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Old 04-26-2001, 06:52 PM   #11
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KL: But what historical evidence do we have for even the existence of the tomb, let alone its emptiness, besides the New Testament?

CS: We know from history, at least based on what I have read, that at least Paul and James were executed for their belief.

Now why would the authorities go through the trouble to execute these men for something they could readily disprove without incident?

 
Old 04-26-2001, 06:58 PM   #12
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Originally posted by ChristianSkeptic:
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">ChristianSkeptic (CS): I also reference two scholarly level books written by Dr. Craig.</font>
I'm sorry, I'm simply not interested in reading any more by a purported scholar who makes such ridiculous assertions as a claim that "all" New Testament scholars agree on an early date for the Gospels.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> KL: Outright delusions..

CS: Where is your evidence that the disciples were in fact delusional?</font>
A delusional or otherwise mistaken group of people is far more likely to exist than a claimed Resurrection. The burden of proof is on those who make the more fantastic claim.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> KL:…There's still plenty of controversy about the dates.
Be that as it may, Craig does not cite any other first-century sources besides the New Testament accounts.


CS: and what is wrong with that apart from your contrary presumptions about "fantastic stories”?</font>
That is exactly what's wrong with it. Are you claiming you have no presumption against supernatural stories (in the absence of truly overwhelming evidence) outside the context of the Bible?


[This message has been edited by Kate Long (edited April 26, 2001).]
 
Old 04-26-2001, 07:07 PM   #13
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">CS: We know from history, at least based on what I have read, that at least Paul and James were executed for their belief.

Now why would the authorities go through the trouble to execute these men for something they could readily disprove without incident?</font>
Minor quibble: we don't know whether Paul was executed or not. Tradition says he was beheaded by Nero but reasonable people can disagree, especially since he was a Roman citizen. He may have lived out his days under house arrest for all we know. As for James, since he was Jesus' brother his martyrdom in 61 CE was probably a result of his leadership of the Jesus movement in Jerusalem. The high priests did not like challengers to the very lucrative temple system. They would not have bothered to "prove" or "disprove" anything (what does that mean in the context of religious belief anyway?) but would have simply used their power to do away with all competitors.
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Old 04-26-2001, 07:13 PM   #14
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Originally posted by ChristianSkeptic:
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">KL: But what historical evidence do we have for even the existence of the tomb, let alone its emptiness, besides the New Testament?

CS: We know from history, at least based on what I have read, that at least Paul and James were executed for their belief.

Now why would the authorities go through the trouble to execute these men for something they could readily disprove without incident? </font>
As far as I know, Christians were persecuted by the Romans because they were perceived as disloyal to Rome, due to their refusal to participate in the Roman civil religion -- and because the emperors occasionally needed a scapegoat. I doubt that the Roman authorities would even have bothered to investigate the supernatural content of the Christian belief system carefully enough to determine whether there might be an easy way to disprove it.


[This message has been edited by Kate Long (edited April 26, 2001).]
 
Old 04-26-2001, 08:34 PM   #15
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To all:

I’m taking the liberty of repeating (with a little reworking) a post that I originally made some time ago, which may have missed by many because it was on a thread that was ostensibly on a quite different subject. It seems to be right on the money for this thread. So here it is, for what it’s worth:

Christian apologists love to try to draw nonbelievers into a detailed discussion of the evidence for the Resurrection, because in the course of such a discussion it is easy to forget, or to take lightly, the fact that the alleged event being discussed is extraordinarily unlikely a priori. I have no intention of getting into the details of the story, or of exactly how much weight should be given to the fact that a great many people came to believe in the Resurrection, etc. This is all dealt with admirably in Richard Carrier’s essay,Why I Don't Buy the Resurrection Story. This is a rather long piece, but fascinating to anyone seriously interested in the evidence for the Resurrection. However, the arguments there are not really necessary to the case against its historicity. Instead, I want to deal primarily with the question of how strong the historical evidence would have to be to justify this belief . I believe that a proper understanding of this issue is enough to lay this issue to rest without further ado.

Christian apologists often say that the Resurrection story should be judged by the ordinary standards of historical scholarship. The implication is that if this is done the “objective, scientific” conclusion must be that it is true. Let’s consider whether this is true.

One of the first, elementary principles, in analyzing ancient accounts of events, applied routinely by all competent historians, is that if the account of an event in an ancient document seems quite improbable, the account is probably false. And if it relates a miracle, the account is discounted completely.

There are two reasons for this rule. One relates to the nature of the ancient world; the other applies to all claims about the past, even the very recent past. Let us start by considering the first point.

One of the first things that real historians quickly learn is that none of the “historians” writing in Roman times (or before) is very reliable. Nothing that they write can accepted uncritically. All of them (like practically everyone else at the time) believed that the Gods intervened regularly in human affairs, that miracles were rather frequent. The prevalence of superstition, gullibility, fraudulent “miracles” and “magic”, and worship of figures with supposedly supernatural powers in this period is described entertainingly in Richard Carrier’s Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire . To make matters worse, little value was placed on strict accuracy in historical accounts, so almost all “historians” of the day had little compunction about simply making things up out of whole cloth, relating unconfirmed rumors, or embellishing their accounts if it made for a better story. As a result, almost every “history” of ancient times is replete with accounts of miracles and highly improbable tales. (It is true that much of what we call “history” is known with much less certainty than is commonly believed, because the documentation is not exactly unimpeachable. We believe it because there is no good reason not to, not because it is known to be true beyond a reasonable doubt.) Consequently, if the principle described above were to be abandoned, it would simply become impossible to do serious history.

As to the second point, it is so self-evident that miraculous claims require extraordinary evidence that it should hardly be necessary to belabor the point. Unfortunately, Christian apologists have, over the years, found various ways to obfuscate this point in several ways. The first is to claim that this amounts to a claim that a miraculous claim requires miraculous evidence. The second is to grant the point in principle, but to trivialize it by describing as “extraordinary” evidence which is merely better than average. (And the quality of the evidence actually available is invariably exaggerated, often to a ludicrous degree.) An excellent illustration of the kind of evidence that would really be sufficient to establish a miracle is given in Richard Packham’s essay The Man with No Heart: Miracles and Evidence.

This point is so important that it is worth explaining in some detail. For the sake of an illustration, recall that not so many years ago there was talk of a “four minute mile barrier,” because at the time no one had been able to run a mile in under four minutes. Now suppose that at that time an unknown athlete, Mustaph Kaphael, claimed to have run a mile in just under four minutes in an unknown town in Kazakhstan. To support this claim, suppose he submitted sworn affidavits from his coach, an “official” timer (unknown outside his home town), and several friends, all supporting his claim. Formally, this is exceptionally good evidence for a claim of a new record. However, the claim would most likely have been rejected on the grounds that it was hard to believe that an unknown runner, from an area not exactly known for producing great athletes, had done what no world-class runner had been able to do, and the testimony of any number of unknown people was simply not enough to overcome the a priori implausibility of the claim.

Yet there is nothing inherently absurd about a claim that someone has run a mile a few seconds faster that anyone had ever done it before; this has happened lots of times before, and will probably happen again. To get a little closer to the kind of claims that Christians ask us to believe, imagine that the claim had been that Mustaph had run a mile, not in just under four minutes, but in three minutes flat. In that case even a videotape of the event and reports from two or three witnesses known to have been reliable in the past would probably not have been enough to get the claim accepted, because it simply never happens that an important track record is surpassed by such a huge margin. In fact, in all likelihood Mustaph would have to repeat his performance, under conditions that would allow the most careful scientific scrutiny, and recorded in several ways that would allow no reasonable possibility of fraud, before his three- minute mile would be officially entered into the record books.

Note that there would have been nothing remotely miraculous about such a claim. Athletes have by now run a mile in around three and a half minutes; it is entirely possible that they will someday be able to do so in less than three. But the claim that someone had actually done so at that time would have rightly been considered so absurd that truly extraordinary proof would have been demanded before it would have been believed.

But now let’s imagine that the claims made on behalf of Mustaph were in the category of the unquestionably miraculous. Say that he was said to have run a mile in three seconds, and that he ran, not on a track, but on water, and that he ran through a solid wall along the way, and that he had been clearly, unambiguously dead two days earlier. At this point any sane, rational person would insist on evidence much, much better even that the evidence that he would demand before believing that Mustaph had run a mile in three minutes. In fact, the evidence that would be required for rational belief would be of the kind described by Packham.

What Christians want us to believe is that, somewhere between the four-minute-mile claim and the three-second-mile claim, a point is reached where we should be willing to accept less evidence for the less plausible claim (i.e., the one that is further removed from normal experience) than for the more plausible one. This is clearly untenable. Any rational method of assessing the truth of such claims is going to demand better and better evidence at every step along the continuum from a four-minute to a three-second mile.

Once we understand the kind and quality of evidence that would be required for rational acceptance of a claim that miraculous events occurred thousands of years ago, there is little point in even examining the question of whether such evidence is in fact available. And this is the fundamental reason why historians routinely reject all accounts of miraculous events occurring in ancient times.

Christian apologists often claim that the evidence for the Resurrection is so strong that it is simply unreasonable not to believe it. As Nomad once put it:

“... the amount of evidence for the Resurrection as believed by Christians is FAR greater than is the evidence for any other alternative explanation. On this basis it becomes more reasonable to believe in the Resurrection than to not believe. To simply say "I don't know what happened, but this can't be it because it is so extraordinary" is to leave the question begging.”

I hope that by now it is obvious why this argument is completely bogus. In order to disbelieve in the Resurrection, it is not necessary to come up with an “alternative explanation,” any more than it would have been necessary to explain plausibly why some people had claimed that Mustaph had run a three-minute mile (much less a three-second mile). The sheer implausibility of such a claim, in conjunction with the lack of the kind of truly extraordinary evidence described by Packham, is quite sufficient to justify rational disbelief.

Packham makes another very important point. We are willing to believe, say, Josephus’s account of the events at Masada because it does not really matter to us much one way or the other. When the question has important practical implications the level of proof required goes way up. As Packham puts it:

“If the issue ... is where Bob was yesterday, a friend of Bob who saw him yesterday can testify that he saw Bob eating a ham sandwich, but if Bob [is suspected of having] died of poisoning from bad chicken, more than casual testimony would be required to establish definitely that Bob ate ham, not chicken for lunch.”

The point is, it is perfectly rational to demand much better proof of an assertion that will convict someone of a serious crime than of a casual claim that has no particular real-world consequences. And for the same reasons, it is perfectly rational to demand extraordinary evidence that something is true if believing it means that one’s entire life will necessarily revolve around this belief. And this requirement adds to – it does not replace – the already extremely high burden of proof that arises from the fact that the claims of Christianity inherently involve, among other things, the assertion that a dead man rose from the grave thousands of years ago.


[This message has been edited by bd-from-kg (edited April 26, 2001).]
 
Old 04-26-2001, 09:42 PM   #16
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bd-from-kg, you've done an excellent job of explaining this. Thanks very much.
 
Old 04-26-2001, 10:31 PM   #17
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Kate Long:


Hopefully we can get back to the original topic, namely the question of whether there really is sufficient historical evidence to justify belief in something so unlikely as the Resurrection. Are the Gospels plus the mere existence of the early Church really adequate evidence, even if we assume for the sake of argument that the Gospels were written at an early date?
</font>
There was a resurrection.

The word "resurrection" has/had many other meanings other than "resusitation." The resurrection proclamation was simply the way these ancient people used to express their conviction that the person who guided and moved them when he was alive was somehow still at work ("present") in their lives.

The gospel accounts are hopelessly muddled to enable us to ascertain "what exactly really happened."

The historical facts must be that Christianity began and spread not with an improbable miraculous event outside of any naturalistic explanation, but with a person's words and deeds that moved people.

The times were obviously right and Christianity spread like wildfire, but not before getting under the covers with the Roman Empire in 325 AD.

Today's Mormon church--and indeed the Islamic faith--is spreading very, very rapidly today without any "supernatural" event claimed as a historical basis for that growth/

 
Old 04-27-2001, 12:14 AM   #18
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by aikido7:
Today's Mormon church--and indeed the Islamic faith--is spreading very, very rapidly today [b]without any "supernatural" event claimed as a historical basis for that growth</font>
Untrue. Mormons credit God every time for their growth. That's about as supernatural as they come. I assume the same is true for Islam, but I was never Muslim...

 
Old 04-27-2001, 02:27 AM   #19
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Kate Long:
...ChristianSkeptic referred me to the article ...by William Lane Craig. That article says:</font>
First, we must remember that Craig is an apologist. Knowing that, we must use it to gauge everything he says.

Michael Grant, noted historian of the ancient Mediterranean basin, in Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels notes that there are three types of researchers of New Testament material: the first is he who has already concluded that Jesus existed, as presented, and did all the extraordinary things credited to him, and uses his research to support that conclusion; the second is he who has concluded that Jesus did not exist, and attempts to support that conclusion; and the third is he who has no presumed conclusions, and seeks the truth, for whom no answer can be a bad one.

Craig definitely falls into that first category.

One of the key elements Craig avoids is that no new legends were created for Jesus. Other gods had run the gamut before him; he wasn't the first to have a god as a father, nor to have been of a virgin birth; he wasn't the first to irritate the authorities; he wasn't the first to die at their hands, nor to rise from the dead.

In One Jesus: Many Christs, Gregory Riley notes 12 features of the mythological characters of that era, all of which are shared by Jesus, all of which preceded him. There is no need for mythologizing to take place cut from whole cloth, as it were: the evangelists needed only to take the available catalogue of wonderous things available and overlay them onto his biographies.

This phenomenon, already well established in the region at the time, precludes the need for rapid "legend making." You don't have to shear the sheep, comb and card the wool, weave it into a cloth, and sew that cloth into a coat of many colors to cover Jesus with myths. All you need do is take one already on the rack and put it on him.
 
Old 04-27-2001, 02:36 AM   #20
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Kate Long:
In the other thread, Christian Skeptic wrote:

But what historical evidence do we have for even the existence of the tomb, let alone its emptiness, besides the New Testament?
</font>
Eusebius, writing in the 4th century, notes of James, "The Brother of the Lord", that his burial monument was known at that time, some 270 years following his death. Why, then, does no one mention that the tomb of Jesus, surely more noteworthy than that of his brother, is as well known? James, whose star dimmed following his death (his epistle is in opposition to the Pauline epistles, and the early church, while they couldn't ignore him, could and did push him back on the list of the greats) still had an identifiable grave, while the most famous grave of all could neither be located nor placed into a spot that had independent testimony of existence.

Curious.
 
 

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