Refuting Liam’s Arguments for the Resurrection, Part 2

Image result for image of the resurrection of jesus christ

Liam, a reader of this blog believes that there is strong evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.  Let’s continue looking at Liam’s evidence (see Part 1 here):

Liam:  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 is 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.

Gary: I left evangelical Christianity in my 20’s due to the emotional roller coaster that the born-again version of Christianity imposes on its adherents.  I left conservative Lutheran Christianity and Christianity as a whole in 2014 due to an examination of the evidence.  My feelings had nothing to do with it as I was very happy as a Lutheran Christian.

Liam:  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.

Gary:  I have never claimed that anyone has proven that the accounts in the Gospels are fabrications.  I have only claimed that the majority of scholars, including a large percentage of scholars who believe in miracles and the bodily resurrection of Jesus (Roman Catholic scholars), reject the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels.  For that reason, I assert that we cannot consider the accounts in the Gospels historically reliable.  They may be true.  The may not be true.

Liam:  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.

Gary:  You don’t seem to understand my position, Liam.  I am not a mythicist.  I believe that Jesus was a real historical person; that he had a reputation as a healer and miracle worker; that he was crucified by the Romans; that he was buried in a tomb; that shortly after his death some of his followers believed that he appeared to them in some fashion.  I accept the numerous sources that refer to Jesus as evidence for his existence.  But you seem to confuse evidence for the existence of an historical figure with evidence for the supernatural claims about that historical figure.  If we had multiple texts by known associates of Genghis Khan which state that a crowd of people witnessed Genghis Khan and his horse walk on water, would you accept that claim as an historical fact?  If we had multiple texts written by known associates of Caesar Augustus who state that a crowd of people saw Caesar turn water into wine and then elevate off the floor, would you believe this claim to be an historical fact?  I don’t think you would.  Do you see my point?  Just because eyewitnesses claim something to be true doesn’t mean that we have to accept it as fact.  The more fantastical the claim, the more evidence most educated people will demand.  The problem with the Gospels is that we don’t even know for sure who wrote these four books.  Most scholars, including a large percentage of scholars who believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus (Roman Catholic scholars), doubt the eyewitness or even the associate of eyewitness authorship of these books.  So, yes, the many sources which refer to Jesus are evidence of his existence as a real person.  But that doesn’t mean that we are required to believe every fantastical claim that those sources make about Jesus, especially given the genre of literature in which the Gospels were written:  Greco-Roman biographies.  In this genre of literature, embellishments to the historical facts were an accepted and expected feature.  Did Jesus live?  Yes!  Did he walk on water in front of twelve eyewitnesses?  No way to know for sure!  But alleged eyewitness testimony is not sufficient for me to believe this claim, just as alleged eyewitness testimony would probably not be enough for you to believe that Genghis Khan and his horse walked on water!

Liam:  Surely you can see how silly that line of reasoning is?

Gary: No,  but I can see how silly it is for you to confuse evidence from 9 sources for the historicity of Jesus with evidence from nine sources about his alleged supernatural act of coming back from the dead (resurrection).  The fact is, we only have four sources that provide the details about the alleged resurrection of Jesus and at least half of all scholars believe that three of the four sources, the authors of Matthew, Luke, and John, used the first Gospel, Mark, as a template for their stories.  If that is true, then we have only one independent source for the details of this supernatural claim.  Again, would you believe one source which states that a crowd of people watched Genghis Khan and his horse walk on water??  I doubt it.

Liam:  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.

Gary:  I never claimed that the stories in the Gospels are fabrications, Liam.  I simply stated that the Gospels are not historically reliable sources since we don’t know the identities of the authors; because most scholars doubt they are eyewitness sources; and because two, and maybe even three of the four authors, used the first author’s story as a template for his story.  That is hardly good evidence for the facts about an auto accident let alone good evidence for the facts about an alleged resurrection of a dead corpse.

Liam:  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: https://www.biblicaltraining.org/new-testament-introduction/ben-witherington 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.

Gary:  You are a smart guy but you not a scholar, Liam.  Your opinion on the authorship of the Gospels is just as authoritative as my opinion on climate change.  The fact is, most scholars doubt the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels.  Period.  I am not going to debate you on this evidence for the same reason that I would not debate a climate change denier regarding the evidence for climate change.  I accept expert consensus opinion on all issues on which I am not an expert!  That is what most modern, educated people do, Liam.  You need to explain why so many Bible scholars who believe in the supernatural and in the miracles of Jesus (Roman Catholic scholars) doubt the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels. What possible bias could they have??  Isn’t it more likely that it is YOU and conservative Protestant scholars and apologists who have the bias?

Liam:  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: http://www.joydigitalmag.com/have-your-say-post/trustworthy-new-testament-compared-ancient-historians/ 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?

Gary:  Because you cannot prove that you have more than one independent source for most of the detailed stories about Jesus.  Yes, you have nine sources that refer to Jesus, but you only have one (Mark) or possibly two (Mark and John) sources for the detailed stories about Jesus.  And since John wrote many decades after Mark, it is entirely possible that John had heard the stories told in Mark and was simply repeating them, adding his own embellishments.

Liam:  Mainly I try to do good history.

Gary:   Do you have a PhD in history, Liam?  A master’s degree in history?  A bachelor’s degree in history?  What credentials do you have for us to accept your opinion as an authority on Ancient Middle Eastern history, Liam?  I will bet that you are simply an amateur who is certain that he is right and that the consensus of experts is wrong.  Is that intelligent thinking??

Liam:  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.

Gary:  There are supernatural tales told about many real historical figures.  These supernatural tales do not cancel out the historicity of the person described in those stories, but the fact that the people in the stories really did exist in no way proves that the fantastical tales told about these real people are true!  I don’t understand why you can’t comprehend that, Liam.  Please provide a history book in which even ONE of these supernatural tales are believed by historians to be a real historical event!

The rest of Liam’s comment is simply a copy and paste of previous discussions on this topic between myself, Liam, and other readers of this blog.  You can read Liam’s collection of these statements here.

 

 

End of post.

19 thoughts on “Refuting Liam’s Arguments for the Resurrection, Part 2

  1. For Liam upon his hopeful return here…

    Liam, was Yeshua bar Yosef, i.e. Jesus son of Joseph, a Jew?

    This is an open-ended question so as to allow YOU to thoroughly elaborate with reasonable verifiable support (by us) whether WHY he is or WHY he is not, or why he is neither simultaneously or why he is both simultaneously. I believe your lengthy answer SHOULD help us understand your personal posture on the subject of Jesus.

    Thanks.

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  2. Thanks for that Gary – yes, I saved the discussion from 18 months ago because it was about 2 or 3 days if I remember of solid engagement.

    And wow, the “arguments” against the resurrection continue to be regurgitated, even though I feel they have been thoroughly addressed, so maybe in future I’ll just keep referring everyone to that discussion (haha, no, that won’t happen).

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  3. Caught me on a break between assignments and work – “Professor Taboo” not sure why you would throw that question out, and I probably won’t be engaging too much.

    For an overview of where secular historical inquiry on Jesus has led to for about the last century you can read this article here:
    https://historyforatheists.com/2018/12/jesus-apocalyptic-prophet/

    “[T]he idea that the historical Jesus was a Jewish apocalyptic prophet remains the most likely interpretation of the evidence.”

    A blog well worth following. So funny when Gary tried to take a fellow atheist on, haha.

    Now as someone willing to follow the evidence where it leads, I don’t believe Jesus was JUST a Jewish apocalyptic prophet – I believe He was much more. But everyone worth mentioning in the discussion agrees he was at least that.

    On the point of why professional historians don’t become believers – lots more to do with their commitment that the can be no super-natural explanation for events.

    https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/question-answer/why-dont-professional-historians-come-to-believe-in-jesus-resurrection/

    “[E]hrman, though not a Christian, accepted on the basis of the evidence the historicity of Jesus’ empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection. But he denied on the grounds of Humean philosophical arguments* that the historian could ever justifiably infer that Jesus’ resurrection was the best explanation of that evidence.”

    “*These are arguments, given by David Hume, against the rationality of belief in miracles no matter how strong the evidence is. Today virtually all philosophers recognize that Hume’s argument, which was based on an inadequate grasp of the probability calculus, is, in the words of philosopher of science John Earman, an “abject failure” (John Earman, Hume’s Abject Failure [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000]). Sadly, appeal to Hume’s argument remains common among non-philosophers.”

    Which is what we see Gary doing all the time.

    Thanks guys, will see you around!

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    1. @ Liam —

      Your long, LONG answer took several re-reads to find the relevant answer to my simple question.

      Okay. So what I can deduce and infer by your extremely round about way of answering a very simple question — Was Jesus a Jew? Yes or No — you say (I think) that he was a Jew, but not exactly? He was a pseudo-Jew? Your overly overkilled complicated answer is ambiguous except for when you say:

      I don’t believe Jesus was JUST a Jewish apocalyptic prophet – I believe He was much more.

      But you went way off on tangents that did not establish WHY you feel he was a Jew or not a Jew. Your last 3 paragraphs were a total waste, irrelevant to the question. Therefore, in order for us here on Gary’s blog to understand what YOU know about Jesus’ Jewishness, let me ask this to you Liam…

      During the Second Temple Period in Palestinia, specifically the Levant of non-Diaspora Jews, what did a young Jewish teenager Yeshua/Jesus and young Jewish man Yeshua/Jesus do between the ages of 13 and 29… very, very significant years of a Jewish boy’s/young man’s life!? What are the important and crucial activities and education a Jewish boy/man was required to do during the Second Temple Period? Please feel free to openly, honestly, accurately elaborate on Jesus’ Jewish life.

      Thanks

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  4. Not that there has been any refutation on any of my points. Mine is still the most valid and corroborated argument based on the evidence. It doesn’t propose scenarios for which there is no evidence (like anyone stealing the body) or appeal to phenomena in ways that they simply don’t work (like mass hallucinations etc) or try and warp the accounts to fit some theory about grief leading to one experience and then convincing others of that experience (something which all of human experience shows is not what happens when grieving).

    So all in all, I do believe that this is the best explanation of the historical facts and evidence. Instead of demanding that God levitate a table or something as trite, I follow the evidence of God breaking into history to reveal Himself in Jesus.
    And then I respond to that evidence and live accordingly. (Imperfectly, make no mistake, but the fact that there is God and He is Jesus shapes my conduct. So imperfectly, but there it is.)

    Of course I think my reasoning tight, but there are those who think it trite.

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    1. Bottom line on the alleged Resurrection: Most scholars do not believe that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses or even by the associates of eyewitnesses. So the stories in those books about people seeing a walking, talking body could be legendary or the embellishments of the authors. Based on the Early Creed in First Corinthians 15, it is entirely possible that all the people listed as eyewitnesses in that Creed saw exactly the same thing as the hundreds of people in Knock, Ireland in the video below saw in 2017: a visual illusion

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Gary,

    Since Liam oddly does not reply directly to my comment-replies to him, but strangely just responds via an entirely NEW comment… would you notify me if he responds to my 2nd and 3rd questions to him above? Thank you Sir. 🙂

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  6. Oh, and I do have a BA in ancient history – 3 year formal degree majoring in Ancient History (Greek and Roman) and Classical Culture (Greek and Roman). Through the University of South Africa (UNISA). For what it’s worth, I graduated cum laude. I got it kind of by accident, but that’s another story.

    I did also do first year of Ancient Near Eastern Studies, finished off a third major in African Politics and supplemented my degree with psychology. I also did first a year business subject. I think that’s all?
    I would love to do honours, but for various (mainly financial) reasons I haven’t been able to pursue post graduate studies in these subjects.

    What amazed me when I interacted with other ancient sources, was honestly how well the NT held up. Before embarking on what would become my degree, I thought there was a major gap between how we study other ancient sources and how we could believe in the NT. But even if you approach the NT as a purely historical source, as you would any other source, it proves trustworthy.

    Tacitus and Plutarch are anonymous documents. But Tacitus in particular is considered one of the best sources of ancient historical record that has survived. The Gospels have a much better tradition of authorship that Tacitus, but even if most scholars believe they are anonymous (which would be unfair, since most scholars accept Tacitus and Plutarch as the authors of the works ascribed to them), they prove historically reliable.

    It’s amateurish to declare that because the Gospels are anonymous, they cannot be historically reliable. Using the standards that ancient historians do, the entire NT proves to be an excellent historical source, regardless of belief in whether they were divinely inspired or anything.

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    1. Many ancient writers included supernatural claims in their writings. Please name ONE which most professional historians believe to be a real historical account.

      You can’t.

      Yes, the Gospels can be used as historical sources, but that doesn’t mean that historians accept every claim made in those books as historical fact.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. @ Liam
      The gospels and Acts are reasonable examples of historical fiction: A fictional story pasted over a (semi) historical landscape with a handful of genuine historical figures.

      They have no more value for historical reliability than a Harry Potter novel.
      It would be nice, however, if the magic recipe for instant viticulture, as demonstrated at Cana, were made available in an appendix at the back of my KJV.
      Jesus could have at least handed this down.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Professor Taboo – I didn’t want to spend time on what I think is a silly question.

    Nowhere do I think Jesus was a pseudo-Jew. I gave you a link that summarises a century of non-Christian scholarship, which clearly indicates that Jesus was a Jewish, apocalyptic prophet.

    My “tangents” addressed what other points that Gary likes to make.

    The other thing worth noting is that there are thousands of professional scholars that DO believe in the Resurrection, and believe that you can make a historical case for it. I fall in line with these scholars, who also happen to specialise in NT studies and other relevant fields.

    I really think that the link above that covers that, explains well how it is reasonable to come to these conclusions based on the material found in the NT and using historical methods to sift through the evidence.

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    1. Yes, there are scholars and professional historians who believe in the supernatural reanimation/transformation of a first century corpse but the overwhelming majority of these scholars are evangelical or fundamentalist Protestants. Bias??

      Liked by 1 person

    2. @ Liam —

      Sorry, it seems I need to repeat myself and try to explain and/or re-word my questions for you. Perhaps this will help. However, before I do that I’ll indulge you very briefly on this rabbit-trail regarding Craig’s Christian discussion on Why Don’t Professional Historians Come to Believe in Jesus’ Resurrection? guessing YOU assumed this about me(?), maybe(?), I’m unsure. After doing this then we can DROP its irrelevance going forward; it was NOT my initial question to you.

      At your weblink “Parker” shares with Craig something perhaps YOU presumed was applicable to me, but is wrong/untrue. Parker writes:

      (P2) It is surprising that we are unable to find examples of people who 1. started as non-Christians, 2. became convinced of the Resurrection because of the historical evidence and 3. were convinced after becoming a professional historian.

      #1 applies to me. I was born into and raised in an Agnostic home. At the age of 20 while in university I became a Christian, several of my Christian classmates, professors, and church staff called it “Born-again.” For the next 11+ years I studied subjects toward admissions into post-grad Seminary, simultaneous clinical internship, missionary work abroad (3 tours), and eventual church ministry here in the U.S. Eleven years of intensive study, ministry, and work across four continents, including N. America.

      #2 and #3 above do not apply to me. The rest of that weblink and discussion does not apply to me either. Irrelevant.

      But Liam, if you had read my question #1 carefully (reread it), you’d see that I did NOT ask you about some resurrection. That was YOUR rabbit-trail you wasted our time on.

      Nevertheless, since this is like pulling teeth with you I’ll accept that you do agree that Jesus was a Jew. Therefore, during the Second Temple Period in Palestinia, specifically the Levant of non-Diaspora Jews, please tell us what did a young Jewish teenager Yeshua/Jesus and young Jewish man Yeshua/Jesus do between the ages of 13 and 29, very important significant years for a Jewish boy/man? What are the important and crucial activities and education a Jewish boy/man was required to do during the Second Temple Period?

      If you cannot answer this, then say so. If you don’t want to because you are too lazy, then say so. If you can answer it, then PLEASE feel free to and with a reasonable amount of sources (weblinks) to backup your answer and explanation. In doing this you should demonstrate that you actually DO KNOW a lot about your “Lord and Savior” and what to ‘share the good news,’ yes?

      Thanks in advance.

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      1. And to your fine undermining point Ark, isn’t it IRONIC that not one single early Christian Church Father/Archbishop was a Jew first!? None of them. Not a single one of them knew hardly a lick about authentic Second Temple Judaic Messianism. Hmmmm… things that make you go…

        WTF!!!!? 😲 Why didn’t any Christian apologist tell me that!? Lol

        Liked by 1 person

  8. And while I do think that the majority of scholars deny that Jesus bodily resurrected, there has been no poll or headcount, as far as I can tell, to establish what that majority is (does it lie at 55% unbelief and 45% belief, 70/30 etc etc).

    I do posit that the anti-supernatural bias is what accounts for the scepticism, not a lack of evidence.

    Leaving it there for a bit, I have assignments due! (Post grade certificate in Education…)

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    1. And what about the fact that most Roman Catholic scholars, who believe in the supernatural and the bodily resurrection of Jesus, also reject the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels? What is their bias??

      Liked by 1 person

    2. @ Liam

      I do posit that the anti-supernatural bias is what accounts for the scepticism, not a lack of evidence.

      Fair enough …. would you please present the evidence (for the resurrection).
      You can Bullet Point if it makes it easier for you.
      Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

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