• Strange Notions Strange Notions Strange Notions

Refuting the Myth Theory: 6 Reasons Why the Resurrection Accounts are True

BibleManuscripts

NOTE: Christians around the world celebrated Good Friday and Easter last week, which commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus we began a six-part series on these events by Dr. Peter Kreeft in which he examines each of the plausible theories attempting to explain what happened to Jesus at the end of his life, particularly whether he rose from the dead.

Part 1 - 5 Possible Theories that Explain the Resurrection of Jesus
Part 2 - Rejecting the Swoon Theory: 9 Reasons Why Jesus Did Not Faint on the Cross
Part 3 - Debunking the Conspiracy Theory: 7 Arguments Why Jesus’ Disciples Did Not Lie
Part 4 - Refuting the Myth Theory: 6 Reasons Why the Resurrection Accounts are True
Part 5 - Real Visions: 13 Reasons the Disciples Did Not Hallucinate
Part 6 - (Coming soon!)
 


 
We've now examined two theories attempting to explain away the resurrection of Jesus, first the "swoon" theory and then the "liar" theory. Today we'll consider perhaps the most popular alternative theory today: the "myth" theory. Many non-Christians assert that the Gospel accounts of Jesus' death and resurrection are simply myths, much like the stories we find among the Greeks and the Norse. But here are six reasons the "myth" theory does not hold:

(1) The style of the Gospels is radically and clearly different from the style of all the myths. Any literary scholar who knows and appreciates myths can verify this. There are no overblown, spectacular, childishly exaggerated events. Nothing is arbitrary. Everything fits in. Everything is meaningful. The hand of a master is at work here.

Psychological depth is at a maximum. In myth it is at a minimum. In myth, such spectacular external events happen that it would be distracting to add much internal depth of character. That is why it is ordinary people like Alice who are the protagonists of extra-ordinary adventures like Wonderland. That character depth and development of everyone in the Gospels—especially, of course, Jesus himself—is remarkable. It is also done with an incredible economy of words. Myths are verbose; the Gospels are laconic (concise).

There are also telltale marks of eyewitness description, like the little detail of Jesus writing in the sand when asked whether to stone the adulteress or not (Jn 8:6). No one knows why this is put in; nothing comes of it. The only explanation is that the writer saw it. If this detail and others like it throughout all four Gospels were invented, then a first-century tax collector (Matthew), a "young man" (Mark), a doctor (Luke), and a fisherman (John) all independently invented the new genre of realistic fantasy nineteen centuries before it was reinvented in the twentieth.

The stylistic point is argued so well by C.S. Lewis in "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism" (in Christian Reflections and also in Fern-Seed and Elephants) that I strongly refer the reader to it as the best comprehensive anti-demythologizing essay we have seen.

Let us be even more specific. Let us compare the Gospels with two particular mythic writings from around that time to see for ourselves the stylistic differences. The first is the so-called Gospel of Peter, a forgery from around A.D. 125 which John Dominic Crossan (of the "Jesus Seminar"), insists is earlier than the four Gospels. As William Lane Craig puts it:

"In this account, the tomb is not only surrounded by Roman guards but also by all the Jewish Pharisees and elders as well as a great multitude from all the surrounding countryside who have come to watch the resurrection. Suddenly in the night there rings out a loud voice in heaven, and two men descend from heaven to the tomb. The stone over the door rolls back by itself, and they go into the tomb. The three men come out of the tomb, two of them holding up the third man. The heads of the two men reach up into the clouds, but the head of the third man reaches beyond the clouds. Then a cross comes out of the tomb, and a voice from heaven asks, 'Have you preached to them that sleep?' And the cross answers, 'Yes.'"  (Apologetics, p. 189)

Here is a second comparison, from Richard Purtill:

"It may be worthwhile to take a quick look, for purposes of comparison, at the closest thing we have around the time of the Gospels to an attempt at a realistic fantasy. This is the story of Apollonius of Tyana, written about A.D. 250 by Flavius Philostratus....There is some evidence that a neo-Pythagorean sage named Apollonius may really have lived, and thus Philostratus' work is a real example of what many have thought the Gospels to be: a fictionalized account of the life of a real sage and teacher, introducing miraculous elements to build up the prestige of the central figure. It thus gives us a good look at what a real example of a fictionalized biography would look like, written at a time and place not too far removed from those in which the Gospels were written.
 
The first thing we notice is the fairy-tale atmosphere. There is a rather nice little vampire story, which inspired a minor poem by Keats entitled Lamia. There are animal stories about, for instance, snakes in India big enough to drag off and eat an elephant. The sage wanders from country to country and wherever he goes he is likely to be entertained by the king or emperor, who holds long conversations with him and sends him on his way with camels and precious stones.
 
Here is a typical passage about healing miracles: 'A woman who had had seven miscarriages was cured through the prayers of her husband, as follows. The Wise Man told the husband, when his wife was in labor, to bring a live rabbit under his cloak to the place where she was, walk around her and immediately release the rabbit; for she would lose her womb as well as her baby if the rabbit was not immediately driven away.' [Bk 3, sec 39]

 
The point is that this is what you get when the imagination goes to work. Once the boundaries of fact are crossed we wander into fairyland. And very nice too, for amusement or recreation. But the Gospels are set firmly in the real Palestine of the first century, and the little details are not picturesque inventions but the real details that only an eyewitness or a skilled realistic novelist can give." (Thinking About Religion, p. 75-76)

(2) A second problem is that there was not enough time for myth to develop. The original demythologizers pinned their case onto a late second-century date for the writing of the Gospels; several generations have to pass before the added mythological elements can be mistakenly believed to be facts. Eyewitnesses would be around before that to discredit the new, mythic versions. We know of other cases where myths and legends of miracles developed around a religious founder—for example, Buddha, Lao-tzu, and Muhammad. In each case, many generations passed before the myth surfaced.

The dates for the writing of the Gospels have been pushed back by every empirical manuscript discovery; only abstract hypothesizing pushes the date forward. Almost no knowledgeable scholar today holds what Rudolf Bultmann said was necessary to hold in order to believe the myth theory, namely, that there is no first-century textual evidence that Christianity began with a divine and resurrected Christ, not a human and dead one.

Some scholars still dispute the first-century date for the Gospels, especially John's. But no one disputes that Paul's letters were written within the lifetime of eyewitnesses to Christ. So let us argue from Paul's letters. Either these letters contain myth or they do not. If so, there is lacking the several generations necessary to build up a commonly believed myth. There is not even one generation. If these letters are not myth, then the Gospels are not either, for Paul affirms all the main claims of the Gospels.

Julius Müller put the anti-myth argument this way:

"One cannot imagine how such a series of legends could arise in an historical age, obtain universal respect, and supplant the historical recollection of the true character [Jesus]....if eyewitnesses were still at hand who could be questioned respecting the truth of the recorded marvels. Hence, legendary fiction, as it likes not the clear present time but prefers the mysterious gloom of gray antiquity, is wont to seek a remoteness of age, along with that of space, and to remove its boldest and most rare and wonderful creations into a very remote and unknown land."  (The Theory of Myths in Its Application to the Gospel History Examined and Confuted [London, 1844], p. 26)

Müller challenged his nineteenth-century contemporaries to produce a single example anywhere in history of a great myth or legend arising around a historical figure and being generally believed within thirty years after that figure's death. No one has ever answered him.

(3) The myth theory has two layers. The first layer is the historical Jesus, who was not divine, did not claim divinity, performed no miracles, and did not rise from the dead. The second, later, mythologized layer is the Gospels as we have them, with a Jesus who claimed to be divine, performed miracles and rose from the dead. The problem with this theory is simply that there is not the slightest bit of any real evidence whatever for the existence of any such first layer. The two-layer cake theory has the first layer made entirely of air—and hot air at that.

St. Augustine refutes the two-layer theory with his usual condensed power and simplicity:

"The speech of one Elpidius, who had spoken and disputed face to face against the Manichees, had already begun to affect me at Carthage, when he produced arguments from Scripture which were not easy to answer. And the answer they [the Manichees, who claimed to be the true Christians] gave seemed to me feeble—indeed they preferred not to give it in public but only among ourselves in private—the answer being that the Scriptures of the New Testament had been corrupted by some persons unknown...yet the Manicheans made no effort to produce uncorrupted copies." (Confessions, V, 11, Frank Sheed translation)

Note the sarcasm in the last sentence. It still applies today. William Lane Craig summarizes the evidence—the lack of evidence:

"The Gospels are a miraculous story, and we have no other story handed down to us than that contained in the Gospels....The letters of Barnabas and Clement refer to Jesus' miracles and resurrection. Polycarp mentions the resurrection of Christ, and Irenaeus relates that he had heard Polycarp tell of Jesus' miracles. Ignatius speaks of the resurrection. Quadratus reports that persons were still living who had been healed by Jesus. Justin Martyr mentions the miracles of Christ. No relic of a non-miraculous story exists. That the original story should be lost and replaced by another goes beyond any known example of corruption of even oral tradition, not to speak of the experience of written transmissions. These facts show that the story in the Gospels was in substance the same story that Christians had at the beginning. This means...that the resurrection of Jesus was always a part of the story." (Apologetics, chapter 6)

(4) A little detail, seldom noticed, is significant in distinguishing the Gospels from myth: the first witnesses of the resurrection were women. In first-century Judaism, women had low social status and no legal right to serve as witnesses. If the empty tomb were an invented legend, its inventors surely would not have had it discovered by women, whose testimony was considered worthless. If, on the other hand, the writers were simply reporting what they saw, they would have to tell the truth, however socially and legally inconvenient.

(5) The New Testament could not be myth misinterpreted and confused with fact because it specifically distinguishes the two and repudiates the mythic interpretation (2 Peter 1:16). Since it explicitly says it is not myth, if it is myth it is a deliberate lie rather than myth. The dilemma still stands. It is either truth or lie, whether deliberate (conspiracy) or non-deliberate (hallucination). There is no escape from the horns of this dilemma. Once a child asks whether Santa Claus is real, your yes becomes a lie, not myth, if he is not literally real. Once the New Testament distinguishes myth from fact, it becomes a lie if the resurrection is not fact.

(6) Dr. William Lane Craig has summarized the traditional textual arguments with such clarity, condensation, and power that I'll quote him here at length. The following arguments (rearranged and outlined from Knowing the Truth About the Resurrection) prove two things: first, that the Gospels were written by the disciples, not later myth-makers, and second, that the Gospels we have today are essentially the same as the originals.

(A) Proof that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses:

1. Internal evidence, from the Gospels themselves:

  1. The style of writing in the Gospels is simple and alive, what we would expect from their traditionally accepted authors.
  2. Moreover, since Luke was written before Acts, and since Acts was written prior to the death of Paul, Luke must have an early date, which speaks for its authenticity.
  3. The Gospels also show an intimate knowledge of Jerusalem prior to its destruction in A.D. 70. The Gospels are full of proper names, dates, cultural details, historical events, and customs and opinions of that time.
  4. Jesus' prophecies of that event (the destruction of Jerusalem) must have been written prior to Jerusalem's fall, for otherwise the church would have separated out the apocalyptic element in the prophecies, which makes them appear to concern the end of the world. Since the end of the world did not come about when Jerusalem was destroyed, the so-called prophecies of its destruction that were really written after the city was destroyed would not have made that event appear so closely connected with the end of the world. Hence, the Gospels must have been written prior to A.D. 70.
  5. The stories of Jesus' human weaknesses and of the disciples' faults also bespeak the Gospels' accuracy.
  6. Furthermore, it would have been impossible for forgers to put together so consistent a narrative as that which we find in the Gospels. The Gospels do not try to suppress apparent discrepancies, which indicates their originality (written by eyewitnesses). There is no attempt at harmonization between the Gospels, such as we might expect from forgers.
  7. The Gospels do not contain anachronisms; the authors appear to have been first-century Jews who were witnesses of the events.

We may conclude that there is no more reason to doubt that the Gospels come from the traditional authors than there is to doubt that the works of Philo or Josephus are authentic, except that the Gospels contain supernatural events.

2. External evidence:

  1. The disciples must have left some writings, engaged as they were in giving lessons to and counseling believers who were geographically distant; and what could these writings be if not the Gospels and epistles themselves? Eventually the apostles would have needed to publish accurate narratives of Jesus' history, so that any spurious attempts would be discredited and the genuine Gospels preserved.
  2. There were many eyewitnesses who were still alive when the books were written who could testify whether they came from their purported authors or not.
  3. The extra-biblical testimony unanimously attributes the Gospels to their traditional authors: the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle of Clement, the Shepherd of Hermes, Theophilus, Hippolytus, Origen, Quadratus, Irenaeus, Melito, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Dionysius, Tertullian, Cyprian, Tatian, Caius, Athanasius, Cyril, up to Eusebius in A.D. 315, even Christianity's opponents conceded this: Celsus, Porphyry, Emperor Julian.
  4. With a single exception, no apocryphal gospel is ever quoted by any known author during the first three hundred years after Christ. In fact there is no evidence that any inauthentic gospel whatever existed in the first century, in which all four Gospels and Acts were written.

(B) Proof that the Gospels we have today are the same Gospels originally written:

  1. Because of the need for instruction and personal devotion, these writings must have been copied many times, which increases the chances of preserving the original text.
  2. In fact, no other ancient work is available in so many copies and languages, and yet all these various versions agree in content.
  3. The text has also remained unmarred by heretical additions. The abundance of manuscripts over a wide geographical distribution demonstrates that the text has been transmitted with only trifling discrepancies. The differences that do exist are quite minor and are the result of unintentional mistakes.
  4. The quotations of the New Testament books in the early Church Fathers all coincide.
  5. The Gospels could not have been corrupted without a great outcry on the part of all orthodox Christians.
  6. No one could have corrupted all the manuscripts.
  7. There is no precise time when the falsification could have occurred, since, as we have seen, the New Testament books are cited by the Church Fathers in regular and close succession. The text could not have been falsified before all external testimony, since then the apostles were still alive and could repudiate such tampering.
  8. The text of the New Testament is every bit as good as the text of the classical works of antiquity. To repudiate the textual parity of the Gospels would be to reverse all the rules of criticism and to reject all the works of antiquity, since the text of those works is less certain than that of the Gospels.

Richard Purtill summarizes the textual case:

"Many events which are regarded as firmly established historically have (1) far less documentary evidence than many biblical events; (2) and the documents on which historians rely for much secular history are written much longer after the event than many records of biblical events; (3) furthermore, we have many more copies of biblical narratives than of secular histories; and (4) the surviving copies are much earlier than those on which our evidence for secular history is based. If the biblical narratives did not contain accounts of miraculous events, biblical history would probably be regarded as much more firmly established than most of the history of, say, classical Greece and Rome." (Thinking About Religion, p. 84-85)

 
 
Excerpted from “Handbook of Catholic Apologetics", copyright 1994, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, published 2009 Ignatius Press, used with permission of the publisher. Text reproduced from PeterKreeft.com.

(Image credit: With All I Am)

Dr. Peter Kreeft

Written by

Dr. Peter Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and a noted Catholic apologist and philosopher. He is a convert to the Catholic Church from reformed Protestantism. He earned an A.B. degree from Calvin College, an M.A. and Ph.D. from Fordham University, followed by post-doctoral work at Yale University. He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of over 60 books including Making Sense Out of Suffering (Servant, 1986); Fundamentals of the Faith: Essays in Christian Apologetics (Ignatius, 1988); Catholic Christianity (Ignatius, 2001); The Unaborted Socrates: A Dramatic Debate on the Issues Surrounding Abortion (IVP, 2002); and The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings (Ignatius, 2005). Many of Peter's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Find dozens of audio talks, essays, and book excerpts at his website, PeterKreeft.com.

Enjoy this article? Receive future posts free by email:

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • Luc Regis

    Top scholars throughout the English speaking world have abandoned the idea that we can reconstruct some kind of original text....Bart Ehrman.

    Is The Original New Testament Lost?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kg-dJA3SnTA

  • William Davis

    Any literary scholar who knows and appreciates myths can verify this. There are no overblown, spectacular, childishly exaggerated events.

    I think Jesus was a historical person, but I also think the gospels are largely myth except for the Baptism, Jesus's home town being Nazareth, and the crucifixion at the hands of Pilate.
    Sure the mythology in the gospels isn't as exaggerated as some myths, but this is just a matter of degree. I'll only deal with Mark, but I think all the other gospels used Mark as a proto-type, though John deviates from this proto-type significantly. I really like the Jesus in Mark, he is only out to help people, and is very humble. It is the other gospels that make him out to be pompous and preachy, a complete change in character. Most Christians ignore Mark and go for the pompous and preachy gospels.

    Mark 1
    9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved;[h] with you I am well pleased.”

    A magic dove, a booming voice from God in heaven? Sounds mythological to me.

    Mark 3
    38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

    Magically stopping a storm? Very mythological.

    Mark 5
    Then Jesus[b] asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; 12 and the unclean spirits[c] begged him, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.

    Casting demons into 2000 swine (that's a HUGE number) who all commit suicide in the sea? Quite mythological.

    Mark 6
    41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And all ate and were filled; 43 and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

    49 But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” 51 Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

    Feeding 5000 people off a small amount of food, walking on water and calming another storm? Sounds like the Odyssey.

    Mark 9
    And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one[b] on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings,[c] one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved;[d]listen to him!”

    Yeah. I could go on, but I think I've made my point. Let's not forget earthquakes and such when Jesus died. The gospels are highly mythological, claiming adamantly that they are not seems dishonest to me.

    • Ignatius Reilly

      Well said. The Gospels are chock full of spectacular events. Earthquakes, a solar eclipse, and people rising from the dead are very similar in fantasticalness to the story Kreeft cites in the Gospel of Peter.

      I think we can consider point 1) refuted.

      • Loreen Lee

        And within today's context the spectacular results of such things as fracking, and climate change but I won't go on....The language has changed considerably! But is that the only thing that has changed. Same story, new chapter, perhaps.

    • Loreen Lee

      Love your 'illustrations'. I'm also wondering about the 'allegorical', interpretation of all of these stories: i.e. that they are pushing the principles of the 'faith', more so than the actual 'fact' used to demonstrate them. As that terrible damming of the fig tree I recently found was with the overturning of the tables in the temple, a reference to the pharisees, - that they bore no fruit, and the fig tree, poor fig tree, was only the illustrative 'miracle'. So, and perhaps I'll get some catechists on this, but I have wondered even with respect to the last supper, (and I don't like the Protestant idea of symbol, as it suggest what is not 'real', but I merely ask, is there another, more broader, context in which it can be interpreted. (I have always liked Teihard de Jardine's position on such issues.) The mythology is the metaphysics, is the 'faith' rather than the 'reason'????? Like we possible live within a ten dimensional universe???? or does this just apply to multi-verses????

    • So what would you expect if the events were true? If you say any supernatural claim is a myth simply because it is supernatural then you are making an argument based on content rather than style. You just need to make that clear. That you reject the supernatural based on your faith commitments. It is not evidence. It is not logic. It is your atheism that forces you to put aside reason. You don't even have to read it. As long as you admit that is what you are doing that is OK.

      • William Davis

        I'm not an atheist, technically I'm a deist. I was simply demonstrating mythological elements in Mark's gospel. I fail to see how I have put aside reason. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

        • Loreen Lee

          But I try to be caution and there is my tendency and need to fit in and be a people pleaser with respect to both sites. I thank you for the thumbs up on comments you agree with or find interesting. Your one of the few who suggests to me that my comments are not always 'incoherent'. And when I don't here from you it also gives me another rule of thumb! grin grin.

          • William Davis

            If I miss a comment, it may be an accident sometimes, and other times I'm just let it stand (i.e. I don't have much to add). Sometimes I get bombarded, lol.
            I probably seem incoherent sometimes too, especially when I'm mixing worldviews in a strange way, so don't worry about that :) The biggest thing I've tried to do lately is keep my posts shorter so they are more digestible. Sometimes brevity gets me into trouble because of lack of clarity, but in general that seems to be working better for me, plus I've gotten a lot off my chest the past few months, so thanks for listening :)

            I forgot to respond about my experience with Buddhism. It has only been with books, and it has been largely "scientific Buddhism". I've never been to a monastery, but I have used guided meditations a few times.

            I really like John-Kabat Zinn, his approach is has been very impressive and helpful to me. One of his guided meditations sounds like what you are describing, it was called "Dying before you die". It was basically about letting things go and and realizing the world would keep on going if you died today.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thank you William. Geena responded to my situation with an extensive critique, placing the difficult of my incoherence within the context that it did not fit into the organization of the community. So it was suggested that my concentration in developing my ideas necessarily involved use the of the community as a means rather the an end. So that definitely goes against a Kantian dictum. I feel satisfied with my replies and have assured them that I shall 'keep a silence' for awhile. I have clarified however, to some extent, by testing this idea and that in what perhaps is a seemingly unrelated matter within my ongoing comments. In this respect I appreciate your reminder of the necessity to maintain an awareness of such things as length of comment. Mike, my once upon a time husband made one of his bi-weekly visits, and it helped me through our conversation to get a better handle of what I am finding of interest to explore. However, whatever the context, it would obviously be an self-absorbed pursuit, which possibly illustrates one of the potential difficulties with the consequences of the theory. I have made sense (I feel) of where I was heading with some satisfaction, and that in itself has given me a kind of 'pleasure'. The suggestion that I could have been using people, especially perhaps yourself, as means to an end though, has made me reconsider the project, or at least the search it encouraged me to have in seeking out expression within the context of a community. So the possibility of being silent about this is a very probably conclusion to this episode.
            On Buddhism I was involved with a Mahayana community for about five years in the late nineties. Read all their books and feel I 'absorbed' theri culture. The relation of death and sin within the Christian tradition is a relationship which is of great interest to me. It is possible that this venture in an initial confusion of possibilities has resulted to quite an extent in radicalizing my perspective, if I can call it that. I don't 'like' being alone however, and yet I am proposing a form of existence in which the 'individual' inhabits an independent form of thought and existence. I don't understand the implications of this to community, and all. So, perhaps my taking this opportunity to be silent with respect to this project could even be a desire consequence of 'stepping over the bounds of 'proprietary'.
            I do admire your comments and your knowledge. I must however, learn some laws of proprietary and discipline within this writer's forum. Thanks again, William for being there.

        • Why? Extraordinary claims are just claims. If something extraordinary happened to you would you not tell anyone if you didn't have extraordinary proof? That is silly. You tell your story. People can believe or disbelieve it. That is what the gospels read like. Not someone telling a fantastic story but someone explaining what they saw.

          • Doug Shaver

            Extraordinary claims are just claims.

            But they differ in their antecedent probabilities. That makes a difference in what a particular fact offered in evidence can do to their credibility. I believe most things my wife tells me just because she says them -- her say-so is all the evidence I require -- but there are some things she could say that I would not believe without additional evidence.

        • bdlaacmm

          "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof."

          That has got to rank among the dumbest statements ever made.

          Extraordinary claim: "I just won the lottery, and the odds were 200 million to one!" Ordinary evidence: "Look, here's the winning ticket."

          Extraordinary claim: "A flying saucer just landed in the front yard!" Ordinary evidence: Go outside and look. There it is.

          Extraordinary claim: One stupid assassination in Sarajevo can result in 17 million people dying in four years of world war, plus hundreds of millions dying in the aftermath of that conflict (WWII and the Soviet Union). Ordinary evidence: Well, it happened - deal with it.

          Extraordinary claim (by the Apostles): "Jesus has risen!" Ordinary evidence: See Him, talk with Him, touch Him, eat with Him. (as they did, and then told us)

          • William Davis

            Lol, I won't bother to make a rebuttal to such a silly comment, but "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" was made popular by Carl Sagan, who was brilliant. I see from your comment history that you have a problem with people who have a point of view that is different from yours, but that is ok, you don't matter.

          • George

            "Extraordinary claim: "I just won the lottery, and the odds were 200 million to one!" Ordinary evidence: "Look, here's the winning ticket.""

            A: how is the claim extraordinary? what's your definition, when there are examples of lottery winners in the past?

            B: should I accept any piece of paper as proof you won? if it's a crayon scribble on cardboard, or a big pile of monopoly money, then you haven't met the burden of proof.

            "Extraordinary claim: "A flying saucer just landed in the front yard!" Ordinary evidence: Go outside and look. There it is."

            and what if it's not there? what if you're waving your hand at nothingness, or trying to say it must have vanished when we weren't around? why should I believe you?

            "Extraordinary claim (by the Apostles): "Jesus has risen!" Ordinary evidence: See Him, talk with Him, touch Him, eat with Him. (as they did, and then told us)"

            and we should believe that without being able to do all that ourselves? why should we believe the claim? because the apostles were honest? about everything? about this? how can we know that? says who? what is the source?

          • Papalinton

            "Extraordinary claim: "I just won the lottery, and the odds were 200 million to one!" Ordinary evidence: "Look, here's the winning ticket.""

            No. This and the jesus claim is a spurious category error. For them to be in the same category your 'Jesus has risen' claim is akin to the example of winning the lottery without buying a ticket. Now that would be a REAL miracle.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        So what would you expect if the events were true?

        A different universe.

        • Loreen Lee

          Yes. As per above there would be no sin nor death!!!???

      • William Davis

        To answer your question better, I'd expect us living in the kingdom of God Jesus promised. I don't buy he was talking about the Church or the transfiguration, he was talking about the resurrection of the dead and setting up his kingdom here on earth. The core message of Jesus was not fulfilled in the time frame he promised, sorry.

        Mark 9 1 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with[a]power.”

        Mark 13
        24 “But in those days, after that suffering,

        the sun will be darkened,
        and the moon will not give its light,
        25 and the stars will be falling from heaven,
        and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

        26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

        28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he[e] is near, at the very gates.30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

        32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

        Matthew 24

        29 “Immediately after the suffering of those days
        the sun will be darkened,
        and the moon will not give its light;
        the stars will fall from heaven,
        and the powers of heaven will be shaken.
        30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see ‘the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
        32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he[g] is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

        Luke 21
        25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
        29 Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

        • Loreen Lee

          iI have always found to be of interest what I interpret as a consistent conflation within interpretation of scripture, from Adam and Eve, and I would like to argue to the Resurrection, of a conflation between the concepts of death and sin. I would certainly like to make this study a continual part of my development of understanding. I think of both the thought of Buddha and Heidegger regard to this idea. And I am still interested in testing out possibilities of what could be the need of questioning, the need to find poetry, (is he talking about metaphor/analogical thinking which has been determined since Neitsche to be the basis of analogical thinking, or language, and of course what he meant by the announcement that we 'have to learn how to think'. I mean he is really underestimating us????.

        • It does take faith to believe Jesus did what He promised. The Kingdom of God exists in heaven and on earth. The church is the visible earthly part of it. The resurrection is another important element. Death now just makes saints more powerful.

          I don't think Jesus would make His claims impossible to deny. He always lets us say No. Yet the church remains a remarkable thing. If it is not the Kingdom of God it is hard to explain.

          Yet the question remains. If Jesus did do miracles, what evidence would you expect to see that you don't see?

          • William Davis

            If Jesus did do miracles, what evidence would you expect to see that you don't see?

            I would expect to see a world where God doesn't allow half of Christendom do die of the black plague. I would expect a world where God rewards the righteous and judges the wicked. I would expect world where God's chosen people, the Jews, were not able to be slaughtered by the holocaust. If God intervenes in the physical world, I would expect him to do so when there is a good reason to do so. If he doesn't intervene for these kinds of things, why would he intervene for a few miracles in Jesus's time? What I'm saying isn't anything new, here's a quote from Epicurus:

            “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
            Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
            Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
            Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

            Personally I think God is unwilling because he doesn't think in the human sense, I think God is pure being. I can't find any good reason to think God is man-like, and would perform miracles in arbitrary situations on a whim.

            If you are interested, I can go into Jesus's miracles, how I think he was like many healers at the time, though he may have been one of the first faith healers. I can also point of the similarity of many of Jesus's miracles to existing mythology. One quick example is Virgil has Orion walking on water in the Aeneid. This was written 100 years before the gospel of Mark. Walking on water is something a Greek expected a god to do.

            To close, I'd like to quote a passage from Mark 6

            6 He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary[a] and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense[b] at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.

            So no belief, no miracles. There are plenty of ways to cure sick people without miracles. Belief has fueled magic since the beginning of human history. Again, there is a lot more where this came from if you are interested.

          • Pofarmer

            Heck, wouldn't you expect a world where the main people who were the Targets if Jesus work. The jews, became Christians?

          • Actually it says He did heal a few sick people. Yet He did a lot fewer miracles than was typical for Him. That is still true today. More faith leads to more miracles but even skeptics will see enough to be convinced if they remain open.

          • William Davis

            More faith leads to more miracles but even skeptics will see enough to be convinced if they remain open.

            I'm quite open minded, I just happen to also be knowledgeable with regard to history, medicine, and the human mind. Your assumption that those who do not see things the same as you must be closed minded is itself closed minded, lol.

          • Miracles have always been a part of medical history. Lots of doctors and nurses have stories that amazed them. You seem knowledgeable of what you want to believe.

          • William Davis

            In medicine, a doctor makes a guess at an outcome, it's called a prognosis. The human body is extremely complex, so these guesses are often wrong. When a doctor's guess is wrong, and the person lives, you call it a miracle. When a doctor's guess is wrong, and the person days, you call it nothing. If God saved the person who lived, then he killed the person who died. Often these are small children who God kills, children who doctors had declared to be in great health. If God works miracles, then he is a monster because of his inconsistency.
            As you can see, the problem with miracles is consistency. If I believe in Christianity's miracles, how can I be consistent and not believe in the miracles of other religions? If I believe God saves some people, how can I not believes he intentionally kills the rest?

            We've studied whether or not God answers prayer when it comes to affect health, and the answer is a no. At the very least, if prayer does affect outcomes, it is at a rate so small it is statistically undetectable.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studies_on_intercessory_prayer

            I'm going where the evidence leads me, not where I necessarily want to go. It would be great if I could ask God for something and expect he might intervene on my behalf, but that doesn't appear to be the world we live in. I'm not saying you just believe what you want to believe, though only you can answer whether that is truly the case. I have put a great deal of though into biases, and engage in meta-cognition (thinking about thinking itself) on a regular basis. I do not believe what I necessarily would like to believe, that is the honest truth.

          • You absolutely have to grasp the fact that God could prevent any given death. Can you still believe in a good God? Sure. You just have to accept there are reasons you don't understand completely. Yet I wonder how closely this is tied to miracles. In my experience those who deny miracles are more apt to call God a monster than those who believe in them.

            Believing something is a miracle is not denying there is something scientists can learn from it. It is affirming that God has done something good and unusual in this situation. We can try and learn spiritual truths from it.

            Do I believe God does miracles for people of other faiths? Sure. What God is teaching us is not always that one theology is better than another. Sometimes God just wants to show He does love all people and does hear their cries for healing.

          • William Davis

            I like this comment, and I don't believe God is a monster. For me, special interventions of God have the implication that he is a monster, so I don't believe in special interventions, i.e. miracles.
            This preserves coherence for me, but changes my perception of God. The key to miracles is understanding how reality works, then we can work our own miracles. We are getting pretty good at this, look at the dramatic decrease in child deaths over the past 100 years.
            I don't expect you to look at God as I do, I'm just looking for a certain level of mutual respect for my world view. I have two reasons for frequenting this site. One is to learn, especially about philosophy, there is a lot of great philosophy that came out of Catholicism. The second is to defend a naturalistic worldview as reasonable.
            I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home, and it was obvious to all Christians I was exposed to that atheists were in league with the devil. It is this type of nonsense that I am out to dispel, even though I'm technically not an atheist, I'm pretty close.

          • William, I don't have the time (or inclination) to flesh it all out, presently, and it could be more tedious than anything else I've written, but ... Regarding the whole issue of divine interactivity, it is inextricably bound with the larger problem of evil, the answers to which take both logical and evidential forms, the former called defenses, the latter theodicies.

            There have been numerous defenses put forth that, per my view, are quite consistent, logically. And, further, they aren't mutually exclusive but, sufficiently nuanced, and work together in my own interpretive approach. In the denses of thumbnail sketches, 1) a tehomic panentheism, which introduces a co-eternal dualism of a sort between the formless void and Eternal Form (Catherine Keller) ; 2) the classical Augustinian denial of an ontological status to what we refer to as evil; 3) Plantinga's free will defense w/some qualifications; 4) David Ray Griffin's process approach that interprets omnipotence as that power greater than which might otherwise, precisely, be inconsistent with other divine attributes and aims or or various types of nomicity (e.g. making rocks so big ...); 5) emergentist conceptions of some cosmic laws as dynamical, not all static (hence no violation here, even if there, now, even if then, necessarily). Taken together with other approaches, these defenses succeed, even for some atheological thinkers, which is precisely why, as a fallback, they've focused on evidential objections.

            The evidential objections, however, are answered by theodicies, which, rather than simply affirming THAT divine interactivity could possibly be consistent with other divine attributes, presume to suggest, for specific examples, WHY divine interactivity was evident here but not there, then but not now. The problems with theodicies are manifold, considered blasphemous by those who adopt a methodical theological skepticism regarding interventions, in the particular, while affirming the notion of divine interactivity, in general (for who knows the mind of God?), and considered callous and insensitive to the enormity of human suffering and immensity of human pain, which one could trivialize with facile explanations (that would still violate most moral sensibilities and not be in the least satisfying, existentially). As you mentioned elsewhere, general affirmations can make sense, so, having retreated into vagueness for all sorts of reasons, including epistemic indeterminacies and ontological undecidabilities, we might best avoid the temptation to that arrogance, which would impel us forth to specifics, saying way more than we could possibly know, proving way too much, telling untellable stories.

          • William Davis

            When I get some time, I'll look up some of these defenses. Any specific sites you recommend?

          • No sites come to mind but I listed the names of authors that might help Google searches if the syntax also includes relevant key words. You may narrow your search to Google scholar, at first, then genericize from there for more accessible material. For the 5th category, I recommend Amos Yong, a friend and collaborator of mine in the Peircean lineage. I gave away my books long ago to the LSU library, you know, to help my marriage ;)

          • William Davis

            Lol, I haven't had much luck getting my wife interested in philosophy either. If I figure out a way to hack her free will and change her mind, I'll let you know ;) Thanks for the info.

          • Pofarmer

            "More faith leads to more miracles "

            Confirmation bias?

            If this were true, it should be trivial to produce converts. Also, as many statisitics as we keep, abnormalities would show up pretty darn quick.

          • I don't think anyone fails to convert based on lack of evidence. People choose not to believe for many reasons. Yet we will never get some clear and reproducible stat that can't be explained without God. God always works through faith rather than overwhelming people with evidence. Nothing will ever prove or disprove God. That is His way. You won't be the one to break the pattern.

          • William Davis

            As long as I believe in God, why would he care if I believe in Christianity or miracles? I do the best I can to do the right thing, and I do a lot to help people in general. To the point, why is it a big deal that I believe what you want me to believe? Why does it matter?

          • Jesus did seem to want people to believe in Him. Why would you suppose that does not matter? Not whether it is the only thing that matters but rather assuming it does not help at all to get the right doctrine an the right liturgical practice?

          • William Davis

            In general, I suppose anything doesn't matter unless I have a reason to think it does matter, it's part of how I stay sane in the age information and misinformation. :) I'm just wondering how it makes sense to you, that Christianity has been so serious about people believing that the resurrection actually happened. One of the great things about these discussions is learning how each person approaches the same subject differently.
            I have a deep interest in philosophy of mind, and beliefs play a critical role in how the mind organizes information, so beliefs in general matter. I don't see exactly what belief in the resurrection does unless someone also accepts all the other theology and such that comes with Christianity. I could theoretically believe in the resurrection, but believe everything else about Christianity is wrong. I've heard more than once that the key to being a Christian is belief in the resurrection, but if I believe in that and nothing else, am I a Christian (hypothetically of course)? I just can't see how this one isolated belief actually matters.

          • Pofarmer

            "don't see exactly what belief in the resurrection does"

            Are you familiar with Eric Hoffers "The True believers". Belief in impossible or difficult to believe things is a hallmark of belonging to a group. It's common to lot's of groups. And, once you believe one outlandish or impossible thing, that opens up the brain for more.

          • Michael Murray

            When I was a teenager and living at home and still going to Mass regularly I had a passing interest in the more esoteric end of left-wing politics such as anarchism. Listening to sermons at Mass the similarity between the styles of true belief was fascinating. Thanks for the book suggestion - it's added to my rather long list of things to read on my kindle!

          • Pofarmer

            That book told me a lot of things I suppose should be obvious. The cool thing is, the book was written in the '50's, but you can see the similarities in groups as diverse as the Tea Party anf March on Wall Street. Mass movements all have similar charachteristics. Religion is just an old mass movement.

          • Pofarmer

            Lot's of people with big egos want other people to believe in them.

          • Jesus had a big ego and then again He didn't. The humility of the cross yet He claimed again and again to have a central role in the story of humanity. Yet another interesting paradox.

          • Pofarmer

            To loosely quote Mark Twain. "People do all the work, God gets all the credit."

            Randy, you have a formula to believe what ever it is you want to believe.

          • Not really. It has to be something a reasonable person can accept or reject without difficulty. It has to be that not just now but in every age. How many religions qualify?

          • Pofarmer

            I don't have a clue what you're talking about.

          • William Davis

            Oh I forgot to mention, Jesus's main miracle, casting out demons, isn't even considered a thing anymore. The Jews didn't even believe in demons, still don't, and now we recognize mental illness as the medical problem that it is. I'd leak to bring proof demon possession in the gospels was really just mental illness, the epileptic boy, Mark 9:

            17 Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.” 19 He answered them, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy[e] to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy,[f] and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 Jesus[g] asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” 23 Jesus said to him, “If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.”24 Immediately the father of the child cried out,[h] “I believe; help my unbelief!”25 When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You spirit that keeps this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!” 26 After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. 28 When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.”[i]

            This is a textbook case of epilepsy, a pretty bad one that causes grand mal (now called tonic-clonic) seizures. Epilepsy usually shows up in childhood, as mentioned in the gospel, and often causes unconsciousness after the seizure, this is why they thought the boy was dead. Notice the disciples could not do anything, and this "kind can only come out through prayer." I'm guessing the other "demons" were psychosomotic, or just mood issues, where this one was a real medical problem. There is no way to know if the boy was really healed, because Jesus left, and they didn't revisit the boy. Sure everyone "believed" the boy was healed, but that doesn't make it so, non-recurrence of a seizure over time would be the only proof in this case. Epilepsy is hard to treat.

          • Yes, this is the argument that first century people were just unbelievably stupid. That somehow they could not tell a miracle from a natural occurrence. That a child whose symptoms go away on their own all the time would be counted as a miracle when they went away again. That people would not notice these patterns and conclude it was just a coincidence.

            Skeptics somehow can't be skeptical of the idea that first century Jews must have been the most gullible folks ever. They have to swallow that wad of horse pucky whole because their faith demands it. Feeding of the 5000? People forgot that they ate their own food. Walking on water? Must have been an illusion. People we just that stupid.

          • William Davis

            Skeptics somehow can't be skeptical of the idea that first century Jews must have been the most gullible folks ever.

            Actually, the Jews in Israel were not gullible, they kicked the Christians out. The majority of conversions were in cities far away from Jerusalem, primarily in Asia minor. Mark's gospel was likely written in Rome, far, far away from the events it supposedly describes.
            Notice I never said they were stupid, they just called mental illness demon possession. Notice there is no more demon possession...that's because there never WAS any demon possession, ever.

          • Raymond
          • William Davis

            I see. Catholics have burned quite a few people to death over the years for "summoning demons." Pope Francis position here is bizaar, but not surprising from someone who has only known Catholicism and is from a third world country (Argentina).

            Here is one really sad case of an epileptic girl who was killed by two priests over a 10 month "exorcism". They let her starve to death...

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anneliese_Michel

            Things like this are not going to make me a New Atheist, but they make me think New Atheists have a very important role to play in mocking such destructive nonsense.

          • Actually you said he had epilepsy. How you know that I am not sure. Yet if he did have that condition you also have to assume the people around him failed to notice the basic pattern of symptoms. So much so that they thought Jesus had healed the man when He had done nothing at all. That a very typical pause in symptoms was somehow confused with a complete cure.

          • William Davis

            Notice the importance of belief here. By definition, if the man believed, he would think his son was healed, regardless of the pattern of symptoms. Belief is not emphasized for no reason. Placebo is a powerful medicine, but it doesn't work on epilepsy. Even in recent years epilepsy has been mistaken for demon possession. Here is a sad case where two priest allowed a poor epileptic girl to starve to death while undergoing a 10 month exorcism. It looks like they would have figured out something else was going on after a week...
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anneliese_Michel

          • People who believe in miracles don't see them everywhere. Some do but most prefer almost any natural explanation to a supernatural one. So no, a man who believed would not ignore the pattern of symptoms.

            There are Christians who are too quick to assume a miracle. I hung out with some when I was Protestant. Maybe you did to when you were Protestant. As a Catholic we have more evidence of miracles but we talk about them less. The church is very slow to make claims. That is likely right. The evidence is there. If people don't pat attention then are not likely to because we brag about it.

          • Pofarmer

            " The church is very slow to make claims. "

            Oh come on, there have been so many claims of Marian miracles that pope Francis basically told people to lay off we'll handle it. I have family members who are Catholic who see miracles everywhere. " Our tires didn't blow out on our camping trip, because we had the camper blessed, but they blew out on thenext poor guy, It's a miracle!" I could go on, and on, and on, and on, but I won't.

          • You need to distinguish between the church making claims and Catholics making claims. The church is slow. Catholics are often slow but not always. There are some exceptions.

            Not sure what statement by Pope Francis you are referring to. He is not anti-supernatural. Just look at the statement he made on the Feast of Divine Mercy. He asked us to venerate St Faustina. Thunk about that. This woman claimed to have numerous long conversations with Jesus. Would he ask us to venerate her if he didn't believe she was telling the truth about that? So this supposedly modern pope thinks these amazing visions are totally legit.

    • You forgot the part where Jesus curses a fig tree and it spontaneously withers before their eyes.

      And Jesus magically telling Peter how to find a coin inside a fish to pay the temple tax.

      Or the idea that the Jewish authorities would ask a random, traveling heretical preacher for advice on whether or not they should follow their own law and stone a woman caught in adultery.

      • William Davis

        Yeah, I thought my listing was getting too long as it was. I used to make really long comments, but it tended to be waste of time because people lose interest after a certain amount of reading ;)

  • William Davis

    We do not need to presuppose that the New Testament is infallible, or divinely inspired or even true.

    This is what Kreeft said at the begginning, now I read this

    The first layer is the historical Jesus, who was not divine, did not claim divinity, performed no miracles, and did not rise from the dead. The second, later, mythologized layer is the Gospels as we have them, with a Jesus who claimed to be divine, performed miracles and rose from the dead. The problem with this theory is simply that there is not the slightest bit of any real evidence whatever for the existence of any such first layer. The two-layer cake theory has the first layer made entirely of air—and hot air at that.

    The only real evidence we have is for the first layer, and it isn't very solid. After breaking his word continuously, he has the nerve to say someone else is full of hot air? Sorry Peter Kreeft, but I now consider you to be a hypocrite. It is obvious that you are preaching to the choir, and could care less about convincing anyone of the accuracy of your beliefs. Belief in the resurrection was always supposed to be about faith anyway, not prove. People like you and William Lane Craig are doing much more harm to Christianity than good. It is only Christians who live by their creed (like Justin Martyr) that can convince someone to join. I judge the tree by the fruit, and the fruit is sadly lacking in way too many cases.

    • Raymond

      I think your characterization of Kreeft and Craig are overly broad and exaggerated. Don't assume hypocrisy when confirmation bias is enough.

      • William Davis

        Notice I didn't say he WAS hypocrite, I said I consider him to be that. Perhaps his hypocrisy is completely unintentional, but it seems a bit much to be accidental. I'm perfectly entitled to my opinion of people ;) My opinion, and the actual state of a person are two different things, something I'm completely aware of.

        • Loreen Lee

          Yeah! But the ad hominen is considered justified in arguments in the case of 'moral issues' etc. and as the limits of language have been demonstrated to exclude the possibility of acknowledging many details, and nuances, etc. etc. etc. and we do not have the ability to observe body language, etc. etc. I am aware of my own limitations in making conclusions with respect to the comments, and particularly the 'character' of those making the comments. So, "I mean well????' is sufficient?

      • William Davis

        P.S. N.T. Wright is a great example of a Christian apologist who is does not come off as hypocritical. I really like N.T. Wright.

      • Loreen Lee

        Is there not a possibility of 'confirmation bias' on both sides of the argument. You may consider this remark strange or estranged, especially as I probably have confirmation bias with respect to both sides of the debate, but obviously, I can't see it, or it wouldn't be confirmation bias. (Is that a good enough argument????).....

    • Loreen Lee

      Well, one of the things I find most interesting in following New Advent are the changes in expectations. A few days ago for instance I found the advice given for penitents to avoid psychological mental health issues in their confessions, but to seek proper therapies instead.. Wow! I thought are the days of exorcising the devil over. (Of course they're not). This together with the sudden shift in available reading I witness recently in a book story I can rarely visit. Nothing seems to be changing? Well, may I suggest that as I grew up, and even abandoned Catholicism at least a decade before Vatican II, (the development of which I did follow), perhaps my perspective is quite different from yours. I remember years ago on this site, I described some of the happenings within my childhood experience, (there was still the index, for instance), I received a comment from the powers that be, that expressed disbelief. But as I could see, that I could never 'get an education' as a woman at the time, within the sphere of Catholic study, ironically, such possibilities were taken as an impetus which led to my immersion within the tradition of the 'free-thinkers'!!! I love irony. .

    • Pofarmer

      "The problem with this theory is simply that there is not the slightest bit of any real evidence whatever for the existence of any such first layer. "

      You would think the apologist might take note here. Kreeft is almost refuting his own arguments.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    When speaking of the gospels, Dr. Kreeft writes:

    Nothing is arbitrary. Everything fits in. Everything is meaningful.

    Then two paragraphs later:

    ...like the little detail of Jesus writing in the sand... No one knows why this is put in; nothing comes of it.

    Perhaps, one might be tempted to say that that little detail was arbitrary? That it doesn't fit in?

    • William Davis

      He contradicts himself a lot doesn't he?

      • Loreen Lee

        Ah! but that is life. I must get you to try a little 'acting assignment' which demonstrates the need to fit in many seemingly illogical implications based solely on what is given in the text. "Yes. I am contradictory. I contain multitudes" (or something) Walt Whitman. For a simple explanation, one of many, many, it takes the attention away from himself as arbitrator or judge, which may psychologically promote the need of his interlocutors to 'examine themselves'. But I'm not 'Freud'...:)

        • William Davis

          It is quite easy to end up contradicting yourself, especially when the issue is complicated. What set me off was he statement that someone who embraces an opposing view is "full of hot air", when this guy seems to be full of it himself. Sometimes it is appropriate to respond "in kind", some times it is better to turn the other cheek, it can be hard to know when to do which can't it?

          • Luke C.

            Wise words, William. I struggle with knowing which is appropriate a lot, especially in online discussions with strangers about sensitive topics, haha.

          • Loreen Lee

            Yeah! I agree. But at least I can grant to this truth the 'fact' that I originally discovered this advice within the context of the 'sayings of Jesus' But I have talked to many Christians who yet have no concept about what it means to 'resist not evil'. Such understanding take time, and depend not on the intellect I believe, but the 'wisdom' gained through experience. Like, one of the things that made this clearer to me, was a similar thing I learned in Buddhism, when was then consolidated to my understanding when my son said, "Oh, mom. why do you always have to have the last word.' This gave the need for thought and I later realized that my 'reactive' behavior, was do to psychological injury and the need to 'protect myself'. So such a saying as 'resist not evil', can be very complicated, if it is considered that it is not only a 'principle, but something that needs to be placed within a 'practical' context. Which is the reason behind my comment to Doug Shaver that each of us (in a way) has our our interpretation of religion, defined as 'digging deep for God'. I have had a couple of experiences in the last little while, where I feel I made the right decision to 'say nothing', and just let the 'talker' talk him/herself through. So perhaps I'm learning to put this religions precept into my life, a little better. The meaning of the power of the Holy Spirit, though, is really a difficult one. One that prompted another little experiment on my part, (people on EN actually were concerned about me) So I like what Guy Finley advises, Christian/Buddhist meditation, and then 'the power within' will involve a growth towards awareness. A good interpretation, of 'resist not evil', I think.(Remember our conversation about this?)
            And then, I read in New Advent, about the false sense of peace that can come with such exercise. True and not true?. Which is the single lesson I learned (again) from such as the Rabbi, who professes the need to what? have individual religion, and he's a rabbi. But even than, weren't all the 'saints' whole/holy enough to be individuals? And so the conflict, the contradictions, continue, with respect fundamentally to the difficulties, for me too, in finding 'the living truth' within interpretation.

    • Andrew Y.

      He hasn't contradicted himself here. You've taken these quotes out of context.

      The first says that the *events* described in the bible are meaningful. The second says that some of the *details* included when describing these events can appear arbitrary.

  • William Davis

    Here are some key aspects of myth:

    Definitions:
    A story of unknown authorship that people told long ago in an attempt to answer
    serious questions about how important things began and occurred.

    Stories that explain natural occurrences and express beliefs of right and wrong.

    Uses:

    To explain natural phenomena or an
    occurrence.

    To explain the creation of the world.

    To teach people moral lessons.

    To explain some historical event.

    To explain some ancient religious practices.

    To reveal the common hopes and fears of mankind.

    The entire Bible fits this perfectly, I thought this Power point was pretty good, and accurate in its encapsulation of myth.

    http://www.mfschools.org/user/woodhala/students/6elementsofmythsppt.pdf

    • Loreen Lee

      I posted a comment (decided to be off-topic) here somewhere and on EN which raised the issues regarding the current political climate. I cannot help but find comparisons between the period around, before and after A.D.1 and the current climate of 'expectation/possibilities' whatever. There are even end of times themes with Islam (ISIS) declaring their intention to 'bring it on'. I just wonder if it would be possible to investigate the scope and tenor of theories, metaphysical assumptions, and stories from conspiracy theories - is Climate change a lie? to fracking, and the need to recognize animal rights, to - well I don't want to get into cell research and the rest of it, but there is the perceived danger of that all-knowing computer.

      Of course the mytho would not appear so 'fantastic', unless of course someone witness a sudden explosion, but today is not a memorial of August 6th o 9th. I am not intending, by these comments to join any of the fear mongering. But if the comparison has any worth, (I am not saying logical validity - we have developed essential particular with the development of science and technology) how would such a climate of disparate concerns and stories be told within the context of the 'subjective'. It is possible that I don't even completely understand this question.

      But we still have Superman, Star Trek, et al. although I have never had need of science fiction or indeed popular culture. I can only speculate that there are possible many stories 'brewing' among elements of society which I am not 'familiar' with. Indeed I know people of various interests with 'religions' from Wiccan to fairy kingdoms. Mythos still 'exists' today. And of course my favorite, hallucinatory explanations of reality deemed to be signs of mental illness, which may however be expression of 'real truths'. I just don't want to discount possibilities. I feel I would not be 'scientific' toward the understanding of the personal. Hopefully psychiatry etc. is moving in such a positive direction with talk theories, etc. The war on drugs continues. Neuroscience has a task before them in mapping the brain, that I consider to be more demanding than the discoveries made within cosmology.

      So what happens when that computer turns out to be a Messiah we never had expected. Who will write the story? And will it be mythos, science, or a real understanding of human 'nature' and 'subjectivity'?

      • William Davis

        One thing we are finding today is that prediction is a core element of intelligence. Many people do not recognize the fact that they are constantly predicting the future subconsciously. For example, when you walk down steps, you don't even think about what you are doing unless one of the steps is an unexpected height, then suddenly you are compelled to direct your full attention to the "anomaly" to keep you from falling. You don't notice things in your house unless something is out of place, i.e. one of your predictions about the state of your house failed. It is no surprise then, that humans have a need to predict the future long term (prophecy) and "bind" information about the world to an overall worldview. This is the realm of philosophy and religion, and many of us atheist/agnostic/deists have chosen to focus on philosophy specifically and largely ignore religion when it comes to prediction and worldview.
        Science is all about prediction. Science works by created a hypothesis that makes predictions, and then using experiments to test those predictions. If the predictions are correct, we consider the hypothesis true, until we get new evidence that contradicts the hypothesis (and even then we are not quick to abandon a previously held hypothesis, especially if it one we are emotionally attached to).
        All of this only works under a philosophy called methodological naturalism, but other schools like rationalism are useful for creating hypothesis that can be tested. With current technology, testing is usually easier than coming up with a hypothesis. What all brilliant scientists have done is to come up with novel hypotheses (i.e. prophecies) that turn out to be true. Our age is full of prophets, we simply do not call them that anymore.
        An artificial intelligence may be able to come up with hypotheses that we never dreamed of, and we are already planning to have dedicated purpose intelligences for doing things like predicting the weather. It will be interesting to see how that develops, and a very powerful intelligence could make some very powerful prophecies. In a real way, we are following a pattern set by the prophets of old, but we are forcing prophecies to be tested in rigorous ways :)

        • Loreen Lee

          Hi William. Am doing re-reads. A possible explanation for the justification of finding 'incoherence' in many of my writings, is because the writing itself (in process) does not express explicitly the intention in many cases. It is certainly necessary to come back after some time, to reread the text, and correct these 'errors'. I have long known this is necessary within the writing process, generally. So please know I am not 'alarmed'. I have considered the suggestion to develop the comment through an independent means, and transfer later those comments to this site. But that limits the interaction which I find so helpful. So I don't know yet if there is a solution to the conflict between ends and means and the suggested imposition my writing makes on others. Maybe I'll go back to my 'novel in progress'!!! grin grin

  • Ignatius Reilly

    (2) A second problem is that there was not enough time for myth to develop.

    See Alexander the Great. Myths rose around Alexander when he was still alive and in the century after his death.
    This point (2) is a claim often made by apologists, but I have yet to see any evidence for it.

    • Doug Shaver

      but I have yet to see any evidence for it.

      And we can see plenty of evidence against it.

      • Pofarmer

        Many faith healers, etc, have myths rise up about them in the present day.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          And even though 99% of people don't believe the myth, and the 1% has been shown evidence that the myth is incorrect, the 1% still believe.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    The first layer is the historical Jesus, who was not divine, did not claim divinity, performed no miracles, and did not rise from the dead. The second, later, mythologized layer is the Gospels as we have them, with a Jesus who claimed to be divine, performed miracles and rose from the dead. The problem with this theory is simply that there is not the slightest bit of any real evidence whatever for the existence of any such first layer. The two-layer cake theory has the first layer made entirely of air—and hot air at that.

    The evidence for the first layer is the Gospel of Mark.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    Hence, the Gospels must have been written prior to A.D. 70.

    This flies in the face of the scholarly consensus. Kreeft begins the piece asking us to only assume that miracles are possible and that the New Testament exists. Instead, he assumes what he is trying to prove.

    • Loreen Lee

      Yes. I agree. Somehow this is the opposite to an absolute denial of seeing any possible 'truth' within the 'story' at all. For instance the idea of resurrection as transformation, accepted as a 'fact' not a mere possibility.. Thus I find it very ironic that I cannot find full agreement with either SN or EN on this matter, even though I am not able to justify my determination to keep some distance from the conclusions on either side, through argument. (And I'm too old to go back for a refresher course in Symbolic Logic. It's just that somehow (within my intuition or something) argument by itself within the context of these debates may not be sufficient. Perhaps, may I 'argue', we use debate to argue what we know, rather than to develop our capacity for understanding. (Or something like that, -Don't want to get into an argument. And besides it's difficult to develop the technique of TA which generally takes in and argues many points of view). Rather than a dialectic that produces synthesis, as in this case, the opposition appears to be endless, and a causa sui. (Will be back after I check this latin term.)

    • "This flies in the face of the scholarly consensus. Kreeft begins the piece asking us to only assume that miracles are possible and that the New Testament exists. Instead, he assumes what he is trying to prove."

      It doesn't assume what he's trying to prove. Kreeft is trying to prove that the Gospels are true. He doesn't assume that.

      As for the date, he doesn't assume that either. His whole paragraph in section (d), of which the sentence you quoted is only a snippet, makes a strong argument for the pre-70 AD dating. You curiously neglected that.

      • Doug Shaver

        Kreeft is trying to prove that the Gospels are true. He doesn't assume that.

        He did not say in his introductory essay that he was going to prove that the gospels were true. He said he was going to prove, without assuming that the gospels were true, that the resurrection actually happened.

        Here are his words:

        We do not need to presuppose that the New Testament is infallible, or divinely inspired or even true. We do not need to presuppose that there really was an empty tomb or post-resurrection appearances, as recorded. We need to presuppose only two things, both of which are hard data, empirical data, which no one denies: The existence of the New Testament texts as we have them, and the existence (but not necessarily the truth) of the Christian religion as we find it today.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        It doesn't assume what he's trying to prove. Kreeft is trying to prove that the Gospels are true. He doesn't assume that.

        He only needs to prove that the resurrection is historical. The Gospels being historical in their entirety is a much stronger claim. For instance, Mark groups miracles and parables into literary forms, which suggests that those miracles are not necessarily historical.

        He does not assume outright what he is trying to prove, but he assumes many ancillary assumptions.

        As for the date, he doesn't assume that either. His whole paragraph in section (d), of which the sentence you quoted is only a snippet, makes a strong argument for the pre-70 AD dating. You curiously neglected that.

        I don't think that it is a very strong argument. I only whished to point out that he was leaving the scholarly consensus to argue his points. But here it is:

        Jesus' prophecies of that event (the destruction of Jerusalem) must have been written prior to Jerusalem's fall, for otherwise the church would have separated out the apocalyptic element in the prophecies, which makes them appear to concern the end of the world. Since the end of the world did not come about when Jerusalem was destroyed, the so-called prophecies of its destruction that were really written after the city was destroyed would not have made that event appear so closely connected with the end of the world. Hence, the Gospels must have been written prior to A.D. 70.

        Apocalyptic literature is traditionally written after or during the troubling event. Daniel was written in the 2nd century BC during a period of Jewish persecution. Apocalyptic literature was meant to inspire the persecuted Jews to trust God.

    • Loreen Lee

      First - quote: and that the New Testament exists - I assume the meaning is that they exist prior to AD. 70?

      Had to let 'somebody' "witness" this find: “You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it.”G.K. Chesterton. It's going to be seen, hopefully, to be an ironic fact that Chesterton is a Catholic convert.

      . So I find that I am not alone in coming to this conclusion. Perhaps some day I shall be able to 'argue my case'....grin grin. (Except this assuming what one is trying to prove, (that's also begging the question, arguing in circles, etc. I believe) I have considered as justified by the premise that it is my 'opinion' - 'knowledge', what not, and that I do have some 'freedom of thought, consciousness', what have you. So theology, sure, always top down for this reason., but I believe science places emphasis on evidence, although a theory may define what evidence to look for- like multi-verses. The distinction perhaps is what changes an opinion, point of view, etc. Is it logic alone? Is logic then prior to experience within some interpretations, and techniques developed within Western civilization. I would think not. Thus the scholastics would be proving by logic what they already had come to hold to be truth, through their experience, (of gospel, etc. etc. etc.) I
      Perhaps my priority in following my intuition, (perceptions) experience, etc. is actually in keeping with the assumptions of even 'a-theism', even though they seem to put almost a Catholic emphasis on logic, and fallacies, not even those that are logical fallacies, but 'rhetorical' ones - like the ever mentioned 'straw man' argument. Sometimes I think to myself - oh no....not again!!!

      Oh dear, I may be in trouble. The above might be some kind of argument, but if it is, may I sincerely appeal to you to have 'mercy, because I am merely 'begging the question'.. In other words my 'excuse' is that I'm still working on the 'experience' part....and this explains why I have such difficulty in arguing my 'case' according to the rules of logic derived from Aristotle and even the modern propositional logic. Thank goodness I don't have to learn the rules of Hindu-Buddhist logic as well. Like, even the Cartesian circle was accepted, so perhaps this move could be 'argued' to be the breakage point with mediaeval scholasticism. So does this break with 'reason' explain why Descartes is the Father of Modern Philosophy?.. Yet Chesterton is a Catholic...He 'knows' the articles of faith..... grin grin.

      -

      • Doug Shaver

        First - quote: and that the New Testament exists - I assume the meaning is that they exist prior to AD. 70?

        That is not an exact quote. He said that he would presuppose "The existence of the New Testament texts as we have them" (my emphasis). No New Testament text as we have it is older than the late second or early third century, except possibly P52, which most people think was produced in the early second century.

  • Pofarmer

    "There are no overblown, spectacular, childishly exaggerated events."

    Whaaaatttttttt?

    • Luke C.

      *record scratch*

    • I did not understand #1. Seems to be saying that Myths have "no overblown, spectacular, childishly exaggerated events". They don't? How about Alice in Wonderland or Santa?

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        I think he was saying the opposite: myths DO have overblown, exaggerated events. But the gospels do not, therefore they are not myths.

        I don't know where he sets the bar for "overblown, spectacular, childishly exaggerated." I think many people here would think that the miracle stories in the gospels do exceed that bar, while Dr. Kreeft, somehow, does not.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          I think it was that the miracles are told in a purely matter-of-fact manner. Making mud and putting it on a blind man's eyes; taking a leper by the hand and raising him up. Passing around what little food they had -- and it never runs out. There are no puffs of smoke, no bombastic pronouncements, no abracadabra, etc. It's all told very down-to-earth and peppered with minor details. The servant's name was Malchus; Bar-timaeus climbed a tree to see better. Simon of Cyrene was the father of Alexander and Rufus. In ancient Greek historiography, these mentions were equivalent to footnotes, indicating the source of the episode.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            True, but there's a bit of a mix. Some miracles are small and told matter of factly while others are huge and overblown. In another comment, William Davis give a good list just from Mark of some of the huge miracles and stories. If you want to see puffs of smoke and abracadabara, look at host of angels appearing to the shepherds, look at the transfiguration, or at the ascension, or the slaughter of the innocents, or calming the storm, or the birth star. These are much different from the smaller, quainter miracles that you cite. Dr. Kreeft says that there are no overblown exaggerated events, but I think there are many.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            host of angels appearing to the shepherds

            How is this a miracle?

            look at the
            transfiguration

            OK. That was dramatic. Though only three people saw it.

            or at the ascension

            This is the complete account:

            When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven." Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.

            Not sure what is grandiose about this account.

            the slaughter of the innocents

            Hardly a miracle. Just BAU for Herod -- or any other Middle Eastern despot down to Saddam Hussein.

            or calming the storm

            Here is the complete account:

            A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

            Again, hardly a grandiose account. Storm blows up; JC is sleeping. They wake him and he says "Be still!" to the storm. Then, "So what's the big deal?" And that's it.

            or the birth star.

            Some Persian astrologers saw a "star." That was their job, aina? What's miraculous per se about either a conjunction of planets, a nova, a comet, some other remarkable celestial sight?

          • George

            "host of angels appearing to the shepherds

            How is this a miracle?"

            are you trying to downplay this?

            fine. what should we call it? what's the official, orthodox, sophisticated category to put that example into?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The word translated as "miracle" is mirabilium, which more precisely means "marvel." Aquinas wrote:

            "We marvel at something when, seeing an effect, we do not know the cause. And since one and the same cause is at times known to certain people and not to others, it happens that some marvel and some do not."
            -- Contra gentiles

            So that what seems miraculous depends on what the observer knows. For example, if a sea were to part it might seem miraculous to one person, but if another knew that an asteroid had struck at the mouth of the sea, the resulting tsunami would result in first the water withdrawing, and then rushing back in a torrent. And the second man would not think it miraculous.

            Miracles, properly speaking, are when nature behaves in a way contrary to itself. The angels were not behaving contrary to angelic nature, although the shepherds quite naturally marveled exceedingly.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            I don't know why you're discounting events just because they are not miracles. Dr. Kreeft's criteria for myths is overblown/exaggerated events, not necessarily miracles. Herod killing every child is not miraculous, but it certainly was not a small event.

            I also don't know why your metric is the number of witnesses. The heavens opening with the voice of God is a huge event even if only 2 people witness it. But if you want huge overblown events with plenty of witnesses, then there's the purging of the temple (one person clearing out the whole temple? That temple was huge!) or Jesus' trial (consensus among Biblical historians is that Pilate would not give audience or even hold atrial for a rabble rouser). And how about the sky darkening, earthquakes, and saints rising from their tombs and appearing to "many people"? Heck, even theologians tend to say that the last one was not historical, but , as the Word Biblical Commentary says, making a "theological point," . (ie: It's not historical, but mythological)

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I don't know why you're discounting events just because they are not miracles.

            You had called them miracles.

            Herod killing every child is not miraculous, but it certainly was not a small event.

            It was also not an event out of the ordinary for a Middle Eastern potentate. Herod is known to have carried out other massacres.

            I also don't know why your metric is the number of witnesses.

            Typically, overblown implies a large audience and lots of drama.

            the purging of the temple (one person clearing out the whole temple? That temple was huge!)

            Actually, the courtyard where the money changers and the like were carrying on business. Don't know if he overturned each and every table, or even that others did not get caught up in the matter.

            consensus among Biblical historians is that Pilate would not give audience or even hold atrial for a rabble rouser

            I love theories about what some anciently dead person would or would not have done according to an academic theory. Tacitus had no problem accepting the fact, and he likely knew more about Roman governance than even a Late Modern.

            how about the sky darkening, earthquakes, and saints rising from their tombs and appearing to "many people"? Heck, even theologians tend to say that the last one was not historical

            If it wasn't historical, then how could it have been miraculous?

            It's not historical, but mythological

            Something may be unhistorical without being mythological. Don't forget that historianship as we understand it did not exist before the 19th century. And even today, it is often written to "make a point." We are even busily making our own myths today.

  • David Nickol

    I found online a PDF of Rudolf Bultmann's Kerygma and Myth, and below are the opening paragraphs. I think even this brief quote shows very clearly that Kreeft is debunking his own very oversimplified, very distorted idea of what is meant by myth and demythologizing. It is not that the story of Jesus is a myth similar to the stories of Sisyphus, or Tantalus, or Pygmalion and Galatea. It is that the entire story of Jesus is told entirely in terms of a "mythological" world view that we no longer hold today.

    The cosmology of the New Testament is essentially mythical in character. The world is viewed as a three-storied structure, with the earth in the centre, the heaven above, and the underworld beneath. Heaven is the abode of God and of the celestial beings—the angels. The underworld is hell, the place of torment. Even the earth is more than the scene of natural, everyday events, of the trivial round and common tasks. It is the scene of the supernatural activity of God and his angels on the one hand, and of Satan and his daemons on the other. These supernatural forces intervene in the course of nature and in all that men think and will and do. Miracles are by no means rare. Man is not in control of his own life. Evil spirits may take possession of him. Satan may inspire him with evil thoughts. Alternatively, God may inspire his thought and guide his purpose. He may grant him heavenly visions. He may allow him to hear his word of succour or demand. He may give him the supernatural power of his Spirit. History does not follow a smooth unbroken course; it is set in motion and controlled by these supernatural powers. This aeon is held in bondage by Satan, sin, and death (for "powers" is precisely what they are), and hastens towards its end. The end will come very soon, and will take the form of cosmic catastrophe. It will be inaugurated by the "woes" of the last time. Then the Judge will come from heaven, the dead will rise, the last judgment will take place, and men will enter into eternal salvation or damnation.

    This then is the mythical view of the world in which the New Testament presupposes when it presents the event of redemption which is the subject of its preaching. It proclaims in the language of mythology that the last time has now come. "In the fulness of time" God sent forth his son, a pre-existent divine Being, who appears on earth as a man. He dies the death of a sinner on the cross and makes atonement for the sins of men. His resurrection marks the beginning of the cosmic catastrophe. Death, the consequence of Adam's sin, is abolished, and the daemonic forces are deprived of their power. The risen Christ is exalted to the right hand of God in heaven and made "Lord" and "King." He will come again on the clouds of heaven to complete the work of redemption, and the resurrection and judgment of men will follow. Sin, suffering and death will finally be abolished. All this is to happen very soon; indeed, St. Paul thinks that he himself will live to see it.

    • Loreen Lee

      Yes. Thank you. If I understand the implications of this, (within my search to define story and legend within this context), the scripture being written within the mythos of the time could even be given as an exemplification of the possibility that we in the 20th century could also be thought of as living within a 'mythos ethos'. We take our philosophical, (theological) as such and even cosmological/scientific 'truths' as fact, often without considering the possibility that the world may be seem within a broader context of 'truth' even centuries further into the future.
      I am not attempting to completely reduce the concept of 'truth' to some sort of 'relativistic' notion, because as our understanding develops, even within the context of self-understanding, it is possible to place former interpretations within the more comprehensive 'story'. We can for instance 'see the reason' for people believing that the 'world was flat'. In such cases of development, may I suggest that the 'story' is transcended, rather than merely fought against, denied, argued against, etc. etc. within a negative context, rather than taking the 'positive' aspects of the 'story' into a broader, and richer context. Such an example, I suggest is found in the description of the 'fulfillment of the OT law within a new 'mythos/metaphysic', which however, also reveals the dangers of interpretation if the denial of the 'truths of old' are faulted in the sense of being 'scapegoated', as argued in another post.
      Please understand I'm just attempting to think through these issues. I don't know how to confirm or disconfirm these musings as related to any kind of evidence, what be the source of witness (hallucinatory, even conspiratorial), all of which I believe can be given some justification as being common human characteristics, (even today) but especially in this case, consistent with 'the times'. But looking at it as story, within the context of being a work of art, it also becomes problematic to explain how such artistry of composition could be produced by simple 'fishers of men'. The questioning then, continues on my part, even within the possibility of seeing 'truth' within the 'story'. Thanks for listening.

  • With his use of reason and knowledge of early Church fathers it’s a wonder that Dr. William Lane Craig has not become Catholic…. yet.

    • Ignatius Reilly

      This smacks of Catholic Triumphalism. Protestants like Kierkegaard and Tillich will be read long after Kreeft and WLC are consigned to the trash bin of history. Why look down upon other Christians? Maybe they are right and it is the Catholic Church that is wrong.

      • Truth will ultimately triumph. Agreed?

        • Loreen Lee

          Oh dear, this reminds me of a 'story-anecdote' of what was written as graffiti on a wall: A lie is (can be??) the best way of conveying the truth.!! (Perhaps as illustrated in the case of fiction, something acknowledged even by the ancients, Aristotle I believe).
          Also to contest Neitzsche's there is no truth only interpretation, - perhaps the saying, that there is need to search for the truth within every 'interpretation'. The possibilities for the triumph of truth seem to be 'endless'...... So do I agree?????"

      • Loreen Lee

        Yes. And Kierkegaard, as well as Pascal, William James and Wittgenstein are regarded as fidelists; their faith not grounded in reason. Excluding my interpretation of the wager being grounded in some sort of self-interest, it is merely another irony for me, that I have always felt so akin to the reasoning of these philosophers. Especially, on the issue of faith, Kierkegaard.

    • Doug Shaver

      Craig is an evangelical Protestant. It's never a wonder when they're inconsistent.

  • David Nickol

    Almost no knowledgeable scholar today holds what Rudolf Bultmann said was necessary to hold in order to believe the myth theory . . . .

    As I said in another message, I think Kreeft is giving a very false and distorted picture of what Bultmann meant by myth and demythologizing, but what I would like to point out by this quote is that "almost no knowledgeable scholar today" agrees with Kreeft's apparent view of the almost total historical credibility of the Gospels or the belief that they were written by "eyewitnesses." That is very much a minority view, so Kreeft is on very shaky ground when he uses arguments in the form of "almost no knowledgeable scholar today holds that . . . . "

  • David Nickol

    If the Gospels (or anything else in the New Testament) was written by eyewitnesses, why didn't they preserve the sayings of Jesus in Aramaic? Why is virtually everything about Jesus in Greek, a language he did not speak?

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      In some cases, because they were writing for Gentile converts.
      In other cases, because outside Palestine, even the Jews spoke Greek.
      In still other cases, because what we have is a Greek translation of an Aramaic original.

  • Loreen Lee

    So to offset my personal, serious, critical comments below, may I give you what I just found on New Advent to l. lighten things hopefully a bit, and give another apologetic perspective. Please, you scientists, and mathematicians, I hope you encourage me in the faith!!!!

    Whoops they didn't take. Will have to get them one at a time. I'll be back, unless I'm deleted or banned or something? l. http://blog.adw.org/2015/04/when-did-the-resurrection-go-from-rumor-to-an-official-declaration-of-the-church/

  • So much for not relying of things like the truth of the Gospels or things like the empty tomb.

    Keep in mind these arguments have to deal with the probability that stories of supernatural events are actually true compared to being mistaken, or otherwise false but not lies.

    The evidence that we are pointed to to is that the style is different than some other myths. I just don't know about that, but if true it doesn't make the supernatural more likely.

    That there wasn't enough time? How could we possibly know this? Certainly Joseph smith's mythology developed in his lifetime. The Qu ran was written in 610 by 630 the religion was established and conquered Mecca. And so on.

    The rest is an attempt to characterize the gospels as credible. There are a number of things that play both ways in this. But there are major problems. Firstly they are generally historically accepted to have arisen at least 40 years after the death of Jesus. Second they are clearly not independent and large sections are word for word the same. An important section of Mark dealing wit the resurection is accepted to have been a later addition. Then there is the fact that they are anonymous and so on.

    At the end of the day they are likely a mixture of recording of stories, historical truth, fabrications, and later additions. There is not enough here to over come the extreme improbability of a resurection from the standards used by critical historical or literary analysis.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      The Greek culture put great store by the "living word," that is, live testimony by eyewitnesses. They distrusted documentary testimony because you could not look a document in the eye and cross-examine it. Hence, few historical works or bio were written in the lifetimes of the participants. (E.g., Porphyry's Life of Plotinus) Only as the eyewitnesses began to shuffle off the mortal coil did testimonials generally get written down. See Plutarch, Suetonius, Tacitus, and others. We have only Plato's accounts of what Socrates said. Forty years after the facts -- if that is accurate -- is not all that long. The young men at the time would be only in their 60s. Mark took notes of the stories that Peter told to his listeners among the Jews of Rome, and later from these notes assembled his gospel, probably at the time Peter was executed since his "living word" would no longer be available.

      • Our culture now puts enormous stock in personal testimony. Our legal system is based on it. The inability to cross examine a document is why documents accounts are default inadmissible as evidence in courts of law. It gets worse the older the document is, the less you know about the author and the more it has been copied.

        The Gospel accounts are nightmares for hearsay and credibility. We have nothing more than tradition of who the authors were, they are old, they have been copied and altered, parts of them are plagiarized. And they are filled with supernatural events. It also appears that the authors had specific and different theological intentions and motives to write their own accounts.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          The Gospel accounts are nightmares for hearsay and credibility.

          Sorta like the accounts of Hannibal or Socrates or... pretty much every character in ancient history.

          We have
          nothing more than tradition of who the authors were

          As for many other ancient documents. There is one document by Pappias, who spoke with many of the participants, preserved in excerpt by Eusebius:
          "If, then, any one who had attended on the elders
          came, I asked minutely after their sayings,--what Andrew or Peter said, or what
          was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by
          any other of the Lord's disciples: which things Aristion and the presbyter John,
          the disciples of the Lord, say."
          "And the presbyter [John] said
          this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately
          whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related
          the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied
          Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his
          instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of
          giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake
          in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took
          especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything
          fictitious into the statements. [This is what is related by Papias regarding
          Mark; but with regard to Matthew he has made the following statements]: Matthew
          put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one
          interpreted them as best he could."

          they
          have been copied and altered

          One hears this periodically, but never with an example of an unaltered text. And of course they have been copied. There are very few papyrus fragments of any writings from back then. Our oldest copy of Tacitus for example is from the early Middle Ages, written in a Carolingian hand, found at Kloster Fulda.

          parts of them are plagiarized.

          Not sure the concept existed back then, but why not specify which parts? (Next, we will accuse historians of the US Civil War of plagiarism because they all mention the same events.)

          And they
          are filled with supernatural events

          So? You cannot assume that which is to be proven.

          the authors
          had specific and different theological intentions and motives to write
          their own accounts.

          Stop the presses! Did you know that many authors have had their own intentions and motives in writing their accounts? Astonishing!

        • Loreen Lee

          Your comment has placed within a totally new perspective the concerns expressed in a video I shared with you, some potential difference with what was described as 'new law', as contrasted with .... What of e-discovery for instance. I know philosophers of recent note, have been pushing for the superior advantages with the written over the spoken word. I myself, feel it is possible for me to learn over time, to even 'search' out in greater detail personal characteristics of those I 'speak' with over the internet, even those who are 'strangers'. One can certainly clarify thought more precisely, and make amendment for greater clarity, etc. etc. etc. But the great difficult I have personally found with the 'old law' even in courts of law is that between parties whose 'word' differs, (I believe I raised this as an example) when there is no direct or indirect evidence. Perhaps in a rape case, for example. In such cases, it can even be the case, (I would like to argue) that it is such things as social power, which can give credibility to a witness, even over the possibility of true searching for the truth.
          So perhaps these criteria, (what Wittgenstein is said to find to difficult to delineate) also hold when scholars examine 'witness' and make their own conclusions on the 'specific and different theological intentions and motives to write their own accounts' etc. etc. etc. Unlike you I am not going to jettison what is referred to as the 'super-natural' or 'the metaphysical', either in relation to source or purpose. Indeed these criteria could perhaps through some light, i.e. understanding of how and even why and when they were included within the tradition,

    • Loreen Lee

      Actually, concepts like super-natural, eternity, etc. can possibly take on different contexts. For instance, I was initially surprised when I discovered that such propositions as tautologies are described as eternal truths. by the analytic philosophers. And there is such a thing as mathematical Platonism.

  • Loreen Lee

    I have returned to provide this link: http://jamestabor.com/2012/08/05/what-really-happened-easter-morning-the-mystery-solved/ The reason I do so is that in reading this account, I have possibly faced directly for the first time, the 'fact?' that my early education placed a difficulty in contradicting the 'truth' of the resurrection, because to deny the hallmark of the faith, was 'greater than committing a grave and mortal sin'. So, in a way I am astonished at finding that the contradictions between what I thought and what I have read since becoming involved in these blogs are so deeply embedded in my 'subconscious'. Thus I must face the reality that my knowledge of scripture is indeed most limited. But there is also a conflict regarding the question: What is there now to 'believe'?. I have been able to some degree to separate the concepts of 'faith' from belief as this challenge grew from the difficulty of believing in 'miracles' as represented in Christian and indeed Hebrew scripture. I can only say, that this experience has given me new insight as to why those on this sight who are confirmed 'a-theists' continue, out of what perhaps is a similar necessity, to return to the 'argument'. .I shall continue however, to search for interpretation that provides or is at least consistent with the development of (at least) good psychology, etc.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    The only explanation is that the writer saw it. If this detail and others like it throughout all four Gospels were invented, then a first-century tax collector (Matthew), a "young man" (Mark), a doctor (Luke), and a fisherman (John) all independently invented the new genre of realistic fantasy nineteen centuries before it was reinvented in the twentieth.

    So much for modern biblical scholarship. Do any modern scholars hold that the gospels were developed independently?

    • David Nickol

      What is fascinating to me is that one need look no further than the New American Bible, the official Catholic Bible approved for the United States by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, to challenge much of what Peter Kreeft is saying here. Those who would take Kreeft as their guide are apparently expected to dismiss most of the findings of mainstream, modern biblical scholarship including the works of the most eminent 20th- and 21st-century Catholic scholars such as Raymond E. Brown, John P. Meier, and Joseph A. Fitzmyer.

      For example, on the authorship of the Gospel of Matthew, the NAB says:

      The questions of authorship, sources, and the time of composition of this gospel have received many answers, none of which can claim more than a greater or lesser degree of probability. The one now favored by the majority of scholars is the following.

      The ancient tradition that the author was the disciple and apostle of Jesus named Matthew (see Mt 10:3) is untenable because the gospel is based, in large part, on the Gospel according to Mark (almost all the verses of that gospel have been utilized in this), and it is hardly likely that a companion of Jesus would have followed so extensively an account that came from one who admittedly never had such an association rather than rely on his own memories. The attribution of the gospel to the disciple Matthew may have been due to his having been responsible for some of the traditions found in it, but that is far from certain. . . .

      Kreeft is clinging to old traditions that few contemporary scholars continue to accept and defend.

    • William Davis

      Yeah, the synoptic problem is something we can actually PROVE. Even evangelical scholars take it seriously. I like to quote Dan Wallace, from Bible.org

      "It is quite impossible to hold that the three synoptic gospels were completely independent from each other. In the least, they had to have shared a common oral tradition. But the vast bulk of NT scholars today would argue for much more than that.3 There are four crucial arguments which virtually prove literary interdependence."

      https://bible.org/article/synoptic-problem

      So even Bible.org disagrees with Kreeft...that is pretty bad.

      • "So even Bible.org disagrees with Kreeft...that is pretty bad."

        This is the second time I've seen you reference Bible.org as if that's a reputable, serious source of biblical scholarship. I don't see any reason to think that's true.

        But even then, you've missed Kreeft's point entirely. He's not arguing that the content of the Gospels is completely independent (in fact, neither Kreeft nor the Catholic Church teach this.) This is obvious. The so-called "Synoptic problem" is not new--even many of the early Church fathers dealt with it. We don't need Bible.org to tell us that.

        What Kreeft is saying is that if the myth theory is true, it's almost unbelievable that all four Gospel writers would share the same mythical form (or genre), even in parts within each Gospel that were independently derived.

        • William Davis

          Even New Advent says they can't be independent accounts, at least the synoptics.

          These resemblances and differences, the extent and complexity of which grow upon the student who compares carefully the Synoptic Gospels and contrasts them with St. John's narrative, constitute a unique phenomenon in ancient and modern literature. They are facts which no one can refer either to mere chance, or to the direct influence of inspiration. On the one hand, the resemblances are too numerous and too striking to be regarded as explicable on the hypothesis that the first three Evangelists wrote independently of one another. On the other, the differences are at times so significant as to imply that they are due to the use of different documents by the Evangelists, as for example in the case of the two genealogies of Jesus Christ. The harmony and the variety, the resemblances and the differences must be both accounted for. They form together a literary problem, — the Synoptic Problem, as it is called, — the existence of which was practically unknown to the ancient ecclesiastical writers. In point of fact, St. Chrysostom and St. Augustine are the only Fathers who have formulated views concerning the mutual relation of the Synoptic Gospels, and the writers of the Middle Ages do not seem to have taken into account these patristic views which, after all, were far from affording a complete solution of that difficult question. Subsequent leading scholars, such as Grotius, Rich, Simon, Le Clerc, had little more than a suspicion of the problem, and it is only in the course of the eighteenth century that the scientific examination of the question was actually started.

          http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14389b.htm

          I think mutual dependence with Markan priority has the most going for it.

    • Doug Shaver

      Do any modern scholars hold that the gospels were developed independently?

      I suspect that some fundamentalist scholars do, but I haven't checked to verify it. (And no, unlike some skeptics, I do not consider "fundamentalist scholar" to be an oxymoron.)

  • Jonathan Brumley

    In the discussion, I've read some objections to points 1, 2, and 3. Has anyone commented on points 4, 5, and 6?

    • William Davis

      Good point, i'll do 4 right now.

    • William Davis

      6 was too big for me to deal with in it's entirety for now, but I brought up a major error. Hope this helps :)

      • "6 was too big for me to deal with in it's entirety for now, but I brought up a major error. Hope this helps :)"

        You questioned whether one source (Justin Martyr) actually named the gospel authors. You did not said anything about the other 18 sources Dr. Kreeft mentioned.

        Also, regarding Justin Martyr, you admit that Justin refers to the Gospels as "Memoirs of the Apostles." Surely the commonsense interpretation of this phrase is that he's attributing them to Jesus' disciples.

    • Doug Shaver

      I'm about to post my response. I've covered all the points.

  • William Davis

    (4) A little detail, seldom noticed, is significant in distinguishing the Gospels from myth: the first witnesses of the resurrection were women. In first-century Judaism, women had low social status and no legal right to serve as witnesses. If the empty tomb were an invented legend, its inventors surely would not have had it discovered by women, whose testimony was considered worthless. If, on the other hand, the writers were simply reporting what they saw, they would have to tell the truth, however socially and legally inconvenient.

    No, the women did not witness the resurrection. Mark originally ended with 16:8, I'll quote it because the chapter is very short:

    "When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.[a]"

    They never even saw Jesus, they only saw a man who said Jesus was raised. I wonder who this man was (assuming there is any historical truth to this account) and why he thought Jesus was risen.
    It is important to note that Mark's gospel never requires belief in the resurrection for salvation until the endings that were added much later. I think faith came later, and that Jesus taught right action like other Jewish rabbi's.

    • Loreen Lee

      Please know how much I admire your ability to present the arguments relative to scripture in this debate. However, your quote above does place the difference between what is most commonly held to be mythos, and scripture. I think the historical element cannot be underestimated, for this is quite a development within the tradition of the gentiles away from the 'abstractions' I feel dominate the 'mystery religions', for instance. This sole element is more relevant to me than the theories of conspiracy, hallucinations, etc. etc. for these conspiracies themselves may be more closely related psychologically to the telling of the tales, at least as expressed. I do think it is helpful to look for 'truth' even in conspiracy theories and hallucinations. etc. and to consider these within the context of the culture or even in our world today, the mind set of individuals. Even hearing the 'voices of angels' can I believe have a 'rational explanation, even today. I believe this phenomena is being more accurately understood within psychology today. After all, the self-speak is something we are all aware of within our lives. These are granted 'subjective' elements, rather than objective science granted. But the understanding of same is something that is just so important to understand, for even those voices can 'tell a truth'.

      Also have been thinking, and there is something of 'truth value', in the discovery of truth and clarity, coming only with a purposeful or unintentional immersion within some form of chaos, which can be expressed in many ways. Perhaps Descartes analysis of empirical doubt could be one example. For sure, I am aware of Neitzsche expressing this idea. Something like 'everyone thought he was mad because they could not see the dance' or something. Sometimes we indeed have to see the chaos before we can see the truth. Thus, if all of these hallucinations etc. are merely regarded as phantasm, and not 'truth' expressions, as I am attempting to define, them, I believe it would be possible to make a case, that not only does this under cut some possible purpose of their inclusion within scripture, but also implies that an attempt to see the plight of those with mental illness, perhaps within a charitable context is not being taken.

      So my dictum here is that critical historical scholarship is necessary, but perhaps not sufficient, if it is understanding of our human subjective nature that is at issue. Thus, I will go so far as to disagree even with Hitchens? that religion poisons everything. Would this not scapegoat religion in the very same way that it is being put forth that the crucifixion of Jesus ended up scapegoating Judaism. No. The poison is in our lack of understanding, of the subjective nature within ourselves and our neighbor in all the many forms it takes, and not all of them motivated or expressed solely within a religious criteria. Perhaps I can put it that there are many different kinds of 'tribes' within the organization of the homo-without sapien on this planet.

      Although I'm not very good at argument or exegesis, I will 'rest my case'. Thanks William (and Footnote: one of the essential difficulties Wittgenstein found was that of finding an identifying the 'criteria').

      • Luc Regis

        Hi Loreen. I lurk on a few different sites, and could not help but notice a certain tension lately between yourself and the moderator of another site on which you participate, but knowing how sensitive they are, I did not dare post a reply to you on that site lest it be misconstrued because of their over sensitivity to self expression. But keep on keeping on.

    • Randy Carson

      They never even saw Jesus, they only saw a man who said Jesus was raised. I wonder who this man was (assuming there is any historical truth to this account) and why he thought Jesus was risen.

      No one witnessed the resurrection. Jesus was in the tomb alone when his soul was re-united with his body (the re-unification produced the image on the Shroud of Turin, but that's another thread for another day!).

      Dr. Kreeft's point is that women were not credible witnesses in a court of law in the first century; consequently, claiming that women were the first to discover the empty falls under the Criterion of Embarrassment. If Mark had wanted to support the resurrection more solidly, he would have had Peter at the tomb first along with John and a few others. That he reported the account of the women at the tomb suggests that Mark simply told the truth.

      • William Davis

        Dr. Kreeft's point is that women were not credible witnesses in a court of law in the first century; consequently, claiming that women were the first to discover the empty falls under the Criterion of Embarrassment.

        Sure, but you missed my point, the women were not witnesses. The women only saw a man who claimed Jesus was risen, then they didn't tell anyone because they were afraid. That's it, nothing else in the earliest copies of the Mark.

        I'm going to address eye witness testimony head on, but I'd like you to addres C.S. Lewis's "most embarrassing verses" that I've already brought to your attention. This is why Paul and Jesus got wrong, that the general resurrection of the dead was imminent, specifically in the same generation. You keep ignoring that like you've explained it, you haven't.

        First, we don't have any real witnesses, we only have documents. You can't cross examine documents and look them in the eye. Regardless eye witness testimony is highly problematic.

        This is from a recent article in Newsweek entitled "The end of eyewitness testimony

        "There have been 318 wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence since 1989. In most of those cases, the eyewitnesses who testified felt confident in their memories when under oath on the stand. Yet eyewitness testimony contributed to 72 percent of those wrongful convictions, according to the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal and public policy group."

        http://www.newsweek.com/2014/11/28/end-eyewitness-testimonies-285414.html

        Wikpedia has a good write up eye witness testimony, here is one quick quote:

        "The legal system in the United States makes juries responsible for assessing the credibility of witness testimony presented in a trial.[4] Research has shown that mock juries are often unable to distinguish between a false and accurate eyewitness testimony. "Jurors" often appear to correlate the confidence level of the witness with the accuracy of their testimony. An overview of this research by Laub and Bornstein shows this to be an inaccurate gauge of accuracy.[5]

        Another reason why eyewitness testimony may be inaccurate comes about due to an eyewitness's memory being influenced by things that they might hear or see after the crime occurred. This distortion is known as the post-event misinformation effect (Loftus and Palmer, 1974). After a crime occurs and an eyewitness comes forward, law enforcement tries to gather as much information as they can to avoid the influence that may come from the environment, such as the media. Many times when the crime is surrounded by much publicity, an eyewitness may experience source misattribution. Source misattribution occurs when a witness is incorrect about where or when they have the memory from. If a witness cannot correctly identify the source of their retrieved memory, the witness is seen as not reliable.

        While some witnesses see the entirety of a crime happen in front of them, some witness only part of a crime. These witnesses are more likely to experience confirmation bias. Witness expectations are to blame for the distortion that may come from confirmation bias. For example, Lindholm and Christianson (1998) found that witnesses of a mock crime who did not witness the whole crime, nevertheless testified to what they expected would have happened. These expectations are normally similar across individuals due to the details of the environment."

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eyewitness_testimony

        In general, eye witness testimony is very unreliable. Not only do we not have eye witnesses in your case, Paul says Cephas and the twelve say Jesus first, but the gospels say the women did (even though the original gospel Mark, didn't even say that). This is more than a minor contradiction, this is a contradiction about who the eye witnesses were. In court, contradiction are not positive as you falsely claim. If two witnesses pick out two different people in a lineup, then you have a real problem in court. Of course if they give every single detail exactly the same, then you know they are copying each other. Major story differences are problematic, minor details are positive, even though eye witness testimony as a whole is quite unreliable.

        If you are familiar with the synoptic problem you'll know that Matthew and Luke copied Mark, or vice versa. No serious Bible scholar denies this, so their goes their reliability, at least by the standard you just gave. I'm sure you'll apply the standard only when it is convenient for your position, but people do this quite often.

        Last, I would like to point out other massively witnessed miracles.

        Here's a link on the miracles of Mohammed:

        http://www.sunnah.org/history/miracles_of_Prophet.htm

        They claim there were thousands of witnesses for some.

        Romulus (founder of Rome) was witnessed ascending into the heavens by the entire Roman senate supposedly.

        Joseph Smith's miracles have tons of eye witnesses, and are as well attested as those in the gospels

        http://en.fairmormon.org/Joseph_Smith/Healings_and_miracles

        Here is a good link going into more detail, on many, many more well documented miracles.

        http://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/indef/4c.html

        Last, take this huge list of mass delusions that were witnessed by thousands in some cases.

        http://www.csicop.org/si/show/mass_delusions_and_hysterias_highlights_from_the_past_millennium/

        I hope you can see why I ignored the whole eye witness thing. It's a bit of a joke if you know anything about the mind, perception, history, and other religions ;)

  • William Davis

    (5) The New Testament could not be myth misinterpreted and confused with fact because it specifically distinguishes the two and repudiates the mythic interpretation (2 Peter 1:16). Since it explicitly says it is not myth, if it is myth it is a deliberate lie rather than myth. The dilemma still stands. It is either truth or lie, whether deliberate (conspiracy) or non-deliberate (hallucination). There is no escape from the horns of this dilemma. Once a child asks whether Santa Claus is real, your yes becomes a lie, not myth, if he is not literally real. Once the New Testament distinguishes myth from fact, it becomes a lie if the resurrection is not fact.

    The answer to this is simple, 2 Peter is almost certainly a forgery, and written in response to accusations of treating mythology as fact. I'll use Bible.org as a source for the forgery claim:

    "There has been much debate over the authorship of 2 Peter. Most conservative evangelicals hold to the traditional view that Peter was the author, but historical and literary critics have almost unanimously concluded that to be impossible. For example: Ksemann states that 2 Peter is “perhaps the most dubious writing” in the New Testament.1 Harris says, “virtually none believe that 2 Peter was written by Jesus’ chief disciple.”2 And Brevard S. Childs, an excellent rhetorical critic, shows his assumption when he says, “even among scholars who recognize the non-Petrine authorship there remains the sharpest possible disagreement on a theological assessment.”3

    The result of this debate is that 2 Peter is concluded by most critical scholars to be pseudepigraphal literature. But the evangelical world rejects the critics’ claims. Conservatives say this has serious ramifications for the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy. The critics, on the other hand, claim this was standard procedure and therefore not dishonest.4"

    https://bible.org/article/authorship-second-peter

    • Thanks for the comment, William. The Bible.org article is interesting to read but it's ultimately devoid of any argument against the reliability of 2 Peter. It simply offers a (skewed) survey noting that some biblical scholars accept it, and others don't.

      (I also would be extremely hesitant about using Bible.org as a source in any serious conversation about the Bible.)

      The article also supposes a false dichotomy between "conservative evangelicals" and "historical and literary critics", as if there is no overlap. But, of course, there is. One can't just assume that evangelical scholars are un-historical and un-critical in their biblical approach and then use that as evidence for why they are wrong on 2 Peter. (And what about conservative Catholics?)

      The article also claims that "historical and literary critics have almost unanimously concluded [the Petrine authorship] to be impossible." Note that it doesn't say such authorship is"unlikely," but that it's "impossible". How do they know this? It's never revealed.

      In the end, your comment (and the Bible.org article) do nothing to undermine Dr. Kreeft's point #5.

      • Doug Shaver

        The article also claims that "historical and literary critics have almost unanimously concluded [the Petrine authorship] to be impossible."

        I readily agree that that is a careless overstatement, and as such it badly undermines Bible.org's credibility. I do get the impression, though, that except for the conservative Christians among them, scholars are generally agreed that Petrine authorship of II Peter is of negligible likelihood. There may be an important distinction between that and impossibility, but it's a distinction without much epistemological difference.

      • William Davis

        Fair enough about Bible.org. While I'll stand behind Dan Wallace on the synoptic problem, the author of the 2 Peter doesn't have Dan Wallace's clout. Andrew G. pointed me to the Vatican archives as a better source.

        Nevertheless, acceptance of 2 Peter into the New Testament canon met with great resistance in the early church. The oldest certain reference to it comes from Origen in the early third century. While he himself accepted both Petrine letters as canonical, he testifies that others rejected 2 Peter. As late as the fifth century some local churches still excluded it from the canon, but eventually it was universally adopted. The principal reason for the long delay was the persistent doubt that the letter stemmed from the apostle Peter.

        Among modern scholars there is wide agreement that 2 Peter is a pseudonymous work, i.e., one written by a later author who attributed it to Peter according to a literary convention popular at the time. It gives the impression of being more remote in time from the apostolic period than 1 Peter; indeed, many think it is the latest work in the New Testament and assign it to the first or even the second quarter of the second century.

        The principal reasons for this view are the following. The author refers to the apostles and "our ancestors" as belonging to a previous generation, now dead (⇒ 2 Peter 3:2-4). A collection of Paul's letters exists and appears to be well known, but disputes have arisen about the interpretation of them (⇒ 2 Peter 3:14-16). The passage about false teachers (⇒ 2 Peter 2:1-18) contains a number of literary contacts with ⇒ Jude 1:4-16, and it is generally agreed that 2 Peter depends upon Jude, not vice versa. Finally, the principal problem exercising the author is the false teaching of "scoffers" who have concluded from the delay of the parousia that the Lord is not going to return. This could scarcely have been an issue during the lifetime of Simon Peter.

        http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0839/__P126.HTM

      • Hipshot

        The article also claims that "historical and literary critics have almost unanimously concluded [the Petrine authorship] to be impossible." Note that it doesn't say such authorship is"unlikely," but that it's "impossible". How do they know this?

        In fairness, Brandon, this is no different from what I've seen William Craig do in a score of debates. One of his most common tropes is to blithely assert that "the vast majority of biblical scholars accept the validity of the gospel accounts" without an molecule of substantiation.

  • William Davis

    The extra-biblical testimony unanimously attributes the Gospels to their traditional authors: the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle of Clement, the Shepherd of Hermes, Theophilus, Hippolytus, Origen, Quadratus, Irenaeus, Melito, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Dionysius, Tertullian, Cyprian, Tatian, Caius, Athanasius, Cyril, up to Eusebius in A.D.

    OK...Justin Martyr NEVER named the authors of the gospels, he calls them Memoirs of the Apostles. It is really problematic for Kreeft and Craig to make a mistake this big. It is fine to make a list of those who attributed the gospels to their traditional author, BUT DON'T ADD SOMEONE WHO DIDN'T DO THIS! Justin Martyr is a big reason why I believe the gospels were originally anonymous. Notice that the author's of the gospels never name themselves, probably for good reason. I don't doubt that the gospels were based on oral tradition that started with the apostles, but there is no evidence they were directly involved in the writing of these texts. Perhaps Mark really was the scribe who down the oldest gospel we have access to now, perhaps not.

    • "OK...Justin Martyr NEVER named the authors of the gospels, he calls them "Memoirs of the Apostles. It is really problematic for Kreeft and Craig to make a mistake this big. It is fine to make a list of those who attributed the gospels to their traditional author, BUT DON'T ADD SOMEONE WHO DIDN'T DO THIS! Justin Martyr is a big reason why I believe the gospels were originally anonymous. Notice that the author's of the gospels never name themselves, probably for good reason. I don't doubt that the gospels were based on oral tradition that started with the apostles, but there is no evidence they were directly involved in the writing of these texts. Perhaps Mark really was the scribe who down the oldest gospel we have access to now, perhaps not."

      No need for the all caps, William. You can make your point without them. Two things in reply:

      First, even if this was a mistake, it would not be as glaring a problem as you make it out to be. It involves one source, among nineteen, in one line of evidence supporting the truth of the Gospels (among six lines.) Even if Kreeft was mistaken on this point, the rest of his evidence far outweighs this error.

      Second, as I noted in another comment, it's not as if Justin Martyr doubts that the content of the Gospels are authentically attributed to the apostles. So even if Justin didn't explicit say, "The authors of the Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John," he clearly holds to the common view that their content is based on apostolic testimony.

      So regardless of whether Kreeft was right or wrong on Justin, it does nothing to hurt his overall case in support of the truth of the biblical accounts.

      • William Davis

        I wasn't trying to yell with the caps, just emphasize. Next time I'll take the time to use html bold instead so I don't give the wrong impression, thanks for pointing out how that was coming across.
        You're right, my refutation here is weak, perhaps I'll have more time to spend later.

  • bdlaacmm

    Another powerful argument against the "myth" hypothesis is that the development of the New Testament canon is contrary to the development of every genuine myth known to man. Take the example of the Arthurian Legend. We start with a few vague references to the story of an originally unnamed 5th Century Briton hero with almost no detail, which gradually over the generations (!!!) gets fancified and embellished, acquiring more and more specifics, additional characters and further adventures, until, 1000 years later, we arrive at what we now recognize as the Story of King Arthur and the Round Table - which resembles not at all those original fragmentary anecdotes.

    In contrast let's take a look at what happened as regards the telling of Christ's life story. We have extremely detailed original accounts (the Gospels), and every attempt to embellish the story (for instance, the Gnostic "gospels" and other apocrypha) is ruthlessly spurned and not added to the original story. Even the pious Medieval legends and traditions (for example, the elaborate biographies of the Magi and the names of various unidentified figures in the Gospels, such as Longinus, who thrust the spear into Christ's side on the Cross) never make it into the official, canonical account. There is absolutely zero generational development. The story we have today is exactly the same as told by the first generation of Christians.

    That's not how myth works. The New Testament is not myth.

    • David Nickol

      Another powerful argument against the "myth" hypothesis is that the development of the New Testament canon is contrary to the development of every genuine myth known to man.

      The "myth theory" that Peter Kreeft argues against is to a large extent a straw man.

    • William Davis

      Personally I do not think the gospels are pure myth, but clearly contain mythological elements. This was just how stories were written in those days. The letters in the New Testament are obviously not mythological in nature, notice Paul never mentions anything about Jesus's life or miracles.

      • Randy Carson

        The letters in the New Testament are obviously not mythological in nature, notice Paul never mentions anything about Jesus's life or miracles.

        Incorrect. Paul tells us:

        1 Corinthians 11
        23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

        Those are specific details from the Last Supper. Paul also tells us:

        1 Corinthians 15
        3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

        WHAT he received was the core message of the gospel; WHO he received it from was the apostles who were eyewitnesses, and WHEN Paul received it was during his two visits to Jerusalem to meet with Simon Peter.

        Hope this helps. :-)

        • William Davis

          Notice he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. This indicates Cephas was someone else, we do not know who. Perhaps Cephas was the mysterious man standing in empty tomb in Mark (he told the women Jesus was risen, but they did not see Jesus). Jews for Judaism does an excellent job of dismantling the Church's position here. You'd probably be very surprised at how much I know of this subject (though I'm definitely not an expert, the internet makes this easy).

          http://jewsforjudaism.org/knowledge/articles/answers/jewish-polemics/resurrection/who-was-first-to-see-jesus-after-his-supposed-resurrection/

          The sheer number of contradictions among the texts in the New Testament destroys it's credibility as a historical document, not to mention all the forged letters that made it into the New Testament. I have heard no contradictions on the existence of Beijing. That was a silly comparison (comparing the historicity of Jesus's miracles to the existence of Beijing) and you know it.

          • Randy Carson

            I'll respond in two seperate posts since you make two points.

            Notice he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. This indicates Cephas was someone else, we do not know who. Perhaps Cephas was the mysterious man standing in empty tomb in Mark (he told the women Jesus was risen, but they did not see Jesus). Jews for Judaism does an excellent job of dismantling the Church's position here.

            Uh, no. :-)

            Consider:

            "The reporters spoke first with Lebron James and then with the entire team."

            Does this suggest that Lebron is not a member of the team? No. Similarly, Simon Peter (aka Cephas, cf. John 1:42) was one of the twelve. Thus, Jesus spoke to:

            1. Peter alone.
            2. The Twelve (technically the Eleven since Judas was dead.)
            3. 500 of his disciples.
            4. James alone.
            5. The apostles again.
            6. Paul.

            You'd probably be very surprised at how much I know of this subject (though I'm definitely not an expert, the internet makes this easy)

            Well, I'll admit your posts are full of surprises. :-D

          • William Davis

            Did you read the link? The gospels claim Jesus appeared to Mary mag first. Which is correct. There are other reasons to think cephas is someone besides Simon peter, but I'm mobile right now. Anything to say about the miracles? I've never had a christian respond on that topic, would you like to be the first?

          • Randy Carson

            I did read the link. It was lame...standard re-hash of ideas necessary to remain non-Christian despite the obvious fact that the Messiah has come.

            So, it troubles you that Paul does not mention any of Jesus' miracles in his letters? Why is this a problem?

            If you have read Paul's letters, you will know that recounting the life of Jesus was not his purpose in writing.

            Would it be just as troubling to say that Matthew, Mark and Luke do not develop much theology of justification?

            C'mon, William. The gospels are biographies whereas the epistles are, for the most part, pastoral letters - Romans being the exception.

            You are not content with four gospels...you require Paul to have composed a fifth in order to be satisfied - a convenient excuse since your request cannot be honored 2,000 years after the fact.

            But seriously, even if he had, would that have been enough for you?

          • William Davis

            I'll address eyewitness testimony later today, or tomorrow. Not easy to do mobile :)

          • Randy Carson

            I'm going to address eye witness testimony head on, but I'd like you to addres C.S. Lewis's "most embarrassing verses" that I've already brought to your attention. This is why Paul and Jesus got wrong, that the general resurrection of the dead was imminent, specifically in the same generation. You keep ignoring that like you've explained it, you haven't.

            My apologies, but I have not seen this. This forum is a little more unwieldy than others. Where and what did you ask me about CS Lewis?

          • William Davis

            Oh, you're fine.

            About CS Lewis and the timing of the general resurrection, I quoted all the passages earlier, but I can link you to that if needed
            https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/refuting_the_myth_theory_6_reasons_why_the_resurrection_accounts_are_true/#comment-1961592928

            Here are two about the specifics of Jesus's miracles

            https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/refuting_the_myth_theory_6_reasons_why_the_resurrection_accounts_are_true/#comment-1961477074

            https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/refuting_the_myth_theory_6_reasons_why_the_resurrection_accounts_are_true/#comment-1961498572

            I'm just making sure you didn't miss the one's on the miracles, I find that topic interesting. I love history, and Yeshua of Nazareth (with Paul's help) is one of the most influential people in western history, I think we both can agree on that ;)

          • Randy Carson

            The sheer number of contradictions among the texts in the New Testament destroys it's credibility as a historical document, not to mention all the forged letters that made it into the New Testament.

            You need to stop depending on Bart Ehrman for your information about the NT. :-)

            If you take a bit of time to study how police detectives uncover conspiracies and collusion, you will discover that when witnesses agree TOO CLOSELY, that suggests that an attempt to corroborate the stories was made beforehand. Conversely, differences in eyewitness accounts actually strengthen the overall credibility of each individual witness.

            For example, some survivors of the Titanic sinking said that just before the ship went down, it broke in two. Others, who were also there, said that the ship did not break up before submerging. Both groups cannot be right; either Titanic did or did not break up before slipping beneath the surface. And yet, the discrepancy in these two accounts does not detract from the fact that both groups witnessed the sinking of the ship.

            Similarly, you may cling (and I choose that word intentionally) to the idea that there are discrepancies in the accounts of the crucifixion and post-resurrection appearances, but brother, these DO NOT detract from the main points which are that:

            a. Jesus died upon the cross, and
            b. He was seen alive later by many witnesses.

            :-)

            I have heard no contradictions on the existence of Beijing. That was a silly comparison (comparing the historicity of Jesus's miracles to the existence of Beijing) and you know it.

            Have you ever heard anyone deny that men actually landed on the moon despite all the evidence in support of Neil Armstong's landing?

            Have you ever heard of anyone denying the holocaust despite the eyewitness accounts of the survivors of Auschwitz?

            C'mon, William. Think bigger. My point is that we rely on the testimony of knowledgeable witness for MOST of what we know in life. Therefore, it is unreasonable to deny the testimony of the gospel writers just because their message does not suit you.

          • William Davis

            So you're comparing disbelief in Christianity to denialism? Interesting. I have a lot to say about eye witness testimony, but no time ATM, but your smug tone and comments about clinging are actually comical. I'll take your behavior as a sign of desperation that you aren't doing a good job of covering up, so I'll just enjoy the show. Nothing to say on the miracles I see. No surprise ;)

          • Randy Carson

            Denialism? You're a bit quick to draw that conclusion.

            My point was simply that people ignore eyewitness testimony all the time, but that does not mean that they have done so with good reason.

            The point that you are avoiding (by accusing me of accusing you of denialism :-D) is that discrepancies in eyewitness testimony do not detract from the value of that testimony.

            So, you can cite the number of women at the tomb or any number of minor points in the written testimonies, but the MAJOR point - that Jesus was no longer in the tomb and was later seen alive by hundreds - is not undermined by them.

          • David Nickol

            . . . . discrepancies in eyewitness testimony do not detract from the value of that testimony.

            Again, this cannot stand as a general rule. If eyewitnesses are in complete agreement, are we to throw out their testimony? And if so, what degree of disagreement among eyewitnesses confirms their credibility? If one eyewitness says the accused shot the victim, the second says the accused stabbed the victim, and a third says the accused split his scull with an ax, would we say, "Well, they all agree the accused killed the victim, so they must be telling the truth."

            Also, when Paul names those to whom Jesus allegedly appeared, Paul is not an eyewitness (except in his own case).

          • Randy Carson

            Again, this cannot stand as a general rule. If eyewitnesses are in complete agreement, are we to throw out their testimony?

            It depends. Police detectives are very familiar with "witnesses" who have rehearsed their stories beforehand.

            And if so, what degree of disagreement among eyewitnesses confirms their credibility? If one eyewitness says the accused shot the victim, the second says the accused stabbed the victim, and a third says the accused split his scull with an ax, would we say, "Well, they all agree the accused killed the victim, so they must be telling the truth."

            No. However, if there were discrepancies about the time of day or what the victim was wearing or whether a train was passing at the time of the murder, etc, differences about things might or might not lead a detective to believe or not believe a given witness.

            Also, when Paul names those to whom Jesus allegedly appeared, Paul is not an eyewitness (except in his own case).

            Exactly. But he got that information firsthand from Peter, James and John during his visit to them in Jerusalem. Paul states:

            3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:

            He received the information about the appearances of Jesus (other than to himself) from others.

          • David Nickol

            It depends.

            Exactly. It depends. Which is why I said that whether agreements and discrepancies make testimony more or less credible cannot be stated as a general rule. But certainly the more reasonable generalization would be that the more witnesses agree, the more credible they are.

            It is a defense of Gospel accounts to say those giving eyewitness testimony often disagree on details. It is in no way a proof of the credibility of the Gospels that they contain discrepancies.

          • Randy Carson

            Exactly. It depends. Which is why I said that whether agreements and discrepancies make testimony more or less credible cannot be stated as a general rule. But certainly the more reasonable generalization would be that the more witnesses agree, the more credible they are.

            David, if the gospels were in lock-step agreement regarding who went to the tomb, the number of men at the tomb, the number of post-resurrection appearances, etc., skeptics would say, "See, the Catholic Church coordinated all this. The gospels were obviously edited to fit a pre-determined story."

            But you're missing the forest for the trees. The gospels and the epistles of Paul are in agreement that Jesus died and rose again. It is in the minor details that accounts differ, and this supports the idea that the gospel writers were real, independent sources of testimony and not part of a scheme put together later.

            It is a defense of Gospel accounts to say those giving eyewitness testimony often disagree on details. It is in no way a proof of the credibility of the Gospels that they contain discrepancies.

            Yes, it is a defense, and it is a valid one. Detective J. Warner Wallace, a former atheist, explains this plainly in great detail in his book, Cold-Case Christianity. I don't expect you to read his book, of course (though it is an interesting read), but you can peruse many articles at his website: http://coldcasechristianity.com/

          • David Nickol

            Conversely, differences in eyewitness accounts actually strengthen the overall credibility of each individual witness.

            It makes absolutely no sense to state this as some kind of general rule. And it is an especially bizarre contention when the "eyewitnesses" are recounting events under divine inspiration!

          • Randy Carson

            David-

            Thank you for your thoughts. The Holy Spirit inspired the authors of the gospels, but they were not mere scribes taking dictation. They were true authors who recorded the events as they saw and knew them without error.

          • David Nickol

            They were true authors who recorded the events as they saw and knew them without error.

            Then why are there discrepancies? It seems like you are saying the evangelists (and others) were human eyewitnesses, and like human eyewitnesses, they could disagree on what they have seen and heard, but the Holy Spirit enabled them to write down, without error, what they perceived as fallible witnesses. Why would one need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to write an honest account?

            Theories of divine inspiration are rather tricky things, especially since modern discoveries that a great many biblical texts were assembled and edited, not written by individual authors. I think most exegetes today probably feel the less said about inspiration, the better.

          • Randy Carson

            Then why are there discrepancies? It seems like you are saying the evangelists (and others) were human eyewitnesses, and like human eyewitnesses, they could disagree on what they have seen and heard, but the Holy Spirit enabled them to write down, without error, what they perceived as fallible witnesses. Why would one need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to write an honest account?

            The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

            106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. "To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more."

            The Holy Spirit did not infuse them with knowledge they did not have naturally. If they did not witness blood and water flowing from the side of Jesus, they could not record it. If they decided that a particular event needed to be included, added, truncated or abbreviated, they were free, as true human authors to do so. Nonetheless, the gospels contain what God wanted it to contain and no more.

            Theories of divine inspiration are rather tricky things, especially since modern discoveries that a great many biblical texts were assembled and edited, not written by individual authors. I think most exegetes today probably feel the less said about inspiration, the better.

            None of the books of the New Testament were written by committee.

          • William Davis

            They were true authors who recorded the events as they saw and knew them without error.

            You were just saying that the errors made them more credible, now there is no error? If there are discrepancies, SOMEONE has to be in error...

        • William Davis

          Here is another important passage from 1 Corinthians 15, since we're on that topic:

          12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have died[e] in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

          20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.[f] 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end,[g]when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power.

          The problem is that the dead were never raised, and the rulers of the earth were never destroyed. The first fruits of a harvest always come a short time before the general harvest, fitting the expectation of all this during Paul's lifetime. Paul says it himself, "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised." There was no resurrection of the dead, so Christ did not rise from the dead, sorry.

          • Randy Carson

            Paul says it himself, "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised." There was no resurrection of the dead, so Christ did not rise from the dead, sorry.

            Actually, Paul is making a hypothetical point. If there is NO resurrection from the dead, then (he argues), Jesus could not be raised from the dead. However, Paul is confident that there is a resurrection from the dead; it has not happened, yet, William, for the end has not yet come.

            More importantly, Paul flat out states:

            20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power.

            The order of events:

            1. Jesus raised. (Done.)
            2. The followers of Jesus raised. (At His second coming.)
            3. The end of the world.

          • William Davis

            Paul and Jesus were wrong about the timing of the resurrection, why should I believe they were right about anything else other than "love they neighbor as thyself". I attribute the success of Christianity to that simple statement. Altruism is a powerful thing.

          • Randy Carson

            Jesus was wrong about the timing of the resurrection?

            Can you explain what you mean a bit more clearly?

    • William Davis

      It's important to realize that just because the gospels contain mythological elements, does not mean they are pure myth. I don't doubt Yeshua of Nazareth was a real person with a powerful message of compassion (which was unusual at the time). This makes the situation different from King Arthur, but it doesn't make the gospels non-mythological. Almost all of the writings of the time were highly embellished with miracles and such.

  • Peter

    No amount of historical evidence, no matter how compelling, will convince a materialist that a supernatural event has taken place. Even if the evidence for such an event is vastly superior to that of another historical event, such as a battle which everyone admits to having taken place, the materialist will reject it because he or she will always refuse to accept the occurrence of a miracle in principle.

    • Doug Shaver

      The mere fact that we are unconvinced by evidence that convinces you does not mean that nothing would convince us.

      • Peter

        Before one is convinced of an event by historical accounts, one has to believe that such an event would have been possible in principle. Christians believe that miracles are possible in principle; materialists do not. No historical account would convince a materialist of an event which is considered impossible in principle.

        Christians are open to the possibility of the Resurrection; materialists are not. It is frankly a waste of time presenting materialists with arguments in favour of the Resurrection as a miracle. These arguments may convince wavering Christians or even theists of other beliefs but, as far as materialists are concerned, they fall on rocky ground.

        • Doug Shaver

          Before one is convinced of an event by historical accounts, one has to believe that such an event would have been possible in principle. Christians believe that miracles are possible in principle; materialists do not.

          That is not true of all materialists. It's true of those who think they're infallible when they affirm materialism, but some of us think it possible that we could be mistaken.

          • Peter

            Materialism is materialism whoever affirms it. By its very definition it precludes supernaturalism. You are not a materialist if you allow for the possibility of the supernatural.

          • My interpretation of Doug's openness was not that it was sufficient to make him "not a materialist," but only to conclude that he was not an infallibilist, not a dogmatic, naive materialist. Those labels can be applied to most worldviews.

          • Peter

            I'm sorry to have to repeat this but the definition of materialism precludes all notions of supernaturalism. If he is unsure whether physical matter and its properties are the only reality, then he should label himself as an agnostic.

          • I'm unsure which particular thread we had a discussion regarding the nature of faith, investigating its nature, employing distinctions like intellect and will, the informative and evidential versus the performative and existential, assent and consent, logical coercion and freedom, logical and intellectual disjunctions versus practical and existential disjunctions and of faith as a polar reality, where belief and doubt present on a continuum.

            Now, the reason that anyone can avoid an essential fideism, eschewing a role for reason or super-reason in the act of faith, is not because faith's philosophical preambles and natural theologies lead anyone evidentially and/or syllogistically to demonstrable proofs, to conclusive stances, to apodictic certainties, etc Philosophical theology provides, rather, a demonstration that this or that interpretation at least enjoys reasonableness and epistemic parity with competing interpretations. In this sense, intellectually, we encounter a certain evidential undecidability, which imbues that aspect of the act of faith with a vascillating plausibility for many of us, a propositional equilibrium that waxes and wanes with life's vagaries, like personal numinous experiences, pragmatic enjoyments, surpluses of meaning and deliverances of values or a perceived lack thereof.

            Thus bolstered by an essential modicum of evidential and logical reasonableness, an existential disjunction then presents, a choice to live as if this or that interpretation of ultimate reality is the case. This is the performative significance of making this or that leap of faith, moving beyond a mere intellectual proposition with an evaluative disposition, an axiological orientation, a relational trust or surrender or love, and/or even pragmatic criteria, wagering.

            Generally, in matters of ultimate concerns and primal realities, we shouldn't, most don't, label others based solely on their propositional, evidential stances, which, due to the epistemic uncertainties that naturally inhere regarding those concerns and realities, but moreso look to one another's existential disjunctions, whether they live as if this or that stance, which they earnestly hope is true, is indeed the case.

            You may note that, in yesterday's liturgy, while Jesus told Thomas that blessed are those who have not seen but believe, this did not imply that cursed are those who don't. No, Thomas was still welcomed in community, with understanding and compassion, even after firmly doubting. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been present when Jesus appeared to the group.

            Finally, if we employ your narrow construction of worldviews in evidential rather than existential terms, both Therese of Lisieux and Mother Teresa would also be labeled agnostics.

          • Peter

            So atheism is not simply a lack of belief then, but something much more complicated?

          • More accurately, belief, when referring to worldviews, is something much more complicated.

          • Doug Shaver

            Atheism is as simple as anything gets. It's our adversaries who try to make it complicated, because it's a convenient way to make straw men.

          • Doug Shaver

            Materialism is materialism whoever affirms it.

            Your opinion is noted. I know what I believe, and I'm not interested in a pointless semantic squabble over which label I should stick on my beliefs.

          • Peter

            What beliefs? I've been told many times that atheism is a lack of them.

          • Doug Shaver

            I've been told many times that atheism is a lack of [beliefs].

            You have not been told that by atheists. If you think you have, then you have not been paying attention.

    • George

      How do you know that?

    • Hipshot

      My half brother Mike died in 2013. I was at the funeral and saw them close the lid on his coffin. I was a pallbearer.

      If he were to walk through my front door today, shake my hand and start reminiscing about events that only he and I would know about, I'd believe it was a supernatural event. Abso-darned-lutely.

    • William Davis

      It would take personal experience to convince me. So far, I have NEVER experienced anything supernatural, I'm still fairly young, so we'll see what happens :)

      • Randy Carson

        Have you ever been to Beijing? If not, how can you be certain that it exists?

        The fact is, most of what we know is based upon the testimony of others. Whether we believe their testimony or not depends on their credibility, of course.

        Philosopher Richard Swineburne speaks of the "principle of testimony" - in the absence of counter evidence, we should believe what others tell us they have done or seen. Without this principle, Swineburne tells us we would have very little knowledge of anything. Most of our beliefs are based on what others have told us about geography, science or history. Most of what we know is not based upon our own direct experience but upon the testimony of reliable and knowledgeable people.

        The authors of the four gospels have told us what they (or their sources) reported seeing three days after the crucifixion. So, while YOU may have never experienced anything supernatural (yet), the writers of the NT did, and in the absence of counter evidence, they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

        So, try to keep an open mind...especially when you are young. :-)

        • George

          we do have counter evidence. we know people can lie. we know that every claim about the supernatural has been unverified or been debunked as a fraud.there are oodles of testimonies of people having religious experiences for faiths other than Christianity.

          • Randy Carson

            we know that every claim about the supernatural has been unverified or been debunked as a fraud.

            Every single one, huh? That's going to be difficult to document. ;-)

            there are oodles of testimonies of people having religious experiences for faiths other than Christianity.

            No doubt. People claim to have "religious experiences" for all sorts of reasons. What we're talking about here, however, is a very specific claim: that Jesus Christ rose from the dead as support for his claim to be God.

          • Doug Shaver

            we know that every claim about the supernatural has been unverified or been debunked as a fraud.

            Every single one, huh? That's going to be difficult to document.

            I would not say that every one has been. I would say that every one I've so far heard about has been.

        • Doug Shaver

          Philosopher Richard Swineburne speaks of the "principle of testimony" - in the absence of counter evidence, we should believe what others tell us they have done or seen.

          Fine, but nobody has told me that they saw a man alive three days after he was crucified.

    • Ignatius Reilly

      I reject the supernatural not because I am a materialist, but I am a materialist, because I see no evidence of the supernatural and some evidence against the supernatural. You have it backwards.

  • Doug Shaver

    (1) The style of the Gospels is radically and clearly different from the style of all the myths. Any literary scholar who knows and appreciates myths can verify this.

    I have heard this countless times from evangelical apologists, but I have never seen one of those "literary scholars" even identified, let alone quoted. When I compare the gospel narratives with stories that apologists agree are myths, I can detect none of the differences that Kreeft claims to see. This argument looks to me like either special pleading at its worst or confirmation bias run amok.

    If this detail and others like it throughout all four Gospels were invented, then a first-century tax collector (Matthew), a "young man" (Mark), a doctor (Luke), and a fisherman (John) all independently invented the new genre of realistic fantasy nineteen centuries before it was reinvented in the twentieth.

    Kreeft is here presupposing the truth of Christian traditions about who wrote the gospels, contrary to his promise that he wasn't going to do that sort of thing.

    A second problem is that there was not enough time for myth to develop.

    Kreeft has not defined "myth," but he seems to be thinking here of any nonfactual embellishments in stories told about a historical person. Such embellishments have often happened within the lifetime of the subject of such stories, to say nothing of what has happened within less than a generation, or even almost immediately, after the person's death.

    Julius Müller put the anti-myth argument this way:

    "One cannot imagine how such a series of legends could arise in an historical age, obtain universal respect, and supplant the historical recollection of the true character [Jesus]....if eyewitnesses were still at hand who could be questioned respecting the truth of the recorded marvels."

    I don't have to imagine how it could happen. I have seen it happen. A story starts circulating about some event and lots of people believe it. Those people are confronted with eyewitness testimony that the story isn't true, and they do not change their minds.

    The myth theory has two layers. The first layer is the historical Jesus, who was not divine, did not claim divinity, performed no miracles, and did not rise from the dead. The second, later, mythologized layer is the Gospels as we have them, with a Jesus who claimed to be divine, performed miracles and rose from the dead. The problem with this theory is simply that there is not the slightest bit of any real evidence whatever for the existence of any such first layer.

    There is not really only one myth theory. There are several, and some of them dispense with the first layer altogether.

    But yes, what we might call mainstream myth theories propose these two layers. But the first layer is not invented out of thin air. It is extracted from the gospels. Mainstream myth theory presupposes that the gospels contain at least a kernel of factual history. This presupposition is what grounds mainstream opposition to ahistoricist myth theories.

    the first witnesses of the resurrection were women.

    So say the gospels. If I thought I should believe everything the gospels say, I would not be doubting the resurrection in the first place.

    If the empty tomb were an invented legend, its inventors surely would not have had it discovered by women, whose testimony was considered worthless.

    This assumes that Mark wrote his gospel with the specific and sole intention of convincing his readers that the resurrection actually happened. I see no reason to make that assumption.

    The New Testament could not be myth misinterpreted and confused with fact because it specifically distinguishes the two and repudiates the mythic interpretation (2 Peter 1:16).

    Yes; well, if you believe it, then you don't call it a myth, do you?

    Since it explicitly says it is not myth, if it is myth it is a deliberate lie rather than myth.

    It's a false dichotomy to say it was either the truth or a lie. Liars know that what they say isn't true. Most people who speak untruly don't know that they speak untruly, and they are not lying. They are making a mistake. I get it that apologists will not admit that the New Testament authors could have made any mistakes, but the rest of us are not obliged to dismiss that possibility.

    The style of writing in the Gospels is simple and alive, what we would expect from their traditionally accepted authors.

    Unless we have other samples of their work or other independent information about their writing styles, we have no basis for even guessing what kind of style the traditional authors would have written in. This argument also presupposes that they were the only people of their time who could have written those stories in a "simple and alive" style -- whatever that is even supposed to mean.

    Luke must have an early date, which speaks for its authenticity.

    That is just a non sequitur. Some people doubt that Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to him. Nobody disputes that they were written during his lifetime, but nobody who defends his authorship uses the argument, "They are too early to be inauthentic."

    The stories of Jesus' human weaknesses and of the disciples' faults also bespeak the Gospels' accuracy.

    No, they don't.

    Furthermore, it would have been impossible for forgers to put together so consistent a narrative as that which we find in the Gospels.

    None but inerrantists think they present a consistent narrative.

    There is no attempt at harmonization between the Gospels, such as we might expect from forgers.

    If they were actually consistent, nobody would have thought they needed harmonization. And the reference to forgers is a straw man. A forger is pretending to be someone he isn't, but whoever wrote the gospels wrote them anonymously. They were not pretending to be anybody.

    The Gospels do not contain anachronisms;

    This is not undisputed. But according to Kreeft's original posting (emphasis added): "We need to presuppose only two things, both of which are hard data, empirical data, which no one denies."

    We may conclude that there is no more reason to doubt that the Gospels come from the traditional authors than there is to doubt that the works of Philo or Josephus are authentic, except that the Gospels contain supernatural events.

    This is another straw man. I have never seen anyone argue, in reference to the gospels or any other document, regardless of attributed authorship, "X could not have written this, because it reports supernatural events."

    There were many eyewitnesses who were still alive when the books were written who could testify whether they came from their purported authors or not.

    This presupposes the truth of Christian tradition about their provenance. And I have already addressed the issue of refutation by eyewitnesses.

    The extra-biblical testimony unanimously attributes the Gospels to their traditional authors: the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle of Clement, the Shepherd of Hermes, Theophilus, Hippolytus, Origen, Quadratus, Irenaeus, Melito, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Dionysius, Tertullian, Cyprian, Tatian, Caius, Athanasius, Cyril, up to Eusebius in A.D. 315

    This testimony is far from unanimous. The earliest extant attribution to the traditional authors is from Irenaeus. Barnabas, Clement, Melito, the Shepherd of Hermas, Quadratus, Polycarp, Justin, Dionysius, and Tatian all predate him.

    the Gospels we have today are the same Gospels originally written . . . . In fact, no other ancient work is available in so many copies and languages, and yet all these various versions agree in content.

    Here is what William Lane Craig has to say about that:

    The idea that the abundance and age of the manuscripts of the Gospels is evidence for their historical reliability is a misconception fostered by popular Christian apologetics. It’s true that the New Testament is the best attested book in ancient history, both in terms of the number of manuscripts and the nearness of those manuscripts to the date of the original. What that goes to prove is that the text of the New Testament that we have today is almost exactly the same as the text as it was originally written. . . .

    But . . . that doesn’t prove that what these documents say is historically accurate. (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/establishing-the-gospels-reliability)

    • Hipshot

      Game, set, match. My hat's off to ya...

      • Doug Shaver

        Thank you.

    • "I have heard this countless times from evangelical apologists, but I have never seen one of those "literary scholars" even identified, let alone quoted. "

      The typical source for this is CS Lewis. He was a literary scholar. Even when he was an atheist he found atheist statements that the New Testament was similar to a legend or a myth quite confusing. They never gave examples and he could not think of any even though he was very widely read.

      "But the first layer is not invented out of thin air. It is extracted from the gospels. Mainstream myth theory presupposes that the gospels contain at least a kernel of factual history. This presupposition is what grounds mainstream opposition to ahistoricist myth theories."

      Yes, this looks for anti-Christian nuggets in the bible. Assume those prove something while also assuming the bible itself is rubbish.

      The truth is the bible can't be explained as as anything. A few nuggets don't make some grand myth theory coherent. Did they believe it was true? Of not the early church makes no sense. If so, then they either forgot to ask the eye witnesses the obvious questions.

      • Doug Shaver

        Yes, this looks for anti-Christian nuggets in the bible. Assume those prove something while also assuming the bible itself is rubbish.

        I don't assume that the Bible is rubbish, but we all do have some assumptions that we bring to our reading of the Bible. Mine don't include the assumption that the church's traditions about how we got the Bible can't be wrong.

      • Doug Shaver

        The typical source for this is CS Lewis.

        OK, that's one more than I've heard about from anyone before you. But Kreeft said "any literary scholar" would back him up. That implies that what he said is the consensus of virtually all such scholars. Did Lewis claim that practically all literary scholars agreed with him on this particular point, or is there other evidence that they did?

        • His statement was very strong. He had heard the claims but could not imagine a serious argument because all the legends and myths he could think of were as different from the New Testament as chalk and cheese.

          • Doug Shaver

            all the legends and myths he could think of were as different from the New Testament as chalk and cheese.

            It's still just one scholar's opinion. Kreeft implied that it was the opinion of practically all scholars in relevant fields. I haven't seen that implication supported yet.

      • William Davis

        Even C.S. Lewis recognized one of the biggest problems with the New Testament. I like Lewis, though I obviously don't agree with him on a lot, he and Tolkien were great writers. We do agree here, however:

        C.S. Lewis was referring to Jesus’ Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24.1-51; Mark 13.1-37; Luke 21.5-36). Therein, Jesus predicted there would be wars, earthquakes, famines, and the rise of false prophets and false christs. He said his gospel would be preached in all the world, and then the end would come. He also affirmed Daniel’s pivotal prophecy, that an “abomination of desolation” would be set up in the temple at Jerusalem. Then Jesus added catastrophic portents, alluding to some Old Testament texts (Isaiah 13.10; 34.4; Joel 2.30-31), by saying the sun would be darkened and stars would fall from the heavens just prior to his return on the clouds of heaven. Then he uttered the words upon which Lewis and many others have stumbled–”this generation shall not pass till all these things have taken place” (Matt. 24.34/Mark 13.30 NRSV). Lewis added concerning this verse, “It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.”

        Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kermitzarleyblog/2013/05/do-evangelicals-know-that-c-s-lewis-said-jesus-was-wrong-about-his-return/#ixzz3X6nscoWR

        These verses I quoted clearly predict the end time coming in the generation of Jesus, that fact that so many Christians dismiss them out of hand is a little said. As Lewis himself said, these are the most embarrassing verses in the Bible. If Jesus got that wrong, how can he be divine? I don't doubt he was a great moral teacher.

        • Randy Carson

          FWIW, that was a reply to Randy Gritter.

          :-)

          • William Davis

            Oh, lol. Just paying attention to "Randy". Honest mistake on my part :)

        • Randy Carson
          • William Davis

            24 “But in those days, after that suffering,

            the sun will be darkened,
            and the moon will not give its light,
            25 and the stars will be falling from heaven,
            and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

            26 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. 27 Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

            You're reading this right? The destruction of the Temple? I think not. The coming of the son of man in the clouds, gathering the elect, this is the second coming...

          • Randy Carson

            15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

            Since the Holy Place, that is, the Holy of Holies, was destroyed in AD 70, we know that this abomination has already occurred, and the destruction of Jerusalem did occur within the lifetime of those to whom Jesus was speaking.

            From Wikipedia:

            Many modern Biblical scholars[13] conclude that Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 are prophecies after the event about the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Roman general Titus.[14] Some scholars, including Hermann Detering,[15] see these verses as a vaticinium ex eventu about Emperor Hadrian's attempt to install the statue of Jupiter Capitolinus on the site of the ruined Jewish Temple in Jerusalem leading to the Bar Kokhba revolt of 132-135 AD.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abomination_of_desolation

          • William Davis

            After the event prophecy (i.e. it wasn't really a prophecy)? Sure, I can live with that as a possible valid interpretation. Of course, how can one guess what is after the fact, literal, or not literal. Many scholars resort to saying an inconvenient passage is non-literal, and a convenient passage is literal. Special pleading is ok for some people, but I prefer consistency :)

          • William Davis

            In the beginning of the discourse in Matthew the situation is made completely clear, Matthew 24:

            3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

            Claiming this is the destruction of the temple is bordering on lying...

          • Randy Carson

            Or else Dr. Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, the New Testament scholars who wrote the commentary in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible know a bit more about the subject than you.

          • David Nickol

            Or else Dr. Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, the New Testament scholars who wrote the commentary in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible know a bit more about the subject than you.

            First, I doubt that anyone would class Hahn and Mitch in the top ranks of Biblical exegetes. If you are going to make an argument from authority, it's best to cite an acknowledged expert on the topic at hand. The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible cannot claim to be a towering work of scholarship.

            Second, extraordinarily learned exegetes who all have PhDs in various fields of Biblical studies and read Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and so on, disagree with one another. It is very common when reading annotations in study Bibles and the like to be told that some authorities think one thing about the passage and other authorities think another.

            You can rarely win a debate on the meaning of a particular Biblical passage by claiming to have a trusted source that "know[s] a bit more about the subject than you."

          • William Davis

            Interpreting scripture is like seeing a face in a cloud, it is more pareidolia than anything. I can quote a ton of other scholars who think the opposite, but I'm ok with the non-literal interpretation. I interpret the whole thing non-literally myself, perhaps you should do the same :)

        • This is a difficult passage. There are quite a few difficult passages. I am not sure I would call this the worst but I get your point.

          That is not what the discussion is about though. It is about whether the bible can be explained as a myth. His answer was a very strong No. He simply could imagine anyone saying that except out of almost total literary ignorance. I would agree with him there. I have heard many atheists make this claim but I have not seen any evidence that any of them know what they are talking about.

          • David Nickol

            He simply could imagine anyone saying that except out of almost total literary ignorance. I would agree with him there.

            It is getting rather frustrating to see this same meme repeated over and over again: "Unbelievers say the story of Jesus in the New Testament is a myth, but it bears no resemblance at all to, say, the Myth of Sisyphus, so how could anyone say the story is a myth?"

            Now, there is a newish, small, and rather insignificant movement we have talked about here (mythicists) who really do think Jesus was mythical, but it is very much mistaken to mix that up with modern scholars such as Bultmann who talked about "demythologizing" the Gospels. I reproduced a quote from Bultmann's Kerygma and Myth which I suspect was so long it frightened away readers, but it begins as follows: "The cosmology of the New Testament is essentially mythical in character. The world is viewed as a three-storied structure, with the earth in the centre, the heaven above, and the underworld beneath."

            A gospel is recognized as a literary genre all its own. I certainly don't think anyone who talks about myths and demythologizing of the New Testament can't tell the difference between gospels and Greek or Norse mythology. It is really just silly to claim that most of modern biblical scholarship must be wrong because the Gospels as literary works bear little relationship to other works we call myths. That is a straw man argument.

          • I don't think it is a straw man. Not everyone takes the argument seriously but many do. You hear atheists repeat it over and over. They really do believe the bible is exactly like Greek or Norse mythology. They repeat this over and over especially on the internet. Guess what? When you have ignorance then a zealot repeating a lie can convince quite a few. Often the most zealous people about religion are atheists.

            So I am glad you disavow this kind of argument. That the New Testament is related as factual because the people who wrote it believed it to be factual. They took it very seriously because people were being killed for their faith. They might still have made some mistakes but they would be seen as mistakes and not some legitimate embellishment of the facts. Jesus' life was the most sacred story possible. No way they change it.

        • David Nickol

          Part of the problem for both you and Randy Carson (and C. S. Lewis), if you take the view of John L. McKenzie, S.J., is that Matthew 24 may very well be a collection of somewhat disparate sayings rather than a coherent speech. In the entry on Parousia in Dictionary of the Bible, McKenzie says (with some addition of boldface by me):

          The attitude of the NT and the early Church toward the time of Parousia creates one of the more vexing problems of NT exegesis and theology. A number of texts seem to suggest with all desired clarity that the Parousia is an imminent event (Mt 10:23; 24:34; Mk 13:30; Lk 21:32; 1 Th 4:13ff; 1 Pt 4:7; Apc 3:11; 22:20). It has been suggested that the texts from the synoptic apocalypes (Mt 24:34; Mk 13:30; Lk 21:32) have reference to the fall of Jerusalem, which is equally prominent with the Parousia in this discourse. This is possibly evasive of the real problem, which is the conjunction of the fall of Jerusalem and the Parousia in the discourse. Modern form criticism now shows that the eschatological discourse may be a compilation of sayings of Jesus like the sermon on the mount of Mt 5-7 and thus need never have been delivered in the form in which it stands. The impression of the proximity of the Parousia, however, does not arise from any single text, but from a number of texts found in different books, and it is not altogether honest to attempt to rationalize it out of existence. That the impression was common in the early Church seems to admit no doubt.

          One may ask whether this impression should be reduced to the words of Jesus Himself, and there is serious doubt that it should. The current tradition which contains warnings that the time is entirely unknown is as solidly embedded in the early tradition as the impression of the proximity of the Parousia, and one is no more justified in rationalizing this qualification out of existence, or in explaining it as a development which occurred in the literary tradition after the belief in the proximity of the Parousia had been abandoned. On critical grounds these qualifications are as primitive as the passages which suggest that the Parousia is near.

          One may combine these themes, it seems, only by preserving both of them. The Parousia was never described by Jesus as an event which was in the remote future; and to be altogether accurate the attitude of the early Church should be described as a hope and an expectation that the Parousia was near rather than a firm conviction that it was near. . . .

          The New Ignatius Study Bible and some "Strange Notions Catholics" do not want to give up the idea that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were eyewitnesses writing their memoirs. Therefore, they do not want to accept the possibility (demonstrated time and time again) that the Gospels are often edited, with arrangements of sayings that may be grouped together not because they were all said in a lengthy discourse, but because they were similar in some aspect such as theme. In many cases passages may be difficult and obscure not because we are not smart enough to figure out their true meaning, but because they were force-fit together in the first place in an imperfect job of editing.

          • I would not equate the two things. They can be accounts of eye witnesses and they can still be edited to accomplish the goal of the gospel's author. I have no doubt many in the early church believed the second coming was going to happen within a few decades. They were wrong. So whatever Jesus said on this point confused many. It still confuses many in some corners of Christianity.

            It is worth noting that selling houses and land was something Christians did in Jerusalem. There is no evidence they did it anywhere else. So they seemed to know something was going to happen to Jerusalem but not in Ephesus or Corinth or Phillipi.

            I am not sure how secular scholars can make any sense of this either. If they believe the gospels were written well after 70 AD then why isn't the "prophesy" more accurate?

          • Doug Shaver

            I am not sure how secular scholars can make any sense of this either. If they believe the gospels were written well after 70 AD then why isn't the "prophesy" more accurate?

            I don't pretend to be a scholar in this field, but I don't see the problem. Regardless of the intentions of whoever first told the story and when they told it, some church officials during the middle to late second century decided that the story was authoritative. Once that happened, all they had to find was find a way to interpret the prophecy so that it was consistent with history as it was known at the time.

          • The trouble is that many scholars imply that the gospels were revised later than 70 AD by someone with a pro-Christian bias. It is hard to imagine who could do such things and how they could get their changes accepted by the church without controversy. Yet this is another problem. How did they ever miss such obvious issues?

          • Doug Shaver

            It is hard to imagine who could do such things and how they could get their changes accepted by the church without controversy.

            What makes you think there was no controversy?

          • Controversies tend to leave evidence. Like one group having a radically different version of the gospels. The fact that they were able to settle on what was legit in the fourth century says a lot.

          • Doug Shaver

            Controversies tend to leave evidence.

            I suppose so, but the evidence left by a controversy that was debated 2,000 years ago would not necessarily have survived for very long. We certainly don't have evidence for every controversy that was discussed in the Roman senate.

            The fact that they were able to settle on what was legit in the fourth century says a lot.

            Yes. It says that somebody won the debate. It does not say, however, that they won because they had the best evidence on their side.

          • William Davis

            That's plausible, but it does add to the question of what we can know about the historical Jesus.

    • bdlaacmm

      "but I have never seen one of those "literary scholars" [who asserted that the style of the Gospels is radically and clearly different from the style of all the myths] even identified, let alone quoted"

      The literary scholar who is most identified with that idea is C.S. Lewis, whose scholarly credentials are beyond dispute. His most famous words on the subject say something like anyone who thinks the Gospels are myth has obviously never read any genuine mythology. I'm too lazy right now to look up the exact quote.

      • Doug Shaver

        The literary scholar who is most identified with that idea is C.S. Lewis, whose scholarly credentials are beyond dispute.

        So far, I have yet to hear of another. Kreeft said: "Any literary scholar who knows and appreciates myths can verify this." If that is so, then somebody besides Lewis must be on record somewhere saying the same thing.

      • William Davis

        I've read a ton of mythology and love it. How much have you read? See my comment on all the mythological elements in the gospels. There are many more I didn't list. I even posted genre elements of mythology for reference to make it easy for poorly educated people like yourself ;)

  • When did Mary Magdalene learn of a resurrection?

    Many Christian apologists state that it is impossible for the empty tomb to have been the result of a stolen body, even though the author of Matthew states that the guards were not posted until the second day, giving a least a short period of time that the tomb was not guarded. However, If the Stolen Body Hypothesis is impossible, why did Mary Magdalene believe that Jesus body had been stolen?

    Matthew is the only Gospel that mentions guards at the tomb. John's Gospel says nothing about guards. If John was an eyewitness, as Christians claim, isn't that a pretty important detail to leave out of your story? The missing Roman guards in the Book of John raises an important issue. Christians often contend that it would have been impossible for anyone to have surreptitiously removed Jesus’ corpse from the tomb because there were guards posted at the tomb who would have prevented such an occurrence. Therefore, they argue, without any possibility for the body to have been quietly whisked away, the only other logical conclusion is that Jesus must have truly arisen from the dead. A stolen body hypothesis is impossible.

    This argument completely collapses in John’s account, however, because according to the fourth Gospel, this is precisely what Mary thought had occurred! Mary clearly didn’t feel as though the scenario of Jesus’ body being removed was unlikely. In fact, according to John, that was her only logical conclusion. Clearly, Matthew’s guards didn’t dissuade John’s Mary from concluding that someone had taken Jesus’ body because Roman guards do not exist in John’s story. To further compound the problem of the conflicting resurrection accounts, John’s Gospel continues to unfold with Mary returning to the tomb a second time, only to find two angels sitting inside the tomb. Mary is still unaware of any resurrection as she complains to the angels that someone had removed Jesus’ corpse. As far as John’s Mary is concerned, the only explanation for the missing body was that someone must have removed it, and she was determined to locate it.

    But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying12 , one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:11-13)

    Although in Matthew’s account the angel emphatically tells Mary about the resurrection (Matthew 28:5-7), in John’s Gospel the angels do not mention that anyone rose from the dead. The angels only ask Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary responds by inquiring whether the angels removed Jesus’ body. Then, Mary turns and sees Jesus standing before her, but mistakes him for the gardener. Mary is still completely unaware of any resurrection, and therefore asks the “gardener” if he was the one who carried away Jesus’ body. It is only then that Mary realizes that she was speaking to the resurrected Jesus.

    When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” which means Teacher. (John 20:14-16)

    It is at this final juncture of the narrative that the accounts of Matthew and John become hopelessly irreconcilable. The question every Christian must answer is the following: When Mary met Jesus for the first time after the resurrection, had the angel(s) already informed her that Jesus had arisen from the dead? According to Matthew, the angels did inform Mary of the resurrection, but in John’s account they did not. As we survey the divergent New Testament accounts of the resurrection, we see that we are not just looking at contradictory versions, we are reading two entirely different stories!