Sunday, December 30, 2007

Shallow Skepticism

I recently wrote a post in response to some claims John Loftus has made about Jesus' birthplace. Loftus responded in the comments section:

As I look at the prophecies supposedly fulfilled in the life and death of Jesus I've concluded they were taken out of context. I've also concluded based on philosophical grounds that there is no basis for God to be able to foresee future human continguent actions, even if he exists....

When I examine Matthew's fulfilled prophecies concerning the events surrounding Jesus' birth they all fail. The method of Midrash and pesher was quite common in Matthew's day but fundamentally flawed. There isn't even any expectation that Matthew's prophecies should be taken as a literal fulfillment unless we first discuss this issue.

The difference between us can be summed up in that I judge things in the Bible by modern, more rigourous standards, whereas you do not.

I responded to Loftus' arguments regarding Micah 5 and Jesus' birthplace. I cited an article I had written about Micah 5 and further treatment of the subject by Glenn Miller and Bruce Waltke. Waltke's commentary is one of the most recently published on the book of Micah, by a highly qualified Old Testament scholar, and that commentary has several dozen pages on that chapter of Micah. I also linked to a five-part series I had done on Jesus' birthplace, in which I discussed the Biblical and extra-Biblical evidence in depth. Where has John Loftus discussed the extra-Biblical data, such as what the early enemies of Christianity said about Jesus' birthplace? How much of the relevant patristic literature has Loftus read? Does Loftus think he's being "more rigorous" when he quotes the nearly naked assertions of scholars like Robin Lane Fox and E.P. Sanders? Or when his posts ignore the large majority of the evidence relevant to making a judgment about this issue?

He tells us that we need to address "Matthew's fulfilled prophecies concerning the events surrounding Jesus' birth". Why? Matthew isn't Micah. And Matthew can appeal to more than one type of prophecy fulfillment. It can't be assumed that every fulfillment would be of the nature of Matthew's view of Hosea 11:1, for example. The fact that Matthew sometimes appeals to prophecies of a more typological nature doesn't lead us to the conclusion that Micah 5:2 must be such a prophecy. Does Loftus think that the quality of Micah's prophecy is determined by the quality of other prophecies cited by Matthew when discussing Jesus' childhood? How does Loftus connect those dots? And why is Matthew the relevant source here? Other ancient Jewish and Christian sources discussed Micah 5 as a prophecy as well. Why are we supposed to think that Loftus' arguments represent "modern, more rigorous standards"? Because he asserts it?

Where are the ancient sources who held Loftus' position regarding Jesus' birthplace? Where is Loftus' interaction with my arguments regarding Micah 5, Miller's arguments, Waltke's arguments, etc.? Where has Loftus interacted with the objections to his arguments that I've documented from some of the sources that he himself cites (Raymond Brown and Richard Carrier)?

Why does John Loftus behave this way so often? There must not be much to his skepticism.


  1. It is worthy to note that, according to Matthew, the chief priests and scribes of the people thought that Micah 5 referred literally to Bethlehem the town (Matt. 2:4-8). Matthew is conveying this verse as a well-known prophecy common to all, not just a private typology that he made up for teaching purposes.

    It is also worthy to note that the scholars that Loftus cites are men who *start* with the presupposition that long-term prophecy can't happen, and this colors their exegetical glasses. So really, Loftus is just giving us more circular argumentation.

  2. All the stories are true! Just believe them! Just believe them!!!!

  3. The similarity between Loftus and Joseph Smith are becoming more and more striking.