Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Steven's real argument

I take it that Steven's argument is as follows:

1. Christians critiquing stories from the Book of Mormon or the Koran use the principle that if a passage in a later document bears a great deal of similarity to an earlier story, the later story was plagiarized and the later story is fictional.

2. But the New Testament contains stories that are similarly similar to earlier accounts in the Old Testament.

3. Therefore, those New Testament stories were plagiarized and are fictional.

I am not sure about the principle. It is a question of the degree and relevance of the similarities. History does repeat itself. Sometimes when I am listerning to the news about Iraq I could swear that I've heard this all before. And I have, in news reports about the Vietnam was. Does that mean the news reports in the 2006 were plagiarized from those in 1969? As Yogi Berra said, it's deja vu all over again.


Steven Carr said...

All I can do is provide documented word-for-word copying as proof of what the sources for the Gospel stories were.

You are quite free to reject the evidence, using the presupposition 'Miracles are possible, legends are not.'

All I can say is that if Christians could use the same arguments about the Book of Mormon and the Koran, they would use them.

As indeed they do!

Steven Carr said...

I forgot to add that the similarity in the story of Jesus calming the storm and the calming of the storm in Jonah can hardly be regarded as history repeating itself, unless you believe that the story of Jonah is history.

It is interesting to see Victor take the evidence of the Bible and try to explain it away. There must be a rational explanation of why the stories are so similar....

I thought it was we sceptics who were to be charged with explaining away the evidence of the Bible.

Victor Reppert said...

All I said was that word-for-word similarity does not entail inauthenticity. Why is that rejecting the evidence, or explaining it away? I'm not even claiming that this is the correct interpretation of these passages. Steven may be right, of course. Also, maybe the Christians are too quick to go from similarity to inauthenticity in the Book of Mormon.

My argumnt was the mere presence of verbal similarity is insufficient to show that we have fiction here, without some further considerations.

Mike Darus said...

Steven is correct that one story's similarity to a prior story should not always be considered evidence of plagiarism. If some Christians base their critique of the Book of Mormon or the Koran on this methodology, their methodology should be questioned. However, Steven's conclusion that New Testament stories are fictional based on this methodology is equally flawed in methodology.

Steven seems to use an argument that Christianity is falsified because some Christians use flawed logic and the same flawed logic turned around falsifies Christianity. This cannot be sound. We don't expect flawed logic to produce reliable conclusions. Its use by someone else does not justify its use by us.

An interesting discussion to follow would be how to distinguish similar stories from plagarized stories. Some similarities of New Testament stories to Old Testament is seen as a way to validate the New Testament information in the context of divine communication. This is sometimes a fullfillment of prophesy and sometimes in the form a a "type" where an Old Testament image is clarified or fulfilled by a New Testament occurance. There seems to be room for a legitimate similarity in stories to serve this purpose that does not bring the charge of plagiarism.

The New Testament does not contain the repetition of Old Testament texts like the Koran and the Book of Mormon. Quotes may be used and stories may be retold but the allusions in the New Testament are nothing like the long passages of repitiion in these other books. I would be surprized if too many Christian authors used this as their primary critique. The issues of authorship and contradiction to the Bible will usually be more central concerns. However, when the retelling contains substantive additions or deletions, there will be cause to object.

Steven Carr said...

It is difficult to know where to start here.

Let us assume that both God and I are reasonable people.

God wants me to examine the evidence for Christianity. I also want to examine the evidence for Christianity.

Would God inspire a book such that a reasonable person , carefully examining the evidence, would find grounds for doubting the evidence?

What sort of God would place such obstacles in the way of belief?

Perhaps a God who would place fossils in the ground to make people doubt the literal truth of Genesis?

Could there be such a God?

A God who allows people to refuse salvation , based on a careful , reasonable examination of the evidence he has provided for them?

Just take a small portion of my essay, and see if I am being *unreasonable* in doubting the veracity of the story.

Luke often used the Greek Old Testament for his stories. In Acts 10, Peter is told in a dream to eat unclean animals. In the Old Testament, Ezekiel 4 also has a story of somebody who is asked to eat unpalatable food.

According to Acts , Peter, an Aramaic-speaking Jew managed, in a moment of terror, to remember the exact phrase from the Greek translation of Ezekiel 4:14!

Was it realistic for somebody described in Acts itself as ignorant (idiotes) and illiterate to bring to mind a Greek translation that he would not have known? I think not. I suspect Luke 'borrowed' words from the Greek translation of Ezekiel 4:14 to put into the mouth of Peter.

'Medamos, Kyrie' (By no means,Lord) is used only here and in Acts 11:8. (a retelling of the same story, of course.)

It is even more remarkable that Peter managed to reproduce the words of horror that Ezekiel said when he was also told to eat unclean foods, as Peter was supposed to have been present when Jesus declared all foods clean in Mark 7, long before Acts 10 ever took place.

My arguments seem quite reasonable to me.

Victor might disagree with them, but could he really say that they were based on wilful disbelief, and a determination not to examine the evidence?

Why should God arrange things so that people interested in Christianity can quite reasonably come to the conclusion that there is a great deal of fiction in the Bible?

What sort of deceiver would do such a thing?

Does God lay traps? 'I'll teach those sceptics how wrong it is to examine the evidence.'

Anonymous said...

Steven, what you are restating here is "the argument from disbelief", isn't it?

Ed Harbin said...

What repetition of source material proves with certainty is that whoever repeated the material is familiar with the source. This is particularly the case when dealing with memorized and remembered material. Read St Augustine's De Doctrina Christiana and you see a classical view of how one ought to read, - in resonant layers, sometimes literal, sometimes metaphorical, sometimes analogical.

Jesus, his disciples, the writers of the gospels, the readers of the gospels, and all their contemporaries were believers in Types, - things repeat, rituals echo the real world and vice versa. Writers would actively look for parallels and draw them out. So indeed in mythology, in the manner of Calasso's Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, you get the working out of typologies (and he would argue that the Christian myth is a culmination of the sacrificial type); and in histories, the eternal verities of Fortuna's Wheel and the punishment of hubris change shape and reappear.