Q3. You have been quite emphatic about your claim that the resurrection story happens in a sort of idea vacuum; that it is inconceivable that any of the Gospel writers could have had any cultural outside influence while writing the Gospels. Yet, you point out correctly that the Jews were waiting for a God-man to save them, and indeed, there were many contenders to the throne at the time. Also, ancient texts are notorious for their fictionalizing to create a compelling narrative structure. The intellectually honest thing to do – and the default position of historians – on any text from this time, secular or religious, is therefore to analyse it critically with regards to these problems. You have claimed repeatedly that it is too much of a stretch to do so.
What actual evidence (not mere armchair speculation) do you have for your positive claim that the Gospels are literally trustworthy in form and content in such a landscape, and that they should therefore be exempt from such critical scrutiny? And why would texts such as the Illiad, the Quran or the book of Mormon NOT be exempt for the same reasons?
A3. I never said the resurrection story arose in an idea vacuum. It most certainly arose within a certain cultural framework and plausibility structure; that of first century Palestinian Judaism. The problem is Tim keeps on wanting to posit the wrong context over Christian resurrection belief so as to make his case ‘work’. I am not saying it is simply a ‘stretch’ for him to do this, I am saying it is wholly incorrect and completely amiss for him to do this. It has been easily demonstrated by current mainstream scholarship that this is the case and I think it has also been demonstrated in this particular debate.
Please note, I never said the Gospels should be exempt from critical scrutiny. In fact, one way we know how incredibly accurate they are is because they have been exposed to so much critical scrutiny. I think it would be accurate to say that no other ancient work has received so much critical scrutiny as the Gospels. The amazing thing is they have come out vindicated time and time again.
Lastly, for Tim to put the Gospels in the same league as The Quran or the Book of Mormon serves as a reminder to all of us reading this that Tim is unfamiliar with modern archaeology and historiography. Either that, or he is unfamiliar with these other works, especially the Book of Mormon (my understanding is that even The Illiad fares better, as it seems to have some actual history and geography in it).