Intelligent Design

Now Jerry Coyne doubts the historical existence of Jesus Christ

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Jerry Coyne has written a post in which he states that he is inclined to believe that Jesus never existed, although he hasn’t made up his mind yet. And on what does Coyne base his tentative opinion? An article in the Huffington Post by a biopsychologist named Nigel Barber, a self-published book by a systems engineer, Michael Paulkovich, which Coyne admits he hasn’t read, and finally, another book which he hasn’t read, written by atheist activist Richard Carrier, who has a Ph.D. in ancient history, but who (judging from his Wikipedia biography) has no teaching or research position at any accredited institution. [Update: according to his C.V., Carrier teaches classes at the Center for Inquiry Institute Online (a think tank founded in 1987) using a Moodle interface, and is also an online instructor with Partners for Secular Activism. As far as I can tell, the only accredited program offered by CFI is an Ed.M. program in Science and the Public, in partnership with the Graduate School of Education of the University at Buffalo. However, Carrier does not teach this course.]

I wonder what Coyne would think of a critique of Darwin’s theory of evolution, written by a biopsychologist, a systems engineer and finally, a prominent evolution critic with a Ph.D. in biology, who had never taught the subject at any university. Not much, I think. I find it odd, then, that he is prepared to set aside the opinions of all reputable historians with relevant expertise in the field, on the question of whether Jesus existed.

Writes Coyne:

I have to say that I’m coming down on the “mythicist” side, simply because I don’t see any convincing historical records for a Jesus person. Everything written about him was decades after his death, and, as far as I can see, there is no contemporaneous record of a Jesus-person’s existence (what “records” exist have been debunked as forgeries). Yet there should have been some evidence, especially if Jesus had done what the Bible said. But even if he was simply an apocalyptic preacher, as [scholar Bart] Ehrman insists, there should have been at least a few contemporaneous records. Based on their complete absence, I am for the time being simply a Jesus agnostic. But I don’t pretend to be a scholar in this area, or even to have read a lot of the relevant literature.

Actually, we have excellent documentary evidence for the existence of Jesus from two historians writing in the first century: Josephus and Tacitus.

Josephus (A.D. 37 – c.100) may have been born a few years after the death of Jesus, but he was a personal eyewitness of the execution of Jesus’ brother, James (who may have actually been a half-brother or cousin of Jesus), in 62 A.D. As for Tacitus (c. 56 A.D. – 117 A.D.), he is considered to have been one of the greatest Roman historians, and as a Senator, he was likely to have had access to official Roman documents relating to Jesus’ trial, which took place about 80 years before he wrote his Annals, which states that Jesus was crucified during the reign of the Emperor Tiberius, and at the hands of the procurator, Pontius Pilate (Book 15, chapter 44).

The evidence from Josephus

Atheist Paul Tobin, creator of the skeptical Website The Rejection of Pascal’s Wager, has written an excellent article, The Death of James, in which he argues for the historical trustworthiness of Josephus’ description of the execution of James, whom he refers to as “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ”:

The timing of the incident, the interregnum between Festus and Albinus, allows us to date this quite accurately to the summer of 62 CE. [1] Our confidence in the historicity of this account is bolstered by the fact that it was probably an eye witness account. Josephus mentioned in his Autobiography that he left Jerusalem for Rome when he was twenty-six years old. He date of birth was most likely around 37 CE. So at the time of James’ execution, the twenty five year old Josephus was a priest in Jerusalem.

The atheist amateur historian Tim O’Neill has written several blog posts rebutting the arguments of modern-day skeptics who deny the historicity of Jesus. O’Neill has no theological ax to grind here: indeed, he declares that he “would have no problem at all embracing the idea that no historical Jesus existed if someone could come up with an argument for this that did not depend at every turn on strained readings.” O’Neill exposes the shoddy scholarship of these “Mythers” (as he calls them) in a savagely critical review of “Jesus-Myther” David Fitzgerald’s recent book, Nailed: Ten Christian Myths that Show Jesus Never Existed at All. In the course of his lengthy review (dated May 28, 2011), O’Neill summarizes the evidence for Jesus’ historicity from the works of Josephus (bold highlighting mine – VJT):

As several surveys of the academic literature have shown, the majority of scholars now accept that there was an original mention of Jesus in Antiquities XVIII.3.4 and this includes the majority of Jewish and non-Christian scholars, not merely “wishful apologists”. This is partly because once the more obvious interpolated phrases are removed, the passage reads precisely like what Josephus would be expected to write and also uses characteristic language found elsewhere in his works. But it is also because of the 1970 discovery of what seems to be a pre-interpolation version of Josephus’ passage, uncovered by Jewish scholar Schlomo Pines of Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Professor Pines found an Arabic paraphrase of the Tenth Century historian Agapius which quotes Josephus’ passage, but not in the form we have it today. This version, which seems to draw on a copy of Josephus’ original, uninterpolated text, says that Jesus was believed by his followers to have been the Messiah and to have risen from the dead, which means in the original Josephus was simply reporting early Christian beliefs about Jesus regarding his supposed status and resurrection. This is backed further by a Syriac version cited by Michael the Syrian which also has the passage saying “he was believed to be the Messiah”. The evidence now stacks up heavily on the side of the partial authenticity of the passage, meaning there is a reference to Jesus as a historical person in precisely the writer we would expect to mention him…

The second mention is made in passing in a passage where Josephus is detailing an event of some significance and one which he, as a young man, would have witnessed himself.

In 62 AD, the 26 year old Josephus was in Jerusalem, having recently returned from an embassy to Rome. He was a young member of the aristocratic priestly elite which ruled Jerusalem and were effectively rulers of Judea, though with close Roman oversight and only with the backing of the Roman procurator in Caesarea. But in this year the procurator Porcius Festus died while in office and his replacement, Lucceius Albinus, was still on his way to Judea from Rome. This left the High Priest, Hanan ben Hanan (usually called Ananus), with a freer rein that usual. Ananus executed some Jews without Roman permission and, when this was brought to the attention of the Romans, Ananus was deposed.

This was a momentous event and one that the young Josephus, as a member of the same elite as the High Priest, would have remembered well. But what is significant is what he says in passing about the executions that that triggered the deposition of the High Priest:

Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so (the High Priest) assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Messiah, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.

…A major part of the problem with most manifestations of the Myther thesis is that its proponents desperately want it to be true because they want to undermine Christianity. And any historical analysis done with one eye on an emotionally-charged ideological agenda is usually heading for trouble from the start… Their biases against Christianity blind Mythers to the fact that they are not arriving at conclusions because they are the best or most parsimonious explanation of the evidence, but merely because they fit their agenda.

The overwhelming majority of scholars, Christian, non-Christian, atheist, agnostic or Jewish, accept there was a Jewish preacher as the point of origin for the Jesus story simply because that makes the most sense of all the evidence. The contorted and contrived lengths that Fitzgerald and his ilk have to resort to shows exactly how hard it is to sustain the idea that no such historical preacher existed. Personally, as an atheist amateur historian myself, I would have no problem at all embracing the idea that no historical Jesus existed if someone could come up with an argument for this that did not depend at every turn on strained readings, ad hoc explanations, imagined textual interpolations and fanciful suppositions.

It is sometimes alleged by “Jesus-Mythers” such as David Fitzgerald that both passages in Josephus are later interpolations, because the third-century Christian Father Origen supposedly declared that Josephus made no mention of Jesus in his writings. O’Neill handily disposes of this canard:

Not content with ignoring inconvenient key counter-evidence, [Jesus-Myther] Fitzgerald is also happy to simply make things up.  He talks about how the Second Century Christian apologist Origen does not mention the Antiquities XVII.3.4 reference to Jesus (which is true, but not surprising) and then claims “Origen even quotes from Antiquities of the Jews in order to prove the historical existence of John the Baptist, then adds that Josephus didn’t believe in Jesus, and criticises him for failing to mention Jesus in that book!” (p. 53)  Which might sound like a good argument to anyone who does not bother to check self-published authors’ citations.  But those who do will turn to Origen’s Contra Celsum I.4 and find the following:

Now this writer [Josephus], although not believing in Jesus as the Messiah, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people, since they put to death Christ, who was a prophet, says nevertheless-being, although against his will, not far from the truth-that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was  “the brother of that Jesus who was called Messiah”,–the Jews having put him to death, although he was a man most distinguished for his justice.

So Origen does not say Josephus “didn’t believe in Jesus”, just that he did not believe Jesus was the Messiah (which supports the Arabic and Syriac evidence on the pre-interpolation version of Antiquities XVII.3.4) And far from criticising Josephus “for failing to mention Jesus in that book”, Origen actually quotes Josephus directly doing exactly that – the phrase “αδελφος Ιησου του λεγομενου Χριστου” (the brother of that Jesus who was called Messiah”) is word for word the phrase used by Josephus in his other mention of Jesus, found at Antiquities XX.9.1.  And he does not refer to and quote Josephus mentioning Jesus just in Contra Celsum I.4, but he also does so twice more: in Contra Celsum II:13 and in Commentarium in evangelium Matthaei X.17.  It is hard to say if this nonsense claim of Fitzgerald’s is mere incompetence or simply a lie.  I will be charitable and put it down to another of this amateur’s bungles.

Tim O’Neill’s more recent online article, The Jesus Myth Theory: A Response to David Fitzgerald (December 1, 2013) is also well worth reading. It is a devastating take-down of the second-rate scholarship of Jesus-Mythers.

The evidence from the Roman historian Tacitus

Wikipedia provides a balanced overview of the evidence for Jesus’ historicity in its article, Tacitus on Christ, from which I have quoted the following excerpts:

Scholars generally consider Tacitus’s reference to the execution of Jesus by Pontius Pilate to be both authentic, and of historical value as an independent Roman source.[5][6][7] Eddy and Boyd state that it is now “firmly established” that Tacitus provides a non-Christian confirmation of the crucifixion of Jesus.[8]

In terms of an overall context, historian Ronald Mellor has stated that the Annals is “Tacitus’s crowning achievement” which represents the “pinnacle of Roman historical writing”.[9] The passage is also of historical value in establishing three separate facts about Rome around AD 60: (i) that there were a sizable number of Christians in Rome at the time, (ii) that it was possible to distinguish between Christians and Jews in Rome, and (iii) that at the time pagans made a connection between Christianity in Rome and its origin in Roman Judea.[10][11]…

…Scholars generally consider Tacitus’s reference to be genuine and of historical value as an independent Roman source about early Christianity that is in unison with other historical records.[5][6][7][41]

Van Voorst states that “of all Roman writers, Tacitus gives us the most precise information about Christ”.[40] John Dominic Crossan considers the passage important in establishing that Jesus existed and was crucified, and states: “That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus… agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact.”[52]

…Scholars have also debated the issue of hearsay in the reference by Tacitus. Charles Guignebert argued that “So long as there is that possibility [that Tacitus is merely echoing what Christians themselves were saying], the passage remains quite worthless”.[56] R. T. France states that the Tacitus passage is at best just Tacitus repeating what he had heard through Christians.[57] However, Paul R. Eddy has stated that as Rome’s preeminent historian, Tacitus was generally known for checking his sources and was not in the habit of reporting gossip.[23] Biblical scholar Bart D. Ehrman wrote: “Tacitus’s report confirms what we know from other sources, that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, sometime during Tiberius’s reign.”[58]

References

5. Jesus and His Contemporaries: Comparative Studies by Craig A. Evans. 2001. ISBN 0-391-04118-5 page 42.
6. Mercer Dictionary of the Bible by Watson E. Mills and Roger Aubrey Bullard. 2001. ISBN 0-86554-373-9 page 343.
7. Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation by Helen K. Bond. 2004. ISBN 0-521-61620-4 page xi.
8. The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition by Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd. Baker Academic, 2007. ISBN 0-8010-3114-1 page 127.
9. Tacitus’ Annals by Ronald Mellor. Oxford University Press. 2010. ISBN 0-19-515192-5 page 23.
10. Beginning from Jerusalem by James D. G. Dunn. William. B. Eerdmans, 2008. ISBN 0-8028-3932-0 pages 56-57.
11. Antioch and Rome: New Testament cradles of Catholic Christianity by Raymond Edward Brown, John P. Meier 1983. ISBN 0-8091-2532-3 page 99.
23. The Jesus legend: a case for the historical reliability of the synoptic gospels by Paul R. Eddy, et al. 2007. ISBN 0-8010-3114-1 pages 181-183.
40. Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence by Robert E. Van Voorst. William. B. Eerdmans, 2000. pp. 39- 53.
41. Tradition and Incarnation: Foundations of Christian Theology by William L. Portier 1993 ISBN 0-8091-3467-5 page 263.
52. Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography by John Dominic Crossan. HarperOne, 1995. ISBN 0-06-061662-8 page 145.
53. Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament by F.F. Bruce. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974. p. 23.
56. Jesus by Charles Guignebert. University Books, New York, 1956, p. 13.
57. France, RT (1986). Evidence for Jesus (Jesus Library). Trafalgar Square Publishing. pp. 19-20. ISBN 0-340-38172-8.
58. Ehrman p. 212

Who is Michael Paulkovich, anyway?

Michael Paulkovich, a systems engineer, is the recent author of a book called No Meek Messiah, excerpts from which can be found on this Web page. The following excerpts should put to rest any notion that Paulkovich has any credibility on historical matters (emphases are mine):

In No Meek Messiah I provide a list of 126 writers who should have recorded something of Jesus, with exhaustive references… [I was most amused to see Apollonius of Tyana, Epictetus, Petronius, Plotinus and Tiberius described as “historians” in Paulkovich’s list – VJT.]

Within a year after the decree by [Emperor] Theodosius [in 391 A.D.], crazed Christian monks of Nitria destroy the majestic Alexandrian Library largely because philosophy and science are taught there — not the Bible…

Christianity was made the only legal cult of the empire, and for the next 1500 years, good Christians would murder all non-Christians they could find by the tens of millions.

Early Christians believed all necessary knowledge was in the Bible and thus closed down schools, burned books, forbade teaching philosophy and destroyed libraries. The Jesus person portrayed in the Bible taught that “devils” and “sin” cause illness, and thus for some 1700 years good Christians ignored science and medicine to perform exorcisms on the ill…

Jesus has nothing against stealing, as he instructs his apostles to pinch a horse and a donkey from their rightful owner…

This Jesus character speaks highly of father Yahweh’s genocidal tantrums in Matthew 11:20-24…

Enough said?

Summary

People who are experts in one field are capable of appalling lapses of judgement when assessing the evidence in fields outside their own. By any objective criteria, there is abundant historical evidence that Jesus existed. Professor Coyne should have the grace to acknowledge this fact, and admit his error. But I’m not holding my breath.

NOTE: Kairosfocus has written an excellent post titled, Jeff Shallit: “Surely the right analogy is Santa Claus to Jesus Christ. Both are mythical figures . . . ” — spectacular Fail at History 101 in which he presents two videos summarizing the evidence for the existence of an historical Jesus.

136 Replies to “Now Jerry Coyne doubts the historical existence of Jesus Christ

  1. 1
    inunison says:

    vjtorley,

    Denying the obvious is old proven atheist propaganda tool. It matters not how many times evidence is presented to them denials will continue.

  2. 2
    Chimera says:

    I think you have to at least believe there was an individual called Jesus even if you think what his followers said about him is a load of propaganda.

  3. 3
    News says:

    Does Coyne take the same approach to evaluation of evidence and its purveyors in evolutionary biology as he seems to in history?

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. Torley, although the historical evidence, as you have shown, for the minimal claim that Jesus existed is very good, (it has been said that we have more historical evidence that Jesus existed than we do for any other ancient historical figure), as to the more weighty claim that Jesus died and rose from the dead as a propitiation for our sins, and is alive right now, we also have excellent evidence.
    First and foremost as to establishing the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, and is alive right now, there are millions of people in the world, including myself, who have personally experienced a touch of Jesus Christ in their lives when they have called on Him in times of need in their lives.

    Meeting Jesus Face to Face: Encounter while arrested in Iran – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilSjpNuqn-4

    Have You Experienced Jesus – Episode 8 – video
    Excerpt: At the 6:40 minute mark of this video, Kay Sorenson a former Las Vegas Singer at the age of 46 had an amazing born again experience
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNcXkMxQjDU&feature=player_detailpage#t=400s

    SQuire Rushnell’s Godwink Story for Easter – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kCsnU8yjg8

    Strange But True – Miracle Testimony
    https://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0AYmaSrBPNEmGZGM4ejY3d3pfNTNocmRjZGtkdg&hl=en

    etc.. etc..

    In fact I am reading a book right now,,,

    Face to Face with Jesus: A Former Muslim’s Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love
    http://www.amazon.com/Face-Jes.....800795792/

    ,,, in which a little girl, who grew up in a strict Muslim family in a Muslim country torn by a civil war, although she prayed fervently and faithfully as a devout Muslim would pray, realized that the god of the Muslims was not answering her prayers. When in desperation she turned to the ‘infidel’ Christian God, whom she called ‘The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’, and her simple prayer for food to eat was answered, she, the youngest member of her strict Muslim family, realized that Christianity was true and turned to Christianity. Although she experienced fierce presecution for following Christ, (mostly from her own family), the faith that this small girl displayed, and the miracles that happened through that faith, eventually won her entire family over one by one.,,, Her story is truly an extraordinary testimony.

    more later,,,

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Supplemental notes:

    My new book is finished! It’s a Miracle! – Eric Metaxas
    Excerpt: Have you ever wondered what a miracle is, or why miracles happen — or how miracles can change your life? What a coincidence — or is it a miracle? — because I’ve written a NEW book titled Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life! The book will be launched on Oct. 28th (2014) at a special Socrates in the City event with our first ever guest host, none other than TV legend and Emmy Award-winning talk show host, Mr. Dick Cavett! He will interview me on the subject of miracles — but the event will be simulcast so anyone can watch it.
    http://www.ericmetaxas.com/blo.....a-miracle/

    Craig Keener- Miracles Symposium – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rn73J9A0SnU

    Dr. Craig Keener, author of “Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts” discusses in this web series some of the accounts of people being raised from the dead and people being healed of sicknesses from around the world. – video playlist
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....fOqOmxOyU=

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: To get a glimpse at a 101 on the historicity of Jesus in the context of the foundation of the gospel, kindly cf here on. Someone who c 2014 is reasonably educated and publicly casts dismissive skepticism on the basic historicity of Jesus of Nazareth has discredited himself, period. I can see with someone who doubts the claimed miracle of a resurrection from the dead [and the linked will address this issue too], but at minimum a reasonable, reasonably informed person will see that the decisive weight of evidence is that Jesus of Nazareth was a real live person of C1 Palestine who was an itinerant preacher and got into trouble for challenging the local and colonial authorities, ending up a victim of abuse of high justice. KF

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N 2: I also find that ever so many skeptics today wish to impugn the ethics of the Judaeo-Christian tradition in order to alienate people from the now well-poisoned tradition. This is present in some of the cited remarks from the OP, but is inexcusable, and I challenge all such to fairly read and respond honestly to the central ethical teachings of that tradition as presented by its principal teacher, the self same Jesus of Nazareth in the most famous sermon of all time:

    ____________

    >> Matthew 5-7English Standard Version (ESV)
    The Sermon on the Mount

    5 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
    The Beatitudes

    2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

    3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

    5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

    6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

    7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

    8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

    9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.

    10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
    Salt and Light

    13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

    14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
    Christ Came to Fulfill the Law

    17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
    Anger

    21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[c] will be liable to judgment; whoever insults[d] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell[e] of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.[f]
    Lust

    27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
    Divorce

    31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
    Oaths

    33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.[g]
    Retaliation

    38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,[h] let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
    Love Your Enemies

    43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
    Giving to the Needy

    6 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

    2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
    The Lord’s Prayer

    5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

    7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:

    “Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name.[j]
    10 Your kingdom come,
    your will be done,[k]
    on earth as it is in heaven.
    11 Give us this day our daily bread,[l]
    12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.[m]

    14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
    Fasting

    16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
    Lay Up Treasures in Heaven

    19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[n] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

    22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

    24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.[o]
    Do Not Be Anxious

    25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[p] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

    34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
    Judging Others

    7 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

    6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
    Ask, and It Will Be Given

    7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
    The Golden Rule

    12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

    13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[q] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
    A Tree and Its Fruit

    15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
    I Never Knew You

    21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
    Build Your House on the Rock

    24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
    The Authority of Jesus

    28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.
    Footnotes:

    Matthew 5:9 Greek huioi; see Preface
    Matthew 5:16 Or house. 16Let your light so shine before others that
    Matthew 5:22 Some manuscripts insert without cause
    Matthew 5:22 Greek says Raca to (a term of abuse)
    Matthew 5:22 Greek Gehenna; also verses 29, 30
    Matthew 5:26 Greek kodrantes, Roman copper coin (Latin quadrans) worth about 1/64 of a denarius (which was a day’s wage for a laborer)
    Matthew 5:37 Or the evil one
    Matthew 5:40 Greek chiton, a long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin
    Matthew 5:47 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters
    Matthew 6:9 Or Let your name be kept holy, or Let your name be treated with reverence
    Matthew 6:10 Or Let your kingdom come, let your will be done
    Matthew 6:11 Or our bread for tomorrow
    Matthew 6:13 Or the evil one; some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen
    Matthew 6:19 Or worm; also verse 20
    Matthew 6:24 Greek mammon, a Semitic word for money or possessions
    Matthew 6:27 Or a single cubit to his stature; a cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters
    Matthew 7:13 Some manuscripts For the way is wide and easy>>
    ____________

    If we find critics failing to address this on balance, they are setting up strawman caricatures which they hope to poison and set alight to poison, cloud, polarise and confuse the atmosphere.

    KF

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    The Shroud of Turin is one of the most scientifically scrutinized historical artifacts in recorded history.

    List of Evidences of the Turin Shroud – 2010
    http://www.acheiropoietos.info.....istWeb.pdf

    Here is the main website for the Shroud of Turin which was est. 1995 by Barrie Schwortz – photographer for the 1978 STURP (Shroud of Turin Research Project), The site has links to all the peer reviewed papers on the Shroud and etc.. etc..

    Bibliography of Published STURP Papers
    http://www.shroud.com/78papers.htm

    Scientific Papers and Articles on Shroud
    http://www.shroud.com/papers.htm

    The forensic evidence on the Shroud is uncanny in its matching of the details of the crucifixion as given in the Bible.

    Forensic evidence of the Shroud of Turin – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5QEsaNiMVc

    Detailed Forensic Evidence of The Shroud – video
    Excerpt: “it is definitely an anatomically and forensically correct depiction of a victim of a Roman crucifixion.”
    http://www.shroud-enigma.com/w.....ology.html
    Turin Shroud: a medical forensic study of its blood marks and image – G.Lavoie – May 2010
    Abstract – From extensive analytical studies of the Shroud of Turin we know that the image is not man-made, and from medical forensic studies of the blood marks we know that a crucified man was laid out on his back and wrapped in this cloth. But the question still remains as to what caused the shroud image. A forensic evaluation of the blood marks and a study of the effect of gravity on surface anatomy suggest that a natural event is not the most probable cause of shroud image formation.
    http://www.acheiropoietos.info.....oieWeb.pdf

    Through a rigid process of elimination, through all materialistic possibilities, it becomes crystal clear that the way in which the photographic negative, (and uniquely three dimensional), image of the man on the Shroud of Turin had to be imprinted was ‘supernatural’ in its process.
    Specifically, the finding of a photographic negative image on the Shroud is still as much a mystery today as when it was first discovered by Secondo Pia in 1898.

    A short film about the first photographic negative taken of the shroud of Turin in 1898 by Secondo Pia
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTeKu2-3hRk

    Shroud (STURP) photographer convinced of authenticity – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fyUHhTdSAs

    The Turin Shroud – Comparing Image And Photographic Negative – interactive webpage
    http://www.shroud.com/shrdface.htm

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    Moreover, recently 3-Dimensional holographic information has been found on the Shroud of Turin:

    Shroud in 3-D – FINDINGS IN THE THREE DIMENSIONAL MATERIALS
    http://shroud3d.com/findings/f.....-materials

    Turin Shroud Enters 3D Age – photos and links
    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1gDY4CJkoFedewMG94gdUk1Z1jexestdy5fh87RwWAfg

    Turin Shroud Hologram Reveals The Words ‘The Lamb’ – short video
    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=J21MECNU

    Solid Oval Object Under The Beard
    http://shroud3d.com/findings/s.....-the-beard

    In spite of many other, more reliable, lines of evidence establishing the Shroud as authentic, many people unquestionably accepted the carbon dating of the Shroud in 1988 as valid and presumed the Shroud to be a medieval fake.
    Yet, the carbon dating question has now been thoroughly addressed and refuted by Joseph G. Marino and M. Sue Benford in 2000. Their research, with textile experts, showing the carbon testing was done with a piece of the Shroud which was subject to expert medieval reweaving in the 1500’s had much historical, and photographic, evidence behind it. Their historical, and photographic, evidence was then scientifically confirmed by chemical analysis in 2005 by Raymond Rogers (who was the lead chemist on the STURP team as well as a skeptic). Thus, the fact that a false age was shown by the 1988 carbon testing is now well established as far as the scientific evidence itself is concerned.

    New Evidence Overturns Shroud Of Turin Carbon Dating – Joseph G. Marino and M. Sue Benford – video
    (with Raymond Rogers, lead chemist from the STURP project)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxDdx6vxthE

    The following is the main peer reviewed paper which has refuted the 1988 Carbon Dating:

    Why The Carbon 14 Samples Are Invalid, Raymond Rogers
    per: Thermochimica Acta (Volume 425 pages 189-194, Los Alamos National Laboratory, University of California)
    Excerpt: Preliminary estimates of the kinetics constants for the loss of vanillin from lignin indicate a much older age for the cloth than the radiocarbon analyses. The radiocarbon sampling area is uniquely coated with a yellow–brown plant gum containing dye lakes. Pyrolysis-mass-spectrometry results from the sample area coupled with microscopic and microchemical observations prove that the radiocarbon sample was not part of the original cloth of the Shroud of Turin. The radiocarbon date was thus not valid for determining the true age of the shroud. The fact that vanillin can not be detected in the lignin on shroud fibers, Dead Sea scrolls linen, and other very old linens indicates that the shroud is quite old. A determination of the kinetics of vanillin loss suggests that the shroud is between 1300- and 3000-years old. Even allowing for errors in the measurements and assumptions about storage conditions, the cloth is unlikely to be as young as 840 years.
    http://www.ntskeptics.org/issu.....oudold.htm

    Rogers passed away shortly after publishing this paper, but his work was ultimately verified by the Los Alamos National Laboratory:

    Carbon Dating Of The Turin Shroud Completely Overturned by Scientific Peer Review
    Excerpt: Rogers also asked John Brown, a materials forensic expert from Georgia Tech to confirm his finding using different methods. Brown did so. He also concluded that the shroud had been mended with newer material. Since then, a team of nine scientists at Los Alamos has also confirmed Rogers work, also with different methods and procedures. Much of this new information has been recently published in Chemistry Today.
    http://shroudofturin.wordpress.....s-of-time/

    This following is the Los Alamos National Laboratory report and video which confirms the Rogers’ paper:

    “Analytical Results on Thread Samples Taken from the Raes Sampling Area (Corner) of the Shroud Cloth” (Aug 2008)
    Excerpt: The age-dating process failed to recognize one of the first rules of analytical chemistry that any sample taken for characterization of an area or population must necessarily be representative of the whole. The part must be representative of the whole. Our analyses of the three thread samples taken from the Raes and C-14 sampling corner showed that this was not the case……. LANL’s work confirms the research published in Thermochimica Acta (Jan. 2005) by the late Raymond Rogers, a chemist who had studied actual C-14 samples and concluded the sample was not part of the original cloth possibly due to the area having been repaired. – Robert Villarreal – Los Alamos National Laboratory
    http://www.ohioshroudconference.com/

    Shroud Of Turin Carbon Dating Overturned – Robert Villarreal – Press Release video http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=DPPWDPNX

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    The following ‘non-destructive’ test dated the Shroud more accurately than Rogers was able to do (due to the small sample size he had to work with).

    Turin Shroud ‘is not a medieval forgery’ – 28 Mar 2013
    Excerpt: Scientists, including Prof Fanti, used infra-red light and spectroscopy – the measurement of radiation intensity through wavelengths – to analyse fibres from the shroud,,,
    The tests dated the age of the shroud to between 300 BC and 400AD.,,,
    Scientists have never been able to explain how the image of a man’s body, complete with nail wounds to his wrists and feet, pinpricks from thorns around his forehead and a spear wound to his chest, could have formed on the cloth. Mr Fanti said the imprint was caused by a blast of “exceptional radiation”, although he stopped short of describing it as a miracle.
    He said his tests backed up earlier results which claimed to have found on the shroud traces of dust and pollen which could only have come from the Holy Land.,,,
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new.....rgery.html

    The following evidence dates the Shroud even more accurately than the preceding method did,,,

    The Shroud of Turin – Evidence it is authentic
    Excerpt: In June 2002, the Shroud was sent to a team of experts for restoration. One of them was Swiss textile historian Mechthild Flury-Lemberg. She was surprised to find a peculiar stitching pattern in the seam of one long side of the Shroud, where a three-inch wide strip of the same original fabric was sewn onto a larger segment. The stitching pattern, which she says was the work of a professional, is quite similar to the hem of a cloth found in the tombs of the Jewish fortress of Masada. The Masada cloth dates to between 40 BC and 73 AD. This kind of stitch has never been found in Medieval Europe.
    http://www.newgeology.us/presentation24.html

    Shroud Of Turin – Sewn From Two Pieces – 2000 Years Old (Matches Masada Cloth) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uST6qt9pfoo

    Here is a article which undermined the credibility of the carbon dating from a completely different angle;

    Scientists say Turin Shroud is supernatural – December 2011
    Excerpt: After years of work trying to replicate the colouring on the shroud, a similar image has been created by the scientists.
    However, they only managed the effect by scorching equivalent linen material with high-intensity ultra violet lasers, undermining the arguments of other research, they say, which claims the Turin Shroud is a medieval hoax.
    Such technology, say researchers from the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (Enea), was far beyond the capability of medieval forgers, whom most experts have credited with making the famous relic.
    “The results show that a short and intense burst of UV directional radiation can colour a linen cloth so as to reproduce many of the peculiar characteristics of the body image on the Shroud of Turin,” they said.
    And in case there was any doubt about the preternatural degree of energy needed to make such distinct marks, the Enea report spells it out: “This degree of power cannot be reproduced by any normal UV source built to date.”
    http://www.independent.co.uk/n.....79512.html

    Although the marks on the Shroud required a ‘preternatural degree of energy’ in order to be made, the marks on the Shroud also reveal that the image was not formed haphazardly as would happen in a ‘blast of radiation’, but the marks were formed by in a very precise, ‘quantum’, manner:

    The absorbed energy in the Shroud body image formation appears as contributed by discrete values – Giovanni Fazio, Giuseppe Mandaglio – 2008
    Excerpt: This result means that the optical density distribution,, can not be attributed at the absorbed energy described in the framework of the classical physics model. It is, in fact, necessary to hypothesize a absorption by discrete values of the energy where the ‘quantum’ is equal to the one necessary to yellow one fibril.
    http://cab.unime.it/journals/i.....802004/271

    That the image was formed by a quantum process, and not by a classical process, also adds significant weight to the fact that the Shroud is not a medeval forgery.

    Moreover, I personally hold that since the image was formed by a quantum process, and not by a classical process, then the shroud provides empirical evidence that General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics/Special Relativity (QED) were unified by the resurrection of Christ from death into the much sought after ‘theory of everything’.

    The Galileo Affair and “Life/Consciousness” as the true “Center of the Universe”
    Excerpt: I find it extremely interesting, and strange, that quantum mechanics tells us that instantaneous quantum wave collapse to its ‘uncertain’ 3D state is centered on each individual conscious observer in the universe, whereas, 4D space-time cosmology (General Relativity) tells us each 3D point in the universe is central to the expansion of the universe. These findings of modern science are pretty much exactly what we would expect to see if this universe were indeed created, and sustained, from a higher dimension by a omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal Being who knows everything that is happening everywhere in the universe at the same time. These findings certainly seem to go to the very heart of the age old question asked of many parents by their children, “How can God hear everybody’s prayers at the same time?”,,, i.e. Why should the expansion of the universe, or the quantum wave collapse of the entire universe, even care that you or I, or anyone else, should exist? Only Theism, Christian Theism in particular, offers a rational explanation as to why you or I, or anyone else, should have such undeserved significance in such a vast universe. [15]

    Psalm 33:13-15
    The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.

    Moreover, from a slightly different angle, ‘Life’, with a capital L, is also found to be central to the universe in that Christ’s resurrection from the dead provides a very credible reconciliation to the most profound enigma in modern science. Namely the unification of General Relativity with Quantum Mechanics/Special Relativity (Quantum Electrodynamics) into a ‘Theory of Everything’:
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BHAcvrc913SgnPcDohwkPnN4kMJ9EDX-JJSkjc4AXmA/edit

    The Center Of The Universe Is Life (Jesus) – General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Entropy and The Shroud Of Turin – video
    http://vimeo.com/34084462

    All this evidence just fits together all too neatly! Thus, although I believed in Christ before studying the Shroud (and physics), after careful analysis of the evidence, I am now more convinced than ever that Jesus is the living Son of God who overcame death on our behalf:

    Verse and Music:

    Colossians 1:15-20
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

    “Alive” – W,Lyrics, By Natalie Grant
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AFpgzjRD44

  11. 11
    bornagain77 says:

    ‘coincidentally’ :

    Why Is There Even A Jesus Myth Theory? – October 4, 2014
    http://www.christianapologetic.....th-theory/

  12. 12
    mahuna says:

    There is no evidence for a historical person corresponding to the main character in the Christian gospels. This was well established in the 19th century, and no less a person than Albert Schweitzer stated that publicly.

    It is very damaging to the theory of Intelligent Design to wrap the belief in the mythical Jesus around acceptance of a theory about Biology.

    Skipping through most of the stuff above, it’s been well established by Historians (oh, you’re not a Historian? Then why do you feel qualified to state an opinion on History?) that the references to Jesus in Josephus are a forgery, and many manuscripts of Josephus’s history exist with no mention of Jesus. As with experimental results supporting Evolution, if you have to FAKE the data for Historical Jesus, it’s sure sign that there is no real evidence.

  13. 13
    jstanley01 says:

    BA: Here’s a miracle, along the lines of those Keener has documented in his book, that I personally witnessed within the last couple of days. When a good friend of mine — through thin and thick for almost a decade — received news on par with the best good news I’ve ever heard.

    A year or so ago, Mike had surgery for bladder cancer. Then a few weeks ago tests came back, including a PET scan, showing that it was back. Mike’s medical protocol, this second go ’round, had progressed to the point that his doctors were ready to schedule another surgery. The plan this time, along with chemo and radiation, was to remove his bladder; leaving Mike, as it were, “holding the bag.”

    Over the course of events, Mike attended a Christian get together where he was prayed for and ministered to. Mike said, “I know I was healed at that time.” So before he would agree on beginning treatment, he told his doctors, “I don’t know if you believe in God’s healing power or not, but I’m not going to let you schedule anything until you test me again.”

    This time, inexplicably from any kind of medical standpoint, the scan came up negative. No trace of cancer. Mike told me on the phone, “I’ve got the doctor’s report sitting in front of me, right here.” They want to see him again in a few weeks, but otherwise, that’s it.

    I don’t expect the above, posted by some anonymous dude on the Internet, to change the minds of any of the “Amazing Randi” types. And frankly, I couldn’t care less. I know what happened, I was there along with several others including Mike’s wife. His healing is going to throw a cheery light across our hearts for the rest of our lives, running our races and finishing our course.

    BTW BA: Here’s a couple of other videos for your arsenal on the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ:

    The Resurrection Argument That Changed a Generation of Scholars – Gary Habermas at UCSB

    Death, Sacrifice, and Resurrection – David Bentley Hart

  14. 14
    Dr JDD says:

    Mahuna – there is very good evidence aspects of Josephus’ work was added to or modified in some limited places thus call into question its complete legitimacy but there is better evidence sections are very reliable and additionally Josephus is as already stated not the only extra-biblical source referring to Jesus.

    This does not even go into the extremely reliable gospel accounts and their close proximity to the events, too close to warrant legend and myth (within the same generation) and closer and more copies than any other historic document.

    You can deny the existence of Jesus as historic fact but the evidence is stacked against you. Even many atheist historians don’t deny the existence of Jesus. They question or deny the miraculous events and resurrection, but most do not deny his existence.

  15. 15
    bornagain77 says:

    jstanley01, thanks, you put a smile on my face! 🙂

  16. 16
    Axel says:

    BA77, thought this article about QM might interest you – in case you haven’t seen it. Other UDers too, of course.

    Sorry for hijacking the thread, but I’m too computer illiterate to contact you otherwise.

    http://www.spacemart.com/repor.....n_999.html

  17. 17
    kairosfocus says:

    Mahuna:

    Dr JDD is right, and in particular you have four biographies, three credibly by c AD 62, and the fourth by an eyewitness possibly to the 90’s AD.

    Far too much, and to early to simply be brushed aside as “no evidence.”

    The Acts clearly dates to c. 62 AD, and Lk is c 57 – 59. Lk — a careful and proved habitually accurate reporter — uses Mk as a trusted source, setting this to c 50, and the passion narrative in it is arguably c 37.

    For over 100 years now since Ramsay, it is well known that there are abundant authenticating patterns of interconnexion with the times, to archaeological materials, to the matrix of the times, up to even the frequencies of names in use in Palestine among Jews (as opposed to say in Egypt).

    By 95 – 115 AD, 25 of the 27 NT documents (the other two are among the shortest) were cited or alluded to in the first circle of writing Church Fathers, as authoritative. Add in the Rylands fragment and other early MSS and we have excellent reason to see that the NT accounts are eyewitness lifetime documents that fit their times in only the way that reality-anchored reports will.

    There is therefore every reason to understand that the former hysperskeptical and dismissive theories have for good reason bitten the dust.

    Next, as Paul Barnett aptly summarises, the early Non-Christian sources (though of course brief) also fit in well with the NT records:

    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:

    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]
    The movement spread from Judaea to Rome. [Tacitus]
    Jesus claimed to be God and that he would depart and return. [Eliezer]
    His followers worshipped him as (a) god. [Pliny]
    He was called “the Christ.” [Josephus]
    His followers were called “Christians.” [Tacitus, Pliny]
    They were numerous in Bithynia and Rome [Tacitus, Pliny]
    It was a world-wide movement. [Eliezer]
    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.]

    When it comes to Josephus, there is no good reason to reject the remarks on the death of James. And while there has been apparent interpolation in the more detailed reference, as VJT pointed out such can be reasonably excised and the result is backed up by what seems to be another stream of transmission.

    There is no good reason to see the NT documents as anything but historically rooted accounts from within living memory of the events.

    Here is noted NT scholar Craig Evans in the 2004 Benthal Public Lecture at U Calgary:

    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.

    One may have doubts about miracles, in an era of hyperskepticism. But such doubts should not be allowed to beg questions or lead to refusing to acknowledge that the NT documents are not evidence from C1.

    As touching the miraculous, it is a commonplace to swallow Hume’s epistemological dismissiveness whole as though that is final, perhaps at second hand. But in fact as long ago as Babbage’s 9th Bridgewater Thesis, this was decisively answered. When we have even a fairly small number of non-colluding witnesses that cohere on the core substance of a report, it is highly unlikely that they will collectively be in error. Hence the scriptural saying tha tin the mouth of two or three witnesses shall a word be established.

    When it comes to miracles, I have personally witnessed several across my lifetime and had it not been for one of guidance when I was at death’s door from a dangerous chronic disease, I would be dead forty years now. There are thousands or even millions today who have experienced or witnessed genuine miracles in answer to prayer in the name of Jesus. Far, far more than enough to overturn epistemological skepticism.

    But the chief miracle is the resurrection of Jesus.

    It cuts clean across scientism and evolutionary materialism, as well as fellow traveller views (including those held by theologians from schools of thought unduly influenced by the hyperskeptical spirit of our age).

    What I will say of it is here on, including a video that I invite you to watch and ponder. (VJT has also linked a recent post in response to Mr Shallit.)

    Highlighting, there are just two serious ways to account for the dozen or so key-point minimal fact evidence accepted today by an absolute to overwhelming majority of those writing in the technical literature over the past generation.

    One, an unprecedented, psychologically implausible and utterly convincing hallucination that includes skeptics [Jesus’ own brothers] and an arch-persecuter [Saul of Tarsus].

    Two, the witnesses are not merely sincere, but report the truth, truth for which many peacefully surrendered their lives to dungeon, fire, sword or worse.

    And since, millions have reported and manifested transformation of life through encounter with God in the face of Jesus.

    Of which number, I count myself and a significant number of family, friends and associates.

    KF

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    Sorry, typo: such doubts should not be allowed to beg questions or lead to refusing to acknowledge that the NT documents are not evidence from C1

  19. 19
    bornagain77 says:

    ‘coincidentally’:

    An Atheist’s Defense of the Historicity of Jesus – September 4, 2014 by Neil Carter
    I can’t believe I’m feeling the need to do this, but today I’d like to write a brief defense of the historicity of Jesus.
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/g.....-of-jesus/

  20. 20
    bornagain77 says:

    Axel at 16, you might appreciate these recent papers,,,

    Another day, another bad day for local realists (i.e. for materialists). –

    Bell-inequality violation with entangled photons, free of the coincidence-time loophole – Sept. 2014
    Abstract
    In a local realist model, physical properties are defined prior to and independent of measurement and no physical influence can propagate faster than the speed of light. Proper experimental violation of a Bell inequality would show that the world cannot be described with such a model. Experiments intended to demonstrate a violation usually require additional assumptions that make them vulnerable to a number of “loopholes.” In both pulsed and continuously pumped photonic experiments, an experimenter needs to identify which detected photons belong to the same pair, giving rise to the coincidence-time loophole. Here, via two different methods, we derive Clauser-Horne- and Eberhard-type inequalities that are not only free of the fair-sampling assumption (thus not being vulnerable to the detection loophole), but also free of the fair-coincidence assumption (thus not being vulnerable to the coincidence-time loophole). Both approaches can be used for pulsed as well as for continuously pumped experiments. Moreover, as they can also be applied to already existing experimental data, we finally show that a recent experiment [Giustina et al., Nature (London) 497, 227 (2013)] violated local realism without requiring the fair-coincidence assumption.
    http://journals.aps.org/pra/ab......90.032107

    “It will remain remarkable, in whatever way our future concepts may develop, that the very study of the external world led to the scientific conclusion that the content of the consciousness is the ultimate universal reality” –
    Eugene Wigner – (Remarks on the Mind-Body Question, Eugene Wigner, in Wheeler and Zurek, p.169) 1961 – received Nobel Prize in 1963 for ‘Quantum Symmetries’
    http://www.informationphilosop.....ts/wigner/

    Of related note to the preceding Wigner ‘consciousness’ quote, it is interesting to note that many of Wigner’s insights have now been experimentally verified and are also now fostering a ‘second’ revolution in quantum mechanics,,,

    Eugene Wigner – A Gedanken Pioneer of the Second Quantum Revolution – Anton Zeilinger – Sept. 2014
    Conclusion
    It would be fascinating to know Eugene Wigner’s reaction to the fact that the gedanken experiments he discussed (in 1963 and 1970) have not only become reality, but building on his gedanken experiments, new ideas have developed which on the one hand probe the foundations of quantum mechanics even deeper, and which on the other hand also provide the foundations to the new field of quantum information technology. All these experiments pay homage to the great insight Wigner expressed in developing these gedanken experiments and in his analyses of the foundations of quantum mechanics,
    http://epjwoc.epj.org/articles....._01010.pdf

    Eugene Wigner receives his Nobel Prize for Quantum Symmetries – video 1963
    http://www.nobelprize.org/medi.....hp?id=1111

    Audio: why do butterflies shimmer? on the BBC News. Butterfly “structural color” may lead engineers to design super materials.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/scienc.....t-29488923

    Take Me In – Holy Of Holies – Kutless – Music Video
    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=90EM0CNU

    New Precambrian Fossils Are Not Cambrian Ancestors – October 2, 2014
    Excerpt: From the headlines you might think that with the discovery of some new Chinese embryo fossils, the enigma of the Cambrian explosion has been solved. The announcement from Virginia Tech trumpets, “New evidence of ancient multicellular life sets evolutionary timeline back 60 million years.” ,,,
    What’s new about these fossils? Nothing. Similar embryos were found in the 1990s by J. Y. Chen and Paul Chien in the same Doushantuo formation, and reported in the peer-reviewed literature (Xiao et al. cite that paper in their references). The story is recounted in both Stephen Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt and in the Illustra film Darwin’s Dilemma. The presence of embryos in the Precambrian didn’t solve the Cambrian explosion problem then, and it doesn’t now. In fact, they make the problem worse, because they show that the Precambrian strata were perfectly capable of preserving transitional forms, had they existed.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....90171.html

  21. 21
    bornagain77 says:

    OOPS, below the Wigner Nobel prize video should not be there, so please ignore,,,

  22. 22
    Moose Dr says:

    There is no need to quote Josephus or Tacitus. There are over a half-dozen Biblical writers who were contemporary with Jesus, and who knew him personally. Their testimony should be held by any reasonable scholar with at least as much respect as the testimony of anyone else. As they provide volumes of testimony, this should vastly outweigh the snippets provided by Josephus and Tacitus.

    The Biblical writers are somehow dismissed, but honest historians would not do so. The only conclusion I can come to is that those who reject the historical Jesus are not honest.

  23. 23
    tjguy says:

    Coyne is a perfect picture of someone believing/seeing what you want to. Evidently history is divided into BC and AD because of a fictitious person. How rational is that? He would absolutely love it if Jesus was not a real person, but unfortunately, beliefs and wishes do not dictate reality.

    Interesting that no one is trying to defend Coyne here. That give you an idea of how far out his ideas are.

  24. 24
    bornagain77 says:

    Axel @16, Dr. Paul Giem recently did some videos on Quantum Mechanics

    Quantum Weirdness and God by Paul Giem – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7HHz14tS1c

    Quantum Weirdness and Reality by Paul Giem – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0ZlXixrDmk

    Here is another video that Dr. Giem just did that is of interest to UD readers

    Biological Information: The Book – 10-04-2014 by Paul Giem – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vg_xp0dRUdM

  25. 25
    awstar says:

    KF at #17:

    When it comes to miracles, I have personally witnessed several across my lifetime and had it not been for one of guidance when I was at death’s door from a dangerous chronic disease, I would be dead forty years now. There are thousands or even millions today who have experienced or witnessed genuine miracles in answer to prayer in the name of Jesus. Far, far more than enough to overturn epistemological skepticism.

    But the chief miracle is the resurrection of Jesus.

    I think you confuse the issue by dragging in current day miracles to validate scripture. I’m not saying you didn’t witness them, but the chief purpose of Jesus performing signs and wonders was to prove he was sent by God — just as Moses was given the ability to perform signs and wonders to prove he had the authority to tell Israel that God was going to deliver them from the Egyptians. Apostles like Peter and Paul were also given the power to perform signs and wonders to show their authority to preach the gospel came from God.

    But once Israel as a nation (with individual exceptions) rejected Jesus as their Messiah even after prophecy of his crucifixion and resurrection was fulfilled, the gospel went to the Gentiles where it was readily accepted. Signs and wonders were no longer needed 35 years after the resurrection when all the New Testament was finally recorded and Israel was spread across the globe. But now, in just this past century them prophetic dry bones started coming together in the land they were promised. Now they have pretty substantial muscle on them dry bones. The fulfillment of the rest of prophecy can’t be much further away.

    So if you’re looking for evidence that the Bible is true, look no further than the success of modern day Israel even surrounded by those who want it annihilated. That is the real sign and wonder that will ultimately prove the Bible true that no one will be able to refute.

  26. 26
    bornagain77 says:

    a few resources defending the integrity of the Gospels:

    Undesigned Coincidences (evidence for the historicity of the Gospels) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGVLeC5HbSQ

    How Reliable Is the New Testament? – Dr. Daniel Wallace (16:30 minute mark of video “The New Testament has an ‘embarrassment of riches’ compared to other ancient texts”) – video (Dr. Wallace publicly debated Bart Ehrman 3 times)
    http://www.watermark.org/media.....ment/2305/

    The reliability of the New Testament compared to other ancient texts – graph
    http://visualunit.files.wordpr.....ility1.jpg

    J. Warner Wallace Lectures on the Evidence for Christianity – video
    Description: Cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace, and author of Cold-Case Christianity, presented this lecture via Skype at Reasonable Faith Belfast on Monday, 3rd December 2012. He talks about the nature of evidence, possibility and reason, the chain of custody for the New Testament documents, and much more. The lecture is about an hour (with great visuals), followed by about 30 minutes of Q&A.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiYQzOypD9o

    Alleged Contradictions in the Gospels by Dr. Timothy McGrew – lecture
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJizWvoGCIg

  27. 27
    kairosfocus says:

    AW: Present day miracles of guidance, healing, deliverance and life transformation in answer to prayer in Jesus’ name in accord with specific scriptural promises are about as relevant to scripture as you get. KF

  28. 28
    Axel says:

    Your #20 BA77

    ‘Another day, another bad day for local realists (i.e. for materialists).’ – BA77

    Just your second line and I’m in stitches!

    I’ve just posted this below a YouTube video, in which Stephen Meyer explains Intelligent Design. The funny thing is, I only watched the first fifteen to twenty minutes, then jumped to 3/4 of the way through, then much closer to the end of his talk, after I had written my post.

    But in that last part, Stephen referred to a chap called Herschel (whom I’ve barely heard), who in the same vein as my post, the same context used that term, ‘higgledy-piggledy’.

    I wonder if it would be easier to study things that have actually been designed than things that only appear to have been, but are really a random jumble?

    How much more intelligent must atheists with brains like lottery drums must be, to be able to make sense of such a higgledy-piggledy world, without any order or regularity – which are always manifestly the product of intelligence.

    ‘Billy Bean built a machine to see what it would do.
    He built it up from sticks and stones
    and nuts and bolts and glue.’

    Ah, those were the days.. The innocent world of the five-year old.?’ – Axel, of this parish.

    I suppose I shouldn’t really be surprised as there wouldn’t be too many synonyms for it.

  29. 29
    Axel says:

    PS: Thanks for the videos. I’m just gonna watch’em.

  30. 30
  31. 31
    bornagain77 says:

    No problem Axel,,, I borrowed the line from PaV, slightly modified,,

    i.e. “Another Day, Another Bad Day for Darwinism!

  32. 32
    bornagain77 says:

    A few thoughts,,, Coyne’s denial of the existence of Jesus, not just the denial of the resurrection of Jesus but the denial of Jesus’s very existence as a historical person, reminds me of Coyne’s denial of his own mind.

    The Confidence of Jerry Coyne – Ross Douthat – January 6, 2014
    Excerpt: But then halfway through this peroration, we have as an aside the confession that yes, okay, it’s quite possible given materialist premises that “our sense of self is a neuronal illusion.” At which point the entire edifice suddenly looks terribly wobbly — because who, exactly, is doing all of this forging and shaping and purpose-creating if Jerry Coyne, as I understand him (and I assume he understands himself) quite possibly does not actually exist at all? The theme of his argument is the crucial importance of human agency under eliminative materialism, but if under materialist premises the actual agent is quite possibly a fiction, then who exactly is this I who “reads” and “learns” and “teaches,” and why in the universe’s name should my illusory self believe Coyne’s bold proclamation that his illusory self’s purposes are somehow “real” and worthy of devotion and pursuit? (Let alone that they’re morally significant: But more on that below.) Prometheus cannot be at once unbound and unreal; the human will cannot be simultaneously triumphant and imaginary.
    http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.c.....&_r=0

    Exactly how do you reason with a person that denies that the reality of their very own mind?

    Sam Harris’s Free Will: The Medial Pre-Frontal Cortex Did It – Martin Cothran – November 9, 2012
    Excerpt: There is something ironic about the position of thinkers like Harris on issues like this: they claim that their position is the result of the irresistible necessity of logic (in fact, they pride themselves on their logic). Their belief is the consequent, in a ground/consequent relation between their evidence and their conclusion. But their very stated position is that any mental state — including their position on this issue — is the effect of a physical, not logical cause.
    By their own logic, it isn’t logic that demands their assent to the claim that free will is an illusion, but the prior chemical state of their brains. The only condition under which we could possibly find their argument convincing is if they are not true. The claim that free will is an illusion requires the possibility that minds have the freedom to assent to a logical argument, a freedom denied by the claim itself. It is an assent that must, in order to remain logical and not physiological, presume a perspective outside the physical order.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....66221.html

    Especially since the fact that we have a mind is the one most thing we can be most sure of existing?

    “We have so much confidence in our materialist assumptions (which are assumptions, not facts) that something like free will is denied in principle. Maybe it doesn’t exist, but I don’t really know that. Either way, it doesn’t matter because if free will and consciousness are just an illusion, they are the most seamless illusions ever created. Film maker James Cameron wishes he had special effects that good.”
    Matthew D. Lieberman – neuroscientist – materialist – UCLA professor

    David Chalmers on Consciousness – (Descartes, Philosophical zombies, and the hard problem of consciousness) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK1Yo6VbRoo

    The failure to admit that you, as a ‘person’, have a mind to reason with in the first place is to render anything else that you say about the truth or falsity of any subject nonsensical.

    Physicalism and Reason – May 2013
    Summary: So we find ourselves affirming two contradictory propositions:
    1. Everything is governed by cause-and-effect.
    2. Our brains can process and be changed by ground-consequent logical relationships.
    To achieve consistency, we must either deny that everything is governed by cause-and-effect, and open our worldviews to something beyond physicalism, or we must deny that our brains are influenced by ground-consequence reasoning, and abandon the idea that we are rational creatures.
    Ask yourself: are humans like falling dominoes, entirely subject to natural law, or may we stand up and walk in the direction that reason shows us?
    http://www.reasonsforgod.org/2.....nd-reason/

    Do the New Atheists Own the Market on Reason? – On the terms of the New Atheists, the very concept of rationality becomes nonsensical – By R. Scott Smith, May 03, 2012
    Excerpt: If atheistic evolution by NS were true, we’d be in a beginningless series of interpretations, without any knowledge. Yet, we do know many things. So, naturalism & atheistic evolution by NS are false — non-physical essences exist. But, what’s their best explanation? Being non-physical, it can’t be evolution by NS. Plus, we use our experiences, form concepts and beliefs, and even modify or reject them. Yet, if we’re just physical beings, how could we interact with and use these non-physical things? Perhaps we have non-physical souls too. In all, it seems likely the best explanation for these non-physical things is that there exists a Creator after all.
    http://www.patheos.com/Evangel.....#038;max=1

    Moreover, not only is our reasoning completely undermined within naturalism, but perception itself becomes untrustworthy under naturalism

    Scientific Peer Review is in Trouble: From Medical Science to Darwinism – Mike Keas – October 10, 2012
    Excerpt: Survival is all that matters on evolutionary naturalism. Our evolving brains are more likely to give us useful fictions that promote survival rather than the truth about reality. Thus evolutionary naturalism undermines all rationality (including confidence in science itself). Renown philosopher Alvin Plantinga has argued against naturalism in this way (summary of that argument is linked on the site:).
    Or, if your short on time and patience to grasp Plantinga’s nuanced argument, see if you can digest this thought from evolutionary cognitive psychologist Steve Pinker, who baldly states:
    “Our brains are shaped for fitness, not for truth; sometimes the truth is adaptive, sometimes it is not.”
    Steven Pinker, evolutionary cognitive psychologist, How the Mind Works (W.W. Norton, 1997), p. 305.
    http://blogs.christianpost.com.....ism-12421/

    of related interest to Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism:

    Quote: “In evolutionary games we put truth (true perception) on the stage and it dies. And in genetic algorithms it (true perception) never gets on the stage”
    Donald Hoffman PhD. – Consciousness and The Interface Theory of Perception – 7:19 to 9:20 minute mark – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=dqDP34a-epI#t=439

    Which brings us back to the main point, since Coyne denies the reality of his own mind, and has thus forfeited his right to reason rationally in the first place, why should anyone care what his ‘illusory’ opinions on the historicity of Jesus are?
    Moreover, since Coyne denies the reality of his own mind, how can he possibly believe in life after death?,,,, Even though the evidence for life after death has far more observational evidence going for it than neo-Darwinian evolution does?

    Near-Death Experiences: Putting a Darwinist’s Evidentiary Standards to the Test – Dr. Michael Egnor – October 15, 2012
    Excerpt: Indeed, about 20 percent of NDE’s are corroborated, which means that there are independent ways of checking about the veracity of the experience. The patients knew of things that they could not have known except by extraordinary perception — such as describing details of surgery that they watched while their heart was stopped, etc. Additionally, many NDE’s have a vividness and a sense of intense reality that one does not generally encounter in dreams or hallucinations.,,,
    The most “parsimonious” explanation — the simplest scientific explanation — is that the (Near Death) experience was real. Tens of millions of people have had such experiences. That is tens of millions of more times than we have observed the origin of species , (or the origin of life, or the origin of a molecular machine), which is never.,,,
    The materialist reaction, in short, is unscientific and close-minded. NDE’s show fellows like Coyne at their sneering unscientific irrational worst. Somebody finds a crushed fragment of a fossil and it’s earth-shaking evidence. Tens of million of people have life-changing spiritual experiences and it’s all a big yawn.
    Note: Dr. Egnor is professor and vice-chairman of neurosurgery at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
    per Evolution News and Views

    Supplemental notes:
    If scientists want to find the source for the supernatural light which made the “3D – photographic negative” image on the Shroud I suggest they look to the thousands of documented Near-Death Experiences (NDE’s) in Judeo-Christian cultures. It is in their testimonies that you will find mention of an indescribably bright ‘Light’ or ‘Being of Light’ who is always described as being of a much brighter intensity of light than the people had ever seen before.

    Ask the Experts: What Is a Near-Death Experience (NDE)? – article with video
    Excerpt: “Very often as they’re moving through the tunnel, there’s a very bright mystical light … not like a light we’re used to in our earthly lives. People call this mystical light, brilliant like a million times a million suns…”
    – Jeffery Long M.D. – has studied NDE’s extensively
    http://abcnews.go.com/Nightlin....._gydvW8jbI

    “Suddenly, I was enveloped in this brilliant golden light. The light was more brilliant that the light emanating from the sun, many times more powerful and radiant than the sun itself. Yet, I was not blinded by it nor burned by it. Instead, the light was a source of energy that embraced my being.”
    Ned Dougherty’s – Fast Lane To Heaven – Quoted from “To Heaven and Back” pg. 71 – Mary C. Neal MD

    Verse and Music:

    Acts 26:13-15
    at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

    Toby Mac (In The Light)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_MpGRQRrP0

  33. 33
    Blue_Savannah says:

    These absurd atheists can’t impugn Christ’s character, so now they’re trying to claim HE never existed – it doesn’t get more desperate than that.

  34. 34
    phoodoo says:

    What in the world does this have to do with Intelligent Design?

  35. 35
    HeKS says:

    @phoodoo #34

    In my opinion, what this has to with Intelligent Design is that it is merely one of the many examples of the sheer credulity exhibited by the staunchest and most vocal opponents of Intelligent Design when it comes to virtually any claim that makes their own materialistic worldview seem more plausible and secure. As long as it suits their purposes, it is perfectly fine to ignore the uniform conclusions of academic specialists in a field with which they have little to no familiarity.

  36. 36
    kairosfocus says:

    HeKS:

    In exploring hyperskepticism some years ago (what Simon Greenleaf called “the error of the skeptic”) I wondered if selective hyperskepticism mirrored hypercredulity.

    The answer was, no, in order to DIS-believe what one should not, one will simultaneously find oneself already accepting what one should not. So the focal issue is inserting a double standard of warrant in order to reject what one should not; generally because one wishes the world not to be so.

    Of course, such hyperskepticism must fend off correction, so it is sustained by a rhetoric of polarisation which then often issues in contempt towards those who differ and in an attack-dog mentality. This stabilises what is inherently unstable on its own, and of course attack dogs run in packs.

    In this case there simply is no good reason to disbelieve the historical reality of the C1 Carpenter from Nazareth and itinerant preacher known as Jesus (in our English language rendering). Who, having been outspoken in speaking truth to power suffered judicial murder at the hands of key local and colonial elites as part of the all too usual dirty power politics we can read of in honest history, or even see around us today. Nor, that his shocked and despairing followers, after a circle of women found his tomb empty on going to complete hastily begun burial rites, and who became the first witnesses who testified to his resurrection. Remember, Mary Magdalene was a woman formerly of ill repute and her reaction on record to the presumed gardener is: where did they [the hostile authorities . . . ] take the body? I will re-bury it myself if you tell me.

    Mary!

    She knew THAT voice, the voice she never expected to hear again this side of the grave. The death-grip grabbing of her master so recently torn from her by hostile powers is understandable.

    Then, the women reported their experiences.

    The men of the company of disciples responded in accord with the typical views of the day, and were inclined to be dismissive and incredulous. The most generous minded simply spoke of what “the women” said. The less so were muttering of old wives’ tales.

    All of this deeply embarrassing detail is right there in the record, put there by men willing to say the first witnesses were those least likely to be believed by a C1 audience. (Fabricators would simply circumvent such.)

    But then — in a culture that expected an end of days general resurrection and Judgement and would find it acceptable that someone has a vision that comforted the mourners that the murdered prophet rested with God — the unexpected happens. The presumed gardener (ever noticed how Gardeners always seem to be early at their task?) who might be able to tell where the authorities moved the body to tuns out NOT to be the gardener. Behind closed and locked doors [for fear . . . ], someone comes to supper — after he has been murdered by order of an unjust court led by a dangerous colonial governor. Doubters demanding more than mere convergent eyewitness testimony and the parallel missing body, the sudden conversion of the hitherto dismissive family members (what, my own brother has gone mad . . . ?) and preposterous stories of raids marking an act of rebellion, find one willing to go the extra mile with evidence. But, stipulates that adequate evidence is all that one may justly demand. Evidence adequate to warrant to relevant reasonable degree.

    And from such humble beginnings, a tidal wave gathers momentum. Momentum that could not be stopped by dungeon, fire, sword and worse. Momentum that has lasted to today, transforming lives all around. Momentum that STILL issues in miraculous life-changing answer to prayer. So, the witnesses keep on coming.

    But, we need to ask some sobering questions of ourselves.

    Why do so many so desperately wish that Jesus be a myth, to the point where they cling to absurd dismissals in the teeth of far more than adequate historical evidence for the world’s most famous carpenter?

    Why do so many refuse to listen to, and even dismiss eyewitness lifetime record of eyewitness testimony bearing the ring of truth as “no evidence”?

    Why do so many refuse to fairly address the most famous sermon in history as the central ethical teaching of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, taught by its principal teacher?

    Why are so many so contemptuously dismissive of the experience of millions across twenty centuries and millions more today, about life-transforming encounter with and miracles by the living God in the face of that same Carpenter from a back-water village?

    Why are so many of such skeptics so angry and even spiteful?

    Why are so many so willing to indulge in double-standards of warrant, clinging to dismissive accounts that cannot soundly address the evidence, while loudly proclaiming that evidence is “not evidence”?

    Could there be a little more going on than mere epistemology of warrant?

    And, if that is the attitude to history reported by eyewitnesses on copious and easily accessible record, how will such skeptics handle the remote past of origins where we deal with traces and inferences to best explanation per inductively validated signs such as FSCO/I?

    Maybe, then, what we are dealing with is more of a clash of worldviews and cultural visions with implications for institutions of power, rather than a matter of simple evidence and warrant.

    The case of the C1’s most famous personality may therefore have far more relevance to the epistemological issues at stake than we might at first believe. As comes out in the way Prof Coyne handles the evidence . . . or rather, dismisses it.

    KF

  37. 37
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: A Video course level response on the historicity of the Gospels (and thus the life of Jesus). KF

  38. 38
  39. 39
    StuartHarris says:

    Alexander the Great did not exist either. The first writings about him were by Plutarch some 400 years after his supposed life.

    Come to think of it, I don’t see why we believe that the historian Plutarch really existed, or the historians that wrote about Plutarch. So, all ancient history is a hoax and a lie.

    If there ain’t a video of it on youtube, it didn’t happen.

  40. 40
    Heartlander says:

    Darwin didn’t exist. He was created by the X-Club and other young guards of naturalism order to establish methodological naturalism in science and eventually philosophical naturalism in society. This was promoted by T.H. Huxley to the masses, the Apostle Paul of Darwinism. Darwin was modeled after a figurative representation of God with a flowing beard and wise glare. Blasphemy laws still exist in many universities for anyone who speaks against this mythical being and the teachings of Darwinism.

  41. 41
    jw777 says:

    Early Christian History is the only science wherein would-be revisionists begin their pursuit by eliminating the earliest, most reliable and most comprehensive documents.

    Why? Because those documents are called “canonical”?

    Imagine if every time CERN released findings the scholarly community said, “well, let’s see if your data holds up if we begin by discarding all of your data and looking to extra-canonical sources?”

    It’s tautological fallacy. You cannot honestly and consistently ask someone to produce evidence for the existence of Jesus if your exclusion criterion is anything that contains evidence for the existence of Jesus.

    Likewise, I cannot say that there is no evidence for the Higgs Boson outside of proponents for the Higgs Boson. Just show me one person who doesn’t believe in the Higgs Boson who has proven the Higgs Boson. That’s the only sufficient proof for the Higgs Boson.

    Completely ridiculous.

  42. 42
    roding says:

    …written by atheist activist Richard Carrier, who has a Ph.D. in ancient history, but who (judging from his Wikipedia biography) has no teaching or research position at any accredited institution.

    I am rather puzzled by this. Are we saying that for anybody to be taking seriously they must have both a PhD and be teaching at an accredited institution?

    Based on this is the logical conclusion then that the thoughts of many of the regulars here should be discounted, because I’m fairly certain firstly that many don’t have PhDs and fewer are in teaching positions. For example, do Kairosfocus and BA77 have doctorates in biology and are they teaching in accredited institutions? Yet, of course their opinions and thoughts carry considerable weight here, as they should.

    I’m not saying that I agree or disagree with Carrier, but I would have thought that having a doctorate from Columbia (and in a relevant field) would mean that his opinions should be taken seriously.

  43. 43
    kairosfocus says:

    Heart, My linked at 37 addresses Paulkovitch, or rather what he failed to address in pushing ill-grounded selectively hyperskeptical claims. KF

  44. 44
    kairosfocus says:

    Rod, the issue is warrant, on grounding: as in credible facts and appropriate reasoning tied to assumptions that do not beg big questions in the field of live options. If you wish to sustain Richard Carrier’s Christ Myth claims, kindly sustain them on reasonable grounds in the teeth of evidence as adduced already or linked. KF

    PS: If you look carefully, you will see that I consistently make not a claim in biology but on sampling and search connected to information issues. Biological observed facts, I take as the BASIS for the claim, from competent sources . . . facts which are in fact uncontroversial, the Nobel prizes having long since been won for e.g. showing that DNA is a string data structure used in the cell, which encodes biological information in accord with a family of codes. What I have pointed out is that such FSCO/I has a config space and poses a search challenge that the atomic resources of solar system or cosmos, on blind chance and mechanical necessity, will face a serious needle in haystack problem with. Theories that try to assign to such search strategies the sort of design that we observe, are spectacular failures at the bar of blind sampling, not for incremental changes within an island of function but for getting to such islands in the sea of possible configs.

  45. 45

    Everyone should take the hour and watch the following:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5Ylt1pBMm8

    There is no good case to say the New Testament was made up. It just doesn’t work because they get too many details that can be verified correct.

  46. 46
    kairosfocus says:

    Heart, not a bad take-down of the Paulkovich list. KF

  47. 47
    roding says:

    KF, I’m not arguing for or against Carrier, I’m just saying we should assess what he has to say on its merits, and not discount his vies because of inadequate qualifications. I think you agree with this because you obviously want your position to be taken seriously, so we should do the same with Carrier. Dismissing him because of some arbitrary lack of qualification seems at best a distraction, and worse rather defensive.

    And there is the perception of a double standard. Again, if we applied this standard to the contributors here we would have to dismiss much of what is posted here.

  48. 48
    kairosfocus says:

    GR, yes, a useful vid on a subtlety of fitting in with the times in a way not plausible for something that is not a summary of eyewitness reports. KF

  49. 49
    jw777 says:

    As a general rule, as we get farther away from an established historical event, it is disengenuous to completely revise. The early Jesus followers have the highest authority. The next generation less. The next less. Now we are in the 21st century and think we can supplant the first generation? Narcissism and ego.

    If we only had a single fragment, just five verses, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, which dates somewhere early 30s to early 40s AD, that would be sufficient. But then there’s the entirety of canon (over 25,000 early extant materials) and church fathers, which frankly is absolutely overwhelming. That we can add any non-canonical references to the body of evidence is entirely remarkable for an ancient historical person who was not a high-born political warrior.

    Anyone who asks for more evidence for EXISTENCE is not being honest with himself.

  50. 50
    kairosfocus says:

    Rod, I agree in principle. However, expertise — real focussed expertise on C1 Palestine and the NT texts and context — is much rarer than a fair degree of knowledge on biological facts in an age where essentially anyone with a High School ed has done a course or two in bio. So, in this field of history we are far more reliant on known relevant expertise and responsible summary of the relevant body of actual knowledge [as opposed to imposing ideological or worldview level question-begging grids], especially when a scholar is making controversial claims. From context, Carrier is arguing Jesus of Nazareth is a fictional non-historic character, not just that he performed no miracles [which typically is driven by an ideological or worldview assumption]. On what warrant — grounds in facts, research and resulting evidence, with cogent and non question-begging reasoning — does he make that very strong claim in the teeth of four biographies that can be traced in successive times to 95 – 115 AD, and a history directly successive to one of the four known to be painstakingly and subtly habitually accurate, as well as the more or less consensus view of the field that on balance the evidence warrants that there was such a person on the ground in Palestine in early C1? (Please note my linked from 37 and onward linked materials.) KF

  51. 51
    Barb says:

    Mahuna declares,

    There is no evidence for a historical person corresponding to the main character in the Christian gospels.

    Says who? You? Are you a historian? No? Then are you qualified to make such a statement? No?

    This was well established in the 19th century, and no less a person than Albert Schweitzer stated that publicly.

    You should also note that historian Will Durant claimed that Jesus did exist. Are you going to ignore his work? If so, why?

    Napoléon Bonaparte reportedly said: “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires, but upon what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ alone founded his kingdom upon love, and at this day millions of men would die for him.”

    “I have regarded Jesus of Nazareth as one amongst the mighty teachers that the world has had. . . . I shall say to the Hindus that your lives will be incomplete unless you reverently study the teachings of Jesus.”—Mohandas K. Gandhi, The Message of Jesus Christ.

    “A character so original, so complete, so uniformly consistent, so perfect, so human and yet so high above all human greatness, can be neither a fraud nor a fiction. . . . It would take more than a Jesus to invent a Jesus.”—Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church.

    “That a few simple men should in one generation have invented so powerful and appealing a personality, so lofty an ethic and so inspiring a vision of human brotherhood, would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the Gospels.”—Will Durant, Caesar and Christ.

    “It may seem incomprehensible that a globe-spanning religious movement could have been triggered by a nonexistent person dreamed up as the ancient equivalent of a marketing device, given the ranks of incontestably real people who have tried and failed to found faiths.”—Gregg Easterbrook, Beside Still Waters.

    As a literary historian I am perfectly convinced that whatever the Gospels are, they are not legends. They are not artistic enough to be legends. Most of the life of Jesus is unknown to us, and no people building up a legend would allow that to be so.’—C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock.

    t would require much exotic calculation, however, to deny that the single most powerful figure—not merely in these two millenniums but in all human history—has been Jesus of Nazareth.”—Reynolds Price, American writer and Bible scholar.

    “A man who was completely innocent offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.”—Mohandas K. Gandhi, political and spiritual leader of India.
    “As a child, I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.”—Albert Einstein, German-born scientist.

    “Jesus Christ, to me, is the outstanding personality of all time, all history, both as Son of God and as Son of Man. Everything He ever said or did has value for us today, and that is something you can say of no other man, alive or dead.”—Sholem Asch, Polish-born essayist as quoted in Christian Herald; italics theirs.

    “For thirty five years of my life I was, in the proper acceptation of the word, nihilist, a man who believed in nothing. Five years ago my faith came to me. I believed in the doctrine of Jesus Christ and my whole life underwent a sudden transformation.”—Count Leo Tolstoy, Russian novelist and philosopher.

    “[Jesus’] life is the most influential ever lived on this planet and its effect continues to mount.”—Kenneth Scott Latourette, American historian and author.

    “Shall we suppose the evangelic history a mere fiction? Indeed, my friend, it bears not the marks of fiction. On the contrary, the history of Socrates, which nobody presumes to doubt, is not so well attested as that of Jesus Christ.”—Jean-Jacques Rousseau, French philosopher.

    Please enlighten us as to who these people were referring to if Jesus Christ never existed.

    It is very damaging to the theory of Intelligent Design to wrap the belief in the mythical Jesus around acceptance of a theory about Biology.

    It’s also very dangerous for a person to spew ignorance on a public forum. Better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

    Skipping through most of the stuff above, it’s been well established by Historians (oh, you’re not a Historian? Then why do you feel qualified to state an opinion on History?) that the references to Jesus in Josephus are a forgery, and many manuscripts of Josephus’s history exist with no mention of Jesus. As with experimental results supporting Evolution, if you have to FAKE the data for Historical Jesus, it’s sure sign that there is no real evidence.

    What about non-Biblical references to Jesus Christ? How are they assessed? The works of Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, Pliny the Younger, and a few other classical writers include numerous references to Jesus. Of them, The New Encyclopædia Britannica (1995) says: “These independent accounts prove that in ancient times even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus, which was disputed for the first time and on inadequate grounds at the end of the 18th, during the 19th, and at the beginning of the 20th centuries.”

    Bolded for emphasis. It’s sad to see that modern scholars have resorted to baseless speculation, pointless doubts, and unfounded theorizing. They’re guilty of the same mythologizing that they accuse the Gospel writers of and, more importantly, they fail to examine honestly the evidence about Jesus.

  52. 52
    kairosfocus says:

    JW777, I think you have a serious point, noting that the baseline issue here is dismissal of the bare bones existence of a person identifiable as Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee. KF

  53. 53
    ppolish says:

    I’m inclined to believe Darwin never sailed on the Beagle. Eyewitness accounts are questionable. I believe he hid in his mum’s cellar and plagiarized Wallace. Where is the Beagle anyway?

  54. 54
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: I find this summary in Wiki, as a beginning on Carrier:

    He is a supporter of the Christ myth theory. In his contribution to The Empty Tomb Carrier argues that the earliest Christians probably believed Jesus had received a new spiritual body in the resurrection,[7] and that stories of his old body disappearing from its tomb were developed later. He also argues it is less likely, but also possible, that the original body of Jesus was misplaced or stolen. This work was criticized by philosophy professor Stephen T. Davis in Philosophia Christi[8] and Christian apologist Norman Geisler.[9] Carrier’s first major book was published in 2012 by Prometheus Books, describing the application of Bayes Theorem to historical enquiry (specifically the historicity or otherwise of Jesus of Nazareth).[10]

    Though originally skeptical of the notion, and subsequently more agnostic, since 2005 he has considered it “very probable Jesus never actually existed as a historical person”,[11] yet he also said “though I foresee a rising challenge among qualified experts against the assumption of historicity [of Jesus]… that remains only a hypothesis that has yet to survive proper peer review”.[12] In June 2014 Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt was published by Sheffield Phoenix Press. Carrier has claimed that it is “the first comprehensive pro-Jesus myth book ever published by a respected academic press and under formal peer review”.[13]

    Prometheus books is of course a skeptical publisher rather than a general academic house. Sheffield Phoenix is an academic press.

    Reading carefully, we see that he is not actually currently declaring that Jesus never existed, but that we may have doubts and here’s how to doubt.

    The basic problem here is a question of reasonable method. There is a world of difference between doubts and reasonable, well grounded [as opposed to merely skeptical] doubts.

    And no, playing mathematical games with Bayesian priors or the like is not good enough, when all that one may be doing is propagating ideological a prioris. Disguised question-begging in short.

    KF

  55. 55
    jw777 says:

    I’m just exhausted with the line of questioning:
    Without using any of the evidence for X, can you show me evidence for X?

    Of course the answer is no. It’s built into the “skeptic’s” premise. If I exclude all primary documents for any event as a starting point, guess what – there aren’t any primary documents that support that event. Wow. I’m absolutely floored by that intellectual rigor.

    This is THE fundamental issue. A priori wanton exclusion has a predictable result. This is not an argument or scholarship. It’s hand waving.

  56. 56
    jw777 says:

    I’ll return to my previous question:

    Can someone corroborate the measurement of the Higgs Boson without referencing CERN or any of their work?

    Are there multiple, disinterested, unbelieving groups who have measured the Higgs Boson today and every day at the same mass as CERN?

    No? Then it’s unreasonable to even beleive it exists, let alone knowing any of its properties.

  57. 57
    roding says:

    KF, I’m not a Christian (and neither am I an atheist), so I don’t really have too much skin in this game. I suppose though one could argue that Carrier is taking a minority view not dis-similar to the one that ID takes against mainstream evolution. So I don’t think it should be dismissed out of hand. I find at least some of his ideas intriguing:

    * There are no contemporaneous accounts of Jesus, despite the fact that there were many active historians in the region
    * The gospels were written much latter than the events they portray and in some cases it seems authorship is unclear (and probably not by contemporaneous eyewitnesses)
    * One of the main founders of Christianity, Paul, seems to have written his letters before the gospels, but seems completely unaware of historical or biographical details of the person he advocates as Christ.
    * Non-scriptural references come much later, and although they definitely ratify the existence of a religious movement, is that really verification of the founder? (perhaps in the same way Mormon history talks of the angel Moroni and gold plates etc is not necessarily historical ratification of those events/persons)

    These things in themselves are not “proofs” that Jesus did not exist, but they do make for an intriguing puzzle. And for a bystander like myself, I would that although these may not be good reasons to be skeptical, I think these are valid points that need addressing. Perhaps that’s where faith plays into the picture.

  58. 58
    kairosfocus says:

    Rod:

    Carrier seems to be taking skeptical dismissals at face value, which were far more popular in an earlier generation before scholarship rebalanced.

    Note, Evans’ Benthal lecture.

    About to go down on power so later.

    KF

  59. 59
    jw777 says:

    Rod, to your 4 points of intrigue:

    1.) If the Gospel story is remotely reliable, there, by definition, would not have been contemporaneous historical accounts. If an event beyond a shadow of a doubt happened, no one journals it, especially if they earnestly believe that the Messiah is returning any moment and it’s incumbent upon one to spread the word right this second by word of mouth.

    I’ve always found this odd as an objection. I would find it far more disturbing to the historicity presented in the Gospels if we did find a contemporaneous non-canonical historian. That would tell us that it was possible for people of the time to hear the facts of Jesus’ life, not embrace them, and also disbelieve the impending return. Absence of such an account is just as easily a testament to the unanimity of early Jesus history.

    2.) Again, supposing there’s any history to be gleaned from the Gospels, no one saw any point in writing down the history until followers started getting old and they were forced to rethink their concept of “one day soon.” Nonetheless, cross referencing church fathers, you find that authorship was actually well known and mentor/mentee relationships could be drawn directly to Luke and others.

    Too early of authorship would undermine the claims and beliefs of the early christian community.

    3.) Paul’s lack of interest in biographical details is a product of his belief system, again dovetailing perfectly with what we would expect if there was intense passion and urgency in that community. Exclusion simply means exclusion. It doesn’t mean he didn’t know. If anything, it means he thought them unimportant or distracting.

    Honestly, if we had a Thucydides-like run down of Jesus’ time stamped school days, this wouldn’t help. We could just as easily dismiss that history on account of it sounding formulaic, contrived and based on some other Jewish mystic’s boyhood.

    4.) Good point. The farther people get removed from the initial community of Jesus followers, the less likely they are to get the details of his life correct when they stray from the earliest accounts. Like with us.

    Non-canonical sources found no reason to doubt the existence of Jesus. Fine details may be up for grabs, and acceptance of Messiah is a non-historical matter of the heart, but non-existence is a 19th century kook invention.

    I understand even a wary agnostic position; but outright dismissal with a stacked deck is bogus. One hundred years from now, if someone mined all of the masters theses in literature, political science and biology, they could honestly and correctly say, “there’s no mention in any of these documents of the large hadron collider; ergo, it mustve been made up.”

    The point is that you can always create a criterion of dismissal, especially when you look at ancient history. It’s just, in the case of Jesus of Nazareth, such criteria are unfair and unreasonable. We have documents to work with. We don’t have to throw them out.

    If you use some imagination, you will find that no matter how reasonable a claim of truth you make, you can create a criterion of exclusion that seems at first glance reasonable. That isn’t scholarly rigor. It’s just hand waving.

  60. 60
    Barb says:

    Roding writes @ 57:

    * There are no contemporaneous accounts of Jesus, despite the fact that there were many active historians in the region

    It should be noted that the Jewish people had a tradition of oral repetition. The Anchor Bible Dictionary states: “Dependence on oral tradition could easily account for the memorable sayings of Jesus being recorded in identical form.”

    The Bible itself is the principal evidence that Jesus Christ is a historical person. The record in the Gospels is not a vague narrative of events at some unspecified time and in an unnamed location. It clearly states time and place in great detail. For an example, see Luke 3:1, 2, 21-23.

    * The gospels were written much latter than the events they portray and in some cases it seems authorship is unclear (and probably not by contemporaneous eyewitnesses)

    The four canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) were accepted among Christians at least as early as the mid 2nd century. Irenaeus (of the late 2nd century) noted that there were four gospels, just as there were four quarters of the globe and four cardinal winds.

    According to some sources, the Gospel of Matthew was written as early as the eighth year after Christ’s death, that is, about 41 C.E. Many scholars favor a somewhat later date, but there is general agreement that all the books of the Christian Greek Scriptures were written during the first century C.E.

    * One of the main founders of Christianity, Paul, seems to have written his letters before the gospels, but seems completely unaware of historical or biographical details of the person he advocates as Christ.

    Paul wrote his letters after the gospels were written. Romans was written about 56 CE. Paul does not include biographical details about Christ, because that was handled by the gospel writers. His focus was the early Christian congregation. He showed clearly how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures (read the book of Hebrews and see how he contrasts the animal sacrifices required under the Mosaic Law with Jesus’ sacrifice).

    * Non-scriptural references come much later, and although they definitely ratify the existence of a religious movement, is that really verification of the founder? (perhaps in the same way Mormon history talks of the angel Moroni and gold plates etc is not necessarily historical ratification of those events/persons)

    Jesus’ mortal enemies never doubted he existed. Also, I direct you to my post above. If Jesus never existed, then who exactly were all the people I quoted, including historians, philosophers, and scientists, referring to?

  61. 61
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: I annotate . . .

    >> * There are no contemporaneous accounts of Jesus, despite the fact that there were many active historians in the region>>

    Josephus and Luke, active historical writers, wrote of Jesus. In addition, two other sources are lifetime witness biographies that bear marks of being based on eyewitness testimony.

    Most historians of C1 would have had little interest in Jesus, but we do have a cluster of incidental references within about 70 years, none of which betray any notion that Jesus was not a figure of history.

    This dismissiveness is a modern hyperskeptical invention.

    >>* The gospels were written much latter than the events they portray and in some cases it seems authorship is unclear (and probably not by contemporaneous eyewitnesses)>>

    Skeptical assertions.

    There is no good reason to dismiss the NT documents as C1 narratives given that they crop up in the very first circle of writing Fathers, 95 – 115 AD, as authentic and authoritative.

    Luke is a self acknowledged historical writer not an eyewitness, and can be dated c 60 AD, with Ac 62 AD. He uses Mk as a trusted source, dating that to c 50 with the passion narrative having indications of being 37 AD

    In addition in a separate writing by Paul we have a documentation of 55 AD, confirming oral instructions c 50 – 52 AD, and in turn resting on a summary of the Jerusalem church’s official testimony dating 35 – 38 AD

    Mk Lk-Ac and 1 Cor 15 are by themselves more than enough to warrant the authenticity of the NT.

    MT fits this f/w and there is no good reason to reject the authorship of any Gospel, they are not the ones we would expect from early forgers and there is simply no tradition that disputes that ascription of consequence from the historical times.

    Jn, the latest is perhaps 90 AD by a remaining apostle. By c 125 AD it is appearing copied in codex form in Egypt in the Rylands papyrus.

    The onward tradition of transmission as linked here and onward, is far better than any other comparable classical work

    >>* One of the main founders of Christianity, Paul, seems to have written his letters before the gospels, but seems completely unaware of historical or biographical details of the person he advocates as Christ.>>

    False, but commonly perceived.

    Just from 1 Cor 15, we see much on the historical side. A compilation of allusions and points of contacts tie to Jesus’ narrative in many subtle ways. Paul knew the family of Jesus, esp James, he knew the leading members of the twelve including Peter, he spent significant time in and around Jerusalem in the 30’s and 40’s, and when a controversy arose over his free acceptance of Gentiles without making them Jewish proselytes, the Jerusalem leadership clearly endorsed his ministry and teaching with the conversion of Cornelius under Peter’s ministry a critical evidence. And we have the preserved letter of endorsement, the communique of the first ever general church council, c 49 AD. Astonishingly — but patently echoing time together in Antioch in the mid 40’s (and this includes at least one sharp exchange!), Peter’s theology in his epistles is strongly reflective of Paul. Actually, the influences probably run both ways.

    Paul did not write a biography of Jesus, but his companion acting under his obvious leadership, Luke, did so.

    (I suspect the core of Lk-Ac was materials for legal briefs; remember this is a man who appealed to Nero Ceasar’s judgement, exploiting a then not widely known right of the citizen . . . more likely, Burrus acting for Nero. Then as now, if you appeal to the supreme court you had better have your ducks in a row, so it is highly likely Luke was gathering info and compiling an authentic narrative long before Paul’s dramatic appeal.)

    >>* Non-scriptural references come much later, and although they definitely ratify the existence of a religious movement, is that really verification of the founder? (perhaps in the same way Mormon history talks of the angel Moroni and gold plates etc is not necessarily historical ratification of those events/persons)>>

    The circle of non-Christian references [adjusted for the apparent insertions in Jospehus per the independent Arabic text], gives a pattern that is instantly recognisable. Here is Paul Barnett’s classic summary:

    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:

    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]
    The movement spread from Judaea to Rome. [Tacitus]
    Jesus claimed to be God and that he would depart and return. [Eliezer]
    His followers worshipped him as (a) god. [Pliny]
    He was called “the Christ.” [Josephus]
    His followers were called “Christians.” [Tacitus, Pliny]
    They were numerous in Bithynia and Rome [Tacitus, Pliny]
    It was a world-wide movement. [Eliezer]
    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.]

    Such references compare very well with general classical sources on personalities, including leading ones.

    >>These things in themselves are not “proofs” that Jesus did not exist, but they do make for an intriguing puzzle. And for a bystander like myself, I would that although these may not be good reasons to be skeptical, I think these are valid points that need addressing. Perhaps that’s where faith plays into the picture. >>

    I respond with some wise words on evidence from Testimony of the Evangelists, by Simon Greenleaf, a founding father of not only Havard Law School but also of the modern anglophone theory of 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.]

    2] Conversance: In matters of public and general interest, all persons must be presumed to be conversant, on the principle that individuals are presumed to be conversant with their own affairs. [p. 17.]

    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.]

    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 ordiary 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.]

    11] Procedure: let the witnesses be compared with themselves, with each other, and with surrounding facts and circumstances.[p. 42.]

    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 fundamental error of the selectively hyperskeptical, is to think that to doubt and to toss up skeptical talking points is to refute and dismiss, while being inconsistent with similar cases s/he is inclined to accept. If such were to become globally skeptical, the absurd consequences would be patent.

    So, it is time for us to do some fresh thinking.

    Remember, what is being doubted and dismissed here is the bare existence of Jesus.

    If that is rejected on the evidence in hand, a consistent standard would let go of the entire classical deposit.

    KF

  62. 62
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. Craig exposes sensationalistic claims about the historical Jesus making the rounds in popular media.
    Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org.....z3FPINOC4M
    podcast:
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org.....s_2014.mp3

  63. 63
    roding says:

    Thank you all for your thoughtful replies! Very interesting and helpful information. Really helps me better understand both sides of the argument.

  64. 64
    Mung says:

    Jerry Coyne has written a post in which he states that he is inclined to believe that Jesus never existed…

    Anyone here surprised?

    …although he hasn’t made up his mind yet.

    So he doesn’t want to appear to be a complete fool.

    Perhaps if he just *wished* a little harder.

  65. 65
    Mung says:

    Why can’t Coyne be honest enough to just admit that he isn’t qualified to render an opinion that anyone else should take seriously?

    Why I don’t believe Jesus was a real person:

    Many adults believe in a real Jesus, but many children believe in a real Santa.

  66. 66
    Mung says:

    mahuna @ 12:

    There is no evidence for a historical person corresponding to the main character in the Christian gospels. This was well established in the 19th century, and no less a person than Albert Schweitzer stated that publicly.

    Is that the Albert Schweitzer, the Christian?

    Since the mid-1890s Schweitzer had formed the inner resolve that it was needful for him as a Christian to repay to the world something for the happiness which it had given to him, and he determined that he would pursue his younger interests until the age of thirty and then give himself to serving humanity, with Jesus serving as his example.

  67. 67
    idismyth says:

    Whether or not you believe in the existence of a Rabbi named Jesus is up for debate. There is evidence to suggest that he existed, but it is not conclusive. There are too many conflicting time frames and contradictory texts. Was he one person? Was he an amalgam of more than one person? The side that a person picks will rely more on faith than it will on historical evidence.

    The same could be said for Robin Hood. There is plenty of evidence in support of his existence. But most historians now agree that he is an amalgam of two or more people. And this is a character who is many centuries more recent than Jesus, during a time with better extant records.

    But of more importance is whether or not this Jesus character was god. On this subject, there is no supporting evidence, and there never will be, regardless of the number if links that BA77 can produce.

  68. 68
    kairosfocus says:

    IDS:

    Historical evidence — largely recorded testimony of various kinds — never produces an absolute proof, as it is inherently inductive; specifically by abductive inference to the best explanation. However, in many cases it can produce moral certainty beyond reasonable — as opposed to any and all — doubts.

    Greenleaf, again, is instructive . . . this time from the opening chapter of his monumental Evidence:

    Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved . . . None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error [–> Greenleaf wrote almost 100 years before Godel], and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction.

    Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration. In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd.

    The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them.

    The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to be proved.

    By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond reasonable doubt.

    The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest concern and importance to his own interest. [A Treatise on Evidence, Vol I, 11th edn. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1888) ch 1., sections 1 and 2. Shorter paragraphs added. (NB: Greenleaf was a founder of the modern Harvard Law School and is regarded as a founding father of the modern Anglophone school of thought on evidence, in large part on the strength of this classic work.)]

    Now, you compare evidence for Jesus with that for Robin Hood.

    The difference is, we here deal with four eyewitness lifetime biographies and a subsequent history, which cohere on a definite specific and unique character, the one that could produce the sermon on the mount and be taken seriously. There is obviously a plain historical core whatever exaggerated emphasis may be placed on difficulties with timelines and details of historical or archaeological circumstances on essentially secondary points. For, it is a known forensic character of true testimony that it will agree on the core when probed, but will often have divergence or even contradictions on secondary points. Where also many apparent contradictions will resolve on closer examination.

    For instance, we see Jesus and the disciples proposing to move farther into Lebanon, from Tyre to Sidon, in order to return to Israel. Why walk away from your destination in order to come back to it? ANS: Because there is a mountain in the way and you will have an easier way by a pass.

    Similarly, in looking at the many hihghlighted claimed contradictions across the Passion narratives, I first applied the principle of harmonisation, that if claimed contradictory points x1, x2, x3 . . . xn can be ANDed together and with a harmonising logically possible explanation E, a coherent narrative results, x1 to n cannot be contradictory.

    With aid of John Wenham et al, I therefore assembled and tabulated a timeline explanation (in response to a debate in Jamaica arising over claims of Bishop Spong) and found to my surprise that the points in the passion narrative do not even require a core-secondary separation to be harmonised. Providing only, that one is willing to accept the possibility of a God able and willing to work miracles.

    On the strength of this result and other similar experiences, I am much more inclined to doubt C20 or 21 skeptics who were not there, rather than evident eyewitnesses who were. A reasonable harmony of the core trumps a radical disharmony any day. On pain of descent into ill-advised selective hyperskpeticism.

    Yes, puzzles and difficulties remain, but one faces comparative difficulties on serious questions, not magic bullets that remove all issues, poof.

    It is in that spirit that I then looked at and tabulated comparative explanations on the resurrection of Jesus, which is pivotal in the theological debates over him. (Cf discussion here on, especially on the up to twelve minimal facts conceded by an absolute to overwhelming majority of technical scholarship over the past generation, and particularly the table of comparative explanations.)

    The result is stark.

    First, the shoal of skeptical explanations tracing to the rise of deist skeptics in recent centuries vanishes, poof. The Islamic argument similarly collapses.

    When the dust settles, there are two serious contenders, and one is markedly inferior as it pivots on an implausible common, convergent sustained hallucination by people of radically divergent temperament and circumstances.

    For, it is utterly plain that there was a radical change in the twelve, in the family of Jesus, and in Paul. Also, the despairing disciples who saw their leader judicially murdered, were suddenly unstoppably energised and irrepressible. Not even in the face of dungeon, fire, sword and worse.

    These men were plainly sincerely convinced, to the point of peaceful surrender of their lives to judicial murder. (Which, for a member of my family, has a very sobering ring of truth about it. The letter of George William Gordon to his wife in the one hour notice he had before he was unjustly hanged in Jamaica in 1865 at instigation of a cruel Governor, speaks loud volumes to those willing to listen.)

    Either, we had that sort of utterly implausible mutually supportive hallucination, sustained across altogether several years, or else we have witnesses to the truth of a worldview-shattering miracle, the resurrection of Messiah in fulfillment of 700 year old written promises . . . authenticating the Hebraic prophetic and scriptural tradition in which Messiah came.

    And not only so, but there were clearly many miracles, including at least one in the Temple itself that he same Sanhedrin that had recently put Jesus to death could not overturn. This, Ac 4:13 – 14, is classic:

    Ac 4: 13 Now when they [the Sanhedrin] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition.

    Y’see, I AM THAT MAN STANDING THERE.

    That is, absent miraculous answer to prayer of surrender to the self-same God of the Bible, a miracle of guidance, I would be in my grave from a chronic childhood disease some forty years now.

    Likewise, I testify to a life turned around by encounter with that Living God in the face of the risen Christ.

    Nor am I alone, there are millions of us across the years and walking on this planet’s surface today.

    Let me cite just one, Pascal in his hidden testament to his night of fire of November 23 1654, recovered from his coat’s lining after his death:

    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.

    As for the reality of miracles, I have experienced enough and observed enough up to within the last few months and year and a half, that I have no doubt. And there are ever so many others that can testify to the sheer miracle working power of the name of that same Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God that you would put in the same category of a semifictional character, Robin Hood.

    Robin Hood, sir, does not answer by fire.

    The Living God does.

    Please, think again.

    GEM of TKI

  69. 69
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: To work your way through worldview reconstruction, kindly cf a 101 here on.

    PPS: It should be plain to all that this case surfaces ever so many of the epistemological issues and concerns that are at the root of much of the polarised debates over the inference to design. Particularly, those of inductive grounding of knowledge by dint of inference to the best current explanation.

    PPPS: I think Locke’s words in his intro to his Essay on Human Understanding, sect 5, have much to teach us:

    Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 – 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 – 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 – 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 – 21, Eph 4:17 – 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 – 21, Jer. 2:13, Titus 2:11 – 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 – 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. [Text references added to document the biblical sources of Locke’s allusions and citations.]

  70. 70
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: It’s looking like we need something like logic and epistemology 101, with a dash of worldviews. Here on may help. KF

  71. 71
    roding says:

    The difference is, we here deal with four eyewitness lifetime biographies…

    I am not a historian, but the limited research I have done indicated that the authors of the Matthew, Mark, John are essentially anonymous (and certainly not written by the disciples as tradition has it). I think I’ve read that some say Luke is anonymous too. And there seems to be quite a range of dates, but seems the earliest dates are early to mid-50s. Don’t even conservative evangelical scholars concede this? I suppose it’s probable they are based on oral tradition, but is it correct to say these are eyewitness biographies?

  72. 72
    Barb says:

    Idismyth:

    There is evidence to suggest that he existed, but it is not conclusive.

    Really? Not conclusive? The first-century historians as well as the gospel accounts of his life aren’t conclusive enough?

    Again, I direct you to my post: If Jesus never existed, then who were all the persons I quoted talking about? I’d like an actual answer from an atheist/agnostic who doesn’t believe Jesus existed.

    Seriously. Who were all these people referring to if not Jesus?

    There are too many conflicting time frames and contradictory texts.

    Cite some examples.

    Was he one person? Was he an amalgam of more than one person? The side that a person picks will rely more on faith than it will on historical evidence.

    That he was one person is not up for debate; that’s made perfectly clear by the evidence we do have. That is, if we examine it honestly and with an open mind.

  73. 73
    Barb says:

    Roding:

    The limited research I have done indicated that the authors of the Matthew, Mark, John are essentially anonymous (and certainly not written by the disciples as tradition has it).

    Here is where we differ: I do believe that the authors of the gospels are the disciples themselves. I do not believe that they were written by committee, nor do I believe that they are anonymous.

    I cite first-century historians for my reasons: Origen (3rd century), who wrote “first was written . . . according to Matthew, who was once a tax-collector but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, . . . in the Hebrew language.” (The Ecclesiastical History, VI, XXV, 3-6); Jerome (4th and 5th centuries) wrote in De viris inlustribus (Concerning Illustrious Men), chapter III, that Matthew “composed a Gospel of Christ in Judaea in the Hebrew language and characters for the benefit of those of the circumcision who had believed. . . . Moreover, the Hebrew itself is preserved to this day in the library at Caesarea, which the martyr Pamphilus so diligently collected.” (taken from the translation from the Latin text edited by E. C. Richardson and published in the series “Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur,” Leipzig, 1896, Vol. 14, pp. 8, 9.

    Matthew may have later translated his gospel into Koine Greek, the common language of the day.

    And there seems to be quite a range of dates, but seems the earliest dates are early to mid-50s. Don’t even conservative evangelical scholars concede this? I suppose it’s probable they are based on oral tradition, but is it correct to say these are eyewitness biographies?

    Subscriptions, appearing at the end of Matthew’s Gospel in numerous manuscripts (all being later than the tenth century C.E.), say that the account was written about the eighth year after Christ’s ascension (c. 41 C.E.). This would not be at variance with internal evidence. The fact that no reference is made to the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy respecting Jerusalem’s destruction would point to a time of composition prior to 70 C.E. (Mt 5:35; 24:16)

    According to available evidence, the Gospels were written between the years 41 and 98 C.E. Jesus died in the year 33 C.E. This means that the accounts of his life were put together in a comparatively short time after his ministry ended. This poses a tremendous obstacle to the argument that the Gospel narratives are mere legends. Time is needed for legends to develop.

    I would state that yes, they are eyewitness biographies. The death and resurrection of Christ are found in all four gospels, and this is further clarified by Paul at 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. Remember also that children were taught by means of a strict rabbinic method of teaching that was in fashion during the time of the writing of the Gospels—this method adhered closely to learning by rote—a memorizing process using routine or repetition. This favors the accurate and careful rendering of Jesus’ sayings and works as opposed to an embellished legend or myth.

  74. 74
    roding says:

    Again, I direct you to my post: If Jesus never existed, then who were all the persons I quoted talking about? I’d like an actual answer from an atheist/agnostic who doesn’t believe Jesus existed.

    I’m not an atheist and not really an agnostic either, but I’ll answer anyway.

    I guess it’s quite possible they are talking about a historical person. Is it possible though that a religion of such size as Christianity could be based on a mythical character? Yes, it’s possible – given that we certainly have many examples of other religions (including Islam and Buddhism) that when examined may not have a historical founder, but that has not stopped them thriving and growing. The reality is that there are billions of people in the world who have unshakable faith in somethings that probably are simply not true. Logically, a good chunk of those people are wrong. Maybe everybody is?

    In other words, the human propensity to believe is so powerful that it seems that people are more than willing to adopt a faith without really considering the provenance of it.

  75. 75
    roding says:

    Here is where we differ: I do believe that the authors of the gospels are the disciples themselves. I do not believe that they were written by committee, nor do I believe that they are anonymous.

    Thanks for your thoughts. Are there non-evangelical scholars who share this view?

  76. 76
    ppolish says:

    Rodling, “Cold Case Christianity” is a great resource. Detailed & logical overview of the evidence from a “cold case” perspective.

  77. 77
  78. 78
    kairosfocus says:

    rod: Here’s the trick. Of ancient sources there is essential unanimity as to authorship. Mk looks to be recording with significant input from Peter’s POV, but is not one of the twelve . . . a hard sell for a forger. Mt is one of the “background” apostles and started out as a “traitor” to Israel — a tax collector for the Romans. Again, not where a fraud would likely go. Lk was a historian, assembling on eyewitness testimony and trusted sources. Their use of Mk as a base would fit well with Peter being a major source. John is the only one that per general ascription comes from the inner circle, on the main view. And that is the late life memoirs. Strictly anonymous but generally ascribed. More to the point, even if mislabelled we know them to be in citation and circulation by 95 – 115, from the first three writing church fathers. In addition, Ac terminates c 62 AD [last events] and is sequel to Lk that uses Mk. That makes it reasonable to ascribe Lk c 57 – 60 [time of Paul’s Judaean imprisonment and trial], and Mk c 50. The passion narrative has features that may suggest 37. Attempts to insist on a date post 70 pivot on the assumption that accurate detailed prophecy is impossible so given predictions pointing to the Jewish war 66 – 70, it “must” post date that. That reads like question-begging. There was also an elaborate Hegelian thesis-antithesis scheme that had dates as late as 160 AD as seemed “reasonable” for such an evolution, but those have long been scotched by the Rylands P52 c 125, and by the use of 25 of 27 NT docs in the first writing Fathers, 95 – 115. In addition, there are abundant subtle links to the pre-70 AD situation that are archaeologically corroborated, where basic errors and anachronisms would be strongly expected otherwise. One such is the surprising match of name frequencies and habitual disambiguation practices with archaeology on C1 Palestine vs Egypt etc. And so forth. The relatively late dating schemes may still be commonly held but they are not standing on unquestionable ground. And in any case a C1 date is plenty good enough to have high historical fidelity. By comparison, oral accounts of WW II as experienced in the Caribbean passed down in families across our region are still quite accurate. Even, WWI experiences seen by one or two generations further back. KF

  79. 79
    ppolish says:

    Cold Case link @Amazon:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/.....ot_redir=1

    Heavy on history/details and very readable. “Could not put it down” say Atheists of the God Delusion. Cold Case same sort of read. And Cold Case is nonfiction:)

  80. 80
    Collin says:

    jstanely01,

    I believe you.

  81. 81
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: it will be helpful to excerpt Wikipedia (a known to be generally hostile popular reference), from its article on Bishop J A T Robinson [acc: Aug 23, 2012], on the dating of the NT documents, as it remarks on his well known 1976 work, Redating the New Testament, not least because this is revealing of the climate that confronts Christians who take the NT documents seriously as primary historical materials. C H Dodd’s response is particularly revealing:

    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]

    This is sadly revealing.

    KF

  82. 82
    Barb says:

    “In other words, the human propensity to believe is so powerful that it seems that people are more than willing to adopt a faith without really considering the provenance of it.”

    While this may be true, it’s not logical to conclude that the disciples believed in a mythical figure. Why? Because doing so, and publicly declaring that they believed in Jesus brought them in line for capital punishment. Why would anyone die for something that he or she knew wasn’t true? The human propensity to believe may be strong, but the human instinct for survival is also strong, probably stronger. There is no good, logical argument that suggests that the early Christians believed in a mythical person and were willing to die because of this belief.

  83. 83
    Barb says:

    If there are non-evangelical scholars who believe that the gospels were authored by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, then a Google search should help answer that question.

    One might charge that evangelical scholars have an agenda: they believe in Jesus and in the historicity of the Bible. On the other hand, a skeptic has implicitly or explicitly built his whole life on a view of reality which assumes that Jesus is not God, that he does not call us to repent and place our trust in him. Doesn’t he then also have an inherent bias to find the Bible historically and theologically unreliable?

  84. 84
    Mung says:

    kairosfocus:

    Robinson also opined that because of his investigations, a rewriting of many theologies of the New Testament was in order.

    A rewriting of many books on eschatology is also in order. I guess the two sort of go hand in hand.

  85. 85
    roding says:

    There is no good, logical argument that suggests that the early Christians believed in a mythical person and were willing to die because of this belief.

    Certainly it is noteworthy that people are willing to die for their faith, but I think as a proof for the veracity of a particular faith it’s really a weak one. We don’t have to look much past the news headlines to see that there are many people of all kinds of philosophies and other religions that are willing to sacrifices their lives. I think it’s indicative of something, but not necessarily a validation of the truth of a person’s worldview.

  86. 86
    Barb says:

    Roding @ 85: spoken like a true skeptic.

  87. 87
    roding says:

    One might charge that evangelical scholars have an agenda: they believe in Jesus and in the historicity of the Bible. On the other hand, a skeptic has implicitly or explicitly built his whole life on a view of reality which assumes that Jesus is not God, that he does not call us to repent and place our trust in him. Doesn’t he then also have an inherent bias to find the Bible historically and theologically unreliable?

    Yes, I definitely agree – I think there is probably confirmation bias happening on both sides. That’s why I’m curious to find other opinions that don’t have some prior agenda, but I’m not sure that exists! But at the very least, I’m trying to get an understanding of the basic facts that can be known – who wrote the gospels and when etc. But even that seems rather open to different interpretations and assumptions and as you say you have to consider possible biases in place when assessing the information.

  88. 88
    roding says:

    Roding @ 85: spoken like a true skeptic.

    I will take that as a compliment although I’m not sure if that was your meaning. Yes, I guess I am a skeptic, but I like to think I’m a seeker too. But then when assessing a claim I do like to consider the other explanations, particularly when the claim is extraordinary. I think that’s why I don’t find the “sacrifice” argument particularly compelling, because there can be other explanations. Of course that doesn’t rule out Christianity being true, but I just don’t think this argument would convince me, but I could see it might work for others. You just need to find the right argument that exhausts my alternative explanations!

  89. 89
    HeKS says:

    @Roding #85:

    There is no good, logical argument that suggests that the early Christians believed in a mythical person and were willing to die because of this belief.

    Certainly it is noteworthy that people are willing to die for their faith, but I think as a proof for the veracity of a particular faith it’s really a weak one. We don’t have to look much past the news headlines to see that there are many people of all kinds of philosophies and other religions that are willing to sacrifices their lives. I think it’s indicative of something, but not necessarily a validation of the truth of a person’s worldview.

    The key factor you’re not including in your analysis here is that the people you describe are willing to give their lives for things they believe to be true.

    Now, consider that if Jesus didn’t actually exist, the many people who claimed to know him and who were willing to die terrible deaths rather than renounce their faith in him or their claims that they had witnessed his resurrection would fall into a completely different and unprecedented category of people who were willing to be tortured and killed for something they knew to be false.

    There can be no reasonable comparison between these two categories.

  90. 90
    roding says:

    The key factor you’re not including in your analysis here is that the people you describe are willing to give their lives for things they believe to be true.

    Yes, I understand that and I have no doubt that the people who do such things really do believe they know the truth.

    But it isn’t just Christians who are willing to give their lives for things they believe are true. I don’t think Christianity has a monopoly in this particular department. That’s why I think this is not a strong argument, but again maybe it works for some. It doesn’t work for me.

    It seems to me that religious convictions (or even philosphical ones) can be so intense that a person could do very drastic acts (and altruistic ones too), even to the point of forsaking their own lives. I just don’t think this behavior is unique to Christianity.

  91. 91
    HeKS says:

    @Roding #90

    With all due respect, I don’t think you DO understand. At least your comment isn’t a response to the point I made and the bit you quoted was not my point but the thing I was saying was not an accurate representation of the situation.

    It’s one thing to say that it’s not particularly shocking for a Christian today to be willing to die for what they believe because they believe it’s true. You’re correct in noting that this is not unique to Christianity.

    What I’m trying to tell you is that this fact is irrelevant to the point I’m making.

    The people that Barb was referencing who were willing to die for their belief in the truth of Jesus’ resurrection were people who were in a position to actually know this man, Jesus, who they claim died and was resurrected. They were his contemporaries. They claimed to be his close associates. They claimed to be witnesses to his death and also to his resurrection along with hundreds of other people who were also mostly still alive at that point. And these people were willing to be tortured and killed rather than deny the truth they claimed to have witnessed with their own eyes, which included spending years in the close company of this man. This means that if they chose to be tortured and die for these claims, they were not choosing to die for something they really believed was true, but for something they absolutely knew to be a lie.

    For you to say that their willingness to die horrible deaths rather than recant any of these things is not incredibly powerful evidence that this man, Jesus, at the very least existed is frankly shocking.

    It is not reasoned skepticism, but highly selective hyper-skepticism.

  92. 92
    roding says:

    Hek, thanks for clarifying your point. I think I get what you are saying now. Is this story unique to Christianity? I don’t know.

    And what the Hek is “hyper-skepticism”? I think that’s just a word you guys made up! It may not be reasoned skepticism to you, but it is the best I can do, so really you need to be a little more patient with people trying to understand this stuff.

  93. 93
    roding says:

    Another question for Hek – you mentioned people who were tortured and died because of their association with Jesus? I’m familiar with Stephen, but who else? Is this all recorded in the book of Acts? Elsewhere? I’d like to read this for myself.

  94. 94
    HeKS says:

    @Roding #92

    I apologize if you thought I was being impatient with you. That wasn’t my intent.

    You ask what hyper-skepticism is so I’ll explain.

    Normal skepticism is generally equitable and a good thing. It applies a reasonably consistent demand for warrant across the board before some claim of fact or some argument is accepted. It prevents one from being credulous, but allows one to believe what is reasonable to believe once one has received a reasonable amount of supporting evidence and/or argumentation. There’s obviously some subjectivity here in terms of what one person considers to be a sufficient or reasonable amount of evidence or argumentation vs another, but the typical idea is that one is willing to believe if they’ve received sufficient evidence to bring about Moral Certainty rather than requiring Absolute Certainty. In other words, enough to warrant action or acceptance by a person who is not heavily biased.

    Conversely, hyper-skepticism (which is certainly not a term we made up … just google it) is virtually never equitable. Rather it is highly selective. Selective Hyper-Skepticism results when one requires a much higher degree of warrant in order to accept things that they prefer weren’t true. It most often comes up when worldview issues are at stake. It’s the application of a double-standard where one demands sufficient evidence to support absolute certainty (which is generally impossible) on certain facts they’d rather not have to believe, but they are willing to accept a much more lax standard of evidence and argumentation on matters of a very similar profile that don’t threaten their worldview. It also happens that someone demonstrating hyper-skepticism on these types of worldview issues often displays hyper-credulity towards arguments and evidence on the matter that is consistent with their own worldview. This isn’t really an accident, because the hyper-skepticism applied on one side of the equation often leaves the person grasping for any contrary evidence or argument at all on the other side of the equation, no matter how implausible or unsubstantiated.

    Now, you said:

    Hek, thanks for clarifying your point. I think I get what you are saying now. Is this story unique to Christianity? I don’t know.

    Well, if this story is true, which is to say, if these several people over a period of time people really did choose to be tortured and killed rather than recant something they knew for a fact to be a lieand not just a normal lie, but a lie about a person who they claimed to have spent years with but who didn’t even existit would be the only case in all of history that I’ve heard about. In all the debates I’ve watched or listened to and the reading I’ve done, I haven’t seen anybody ever offer another credible example of this happening.

    So, for one to assert without any evidence that this is what happened – and this is what must have happened if Jesus didn’t exist – or to assert that it is even plausible to think this might have happened, is to degenerate into selective hyper-skepticism and declare one’s agenda from the rooftops.

    So, what I’m saying is that even if this does not convince you of the total truth of Christianity, it is nonetheless sufficient to compel moral certainty in any reasonably unbiased person that Jesus at least existed.

    Arguments against Jesus’ existence almost uniformly fall into the category of selective hyper-skepticism, because the amount and quality of the evidence we have for Jesus’ existence is far more than the amount that these same people require to believe in any other figure from all of antiquity.

    Even Bart Ehrman, a Biblical scholar who is an agnostic leaning towards atheism, has said that we have more and better evidence for the existence of Jesus than we have for pretty much any other person from that period of history, to the point that no serious and credentialed historian across the entire spectrum of belief (i.e. believers, skeptics and non-believers) doubts his existence.

  95. 95
    HeKS says:

    @Roding #93

    Here are two sources you can take a look at.

    http://www.about-jesus.org/martyrs.htm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L.....an_martyrs (you can limit yourself to the 1st Century)

  96. 96
    kairosfocus says:

    HeKS:

    hyper-skepticism (which is certainly not a term we made up … just google it) is virtually never equitable. Rather it is highly selective. Selective Hyper-Skepticism results when one requires a much higher degree of warrant in order to accept things that they prefer weren’t true. It most often comes up when worldview issues are at stake. It’s the application of a double-standard where one demands sufficient evidence to support absolute certainty (which is generally impossible) on certain facts they’d rather not have to believe, but they are willing to accept a much more lax standard of evidence and argumentation on matters of a very similar profile that don’t threaten their worldview. It also happens that someone demonstrating hyper-skepticism on these types of worldview issues often displays hyper-credulity towards arguments and evidence on the matter that is consistent with their own worldview. This isn’t really an accident, because the hyper-skepticism applied on one side of the equation often leaves the person grasping for any contrary evidence or argument at all on the other side of the equation, no matter how implausible or unsubstantiated.

    Excellent summary.

    Roding and others need to realise that the core 20+ identified witnesses (all on Nero’s top most wanted list c AD 64-5 . . . ) out of the 500 indicated in 1 Cor 15, c AD 55, were in a position to directly know Jesus by acquaintance and/or as a contemporary.

    They include:

    a –> the twelve [less one and with a replacement picked from a wider circle of primary witnesses per Ac 1],

    b –> Jesus’ family [the same who had convinced his mother to go with them to try to take him in charge as having gone mad . . . including James the just chosen as head of the mother church in Jerusalem in material part on being the next relative in line (and Josephus’ martyr of record c 62 AD, probably witnessed or more or less directly and notoriously known of by Josephus) ],

    c –> the circle of women of substance who handled logistics and hospitality for the Jesus circle [headed by Mary Magdalene and involving the wife of the steward of Herod Antipas (of head on platter infamy) . . . ], and

    d –> the former first arch-persecutor.

    These, collectively, are the direct witnesses to the reality of Jesus, and to his passion, death, burial and resurrection. Leaving off the 500 core members and fellow witnesses, we have 20+ . . . some of whom would have known Jesus since childhood. Indeed, it is arguable that John Zebedee was his cousin and that John’s mom was Jesus’ aunt who stood with Mary his mother at the cross. (Wenham argues that many of the core were also relatives, which makes a lot of sense. I am also of the inclination that Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene are the same person.)

    With people like this, the issue is not sincerely believing a narrative and a theology linked to it. It is about knowledge by direct acquaintance and experience. With the exception of Paul, in the direct ordinary sense of knowing another human being.

    It is these who are the backbone of the testimony in the face of Nero’s dungeons, fire, sword and worse. (Much worse if you have the stomach to read Suetonius’ life of the twelve Caesars on what Nero became.)

    You also need to appreciate just how culturally unexpected what they testified to was.

    One reason the ruthless Jerusalem elites surrounding the High Priest wanted Jesus crucified was that his was held to be demonstrative proof — accursed is he who hangs on a tree — that he was under the Divine Curse. Therefore his wonder-works could be dismissed as devilish, deceitful magic. And his teachings would fall under the same interdict.

    Pilate, seems to have been under pressure from his wife (maybe in turn knowing the story of Jesus from her circle of friends connected to that circle of women) to refuse to play along with the ruthless power game of kangaroo court and judicial murder. Since at that time he was on shaky grounds with Caesar, the you are not Caesar’s friends move was decisive. But of course he notoriously washed his hands of the affair — probably hoping to patch things up on the home font.

    In addition, in Jewish eschatological expectations, the hope was for a general resurrection, not of an isolated initial one. And, the apparent cultural norm to comfort the bereaved was a dream or vision of the departed resting with God.

    In such a context, the gospel message cut clean across expectations, perceptions, agendas and more. And it was known to be a very dangerous thing to stand up for from the outset. Recall, by 64 AD Christians were perceived as cannibals and enemies of humanity, based on ugly, unfounded rumours. That is doubtless why Nero figured they were handy scapegoats for the fire of Rome.

    In the teeth of this, here is the final testimony of the “ringleader” facing crucifixion — a death so awful and shameful, that we cannot understand the inversion that has turned the cross into a holy symbol — speaking his last will and testament:

    2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,[i] with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. [ESV]

    That is a lot of the context in which I can only shake my head when I see people trying to dismiss the basic existence of Jesus.

    As touching his resurrection, there are only two serious alternatives.

    One, an unprecedented, psychologically implausible and utterly convincing mass hallucination that includes skeptics [Jesus’ own brothers (as in: he’s mad, let’s take him in charge . . . )] and an arch-persecuter [Saul of Tarsus].

    Two, the witnesses are not merely sincere, but report the astonishing and world-changing truth, truth for which many peacefully surrendered their lives to dungeon, fire, sword or worse.

    No serious third alternative exists.

    KF

    PS: Cf here for more details, including a video summary and a video course.

  97. 97
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: For those with hyper-sensitivity, I distinguish corrupt, ruthless elites and decent people of influence, much less the ordinary people of Israel. (And as many will know, kangaroo courts instigated by ruthless elites and judicial murder are concerns written into my name based on my family story. It is to be noted that when Governor Eyre was called home in disgrace he was given a hero’s farewell by many in my homeland. He was tried but of course got off. [The Marxist-influenced cynic in me tempts me to hold that corrupted elites will tolerate a court system and police of only so much power and competence as will allow the powerful to be fairly sure of getting off. Down, boy! Bad dog! Off to the dog house without supper for you!] The cockneys, with a sounder insight, burned him in effigy.)

  98. 98
    JLAfan2001 says:

    “According to church tradition” is not the same as written historical evidence. Do we have written documents attesting to the martyrdom of the 12 apostles or were they stories passed down through the church? How reliable are the documents, if they exist?

  99. 99
    kairosfocus says:

    JLA:

    The blocking off of Jewish and Christian sources as not good enough to pass as evidence on the fate of leading witnesses, is a classic double-standard on evidence that reflects well-poisoning.

    Herod Antipas killed James the less with the sword. The first apostle to die, and he tried for Peter but that did not work. Kindly read the first nine chapters of Acts, a well supported book of history.

    We have Paul’s Tomb-stone in Rome: Paulo, Apostolo, Mart

    St Peter’s Basilica is, with difficulty, built so that its high altar stands directly above Someone’s grave. (No prizes for guessing whose.)

    Here is Jospephus on the death of James the just, Antiquities 20.9.1:

    And now Caesar, upon hearing of the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. … But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king, desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus … Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.

    This is Tacitus on what Nero did:

    Therefore, to stop the rumor [that he had set Rome on fire], he [Emperor Nero] falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most fearful tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were [generally] hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius, but the pernicious superstition – repressed for a time, broke out yet again, not only through Judea, – where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, whither all things horrible and disgraceful flow from all quarters, as to a common receptacle, and where they are encouraged. Accordingly first those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of “hating the human race.”

    In their very deaths they were made the subjects of sport: for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights. Nero offered his own garden players for the spectacle, and exhibited a Circensian game, indiscriminately mingling with the common people in the dress of a charioteer, or else standing in his chariot. For this cause a feeling of compassion arose towards the sufferers, though guilty and deserving of exemplary capital punishment, because they seemed not to be cut off for the public good, but were victims of the ferocity of one man.

    There is more than enough evidence that the apostles and other early leading witnesses as well as the early Christians as a whole, had everything to lose and little in this world to gain by their steadfast testimony.

    Here are the words of Paul as he — as a Roman citizen — faced beheading (as an alleged ringleader of the cult responsible for the fire of Rome), speaking of that fate as a libation offering to God:

    2 Tim 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

    6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

    Those of Peter, facing (as a mere Roman subject) crucifixion:

    2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,[i] with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

    I have of course little confidence that ANY degree of evidence will move determined objectors. For, their problem lies not with evidence but with the fallacy of the closed mind.

    It should be quite clear that Jews were hated, and Christians as an offshoot that tried to recruit Pagans by the numbers, even more so. False rumours of cannibalism, orgies, incest, arson, fomenting uprisings and treason because of refusal to worship Caesar as a god, were more than enough to motivate gross miscarriage of justice, including the absurdity of torture as a method of judicial inquiry.

    If you doubt this, observe the Trajan-Pliny correspondence c 112 AD:

    PLINY: 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: 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.

    Let us ponder that.

    In two words: Falun Gong.

    (And Christians in modern China have seriously suffered for their faith.)

    KF

  100. 100
    roding says:

    Roding and others need to realise that the core 20+ identified witnesses (all on Nero’s top most wanted list c AD 64-5 . . . )

    I was aware of Nero’s persecution of Christians, but didn’t know that he had a list? Is there a reference to that somewhere?

  101. 101
    kairosfocus says:

    Roding, I spoke figuratively. However, several years before one of these had appeared as an appellate prisoner in Rome. A simple inquiry of the procurator would have secured the list from Judaea of known principals, who were not exactly trying to hide and would in any case have been watched. (64 was 2 years after the illegal execution of one known principal, James — which triggered an angry exchange with the procurator on the way, and ended in removal of the newly appointed high priest, a significant event. The annual reports would have had records on that for sure. As well Clement of Rome said that Peter and Paul were betrayed out of envy, suggesting that Judas was not the only one to play at informer for cash or favour. Indeed, Paul speaks tersely about perils from false brethren in an epistle. By this time, Rome was a dictatorship, let us not forget.) And in fact at a later time the grandsons IIRC of James e al were seized and taken to Rome to account before another Emperor. They turned out to be Galilean peasant farmers of no political threat whatsoever. KF

  102. 102
    roding says:

    Roding, I spoke figuratively.

    Oh, ok. It was just that you surrounded this statement with other comments that seemed factual, so I thought you were being literal (“Nero has a little list…”) Not trying to be hyperskeptical just wanting to get at some of the facts and basic history!

  103. 103
    kairosfocus says:

    Roding, he probably did have a little list — he got both apostles who were in or around Rome and a wide enough number to do the awful things described by Tacitus, but such would not have survived. KF

  104. 104
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: There may even be a little hint in that thing about anonymous lists Trajan speaks of, but we cannot be sure.

  105. 105
    JLAfan2001 says:

    Boy, KF, that’s a long response just to say that there are no written documents confirming the martyrdom of the apostles. I checked out HeKs link and the evidence they present is non existent. They all fall into three categories:

    1) “It is believed” which is not evidence. Just story telling.
    2) A compilation from Fox’s book of martyrs which is not an historical document from ancient times.
    3) Referencing biblical passages which is using the bible to prove the bible.

    Only one has a referwnce, in the case of Bartholomew, which could be questioned if it’s the same one in the bible. Even if it is, that’s just one of 12. A church built over top of a supposed grave is not evidence.

  106. 106
    JLAfan2001 says:

    Also, why are there no written extra biblical records of Jesus spending forty days on earth after he came back from the dead or why no one recorderd the saints leaving their graves at the time of his death? The two biggest events in history that proves life after death and no one wrote them down except his buddies.

    This just screams story telling on the apostle’s part. They made up a hoax, high tailed it out when the Roman Empire cracked down and left the ignornat followers to die for them. When Constantine made christianity the religion, the church retconned the apostle’s deaths as part of it’s history and passed it along. Then they forced the outlying countries to adopt their religion.

    All it takes is 12 hucksters and a powerful Emperor to spread the lie.

  107. 107
    Phinehas says:

    Oh, look. Someone has been nice enough to provide an example of the hyper-skepticism HeKS explained earlier.

  108. 108
    Phinehas says:

    On the off-chance the hyper-skepticism isn’t obvious enough, perhaps I should call it out a bit more pointedly.

    This just screams story telling on the apostle’s part.

    When Constantine made christianity the religion, the church retconned the apostle’s deaths as part of it’s history and passed it along.

    The impartial observer will recognize that the standard for what is and is not “story telling” is not being applied objectively here. Not even close. The poster strains at gnats while swallowing camels. Object lesson complete. Class dismissed.

  109. 109
    kairosfocus says:

    JLA: Evidently, sadly, you cannot or will not read and acknowledge the evidence in hand. In case you missed it, I identified no less than four martyred apostles on the record [James the Just is of that rank too], without appealing to mere traditions — which BTW may well have a significant kernel of truth and which are often the basis for classical history. For example the earliest biography of Alexander was c 400 ys after the fact. You have inadvertently provided an example of selective hyperskepticism and disregard for the truth and evidence. KF

  110. 110
    Silver Asiatic says:

    A church built over top of a supposed grave is not evidence.

    Historians disagree. It’s not a supposed grave. Bones found on the site (of a 60 yr old man), buried prior to 114 a.d. were found there under a triumphal arch. Graffiti from the same period gives evidence of Peter’s gravesite (with hundreds of inscriptions of Peter’s name). The churches built on the site are evidence that it was considered an authentic site.

  111. 111
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: You also seem to have failed to address the evidence for the reality of Jesus of Nazareth and have taken Dan Brown and ilk a bit too seriously, with their Constantine conspiracy theories. Constantine simply did not have the power to do what Brown et al suggest, even were he to have tried. This is the hyper-credulous flip side of selective hyperskepticism that HeKS pointed out, joined to the well-poisoning/demonising tactic that compounds the matter that I highlighted years ago now.

    PPS: I suggest you do a refreshon your thinking, and that maybe here might be a good start.

  112. 112
    Mung says:

    roding:

    Certainly it is noteworthy that people are willing to die for their faith, but I think as a proof for the veracity of a particular faith it’s really a weak one.

    As a seeker, you’ll no doubt wish to avoid the fallacy of begging the question.

    Were there in fact eyewitnesses to the resurrected Jesus?

  113. 113
    roding says:

    Were there in fact eyewitnesses to the resurrected Jesus?

    Is this one of the questions that scientologists like to ask such as “why do you beat your wife?” 🙂

  114. 114
    kairosfocus says:

    Rod: the very first documented note on this is the c 55 AD summary in 1 Cor 15:1 – 11 given above, which outlines the c. 35 – 38 AD “official testimony.” (That’s in Jerusalem, and way too early for legends to develop, and remember this is the former arch persecutor who had lost his arguments with Stephen and seems implicated in his judicial murder by virtue of the significant act of guarding the clothes of the lynch mob who murdered him.) There are over 500 direct witnesses, some 20 of whom can be identified — though, e.g. we do not know the names of the sisters of James & Jude, described as Jesus’ brothers [prob., natural children of Joseph and Mary, possibly cousins]. The twelve apostles (less one and with a replacement chosen from the wider circle), Mary Magdalene and the circle of the women of the company of Disciples who provided logistical and hospitality support [the first physical witnesses but in C1 law not accepted in court], James, Mary his mother and the rest of Jesus’ family, and lastly Paul — granted a special appearance when arrested by Jesus on the road to Damascus. By 55 AD, most were still alive . . . after Gallio’s ruling c 51 that gave the great hiatus in opposition, and before Nero’s persecution after he had overthrown his mentors, Gallio’s bro, Seneca and Burrus . . . and Paul’s objectors were invited to go and ask them. (Ironically, in the popularised Platonism-influenced Gk culture of the time, a resurrection was deemed foolish as they sought escape from “the prison of the body” rather than transformation; this would later give rise to one of the Church’s first serious challenges, what we term Gnosticism; with roots in the teachings of the same professional magician [not an entertainer!] Simon Magus who features so badly in Ac 8.) KF

  115. 115
    roding says:

    There are over 500 direct witnesses, some 20 of whom can be identified

    I’ve seen this “500 witnesses” reference many times. For some reason I thought it was in Acts, but seems it was Paul. So presumably Paul got this information from an oral source? I don’t know, I wonder about the quality of this particular line of evidence. If this was a legal setting, wouldn’t this be considered little more than hearsay? e.g., my friend had a friend who twenty years ago travelled in Europe and said there were 500 people who saw a UFO, but there isn’t a single corroborated report from any of those 500. Sorry if I’m hyperskeptical, but we have absolutely no way of corroborating these 500 reports. Ultimately what we have is one person claiming there were 500 witnesses (through secondhand info – I don’t know maybe 3rd hand), not 500 independent and verifiable eyewitness accounts. I know there is a lot riding on the quality of oral tradition here, but my own human experience tells me facts and data can get twisted, altered and exaggerated in a remarkably short space of time. There’s a reason why hearsay is inadmissible in court.

    Doesn’t mean to say the rest of this couldn’t be true, I’m just questioning this particular line of evidence. As you say 20 of these could be identified, and that would be potentially more convincing than this 500 number.

  116. 116
    HeKS says:

    @Roding

    I never really heard back from you after my last comment.

    Can you tell me whether or not you agree that if people who claimed to be close associates of Jesus for a period of years (i.e. people who were in a position to know the truth) were willing to die painful deaths rather than recant their faith in him and his resurrection, this is powerful evidence that Jesus at least existed?

  117. 117
    roding says:

    Can you tell me whether or not you agree that if people who claimed to be close associates of Jesus for a period of years

    I can think of there are several possibilities here:

    1) The accounts where people claimed to know Jesus are wrong – neither the people making the claim or Jesus existed
    2) The people making the claim existed and practiced a faith for which they were willing to die for, but the documents are inaccurate in portraying that they knew the founder of that faith
    3) The accounts are accurate and these people really did know Jesus (who by implication existed)
    4) People can delude themselves in thinking they knew a person when they really didn’t, even to the point of wanting to die for that person
    5) Similar to 4, but the people making the claim lied about their association.

    1,2,3 are all possible. 4 & 5 less so, but then given the extreme nature of cultic behavior, perhaps it is not beyond the realm of possibility. After all do not followers of some religions today claim to have a close relationship with its founder even though they have not met them in any material sense?

    So I don’t disagree or agree, I would say I don’t know enough yet to answer the question.

  118. 118
    Barb says:

    JLA returns once again:

    Also, why are there no written extra biblical records of Jesus spending forty days on earth after he came back from the dead or why no one recorderd the saints leaving their graves at the time of his death? The two biggest events in history that proves life after death and no one wrote them down except his buddies.

    The early Christians, who believed that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead, were reported on by early historians including Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Justin Martyr. Whether they believed that Jesus was resurrected can be debated; they were simply reporting what they knew. Jesus only appeared to his disciples.

    This just screams story telling on the apostle’s part. They made up a hoax, high tailed it out when the Roman Empire cracked down and left the ignornat followers to die for them.

    Says the skeptic who refuses to review any information with an open mind. Forgive me if I take your words with a very large grain of salt.

    When Constantine made christianity the religion, the church retconned the apostle’s deaths as part of it’s history and passed it along. Then they forced the outlying countries to adopt their religion.

    And your proof of this is…where?

    All it takes is 12 hucksters and a powerful Emperor to spread the lie.

    Again, I direct you to my post. Please do enlighten us as to who these individuals (who are quoted in my post) were speaking about if Jesus never existed. Show your work. Provide evidence.
    Your trolling is getting weaker every single time you post. Are you losing your touch?

  119. 119
    Barb says:

    The comments about 500 eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus appear in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian congregation. Jesus also appeared to small groups and to Paul himself on the road to Damascus. Bear in mind that many of these people probably were skeptical about Jesus being resurrected.

    Most of the eyewitnesses were still alive in Paul’s day and could be consulted to confirm those appearances. (1 Corinthians 15:6) One or two witnesses might be easy to dismiss, but not the testimony of 500 or more eyewitnesses.

  120. 120
    roding says:

    The comments about 500 eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus appear in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian congregation. Jesus also appeared to small groups and to Paul himself on the road to Damascus. Bear in mind that many of these people probably were skeptical about Jesus being resurrected.

    We really don’t any more than what Paul tells us, which is not much. I expect you are comfortable with taking Paul’s word for it, but I would like to see some corroboration, which, given what is at stake I don’t think is unreasonable.

    Yes, we could consult them but we don’t know who they were, except perhaps for a few. It seems there are no other sources to back up Paul’s claim. From a legal perspective we can’t really call these witnesses, because they are not able to provide testimony on their own behalf. I’m not a lawyer, but I’m fairly certain if a person in court tried to make a claim based on the observations of an anonymous 500 person group (and that information is second-hand), the judge would rightly dismiss it.

    All we have is a comment from Paul that there were 500 witnesses and nothing much more than that. And Paul doesn’t mention any of them by name either, so they are remain a mysterious group. What we have is really more akin to hearsay, not independent witnesses.

  121. 121
    HeKS says:

    @Barb #118

    When Constantine made christianity the religion, the church retconned the apostle’s deaths as part of it’s history and passed it along. Then they forced the outlying countries to adopt their religion.

    And your proof of this is…where?

    Don’t be silly, Barb. The whole point of selective hyper-skepticism is that you don’t need any evidence to accept claims that are conducive to your side of the debate. All you need is bare logical possibility.

  122. 122
    HeKS says:

    @Roding #117

    Can you tell me whether or not you agree that if people who claimed to be close associates of Jesus for a period of years

    I can think of there are several possibilities here:

    1) The accounts where people claimed to know Jesus are wrong – neither the people making the claim or Jesus existed
    2) The people making the claim existed and practiced a faith for which they were willing to die for, but the documents are inaccurate in portraying that they knew the founder of that faith
    3) The accounts are accurate and these people really did know Jesus (who by implication existed)
    4) People can delude themselves in thinking they knew a person when they really didn’t, even to the point of wanting to die for that person
    5) Similar to 4, but the people making the claim lied about their association.

    1,2,3 are all possible. 4 & 5 less so, but then given the extreme nature of cultic behavior, perhaps it is not beyond the realm of possibility. After all do not followers of some religions today claim to have a close relationship with its founder even though they have not met them in any material sense?

    So I don’t disagree or agree, I would say I don’t know enough yet to answer the question.

    Roding, look at my full question again rather than your clipped form of it:

    Can you tell me whether or not you agree that IF people who claimed to be close associates of Jesus for a period of years (i.e. people who were in a position to know the truth) were willing to die painful deaths rather than recant their faith in him and his resurrection, [THEN] this is powerful evidence that Jesus at least existed?

    The form of my question necessarily assumes that the people who made the claims and who were willing to die rather than recant actually existed. I’m asking you, IF that condition was true, would you agree that it constitutes powerful evidence that Jesus at least existed?

    Now, let’s look at your options for relevance to my question:

    1) The accounts where people claimed to know Jesus are wrong – neither the people making the claim or Jesus existed

    Not relevant since it assumes the condition is false when I’m asking what you would conclude if the condition was true.

    2) The people making the claim existed and practiced a faith for which they were willing to die for, but the documents are inaccurate in portraying that they knew the founder of that faith

    Not relevant for the same reason.

    3) The accounts are accurate and these people really did know Jesus (who by implication existed)

    Sort of relevant, but not a direct answer to the question. If they actually knew him then it follows as a matter of simple logical necessity that he existed.

    What I’m asking about is what you think we should reasonably conclude if they claimed to know him and even witness his resurrection (which would either be true claims or false claims and they would be in a position to know which it was) and they were willing to die painful deaths rather than recant on their claims.

    4) People can delude themselves in thinking they knew a person when they really didn’t, even to the point of wanting to die for that person

    So a group of people can convince themselves that they’ve all spent years in close association with the same individual, traveling with, talking to, learning from, and sharing meals with this person, when this person never actually existed?

    You seem to by trying to reference cases where individuals, in isolation, become obsessed with someone like a celebrity (who, by the way, actually exists) and delude themselves into thinking that they have a relationship with the celebrity. There is no aspect of this scenario that is relevant to what we’re talking about.

    5) Similar to 4, but the people making the claim lied about their association.

    And so we’re back to the unprecedented idea of people being willing to die painful deaths for something they knew for a fact to be a lie.

    What you seem to be doing here is trying to avoid committing yourself to an admission that certain types of evidence could powerfully indicate the truth of Jesus existence even if they fall short of absolute proof. This is exactly the methodology of selective hyper-skepticism that I was talking about.

    The options you’ve listed could be applied to any historical person. The mere fact that they might be logically possible does not mean they are remotely plausible or reasonable. If this degree of hyper-skepticism was applied uniformly rather than selectively you would need to throw out all of history as being unreliable and not warranting your acceptance.

    Who knows, the documents claimed to be eye-witness reports about any event in history could be forgeries attributed to people who never even existed. It could be, so why not reject everything?

    And maybe every person who ever died for the truth of some factual claim they said they personally knew to be true not only didn’t know it to be true but never claimed to, because the accounts saying they did were mistaken. Who knows? Could be.

    Or maybe every significant historical personage is merely the product of some group’s joint delusions and hallucinations. Perhaps. Who can know for certain really? Why bother accepting that any of them existed at all?

    And how do we really ever know that anybody in the past really knew the people they claimed to? Any documentation that seems to support their claims could just be a vast conspiracy intended to trick us. And maybe the people making the claims to have known other people never really made claims to know them at all, and maybe they didn’t even exist to make the claims of knowing anyone in the first place (refer back to the possibility of forgeries attributed to people that never really existed).

    Finally…

    After all do not followers of some religions today claim to have a close relationship with its founder even though they have not met them in any material sense?

    Yeah, sure. But what they typically don’t do is claim to have “met them in any material sense”, much less insist that they have in the face of torture and death.

    And also, this is again irrelevant to my question.

  123. 123
    kairosfocus says:

    Roding,

    There is much more “there” than you realise.

    First, the context is Jerusalem c 35 – 38 AD, and the summary (note the archaic Aramaic form for “Peter” Kepha) was the official outline witness of the church in creedal form, handed on as a solemn tradition in a predominantly Oral Culture where feats of memorisation and fidelity in transmission that we would deem astonishing were commonplace. That was the NORMAL way teachers passed down to students, for generations.

    Next, it was a statement of the chief witnesses, identifying the core circle of about twenty, including naming chief ones. These are the “go check them” witnesses in view c 55 AD, given in answer to a controversy in Corinth.

    Where, the chief witnesses (until 66 – 70) resided all along in the city that was both the main centre of the Church and of its then chief opponents. Where Paul was a Cilician Jew who was of the circle who lost the controversy with Stephen and engineered his lynching to silence him. So, he was familiar enough with the core gospel message and the want of an effective counter-argument other than the dungeon, fire and sword, from that time.

    So we have eyewitness lifetime testimony that could not be refuted by the leading opponents in their headquarters. Paul simply reduced it to writing c 55 AD and pointed right back to the core witnesses, go check them. Implication, I was the chief activist opponent and not only was I not able to overturn it but after engineering a lynching and leading in merciless havoc [no quarter lethal attacks] I was arrested personally by the living risen Lord, transforming my life.

    Solemn tradition handed down under circumstances like this is not mere hearsay. Recall, the need for consistent reasonable standards of warrant and the need to avoid selective hyperskepticism, which is inevitably self refuting and self undermining. It sounds clever to suggest that if one can doubt one can dismiss, but then when the consequences play out things take on a decidedly different colour. (Perhaps, you may wish to read here as well as do a Google Search.)

    And, to back all this up there was a stream of miracles and life transformations (which has not ceased down to today).

    I suggest that you work your way through this blog post (or at least the 101 vid), and you will find this additional video on the minimal facts revealing.

    KF

  124. 124
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Whately’s satire on doubting the reality of Napoleon gives us a first class expose of the fallacious mindset involved in selective hyperskepticism regarding history and record that comes down to us. KF

  125. 125
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Note Whately’s “excess of scepticism” terminology, which is close to “selective hyperskepticism,” or Greenleaf’s “the error of the skeptic.”

  126. 126
    roding says:

    The form of my question necessarily assumes that the people who made the claims and who were willing to die rather than recant actually existed. I’m asking you, IF that condition was true, would you agree that it constitutes powerful evidence that Jesus at least existed?

    I think I get what you are saying, but it feels like a bit of a rhetorical trick. I think I’d rather consider what’s on hand rather than hypotheticals. I guess it feels like I’m being cornered in agreeing or not agreeing to something. I like to take my time to think and consider things.

    Yes, I agree my list is a bit outlandish, but what is wrong with considering all the possibilities, even the ones that seem unlikely? That’s my process (I use it with my work too) – list all of the possibilities no matter how bizarre and extraordinary After all, isn’t what you are claiming as the truth quite extraordinary? So shouldn’t we work hard to rule out other possibilities.

    What you seem to be doing here is trying to avoid committing yourself to an admission that certain types of evidence could powerfully indicate the truth of Jesus existence even if they fall short of absolute proof. This is exactly the methodology of selective hyper-skepticism that I was talking about.

    I think I’m willing to consider it as a possibility, but could there be other explanations? I know it’s probably frustrating for you that I seem comfortable with ambiguity. It’s quite possible on many matters I may never make my mind up and will always have doubts. I’m comfortable with that. Perhaps the reality is we cannot really reliably know the truth about early history. Perhaps I’ll have a conversion experience and that will push me other one side or the other (it does seem that a good percentage of people come to faith not through an intellectual process, but via a spiritual/emotional path)

    Who knows, the documents claimed to be eye-witness reports about any event in history could be forgeries attributed to people who never even existed. It could be, so why not reject everything?

    I think there are good reasons to be skeptical of history. I don’t think history is neat and tidy and I’m sure the historical record for anything 2000 years or older is likely to be quite murky. But it’s a different matter as to whether Plato really existed then it is whether Jesus existed. If Plato didn’t exist, the implications aren’t that significant – his writings still carry their own weight. But of course if Jesus didn’t exist that has huge implications (of course the teachings might still be valued, just as with Plato). Does that make me hyperskeptial in wanting a higher standard of evidence for Jesus than Plato? If so, that’s fine, I have to be true to myself and what evidence I’m willing to accept. That’s why I’m reluctant to agree or disagree. I want to figure these things out for myself, and not be cornered into answering one way or the other.

    But I have to take into account that you are already a person of faith and these matters are very settled for you. You have to consider too that for an agnostic it isn’t that we are just looking at Christianity and atheism as just the two possibilities – far from it. Christianity is just one of many possible worldviews that need to be assessed. Sorry but you aren’t only the game in town to think about!

  127. 127
    HeKS says:

    @Roding #126

    I think I get what you are saying, but it feels like a bit of a rhetorical trick. I think I’d rather consider what’s on hand rather than hypotheticals. I guess it feels like I’m being cornered in agreeing or not agreeing to something. I like to take my time to think and consider things.

    I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t take time to think and consider things. What I’m trying to do is figure out whether there is a threshold of evidence that it is even possible to meet that would convince you of the relatively mundane fact that a Jewish man named Jesus lived in the first century and was a religious teacher who ended up starting/inspiring a religious movement. If you are being trapped into anything, it is only in to giving some indication that you might be remotely reasonable and open-minded, or, possibly, that you are neither.

    Understand, this thread is about the bare existence of Jesus, not the truth of all Christian claims. Skepticism over the actual existence of Jesus as a real human is unanimously considered to be entirely without warrant by serious historians, and the reasons given for skepticism over the mere existence of this man consist of the type of wild-eyed, implausible conspiracy theories that you mentioned, which could be applied with equal measure, and usually more, to everyone else who we accept was really alive on the earth during that time period.

    Yes, I agree my list is a bit outlandish, but what is wrong with considering all the possibilities, even the ones that seem unlikely? That’s my process (I use it with my work too) – list all of the possibilities no matter how bizarre and extraordinary After all, isn’t what you are claiming as the truth quite extraordinary? So shouldn’t we work hard to rule out other possibilities.

    What’s wrong with considering them? Nothing. The problem arises when, after considering them, you don’t recognize that they are extremely implausible conspiracy theories that are not even hinted at being correct by any evidence and that it is MUCH more reasonable to conclude, along with all serious historians, that the far more reasonable view, which is supported by a wealth of evidence, is that a man named Jesus really did live in the first century, act as a religious teacher and inspire a religious movement that came to be called Christianity.

    I think I’m willing to consider it as a possibility, but could there be other explanations?

    You think that you’re willing to consider it as a possibility that the fact of people being willing to die terrible deaths rather than recant specific claims about a man they claimed to know and associate closely with over a period of years might be powerful evidence that that man really existed?

    Is it possible to be any more non-committal?

    Could there be other explanations other than this man’s bare existence that could plausibly explain why people would be willing to die painful deaths rather than recant specific claims about him, such as that he was resurrected?

    Well, the options you’ve presented so far certainly don’t qualify, do they? They may be logically possible, but they would be logically possible in relation to any person you choose out of all of history. That doesn’t mean they’re remotely plausible or that they provide sufficient basis to undercut Moral Certainty (the meaning of which I linked to earlier) about Jesus’ existence.

    I think there are good reasons to be skeptical of history. I don’t think history is neat and tidy and I’m sure the historical record for anything 2000 years or older is likely to be quite murky. But it’s a different matter as to whether Plato really existed then it is whether Jesus existed. If Plato didn’t exist, the implications aren’t that significant – his writings still carry their own weight. But of course if Jesus didn’t exist that has huge implications (of course the teachings might still be valued, just as with Plato). Does that make me hyperskeptial in wanting a higher standard of evidence for Jesus than Plato?

    Yes, it makes you selectively hyper-skeptical about Jesus’ existence because your skepticism derives from what you think the implications of his existence might be rather than from any principled epistemological approach, and because your doubt is not based on any positive evidence against his existence or even a lack of positive evidence for it. You are giving yourself an excuse for doubt by appeal to the sheer logical possibility of baseless, wildly implausible conspiracy theories, and this only because you think there might be significant implications if Jesus didn’t really live.

    But really, his bare existence does not necessarily have any positive significant implications, since he could have lived but the grander claims about him could still be false. In reality, there are necessary significant implications only if he didn’t exist, which is that Christianity is immediately cut off at the ankles, and THIS is what makes the Christ-Myth silliness so attractive to some people, so that they are willing to accept, through extreme credulity, any wildly implusible, unprecedented, baseless conspiracy theory that gives them any excuse whatsoever to doubt Jesus’ existence, even though they would immediately dismiss these theories as being foolish, baseless and not warranting any belief if they were applied to anyone else.

    If so, that’s fine, I have to be true to myself and what evidence I’m willing to accept.

    Actually, what would be better to do is recognize that you’re being selectively hyper-skeptical, recognize that this is not conducive to an intellectually-honest search for truth, and make an intellectual realignment so that you can examine the relevant evidence objectively.

    But I have to take into account that you are already a person of faith and these matters are very settled for you.

    Nothing is ever settled for me. And I have difficulty thinking of myself as “a person of faith”. I have faith as per the Biblical definition of that word, but not according to the one that has become common in recent years, which amounts to “blind faith”. I believe what I believe because I think it is the most reasonable thing to believe when all of the evidence is considered objectively. I’m a highly unemotional person and, as far as I can tell, I draw no emotional comfort from my belief … or if I do it is so minimal that it would have no effect on the outcome of what I would consider to be reasonable. What might be referred to as the “warm and fuzzy” aspects of religion or belief simply don’t enter my mind. Ultimately, I’m interested in what is true, or at least what it seems is most reasonable to believe is true.

  128. 128
    Mung says:

    Well Roding, we likewise have to take into account that you are already a person of faith and these matters are very settled for you.

    We have our faith and you have your faith. Which one is most reasonable? Ours, of course. 🙂 Join us.

  129. 129
    roding says:

    Is it possible to be any more non-committal?

    Annoying isn’t it! The truth is I really don’t know much about this stuff (I’m sure that much is obvious). I think I read about the Jesus myth idea a while back, and it seemed interesting – partly because it resonated with some of my own reservations and disconnects with the Bible when I read it more regularly in my younger days. But as Hek says it could be people just wanting to disprove an ideology they find uncomfortable, I can see that.

    But despite what others think, I really would be willing to look at both sides, and perhaps even read the book Cold Case that somebody recommended. On the other do I really want to make such a time commitment? (particularly when it takes time away from my real passion in life of playing music, which is definitely my spiritual practice!).

    But at the end of the day, maybe I’ll still not have an opinion one way or the other. After all, why do I need to? (and why in this Internet everybody has to have an opinion on everything – what’s wrong with “I don’t know”?).

    As to all of Hek’s long analysis of my motives and inner workings, well, that’s just fascinating. I guess I asked for it since I did allude to some of Hek’s belief systems and motives, but I think Hek you have paid me back in spades. I guess you know me better than myself!

    I don’t really mind, although, although I wonder how it is possibly to accurate analyze another person’s motives from a few exchanges on a blog (particularly as in my case I do like to “try on” different ideas and thoughts when I post and stir the pot a bit, I don’t think there’s much of the real “me” that comes through). I’m personally not sure it’s a particularly effective method to win somebody over to your view of things (I know somebody who does this in real life and it definitely is not effective!)

    I think I’ll make this my last post (and this blog entry is about to disappear into history anyway), but it’s been a fun exchange, and it’s nice we’ve been able to get it reasonably civil and polite and I’m grateful for that!

  130. 130
    Mung says:

    r. I think I’ll make this my last post

    be sure to get in the last word. that’s important!

  131. 131
    HeKS says:

    @Roding #129

    If you go back and review my prior comments, references to what I say you are doing should be interpreted as statements about effects or consequences rather than motives.

    For example, when I said…

    You are giving yourself an excuse for doubt by appeal to the sheer logical possibility of baseless, wildly implausible conspiracy theories, and this only because you think there might be significant implications if Jesus didn’t really live.

    … I was not making a statement about your motives, but about what your style of reasoning was resulting in.

    In other words, by DOING X, for whatever reason you happen to be doing it, it has EFFECT Y.

    And when I say that you are being selectively hyper-skeptical, I am again making an objective assessment of what is going on with your reasoning. I don’t necessarily think you’re doing it to be dishonest. You may very well think it makes perfect sense. I’m trying to tell you that it doesn’t make sense and that it’s a recognized flaw in one’s epistemological approach.

    I don’t claim to be able to read your heart or mind, so please keep that in mind, along with my clarifications here, when you read my comments.

    HeKS

  132. 132
    kairosfocus says:

    Roding: Please cf 123 – 125 above. Notice, Paul was the former leading opponent of the Christians, and went to the extreme of lynching and judicial murder on trumped up charges of blasphemy. If there were no conclusive evidence c 30 – 38 AD that Jesus existed, he would have known that and Stephen simply could not have bested the Freedmen’s Synagogue in debates; where, Ac is known to be very good on fact claims and we have Paul himself in his own voice also speaking as the lead missionary for what he formerly persecuted to death. Whately’s satire on Napoleon will be helpful. So, BTW is Cold Case Christianity — which I have and have read. Again, the 101 vid here is a simple 1 hr or so investment, and the course following is helpful as are onward links. Remember, matters of fact are subject to moral evidence, requiring reasonably grounded confidence in credibility. Global or selective hyperskepticism immediately reduces to absurdity as HeKS has pointed out in brief, and as I argued at length here years ago (when to speak in such terms was vanishingly rare — I find the silence over Simon Greenleaf in both Evidence and Testimony, in the hot Google linked debates among the so-called Skeptical community, amusingly revealing). Whately’s satire on Napoleon has much to teach and further back, so does Locke’s insightful observations from his section 5 of his intro to the Essay on Human Understanding. KF

  133. 133
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Locke:

    >> Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 – 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 – 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 – 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 – 21, Eph 4:17 – 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 – 21, Jer. 2:13, Titus 2:11 – 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 – 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. [Text references added to document the sources of Locke’s allusions and citations.] >>

  134. 134
  135. 135
  136. 136
    kairosfocus says:

    On the fallacy of Cliffordian evidentialism, esp. Saganian “extraordinary claims . . . ” form, cf. here in context.

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