Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Quote: Liars Make Poor Martyrs

"The disciples' willingness to suffer and die for their beliefs indicates that they certainly regarded those beliefs as true. The case is strong that they did not willfully lie about the appearances of the risen Jesus. Liars make poor martyrs."

- Gary Habermas & Michael Licona (The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, p. 59)

68 comments :

Glenn Hendrickson said...

nice!

Chad said...

I recommend the book this quote comes from to both believer and non-believer.

Habermas and Licona present an outstanding, factual manner in which to share Christ with others.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Of course they didn't lie. The apologist is often guilty of the "either-or" fallacy. Either the disciples lied or Jesus rose bodily. Its not that simple. Its possible they believed they saw the risen Christ without actually seeing him. Ever heard of a vision?

Muslim terrorists die for their beliefs today. Does that make their beliefs true? No, it only means they sincerely believe them.

Brian said...

Hi Ken.
So would your view be that the disciples all had visions or hallucinations?

bossmanham said...

Ken, as Habermas and Licona say, "The case is strong that they did not willfully lie about the appearances of the risen Jesus." They are clearly not saying that either they lied or it is fool proof evidence of the resurrection. No either-or fallacy occurred. The other possibilities (such as the one Brian brings up) are extremely implausible. To get all those people, more than 500, to all have the same vision or hallucination would take some wonder drug, ie extremely implausible.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Brian and Bossman,

I am not certain what happened (and neither should you be) but I would go with a naturalistic explanation before I would a supernatural one. I would argue that a supernatural explanation is the lazy man's answer. For example, in science, when trying to discover why earthquakes happen, it would be easier and involve much less study or work to just say, Goddidit. And in fact that is what primitive folks believed for millennia. Today, we realize that so many things that appeared to be supernatural to primitive peoples can really be explained naturally. Therefore, I conclude that the best answer to why the disciples believed Jesus had risen from the dead will be a naturalistic one not a supernaturalistic one. Just about any naturalistic scenario, I think, is more likely to be true than the explanation that Goddidit

As for the 500, you accept that as true because its in the book that you have presupposed is divine and inerrant. I don't accept that presupposition. I think its very unlikely that 500 people saw the risen Jesus. Even if they did, however, we know that large groups of people have claimed to see the virgin Mary at one time. Do you accept those as valid?

Brian said...

Ken,

I also prefer natural explanations to supernatural ones. All we have posited here is that the disciples were not lying.

Isn't using a "goddidit" label strawmanning my position? Or is this a sort of appeal to ridicule? Let's not use labels.

I don't accept the 500 as true based on a presupposition of inerrancy. But let's stick to one topic - the disciples belief. What was it based on?

Do you mean to imply by your answer that you believe the disciples saw visions or hallucinations?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Brian,

I think its more likely they saw visions than that Jesus rose from the dead bodily. We know that people have and do see visions but we don't know that anyone comes back from the dead.

Brian said...

We know of lots of unlikely things that actually happen. But comparing likelihood does not explain historical data... such as the severe shortcomings in suggesting that all the disciples hallucinated or had visions of the same thing, and that this happened over the course of various times, locations, and groups of people.

How many people, after having seen visions or hallucinating, then go on to their deaths for their visions and hallucinations? And how many times do people have multiple hallucinations and visions of the same thing, at the same time, in different locations?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Brian,

I think your error lies in thinking that the reports as we have them in the gospels are completely accurate. If you were to think, as I do, that these stories were embellished and expanded before they were ever written down, then you would see my point.

Brian said...

At what point in our discussion have I required the complete accuracy of any document? Can you point me to any good reasons to believe that the disciples were lying about what they thought they saw?

What historical data do you have to compel me to believe that the disciples hallucinated or had multiple visions?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Brian,

sorry I thought you were an evangelical and believed in the inerrancy of Scripture. If you don't, then you should have a lot less problem accepting what I am saying.

Again, I don't think the disciples were lying. I said that in my first comment. People who have visions really believe them. This happens all of the time and was even more prominent in ancient times.

Brian said...

Ken,

You are importing a lot of assumptions into the discussion, I think.

Are you going to answer the questions about the hallucinations and visions? You still have given me no good reasons to believe that the disciples saw hallucinations and visions.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Brian,

Again we know that people have experienced visions. There are reports of it in ancient times and today. What we don't know is that people rise from the dead. Therefore, I think its more likely that the disciples had visions than it is that Jesus rose from the dead.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Brian,

Have you read this book?

Visions of Jesus: Direct Encounters from the New Testament to Today by Philip Wiebe

Brian said...

Ken,

No, I haven't read that book. Have you? It is besides the point if you think people see visions or not. What you have yet to answer is what evidence you have that the disciples were seeing visions and/or hallucinating (in some sort of multiple group and individual similar hallucinations) and were willing to die for them.

Can you provide me with reasons or historical evidence? And can you explain how Paul (a persecutor of Christians) and James (a skeptic) would have similar visions or hallucinations to cause them to be believers? Of course, there are other problems, but these are a few that need to be addressed for the "visions" explanation to actually sound remotely possible.

Yo said...

I can't help but say this; but, I think that it's a little insecure and/or quite pretentious to actually have "PhD" listed in your own username. Come on man.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Brian,

yes I have read the book and I would highly suggest it for any apologist who is going to try to defend the idea of a bodily resurrection.

Here is what you do seem to understand in what I am saying.

We know that people have visions.
We don't know that people rise from the dead (as a matter of fact everything we know points against it).
Therefore, based on what we know, its more likely that the disciples had visions than it is that Jesus rose from bodily from the dead.

Now, you want me to "prove" historically that the disciples had visions and that they were willing to die for them. That is beyond the scope of a comment section but I would be glad to discuss it with you in detail by email if you prefer.

Jamie Pellew said...

Hi Ken,

First the premise of the quote was that people who lie do not make good martyrs, as they know the truth, and thus know they would be dying for a lie.

You said that you would prefer a naturalistic explanation over a supernatural one. This argument needs to be seperated again into sub categories. First I would ask you what sort of a naturalistic explanation you are referring to. Are you clinging to the ideas that Jesus was either not fully dead, or that His body was stolen? I would hope not, as this is and has been easily refuted for some time now, which part of the refutation is my second point.

The 2nd sub-category would be the empty tomb. You are still faced with an empty tomb, whether or not you believe it was a literal resurrection or some mass vision. The fact that Jesus was buried buy a member of the Jewish sanhedrein is an embarrasing fact for the Christian church. Joseph of Arimathea would have been widely known so that the chances of him being fictional is extremely improbable.

Moreover, the tomb would have been well known also, so that if Jesus did not physically rise from the dead, the members of the council which convicted Jesus could have gone to the tomb, and taken His body out, wheeled Him around the city for all to see, and would have driven the death blow into the heart of the Christian faith. With as worried as they were about Jesus and His followers, including Pilate, I tend to think this would have been there exact actions.

The earliest accounts we have of the resurrection hypothesis date to within 5 years after the resurrection, and some say 18 months after only, so as far as your argument of embelishment is conerned, there simply is not enough time to have passed for the story to become distorted, and again I would mention the empty tomb.

Another point I would refer to is the fact that His women followers were the first to see the empty tomb. This story, had it been embellashed as you assert, would surely not have continued to use the story that His women followers were the first at the empty tomb, since the Jewish Historian Josephus tells as that women were regarded as not reliable. So much in fact that they were not even allowed to testify in court, as their accounts were automatically discredited due to there gender.

As far as your insinuating that these were more likely visions or some sort of hallucination, I would first point out that usually people do not experience the same sort of vision. Jesus we find appeared more than 10 times not in some sort of vision to His followers, but bodily. Thomas himself is recorded as touching the wounds of Jesus.

Morover, we have independent attestation of these appearences not just from the followers of Jesus, but skeptics, as well as enemies. This is exactly what you would want of you were trying to research a historical event. One of the gospels even mentions that not all were convinced and were even skeptical after Jesus appeared to them after His death, and this is simply not what you would expect had this not been a bodily ressurection.

Lastly I would say please look at what Paul says, which is that if Christ be not raised from the dead, then we as Christians are to be pittied more than all men, as our faith is in vain! If Christ did not raise from the dead then Jesus was not the Son of God as He certainly claimed to be.

You say that it is more unlikely for a supernatural ressurection to occur on the basis of what we know about the natural order of things. But your setting up an argument that is circular. You say Jesus couldn't have rose because people cannot rise from the dead, yet you say convince me of a supernatural event.

For a natural ressurection to occur would not be possible. It had to be a supernatural event. God raising Jesus from the dead was His vindication of His Son. This was telling the world that the radical claims Jesus made were true.

I would recommend highly looking into William Lane Craigs writing on this issue.

Thanks,

Brian said...

I would recommend N.T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God to make a case that anything other than a bodily resurrection in the first century would have been absolutely out of the question.

We know that people have visions
But you have given me no good reasons to think that multiple disciples saw multiple similar visions at various times and places, both men and women, individually and in groups, and that they all believed it to the point of being willing to die for it. Nor have you explained how this would not be simply disproven by the Jews or Romans going to fetch Jesus' dead body from the tomb.

We don't know that people rise from the dead
Seems like you are ruling out a priori from evidence anything that could suggest this was the case. The question is what evidence do we have that Jesus rose from the dead?

its more likely that the disciples had visions than it is that Jesus rose from bodily from the dead
As I have already pointed out, the likelihood of an event doesn't rule it out. We do know of many unlikely things that have happened and that do happen. In addition, we don't do history by isolating and comparing two possible events and going with the more likely one.

you want me to "prove" historically that the disciples had visions
No, I want you to give me some shred of evidence that would suggest that they had visions or hallucinations and some sort of good reason to think that multiple people can have group hallucinations at multiple times and places and all come to the same conclusion. I'm not asking you to "prove" anything. All I am asking for is why I should think that is even remotely possible.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Jamie,

Thanks. It sounds like you were just parroting Craig. Yes, I have read his literature. I also have listened to some of his debates. Frankly, I think Bart Ehrman demolished him in their debate.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Brian,

I have read NT Wright's book, at least the part dealing with the NT and church fathers. I also have read the book from the Greer-Heard Forum at New Orleans Seminary where he and Dominic Crossan dialogued over the resurrection. I am truly open to reading the best arguments on both sides. Now let me ask you, will you read The Empty Tomb, eds. Robert Price and Jeff Lowder and Resurrecting Jesus by Dale Allison? All of your questions above will be answered. I am open to debating the topic with you but I doubt this comment section is the appropriate place to do so.

Jamie Pellew said...

Ken,

Instead of insinuating that I "parroted" Craig, would you care to give any refutation of the lengthy list of arguments for the case laid out?

Bart Ehrman did ok against Craig, but refused as most do to debate the topic.

Have you listened to Craig destroy Dr. Borg? Even so, it does not make an argument valid or invalid. You have offered zero refutation to the points listed above, and I would say may argument stands.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Jamie,

Is it appropriate to try to debate this in a comment section? I would be happy to debate it with you and post all the material on my blog. We can do it by email. Send me an email and I will reply to it with my rebuttal. My email is:
pulliam@mail.com

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Jamie said: First the premise of the quote was that people who lie do not make good martyrs, as they know the truth, and thus know they would be dying for a lie.

You said that you would prefer a naturalistic explanation over a supernatural one. This argument needs to be seperated again into sub categories. First I would ask you what sort of a naturalistic explanation you are referring to. Are you clinging to the ideas that Jesus was either not fully dead, or that His body was stolen? I would hope not, as this is and has been easily refuted for some time now, which part of the refutation is my second point.

I think there are several possibilities. I am not certain which one is the best but I think they are all more likely than saying God did it. My reason is that there have been many things in the history of the world that man could not explain at the time and so the default position became, it must be a supernatural act . This was true of explanations for earthquakes, volcanoes, and many other natural disasters that today we recognize have a fully naturalistic explanation. It was also true for diseases such as leprosy or epilepsy. The Bible is replete with such examples and so are other writings from ancient history.

TO BE CONT.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

(PART 2)

So, as far as the "empty tomb" is concerned. First, how can we be certain there even was an empty tomb? The earliest written document about the resurrection, 1 Cor. 15, doesn't refer to it. It appears for the first time in Mark's gospel (ch. 16). It is then found in the other gospels, all of which we know relied upon Mark for much of their information. It is possible that Mark's insertion of an empty tomb into the story was a later embellishment of Christians and not part of the original Easter tradition. Richard Carrier in The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (pp. 155-97), makes some good arguments for this position. We can discuss them if you desire. One of his points is that Mark's gospel ends at 16:8 with the statement that the women did not tell anyone what they found. Why is that? It could be because people would wonder why they were just now hearing about an empty tomb thirty years after the fact. Mark's statement that the women did not tell anyone could have been a literary technique to preempt that objection.
Second, if we assume Mark's story is accurate and there was an empty tomb, then what is a possible explanation? Allow me to offer one (and there are others): a) Jesus was taken down off the cross and hurriedly buried before the beginning of the passover. We know that the Jews did not want a body hanging on the cross during the passover celebration. Its at least possible that Joseph of Arimathea was more concerned about that violation of Jewish law and custom than he was about the dignity of Jesus' body itself. Later Christians made Joseph out to be a secret follower of Jesus. I doubt that J of A was really a secret follower of Jesus because who belonged to the Sanhedrin. Why? Because it seems very likely then that Paul would have known him and would have mentioned his name somewhere in his writings. It also seems likely that someone in Acts would have mentioned that Jesus was buried in J of A's tomb which was now empty. It also seems likely that J of A would have been preaching in the book of Acts about the resurrection. It seems very unlikely that he would just simply disappear from the scene if he were really a follower of Jesus and would have known better than anyone that Jesus was truly dead. b) Sometime after the end of the Sabbath on Saturday evening, J of A had a change of heart for some reason (there are several possibilities here) and decided to move Jesus' body out of his family tomb and either into another tomb or to the criminal graveyard. c) When the women came back to the tomb on Sunday morning, they discovered it empty and jumped to the conclusion that Jesus had been raised.

TO BE CONT.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

PART THREE

Jamie said: The 2nd sub-category would be the empty tomb. You are still faced with an empty tomb, whether or not you believe it was a literal resurrection or some mass vision. The fact that Jesus was buried buy a member of the Jewish sanhedrein is an embarrasing fact for the Christian church. Joseph of Arimathea would have been widely known so that the chances of him being fictional is extremely improbable.
Note what I said above about J of A. If it really were his tomb and he knew that Jesus was really dead when he placed him there, he would have been the best witness for the resurrection and would have been employed all through the book of Acts and the rest of the NT as the star witness . Thus, I think its more likely to conclude that Mark or whoever edited the current version of Mark made him up years after the fact.

Jamie said: Moreover, the tomb would have been well known also, so that if Jesus did not physically rise from the dead, the members of the council which convicted Jesus could have gone to the tomb, and taken His body out, wheeled Him around the city for all to see, and would have driven the death blow into the heart of the Christian faith. With as worried as they were about Jesus and His followers, including Pilate, I tend to think this would have been there exact actions.
I see several problems here. First, you are assuming that the story as we have it in our current edition of Mark is 100% accurate. Second, you are assuming that the story of Jesus resurrection was of any great concern to the Jewish authorities. The disciples were not making much noise apparently about the resurrection until at least the Day of Pentecost, if we accept the testimony of the book of Acts. Third, the day of Pentecost would have been a good 50 days after his death. Do you really think his body would be identifiable at that time? All the flesh would have decomposed. They didn't have dental records or DNA like we do today to identify a decomposed corpse.

Jamie said: The earliest accounts we have of the resurrection hypothesis date to within 5 years after the resurrection, and some say 18 months after only, so as far as your argument of embelishment is concerned, there simply is not enough time to have passed for the story to become distorted, and again I would mention the empty tomb.
I would like to see the proof for your assertions. I highly doubt that Paul's writing in 1 Cor. 15 can be dated that early. In addition, we know that legends can develop pretty quickly. For example, the legend concerning the Roswell incident.

TO BE CONT.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

PART FOUR

Jamie said: Another point I would refer to is the fact that His women followers were the first to see the empty tomb. This story, had it been embellashed as you assert, would surely not have continued to use the story that His women followers were the first at the empty tomb, since the Jewish Historian Josephus tells as that women were regarded as not reliable. So much in fact that they were not even allowed to testify in court, as their accounts were automatically discredited due to there gender.
First, you are again assuming that the story recorded in Mark's gospel is 100% accurate and is literal history. Some have argued that the story inserted by Mark was never intended to be understood literally but was a metaphor. Second, it would fit in with Mark's motif of the Messianic Secretand/or reversal of expectation theme.

Jamie said: As far as your insinuating that these were more likely visions or some sort of hallucination, I would first point out that usually people do not experience the same sort of vision. Jesus we find appeared more than 10 times not in some sort of vision to His followers, but bodily. Thomas himself is recorded as touching the wounds of Jesus.
First, you are again assuming that the reports as we have them in the gospels are 100% accurate and record literal history. It is certainly possible to believe that the reports of Jesus appearing to groups as well as allowing Thomas to touch him are in fact much later embellishments to the tradition. Second, it is possible for a group of people to see a vision at the same time. We know this has happened many times when groups of people have claimed to see the Virgin Mary.

TO BE CONT.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

PART FIVE

Jamie said: First the premise of the quote was that people who lie do not make good martyrs, as they know the truth, and thus know they would be dying for a lie.
You said that you would prefer a naturalistic explanation over a supernatural one. This argument needs to be seperated again into sub categories. First I would ask you what sort of a naturalistic explanation you are referring to. Are you clinging to the ideas that Jesus was either not fully dead, or that His body was stolen? I would hope not, as this is and has been easily refuted for some time now, which part of the refutation is my second point.

I think there are several possibilities. I am not certain which one is the best but I think they are all more likely than saying God did it. My reason is that there have been many things in the history of the world that man could not explain at the time and so the default position became, it must be a supernatural act . This was true of explanations for earthquakes, volcanoes, and many other natural disasters that today we recognize have a fully naturalistic explanation. It was also true for diseases such as leprosy or epilepsy. The Bible is replete with such examples and so are other writings from ancient history.

Jamie said: Morover, we have independent attestation of these appearences not just from the followers of Jesus, but skeptics, as well as enemies. This is exactly what you would want of you were trying to research a historical event. One of the gospels even mentions that not all were convinced and were even skeptical after Jesus appeared to them after His death, and this is simply not what you would expect had this not been a bodily ressurection.

Once again you are assuming that the gospel records are 100% accurate and report literal history. I will grant to you that if that is true, then yes, Jesus really did rise from the dead bodily, but I don't think there is good reason to assume their accuracy. The fact is that outside of the canonical writings, we have no real evidence of Jesus' resurrection.

Jamie said: Lastly I would say please look at what Paul says, which is that if Christ be not raised from the dead, then we as Christians are to be pittied more than all men, as our faith is in vain! If Christ did not raise from the dead then Jesus was not the Son of God as He certainly claimed to be.
Yes, I would agree with Paul and thus, I have abandoned the Christian faith that I held for nearly 20 years.

TO BE CONT.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

PART SIX

Jamie said: You say that it is more unlikely for a supernatural ressurection to occur on the basis of what we know about the natural order of things. But your setting up an argument that is circular. You say Jesus couldn't have rose because people cannot rise from the dead, yet you say convince me of a supernatural event.

I am not saying that it is a priori impossible for miracles to occur. What I am saying is that based on what we know from experience, it is much more likely that there is a natural explanation for the belief in Jesus' resurrection than there is for the belief that he literally and bodily rose from the dead. We know that other things, such as the ones I have mentioned above, have happened before but what we don't know is that a person has ever been supernaturally raised from the dead. Historians go with the most probable explanation not the most improbable. Thus, I think its more likely to go with what we know has happened in the past than it is believe in something that we don't know has ever happened.

Jamie said: For a natural ressurection to occur would not be possible. It had to be a supernatural event. God raising Jesus from the dead was His vindication of His Son. This was telling the world that the radical claims Jesus made were true.

Yes, I know that is the theological explanation that Christians have given for the resurrection. As Ehrman said in his debate with Craig, its perfectly legitimate to believe in the resurrection based on theological grounds but it is not legitimate to believe in it based on historical grounds. If one wants to believe that Jesus rose bodily from the grave on the basis of faith , that is fine.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

The first half of part five was a repeat of part one. Sorry. Somehow when I cut and pasted, I made a mistake.

bossmanham said...

Ken, I don't want to speak for Brian, but I do see some things you said that I would like to address.

In response to Brian asking for some other theory than Jesus was not fully dead or the body was stolen you said:

I think there are several possibilities.

There are a lot of possibilities for a lot of things. It's logically possible that I could sprout wings and fly to Canada. The real question is are these alternative theories you mention plausible when you consider the available evidence? What are the chances that all of this evidence (change of the disciples, James, and Paul's beliefs, discovery of the empty tomb by women, inability of opponents to produce a body) would exist without a resurrection? Is it plausible to believe anything else when this evidence exists?

My reason is that there have been many things in the history of the world that man could not explain at the time and so the default position became, it must be a supernatural act

This has no weight in this discussion and is therefore irrelevant.

It was also true for diseases such as leprosy or epilepsy. The Bible is replete with such examples and so are other writings from ancient history.

You can't point to a place in the Bible where this is true. Leprosy isn't ever blamed on demons (if you bring up Mark 1:42, I am prepared to refute you) and there is no evidence that the case of the demon possessed boy was epilepsy. But all of this is a red herring anyway and doesn't deal with the case of the resurrection.

bossmanham said...

So, as far as the "empty tomb" is concerned. First, how can we be certain there even was an empty tomb? The earliest written document about the resurrection, 1 Cor. 15, doesn't refer to it. It appears for the first time in Mark's gospel (ch. 16).

What do you mean by certain? How can we be certain we aren't the old brain in the vats? We can be reasonably sure there was an empty tomb for the same reason (and even better reason) that we can be sure Alexander the great conquered the Persian empire. We have early independent accounts of the incident. The anti-Christians relied on the stolen body argument, and never claimed that the tomb wasn't empty. That is strong evidence that the body wasn't there.

As far as Paul's account, no Jew would mistake what he said for anything other than a bodily resurrection. As Craig points out "For in saying that Jesus died -- was buried -- was raised -- appeared, one automatically implies that the empty grave has been left behind" (http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/tomb2.html).

One of his points is that Mark's gospel ends at 16:8 with the statement that the women did not tell anyone what they found

Many think that the original ending of Mark was lost. But the women obviously did tell someone, because Mark wrote about it. And Paul presupposes the Markan account, showing that he and Mark were using the same source.

Second, if we assume Mark's story is accurate and there was an empty tomb, then what is a possible explanation? Allow me to offer one (and there are others)...

You're importing many speculations that don't have evidential support into your theory here. What is your justification for doing so?

b) Sometime after the end of the Sabbath on Saturday evening, J of A had a change of heart for some reason (there are several possibilities here) and decided to move Jesus' body out of his family tomb and either into another tomb or to the criminal graveyard.

This doesn't explain the guard posted there by Pilate, the anti-Christian accounts that the disciples stole the body, the public knowledge of Jesus' burial place, the postmortem appearances to the disciples and James and Paul. Plus, you have absolutely no evidence on which to base this theory. It's pure baseless speculation!

brian_g said...

Wow! A lot of discussion here. There's a lot of things I could say, but I'd like to respond to one thing in particular. Ken wrote:

"I would like to see the proof for your assertions. I highly doubt that Paul's writing in 1 Cor. 15 can be dated that early."

Scholars aren't dating the book of 1 Corinthians here, but the tradition(s) that Paul is using. Even atheists scholars like Gerd Luedemann recognize this. Also, I'm pretty sure Dale Allison mentioned that this passage contains early tradition in Resurrecting Jesus (which you recommended), although I don't think wrote more then a sentence or two about it, so maybe you missed it.
I was surprised that Bart Earman didn't seem to be aware of this in his debate with Craig, but as far as I can tell it's pretty widely accepted by scholars. The first part of the passaged from “That Christ” at least to the word “appeared” is thought to be an early Christian creed. (The only one I've found that disputes this is Price and he admits that that consensus is against him.) There is some dispute regarding the list of names (are they part of the creed?, were they added later?); however, even a majority of the Fellows at the Jesus Seminar acknowledged the list of witnesses could be dated within a few years after the crucification as well as the atheist biblical scholar Luedemann. Here's a quote from Luedemann: ”Conclusion: the formation of the appearance traditions mentioned in 1 Cor.15.3-8 falls into the time between 30 and 33 CE, because the appearance to Paul is the last of the appearances and cannot be dated after 33 CE.” (The Resurrection of Jesus, p. 38)

The reasons given that this is early tradition is the following:
1)Paul tells us that he received the tradition. (It's probable that he learned the creed when he first became a Christian.)
2)Paul tells us he's the last person Jesus appeared to making all the other appearances earlier. (Paul's conversion is dated to about 3 years after the crucification)
Non-pauline language
3)“according to the scriptures” – never used by Paul, but the phrase appears here twice
4)“the twelve” – nowhere else mentioned by Paul
5)“for our sins” – Paul preferred to talk about Jesus' death for “sin” as opposed to “sins”

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Brian_G,

Thanks. Yes I am aware that the early dating refers just to the tradition recorded in 1 Cor. 15:3-5. It is less certain if 15:4-6 can be included in the earliest form of the tradition. But that is another subject. If we are to accept Gal. 1 as reliable, then Paul did not meet with Peter and James until at least 3 years after the Damascus Road experience. If we date the Damascus experience to around 3 years after the death of Jesus, then it was at the earliest about 5 to 6 years after the death that Paul first heard this tradition.

Regardless, though, that is not my main issue with the 1 Cor. 15 passage. What I think is significant is that Paul uses the same word to refer to all of the appearances, ὤφθη (ophthe), the aorist passive indication of ὀπτάνομαι (optanomai) which means in the passive, " to allow one's self to be seen, to appear." He uses the same word to refer to his seeing the resurrected Christ as he does Peter, James, the twelve, and the 500. We know from Acts 9 and Acts 22 that when Paul saw Jesus it was of the nature of a vision. Paul apparently only saw a bright light. The other men with him did not have a clue what Paul was seeing.

My point is that Paul does not seem to make any distinction between the nature of his vision of Jesus and the nature of what Peter, James, the twelve and the 500 saw. Could it be that Paul believed in a spiritual resurrection and not necessarily a bodily one? Could it be that is also what Peter and the early disciples believed but later in the passing along of the stories, it became a physical resurrection? With a physical resurrection one needs an empty tomb and therefore you find one in Mark?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Bossman,

You say: There are a lot of possibilities for a lot of things. It's logically possible that I could sprout wings and fly to Canada. The real question is are these alternative theories you mention plausible when you consider the available evidence? What are the chances that all of this evidence (change of the disciples, James, and Paul's beliefs, discovery of the empty tomb by women, inability of opponents to produce a body) would exist without a resurrection? Is it plausible to believe anything else when this evidence exists?

First, if you think its logically possible for you to sprout wings and fly to Canada, then I can see why you so easily accept the supernatural explanation of Jesus being raised from the dead.

Second, I think all of the things you mention can be explained on a purely naturalistic level. I have given one such explanation already. Let me very briefly recap. Jesus was executed by the Romans. This was proof-positive in the Jewish mind of Second Temple Judaism that he could not be the Messiah. The disciples were despondent and discouraged. They begin to look back at the Hebrew scriptures to make sense of what they had experienced. One of the key elements in Daniel and also in Macabbees was that God would vindicate the martyrs by raising them from the dead. Someone then claimed that they saw Jesus alive. Others also began to have visions. These reports spread and were passed along by word of mouth. Sometime later, Paul has a vision. He becomes the theologian of the church. He writes his letters. Sometime later the gospels are written. By that time, the appearances of Jesus after his death were embellished to be more physical appearances. (Perhaps this was due to the rising influence of proto-Gnosticism which denied that Jesus had a material body). The idea of an empty tomb now becomes part of the tradition. The idea of a guard being placed at the tomb is added, the idea that the women saw the grave clothes, the idea in Matthew that the Jews paid the guards to say the body was stolen, the idea inMatthew 27:51-53 that other saints were also raised (this is a very interesting passage which is only found in Matthew's account. Why? Because as I mentioned earlier, the Jews had the concept that the martyrs were going to be raised in vindication. Its also impossible for me to believe that if these other resurrections took place, there would not have been some attestation to it in some other writing).

I think its very interesting that in the sermons in the book of Acts, while the disciples preach the resurrection, they do not say a word about the empty tomb. It seems that Peter would have said on the Day of Pentecost, "look folks, Jesus' tomb is empty, he was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea and when we went back on Sunday morning, he was gone. You can go over and look for yourself. You can go and ask J of A if what I am telling you is true.

You say that it is not relevant that in ancient history the default position for some unexplained phenomena was the supernatural. I believe its entirely relevant and explains why the idea that Jesus was raised from the dead became so popular. It would have a more difficult time gaining traction in today's world.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Bossman,

One other thought. Lets take the visions of Mary that people claim to have. Do you think some naturalistic explanation is more likely than a supernatural one? I think the same thing about the visions of Jesus after his death.

olan strickland said...

Ken, before you can disqualify the resurrection of Christ on a purely naturalistic explanation (philosophy) then you should easily be able to demonstrate that you are qualified to do so by giving a logical and naturalistic explanation for Nature that in no way violates empirical evidence but is actually validated by empirical evidence.

What's your theory and what's your evidence?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Olan,

So unless I can explain everything in the universe, then I have to accept the resurrection of Jesus as being literally true? How does that follow?

RD Miksa said...

Good Day Mr. Pulliam,

Reference this:

"Lets take the visions of Mary that people claim to have. Do you think some naturalistic explanation is more likely than a supernatural one? I think the same thing about the visions of Jesus after his death."

I love when my intellectual opponents make my point for me. As a Catholic, the apparitions (not visions) of Mary are factual and evidentiary, thus they not only destroy Naturalistic-Atheism, they also support Christ's resurrection by both proving the supernatural (I use the word, although I hate it, for the things that we currently consider "supernatural" are just as natural as we are) and supporting the claims of Christ due to the Christian content of the apparitions.

Take care,

RD Miksa
www.theargumentfromevolution.blogspot.com
www.radosmiksa.blogspot.com

olan strickland said...

Ken,

You don't have to explain everything in the universe, just its origin. But if you can't give a logical and naturalistic reason for the origin of Nature that does not violate logic and empirical evidence then you are not qualified to attempt to put forward evidence that would disqualify the resurrection.

The reason is obvious. Your theory of origins should be easily validated by empirical evidence but if it cannot then you are either more than willing to twist the evidence or subscribe to some form of faith, both of which would disqualify you and not the resurrection.

bossmanham said...

First, if you think its logically possible for you to sprout wings and fly to Canada, then I can see why you so easily accept the supernatural explanation of Jesus being raised from the dead.

Ken, for someone with a Ph. D. in theology, I would expect you to know the difference between logical and nomological possibilities. A logical possibility is a proposition that does not contain a logical contradiction. There is nothing logically contradictory in saying I could sprout wings and fly. I was using this to articulate a point.

Second, I think all of the things you mention can be explained on a purely naturalistic level.

The problem for the person who wants to explain the evidence by a purely naturalistic method is explaining all of the different pieces of evidence. You may be explain individual aspects of the evidence, but for your explanation to be a plausible model you must come up with a theory that explains all of the evidence together. The only theory that successfully accomplishes this is the one that the Bible describes and has been believed by Christians for 2000 years; that God raised Jesus from the dead.

All of the assertions you have provided are pure speculation. There is no historical evidence that would justify your assertions, and no reputable scholar would accept them as they are. Furthermore, you must assume that there are only naturalistic explanations for everything. What is the justification for that?

People who knew Jesus and had even witnessed His crucifixion would have still been alive even if we accept the liberal dates of the gospels. If these accounts were embellishments, the anti-Christians would not have resorted to the explanation that Jesus' body was stolen, which according to Matthew was the common response being given by the Jews at the time. Plus you have to be assuming that the writers of the gospels would have anticipated all of the historical research and the critique of their accounts that would be done on Jesus if they were embellishing, which is extremely implausible.

Lets take the visions of Mary that people claim to have. Do you think some naturalistic explanation is more likely than a supernatural one?

I normally do think naturalistic explanations are preferable and more likely than supernatural ones, unless the evidence does not allow that path.

bossmanham said...

The disciples were despondent and discouraged. They begin to look back at the Hebrew scriptures to make sense of what they had experienced. One of the key elements in Daniel and also in Macabbees was that God would vindicate the martyrs by raising them from the dead

But this resurrection was never until the end of the world. The thought that the Messiah would raise from the dead before anyone else was totally foreign to these Jewish people.

There would be no reason for them to salvage the reputation of one who was cursed by God (Galatians 3:13, Deut 21:23) by contriving a story of Him rising from the dead. There was no precedent for it.

bossmanham said...

So unless I can explain everything in the universe, then I have to accept the resurrection of Jesus as being literally true? How does that follow?

Your reason for rejecting the resurrection is because it is not a naturalistic explanation. You need to show why you are more justified in presupposing that the explanation has to be naturalistic when all the evidence better favors a supernatural explanation.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Olan,

I think scientist's explanation for the origin of the universe is certainly preferable over the mythology of ancient peoples. You accept science, I suppose, in just about every area except those where it contradicts your holy book. I imagine if you get sick, you go to the doctor and you follow whatever medical science says you need to do. If you need to get somewhere quick, you board an airplane and you accept what areonautical science says about lift, propulsion, etc. But if science offers a theory on how our present universe arose (and by the way, there could have been other universes before the big bang), you reject it out of hand because it disagrees with the ancient writings that you have presupposed must be of divine origin.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

R. D.,

At least you are consistent

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Bossman,

You say: The only theory that successfully accomplishes this is the one that the Bible describes and has been believed by Christians for 2000 years; that God raised Jesus from the dead.
.

Of course, if one begins with the assumption that the Bible is from God and without error, then yes, the only theory that will explain everything that the Bible says happened is the one that the Bible itself gives, namely Jesus rose from the dead. You are arguing in a circle.

I think my scenario explains how Christianity got started and how the events that are in the Bible got to be in the Bible all from a purely naturalistic viewpoint.

The standard apologetic argument that the Gospels must be 100% factual because eyewitnesses were still alive who would have disputed the claims is special pleading. They didn't have internet in those days. They didn't have telephones nor televisions. They didn't even have mail service. How do you suspect that whatever eyewitnesses may have still been alive some 30-40 years after the events would have been able to challenge the claims of the gospels? In addition, Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE and was under seige some time before that. Thousands of people were killed, the city burned, records destroyed, etc. Its also true that most people in that day were illiterate and ill equipped to dispute anything other than verbally.

As I pointed out on my blog, legends can develop pretty quickly even in our modern world with all of our modern forms of communication. How much easier was it for them to develop in the ancient world?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Bossman,

The scripture writers did think they were at the end of the world. They thought that Jesus' resurrection was the first fruits of the age to come and they thought it would be realized in their lifetimes. See Matt. 24:34; Acts 2:17; Gal. 4:4; 1 Thess. 4:4 ("we which are alive and remain"), Heb. 1:2; 2 Pet. 3:3; Jude 18). So I don't think N.T. Wright's argument here is sound.

Finally, I am taking a naturalistic explanation as the default position, which I bet you do too on just about every mysterious thing you hear about. If there is overwhelming evidence and reason to move beyond the default position to believe in a supernatural explanation, I am willing to do so. I just don't see the evidence, unless one begins by assuming that the gospels are inspired by God. Without that assumption at the beginning, everything crumbles.

olan strickland said...

Ken,

You say, I think scientist's explanation for the origin of the universe is certainly preferable over the mythology of ancient peoples.

LOL! How do you or scientists know that there is a God is a myth? This is the whole point Ken which you continue to dodge. If the origin of nature can be explained by natural causes then surely there would be overwhelming empirical evidence. However you and I both know that the empirical evidences of nature point to a Creator and not chance. This is precisely why you will not venture to try and explain the origin of nature - the evidence is against what you say and therefore your belief in chance is by "faith." And that sir, makes you disqualified to speak on the resurrection of Christ.

BTW, are there any scientists that reject evolution?

bossmanham said...

Of course, if one begins with the assumption that the Bible is from God and without error, then yes, the only theory that will explain everything that the Bible says happened is the one that the Bible itself gives, namely Jesus rose from the dead

It doesn't at all actually. This historical method only requires looking at the gospels as independent historical accunts of an historical narrative. The only other presuuposition reqired for the belief that God raised Jesus from the dead is that God does, in fact, exist. Biblical inerrancy and/or inspiration isn't even an issue here.

I think my scenario explains how Christianity got started and how the events that are in the Bible got to be in the Bible all from a purely naturalistic viewpoint

It doesn't. It lacks the explanatory power, explanatory scope, plausibility, lack of ad hoc-ness, accord with accepted beliefs, and superiority to rival hypotheses. It doesn't explain the origin of the disciples belief, for if the tomb wasn't empty they wouldn't believe. It doesn't explain the local following the movement garnered. It doesn't explain the sightings of Jesus by the groups of people said to have seen him in the tradition used by both Paul and the gospel writers (which is dated to within 5 years of Jesus' death). It is extremely ad-hoc, in that you come up with random explanations which you have given no reason to believe.

They didn't have internet in those days. They didn't have telephones nor televisions. They didn't even have mail service.

Completely irrelevant. The origin of the gospel and Pauline testimonies were oral to begin with. The movement started orally and grew so fast that the early Jews and Romans were unable to stem it. As a faith based on the resurrection of a man from the dead, if the body had been there then the movement would have ended when the body of Jesus was shown. But it didn't cause it wasn't.

How do you suspect that whatever eyewitnesses may have still been alive some 30-40 years after the events would have been able to challenge the claims of the gospels?

The fact that the movement existed for 30-40 years before the gopels were written, if we are to use liberal dating, is evidence for the resurrection. As Matthew stated, the Jewish response had already been concoted to explain the missing body. But what happened to the guards?

The scripture writers did think they were at the end of the world. They thought that Jesus' resurrection was the first fruits of the age to come and they thought it would be realized in their lifetimes.

That's pretty debateable in and of itself, since the gospel writers record parables indicating a long period before the return of Jesus (Matthew 25:14-30; Mark 13:33-37; etc). Second, even if they did think that, the idea of one being raised before everyone else was totally foreign to the Jews. The idea of the messiah being a suffering and dying person who would then rise from the dead to ascend back into heaven was completely un-Jewish.

I am taking a naturalistic explanation as the default position

Do you have a naturalistic explanation for the philosophical assumption that the only explanations that should be considered as default are naturalistic?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Olan,

there is overwehelming empirical evidence for evolution. Evolution however doesn't explain the ultimate origin of the universe. The fact is we don't know and may never know. Man is not content with the unknown. He wants an answer. Thus, your belief in God.

What I am told, is that we may be working off the wrong assumption when we think that the universe had to have a beginning. Yes, the big bang apparently happened around 13.7 billion years ago but what was before the big bang? Some scientists say there was a universe before that which had imploded upon itself. It could be that matter and energy are eternal. Makes as much sense as presupposing a supernatural being that is eternal.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Bossman,

You say: historical method only requires looking at the gospels as independent historical accunts of an historical narrative . First, the gospels are not 4 independent sources. NT scholars agree that Matthew and Luke rely heavily upon Mark. John may have as well although he totally rewords things (as opposed to plagiarizing which Matthew and Luke do). At best you have two sources. Second, you are assuming that the gospels were written by eyewitnesses when in fact they are anonymous. Most of the original disciples were probably illiterate as were John and Peter. Third, you are assuming that the gospels as they exist today are exactly the way when they were orginally written. Most NT scholars doubt that. There is more reason to believe that the gospels underwent redacting for some period before they reached their final form (BTW, the ending of Mark is a good example).

You say that my view doesn't explain: 1)the origin of the disciples' belief, 2) the local following the movement garnered, 3) the sightings of Jesus by the groups of people said to have seen him in the tradition used by both Paul and the gospel writers (which is dated to within 5 years of Jesus' death).

Yes my view does. 1) They begin to re-think their concept of the Messiah and how the Messiah could die as a martyr. They coupled Isa. 53 with the passage in Daniel about God vindicating the martyrs by resurrection and when someone claimed they had seen Jesus alive after his death they put all of this together. 2) movements have ways of gaining followers. How did Joseph Smith get so many people to follow his nonsense? 3) the tradition cited in 1 Cor. 15 simply refers to the fact that Christians were teaching that Jesus had appeared to Peter, James, the twelve, etc. Its a report of a belief. Not necessarily a report of historical fact. You think the belief would have never arisen without the historical fact, but I do. We see this all the time both in history and today.

Also, you keep saying that "if the body had been there," the movement would have been stopped in its tracks. You are assuming the historical truth of the empty tomb. Notice my first option in possible explanations was that the empty tomb story itself was a myth. Most of the time crucified criminals were either left on the cross for birds to eat or they were thrown in the criminal graveyard. If you ask me what I think is most likely, I would say that Jesus was buried in the criminal graveyard. But, IF, he was buried in the tomb of J of A, then my second explanation comes into play.

A lot of things were totally foreign to the Jews but it didn't stop the disciples from teaching them. Why do you think the great majority of Jews didn't become Christians? Because the Christian's explanation of Jesus as a dying Messiah and his being raised from the dead didn't fit with their beliefs. BTW, if Jesus had really been raised from the dead and if the resurrections that are mentioned in Matt 27:51-53 really happened, I would think that there would have been a huge number of converts in Jerusalem perhaps the majority of the Jews. YOu do believe that Matt 27:51-53 is literally true, don't you?

olan strickland said...

Ken,

in your overwhelming evidence for evolution where has the mutation from one species to another ever been observed? Why aren't there observable in-between species? Did the first man evolve as a baby or full grown man? If men evolved from apes which evolved from lower species, etc., then would it be possible for men to breed with apes and produce another species? Would such an act even be moral?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Olan,

You are really showing your ignorance of evolution. All I can say is, go take some courses in biology. I don't have the time to educate you.

brian_g said...

If Jesus was buried in a criminal grave, why didn't the early Christians just quote Is 53:9 and call it a fulfilled prophecy. The burial and the empty tomb are both supported by multiple attestation and embarrassment. According to most scholars Mark is combining two separate traditions: the burial and the empty tomb. This explains why there are two similar but different lists of women in the two stories. I understand that some scholars think that this is a single piece of tradition (Craig and Crossan). Craig, since he think the stories are historical, could just say that that the tradition preserve the historical fact that there were different women at the two events. Crossan has to just shrug and say that he doesn't know why Mark named the women differently. But I think this is a problem for his view that the story isn't historical.

As for Paul, here's how I understand your argument:
1) Paul tells us his experience is the same as the other appearances.
2) Luke tells us that Paul saw a vision.
3) therefore, everyone saw a vision.

Personally, I haven't really decided for myself what Paul experienced. But the problem with the above argument is that you end up with an understanding of what happened that goes against both Luke and Paul.

bossmanham said...

Second, you are assuming that the gospels were written by eyewitnesses when in fact they are anonymous

Where did I say they were written by eyewitnesses? I think they rely on eyewitness testimony and in the case of Matthew and John most of what they record they actually witnessed. Mark probably relied heavily on Peter's testimony. Luke flat out says he wasn't an eyewitness, but relied on eyewitness testimony.

Peter, as shown by the different writing styles of his two epistles, relied on scribes to record his works. Matthew was a tax collector, so he knew how to write. Luke was a doctor. Do you have any reason to think John couldn't write, or is that just another one of those evidentially baseless assumptions?

In terms of them being anonymous, I have no reason to question the tradition that has been handed down as to who authored the gospels. Do you?

Third, you are assuming that the gospels as they exist today are exactly the way when they were orginally written

I base that assumption on the amazing manuscript evidence we have that attests to that fact. Even Ehrman, who tries to make much of the differences in the manuscripts (mostly misspellings or word placement) admits that we have essentially what they wrote.

Most NT scholars doubt that

Um, haha, no. They don't. Name two.

1) They begin to re-think their concept of the Messiah and how the Messiah could die as a martyr. They coupled Isa. 53 with the passage in Daniel about God vindicating the martyrs by resurrection and when someone claimed they had seen Jesus alive after his death they put all of this together.

If the body was there, they wouldn't have been able to do this. The Jews or J of A, when presented with the Christian claims that Jesus had risen, could have cleared the whole thing up by presenting the body or saying where he had actually been buried. You cannot explain the anti-Christian polemic that the body had simply been stolen. Plus, as brian_g says, the disciples said Jesus had fulfilled the prophecy from Isaiah 53:9.

The disciples also had no precedent to make this up. If they were so illiterate, how would they come up with this imaginative story? Why would they make it up if they had not seen Jesus rise? Why would they die for it? How would they even read Isaiah 53? Your own views conflict with each other.

2) movements have ways of gaining followers. How did Joseph Smith get so many people to follow his nonsense?

Messianic movements at this time were a dime a dozen. When your messiah of choice at this time was killed or shown to be fake you either went home or got another messiah. You didn't make up a story that he raised from the dead and appeared to 500 people.

Joseph Smith's movement wasn't relying on the raised body and empty tomb of a guy. It was only relying on his own con-man skills.

bossmanham said...

3) the tradition cited in 1 Cor. 15 simply refers to the fact that Christians were teaching that Jesus had appeared to Peter, James, the twelve, etc. Its a report of a belief. Not necessarily a report of historical fact

All historical accounts are records of beliefs of people. It was believed that Alexander the great conquered Persia and then recorded some several hundred years later. The oral tradition cited by Paul that dates to within 5 years of Jesus' death says that more than 500 people had seen Jesus. You could still go talk to these people. That's why Paul was citing the tradition.

You think the belief would have never arisen without the historical fact, but I do.

There are too many defeaters for the belief for this evidence to exist without the historical occurrence.

Most of the time crucified criminals were either left on the cross for birds to eat or they were thrown in the criminal graveyard. If you ask me what I think is most likely

Then the Jewish polemic that the body was stolen would not have existed. They would have said what actually happened to the body.

But, IF, he was buried in the tomb of J of A, then my second explanation comes into play.

Then J of A would have let everyone know what he had actually done with the body. Neither account explains the appearance of Jesus to more than 500 people; friends, skeptics, and enemies.

Your account is hopelessly ad-hoc and has been abandoned by most scholars.

A lot of things were totally foreign to the Jews but it didn't stop the disciples from teaching them.

I have a good reason for this strange shift in their teaching. You do not.

Why do you think the great majority of Jews didn't become Christians?

Paul addresses this in Romans 9-11.

Because the Christian's explanation of Jesus as a dying Messiah and his being raised from the dead didn't fit with their beliefs.

That would be helping me prove my point. However, when the OT is examined Jesus is clearly typified throughout the entire thing. That's why Jesus was so upset with the Pharisees. They knew good and well that Jesus was who He said He was.

BTW, if Jesus had really been raised from the dead and if the resurrections that are mentioned in Matt 27:51-53 really happened, I would think that there would have been a huge number of converts in Jerusalem perhaps the majority of the Jews.

Perhaps many of them did and many others explained it away by appealing to less plausible naturalistic accounts? Who does that sound like?

olan strickland said...

Ken,

You said, "there is overwehelming empirical evidence for evolution."

I said, "in your overwhelming evidence for evolution where has the mutation from one species to another ever been observed? Why aren't there observable in-between species? Did the first man evolve as a baby or full grown man? If men evolved from apes which evolved from lower species, etc., then would it be possible for men to breed with apes and produce another species? Would such an act even be moral?"

You said, "You are really showing your ignorance of evolution. All I can say is, go take some courses in biology. I don't have the time to educate you."

I say, "Check-mate!" It is your ignorance about evolution that is showing sir.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Olan,

yes, you have check-mated me and all of the scientists who believe in evolution. You really should win a Nobel Prize.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Bossman,

So they were not eyewitnesses but relied on eyewitnesses? So it was at the best second-hand testimony or as the courts would call it, "hear-say" testimony. Eyewitness testimony itself is not ALWAYS reliable. See here.

In addition, if Matthew was an eyewitness, why did he rely so heavily on Mark's gospel?
Why do I think that John couldn't write? Acts 4:13

You are misrepresenting Ehrman. He says that we can never know for certain what the "original" was and that modern textual critics only use the word in quotations now. The reason is that at best all we have are copies that were made from other copies and we have a huge gap of at least 100-200 years from the time they were originally written until the first copies that are extant. How do we know what happened during that silent period? What if, there were no copies of the declaration of independence except a fragment of one or two lines dating from the early 1800's and then nothing else until the early 1900's when we had a few more fragments and then we have our first full text appearing around 2000? Would we know for certain what Thomas Jefferson originally wrote?

You said: If the body was there, they wouldn't have been able to do this. The Jews or J of A, when presented with the Christian claims that Jesus had risen, could have cleared the whole thing up by presenting the body or saying where he had actually been buried.

You are assuming again that the story of the empty tomb and J of A is literal. If it was, why isn't J of A mentioned in Acts or Paul's epistles? Why didn't Peter say on the day of Pentecost, "Jesus was buried in J of A's tomb and its empty now--you can go and look".That would have been an extremely strong testimony.

You say: Why would they make it up if they had not seen Jesus rise? Why would they die for it? You keep going back to the either or fallacy. Either its completely true or they lied. That is being overly simplistic.

You say: If they were so illiterate, how would How would they even read Isaiah 53? Your own views conflict with each other. I didn't say that every single disciple was illiterate. In that day, people who couldn't read, listened to others read.

You say: Joseph Smith's movement wasn't relying on the raised body and empty tomb of a guy. It was only relying on his own con-man skills. That is even a stronger argument. Just think how many more people he could have gotten to follow him if he had claimed someone had been raised from the dead and he had witnessed it. The fact is that people are gullible and they will believe a lot of stupid things in the name of religion.

If you could still go back and talk to these 500, how were you supposed to find them? There's no names given, no details. Just a bold assertion. There are lots of people today who claim they have seen aliens, I am sure there are probably more than 500. You can go and talk to them if you don't believe me.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Concerning Matt. 27:51-53, let me quote Howard Pepper, a former evangelical Christian, a graduate of Talbot School of Theology (where Craig teaches) and a former associate of the apologist Walter Martin:

This Matthew story certainly seems to me to actually diminish the credibility of supposed "eyewitness testimony" of a risen Jesus... i.e. seen physically, not in vision.

Here we have a claim by "Matthew" that these many saints (KJV), presumably noteworthy, recognized people, appeared to many people in Jerusalem, which would certainly magnify whatever "buzz" was raised over Jesus' resurrection, the crucifixion-day 3 hours of darkness, the thick temple veil totally torn in obvious symbolism, the great quake that split rocks and opened the graves for these saints to emerge (what would that take... at least a 6.5 or 7, no?... but no other damage to the walls or city reported!), etc. And BTW, ("many" saints) x ("many" witnesses) = (many, many sightings). And just imagine the elation over finding your favorite saint (or relative) alive again in the flesh, presumably teaching, prophesying, etc.! Now we're talking BUZZ!


If these things really happened, its incredible that they are not mentioned anywhere else--not in the other canonical writings, not in the extra-canonical writings, not in Josephus--NOTHING. Yet, I bet you believe them because they are in Matthew.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Brian_G,

You ask: If Jesus was buried in a criminal grave, why didn't the early Christians just quote Is 53:9 and call it a fulfilled prophecy.

Because Jesus could only be the Messiah if he came back from the dead. They concluded that God had to vindicate him as Daniel and Macabbees said he would the other martyrs. The first one(s) who saw a vision of Jesus alive again may not have had this motivation but when that person(s) reported it to the disciples, that is how they came to interpret it. I think these ideas slowly developed among them. I don't think they sat down and hatched a master conspiracy.

You say: The burial and the empty tomb are both supported by multiple attestation and embarrassment.

The multiple attestation is questionable as you admit. The embarrassment, I take it you are referring to the women, is explainable because as I pointed out earlier, Mark presents unlikely people as recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. It was part of his motif. I don't think Mark was trying to "prove" the resurrection happened. Proof in a legal sense is more of modern man's concern.

You say:

here's how I understand your argument:
1) Paul tells us his experience is the same as the other appearances.
2) Luke tells us that Paul saw a vision.
3) therefore, everyone saw a vision.


Yep, that is pretty much it. I think Paul would have made some type of distinction between the nature of the appearances to Peter, James and the twelve and his own, if there was any.

You say: Personally, I haven't really decided for myself what Paul experienced. But the problem with the above argument is that you end up with an understanding of what happened that goes against both Luke and Paul.

I don't follow you here.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

BTW, Ken Daniels, a former missionary to Africa with Wycliffe Bible Translators, who is now an agnostic makes an important point:

Why do scientists, after all, keep supernaturalism out of science by definition? Is it an arbitrary choice, driven by a twisted desire to keep God out of the picture, or are there legitimate reasons for doing so? I submit it is for the same reasons that we keep supernaturalism out of forensics and law. If mystical forces can be respected in a court of law (for example, "Your honor, an angel—or was it a demon?—grabbed the knife out of my hand and plunged it into her heart. Honest to God!"), then there is no way of adjudicating the past; there can be no rigor, no accountability, no fruitful investigation—in short, no science.

For the very same reasons, I cannot conclude that the best explanation of the reports of an "empty tomb," and the post-mortem appearances of Jesus is a supernatural one.

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Along the same lines as the above quote, is this from Ken Daniels:

Let us consider the consequences of abandoning too soon the quest for natural explanations for phenomena we do not understand. From a practical standpoint, it removes incentives for further discovery. For example, after centuries of research, scientists still do not understand what causes lightning. Should we then conclude that, on the basis of this failure, Thor, the Norse god of thunder, is responsible for this phenomenon after all? Or perhaps Baal, the Canaanite god of rain and thunder? Here is the rub: if we cede to supernatural explanations, we are essentially saying, "We don't know the causes, and furthermore we know we cannot know; therefore, we conclude that God did it, and by doing so, we're giving up on any fruitful scientific research into the causes." Few modern believers would fault scientists for their ongoing quest to discover the natural causes of lightning, yet many criticize naturalists for their determination to explain the origin and development of life without reference to God. Nothing spells the end of investigation like holding out the possibility that a thorny problem requires a supernatural explanation.

olan strickland said...

Ken,

You said, Olan,

yes, you have check-mated me and all of the scientists who believe in evolution.


While meant to be facetious it is true. Not one single evolutionist can provide empirical evidence for his or her belief. All that any evolutionist can do at this point is attempt an en passant. This is achieved by instead of honestly engaging his opponent, the evolutionist tries to slide by through not answering the questions that he knows will prove that his theory of evolution isn't built on science or observable evidence but is a belief system arrived at by suppression and corruption of empirical evidence.

Are there any scientists that do not believe in evolution?

Ken Pulliam, Ph.D. said...

Olan,

Here is a list of evangelical Christians who accept evolution(theistic evolution). Are they all just ignorant or compromisers in your opinion?

John Ankerberg, Gleason Archer, John Battle, Michael Behe, William Jennings Bryan, Walter Bradley, Jack Collins, Chuck Colson, Paul Copan, William Lane Craig, Norman Geisler, Robert Godfrey, Guillermo Gonzales, Hank Hannegraff, Jack Hayford, Fred Heeren, Charles Hodge, Walter Kaiser, Greg Koukl, C. S. Lewis, Paul Little, Patricia Mondore, J. P. Moreland, Robert Newman, Greg Neyman, Mark Noll, Nancy Pearcey, Perry Phillips, William Phillips, Mike Poole, Bernard Ramm, Jay Richards, Hugh Ross, Fritz Schaefer, Francis Schaeffer, chuck Smith Jr., David Snoke, Lee Strobel, Ken Taylor, B. B. Warfield.

brian_g said...

Ken,

I'd like to respond to you last two quotes, and maybe if I have a chance later we can discuss the biblical evidence more.

The two quotes reflect a common attitude I hear from atheists. I don't find the arguments persuasive.
The first quote basically argues that if someone could claim a demon made me do it, we could never make any judgments about the past. I don't see any reason to think this is the case. Just because one might consider some supernatural explanations persuasive doesn't mean that he must accept all supernatural explanations. Sure someone could suggest an implausible and ad-hoc supernatural explanation, but so what? People can also make implausible and ad-hoc natural explanations. Someone could, for instance, claim that he was drugged and brainwashed by the government and forced to kill his wife. Just because we wouldn't accept that explanation, doesn't mean we must reject all natural explanations. Some explanations our better then others, regardless of whether the explanation is natural or supernatural.

The second quote tries to argue that if we accept a supernatural explanation, we will stifle investigation. I don't see any reason to think this is the case. Sure in some sense, if people accept the wrong explanation, they will resist the possible correct one. But this is also a problem for natural explanations. When people have the wrong natural explanation they also resist change. But what if the correct explanation really is supernatural and we mistakenly accept a natural explanation? In this case hasn't the natural explanation stifled investigation? One could assume that the correct explanation is always the natural one, but this is begging the question against the theist.
However, the fact of the matter is that human beings have accepted supernatural explanations for things that are now understood to have natural explanations. So this stifling of inquiry hasn't worked. Furthermore, I think it's quite probable that in our time, the suggestion of a supernatural explanation, would actually encourage inquiry. If a Catholic bio-chemist suggests that blood clotting is better explained by design then evolution, all the sudden everyone interested in proving him wrong. So I see no good reason to reject the supernatural on the basis of it being a science stopper.

Brian said...

No more posts about evolution are going to be published, especially ones with links all over the internet to prove it.

It is so off topic to the original line of discussion it is, frankly, pathetic.

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