In another thread, Jon Curry writes:
"Where did I say Steve assumes that John is wrong on subject B because he is wrong on subject A? Where are you getting this?"
Here are some of the comments you made to Steve:
"You don't have to assume that John is wrong in everything he did and in everything he says....Every statement he makes is a statement you feel you must reflexively oppose. If you are going to read his book, why not just read it and try to allow it to improve your understanding of another fellow human. Maybe even empathize a little. Skeptics are humans, Steve. 'Made in the image of God' if you like....Talk about his arguments against Christianity if you want, but your critiques of his experiences and his thoughts about those experiences are really completely useless."
You accuse Steve of "assuming that John is wrong in everything", which is a ridiculous accusation by itself. You then go on to distinguish between different categories. You distinguish between being a skeptic and being a human. The implication is that Steve is assuming that John is wrong in the human category because of what he disagrees with in the skeptic category. You then distinguish between "his [John Loftus'] arguments against Christianity" and "his [John Loftus'] experiences and his thoughts about those experiences". Again, the implication is that Steve shouldn't assume that the latter are wrong because he thinks that the former are wrong. My characterization of your argument was accurate. You were telling Steve that he shouldn't reject what John Loftus says on subject B because he disagrees with John on subject A.
You acknowledge the fact that a person can be wrong on one subject while being right on another, yet you don't apply that acknowledgment reasonably or consistently. The example I cited was your dismissal of Irenaeus' testimony about the authorship of the fourth gospel on the basis of his erroneous view of how old Jesus was when He died. Here's what you write in your latest post in an attempt to justify your argument about Irenaeus:
"I say he is untrustworthy when he claims to relay apostolic traditions. This doesn't mean he is wrong. He could be right about the authorship of John. But he could just as easily be wrong. His claims are not positive evidence for the authorship of John because we see that he makes up apostolic traditions."
As I've explained to you before, your use of the term "apostolic tradition" is misleading. Let me explain why again.
You haven't just dismissed Irenaeus' testimony when he claims some sort of tradition related to the apostles. You've also rejected his testimony about his memories of hearing Polycarp speak, for example.
And when he does testify to something that could be called an apostolic tradition, why are we supposed to think that all of his claims "are not positive evidence" because of an error on one subject? If three different claims can all be called apostolic tradition in some sense, yet he had differing types and degrees of access to the truth for each of the three claims, then how can his incorrectness about one justify the assumption that his testimony "is not positive evidence" on the other two?
I don't know of any historian who would argue that Josephus and Tacitus, to cite two examples, never made a mistake in their historical claims. If Tacitus was wrong on subject A, but his claims on subjects B, C, and D are consistent with what we know, are pieces of information he would be likely to have close access to, and are partially or entirely corroborated by other sources, can we dismiss his claims on B, C, and D on the basis of A? The error on A would lessen his general credibility. But we would need more than that error on A in order to justify a dismissal of B, C, and D. It would be ridiculous to place all of his historical testimony under the category of "historical claims", then conclude that his error on subject A means that his testimony on every other issue related to history "is not positive evidence" (as you've said about Irenaeus). I don't know of any historian who approaches a source like Josephus or Tacitus in the manner in which you're approaching Irenaeus (and Papias and other Christian sources).
Why does one error (or two or three, for example) result in the conclusion that a source's testimony "is not positive evidence"? As I've mentioned to you before, Irenaeus makes far more true than false claims. In the same documents in which he refers to Jesus' old age, Irenaeus also refers to many other facts related to Jesus that are accepted by modern scholarship. He makes credible claims much more often than he makes claims like the one about Jesus' age.
Jon, when you commit an error on a subject, does it logically follow that all other claims you make on a related subject are untrustworthy? If you forget something on one subject, should we assume that all of your memories on all subjects "are not positive evidence"?
Irenaeus' false view of Jesus' age can be attributed to his misreading of John 8:57. If some elders of the church affirmed the historicity of John 8:57, or agreed with Irenaeus that Jesus lived the life of an ideal teacher (without intending the implication of old age that Irenaeus assumed), then Irenaeus could have wrongly concluded that the elders agreed with what he believed about Jesus' old age. Since other early sources disagree with Irenaeus on this point, it seems unlikely that the elders of the church were teaching what Irenaeus believed.In contrast, there is no comparably credible way to explain how Irenaeus would have erred about the authorship of John's gospel, and Irenaeus is widely corroborated on that issue rather than widely contradicted. A large number of other early sources from a wide variety of locations and backgrounds agree with Irenaeus about the authorship of the fourth gospel (Ptolemy, Theophilus of Antioch, The Muratorian Canon, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, early manuscripts of John, etc.). You reject all of their testimony, not just the testimony of Irenaeus.
An issue like gospel authorship would have been widely discussed and would have been a subject the early Christians would have been highly concerned about. Jesus' age, on the other hand, is less significant. There is no early document that explicitly tells us that Jesus was such-and-such an age when He died. We arrive at conclusions about His probable age by means of putting together various pieces of information. We today may think that it's obvious that Jesus died in His 30s, since we hear that conclusion so often from pastors, historians, etc., and we so often see artwork, movies, and such that portray Jesus as somebody in that age range. But whether Jesus was in His 30s or 40s isn't of much significance to Christianity, and Irenaeus lived at a time when that issue hadn't received nearly as much attention as it has since then. It would be much more difficult for Irenaeus and the other early Christians to have erred collectively on a subject like the authorship of John's gospel than for Irenaeus alone to have erred on an issue like Jesus' age. Even on an individual level, it would have been more difficult for Irenaeus to have erred on an issue of gospel authorship than on Jesus' age. You can't assume that all errors are equally plausible.
As I've documented in our previous discussions, Irenaeus had heard Polycarp, a disciple of the apostles, speak. His predecessor in the bishopric of Lyons was a man who had been a contemporary of the apostles. He possessed documents written by disciples of the apostles, including documents no longer extant. He was in contact with apostolic churches, and he had lived in cities that were in contact with the apostles (Rome), including the apostle John (Smyrna). To conclude that his testimony on the authorship of the fourth gospel "is not positive evidence", because he was wrong about the age of Jesus, is like dismissing all of Tacitus' access to information about the Roman empire after you conclude that he was wrong about one of the issues he discussed. According to your reasoning, if Tacitus is credible on the large majority of historical issues, yet we conclude that he was wrong on one historical issue, then his claims on all historical issues in general "are not positive evidence".
If you want us to think that Irenaeus' testimony on the authorship of the fourth gospel "is not positive evidence", then you need to give more of a justification than citing the fact that Irenaeus was wrong about Jesus' age. The fact that both issues can be called issues of "apostolic tradition" in some sense doesn't address the many differences that accompany that similarity. Your dismissal of Irenaeus' testimony has more to do with your desire to reject much of what Irenaeus reports than it has to do with any actual problem with Irenaeus' credibility.