Does the Absence of Evidence for a Natural Explanation for the Resurrection Rule Out a Natural Explanation?

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Finney, Jack: Amazon.com: Books

Christian theologian (responding to a proposed, hypothetical, natural explanation for the empty tomb of Jesus and the development of the Resurrection Belief): “That is an utterly baseless and speculative fairy tale that has–literally–no textual or historical evidence.”

Gary: Do hypothetical explanations for unexplained odd events require evidence? Or, is it only necessary that the hypothetical explanation not contradict whatever evidence that may exist related to the odd event? I will bet that most police detectives and private investigators would say only the latter is true. These professionals routinely compile lists of possible (hypothetical) explanations for a crime or other odd event, and then search for evidence to rule in or out each possible explanation, starting with the most probable explanation in the professional opinion of the expert.

But what if no additional evidence is found? Does that mean that a natural explanation for this odd event has been ruled out? Of course not. And what if the only explanation in circulation for the odd event in question is a supernatural explanation? Are police detectives and private investigators obligated to accept the supernatural explanation for an odd event simply because it is the only explanation that exists?

Of course not.

But this is exactly what Christian apologists like our theologian quoted above seem to think about the early Christian resurrection belief! They seem to think that just because no evidence has been discovered for another explanation, then we skeptics must accept their supernatural explanation. This is just silly.

Ask them this question: Have you ever lost your keys (or some other important item) and never found them? We all have. Let’s say you hire a private detective to find your missing keys and she finds zero evidence of what happened to your keys. No finger prints. No clues whatsoever. Does the lack of evidence rule out a natural cause for your missing keys? No.

And what if your next door neighbor is a psychic whose tarot cards tell him that your keys were stolen by demons! If that is the only explanation in circulation for your missing keys, are you forced to believe his supernatural explanation?

Of course not.

A natural explanation is still possible and plausible for your missing keys, even though there is no evidence for a natural explanation and even though a supernatural explanation exists. Ditto with the Resurrection Belief! Just because there is zero evidence for a natural explanation for Jesus’ empty tomb or for the development of a novel twist to the Jewish resurrection belief, this in no way precludes that a natural explanation is the correct explanation!

Multiple possible natural explanations for the early Christian resurrection belief exist. The fact that there is no evidence for these possible explanations no more precludes a natural explanation for this odd event than a lack of evidence for your missing keys precludes a natural explanation for that odd event.

Stop believing in ancient supernatural superstitions, my Christian friends. Embrace science, reason, and rational thinking!

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End of post.

88 thoughts on “Does the Absence of Evidence for a Natural Explanation for the Resurrection Rule Out a Natural Explanation?

  1. Have you ever thought about shifting the focus from “Did the resurrection happen?” to “What difference would a resurrection make?”?

    If evolution is true (pssst, it is), then the Adam and Eve story is not true. If that’s not true, then Original Sin doesn’t make sense. If Original Sin gets the boot, then what purpose is served by an act of atonement for Original Sin?

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    1. Oh, clever Christians have come up with very complicated, sophisticated-sounding explanations for why we “sinners” STILL need a Savior…even if evolution is true.

      If a belief is the very center of your existence, you will always find a rationalization to maintain that belief, regardless of the massive evidence against it.

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      1. If a belief is the very center of your existence, you will always find a rationalization to maintain that belief, regardless of the massive evidence against it.
        As you accept this why on earth are you banging your head against a wall with a giant Arsehat like FT?

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        1. His obstinance to maintain his (imaginary) relationship with his imaginary friend is quite remarkable, isn’t it? I am under no delusion that I am going to change “arsehat’s” mind, but it is satisfying for me to prove his contorted arguments false and irrational.

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  2. Gary, you need to give this one up.

    It’s just too painful to watch you struggling with yourself like this.

    “They [apolgists] seem to think that just because no evidence has been discovered for another explanation, then we skeptics must accept their supernatural explanation. This is just silly.”

    Who thinks that? The guy you quoted doesn’t show any evidence that he thinks that. He just points out that the scenario you presented was hogwash. (And, I read that scenario, and he’s right)

    You are totally free to hang on to the Grand Naturalist Doctrine of the Magical “Yet”-Word…

    “This just means we haven’t found a natural explanation for the resurrection… Yet….”

    And, you’re totally free to continue to believe that the “Yet-Unknown Naturalist Explanation” is still out there someplace, just waiting to be discovered.

    But that has NOTHING to do with the other half of the debate: There might actually be a Supernatural. And, as such, the Supernatural option can’t be taken off the table either.

    I think you’re just miffed because you can’t find anybody that just takes your silly scenarios, and say “oh, wow, Gary – THAT’S IT! That’s the solution to the problem that people have been looking for, for the last 200 years!!!”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. OH – and what’s with this “lose your car keys” business?

    Is that somehow supposed to have the vaguest similarity to a person being resurrected?

    Losing car keys does NOT require, by any means, a supernatural explanation. But, resurrection? Resurrection most certainly requires a supernatural explanation.

    So, obviously, the average person who loses their car keys is not going to consider the “necessity” of anything supernatural. But one who claims that someone has been resurrected is absolutely requiring the supernatural, as necessity. You can’t get a resurrection without involving the supernatural.

    This is just comparing apples to snow plows, Gary.

    What amazes me is that not only can you not see the actual issue here, but, you actually think the issue is “lost car keys vs resurrection”, as if there’s any similarity at all. And that is truly astounding. Beyond astounding, actually. It’s just flat-out irrational.

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    1. Losing car keys does NOT require, by any means, a supernatural explanation. But, resurrection? Resurrection most certainly requires a supernatural explanation.

      Come on, FT, you are more intelligent than that. Not even Gary Habermas in his “Minimal Facts” argument claims that most scholars believe that the Resurrection Belief requires a supernatural explanation. The question is not “How did the resurrection occur?” but “Why did some early Christians come to believe that a resurrection had occurred?”. The first question requires a supernatural explanation, the second does not.

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      1. First, Gary, I NEVER said anything indicating that “most scholars believe that the Resurretion Belief requires a supernatural explanation”.

        Once again, you try to make a point by twisting words.

        I said RESURRECTION requires a supernatural explanation. And that is what makes it different than car keys.

        This does NOT mean any particular resurrection occurred. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t.

        But if an historian is trying to prove that this particular resurrection (of Jesus) did not occur, then that’s why the historian must provide a plausible, natural solution.

        Quit twisting words, Gary.

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        1. What bs. Here are YOUR words:

          Losing car keys does NOT require, by any means, a supernatural explanation. But, resurrection? Resurrection most certainly requires a supernatural explanation.

          If the supernatural exists, it is entirely possible that your car keys are missing because demons, leprechauns, or angels took them. Be consistent.

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          1. Gary –

            Let me TRY to make this clear:

            If someone (let’s say “Peter”) claims someone (let’s say Jesus) was resurrected, then Peter is MAKING A CLAIM that SOMETHING SUPERNATURAL occurred. By default. Resurrection IS a “supernatural thing”, and that is what was claimed.

            If someone (let’s say Gary) claims “I lost my car keys”, then Gary is NOT making a claim that is, by any necessity, “supernatural”. Now, Gary – being Gary – MIGHT go off and make a subsequent claim, saying “demons cause me to lose them”, and THAT would be a “supernatural claim”.

            You really need to THINK, Gary.

            Now – Peter’s claim that Jesus was resurrected WAS a claim of a “supernatural” action.

            If someone else wants to say “NO, Peter – you THINK it was a ‘resurrection’ – a ‘supernatural action’ – but it was NOT”, then that “someone else” then needs to DEMONSTRATE to Peter what really happened.

            It’s very, very simple. Most people get this. You don’t. But that is because YOU don’t think rationally. And, you never really have, as far as I can tell.

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            1. Good grief. Of course a resurrection is a supernatural claim, but no one is debating that. What we are debating is the EXPLANATION for why someone would believe such an event had occurred. You have said that a natural explanation for the Resurrection Belief is possible, so the debate is ended. What are you continuing to blabber about??

              If one believes that the supernatural exists, then missing keys and CLAIMS of a resurrection can both be due to supernatural or natural causes. My question is: Why do Christians, who believe that the supernatural operates in our universe, ignore supernatural explanations for missing keys but insist on supernatural explanations for empty tombs and the development of a novel resurrection belief. Do you get it now???

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              1. Gary –

                re: “Why do Christians, who believe that the supernatural operates in our universe, ignore supernatural explanations for missing keys but insist on supernatural explanations for empty tombs and the development of a novel resurrection belief.”

                Gary – Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that there really was an empty tomb. I myself don’t insist on the empty tomb being historical, but, again, for the sake of argument, let’s just say that Jesus was put in a tomb and it was found empty a couple of days later.

                There is absolutely NO INDICATION in the Gospels (where you get the “empty tomb” story from) that ANYBODY believed Jesus had been resurrected on the basis of seeing an empty tomb. NONE.

                YOU think that’s what happened. You said so, in your scenario. But, certainly, the Gospel writers didn’t think that’s what happened. So, that’s YOUR deal, Gary. Not anybody else’s (necessarily).

                In other words, YOU think an empty tomb was found, and then, subsequently, the disciples explained the empty tomb by saying “Jesus must have been resurrected!”

                But, that’s certainly NOT what the Gospels say (and, again, it was you who admitted the Gospels into the discussion). According to the Gospels, neither Mary Magdalene nor ANY of the disciples believed Jesus had been resurrected until he was SEEN. It was on the basis of “seeing a resurrected Jesus” that they believed Jesus was resurrected – NOT on the basis of seeing an empty tomb. There is NO INDICATION that Mary Madgalene nor the disciples tried to “explain” the “empty tomb” by invoking a “supernatural cause”.

                Christians INSIST on a supernatural explanation for a RESURRECTION. If that resurrection just happened to leave a tomb empty, which was later found empty, then that’s just “secondary”. But Christians believe that Jesus “WAS SEEN” after his crucifixion and death, and that’s the reason they believe in the resurrection (which just so happened to have left an empty tomb, as certainly a resurrection would).

                So, it’s YOU, Gary – in YOUR OWN SCENARIO – that insists that it was an empty tomb that was found, and was then explained by a “supernatural event” (Jesus resurrection). But that’s YOU, Gary. That’s YOUR theory.

                I understand that YOU would insist that what really happened was that an empty tomb was found, and THEN, the disciples EXPLAINED this empty tomb by concocting a resurrection story. And that’s FINE, it that’s your theory. AND – then – yes – you could wonder WHY they concocted a “supernatural explanation” for an empty tomb, but, they didn’t concoct supernatural explanations for their lost keys. I get that.

                But – again – that’s YOUR scenario, Gary. Nobody else (necessarily) buys into your scenario. A great number of people believe that Jesus was seen by the disciples after his death – and that is the reason they believe in the resurrection. And, certainly, the Gospels surely don’t agree with your scenario. The Gospels insist the disciples didn’t believe in a resurrected Jesus until they SAW a resurrected Jesus. The empty tomb, according to the Gospels, didn’t lead to the belief at all.

                Again – if you wish to assert that they really believed BECAUSE they saw an empty tomb, and then just concluded “hey, he must have been resurrected”, then great. It’s your scenario. But, don’t go pushing YOUR scenario off on Christians, AS IF they would agree that the disciples believed Jesus was resurrected because a tomb was found empty. They don’t. They believe because Jesus was SEEN by the disciples.

                As an addendum: The first problem you’re going to have with your scenario is that there are too many scholars that would insist the reason that the earliest “believers” believed Jesus to have been resurrected is because they SAW something which they believed was the risen Jesus. NOT because they saw an empty tomb. Heck, Ehrman doesn’t even believe Jesus was buried, let alone, that there was an empty tomb. He very much believes (as does Ludeman, Crossan, Tabor, and others) that the disciples believed they had SEEN a risen Jesus. They didn’t just see an empty tomb and conclude “it must be because of something supernatural”.

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            2. Wrong once again.
              What someone would naturally say to such a claim would be along the lines of.

              ”Bollocks! We saw him crucified and we saw him buried. What evidence can you provide that your claim is true?”
              ”Well,’, said Pete, ”We went to the tomb and it was empty.”
              ”Aaah, I see,” said someone else. ”Well in all likliehood Pete, the most probablty answer for the empty tomb is someone or a few someones nicked the body and carted it off.Now stop being an arse, and go and have a lie down.”

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  4. Missing keys will probably have a natural explanation, a resurrected Person will not.

    As least you’re admitting there is no evidence for a natural explanation for Jesus’s Resurrection – now if you’ll only follow through on that and follow the evidence to it’s logical conclusion: Jesus rose.

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    1. Let me help you out there, Liam.

      now if you’ll only follow through on that and follow the evidence to it’s logical conclusion: Jesus rose.

      ….
      … is an unubstantiated claim made by indoctrinated, credulous Christians that has absolutely no evidence to support it and therefore, can be dismissed with impunity.
      —–The End—–

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  5. It’s GARY’S contention that the disciples saw an empty tomb and then concluded “Jesus MUST have been RESURRECTED”.

    That is NOT the contention of the Gospels at all. (and, it was Gary who brought the Gospels into this by bringing up an empty tomb).

    the Gospels indicate that NOBODY believed Jesus was resurrected until a resurrected Jesus was SEEN by the disciples.

    Now – we can all grant Gary his theory: HE thinks that a supernatural explanation (Jesus was resurrected) was invoked to explain an empty tomb.

    But that’s GARY, and HIS assertion. And Gary needs to demonstrate how that is the most likely (plausible) explanation. But that is certainly not what the Gospels indicate, nor is it the “normative” teaching of Christianity.

    But where Gary goes off “where no man has gone before” is in his ASSUMPTION that Christians in general are trying to explain an empty tomb by invoking a supernatural cause. But, that is simply not the case. Christians explain SEEING JESUS after his death by a “supernatural cause” (resurrection). The fact that a tomb was left empty is just a secondary consequence of someone having left the tomb.

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    1. HE [Gary] thinks that a supernatural explanation (Jesus was resurrected) was invoked to explain an empty tomb. But that’s GARY, and HIS assertion. And Gary needs to demonstrate how that is the most likely (plausible) explanation.

      You are either incredibly dense or gaslighting.

      As I have told you repeatedly, what is likely or plausible is SUBJECTIVE. I will never convince someone who believes in magic (supernatural powers) that a non-magical cause is more likely or plausible than a magical cause for an event which he or she is certain was caused by the magical powers of his invisible superhero best friend, Jesus the Invincible. GET THAT THROUGH YOUR THINK HEAD.

      You have admitted that a non-magical explanation is possible for the resurrection belief. We are in agreement! The debate is over. Go troll someone else, please!

      Is it possible that the Resurrection Belief is due to:

      An unexplained empty tomb triggered revived hope in a New Kingdom, which triggered vivid dreams, false sightings, illusions, hallucinations of a back from the dead Jesus, which triggered speculation as to how he was back from the dead, which eventually resulted in a new, convoluted interpretation of the Jewish resurrection concept.

      Yes!

      Atheists, agnostics, Jews, and Muslims all agree that this or some version thereof is the source of the Resurrection Belief. The fact that so many people, of many different beliefs systems, theist and non-theist, believe this scenario is possible, by definition, makes it plausible.

      The fact you don’t find it plausible is your problem.

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  6. If what is likely or plausible is subjective, then Gary – I got news for you – so is your own scenario, and so are the beliefs of atheists, agnostics, Muslims and Jews.

    So you might as well drop that as an argument. You’re not saying anything that supports your assertion.

    Erhman, Ludemann, Crossan, Wright, and many others all assert that it was on the basis of a “visual experience” (of “seeing” Jesus) that the disciples believed he was resurrected.

    In fact, for Ehrman (and, i think, Ludeman), the empty tomb doesn’t even enter the picture. For Ehrman, the “empty tomb” story was added later.

    YOU assert that the disciples saw the empty tomb and then determined “oh, Jesus must have been ressurrected”. That’s YOUR deal. It’s NOT the deal of Ehrman, Ludemann, Wright, and it’s NOT the deal of the Gospels nor of normative Christianity.

    re: “You have admitted that a non-magical explanation is possible for the resurrection belief. ”

    ONE HUNDRED PERCENT WRONG!

    I admitted that a natural explanation was possible for (a) the existence of an empty tomb and (b) a novel resurrection belief.

    YOU NEED TO STOP LYING, GARY. JUST STOP IT. QUIT TELLING LIES.

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    1. Erhman, Ludemann, Crossan, Wright, and many others all assert that it was on the basis of a “visual experience” (of “seeing” Jesus) that the disciples believed he was resurrected.

      My hypothetical explanation: An unexplained empty tomb triggered revived hope in a New Kingdom, which triggered vivid dreams, false sightings, illusions, hallucinations of a back from the dead Jesus, which triggered speculation as to how he was back from the dead, which eventually resulted in a new, convoluted interpretation of the Jewish resurrection concept.

      My hypothetical explanation is fully in agreement with your statement! (But I hope you are not asserting that by a “visual experience” Ludemann, Ehrman, and others believe that the disciples literally saw a walking, talking body! That would really raise questions about your reading comprehension.)

      Note: I never said that an empty tomb triggered resurrection belief. I said that the empty tomb triggered revived hope in a New Kingdom (and triggered cognitive dissonance). The visions, illusions, false sightings, and possibly a few hallucinations that followed (triggered by renewed hope of a coming New Kingdom) led to the belief that the empty tomb was caused by a “raising” which eventually led to a belief that the empty tomb was due to a “resurrecting”.

      But it is also possible that there was no tomb. It is possible that the Resurrection belief developed based solely on dreams, trances, false sightings, or hallucinations as Ehrman believes (he doesn’t believe the empty tomb is historical). I include the empty tomb in my scenario in an attempt to include all of Gary Habermas’ Minimal Facts, and STILL demonstrate that a natural explanation is still possible (and more plausible to atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, and the rest of the non-Christian world) as an explanation for the Christian resurrection belief.

      Learn to read.

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  7. Gary –

    re: “Note: I never said that an empty tomb triggered resurrection belief.”

    Not directly, no. You did say all that other stuff – and it was ALL in response to the disciples having seen an empty tomb, and trying to explain the empty tomb. There’s no way around this, Gary — in your scenario, it was the SEEING of the empty tomb that led – one way or another – to the disciples then EXPLAINING the empty tomb by invoking a supernatrual action – a “resurrection”.

    That’s YOU that asserts that. And, like I’ve said, that’s totally fine for you to assert that.

    But – then – you come up with this TOTALLY BOGUS idea that that’s what Christians do — they “see” (ie, “read about”, “hear about”) the empty tomb, and therefore, try to EXPLAIN that empty tomb by invoking a supernatural explanation: “Jesus must have been resurrected, because the tomb was empty!”. But NO, Gary – that’s JUST YOU.

    But that’s not what the Gospels do. That’s not what is taught in normative Christianity. That’s not what Ehrman, Ludemann, Vermes, Koester, Brown, Hurtado, Wright, and many, many other scholars say. THEY – those scholars, the bible, and normative Christianity – say that the disciples believed Jesus was risen from the dead because of a “visionary experience” of “seeing” Jesus – NOT because the disciples needed to explain an empty tomb.

    My guess is that each and every one of those aforementioned scholars have long since considered what you are asserting — and, blown it off.

    So – Like I said – your assertion is fine. If you can convince people like the scholars I listed above that your scenario is the most plausible, then, you will probably end up with a Pulitzer.

    Otherwise, it’s just Yet Another Opinion.

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    1. For the millionth time, it is a hypothetical explanation for the Resurrection Belief. It is possible, regardless of whether or not one single scholar believes it to be likely or probable. That is all I am trying to get through your dense head.

      Possible! Possible! Possible!

      And in my worldview, and in the world view of millions of people on planet earth (Jews, Muslims, agnostics, deists, and atheists) my possible explanation is much more probable as the source of the Resurrection Belief than Christians’ supernatural explanation. That fact that you and 2,000,000,000 Christians do not believe that it is plausible or probable is completely irrelevant to the discussion.

      Got it?

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      1. re: “It is possible, regardless of whether or not one single scholar believes it to be likely or probable.”

        And, NOBODY in this conversation between you and I has ever said it’s NOT possible. However, as I’ve said at least a couple of times, “possibilty doesn’t mean squat”.

        Gary, you’ve danced around talking about missing car keys, and how an empty tomb or a novel change to a theological topic don’t need a supernatural explanation, and talking about how Christians seem to feel the need to use a supernatural explanation for an empty tomb – and ALL THE WHILE, utterly FAILING to realize that the resurrection was the “supernatural explanation” for the disciples having SEEN Jesus alive again after his death and burial (or, in the view of skeptic scholars, having believed they had seen Jesus after his death and burial) – it’s not the “supernatural explanation” for an empty tomb.

        However, we all know your scenario is “possible”:

        “How about this possible explanation: Jesus was the only messiah-pretender with an unexplained empty grave!”.

        C: Why was Jesus’ tomb empty? It makes no sense. No one has claimed responsibility for moving or taking the body.

        A: Maybe God raised Jesus from the dead!”

        Go ahead, write it up, send it to Ehrman, Ludemann, et al. My guess is that you’d get responses saying “it’s not plausible”. I mean, if any of the scholars I’ve mentioned thought it was plausible, then they themselves would have written it up. But they didn’t.

        And, as far as you thinking that somehow, a big bunch of people out there that don’t believe a resurrection occurred somehow gives your view more credibility, I would remind you that there was a time when virtually EVERY human on earth believed the sun moved around the earth. How credible was that? Get real, Gary.

        For now, I’m off this ridiculous thread. I lost my car keys. Gotta go find them.

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  8. Liam, there was no ‘resurrected man’, only people who thought there was because their scriptures said there would be. Some of them even decided they’d seen him inside their heads.
    Much later some others wrote a story about it.
    That’s it. No other explanation needed.

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    1. @ Joel.
      Hilarious!
      I love the display of condescension.
      The mark of one who is simply too much of a coward to face the fact he is indoctrinated into an unsubstantiated faith-based religious cult.

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        1. As you have never once offered evidence to support a single claim regarding your faith-based belief such a response is just churlish.
          Even your passive aggresive attempt at sarcasm is merely pathetic. All it does is reinforce the fact of your cowardice and highlight your willful ignorance.

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          1. Yep….writing a 12 part blog series about the historical questions and reliability of the OT at your request, or writing countless posts about thd NT and the Christian faith –Ive never done anything.

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            1. Sorry … are you saying you are planning on writng this series or you have already done so?
              If the latter I don’t recall and if there had been any evidence i would have remembered, trust me!

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              1. Apparently you are suffering from alzheimer’s. Yes, I wrote an entire series on “A Biblical History of Israel” and had to eventually block you from my blog because you insisted on being a belligerent troll.

                In any case, Gary’s OP here is based on what he claimed on my blog post of mine concerning what ex-Evangelical-now-humanist Tim Sledge wrote about his explanation regarding what gave rise to Christianity in regard to resurrection claims.

                And all I pointed out was that Gary’s “cognitive dissonance” theory has less historical evidence than the actual resurrection claims. The rock bottom, historical fact is that we have people in the mid-first century claiming Jesus was resurrected. We have evidence that this was the claim and stated reason for the birth of the church. You may not believe Jesus was resurrected, but that is clearly what was being claimed back then. By contrast, there literally is ZERO evidence that any of the opponents of Christianity at the time (i.e. none of the first century Jews in Jerusalem) were making any claims of “cognitive dissonance.” There were claims the disciples stole the body. That’s it.

                Therefore, as a matter of history and facts, Gary’s claim has less going for it than the actual resurrection claims. I’m not in the business of trying to “prove” the resurrection. The post on which he commented wasn’t focused on that. Yet he made it a focus of his response, and I simply pointed out the facts.

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                1. The rock bottom, historical fact is that we have people in the mid-first century claiming Jesus was resurrected.

                  YEP! Those people definitely claimed a lot of things!

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                2. You wrote an entire series on the History of Israel which was a review of Provan’s book, and it contained no evidence to support your indoctrinated faith-based Christianity.
                  I’ve provided this wonderful extract of yours from one of the posts to illustrate the point.
                  I, for one, think Moses was a historical person. I think the Hebrews really were able to cross through the Red Sea somehow. I think there was a real Mount Sinai and that they spent a good, long time as nomads in the desert before eventually going back to Canaan. The crafting of the Exodus story does not negate the basic historicity of the events in question.
                  Again … no evidence whatsoever.
                  And the reason you banned me was because you are a coward and were unable to provide evidence.

                  The rock bottom, historical fact is that we have people in the mid-first century claiming Jesus was resurrected

                  Really?
                  There have always been people who claimed the earth was flooded and some bloke called Noah built an ark.

                  And I know this will make you chuckle, Joel. even today there are people who actually believe this.
                  Seriously, what type of individual is so credulous, so gullible they would ignore evidence and accept this nonsense?

                  Facts?
                  Did you have to look this word up in the dictionary or Thesaurus?
                  ( Yes, that was sarcasm)

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                  1. Arky, you were blocked because you were a belligerent ***hole.

                    The fact that you immediately get all heated and start throwing out invectives just proves it.

                    It doesn’t change the fact that Gary’s “explanation” for the birth of the church (i.e. cognitive dissonance) has less historical evidence than the actual claim of the resurrection of Jesus.

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                    1. @ Joel

                      Invectives?
                      I descrbed you as a coward. This is in reference to your refusal to accept evidence and you subsequenst banning me from your blog.
                      Who’s getting heated?
                      *Smile? Using the word coward is not invective but an astute character description.

                      Go back and read your ”Provan” series and see how much whining you (and Freeman ) do.

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                    2. Haha…invective is your middle name. If you can’t give well-reasoned arguments, resort to name calling and belligerent trolling. That’s what you do.

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                    3. @ Joely.
                      My middle name is Gladys, in actual fact.

                      Even a well-reasoned argument is no subsitute for verifiable evidence.
                      Since we last engaged on your blog, have you developed enough integrity to recognise what constitues verifiable evidence, or is your worldview still defined by faith, based on completely unsubstantiated claims?

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                    4. Let’s look at the evidence for this story:

                      In 1972, in the Congo, a man was killed in a car accident. He was buried in the local village cemetery. A few days later the grave was found empty. Soon after, family and friends claimed that the dead man appeared to them, some even claiming that he touched them during these appearances. Some people in the village began to claim that the man was an ancient African god who had come to earth disguised as a man.

                      Which explanation is more probable:

                      –the man in question was an ancient African god?
                      –the family and friends of the dead man experienced cognitive dissonance?

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                    5. I see….so that was 48 years ago. Have those people gone throughout the world and started a recognizable and distinct religious faith group?

                      Here is the core problem with your line of reasoning. You seem to think that the entire Christian faith is based on nothing more that the original followers going out and trying to prove a historical fact–like it is all a matter of winning an intellectual argument.

                      They claimed Jesus rose from the dead; as Paul says, over 500 people claimed to have witnessed the resurrected Jesus. But Christianity isn’t–can’t be–reduced to nothing more than proving a single historical claim.

                      You are missing so much.

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                    6. I see….so that was 48 years ago. Have those people gone throughout the world and started a recognizable and distinct religious faith group?

                      That is irrelevant to the question I asked you: Which is the more probable explanation for the belief of the family and friends of this man that they “saw” him after his death and burial: he was an African god with supernatural powers, or, they experienced cognitive dissonance? Your “dodge” tells me that your answer is the latter.

                      Christian apologists often claim that the “case for Christianity” is a cumulative case and this cumulative case cannot be explained by ONE natural explanation. This is probably true. We know from cumulative human experience that rumors and legends often have multiple origins that came together to form the final story. I believe that if we examine each component of the cumulative Christian Resurrection Story, a possible natural explanation exists for each and every component.

                      Let’s take the “five hundred people saw Jesus at one time and place” claim.

                      Does Paul claim to have been among this large group of people seeing Jesus at one time and place? No. Does Paul claim to know the location of this event? No. Does Paul give us any details of this event? No. Does Paul claim to have interviewed any of these alleged five hundred eyewitnesses? No. Does Paul claim to know the names of any of these alleged eyewitnesses? No. All Paul tells us is that some of these alleged eyewitnesses are still alive. How does Paul know this? Does he know these people who are still alive by first hand knowledge, or is this more third, fourth, fifth hand… information that was passed to him from unnamed sources, unnamed sources who may have received this information from other unnamed sources, etc.? (Please don’t tell me that Paul received this information from Peter and James during his two week stay in Jerusalem because that is pure speculation.)

                      Answer: We don’t know because Paul doesn’t tell us. For all we know, the alleged appearance to five hundred people is legendary or based on the sighting of a bright light by a large group of Christians which they perceived (an illusion) to be an appearance of the resurrected Jesus.

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                    7. You elevate “hyper-skepticism” to a whole other level.

                      More importantly, your obsession with “proving Christianity wrong” and essentially proselytizing for atheism is just bizarre.

                      I find the claims of other religions like Islam or Mormonism wholly ridiculous. So, I dont waste my time with them. I dont troll Mormons or Muslims and call upon them to reject their silly superstitions. If I did, that would say a whole lot more about my issues than theirs.

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                    8. None…it is an assumption. But given the Teamsters connection with the mafia, it’s a reasonable assumption.

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                    9. But you have zero evidence. How can you make an assumption (an assertion of probable cause) about the cause of Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance without any evidence? Answer: You are not claiming to KNOW what happened to Jimmy Hoffa, you are only offering a possible, plausible explanation for his disappearance.

                      Possible explanations do not require evidence for them to be plausible. Possible explanations only need to be plausible in the minds of most people and not contradict any established evidence. Therefore, you do not need to provide one shred of evidence that the mafia abducted and murdered Jimmy Hoffa for your possible explanation that they did to be plausible or probable.

                      And the same is true for my possible explanation for the origin of the Resurrection Belief: cognitive dissonance.

                      –does it contradict any of the agreed upon evidence (Let’s use Gary Habermas’ Minimal Facts) ? No
                      –Is it plausible in the minds of many if not most non-Christians? Yes.

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                    10. Big difference. I don’t have a blog or make it my life’s mission to argue with people over the demise of Jimmy Hoffa.

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                    11. No one preaches that if you do not believe in Jimmy Hoffa as your Lord and Savior you will be punished in some fashion in the afterlife.

                      You did not respond to this:

                      And the same is true for my possible explanation for the origin of the Resurrection Belief: cognitive dissonance.

                      –does it contradict any of the agreed upon evidence (Let’s use Gary Habermas’ Minimal Facts) ? No
                      –Is it plausible in the minds of many if not most non-Christians? Yes.

                      So why is my possible explanation for the Resurrection Belief irrational and implausible, Joel? I’m not asking you to admit that my possible explanation is the most probable, only that it is plausible.

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                    12. I didnt say it was “irrational and improbable.” I said there is no historical evidence that was ever a counter claim in the 1st century. In that respect, there is more 1st century evidence for an actual resurrection than you cognitive dissonance claim.

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                    13. Joel, you claim there is more 1st century evidence for an actual resurrection. But is that evidence documented anywhere besides in a several thousand year old book that has been proven to have numerous flaws and omissions and mistruths?

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                    14. Your depiction of the NT is wholly inaccurate. It is a collection of 1 century texts that reflect the claims of the early Church. Hence, there is at least 1st century testimony. Gary’s claim isnt based on anything any opponent of Christianity from the 1st century said.

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                    15. My possible explanation for the empty tomb of Jesus and the subsequent development of a Resurrection Story has just as much evidence as your possible explanation that Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance was due to his abduction and murder by the mafia.

                      Yet, both of our possible explanations are seen as the most probable explanation by most (non-Christian) people.

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                    16. Notice the key word in your response, Joel … that reflect the claims of the early Church.

                      This is the core issue between believers and non-believers. As the former, you accept, adopt, and live by those “claims” simply because they appear in a book that you accept as valid. The latter rejects them based on extensive research and study that goes far beyond the words of that book.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    17. Correct. In that respect, you are correct. We have zero evidence that anyone in the first century claimed that the Resurrection Belief was based on cognitive dissonance.

                      But the same is true for the African God Story. There is more historical evidence for the claim that the man who died in a car accident in the Congo was/is an African god than there is for the explanation that his family and friends experienced cognitive dissonance. Which explanation for the origin of this odd belief is more plausible and probable is a subjective matter of opinion. I’m sure that if you ask his surviving family and friends, they will tell you that the explanation that he was an African god is much more plausible and probable. But I will bet that you will agree with me that cognitive dissonance is a much more plausible and probable explanation.

                      Bottom line: Just because a supernatural explanation is the only known explanation for an odd event does not mean that that explanation is the most probable explanation. In the minds of most people (who are not members of that particular belief system), a natural explanation is still going to be the most probable. And that is true even if zero evidence for the natural explanation has been discovered.

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                    18. And this brings us back to my original comment about you bringing up this story. But there is no point to this. You should make a living out of grasping at straws.

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                    19. And Muslims most certainly preach that if you dont accept Muhhamad as Allah’s messenger, then you will burn in hell.

                      I dont care what they say. I dont believe it. I think they are wrong. I move on with my life.

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                    20. Do you believe that cognitive dissonance is a plausible and rational explanation for the early Christian Resurrection Belief? If so, we are agreed.

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                    21. Again, my point is you have no evidence such a claim was even made in the 1st century. Your claim is pure speculation that has no correlation to any response we know of from the 1st century.

                      Your life would be much more fulfilling if you just said, “I don’t believe Jesus was resurrected,” and then moved on with your life.

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                    22. Again, my point is you have no evidence such a claim was even made in the 1st century. Your claim is pure speculation that has no correlation to any response we know of from the 1st century.

                      For the upteenth time, I fully admit that there is no hard evidence that the Resurrection Belief developed due to cognitive dissonance among the family and friends of Jesus. But you are dodging the real issue. You disparaged my possible explanation for the Resurrection Belief as if it were stupid, ignorant, and silly. Yet, you haven’t provided any evidence to back up your assertion that my possible explanation is implausible, so implausible that it is stupid, ignorant, and silly, worthy of disdain and mockery. If my possible explanation is plausible, then it is rational and not silly.

                      Why don’t you just admit that my possible explanation that cognitive dissonance is the origin of the Resurrection Belief is rational and plausible, and then we can call it a day.

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                    23. Again, for the umpteenth time, of course it is “plausible and rational.” There is just zero evidence such a claim was made in the first century.

                      What is silly is the way you are holding up that claim as if it were some kind of ironclad, refutation of the resurrection claim.

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                    24. Thank you.

                      You have admitted that it is plausible and rational that the Christian Resurrection Belief arose from the cognitive dissonance of Jesus’ mourning friends and family. Many Christian apologists are unwilling to make this admission. I appreciate your honesty and integrity.

                      As to what is the most probable explanation for the Resurrection Belief, that is a matter of (subjective) personal opinion. Christians and their skeptics will never agree on which explanation for the Resurrection Belief is more probable.

                      Thanks for the discussion, Joel.

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                    25. My life might be more fulfilling but what about the millions of people trapped in my former fear-based cult? I believe that it is the duty of every ex-member of a fear-based cult to assist other members to leave the cult, providing evidence—based on science and reason—that the cult’s threats of punishment for leaving the cult are nothing but superstitious nonsense based on zero good evidence.

                      Threatening people with punishment after death is fear-mongering. It is a form of mind control. It is wrong and must be exposed.

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                    26. That is what every cult says about ex-members: “The problem is not with our superstitions, it is with you!”

                      Cults do not like being exposed. They often get very angry and nasty when they are. Cults desperately want to silence ex-members who dare to expose the fear-based foundational beliefs of the cult. And they have found that the best means of silencing ex-members is not by debating the merits of the ex-member’s criticisms, but to viciously and relentlessly attack and destroy the credibility and reputation of the ex-member. Whether the cult is Scientology or conservative Christianity, cults do not take kindly to ex-members spilling the beans on the true character of the cult.

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                    27. No one is getting angry. No one is trying to “silence” you. It is just an obvious and honest observation. You obviously still have the same mentality–instead of being an annoying proselytizer trying to save sinners from hell, you are an annoying proselytizer who is trying to save “cult members” from their “superstition.” You have the same mentality that says, “I am RIGHT and I must impose my views on you and bug you until you REPENT of (…your sins/…your superstition) take your pick.

                      Like I’ve said before, that is obsessive behavior. I wish you’d realize it. I find Islam to be false; I don’t create and entire blog dedicated to proving Islam is false; I don’t go out to seek Muslims and then badger them about how false their views are. It’s their choice. If they want to talk about beliefs, great. I’ll talk. But it isn’t my life’s mission to “convert” anyone. I respect other people’s choices, regardless of whether or not I think they are wrong.

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                    28. I write about the subject that I have expertise in. Biblical Studies is a fascinating subject. I’m not proselytizing. My blog isn’t dedicated to “Saving Muslims” or “Exposing Mormons.”

                      Essentially, your blog is negative–it’s aim is to negate something. By contrast, by blog is more positive–it’s aim is to articulate and clarify things about Biblical Studies and Christianity in general.

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                    29. You get very testy (and often quite condescending) when someone challenges or criticizes your religious beliefs. If we were discussing “who is the best team in the NFL”, and you were an NFL scout (a professional in that field), I doubt you would feel compelled to behave as you do. Can you honestly say that someone’s rejection of your religious beliefs is just as inconsequential to you as someone’s rejection and criticism of your favorite NFL team?

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                    30. I’m saying that if you don’t believe Christianity, fine. More power to ya. But this obsession you have with “exposing” or “taking Christianity down” is both laughable and sad.

                      This OP of yours is case and point. You constantly mischaracterize and misrepresent things that Christians like me say. It is blatantly obvious to anyone who looks at what you do, as Polycarp’s Scribe has shown.

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                    31. The fact that you are so emotionally involved in any discussion involving your religious beliefs is a very strong indication, to me, that the purpose of your blog is more than just sharing your expertise. I believe that the underlying motive of your blog is to stem the mass exodus of people leaving your ancient cult. Once someone has definitely left the cult, you are correct, you don’t give a damn about them. But I will bet that you are deeply, and passionately concerned about Christians were are “wavering” in their faith. You sincerely believe that your extensive education in the history of one ancient, middle eastern holy book and your knowledge of philosophy will “save” some of these hapless (and clueless) souls.

                      Take a look at your denomination’s declining membership numbers, Joel. It’s not working.

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                    32. That’s ok. Keep laughing.

                      What matters to me is that your belief system (cult) is dying in the educated West. No matter how you dress it up with sophisticated-sounding, sesquipedalian, philosophical word salad, virgins are never impregnated by ghosts and brain-dead corpses never come back to life to fly off into outer space. Fewer and fewer educated people are willing to buy into supernatural tales. One day (soon, I will bet) our history books are going to record: The Internet killed religion.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    33. …when a member does decide to leave [a cult], he or she is vilified by the cult. …The loaded name of “apostate” is attached to the leaving member who wants to publicize the cult’s wrongs. That word causes fear in the hearts of the faithful members. It means that the former member is now a hater of God’s word and has committed the unforgivable sin, committing a crime against the Holy Spirit. In the cult members’ minds, to talk to that person would be equivalent to talking to Satan.

                      Instilling intense fear is an excellent way to ensure that the other blind members are not lead astray by the member that has discovered the truth of the cult’s motives.

                      No self-respecting member would listen to one word of an “apostate” or read any “apostate literature.”

                      Source: https://blog.usejournal.com/how-cults-entrap-people-d2f012c10149

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                3. Hi Joel. Thank you for your comments.

                  The rock bottom, historical fact is that we have people in the mid-first century claiming Jesus was resurrected. We have evidence that this was the claim and stated reason for the birth of the church.

                  I agree with this statement.

                  By contrast, there literally is ZERO evidence that any of the opponents of Christianity at the time (i.e. none of the first century Jews in Jerusalem) were making any claims of “cognitive dissonance.” There were claims the disciples stole the body. That’s it.

                  What are your sources for what first century Jews in Jerusalem were saying about the origin of the Resurrection Belief?

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. More importantly, what are YOUR sources? That is the heart of the issue.

                    In any case, Matthew points that some Jewish leaders claimed Jesus’ disciples stole the body; then there is the famous (but disputed) section in Josephus that mentions Jesus’ resurrection.

                    But again, where is the first century evidence for YOUR claim? Can you point to anything from the first century where any counterclaims of the resurrection resembled your claim?

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                    1. Do you believe that everything “Matthew” wrote in the Gospel According to Matthew is historically true? Most scholars do not. Most scholars believe some of “Matthew’s” stories are theological, not historical. Most scholars doubt the historicity of Roman guards at the tomb. Most scholars doubt the historicity of dead saints shaken out of their graves to walk the streets of Jerusalem. Therefore, basing our knowledge of what first century Jews were saying about the early Christian Resurrection Belief, from ONE source—an anonymous Christian author, an author known for including non-historical stories in his gospel, doesn’t seem like a reliable source of historical information about what first century Jews thought of the origin of Christianity.

                      My belief that the origin of the Resurrection Belief is probably based on cognitive dissonance is based on the evidence of thousands of years of cumulative human experience: human beings who have experienced a sudden, tragic loss often engage in cognitive dissonance.

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                    2. Gary, I’ll be kind and just say you are out of your depth.

                      Yes, I think the Gospel of Matthew is relating historical events.

                      The very way you are trying depict Matthew is problematic and misleading. And it doesnt change the fact that your claimed explanation has zero historical, 1st century corroboration for it.

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                    3. A possible explanation does not need ANY evidence to be true. I hope you agree with that. We have no evidence of what happened to Amelia Erhardt or Jimmy Hoffa, but that does not mean that we cannot posit very probable possible explanations for their disappearances.

                      The only requirement of a possible explanation is that it not contradict any of the agreed upon evidence. My possible explanation for the alleged sightings of a dead man in the Congo in 1972 and my possible explanation for the alleged sightings of a dead man in Palestine in circa 33 do not need evidence to be true, they only must not contradict any agreed upon evidence.

                      My possible explanation that both stories probably developed due to cognitive dissonance does not contradict any of the agreed upon evidence so it is therefore perfectly reasonable, rational, (and probable, in the minds of most non-Christians).

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                    4. Gary, your mention of Amelia and Jimmy made me wonder how people would react if word suddenly got around that either or both had been “seen” — and perhaps even had dinner with come of their old friends? Since neither body has ever been located, why would such a story not be as plausible as the one in the bible?

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                    5. Exactly. And what if the only story that circulated after Hoffa’s disappearance what this: he was abducted by space aliens.

                      By Joel’s standards, we would be forced accept the “space alien abduction” as the cause of Hoffa’s disappearance simply because it is the only early explanation in existence! If I suggested that Hoffa was probably killed and his body disposed of by the mob, Joel would demand evidence of this possible explanation and if I could not provide any, he would write off the possible explanation of a mob hit as ridiculous.

                      This is illogical and irrational thinking, yet Joel uses the same argument for the empty grave of Jesus!

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  9. @ Joel

    Yes, I think the Gospel of Matthew is relating historical events.

    Are you being serious?
    Even Licona regards the raising of the saints in gMatt 27 as Apocolytioc Imagery, not to be understood literally. A view that eventually cost him his job.
    What sort of credulous halfwit considers such a tale as holding any historical veracticty whatseover?
    (I am being rhetorical of course, as we know which halfwits these are, don’t we?)

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