Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Significance Of Eyewitness Testimony

What's wrong with this thread (the article and the comments posted in response to it)? Why should we limit ourselves to "eyewitness testimony to the life, death and supposed resurrection of Jesus Christ"? What about eyewitness testimony related to other subjects relevant to an objective case for Christianity? Why isn't much said about eyewitness testimony outside of the gospels? How many Christians appeal to eyewitness testimony for "movie-like" or "perfect" memories? How relevant is something like observation of a "car accident" or "purse snatching" to observation of something like whether relatives of Jesus reported that He was a descendant of David, whether He gave sight to a man who seemed to be blind, or whether His tomb was empty? Why should we think that the gospels were anonymous? What about the large amount of evidence to the contrary? See, for example, Martin Hengel's The Four Gospels And The One Gospel Of Jesus Christ (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000) and here, here, here, here, and here. Former_Fundy tells us:

"If there is genuine eyewitness testimony in Scripture, it is from individuals who had to 'make sense' of what they saw. They interpreted what they saw in accordance with their world view, which in the first century, was one in which the supernatural realm (angels, demons, God) regularly invaded the natural realm. So, their testimony is 'colored' by their world view, a world-view which is largely rejected since the Enlightenment."

But see Glenn Miller's argument to the contrary here. The large majority of people in today's world believe in "the supernatural realm", including activity by angels and demons, answers to prayer, and other occurrences which are thought to be "regular". Supernaturalists don't believe every supernatural claim. The reason why we're discussing eyewitness testimony is because the early Christians' concern for evidence was such that they structured their belief system around historical events involving verifiable evidence, including eyewitness testimony.

Former_Fundy acknowledges that he hasn't read Richard Bauckham's book on eyewitness testimony, which addresses the findings of Jan Vansina and other sources. Bauckham discusses a lot of relevant material that Former_Fundy and the people who responded to his post don't address.

"All four Gospels are anonymous in the formal sense that the author's name does not appear in the text of the work itself, only in the title (which we will discuss below). But this does not mean that they were intentionally anonymous. Many ancient works were anonymous in the same formal sense, and the name may not even appear in the surviving title of the work. For example, this is true of Lucian's Life of Demonax (Demonactos bios), which as a bios (ancient biography) is generically comparable with the Gospels. Yet Lucian speaks throughout in the first person and obviously expects his readers to know who he is. Such works would often have been circulated in the first instance among friends or acquaintances of the author who would know who the author was from the oral context in which the work was first read. Knowledge of authorship would be passed on when copies were made for other readers, and the name would be noted, with a brief title, on the outside of the scroll or on a label affixed to the scroll. In denying that the Gospels were originally anonymous, our intention is to deny that they were first presented as works without authors. The clearest case is Luke because of the dedication of the work to Theophilus (1:3), probably a patron. It is inconceivable that a work with a named dedicatee should have been anonymous. The author's name may have featured in an original title, but in any case would have been known to the dedicatee and other first readers because the author would have presented the book to the dedicatee....In the first century CE, most authors gave their books titles, but the practice was not universal....Whether or not any of these titles originate from the authors themselves, the need for titles that distinguished one Gospel from another would arise as soon as any Christian community had copies of more than one in its library and was reading more than one in its worship meetings....In the case of codices, 'labels appeared on all possible surfaces: edges, covers, and spines.' In this sense also, therefore, Gospels would not have been anonymous when they first circulated around the churches. A church receiving its first copy of one such would have received with it information, at least in oral form, about its authorship and then used its author's name when labeling the book and when reading from it in worship....no evidence exists that these Gospels were ever known by other names." (Richard Bauckham, Jesus And The Eyewitnesses [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006], pp. 300-301, 303)

"Nevertheless the fact remains that it is utterly improbable that in this dark period, at a particular place or through a person or through the decision of a group or institution unknown to us, the four superscriptions of the Gospels, which had hitherto been circulating anonymously, suddenly came into being and, without leaving behind traces of earlier divergent titles, became established throughout the church. Let those who deny the great age and therefore basically the originality of the Gospel superscriptions in order to preserve their 'good' critical conscience, give a better explanation of the completely unanimous and relatively early attestation of these titles, their origin and the names of authors associated with them. Such an explanation has yet to be given, and it never will be. New Testament scholars persistently overlook basic facts and questions on the basis of old habits." (Martin Hengel, The Four Gospels And The One Gospel Of Jesus Christ [Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000], p. 55)

"There is no evidence that the Pharisees abstained from writing their 'traditions of the fathers.' There is even less reason to suppose that an insistence on oral transmission alone characterized other Jewish groups at the time of Jesus, such as the (highly literary) Qumran community. However, again it is not true that Gerhardsson entirely neglected the role of written materials: he postulated that, just as private notebooks were in fact used by the rabbis and their pupils, so writing, as an aid to memory, could have been used in early Christian circles prior to the Gospels....In a predominantly oral society, not only do people deliberately remember but also teachers formulate their teachings so as to make them easily memorable. It has frequently been observed that Jesus' teaching in its typically Synoptic forms has many features that facilitate remembering. The aphorisms are typically terse and incisive, the narrative parables have a clear and relatively simple plot outline. Even in Greek translation, the only form in which we have them, the sayings of Jesus are recognizably poetic, especially employing parallelism, and many have posited Aramaic originals rich in alliteration, assonance, rhythm, rhyme, and wordplay. These teaching formulations were certainly not created by Jesus ad hoc, in the course of his teaching, but were carefully crafted, designed as concise encapsulations of his teaching that his hearers could take away, remember, ponder, and live by. We cannot suppose that Jesus' oral teaching consisted entirely of such sayings as these. Jesus must have preached much more discursively, but offered these aphorisms and parables as brief but thought-provoking summations of his teaching for his hearers to jot down in their mental notebooks for frequent future recall. (Obviously, therefore, it was these memorable summations that survived, and when the writers of the Synoptic Gospels wished to represent the discursive teaching of Jesus they mostly had to use collections of these sayings.) This kind of encapsulation of teaching in carefully crafted aphorisms to be remembered was the teaching style of the Jewish wisdom teacher. As Rainer Riesner puts it, 'Even the form of the sayings of Jesus included in itself an imperative to remember them.' Jesus' hearers would readily recognize this and would apply to memorable sayings the deliberate practices of committing to memory that they would know were expected....Such notebooks [as ancient rabbis used] were in quite widespread use in the ancient world (2 Tim 4:13 refers to parchment notebooks Paul carried on his travels). It seems more probable than not that early Christians used them....The eyewitnesses who remembered the events of the history of Jesus were remembering inherently very memorable events, unusual events that would have impressed themselves on the memory, events of key significance for those who remembered them, landmark or life-changing events for them in many cases, and their memories would have been reinforced and stabilized by frequent rehearsal, beginning soon after the event. They did not need to remember - and the Gospels rarely record - merely peripheral aspects of the scene or the event, the aspects of recollective memory that are least reliable....We may conclude that the memories of eyewitnesses of the history of Jesus score highly by the criteria for likely reliability that have been established by the psychological study of recollective memory....[quoting Gillian Cohen] Research has tended to emphasize the errors that occur in everyday memory functions. The picture that emerges is of an error-prone system. This emphasis is partly an artefact of research methodology. In experiments it is usually more informative to set task difficulty at a level where people make errors so that the nature of the errors and the conditions that provoke them can be identified....People do make plenty of naturally occurring errors in ordinary life situations, but, arguably, the methodology has produced a somewhat distorted view of memory efficiency. In daily life, memory successes are the norm and memory failures are the exception. People also exhibit remarkable feats of remembering faces and voices from the remote past, and foreign-language vocabulary and childhood experiences over a lifetime. As well as such examples of retention over very long periods, people can retain large amounts of information over shorter periods, as when they prepare for examinations, and sometimes, as in the case of expert knowledge, they acquire a large amount of information and retain it for an indefinitely long time. Considering how grossly it is overloaded, memory in the real world proves remarkably efficient and resilient. [end quote of Gillian Cohen]" (Richard Bauckham, Jesus And The Eyewitnesses [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006], pp. 252, 282, 288, 346, 357)

67 comments:

  1. Keep wishing, Jason. Maybe one day you'll finally convince yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Semper Reformanda7/11/2007 11:29 AM

    Of course, Barbarosa doesn't give us any argument to back up his bare assertion, so I see no reason not to toss it in the trash bin where it belongs.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The reason why we're discussing eyewitness testimony is because the early Christians' concern for evidence was such that they structured their belief system around historical events involving verifiable evidence, including eyewitness testimony.

    Of course, this is your assertion. The question for me is why I should believe this about the earliest Christians when their contemporaries believed all sorts of tales without any evidence or eyewitnesses at all. Just look at Jonah, or follow the link to the Ephesians.

    I know you've responded to this link, but I don't think you've ever seriously considered the force of it, nor do I expect you to do so now.

    ReplyDelete
  4. John Loftus wrote:

    "Of course, this is your assertion."

    And it's an assertion supported by a large amount of evidence, much of which I've discussed repeatedly, including in discussions with you. See, for example, the books I cited and the articles I linked to in the first post in this thread.

    You write:

    "I know you've responded to this link, but I don't think you've ever seriously considered the force of it, nor do I expect you to do so now."

    I did respond to your article, which led to other threads, and you eventually left the discussion. Given how much we've responded to you and given how many discussions with us you've left, your frequent assertion that we haven't "seriously considered" your arguments is dubious. If our responses to your material don't suggest that we've seriously considered your arguments, then we have even less reason to think that you've seriously considered ours.

    ReplyDelete
  5. semper reformanda says

    Of course, Barbarosa doesn't give us any argument to back up his bare assertion, so I see no reason not to toss it in the trash bin where it belongs.

    Perhaps you're right - maybe Jason never will succeed in convincing himself.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Semper Reformanda7/12/2007 12:01 AM

    Or maybe Barbarosa can provide some compelling reasons as to why Jason shouldn't believe his own argument.

    I realize that requiring you to prove your argument with little things like evidence is probably too much of an intellectual burden, but I don't mind giving you the benefit of the doubt.

    ReplyDelete
  7. hello
    vous pouvez inscrire votre blog sur jewisheritage.fr
    shalom

    ReplyDelete
  8. Semper, you're too funny! First you say "Barbarosa doesn't give us any argument," then you admit that he has an argument when you say "I realize that requiring you to prove your argument." As for evidence to back-up Barbarosa's suspicions, you seem to miss the point. The evidence is Triablogue itself and all the effort its members put into it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jason,

    Thanks for interacting with my very brief discussion of eyewitness testimony. Allow me to address a couple of your points.

    You said:

    How many Christians appeal to eyewitness testimony for "movie-like" or "perfect" memories?

    My major point in the post was that the simplistic notion of some apologists that “eyewitness testimony” equals objective fact is wrong. Eyewitnesses interpret what they see or hear through their particular philosophical grid. Facts are interpreted by people who have world views. How a person sees the world will color how they interpret the fact. For example, in one of the gospels (John 12:28-30) it mentions that when the Father spoke from heaven and said this is my beloved Son, some people standing around interpreted it as "thunder" (perhaps they were the naturalists?), others interpreted it as the voice of an angel (supernaturalists?) and perhaps a few interpreted it as the voice of God the Father.

    So, the gospels represent one interpretation of the events that took place in the life and ministry of Jesus. This interpretation has become the “official” interpretation as it is essentially the only one that survived. (An interesting sidelight here is that this “official interpretation” has itself been interpreted in a multitude of ways by the followers of Jesus).

    Why should we think that the gospels were anonymous?

    Simply because they do contain the name of the author. One can assume that everyone knew who the author was but that is an assumption. Even today conservative scholars (much less critical ones) cannot agree on who wrote the fourth gospel.

    I said:

    "If there is genuine eyewitness testimony in Scripture, it is from individuals who had to 'make sense' of what they saw. They interpreted what they saw in accordance with their world view, which in the first century, was one in which the supernatural realm (angels, demons, God) regularly invaded the natural realm. So, their testimony is 'colored' by their world view, a world-view which is largely rejected since the Enlightenment."

    To which you responded:

    The large majority of people in today's world believe in "the supernatural realm", including activity by angels and demons, answers to prayer, and other occurrences which are thought to be "regular".

    The people you are referring to would be those who are effectively living as if the Enlightenment never took place. They either are ignorant of it or they are inconsistent in their application of it. Regardless, there is an undeniable difference between the way most people understand and explain phenomena that occurs in the world today vis-à-vis the way the ancient or pre-Enlightenment people understood the same phenomena. Fewer and fewer things are being attributed to supernatural causes.

    Again, my main point is that the Bible reflects the interpretation of events by a prescientific group of people. That does not mean they were stupid. It means that they did not have the advantage of knowledge that we have today. So, even if we have eyewitness testimony in the Scripture (which is far from certain), it is certainly not the objective slam dunk that many apologists make it out to be.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Semper Reformanda7/12/2007 10:30 AM

    "jim hallory said:

    Semper, you're too funny! First you say "Barbarosa doesn't give us any argument," then you admit that he has an argument when you say "I realize that requiring you to prove your argument." As for evidence to back-up Barbarosa's suspicions, you seem to miss the point. The evidence is Triablogue itself and all the effort its members put into it."

    As usual, unbelievers are too dense to figure out that a word can have more than one meaning. Sure, his statements present some sort of elementary point of view, but they're completely devoid of any compelling reason or justification to believe them.

    As for the last sentence, I could just as easily say that unbelieving commentors are perfect evidence of the intellectual bankruptcy of unbelief. Should I make an attempt to prove this? By your standards, apparently not! For a bunch of guys who make such a big deal about evidence and reason, you sure come to the party empty-handed

    ReplyDelete
  11. Jason, I read much of your correspondence with John on the superstitious and gullible tendencies of the ancients, such as those in the book of Job or the Ephesians in Acts 19. A major portion of your rebuttal is the point that these same ancients often did appeal to evidence. Thomas wanted evidence, etc. Why would they do that if they, being superstitious people, had no regard for evidence?

    But everyone that I know that I would consider gullible or superstitious will also be happy to receive evidence. It's not an either/or.

    In the book of Jonah casting lots is a good way of determining people responsible for wrongdoing. People generally worshipped all kinds of gods for which they had no evidence. At Acts 19 the Ephesians riot over Artemis despite the fact that they had no evidence for her existence. They think God speaks to them through visions and dreams, and maybe he is, but maybe he isn't. This sounds like the behavior of superstitious people. Jacob thinks that if goats in heat are made to look upon branches with stripes, this will result in offspring that have stripes and speckles. In Jesus' time large groups of people think Jesus is literally the resurrected corpse of John the Baptist who was recently beheaded. This does not identify these people as superstitious or gullible in your view, because elsewhere evidence may have been important for them. If this doesn't identify them as superstious and gullible, then what would? Can you identify a superstitious person that is superstitious and gullible by your standards, or is there no such thing as a superstitious person on your view? How can we identify superstitious people if the things I've listed above don't identify them as superstitious?

    It seems to me that you have defined a superstitious and gullible person in such a way that there is no such thing as a superstitious and gullible person, and in this way you can assert that these examples from Scripture don't show that these people were superstitious and gullible. If I'm wrong, then identify some superstitious and gullible people for me.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Jon Curry said...

    "If I'm wrong, then identify some superstitious and gullible people for me."

    We could begin with the team members of DC as a case in point.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Let's compare the branch of science known as "Applied Science," along with its implications for modern people. We can see how applied science has impacted us (in no particular order) in the areas of medicine, biology, earth science, computer science, engineering technology, zoology, geology, electricity, botany, genetics, dental technology, rocket science, astronomy, forensics, meteorology, chemistry, laser surgery, hydraulics, X-rays, Plasma Physics, increased the number of elements in the Periodic Table of Elements, understanding the nervous and muscular system, brain science, the whole notion of friction, etc, etc.

    Compare the above scientific disciplines with such superstitious ideas as divination, casting of lots, dreams, visions, trances, magic, exorcisms heal people, astrology, necromancy, sorcery, prophets for every religion, idol worship, gods and goddesses for every natural phenomena, human and animal sacrifices, priests, omens, temples, festivals, sacred writings, and the Pseudepigrapha.

    We live in a much different world than the ancients, primarily because of Newtonian science. We simply cannot be considered superstitious when we're compared to the ancients.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Of course, Loftus is stacking the deck by comparing what he considers to be the best examples of modernity with the worst examples of antiquity.

    He also lumps a lot of stuff together without any show of rational descrimination.

    He ignores reputable case-studies in the field of the paranormal.

    And he glosses over modern examples of superstitution like ufology, the global warming fad, and other conspiracy theories du jour.

    ReplyDelete
  15. It would be interesting, Steve, to compare the worst of our educated civilized world with the best of the ancient educated civilized world. I'm sure there would be a huge difference between those groups of people when it come to being superstitious.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Simply because they do contain the name of the author.

    Of course the headers are part of the text.

    One can assume that everyone knew who the author was but that is an assumption. Even today conservative scholars (much less critical ones) cannot agree on who wrote the fourth gospel.

    This, of course, does not select for anonymity. If scholars disagree over the authorship of a work, then it would select for a choice between a list of authors, not anonymity of the work itself.

    This is where the skeptical train runs off the tracks. They demand evidence but can provide no textual evidence for any other titles ever being ascribed to the gospels themselves.

    We know what controversies were of note in the early church. Where is the controversy over the authorship of the works we know as the 4 gospels. The titles are part of the text itself. Where is the textual record of them being "anonymous" or ascribed to authors other than those in the headers? Where is the supporting argument that works composed in such a manner were accepted as apostolic in origin?

    And if you want to start talking about higher critical theories for authorship and dating, then that will commit you to some sort of community authorship. Which community or communities? Where? Who? Where is the record?c

    ReplyDelete
  17. “He ignores reputable case-studies in the field of the paranormal.”

    “And he glosses over modern examples of superstitution like ufology, the global warming fad, and other conspiracy theories du jour.”

    The difference between the modern examples you’ve listed and ancient superstition is that the modern examples better recognize the importance of validating theories with multiple lines of converging evidence. We are far more steeped in the rigors of the scientific method and, consequently, far more cognizant of the notion that *usually* it is ordinary physical laws that play “causative” roles rather than direct supernatural intervention. Also, I think we are far less likely to attribute an unexplained event to a supernatural cause because we are privy to so many historical examples of these attributions turning out to be false. Our’s is a more privileged historical perspective.

    It seems that what you’re actually saying here is that we’ve replaced superstition with a penchant for “junk science”. That’s fair, because while we pay lip service to science, our methodology is often poor, but it seems the point still stands that ancient peoples were more likely than us to attribute unexplained events to supernatural causes.

    Nowadays, whether right or wrong, we tend to look for natural causes. I guess you could see it as the difference between being straightjacketed by a naturalistic paradigm today versus a supernaturalistic one then.

    By the way, if “reputable case-studies” are the standard, doesn’t ufology have about as much going for it as the paranormal? Often the two field intersect: paranormal phenomenon could explain UFOs, or vice-versa.

    Andrew

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'm sure there would be a huge difference between those groups of people when it come to being superstitious.

    Of course, we also know that for you, any belief in the divine is automatically called "superstitious." Ergo, all you're doing...yet again...is trying to beg the question.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Former_Fundy wrote:

    "My major point in the post was that the simplistic notion of some apologists that 'eyewitness testimony' equals objective fact is wrong. Eyewitnesses interpret what they see or hear through their particular philosophical grid. Facts are interpreted by people who have world views."

    Then you were addressing people who are highly ignorant of the issues rather than the more knowledgeable people you suggested you were responding to. You said that you intended to get Richard Bauckham's book, and you referred to how you had read the comments of "conservatives" such as F.F. Bruce. When you were asked to give some examples of the people you had in mind, you wrote:

    "You wanted to know who these apologists are who talk about eyewitness testimony--try Josh McDowell, Norman Geisler, and just about every apologist I have ever read."

    I don't think that somebody like Norman Geisler would maintain that "eyewitness testimony equals objective fact" in the manner you've suggested. You initially referred to "conservatives" and "just about every apologist I have ever read", and you named people like F.F. Bruce and Norman Geisler. But now you refer to "some apologists". I don't think that many people of the status of Bruce or Geisler, if any, would deny that eyewitnesses can have faulty memories, that people interpret information through their worldview, etc.

    And you initially criticized the Christian appeal to eyewitness testimony in general, not just the misuse of it by some highly ignorant people. Your article closed with the following sentence:

    "While many apologists seem to think that this alleged eyewitness testimony is the strongsuit of evangelical Christianity, to me it seems more like an achilles heel."

    Saying that "eyewitness testimony" is "more like an achilles heel" isn't the same as saying that some Christians are inaccurate in their arguments about eyewitness testimony.

    You write:

    "Simply because they do contain the name of the author. One can assume that everyone knew who the author was but that is an assumption."

    See my citations of Bauckham and Hengel at the beginning of this thread. See also the articles I linked to. As the books and articles I cited explain, we have evidence for the inclusion of authors' names in the early copies of the gospels, and there are many reasons to believe that oral accounts of authorship accompanied the circulation of the documents.

    You write:

    "This interpretation has become the 'official' interpretation as it is essentially the only one that survived. (An interesting sidelight here is that this 'official interpretation' has itself been interpreted in a multitude of ways by the followers of Jesus)....Even today conservative scholars (much less critical ones) cannot agree on who wrote the fourth gospel."

    What significance for you think such disagreements have? The fact that different interpretations exist doesn't prove that the interpretations are equally credible or that there isn't any way to distinguish among them. Just as Christianity and the Biblical documents are interpreted in many ways, so are other belief systems and other documents. And there are many elements of the Biblical documents that the large majority of professing Christians or conservative scholars, for example, agree about.

    You write:

    "The people you are referring to would be those who are effectively living as if the Enlightenment never took place. They either are ignorant of it or they are inconsistent in their application of it."

    How so?

    You write:

    "Again, my main point is that the Bible reflects the interpretation of events by a prescientific group of people. That does not mean they were stupid. It means that they did not have the advantage of knowledge that we have today."

    And people a hundred or a thousand years from now will know more than we do. Men like Peter and John didn't need to be chemists or live in an age of automobiles in order to be able to credibly report that they saw Jesus' tomb empty. The ancient world's ignorance of string theory and airplanes doesn't prevent the large majority of modern scholars from concluding that the empty tomb is a historical fact.

    You write:

    "So, even if we have eyewitness testimony in the Scripture (which is far from certain), it is certainly not the objective slam dunk that many apologists make it out to be."

    I agree with you that some Christians are too simplistic in their appeal to eyewitness testimony. But I think that your initial comments about F.F. Bruce, Norman Geisler, "just about every apologist I have ever read", etc. made that group of people seem broader than it actually is. The points you made have more to do with refuting a highly ignorant layman than they have to do with refuting the likes of F.F. Bruce and Norman Geisler.

    And I don't know why you keep referring to the possibility that there may not be any eyewitness testimony in scripture. Even some of the most radical of skeptics, such as some of the people who argue that Jesus didn't exist, accept the Pauline authorship of some of the documents attributed to Paul. And Paul was an eyewitness to some things that are highly significant in the context of making an objective case for Christianity. Do you think it's "far from certain" that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, for example? If so, what does "far from certain" mean? A probability would be sufficient. And I see no reason to conclude that it's anything other than highly probable that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Jon Curry wrote:

    "But everyone that I know that I would consider gullible or superstitious will also be happy to receive evidence. It's not an either/or."

    I was responding to what John Loftus wrote, not "everyone that Jon Curry knows that he would consider gullible or superstitious". And the issue wasn't whether people would be "happy to receive evidence". The apostle Thomas, to use the example you cited, wasn't just "happy to receive" evidence. He said that he wouldn't believe without it.

    You write:

    "In the book of Jonah casting lots is a good way of determining people responsible for wrongdoing. People generally worshipped all kinds of gods for which they had no evidence. At Acts 19 the Ephesians riot over Artemis despite the fact that they had no evidence for her existence. They think God speaks to them through visions and dreams, and maybe he is, but maybe he isn't. This sounds like the behavior of superstitious people."

    Part of the problem here seems to be that you didn't read the entirety of my discussion with John Loftus. You said that you read "much" of the discussion. Maybe you missed the parts where I explained that I don't deny that many ancient people, such as the Ephesians in Acts 19, acted unreasonably. But, as I explained to John, reasonable people can exist among others who are unreasonable, and people who are unreasonable in one context can be reasonable in another. Making a general appeal to the existence of many unreasonable people in the ancient world doesn't relieve us of addressing the evidence for something like the empty tomb or Paul's experience with the risen Christ.

    You write:

    "In Jesus' time large groups of people think Jesus is literally the resurrected corpse of John the Baptist who was recently beheaded. This does not identify these people as superstitious or gullible in your view, because elsewhere evidence may have been important for them. If this doesn't identify them as superstious and gullible, then what would? Can you identify a superstitious person that is superstitious and gullible by your standards, or is there no such thing as a superstitious person on your view?"

    Apparently, either you didn't read the relevant portions of my discussion with John or you aren't remembering or understanding what you read. I didn't deny that there was superstition and gullibility in the ancient world. I agreed with John that people like the Ephesians in Acts 19 acted unreasonably. But I also noted that we can't assume that everybody had the same mindset or that people who acted in such a way in one context couldn't be credible in another context. I used examples such as a child who is highly ignorant of one subject, yet can give credible testimony on another subject in a court of law. Or a man who carries a good luck charm in his pocket can be a credible witness to a murder. His unreasonableness with regard to carrying a good luck charm doesn't prevent us from trusting what he reports about a murder he witnessed. I repeatedly made and explained distinctions such as these in my discussion with John.

    ReplyDelete
  21. John Loftus wrote:

    "Compare the above scientific disciplines with such superstitious ideas as divination, casting of lots, dreams, visions, trances, magic, exorcisms heal people, astrology, necromancy, sorcery, prophets for every religion, idol worship, gods and goddesses for every natural phenomena, human and animal sacrifices, priests, omens, temples, festivals, sacred writings, and the Pseudepigrapha. We live in a much different world than the ancients, primarily because of Newtonian science. We simply cannot be considered superstitious when we're compared to the ancients."

    You're repeating arguments that have already been answered many times. As Steve explained, you can't just compare what you perceive as the worst of the ancient world to what you perceive as the best of the modern world. And I haven't denied that our world is different from and in some ways better than the ancient world. In some ways, such as in some scientific advances, we're better off. But in other contexts we're not. Some ancient people developed better memory skills because of the oral nature of the culture in which they lived, some ancient people lived in a less trivializing society than modern America, etc. When we get to an issue like whether Jesus' tomb was empty, we have to ask how relevant the differences in question are. Would Peter need to be a physicist or have used antibiotics in order to credibly report that Jesus' tomb was empty? Where ancient people are at a disadvantage in comparison to us, is the disadvantage sufficient to justify a rejection of what the ancient source in question reported? You keep making vague appeals to the ignorance of ancient people, but a more specific approach is needed in order to justify the rejection of specific reports from specific people. Surely you realize that. Yet, you spend so much time focusing on generalizations while neglecting the relevant details. You ought to spend less time making vague dismissals like the one quoted above and more time addressing the specific people, events, etc. relevant to Christianity.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Jason, you make statements such as "Citing people like the Ephesians in Acts 19 doesn't explain the beliefs of somebody like Thomas, Paul, or Luke". My point is all gullible and superstitious people that I know are happy to receive evidence in some cases, so what is it that John needs to explain about Thomas, Paul, or Luke? Paul can one moment be interested in evidence and the next moment act in a superstitious way (maybe talk about how he was taken up, whether in the body or out of the body, he doesn't know, God knows, where he heard words that cannot be repeated).

    It seems you think it is a difficulty for John's view that sometimes people in the Bible appeal to evidence. Since all people that I know that are gullible and superstitions are also interested and happy to receive evidence, I don't see how what you are saying is in any way a difficulty for John. But you say you're not talking about "people Jon Curry knows." Sure. That's why I asked you who you were talking about. Tell me who it is that is superstitious that never considers evidence. If this is what you mean by a "superstitious and gullible person" I don't think anyone would qualify as a superstitious, gullible person. And if this is not what you mean, what do you mean, and how is it relevant to John's point that ancients are generally speaking more gullible and superstitious than modern people?

    ReplyDelete
  23. faithful2Him7/12/2007 10:10 PM

    Why not just deny the very human fallibility of Paul that he condemned in those around him, and assume everything he wrote in his letters was the gospel truth? Of course, that would essentially make me a Christian, but so what? It's not like Christian belief is about being intellectually responsible. Just believe!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Semper wrote: “As usual, unbelievers are too dense to figure out that a word can have more than one meaning.”

    As usual, when a Christian is caught in his own contradictions, he insults non-believers en masse. It's neither original nor credible.

    Semper: “Sure, his statements present some sort of elementary point of view, but they're completely devoid of any compelling reason or justification to believe them.”

    Then why bother with him? It looks as though he were just trying to get under your skin. If so, he sure succeeded.

    Semper: “As for the last sentence, I could just as easily say that unbelieving commentors are perfect evidence of the intellectual bankruptcy of unbelief.”

    So what? That would just mean you’re playing tit for tat.

    Semper: “Should I make an attempt to prove this?”

    That’s up to you.

    Semper: “By your standards, apparently not!”

    Indeed, why waste your time? And if you did want to waste your time, who would you be trying to convince, if not yourself (like Jason)?

    Semper: “For a bunch of guys who make such a big deal about evidence and reason, you sure come to the party empty-handed.”

    What evidence – and for exactly what – are we “guys” supposed to bring to “the party”?

    ReplyDelete
  25. Jon Curry wrote:

    "My point is all gullible and superstitious people that I know are happy to receive evidence in some cases, so what is it that John needs to explain about Thomas, Paul, or Luke?"

    Why are you ignoring so much of what I said earlier? Again, the issue isn't whether people are "happy to receive evidence". Thomas said that he wouldn't believe without it. Paul wasn't a Christian who was "happy to receive" a resurrection appearance if one happened, but would believe in the resurrection regardless of the evidence. Rather, he was an enemy of Christianity who didn't believe until he saw the risen Christ. Luke wasn't just "happy to receive" evidence. He made the effort to "investigate everything carefully" (Luke 1:3). When the early Christians required that apostles be eyewitnesses, for example, that practice wasn't just something they "received". It was something they initiated and made the effort to maintain. Citing something like the behavior of the Ephesians in Acts 19 doesn't give us reason to conclude that men like Paul and Luke behaved in the same manner in the relevant contexts, nor does your assessment of some people you know who you consider gullible.

    You write:

    "Paul can one moment be interested in evidence and the next moment act in a superstitious way (maybe talk about how he was taken up, whether in the body or out of the body, he doesn't know, God knows, where he heard words that cannot be repeated)."

    If Paul sometimes shows interest in evidence, then you have to address those instances, similar to how the testimony of a witness to a murder in a court of law can't be dismissed just because he carries a good luck charm with him wherever he goes. You don't have to agree with him about his good luck charm in order to accept his testimony about a murder he witnessed.

    You've given us no reason to think that what Paul reported in 2 Corinthians 12 demonstrates that he was "superstitious". He was reporting something he claimed to have experienced. If you want to maintain that we don't have sufficient evidence to conclude that he was correct, then arguing that we have insufficient evidence to make a judgment isn't the same as saying that Paul was superstitious. Why is 2 Corinthians 12 supposed to lead us to the conclusion that Paul "acted in a superstitious way"?

    You write:

    "Since all people that I know that are gullible and superstitions are also interested and happy to receive evidence, I don't see how what you are saying is in any way a difficulty for John."

    Now you're adding the qualifier "interested". Earlier, you just referred to people as being "happy to receive" evidence. You don't tell us who these people are. You don't tell us what "interested" means. You don't tell us how such people allegedly are comparable to the people relevant to early Christianity. You just make some vague assertions and tell us that you "don't see" any problem for John Loftus. I can understand why you'd want to defend him. Your arguments frequently depend on the same sort of vague, insufficient assertions that he depends on.

    You write:

    "Tell me who it is that is superstitious that never considers evidence."

    As I said earlier, people who are reasonable in one context can be unreasonable in another. I can agree with John Loftus that the Ephesians in Acts 19 behaved unreasonably, for example, without thereby suggesting that those Ephesians "never consider evidence". How does my argument depend on showing that such people "never consider evidence"?

    You write:

    "And if this is not what you mean, what do you mean, and how is it relevant to John's point that ancients are generally speaking more gullible and superstitious than modern people?"

    No, John hasn't just suggested "that ancients are generally speaking more gullible and superstitious than modern people". Rather, he repeatedly makes vague references to ancient gullibility in response to specific evidence about specific people. He uses vague assertions as a substitute for addressing the more specific data that needs to be addressed. He did it earlier in this thread, and he's done it in other places. To respond to the specific information I cited from Miller, Bauckham, Hengel, etc. with vague references to how we know more than ancient people did about medicine and science, for example, is ridiculous. Like I said earlier, I can understand why you'd want to defend John, since you often behave in the same manner.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Jason: "Paul wasn't a Christian who was "happy to receive" a resurrection appearance if one happened, but would believe in the resurrection regardless of the evidence. Rather, he was an enemy of Christianity who didn't believe until he saw the risen Christ."

    Jason, what exactly do you think Paul *saw*?

    ReplyDelete
  27. Jason, you are again being stubborn and unwilling to answer a direct question. I'll put it to you again.

    John's claim is that generally speaking ancient people were more gullible and superstitious. Since this is not the same as saying that ancient people never considered evidence, and since it is not the case that gullible and superstitious people never consider evidence, why do you think it poses a difficulty for John's view that Paul was previously an enemy of Christianity and that Thomas wanted to see Jesus before he would believe? You act like this is somehow contrary to John's thesis, but I don't see how it is.

    Paul was previously an enemy of Christianity, but he had a vision and converted. Isn't this entirely consistent with John's claim that ancient people are generally speaking more gullible and superstitious than modern people? Do you think it is John's view that gullible and superstitious people would never have some sort of change in their opinion due to a dream or vision? Why would you think that?

    Luke supposedly investigated everything carefully. Is it your opinion that this claim is inconsistent with John's claim that ancient people were generally speaking more gullible and superstitious than modern people? Where is the inconsistency?

    ReplyDelete
  28. jon curry said...

    “Jason, you are again being stubborn and unwilling to answer a direct question. I'll put it to you again. John's claim is that generally speaking ancient people were more gullible and superstitious.”

    Why should we even accept the premise of his argument? Loftus tried to substantiate his premise by comparing what he deems to be examples of ancient superstition with advances in modern technology.

    Several problems with this comparison:

    i) Some of his examples simply beg the question (e.g. dreams, visions, healings, exorcisms, sorcery, sacred writings). A Christian would not concede that these are automatically examples of superstition. Loftus is tacitly assuming a naturalistic outlook.

    ii) Some of his examples do not distinguish between antiquity and modernity. For example, modern science is not put an end to the popularity of such occultic traditions as astrology and necromancy.

    iii) Moreover, your average, modern-day astrologer doesn’t have any problem with computers, x-rays, laser surgery, or electronic appliances.

    Psychics have actually been known to use electric can-openers, microwave ovens, and cellpones.

    So there’s no progressive displacement between superstition and technology. Loftus is peddling the old oracle of failed sociological prophets like Durkheim who predicted that modern science would wean the masses away from religion and the occult.

    iv) Furthermore, many modern men and women continue to be very superstitious, but they simply transfer their superstition to a secularistic or quasi-scientific version, like ufology or the Gaia hypothesis. The superstructure is superficially “modern,” but the underlying substructure is a generic form of superstition.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Steve, even if I were to agree with everything you've said, I still would like to know why Luke, Paul, and Thomas's interest in evidence is contrary to John's thesis. If you are going to reply to what I said, then answer my questions instead of raising other objections.

    ReplyDelete
  30. "Steve, even if I were to agree with everything you've said, I still would like to know why Luke, Paul, and Thomas's interest in evidence is contrary to John's thesis. If you are going to reply to what I said, then answer my questions instead of raising other objections."

    Since his thesis is predicated on his invidious distinction between superstitious antiquity and scientific modernity, my reply is directly germane to the way he frame the argument.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Thanks Jon Curry, for defending what I'm saying.

    Jason said: John hasn't just suggested "that ancients are generally speaking more gullible and superstitious than modern people". Rather, he repeatedly makes vague references to ancient gullibility in response to specific evidence about specific people.

    Jonah? I would have to post a whole chapter of my book here to let you see the evidence of what I'm talking about. The evidence that ancient people were superstitious and believed stories without any evidence based upon the story itself and an omen can be found in nearly every book of the Bible, which is what you believe. Just read the Bible. Did the Magicians in Moses' day really duplicate the first three plagues? Did they create snakes of their staffs? Etc etc etc.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Let me put it to you this way. In the Bible we see superstitious beliefs reigned among the surrounding cultures of the people of God. You claim the people of God were different from these surrounding cultures and that they believed because of the evidence. You ask me to prove, against the overwhelming evidence found in the Bible itself, that they were different. Here, once again, is where you must explain the evidence away. The evidence does not favor your beliefs. You must explain why you think people are not children of their times. We all are. Only rarely, if ever, does a person rise above their times. This can be substatiated. And this is cause for doubt, only you want to maintain that I, in the face of this overwhelming evidence, have the burden of proof to show the people of God were not different than their surrounding cultures. This does not follow at all. You have the burden of proof to show otherwsie because the evidence is not in your favor. You must show why this evidence should be explained away.

    ReplyDelete
  33. As Jason, Gene, and I have all pointed out, Loftus is merely reasoning in a circle:

    Ancient men were more superstitious than modern men.

    How do we know they were more superstitious?

    Because they believed in things that only superstitious people believe in!

    There's no actual argument going on here. Just a tendentious assertion chasing its own tail.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Steve, just take a case study that has been well documented. According to Brian P. Levack, in his book, The Witch-Hunt in Early Mosern Europe everyone in those days believed witches existed, that they caused death, famine and disease. They believed witches flew through the night, that they met together with the devil and had sex with him. Do you believe witches fly through the night Steve? That's what I mean by a superstitious belief. There was not one documented case in three centuries where they ever discovered women dancing naked with the devil or that they flew through the night. Not one. You see, evidence isn't required when you have superstitious beliefs.

    Now I have every epistemic right to see that pre-scientific era as akin to a less documented era in the ancient past. I see no reason to think otherwise than that pre-scientific people as a whole believed these type of things without evidence, especially when we find Christians during the 15-17th centuries doing the same thing, and when we see surrounding cultures who believed in superstitious things in the BIBLE ITSELF!

    ReplyDelete
  35. john w. loftus said...

    “Steve, just take a case study that has been well documented. According to Brian P. Levack, in his book, The Witch-Hunt in Early Mosern Europe everyone in those days believed witches existed, that they caused death, famine and disease. They believed witches flew through the night, that they met together with the devil and had sex with him. Do you believe witches fly through the night Steve? That's what I mean by a superstitious belief. There was not one documented case in three centuries where they ever discovered women dancing naked with the devil or that they flew through the night. Not one. You see, evidence isn't required when you have superstitious beliefs.”

    1.Notice that Loftus is ducking every one of my counterarguments, even though I have responded, blow-by-blow, to his claims and supporting arguments (such as they are).

    2.I’m vastly impressed by his newfound confidence in the possibility and, indeed, certainty of historical knowledge. If only he would transfer his newfound confidence to the Bible and early church fathers.

    3.Ironically, I’m not quite as sanguine as he is in the ability to make universally sweeping historical judgments when the sample group is so small.

    At the risk of stating the obvious, we are in absolutely no position to know what everyone believed about witches in “those days.” In “those days,” most folks were illiterate. They left no written records of what they believed about witches—or anything else. We have no extant, oral histories of every baker, farmer, cobbler, or blacksmith. No scientific surveys from the period in question.

    Perhaps, though, Loftus would point us to the exhaustive polling data from that time and place.

    Clearly, then, his claim represents a tremendous overstatement, vastly underdetermined by any possible or available evidence.

    4.Loftus also equivocates over what is meant by witchcraft. Dabbling in the occult is a widespread cultural phenomenon in every time and place that we can research. In that sense, yes, there were witches in early modern Europe.

    On the other hand, as Jeffrey Burton Russell has documented in his various books on the subject, witchcraft in the sense that Loftus is alluding to was an elaborate intellectual construct with many influences feeding into it, from lucky charms and spells through residual paganism and local folklore to medieval heresy and scholastic theology. Only the elite opinion of the educated classes would even be in a position to be conversant with this complex literary tradition.

    ReplyDelete
  36. R. Morey wrote:

    "Jason, what exactly do you think Paul *saw*?"

    He saw Jesus (Acts 22:14, 1 Corinthians 9:1), and he saw light (Acts 26:13). He also heard a voice, experienced physical results of Christ's appearance to him (falling to the ground and loss of sight), acquired the ability to perform miracles, interacted with other men who shared in his experience (the others on the road to Damascus), and was the recipient of some miracles related to Christ's appearance (Ananias' being directed to him and Ananias' ability to restore his sight). Other confirming evidence would have been available to him (the empty tomb, his acceptance by other witnesses of the resurrected Christ, comparing his experience with theirs, etc.). Although the accounts in Acts and Paul's writings don't give us details such as what Jesus' face or clothing looked like, Paul was in a position to receive multiple forms of confirmation that he was correct in his judgment about what happened to him. A passage like 1 Corinthians 9:1 doesn't give us a detailed description of what Jesus looked like, but Paul's judgment that he had seen Christ would have been formed and maintained in the context of factors such as the ones I've mentioned above.

    Similarly, Paul tells us that he saw James (Galatians 1:19), but we aren't given a detailed description of what James looked like, what sources of information confirmed that the person he was meeting was James, etc. Surely many factors were involved in leading Paul to the judgment that the person he was meeting was James and in leading him to maintain that judgment afterward, even though he refers to seeing James without going into much detail.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Jon Curry said:

    "Jason, you are again being stubborn and unwilling to answer a direct question."

    You say that after having left dozens of our previous discussions and after having ignored large portions of what Steve Hays, Paul Manata, Gene Bridges, and other people have written in response to you as well.

    You write:

    "John's claim is that generally speaking ancient people were more gullible and superstitious."

    Again, that's not all that he said. Unlike you, I didn't just read "much" of my previous discussions with him. I read everything.

    You write:

    "Since this is not the same as saying that ancient people never considered evidence, and since it is not the case that gullible and superstitious people never consider evidence, why do you think it poses a difficulty for John's view that Paul was previously an enemy of Christianity and that Thomas wanted to see Jesus before he would believe?"

    I haven't said that any interest in evidence would refute what John Loftus has argued. He's frequently vague and inconsistent in his assertions, as I mentioned earlier. But he repeatedly made comments such as the following when attempting to characterize ancient people as a whole:

    "These sailors would still respond in the exact same way, because the proof was in the casting of lots, and the storm, and the story. They didn’t need any other proof or evidence. Does this type of gullibility describe any thinking person today?" (http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/05/jonah-evidence-and-superstitious-past.html)

    "And if people were superstitious enough to believe God caused a storm to stop Jonah in his tracks without any evidence but nature and the story itself, then they would also believe he was swallowed by a fish simply because he told them it happened. If no evidence is required to believe the first part of the story, then no evidence is required to believe the last part." (http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/05/jonah-evidence-and-superstitious-past.html)

    "Still, how would America react to the same prophetic message by none other than Billy Graham: 'Forty more days and America will be overturned.' The laugher would be constant. Jay Leno and David Letterman would have a field day with this. That’s because we today would demand some evidence." (http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/05/jonah-evidence-and-superstitious-past.html)

    "What's missing in this story is evidence. No evidence was offered for any claim, except that Jonah said it was true." (http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/05/jonah-evidence-and-superstitious-past.html)

    "This is what I mean by superstition. Little or no evidence is required, just a good story, based in fear, along with the storms of life. The Bible Debunks itself." (http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/05/jonah-evidence-and-superstitious-past.html)

    All of those quotes are from the article John linked us to in this thread. He responded to my citations of Miller, Bauckham, Hengel, etc. with an article that makes assertions like the ones above. Would anybody reading John's article and accepting its claims come away with the impression that the early Christians had the sort of concern for eyewitness testimony that Richard Bauckham documents? Would anybody reading John's article and accepting its claims come away with the impression that beliefs in the ancient world were as nuanced as Glenn Miller documents in the article I linked to? Though John makes a brief reference to the possibility that people in Biblical times had a "little" concern for evidence, he repeatedly uses the phrase "no evidence" (or an equivalent) elsewhere in the article. John's characterization of the ancient world is absurdly unbalanced. For him to cite that article in response to the material I cited is ridiculous. That article reflects his gullibility (and yours when you defend that article and his use of it in this thread) more than it reflects the gullibility of the relevant Biblical sources.

    In another article, John makes similarly inconsistent claims, sometimes allowing for the possibility that some evidence was involved, but other times suggesting that there was no concern for evidence:

    "Just so we are clear here, I never said that based upon my analysis of the Ephesians and Jonah’s book that the resurrection never happened. I have some other reasons for thinking this. But I'm saying that the people in Biblical days were very superstitious such that I question whether any evidence was needed to convince them of something." (http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/05/jason-engwer-vs-superstitious-past.html)

    "There was no evidence. It was a story about Thomas. A vision. And it subsequently became a legend, which grew and grew as people passed it on, not unlike how the myth of Santa Claus grew up until the poem, '’twas the Night Before Christmas,' which revolutionized the way we thought about St. Nick." (http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/05/jason-engwer-vs-superstitious-past.html)

    Again, John's references to "no evidence" are ridiculous, and none of these articles he wrote are comparable to the quality of material we see in Glenn Miller's article or Richard Bauckham's book, for example. For John to respond to what I cited with material like what I've quoted above, from his articles, is unreasonable.

    Even if we accepted your characterization of what John Loftus has been arguing, it would just make his argument insignificant rather than erroneous. If John was only arguing that the ancient world was generally more gullible than the modern world, then such a fact does nothing to refute what I argued at the beginning of this thread. Ancient people in general can be more gullible without all of them being more gullible, and they can be sufficiently credible on the issues under consideration even if they were generally more gullible.

    You write:

    "Paul was previously an enemy of Christianity, but he had a vision and converted. Isn't this entirely consistent with John's claim that ancient people are generally speaking more gullible and superstitious than modern people?"

    John Loftus argues that Paul had a naturalistic vision. That view has major problems, such as what I outlined in my response to R. Morey above and in previous responses to you in other threads (threads you left or never responded to).

    ReplyDelete
  38. John Loftus wrote:

    "You claim the people of God were different from these surrounding cultures and that they believed because of the evidence. You ask me to prove, against the overwhelming evidence found in the Bible itself, that they were different. Here, once again, is where you must explain the evidence away. The evidence does not favor your beliefs. You must explain why you think people are not children of their times."

    Steve has mentioned some of the problems with the assumptions you're bringing to this discussion, and Glenn Miller (in the article I linked to) discusses these issues in far more depth than you have in any of our exchanges. You've been corrected many times, but you keep repeating the same errors.

    I haven't made a distinction between "the people of God" and everybody else as you outline such a distinction above. Rather, I believe that there are many different types of people in different cultures. Just as some people outside of Israel and outside of the church haven't had much concern for evidence, the same has been true of some people inside Israel and inside the church. As Glenn Miller explains in the article I referenced, there were different degrees of what you would call superstitious belief in different places and at different times. Even within a single region of the world, one generation in ancient times could be significantly less superstitious than another. You can't take some Egyptians mentioned in an ancient Egyptian source from one century, some pagans mentioned in the book of Jonah in another century, some Ephesians mentioned in Acts in some other century, etc., then combine them all together and assume that such a combination represents the ancient world as a whole (or nearly as a whole). You can't cite what you consider a lack of concern for evidence in a source like the book of Jonah while ignoring the concern for evidence that we see elsewhere in the Bible and in other sources. There are many Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and other people in today's world who you would consider superstitious (the large majority of the world's population), but we don't therefore dismiss them or modern people in general in the manner in which you've dismissed the ancient world.

    Much more could be said, but I recommend that people read Glenn Miller's article. Compare his material to John Loftus' material. The contrast in quality is stark.

    John writes:

    "And this is cause for doubt, only you want to maintain that I, in the face of this overwhelming evidence, have the burden of proof to show the people of God were not different than their surrounding cultures."

    No, that's not what I've argued. When I cite Biblical examples of people showing concern for evidence, when I link to multiple articles on related subjects, when I cite Biblical scholars such as Martin Hengel and Richard Bauckham, etc., I'm not just waiting for you to meet a burden of proof. I'm producing evidence to support my conclusion. And making vague assertions about the alleged gullibility of ancient people isn't a sufficient response. If I document that the early Christians were concerned with eyewitness testimony to such an extent that they structured their system of church government around the concept, it doesn't make sense for you to respond by telling us that some pagans in the book of Jonah weren't so concerned about eyewitness testimony.

    ReplyDelete
  39. adam bathory7/14/2007 2:12 AM

    Jason: "A passage like 1 Corinthians 9:1 doesn't give us a detailed description of what Jesus looked like, but Paul's judgment that he had seen Christ would have been formed and maintained in the context of factors such as the ones I've mentioned above."

    It's always been quite curious to me how Christians today take the judgment of a 1st century persecutor of Jesus at his word, and yet seem to disparage just about anything a modern non-Christian has to say if what he says at all challenges what Christianity teaches.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Jason wrote:

    I don't think that somebody like Norman Geisler would maintain that "eyewitness testimony equals objective fact" in the manner you've suggested. You initially referred to "conservatives" and "just about every apologist I have ever read", and you named people like F.F. Bruce and Norman Geisler. But now you refer to "some apologists".

    Please be fair. You are taking points from my original article, points I made later in response to someone’s question and points I made on your site and lumping them all together. This is the classic case of taking someone out of context. Obviously there are different levels of sophistication among apologists. All aren’t as bad as some of the internet apologists I read.

    You continued:

    I don't think that many people of the status of Bruce or Geisler, if any, would deny that eyewitnesses can have faulty memories, that people interpret information through their worldview, etc.

    They all put great emphasis on eyewitness testimony, however, and rarely, if ever, say anything about how this eyewitness testimony may be highly biased.

    You continued:

    Saying that "eyewitness testimony" is "more like an achilles heel" isn't the same as saying that some Christians are inaccurate in their arguments about eyewitness testimony.

    My point is that skeptics sometimes cave in too quickly to the claim of eyewitness testimony by Christian apologists. While it appears to be a very strong argument, it is not so strong, IMO. Eyewitnesses can be wrong; they can misinterpret what they see, they can have ulterior motives in describing what they saw, etc. Its quite complicated not the simple issue that some think.


    You continue:

    See my citations of Bauckham and Hengel at the beginning of this thread. See also the articles I linked to. As the books and articles I cited explain, we have evidence for the inclusion of authors' names in the early copies of the gospels, and there are many reasons to believe that oral accounts of authorship accompanied the circulation of the documents.

    Are you saying that the names of the authors of the gospels was part of the “original text”? If not, then my point stands. I am not denying that there is a long tradition around the authorship of the gospels and that the church has for the most part agreed on who wrote them (at least until the 18th century) but that does not eliminate the fact that the authors do not identify themselves as say Paul does in his letters.

    You continue:

    What significance for you think such disagreements have? The fact that different interpretations exist doesn't prove that the interpretations are equally credible or that there isn't any way to distinguish among them.

    Why can’t Christians even agree on the way of salvation? There are huge disagreements concerning almost every doctrine of Scripture. Of course, you think you are right and the others think they are just as right. Why is the Bible so open to various interpretations, if it is really the word of God? This is a whole other subject that is worthy of a separate discussion.

    I wrote:

    "The people you are referring to would be those who are effectively living as if the Enlightenment never took place. They either are ignorant of it or they are inconsistent in their application of it."

    And you asked:


    How so?


    People who use superstitious explanations to explain cause and effect phenomena in the world are living as if the Enlightenment never took place. For example, Christian Scientists or some extreme Pentecostalists who forbid the use of medical doctors and believe that prayer alone is what heals the sick person. Or the RCC who believes that the Virgin Mary is appearing in some plane glass window, etc. Or the charismatic who thinks that mental illness is caused by demonic possession. Or the evangelical Christian who believes that God directed them to go to a certain school or marry a certain person. These same people may live like post Enlightenment people in other aspects of their lives but they are inconsistent here.

    You continue:

    And people a hundred or a thousand years from now will know more than we do.

    Yep and I predict that the more we know the less we will need to turn to ancient explanations of natural phenomena.

    Men like Peter and John didn't need to be chemists or live in an age of automobiles in order to be able to credibly report that they saw Jesus' tomb empty.The ancient world's ignorance of string theory and airplanes doesn't prevent the large majority of modern scholars from concluding that the empty tomb is a historical fact.

    The problem would not be in knowing whether a tomb was empty or not; the problem would be in knowing 1) if Jesus was actually placed in a tomb; and 2) if the empty tomb you are seeing is the one in which he was placed; and 3) if the answer to both of the former questions is yes, then, why the tomb is empty.

    This again illustrates how simplistically apologists want to frame the debate when it is actually much more complicated.
    I also highly doubt your assertion that the majority of scholars would agree with the evangelical interpretation of a supposed empty tomb.

    You continue:

    I agree with you that some Christians are too simplistic in their appeal to eyewitness testimony.

    Thanks. That was my whole point.


    But I think that your initial comments about F.F. Bruce, Norman Geisler, "just about every apologist I have ever read", etc. made that group of people seem broader than it actually is.

    As I said earlier, I recognize that there are different levels of sophistication among apologists (and interestingly enough they have some major disagreements among themselves, e. g. I am quite certain that Bruce and Geisler do not share the same view as it relates to just exactly how accurate the NT documents are.

    You continue:

    And I don't know why you keep referring to the possibility that there may not be any eyewitness testimony in scripture. Even some of the most radical of skeptics, such as some of the people who argue that Jesus didn't exist, accept the Pauline authorship of some of the documents attributed to Paul.

    I am referring to being an eyewitness of the events in the Gospels, i.e. the life and miracles of Jesus.

    And Paul was an eyewitness to some things that are highly significant in the context of making an objective case for Christianity. Do you think it's "far from certain" that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, for example? If so, what does "far from certain" mean? A probability would be sufficient. And I see no reason to conclude that it's anything other than highly probable that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians.

    I think its pretty certain that Paul wrote I Cor. To what in the earthly ministry of Jesus was he an eyewitness to? He claims to have seen a vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus but that is a whole other story. He certainly was not an eyewitness to any of the accounts recorded in the gospels.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Still waiting for the answer to my simple questions.

    Jason, you had written in response to John that "Citing people like the Ephesians in Acts 19 doesn't explain the beliefs of somebody like Thomas, Paul, or Luke".

    What is it that John's thesis doesn't explain about these people? Since John's thesis is not that no ancient people ever considered evidence, I don't see how this is relevant.

    What I think has happened here is that you have responded to John in a straw man fashion. If John had argued that ancients never considered evidence, this comment would be relevant. But he didn't argue that, so now that I ask you how the comment is relevant you can't answer. Doing so would require you to expressly describe what John is actually arguing, which would show that what he's arguing has nothing to do with your response.

    Your last response to me quoted John several times providing evidence of his claim that ancient people were generally more superstitious and gullible. You quoted him from another article making the very logical point that superstition amongst the ancients doesn't prove the resurrection didn't occur. That all sounds good to me. I don't understand how any of this is a response to my question.

    And to John: glad to be able to help out a little. Your interaction with Jason is much like my own. Make a point and Jason will often respond with 3 times as much material, all the while ignoring the actual questions and issues raised. Kind of like his last response to me. You try to get him to deal with the issue, but he just responds with more verbiage that ignores the issue, talking about how you've ignored other irrelevant issues in past threads, and how you aren't responding to the irrelevant issues he's raising now. You give up and he'll taunt you in the next thread for quitting the last thread. It's kind of annoying, isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  42. former_fundy wrote:

    They all put great emphasis on eyewitness testimony, however, and rarely, if ever, say anything about how this eyewitness testimony may be highly biased.

    For an excellent example of this emphasis from Geisler, see the Geisler-Till debate. Geisler's basic argument is simply that the gospels and I Cor are reliable eyewitness testimony, and this is why we should believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Till was amazed that Geisler would make such a poor argument and be so reliant on this weak claim.

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/farrell_till/geisler-till/

    ReplyDelete
  43. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Jason, I have not yet read Glenn Miller’s article, but I will, maybe later today. Thanks for your reasonable response.

    Just so we’re clear here, you have made some important distinctions and some of them I gladly accept.

    When I’m writing about the Ephesians and the people in Jonah’s day I’m specifically writing about them. I’m not writing about the whole ancient world. Those are just two stories in the Bible. I have documented similar stories in almost every book of the Bible. And in those two specific stories no evidence was required. In other contexts a little evidence was involved. There are still other contexts that are disputable, like the resurrection.

    My contention is that Christianity was a movement of the masses. Jesus’ ministry started among the outcasts, even though he surrounded himself with middle class fishermen, and Paul was probably an intellectual. What we see in the Bible is that the masses believed, for the most part, without any evidence, just a man’s word. Would you believe Balaam’s ass talked if Balaam himself told you he did without any evidence, or that an axe head floated without seeing it for yourself? Would you believe God spoke from heaven at someone’s baptism if it was merely reported to you, especially if you lived in the ancient past with your present educated mindset? I am not trying to present an unbalanced picture of the world. Yes there were skeptics. They were generally more knowledgeable people who could read. They also wrote many of the texts we have available today, which does in fact present a disproportionately unbalanced picture of the ancient world, since the masses never wrote much at all.

    My contention is about control beliefs. They control how we view the evidence. My control beliefs arise out of several lines of thought: 1) the fact of religious diversity which is separated geographically around the globe, leads me to think people adopt the religion of their culture; 2) The problem of evil, which leads me to think there is no good God; 3) The problem of the double burden of proof a theist must bear when claiming miracles happened in the past (it’s improbable and yet it’s probable; 4) Methodological naturalism, which is what defines us as modern people. It affects how science proceeds and how historians investigate the past; and 5) The Bible itself, which shows us how barbaric and superstitious the ancients were.

    So yes, “ancient people in general can be more gullible without all of them being more gullible, and they can be sufficiently credible on the issues under consideration even if they were generally more gullible.” But my question is this one: "How am I to judge when they are less gullible since I see so much evidence from the Bible itself that they were gullible?" That is the question. Yes, we must also do the word of looking at the evidence, and I do that. But I have good reasons for how I view the evidence, that's all. And given my control beliefs you know where I stand on the issue of the believability of miracles. I think I have good, and even undeniable reasons, for my control beliefs, even if you disagree. You have your supernatural control beliefs too. We both look at the evidence through glasses, and I reject the reasons for your glasses.

    Apart from the Bible, even the educated people during the witch hunts believed witches could fly through the night to meet with the devil even though in over three centuries no one ever saw this nor was there any evidence found of a meeting ground, nor did anyone ever testify to having seen such a meeting. These were the educated Christians classes too. So again, when superstitious pre-scientific people claim something happened, and it involves the supernatural, I am rightly skeptical of such claims. You do the same thing I do with the religions you reject. I just think this about your religion.

    You said, “there are many Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and other people in today's world who you would consider superstitious (the large majority of the world's population), but we don't therefore dismiss them.” Well, I don’t do this when it comes to shared beliefs based upon evidence, but I share with you the same skeptical control beliefs when it comes to their religious claims.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Adam Bathory wrote:

    “It's always been quite curious to me how Christians today take the judgment of a 1st century persecutor of Jesus at his word, and yet seem to disparage just about anything a modern non-Christian has to say if what he says at all challenges what Christianity teaches.”

    You give us no reason to agree with your assessment, and you aren’t mentioning other factors that are involved. Paul wasn’t “a persecutor of Jesus” when he wrote his extant letters, and most of what Christians cite from Paul in Acts was spoken by him after his conversion. And we have more evidence than “Paul’s word” to go by. See, for example, the other factors I mentioned in my recent response to R. Morey in this thread. And when we disagree with “modern non-Christians”, we give reasons for doing so other than “what he says at all challenges what Christianity teaches”. You don’t seem to be making much of an effort to be honest or accurate.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I'm sorry, but I'm not finding the article from Glenn Miller you want me to read. Where is it?

    ReplyDelete
  47. Jason said to Adam "You give us no reason to agree with your assessment"

    Perhaps Adam is an eyewitness to what he's talking about.

    Jason also said "And when we disagree with “modern non-Christians”, we give reasons for doing so other than “what he says at all challenges what Christianity teaches”."

    You think you do, but in the end it ultimately reduces to essentially this.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Former_Fundy wrote:

    “Eyewitnesses can be wrong; they can misinterpret what they see, they can have ulterior motives in describing what they saw, etc. Its quite complicated not the simple issue that some think.”

    You could have made such points without referring to the Christian use of eyewitness testimony in general and without bringing men like F.F. Bruce and Norman Geisler into the discussion.

    You write:

    “Are you saying that the names of the authors of the gospels was part of the ‘original text’? If not, then my point stands. I am not denying that there is a long tradition around the authorship of the gospels and that the church has for the most part agreed on who wrote them (at least until the 18th century) but that does not eliminate the fact that the authors do not identify themselves as say Paul does in his letters.”

    Even if the titles weren’t part of the original text, it doesn’t therefore follow that the gospels were anonymous. An author doesn’t have to identify himself “as Paul does in his letters” in order to be identified in some manner. Again, see what I quoted and cited at the beginning of this thread. Documents weren’t just identified by the use of names in the main body of their text or by a title. They would also be identified by labels, by descriptions of the author within the main body of the text (the “we” passages in Acts, for example), and by oral accounts that accompanied the circulation of the documents. The concept that the gospels were initially anonymous is highly unlikely, for reasons that I and the sources I cited explained at the beginning of this thread.

    You write:

    “There are huge disagreements concerning almost every doctrine of Scripture. Of course, you think you are right and the others think they are just as right. Why is the Bible so open to various interpretations, if it is really the word of God?”

    How is being “so open to various interpretations” relevant to whether something “is really the word of God”? The historical record is “so open to various interpretations” that some people deny that the Holocaust occurred or claim that the United States government arranged the terrorist attacks of September 11. Isn’t that largely a problem with the people who so interpret the historical record, not the sufficiency of the historical record itself?

    We have to distinguish between disagreements that exist among a small group of people and disagreements that exist among larger groups. The large majority of professing Christians associate themselves with monotheism, Trinitarianism, the virgin birth, the Messiahship of Jesus, His physical resurrection, etc. Not many professing Christians (or non-Christians) would argue that the Bible supports child molestation, that Jesus was a woman, or that the apostle Paul was a Chinese man who lived in the fifth century A.D. Words have meaning. The Biblical documents have objective historical meaning, just as other historical documents do. But because of the Bible’s status in some contexts (belief in its Divine inspiration, its social influence, etc.), people have motives for reading things into the text that aren’t there or ignoring things that are there. Much the same is true of the United States Constitution, for example.

    You write:

    “People who use superstitious explanations to explain cause and effect phenomena in the world are living as if the Enlightenment never took place. For example, Christian Scientists or some extreme Pentecostalists who forbid the use of medical doctors and believe that prayer alone is what heals the sick person. Or the RCC who believes that the Virgin Mary is appearing in some plane glass window, etc. Or the charismatic who thinks that mental illness is caused by demonic possession. Or the evangelical Christian who believes that God directed them to go to a certain school or marry a certain person. These same people may live like post Enlightenment people in other aspects of their lives but they are inconsistent here.”

    Why should we assume that an Evangelical who believes that God led him “to go to a certain school or marry a certain person” is wrong? And what does it have to do with “the Enlightenment”? People went to doctors, were skeptical of alleged Marian miracles, etc. long before the Enlightenment. And you made your previous comments about the Enlightenment in response to what I said about angels, demons, and answered prayer. How has the Enlightenment shown that there are no angels and demons and that there is no answered prayer?

    You write:

    “Yep and I predict that the more we know the less we will need to turn to ancient explanations of natural phenomena.”

    Who denies that knowledge of “natural phenomena” generally advances with the passing of time? How is that relevant to what we were discussing?

    You write:

    “The problem would not be in knowing whether a tomb was empty or not; the problem would be in knowing 1) if Jesus was actually placed in a tomb; and 2) if the empty tomb you are seeing is the one in which he was placed; and 3) if the answer to both of the former questions is yes, then, why the tomb is empty. This again illustrates how simplistically apologists want to frame the debate when it is actually much more complicated.”

    I cited the empty tomb as an example of a relevant historical issue. It doesn’t therefore follow that I should address other issues related to the empty tomb.

    You write:

    “I also highly doubt your assertion that the majority of scholars would agree with the evangelical interpretation of a supposed empty tomb.”

    I didn’t refer to “the Evangelical interpretation” of the empty tomb. I referred to whether the tomb was empty. The large majority of scholars accept the empty tomb as a historical fact.

    And I don’t know what you mean by “the Evangelical interpretation”. Many non-Evangelicals believe in the physical resurrection of Christ as well. That’s the traditional Christian view, not just an Evangelical view.

    You write:

    “I am referring to being an eyewitness of the events in the Gospels, i.e. the life and miracles of Jesus.”

    That’s not what you initially said, and that’s not the only context in which Christians appeal to eyewitness testimony in order to make an objective case for Christianity.

    You write:

    “I think its pretty certain that Paul wrote I Cor. To what in the earthly ministry of Jesus was he an eyewitness to?”

    Again, you initially referred to the resurrection of Jesus as one of the subjects you were addressing. Paul claimed to be an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ. He also gives us a lot of other relevant information about early Christianity (who Jesus’ relatives and disciples were, etc.), regardless of whether you were including such subjects in your initial article, Much the same can be said of Luke’s status as an eyewitness of some of Paul’s miracles, Peter’s comments about Jesus in his letters, etc. There’s a lot of relevant material outside of the gospels that’s considered eyewitness testimony.

    You write:

    “He certainly was not an eyewitness to any of the accounts recorded in the gospels.”

    Jesus and Paul were contemporaries. Paul probably would have been in Jerusalem for religious events at some of the same times Jesus was there. Given that Jesus often spoke publicly and had large groups of people around Him and influenced by Him, it’s plausible that Paul saw Him, heard Him, or experienced the effects of His ministry in some other manner prior to the crucifixion.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Jon Curry wrote:

    “Still waiting for the answer to my simple questions.”

    Still waiting for you to respond to the dozens of posts you’ve ignored in other threads.

    Still waiting for you to interact with the responses to you earlier in this thread that you still haven’t addressed.

    You write:

    “Your last response to me quoted John several times providing evidence of his claim that ancient people were generally more superstitious and gullible.”

    No, I didn’t just quote John as saying that “ancient people were generally more superstitious and gullible”. He repeatedly used the phrase “no evidence” and equivalents. Saying that people believed what they believed with “no evidence” is not the same as saying that “ancient people were generally more superstitious and gullible”. You aren’t interacting with what I documented. Instead, you’re ignoring what I documented and repeating your earlier, erroneous assertion.

    ReplyDelete
  50. John Loftus wrote:

    “When I’m writing about the Ephesians and the people in Jonah’s day I’m specifically writing about them. I’m not writing about the whole ancient world. Those are just two stories in the Bible. I have documented similar stories in almost every book of the Bible. And in those two specific stories no evidence was required. In other contexts a little evidence was involved. There are still other contexts that are disputable, like the resurrection.”

    That’s a more nuanced view that’s more plausible, but it’s not what you argued earlier. In your earlier articles, which I responded to last year, you repeatedly used phrases like “no evidence” and referred to the people of Biblical times in general, and you sometimes made such comments specifically in the context of discussing the resurrection. If you want to change your argument for the better, then you can do so, but I was responding to what you had said in the past.

    You write:

    “What we see in the Bible is that the masses believed, for the most part, without any evidence, just a man’s word.”

    In some cases. But not in others, And documents like the writings of Paul and Luke weren’t authored by “the masses”. Just as most Christians aren’t as knowledgeable as a Paul or a Luke, most atheists aren’t as knowledgeable as a Richard Dawkins or a Michael Martin. There’s a large gray area between seeing the risen Christ as Paul did and believing “for the most part, without any evidence, just a man’s word”.

    We also need to keep in mind what sort of evidence is appropriate in different contexts. As I mentioned in my recent article on Acts 2 (in response to Jon Curry), the people who initially heard the apostles speaking of the resurrection were contemporaries of Jesus and the apostles. They had already seen Jesus, heard about Him, etc. To expect the people who heard Peter speak in Acts 2 to approach Christianity the same way we would approach it today would be ridiculous. They weren’t as historically removed from the events in question as we are. They could respond positively to Peter’s preaching or that of Paul, Apollos, etc. largely on the basis of information they had before the preaching occurred. It’s not as if people in Israel were hearing of Jesus for the first time. And the early sources (Acts, Paul’s letters, etc.) repeatedly tell us that the preaching of the apostles was accompanied by miracles, so the supernatural confirmation of their message was ongoing, not just historical. That’s why Paul, when writing to somewhat hostile audiences in Corinth and Galatia, can appeal to the fact that miracles were performed among them. And before Christianity even came into existence, there was an evidential structure of prophecy fulfillment in place. The Messiah was expected to meet particular prophetic standards. People often became Christians at the time that preaching occurred, but much more than that preaching was involved. They had acquired a lot of relevant information prior to the time of the preaching.

    You write:

    “Apart from the Bible, even the educated people during the witch hunts believed witches could fly through the night to meet with the devil even though in over three centuries no one ever saw this nor was there any evidence found of a meeting ground, nor did anyone ever testify to having seen such a meeting.”

    I don’t know a lot about what people believed regarding witches in the past, and I don’t know whether you’re reading some unwarranted assumptions into the sources you’ve consulted. But the comparison you’re making is faulty, since a speculation about the unseen is in a different category than eyewitness reports or beliefs about highly public events. People often speculate about things they can’t observe. Scientists propose various theories in an attempt to explain something that they don’t yet know much about, people speculate about how the world might have come into existence, people speculate about what supernatural agents might be involved in world events, etc. That’s not the same as hearing multiple credible sources report that an event occurred two days ago or reading the testimony of a man who claimed to be an eyewitness of an event. People can be mistaken about speculations regarding unseen or unobservable entities, for example, far more easily than they can be mistaken about something they eyewitnessed or a highly public event of recent history.

    We also have to distinguish between levels of belief, as Glenn Miller does in his article. How many people suffered and died for their convictions about witches “flying through the night”? Many ancient people allegorized their accounts of the gods or only had a shallow level of belief in them, as Miller explains. We see this, for example, in Origen’s response to Celsus, in which both Celsus (a second century critic of Christianity) and Origen acknowledge widespread allegorizing and unbelief in the religious systems of their day.

    If everybody or almost everybody in a particular society believed in “witches flying through the night”, then such a situation isn’t comparable to the widespread opposition to Christianity in the first century. Paul was an enemy of Christiaity when he saw the risen Christ. The Jewish opponents of Christianity who referred to Jesus as a sorcerer and magician and acknowledged that His tomb was empty didn’t do so because they wanted to believe that Christianity is true.

    You keep referring to how you’re initially skeptical of what you consider superstitious claims. But when you’re given evidence that would move the discussion beyond the initial stages, you ignore that evidence and keep referring back to your initial skepticism and how it’s allegedly justifiable for you to have that initial skepticism. When I cite scholars like Richard Bauckham and Martin Hengel discussing specific historical facts and presenting specific historical arguments, we’re no longer at the initial stage of the discussion. Your initial skepticism isn’t a sufficient response to what Richard Bauckham writes about eyewitness testimony, what Martin Hengel writes about the authorship attributions of the gospels, what Craig Keener writes about the genre of the gospels, what N.T. Wright documents regarding the empty tomb, etc. A general, initial skepticism doesn’t answer such specific historical arguments. If it initially seems unlikely to me that terrorists would successfully fly multiple airplanes into and destroy the towers of the World Trade Center, I can’t just keep referring back to that initial skepticism every time a person presents me with evidence that the event happened. I’m not saying that you do that every time people present you with evidence for the supernatural. But you do it a lot. Your vague appeals to the alleged gullibility of ancient people isn’t a sufficient response to the specific material I’ve cited in this thread.

    ReplyDelete
  51. John Loftus wrote:

    “I'm sorry, but I'm not finding the article from Glenn Miller you want me to read. Where is it?”

    http://www.christian-thinktank.com/mqfx.html

    ReplyDelete
  52. Jason, you had written in response to John that "Citing people like the Ephesians in Acts 19 doesn't explain the beliefs of somebody like Thomas, Paul, or Luke".

    What is it that John's thesis doesn't explain about these people? Since John's thesis is not that no ancient people ever considered evidence, I don't see how this is relevant.

    ReplyDelete
  53. I read through what Glenn Miller wrote. Since I am only dealing with the Bible let me comment on the two of the stories in Acts he makes reference to: Acts 14.9ff, and Acts 28.6.

    In the first place Miller believes miracles took place, that Paul was bit by a snake and didn't die, and that Paul healed a man born crippled from birth. If these events actually happened it would be strong evidence for Paul's Gospel to those who saw them. However, for you and I these are merely reports about what supposedly happened. Reports of miracles are not themselves miracles. There is no way for me to test whether or not these miracles happened. I do not believe miraculous stories just because someone told me they happened, and neither do you in any other place except the Bible, because you believe the Bible. You apply a double standard for evaluating whether a miracle occurred depending on whether the Bible records them or not. I apply the same standard to all such stories that I hear.

    What I do know is that such things are claimed by Benny Hinn’s followers all of the time, as well as Oral Roberts. I also know that Luke was a believer and he wanted to tell a story that would cause other people to believe. So I reflect back and remember how Christians would regularly inflate their claims of healing too, and wonder if this is what Luke did. Anyway, are there any other clues here?

    Acts 14:
    11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.

    The crowd? Greek: οχλοι noun, masculine, plural, nominative, "a multitude, the common people." Not the educated classes, but we are hardly ever talking about the educated classes in the N.T. It's almost always, unless specified, the common average classes, or lower classes that Jesus and Paul reached.

    Wait a minute? “The gods have come down to us in human form!” What? They believed it was possible for the gods to come down in the human forms of Paul and Barnabas? Isn’t that also what Paul and Barnabas believed about Jesus? Hmmm. And they wanted to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas? This is all so strange to us today.

    14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. 18 Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.

    Paul did a great miracle and yet the people had a hard time believing what these two gods said? That too is very strange. If I thought someone was god, I’d listen to what he said. But they were in a frenzy.

    19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.

    How would it be possible for the Jews to have “won the crowd over” after what Luke just told us that Paul had done? The usual response of rational people would be to reject what the Jews said, rather than what Paul said, since they already believed Paul was a god. And Jews? This polytheistic crowd listened to Jews? My how quickly they were swayed back and forth and back and forth, according to Luke’s own account.

    They stoned Paul? The only reason they might have listened to what the Jews said is that they claimed Paul and Barnabas were demons or demon-possessed. But Paul and Barnabas would be right there denying it. So whom would you believe? Paul supposedly did a great miracle, and the next moment they stoned him. Maybe the miracle wasn’t so great after all? And it shows once again that the people Paul spread the gospel to were superstitious to the core. No evidence was needed. They just believed the person who had the best story. And they were ready to kill Paul too.

    Why would they turn Paul over to the Jews to kill him, or attempt to kill him themselves? Again, it's because they were fearful that with these two demons in their midst, the gods would be displeased with them and not send rain, or not allow their women to bear children, or send fire from the sky instead. No wonder the message of Paul was believed. It was quite literally the best story out there. Nothing could top it. But the evidence? Who needs that when you're dealing with superstitious people like this. All you had to be concerned about, was being stoned.

    Paul in Malta, Acts 28:1-6:
    “Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.”

    I’m not sure the incident occurred as reported. “Fastened on his hand;” later he “shook it off.” Most snakebites are very quick. And if it was quick maybe the venom wasn’t enough to kill or even hurt Paul? Even if otherwise, who actually was there to see it happen? How many actually saw it? Maybe Paul merely told them what happened? Or maybe one other person saw something and told the others. So when it says the “islanders” saw it, how many people does that mean? And if it actually means most or all of them, then the rest of the islanders believed it because it was merely told to them. And if the snake fell into the fire afterward, who knew exactly which kind of snake it was that bit him?

    They concluded that Paul was a murderer and that the god “Justice” has not allowed him to live. Where's the evidence for this god? But a murderer? Why not a rapist? Or a thief? The bottom line is that they believed bad things happen because of the gods.

    5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6 The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead, but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.

    They changed their minds? All of them? Back and forth and back and forth. If a bad thing happened, then god was angry. If a good thing happened, a god was pleased, or the person himself was a god. This is much too fickle for me.

    But my point is to see how these people reached conclusions that few educated modern people today would reach. I tell you I could go back in time and with a slight bit of hand, I could convince them I was a god and have a pampered life. I could also convince them that Jesus arose from the dead too.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Jon Curry writes:

    "What is it that John's thesis doesn't explain about these people? Since John's thesis is not that no ancient people ever considered evidence, I don't see how this is relevant."

    As I've explained before, John's comments weren't limited to what you keep calling his "thesis", as if he could only have one argument in mind or only comment on one subject in a given article or series of articles. I've addressed your objection, and you keep ignoring what you've been told.

    ReplyDelete
  55. John Loftus writes:

    "Since I am only dealing with the Bible let me comment on the two of the stories in Acts he makes reference to: Acts 14.9ff, and Acts 28.6."

    You didn't "only deal with the Bible" in your earlier comments. You've repeatedly made claims about the ancient world in general, and much of the evidence relevant to Christianity comes from sources outside of the Bible, such as the patristic sources who provide us with many authorship attributions for the Biblical documents. And the Biblical writers lived in the ancient world, so Miller's data about that ancient world is relevant to the Bible.

    You write:

    "There is no way for me to test whether or not these miracles happened."

    We make probability judgments, as we do with other historical reports. The fact that you can't "test" miracle reports in the sense of reproducing the event doesn't mean that we have no way of arriving at a conclusion as to whether one explanation is more likely than another. Historical conclusions, by their nature, don't involve testing in the sense of making an event occur again or traveling back in time, for example. We make probability judgments based on data such as historical documents and archeology.

    You write:

    "I do not believe miraculous stories just because someone told me they happened, and neither do you in any other place except the Bible, because you believe the Bible."

    And we have reason to trust the Bible. You can't ignore the reasons Christians give for believing the Bible, then act as if they believe the Bible without offering any argument for that belief.

    You write:

    "You apply a double standard for evaluating whether a miracle occurred depending on whether the Bible records them or not."

    If we can justify our trust in the Bible, as a Christian would maintain that we can, then how is a "double standard" involved in believing Biblical accounts of the miraculous? If I have reason to trust the Bible that I don't have for trusting the Koran, for example, then there's no "double standard" involved in believing a miracle report in the Bible while rejecting one in the Koran. You need to explain what this "double standard" supposedly is.

    You write:

    "What I do know is that such things are claimed by Benny Hinn’s followers all of the time, as well as Oral Roberts."

    A lot of sources make unreliable claims about a lot of subjects. We don't therefore conclude that we can't trust anybody who reports anything on those subjects. I discussed some of the differences between Benny Hinn's alleged miracles and those of early Christianity in a discussion with you last year. As is often the case, you didn't respond.

    You write:

    "I also know that Luke was a believer and he wanted to tell a story that would cause other people to believe. So I reflect back and remember how Christians would regularly inflate their claims of healing too, and wonder if this is what Luke did. Anyway, are there any other clues here?"

    If you need somebody to explain to you what other factors would be involved in evaluating Luke's credibility, then you're poorly prepared to judge such matters. You shouldn't need somebody to explain these things to you. And Glenn Miller's article isn't about explaining why we should believe Luke. That issue is addressed elsewhere, by Glenn Miller and by others. It's not the focus of the article we're discussing.

    You write:

    "My how quickly they were swayed back and forth and back and forth, according to Luke’s own account."

    Luke is writing a summary of what happened. Historical accounts frequently compress events. Something that occurred over a few hours, a few years, or a few centuries of time can be described in a sentence or a portion of a sentence. But however "quickly" the events in question happened, the fact that these people behaved unreasonably doesn't justify your generalizations about the ancient world as a whole and your ignoring of data suggesting that people like Paul and Luke were concerned about evidence. As Glenn Miller explains in his article, people such as these ones you're referring to in Acts are portrayed negatively by the Christian author of the document (Luke). No Christian reading what Luke wrote would come away with the impression that he should emulate the behavior of the people you're criticizing. In other words, such behavior was viewed as unreasonable by Luke, and it would have been viewed as unreasonable by the earliest Christian readers. To cite these people in Acts 14 as if they're examples of how everybody in the ancient world behaved is ridiculous. Just as there are both reasonable and unreasonable people in today's world, the same was true of the ancient world. You keep referring to what you consider unreasonable behavior in the ancient world, then you contrast it with what you consider the most positive elements of the modern world, but that's a false comparison, and it doesn't take all of the relevant information into account.

    You write:

    "And it shows once again that the people Paul spread the gospel to were superstitious to the core."

    The people you just mentioned rejected the gospel. They aren't representative of Christianity. And not everybody responded to Paul the way they did. How many more times are you going to repeat the same bad argument?

    I suggest that people read Glenn Miller's article for themselves. Compare it to what John Loftus has written.

    ReplyDelete
  56. You didn't "only deal with the Bible" in your earlier comments. You've repeatedly made claims about the ancient world in general, and much of the evidence relevant to Christianity comes from sources outside of the Bible…

    What I’m doing is dealing with what you think God says about the people of those days. That way you cannot come back and say otherwise based upon the kind of research Glenn Miller does. Again, what does the Bible say about the very people who were reached by the prophets and apostles?

    Historical conclusions, by their nature, don't involve testing in the sense of making an event occur again or traveling back in time, for example. We make probability judgments based on data such as historical documents and archeology.

    Yes, but it’s obvious that any evaluation of the past is done from the present perspective of the historian. And since the modern historian does not experience miracles in today’s world he will probably judge the miraculous claims of the ancient world to be superstitions. God should’ve known this would happen. If God revealed himself in history at all he chose a very bad medium to do so. If God revealed himself to us he chose a very bad era to do so.

    You need to explain what this "double standard" supposedly is.

    You approach the Koran as a skeptic. You approach the Bible as a non-skeptic. I approach them both the same.

    A lot of sources make unreliable claims about a lot of subjects. We don't therefore conclude that we can't trust anybody who reports anything on those subjects.

    True enough, but given the preponderance of miraculous claims in a pre-scientific era one can rightly to be skeptical of them all, especially when we’re dealing with things outside of our normal experience in the modern world where miracles do not occur. The historical evidence must be very strong to overcome this outlook. To presuppose it all is simply being gullible with the historical evidences.

    Luke is writing a summary of what happened.

    How do we really know this?

    In other words, such behavior was viewed as unreasonable by Luke, and it would have been viewed as unreasonable by the earliest Christian readers.

    How do you really know this?

    To cite these people in Acts 14 as if they're examples of how everybody in the ancient world behaved is ridiculous.

    I don’t do this. I merely want to know what the Bible says about the people who came to believe the gospel here.

    You keep referring to what you consider unreasonable behavior in the ancient world, then you contrast it with what you consider the most positive elements of the modern world, but that's a false comparison, and it doesn't take all of the relevant information into account.

    Are you truly saying that people in the ancient world were just like us in today’s scientific world? Sure we have ignorant and superstitious people, but can you find anyplace in America, for instance, where the people would think like the Ephesians did in Paul’s day?

    I suggest that people read Glenn Miller's article for themselves. Compare it to what John Loftus has written.,

    He and I and attempting to do different things. He must explain away the evidence found within the Bible itself. That shows the evidence is not on your side, for what we really want to know is how does the Bible describe the very people who heard and believed Paul’s gospel.

    ReplyDelete
  57. John Loftus wrote:

    "What I’m doing is dealing with what you think God says about the people of those days. That way you cannot come back and say otherwise based upon the kind of research Glenn Miller does. Again, what does the Bible say about the very people who were reached by the prophets and apostles?"

    I don't deny that you want to focus on that issue now. My point is that your earlier comments weren't limited to that issue.

    And what the Bible says about ancient people isn't limited to passages like the ones you cited in Acts. The book of Acts and other Biblical sources refer to people behaving in a wide variety of ways. Similarly, some people in today's world are involved in riots, suicide bombings, and other behavior that you would consider unreasonable, but we don't ignore the existence of more reasonable people in the modern world at the same time. Since no Christian denies that some people in the ancient world behaved unreasonably, and since no Christian in the ancient or modern world thinks that we should behave as the people in Acts 14 did, what are your citations of such passages supposed to prove?

    You write:

    "Yes, but it’s obvious that any evaluation of the past is done from the present perspective of the historian. And since the modern historian does not experience miracles in today’s world he will probably judge the miraculous claims of the ancient world to be superstitions."

    Why should we accept your assumption that modern historians haven't experienced miracles? The New Testament scholar Craig Keener, for example, claims to have experienced the miraculous, so why should he adopt the perspective you describe above when he's writing about the ancient world? And even if a modern scholar hasn't experienced a miracle, he can believe that miracles occur in today's world on other grounds. Why would a historian limit his conclusions to what he experiences? Even if a historian didn't experience any miracles himself and didn't believe that any have occurred in recent history, it doesn't therefore follow that no miracles would have occurred in the past. If he thought that it seemed unlikely that miracles would occur, he would have to interact with arguments suggesting that miracles did occur in the past. He shouldn't just keep referring back to his initial skepticism, as if that initial skepticism is a sufficient answer to any contrary argument that's cited. You, on the other hand, aren't interacting with the arguments of a Richard Bauckham or a Martin Hengel. Rather, you keep ignoring their arguments while repeating your appeal to your initial skepticism.

    You write:

    "God should’ve known this would happen. If God revealed himself in history at all he chose a very bad medium to do so. If God revealed himself to us he chose a very bad era to do so."

    Only if you assume that God should order the universe in such a way as to accommodate your unreasonable standards. For example, your willingness to propose widespread hallucinations in an attempt to dismiss the resurrection appearances of Christ doesn't prove that the evidence for the resurrection is insufficient.

    You write:

    "You approach the Koran as a skeptic. You approach the Bible as a non-skeptic."

    You keep repeating errors that have already been corrected. Again, how I approach the books isn't the only relevant issue. We also have to ask whether I have reasons for approaching one book differently than I approach the other. I, Steve, and others who post here have given reasons for why we view the Bible as we do. If there isn't comparable evidence for the Koran, then no double standard is involved.

    You write:

    "True enough, but given the preponderance of miraculous claims in a pre-scientific era one can rightly to be skeptical of them all, especially when we’re dealing with things outside of our normal experience in the modern world where miracles do not occur."

    Again, why should we accept your assertion that miracles don't occur in the modern world? And as I explained earlier, even if your initial skepticism of a historical event is justified, you can't keep appealing to that initial skepticism after people give you specific arguments that go beyond that initial stage of what seems likely to happen and what doesn't. Telling us that you don't think that miracles occur in today's world, and that you're therefore skeptical of miracles in the ancient world, doesn't answer the sort of arguments put forward by the sources I've cited in this thread.

    I had written:

    "Luke is writing a summary of what happened."

    And you responded:

    "How do we really know this?"

    Are you asking how we know that Luke sometimes summarized in his writings? Or are you asking how we know that what he wrote is what happened (is historical)? If the latter, then you're changing the subject. You can consult other sources that discuss the historical credibility of Luke, but that isn't the issue I was addressing. If you're asking the former question, then the reason why I conclude that Luke is summarizing is because he describes events in such a way that many details that would have to have occurred are unmentioned. For example, when Acts 14:19 refers to some Jews "winning over the crowds", we aren't told how they did so. That sort of summarizing of events is commonplace in sources writing about history. You can't include every detail.

    I had written:

    "In other words, such behavior was viewed as unreasonable by Luke, and it would have been viewed as unreasonable by the earliest Christian readers."

    And you wrote in response:

    "How do you really know this?"

    Why do these things need to be explained to you? You keep suggesting that the ancient Christians were gullible, yet you're behaving in such a gullible manner yourself.

    Glenn Miller addresses this issue in the article you claim to have read. Are you going to maintain that Luke and his Christian readers thought that it was a good thing to be inconsistent and to oppose Paul and Barnabas, even to the point of stoning Paul, as we see in Acts 14? Other people in Acts (Gamaliel, the Bereans, etc.) respond to the Christian message differently. You can't just assume that any type of behavior recorded in Acts is viewed as acceptable by the author and the earliest Christian readers.

    You write:

    "I don’t do this. I merely want to know what the Bible says about the people who came to believe the gospel here."

    But the people you cited from Acts 14 rejected the gospel. And other people behaved in other ways. Yet, you don't cite those other people. Instead, you keep focusing on the people you consider unreasonable. Nobody denies that some people behaved unreasonably. Some people behave unreasonably in today's world as well.

    You write:

    "Are you truly saying that people in the ancient world were just like us in today’s scientific world? Sure we have ignorant and superstitious people, but can you find anyplace in America, for instance, where the people would think like the Ephesians did in Paul’s day?"

    Again, as you've been told many times by multiple people, the ancient world doesn't have to be "just like us" in order for Christianity to be credible. And why should we limit our analysis of the modern world to America? Even if we did limit ourselves to America, what about the people who set fires and tear down buildings after sporting events, Americans who believe in astrology, Americans who think they see an image of Mary in a water mark on the side of a building, etc.?

    ReplyDelete
  58. And why should we limit our analysis of the modern world to America? Even if we did limit ourselves to America, what about the people who set fires and tear down buildings after sporting events, Americans who believe in astrology, Americans who think they see an image of Mary in a water mark on the side of a building, etc.?

    Because there is no comparison with the ancient pre-scientific world. This is obvious. You disagree in order to have your presuppositions validated, but you do so against the evidence. I call this blindness. That's what your presuppositions do for you. I've offered reasons for mine. What reasons do you have for your supernatural presuppositons? Where did you first learn them?

    ReplyDelete
  59. JOHN W. LOFTUS SAID:

    “I’m not sure the incident occurred as reported. ‘Fastened on his hand;’ later he ‘shook it off.’ Most snakebites are very quick.”

    That depends on the species. “Echidna” was a generic Greek term for a variety of venomous snakes. Some species, with short, fixed fangs, cling to the victim in order to chew their poison into the his bloodstream.

    ReplyDelete
  60. John Loftus writes:

    "Because there is no comparison with the ancient pre-scientific world."

    You limit the discussion to America because "there is no comparison with the ancient pre-scientific world"? That doesn't make sense. To begin with, as I've explained to you repeatedly, the ancient world doesn't have to have the same scientific status that America has in order for Christianity to be credible. The apostle Peter doesn't have to have been a chemist in order to have credibly reported that he saw an empty tomb. And you referred to what happens "anyplace" in America, so I gave you examples of unreasonable behavior by Americans (starting fires and tearing down buildings after sporting events, belief in astrology, etc.). But now you seem to want to change the subject by limiting the discussion to what standards are followed by the most reasonable Americans. However, when addressing the ancient world, you keep focusing on the less reasonable people, like the people who stoned Paul in Acts 14. You compare the worst of the ancient world to the best of the modern world. That doesn't make sense, for reasons we've explained to you many times.

    Readers should notice that while John keeps making assertions about ancient gullibility, he keeps acting gullibly himself. He criticizes the people in Acts 14 for their inconsistency, yet he himself is frequently inconsistent in his argumentation, often changing the subject for no good reason or changing his arguments from post to post. And he behaves in this manner even after being corrected many times by many people.

    He writes:

    "You disagree in order to have your presuppositions validated, but you do so against the evidence. I call this blindness. That's what your presuppositions do for you. I've offered reasons for mine. What reasons do you have for your supernatural presuppositons? Where did you first learn them?"

    How would you know that I "disagree in order to have my presuppositions validated"? And if you're interested in arguments for "supernatural presuppositions", then why don't you interact with the many articles on such issues that have already been posted here?

    You keep ignoring large portions of what we write in response to you. You're refuted on one subject, so you ignore those refutations and bring up another subject or leave the discussion.

    ReplyDelete
  61. often changing the subject for no good reason

    You've got to be kidding, right? John changes the subject?

    As I've explained before, John's comments weren't limited to what you keep calling his "thesis", as if he could only have one argument in mind or only comment on one subject in a given article or series of articles.

    I'm just trying to get you to answer one question here. You had said earlier:

    Citing people like the Ephesians in Acts 19 doesn't explain the beliefs of somebody like Thomas, Paul, or Luke.

    John cites the Ephesians in Acts 19 to support his general thesis that ancient people were more superstitious and gullible than modern people. I'm asking, what is it about his citing of this evidence in support of his general thesis that doesn't explain the beliefs of Thomas, Paul, or Luke?

    Now you respond and say that John has said more than simply what I'm describing as his general thesis. But you are the one that criticized him for supporting his general thesis with this evidence because supposedly this evidence didn't explain Luke, Paul, and Thomas. So explain exactly how this evidence, used to support his general thesis, doesn't explain Luke, Paul, and Thomas. And if you had some other statement from him in mind that your criticism is relevant to, as you are now implying, then provide those statement from John that somehow "don't explain" Luke, Paul, and Thomas.

    Readers will note that Jason once again displays a complete unwillingness to answer a simple direct question. There is no question that he could ask of me relating to apologetic issues that I wouldn't answer directly and clearly. Why is it necessary to throw so much sand in the air and avoid answering simple questions?

    ReplyDelete
  62. Jon Curry writes:

    "I'm just trying to get you to answer one question here."

    It's a question that doesn't have much significance, for reasons I've explained, and it's one I answered earlier. And you've ignored a far larger number of questions that I and others have asked you.

    You write:

    "And if you had some other statement from him in mind that your criticism is relevant to, as you are now implying, then provide those statement from John that somehow 'don't explain' Luke, Paul, and Thomas."

    I already have. I gave examples of comments John made about how the people of Biblical times supposedly reached their conclusions without evidence.

    But why would I need a "statement from John" in order to comment that his references to passages like Acts 19 are insufficient to explain the beliefs of men like Luke, Paul, and Thomas?

    You write:

    "Readers will note that Jason once again displays a complete unwillingness to answer a simple direct question."

    Readers will note that Jon has ignored questions he's been asked in this thread and has left dozens of other threads without having addressed what people wrote in response to him.

    You write:

    "There is no question that he could ask of me relating to apologetic issues that I wouldn't answer directly and clearly."

    You've already ignored questions you were asked earlier in this thread, and you left dozens of other threads, including ones in which you hadn't answered "questions related to apologetic issues". Are you claiming that your comment above represents how you've always behaved in this forum? Or are you saying that you've decided to change your behavior, so that you'll now answer all questions instead of ignoring many of them, as you had in the past?

    ReplyDelete
  63. Jason, Gene, Jon. Thanks for the reasonable and generally respectful discussion. Since this debate is ongoing and since it concerns control beliefs, I think I've said all I want to say. I'm sure with more words we still would disagree with each other.

    I wish you all well.

    ReplyDelete
  64. I gave examples of comments John made about how the people of Biblical times supposedly reached their conclusions without evidence.

    Where did John say that people in Biblical times always reached their conclusions without evidence? You talk about how he used the phrase "no evidence" but without the context of his use of the phrase, it's hard to draw any conclusions. If it is his claim that biblical people never considered evidence, then I agree with you that the example of Paul, Thomas, and Luke is relevant. But you'll need to show me where he says that.

    Are you claiming that your comment above represents how you've always behaved in this forum? Or are you saying that you've decided to change your behavior, so that you'll now answer all questions instead of ignoring many of them, as you had in the past?

    My position has always been that since you often raise off topic issues it is not worth my time to respond to everything you say. But I don't want to use this as cover to avoid answering a specific question that you think is important, as you do with me. If there is one question that you think is critical that you want me to answer, I will, even if I think it is off topic.

    You on the other hand will not answer a single, specific, direct question if it is too difficult, and you'll use as an excuse the claim that I haven't answered questions from you. Everyone that debates you will not answer some of your questions, because volumes are required to deal with all of the off topic issues you raise. You shouldn't use this excuse to avoid answering specific direct questions.

    You had written

    Citing people like the Ephesians in Acts 19 doesn't explain the beliefs of somebody like Thomas, Paul, or Luke.

    What is it about John's citation of the Ephesians in Acts 19 that doesn't explain the beliefs of somebody like Thomas, Paul, or Luke.

    Readers will note that Jason once again displays a complete unwillingness to answer a simple direct question. There is no question that he could ask of me relating to apologetic issues that I wouldn't answer directly and clearly. Why is it necessary to throw so much sand in the air and avoid answering simple questions?

    ReplyDelete
  65. Jon Curry wrote:

    "Where did John say that people in Biblical times always reached their conclusions without evidence? You talk about how he used the phrase 'no evidence' but without the context of his use of the phrase, it's hard to draw any conclusions."

    I gave you links for every quote I produced from John's articles. If you haven't read the articles and haven't made the effort to examine the context when you want to know more about it, then that's your problem, not mine. John was addressing "the Bible" and "the people in Biblical days" in general. He used people like Jonah and the Ephesians of Acts 19 as examples, but he was arguing for a broader application. Here are two of the quotes I posted earlier, which specifically refer to the resurrection:

    "Just so we are clear here, I never said that based upon my analysis of the Ephesians and Jonah’s book that the resurrection never happened. I have some other reasons for thinking this. But I'm saying that the people in Biblical days were very superstitious such that I question whether any evidence was needed to convince them of something." (http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/05/jason-engwer-vs-superstitious-past.html)

    "There was no evidence. It was a story about Thomas. A vision. And it subsequently became a legend, which grew and grew as people passed it on, not unlike how the myth of Santa Claus grew up until the poem, '’twas the Night Before Christmas,' which revolutionized the way we thought about St. Nick." (http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/05/jason-engwer-vs-superstitious-past.html)

    He's made similar claims in other places.

    Even if he had never made any such claims, it would still be acceptable for me to mention that the unreasonableness of people like the Ephesians in Acts 19 doesn't explain the beliefs of men like Thomas, Paul, and Luke. If John had stopped short of making comments like the ones quoted above, it would still be acceptable for me to point out that his citation of people like the ones in Acts 19 doesn't explain somebody like the apostle Paul. Christians don't deny that there were some unreasonable people in the ancient world, such as the Ephesians in Acts 19, but they do appeal to the credibility of a source like Paul.

    Nothing I've said requires me to document what you're asking me to document. My saying that citing people like the ones in Acts 19 doesn't explain somebody like Paul doesn't require that I document that John Loftus has "said that people in Biblical times always reached their conclusions without evidence".

    You write:

    "My position has always been that since you often raise off topic issues it is not worth my time to respond to everything you say. But I don't want to use this as cover to avoid answering a specific question that you think is important, as you do with me. If there is one question that you think is critical that you want me to answer, I will, even if I think it is off topic."

    Now you're adding qualifiers that you didn't add earlier (there can be only be one question, and it's supposed to be one that I consider "critical"). When we were having our discussions last year about the authorship of the fourth gospel, early Christian eschatology, etc., was I supposed to know that I should single out one question and identify it for you as critical? And, supposedly, you were justified in ignoring other questions, as long as you would answer one question I identified as critical? Apparently, the readers of this thread were also supposed to know that you had such qualifiers in mind when you wrote:

    "Readers will note that Jason once again displays a complete unwillingness to answer a simple direct question. There is no question that he could ask of me relating to apologetic issues that I wouldn't answer directly and clearly. Why is it necessary to throw so much sand in the air and avoid answering simple questions?"

    Now that you've ignored so many questions that I, Steve, and others have asked you in so many discussions we've had, you claim that you would have answered one question if we had identified that one question as critical. Meanwhile, there are dozens of threads in the archives in which you failed to identify a single one of our questions that you ignored as something we consider critical. What were we supposed to do? Anticipate the standard you're now articulating and explicitly identify one of our questions as "critical"? When I repeatedly asked you to address particular arguments related to early Christian eschatology or the existence of Jesus, for example, was it not enough that I repeatedly asked you about the arguments and repeatedly reminded you that you hadn't addressed those arguments? Did I need to specifically use the word "critical"?

    ReplyDelete
  66. But I'm saying that the people in Biblical days were very superstitious such that I question whether any evidence was needed to convince them of something." (http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/05/jason-engwer-vs-superstitious-past.html)

    Please explain how the statement I am asking you about can possibly be a response to something John had not yet written?

    If John had stopped short of making comments like the ones quoted above, it would still be acceptable for me to point out that his citation of people like the ones in Acts 19 doesn't explain somebody like the apostle Paul.

    I don't see how. John had used Acts 19 as an example of superstitious behavior amongst the ancients, which supported his general thesis that the ancients were more gullible and superstitious. Even if the accounts of Thomas and Paul were historically accurate, this wouldn't be inconsistent with his claim. Though I suppose John would explain someone like Thomas as I do. The lagging skeptical follower that doesn't at first believe until after he's gotten better evidence, this is a common plot prop in a mythical miraculous story like the Christ myth. So John would explain that as unhistorical, and use the stories in the bible (even though they may not be true) as evidence of the ancient mindset.

    Now you're adding qualifiers that you didn't add earlier (there can be only be one question, and it's supposed to be one that I consider "critical").

    Such a gross straw man distortion of what I said. I gave good reasons for why I am unwilling to answer all of your questions. You've completely ignored those, and saddled me with this gross mischaracterization where supposedly I only allow one question that is critical. I guess I could repeat myself, but I can see that there is no point.

    But I will say that I've explained this before.

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/12/does-gospel-of-mark-contradict-infancy.html

    ReplyDelete
  67. Jon Curry wrote:

    "Please explain how the statement I am asking you about can possibly be a response to something John had not yet written?"

    All of these articles were part of a series of exchanges we had last year on issues related to the alleged gullibility of ancient people. John was explaining why he had cited examples such as the Ephesians in Acts 19 and the people in the book of Jonah in previous articles. Are you now claiming that John had changed his argument, that what he said about the Ephesians and Jonah in the article I just quoted was different from his earlier position? I also quoted one of his earlier articles in a previous response to you in this thread. His comments about the book of Jonah were meant to be applied to the people of Biblical times in general. He repeatedly made comments about people having no concern for evidence. His comments in the later article that I cited, regarding a lack of concern for evidence among ancient people, were a summary of what he had been arguing earlier.

    You write:

    "John had used Acts 19 as an example of superstitious behavior amongst the ancients, which supported his general thesis that the ancients were more gullible and superstitious."

    As I've documented, John argued for more than what you're calling his "general thesis". Telling us what you think his "general thesis" was doesn't give us any reason to think that I should have limited my comments to that subject.

    You write:

    "Even if the accounts of Thomas and Paul were historically accurate, this wouldn't be inconsistent with his claim."

    Again, inconsistency wouldn't have been necessary to justify the comment I made. This is the comment you keep criticizing me for:

    "Citing people like the Ephesians in Acts 19 doesn't explain the beliefs of somebody like Thomas, Paul, or Luke." (http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/05/alleged-gullibility-of-jonah-and-his.html)

    You keep making the erroneous claim that I shouldn't make such a comment unless John had denied that ancient people ever had concern for evidence. You still haven't shown how such a conclusion follows from what I said. You just keep asserting it. Even if John had argued that people like the Ephesians in Acts 19 had some concern for evidence, but not enough concern, it would still be correct to say that citing such people doesn't explain other sources, such as Thomas, Paul, and Luke. As I've explained repeatedly, reasonable and unreasonable people can exist at the same time in history. You can't dismiss somebody like Paul on the basis of a citation of people like the Ephesians in Acts 19. Instead of repeating your assertion without supporting it again, you need to tell us how my comment quoted above supposedly requires that John Loftus had denied that ancient people were ever concerned with evidence.

    You write:

    "You've completely ignored those, and saddled me with this gross mischaracterization where supposedly I only allow one question that is critical."

    I said that you added the one question qualifier in the context we were discussing. Are you denying that you referred to "one question"?

    ReplyDelete