Silly Atheist! Consensus Expert Opinion is Not Sufficient Reason to Reject the Eyewitness Authorship of the Gospels

Expert opinion stock illustration. Illustration of uppercase - 109271511

Christian blogger and apologist:

I appreciate you weighing in on my blog post [posting a comment]. You make a good point that stands if the evidence holds up: “If the gospels were not written by eyewitnesses or associates of eyewitnesses, then do we still have good reason to trust the reliability of the gospel accounts including the resurrection of Jesus Christ?” That looks to be the point you are making. Feel free to correct me if that does not represent what you are saying.

I did read the article in the link you posted and I did see a few points, but mostly what I saw was assertions that “the gospels cannot be early” or “the majority of scholarship says the gospel cannot have been written early.” First, an assertion is not an argument, it is merely an assertion. Simply saying that “the majority of scholarship says the gospels cannot have been written early” does not make it so. One must provide reasons that the gospels were written later.

On the other hand, let me give you a very short article that gives a brief argument for an early date for the gospels. https://www.str.org/w/a-short-argument-for-early-dating-of-the-gospels Basically, it is an argument for an early date of the gospels based upon the death of Paul. Since almost every scholar believes that Mark was written first, and that John was written last, and that Matthew and Luke were written between those two (and have much in common among them), one can look at the end of Acts and notice that Paul’s death is not mentioned, which would put Acts at around the 63ish date. If Acts is at 63, then Luke (which was written before Acts, by Luke) must be earlier than even 63, which would also put Matthew and Luke (and certainly Mark) must earlier. Now, just because a document is early does not mean it is reliable, but it is a better reason to think it is reliable than not unless there are reasons given to question its reliability.

Another Point: Even if the gospels were written late and/or were not written by eyewitnesses or close associates, that does not, necessarily, mean that the gospel accounts are false. It simply means they are late and not written by eyewitnesses. We can look at some of the writings of Paul, for example, that predate even some of the gospels, and still can infer that Christ is risen from those documents. The resurrection still exists in the literature before the gospels and before 70AD, and even around the 30sAD (1 Corinthians 15:3-8, for example, many believe to be an early hymn (or confession) which proclaims Christ risen just a few years after the event itself. So, even if the gospels were destroyed, you’d still have to deal with the other writings of the New Testament, especially Paul.

Final Point: Even if one could show Christianity to have difficulties as you’ve mentioned above, that still does not negate the difficulties that atheism, for example, has. The questions I ask about atheism stands even if there is a poor case for Christianity to be true. Again, every worldview has difficulties, the question is, which worldview are we willing to live with (with it’s difficulties) the most? Here are the questions I posted above:

1. How does, literally, everything come from, literally, nothing (“nothing” in the philosophical sense contra Hawkings’ “nothing” of some quantum vacuum)?

2. How do moral values that look objective come from “nothing” which is non-moral? Or, how does a purely naturalistic universe produce Real, Objective moral values such as, “It’s wrong to torture children for the fun of it” (which most people can “see” as objectively wrong at all times).

3.How does the atheist explain that we can “see” that torturing children for the fun of it is objectively wrong and that we can “see” that helping an old lady across the street is objectively right?

4.How does an unguided, blind, nothingness in the universe bring about such beauty (rose, mountain, ocean, newborn, etc.) and complexity (cell, solar system, photosynthesis, etc.)?

5.How does conscious life (mostly humans, but the animals as well) come from that which is non-conscious (nothing)?

6.How does philosophical naturalism (atheism, etc.) adequately explain this irrepressible human desire to be “religious”? Religion has been found in every culture that has ever existed. Where does this belief in the transcendent or this seeking for that which is not seen come from?

Gary:

Thank you for taking the time to so thoroughly respond to my comment.

Let me first address the excellent philosophical questions at the end of your comment. My answer to all your questions is: I don’t know. But I must ask this question: Just because a particular worldview claims to have all the answers for life’s biggest and hardest questions, does that necessarily make that worldview true? No. And the converse: If a worldview does not claim to know all the answers, does that necessarily make that worldview false? I would suggest that it does not.

I am not afraid to admit that my worldview does not have the answers to all of life’s questions.

You said: “Simply saying that “the majority of scholarship says the gospels cannot have been written early” does not make it so. One must provide reasons that the gospels were written later.”

No. That is not correct. I am not a scholar. I am not expert. Our culture does not require me to research every issue under the sun in order to hold a position on those issues. That would be impossible for any one human to do. Our culture believes that it is perfectly acceptable for me to defer to expert consensus opinion on all these issues. I am allowed to appeal to consensus expert opinion on all issues about which I am not an expert. For instance, if someone wants to debate me on whether or not the earth is flat, I do not need to do my own research. I can appeal to consensus expert opinion. And the same is true regarding climate change. I do not need to do my own research on this issue. I can appeal to consensus expert opinion. And the same is true with the Covid pandemic. I do not need to spend months on the internet studying to make up my own mind if Covid is true or a hoax. I can simply appeal to consensus expert opinion. That is what educated people do in our culture.

So, no. I do not need to look at your research or anyone else’s research on the dating and authorship of the Gospels. I can simply appeal to consensus expert opinion. The fact that you have spent many hours examining the evidence does not make you an expert. Your non-expert opinion is of no more value than my non-expert opinion. Even if you were a Bible scholar and held the minority position on the authorship and the dating of the Gospels, I would still be justified by the standards of our culture to ignore your opinion.

Trust consensus expert opinion on ALL issues, my friend.

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End of post.

5 thoughts on “Silly Atheist! Consensus Expert Opinion is Not Sufficient Reason to Reject the Eyewitness Authorship of the Gospels

  1. So the argument [s]he uses for an early gospel is that “one can look at the end of Acts and notice that Paul’s death is not mentioned.” This is just an argument from silence fallacy. There may be perfectly good reasons why the author never mentioned that Paul’s death, the most likely to me being that it wasn’t relevant to the story.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I sometimes joke that as Paul’s death in Rome is only assumed, maybe he deconverted and left the movement. Any letters he wrote after that would have been trashed, and his later exploits, not talked about. That’s why Acts doesn’t mention what happened to him. Unlikely, I know, but the idea just popped into my head a while back when I was reading about Tertullian, the great apologist and heresy hunter who then went off to become a heretic himself.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. He became a Montanist, then became dissatisfied with them (not rigorous enough), and then started his own movement. From what I read, early Christians never forgave him, but later on, and now he seems to be forgiven, mainly because they admire his work when he was considered orthodox. About 10 years ago I read a small book by the previous Pope (the German one) and while most of the book was forgettable, his comment along the lines that although Tertullian was a great thinker but unfortunately fell into error, he still has value to the Church, is the one thing I remember from the book.

          Liked by 1 person

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