Monday, July 07, 2008

The Level Of Argumentation At Debunking Christianity

Evan is a member of the Debunking Christianity staff. He recently wrote a post in another thread here that made many unsupported and erroneous assertions about early Christianity. After Evan wrote such a disreputable post, John Loftus commented:

"Good luck trying to reason with these hyenas, Evan. I've tried with no success. But there was a Christian who used to listen in and comment not too awful long ago who recently told me he/she is now an atheist, in part because of exapologist and me. So maybe it's worth the effort here after all."

Here are some examples of Evan's "effort":

"Even in the late first century Minucius Felix says that Christians are called such because they are anointed (the meaning of the word Christ) and does not mention that they are followers of a man named Jesus of Nazareth at all."

"How about what Celsus said, he was a Christian"

Minucius Felix wrote in the late first century? Celsus was a Christian?

Meanwhile, at the Debunking Christianity thread I linked to earlier, Jon Curry writes:

"And it's certainly not about hoping that apologists such as Jason will change their opinions. We've seen the apologist deny the mountain of evidence for evolution, deny that Jesus prophesied an imminent second coming, deny that the accounts in Scripture of Judas' death contradict one another, and deny many other clear falsifications for their views. We have no illusions that this tablet would matter."

Jon was banned from this blog last year for his irresponsible behavior. But anybody interested can consult our archives for discussions of issues like the ones Jon mentions, including discussions Jon left without addressing many of our arguments.

In the same thread, DingoDave writes:

"It strikes me as being incredibly ironic when people who claim to believe that, 'Donkeys can talk, And people can fly, And a man named Jesus Lives up in the sky' accuse atheists and skeptics of engaging in wishful thinking."

Of course, a claim like "donkeys can talk" (note the plural) is obviously false only if Christians were claiming that donkeys speak human language by means of a natural ability to do so. That's not what Christians claim. The belief that one donkey was made to speak on one occasion by supernatural means, an act that's portrayed as unusual by the Biblical documents themselves, isn't equivalent to a claim that donkeys in general have a natural ability to speak.

Or is DingoDave assuming naturalism without argument, then concluding that nothing he considers supernatural can occur? Why, then, should we accept his unsupported assumption? And why did he use the plural "donkeys"?

It seems that DingoDave comes from the same brand of skepticism that leads people to conclude that Minucius Felix wrote in the first century and that Celsus was a Christian.

DingoDave continues:

"I noticed that one of the contributers to his blog is the calvinist nutjob Paul Manata. That just about says it all to me about Jason's credibility (or lack of it)."

Aside from the fact that he doesn't support his (mis)characterization of Paul Manata with any argumentation, what are we to make of a blog whose contributors write the sort of material we see from, say, John Loftus and Evan?

Exapologist, in the same thread, refers to belief in a resurrection of John the Baptist at the time of Jesus' earthly ministry (Matthew 14:2). We have to distinguish between a resurrection as defined in the case of Jesus and the term as it's commonly applied to other concepts (resuscitation, etc.). Since Jesus presumably looked significantly different than John the Baptist physically, and since their two lives overlapped, Herod clearly isn't referring to any traditional notion of resurrection. Apparently, he had some sort of mixed concept in mind that he hadn't given much thought (other incidents also reflect poorly on his theological abilities). I see nothing in the account that would suggest a belief in a resurrected individual along the lines of what Christians believe about Jesus. Terms like "resurrected" and "raised" are often applied to other concepts.

97 comments:

  1. I should add that the comments of people other than Herod in passages like Luke 9:19 also don't give us many details about their beliefs. There are multiple ways in which Jesus could have been viewed as Elijah, John the Baptist, or some other person who was deceased (He had the spirit of Elijah, etc.). We aren't told much about what these people believed.

    It's also possible, for example, though I think my reading of the text in my original post is more likely, that Herod believed that people were mistaken in identifying Jesus as a distinct individual from John the Baptist. He may have disbelieved some of the reports he received, thus leading to his conclusion that the figure referred to as Jesus was actually John the Baptist back from the dead.

    Still, we have to distinguish between a resurrection and a resuscitation. Herod may have had the latter in mind. We aren't told enough about his beliefs or the beliefs of people like those in Luke 9 to justify the conclusions critics like exapologist are reaching.

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  2. “Exapologist, in the same thread, refers to belief in a resurrection of John the Baptist at the time of Jesus' earthly ministry (Matthew 14:2).”

    I’ll elaborate on Jason’s comments:

    i) In this case, I think there’s a more specific explanation for the rumor regarding John the Baptist. Exapologist ignores the context. Herod had John the Baptist assassinated as a political opponent.

    The rumor that John the Baptist had returned from the dead probably has its basis, not in Jewish traditions regarding the general resurrection or resurrection of the just, but in the popular, ethnographically diverse belief in avenging spirits (e.g. poltergeists). Many “primitive” societies have a cult of the dead because people fear the dead. They present offerings to placate the dead. And they fear the dead because they’re afraid that if you mistreat the living, they may come back from the grave to haunt you and exact revenge.

    ii) The phrase “raised [from the dead]” is idiomatic. It trades on the image of a corpse, lying in its tomb, which sits up when it is reanimated. But Jews knew that, in many cases, there was no corpse and there was no tomb. The body might have been consumed by scavengers out in the open.

    So this, of itself, doesn’t point to a physical return from the dead or reembodiment. The reason Christian belief in the bodily resurrection of Christ rests on far more than the mere phrase that he was “raised” from the dead. Specific, corporeal actions are attributed to the Risen Christ.

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  3. So yeah. I made 2 mistakes. The first one is that Celsus was quoted in Origen who was a Christian. Celsus was a Jew quoting a bunch of pagan myths to contradict Christianity. So what's Origen's response to Celsus?

    Now, since it is a Jew who makes these statements, we shall conduct the defence of our Jesus as if we were replying to a Jew, still continuing the comparison derived from the accounts regarding Moses, and saying to him: "How many others are there who practise similar juggling tricks to those of Moses, in order to deceive their silly hearers, and who make gain by their deception?" Now this objection would be more appropriate in the mouth of one who did not believe in Moses (as we might quote the instances of Zamolxis and Pythagoras, who were engaged in such juggling tricks) than in that of a Jew, who is not very learned in the histories of the Greeks. An Egyptian, moreover, who did not believe the miracles of Moses, might credibly adduce the instance of Rhampsinitus, saying that it was far more credible that he had descended to Hades, and had played at dice with Demeter, and that after stealing from her a golden napkin he exhibited it as a sign of his having been in Hades, and of his having returned thence, than that Moses should have recorded that he entered into the darkness, where God was, and that he alone, above all others, drew near to God. For the following is his statement: "Moses alone shall come near the LORD; but the rest shall not come nigh." We, then, who are the disciples of Jesus, say to the Jew who urges these objections: "While assailing our belief in Jesus, defend yourself, and answer the Egyptian and the Greek objectors: what will you say to those charges which you brought against our Jesus, but which also might be brought against Moses first? And if you should make a vigorous effort to defend Moses, as indeed his history does admit of a clear and powerful defence, you will unconsciously, in your support of Moses, be an unwilling assistant in establishing the greater divinity of Jesus."

    See ... there's Origen complaining about a Jew mixing pagan ideas and arguments in with his Judaism. Which is pretty much exactly the point I made in the first place. And Origen is a Christian, so I fail to see how pointing out my mistake helps your case much, but it was indeed a mistake on my part and I take full responsibility for it.

    In the second instance I also mistyped first century for second century and again, the mistake is all mine. Yet again, the facts don't seem to help your case against me, since now you have a 2nd century apologist who is still unwilling to acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth in an apologetic work long after all 4 gospels are reputed to have been written. Indeed he goes further to suggest that it is wrong to suggest that Christians worship a man who was crucified or a man who was God:

    For in that you attribute to our religion the worship of a criminal and his cross, you wander far from the neighbourhood of the truth, in thinking either that a criminal deserved, or that an earthly being was able, to be believed God.

    So thanks for pointing out my errors and I apologize for making them.

    However the substance of my argument is enhanced in their explication so thanks for that too.

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  4. "I take full responsibility for my errors, the correction of which actually provides even more proof for my position which must be why I stated the erroneous position instead of the factual position because I enjoy giving people lesser arguments to make them feel better and when elected I promise that no further taxes on gasoline will be imposed because it's Bush's fault."

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  5. Evan,

    It has been your position that Christianity incorporated pagan ideas into their religion that predate Christianity, yet your sources for this are from those who postdate Christianity.

    Furthermore, the point in Origen, as I understand it, is to say that those Jews who would claim Christianity borrowed from pagan could have the same charge leveled at them by the unlearned. To defend Moses by history would be to admit of the same defense of Jesus, so the Jew can't have his cake and eat it too. Origen is not claiming that either the claims in the Old Testament or the New Testament are false claims derived from pagan myths.

    You have shown yourself to be a dishonest critic of Christianity. Taking quotes that clearly do not admit of a pagan element and claiming that they are support of your position is a dishonest and fallacious move.

    Not only is your logic faulty (using postdate to prove predate), your sources testify against yourself.

    Not only that, Christians are not hamstrung by what "Origen" might have said or any other extra-biblical apologetic practice the early church employed.

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  6. Why should it surprise you guys that the Biblical writers borrowed some ideas floating around in their day? We all do it. It's impossible not to do so. The weight of evidence is against your assertions and your gerrymandering of the texts. Voltaire quipped that "we are all children of our times. You guys are too, with your liberal notions of women, hell fire, theories of inspiration, and Calvinistic ideas, which themselves can be traced back through Augustine to Plato.

    Oh, I get it, just like everything else you must argue for, the biblical writers were different.

    Right.

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  7. John W. Loftus,

    I assumed this thread was for those who wanted to present arguments. No Christian I know is bothered by your pretentious posturing.

    Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn't point out that you are a child "of your times" and thus what you claim can't be objectively true.

    That was the structure of your argument, was it not? If it wasn't, then you admit it can't carry the weight you wanted it to. If it was, you defeat yourself.

    I also am scratching my head as to why you would call us "children of our time" yet also claim that we hold to a position which can "be traced back to Plato." Which is it, Loftus?

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  8. Loftus said:
    ---
    Why should it surprise you guys that the Biblical writers borrowed some ideas floating around in their day?
    ---

    It doesn't surprise me at all. The Bible does do this. Every time it references Baal, for instance....

    Of course Lofty doesn't mean it that way. Even so, I'm waiting for him to actually present an argument. Jason has already provided much of what the Debunkers need to actually prove in order to have a case with this find, and I don't want to repeat all his efforts here. (After all, they've apparently done their job; Loftus cannot respond to them.)

    Suppose that everything claimed about the Gabriel Stone is correct. Has Loftus heard of post hoc ergo propter hoc? Has he even begun to address that? Of course not.

    Further, he says that we are all children of our time. Which is fine and dandy, but which if taken to the extreme that Loftus must take it, would make it impossible for us to understand anything of the past. For that matter, I would be unable to understand anything of what happened in 1950. Why? It was before my time. My universe is different than that universe. Taken further, we end up in pure relativism and only have skepticism left. But Loftus seems awfully confident for someone with a position that neutralizes the ground of reason.

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  9. I also find it funny that once again an atheist thinks Jason is a Calvinist.

    Steve, you think we should bend the rules a bit and make him an honorary one? :-D

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  10. Oh and I guess I'll add one more wry comment.

    Ever notice how the atheists who claim that America's founding had nothing to do with Christianity despite the fact that many of the Founding Fathers were Christian and despite the fact that much of what is found in their original legislative is dirrectly taken from the Bible (somehow, the fact that the Bible preceded the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in no way means those latter documents were based on principals from the former) suddenly find themselves all goo-goo-ga-ga over an obscure text that might go so far as to HINT at something similar to the Gospels as being proof that the former did in this case influence the latter?

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  11. As usual this seems like a waste of time, but hey, I've got a minute...

    PP Even so, I'm waiting for him to actually present an argument.

    I did. Don't you know that not all arguments must state every premise to be an argument? Some are implicit:

    1) We are all children of our times.
    2) There is little reason to suspect any writer is the exception to the rule.
    3) The Biblical writers are not an exception to the rule.
    .: Therefore, the Biblical writers were children of their times.

    PP Further, he says that we are all children of our time. Which is fine and dandy, but which if taken to the extreme that Loftus must take it, would make it impossible for us to understand anything of the past.

    It's very difficult, yes, which isn't that much of a problem for me since it is YOU who must attempt to establish precisely what happened in the past in great detail when it comes to your faith. I only have to suggest several alternatives scenarios. Would you be that sure of your conclusions if the subject of the past was Custer's last stand? Naw, didn't think so. But why then are you so sure that your understanding of the Biblical past is exactly the way you say it is, especially since that past includes miracles? Who among you, for instance, would believe Balaam's story about a talking ass? You would require that his ass spoke in your presence, wouldn't you (would a fart do)? But because it's in an ancient book you believe it. That's so strange to me.

    Your other comments are irrelevant.

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  12. John W. Loftus,

    "1) We are all children of our times.
    2) There is little reason to suspect any writer is the exception to the rule.
    3) The Biblical writers are not an exception to the rule.
    .: Therefore, the Biblical writers were children of their times."

    Bit redundant to put "therefore" after ":." since ":." just means "therefore.

    Anyway, does "children of our time" mean "we will make up our thought-systems?" If so, then your argument is self-refuting. If not, then it is uninteresting.

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  13. John W. Loftus,

    "It's very difficult, yes, which isn't that much of a problem for me since it is YOU who must attempt to establish precisely what happened in the past in great detail when it comes to your faith. I only have to suggest several alternatives scenarios."

    I reject that constraint since it was developed by a "child of his time." And, why should we accept the above "principle?" Is it a universal and transtemporal normative rule? Can it meet it's own standards? That is, Loftus must demonstrate its viability and all I need do is mention possible scenarios which call it into doubt. Here's one: Loftus is being deceived into thinking the rule valid by an mad scientist who has implanted the "principle" into his brain.

    It is not clear that Loftus can validate this rule, but if he thinks he can then he needs to answer all my "possibile" reasons why he could be mistaken.

    Before we answer Loftus, then, he needs to demonstrate the universal and transtemporal nature of his constraint. If it is not universal and transtemporal, then it is just a constraint born out of Loftus's time, and can be rejected.

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  14. What a slender evidential reed you hang onto "I"? Amazing.

    Knowledge can progress because of evidence, but sometimes it might take a whole generation of people to die before that slender evidence can lead us to see things differently.

    All I need to say is that there is room for doubting much about the past, not that the past is unknowable. On the other hand you are claiming to know precisely what happened.

    And you cannot see this difference?

    Okay, I guess. I attribute this to sheer ignorance and the blindness of your faith. You are not being reasonable with the evidence.

    Even hear of Lessing?

    ta ta boys.

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  15. I wasn't giving you "edvidence," John, I was discussing your standards of evidence and the "principle" by which you claim you are allowed to dismiss our evidence. I never said you claimed the past is unknowable or anything like that. Apparently my argument was to subtle for your "child-of-the-times" mind. Oh, and by the way, I dismiss everything you said as the rantings of a "child of his time."

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  16. Johnny Boy said:
    ---
    I did. Don't you know that not all arguments must state every premise to be an argument? Some are implicit
    ---

    Implicit in my argument was "an argument that was relevant to the topic of the Gabriel Rock." But hey, if you wanna play that game and all, have at it. At least we know you're not feigning stupidity.

    Loftus said:
    ---
    1) We are all children of our times.
    2) There is little reason to suspect any writer is the exception to the rule.
    3) The Biblical writers are not an exception to the rule.
    .: Therefore, the Biblical writers were children of their times.
    ---

    1) All dogs are brown
    2) Fluffy is a dog.
    .: Therefore, Fluffy is brown.

    Aren't we glad we played this fun, exhillerating game known as Making Up Whatever We Can To Obfuscate From The Fact That We Have No Case.

    How is your syllogism relevant to the veracity of the Gospels? How does it relate to whether or not the Gabriel text influenced them?

    See, THAT would require a relevant argument, Lofty. Something you don't have the slightest idea how to make.

    Loftus says:
    ---
    It's very difficult, yes, which isn't that much of a problem for me since it is YOU who must attempt to establish precisely what happened in the past in great detail when it comes to your faith.
    ---

    Except you're the one using historical arguments, Buddy. I don't actually have to establish anything since I have revelation.

    Loftus said:
    ---
    I only have to suggest several alternatives scenarios.
    ---

    I'll put them on the shelf with your other alternative scenarios, like the flying adulterous dog-man.

    Loftus said:
    ---
    Would you be that sure of your conclusions if the subject of the past was Custer's last stand? Naw, didn't think so. But why then are you so sure that your understanding of the Biblical past is exactly the way you say it is, especially since that past includes miracles? Who among you, for instance, would believe Balaam's story about a talking ass? You would require that his ass spoke in your presence, wouldn't you (would a fart do)? But because it's in an ancient book you believe it. That's so strange to me.
    ---

    That's strange to me too. I don't believe something because it's "an ancient book." But you go ahead and keep thinking that. And anytime I need a talking ass, I'll look your way.

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  17. Loftus,

    What does the disciples being "children of their times" have to do with anything? We're talking about claims of historical facts, not abstract philosophy. Yesterday when I came home and parked in my garage, the side door into my house was open (I wasn't worried, because it was inside the garage and the garage door had been closed). That's a historical claim, and has nothing to do with me being a child of my times or with my philosophical or theological positions. Likewise the purely historical questions of whether Jesus was executed and buried in a tomb, whether the tomb was found empty on the third day, whether he appeared in bodily form to many individuals and groups of people over a 40 day period, and whether the disciples began to proclaim his resurrection immediately afterwards have nothing to do with the disciples being children of their times. The claims are either true or false. If false, you need an explanation for them. Just saying "it looks like they may have borrowed the idea from somebody else" doesn't cut it, especially with no solid evidence that the idea existed anywhere else prior to the disciples announcing it publicly. But even if the idea was around somewhere else (which really remains to be demonstrated), it doesn't explain why the early Christians would make up the stories they did. If you were going to make the story up, why wouldn't you have someone observe the Resurrection itself like in the second-century texts The Gospel of Peter and The Ascension of Isaiah? That would make a much better story. And why not have the tomb discovered empty first by the apostles instead of by a group of women? Again, that would make a much better story than what we have. The Gospel accounts simply don't read the way myths and legends do. They read like eyewitness accounts of historical events.

    All you've done is simply assumed that the historical claims are false and then asserted with no evidence that the disciples made up the stories because they were "children of their times." This is just a highly implausible explanation of the evidence, especially since we don't have any other examples of stories of this nature. In fact, it's really just an attempt to explain away the evidence rather than to explain it. Your suggestion that you simply have to suggest some alternative scenarios in order to disprove the Resurrection is simply fallacious. You also have to show that your alternative scenarios are more plausible than the claims themselves. If one starts with a neutral position on the possibility of miracles, the plausibility of the disciples's version of events is higher IMHO. It's only when starting with an a priori belief that miracles are impossible that one can conclude that any alternative scenario is more plausible than the biblical accounts. This, however, is begging the question.

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  18. While Origen may very well have argued against Celsus because he would have been able to argue effectively that Moses was a myth against him, I would heartily agree with Origen's critique. I would take it a step further though and argue that Moses and Judaism were borrowings from extant pagan texts as well.

    I think Moses is a myth. I think the Exodus is a myth. I think the Iliad is a myth. I think the tale of Gilgamesh is a myth. I think the Enuma Elish is a myth. I think the story of Isis and Osiris is a myth. I think the story of Sargon being floated in a basket of reeds down the river as an infant is a myth (that predates the Moses myth). I think Jesus was a myth or legendary accretion onto a person blown way out of proportion.

    My sources for the ideas that predate Christianity are in no way the 2nd century and 3rd century apologists. The purpose of bringing those apologists in (and this is obvious to people with a basic understanding of English) is because I was criticized for claiming non-Christian sources for my statements. So I brought in Christian ones ... and nothing was then added to show where I was wrong except to accuse me of doing something which I did not do.

    Do you want predating sources? Specify which claims you dispute and I'll give you the sources.

    My position is lock tight against Origen however, because I view all religions as false and have no special pleading to my argument. Therefore I can use all of Celsus's arguments yet have no weakness to my position insofar as Origen criticizes him.

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  19. Evan wrote:

    "So yeah. I made 2 mistakes."

    No, you made more than two mistakes. I cited two examples in this thread. I discussed more than two in the earlier thread.

    You write:

    "Celsus was a Jew quoting a bunch of pagan myths to contradict Christianity."

    Celsus wasn't a Jew. He argued from the perspective of a Jew for a portion of his treatise against Christianity. Apparently, you not only haven't read Origen's Against Celsus, but you also haven't even read much about it. To say that Celsus was a Christian, then say that he was a Jew after being corrected on the first error, doesn't reflect well on your knowledge of the issue you're discussing. It doesn't reflect well on your interest and competence in doing research either.

    Your citation of another passage from Origen's treatise, in this thread, doesn't establish your initial argument, for reasons explained in the other thread and in the material I referenced there.

    In the future, if you're going to cite a source such as Origen, tell the readers which work you're citing and what passage you're citing within that work.

    You write:

    "Yet again, the facts don't seem to help your case against me, since now you have a 2nd century apologist who is still unwilling to acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth in an apologetic work long after all 4 gospels are reputed to have been written."

    If you're suggesting that the gospels might not have been written by the time of the writing of Minucius Felix's Octavius, you can consult our archives for many arguments to the contrary.

    The issue isn't just what somebody like Minucius Felix was "willing to acknowledge". Other factors are involved in choosing what to discuss in a given context. If a person is primarily responding to arguments of a philosophical nature, his response will likely be primarily philosophical. Or if a concept such as crucifixion or incarnation is unpopular in a given context, a writer might choose to try to avoid those subjects, even if he believes in them. A lot of factors determine what an author will or won't write in a given context.

    You quote the following from Minucius Felix, though without the citation I'm going to provide:

    "For in that you attribute to our religion the worship of a criminal and his cross, you wander far from the neighbourhood of the truth, in thinking either that a criminal deserved, or that an earthly being was able, to be believed God." (Octavius, 29)

    Let's read what Minucius Felix goes on to say just afterward, in the same passage:

    "Miserable indeed is that man whose whole hope is dependent on mortal man, for all his help is put an end to with the extinction of the man. The Egyptians certainly choose out a man for themselves whom they may worship; him alone they propitiate; him they consult about all things; to him they slaughter victims; and he who to others is a god, to himself is certainly a man whether he will or no, for he does not deceive his own consciousness, if he deceives that of others."

    He's referring to "mortal man", those who are only human. The Christian view is that Jesus is both God and man. His point is that Jesus isn't truly a criminal or only a man. He was responding to the charge that Christians worship "a man punished by extreme suffering for his wickedness" (9). He was denying that Jesus was just "a man" and that He was "wicked". The suggestion that he meant to deny that Jesus was considered a criminal and meant to deny that Jesus was a man at all is dubious.

    Here's how Minucius Felix closes the passage we're discussing:

    "Crosses, moreover, we neither worship nor wish for. You, indeed, who consecrate gods of wood, adore wooden crosses perhaps as parts of your gods. For your very standards, as well as your banners; and flags of your camp, what else are they but crosses glided and adorned? Your victorious trophies not only imitate the appearance of a simple cross, but also that of a man affixed to it. We assuredly see the sign of a cross, naturally, in the ship when it is carried along with swelling sails, when it glides forward with expanded oars; and when the military yoke is lifted up, it is the sign of a cross; and when a man adores God with a pure mind, with hands outstretched. Thus the sign of the cross either is sustained by a natural reason, or your own religion is formed with respect to it."

    He's defending the Christian interest in the cross, but denies that Christians worship crosses or wish for execution on a cross.

    As with Origen's treatise against Celsus, I have to wonder, did you read much of Minucius Felix before quoting him? If you did, then apparently you didn't give much thought to what you were reading.

    Even if we were to accept your representation of the document, what significance would it have? Dozens of other documents predating Octavius affirm Jesus' historicity. If Minucius Felix had denied Jesus' historicity, he wouldn't have been representative of mainstream Christianity in that belief. (And Christians probably wouldn't have preserved and respected his Octavius as they did.) The reason why non-Christians were criticizing Christians for worshiping a historical figure who had been crucified was because such a view of Jesus was the mainstream Christian view. The historicity of Jesus was also the mainstream view of Christianity's enemies.

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  20. Frazer said...What does the disciples being "children of their times" have to do with anything? We're talking about claims of historical facts, not abstract philosophy.

    We’re talking about how you can know what you claim to know. How do you know Balaam’s ass talked? How do you know that an axe head floated? How do your know that a virgin gave birth? How do you know that a man bodily arose from the dead?

    People in the ancient world were barbaric and superstitious to the core. They did not have any conception of a natural law. Spectacular events happened all of the time, like the sun rising, a harvest of crops, or rain from the sky (not the clouds). God was at work in everything to them because they had no knowledge of how things really worked. And I’m supposed to believe what they believed about other things they claimed, since they ancients believed spectacular events like these were no different than a virgin birth or a resurrection from the grave? No. It’s precisely because they had no conception of nature’s laws that ANYTHING was potentially on the boards, so to speak. In days like those, fairy tales had it easy.

    I have probably documented a hundred items in the Bible that if someone were to do that today, or claim that today, you would not believe them unless you saw it yourself, even as a theist.

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  21. I think this comment I saw at another site about 2nd century Christian writings and what they say about the incarnation says it all about Evan's "analysis" of Minucius Felix:

    "Likewise many uneducated people start by adopting a stance which suits their opinions, and stray 'quotes' are then used to 'support' it."

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  22. John W. Loftus.

    "We’re talking about how you can know what you claim to know. How do you know Balaam’s ass talked? How do you know that an axe head floated? How do your know that a virgin gave birth? How do you know that a man bodily arose from the dead?"

    By revelation.

    "People in the ancient world were barbaric and superstitious to the core. They did not have any conception of a natural law."

    Besides no serious, scientific and historical analysis offered by you, the "concept" of "natural law" is hotly debated even today.

    "Spectacular events happened all of the time, like the sun rising, a harvest of crops, or rain from the sky (not the clouds)."

    No evidence to underwrite this claim either? I hardly doubt they thought daily events were "spectacular."

    "God was at work in everything to them because they had no knowledge of how things really worked."

    The tired "God of the gaps" fallacy notorious for its bravado and lack of historical demonstration that people, especially those under discussion (Jews/Christians) thought this way.

    "And I’m supposed to believe what they believed about other things they claimed, since they ancients believed spectacular events like these were no different than a virgin birth or a resurrection from the grave?"

    The very concept of the miraculous held by them is enough to disprove your claim. There would be no conceptual category of "miracle" if everything was a "miracle."

    "No. It’s precisely because they had no conception of nature’s laws that ANYTHING was potentially on the boards, so to speak. In days like those, fairy tales had it easy."

    The issue has nothing to do with natures "laws" unless you are presupposing a whole host of debatable assumptions that even people who know how to use a TV and microwave don't agree on. Not all people today, and not just theists either, have your idea of the word we live in in mind. There are non-theist dualists and Platonists, ethical non-naturalists and the like. There are plenty of people who don't think all things can be reduced to basic laws of physics. Are they all dumber than you, John? There are theists today who have a robust view of natural "law" (if even such a thing is intelligible, as many philosophers, non-theists too, have pointed asked) yet have no problem with God interacting and doing miracles in his world. Your theory thus lacks explanatory value. Not very "scientific."

    "I have probably documented a hundred items in the Bible that if someone were to do that today, or claim that today, you would not believe them unless you saw it yourself, even as a theist."

    Where is the serious scientific analysis that underwrites your claim? Why would person X deny said claim today? Do you have serious analysis to offer or simply half-baked ideas you thought up while driving your truck home from work? Why would a Christian disbelieve a claim like that today? What would his reasons be? Is it analogous to believers in the times you're drawing the analogy to? And, it is not even obvious that all believers would deny it if something happened similar to what happened during the periods in dispute. Some are not opposed to any miracle being effected. Most have no problem granting that works of darkness can and do happen. And these believers believe in some sort of regularity in nature.

    John, you offer nothing serious by way of argument that could cause a believer to doubt his or her faith. That you think you do shows me, at least, the level of deception you are at and the amount of self-importance you have in proportion to what you can actually show. Do you honestly think the half-hearted "objections" you are lobbing count as substantial argument any where else besides your own mind?

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  23. Evan,

    I'm sorry, but all I saw were your assertions again that Moses and Judaism were borrowing from pagan religions. Can we expect any actual arguments any time soon? Considering that the majority of non-Christian scholars wouldn't even agree with you, I don't see why I should, especially since you make claims without evidence or argument. I would bone up on my comparative religions if I were you.

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  24. Wow. You quote Minucius specifically acknowledging a pagan parallel to Christianity as regards the cross and fail to see how that buttresses my point.

    Good on you, but here's the thing.

    Nothing you have written has given me the slightest hint that you can disprove the primary assertion that I made on the thread that has borne out these 2 threads on your site.

    I said Christianity grew out of Jewish disappointment with the outcome of the Jewish wars. I said that there was nothing unique about any of the Christian doctrines, and indeed gave you many components of Christianity that predate. Even Minucius accepts that the worship of a cross predates Christianity in the quote you mention.

    So ... we now have a Jewish text that predates Jesus talking about a dying and rising messiah (a la Orpheus, Heracles, etc) and I point out that this shows that both Jewish and pagan sources were melded to create Christianity. It certainly throws a monkey wrench into Dr. Craig's argument that the Jews couldn't have imagined a dying and rising Christ. How does anything you've said about Origen, Celsus, Minucius or Augustine contradict that.

    Remember the VERY first quote I gave you from Augustine showed that he felt Christians SHOULD freely borrow from paganism. But here you are a millenium and a half later saying that they never did.

    Throw up some more dust, try to keep the playing field out of the view of the spectators, but the facts on the ground are that the evidence is overwhelming for my case.

    Indisputably a man named Joshua lived in Palestine in the early part of the 1st century because the name was so common. It's like someone trying to say there was no Steve in the US in the early part of the 20th century to deny it. What is questionable is whether there was a career of Joshua that looks anything like the Greek texts telling about Jesus of Nazareth. The Greek accounts of his life speaking Aramaic are confused, contradictory, mutually exclusive and display multiple concepts already present in both Jewish and pagan religion. What seems much more reasonable, indeed the only logical position that can be adopted since D. F. Strauss wrote Das Leben Jesu is that the books are a combination of myth and legend.

    There is new evidence to support this (the new tablet) and MUCH old evidence to support it. You don't argue with that evidence at all and I suppose it was silly for me to engage you over here at all, but hey, you guys remind me so much of my family I just feel at home arguing with you.

    Finally I had to take a chuckle at the following:

    "Likewise many uneducated people start by adopting a stance which suits their opinions, and stray 'quotes' are then used to 'support' it."

    Yes. I agree. The book that this is done with the most is not Origen, or Minucius Felix, or Augustine's Confessions, but the Bible. I can't imagine a Christian who would disagree with that statement.

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  25. Loftus,

    I think you're missing the point. We're not simply talking about the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. We're talking about the specific historical claims surrounding the resurrection. In the canonical Gospels nobody claims to have observed the resurrection. Instead, they describe a series of events - Jesus' execution and burial in a tomb, the discovery of the tomb empty on the third day, and appearances of the risen Christ to many people, both individually and in groups. Of these claims, the only one that fits the category of extraordinary is the post-resurrection appearances. But no naturalistic theory plausibly accounts for the totality of the evidence.

    The evidence is too early for it to have been legendary. Not only can the Gospels be dated to within the lifetimes of the eyewitnesses, but Paul's first letter to the Corinthians shows that the belief in the Resurrection and the core events surrounding it were being circulated in creedal form among the churches within a few years of Jesus' death. You still need to account for these facts. Just saying "they were all superstitious to the core so nothing they say can be believed" doesn't work. If that's the case, then we can know nothing from the history of the ancient world.

    Besides, if they really had no conception of natural law, then how could they have believed in the miraculous, which is a divine intervention into the natural order? Someone rising from the dead would have been no big deal if that was just an everyday occurrence. Or, say, healing someone who was blind from birth. Why would that make someone who was "superstitious to the core" even bat an eyelid? And yet in John we read the statement, "since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind." And why aren't there more stories of people rising from the dead? (And please don't give me ridiculous supposed parallels like Mithras, Baal, Osiris, etc., etc., ad nauseum. None of these stands up to critical scrutiny). I think you may be conflating the worldview of ancient pagans with that of ancient Jews. It was the Judeo-Christian worldview that there is only one God and that he is separate from the created order that gave rise to modern ideas like rationally discernible natural laws. The pagan view of polytheism held that natural events are the result of the capricious behavior of a pantheon of gods, all of which had the same sorts of character flaws as humans. So even when you argue that these people were “children of their times,” you talk like there was a single monolithic weltanschauung in the ancient world. That’s just not the case.

    One thing I noticed in your post was the lack of any attempt to explain the actual evidence. In fact it’s nothing more than an ad hominem against ancient writers in general, supplemented with a bunch of things the Bible says happened that you think are too incredible to be true. I don’t see what relevance any of it has to the Resurrection. I won’t insult your intelligence by reminding you that the Bible is not one book, but many books written by many different authors over a period of over a thousand years. And yet for the sake of your argument you seem to be treating it as a single book, as if the question of whether Balaam’s ass really talked has a bearing on whether Jesus really rose from the dead. That might be the case if my argument were based on the inerrancy of Scripture or something, but that’s not the basis for the argument (although I might point out that even in that case you still haven’t shown that these other miracles didn’t happen, just that you find them incredible). I believe the historicity of the Resurrection can be inferred by treating the Gospels and the other books of the NT as ordinary historical sources offering independent corroboration of the facts I’ve outlined above.

    It comes down to an a priori rejection of the miraculous, but there is no logical reason for that.

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  26. I said…By revelation.

    Hmmm, and I suppose you not only can defend that with evidence but that the evidence is so overwhelming that it’s worth staking your whole life on it, based as it is on the writings of some very superstitious people living in pre-scientific days, which were canonized by superstitious people (thus excluding other worthy candidates) and that your particular interpretation of those canonized books is the correct one (when theology and ethics have changed down through the years), eh? Okay, I guess.

    I said…Besides no serious, scientific and historical analysis offered by you, the "concept" of "natural law" is hotly debated even today.

    Irrelevant.

    I said…I hardly doubt they thought daily events were "spectacular."

    Sure, they knew the different between a spectacular event and a non-spectacular one, but spectacular events happened all the time. An eclipse was a spectacular event.

    I said…The tired "God of the gaps" fallacy notorious for its bravado and lack of historical demonstration that people, especially those under discussion (Jews/Christians) thought this way.

    The only reason you doubt this claim and not Balaam’s claim is that you are blinded by your faith. These things are obvious, if for no other reason than the fact that science has taught us to think scientifically. All you need to do is to wonder what the ancients must have thought prior to the rise of science. That’s it. And it’s easy to do. You need not have any historical evidence to affirm this, although there is plenty that confirms this and plenty to disconfirm your claims here. Just think. What would you think and believe prior to accepting the fact that nature operates by laws (let’s stick with Newtonian science here, since it was never overthrown given it’s limited context.

    I said… There would be no conceptual category of "miracle" if everything was a "miracle."

    I never said everything was a miracle to them. They knew axe heads don’t float and that assess don’t talk. But given their pre-scientific views of things where God controla the cosmos everything was possible, which made spectacular claims much more likely if told by a sincere person. Just take a serious look at most any story told in the Bible and place yourself one by one into the shoes of everyone involved. Check out these two stories. Jason says he refuted my analysis, but taken together with the many others in the Bible I found there is a cumulative case here that I don’t think one can deny.

    I said…Not all people today, and not just theists either, have your idea of the word we live in in mind.

    Yes, we have many scientifically illiterate people in today’s world who do not draw the proper conclusions about the evidence. I’ll grant you that. But it says nothing against what I’m saying just to point this out.

    I said…John, you offer nothing serious by way of argument that could cause a believer to doubt his or her faith.

    LOL. I do it all of the time.

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  27. Frazer, Dale C. Allison wrote: “History keeps its secrets better than many historians care to admit. Most of the past—surely far more than 99 percent, if we could quantify it—is irretrievably lost; it cannot be recovered. This should instill modesty in us.” Allison continues: “The accounts of the resurrection, like the past in general, come to us as phantoms. Most of the reality is gone. It is the fragmentary and imperfect nature of the evidence as well as the limitations of our historical –critical tools that move us to confess, if we are conscientious, how hard it is to recover the past. That something happened does not entail our ability to show that it happened, and that something did not happen does not entail our ability to show that it did not happen….pure historical reasoning is not going to show us that God raised Jesus from the dead.” [Resurrecting Jesus, pp. 337-342].

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  28. Frazer said...One thing I noticed in your post was the lack of any attempt to explain the actual evidence.

    Ohhhh, then you have another thing coming if and when you read my book, which has received some pretty good recommendations.

    Cheers, over and out.

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  29. Loftus,

    I'm not sure what the quote from Allison is intended to show, unless it's that historical claims are never 100 percent certain. But this is true not only of historical beliefs, but of almost all of our beliefs. It's the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning. All historical beliefs (as well as all scientific beliefs I might add) are a posteriori, and thus necessarily fall short of deductive certainty. I can't even prove my own date and place of birth with deductive certainty, but that doesn't prevent me from believing it. Nor can I show deductively that there exists an external, physical world. It's a question of where and when do you apply your skepticism. We're all skeptical of something.

    My claim with the historical evidence for the Resurrection is that the explanation of the New Testament writers is far more plausible than any naturalistic explanation. But for questions regarding the possibility of the miraculous, I would respond in kind by making a book recommendation to you: Hume's Abject Failure by John Earman. Earman is himself a skeptic, but shows by application of Bayes' Theorem that the a priori case against miracles fails. And as soon as the miraculous option is on the table, one can see that it is the best explanation of the evidence, and conclude along with the likes of Simon Greenleaf, Frank Morison, and many other qualified experts on the rules of evidence, that the Resurrection is a fact of history, Dale C. Allison notwithstanding.

    I may read your book some day. I have a long reading list that I'm working through at the moment. However, I did listen to the podcasts of "Unbelievable?" for the two episodes that you were a guest on the show, and I think they told me everything I need to know about where you're coming from. Actually, I think everyone who debates against you should listen to those podcasts. They are quite an eye-opener as to what causes a former Christian apologist to become an agnostic.

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  30. Loftus,

    Oh, and if you wouldn't mind, it's Fraser, not Frazer. Much obliged!

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  31. Jason Engwer asked:
    "...is DingoDave assuming naturalism without argument, then concluding that nothing he considers supernatural can occur? Why, then, should we accept his unsupported assumption? And why did he use the plural "donkeys"?"

    Because I was quoting a humerous little ditty which appears on a fridge magnet. You guys take yourselves far too seriously.

    I also notice that you didn't address any of the other issues raised in this humerous little Rhyme. Why is that?

    Can people fly? Does a man named Jesus live up in the sky? Obviously the Bible authors who wrote about these things thought so.

    Would it make you feel better if I revised the rhyme to say;

    "A donkey talked,
    And people could fly,
    And a man named Jesus lives up in the sky."

    There. Do you feel better now?

    It's just as absurd and unbelievable to quote the rhyme in the singular past tense, as in the plural present tense. If these things happened in the past, then why don't we see them happening in the present? I'll tell you why. It's because the people who wrote those passages didn't have the faintest clue how the universe actually operates. They were simply people of their time and place. What else would we expect them to have written?

    -"Aside from the fact that he doesn't support his (mis)characterization of Paul Manata with any argumentation, what are we to make of a blog whose contributors write the sort of material we see from, say, John Loftus and Evan?"

    Paul Manata is a self-confessed ex-thug and gangster. However, these days, instead of committing physical thuggery, he now commits psychological thuggery in the name of Yahweh, who just happens to be another self-confessed thug and gangster. Like father, like son I guess?
    QED.

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  32. Well, I guess “over and out” only means for last night, now doesn’t it?

    Fraser said…I'm not sure what the quote from Allison is intended to show, unless it's that historical claims are never 100 percent certain.

    Not at all. He said “Most of the past—surely far more than 99 percent, if we could quantify it—is irretrievably lost; it cannot be recovered.” You see, according to him, it’s not that we can’t achieve 100% assurance about the past, it’s rather we cannot achieve more than 1%. Now surely he exaggerates, at least I think he does, but there is a wide gap notwithstanding between what he said and your view.

    Fraser said…My claim with the historical evidence for the Resurrection is that the explanation of the New Testament writers is far more plausible than any naturalistic explanation.

    Dale C. Allison again: “We inevitably evaluate matters by means of our presuppositions….Probability is in the eye of the beholder. It depends upon one’s worldview, into which the resurrection fits, or alternatively, does not fit….Arguments about Jesus’ literal resurrection cannot establish one’s Weltanschauung (i.e., worldview).” So the resurrection of Jesus, he argues, “belongs to the Christian web of belief, within which alone it has its sensible place. Outside that web it must be rejected or radically reinterpreted….One who disbelieves in all so-called miracles can, with good conscience, remain disbelieving in the literal resurrection of Jesus after an examination of the evidence….” [Ibid., pp. 340-342].

    The unique thing about my book is that in the first half of it I defend my control beliefs. Having done that in the first part it becomes easy to disbelieve in the evidence for the resurrection...easy!

    Fraser said…But for questions regarding the possibility of the miraculous, I would respond in kind by making a book recommendation to you: Hume's Abject Failure by John Earman.

    When we talk about the probability of some event or hypothesis A, that probability is always relative to a body of background information B. So we cannot merely speak of the probability of A without taking into consideration that background information, B, all of it. And so Earman is absolutely correct about this. Background factors must be considered in evaluating the probability of any miraculous claim, which might subsequently overcome the low initial intrinsic probability of that claim to the point where such a claim becomes probable. We assess a miraculous claim based upon other things we know. Whether someone believes in God or not, for instance, is indeed a relevant factor whether he believes in miracles. My claim is that the Bayesian background factors are not such that they raise the intrinsic improbability of miracles above what they are initially. If the Bible debunks itself, and the Bible tells us about the miracles of the resurrection of Jesus, then the skeptic has good background factors for not trusting what the Bible says about the resurrection miracle.

    Fraser said…However, I did listen to the podcasts of "Unbelievable?" for the two episodes that you were a guest on the show, and I think they told me everything I need to know about where you're coming from.

    Well then Fraser, do tell me about the process of how you first became a believer so we can compare notes. Let’s compare apples to apples. Tell me in some detail what arguments and experiences convinced you to believe. Don’t tell me your further advanced reflections on them, but use the same level of argumentation that first brought you to believe. I think even you yourself will be able to show how lame your views were at that time and how easily even you could object to your simple arguments. And motivations? We all have a multiple levels for why we do what we do, you too. Just because Manata and Hays have motivated me to debunk Christianity because of how they have treated me means nothing when it comes to my arguments (see above and my book). Why should it? Stubbornness, selfishness, and arrogance, on the other hand, may have been the motivators for a lot of Christians who have literally changed the world. Maybe Aquinas was an egotist and that’s what motivated him to write the Summa? So what if it did?

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  33. John Loftus wrote:

    "People in the ancient world were barbaric and superstitious to the core."

    New readers might want to know that we've discussed with John Loftus issues like the one he mentions above. He's been corrected many times. For example, see the following threads, and note his failure to interact with the large majority of Glenn Miller's data in the article I cited:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/05/testing-gullibility-claims.html

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/12/why-did-early-christians-claim-virgin.html

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/07/significance-of-eyewitness-testimony.html

    I particularly recommend the third article linked above, since that's the thread in which John Loftus finally began interacting with some portions of Miller's article, after I had referred him to it for more than a year. But notice how poorly he interacts with it even at that point. He has a concept in his mind about what ancient people were like, the ancient people he wants to dismiss, and he's repeatedly ignored evidence to the contrary that's been presented to him many times by many people.

    He writes:

    "I have probably documented a hundred items in the Bible that if someone were to do that today, or claim that today, you would not believe them unless you saw it yourself, even as a theist."

    You don't have to see something in order to have good reason to believe it. And many people of Biblical times were interested in and sought evidence for their beliefs. We've documented some examples. See, for instance, Richard Bauckham's Jesus And The Eyewitnesses (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006).

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  34. Jason, the superstitious nature of the people of the ancient past before the rise of modern science is supported by reason (just think about it) and by the evidence from the Bible itself. You just have to see it all laid out side by side as I do in my book. It's the longest chapter, and the case is cumulative.

    As far as Baukham goes...

    Bauckham himself admits that historical studies are fraught with some serious problems when mentioning the various current views of Jesus coming from scholars like John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, N. T. Wright, Dale Allison, Gerd Theissen, J. P. Meier, E. P. Sanders, S. McKnight, M. Bockmuehl, B. Chilton, R. W. Funk, J. D. G. Dunn, E. Schüssler Fiorenza, and G. Vermes. He wrote: “Historical work, by its very nature, is always putting two and two together and making five—or twelve or seventeen.” So what confidence can we truly have of his own attempts to establish what happened in the historical past?

    Bauckham’s case depends heavily on a particular interpretation of what fourth century church historian Eusebius quoted Papias as saying in the second century. Other scholars disagree with Bauckman on this. Besides, there were two centuries for pseudonymous comments to be added to what Papias actually wrote before Eusebius saw his text. That’s some real solid historical evidence, right? Bauckham also rests his case on the claim in the gospel of John that the writer was an eyewitness of the things he wrote about (John 21:24). But this is preposterous given the anti-Jewish nature of that gospel itself, since if the writer was a disciple of Jesus, he must have been a Jew). Bauckham doesn’t deal with the discrepancies in the early testimonies to the resurrection of Jesus, nor with the arguments that these testimonies were actually visions. And so when it comes to this testimonial evidence, what exactly were these people testifying about? I argue against the notion there is a hell and a devil, so what then becomes of their testimonies to Jesus’ purported sayings about hell, and of his exorcisms? Benny Hinn and Oral Roberts surely have testimonial evidence from people that they too can perform miracles by God.

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  35. Evan wrote:

    "You quote Minucius specifically acknowledging a pagan parallel to Christianity as regards the cross and fail to see how that buttresses my point."

    I was addressing the historicity of Jesus at that point, since you had cited Minucius Felix on that issue.

    As far as pagan parallels are concerned, nobody denies that there were crosses and cross-shaped objects in the world prior to Christianity. Jesus couldn't have been killed on a cross if crosses didn't already exist at the time. Are you suggesting that it's some sort of significant evidence against Christianity if crosses or cross-shaped objects exist in paganism or other areas of life prior to the time of Christianity? You might as well argue that it's significant evidence against Christianity that people ate, slept, and had children before the Bible describes Jews and Christians behaving the same way.

    You write:

    "I said Christianity grew out of Jewish disappointment with the outcome of the Jewish wars. I said that there was nothing unique about any of the Christian doctrines, and indeed gave you many components of Christianity that predate."

    You said more than that. And you didn't offer much supporting argumentation for your claims. I've been explaining why particular claims you've made (about Celsus, about Minucius Felix, etc.) are wrong. If you now want to retreat into a more generalized form of your previous claims, then you can do so, but it doesn't change the fact that the more specific claims you made earlier reflect your ignorance of some of the subjects you're discussing.

    You write:

    "So ... we now have a Jewish text that predates Jesus talking about a dying and rising messiah (a la Orpheus, Heracles, etc) and I point out that this shows that both Jewish and pagan sources were melded to create Christianity."

    First of all, you need to address the arguments against your interpretation of the Gabriel Revelation tablet.

    Secondly, the existence of concepts similar to those in Christianity in pre-Christian times wouldn't, by itself, "show that both Jewish and pagan sources were melded to create Christianity". Fictional accounts of war existed prior to the recent war in Iraq. That fact doesn't, by itself, show that the accounts of the war in Iraq are fictional and were derived from the previous fictional accounts.

    The fact that such basic points have to be explained to you is another indication of how qualified you are to be having this sort of discussion.

    You write:

    "It certainly throws a monkey wrench into Dr. Craig's argument that the Jews couldn't have imagined a dying and rising Christ. How does anything you've said about Origen, Celsus, Minucius or Augustine contradict that."

    Your initial comments didn't mention William Craig. Why do you keep trying to revise your earlier arguments?

    See my earlier post titled The Resurrection Tablet for my comments on the tablet's alleged influence on arguments like those of William Craig.

    You write:

    "Remember the VERY first quote I gave you from Augustine showed that he felt Christians SHOULD freely borrow from paganism. But here you are a millenium and a half later saying that they never did."

    You're so careless. First of all, you didn't give a citation for your Augustine quote. Secondly, his lateness significantly limits his relevance in this context. Third, the issue isn't whether Christians ever borrowed anything from paganism or other sources. If Christmas lights had been borrowed from a pagan winter celebration, for example, such borrowing wouldn't suggest that a doctrine such as the deity of Christ or His resurrection was similarly borrowed.

    You write:

    "There is new evidence to support this (the new tablet) and MUCH old evidence to support it. You don't argue with that evidence at all and I suppose it was silly for me to engage you over here at all, but hey, you guys remind me so much of my family I just feel at home arguing with you."

    I would suggest that readers compare the argumentation and documentation in the posts of this blog's staff with what they've seen in Evan's posts.

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  36. DingoDave wrote:

    "It's just as absurd and unbelievable to quote the rhyme in the singular past tense, as in the plural present tense."

    That's an assertion, not an argument. And I was addressing the erroneous nature of your argument as you posted it, not your recent revision of the argument. The difference between "donkeys" and "donkey" is significant, for reasons I explained above.

    You write:

    "If these things happened in the past, then why don't we see them happening in the present?"

    If you're referring to an alleged absence of the supernatural in modern times, then I reject that assumption. See the many relevant threads in the archives of this blog for more on that subject.

    But even if we were to assume that the supernatural has been absent from the modern world, how would that fact prevent us from concluding that Jesus rose from the dead, for example?

    You write:

    "They were simply people of their time and place. What else would we expect them to have written?"

    I've addressed that argument in many previous threads. See the links in my response to John Loftus above, for example.

    You write:

    "Paul Manata is a self-confessed ex-thug and gangster. However, these days, instead of committing physical thuggery, he now commits psychological thuggery in the name of Yahweh, who just happens to be another self-confessed thug and gangster."

    You don't document much of what you assert, do you? You've made a lot of assertions, but you haven't given us much reason to agree with those assertions.

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  37. John Loftus wrote:

    "Jason, the superstitious nature of the people of the ancient past before the rise of modern science is supported by reason (just think about it) and by the evidence from the Bible itself. You just have to see it all laid out side by side as I do in my book."

    You made similar claims about the earlier edition of your book that Steve Hays reviewed. You didn't interact with that review much, and now you're telling us to wait for the latest edition of the book.

    But you and I had discussions about issues like the alleged gullibility of ancient people while you were in the process of working on the latest edition of your book. One of the threads I linked to above is from well into last year. And we've had other discussions since then. If your arguments were still so bad at that point, why should I think that the final version of the latest edition of your book will represent a major improvement? Your latest posts, in this thread, don't suggest such an improvement.

    You write:

    "Bauckham himself admits that historical studies are fraught with some serious problems when mentioning the various current views of Jesus coming from scholars like John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, N. T. Wright, Dale Allison, Gerd Theissen, J. P. Meier, E. P. Sanders, S. McKnight, M. Bockmuehl, B. Chilton, R. W. Funk, J. D. G. Dunn, E. Schüssler Fiorenza, and G. Vermes. He wrote: 'Historical work, by its very nature, is always putting two and two together and making five—or twelve or seventeen.' So what confidence can we truly have of his own attempts to establish what happened in the historical past?"

    For reasons such as those Bauckham goes on to discuss. You keep quoting what people have said about the difficulties of historical research without also taking into account their more positive conclusions about the subject.

    You write:

    "Bauckham’s case depends heavily on a particular interpretation of what fourth century church historian Eusebius quoted Papias as saying in the second century."

    Papias is just one source among many Bauckham discusses, we have good reason to accept Eusebius' quotations of Papias, and Eusebius isn't our only source on Papias.

    You write:

    "Other scholars disagree with Bauckman on this."

    I disagree with Bauckham on some issues as well, as I've explained in previous posts. What does the existence of disagreements prove? Many people disagree with the arguments you make in your book. What, of significance, does that prove?

    You write:

    "Besides, there were two centuries for pseudonymous comments to be added to what Papias actually wrote before Eusebius saw his text. That’s some real solid historical evidence, right?"

    The possibility of textual corruption doesn't lead textual scholars to conclude that corruption did occur. You need something more than a mere possibility. There are factors involved in textual transmission that would tend to work against corruption. The fact that corruption sometimes occurs isn't enough of a basis for concluding that it probably occurred with Papias.

    You write:

    "Bauckham also rests his case on the claim in the gospel of John that the writer was an eyewitness of the things he wrote about (John 21:24). But this is preposterous given the anti-Jewish nature of that gospel itself, since if the writer was a disciple of Jesus, he must have been a Jew)."

    The claim that the gospel is anti-Jewish has been addressed by us and by some of the scholars we've cited in our past discussions of the gospel of John. You're making an assertion without giving us any reason to accept that assertion.

    You write:

    "Bauckham doesn’t deal with the discrepancies in the early testimonies to the resurrection of Jesus, nor with the arguments that these testimonies were actually visions."

    You're ignoring the large majority of what Bauckham wrote and objecting that he didn't address other subjects. Do you want us to approach your book in the same manner? Bauckham's book doesn't have to address every subject you want addressed, or address all of them in depth, in order to sufficiently make the points for which I cited it.

    You write:

    "Benny Hinn and Oral Roberts surely have testimonial evidence from people that they too can perform miracles by God."

    I've already addressed the comparison to men like Benny Hinn:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/05/jesus-christ-benny-hinn-and-santa.html

    You keep repeating bad arguments that have already been refuted.

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  38. Jason, don't you understand yet? You have to be right about everything in order to sustain your belief...right about the nature of the people of the ancient past, right about the nature of historical investigations, right about Eusebius' quotations of Papias and their interpretation, right about the nature of the gospel of John, right about the your claim there is a difference between Benny Hinn and Jesus, and that's just here in this discussion. You furthermore have to be right about the deity of Jesus, the inspiration of the Bible, heaven , hell, Satan, and so on and so on, each topic of which is hotly debated with sophisication from both sides.

    All I have to be right about is any one of my claims, say that the Biblical writers were superstitiou, or that, say there is a possibility that Eusebius had a corrupted text of Papias, or that the gospel of John is anti-Jewish.

    You see, you must affirm that what you believe about the past is correct in all of its many multiple details. You must argue that you're right on all of these details. Me? I only have to show one of more claims of yours to be false.

    And, it's always possible that even if you are reasonable to conclude what you do on every detail that the evidence leading to a different, skeptical conclusion, was lost, damaged, misplaced, stolen, or suppressed. You really cannot have that much confidence in your historical conclusions, especially all of them!

    Who has the larger claim here? You or I? I maintain there are different possibilities for every one of your claims. You have the larger claim, not me, and the larger the claim is the harder it is to defend because it's less likely by virture of the fact that it's harder to defend. All I have to do is be right about a couple of my claims, or in some cases just one of them.

    That's the difference, and you refuse to see this. There is plenty of room for doubting each and every one of your claims--which are derived from the historical past. So, by the Principle of Dwindling Possibilites I think your historical case is reduced with each additional argument even if we grant you a 51% chance on being right on each item. For by multiplying 51% times the number of arguemts you must have to get to a particular conclusion it can reduce your conclusion to a probablility of, say, 5% overall.

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  39. You have a nice style over here. If someone makes a point, you dismiss it without engaging it at all. For example you now freely admit significant pagan influence on Christianity and freely admit significant Jewish influence on Christianity, yet somehow that disproves my point that Christianity is a religion that melded pagan and Jewish ideas. You boggle the mind.

    Finally you say:

    Your initial comments didn't mention William Craig. Why do you keep trying to revise your earlier arguments?

    Jesus H. Christ man. I wrote a three sentence comment on a blog thread and it has thrown you into a major hissy fit of epic proportion. It wasn't a dissertation.

    I then backed it up when challenged. To repeat briefly my points:

    1. There is no reference in any source to Jesus of Nazareth in any language in any text contemporaneous with his existence.

    Do you dispute that?

    2. The first accounts of Jesus Christ do not mention Nazareth.

    Do you dispute that?

    3. All first and most second century apologists (corrected) don't mention Jesus of Nazareth as he is described in the Greek gospels.

    Do you dispute that?

    4. Josephus does not confirm the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth, merely a man named Joshua who had a brother named James. Josephus's writings are nearly uniformly accepted as later interpolations, but even taken at face value his beliefs about him cannot be used to verify the Greek gospels, specifically the resurrection.

    Do you dispute that?

    5. There's no archeological evidence for a Jewish community living in Nazareth in the first half of the first century CE.

    Do you dispute that?

    6. There is no textual evidence for a non-Jewish Christian movement prior to the Jewish wars.

    You have disputed that and to further the dialog i'll concede that there is evidence of weak quality that is not dispositive but can be viewed from either side.

    7. The idea of a dying and rising God-man who stayed in the earth for 3 days predates Christianity.

    Do you dispute that?

    8. The idea of blood sacrifice washing away sin predates Christianity.

    You've accepted that point so no need to go further with it.

    9. The idea of gods impregnating women predates Christianity.

    I can hardly imagine you'll try to dispute that, but do you?

    10. The idea of a trinity of Gods predates Christianity.

    Do you dispute that?

    11. The idea of drinking blood and eating flesh in a ritual purification meal predates Christianity.

    Do you dispute that?

    So when your hand waving and fussing is all over ... what really are you saying is wrong with what I put forward?

    You're the ones who had and continue to have multiple nerves touched by this. You're the ones demanding evidence. When I give you evidence, you don't challenge the evidence you challenge my worthiness to bring it up, which is fine because that and arm waving are all you have to do.

    Chill out. I don't imagine that you'll stop believing that some dude named Joshua was Jesus of Nazareth of the Greek gospels because of a blog comment. You somehow seem to think that because you think someone on the internet is wrong about something it requires you to move mountains (ever try doing that by faith btw?) to get them to grovel before your superior internet mojo.

    Sorry folks. Na ga da.

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  40. Evan said...You have a nice style over here.

    So you've noticed, eh?

    They are actually on good behavior here for some reason! It's sure to get ugly any minute now.

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  41. Loftus said:
    ---
    Jason, don't you understand yet? You have to be right about everything in order to sustain your belief
    ---

    Loftus has the same problem. Sure, he claims he only has to be right on one issue, but think about that (since Loftus hasn't). Suppose that the inerrancy is false, but the resurrection actually happened, hell is a real place, etc. How does that help Lofty any?

    Oh well. I welcome Loftus's continual blustering (and Evan's too)! It only proves Jason is far too over-educated in history to ever believe what they do. Any objective observer (as if such existed) can look at this and say, "Gee, one side deals with ancient texts and provides sources; the other side whines and makes wild unsubstantiated claims despite having been spanked repeatedly in debate." It's only the bias of the atheists who have to grasp at any pathetic straw that blinds them to what everyone else plainly sees in this discussion.

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  42. It's also obvious that Loftus is only interested in whoring out his book. Hey, if you want to read a book that's at least consistent, read mine!

    ReplyDelete
  43. John W. Loftus,

    You wrote:
    "Hmmm, and I suppose you not only can defend that with evidence but that the evidence is so overwhelming that it’s worth staking your whole life on it, based as it is on the writings of some very superstitious people living in pre-scientific days, which were canonized by superstitious people (thus excluding other worthy candidates) and that your particular interpretation of those canonized books is the correct one (when theology and ethics have changed down through the years), eh? Okay, I guess."

    Yes I can.

    Secondly, I am not bothered much by someone so insecure in his beliefs that he finds he must slander the past and employ question begging epithets in order to bolster his case. There is a massive difference between your New Atheist type rhetoric above and that of what I might find in a serious non-Christian or liberal scholar.

    Third, I looked over the links Jason Engwer provided, your "ancient superstitious people" claims were thoroughly dismantled.

    You wrote:
    "Irrelevant."

    Not irrelevant.

    You wrote:
    "Sure, they knew the different between a spectacular event and a non-spectacular one, but spectacular events happened all the time. An eclipse was a spectacular event."

    That wasn't your original claim. Since they didn't know about "natural law" then even a falling fruit was a "spectacular event." You said that the daily rising of the sun was "spectacular." Why, they didn't know about the human body like you do either. Moving and seeing would be "spectacular." On your thesis, how did they know the difference between a spectacular and a non-spectacular event?

    You wrote:
    "The only reason you doubt this claim and not Balaam’s claim is that you are blinded by your faith."

    Psychologizing in lieu of argument.

    "What would you think and believe prior to accepting the fact that nature operates by laws (let’s stick with Newtonian science here, since it was never overthrown given it’s limited context."

    People thought nature operated by laws or rules before Newton, John. One example might be Aristotle and his notion of an entelechy.

    I also pointed out that many "modern" people do not even hold to anything like your conception of "laws of nature." But you think that point is "irrelevant."

    I should point out that the majority of people today sound like "stupid" people. Most think that their desk is a "solid" object when it is really more empty space than not, if we are to take the current findings of physicists as true. It feels "solid" because the energy field of the desk repels the energy field that makes up your hand.

    In fact, contemporary physics has quite the time even telling us what, exactly, "matter" is.

    If I lived then I would think and believe many things that seem rational and obvious given the evidence and common sense of the day. They aren't "stupid" because they didn't have telescopes, John. They don't deserved to be slandered because they couldn't work a convection oven, John. In fact, in many areas they were probably as smart, or smarter than us. And I, for one, could not build a pyramid. Even modern architects note the technicality of those structures.

    Overall your "case", if it can be called a "case," is simply like that of a child (of his times!) mocking the lower grade-levels on the playground. What goes around comes around. 2,000 years from now, we will be "mocked" by people much like yourself. The progress of science will make certain rude and arrogant and insecure people feel the need to make fun of us for what we believed and the barbarous practices we engaged in.

    You wrote:
    "I never said everything was a miracle to them. They knew axe heads don’t float and that assess don’t talk."

    If they knew that those things didn't happen, why did they believe the stories, then?

    You wrote:
    "But given their pre-scientific views of things where God controla the cosmos everything was possible,"

    But "scientific" people today, some people smarter than you even, hard as that is to believe, believe that God can do miracles.

    Also, "controls" is sufficiently vague that it could be said that the majority of scientifically enlightened people today believe God "controls" the cosmos.

    And, did they think "square circles" were "possible?" If yes, what proof would you have? If they thought metaphysically possible things possible, what's the problem. Someone who has even an elementary grasp of modal logic would agree!

    I'm struggling to find anything resembling a coherent argument in your "flow-of-consciousness" posts.

    You wrote:
    "Just take a serious look at most any story told in the Bible and place yourself one by one into the shoes of everyone involved."

    I guess if you can repeat yourself I can:

    Where is the serious scientific analysis that underwrites your claim? Why would person X deny said claim today? Do you have serious analysis to offer or simply half-baked ideas you thought up while driving your truck home from work? Why would a Christian disbelieve a claim like that today? What would his reasons be? Is it analogous to believers in the times you're drawing the analogy to? And, it is not even obvious that all believers would deny it if something happened similar to what happened during the periods in dispute. Some are not opposed to any miracle being effected. Most have no problem granting that works of darkness can and do happen. And these believers believe in some sort of regularity in nature.

    You wrote:
    "Yes, we have many scientifically illiterate people in today’s world who do not draw the proper conclusions about the evidence."

    But I wasn't referring to anyone "scientifically illiterate." I'm talking about guys more scientifically enlightened than you. Guys who have graduate and post graduate degrees from reputable universities. Do you specialize in the field of science, John? Last i heard you had a worthless degree from a Bible college and a few hours seminary credit.

    I said…John, you offer nothing serious by way of argument that could cause a believer to doubt his or her faith.

    You wrote:
    "LOL. I do it all of the time."

    Okay, good to hear. Now, how about the next post of yours being one of those times?

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  44. It's nice to hear a Christian admit that degrees from Bible colleges are worthless. You might wanna take it up with the colleges themselves, it might shame them into closing.

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  45. John, John, John...sigh. Can't we get all this past us? Can't we just skip this part and get to the part where you stomp around like a 4th grader and announce that you are "done" with this site and all the meanies that inhabit it? It would save everyone a great deal of time. (Until you come back in a few more weeks that is. Like a self obsessed attention junkie) Because I have to admit that I am having a difficult time believing that YOU even exist!

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  46. Evan said:
    ---
    It's nice to hear a Christian admit that degrees from Bible colleges are worthless.
    ---

    In my opinion, all degrees are worthless regardless of the institution that you got them from. But that's just me.

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  47. Evan,

    "It's nice to hear a Christian admit that degrees from Bible colleges are worthless. You might wanna take it up with the colleges themselves, it might shame them into closing."

    You, again, commit the fallacy of accent. It is clear to anyone of normal reading intelligence that I was specificaly speaking in the context of John's education in light of his comments about "scientifically unenlightened" people. In the context of being scientifically savvy, a degree from a fundy Bible college in podunk USA, is hardly sufficient to make you an authority in scientific matters. On the other hand I have people who have degrees in either a natural science, or the philosophy of science, who do not share John's naive view of things. So I'm wondering how his theory has the explanatory resources to explain all the relevant data.

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  48. In the context of being scientifically savvy, a degree from a fundy Bible college in podunk USA, is hardly sufficient to make you an authority in scientific matters.

    So take it up with Kent Hovind, Ken Ham and the rest of the Christians who have those degrees. John's been very up front about his training. My training is entirely in science but I don't feel that limits me to comment only on issues that are of a scientific nature. Further you commit a more insidious fallacy than the argument of false accent by using the argument of ad hominem, just as Jason and others have tried to commit that fallacy against me.

    Address the facts. The facts will usually adjudicate themselves. In addition, the idea that a blog comment post has to have the rigor of something published is prima facie ludicrous and deserves to be squashed like a bug.

    Links to resources are fine if there's some dispute about a fact, but since nobody seems to be disputing my facts we can then agree that I was right in the particulars of my post and again, all we see is a lot of hand waving, ad hominem attacks, and goo goo gahing.

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  49. Evan said:
    ---
    My training is entirely in science but I don't feel that limits me to comment only on issues that are of a scientific nature.
    ---

    Your problem is you feel when you should think.

    Regardless of where your training is, it's obvious you have no clue about history and you have no clue about interpreting texts. You don't need a degree to do these things, and it's obvious you're not even interested in approaching the issue fairly.

    Evan said:
    ---
    In addition, the idea that a blog comment post has to have the rigor of something published is prima facie ludicrous and deserves to be squashed like a bug.
    ---

    Seems like you understand what your own writing is worth after all...

    Evan said:
    ---
    Links to resources are fine if there's some dispute about a fact, but since nobody seems to be disputing my facts...
    ---

    A) Your facts? What, you own them now?

    B) Jason's already schooled you on several issues which you admitted to being wrong on. You know, that whole pesky "oops, said the wrong Century" and "oops, couldn't figure out that Celsus wasn't a Christian. Or a Jew. Maybe he invented Celcius temperatures!"

    C) Even if you got the fact right, the conclusions you draw from the facts are wrong, and it's your faulty conclusions that aren't based on the "facts" you present that are being challenged.

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  50. Evan,

    You wrote:
    "So take it up with Kent Hovind, Ken Ham and the rest of the Christians who have those degrees."

    That's not what we are discussing. Again, John made the claim that only scientifically stupid people held the view that God controls the world. That but for the lack of a concept of John's mechanistic view of natural law, belief in miracles would always and everwhere be treated with credulity. I fail to see how reference to Hovind et al which I did not (and do not) bring up has any relevance here.

    You wrote:
    "John's been very up front about his training."

    You're missing the point. Please re-read the discussion and familiarize yourself with it so you can offer appropriate remarks rather than wasting our time.

    You wrote:
    "My training is entirely in science but I don't feel that limits me to comment only on issues that are of a scientific nature."

    First, I don't consider a couple of science classes at the local junior college "training." Secondly, you miss the point again. The point was for John to explain how people who are specialists in the field, who know more about science than he does, can believe in miracles and God's providence? John specifically made the claim that that belief could only arise in the mind of the scientifically illiterate. You are trying to shift the goal posts for John. Your defense of him, for those reading the thread here, is pulling you down under with him.

    You wrote:
    " Further you commit a more insidious fallacy than the argument of false accent by using the argument of ad hominem,"

    Where have I ever argued something along the lines of: "Because Evan's breath stinks his arguments are therefore false."? Do you even know what a fallacious ad hominem is? It is not fallacious to point out someone's incompetance so long as you don't rest a conclusion for the falsity of their claims on said incompetance.

    You wrote:
    "Address the facts. The facts will usually adjudicate themselves."

    I, and others, already have. I denied all your points and the false presuppositions behind many of them. I did that in the other thread. You went silent, went dark. If you want to offer substantiations for your unargued biases, I'm all ears.

    You wrote:
    " In addition, the idea that a blog comment post has to have the rigor of something published is prima facie ludicrous and deserves to be squashed like a bug."

    I never supposed that it did. Care to show us how you drew this inference? Your paranoid and overreaching comments need to be squashed.

    Oh, and no one is impressed by your chest thumping about how you offered "facts" and "evidence" that no one has rebutted. I feel I have sufficiently undermined your unargued biases and unwarranted leaps, Jason Engwer has ravished your dishonest use of the facts, and Steve Hays rebutted one of your claims about Moses on the main page. From my perspective you have struck out. Know your audience, Evan. No one is impressed by your bravado and machismo. From our perspective it appears that you are flailing about with a Wiffle Ball bat. If your goal is to persuade rather than repeat assertions that would only receive cheers in an atheistic stadium, then I'd change my tactic if I were you. Saying things like: "The Trinity is a pagan concept" (without argument, I might add) simply causes Christians to label you a cave man.

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  51. I meant "incredulity."

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  52. Loftus,

    You said, “Not at all. He said “Most of the past—surely far more than 99 percent, if we could quantify it—is irretrievably lost; it cannot be recovered.” You see, according to him, it’s not that we can’t achieve 100% assurance about the past, it’s rather we cannot achieve more than 1%. Now surely he exaggerates, at least I think he does, but there is a wide gap notwithstanding between what he said and your view.”

    I haven’t read Allison's book, and I don’t have the context for your quote, but it seems to me like there’s a pretty big difference between saying 99% of history is irretrievably lost and saying that we can’t achieve more than 1% certainty about any particular historical event. If Allison is saying the latter (which seems like a highly implausible reading of the quote you mined), I’d say he’s a complete nut job. But if he’s an actual historian, I can’t imagine him putting that low of a level of certainty on historical knowledge in general. In fact, if that’s what he means I can’t imagine anyone taking anything he says about history at all seriously. Does that mean we can’t have more than 1% certainty that Julius Caesar was a Roman Emperor? It sounds to me like Allison is saying that most of history is lost to antiquity. That’s indisputable, but it has no direct bearing on the evidence for any particular historical event. The evidence has to be taken on a case-by-case basis.

    But Allison is dead wrong when he says arguments about Jesus’ literal Resurrection cannot establish one’s Weltanschauung. It has done just that for many people, including people with whom I’ve shared arguments for the Resurrection, among others. And surely you’re familiar with Frank Morison, the lawyer who set out to disprove the Resurrection and ended up becoming a Christian apologist because of the evidence. There are plenty of counterexamples to Allison’s claim, and they’re not all that hard to find. But Allision’s statement that one who disbelieves in all miracles can “in good conscience” disbelieve in the Resurrection after examining the evidence is a real howler. To maintain a “good conscience,” such a skeptic would need a presumptive case against miracles, and there is no such animal. I have a feeling Allison is unfamiliar with the literature on this subject. Which brings us to your comments on Earman.

    You said, “My claim is that the Bayesian background factors are not such that they raise the intrinsic improbability of miracles above what they are initially.” What’s the basis for your claim? Do you have a Bayesian analysis for that, or is it just bluster on your part? Besides that, what are you using for the initial intrinsic probability of miracles? This is the question at hand, and one of the main issues Earman tackles in his book. Hume failed to establish a presumptive case against miracles. His attempt to do so by a straight rule of induction, as Earman notes, “makes it impossible for science to operate” (64). Counterexamples like the Indian Prince show that this move won’t work. There is no way to formulate Hume’s argument to allow for new scientific discoveries but eliminate miracles without ad hoc shifting of terms.

    But then you repeat one of your earlier errors by saying “If the Bible debunks itself, and the Bible tells us about the miracles of the resurrection of Jesus, then the skeptic has good background factors for not trusting what the Bible says about the resurrection miracle.”

    Again, you’re treating the Bible as if it’s one book when it’s not. Testimony regarding the Resurrection comes to us in the four Gospels and Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Those are five different sources. Treating them as a single source is just dishonest. So you’re misapplying Bayesian probability by saying that the skeptic “has good background factors for not trusting what the Bible says about the resurrection miracle.” First, Bayesian probability applies to some specific event E. In the case of the Resurrection, we have several events, none of which is the Resurrection itself since that was not observed by anyone. Rather, we have Jesus’ execution, his burial in a tomb, the finding of the tomb empty on the third day, and the post-resurrection appearances to multiple individuals and groups over a forty-day period. Second, the probability calculus has to be applied to each eyewitness account (see below for the import of multiple eyewitnesses in a Bayesian framework), and can’t just be used on the Bible as a whole. So if you’re going to use Bayesian calculus to show that the probability of the Resurrection is less than 0.5, you either have to show that one or more of these aforementioned events did not occur (again, using the probability calculus with each event separately), or that there is some naturalistic explanation for them that is greater than the probability of the Resurrection itself. If your book contains such an argument (which I rather doubt at this point), maybe you could just present a brief summary of it.

    Your analysis doesn’t rise above Hume’s mistaken notion that the evidence for miracles can be dismissed by simply dismissing the testimony of ancient or “primitive” people. He fails to get his hands dirty by getting into any of the details. Also, as Earman points out, Hume fails to formulate a definition of a miracle which would allow him to dismiss testimony of miracles but still allow for things like new scientific discoveries. Hume’s straight rule of induction, when considered rigorously, fails badly here. Hume also neglected to take into account the power of multiple witnesses, which under a Bayesian analysis not only dramatically increases the probability of E, but also offsets such factors as the probability of a witness being deceived or of a witness lying. This is demonstrated clearly in sections 18 and 19 of Earman’s book. It’s easy to make a hand-waving dismissal of miracles. The key for the skeptic is to avoid getting into a discussion of the details where their argument might suddenly be shown to be seriously flawed. Hume was a master of that. Looks like you’re good at it, too.

    As for how I first became a Christian, suffice to say that I did not grow up in a Christian home or attend church except for very rare occasions in my childhood and adolescence. I became persuaded of the uniqueness of the Bible by a book I read that gave arguments based on fulfilled prophecy from the Old Testament. At least some of those arguments I would still consider to be quite solid, though I no longer have the book. Reading that book resulted in me having a religious experience that was completely life-changing. So my conversion, as all conversions, was a combination of rational argument and experience. My arguments for the Resurrection developed later.

    I agree that motivations and so forth have no bearing on the arguments themselves. But this is also true for my arguments which I only developed after I became a Christian. I only made the point because very often skeptics like to believe that their position is based on purely rational considerations, while any religious viewpoint is based on purely emotional, non-rational (or even irrational) factors. That’s just pure bunk, and in your case it’s manifestly bunk. In fact, it’s generally just academic snobbery. Right now I’m enjoying a book called Finding God at Harvard, the stories of intellectuals who have come to faith in Christ, or in some cases returned to faith in Christ. I also recommend Finding God Beyond Harvard for more of the story of the intellectual movement started by the Veritas Forum. But I’m not troubled by the arguments of skeptics, having faced them at the graduate level. Inevitably the bluster and pretension of the skeptic is way out of proportion to the quality of the underlying argument.

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  53. Well it's ultimately quite vindicating to see you all failing even slightly to dislodge the position that Christianity is a melding of Jewish and Pagan ideas and even going so far as admitting it quite freely in specific instances. I find my work is done here.

    Have fun with your Bible college graduate readers.

    Also ... it is most certainly argumentum ad hominem to falsely attribute low educational status to someone. I certainly haven't impugned anyone's intelligence on this thread or made belittling remarks about anyone.

    If you feel that's acceptable, it shows just how well that universal morality and the humility you get from Christianity is working for you. It doesn't surprise me a bit, since nothing's changed since my churchgoing days.

    You remind me so much of my family it's like being at the dinner table at Thanksgiving, so I thank you all for that. But have fun with your prescientific, preliterate myths. I'm sure they can give you comfort, but so does the belief that you will become a millionaire if you think about it long enough.

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  54. In other words:

    [hands clamped over ears] I'm not listening!

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  55. Fraser said...Does that mean we can’t have more than 1% certainty that Julius Caesar was a Roman Emperor?

    Well, I don't know this is correct, as I said, but Karl Popper has argued that verifying the assassination of Caesar is impossible because verification would require an “infinite regress” of documentation. For example, to verify it, we would have to verify the source leading us to that conclusion. But then we’d also need to verify the source that verifies that Caesar was assassinated, which would need to be verified, and so on, and so on. With each independent source used to verify the previous source, the probability diminishes for the original event we seek to verify. That's why I had mentioned the Principle of Diminishing Probabilities (mistakenly said "possibilities") earlier.

    As far as Earman goes, have you yet read A Defense of Hume on Miracles by Robert J. Fogelin who takes Earman to task?

    Didn't think so.

    It seems to be getting uglier in here, so it's time to leave and have the hyenas claim, once again, that the sole reason I left was because I was defeated on every point. I am running with my tail between my legs, they will say.

    Okay, I guess. Have fun with that if this works for you. Why it works for you I have no reasonable clue, for surely that cannot be the only reason why I would leave this discussion. No other possibilites even enter your minds.

    Let's wait and see. Maybe I've pre-empted them this time by predicting what they will do...maybe not...maybe they'll take a different tactic. What will they do now? Silence? Unheard of! Of course, if that's their response, then using their own former reasoning skills against them I can claim victory! I silenced them!

    It's been fun in the asylum boys.

    Carry on.

    This discussion never took place. No serious objection to your faith was ever stated by th boys at DC. None.

    Right? ;-)

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  56. I wish I could believe Loftus when he says he's going away. But you get your heart broken enough....

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  57. Loftus,

    So I'm supposed to be impressed because somebody "took Earman to task"? Is that the same as "proved him wrong"? If so, what was his argument?

    I did read the couple of reviews of Fogelin on Amazon (not the best source I realize). It's hard for me to tell if Fogelin is saying Hume was right, or that Hume actually wasn't making the argument that people took him to be making. This latter point would agree with Earman, who points out that Hume equivocates in so many ways and makes his argument so slippery that it's hard to even show what his argument was.

    Anyhow, this argument of Popper's that you seem to be so fond of would pretty much eliminate all knowledge, including scientific knowledge. Almost all scientific knowledge comes to us in the form of documents purporting to be the reports of observations made by people at some time in the past. But then I should have to have documents verifying THOSE documents, and more verifying those documents, etc. If I have to do all the observations myself, it's going to get tough to feed the family. It's frankly a silly argument. If you're going to apply it consistently, you may as well kiss virually any knowledge claim out the window. But of course the skeptic only wants to apply it selectively to things that he or she has already decided aren't true. If this argument is sound then we should all believe that the sun revolves around the earth (among other things). I tend to think that if that's the implication of an argument, the argument is probably bad. But maybe that's just me.

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  58. Evan,

    You wrote:
    "Well it's ultimately quite vindicating to see you all failing even slightly to dislodge the position that Christianity is a melding of Jewish and Pagan ideas and even going so far as admitting it quite freely in specific instances."

    All I can say is that (a) I questioned your underlying presuppositions and asked for specific arguments to back up your assertions and am still waiting, (b) Jason Engwer showed you to be dishonest with and ignorant of the facts, and (c) Steve Hays demonstrated that your Moses claim was in error in a post on the main page, see: "the Legend of Sargon." All you seem to be able to do is puff up your feathers and say, "I'm vindicated!", which makes me think you are probably an immature high school student obsessed with calling attention to how "right!" you are. So unless you can deal with all the counters to your assertions, then you've demonstrated "diddly."

    You wrote:
    "Also ... it is most certainly argumentum ad hominem to falsely attribute low educational status to someone."

    Again, your inability to comprehend dialog is astounding. No one "attributed low education" to someone else, per se. Furthermore, it is not an example of a fallacious ad hominem argument to attribute low educational status to someone else. It may be if you in turn argue that they "therefore" must be wrong about public and objective facts simply because of their irrelevant degree in fields they are waxing intellectually about. So, again, there were no fallacious ad hominem arguments proffered. You apparently have no clue what an ad hominem fallacy consists of.

    You said:
    "If you feel that's acceptable, it shows just how well that universal morality and the humility you get from Christianity is working for you."

    Not only is this an example of your ignorance of Christian theology and apologetics -- since no one claims that Christians will be perfect and no one claims that the moral argument is about behavior over justification of moral beliefs -- it simply begs the question! What, exactly, was so objectionable about inquiring into the explanatory power of Loftus's thesis? Apparently you reject scientific inquiry and are opting to steer the discussion away from the actual argument being attacked by me to considerations of irrelevant complaints about hurt feelings.

    You said:
    "You remind me so much of my family it's like being at the dinner table at Thanksgiving, so I thank you all for that."

    That was a good argument. I must say, you're getting more sophisticated by the moment! By the way, I bet your family just loves to have the annoying teenager with the superiority complex at special occasions. Is that what I can look forward to if I become an atheist? Dogging my family in public, behind their backs? You complain about how we treat a non-family member, John Loftus, yet you treat your own family with utter disrespect? Wow, do you role up your short sleeves and smoke grits too? Gel your hair and drive a 68 Shelby? Don your locs at the dinner table? I bet you're cool. To cool for school (obviously!).

    You said:
    "But have fun with your prescientific, preliterate myths."

    Have fun with your myths. Let's see, here's a myth: A frog turned into a prince. Now, here's what you believe: A frog turned into Evan.

    Oh, I forgot, add a few billion years and then, yes, then it makes sense.

    You said:
    "I'm sure they can give you comfort, but so does the belief that you will become a millionaire if you think about it long enough."

    I'm sure believing that the Bible is chalk full of myths can give you comfort, but so does the belief that you will become a millionaire if you think about it long enough.

    It's so easy to "argue" like Evan. Here's how:

    1) Assert.

    2) Re-assert.

    3) Puff chest out, claim no one can beat you.

    4) Psychologize.

    5) Ruin family dinners.

    6) Assert.

    7) Assert no one can answer your assertions.

    8) Psychologize.

    9) Ruin family dinners.

    10) Re-assert again.

    Did I leave anything out, Evan?

    ReplyDelete
  59. JOHN W. LOFTUS SAID:

    “It's very difficult, yes, which isn't that much of a problem for me since it is YOU who must attempt to establish precisely what happened in the past in great detail when it comes to your faith. “

    No, “we” don’t have to establish precisely what happened in the past. We don’t require independent corroboration for every report. We only have to establish that the source of information is reliable.

    “I only have to suggest several alternatives scenarios.”

    A ufologist would appreciate your rules of evidence.

    “I only have to show one of more claims of yours to be false.”

    Of course, that’s far more demanding that “only having to suggest several alternative scenarios.” So which is it, John?

    “Who has the larger claim here? You or I?”

    Loftus has the larger claim. He fosters the illusory impression that his claim is less ambitious because he artificially restricts the burden of proof. But we’re ultimately comparing different worldviews.

    “I maintain there are different possibilities for every one of your claims.”

    “Possibilities”? Like ufology?

    “All I have to do is be right about a couple of my claims, or in some cases just one of them.”

    That would be a first, John.

    “You guys are too, with your liberal notions of women, hell fire, theories of inspiration, and Calvinistic ideas, which themselves can be traced back through Augustine to Plato.”

    That’s a historical claim, John.

    “All you need to do is to wonder what the ancients must have thought prior to the rise of science. That’s it. And it’s easy to do. You need not have any historical evidence to affirm this, although there is plenty that confirms this and plenty to disconfirm your claims here.”

    I’m impressed by your newfound confidence in historical evidence.

    “People in the ancient world were barbaric and superstitious to the core. They did not have any conception of a natural law.”

    That’s a historical claim, John.

    “Spectacular events happened all of the time, like the sun rising, a harvest of crops, or rain from the sky (not the clouds).”

    There are many bible verses which attribute rainfall to clouds, John (e.g. Judg 5:4; 1 Kgs 18:41-45; Ps 77:17; Prov 16:15; Eccl 11:3; Isa 5:6). That’s for reminding everyone of what an ignoramus you are.

    “And I’m supposed to believe what they believed about other things they claimed, since they ancients believed spectacular events like these were no different than a virgin birth or a resurrection from the grave?”

    You think they didn’t know where babies came from? Why did Joseph intend to divorce Mary? Why were Abraham and Sarah so sceptical about God’s promise regarding Isaac? Why was Zecharias so sceptical about God’s promise regarding John the Baptist?

    Was doubting Thomas credulous about the Resurrection?

    “Hmmm, and I suppose you not only can defend that with evidence but that the evidence is so overwhelming that it’s worth staking your whole life on it, based as it is on the writings of some very superstitious people living in pre-scientific days…”

    And what is Loftus staking his whole life on? A moss-covered epitaph.

    ReplyDelete
  60. EVAN SAID:

    “1. There is no reference in any source to Jesus of Nazareth in any language in any text contemporaneous with his existence.”

    Irrelevant. There are references to him by his contemporaries.

    “2. The first accounts of Jesus Christ do not mention Nazareth.”

    Irrelevant. If you’re alluding to the early Pauline epistles, Paul didn’t write a Gospel. We wouldn’t expect these incidental details.

    “3. All first and most second century apologists (corrected) don't mention Jesus of Nazareth as he is described in the Greek gospels.”

    What 1C apologists are you alluding to?

    “4. Josephus does not confirm the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth, merely a man named Joshua who had a brother named James. Josephus's writings are nearly uniformly accepted as later interpolations, but even taken at face value his beliefs about him cannot be used to verify the Greek gospels, specifically the resurrection.”

    Scholars don’t regard the Testimonium Flavianum as an interpolation. Rather, they think there are some (easily identifiable) interpolations within the Testimonium Flavianum.

    Suppose, for the sake of argument, that he were to confirm the Gospels. Would you convert to the faith? Obviously not. In that event, you’d dismiss him as just another biased Christian writer—the way you dismiss the other Jewish authors of the NT.

    “5. There's no archeological evidence for a Jewish community living in Nazareth in the first half of the first century CE.”

    What’s your source of information?

    Anyway, why do you think Gospel writers would invent this detail? It’s not a prestigious address. If they were fabricating details about the boyhood of Jesus, we’d expect resume inflation.

    “There is no textual evidence for a non-Jewish Christian movement prior to the Jewish wars.”

    Actually, there’s abundant evidence. You find it in the NT. The NT is a collection of NT documents which (among other things) witness to the rise of Gentile Christianity.

    Or do you dismiss that because it lacks “independent” corroboration? Do you also dismiss Tacitus or Josephus out of hand if they lack independent corroboration?

    “Do you dispute that?”

    Is this an allusion to the so-called “Jesus tablet”? If so, then…yes, I do dispute that:

    http://blog.bible.org/primetimejesus/content/what%2526%2523039%3Bs-really-new-%2526quot%3Bdead-sea-stone%2526quot%3B%3F

    http://blog.bible.org/primetimejesus/content/more-observations-stone-dead-sea-scroll-text-july-8%2C-2008-%28-taiwan%29

    “9. The idea of gods impregnating women predates Christianity.”

    That’s a bait-and-switch question. The account of the virgin birth is not analogous to Zeus consorting with women. Try again.

    “10. The idea of a trinity of Gods predates Christianity.”

    Give an example.

    “11. The idea of drinking blood and eating flesh in a ritual purification meal predates Christianity.”

    Other issues aside, this way of framing the question turns on a rather Catholic interpretation of the Eucharist. Are you a lapsed Catholic?

    I don’t share your interpretive matrix.

    “It requires you to move mountains (ever try doing that by faith btw?)”

    Since I’m not a Pentecostal, that’s not how I interpret Biblical hyperbole. Are you a lapsed faith-healer?

    ReplyDelete
  61. John Loftus wrote:

    "You have to be right about everything in order to sustain your belief...right about the nature of the people of the ancient past, right about the nature of historical investigations, right about Eusebius' quotations of Papias and their interpretation, right about the nature of the gospel of John, right about the your claim there is a difference between Benny Hinn and Jesus, and that's just here in this discussion."

    I have to be right about everything to sustain what belief? To sustain the entirety of my belief system? But that can be said of anybody. To sustain the entirety of your belief system, all of your beliefs must be correct. Since it's unlikely that all of my beliefs are correct, should I abandon all of them? No. I can't even abandon one of them on that basis, since a probability that one of my beliefs is wrong wouldn't tell me which one is wrong.

    What would happen if I'm wrong about, say, the reliability of the text of Papias? Would it therefore follow that Christianity is false? No. That the resurrection of Christ, for example, didn't occur? No.

    The readers should note that, as he often does, John Loftus has ignored the context of a comment he was responding to and has taken the discussion far off course. Here's what I initially said about Richard Bauckham's book:

    "And many people of Biblical times were interested in and sought evidence for their beliefs. We've documented some examples. See, for instance, Richard Bauckham's Jesus And The Eyewitnesses (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006)."

    John ignored the vast majority of what Bauckham documents about the interest in evidence, such as eyewitness testimony, expressed in a large number of ancient Christian and non-Christian sources. Instead, he mentioned a handful of objections to a small percentage of the sources Bauckham discusses in the book, such as by speculating that our text of Papias might be unreliable and accusing the gospel of John of being "anti-Jewish". And now he tells us that even if my position is a 51% probability on such issues, there's a "Principle of Dwindling Possibilites" that would still make my view of things problematic. Apparently, what we're supposed to do is go with John's lower-than-51% alternatives instead.

    Does John apply his reasoning to everyday life? How likely is it that John is correct in his judgment that the food he wants to eat for breakfast is safe to eat? That he has time to walk across the street before an oncoming car would hit him? That a co-worker can be trusted to handle some paperwork for him? Etc. Since his "Principle of Dwindling Possibilites" leaves him with such a low probability of being right in every judgment he makes, does he abandon all of his judgments? If it seems 51% likely that something he's heard on the radio is true, does he refrain from believing it based on the "Principle of Dwindling Possibilites"? When we go to John's web site, we often see him making historical claims (about his own life, about ancient history, etc.). Why does he hold such historical beliefs and write about them and argue on the basis of them in light of his "Principle of Dwindling Possibilites"?

    He writes:

    "And, it's always possible that even if you are reasonable to conclude what you do on every detail that the evidence leading to a different, skeptical conclusion, was lost, damaged, misplaced, stolen, or suppressed."

    In other words, a probable conclusion doesn't eliminate the possibility of alternatives. So what? A probability has the disadvantage of not being a certainty, but a possibility has the disadvantage of being neither a certainty nor a probability. I prefer probabilities to possibilities. So do you, when the probabilities aren't supporting something you hate as much as you hate Christianity.

    You write:

    "That's the difference, and you refuse to see this. There is plenty of room for doubting each and every one of your claims--which are derived from the historical past. So, by the Principle of Dwindling Possibilites I think your historical case is reduced with each additional argument even if we grant you a 51% chance on being right on each item. For by multiplying 51% times the number of arguemts you must have to get to a particular conclusion it can reduce your conclusion to a probablility of, say, 5% overall."

    There are other factors involved that you're ignoring. If the alternatives to my position produce an even lower probability, then my position is preferable.

    As John Fraser has noted:

    "Anyhow, this argument of Popper's that you seem to be so fond of would pretty much eliminate all knowledge, including scientific knowledge. Almost all scientific knowledge comes to us in the form of documents purporting to be the reports of observations made by people at some time in the past. But then I should have to have documents verifying THOSE documents, and more verifying those documents, etc. If I have to do all the observations myself, it's going to get tough to feed the family. It's frankly a silly argument. If you're going to apply it consistently, you may as well kiss virually any knowledge claim out the window. But of course the skeptic only wants to apply it selectively to things that he or she has already decided aren't true. If this argument is sound then we should all believe that the sun revolves around the earth (among other things). I tend to think that if that's the implication of an argument, the argument is probably bad. But maybe that's just me."

    ReplyDelete
  62. Evan wrote:

    "To repeat briefly my points"

    No, what you've done is repeat some of your initial assertions while revising others. And you still aren't offering us arguments sufficient to support your conclusions. You've ignored what we wrote in response to your eleven claims in the other thread. Now you're repeating and revising those claims, once again without sufficient supporting arguments, and you want us to interact with those repeated and revised claims. Why don't you first interact with what we wrote in response to you in that other thread and earlier in this thread? You don't get to erase the scoreboard and start the game over again once the ball is hit back into your court.

    Let's consider one of your revised claims, to see if it's much of an improvement:

    "Josephus does not confirm the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth, merely a man named Joshua who had a brother named James. Josephus's writings are nearly uniformly accepted as later interpolations, but even taken at face value his beliefs about him cannot be used to verify the Greek gospels, specifically the resurrection."

    As I documented in the earlier thread, most scholars accept an authentic core of the lengthier passage on Jesus in Josephus and accept the shorter passage as authentic. The accepted core of the first passage and the second passage refer to such details as Jesus' working of apparent miracles, His death under Pontius Pilate, belief in His resurrection, His being identified as the Messiah, and His being the leader of the Christians. I would say that such details rule out the average Jesus of that day, wouldn't you?

    As far as "verifying the Greek gospels, specifically the resurrection" is concerned, who cites Josephus for such a purpose? Josephus adds some weight to Christian claims on a variety of topics, and he can do so without "verifying the Greek gospels, specifically the resurrection" in the sense of proving the entirety of the gospels or proving the resurrection by his testimony alone. Josephus doesn't have to have such significance in order to have other types of significance.

    Your revised claims aren't much of an improvement.

    ReplyDelete
  63. Such pointless discussions would've never taken place in the first if Protestantism[*] would've started paying the deserved attention to typology and Christological reading.

    [*] And when I say this, I include our Atheist guests as well (my hunch is none of them were either Muslims or Hindus before becoming Atheists).

    the Jews couldn't have imagined a dying and rising Christ.

    Do the terms "Moshiach ben Joseph" and "Moshiach ben David" mean anything to You? (`cause they sure do to a lot of [non-Christian] Orthodox Jews out there)

    ReplyDelete
  64. Why should it surprise you guys that the Biblical writers borrowed some ideas floating around in their day? We all do it. It's impossible not to do so. The weight of evidence is against your assertions and your gerrymandering of the texts. Voltaire quipped that "we are all children of our times. You guys are too, with your liberal notions of women, hell fire, theories of inspiration, and Calvinistic ideas, which themselves can be traced back through Augustine to Plato.

    Let's put this to the test, shall we, John?

    1. Which ideas do you have in mind? The Resurrection of the Dead? The Virgin Birth?

    Please, do show us which ideas were borrowed from which myths and religions and philosophies. Do tell us, particularly. Name the biblical texts and show us how they borrowed, from where, and in which direction, if any borrowed took place occurred, the dating shows.

    2. As to Calvinistic ideas being traced to Plato. Do show us exactly, with direct quotes if possible, the chain. To do that, you'd have to go from, let's say Plato to Augustine through the intervening period, to the Middle Ages, to Bucer, to Calvin and Luther. You'll need to show every person who contributed, which works, etc.

    I don't believe, to date, any such mongraph has been written, so I'm interested in you putting your obviously superior writing and argumentation capacities to work for us. Go ahead, amaze us.

    ReplyDelete
  65. LVKA wrote:

    "Such pointless discussions would've never taken place in the first if Protestantism[*] would've started paying the deserved attention to typology and Christological reading."

    Which discussions are "pointless"? Why are we supposed to accept your evaluation? Why do you so often make assertions without even attempting to offer supporting arguments?

    Your appeal to "typology and Christological reading" has already been refuted in multiple threads that you left.

    ReplyDelete
  66. "Lvka said:

    Such pointless discussions would've never taken place in the first if Protestantism[*] would've started paying the deserved attention to typology and Christological reading"

    Let's not forget that Bertrand Russell made fun of transubstantiation by saying that a wafer turns to God when the priest speaks Latin to it.

    One of the few times I find myself agreeing with Russell.

    ReplyDelete
  67. At last someone engages the argument. Nice to have that.

    So let's go through it:

    1. There is no reference in any source to Jesus of Nazareth in any language in any text contemporaneous with his existence.

    Irrelevant. There are references to him by his contemporaries.

    Really? Contemporaries who wrote at the earliest , 35 years after his death? Who are these contemporaries?

    2. The first accounts of Jesus Christ do not mention Nazareth.

    Irrelevant. If you’re alluding to the early Pauline epistles, Paul didn’t write a Gospel. We wouldn’t expect these incidental details.

    So it's a wonderful catch-22 you have there. When Paul talks about Jesus Christ you're sure he's talking about Jesus of Nazareth even though he never mentions him or any of the salient facts of his career except the fact that he was born, crucified and died. He doesn't even mention Pontius Pilate. So how do you know that Jesus of Nazareth wasn't one of the false Christs warned about in the Epistle of John? There simply is no linkage between Jesus of Nazareth and the Jesus Christ of Paul in the commonly accepted Pauline canon.

    3. All first and most second century apologists (corrected) don't mention Jesus of Nazareth as he is described in the Greek gospels.

    What 1C apologists are you alluding to?

    1st Clement, Paul

    4. Josephus does not confirm the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth, merely a man named Joshua who had a brother named James. Josephus's writings are nearly uniformly accepted as later interpolations, but even taken at face value his beliefs about him cannot be used to verify the Greek gospels, specifically the resurrection.

    Scholars don’t regard the Testimonium Flavianum as an interpolation. Rather, they think there are some (easily identifiable) interpolations within the Testimonium Flavianum.

    Suppose, for the sake of argument, that he were to confirm the Gospels. Would you convert to the faith? Obviously not. In that event, you’d dismiss him as just another biased Christian writer—the way you dismiss the other Jewish authors of the NT.


    First, who looks like they went to Bible college now? There's pretty much universal agreement among respected non-fundamentalist scholars that it is an interpolation. At best it is a partial interpolation according the consensus of Christian and non-Christian scholars. As to what I would think if an ancient writer referred to a man rising from the dead ... yeah, you got it. I'd still not believe it.

    5. There's no archeological evidence for a Jewish community living in Nazareth in the first half of the first century CE.

    What’s your source of information?

    There are several. Here is one.

    Anyway, why do you think Gospel writers would invent this detail? It’s not a prestigious address. If they were fabricating details about the boyhood of Jesus, we’d expect resume inflation.

    Because Nazareth is in Galilee where the bulk of the Jewish wars took place, and where, after the wars Christians were trying to establish a new religion that was anti-pharisee.

    6.There is no textual evidence for a non-Jewish Christian movement prior to the Jewish wars.

    Actually, there’s abundant evidence. You find it in the NT. The NT is a collection of NT documents which (among other things) witness to the rise of Gentile Christianity.

    Or do you dismiss that because it lacks “independent” corroboration? Do you also dismiss Tacitus or Josephus out of hand if they lack independent corroboration?


    Yes actually I do. I even dispute them when they do have independent corroboration. I don't believe that the Emperor Vespasian healed a blind man by spitting in mud and rubbing the mud on his eyes, for example. More to the point, neither do you.

    You also don't believe the stories about Joseph Smith's discovery of the Book of Mormon are true even though they have much more recent vintage and are far better attested than anything about Josephus' statements about Jesus of Nazareth. So I doubt we are all that much different in our daily lives. I just don't check my skepticism when it comes to a bunch of Greek books written about the Jews.

    7. The idea of a dying and rising God-man who stayed in the earth for 3 days predates Christianity.

    Do you dispute that?


    Is this an allusion to the so-called “Jesus tablet”? If so, then…yes, I do dispute that

    No actually, it's not. It's not an allusion at all. It's a known fact of history. Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis and Mithras all died and rose. Osiris quite specifically was in the grave for 3 days before he rose. Jesus of Nazareth, oddly, didn't really make it 3 days in the grave (I count at maximum 38 hours he could have spent in the tomb if the Greek gospels make any sense at all), but he sure talks about the 3 days a lot. It seems likely to me that one of the "false Christs" might have spent the full 3 days in the grave.

    9. The idea of gods impregnating women predates Christianity.

    That’s a bait-and-switch question. The account of the virgin birth is not analogous to Zeus consorting with women. Try again.

    Really? It's not? A god coming down to earth and making a woman pregnant is not analogous to a god coming down to earth and making a woman pregnant. You have an interesting set of tests for analogy. It's not just Leda and the swan though. It's Hercules, Aeneas, Caesar Augustus (known as the son of god), Julius Caesar, even Alexander the Great. All were regarded as sons of a god.

    10. The idea of a trinity of Gods predates Christianity.

    Give an example.

    Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma (Vedic)
    Osiris, Isis, Horus (Egyptian)
    Amun, Re, Ptah (Egyptian)
    Anu, Enlil, Enki (Mesopotamian)
    Tinia, Uni, Menerva (Etruscan)
    Odin, Hoenur, Lodur (Norse)

    That enough?

    11. The idea of drinking blood and eating flesh in a ritual purification meal predates Christianity.

    Other issues aside, this way of framing the question turns on a rather Catholic interpretation of the Eucharist. Are you a lapsed Catholic?

    Nope. I just know how to read.

    Here's the relevant passage from Matthew 26:26-8 in case you've never read it:

    "26And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

    27And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;

    28For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. "

    I don’t share your interpretive matrix.

    You also don't read the Bible much.

    It requires you to move mountains (ever try doing that by faith btw?)

    Since I’m not a Pentecostal, that’s not how I interpret Biblical hyperbole. Are you a lapsed faith-healer?

    Not at all. I'm a real healer. Which is why I know faith is useless when it comes to healing. But I'm curious how you know that Jesus saying that faith can move mountains is hyperbole and the rest of the Greek gospels are to be taken literally.

    Might not the resurrection story and the subsequent legends be part of the same hyperbolic interpretive matrix?

    Take the red pill man!

    ReplyDelete
  68. Semper Reformanda,

    I fail to grasp the link between the part of my comment that You've cited and the "answer" (?) that You gave to it.

    And as far as "Bertrand Russell" (whoever the heck he might be) is concerned, he might've also made fun of Exodus by saying that the water turns into dry land when Jewish Prophets speak Jewish to it.

    In any case, the reason for his blasphemous mockery escapes me. (I actually believe in God and all that stuff; the whole shebang).

    ReplyDelete
  69. Evan,

    none of the models presented by You at point #10 above constitutes a Christian type of the Trinity. (They fall either into simple Tritheistic or outright Sabellian cathegories; none of whom are Orthodox). If You're looking for the roots of the Trinity, You may search no further than the Book of Genesis, Solomon's Wisdom-books and Sapiential literature, Philo's doctrine of the Logos and other divine Powers, Second Temple beliefs, which eventually found their way into later Midrashic tradition, encoded in the Talmud (such as Metatron and Sandalphon, the Maaseh Mekabah mysticism, or Enochic literature and Kabbalistic lore). As You can see, sources abound and -boringly enough- they're all Jewish.

    ReplyDelete
  70. Oh, and, ... Evan:

    As to the dead and risen Christ, Your answer lies in the (still extant) Jewish Tradition of the two Messiahs: the Moshiach ben Joseph, who will come first and die defeated in battle; and the Moshiach be David, who will come in glory to establish the peaceful and prosperous Mesianic Era, avenging the first one by defeating his enemies [the Edomites] and resurrecting him from the dead.

    ReplyDelete
  71. Evan,

    There’s so much complete B.S. in your statements it’s hard to even know where to begin.

    You said, “Really? Contemporaries who wrote at the earliest , 35 years after his death? Who are these contemporaries?”

    Are we going to have an argument over the dating of the Gospels? Even 35 years after the death of a 33-year-old man would be within the lifetime of eyewitnesses. There is no good reason to doubt the authorship of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Mark and Luke were not apostles and not notable figures in the early church, so there would be no reason to falsely attribute these books to them. Matthew was a minor apostle at best. With John the biggest question is which John wrote it. So yes, these were contemporaries of Jesus. So was Paul, but more about him next.

    You said, “When Paul talks about Jesus Christ you're sure he's talking about Jesus of Nazareth even though he never mentions him or any of the salient facts of his career except the fact that he was born, crucified and died.”

    Try reading 1 Cor. 15:3-8. This passage is recognized by scholars as being an early church creed. Paul uses the rabinnic terms “received” and “passed on” that was used for conveying sacred tradition. He received it from the apostles themselves, possibly as early as the late 30s (1Cor. is dated to around 55). It parallels the testimony of the Gospel writers in recounting Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and post-resurrection appearances. To say that he might not be talking about Jesus of Nazareth just because he doesn’t say “Nazareth” is, to put it bluntly, asinine. You might also consider that Paul here references his own encounter with the risen Christ by using the word “ektroma,” which means an abnormal birth. This accords with the account of Luke in Acts 9 of Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus. In Acts 22:8 Luke records Paul’s speech in Jerusalem where Paul recounts his own conversion, saying, "And I answered, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said to me, 'I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.'” Given that Luke was one of Paul’s travelling companions this certainly gives a prima facie case that Paul was in fact referring to Jesus of Nazareth when he spoke of Jesus Christ. No honest interpreter could come to any other conclusion. I can hardly believe I have to argue the point with anybody.

    You said, “At best it is a partial interpolation according the consensus of Christian and non-Christian scholars.”

    Yeah, I think that’s what Steve said, too. That’s funny, because you actually quoted Steve’s statement where he said it was a partial interpolation.

    You said, “Yes actually I do. I even dispute them when they do have independent corroboration.”

    You dismiss anything supernatural. But that still doesn’t mean that a source that contains supernatural elements can’t contain any historical information. Apparently you’re unaware of the evaluation of noted Roman historian A.N. Sherwin-White, where he said, “The objection will be raised to this line of argument that the Roman historical writers and the Gospels belong to different kinds of literature. Whatever the defects of our sources, their authors were trying to write history, but the authors of the Gospels had a different aim. Yet however one accepts form-criticism, its principles do not inevitably contradict the notion of the basic historicity of the particular stories of which the Gospel narratives are composed, even if these were not shored up and confirmed by the external guarantee of their fabric and setting. That the degree of confirmation in Graeco-Roman terms is less for the Gospels than for Acts is due, as these lectures have tried to show, to the differences in their regional setting. As soon as Christ enters the Roman orbit at Jerusalem, the confirmation begins. For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. Yet Acts is, in simple terms and judged externally, no less of a propaganda narrative than the Gospels, liable to similar distortions. But any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted” (Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, 188-9).

    Let me boil that down for you: even if you don’t accept the miraculous elements, the evidence for the basic historicity of Acts is “overwhelming.” As Steve pointed out, this includes a significant non-Jewish Christian movement prior to the Jewish wars. Sorry, but you can’t just wave it all away. Well, you can, but you can’t do that and still be taken seriously.

    Incidentally, Sherwin-White’s comments also have a bearing on your supposed demonstration that there was no Jewish settlement in Nazareth in Jesus’ time. Besides the fact that the link you gave appeared dubious (oh, all those other archaeologists were all wrong since they were religious folks), you’re still arguing from ignorance from an area where, as Sherwin-White points out, the same kind of confirmation would not be expected. Sherwin-White, I hope you realize, was not a Christian apologist. He wrote as an expert in Roman history.

    You said, “It's not an allusion at all. It's a known fact of history. Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis and Mithras all died and rose.”

    You might want to note that real scholars haven’t come to these conclusions. But I see you’re relying heavily on Wikipedia, so that’s probably not a big concern of yours. But still, you might want to note the conclusion of T.N.D. Mettinger who is a member of the Royal Academy of Letters, History, and Antiquities of Stockholm and who wrote “The Riddle of Resurrection,” an academic treatment of dying and rising gods in antiquity. He concludes that there is nearly universal consensus among scholars that there were no dying and rising gods that predated Christianity.

    The late Ronald Nash wrote that “the tide of scholarly opinion has turned dramatically against attempts to make early Christianity dependent on the so-called dying and rising gods of Hellenistic paganism” (The Gospel and the Greeks, 162). You’re just rehashing a bunch of refuted half-baked theories that are still floating around the internet. If you're going to try to use arguments like these, you'd better do some more homework.

    ReplyDelete
  72. I don't have time to get too deeply into the weeds right now but please. We have inscriptions about Osiris in Egyptian dating from millenia before Christ.

    Osiris has a passion narrative that goes like this:

    # The First Day, The Procession of Wepwawet: A mock battle is enacted during which the enemies of Osiris are defeated. A procession is led by the god Wepwawet ("opener of the way").
    # The Second Day, The Great Procession of Osiris: The body of Osiris is taken from his temple to his tomb. The boat he is transported in, the "Neshmet" bark, has to be defended against his enemies.
    # The Third Day, Osiris is Mourned and the Enemies of the Land are Destroyed.
    # The Fourth Day, Night Vigil: Prayers and recitations are made and funeral rites performed.
    # The Fifth Day, Osiris is Reborn: Osiris is reborn at dawn and crowned with the crown of Ma'at. A statue of Osiris is brought to the temple.


    So he proceeds on day 1, dies on day 2. Is dead on days 2, 3 and 4, and is resurrected on day 5.

    This comes from a 12th dynasty stele.

    If you wanna say that any slight difference between pagan gods who died and rose proves that Christianity didn't borrow the idea, you are welcome to say it, but reasonable people can see similarities between gods when they are present.

    Under your theory of understanding, Hephaestus and Vulcan aren't the same person because they have a different name.

    ReplyDelete
  73. I wrote:
    "Paul Manata is a self-confessed ex-thug and gangster. However, these days, instead of committing physical thuggery, he now commits psychological thuggery in the name of Yahweh, who just happens to be another self-confessed thug and gangster."

    Jason Enwer responded:
    "You don't document much of what you assert, do you? You've made a lot of assertions, but you haven't given us much reason to agree with those assertions."

    OK Jason, your wish is my command.

    Here is Paul Manata’s conversion story. [Update: Paul has deleted this link and all links I make reference to below. I suspect it's because he is embarrassed about his behavior. See for yourself.].

    If you don’t have the time to read it all, here are a few snippets:

    "A month or so ago someone commented that I should write about my life prior, and then my conversion to, Christianity. The below is a very brief account…

    My mom was always a strong believer but had to endure the leadership of a husband who did not fulfill his duties as a (professing) Christian husband and father. She also had to endure emotional and some physical abuse from my dad. I can remember my father piling furniture on top of her.

    My dad beat us with a stick. Anyway, it made me tougher. I learned the power of hate! I learned that I had a rage inside of me and if let loose I could be unstoppable. I vowed to live by hate.

    I can remember making fun of the kids in special Ed. Oh; I would get a laugh from all the popular kids. They thought I was so cool and funny! I would make one autistic kid so mad that he would scream and hit himself in the middle of the halls. He wanted to be liked so I would use him. I would act nice and tell him to ask our P.E. coach what a sphincter was. All of us would laugh when we would hide and listen to him ask Coach C. "what's a sphincter?" Then we would bust a gut when Coach rolled his eyes and said in his gruff voice, "It's a muscle, Chris."

    But I didn't only pick on the special Ed kids. I would punch anyone for a buck. My friends knew it and so if they didn't like someone they would give me a dollar and I'd just walk up and hit them.

    People were pretty much afraid of me. I remember writing an underground newspaper with the vilest things said about Jesus and his mother. If I were to reprint it you would puke. I listened to "death metal." Virtually all the songs were about killing God and Jesus. I loved the power. Wasn't I cool?

    Having power meant that I could destroy anyone. So I fought on a regular basis. My popularity grew because of my victories. I remember me and three of my friends fighting about 25 Filipino gang members who came to our school to recruited new members. We beat them in the parking lot. You can imagine the news spreading. Four guys take on a whole bunch of gang members and beat them. Well, I had death threats and was told by school officials not to go to any school functions etc. But I went just to show that I had power. Nothing ever came of the threats. I would fight any chance I had. If I was driving and you honked your horn at me, well then I'd follow you to where ever you were going, get out of the car, and beat you in public. I used to have a broom stick handle and would just wait outside of restaurants in the bushes for any random person to come out. I would jump out and beat them with the stick. I remember once going into an Italian restaurant, pulling out the cooks from the back, and beating them. They had jumped a friend the night before so we went down with baseball bats and I had brass knuckles. We beat them so bad that a couple were in the hospital fighting for their life (or so said a kid whose mom was a nurse on duty at the local hospital).

    America wasn't enough. I would go down to Mexico, get hammered, and then jump Mexicans in side streets.

    This was cool but not big enough. So a friend and I vowed to beat up at least one person from every state in the U.S. We would drive around, find an out of state plate, and then follow them and jump them when they got to their destination.

    I remember going to a party and walking up to guys and making them bow to me in front of everyone, what an ass I was(!), actually I thought I was cool. I still fought on a regular basis. I was asked to bounce some pretty cool parties. One party, after I had drank 750 ml. of Jeggermeister and about 8 beers off the keg; I was told by the owner that some guys were getting loud. I went over, grabbed the first guy, threw him down and kicked him in the face. Now, I could leg press over 1,000 pounds and squatted almost 600 lbs, so it was a powerful kick. I deviated his septum and he ended up getting reconstructive surgery.

    I've only been a Christian for 5 years now. I changed a lot but still got angry frequently."

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2006/02/paul-manatas-wife-and-his-ugly-past.html

    Charming, isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  74. John Fraser wrote:

    "To say that he might not be talking about Jesus of Nazareth just because he doesn’t say 'Nazareth' is, to put it bluntly, asinine....Given that Luke was one of Paul’s travelling companions this certainly gives a prima facie case that Paul was in fact referring to Jesus of Nazareth when he spoke of Jesus Christ. No honest interpreter could come to any other conclusion. I can hardly believe I have to argue the point with anybody."

    And Evan made a similar argument about Josephus, which is similarly implausible. There are many ways to identify an individual, and the Jesus of the gospels can be identified without something like a reference to Nazareth. Given how common the name Jesus was, Evan could object that perhaps some other Jesus in Nazareth was in view, even if Paul did mention Nazareth.

    Since Paul mentions the names of some of Jesus' disciples, the name of one of His brothers, the fact that He died by means of a betrayal, His institution of the eucharist, etc., how likely is it that even one other Jesus of that timeframe would meet all of these criteria? And, of course, we don't have to limit ourselves to the evidence from Paul's letters and the gospels. We also have the evidence of the testimony of the Pauline churches, for example. As I've documented in some posts in the archives of this blog, there was widespread and early acceptance of the gospels and the gospels' portrayal of Jesus among the early Pauline churches. Evan mentions First Clement, and that document repeatedly draws material from the gospel traditions about Jesus. Etc.

    I want to remind the readers that Evan keeps reinventing his arguments and ignoring what people have written in response to him. He's changed some of his arguments, and he's repeating other arguments without interacting with what people have written in response to those arguments in this thread and the earlier one:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/07/another-opportunity-for-wishful.html

    Evan mentions the alleged miracles of Vespasian, which is another subject we've addressed already:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/06/vespasian.html

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/06/alleged-miracles-of-vespasian.html

    On the subject of alleged pagan parallels suggesting Christian borrowing, readers should keep in mind that we've referred Evan to Steve Hays' e-book This Joyful Eastertide, which addresses that issue in depth. Evan is highly ignorant of many of the issues he's discussing, and he shows little interest in learning more.

    ReplyDelete
  75. DingoDave,

    I'm familiar with Paul Manata's past. He's mentioned it in some form many times, in many places. I was referring to your lack of documentation in general, not just with regard to Paul's past. His past behavior doesn't prove your assertions about his present behavior and your assertions on other issues I've discussed in this thread.

    ReplyDelete
  76. Paul Manata,

    I'm very sorry to hear about Your rather sad past, and -at the same time- joyous that You found the Lord. (And whenever You feel angry again, think of Him on the Cross, and His tender-loving mercy, and forgiveness).

    Evan,

    if Paul's little story gave You the creeps, than -by all means!- stay away from mine! (it will probably give You a heart-attack!).

    ReplyDelete
  77. Oh, and, Evan: another thing:

    it's not a mystery (not even by far) that the ancient Egyptians believed in the resurrection of the body in general (that's why they mumified corpses in the first place). They also believed that besides the body, there's also the ba and the ka (cp. to soul and spirit -- though the parallelism isn't exact). The last of these two ideas is anything but unique: the human spirit in the form of a bird [as Egyptians also represented the ba] is a frequent rupestral motif on cave-wall paintings dating from the prehistorical or Paleolytical cave-man era ... and since Christianity is supposed to be the very fulfillment of Judaism, and since Judaism traditionally traces its roots back to the very first man, Adam, don't act so surprised by all of these completely unavoidable, logical, and common-sensical similarities which manage to prove ... nothing except the obvious: that man was religious from the very beginning, and that the older the belief or practice, the wider the area of dissipation.

    ReplyDelete
  78. Evan,

    The stuff about Osiris you're referring to was a festival. The days mentioned are not days of historical events, but the days of the festival. But even counting the "chronology" of the festival that you're using, Osiris "rises" on the fourth day, not the third (the fifth day of the festival, which is actually the fourth day from when his death is re-enacted). But his "rising" isn't a resurrection - they just put his statue back in the temple. In the actual story of Osiris he beomes the king of the underworld, he doesn't come back from the dead. To call this a "resurrection" is an abuse of the term, probably to give the impression that there's a parallel where in fact there is none when the details are examined.

    So your supposed "parallel" looks like this: the Egyptians had a festival where they celebrated the myth of Osiris. On the second day of the festival they re-enact his burial. On the fifth day of the festival they put his statue back in the Temple. Obviously, this is the where the idea for Jesus' resurrection came from. GUFFAW!

    I like this statement of yours: "reasonable people can see similarities between gods when they are present." Indeed. And reasonable people can see when someone is stretching (or contorting) the facts far beyond what is warranted to try to prove a point that they've already determined in advance.

    ReplyDelete
  79. Jason,

    Where is Steve's book that you mentioned available?

    ReplyDelete
  80. EVAN SAID:

    “Really? Contemporaries who wrote at the earliest , 35 years after his death?”

    i) You’re liberal dating schemes have been discredited by conservative scholars. Consult a conservative commentary on any book of the NT, or a conservative NT introduction. Study the arguments, pro and con. You might learn something…for a change.

    ii) Since Jesus died young, it’s quite possible for a contemporary to write about him decades later. I take it that simple arithmetic is not your forte.

    “There simply is no linkage between Jesus of Nazareth and the Jesus Christ of Paul in the commonly accepted Pauline canon.”

    i) Try reading David Wenham’s Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity.

    ii) I don’t limit myself to the “commonly accepted Pauline canon.” That’s an artificial restriction based on specious liberal arguments.

    “1st Clement, Paul”

    You want to classify Clement of Rome as an apologist? A bit idiosyncratic.

    But be that as it may, Clement of Rome certainly believed in the historical Jesus.

    “First, who looks like they went to Bible college now? There's pretty much universal agreement among respected non-fundamentalist scholars that it is an interpolation.”

    You have a habit of resorting to the argument from authority. The fact that “non-fundamentalist scholars” hold opinion X is not a sound argument for anything. It’s just a sociological appeal.

    And even on your own grounds, there are “non-fundamentalist scholars” who agree with me. Cf. J. Meier, A Marginal Jew, 1:56-88.

    “There are several. Here is one.”

    “American Atheist Press.” That’s very scholarly.

    For a serious archaeological discussion of Galilee in the time of Jesus, try Craig Evans, Fabricating Jesus, chap. 5.

    “At best it is a partial interpolation according the consensus of Christian and non-Christian scholars.”

    Which is exactly what I said.

    “As to what I would think if an ancient writer referred to a man rising from the dead ... yeah, you got it. I'd still not believe it.”

    So you’re not debating in good faith. You demand more evidence or different evidence (e.g. Josephus), but even if you had it, you would still be an unbeliever. Thanks for admitting your mendacity.

    “Because Nazareth is in Galilee where the bulk of the Jewish wars took place, and where, after the wars Christians were trying to establish a new religion that was anti-pharisee.”

    What about Jerusalem? That was a center of the Jewish revolt. And it’s a far more prestigious address than Nazareth.

    “Yes actually I do. I even dispute them when they do have independent corroboration.”

    Another admission of your mendacity. You dismiss any testimonial evidence to the supernatural. So drop the act and stop asking us to furnish you with more testimonial evidence.

    “I don't believe that the Emperor Vespasian healed a blind man by spitting in mud and rubbing the mud on his eyes, for example. More to the point, neither do you.”

    Jason and I have dealt with this example. Try again.

    “You also don't believe the stories about Joseph Smith's discovery of the Book of Mormon are true even though they have much more recent vintage and are far better attested than anything about Josephus' statements about Jesus of Nazareth.”

    i) To begin with, you’re the one, not I, who disingenuously brought up the subject of Josephus. I never made that a deal-breaker.

    ii) Yes, we know a lot about Joseph Smith. And that’s the problem. We know that he was a charlatan.

    “No actually, it's not. It's not an allusion at all. It's a known fact of history. Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis and Mithras all died and rose.”

    I’ve dealt with comparative mythology in my review of The Empty Tomb. Try again.

    “Osiris quite specifically was in the grave for 3 days before he rose. Jesus of Nazareth, oddly, didn't really make it 3 days in the grave (I count at maximum 38 hours he could have spent in the tomb if the Greek gospels make any sense at all).”

    In that case, the parallel breaks down even on your own grounds.

    “But he sure talks about the 3 days a lot.”

    Jesus didn’t say he’d be in the grave for 72 hours, now did he?

    He died on Friday, was resurrected on Sunday. That’s where we get the 3 days. I realize that’s too subtle for you to grasp.

    “Really? It's not? A god coming down to earth and making a woman pregnant is not analogous to a god coming down to earth and making a woman pregnant. You have an interesting set of tests for analogy. It's not just Leda and the swan though. It's Hercules, Aeneas, Caesar Augustus (known as the son of god), Julius Caesar, even Alexander the Great. All were regarded as sons of a god.”

    You’re equivocating. Those are cases of sexual intercourse. Look it up in the dictionary if you don’t know what that is.

    The true parallels to the virgin birth are other examples of miraculous births in Scripture, like John the Baptist and OT counterparts.

    But you’re too busy regurgitating stock, village atheism to study the text on its own terms.

    “Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma (Vedic)_Osiris, Isis, Horus (Egyptian)_Amun, Re, Ptah (Egyptian)_Anu, Enlil, Enki (Mesopotamian)_Tinia, Uni, Menerva (Etruscan)_Odin, Hoenur, Lodur (Norse)__That enough?”

    Not, it’s not enough. For starters, none of these religions was limited to 3 gods apiece. Not even close. So you’ve arbitrarily selected and grouped 3 gods from each.

    And a “trinity of gods” is not the Trinity. You’re equivocating. Try again.

    “Here's the relevant passage from Matthew 26:26-8 in case you've never read it:”

    Which symbolizes his death on the cross. That’s the sacrificial blood which ratifies the new covenant.

    Jews understood memorial symbolism, viz. the Passover. Try not to be such a dimwit about the Bible.

    “But I'm curious how you know that Jesus saying that faith can move mountains is hyperbole and the rest of the Greek gospels are to be taken literally.”

    Literality is not my guiding principle. I use the grammatico-historical method.

    ReplyDelete
  81. JOHN FRASER SAID:

    "Where is Steve's book that you mentioned available?"

    http://www.reformed.plus.com/triablogue/ebooks.html

    ReplyDelete
  82. DingoDave said:

    [Update: Paul has deleted this link and all links I make reference to below. I suspect it's because he is embarrassed about his behavior. See for yourself.]"

    I deleted every single link on that old blog because I deleted that old blog. Based on your reasoning, you must claim that I am embarrassed about the arguments I employed there because they are now "deleted."

    That post was also writen in 2005, not everything true of me that day is true today. It's been almost 4 years since I wrote that.

    As far as your fallacious attempt to sully Jason's credibility by linking him to me, I'll just let your behavior speak for itself.

    ReplyDelete
  83. "...is true [OF ME] today."

    Sorry.

    ReplyDelete
  84. Paul Manata wrote:

    -"I deleted every single link on that old blog because I deleted that old blog. Based on your reasoning, you must claim that I am embarrassed about the arguments I employed there because they are now "deleted." That post was also writen in 2005, not everything true of me that day is true today. It's been almost 4 years since I wrote that. "

    I was quoting an article which was written on Feb 5, 2006.

    -"As far as your fallacious attempt to sully Jason's credibility by linking him to me, I'll just let your behavior speak for itself."

    I was responding to Jason's complaint that I wasn't backing up my assertion. He asked, I delivered.

    By the way Paul, if Christianity is the only thing which prevents you from behaving like the animal you once were, then please don't give up your religion. Ever!

    ReplyDelete
  85. Dingo Dave,

    The Debunking Christianity article was written in 2006, the post being referred to, my post, was written in 2005.

    You were not simply responding to Jason's request. You attacked his credibility because of the mere fact that I post at this blog. You said:

    "I noticed that one of the contributers to his blog is the calvinist nutjob Paul Manata. That just about says it all to me about Jason's credibility (or lack of it)."

    I have no clue the chain of inference that goes into undermining Jason's credibility because I post here? I would think, at least, you owe him an apology.

    Secondly, you did not demonstrate anything because your claim was about how I am now. Remember, you said:

    "Paul Manata is a self-confessed ex-thug and gangster. However, these days, instead of committing physical thuggery, he now commits psychological thuggery in the name of Yahweh, who just happens to be another self-confessed thug and gangster. Like father, like son I guess?"

    And to demonstrate that you need more than what happened in those days. So, you didn't even meet Jason's request.

    "By the way Paul, if Christianity is the only thing which prevents you from behaving like the animal you once were, then please don't give up your religion."

    I don't know, given the strength of your arguments and John Loftus's, I feel my faith crumbling. I think I may live just like the animal I am - they say the pig and chimp are fairly close to me; a difference in degree and not kind.

    Let's see:

    Many animals, including primates, kill infants of their own species. Some animals have higher murder rates than humans (cf. Williams, Huxley's Evolutiuonary Ethics in Sociobiological Perspective, Zygon, 383-407; see also Gould, Eight Little Piggies). 29% of adult Red deer stags are from fighting over females. And, how about ants? Some species swarm in the thousands to exterminate nearby colonies. The imported fire ant in the U.S. wages genocidal war against the native woodland ant. Other ants not only attack neighboring ants but also enslave them, Polyergus breviseps sends out scouts to locate colonies of other ants. Finding another colony the scouts lead an army of several thousand warriors to murder the queen and carry the infants (pupae) back home where they are reared as slaves to forage, feed, clean the nest, and tend to the queen of their masters. Wolves kill their own. In one study of Alaskan wolf packs, 39 - 65% of adult deaths were brought about by attacks by other wolves.

    How about the chimp, our closest relative? In 1974 the senior field assistant for Jane Goodall’s chimp research center in Gombe witnessed plenty of incidents causing them to change how the chimp was portrayed. A group of 8 males that had penetrated into their neighbors territory found Godi, a young male sitting alone at a tree. The 8 males chased Godi down and tore at his body, leaving him bleeding and writhing in pain (though Paul Churchland and Dan Dennett teach us to eliminate that qualia...). A few days later, Godi died. This marked massive hostility between two chimp communities, the Kahama and Kasakela communities. During the 4 years after Godi's "murder", the Kasakela group slowly and systematically drove the Kahama chimps to extinction.

    How did they fight? Primatologist Martin Muller describes one attack by ten chimps on a lone male from the other community:

    "The front of the chimpanzee was covered with 30 or 40 puncture wounds and lacerations, the ribs were sticking out of the rib cage because they had beaten on his chest so hard. They had ripped his trachea out, they had removed his testicles, they had torn of his toenails and fingernails. It was clear that some of the mails held him down while the others attacked."

    Primatologist Richard Wrangham claims in the book Demonic Males that:

    "Based on the chimpanzees' alert, enthusiastic behavior, these raids are exciting events for them. And the mayhem visited on their victims looks a world apart from the occasional violence that erupts during a squabble between members of the name community. During these raids on other communities the attackers do as they do while hunting...except the target 'prey' is a member of their own species. And their assaults...are marked by gratuitous cruelty-tearing off pieces of skin, for example, twisting limbs until they break, or drinking the victims blood..."

    (see Smith’s The Most Dangerous Animal as the material drawn off of for the above)

    Given that "moral facts" would be strange, queer entities indeed, if they existed, and given that our knowledge of them would seem impossible since we don't have a 6th or 7th sense called a "moral sense" that is like our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, or skin, and given that a causal account of events can be given without invoking queer moral entities to "explain" the event, then it seems that objective, normative, ethical "oughts" are simply a myth like the Bible.

    Given all this, it is sure strange to me why you, Dingo Dave, would complain about what I will surely do now that I have dropped the shackles of religious bondage. You're just a Puritan. Christians try to hinder our sex life with imposed rules and constraints and you threw those shackles off, it's only a matter of time before you allow yourself and others to remove the shackles of the rest of Christian "morality." Why deny our sexual instincts? And why our instincts of rage and power? If we want, we take. Just like Christians deny everyone else's "god" and we go one further and deny theirs, you deny some people's ethical rules, I just go one further and deny yours! The logic is simple. Sweet. Undeniable.

    Maybe the Puritanical society we live in would put me in jail for acts of violence. That doesn't mean they are wrong, it just means I had better learn to not get caught and wait until the world reads Dawkins and Harris and Hitchens.

    Now, rather than deal with the above, I assume it will serve as your proof that I am a "psychological thug."

    Have a good one, Dave.

    ReplyDelete
  86. DingoDave wrote:

    "I was responding to Jason's complaint that I wasn't backing up my assertion. He asked, I delivered."

    I asked for more than you delivered. See my last response to you in this thread, the one I posted this morning.

    ReplyDelete
  87. I doubt that most readers need to see me write this in order to figure it out, but for anybody who doesn't realize it, I have no problem with being associated with Paul Manata. I was aware of the nature of his past before DingoDave made his original comments on the subject, and Dave's assessment of Paul's present character doesn't follow from what he posted about Paul's past. I think highly of everybody else on the Triablogue staff, Paul included.

    ReplyDelete
  88. “No actually, it's not. It's not an allusion at all. It's a known fact of history. Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis and Mithras all died and rose.”


    Really? Did they rise from the dead, eg, a physical,bodily resurrrection? Perhaps you should document that claim via a comparative analysis from the primary sources, Evan. You might also want to tell us how you know that Christianity borrowed from these sources,when the source material post-dates the biblical texts themselves, and under any dating scheme for the bibilical texts, no matter how early or late, orality exists before the writing of the texts.

    Oh,and one more thing,why would Jewish writers with Jewish people in their audiences think that their audiences would believe them,when Judaism had a strong antipathy for such material.

    Moreover,you might want to show us exactly which texts the biblical writers were using,preferably with direct quotes.

    Oh, and while you're at it, you need to make a choice. Liberal scholars sometimes say the Bible doesn't teach that Jesus resurrection was physical and bodily. Others say it does. So, which option are you adopting and why? Yes, there's a reason you might want to figure that out.

    As to Osiris qua Osiris, Osiris was "resurrected" as king of the underworld...not a physical,bodily resurrection. Are you stupid or just incompetent?

    http://tektonics.org/copycat/osy.html


    “Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma (Vedic)_Osiris, Isis, Horus (Egyptian)_Amun, Re, Ptah (Egyptian)_Anu, Enlil, Enki (Mesopotamian)_Tinia, Uni, Menerva (Etruscan)_Odin, Hoenur, Lodur (Norse)__That enough?”


    Really? The Trinity = 1 God, 3 persons, subistences. You're too ignorant of basic Christian theology to know this, apparently. I find myself agreeing with Lvka here. We may differ on many other things, but at least we both understand the Trinity.

    3 gods = polytheism at worst, a triad at best. A triad is not the Trinity, and as Steve has pointed out, you've just selected 3 gods out of each at random. You're not even close to establishing your case.

    Nope. I just know how to read.

    Here's the relevant passage from Matthew 26:26-8 in case you've never read it:

    "26And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.

    27And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;

    28For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. "


    No, you don't know how to read, or do you believe that when Jesus said he was the way, He meant He was a real road,or the door, a real door?

    Really? It's not? A god coming down to earth and making a woman pregnant is not analogous to a god coming down to earth and making a woman pregnant

    Jason and I have been over this before. You can read the relevant material in Steve's book, where we penned an appendix. In the Bible,the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary. God and Mary didn't have sex. In the myths to which you refer, a god has sex with his consort. Having sex means that it's not a virgin birth. If you can't figure out why, you may want to retake high school biology or talk to Mommy and Daddy about where babies come from.

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  89. "I fail to grasp the link between the part of my comment that You've cited and the "answer" (?) that You gave to it.

    And as far as "Bertrand Russell" (whoever the heck he might be) is concerned, he might've also made fun of Exodus by saying that the water turns into dry land when Jewish Prophets speak Jewish to it.

    In any case, the reason for his blasphemous mockery escapes me. (I actually believe in God and all that stuff; the whole shebang)."

    Bertrand Russell was (and for many, still is) the top atheist around. He was quite militantly anti-religion. However, he also wrote a very popular and useful book on the history of philosophy.

    Anyways, it just goes to show that a Roman Catholic interpretation doesn't escape scrutiny from unbelievers and it was naive to even suggest otherwise.

    And mocking transubstantiation isn't blasphemy, since transubstantiation itself is an idolotrous heresy.

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  90. Paul Manata wrote;

    -"I have no clue the chain of inference that goes into undermining Jason's credibility because I post here? I would think, at least, you owe him an apology."

    Why? I merely stated my honest opinion. I honestly believe you to be a deluded nutjob, with a very chequered past, who's presence on this blog undermines Jason's credibility in my own eyes. I wrote; "That just about says it all TO ME about Jason's credibility (or lack of it)."
    I'm not demanding that anyone else agree with my opinion. Obviously you don't agree with me, that's fine, it's a free country. Would you have me lie to Jason, and tell him that I think you are a truly wonderful human being, when I don't?

    -"I don't know, given the strength of your arguments and John Loftus's, I feel my faith crumbling. I think I may live just like the animal I am - they say the pig and chimp are fairly close to me; a difference in degree and not kind."

    You certainly got that right.

    -""The front of the chimpanzee was covered with 30 or 40 puncture wounds and lacerations, the ribs were sticking out of the rib cage because they had beaten on his chest so hard. They had ripped his trachea out, they had removed his testicles, they had torn of his toenails and fingernails. It was clear that some of the mails held him down while the others attacked."

    Sounds a lot like the kinds of things you used to do Paul. Are you having flashbacks? Deja vue perhaps?

    -"Given all this, it is sure strange to me why you, Dingo Dave, would complain about what I will surely do now that I have dropped the shackles of religious bondage. You're just a Puritan. Christians try to hinder our sex life with imposed rules and constraints and you threw those shackles off, it's only a matter of time before you allow yourself and others to remove the shackles of the rest of Christian "morality." Why deny our sexual instincts? And why our instincts of rage and power? If we want, we take. Just like Christians deny everyone else's "god" and we go one further and deny theirs, you deny some people's ethical rules, I just go one further and deny yours! The logic is simple. Sweet. Undeniable."

    The logic (if you can call it that) is bogus and absurd. We live in communities. If we wish our communities, and hence our families, to survive and prosper, then we must have rules.
    If we all went around betraying the trust of our family, friends and neighbors, then our societies would quickly crumble. This would be very bad for all concerned, hence most normal healthy people, respect societal boundries, and endeavour to live within them most of the time. Some choose not to, as you used to do, and therefore we have jails where we put these miscreants for our own protection. It's not rocket science Paul. I truly am glad that you have changed your ways, but I'm disappointed that the only reason you seem to have done so is because of the hope of a reward, and the threat of punishment if you didn't. Going by what you wrote in your last paragraph, it seems you might not have really changed all that much after all. It's just that now you fear a cosmic policeman, rather than a human one.

    -"Now, rather than deal with the above, I assume it will serve as your proof that I am a "psychological thug."

    Calvinists ARE psychological thugs, IMHO. But once again, that's just my opinion. I'm not going to send the 'Spanish Inquisition' after anyone who might disagree with me. And I'm certainly not going to threaten them with eternal torment.

    -"Have a good one, Dave."

    Thanks Paul, so far so good .You too.

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  91. Jason Engwer wrote:

    -"DingoDave, I'm familiar with Paul Manata's past. He's mentioned it in some form many times, in many places. I was referring to your lack of documentation in general, not just with regard to Paul's past. His past behavior doesn't prove your assertions about his present behavior and your assertions on other issues I've discussed in this thread."

    You're not still going on about that silly little rhyme I quoted are you Jason? For goodness sake, get over it, it was a joke.

    But I do find it deeply ironic that someone who accuses a skeptic of wishful thinking, would simultaneously claim to believe that "a donkey spoke, and people could fly, and a man named Jesus lives up in the sky", and then demand that the skeptic supply evidence as to why these things are unlikely to have ever really happened.
    I don't believe these things Jason, because I don't believe everything that I read in dusty old books.

    Doh! I've done it again!

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  92. DingoDave wrote:

    "You're not still going on about that silly little rhyme I quoted are you Jason? For goodness sake, get over it, it was a joke."

    You then go on to explain what argument you were trying to convey with that joke, so it wasn't "just a joke".

    You write:

    "But I do find it deeply ironic that someone who accuses a skeptic of wishful thinking, would simultaneously claim to believe that 'a donkey spoke, and people could fly, and a man named Jesus lives up in the sky', and then demand that the skeptic supply evidence as to why these things are unlikely to have ever really happened. I don't believe these things Jason, because I don't believe everything that I read in dusty old books."

    You've changed your argument by changing the initial joke. And you haven't explained where "people could fly" or "Jesus lives up in the sky" comes from. The comments I made earlier about Balaam's donkey are applicable to the other two parts of your joke. And I haven't suggested that you should believe "everything that you read in dusty old books". We have reasons to believe the Bible that we don't have for belief in other books. To dismiss Christian belief in the supernatural without addressing their arguments for the supernatural, as if belief in the supernatural is inherently wishful thinking, doesn't make sense.

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  93. Jason wrote:

    -"You've changed your argument by changing the initial joke. And you haven't explained where "people could fly" or "Jesus lives up in the sky" comes from."

    Mark.16
    [19]So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.

    Luke.24
    [51] While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.

    Acts.1
    [9] And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

    Matt.4
    [5] Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple,
    [8] Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them;

    Luke.4
    [5] And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time,
    [9] And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here;

    Heb.11
    [5] By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God.

    2Kgs.2
    [1] Now when the LORD was about to take Eli'jah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Eli'jah and Eli'sha were on their way from Gilgal.
    [11] And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Eli'jah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

    In the Bible, a case of teleportation can be found in Acts of the Apostles (8:38-40). The apostle Philip rode on the chariot of a eunuch. When they came upon a small body of water, the eunuch asked Philip to baptize him. Philip disappeared afterward and found himself in another place where he preached the good news.
    Here’s the Biblical account:
    "He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesaria."

    Mark.6
    [48] And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them,
    [49] but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out;

    Heb.10
    [12] But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
    [13] then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet.

    Acts.7
    [55] But he,[Stephan] full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God;
    [56] and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God."

    1Thes.4
    [17] then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.

    Mark.13
    [26] And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory.

    Matt.24
    [30] then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory;

    Luke.21
    [27] And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

    Mark.14
    [62] And Jesus said, "I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."

    Will these do?

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  94. Yet again, we have another skeptic who is more literal than the Bible.

    How do we get from Jesus ascending into the clouds to a general case of people being able to fly and Jesus "living in the sky?" What we're treated to, by Dimwit, I mean Dingo Dave, is a string of texts without explanation.

    1. Because Jesus ascended into the clouds and is said to be coming in the clouds is does not follow that "Jesus lives in the sky."

    Why? Those are stock biblical images drawn from OT eschatology. It might behoove Dave to pick up a commentary or two.

    2. What of the reference to Stephen or Christ on the mountain? Apparently, DD doesn't know what a vision is.

    3. He may also want to familarize himself with the concept of the mountaintop as sacred space. That's why it is connected to the idea of God's abode, visions, and temples. That's not only stock biblical imagery, it's stock ANE imagery as well. See Beale, The Temple and the Church's Mission.

    It might also behoove him to do some elementary homework on the idea of "heaven" from his own side of the aisle, or has he forgotten that it's skeptics who often invoke the notion of the 3 tiered cosmos in the Bible.

    So, on the one hand, he wants to hold us to a wooden literalism and on the other he ignores what his own side the aisle has produced. "Heaven" does not mean "sky" in each and every context, and even where Scripture connects them,it dos not therefore follow that they share the same referent. The sky would be the intersection at which Christ and His people would meet, as in the Second Coming. Why the sky? Well, that's a stock OT image. Eden is located at the foot of a mountain. So, when God and man interact in the Garden, God is depicted as coming from above, from the mountain, and, in absence of the mountain from the sky, which in turn is a spatial depiction of His authority...or does DD really believe the Bible teaches that Earth is a literal footstool?

    Teleportation in Acts? Hmmm, let's consult a commentary:

    The Lord "suddenly took" Philip from the scene. The verb harpozo connoes both a forceful and sudden action by the Spirit and a lack of resistance from Philip.

    The text does not say Philip was "teleported" ala Star Trek. Rather, it says that he was suddenly and w/o resistance directed elsewhere.

    And what's the problem with somebody walking on water? Oh, that's right, that's just DD's antisupernaturalism speaking, nothing more, nothing less.

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  95. DingoDave wrote:

    "Will these do?"

    No. You didn't even attempt to explain the relevance of most of the passages, and what you did explain fails to establish what you implied earlier. The alleged fact that "teleportation can be found in Acts of the Apostles", for example, doesn't suggest that "people can fly".

    The same principles I discussed with regard to Balaam's donkey are applicable here. Nothing in Acts or anywhere else in the Bible suggests that people have a natural ability to fly. Even if we were to accept your characterization of a passage like Acts 8 as involving "flying" (which is dubious, since that's not how the term is commonly used), you've given us no reason to believe that it couldn't occur. As I've explained to you repeatedly, and you keep failing to address it, to dismiss Christian belief in the supernatural without addressing their arguments for the supernatural, as if belief in the supernatural is inherently wishful thinking, doesn't make sense.

    Concerning your claim that "Jesus lives up in the sky", passages about the second coming are irrelevant, since they're addressing how He manifests Himself in His return to earth, not asserting that He "lives up in the sky". See the archives of this blog for more about Biblical cosmology. For example:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/07/triple-decker-universe.html

    People today still use the same sort of directional language ("up to Heaven", "down to Hell") without intending to imply what you seem to be reading into these passages. We refer to sinking "down" to somebody's level, going "up" or "down" to somebody's house, even if we don't think the location is physically up or down, etc. Being above something is often associated with superiority. A king sits on a throne on an elevated platform. The gold medal winner in the Olympics stands above the silver and bronze medal winners. Etc. If Jesus is going to leave the earth, going up is fitting imagery. According to you, He shouldn't just disappear, then reappear somewhere else. That would be "flying" and "teleportation", which you apparently think can't be done.

    The inability of the physical heavens to contain God was acknowledged from Old Testament times (1 Kings 8:27, 2 Chronicles 2:6, etc.). The same Luke who refers to Jesus' being taken up into Heaven to be with the Father also realizes that God can't be contained in the physical heavens (Acts 7:48-50). God is often portrayed as using the universe as a footstool, as if He's outside of it.

    Even if the Bible did refer to Jesus as "living in the sky", how would you know that He would have to be in some part of the physical heavens that we've observed? You're making a lot of assumptions that you can't justify.

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  96. Dingo Dave,

    "Why? I merely stated my honest opinion. I honestly believe you to be a deluded nutjob, with a very chequered past, who's presence on this blog undermines Jason's credibility in my own eyes."

    Right, and I've asked for the reason that my participation could undermine Jason's credibility in your eyes. It seems like a fallacious inference. Just because you call it "your opinion" doesn't mean you should believe it once shown the fallacious nature of the inference. But, perhaps you don't care if you believe things for no good reason; indeed, for bad reasons. Credibility should be assigned by the statements and the arguments one gives. It is beyond me how one's "credibility" is undermined by my pathetic character. Let's say that the smartest man in the world posted here. He was always right about historical, arhceological, logical, philosophical, scientific, etc., type claims. Would his "credibility" be undermined by the mere fact that he posts here?

    How could my presence here undermine his "credibility?" That just seems odd, opinion or not. Is your credibility undermined because we are both posting here? No? Then perhaps you think that by virtue of an accidental fact -- we both are members of the same blog -- that is what undermines his credibility. Why does his being a team member undermine his cred and your posting here, engaged in dialog with me, doesn't yours? Perhaps you have this premise in mind:

    [1] If you are on the same team as disreputable person, then your credibility is undermined.

    Okay, let's apply [1] to various instances in life:

    Are all the Yankees's credibility undermined due to steroid abusing and lying Clemens?

    Was the U.S. Army not credible because of Arnold? Washington had no cred?

    Is every singly member of the U.S. military not credible because of the actions of some over in Iraq?

    Is every member of a faculty not credible due to one teacher being accused of molestation?

    If you do not agree with these examples, then it appears that [1] is false for you. So, it is unclear what reasoning you have going on? You just just apologize to Jason and save yourself the embarrassment.

    "Would you have me lie to Jason, and tell him that I think you are a truly wonderful human being, when I don't?"

    The nature of the discussion isn't over my sinful nature (which I'm glad you affirm the Bible in this regard), it is over how you get from that to an objective statement regarding someone's "credibility" (see above).

    "Sounds a lot like the kinds of things you used to do Paul. Are you having flashbacks? Deja vue perhaps?"

    That's a logically irrelevant response to my claim.

    "The logic (if you can call it that) is bogus and absurd."

    Though you demonstrate no errors in reasoning, name any fallacies, I'm still willing to humor you. Let's see your counter:

    "If we wish our communities, and hence our families, to survive and prosper, then we must have rules."

    "Rules" don't equal "morals." I was speaking fo the latter. I specifically stated that I have no clue how you can offer an ethical condemnation.

    "If we all went around betraying the trust of our family, friends and neighbors, then our societies would quickly crumble."

    Well, (a) this is false if you've watched the news anytime this decade, (b) all one needs is that others don't do that. I may make arguments that people shoudl follow rules and myself brake them, (c) I could simply do violence on non-friends and family, (d) that it is the case (allegedly) that society would crumble has no bearing on what oght to be the case, and (e) we were talking about me, and since I did those things years ago, and society is still here, then society has not "crumbled."

    "Some choose not to, as you used to do, and therefore we have jails where we put these miscreants for our own protection."

    Right, and so I should try to not get caught.

    The real issue is whether any of this is immoral. The animals I cited still exist. Their societies do not "crumble." What they do isn;t "wrong," and since there is no qualitative difference between us, it's hard to see how you could treat us so different based on degree, are you a speciestist?

    "It's not rocket science Paul."

    Okay, good, then you shouldn't have any problems showing why you have an ethical complaint against what I did. I was stong enough to, I got away with it, I'm just living in tune with mamy nature, what's the problem?

    "I truly am glad that you have changed your ways, but I'm disappointed that the only reason you seem to have done so is because of the hope of a reward, and the threat of punishment if you didn't."

    I didn't. This is just your unargued opinion. I guess opinion is all you have, though.

    " Going by what you wrote in your last paragraph, it seems you might not have really changed all that much after all. It's just that now you fear a cosmic policeman, rather than a human one."

    In the last paragraph I just applied the statements from various atheists. Read Smith. Read Mackie.

    So, you admit that you can't give anyone a moral justification to not rape and kill.

    You also contradict yourself because the only reason you gave for me to not engage in acts of violence is out of societal reward or punishment. Why is that a problem when a theist does it but not an atheist?

    "Calvinists ARE psychological thugs, IMHO. But once again, that's just my opinion."

    Right, your opinion. Just like your opinion that people should "behave." You're such a Puritan, Dave. Such a Calvinist. Don't try to shackle me with "morals." You deny other peoples morals, I deny yours. They tewll you that to approve of divorce, abortion, and pre-marital sex will destroy society, but you have no problem throwing off their constraints, so I go one step further and throw off yours.

    Anyway, I'd appreciate a naturalistic account of how it is wrong, that there is some mind-independant fact about the matter that makes it "wrong"/immoral, to rape children.

    All that matters is survival value. Evolution could have, or still could, produce beings who killed an infant every year so satisfy "blood lust" and avoid massive killings. This, then, would be "moral," and you must agree.

    And how is it even intelligible? Are there "trasitional forms" of morals? Do our moral beliefs cause us to do things? How can "beliefs" cause anything given materialism? Are moral beliefs simply epiphenomena? Does every single one of our moral beliefs have survival value? What does it mean to say that "homosexualism is not immoral?" That is doesn't affect survival? But, according to your argument, if everyone because a homosexual we would die off. What of 90% of the population evolved to such a point that they wanted to rape people so they kept the 10% around and raped them. Would this be immoral? Why? So long as it was the means by which the avoided raping eachother, it's hard to see how it would be immoral given the survival value it would have.

    Have a good one, Dave.

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  97. Hi Jason, You wrote: "one donkey was made to speak, an act that's portrayed as unusual by the Biblical documents."

    ED: I'd guess that a "talking donkey" would be viewed as "unusual" no matter what the document. *smile* Same goes for a talking snake, "the wisest beast of the earth that the Lord had made."

    JASON also wrote: "Jon left without addressing any of our arguments."

    ED: Attempts to harmonize away any and all difficulties in the Bible (difficulties that you can't help noticing since they remain in the face-value reading of the text itself), are not "arguments" in the usual sense of the word. They are a form of explanation that relies on varying degrees of probability and unknowns, with no harmonization itself being inerrant.

    In short, you can never prove any text itself is inerrant via inventning harmonizations/explanations, and so face value questions will always remain.

    Seek out some non-inerrantist Christians for more comment. There's moderate Christian non-inerrantists among Evangelicals, Baptists, Catholics, etc.

    In the Evangelical world there's also the Peter Enns controversy, who compares the human flaws in Scripture to the humanity of Christ, in his controversial book, Inspiration and Incarnation, and Enns's recent suspension at the inerrantist Westminster Seminary (though I seem to recall that a large portion of the faculty voted not to suspend him). Google: "Peter Enns" to see his blog and writings.

    Also Dr. Robert M. Price is coming out with a republication of the long version of a paper he wrote in grad school and that was published in edited format in an Evangelical theological publication. The book is titled, INERRANT THE WIND: THE TROUBLED HOUSE OF NORTH AMERICAN EVANGELICALS.

    There's also a lot of non-inerrantist moderate Evangelicals whose blogs are listed in each months BIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL, and also listed at popular theological websites like NEW TESTAMENT GATEWAY, and also at CHRISENDOM.

    I think understanding why those Christian scholars are non-inerrantists is the first step toward bridging gaps in mutual understanding between Debunking Christianity and Triabloguers.

    Ed

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