Friday, July 28, 2006

Who Wrote The Gospel Of John?

DagoodS of Debunking Christianity has written an article on the authorship of the gospel of John. Compare that article with an article I wrote on the same subject last year.

Though DagoodS claims that Biblical authorship is an issue he's "studied vociferously", the objection he focuses on (the absence of some Synoptic material on love in John's gospel) is weak by itself and even weaker when contrasted with the evidence we have for Johannine authorship. To recognize the weak nature of DagoodS' objection, we should establish a timeline.

The apostle John lived until around the end of the first century. Irenaeus and Victorinus say so explicitly, other ante-Nicene sources suggest it, and Eusebius, who had access to many documents no longer extant, accepts the report without presenting an alternative. Thus, the second century sources reporting on the authorship of John's gospel are commenting on the subject not long after John's death. John's disciples lived well into the second century. Polycarp didn't die until the early part of the second half of the second century. Irenaeus refers to John's disciples (more than just Papias and Polycarp) living into the second century. He refers to how they were consulted about the correct rendering of a passage in the book of Revelation, for example, which means that people must have known who the disciples of John were and must have associated them with Johannine books, such as Revelation.

From the time of Polycarp's death onward, Johannine authorship of the fourth gospel is nearly universally stated or implied (with the minor exception of the heretical Alogoi, who had no historical knowledge of a different author). Around the middle of the second century, close to the time of Polycarp's death, Justin Martyr writes of an established church tradition of reading the gospels along with the Old Testament scriptures in church services (First Apology, 67). He refers elsewhere to "the memoirs which I say were drawn up by His apostles and those who followed them" (Dialogue With Trypho, 103). Notice the plural: "apostles" and "those who followed them". The use of the plural matches our four gospels: apostles (Matthew, John) and those who followed them (Mark, Luke). Justin doesn't cite the number four anywhere, but his comments are consistent with the collection of four gospels that sources living just after Justin's time refer to. In another place, Justin refers to the fact that the apostles composed gospels (First Apology, 66), so he can't just be referring to the apostles as the subject matter of the gospels. Justin isn't as explicit as a source like Irenaeus, but what he reports is consistent with what Irenaeus and other sources tell us.

Shortly after Justin's death, a wide variety of sources (a variety of locations, personalities, backgrounds, etc.) report that the gospel of John was written by the apostle (Theophilus of Antioch, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, etc.). They state the fact as if they aren't expecting it to be challenged.

A source like Irenaeus is especially significant, since he had met John's disciple Polycarp, possessed the writings of John's disciple Papias, and had lived in a city John was in contact with (Smyrna, Revelation 2:8-11). Given the recent timing of John's death, the prominence of John's disciples in the second century church, the nearly universal acceptance of Johannine authorship, and other such factors, the external evidence for John's authorship of the fourth gospel is strong. It would require a major amount of internal evidence to overturn the implication of the external data.

But there is no strong internal evidence against Johannine authorship. Instead, the internal evidence further supports the traditional view. The New Testament scholar Martin Hengel argues that the traditional names of the gospel authors were part of the documents all along (The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ [Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000]). Any claim that John's name isn't part of the document has to be argued, not just asserted. And my article linked at the opening of this post gives a lot of other internal indications that the gospel was written by John. The Synoptics, Acts, and Galatians portray John and Peter as frequently associated with each other, and the gospel of John similarly associates the beloved disciple with Peter. The Synoptics add the qualifier "the Baptist" to John the Baptist's name, whereas John's gospel doesn't, probably because there would be no third person references to another John, since the author was the apostle John. Etc. Anybody who's interested can read my article linked above for more details.

I want to respond to some of the comments DagoodS makes in his article:

"Part of my journey was discovering that the authors of the Gospels were not eyewitnesses to the events, and therefore subject to the same troubling problems of error being introduced into their accounts."

The gospels were written within several decades of Jesus' death, when eyewitnesses of Jesus and the apostles were still alive. They wouldn't have to be documents written by eyewitnesses in order to be historically reliable documents.

And skeptics like DagoodS don't just want to dismiss a few details here and there. Rather, they want us to believe that the gospels are all wrong to a radical extent. The fact that a document wasn't written by an eyewitness (if true) doesn't lead us to the radical conclusions of skeptics like DagoodS.

"John has numerous unique sayings, a lack of parables, and refers to Jesus doing signs, all of which are vastly different than what we see in the Synoptics."

If DagoodS had read the early external sources commenting on John's gospel (Tatian's Diatessaron, Clement of Alexandria, etc.), he would know that the earliest Christians were aware of the differences between the Synoptics and the gospel of John and that they gave an explanation for those differences. John wrote last. He was deliberately supplementing what had been written previously. He chose to focus on different things. He puts more emphasis on the sayings of Jesus and less emphasis on the miracles of Jesus than Mark did, for example. If John was deliberately supplementing one or more of the previous gospels, then the differences make sense. DagoodS' charges of contradiction and non-historicity have been addressed by Craig Keener, Craig Blomberg, and other scholars, but DagoodS shows little knowledge of what they've written.

The Synoptics and John are similar for the most part. The general outlines of Jesus' life, His character, His enemies, etc. are the same in detail after detail. If the gospel of John is as "vastly different" from the Synoptics as DagoodS claims, then why didn't he notice such a vast difference when he was a professing Christian for a few decades? There are differences, but they aren't as significant as DagoodS and other critics make them out to be.

"John also disappears, a mention is made of his missionary trip to Samaria, and no more. Acts 8:14. The primary leaders of the early Church, according to Acts, were not Disciples."

Why single out the book of Acts? The book was written by a companion of Paul, so its focus on Paul makes sense. But Paul himself tells us that John remained prominent in the church (Galatians 2:9), we have five documents written by John (one of which is addressed to seven churches, some of them churches of major significance), and the early post-apostolic sources tell us that John had an important role in the church of the first century. Has DagoodS read much of Irenaeus? You can't read much of Irenaeus without noticing the large shadow that John and his disciples cast over the second century church.

"Perhaps he was not there that day—it was his turn to go into town and pick up bread."

DagoodS acknowledges that John records some of Jesus' comments about love, yet he asks why John didn't record more of them. Why should we expect him to? He's largely supplementing one or more of the other gospels. Jesus' statement in the Synoptics about love as the greatest commandment is similar to what Jesus states in a passage like John 13:34-35, so why would John need to repeat this theme in its Synoptic form?

"I am stumped as to how one can have Jesus giving a new commandment of 'love one another' after the stories recorded in the Synoptics."

Notice that DagoodS only quotes a portion of the passage. Read the rest of John 13:34. Jesus puts the love in the context of "as I have loved you". No love could be patterned after Jesus' life until Jesus lived that life. And He doesn't set a timeframe on the newness of the commandment. If it was something that originated a few months or a few years earlier, He could still refer to it as new at the time of John 13. For an illustration of how similar commandments can be seen as both old and new, see 1 John 2:7-8. Nothing in John 13 contradicts the Synoptics.

I just cited a passage in 1 John, and I should note something here about the epistles. Notice that DagoodS uses the Johannine epistles in his argument, yet rejects the strong implication those epistles have for the Johannine authorship of the fourth gospel. If all four documents were attributed to the apostle John, it's far more likely that the early Christians were right four times than that they were wrong four times. It's not as if these documents were written anonymously, without anybody knowing who circulated them. As we see in 2 John and 3 John, the author knew the people he was writing to and was writing to them about specific events occurring among them. He wasn't just addressing general principles. How likely is it that the recipients of these documents would leave no trace of the actual identity of the author anywhere in the historical record, followed by Christians living just afterward collectively reaching the mistaken conclusion that all four documents were written by the apostle John?

"I propose that the Gospel of John was written by someone unfamiliar with the Synpotic stories who was not traveling with Jesus."

Then you have a lot of internal and external evidence to the contrary to explain. And that evidence weighs far more than your belief that the apostle John would have repeated more of the passages in the Synoptics. You can't overcome strong internal evidence and strong external evidence with an appeal to weak internal evidence.

How likely is it that the author of John was unfamiliar with the Synoptics? It's highly unlikely. Most scholars date Mark prior to 70 A.D., which would mean that the document was circulating for decades prior to the writing of John's gospel (assuming the late first century dating of that gospel, which makes sense in light of what Irenaeus and other ante-Nicene sources report). Papias reports, early in the second century, that he learned of the origins of Mark's gospel from the church leadership of his day. He tells us that he acquired the information from "the elder" (Eusebius, Church History, 3:39:15), a possible reference to the apostle John. Whoever gave Papias this information, it was widely known in his day. The gospels are widely quoted and alluded to by sources of the late first and early second centuries, and Aristides even refers to the gospels' availability to non-Christians who were interested in reading them (Apology, 2). Eusebius tells us that Christians of the early second century distributed copies of the gospels as they traveled (Church History, 3:37:2). The concept that the author of the gospel of John wouldn't have known about any of the Synoptic gospels, and would have been ignorant of the traditions behind them as well, is absurdly untenable. Craig Keener comments:

"Suggesting that the Fourth Gospel is not directly dependent on the Synoptics need not imply that John did not know of the existence of the Synoptics; even if (as is unlikely) Johannine Christianity were as isolated from other circles of Christianity as some have proposed, other gospels must have been known if travelers afforded any contact at all among Christian communities. That travelers did so may be regarded as virtually certain. Urban Christians traveled (1 Cor 16:10, 12, 17; Phil 2:30; 4:18), carried letters (Rom 16:1-2; Phil 2:25), relocated to other places (Rom 16:3, 5; perhaps 16:6-15), and sent greetings to other churches (Rom 16:21-23; 1 Cor 16:19; Phil 4:22; Col 4:10-15). In the first century many churches knew what was happening with churches in other cities (Rom 1:8; 1 Cor 11:16; 14:33; 1 Thess 1:7-9), and even shared letters (Col 4:16). Missionaries could speak of some churches to others (Rom 15:26; 2 Cor 8:1-5; 9:2-4; Phil 4:16; 1 Thess 2:14-16; cf. 3 John 5-12) and send personal news by other workers (Eph 6:21-22; Col 4:7-9). Although we need not suppose connections among churches as pervasive as Ignatius’ letters suggest perhaps two decades later, neither need we imagine that such connections emerged ex nihilo in the altogether brief silence between John’s Gospel and the 'postapostolic' period. No one familiar with the urban society of the eastern empire will be impressed with the isolation Gospel scholars often attribute to the Gospel 'communities.'" (The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Vol. 1 [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003], pp. 41-42)

Gospel harmonies are already on people's minds and circulating in written form in the middle of the second century (as reflected in Tatian's Diatessaron). In other words, people were perceiving the four gospels as harmonious accounts of actual historical events at a time when eyewitnesses and contemporaries of the apostles were still alive. The people living just after the time of the apostles have no concept of some Johannine community writing a gospel in ignorance of the other gospels or in opposition to the other gospels. The traditional view, involving the historicity and harmony of the four gospels, is there from the start.

I want to close this post with an emphasis on the theme I began with. Compare the arguments cited against Johannine authorship of the fourth gospel to the arguments cited in support of it. If one side has no external sources and the other side has many, and one side has softer internal evidence and the other side has harder internal evidence, what does that contrast suggest? And what does it suggest when the side relying on much weaker evidence in this case does the same over and over again with other books of the Bible and on other disputed topics?

16 comments:


  1. I just cited a passage in 1 John, and I should note something here about the epistles. Notice that DagoodS uses the Johannine epistles in his argument, yet rejects the strong implication those epistles have for the Johannine authorship of the fourth gospel. If all four documents were attributed to the apostle John, it's far more likely that the early Christians were right four times than that they were wrong four times. It's not as if these documents were written anonymously, without anybody knowing who circulated them. As we see in 2 John and 3 John, the author knew the people he was writing to and was writing to them about specific events occurring among them. He wasn't just addressing general principles. How likely is it that the recipients of these documents would leave no trace of the actual identity of the author anywhere in the historical record, followed by Christians living just afterward collectively reaching the mistaken conclusion that all four documents were written by the apostle John?


    Not only that but the grammatical and syntactical structure is identical and parallel in many important places, so much so that the relation is clearly genetic.

    Here are some examples:

    1 John 2:2
    And
    He Himself
    is the propitiation for
    our sins
    and not for ours only
    but also
    for
    the world

    John 11:51 - 52
    he prophesied that
    Jesus
    would die for
    the nation
    and not for the nation only
    but also
    that He would gather together in one
    the children of God scattered abroad


    8:47 He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.

    1 John 2:29, 4:7, and 5:1 also are this same construction:

    He who is of God hears the words of God.

    They hear because they are "of God."

    You do not hear them because you are not of God

    They do not hear because they are not of God

    Everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.

    They practice righteousness because they are born again.

    Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

    They love because they are born again and know God.

    Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.

    They believe because they are born again.

    John 6:44 and 65 fit a similar pattern as do portions of John 5. This is strong proof of Johanine authorship in itself.

    Notice the level of detail in this text. He mentions 6 waterpots. Now, if John is a late gospel written because of a widening tradition moving toward a more Gnostic vision of Jesus, which some critics assert, then we'd expect such a detail to be allegorical, as allegory is the typical method of exegesis for the text coming from that tradition. What do this 6 waterpots represent here? What is their function? There is no discernable allegorical relation here, so this details is proof that the author knew minute details and is concerned, just as his conclusion says, that his readers correctly know who Christ is.

    The same can be said of the 25 to 30 stadia rowed by the disciples in John 6, what about the odor of the house in ch. 12, Peter's beckoning action, the reaction of the soldiers at the arrest, the exact weight of the spices used in the embalming, and all the detailed reacions of the disciples in 2,4,6, 12, 13 ff.? Notice that John gives the names of many anonymous persons in the synoptics; this fits the thesis that he was writing supplemental material, we're told Mary is Lazurus' sister.

    Some have stated that John is too "Hellenistic," but if John is writing last and went to Ephesus as the Church Fathers report that's what we would expect. In addition, the sophistication of his language improves between the gospel and the epistles. This is what we would expect from a person gaining education in the language. John was the youngest of the 12, so this is the sort of thing we'd expect. His father seems to have been in a position to hire servants, so James and John would have had education the others did not possess.

    Others have stated that John's recollection of Jesus shows more knowledge of the rabbinic styles than a Galilean fisherman. However, we know that he had access to the Temple to have the details of Jesus' death and he probably knew Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea to have details of Nicodemus conversation and the weight of the spices for burial. Likewise, if the style shows a high degree of familiarity with rabbinc teaching methods (6:45 itself uses rabbinic terminology), then this defeats the Hellenistic objection and it also shows the writer is closer to the Palestinian tradition and thus more likely to be an eyewitness.

    It continues to amaze me how critics like Dagwood can say they have "vociferously studied" and yet they show they have not thought well about what they have studied. Typically, they quote liberals, but liberals don't interact with conservative scholarship. They interact with each other. Conservatives, on the other hand, regularly interact with liberals. At a minimum, he should pick up a copy of Guthrie's survey text and do what I had to do in seminary: research 10 of Guthrie's footnotes per week and summarize them correctly in addition to reading the text. Then he can come back and tell us what he thinks about the authorship of John.

    What's more, if he's going to challenge the traditional authorship of the gospels on any level, he needs an alternative theory that makes sense of the text itself. Liberal scholarship is notoriously flaky and changes with the wind on this issue. The gospels have never had another appellation for their authorship in the text itself. For people who cry out for empirical evidence of miraculous phenomena, why is it that when it comes to an issue like the text of the NT, they refuse to accept the empirical evidence for the authorship of the gospels. Where is there any record of any dispute about the authorship of John dating from this time? Where are the textual variants for author names being added later. Why is it that we must produce extraordinary evidence for miracles and ordinary evidence for the ordinary, and then when provided ordinary evidence for this issue, they in turn refuse to accept it? Where is his theory of authorship and where, pray tell, is his empirical evidence for it? The appellation is part of the text itself. Where is the paper trail proving an author other than John? Simply saying that later generations of Gnostics tried to pass off their work as apostolic is reflective of Gnosticism, not Christianity. What's more that is a second century practice, not a first century practice.

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  2. To me, the essential point is that the New Testament as a whole was written by members of the early church who were not contemporaries of Jesus and had no interaction with the historical person of Jesus. The gospels consist largely of material that first circulated for decades in the form of oral tradition.

    All of this makes the New Testament's theological view of Jesus highly unreliable - hardly a piece of journalism or historiography. The NT is a compilation of faith-documents that were produced by the early church.

    Re. John, the bottom line is that there is some evidence to suggest John wrote John, but this is uncertain. Best case scenario is an elderly John writing several decades after Jesus was crucified and putting the early church's interpretation of Jesus' life into writing.

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  3. Darius wrote:

    "To me, the essential point is that the New Testament as a whole was written by members of the early church who were not contemporaries of Jesus and had no interaction with the historical person of Jesus. The gospels consist largely of material that first circulated for decades in the form of oral tradition. All of this makes the New Testament's theological view of Jesus highly unreliable - hardly a piece of journalism or historiography. The NT is a compilation of faith-documents that were produced by the early church."

    Paul was a contemporary of Jesus, and he refers to other contemporaries and eyewitnesses of Jesus who taught what he was teaching (1 Corinthians 15:3-11, Galatians 2:7-9). If you search the archives of this blog, you'll find material by Steve Hays arguing that Paul probably would have been an eyewitness to some portions of Jesus' earthly ministry, in addition to being a contemporary of Jesus. It's doubtful that any of the New Testament authors were born after Jesus' death, and the evidence suggests that some of the authors were eyewitnesses of Jesus' life.

    At the opening of his gospel, Luke refers to prior accounts of Jesus' life, and we know that the ancient Jews were highly literate. Craig Keener notes:

    "It is possible that some of Jesus’ early hearers may have made notes, as some scholars have argued; at the very least, it is difficult to doubt that some would have made notes from their memories in the years following….Cf. this practice alleged even among the far more secretive Pythagoreans (Iamblichus V.P. 23.104), whose initial reticence seems unusual (32.226)." (The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Vol. 1 [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003], p. 56, n. 22 on p. 56)

    Even among those who were going by memory in what they reported, you can appeal to faulty memory to question some details, but not the general outlines or every detail. John Kennedy died more than 40 years ago, but we don't therefore conclude that every one of his contemporaries' memories of his life is mostly or entirely false. And as Keener notes, "memorization and transmission of famous teachers’ sayings was not only a later rabbinic practice; it characterized elementary education throughout the Mediterranean world!" (Ibid., p. 59)

    Also:

    "The burden of proof thus rests with New Testament scholars who betray an unduly skeptical bias toward the Gospel accounts (on the question of the burden of proof, cf. Goetz and Blomberg 1981: 39-63); such scholars must imply that disciples who considered Jesus Lord were far more careless with his words in the earliest generations of Christianity than first- and second-generation students of most other ancient teachers were (see Davies 1966a: 115-16; Benoit 1973/1974: 1:33). Especially given how much of Jesus’ teaching was disseminated in public during his lifetime, the sort of ‘radical amnesia’ this skepticism requires of Jesus’ first followers (Witherington 1990: 14) is certainly not typical of schools of other early sages." (Craig Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew [Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999], p. 29)

    If you search the archives of this blog, you'll find a lot of material on the historical genre of the gospels, what was expected of ancient writers composing works in such genres, how the earliest interpreters of the gospels viewed the documents, etc. Your speculations, which you don't support with any evidence, are widely and deeply contradicted by the evidence we do have.

    You wrote:

    "Re. John, the bottom line is that there is some evidence to suggest John wrote John, but this is uncertain."

    The issue is probability, not certainty. Every manuscript that names an author names John. The earliest external sources name John, and nearly every external source afterward to comment on the authorship names John as the author. The grammar, style, argumentation, etc. are repeatedly similar to those found in other documents attributed to John. Many lines of internal evidence suggest an author with the same attributes that John would have had. You refer to "some evidence", but a more accurate term would be "a lot of evidence, far more than any rival theory has". If you had a comparable or better alternative to the traditional view, you'd probably have mentioned it. You have no comparable or better alternative.

    You wrote:

    "Best case scenario is an elderly John writing several decades after Jesus was crucified and putting the early church's interpretation of Jesus' life into writing."

    What you seem to be suggesting, without evidence, is that "the early church's interpretation" was inaccurate. To substantiate such an assertion, you would need to address the evidence we have for the genre of the gospel, the early Christians' concern for eyewitness testimony, how the early Christian and non-Christian sources interpreted the document, etc. I doubt that you're anywhere close to being prepared to participate in such a discussion in an informed manner.

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  4. Darius, evidence, please. Bishop John A. T. Robinson, a notorious liberal, believed that the Bible was complete by AD 70, based on his perusal of the evidence, for example.

    Even accepting your opinion (and that is all that it is), we accept biographies far more distant from their subjects, such as Arrian's of Alexander as accurate.

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  5. I'll be refuting this on my blog shortly, stay tuned.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. A couple of quick comments.

    The Wikipedia article on Papias indicates that he denied being a disciple of John. They provide a quote from him to that effect.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papias

    Wikipedia also has an article on the authorship of the Johannine texts, where they claim that Ireneus is accused of making Papias a disciple of John to support his own theories. Eusebius specifically claims that Papias is a disciple of John the Presbyter, not John the Apostle. But then he is accused of putting this forward to support his own theories regarding the authorship of Revelation, which he claims is written by John the Presbyter.

    I think this leads to a key point that requires us to be careful when making definitive statements. Obviously when battling those one considers heretics there is a temptation to assign prominent names to texts in order to provide authority. I'm sure there are plenty of examples of this occuring in history.

    One example that comes to my mind is the Pseudo Isodorian Decretals that George Salmon discussed in "The Infallibility of the Church." These are supposed texts between prominent people of the Church where they basically act like the See of Rome is the most important. These were accepted universally as authentic for centuries, even duping Thomas Aquinas. Yet the moment they were seriously assailed they were revealed to be a most clumsy forgery. So unanimity of opinion really doesn't prove anything.

    None of this means it isn't written by John. But we can't be too confident of it based upon evidence like this. We have a person who claims to know a person who claims to know a person. That's not worth nothing, but it doesn't get us too far either, especially with the obvious motivation factors.

    Other internal factors I think show that this gospel is not written by an eyewitness. There are things which occur which indicate that the author is trying to modify what has been reported previously to soften it theologically.

    Take for instance the story of the baptism. In Mark we see Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist. This could cause some concerns. Is Jesus subjecting himself to John the Baptist? Why would a sinless person need a baptism of repentance?

    Matthew softens it a little. He puts in the mouth of the Baptist the statement "I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?" to which Jesus responds to just do it to "fulfill all righteousness."

    So Matthew is implying that Jesus is superior to the Baptist. But in the Gospel of John, John really puts a stamp on it. He's got the Baptist saying "I am not even worthy to untie his sandals" and he "has surpassed me because he was before me." And the (supposed) Apostle John doesn't even bother saying that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. So now there's nothing to be concerned about. No mention of the baptism so nobody could suggest Jesus is subject to John or that he needs a baptism of repentance. And clear statements from the Baptist himself that he is inferior to Jesus.

    Are these the actions of a person that is simply interested in reporting the facts as he witnessed them, or is this someone that has a theological agenda? These type of things count against the belief that the author is an eyewitness.

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  8. Jon Curry wrote:

    "The Wikipedia article on Papias indicates that he denied being a disciple of John. They provide a quote from him to that effect."

    You need to consult better sources than Wikipedia. Wikipedia can be useful for beginning a search for information, but often isn't reliable for more detailed research.

    See the discussion of Papias in D.A. Carson and Douglas Moo, An Introduction To The New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005), pp. 233-234. Irenaeus lived close to the time of Papias and had close ties with Johannine circles (he met Polycarp, had lived in Smyrna, etc.), and he refers to Papias as a disciple of the apostle John.

    But you attempt to dismiss Irenaeus' testimony with another reference to Wikipedia:

    "Wikipedia also has an article on the authorship of the Johannine texts, where they claim that Ireneus is accused of making Papias a disciple of John to support his own theories."

    Which Wikipedia article are you referring to? They have more than one related to John and his writings.

    Regardless, I've read the entirety of Irenaeus' writings. There's no indication that he "made" Papias a disciple of John in the sense of fabricating the account. He reports the information about Papias as a historical account, with much the same language he uses when describing other disciples of the apostles. As I explained above, Irenaeus was in a good position to know whether Papias was a disciple of John. You aren't giving us any reason to doubt his testimony.

    You write:

    "Eusebius specifically claims that Papias is a disciple of John the Presbyter, not John the Apostle. But then he is accused of putting this forward to support his own theories regarding the authorship of Revelation, which he claims is written by John the Presbyter."

    Yes, and Eusebius cites an argument for his conclusion from the text of Papias' writings, but we know from that text, which is still extant, that Eusebius' reading is highly speculative. Irenaeus is an earlier source than Eusebius, we don't have reasons to dismiss his testimony that are comparable to the reasons we have for dismissing the argument of Eusebius, and Irenaeus was in a much better position to know about Papias' relationship with John.

    You write:

    "I think this leads to a key point that requires us to be careful when making definitive statements. Obviously when battling those one considers heretics there is a temptation to assign prominent names to texts in order to provide authority. I'm sure there are plenty of examples of this occuring in history."

    First of all, I didn't claim to have "definitive" conclusions. Probability is all that's needed, and I do have that.

    Secondly, have you read the writings of Irenaeus? I have. He only names two disciples of John: Papias and Polycarp. Two isn't a high number. It doesn't seem that he had a habit of falsely naming disciples of John.

    You write:

    "One example that comes to my mind is the Pseudo Isodorian Decretals that George Salmon discussed in 'The Infallibility of the Church.'"

    First you repeatedly cited Wikipedia as your source. Now you're citing a historical example several centuries removed from the timeframe in question, a historical example that occurred under radically different circumstances. We don't have any evidence against Irenaeus' testimony about Papias that would be comparable to the evidence we have against the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals. I know that you weren't attempting an exact parallel, but your parallel isn't even close.

    You write:

    "These were accepted universally as authentic for centuries, even duping Thomas Aquinas. Yet the moment they were seriously assailed they were revealed to be a most clumsy forgery. So unanimity of opinion really doesn't prove anything."

    Again, there's nothing we have with regard to Irenaeus' testimony about Papias that's comparable to the evidence we have against the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals. And the fact that large groups of people are sometimes wrong doesn't justify the conclusion that large groups are probably wrong in general. Even after an example like the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals is taken into account, it still makes more sense to think that widespread testimony would be right than to think that it would be wrong. If we applied your reasoning consistently, then we'd have to reject the testimony of large groups across the board, not just with regard to Biblical documents. I don't know of any historian who thinks that such an approach is reasonable.

    Besides, you're wrong about the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals. Some of the contemporaries of Pope Nicholas I thought they were forgeries, and their later widespread acceptance was only general, not universal (F.L. Cross and E.A. Livingstone, editors, The Oxford Dictionary Of The Christian Church [New York: Oxford University Press, 1997], p. 598). The documents didn't attain widespread influence until the eleventh century, when the historical figures in question were long dead. John's gospel, on the other hand, was widely accepted when disciples of John were still living. And the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals were influential in the West, whereas the East persisted in rejecting the doctrine of the papacy. John's authorship of the fourth gospel, on the other hand, was accepted early in both the West and the East.

    You write:

    "We have a person who claims to know a person who claims to know a person."

    Even after I and others have discussed these issues with you many times, you still give no indication of knowing some of the most basic issues involved. Irenaeus met at least one of John's disciples, possessed the writings of another, and had other information on the disciples of John. It's doubtful that he would have been mistaken about each of these independent lines of evidence. And since other sources also refer to Polycarp as a disciple of John, for example, you'd have to argue that the other sources were mistaken as well. Even without any appeal to sources like Irenaeus, we know that disciples of John would have lived past the lifetime of John himself. How likely is it that the Christians of the second century, after living with the disciples of John for a few decades or more, would collectively forget the actual origins of the document in question and collectively mistakenly assign it to John, then do the same with three other documents with similar content (the Johannine epistles)? If a wide variety of sources (a variety of backgrounds, locations, personalities, etc.) refer to John as the author of the gospel and the epistles, and the four documents are highly similar in content, and all of the manuscripts containing an author's name have John's name, and all of the documents are consistent with Johannine authorship internally, how likely is it that all of these sources were mistaken?

    What you're doing is suggesting that the evidence might be leading us to the wrong conclusion. But if we're going to reject the probable conclusion to the evidence on the basis that the evidence might be misleading us, then we need to reject all such probable conclusions on all subjects under the same reasoning. As I said before, I don't know of any historian who considers such an approach reasonable.

    You write:

    "That's not worth nothing, but it doesn't get us too far either, especially with the obvious motivation factors."

    What motivation factors? The early Christians had high ethical standards, and they demonstrated a willingness to question other documents (Hebrews, 2 Peter, etc.). The early Christians explicitly, repeatedly expressed disapproval of false document attribution and took steps to avoid it:

    "Whatever the reason, pseudepigraphic letters among the Jews are extremely rare....Referring both to Christian and non-Christian sources, Donelson goes so far as to say, 'No one ever seems to have accepted a document as religiously and philosophically prescriptive which was known to be forged. I do not know a single example.'...[quoting Philip Carrington] 'There seems to be no evidence at all that such missives [viz. letters] were freely composed in the names of contemporary persons who had recently died.'...so far as the evidence of the Fathers goes, when they explicitly evaluated a work for its authenticity, canonicity and pseudonymity proved mutually exclusive....The onus is on those who uphold the idea that the writing of pseudonymous letters was an accepted practice among the early Christians to produce some evidence for their view. On the contrary, the evidence we have is that every time such a writing could be identified with any certainty, it was rejected. Inevitably, this means that many scholars seek to establish the pseudepigraphical character of a particular document on purely internal grounds...More than half of the New Testament consists of books that do not bear the names of their authors...The onus is on the upholders of theories of pseudonymous authorship to explain why this strong tradition of [internal] anonymity was discarded in favor, not of authors attaching their own names to what they wrote (as Paul did), but of other people's names....If the 'school' mode of transmission [whereby a school of a teacher's followers composed documents in his name] was so ubiquitous and easily understood, why did none of the church fathers who addressed questions of authenticity view it as an appropriate model for their grasp of the New Testament documents?" (D.A. Carson and Douglas Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005], pp. 341-342, n. 39 on p. 342, pp. 343-344, 346, 350)

    You write:

    "Take for instance the story of the baptism. In Mark we see Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist. This could cause some concerns. Is Jesus subjecting himself to John the Baptist? Why would a sinless person need a baptism of repentance?"

    Mark's gospel is the shortest. He gives less detail than the others on a lot of issues, not just the baptism of Jesus. Jesus' sinlessness was an established belief before Mark's gospel was written (2 Corinthians 5:21). The deity of Christ is asserted repeatedly in the writings of Paul (Romans 9:5, Philippians 2:5-11, etc.), and sinlessness would be an implication of that deity even if Paul had never stated it explicitly in 2 Corinthians 5. The Christians living at the time when Mark's gospel was composed would have believed in Jesus' sinlessness. Both His sinlessness and His baptism would have been subjects widely known and widely discussed for decades. It's not as if some shorter period of time between Mark's gospel and the next gospel was when people started thinking about such issues for the first time.

    But issues like these have already been addressed by conservative scholarship. Why aren't you interacting with their arguments? Instead, you largely rely on what you've read from Wikipedia, Richard Carrier, etc.

    You write:

    "And the (supposed) Apostle John doesn't even bother saying that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. So now there's nothing to be concerned about. No mention of the baptism so nobody could suggest Jesus is subject to John or that he needs a baptism of repentance."

    If you're going to argue that the author of the fourth gospel didn't think that Jesus was baptized, then you need to address the evidence I cited in the first post in this thread regarding widespread knowledge of the Synoptic gospels in the late first century. You also need to explain why the early post-apostolic Christians viewed the four gospels as harmonious. Furthermore, you need to explain why there's no trace of Christians not believing in the baptism of Jesus in the early second century and why individuals and churches who were in contact with John affirm Jesus' baptism. You also need to explain why Jesus was coming to John (John 1:29) just after a mentioning of baptism (John 1:28) and why the baptismal theme of the dove landing is mentioned (John 1:32-33) if no baptism of Jesus is being suggested.

    Jon, I told you this last year, and I'll repeat it. You need to stop consulting sources like Wikipedia and Richard Carrier so much and spend more time consulting conservative scholarship.

    ReplyDelete
  9. "As I explained above, Irenaeus was in a good position to know whether Papias was a disciple of John. You aren't giving us any reason to doubt his testimony."

    Well, I did point out that the Wikipedia article I cited provided a direct quote from Papias where he denies speaking with the apostle John. That's a reason to doubt Irenaeus testimony.

    "Yes, and Eusebius cites an argument for his conclusion from the text of Papias' writings, but we know from that text, which is still extant, that Eusebius' reading is highly speculative."

    Probably we're talking about the same text that Wikipedia cites. That one is the same translation offered by Roberts-Donaldson in their English translation. If this is the same text, why do you regard the translation as speculative?

    "Secondly, have you read the writings of Irenaeus? I have. He only names two disciples of John: Papias and Polycarp. Two isn't a high number. It doesn't seem that he had a habit of falsely naming disciples of John."

    So if he had cited several disciples of John you would regard him as unreliable? Or would you think this is all the more evidence that he has a strong link with John?

    "I know that you weren't attempting an exact parallel, but your parallel isn't even close."

    I'm talking about a document put forward to combat "heresy" which is attributed falsely to prominent people in order to give it credence. It's also unversally (according to Salmon) erroneously accepted, even by brilliant men of integrity. This demonstrates that universal acceptance proves little in the first century. The same is true centuries later when technology is better and ability to stop forgeries would be better, with more educated people and so forth. Why would you say that the parallel isn't close?

    "Again, there's nothing we have with regard to Irenaeus' testimony about Papias that's comparable to the evidence we have against the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals."

    And I did not say that there was. The Pseudo Isodorian Decretals are a very clumsy forgery. If many brilliant men can be duped by them, when they have people who live in different eras communicating with one another, and have people battling heresies which had not yet arisen at the time they lived, how much more easily could less educated people be duped by a mere claim that a particular document was written by a certain person? How much more difficult is the later to disprove? The conclusion is this. Universal (decades later) opinion doesn't go that far.

    Now, if the universal belief was inoccuous, that would be another matter. But we're talking about one of the most prominent apostles out there. The temptation to attach his name to certain texts is huge. We've seen this sort of thing happen even when the temptation isn't that great. For instance certain bones were dug up at some point and word started getting around that these were the bones of the martyr Stephen. Then of course erroneous mythical events are attached with those that are around him. Even St. Augustine is duped, and (if I remember right) he talks about how 70 persons came back to life as a result of being near the bones of "Stephen." People like to attach famous names to documents or other relics. That's a natural human tendency.

    "And the fact that large groups of people are sometimes wrong doesn't justify the conclusion that large groups are probably wrong in general."

    Depends on what is claimed, how extraordinary that claim is, and the motivations for making a claim.

    "If we applied your reasoning consistently, then we'd have to reject the testimony of large groups across the board, not just with regard to Biblical documents. I don't know of any historian who thinks that such an approach is reasonable."

    The evidence is that copyists and others have a large tendency to modify the biblical texts and in other ways do unethical things to advance their own views. This is a unique situation that applies to Scripture and not to a lot of other ancient texts. I've heard it said that there are more textual variants in Scripture than there are words in the Bible.

    "Besides, you're wrong about the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals. Some of the contemporaries of Pope Nicholas I thought they were forgeries, and their later widespread acceptance was only general, not universal"

    OK. Still, they are very clumsy and easy to disprove relative to the claim that John is the author of the gospel (assuming the later claim is false).

    "John's gospel, on the other hand, was widely accepted when disciples of John were still living."

    You don't really know that. Papias expresses his preference for oral rather than written teaching, so that is an odd statement from someone supposedly familiar with John's gospel. Polycarp doesn't quote the gospel in his surviving letter, and Irenaeus memories of him are childhood memories. He doesn't distinguish which John it is that Polycarp knew. That raises a lot of questions.

    "Jon-We have a person who claims to know a person who claims to know a person.

    Jason-Even after I and others have discussed these issues with you many times, you still give no indication of knowing some of the most basic issues involved."

    Regardless of the ad hominem, my statement is factual.

    "Even without any appeal to sources like Irenaeus, we know that disciples of John would have lived past the lifetime of John himself. How likely is it that the Christians of the second century, after living with the disciples of John for a few decades or more, would collectively forget the actual origins of the document in question and collectively mistakenly assign it to John, then do the same with three other documents with similar content (the Johannine epistles)?"

    Who are you talking about that lived with the disciples of John? Which disciples of John did they live with? What did these disciples think about the authorship of the gospel of John? Don't you have to know this before you can assert that my view requires collective memory loss?

    "What motivation factors? The early Christians had high ethical standards, and they demonstrated a willingness to question other documents (Hebrews, 2 Peter, etc.). The early Christians explicitly, repeatedly expressed disapproval of false document attribution and took steps to avoid it:"

    Clearly early Christians were not so ethical as to not put false documentation forward. You can start by looking at all the false gospels. Acts of Pilate. Gospel of Mary. Gospel of Thomas. Infancy Gospel of Thomas. You can look at the manuscript modifications as Bart Ehrman recently has put at the forefrunt of the discussion. Jerome's rendition of I John 5:7. The modification to Josephus. The text is never quoted prior to Eusebius. Some propose that he himself is the forger. But then maybe that's just their desire to attach an important name to a text. This list is endless.

    "Whatever the reason, pseudepigraphic letters among the Jews are extremely rare....Referring both to Christian and non-Christian sources, Donelson goes so far as to say, 'No one ever seems to have accepted a document as religiously and philosophically prescriptive which was known to be forged. I do not know a single example.'...[quoting Philip Carrington]"

    No one? Nobody accepted the Assumption of Moses, Testimony of the 12 Patriarchs, Book of Enoch? I and many scholars would add canonical books, such as Daniel, or the Psalms as often not written by David.

    "On the contrary, the evidence we have is that every time such a writing could be identified with any certainty, it was rejected."

    Assertions from deeply committed evangelicals intent on preserving the party line, such as Carson and Moo, may be persuasive for some, but it is not for non-evangelical scholarship. This is far from the truth.

    "If you're going to argue that the author of the fourth gospel didn't think that Jesus was baptized"

    No, I'm not arguing that.

    "Jon, I told you this last year, and I'll repeat it. You need to stop consulting sources like Wikipedia and Richard Carrier so much and spend more time consulting conservative scholarship."

    Yes, you do descend in to ad hominem occasionally, but less so than a lot of your cohorts, so I like interacting with you anyway.

    If you want to play this game, I would suspect that I've read more conservatives than you've read non-conservatives. I've read Geisler, Bruce, Carson, Bloomberg, Moreland, Craig, White, Svendsen, Habermas, Howe, Koukl, and many others. Can you say the same of those that rebut Christianity? And reading through the lens of Turkel doesn't count. I'm talking about reading them in their own context. I provided you many links to skeptics during our conversation and you never gave any indication that you read despite your links to rebuttals of them. I repeatedly asked you if you had read them before responding and you never answered that question clearly. Seems to me that perhaps I've read a little more on both sides of the issue than you have.

    I could be wrong of course. Tell us which books you've read by skeptics rebutting your claims.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I must confess that I misread your quote from Carson and Moo to mean that where a text was pseudonymous in those cases the fathers rejected it. What he actually said was in the case where they KNEW it was pseudonymous they rejected it. That's possible. I don't know what he would expect to see though. Would he expect to see Augustine assert that a text was not apostolic and pseudonymous but should be considered canonical regardless?

    Suppose a church father was dishonest and pushed for acceptance of a book he knew wasn't authentic. How would we ever know? Would we expect a secret book containing admissions of wicked deeds? We do know that many of these fathers and "saints" are vicious, wicked people. Cyril of Alexandria and Tertullian come to mind as just two examples.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Jon Curry said:

    "Well, I did point out that the Wikipedia article I cited provided a direct quote from Papias where he denies speaking with the apostle John. That's a reason to doubt Irenaeus testimony."

    No, Papias said no such thing. Papias uses the present tense when referring to John and Aristion, probably because they were still alive. The distinction wouldn't be between a John who was dead and another John who was alive, but rather between what John said in the past and what he was saying in the present. Papias applies the term "elder" to John in both references, and it's unlikely that he was shifting from what the apostolic generation said to what a later generation said. Rather, his focus remains on the apostolic generation. First he refers to what they said in the past, then he refers to what they were saying in the present. Again, read what Carson and Moo write on this subject in the book I cited.

    You write:

    "If this is the same text, why do you regard the translation as speculative?"

    I didn't say that the translation is speculative. I said that Eusebius' interpretation is speculative.

    You write:

    "So if he had cited several disciples of John you would regard him as unreliable? Or would you think this is all the more evidence that he has a strong link with John?"

    I wasn't saying that I agree with your reasoning. What I was saying was that even if we accepted the initial stages of your reasoning, Irenaeus only names two disciples of John. As I explained, two isn't a high number. We have no reason to think that Irenaeus was fabricating claims about Johannine disciples. You don't have any evidence to support your conclusion.

    You write:

    "The Pseudo Isodorian Decretals are a very clumsy forgery. If many brilliant men can be duped by them, when they have people who live in different eras communicating with one another, and have people battling heresies which had not yet arisen at the time they lived, how much more easily could less educated people be duped by a mere claim that a particular document was written by a certain person? How much more difficult is the later to disprove? The conclusion is this. Universal (decades later) opinion doesn't go that far."

    The Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals were doubted by some people, only gradually gained influence and only in some parts of the world, were largely a restating of concepts people already believed on other grounds, and were about figures who had long been dead. In contrast, the Johannine authorship of the fourth gospel was accepted in West and East shortly after the death of John, including by individuals and churches that had been in contact with John and his disciples. The early Christians were concerned about what the apostles had written. They viewed apostolic documents as Divinely inspired scripture. The Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals, in contrast, were of less concern and were initially largely disregarded. They were significant in the view of some people, but were unknown or not given much attention by others.

    You write:

    "For instance certain bones were dug up at some point and word started getting around that these were the bones of the martyr Stephen. Then of course erroneous mythical events are attached with those that are around him. Even St. Augustine is duped, and (if I remember right) he talks about how 70 persons came back to life as a result of being near the bones of 'Stephen.' People like to attach famous names to documents or other relics."

    Granting the details you're asserting for the sake of argument, Augustine postdates Stephen by a few hundred years. The reasons we have for doubting such a late identification of Stephen's bones aren't applicable to identifications of the author of the fourth gospel that occurred in the second century.

    You write:

    "Depends on what is claimed, how extraordinary that claim is, and the motivations for making a claim."

    The claim that a document was written by John isn't extraordinary.

    You write:

    "The evidence is that copyists and others have a large tendency to modify the biblical texts and in other ways do unethical things to advance their own views. This is a unique situation that applies to Scripture and not to a lot of other ancient texts. I've heard it said that there are more textual variants in Scripture than there are words in the Bible."

    You don't seem to know much about textual transmission. Given the fact that thousands of copies of scripture make up the textual record, a number of textual variants that equals "words in the Bible" is a small percentage. Let's say that a document contains 10 words. We have 500 copies of that document. That would give us 5000 words overall. If there are 10 textual variants among those copies, that's a small percentage of the text, even though it's equal to the number of words in the document. And if the variants are mostly something like leaving out the word "the" in one copy or misspelling "table" as "tabel" in another copy, then those variants are of little significance. As Bart Ehrman acknowledges, the large majority of textual variants are of a minor nature. If you want to read more about this issue, including responses to Ehrman in particular, consult the archives of this blog. As it is, you're using bad arguments without having done much research.

    You write:

    "Papias expresses his preference for oral rather than written teaching, so that is an odd statement from someone supposedly familiar with John's gospel."

    How would a preference for oral tradition be inconsistent with familiarity with written documents? Papias can be familiar with John's gospel and other written documents, yet state a preference for oral tradition when writing in a particular context.

    You write:

    "Polycarp doesn't quote the gospel in his surviving letter, and Irenaeus memories of him are childhood memories. He doesn't distinguish which John it is that Polycarp knew. That raises a lot of questions."

    Irenaeus isn't the only source we have for information on Polycarp's relationship with John. Even if he was, the fact that he's referring to boyhood memories doesn't give us reason to reject his memories. He tells us that he remembers many details of his encounters with Polycarp, and he writes to Florinus about how he (Florinus) had seen Polycarp also. Was Irenaeus not only misremembering his own experiences, but also misremembering those of Florinus? And Florinus never corrected him? Irenaeus writes about other contemporaries who confirmed what he was saying about Polycarp: "To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time" (Against Heresies, 3:3:4). Irenaeus also tells us that he had access to more than one letter of Polycarp, not just the one letter that's extant today. Thus, Irenaeus' memories of Polycarp were confirmed by other sources he had access to, including writings of Polycarp that we don't have today. He repeatedly refers to how Polycarp had known some of the apostles, including John. Irenaeus specifically uses the word "apostles", repeatedly, in more than one passage. The only "John" Irenaeus refers to is the son of Zebedee. He repeatedly explains that he's referring to the son of Zebedee, the apostle. This is another issue you're ignorant about, Jon, yet you make assertions about it and tell us that your assertions "raise a lot of questions". The questions that are raised have more to do with your credibility than they have to do with the identity of Polycarp or the credibility of Irenaeus.

    You write:

    "Who are you talking about that lived with the disciples of John? Which disciples of John did they live with? What did these disciples think about the authorship of the gospel of John?"

    Again, we have evidence for some disciples of John who are named, specifically Papias and Polycarp. We also have references to other disciples of John who aren't named. And it's reasonable to conclude that people who knew John would live past his lifetime. It would be ridiculous to suggest that all of the eyewitnesses of John's life died with him. If some eyewitnesses of John lived into the second century, which surely would have occurred, then the second century Christians would be forming their beliefs in a context in which eyewitnesses of John were still living. It's unlikely that Christians of the East and West would agree that the fourth gospel was written by John, without any trace of any disciple of John or other eyewitness objecting, if the document wasn't written by John. We know that attribution to John occurred early. Irenaeus refers to how Ptolemy was naming John as the author and writing his own commentary on the gospel in the early to middle part of the second century. Around the same time, Justin Martyr refers to "apostles" writing gospels, which would have to include John (Matthew alone wouldn't explain the plural). The early and widespread acceptance of Johannine authorship is better explained by Johannine authorship than by some widespread ignorance or forgetting of who wrote the document followed by a widespread acceptance of a fabricated attribution. That the disciples of John would have had as little influence as you're suggesting is highly unlikely.

    You write:

    "Clearly early Christians were not so ethical as to not put false documentation forward. You can start by looking at all the false gospels. Acts of Pilate. Gospel of Mary. Gospel of Thomas. Infancy Gospel of Thomas."

    Those documents were condemned and rejected by the large majority of professing Christians. Why should the acceptance of spurious documents by a minority convince us to reject the judgment of the majority that opposed those spurious documents? Since some Americans have accepted spurious documents attributed to America's founders, should we conclude that Americans collectively "were not so ethical as to not put false documentation forward"?

    You write:

    "You can look at the manuscript modifications as Bart Ehrman recently has put at the forefrunt of the discussion. Jerome's rendition of I John 5:7. The modification to Josephus. The text is never quoted prior to Eusebius. Some propose that he himself is the forger. But then maybe that's just their desire to attach an important name to a text. This list is endless."

    Again, consult the archives of this blog for responses to Ehrman. And what do you think is the significance of "Jerome's rendition of 1 John 5:7"? Jerome isn't responsible for later editions of the Vulgate. We reject the variant in 1 John 5 because there's so much textual evidence against it. (See, for example, http://www.bible-researcher.com/comma.html.) One individual, whether Jerome or somebody else, wouldn't be able to change the many manuscripts that came before him or control the manuscripts that came after him. It's not as if non-Christians and Christians living in other parts of the world (including people who may never have even known of Jerome's existence) were dependent on Jerome for their copies of scripture. The Josephus example doesn't establish your point either, since only one passage is altered, the alterations aren't in every manuscript, and the large majority of other extra-Biblical texts (including other portions of Josephus' writings) have no such alterations. The examples you're citing make up only a small percentage of textual transmission, and the reason why we can detect corruptions in 1 John 5 or Josephus is because we have textual and other evidence to that effect. It would be irrational to suggest that we should also reject texts for which we have no such evidence of corruption.

    You write:

    "No one? Nobody accepted the Assumption of Moses, Testimony of the 12 Patriarchs, Book of Enoch? I and many scholars would add canonical books, such as Daniel, or the Psalms as often not written by David."

    Carson and Moo are addressing the acceptance of known pseudonymous works as scripture. Since eyewitnesses and contemporaries of the apostles were still living when the New Testament documents began circulating, anybody proposing that documents were falsely attributed to the apostles at that time need to explain how such false attributions were accepted in such a context. Some people argue that the false attributions were accepted because the people making those attributions weren't claiming that the documents were actually apostolic. Rather, pseudonymity was involved. Carson and Moo are responding to that line of argumentation. If the early Christians were opposed to pseudonymity, then how did they arrive at their authorship conclusions? If you're going to argue that they speculated about authorship after the eyewitnesses and contemporaries of the apostles had died, then why should we believe that the eyewitnesses and contemporaries wouldn't have passed on the information they had, and how did late speculations become accepted so widely and so quickly, for example?

    You write:

    "Assertions from deeply committed evangelicals intent on preserving the party line, such as Carson and Moo, may be persuasive for some, but it is not for non-evangelical scholarship."

    Have you read the work of Carson and Moo that I cited? They provide documentation and cite non-Evangelical scholars in support of their conclusions. Your dismissive response is inaccurate and does nothing to refute their arguments.

    You write:

    "I've read Geisler, Bruce, Carson, Bloomberg, Moreland, Craig, White, Svendsen, Habermas, Howe, Koukl, and many others. Can you say the same of those that rebut Christianity?"

    Yes, I can.

    You write:

    "I provided you many links to skeptics during our conversation and you never gave any indication that you read despite your links to rebuttals of them. I repeatedly asked you if you had read them before responding and you never answered that question clearly."

    Your memory is faulty. For example, I read the article by Richard Carrier that you cited on the relationship between Luke and Josephus, and I explained to you why Carrier's argument was fallacious. You never interacted with what I wrote. I've also read Carrier's article on the alleged gullibility of ancient people, and I told you that you ought to also read Glenn Miller's article responding to Carrier. Apparently, you never did, at least as of the last time we discussed the subject. I read both articles, something you apparently haven't done. I don't remember what all of the articles you cited were, but I've been reading material from groups like Internet Infidels and material written by non-Christian scholars for years. Just within the last few months, I've probably written dozens of posts here in response to articles by John Loftus, Matthew Green, and other skeptics at Debunking Christianity and other web sites.

    You write:

    "We do know that many of these fathers and 'saints' are vicious, wicked people. Cyril of Alexandria and Tertullian come to mind as just two examples."

    Cyril of Alexandria lived in the fourth and fifth centuries. Issues of Biblical authorship and textual transmission were already well established before his time. He doesn't have much relevance here. Tertullian is more relevant, but I don't know what you have in mind when you refer to him as "vicious" and "wicked". Even if he was (a claim I reject), Tertullian's faults wouldn't lead us to the conclusion that men like Paul, Peter, Luke, Polycarp, Irenaeus, etc. were "vicious" and "wicked".

    The more you write, Jon, the more you demonstrate that you left Christianity while still largely ignorant and misinformed on some of the most significant issues.

    ReplyDelete
  12. "No, Papias said no such thing."

    Here is the quote from Papias

    "And also if any follower of the Presbyters happened to come, I would inquire for the sayings of the Presbyters, what Andrew said, or what Peter said, or what Philip or what Thomas or James or what John or Matthew or any other of the Lord's disciples, and for the things which other of the Lord's disciples, and for the things which Aristion and the Presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, were saying."

    There is nothing here that implies that the disciples are still alive. There is nothing to indicate that he spoke directly with John himself. He is trying to emphasize how what he communicates is the truth. To acheive that he points out that he would inquire of those that heard the disciples actually speak. Why would he appeal to disciples of the disciples if he's spoken with John himself? He wouldn't.

    Translation available here:

    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/papias.html

    Notice in this translation the following statement. It appears to be from the writer that preserved what Papias wrote:

    "Papias, who is now mentioned by us, affirms that he received the sayings of the apostles from those who accompanied them, and he moreover asserts that he heard in person Aristion and the presbyter John.

    "You don't have any evidence to support your conclusion."

    I have quotes from Papias himself, the interpretation of those quotes by whoever preserved his writings, by Eusebius, and by the author of the Wikipedia article. I don't know why you're saying this isn't evidence. It's certainly evidence. In the same way I don't know why you say the parallel of the Pseudo Isodirian Decretals isn't close. I pointed out several ways that make it analagous. You've responded to it and that's fine, but to say it is in no way parallel is just overstatement, as is your claim that the quotes and interpretation of the quotes of Papias is not evidence.

    "Granting the details you're asserting for the sake of argument, Augustine postdates Stephen by a few hundred years."

    That's irrelevant to my point. My point is that it is tempting to assign famous names to relics and documents. You are not acknowledging that temptation.

    "The claim that a document was written by John isn't extraordinary."

    Yes it is. There's a reason that guy forged the Ossuary of James. He knew it would be a big deal, and it was. And a lot of people bought off on it. This is a key point that you are not seeing. You are not seeing how there is a HUGE motivation to assign a famous name to a text like this.

    "You don't seem to know much about textual transmission."

    Regardless of the ad hominem, my statement is again factual.

    "Those documents were condemned and rejected by the large majority of professing Christians. Why should the acceptance of spurious documents by a minority convince us to reject the judgment of the majority that opposed those spurious documents?"

    You are misrepresenting my argument. We're talking about the ethics of early Christians. Do early Christians put forward spurious documents as if they were genuine? Of course they do, and I cited several examples that both of us agree are spurious. You respond and say "But those documents were rejected as spurious." Of course. I can't very well use John or Matthew as an example of a spurious document that was put forward because that would be begging the question. I put forward documents we both agree are spurious, and this means they would have to be documents that in the end were rejected by Christians as a whole. That establishes my point. There is abundant evidence that Christians acted in this manner. Many were unsuccessful. But it is not at all unlikely that even if most were unsuccessful, some would be successful. Particularly since some pseudonymous books might espouse theology as those in power like to see it, which will give them a propensity to accept it. This again is that motivation factor which you have not acknowledged.

    "The examples you're citing make up only a small percentage of textual transmission, and the reason why we can detect corruptions in 1 John 5 or Josephus is because we have textual and other evidence to that effect. It would be irrational to suggest that we should also reject texts for which we have no such evidence of corruption."

    Again, you are not interacting with the point I'm making, but instead you are rebutting a completely different argument. I am not talking about rejecting the texts on the basis of corruption. I'm well aware that there are means to identify interpolations and so forth. I'm simply talking about the fact that Christians do show a propensity to unethically modify texts to support their theological agenda. Clearly Josephus is an example of this. You say the Josephus alteration is not in every manuscript. That is totally irrelevant to my point.

    "Jon-I've read Geisler, Bruce, Carson, Bloomberg, Moreland, Craig, White, Svendsen, Habermas, Howe, Koukl, and many others. Can you say the same of those that rebut Christianity?

    Jason-Yes, I can."

    So tell us which books you've read.

    "For example, I read the article by Richard Carrier that you cited on the relationship between Luke and Josephus"

    Perhaps you did manage to read a couple. But you gave indications that you hadn't read some of them despite your responses to them and when questioned repeatedly you did not respond.

    "The more you write, Jon, the more you demonstrate that you left Christianity while still largely ignorant and misinformed on some of the most significant issues."

    Well, I've read dozens of books by Christians on apologetics. I was a Christian for decades. I went to church regularly. I've read the Bible from cover to cover 4 times. I've even attended an apologetics conference. I debated skeptics on the sec web and Catholics on discussion boards for years. I taught classes at my church on apologetics. If I'm not informed, what would qualify me? And if I'm not qualified to judge Christianity, are you qualified to judge rejection of Christianity? Have you read dozens of books by skeptics debunking Christianity? Have you attended skeptical conferences?

    What we are dealing with here is what I pointed out to you many times before, that is, a double standard. Because I hear this a lot. I'm told that I'm not qualified because I don't know Greek, or I haven't studied Hebrew, or I haven't read this guy or that guy. But then, when people become Christian, I suspect you don't express the same objections. You don't ask them if they've read Hume, Paine, Russell, Dawkins, Gould, Shermer, Carrier, Till, Price, Martin, Fales, Kirby, or Barker. You don't tell them that they should wait on acceptance until they've learned Greek, because without it they can't properly test the truth of the Bible. Why is it one set of rules when a person leaves skepticism for Christianity, but another set when they leave Christianity for skepticism?

    I'm willing to drop this line of reasoning entirely. I don't call you ignorant of skepticism, despite the fact that you haven't named one book by a skeptic you've read debunking Christianity. You may well be ignorant, and I happen to think you are ignorant based upon some of the arguments you've made, but that is not a point that I feel it necessary to emphasize with each and every post. I'm content to just rebut your claims and leave it at that. But if you are going to be unwilling to simply focus on the arguments without sprinkling in the occassional ad hominem about my ignorance, then lay your cards on the table. Put up or shut up. Show us how your knowledge of skepticism is superior to my knowledge of Christianity. Tell us which books you've read. You've mentioned that you've read web links. Can you offer any books? Tell us what they are.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Jon Curry,

    You've said that you consider my comments on your knowledge of these subjects "ad hominem", and you've said that you want to "simply focus on the arguments". I have read books and other material by non-Christians (Alan Segal, John Crossan, Gerd Ludemann, Richard Carrier, Dan Barker, etc.), as well as listening to audio and watching video tapes, for example, but I wasn't criticizing you for the quantity of material you've read or what you've experienced. There's no way for me to know which books you've read, what you were taught in church, etc. What I've been criticizing is your knowledge of some of the issues you've discussed with me and with other people. You can read dozens of books, yet still be significantly ignorant of an issue like textual transmission or the writings of a church father. The fact that you've read books by Norman Geisler and Gary Habermas, for example, doesn't change the fact that you made a highly ignorant claim about the textual transmission of the Bible in your discussion with James White earlier this year. (You claimed that we didn't have any copies of the New Testament prior to the third century.) In this current thread, you've made other claims about textual transmission that suggest that you don't have much understanding of the subject. The fact that you've read dozens of books by Eric Svendsen, Craig Blomberg, and other Christian sources doesn't change the erroneous nature of the claims you've been making on some of the subjects we've been discussing. You've demonstrated that you didn't have much familiarity with Papias when you began this discussion, though you now know more about him because I've told you more. You've made false claims about what Irenaeus reports about Polycarp. You still haven't supported your claim that Tertullian was a "wicked" and "vicious" man. Etc. Would you tell me where I've made false claims comparable to your errors on issues of textual transmission and the church fathers, for example?

    You write:

    "There is nothing here [in Papias] that implies that the disciples are still alive."

    Yes, there is. You're ignoring what I told you. Papias refers to the second John as an elder ("presbyter" in your translation), the same phrase he just applied to the apostles. The names he lists first are the names of the disciples of Jesus, the first generation of Christians. As I explained to you in my last post, it makes more sense to see the other people he names as more people from the same category. If his concern was with what the apostolic generation said, then why would he go on to name men from a later generation? It's more likely that John and Aristion are men of the apostolic generation, with John being the apostle, the son of Zebedee. That's why Papias adds the "elder" qualifier to John, but not to Aristion. The reason why he mentions John and Aristion in a second category is explained by the tenses he applies to each category. He first refers to what men of the apostolic generation "said" (in the past). He then refers to what they "say" (in the present). My reading makes more sense of the text of Papias and is consistent with the testimony of Irenaeus.

    You write:

    "Why would he appeal to disciples of the disciples if he's spoken with John himself?"

    The reason why Papias would consult disciples of John is because John was alive before Papias and didn't live with Papias. In other words, there was only a partial overlap between the two men's lives. The reason why Papias would ask other people what somebody was saying, even though the person whose sayings he was asking about was still alive, is because Papias most likely lived in a different part of the world than the person whose sayings he was interested in. And if most of the apostles were dead at the time, then Papias would be dependent on other people for his information about those other apostles, even if he had met John. He refers to John as both "elder", a term he had previously applied to the apostles, and a "disciple of the Lord". Yet, he refers to what John "says" (present tense). The most natural way to interpret his words is that the John in question was an apostle who was still alive.

    My reading of Papias makes more sense of the text and more sense of Irenaeus' testimony. But my argument doesn't depend on my reading of Papias. My argument could be maintained even if we accepted some other reading. Let's assume for the moment, for the sake of argument, that the second reference to John in this passage from Papias isn't referring to the apostle John. All that would prove is that there was a second John. It wouldn't prove that Papias had never met the first John. There isn't anything in this passage that refutes what Irenaeus reported.

    You write:

    "I have quotes from Papias himself, the interpretation of those quotes by whoever preserved his writings, by Eusebius, and by the author of the Wikipedia article."

    No, as I've shown, the words of Papias are better explained under my reading. And the "whoever preserved his writings" is Eusebius. As I explained earlier, Eusebius had reasons for wanting to distance Papias from John, and Irenaeus was in a better position to judge the issue than Eusebius was. Wikipedia isn't a significant source in this context. Do you even know who wrote the Wikipedia article?

    You write:

    "I don't know why you're saying this isn't evidence. It's certainly evidence. In the same way I don't know why you say the parallel of the Pseudo Isodirian Decretals isn't close. I pointed out several ways that make it analagous. You've responded to it and that's fine, but to say it is in no way parallel is just overstatement, as is your claim that the quotes and interpretation of the quotes of Papias is not evidence."

    You're misrepresenting what I've said. Under your definition of "evidence", all that a person has to do is present something in support of his position, even if that same something can plausibly be read in a manner consistent with the other side of the dispute. I'm not defining "evidence" in that manner. Under your definition, a Holocaust denier can claim to have evidence. I realize that the term "evidence" is used in different ways in different contexts, but I wasn't using it in the manner you're suggesting.

    And I didn't argue that the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals are "in no way parallel". I said that the parallel isn't close.

    You write:

    "There's a reason that guy forged the Ossuary of James. He knew it would be a big deal, and it was."

    The trial in Israel is ongoing. The latest reports I've read suggest that the evidence currently leans in support of the ossuary:

    http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2006/03/whatever-happened-to-james-ossuary.html

    http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2006/07/latest-from-james-ossuary-trial.html

    How is the James ossuary supposed to support your argument, aside from demonstrating points that I haven't disputed?

    You write:

    "You are not seeing how there is a HUGE motivation to assign a famous name to a text like this."

    Are you suggesting that we can't trust any authorship attribution made to "a famous name", since people would have a "HUGE motivation" to fabricate such an attribution? Should we therefore reject the authorship attributions of all of Paul's letters? Should we reject all of the authorship attributions of every document attributed to Plato, Philo of Alexandria, Josephus, Galen, Martin Luther, etc.? If you're not suggesting that we reject all attributions to well known figures, then you must be arguing that attribution to a well known figure combined with something else is sufficient reason to reject that attribution. So, what is that something else in the case of the fourth gospel? What other evidence would you cite to convince us to reject Johannine authorship? So far, you haven't given us anything that's even close to sufficient to make your case.

    The examples of erroneous attribution that you've cited (the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals, Augustine and the bones of Stephen, and the James ossuary) don't lead us to your conclusion. How would the fact that false attributions have sometimes been made lead us to the conclusion that the historical figures relevant to the fourth gospel had "a HUGE motivation to assign a famous name to a text like this"? You need to explain the connection between your examples and your conclusion.

    You've argued that the fourth gospel is inconsistent with the other gospels. Why would Christians in the late first and early second centuries have a "HUGE motivation" to attribute a document that's inconsistent with the other gospels, a document from an unknown author, to the apostle John? And if they did have such a motivation, what about the other motivations they would have had? What about their concern for honesty? What about their concern for how other people would react to their claim?

    When you're considering the potential motivations of a source, you have to take all of the motivations into account. You don't single out one potential motivation, such as a desire that a document you appreciate was written by a well known figure.

    If we hear a song that we appreciate on the radio, we don't just assume without evidence that it must have been composed by a well known figure we think highly of. And we probably wouldn't see thousands of other people attributing the song to the same wrong person around the same time, with the same lack of concern for having any evidence. And those thousands of people probably wouldn't persist in making their false attribution in public for decades, while eyewitnesses and contemporaries of the alleged composer of the song were still living, without any correction taking place. The false attribution would be all the more difficult to explain if the people making the false attribution claimed to be highly concerned about historical evidence, such as eyewitness testimony.

    With John's gospel we have a situation in which a concern for apostolic testimony, an opposition to false document attribution, the presence of eyewitnesses and contemporaries, and other factors would weigh heavily against any potential motivation to falsely attribute a document to a well known source. That's why documents like Mark, Luke, Hebrews, and 2 Peter were attributed to a lesser known figure, were left anonymous, or had their authorship significantly disputed. When the early Christians are confident that some lesser known author composed a document, we see something like what occurred with Mark and Luke. When the early Christians are unsure of who wrote a document, we see something like what occurred with Hebrews. When one portion of the church is confident of an authorship attribution, and another portion of the church is doubting it, we see something like what occurred with 2 Peter.

    None of those scenarios occurred with the gospel of John. Rather, there's widespread confidence throughout the Christian world from the second century onward. That widespread confidence arose in a context in which John's disciples were living for more than 50 years into the second century, there was widespread opposition to false document attribution, large numbers of other documents attributed to John and other well known names were rejected, and Christians continued to have a high degree of concern for eyewitness testimony, specifically the testimony of the apostles. Then, when we look at the manuscript evidence and examine the internal content of the document in question, we see many lines of evidence supporting Johannine authorship. It's insufficient and unconvincing to respond to that sort of situation by saying that the fourth gospel is the sort of document the early Christians would have wanted to have been authored by John. The Constitution is the sort of document we would want to have been written by our forefathers, and Martin Luther's authorship of the Ninety-Five Theses is appealing to Lutherans, but we don't therefore reject the attributions of those documents by Americans and by Luther's followers.

    Many documents were written about Jesus, Christianity, and related subjects in ancient times. Only a small percentage of those were attributed to an apostle, and among that small percentage only a smaller percentage still was widely accepted as an apostolic document. Why is it, Jon, that documents attributed to an apostle were considered credible only up until a particular time? Why don't we see gospels appearing in the middle of the second century or the end of the fifth century, for example, that were widely accepted as apostolic documents? Why is it that all of the gospels that were accepted into the canon are considered first century documents by both liberal and conservative scholarship? Because the Christians of ancient times were concerned about historical evidence for apostolicity. They weren't just looking to attribute any document they thought highly of to an apostle. People couldn't write a gospel in the third century or the tenth century and get Christians to accept it as apostolic just because they thought highly of the content of it.

    Even some of the earliest documents of Christianity, such as Mark and Hebrews, weren't attributed to an apostle, and highly regarded documents like First Clement and Polycarp's Letter To The Philippians were kept out of the canon. As Irenaeus, the Muratorion Canon, and other sources tell us, a document had to be from apostolic times in order to be accepted into the canon, and eyewitnesses and contemporaries of the apostles were consulted, along with other lines of evidence. The discussions that occurred over authorship attribution, from the earliest sources onward, were discussions of a historical nature. The question was always whether the historical John historically authored the fourth gospel. It was never a matter of choosing a document whose content you appreciate, then attaching a well known name to it without regard to the relevant historical evidence. The temptation of false document attribution that you refer to would have been far outweighed by the other factors I've mentioned.

    You write:

    "Regardless of the ad hominem, my statement is again factual."

    Whether your statement about the number of textual variants was factual is irrelevant, since I was addressing the significance of your statement, not whether it was factual. As I explained, a number of textual variants equal to the number of words in the Bible is only a small percentage of the textual record of the Bible. I gave you an example involving 500 copies of a document containing 10 words. You've ignored that example and have ignored the entirety of my response on that subject. Your response, quoted above, is irrelevant and doesn't justify your original argument.

    You write:

    "I put forward documents we both agree are spurious, and this means they would have to be documents that in the end were rejected by Christians as a whole. That establishes my point. There is abundant evidence that Christians acted in this manner."

    You can't prove how Christians in general behaved by citing behavior that was rejected by the large majority of professing Christians. As I explained, what you're doing would be comparable to arguing that Americans in general were willing to falsely attribute documents to the founders of their nation, since some Americans did so. If the Americans who did so were a small minority, and the majority condemned the practice and sought to discern and weed out forgeries, then you can't use those forgeries to argue that Americans in general would be willing to make false document attributions.

    You write:

    "But it is not at all unlikely that even if most were unsuccessful, some would be successful."

    So, using the same reasoning, can we reject any document attributed to ancient Roman sources, since Roman forgeries exist? Even if a Roman document is universally attributed to a source, including at a time when eyewitnesses and contemporaries of the source were still alive, can we reject it on the basis that "it is not at all unlikely that even if most [forgeries] were unsuccessful, some would be successful"?

    The likelihood of successful forgery is decreased by factors such as the involvement of a large number of people and the presence of eyewitnesses and contemporaries of the author in question. The existence of some forgeries isn't sufficient grounds for dismissing other documents that seem to be authentic. The possibility of forgery isn't enough to lead us to the conclusion that forgery occurred. The reason why we distinguish between a document like the gospel of John and a document like the gospel of Thomas is because the evidence for the former is different from the evidence for the latter. The existence of the gospel of Thomas isn't a sufficient reason to reject the gospel of John.

    And you haven't given us any additional arguments against John that would lead us to your desired conclusion, so it isn't as if your appeal to the possibility of forgery is just one unconvincing part of an otherwise convincing argument. Rather, you don't have anything that's convincing. You're just speculating that all of the second century sources who attributed the fourth gospel to John might have been wrong. That's an argument of desperation that could be used to dismiss large numbers of documents that no historian would reject.

    You write:

    "Particularly since some pseudonymous books might espouse theology as those in power like to see it, which will give them a propensity to accept it."

    What "power" are you referring to? There was no papacy or worldwide denomination in second century Christianity. Churches were governmentally independent of one another, and it was still an age of martyrs and an age of concern for historical evidence and eyewitness testimony. No second century figure had the ability to make everybody accept a document attribution without evidence. If you want to argue that there were such people, then name names and give some examples. Or are you suggesting that church leaders acting independently of one another decided to make the same false document attributions? How did that happen? If a document like John's gospel wasn't circulating when John was alive, or was circulating without his name attached to it, don't you think people would notice the contrast when the document was later attributed to John? Don't you think that the eyewitnesses and contemporaries of John would realize that a change had occurred and that they knew of no evidence that John had written the document? Did all of the eyewitnesses and contemporaries of John remain silent? Were they all deceived? Were they all dishonest? Would you suggest that the same sort of scenario occurred with other New Testament documents? If so, how many?

    You write:

    "I'm simply talking about the fact that Christians do show a propensity to unethically modify texts to support their theological agenda."

    Who are the Christians you're referring to? If they're only a small minority, then what's the significance of their behavior? As I told you before, some Americans have forged documents and have engaged in other unethical behavior. Should we conclude that Americans in general "show a propensity to unethically modify texts to support their agenda"?

    You've cited the number of textual variants in the Bible's textual record, but what significance does that number have? As I said earlier, the number of textual variants is only a small percentage of the text, and the large majority of variants are of a minor nature. If some transcribers leave out the word "the" in one verse or skip a line in another passage, do we conclude that Christians in general "show a propensity to unethically modify texts to support their theological agenda"? No, that would be a ridiculous conclusion. Similarly, if only a small percentage of Christians have copied the text of Josephus, how would corruptions in some copies of one portion of Josephus suggest unethical behavior among Christians in general? If the examples you're citing only reflect a small minority, then what's the significance of those examples?

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  14. "The fact that you've read books by Norman Geisler and Gary Habermas, for example, doesn't change the fact that you made a highly ignorant claim about the textual transmission of the Bible in your discussion with James White earlier this year."

    James White and I were discussing Mt 17 and whether it is possible that the text could be corrupted without manuscript evidence. I said (working from memory) that the first copies we have of it are something like 3rd century. He says that's wrong. You apparently think so to. A simple web seach proves I'm exactly right. The first copy of that text is contained in P45, which is dated to the year 250. Smack dab in the middle of the 3rd century.

    So my advice to you is to just stop name calling. Because it really looks bad to name call when your basing it on mistakes. But mistakes happen. I make mistakes. You make mistakes. But when you throw in the ad hominem you really force yourself to dig in and not admit mistakes. You can't admit a mistake because you really look bad.

    "You've demonstrated that you didn't have much familiarity with Papias when you began this discussion, though you now know more about him because I've told you more."

    I didn't claim to know much about Papias. I read your assertions and simply went to Wikipedia to verify them. I find that they contradict you. That's interesting and worth pointing out, so I did. I don't think name calling is an appropriate response to that.

    But as I said, if you're going to name call, then lay your cards on the table. Tell us which books you've read. You continually dodge, and I suppose that really tells me my answer. You've said you've read books and "other material." Well, I know you've read "other material." Tell us about the books. Because generally speaking books are more in depth than "other material." I've certainly read "other material" from Christians, but more than that, I've read dozens of books by Christians. I don't think you can say the same. So I think the charge of ignorance is really more appropriately applied to you. But it's not something that I feel it necessary to continually point out.

    Also, tell us if your standards for those that leave the faith are the same as your standards for those that accept it. You say that I, having read dozens of books, having taught courses, and having been a Christian for over two decades, am just too ignorant to rationally reject Christianity. Do you feel the same way about those that reject skepticism when they haven't read dozens of books?

    "You've made false claims about what Irenaeus reports about Polycarp."

    I simply repeated what is stated at Wikipedia. I said nothing false about Polycarp. You can argue against Wikipedia. I have no problem with that. But this is not cause for ad hominem.

    For Tertullian quotes, check Wikipedia on Tertullian where they give a good example.

    "Would you tell me where I've made false claims comparable to your errors on issues of textual transmission and the church fathers, for example?"

    I have no desire to call you names, so it is not important to me to point out your errors to justify name calling. I think you've made many false claims. But I don't think in all cases this is because you are ignorant. I think it simply because I disagree with you. You disagree with me and Wikipedia and Eusebius with regards to Papias. That's fine. It would be nice if you could recognize that just as I don't call you names because you disagree with me (and Eusebius and Wikipedia) you shouldn't call me names because I disagree with you. Recognize that this is simply a disagreement.

    So you have no basis to call me names based upon my conversation with James White, Papias, Polycarp, Tertullian, my experience, my knowledge. Your name calling requires a double standard on your part. Are you going to continue to battle for the right to call names? Why don't you just stop? Do you have to be so hostile? Why don't we just argue and learn from one another? We don't have to be enemies.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Jon Curry said:

    "James White and I were discussing Mt 17 and whether it is possible that the text could be corrupted without manuscript evidence. I said (working from memory) that the first copies we have of it are something like 3rd century. He says that's wrong. You apparently think so to. A simple web seach proves I'm exactly right. The first copy of that text is contained in P45, which is dated to the year 250. Smack dab in the middle of the 3rd century."

    The webcast we're discussing is at:

    http://www.aomin.org/dl21.ram

    Your comment came during the closing moments of the program, about 58 minutes into it. Matthew's gospel was discussed, but it wasn't the only subject of discussion. James White had mentioned that the Mount of Tranfiguration follows Jesus' comments, and it does so in all three gospels, not just Matthew. The gospel of Matthew was discussed because you cited it as an example. Just before you made your comment about the third century, you used the qualifier "in the case of the Bible, the New Testament". After you said "Bible", you specified "New Testament". Did you misspeak twice? Why would you say "Bible" and "New Testament" if you meant "Matthew 17"? You put the comment about the third century in the form of a question, suggesting that you were unsure. If you knew the details of the textual record before you called James White, then why put that comment in the form of a question? You also said that we have evidence of various people modifying the text along the way, which is similar to a comment you've made here about the New Testament in general, not just Matthew 17. After James White corrected you, you began to try to modify the comment you had made, and the program ended at that point. I don't deny that you've wanted to modify your comment after being corrected. But you did make the comment.

    Even if we limit ourselves to copies of Matthew, some Matthew papyri are dated as early as the second century. See, for example:

    http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/Tyndale/staff/Head/NTOxyPap.htm

    http://www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=1217

    http://www.kchanson.com/papyri.html

    But you seem to now want to limit your comments not only to Matthew, but to Matthew 17 in particular. In your latest post in this thread, the one I'm now responding to, you write:

    "James White and I were discussing Mt 17...The first copy of that text is contained in P45, which is dated to the year 250."

    If you meant to refer only to Matthew 17, then why did you refer to the Bible in general and the New Testament in particular? Why did you go on to refer to how various people modified the text? Are you saying that what you had in mind was various people modifying the account of the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew's gospel? If so, tell us what examples of modifcation you were thinking of. And since P45 doesn't contain Matthew 17, why would you have had P45 in mind?

    You write:

    "So my advice to you is to just stop name calling."

    I didn't call names in the sense of using a term like "idiot" or "moron". I said that you're significantly ignorant of some of the issues being discussed, and I gave examples. If you object to my doing that, then you should object even moreso to the sort of behavior you've engaged in here with regard to Christians of the past. If I can't refer to you as ignorant on some issues, accompanied with documentation, then why is it acceptable for you to refer to Tertullian as "vicious" and "wicked" without any documentation that would justify the charge? I haven't been as critical of you as you've been of Christians.

    You write:

    "I didn't claim to know much about Papias. I read your assertions and simply went to Wikipedia to verify them. I find that they contradict you."

    If you don't know much about Papias, and I've told you that I do know more about him, wouldn't it make sense for you to do more than consulting Wikipedia? After you did consult Wikipedia, I told you that there's more to the issue than what you suggested. If you had read the article on John's gospel that I linked to at the beginning of this thread, you would have seen some examples of other evidence relevant to Papias, evidence that I haven't mentioned yet in this comment section. But what I have mentioned is enough to demonstrate that your argument from the Wikipedia article is insufficient. The fact that you keep referring back to the Wikipedia article, even after having these things explained to you, is an example of the sort of ignorance I've been referring to.

    You write:

    "Well, I know you've read 'other material.' Tell us about the books. Because generally speaking books are more in depth than 'other material.' I've certainly read 'other material' from Christians, but more than that, I've read dozens of books by Christians. I don't think you can say the same. So I think the charge of ignorance is really more appropriately applied to you....You say that I, having read dozens of books, having taught courses, and having been a Christian for over two decades, am just too ignorant to rationally reject Christianity. Do you feel the same way about those that reject skepticism when they haven't read dozens of books?"

    There are a lot of problems with your reasoning here. I didn't mention "books by Christians" (nor did I mention some of the other qualifications you've referred to, such as knowledge of the Biblical languages). You can't accuse me of inconsistency, because I haven't argued for the standard that you're suggesting. The question, then, is whether your standard makes sense. It doesn't, and let me use two illustrations.

    Let's say that a man who isn't a historian has read a book by Norman Geisler that includes arguments for Jesus' existence and a book by Earl Doherty that argues against His existence. Another man, a historian who specializes in the history of first century Israel, has never read a book arguing against Jesus' existence. By your reasoning, we would have to conclude that the non-historian who read those two books is more knowledgeable of the subject than the historian.

    Let's say that a man has read one book arguing for the historicity of the Holocaust and one book arguing against it. Both books were written by non-historians. Another man has read a few articles arguing against the historicity of the Holocaust, has spoken with a relative who denies its historicity, and has had discussions in online forums with other people who hold that view. He's also read three books by historians who specialize in the study of the Holocaust and who interact with the arguments of Holocaust deniers at length. Using your reasoning, we would have to conclude that the first man is more knowledgeable than the second, since the first man has read books from both sides, whereas the second man has only read books from one side and non-books from the other side. But who would deny that the second man is likely more knowledgeable, despite his not having read any books by Holocaust deniers?

    We've had some discussions about the church fathers. Though I've read some books by patristic scholars and have read some of the writings of the fathers in book form, probably the large majority of the thousands of pages of such material that I've read has been in other formats (web pages, journal articles, etc.). For example, I told you that I've read all of the writings of Irenaeus. In book format, his writings would cover hundreds of pages. But I read them online. Why should that material, as well as journal articles and other material from sources other than books, be exempted in evaluating how knowldgeable a person is? I do read books by non-Christians, and I read some that are collaborative efforts by Christians and non-Christians, but a large percentage of what I've read from non-Christians is in some other format. I don't know how many non-Christian books you've read, but even if it's more than I've read, we would still have to evaluate the quality of those books, how well each of us retained and processed the information we gained from those books, etc. And the fact that we've both read a lot of Christian books doesn't prove that the books we've read are of equal quality or that we learned an equal amount from them.

    If you've read portions of Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe's book on inerrancy, then you're knowledgeable about some arguments Christians use to defend inerrancy. But it doesn't therefore follow that you know as much as I do about Matthew 16:28 from reading commentaries on Matthew that go into more depth. If you've read one of Eric Svendsen's books on Roman Catholicism, then you have some knowledge of what Evangelicals believe and why they disagree with Catholicism, for example. But your reading of Eric Svendsen's book doesn't suggest that you're knowledgeable about the significance of the number of textual variants in the Bible's manuscript record or that you're knowledgeable of what Irenaeus reported about Polycarp, for instance. Telling us that you've read dozens of books by Christians doesn't tell us much. Even if you had read hundreds or thousands of books by Christians, your arguments about textual transmission, the church fathers, and other issues would suggest that you're significantly ignorant. That doesn't mean that you have no knowledge or are significantly ignorant on every issue. But you are significantly ignorant on some issues, including issues that rank high in importance. The issue here is what you know, not how many books you've read.

    You write:

    "I simply repeated what is stated at Wikipedia. I said nothing false about Polycarp. You can argue against Wikipedia."

    You aren't giving us any link to the article you're referring to. Here's the URL for the Wikipedia article on Polycarp:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polycarp

    The article does not argue what you've argued. It does refer to how some people question whether Polycarp was a disciple of the apostle John, but it doesn't cite any ancient sources expressing such doubt, and the author goes on to comment:

    "It is probable that he knew St. John the Evangelist, the disciple of Jesus."

    The same Wikipedia author mentions that Irenaeus reports that Polycarp had met some apostles. Yet, earlier in this thread, when you supposedly were just repeating what you read at Wikipedia, you wrote:

    "Irenaeus memories of him are childhood memories. He doesn't distinguish which John it is that Polycarp knew."

    But as I explained to you, Irenaeus had more than childhood memories to go by, and he does explicitly and repeatedly explain that Polycarp was a disciple of the apostle John, not some other John. What you've argued about Irenaeus and Polycarp is false and is different from what Wikipedia argues. Even if Wikipedia had used the same arguments you've used, the arguments are false, and Wikipedia doesn't address the issue in much depth. You keep telling us about the dozens of books you've read by Christian authors, yet you go to Wikipedia to get common information that you ought to have already known, you keep resorting to Wikipedia even when you're told that it's insufficient, and you misrepresent what you read there.

    You write:

    "For Tertullian quotes, check Wikipedia on Tertullian where they give a good example."

    The article is at:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tertullian

    You don't tell us what you have in mind that supposedly demonstrates that Tertullian was a "vicious" and "wicked" man, so we have to guess. The author of the Wikipedia article comments that Tertullian "is occasionally considered as an example of the misogyny of the early Church Fathers". But the quote that follows only has Tertullian saying that women are guilty of leading the world into sin, with Eve as their representative, so that Jesus had to die for them. He also believed that men are guilty with Adam, and that Jesus had to die for men. How do these beliefs make Tertullian "vicious" and "wicked", and how does the supposed "vicious" and "wicked" character of Tertullian lead us to the conclusion that we can't trust the early Christians in general on the issues we were discussing?

    The Wikipedia article on Tertullian also tells us:

    "He [Tertullian] was a born disputant, moved by the noblest impulses known in the Church....On the principle that we should not look at or listen to what we have no right to practise, and that polluted things, seen and touched, pollute (De spectaculis, viii., xvii.), he declared a Christian should abstain from the theater and the amphitheater. There pagan religious rites were applied and the names of pagan divinities invoked; there the precepts of modesty, purity, and humanity were ignored or set aside, and there no place was offered to the onlookers for the cultivation of the Christian graces....If Tertullian went to an unhealthy extreme in his counsels of asceticism, he is easily forgiven when one recalls his own moral vigor and his great services as an ingenuous and intrepid defender of the Christian religion, which with him, as later with Martin Luther, was first and chiefly an experience of his own heart."

    Tertullian had some ascetic tendencies, but he was "moved by the noblest impulses known in the Church" and had "moral vigor". It doesn't seem that the Wikipedia author considers Tertullian "vicious" and "wicked" in some unusual sense that would be evidence against the general trustworthiness of the ancient Christians.

    You write:

    "I have no desire to call you names, so it is not important to me to point out your errors to justify name calling. I think you've made many false claims."

    It's acceptable for you to assert that I've made "many false claims", but it would be "name calling" to document your assertion?

    You write:

    "Why don't we just argue and learn from one another? We don't have to be enemies."

    You initiated our first discussion by posting on Greg Krehbiel's board. You initiated your discussion with James White by calling his webcast. You initiated our discussion in this thread. In each case, you decided to initiate a public discussion in which you argued against Christianity. In all three cases, you made many false claims, and were repeatedly told that you need to do more studying and consult more reliable sources, and it doesn't seem that you've changed much as a result of any of these discussions. As Steve Hays recently told you, you keep going into battle unprepared. You say that you want to "learn", but things like appealing to Earl Doherty's arguments against Jesus' existence and repeatedly citing Wikipedia as your primary source don't suggest that you're headed in the right direction. You didn't ask the questions you should have asked before renouncing Christianity, and you aren't coming into forums like this one to ask questions. You've come here to argue against Christianity. When you publicly reject Jesus Christ and repeatedly initiate public arguments against Christianity, then demonstrate a significant ignorance of many issues and cite sources like Earl Doherty, Richard Carrier, and Wikipedia, you should expect a negative response. If you want a different response, you need to take a different approach.

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  16. Check your email and call me.

    ReplyDelete