Monday, December 03, 2018

Mutually Exclusive Skeptical Claims About Christmas

On the one hand, critics often claim that something like the virgin birth or the Bethlehem birthplace is found in too few early sources. On the other hand, critics often claim that the New Testament documents should be attributed to a much larger number of authors than traditionally thought, even to the point of breaking up a single document into a lot of pieces allegedly originating with various individuals, schools, communities, etc.

But skeptics can't have it both ways. Breaking up Matthew's material on the virgin birth into multiple sources, for example, results in more sources supporting the virgin birth. As Charles Quarles notes:

"That allusion or affirmation of the virginal conception appears in multiple pre-Matthew sources should make one pause before dismissing it too lightly." (in Robert Stewart and Gary Habermas, edd., Memories Of Jesus [Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2010], approximate Kindle location 4168)

Similarly, if the gospels are going to be attributed to community authorship, multiple editions of the gospels are going to be proposed and attributed to different authors, Paul's letters are going to be attributed to several sources, etc., then the number of early sources affirming a traditional Christian view of Jesus' childhood is substantially increased. And see here for documentation that traditional claims about Jesus' childhood are much more prevalent outside the infancy narratives than people often suggest. If we attribute the documents to as large a number of sources as skeptics often suggest we should, then the skeptical objection that too few early sources affirmed the claims in question is weakened accordingly.

1 comment:

  1. That’s an excellent point, Jason. In all the years I’ve read Jesus mythers I’ve also seen that they love to use source criticism to give their stuff a scholarly veneer while ignoring that it effectively doubles or in some cases triples the sources we’d have for Jesus’ life.