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The resurrection as an argument for the existence of God

May 6, 2014

I was recently in a conversation with an atheist. He asked if there was an argument for the existence of god that didn’t contain at least one logical fallacy?

I think there are many, but one I proposed was the argument from resurrection. It can be constructed as such:

Premise 1: in a world without gods, dead things cannot come back to life.

Premise 2: Jesus died and came back to life.

Conclusion: Therefore we do not live in a world without gods.

I think that this is a logically valid argument i.e. the conclusion flows from the premises. The issue is regarding the premises – are they true? I think the first one is self evidentially true. The second is more controversial, yet I think there are good reasons to suggest that Jesus really did come back to life.

Anyway, what are your thoughts? Is this a sound argument? What would convince you to believe that the second premise is true?

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From → Philosophy

16 Comments
  1. dfordoubt permalink

    As a skeptic, I doubt the historicity of the existence of Jesus and this means I doubt his resurrection as well. You claim that there are good reasons to believe that Jesus not only existed, but rose from the dead, as well. Where is the evidence for this? What are these “good reasons” you are referring to? I’d like to know.

  2. dfordoubt permalink

    Here are my objections to the historicity of Jesus and the supposed truth of his resurrection.

    First, his historicity:
    There is no physical evidence to support a historical Jesus; there are no works of carpentry or self-written works or anything like that. One of your sources claims that there are contemporary sources that speak about the life of Jesus. This simply isn’t true. Every text that has ever even mentioned Jesus came several years after his life, and those were authored by anonymous writers, people who had never met Jesus, and fraudulent scholars.
    The Gospels are certainly not contemporary. I contend that they fit the very definition of hearsay, that is, they are works that contain information not derived from a personal witness’ own knowledge, but from other people who were not there at the time. Hearsay isn’t considered reliable evidence by honest scholarship, so it should be dismissed. Besides, there isn’t a shred of evidence for any of the miracles that Jesus supposedly performed.
    The New Testament letters (the most famous of these being the Pauline Epistles) cannot be considered contemporary, either. Paul and the other authors of the epistles didn’t know any of the biographical details of Jesus. They don’t mention Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee, Golgotha, or any of these important places that Jesus was associated with. They don’t mention any of Jesus’ miracles; they don’t mention his virgin birth, his trial, or his preachments. It isn’t until the Gospels that these details are interpolated into the story of Jesus. If Jesus had really existed, we wouldn’t have to wait to read the Gospels to find out about his life. Paul and the other epistle writers would have written about his life, his followers, his teachings, his miracles and so on. Yet we find none of this in the epistles.
    Even the Gospels of Matthew and Luke plagiarize from the first Synoptic Gospel, Mark, and none of these texts claim to be contemporary or eyewitness accounts either. Again, all we have is hearsay in these texts.
    I contend that Paul and the other epistles did not believe in an earthly Jesus, but rather a celestial one, and that it wasn’t until the Gospels that the character of Jesus was placed on earth, with all of these details about his life and teachings added in to fulfill Old Testament prophecy.
    There is no record of Pontius Pilate condemning Jesus to be crucified, and the purported trial would have been completely illegitimate even if it had taken place.
    Not one local historian wrote a single word about him while he was alive, and Roman scholars usually kept track with the formations of new cults. Josephus and Tacitus were out of the range of being eyewitnesses of Jesus.
    The Gospels portray Jesus as being known far and wide by Jewish high priests and Roman authorities. Isn’t it strange that not a single person recorded the existence of this man during his lifetime?

    Now for his supposed resurrection from the dead:
    I’ll grant the legitimate historicity of Jesus for the sake of argument: even if Jesus did exist, I see no reason to believe that he rose from the dead. Aside from the evidence being insufficient, it is possible that the original idea of the resurrection was spiritual in nature and did not involve flesh.
    It’s quite noticeable that the Gospels get more fantastic as they go along, starting off simple and ending with outlandish claims in John.
    But let’s suppose that we had thousands of contemporaneous and reliable eyewitness accounts of the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection. This would still not be enough evidence to prove the event true. Why not? Because miracle stories are literally a dime a dozen. Take a look at India. Around the 40s and 50s, there was a man named Sathya Sai Baba who many people, including Western educated people, believed to be a living god. Several of them attested to personally witnessing miracles from him. In fact, many of the miracles attributed to Jesus (including resurrection of a physical body) were attributed to Sai Baba by eyewitnesses. Christianity is based on the claim that miracle stories of a kind that revolve around Sai Baba become credible only when they are placed in the ignorant and pre-scientific religious context of the first century Roman Empire, decades after their supposed happenings. And it isn’t just Sai Baba that these miracle stories are attributed to: there’s Haile Selassie, Yahweh Ben Yahweh, and Simon Magus (just to name a few). No rational person would ever think to take these claims about present day miracle workers seriously, no matter how many people claim to be eyewitnesses, so why should anyone think to take the claims of the Epistles and the Gospels seriously when it comes to the improbable existence of Jesus and, supposing he lived, his even more improbable resurrection from the dead?

    • Hi dfordoubt, I responded to the points you raised. I copy/pasted your point and then responded below it.

      “Here are my objections to the historicity of Jesus and the supposed truth of his resurrection.
      First, his historicity:
      There is no physical evidence to support a historical Jesus; there are no works of carpentry or self-written works or anything like that.”

      That is not how history works, we have no self-written words of Socrates, but that does not mean we can conclude that he didn’t exist or that we should doubt his existence. I don’t know of any historian who rejects the historicity of Jesus based on the lack of his carpentry. So just because we don’t have any of his works or self-written words is no reason to doubt the historical Jesus.

      “One of your sources claims that there are contemporary sources that speak about the life of Jesus. This simply isn’t true.”

      Would you mind defining what you mean by ‘contemporary’?

      “Every text that has ever even mentioned Jesus came several years after his life, and those were authored by anonymous writers, people who had never met Jesus, and fraudulent scholars.”

      Just because a text appeared years after Jesus’ death, that doesn’t mean it isn’t reliable or valid. Aristotle wrote his works between 384 and 322 BC, the earliest copy we have today from his works dates from 1100 AD. Despite this big time gap historians do not doubt whether it is reliable, history can still be made. Further in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 Paul quotes from an old source, dated to 36 AD when Paul visited Jerusalem, this means that the saying is no older than 5 years after Jesus’ death. 5 years is nothing, especially in ANE historical studies. Further Mark, Peter, and Matthew did meet Jesus and interact with him. So it isn’t true that all of them never had met Jesus.

      I don’t know why you say the Gospels are written by anonymous writers, Luke identifies himself in the beginning of his gospel quite clearly, and this is just one example.

      “The Gospels are certainly not contemporary. I contend that they fit the very definition of hearsay, that is, they are works that contain information not derived from a personal witness’ own knowledge, but from other people who were not there at the time.”

      Could you elaborate on why you think the gospels are hearsay?
      How do you explain the little details that are included in the Gospels? Things like the details of the weather, the mentioning of high profile governors and leaders, and also the mentioning of the enemies of Christianity. If the NT writings are just made up stuff, how come it never was exposed as that, and how come Christianity never came to a halt? It makes no sense for NT authors to mention leaders and public authorities and to include them in their lies. If they did include leaders in their lies or ignorance or whatever, then surely it would have been stopped and exposed quickly for what it is. Yet, that didn’t happen.

      “Hearsay isn’t considered reliable evidence by honest scholarship, so it should be dismissed. Besides, there isn’t a shred of evidence for any of the miracles that Jesus supposedly performed.”

      The NT writings would be the evidence for those miracles, you might say it’s very weak or bad, but it is false to say that “there isn’t a shred of evidence”. Historians cannot prove that Jesus really did perform miracles, but they can say whether the people around him at the time really did believe that he performed those miracles.

      “The New Testament letters (the most famous of these being the Pauline Epistles) cannot be considered contemporary, either. Paul and the other authors of the epistles didn’t know any of the biographical details of Jesus. They don’t mention Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee, Golgotha, or any of these important places that Jesus was associated with. They don’t mention any of Jesus’ miracles; they don’t mention his virgin birth, his trial, or his preachments. It isn’t until the Gospels that these details are interpolated into the story of Jesus. If Jesus had really existed, we wouldn’t have to wait to read the Gospels to find out about his life. Paul and the other epistle writers would have written about his life, his followers, his teachings, his miracles and so on. Yet we find none of this in the epistles.”

      I am surprised that you wrote this, since to me this is just isn’t true. Paul does not mention the life of Jesus exhaustively as many people think he should, but there are reasons for this. First, Paul was writing to Churches who already had heard details about the life of Jesus. Second, he is dealing with specific issues reflecting the current situations of those congregations. Third, the genre of epistle was not written primarily to retell the story of the life of Christ. And fourth, Christians quickly realised that the most important events of the life of Jesus were his crucifixion and resurrection, and Paul does say a lot about those in his epistles.

      I think we do find a lot written about the life of Jesus in Paul’s writings. Paul knew that Jesus was born as a human (Romans 9:5) to a woman as a Jew (Galatians 4:4), that he was descendend from David’s line (Romans 1:3; 15:12). That he was not like Adam (Romans 5:15), that he had brothers, including one named James (1 Corinthians 9:5, Galatians 1:19). Paul further knew that Jesus had a meal on the night he was betrayed (1 Corinthians 11:23-25), that he was crucified and died on a cross (Philippians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 8:11; 15:3; Romans 4:25; 5:6 & 8; 1 Thessalonians 2:15; 4:14), was buried (1 Corinthians 15:4) and was raised three days later (1 Corinthians 15:4; Romans 4:25; 8:34; 1 Thessalonians 4:14), and that afterward he was seen by Peter, the disciples, and others (1 Corinthians 15:5-7).

      Paul also does write about the teachings of Jesus on numerous topics: 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 quotes Jesus’ words over the Last Supper very similar to Luke 22:19-20. In the same letter in 1 Corinthians 9:14, Paul appeals to Jesus’ principle that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel (cf. Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:7). Paul knew that Jesus was opposed to divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10 cf. Mark 10:2-12). Paul understood that Jesus declared all foods clean (Romans 14:14 cf. Mark 7:18-19).

      The list could go on and on, but it should be clear that it isn’t true that Paul knew little or nothing about the historical Jesus.

      “Even the Gospels of Matthew and Luke plagiarize from the first Synoptic Gospel, Mark, and none of these texts claim to be contemporary or eyewitness accounts either. Again, all we have is hearsay in these texts.
      I contend that Paul and the other epistles did not believe in an earthly Jesus, but rather a celestial one, and that it wasn’t until the Gospels that the character of Jesus was placed on earth, with all of these details about his life and teachings added in to fulfill Old Testament prophecy.”

      In 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Paul explicitly teaches against the idea that Jesus was not physically resurrected. This is what he says:
      “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope* in this life only, ewe are of all people most to be pitied.”

      “There is no record of Pontius Pilate condemning Jesus to be crucified, and the purported trial would have been completely illegitimate even if it had taken place.
      Not one local historian wrote a single word about him while he was alive, and Roman scholars usually kept track with the formations of new cults. Josephus and Tacitus were out of the range of being eyewitnesses of Jesus.”

      There is a record of Pontius Pilate condemning Jesus to be crucified. You mention yourself Tacitus, and he did mention Pilate. I haven’t heard anyone yet claim that Josephus and Tacitus were eyewitnesses of Jesus, but they don’t have to be in order to write history about him. Jewish, Christian, and Romans have written about Pilate and it is ironic the he is only mentioned in connection with the trial of Jesus. Also, there are pagan writers kept track with the formation of the cult of Christianity, like Pliny the Younger.

      “The Gospels portray Jesus as being known far and wide by Jewish high priests and Roman authorities. Isn’t it strange that not a single person recorded the existence of this man during his lifetime?”

      It doesn’t matter whether it was during his lifetime. What matters is how far after the events happened, the events were written down. In the case of the NT writings, they are miniscule compared to other ANE writings. Also the society at the time was not like ours today. Something didn’t have to be written down the second after someone said something. Those societies were aural, relying on the spoken, not the written.

      “Now for his supposed resurrection from the dead:
      I’ll grant the legitimate historicity of Jesus for the sake of argument: even if Jesus did exist, I see no reason to believe that he rose from the dead. Aside from the evidence being insufficient, it is possible that the original idea of the resurrection was spiritual in nature and did not involve flesh.”

      Here I think the discussion really should be held. It actually is unlikely that the idea of the resurrection was spiritual. As quoted above, Paul was firmly opposed to this idea. Further, in Jewish thought it was quite clear that the resurrection was believed to happen at the end of time for all creatures at once. The idea of a single resurrection as an event in history, not of all creatures at the end of time, was foreign to Jews. This is seen in Martha’s conversation about Lazarus, and the fact that she believed he would be resurrected at the end of time (John 11:23-24). That the belief of a single resurrection as an event in history was not common is further evidenced by the many times the disciples did not understand Jesus prediction of his own death (Mark 9:31-32).

      “It’s quite noticeable that the Gospels get more fantastic as they go along, starting off simple and ending with outlandish claims in John.”

      Could you elaborate?

      “But let’s suppose that we had thousands of contemporaneous and reliable eyewitness accounts of the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection. This would still not be enough evidence to prove the event true. Why not? Because miracle stories are literally a dime a dozen. Take a look at India. Around the 40s and 50s, there was a man named Sathya Sai Baba who many people, including Western educated people, believed to be a living god. Several of them attested to personally witnessing miracles from him. In fact, many of the miracles attributed to Jesus (including resurrection of a physical body) were attributed to Sai Baba by eyewitnesses. Christianity is based on the claim that miracle stories of a kind that revolve around Sai Baba become credible only when they are placed in the ignorant and pre-scientific religious context of the first century Roman Empire, decades after their supposed happenings. And it isn’t just Sai Baba that these miracle stories are attributed to: there’s Haile Selassie, Yahweh Ben Yahweh, and Simon Magus (just to name a few).”

      I’m not familiar with these stories, could you provide me with some links? I’m curious about your sentence that “many of the miracles attributed to Jesus (including resurrection of a physical body) were attributed to Sai Baba by eyewitnesses.” So did he die, and was confirmed dead, and then seen to be living again physically? Again, I would appreciate further information so I could look at it better myself.

      “No rational person would ever think to take these claims about present day miracle workers seriously, no matter how many people claim to be eyewitnesses, so why should anyone think to take the claims of the Epistles and the Gospels seriously when it comes to the improbable existence of Jesus and, supposing he lived, his even more improbable resurrection from the dead?”

      But if you had a friend, whom you knew was a reasonable and trust worthy person, and they would honestly tell you to have experienced something like a miracle, wouldn’t you be warranted in believing them? Further it is a question of what the evidence available for the claims are, and since I only have some understanding of the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, and not any knowledge of the evidence for the miracles of the people you mentioned, I cannot really comment. Yes, you say there were eyewitnesses etc. but I don’t know what to make of it yet until I investigate further.
      But these stories should not really be of any concern and essentially just boil down to the possibility of miracles. Just because story A has similarities to story B, doesn’t show either of them false. It’s truth or falsity would be another question.

      In the end, it isn’t just the evidence for the resurrection alone that needs to be considered. All of the Christian worldview needs to be considered: that it completely shook ancient civilisations and has persisted despite waves and waves of persecution. That the original disciples died for their faith, and many Christians still do today. That millions of people today claim to have their lives changed and transformed through Jesus Christ.

      May I ask what sources you have read on the historical Jesus and textual criticism? I know you mention Richard Carrier below, but have you read anyone else? I think it’s always good to go to the original source—the NT—itself.

      I look forward to hearing your thoughts 🙂

      • dfordoubt permalink

        Thanks for the comment, Patrick S. I have responded to your criticisms below”

        “That is not how history works, we have no self-written words of Socrates, but that does not mean we can conclude that he didn’t exist or that we should doubt his existence.”

        I have not asserted that it is a conclusive fact that Jesus never existed, I have only stated that it is doubtful, considering the fact that we have absolutely no contemporary evidence for the claim at all. You asked me to define contemporary: by contemporary evidence, I mean evidence that dates to the time the person or event actually happened. You could assert that Paul was a contemporaneous source, but Paul explicitly states that he received his information from revelation, not from any human being.
        It should be pointed out that there’s no conclusive evidence for the existence of Socrates, either. But, It doesn’t matter to me if Socrates existed or not. We have his teachings and his dialogues and that’s all that concerns me. However, Christianity depends on the existence of Jesus. If he did not exist, Christianity is a definite fabrication.

        “Just because a text appeared years after Jesus’ death, that doesn’t mean it isn’t reliable or valid. Aristotle wrote his works between 384 and 322 BC, the earliest copy we have today from his works dates from 1100 AD. Despite this big time gap historians do not doubt whether it is reliable, history can still be made. Further in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 Paul quotes from an old source, dated to 36 AD when Paul visited Jerusalem, this means that the saying is no older than 5 years after Jesus’ death. 5 years is nothing, especially in ANE historical studies. Further Mark, Peter, and Matthew did meet Jesus and interact with him. So it isn’t true that all of them never had met Jesus.
        I don’t know why you say the Gospels are written by anonymous writers, Luke identifies himself in the beginning of his gospel quite clearly, and this is just one example.”

        The difference between the work of Aristotle and the New Testament (most notably, the Gospels and Epistles) is the fact that today we have in our possession 5,300 known Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, another 10,000 Latin Vulgates, and 9,300 other early versions, which gives us more than 24,000 manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament in existence today! We don’t just have a few copies of these texts; we have copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies without originals. As for 1 Corinthians 15, some historians doubt that Paul wrote the verses in question and that verses 3 through 7 are an interpolation dating back to the 2nd century. Robert Price points out that verse three, in which Paul states that he delivered that which he received from scripture (that is, passing down tradition), contradicts Paul’s story of conversion in the first chapter of Galatians, which denies that Paul had been taught the gospel by anyone besides Jesus.
        Matthew and Mark didn’t write the Gospels of Matthew and Mark…the synoptic gospels were written by anonymous authors who were located in different areas. And scholars maintain that Peter never wrote the two epistles that were attributed to him. Also, modern scholarship rejects the view that Luke was the original author of the Gospel of Luke. Try again.

        “Could you elaborate on why you think the gospels are hearsay?
        How do you explain the little details that are included in the Gospels? Things like the details of the weather, the mentioning of high profile governors and leaders, and also the mentioning of the enemies of Christianity. If the NT writings are just made up stuff, how come it never was exposed as that, and how come Christianity never came to a halt? It makes no sense for NT authors to mention leaders and public authorities and to include them in their lies. If they did include leaders in their lies or ignorance or whatever, then surely it would have been stopped and exposed quickly for what it is. Yet, that didn’t happen.”

        Why do I need to elaborate on why I think the gospels are hearsay when I provided the definition of hearsay? The gospels were written decades and decades after the supposed life of Jesus, and, as I stated before, we have no originals, only copies of copies of copies. The gospels don’t and can’t hold up as reliable evidence for the existence of Jesus. As for your question regarding the truth about the details of the weather and the mentioning of high profile governors and leaders and enemies of Christianity (which aren’t “little details”, but okay), and why these things were never exposed and why Christianity never came to a halt if these things are made up, it can be easily shown that the religion never came to a halt because of the desire for control. That’s why religion was invented in the first place. It’s the opiate of the masses. Christianity spread due to the desire for control and indoctrination. Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, it didn’t spread through the means of the innate “truth” of the Gospel stories.

        “The NT writings would be the evidence for those miracles, you might say it’s very weak or bad, but it is false to say that ‘there isn’t a shred of evidence’. Historians cannot prove that Jesus really did perform miracles, but they can say whether the people around him at the time really did believe that he performed those miracles.”

        Fine, I’ll reword my statement: There isn’t a shred of RELIABLE evidence.
        And I have no doubt that the people around him at the time (supposing he existed, of course) believed that he performed miracles. Lots of people are quick to believe miracles and miracle stories, as I’ve pointed out in the comment that you are responding to. This doesn’t mean that we should believe the stories just because the people at the time believed them.

        “I am surprised that you wrote this, since to me this is just isn’t true. Paul does not mention the life of Jesus exhaustively as many people think he should, but there are reasons for this. First, Paul was writing to Churches who already had heard details about the life of Jesus. Second, he is dealing with specific issues reflecting the current situations of those congregations. Third, the genre of epistle was not written primarily to retell the story of the life of Christ. And fourth, Christians quickly realised that the most important events of the life of Jesus were his crucifixion and resurrection, and Paul does say a lot about those in his epistles.”

        I realize that Paul was writing to Churches that already heard details about Jesus’ life, but I never said that Paul didn’t speak about the crucifixion and resurrection. So, Jesus’ virgin birth, his sermons, and all of the other miracles he performed (like raising Lazarus from the dead)..none of them were important enough to mention in the Epistles, is that right? Because that makes sense.

        “I think we do find a lot written about the life of Jesus in Paul’s writings. Paul knew that Jesus was born as a human (Romans 9:5) to a woman as a Jew (Galatians 4:4), that he was descendend from David’s line (Romans 1:3; 15:12). That he was not like Adam (Romans 5:15), that he had brothers, including one named James (1 Corinthians 9:5, Galatians 1:19). Paul further knew that Jesus had a meal on the night he was betrayed (1 Corinthians 11:23-25), that he was crucified and died on a cross (Philippians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 8:11; 15:3; Romans 4:25; 5:6 & 8; 1 Thessalonians 2:15; 4:14), was buried (1 Corinthians 15:4) and was raised three days later (1 Corinthians 15:4; Romans 4:25; 8:34; 1 Thessalonians 4:14), and that afterward he was seen by Peter, the disciples, and others (1 Corinthians 15:5-7).
        Paul also does write about the teachings of Jesus on numerous topics: 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 quotes Jesus’ words over the Last Supper very similar to Luke 22:19-20. In the same letter in 1 Corinthians 9:14, Paul appeals to Jesus’ principle that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel (cf. Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:7). Paul knew that Jesus was opposed to divorce (1 Corinthians 7:10 cf. Mark 10:2-12). Paul understood that Jesus declared all foods clean (Romans 14:14 cf. Mark 7:18-19).
        The list could go on and on, but it should be clear that it isn’t true that Paul knew little or nothing about the historical Jesus.”

        The verses that you pointed out from Paul’s writings regarding Jesus’ lineage do not prove the conclusion that Jesus was a historical figure, or that he was human. I would argue that Paul’s myths of Christ had to be placed, to some extent, in a historical sequence. These redeeming characteristics of the mythical Christ in the spiritual world had to be placed into this ongoing pattern. Christ had to be “of David’s stock” (Romans 1:3), for the spiritual Christ to be identified as the Messiah, and the clear testimony in scripture that the Messiah would be a descendant of David could not be ignored. The ‘historicity’ and human traits named in the letters show a picture of Christ presented by early Christian writers, such as declaring him “born of woman” in Galatians 4:4, under the influence of Isaiah 7:14, which, by the way, uses the Hebrew word “almah”, meaning a young woman, not an unpenetrated one. These writings made the transition of a spiritual Messiah into a historical figure simpler. And again, Paul explicitly states that he received his information through revelation from his vision of Jesus, not from any human being. Paul tells the early Christians that the scripture foreshadowed his own gospel (Romans), not the life of Jesus. The writings state that god had promised this gospel before, but if this were the case, then god would have been the first to foretell information about Jesus, not about Paul’s writings. As Paul points out, the scriptures did not contain the prophecies of Jesus, but the prophecies of the writings that told these stories. From this, it can be deduced that no life of Jesus had come between the writing of scripture and the revelation that Paul received. So, from this information, I conclude that it is highly unlikely that there ever was a historical Jesus in Paul’s past, and that the stories of the actions of the Son were accessible via revelation, not from human sources.

        “In 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Paul explicitly teaches against the idea that Jesus was not physically resurrected. This is what he says:
        ‘Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope* in this life only, ewe are of all people most to be pitied.’”

        Paul had no view of a recent Jesus rising in flesh on earth as a prelude to the same sort of resurrection that Jews looked forward to, and even if he did, he would never have made such an argument in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49, failing to introduce an incarnated Jesus with a human body into his pattern. All of the epistles saw the rising of Jesus as spiritual, not physical, in nature. And if the resurrection had just occurred, Paul would not have described the present time and the progression toward the kingdom’s arrival the way he tells it in Romans 8:22-3 and elsewhere, making no allusion to the life of Jesus. The 1st and 2nd century epistles lacked the need for Jesus to have lived, died, and resurrected on earth.

        “There is a record of Pontius Pilate condemning Jesus to be crucified. You mention yourself Tacitus, and he did mention Pilate. I haven’t heard anyone yet claim that Josephus and Tacitus were eyewitnesses of Jesus, but they don’t have to be in order to write history about him. Jewish, Christian, and Romans have written about Pilate and it is ironic the he is only mentioned in connection with the trial of Jesus. Also, there are pagan writers kept track with the formation of the cult of Christianity, like Pliny the Younger.”

        I’m sorry my comments are so obscure. I meant to say that there is no contemporary record of Pontius Pilate condemning Jesus to crucifixion. Tacitus did mention Pilate, that’s correct. “In order to put an end to this rumor, therefore, Nero laid the blame on and visited with severe punishment those men, hateful for their crimes, whom the people called Christians. He from whom the name was derived, Christus, was put to death by the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. But the pernicious superstition, checked for a moment, broke out again, not only in Judea, the native land of the monstrosity, but also in Rome, to which all conceivable horrors and abominations flow from every side, and find supporters” -Annals 15, chapter 44.
        I don’t think that this passage in the annals can be considered reliable when regarding the trial of “Christus” because Tacitus does not claim to be quoting an original source when he mentions this Christus. All he is doing is just repeating the stories that were believed by the Christians at the time (and it should be noted that Nero showed indifference towards religious sects). It is extremely improbable that Tacitus would have discovered a report about Jesus that was sent to the Senate of Rome regarding his death. The execution of a Galilean Jew carpenter would have been a completely unimportant event in Roman history during the time, even if this carpenter was the leader of a small fringe cult. A record of this would have vanished among the virtually countless executions inflicted by the Roman authorities, it seems. So, it’s highly unlikely that there was a source that Tacitus could have gone to to cite his information. Pontius Pilate never wrote anything down regarding the crucifixion of Jesus, nor did anyone else at the time. And even if a person had written something down about this event around the time that it happened, or even if there was a Roman record, it would not have referred to any criminal as “Christus”. Christus isn’t a name, it’s a title.
        Secular scholars aren’t the only ones making these arguments, by the way. Christian scholar R.T. France doubts that Tacitus’ passage from Annals 15 provides sufficient independent testimony for Jesus’ existence.
        And even if the Annals did demonstrate that Jesus existed, they wouldn’t prove that he was a magic man who performed miracles, and it wouldn’t prove that what people believe today is factual, because, again, Tacitus is merely repeating the Christian beliefs he had heard about.
        The writings of Pliny the Younger do not prove anything in regard to the existence of Jesus. They only show that Christians existed.

        “It doesn’t matter whether it was during his lifetime. What matters is how far after the events happened, the events were written down. In the case of the NT writings, they are miniscule compared to other ANE writings. Also the society at the time was not like ours today. Something didn’t have to be written down the second after someone said something. Those societies were aural, relying on the spoken, not the written.”

        It doesn’t matter? Of course it matters. You’d think that if god came to the most backwards corner of the Middle East that someone would write about him while he was alive, instead of waiting decades after the supposed events to start jotting memories down. No believer can address this criticism from an honest perspective: if Jesus was god, i.e., the creator of the universe, and people knew it at the time, why didn’t any of them write about Jesus while he was performing his miracles? And it’s not exactly an argument in favor to point out that those societies relied on the spoken. If someone told me that a man turned water into wine using magic 20 years ago, I wouldn’t believe them unless they showed me some other evidences for the claim.

        “Here I think the discussion really should be held. It actually is unlikely that the idea of the resurrection was spiritual. As quoted above, Paul was firmly opposed to this idea. Further, in Jewish thought it was quite clear that the resurrection was believed to happen at the end of time for all creatures at once. The idea of a single resurrection as an event in history, not of all creatures at the end of time, was foreign to Jews. This is seen in Martha’s conversation about Lazarus, and the fact that she believed he would be resurrected at the end of time (John 11:23-24). That the belief of a single resurrection as an event in history was not common is further evidenced by the many times the disciples did not understand Jesus prediction of his own death (Mark 9:31-32).”

        It isn’t unlikely that the idea of the resurrection was spiritual in nature, as I’ve explained in my refutation of the quote you provided. As for everything else you mention…that religious nonsense is all white noise to me, I’m sorry to say.

        “Could you elaborate (about the Gospels getting more fantastic)?”

        Again, I’m sorry my writing is obscure. Here is what I mean when I say that the Gospels got more fantastic as they were written: the earlier stories that were placed in the gospels started off simple (very few remarkable events), and as the years passed, as the decades passed, the newer stories began to mention more remarkable events.

        “I’m not familiar with these stories, could you provide me with some links? I’m curious about your sentence that ‘many of the miracles attributed to Jesus (including resurrection of a physical body) were attributed to Sai Baba by eyewitnesses.’ So did he die, and was confirmed dead, and then seen to be living again physically? Again, I would appreciate further information so I could look at it better myself.”

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sathya_Sai_Baba
        http://www.saibabaofshirdi.net/miracles_of_sai_baba.htm
        http://www.saibabaofindia.com/miracles.htm
        When I mentioned a resurrection miracle, I meant to say that Sai Baba supposedly resurrected someone else from the dead. I should have clarified that. My apologies.

        “But if you had a friend, whom you knew was a reasonable and trust worthy person, and they would honestly tell you to have experienced something like a miracle, wouldn’t you be warranted in believing them? Further it is a question of what the evidence available for the claims are, and since I only have some understanding of the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, and not any knowledge of the evidence for the miracles of the people you mentioned, I cannot really comment. Yes, you say there were eyewitnesses etc. but I don’t know what to make of it yet until I investigate further.
        But these stories should not really be of any concern and essentially just boil down to the possibility of miracles. Just because story A has similarities to story B, doesn’t show either of them false. It’s truth or falsity would be another question.”

        I don’t think I would be warranted in believing a friend who told me that they had witnessed a miracle unless they provided me with evidence.
        I think the stories should be a concern to believing Christians because we have all of these miracle stories of Sathya Sai Baba attested to by thousands of eyewitnesses, and they aren’t even worth an hour on television. And yet, when these stories are placed in an ancient book written by ignorant Jews who didn’t know that the earth was round, around 2 billion people decide to come to the conclusion that it is a legitimate project to organize their lives around. I consider this to be a problem.

        “In the end, it isn’t just the evidence for the resurrection alone that needs to be considered. All of the Christian worldview needs to be considered: that it completely shook ancient civilisations and has persisted despite waves and waves of persecution. That the original disciples died for their faith, and many Christians still do today. That millions of people today claim to have their lives changed and transformed through Jesus Christ.”

        I’ll have to address these in another post…

        “May I ask what sources you have read on the historical Jesus and textual criticism? I know you mention Richard Carrier below, but have you read anyone else? I think it’s always good to go to the original source—the NT—itself.”
        Umm..sure…here are a few people: Robert M. Price, Elaine Pagels, Michael D. Coogan.

        I look forward to hearing back from you, my friend.

  3. Obviously not read the letter of James….”brother of our Lord” (at reader above)

  4. Hi Rob,
    I’ve actually been out of the loop(!) for a little while now, and will gradually dip my toe back into your posts when I can.

    My first catch-up remark on this one is, Are you still really banging on about this resurrection nonsense…?!

    To address the questions in your post, technically, your argument might be valid, but it certainly isn’t sound. Validity refers to whether a conclusion can flow logically from its premises and is independent of the truth of the premises themselves. Soundness refers to whether the argument is valid and the premises are true.

    I’d like to make a suggestion, though, and that is that you move on from these repetitive and pointless assertions about the resurrection. We know you believe it because you’re a Christian. One cannot believe in the literal resurrection and not be a Christian.

    But, with the greatest respect, you must understand that until Christ himself comes back and demonstrates to the rest of us that it’s all true (or someone unearths the original video recordings), skeptics with just half a brain will never believe it. The collection of arguments in favour of the resurrection (which amount to hearsay – not evidence) will never convince us, no matter how many times you re-post them here.

    A challenge to you then is this: Let go of this resurrection stuff, which is thoroughly uninteresting as far as questions about God’s existence are concerned, and bring up something new and more debate-worthy!
    Let me even start you off with a deceptively simple question:
    Does your God want me to believe in His existence? (Or is he largely indifferent to the skeptical among us?)

    Thanks in advance.

    • Thanks for the post Paul and again, welcome back. I agree that you are right and I’ve adjusted my post accordingly, the argument is ‘valid’ not necessarily sound. I happen to think it is also sound, but the point I was originally trying to make was that it was valid and I used the wrong word. Thanks for the adjustment.

      I don’t think I can let the resurrection go so easily, because it is such a defining moment for the truth of Christianity – the Christian faith stands or falls on it. But that’s another question and I can understand your issue with it.

      I’ll have a think about your other question i.e. about God wanting you to believe. Whilst I’m thinking about that post, maybe you could answer for me, ‘Do you want to believe in God?’ (I’m not trying to establish a wish fulfilment criteria here, just checking if you are like Thomas Nagel or not, when he says he doesn’t want god to exist). Thanks and look forward to more engagement in the future.

      • G’day Rob and thanks for the reply.

        I don’t think I can let the resurrection go so easily, because it is such a defining moment for the truth of Christianity – the Christian faith stands or falls on it. But that’s another question and I can understand your issue with it.
        I know you can’t let it go, and you can understand my issue with it. There’s the point I was making – Both cases have been made and the argument is exhausted. Neither side is going to move the other and (in my view, obviously) the argument is now boring. 🙂

        On the more interesting question of what the goals are for God w.r.t. my belief:
        maybe you could answer for me, ‘Do you want to believe in God?’ (I’m not trying to establish a wish fulfilment criteria here, just checking if you are like Thomas Nagel or not, when he says he doesn’t want god to exist).
        At face value, this is a very weird question to ask an atheist and someone that doesn’t believe in free will. Believing in God (or anything for that matter) is not something I either wish for or against. For all practical purposes, it isn’t a question of desire one way or the other – I simply cannot believe.
        I don’t understand the Nagel position because it’s not something I’ve ever studied. Not wanting God to exist actually sounds a bit lazy. But then, I don’t know what his whole argument is about.
        However, I can say with some confidence I think that I am open to God existing. But you (and He) should know that if He were to successfully communicate with me, I’d have a bloody lot of uncomfortable questions for Him to answer for me.
        Deity belief is one matter. Worship is another.

  5. dfordoubt permalink

    @matt – Scholars doubt that James authored an epistle. The passage you are referring to is in Galatians: chapter one, verse 19: “But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.” Please note that the word “brother” is used around 130+ times in the Pauline Epistles, and none of the usages translate out to “full-blood brother.”

    Richard Carrier states in his blog “McGrath on the Amazing Infallible Carrier” that there are two theories: “…(1) that Paul is merely saying James is a Christian (hypothesis), because all Christians were brothers of the Lord (established fact) and (2) that Paul means to say James is a biological and not adopted brother of Jesus (hypothesis), because Christians policed the use of the phrase in such a way as to make that a practical way to indicate that distinction (not in evidence). The fact that (2) requires assuming something ad hoc, but (1) does not, makes (1) initially more probable than (2). To borrow McGrath’s own words, “the phrase is clear.” All Christians are brothers of the Lord, James is a brother of the Lord.”

    • @dfordoubt – I just reread Galatians 1.19 to see what the sense was of the phrase “the brother of the Lord”. It seems odd for Paul to use that phase in the sense “all Christians are brothers of the Lord” because Paul has just identified James as one of the apostles, a very select group within Christianity. Why identify him as an apostle and then “oh yeah, he’s a Christian”? The “phrase is clear” when it’s read in context, that it indicates a special relationship between James and Jesus. The most natural interpretation of “brother” is a family relationship, unless one is desperate to show Jesus was a non-physical being/abstraction, as I understand Carrier is wont to do.

      • dfordoubt permalink

        As Carrier stated in his blog, and as I will repeat: the fact that accepting the hypothesis of the 2nd choice would require assuming something ad hoc, and the first choice would not, makes the first choice more probable.

  6. Ron permalink

    Premise 2: Jesus died and came back to life.

    That’s a testable claim. Introduce me to this resurrected man. Like Thomas, I too must see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side before I can believe.

    Can you arrange such a meeting?

  7. Sorry dfordoubt, for some reason I don’t see a “Reply” button below your response. So I’ll reply here:

    “Thank you for your thoughts.

    I have not asserted that it is a conclusive fact that Jesus never existed, I have only stated that it is doubtful, considering the fact that we have absolutely no contemporary evidence for the claim at all.”

    As I said “just because we don’t have any of his works or self-written words is no reason to doubt the historical Jesus.” I don’t think I explicitly stated that you asserted that Jesus never existed, what I’m getting at, is that just because there are no works of carpentry or self-written works of Jesus, that doesn’t need to make you doubtful concerning Jesus’ historical existence.

    “You asked me to define contemporary: by contemporary evidence, I mean evidence that dates to the time the person or event actually happened.”

    I actually just remembered reading a while ago that some parts of the gospels, may be traced back to notes written down directly after Jesus teaching, so parts of the gospel may be contemporary according to your definition (I’m sorry I know I’m being incredibly vague here and not very explicit, but I read it in F.F. Bruce’s book “The NT Documents: Are They Reliable?”. I can send you a link if you like, it’s available for free). But even if we don’t have contemporary (as you define it: “evidence that dates to the time the person or event actually happened”) evidence of Jesus, I disagree with you in thinking that this should seriously throw into doubt his historicity. What contemporary (again, contemporary as you define it) evidences do we have of other historical people? There are some for sure, but not for all historical persons or events by far, and just because some historical figures don’t have works from right their time or right at the event doesn’t mean that we should toss it out the window or doubt it to the extreme. Would you mind listing what ANE historical works you find contemporary?

    “You could assert that Paul was a contemporaneous source, but Paul explicitly states that he received his information from revelation, not from any human being.
”

    In 1 Cor. 15 he doesn’t state that he received it from the Lord. Now, in a sense yes, he says in some places that he received it from the Lord because he had an encounter with him, but he mentions in 1 Cor. 15 that he received it–and most historians believe he is referring to the time he visited Jerusalem in AD 36 (I’ll respond to your criticisms of 1 Cor. 15 below)—from men. In Gal. 1:1-2 Paul states that he went to Jerusalem to make sure that he was preaching the true Gospel, so Paul didn’t just receive a “private revelation” and went running about with it, but he kept it under check with the other Christians who were preaching the Gospel at the time as well.

    “It should be pointed out that there’s no conclusive evidence for the existence of Socrates, either. But, It doesn’t matter to me if Socrates existed or not. We have his teachings and his dialogues and that’s all that concerns me. However, Christianity depends on the existence of Jesus. If he did not exist, Christianity is a definite fabrication.”

    Since it doesn’t concern you whether Socrates existed or not, but that we have his dialogues and teachings, why does it concern you whether Jesus existed? Does it matter whether Platonism is a fabrication?

    “The difference between the work of Aristotle and the New Testament (most notably, the Gospels and Epistles) is the fact that today we have in our possession 5,300 known Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, another 10,000 Latin Vulgates, and 9,300 other early versions, which gives us more than 24,000 manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament in existence today! We don’t just have a few copies of these texts; we have copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies without originals.”

    Yes we do! And it seems that I differ from you in finding that good news. Imagine an event from yesterday, if you had just one TV coverage about it, your knowledge of the event or person or whatever would be limited to just that one TV coverage. But if you had, say, 5,300 different news coverage’s of it, you would know much more. That is the case with the NT events and people. The differences between all these copies we have today are minor, just different ways of spelling sentences or little spelling mistakes (that’s why most Bible translations have footnotes, spelling out the differences of the manuscripts for you). Doctrine, theology, or history isn’t altered or affected. If you reject the NT on textual grounds, it is inconsistent to not reject any other work of antiquity as well (I’m not saying that you are, just laying out the logical implications). Aristotle’s approximate 49 surviving manuscripts seem very scarce in comparison to what we have of the NT.

    “As for 1 Corinthians 15, some historians doubt that Paul wrote the verses in question and that verses 3 through 7 are an interpolation dating back to the 2nd century.”

    What are the specific reasons those historians you mention give for believing this?

    “Robert Price points out that verse three, in which Paul states that he delivered that which he received from scripture (that is, passing down tradition), contradicts Paul’s story of conversion in the first chapter of Galatians, which denies that Paul had been taught the gospel by anyone besides Jesus.”

    But as I mentioned above, Galatians 2 shows that Paul didn’t “hoard” privately the Gospel. In Galatians 1, Paul’s claim that he didn’t receive the gospel by man and that it isn’t man’s gospel is, in my opinion, polemical. He is driving home the point that he didn’t receive the gospel like the Jewish customs and traditions (which are the central concern of the book), and that he didn’t learn it by rote and repetition (as he would have learnt the Jewish laws in the school of Gamaliel. Nevertheless I’m not devaluing memorisation by rote and repetition). Paul is saying that the gospel is more than just that. And having encountered Jesus on the Road to Damascus, it actually isn’t all that clear whether he was saved at that point or not, there is debate around this. Perhaps Ananias preached the Gospel to Paul during the “days” (Acts 9:19).

    “Matthew and Mark didn’t write the Gospels of Matthew and Mark…the synoptic gospels were written by anonymous authors who were located in different areas. And scholars maintain that Peter never wrote the two epistles that were attributed to him. Also, modern scholarship rejects the view that Luke was the original author of the Gospel of Luke. Try again.”

    I disagree with you but since there are different scholars on both sides, I think we can just leave it here, if that’s alright with you.

    “Why do I need to elaborate on why I think the gospels are hearsay when I provided the definition of hearsay? The gospels were written decades and decades after the supposed life of Jesus, and, as I stated before, we have no originals, only copies of copies of copies. The gospels don’t and can’t hold up as reliable evidence for the existence of Jesus. As for your question regarding the truth about the details of the weather and the mentioning of high profile governors and leaders and enemies of Christianity (which aren’t “little details”, but okay),”

    Yea my bad, I wasn’t clear with “little details”. What I meant was things like details of weather, locations, times of the day, local customs etc. These little details give historians good reasons to treat the gospels as history. Yes, you can say they just made it up, but why would they? It’s more reasonable to believe they are reporting events that happened. And the problem is still there, if they reported falsehoods, but included governors and high profile leaders, anyone could have approached those leaders and thus proven the stories false.

    “…and why these things were never exposed and why Christianity never came to a halt if these things are made up, it can be easily shown that the religion never came to a halt because of the desire for control. That’s why religion was invented in the first place. It’s the opiate of the masses. Christianity spread due to the desire for control and indoctrination. Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, it didn’t spread through the means of the innate “truth” of the Gospel stories.”

    The desire for control? I’m not sure how you imagine this is what drove Christianity. Paul gave up a life of prestige and power for a life of persecution and suffering in the worst form. Up until Constantine’s edict of toleration, Christians went through ten of the most intense waves of persecution. Christians didn’t control anything, and given the teachings of Jesus (or even if he didn’t exist, the teachings the authors of the gospel made up) simply would teach the opposite of controlling the masses. Render to Caesar Caesar’s, and to God God’s (Matt. 22:21), love your enemies and pray for them (Matt. 5:43), do good to those who hate you (Luke 6:27), forgive one another (Matt. 6:14), and many more examples.
    Seen from a historical perspective, given the teachings and ethic of Jesus along with those of the epistles, there is no sense to make that Christianity spread “due to the desire for control and indoctrination”. I think there is a massive burden of proof on your part to fill, and that is anything but easily shown.

    And this I think is a real problem. As long as you view Christianity as the opiate of the masses, nothing more than control and indoctrination, it will hinder you from approaching the NT in a fair manner. What I mean is that even before you can consider whether there is truth to it, it’s already deemed something negative and bad. Please correct me if you disagree, but ask yourself how much this view of Christianity influences your investigation of its writings, and whether anything could change your mind as long as you think about it in this way.

    “Fine, I’ll reword my statement: There isn’t a shred of RELIABLE evidence.
And I have no doubt that the people around him at the time (supposing he existed, of course) believed that he performed miracles. Lots of people are quick to believe miracles and miracle stories, as I’ve pointed out in the comment that you are responding to. This doesn’t mean that we should believe the stories just because the people at the time believed them.”

    You don’t have to believe the stories just because the people at the time believed them, but it should give you pause and consider why. I don’t think people were scientifically ignorant and just believed anything. I mean, a miracle is by definition, not something that occurs naturally. It’s safe to say that the ancients possessed that kind of knowledge. Further, why would people believe they witnessed miracles? Trickery? Deceit? Hallucinations? Just saying people were mistaken is not to offer a very strong counter explanation.

    And again, given that Christianity spread, despite waves of persecution, should point in the direction of Jesus being who he said he was.

    “I realize that Paul was writing to Churches that already heard details about Jesus’ life, but I never said that Paul didn’t speak about the crucifixion and resurrection. So, Jesus’ virgin birth, his sermons, and all of the other miracles he performed (like raising Lazarus from the dead)..none of them were important enough to mention in the Epistles, is that right? Because that makes sense.”

    I believe I did provide references of Paul referring to some of Jesus’ teachings (or sermons). Why doesn’t it make sense? Couldn’t it be that Paul had bigger fish to fry?

    “The verses that you pointed out from Paul’s writings regarding Jesus’ lineage do not prove the conclusion that Jesus was a historical figure, or that he was human.”

    I don’t think it was claiming that, I was responding to your comment that “. If Jesus had really existed, we wouldn’t have to wait to read the Gospels to find out about his life. Paul and the other epistle writers would have written about his life, his followers, his teachings, his miracles and so on. Yet we find none of this in the epistles.” But that, given the details I provided, clearly is not true.

    “I would argue that Paul’s myths of Christ had to be placed, to some extent, in a historical sequence. These redeeming characteristics of the mythical Christ in the spiritual world had to be placed into this ongoing pattern. Christ had to be “of David’s stock” (Romans 1:3), for the spiritual Christ to be identified as the Messiah, and the clear testimony in scripture that the Messiah would be a descendant of David could not be ignored. The ‘historicity’ and human traits named in the letters show a picture of Christ presented by early Christian writers, such as declaring him “born of woman” in Galatians 4:4, under the influence of Isaiah 7:14, which, by the way, uses the Hebrew word “almah”, meaning a young woman, not an unpenetrated one. These writings made the transition of a spiritual Messiah into a historical figure simpler.”

    Where do you get the idea of “spiritual Messiah”? To me that is a completely unknown notion in Jewish Messianic thought. Could you point me to original Jewish sources that speak of a spiritual Messiah? Spiritual, in the sense that you argue for.

    Also why would Paul make all this stuff up? If you think it is, as you mention above, because of control and indoctrination, then you don’t need to elaborate again. I just don’t see why a man would give up power and prestige in order to live a life of suffering and hardship, all for ‘control’ (which, when I look at Paul’s life, I don’t really see).

    “And again, Paul explicitly states that he received his information through revelation from his vision of Jesus, not from any human being. Paul tells the early Christians that the scripture foreshadowed his own gospel (Romans), not the life of Jesus.”

    Doesn’t Paul’s gospel contain the life of Jesus? Isn’t the gospel about the life and work of Jesus (mainly his death and resurrection)? Maybe I don’t understand your point, I apologise if that’s the case.

    “The writings state that god had promised this gospel before, but if this were the case, then god would have been the first to foretell information about Jesus, not about Paul’s writings. As Paul points out, the scriptures did not contain the prophecies of Jesus, but the prophecies of the writings that told these stories. From this, it can be deduced that no life of Jesus had come between the writing of scripture and the revelation that Paul received. So, from this information, I conclude that it is highly unlikely that there ever was a historical Jesus in Paul’s past, and that the stories of the actions of the Son were accessible via revelation, not from human sources.”

    Could you give a concrete example? Where do the writings promise “this gospel before”? And what do you mean by foretelling information about Jesus and not Paul’s writing? I’m afraid I also don’t understand this point here that you’re making.

    “Paul had no view of a recent Jesus rising in flesh on earth as a prelude to the same sort of resurrection that Jews looked forward to, and even if he did, he would never have made such an argument in 1 Corinthians 15:35-49, failing to introduce an incarnated Jesus with a human body into his pattern.”

    Why wouldn’t Paul make that argument in 1 Cor. 15? He states in the beginning of that chapter that Jesus appeared to over 500 people. In chapter 11, Paul recalls the Lord’s Supper, something that makes no sense of the idea of a non-physical Jesus. So I don’t think 1 Cor. 15 shows Paul had no idea of a recent Jesus rising in flesh.

    “All of the epistles saw the rising of Jesus as spiritual, not physical, in nature.”

    As I mentioned in my firs response to you, the Jewish idea of a resurrection was one of a general resurrection of all creatures at the end of time. I don’t know of any instance in Jewish thought of a spiritual resurrection. If you can point me to some then that would be great!

    “And if the resurrection had just occurred, Paul would not have described the present time and the progression toward the kingdom’s arrival the way he tells it in Romans 8:22-3 and elsewhere, making no allusion to the life of Jesus. The 1st and 2nd century epistles lacked the need for Jesus to have lived, died, and resurrected on earth.”

    I don’t see any problem with Romans 8:22. Just before in verse 11 Paul mentions that Jesus was raised from the dead, and again, given that, as far as I know, a spiritual resurrection was not present in Jewish thought, it can only mean physical resurrection.

    “I’m sorry my comments are so obscure. I meant to say that there is no contemporary record of Pontius Pilate condemning Jesus to crucifixion. Tacitus did mention Pilate, that’s correct. “In order to put an end to this rumor, therefore, Nero laid the blame on and visited with severe punishment those men, hateful for their crimes, whom the people called Christians. He from whom the name was derived, Christus, was put to death by the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. But the pernicious superstition, checked for a moment, broke out again, not only in Judea, the native land of the monstrosity, but also in Rome, to which all conceivable horrors and abominations flow from every side, and find supporters” -Annals 15, chapter 44. I don’t think that this passage in the annals can be considered reliable when regarding the trial of “Christus” because Tacitus does not claim to be quoting an original source when he mentions this Christus. All he is doing is just repeating the stories that were believed by the Christians at the time (and it should be noted that Nero showed indifference towards religious sects). It is extremely improbable that Tacitus would have discovered a report about Jesus that was sent to the Senate of Rome regarding his death. The execution of a Galilean Jew carpenter would have been a completely unimportant event in Roman history during the time, even if this carpenter was the leader of a small fringe cult. A record of this would have vanished among the virtually countless executions inflicted by the Roman authorities, it seems. So, it’s highly unlikely that there was a source that Tacitus could have gone to to cite his information.”

    I don’t see why it’s necessary for Tacitus to quote an original source or state “Here I’m quoting an original source” in order for this to be reliable. Moreover you said “All he is doing is just repeating the stories that were believed by the Christians at the time” but why should we not accept that those stories are true? Tacitus is a serious Roman historian, and to think of this writing of his as mere repetition with no factual content would be to not take him seriously as a historian. Ancient biographers and historians were supposed to report people’s character accurately, without bias (Tacitus History 1.1). More can be said, but given what is known about historians and biographers, I find it implausible that Tacitus would report something he didn’t personally find accurate or true.

    “Pontius Pilate never wrote anything down regarding the crucifixion of Jesus, nor did anyone else at the time. And even if a person had written something down about this event around the time that it happened, or even if there was a Roman record, it would not have referred to any criminal as “Christus”. Christus isn’t a name, it’s a title.
”

    I don’t find is implausible either that a Roman record (such as Tacitus’, Suetonius’ or Pliny the Younger’s) wouldn’t refer to any criminal as “Christus”. Since they all write about Christians, it makes sense that they would refer to their founder as “Christus”.

    “Secular scholars aren’t the only ones making these arguments, by the way. Christian scholar R.T. France doubts that Tacitus’ passage from Annals 15 provides sufficient independent testimony for Jesus’ existence.
And even if the Annals did demonstrate that Jesus existed, they wouldn’t prove that he was a magic man who performed miracles, and it wouldn’t prove that what people believe today is factual, because, again, Tacitus is merely repeating the Christian beliefs he had heard about.
The writings of Pliny the Younger do not prove anything in regard to the existence of Jesus. They only show that Christians existed.”

    Now, Pliny just by himself is not a strong enough source, of course. But it’s him in addition to all the other extra-biblical (Jewish and Pagan) sources that make it more reliable. Given what I just said above about ancient historians, the same would apply to Pliny in that he would report what he finds factual. But I also think there is more to Pliny’s source than just that Christians existed. Pliny wrote that Christians offered prayers and songs to Christus, “as if he were a god”. This suggests that they knew there had been a historical figure, but the Christians taught in addition that he was something more.

    “It doesn’t matter? Of course it matters. You’d think that if god came to the most backwards corner of the Middle East that someone would write about him while he was alive, instead of waiting decades after the supposed events to start jotting memories down.”

    Ok, maybe it matters to you, but it isn’t as big of a deal that the gospels are written down a lifetime after Jesus’ death to many ancient historians. And I mentioned already, the society at the time isn’t like our society today. Things didn’t have to be written down the second they happened.

    “No believer can address this criticism from an honest perspective: if Jesus was god, i.e., the creator of the universe, and people knew it at the time, why didn’t any of them write about Jesus while he was performing his miracles?”

    With this whole argument, it seems to me like you are thinking “If I were God/an ancient person , I would do X. God/ancient person doesn’t do X, therefore God doesn’t exist or the source is unreasonable or whatever. but that clearly is a bad way of thinking about it. Jesus’ contemporaries didn’t write things down during Jesus’ lifetime because they didn’t see any need to. Most people cannot read, and lots of the disciples weren’t even sure what to make of Jesus after witnessing his miracles (e.g. Matt. 16:13-20). Writings about Jesus’ life started to be put down when the Church grew and works about his life needed to spread around as well.

    “And it’s not exactly an argument in favor to point out that those societies relied on the spoken. If someone told me that a man turned water into wine using magic 20 years ago, I wouldn’t believe them unless they showed me some other evidences for the claim.”

    But if you yourself witnessed someone doing a miracle, or not even a miracle, just something that is significant to you, after 20 years, would you remember it? Because we’re still discussing whether the gospels are reliable in telling us history right? As far as I’m aware we haven’t moved onto talking about whether it actually happened. That can only be done once you grant them historical reliability. So putting aside the question of whether that “magic” actually happened, do you think that man would be able to remember it?

    “It isn’t unlikely that the idea of the resurrection was spiritual in nature, as I’ve explained in my refutation of the quote you provided. As for everything else you mention…that religious nonsense is all white noise to me, I’m sorry to say.”

    Ok. I’m not sure what exactly is religious nonsense to you. I haven’t seen anything in Jewish thought to show that the resurrection would be something spiritual. I believe I supplied references that showed the contrary to be true.

    “Again, I’m sorry my writing is obscure. Here is what I mean when I say that the Gospels got more fantastic as they were written: the earlier stories that were placed in the gospels started off simple (very few remarkable events), and as the years passed, as the decades passed, the newer stories began to mention more remarkable events.”

    Based on what do you make these claims? Could you show me a portion of a NT writing, which is early and simple, and then another portion, which is late and fantastic? I understand why you would see a problem here, but the understanding of the Christian faith progressed over time. The Trinity wasn’t clearly defined until few centuries later, but I don’t see what that does to dispute the historical reliability of the NT writings.

    ‘”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sathya_Sai_Baba
http://www.saibabaofshirdi.net/miracles_of_sai_baba.htm
http://www.saibabaofindia.com/miracles.htm
    
When I mentioned a resurrection miracle, I meant to say that Sai Baba supposedly resurrected someone else from the dead. I should have clarified that. My apologies.
    I don’t think I would be warranted in believing a friend who told me that they had witnessed a miracle unless they provided me with evidence.
I think the stories should be a concern to believing Christians because we have all of these miracle stories of Sathya Sai Baba attested to by thousands of eyewitnesses, and they aren’t even worth an hour on television. And yet, when these stories are placed in an ancient book written by ignorant Jews who didn’t know that the earth was round, around 2 billion people decide to come to the conclusion that it is a legitimate project to organize their lives around. I consider this to be a problem.”

    Maybe I will look at these stories some time in the future. Perhaps has thought about this more than I and could comment?

    “I’ll have to address these in another post…”

    No worries.

    “Umm..sure…here are a few people: Robert M. Price, Elaine Pagels, Michael D. Coogan.
    I look forward to hearing back from you, my friend.”

    Thanks for the names. I must say, this has been an interesting exchange so far. It might die down soon, since at the end of the day, both of us will interpret the same evidence in completely different ways given our worldview. But I have enjoyed it 🙂

    I’m happy to leave it here, but if you would like to respond, please do…

    • dfordoubt permalink

      I’ll be glad to respond, but not today. I have a blog I’m scheduled to post, so it’ll have to wait. I could post a blog in the next week in response to your comment, and I may end up doing that. Or, I might get caught up in the activities of my life outside of blogging and completely forget about your comment xD We’ll see what happens 😛

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