Monday, July 24, 2006

Were Some Of The Gospel Resurrection Accounts Fabricated In Response To Docetism?

Matthew Green of Debunking Christianity has posted another article on the resurrection. As before, he's largely speculating without any evidence to support his position and in opposition to the evidence we do have. He asserts that "visions" occurred while distancing himself from "hallucinations", but he doesn't tell us what specific type(s) of visions he has in mind or how he knows that the people in question were in a condition to experience whatever specific type(s) of visions he wants to propose. He ignores a lot of the evidence against his position, including evidence presented in articles he claims to have read, such as my responses to him and an article on the vision theory at J.P. Holding's web site. As I've said before, Matthew Green isn't seeking the best explanation of the evidence. He's seeking the best naturalistic explanation.

Near the beginning of the article, he makes some comments that reflect the sort of mindset he has in approaching this issue:

"I have already spoken elsewhere what the personal consequences for me would be if I came to conclude the Christian gospel was valid: I would take my own life; I would see no reason to delay the inevitability of Hell. Never-the-less I enjoy a challenge and the more confrontational it is, the more I love to rise to the challenge, especially if answering it means putting confrontational Christian apologists in their places and just shutting them up!"

Later in the article, Matthew will cite the work of Richard Carrier while distancing himself from Carrier at the same time, as he's done before. Matthew tells us that he doesn't know enough about the relevant evidence to be confident about Carrier's conclusions. But he tells us that he doesn't trust any critique of Carrier coming from J.P. Holding. For those who are interested, Holding's responses to Carrier can be found here, and others have responded to him here, here, and here, for example.

Most of what Matthew argues in his latest article is already addressed in my previous responses to him or in other material linked above. Compare his comments on 1 Corinthians 15 to the comments in the article here, for example. Compare his comments on the alleged development of material in the gospels to what I've written in past articles on the subject at this blog. After you read his claim that in the gospel of Matthew "the disciples see Jesus but don't touch him", read Matthew 28:9. Read Luke 24:6 and ask yourself whether Luke committed the error Matthew Green claims he did. Ask yourself whether an apologetic response to Docetism is the best explanation for why people living and writing in a Jewish context would seek and write about physical evidence for a resurrection. If the gospels' interest in physical evidence for a physical resurrection makes sense in a first century Jewish context and in the context of human nature, isn't an appeal to the influence of Docetism superfluous? Ask yourself whether the resurrection witnesses were in circumstances in which they were likely to experience naturalistic visions. How well do Matthew Green's speculations explain what we know about the genre of the gospels, the authorship of the gospels, how the early enemies of Christianity responded to the movement, etc.? Ask yourself whether eyewitnesses and contemporaries of Jesus and the apostles were still alive when the gospels were being composed and whether the scenario Matthew Green proposes is likely in such a setting. A lot of this ground has already been covered sufficiently in other articles, so there's no need to say much more here.

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