Saturday, November 28, 2009

Crucified, dead and (temporarily) buried?

Glenn Miller responds to Carrier and Lowder. I didn't get a response last time, so I'm redating it and trying again.


PatrickMefford said...

Hello Victor,

Long time reader and first time commenter on your blog here. I want to preface my comments with the fact that I’m just a mere undergrad at a local community college who is just about to finish his first few Philosophy courses, so if there are any errors in my post, please feel free to correct me. This is my first time wading into Philosophical waters.

I think the whole debate around the Resurrection is asking the wrong questions. Miller touches just briefly on the difference between a Scientific probability and a Historical plausibility, but the issue deserves much more attention. What little I know of the Philosophy of History and Epistemology, I’ve come to understand that there is little we can truly know about the ancient past with much certainty. Issues of eye witness unreliability, oral transmission , etc, etc, muddy the waters to much for my taste that I become skeptic on this issue. In this instance, I fall back on Gotthold Lessing’s “the accidental truths of history can never become the proof of necessary truths of reason.”

As an Atheist at the present (and very tentative, I am far to unread at the moment) I tend to view Jesus as I do Socrates. Both lived in a literate culture, where books tended to carry a great deal of authority and influence and both Jesus and Socrates apparently wrote nothing themselves , not a mere jotting has turned up yet. All their ideas remained in oral form and it was these unwritten ideas that they were condemned to death. All we can do is simply go by second hand accounts of what is attributed to these great figures and mull over and attempt to an analysis from our own stoa.

The substance of what Jesus said is what matters to me, not issues of his existence. If Jesus’ ethics and notions of social justice indeed turn out to be the best case there is in those areas, the truth of these beliefs still stand, even if it could be proven that Jesus didn’t even exist, much less rise from the dead. Would philosophy change dramatically if it was discovered that Socrates and Plato are merely figments of someone’s imagination? I don’ think so.

Sorry for the winded first post. I eagerly await corrections!

PatrickMefford said...

As an exercise in propositional logic, I symbolized my argument in paragraph 4 into something more coherent and offered a proof of it.

P1. Jesus either existed as a historical person or he did not exist as a historical person.
[ E v -E ]

P2. A belief can be true if the person having that belief existed [ E --- > T ]

P3. A belief can be true if the person having that belief does not exist
[ -E --- > T ]

C. Therefore, Jesus’ beliefs can be true if he existed or not.
[ |- T ]

Anonymous said...

I think the best way to get readers' responses is to throw something exotic out there, Victor. For example, I would really like to see a post on the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God here, where other intelligent Christians and atheists can discuss it and actually move somewhere.

Jason Pratt said...

Actually, Richard's argument (followed by Jeff) is relatively exotic, or anyway unusual, in historical Jesus studies, Anon. But Glenn's article is extremely long and detailed, and I (for one) don't know that I have enough referent knowledge myself to comment on it beyond "well, his logic looks valid and qualified particularly enough--he isn't going beyond what his argument's scope can bear".

It's been seven years now since the exchange, though, so one might suppose there might be further back and forth on it (especially since Richard has continued to write on topics related to the existence and operations of Joseph of Arimathea.)


Jason Pratt said...


Even assessing the case from a merely naturalistic level, one of the niggling character issues is why (or whether) someone who could seem so morally sane would go on to also make freakishly exalted claims about himself. Victor has a thread around here somewhere, from the past year or two, where he presents the issue in terms of a teacher who is otherwise agreed to be competent on his topic but who makes ridiculously high authority claims, not only in regard to his own identity, but over the lives of his students. Should such a teacher be allowed to continue being employed by the university? If so, why; if not, why not? Hopefully he'll link to it, or repost it.

(I more recently put the matter in an even more colorful way in an article for the Christian Cadre: The Argument From "Iron Man".)

Your question at the end is such an interesting one, in regard to Jesus studies, ("Would philosophy change dramatically if it was discovered that Socrates and Plato are merely figments of someone’s imagination?"), that I'd like to see Victor dedicate a new post to it for commentary!

(Or, if not, I'd like to run it at the Cadre myself for commentary.)