Saturday, February 12, 2011

The scholarship of village atheism

  • Jason, we posted at the same time. [I just saw Nick's typical non-response though--the problem is that he thinks it's a response at all!!!].

    Tell ya what. I can grant that Yahweh exists and that he does miracles and this still does very little if anything to lead us living in today's world to think Yahweh raised Jesus from the dead.

    Care to know why?

    Because a completely overwhelming number of Jews in Jesus' day did not think Yahweh did this miracle in this particular case. If they were there, and if they knew their Scriptures and if they believed in Yahweh and if they believed in miracles, but they rejected the resurrection of Jesus THEN WHY SHOULD I? WHY SHOULD WE?

    Philo of Alexandria wrote an account of the Jews from Jesus' birth until long after he died. He was living in Jerusalem during the whole time Jesus lived, from his birth to long after his death. he was there when it was said the graves of the tombs opened and the saints walked out. He was there when it says the sky turned black and the temple curtain was torn, and when it says there was an earthquake. he might be considered the investigative reporter of his day on location. He interviewed people who should have known something about the ministry of Jesus especially if he threw the money changers out of the temple.

    But Philo reported nothing about Jesus nor his disciples, nor his miracles, nor anything else about Christians at all. Although he wrote a history covering the time of Jesus in Palestine we're told he does not mention anything about Jesus.

    If there was any proof beyond the NT itself that the Jews overwhelmingly rejected Jesus, then Philo's silence proves it.
  • John: I didn't know Philo lived in Jerusalem. Checking Wikipedia, I see they didn't know that, either: they say he only visited the temple in Jerusalem once in his life.

    Let's see . . . in The Works of Philo, index, there are 11 references under "Jews of Alexandria," and only 2 under "Jews of Palestine and the neighboring countries." There are 3 references listed to Alexandria, and only one (a very abstract and spiritualized, nothing slightly geographical about it) reference to Jerusalem.

    Where did you obtain these biographical details? Did Morton Smith find an old rental agreement that shows Philo was in Jerusalem from 5BC to 39 AD (then went back to Alexandria, just in time to represent that city in a delegation to the emperor!)?
  • I got the information from Dan Barker's "Godless" book, who quotes from John E. Remsburg's 1909 book "The Christ: A Critical Review and Analysis of the Evidences of His Existence."

    Next time I should double check my sources.


  1. There are so many problems with Loftus' reasoning.

    Ancient Jews had a lot of potential reasons for rejecting the resurrection. For example, Jesus wasn't the sort of Messiah they wanted, acknowledging the resurrection would seem inconsistent with their earlier assessment of Him, and in many ways living as a Christian would have been more difficult than living as a Jew in their context.

    The early Jewish opponents of Christianity argued that Jesus performed miracles by the power of Satan, and they acknowledged that His tomb was empty. If they had acknowledged the resurrection as well, then Loftus could disagree with them on that issue also, just as skeptics commonly disagree with them about the pre-resurrection miracles and the empty tomb. I suspect that Loftus would reject the resurrection either way.

    Loftus mentions miracles other than the resurrection and suggests that non-Christian Jews should have mentioned those if they did happen. How does he know that they didn't have such events in mind when they said that Jesus was a sorcerer, empowered by Satan, etc.? If they make reference to Jesus' miracles in general, but don't specify the ones Loftus mentions either way (by affirming or denying them), how does Loftus' conclusion follow?

    And the silence of Philo doesn't have much significance. He was also silent about other Jewish movements and figures around the same time, like Gamaliel and John the Baptist. If Philo was silent about the early Christians in general, even figures as prominent as the apostle Paul, then why expect him to discuss Jesus or the resurrection in particular? Ancient authors, like modern ones, are selective and often wait until long after a person, movement, or event has passed before commenting on the subject. Often, people are unsure what to make of something initially. They may remain silent as a result. Or they could be silent for other reasons. Craig Keener notes:

    “Without immediate political repercussions, it is not surprising that the earliest Jesus movement does not spring quickly into the purview of Rome’s historians; even Herod the Great finds little space in Dio Cassius (49.22.6; 54.9.3). Josephus happily compares Herodotus’s neglect of Judea (Apion 1.60-65) with his neglect of Rome (Apion 1.66).” (A Commentary On The Gospel Of Matthew [Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999], n. 205 on p. 64)

    The apostle Paul was a contemporary of Philo and lived in Israel. From Paul's writings, we know that many non-Christian Jews were aware of Christianity and were highly active in responding to the religion. Paul himself had been a leader in that effort, and after his conversion he suffered at the hands of other Jews who persecuted him in many ways, in many locations, and over a lengthy span of time. To ignore the Jewish response to Christianity reflected in Paul and other early sources, while focusing on Philo's silence, is unreasonable. We have to make the best sense of all of the evidence collectively, and Philo's silence isn't as weighty as the direct, explicit, and widespread data we have from Paul and other sources.

    Regarding John Remsberg, see here.

  2. Hey Jason. Thanks for linking to Tektonics.

    Note also what would be added from there. Jesus was under God's curse by being hung on a tree. Why would God resurrect someone who was under his curse?

  3. It is also noteworthy that the Old Testament prophecies seem to imply Jesus rejection (Isaiah 53, Zech 12:10, etc).

  4. Nick, the better question is "Why would God curse His Son who was without sin?"

    You see the conundrum in the resurrection, but it's really in the fact Jesus took on the sins of man...the Just took the place of the unjust...this is the mystery. the resurrection is His vindication.

  5. Correct Craig. From a theological perspective, we can wonder that.

    From a social perspective however, a Jew would not see someone who was put under God's curse as even a candidate for resurrection, save at the end of time for judgment.

  6. It would be good to track down the source for this "Philo lived in Jerusalem" claim. I remeber that Victor Stenger made a similar argument in the "Unbelievable?" radio program, though he failed to remember the name of this "Jewish historian who lived in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus". Probably this comes from some atheist book or article that others are just repeating.

  7. Atheists are blindly repeating statements from other atheists? Surely not!