Fact Checking Dan Barker: From our Recent Debate June 6, 2015

This is a guest post by Dr. Justin W. Bass regarding his recent debate with well-known atheist, Dan Barker. The debate topic was “Jesus of Nazareth: Lord or Legend?”

“I discovered that there is no evidence for Christianity” –Dan Barker (Losing Faith in Faith, 69).

Dan Barker wrote these words in 1992 in his first book Losing Faith in Faith recounting his de-conversion from a fundamentalist Christian pastor to a promoter of atheism and free-thought.

Dan first came out publicly as an atheist on the Oprah Winfrey show in 1984. Since that time he has been a preacher of atheism and free-thought as a kind of “reverse penance” (Losing Faith, 10), he says, for all the years he proclaimed the gospel.

At 15, he accepted a calling from God to live and preach for Jesus Christ. He was a self-admitted fundamentalist from the beginning believing “every word in the Bible is God-inspired and inerrant” (Losing Faith, 28). He was also taught that liberal and atheist writers were “evil servants of Satan attempting to distract believers from the literal truth of the Bible” (Losing Faith, 29-30). He describes a fundamentalist (himself at the time) this way: “A true fundamentalist should consider the English version of the Bible to be just as inerrant as the original because if we admit that human error was possible in the translation, then it was equally possible in the original writing.” (Losing Faith, 176-77).

Dan ended up attending Azusa Pacific College majoring in Religion. He describes Azusa Bible College as a “glorified Sunday school” (Losing Faith, 22). In the one apologetics class he took, he admits, “I don’t remember that we delved very deeply into the evidences or arguments for or against Christianity” (Losing Faith, 22).

Although Dan states it was the lack of evidence that convinced him Christianity isn’t true, it seems, from his own admission, that he was not exposed to Christianity’s hard “evidences or arguments” before he turned to atheism.

Dan and I debated the topic: “Jesus of Nazareth: Lord or Legend?” on June 6th of 2015 sponsored by The Bible and Beer Consortium. After that 3+ hour debate, reading all of Dan’s books, and watching at least 40 of his other debates, I have come to the conclusion that Dan is still rejecting the same “glorified Sunday school” version of Christianity that he rejected over 30 years ago.

I am grateful to know Dan; I’ve found him to be kind, brilliant, and an experienced articulate speaker. I appreciate his willingness to come to Dallas to debate. We had a great time at dinner together the night before the debate. We asked our waitress who she guessed was the atheist and who was the Christian. She thought Dan was the Christian and I was the atheist!

While I like Dan as a person, for over 30 years he has been fighting against a fundamentalist caricature of Christianity and misrepresenting many of the facts surrounding Jesus of Nazareth and one of the primary purposes of this article is to correct many of those misrepresentations.

Dan’s “glorified Sunday school” version of Christianity is highlighted throughout his arguments in Losing Faith in Faith (1992), Godless (2008) and his most recent book Life Driven Purpose (2015). Just for a moment, let’s consider the sources he cites in these books.

In his discussions of Jesus and Christianity, Dan cites only two scholars who are credentialed and professionally teaching in the field of early Christianity: R. J. Hoffman and Bart Ehrman. In contrast to these two sources, Dan questions Jesus’ existence. He parts ways again with Bart Ehrman, arguing that the Jesus story was cut from the same cloth of pagan religions.

In writing on Jesus and Christianity, Dan cites only these other sources: John Remsburg, J. M. Robertson, W. B. Smith, Barbara Walker, G. A. Wells, Randall Helms, John Allegro, Hugh Schonfield, Earl Doherty, Robert Price and Richard Carrier. A review of their credentials quickly reveal that the majority of them are inadequate sources for Jesus and early Christianity.

Just to give one example: Barbara Walker is included in Dan’s “other scholars” (Godless, 270-72) and is his primary source when arguing in Losing Faith and Godless that the Jesus story is a fanciful patchwork from other pagan religions. Walker though only has a degree in Journalism and publishes other books on knitting. In fact, James White challenged Dan in their debate on using Walker as one of his chief sources on Jesus and Dan agreed he would remove her from later editions of Godless.

That was very honest of Dan to admit that he erred in using Walker as a source, but why did Dan not cite anywhere in his books James Dunn, E. P. Sanders, John P. Meier, N. T. Wright, Paula Fredricksen, Dale Allison, Martin Hengel, Richard Bauckham, or really any of the other 6000+ scholars professionally teaching in relevant subjects of early Christianity?

With sources like the ones Dan relies on, you can see why so many facts get misrepresented in his writings and speaking regarding Jesus and ancient history.

Let me just give 7 examples from our debate where Dan got his facts wrong about Christianity and/or ancient history. I have provided clips below for the relevant exchange for each one of these 7 examples. I recommend watching the exchange first and then reading my comments.

1.) Did Nazareth Exist during the Lifetime of Jesus?

Debate Exchange 1 (1:19:41–1:25:44)

From the beginning of his opening speech, Dan stated that the city of Nazareth did not exist at the time of Jesus, to support his case that Jesus was a legend. Dan also made this argument back in 1992 in Losing Faith in Faith (p. 191) that Nazareth didn’t exist before the second century. However, archaeological discoveries have definitively proven that Nazareth did, in fact, exist at the time of Jesus. Bart Ehrman says, “Many compelling pieces of archaeological evidence indicate that in fact Nazareth did exist in Jesus’ day and that, like other villages and towns in that part of Galilee, it was built on the hillside, near where the later rock-cut kokh tombs were built. For one thing, archaeologists have excavated a farm connected with the village, and it dates to the time of Jesus… Jesus really came from there, as attested in multiple sources” (see more here and in Did Jesus Exist? 191-97).

The first argument Dan made that Jesus is legend was completely at odds with the facts.

2.) Josephus and Tacitus on Jesus

Debate Exchange 2 (1:45:26–1:48:03)

In this exchange, Dan actually denied that Tacitus was talking about Jesus in his famous passage about “Christus” being executed under Pontius Pilate in Annals 15.44.

Here is John P. Meier on the passage in Tacitus: “Despite some feeble attempts to show that this text is a Christian interpolation in Tacitus, the passage is obviously genuine. Not only is it witnessed in all the manuscripts of the Annals, the very anti-Christian tone of the text makes Christian origin almost impossible” (A Marginal Jew, Vol 1, 90.). It is a fact that the majority of Classicist and Biblical scholars agree this passage in Tacitus is referring to Jesus (cf. Van Voorst, Jesus outside the NT, 42-43).

In addition, Dan repeated a false statement I’ve heard him say many times: “There was a Judas the Christ, a Theudas the Christ…” As I demonstrated to him, nowhere in Josephus’ writings is anyone called “Christ” except the two passages referring to Jesus.

More shocking was Dan’s claim that the passage in Josephus where he refers to James, “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ” (Ant. 20.200) was not authentic. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Dan has been arguing this since 1992 where he wrote in Losing Faith (p. 363): “This is flimsy, and even Christian scholars widely consider this to be a doctored text” (cf. Godless, 258; these inaccurate discussions about Josephus and Tacitus are left virtually unchanged from 1992 to 2008).

Here are just a few examples from world renowned authorities on Josephus:

  • “Few have doubted the genuineness of this passage on James. If it had been a Christian interpolation it would, in all probability, have been more laudatory of James”
    (Harvard Loeb Series on Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 496 fn. a).
  • Robert Van Voorst in his book Jesus outside the NT (p. 83): “The overwhelming majority of scholars hold that the words ‘brother of Jesus, who was called Christ,’ are authentic, as is the entire passage in which it is found.”
  • “The passage about James has generally been accepted as authentic.”
    (Louis Feldman, Josephus, the Bible, and History, 434)

Van Voorst sums up where the vast majority of scholarship currently stands on both Josephus passages about Jesus: “In sum, Josephus has given us in two passages something unique among all ancient non-Christian witnesses to Jesus: a carefully neutral, highly accurate and perhaps independent witness to Jesus, a wise man whom his persistent followers called ‘the Christ’ (Jesus outside the NT, 103-104).

Again, Dan has his facts about Tacitus and Josephus completely wrong.

3.) Did Paul Believe Jesus’ Resurrection was Physical or Spiritual?

Debate Exchange 3 (1:03:30–1:05:41)

Debate Exchange 4 (1:52:00–1:56:00)

Whether or not Paul believed Jesus’ appearance to him was bodily or only spiritual was debated throughout the night. Dan agreed that as a Pharisee we know that Paul would have believed in the bodily, general resurrection of all believers at the end of the world (cf., e.g., Daniel 12:1-3).

What Dan disputed was that Paul believed Jesus’ resurrection and appearance to him was physical, bodily. He argued primarily based on the Greek word ὤφθη that it was a spiritual, visionary experience.

Dan is correct that sometimes this word is used for only a visionary or spiritual experience, but it is not true that it is never used of a physical, bodily experience.

Here are just a few examples: The word is used in Luke 24:34 (“appeared to Simon”) and even Dan agrees that Luke is presenting a physical, resurrected Jesus (see Luke 24:36-43).

In addition, in the Greek translation of the Old Testament it is used for physical appearances in Gen 46:29 LXX (Joseph appeared to Jacob), Exod 10:28 LXX (Moses appeared to Pharaoh), 1 Kings 3:16 LXX (two prostitutes appear before Solomon), 1 Kings 18:1 LXX (Elijah appeared before Ahab). So this Greek word alone cannot decide the issue either way.

What was most shocking is Dan’s claim that the NIV reading of 1 Corinthians 9:1 is a “bad translation.” Here is the NIV: “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” This is verbatim from the Greek (οὐχὶ Ἰησοῦν τὸν κύριον ἡμῶν ἑόρακα;) and also every other English translation of this verse. The translation Dan is most familiar with, the KJV, has it this way: “Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” Dan even said in our exchange that the “Greek does not say ‘seen’” in 1 Corinthians 9:1. The Greek word is ἑόρακα which comes from the word ὁράω which means “I see.” It is in the perfect tense in 1 Corinthians 9:1 and so “have I not seen” is the correct translation.

What is definitive in this particular debate is the use of the word ἀνάστασις (anastasis) which Dan admitted is the word for physical resurrection. Dan also said throughout the debate that Paul never used this word in 1 Corinthians 15. He had also stated this in his book Godless (p. 294): “The word ‘raised’ is egeiro, which means ‘to wake up’ or ‘come to.’ Paul did not use the word resurrection (anastasis, anistemi) here, though he certainly knew it.”

This is again completely false. I pointed out in our exchange that Paul uses this word for Jesus’ resurrection in Romans 1:4 (ἐξ ἀναστάσεως (anastasis) νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν) and he later in the debate admitted that Paul in Romans then meant physical resurrection.

But he was not willing to change his view on 1 Corinthians 15.

However, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul uses the Greek word ἐγείρω (egeiro) and ἀνάστασις (anastasis) synonymously to refer to resurrection all throughout 1 Corinthians 15.

“Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead (ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγήγερται), how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead (ἀνάστασις (anastasis) νεκρῶν)? But if there is no resurrection of the dead (ἀνάστασις (anastasis) νεκρῶν), not even Christ has been raised (ἐγήγερται); and if Christ has not been raised (ἐγήγερται), then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain… But now Christ has been raised from the dead (ἐγήγερται ἐκ νεκρῶν), the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead (ἀνάστασις (anastasis) νεκρῶν)” (1 Corinthians 15:12-13, 20-21).

Notice how Paul uses anastasis throughout and also how Christ’s being “raised” is the “first fruits” of the general “resurrection (anastasis) of the dead.” The general resurrection of the dead is agreed by Dan to be a physical, bodily resurrection at the end of the world, so it can hardly be debated that this is not how Paul, a Pharisee, also viewed Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:14; Romans 8:11; Philippians 3:20-21).

In short, Dan is incorrect, Paul did believe (not just in Romans) in 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus physically, bodily rose again from the dead and appeared to him.

4.) The 500 Eyewitnesses

Debate Exchange 5 (00:57:52–1:03:30)

The evidence of the 500 eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection that Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 15:6 (“After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep”) played a large role in our debate. Let me reiterate what I said in the debate. It is agreed upon by all teaching scholars in the western world (6000+) that Paul believed that Jesus appeared to these more than 500 eyewitnesses, but scholars are not unanimous on how Paul got this information (First hand? Second hand?…).

It is also agreed upon by all teaching scholars (Ludemann, Dunn, Ehrman, etc.) that this creed Paul is quoting in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 dates to within 2-5 years of Jesus’ death.

Dan dates the creed to 2 years after Jesus’ death (Godless, 293).

Dan though in his writings and in our debate said that the distance from Jerusalem to Corinth made it unlikely for them to travel to interview any of these 500 eyewitnesses. However, I pointed out that we know for a fact that Peter and James (and Paul) traveled from Jerusalem to Corinth frequently and Dan did not dispute that point.

We also know that Paul’s credibility was on the line with many false teachers in Corinth and so if these more than 500 could not be corroborated it would have greatly hurt Paul’s reputation.

In addition, Paul mentions that some of these 500 “remain until now, but some have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:6). Why would he say this and how did he know this information?

Josephus makes a parallel claim in his writings, arguing that 23 years after an event he is describing people who are still alive “to prove” what he is saying (Ant. 20.266). Paul is making the same claim to the Corinthians about the ‘still alive’ of the 500 eyewitnesses. Go to Jerusalem and interview them, Paul was saying to the Corinthians, many of them are still alive!

5.) “Contradictions” in the Resurrection Accounts

Debate Exchange 6 (2:15:40–2:19:15)

I want to emphasize this exchange about the differences in the resurrection accounts in the Gospels because Dan has spent so much time on this in his writings and public speaking.

Dan has a list of what he considers contradictions between the 5 resurrection accounts we have in the New Testament, from Paul, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.

But as you can see in our exchange, I demonstrated that what they agree on is far more important than the ancillary details they disagree on. They unanimously agree on the fact that the tomb was empty, Mary Magdalene was there, at least one angel was there and that Jesus rose from the dead! What these other ‘on the surface’ inconsistencies demonstrate definitively is that an historical event of colossal magnitude did occur. What was that colossal event?

Dan also argued in a previous clip above that there is legendary development in these stories. For instance, in Mark there is one angel, in Matthew there is an earthquake and an angel, in Luke and John 2 angels, etc. The only problem with this theory (as I noted in our exchange) is that our earliest witness, the creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (written within 2-5 years of Jesus’ death) recounts over 500 witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. The four Gospels maybe account for around 20 eyewitnesses. So the legendary development works in reverse in this case.

6.) Dan’s One Alternative Explanation

Debate Exchange 7 (2:07:00–2:13:30)

I presented 7 facts concerning the historical Jesus and the rise of the Christian movement in the first century in my opening statement that are agreed upon by all full-time teaching scholars in the Western world (6000+) whether in Classics, History, or in Early Christianity. And I argued that the best explanation of these 7 facts is that Jesus of Nazareth rose bodily from the dead and therefore is Lord of all.

Throughout the night, Dan only gave one possible alternative explanation that would, even if true, explain only one of my 7 facts. He admitted before he shared this explanation that the hallucination hypothesis (which is the leading alternative explanation among NT scholars today) is “weak.” Instead, Dan proposed a theory found first in the writings of Robert Price. You can watch the clip above, but Dan essentially argues that because Peter felt so bad about his denial of Jesus after his death, he had an experience that convinced him Jesus was still alive. But as I said in the debate this in no way answers why someone like Paul would become a follower of Jesus and I pressed Dan for evidence for this theory and he gave none.

Ultimately, this was just something Robert Price just made up out of thin air and Dan is carrying on Price’s imagination.

7.) Even if Jesus rose from the dead, Dan would still not accept Him as his Lord.

Debate Exchange 8 (2:36:00–2:50:10)

This last 15 minutes of the debate was the most important exchange of the night. I recommend watching this 15-minute clip with undivided attention. Not only does Dan admit that the resurrection of Jesus does explain the 7 facts I presented “perfectly” (and he never presented an alternative explanation besides Price’s unsubstantiated theory about Peter), but he also made the shocking declaration in his closing statement that even if Jesus rose from the dead and there is a God, he still wouldn’t accept him as Lord.

In all Dan’s books, and in all the debates I have watched with him, I had never heard him say that even if Jesus rose from the dead, he still wouldn’t confess Him as Lord. This was I believe the first time he stated this publicly. And I think it reveals a lot.

It reveals mainly that the evidence and arguments really don’t matter in the end because even if Jesus did rise from the dead this still wouldn’t convince Dan. Many atheists and agnostics told me after the debate that they disagreed with Dan on this. They said they wanted to know if God exists and if Jesus did in fact rise from the dead and of course they would confess him as Lord if He did. This statement by Dan clarifies another shocking statement he has made over the years, but first in his book Losing Faith (p. 331): “Speaking for myself, if the biblical heaven and hell exist, I would choose hell. Having to spend eternity pretending to worship tyranny would be more hellish than baking in eternal flames. There is no way a Bully will earn my worship.”

I don’t think Dan in any way represents all atheists with these shocking admissions, but I do think he represents a certain segment of unbelievers. Many atheists and agnostics, I believe, are open to the evidence and would no doubt change their views if convinced God exists and Jesus rose from the dead. However, it is important to realize that there are also many unbelievers like Dan who no matter what evidence is presented to them, in fact even if Jesus actually did rise from the dead and appear to them, they admit they would still not believe and would choose hell over worshipping God in heaven (see Luke 16:31). These kinds of statements do break my heart and I still pray for Dan and hope and believe he will come back to his Savior and Lord before the end.

C. S. Lewis wrote, in my opinion, the greatest chapter on Hell ever written. His conclusion to that chapter is an appropriate ending to this article: “In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell, is itself a question: ‘What are you asking God to do?’ To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary. To Forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what He does” (Problem of Pain, 130).

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170 thoughts on “Fact Checking Dan Barker: From our Recent Debate June 6, 2015

  1. Pingback: Fact Checking Dan Barker: From our Recent Debate June 6, 2015 | A disciple's study

  2. Pingback: Fact Checking Dan Barker: From our Recent Debate June 6, 2015 | Daniel B. Wallace

  3. Matt S

    How can the author validate his repeated claim “agreed upon by all full-time teaching scholars in the Western world (6000+)”? I agree Barker’s sources are unsatisfactory, but such sweeping claims are equally problematic.

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  4. Justin

    Matt S

    I came to this conclusion after talking with Bart Ehrman, Gary Habermas, Dan Wallace and Mike Licona personally who have surveyed these things . In addition, there are lists of what scholars are unanimous on about Jesus and Paul in many (even more liberal) books on Jesus such as EP Sanders’ Historical Jesus, Gerd Thiessen’s the Historical Jesus, Geza Vermes Jesus the Jew, and The Five Gospels by the Jesus Seminar.
    It may seem like a sweeping statement, but I assure you this came from careful research and I tried very hard to find a teaching scholar who disputes one of my 7 facts and I couldn’t find one. I said in the full debate (see full debate in comment above) that there may be a handful from the 6000+ scholars that I couldn’t find, but even if that were true, these 7 facts would still be agreed upon by 99% of the teaching scholars in the western world today.

    So I lay out a challenge to you Matt, find even one full time teaching scholar in those relevant fields who denies any of these 7 facts.

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  5. Confused as to why you think Richard Carrier does not count as an acceptable shcolar on early Christianity? His doctorate is in ancient history and in particular, the Roman era, if I’m not mistaken.

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    1. Justin

      Christianagnostic,

      This is why I noted specifically “full time teaching” scholars (6000+) in my talk. Carrier and Price are the only mythicists with PhDs in revelant fields to Christianity but they still do not hold teaching positions.

      Similarly, with climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, etc. there are always one or two PhDs/scientists who have blogs and hold such fringe position, but that’s why I think we should stick with people who are actually professionally teaching in such areas.

      But just so you know, of my 7 facts, only the first one would Richard Carrier even deny (the crucifixion of Jesus). They would accept the other 6 facts.

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  6. Pingback: Fact Checking Dan Barker (atheist apologist) on historicity of Jesus | thereformedmind

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  9. Pingback: Justin Bass fact-checks Dan Barker’s debate performance | WINTERY KNIGHT

  10. gary

    Hi Dr. Wallace,

    I’m curious about your opinion on the following: The author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts fails to mention anything about 500 witnesses seeing Jesus at the same time.

    What is odd to me is that this author states in the first chapter of Luke that he thoroughly researched all previous writings about Jesus and verified the accuracy of everything he wrote in his Gospel with “eyewitnesses”. Assuming that most NT scholars are correct about the dating of the writing of the Gospel of Luke (80-90 AD), this would mean that Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians had been in circulation for approximately 30 years prior to “Luke” writing his two volume work. Therefore, Luke surely was familiar with this Creed and familiar with Paul’s quotation of this Creed in I Corinthians 15. So if Luke was aware of the early Creed in I Corinthians 15, and aware of Paul’s claim in I Corinthians 15 that 500 witnesses saw the resurrected Jesus at the same time, why do you think that Luke did not include this detail in either of his two accounts of the Resurrection?

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  11. gary

    Dr. Wallace may not have time to respond to my question, so let me explain why I asked it:

    I believe that there is something very odd about the Creed in First Corinthians 15.

    Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters,[a] of the good news[b] that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.

    3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received:

    that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,

    4 and that he was buried,

    and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,

    5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

    6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters[c] at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.[d]

    7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

    Many Christian apologists believe that this Creed originated within five years of Jesus’ death. They believe that Paul most likely received this Creed when he visited Peter and James in Jerusalem for two weeks.

    Skeptics have questioned Paul’s knowledge of the accuracy of this “witness list”. After all, this list is very different from the lists of witnesses given in the Gospels. For instance, the Gospels mention that women, in particular, Mary Magdalene, were the first witnesses to the Resurrection. Paul’s Creed does not mention any women witnesses. Christian apologists harmonize this apparent discrepancy by saying that the witness of women was not important in first century Palestine, so leaving women out of the Creed is understandable. Ok. Maybe true.

    Another oddity is that the order of the appearances is at odds with the accounts in the Gospels. In none of the Gospels is Peter mentioned to have been the first of the male disciples to witness the resurrected Jesus. Christian apologists harmonize this apparent discrepancy by saying that the Creed was not meant to be chronological. Ok. Maybe true.

    But there are a couple of other things that I find odd about this early Christian Creed, allegedly written within five years of Jesus’ death. Why is James mentioned in Paul’s Creed as a witness but never once mentioned in the lists of witnesses in the Gospels? James was the brother of Jesus. James was also the bishop of the Church of Jerusalem and became the de facto leader of the Christian Church after Jesus’ death; leader until his own death as one of the first Christian martyrs. But none of the Gospels, all four written sometime after 65-75 AD, mention James, the brother of Jesus and Bishop of Jerusalem, as a witness to the Resurrection. Isn’t that really odd?

    And here is another thing I find odd. None of the Gospels say a word about “five hundred” people seeing the resurrected Jesus in one place at the same time. None. How many Resurrection Debates have you watched in which the Christian apologist fails to pull out the Five Hundred Witnesses “card” as dramatic evidence for the number of people who witnessed seeing the resurrected Jesus, “proving” that the Resurrection must have happened? Never, right?? The claim that five hundred people saw the resurrected Jesus in the same place, all at the same time, is one of the most important pieces of “evidence” that Christian apologists use in their attempts to prove that their supernatural claim was a real historical event. But no Gospel author bothered to include this little detail into his Resurrection story!

    And then there is this: The author of Luke says in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke that he has carefully reviewed the previous writings about Jesus and that he has confirmed the information included in his Gospel with “eyewitnesses”, so that his reader can be assured of an accurate account.

    Most New Testament scholars date the Gospel of Luke to 80-90 AD. Most NT scholars date the writing of I Corinthians to approximately 55 AD. So Paul’s epistle of First Corinthians had been in circulation for at least 25 years! Therefore, Luke must have had First Corinthians as one of the texts he reviewed prior to writing his two volume work, the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. However, Luke never mentions “five hundred witnesses” in either his gospel or in Acts!

    Why?

    Isn’t the most likely reason that “Luke” found the Creed included in First Corinthians 15 as unreliable/inaccurate by the testimony he was receiving from “eyewitnesses”? We have no statement from Paul that his Creed in First Corinthians was obtained from “eyewitnesses”. Paul only says that he had “received” it.

    From whom?

    So, why else would Luke leave out such an important detail regarding the Resurrection? Christian apologists may say that the mention of the “five hundred” did not fit with Luke’s theme in his Gospel or that Luke ran out of parchment in writing the Book of Acts and had to economize his story, leaving out this detail, but I don’t buy it.

    I believe that the most likely explanation of Luke’s omission of Paul’s “witness list”, listed in First Corinthians, in either his gospel or in the Book of Acts, is this:

    The Creed quoted by Paul was either inaccurate to begin with, or, Paul incorrectly quoted it. By the time Luke sits down to write his Gospel and the Book of Acts in the 80’s or 90’s, eyewitnesses have pointed out to Luke that Paul’s “witness list” is inaccurate and embellished. There never were 500 believers who saw Jesus at the same time, in the same place. This embellishment was added to the list, and, James never claimed to have received an appearance from Jesus. This too is an embellishment. If James had received an appearance from Jesus, every Gospel writer, who would have known James as the brother of Jesus and bishop of the Church, would have said so in their gospels…but they didn’t…did they?

    I believe that we should go with Luke’s eyewitness list and not Paul’s, as Luke assures us his information has been cross-checked with eye-witnesses. Paul gives us no such assurance.

    So, we really only have approximately 20 uneducated, superstitious, depressed, grieving people who claimed to have seen their dead friend alive again shortly after his death: the handful of women, the Eleven, and the two disciples on the Emmaus Road. Is that really enough credible “eyewitness testimony” to believe that human tissue, that had been dead for 72 hours, was brought back to life, to walk, talk, eat broiled fish, and levitate into the clouds…twenty centuries ago??

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    1. Scott

      Hello…Dr. Bass? Strange he hasn’t replied in over a month’s time. I wonder if it’s because he couldn’t interrupt you while you were commenting. Anyhow, employing his logic from the debate, his lack of a timely response must mean he either concedes the point or has no refutation. Regardless, I find Gary’s evidence to be entirely convincing that Paul’s reliability and reputation ARE indeed rather controvertible. Good thing for Justin, his heuristic doesn’t appear to allow for that.

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      1. Scott Harris

        Gary. I would answer this way.We know that Luke traveled and was with Paul quite abit and this is important because he wrote the book of Acts.Read Collossians 4:14 and Paul mentions Luke being with him in several of the greetings in his letters.

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      2. Justin

        Hi Gary, Dan is very busy these days, so I can try to answer your questions if that is ok with you.

        First, your correct that Luke (nor anyone else in the NT) mention the appearance of Christ to over 500 people. Some of the early Church Fathers such as Chrysostom did argue (and I think their right) that Matt 28:16-20 is this same appearance that Paul quotes from the creed. In Matthew you clearly have a large amount of people seeing Jesus on the mountain and some even “doubted.” But I agree we can’t know for sure because Matthew never says “500.”

        The point though to remember here is that arguments from silence do not hold much weight in studies in the Gospels. The primary reason is because we KNOW that Luke didn’t include in his Gospel a lot of incredible stories of Jesus that he had before him. As I’m sure you know Luke uses Mark as one of his sources. And yet Luke omits from his Gospel quite a bit from Mark. The famous “Great Omission” in Luke is from Mark 6:47-8:27. Luke follows Mark’s account very closely until Mark 6:47 and then doesn’t pick up again with Mark’s account until Mark 8:27. This means that Luke had the account of Jesus walking on water, the healing of the Syrophoenician woman, the healing of the man who as deaf and mute, the feeding of the 4 thousand, and many other great teachings of Jesus and he intentionally omitted them from his Gospel. Why would Luke take out such rich stories and teachings of our Lord? Regardless of the answer, the fact is Luke omits material he knew about that we in the 21st century can’t understand why he would not include it. Moreover, John says he did the same: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

        So even though it seems incredible to you that Luke (and others) would not include the 500 witnesses account if he knew about it, it is not that incredible when you study how the authors of the Gospels are including and omitting stories of Jesus overall.
        Second, on the Creed in 1 Cor 15. You noted that “many Christian apologists believe that this Creed originated within 5 years…” No Gary. ALL scholars who professionally teach in any area relevant to early Christianity believe that this creed goes back to within 2-5 years of Jesus’ death. Not just Christian apologists. Consider a few examples:

        “This tradition, we can be entirely confident, was formulated as tradition within months of Jesus’ death.” (James Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 855)

        “We can assume that all the elements in the tradition (153b-5, 6a, 7) are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion of Jesus (Gerd Ludemann, Resurrection, 38).

        “This means that if Paul went to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and James three years after his conversion, he would have seen them, and received traditions that he later gives in his letters, around the middle of the decade, say the year 35 or 35. The traditions he inherited, of course, were older than that and so must date to just a couple of years or so after Jesus’ death.” -Bart Ehrman Did Jesus Exist? 131

        Third, you said “Skeptics have questioned Paul’s knowledge of the accuracy of this ‘witness list.’” Not necessarily. Again ALL scholars agree that 1 Cor 15:3-5 is solid and goes back to within 2-5 years of Jesus’ death. And that includes the appearance to Cephas and the Twelve. Now there are some scholars skeptical about the rest of the list, want to change the order around, and many more don’t trust the 500 witnesses as being first hand information. But 1 Cor 15:3-5 is not in dispute.
        Fourth, you said “In none of the Gospels is Peter mentioned to have been the first of the male disciples to witness the resurrected Jesus.” I disagree. I think Mark 16:7 and Luke 24:34 corroborates with 1 Cor 15:5. We aren’t told exactly when this appearance took place, but it is left open in both that Peter may have been the first male disciple Jesus appeared to.

        Fifth, “James is not mentioned as a witness to the Resurrection.” I disagree again. I think Acts 1:14 makes it clear that Jesus’ “brothers” along with Mary are among the earliest group of disciples of Jesus before Pentecost. This obviously includes James as he takes such prominence in the church in Jerusalem the rest of Acts. Again we wish they would include so much more, but what they include harmonizes well with these accounts.

        Lastly, yes to your last question in the post. The empty tomb, the appearances to without a doubt Peter and Paul (who we know also went to their deaths for this belief), Paul’s transformation, the explosion of this Jewish sect who worshipped a Crucified and risen man named Jesus as in some sense one with YHWH!, the transformation of centuries old Jewish customs like circumcision and Passover, and on and on. What accounts for this explosive movement in first century Jerusalem based on these unprecedented beliefs in a Crucified and risen carpenter named Jesus? His resurrection is the only explanation that accounts for all the data and every alternative natural explanation has died a thousand deaths in scholarship over the last 200 years.
        You are free to be skeptical and agnostic on the issue, but if you follow the historical evidence where it leads Gary, you will end up like Thomas at the feet of the Risen Jesus saying: “My Lord and my God!”

        Liked by 2 people

  12. Scott Harris

    Gary
    Who is your favorite atheist out there?Richard Dawkins?Sam Harris?Dan Barker,etc? And this is for any atheist and agnostic that thinks the gospels contradict each other.

    Let’s use Richard Dawkins as an example.Richard Dawkins has 12 followers who are his students and they all hang out with Richard Dawkins and get to know him and his teachings and Richard Dawkins suddenly dies.

    Years later several of his students write books about him.Do you believe all of their books would all be written from the same perspective and all say the exact same thing?

    Like

  13. nonsupernaturalist

    Hi Justin,

    Thank you for your response.

    You said: ” the fact is Luke omits material he knew about that we in the 21st century can’t understand why he would not include it. Moreover, John says he did the same”

    I certainly agree that Luke did not include every detail of Mark’s gospel in his gospel. But when it comes to giving a list of the witnesses to the greatest miracle in history; the miracle upon which orthodox/conservative Christianity rises or falls, I do not buy that Luke left it out because he didn’t find it important or because it didn’t fit with his “theme”. And it is not just Luke. Neither John or Mark mention this crucial detail (but we must also keep in mind that the original Mark mentions ZERO appearances). Yes, it is true that “Matthew” says a multitude saw Jesus on the mountain in Galilee, but we know that Matthew told whoppers. No one tells a story like Matthew: multiple earthquakes with dead saints walking the streets of Jerusalem….but no one—Christian, Jew, or Roman—but Matthew, mentions this fantastic detail. A multitude for Matthew may have in reality been the Eleven and five other people.

    You concluded this section of your comment by saying:

    “So even though it seems incredible to you that Luke (and others) would not include the 500 witnesses account if he knew about it, it is not that incredible when you study how the authors of the Gospels are including and omitting stories of Jesus overall.”

    Sorry. I still don’t buy it and I would bet most non-Christians, if presented with all the evidence, wouldn’t buy it either. Can you imagine being a witness to a UFO and when asked to name all the people who were with you who also witnessed this event, you omit that 500 other people saw it too! Unbelievable.

    I do not contest the early dating of the creed in I Corinthians. The fact remains that there is a major discrepancy between all the witness lists in the gospels and the list in I Corinthians: there is no mention of “500 at once” witnesses. You can make the claim that we skeptics cannot argue from silence, but imagine presenting this testimony in a court of law: All persons brought to the witness stand say that a few women and eleven or so disciples witnessed the event. And then one guy gets on the stand and says that “500 all at once” witnessed the event. So what is the explanation for this if the Creed was written so early compared to the writing of the Gospels: One possibility: The Creed wasn’t meant to be chronological, all-inclusive, or, HISTORICAL. To us it looks embellished, but to the devout believers in the first century, this Creed expressed spiritual beliefs that did not require historical accuracy.

    Christian apologists frequently make the assertion that “all the evidence together leaves only one option: a resurrection”. I don’t think you or any other apologist can prove this statement. If there is even ONE naturalistic, non-miracle explanation for the evidence, then this naturalistic explanation is much, much more probable to be the explanation for the event in question. We know this to be true in our own every day lives and in cumulative human experience.

    I will comment more later today. Thank you again for your response.

    Like

  14. nonsupernaturalist

    Dear Scott,

    You are making the very big assumption that the author of “Luke” and Acts is Luke the Physician, traveling companion of Paul. Christian can say they “believe” these two men were one and the same, but we have no way to know for sure. This is just one of many assumptions that holds up this Christian miracle claim.

    Like

    1. Scott Harris

      nosupernaturalist

      You are just letting everybody know you don’t believe the bible but Christians believe it so if you are going to try and refute it you need to take that in consideration.We believe Luke was a doctor with a greek PHD,if sceptics don’t?Then we can’t force them.

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      1. nonsupernaturalist

        Hi Scott,

        I would be more than happy to leave liberal Christians alone and let them believe whatever supernatural claims they desire. They tend to be wonderful, inclusive, loving, humanistic people. My issue is with conservative/orthodox Christianity. My issue is with a belief system that says that “Our way is the only way, and if you don’t believe our way, our god is going to punish you/torture you, physically or psychologically, forever and ever.”

        I believe that this is a dangerous belief that needs to be exposed. If conservative Christians are going to tell all non-Christians that doom and judgment is coming upon them unless they adopt the Christian belief system, then conservative Christians need to have some good evidence to back this up. I am trying to ask, with civility I hope, for your evidence that is strong enough by the standards of evidence used by modern historians, scientists, and forensic experts, to convince the rest of us that we should believe your ancient, supernatural-0based story.

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      2. Scott Harris

        nosupernatural
        All I can say is it does not matter what man says it matter what God’s word says and this applies whether they are liberal or conservative.There are allkinds of different interpretations and even bad teaching I think on both sides.The only people going to heaven are people who have been saved/born again by Jesus.
        And I do have evidence that I believe outshines anything Richard Carrier and Robert Price liberal scholars claim about Jesus and the gospels.I won’t say it is proof but I’m talking about evidence.We already know not all of our bible can be proven because it is revealed true over time and because it requires faith to please God but if you are looking for evidence jesus rose from the dead like Christians have always believed from the start including the men who wrote the gospels and who went out preaching Jesus rose from the dead under great persecution as you’ve heard then I would direct you to the newest and most credible peer reviewed evidence about the shroud of Turin.

        Now most of the time when it is brought up sceptics repeat old out-dated talking points about it claiming it is a 14th century art piece but I have a video of an agonstic and not a Christian teaching why the shroud cannot be a 14th century art piece or any historical art piece and he is biased and does not want to accept God or a supernatural explanation yet is still honest enough to explain the facts about the shroud.He is biased because he chooses to believe Ray Rogers “mallard theory’ that is based on decomposition which has already been debunked by the newest scientific evidence that has came out about the shroud,but he still explains why it cannot be an art relic.Here is a fairly new video of him teaching about it.It is about an hour long.I hope you’re not like Dan Barker where no evidence would convince him.
        https://vimeo.com/117793165

        Like

  15. nonsupernaturalist

    Mark 16:7

    7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

    How does this passage confirm that Jesus appeared to “Cephas” first??

    Like

  16. nonsupernaturalist

    Luke 24:34 is an odd passage.

    Imagine that you were one of the two disciples on the Emmaus Road to whom Jesus appeared. When you go back to Jerusalem to tell the Eleven (which would include Peter wouldn’t it??) the amazing miracle that has just happened to you, would the first thing you say be that Jesus had appeared to “Simon” if the Simon you are referring to is sitting right in front of you??

    And why use the name Simon??

    All through out this chapter, Peter is called “Peter”, not “Simon”.

    Smells fishy, folks. Did the author of Luke or the later Church alter the story to fit Cephas/Simon/Peter into this passage??

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  17. nonsupernaturalist

    If you read the first part of this same chapter in Luke, you see what Simon Peter was doing during the time period between visiting the empty tomb and meeting with the other disciples in the upper room later in the day:

    12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.[e]

    Hmm. So Jesus appeared to SIMON Peter at his home?? And the two disciples on the Emmaus Road somehow knew of this, and, this information was more important to share with the Eleven, including Simon Peter, first, before their own miracle experience??

    Not believable unless you really, really WANT to believe it.

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  18. nonsupernaturalist

    Justin said: “Third, you said “Skeptics have questioned Paul’s knowledge of the accuracy of this ‘witness list.’” Not necessarily. Again ALL scholars agree that 1 Cor 15:3-5 is solid and goes back to within 2-5 years of Jesus’ death. And that includes the appearance to Cephas and the Twelve.”

    I am not questioning the existence of this Creed, I am questioning whether or not Paul had verified the alleged appearances with each person on the list. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. The only proof you have is Paul’s one, brief statement that he met with Peter and James for two weeks in Jerusalem. One would ASSUME that Paul interrogated Peter and James regarding their appearance experiences and that Peter and James interrogated Paul regarding his alleged appearance experience on the Damascus Road. But, bottom line, Paul does NOT say that he verified the appearances with the alleged eyewitnesses. You are once again making an ASSUMPTION.

    Paul could have very well spent those entire two weeks arguing with Peter and James regarding circumcision and other matters of the Law. We have no idea what they talked about.

    All we know is that Paul said he had “received” the Creed from someone. That someone we can only guess.

    (FYI: Gary and nonsupernaturalist are the same person. For some reason WordPress uses one name with some comments and without notification, switches me to the other with others.)

    Like

  19. nonsupernaturalist

    Justin said: ” Fifth, “James is not mentioned as a witness to the Resurrection.” I disagree again. I think Acts 1:14 makes it clear that Jesus’ “brothers” along with Mary are among the earliest group of disciples of Jesus before Pentecost. This obviously includes James as he takes such prominence in the church in Jerusalem the rest of Acts. Again we wish they would include so much more, but what they include harmonizes well with these accounts.”

    Gary: Jesus’ mother and his brothers may well have joined the early Church, but there is no statement in Acts chapter one about Jesus appearing to any member of his family, including James.

    Again, I must ask: Why would the early Creed claim that Jesus had appeared to James, the future Bishop of Jerusalem, and, one of the first and most prominent martyrs of the Church, but yet his name is not listed in the list of witnesses in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the Books of Acts, books written after James had risen to such prominence in the Christian Church??

    To say that James just wasn’t important enough to these four authors, writing in the latter half of the century, to include him in their witness lists, is just incredulous to ask anyone today to believe! All evidence points to the Creed in First Corinthians being non-chronological, not all-inclusive, and not meant to be historical. It is a spiritual document, not meant to be taken as historical fact. Either that, or Paul confused or distorted for whatever reason the list he had “received” from “whom” we have no idea.

    Below is are excerpts from Acts chapter one. I will make an additional comment below:

    1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying[a] with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

    …12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of[c] James. 14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

    Gary: Notice that “Luke” repeats in Acts, what he had said in his Gospel: Jesus told the disciples NOT to leave Jerusalem until the arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost approximately 50 days later. If “Luke” truly researched all the previous documents about Jesus available in 80-90 AD, which may have included the gospel of “Matthew” or at least Matthew’s source, Luke obviously didn’t buy the idea that the disciples were told to go to Galilee to meet Jesus there. I believe that this gives us good evidence that the “multitude on the Galilean mountain” who allegedly saw Jesus, who some Christians want to claim is the “five hundred at once”, is another of Mattthew’s WHOPPERS. Yes, I know that Christians have multiple convoluted harmonizations for Jesus command in one Gospel to stay in Jerusalem and his command in another to go to Galilee, but if we are to believe Luke, that he had thoroughly researched all the claims, Luke says, THE DISCIPLES REMAINED IN JERUSALEM UNTIL PENTECOST. Luke obviously did not believe Matthew’s story of appearances in Galilee, and therefore Matthew’s “multitude” could not be the “five hundred”.

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  20. nonsupernaturalist

    Justin said: “Lastly, yes to your last question in the post. The empty tomb, the appearances to without a doubt Peter and Paul (who we know also went to their deaths for this belief),…

    Gary: How can you claim that “without a doubt” Jesus appeared to Peter and Paul? You have no evidence for this claim whatsoever. You are making the common Christian assumption that the Bible is 100% correct in all its historical claims, when it is the very historical claims of the Bible that are in question. All you can say is that Paul BELEIVED that he had received an appearance from Jesus, and, early Christians had a Creed that says that Jesus appeared to Peter, and four anonymous authors writing in the last half of the first century also claimed that Peter saw a resurrected Jesus, but never say that Peter saw him first. What a convoluted tale! And we are to believe that a perfect, all-knowing God was the ultimate author of all these conflicting stories?? My goodness.

    Justin continues: Paul’s transformation, the explosion of this Jewish sect who worshipped a Crucified and risen man named Jesus as in some sense one with YHWH!, the transformation of centuries old Jewish customs like circumcision and Passover, and on and on. What accounts for this explosive movement in first century Jerusalem based on these unprecedented beliefs in a Crucified and risen carpenter named Jesus? His resurrection is the only explanation that accounts for all the data and every alternative natural explanation has died a thousand deaths in scholarship over the last 200 years.

    Gary: No! A supernatural reanimation of dead human flesh is NOT the only explanation. History is rife with multiple instances of human beings doing really weird, out of the ordinary, things. Again, what is more probable: a small group of first century Jewish peasants believed that their recently departed dead friend and appeared to them from the grave and due to their devout and intense (hysteria, as part of a normal grief reaction) belief in this supernatural claim, other (mostly) poor, uneducated, and superstitious people (most Gentiles, very few Jews) came to believe this story, versus, a science and medicine defying dead human body was reanimated by an ancient middle eastern god.

    And conservative Christians wonder why skeptics are dumb-founded when you make the claim that only a resurrection explains these events??

    Justin: You are free to be skeptical and agnostic on the issue, but if you follow the historical evidence where it leads Gary, you will end up like Thomas at the feet of the Risen Jesus saying: “My Lord and my God!”

    Gary: No, Justin, I followed the evidence with an open mind and realized that my Christian belief system was no different than the belief systems of Mormons, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and every other supernatural based religion on earth: all based on unverifiable claims in periods of history without video cameras and I phones, claiming science-defying superstitious miracles.

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    1. Scott Harris

      nosupernatural

      I really do not believe you have made the wisest decision.Did you consider odds of winning like a gambler would?I don’t thinkyou have like I have.Let me explain i have increased my chances of winning by first realizing that Jesus is the greatest hero anybody could have.I am choosing to believe in Jesus and I have a wonderful life because of it.I cannot lose based on my decision likeyou will if you are wrong.If you are wrong you will be in trouble bigtime but not me.
      Now this is where you will bring up other false god’s and try to hurtmy odds of winning but it dos not matter because I have done my researcg so thatmy odds are sound still.
      I know about other religions and there god’s and have examined evidence now as far as the jews it was prophecied in the bible thousands of years ago that they would reject their Messiah and this is afulfilled bible prophecy based on the fact they did.
      As far as muslims they are proving rightnow that they believe inthe false god by killing people based on their religious beliefs they attack other muslim,buddhists,hindu’s.christians and jews all in the name of Allahtheir false god that nobody would want to believe in.
      Hindu’s are nice people but I’ve been toone of their church services before and they set a decorated box in the center of the room that has pictures of 4 different god’s on it,they dance around with sticks hitting eachothers sticks while religious hindu sounding music is played,then they gather around the box,pray,and lay money and offerings around the box.

      This covers all of the religions that matter and they all serve dead god’s excluding jews whohave forgot about without the shedding of blood there can be no remission of sins but they all must change theirself based on laws and rules of their religion,which does not apply to Christianity.

      Based on this I win no matter what,but if you are wrong you will be in trouble.

      Like

      1. gary

        Dear Scott,

        The text you base your life upon is riddled with discrepancies, errors, and scribe alterations. If you don’t believe me, listen to an expert in the field:

        Like

      2. Scott Harris

        gary I respect Bart Erhman as a real bible scholar and I actually think it is good to have people challenging and examining from different perspectives and Bart Erhman is a great challenger although as a Christian I am concerned about his reasons for it and his salvation but I have been looking into the newest peer reviewed scientific evidence for the shroud of Turin.

        I don’t know if you know about it but the newest evidence that has come out shows that scientists can produce an image very close to the image on the shroud but it requires powerful equipment that produces high levels of light and radiation,now it still is not an exact replica of the shroud and does not have blood stains on it like the shroud does,but also it shows that the image is not produced immediately but over time kind of like a photograph.

        Based on the fact that it requires this much technology to produce and Jesus being the light of the world it is convincing evidence that it is a photograph produced by Jesus as he rose fromthe dead.

        When Peter grabbed it out of the tomb? the image may not have been on the burial linen yet.Based on evidence it settles any so-called contradictions in the gospels and makes what liberal scholars claim not as much of a big deal.The shroud is peer reviewed scientific evidence Jesus rose from the dead like the gospels say.

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  21. Justin

    Thanks Gary for your comments and the clarification that you = nonsupernaturalist 
    “Luke’s omission of the 500 witnesses”
    Again, it may seem incredible to you that Luke doesn’t mention it, but as I demonstrated before, there were many amazing stories about Jesus that Luke had before but he DID NOT include in his Gospel. Take Jesus walking on water for example. Many like you would also find it unbelievable that Luke wouldn’t include such a unique and powerful miracle of Jesus, but we know Luke did not include it. They had an embarrassment of riches Gary and so they used what was most needed for the purposes of their audience. And keep in mind that Luke’s primary audience is Theophilus who is clearly already a believer (Luke 1:1-4) and so trying to “prove” that Jesus rose from the dead was not a primary concern for Luke. Therefore, listing as many eyewitnesses as he can is not a primary concern for him. I think this sufficiently answers your question here.
    “On the creed in 1 Cor 15”
    Gary, NOONE disputes the historicity of this creed (15:3-5). It IS historical as it was written according to James Dunn in Jesus Remembered within “months” of Jesus’ death. And you are also outside of every scholar studying these issues in Galatians 1-2 and 1 Cor 15 about Paul’s association with Peter, James, John and the rest of the earliest disciples of Jesus. It is undeniable that it is from them that Paul “received” the creed of 1 Cor 15. That is why he refers to them again in 1 Cor 15:11 as in complete agreement with him on the fundamental aspects of the Gospel.

    “Resurrection as the only explanation”
    Yes, Gary I agree. If there is “even ONE” naturalistic explanation that could explain all the facts then we should go with that. But that is the point. No naturalistic explanation CAN explain all the facts. That is why there is a different naturalistic explanation for every skeptic trying to explain the origins of Christianity. So maybe after 300 years of trying to find an explanation that counters the resurrection, you have found that explanation. So what is the naturalistic explanation Gary that explains the rise of this explosive movement beginning in Jerusalem, proclaiming a Crucified man as Risen and Lord, and within 300 years subduing the Roman Empire?

    “Mark 16:7” and “Luke 24:34”
    “How does this passage confirm that Jesus appeared to “Cephas” first??”

    It doesn’t undeniably confirm it, but it does allow for it. The fact that Peter is singled out in both Mark 16:7 and Luke 24:34 does corroborate with 1 Cor 15:5.
    And I think you are misremembering Luke 24. It may also be the ambiguity in the English (that is made clear in the Greek). It was the eleven who were “saying” the Lord appeared to Simon (not the 2 on the Emmaeus Road). Jesus had appeared to Simon before the Emmaeus road, probably right after Peter left the tomb in Luke 24:12. As far as why he is called “Simon” here it may be because the author interviewed one of the two on the Emmaeus road (see Luke 24:18 “Cleopas”) and this is an eyewitness remembrance of the actual name used “Simon.” It also may be because Jesus said “Simon, Simon…” in Luke 22:31 and this appearance to Peter is a fulfillment of what Jesus said there. But again all your skepticism is based on arguments from silence.
    “1 Cor 15:3-8 Creed again”
    Again Gary, do some research on this. This is not debated. Paul did spend 15 days with Peter, met with James the brother of the Lord and clearly also knew John (Gal 2:9). This is considered some of the most historically accurate statements in all of the ancient world. Where Paul got the source for the 500 witnesses is debated, but Peter, the twelve, and James is affirmed by Ehrman and all the skeptics I have read on this. Please provide scholars that contradict this if you can? It is not an assumption, this is a historical fact.
    The word in Galatians 1:18 “to become acquainted with” Peter in the Greek is the word historeo. It is where we get the word history. It means that Paul sought out information from Peter. Just read Paul’s letters and you will see he was not seeking information about the law. Paul was talking to Peter about Jesus! This is common sense.
    “James”
    Another argument from silence Gary. The fact that James and Mary are among the followers of Jesus in Acts 1 demonstrates that they believe in Him. We gain other information about what happened from other documents within the NT. With Luke and Acts alone, we wouldn’t know about this specific appearance I agree, but we know because of 1 Cor 15:7. And these harmonize beautifully. You are just again saying essentially, ‘If Luke knew about something then he MUST have included it in his Gospel.’ If Luke did do that Gary as John said (21:25) the whole world would not be enough room for the books Luke would have written.
    The main reason James is not prominent except in Acts because the Gospel traditions are unanimous that James and the rest of Jesus’ family (besides Mary) were NOT believers in Jesus during his public ministry (Mark 3; John 7:1-5). That is why only Acts discusses James because it was only after the resurrection that James became a follower of Jesus.

    “Galilee vs Jerusalem appearances”
    First of all, most scholars do not believe Luke had Matthew nor Matthew had Luke when they wrote.
    Second, Luke does limit the appearances to Jerusalem but that is because when you study Luke you will see that Jerusalem is the city of destiny for Luke and all throughout his Gospel he places special emphasis on this city (see Luke 9:51 for example). But Luke also tells us in Acts that Jesus appeared to his disciples over a 40 day period. So this demonstrates that Luke again has not told the whole story. The Galilee appearances could have occurred as well during this 40 day time period.

    “Without a doubt Jesus appeared to Peter and Paul”
    Yes Gary “Without a doubt.” Or to use Crossan’s words “as certain as anything historical can be.” Another challenge for you. Find ONE full time teaching scholar in any subject relevant to early Christianity that questions that Peter and Paul believed Jesus appeared to them. This is a historical fact if anything can be a fact historically.
    “Follow the evidence where it leads.”
    It doesn’t sound like you are following the evidence where it leads. You are basically skeptical of the Jesus story because of arguments from silence and anti-supernatural bias.
    As Chesterton says, “The most incredible things about miracles is that they happen.”
    And Jesus did rise from the dead Gary. Even Pinchas Lapide (an Orthodox Jew not a Christian) agreed that the evidence supported the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
    Keep researching. I’m hopeful you have an open mind because I can tell you are smart guy.
    Thanks for the discussion.
    God bless,
    Justin

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  22. nonsupernaturalist

    “It is undeniable that it is from them that Paul “received” the creed of 1 Cor 15. That is why he refers to them again in 1 Cor 15:11 as in complete agreement with him on the fundamental aspects of the Gospel.”

    Please provide the evidence that Paul received the Creed DIRECTLY from Peter, James, and John and that Paul did not quote it incorrectly or alter it.

    You are making assumptions based on what is “plausible” and “implausible” in your own word view. In the world of reality, you have no proof of this claim .

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  23. nonsupernaturalist

    Justin said: ” If there is “even ONE” naturalistic explanation that could explain all the facts then we should go with that. But that is the point. No naturalistic explanation CAN explain all the facts. That is why there is a different naturalistic explanation for every skeptic trying to explain the origins of Christianity. So maybe after 300 years of trying to find an explanation that counters the resurrection, you have found that explanation. So what is the naturalistic explanation Gary that explains the rise of this explosive movement beginning in Jerusalem, proclaiming a Crucified man as Risen and Lord, and within 300 years subduing the Roman Empire?”

    Gary: Here is a list of Christian claims about the Resurrection along with naturalistic explanations for each of these Christian claims. The first ten were written by an online skeptic friend of mine, “Dave”. I will add a few at the bottom to answer the specific claims you mention above:

    1. A very shameful belief arising/occurring in an Honor-Shame Society.
    – It wasn’t shameful because they believed Jesus was alive and they actually gained a lot of honor by sharing their possessions with each other.

    2. This shameful belief persisting and not dying out even under severe persecution.
    – They were focused on eternal rewards, not earthly ones

    3. The appearance claims listed in the early Creed mentioned in I Corinthians 15.
    – Dreams, illusions, mistaken identity, group encouragement

    4. Paul’s personal testimony of Jesus’ appearance to him.
    – I think Paul was lying, he needed an appearance to gain credibility among the apostles.

    5. Paul’s change in behavior due to the alleged appearance by Jesus to him.
    – He was a charismatic person and had several good ideas for his version of the gospel.

    6. The change in the disciples behavior.
    – They really thought Jesus was still alive and they kept preaching his message.

    7. The appearance stories in the Gospels.
    – Most of these are exaggerated oral traditions and some are invented by the authors.

    8. The empty tomb.
    – Mark or his source could have invented this story to fill in a gap. The other gospel authors copy from Mark and then add some of their own improvements. Paul never mentions an empty tomb and Acts does not have any new converts going to check it out.

    9. The disciples would not die for a lie.
    – Everyone was convinced they were doing God’s will and were preaching his words. The persecution stories could also be overblown.

    10. Papias’ statements regarding the authorship of the gospels.
    – I don’t really trust anything this man wrote down

    11. Rise of explosive movement starting in Jerusalem.
    -I think that “explosive” is an exaggeration. We have no corroborating Roman or Jewish testimony that Christianity was a mass movement until after Constantine’s conversion. It was a small sect that probably warranted little notice other than to serve as a convenient scape goat for Nero’s arson.

    Human beings believe the darndest things and do some of the strangest things imaginable. The Christian apologists’ claim that “No Jew or Gentile would have believed in a resurrection” is a generalization. Small groups of people have believed weird things since we humans started walking on two legs. And grieving, desperate, poor, persecuted, superstitious, uneducated peasants are even more prone to believing the “unbelievable”.

    12. Subduing the Roman Empire
    -more exaggeration, in my opinion. Constantine subdued Christianity and chose the victors of the early Christian civil wars: the proto-catholics were in, the Arians, Gnostics and others were out.

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  24. gary

    Justin: ““Without a doubt Jesus appeared to Peter and Paul”

    Yes Gary “Without a doubt.” Or to use Crossan’s words “as certain as anything historical can be.” Another challenge for you. Find ONE full time teaching scholar in any subject relevant to early Christianity that questions that Peter and Paul believed Jesus appeared to them. This is a historical fact if anything can be a fact historically.

    Gary: Justin. Read what you wrote. You first said that there is no doubt that Jesus APPEARED to Peter and Paul, then you end by saying that all scholars state that Peter and Paul BELIEVED Jesus appeared to them.

    Very different statements!

    I AGREE that Paul and Peter BELIEVED Jesus appeared to them, I just don’t think he really did, and neither do the overwhelming majority of non-Christian scholars and historians.

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  25. gary

    Justin: “Again Gary, do some research on this. This is not debated. Paul did spend 15 days with Peter, met with James the brother of the Lord and clearly also knew John (Gal 2:9). This is considered some of the most historically accurate statements in all of the ancient world.”

    Gary: Justin. This is a preposterous statement. Please quote non-Christian scholars or historians who believe that Paul’s alleged two week stay with Peter and James in Jerusalem is “some of the most historically accurate statements in all of the ancient world.”

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  26. nonsupernaturalist

    Justin: “That is why only Acts discusses James because it was only after the resurrection that James became a follower of Jesus.”

    Gary: Justin, this is blatant conjecture. Maybe James became a believer a few months prior to the Crucifixion, or the day of the Crucifixion, or the day after the Crucifixion. You have ZERO proof that James became a believer BECAUSE OF the Resurrection.

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  27. nonsupernaturalist

    Justin: “Second, Luke does limit the appearances to Jerusalem but that is because when you study Luke you will see that Jerusalem is the city of destiny for Luke and all throughout his Gospel he places special emphasis on this city (see Luke 9:51 for example). But Luke also tells us in Acts that Jesus appeared to his disciples over a 40 day period. So this demonstrates that Luke again has not told the whole story. The Galilee appearances could have occurred as well during this 40 day time period.”

    Spin, nothing but spin and damage control. And I realize this is not just Justin’s spin. Christians invented this “spin” almost two millenia ago when they saw this massive discrepancy in the different gospels and knew that they desperately had to “harmonize” them.

    Bottom line: Jesus specifically says in Luke: Remain in Jerusalem until I send the Comforter. “Remain” means “remain”, it doesn’t mean bounce back and forth between Galilee and Jerusalem over forty days…unless you are Bill Clinton…or an apologist for the Bible.

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  28. Justin

    “Please provide the evidence that Paul received the Creed DIRECTLY from Peter, James, and John and that Paul did not quote it incorrectly or alter it.”

    Gary, read the literature. When we are dealing with historical claims obviously we are not dealing with absolute certainty but was most probable based on the evidence. And scholars are unanimous who professionally teach in these areas that the source of the creed of 1 Cor 15:3-5 is the Jerusalem Apostles which Paul received “three years” after his conversion (Gal 1). I can’t rehearse here all the arguments for why this is not disputed by scholars but read the discussions in Bart Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist? And in James Dunn’s Jesus Remembered.
    “ONE Naturalistic Explanation”
    Gary, you failed again to give “ONE” naturalistic explanation that explains all the data. The resurrection is one event that perfectly explains all the unprecedented beliefs of the early Christians and the explosive movement that has since taken over a third of the world. All you did was list possible (not even plausible) alternative explanations to numerous different facts from the early Christianity.
    I recommend studying the scholarly literature on this instead of reading what your skeptic friend named Dave has to say on his blog.
    “I think that “explosive” is an exaggeration. We have no corroborating Roman or Jewish testimony that Christianity was a mass movement until after Constantine’s conversion.”
    Dave is wrong. “Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurator, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. ” (Annals 15.44, AD 117)
    Notice Tacitus not only says the Christian movement began in “Judea” but also that it “broke out” which I think “explosive movement” is a good synonym for what Tacitus is saying here.
    Josephus also took notice of this movement as well 30 years earlier than Tacitus.

    “Without a doubt…”

    Ok good. This was just a misunderstanding on my part of what you were saying. Of course, I was not claiming that the actual appearances of Jesus are historical facts agreed upon by all. But we do agree the belief that Jesus appeared to them (Peter and Paul) is historical fact.
    “Justin. This is a preposterous statement. Please quote non-Christian scholars or historians who believe that Paul’s alleged two week stay with Peter and James in Jerusalem is “some of the most historically accurate statements in all of the ancient world.”
    Gary, consider this statement from James Tabor author of the Jesus Dynasty. If you’re not familiar with him, he believes some of the most outlandish things about Jesus and Paul among actual full time professors of NT and yet he STILL has this to say about our sources in Galatians 1-2:
    “It is ironic that our earliest evidence regarding the leadership role that James and the brothers of Jesus played after Jesus’ death comes to us directly from Paul. Jesus was crucified in the year AD 30. Paul’s Letters date to the 50s AD. For this twenty-year gap we have no surviving records. These are the silent years of the history of earliest Christianity. What we can know we have to read backward from the records that survive. Fortunately, in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, written about AD 50, he reached back at least fourteen years in recounting his own autobiography. This gives us an original first-person source, the most valuable tool any historian can work with, reaching back into the decade of the 30s AD.” James Tabor, The Jesus Dynasty, 251
    “The most valuable tool any historian can work with.” You will find statements like this from every scholar writing on this subject (Believer and skeptic alike).
    “You have ZERO proof that James became a believer BECAUSE OF the Resurrection.”
    “ZERO” Gary? 1 Cor 15:7 is a proof and so is the fact that James and Jesus’ other brothers are unanimously said to be unbelievers in the Gospel traditions and then in Acts 1:13 (post resurrection) they are suddenly believers. You are free to maintain this high level of skepticism, but this is a very reasonable inference from the data. And if 1 Cor 15:7 is true then this IS what happened!
    “Remain in Jerusalem”
    Once again Gary, you are free to be skeptical here, but don’t start here, start with the absolute bedrock of Christianity. Again you have yet to prove a single explanation that accounts for the rise of this messianic Jewish movement proclaiming a Crucified carpenter as Risen and Lord of the world?

    Or as the great NT Scholar Moule forcefully asked it:
    “If the coming into existence of the Nazarenes, a phenomenon undeniably attested by the New Testament, rips a great hole in history, a hole the size and shape of the Resurrection, what does the secular historian propose to stop it up with?” (CFD Moule, Phenomenon of the New Testament, 3)

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  29. nonsupernaturalist

    Good morning, Justin. Thank you again for your responses.

    You said: ““The most valuable tool any historian can work with.” You will find statements like this from every scholar writing on this subject (Believer and skeptic alike).”

    Regarding James Taylor’s statement. Yes, personal testimony is very valuable information for establishing history. But what if the person’s personal testimony is a lie? Christians never want to consider this but like it or not Paul was a human being and human beings lie. All we have is this one man’s testimony, with some additional details from the Pauline disciple who wrote the Book of Acts. We have ZERO corroboration from anyone else of this meeting in Jerusalem. Could it be true? Yes. Could it be Paul fabricated this “evidence” to support his claim of apostleship? YES. We just cannot say for sure. To say that this 14 day meeting took place is NOT historical fact, it is historical conjecture. Dear Justin, you have very weak evidence to prove that this alleged event happened. If you want to take one man’s word for it, great. But I am skeptical. Neither one of us can prove with anything close to certainty that this event happened. And note that Tabor did NOT say that he believed this event happened, but simply that we have a personal testimony that said it happened, and personal testimony is the “most valuable tool…”.

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  30. nonsupernaturalist

    Justin quoting Gary: You have ZERO proof that James became a believer BECAUSE OF the Resurrection.”

    “ZERO” Gary? 1 Cor 15:7 is a proof and so is the fact that James and Jesus’ other brothers are unanimously said to be unbelievers in the Gospel traditions and then in Acts 1:13 (post resurrection) they are suddenly believers.

    Gary: I gave you several scenarios of James believing prior to Jesus’s alleged resurrection, and his conversion not being recorded by the gospel writers who had “too much information to include every detail in their accounts.” So again I ask you, Justin, what proof do you have that James did NOT convert months before the crucifixion, days before the crucifixion, the day of the crucifixion due to the eclipse of the sun and the earthquake, or during the time that Jesus was in the grave???

    Just because the author of Acts only mentions Mary and the brothers actively participating in the Church after the alleged resurrection, doesn’t mean they were not participating earlier. You are arguing from silence.

    You have ZERO proof that James believed due to a resurrection appearance.

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  31. nonsupernaturalist

    Ok, Justin. Here is my alternative, naturalistic explanation for the rise of the belief in a bodily resurrection of Jesus among early Christians. I believe that it answers all the “evidence” and I challenge you to prove that this explanation is “impossible” as one possible explanation for the early resurrection belief:

    Jesus lived in first century Palestine. He got on the wrong side of the Jewish authorities; they asked the Romans to crucify him, which the Romans did.

    Jesus body was left on the cross for days as a warning to other potential troublemakers, as was the Roman custom. At some point in time, the remains of his body were taken down and thrown into an unmarked, common dirt grave along with the remains of other executed criminals, as was the Roman custom. The site of the grave was known only to a few soldiers who quickly forgot about it.

    Jesus’ small band of disciples were emotionally and psychologically devastated. They had expected to reign with Jesus in the New Kingdom after Jesus had driven out the hated Romans. Instead, their leader and friend was dead. All hope was lost. They returned to Galilee to take up their former jobs.

    Days, weeks, or months later, a few of the female disciples of Jesus are sitting in a garden talking, they look up and see a man at the edge of the garden. “It’s Jesus!” they cry out. But the man quickly disappears into a crowd and they can not catch up to him. The man the women saw looked remarkably similar to Jesus. Was it Jesus or just someone who looked like Jesus? The women were sure it was Jesus, and run to tell the male disciples.

    The male disciples at first do not believe, but when ALL the women swear it was Jesus, and describe the man’s physical appearance, they are overcome with joy. “He is risen!” Hope is restored in the small band of early Christians.

    Days later Peter reports to the others that Jesus appeared to him (in a vision). Soon other disciples, and James the brother of Jesus, are having visions of Jesus or sightings of Jesus. The group is gripped with near hysteria. “The New Kingdom is near! We will soon reign on thrones with Jesus, as he promised!”

    The once timid and spineless disciples are now courageous believers in the “Resurrected Jesus”, and begin preaching his message far and wide. The small band begins to grow as other (mostly) poor, hopeless, down-trodden peasants are told of the coming kingdom and of an afterlife living in mansions on streets lined with gold and rewarded for their faithfulness in this life with crowns studded with jewels. Christianity promises nothing but persecution and pain for a short time, but in the New Kingdom, and in the afterlife, which could come at any minute, they will be rich and forever happy!

    A Jewish rabbi, Saul of Tarsus, also has a vision. In his vision, the Jesus whose followers he is persecuting, designates him as the most important of all Jesus’ apostles, and orders him to carry his message to all the world. Saul/Paul believes his vision is from God, and therefore obeys.

    For a little over two centuries, Christianity grows, how much we cannot say for sure, but within a short time, there are Christian churches in almost every major city in the Roman world. Then, in circa 300 AD, the emperor of the Empire has his own vision of Jesus, and converts to the new faith. If he had had a vision of Mithras the world might be predominantly Mithrian today, but his vision was Christian…and the rest is history.

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  32. nonsupernaturalist

    And just in case you object to me omitting the “empty tomb”, you can insert this scenario into the above story without causing any disruption: Jesus was buried in the rock tomb of Jospeh of Aramathea, but the body was either moved or stolen, by someone, sometime before the women arrived Sunday morning, finding an empty tomb without any explanation why.

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  33. nonsupernaturalist

    And what about the Creed?

    The Creed develops shortly after the false sighting by the women and the visions of Peter and James, and, yes, just as thousands of Christians today claim to see the Virgin Mary, five hundred Christians then soon came to believe that they had “seen” Jesus all at the same time and the same place.

    So the Creed was not fabricated. The early Christians sincerely believed that every person on the “Witness list” in the Creed had seen Jesus, however, we have ZERO proof that they actually did, and, in our own personal experience, and in collective human history, which is more probable:

    1. A group of superstitious, hope-deprived peasants believe that their deceased friend has come back from the dead, defying all norms of belief in their Honor-Shame culture.

    or

    2. An ancient middle eastern god really did reanimate the dead flesh of a first century apocalyptic Jewish prophet.

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  34. Barry Jones

    I’ve never seen any apologist answer these points, which directly bear on the resurrection of Jesus:

    1 – The apostles learned from God’s Son for three years that salvation goes to the gentiles just as much as it does to the Jews (John 3:16). The apostles allegedly saw Jesus alive after he died, which allegedly transformed them from skeptics into bold preachers of the faith (Acts 1). The resurrected Jesus tells them to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Matthew 28:19), and then taught them on Gentile salvation for 40 days. Then before they actually preach, they are filled in a mighty way with the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2).

    And despite all this prior teaching and supernatural inducement to get Gentile salvation correctly, the Jewish apostles, some years after Jesus died, are finding the concept of Gentile salvation to be an utterly shocking unexpected theological development, and they don’t discover it by being reminded of what Jesus said, they discover it by being told that Peter had a vision, as if this vision was the first time they ever discovered that salvation goes to the Gentiles. Acts 11:1-18.

    Either the apostles are so incompetent their credibility is impeached as resurrection eyewitnesses, or the gospel passages showing a Gentile-friendly Jesus are interpolations, which means untrustworthy gospels.

    Choose you this day how you will swerve.
    barryjoneswhat@yahoo.com

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    1. Justin

      Barry, thanks for the comment, but this is actually fairly easily answered and not an issue at all for those well-versed in historical Jesus studies.
      If you read Matthew 10 you see that during Jesus’ public ministry it is very clear that he was preaching the Kingdom message to the lost sheep of Israel (the Jews) primarily. Gentiles were definitely coming into the kingdom already during Jesus’ public ministry, but Matthew 10 reveals that Jesus’ focus during his public ministry was always primarily Israel. “To the Jew first…” (Romans 1:16)
      You cited John 3:16, but this is a misunderstanding on your part. Virtually all scholars agree that John 3:16-21 is the author of the Gospel of John’s commentary on Jesus’ words previously to Nicodemus. So John writing to the Gentiles in the late 80s early 90s is revealing that the Gospel is even though first directed to the Jews (fulfilling the Law and the Prophets) is so far reaching that is for the whole world.
      There is nothing about Jesus teaching about “gentile salvation” for 40 days. That is conjecture on your part.
      You are correct that in Acts 1 Jesus says this Gospel will go to “the ends of the earth” and in Matt 28:19 to make disciples of all nations (notice in both cases it is post resurrection not during Jesus’ public ministry), but once you study the backgrounds, how serious this barrier was between the Jews and the Gentiles in the first century, you see that it took a lot of repetition for the disciples to finally “get it” that the Jews and the Gentiles are on the same level before God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This was completely radical and needed time to work out. Acts 1:6-7 reveals that even post resurrection the disciples STILL didn’t understand the nature of Christ’s kingdom and how He would one day restore it to Israel.
      Hope this helps.

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      1. Barry Jones

        Justin, your response is entirely unpersuasive. I respond point by point:

        You said:
        Barry, thanks for the comment, but this is actually fairly easily answered and not an issue at all for those well-versed in historical Jesus studies. If you read Matthew 10 you see that during Jesus’ public ministry it is very clear that he was preaching the Kingdom message to the lost sheep of Israel (the Jews) primarily. Gentiles were definitely coming into the kingdom already during Jesus’ public ministry, but Matthew 10 reveals that Jesus’ focus during his public ministry was always primarily Israel. “To the Jew first…” (Romans 1:16)

        Barry replies:
        Which group Jesus chose to “primarily” focus on is irrelevant; you admit that Gentiles were coming into the Kingdom during the earthly 3-year ministry of Jesus, hence, the reality of Gentile salvation was being drilled into the heads of the original disciples for at least three years, so that their entire surprise in Acts 11:18 at the truth of Gentile salvation remains a problem. Second, Matthew 4:16 and Luke 2:32 indicate that Jesus was salvation for Gentiles clear from the beginning of his earthly ministry, and the various references to “great crowds” following Jesus, so that entire towns would stampede at his presence so much that he dared not enter certain towns (Mark 1:45, etc,.) show that salvation to the Gentiles was regular, whether you can reconcile that with Matthew 10 or not. Again, the Jewish apostles in Acts 11 are reacting to the concept of Gentile salvation as if they had never even heard of such a thing before (11:18), and the Gentile salvation seen in the gospels is sufficient to render suspicious the shock of the Jewish apostles in Acts 11:18 to the concept of Gentile salvation. “they just didn’t get it” is absolutely unpersuasive, thus calling into question whether your response was intended to impress people who already agree with you, or was intended to persuade those who don’t already agree with you.

        You said:
        You cited John 3:16, but this is a misunderstanding on your part. Virtually all scholars agree that John 3:16-21 is the author of the Gospel of John’s commentary on Jesus’ words previously to Nicodemus. So John writing to the Gentiles in the late 80s early 90s is revealing that the Gospel is even though first directed to the Jews (fulfilling the Law and the Prophets) is so far reaching that is for the whole world.

        I reply:
        You are overstating your case, and you commit the fallacy of ad populum by acting as if the fact that the majority of scholars agree with your view, constitutes truth. Whether John 3:16 is something Jesus spoke or is commentary by the author is highly controversial. You also ignore the fact that people were mostly illiterate in the first century, therefore when they heard John 3 being read to them, they would assume it was Jesus speaking until the words made it clear that he had ceased speaking, they would not trifle with the text the way your “virtually all scholars” do today. For that reason, the original hearers of John’s gospel would likely have assumed that there is no change of speaker introduced before v. 16 because it was the same speaker that was identified previously. If the Johannine material was kept alive by oral tradition before it was written, then those repeating the oral tradition were unlikely to nit-pick the text the way scholars do today. Wrong or right, the most ancient Christian understanding would have been that until the context makes clear there is a new speaker, the speaker is the one previously identified, and in the context of John 3:16, no change of speaker becomes clear until v. 22, where the third-person narrative begins again.

        You said:
        There is nothing about Jesus teaching about “gentile salvation” for 40 days. That is conjecture on your part.

        I reply:
        Not conjecture at all. Even assuming the Great Commission of the resurrected Jesus in Matthew 28:19 was a new mission field, that is all the more reason for Jesus to have explained the mechanics and “way of Gentile salvation” to them for a period of 40 days as Acts 1:3 says. If the Jewish apostles in Acts 11 did not believe Gentile salvation until Peter gave them a story about his own vision of same (11:18), it would appear these racial prejudices and scruples were in full swing during those prior 40 days when they conversed with a resurrected Jesus who told them to preach to the Gentiles…which makes it highly implausible that by some strange accident, nobody during those 40 days ever thought to bring these issues up and get them resolved while the boss was still at work. Otherwise, you wind up with the absurdity of Jesus merely telling them to take the gospel to the Gentiles, and never once, during the 40 days before Pentecost, ever dealing with the obvious problems such a mission would create for the disciples and their allegedly anti-Gentile scruples. If there was a “serious barrier” between Jew and Gentile in the first century, then Jesus sending them on a Gentile mission field without explaining how Gentiles get saved, would be like a man telling his 4 year old child to fix the transmission of a car, but not telling him the steps necessary to be successful therein. Worse, these Jewish disciples experiencing the resurrected Jesus thus had this miraculous experience to induce them to carefully remember and follow what Jesus said, more so than if they gained the commission by simply sitting at the feet of a regular rabbi. Therefore it doesn’t matter if Jesus didn’t explain the mechanics of Gentile salvation during the Acts 1:3 40-day period, his commissioning during that period that they preach to Gentiles (Matthew 28:19) would make their subsequent absolute ignorance of even the concept of Gentile salvation (Acts 11:18) a rather implausible hypothesis…and yet in Acts 11:18, these Jewish apostles are not “remembering what Jesus told them”, they are giving the impression that they never even knew Gentile salvation was a possibility until Peter told them his story about a vision. I’m sorry, but under Christian assumptions, the basis for the Gentile mission is not Peter’s vision, but God’s own commissioning them to same while He was on earth.

        You said:
        You are correct that in Acts 1 Jesus says this Gospel will go to “the ends of the earth” and in Matt 28:19 to make disciples of all nations (notice in both cases it is post resurrection not during Jesus’ public ministry), but once you study the backgrounds, how serious this barrier was between the Jews and the Gentiles in the first century, you see that it took a lot of repetition for the disciples to finally “get it” that the Jews and the Gentiles are on the same level before God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

        I reply:
        First, how much ‘repetition’ do you suppose occurred in the three years the disciples were learning about gentile salvation from Jesus? Second, how clearly do you think Gentile salvation would have become to them if, after this three years, the resurrected Jesus appears to them and tells them to preach to the Gentiles? Third, how stupid would the filling of the spirit in Acts 2 be, if there was no purpose to induce these apostles to overcome their Jewish scruples when preaching to the ends of the earth? God wanted to give them power to preach, but nothing by way of overcoming their personal prejudices? Still interested in the apologetics argument that says the disciples became “transformed” after seeing the resurrected Jesus? Fourth, you are falsely making this problem easier to solve than it really is, when you characterize it as a problem of the how ‘difficult’ it was for the apostles to “get it”. In Acts 11, the apostles do not express “difficulty” with the concept of Gentile salvation, they deny it entirely, as seen by their answer in Acts 11:18, as if this was the first time they ever heard that Gentiles could be saved. In Acts 11, their single solitary basis for becoming open to gentile salvation, is NOT “remember what Jesus said?”, but rather Peter’s bizarre vision-story. The response they give in 11:18 makes clear that Gentile salvation was a brand new theological development they never saw coming. Your idea that they knew about Gentile salvation previously but ignored it due to “serious barriers” is highly implausible given the repetitious and miraculous teachings and inducements that they retain and obey that knowledge. Finally, you fall into the sin of scholarship-onlyism with your argument from “serious barriers”. Apparently, under your theory, not even a combination of Gentile salvation drilled into their heads for three years in the ministry of Jesus, their seeing the resurrected Jesus whose message for 40 days included taking the gospel to the Gentiles, and the special unprecedented filling of the Holy Spirit they experienced at Pentecost, was enough to rid them of whatever cultured anti-Gentile views they might have had. Apparently when the bible says all those in Christ are “new” creatures, it means this in such a generalized way that you shouldn’t expect to see much of any newness whatsoever beyond the obvious fact that they now accept Jesus.

        You said:
        This was completely radical and needed time to work out.

        I reply:
        Yeah, “time”, not teaching by Jesus for three years, not their seeing the resurrected Jesus who told them to preach to the Gentiles, and not the fabulously unprecedented transforming experience of the Spirit in Acts 2. Nah, “time” is greater than any effort on God’s part to transform people through the power of the Spirit, despite the fact that when God really wants to, his power to make people desire to obey him is analogized in scripture to somebody using a hook to force cattle into a corral or using a gaff to haul fish into a boat (Ezekiel 38:4), and despite the fact that God has the power to stir up even the hearts of unbelievers to make them receptive to God’s desires (Ezra 1:1).

        You said:
        Acts 1:6-7 reveals that even post resurrection the disciples STILL didn’t understand the nature of Christ’s kingdom and how He would one day restore it to Israel.
        Hope this helps.

        I reply:
        First, do you SERIOUSLY believe that a skeptic must reconcile each and every bit of New Testament data with his theory that the resurrection of Jesus is false? Isn’t that like forcing a jury to reconcile their “guilty” verdict with the defendant’s alibi? Obviously, you need to make room for possibility that it can be rational and reasonable to cite SOME data in the accused’s story as as reason to say their story doesn’t wash, without thereby committing oneself to needing to account for or accept the truth of every fact in the story or alibi. Second, I have reasons for calling the general integrity of the author of Acts into question. Many arguments difficult to answer in favor of requiring Gentiles to be circumcised to be saved, could be culled from what Jesus taught. Yet in Acts 15, the Judaizer arguments are represented by a single short summary statement repeated once, while the author spills much ink recording the arguments of Peter and James. Yes, the author had a perfect right to engage in such unbalanced reporting, but he did so at the risk of giving his future readers a reasonable justification for being suspicious about his honesty. For one thing, the Judaizers likely would have argued that Jesus disapprove of those who would annul even the least of the law (Matthew 5:19), so that Exodus 12:48 remains a requirement for those who wish to partake of Jesus the Passover…an argument that could not be overcome by Peter’s “why put yoke around our necks which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear?” When we add in the other stories in the bible about completely ridiculous unbelief despite clear evidence staring them in the face (The Israelites of Exodus despairing of God just days after seeing the Red sea parted, the immediate family of Jesus thinking he was crazy, so that James doesn’t become a believer until after the alleged resurrection, etc), it appears to me that the ‘slowness’ of the disciples to realize the truth is a literary fiction intended to heighten dramatic impact, it is not reporting literal history. The only way people abandon what they were previously taught my miraculous work of God, is if they apostatized from it. So the shock of the Jewish apostles in Acts 11:18 to the concept of Gentile salvation requires that they rejected that teaching sometime after the resurrected Jesus taught it to them…which means their general credibility as witnesses to this resurrected Jesus is impeached sufficiently to justify rejection of their story of a resurrected Jesus. Since you have no criteria for determining what level or degree of unbalanced reporting must be shown before rejection of it can be rational, you are forced to acknowledge that reasonable people can reasonably disagree about whether Luke can be trusted in everything he says in Acts.

        I don’t believe Acts 11 tells the truth, my argument which you respond to merely shows the unhappy consequences that follow if those who profess to believe the bible, take it seriously in Acts 11. Your hypothesis that the disciples “just didn’t get it” is highly implausible. Coming up with an hypothesis that is merely “possible” does not help you. The possibilities are endless. You need to argue that your hypothesis is not just plausible, but MORE plausible than mine. You didn’t. When you insist that the disciples’ cultured proclivities against Gentiles slowed them from accepting truth, not only is such a thing highly implausible, but neglects the fact that in Acts 11, they are not “remembering” anything, their acceptance of Gentile salvation never started until Peter told them his bizarre vision story.

        What’s worse, Acts 11 presents them as accepting Peter’s story upon no other inducement except Peter’s mere word, despite their alleged prior knowledge that Peter was fickle and unreliable and would deny truth if he thought admitting it would get him in trouble, such as his denying Christ. Their immediate acceptance of the word of such unreliable fellow hurts their credibility even more. And if that weren’t bad enough, what they are accepting is not just Peter’s ‘testimony’, but his account of a bizarre “vision”. So they appear to be prone to accept stories about visions without doing much, if any, fact checking. And did I forget to mention that its more than a little coincidental that Acts, which is basically not much more than an apologetic for Paul, presents the introduction to Gentile salvation, by the same means that Paul did…vision? (Acts 26:19, optasia).

        I am willing to have a formal written debate with you on these matters, since obviously this blog is not suited to interrogatories and scholarly-length answers.

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      2. Justin

        Barry, I would love to, but I think we would need to pick a more critical topic. Your challenges that we are discussing currently only affects certain forms of inerrancy. Maybe you come out of a fundamentalist background and these points are big deal to you, but for most Christian scholars this would not in any way bother them. Joseph Fitzmyer for example, Roman Catholic and in no way an inerrantist, would tell you that you are missing the point in these texts and that because of their majority Gentile audiences, they are putting on the lips of Jesus these sayings about reaching gentiles. But (as I said in my earlier comment) the historical Jesus was focused on the Jews and Israel as were all His disciples during His public ministry. That is why it took them so long to finally start reaching out to the Gentiles in the latter part of the first century.
        Now I don’t ascribe to that (I do believe in inerrancy), but this solves all your problems and does nothing to the Essentials of Christianity that Fitzmyer and so many other non-inerrantists would still affirm on good grounds.
        So if we are going to debate something, let’s actually debate something that would affect the Essentials of Christianity.
        And how do you identify? Atheist? Agnostic? Other?
        But back to your points, most of your problems stem from just a misunderstanding of certain texts. In this case all your problems come from a misunderstanding of Acts 11:18.
        You assume that it was the original disciples of Jesus saying this in Acts 11:18, but Luke makes clear it was the “Circumcised believers” who had taken issue with Peter that say this (Acts 11:2). These are comparable to the Judaizers that are on the extreme side of this issue that Paul is fighting against in Galatians for example. These are not people who were original disciples of Jesus.
        Some from this group were actually there when this ‘Second Pentecost’ happened at Cornelius’ house: “All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.” (Acts 10:45)
        So you are just completely misunderstanding Acts 11:18 being spoken by original followers of Jesus. Luke has a way of speaking of them and he does not do that here.
        And Matthew 4:16 is from a verse being quoted by Matthew, not something that was said in Jesus’ public ministry. Moreover, Luke 2:32 was spoken by Simeon when Jesus was 8 years old. How would Jesus’ disciples have heard this statement by Simeon Barry?
        And again the fact that Gentiles were being saved under Jesus’ ministry would still not have convinced these Jews that Gentiles were on the same level with the Jewish people nor would have taught them that they are supposed to take the message of Jesus to all Gentiles in the world.

        The problem is not with Matthew 10 and other Scriptures Barry, it is your misunderstanding of certain texts like Acts 11:18 that is the problem.
        Everything you said about John is completely irrelevant to this discussion because the Gospel of John was written in the late 80s early 90s anyways so this would not affect the Gentile mission in the 30s and 40s. John is speaking in John 3:16-21. Scholars agree on this for good reasons Gary. Check out Raymond Brown’s commentary for details.
        The other text that is tripping you up here is Acts 1:3. All it says is that Jesus taught them over the 40 day period about the Kingdom of God. It never says anything about the “mechanics of Gentile salvation.” Please tell me where you see that in Acts 1:3. Even in Acts 1:6-7 the disciples are still thinking the kingdom is going to be restored to Israel. This argues the opposite that Jesus was discussing many more things about the Kingdom and Israel (not Gentiles). The only even allusion to the Gentiles here is the phrase “the ends of the earth.” Pretty vague Barry and for disciples like the ones we are told about in the Gospels, this DID need time to work out and understand.
        Matthew 28:19 is the most explicit, but it is also very close to Acts 1:8’s “ends of the earth” and “all nations” so it makes perfect sense that they would begin doing this in Jerusalem.

        When you say things like Jesus spent three years “drilling Gentile salvation” into the disciple’s heads, I want to ask what Gospels are you reading? It is very clear that the primary message Jesus is “drilling” into their heads is the Kingdom of God, what it means to follow Him, His upcoming death and resurrection and the imminent crises on the temple and Israel (which occurred in AD70). Even with the Gospel writers’ emphasis on the Gentiles because that is their primary audience, the strictly Jewish emphasis is all throughout the public ministry of Jesus (Matthew 10, et al).
        In the end, all your challenges here boil down to misunderstandings of Acts 1:3 and 11:18 along with an argument from silence: ‘Why didn’t they mention what Jesus said about the Gentiles in Acts 11?!’ You see the circular problem you have here?
        Barry, I really hope this is not the reason you rejected Christianity. There are actually more sophisticated (but still ultimately weak) reasons people have rejected the faith, but this is not one of them.

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  35. gary

    There are so many things about the Christian story that defy common sense. Here is one more:

    Jesus spends three years training 12 disciples to “go into all the world to preach the gospel”…and then a couple years after this death, he appears to a Pharisee, whom he had condemned as vipers, and tells the Pharisee that HE will be Jesus’ principle apostle to the gentiles.

    To the gentiles?? Isn’t that what the word “world” means?

    It is just a preposterous collection of common sense defying claims.

    There is a saying that there are only TWO things that are certain in life: death and taxes. I would add one more: for every blatant discrepancy in their ancient holy book, the Bible, Christians will ALWAYS find some convoluted harmonization to prop up this tall tale.

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  36. Louis

    This is a nice and interesting debate.
    It does seem that some discoveries in science are affecting the faith of some people and what is in the Bible is being questioned. In the following interview I have dwelt on science, while Joseph A. Fitzmyer<SJ talks about the Bible: https://www.academia.edu/4700001/What_do_we_know_about_the_Bible_An_interview_with_Joseph_A._Fitzmyer_SJ
    There have also been Biblical scholars who have departed from this world, believing just in an existential spiritual legacy left by Jesus:
    https://www.academia.edu/12851672/The_Historical_Jesus_The_view_of_Professor_Geza_Vermes
    I personally think that Paul did not deny Jesus' physical resurrection. He joined the Christ movement late and did not see and feel Jesus like the disciples did, however he had a vision. He must have known what the disciples had seen and felt.

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    1. Barry Jones

      Louis, what is your explanation for the Jewish or circumcised apostles in Acts 11, speaking about the reality of Gentile salvation as if their very first introduction to the idea was Peter’s recounting the vision (Acts 11:18)?

      If not even the commission of Gentile mission to them by a resurrected Jesus (Matthew 28:19), in which he explained that stuff to them for a period of about 40 days (Acts 1:3) was not sufficient to drill that reality into their heads, isn’t the credibility of their testimony to seeing a risen Jesus, totally and terribly impeached? When is the last time you believed a proposition solely on the word of a person who was similarly unreliable?

      Please notice: Peter in Acts 11 is not reminding them of a prior teaching of Jesus that salvation goes to the Gentiles. The solitary basis in that context for making the Jerusalem apostles become open to the possibility of Gentile salvation, is Peter’s story about having a vision of God about a sheet full of unclean beasts (Acts 11:3-17).

      If Jesus’ followers during his earthly three year ministry really were the mixed crowd of circumcised orthodox Jews and uncircumcised Gentile men, isn’t it obvious that the question of whether Gentiles can have salvation, would already have been answered authoritatively by Jesus?

      My own answer is that Jesus and the original apostles never intended the gospel to go to the Gentiles in the first place, but the Jerusalem famine during Paul’s circa 47 a.d., heyday constrained them to accept Paul’s monetary bribe: If they want money from his Gentile churches to relieve their famine, they will have to agree to give Paul the “right-hand of fellowship”.

      In other words, the Judaizers of Galatians 2:12 really did have authority to disrupt Paul’s ministry from apostle James, but James became willing to compromise with Paul as soon as he started viewing Paul as a meal-ticket.

      That bribe is mostly likely the reason why Paul insisted that when presenting his gospel to most important Jerusalem apostles, it would only take place privately (Galatians 2:1). Doing things privately helps obscure the real motives of the players. So while it may be that the apostles truly did express approval of Paul’s ministry, I give argument that they did not do so for theological reasons, but solely because of a sorely needed money-gift. “In exchange for this money-gift, we agree to cease troubling you with the Judaizer truth.”

      This compromise on Gentile salvation existed before the canonical gospels were written, thus whenever a gospel presents Jesus as friendly to Gentiles, this is likely just fiction arising from Paul’s prior and wrongful expansion of the ministry corrupting the original and exclusively Jewish gospel.

      I never understood why so many scholars disregard hypotheses merely because they are inconsistent with some biblical statement. Paul admitted he would give a false impression of his true beliefs if it would help him gain converts (1st Cor. 9:20-21), so I don’t see the basis for some commentators to insist that the only good hypotheses are those that reconcile all the available biblical data. We have no need to worry about biblical data written by liars.

      Like

      1. Louis

        Hi Barry
        I’m sorry I noticed your comment only now. You have raised some good points, which have often been discussed by biblical scholars.
        The gospel of John goes beyond the Jewish world. As for the rest, we must remember that even the meaning of “messiah” divided people in both OT and NT times. It is explained in Fr. Joseph A. Fitzmyer’s book “The One Who Is To Come”.
        We must remember that Jesus had his own views about God, Moses and Scripture.
        That is why he is accepted by all major religions, including Hinduism, where he is “Avatar”, God incarnate with special powers. In fact, his influence on Hinduism has been so great that it led to Vedanta Hinduism.

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  37. gary

    Or the disciples had “seen” Jesus in the same sense he did.

    If a “heavenly vision” is enough to convert a hard-core, Jesus-hating Pharisee, why wouldn’t a similar vision convert a peasant fisherman or tax-collector?

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    1. Barry Jones

      I don’t feel you are answering directly. I wanted you to answer my specific points. Please answer my post in a point-by-point fashion. Feel free to summarize my points if you feel quoting them directly would make your response too long. Or feel free to email me with your response if you think it would be too long for this blog.

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    1. nonsupernaturalist

      That is certainly possible. It is equally possible, and much more probable by the standards of collective human experience, that Paul had a vision, which he believed was from God, and therefore believed that Jesus had truly appeared to him…as a talking bright light…commissioning him to be the greatest Christian apostle.

      Everyone it seems was having visions in that time period: Zachariah, Mary, Joseph, Stephen, Paul, Constantine…so why not a few Galilean fishermen, a tax collector, and Jesus’ brother?

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  38. nonsupernaturalist

    How do you know that “Jesus’ appearance” to James and the other people mentioned in the NT who reported seeing a resurrected Jesus, was any different than “Jesus’ appearance” to Constantine?

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      1. nonsupernaturalist

        So what you are saying is that you believe the NT by faith, like a Muslim believes the Koran by faith?

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    1. Justin

      Gary, notice that Paul says in 1 Cor 15:8 “last of all He appeared to me.” It is very clear that Paul (and the other Jerusalem apostles by extension) saw these particular resurrection appearances as unique and not occurring anymore after the appearance to Paul. Notice Paul still has visions of Jesus all throughout Acts and according to 2 Cor 12:1-6. The resurrection appearances are unique in that they unrepeatable and they were bodily appearances of Jesus. Visions of Jesus whether throughout the rest of the first century, to Constantine, and to so many who have converted today (like many Muslims) are completely different than the 40 days of resurrection appearances + Paul.

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      1. Barry Jones

        Justin, your error is to constantly presuppose the honesty of Paul when discussing matters raised by his self-serving epistles. I would like to present you the same question I present to other apologists, who have failed miserably to answer it: Paul admits that when in company of those under the Law, he would present himself as if he himself too were under the law, while believing himself to be free from the law. 1st Corinthians 9:20-21. Please explain how Paul could do this without giving a false impression of his theological beliefs.

        When Paul had Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3), did he make sure the Jews understood that Paul himself regarded his own circumcision and any other benefit-conferring Jewish trait as human feces (Philippians 3:8, Greek: skubalon)?

        When Paul participated in the cleansing ritual in Acts 21:21ff, was he telling the Jews watching him during that time “Please be careful to note that I believe the old covenant is ready to vanish away, and the law is done away in Christ, I’m only going along with this ritual because James said this would be a good way to convince you of the falsity of a rumor you heard about me” ?

        (!?)

        or maybe that rumor (i.e., that Paul told other Jews to forsake Moses) was true…in which case James’ concern to falsify the rumor (Acts 21:24) constituted a dishonest public relations stunt…thus impeaching the credibility of Paul, James, and the other leaders of the Jerusalem church? Could it be that the reason James never suggested a simple verbal denial by Paul was because there was too much evidence that the rumor was true, and therefore, only the most extreme reaction by Paul (his paying expenses for the ritual and participating in it himself) had any hope of convincing the Jews is was false?

        Were false rumors about the apostles really taken that seriously by the first-century Jerusalem church? Maybe these converted Jews were just as liable to believe false rumors as were the large crowds and whole towns who, throughout Acts, believe false things about Paul?

        Come to think of it…why should James and Paul have engaged in such public relations act anyway? The zeal for the law held by Jame’s converts (Acts 21:20)was actually a denial of Paul’s gospel truth that the law is done away in Christ, and under Paul’s own reasoning, their failure to acknowledge such law-free gospel was a heresy calling for “sharp rebuke” (Titus 1:13). But Paul’s going along with James’ advice makes it appear that Paul will fudge on the matter of sharp rebuke if he feels being nice about everything increases the chance of saving his reputation.

        And yet you want unbelievers to accept as historically accurate, a New Testament which arose out of a culture in which whole towns could believe false rumors about Paul, and a large portion of the Jerusalem church could believe false rumors about Paul? Are you entirely certain that the historical reliability of apostolic writings is “obvious”?

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      2. Justin

        Again Barry, your misreading of these texts is what is causing you problems.
        Now it is 1 Cor 9:20-21. You can read this and really think Paul is talking about being fraudulent or lying?! Paul is clearly saying out of love and a desire to see all “won” to Christ, he is willing to sacrifice personal non-essential beliefs to reach the Jew and the Gentile. If I refuse to eat beef at dinner with a Hindu (even though I like beef) am I being dishonest or am I sacrificing my freedom to eat beef in order to respect my Hindu friends beliefs and hopeful win them to Christ? The examples are ad infinitum. No one sees this as a problem text besides you Barry.
        Acts 16:3 is the same issue. It was meant to not offend Jewish people he would come in contact with, it had nothing to do with salvation (which is what Paul is railing against in Galatians).
        Acts 21:21 is another beautiful example of Paul applying 1 Cor 9:20-21. Paul I don’t think agreed he needed to do what James told him to do. But to ensure peace and unity, Paul submitted to James’ recommendation. This reveals a lot about Paul’s character.

        Lastly, the historical reliability of Paul’s 7 indisputed letters are “obvious” to everyone who studies and teaches these issues professionally. So at least with 7 of the Apostolic writings, yes it is obvious.

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      3. Barry Jones

        Justin, we are going to have to reduce our subject to just one at a time, since this “blog” is no place to try and argue many different issues all at once.

        I will choose to focus on Acts 11, and solely on the singular issue of whether the Christians who took issue with Peter eating with an uncircumcised Gentile believer, included “apostles” or were just average Christian “brethren”.

        First, you say Luke makes it clear that these were ‘circumcised believers’. That’s the only attempt you make to exegete Acts 11:1-2. But in v. 1, apostolos appears, it does not just say adelphos. So when verse 2 says “they who were circumcised took issue with him”, the immediate context provided by v 1 requires that it means these were circumcised APOSTLES and brethren, who took issue with Peter…unless you have a reason from the immediate context or grammar of the passage to argue that those who were circumcised in v. 2 does not include the apostolos that v. 1 groups with the adelphos.

        Also, the apostles of v. 1 are further identified as being in the area of Judea, and the resistance to Peter started when he had come back to Jerusalem (v. 2). So it would appear that those who took issue with Peter included “apostolos” who were in “Jerusalem”. I.e., Jerusalem apostles were part of the crowd who found Peter to be in error in eating with an uncircumcised Gentile believer.

        I do not accept Jehovah Witness-style hermeneutics, in which you condition what one verse means, by requiring that it be reconciled with whatever else in the bible that you find easier to digest. If you cannot document your argument solely from the grammar and immediate context provided in Acts 11:1-2, then you are beset with an argument that has no support from the grammar or the immediate context, in the face of my argument which cites phenomena in the Greek of those verses and how they relate to each other in the context.

        Now then, please provide your basis for saying that the apostolos of Acts 11:1 were not among the circumcised believers in v. 2 who took issue with Peter. Or else admit that Acts 11 teaches that there were circumcised apostles who took issue with Peter eating in the house of an uncircumcised believer.

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      4. Justin

        Taking these one by one is a good plan Barry.
        You are completely wrong here Barry and this is why you should completely abandon this so called challenge to Christianity (really just inerrancy). It is all based on a verse you are completely misreading.
        Let’s look at the section in full:
        “Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised (οἱ ἐκ περιτομῆς) took issue with him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence, saying…” (Acts 11:1-4)
        Notice Luke tells us that the Apostles and the brethren heard this news about the Gentiles receiving the word of God. But then Luke singles out a group known as the “circumcision group” (see Greek above) as the ones who took issue with Peter eating with Gentiles. They may well have been the same group as those believers mentioned in Acts 15:5 who belonged to the Pharisees and required Gentiles to be circumcised and to live by the Mosaic law.

        You want to argue that because “apostles” is mentioned in verse 1, they should be assumed as included in the “circumcision group” of verse 2. What destroys your case Barry is that this title Luke uses for this particular group had already been used in Acts 10:45: “All the circumcised (οἱ ἐκ περιτομῆς) believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.” This is clearly a particular group Luke is separating out from among the Apostles and the Brethren in Jerusalem. Are we also to conclude that the Apostles were there with Peter when the Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his household?!

        Therefore, the “they” in your key verse Acts 11:18 (“When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying…”) is referring to those of this “circumcision group” and none of the disciples of Jesus during His public ministry.
        So your entire case is built on a misunderstanding of Acts 11:18. Please move on to a real challenge to Christianity based on correct readings of texts in the NT.

        Like

      5. Barry Jones

        Justin, your echoing the standard inerrantist belief that Acts 11:2 is “singling out” a sub-group of Christians more specific than “apostles and brethren” is not persuasive to me for the following reasons:

        First, and probably most important, your current argument from Acts 11:1-2 indicates you’ve changed your mind since I posted my first argument here. When I posted my first argument here, your original response was to admit that the disciples, who were taught by Jesus for three years, and who asked him in Acts 1 about restoring the kingdom (i.e., the original disciples, or “apostles”), were the ones who “didn’t get it”. Here is what you said:

        “…you see that it took a lot of repetition for the disciples to finally “get it” that the Jews and the Gentiles are on the same level before God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This was completely radical and needed time to work out. Acts 1:6-7 reveals that even post resurrection the disciples STILL didn’t understand the nature of Christ’s kingdom and how He would one day restore it to Israel.”

        But NOW, you are trying to argue that Acts 11:1-2 is restricting those who took issue with Peter fellowshipping with an uncircumcised believer, to just a specific sub-group of Christians not including the original disciples. What reason do you have from the grammar or context of Acts 11:1-2, to insist that the ignorance on this matter, which you earlier admitted plagued the original disciples themselves, is something Acts 11:1-2 is restricting to a specific-subgroup not including the original disciples? If on the basis of your previous argument, the original disciples also “just didn’t get it”, then what is your problem with the idea that the circumcised APOSTLES were part of the group that Acts 11:1-2 says took issue with Peter?

        Second, you simply cite the Greek term at issue, then immediately speculate that by such term Luke was “singling out” a specific sub-group. You provide no argument that ‘οἰ ἐκ περιτομῆς’ was restricted to a specific sub-group, you are simply insisting that “they who were circumcised” is a phrase that doesn’t include the apostles, but you are keeping it a secret as to why. And if the NAU is accurate with its more formal translation, the English “those who were circumcised” is a generalized expression that does not express or imply more specificity than simply people who were circumcised, meaning any further specificity you wish to find must be obtained from other sources. How you are getting any greater narrowing of focus beyond “circumcision” out of the operative phrase “those who who were circumcised” remains a mystery.

        Third, you admit your understanding is not necessarily the only one that is plausible, since you hedge when you say of this group: “they may well have been” the same group indicated in Acts 15:5. “may well have been” is an admission of lack of certitude entirely inconsistent with your overtly confident proclamations that I have “problems” and that I “misunderstand” Acts 11:1-2. Why are you presenting a “may have been”, as if it clearly established my misunderstanding thereto?

        Fourth, you next argue that my case is destroyed on the alleged basis that the same term Luke used in Acts 11:2 appears in Acts 10:45. You specific words were

        “this title Luke uses for this particular group had already been used in Acts 10:45: “All the circumcised (οἱ ἐκ περιτομῆς)…” You are incorrect.

        The group of uncircumcised men in 10:45 are called περιτομῆς πιστοί, which the NAU translated as “circumcised believers”. But no form of pistis appears in 11:2, so your argument based on usage of the same term is false, the terms are not the same. Moreover, the less specific term “those who were circumcised” in Acts 11:2, by failing to include pistis or other further narrowing term, forces the reader to conclude that the persons referred to are all of the circumcised people in whatever group was mentioned in the immediate context (here, 11:1), absent compelling reasons to think some of those identified in the context should be excluded from the phrase “those who were circumcised”. But as shown above, you did not provide reasons anywhere near “compelling”. All the original apostles were Jewish, thus would be just as likely to have been circumcised as any other first-century Jew, and since you have failed to differentiate them from the the “those who were circumcised” in v.2, I think I have pretty solid grounds for including them in that phrase. Your phrase “may have been” indicates that at the end of the day, you don’t believe your rebuttals to me are as perfectly certain as your overtly confident language portrays them to be. The gospels “may have been” complete fiction, but does “may have been” sound like a compelling argument to you? Then neither does it sound compelling to me. Fair?

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      6. Justin

        Sorry Barry for a late response. I didn’t know you had responded until I scrolled back through. I only get emails when Gary or Celsus responds for some reason.
        Any way this will have to be my last response to you because I have a lot to catch up on this weekend and I think your challenge regarding Acts 11 has been more than sufficiently answered. It is not really an issue Barry among those who studies these things nor do even skeptics bring this one up. This just seems to be a problem you have probably from a fundamentalist background and perspective on the Scriptures.
        A few things in regards to your last response.
        No, I did not change my mind on anything. Completely apart from Acts 11, it is clear that it took Jesus’ actual disciples “working out” that they needed to leave Jerusalem and go to the Gentiles worldwide. This is true for many reasons but Acts 11 is not one of them. Acts 11 is dealing with a certain subgroup of circumcised believers NOT the original disciples challenging Peter. You are just grasping at straws at this point.
        And your distinction between Acts 10:45 and Acts 11:1-2 because in Acts 10:45 it has pistoi is ridiculous. You really don’t think those hanging out with the Apostles in Jersualem were “believers”? Come on Barry.
        And lastly, you did some twisting of my words. I never said the parallel between Acts 10:45 and Acts 11:1-2 “may have been” the same people. I said this group that appears in Acts 10:45 and Acts 11:1-2 “may have been” the same group in Acts 15 saying the Gentiles needed to be circumcised. That is a very reasonable conjecture, but even if not true that does nothing to the case I presented that those going after Peter in Acts 11:18 are NOT the original disciples of Jesus.
        Thanks for the discussion

        Like

      7. Justin,

        I am willing to have a formal written debate with you on all subjects we have covered, and if necessary, to relegate each subject to its own debate. For example, we still disagree on whether “those who were circumcised” in Acts 11:2 includes the “apostles” in v. 1, yet this identification is crucial to the rest of the debate.

        My email address is barryjoneswhat@yahoo.com, feel free to email me anytime, and we can debate it over email, or I can meet you at any apologetics forum or your choice that facilitates all-out debate more than this blog.

        You failed to provide grammatical justification for your theory that “those who were circumcised” in Acts 11:2 includes only some of the believers identified in v. 1.

        You failed to provide justification from the immediate context for this theory as well.

        And your comment that not even skeptics bring up the argument I raise, not only shows your newness to these issues, which might have called for less dogmatism on your part, but indicates you haven’t actually studied the issue sufficiently to justify your dogmatism. The problem of Paul’s law-free gospel has been discussed for centuries by biblical scholars of every stripe. I think what you meant to say is that when you checked your commentary on Acts written by some inerrantist Christian scholar, he didn’t say too much about the differences of opinion scholars have come to when attempting to explain why Gentile salvation was so shocking to the original Christians.

        Finally, even if we assume, arguendo, that the apostles did not have an issue with Peter fellowshipping with uncircumcised believers, it was only the recent converts from orthodox Judaism that did, we are still faced with an implausibility crying out for explanation…it was a rumor about Paul telling Jews to forsake circumcising their kids, that made James and the brethren so fearful of Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem becoming known to the tens of thousands of law-zealous Jews within the church (Acts 21:17-24, cf. v. 20, Greek: myriad). It is positively certain, if Acts 21 is truthful about everything, that the gospel that James preached said absolutely nothing to disturb the view of the law-zealots that circumcision is required for salvation. If they had converted to a gospel that says circumcision is not the key to salvation, it is highly implausible that the rumor about Paul’s circumcision-free gospel would caused James to fear so much Paul’s arrival becoming known to the Jerusalem Church.

        I am willing to do a formal written debate with you at any time, in any format you wish, on what the proper interpretation of Acts 11:1-2 is. You cannot use your alleged belief that the evidence favors you, to justify ducking this debate challenge. Under that logic, nobody would debate, because all candidates would already believe that the evidence favors them and refutes the other guy. Since you have enough time to gossip about these issues on a blog, I assume that you are capable of finding the time or making the time to do a serious formal debate on the topic.

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      8. Justin

        Ok Barry. Your ignorance of these issues (and your arrogance) has inspired me to challenge you to a public, formal debate. I have a public, formal debate with Dr. Bart Ehrman coming up in September so it will have to be after that, but I would prefer before the end of the year. So let me know some possible weekends that would work for you Oct-Dec timeframe. It’s time for you get out from behind that computer Barry and defend your nonsense publicly. I look forward to your response here on this public forum. Thanks

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      9. Barry Jones

        Justin,

        I don’t like giving out my personal information publicly, so please email me, so I can reply with the times and dates I will be available.

        Like

  39. gary

    Eusebius, Church Father:

    Being convinced…that he (Constantine) needed some more powerful aid than his military forces could afford him, on account of the wicked and magical enchantments which were so diligently practiced by the tyrant, he sought Divine assistance, deeming the possession of arms and a numerous soldiery of secondary importance, but believing the co-operating power of Deity invincible and not to be shaken. He considered, therefore, on what God he might rely for protection and assistance ….[W]hile he was…praying with fervent entreaty, a most marvelous sign appeared to him from heaven…

    He said that about noon, when the day was already beginning to decline, he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the sun, and bearing the inscription, CONQUER BY THIS. At this sight he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole army also, which followed him on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle. …

    And while he continued to ponder and reason on its meaning, night suddenly came on; then in his sleep the Christ of God appeared to him with the same sign which he had seen in the heavens, and commanded him to make a likeness of that sign which he had seen in the heavens, and to use it as a safeguard in all engagements with his enemies.

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  40. nonsupernaturalist

    So, an entire army saw a giant cross in the sky with an inscription that said, “Conquer by this”, and, five hundred people saw the risen Jesus at the same time and place…

    I’m sure that both of these ancient claims were actual, literal, historical events…

    Right….

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    1. nonsupernaturalist

      Would you kindly give a summary of this article’s argument and how it is related to refuting my alternative explanation for the Resurrection belief?

      Like

    1. gary

      Jesus lived in first century Palestine. He got on the wrong side of the Jewish authorities; they asked the Romans to crucify him, which the Romans did.

      Jesus body was left on the cross for days as a warning to other potential troublemakers, as was the Roman custom. At some point in time, the remains of his body were taken down and thrown into an unmarked, common dirt grave along with the remains of other executed criminals, as was the Roman custom. The site of the grave was known only to a few soldiers who quickly forgot about it.

      Jesus’ small band of disciples were emotionally and psychologically devastated. They had expected to reign with Jesus in the New Kingdom after Jesus had driven out the hated Romans. Instead, their leader and friend was dead. All hope was lost. They returned to Galilee to take up their former jobs.

      Days, weeks, or months later, a few of the female disciples of Jesus are sitting in a garden talking, they look up and see a man at the edge of the garden. “It’s Jesus!” they cry out. But the man quickly disappears into a crowd and they can not catch up to him. The man the women saw looked remarkably similar to Jesus. Was it Jesus or just someone who looked like Jesus? The women were sure it was Jesus, and run to tell the male disciples.

      The male disciples at first do not believe, but when ALL the women swear it was Jesus, and describe the man’s physical appearance, they are overcome with joy. “He is risen!” Hope is restored in the small band of early Christians.

      Days later Peter reports to the others that Jesus appeared to him (in a vision). Soon other disciples, and James the brother of Jesus, are having visions of Jesus or sightings of Jesus. The group is gripped with near hysteria. “The New Kingdom is near! We will soon reign on thrones with Jesus, as he promised!”

      The once timid and spineless disciples are now courageous believers in the “Resurrected Jesus”, and begin preaching his message far and wide. The small band begins to grow as other (mostly) poor, hopeless, down-trodden peasants are told of the coming kingdom and of an afterlife living in mansions on streets lined with gold and rewarded for their faithfulness in this life with crowns studded with jewels. Christianity promises nothing but persecution and pain for a short time, but in the New Kingdom, and in the afterlife, which could come at any minute, they will be rich and forever happy!

      A Jewish rabbi, Saul of Tarsus, also has a vision. In his vision, the Jesus whose followers he is persecuting, designates him as the most important of all Jesus’ apostles, and orders him to carry his message to all the world. Saul/Paul believes his vision is from God, and therefore obeys.

      For a little over two centuries, Christianity grows, how much we cannot say for sure, but within a short time, there are Christian churches in almost every major city in the Roman world. Then, in circa 300 AD, the emperor of the Empire has his own vision of Jesus, and converts to the new faith. If he had had a vision of Mithras the world might be predominantly Mithrian today, but his vision was Christian…and the rest is history.

      Like

  41. Justin

    Great to see the lively discussion going on while I was away  Sorry haven’t been able to respond till now. Finished teaching Greek 102 at DTS last week and I had my sermon to prepare all weekend for church last night.
    I’m going back to where we left off Gary if that’s ok.
    Going back to your response to my quote from James Tabor.
    First of all, just read Tabor’s book, he does believe this is historical fact what Paul records in Gal 1-2 and does not think Paul is lying.
    Second, yes of course Paul could have been lying, Josephus could have been lying about being an eyewitness to a ton of things he saw in AD70, we might even be in the Matrix right now with our bodies being used as batteries for the machine world.
    Gary, when we go off the best evidence we have, utilizing the historical method, we find that Paul’s early letter especially Galatians 1-2 are some of the most accurate historical records in the ancient world (if not the most accurate). This is unanimous among even the most skeptical scholars like from the Jesus Seminar for example. So if you want to claim Paul was lying that is fine, but just know you are outside of everyone who studies these things, even the most skeptical among them.
    On James’ conversion, Gary I’m still dumbfounded that you keep repeating that there is “ZERO” evidence that James believed due to a resurrection appearance. What is Paul saying in 1 Cor 15:7: “And He appeared to James.”? You may not trust this source, but it IS evidence. Documentary evidence is the primary evidence we have for almost everything that happened in history before the photograph.
    Your “One” alternative explanation
    Thanks for laying this out Gary. This seems to be almost cut and paste from Bart Ehrman, but if I wanted to try to come up with an alternative historical explanation, Ehrman’s is probably the best game in town. However, what you fail to realize (and Ehrman himself admits see below) is that this hallucination hypothesis/theory you laid out would ALL be equally true if Jesus did in fact rise from the dead and actually appear to the disciples. So really this isn’t an alternative explanation because this evidence can go either way, hallucination or real resurrection appearances. Listen to Ehrman on this:
    “I am not going to take a stand on this issue of whether Jesus really appeared to people or whether their visions were hallucinations, so my case does not rise or fall depending on whether the visions were veridical or not. As an agnostic, I personally do not believe Jesus was raised from the dead and so I do not believe he ‘appeared’ to anyone. But what I have to say about the disciples’ visions are things I could have said just as easily back in the days when I was a firm believer. Many discussions of the resurrection are focused on just this question of whether the visions were veridical or not. Most New Testament scholars are themselves Christian and they naturally tend to take the Christian view of the matter—that the visions were bona fide appearances of Jesus to his followers. You can find such views forcefully stated in any number of publications, including the recent, and very large, books by Christian apologist Mike Licona and by renowned New Testament scholar N.T. Wright…I do not think it would be a historical sin at all to leave the matter of external stimuli—were the visions veridical or not—undecided, so that believers and unbelievers can reach common ground on the significance of these experiences.” –Bart Ehrman, How Jesus Became God, 187-88
    This is good common ground for unbelievers and believers to be. The evidence is on the table and one must go one way or the other. It is kind of like when the best evidence for God’s existence is understood by both sides and then one must choose (have faith in one hypothesis over the other). If you want to remain agnostic here, I respect that, but you should (like Ehrman) respect the billions who are compelled by this evidence that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead and that explains why he changed the world.
    One more thing. Not just any theory works. A plausible theory at least needs to be put forward. And if I had the time I could go through a lot of this historically and demonstrate to you why many of your alternatives here (especially the stealing of Jesus’ body for an empty tomb) is absurd and scholars over the last 300 years have almost unanimously rejected these alternative explanations.
    As Moule said: The Resurrection sized hole in history still needs to be filled.

    Like

      1. Justin

        Yes definitely. I think there is good evidence that both Mark and Luke-Acts were written prior to AD62. Matthew as we now have it and John were probably written post 70.
        See JAT Robinson Redating the New Testament for some of the best arguments for this.

        God bless
        Justin

        Like

      2. drjustinbass

        Yes definitely. There are good arguments for both Mark and Luke-Acts written prior to AD62 and Matthew and John post 70.

        See JAT Robinson’s Redating the New Testament for some of the best arguments for this.

        God bless,
        Justin

        Like

      3. Barry Jones

        Justin said he would debate me on the issue of to what extent the original post-resurrection Jewish Christians resisted the concept of Gentile salvation, but he has not gotten back to me for more than a month.

        For now, there is no dearth of evidence that James was a legalist, and therefore he was more than likely the darling of Judaizers, in which case Acts 15 has spin-doctored the truth and falsely portrayed James to be more in agreement with Paul than he really was. Justin tries to back away by saying impugning the accuracy of Acts 15 would only affect certain forms of inerrancy, but on the contrary, to affect bible inerrancy is to provide a rational reason to doubt bible statements that are either self-serving to the author, or to doubt uncorroborated assertions of bible authors. What else counts for a proper credibility attack, except evidence of extreme bias and errors of fact?

        Justin and others say this issue why Gentile salvation and circumcision and Paul’s consistency is not worthy of serious discussion, but on the contrary, Augustine and Jerome debated it, and it came into full swing again with F.C. Baur, and when we remember that most scholars of the NT are Christians already, it is no surprise that “most NT scholars don’t find this issue very compelling”. Yeah, and Mormons also don’t find the lack of archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon “very compelling” either, but that’s probably because they are more interested in feeling good, than about facing cold hard reality. The issue is whether my argument has rational and historical justification, not how many other scholars do or don’t find the argument worthy of serious time. I strongly maintain that the argument of “paul as heretic” has been studiously ignored by most bible scholars, or dismissed with flimsy arguments that do not much more than blindly presume Paul was truthful in everything he said.

        Justin, please contact me with your plans for us to do a formal written debate on the subject of why there was any resistance to the concept of Gentile salvation among any of the first century Jewish Christians. No rush, if you can’t do it until after February 2016, so be it, but lets get it in the works, and select an online forum to do this in. This chat forum is hardly the place to post involved scholarly discussion of the matter. I also insist that the debate is multi-faceted, and that we probably do a disservice to the reader if we try to say all that needs to be said in a single online debate. Here is my suggestion for the separate debates we need to have to really resolve this issue, now given in no particular order. As you are hopefully aware, people often decide whether certain data is true, on the basis of whether the data can be reconciled with their existing presuppositions. Therefore the following list of topics necessarily includes matters that play into our presuppositions. It is foolish to just expect that a Christian and skeptic could possible resolve their differences over Acts 11:1-18 by simply discussing the data therein.

        How likely is it that first-century followers of the apostles could become members of the church while still finding salvation of Gentiles to be a shocking unexpected theological development (Acts 11:1-18)? (if it is unlikely or the odds evenly balanced, rationally warranted room remains for the position that Acts 11:18 signifies that Jesus never intended salvation to go to Gentiles, ever, and therefore apostle Paul is a heretic for expanding it to Gentiles anyway).

        What criteria do you use to decide when biblical statements asserting stupidity and slowness on the part of believers, are true, and when such statements are false? (we won’t get very far in any bible discussion if you approach the bible with an attitude that all it says is error-free, while I approach it believing it is full of errors, hence, resolving our differences on this criteria before beginning the actual debate will help ensure we successfully resolve our differences about whether “they just didn’t get it” constitutes a valid excuse.)

        Does the divine inspiration of the bible, if a true doctrine, logically or necessarily imply inerrancy? (Geisler and others say it does, but if you are open to the arguments that inspiration doesn’t equal inerrancy, then your dismissal of any argument that might require error in the bible, should not be as automatic as it currently is.)

        Did Jesus or any biblical author attribute divine inspiration to scripture copies, or did they always limit inspiration/inerrancy to just the originals/autographs? (if they attributed inspiration to the copies, the question naturally arises as to why you don’t believe any copy of the scriptures is inspired…unless you hold to a liberal view of inspiration that allows error to coexist therein. The point is that if the bible authors taught inspiration of the copies while you don’t believe in any such thing, this is a proof of how easily you can miss a scriptural truth, justifying less dogmatism in your defense of Paul’s credibility).

        Can you do everything that Jesus required for spiritual growth, without believing in any form of biblical inerrancy? (it may be that the answer is “yes”, in which case your motive to always reconcile difficult bible passages to what you already believe is both unnecessary and harmful to detecting truth.)

        Does the New Testament supply evidence sufficient to rationally justify skepticism toward apostle Paul’s general credibility? (If it does, then you should be a bit more patient with arguments in favor of the Judaizers, instead of immediately dismissing all such due to a presupposition about Paul’s honesty/integrity).

        Can Paul’s alleged dogmatic confidence in his own version of the gospel be reconciled with his “running in vain” statement in Galatians 2:2? (If Paul was doing what some Christian commentators think he was doing there, and admitting that he believed his version of the gospel might possibly be wrong, then you cannot fault skeptics for being less impressed with Paul’s dogmatic pretensions of confidence than you are).

        Does the zeal for the law espoused by the Jerusalem faction of the church presided over by James (Acts 21:20, ‘zealous for the law’) rationally justify the deduction that James himself was a legalist? (If James was ‘zealous for the law’, he was likely also zealous of Exodus 12:48, in which case you lose this debate right now, since James is the ultimate inspiration for the Judaizers in Antioch successfully achieving a break in table fellowship (Gal. 2), a development that paves the way for the James to agree with the Judaizers on more, such as necessity of circumcision for salvation…which would mean Acts 15 is lying by portraying James being against the Judaizers).

        How reliable are the patristic sources which call James a High Priest? (most scholars dismiss these as the result of faulty legend, not realizing the door they are opening when they admit that Christian history became distorted so early that even the early fathers like Jerome and Hegesippus and Epiphanius and Eusebius, had believed false things about the apostles).

        How likely is it that Irenaeus knew he was wrong for asserting that Jesus’ ministry extended to 10 years, and that Jesus died after reaching age 50? (most scholars dismiss this as “error”, but they fail to realize the consequences of saying Irenaus goofed. Did he know he was wrong? Did he not realize he was wrong? Or did he believe those comments were gospel truth? If Irenaeus honestly believed those admissions, this infamous “goof” on his part might not have been any goof, and thus throws the entire canonical gospel history into disrepute, providing rational warrant for saying the gospel history is too confused and uncertain to justify attempting to draw firm conclusions about pretty much any item related to gospel history. In other words, if you cannot disprove Irenaeus’ infamous contentions, the fact that the canonical gospels succeeded in hoodwinking millions for centuries sort of establishes the fact that debating items of gospel history in the bible, and indeed most all of NT scholarship, including the issues of Paul’s credibility and the Judaizer gospel, is quite a worthless enterprise.)

        Does the Judaizer requirement that Gentile men be circumcised to be saved, contradict anything Jesus himself ever taught about salvation? (If the Judaizer gospel does not contradict anything Jesus taught, then what must you say about a version of the gospel that doesn’t contradict anything Jesus taught? You certainly cannot call it heresy!)

        If the Judaizers of Acts 15 were flat wrong, how can it be explained that they ever obtained membership in the Jerusalem Church to the point that they played a role in the Jerusalem Council? (without rebuttal from you, it could very easily be that the reason Judaizers were part of James’ Jerusalem congregation is because he demanded that Gentiles be circumcised for salvation, in which case Acts 15 is lying for portraying James as not requiring circumcision.)

        If the Judaizers would have obeyed all that Jesus taught in the 4 gospels, would they have had any rational reason to impose circumcision on male Gentiles as a condition of salvation, yes or no? (If yes, you lose the debate. If no, then the proof that the Judaizers were in the wrong should have been so clear from all that Jesus taught, that no council would have been needed to address the issue, creating rational warrant for suspicion that the entire story in Acts 15 is pure conjured fabrication.)

        Did false rumors about the apostles exist in the first century, and if so, were they prevalent sufficiently to rationally justify the modern person in being suspicious of the ability of the NT authors to detect truth? (the membership of NT authors in the club of people who believed false rumors is a legitimate analysis into the level of credibility the NT authors had or didn’t have.)

        Did Jesus teach that salvation must be earned by obedience to the Law? (if he did, then unless he made an exception to Exodus 12:48, Jesus taught the Judaizer form of the gospel, in which case everybody who believes Paul’s version of the gospel has been deceived.)

        Once again, it is foolish to try and address these matters here at this forum, I will meet anybody on any other forum to discuss them.

        Barry
        barryjoneswhat@yahoo.com

        Like

  42. gary

    Justin: “And if I had the time I could go through a lot of this historically and demonstrate to you why many of your alternatives here (especially the stealing of Jesus’ body for an empty tomb) is absurd and scholars over the last 300 years have almost unanimously rejected these alternative explanations.”

    Gary: The fact that for 300 years Christian NT scholars have almost unanimously rejected alternative explanations is not surprising. They have a vested interest in keeping this story alive. What I asked you, Justin, is to demonstrate that any element of my alternative explanation is “Impossible”, not improbable or implausible.

    The Bible itself says that there was a gap, a period of time between Aramathea placing Jesus body in the tomb and the Roman guards arriving to the tomb and sealing the stone. Even if it was just one half hour, that is plenty of time for someone to roll the unsealed stone away, take the body, and roll the stone back. There are also other explanations for the empty tomb other than a theft. For instance, Pilate could have changed his mind about giving a man executed for treason against Rome a proper burial and a known tomb that could be used as a national shrine by every rebellious Jew in Palestine.

    Regarding the appearances: I never said “hallucinations”. I said “visions”. Paul very specifically says that his appearance by Jesus was a “heavenly vision”. How do we know for absolute certainty that all the other appearances were not visions? You CANNOT prove they were not.

    You are correct, bottom line we must each ask ourselves which is more probable:

    1. An ancient Hebrew god sent himself to earth to become a human sacrifice, to appease the anger of himself, for the sin of mankind’s ancestral-forbidden-fruit eating, and three days after this “eternal” god has died, he resurrects himself in a new super-hero-like body that can walk through walls and locked doors, appears in the flesh to his former fishing buddies, eats a broiled fish lunch, and later levitates into outer space…

    or

    2. Ancient, uneducated, superstitious, grieving Galilean peasants THOUGHT they saw their dead friend alive again shortly after his brutal death.

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  43. Justin

    Trust me Gary, many of the top scholars from Germany, France, UK and America over the last 300 years have been on the more skeptical side. Bultmann didn’t really care if Jesus really did rise from the dead nor did Borg or Crossan. But they would rule out most of these alternative explanations cause they fail miserably under historical scrutiny.
    And I never accept the premise that you could bring up any theory that I couldn’t prove was “impossible.” I can’t prove that Tom Cruise’s Xenu didn’t show up and steal Jesus’ body. That is of course not “impossible” but it as absurd as Scientology is generally.
    I said the alternative theory has to at least be “plausible.” If one is a free-thinker, has all the options on the table, including miracles then if the evidence demands the miraculous explanation (and it explains all the facts far better than any other naturalistic explanation) then you should accept the supernatural. But I realize it is impossible to make a decision like that just on facts. There are many reasons why people don’t want to believe in God or miracles, especially the miracles of Jesus and most of the time it has little to do with the facts. The fact that you are willing to believe without any evidence such failed and ridiculous explanations about what happened to the body of Jesus demonstrates this. I think the hesitancy here to follow the evidence where it leads might have something to do with the fact that Jesus said: “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me.”

    And your two options (at least the first) is somewhat of a caricature of Christianity, but that’s fine.

    I would prefer to say the two options are these: Either Jesus rose from the dead and there is hope for you and your family (and the entire world) post this life or He did not and there is no hope.
    Everyone agrees Jesus died, but either Jesus died for your sins or did he not.
    And we all agree we will soon die, but we will die and stand before God at the Judgment or we will be deleted out of existence.
    You may not be open to the evidence now Gary, but maybe when the next tragedy strikes or you get closer to the end you’ll think differently. That is the beauty of Gospel and this current time that you can at any time call upon Him and He will save you. Always remember that. But also remember that His patience is salvation and one day His patience with you will run out.

    Thanks for the discussion.

    Like

  44. nonsupernaturalist

    Dear Readers: Did you see what happened here in Justin’s final response to me (or so it appears):

    He told me that my naturalistic explanations are not plausible, but his supernatural explanation IS plausible. His supernatural explanation is plausible because he and the majority of New Testament scholars, who just so happen to be overwhelmingly Christian, believe it is plausible. Imagine your reaction if a Muslim were to tell you that the evidence for Mohammad receiving a message from God himself, delivered by an angel, is more plausible than any naturalistic explanation, based on the fact that the majority of Koran scholars believe it to be so. This is yet another of Justin’s many Appeals to a Biased Authority, a very bad error in Logic.

    I challenge Justin to provide a reference of ONE non-Christian historian or scholar of the ancient Near East, still alive TODAY, not someone who has been dead for 300 years, who believes that the best explanation for the early Christian belief in the Resurrection is a literal, bodily, resurrection/reanimation of the dead flesh of Jesus of Nazareth; bringing his three day dead, in-the-early-stages-of-decomposing body back to life. I don’t think you can do that, Justin!

    So what may have been plausible in 1715 to “skeptics” (who usually still considered themselves Christians) is NOT plausible today in 2015. No non-Christian expert I know, and plenty of liberal Christians I do know, believes that a dead human body has EVER, literally, been reanimated by a god. Period.

    And notice how Justin ended the discussion. Did he say, “Hey Gary. Christianity is wonderful. Jesus is wonderful. Jesus LOVES you soooo much. It is a great life to be a Christian! You should join us!” the typical lines used by conservative, in particular, evangelical Christians to convert people. Nope. The REAL orthodox/conservative Christianity reared its ugly head, as a weapon of last resort: Reject Jesus’ love, and Jesus is going to get you, Gary. Jesus is going to torture you for all eternity…and maybe your family too…all for the thought crime of rejecting the belief that a first century executed man/god is still alive and the Creator of the Universe…and, don’t forget…ancestral-forbidden-fruit eating.

    See it for what it is folks: a cult. An ugly, controlling, superstition-based cult.

    Like

  45. gary

    I would appreciate if someone would explain to me how my alternative explanation about Pilate is “implausible”.

    So Pilate grants Aramathea’s request to bury Jesus in his tomb, and, at the Sanhedrin’s request, guards are sent to guard the tomb and seal the stone. However, the next day (Saturday), Pilate reflects on what he has done:

    “I have just given approval for a man executed for high treason (claiming to be the King of the Jews) to have a proper burial in a known tomb! What was I thinking?? Every trouble-making, Rome-hating Jew on the planet will want to make this tomb a national shrine of resistance to Rome. If Caesar finds out about what I’ve done I could lose my job…and maybe my head!”

    So while the Jews are shut up in their houses or at the Temple observing Passover, Pilate sends word to the guards to break the seal, move the stone away, take the body, and dump it into an unmarked hole in the ground where no Jew (or Christian) will ever find it.

    Sunday morning, the women show up at the tomb…and it is empty. They look up and see a man in the distance who looks amazingly similar to Jesus. “It’s Jesus!” they cry out, but before they can reach him he has disappeared into the crowd. The women rush to tell the male disciples who come and see the empty tomb for themselves. The disciples remember that Jesus had said he would meet them in Galilee so they all return there. Once in Galilee, there are soon more (false) sightings of Jesus and now disciples are having vivid visions of Jesus appearing to them, speaking to them, and even letting them touch him….

    …and the Resurrection Legend is born.

    Like

  46. Justin

    Gary, I’m surprised you took it that way. Your response to what I said reminded me of Felix.
    “But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you.” (Acts 24:24-25)
    Yes, I did warn you of what the New Testament says all throughout, namely that this time of Grace will one day end, but I never said “Jesus is going to get you.” I told you that only in the resurrection of Jesus can you have any hope beyond this vapor of a life and the life of your family. In Christ Crucified is also the only place your sins can be forgiven and death will be overcome once and for all. You want this to be true Gary. Praise God that it is true!
    And your explanation about the empty tomb is not at all plausible because there is zero evidence for such a claim. You just made it up out of your own mind or put some things together from other people who also conjured it up in their imagination (like Dan Barker did in our debate about Peter being sad). Gary, we work off evidence when we come to the most plausible historical explanation. Just making things up because you don’t like the implications of the most plausible explanation (the Resurrection) already available is not a good historical method.

    “One non-Christian historian or scholar of the ancient Near East, still alive TODAY, not someone who has been dead for 300 years, who believes that the best explanation for the early Christian belief in the resurrection is a literal, bodily, resurrection/reanimation of the dead flesh of Jesus of Nazareth.”

    How about a non-Christian scholar of the ancient Near East and Jewish studies that just died 18 years ago: Pinchas Lapide. He taught at Hebrew University in Israel, was convinced by the historical evidence that Jesus of Nazareth was bodily raised from the dead and he never converted to Christianity! He didn’t get everything right about Jesus, but at least he was willing to follow the evidence where it leads.
    So there you go Gary. I highly recommend his book. http://www.amazon.com/The-Resurrection-Jesus-Jewish-Perspective/dp/157910908X
    Finally, if this is a cult, it is a cult that built the world’s hospitals, inspired the likes of Dante, Milton, Michelangelo, Rembrandt; Wilberforce, Gandhi, Bonhoeffer, and MLKjr.; it converted world changing skeptics such as Saul of Tarsus, St. Augustine, John Chrysostom, Blaise Pascal, GK Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, CS Lewis, Eta Linnemann, Mortimer Adler, Peter van Inwagen, Alister Mcgrath, Francis Collins, AN Wilson, Anne Rice, and on and on and on. Not to mention the billions that would tell you of how Christ has freed them from sexual addictions, alcohol and drug abuse, and satisfied their deepest longings and desires. If it is a cult, it is the greatest and most beautiful cult the world has ever seen.
    As JRR Tolkien once said: “There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits.” (On Fairy Stories)

    I hope one day you follow the lead of so many even more skeptical men and women before you and find that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
    God bless,
    Justin

    Like

  47. nonsupernaturalist

    Justin: “And your explanation about the empty tomb is not at all plausible because there is zero evidence for such a claim. You just made it up out of your own mind or put some things together from other people who also conjured it up in their imagination (like Dan Barker did in our debate about Peter being sad). Gary, we work off evidence when we come to the most plausible historical explanation. Just making things up because you don’t like the implications of the most plausible explanation (the Resurrection) already available is not a good historical method.”

    Gary: There is NO evidence, Justin. That is the whole point! I have accepted the empty tomb as an historical fact just for the sake of making our discussion easier. I am accepting the empty tomb as part of the “evidence” that Gary Habermas’ says that everyone, Christian and non-Christian, should accept as historical fact.

    That’s it, Justin! There are no more “facts” beyond the minimal facts that YOUR Christian apologist has stipulated. If you want to assert that every detail mentioned in the four gospels is unquestioned historical fact, then you are way out on the fringe of NT scholarship. All the other details in the Gospels about the tomb, the guards, the appearances are NOT considered facts by Gary Habermas nor ANY (non-evangelical )NT scholar!

    Therefore I am not asserting that Pilate DID remove the body while the Jews were all in the Temple, I am merely presenting an alternative explanation for the evidence that we have all agreed to: an empty tomb. However, an empty tomb does not explain WHY the tomb was empty. You believe that the body of a dead man was reanimated by an ancient Hebrew god and you believe this based on alleged historical events recorded in four anonymous books and the writings of one Pharisee; alleged events that even Habermas has not stipulated as “minimal facts”.

    Please show me, Justin, why the empty tomb cannot be explained by the scenario I described above. I am not asking you to determine if my scenario is plausible, in your opinion, but only if it is POSSIBLE.

    Thanks.

    Like

  48. nonsupernaturalist

    Lapide??

    Are you serious, Justin? Everyone knows that Lapide was simply brown-nosing Christians. Ask any other Jewish scholar.

    Like

    1. Clark Coleman

      So, Christian scholars have an obvious bias in these matters, but “any other Jewish scholar” does not have a bias towards a Jew who accepts the resurrection but criticizes much else in Christianity, like Lapide? Those Jewish scholars don’t worry about the effect of Lapide’s ideas on other Jews, they just give their unbiased opinion, which is to accuse him of bad motives?

      Like

  49. nonsupernaturalist

    Justin: “Finally, if this is a cult, it is a cult that built the world’s hospitals, inspired the likes of Dante, Milton, Michelangelo, Rembrandt; Wilberforce, Gandhi, Bonhoeffer, and MLKjr.; it converted world changing skeptics such as Saul of Tarsus, St. Augustine, John Chrysostom, Blaise Pascal, GK Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, CS Lewis, Eta Linnemann, Mortimer Adler, Peter van Inwagen, Alister Mcgrath, Francis Collins, AN Wilson, Anne Rice, and on and on and on. Not to mention the billions that would tell you of how Christ has freed them from sexual addictions, alcohol and drug abuse, and satisfied their deepest longings and desires. If it is a cult, it is the greatest and most beautiful cult the world has ever seen.”

    Gary: Justin, if a family member told you that they recently joined a new “spiritual group”, and that everyone in this group was super friendly to them at first, promising them emotional support, a new network of friends, and eternal rewards….but…now your family member has told the group that he or she is thinking of leaving the group, and, the same super friendly people are now threatening your family member with being tortured…forever…if he or she dares to abandon the group and the belief systems of the group, what would you call this group.

    Possibly…a CULT??

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  50. gary

    I would still like to know the name of any non-Christian NT scholar, historian, or Ancient Near East expert alive TODAY who believes that the early Christian belief in a Resurrected Jesus is best explained by the literal, bodily, resurrection/reanimation of the three-day-dead body of Jesus of Nazareth.

    (Lapide is dead so he doesn’t count.)

    Like

    1. gary

      For the same reason that I would not believe a group of religious zealots today who claim to have interacted with little green Martians on a farm in Iowa.

      To believe an extraordinary claim, I demand extraordinary evidence. Anonymous books, vision-prone rabbis, and 100 plus-year-old hearsay is not only extraordinary evidence, it is poor, very poor evidence, for ANY historical claim.

      Like

  51. Justin

    Gary, you have this entire thread consistently misunderstood what evidence is. 1 Cor 15:7 IS evidence that Jesus appeared to James (even if you don’t accept the evidence as trustworthy). And all the evidence we have in the Gospels (guards at the tomb, et al) are all evidence supporting how the tomb became empty (Jesus rose from the dead). You are correct these are not part of the minimal facts, but they are still evidence.
    In contrast, your claims about Pilate and all that you said above were all made up out of your own mind (or someone else’s mind you read). You have ZERO evidence for any of those claims. So even if you don’t find the evidence that exists in the NT convincing, it is still better than your imagination.
    So please provide an alternative explanation with evidence, not just your imagination.

    Lapide??
    So I provide an example and you attack his motives. I wonder if this is the kind of response you would give if every single objection of yours was answered definitively. You seem to be rejecting Christianity, not because the evidence at all, but for other reasons as I said above.

    I’ve got other work to do Gary and I think we are beating a dead horse at this point. I enjoyed the discussion though. Hopefully we can talk again maybe after my next debate and posts .

    God bless,
    Justin

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  52. gary

    Imagine a police detective investigating a 35 year old murder case. All he has are four statements by four anonymous, alleged, eyewitnesses, and three of those statements seem to be copies, sometimes word for word, of the first statement; and, a statement by a man, named Paul, from a town called Tarsus, who says that he received a list of eyewitnesses to this murder from “others”, but he doesn’t specify whom. And, the lists of the four anonymous authors vary among themselves, and their lists of eyewitnesses are different than Paul’s. In fact, Paul, who received his eye-witness list from “others” says that 500 eyewitnesses saw the murder, a claim not made by any of the four anonymous witnesses.

    Do you believe that this detective would consider these statements to be good evidence for this murder? And even more, would the detective consider this evidence to be good evidence if the four anonymous, alleged, eyewitnesses and Paul of Tarsus are all claiming that the victim was murdered by little green space aliens???

    I don’t think so, Justin.

    I would bet that the detective would NOT consider this “evidence” to be good evidence and instead would tell the judge that all he has no good evidence, just four anonymous science fiction stories and one nut case from a town called Tarsus! The murder MUST have occurred by some other, naturalist means, but we do not know exactly how.

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  53. nonsupernaturalist

    No, Justin, I specifically asked for ONE non-Christian scholar living TODAY and you gave me someone who is dead.

    There are ZERO non-Christian NT scholars living today that believe that a literal, bodily resurrection is the best explanation for the early Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection, are there, Justin? Please be honest and admit you were wrong.

    Only biased, CHRISTIAN, NT scholars TODAY believe that a bodily resurrection best explains the early Christian resurrection belief, and, more and more Christian scholars are abandoning this position in favor of a SPIRITUAL resurrection, a claim I have no problem with.

    Your superstitious belief in the reanimation of dead human flesh in first century Palestine is dying, Justin. Educated people with access to the internet and alternative explanations for this belief just don’t aren’t buying it anymore. That is why Christianity is in rapid decline in the entire, educated, western world.

    Like

    1. Justin

      Ha Gary. It seems your misunderstanding of facts goes well beyond just early Christianity, it also extends to understanding the projected religious landscape of the world.

      You should learn from atheist false prophecies of the past:
      “The evolutionary future of religion is extinction. Belief in supernatural powers is doomed to die out, all over the world, as the result of the increasing adequacy and diffusion of scientific knowledge.” –AFC Wallace, Religion: An Anthropological View (1966), p. 265

      According to a recent report by Pew Research on the projected religious landscape of the world in 2050, “Atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion – though increasing in countries such as the United States and France – will make up a declining share of the world’s total population.”
      Christianity will be dominant in Africa (1 billion!), Latin America (90%!) and China.

      The report also said Buddhism and the religious unaffiliated are decreasing primarily because they are older and have lower fertility rates. So tell your Buddhist and atheist friends they need to have more kids!

      Secularism may be on the rise in the US and in some places in Europe, but globally the evidence demonstrates it is dying out. Christianity and Islam, on the other hand, are still dominating the world. While atheists sit on the sidelines, it will be Christianity vs Islam for the next 100 (probably thousand) years.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/11518702/Mapped-What-the-worlds-religious-landscape-will-look-like-in-2050.html

      Like

      1. gary

        I never said that “atheism” is growing. I myself do not identify as an “atheist”. I am a “secularist”, a “non-religious person”, or an “agnostic”. I do not deny the existence of a creator or creators, only the existence of, your god, Yahweh-Jesus.

        I also never made any claims about religion dying out globally. What I said is that Christianity is in rapid decline in the educated Western world. The fact that poor, uneducated, desperate-for-hope people in Africa and Asia are latching onto a superstitious belief system that promises them jewel-studded crowns and mansions on gold paves streets in the afterlife, or, the competitor that promises young men seventy virgins in the afterlife, is not surprising. I predict that once these areas of the world become educated, economically prosperous, democratic, and with widespread access to the internet, Christianity and Islam will begin to decay and decline there too. I could be wrong, but the statistics and studies say otherwise. The Internet is killing conservative religions.

        So I wouldn’t watch the numbers for atheism. I would watch the number and percentage of people who identify as “non-religious”, because as of a recent poll, over 20% of American now use this label, and this is a doubling within a ten year period.

        I would also look at the annual membership, worship attendance, and baptism numbers for every major American Christian denomination, including the largest Protestant Church in America, the Southern Baptist Convention. If you do, you will see a steady decline. Something’s wrong with Christianity in North America and Europe. You can blame it on materialism, poor Christian leadership, or lazy Christians, but if you look at the studies you will see that two of the biggest factors for this decline are the internet—access to criticisms of your religion’s assertions of fact—and that few people are being raised in a religious home. Unless there is a major change, Christianity in the US is heading the way of Europe: churches being used as museums and restaurants.

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      2. Justin

        Well, there is at least one of thing we can agree on Gary. The vast majority of churches in America must change or die. This is very true. There are so many reasons for this (and you mentioned some of them) but it can all be summed up in Bonhoeffer’s great titles: we have for far too long embraced Cheap Grace and what we need is Costly Discipleship, a return to NT, even second and third century Christianity.
        There is a remnant in America who have not bowed their knees to Baal nor kissed his hand, but we shall see if God gives us a Third Great Awakening through them or we go the way of Europe. We shall see…

        Like

  54. Celsus

    The earliest Resurrection “encounters” were based on “visions” of Jesus instead of actually seeing him in the flesh.

    In the earliest reference to the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15.3-8, we read:

    “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

    Paul includes himself in his list of those to whom the risen Jesus “appeared”. He makes no distinction, but in fact equates, the appearance of Jesus to him and the appearances to others. The Greek verb Paul uses for all these appearances he mentions is the same one – ὤφθη (Greek – ōphthē) meaning “appeared, was seen” – in each case.

    “The choice of this word is significant because it does not necessarily imply the actual appearance of a person, but may only indicate an unusual phenomena…the use of the word ὤφθη in enumerating other visions in the Pauline lists…excludes such details as prolonged conversations, meals and resumption of ordinary life, on which the gospels dwell.” – Charles Guignebert, “Jesus” pg. 523

    The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (vol. V, p. 358) points out that in this type of context the word is a technical term for being “in the presence of revelation as such, without reference to the nature of its perception.” In other words, the “seeing” may not refer to actual sensory or mental perception. “The dominant thought is that the appearances are revelations, an encounter with the risen Lord who reveals himself…they experienced his presence.”

    There are many instances where it’s used of spiritual “visions”. For example: Acts 16:9-10 “And a vision appeared (ōphthē) to Paul in the night; there stood a man of Macedonia…And after he had seen the vision (horama), immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia” Is there anyone who thinks the Macedonian man’s physical body was actually standing in front of Paul when he “appeared” to him?

    Same thing in Mark 9:4/Matthew 17:1-3, Moses and Elijah “appeared” (ōphthē) to Peter. Matthew 17:9 calls the experience a “vision”. Did their physical bodies actually appear?

    The word is used in the LXX (Greek translation of the OT) to describe how the Lord God appeared to the patriarchs (e.g., to Jacob in a dream, in Gen 31:13). In the LXX stories that use this word, the emphasis is more on the presence of God and on its power to reveal than on the “reality” of the experience.

    “When Paul classifies the Damascus appearance with the others in 1 Cor 15:5 this is not merely because he regards it as equivalent….It is also because he regards this appearance similar in kind. In all the appearances the presence of the risen Lord is a presence in transfigured corporeality, 1 Cor 15:42. It is the presence of the exalted Lord from heaven. This presence is in non-visionary reality; no category of human seeing is wholly adequate for it. On this ground, the appearances are to be described in the sense of revelation rather than making visible.“ – Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Vol. 5 pg. 359

    ===================================

    We know from the book of Acts, Paul’s description of his encounter on the Damascus road makes it clear that this was a vision – a light from heaven and a disembodied voice – not an encounter with a physically-revived former corpse returned to life.

    Acts 9:3-8
    “As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him….”

    Acts 22:6-11
    “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me….”

    Acts 26:13-18
    “About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions….”

    Acts 26:19
    “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.”

    ===================================

    We also know that the companions of Paul did not see or hear the vision/voice properly. This indicates that the experience was, at least in some sense, subjective to Paul.

    Acts 9:7
    “The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.”

    Acts 22:9
    “My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me.”

    As far as the appearances go Paul makes no distinction, but in fact equates, the appearance of Jesus to him and the appearances to others in 1 Cor 15. So if we’re to take the accounts in Acts 9:3-8, 22:6-11, 26:13-18 as historical then the appearances mentioned in 1 Cor 15 were originally understood to be “visionary” in nature. This comes as no surprise considering Paul himself admits to having “visions” and “revelations” of the Lord (2 Cor 12:1). By Paul’s own admission, he was “seeing things.”

    Acts also records Peter as having “visions” in Acts 10.10-16. At the beginning, Luke says that ‘a trance came upon him’, and afterwards that he was perplexed at ‘what the vision which he had seen might be’ (Acts 10.17). Later, Peter begins to explain it, saying ‘I saw a vision in a trance’ (Acts 11.5). This makes Peter a particularly suitable candidate for ‘he [Jesus] appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve’ (1 Cor. 15.5).

    So we have evidence that two of the eyewitnesses mentioned in 1 Cor. 15:5-8 were susceptible to having “visions”.

    In the earliest manuscripts of gMark there are no resurrection appearances. In Matthew, only Jesus’ feet are mentioned and he appears on a mountaintop but “some doubted” (Matthew 28:17). In Luke and John the physical body is increasingly more emphasized. Also in John, the deity of Jesus is stressed which is nowhere mentioned in the synoptics. This seems to be clear evidence of a legend growing in the telling with the earliest beliefs being that of “visions” then to bodily encounters all the way up to Jesus being God in the flesh in gJohn. If this story were actually true we would expect a lot more consistency than we get from the documents.

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      1. Celsus

        That’s fine. I’ve pasted the same argument on various Christian forums for debate purposes. Where is your blog?

        Like

    1. Justin

      Thanks Celsus! You are the first person on this thread to actually challenge anything I said in the actual article.
      You are undoubtedly wrong here, but I do appreciate the engagement 

      Paul and the earliest followers of Jesus believed Jesus’ resurrection was physical, bodily. This is the majority view now among New Testament scholars even among non-believing scholars whether Jewish or agnostic.
      Here the reasons:
      First, Paul was a Pharisee and we know that the Pharisees believed in bodily resurrection. That is what resurrection (anastasis) meant.
      Second, the creed says Jesus died (physical, literal), Jesus was buried (physical, literal) and then Jesus rose from the dead (spiritual, visionary?!) No Celsus. Raised from the dead physical, literal.
      Third, as I said in the article above, you cannot decide this by the Greek word ὤφθη that it was a spiritual, visionary experience. Sometimes it can mean a visionary or spiritual experience, but it also can be used of a physical, bodily experience.
      Here are just a few examples: The word is used in Luke 24:34 (“appeared to Simon”) and Luke is presenting a physical, resurrected Jesus (see Luke 24:36-43). You even admitted this in your post Celsus: “In Luke and John the physical body is increasingly more emphasized.”
      In addition, in the Greek translation of the Old Testament it is used for physical appearances in Gen 46:29 LXX (Joseph appeared to Jacob), Exod 10:28 LXX (Moses appeared to Pharaoh), 1 Kings 3:16 LXX (two prostitutes appear before Solomon), 1 Kings 18:1 LXX (Elijah appeared before Ahab). So this Greek word can be used for both.
      Lastly, what is definitive here is the fact that Paul aligns Jesus’ resurrection with our (future believers’) resurrection (which no one would dispute is not physical, bodily).
      “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power” (1 Cor 6:14)
      “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11)
      “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead (ἀνάστασις (anastasis) νεκρῶν)” (1 Cor 15:20-21)
      “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Philippians 3:20-21)
      The general resurrection of the dead is physical, bodily resurrection at the end of the world, so it can hardly be debated that this is not how Paul, a Pharisee, also viewed Jesus’ resurrection from the dead as he says in all these places Jesus’ resurrection is the foundation/beginning/firstfruits of the general resurrection at the end of the world.

      So in your discussion you didn’t even deal with the most definitive arguments (a glaring omission Celsus). Basically your entire case is what a professor championed by mythicists in the early 20th century says about the Greek word ophthe. But as I said above, the word can mean either visionary, spiritual or physical, bodily appearance. It depends on context.

      And the context of Paul’s letters is crystal clear what he means by these resurrection appearances. And the fact that Paul says he saw the Lord Jesus (1 Cor 9:1) and means bodily resurrection, that means that he sees all the appearances in 1 Cor 15:5-8 the same way. In fact your examples prove my case. I can tell you just cut and paste most of this from some blog. I recommend studying this issue yourself Celsus and reading the literature on this. And now Gary is just going to cut and paste your cut and paste to his blog! I’ve always wondered how such misinformation makes its rounds around the internet. Now I know.
      “The deity of Jesus is stressed which is nowhere mentioned in the synoptics.” That statement Celsus is so ridiculous, I’m not even going to respond to it.
      You would see how True the story is Celsus if you at least understood what the story teaches!
      But thanks again for the comment.

      Like

      1. Celsus

        ***”Paul and the earliest followers of Jesus believed Jesus’ resurrection was physical, bodily.”***

        Paul, says it was a “spiritual” body which is contrasted with the natural body (1 Cor 15:44).

        Josephus records that the souls receive a new body in heaven.

        “But then as to the two other orders at first mentioned, the Pharisees are those who are esteemed most skillful in the exact explication of their laws, and introduce the first sect. These ascribe all to fate [or providence], and to God, and yet allow, that to act what is right, or the contrary, is principally in the power of men, although fate does co-operate in every action. They say that all souls are incorruptible, but that the souls of good men only are removed into other bodies” – Josephus, (Jewish War 2.162)

        “Do not you know that those who depart out of this life, according to the law of nature, and pay that debt which was received from God, when he that lent it us is pleased to require it back again, enjoy eternal fame? that their houses and their posterity are sure, that their souls are pure and obedient, and obtain a most holy place in heaven, from whence, in the revolution of ages, they are again sent into pure bodies” – Jewish War 3. 374

        If I may quote another scholarly view:

        “The idea of the resurrection of Jesus in the gospels is quite different from that which we find in Paul and the tradition behind him: for the gospels suggest that Jesus, in the body, left the tomb and returned to earth. In my view that was not how Paul saw it, nor can it be accepted that it was the way in which it was seen by the first Christians, Peter among them, shortly after Jesus’ death.” – H. J. de Jonge, Visionary Experience and the Historical Origins of Christianity, pg. 43

        “In Hellenistic times the rehabilitation by God of people who had had to pay for their obedience to him with their life was represented as meaning that God took them up to himself in heaven immediately or very soon after their death. It was confidently believed that the suffering righteous who gave up their lives for God’s cause would regain life in God’s heaven, not in their earthly bodies but in renewed and incorruptible heavenly bodies.”- ibid. pg. 47, Citing – 2 Macc 7,9.11.1423 29.36, 15,12-16; Wis 3,1-6; 4,7-15; Ps.-Philo, Antiquities Biblica 32,2-3; 40,4; Testament of Job 39,12, 40,3.

        ***”First, Paul was a Pharisee and we know that the Pharisees believed in bodily resurrection. That is what resurrection (anastasis) meant.”***

        I’m sorry but the issue is much more nuanced than that. Are you up to date on your scholarship? Pages 31-34 are available as a free preview, https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=0uZcBgAAQBAJ&lpg=PP1&pg=PA31#v=onepage&q&f=false

        Paul was now a Christian so you can’t claim with 100% certainty that Paul still held to a strict Pharisaic view when it comes to resurrection. Philosophic outlooks change after a conversion and as Dale Martin and Troels Engberg-Pedersen have shown, Paul may have been influenced by Stoic (Greek) thought when it comes to his anthropology. Moreover, there are numerous Jewish texts that show diversity in the belief of afterlife and resurrection. Many texts emphasize the continued existence of souls instead of mentioning the body. There was no consensus view in 1st century Judaism. Here a a few passages.

        “It is their belief that souls have power to survive death, and under the earth there are rewards and punishments for those who have led lives of virtue or wickedness. Some receive eternal imprisonment, while others pass easily to live again.”
        – Josephus on the Pharisees (Ant. XVIII, 14)

        The book of Jubilees (c. 170-150 BCE) uses resurrection language together with the idea that the bones of the righteous rest in the earth while their spirits rejoice (Jub. 23:30-31).

        1 Enoch 22:13b
        “but their spirits shall not be punished in the day of judgement nor shall they be raised from thence.”

        1 Enoch 103:4
        “The souls of the pious who have died will come to life,
        and they will rejoice and be glad;
        their spirits will not perish,
        nor their memory from the presence of the Great One
        for all the generations of eternity.”

        Jesus says: “For when they rise from the dead they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in the heavens.” (Mark 12:25; Matthew 22:30; Luke 20:34-36)

        When Jesus is confronted about what kind of body they’ll be raised in he describes it as a spiritual, genderless one – like those of angels. It seems the resurrection of the dead, according to both Paul and Jesus, had nothing to do with the former physical body.

        So in sum, the sources are too few and too diverse to confidently claim that resurrection always meant the physical revivification of a corpse. You’re just a priori committed to that view because it appears in the later gospel documents.

        ***”Second, the creed says Jesus died (physical, literal), Jesus was buried (physical, literal) and then Jesus rose from the dead (spiritual, visionary?!) No Celsus. Raised from the dead physical, literal.”***

        Jesus died – check
        Jesus was buried – check
        Jesus was “raised” – ok let’s check out the wide range of meaning for that Greek word.

        Egēgertai –

        1) to arouse, cause to rise
        1a) to arouse from sleep, to awake
        ***1b) to arouse from the sleep of death, to recall the dead to life***
        1c) to cause to rise from a seat or bed etc.
        1d) to raise up, produce, cause to appear
        1d1) to cause to appear, bring before the public
        1d2) to raise up, stir up, against one
        1d3) to raise up i.e. cause to be born
        1d4) of buildings, to raise up, construct, erect

        So it seems you’re trying to restrict a word with a wide range of meaning to only the “raising of a physical body” and you just can’t do that. No dice. All you can say for sure it that, in the context of 1 Cor 15, Jesus was brought back to life, “in some sense.”

        ***”Third, as I said in the article above, you cannot decide this by the Greek word ὤφθη that it was a spiritual, visionary experience. Sometimes it can mean a visionary or spiritual experience, but it also can be used of a physical, bodily experience.”***

        There’s nothing in the context of 1 Cor 15 that rules out a “visionary” experience. I’m assuming the only grounds you have for assuming the appearances were more “physical” is because you’re reading the later empty tomb and bodily appearances into Paul’s letters. Am I right? Moreover, If the Acts accounts of Paul’s vision are historical then we have even more reason to believe the appearances were visionary manifestations.

        1. He provides no distinction between the appearances
        2. He uses the same verb
        3. He seems quite eager to say “Hey I saw Jesus just like you guys did! Am I not an apostle?” (1 Cor 9:1). That’s why he’s perfectly happy to include his “vision” in line with the other appearances in 1 Cor. 15:5-8. In other words, he claims to have experienced the same appearance as the others had before.
        4. “When Paul classifies the Damascus appearance with the others in 1 Cor 15:5 this is not merely because he regards it as equivalent….It is also because he regards this appearance similar in kind.” – Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Vol. 5 pg. 359
        5. The only firsthand material we have describes the Risen Christ as a spiritual concept which is experienced through “visions” and “revelations” (Galatians 1:12; 1:16, 2 Cor 12:1) so we have no reason to expect the appearances to be anything more physical.

        “***Here are just a few examples: The word is used in Luke 24:34 (“appeared to Simon”) and Luke is presenting a physical, resurrected Jesus (see Luke 24:36-43). You even admitted this in your post Celsus: “In Luke and John the physical body is increasingly more emphasized.”
        In addition, in the Greek translation of the Old Testament it is used for physical appearances in Gen 46:29 LXX (Joseph appeared to Jacob), Exod 10:28 LXX (Moses appeared to Pharaoh), 1 Kings 3:16 LXX (two prostitutes appear before Solomon), 1 Kings 18:1 LXX (Elijah appeared before Ahab). So this Greek word can be used for both.”***

        I agree that the word can be used for actually physically seeing something but we have to judge 1 Cor 15 5-8 by its own context. The “appearances” aren’t detailed there and nowhere else in Paul’s letters does he indicate that the disciples interacted with Jesus’ risen corpse. Is the appearance to Paul in 1 Cor 15:8 his Damascus road vision or not? If so, then these were visions. If not, where else in the New Testament does Paul claim to see the Risen Jesus in a way that wasn’t a vision? The bottom line is that if you accept the Acts accounts of the Risen Christ’s appearance to Paul was a “vision” then you can’t claim the other “appearances” in 1 Cor 15:5-8 were any more “physical” than that.

        ***”Lastly, what is definitive here is the fact that Paul aligns Jesus’ resurrection with our (future believers’) resurrection (which no one would dispute is not physical, bodily).
        “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power” (1 Cor 6:14)
        “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11)
        “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead (ἀνάστασις (anastasis) νεκρῶν)” (1 Cor 15:20-21)
        “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory” (Philippians 3:20-21)
        The general resurrection of the dead is physical, bodily resurrection at the end of the world, so it can hardly be debated that this is not how Paul, a Pharisee, also viewed Jesus’ resurrection from the dead as he says in all these places Jesus’ resurrection is the foundation/beginning/firstfruits of the general resurrection at the end of the world.”***

        The earliest Christians believed that Jesus was vindicated by God and “raised” to heaven (not to earth). It was out of this belief that the “visions” of Jesus in 1 Cor 15:5-8 arose. Joost Holleman in Resurrection and Parousia (pp. 144-157) convincingly argues that Jesus’ resurrection was originally understood to be a Hellenistic-Jewish “heavenly vindication of the martyr” instead of a sign of the coming general eschatological resurrection. It was Paul who later fused the two ideas.

        ***”So in your discussion you didn’t even deal with the most definitive arguments (a glaring omission Celsus).”***

        How ironic. You didn’t even deal with the fact that Paul was equating his “vision” with the other appearances. Talk about omission.

        ***”Basically your entire case is what a professor championed by mythicists in the early 20th century says about the Greek word ophthe. But as I said above, the word can mean either visionary, spiritual or physical, bodily appearance. It depends on context.”***

        And the “context” indicates that these were “visions” rather than actual physical encounters with a risen corpse.

        ***”And the context of Paul’s letters is crystal clear what he means by these resurrection appearances.”***

        If it’s so “crystal clear” then why do scholars disagree on exactly what Paul meant?

        ***”And the fact that Paul says he saw the Lord Jesus (1 Cor 9:1) and means bodily resurrection, that means that he sees all the appearances in 1 Cor 15:5-8 the same way.”***

        He “saw” the Lord in a vision (2 Cor 12:1, Acts 9:3-8, Acts 22:6-11, Acts 26:13-19). That is, unless you have some other source? Moreover, how did Paul recognize that it was Jesus in 1 Cor 9:1 if he never met him before the crucifixion?

        ***”I can tell you just cut and paste most of this from some blog. I recommend studying this issue yourself Celsus and reading the literature on this. And now Gary is just going to cut and paste your cut and paste to his blog! I’ve always wondered how such misinformation makes its rounds around the internet. Now I know.”***

        I hope by now you realize I have a pretty good understanding of the scholarly literature on the matter. This is a mainstream scholarly view. I think I deserve an apology.

        ***“The deity of Jesus is stressed which is nowhere mentioned in the synoptics.” That statement Celsus is so ridiculous, I’m not even going to respond to it.”***

        The view that Jesus was God is completely absent from the synoptics. Seriously, how could the authors have missed this amazing detail?

        Like

      2. Celsus

        ***”The word is used in Luke 24:34 (“appeared to Simon”) and Luke is presenting a physical, resurrected Jesus (see Luke 24:36-43). You even admitted this in your post Celsus: “In Luke and John the physical body is increasingly more emphasized.”***

        Of course Luke presents a physical, resurrected Jesus. He believed in the bodily resurrection. However, that view is not made clear in Paul. Luke was writing c. 80-90 CE whereas Paul was writing around the year 50 CE. This only goes to support my thesis that the wholly physical revivification of Jesus was a later development.

        Like

    2. Justin

      This will have to my final response to you on this Celsus cause I have a lot to catch up with this weekend and I think it is been sufficiently demonstrated to you that the physical resurrection is what Paul and the earliest Christians believed.

      I can just skip over a lot of your quotes, because we are in agreement that ophthe can mean either spiritual, visionary experience OR physical, bodily appearance. It depends on the context.

      I recommend reading NT Wright’s first 200 pages of Resurrection of the Son of God on the understanding of “resurrection” in the Greco-Roman world and Jewish writings of the Second Temple Period. Even Crossan changed his views on this as a result of reading Wright.
      Yes there are some scholars with fringe views here, but the majority agree that Pharisees believed in bodily resurrection and Paul as a Pharisee would have as well.
      It is not disputed that Pharisees and most Jews of the period had some idea of an after life in between death and the general resurrection. That is what most of your quotes from ancient Jewish writings demonstrate. But those authors ALSO believed in a general bodily resurrection of all the righteous as in 2 Macc 7 for example.

      Here is Bart Ehrman on this point which should sufficiently show that even the critical side of scholarship agrees with me here.
      “If an apocalyptic Jew of this kind were to come to believe that the resurrection of the dead had begun—for example, with the raising of God’s specifically favored one, his messiah—what would that resurrection involve? It would naturally and automatically involve precisely a bodily resurrection. That’s what resurrection meant to these people. It did not mean the ongoing life of the spirit without the body. It meant the reanimation and glorification of the body. If the disciples came to believe that Jesus was raised form the dead, they would have on the spot understood that this meant his body was no longer dead but had been brought back to life. They wouldn’t need an empty tomb to prove it. Of course, for them, the tomb was empty. It goes without saying and without seeing. Jesus is alive again, which means his body has been raised.” How Jesus Became God, 186
      “What made Jesus different from all the others teaching a similar message was the claim that he had been raised from the dead. Belief in Jesus’ resurrection changed absolutely everything. Such a thing was not said of any of the other apocalyptic preachers of Jesus’ day, and the fact that it was said about Jesus made him unique. Without the belief in the resurrection, Jesus would have been a mere footnote in the annals of Jewish history. With the belief in the resurrection, we have the beginnings of the movement to promote Jesus to a superhuman plane. Belief in the resurrection is what eventually led his followers to claim that Jesus was God…The fact that some of the followers of Jesus (most of them? All of them?) came to believe that Jesus was physically raised from the dead. That belief is a historical fact.” –Bart Ehrman, How Jesus Became God, 131-33
      “Paul, who affirms with real fervor his belief that Jesus was actually, physically, raised from the dead.” When Jesus Became God, 133
      “Paul is emphatic: Jesus was bodily raised from the dead. Paul states this view vigorously in 1 Corinthians 15, and in some sense the entire chapter is written to make the point—precisely because Paul’s opponents in Corinth had a different view. In their opposing view, Jesus was raised in the spirit, not in the body, such that Christians who enjoy the resurrection with him in their own lives are also spiritually raised—not in their bodies but in their inner beings…And that is the point of 1 Corinthians 15. The fact—Paul takes it as a fact—that the resurrected bodies of believers will be like the resurrected body of Jesus shows that the resurrection has not yet taken place. It is a bodily (not purely spiritual) event, and since it is a bodily event, it obviously has not happened yet because we are still living in our pathetic mortal bodies.” How Jesus Became God, 176-77

      And your Greek word studies are awful Celsus. I just don’t have the time to refute that, but egeiro is used interchangeably with anastasis all throughout 1 Cor 15 and the rest of Paul’s writings. Like the Saduccees, you are badly mistaken! (Mark 12:

      And ultimately you are using Acts to interpret Paul’s letters Galatians and 1 Corinthians. I agree Luke presents it as a vision in places in Acts, but just because it is a vision doesn’t mean the bodily raised Jesus didn’t appear to Paul as well during this experience. These are not mutually exclusive.
      You have agreed that Luke presents Jesus’ appearances as physical as in Luke 24:34. Well if that is the case then the same word ophthe is used in Acts 9:17 (Jesus appeared to Paul); 13:31 (appeared to many); 26:16 (I appeared to you). So in the context of Luke-Acts “appeared” means physical appearance right Celsus?

      And you passed over with 4 sentences the evidence that Paul believed Jesus’ physical resurrection was the foundation for the general bodily resurrection of all believers at the end of the world. This is the strongest argument for my view so I see why you barely touched. It . A quote from Joost Holleman will not do. You need to exegete those passages I quoted Celsus and explain how Paul could see the general resurrection of all believers as bodily and physical but see the foundation for this physical resurrection as the spiritual resurrection of Jesus. This won’t work and that is why you should read Ehrman above again and agree with him on this.

      And he recognized Jesus Celsus because he asked “who are you Lord?” and Jesus said: “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” That’s how he knew.

      I will apologize Celsus if you didn’t just cut and paste these quotes from some website or blog somewhere, but instead have read all these works you quote from yourself. I have read those articles you quoted from in TDNT for example and it seemed to me the way you quoted from them you haven’t. But if you did read all those articles in full then I do apologize, but if you didn’t then you owe me an apology 

      Lastly, you said “It was Paul who later fused the two ideas.” This is partly a concession then by you that Paul is seeing a physically raised Jesus and a physical resurrection of all believers at the end of the world. You say this was different for the believers before Paul but all the evidence is against you. 1 Cor 15:11 Paul says that the Jerusalem Apostles James Peter John, etc. agreed with him. “Whether it was I or they…” If we can establish what Paul believed about the resurrection of Jesus (and we can see Ehrman above), then we know what the earliest disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem believed as well because Paul said they were in agreement with him. Trust Paul over Holleman Celsus.

      The earliest Christology was the highest Christology. And the earliest statements about the resurrection of Jesus were always that God raised this Jesus bodily, physically from the dead and we are all witnesses.

      God bless,
      Justin

      Like

      1. Celsus

        Hi Justin,

        I don’t doubt that Paul thought Jesus was in some sense “physically” or “bodily” raised. I just don’t think it was the same body that was buried. It was a new “heavenly” “pneumatikos” body. Try reading Bart Ehrman’s section “The Raising of a Spiritual Body” in Chapter 5 of his book. Ehrman has a blog post where he appeals to Dale Martin’s understanding in “The Corinthian Body.”

        “Flesh, blood, and pneuma are all parts of the body – or rather, different forms of substance that together make up a body. When Paul says that the resurrected body will be a pneumatic body rather than simply a psychic body or a flesh-and-blood body, he is saying that the immortal and incorruptible part of the human body will be resurrected- or, to put it more accurately, that the body will be raised, constituted (due to divine transformation) only by its immortal and incorruptible aspects, without its corruptible aspects such as sarx (flesh). No physical/spiritual dichotomy is involved here, much less a material/immaterial one…Paul would have thought of all of it as “material” – if, that is, he had been able to think in such a category without a material/immaterial dichotomy. At any rate, all the “stuff” here talked about is indeed stuff.” – The Corinthian Body, pg. 128

        ***”And your Greek word studies are awful Celsus. I just don’t have the time to refute that, but egeiro is used interchangeably with anastasis all throughout 1 Cor 15 and the rest of Paul’s writings.”***

        How is it awful? I posted the Lexicon’s wide range of definitions. You’re the one who is being “awful” in that you’re trying to restrict the meaning of the word to the literal “raising of a physical body” when the actual meaning allows for much more nuance than that. 1 Cor 15:3-5 is the pre-Pauline creed and doesn’t say anastasis so that argument just won’t work.

        According to Outi Lehtipuu in the book I linked earlier (she deals with Wright’s claims directly) https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=0uZcBgAAQBAJ&lpg=PP1&pg=PA26#v=onepage&q&f=false

        “It is not certain that each time the word anastasis (or the like) appears in the text, a bodily resurrection is intended.” – pg. 26

        And concludes upon her investigation of the sources:

        “All this shows that there is no certainty that whenever we encounter the word anastasis in early Christian sources, it means bodily resurrection.” – pg. 40

        ==================================================================

        As far as Acts goes, where does it actually say Paul saw Jesus’ body? The three accounts say all he saw was a blinding light and heard a voice. The companions “saw no one.” Are you sure you’re not writing your own gospel?

        ***”You have agreed that Luke presents Jesus’ appearances as physical as in Luke 24:34. Well if that is the case then the same word ophthe is used in Acts 9:17 (Jesus appeared to Paul); 13:31 (appeared to many); 26:16 (I appeared to you). So in the context of Luke-Acts “appeared” means physical appearance right Celsus?”***

        According to the Acts accounts the only “physical” details Paul experienced were a blinding light and a disembodied voice from the sky. Sounds like real reliable testimony. Would you put someone like that on the witness stand and expect him to be taken seriously by the judge and jury?

        Luke has Paul call this experience a “heavenly vision” in Acts 26:19. This type of “appearance” is not the same as what we find when Luke depicts the appearances to the disciples or the Doubting Thomas story in John. So was it “physical”? Perhaps, but Jesus’ body is nowhere mentioned in the vision reports. Since Luke believed in the bodily resurrection he has no reason to make up the vision reports in regards to Paul. Therefore, it’s safe to say Luke was happy to describe the appearance to Paul as a “vision” from heaven.

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      2. Celsus

        ***”And you passed over with 4 sentences the evidence that Paul believed Jesus’ physical resurrection was the foundation for the general bodily resurrection of all believers at the end of the world. This is the strongest argument for my view so I see why you barely touched. It . A quote from Joost Holleman will not do. You need to exegete those passages I quoted”***

        Joost Holleman does a thorough exegesis in his book.
        https://books.google.com/books?id=rK6jIKtMdjEC&lpg=PP1&pg=PA144#v=onepage&q&f=false

        1. Jesus had been raised as an individual, whereas the eschatological resurrection was viewed as something in which a group of people would share.
        2. It was believed that Jesus had been raised immediately or soon after after his death, but the eschatological resurrection would take place at the end of time.
        3. Jesus’ resurrection was regarded as a resurrection into heaven, whereas the eschatological resurrection was believed to take place on earth.

        Just try to find me one verse from Paul’s letters where it says Jesus was *first* raised to earth and only *later* raised to heaven. I bet you can’t do it. Paul and the earliest Christians believed Jesus was exalted to heaven immediately after his death.

        ***”Lastly, you said “It was Paul who later fused the two ideas.” This is partly a concession then by you that Paul is seeing a physically raised Jesus and a physical resurrection of all believers at the end of the world.”***

        Again, Jesus’ resurrection was regarded as a resurrection into heaven, whereas the eschatological resurrection was believed to take place on earth. Paul believed that Jesus received a new and “glorious” body in heaven.

        ***”You say this was different for the believers before Paul but all the evidence is against you. 1 Cor 15:11 Paul says that the Jerusalem Apostles James Peter John, etc. agreed with him.”***

        You’re just reading that into the verse here. The text doesn’t say they “agreed with him.”

        Have a good weekend.

        Like

      3. Celsus

        ***”And he recognized Jesus Celsus because he asked “who are you Lord?” and Jesus said: “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” That’s how he knew.”***

        Congratulations. You just appealed to the vision reports in Acts and thereby proved my point. Jesus’ appearance to Paul in 1 Cor 15:8 was a “vision” and he makes no distinction regarding the appearances to the others in 1 Cor 15:5-7. In fact, he equates them with the use of the same verb ōphthē. Therefore, you can’t claim the “appearances” to the others were any more “physical” than Paul’s vision.

        Like

      4. Barry Jones

        Celsus,

        What do you think about the argument that says Paul’s propensity to take trips to heaven that left him unable to tell whether he went their spiritually or bodily (2nd Corinthians 12:1-3) fully impeaches his credibility as a witness?

        I’ve often asked what fundamentalist Christians would do, if they sat as jurors on a criminal case, the defendant was caught on video committing the murder, and his solitary alibi is that Satan must have created those images on video, with the same power he had to inflict Job with boils (Job 1:1). Yes, that is easily seen as a desperate and transparently false excuse…but could fundamentalist Christians dismiss it with the same ease that atheists do? I don’t think so.

        In other words, if Christians want us to be seriously “open” to the possibility of miracles, then they need to be open to miraculous alibis when they sit as jurors in a criminal case, but in fact we can be certain that they would immediately dismiss any alibi that required some type of supernatural intervention. What would happen to America’s justice system if the Courts overturned prior law and allowed a jury to seriously consider excuses and alibis that depend in whole on the miraculous?

        Christians are quick to tell us about how fallacious David Hume’s argument from experience was, but when they sit as jurors on a criminal case and they hear a miraculous alibi about Satan creating false fingerprints of video images, then suddenly, David Hume was a really smart guy whose advice should be followed.

        And did you get my request that you email me privately about a legal matter in which another Christian is wildly defaming you? barryjoneswhat@yahoo.com

        Like

      5. Justin

        Luke 24:34 Celsus! “appeared to Simon” You have already conceded that Luke sees this appearance as a physical, resurrected Jesus. So when Luke uses the same word to say Jesus “appeared” to Paul: Acts 9:17 (Jesus appeared to Paul); 13:31 (appeared to many); 26:16 (I appeared to you); the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that this also would not be a physical appearance of Jesus in Luke’s mind. Paul saw Jesus (Acts 9:17) and Luke saw this as a physical appearance just as Paul made clear throughout his letters.

        Ok I really am going to stop now! 🙂 It is just so hard to keep from correcting you Celsus. Your posts here reveal why you will never go beyond the prestige of commenting on other people’s articles with a pseudo alias.

        I hope you have a good weekend too

        Like

      6. Celsus

        ***”Luke 24:34 Celsus! “appeared to Simon” You have already conceded that Luke sees this appearance as a physical, resurrected Jesus.”***

        Luke 24:39-43 depicts Jesus as bodily resurrected. However, he doesn’t describe the “appearance” to Simon nor do we have any firsthand accounts from Simon himself. According to Acts, Simon was susceptible to having “visions” as well.

        ***”So when Luke uses the same word to say Jesus “appeared” to Paul: Acts 9:17 (Jesus appeared to Paul); 13:31 (appeared to many); 26:16 (I appeared to you); the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that this also would not be a physical appearance of Jesus in Luke’s mind.”***

        Acts 26:19
        “After that, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision,”

        Burden of proof met. Jesus “appears” to Paul in a vision from heaven. Therefore, this wasn’t the same “physical” appearance in Luke’s mind compared to Luke 24:39-43.

        You already conceded that Paul’s appearance was a “vision”. The description of this vision only includes a bright light and disembodied voice. “No one was seen” – Acts 9:7. Therefore, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that the other appearances in 1 Cor 15:5-8 were any more physical than a visionary experience like Paul’s. Since we have no firsthand reports from any of the other eyewitnesses in the list and Paul never mentions any of the physical details found in the later gospel accounts, you have quite the burden to bear. Good luck with that.

        ***”Paul saw Jesus (Acts 9:17) and Luke saw this as a physical appearance just as Paul made clear throughout his letters.”***

        Huh? Where in Paul’s letters does he say that they interacted with a formerly dead corpse that had returned to life? Paul admits to having “visions” and “revelations” (Gal 1:12, Gal. 1:16, 2 Cor 12:1). Try reading Paul’s letters without prematurely reading in the later empty tomb and gospel appearances. “Physical” appearances are completely absent from the Pauline corpus. You’re just reading something that is not there.

        Like

      7. Celsus

        ***”I agree Luke presents it as a vision in places in Acts, but just because it is a vision doesn’t mean the bodily raised Jesus didn’t appear to Paul as well during this experience.”***

        Acts 9:7
        “The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.”

        Now how could the “bodily raised Jesus” appear to Paul without him being seen by his companions? A physical body, if it were present, would have been seen by everyone. Please explain exactly how that works.

        This was Paul’s own subjective “vision”. You would be laughed out of the courtroom for trying to pull such shenanigans today.

        Like

    1. Justin

      Celsus, it’s true that this is one interpretation among some more critical commentators on Daniel, but this is debated among modern Danielic scholars of who the historical referent is in Daniel 9.
      However, if you study all the references throughout 2nd Temple Judaism, you will see that it was unanimous from every Jewish group we have word from on this text, that they believed this was the Messiah. The Essenes even based on this prophecy dated the coming of their messiahs to 2-3BC!
      It was not Onias III because the temple and Jerusalem was not destroyed after his death nor did everlasting righteousness begin nor were all sins taken away at that time. The Jews had to wait about 200 years for all that to occur at Golgotha.

      Like

      1. Celsus

        The “prophecy” is too vague to be used as a prediction for Jesus. As numerous commentators have pointed out, the context in Daniel 9 aligns perfectly with what we know about Antiochus and Onias III.

        “there is no evidence in the book of Daniel at all that the writer was expecting the coming of a Messianic king: in view of the eschatological orientation of the book, such a belief would have been made clear had it existed. On the contrary, we find that the one occasion on which the term masiah ‘Anointed’ is employed (Dan. 9: 26), it is used of the High Priest Onias III. We may accordingly reject all forms of the view that the one like a son of man in Dan. 7 is a royal Messianic figure…” – John Day, God’s Conflict With the Dragon and the Sea, pg. 158 https://books.google.com/books?id=tRU9AAAAIAAJ&lpg=PP1&pg=PA158#v=onepage&q&f=false

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      2. Justin

        Actually I think it is very precise Celsus. It says that after this “anointed one” (Messiah) is “cut off” (suffers a violent death) the temple and Jerusalem will be destroyed.
        Just curious Celsus. After the writing of this prophecy when was the next (and only) time that the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed?

        Like

      3. Celsus

        Why doesn’t it say “The Messiah will be resurrected”? If this was a genuine prophecy of Jesus then why not be explicit about it?

        Like

      4. nonsupernaturalist

        The author of the Book of Daniel (and his invisible Editor-in-Chief) did not give specific details such as a future crucifixion, Celsus (you silly fool), because Jesus wanted to come to earth in DISGUISE. Jesus didn’t want to be too obvious. He wanted sinners to really, really, really seek him.

        The fact that the majority of the people in the world, for the next 2,000 plus years, would die and suffer horrific torment in Hell, prior to anyone ever sharing the “Gospel” with them, was for some reason not as important as staying in disguise.

        Like

      5. Justin

        Come on Celsus. This is like when Gary asked for a non-Christian scholar who believed in the resurrection. I provided Lapide and than Gary says, “he had the wrong motives!”
        Now I gave you good reason to see that this prophecy was specifically fulfilled and then you say, but it should have mentioned the resurrection. If it mentioned the resurrection too Celsus, do you think that you would have said, “but it doesn’t mention the ascension.”
        Celsus, it is clear that you (and undeniably Gary) are rejecting Christianity for other reasons besides the evidence. I can’t know those reasons because I don’t know you. But just from these few interactions here it is obvious no amount of evidence will convince you or Gary.
        Dan Barker was the same. See the last clip in my article above. Dan said that even if God exists and Jesus did rise from the dead he STILL would not accept Jesus as his Lord. This is where many (not all) atheists and agnostics stand. And God gives grace to the humble, but he opposes the proud. Humble yourself before Him Celsus. Seek Him with all your heart and He will allow Himself to be found.
        God bless
        Justin

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      6. Celsus

        If Onias III fits the bill (the Temple was destroyed after his death) then you can’t claim this is a prophecy of Jesus. It doesn’t say “40 years after the Messiah’s death the Temple will be destroyed.” If it said something more specific like that then obviously that would be very convincing indeed. Since it doesn’t give the exact time or year these events will take place you could apply the concept to any other “messianic” figure between 200 BCE and upwards. These “prophecies” are so vague and general that they can be be applied to just about anyone. The only people who find biblical “prophecy” convincing are believers because they’re looking at the Bible with circular reasoning.

        Like

    1. Celsus

      I apologize professor Wallace. Please feel free to delete the comment that was “awaiting moderation.” I edited that one and took out most of the links. Will try to keep comments shorter from now on. Thanks

      Like

      1. Celsus,
        I would ask that you contact me privately concerning an important legal matter. An apologist defamed me to the point of me having sued him. In at least one of his libelous publications, he says I am the same person who posts on the internet as “Celsus”. barryjoneswhat@yahoo.com

        Like

  55. gary

    Dear Readers: Isn’t it amazing how for every alleged contradiction/discrepancy in the Bible, Christian scholars have a ready explanation to resolve it? This is referred to as a “harmonization”. So if Christian scholars have a harmonization for every criticism that skeptics can throw at them, doesn’t that mean that the Christian supernatural claims in the Bible must be true?

    Answer: No.

    And here is why: Muslim and Mormon scholars can do the EXACT same thing with their holy books!

    Go onto a Muslim website moderated by Muslim scholars and they too will have a “harmonization” for every alleged contradiction/discrepancy in the Koran. Why? They have had 1,400 years to come up with them. Go to a Mormon website moderated by Mormon scholars and you will find the same thing: a good Mormon scholar can refute any claim against the Book of Mormon. You will not be able to “stump” them with any allegation of error or contradiction. And they have had only 200 years to come up with harmonizations for their holy book!

    Christian scholars have had TWO THOUSAND years to come up with harmonizations for every one of the scores of alleged errors and contradictions in the Bible. So we skeptics will NEVER stump them. They will ALWAYS have a ready harmonization.

    So how can you as a layperson, a non-scholar, know for sure if your holy book, the Bible, is true? I have a suggestion: Use good ol’ common sense! Would a perfect, all-knowing God write his message to mankind in a letter (the Bible) that is so confusing that even Christians can’t agree on what it says, even on the most basic of beliefs, such as how one avoids eternal torture in Hell??

    The majority of the world’s Christians believe that one attains salvation by being baptized and then being obedient to Christian teachings for the rest of your life. A minority of Christians believe that baptism is important but not critical, believing and repenting is what really matters. Most Christians believe that there is no guarantee of salvation, while others insist their is. Would a loving, compassionate, all-knowing God really risk so many people’s eternal destiny by writing such a confusing letter to them that even though they sincerely TRY to do what God wants, they still end up in Hell because they didn’t pick the correct Christian denomination or sect??? It is estimated there are over THIRTY THOUSAND different Christian denominations and sects on the planet and every one of them believes that they ALONE have the correct interpretation of God’s message.

    Really, folks?

    Your God is either sloppy and disorganized or he is a sinister, sadistic monster. If he were truly loving and compassionate, he would make sure than every human being receives a very clear and convincing warning about Hell and clear and convincing instructions about how to avoid going there.

    But he didn’t do that, did he?

    So maybe, the Bible, the Koran, the Hindu Scriptures, etc. are NOT the Word of our Creator, but only the sincere beliefs of ancient superstitious peoples.

    Like

  56. Justin

    Actually Gary what I think everyone should find more amazing is how much time you invest in something you put on the same level as fairies and other non-existent beings. I’m sure this insatiable desire to devote so much of your time to attempting to disprove Christianity has nothing to do with the fact that it is True.

    I love how GK Chesterton put it:
    “Blasphemy is based on belief. The blasphemer cannot achieve any artistic effort unless he is at heart a believer. If anyone doubts this let him sit down seriously and try to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor.” -GK Chesterton, Heretics

    Keep fighting though Gary. I actually have the greatest hope for the unbelievers who spend most of their days arguing and writing against God and Christ. So many who were even more angry at God than you have come to their senses and bowed their knees to Christ (look up Darrin Rasberry previously from Debunking Christianity or NT Scholar AN Wilson for some recent examples). It is the unbelievers who actually move on with their lives and forget about God and Christ that are almost surely damned.

    I did enjoy the discussion. Thanks for investing the time.

    God bless,
    Justin

    Like

  57. nonsupernaturalist

    Dear Justin,

    I am a former member of a 2,000 year old cult. A cult which lures people in with promises of love; a compassionate, supportive community; and eternal riches—but—threatens its followers with eternal torture if they dare to leave and reject the cult and the cult’s beliefs.

    I am exposing a cult. A cult responsible for discrimination, persecution, and violence on a massive, unimaginable scale. And it is still promoting discrimination and persecution today, based on the standards and beliefs of superstitious people living in the Bronze Age.

    I speak out against injustice; against hate; against superstition and ignorance.

    You can hope that I will eventually return to the cult, but MY hope is that by speaking out, I will save even ONE young person from falling for this ancient lie, giving them the freedom to live a life free from the fear of invisible gods, devils, and other ghouls.

    Truth, Reason, and Science bless,

    Gary

    Like

  58. gary

    Why did neither Peter nor Paul mention an empty tomb?

    Acts chapter 2: Peter preaches to the crowds in Jerusalem on Pentecost

    But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

    …“You that are Israelites,[a] listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth,[b] a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— 23 this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24 But God raised him up, having freed him from death,[c] because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.

    …This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.

    ….Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers,[i] what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

    Gary: What’s wrong here? Why didn’t Peter mention the empty tomb, the “smoking gun” of the Christian Resurrection claim; the principle evidence used by every Christian apologist for 2,000 years to declare as historical fact the resurrection/reanimation of the dead body of Jesus of Nazareth? Yes, it is true: Peter talks about a “resurrection”. Yes, it is true: Peter says that God has “raised Jesus up from the dead”. But neither of these statements necessarily infers a resurrection/ a raising up from a hand-hewn rock tomb located on the Mount of Olives, where anyone who chooses could inspect it. One must assume this. Both of these statements are perfectly compatible with Jesus’ body being raised by God from an unmarked, unknown-other-than-to-a-couple-of-Roman-guards, hole in the ground.

    There are two options here for Peter’s omission of the empty tomb: 1.) Everyone in Jerusalem knew about the empty tomb, so there was no need for Peter to mention it.

    Every resident and visitor to Jerusalem knew that they could take a short stroll up to the Mount of Olives and inspect the empty tomb, and many of them had likely done just that. The empty tomb, guarded by professional Roman soldiers, had been found empty on the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion. All Jerusalem had been shell-shocked by the news! The Sanhedrin had tried to pass it off as a grave robbery by the disciples, but obviously no one, including Pilate, believed this: tampering with graves was a serious crime; especially the grave of a man executed for high treason against Rome. Yet the disciples of Jesus were walking around Jerusalem, preaching to crowds of thousands. If they were thought to be guilty of the most infamous case of grave-robbing in recent Judean history, Pilate would have seized them immediately. Yet he didn’t. It is true that the Jews immediately went after Peter and some of the other disciples after Peter’s sermon, but not the Romans. Obviously the Romans did not suspect the disciples as responsible for the empty tomb. So who did they think was?

    So if well-trained, professional Roman guards had been guarding the tomb of Jesus, and three days later it was found empty, and everyone in Jerusalem knew this, and, the disciples of Jesus were walking around Jerusalem proclaiming to crowds of thousands that Jesus had been raised from the dead by God himself…why on earth didn’t Josephus, Philo, the Romans, or any other first century contemporary of this event say one single word about the disappearance and alleged resurrection, allegedly by the Jewish God, of the man alleged to have been the most serious threat to Roman rule in decades??

    Yet every contemporary of Jesus is silent on this most spectacular of alleged events!

    2. Jesus ministry, trial, and crucifixion were not the major new events that the Gospels seem to infer they were.

    Some Christian apologists explain the silence from Josephus, Philo and others due to this explanation. Jesus really wasn’t that big of a deal…at least not to the Jewish authorities or the Romans. Jesus was just one of many trouble-makers who was quickly disposed of. His importance did not become apparent until decades or even a century later when mass numbers of Jews and Gentiles began converting to this new faith.

    But if that were the case, Peter would have had even more reason to mention the empty tomb; to pronounce the empty tomb as the absolute proof that Jesus had conquered death and risen from the dead just as he had prophesied; any skeptic in Palestine could be taken to the empty tomb…the tomb that had been guarded by highly-trained Roman guards, Roman guards under the threat of execution for allowing anyone to take the body under their guard…to confirm the Christian claim that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah and the Son of God. Why didn’t Peter mention the empty tomb and offer to take the crowds to see it?

    A crucified messiah was a shameful, shameful belief. The early Christians would have needed some very strong evidence to support their claim that the Jewish expectations about the Jewish Messiah were wrong; the Messiah would not be a conqueror of Rome, but a crucified/resurrected messiah, and not only the messiah, but the Son of God, and in some sense, God himself, Yahweh, the Creator of Heaven and Earth!! Even if five hundred Christians were running around Jerusalem saying that they had seen the risen Jesus, all at the same time and place, Jewish society would have surely demanded an empty grave as proof of these fantastic claims.

    But Peter never mentions an empty tomb. Neither does Peter mention an empty tomb later in Acts when he preaches to the Gentile house of Cornelius, the Roman centurion. And neither does Paul mention an empty tomb, either in his own epistles nor as recorded in the Book of Acts…ever.

    Face the facts, dear Christians: the evidence and common sense say that there was no empty tomb. There was no empty tomb until circa 70 AD when the author of “Mark” writing in Rome or Antioch, made it up.

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  59. Scott Harris

    The Shroud of Turin still outshines anything these non-believers attacking Christianity have said,since man cannot make a image like what is on the shroud,we can safely assume Jesus Christ caused the image on the shroud as he rose from the dead. You can reject the Shroud as evidence but just know this not one sceptic has been able to produce anything like the image on the shroud to show it was made by man,since man cannot show man can produce an image like what is on the shroud?The shroud image is physical evidence Jesus rose from the dead.

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  60. chuck

    wow. I’ve just woven my way through all of these comments. One thing becomes very clear, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Barry, Celsus, nonsupernaturalist, et. al. The sad thing is none of you cared about finding the truth. You are all trollers who get off on seeing your words in print. The amazing thing is that Justin and others had any patience with you at all. Your arguments are old and have been answered thousands of times by thousands of Christian scholars. You weren’t interested in answers. There are no answers you would have accepted. Your interest is in proving yourself right, not finding the truth. While Christians should be willing and able to give a defense for what they believe in, there is also the time (see Jesus and Pilate) where silence and a stare is the most appropriate response(unless you thing Pilate had Jesus stumped with his question. Even Jesus said to not throw pearls to the swine. Sounds like a harsh statement but the truth is you are blind, and voluntarily at that. Like the gentleman in the debate, there isn’t any evidence that will convince you. You will nitpick and dance like your life is dependent on it. And it is. Be still and know God.

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    1. chuck: wow. I’ve just woven my way through all of these comments. One thing becomes very clear, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Barry, Celsus, nonsupernaturalist, et. al. The sad thing is none of you cared about finding the truth.

      Barry: dismissed as preaching. You are helping the household of faith first, and you can do that all day long by lying about the motives of those outside your special group. Why fix what ain’t broke, amen?

      Chuck: You are all trollers who get off on seeing your words in print.

      Barry: By your logic, any Christian apologist who seeks to debate skeptics is a troller who likes to see his own words in print. Welcome to the club.

      Chuck: The amazing thing is that Justin and others had any patience with you at all.

      Barry: So much patience, that Justin has not emailed me again in months, despite the fact that he said he would debate the issue with me around October of this year.

      Chuck: Your arguments are old and have been answered thousands of times by thousands of Christian scholars.

      Barry: No, that’s just your exaggerated way of saying you think the rebuttal to Baur provided by Lightfoot and Hodges was sufficient. It wasn’t. Would you like to find out why I say that, or are you just here to troll?

      Chuck: You weren’t interested in answers. There are no answers you would have accepted.

      Barry: I also don’t accept any “answers” which Mormon apologists give to explain away the lack of archaeological confirmation of the book of Mormon. Clearly, the problem is with me and my heart that is so against God that I blind myself to the truth, eh?

      Chuck: Your interest is in proving yourself right, not finding the truth.

      Barry: an empty accusation that could be employed by any fool to make a sermon seem interesting. I prefer a bit more argument and bit less psychoanalysis.

      Chuck: While Christians should be willing and able to give a defense for what they believe in, there is also the time (see Jesus and Pilate) where silence and a stare is the most appropriate response(unless you thing Pilate had Jesus stumped with his question.

      Barry: Yes, and the Mormons are quite adept at that. They realize that once I find their excuses for the Book of Mormon to be absolutely insufficient, that is the time that they should walk away. Contrary to popular belief, Paul was a good businessman, and told his followers to walk away from debates not merely because they divide brothers, but because divided brothers make for less churches, and thus less money for Paul. Cults always employ the advice of Paul in Titus 3:9 ff as an excuse to walk away from a debate they are losing.

      Chuck: Even Jesus said to not throw pearls to the swine.

      Barry: Jesus also knew how bad for business it is if church members are allowed to debate each other as often as scientists debate each other.

      Chuck: Sounds like a harsh statement but the truth is you are blind, and voluntarily at that. Like the gentleman in the debate, there isn’t any evidence that will convince you. You will nitpick and dance like your life is dependent on it. And it is. Be still and know God.

      Barry: You have offered ZERO argument, your entire spiel is nothing but preaching to the choir.

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      1. chuck

        Good job Barry. Great game of “i know you are but what am I”. As for dodging, I ask again, what is the response you desire to convince you? You’ll forgive me if I refuse to believe you can’t find the answers you seek (assuming they are reasonable) amongst all the apologetic literature available on the market today. Or have you manage to ask the never before asked? I have no problem debating, and I imagine Christ or Paul didn’t mind a sensible and rational conversation. But in 40+ years of working in and teaching Christian apologetics, I have come to recognize that particular type of person who is not so much seeking an answer as avoiding one. The “that’s not good enough” while possibly indicated an inefficient answer, is just as often an indicator of “there’s no answer I will accept”. Some things cannot be proven with 100 percent certainty. Even scientists are well aware of this. Often it just comes down to whether or not a hypothesis or answer is reasonable. Perhaps the reason someone stops responding to you is that they have a life to lead, one that doesn’t involve responding to 1-5,000 word posts day after day. I know you don’t live a life of certainty. No one does. Everyone accepts some things by faith, even the atheists. To insinuate that I am against debating or exchanging ideas is fallacious, and you know it. There comes a time when enough is enough. Even God’s Spirit stops striving with men at time. If your heart is shut against something, even a Calvinistic God is not going to force feed you. I would love to engage you, but after reading your posts, I see I would have to give up my part time job. You seem bright and inquisitive, yet stubborn and proud of your arguments. Don’t assume that by out talking your opponent that you have won. those who responded to you here on this blog took a lot of time, and I am sure, prayer. Their efforts were an example of their love and care. I am tempted to engage you, but my spirit warns me it would be a waste of time. I hope you find what it is you are looking for.

        Like

  61. jfjoyner3

    Professor Wallace,

    It seems to me you have devoted a lot of effort to developing and publishing images of manuscripts … why not stick to that worthy topic?

    Like

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  73. No one

    The more I go to college, and I have gone to secular colleges, the more I study Math, the more I realize without a doubt, God exists and Jesus died on a cross and was resurrected. As you have said over and over, the fact remains he existed, the fact remains he was crucified, and if you consider Paul, he was resurrected. Yet if I ignore all of that and just look at science and Math, I laugh. Fibinnoci sequence alone makes me believe in God. I really enjoyed the clips of the debate and it was like watching a presidential debate. One brings up a credible argument, you, and the other dodges and changes the subject charismatically. How sad that many people can be blind to that. At no point did he really make a compelling argument with strong facts to go against the facts. Thank you for posting this.

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    1. chuck

      Read your article Gary. While articulate, it was a bit presumptive with a few non-sequiturs thrown in. Let me explain. A few examples will suffice.
      First, with a bit of clever word play, you managed, at least in your own mind, to convince yourself that four guys in the woods expecting and hoping to see something is the same as a person, persons, a dozen persons, over 500 persons experiencing an event they were not expecting. Are you serious? You must have failed psychology. Your explanation for why the four future Mormons saw what they saw is quite plausible. Group suggestion. Peer pressure. Note that one is retrieved to the sight where the “appearance” will happen and encouraged to pray UNTIL he sees it. A most cursory reading of the Gospels and Acts will reveal radical differences. The disciples were hiding in fear from jewish authorities, expecting to be found and killed as Jesus was. They weren’t praying in the woods hoping to see Him. They knew or witnessed His crucifixion. They were not expecting or hoping to see anything, except possibly their own arrest and deaths. Not quite the same as four men in the woods praying to see a specific thing.
      Another quite obvious difference, Moroni (who no one but Mormons believes exist) is a supposed angel. Christ is a known, historical figure. To use your method of argumentation, the vast majority of biblical scholars and historians, even those who are atheist or skeptics of the christian faith, admit this. While they might not accept supernatural aspects of His ministry, the argument that He is a mythical figure has really lost the attraction it once held. Now, if you arbitrarily and presumptively assume there is no historical value to be found in the bible, you will, of course, not find what you do not want to find.
      While groups may be susceptible to suggestion or group emotion, there is no scientific basis for so-called group hallucination. It does not occur. To suggest that over 500 people hallucinated and saw the exact same thing is juvenile, especially when the only support for your argument is your own endorsement of it. Heard of circular reasoning?
      The apostle Paul was a sworn enemy of christians and Christ, who oversaw the stoning of Stephen and terrorized the early church. To suggest that he went blind, fell down before, saw and soon worshiped the very figure whom he was rejecting and persecuting is a bit of special pleading. This is not what people do. The whole scenario is contrary to common sense.
      To title the article referencing “amazing similarities” between Mormonism and Christianity and their beginnings is vacuous and fallicious reasoning, nothing more than sensationalism hidden behind a pretense, a very thin pretense, of serious scholarship.
      Christ is not an angel. Christianity has no “golden plates” on which it’s entire scripture is written, and only decipherable by someone who puts them in a hat and “views” (interprets) them via two stones, which were actually jewels on the breastplates of Jewish priests. While, in the bible version, they might occasionally be used to indicate God’s will in special circumstances, they were never used as viewing devices or ever used to interpret a mystical language. Christianity’s earliest adherents were those who had walked with and been taught Jesus himself. Others were those who had seen Him after His ressurection, an event they neither prayed for or expected. Four affidavits from four guys in the woods having a secret meeting does not carry the same weight as the testimony of hundreds of people of all walks of life who saw someone who appeared publicly to them. Your reference to affidavits is juvenile. All they indicate is that someone is willing to swear they saw or did something. They are no guarantor of truth. Usually there is punishment for swearing falsely. What did the four risk? Nothing. Joseph Smith was later killed far from the original site of the supposed event. There was no danger involved at the time for their willingness to swear. For the early christians, there was very much risk involved in publicly proclaiming a belief in a risen Christ. Imprisonment, persecution, or death was almost always involved in the early years of the church, and to some degree up to the fourth century.
      You know, the internet is such a great tool and damnable curse. Great knowledge can be accessed. And ignorant drivel can be offered as truth. May i suggest that you try to present valid and balanced opinions, ones that consider both sides of an argument. It takes no effort to pose banal pablum as wisdom. Real truth, however, is revealed to those who search diligently.

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  74. Gary

    Hi Chuck,
    Thank you for reading my post and sharing your thoughts.

    The question that must be asked is this: Is every story told in the Gospels historical fact? Although fundamentalist Christian scholars would say, yes, almost all moderate and liberal scholars, and even some conservative evangelical scholars, would admit that at least some stories in the gospels were not meant to be taken literally. For example, evangelical scholar Mike Licona questions the historicity of the story of dead saints being shaken out of the graves at the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross to walk the streets of Jerusalem. Stories such as this were not included in the Gospels as lies to deceive anyone; they were included as literary/theological inventions for allegorical purposes, perfectly acceptable in the genre in which the Gospel authors were writing: religious Greco-Roman biographies. All the above is to say, I and many scholars do not believe that the detailed appearance stories as told in the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John are historical. I believe that these stories are literary inventions. The first Gospel written, Mark, originally had zero appearance stories.

    I believe that the Early Creed in First Corinthians 15 is more likely to more closely represent the original appearance claims about the risen Jesus. Note that there is no mention in this passage about anyone seeing a physical body; touching a physical body; speaking to or hearing a physical body. It is therefore entirely possible that all the original stories about appearances of Jesus occurred in the same manner that the author of the Book of Acts says that Jesus appeared to Paul: as a bright light. So five hundred people at once so a bright light and thought it was Jesus. Not too much different than claims made by crowds of Roman Catholics and Virgin Mary sightings today.

    I believe that if one reads the story of the origins of Mormonism, there are some fascinating parallels with early Christianity. Both Jesus and Joseph Smith believed that they were special messengers from God. Both believed that they received special communications from God. I personally do not believe the historical Jesus believed that he was God himself. If you read the Gospel of Mark, Jesus no where claims to be Yahweh the Creator. Yes, he pronounces the forgiveness of sins in the name of God, but he never says, “I, the Creator, Yahweh, forgive your sins”, but says, “Your sins are forgiven”. I therefore see very strong similarities between the Jesus of the Gospel of Mark (who I believe represents the historical Jesus) and Joseph Smith. I believe that the Jesus of the Gospel of John was a later invention of the late first century Church who had invented a very high, but very non-historical christology.

    Both Jesus and Joseph Smith were very charismatic leaders and preachers. They attracted disciples. Both preached a shocking, new “gospel”. Jesus preached that the “end was near”. God was coming. The Kingdom of God was at hand. He worked his disciples into such a fever pitch that they were willing to leave their families, homes, and occupations to follow him. Joseph Smith did the same. The disciples of Joseph Smith were willing to leave the comforts of the East and risk their lives to start a new society in the middle of the uncivilized western desert. Many of them died on the long, dangerous trek west.

    If you believe the four Gospels when they say that Jesus predicted his resurrection then the disciples of Jesus were primed and ready for dreams, illusions, and hallucinations of a resurrected Lord. I see no difference between this “priming” and the priming by Joseph Smith of his disciples and their visions of an angel with plates of gold. Jesus had planted the seed of “resurrection” in the minds of his disciples. That seed blossomed in the form of dreams, illusions, and hallucinations which the disciples mistook for reality.

    And the Resurrection Belief was born.

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    1. Clark Coleman

      Declaring to someone “your sins are forgiven” was considered by the Jews to be a claim to be divine and not just to be a prophet. Hence, their negative responses to such statements. Which prophet before Jesus made such declarations in his public ministry?

      It should also be noted that Jesus revealed Himself in stages. As soon as he made direct statements of his divinity, death was near. He delayed public claims that would get him killed until he made his final trip to Jerusalem for the purpose of being killed. For most of his ministry, he taught and performed miracles and prepared his followers to accept his divinity. You don’t expect him to claim divinity at the beginning of his ministry, or to precipitate his death any time before the end of his ministry.

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  75. Gary

    The Jesus of the Gospel of John declared himself to be God repeatedly. That is why I believe that the Jesus of the Gospel of John is fiction. You are correct. If he had been openly making such a claim, he would have been stoned.

    The priests of the Temple declared sins forgiven when they slaughtered the sacrificial lamb. But they declared sins forgiven in the name of God, not in their own name. Some scholars believe that this is what Jesus meant when he told the lame man, “your sins are forgiven”. Note that Jesus did NOT say, “I forgive your sins.” What Jesus said was still very provocative but he was not declaring himself to be God. If the Jews had understood him to be stating that he was Yahweh, the Creator, he would have been stoned on the spot, no questions asked.

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    1. Clark Coleman

      Were the additional declarations of Jesus’ divinity in the gospel of John public, or to his inner circle of his closest apostles?

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  76. Gary

    Just to be clear, I do think that Jesus believed that he was divine in some sense of that word. I think Jesus believed that he was the messiah. He believed that God had given him special supernatural powers, powers above and beyond the typical prophet. I think he believed it was fully within his God-given powers to pronounce God’s forgiveness of sins, just as the priests did in the Temple. But I do not think that Jesus ever believed that he was Yahweh himself, Creator of the universe, who had existed for all eternity. Yes, he considered himself to be the “son of God” but he never refers to himself as the “ONLY Son of God, born of a virgin, fathered by the Holy Spirit”. (The kings of Israel were also referred to as “the son of God”, so this title was not something unique to Jesus.)

    The Jesus of the Gospel of John and the Jesus of the Synoptics are two very different men. I believe that the Jesus of the Gospel of John is a literary invention of late first century Christians who had developed a very high (but fictional) Christology.

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