the New Testament’s reliability, because he believed that very little original research had been completed in the field during the period between 1900 and the mid-1970s. Concluding his research, he wrote in his work, Redating the New Testament,[13] that past scholarship was based on a “tyranny of unexamined assumptions” and an “almost willful blindness”.

    Robinson concluded that much of the New Testament was written before AD 64, partly based on his judgement that there is little textual evidence that the New Testament reflects knowledge of the Temple’s AD 70 destruction. In relation to the four gospels’ dates of authorship, Robinson placed Matthew at 40 to after 60, Mark at about 45 to 60, Luke at before 57 to after 60, and John at from 40 to after 65.[14][15] Robinson also argued that the letter of James was penned by a brother of Jesus Christ within twenty years of Jesus’ death, that Paul authored all the books that bear his name, and that the apostle John wrote the fourth Gospel. Robinson also opined that because of his investigations, a rewriting of many theologies of the New Testament was in order.[16][17][18]

    C. H. Dodd, in a frank letter to Robinson wrote: “I should agree with you that much of the late dating is quite arbitrary, even wanton, the offspring not of any argument that can be presented, but rather of the critic’s prejudice that, if he appears to assent to the traditional position of the early church, he will be thought no better than a stick-in-the-mud.”[19]

    And even were the later dates that are now common, up to c 85 AD on the table that is still within eyewitness lifetime. Yes Jn may be 95 or so, as an end of life by the surviving member of the twelve. That is no problem, especially for one showing detailed knowledge of pre-66 – 70 Palestine.

    Not to mention, such dates are well within reach of competent reports and histories.

    The traceable chain from there on simply underscores the authenticity.

    Going beyond, this is all distractive from the focal dozen minimal facts, which are a summary of the barebones consensus of a generation of scholarship, after the rethinking that John Robinson is indicative of.

    Just for those who need it, I note the codex P52 c 125 AD from Egypt bookends the NT as C1, and the usage of 25 of the books by 96 – 115 by the first three writing Fathers as implicitly acknowledged scripture underscores the timeline in the OP.

    I clip the OP again, in context of the actual substantial account and its almost in your face the “un-rhetoric” unvarnished approach:

    That a Messiah candidate was captured, tried and crucified — as Gamaliel hinted at — was effectively the death-knell for most such movements in Israel in the era of Roman control; to have to report such a fate was normally embarrassing and discrediting to the extreme in a shame-honour culture. The Jews of C1 Judaea wanted a victorious Greater David to defeat the Romans and usher in the day of ultimate triumph for Israel, not a crucified suffering servant. In the cases where a movement continued, the near relatives took up the mantle. That is facts 1 – 3 right there. Facts 10 – 12 are notorious. While some (it looks like about 25% of the survey of scholarship, from what I have seen) reject no 4, in fact it is hard to see a message about a resurrection in C1 that did not imply that the body was living again, as Wright discusses here. Facts 5 – 9 are again, pretty clearly grounded.

    So, the challenge is to explain this cluster or important subsets of it, without begging questions and without selective hyperskepticism. The old Deist objections (though sometimes renewed today) have deservedly fallen by the wayside.

    And finally, I am speaking to a pattern that has become very evident in recent weeks, of an intransigence that starts with resisting even distinct identity and its immediate corollaries. Going on to the sort of trashing of history and record exemplified by Prof Dawkins as cited as exhibit no 1 in the OP, and continuing straight down the line.

    Something is deeply wrong, and selective hyperskepticism is as good a label as any.

    If anyone needs to know how pervasive and dangerous this is, just google “elevatorgate.”

    In short, I am saying, enough is enough.

    Remember, onlookers, I am not trying to “prove” Jesus’ resurrection or the like, I am laying down twelve general consent findings of fact across the spectrum of scholarship, on 3,000 works, and I am then inviting examination in light of reasonable principles of investigation.

    We need to rethink the attitude, skepticism is a virtue and instead seek to be reasonable, fair but careful and responsible, truth honouring thinkers.

    KF

  42. 42
    LarTanner says:

    KF (41),

    Following your lead, our neutral observer might want to explore this Paul character, and so would inevitably learn that there are many questions about the life of Paul that scholars have debated over the years.

    Among them:
    * Was Paul actually in Jerusalem studying under Gamaliel?
    * What was the “thorn in the flesh” of 2 Corinthians 12:7?
    * Are the reports of the meeting in Jerusalem told in Galatians 2:1-10 and Acts 15:6-29 reconcilable?
    * Was Paul actually a Roman citizen?
    * Could someone like Apollos actually be preaching Christianity without the Holy Spirit (as related in Acts 19:1-7)?
    * What does Paul mean in 1 Corinthians 4:21 when he threatens the Corinthians with a stick?
    * Why does Acts end where it does?

    Of course, none of these controversies necessarily casts doubt on the passage you cite, where Paul relates the history/teaching he received about Jesus’ post-death visits (which would have occurred some twenty or more years earlier in a land 1650 miles away).

    I don’t see exactly what you think I am being hyperskeptical about, selectively or otherwise.

    Would you be interested in sharing how you yourself have avoided selective hyperskepticism in your own thinking?

  43. 43
    Dionisio says:

    KF @35

    Sounds far too closely familiar for comfort, 1900 years later.

    Yes, it certainly does.

    Persecution Will Come

    “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

    “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

    [Matthew 10:16-25 (ESV)]

    Have No Fear

    “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

    [Matthew 10:26-33 (ESV)]

    Rev. 22:21

  44. 44
    kairosfocus says:

    LT:

    Isn’t it interesting that you are off on tangents?

    Doesn’t that tell us something significant?

    Of the list of Q’s, only one is fully relevant. And there is an obvious reason why Ac ends in 62 AD without the resolution of the hearing. It had not happened yet, inter alia suggesting that Lk-Ac served as defense briefs at least in draft form. Given the strong historical interest of the work, it is very hard to put up another reason why there is such a cut off.

    As J A T Robinson, in his re-evaluation, puts on the table.

    Beyond that I will simply say that there are good sources on Paul out there and that Ac 15 and Gal 2 need not refer to the same visits. Paul was obviously in Jerusalem many times across his life; two relevant ones in the 40’s being the famine relief visit in answer to a revelation and the more obviously public controversy resolving one in c 49 AD, following his first missionary tour; both while he was based on Antioch in Syria. And, once we have a reasonable source, we have an epistemic right to learn from it as teaching us history. As full well you know.

    A much more relevant question is how something so obviously un-rhetorical (positively embarrassing in fact with both Jews and Gentiles . . . that message of the cross thingie and more) and un-philosophical in C1 terms, was ever able to wax strong and prevail, especially when believing it could easily cost you your life.

    The answer Paul gives us later in 1 Cor 1 is this, which is to be understood in the context of events in Ac 17 and 18:

    1 Cor 1: 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
    Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

    18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

    20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

    21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach[b] to save those who believe.

    22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom [Philo + sophia = love of wisdom], 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

    25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,[c] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

    27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being[d] might boast in the presence of God.

    30 And because of him[e] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

    In short, the gospel message was utterly, embarrassingly cross-grained to the things that would be generally persuasive in that time and place, to the point that we see here irony laid on pretty thickly.

    There was an unanswerable manifestation of power, carried by the 500 eyewitnesses and inducing further manifestations of power (which continue to today) that transforms life and impacts people with the manifest hand of God to save, heal and deliver.

    He yet answers by FIRE.

    As Pascal so memorably noted in that private note on November 23 1654:

    “The Memorial”:

    The year of grace 1654
    Monday, 23 November, feast of Saint Clement, Pope and Martyr, and of others in the Martyrology.
    Eve of Saint Chrysogonus, Martyr and others.
    From about half past ten in the evening until half past midnight.

    Fire
    ‘God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,’ not of philosophers and scholars.
    Certainty, certainty, heartfelt, joy, peace.
    God of Jesus Christ.
    God of Jesus Christ.
    My God and your God.
    ‘Thy God shall be my God.’
    The world forgotten, and everything except God.
    He can only be found by the ways taught in the Gospels.
    Greatness of the human soul.
    ‘O righteous Father, the world had not known thee, but I have known thee.’
    Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
    I have cut myself off from him.
    They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters.
    ‘My God wilt thou forsake me?’
    Let me not be cut off from him for ever!
    And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.’
    Jesus Christ.
    Jesus Christ.
    I have cut myself off from him, shunned him, denied him, crucified him.
    Let me never be cut off from him!
    He can only be kept by the ways taught in the Gospel.
    Sweet and total renunciation.
    Total submission to Jesus Christ and my director.
    Everlasting joy in return for one day’s effort on earth.
    I will not forget thy word. Amen.

    He yet answers those who respond to the promptings of the Spirit, turning to the truth and the right.

    Yes, there is adequate, accessible evidence with in fact millions of the transformed across the ages and today.

    That is why, from the Apostles, martyrs and confessors of C1 to those of the Islamic State and Umpqua last week, there have been so many unwilling to live a lie merely to save for the moment what they cannot keep in the end; who have gained what they cannot lose.

    Yes, that is the voice of Jim Elliot, martyr missionary to the Auca tribe.

    And in that context, the C1 record and surrounding information bring us face to face with the force of those twelve minimal findings of fact that have come to the fore across the past generation. Across the spectrum of scholarship.

    KF

  45. 45
    kairosfocus says:

    Dionisio, named after him who took up the torch of the gospel in Athens, yes and yes again. And most telling, most shamefully revealing, is the insistence on pushing the martyrdom of C21 to the back-burner in a context where the very same media and spokesmen would have been so vocal had the course of events fit their favoured narratives and agendas. This is yet another warning-sign of our times. Let it be said, clear and loud: I am a Christian. KF

  46. 46
    Dionisio says:

    #43 addendum

    For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. [1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV)]

    perishing . . . being saved.

    According to the Bible there will be two types of response to the gospel arising from God’s elective purpose (Is. 6:9, 10; Luke 2:34; Rom. 9:10–12; 2 Cor. 2:15, 16).

    This truth does not make God responsible for the perishing of unbelievers; they perish because of their own sin and stubborn impenitence.

    Those who believe and are saved, on the other hand, are “those who are called” (v. 24; Rom. 9:16).

    [Reformation Study Bible provided by Ligonier Ministries]

  47. 47
    kairosfocus says:

    Dionisio,

    Here is Jn 3:

    Jn 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

    . . . and Eph 4:

    Eph 4: 17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.

    18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

    20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,[f] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

    25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

    That is the Spirit and Voice we respond to.

    KF

  48. 48
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: To get study resources on passage search at Bible Gateway, click the blue “Study This” button; which will bring up a library of resources including the Reformation Study Bible favoured by Dionisio. KF

  49. 49
    Dionisio says:

    KF @45

    Well stated. Thank you.

    It’s past 6am here. Autumn season. Yesterday 14C through the day. Temps drop at night.

    As you have mentioned in your comments, this area of the world witnessed historical events in the first half of the 20th century, that speak volumes on the destructive capacity of humans that follow their own sinful hearts, regardless of their alleged ‘civilization’ / education level.

    But we humans don’t learn from history lessons, hence we naturally tend to forget and repeat mistakes.

    There’s only one source of true wisdom. Everything else is fake. But we humans naturally look for ‘wisdom’ in the wrong places.

    Remain in the Word.

    Rev. 22:21

  50. 50
    Dionisio says:

    KF @ 47

    Yes. Thank you.

  51. 51
  52. 52
  53. 53
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N2: Aaron Blake on the minimal facts approach:

    . . . it is important to identify a set of objective criteria by which the validity of historical events may be judged. In other words, what criteria may be used to establish the occurrence of an event with reasonable historical certainty? New Testament scholars Gary Habermas and Michael Licona list the following five criteria noting that “a historian who is able to apply one or more of the following principles to a text can conclude with much greater confidence whether a certain event occurred.”[10]

    1] Historical claims are strong when supported by multiple, independent sources.

    2] Historical claims which are also attested to by enemies are more likely to be authentic since enemies are unsympathetic, and often hostile, witnesses.

    3] Historical claims which include embarrassing admissions reflect honest reporting rather than creative storytelling.

    4] Historical claims are strong when supported by eyewitness testimony.

    5] Historical claims which are supported by early testimony are more reliable and less likely to be the result of legendary development.[11]

    Therefore, when inquiring into a historical event “the historian combs through the data, considers all the possibilities, and seeks to determine which scenario best explains the data.”[12]

    Some skeptics argue that the resurrection of Jesus cannot be investigated historically. But this is mistaken. The facts surrounding the resurrection are of a historical nature and available for anyone to examine. Consequently, “the meaning of the resurrection is a theological matter, but the fact of the resurrection is a historical matter.”[13] Thus either the bodily resurrection of Jesus actually occurred in history or it did not. Either the resurrection is the best explanation for the known historical data or it is not. Regardless, what we cannot do is simply dismiss it as “supernatural” or “miraculous” in an attempt to remove it from the pool of live options a priori. Moreover, we need to be careful not to confuse “the evidence for the resurrection with the best explanation of the evidence. The resurrection of Jesus is a miraculous explanation of the evidence. But the evidence itself is not miraculous. None of these four facts is any way supernatural or inaccessible to the historian.”[14] So although the resurrection may be classified as a “miraculous event,” it is a historical event nonetheless and should be investigated as such. John Warwick Montgomery provides helpful insight:

    The only way we can know whether an event can occur is to see whether in fact it has occurred. The problem of “miracles,” then, must be solved in the realm of historical investigation, not in the realm of philosophical speculation. And note that a historian, in facing an alleged “miracle,” is really facing nothing new. All historical events are unique, and the test of their factual character can be only the accepted documentary approach that we have followed here. No historian has the right to a closed system of natural causation….”[15]

    Therefore, whether or not Jesus rose from the dead is really quite straightforward: “If Jesus was dead at point A, and alive again at point B, then resurrection has occurred: res ipsa loquitur.”[16]

    The point is, we are not dealing with a simplistic polling of opinions, but with evaluation of sources, claims and contexts which render particular claims credible. In that context the weight of informed opinion across the past generation across the spectrum, on 3,000 works in the literature, is significant.

    Where, as highlighted the claims in fact are not hard to justify.

    Nor does any one of the claims actually entail the occurrence of the miraculous. The closest is the report that the early Christians believed they had encounters (of various kinds) with the risen Jesus.

    I doubt that in this day any serious and reasonable person would argue deliberate fraud by the disciples.

    From these, the tabulation in the OP is on the table as of right not grudging sufferance.

    KF

  54. 54
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: An example of bias and question-begging in objecting to the minimal facts approach, is this:

    Knocking Out the Pillars of the “Minimal Facts” Apologetic
    Posted on June 29, 2013 by adversusapologetica

    When investigating virtually every other past event outside of the origins of Christianity, professional historians recognize that ancient texts — both Pagan and Christian — are incapable of proving paranormal claims about the past. This is due to no special bias against the supernatural, as I explain in my article “History and the Paranormal,” but would apply equally to natural paranormal claims, such alien abductions, sasquatch sightings, and so on . . .

    Sounds oh, so reasonable.

    Until you first realise that the method as applied to the historicity of Jesus and of his passion linked to the birth of the church STRICTLY DOES NOT ADDRESS ANY “PARANORMAL” PHENOMENA . . . which is in reality a euphemism for what is really at work, antisupernaturalist prejudice imposed.

    Let us start with a possible apelike creature in North America or elsewhere.

    Patently, eyewitnesses of reasonable credibility in multiple documents who are truthful even when embarrassed etc, and are supported by their enemies would be entirely reasonable as testifying to having seen an apelike creature. And that such a creature may not be photographed or in captivity or shot and stuffed to put up in a museum does not suffice to dismiss the veracity of such record or to lock it out of the history books on an arbitrary rule.

    It is possible in the abstract that some unknown mass hallucination has acted, maybe even a holographic projection by aliens.

    But on the principle of reasonable explanation, there is no requirement that records of such an ape be excluded from history as “paranormal.”

    Now compare the case in view in the OP.

    The existence of a carpenter-itinerant preacher getting into trouble and being executed on political convenience is very plausible.

    Likewise, that acquaintances can be involved with the miscarriage of justice in various embarrassing ways, after a common supper. And, that they would then witness death and burial is not a problem.

    The real problem is that over the next six weeks, the same circle encountered an empty tomb, which they thought meant the authorities would not allow the dignity of decent burial. They then find under various circumstances that the same authorities are blaming them for grave robbing. But also to their amazement the same well known individual meets with them.

    Ability of dozens of people to see and recognise someone they know at supper, breakfast etc is not in general doubt.

    Nor is it in doubt that one can tell a time sequence.

    Those are the facts being reported.

    The miracles issue lieth not in the twelve facts but their import in light of timeline.

    Which then leads to the second tier issue of how does such come to be, thus the tabulation above.

    But there is no justification in this for the now expected lockout dismissal game.

    KF

  55. 55
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N 2:

    A linked objection is in effect how dare you set aside our objection that since these biased Christians talk about miracles we can sweep away their whole tale as fairy tales.

    This one fails to reckon with the circumstance that descriptions of claimed supernatural events are common in ancient texts, so if consistently applied, poof to ancient history.

    More to the point, we can generally check that a source is a reasonable report that needs not be even near perfect to be useful. In that context, the sort of criteria laid out multiplied by the emergence of a consensus on findings of fact as seen, will give us a good bare bones picture.

    Where of course any reasonably informed reading of the NT in the context of the success of the church with an almost spectacularly embarrassing message, and the astonishingly patent sincerity of the early witnesses, further multiplied by archaeological cross checks etc will see that we have a reasonable base of record in hand.

    The minimal facts then practically fall out.

    Carpenter from ultimate obscurity, check.

    Got into trouble with local and colonial authorities leading to execution to nip potential or actual rebellion in the bud, check.

    Hanged on a tree, accursed, check.

    Crucified nobody from nowhere, without any real participation in the philosophical trends, you little spermologos, check.

    Followers run for their lives, leaving women to support burial duties and complete them, check.

    Women, your first witnesses — as in, old wives hysterical tales, check.

    With the exception of a turncoat, nobodies with no chits from the right schools and masters, check.

    Cutting across general religious expectations by the experts, check.

    Scum of the earth from backwaters, check.

    And so forth, check.

    The only basis for success is, they were utterly convinced and inspired to rise far above themselves, rooted in an utterly unyielding conviction that they had met, talked with, ate with, had breakfast cooked by their Lord, AFTER his death by crucifixion.

    There are two serious alternatives: unparalleled, inexplicable hallucination, or they really were witnesses of truth able to demonstrate that truth with power.

    And that becomes so challenging that at almost any price, it must be locked out.

    Which readily explains what we see above.

    KF

  56. 56
    LarTanner says:

    KF (44),

    I was inadvertently delayed in my ability to respond. Important matters of state, you know.

    I did not intend to go off on a tangent; rather, I thought to be building on the point you had made earlier.

    But let’s go back to 1 Cor 15:1-ff. You view these verses as “the summary traceable to c 35 – 38 AD, of the testimony of the chief witnesses, this being recorded to a partly hostile audience with invite to check it out on grounds that the majority of the witnesses were alive at the time.”

    I mainly agree. The verses do summarize “the gospel I preached to you, which you received.” That is, they summarize the story Paul told his audience before.

    Where did Paul get the story? He says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received.” So, it seems, Paul himself was not a direct participant in the story (excepting, of course, his report of having himself been visited by an appearance of Jesus).

    So, Paul relays a mostly previously relayed story. We can agree on this, right? We can also agree that the main events of the story happened 20-plus years before in a place over 1,500 miles away. Yes?

    These are basic, unvarnished facts. We both know there are additional facts and additional considerations and nuances. We can talk about these additional facts straightaway, but let’s put those aside for a moment and please agree that Paul did not himself see but was taught “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time.”

    If you can, now please do me the courtesy of answering this straightforward question. If an elderly person comes and tells you the story of Josh, who 20 years ago was witnessed to have shot fire directly out of his eyes, what is your default level of credulity? The person did not witness the strange event himself, but it was done in front of a crowd, many of whom are still alive, though they all live far away.

    Again, what is the proper level of default credulity for this story?

    Now, I’d like to think the best of you, that you’ll give me a genuine and direct answer and not launch into a screed about Paul’s history prior to 1 Cor 15, the blood of the martyrs, and all the eyewitnesses that Paul knew. I understand all that and I am OK hearing you out on it, but I think the first, important thing is to gain our agreement on something. On anything.

    It’s not a game or trick. If you don’t want to humor me, that’s fine and I understand. I have better things to do, too. But I will make the effort to help you experience the way I read and hear some of the same facts as you, yet arrive at different conclusions.

    Perhaps I am hyperskeptical, and selectively so. But the way to find and and to correct for it is to work incrementally, separating out facts on the ground from the interpretations we give those facts.

  57. 57
    kairosfocus says:

    LT,

    First, you resort to projecting to me what I summarise. The timeline on the creedal testimony with “Kepha” as first official witness is widely understood to be of the epoch 35 – 38 AD on the NT timeline, for good cause. The reference to Peter in Aramaic (the original language of the nickname of Simon bar Jonah) should give a clue as by the 40’s – 50’s, Greek-language Jews and gentiles began to shift the language balance.

    Paul, secondly is not merely relying on a relayed story, with hints of “bush telegraph” games lurking.

    We have an oral tradition culture in which the passage of core teachings from master to apprentice is pivotal, and this is precisely that. A structured, formal summary of the facts underwritten by the 500, with about 20 being directly or implicitly identified. And, in a controversial context, Paul’s appeal is, if you doubt me check them out as most are still alive. Itself a further clue on dating, as the next decade would see the Jewish war and the Roman false accusation of treasonous arson against the state and would sweep many off the table. By two generations on, it would be an assumption that obstinate Christians deserved torture and death, as we saw with Bythinia.

    Your oh, it’s 1500 miles away ignores a pivotal cluster of facts.

    Paul writes to Corinth on the Isthmus where ships were routinely dragged to cut journeys short from Egypt and the Levant, to Italy and Rome. And in any case a switch of ship would be convenient. With of course the road network built for the Legions also. In short, given the wheat trade from Egypt and the general commerce, Corinth was close to Alexandria and the Levant in sailing time. With a LOT of routine traffic back and forth. Indeed, Ac 27 gives us a very important case in point on that trade and its challenges with winds and seasons.

    So, you have caricatured the facts to your hoped for rhetorical advantage, refusing to face the weight of analysis that lies behind it.

    Next, you put up a strawman tactic tale that twists the entire category of the report.

    A far better comparison is that starting July 18, 1995 (yes, fire of Rome anniversary) the people of Montserrat began to hear strange jet plane noises, and that evening we heard of eruptions of the mountain. The next two years totally disrupted our history, and many of us have extremely vivid memories of a nightmarish period in our history. Some few of us have written, often in passionate concern for our native or adoptive homeland. In this context many people, often of little formal education, have their stories to tell. But in the midst of all this, where we have radio programs where an older generation recounts life in a buried town, talking of homes, shops, schools, offices etc that are now vanished under ash and lahars, a new generation is growing up that can only access those vanished days orally, with some writings by obviously biased people.

    But, you say, that’s not supernatural.

    Precisely, your fictional Josh has fire spewing from his eyes.

    The apostles, women of the company and others of the 500 talk to us about ritual suppers, betrayals, judicial murder through dirty politics and rent a crowd. They tell of Kepha trying the Judas Maccabeus game, ineptly — he tried to strike off a head, but the man ducked so only an ear came off, only to be rebuked. Screwed up courage vanishes and men flee. The young man whose house hosted the ritual supper ran naked into the night after the arresting party tried to grab him.

    Judicial torture and murder follow, and a few take the courage to honour yet another murdered prophet.

    The following Sunday morning, the women who had stood by the stauros, made a journey to try to complete the burial, only to find an empty tomb. They assume the officials took the body and pathetically try to get it back.

    Across that day, various acquaintances meet with, eat with, converse with a dearly loved friend and brother or son. This continues for weeks.

    The difference is, this is the man who had been crucified.

    He instructs them to carry his teachings to the world.

    Which for the next thirty years, they do.

    Transforming the world.

    2,000 years later, with the movement they founded a dominant influence on history, with records in excess of anything else from antiquity, with a large and growing body of findings, and more, scholarship across the spectrum has converged on a dozen or so findings of fact that pass the criteria for high credibility.

    The issue is, what reasonably explains such, why.

    And it is highly revealing that, rather than face that, every attempt is made to dismiss the summary of what, 3,000 works across the spectrum. Starting with the sort of breezy dismissal of the historicity of the world’s most famous carpenter that I headlined in the OP.

    In that context your personality-laced insinuations about “screeds” etc only further tell me that you are desperate for the minimal facts of the scholarship over the past 40 years to be swept off the table, unexamined but dismissed as if they were a mere internet rant.

    That sort of rhetorical tactic speaks volumes.

    Here is my answer: your Josh story — itself in context a mocking caricature of the Greek form, Jesus — is a strawman caricature that simply does not address sober criteria of evidence, testimony, report and faithfully transmitted record bought with blood and tears.

    It bespeaks an underlying hostile mindset that is ill-becoming less than a week after Christians, one by one, were shot on confession in an English class from hell in Umpqua, Oregon.

    I think you need to rethink approach and attitude in light of what the madmen are distilling out of the atmosphere that is being cultivated.

    KF

  58. 58
    LarTanner says:

    KF (57),

    First let’s get explicit agreement on the facts, then we can build the analysis to whatever weight you like. You kinda sorta seem to assent to the facts, but also want to add in caveats and nuances. I ask that we hold the caveats and nuances to the end, but please know that I take them as seriously as you.

    Let’s walk through the facts again. If any of these are incorrect, please say so.

    True or false – Paul personally witnessed the death of Jesus? False.

    True or false – Paul personally witnessed the burial of Jesus? False.

    True or false – Paul personally witnessed that Jesus was raised on the third day? False.

    True or false – Paul personally witnessed the appearance of the risen Jesus to Cephas? False.

    True or false – Paul personally witnessed the appearance of the risen Jesus to the twelve? False.

    True or false – Paul personally witnessed the appearance of the risen Jesus to more than five hundred brothers at one time? False.

    True or false – Paul personally witnessed the appearance of the risen Jesus to James? False.

    True or false – Paul personally witnessed the appearance of the risen Jesus to all the apostles? False.

    True or false (I use a 30 CE date for the death of Jesus) – the events itemized above all occur roughly 15-20+ years before the moment when Paul is writing? True.

    True or false – Corinth and Jerusalem are roughly 1500+ miles apart, about the distance from Boston to Dallas in the U.S.? True.

    Your points on the names/language and oral transmission are important, and we can only fully appreciate them in context of the facts.

    But you and I are really discussing whether we have good reason to believe — through Paul — that Jesus was resurrected to life after having been dead-dead for at least 25 hours.

    Surely, such a resurrection is more fantastical than fire spewing from the eyes of someone named “Josh.” Joshua, as you know, is the Anglicized form of the Hebrew name that relatives and friends might have used for your Jesus.

    Yet the point is not mockery or hostility but rather honest examination of whether we can or cannot reasonably believe the substance of a story.

    Now, let’s parse out this bit:

    We have an oral tradition culture in which the passage of core teachings from master to apprentice is pivotal, and this is precisely that. A structured, formal summary of the facts underwritten by the 500, with about 20 being directly or implicitly identified. And, in a controversial context, Paul’s appeal is, if you doubt me check them out as most are still alive. Itself a further clue on dating, as the next decade would see the Jewish war and the Roman false accusation of treasonous arson against the state and would sweep many off the table. By two generations on, it would be an assumption that obstinate Christians deserved torture and death, as we saw with Bythinia.

    (1) “We have an oral tradition culture in which the passage of core teachings from master to apprentice is pivotal, and this is precisely that.”

    I agree. It’s also why it’s so pivotal that Paul puts himself last in the chain of personal appearances. Do you agree that the appearance of Jesus to Paul gives authority to Paul’s ministry?

    (2) “A structured, formal summary of the facts underwritten by the 500, with about 20 being directly or implicitly identified. And, in a controversial context, Paul’s appeal is, if you doubt me check them out as most are still alive.”

    Again, I agree. This is a strong rhetorical tactic. I have always wondered whether any of the doubters made the trip over to Jerusalem, found the address of one of the 500, knocked on the door, and verified the events of ca. 30 CE.

    (3) “Itself a further clue on dating, as the next decade would see the Jewish war and the Roman false accusation of treasonous arson against the state and would sweep many off the table. By two generations on, it would be an assumption that obstinate Christians deserved torture and death, as we saw with Bythinia.”

    Again, we are comrades together in despising the use of state power to marginalize and kill minority religions and groups. You and I both know the pattern has been repeated far too often in the centuries before and after Paul. The martyrs are everywhere.

    But let me close by suggesting we get back to the point, which concerns how much we get to believe an otherwise impossible story, especially when that story comes to us second-hand. So, to me Paul doesn’t present a good enough reason to believe seriously that dead Jesus became living Jesus again. We’re talking a limited case, however, and now is the time to try and fortify the case around Paul or else to move to a different source and suggest that this one offers a more direct and solid set of reasons to accept that the resurrection indeed happened.

  59. 59
    kairosfocus says:

    LT,

    Before anything else, I think I need to say a few words: you are still missing a very important current context to the point that tin ear comes to mind.

    I suggest to you that you do some rethinking in light of the impact of what has happened in Umpqua and the media backburner game given the climate of hostility that has been cultivated and enabled for years.

    Ponder what would by contrast be happening were it to have been a mass killing of, say, Muslims.

    There are times when there are serious warning signs.

    And this is one of those.

    The time for snide skeptical rhetorical games as usual and for belittling, denigrating, demonising, stereotyping and scapegoating Christians as ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked is over, LT.

    Innocent blood, wickedly shed, cries up from the ground against a civilisation hell-bent on a march of folly.

    And the innocent blood of Umpqua brings to mind the blood of 58 million and counting unborn, with targetting of those who dare object.

    Not to mention the many hundreds of millions globally.

    Bloodguilt and enabling of bloodguilt are heart hardening and mind/conscience benumbing.

    KF

    PS: On minimal facts, you are still going off on tangents to set up and knock over strawmen.

    Paul’s relevance FYI, is that he documents as one of the leadership circles of the movement, the official summary dating to the mid 30’s, indeed IIRC Gerd Ludemann (a noted skeptic) would put it to early 30’s and the obvious provenance is Jerusalem, where the events happened. Paul notes using the sort of terms a Rabbi would, that this is creedal deposit of core testimony.

    In addition, writing to opponents, he invites, come talk to the 500, most of whom are still alive, and who are saying this exact same summary I am giving you.

    This is record, in a context of other record, 20 years from the event, with the witnesses a simple sail away. Where the other record makes it plain that Paul speaks truthfully.

    Your second it’s bush telegraph hear-so fails.

    Fails in a way that is revelatory on the deep-rooted hostility to something that is simple. Such a history of such a movement begs for adequate explanation. And on the tabulation in the OP above, there are two reasonably serious explanations: unparalleled and inexplicable hallucinations, or witness of truth. Witness sealed with steadfastness to death in the face of dungeon, fire, sword and worse.

    Further to this, here, from the OP, are the actual consensus findings of facts on criteria as outlined, as listed from the survey of 3,000 across the spectrum of scholarship:

    1. Jesus died by crucifixion [–> which implies his historicity!].

    2. He was buried.

    3. His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.

    4. The tomb was empty (the most contested).

    5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus (the most important proof).

    6. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers.

    7. The resurrection was the central message.

    8. They preached the message of Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem.

    9. The Church was born and grew.

    10. Orthodox Jews who believed in Christ made Sunday their primary day of worship.

    11. James was converted to the faith when he saw the resurrected Jesus (James was a family skeptic).

    12. Paul was converted to the faith (Paul was an outsider skeptic).

    I think you will readily see why I noted on these:

    The list of facts is in some respects fairly obvious.

    That a Messiah candidate was captured, tried and crucified — as Gamaliel hinted at — was effectively the death-knell for most such movements in Israel in the era of Roman control; to have to report such a fate was normally embarrassing and discrediting to the extreme in a shame-honour culture. The Jews of C1 Judaea wanted a victorious Greater David to defeat the Romans and usher in the day of ultimate triumph for Israel, not a crucified suffering servant. In the cases where a movement continued, the near relatives took up the mantle. That is facts 1 – 3 right there. Facts 10 – 12 are notorious. While some (it looks like about 25% of the survey of scholarship, from what I have seen) reject no 4, in fact it is hard to see a message about a resurrection in C1 that did not imply that the body was living again, as Wright discusses here. Facts 5 – 9 are again, pretty clearly grounded.

    So, the challenge is to explain this cluster or important subsets of it, without begging questions and without selective hyperskepticism. The old Deist objections (though sometimes renewed today) have deservedly fallen by the wayside.

    That these are consensus facts as found credible by scholarship is utterly unsurprising.

    The big challenge is to make sense of them, especially when we know that a message pivoting on such was so utterly rhetorically unappealing, indeed liable only to excite dismissal.

    There is a missing factor X here to account for the unstoppable power of the church and the conversion of a chief opponent, that needs to be put forth.

    Nor, can this be left on the back burner, not with innocent blood again crying up from the ground and being brushed aside.

  60. 60
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Your refusal to acknowledge that Corinth and Judaea were along a frequently travelled sea route from Egypt to Italy [there was an entire Department seeing to the wheat for the Bread part of bread and circuses], posting an out of context distance measure, despite correction, speaks volumes. Ships on that route routinely carried up to hundreds of passengers.

    PPPS: BTW, you have likely confused km and miles, rounding up. As the bombing missions of WW2 across the Mediterranean will support, Tel Aviv to Athens is about 750 miles. That’s about the distance from Jamaica to Antigua, or the length of Cuba, comparable to from London to the North of Scotland. Of course the sea route up the Levant then across would be longer, maybe 3 + 4:5 in ratio or thereabouts.

  61. 61
    Dionisio says:

    KF

    Thank you for the Peggy Noonan’s article.

  62. 62
    kairosfocus says:

    D, glad to point out that article, real food for thought. KF

  63. 63
    kairosfocus says:

    NB: Some cleanups, highlighting and a note or two in the OP.

  64. 64
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Minimal Facts Summary 2-pp infographic: http://livebooklet.com/userFil.....GzaZoA.pdf . . . note, the issue is that the findings of fact in question meet criteria as already shown such that it leads the spectrum of scholarship on the whole to accept the facts. I put this up as it helps focus the approach and it helps us recognise that after several days there has been very little engagement of what is actually on the table by objectors. KF

  65. 65
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N2: But isn’t a handed down record or oral tradition mere hearsay that can be dismissed without further consideration? Not when the source in question is a matter of credible source that is recorded in reasonable eyewitness time on a matter that was open to eyewitness correction. More broadly, history can be passed down in communities and/or families with good fidelity for generations, as can be seen from the passing down of key stories. In the context of oral tradition cultures sacred tradition in astonishing amounts is passed down routinely, e.g. the griot of W Africa, and more directly the oral teachings of Rabbis. In the case of 1 Cor 15:1 – 11, we have sacred tradition summarising the core witness, naming or identifying about 20 key witnesses among a circle of 500, and within 25 or so years of the event while most of the witnesses were still alive. That the objections above were reduced to suggesting that Corinth and Jerusalem were an exaggerated distance apart [~ 750 mi not 1500] and ignoring the implications of the Imperial wheat trade route up the Levant past Anatolia and near to Corinth, speaks volumes. As, does the point that Paul was in fact summarising a point of consensus to reply to a controversy that appealed to typical Greek thought (denial of resurrection of the dead), and did so by saying in effect go to the originals. Where also we have further early record c 50 – 65 AD on the actual teachings of the early church, backed up by the clear fact that it grew and spread from Jerusalem, by 64 AD being in Rome in sufficient force for Nero to pounce on Christians to divert suspicion on the reason for the fire in Rome of 64 AD. Bring on board the degree to which the report we have is utterly embarrassing to Christians and the principals, setting up the sorts of barriers to acceptance in that time that made arguing the case obviously uphill. KF

  66. 66
    LarTanner says:

    KF (59),

    Of course I am aware of the current context. I know as you do that the Oregon shooter was asking people what religion they were before he shot them.

    I am also aware, as you are, that atheists are being harassed and gunned down. See Saudi Arabia, for recent example. And atheists are notably unwelcome in American political office.

    The struggle to live according to one’s genuine beliefs and the real, physical dangers of doing so are apparent everywhere. The blood of atheists is as red as that of Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and so on.

    This is precisely why we must talk openly about beliefs, and facts, and evidence, and conclusions.

    I quote your words:

    Paul’s relevance FYI, is that he documents as one of the leadership circles of the movement, the official summary dating to the mid 30’s, indeed IIRC Gerd Ludemann (a noted skeptic) would put it to early 30’s and the obvious provenance is Jerusalem, where the events happened. Paul notes using the sort of terms a Rabbi would, that this is creedal deposit of core testimony.

    That’s fine. Paul’s summary is the “official” (whatever that means) story of the movement. I accept this, as well as the dating, as well as Paul’s adoption of rabbinic language.

    I have not disputed or challenged any of this.

    Then you say:

    In addition, writing to opponents, he invites, come talk to the 500, most of whom are still alive, and who are saying this exact same summary I am giving you.

    This is record, in a context of other record, 20 years from the event, with the witnesses a simple sail away. Where the other record makes it plain that Paul speaks truthfully.

    Again, this is fine. Yes, he tells folks that they can take a “simple” sail back to Jerusalem (you give approx. 750 miles in comment 60; I have about an 800 mile journey as the crow flies; my 1500 miles was a land-only route) and somehow find one of the 500, however many still live after 20 years from the event in question.

    Skipping a bit, you next say this:

    Such a history of such a movement begs for adequate explanation. And on the tabulation in the OP above, there are two reasonably serious explanations: unparalleled and inexplicable hallucinations, or witness of truth. Witness sealed with steadfastness to death in the face of dungeon, fire, sword and worse.

    Really, you think these are the only two serious explanations?

    A few thumbnail anecdotes:
    (1) I once attended an Alpha Course with my wife. Alpha Course is a Christian program where they try to bring in people who are not sure of Christianity and get them into the church. This program went on for many weeks, but the big event was an overnight weekend where everyone would get to interact with the “holy spirit.” People were genuinely moved and really believed some supernatural force had communed with them. But what actually happened was a choreographed and charged set of discussions, prayers and one-on-one fervency. It was a lot of showmanship and getting folks emotionally worked up. A lot of being very friendly and positive and personal. Some people’s lives were changed, but they were changed by other people and by an emotional catharsis. I know you and BA77 like the songs; I thought thy had an interesting eroticism–all this appeal to Jesus to “fill” them!
    (2) As an undergraduate, I worked for the Consumer Protection Division in Massachusetts. Part of my role was to go after con-men who would prey on people by starting some construction work and then skipping town, or piling on other charges, and so on. I found that con-artists get aggressive when challenged. “If you don’t believe me,” they would say, “go talk to so-and-so.” Or they would try other tactics–anything to deflect your scrutiny then an there in the moment. They sure sounded convincing; most people who challenge a con-artist won’t actually bother to go as so-and-so.
    (3) When I was a graduate student studying Anglo-Saxon England, I enjoyed learning about oral cultures and how oral transmission worked. What was interesting, though not really surprising, was they way the oral tellers would work within the constraints of a narrative, yet find ways to alter and invent: they introduced elements or shaded others just enough to fit rhetorically and to put a personal stamp on a received narrative.

    Back to your post (59).The main question to ask right now is whether Paul is a credible source for the Jesus story. I have already said I accept the historicity of some real “Jesus,” so you need not worry about that. The question is Paul’s credibility as it relates specifically to the Jesus story, especially the resurrection.

    Clearly, Paul’s statement goes only as far as the very earliest Christian believers. Paul can be credible as to what the first Christians believed and taught; he cannot be a source as to what Jesus actually did, said, or taught. Paul did not know Jesus and did not see what happened or didn’t happen to him. Paul’s devotion to Jesus came from other people, which is certainly no slight against Paul.

    So, we can both now agree that whatever the facts are about the historical Jesus(es), Paul is not actually a source for them. At best, Paul is a source for the earliest Christian believers and the teachings they gave and received. There is a barrier between Jesus and Paul that is impassable.

    Do you have anything else? Besides, I mean the “power of the church,” histrionics on “bloodguilt,” and fourth-rate apologists?

  67. 67
    kairosfocus says:

    LT, right off you are trying to dilute and oh it’s happening to others elsewhere and atheists are unwelcome in political office. Have you no sense of proportion? Perhaps, it has not dawned on you that for many years now, the most persecuted and murdered faith-group has been the Christian one. First under the communists, now the Islamists and secularists. The cultivation of a drumbeat of hostility and climate of growing anti-Christian bigotry, stereotyping and scapegoating in our civilisation, leading up to a case where people, one by one in a classroom were asked to confess their Christian belief then shot through the head, then the back-burnering of this by major media — the NYT censoring out an inconvenient detail is telling, harking back to the Ukraine in the 1930’s — is a loud warning bell. That pattern drastically changes the context of discussion and the ugly significance of the longstanding agenda to pretend and project that Bible-believing Christians are ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked. Such words and agitprop agendas — easily visible all over Youtube etc — have now borne grim fruit, only to be treated as though nothing significant, epochal even, has happened. Not good enough by a long shot. To make the point, take note, I will never greet an expressed concern of the 6 million Jews murdered by Hitler and co, with, oh, others have also been murdered for their faith etc. Yes, I will point out that 5 million others, including 2 million Polish Christians were murdered in the same ambit and 25 million Russians died, but that is only to further say Hitler et al were misanthropes. The refusal to publicly acknowledge and turn from that sort of hate-stirring smear speaks, and it changes the entire context of discussion. This is watershed, and you had better realise it. KF

  68. 68
    kairosfocus says:

    LT,

    I first needed to point out how the context has changed, decisively.

    Blood is on the ground, Christian martyrs’ blood.

    Innocent blood crying up from the ground.

    Understand that.

    Next, I need to point out to you that you are participating in a side that has already in recent weeks again underscored that it is resistant to and dismissive of the significance of distinct identity and its corollaries, first principles of right reason that are self-evident.

    Indeed, of self evident truth; including moral ones.

    That does not bespeak a side that is intellectually and morally responsible.

    So, I simply note for the onlooker that the C1 report and findings of a generation of scholarship on principles of credibility as already noted, regarding the historicity of Jesus on records, is already summed up.

    It has very little to do with what your distractive rhetoric suggests by way of trying to discredit Paul reporting c 55 AD on the official summary testimony of the 500 and inviting by implication those who challenged him to simply go check the witnesses; most then being alive. And, I again note, we are talking here of places on a major sea trade route, about 750 miles apart (not the 1500 you tried to suggest by way of insinuating that check them out was infeasible.)

    As for Paul, he actually is a witness, in two distinct senses.

    First, he was the former sword of the Sanhedrin, so would have known the counter arguments to the Christians and the evidence used to persuade opponents to dismiss the Christian case. His conversion is thus a highly significant mark of credibility, why it is one of the twelve findings of fact of note.

    Likewise the spreading of the Church in the teeth of determined objectors and opponents, on a message that is rife with points of embarrassment to its main witnesses, itself bespeaks a telling core of truth and power behind it.

    Which is yet another of the points of fact.

    And, the tabulation of historic explanations of the key facts as found credible, speaks for itself. I only note that some version or other of hallucinations is in fact the main suggested objecting alternative, in reasonably serious circles.

    So, pardon, your dismissive rhetoric and tin-eared tone do not work.

    G’day

    KF

  69. 69
    LarTanner says:

    KF, no matter how much I agree with you, you don’t want to accept it.

    Again, I have no doubt whatsoever that Paul’s teachings about Jesus contain a “core of truth” and a powerful one at that.

    But does Paul’s conversion constitute evidence that Jesus was actually resurrected? Does the ascent of Christianity indicate that the resurrection happened? The answer continues to be no, even for one who (like me) agrees that there was a historical Jesus.

    Tell me, why do you think Paul failed to be converted until — as he claims — he had a personal vision of Jesus telling him he was wrong?

  70. 70
    kairosfocus says:

    LT, kindly look again at the above. KF

  71. 71
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: While the matter is tangential, it is worth noting what Paul had to say about his conversion:

    Ac 22:1 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

    2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language,[a] they became even more quiet. And he said:

    3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel[b] according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

    6 “As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. 7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[c] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

    12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

    17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

    Where, a few years before this AD 57 incident in the Temple precincts, which led to his four years of imprisonments and trials in Judaea and Rome as well as a shipwreck along the way, in AD 55 — as already noted but repeatedly ignored — he warned in the opening texts of 1 Cor:

    1 Cor 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

    18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

    20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach[b] to save those who believe.

    22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

    25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    In short, there is such a thing as the blinding power of the fallacy of the closed, presumptuous, hostile mind-set, which too often blinds those who should know better. Even in the face of abundant and adequate evidence.

    Indeed, that is exactly what has been in striking evidence here at UD in recent weeks, where we have again seen stubborn hostility to the concept that some things have distinct identity and so as a direct corollary the three-fold self-evident first principles of right reason — LOI, LNC, LEM, instantly obtain.

    If there is such polarisation and stubbornly unyielding resistance in the face of first principles of reason, we cannot expect a much better performance when other things of a necessarily lower degree of warrant are on the table.

    We already, at the outset have clinging to patent, incoherent, self-refuting, absurdity. Things can only go downhill from there.

    That is why we see onwards dismissal of inductive, empirically anchored reasoning in some quarters, and a widespread refusal to heed the Newtonian, vera causa principle that to scientifically explain traces of what we cannot directly inspect, we should be willing to require that adequate cause be shown to cause the like effect.

    This leads on to evolutionary materialistic scientism, which is self-refuting by first trying to make a philosophical principle that only science can ground knowledge, and second by inadvertently undermining the credibility of mind to reason and know.

    On the history front, the mentality will not acknowledge even the bare possibility that eyewitnesses could credibly see and experience what goes undreamed of in that already bankrupt philosophy, and so exerts undue selective hyperskepticism in the face of evidence.

    And so, it is no surprise to see every side track, every rhetorical artifice instead of actually addressing what is on the table from the outset.

    At this stage, it is not Jesus, Paul, the 500 or the C1 deposit that are on trial, we are.

    KF

  72. 72
    LarTanner says:

    KF,

    Even on your tangent, we agree. As your quoted narrative attests, Paul was not convinced by the evidence presented by early Christian Jews; it took a gen-u-ine miracle to change him. Unfortunately, his comrades on the road to Damascus did not seem to share his level of understanding as to what was happening.

    He was pretty lucky. Had it not been for the supernatural vision that sorted everything out, old Saul might have happily persecuted Christians the rest of his life, such being the “blinding power of the fallacy of the closed, presumptuous, hostile mind-set.”

    Please do understand that I condemn such persecution fully and do not dismiss or minimize it in any way.

    Back to the matter at hand.

    Does Saul/Paul’s conversion increase the credibility of the story that Jesus was resurrected? No. In fact, Paul’s requiring supernatural help indicates that the evidence was never good enough on its own.

    Does Saul/Paul’s conversion increase his own credibility as a source for whether Jesus was actually resurrected? No, not at all. He still was nowhere near the primary events.

    Does Saul/Paul’s conversion make the first Christian Jews more credible as witnesses to an original resurrection miracle? No, it means Paul was more willing to believe their story than he was before.

    So tell me again: how exactly is anything in the writings of Paul supposed to lead a neutral, reasonable person to Jesus belief? I ask the question rhetorically: you don’t need to respond.

    Perhaps you should consider that when it comes to the Greek Testament and whatever brand of modern Christianity you have adopted, you are selectively hyper-credulous? Please think about it, for your own sake. Maybe it’s high time you stopped defending what you believe and started defining what you know.

    Just a thought, offered with good intention. And now I’ll bow out of the conversation, with thanks.

  73. 73
    kairosfocus says:

    LT, on “tangents” kindly cf the OP. On just what rhetoric of dismissal you have attempted cf the actual thread above. KF

  74. 74
    LarTanner says:

    Tangent was your term in comment 71, which was the comment/topic of my response.

    Not sure what you think I’m dismissing. What is clear, however, is that you have not addressed the substance of the comment. When presented with facts, you deflect and dismiss. When offered a question, you respond with murky philosophy. It makes no difference to me, of course, but these tactics of yours are why creationists lose in court: when really pressed to connect the dots from evidence to conclusions, they are found to have over-reached.

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