Christian Apologists are Conceding Defeat on the Historical Reliability of the Bible

Image result for image of a white surrender flag

I saw these surprising comments from Christian apologists while reading John Loftus’ blog, Debunking Christianity, this morning:

 

“The divine authority of Scripture seems to me not something that one could really establish at all. Some of us came to believe it at our parents’ knee. (But then, how’d they come to know it?) To accept the authority of Scripture on the authority of my parents will work all right as an explanation of why I do believe it, but hardly works as a justification of the belief itself (why I should believe it). My own view is that no amount of historical scholarship can establish the inspiration and authority of scripture.”  –J.A. Cover

 

“I believed that a Christian could make a strong case for Jesus’ having been raised from the dead, on purely historical grounds…I would no longer espouse this view….Whether one chooses to continue believing it (as I do) or not, one is forced to accept… that belief in the Resurrection cannot be built on the foundation of historical data, for it is a foundation of sand.”  –Vincent Torley

 

“Our warrant in believing the Bible to be the authoritative Word of God owes to the work of the Holy Spirit. Full stop, pretty much.”  –Alvin Plantinga

 

Gary:  Wow!  Christians are finally admitting the obvious:  The Bible is a collection of ancient superstitious religious propaganda, sprinkled with a scant amount of historical facts. So what are Christians left with:  “A ghost, living inside my body, tells me it is all true!”

Scary.

Will modern, educated people continue to buy this tall tale once more and more Christian apologists admit that the historical evidence for the overwhelming majority of the claims in this ancient book is so poor???  I doubt it.

Image result for image say no to superstitions

 

 

 

 

End of post.

27 thoughts on “Christian Apologists are Conceding Defeat on the Historical Reliability of the Bible

  1. I’m not sure who Torely or Cover are (although I know who Plantinga is), but as far as I’m concerned, it’s long overdue that Christians should drop the descriptor “Inspired Word of God”, and especially the “Inerrant Word of God” in regards to the Gospels.

    There is no necessity at all of believing the Gospels to be inerrant or even “inspired by God” in order to yet believe that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead. I myself came to believe Jesus was raised from the dead knowing nothing at all about the Gospels (except, I suppose, that such books existed). And upon becoming a believer in the risen Jesus, the Gospels were not at all my “introduction” to the biblical texts. I started elsewhere (Galatians and Ephesians, to be precise).

    The main value of the Gospels, to me, is that the Synoptics appear to preserve the writings of “Q” – basically, the sayings of Jesus – and perhaps one other source of sayings and deeds of Jesus. And, if nothing else, they are written versions of “the stories” that were already believed before they were written. But, this is not to say that each individual part, or pericope, that any given Synoptic gospel recounts is necessarily true. Did Jesus, Joseph and Mary go to Egypt or not? No telling. Did he say something about “going the second mile” or “turning the other cheek”? Almost assuredly.

    But, in terms of believing in the resurrection, one need not have any dependancy on the Gospels at all. After all, there were thousands of people that believed in the resurrection before any of the Gospels were written. It only makes sense that eventually, somebody wrote “the story(ies) of Jesus” down. “Oral transmission” of stories was the common norm in Hebrew/Judean society. Heck, even to this day, an Orthodox Rabbi must have the Pentateuch (and several other writings) committed to memory. So, doing this kind of thing is hardly unrealistic. But, as the gospel spread to other cultures that were more literate, and thus more reliant on writing than on memory, having written versions of the stories of Jesus would become a necessity. So, I’m glad we have them. But, that doesn’t make them necessary for believing in the resurrection, nor for considering oneself to be a follower of Jesus.

    Thing is, as this type of attitude becomes more mainstream, it’s just going to tend to put the “fundamentalist skeptics” out of business. If nobody is arguing that “the Gospels are the inerrant and inspired Word of God”, then, there won’t be much to argue with. It won’t change whether people believe Jesus was resurrected or not, though. Not one bit. Eventually, those that had their “faith” (as it were) somehow tied up in believing the Gospels were something they’re not will all drop out of their so-called “Christianity”. And hopefully, those that preach that the Gospels are the inerrant, inspired Word of God will finally realize what a vanity that is. Then they might get down to more serious and rational reasons to believe in the resurrection.

    Like

    1. After all, there were thousands of people that believed in the resurrection before any of the Gospels were written.

      How many believers existed prior to circa 70 CE? How do you know that there were “thousands” who believed in the resurrection by this time?

      Heck, even to this day, an Orthodox Rabbi must have the Pentateuch (and several other writings) committed to memory. So, doing this kind of thing is hardly unrealistic.

      How do you know that a group of fishermen and one tax collector committed the sayings of Jesus to memory? Just because rabbi’s had the habit of committing the Hebrew Scriptures to memory doesn’t mean that everyday Jews also did this. Do you believe that the long sermons in the Gospel of John and the Sermon on the Mount are accurate recollections of people who committed these events to memory? The rabbis had Hebrew texts in written form to study and memorize. How did Jesus’ disciples retain an accurate recording of Jesus’ sayings without a written document? Do you really believe that someone stood there and mentally recorded Jesus’ words word for word during these long speeches/sermons???

      That strains credibility.

      What historical sources, excluding the Gospels, provide you with sufficient evidence to believe that a first century corpse came back to life as a transformed “heavenly” body, interacted with his friends and family, and later, somehow ascended into the sky/space? What evidence is there in the books of Ephesians and Galatians that convinces you of the historicity of this never-heard-of-before-or-since event?

      Like

      1. by 70CE, the church had spread all the way to Rome. Even the most conservative of estimates puts the number of believers in the thousands. Read Stark. Estimates approx 2744.

        re: “How do you know that a group of fishermen and one tax collector committed the sayings of Jesus to memory?”

        I don’t know that they did. I, along with many others, find it entirely plausible that Jesus’ sayings were committed to memory, or perhaps even written down, by a variety of people, and later compiled. Hence, “Q” and the gospel of Thomas, and perhaps a number of other documents that we’ll never know about.

        I’m entirely unsure of why you limit the group of possible “memorizers” to a group of fisherman and a tax collecter.

        re: “Do you really believe that someone stood there and mentally recorded Jesus’ words word for word during these long speeches/sermons???”

        Nope. And, I never once said I did, so, I’m not sure why you’re asking me this question. I believe that over a period of two and a half or three years, Jesus’ sayings were remembered by any number of people, none of whom individually remembered all of them.

        re: “What historical sources, excluding the Gospels, provide you with sufficient evidence to believe that a first century corpse came back to life as a transformed “heavenly” body…”

        Not sure why you’re asking this. I didn’t mention anything at all about any such historical sources in my post.

        You sure do make a lot of assumptions, Gary.

        Like

        1. Here is a published article in which a Roman Catholic scholar (who thinks Stark’s estimates are probably accurate) estimates that the number of Jews in the Christian movement never exceeded 1,000! Wow!!!

          The twelve (including Matthias) disciples and Paul spent decades preaching about Jesus to Jews in multiple cities and countries, yet, they could only convince one thousand of them to convert!

          https://hts.org.za/index.php/hts/article/download/430/329

          That’s pathetic. So why didn’t Jews convert? Was it because a (holy) ghost had “hardened their hearts” as Christians claim or was it because the evidence for this alleged messiah’s resurrection was so piss poor???

          To me, the low conversion rate of Jews in the first century is the BEST evidence of how pathetic the evidence was then and is now for this preposterous claim.

          Like

        2. Here is Bart Ehrman’s comments on this view from his blog

          It’s not clear if scholars actually know the answers [how many Christians in the first, second, and third centuries], but they have offered some! I will give the short answers. If you are interested in pursuing the matter further, I’d suggest two VERY different books (i.e. different from each other): Ramsey MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire (MacMullen is a social historian of ancient Rome, a real expert in antiquity); and Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity (a highly controversial book that was not well received by scholars; Stark is a sociologist of modern religion who tries to apply his craft to the ancient world. He actually doesn’t know enough about the ancient world to make it work, but as a sociologist he knows how to crunch numbers, and that’s where he’s really interesting).

          So, the basic story is this. There were probably about 60 million inhabitants in the Roman Empire, give or take, throughout the first four centuries CE (the period you’re asking about). It is almost universally thought that Christianity started out as a very small movement – say about 20 people a few weeks after Jesus’ death. By the time Constantine converted in 312, it is thought (this is debated, but this is a typical figure) that about 5% of the empire was Christian. So, that would be three million people.

          Of course the rate was not constant. There were some times and places where the rates were very, very high, and other times and places where the rates were very, very low. But the average, over the three hundred years, needed simply to be 40% every decade. Stark, who crunched the numbers, found this rate very interesting indeed. It is also the growth rate of the Mormon church since it was founded. I think this means that in 200 years we’re all gonna be Mormon!

          Like

    2. There is no necessity at all of believing the Gospels to be inerrant or even “inspired by God” in order to yet believe that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead

      Sure, one can believe all kinds of nonsense with little reason behind it. People believe all kinds of crazy stuff all the time. Look at the number of flat Earther’s out there, or 9/11 was a government conspiracy. Stupid beliefs don’t need good evidence to be believed.

      “Oral transmission” of stories was the common norm in Hebrew/Judean society.

      Sure, but so what? But what makes you think that such transmission is reliable? How do you even know that it was primarily Jews who were passing on these stories?

      Heck, even to this day, an Orthodox Rabbi must have the Pentateuch (and several other writings) committed to memory.

      So what? Were Rabbi’s the ones who were passing on the stories of Jesus?

      Then they might get down to more serious and rational reasons to believe in the resurrection.

      I’d love to hear what you consider “serious and rational reasons to believe in the resurrection” are, because I’ve yet to come across even one! All you have is the say-so of (presumably) first century authors. By that standard I can claim that alien abductions, Big Foot, and the Loch Nes Monster, are all real.

      Like

      1. Lehman –

        You (partially) quoted me: “Heck, even to this day, an Orthodox Rabbi must have the Pentateuch (and several other writings) committed to memory.”, then asked “So what? Were Rabbi’s the ones who were passing on the stories of Jesus?”

        Evidently, you didn’t read the next sentence in my post: “So, doing this kind of thing is hardly unrealistic.” (memorization of large amounts of information, even that transmitted orally; see Ahl, Frederick, Roismann, Hanna on oral transmission of Homer’s extensive poems). I guess you must have missed my point; otherwise, you wouldn’t have needed to ask some entirely unrelated question about Rabbis…

        I’ve got no interest in chatting about the rest of your post.

        Like

        1. I find it fascinating that when challenged on what you consider the “more serious and rational reasons to believe in the resurrection” are, you aren’t interested in engaging. I find you to be all sizzle and no substance!

          Like

          1. Lehman –

            re: “” find it fascinating that when challenged on what you consider the “more serious and rational reasons to believe in the resurrection” are, you aren’t interested in engaging”

            I don’t care.

            I just don’t like chatting with you.

            Like

            1. Ok, I asked you the same question, so respond to me. What is the evidence that causes you to believe that the resurrection of Jesus was a real historical event?

              Like

      2. Ok, so based on what evidence outside of the Gospels do you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was resurrected from the dead and is currently Lord and Master of the Universe?

        Please briefly explain where Stark gets his estimate. Of the 2700 believers, how many were Jews? The fact that less than 3,000 gentiles out of the millions of people in the Roman empire bought into a movement which taught social equality (Greek, Jew, men, women, bond, free = all equal) should surprise no one.

        Like

        1. Gary –

          Good. You discovered that even Ehrman is aware of Starks work. A little more googling, and you’d find that Carrier agrees with Stark – not because there is sufficient hard evidence, but because Starks methodology is base on sound reasoning, given the data we have.

          re: “Ok, so based on what evidence outside of the Gospels do you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was resurrected from the dead and is currently Lord and Master of the Universe?”

          What’s this got to do with anything?

          Like

          1. You said that one could believe in the Resurrection based on evidence without needing evidence from the Gospels. What is this evidence?

            One can reference Josephus and Tacitus, for instance, for brief mention of the existence of Jesus but where is the evidence for his alleged resurrection without the Gospels? Paul?? Paul doesn’t even tell us what the resurrected Jesus looks like! The evidence is poor, piss poor. Is it possible that you believe simply because you want to?

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Gary –

    re: “You said that one could believe in the Resurrection based on evidence without needing evidence from the Gospels. ”

    I really don’t know how to respond to such a total misrepresentation and utter distortion of what I said, nor do I have any idea of how on earth, in your mind, what I said somehow became twisted into a statement about “believing the the Resurrection based on evidence without needing evidence from the Gospels”. I do not think I have ever seen a worse case of “reading into” than I see in your question. It is so inconceivably warped that I think I’m going to save this question of yours to use as an example of the irrationality that one often encounters when talking with “skeptics”.

    What is said is this: “There is no necessity at all of believing the Gospels to be inerrant or even “inspired by God” in order to yet believe that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead.”

    So, since I have absolutely no idea at all of what you’re talking about, I really have no response.

    Like

        1. If you came to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead knowing nothing at all about the Gospels, what was the non-Gospel evidence that led you to believe this claim???

          Like

          1. Gary –

            re: “If you came to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead knowing nothing at all about the Gospels, what was the non-Gospel evidence that led you to believe this claim???”

            According to skeptic Matthew Ferguson, “I think that virtually all of history (especially ancient history) can only be reconstructed in terms of probability”.

            You’re asking me for non-Gospel “evidence that led you to believe this claim”.

            I might as well ask you for the “evidence” that there was no resurrection. Or, to put it in a non-negative way, I might as well ask you for evidence that Jesus body was stolen, or that Jesus was never crucified in the first place, or that his body was put in the wrong tomb or that Mary went to the wrong tomb, or that the body was moved, or that it was buried in a trench grave or thrown into a communal pit.

            You will not be able to provide any such “evidence” at all. None exists.

            “Resurrection” is an extraordinary claim, requiring extraordinary evidence, as you and other skeptics will always assert.

            But, the “ordinary claim” – that Jesus was not resurrected at all, but rather, buried in a trench grave, or his body was stolen, etc – requires only “ordinary evidence”. Yet, there is no such “ordinary evidence”. None. Yet, you believe the “ordinary claim”, having no evidence whatsoever. Not even “ordinary” evidence. We’re talking ZERO evidence.

            So, why are you asking me for “evidence” when you have none to support your own “ordinary claim”? And yet, having no such ordinary evidence, yet you still believe that Jesus wasn’t resurrected. You believe his body was stolen, or put in a trench grave, or otherwise disposed of, with no evidence whatsoever.

            You can only have concluded that Jesus’ body was stolen, or put in a trench grave, or that there was a mixup about which tomb was used (or whatever it is you really believe) through a process of reasoning.

            I, like you, have employed a process of reasoning which has led me to a conclusion (quite different than yours). But, unlike you, I have also had the use of “limited evidence” (ie, Pauls letters) – while on the other hand, you have no evidence whatsoever. My conclusion, then, which (like yours) is based on reason (partially, in my case), and (unlike yours) is also based on evidence has left me satisfied that it is more probable/plausible than not that the resurrection occurred.

            I certainly do not find your conclusion, based on reasonings and zero evidence, to be as plausible.

            Like

            1. Ha!!!!

              This is outrageous. It is a not too subtle attempt to avoid putting your “money where your mouth is”. You know the evidence for this supernatural claim is poor so to avoid having to “show your cards”, you attempt to divert attention by trying to shift the onus of proof on us skeptics. Sorry! That is not how things work in our culture.

              –If someone claims that an angel delivered Golden Plates to him in the middle of a field in northern New York state, is the onus on the person making this claim or on skeptics?
              –If someone in India claims that a water buffalo spoke in a human language for almost an hour, is the onus on the person making this claim or on skeptics?
              –If someone claims that he rode on a winged horse to heaven, is the onus on the person making this claim or on skeptics?

              If you are honest, you will say that the onus is always on the person making the extra-ordinary claim. The reason you do not follow this logic in regards to the alleged reanimation/transformation of a first century corpse is because YOU WANT TO BELIEVE THIS TALL TALE. In fact, I will bet that the real reason you believe has nothing to do with objective evidence and everything to do with the feelings of well-being that you derive from believing this claim.

              In my experience interacting with Christians, the vast majority of Christians base their belief much more on their feelings and perceptions than on objective evidence. I suspect you are no different.

              Liked by 1 person

              1. re: “This is outrageous. It is a not too subtle attempt to avoid putting your “money where your mouth is”.

                Actually, I’d be happy to share both my reasonings and my evidence. But, it would be a long post. Not sure if you’d really read the whole thing. Just let me know if you’re interested, and, I’ll start writing away — but again, it won’t be short.

                re: “…you attempt to divert attention by trying to shift the onus of proof on us skeptics. Sorry! That is not how things work in our culture.”

                Actually, that’s exactly how things work in our culture. If someone is charged with murder, and their alibi is that they were off on an alien spaceship at the time, still, it is up to the accusers to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused did indeed commit the murder.

                I think what you must mean is that it doesn’t work in the culture of skeptics. And, that’s clear enough. You can’t provide any evidence at all for your ordinary claim that Jesus’ body was stolen or put in the wrong tomb or in a trench grave (or where-ever) any more than you can provide any ordinary evidence at all for your ordinary claim that the universe somehow brought itself into being.

                I really think I ought to call YOUR cards on the table. Otherwise, I’m thinking “totally bogus – this guy’s got nothing”.

                re: “In my experience interacting with Christians, the vast majority of Christians base their belief much more on their feelings and perceptions than on objective evidence. I suspect you are no different”

                You would find your suspicions unfounded.

                Just let me know if you want me to write a mini-book for you. It’ll take a little while, but, I’ll do it. But, only if you really want to know my reasonings plus my evidence. Again – just be forwarned – it wouldn’t be a short post…

                Like

                1. Actually, that’s exactly how things work in our culture. If someone is charged with murder, and their alibi is that they were off on an alien spaceship at the time, still, it is up to the accusers to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused did indeed commit the murder.

                  Wrong analogy.

                  In the case you described, the accusers are the ones making the claim (that the person in question murdered someone). You are correct: they bear the burden of proof; the onus is on them.

                  In our discussions, I am not claiming that I know what happened to Jesus, either in his life, his death, or after his death. I am making no claims. I am simply expressing skepticism regarding the extra-ordinary Christian claims that Jesus performed deeds that violate the laws of physics, including raising himself from the dead.

                  Like

                  1. Yes, and, I can do precisely that same thing: make no claims whatsoever.

                    A person from some other country and culture, who knew nothing about Jesus, could come to you and say “I hear some people talk about someone named Jesus. Who was this man, and what happened with him?”

                    You might reply “he was a person that lived in Judea in the first century, and was a religous teacher. He was crucified”.

                    Then, the other person could ask “where was he buried? I would like to visit his grave, because in my culture, we give respect to religious leaders”.

                    And, you could only rightly answer – “we do not know where he was buried. In fact, we do not know if he was buried. We do not know what happened to his body”.

                    And, that’s all you could truthfully and accurately say. Because you have not one shred of evidence as to what happened to the body of Jesus. Not one. None. No matter what “theories” you throw at it, the fact of the matter is that you simply do not, and can not know.

                    So, for you to make the claim that Jesus’ body was stolen, buried in a trench grave, thrown into a communal pit, or any other such thing, is going to require EVIDENCE to prove it. Otherwise, you don’t know, you got no idea, and that’s the honest and only truth. All you are left with saying is “it’s a great mystery”, and that’s it. Anything beyond that is pure speculation, and most likely, pure BS.

                    Like

                    1. Stop the hysteria.

                      I have never once claimed to know what happened to Jesus’ body. Never. I have simply suggested plausible, natural, non-supernatural alternative explanations to the Christian supernatural explanation. I have never claimed that any of these plausible explanations is the explanation.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Yes! It’s FINALLY happened!!! You’ve actually managed to understand the meaning of the word “plausible”!!! Will miracles never cease???

                      Now, since you finally see clearly what I’m talking about, we can discuss “plausibilities”, and you can get off this hardcore insistence on nothing but forensic evidence as the only criteria for determining what happened 2000 years ago. If you can make your case on a basis of plausibility, then I also must be allowed to do so.

                      Like

                2. Imagine asking a Mormon for the evidence that convinces him that Joseph Smith really did receive golden plates from an angel in upstate New York in the 1830’s and he says:

                  I’d be happy to share both my reasonings and my evidence. But, it would be a long post.

                  Why would a “long post” be necessary? If this event really occurred, shouldn’t the Mormon be able to give a brief, concise summary of the evidence? The fact that he can’t is evidence, to most people, that his evidence is weak and he needs the long post to create a lot of fluff/spin to inflate his meager evidence.

                  I strongly suspect that the same is the case with your “long post” needed to support your belief that a first century corpse came back to life.

                  Liked by 1 person

    1. “There is no necessity at all of believing the Gospels to be inerrant or even “inspired by God” in order to yet believe that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead. I myself came to believe Jesus was raised from the dead knowing nothing at all about the Gospels (except, I suppose, that such books existed). And upon becoming a believer in the risen Jesus, the Gospels were not at all my “introduction” to the biblical texts. I started elsewhere (Galatians and Ephesians, to be precise).”

      If you came to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead knowing nothing at all about the Gospels, what was the non-Gospel evidence that led you to believe this claim???

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s