Wednesday, February 05, 2014

20 Arguments for God

Here. 

Ht: Planks Length

84 comments:

planks length said...

I would add to that list The Argument from the Resurrection. I have yet to see an alternative explanation for the Gospel narrative more convincing than "He actually (and literally) rose from the dead - as historical fact, just as recorded".

im-skeptical said...

" I have yet to see an alternative explanation for the Gospel narrative more convincing than "He actually (and literally) rose from the dead - as historical fact, just as recorded"."

So you don't think the body could have been removed when nobody was watching? After all, there isn't a single witness who actually saw it get up from its resting place in the grave.

Karl Grant said...

So you don't think the body could have been removed when nobody was watching? After all, there isn't a single witness who actually saw it get up from its resting place in the grave.

That would have been unlikely Skeppy considering that the local authorities posted guards around the tomb after sealing the body inside.

planks length said...

No, I don't. That would

1. be impossible with a Roman guard at the tomb.

2. fail to account for the post-Resurrection appearances to the apostles.

The "stole the body" theory is but one of many, none of which stand up to scrutiny. A few of the others:

- the women went to the wrong tomb
- mass hallucination
- out-and-out lying on the part of the apostles
- Jesus was a space alien
- none of this ever happened; it's all made up
- Jesus didn't die on the Cross, but merely swooned, and then walked out of the tomb under His own power
- Jesus had a twin brother
- subsequent generations of Christians mythologized what the apostles told them
- the Resurrection was faked by Roman authorities in an attempt to get the apostles out of Jerusalem ("meet me in Galilee")

I could go on, but I've heard 'em all. None of them are the least bit convincing. Most are just laughable.

Dan Gillson said...

We are, of course, begging the question that the Biblical account(s) is (are) correct.

planks length said...

"We are, of course, begging the question that the Biblical account(s) is (are) correct."

No, that is precisely what I am not doing. (Or, at least, I am not doing so here.) I am rather rejecting all accounts contrary to the Biblical account that I have yet to hear.

Now I will gladly defend the accuracy of the Biblical narrative, but that's another story. Read my first comment again. I am awaiting an alternative plausible explanation. Haven't heard one yet.

Dan Gillson said...

I hate it that we can't edit our comments after we post them.

im-skeptical said...

" I am awaiting an alternative plausible explanation. Haven't heard one yet."

A dead body getting up and walking is more plausible than any of those things. Sure. If you're a priori convinced that that is what happened, and unwilling to consider reasonable alternatives.

Karl Grant said...

A dead body getting up and walking is more plausible than any of those things. Sure. If you're a priori convinced that that is what happened, and unwilling to consider reasonable alternatives.

Well let's see:

1. Guard was asleep at his post or was bribed: The Roman Army was notoriously harsh and strict with discipline. If the local commanders suspected the soldier on guard had done either of those two things they likely would crucified his ass.

2. the women went to the wrong tomb: Oh this is a possibility, people visit the wrong graves all the time. I can't even remember which cemetery my grandmother is buried in, I just put flowers down on some random old lady's headstone. So yeah, sarcasm aside, not very likely especially so close to the time of death and the soldiers standing guard would kind of be a dead give away as to which tomb.

3. mass hallucination: Medical science tends to say these really don't occur as hallucinations specific to person experiencing them. So even if they, say, ate some food with mold on it that had hallucinogenic properties apostle A and apostle B's visions would likely be very different.

4. out-and-out lying on the part of the apostles: Every one of these people chose to be martyred rather than recant their beliefs. Most people don't willing chose to die for something they know is a lie.

5. none of this ever happened; it's all made up: The consensus of professional historians is that Jesus was a real person.

6. Jesus didn't die on the Cross, but merely swooned, and then walked out of the tomb under His own power: Oh yes, a group of professional soldiers with plenty of training and experience killing people somehow failed to make sure the prisoner they were supposed to execute was good and dead.

Shall we go on?

planks length said...

im-skeptical,

"Considering" various alternatives does not require one to "accept" them. I have considered all of the ones I listed (and quite a few others besides). I find all of them to be quite literally unbelievable.

Two points:

1. Your terminology of a "dead body getting up and walking" shows a profound and fundamental misunderstanding of what exactly the Resurrection is. It was not simply Christ "reviving" from a non-living state. It was a New Creation. An active stepping into this natural world by the Creator to "make all things new". The Resurrection is not some isolated event, a historical curiosity. It is Act One of an entirely new drama, ongoing at this moment, which will not be completed until the Day of Doom.

2. I might suggest that you take your moniker seriously. Skepticism does not mean nihilism. It is quite possible to be skeptical, and still be convinced of the literal, historical reality of the Resurrection.

2 and 1/2. Your comment appears to indicate that you lack skepticism about your stance that miracles are impossible. You claim to demand "sufficient evidence" but apparently (please correct me if I'm wrong) leap enthusiastically at any alternative explanation, no matter how implausible or threadbare. It's not "skepticism" to be convinced by the most likely explanation. No a priori involved here on my end, I can assure you. But you seem to be weighted down by a whole host of a priori assumptions (such as, there are no miracles) on your end.

im-skeptical said...

planks length,

Sigh. You're not the first to tell me that I have to swallow the story in order to call myself skeptical. These are but a few of the many skeptical perspectives on the resurrection story:

http://www.websitesonadime.com/ffwic/debunkres.htm

http://www.theleagueofreason.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=9515

http://www.debunkingskeptics.com/DebunkingChristians/Page11.htm

planks length said...

"You're not the first to tell me that"

I'm not surprised. Trying to not offend here, but maybe you should start listening? There's nothing wrong with being skeptical. In fact, it can be a positive trait (though not necessarily so). But skepticism, like charity, begins at home. You need to be as skeptical about your own a priori's and beliefs as you are about those of others.

I'd start with your conviction that miracles are somehow impossible, because the only way they can be so is if you have predetermined that they are. Now that's a priori with a vengeance!

im-skeptical said...

"I'd start with your conviction that miracles are somehow impossible"

That's not the conviction that I start from, and I agree that that wouldn't be a skeptical view. My approach to the question is: Do I see any evidence that miracles occur? If I did, then I would would have reason to believe that miracles may indeed be possible, and I would then investigate the evidence further to determine whether it bears out.

Now, I have heard plenty of claims and testimony about miracles, but I have never seen one. All miracle claims that have been subject to serious scrutiny have failed to stand up to that scrutiny. The rest are subjective experiences or hearsay. There is NEVER any corroboration from impartial witnesses. There is NEVER any recording of the miraculous event, or widespread agreement that a miracle actually did occur. Only starry-eyed believers who are not willing to take a hard, honest look at just how flimsy their evidence is.

You think the gospels are good evidence? I ask you, would that kind of evidence stand up in a court trial?

planks length said...

"would that kind of evidence stand up in a court trial?"

Careful, there - really bad analogy. The evidence had O.J. nailed but good, and it still didn't stand up in his court trial.

Papalinton said...

Quit the superstitious supernatural drivel, Plank.

Quite frankly I like my textbook to be newer than 2,000 years old.

Papalinton said...

Karl Grant: "Shall we go on?"

"No!" bellowed the Jewish intellectual scholar. "After 2,000 years Christians have never provided the facts, proofs, evidence to us that our Jewish Yahweh had a son. And do you know why we have never subscribed to the myth? No Evidence! Nada, zilch, nyet; Period. We were there when the Jesus myth was being construed, cooked-up. We were there when Christians egregiously commandeered and plagiarized our own Holy Book attempting to garner some semblance of credibility for an unbelievable and ridiculous story about some 3-day old putrescent carcass revivifying and levitating that was the son of Yahweh. Yahweh did not, never had and never was going to have a son, period. We ought to know our own history. We knew then as we know now, the whole Jesus-son-of-Yahweh saga was superstitious crapola. So for God's sake don't impugn Him with all that anthropomorphic progeny crap. It makes you even more a laughing stock in the modern world."

"No! No!. No!" ejaculated the Muslim. "Allah never had a son. Full stop. Keep going on about all this fatuous nonsense and I will order a fatwah out on you. Stinking infidels. Who do you think you are?"

planks length said...

"Only starry-eyed believers who are not willing to take a hard, honest look at just how flimsy their evidence is."

Just be careful you don't start tilting against strawmen who have no resemblance to the people you are actually debating. "Starry-eyed"? I'm not sure exactly what that is supposed to mean. If you mean joyous, optimistic, and eager to share the Truth, then guilty as charged. But "not willing to take a hard, honest look" - really? Have you never read Aquinas? Julian of Norwich? G.K Chesterton? Dorothy Day? Pope Benedict XVI? Dante Alighieri? These can hardly be described as people unwilling to take hard, honest looks at anything. Towering intellects all, against whom neither you, nor I, nor I'd wager anyone posting to this or any other website could hold out against in even 10 minutes of genuine debate.

im-skeptical said...

"You claim to demand "sufficient evidence" but apparently (please correct me if I'm wrong) leap enthusiastically at any alternative explanation, no matter how implausible or threadbare."

Really? Tell me, exactly what have I leaped at?

"Just be careful you don't start tilting against strawmen who have no resemblance to the people you are actually debating."

And you should listen to your own advice.

planks length said...

"Tell me, exactly what have I leaped at?"

Perhaps I erred, but I assumed that when you brought up the "stolen body" theory as an alternative explanation, that you yourself subscribed to it.

frances said...

Planks,
We can't trace the documents you rely on back to eye witnesses.
Eye witness is evidence is unreliable anyway but is even more so when it has passed through several re-tellings. We simply don't know what Jesus' followers who were around after the crucifixion even claimed to have seen, let alone evaluate its reliability.

Many of the examples that you argue against start from the assumption that the NT accounts are reliable and then seek to rebut them. E.g - "the guards fell asleep or were bribed" is only pertinent if you think there is some reliable evidence that there *were* any guards posted at the tomb. The only source for that is the NT itself. I (& I suspect all other atheists on this site) would simply say the evidence for the resurrection is based on accounts whose reliability we cannot test and which (given their inconsistencies) we have good grounds to doubt.

planks length said...

"We can't trace the documents you rely on back to eye witnesses. "

I never said we could. So what?

By the way, if you don't accept there were guards at the tomb, then why bother accepting there was a tomb to guard in the first place? Let me see... Oh, yes - the New Testament! See the slippery slope you've put yourself on? You have no justification whatsoever for accepting one detail in the accounts yet rejecting another, other than your own preconceived notions of what is true and not true.

By the way, might I recommend Redating the New Testament by John A.T. Robinson? It's heavy going and definitely not intended for the non-scholar, but it effectively demolishes the idea that one has to believe the New Testament was written decades later than the events described therein. It presents an entirely plausible scenario for ALL the books of the NT having been written by eyewitnesses within a very short time after the Resurrection. Not an ironclad case, but one a person could comfortably accept as entirely probable.

frances said...

Planks,

By the way, if you don't accept there were guards at the tomb, then why bother accepting there was a tomb to guard in the first place?

I don't accept there was a tomb in the first place. There's very little about the NT accounts which I do accept. All is to be proved, otherwise I don't believe it.

I'm sure Robinson's book is very interesting but why would I read it? I'm not obliged to read every single book reflecting every possible POV on dating the gospels in order to have a view about them. The fact is that the scholarly consensus is that the gospels were written decades after the life of Jesus. That consensus includes the majority of Christian scholars. That counts strongly in its favour becuase it means that even those who have an interest in arguing the opposite accept the evidence going the other way. Sure there are always going to be a few radicals who can argue against the consensus. That's always going to be true in any discipline. And it doesn't mean that they're wrong. But it does mean that we should treat their arguments with great caution. After all, if they're so compelling, why aren't they carrying the day with other Christians?

Sceptical though I am about the NT, I would accept that the best evidence indicates that Jesus really existed and that he was executed by crucifixion. One of my reasons for accepting that is that experts in that field, including atheists, agnostics and non-Christians largely accept that this is true. I attach a lot of weight to their views on this subject because they have no vested interest in upholding that view.

Karl Grant said...

Frances,

I don't accept there was a tomb in the first place. There's very little about the NT accounts which I do accept. All is to be proved, otherwise I don't believe it.... I would accept that the best evidence indicates that Jesus really existed and that he was executed by crucifixion. One of my reasons for accepting that is that experts in that field, including atheists, agnostics and non-Christians largely accept that this is true.

So you accept that the Roman empire executed a man named Jesus who led a religious movement in the first century AD but you don't think there was a body to be disposed of or that the soldiers buried him when they finished the job? You also don't think that since they executed a man of significant local socio-political importance with a large group of followers that might, just might mind you, view this as an act of martyrdom that the Roman authorities might have stationed troops outside the grave site to prevent said followers from stealing the corpse as a symbolic gesture or prevent said followers' enemies from desecrating the grave and thereby inflame local tensions?

Frances, if you accept that Jesus did exist, lead a religious movement, had followers and was executed by the Roman Army in a politically and religiously charged environment it automatically follows there was a grave-site and more than likely it was guarded by Roman soldiers. Or do we have to go into a discussion about the standard operating procedures of the Roman Legions?

planks length said...

To me, one of the most interesting details about the death of Jesus is the account of Nicodemus going to Pilate to claim the body for burial. In all four Gospels, Nicodemus is described as a wealthy man, and John also mentions that he is politically connected as well. We know from non-NT sources that Pilate was a typical corrupt Roman official, susceptible to bribery. Although it is unstated, we can well imagine Nicodemus offering a tempting sum of money to Pilate for permission to bury Jesus. Thus all the confident atheist assertions that Jesus couldn't possibly have been buried in a tomb, because the Romans always threw the bodies of condemned criminals to the dogs to devour are refuted.

It's curious. The skeptics are always going on about how "poor" the evidence is for the Resurrection. But if that were indeed the case, you'd think that after 2000 years they'd be able to shoot an unrepairable hole into the narrative. To the contrary, so far the score in favor of the Gospel account is more lopsided than last week's Superbowl. Every objection has always been more than answered.

Papalinton said...

Plank claims: "It's curious. The skeptics are always going on about how "poor" the evidence is for the Resurrection. But if that were indeed the case, you'd think that after 2000 years they'd be able to shoot an unrepairable hole into the narrative. To the contrary, so far the score in favor of the Gospel account is more lopsided than last week's Superbowl. Every objection has always been more than answered."

The very latest research seems to have put a hole in your bucket, Plank. People are moving away in droves from the Jesus-god mytheme. Indeed Christianity is being thoroughly supplanted as we speak with Moralistic Therapeutic Deism- The New American Religion.

But you stick to your guns, and like the good captain you are go down with your ship, MV 'Resurrection Jesus'. No loss there really in either case.

frances said...

Karl

So you accept that the Roman empire executed a man named Jesus who led a religious movement in the first century AD

I think the evidence supports this.

but you don't think there was a body to be disposed of or that the soldiers buried him when they finished the job?

There would have been a body to be disposed of.
I have never heard anyone suggest that the Romans buried him. Maybe you should re-read the gospels and check what they have to say about it?
Whether Jesus would have been buried in a tomb or not is the subject of debate amongst scholars. It is not an issue we are likely to be able to resolve on this thread.

since they executed a man of significant local socio-political importance with a large group of followers....

Where is your independent evidence that any of this is true? Jesus certainly attained posthumous importance but there is no credible evidence to show that he was seen as anything other than a nobody at the time of his death.

What the Romans might have done is not evidence of what they in fact did. Pretty much everything you have said about what the Romans might have done and why they might have done it appears to be pure speculation on your part. Please do tell me about the standard operating procedures of Roman legions if you think it is relevant, but give me evidence, not speculation.

planks length said...

"Where is your independent evidence that any of this is true?"

A very unique demand, since nearly everything we know about anything that occurred prior to about AD 1000 or so is from single sources. By the standard you set here, we would have to throw away nearly every history book ever written.

But of far more importance is the point I raised in my previous comment. How is it possible that, after 2000 years of trying, skeptics of the NT narrative have yet to find even the slightest "smoking gun" to cause anyone (other than someone whose mind has already been made up) to reject it? All the failed attempts so far have either been adequately answered many times over, or else rely on begging the question (such as by those who deny the possibility of miracles).

im-skeptical said...

"How is it possible that, after 2000 years of trying, skeptics of the NT narrative have yet to find even the slightest "smoking gun" to cause anyone (other than someone whose mind has already been made up) to reject it?"

How is it possible that you can simply ignore all the very reasonable doubts that have been raised? Those whose mind has already been made up are precisely the ones who refuse to reject the narratives of the gospel. There are plenty of reasons to doubt, and anyone who examines them objectively would agree that the bible is so full of holes, it becomes impossible to continue to believe it's true. You continue to believe because you can't take an objective view of the evidence.

planks length said...

"all the very reasonable doubts that have been raised"

Please name one - just one.

Karl Grant said...

Frances,

There would have been a body to be disposed of.
I have never heard anyone suggest that the Romans buried him. Maybe you should re-read the gospels and check what they have to say about it?


Oh yes, maybe they just left his body laying around for the birds to pick apart? Cut it up and fed it to the war dogs maybe? Couldn't be bothered to even turn the body over to his followers or family? Tell me dumbass, what do you think people normally do when they got a dead body on their hands?

Where is your independent evidence that any of this is true? Jesus certainly attained posthumous importance but there is no credible evidence to show that he was seen as anything other than a nobody at the time of his death.

Well let's see, you already admitted you believe he led a religious movement in the first century (I think the evidence supports this), which would imply some degree of local importance at the very least, and that he was executed by the Roman Army, which didn't concern itself with killing nobodies. Or do you think that Roman commanders just walked through the streets pointing at people at random going "Oh, there is a nobody. Let's publicly and brutally execute him for no damn reason." Do you have trouble putting two and two together?

Please do tell me about the standard operating procedures of Roman legions if you think it is relevant, but give me evidence, not speculation.

Oh that's hypocritical as the only thing you are doing is giving speculation and pretty bad ones at that. Oh, this guy was a local religious leader but he was nobody of importance in the local community. He was a religious leader but he didn't have followers at the time of his death. He was a nobody of no importance that for some reason the Roman commander singled out to make a very public and bloody example out of. Oh and, uh, he wasn't buried because....uh, I don't know but I don't want to believe there was tomb. Let me ask you something Frances, does the cognitive dissonance actually physically hurt your head?

frances said...

Planks,

nearly everything we know about anything that occurred prior to about AD 1000 or so is from single sources. By the standard you set here, we would have to throw away nearly every history book ever written.

I don't accept this. The historical method does not regard single sources as reliable proof. Historians look for other evidence before they regard any historical claim as reliable.

I am not arguing about Jesus' existence, which I am prepared to agree. But we cannot come to any reliable conclusions about his life (let alone his after-life!) based on accounts whose authorship we cannot establish and which are full of contradictions.
You say
You have no justification whatsoever for accepting one detail in the accounts yet rejecting another,
But this is precisely what biblical scholars do. For instance, the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke and almost universally regarded by biblical scholars as having no historical basis. So by the standard you set here, we would have to throw away nearly every work of biblical scholarship.

I'm not sure what "smoking gun" you think could be available. We are talking about a man who during his left no trace on the world around him. Either proving or falsifying what he is supposed to have done is going to be as near impossible as makes no difference.

Some people have rejected their Christian beliefs because they could not accept the reliability of the gospels. The fact that most Christians retain their belief in the gospels in the face of the arguments is not by itself proof that the sceptical arguments have failed. Arguments attempting to prove that the Book of Mormon is a forgery have also failed to produce any wide-spread rejection amongst Mormons. Do you find this a convincing argument for Mormonism?

frances said...

Karl,

The Romans did leave the bodies of the executed to be picked apart by birds!
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Crucifixion

The permission to friends and family to remove the bodies for burial was a concession to the Jewish burial customs. But it was a matter of complete indifference to the Romans whether the bodies were left there or not. It mattered to the Jews, not the Romans.

I suggested that you re-read the gospels to remind yourself of what they say on the subject of who actually arranged the burial of Jesus. Have you done that? Can you find anything to support your claim that the Romans arranged the burial? If you can, quote me your texts with chapter and verse. If you can't, stop digging before you reach China!

Crucifixion was a very common punishment in the Roman Empire. You didn't have to do much more than make a nuisance of yourself to be nailed up. It was no biggie. (Except for the unfortunate victim, of course.)

I have never said that there was no tomb. I've said that I don't accept that there was a tomb. Different thing. Also I never said that Jesus was a man of no importance. I said that there was no credible evidence that he was of any importance. Again, different thing.

Anyway, I take it that now you are pressed on the subject, we are not after all to be treated to your dissertation on the standard operating procedures of the Roman legions?

Karl Grant said...

Frances,

The Romans did leave the bodies of the executed to be picked apart by birds!
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Crucifixion

The permission to friends and family to remove the bodies for burial was a concession to the Jewish burial customs. But it was a matter of complete indifference to the Romans whether the bodies were left there or not. It mattered to the Jews, not the Romans.


I know that Frances, you think I just pulled the phrase picked apart by birds out of thin air? Just like eaten by dogs was a reference to John Dominic Crossan's little thesis. What I am asking you is why you think the Romans violated that concession in this instance and not allowed his friends, family and followers to bury him.

I suggested that you re-read the gospels to remind yourself of what they say on the subject of who actually arranged the burial of Jesus. Have you done that? Can you find anything to support your claim that the Romans arranged the burial?

Arranged the burial doesn't mean the same thing as actually burying the person, Frances. A funeral director arranges a burial but he ain't the one out there running the backhoe digging the hole. The soldiers handing over the Jesus's body to his followers and telling them to bury it also is arranging burial. Of course, you are free to bitch about semantics here but you just love to play with semantics as evidenced by your fifth paragraph in your post.

But let's grant you the Jews did the actual burying. Now explain to me why the Roman Army wouldn't be keeping an eye on the followers of a man they executed? Why wouldn't they station guards where this was taking place? Or where they unconcerned with civil unrest and possible rebellion? You know, not interested in doing their job.

Crucifixion was a very common punishment in the Roman Empire. You didn't have to do much more than make a nuisance of yourself to be nailed up. It was no biggie. (Except for the unfortunate victim, of course.)

According to you link, which is more or less a copy of Wikipedia's entry on the subject, crucifixion was used for slaves, rebels, pirates and especially-despised enemies and criminals. Therefore crucifixion was considered a most shameful and disgraceful way to die. Condemned Roman citizens were usually exempt from crucifixion (like feudal nobles from hanging, dying more honorably by decapitation) except for major crimes against the state, such as high treason. So no, according to your own sources you either had to be an enemy of the state or to have seriously pissed off the local Roman government to get nailed up. Now why would they consider Jesus an enemy of the State?

I have never said that there was no tomb. I've said that I don't accept that there was a tomb. Different thing.

No, that's the same thing. You are treating the existence of the tomb as false and acting like that is evidence against the New Testament. So I will repeat, in Jewish tradition he would have been placed in a burial cave wrapped in linen. you already said the Romans granted the local Jews this concession. Why do you think this concession and local practice was violated in this particular time? Why do you think after Roman's granting concession they wouldn't have buried him according to their traditions?

Also I never said that Jesus was a man of no importance. I said that there was no credible evidence that he was of any importance. Again, different thing.

Really, explain how they are different. Explain how saying Jesus is a man of no importance makes a different impact to your arguments as opposed to simply saying there was no credible (and ain't that a weasel word) evidence he was of any importance. Go on, let's here how the two statements are different.

im-skeptical said...

This paper offers a historical understanding of burial practices for those crucified by the Romans.

http://infidels.org/library/modern/peter_kirby/tomb/roman.html

"Now explain to me why the Roman Army wouldn't be keeping an eye on the followers of a man they executed? Why wouldn't they station guards where this was taking place? Or where they unconcerned with civil unrest and possible rebellion? You know, not interested in doing their job."

It seems unlikely that they would have allowed his body to be buried in a grave if they were at all concerned about his followers. Forget about posting guards at his grave. Consider what happened to Osama bin Laden. The US would have been crazy to bury him in a grave. The Romans were not stupid enough to create a shrine for his followers to rally around.

Karl Grant said...

Skeppy,

Consider what happened to Osama bin Laden. The US would have been crazy to bury him in a grave.

Skeppy, I am gonna explain very gently that the US military and the Roman Legions are two very separate things, coming from different cultures and with different practices and procedures (how many people has the US Marine Corp crucified lately?). you might was well be comparing the National Guard and the Waffen-SS. More to the point, why would the US have been crazy to bury him in grave? You might not read international news but I do. Dumping Osama's body at sea pissed off quite large number of people world-wide and there was plenty of speculation about whither our government was hiding something given how quickly it got rid of the body. Some people even wonder if we really killed him. Having a body would have put paid to those conspiracy theories. So exactly how would have burying him been worse?

The Romans were not stupid enough to create a shrine for his followers to rally around.

That would depend on whither the Romans thought giving him a proper burial would placate his followers from rebelling the first place. Or whither they wanted to risk pissing off the wider Jewish community and risk further civil unrest by revoking their concession to Jewish burial practices. Considerations a Roman commander in the area would think very carefully about (because his ass would be on the line if things went to hell) before deciding to whither to revoke the burial concession. And from a military standpoint why not? It's much easier to have the followers congregate in one area and take them all out as opposed to having to hunt them down individually.

frances said...

Karl,

Where does in the gospels does it say that the Romans "[handed] over the Jesus's body to his followers and telling them to bury it"? It says that Joseph asked Pilate for permission to take the body. That is not the Romans burying, or arranging burial. You have no authority, biblical or historical for your claim that the Romans took any interest at all in the burial arrangements.

Now explain to me why the Roman Army wouldn't be keeping an eye on the followers of a man they executed?
Because if they kept an eye on the followers of every man they executed, they wouldn't have the time or resources to actually run the Empire.
Why wouldn't they station guards where this was taking place? Or where they unconcerned with civil unrest and possible rebellion? You know, not interested in doing their job.

Why would they? Why would they think that there was any prospect of unrest around the burial place? Why would they think that having buried their friend/relative those who had buried him would be motivated to steal the body? To do what with it? Maybe have it picked apart by birds?

My sources do not say what you claim they do about seriously pissing off the state. Crucifixion was for low-lifes like slaves. It was certainly not an indication of being any kind of VIP. The very gospels which you are trying to defend themselves disprove your claim. Jesus was supposed to have been crucified between two thieves - common criminals. Nuisances, not enemies of the state.

If you really don't understand the difference between saying that x is not the case and that there is no credible evidence that x is the case, then you should not be posting on a philosophical site.

Karl Grant said...

Frances,

It says that Joseph asked Pilate for permission to take the body. That is not the Romans burying, or arranging burial. You have no authority, biblical or historical for your claim that the Romans took any interest at all in the burial arrangements.

On the contrary Matthew 27:63-64 talks about how a formal request is made from the leaders of the Jewish community to Pilate for the Roman army to inspect,seal and guard the tomb specifically to squash rumors Jesus would be resurrected on the third day. A squad of four soldiers was provided for this task. If the soldiers inspected and sealed the tomb, I would say that is taking part in the burial arrangements, wouldn't you? So much for no biblical authority to say Roman troops had a hand in arranging the burial. Want to try your hand at non-Biblical historical sources?

Because if they kept an eye on the followers of every man they executed, they wouldn't have the time or resources to actually run the Empire.

So you are saying that the largest army in the region, largely deployed for internal security at this particular time had no interest what-so-ever in monitoring or stamping out potential rebellions and quelling potential civil unrest? I bet Vespasian and Titus are spinning in their graves right now at hearing you say that.

Why would they? Why would they think that there was any prospect of unrest around the burial place?

Well, gee they arrested and executed him at the request of the Jewish leaders mainly because Jesus was making waves. I would have been surprised if there wasn't.

Why would they think that having buried their friend/relative those who had buried him would be motivated to steal the body? To do what with it? Maybe have it picked apart by birds?

Again, Matthew 27:63-64 explains why they were afraid the body would be stolen and why Roman troops where requested.

Crucifixion was for low-lifes like slaves.

Rebelling slaves were considered enemies of the state in Ancient Rome. Also, your source goes on to state: Under ancient Roman penal practice, crucifixion was also a means of exhibiting the criminal’s low social status. It was the most dishonorable death imaginable, originally reserved for slaves, hence still called "supplicium servile" by Seneca, later extended to provincial freedmen of obscure station ('humiles'). The citizen class of Roman society were almost never subject to capital punishments; instead, they were fined or exiled. Josephus mentions Jews of high rank who were crucified, but this was to point out that their status had been taken away from them. Control of one’s own body was vital in the ancient world. Capital punishment took away control over one’s own body, thereby implying a loss of status and honor.

So it is the type of execution that would have been used on a prominent local leader in the Roman Empire to simultaneously kill and strip them of their status.

Jesus was supposed to have been crucified between two thieves - common criminals. Nuisances, not enemies of the state.

That would depend on what they stole. Say they robbed the military pay station or governor's mansion, say they mugged a Roman general. What kind of label do you think that would have gotten them? Nuisance?

If you really don't understand the difference between saying that x is not the case and that there is no credible evidence that x is the case, then you should not be posting on a philosophical site.

That's dodging the question. I'll ask again, Explain how saying that Jesus is a man of no importance makes a different impact to your arguments as opposed to simply saying there was no credible (and ain't that a weasel word) evidence he was of any importance.

planks length said...

"The historical method does not regard single sources as reliable proof. Historians look for other evidence before they regard any historical claim as reliable."

Point taken. I was sloppy in my language. I should have written "single written source". But even there, you're on shakier and shakier ground. Nearly every line of the New Testament is backed up by archeological evidence. Not in the sense that what we find in the ground proves the narrative, but rather that it doesn't contradict it - which is just as significant. Thus we find, in concrete form, stone water jars such as were mentioned in the Wedding Feast at Cana. We find the foundations of Galilean synagogues referenced in the synoptics. The Pool of Siloam is uncovered in Jerusalem, matching precisely the description given in John. Jacob's well in Sychar that Jesus sat down next to in John Chapter 4, is positively identified. Once again, I could go on for volumes (as others already have). The point is, we have yet to find even the smallest, most insignificant detail that contradicts the narrative, or makes it impossible to accept it as factual.

So I ask you the same question I put to im-skeptical: Please describe for me even one of these so-called "very reasonable doubts" that he said were out there. Just one will do.

planks length said...

"the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke and almost universally regarded by biblical scholars as having no historical basis"

Admittedly, I am no "Biblical scholar", but for my own part, I do regard them as reliable historical facts. And so did every last witness of the Early Church, who after all were far closer to the actual events than any contemporary "Biblical scholar". So count me among those who accept as literal truth the Star of Bethlehem, the Magi, the "shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night", the angel Gabriel coming to Mary, the Magnificat, the flight into Egypt, the finding in the Temple, etc., etc.

im-skeptical said...

planks,

"So I ask you the same question I put to im-skeptical: Please describe for me even one of these so-called "very reasonable doubts" that he said were out there. Just one will do."

I refer you to February 06, 2014 3:49 PM.

planks length said...

im-skeptical,

Your first link gave no reason to doubt anything. It simply listed one person's skepticism, but gave no "reasonable" reason to doubt. Produce a "doctor's death certificate"? Please - don't waste my time.

Your second link was worse than the first. Where is the tiniest reason to doubt? I saw none. If I missed it, please spell it out for me, because there was none there as far as I could see.

But your third link really takes the cake. Superman? Really?? Is that the best you've got??? Because if so, you'd better be getting down on your knees and repenting RIGHT NOW!

But I am in your debt for enabling me to add to my (growing) list of absurd and unbelievable counter-explanations.

im-skeptical said...

planks,

"Your first link gave no reason to doubt anything"

You don't count evidence of tampering with the text of the gospels as reason to doubt its veracity. OK.


"Your second link was worse than the first. Where is the tiniest reason to doubt?"

It doesn't seem to you that the Roman guard not being dispatched to the tomb until the following day leaves an opportunity for the body to be removed. OK.


"But your third link really takes the cake. Superman? Really?? Is that the best you've got???"

The stark lack of corroborating documentation outside the NT would give any honest historian reason to doubt. But not you. OK.

planks length said...

Im-skeptical,

Thanks for the reply, but you're still missing my whole point. It's not that there's no reason to doubt. Of course there is! But what there isn't is any evidence-based reason to disbelieve. Sure, you can come up with all kinds of implausible (or even kinda, sorta possible) counter explanations. But NONE of them - not one - is sufficient reason to abandon one's acceptance of the veracity of the narratives.

My point is that it is utterly amazing that after 2000 years of unremitting attack, it remains entirely reasonable and rational to say, "Yes, the Gospels area faithful record of actual events."

Yes, you can disbelieve - but your disbelief is based on less evidence than my belief, and that's just a plain statement of fact. I have evidence for my belief. You may not accept it, but it's nevertheless there. Against my evidence, all you can come up with is conjecture. Where is the evidence for someone stealing the body? Or for Jesus having a a twin brother? Or for superman showing up in the First Century A.D.? Don't show me your doubts - show me your evidence.

planks length said...

Damn space bar malfunction! That should have read, "are a faithful record".

planks length said...

im-skeptical,

Let me try to put it another way. In many of your comments to this website, you declare yourself to be a person interested in "the evidence". So be it. I have no doubt that you genuinely believe yourself to be that sort of person.

Now at the same time, you appear to be trying to convince Christians who comment here to abandon their beliefs. Again, fair enough - you don't share these beliefs, so you imagine it to be a good thing to get others to think the same way.

But here's the strange part. For a person allegedly so wedded to "evidence", you cannot come up with the smallest shred of it that would compel a person to abandon his belief. Nothing at all which (in your own words) would stand up in a court of law. You given us conjecture, speculation, a priori rejection of the supernatural, etc., but never, ever what you claim to be the Most Important Thing in whether or not to believe something - evidence.

If someone were to tell me my wife was being unfaithful to me, should I just take his word on it? Hell, no. I'd be demanding some evidence before I surrendered my belief in her faithfulness. Yet here you are, essentially accusing the apostles of being liars. Such a grave charge demands something more than speculation and conjecture, or "alternate explanations" before any reasonable person should go along with it.

im-skeptical said...

planks,

"Don't show me your doubts - show me your evidence."

So the game changes. Now you are playing the skeptic, wanting evidence to disbelieve. That's great. So what about evidence of the NT text being modified after the original version? Someone who's interested in evidence should take that seriously.

But to take your skepticism another step, why not seek evidence that the gospel accounts are actually true? I've shown you a few of the many reasons to be doubtful, but other than the NT itself, what evidence do you have?

planks length said...

"So what about evidence of the NT text being modified after the original version?"

Well, for one thing, in general the "evidence" for most of these so-called modifications does not rise above the sort of speculation and conjecture that you yourself engage in. As a perfect example of this, I once heard a Catholic priest (of all people!!!) assert that the ending of Matthew must be an addition, because the theological sophistication of the words ascribed therein to Christ is too advanced! (Allow me to pause and regain my composure before proceeding.)

In other instances, the alleged additions or modifications are too trivial to worry one's head about. Such would be the words "for thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory" (again in Matthew), or the "Three Heavenly Witnesses" passage in First John. Big Deal. These suspect passages merely echo what can be reliably found elsewhere in the text, so I respond with a big yawn and a "so what?"

Did you have a specific "modification" in mind that was supposed to destroy my acceptance of the narrative? Let's hear it.

And once again, my point is not that there is no reason to doubt - it is that every last one of these reasons is answerable - often without breathing hard. Why is there no unanswerable bit of evidence to shatter the case for Faith? Or are you saying that some scholar alleging the original text has been modified is by itself sufficient grounds for unbelief?

Because if that is your intention, then be very careful. After all, no self-respecting botanist today would swear by the precise findings of Gregor Mendel (a Catholic monk, by the way) when talking about genetics. No astronomer would hold you to the text of Georges Lemaitre (a Catholic priest) when discussing the Big Bang. No geologist would demand that no additions be made to the discoveries of James Macelwane (oh my gosh, yet another Catholic priest) who practically single-handedly invented the science of seismology (but whose works are now out of date).

frances said...

Karl,

Let's look at Matt 27 shall we? Not just the verses you rely on but the verses which immediately precede them:

57 bWhen it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and claid it in his own new tomb, dwhich he had cut in the rock. And he rolled ea great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and fthe other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

Now I invite the reasonable reader to agree that at this point, Jesus has been buried and the burial is complete. THEN come the verses on which you rely:

62 The next day, that is, after the day of gPreparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember howhthat impostor said, while he was still alive, i‘After three days I will rise.’64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, jlest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have ka guard10 of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by lsealing the stone and setting a guard.

There's no easy way to say this, Karl, but your misrepresentation of what Matthew said on this point is only explicable in one of two ways. Either you are being dishonest or you are invincibly stupid. If the latter, then you are more to be pitied than condemned, but either way there is no point in my continuing to debate you on this thread.

planks length said...

What is so earth-shattering about the passages you quote? The two are in complete agreement. I see nothing there to cause you to walk away from reasoned discourse.

What are you seeing here that I am not?

frances said...

Planks,

I never said they were in disagreement. One is about burial the other isn't. That's all. I will not debate with someone who either stupidly or dishonestly claims that a passage which isn't about a burial is a about a burial. There can be no reasoned discourse with such a person.

planks length said...

Wait, are you referring to a "burial" as some sort of shoveling dirt into an open grave? That's not the way things were done in First Century Judea. Perhaps you'd prefer the term "interment"?

The politically well-connected Joseph of Arimathea approached Pilate with "an offer he couldn't refuse" (i.e., he bribed him with an undisclosed amount of money) to obtain the body of Jesus. Because yes, it was the usual Roman practice at the time to dispose of the body of condemned political criminals in such a fashion so as to not permit any sort of rallying place for potential rebels. (In the same manner, the bodies of executed Nazi war criminals after the Nuremberg trials were dumped into the North Sea, to prevent there being any "pilgrimage sites" for a future generation of Nazis.)

The body of Jesus was then placed in a rock tomb, as was the custom for well-off Jews of the time. (Remember, Joseph was a wealthy man.) He placed a stone across the entrance to the cave, as recorded.

This panicked the temple authorities, who in turn lobbied Pilate to undo his (in their eyes) mistake. He responded by agreeing to the guard. The guard then "sealed" the tomb - that is, they placed some sort of tamper-evident device on it, such as a stamped wax seal or other such means, which would show if anyone were to disturb the stone.

frances said...

Planks,

I agree that that is what Matthew's gospel describes.

planks length said...

So maybe I should stay out of this, but I still fail to understand what made you so upset at Karl. Was it the use of the word "burial"? That doesn't seem cause enough to label someone either stupid or dishonest. After all, the Nicene Creed says that Christ "suffered death and was buried." (passus et sepultus est) The only thing the term indicates here is that Jesus's body was placed "in the ground", i.e., within the tomb.

frances said...

Planks

It is pretty clear that you *don't* understand the point that in dispute between Karl and me. I specifically said at Feb 09 5:08 that the placing in the tomb WOULD constitute a burial.
But let's not get into further convolutions where you and I argue about what Karl meant and whether my conclusion was justified. I think it will be more profitable if you and I discuss some of the points we have been discussing between the two of us.
I'd like to respond to some of your arguments but it will have to wait until I get home (presently writing this in the car - not ideal for composing any response).

Karl Grant said...

Frances,

Either you are being dishonest or you are invincibly stupid. If the latter, then you are more to be pitied than condemned, but either way there is no point in my continuing to debate you on this thread.

Really? I'm not the one trying to redefine arrangement here to mean just shoveling dirt. Like I said earlier a funeral director arranges the burial but he isn't the one out there running the backhoe and digging the hole. Roman soldiers turned over the body, inspected the tomb, slapped the seal of the Roman Empire over it and stood guard outside it. That is playing a considerable part in the proceedings. But than again I am talking to a guy who tried to argue that seeing something fictional in a movie made said thing a logical possibility in real life. Maybe I should say I saw it in a movie once that Roman troops actually shoveled dirt on the body?

im-skeptical said...

planks,

"Why is there no unanswerable bit of evidence to shatter the case for Faith?"

Because you brush it off without a second thought. Because you refuse to see it for what it is. Because your mind is made up (and has been since before you could think for yourself), and it won't be changed by any evidence.

planks length said...

" Because ... your mind ... won't be changed by any evidence."

OK, show me some of this evidence - you have yet to do so. How can you claim I won't consider any, when you haven't given me anything to consider? Bring it on!

(And no links, please. Your own words.)

frances said...

Planks,

It is the belief which requires proof not the disbelief. Disbelief is the default position in all cases except where we are talking about properly basic beliefs. Where is your proof? If the evidence for believing a thing is not credible then how is it different from or better than believing it on no evidence at all?

The synoptic gospels are in conflict with each other and all are in conflict with John. Which version do you believe? You are basing your belief that a man returned to life after having died on four (or five including Acts) documents of unknown authorship, which not only conflict with each other but where there are different versions of those documents where the same gospel conflicts with itself!

Which account of Judas' suicide is correct: Matthew's or Acts'? You have said that there can be no reason for accepting part of an account and rejecting the rest, so it seems you must either reject the whole of Matthew or the whole of Acts if you are to remain consistent to this principle. (I am aware of the highly ingenious and equally highly implausible attempts to harmonise these passages. No objective person will find them convincing.)

Do you believe Matthew when it says that the bodies of many holy person rose and walked around the city and were seen by many? You would have expected that if there were resurrected people going around the town this might have been sufficiently note-worthy to attract attention and find a mention in local contemporaneous records.

You appear to think that any explanation is inherently better than having no explanation. In fact, it is better to admit that you don't know the answer rather than nail your colours to an implausible and inadequately evidenced explanation. I don't know and I can't know exactly why the story that Jesus had come back from the dead gained such ground. It's most articulate proponent, of course, was somebody who had never known Jesus while he was alive and never saw his resurrected body. I have various theories about why people would have come to believe it (the ability of humans to deceive themselves would play a large part). But I accept that they are just theories.

I don't know and I can't know what happened when Joseph Smith claims he was visited by teh angel Moroni. But I've got a theory and I suspect you have too.

planks length said...

"Which account of Judas' suicide is correct: Matthew's or Acts'?"

Both. Judas hanged himself at the edge of a precipice (there were many in the vicinity of First Century Jerusalem). Then his body fell into the ravine below and his bowels "gushed out". They fit neatly together into a single narrative without the least conflict or contradiction.

"Do you believe Matthew when it says that the bodies of many holy person rose and walked around the city and were seen by many?"

Yes, I do.

"this might have been sufficiently note-worthy to attract attention and find a mention in local contemporaneous records"

Well, there is one contemporaneous record of the event... Matthew. Also, I should point out that that Matthew writes that the resurrected saints "appeared to many". Do you find it so impossible to believe that these "many" just might have been satisfied with the mention they got in Matthew. Or even likelier, they weren't in the habit of writing about ANYTHING? (After all, there were no blogs in that happier time.) Alternatively, they may have been laying low and saying nothing, after the brutal execution of Jesus (the very thing the Apostles themselves were doing until Pentecost).

"Its most articulate proponent, of course, was somebody who had never known Jesus while he was alive"

Really? The Biblical scholars whose opinion you have admitted respect for are ALL in agreement that Saint Paul was born approximately 8 years after Jesus. Paul studied under Gamaliel in Jerusalem at the very time that Jesus was regularly visiting the city. How is it impossible for their paths to have crossed? Couldn't a 24 year old Paul have witnessed a speech by a 32 year old Jesus in the Temple? (I'm not saying they did see each other, but you have no grounds whatsoever to say they didn't.)

"and never saw his resurrected body"

Uh, he did. Read 2 Corinthians 15:8.

As to the synoptics being in conflict with John, that is only if you are a stickler for what order events are written about. Matthew, Mark, and Luke describe the Cleansing of the Temple as occurring near the end of Jesus's Public Ministry - John writes about it as being earlier. But that's not a contradiction at all; it's merely a differing arrangement of the same material, presented differingly for thematic reasons. Where are they in true conflict?

Papalinton said...

Plank
"But that's not a contradiction at all; it's merely a differing arrangement of the same material, presented differingly for thematic reasons."

What were Jesus's actual last words on the cross before he died? Is there any difference in the Gospels of what he actually said? Any if there are any differences were those actual words presented differingly for thematic reasons?

planks length said...

You wrote, "Disbelief is the default position in all cases"

Frances, that's a nice slogan, but the problem is it's basically meaningless. Take the example I used earlier. Here is a statement: "My wife is faithful to me." Now, according to the above slogan, I must, as my default position, disbelieve this until she somehow proves her faithfulness. (Good luck with that as a basis for a happy marriage!)

Or perhaps you'll punt here to your caveat "except where we are talking about properly basic beliefs". So is my wife's faithfulness now a "properly basic belief"?

Well. That may solve your problem in the short term. (Admittedly, it would make for a lot more happy marriages!) But eventually you'll run up against this next statement "My wife is cheating on me." Oh, my! Now my "default position" is to disbelieve the very opposite of what I was disbelieving up above. What to disbelieve? What to disbelieve?

This whole idea of disbelief being somehow a default position reminds me of an old game we used to play way back in grade school. We'd write on one side of a sheet of paper, "The statement on the other side of this paper is true." Then we'd turn the paper over and write, "The statement on the other side of the paper is false." We'd hand the paper over to an unsuspecting third party and ask (it doesn't matter which side is up when you do this), "Is this statement true or false?"

As you can see, disbelief as a default position involves an unresolvable paradox. It is a logical absurdity.

frances said...

Planks,

Of course, anyone can reconcile almost any inconsistency if they are prepared to make up extra details without foundation. But even having given yourself artistic licence to imagine a precipice where none is mentioned and a fall from...whatever it is that you are picturing over the precipice, still your story doesn't hang (no pun intended) together.

1. Did Judas return the money (Matthew) or use it to buy this field "on the edge of the precipice" (Acts)?
2. If he hung himself and fell down a precipice, in what way does that fit with falling headlong in a field? Unless he hung himself upside down, he was going to fall feet first. And if it was a precipice why does Acts make no mention of the precipice, only the field?
3. Was the field called "The Field of Blood" because it was bought with blood money (Matthew) or because it was where Judas' bowels burst open(Acts)?
4. Why would you call the field the field of Blood if all the blood was down in the precipice? The Valley of Blood or the Ravine of Blood might give some support to your story, but it would still be inconsistent with Matthew.

If you start from the position that whatever is in the NT is true, then of course you can imagine things which explain apparent contradictions. But that's all it is - your imagination creating extra bits in the story with no better justification than that it "must" have happened like that because you cannot allow that the NT could be wrong.

frances said...

Planks,

I assume you didn't marry your wife without first getting to know her, at least a little, and so on that basis having formed an opinion based on what you knew as to whether she was the sort of person likely to cheat on you?

planks length said...

"I assume you didn't marry your wife without first getting to know her, at least a little, and so on that basis having formed an opinion based on what you knew as to whether she was the sort of person likely to cheat on you?"

Frances,

Good point. In the same manner, I did not become a Christian until I stopped just believing in God, and started believing Him.

On your other points, it's not making up extra details to fill out a very sparse narrative. After all, despite its reputation of being a long book, the Bible is comparatively rather short. There are many novels and libraries of textbooks that are considerably longer. What one is usually faced with when reading it are a few sentences that describe an enormously complicated situation. So yes, you have to occasionally "imagine a precipice" here and there. Again, so what? Matthew and Luke really weren't concerned with the details of Judas's demise, and to focus on them is to miss why they were writing the passage at all.

(And besides, and wearisomely yet again, my point was not that this is how Judas met his end, but rather that your objection to the narrative is answerable by a reasonable person. This particular alleged discrepancy does not constitute a reason to disbelieve, and I have demonstrated so.)

It's actually rather funny to watch people get all tripped up over some inconsequential bit of minutia, all the while failing to see the Big Picture. Mind you, I am not in the least admitting to any contradiction or error, it's just that when one prioritizes what is important and what is trivial, how Judas fell after hanging himself simply does not rank with the great issues of our or any other time.

planks length said...

I was unaware of this when making my original comment concerning the death of Judas, but (as I learned after after researching the topic a bit) reconciliations of the accounts in Matthew and Luke date back at least as far as Saint Augustine (Fourth Century). There are undoubtedly similar, even earlier harmonizations of which I am as yet unaware.

But this actually strengthens my point - that the alleged discrepancy under discussion is no cause for anyone rejecting the Faith. After all, this is not some new discovery by modern scholars, but an issue that was "asked and answered" many, many centuries ago. I must assure you that St. Augustine was one hell of a lot smarter than me (just read his Sermons to get a taste for his towering intellect), and I would be loathe to challenge anything he wrote without damn good reason. *

Its both frustrating and amazing that every last time I think I have some new insight into the scriptures, I eventually learn that the very same point had been made in the Third Century or whatever. Way too often we see skeptics point to one or another passage in the Bible, imagining that they have discovered something that has occurred to no one else before them. Even sadder is to see some young Christian wrestling with some so-called "problem" in scripture that he thinks he alone has noticed, totally oblivious to the fact that the identical issue was dealt with more than adequately by someone else one or two thousand years ago.

* There are many things St. Augustine said that I have serious disagreement with, but I assure you I have excellent reason for doing so. One does not debate him lightly! (And definitely not without all your ducks in a row.)

im-skeptical said...

"reconciliations of the accounts in Matthew and Luke date back at least as far as Saint Augustine (Fourth Century)"

People have been explaining away all those discrepancies and contradictions for many centuries. But the gospels still say what they say. And they still require explaining away if you don't want to suffer from cognitive dissonance.

Karl Grant said...

People have been explaining away all those discrepancies and contradictions for many centuries. But the gospels still say what they say. And they still require explaining away if you don't want to suffer from cognitive dissonance.

Oh please Skeppy, there are supposed discrepancies and contradictions in a lot of other biographical accounts. For example, I read two biographies on Nikola Tesla; one lists Tesla as being born in Croatia and the other as Austria. Seems like a discrepancy until you realize Croatia was part of the Austrian Empire at the time of his birth. Or maybe like one account saying somebody died of died of cerebral hemorrhaging and another saying he died of getting shot in the head (getting shot in the head is the reason he had cerebral hemorrhaging). But hey, investigating to see if there really are discrepancies and contradictions as opposed to two accounts describing something in a slightly different way would require time and effort you don't want to give and reading comprehension you don't have so your confusion is understandable.

frances said...

Planks,

LOL, yes I'm in the same position. There's no point which I can make against the NT which hasn't been made (& better) by others before me. And the same responses have been put forward from the apologist side ever since there's been an apologist side to put them forward. And there have been counter-apologetic answers, and responses to the answers and so on and so forh. I know what the standard responses are. I just find them utterly unconvincing, no matter how intelligent the source.

I agree that something like the discrepancies in Acts & Matthew wouldn't be enough cause to reject your beliefs *if you have other sound reasons for believing*. But that's my whole point - you don't. Like you, I think that people should look at the bigger picture and the discrepancies are just part of that picture which emerges of a generally untrustworthy account.

I'd like to go back to your first post in which you said that the resurrection accounts were a proof of the existence of God. Yet when you come to argue that, the highest you put it is that they are better than alternative explanations. I don't agree with you there, but even if I did, the mere fact that an explanation is better than the alternatives is hardly enough to constitue proof. It would make it a theory (in the non-technical sense). Not proof.

im-skeptical said...

Karl,

The "discrepancies" you cite as examples are not discrepant. If the NT were like that, nobody would be talking about discrepancies and contradictions. As it is, you are forced to find creative ways to reconcile the real differences in the various accounts.

That's fine. You can talk yourself into believing the reconciliations. Just don't expect me to buy it.

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

Plank
I would appreciate your response to the following earlier query.

You say, with some conviction ""But that's not a contradiction at all; it's merely a differing arrangement of the same material, presented differingly for thematic reasons."

I ask again:
Can you recount Jesus's actual last words on the cross before he died? Is there any variation in the four Gospels of what he actually said? And if there are any differences, were those actual words 'presented differingly for thematic reasons', in your understanding? I can provide them for you if you wish.

I'm not asking for what you believe but rather what you know and the evidence for it.

Karl Grant said...

The "discrepancies" you cite as examples are not discrepant. If the NT were like that, nobody would be talking about discrepancies and contradictions. As it is, you are forced to find creative ways to reconcile the real differences in the various accounts.

Really? Explain how those examples are conceptually different from the discrepancies you and frances have cited in the New Testament. I am willing to bet dollars to donuts you can't. In fact, let's take one of your examples: Judas's suicide. Explain exactly what is wrong with Augustine of Hippo's reconciliation of Matthew and Acts (written about four hundred years after the event, a much shorter temporal time frame than your current speculation two thousand years later) that Judas hung himself in the field and eventually the rope or the tree branch gave way; causing his body to fall and burst. Explain how that is any different as opposed to describing a cause of death as a cerebral hemorrhaging as opposed to shot in the head.

planks length said...

The way some people imagine "discrepancies" or even contradictions in the New Testament makes me think of the following two stories, both 100% true for one and the same family:

1. Richard's parents moved to Arizona in 1947. Richard was born in that state in 1949. Afterwards, he had younger brothers and sisters, also born in Arizona. He lives there now.

2. Robert's family lived in New Jersey. Robert was born in that state in 1952. His family eventually moved to Arizona in 1956, and there followed younger brothers and sisters, all born in Arizona. Robert today lives on the East Coast.

Sounds like two completely different families, right? Well, I wouldn't blame you for thinking so, but you'd be completely wrong. Reconciliation of the two narratives: Richard's family moved to Arizona in 1947, where he was born two years later. He and his parents shortly thereafter moved to New Jersey, where his younger brother Robert was born in 1952. They then all moved back to Arizona 4 years later, where younger brothers and sisters were born in subsequent years. Richard never moved out of the state, whereas his younger brother did.

So can you now see how there need be no conflict or contradiction between the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke? None whatsoever.

Papalinton said...
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Papalinton said...

The variations in the account of the Arizona/New Jersey family example is understood and appreciated because one is fully apprised of the facts behind the two sets of data. We can see the the singular nature of the account.

But when it comes to "So can you now see how there need be no conflict or contradiction between the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke? None whatsoever", it becomes inordinately problematic. This assertion is little more than post-hoc rationalization, an imagined extrapolation of two set of data for which there is no independent corroboration of those two data sets. Any reconciliation of the Arizona/New Jersey sets of data simply cannot be applied to the Gospel accounts because the two sets of data cannot be substantiated or verified. To attempt to do so is nothing more than Apologetical harmonization of two different accounts gleaned from a perhaps common source [probably Mark, though Mark makes no reference at all to Jesus's birth or early life except by a few very tangential references to his familial heritage ] but written for two different audiences with differing traditions [Much in the same way that Mormonism is to the Baptists or the Episcopalians].

It is interesting that; "The gospels were apparently composed in stages. Mark's traditional ending (Mark 16:9–20, see Mark 16) was most likely composed early in the 2nd century and appended to Mark in the middle of that century.[27] The birth and infancy narratives apparently developed late in the tradition.[28] Luke and Matthew may have originally appeared without their first two chapters.[28]" Wiki

Also there was: "A genre of "Infancy gospels" (Greek: protoevangelion) arose in the 2nd century, such as the Gospel of James, which introduces the concept of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (not to be confused with the absolutely different sayings Gospel of Thomas), both of which related many miraculous incidents from the life of Mary and the childhood of Jesus that are not included in the canonical gospels." Wiki

Equally: "Marcion of Sinope, c. 150, had a version of the gospel of Luke which differed substantially from that which has now become the standard text. Marcion's version was far less Jewish than the now canonical text, and his critics alleged that he had edited out the portions he didn't like from the canonical version, though Marcion argued that his text was the more genuinely original one. Marcion also rejected all the other gospels, including Matthew, Mark and especially John, which he alleged had been forged by Irenaeus." Wiki

So on balance, I would generally infer the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke are likely to have been two different stories for different purposes and different reasons, and both were an agglomerative work in progress, including contributions from other contributors over a period of one or two centuries.

Your harmonization and nonchalant gloss over the many disparate and conflicting elements in the accounts and the downplay of the dynamic flux of cultures in the Middle East in the time period these stories were construed are simply becoming increasingly credulous and less credible as time goes on. The professed coherence of the gospel narratives can no longer be sustained as a viable explanation.

B. Prokop said...
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B. Prokop said...

I am here making an exception to my year-long "internet fast" to brag about my beautiful, beautiful daughter's amazing performance earlier this month at Indiana University. You can see it here. If you listen to only one set (if any), be sure to make it Number 4, the Elgar Sea Pictures.

God in Heaven, can that girl ever sing!

planks length said...
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planks length said...

This conversation has been an occasion for me to think rather deeply about how getting hung up on issues of decidedly lesser import can cause those sincerely seeking after the Truth to find totally unnecessary roadblocks thrown in their way by well-meaning, but socially inept believers (myself being the first sinner amongst them).

Yes, I affirm with what I regard to be excellent reason the historical veracity of the New Testament narratives, right down to very small details. But no, I am not a "wooden literalist". We after all do not possess the original Words of Christ. At best, we have a Greek translation of what was originally spoken in Aramaic. Nevertheless, in the essentials, after (despite what some on this site have said) extensive and open-minded pondering of the evidence, I believe that the accounts are accurate renderings of real world events (to include the infancy narratives, the miracles, and the Resurrection).

But in the end, the trivia does not matter. Nit picking over how Judas met his end, or what words were spoken where and in what order, etc., does a great disservice to what ought to be the Main Event here. Such debate can neither "prove" nor "disprove" what is really at stake in these discussions. Do you realize that God Himself has intervened in the most intensely personal way possible in human history and in your own life? Do you understand that Jesus is not some distant, historical figure to be studied and picked apart on an internet blog, but a living person directly accessible to you today? As Pope Benedict XVI wrote (slightly paraphrased, so no quote marks), Christianity is not just an intellectual idea, but is rather an encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a new direction.

I write this directly to you, im-skeptical. You too, Frances. Without the least bit of mindreading, it is screamingly obvious that you are both dissatisfied with your life right now, and are very much aware that your professed materialism is completely incapable of answering to your deepest needs. You have a great opportunity to move on to a much better place.

B. Prokop said...

Before I sign off again for a few more months, I'd like to add my own two cents to this thread. Here is my candidate for yet another "argument for God" - possibly the best one of all:

Singing Lessons

im-skeptical said...

"I write this directly to you, im-skeptical. You too, Frances. Without the least bit of mindreading, it is screamingly obvious that you are both dissatisfied with your life right now, and are very much aware that your professed materialism is completely incapable of answering to your deepest needs. You have a great opportunity to move on to a much better place."

I think this shows the emotional nature of religious belief. Sorry to disappoint you, planks. I am not suffering from some unfulfilled emotional need. I have an intellectual need to understand my world. I don't want sugar-coating or empty promises of fulfillment in the next life. I want to hear it like it is. And I don't get that from religion.

planks length said...

Oh, im-skeptical, what you fail to realize is that you (and every other human being) is not simply an intellect. You (and the rest of us) are creatures of body and spirit. We have reasoning minds, emotions, loving spirits, sinful natures, physical perceptions, bodily functions... we sweat, we fall asleep, we have flashes of brilliance, we fall deeply in love, and we weep uncontrollably in the presence both of great beauty and great sorrow. In short, to limit yourself to "an intellectual need to understand my world" (in itself entirely good and necessary, though woefully incomplete) is to willfully sever yourself from much (perhaps even the majority) of what makes you you.

So yes, yes, yes, "this shows the emotional nature of religious belief". Indeed it does. Religious belief DOES have an emotional component, as well it should. Because so do you! Do you limit your nutritional intake to protein, while ignoring your need for various vitamins, starches, fiber, carbohydrates, etc.? Of course not. In the same manner, it is no virtue to limit yourself to some sort of "intellectual need". Like a diet of nothing but meat, it will eventually kill you. (Or at the least, make you extremely unhealthy.)

im-skeptical said...

planks,

"In short, to limit yourself to "an intellectual need to understand my world" (in itself entirely good and necessary, though woefully incomplete) is to willfully sever yourself from much (perhaps even the majority) of what makes you you."

Who says I limit myself in the way you imagine? I am just as human as anyone else, and I understand that we humans do have emotional needs. The issue here is how those needs are fulfilled. Emotional needs are fulfilled by personal relationships, aesthetic experiences, thrill-seeking, and various other activities. Perhaps if you are unfulfilled by your life experiences, you need something else, and religion can fill that gap for you, but I don't need it.

On the intellectual side, I don't want mysteries, I want answers. I want to understand. I am not satisfied to have faith that there is a magical hand in control of the world. I want to see for myself if possible, or have a good idea of how things work. I want to have a framework of understanding that is logically consistent, and into which all things fit. That's not to say that I feel a need to know everything, but I want to know at least that everything has a place in that framework. There is no room for religion in my framework, because it breaks the logic. It destroys the cohesiveness, and prevents understanding. It doesn't fit with the reality that I observe.

planks length said...

"I don't want mysteries"

This simply shows that you do not understand the meaning of the term mystery. Catholics speak, for instance, of the "Joyful" or the "Sorrowful" Mysteries - examples being the Annunciation, the Incarnation, the Scourging, or the Crucifixion (there are, of course, others). Theologically speaking, a mystery is not meant in the secular usage, as in something unknown or that defies understanding. Quite the contrary. It indicates a concept or event that is fully illuminated only by the light of Divine Revelation with human reason as the fundamental starting point.

(For example: Reason gives one to understand the physical and societal nature of Baptism. Revelation allows one to see its full spiritual significance.)

"I want to see for myself if possible"

And who says you can't? Only your obstinate stubbornness is preventing you from doing so now. I sincerely wish you could see how your comments (at least those on this website) appear to an outside observer - as those of someone desperate to "have eyes and not see; to have ears, and not hear". And yet your hunger for the Truth remains unassuaged. Why else come back repeatedly to this website? Why so thirsty for the comments of Crude, Ben Yachov, or even (God Himself knows why) of me? In the secret of your heart, you know why.

"There is no room for religion in my framework"

And there you yourself have said so. Just as there was "no room at the inn" 2000 years ago on Christmas night. Perhaps it's time to "make room"? There's an infant Christ ready to make a home in you, and you're going to push Him out into the stable? The ox and the ass are going to prove to be more welcoming than im-skeptical?

You're better than that.