Can We Rescue Liam from his Cult (Christianity)?

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If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that a Christian named “Liam” frequently comments on my posts.  Typically, he only leaves an initial comment and never engages in discussion after that initial comment.  It is as if Liam wants to make sure that every one of my assertions against his belief system is refuted by at least one pro-Christian comment.  That is perfectly fine with me.  I welcome opposing opinions.

But as fellow skeptic, Nan, has recently noted, Liam brushes off any and all evidence against his cherished faith, no matter how convincing the evidence.  I replied to Nan’s statement under the previous post with this comment:

As long as Liam senses a Presence within him, no amount of contrary evidence is going to change his mind. Since (to Liam) the Presence is real, the alleged discrepancies in the Bible cannot be real.

The real question is: How do we get Liam to see that his perception that an invisible, supernatural being lives inside his body is not real? What evidence can we provide him to do that? If we challenge him to demand that the Presence perform a magic trick (miracle) right now, at this very moment, (such as levitating a coffee table), Liam will tell us that the Presence does not like to be tested.

Only if Liam is confronted with a situation where the Presence does not perform as Liam believes it should will Liam begin to question the reality of the Presence. Liam is too heavily indoctrinated for us to expect evidence to change his mind. We must concentrate our efforts on those who are not so deeply under the influence and control of their cult.

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70 thoughts on “Can We Rescue Liam from his Cult (Christianity)?

  1. Hi all – yes, sorry about the initial comment and not engaging – I have tried asking for notifications on new comments via email, but only get the new posts and then life happens. Trying again.
    Interesting – at no point in time in any of my comments have I asserted that it is a “feeling” of a “presence” that keeps me believing that Jesus rose from the dead.

    So I find it interesting that this supposed “feeling” is what being used to dismiss my assertions that history isn’t being done when you start spouting off “contradictions” in the Gospels as reasons not to trust them as historically reliable.

    Is this how you lost your faith Gary? Did you put all your “stock” in your feelings and when they went away you were left with no choice but to find “reasons” for not believing?
    If anything that might explain your inability to rationally assess the evidence, or to engage with any of the points made.

    And hey, feel free to use pejorative language and phrasing to distort what it is I believe. I receive no pressure whatsoever from any leader to remain committed to the faith. I am however committed to rational assessment of the evidence, and remain convinced of the historicity of the resurrection based on facts – facts that you seem only able to dismiss, and not engage with.

    So as for your “proof” that the accounts in the Gospels are fabrications, this is just emotive hokum from somebody with little to no grasp of how to do ancient history. Bart Erhman also refuses to do history and veers off into pseudo something or other, but his assertions that “contradictions” mean fabrication is the line that you continue to take.

    Let’s see what historians tell us about the sources of other ancient persons and events.

    “The sources [for Genghis Khan] contain contradictory statements, their individual biases springing from the subjective attitude of the authors towards the world conqueror, the aim of the work and the dependent relationship of each author on those for whom the work was written.” Preface, pg xiii

    “The history of Genghis Khan’s life thus contains many unresolved questions.” pg xvi

    From ‘Genghis Khan His Life and Legacy’ by Paul Ratchnevsky. Ratchnevsky was Emeritus Professor of Sinology at Humboldt University, Berlin.

    “Principle sources for Genghis Khan are the ‘Secret History of the Mongols’, a court history by an unknown author, the ‘History of the World Conqueror’ by the Persian historian Ata-Malik Juvaini (written in the 1250’s), and two other key Persian works: Rashid al-din’s Compendium of Chronicles (completed in 1307) and the Tabaqat-i Nasiri by Minhaj al-Din Jazjoni (completed 1260).” pg xxv-xxvi

    From ‘Genghis Khan – His Conquests, His Empire, his Legacy by Frank McLynn. British author, biographer, historian, journalist. He was Alistair Horne Research Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford (1987–88) and was visiting professor in the Department of Literature at the University of Strathclyde (1996–2001) and professorial fellow at Goldsmiths College London (2000–2002) before becoming a full-time writer.

    He points out that Rashid Al-din is often preferred.

    Notice that the works are all comparative to the dating of Paul’s letters and the Gospels. In fact the preferred source is the one completed 80 years after Genghis Khan’s death (he died 18 August 1227). So there’s no issue if the author of a source never met the person about whom they are writing. They also don’t dismiss the Secret History of the Mongols just because they don’t know who wrote it.
    The sources aren’t dismissed because of the biases of the authors either.
    And of course notice Ratchnevsky’s assessment of the source’s contradictions and biases. None of these are reasons to now assert that they are fabrications.

    ” Caesar in particular wrote to celebrate his deeds and win support for his continuing career. Neither he nor the other [historians/sources] were dispassionate observers keen only to report unvarnished fact.”
    “[A] good deal of our evidence for Caesar was not written until the early second century AD, over one hundred and fifty years after the dictator’s murder.”
    “There are notable gaps in our evidence.”
    “Each author had his own biases, interests or viewpoint, and made use of sources that were in turn prejudiced and often open propaganda.”
    “[A]ncient historians often had to make the best of limited and possibly unreliable sources, as well as balancing apparently contradictory accounts.”
    From Caesar: Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy, pages 5 -7. Goldsworthy studied ancient and modern history at St John’s College, Oxford,and completed a D.Phil in ancient military history from Oxford University.

    Andrew M Riggsby gives an example of a “prima facie contradiction” in Caesar’s own writing and immediately points out that it might be “hyperbole for political or literary reasons.” page 9 of his Caesar in Gaul and Rome: War in Words.
    He also deals with interpolations in the surviving sources on page 11. Riggsby is a Ph.D., UC Berkeley
    He is Lucy Shoe Meritt Professor and Graduate Adviser in Classics and Professor of Art History.

    You should notice that many reasons given for why we the New Testament, and especially the Gospels, cannot be trusted as historical are also found in the sources for other historical events and persons. So it’s special pleading to think that the Gospels and New Testament aren’t reliable history on the basis of these “reasons”. If anything we have 9 authors confirming the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection, but for some reason that doesn’t count because they were collected into what we call the New Testament today. Surely you can see how silly that line of reasoning is?
    Hang, the more skeptical you are about the authorship of the NT documents, the more authors you have affirming the events.

    So no Gary, you haven’t by even a long-shot provided any evidence that that the Gospels are fabrications, unless you will be consistent and declare our primary sources for Julius Caesar and Genghis Khan to be fabrications too. If you’re not going to be consistent, then you’re special pleading.

    The other fact that gets dismissed by Carrier, Erhman et al is the genre of the Gospels. The fact is they fall in the spectrum of ancient biographies and historical writings, not novels, myths or legends. Give the first 3 or 4 lectures a spin to hear about that:

    They’re all free!

    I think that you can make a good case for traditional authorship – you wrote a critical response to my article giving just that. I might have to write a follow up which says that the traditions associated with the Gospels are what we can be pretty certain of, which is what Bauckham actually says and affirms when he tells us that the authors are anonymous. I think the main point of traditional identification stands, though.

    But as we have seen in the sources for Genghis Khan, anonymity is no reason to distrust an historical source.

    I looked at other comparisons to ancient historians in this article – you might give it a read:

    So tell me again how I am “dismissing convincing evidence” against my faith? How I am positing a “feeling” as the bedrock for my beliefs?

    Mainly I try to do good history. If you follow the evidence for Jesus as you would the evidence for other figures of ancient history, I think it’s very clear that He did in fact raise bodily from the dead. Hence my belief. I mean “Genghis Khan conquered more than twice as much as any other man in history” (Jack Weatherford, 2004 pg xviii) and Julius Caesar was a colossal figure in ancient history. Never mind other famous ancient persons such as Hannibal of Carthage who have far less evidence for their deeds or existence, but none of them are doubted as verifiable historical persons who did the works ascribed to them.


    1. In a previous post (here), I demonstrated that other Jewish rabbis in history have earned a reputation as miracle workers and exorcists.

      One particular rabbi, “the Bescht”, lived just a few hundred years ago, and hundreds of thousands of Jews believed the MANY sources who claimed that he healed the sick and raised the dead. There is MUCH more evidence for this rabbi’s miracles than your rabbi’s (Jesus) miracles. Yet, how many Christians believe that “the Bescht” performed these extraordinary feats? I will bet, very few! Why?

      Answer: The overwhelming majority of Christians only believe in supernatural events (miracles) if these events are part of THEIR religion. They reject such claims in other belief systems as silly.


      1. Who of these guys is attested to being physically raised from the dead after taking the sins of the whole world upon themselves?
        None of them?

        Ok then, even if they did, in fact, do miraculous works, they’re not the Saviour of anyone.

        And Jesus is the fullest and final revelation of God – see Hebrew 1:1-3. So no one else is coming that will accomplish what He did.

        Many Christians to believe that false signs and wonders do in fact occur, and will occur. Again, you should know this as a former Christian.


    2. @ Liam
      Do you consider the primary reason for believing the claim that the character Jesus the Nazarene rose from the dead is to convince you that you are a sinner and require saving?


      1. Liam is a one-comment-and-run kind of guy, Ark. I doubt he will be back until the next post. I would be curious what your answer would have been if Liam had said “yes” to your question. Care to share?


        1. Well, I would likely have asked him about Original Sin first off, then ask him to explain how being ”washed in blood” expiates all his naughtiness.

          Then we would take it from there …


  2. And thanks – I’ve been meaning to put those thoughts in order, and this provided a great opportunity to do just that. Blessings!


  3. Once again, Liam, you are missing the point.

    I never said that we cannot use the Gospels to establish ANY historical facts. I think we can. For instance, I think we can establish as probable historical fact (all claims about alleged events in Antiquity are based on probability) that Jesus existed, that he was an apocalyptic preacher, that he got on the wrong side of the Jewish authorities, and that he was crucified by the Romans. Most if not all of our sources for this information are Christian (the Gospels and the non-canonical Gospels). Does that stop me from accepting that these texts provide good evidence for the above mentioned (probable) historical facts about Jesus?

    No. So your claim that I have a bias against the Gospels is FALSE.

    However, you go on to claim that nine authors mention the resurrection so therefore the resurrection is a well attested event and should be accepted as historical fact just as any claim regarding Genghis Khan and Julius Caesar. This is just silly.

    We have no confirmed evidence of even ONE eyewitness account of this alleged event (the Resurrection). Conservative Christians may believe in the traditional authorship of the Gospels but the majority of experts do not. Therefore, all we have is hearsay from at most, two independent sources, Mark and John, and since John was written many decades after Mark it is possible that John borrowed Mark’s basic Resurrection Story, adding his own embellishments. Therefore it is possible that the Resurrection Story originally had ONE source, the author of Mark. In addition, the four resurrection accounts are VERY different, with the location of the alleged appearances being in completely different regions of the ancient Middle East! This “evidence” pales in comparison to the historical accounts of the great acts of Caesar (I have not studied Genghis Kahn to comment), such as crossing the Rubicon, in which we have multiple sources alleging that this event occurred.

    Where are the reports by the Romans, the Jews, the nearby Egyptians, or the Persians (outside Roman control) of the man who performed more miracles than Moses himself???

    Answer: They are nowhere to be found!

    It is a tall tale, Liam. Your intense personal perceptions and feelings will not let you see that. Come out of the darkness of superstition and into the light of reason and science! Like all other persons caught up in a cult, you cannot recognize that you are in a cult until you leave it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Liam,

    I’m afraid I haven’t read Gary’s other posts yet, as I’ve been away from blogging for a little while.

    Anyway, you’re obviously familiar with many of the experts in textual criticism of the NT, so I’m a little surprised at your allusions to Genghis Khan and Julius Caesar. Like Gary, I have no trouble accepting a historical Jesus, just as I am willing to accept the likely existence of people like GK and JC. But shouldn’t accounts of the supernatural be met with some initial skepticism?


    1. Gary, the whole “Jesus should have been mentioned by more ancient writers” is vacuous. Let me see if I can illustrate.

      Your reasoning runs like this:

      I have with me some books. Civilization by Roger Osborne, Ghosts of Empire by Kwasi Kwarteng, Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything and Christ the First 2000 years by M and E Whittock. I also have read the historical accounts of Anthony Keidis (Scar Tissue), Nancy Cartwright (My Life as a 10-year-old boy), James McBride (The Color of Water). Also: A Brief History of Progress by Ronald Wright and The Accidental American by James Naughty.
      I’m also busy reading Aspects of World History since 1945, published in 1966. Interesting the assessment of the Cold War in the mid 60’s.

      None of these books mention Nelson Mandela. All of these books were written while Mandela was supposed to be alive, except Christ the first 2000 Years. Surely they would have mentioned, at least in passing, the global impact that man was supposed to have had?

      Especially strange is that Kwasi Kwarteng didn’t mention him since Kwarteng has Ghanian parents. Surely someone so closely associated with Africa would mention the most famous African of the last century?

      And Roger Osborne mentions Mother Teresa, another saint-like figure. Surely he would mention Mandela!

      How is this omission possible? It must mean that the fairy-tale-like story of a man opposing an unjust political system and being locked up in prison for 27 years and then to come and be the 1st democratically elected president of the nation that 3 decades earlier locked him up must be a fabrication. It just seems too much like Hollywood to be true.

      Never mind that none of these books, all with a historical focus don’t make any mention of the supposed current president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma. Or the political upstart that apparently caught the attention of South Africa and even the world because of his supposed treatment of a British journalist, and current leader of the EFF: Julius Malema.

      By your reasoning, we should be so septical as to dismiss any accounts of what these men have supposedly done, since in 100% of the books I have surveyed, all by reputable writers on the subjects they are tackling, no mention is made about Mandela. Their silence calls into question everything we know about Mandela, especially the more crazy stuff, like a man in his late 70’s becoming a president after almost 30 years in prison.

      That is how vacuous the assertion that Jesus “should” or “would” have been mentioned by more ancient writers is when assessed.

      Never mind the fact that we have less than 5% of all the literary material from the ancient world. When I consider that fact, I think it very likely that Jesus was mentioned more than he was in what survives.

      Tim O’Neill, an atheist with a post-graduate degree in Ancient history, addresses that assertion in his review of Nailed. Now, he’s tackling the issue of a Christ-myther assertion, but I think his comments and approach are applicable to the general idea.

      What did you think of the man who claimed to have come back from the dead in South Africa a few years ago?
      Oh, you didn’t know about it? Even with youtube and cell phones and 24-hour news you still weren’t aware of this?
      How much slower did news circulate in the ancient world?

      Like I have said, the belief that Jesus rose from the dead is arrived at when taking all the information into account while denying it has to be very specific about what information is considered and what is not.

      Nate – yes, be skeptical, but simply remaining skeptical doesn’t take anyone anywhere. This doesn’t mean that for every or even many assertions of the supernatural end up being validated. It means that I can’t just sit in skeptisism.

      Arkenaten – no.


      1. @Liam
        Ah yes… as a South African I remember this story. Nigerian Pastor …. ’nuff said I reckon.
        ( Ranks on a par with Nigerian Prince asking you to help him with his fortune.)

        So what, in your view, was the primary reason for JC being crucified and resurrected?


  5. Oh, did I mention that none of these books mention Barak Obama either? Hmmm. Guess his fairy-tale win in 2008 is also just fabricated.


    1. Noone would expect much, if any, info on a smelly little shit who got himself executed for sedition.
      And this is pretty much what history of the bloke there is.

      However, one would expect a word or two about a god-man who spent three years running around Palestine and Jerusalem healing all and sundry, attracting huge crowds, having developed a sure-fire winner for instant viticulture, solved the problem of the surface tension of water, organised the weather,and numerous other super dynamic amazing exploits.
      Not least from those 500 witnesses that saw him walking about.
      If Jesus the god man was so hot then why did Eusebius (likely candidate) feel the necessity to forge the bulk( if not all) of the TF?

      Nah, Liam, the god you salivate over is just a case of make believe.


      1. ah, the same way you would expect a word or two about global-icon Mandela in a modern survey of world history? hmmm. Or at least Barak Obama, c’mon!

        Hey, Obama was only a senator when these books were published, except for the church history book. But surely he gets a mention as the most powerful man in the world? Guess not.

        You got the story wrong. no nigerian pastor involved. even as a South African you don’t know which story we’re talking about. guess you didn’t pay it much attention.
        how many people abroad even know about the ZCC? it has one of the largest annual gatherings in the world – literally a million people attend their Easter gathering each year, but I doubt that Gary has paid it much attention. I doubt many Europeans or Americans even know about it. If a million people attending a religious gathering doesn’t make a lot of news beyond SA in the modern world with all our tech, why would news about a miracle-worker who only preached to a maximum of about half a rugby stadium be of much interest to non-Jewish or non-christian writers in the first century?

        the reasoning is anachronistic – but even I can demonstrate that modern surveys of world history don’t mention some of the most prominent and important persons in history. And how many people thought Jesus was important, even after coming back from the dead?

        You really should read – this atheist historian cites surveys of what most scholars believe about the Testimonium. I’ll quote it here for you:

        “Then you need to read the surveys of the literature, because that’s precisely what they show. Louis H. Feldman’s Josephus and Modern Scholarship (1984) surveys scholarship on the question from 1937 to 1980 and finds of 52 scholars on the subject, 39 considered the TF to be partially authentic.

        Peter Kirby has done a survey of the literature since and found that this trend has increased in recent years. He concludes “In my own reading of thirteen books since 1980 that touch upon the passage, ten out of thirteen argue the Testimonium to be partly genuine, while the other three maintain it to be entirely spurious. Coincidentally, the same three books also argue that Jesus did not exist.” That speaks volumes.”


        1. You got the story wrong. no Nigerian pastor involved. even as a South African you don’t know which story we’re talking about. guess you didn’t pay it much attention.

          I generally don’t follow the news but I came across this one a short while back and simply smiled,
          Please enlighten me, Liam

          Neither Mandela or Obama have ever performed miracles or claimed to have come back from the dead. Therefore the comparison is silly.

          I am aware that there is considered a core to the TF.
          So what? It merely identifies an itinerant rabbi. Period.
          No god man required.
          And this is all we ”know” and I use the term know very loosely.


          1. Hey, you’re the guys insisting that Jesus was famous enough to have been mentioned by other writers. I’m showing how even the most famous people aren’t mentioned by contemporary writers even in surveys of world history or accounts of the lives of famous people. You can dismiss that as “silly” but it’s very pertinent.

            What’s silly is the “argument” (and I use that term loosely) that more “should” have survived that was written about Jesus if Nazareth.

            The core of the TF validates the Biblical accounts – Jesus was believed to be alive after being crucified by Roman authorities at the instigation/involvement with Jewish leaders.


            1. Hey, you’re the guys insisting that Jesus was famous enough to have been mentioned by other writers. I’m showing how even the most famous people aren’t mentioned by contemporary writers even in surveys of world history or accounts of the lives of famous people. You can dismiss that as “silly” but it’s very pertinent.

              Except that you are claiming he is the creator of the universe.

              Furthermore, those who are said to have rejected the supposed claim to messiahship make no mention of his godliness.
              Also, modern scholars have been able to show that almost every verse of Mark has been sourced from the Old Testament and simply added a new spin.
              You are aware of this I’m sure.

              Come on, Liam, you know it’s all make believe, really, don’t you?

              The core of the TF validates the Biblical accounts – Jesus was believed to be alive after being crucified by Roman authorities at the instigation/involvement with Jewish leaders.

              Whatever it is that you have been prescribed by your GP I strongly suggest you stop taking it.


      2. And also – Jesus didn’t heal all and sundry, as Matthew 13 and Mark 6 tell us. most people didn’t believe Him to be more than a man, the Gospels are clear about this, and the writings of Paul. We have stories of people not following Jesus (think the rich young ruler). He didn’t resurrect all the dead He came across either.

        If the very texts that elevate this man to divinity tell us that not everyone believed or followed, why would non-christian, non-jewish writers focusing on the “rich and famous” who had probably never heard of Jesus of Nazareth be writing about Him?
        Even Acts shows that there were only 120 people in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. Where were the multitudes that Luke wrote about in his Gospel?

        Richard Bauckham describes how almost unique the Gospels are in writing about the poor – this isn’t the kind of history that ancient historians concerned themselves with:

        So, taking Tim O’Neill’s arguments about who would most likely be writing about Jesus in the first century, and the facts a surrounding ancient history in general, this isn’t surprising at all.

        Think about the absolute dearth of anything written about Hannibal of Carthage. He was a massive figure in the ancient history, but so little is written about him that some have even mounted a tongue-in-cheek argument that Hannibal is a later fabrication:


        1. Even Acts shows that there were only 120 people in the upper room on the day of Pentecost.

          Well, that confirms your indoctrination if you are now referencing Acts, and if you don’t know why then nothing you write is worth squat.

          If the very texts that elevate this man to divinity tell us that not everyone believed or followed, why would non-christian, non-jewish writers focusing on the “rich and famous” who had probably never heard of Jesus of Nazareth be writing about Him

          Simply because he was nothing but a smelly little itinerant rabbi and that’s all.


          1. Liam seems to believe that just because a story is written down, it must be fact. If that were true, we should all believe in Cyclops and demi-gods since that is what Homer wrote down. The authors of the Gospels were writing works of evangelization (propaganda). They were not attempting to write history textbooks. The Gospels are not complete fiction but neither are they complete historical fact. The wise man (or woman) examines the Gospels just as he/she would any other work from Antiquity to decipher out that which is probable fact, that which is probable fiction, and those parts about which can are unsure. It is not as black and white as Liam seems to believe.

            Just because four ancient texts (three of which most probably had access to the first) tell a story about a corpse coming back to life is NOT sufficient evidence to believe such a fantastical, laws-of-nature-defying tale! Christians wouldn’t believe such a claim if it were made today, so why believe a similar claim from 2,000 years ago??? It makes no sense. Christians only believe this tall tale because it is part of their religion and culture. If it were a part of another culture and religion, they would immediately reject it with a dismissive wave of the hand and contemptuous laugh.


            1. Ah, with nowhere to go, since your objections have all been addressed – you go to strawman Gary?

              For shame.

              I will condescend to say it again: genre, genre, genre.
              Give the 1st four lectures a spin.


              Engage with Burridge’s “What are the Gospels.”

              But stop the wilful ignorance of trying to say that the Gospels are akin to Homer’s writings.

              That’s a mistake that moderns make which would have been ridiculed by 1st and 2nd century audiences.


          2. Arkenaten, it seems that you’re not able to follow the argument here, which means you’re no engaging with what’s being said.

            Should I try again? Probably Pointless but hope springs eternal.

            Let me make to clearer in what I was saying when referencing acts.

            “Even Acts – WHICH I KNOW YOU DON’T BELIEVE IS HISTORICALLY CREDIBLE – doesn’t paint the picture you claim the New Teatament paints, claiming that only 120 people were gathered on pentecost.”

            Does that make it clearer? Can you see how a point can be made referencing the New Testament without it meaning that I now assume that you give the New Teatament any credence?

            And yes, it is very illogical to dismiss 9 plus authors just because they’re collected together, but that’s how you guys roll.


            1. You are so blinded and indoctrinated, Liam. I was once where you are. It is sad to see you flailing in the darkness of such irrational superstitious belief.


            2. If you are referencing a work of historical fiction, Liam, it remains a work of historical fiction and whatever you wish to point to as a reference is worthless to bolster your argument.
              They are simply different aspects of historical fiction.
              The authors are dismissed for numerous reasons.
              But you have no interest in understanding why because of indoctrination, and that’s how you guys roll


  6. Gary, as I’ve been reading Liam’s comments, I would have to say “No,” We can’t rescue him from the cult of Christianity. Like so many others, he’s entrenched up to his eyeballs. And of course over those eyeballs, he’s wearing rose-colored glasses.

    The thing that Christians simply can’t seem to get through their heads is that non-believers DO NOT put ANY credibility in the stories of the Bible. Yet time and again Christians will reference “scriptures” to validate their position. Or they will list authors that agree with the “scriptures.”

    And I agree with Ark … Yeshua is the one who (supposedly) performed miracles and, most of all … drumroll … returned from the dead!. So it’s silly to compare him to other well-known historical persons.


    1. Absolutely, Nan.

      Philo of Alexandria, a Jewish philosopher living at the same time as Jesus, spoke extensively about Pilate but said not one word about Pilate’s execution of the man who allegedly turned first century Palestine on its head.

      Believer’s like Liam are not looking for evidence of the truth, they are only looking for any possible justification to maintain belief in their cherished superstitions. I agree, Liam is most probably a “lost cause”.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Philo wrote a lot about Pilate, but nothing about Pilate’s most famous Jewish prisoner, the alleged “King of the Jews”, a Jew who turned Palestine upside down with his great miracles and alleged resurrection from the dead. Strange…


    2. Nan, I’m trying to show that it’s bad history to dismiss the New Testament. If 3 late, 1000 year-old copies of copies of Tacitus are considered credible, there are no valid reasons to dismiss the New Testament.

      You guys seem incapable of looking at the facts objectively.

      I’m not mounting an argument based on “divine authority” – just historical enquiry.


      1. There is still doubt surrounding the Tacitus passage for several reasons, although I don’t feel predisposed to enlighten you why. However, if your claim of historical inquiry is honest you will read up on why the doubt exists.

        Out of interest , I am not aware of you personal back story as I am sure Gary is, could you tell me the reason you converted to Christianity or were you a Christian from childhood and were reborn as a teen/adult?


        1. Yes, Liam, please tell us the circumstances of when and why you became a Christian. Did you spend months studying the evidence for Christianity? Did you do a comparison study of all the world’s religions before committing to Jesus?


            1. He could be a born-into type (Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican) , but by his previous comments I suspect he is evangelical (born-again). Would you mind clarifying that for us, Liam?


              1. So…

                Claim that discrepancies mean that the miracle accounts of the Gospels must be fabrications.
                Be shown that that is nonsense, since even flat out contradictions don’t make historical accounts fabrications (considering Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan etc).

                Claim that Jesus must be mentioned by more sources to be factual.
                Be shown that that is nonsense, since even current world-famous people such as Nelson Mandela and Barak Obama are not mentioned by a survey of modern, contemporary sources.

                (This assertion despite being mentioned by at least 9 historical sources collected together in the New Testament, and at least 3 ancient historians which confirm the New Testament account, and numerous church fathers. And despite assertions to the contrary, Tacitus is very, very, most likely authentic, as is the core of Josephus’ reference to Jesus, and just about everyone agrees that Suetonius was walking about Christ when he wrote “Chrestus.)

                NOW go somewhere else, since the arguments against the historicity of the New Testament are feeble.

                Claim that somehow referencing historical accounts of an historical event mean that you “must” believe in the Cyclops of legend, and other legends.

                Claim that every truth claim is as valid as another, so you have to sift through each and every faith before arriving at a conclusion.
                Which is weird, because I doubt that Gary did that, before deciding on scientism/materialism. (I stand open to the correction of how you label, or don’t label, yourself.)

                Which is also weird – when we were taught that 2 + 2 = 4, it wasn’t necessary to do it even a dozen times to confirm its validity as an equation. Never mind thousands of times.
                Since it’s true, we start applying it immediately.
                Since Christianity stands scrutiny, and only feeble “arguments” are raised against it (eg see above), which I believe are far better explained from the stance that it is true, rather than isn’t – ie having looked at the arguments against Christianity they are wanting, and looked at the explanations and found them very solid, it’s pretty simple.
                Any faith that claims that Jesus didn’t die can’t be true, since even historical inquiry shows that to be false.
                Any faith (or non-faith) that claims that Jesus didn’t rise to life can’t be true, since even historical inquiry shows that to be false.
                Any notions that run contrary to the New Testament can’t be true, since even historical inquiry shows them to be false.

                etc etc.


                1. Liam: The majority of experts say that the sources for your supernatural claims (the Gospels) are not eyewitness accounts. Therefore they are hearsay. Therefore your evidence is poor. No one should believe a laws-of-nature-defying claim such as a resurrection based on rumor and legend. It’s that simple.


                  1. Again, this is bad history. If you only accept eye-witness accounts (which, arguably the Gospels do, in fact, contain – see, for example, Bauckham: Jesus and the Eye-Witnesses) then just about all history written is just “hearsay” – Tacitus writes about events 100 years before publishing, so that must be hearsay.

                    From an article on a website I wrote –

                    The argument as I’ve heard it (from agnostic New Testament scholar Bart Erhman, for example) is that since the Gospels were written forty to sixty years after Jesus was crucified, the stories had changed so much that we can no longer trust what they say. Not even focusing on the research that Dr James Dunn (to name just one example) has done in the field to show that oral history in an oral culture does not, in fact, get corrupted as sceptics assert it does, let’s see if this purported lateness is a reason to dismiss the Gospels as factually reliable.

                    How do ancient historians fair by these criteria: needing to be closer in time to the topics they write about? Tacitus’ Annuls was published shortly before he died (ca. 114 – 116), covering the years AD 14 – 68 (From Tiberius to Nero). Note that its content begins with information 100 years before the time it was written and published.

                    Josephus (AD 37 – ca AD 100) wrote The Jewish War in about AD 75 – 78, detailing the war against the Romans which took place in AD 66 – 73. He starts his account with the capture of Jerusalem in 164 BC by the Seleucid Ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes, an event over 201 years before he was born.

                    Herodotus (c 484 – 425 BC), in his Histories, chronicles the Greco-Persian Wars which took place from 499 – 449 BC. He gives historical accounts of people such as Solon (ca 638 – ca 558 BC), Candaules (reigned ca 735 BC – ca 718 BC) and Gyges (reigned ca 716 – ca 678 BC), amoungst others. These historical persons mentioned all lived about 90 – 250 or more years before Herodotus wrote.

                    Livy (c 60BC – c 17 AD) wrote his Ab Urbe Condita Libri (usually translated as The History of Rome) which chronicles Rome’s history from its legendary founding to his own day. Most agree that Livy’s credible history begins from the sacking of Rome by the Gauls in 387 BC, over 300 years before his birth.

                    Other ancient historians and writers, such as Suetonius and Plutarch to name two more, wrote about events 200 years or earlier than when they penned their works. Even Thucydides, who focuses mainly on The Peloponnesian War in which he participated, prefaces his work with what is known as the Archaeoligia, briefly describing the centuries leading up to the war. Russel Meiggs said that this preface proves invaluable to historians of this period. One last example: the earliest surviving literary source for the world conquerer Alexander the Geat is from Diodorus’s “Bibliotheka” written about 260 years after Alexander’s death.

                    All this demonstrates that ancient historians routinely wrote about events which were a century or earlier than their own time. Even if the Gospels were written a hundred years or more after the events they describe, this would not be a valid reason to dismiss them as historical. As we have seen, they were written much earlier than that (even by more liberal dating), placing them just 40 – 65 years or less from the death and Resurrection of Christ. Paul’s first letter to the Thesselonians is less than 20 years from this most important event.”

                    Or, as Gary would put it: hearsay. So ridiculous. Why stop short of doing history?



                    1. All ancient history is based on probability. We believe that Alexander the Great very probably sacked the city of Tyre. We believe that Julius Caesar most probably crossed the Rubicon. Historians cannot say as absolute fact that either of these events occurred.

                      Tacitus does not claim in his writings to have seen a dead person eating broiled fish and then levitate into outer space. If he had, historians would conclude that such an event was most probably not an historical account.

                      Don’t believe everything you read, Liam.


  7. And the whole assertion is predicated on Luke, for example, lying – he clearly says that he did a careful investigation before writing.
    And the end of John’s Gospel affirms that the original audience knew that they could trust what was written, because they knew the source of the Gospel.

    Then we have various independent sources all corroborating the resurrection.

    Mark, M material (material unique to Matthew), L material (material unique to Luke), John, Paul.

    If you want to check all the references to this, here’s a helpful link:

    Notice that 1 and 2 Timothy, Hebrews, 1 Peter, 2 Peter also talk about Jesus death and resurrection.

    I ascribe to the traditional authorship (but agree that Paul didn’t write Hebrews).
    But by your reasoning, we have another 5 authors all independently ratifying the event.

    So that’s 9 authors right there. I still think that James and Jude allude to it too, “Lord” Jesus Christ after all.

    Anyway, the sources trump just about any other ancient sources for just about any other ancient event, which an objective assessment would agree.


    1. Then we have various independent sources all corroborating the resurrection.

      Still waiting for those “independent sources.”

      Oh, and lest you misunderstand the request, independent means sources outside the bible. Listing other gospel writers won’t do the trick –there were writing from hearsay — nor does naming the account from Josephus as it’s been shown numerous times his writings were amended.


      1. Well Nan, Paul wrote independently of Mark, John wrote independently of the other Gospel writers, The writer of Hebrews is another independent source etc.

        And the independent material found in Matthew (M) and Luke (L) are also considered other sources, as would the so-called sayings source (Q) behind material found in both Matthew and Luke, but not Mark.

        I know that you reason that because all these sources are collected together they suddenly are no longer sources, but that’s just silly – I’m kinda hoping having it spelled out for you that way makes it clear?
        Hope springs eternal but I’m not holding my breath.

        And then the corroboration sources outside the New Testament validate what it says – but if it were any other topic and/or collection of sources such corroboration would be welcome but not deemed necessary. Go figure.


        1. You continue to use the bible as your source. This makes no sense because the only place the resurrection story is told is in the bible. “Independent sources” would be from someone/somewhere else.

          Also, please indicate what “corroboration sources outside the New Testament” you are referring to. What sources corroborate (confirm, substantiate, validate, support) the resurrection? (And if you’re going to name modern-day apologists, don’t bother.)


          1. No Nan, what makes no sense is claiming that collecting sources together somehow makes them “non-sources” or something.

            Please explain that…


            1. You’re are totally missing the point. If you want to “prove” the resurrection occurred, then you need to offer a source outside the bible that confirms and verifies your Jesus actually died and came back to life.

              Try to understand. The bible cannot be your “source” because this is the only place the event is recorded. To convince a non-believer (who has no confidence in the authenticity of the bible), you must be able to produce some kind of outside evidence.


              1. Nan, you’re the one making no sense.

                John, Paul and Mark all independently write about an event, are all independent sources, but because they are collexred together, they are not sources?

                That’s simply silly. That’s illogical.

                How is it that collecting sources together nullifies them as sources?

                If you can’t see the vacuous “reasoning” here, it’s a problem.


                1. Liam: Please provide a passage from Paul’s writings where he describes in detail the events at the Empty Tomb and the Appearances to the Eleven.


                2. To quote myself: The bible cannot be your “source” because this is the only place the event is recorded.
                  To quote you:
                  John, Paul and Mark all independently write about an event

                  The BIG question …. WHERE do you read John, Paul, and Mark’s description of the event?

                  News articles frequently quote “independent sources.” What do you think this means?


            2. And you fail to understand what an INDEPENDENT source is, Liam. At most, there are two independent sources for the Empty Tomb/Appearances to the Eleven stories (Mark and John), and since John was written many decades after Mark, it is entirely possible that John used Mark’s Gospel as a template for his Resurrection story, so therefore we have only ONE independent source for this Corpse Reanimation Story. Luke and Matthew are NOT independent sources by any stretch of the imagination.

              Just because someone writes something in a book DOES NOT MAKE IT TRUE, Liam. As I said before, don’t believe everything you read.


    1. Says the man who could not answer how he would convince natives in the jungle of the veracity of the Christian supernatural beliefs…and deleted the entire conversation.

      (Rev. Baxter, LCMS)


      1. Gary, I’m talking about independent sources for the Resurrection. So we have Mark, John and Paul in 1 Corinthians 15.

        You also seem to unaware that there is no material for John to use as a template from Mark. Check your notes – Mark’s Gospel ends with an declaration of resurrection (one source) but there’s no story of appearances (which John independently tells us about – 2nd source). And Paul, well, lots of detail there – 3rd source.

        AND we have the unique MATERIAL independent of other sources in Luke and Matthew – sources 4 and 5.

        Even if you are going to dismiss Luke and Matthew, we have 3 sources for the resurrection, independent of each other.

        So there you go, independent sources not relying on each other affirming the resurrection.

        @Nan – what you’re saying is the moment that journalists have independent sources they suddenly become non-sources because they are collected into one article. Or something. The assertion makes about as much sense as that.

        And Gary, you’re right, don’t believe everything you read. Read everything LITERATELY – it helps to see what should be considered literal, poetic, fictitious, historical etc.

        Believe GOOD HISTORY though. That’s what we have in the New Testament.


        1. I meant that “John” could have borrowed “Mark’s” Empty Tomb story. I believe that “John” very well may have combined “Matthew” (Galilee) and “Luke’s” (Judea) appearance stories and added his own embellishments.


          1. How you think John combined matthew and luke to produce an amalgam that looks nothing like matthew or luke is interesting and very unlikely. so unlikely to be dismissed, really.

            so by any objective estimation, we do indeed have 3 independent sources for the resurrection.


            1. Here is Luke’s account of the “linen” found in the Empty Tomb:

              Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

              And here is John’s account:

              Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.

              Gary: I see a progressive embellishment here. Maybe you do not, but I do.


            2. Here is a scholarly comment on this issue:

              Stanley Porter lists four possible positions on John and the synoptics:

              1.John knew the synoptics, or at the very least he knew Mark, which he used in writing his gospel, This “restricted dependence” theory is often complicated by arguing that it was not a canonical Mark he read, but rather a proto-Mark. Few (if any) advocate this position today.

              2.John and the Synoptics used interlocking sources. This “flexible dependence” is advocated by D. A. Carson, C. Blomberg, D. M. Smith, B. de Solages, and G. Beasley-Murray. John may not have used the synoptics, but he was aware of them. Some things are made more clear in John (that Jesus knew his disciples prior to their call, how did Peter get into the courts, why did people think he was going to destroy the temple?) Some things in John are more clear after reading the synoptics (Jn 12, why is Philip hesitant to bring a Gentile to Jesus? Mt 10:5, do not go to the Gentiles)

              3.John used a combination of written and oral sources, some of which were known to the writers of the synoptics. This is a semi-independence theory, advocated by Gordon Smith, C. K. Barrett). A potential problem is that it is hard to imagine that independent oral traditions continued well into the 90’s if the synoptic gospels were well used by the churches.

              4.John used written or oral sources that the synoptic gospels did not know. This is a complete independence theory. C. H. Dodd (1958, 1963) is the chief commentary here, there is no literary use of the synoptic tradition at all!

              Even if the gospel of John is independent literarily, it is hard to imagine that John was not aware of the preaching of the gospel (the kerygma) that lay at the foundation of the synoptics. Carson and Moo call this an “interlocking tradition” – they use each other without betraying dependance. John was most likely aware of the contents of the three synoptics. This may account for the large amount of unique material; what the synoptics chose to omit John decides to include (such as visits to Jerusalem prior to the crucifixion), but also details are added with help us to understand the synoptics – Jesus already knew the disciples before he called them (John 1).

              These differences may include the more advanced theological agenda found in John compared to the synoptics. The idea of who Jesus was has developed from the time of Mark, perhaps as many as thirty years of thought has gone into who Jesus was and what Jesus did on the cross! John is interpreting the life of Jesus with the understanding that some 60 years have passed since the crucifixion – providing a theological hindsight to understand the words and deeds of Jesus more clearly.

              Bibliography: D. M. Smith, John Among the Synoptics: The Relationship in Twentieth-Century Research (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992).

              Stanley Porter, “The Sources of John’s Gospel,” an unpublished paper read at the 2003 meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society.



              1. Of course John knew the basic idea that gave rise to Christianity: he claims to be an eye witness to the events he describes.

                And if he didn’t use Mark but was aware of Mark – anyway, still an independent source, haha. Enough material unique to John to show that he writes independently of the synoptics.


                  1. Well there we go. John, Paul and Mark would all be sufficient to show 3 independent sources for an event if we were talking about any other event.

                    The audience that originally read the Gospel of John considered the source of the Gospel to be credible. Why should we assume differently?
                    The internal evidence is of someone who knew that he was talking about – geography, topography, the description of the pool of Siloam, for example.
                    The names we can validate of the people appearing in the Gospel are all correct as far as we can tell. No anachronistic “Garys” or “Liams” or “Nans” running around.
                    So I see no reason for this Gospel to be considered anything less than historical.

                    Gary, you’re flogging a horse here, when we still have Mark and Paul as sources. Independent sources confirming an event is golden in ancient history. Add John (no reasonable reason not to – despite your assertions).
                    Add the independent sources lying behind the unique material in Luke and Matthew.

                    And then comparing the way we do ancient history with ancient sources, taking the genre of the Gospels into account (historical, not legendary), looking at the rest of the New Testament, and we have very good reasons to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

                    Then we have the witness of Josephus and Tacitus and Suetonius, all of which validate the accounts recorded in the New Testament.

                    I see a very very solid basis to trust the New Testament as factual.

                    You have had to change gears many times to keep the conversation going.

                    You said that discrepancies between the Gospels mean they must be tall-tales and therefore aren’t historical. This was shown to be false considering the nature of ancient sources (harmonization is what historians attempt to do – the Gospels are almost always easily harmonised, and knowing the nature of ancient history solves just about everything).

                    You said that Jesus “should” have been mentioned by more ancient writers. This is also rubbish. Even a survey of modern books shows world icons in the information age are not mentioned in every historical book written. In a quick survey I found no mention of Nelson Mandela, for example.

                    You want to reduce the New Testament to “hearsay” but that’s false, again. See Plutarch, as valuable source for events over 170 years before he was born. Even if the Gospels didn’t contain eye-witness testimony (though they certainly do cf Bauckham Jesus and the Eye-Witnesses), they still wouldn’t be mere “hearsay”.

                    You’re trying to eliminate John as a source for the Resurrection – when there is no credible reason to do that. His Gospel proves reliable wherever we can test it, the original audience considered him a trustworthy source.

                    You’re still left with Mark and Paul.

                    Multiple sources are a bonus in ancient history. If you have a reliable single-source, it would usually be followed. We have multiple sources for Jesus.

                    Your skepticism doesn’t hold up under scrutiny, but the New Testament does.
                    Don’t believe everything you read, but find good reasons to dismiss what you don’t. You haven’t any good reasons to dismiss it.

                    You should believe good history. And that is what the New Testament is.


                1. If John was aware of the stories in Mark you cannot be 100% certain that John did not use Mark as a template for his gospel, accepting stories in Mark such as the Empty Tomb as fact without verifying the historicity of the alleged event. That would mean that John is NOT a completely independent source for these alleged events. If you cannot understand that, we are at an impasse.


      2. Who said what?

        Personally the Gospel proclamation will be enough to convince “natives” as you call them – it would be similar to convincing them about the Holocaust – tell them good history – Jesus lived, died and rose again, and lives today.

        This is how the church has been growing since day one.

        If God decides to undergird the proclamation with supernatural acts, awesome – but the Truth of the historical resurrection is enough to save, as billions will attest.


        1. Baloney.

          Most missionaries use the “miracle” of western medicine to fool scientifically-ignorant people into believing the Christian god was behind the healing.

          I was responding to the pingback above. Rev. Baxter wrote an article on his blog referring to this post.


          1. “most missionaries”?

            can you substantiate that claim?

            I know the (limited but continuing) missions work I’ve personally been involved with and the work my church does more broadly, and the church groups we partner with across the world doesn’t preach medicine, since that’s not the gospel.


              1. You cite one account in one location and you take it as “proof”?

                Since the writers of the books were I’m assuming not eye-witnesses, are they not, by your criteria, just “hearsay” accounts?

                You shouldn’t believe everything you read Gary.

                (I can also be obtuse – but why should I trust this account? I know my own experience – and we do not preach medicine. Hudson Taylor didn’t preach medicine, Billy Graham didn’t preach medicine, Kier Taylor doesn’t preach medicine, Andrew Murray, the Wesleys, Eric Liddel (?) – you cite one source? One location? One period of history?

                Very gullible Gary.


  8. As one surveys about two thousand years of history since the alleged resurrection of Jesus ,it can be observed that people who believe it share the same “one” story: Jesus lived, Jesus died, Jesus rose again. Two thousand years later people who don’t believe this narrative have scrambled often in every generation since to discount this one story from a large quantity of angles. However the church has responded every time with the same story. Despite all the theories about why a grave was empty in 1st Century Middle East, textual corruption, story fabrication, pseudo-writing allegations, moral controversy, naturalistic philosophy, and the like, there still is quite a considerable amount of evidence that this really and truly occurred on the earth upon which we exist.

    Have any of you thought about bringing your thoughtful arguments to an “Alpha” course? You can truly speak your mind to Christians and Non-Christians around you in-person who will actually listen to what you have to say and respect you in a non-judgmental environment- and you get to eat free food-which is always awesome. They also won’t try to convert you or threaten you with hell-fire which is also cool.


    -A guy who just got done reading this blog exchange for the last hour


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