147 Comments

Can We Still Believe the Bible?

Can-We-Still-Believe-the-Bible-200x300

Craig Blomberg, Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, has written another outstanding volume. Blomberg is a committed evangelical, but not one with a closed mind. As he says in his preface about the environment of Denver Seminary (quoting Vernon Grounds, former president of the school), “Here is no unanchored liberalism—freedom to think without commitment. Here is no encrusted dogmatism—commitment without freedom to think. Here is a vibrant evangelicalism—commitment with freedom to think within the limits laid down by Scripture.” Blomberg’s writings have always emulated this philosophy. His research in the secondary literature is consistently of superb quality, and his discussions of problem passages and issues, especially in the Gospels, is always well informed. Rather than clutter the narrative with documentation, Blomberg has wisely used endnotes instead of footnotes (though I personally prefer footnotes, I understand that most readers see them as a distraction). This book has nearly 50 pages of endnotes, almost one fifth of the whole book. Blomberg knows his stuff.

I received a prepublication draft of the book, Can We Still Believe the Bible?, and was asked to blog about it. More specifically, I was asked to blog about the first chapter, “Aren’t the Copies of the Bible Hopelessly Corrupt?”

This first chapter addresses the number one apologetic issue of our time—Did the scribes get it right when they copied the scriptures? No longer is the main attack on the Christian faith framed in the question, Is the Bible true? It is now the preliminary question, How do you even know that the Bible you have in your hands accurately represents the original documents? History, as many ancients conceived of it, is circular rather than linear. In this case, that’s true: “Hath God said?” is the original attack on God’s word, way back in the Garden. We’ve come full circle once again.

In this chapter, Blomberg rightfully shows the misrepresentations of the situation by Bart Ehrman, in his book, Misquoting Jesus. For example, of the approximately 400,000 textual variants among New Testament manuscripts, many who read Misquoting Jesus get the impression that this one datum is enough to destroy the Christian faith. But the reality is that less than one percent of all variants are both meaningful and viable. And even Ehrman himself has admitted that no cardinal doctrine is jeopardized by these variants.

Blomberg lays out a compelling argument, with much nuance, about the reliability of the NT and OT manuscripts. His chapter on the text of the Bible is organized as follows:

  • Misleading the Masses
  • The Truth about Variants (New Testament, Old Testament)
  • Did Originals Originally Exist?
  • Comparative Data
  • Avoiding the Opposite Extreme
  • Conclusion

In the opening section, the author takes on Bart Ehrman’s wildly popular book, Misquoting Jesus. In characteristic fashion, Blomberg critiques both what Ehrman does and doesn’t say, doing all with wisdom and wit. He points out, for example, that virtually nothing in Misquoting Jesus is new to biblical scholars—both liberal and evangelical, and all stripes in between. Non-scholars, especially atheists and Muslim apologists, latched onto the book and made preposterous claims that lay Christians were unprepared for. Ignorance, in this case, is not bliss. Earlier in the chapter when Blomberg mentioned that there are as many as 400,000 textual variants among the manuscripts, he bemoans: “It is depressing to see how many people, believers and unbelievers alike, discover a statistic like this number of variants and ask no further questions. The skeptics sit back with smug satisfaction, while believers are aghast and wonder if they should give up their faith. Is the level of education and analytic thinking in our world today genuinely this low?” (13).

He then discusses the two major textual problems that Ehrman zeroes in on: Mark 16.9–20 and John 7.53–8.11. He makes the insightful comment that the probable inauthenticity of these passages is news to laypeople because they tend not to read the marginal notes in their Bibles and because “more and more people are reading the Bible in electronic form, and many electronic versions of the Bible don’t even include such notes” (15).

In passing, I’d like to make three comments about the ending of Mark’s Gospel:

  1. Blomberg says that there is no passage elsewhere in Mark that has nearly as many variants as 16.9–20 (p. 19). This may be true, but he doesn’t document the point. It has often been said about the pericope adulterae, but I’m not sure about the ending of Mark.
  2. Blomberg cites Travis Williams, “Bringing Method to the Madness: Examining the Style of the Longer Ending of Mark,” Bulletin of Biblical Review 20 (2010), to the effect that “the style of writing in the Greek significantly differs from the rest of Mark’s Gospel” (19). This article was first read at the southwest regional Evangelical Theological Society meeting shortly after Travis was an intern of mine. He did an outstanding job on the paper; hence, its publication in BBR. Since this publication another student of mine, Greg Sapaugh, wrote his doctoral dissertation at Dallas Seminary on “An Appraisal of the Intrinsic Probability of the Longer Endings of the Gospel of Mark” (2012). Both scholars came to the same conclusion: the language of Mark 16.9–20 is anomalous and almost surely was not written by the person who wrote Mark 1.1–16.8.
  3. When discussing whether the real ending of Mark’s Gospel was lost, Blomberg says, “The open end of a scroll was the most vulnerable part of a manuscript for damage; perhaps Mark literally got ‘ripped off’!” (20). He goes on to argue against this, seeing that Mark’s intention was to conclude his Gospel at v. 8. Although Blomberg is right to note that Mark was almost certainly written on a roll instead of a codex, he doesn’t mention the great difficulty that this poses for those who think that the real ending was lost. Ancient rolls were almost always rolled up for the next reader. Assuming that to be the case for Mark, the ending of the Gospel would be the most protected part.

Blomberg also highlights many of other major passages that Ehrman wrestles with, such as Mark 1.41, Heb 2.9, and Luke 22.43–44. In the process, he notes that of the two standard Greek New Testaments in use today—the Nestle-Aland text and the United Bible Societies’ text—the latter includes only the most important textual problems (1438 of them) and a perusal of these textual problems reveals that “the only disputed passages involving more than two verses in length” are Mark 16.9–20 and John 7.53–8.11 (18).

The author takes pains to introduce the discipline of textual criticism to lay readers. He discusses some of the major textual problems (or, rather, those with much emotional baggage because of their long history in the printed Bible) in the NT (including Matt 5.22; 6.13; Acts 8.37; and 1 John 5.7–8), patiently going through the evidence, showing that the wording in the KJV is spurious because it is poorly attested in the manuscript evidence and/or has strong internal evidence against it.

The question is then raised, Why are these passages (including the two 12-verse texts mentioned earlier, along with Luke 22.43–44) sometimes printed in our modern translations? Blomberg gives a nuanced answer, but the bottom line (in my view) is this: Translations follow a tradition of timidity. My own examination of over 75 translations in a dozen different languages reveals the same monotonous story: Translators keep these passages in the text of their Bibles because to do otherwise might upset some uninformed Christians. But Ehrman has let the cat out of the bag. Just as Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire pointedly athetized the Trinitarian formula in 1 John 5.7–8 over two centuries ago, so Ehrman has done the same for Mark 16 and John 8. When Gibbon wrote this note in his six-volume work, it scandalized the British public. A hundred years later, the Comma Johanneum did not even show up as a marginal note in the Revised Version of 1881. It is time for us to relegate these likely inauthentic texts to the footnotes. Otherwise, we will continue to placate uninformed believers, setting them for a Chicken Little experience when they read books like Misquoting Jesus. Sadly, tens of thousands of college students, raised in a Christian home, have abandoned the faith because of fear of embarrassment over these issues, especially due to Misquoting Jesus. In recent years, it has been estimated that over 60% of kids coming from Christian homes abandon the faith by the time they get done with college. It is time for pastors and other Christian leaders to educate the masses about the reality of the transmission of the Bible. If we don’t, the fallout will only get worse.

Blomberg also discusses more routine textual variants (what he calls “ordinary and uninteresting,” the latter description of which I would disagree with :-)), giving a glimpse to the discipline of NT exegesis to outsiders. (At least he does correct this a bit later: “The vast majority of textual variants are wholly uninteresting except to specialists [italics mine].”) Almost anyone who has spent time with the textual apparatus is amazed at how little the vast majority of variants affect the meaning of the text.

In his treatment of the gap that exists between the originals and the early copies, he argues that “One may fantasize about all kinds of wild changes being introduced between the first, complete written form of a given book and the oldest copy we actually have, but it will be just that—fantasy…” (35). I’d like to offer some supplemental reasoning for why this is almost certainly true: Against the supposition that the older the manuscripts that are discovered, the more likely it is that we will find new, authentic readings, we can simply look at the last 130+ years. That’s when all but one of the NT papyri (our oldest manuscripts) have been discovered. How many earth-shaking, new readings have commended themselves to scholars as autographic among these 128 NT papyri? None, zero, zilch. Not a single new reading since the discovery of the NT papyri has been viewed by textual scholars as authentic. Does this mean that the papyri are worthless? Not at all. Rather, they usually confirm readings that scholars already thought were authentic. Now, with even earlier evidence found in the papyri, the arguments are stronger. This shows that the methods of textual scholars since the work of Westcott and Hort (1881–1882) are, in broad strokes and in many particulars, on target. But, with regard to Blomberg’s point, it also shows that if history is any indication, it would be foolish to think that any not-yet discovered readings will some day grace the text of our critical Greek New Testaments instead of finding a place in the apparatus of also-rans.

In comparing the copies of the NT with other ancient Greco-Roman literature, Blomberg argues well that Christians need not feel embarrassed about the relatively small gaps between the originals and the earliest copies (most NT books have copies within a century of the completion of the NT), since the gaps for other literature are far greater (hundreds of years). Further, the differences between the copies for, say, the apocryphal literature is remarkably greater than for the NT copies. He mentions as an illustration the Coptic text of the Gospel of Thomas and the three Greek fragments (though he incorrectly dates them to the second century [36]), citing Tim Ricchuiti’s excellent study (in Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament).

In his last section before the conclusion, “Avoiding the Opposite Extreme” (37–40), Blomberg offers some excellent insights about the ludicrousness of a perpetual miracle of exact copying of the text (akin to the argument that Muslims use about the Qur’an and some KJV advocates come close to arguing about the TR): “But think of just what kind of miracle this would need to be for it really to have occurred. Not only would God have superintended the process of a select group of biblical authors penning their documents so that their words reflected precisely what God wanted to have written; God would also have needed to intervene in the lives of all the tens of thousands of copyists over the centuries to ensure that not one of them ever introduced a single change to the texts they were reproducing” (39). He goes on to expound on this topic, with remarkable clarity and logic. Definitely a good read.

Errata

There are a few errors of fact and misleading statements in Blomberg’s new release.

  1. Page 15: The author says that Ehrman’s Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, on which Misquoting Jesus was based, was Ehrman’s doctoral dissertation. Actually, Ehrman wrote his dissertation on the text of Didymus the Blind. Orthodox Corruption is Ehrman’s most influential scholarly work, but it was not his dissertation.
  2. Page 16: It would be “extraordinarily unlikely that we shall ever again find variants that are not already known.” Actually, it is very likely that we will find variants in almost every new MS discovered. They are almost always so trivial that they would not warrant mention in an apparatus, however. What is unlikely in the extreme is that any of these MSS will have new readings that convince scholars of their authenticity.
  3. Page 24: The textual problem in Rom 5.1 is discussed; Blomberg notes that the difference between ‘we have faith’ and ‘let us have faith’ is one letter in Greek: it is either an omicron or an omega. He says that the forms would have been similar, but gives the capital letters (Ο, Ω) instead of the majuscule letters (ο, ω), which is what the oldest MSS are written in.
  4. Page 27: The author suggests that every single second- and third-century papyrus of the NT was “written with the very careful handwriting of an experienced scribe…” This, however, is not true. The penman of P75, for example, was probably not a professional scribe (according to E. C. Colwell), although he produced a very careful text, painstakingly writing out one to two letters at a time. Further, even later scribes were definitely not professional. For example, P10, P93, and P99 were either done for private use or were perhaps schoolboy exercises. I pointed out in one of my debates with Ehrman (SMU, 2011; DVD available here) that a comparison of P66 and P75 reveals that the more professional scribe (P66) produced the less careful text. Zachary Cole, who is currently working on his doctorate in NT textual criticism at Edinburgh University, wrote his master’s thesis at Dallas Seminary (2012) on “Scribal Hands of Early New Testament Manuscripts.” This thesis was in response to Ehrman’s claims that the earliest scribes were not professional and therefore their text was not carefully produced. Several of the second- and third-century papyri were judged to be less than professionally done, including especially P9, P18, P24, P78, and P98, but also including as many as 27 other papyri. And Cole concluded that all this is irrelevant, since the training of the scribe is no necessary indicator of the quality of his text.
  5. Page 27: “no orthodox doctrine or ethical practice of Christianity depends solely on any disputed wording.” I would word this a bit differently. We can definitely say that no cardinal doctrine depends on any disputed wording, but I think there are some places in which less central teachings—both in terms of orthodoxy and orthopraxy—are based on texts that are disputed. For example, whether exorcists casting out particularly pesky demons need to pray and fast depends on a variant in Mark 9.29, and the particulars of the role of women in the church may depend, in part, on 1 Cor 14.34–35 (a passage that, although found in all MSS, is disputed by some scholars).
  6. Page 34: “the original copy [sic] of a biblical book would most likely have been used to make countless new copies over a period of several centuries…” Blomberg cites the important study by George Houston on the longevity of papyrus documents, which Craig Evans exploits to the effect that the original documents would have perhaps lasted several centuries. I think that Evans may be arguing his case a bit too strongly, especially in light of patristic evidence to the contrary. We do have two or three ancient patristic statements to the effect that the autographs still existed into the second or third centuries, but they have generally been regarded as ahistorical comments without substance behind them. Nevertheless, an important point to consider is that these ancient writers demonstrate, from a very early period, a desire on the part of the ancient church to seek out the oldest MSS to establish the wording of the original. And Blomberg is quite right that the ancient scribes surely would have copied the autographs multiple times, thus disseminating direct copies spanning a period of more than one or two generations.
  7. Page 37: Gutenberg’s printing press is dated c. 1440; it should be dated c. 1454.
  8. Page 38: Fifteenth-century Catholic reformer, Erasmus: sixteenth century is meant.
  9. Pages 16–17 has what looks to be the most egregious error: “Although Ehrman doesn’t total all the numbers, Wallace does, and the result is that those 400,000 variants, if there are that many, are spread across more than 25,000 manuscripts in Greek or other ancient languages.” In the next paragraph he asserts: “This is an average of only 16 variants per manuscript… Nor are the variants spread evenly across a given text; instead, they tend to cluster in places where some kind of ambiguity has stimulated them. Paul Wegner estimates that only 6 percent of the New Testament and 10 percent of the Old Testament contain the vast majority of these clusters.”I think Blomberg means that there is an average of 16 unique variants per MS. That would be essentially true, though we really should restrict the count to Greek MSS since the translations have too many problems to be able to discern at this stage whether the wording is a true variant from the Greek or simply a looser translation. On his use of Wegner: I’m out of the country right now and can’t look at my copy of Wegner. But it is simply not true that only 6% of the NT contains “the vast majority of these clusters.” I’m not sure what Blomberg is trying to say here. Perhaps he meant that the major textual problems of the NT are found in only 6% of the text. That may well be the case, but in this case the number seems too high.

These are, for the most part, rather niggling criticisms. Overall, this chapter is an excellent corrective to the extreme skepticism of Bart Ehrman and those who have followed in his train. It is well researched, clearly written, and deserves to have a wide reception among believers today, as does the book of which it is a part. One can hope that pastors and church leaders will wake up to the fact that we are losing the intellectual battle for the millennials, and we have only ourselves to blame. Bringing spiritual grace and academic rigor to the table is needed, and Blomberg is one of the evangelical gatekeepers leading the way.

147 comments on “Can We Still Believe the Bible?

  1. Sounds like another great book to read! Thanks, Dan, for your excellent review!

  2. Don’t forget that there is a first-century manuscript of Mark’s Gospel in existence.

    But nobody can get to see it…

    • Steven, enough already, we all would love to have access to this manuscript, however, as you know, Dr. Wallace on numerous occasions has said he cannot give out anymore information at this time. After reading the above article, you must realize that this manuscript while being the earliest, is unlikely to contain anything new in regard to the text that we now have. God has superintended the continuation of the Truth through the ages and this Truth does not hinge on 1 manuscript no matter how early but on the providential care of the original text that is contained in the vast manuscript tradition.

      • Perhaps if Wallace had another debate with Ehrman, his lips might become unsealed once more with respect to this manuscript nobody can see – but which can be used in debates.

      • Tim Reichmuth wrote:
        “After reading the above article, you must realize that this manuscript while being the earliest, is unlikely to contain anything new in regard to the text that we now have. God has superintended the continuation of the Truth through the ages and this Truth does not hinge on 1 manuscript no matter how early but on the providential care of the original text that is contained in the vast manuscript tradition.”

        Thank you Tim, for defending Dan. I think Dan errs by not submitting this supposedly “new”, “first century papyrus” to the academic world, for critical scrutiny.
        I think Steven is correct to protest concealment of the contents of this document.

        I would ask Dan to please inform us of the text of just three little words from just one verse, of just one chapter, in this newest discovery of the gospel of Mark–1:1.

        Here is the text of Mark 1:1 in our “oldest” extant version of Mark 1:1. http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/manuscript.aspx?book=34
        Codex Sinaiticus “original” (We of course don’t know what that “original” document had been, that the scribes had copied, nor when, nor where, they had
        engaged in this work).

        αρχη του ευαγγελιου ιυ χυ

        (Apologies for writing simple iu xu , the original text has, in addition, a superscript.) At highest magnification of this ancient text of Mark 1:1, one observes four tiny letters—including two tiny superscripts–intended to represent, in abbreviation, the Greek words, υιου του θεου, “son of God” situated just superior to the first two letters, kappa, and alpha, of the next word, in the text, i.e. the first word of Mark 1:2. These four tiny letters represent an obvious post publishing addition to the original text, intended to ensure conformance of the text of Codex Sinaiticus, with versions of Mark, published centuries later, versions which do contain υιου του θεου .

        And, here, by way of comparison to Codex Sinaiticus Mark 1:1 is the same verse from the multitude of texts which appeared after Codex Sinaiticus had been published, i.e. the Byzantine Majority text—nota bene, replacement of iu xu with a proper name, iesou christou, and the addition of “son of god” to this first verse.

        αρχη του ευαγγελιου ιησου χριστου υιου του θεου

        Tim, Dan, how did “son of god”, υιου του θεου , find its way, into Mark 1:1? I don’t know why Steven Carr is so eager to learn of Dan’s newest example of Mark, but I know why I am eager to see it. I want to see what is written in Chapter 1, verse 1. Does Dan find, υιου του θεου in that first verse? That’s all I need to know.
        I anticipate, with 99% confidence, that Dan will explain that Mark 1:1 is unfortunately missing from his newest discovery, exactly as Tim predicted: “…unlikely to contain anything new…”

      • Avi,

        The answer to how ‘Son of God’ got into our text appears to be that it was included in the original, the external evidence for the inclusion is overwhelming. This phrase is included in our earliest evidence, B and was included in Aleph before it was published by the first corrector in the scriptorium. So whether ‘Son of God’ is in P45, if we found chapter 1 of Mark or is included in older manuscripts might affect our view on originality, it would NOT give us any additional variant information that is not already available in the manuscript tradition. I do not pretend to speak for Dr. Wallace nor do I remember his position on this variant. I can only speak for myself and my agreement with Dr. Wallace on the original position that history has confirmed through the early papyrus that once a variant enters the textual tradition it is here to stay, leading to the conclusion that even discovery of earlier manuscripts will not lead to new VIABLE variants.

    • Steven,

      You have expressed your desire to learn more about the Mark fragment in many different venues on this blog. In fact, any chance you seem to get to mention it, you jump on the opportunity (since I don’t think you have posted a single comment that doesn’t mention it in some fashion). For those of us who enjoy this blog and enjoy engaging in dialogue about various issues, your interactions continue to belabor the point, and frankly it is exhausting.

      Has it ever occurred to you that Dr. Wallace might have been given permission to mention the fragment in the debate?

      Has it ever occurred to you that Dr. Wallace just might have enough integrity to keep his word, in spite of what other (like yourself) may think of him?

      Has it ever occurred to you that Dr. Wallace may just be fully aware of how this can hurt his reputation, but even in the face of such issues, he remains silent because he is keeping his word?

      Maybe you don’t value the same things he does, but before you go making accusations, it might be helpful to wait, along with the rest of us, for the evidence to be provided. Then and only then will you be able to evaluate Dr. Wallace’s actions. Until that time, at least quit acting like a persistent toddler who doesn’t get what they want, and drop it on this blog.

      • I am indeed aware of how much this is damaging Wallace’s reputation.

        Wallace is indeed keeping his silence about his keeping his word that there would be a book by Brill on it in 2013.

      • Steven,

        Who cares? Does it really bother you that he said 2013, and it may be 2014? Did you have a bet going and are now out some money? Is that really your concern or do you want to know about the item that will be published? Since the two are inextricably linked, it is no surprise that he doesn’t comment on either of them. Also, could it be that he agreed not to discuss any aspect of it in his confidentiality agreement? We simply do not know, and that is the point.

        How much have you ever published? Have you ever published a book by Brill? They are usually compilation books done by many scholars. This means you need to have many different scholars all finish their research at the same time (an act of God if I ever heard one), all of the editing completed, and publication to be done on schedule. As anyone knows who has done this sort of thing, it is often delayed for countless reasons.

        Also, has it struck you as interesting that few bona fide textual critics are talking about this issue anymore? Maybe they know something we don’t?

    • So do I gather that the ‘hundreds of years and patristic comments with regards to the original texts are an interpolation much akin to the deaths of the apostles? So does not Ehrman have a point that patristic quotes of scripture show greater diversity and thus more variants?

  3. Dr. Wallace,
    Your knowledge of and concise treatment of the issues addressed in this book, which I eagerly anticipate reading, demonstrates to me your practical Love of Christ. Way too often it is assumed that if one is involved at the highest scholarly level he must have only an academic interest in textual criticism and not have a ‘sure’ faith. Only someone whose faith is genuine would take the time to so graciously review a book of this type and end with a call to defend the faith not only within the church but in the culture as well.

  4. I have a question regarding your 3rd point under Errata. In discussing the variant at Romans 5:1, you wrote, “[Blomberg] says that the forms would have been similar, but gives the capital letters (Ο, Ω) instead of the majuscule letters (ο, ω), which is what the oldest MSS are written in.”

    Please correct me where I’m wrong, but I thought majuscule meant capital (upper case) letters, and minuscule meant lower case letters. But you seem to distinguish capital and majuscule letters.

    I’ve heard it repeated many times that the earliest copies of the Greek NT MSS were written in all capital letters (is that the same as upper case and/or Uncial script?) with no spaces between the letters. And that it wasn’t until later (date?) that there were MSS that more resemble what we look at in our printed GNTs with miniscule (lower case) letters and spaces and only capital letters to begin a sentence or a proper name. Is that correct?

    Thanks for the thoughtful review. I appreciated you bringing your expertise to round out Blomberg’s discussion.

    • Majuscule letters are not exactly like capital letters. The capital omega in majuscule (=uncial) script looks like the lower-case omega, except that it is larger. I was not able to make the letters the right size, but they are the right shape.

  5. […] Dr. Daniel B. Wallace (PhD, Dallas Theological Seminary) wrote about chapter 1 on his blog. […]

  6. Great review of what looks to be a very helpful volume.

    I have never been a Textus Receptus kind of a guy. I’ve always tended to favor the eclectic text. But I will say that I thought the series of articles over at least two quarterly issues of Bibliotheca Sacra by Zane Hodges years ago laid out a compelling case for the authenticity of Pericope Adulterae. I would be curious to hear Dr Wallace’s take of Zane Hodge’s articulated position there.

  7. Dr. Wallace,

    Outstanding review of Craig Blomberg’s work. Do you plan to comment on any of the non-textual matters in the book?

    What do you think are the chances that Norman Geisler and John Macarthur’s folks at Masters might be persuaded by any of Blomberg’s argumentation in an effort to provide a united evangelical front challenging the skepticism of those who admire Ehrman?

  8. […] Continue at http://danielbwallace.com/2014/03/24/can-we-still-believe-the-bible/ […]

  9. Thank you for this review Dr. Wallace

  10. Dr. Wallace,
    I’d like to know, what is the evidence for your statement that scrolls were usually re-rolled to start at the beginning for the next reader? I imagine that often this would not have been the case, outside of a well-managed library (like one in a monastery, perhaps). When my family used VHS tapes, often people would fail to rewind after finishing a movie–a task that is much easier than rewinding a scroll.
    Rob MacEwen

    • Stephen Pfann, the DSS scholar living in Israel, told me that of the 800 (at that time) DSS, only one had not been rerolled. There are also older articles by various NT textual critics, dealing with the Gospel of Mark. I believe that the Blockbuster Scroll House charged one denarius when a customer returned a scroll that had not be rerolled (:-).

  11. Thank you, Dan. I had Greek under Blomberg while at Denver and very much appreciate your keen analysis and corrections. You both are stellar examples of what scholarship ought to be and clearly show your love for the inspired text. Thanks for all you do! May your lot increase!!

  12. Reblogged this on ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ (in Christ Jesus) and commented:
    Must read! The book and the comments by Wallace.

  13. […] reading in the immense and immensely important field of textual criticism, check out the blog of Daniel Wallace, Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and one of the world’s […]

  14. Reblogged this on Livin' the Adventure and commented:
    Craig Blomberg and Daniel Wallace, two scholars I admire and enjoy reading.

  15. Dr.Wallace, thoughts on Geisler’s recent post about Blomberg’s book? Is he nitpicking with too fine a comb?

    http://normangeisler.net/articles/Bible/Inspiration-Inerrancy/Blomberg/2014-ResponseToBlombergCanWeStillBelieveInTheBible.htm

  16. I just finished this book last night. After reading Blomberg a while back in Strobel’s The Case for Christ, I expected an in depth analysis on many aspects of Biblical reliability, presented in an easy to understand and share manner. I came away not disappointed in the least. Though his presentation on textual criticism, literary genres, apocryphal works, miracles, and other topics, fascinated me, it was his conclusion that masterfully summed all of the New Testament into a single sentence, which I had to stop and read 3 times, while nodding to myself: ““Those who in this life choose to maintain their independence from God get their wish confirmed in the next.”

  17. Dr. Wallace, on one of your last critiques of Bloomberg, you argue that the 400,000 textual variants should be restricted to Greek manuscripts (let’s say 5800+). Therefore, would you say: “this averages out to about 69 unique textual variants per manuscript.” Or, would the 400,000 number go down … since the Coptic, Latin, etc. manuscripts are not in the mix?

  18. You don’t need a PhD to know the Bible is false.

    “Instead of reading scholarly responses to (Bart) Ehrman as recommended, he (Gary) renounced faith. …The pastors at Gary’s former church were concerned as he sparred with capable disciples of Ehrman that he had not yet come to an understanding of Lutheranism. His formation as a Lutheran required time and inculturation. So, yes, in this sense I failed to form him as a disciple of Jesus and for that I am sorry.” —my former orthodox Lutheran pastor

    My former pastor is not alone in his assessment that my lack of knowledge is the source of my problem. Many a Lutheran pastor and layperson has accused me of not fully understanding Lutheran doctrine and teachings as the cause of my loss of faith and deconversion from Christianity. What’s fascinating is that many an evangelical pastor and layperson has accused me of not understanding “true Christian” (evangelical) doctrine and teaching as the cause of my deconversion. Both groups have given me long lists of apologists (from their respective denominational flavor of Christianity only, of course) to educate me in the truths of Holy Scripture (as they read and understand it).

    But here’s the thing: I don’t need to understand the nuances of the Doctrines of Baptismal Regeneration, the Real Presence, Predestination, or Justification by Faith Alone, to know that the Bible is a book of nonsense. All I need is a high school education and a functioning brain.

    Here are the cornerstone beliefs of orthodox Christianity:

    1. The first human was created by an ancient middle-eastern god blowing air into a pile of dirt.

    2. Death, disease, and all the pain and suffering in the world are the result of the first humans eating an ancient middle-eastern god’s fruit.

    3. This same ancient middle eastern god soon had pity on humans for inflicting horrific suffering and death upon them for eating his fruit, so he decided to send himself to earth, in the form of a human being, to sacrifice himself, to appease the righteous anger of…himself.

    4. This ancient middle-eastern god sent himself to earth in the form of a human being by having his ghost impregnate a young Jewish virgin, giving birth to…himself….as a divine god/man.

    5. This divine god/man grew up to then preach the news of eternal redemption and forgiveness for ancestral forbidden-fruit-eating; “good news” meant for all the people of earth…by going to one desolate, sparsely populated, backwater corner of the globe where he taught in riddles that not even his closest followers could understand.

    6. Even upon his death his closest followers had no clue what he was talking about. This god/man left no written instructions regarding what he required of mankind, only his confusing, often contradictory oral riddles. However, he allegedly left the job of written instructions to four anonymous writers, three of whom plagiarized the first, and, one bipolar, vision-prone, Jewish rabbi, who concocted contradictory wild tales of resurrections and ascensions into outer space.

    Dear friend: You do NOT need to read the books of Christian apologists, theologians, and pastors to determine if these assertions of ancient, middle eastern facts are true. No. All you have to do is use your brain. And what does your brain tell you: It is all superstitious nonsense.

    NO ONE in the 21st century with a high school education should believe these ancient tall tales.

    • Okay Gary. Simple question.

      What do we know about the world today that if they had known it back then, Christianity would not have started out at all?

      • 1. The Patriarchs, the Slavery in Egypt, the Exodus, the Forty Years in the Sinai, the Conquest of Canaan, the great empires of David and Solomon are fiction. They are folk tales. Archeological evidence is conclusive that these events as described in the Hebrew Bible did not happen. Jesus was wrong. He thought they were historical events.

        2. Virgins cannot magically become pregnant.

        3. Humans cannot walk on water, cure blind people with spit and mud, heal leprosy without medication, or order invisible demons into pigs.

        4. Dead, decomposing bodies do not walk out of their graves, eat broiled fish sandwiches, or levitate into outer spaces. This only occurs in science fiction.

        Jesus was a great teacher, but he was mistaken regarding history, confirming he was a man, not a divine being. Jesus is dead. Magic is not real.

      • Gary: 1. The Patriarchs, the Slavery in Egypt, the Exodus, the Forty Years in the Sinai, the Conquest of Canaan, the great empires of David and Solomon are fiction. They are folk tales. Archeological evidence is conclusive that these events as described in the Hebrew Bible did not happen. Jesus was wrong. He thought they were historical events.

        Reply: Sorry, but archaeological evidence will not prove a negative. For the case of the Exodus and such, you might want to consider looking into the work of James Hoffmeier. Keep in mind the Scythians wandered for much longer, were a much larger group, and yet the only evidence we have of their existence is the stuff that they made to last, such as the tombs of their kings. Why would nomads wandering in an area for 40 years leave things behind?

        Conquest of Canaan is a fiction. Okay. Give the finding that demonstrated that.

        As for David and Solomon, we’re finding more evidence that does speak to the historicity of David definitely. Again, arguments from silence are weak.

        But even if this was so, the worst case scenario would be we would lose Inerrancy, not Christianity.

        Gary: 2. Virgins cannot magically become pregnant.

        Reply: Whoa! Stop the presses anyone! We today know that it takes sex to make a baby! Those ancient people apparently didn’t know that! They never figured out the connection between sex and pregnancy!

        Please do tell when this discovery was made and who made it.

        Gary: 3. Humans cannot walk on water, cure blind people with spit and mud, heal leprosy without medication, or order invisible demons into pigs.

        Reply: Wow! If only we had known back then that humans don’t walk on water! That would have been so helpful! Thank you modern science for making this great discovery! The same with the rest, save for demons. I venture that if you went to a third world country sometime, you might change your mind on demonic activity. You could start by reading Keener’s book “Miracles” on the topic.

        Gary: 4. Dead, decomposing bodies do not walk out of their graves, eat broiled fish sandwiches, or levitate into outer spaces. This only occurs in science fiction.

        Reply: Wow! Dead people stay dead! How incredible! Why no one knew that in the ancient world! They all gathered around to see if Cousin Bob would get right back up again! Behold the words of Apollo in the Greek play.

        O monsters loathed of all, O scorn of gods,
        He that hath bound may loose: a cure there is.
        Yea, many a plan that can unbind the chain.
        But when the thirsty dust sucks up man’s blood
        Once shed in death, he shall arise no more.
        No chant nor charm for this my Sire hath wrought.
        All else there is, he moulds and shifts at will,
        Not scant of strength nor breath, whate’er he do. – Apollo in Eumenides

        Gary: Jesus was a great teacher, but he was mistaken regarding history, confirming he was a man, not a divine being. Jesus is dead. Magic is not real.

        Reply: You know, if you’re sure Jesus did not rise again, you’re free to come see me at TheologyWeb.com. We can have a debate on what is the best explanation for the rise of the Christian church. Since it only takes a high school education to show otherwise, it should be a walk in the park for you.

  19. Bottom line: Modern, educated humans have eliminated superstition and magic from their lives except in one area, their religion.

  20. You are correct that archeology, or all of science for that matter, cannot prove a negative. We cannot prove as fact that Moses and several million Hebrews DID NOT exit ancient Egypt in a mass escape. We can only say that there is no good evidence to state that they DID.

    But this is true for many claims. We cannot prove that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy do not exist either. We can only state that there is no good evidence to believe that they do.

    If Christians and orthodox Jews want to believe in the Exodus by faith, that is certainly their prerogative, but there is no good evidence for any of the rest of us to believe these ancient claims to be true.

    Regarding Hoffmeier. I have read his work and listened to his lectures. His thinking goes something like this: “We have recently discovered an ancient city that is mentioned in the Exodus story! Voila! We have proof that two million Hebrews crossed a dry sea bed to wander in the Sinai for forty years.

    Sorry. That is bad archeology and bad science.

    • That’s also a bad description of his work as he points to etymology and terms from an Egyptian milieu at the time that a later writer would not know of.

      I also meant supernatural and not superstition. I oppose superstition which is why I oppose atheism.

      I see nothing was said about a resurrection debate or answering the other claims.

      Not surprised.

      • I’m happy to debate you here on the Resurrection. This seems to be a dead thread, anyway.

        You start.

      • I’m happy to debate you here on the Resurrection. It is a dead thread anyway.

        You start.

      • Non: 1. A very improbable, but, still natural explanation, such as that all the supernatural claims of the Gospels, including the bodily resurrection of Jesus, developed over several decades as legends, giving rise to the early Church.

        Reply: You know, I still don’t think you ever defined what you mean by this term supernatural, and yet you’ve used it again. It’s a term that makes no sense. What does it mean?

        Non: Or

        2. The decomposing body of a first century dead man was reanimated by an ancient Hebrew god, walked out of his tomb, ate broiled fish with his former fishing buddies, and later levitated into outer space.

        No matter how unlikely Christians may believe it is for a legend to develop in a period of 20-40 years, the statistical probability is still much, much greater for this natural explanation, than the supernatural explanation that an invisible middle-eastern deity reanimated dead human tissue in the first century.

        Reply: Um. Sorry. That’s now how it works. Most of us prefer to have our beliefs shaped by the evidence, and this is not something that was taught at first 20-40 years later. This was taught right out of the gates.

        (I’m also guessing since you two seem to speak so much in sync that Gary and nonsupernaturalist are the same person. If not, oh well. Feel free to show otherwise.)

        So what do we have?

        Well, we have the absolute certainty that JEsus died by crucifixion.

        We have all the Gospels attesting to the fact that he was buried and that his tomb was found empty, which is something even non-Christian scholars like Geza Vermes will attest to.

        We have the undeniable fact that the earliest disciples of Jesus claimed that he had appeared to them after his death and that he was very much alive.

        We have that skeptics like James and Paul who had nothing to gain from this came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

        We have that Christianity was utterly shameful at the time and this in an honor-shame society where groups that were deviant were to be shunned. What aspects?

        Well Christianity had a Messiah that was crucified. That was a non-sale right there. Crucifixion wasn’t designed just to kill someone but to shame them as well. No movement wanting to be successful will have a shameful figure at the start.

        We have that Christianity was a new belief system. In the ancient world, new beliefs were viewed with suspicion. The older was better.

        We have that Christianity set one as a social outcast to Jews and Greeks both. If someone was crucified, they were under the curse of YHWH and they were a traitor to Caesar both. Becoming a Christian was staking your identity on that person. Not only that, Christians also did not do things that were expected in society such as offering sacrifices or participating in sexual cults or worshiping the emperor. All of these would cause them to be viewed as deviants and shamed, something hideous in that society.

        Christianity taught a bodily resurrection. This was a shameful belief and something no one wanted since the body was seen as a prison that you were to escape.

        Christianity is a Messianic movement that never died at the death of its founder. There wasn’t even a hint that the brother of Jesus, James, was ever considered as Messiah.

        Despite all of this, Christianity was embraced and this even by wealthy middle and upper class people who could best check the facts on Christianity and had the most to lose in terms of status if they converted. We know that there were wealthy people not just because of the research of Meeks, but also because Paul’s writings and the rest of the NT would have been incredibly expensive to write.

        So if you want to give a convincing explanation, your explanation will have to explain all of this information. Why did Christianity survive when it should have died? Once we get to Constantine, it makes sense that it survives, but it should have never even reached that point.

        Go ahead. Give the explanation.

  21. Did you mean “superstition”?

    Superstition:

    Superstition is the belief in supernatural causality—that one event causes another without any natural process linking the two events—such as astrology, religion, omens, witchcraft, prophecies, etc., that contradicts natural science.

  22. Regarding the rise of the Christian Church. There is really only one question to ask ourselves:

    Which is more likely?

    1. A very improbable, but, still natural explanation, such as that all the supernatural claims of the Gospels, including the bodily resurrection of Jesus, developed over several decades as legends, giving rise to the early Church.

    Or

    2. The decomposing body of a first century dead man was reanimated by an ancient Hebrew god, walked out of his tomb, ate broiled fish with his former fishing buddies, and later levitated into outer space.

    No matter how unlikely Christians may believe it is for a legend to develop in a period of 20-40 years, the statistical probability is still much, much greater for this natural explanation, than the supernatural explanation that an invisible middle-eastern deity reanimated dead human tissue in the first century.

  23. I posted this above, but just to make sure you see it:

    Supernatural: a manifestation or event attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature.

  24. I am having trouble posting comments on this site. Sometimes my comments only post if I use my google account (Gary) and other times only using my wordpress account (nonsupernaturalist). Sorry for the confusion, but, yes, they are both the same person.

    I suggest we discuss your points one at a time, so let’s address your first point:

    “Um. Sorry. That’s not how it works. Most of us prefer to have our beliefs shaped by the evidence, and this is not something that was taught at first 20-40 years later. This was taught right out of the gates.”

    What evidence do you have that “this was taught right out of the gates”? We have zero Christian writings prior to Paul’s first epistle in the 50’s. Even if Paul wrote his first epistle in 50 AD, that is 20 years after the crucifixion. So the question is, could a legend develop within 20 years in the first century? You may say that it is highly unlikely for a legend to develop in that time period, but you cannot say that it is impossible.

    (I realize that some fundamentalists and evangelicals believe that the Gospels were written only a few years after the crucifixion, but the overwhelming majority of scholars reject this claim. They believe that the first Gospel was written circa 65-75 AD.)

    • Nonsupernaturalist: What evidence do you have that “this was taught right out of the gates”? We have zero Christian writings prior to Paul’s first epistle in the 50’s. Even if Paul wrote his first epistle in 50 AD, that is 20 years after the crucifixion. So the question is, could a legend develop within 20 years in the first century? You may say that it is highly unlikely for a legend to develop in that time period, but you cannot say that it is impossible.

      Reply: Seriously? You must be out of the loop to not know about this. ! Cor. 15 contains in the first few verses an early Christian creed that Paul received after his call on his first visit to Jerusalem. This contains the information that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again and appeared to many. He lists numerous groups in that account and then says he appeared to him at the end as his own addendum. Since Paul received this, it must have pre-dated him. Scholars date it to at the latest five years afterwards. Many date it even earlier. Dunn places it to a few months after the Easter event.

      Also, we have the evidence of scholars like Richard Bauckham and Larry Hurtado that show the earliest Christology is the highest Christology, which means something must have happened quite huge to get Jesus immediately placed in the divine identity worshiped as YHWH. 1 Cor. 8 contains a Christianized version of the Shema. 1 Cor. 16 contains an anathema, maranatha saying going back to Aramaic which makes it an early tradition ascribing Jesus as Lord. The baptismal formula in Romans 10 is also an early Christian creed identifying Jesus as Lord which Paul shows is equated to YHWH.

      Non: (I realize that some fundamentalists and evangelicals believe that the Gospels were written only a few years after the crucifixion, but the overwhelming majority of scholars reject this claim. They believe that the first Gospel was written circa 65-75 AD.)

      Reply: That’s nice. It’s also unnecessary. I don’t use the Gospels for any of this information. (And I thought you said you didn’t need scholars. Interesting.)

      Oh. As for the supernatural stuff, yeah. I find that problematic. You see, for one, I have not been convinced laws of nature exist. In fact, in many ways, I’m skeptical, and yet this would not change science one iota if I am right. Second, if you want to follow through consistently, then unless you believe you are a determined robot of sorts with no freewill, then your own acting on the universe in any way would have to be supernatural.

      The natural/supernatural dichotomy is a false one that needs to be shredded.

  25. “! Cor. 15 contains in the first few verses an early Christian creed that Paul received after his call on his first visit to Jerusalem. ”

    How do you know that Paul received this information on his first visit to Jerusalem? It is possible that he did, but you must admit you cannot be sure that this assertion of fact. You are making an assumption.

    Note also what is said in this Creed:

    1. There is no mention of the women. This is odd since Christians make such a big deal of the fact that in the Gospels, it was women who first discovered the empty tomb, and since women were considered poor witnesses in court in first century Palestine, this fact lends credence to the story of the women being historical. But if the Creed were written within three years of the Resurrection as you and your experts assert, it is odd that the four writers of the Gospels would consider mention of the women so very important, but yet the Creed says not one word about them. Very strange.

    We and scholars can all make assumptions as to why the Creed (and Paul) fail to mention the women in the witness list in I Corinthians but bottom line, we don’t know why the women are not mentioned in the Creed. Is it possible that the apostles found the statement of women at the tomb important, but the makers of the Creed did not? Yes. But wouldn’t you agree that it is also possible that the reason why the early Creed fails to mention the women is because that part of the legend had not developed yet??

    I know you don’t believe that, but you must admit you cannot dismiss it as impossible.

    Another oddity in the Creed is the order of the witnesses. In none of the accounts in the four Gospels or in Acts is it said that Jesus first appeared to Cephas (Peter). Christian apologists have come up with all kinds of harmonizations for this apparent discrepancy, but I find them underwhelming.

    I think that Paul was simply repeating a Creed that he had received from others (we don’t know from whom or when). We have no idea if Paul confirmed it to be correct. However, think about this: If Paul had received this information from Peter, Peter would have given him a correct order of appearances. He would NOT have said that he, Peter, was the first to see Jesus, unless Peter was lying again.

    And lastly, Paul says that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again. Paul says nothing about an empty tomb. I know that many Christians will respond with, “Well how could Paul know that Jesus had risen if there were not an empty tomb?”

    Here is one scenario: Jesus is crucified. His body is left on the cross for days for the birds and other carrion to pick the flesh off the bones (this was the typical custom of the Romans). Days later his body is tossed, along with the remains of any other criminals executed that week, into an unmarked, common grave. No one but a few soldiers knew the site. However, a few days, few weeks, few months, or few years later, a group of women see a man in the distance who looks like Jesus but he suddenly vanishes from sight. “He is risen!” the women report to the disciples. And before long, everyone is having visions and sighting of Jesus…and the legend begins.

    You don’t believe this is what happened, but you cannot rule it out. And this scenario is much, much more statistically probable than that an ancient Hebrew god reanimated the dead human tissue of an apocalyptic Galilean peasant preacher.

    • Gary: How do you know that Paul received this information on his first visit to Jerusalem? It is possible that he did, but you must admit you cannot be sure that this assertion of fact. You are making an assumption.

      Reply: I am saying it based on what every scholar in the field is saying, save those on the fringe such as Robert Price. Paul is using the language of oral tradition as a good Pharisee. He had it when he first went to the Corinthians and since we know from Galatians that he went to see the apostles, they would have been the ones to give it to him.

      Gary: 1. There is no mention of the women. This is odd since Christians make such a big deal of the fact that in the Gospels, it was women who first discovered the empty tomb, and since women were considered poor witnesses in court in first century Palestine, this fact lends credence to the story of the women being historical. But if the Creed were written within three years of the Resurrection as you and your experts assert, it is odd that the four writers of the Gospels would consider mention of the women so very important, but yet the Creed says not one word about them. Very strange.

      Reply: No. Not at all strange. The creed doesn’t mention the women because in fact the testimony of the women was absolutely useless in a court of law. If you were wanting to give a creed about how reliable the appearances were, you do not include women.

      The Gospels include women for a simple fact. THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED. They cannot ignore the fact which does make the Gospels more reliable since that has the criterion of embarrassment right there.

      Gary: We and scholars can all make assumptions as to why the Creed (and Paul) fail to mention the women in the witness list in I Corinthians but bottom line, we don’t know why the women are not mentioned in the Creed. Is it possible that the apostles found the statement of women at the tomb important, but the makers of the Creed did not? Yes. But wouldn’t you agree that it is also possible that the reason why the early Creed fails to mention the women is because that part of the legend had not developed yet??

      Reply: No. If you were building a legendary account, you would not include women in it period. A legendary account would be something like the Gospel of Peter or it would involve the disciples going to the tomb themselves or maybe even a member of the Sanhedrin witnessing the resurrection. Legendary accounts would not have details that would be embarrassing.

      Gary: I know you don’t believe that, but you must admit you cannot dismiss it as impossible.

      Reply: Impossible? No. Extremely unlikely? Yes. Legends are made to cover up embarrassing details and embarrassing details are not made for legends.

      Gary: Another oddity in the Creed is the order of the witnesses. In none of the accounts in the four Gospels or in Acts is it said that Jesus first appeared to Cephas (Peter). Christian apologists have come up with all kinds of harmonizations for this apparent discrepancy, but I find them underwhelming.

      Reply: He first appeared to Peter? No. It says in fact he appeared to Peter. Then it says he appeared to the twelve. Why would it mention these names and groups? These were the names and groups worth mentioning. Peter would have extremely high acceptance as a figure of authority who could be questioned.

      Gary: I think that Paul was simply repeating a Creed that he had received from others (we don’t know from whom or when). We have no idea if Paul confirmed it to be correct. However, think about this: If Paul had received this information from Peter, Peter would have given him a correct order of appearances. He would NOT have said that he, Peter, was the first to see Jesus, unless Peter was lying again.

      Reply: Who says he gave an incorrect order? All it says is he appeared to Peter and then to the twelve. Worst case scenario here? You lose inerrancy. All things being equal, we go with the creed first because it is the first historical account we have.

      But yeah, we do know Paul investigated these things. Look at Galatians 1:18. It says Paul went up to see Peter. This wasn’t a friendly visit talking about the weather. This was an inquiry. Note the word used for seeing. It’s historeo. Got any ideas what word we get from that today?

      http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2477&t=KJV

      Gary: And lastly, Paul says that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again. Paul says nothing about an empty tomb. I know that many Christians will respond with, “Well how could Paul know that Jesus had risen if there were not an empty tomb?”

      Here is one scenario: Jesus is crucified. His body is left on the cross for days for the birds and other carrion to pick the flesh off the bones (this was the typical custom of the Romans). Days later his body is tossed, along with the remains of any other criminals executed that week, into an unmarked, common grave. No one but a few soldiers knew the site. However, a few days, few weeks, few months, or few years later, a group of women see a man in the distance who looks like Jesus but he suddenly vanishes from sight. “He is risen!” the women report to the disciples. And before long, everyone is having visions and sighting of Jesus…and the legend begins.

      Reply: Um. No. Totally implausible.

      First off, that would only explain the appearance to women. It would not explain the appearance to numerous others. This includes all the group experiences. Second, Paul has no need to mention an empty tomb because Paul is a Pharisee who believes in bodily resurrection. if a body goes down and is raised, there is an empty tomb. Read even a non-Christian scholar like Dale Martin on this in “The Corinthian Body.” Read Robert Gundry’s “Soma in Biblical Greek” to understand how the term “body” would be understood.

      Third, all the accounts we do have of the burial of Jesus speak of him being buried in a tomb. Byron McCane has written here about how the burial of Jesus was actually a shameful burial. http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/asym/links/byronburial.htm That means it’s not the kind of thing that you would want to mention and it’s the kind of thing you would avoid talking about. That means it passes the criterion of embarrassment. It’s in all four Gospels thereby showing that it passes the criterion of multiple attestation. Greg Monette has also shown how Bart Ehrman gets this fact wrong: http://gregmonette.com/blog/post/how-bart-ehrman-gets-jesus-burial-wrong-part-1 Craig Evans has extensive information on this in “How God Became Jesus.” It’s a shame Bart Ehrman did not consult Jodi Magness on this, an authority on Jewish burial practices. Perhaps it was distance, except Magness teaches at the same university Ehrman does.

      “Jesus came from a modest family that presumably could not afford a rock- cut tomb. Had Joseph not offered to accommodate Jesus’ body his tomb (according to the Gospel accounts) Jesus likely would have been disposed in the manner of the lower classes: in a pit grave or trench grave dug into the ground. When the Gospels tell us that Joseph of Arimathea offered Jesus a spot in his tomb, it is because Jesus’ family did not own a rock- cut tomb and there was no time to prepare a grave- that is there was no time to dig a grave, not hew a rock cut tomb(!)—before the Sabbath. It is not surprising that Joseph, who is described as a wealthy and perhaps even a member of the Sanhedrin, had a rock-cut family tomb. The Gospel accounts seem to describe Joseph placing Jesus’ body in one of the loculi in his family’s tomb. (Jodi Magness, Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus, pg 170)

      “There is no need to assume that the Gospel accounts of Joseph of Arimathea offering Jesus a place in this family tomb are legendary or apologetic. The Gospel accounts of Jesus’s burial appear to be largely consistent with the archeological evidence” ( Magness, pg 171)

      Next, this also would not explain the conversion of skeptics like James and Paul and others who would have the most to lose in a high honor context.

      Furthermore, seeing a person again after their death as N.T. Wright shows would not convince someone they were alive. On the contrary, all things being equal, it would convince them that they were dead. That’s what hallucinations by themselves would do.

      And then finally, this doesn’t explain the group appearances.

      Gary: You don’t believe this is what happened, but you cannot rule it out. And this scenario is much, much more statistically probable than that an ancient Hebrew god reanimated the dead human tissue of an apocalyptic Galilean peasant preacher.

      Reply: Um yeah. I can rule it out. It doesn’t explain the data well at all and is made in fact to avoid the data. Probable scenarios are reached by interacting with the data and not forcing the data to fit a preconceived notion that one already has.

      I really recommend you actually invest in some scholarship. For all your talk about your pastor not properly informing you and misleading you, you are not properly informed and thus misleading others. Gary. You say you abandoned fundamentalism, but in reality, you just changed your mind. Your mindset is still the same. Really read the best scholarship out there that disagrees with you like I do and show where you think it’s wrong and why.

  26. “Also, we have the evidence of scholars like Richard Bauckham and Larry Hurtado that show the earliest Christology is the highest Christology, which means something must have happened quite huge to get Jesus immediately placed in the divine identity worshiped as YHWH. 1 Cor. 8 contains a Christianized version of the Shema. 1 Cor. 16 contains an anathema, maranatha saying going back to Aramaic which makes it an early tradition ascribing Jesus as Lord. The baptismal formula in Romans 10 is also an early Christian creed identifying Jesus as Lord which Paul shows is equated to YHWH.”

    Even if some early Christians had a very high christology this does not in any way confirm that an ancient Hebrew god reanimated the decomposing flesh of a dead first century prophet. It only infers that early Christians BELIEVED that he had been resurrected. That’s it.

    There are many possible scenarios that could explain how early Christians could have come to this conclusion, including false sightings as I mentioned above. Another possible scenario for the resurrection story is this:

    Jesus really was buried in Joseph of Arimethea’s tomb, but only until the end of Passover. As soon as sun set on Saturday, Arimethea went to the tomb (in the dark), with Pilate’s permission, and removed the corpse of Jesus and reburied him in an unmarked hole in the ground in the criminal section of the local cemetery.

    The women showed up the next morning to find an empty tomb, and voila! A resurrection legend is born!

    Again, I know you don’t believe this happened, but my point is this: You cannot prove that this is not what happened, and, this scenario is much, much more probable, statistically speaking, than the reanimation of dead human tissue. And I could give you many more possible explanations for the Resurrection story, all of them naturalistic explanations, that based on collective human experience, are much more likely to be the cause of this story than your supernatural-based belief.

    • Gary: Even if some early Christians had a very high christology this does not in any way confirm that an ancient Hebrew god reanimated the decomposing flesh of a dead first century prophet. It only infers that early Christians BELIEVED that he had been resurrected. That’s it.

      Reply: Right, and the question is why would they think that? Since the first Christians were Jews, to get them to change beliefs about YHWH which were core to their identity and they would face a great price if they were wrong, they would have to have some pretty strong evidence. Note also the nature of resurrection. If the thief on the cross had been resurrected, no one would have said “Wow! The Messiah has come!” They would have thought it was an odd world. They thought this about Jesus however. Why?

      Gary: There are many possible scenarios that could explain how early Christians could have come to this conclusion, including false sightings as I mentioned above. Another possible scenario for the resurrection story is this:

      Reply: There is a possible scenario where we’re all living in the Matrix. So what? What you need is a probable scenario and one based on the evidence.

      Gary: Jesus really was buried in Joseph of Arimethea’s tomb, but only until the end of Passover. As soon as sun set on Saturday, Arimethea went to the tomb (in the dark), with Pilate’s permission, and removed the corpse of Jesus and reburied him in an unmarked hole in the ground in the criminal section of the local cemetery.

      The women showed up the next morning to find an empty tomb, and voila! A resurrection legend is born!

      Reply: Um. No. Again, tons of flaws with this one. First off, Joseph is not going to go to the tomb on a Sabbath. He’s definitely not going to handle a dead body on the Sabbath.

      Second, an empty tomb in itself would not explain resurrection. It would be most likely seen as grave robbing or something of that sort. (Although grave robbers would not steal the whole body.)

      Third, this does not explain the appearances either. Those include mass appearances as well and appearances to skeptics.

      Fourth, this doesn’t explain Paul and James.

      Fifth, this doesn’t explain why the shameful beliefs of Christianity would catch on in an agonistic society and why people with the most to lose would believe the claims.

      Gary: Again, I know you don’t believe this happened, but my point is this: You cannot prove that this is not what happened, and, this scenario is much, much more probable, statistically speaking, than the reanimation of dead human tissue. And I could give you many more possible explanations for the Resurrection story, all of them naturalistic explanations, that based on collective human experience, are much more likely to be the cause of this story than your supernatural-based belief.

      Reply: No. Your explanation is not more probable. It does not explain the data and it involves ad hoc scenarios that we have no evidence took place.

      Better step up your game. You said all it takes is a high school education. Looks like a high school education is failing you.

  27. “Oh. As for the supernatural stuff, yeah. I find that problematic. You see, for one, I have not been convinced laws of nature exist. In fact, in many ways, I’m skeptical, and yet this would not change science one iota if I am right. Second, if you want to follow through consistently, then unless you believe you are a determined robot of sorts with no freewill, then your own acting on the universe in any way would have to be supernatural. The natural/supernatural dichotomy is a false one that needs to be shredded.”

    Our culture, western civilization, has collectively chosen to use the scientific method and reason as the basis of establishing fact in our world. Wrong or right, that is how our society operates. If you choose to determine facts outside of this paradigm, you are certainly free to do so, but you are engaging outside the norm. By doing so, you leave us (you and me) no foundational basis upon which to determine truth. If I determine reality by the scientific method and you determine reality by what your emotions and intuition tell you to be truth (faith), how can we ever arrive at a consensus? One of us must adopt the other’s world view in order for us to have an intelligent conversation.

    If I adopt your worldview that there are no natural laws; that the supernatural is just as real as the natural world we see with our eyes and touch with our hands, then why should I accept YOUR supernatural claims over those of any other person or belief system??

    So if you choose to believe in the supernatural just because you want to, who am I to tell you are wrong? However, if you tell me that your supernatural belief system is fact, and, that it can be proven as fact using the same standards of evidence used to establish the historicity of any other historical claim, then you are obligated to use the scientific method consistently and not appeal to the supernatural when you are caught in a corner with a lack of good evidence.

  28. We have no evidence of what the earliest Christians believed during the time period between Jesus’ crucifixion and the first epistle of Paul. You have not provided any evidence that the Creed Paul recites in First Corinthians was formulated within a short period of time after Jesus death. You are assuming it did, and that is it. No matter what your evangelical Christian Bible scholars might present as evidence for your assertion on this issue, you will be forced to admit that the best your scholars can do is guess as to the date of this Creed. Bottom line: we have no concrete evidence what the earliest Christians in the first circa twenty years after the crucifixion believed.

    We must settle this issue first before we can move on. Please provide evidence that proves that the earliest Christians believed that the Resurrection of Jesus occurred in the manner as described in the four Gospels, and not merely that they believed Jesus had been resurrected in some form or manner. I do not doubt that early on, Christians believed in a resurrection, and they most certainly did so by Paul’s time. The big question is: Why?

    • Non: We have no evidence of what the earliest Christians believed during the time period between Jesus’ crucifixion and the first epistle of Paul.

      Reply: Yeah we do. Larry Hurtado, Richard Bauckham, and others have pointed to Aramaic sayings that would be part of the earliest Jesus tradition. These sayings show Jesus was seen as deity early on. That the epistles continue this would mean that Jesus was seen as deity at the start, then in the time in the middle we don’t know, and then when Paul shows up and starts speaking he’s seen as deity again. Seriously?

      Non: You have not provided any evidence that the Creed Paul recites in First Corinthians was formulated within a short period of time after Jesus death. You are assuming it did, and that is it.

      Reply: No. I’m not. I made an argument based on the chronology of 1 Cor. Paul received the creed three years after his conversion when he visited Jerusalem. If Paul was converted about a year after the Easter event, then that means a distance of four years at the most. The language of passed on and received is the language of oral tradition. Paul also shows that it was something that he taught them already at Corinth and was reminding them of it. They had heard this before.

      Again, you’re going against the scholarly consensus on this. Let’s name some scholars who place it early.

      How about Barclay, Barnett, Burridge, Gould, Dunn, Engelbrecht, Funk and the Jesus Seminar, Goulder, Grant, Hays, Koester, Ludemann, Shanks and Witherington, Wedderburn. You can find the citations in Licona’s book on the resurrection of Jesus.

      Now if you think all the NT scholars out there are wrong about when this creed was formulated, then they eagerly await your thesis statement on this backed with scholarly sources that shows otherwise.

      Non: No matter what your evangelical Christian Bible scholars might present as evidence for your assertion on this issue, you will be forced to admit that the best your scholars can do is guess as to the date of this Creed.

      Reply: No. I am not forced at all. Look at that list above. Are some evangelical? Yep. But last I checked, the Jesus Seminar is not evangelical nor is Robert Funk or Gerd Ludemann. You see, unlike you, I don’t remain in a bubble with what I read. I regularly read non-Christian and liberal scholarship. You don’t.

      That’s because you’re a fundamentalist.

      Non: Bottom line: we have no concrete evidence what the earliest Christians in the first circa twenty years after the crucifixion believed.

      Reply: Bottom line. You don’t have a clue about NT scholarship. You don’t read it and you don’t know what you’re talking about.

      Non: We must settle this issue first before we can move on. Please provide evidence that proves that the earliest Christians believed that the Resurrection of Jesus occurred in the manner as described in the four Gospels, and not merely that they believed Jesus had been resurrected in some form or manner. I do not doubt that early on, Christians believed in a resurrection, and they most certainly did so by Paul’s time. The big question is: Why?

      Reply: Yeah. I did provide the evidence. It’s the 1 Cor. 15 creed. Your inability to deal with it doesn’t change the facts.

      Seriously. Before debating further, go to the library and get some books on NT scholarship. You stated earlier you don’t need to read scholars, and it’s clear that you haven’t. You’re not even making me blink with these silly scenarios and when i point out what’s wrong with them, you have nothing to say.

      If you don’t want to believe in Jesus, that’s your choice, but at least be informed in your decision. Like I said, you’re still a fundamentalist. You have changed your mind, but you have not changed your mindset.

  29. You have not presented the evidence, you have only named some Christian apologists purporting that such evidence exists. Are you expecting me to just take their word for it? Present the evidence, please, in a concise presentation. And even if there were some early Christians who believed that Jesus was a deity this is no way provides evidence for the veracity of the Resurrection stories as presented in the Gospels. And, you are assuming that the only reason early Christians would believe that Jesus was a deity is if they had seen and touched his resurrected, superhero-like body. This is nothing more than a guess; an assumption.

  30. “No. I’m not. I made an argument based on the chronology of 1 Cor. Paul received the creed three years after his conversion when he visited Jerusalem. If Paul was converted about a year after the Easter event, then that means a distance of four years at the most. The language of passed on and received is the language of oral tradition. Paul also shows that it was something that he taught them already at Corinth and was reminding them of it. They had heard this before.”

    Gary: Many, many assumptions, my friend. How do you know that Paul really did visit Jerusalem? Just because he says so? Just because the author of Acts, a probable Pauline disciple, says so? You have no proof that Paul was converted a year after the Easter event, but even if he was, so what? That doesn’t prove he received the Creed at that time.

  31. “Again, you’re going against the scholarly consensus on this. Let’s name some scholars who place it early. How about Barclay, Barnett, Burridge, Gould, Dunn, Engelbrecht, Funk and the Jesus Seminar, Goulder, Grant, Hays, Koester, Ludemann, Shanks and Witherington, Wedderburn. You can find the citations in Licona’s book on the resurrection of Jesus. Now if you think all the NT scholars out there are wrong about when this creed was formulated, then they eagerly await your thesis statement on this backed with scholarly sources that shows otherwise.”

    Gary: How many non-Christian NT scholars believe that the Creed in I Corinthians was written within three years of Jesus death? Please give me their names so I can verify your claim.

    Even if the creed is early, your original claim was that Paul received this creed during his first trip to Jerusalem. You have no evidence for this other than assumptions. This early creed gives a list of supposed witnesses that are out of order, incorrect, and omits the first witnesses. Who cares if it was written one week after Jesus’ death! It does not give us any details of an empty tomb, or specifics of the appearances. This list of names is worthless in attempting to validate the Resurrection stories as described in the Gospels.

    • Gary: Many, many assumptions, my friend. How do you know that Paul really did visit Jerusalem? Just because he says so? Just because the author of Acts, a probable Pauline disciple, says so? You have no proof that Paul was converted a year after the Easter event, but even if he was, so what? That doesn’t prove he received the Creed at that time.

      Reply: Seriously? Your argument here is going to be Paul was lying about his visit? Lying to a church where his very reputation was being called into question and thus the Gospel that he staked his life on was at stake for this church? YOu’re going to say that he made up a claim about going to Jerusalem mentioning key people that they could go to to find out the facts about all in order to defend your position? I don’t know a single scholar who says that. All of them take this as an accepted fact. If you have to say “Paul was lying” you’re really going out on a limb.

      Gary: How many non-Christian NT scholars believe that the Creed in I Corinthians was written within three years of Jesus death? Please give me their names so I can verify your claim.

      Reply: Yeah. I already gave their names. Note that I said the latest is five years. Gerd Ludemann. Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar. Goulder as well. I don’t know of a scholar really that doubts this and I read plenty of them. This is not same made-up claim that only apologists use. If you want to see what scholarship says about the appearances, look no further than here:

      “The only thing that we can certainly say to be historical is that there were resurrection appearances in Galilee (and in Jerusalem) soon after Jesus’s death. These appearances cannot be denied” (Gerd Ludemann. .”What Really Happened To Jesus?” p. 81)

      “We can say with complete certainty that some of his disciples at some later time insisted that . . . he soon appeared to them, convincing them that he had been raised from the dead.” (Bart Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, pg 230).

      “That Jesus’ followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgment, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know.” (E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, pg 280)

      “That the experiences did occur, even if they are explained in purely natural terms, is a fact upon which both believer and unbeliever can agree.” (Reginald H. Fuller, Foundations of New Testament Christology, 142)

      Gary: Even if the creed is early, your original claim was that Paul received this creed during his first trip to Jerusalem. You have no evidence for this other than assumptions. This early creed gives a list of supposed witnesses that are out of order, incorrect, and omits the first witnesses. Who cares if it was written one week after Jesus’ death! It does not give us any details of an empty tomb, or specifics of the appearances. This list of names is worthless in attempting to validate the Resurrection stories as described in the Gospels.

      Reply: Dude. I’ve answered all of this. It omits the women because this is not a biographical account but a list of people who would be seen as valid witnesses. For order, this hinges on inerrancy and not on reliability. A manuscript can be reliable without being inerrant and that’s just fundamentalism on your part. It has no need to mention an empty tomb since it says buried and raised. That means wherever he was buried, the place was found vacant. Read Gundry’s “Soma in Biblical Greek.” Read Martin’s “The Corinthian Body.”

      Non: The Creed in I Corinthians does not corroborate the stories told decades later by the anonymous authors of the gospels regarding the Resurrection other than the claim of a resurrection and a list of alleged witnesses which is out of order and incomplete. As I have previously asserted, we have no way of knowing WHY early Christians came to believe in a resurrection.

      Reply: Sorry. Not going to the Gospels for my case. I’m going to the earliest account, which is what a good historian does. You would at most cause someone to lose inerrancy, but not the resurrection. I also see you’ve decided to say the Gospels were anonymous as if you think that somehow constitutes a powerful argument.

      Here’s what real scholarship says:

      The authors probably wanted to eliminate interest in who wrote the story and to focus the reader on the subject. More important, the claim of an anonymous history was higher than that of a named work. In the ancient world an anonymous book, rather like an encyclopedia article today, implicitly claimed complete knowledge and reliability. It would have reduced the impact of the Gospel of Matthew had the author written ‘this is my version’ instead of ‘this is what Jesus said and did.’ – The Historical Figure of Jesus by E.P. Sanders page 66.

      btw, E.P. Sanders was skeptical of miracles, so I don’t think you can count him as a Christian. Many many works in ancient history were anonymous and for the most part, we’re sure about who wrote them based on internal and external attestation. If you want to go this route, then feel free to tell me how you determine the authorship of an ancient document. Keep in mind that the Pastorals have Paul’s name on them and most scholars doubt that Paul wrote those so saying “The name on it” is not enough, though it should certainly be considered.

      Gary: The fact that early Christians believe in a resurrection is irrelevant to me. Uneducated, desperate, hopeless, poor people, even devout Jews, are prone to believe crazy things if it gives them some hope. I am asking you for evidence for why they believed this.

      Reply: Oh geez. Your reply is to insult them as uneducated and ignorant? Hey. Let me tell you something. Back then, they knew that dead people stayed dead. This isn’t a major new discovery. Also, why would hopeless and poor people embrace Christianity? They’d gain nothing from it. They would lose any little honor that they had left and they wanted to cling to that. Furthermore, Meeks has shown that the middle and upper-class came to Christianity and these were the people who could best examine the facts. We know there had to be rich people involved in Christianity because of the writings of the early church like the epistles and Gospels. Even the epistles would cost thousands to write and to send.

      I seriously recommend you just stop now because you have not read on this topic, you have not studied it, and it is showing more and more with how desperate you are to avoid conclusions you don’t like. You do not respond to counter-arguments and keep going on as if nothing happened. You are still a fundamentalist and you are thus even more guilty of misinforming than your former pastor was because you are being corrected and you’re still misinforming.

  32. I have a suggestion. Let’s just agree that within a very short period of time (days, weeks, months, one to three years), the disciples of Jesus came to believe that he had died, was buried, and had been resurrected on the third day.

    The Creed in I Corinthians does not corroborate the stories told decades later by the anonymous authors of the gospels regarding the Resurrection other than the claim of a resurrection and a list of alleged witnesses which is out of order and incomplete. As I have previously asserted, we have no way of knowing WHY early Christians came to believe in a resurrection.

    The fact that early Christians believe in a resurrection is irrelevant to me. Uneducated, desperate, hopeless, poor people, even devout Jews, are prone to believe crazy things if it gives them some hope. I am asking you for evidence for why they believed this.

  33. btw, I see that you are posting this all on your blog, which I know that you do based on your past interactions with emailing people like Mike Licona and Paul Copan.

    http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2015/07/we-have-zero-evidence-that-earliest.html

    Interestingly, you are not taking those comments that you put up there over here. Why? Too scared you’re going to get smacked down?

    You’re misinforming people and you’re a coward as well. If anyone wants to see this, then I challenge you to face me in formal debate at TheologyWeb.com.

    If you have an argument to bring to me, you say it here.

    • No matter how many early creeds you dig up, no matter how many NT Christian scholars you quote, the naked truth is that dead, decomposing human tissue cannot be reanimated…except in science fiction.

      This is why educated Jews don’t believe your Resurrection claim. This is why educated Muslims don’t believe your Resurrection claim. And this is why I and other non-religious educated skeptics don’t believe your Resurrection claim: Your evidence is pathetic.

      All you have are biased Christian claims written decades after the alleged event. That’s it! We have ZERO contemporaneous Jewish, Roman, of pagan confirmation of this earth-shattering event. Not one single sentence in one single contemporaneous non-Christian book! Are we really to believe that Jesus and his followers had Jerusalem and all of Judea at the boiling point of revolt; major earthquakes rock the city; the sky turns black in the middle of the days for hours; and dead persons walk out of their graves to wander the streets of the capital city…but NO ONE makes any mention of these events except for four anonymous Christian writers writing more than 35 years later???

      It’s preposterous!

      If any other religion tried to use your “evidence” to convince you that a dead man walked out of his grave to eat a broiled fish sandwich with his buddies, you would laugh yourself sick. But you buy this story hook, line, and sinker but it is YOUR culture’s tall tale.

      No secular university history textbook lists the Resurrection of Jesus as an historical event. Think about that. They aren’t anti-Christian. They are just anti pseudo-history.

      • Gary: No matter how many early creeds you dig up, no matter how many NT Christian scholars you quote, the naked truth is that dead, decomposing human tissue cannot be reanimated…except in science fiction.

        Reply: Whoa! Really? Dead people don’t come back to life! Dude! Isn’t it wonderful modern science came along because until that time, everyone was thinking dead people did come back to life! I mean, we all know this. Right?

        Sorry, but even back then, they buried their dead. Do you know why? Here’s why.

        They…..were…..dead….

        Now if you want to say that a miracle isn’t possible, you need to give an argument for that. For the start, you would need to refute all the arguments for theism that are out there so there can be no positive reason to hold to theism. Then, you would have to give a positive argument for God’s non-existence in order to obliterate agnosticism. Only then could you say that the position of reason is that there are no outside agents that can cause miracles.

        You might also want to look at the leading work from a perspective you disagree with on the topic and that’s Craig Keener’s massive two-volume work “Miracles.” Here are just a small sample of some of the reports many verified by medical professionals.

        1. “a sudden disappearance of a child’s massive brain tumor after prayer, before any medical treatment could begin.” The tumor covered almost one-fourth of the girl’s brain, with MRI confirmation from both before and after (vol. 1, 428).

        2. An eight-year-old boy had two holes in his heart, a condition that also impaired his lungs. After prayer he was taken to surgery. But before and after tests showed that the holes that were there the previous day had now been healed. He did not need surgery and was cleared to play baseball just two days later (vol. 1, 431-432)!
        3. A physician related that a patient was “immediately cured from metastasized breast cancer after prayer” including before and after medical evidence (vol. 1, 435).

        4. Another physician confirmed that a woman with tuberculosis was healed after prayer. The physician could confirm that her cure was permanent, because they were later married and spent the rest of their lives together (vol. 1, 435)!

        5. While away from home at a Christian retreat, a man broke his ankle badly, and went to a hospital, where an orthopedist set the ankle in a cast. Upon arriving home the next day, several states away, he was sent by another physician to another hospital for X-rays. After studying them, the physician informed the man that his ankle was never broken, as indicated by the lack of a break or even tissue damage where the break had been. But the earlier X-rays were ordered and clearly confirmed the break. A set of the radiology reports were also sent to the author, Craig Keener (vol. 1, 440).

        6. A hospital physician reported watching as a ten-year-old girl’s club foot “straightened before my very eyes” while the girl was being prayed for (vol. 1, 463).

        7. A woman’s spleen was removed by surgery but when she was later examined, she had another spleen in its place (vol. 1, 491)!

        8. A baby was born without hip sockets or a ball at the end of her bone. It was determined that she would need a cast throughout her life. But the church prayed and, when she was examined again before being placed in the cast, contrary to the earlier X-rays, she now had both hip sockets and the ball at the end of the bone (vol. 1, 503).

        9. Forty physicians confirmed the specific case of a cure from Lourdes, France “of a medically incurable, quadriplegic postencephalitic idiot—a child who went from complete insensibility and lack of control to intelligent normalcy” (vol. 2, 680)!

        10. In another case, cancer had spread and the patient was given up by physicians, but was cured instantly with damaged organs reforming (vol. 2, 682, note 206).

        Now by your position, all of these must be ipso facto false before looking at the evidence in order to establish your claim. For me, you could even show all of these are false. That would just disprove these accounts but not disprove that there is a theistic agent that can cause miracles.

        Gary: This is why educated Jews don’t believe your Resurrection claim. This is why educated Muslims don’t believe your Resurrection claim. And this is why I and other non-religious educated skeptics don’t believe your Resurrection claim: Your evidence is pathetic.

        Reply: You really think you’re an educated skeptic? No. You’re not. I know several educated skeptics. They read the material and we have debates of substance. They can actually put forward better scenarios to explain the data. You have not explained the data. INstead, like the fundamentalist you are, you stick your head in the sand and deny it.

        If you think these people have a better explanation for the data, then let them bring it.

        Gary: All you have are biased Christian claims written decades after the alleged event.

        Reply: Decades after and biased. Two of the essential cards for a fundamentalist not familiar with the ancient world to use. First off, bias. Every writer has a bias. THat’s the only reason you write something. In fact, a historian writing without a bias would not be trusted back then. You needed someone with passion on the subject. Second, bias does not mean one fabricates details or is dishonest with them. Jews have the most accurate holocaust museums. Think they have bias? Yep. They sure do. That’s what drives them to make sure they get the facts right.

        As for decades later, yeah. That’s because the world back then did not live in what is called the Gutenberg Galaxy but they lived in an oral culture. Here. Let me see if even you can understand this one. Let’s suppose you have a message you think is really important and you want to get it out. You have two ways you can go.

        You can go with the word of mouth. This one is free and in a society where people have much better memories due to not writing things down, you get the account going orally. The account is told in a culture where stories are told in groups and certain gatekeepers are put in charge of the story. Minor variations on small details are allowed so long as the main thrust of the story remains the same. This method is free and effective and reaches literate and illiterate people both.

        Or, you could write things down. This method is highly costly as a Gospel would cost thousands of dollars to write, it is far more time-consuming, and it reaches only people who can read.

        Which one will you go with?

        Also, keep in mind there are many events that we don’t hear about until at least a century after the event. Richard Carrier tells students that all the great historians of the age talk about Caesar crossing the Rubicon. He doesn’t say that all the historians he mentioned would have written at least a century after the event. In 79 A.D. Vesuvius erupted killing 250,000 people and burying two towns, Pompeii and Herculaneum. Only one historian mentions this event at the time and that’s Pliny the Younger and he only does it in an off-the-cuff manner because his best friend Pliny wrote to him about his uncle’s death. Pliny’s uncle had been studying his natural history at the time and got too close. Pliny explained to Tacitus how his uncle died in the eruption that destroyed Pompeii. That is the only contemporary historian who mentions this massive event. What about Herculaneum? That’s not even mentioned until over a century later by Cassius Dio. Plutarch wrote his lives centuries after the events. The biographies we have of Alexander the Great that we consider reliable are at least four centuries after the events.

        In the ancient world, the Gospels show up quickly. Oh, by the way. You could consider the work of the scholar James Crossley who even wrote a dissertation arguing Mark should be dated to the 40’s. Of course, he’s a dyed-in-the-wool born again Christian…..No wait. Crossley is an agnostic. He even wrote a book arguing against the resurrection where his opponent was the Christian scholar Michael Bird.

        Gary: That’s it! We have ZERO contemporaneous Jewish, Roman, of pagan confirmation of this earth-shattering event.

        Reply: There was a Carthaginian general who was constantly in battle against Rome. His name was Hannibal. Army after army was destroyed by Hannibal. Rome just couldn’t beat him. Finally, just when it looked like he would conquer Rome, the greatest empire of the time, Rome did send an army that defeated Hannibal.

        How many contemporary sources do we have for this event?

        None. Zero. No contemporary historians mention Hannibal. You have to wait decades to find them. We could say practically the same for Queen Boudica as well. So a man who nearly conquers Rome is not mentioned, but we are to think that a crucified Messiah figure who was born in a low-honor setting and never went to battle, never ran for office, never wrote a book, etc. should have been cared about by the rest of the world?

        If we followed your standard, we would lose the huge majority of ancient history.

        Gary: Not one single sentence in one single contemporaneous non-Christian book! Are we really to believe that Jesus and his followers had Jerusalem and all of Judea at the boiling point of revolt;

        Reply: No. Jesus was a flash in the pan figure to the ancient world. It does not surprise me that so few non-Christians mentioned Jesus. It surprises me that any did at all.

        Gary: major earthquakes rock the city; the sky turns black in the middle of the days for hours; and dead persons walk out of their graves to wander the streets of the capital city…but NO ONE makes any mention of these events except for four anonymous Christian writers writing more than 35 years later???

        Reply: Yeah. I dealt with the anonymous bit. I asked how you determine authorship of an ancient document. You replied with….

        Well. You didn’t. You just ignored it.

        btw, my argument does not depend on inerrancy, but even if these events are literal, do you really think a Roman historian living outside of Jerusalem at the time would hear about claims like these and go and investigate? Not at all. He’d write them off as silly and preposterous. Dead people don’t come back and earthquakes are common events.

        Gary: It’s preposterous!

        Reply: That you think you have an argument? I agree. It is preposterous. You would best be served by sitting down and learning something, but like all fundamentalists, you cannot be wrong.

        Gary: If any other religion tried to use your “evidence” to convince you that a dead man walked out of his grave to eat a broiled fish sandwich with his buddies, you would laugh yourself sick. But you buy this story hook, line, and sinker but it is YOUR culture’s tall tale.

        Reply: No I wouldn’t. I can happily accept miracle claims outside of my own religion. They’re not a problem for me. If you think you have a fitting parallel in another religion, give it and the evidence given for it.

        Gary: No secular university history textbook lists the Resurrection of Jesus as an historical event. Think about that. They aren’t anti-Christian. They are just anti pseudo-history.

        Reply: Then let them explain the data. You sure can’t.

        Out of your league dude. SEriously. Go read a book on NT scholarship and educate yourself.

  34. So what is your evidence that a dead first century Jewish prophet was reanimated by an ancient middle-eastern god after decomposing for three days? Answer: 1. “The majority of NT scholars believe that the Creed mentioned in I Corinthians was written within five years of the death of Jesus.” 2. “The majority of NT scholars say that first century Jews would not have converted to Christianity unless they had seen a resurrected dead man.”

    First, the opinion of “experts” is considered soft evidence. And your evidence is even softer because the majority of NT scholars are Christian believers.

    2. You can berate me all you want as a naïve fundamentalist skeptic, but here is something you cannot refute: The overwhelming majority of Jewish scholars, rabbis, and Jewish people have rejected the Christian resurrection claim of Jesus of Nazareth from DAY ONE! The fact that a small group of uneducated Galilean peasants did believe it, is not surprising. Jews do NOT find it odd that a few first century Jews would believe the Christian resurrection tale. The fact that the Church quickly became a Gentile religion is proof that the evidence presented by early Christians was so very poor than Jews rejected it as nonsense. Jews, who know the Hebrew Bible and the messianic prophecies best REJECTED this false messiah pretender, and, rejected all the supernatural claims and legends that developed after his death.

    Educated, very scholarly, life long students of the Hebrew Bible—Jewish sages and rabbis—agree with me that your supernatural tale of a reanimated man/god in a new superhero body, who walks out of his grave, eats a broiled fish lunch with his former fishing buddies, and then levitates (or is “beamed up”) into outer space, is a lot of superstitious, ignorant nonsense.

    You do NOT have good evidence, friend, for your supernatural claims. You have Christian experts who say it happened, second century hearsay, and A LOT of assumptions.

    • In comes Gary wanting to act like he has a clue!

      Gary: So what is your evidence that a dead first century Jewish prophet was reanimated by an ancient middle-eastern god after decomposing for three days? Answer: 1. “The majority of NT scholars believe that the Creed mentioned in I Corinthians was written within five years of the death of Jesus.” 2. “The majority of NT scholars say that first century Jews would not have converted to Christianity unless they had seen a resurrected dead man.”

      Reply: Um. No. Sorry. Didn’t say that. Your reading comprehension is as bad as your anti-thinking and anti-research skills. I did not say “The creed is early, therefore Jesus rose.” Not at all. I said the creed provides the best attested detail that we need. I then added more for good measure.

      I stated that the creed contains early information such as that Jesus appeared to many and often in group settings after his death and that since he was buried and raised, that means an empty tomb. You need a theory that can explain all the data. You never gave one that explains it all and when I answered your “more probable” situations, you never responded. I also added in the honor-shame perspective, something that most NT scholars do not comment on yet since most I think are unfamiliar with it.

      Gary: First, the opinion of “experts” is considered soft evidence. And your evidence is even softer because the majority of NT scholars are Christian believers.

      Reply: Really? They are? You took a survey? No dude. It splits pretty closely down the middle actually. Consider that the Society of Biblical Literature in 2012 elected John Dominic Crossan as its president. That’s the guy who was the co-founder of the Jesus Seminar. You think NT scholars who were Christians would want that guy to lead such a prestigious organization?

      You really don’t know what you’re talking about.

      Gary: 2. You can berate me all you want as a naïve fundamentalist skeptic, but here is something you cannot refute: The overwhelming majority of Jewish scholars, rabbis, and Jewish people have rejected the Christian resurrection claim of Jesus of Nazareth from DAY ONE!

      Reply: Look boys and girls! It’s argument ad populum! ooooh! Yeah. I saw your silly post on that. You put a picture of an unnamed Jew and then say “He doesn’t believe!” That’s not an argument. An argument deals with the data. Data doesn’t go away because some people do not believe in it.

      Look! There are several people who don’t believe in evolution and have rejected it from the start! Therefore evolution is false!

      You would find that argument hysterical and rightly so, just like I find yours. If you want an argument, simply explain the data and this is data accepted by non-Christian scholars as I showed. You could also consider Pinchas Lapides by the way. He’s one of few Jews who has a Ph.D. in New Testament. He’s a non-Christian, but he believes Jesus did rise from the dead.

      Gary: The fact that a small group of uneducated Galilean peasants did believe it, is not surprising.

      Reply: Uneducated. Right. Paul was a scholar’s scholar and uneducated in Acts refers to the disciples not having formal schooling. It does not mean they were idiots. Note that the question is not why did the disciples believe so much as why did those outside the circle believe. THat’s something a claim like cognitive dissonance cannot explain. Your attempts to explain it have been shot down and now this is all just damage control to protect your anti-scholarship fundamentalism.

      Gary: Jews do NOT find it odd that a few first century Jews would believe the Christian resurrection tale. The fact that the Church quickly became a Gentile religion is proof that the evidence presented by early Christians was so very poor than Jews rejected it as nonsense. Jews, who know the Hebrew Bible and the messianic prophecies best REJECTED this false messiah pretender, and, rejected all the supernatural claims and legends that developed after his death.

      Reply: Simple reason why slowpoke. Jesus was crucified. In an honor-shame society, that would say enough to most people. A crucified man is not the Messiah. So what? YOu haven’t explained the data one iota.

      Gary: Educated, very scholarly, life long students of the Hebrew Bible—Jewish sages and rabbis—agree with me that your supernatural tale of a reanimated man/god in a new superhero body, who walks out of his grave, eats a broiled fish lunch with his former fishing buddies, and then levitates (or is “beamed up”) into outer space, is a lot of superstitious, ignorant nonsense.

      Reply: Tell you what. Bring them here for a debate. See if they can explain the data. An argument of “Educated people agree with me” does not explain the data. Many of these educated people could disagree with you on the Exodus. Will you change your mind? Nope.

      Gary: You do NOT have good evidence, friend, for your supernatural claims. You have Christian experts who say it happened, second century hearsay, and A LOT of assumptions.

      REply: Wrong on all counts. For about the umpteenth time, I reject a natural/supernatural distinction. (Try repeating that until you learn it since apparently basic English isn’t your strong point.) Also, I do not cite Christian scholars always. I have cited for the most part non-Christian scholars. Finally, I do not have assumptions. I have statements agreed to by those non-Christian scholars.

      You have a fundamentalist statement of faith.

      Read a book and get an education.

  35. Virgins do not have babies.
    Humans do not walk on water.
    Dead prophets do not walk out of their graves to eat broiled fish.
    Human beings do not levitate into outer space.

    These things only happen in fairy tales and ancient myths, friend. Educated, modern people should not believe this stuff. Take the blinders off and look at what you are trying to pass off as history.

    I would encourage you to consider this point: There is a very good reason why not one secular university in this country teaches the Resurrection of Jesus as an historical fact. Reason: This alleged event does not meet the standard of evidence required to include it in a university history text, ie, the evidence isn’t there.

    The Resurrection of Jesus can only be believe by faith…the same kind of innocent faith that a child uses to believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

  36. My Challenge for “Apologianick” and other Christians:

    How is it possible that two groups of educated, modern people can look at the evidence for the Resurrection claim of Jesus of Nazareth and come to such very different conclusions? How can educated Christians see the evidence for the Resurrection as so overwhelming that it is not worth their time to seriously question it, while educated Jews, Muslims, atheists, and others, find the evidence for this supernatural claim so pathetically poor and down right ridiculous?

    It really is baffling to me.

    Christians have frequently accused me of not believing because I don’t want to believe; that there is some ulterior motive for my deconversion from the Christian religion; that I have rejected the supernatural without sufficient evidence to do so. However, what then is the reason for the non-belief of Jews and Muslims in this supernatural claim? These groups certainly believe in supernatural acts of God. Why do these groups see the evidence for the Resurrection claim as so unconvincing? It can’t be because they don’t believe in the supernatural. Do Christians seriously believe that Jews and Muslims actually do see how strong the evidence is for the Resurrection claim, but, they have conspired to deny it, as they too have an ulterior motive for rejecting it??

    This is my challenge for Christians: Demand the same level of evidence for the Resurrection claim as you would apply to the supernatural claims of any other religion.

    For instance, would you believe a new religion’s claim that their recently deceased prophet flew through the air like a jet airplane just because:

    1. Their holy book points to passages in the Hebrew Bible that appear to “prophesy” about the coming of this flying prophet.

    2. The people who are converting to this new religion are people who do not believe in flying prophets, so for them to believe it, something really spectacular must have occurred to convince them that this prophet did fly.

    3. The founders of this new religion are willing to endure persecution and even death in defense of their claim of a flying prophet.

    4. The new religion spreads rapidly even under intense persecution.

    5. The new religion has the written statement of one deceased man who says he saw the flying prophet himself on a deserted desert highway, and, that someone told him that 500 people, at the same time, in the same place, also saw the flying prophet.

    6. And there is much more similar “evidence” for this religion’s claim of a flying prophet.

    Would all of this “evidence” convince you that this new religion really did have a flying prophet? Seriously dear Christian, what evidence would you require to believe that a modern day man can fly through the air, without any mechanical assistance, at the speed and altitude of a jet airplane?

    THAT is how we non-believers view your claim that a dead and decomposing first century man in Palestine was reanimated by an ancient middle-eastern god to walk out of his grave, hang out with his friends for forty days, and then levitate into outer space.

    • Gary: For instance, would you believe a new religion’s claim that their recently deceased prophet flew through the air like a jet airplane just because:

      1. Their holy book points to passages in the Hebrew Bible that appear to “prophesy” about the coming of this flying prophet.

      Reply: Not an argument I used, but if you can show that this was said to be something that would happen long before and I have reason to think the account is reliable, sure. I’m open. That’s how you investigate claims. You remain open.

      Gary: 2. The people who are converting to this new religion are people who do not believe in flying prophets, so for them to believe it, something really spectacular must have occurred to convince them that this prophet did fly.

      REply: Yes. This is also data to consider. If people come to believe something that they would normally not, we should ask why.

      Gary: 3. The founders of this new religion are willing to endure persecution and even death in defense of their claim of a flying prophet.
      Reply: Not an argument I used, but let’s suppose those who were ones who could be eyewitnesses did face death rather than recant such a claim and in fact did die before recanting.

      I would consider that strong evidence they really believed it.

      Gary: 4. The new religion spreads rapidly even under intense persecution.

      Reply: My claim is not so much about persecution as it is about shame and it requires an agonistic honor-shame society.

      Gary: 5. The new religion has the written statement of one deceased man who says he saw the flying prophet himself on a deserted desert highway, and, that someone told him that 500 people, at the same time, in the same place, also saw the flying prophet.

      Reply: Not the same here. In the case of the 500 Paul wrote about, he also said many are still alive. In other words, the witnesses are there to be questioned. This is not hearsay.

      btw, do you know why hearsay is not allowed in a court of law?

      It’s not because it’s not reliable or trustworthy. IT’s because in a court of law you are given the right to face your accuser. You cannot do that with hearsay.

      Gary: 6. And there is much more similar “evidence” for this religion’s claim of a flying prophet.

      Reply: Okay. Bring it.

      Gary: Would all of this “evidence” convince you that this new religion really did have a flying prophet? Seriously dear Christian, what evidence would you require to believe that a modern day man can fly through the air, without any mechanical assistance, at the speed and altitude of a jet airplane?

      THAT is how we non-believers view your claim that a dead and decomposing first century man in Palestine was reanimated by an ancient middle-eastern god to walk out of his grave, hang out with his friends for forty days, and then levitate into outer space.

      Reply: Bring forward the evidence and let me examine it. Like I said, I don’t write off miracle claims and if there is data for an event, that data needs to be explained.

      You write it off because it clashes with your worldview. I don’t.

      You’re a fundamentalist.

  37. NIck,

    If a man today came up to you and told you that he had seen a man flying in the air at the speed of a jet airplane on a lonely desert highway, and, that he could take you to his “church” to meet 500 people who would swear under oath that they too, all at the same time, had seen a man flying in the air at the speed of a jet airplane, without any mechanical assistance, and these 500 people believed their claim so strongly, that they had all sold every possession they had, and were waiting in the church for the flying prophet to come and pick them up to fly away with them to the planet Zoran, would you believe them, or would you believe that they are all completely nuts, because…HUMAN BEINGS CAN’T FLY.

    Would the sincere, devout testimony of these 501 people convince you that a human being is capable of flying like a jet airplane?

    • Gary. I don’t live in a world where miracles are impossible and without refuting theism, you would have to give me an argument to show they are impossible. I would treat it like any other claim. Give me the evidence. Let me talk to the eyewitnesses. Let me find out from them what they say that they saw and then more importantly, what are the ramifications if this is true.

      You’re simply engaging in presuppositional atheism where any idea that falls outside of your belief system is deemed as silly.

      Those of us who are open to evidence and changing our mind don’t do that. That you do not do this shows that you are of a position that no amount of evidence will change your mindset.

      That’s fundamentalism.

  38. No, I have never said that I exclude the possibility of the existence of the supernatural. What I have argued is that we should believe all claims based on their PROBABILITY of being true.

    The probability that a human being can fly without mechanical assistance is so low that even the sincere statements of five hundred alleged witnesses, on a witness stand, under oath, would not convince me, and I don’t think it would convince 95% of the American public. (There is always a small group of people who are willing to grasp onto any conspiracy theory or wild claim.)

    You are conflating POSSIBILITY with PROBABILITY. I do NOT state that the supernatural is impossible, I state that it is improbable…highly improbable.

    • You know it only hurts your cause when you keep using the term supernatural, when I have said I do not hold to such a term. I think the natural/supernatural dichotomy should be shunned.

      But for all interested, Gary has actually agreed to debate me at TheologyWeb.com. I don’t think Dan Wallace will mind a link being put up here when the debate gets started so all can follow it there. There is no need to debate it in two places.

      • I’ve been following this debate in the comments for the past several days and think it has been fascinating. Once everything is set up for the official debate, I’ll be sure to view it!

        My only suggestion is to stick to the facts and not resort to ad hominem attacks. I’ve seen those, in both directions, a few times, and it almost caused me to lose interest in the debate. Aside from those occasional instances, I’ve enjoyed every minute of reading arguments on both sides and have actually hoped that my email inbox would ding at me with notifications of more to read.

  39. Nick,

    I would like to hear why you object to the term “supernatural”. Again, here is the dictionary definition:

    Supernatural: a manifestation or event attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature.

    If you tell me that yesterday you went to the grocery store, the hardware store, and then the movie theater, we can investigate those claims using natural laws. However, if you tell me that yesterday you were transported to the invisible planet Zorak by the invisible god, Morkan, how can we possibly investigate your claim, as such a claim is beyond the access of the laws of natural investigation and evidence gathering?

    How about we do this: we agree that when you use the term “miracle” that you are referring to the same type of event that I would describe as “supernatural”, unless you don’t believe in miracles.

    • There are many things that are not understood by science or so-called laws of nature that we would not consider supernatural. For instance, suppose I want to know what Triangularity is. You answer by showing me many triangles of every kind, size, color, etc. I say “I like the triangles, but I want to see Triangularity itself. Not the triangles. Can you show me just Triangularity?” You would have no idea how to do that. You can only show me triangles and I have to realize every triangle is an instance of Triangularity. Science cannot study that.

      What about us, well if we’re all matter in motion, all we do is subject to laws of nature and can’t be altered. At this point I suggest googling “laws of nature prove theism.”

      Actually, I just made that up. I don’t know what you’ll get from that, but it demonstrates you heard what I said and responded showing you’re a free will agent. (And if you didn’t look, you still made a choice.) My point is you have aspects about you amenable to study from science, but you yourself aren’t a topic of study. By that, you would be considered a supernatural agent.

      And what of existence itself? That is all around us yet it itself is not studied by science. Suppose you’re in a room and I come in and close the door and say that there’s something outside and ask you to tell me all you know about it based on that. Sounds hard, but you could know several things. It is material. It has mass and takes up space. It can then be studied by science. We could keep going.

      Now picture I came in and instead gave one clue. It exists. That’s the most important thing about something, but it doesn’t tell you as much. It could be an angel for instance.

      Furthermore, the whole idea assumes there is a natural world that can exist on its own and anything beyond needs to be explained. That is a big assumption and based on my Thomistic understanding of existence, I reject it.

      It’s also why I question Laws of Nature. Nature acts orderly not because it obeys laws, but because of natures all objects have. That’s why I can think contrary to Hume that a rock will fall every time you drop it.

      I really wish Christians would stop using the term supernatural.

  40. Dear Nick,

    If this is the approach you plan to use in our debate, count me out. This is why I said that we must first agree on the definition of the term “evidence”. I have absolutely ZERO interest in debating anyone on the reality of reality. My basis of reality is the scientific method and reason. I can’t prove to you that these are the best methods to determine what is real and what is not, but it is the method selected by our culture/society and the method I choose to use. If your basis of reality is a complicated philosophical theory such as that it is impossible to distinguish my existence in my mind from my perceived existence in someone else’s mind, or some such philosophical silliness, I am not interested in debating you.

    As I said, I am willing to debate you on the evidence for the Resurrection using the same criteria of evidence that any historian would use to confirm the historicity of any other historical event. Period. That’s it. Historians do NOT start off the discussion with complicated theories regarding the very existence of history. That is the field of philosophers, and I have no interest whatsoever in debating or discussing philosophy.

    • When I discuss history, I use historical data, but in terms of thinking of my worldview, I answered your question on supernatural versus natural. Up until then I had just been giving data. You brought philosophy into it by saying what can and cannot happen. I just said look at the data and find out what best explains the data. My explanation does. Now if you wanted me to establish theism separately, I can do that, but for now I am focusing on what explanation best explains the historical data.

      I will stick to history as far as you do. If you go outside, I will meet you on that ground and answer.

  41. Very good.

    This is what I did not want to see happen:

    “Gary, how do you know that ANYTHING in history has ever happened? How do you know that such a thing as “history” even exists. How do you know that “now” is not all that there is. Maybe there never was a yesterday, or day before that, etc. The concept of a past may just be an illusion of the brain.”

    This may seem silly but I had one Christian refuse to debate me unless I was willing to join in his philosophical head games discussing these types of questions.

    I look forward to our discussion on history data.

  42. typo: should be “historical data”

    • I read the entire debate and would like to provide my own opinions on the debate itself (not what was being argued):

      The debate started very structured with compelling arguments from both sides. Unfortunately, Gary lost traction with his presentation of evidence and veered off-course to a series of repeated talking points, unrelated stories, and ad hominem attacks. A debate must stay on-topic, but this one did not. Still, I did enjoy reading the debate and thank both Gary and Nick for making the debate available.

  43. Christian apologists use the alleged “fact” of an empty tomb as their trump card for evidence for the Resurrection. Let’s assume that the entire account in Matthew regarding Aramathea burying Jesus in his private tomb, the great stone in front of the door, and the Roman guards are all fact. Let’s assume that on Sunday morning the women really did find an empty tomb. How strong of evidence is this “fact”? I assert that the empty tomb is only strong evidence IF Christians can prove that the body was guarded 24/7 from the very moment that Aramathea placed Jesus’ body in the tomb to the moment the women found the tomb empty.

    If there is even a ten minute window when the tomb was unguarded, that is enough time for a group of men to roll back the stone, grab the body, and make off with it. Christians will assert that NO ONE would do this for a long list of reasons, including breaking the Sabbath. I assert that Jews breaking the Sabbath is much more probable than that an invisible middle-eastern deity reanimated the dead body of a Jewish prophet and sent angels to move back the stone. Yes, in a world where anything is possible, the latter is possible, but it just is not probable. It is much more probable that devout Jews would break the Sabbath. We have evidence of the disciples breaking the Sabbath in the Gospels, so why not do it again? Also, maybe it wasn’t the disciples. Maybe it was some of Jesus’ family who wanted the body buried in Galilee. Or maybe it was just grave robbers who thought they could make a profit selling the remains of a messiah pretender. Maybe a small group of the Sanhedrin didn’t like the idea of a blasphemer being buried in a respectable tomb, so they stole the body and tossed it into a hole, and did not tell the high priest and the other members. Or, maybe Aramethea only put the body in his tomb until Sabbath was over. After sunset Saturday night, with Pilate’s permission, he removed the body and threw it into an unmarked grave.

    Again, all of these scenarios are much more probable than the Christian supernatural explanation. Bottom line: We do NOT have evidence that the tomb was guarded 24/7 from the moment that Aramethea placed the body in the tomb and rolled the stone in front until the women found the tomb empty on Sunday morning. Below is the passage from Matthew.

    Matthew 27:

    Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. 59 When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.

    Pilate Sets a Guard

    62 On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, 63 saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night[m] and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”

    65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.

    • Anyone can go and see the job that you did in the debate Gary and know you don’t know what you’re talking about and you’re not to be taken seriously.

      Which is why I won’t bother. For all interested, my debate can be seen earlier. I have answered every charge you’ve brought forward of possible scenarios and you have never responded. When I give facts or even just possible facts and someone ignores them, I am convinced facts are not the issue.

      • I think that Dr. Wallace readers will be more interested in the “Second Round” of our debate which starts here in the comment thread on Theology Web:

        http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?7724-Comment-Thread-for-The-Resurrection-of-Jesus-Apologiaphoenix-vs-Gary&p=223002&viewfull=1#post223002

        Why? I do answer Nick’s questions, in a standard debate format. Why didn’t I do that in the “initial round”? Answer: I felt I had been deceived. Nick challenge me to debate him, somewhere other than here on Dr. Wallace’s blog. I thought that Dr. Wallace’s blog was a great forum, I didn’t see why we needed to move the discussion. But Nick insisted.

        I then offered to host the discussion on my blog, assuming that we would continue our informal discussion/debate. Nick wasn’t comfortable as he did not trust me in control. He suggested a “neutral venue”. He dared me to come and debate him on Theology Web promising that it was a neutral site. I finally agreed.

        After going through the hoops of signing up on Theology Web, I realized the following:

        1. Theology Web is a Christian website (so much for neutrality)
        2. Nick had set up a FORMAL debate. I have no training in formal debating nor do I know the rules.
        3. There was a moderator to the debate. I had assumed that neutral meant a free flowing give and take, without a referee.
        4. The moderator was a Christian. (He has a big “Jesus fish” symbol as his moniker.
        5. I advised Nick and the Christian moderator that I had no experience in formal debating and that if they were rules I requested access to them. I was given a link which gave me behavior rules for the website, but no instructions regarding formal debate procedure. One such rule was: “No excessive blasphemy.” What the HELL does that mean for a non-believer like me???”
        6. During the debate, our “neutral” Christian moderator, was busy making snarky comments about my lack of formal debate skills over on the comment thread while the debate was ongoing!!

        Wow! I’ve been set up!

        So I debated, but I debated going out of my way to break the “debate rules”. I used analogies to demonstrate that the Christian supernatural (Nick HATES that word) claims are just as unbelievable and nonsensical as the belief in the Tooth Fairy and leprechauns.

        But now that we are out of the “formal debate” arena, and back on a discussion format, not a formal debate protocol, I am refuting Nick’s claims, point by point, as he had wanted me to do initially.

        Again, here is the link to the “Gary the Agnostic vs. Nick the Christian Debate, Round 2”:

        http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?7724-Comment-Thread-for-The-Resurrection-of-Jesus-Apologiaphoenix-vs-Gary&p=223002&viewfull=1#post223002

      • Apparently, refutation is simply saying “Is not! Is not! Is not!”

        You’re doing a really great job Gary of demonstrating your fundamentalist anti-scholarship approach. Keep it up.

        Sorry, but you don’t even make me blink.

  44. […] began as a continuation of comments on my blog, “Can We Still Believe the Bible?” (http://danielbwallace.com/2014/03/24/can-we-still-believe-the-bible/), has turned into a formal debate. I think you’ll find it most interesting! Here’s the […]

  45. Gary,
    I gather you’re a physician and amateur theology buff (me too). How did you come to leave the Christian faith? I’m always saddened by such stories.

    • If you want to read my deconversion story, google this: (this blog is not allowing me to leave a link)

      Blog: Escaping Christian Fundamentalism
      Post: My Deconversion in a Nutshell

      (Gary and nonsupernaturalist are one and the same.)

  46. Yes. I too (as an armchair math/physics buff) have spent a lot of time on atheist blogs and discussion boards. May I ask why you seem to expend a lot of time and energy blogging against what you used to hold dear? I never grounded my faith in a literally inerrant bible so I have not been much affected by what I found in my atheist interactions. But I assume that if I would have ever left the faith I would have just spent all my extra time with my guitars and pet hobbies, not caring much to become a starter for the opposing team. Did you find yourself angry and feeling misled? Just curious. Thanks.

    • I see myself as a crusader (or evangelist??) for truth and reason.

      Plus, I love debating and I find this subject fascinating. I am most fascinated how we as an educated, intelligent, modern society can fall for this supernatural tall tale. We outgrew Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, but we still believe in ghost-impregnated virgins and reanimated dead Jewish prophets. It is really amazing.

  47. Here is a comment I left for Nick on the debate thread. Others here might find it interesting, and I would be interested in your responses to it:

    I tell you what. I’m going to make this debate much easier for Nick and the other Christians participating in this discussion. Nick and I have already agreed to accept the following three points as historical facts for this discussion:

    1. The empty tomb.
    2. The first gospel, Mark, was written no earlier than the mid 60’s AD and the other three gospels were written one to several decades later.
    3. None of the gospels were written by eyewitnesses.

    In addition, I will agree to accept the following additional Christian claims as historical fact:

    4. The Eleven, the women, James, and the “Five Hundred at once” all believed they had truly seen Jesus in post-resurrection appearances.
    5. Many of these “eyewitnesses” were willing to die for their belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
    6. Paul sincerely believed that he saw, in some sense, the resurrected Jesus on the Damascus Road.
    7. The Creed in I Corinthians 15 was formulated within five years of Jesus’ death.
    8. No early Christian contested the accuracy of this Creed.
    9. Paul discussed the Creed and the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus with Peter and James on his trip to Jerusalem.
    10. Paul met some or all of the “five hundred” witnesses while in Jerusalem or at some other time.
    11. Paul knew additional details about the life of Jesus, his parables, sermons, and birth/childhood history, he just did not discuss them in his epistles.

    Now, by accepting all these Christian assertions, what is the most probable explanation of these historical facts? Is it that the decomposing flesh of a three-day-dead first century Jewish prophet was reanimated by an ancient middle-eastern god?

    I don’t think so. Is it POSSIBLE allowing for supernatural/miracle claims? Yes. But it still is not the most probable explanation…by far. So what would explain these historical facts AND be much more probable to be the cause of these beliefs/facts based on collective human experience? Let me answer that by giving an analogy:

    A widow, Mrs. Jones, lives alone in Sheboygan. One night Mrs. Jones finds herself suffering once again from her chronic sinus headaches. She tosses and turns in bed, unable to sleep. However, in the middle of the night, a bright light appears in the night sky and shines into her bedroom window. The light gets closer, and brighter and brighter, until….the Virgin Mary is standing in her bedroom! The Mother of Jesus tells Mrs. Jones that since she has been such a faithful and devout believer, she will be healed of her chronic sinus headaches.

    The next morning when Mrs. Jones gets out of bed, her headache is gone. “I am healed!” she exclaims with joy. “The Blessed Virgin Mother has healed me!”

    Mrs. Jones heads down to the local parish hall where she tells everyone present of her healing and the appearance by the Virgin Mary…and within the next few days… every Roman Catholic within a 25 mile radius of Sheboygan is seeing the Virgin Mary, either in appearances to individuals, in appearances to large groups (of believers only), or, in images of her, such as in paint stains on the side of their garage, or in their burnt toast.

    So, my dear Christian friends, which is more likely: All these devout believers are really “seeing” the 2,000 year-deceased mother of Jesus, or, they are caught up in mass hysteria?

    Think about that when you look at all possible explanations for the Resurrection claims of Jesus.

    • Gary Matson Jr. also posted these remarks at TWeb, 12:46 p.m. EST, July 28.

      Re: “Nick and I have already agreed to accept the following three points as historical facts for this discussion:

      1. The empty tomb.
      2. The first gospel, Mark, was written no earlier than the mid 60’s AD and the other three gospels were written one to several decades later.
      3. None of the gospels were written by eyewitnesses.”

      http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?p=223359#post223359

      Nick never agreed to conditions #2 and #3 and found it necessary to say so, posted 4:14 p.m., EST, July 28.

      http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?p=223457#post223457

      Matson also posted them on his blog at 5:07 p.m. EST, July 28.

      Despite the fact that Nick never agreed to conditions #2 and #3, Gary Matson Jr. repeated the claim on this blog at 6:08 p.m. EST. It’s a total fabrication.

      So when Gary Matson Jr. says, “I see myself as a crusader (or evangelist??) for truth and reason,” he demonstrates otherwise.

      • I believed that Nick had agreed to “Round Two” of our debate, accepting the premise that I would accept the empty tomb claim and he would accept the majority opinion on the authorship and the dating of the Gospels, based on this statement by Nick, comment #452:

        “Gary. The sad thing is that my case in the debate never relied on the Gospels and you’ve based it entirely on the Gospels. Grant all of these as true and I have zero problem whatsoever. I have a scenario that easily explains all the data and only requires taht God exists and wants to raise Jesus from the dead. Add in that I have the honor-shame motif working in my favor.”

        If I misunderstood Nick, I apologize.

      • Mr. Matson,

        Any “misunderstanding” was cleared by Nick in Post #507, where he point blank said, “I’ve never agreed to two or three, but it’s irrelevant because my case doesn’t depend on that.” And you did not contest that, nor apologize for your “misunderstanding” in your followup post, #515, 15 minutes later.

        After that, you posted the false allegations on your blog and on this website, as I indicated above. Even now, you have kept the false allegation on your blog. No retraction, no apology. You continue to misrepresent Nick and deceive your readers.

        So when you say, “I see myself as a crusader (or evangelist??) for truth and reason,” you contradict yourself with your actions.

  48. Gary, thanks for the response. I think that’s a pretty fair assessment. I agree that a literally resurrected religious figure is not the most probable explanation for the set of facts. But it seems to me that the Christian proposition has never been “believe this because it’s the most likely explanation”. I concur that it’s a fascinating subject. I went to 2 of the 3 debates between Wallace and Ehrman and got to chat with Bart some after the Chapel Hill debate. He’s a top notch scholar and funny to boot!

  49. Well, the Christian moderator over at Theology Web has started editing and deleting my comments because I committed the crime of “blasphemy”, referring to the reanimated corpse of a first century Jewish prophet using a common science-fiction descriptive term. So much for a “neutral” venue for our debate, Nick.

    If you want a free flowing debate without restrictions on the topic of religion, I suggest going to a skeptics blog. We are not thin-skinned about our beliefs and do not delete comments because they offend, criticize, or belittle our belief system.

    • Oh? So you were being dishonest when you agreed to the Campus Decorum?

      http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/faq.php?faq=theologywebfaq#faq_theologywebdecorum

      Look at what it says here:

      NO user-submitted content (including but not limited to Private Messages, forum-generated emails, post grades, blogs, user notes, or user profiles) shall contain any obscene, vulgar, illegal, sexually-explicit, gratuitously blasphemous, profane, harassing or generally distasteful language, pictures, references, abbreviations or links – partially masking such content with symbols or blanks is also not acceptable. This judgment is in the sole discretion of the Forum Leadership. Because Theologyweb is international in scope, sometimes words that are innocent in one culture may be considered vulgar in another, thus such words may be moderated. Intentionally linking to sites with pornographic content may result in the permanent banning of your user account. If uncertain, please private message a member of leadership for guidance before you post.

      In fact, that should have told you it was a Christian run web site and we have many many atheists who have never had a problem. We even have an area for only atheists and agnostics. No theists are allowed there.

      Oh. Let’s look at what you said here:

      “So I debated, but I debated going out of my way to break the “debate rules”. I used analogies to demonstrate that the Christian supernatural (Nick HATES that word) claims are just as unbelievable and nonsensical as the belief in the Tooth Fairy and leprechauns.”

      You see, by this, you admit that you know the rules and you go out of your way to break them. You really think you’re going to show yourself anyone should take seriously?

      It’s your own fault if you agreed to something and then decided to break that agreement and then exploded on the staff for upholding the agreement that you signed up to.

      You have no one to blame but yourself. The Christians didn’t do a thing to you. You brought it all on yourself.

  50. It’s 2015.

    However, in this modern, highly educated, technologically advanced world, you can still get yourself killed for drawing a cartoon of a Muslim prophet. And, you can get your speech censored on an internet forum for describing the alleged reanimated body of the Christian prophet, Jesus, as a zombie.

    That is censorship, folks. That is not free speech.

    This situation exposes the dangers of conservative theism; Christian, Muslim, or otherwise. “Blasphemy” should not be a crime in our modern world! Using vulgar, sexually explicit speech, or speech endorsing violence against other peaceful, law abiding people should not be tolerated, but “blasphemy”??

    This is why I, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and other non-theists speak out against conservative religion. It is a danger to liberty and freedom for ALL.

    • No. Governments censor. Forums moderate, and they have every right to and as I pointed out, you agreed to those terms when you became a member. How is it wrong for the forum to uphold the standards that you agreed to? Of course, you then said you went about seeking to break debate rules as much as possible. Do you think it really is responsible and mature to seek to break rules simply because you don’t like them?

      I also find it amazing that you say the new atheists are for freedom for all and yet want to restrict parents raising their children with their beliefs and call it child abuse.

    • When it comes to liberty and freedom, American founding father Noah Webster has far more credibility than Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Gary Matson Jr.:
      578. “Origin of Civil Liberty. Almost all the civil liberty now enjoyed in the world owes its origin to the principles of the Christian religion. Men began to understand their natural rights, as soon as the reformation from popery began to dawn in the sixteenth century; and civil liberty has been gradually advancing and improving, as genuine Christianity has prevailed. By the principles of the Christian religion we are not to understand the decisions of ecclesiastical councils, for these are the opinions of mere men; nor are we to suppose that religion to be any particular church established by law, with numerous dignitaries, living in stately palaces, arrayed in gorgeous attire, and rioting in luxury and wealth, squeezed from the scanty earnings of the labouring poor; nor is it a religion which consists in a round of forms, and in pompous rites and ceremonies. No; the religion which has introduced civil liberty, is the religion of Christ and His Apostles, which enjoins humility, piety, and benevolence; which acknowledges in every person a brother, or a sister, and a citizen with equal rights. This is genuine Christianity and to this we owe our free constitutions of government.”
      History of the United States: to which is prefixed a brief historical account of our [English] ancestors, from the dispersion at Babel, to their migration to America and of the Conquest of South America by the Spaniards. New Haven, Conn.; Louisville, Ky, 1832, pp. 273-274.

  51. Lastly, I ended my debate with Nick with one point that every conservative Christian should seriously consider: If the evidence for the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus is so good, as Nick and other Christian apologists claim, then why is it that NOT ONE public university on the planet includes the resurrection of Jesus in their world history textbooks as an historical event?

  52. @Gary (non): I assume that your claim is correct, since I do not have the time to check it. But I would think that there might be 2 reasons for it:
    1. Most/many historians would operate under the assumption of naturalism. This would preclude any “supernatural” claim from being investigated at all. The best they can do is to say that early Christians claimed that Jesus was resurrected… there is simply no methodological tool to investigate (i.e. what is the true probabilty of a miracle if God exists? Obviously, if He doesn’t exist, then the probability becomes very low, but how low exactly? How certain can we be that He doesn’t exist if some historical evidence seems to imply that He does exist? When does the historical evidence become strong enough to actually count as evidence for His existence and involvement in history?).
    2. But I think the more important reason, is that the fact (or not) of Jesus’ resurrection is not something that will allow you to be neutral, unbiased and objective. If it is true, it is earthshattering. You cannot look at it objectively… it will become immensely subjective if it is true. Everything we might believe about God and His existence (or not) and his involvement (or not) in our world changes if Jesus was truly resurrected. I don’t think it is possible to make a truly objective, scientific claim about the resurrection. It has profound theological implicatioins. And that is why even Christian historians might be hesitant to claim the resurrection as proven historically. They might rather present it as the best explanation we have for the historical facts we do have, but to go further than that is impossible without becoming subjective, IMHO.

    • I agree with almost everything you have said. The claim of the bodily resurrection of Jesus cannot be believed on historical evidence alone—that a dead man really was seen alive again by more than 500 people (that is what historians would evaluate, not the significance or meaning of the resurrection)—because the historical evidence itself is very weak.

      The belief in the Resurrection can only be believed by combining the weak historical evidence with faith (hope in something you cannot prove with evidence)—hope in something you very much want to be true.

      • Gary, your definition of faith is really strange to me. Where did you get it from? Because in the Bible faith is pretty much the faith (trust) you have in a person (or persons) based on their trustworthiness (faithfulness/reliability). It is definitely NOT the wishful thinking you seem to imply. The fact that 1st century sceptics like James (the brother of Jesus) and Saul of Tarsus became convinced that Jesus was risen, surely must count for something? That even the disciples did not really expect Jesus to be resurrected beforehand, must count for something? That the testimony to the resurrection by Paul in 1 Cor.15 was written down while most of the witnesses were still alive (including James), surely must count for something? That the church started in Jerusalem where thousands of witnesses to the crucifixion was living and where the tomb could be investigated, surely must count for something? That these witnesses kept to their testimony in spite of persecution, must surely count for something?

  53. Here’s the thing, folks. If the historical evidence for the Resurrection is not good enough for professional historians to put into public university history textbooks as an historical fact, in this country, or in the public university textbooks of any other country on the face of the planet, there is no good reason why I nor any other educated person should accept Nick’s claim that he has “excellent or even good” evidence for this claim.

    The very obvious truth is that the evidence for this claim is NOT good, it is weak. In order to believe this claim you must make a giant leap of faith, assisted in this giant leap of faith by an invisible spirit, a spirit whose existence can only be proven by the intense, devout feelings and intuition of the people who have chosen to believe this ancient story…despite a lack of good historical evidence.

    Christians and skeptics should simply accept this fact as the truth…and leave each other alone.

    • Gary. If the claim is weak, then answer the claim itself by showing where the evidence is wrong or insufficient. Right now, it’s apparent to anyone who can read this thread that rather than answering the case presented, you’re wanting to make a separate case. It doesn’t work.

    • Mr. Matson,

      You are little more than an “Osteopathic Manipulative Therapist”

      http://www.healthgrades.com/physician/dr-gary-matson-2m6hp

      who spends all day blathering online in at least three websites. You are hardly qualified to dictate a Christian paradigm. Especially since you keep failing to distinguish between unsupported assertion and evidence.

      When it comes to the New Testament, who has greater credibility, an “Osteopathic Manipulative Therapist” or a New Testament scholar?

      You are rudely cluttering the blog of Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, whose credentials are listed here:

      http://danielbwallace.com/cv/

      You say, “there is no good reason why I nor any other educated person should accept Nick’s claim that he has “excellent or even good” evidence for this claim.”

      In his field, Dr. Wallace is educated. You are not.

      Do you want “excellent or even good” evidence? Then read his works.

      • “Laying a Foundation: New Testament Textual Criticism,” in Interpreting the New Testament Text: Introduction to the Art and Science of Exegesis (a Festschrift for Harold Hoehner), ed. Darrell L. Bock and Buist M. Fanning (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006) 33-56.
      Dethroning Jesus: Exposing Popular Culture’s Quest to Unseat the Biblical Christ with Darrell L. Bock. Thomas Nelson, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7852-2615-4
      Reinventing Jesus: How Contemporary Skeptics Miss the Real Jesus and Mislead Popular Culture, with J. Ed Komoszewski and M. James Sawyer. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006. ISBN 0-8254-2982-X
      Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit? An Investigation into the Ministry of the Spirit of God Today, Ed. Daniel B. Wallace and M. James Sawyer. Biblical Studies Press, 2005. ISBN 0-7375-0068-9. Two articles in this book were written by Wallace: “The Uneasy Conscience of a Non-Charismatic Evangelical,” and “The Witness of the Spirit in Romans 8:16: Interpretation and Implications.”
      The Basics of New Testament Syntax: An Intermediate Grammar. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000. ISBN 0-310-23229-5.
      A Scripture Index to Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary of the Greek Testament in the reprint of Moulton and Milligan (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1997).
      Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of New Testament Greek. [ ExSyn] Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.
      • “The Majority Text Theory: History, Methods, and Critique,” in a Festschrift for Bruce M. Metzger entitled, The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis, in Studies and Documents, volume 46 (ed. B. D. Ehrman and M. W. Holmes; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994) 297-320.
      • “Inspiration, Preservation, and New Testament Textual Criticism,” in New Testament Essays in Honor of Homer A. Kent, Jr. (ed. Gary T. Meadors; Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1991): 69-102.
      And his articles:
      • “The Gospel according to Bart: A Review Article of Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49 (2006) 327-49.
      • “Greek Grammar and the Personality of the Holy Spirit,” Bulletin for Biblical Research (the journal of the Institute for Biblical Research) 13.1 (2003) 97-125.
      • “Innovations in Text and Translation of the NET Bible, New Testament.” Bible Translator (Ja, Jl Technical Papers) vol 52:3, 2001. 335-349.
      • “Was Junia Really an Apostle? a Re-examination of Rom 16.7.” New Testament Studies vol 47:1, 2001. 76-91.
      • “Granville Sharp : A Model of Evangelical Scholarship and Social Activism.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society vol 41, 1998. 591-613.
      • “Review of ‘Levels of Constituent Structure in New Testament Greek.'” Critical Review of Books in Religion vol 9, 1996. 249-251.
      • “Historical Revisionism and the Majority Text Theory : The Cases of F H A Scrivener and Herman C Hoskier.” New Testament Studies vol 41, 1995. 280-285.
      • “Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit? The Uneasy Conscience of a Noncharismatic Evangelical.” Christianity Today vol 38, 1994. 34-38.
      • “A Review of The Earliest Gospel Manuscript? by Carsten Peter Thiede.” Bibliotheca Sacra vol 151, 1994. 350-354.
      • “The Majority-Text Theory : History, Methods and Critique.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society vol 37, 1994. 185-215.
      • “7Q5 : The Earliest NT Papyrus?.” Westminster Theological Journal vol 56 is 1, 1994. 173-180.
      • “Reconsidering “The Story of Jesus and the Adulteress Reconsidered”.”
      New Testament Studies vol 39, 1993. 290-296.
      • “Inspiration, Preservation, and New Testament Textual Criticism,” in Grace Theological Journal 12 (1992) 21-51 (reprint of article in Homer Kent’s Festschrift [see above]).
      • “The Majority Text and the Original Text : Are They Identical?.” Bibliotheca Sacra vol 148, 1991. 151-169.
      • “Inspiration, Preservation, and New Testament Textual Criticism.” Grace Theological Journal vol 12, 1991. 21-50.
      • “A Textual Problem in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 : Ek Tēs Orgēs Vs Apo Tēs Orgēs.” Bibliotheca Sacra vol 147, 1990. 470-479.
      • “Galatians 3:19-20 : A Crux Interpretum for Paul’s View of the Law.” Westminster Theological Journal vol 52, 1990. 225-245.
      • “John 5,2 and the Date of the Fourth Gospel.” Biblica vol 71 is 2, 1990. 177-205.
      • “Some Second Thoughts on the Majority Text.” Bibliotheca Sacra vol 146, 1989. 270-290.
      • “Orgizesthe in Ephesians 4:26 : Command or Condition?.” Criswell Theological Review vol 3, 1989. 353-372.
      • “The Majority Text : A New Collating Base?.” New Testament Studies vol 35 is 4, 1989. 609-618.
      • “The Semantics and Exegetical Significance of the Object – Complement Construction in the New Testament.” Grace Theological Journal vol 6, 1985. 91-112.
      • “The Relation of Adjective to Noun in Anarthrous Constructions in the New Testament.” Novum Testamentum vol 26, 1984. 128-167.
      • “The Semantic Range of the Article-Noun-kai-Noun Plural Construction in the New Testament.” Grace Theological Journal vol 4, 1983. 59-84.

      Mr. Matson, what are your contributions to scholarship?

      Which of the above works have you read?

      • Hello, Pastor Baxter. (Pastor Jeff Baxter, LCMS retired)

        (Pastor B. is my online nemesis. He follows me everywhere I go on the internet, trying to stop me from helping others see the truth about supernatural claims and other superstitions. But, that’s fine. I believe its always good to hear both sides of an issue.)

        According to the Bible, the Pharisees in Jesus day asked for a sign, for evidence, that Jesus was who he said he was: the Son of God. Did Jesus give them a sign? Did Jesus give them the evidence they sought? No. No he did not. Why?

        The Gospels tell us why: Jesus wants you to believe in him by faith, not by evidence. And not just any faith. Jesus wants you to believe in him with the faith of small child. Small children do not need to read the peer-reviewed research of Christian apologists and theologians. Small children do not “weigh the evidence”. Small children believe what they are told.

        Jesus wants you to stop evaluating evidence; he wants you to stop using your own intellect and education to determine if what He said is true really is true. Jesus wants those of you who want to believe in him to turn off your brains; Jesus wants you to have the brain of a small child: empty…and to just do and believe what he tells you. That is Jesus’ way to believe. Nick is trying to teach you another means of belief. A belief based on evidence. Jesus never taught this kind of belief.

        If you want to believe in Jesus, believe in him as Jesus himself taught: empty your brain of any education and adult intelligence and simply believe what you are told, just as a small child would.

      • By the way, Pastor Baxter, there are A LOT of board certified osteopathic physicians (D.O.’s) in the state of Texas, in private practice and in the military, and I would bet a good percentage of them would not be very happy to hear that a Texas LCMS Lutheran pastor is slandering their profession on the internet by calling them “little more than therapists”.

      • Matson: Hello, Pastor Baxter. (Pastor Jeff Baxter, LCMS retired)

        Mr. Matson,

        Once again you demonstrate an inability to discern accusation from proof.

        What proof do you offer that I am Pastor Baxter? Is it my accent?

        Matson: (Pastor B. is my online nemesis. He follows me everywhere I go on the internet,

        The paranoids may be after you but I assure you I am not one of them.
        Matson: trying to stop me from helping others see the truth about supernatural claims and other superstitions.

        It’s more like we’re trying to stop you from spreading stupidity. This is a good thing.

        Dr. Wallace, the host of this website, is committed to the truth. Are you accusing him of perpetrating falsehood?

        Matson: But, that’s fine. I believe its always good to hear both sides of an issue.)

        Then your opening paragraph was moot.

        Matson: … peer-reviewed research of Christian apologists and theologians …

        Peer-review! What a splendid idea. Why don’t you contact your fellow MD’s and have them evaluate you and your statements here? What would they say about a fellow who can’t distinguish between allegation and proof?

        Nick has addressed the rest of your ignorance.

        Matson: By the way, Pastor Baxter, there are A LOT of board certified osteopathic physicians (D.O.’s) in the state of Texas, in private practice and in the military, and I would bet a good percentage of them would not be very happy to hear that a Texas LCMS Lutheran pastor is slandering their profession on the internet by calling them “little more than therapists”.

        You poor fellow. It isn’t slander at all. It is a matter of one occupation being unqualified to do the duties of a different occupation.

        You failed to consider the following statement:

        When it comes to the New Testament, who has greater credibility, an “Osteopathic Manipulative Therapist” or a New Testament scholar?

        When you ignore the context, what does that indicate about your comprehension skills—or lack thereof?

        When it comes to the New Testament, who has greater credibility, an “Osteopathic Manipulative Therapist” or a New Testament scholar?

        Mr. Matson, what are your contributions to scholarship?

        Which of Dr. Wallace’s works have you read?

        You claim to have been a Christian. How were you born again? What did Jesus do to transform your life?

        Answer the questions.

      • I am sure that Dr. Wallace is a highly educated, highly respected New Testament scholar. I am sure that he is a very intelligent man. But Dr. Wallace is an expert in early Christian BELIEF in the reanimation of a dead man. I, on the other hand, as a board certified physician, am considered an expert on the human body and its biological properties and capabilities. If a judge wanted an expert opinion on the ability to reanimate dead human tissue, he would call me long before he would call a NT scholar. The reanimation of dead human tissue is not the field of expertise of Dr. Wallace nor any other NT scholar. But it is within my expertise, and I can tell you as an expert in the field in question, that if the cells of a human body have been dead for even an hour, let alone for three days, it is IMPOSSIBLE to reanimate that dead body.

        To claim that this reanimation did happen is the world of science fiction.

      • Matson: I am sure that Dr. Wallace is a highly educated, highly respected New Testament scholar. I am sure that he is a very intelligent man.

        And what do you have to say about yourself?

        http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?7724-Comment-Thread-for-The-Resurrection-of-Jesus-Apologiaphoenix-vs-Gary&p=226076&viewfull=1#post226076

        Matson: I apologize for my stupidity.

        http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?7724-Comment-Thread-for-The-Resurrection-of-Jesus-Apologiaphoenix-vs-Gary&p=227306&viewfull=1#post227306

        Matson: Yes, I get it, dear Christians. I am an idiot.

        You have discredited yourself. There is no reason to believe your unsupported claims. Should an alleged doctor who admits himself to be stupid and an idiot—and demonstrates himself to be that way–be allowed to treat patients?

        Matson: But Dr. Wallace is an expert in early Christian BELIEF in the reanimation of a dead man.

        And you are not. As a doctor, you have failed to demonstrate that belief was false from those who were alive at the time. Whereas Dr. Wallace is an expert in New Testament testimony.

        Matson: I, on the other hand, as a board certified physician, am considered an expert on the human body and its biological properties and capabilities. If a judge wanted an expert opinion on the ability to reanimate dead human tissue, he would call me long before he would call a NT scholar.

        Why would a judge want the testimony of an alleged expert who is willfully ignorant, has comprehension problems, jumping to conclusions and doesn’t know the difference between assertion and evidence, as you have copiously demonstrated in this thread alone?

        Matson: The reanimation of dead human tissue is not the field of expertise of Dr. Wallace nor any other NT scholar.

        But resurrected bodies are within the field of expertise of the apostle Luke, a physician. He reported the resurrections of Lazarus and Jesus. He was alive at the time and investigated those incidents.

        Luke 1:1-4: Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

        Acts 1:1-3: The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
        Greenleaf says, “That Luke was a physician appears not only from the testimony of Pau1, (Col. 4:14) but from the internal marks in his Gospel, showing that he was both an acute observer, and had given particular and even professional attention to all our Savior’s miracles of healing. Thus, the man whom Matthew and Mark describe simply as a leper, Luke describes as full of leprosy; (Luke 5:12; Matt. 8:2; Mark 1:40.) he, whom they mention as having a withered hand, Luke says had his right hand withered; (Luke 6:6; Matt. 12:10; Mark 3:1) and of the maid, of whom the others say that Jesus took her by the hand and she arose, he adds, that her spirit came to her again. (Luke 8:55; Matt. 9:25; Mark 5:42 ) He alone, with professional accuracy of observation, says that virtue went out of Jesus, and healed the sick; (Luke 6:19) he alone states the fact that the sleep of the disciples in Gethsemane was induced by extreme sorrow; and mentions the blood-like sweat of Jesus, as occasioned by the intensity of his agony; and he alone relates the miraculous healing of Malchus’s ear. (Luke 22:44-45, 51) That he was also a man of a liberal education, the comparative elegance of his writings sufficiently shows. (See Horne, Introduction 4.260-272. [1825 edition], where references may be found to earlier writers.)

        Why did you fail to take this into consideration?

      • Matson: But it is within my expertise, and I can tell you as an expert in the field in question, that if the cells of a human body have been dead for even an hour, let alone for three days, it is IMPOSSIBLE to reanimate that dead body.

        You are engaged in circular reasoning, a logical fallacy. Do you think logical fallacies demonstrate rational thinking?

        Matthew 19:26
        But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

        Matson: To claim that this reanimation did happen is the world of science fiction.

        1. The term is “resurrection,” not “reanimation.”

        2. As a doctor, you’re neither qualified in the fields of fiction or nonfiction, nor in the fields of jurisprudence and history. You’re making a fallacious appeal to authority, and that’s a logical fallacy. Does that demonstrate rational thinking?

        3. Tell us why the early Christians would be persecuted for telling fiction. Tell us the Jewish and Roman laws for storytelling that merited imprisonment and the death penalty. Tell us in your next post, or concede you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  54. Pastor Jeff Baxter is pastor of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Palacios, Texas.

  55. It’s so amusing to see all that Gary is wrong on. Looks like paranoia is kicking in.

    Anyway….

    Gary: According to the Bible, the Pharisees in Jesus day asked for a sign, for evidence, that Jesus was who he said he was: the Son of God. Did Jesus give them a sign? Did Jesus give them the evidence they sought? No. No he did not. Why?

    REply: Bzzz. Wrong answer. Jesus had already given plenty of signs.

    For one thing, why would the Pharisees be wanting a sign from Jesus to show His identity unless there was already some discussion of His identity, some reason for people to think He was the Messiah and/or Son of God? The Pharisees did not go up to random strangers asking for signs. They went to people that were being talked about and were developing a high honor reputation and would be threatening their own honor. In fact, this was AFTER Jesus had sent out messengers in His name in Matthew 10 and AFTER Jesus showed He was claiming to be the Messiah by the answer given to the disciples of John the Baptist and directly before this passage, the Pharisees had been saying that Jesus cast out devils by the hand of Beelzebub. Jesus had given them more than enough signs. Their problem was not wanting evidence, but rejecting the evidence they’d already been given.

    Gary: The Gospels tell us why: Jesus wants you to believe in him by faith, not by evidence. And not just any faith. Jesus wants you to believe in him with the faith of small child. Small children do not need to read the peer-reviewed research of Christian apologists and theologians. Small children do not “weigh the evidence”. Small children believe what they are told.

    Reply: No. Small children act in trust. That’s the difference. I’ve already addressed the question of what is meant by faith here: http://deeperwaters.ddns.net/?p=4641 Furthermore, you could consider what Pilch and Malina say here:

    Faith/Faithfulness

    “These terms refer to the value of reliability. The value is ascribed to persons as well as to objects and qualities. Relative to persons, faith is reliability in interpersonal relations: it thus takes on the value of enduring personal loyalty, of personal faithfulness. The nouns ‘faith’, ‘belief’, ‘fidelity’, ‘faithfulness,’ as well as the verbs ‘to have faith’ and ‘to believe,’ refers to the social glue that binds one person to another. This bond is the social, externally manifested, emotionally rooted behavior of loyalty, commitment, and solidarity. As a social bond, it works with the value of (personal and group) attachment (translated ‘love’) and the value of (personal and group) allegiance or trust (translated ‘hope.’) p. 72 Pilch and Malina Handbook of Biblical Social Values.

    But let’s consider what you said. Small children do not need to read the peer-reviewed research of Christian apologists and theologians. (Never mind that we also here read atheists and liberals and other such people.) Let’s see. Who was it who said they do not need to read?

    “Dear friend: You do NOT need to read the books of Christian apologists, theologians, and pastors to determine if these assertions of ancient, middle eastern facts are true. No. All you have to do is use your brain. And what does your brain tell you: It is all superstitious nonsense.”

    Why yes. This is you. You are the one advocating then thinking like a child. Well it also shows that you think like a child. If I did not know better, I would think I was reading the rant of a high schooler from you. The rest of us here are reading and bringing forward evidence for our positions.

    Gary: Jesus wants you to stop evaluating evidence;

    Reply: So are you still trying to follow Jesus because you stopped evaluating a long time ago.

    Gary: he wants you to stop using your own intellect and education to determine if what He said is true really is true.

    Reply: Looks like you stopped doing this too.

    Gary: Jesus wants those of you who want to believe in him to turn off your brains;

    Reply: So we can think more like the person who says you don’t need to read and study?

    Gary: Jesus wants you to have the brain of a small child: empty…

    Reply: Oh the irony.

    Gary: and to just do and believe what he tells you.

    Reply: You mean like how you’ve gone from completely believing Christian claims to completely believing atheist claims?

    Gary: That is Jesus’ way to believe.

    Reply: No. That is your way.

    Gary: Nick is trying to teach you another means of belief. A belief based on evidence. Jesus never taught this kind of belief.

    reply: Nope. I’m following in His footsteps. I’m living a trust based on that which has been shown to be reliable.

    Gary: If you want to believe in Jesus, believe in him as Jesus himself taught: empty your brain of any education and adult intelligence and simply believe what you are told, just as a small child would.

    Reply: You did this in the past with Christian claims Gary.

    Today, you do it with atheist claims.

    The mindset is the same. The loyalty is different.

    • Keep convincing yourself that you are highly educated on this subject, Nick, but in reality you are peddling a first century equivalent of a modern science fiction flick. You can study science fiction until you are the world’s expert, but you will still be operating outside the realm of reality. Dead human flesh cannot be reanimated, Nick. Dr. Frankenstein is the only person in the history of the world who has had any success in that endeavor…and that was in a movie.

      Educated people who did not grow up in your belief system are not buying this ancient story anymore, and many educated people who did grow up in it don’t buy it anymore, such as yours truly. Christianity is in decline everywhere in the educated, western world. Blame materialism, blame poor preaching, but I blame the internet. The internet is the doom of all religious superstitions, including the superstition of the reanimation of dead human flesh.

      • Gary (non)
        But why are you no longer buying it? Because of “facts” (which ones?) or because it doesn’t fit your worldview? Because the issue really turns on the possibility of God existing. Looking at creation itself, it seems to me that there is plenty of evidence that a Creator exists. And if He was able to create life out of non-life (something that never happens and has never been shown as possible, yet believed by most evolutionists as having had occured at least once – although apparently through natural processes only – abiogenesis theories) how is it even remotely difficult for Him to recreate life in a body killed barely 3 days earlier? You see, your worldview has to assume that God could not possibly have intervened in history for it to make sense. You have to assume that life can spontaneously develop from non-life in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, because it is inconceivable that (a) God could be involved. This is not looking at reality realistically… this is a preconceived world-view forcing you to view reality through biased glasses.

      • Proverbs 12:1
        Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, But he who hates correction is stupid.

      • Matson: Keep convincing yourself that you are highly educated on this subject, Nick, but in reality you are peddling a first century equivalent of a modern science fiction flick.

        But Nick is highly educated on this subject, as is Dr. Wallace. Nick demonstrated you were in serious need of correction. You should thank him for correcting you, and thank Dr. Wallace for giving you the opportunity to learn.

        Your claim of “first century equivalent of a modern science fiction flick” is bogus. Obviously, history and theology are beyond your expertise as a doctor. Does your failure to understand this demonstrate a rational mind?

  56. Chavoux,

    You bring up a very good point: Is there evidence for a Creator?

    I believe that there is very good evidence for a Creator, in particular, the fine tuning of the universe. However, the very possible probability of a Creator in no way translates to the existence of Yahweh-Jesus.

    How do Christians make the jump from the probability of a Creator to Yahweh-Jesus being that Creator? Answer: the Resurrection of Jesus.

    My contention is that the resurrection claim of Jesus is based on extremely weak evidence = four anonymous books written decades after the event and second century hearsay. This is very weak evidence to claim the Creator is Yahweh-Jesus.

    The evidence suggests to me that there likely is a Creator but that this Creator operates in a “hands-off” mode: He/she/it created the universe, established the laws it would operate by, and then stepped back and watched. This best explains the evidence for the evolution of species, the continued expansion of the universe, and the massive quantity of violence and suffering in the world.

    Christians are welcome to accept the weak evidence for the Resurrection as evidence that Yahweh-Jesus is the Creator, but then they have a problem, in my opinion: Their explanation for the massive quantity of violence and suffering in the world. The Christian belief that your god sits on a throne up in outer space and looks down every day to watch little children be brutally raped, tortured, and murdered, and justifies this horrific suffering with the excuse that these children somehow merit this suffering, all because their ancestors ate your god’s forbidden fruit, is outrageous, inhumane, and immoral. It is for this reason and many others that I believe that your belief system is nothing more than an ancient tall tale, invented by ancient peoples, to explain a scary and dangerous world, that they did not understand.

    • Thanks Gary, I think you have finally given your real reason for rejecting the Christian God. This is why you will find any evidence for the resurrection insufficient. You know that is not only he gospels that testify to the resurrection of Jesus. The fact that people who became convinced of the truth of the resurrection also became Christian believers should not count against their testimony.

      But to answer your real objection then, a number of points:
      1. The simple act of our first ancestors’ disobedience goes much further than you seem to think. Your very examples of rape, murder and torture should show you how deep the effect of that disobedience has been to the human morality.
      2. The suffering is in no way justified. Rather, it is these very things for which humankind will be judged. I don’t get how you get the jump from human sin (yes, that is exactly what those things you complain about are) to God having to justify their behaviour?
      3. The question should maybe be whether the human race should be allowed to survive on earth at all. To a large extent our suffering is only the result of our own actions, actions explicitly forbidden by God.
      4. We might have difficulty explaining all the suffering in the world (actually I think our own corrupt nature is explanation enough), but by what standard can you call anything evil or wrong? “Do to others as you would want them to do to you” (a summary of the law) is simply the other side of “as you do to others, so shall be done to you” (“eye for an eye, tooth for tooth”). Where does that sense of goodness, of what is right, come from in your scheme of things? From a biblical perspective both our sense of what is good and right (since we were created in the image of God) and our corruption (since we fell into sin) makes sense. From your perspective, why should anything be morally right or wrong? Why should the suffering of the weak and innocent matter?
      5. Life is not only suffering and pain. Indeed, pain serves to remind us that things are not right with the world. But life is also full of goodness and joy…. especially for those who have been born again. This alone might be one reason why God has not intervened and started the final judgement yet. Once again, why should there be any joy in the world except for procreating and leaving offspring, from your perspective?
      6. Your worldview of an absent or uninterested creator “God” is still the main reason why you consider the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus as insufficient IMHO, not the evidence itself. It really isn’t as weak as you think.

      • “From your perspective, why should anything be morally right or wrong? Why should the suffering of the weak and innocent matter?”

        Evolution, my friend. Evolution.

        Humans are a herd animal. Herds establish rules of behavior to ensure the survival of the herd. What we now call “morals” is nothing more than the rules for maintaining the well-being of our particular herd.

        Do you really believe that eating some god’s forbidden fruit in anyway justifies the torture, rape, and murder of children, an event that happens every day on our planet? If you do, I question your morality, my friend.

  57. Gary,

    As a board certified physician and med school professor I too would concur that cells dead for even an hour cannot be revitalized. But I think the NT writers are pretty clear in their intent to depict an other wordly event, namely God intervening and doing something otherwise impossible. If we did know of a way to raise a person who had been dead for days the the resurrection of Jesus would not need to be construed as a true miracle.

    Forgive me for this observation – but how were these contradictions you now see not obvious to you in years past? Even a year ago on your blog you posted words of encouragement to other believers, and now your words sound like paraphrases from Sam Harris.

    I would contend (perhaps wrongly as far as some evangelicals would say) that Christian faith is grounded in belief in Jesus the Messiah and NOT in a word-for-word inerrant holy book. This may not be the faith of Jerry Falwell, but it was the faith of the early believers.

    • Have you studied what Jews say are the reasons why Jesus could not have been the Messiah, in their opinion? I would encourage you to read orthodox Jewish author, Asher Norman’s book, “Twenty-Six Reasons why Jews don’t Believe in Jesus”. It is a “best-seller” among Jews. Ask you local rabbi. He offers some pretty remarkable evidence of how Christian translators purposely mistranslated passages in Isaiah, Daniel, and other books of the Tanach to “shoehorn” Jesus into the passages. (That is Norman’s term, not mine.)

      I think you will find the book extremely interesting, and maybe even enlightening.

  58. Here is a video link in which Asher Norman presents the Jewish evidence against Jesus being the Messiah:

    https://myspace.com/twenty_sixreasons/video/twenty-six-reasons-why-jews-don-t-believe-in-jesus/31421481

    So, Charles, it isn’t just an inerrant Bible. I truly believe that the Christian belief system is a house of cards. There are so many problems, that you could pull out any number of them and the whole “house” would collapse. Here are some other “cards”;

    Lack of good archeological evidence for the Exodus, the 40 years in the Sinai, the Conquest of Canaan, and the great kingdoms of David and Solomon. Yes, I know Christian scholars point to a couple of stellae and other artifacts allegedly supporting the Bible, but they are very,very weak. The overwhelming majority of archeologists no longer believe these claims are historical.

    Jesus believed that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Modern writing analysis proves he could not have. Jesus made a mistake. The Hebrew god, Yahweh, says he doesn’t make mistakes, so Jesus could not be Yahweh, as Christians claim.

    And the list goes on and on.

    So it isn’t just ONE thing, Charles.

  59. I’m pretty familiar with Asher Norman’s work. Very impressive attention to detail, even if I don’t agree with it. Biblical archeology is another interesting question, with each point of contention being a debate in itself. But then again I like this kind of stuff…

    I suppose I’m just surprised that you seem to have made just a drastic change in a year. I’m guessing you feel like you were cheated somehow (not intended to be insulting). I wrestled with most of this before becoming a Christian (I was raised catholic but became agnostic). In all of my reading of the new atheist authors (I’ve read most ALL of it! Ugh!) I have yet to encounter a reason to doubt that I hadn’t already come up with 20 years ago myself.

    • I feel deceived. However, most of the people who taught me this belief system (pastors, parents, Sunday School teachers, etc.) were also deceived. So there is really no one to blame. I believe that we have ALL been fooled by an ancient legend; a legend that very devout, but very mistaken, early Christians came to believe as fact.

      So why do you and I disagree? I think that the reason why two intelligent, educated people can look at the same evidence for the Biblical claims and reach two very different conclusions, is based on two things: our biases regarding the supernatural, and, our evaluation of the strength of the evidence for each side.

      For example, I believe that the evidence that Christians present for the historicity of the Exodus of several million (or even 600,000) Hebrews is pathetic. However, some very intelligent, highly-educated Christians believe that the evidence is very strong.

      It’s really odd. I’m not sure there is any way to bridge these two issues so that we look at the evidence with common criteria for strong evidence, weak evidence, and sufficient evidence.

    • Charles,

      Maybe you could list the top five pieces of evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus and rank them from 0-10 for their strength compared to other claims of historicity from ancient history. For instance, I would rank the following historical claims thus:

      1. Hitler invaded Poland to start WWII: 10
      2. Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon to seize Rome: 9
      3. Jesus bodily resurrected from the dead and was seen alive by more than 500 people: 0

      • Not necessary, Gary Matson Jr. Either an historical event happened, or it didn’t. Name testimony from the first century stating the Resurrection didn’t happen. Do it in your next post, or concede you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  60. Gary,

    It seems there was enough evidence for you to believe the resurrection and the exodus several years ago! The truth is that evidence from that long ago is different from the evidence for Hitler’s actions in WW2. The Caesar reference is maybe a little different. Did he did he really say, “alea iacta est” as Suetonius alleges?

    Also the bibilcal claims are that impossible things happened. What possible evidence could there be for that other than the reports of witnesses? I think we would all dismiss as unlikely the claim that a man 2000 years rose after being dead for 3 days, not as much because there is not proof but because dead people don’t rise and because ancient miracle stories are a dime a dozen. As such the burden of proof is quite high.

    But the biblical claim is that something impossible did happen. And this belief here requires acquiescence before anything else. But then you know this from your years as a Christian. Overall I think the NT accounts stand up fairly well as consistent with the fact that a large amount of people believed something really did happen. You’re right that they all could be just sincerely wrong. But no one was there with an iPhone camera.

    So I judge that there is sufficient evidence that a large group of people believed that Jesus rose from the dead, marking him out as God’s messiah.

    I often see atheists identifying as devoted to “science and reason” as opposed to religious belief. I have always found this strange in a way. We all employ rational analysis every day in certain things (don’t walk off a cliff) but not in others (I like this song…). Self identification as one who always employs rational thought, even when it may not be the most natural inclination (my loved one has died and I want to feel like they are not gone for good) seems to me neither beneficial nor something toward which one should strive, unless that individual feels a need to have that as part of a self identity.

    • “I often see atheists identifying as devoted to “science and reason” as opposed to religious belief.”

      We all must pick a worldview or a perspective on reality, Charles. I have chosen a world view, a reality, based on Reason and the Scientific Method. I believe that this worldview has the best track record, so far, in human history.

      If a more reliable worldview comes along, I will gladly abandon my current worldview. I believe in my worldview based on observable, repeatable evidence, not because an ancient holy book tells me I should.

  61. Charles,

    You said, “Overall I think the NT accounts stand up fairly well as consistent with the fact that a large amount of people believed something really did happen.”

    When you say “a large amount of people” where are you getting this number? If we read the Gospels, Jesus appeared to a handful of women, to the Eleven, and to two disciples on the Emmaus Road. That is less than 20.

    In I Corinthians chapter 15, Paul seems to be quoting an early Creed. His list of witnesses is oddly different. His list includes James and omits the women. He also lists Peter as the first person Jesus appeared to, a claim not made in any of the Gospels or in Acts. I know that Christians have many explanations for these discrepancies. But then Paul says that five hundred people at once saw Jesus and that most of these people were still alive at the time that Paul was writing the letter.

    It is very odd to me that none of the authors of the Gospels and Acts mention this “five hundred at once” statement. It is odd to me that the author of Luke, who tells us in Luke chapter one that he thoroughly investigated all previous writings about Jesus (wouldn’t this include Paul’s writings??), and says he verified the accuracy of the information by speaking to “eyewitnesses”, says nothing about “five hundred at once”.

    We have no idea where Paul obtained the Creed in I Corinthians. Sure, maybe he got it from Peter and James on his trip to Jerusalem, but maybe he didn’t. Maybe he received this information from second, third, fourth, etc.-hand sources. If Luke is telling us the truth, that his information comes straight from eyewitnesses, and that he is only going to give us details that he had verified as true, with these eyewitnesses, but he leaves out this “five hundred at once” claim, I have to go with Luke, and believe that the “five hundred at once” claim is an embellishment that Luke didn’t believe.

    So if Luke is accurate in his details in Luke and Acts, the number of “witnesses” does not include “500 at once”. So even if we throw in a few dozen more “eyewitnesses”, we are now up to fifty.

    So, Charles, do you believe that just because circa 50 uneducated, desperate, depressed, grieving first century Galilean peasants believed that their dead leader had appeared to them in the flesh shortly after his death, that this is strong evidence that we today should buy this ancient tale as historical fact?

    • Gary (non),
      “Evolution, my friend. Evolution.

      Humans are a herd animal. Herds establish rules of behavior to ensure the survival of the herd. What we now call “morals” is nothing more than the rules for maintaining the well-being of our particular herd.

      Do you really believe that eating some god’s forbidden fruit in anyway justifies the torture, rape, and murder of children, an event that happens every day on our planet? If you do, I question your morality, my friend.”

      1. Does this mean that morals are only applicable as long as I can show that it will benefit “our particular herd”? In other words, killing non-reproductive members of society (or non-contributing members) would no longer be morally evil in your view? Eugenics (like the Nazis) should then be totally acceptable? And you question my morality? But how do get from “eating some god’s forbidden fruit” (the first sin) to it JUSTIFYING “torture, rape, and murder” (other sins explicitly forbidden by God’s law)? I just don’t see the logic here…. “Do not eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” “Do not rape (commit adultery/fornication).” “Do not murder.” All are equally forbidden by God! NONE are justified!

      2. Now as for Asher Norman, he does not really say anything new to somebody who has been involved in Jewish evangelism, except maybe for his stance on the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth, and there he is simply totally off-base. I can simply mention that J.P. Holding, amongst others have adequately answered that objection here: http://www.tektonics.org/qt/remslist.php . There is plenty of evidence, both from the New Testament manuscripts and other early references that Jesus truly existed. As for his claims about the Messianic prophecies, as early as 1883 Albert Edersheim already showed that they were understood as being about the Messiah by the early rabbis (http://www.philologos.org/__eb-lat/appen09.htm). It was the later rabbinical traditions that (in reaction to the Christian understanding) tried to downplay the messianic implications of these prophecies, not the Christians who twisted the meaning of Scripture. If you want to go into the details of Messianic prophecy, feel free to mention your specific objections… to me personally it has been the final confirmation of the truth about Jesus of Nazareth. There are many many more prophecies that were fulfilled in Him that are not even mentioned in the New Testament.

      3. “It is very odd to me that none of the authors of the Gospels and Acts mention this “five hundred at once” statement. It is odd to me that the author of Luke, who tells us in Luke chapter one that he thoroughly investigated all previous writings about Jesus (wouldn’t this include Paul’s writings??), and says he verified the accuracy of the information by speaking to “eyewitnesses”, says nothing about “five hundred at once”.”

      Let us just quickly review the testimony of the gospels and Paul:
      1. All 4 gospels mentions the women finding the empty tomb.
      2. Two Gospels (Matt and John) mentions Jesus then appearing to (some of) the women after this (and the longer ending of Mark, which I will exclude, because of textual uncertainty).
      3. Two Gospels (Luke and John) mentions Peter (and John) running to the tomb and finding it empty (3 gospels Matt, Luke and John and the longer ending of Mark mentions the women reporting the empty tomb to the other disciples).
      4. Paul (1 Cor.15) and Luke (24:33-34) mentions the meeting with Peter.
      5. Paul (1 Cor.15), Matt. (a later meeting in Galilee?), Luke and John mentions the meeting with the 11 disciples (“the twelve”) in Jerusalem on that first day of the week.
      6. Matthew and John mentions a later meeting with the disciples in Galilee. Luke in Acts mentions that there were various meetings with the disciples over a period of 40 days, which would include these meetings in Galilee. John 20:30 also mentions many other signs (in the context of resurrection appearances) that are unrecorded. Matthew does not mention the number of disciples Jesus met on the mountain in Galilee, but since the majority of Jesus’ disciples came from Galilee, it is probable that this could be the “more than 500 brothers at one time” of 1 Cor.15. The incident in John 22 is obviously another appearance, although also in Galilee. Both Matthew and Mark mentions the angels telling the women that Jesus will meet the disciples in Galilee before this.
      7. The meeting James is then mentioned in 1 Cor.15, and although not explicitly in any of the gospels, the fact that Acts 1:14 mentions the brothers of Jesus (who we know from the gospels (e.g. John 7, Matt.13 and Mark 3:21) did not believe in Jesus before the resurrection, now being with the disciples in Jerusalem, certainly suggests that something convinced them now that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Maybe His appearance to James?
      8. While Luke only mentions the meetings near Jerusalem and Matthew only those in Galilee, John mentions meetings both in Jerusalem and in Galilee. Paul does not say where any of the appearances took place, but both Luke and John makes it clear that there were more appearances by Jesus which they did not describe.
      9. After James, Paul then mentions all the apostles in 1 Cor.15. These would include at least “Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias” of whom Matthias was chosen as apostle in the place of Judas and who had to have been witnesses of the resurrection. It can be shown that Paul uses the term apostle wider than simply the original 12 (e.g. including Barnabas as an apostle) for anybody sent out by either the Lord Jesus Himself (Matt.28:18-20, Luk.24:46-48) or by the Holy Spirit through the church afterwards (Acts.13:1-4).
      10. “So, Charles, do you believe that just because circa 50 uneducated, desperate, depressed, grieving first century Galilean peasants believed that their dead leader had appeared to them in the flesh shortly after his death, that this is strong evidence that we today should buy this ancient tale as historical fact?” Luke in Acts 1:15 makes it clear that the Jerusalem group of disciples were at least 120 altogether (nothing like the 50 you mention). But it is exactly the fact that they were transformed from a group of “uneducated, desperate, depressed, grieving first century Galilean peasants” to people who proclaimed boldly that “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts.4:20) that I find so convincing. The fact that their testimony in the very place where Jesus was crucified could convince thousands, I find compelling. The fact that both the rejection of Jesus by His own people and the proclamation of the good news to the nations were prophesied, I find compelling. That both the death of Jesus and His resurrection was foretold, that the time of His death (before the destruction of the 2nd temple) was foretold, that His worldwide rule from the right hand of God (currently being fulfilled) was foretold and more, I all find compelling evidence, both that God is involved in this world and that Jesus is indeed the promised Messiah.

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