Resurrection Debate – Vocab’s Rebuttal to Tim’s Opening Statement

Tim’s Opening Statement

It strikes me as strange that in a debate centered on history, Tim has devoted so much of his time to psychology. His main argument seems to go something like this:

  1. Lots of people believe lots of things that never happened
  2. Lots of people believe the resurrection happened
  3. The resurrection must have never happened

Even though I am slightly lampooning it, this still is not a particularly good or relevant argument. As such, I am going to deal with the more pertinent points Tim raised.

THE CRITERION of EMBARRASSMENT

Tim dodges the criterion of embarrassment issue by committing the genetic fallacy (or the fallacy of a bulverism, take your pick) in regards to what he labels "biblical theologians." Then he parenthetically offers: "In the Gospel of Thomas, young Jesus kills a playmate among other nasty things. According to the criterion, we should accept this story as being more reliable? It certainly is embarrassing to modern Christians…." The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is not deemed as reliable because it is a 2nd century document, as opposed to the canonical gospels, which are all 1st century documents written within the lifetime of many of the eyewitnesses.

LUKE’S RELIABILITY

Tim says, "Luke is not a historian. He tells us that he is, but he is not." Archaeologist Ramsay says, "Luke is a historian of the first rank … this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians." (The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, (1915), 222).

Tim says, "Luke shows absolutely no interest, in his Gospel or in Acts, to present the reader with any sort of fact-checking possibility…." Geisler says, "Luke names 32 countries, 54 cities and 9 islands without an error." (Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (1998), 47)

Tim says, "We have no evidence that he used any sort of reliable critical method." Historian Sherwin-White says this (in regards to Acts, which Luke wrote), "the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming…. Any attempt to reject its basic historicity must now appear absurd." (Roman Society and Roman Law in the Setting of Hellenistic History (1963), 189).

In 1990, Classical historian Colin Hemer went through Luke’s other book (Acts) and identifies 84 different historical facts that have been verified by history and archaeology (The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, Eisenbraums). Has Tim perhaps misdiagnosed Luke?

DID GREEK MYTHS INFLUENCE THE GOSPELS?

Tim is still stubbornly claiming the Gospels (and apparently all Palestinian Jews) were heavily influenced by "the general mythical landscape of the Mediterranean of the time." Why would 1st century Jews, many of whom were eagerly awaiting a military Messiah to kick out the godless Romans, want to adopt their oppressors myths? Nonetheless, since Tim offered up a few names, let’s take a look.

Zalmoxis is one of the names Tim gives as resurrecting bodily. This person – whom Herodotus is not even sure ever lived – taught his people about a common Greek belief – the immortality of the soul. It is unfortunate Tim used Zalmoxis as a forerunner for a belief in bodily resurrection when the body of teaching surrounding Zalmoxis relates to the immortality of the soul, something very different from the doctrine of bodily resurrection.

As far as Inanna’s death, I found this:

She struck her.

Inanna was turned into a corpse

A piece of rotting meat

And was hung from a hook on the wall

A dead corpse hanging from a hook on a wall does not a crucifixion make. I don’t have enough space to deal with Castor and Pollux (I did look them up and found them to be hands-down the worst of Tim’s candidates for any kind of comparison). All I can ask is for people reading this debate to Google their names, read the legends surrounding them and then ask yourself if Tim’s accusations can withstand scrutiny.

A.T. Fear, wrote a whole essay on the subject of how the Attis cult evolved as a direct reaction to Christianity. Fear specifically says the doctrine of ‘resurrection’ is a "late-comer to the cult." (Cybele, Attis and Related Cults (1996), 41-42). It’s not even really a ‘resurrection’ but rather a celebration of Attis’ arrival in the underworld; hardly a resurrection. Another Attis scholar, Maria Lancelotti, explains that only a bare hint of resurrection belief was present in the Attis cult; worse, it did not appear until the 4th Century AD. (Attis Between Myth and History (2002), 160, 288).

One problem I have encountered when people accuse Christianity of borrowing from pre-Christian cults is this: they don’t realize the amount of fluidity in cultic doctrine and practice; many of these cults may have had an origin at a certain point in time but changed drastically as they went on. This means it is not historically responsible to say, "this cult around this god started way back then so it must have influenced Christianity." One also must know when a certain belief arose within said cult. Scholars understand this fact and that is why we see very few bona fide scholars lining up to support these silly accusations; in fact (as is the case with Attis), they often directly refute such naïve notions.

Let me pause here and point out an inconsistency in Tim’s rebuttal: he says I can’t draw Witherington – a NT expert respected by both liberals and conservatives – into the debate and then he proceeds to cite Dennis McDonald as proof for his case! McDonald’s whole thesis is severely flawed so he resorts to literary wizardry to try and prove it. Here is my personal favorite: MacDonald says Jesus’ "casting his gaze" about at everything while in the Jerusalem Temple is a parallel to when Odysseus "ogled" some buildings while visiting a city. Seriously? McDonald also says although Mark "borrowed heavily" from Homer "readers for 2000 years apparently have been blind to this important aspect of Mark’s project." (The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark (2001), 6-7). This type of argumentation is tailor made for Internet conspiracy theorists but ill suited for the serious study of historical events.

A final point on the whole ‘Christianity utilized the dying and rising gods motif’ accusation. Even if there were true bodily resurrection parallels in pre-Christian religions – we have seen this is not the case – that in and of itself does not invalidate the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Don’t miss this point; it is key: even if there were similar stories prior to Jesus – which there were not – it in no way follows that his resurrection never took place. Lastly, a parallel – real or imagined – does not necessarily mean dependence.

RESURRECTION as CATALYST

Unfortunately for Tim’s case he did not address my third point, which was really a series of proofs to demonstrate the sea change that took place in the beliefs and practices of the first Jewish Christians. The question I posed was why did this happen if there was no resurrection? He declined to answer, save a denial: "I will just point out an inaccuracy: the early Christians were almost exclusively poor and downtrodden Gentiles and Hellenistic Jews, not established Jews." Many of the earliest Christians were nationalistic Jews, look at the disciples: Simon (not Peter) appears to have been a member of the Zealot Party Josephus mentions in Antiquities 18.1.6. Judas Iscariot may have had similar associations. Peter demonstrated a strong anti-Gentile bias that had to be corrected by a vision (Acts10.1-11.18) and the Apostle Paul (Gal2.11-21). Only 2 of the 12 (Andrew & Philip) went by Greek names. Tim is partially mischaracterizing the earliest followers of Jesus – they were not Hellenized to the extent he portrayed. The Apostolic Age (30-100 AD) is primarily characterized by its Jewishness and if Tim is claiming the earliest Christians weren’t practicing Jews in the first place so no real change occurred then he is at odds with most historians.

On a similar note, noted scholar R.H. Fuller pointed out, "Even the most skeptical historian has to postulate an ‘x’ … to account for the complete change in the behavior of the disciples…." (The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives (1972), 2). How do we account for the post-resurrection behavior of the disciples? How did they go from turncoats and cowards to bold proclaimers of a new faith? By all accounts, 10 of the 12 died as martyrs and proclaimed their belief in the resurrection of Jesus until the end. Who knowingly dies for a lie of this sort? Sometimes I hear people bring up Islamic terrorists as a counter example. The difference is the disciples were in a position to know whether they were lying about the resurrection; modern day Muslims are not.

Another tactic I sometimes hear used to evade this questions is "well, those accounts of their martyrdom are based on uncertain traditions." Even if we grant this point, we still must ask why the disciples would put themselves in a position to be killed for their proclamation? Even if Tim thinks we don’t know for sure how the disciples died, he still has to deal with the fact they willingly placed their lives in danger because of their new message. These last few considerations only further the case that the bodily resurrection of Jesus indeed happened … and it does not look as if Tim will be offering any real evidence to the contrary.

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About Kazz

My name is Shawn Esplin and I am an advocate of Free Thought and general good sense and thought in general. To that end, I encourage people to seriously question the things that they have been taught, especially as children, because many of these things - religious and secular - are taken on faith until we actively choose to seriously examine them for ourselves.

12 thoughts on “Resurrection Debate – Vocab’s Rebuttal to Tim’s Opening Statement

  1. Tim is not offering any real evidence to the contrary? Everything that has ever happened is evidence to the contrary. In all of history we have not a single indisputable instance of resurrection, or any other miracle. That leaves the burden of proof for this most unlikely of events squarely on its supporters.

    I have yet to see what Tim has to say about this, but I’m going to try to rip a bit of it down myself too. :) I’ll do one section at a time.

    THE CRITERION of EMBARRASSMENT

    You’re right that although this “criterion of embarrassment” only seems to be used by Christian apologists from what I’ve seen, that does not make it necessarily wrong, however, if it is only used by Christian apologists, then perhaps there are reasons that other people don’t use it? Reasons that other people would have for rejecting the concept, or giving it less weight than you do? Considering how many historians there are/have been in the world, I do have to question why others would not use it if it were actually useful in finding the truth in ancient documents.

    Next you claim that The Infancy Gospel of Thomas is not reliable because it was written in the second century, but all of the gospels seem to be written at least several decades after the times they describe. Perhaps the infancy gospel is even less reliable than the others, but not one of the gospels is likely to have been written by any eye-witness to these supposed events.

    It’s like someone in the late 19th century writing stories they heard about the American Civil War, mostly using what they may well believe to be true stories, but also bringing their own agenda which undoubtedly alters the final product from even the stories they were told to begin with. We are comparing that to someone in recent history writing about the same war. We still have a lot of stories and evidence from the time, and a good scholar could put together a book as good as or better than one written only decades after the events.

    That’s not to say we should trust the infancy gospel more, or even as much, just to say that it is not reasonable to accept a certain set of the earliest gospels as absolutely correct in every way, or to completely discount later writings which may potentially be as accurate or even more accurate.

    Most likely though, they are all best understood on a line going from the original stories (probably orally transmitted) or events, through less reliable early gospels and other writings, and then even less reliable later writings, but the difference in credibility between them may be smaller than you’d like to think.

    LUKE’S RELIABILITY

    Not knowing well the quality of the writings of most ancient historians, I can’t fairly judge this against them, but I can say that I am not terribly impressed by the accurate naming of cities and countries in the region.

    I would expect most people living in Phoenix, Arizona to know that the city of Tucson is south of us, and the country of Mexico is below that, California is to the west, etc. They would also be likely to know or be able to find out about local historical events, and major events in the region.

    I don’t think that does much to validate any claims about specific unknown characters or extremely unlikely events.

    If I said that back in May of 1942 World War II, the Gila River Relocation Center was opened on Pim-Maricopa Indian land which had been leased by the government, and was used to house American citizens of Japanese descent for nearly 4 years, and then Godzilla destroyed the camp and set the people free in February 1946, would you believe me?

    Of course nearly all of that is true, other than the part about Godzilla destroying the camp. The most convincing lies and unintentionally inaccurate stories are those that have a good dose of truth mixed in with the false information.

    It might make you more inclined to believe me if I said that they were all given monetary compensation for their unjustified incarceration upon their release (although that is not true), because it is at least something that makes sense and fits with what we know of reality, but even that I would expect you to question the validity of if other people claimed that it had not happened.

    Obviously, Godzilla destroying the camp would be more akin to a miracle, and is a much less trustworthy statement because it is much less likely to have happened.

    This is already getting long, so I’ll come back and answer the other sections later. Until then, any thoughts?

  2. DID GREEK MYTHS INFLUENCE THE GOSPELS?

    Don’t miss this point; it is key: even if there were similar stories prior to Jesus – which there were not – it in no way follows that his resurrection never took place. Lastly, a parallel – real or imagined – does not necessarily mean dependence.

    You are right about all of that (except that there were not similar stories before), but it cuts both ways. Even if there *weren’t* similar stories prior to Jesus, it in no way follows that his resurrection took place.

    I don’t think that there has ever been a story before about a bot fly that emerged from Abraham Lincoln as he finished writing the Emancipation Proclamation, who had been given a mission to deposit its larvae in the heads of people all over the south in an attempt to take over their minds and facilitate the freeing of the slaves.

    It is a bizarre story, but it may even have some explanatory power if some slave owners’ behavior was incongruous with the majority at that time. Still, there is not a bit of truth in it.

    As for parallels not meaning dependence, that is true too, but it does make you question where these things came from and why they started.

    If as you say several other religions adopted certain aspects of Christianity at some point, do we know why they did it or where they got the ideas? It’s possible that they just liked the ideas and took them from Christianity, or that they took them from an older source (which Christianity may also have used), or they could have come up with them entirely independently, possibly because the ideas were popular at the time.

    Things like heroes, miraculous events of all kinds and various types of afterlives have all been perennially popular ideas. Even if you believe that Christianity has a very unique spin on these, there is no reason to believe that it is anything but another attempt to answer the same questions and fill the same kinds of roles in people’s lives that most other religions fill.

    So even if you could prove that the story of Jesus was fairly novel, it would gain you very little.

    If you really think that it is though, maybe you should see some of what Justin Martyr had to say about it in his first apology?

    For in saying that all things were made in this beautiful order by God, what do we seem to say more than Plato? When we teach a general con- flagration, what do we teach more than the Stoics ? When we assert departed souls to be in a state of sensibility, and the wicked to be in torments, but the good free from pain and in a blissful condition, we assert no more than your poets and philosophers. By opposing the worship of the works of men’s hands, we concur with Menander the comedian, and such as affirm the workman to be greater than his work ; and by declaring the Logos, the First-begotten of God, our Master Jesus Christ, to be born of a Virgin without any human mixture, and to be crucified and dead, and to have rose again and ascended into heaven, we say no more in this than what you say of those whom you style the sons of Jove.

    As for the virgin birth, a few paragraphs later Justin says:

    As to His being born of a Virgin, you have your Perseus to balance that;

    From what I saw, it looks as though Perseus’s mother was miraculously impregnated by a god. I’m guessing that Justin Martyr had a pretty good idea of the story, maybe even better than we do today, and saw it as another virgin birth story.

    Essentially this whole section shows a long list of beliefs already held by the pagans that Justin was trying to convert, and lays out there are close parallels between a large number of them and the stories of Jesus.

    Again, I think that all of this is fairly inconsequential, but since so many people make a big deal out of it, I guess it’s worth discussing a bit.

  3. Kazz –

    There is a lot here. One thing that may help are some comments by a blogger named ‘philwynk’ who made a response to Tim at the other site this debate is being hosted on:

    +++++
    HIS COMMENTS BEGIN HERE…

    “The ‘embarrassment’ criterion is used in every field where oral testimony is evaluated, including courtroom testimony. It is not absolute proof, and cannot overcome dispositive contrary facts (like ‘the witness was not alive when the event took place’) but is used to buttress the believability of an account that meets most other criteria.”

    “It’s well-understood that witnesses almost never supply details embarrassing to themselves unless they’re telling the truth. The converse is not true at all, because all witnesses, both truthful and deceitful, supply details that might be helpful to them, there being no incentive to omit such details.”

    “And ‘embarrassing to the movement’ is not the same as ‘embarrassing to the witness’; testimony that is embarrassing to the movement may suggest that the testimony was not manufactured as part of a conspiracy to build the movement, but does not support the credibility of the witness beyond that.”
    +++++
    HIS COMMENTS END …
    Please note, paragraph breaks are mine …

    vm

  4. Perseus’ mother was locked away in a tower by her father to prevent her from bearing any children because her offspring was fated to slay her father

    But Zeus was taken by her great beauty and infiltrated the tower as what the Roman poet Ovid described as “a shower of gold” into her lap and impregnated her. Metamorphoses, Bk. IV:604-662.

    According to Sophocles, the conception was the result of “a deposit of the seed of Zeus that had fallen in a golden rain.” Antigone, 944.

    Notably, the Greek historian Herodotus is aware of the account, but does not consider it historical, alluding to Perseus’ parnetage but “leaving the god out of account.” The Histories, Bk. VI.53.

    Source: http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2009/01/distinguished-birth-virgin-birth-and.html

    In his Dialogue with Trypho (66) Justin says:

    …in the fables of those who are called Greeks, it is written that Perseus was begotten of Danae, who was a virgin; he who was called among them Zeus having descended on her in the form of a golden shower.

    Note, Justin specifically calls it a FABLE.

  5. Well, Justin is almost certainly right :-) What’s your point?
    I hope it isn’t anything along these lines:

    1) Event X never happened

    2) I can find a source, Y, that says that Event X never happened.

    3) I can also find another source, Z, that says that another event, Event W, actually happened.

    4) Therefore, Event W actually happened.

    The fallacy of that argument leaps off the page.

  6. To Tim and Kazz …

    If it was so obvious that the Gospel writers just remixed various Greek and Persian myths, then why was Justin working so hard to try to convince the pagans to whom he was writing that there were parallels and precedents?

    The context of Justin’s apologies and dialogues was in a time of fierce persecution to which he eventually fell victim – ‘Martyr’ is an honorific title, not a last name. Justin was scouring all ancient myths to try to find any scant precedent he could for anything the Christians believed (kinda like many Internet atheists do today) in order to get the Roman government at the time to stop killing Christians. In fact, Justin even wrote a letter to the emperor.

    But guess what – the Romans never bought it because they knew better. They viewed Christianity for what it was – a unique, exclusivist and ultimately subversive belief system based upon a man who died as an executed criminal for sedition.

    So you have to ask yourself: why did Justin and thousands of other Christians before Constantine legalized Christianity have to die when no one was hunting down the followers of Zeus; it just does not compute if they were all the same story … perhaps there was something decidedly different about what this ‘mischievous superstition’???

    vm

  7. If it was so obvious that the Gospel writers just remixed various Greek and Persian myths, then why was Justin working so hard to try to convince the pagans to whom he was writing that there were parallels and precedents?

    Basically he was just saying “Look, my beliefs are no more silly than yours!” I agree, but I think they were all silly. You also said that he called it a “fable”, and that’s fine, I never thought that he believed it was true, just that he saw it as another story of a virgin birth, similar to Jesus’s.

    I don’t know that it was “obvious that the Gospel writers just remixed various Greek and Persian myths”, I think it was more that there were a great many mythical figures and even more stories about them, and the stories of Christianity, while possibly unique on some respects, came from the same times and region and hence it is bound to share ideas with the others.

    why did Justin and thousands of other Christians before Constantine legalized Christianity have to die when no one was hunting down the followers of Zeus; it just does not compute if they were all the same story … perhaps there was something decidedly different about what this ‘mischievous superstition’???

    Why exactly would we expect Romans to kill people who worshipped Zeus (actually Jove/Jupiter…Zeus is the Greek name), who was one of their own gods…? One of Zeus’s sons being born of a virgin would do nothing to cause persecution of people who believed in him, just like Jesus being born of a virgin probably had little or nothing to do with Christian persecution.

    Anyway, I never said that the stories of Jesus and Zeus were the same, simply that there are very close parallels to the story of Jesus to be found in various other myths.

    Also, from what I know the persecution of Christians in the Roman empire had little or nothing to do with whether or not Christianity was true or false. Just like Constantine’s acceptance of Christianity, it was probably all done for political reasons.

    I don’t believe for a second that they were killing Christians because they believed that the Christians were right and just didn’t like it.

    By the way, I do think that if a group of people had built up a set of myths around a Roman god, had started exclusively worshipping him or her, and had begun to cause political trouble, especially if they were basing it on their religious myths, that group would likely have been persecuted as well.

    I know that I sad a lot above, but does anyone want to attempt to respond in more detail to some of it?

    Do you think I’m wrong in believing for example that the “canonical” gospels should not necessarily be seen as more accurate than some of the apocrypha? Or that local geographical knowledge is not enough to make Luke’s supernatural claims credible?

  8. Quite a few strawmen here. Let’s take a look:

    “If it was so obvious that the Gospel writers just remixed various Greek and Persian myths, then why was Justin working so hard to try to convince the pagans to whom he was writing that there were parallels and precedents?”

    You are implicitly crediting us with stating that Christianity was created by someone picking and choosing bits and pieces from fully-formed and static Greek and Persian religions (maybe even with intent and forethought, as if playing a cruel hoax). I don’t think anyone, ever, has seriously suggested that is what happened. That is a massive caricature of how religions are formed. Even provably manufactured religions like Scientology aren’t formed like that.

    However, an equally insane caricature of religion-forming is pretending that no concepts or ideas can make their way into a new creed. Since every religion I know of has something to say about what happens after death, that would imply that each religion would have had to invent these ideas from absolute scratch. They don’t.

    Ideas come first. They float around in the public discourse, told, re-told, finessed, nuanced, explained and so forth. Some of these ideas get absorbed into a forming religion. I am willing to bet that the concept of eternal life was around before the greek and persian myths came to talk about this.

    In this debate, I have tried to make Vocab place the same analytical filter of the formation of Christianity as you automatically place over the formation of any other religion – i.e. where did the ideas come from, when and where did it all start, who were the early converts etc etc. These are good questions to ask of any religion. Sadly, his answer seems to be “well, EITHER Christianity was articifially constructed, OR Christianity is entirely true”. The excluded middle here is painfully obvious, and even though we are in agreement that it was not constructed, we do not agree that it implies that it is true.

    “the Romans never bought it because they knew better”.

    Gigantic assumption alert! I don’t need to spell out how a rejection of any claim can be based on any number of things besides having the facts to disprove it. Or maybe you’d like to explain why muslims reject the resurrection of Jesus, why flat-earthers reject the evidence for a spherical Earth and so on? In the more specific case of a government rejecting a belief system that ran counter to the official religion and which they deemed could be subversive enough to suppress – hey presto! Modern rejection of Christianity by Islamic nations as well as ancient rejection of the same by Rome. Apparently, access to the facts doesn’t seem to matter much.

    To break this argument down even further: “A claimed B was false. C didn’t accept this claim. Therefore, B is factually true.” Doesn’t work.

    “it just does not compute if they were all the same story”

    There’s that first fallacious assumption again. They’re NOT the same story, but they have the same ROOTS. Nazism and Stalinism demonstrably have exactly the same roots in the 19th century of how to make life better for everyone. That did not stop them killing each other in the millions none the less, even though the roots were only 100 years away. Put the roots several centuries away, and you get a situation like Islam and Christianity, both obviously derived from Judaism and that does not stop them killing each other in the millions none the less. Most Christians and Muslims know perfectly well of their shared heritage and it still doesn’t make a blind bit of difference.

    Your argument stops working the very second the people pushing the ideas lose interest of the significance of the shared roots. That happens a lot quicker than you’d think, in particular in cultures with minimal written records.

  9. Also, this whole sub-debate is an interesting little artifact on how apologetics work.
    Vocab is using the fact that Justin found pagan parallels to Christianity as evidence that Christianity is true. But if Justin instead had written, “gee, I’ve been looking and looking and asked everyone, but I can’t find a single pagan parallel to anything in Christianity”, that too would be used as evidence that Christianity is true, even though it is the exact opposite.

    It’s the old “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” thing. If you start with the assumption that Christianity MUST be true, then obviously every true fact must in some way back up this assumption. This is an interesting example of exactly that effect.

    (This basic assumption is made maybe even for very good personal reasons – I know that many Christians have such a strong feeling of personal connection to Jesus that it seems absurd to them to even imagine that he didn’t exist and was answering their prayers. I find that particular aspect of theism quite interesting because it can make the debate/rational/evidence side of arguing for a religion into nothing more than a veneer that must be presented in order to appear rational to non-believers.)

  10. I must correct Kazz on a few things.

    Kazz said, “I think it was more that there were a great many mythical figures and even more stories about them, and the stories of Christianity, while possibly unique on some respects, came from the same times and region and hence it is bound to share ideas with the others.”

    Christianity did *not* come from the same region as the fables Kazz mentioned. Can anyone name any other specifically JEWISH myths which they think influenced Christianity? If not, the word region should be dropped unless you are counting the whole Middle East! But usually the Christ-Myth crowd mention Greco-Roman deities as their primary candidates – these did not originate in Israel.

    Kazz said, “Also, from what I know the persecution of Christians in the Roman empire had little or nothing to do with whether or not Christianity was true or false. Just like Constantine’s acceptance of Christianity, it was probably all done for political reasons.”

    What exactly were the political reasons that Romans persecuted the Christians, then? Please share …

    Kazz said, “I don’t believe for a second that they were killing Christians because they believed that the Christians were right and just didn’t like it.”

    Neither do I and I never suggested such a thing. So why in the world is Kazz even saying this? Can anyone ever show where I said that the Romans persecuted Christians because they thought it was a true religion?

    Kazz, “By the way, I do think that if a group of people had built up a set of myths around a Roman god, had started exclusively worshipping him or her, and had begun to cause political trouble, especially if they were basing it on their religious myths, that group would likely have been persecuted as well.”

    Is anyone else wondering why Kazz thinks this? I wonder if he can cite an example or give his reasons why he think this?

    Kazz said, “Do you think I’m wrong in believing for example that the “canonical” gospels should not necessarily be seen as more accurate than some of the apocrypha? Or that local geographical knowledge is not enough to make Luke’s supernatural claims credible?”

    Why did Kazz put canonical is quotation marks? After all, they are part of the canon! Further, the Apocrypha has nothing to do with the Gospels – those books are usually seen (by the groups that accept it) as an appendix to the Old Testament, they have nothing to do with the NT since they were penned in the inter-testamental period. A better parallel (still faulty) would be the so-called Gnostic texts dating from the late second and third centuries.

    Lastly, I never said the sole reason we should believe Luke’s miracle narratives is because he had strong local knowledge (btw, this is something the Gnostic gospels are completely lacking) – it is simply one more evidence of the painstaking accuracy of his work. The neat thing is we can test those claims – they act as sort of historical check marks – and Luke has been shown to pass the test in this area.

    There’s more but I’ll have to try and come back to it later …

    Vocab Malone

    PS – Kazz, will you be putting up the cross examination portion of the debate as well?

  11. I figure more discussion will pop off when the Cross Examination section comes but in the meantime let me comment on what Tim last said.

    Tim wrote, “I have tried to make Vocab place the same analytical filter of the formation of Christianity as you automatically place over the formation of any other religion …. Sadly, his answer seems to be “well, EITHER Christianity was articifially constructed, OR Christianity is entirely true”.

    This is not the case; I never even implied this. Something can be 100% original and still false! What I’ve done is show (via historical context) that Tim’s repeated assertions of Christianity as a rip-off faith is demonstrably false. This does not by default show Christianity is true, but it does show that Tim is wrong and hence his ‘rip-off’ charge is incorrect.

    Next, we have this formula by Tim: “To break this argument down even further: “A claimed B was false. C didn’t accept this claim. Therefore, B is factually true.” Doesn’t work.”

    Does anyone have any idea what he is saying here? Is he actually responding to something I said or a strawman version of one of my arguments? I have a sneaking suspicion it is the latter.

    Tim said, “They’re NOT the same story, but they have the same ROOTS.”

    Sigh … unfortunately, Tim is still repeating this failed claim even though he has not given us any real evidence and all of the evidence he has offered has been rather handily been shown to be incorrect.

    Tim wrote, “Vocab is using the fact that Justin found pagan parallels to Christianity as evidence that Christianity is true.”

    NO! This is not something I ever put forth. If I have written that unclear, then I apologize.

    Tim wrote, “Also, this whole sub-debate is an interesting little artifact on how apologetics work. … if Justin instead had written, “gee, I’ve been looking and looking and asked everyone, but I can’t find a single pagan parallel to anything in Christianity”, that too would be used as evidence that Christianity is true, even though it is the exact opposite.”

    Translation: Vocab will lie to prove his point because he doesn’t care about the truth.

    Tim said, “I find that particular aspect of theism quite interesting because it can make the debate/rational/evidence side of arguing for a religion into nothing more than a veneer that must be presented in order to appear rational to non-believers.”

    My main goal is not to appear rational to non-believers. What exactly would that accomplish? My main aim is to properly represent the truth and refute claims contrary to the truth.

    This does not mean I think I personally can answer every question or have some flashy answer to every objection – but at the same time, I have looked deeply into these issues and believe I have something to say relevant to the topic at hand.

    vM

  12. Christianity did *not* come from the same region as the fables Kazz mentioned.

    Are you serious? The new testament is written in Greek! Of course the Jews had their own myths, as seen in the writings you accept into your bible and many others, but you’re acting as if they were a pristine isolated group that was not influenced by other surrounding cultures, and that is blatantly untrue.

    What exactly were the political reasons that Romans persecuted the Christians, then? Please share …

    Why are you asking me? You answered it earlier yourself.

    “They viewed Christianity for what it was – a unique, exclusivist and ultimately subversive belief system based upon a man who died as an executed criminal for sedition.”

    I won’t pretend to know everything about the Roman government, but I do know that they did not like to be challenged, and a subversive group who put their religion above the Roman government would probably not be well received.

    Can anyone ever show where I said that the Romans persecuted Christians because they thought it was a true religion?

    You didn’t exactly say that, but it was a little unclear what you meant by this:

    “So you have to ask yourself: why did Justin and thousands of other Christians before Constantine legalized Christianity have to die when no one was hunting down the followers of Zeus; it just does not compute if they were all the same story … perhaps there was something decidedly different about what this ‘mischievous superstition’???”

    What exactly is that supposed to mean? You’re saying that it is a different story, and that somehow made them want to destroy it. You could have been reiterating that it was a “unique, exclusivist and ultimately subversive belief system”, but you could also have meant that they thought there was a real supernatural power there that they had to fend off, and I was dismissing that idea, whether or not it was what you meant. I’m sorry if it seemed like I was putting words in your mouth.

    “By the way, I do think that if a group of people had built up a set of myths around a Roman god, had started exclusively worshipping him or her, and had begun to cause political trouble, especially if they were basing it on their religious myths, that group would likely have been persecuted as well.”

    Is anyone else wondering why Kazz thinks this? I wonder if he can cite an example or give his reasons why he think this?

    Well, although I didn’t know about this before and I was just basing it on what I know of how the Roman government generally thought and worked, the suppression of the Bacchus cult in 186 BCE is a good reason to believe this. This doesn’t seem to be the only incident either, but it is reasonably well documented, although I still wonder how much violence was necessary to get rid of it.

    Plus it doesn’t even sound like this cult was causing all that much trouble, it was just seen as subversive and threatening to Rome, so it was removed.

    Why did Kazz put canonical is quotation marks? After all, they are part of the canon!

    Perhaps it was not the best way to express it, but I see no reason to accept your particular list of books as “the canon”. Particularly in early Christian history, there were many different books seen as just as valid, or more valid than, the ones you believe in. Most alternative views of Jesus were eradicated long ago, often by the sword, but even today there are Christians in the world who accept different books than you do. There are at least 20 other books that protestants see as apocryphal which are included in the modern bibles of other Christian sects. We can only guess at how many were accepted by the many sects that are long gone.

    Therefore, your “canonical gospels” are simply that. Yours.

    Further, the Apocrypha has nothing to do with the Gospels…A better parallel (still faulty) would be the so-called Gnostic texts dating from the late second and third centuries.

    Apocrypha: biblical or related writings not forming part of the accepted canon of Scripture.

    I was actually talking more about the Gnostic texts and other biblical rejects, some of which are possibly as old or nearly as old as the gospels you accept. As I’ve said before though, I don’t think that a book written 60 years after an event or the first telling of a story is necessarily more accurate than one written 160 years after.

    The earlier writings are likely to be more accurate, but to say that they are absolutely perfectly true and that the later ones are almost completely false is a bit ridiculous.

    Lastly, I never said the sole reason we should believe Luke’s miracle narratives is because he had strong local knowledge (btw, this is something the Gnostic gospels are completely lacking) – it is simply one more evidence of the painstaking accuracy of his work. The neat thing is we can test those claims – they act as sort of historical check marks – and Luke has been shown to pass the test in this area.

    He passes the test, huh?

    So is the distance from Jerusalem to Emmaus accurate at 60 stadia, as appears to have been originally in Luke 24:13, or at 160 stadia, which it was changed in many early copies in an attempt to make it match up with Nicopolis, which actually existed? Or maybe those copies based on the Codex Palatinus have it correct at 7 stadia?

    If you do believe that it was 160 stadia (about 19.5 miles), how do you think that they walked nearly 20 miles, ate dinner and then walked another 20 miles back that same night in time to tell the apostles what had happened?

    If not, then where is this place? Why couldn’t they find anywhere better than Nicopolis to claim as Emmaus even in the very early days?

    Or perhaps the name Oulammaus instead of Emmaus, as found in the Codex Bezae is the original version? Perhaps it was not meant to be seen as a real place at all, but simply as a story paralleling Jacob’s meeting with YHWH at “Oulammaus” (strange Greek translation of Hebrew “Luz” found in the Septuagint).

    Here is a lot more on the subject, and there are other sources too.

    About the Gnostic gospels, the Gnostics were much more interested in the teachings of Jesus…the gnosis (knowledge) that they believed he brought to help those of us with a spark of the divine escape and transcend this world. I’m not sure about the local knowledge they had, but it was not the important thing to them. They did not want a physical resurrection, they wanted to leave their bodies behind and go back to where they came from!

    Anyway, I know you didn’t say that was the sole reason we should believe Luke’s stories, but you do hold it up as if it’s an important element of proving the truth of the entire thing. If those facts were all wrong, it would do a lot to undermine his credibility, but even if they are (mostly) accurate, it does nothing to bolster supernatural claims.

    If he gave the location of Hell and we were able to verify that, that would be something…but the location of a country in the region he lived in? That only shows that he can listen or read, or has travelled. None of those are quite supernatural feats.

    …and yes, I will be posting the entire thing. I’ll probably post the next part tonight.

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