Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Holding replies to Parsons's response

I have been redating the posts that are responses to the Craig-Parsons debate, since we are covering the debate in class. Gosh, there are a lot of them!

J. P Holding added a section of this essay to reply to what Parsons said on this site, starting with the words "A reader alerted us to a "reply" to this by Parsons done recently."

Parsons replies to J. P. Holding


by Keith Parsons

Those who raise skeptical doubts about Christian claims quickly confront the limitations of “Christian charity.” It seldom extends to the treatment of doubters with generosity or even with civility. James Patrick Holding’s on-line response to my critique of Kreeft and Tacelli in my essay from The Empty Tomb is a case in point (“Do You See What I See;” Tektonics Apologetics Ministries). He concludes a series of animadversions with the claim “…Parsons merely waves off the data of the rolled-off stone, the empty tomb, and so on with a vague comparison to UFO phenomena (not any sort of actual case study) and an assertion of his right as a Skeptic to dismiss whatever he pleases, which is a convenience I imagine we’d all appreciate being able to take advantage of…”

Apparently, attacking a straw man whenever he pleases is a convenience that Mr. Holding likes to take advantage of. I never make any assertion of that nature. Here is what I really said:

…Kreeft and Tacelli try to saddle the skeptic with the burden of explaining every detail of every appearance story (the stone rolled away, etc.,) in terms of hallucinations. There is no reason the skeptic should accept such a burden for the simple reason that skeptics do not have to accept the appearance stories as 100 percent accurate. Apologists are constantly assuming as “data” what skeptics rightly regard as hearsay (p. 448).

I think even the practitioner of the most recherché postmodernist lit-crit analyses would be hard pressed to find in this statement a blanket claim of carte blanche authority to dismiss whatever one pleases.

I think that my meaning in the passage was plain, but, one of Murphy’s Laws states, “Whenever you speak so clearly that no one can misunderstand you, then someone [willfully or not] will misunderstand you.” Let me try again: Kreeft and Tacelli charge that the hallucination hypothesis is wrong because it fails to explain every aspect of every appearance story. But if it didn’t happen, there is nothing there to explain, and so no burden to explain it. It simply begs the question to assume what skeptics deny, namely, that every detail of every appearance story is established historical fact.

I hope my meaning is now clear. I’m not asserting that skeptics have the right to dismiss whatever they please. I’m denying that apologists have the right to beg whatever questions they please.

Holding complains that I vaguely invoke UFO phenomena to dismiss the purported evidence for the resurrection. From what he says, you would never guess the point I was really making. Here it is: Kreeft and Tacelli contend that only a genuine resurrection could account for all the purported data, such as the rolled-away stone, the empty tomb, the post-resurrection appearances, etc. They offer this argument as their final point; clearly, they consider it their “clincher.” I satirize their argument by pointing out that ufologists could make exactly the same claim. Only real E.T.’s in real extraterrestrial spacecraft could account for all the weird phenomena associated with the UFO myth—vivid abduction experiences, “close encounters,” crashed saucer stories, lights in the sky, cattle mutilations, etc.

Interestingly enough, Holding does not even challenge the vast majority of my points against Kreeft and Tacelli. He apparently does not regard their case with much more respect than I do, since he says that he would not use most of their arguments and that they do not even use the one that he thinks is best. Holding says that one argument shows that the hallucination theory is “totally untenable”:

“…expectation plays the coordinating role in collective hallucinations.” The critical problem here is that the disciples were not expecting a resurrection; any hallucination of Jesus would be interpreted as, if anything, his “guardian angel” (an exact twin), but not as a ghost of Jesus himself, not especially as Jesus resurrected.”

In other words, even if the Disciples had experienced a hallucination of Jesus after his death, they would not have interpreted it as a resurrection, but as something entirely different. So, the belief in the resurrection cannot have been due to hallucinations experienced by the Disciples.

Holding says that I do not reply adequately to this argument. Since he says that Kreeft and Tacelli do not even use this argument, and since my essay was a response to the arguments of Kreeft and Tacelli, this is a rather odd objection.

Actually, I have replied to an argument of this sort, one used by William Lane Craig. My critique of that argument is published in my Why I am not a Christian, which has a link from this site. For the sake of convenience, I shall quote myself here:

Professor Craig's third main piece of evidence for the Resurrection is the origin of the Christian faith itself. He argues that the Christian faith in a resurrected Jesus has no precedent in Jewish thought. The Jewish conception of resurrection is a general raising of the dead at the end of time, not the raising to glory of a single individual as an event in history. Further, the Christian idea that the resurrection of the righteous will somehow hinge on the Messiah's resurrection, was wholly unknown. Professor Craig concludes that these new Christian ideas were so radical that only the actual Resurrection of Jesus can account for so extreme a conceptual shift.

But according to the gospels, Jesus's ministry contained many heretical elements. In Mark chapter 2 Jesus claims authority for the forgiveness of sins, which elicits a charge of blasphemy from the scribes. In Mark 7, he sets aside the traditional dietary distinctions between clean and unclean foods. In Mark 2:28 he even claims to be sovereign over the Sabbath. Further, Jesus's preaching was full of apocalyptic content. He famously said "Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power."--Mark 9:1. In Mark 8:31 and 10:34 he predicts that the Son of Man will die and rise three days afterward.

Given the heretical and apocalyptic nature of their master's teachings, and the experiences, whatever they were, that convinced them that Jesus had risen, the emergence of radically new concepts in the disciples' minds hardly seems to require supernatural explanation. For the early Christians, the Resurrection of Jesus was the first eschatological event, an event that ushered in the New Age, the coming of the Kingdom. They believed that they were in the end times. As a standard textbook puts it:

[Christianity]...shared with much of Judaism the hopes for the New Age that God had promised through the prophets and seers. But it differed from the rest of Judaism in one crucial point: It was convinced that the New Age had already begun to dawn. More specifically, it believed that God had acted in Jesus of Nazareth to inaugurate the New Age, and that the community itself was the nucleus of the People of the New Age. The basis for this conviction was the belief that God had raised Jesus from the dead (Kee, Young, and Froelich, pp. 52-53).

In other words, early Christians believed that they were in the end times and that the Resurrection of Jesus was the eschatological event that ushered in the New Age, the coming of the Kingdom. Further, Jesus's Resurrection was not conceived as an event separate from the general resurrection, but only as the first resurrection, soon to be followed by the others at the time of Christ's Second Coming. Thus Paul calls Jesus as the "firstfruits of the harvest of the dead (I Corinthians 15:20)." Paul continues: "As in Adam all men die, so in Christ all will be brought to life; but each in his own proper place: Christ the firstfruits, and afterwards, at his coming, those who belong to Christ (I Corinthians 15: 22-3)."

In all honesty, I simply do not see a gaping, unbridgeable conceptual chasm between belief in a general resurrection at the end of time and the belief that Jesus's Resurrection was the first event of the coming of the end times. In the presently fashionable lingo, paradigm shifts do occur. If Professor Craig insists that, nonetheless, such a conceptual shift requires supernatural intervention, I simply have to ask: What are his criteria? At what point are concepts so alien that it would require a miracle for someone to shift from one to the other? We need some such guidelines before the discussion can proceed.

Holding’s only other criticism is directed at my treatment of Kreeft and Tacelli’s argument that the Jewish authorities could have stopped Christianity in its tracks simply by producing the body of Jesus and so confounding the Disciples’ claim that he had been raised. I objected that nobody knows how long a period passed before the Disciples’ preaching had succeeding in irritating the Jewish authorities sufficiently to motivate them to produce the body if they could get it. Even if only a few months had passed, the body would have been in such a state of decay that it would have been unidentifiable and the Disciples could simply have denied that the body was Jesus’s. Holding objects that the body would indeed still be identifiable:

And what of the identification problems? 50 days, or even two thousand years later (as we know from finding the remains of another crucifixion victim from the same era), there were plenty of ways to identify the remains as those of Jesus. Who needs modern forensics? If the skeleton taken out of Joe’s [sic: Joseph of Arimathea’s] tomb showed evidence of crucifixion that even an amateur could discern (i.e., nails still in their places; scratched and scraped bones, or bones stretched out of their sockets—but NO breaking of the legs!)…

Still identifiable 2000 years later? Hmmmm. This suggests a thought experiment: What if we found the body today? What if, as Holding imagines, we found a body in an authentic first century tomb just outside of Jerusalem with all the identifying characteristics Holding mentions? Would the world’s 2 billion Christians immediately abandon their faith? Of course not. Naturally, such a find would give people like Mr. Holding a hotfoot, and they would scramble to debunk it, adamantly denying that the body was Jesus’s despite all the “identifying” features. The vast majority of believers would simply ignore it. (As the old hymn said: “You ask me how I know He lives: He lives within my heart!”). If producing the body wouldn’t stop (or even slow down) Christianity today, why should it have done so 2000 years ago?

Thought experiments aside, the whole “Well, why didn’t they just produce the body?” objection is based on a number of very dubious assumptions: (1) It assumes that the Sanhedrin had the authority to exhume and display the body. Jesus’s execution was an official act of the Roman authority. Joseph of Arimathea had to ask for Pilate’s permission to take down and bury the body (Matthew 27:58). Wouldn’t the Jewish authorities have had to ask permission to dig it up again and display it? What would the Romans have thought of such a bizarre request? (2) The argument assumes that the authorities could have gotten hold of the body, but, even if we assume that they knew the site of Jesus’s tomb, the body could have been missing for non-supernatural reasons. (3) The argument assumes that the Jewish authorities would have been sufficiently impressed by the first Christians even to bother refuting them. To the Jewish authorities, if they even noticed the Apostles’ preaching, yet another ragtag band of loudmouthed preachers (and Jerusalem had plenty of those) would hardly create an intellectual problem, one that would have needed confutation with argument and empirical evidence. Did any authorities of our government bother trying to refute the Branch Davidians? Why give publicity to some tiny, nutty group (as the authorities would have perceived them), when in all likelihood they would just go away if ignored?

Holding is far too quick in asserting that Jesus’s decayed body would have been identifiable. Who knows how many crucified bodies, roughly similar to Jesus’s, would have been available at that time? Remember, by the way, that breaking of the legs of the victims of crucifixion was unusual; it was done only to speed up death, and the Romans generally preferred it slow and agonizing. Most crucified bodies would have had unbroken legs. So, again, the Apostles could easily have dismissed any purported corpus delicti as a fake. Further, exhuming and displaying the decayed body of a victim of crucifixion would have been an intensely shameful and repellent task for a first century Jew, an act far beneath the dignity of the distinguished members of the Sanhedrin. Such an act would have so scandalized the Jewish community (most of whom no doubt pitied Jews executed by the Romans) that it would probably have backfired and created a popular wave of sympathy for the Christians. The upshot is that the Jewish authorities very likely either could not or would not have displayed the body of Jesus in an attempt, most likely futile, to shut up the first Christians.

The above two paragraphs assume for the sake of argument that Jesus’s resurrection would have required an empty tomb. But there is no evidence that the empty tomb story was even a part of the earliest Christian preaching. Paul never mentions it. Further, Richard Carrier argues at length in his contribution to The Empty Tomb that the earliest Christians, including Paul, held a view of resurrection that was compatible with the earthly body having been left behind in the tomb. If Carrier’s claim is correct, any display of Jesus’s body by the authorities would have been entirely futile and simply dismissed as irrelevant by the Apostles. Now, I’m sure that Richard’s argument has been viciously attacked by sites like Tektonics. But if his critics did no better job on his arguments than Mr. Holding did on mine, he has nothing to worry about.

J. P. Holding criticizes Keith Parsons on hallucinations

I often don't feel comfortable with Holding's style. But he is colorful! Here is his response to Keith Parsons on hallucinations.

Jason Pratt responds to Parsons

Part I: broccoli, and plenty of steak

How to summarize (or even how to introduce for summarization!) a set of notes that originally ran over 9600 words? Anything I do is likely to seem more abrupt than I would prefer.

Especially for the first topic. But at least I can get it out of the way first, on the broccoli principle.

I suppose the easiest way to present it, is by collecting together some insistences from Dr. Parsons, as given in his reply:

"First of all, I proffer no theory at all about the events that led to the early Christians’ beliefs about the resurrection. [...] I do not think that any theory (including the traditional Christian one) about the beginnings of Christianity is or can be terribly well supported. [...] But, again, my aim is not to support any hypothesis about what did happen."

I have omitted a few other statements along this line, because they could be said to apply to one particular work of Dr. Parsons (specifically his essay in _The Empty Tomb_); or else are qualified by goals I have much less (indeed no) problem with. (Plus I do not classify in this group his admission that, as I wondered, "The burden of proof that I take on, therefore, is not to provide a compelling account of Christian origins...", which in itself I have no positive problem with; although I do have some cautions related to it, which have already been covered extensively in my previous comments.)

I have quoted the statements above, because they go beyond the careful (and usually sensible) qualifications given by Dr. Parsons elsewhere, into self-refuting absurdity. If I took them seriously, and applied them as such, I would simply dismiss most of what Dr. Parsons would (I think) prefer I take seriously elsewhere in his work.

I could go into this at _painful_ length (9600 words of notes, remember). I am willing to hope it is only an overreaching of rhetorical coloring; but I have concerns.

Having chewed the broccoli only long enough to mention my concern with it, I proceed along to the main course of Dr. Parsons' reply. Fortunately, much of what follows will involve my agreeing with him in one way or degree or another. (Call this the steak and cake portion!--though I _shall_ be getting some of the cake myself...)

Before I begin the steak, however, I wish to ask about something that may be only a result of an editing blip by Dr. Parsons. But I am intrigued by his statement: "[The canonical Gospels] were written by persons unknown, with the exception of Luke [etc.]" As it stands, I can make no sense of this: surely Dr. Parsons cannot mean that we have no idea which persons are being attributed as the authors and/or authorities of the other three accounts. On the other hand, I am having extreme difficulty imagining how one authorship has been confirmed to be by Luke without using methods that would apply just as well in weighing toward John Mark, the Apostle Matthew, and John (the Apostle and/or the "Elder"). So, what did Dr. Parsons mean by this?

Leaving this possibly trivial (though still intriguing) question behind, I gladly advance to the steak of Dr. Parsons' letter. Thanks to his generous attempts at explanation, and a closer check of what he provided in his original letter, I am able to confirm that I _did_ in fact misunderstand what he was attempting to do in regard to answering the objection of JPH concerning the hallucination hypothesis. And I have been able to piece together how this happened.

In Dr. Parsons' original letter (an open reply to JPH's criticism, etc.), Holding is reported as saying that one argument shows the hallucination theory to be totally untenable: specifically, the disciples were not expecting a bodily resurrection, therefore any hallucination of Jesus would be interpreted in various other ways (due to this lack of expectation.)

I misunderstood JPH's criticism, because I latched onto that lack-of-expectation factor as being (as I still think it is) the key factor (since the other follows from it as a therefore).

But when _I_ consider lack-of-expectation to be a key factor, _I_ think in terms of generating a hallucination in the _first_ place. No hallucination, no attributing something (even partly) _to_ the hallucination. This is not, however, what JPH was arguing. (Or at least, it was not the element reported by Dr. Parsons, to which he was replying.)

Consequently, I proceeded to misunderstand Dr. Parsons to be trying to build up the tenability of the hallucination itself, upon which (of course) any theory _about_ beliefs subsequent to a hallucination, necessarily depends. But he was doing no such thing.

Thus, although I still contend that my countercriticism stands in principle, I willingly acceed that it is directed to something Dr. Parsons was _not_, in that letter, doing.

And, since I was criticising something himself was not in fact doing, then his distraction from my agreement with what he _was_ in fact doing is (of course) very easily excused.

For I _did_ in fact agree (in principle, if not precisely in detail) with what he defends himself as doing: "If [Dr. Parsons] wants to explain the radically new concepts in the disciples' minds, as being a product of Jesus' teaching _and_ of the experiences [whatever those experiences were]—fair enough. No dissension from me. No dissension, in principle, from any conservative Christian apologist I know of, for that matter." The dissension obviously involves the character of experiences; not the principle that the experiences (and teaching) subsequently affected the disciples' beliefs.

Similarly, I wrote note long after that: " Concerning Keith's remarks about Jesus being _subsequently_ regarded as the first fruits of the general Res: in fairness I can see no problem with this being a later conclusion by followers, on Keith's hallucination-experience hypothesis per se--in abstraction from other considerations.

It is slightly less easy (though only slightly less, I willingly allow) to excuse his misunderstanding of what my argument actually involved against the tenability of the hallucination hypothesis. It did _NOT_ (in itself) involve requiring that the hallucination opponent be selecting arbitrarily between accepting and rejecting certain portions of the chronologically prior account as being historically accurate.

My main argument (which stretches back to the very beginning of my letter) involved the intrinsic problem of proportionate strength in relation to what _are_ established historical facts (i.e. certain characteristics of the texts, given and received by established congregations as being authoritative and thus in some keeping with key principles they are already familiar with.) My argument is entirely about synching a hypothesis (the experiences were hallucinations) with known facts (common story characteristics in subsequent authoritative accounts) as a factor of development to the known facts.

Having said that, Dr. Parsons' misunderstanding of what I was doing is still pretty easily excused, since:

a.) I suspect my objection may be rather unusual in the field--not what fits easily into expectations.

b.) I did after all wonder, in passing, what explanation Dr. Parsons would give for (as I understood him to be doing, and as I think he confirmed by trying to defend it at some length) giving credence (provisional or otherwise) to one set of textual characteristics and not to another. Since that sort of thing is what Dr. Parsons seems used to seeing as an objection, it isn't surprising that he thought this was in fact my main criticism. (Despite the fact I specifically set aside the objection, while mentioning it for precisely one paragraph, and indeed contrasted it to my main point.)

c.) Most importantly, there was _my_ misunderstanding still in play, which I was also connecting this to by contrast. That could only have been distracting.

This leads, among other directions, to a discussion of principles in Dr. Parsons' uses (and attempts at justifying his uses) of material typically proposed by his opponents for belief. Boiled down, my position would be this:

If he plays on the believer's ground, for purposes of demonstrating their attempt has holes in it, then he needs to accept _all_ their premises leading to the point he's contesting, not a convenient selection of his own as a sceptic. (Questioning those premises is another operation altogether.) But he _can_, along this line, retain the personal advantage of not having to accept these as being more than provisional for sake of argument.

If, on the other hand, he plays on sceptical ground concerning data presented by believers for belief, then he's more-or-less free to select what he likes, hopefully for eminently reasonable reasons, as being data that as a sceptic _he_ would also be willing to accept. But then he shouldn't waffle out of inconvenient implications later, on the grounds that a sceptic doesn't have to accept any data believed by a believer.

I think so long as he does this, he will certainly be playing fairly and consistently.

Part 2: lots of cake (some for him, some for me)

I am going to try restricting cake-points to numbered paragraphs henceforth. So:

1.) In regard to his survey beginning " Our best sources are the four canonical gospels...", I refer him to my de facto Part 3 (included as the first comment to my reply to Steven Carr's attempts at defending Dr. Parsons--which Part he may have excusably missed), where I say something similar myself regarding such difficulties and my sympathies for sceptics in various regards. (Also my main reason for writing my criticism of his letter is more broadly reported there.)

2.) In regard to disagreements about the details in World War II, I reply that historians are not (so far as I know) in vehement disagreement about the outcome of World War II; and that this kind of centrality of fact is what is at stake in Resurrection debates. We can trace the history of Europe subsequent to 1945 back to the fact that Germany lost the war. We can trace the history of Europe subsequent to 29-or-thereabouts, back to the fact that a group of mostly Galilean people had a particular experience. Without that experience having happened, and without those people having acted according to what they believed about that experience, not only European but world history would have been drastically different, possibly to the extent of being unrecognizable in terms we know today. (There would be no dates of 1945 or 29 CE, for instance.) The Palestinian situation is more remote, and the sources more fragmentary; but on the other hand neither are they even distantly as complex as 'the history of World War II'. Given the importance of the earlier event on world history (including WWII, by the way), I'm willing to have some optimism on reaching a decent conclusion about it from a historical study. (Crashing into philosophical constraints in the process is another problem, though one I respect.)

3.) I am unsure why I am being taken to task for (merely?) "alleging" that Dr. Parsons offers insufficient (I would say problematic) support for a hypothesis or claim; when he goes to some effort to demonstrate that nothing he says on such topics can have support any better than a position (the traditional Christian one) he himself rejects. I suppose I was succeeding at more than merely alleging, then, at least.

4.) Dr. Parsons tells us, "Therefore, I am not arguing that Jesus’s teaching created an expectation in the disciples’ minds that prompted hallucinatory experiences as a vindication of that expectation." I agree, he wasn't doing this in his original letter. But if he is not arguing for such a thing in _this_ letter, then the best that can be said is that he is trying to approach it by innuendo in his discussion.

5.) Having said that, I fully agree that Dr. Parsons is doing exactly right to be suspicious about the oddity of that story characteristic in the texts. Also, I don't have much respect for some common pro-apologetic defenses along this line. (Which is why I don't use them myself. I could go into some extensive detail on the subject, by the way, concerning what I expect would be several strong agreements with Dr. Parsons on this.)

6.) However: it does no good to try to imply that there ought to have been strong expectations (enough to generate hallucinations) anyway; because that still runs right into the same problem as before, with clarified force: then the subsequent authoritative tradition would have been crucially dependent on the disciples being _vindicated_ in _their_ expectations. The weirdness of the claimed ignorances cannot be resolved by presenting (nor implying) a hypothesis that makes the claims of ignorance even weirder!

7.) I will add, as some cake, that I must agree to there being some kind of practical limit to how far initial scepticism by the disciples can be carried, before reports of this-and-that start to undermine the scepticism (even of the extreme sort I will be defending in a minute)--possibly enough to generate expectations sufficient for hallucinations.

8.) I will also caution, however, that such a qualification in favor of easing constraints on the establishment of hallucinations as the experiences, is going to lead eventually (if the implications are carefully followed out) to an empty tomb being a historical fact! (Obviously it would take me too long to cover this here, but I was more than a little amused to discover where _that_ trail leads.)

9.) Several things could be said in regard to the effect of works of power (according to story detail) on the expectations of the disciples; the first of which is that the observation doesn't have much practical use, unless the sceptic is willing to accept some rather serious works-o-power as being historical fact--which acceptance seems a bit untenable. (Simply calling attention to the weirdness of juxtaposing mighty works of power with the disciples not trusting him on one final work of mighty power, doesn't explain anything because it doesn't _account_ for anything. The juxtaposition is part of what is causing the trouble along this line of inquiry, and so its existence is what needs to be explained.)

10.) For another thing, the objection requires overlooking a key factor in those mighty works-o-power. Jesus did them. But how could he raise himself if he dies? True, God might directly raise him from the dead--but this will be discussed later.

11.) Far more importantly: all four of the canonical accounts give some indications that Jesus considered those works of power to be _distracting from_ properly receiving and understanding the teaching (and was right to consider them that way). This is a theme I could enter into at near-book length; and in a direction which I find most Christians even now completely failing to grasp. Not incidentally, the failure to grasp this understanding is a central element to the story of the disciples in all four canonical accounts, and I find no evidence that the disciples have finally understood this crucial point by the end of any of the accounts. Also not incidentally, a failure to grasp this point (which I have not here related--near-book length, remember!) would greatly hinder the disciples from expecting the prediction of death to be literal, no matter how many times or how bluntly Jesus might tell them.

12.) But aside from my appealing in an increasingly obscure way to a central thematic in all four accounts, I think the disciples' failure to believe the death and resurrection predictions can also be explained rather more bluntly.

Jesus, under popular belief (and the disciples are clearly shown to be constantly on the side of popular belief), was supposed to save the good people from the bad people. But he didn't. He was caught, and bad people tortured him to death (partly on a charge of being a terrible traitor to God) in a way that was (popularly!) understood to be cursed by God. And he didn't use his awesome superpowers to get out of it. Why not?

On terms of popular belief, there could be only one reason why. Jesus claimed to have received his power from God. God (apparently) abandoned him. That meant Jesus either was (as his opponents were saying) a traitor working with the devil instead of with God, or it meant something even worse. It meant that he was once a good person whom God had indeed been helping and giving authority, but then he somehow went bad--just like Satan.

That's why the death can only look to the disciples like a failure beyond intensity of description. A dead man is not going to raise himself from the dead; and God is not going to raise a traitor (or worse a Satan) from the dead. It isn't just over. It's _worse_ than over. The _best_ case scenario is that Jesus made some kind of horrible (even damnable) mistake with good intentions. All the apocalyptic preaching means nothing--worse than nothing, if he was being heretical! It would (in their mis-understanding) be only another nail in the coffin (so to speak).

13.) As a follow-up, I will mention that appealing to the unconventional teaching of Jesus as being interesting enough for his disciples to keep in mind despite their expectations to the contrary, runs into a problem in itself: even in my own experience, I sometimes find that a person's unconventional tactics are _so_ unexpected that they simply don't register, even after the person has repeatedly emphasized them.

14.) So, for instance, I spent two paragraphs, one before and one after my discussion on missing-body problems, explicitly saying that I was _also_ not impressed by what Dr. Parsons has called 'that common apologetical chestnut' concerning the lack of a body being presented by the Sanhedrin; and that my discussion of the body-issue was not even intended to be an argument for the vanishing of the body. (And then another paragraph or two in a comment to Steven Carr, being even more explicit against the I still agree with Dr. Parsons that (if I may put it less politely this time) I think the is poo.

15.) My criticisms of Dr. Parsons' discussion against the, consequently, are exactly what I said they were: an analysis of how well his contentions would fit into larger story contexts, as an illustration of the importance of thinking along those lines even when making defenses to objections. (I didn't deny he was trying to present falsifications to the options he later labels a, b and c. I only denied they were effective falsifications.)

16.) Yes, I agree that the position I developed looks problematic for the pro-apologist, and on the face of it much moreso than it does for the con. I knew that very well going in. I didn't present it in order to score points for my side, though. I presented it, because I think it makes sense. If it causes difficulties for my side, then that's just how it is.

17.) For what it's worth, I would come down eventually on option c (something prevented them from doing it--obviously not the lack of the actual body, if there was such a lack). But it isn't something I can present without a lot of prior analysis, so I have no objection to letting the apparent difficulty for my side stand in the meanwhile.

18.) My position on this topic doesn't depend on the populace having a specially positive opinion of the Sanhedrin. (I _did_ include that joke about them reassuring the people that stones for killing heretics would be free this time, remember?) My position _does_ depend, as I emphasized several times, on the people having a normally low opinion of blaspheming heretics dying a cursed death abandoned by God. The apostles are the ones having to go against the natural grain here--and without a living Jesus to point to, either. The Sanhedrin doesn't even have to be especially convincing about the body to fotz them. And whatever strong opinion the people have about the Sanhedrin only makes the situation worse for the Jesus case. (See point 12 above.)

19.) Since the body quickly becoming putrescent goo has now been leaned on (so to speak) several times: even this is not really an issue. That was the _ideal_ result in 1st C. Palestine (it's what the spices and flowers were for, to accelerate the body's composition down to the bones faster.) If the Sanhedrin says they decided to preserve the body instead for such a contingency, it's plausible enough to be believed; and even today we're still sometimes pulling fairly intact bodies out of the ground dating back to that time and place. (Such as the man recovered from a tomb of the 1st Cent Jerusalem super-rich back in the year 2000. He died of tuberculosis; but he wasn't quite yet putrescent goo.)

(Part 3?)

20.) It would of course be stupid to claim that Paul was familiar with Gospels that had not yet been written. Fortunately, nothing in what I wrote concerning the tediousness of 'no-tomb-before-Gospels' claims, involved any such argument at all. In fact, I don't even recall grounding a point on Paul _having to be_ (in principle) familiar with Christian tradition! (Beyond the virtually tautological claim that Paul might at least possibly be familiar with tradition he says he is familiar with.)

21.) Nor did I try to make a (possibly even more ridiculous) argument along the lines of 'Paul's audience would have already known about the stories, therefore Paul would have not had to elaborate on them, _THEREFORE_ Paul knew about the stories.'

22.) I _did_ make a point, later in my letter, that would seem to be simply common sense: if there was an empty tomb, then Paul (as prosecutor for the Sanhedrin) would have known about _that_. In which case, as I put it, any attempt at trying to tease out some kind of alternate meaning to the dead body itself being raised in 1 Cor 15 (and elsewhere) becomes simply moonshine. I also specifically said, however, that I would _NOT_ go to Paul to establish the empty tomb as a historical fact. I would go somewhere else. (And not to the GosMatt polemic, either, for that purpose.)

23.) Another proper (and very limited) inference I did refer to, is: _if_ Paul's audience already knew about the stories, _then_ Paul would not necessarily have had to do more than tangentially refer to them. This has _absolutely nothing_ to do with trying to establish that either Paul _or_ his audience knew any such stories.

As to whether Paul knew traditional material which echoes material eventually found in the Gospels: that's a whole other kettle of fish, which could be gone into at booklength. (Meaning I'm not going to do it here.) Personally, I find the divergences to be far more striking and interesting than the convergences (especially in working toward developing a coherent largescale historical theory); but I also find the convergences significantly outnumber the divergences.

24.) I agree, and specifically agreed at the time, that there is no reference to the stories of Joseph of Arimathea or the women at the tomb, in the surviving epistles. This, of course, means exactly as much as a lack of the shape of the cross or a mention of the name of the hill would mean, if all the canonical accounts contained them: exactly nothing, one way or another.

If Dr. Parsons would find that old pro-apologetic argument from silence about the lack of a body, to be tedious at best (and remember that _I_ _agree_ it is); then he should have some sympathy, in principle, for why I consider the con-apologetic argument from silence concerning lack of explicit references to a tomb in the epistles, to be at least as tedious. And moreso when (as I find to be common) the position isn't even presented as an argument for something, but as a protracted innuendo from silence. (At least pro-apologists usually bother to spell out their argument from silence...)

25.) What makes it more tedious still, is that the whole thing is a smokescreen. It draws attention away from what _is_ actually said in 1 Cor (and elsewhere) concerning the importance of that body for Christian belief.

I was not surprised when Dr. Parsons wrote, "All we can really say with complete assurance is that the earliest Christians preached that Jesus had risen." Myself, I think any fair evaluation would pick up at least a little more than that from early kerygmatic language preserved in various epistles (not to say in Acts as well.) But the obvious minimum addition would be this: the "risen" doesn't stand alone (so to speak) in 1 Cor 15. It follows, in parallel kerygmatic language, being buried. (Etoufféd, as I've been colorfully putting it.)

And Paul, at least, thinks that etoufféd body is equally important for his claim, because he spends a lot of his subsequent discussion in talking about its relationship to the raised one. The buried one is changed into the risen one, by being clothed in the risen one.

What the heck does a _tomb_ have to do with the importance of any of that??

Nothing at all. Neither does its lack of mention.

And that covers the meal, I think. (If I missed some important bits, I'm sure someone will let me know.) I apologize for the length, but since a significant fraction involved agreeing with Dr. Parsons, perhaps it won't try the patience of his readers too much. (If I had cut the agreements out, I could have easily written something shorter than Dr. Parsons' own letter--but I fully believe the agreements are as important as the disagreements, if not moreso in some ways.)

I'll be out of pocket for a week or so. But I'll check for comments when I get back.

Jason Pratt

Keith Parsons responds to Jason Pratt

Jason Pratt responded, copiously, to my posting in response to Patrick Holding. Responses, replies, and counter-replies on these issues obviously can extend ad nauseam, and I shall not try readers’ patience with an equally voluminous riposte. Though he does so without the asperity that characterized Mr. Holding’s piece, Mr. Pratt nevertheless misunderstands my position and does my arguments less than justice. So, I would like to clarify just what I am arguing and respond to some of Mr. Pratt’s particular points.

First of all, I proffer no theory at all about the events that led to the early Christians’ beliefs about the resurrection. I do not claim to be able to solve the “Easter enigma.” The object of my essay in The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave, the piece that Mr. Holding attempted to critique, was not to articulate a hallucination theory or any other theory or hypothesis about Christianity’s beginnings. My aim was to debunk Kreeft and Tacelli’s effort to show that visions or hallucinations could not have accounted, at least in part, for the earliest Christians’ conviction that Jesus had been raised from the dead. My aim, in short, was not to propose and defend a hallucination theory, but to show that Kreeft and Tacelli’s objections did not rule out such an account.

I do not think that any theory (including the traditional Christian one) about the beginnings of Christianity is or can be terribly well supported. Our best sources are the four canonical gospels, and, as generations of biblical scholars have shown, these sources are hardly pristine. The canonical gospels are not simple, unvarnished eyewitness reports by detached observers who lived contemporaneously with the events they describe. They are re-worked composites of earlier materials that had circulated for decades in oral or written form. Each is a carefully and elaborately constructed and redacted narrative written for apologetic purposes and with a distinct theological agenda. They were written by persons unknown, with the exception of Luke who admits he was not an eyewitness, and composed from forty to seventy years or more after the events they purport to describe. Neither are they independent sources, not the synoptic gospels, at least, since Matthew and Luke contain verbatim extracts of large parts of Mark, and besides share an un-Markan source (“Q”). My reason for mentioning these well-known facts—which I presume are familiar to most readers—is simply to emphasize how hard a job it is for historians to piece together a detailed account out of such late, fragmented, biased, and often contradictory accounts.

Historians disagree, often vehemently, about the details of occurrences in World War Two, and these events are prodigiously documented and occurred within the living memories of millions of people. A fortiori we would expect it to be very difficult to give a consistent, coherent, and persuasive account of what happened in obscure circumstances nearly 2000 years ago. Mr. Pratt often takes me to task for allegedly offering insufficient support for some hypothesis or claim. But, again, my aim is not to support any hypothesis about what did happen. My aim is the much more modest one of establishing what, given the little that is indisputably known, can be reasonably surmised or conjectured by persons, like myself, who begin from a position of rather deep skepticism about Christian claims. The burden of proof that I take on, therefore, is not to provide a compelling account of Christian origins, but only to show that I, and like-minded persons, can reasonably resist the aggressive form of Christian apologetic that has grown up around the resurrection narratives. My aim, in short, is not to debunk the Christian story, but merely to show that dissent is eminently reasonable.

Having, I hope, clarified my aims, I turn now to Mr. Pratt’s arguments and objections. One final qualification: Mr. Pratt’s comments seem to have been written rather hurriedly and are not always clear to me. I am not always sure, therefore, exactly what point he is making. Contrary to the way that Mr. Holding treated me, I shall take Mr. Pratt’s points in the most charitable way I can, and beg pardon if I have missed the point.

As far as I can tell, Mr. Pratt attributes the following claims to me: Jesus’s teachings created in the minds of his disciples a strong expectation that he would rise again after his death. It was this strong expectation that was the psychological impetus for the hallucinations that vindicated that expectation. Mr. Pratt argues, however, that this hypothesis is incompatible with the theme, reiterated frequently in the gospels, that the disciples did not understand Jesus’s claim that he would rise again. It is also hard to square with the gospel reports that the disciples were initially very skeptical of the reports of the women who said that the tomb was empty on Easter morning.

My actual argument is this: Apologists such as William Lane Craig have often argued that the disciples would have interpreted any post-mortem hallucinations of Jesus in terms that were familiar to them. Yet the idea of the resurrection of a single individual in history, rather than a general resurrection at the end of time, was an idea allegedly utterly alien to the disciples’ worldview, and, so, only a real resurrection could have effected so total a conceptual change as they must have undergone. My response is that, according to gospels such as Mark, Jesus’s entire ministry was at odds with many of the accepted beliefs of his contemporaries (By the way, I am not here endorsing the historical reliability of Mark’s reports, but only engaging in the standard argumentative practice of arguing from one’s opponent’s premises or assumptions). Jesus’s enemies often castigated him for making, what by their lights they surely were, heretical and blasphemous utterances. For a man to claim that he had the authority to forgive sins or suspend dietary restrictions, or to proclaim that he was master of the Sabbath, was surely an outrage to the “scribes and Pharisees.” Further, according to Mark, on at least two occasions, as recorded in verses 8:31 and 10:34, Jesus explicitly stated that the Son of Man would die and be raised three days later.

The upshot is that, if the gospel accounts are to be trusted, Jesus’s teaching contained much that was considered heretical, and even predicted his own resurrection. Even if the disciples had trouble understanding or believing that teaching at the time it was delivered (and Mark depicts them as obtuse to a degree that is difficult to credit), those ideas certainly could have shaped their interpretations of any vivid hallucinations or visions that they might have experienced after Jesus’s crucifixion. Indeed, intense hallucinatory or visionary experiences are psychologically very compelling and have often been life changing occurrences (e.g., Joan of Arc). Therefore, Craig’s assertion that only a real, bodily resurrection could have jolted the disciples into belief in the resurrection simply runs against the testimony of the gospels and common sense.

Therefore, I am not arguing that Jesus’s teaching created an expectation in the disciples’ minds that prompted hallucinatory experiences as a vindication of that expectation. Rather, I am arguing, contra Craig, that vivid hallucinatory or visionary experiences, interpreted in the light of Jesus’s often heretical teachings, might well have led to the incubation of radically new ideas in the disciples’ minds (and I don’t really see those ideas as all that radical). I don’t see that Mr. Pratt has said anything to undermine this argument. He says that I rely on the authenticity of the gospel reports of the heretical nature of Jesus’s teaching, but inconsistently or arbitrarily dismiss the reports that the disciples misunderstood or disbelieved much of it. But, though I do not see why the disciples would not have expected Jesus’s resurrection, given what they had allegedly been taught and the prodigies they had supposedly witnessed (see the next paragraph), my argument does not at all depend on the disciples’ anticipating or expecting the resurrection. A powerful vision or hallucination occurring to one or more disciples could have overcome initial skepticism about the resurrection.

But there is something very fishy about the gospel reports of the disciples’ skepticism. If I may quote myself (from Why I am not a Christian):

…the disciples had supposedly seen Jesus raise others from the dead, walk on water, turn water into wine, cast out demons, cure the sick, the lame, and the blind, feed thousands with a few loaves and fishes, and appear in glistening raiment with Moses and Elijah while a divine voice boomed "This is my beloved son..." By this time it should have been clear even to the slowest disciple that Jesus was a supernatural being possessed of awesome miraculous powers. After all that it would surely be a pretty simple trick to come back from the dead. So, something is out of place here. Either the disciples, dumb as they were, could not have been so skeptical of the resurrection, or they had not witnessed the miracles they allegedly did. Either way, the credibility of the gospels is undermined.

So, there is plenty of evidence of inconsistency here, but not, as Mr. Pratt thinks, on my part.

Mr. Pratt devotes a very considerable amount of space to criticizing my arguments against the old apologetic chestnut that asks why the Sanhedrin didn’t stop Christianity cold by producing the body, given that it did not rise. He dismisses my objection that the body would have quickly turned into an unrecognizable mass of putrefaction (and with no CSI Jerusalem to do forensic analysis). He argues that the Sanhedrin could have produced the same effect by producing any body and claiming it was Jesus’s. The gullible faithful would have taken the Sanhedrin’s word, branded the apostles as crackpots, and the gospel message would have had no hearers. So, he challenges me to say why the Sanhedrin, opportunists that the were, would not have pulled the rug out from under the apostles by displaying some crucified body and claiming it was Jesus’s.

This is a very odd objection. If any old crucified body would have done just as well as the genuine article, the question to ask apologists is “Well, why (so far as we know) didn’t they parade some crucified body and claim it was Jesus’s?” Proponents of the apologetic chestnut must accept the following argument:

Premise: If,

(a) the Sanhedrin had sufficient motivation to attempt to stymie the nascent Christian movement, and
(b) they believed it likely that if they displayed a body that people would accept as Jesus’s the Christian movement would crumble,
(c) nothing (e.g., Roman interdiction) prevented them from performing such a stunt, and
(d) they could produce a body people would accept as Jesus’s,

then, they would have displayed a body and claimed it was Jesus’s.

Premise: Conditions a, b, c, and d hold true.

Conclusion: The Sanhedrin would have displayed a body and claimed it was Jesus’s.

But again, so far as we know, no such display was made. Mr. Pratt says that condition d is true, so it must be the case that conditions a, or b, or c is false. And this is just what I have argued.

Actually, I find quite implausible Mr. Pratt’s suggestion that the Sanhedrin had much credibility with the majority of the Jewish populace. Surely most Jews regarded the members of the Sanhedrin as Romanizing toadies and collaborators, much as your average Sunni Iraqi views the current “government” of Iraq. If so, this provides further insight into why the Sanhedrin would not have tried to sway public opinion against the earliest Christian. Instead of playing to the galleys, they probably would have just arrested the evangelists once they got sufficiently annoying, as, indeed, the fourth chapter of Acts says they did.

I think that the apologetic chestnut about the Sanhedrin displaying the body can be laid to rest without further discussion. The only other of Mr. Pratt’s points I want to address are his remarks about the lack of an empty tomb tradition before the gospels. Mr. Pratt complains that he finds increasingly “tedious” the insistence that there is no evidence of such a tradition prior to the gospels. In that case, I would expect to provide such evidence, but I see none. Only wishful thinking can turn Paul’s comment about Jesus’s burial in I Corinthians 15 into evidence that he was aware of any empty tomb stories of the sort later elaborated in the gospels. Again, there is no evidence that, prior to Mark, there were any stories about the discovery of an empty tomb by one or more women on Easter morning. To say that Paul knew such stories but did not elaborate on them because his readers were already aware of them would simply be an argumentum ad ignorantiam. The simple fact of the matter is that the writings of Paul, which were the NT documents composed closest in time to the actual events, tell us maddeningly few biographical details about Jesus. All we can really say with complete assurance is that the earliest Christians preached that Jesus had risen. It seems to me that vivid hallucinatory or visionary experiences by one or more disciples after Jesus’s crucifixion could have been at least the partial cause of that conviction. Nothing said by Kreeft, Tacelli, Craig, Holding, or Mr. Pratt has given me the least reason to doubt this.

Jason Pratt responds to Keith Parsons Part I

I like Keith Parsons a lot. Pro-resurrection apologetics tend to be sloppy, and he counters with some of the right moves. (Or, anyway, he counters with some of the same things _I_ would counter with; and I still think those countermoves are the correct ones to make, even though technically they're countering moves in favor of a belief of my own. Which is why I counter with them myself, if someone else doesn't do it first.) I'm on record here at the site as calling a win for Keith by a solid edge over WLC, too, in the debate he references. (Not for the Res section, as you may gather; but I have no problem calling some points there as well, in Keith's favor.)

The following rebuttal, then, is meant to be presented in a spirit of detente. (Plus whichever 'e' the accent falls on--can't ever remember...)

Keith's reply to Holding, concerning the prep by Jesus (saying things which clearly don't mesh with expectations of the time), is fair enough, as far as it goes. One could even extend the point, about Jesus saying things which simply didn't mesh with expectations, by noting that in GosMatt, the Sanhedrin is presented as being ahead of the disciples on this: _they_ understand the implications before the event, and according to that story take steps to ensure the disciples don't fake it (which is what they're not unreasonably presented as expecting.)

This particular story element, though, represents a general thematic, emphasized in all the (canonical) Res narratives: Jesus _TOLD US_ this was going to happen, but we kept on not getting it!

Now, that story emphasis, however it got there, is _itself_ an Indisputable historical fact. (i.e. sometime between 29 and 130 CE on the extreme outside range, a set of indisputably historical people indisputably wrote a set of documents that each clearly contain this thematic.) The hallucination, on the other hand, is a hypothesis. As a hypothesis which is supposed to be part of an explanation for a long-term complex historical event, it needs to be in synch somehow with what indisputable historical facts we _do_ have--such as the existence (itself) of this eventual story thematic.

Keith starts by saying, in effect, that hallucinations of a risen body, or hallucinations eventually attributed to a risen body (even if it would be implausible to hypothesize a group corporeal-hallucination), can be accounted for by the strength of the expectation Jesus managed to instill in them, that he would be raised again.

In itself, this is far from being an unreasonable position to take. But if this hypothesized expectation was _so_ strong, that it generated delusions of the expectation's fulfillment after Jesus' death--then there's a tension with what _is_ an indisputable historical fact: how did it happen that the group did _not_ place a similarly proportionate value of their expectation,
especially the _vindication_ (as they would see it) of their expectation, as part of the story that eventually developed?

If Keith calls in delusions of human nature with this kind of power, he will have to find some way to run (more-than-)proportionately _against_ the strength of this power in order to explain an important subsequent detail of development: in all authoritative accounts, the disciples are presented as being constantly clueless (even doubtful and outright rejectful after the fact in some accounts--trumped by a group of "oblivion-gushing" women as St. Luke colorfully puts it.)

Put another way, Keith is going to find it difficult to proceed without historical disjunction, in proposing a theory about historical facts, based on first maximizing a delusion of human nature (per hypothesis) and then completely negating that strength in order to keep from conflicting with an _actual_ (not hypothetical) piece of the evident history. If a group of people want so badly to be vindicated in their expectations of something, that they will delude themselves (or be accidentally deluded) into thinking they have been vindicated, then _those_ people (by all reasonable expectations of the hypothesis) are going to make that vindication _of theirs_ to be a significantly important part of the continuing story, to be handed down authoritatively as such, and opposed where their authority on this is rejected (especially to the extent one would expect from people having suffered, per hypothesis, such a strong delusion).

But entirely the opposite is what historically (not hypothetically) happened instead. And that's what has to be overcome for Keith to present the experience as a delusion arising from over-strong expectations, in a way that can be shown to mesh with what even _he_ has to admit must have historically happened: the authoritative documents were written in a completely different way.

(Instead of 'we were clueless while the wretched, lying Sanhedrin actually had a clue', the result, from the hypothesis, needs to be something like 'ha, stupid Sanhedrin, we knew all along this would happen--go us!')

Given the heretical and apocalyptic nature of their master's teachings, and the experiences, whatever they were, that convinced them that Jesus had risen, the emergence of radically new concepts in the disciples' minds hardly seems to require supernatural explanation. (possibly quoted by Keith directly from a transcript of his debate with WLC, and/or from his book _Why I Am Not A Christian._)

I will set aside the objection, that if Keith considers GosMark to be accurate to this extent, then on what (non-circular) grounds does he consider GosMark to be inaccurate about the (fairly mundane and entirely natural, even naturalistic, repeating detail of the) disciples completely misunderstanding Jesus on these points. Not that it wouldn't be an interesting question to see a reply to, but what Keith presents here is more damaging to his case.

Up to now, Keith has been defending an explanation of the experiences being _grounded in_ the strength of the belief that Jesus was going to rise again (bodily or otherwise)--thus, (not unreasonably) the "hallucinations" of the same. This is, naturally, the sort of thing such hallucinations will need_ already_ in place; and, that is the explanation Keith has given. Till now.

_Now_, however, Keith tells us that these radically new concepts in the disciples' minds, came not only from the heretical and apocalyptic nature of their master's teaching, _but from the experiences themselves_("whatever they were").

If Keith wants to explain the radically new concepts in the disciples' minds, as being a product of Jesus' teaching _and_ of the experiences—fair enough. No dissension from me. No dissension, in principle, from any conservative Christian apologist I know of, for that matter. But if he wants to explain the experiences _themselves_ as (natural) delusions based on the _expectations_ of the disciples being so strong and so strongly radical thanks to the powerful teaching of their heretic master; then why bother appealing to the "experiences" as an explainer for the strength and content of their beliefs??

I see no clear answer from Keith on this, yet. I suspect it's because he can't really get away from the realistic content of GosMark, on this matter: that what Jesus was telling them kept flying entirely over the heads of their expectations, so that--as the story says (certainly only emphasized in other canonical variants)--they were totally unprepared even to _expect_ the experiences, much less deal with them (at first) when they began to happen.

But then, so much for the "hallucination" theory being naturally
plausible, _based on_ strength of expectations.

Concerning Keith's remarks about Jesus being _subsequently_ regarded as the first fruits of the general Res: in fairness I can see no problem with this being a later conclusion by followers, on Keith's hallucination-experience hypothesis per se--in abstraction from other considerations.

If Keith is trying to bring this in as a strength-of-expectation _before_the fact, however, as part of explaining the Res experiences; then my reply is going to follow lines similar to what I've already said.

I objected that nobody knows how long a period passed before the Disciples' preaching had succeeding in irritating the Jewish authorities sufficiently to motivate them to produce the body if they could get it.

One could answer that this depends on how generally reliable one judges the report in Acts to be (itself a whole other huge topic). But rather than launch into an historical analysis (pro or con) as thorough as Colin Hemer's _The Book of Acts and its Setting in Hellenistic History_; I reply instead again: such a reluctance would not fit into the historical details. (I do respect Keith's attempts at saying the same thing in the other direction, though; and I'll get to those presently once I explain myself here.)

For what it is worth, I (myself) am not especially impressed by the typical
'Sanhedrin would have produced the body but they didn't' arguments put up by apologists. But, let us assume for purposes of argument, that at (any given) x-time the Sanhedrin becomes irritated enough to do so; and that they wait until the body couldn't be easily identified before becoming
so irritated (whether or not they even _have_ the body, for whatever reason).

Is it seriously supposable, as part of an overall _historical_ theory, that this would make a difference to these men?

The point, from their perspective, would not be to de-convert the main converts; the point would be to inoculate the populace against heresy (even blasphemy). When the Inquisition of the College of Cardinals arrives in town, displaying the remains of Josh the Freaking Heretic, does it really _matter_ whether the body is identifiable by terms of 1st century forensics? If the Sanhedrin says _THIS IS THE BODY_, then the faithful can say, "Yes sir, great illuminated rabbi! Glad you showed us!", and fly the flag of loyalty.

Whatever may have been the constituency of the Sanhedrin as a whole at that time, there is good evidence even _outside_ the Gospel texts--and put a whole lot stronger there than in the Gospels--that the ruling family in the Sanhedrin at that time, was a bunch of ruthless opportunistic crooks. So, what _good_ reason can be given by Keith (whom, I can freely suppose, has no higher opinion of ruthlessly opportunistic religious authorities than I do), to explain why these ruthlessly opportunistic religious authorities didn't just _fake_ showing a body, using their authority to sanction belief in that?

Keith Parsons' Why I am not a Christian

This is Keith Parsons' book, based on his debate presentation against William Lane Craig in 1998.

Jason Pratt responds to Keith Parsons Part II

Keith's thought-experiment concerning finding a body today, consequently, is completely not to the point. Keith is looking at things as a sceptic on
the other side of religious claims altogether; he isn't thinking in
terms of the historical situation of the Sanhedrin (a different kind of
unbelieving group altogether), and what _they_ would chiefly expect to
accomplish by providing any (even a fake) body, _in that historical

Jesus's execution was an official act of the Roman authority. Joseph
of Arimathea had to ask for Pilate's permission to take down and bury the
body (Matthew 27:58). Wouldn't the Jewish authorities have had to ask permission
to dig it up again and display it? What would the Romans have thought of
such a bizarre request?

Assuming the Romans thought anything at all about the Sanhedrin
exuming a body that had been given back to a member of the Sanhedrin by petition
to the governor from that member (as Keith is willing to allow being an historical story detail), I think we can reliably suppose they would havethought either:

'So what? Not our concern anymore; we gave it back to the Sanhedrin--why
are you even bothering asking us about this?' (an answer similar to
what Pilate may arguably be saying in GosMatt about providing guards on the

or else

'Great! Part of our job here is to nip dangerously unstable religious movements in the bud; and we know from experience that Messianic movements can lead to military rebellion; and whatever our personal opinion may have been about that Joshua guy, his followers are clearly deranged and practically begging to be strung up next themselves as rebels against the Empire!'

That's the historical situation, as given. The body is no longer a Roman
concern, except insofar as it may be helpful quelling potential rebellions.
Either way, not a problem _from_ them concerning it.

The argument assumes that the authorities could have gotten hold of the body, but, even if we assume that they knew the site of Jesus's tomb, the body could have been missing for non-supernatural reasons.
Aside from those non-supernatural reasons (whatever they are) needing
to fit into a whole coherent theory; this rebuttal assumes that a fake
body wouldn't do just as well. Which, to me, seems historically implausible.

To the Jewish authorities, if they even noticed the Apostles' preaching, yet another ragtag band of loudmouthed preachers (and Jerusalem had
plenty of those) would hardly create an intellectual problem, one that would
have needed confutation with argument and empirical evidence.

This would look better as a rebuttal, if the Romans (not to say the
Sanhedrin itself) hadn't previously thought enough of the leader of
this ragtag bunch to execute him as a potentially dangerous rebel. A problem
that would have been compounded by any fear that the Romans were always
looking for a political excuse to pay the material (and somewhat political)
costs of stamping Israel flat instead of bothering with them any more.
Plus compounded (and complicated) still further, if (as GosJohn relates,
though a tad obscurely) significant numbers of the Pharisee party even within
the Sanhedrin had previously been backing Jesus. The man was _not_ executed to solve an intellectual problem; the sufferance, or otherwise, of his followers subsequently, wasn't going to be any merely intellectual problem, either.
(Again, Keith is coming to the issue from a non-historical perspective.

To _him_, and to most people today, it's primarily an intellectual question.
It was _NEVER_, and _could never have been_, any mere intellectual question
to the people, including to the authorities, _in_ question.)

To put it in perspective, since Keith brings up the Branch Davidian:
no, the US government didn't bother trying to refute them. But they _did_
bother to wipe them off the face of the earth; and I'd be willing to bet a
Coke that any sufference they may allow people connected to the Branch
Davidian today, isn't some merely intellectual question. Nor do I expect
they still let those people get very far without keeping a suspicious
(where not outright hostile) eye on them.

(And this is _without_ "King David" regularly visiting the Capitol
Building where he had some tacit heated internal support, to snipe at various
corruptions of people in charge there to great public acclaim--all while
under the heel of the godless pagan Soviet Union overlords who would like
some political excuse to muster an army and relieve themselves of the
hassle of dealing with the Senate and House at all.)

Who knows how many crucified bodies, roughly similar to Jesus's,
would have been available at that time?

An excellent point. {g}

Further, exhuming and displaying the decayed body of a victim of
crucifixion would have been an intensely shameful and repellent task
for a first century Jew, an act far beneath the dignity of the distinguished
members of the Sanhedrin.

They don't have to do it; they only have to officialy _sanction it_. (Hire
some sabbath goyim to do it, if the Romans won't agree to do it themselves.)

Or, better yet, turn the shame and repellance into a positive thing. 'Yes,
we don't want to do this--we delayed in fact partly in the hope we
wouldn't have to. But: _this_ is how bad we think these cretins and their claims
are--we'd rather do _this_, and suffer the shame of it, than see our
beloved people of Israel led astray from God by the followers of this
deceiver. Blah blah, rend our garments, insert similar rhetorical
counterpunch here, anyone wanting to stone these people now will have
our blessing. Stones are free of charge in case anyone was worrying, having
gone to the Temple in recent years...'

Such an act would have so scandalized the Jewish community (most of
no doubt pitied Jews executed by the Romans)...

But most of whom, no doubt, _didn't_ generally have much pity for
freaking blaspheming pretender Messiahs executed at the behest of their own
God-sanctioned religious authorities (even if the pagans were the ones
to pull the trigger). The popular notion (as, again, the Gospels quite
realistically report) was always that Jesus was going to save them from
the oppressors. The reported reactions of the crowds when it looked like he
had no intention of doing that, are again quite realistic. And he did worse
than merely fail. The end. (Except, it wasn't: here are his damned
followers again--_why_ are they here? Shouldn't they be crawling into a
hole in shame??)

I will, however, add and emphasize: I would _not_ use the (apparent)
non-report of the Sanhedrin producing a body, as evidence for a
conclusion that the body was gone. On the contrary, in a way I go in the _other_
direction: if they weren't producing "a body", it was for some reason other
than that couldn't "produce one". Probably a far more complex reason.

Nor would the Pauline epistles be my first choice of where to start. But,
since Keith brings them up...

But there is no evidence that the empty tomb story was even a part
of the earliest Christian preaching. Paul never mentions it.

'Etaphe_' implies burial _in_ something, covered over. (Kind of like rice
buried in crawfish etouffe... {g}) _Was_ buried, _was_ raised; handed
down by Paul _before_ his letter to the Corinthians, as being an
authoritative kerygma of first importance. Where _else_ was a body of a beloved rabbi
going to be buried?? In a compost heap??--and if _that_ had happened,
why wouldn't it have been part of the story? (Especially for Paul, and his
strong 'reckoned with the transgressors' theology.)

This insistence on 'no tomb before Gospels' is becoming increasingly
tedious, the more I hear it repeated. At _most_ what it comes down to
is, we have no (surviving) record before the Gospels of the story _of
Joseph of Arimathea_ (not to say the adventures of the women). Without _that_ (or
those), there's hardly any point mentioning a tomb at all, since a tomb would be considered a matter of normal course for a rabbi cared for by
his followers (crucified or not). And there's no reason for Paul to mention
those, even if he did know about the details; he wasn't writing

Now, if Keith wants (and indeed sooner or later will need) to set up a
theory about how the 'Joseph of Arimathea story' came about, he's
welcome to go for it; but even the proposal of fictional development of that
kind _presumes the normativity of a tomb_ in the understanding of the
"burial" Paul mentions as kerygmatic information.

Further, Richard Carrier argues at length in his contribution to The
Empty Tomb that the earliest Christians, including Paul, held a view of
resurrection that was compatible with the earthly body having been left
behind in the tomb.

I _might_ pretty easily accept textual (and similar archaeological)
evidences about this (assuming Richard can provide any), for purposes
of establishing an option of general belief during that time and place.

But once Paul is on the table--well, I'm _very_ familiar with _those_
arguments. They're selective again about what they allow to count as
evidence; and the one Pauline statement which counts heaviest as
positive evidence for this notion (1 Cor 6:13a), doesn't fit into its own
very well with _that_ interpretation.

(Whereas, it fits in extremely well, and helps pull together all first
six chapters into a unified topical progression, if v.13a is considered to
be a quote familiarly used by the unnamed church leader being judged against
back in chp 5, _which Paul is opposing_. We know from chp 15, the main
Res chapter of 1 Cor itself, that Paul could easily throw out
non-scriptural quotes pro and con without making any reference to them _as_ quotes.)

I'd have to be pretty desperate, in short, to think Paul _wasn't_
talking about a resurrection of the body (in general _and_ of Christ). Though,
I _would_ be ready to believe pretty easily (since Paul _is_ opposing it)
that the Corinthian church thought the resurrection of the body (generally
and of Christ) to be either wrong, or at least disposable as doctrine.

In any case, it's frankly a moot point. The place to begin isn't with Paul, and whether his analogy of a seed coming up from the ground (in 1 Cor 15) somehow presents a notion of a bodily resurrection without a body (though the new plant is hardly leaving the seed behind at all, much less exactly as it was when it was buried. Paul's subsequent analogies are about the differences in _glory_ each has--and he goes right from that to descriptions of the _same_ body being sown and raised.)

The place to begin, is with the counter-polemic at the end of
GosMatt--and maybe with that young man at the tomb in GosMark. One of them cannot be
plausibly explained without an agreement between opponents about the vanishing of a body; and the other points toward the author tactfully trying to correct what he thinks is a mistaken detail--_as_ an eyewitnessat the tomb on that Sunday morning.

Even simply given the existence of the GosMatt polemic, though, a vanished body is on the table (so to speak {g}), as an historical fact agreed to by the traditions of two completely antithetical _opponents_ (at the time GosMatt was finally compiled) differing on what the fact _means_. That's a key kind of evidence analysts of ancient texts look for, in putting together reliable historical conclusions. After that, it's pure moonshine to be trying to tease out variant beliefs from Saul of Tarsus
(ex-prosecutor _for_ the Sanhedrin) about whether he needed to have a body
out of the ground or not to believe in a resurrected body.

Jason Pratt

The Craig-Parsons debate 1998

This is Jeffrey Lowder's summary of the Craig-Parsons debate, which I always use in my History of World Religions class.
> This debate took place on June 15, 1998 at Prestonwood Baptist Church
> in Dallas, Texas. Organizers of the debate estimated the size of the
> audience at over 4,200 people. Audiotapes and videotapes of the
> debate are available; to order, call or write:
> Prestonwood Baptist Church
> 1572 Hillcrest Road
> Dallas, TX 75248
> (972) 960-9191 ext 195
> and request "The Great Debate of 98". Audiotapes cost $6 and
> videotapes cost $12; prices include shipping and handling.
> I did NOT include the Q&A period in this summary. I don't consider
> that part of
> the formal debate.
> Craig noted that the debate topic was personal; therefore, Craig
> would be giving reasons why *he* is a Christian. His reasons were
> as follows:
> A. Cosmology
> -- Discovery of cosmic background radiation meant the end of the
> steady-state cosmology.
> -- The big bang theory is true. Quotes Stephen Hawking: virtually
> everyone accepts big bang cosmology.
> -- Thus, the universe began to exist. By the nature of the case,
> the universe was caused to exist by a personal Creator.
> B. Hopelessness of atheism
> -- Everything seemed pointless if this life is all there is.
> -- Prior to his conversion to Christianity: Craig was experiencing
> angst or existential despair.
> -- Jean Paul Sartre: life is absurd without immortality.
> -- If there is no immortality, life is without meaning, value or
> purpose:
> --- Life would be without meaning because it would not matter how
> you live.
> --- Life would be without value because right and wrong would
> not matter.
> --- Life would be without purpose because the purposes we invent

> for our lives are futile.
> C. Resurrection of Jesus
> 1. Empty Tomb
> 2. Post-Resurrection Appearances
> 3. Origin of the Christian Faith
> D. Presence of God
> -- When Craig yielded his life to God, he felt a tremendous infusion
> of joy into his life.
> -- God became a living reality to Craig.
> -- In the absence of overwhelming arguments for atheism, Craig is
> rational in believing in God on the basis of his experience.
> Parsons began by emphasizing that he was not participating in the
> debate in an attempt to deconvert anyone. His goals in the debate
> were two-fold. His first goal, what he called his "weak aim", was
> to show that skepticism about Christianity is justified. His second
> goal, what he called his "strong aim", was to show that the evidence
> does not support the central claim of Christianity, the Resurrection.
> Parsons does NOT claim that it is irrational for Christians to
> believe in the Resurrection.
> I. Reasons for Not Being a Christian
> A. Christianity Is Not Good
> 1. Numerous atrocities in the Bible (e.g., 2 Kings 2; 1 Samuel
> 15)
> 2. Dark side of Christian history (e.g., persecutions, crusades,
> witch hunts, religious wars, Christian anti-semitism, defense
> of slavery, hatred of homosexuality, etc.)
> 3. Doctrine of Hell
> B. Christianity Is Not True
> 1. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The
> claim that the Resurrection happened is about as
> extraordinary
> as a claim can get. But the evidence for that claim is not
> good.
> 2. This is not based upon some a priori bias against the
> miraculous.
> Rather, even theists must agree that miracles are initially
> implausible.
> 3. General problems with the evidence for the Resurrection:
> 3.1. The reports are anonymous; not written by
> eyewitnesses.
> 3.2. The reports were written 40 years or later after the
> events they describe.
> 3.3. The reports were based upon oral tradition. Human
> memory is unreliable.
> 3.4. The reports have a definite bias and theological
> purpose.
> 3.5. The reports contain identifiable, fictitious literary
> forms.
> 3.6. The reports are inconsistent with one another except
> where
> plagiarism is involved.
> 3.7. The reports are at odds with known facts.
> 3.8. There is no independent confirmation of the reports.
> 3.9. The reports are unlikely in the extreme.
> II. Response to Craig's Arguments for Christianity
> C. Resurrection
> 1. Empty Tomb
> 1.1. 1 Corinthians 15 does not support the empty tomb. The
> fact
> that Paul recited an ancient formula no more supports the
> historicity of the empty tomb legend, than singing about
> John Brown's body implies knowledge of where John Brown
> was
> buried.
> 1.2. The fact that women discovered the empty tomb is
> unsurprising
> and does not raise the credibility of the story.
> 1.3. Quotes John Shelby Spong: the discovery of an empty tomp
> would not have produced an Easter faith.
> 2. The Post-Resurrection Appearances
> 2.1. The early date of the formula in 1 Cor 15 is irrelevant.
> Legends can and do spread immediately in the presence of
> eyewitnesses.
> 2.2. No details in Paul's testimony.
> 2.3. No mention of an empty tomb.
> 2.4. No place or date for the alleged Resurrection.
> 2.5. No independent confirmation of the alleged appearance to
> the 500. Surely the gospels would have reported it.
> 2.6. Paul did not specifty whether appearances were physical or
> visionary. The Greek text is ambiguous on this point.
> 2.7. We don't know the reliability of the witnesses.
> 2.8. Paul was NOT a credible witness. Paul states (2 Cor 12)
> he was subject to visions.
> 3. Origin of the Christian Faith
> 3.1. Jesus was heretical.
> 3.2. Jesus' teachings were apocalyptic.
> 3.3. Paradigm shifts do not require supernatural intervention.
> If Craig disagrees, then what are his criteria for
> determining when a paradigm shift does require
> supernatural
> intervention? At what point do concepts become so alien
> that it would require a miracle to shift from one to the
> other?
> I. Reasons for Being a Christian
> C. Resurrection
> 1. Empty Tomb
> 1.2. Women's testimony was unreliable in New Testament times.
> The women didn't wash and dispose of the body. That was
> done by Joseph of Arimathea.
> 2. Post-Resurrection Appearances
> 2.1. Not genre of legend. Legend concerns how a story that is
> transmitted by oral tradition can be completely
> transformed.
> A.N. Sherwin-White said that cannot happen in less than
> 40 years. Not talking about lies, fabrications, hoaxes,
> etc.
> 2.2. Multiple attestation.
> 2.3. Appearances were not hallucinations. The appearances were
> physical and numerous. The witnesses were not
> psychologically disposed to believe a Resurrection had
> occurred. Hallucinations would have led to the belief
> that Jesus had been assumed into heaven, not that He was
> Resurrected. Hallucinations cannot explain the empty
> tomb.
> 3. Origin of the Christian faith.
> 3.1. Skeptics deny the authenticity of Jesus' predictions of
> His own Resurrection. This is inconsistent. If you
> accept the authenticity of the predictions, you've got to
> accept the historicity of the empty tomb and appearances
> because the passages which support them are better
> attested.
> II. Parsons Reasons for Not Being a Christian
> A. Christianity Is Not Good
> 1. God, as the author and giver of life, has the right to take
> life.
> 2.1. On balance, Christianity has done considerable good.
> 2.2. Jesus wouldn't have committed atrocities. Craig is
> defending
> Jesus in the debate, not the record of the Christian
> church.
> 3. Hell is not a result of God's will; Hell is a result of
> human
> choices. God's desire is that everyone come to know the
> truth.
> B. Christianity Is Not True
> 1. No justification for the principle that "extraordinary claims
> require extraordinary evidence". As Thomas Sherock pointed
> out,
> it doesn't take "extraordinary evidence" to prove someone is
> alive or to prove someone is dead. And to prove the
> Resurrection,
> one need only prove that Jesus was alive, then he was dead,
> and then he came back to life. The shred of truth in
> Parson's principle is this: ad hoc explanations should be
> avoided. But the Resurrection is not an ad hoc explanation
> given the religio-historical context in which the event
> happened.
> 3. The gospels are historically more reliable than other books
> of ancient history. Skepticism towards the gospels is the
> result of a philosophical bias. The degree of skepticism
> which is applied to the New Testament is far greater than the
> degree of skepticism which is applied to other ancient books.
> I. Reasons for Not Being a Christian
> A. Christianity Is Not Good
> 1. Does God have the right to be a homicidal maniac? Consider a
> thought experiment in which we create sentient robots. Does
> the fact that we created the sentient robots give us the right
> to kill them?
> 2.1. Christianity is not the greatest good.
> 2.2. Christianity is supposed to be the answer.
> 3.1. You would have to be a lunatic to *freely* choose Hell.
> Lunatics deserve treatment, not condemnation.
> 3.2. Why such a horrible punishment? What sort of free will is
> this? To say that we have free will to choose heaven or
> hell is like saying that someone with a gun to their head
> has free will whether to obey the gunmen.
> B. Christianity Is Not True
> 1.1. The principle is common sense.
> 1.2. Bayesian confirmation theory proves principle.
> 3. More is expected of the gospels than other books. No one
> bases their eternal destinies on Tacitus, Suetonius, or
> Homer.
> II. Craig's Reasons for Being a Christian
> B. Hopelessness of Atheism
> 1. Did Bertrand Russell, Spinoza, or Einstein live meaningless
> lives?
> C. Resurrection
> 2. Post-Resurrection Appearances
> 2.1. Do not deny that people had experiences which they
> took for an appearance of the resurrected Jesus.
> 2.2. Experiences could have been hallucinations. 1/8 - 2/3
> of human beings have waking hallucinations.
> Hallucinations seem very real to the people who have
> them. Consider Whitley Streiber, author of _Communion_.
> 2.3. Extreme loss can cause hallucinations.
> 2.4. Genre of UFO stories is the same genre as the New
> Testament
> reports of the Resurrection. Cites _Watch the Skies_.
> UFO legends accumulated in the presence of eyewitnesses.
> 2.5. Legends CAN grow in short periods of time, despite the
> presence of eyewitnesses.
> 2.6. Memory is fallible.
> 3. Origin of the Christian Faith
> 3.1. Jesus challenged the orthodox. He was heretical. Jesus
> lived in a period of time that had apocalyptic expectations.
> No barrier to paradigm shift to here.
> D. Presence of God
> 1. What about atheistic experiences? Many atheists have had
> experiences of honestly, openly, earnestly searching for God,
> and not finding. If Craig denies that my experience is
> genuine, I'll just reassert it again. I have just as much
> right to appeal to experience as Craig does.
> I. Parsons's Reasons for Not Being a Christian
> A. Christianity Is Not Good
> 1. God is the Creator and has the right to take human life.
> 2.1. Parsons has the burden of proof.
> 2.2. Jesus wouldn't have committed atrocities.
> 3.1. Demands of God's justice must be met. God cannot blink at
> sin. Sin must be punished.
> B. Christianity Is Not True
> 1.1. Not an argument. If Parsons has to appeal to "common sense"
> to support his principle, then he must not have a substantive
> argument for it.
> 1.2. There is nothing improbable about *God* raising Jesus from
> the dead.
> 2. Not at all. To be sure, a naturalistic resurrection is
> improbable. But a theistic Resurrection is probable.
> 3. Irrelevant. Doesn't affect their credibility.
> II. Craig's Reasons for Being a Christian
> A. Evidence for a Creator
> - nothing said about this by Dr. Parsons
> - personal creator is relevant to the probability of the
> Resurrection
> B. Hopelessness of Atheism
> 1. Russell himself said that life is meaningless. [applause]
> C. Resurrection
> 1. Empty Tomb
> 1.2. Women's testimony was unreliable.
> 1.4. Found in old source.
> 1.5. Lacks signs of legendary development.
> 1.6. Earliest Jewish polemic presupposes the empty tomb.
> 2. Post-Resurrection Appearances
> 2.3. The appearances were not hallucinations. Hallucinations
> cannot explain the physicality of the appearances, the
> number of the appearances, or the empty tomb.
> 3. Origin of the Christian Faith
> 3.2. Jews would have expected translation, not Resurrection.
> D. Presence of God.
> 1.1. Doesn't invalidate Craig's experiences.
> 1.2. Jesus said, "Seek and you will find." I encourage Dr.
> Parsons to keep searching for God. [strong applause]
> I. Reasons for Not Being a Christian
> A. Christianity Is Not Good
> 1.1. Moral intuition
> 1.2. Thought experiment about sentient robots.
> 3. Why must sin be punished? What good does it do for Hitler
> and Stalin to be suffering right now? Punishment is for
> deterrence. Purely retributive punishment is barbarous.
> B. Christianity Is Not True
> 1. Bayesian confirmation theory. Must evaluate prior
> probabilities. How is the Resurrection hypothesis NOT ad hoc,
> but the UFO hypothesis ad hoc?
> II. Craig's Reasons for Being a Christian
> A. Cosmology.
> 1. Irrelevant to Christianity. If Craig wants to debate me
> on theism vs. atheism, I would be happy to do so at a later
> time.
> B. Hopeless of Atheism
> 1. Out of context quote. Bertrand Russell said that life is
> meaningful. Friendship makes life meaningful.
> C. Resurrection
> 1. Empty Tomb
> 1.4. According to NT scholar Reginald Fuller, the oldest empty
> tomb tradition is the discovery by Mary Magdalene. Who
> was Mary Magdalene? Why sould we trust her?
> 2. Post-Resurrection Appearances
> 2.2. Could have been hallucinations. Hallucinations seem very
> real and physical.
> 3. Origin of the Christian Faith
> ????
> D. Presence of God
> 1.1. Craig offers his experiences as apologetic. Why should I
> take his experiences any more seriously than any other
> experience of the miraculous?
> 1.2. I sought and did not find. Jesus was wrong.
> ANDERSON: Isn't the empty tomb a legend?
> CRAIG: Parsons grants the experiences. Legends don't accrue that
> quickly.
> PARSONS: Christians created and promoted legends about Darwin's alleged
> deathbed conversions in the presence of hostile and vocal eyewitnesses.
> CRAIG: Not genre. 2 generations is too short. Besides, this is not a
> central issue. Parsons admits the disciples had an experience.
> PARSONS: Sure it could have been hallucinations. Hallucinations seem
> very real. Alienation, loss, and depression all lead to hallucinations.
> Risen Elvis. Must remember context. Apocalyptic expectations. Given
> these expectations, why are hallucinations so improbable?
> CRAIG: The disciples had Jewish expectations. Hallucinations can't
> project what is not in the mind. They would have hallucinated
> translation.
> PARSONS: Quoted John Shelby Spong. Couldn't there have been an
> initial experience of a hallucination, then they reflected on this
> experience, and eventually the best sense he could make of it was
> that Jesus rose from the dead? Paradigm shift.
> CRAIG: I offered a cumulative case. Concerning the possibility of a
> paradigm shift, the Resurrection is an un-Jewish way of thinking.
> Also, can't find any hallucination that fits the Resurrection model
> in all aspects. Finally, I'm not prepared to grant the experiences
> were hallucinations.
> ANDERSON: What would constitute extraordinary evidence in the first
> century?
> PARSONS: Difficult to achieve in ancient times. That's not a problem
> for me; that's a problem for those who promote the miraculous.
> Quotes T.H. Huxley's essay on the miraculous.
> CRAIG: Must take miracles on a case-by-case basis. "Extraordinary
> claims require extraordinary evidence" is an a priori bias against
> the supernatural. There isn't any evidence that would convince you
> of the Resurrection. You said that you would event reject
> videotapes of the stone rolling away.
> PARSONS: In court cases, we make decisions about the probability of
> the testimony of witnesses. There is no appeal to the supernatural
> in court cases. This is not a bias against the supernatural. This
> is how we live our daily lives.
> CRAIG: No amount of evidence would convince you.
> PARSONS: [paraphrasing N.R. Hanson] A Spielbergian display would
> convince me.
> CRAIG: You wouldn't have assumed you had a hallucination?
> [extremely strong laughter and applause]
> PARSONS: Everyone would have had the experience. It wouldn't be
> just me claiming to have the experience.
> CRAIG: Why believe, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary
> evidence?" I can't think of any argument for that principle. I agree
> that we should be skeptical of ad hoc explanations. But the
> Resurrection is NOT an ad hoc explanation.
> PARSONS: If the Resurrection is NOT an ad hoc explanation, then
> you have just contradicted your claim that the Resurrection was an
> un-Jewish way of thinking. If there Resurrection is NOT an ad hoc
> explanation, then there should have been an expectation of Jesus'
> Resurrection in the minds of the disciples.
> ======================================================================
> I. Parsons's Reasons for Not Being a Christian
> B. Christianity Is Not True
> 1. Significant religio-historical context makes supernatural
> explanation of the Resurrection not ad hoc.
> II. Craig's Reasons for Being a Christian
> A. Cosmology
> 1. Parsons never disputed the evidence.
> 2. Relevant to the evidence for the Resurrection.
> C. Resurrection
> 1. Empty Tomb
> 1.4. Others could check out what Mary Magdalene said. Early
> Christianity originated in the city in which Jesus was
> buried.
> 2. Post-Resurrection Appearances
> 2.3. Appearances were not hallucinations. Hallucinations is
> not a complete hypothesis. Cannot explain the empty tomb.
> 3. Origin of the Christian Faith
> 3.1. Skeptics denied Jesus' predictions.
> 3.2. Jews would have expected translation.
> D. Presence of God
> 1. Read the New Testament and check it out for yourself.
> I. Reasons for Not Being a Christian
> B. Christianity Is Not True
> 1. Quoted Sherlock Holmes: eliminate the impossible and whatever
> is left is the answer. Must evaluate prior probabilities.
> II. Craig's Reasons for Being a Christian
> A. Cosmology.
> 1. Irrelevant. Many people, including Jews and Muslims, believe
> in a personal Creator but are not Christians. Parsons would
> be happy to debate Craig on the existence of God some other
> time.
> C. Resurrection
> 1.2. Why wouldn't the discovery of the empty tomb be the final
> insult? Acts 13 says Jesus was buried by those who crucified
> him. How do we know she went to the right tomb? Sherlock
> Holmes said, "eliminate the impossible."