Memory’s a Funny Thing

Recently, the ten most memorable moments of British TV were voted on, and Colin Firth coming out of the lake in Pride and Prejudice won most memorable. To commemorate, a huge statue of Colin Firth has been sculpted and has apparently been making the rounds to various lakes in Britain.

But what’s really interesting about the scene this statue depicts is that it never actually happened. Check out the following clip to see Firth talking about it:

http://www.nbc.com/the-tonight-show/video/colin-firth-never-came-out-of-the-water/2771254

And here’s a clip from the film to prove it:

This mini-series ran in 1995, and now 20 years later, people have mis-remembered a scene from it to such a degree that they’ve voted it the most memorable scene in British television history. Aside from it being an interesting anecdote, why do I bother to bring it up here? Because apologists often tell us that the period of time between Jesus’ death and the first Christian writings (at least 20 years) is not long enough for legends to develop; therefore, Paul’s epistles and the gospels must be recording actual events. Yet in this day of photographic evidence, we have an example of how easily the actual facts can be embellished.

This scene was created simply through the evolution of human memory. No one stood to gain anything by making this up. By the same token, apologists are wrong when they claim that if the gospel accounts aren’t accurate, then they must have been developed by a conspiracy. There’s no reason to believe that at all. Stories change as they pass from one person to another, and 20+ years is an awful lot of time for the telephone game to take its toll.

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144 thoughts on “Memory’s a Funny Thing”

  1. Excellent analogy – I had no idea where you were going with this until the punchline!

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  2. This is so true Nate. That argument never flew for me – I just never understood why apologists wouldn’t admit that the stories had ample time for legend and myth to get built in. There are certainly other comparable stories from that time which nobody is faulted for claiming legendary embellishment, but claim that for these stories and somehow we are faulted for being disingenuous. When we also add in the facts that ancient people were much more superstitious back then and way less prone to fact checking then suspecting that the stories grew as they were passed on is really nothing out of the ordinary at all.

    A typical response is that oral transmission of stories back then was precise – but somehow that didn’t seem to work for the later gospels (like the gospel of Peter) where all scholars are in agreement in claiming legend.

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  3. It is amusing to note that, in the screenplay of this particular rendition of “Pride and Prejudice”, the later scene (where Elizabeth tells Jane she’s accepted Mr. D’arcy’s proposal of marriage) depicts Elizabeth as saying, “in such cases as these, a good memory is unpardonable.”

    It would have been ‘unpardonable’ times one thousand had the apostles not ‘remembered’ Jesus emerging from the tomb.

    Extend the comparison further. Firth’s remembered ’emergence’ actually turns out to be inconsequential compared to the ‘reality’ of the deliciously evocative scene played out between Mr. D’arcy and Elizabeth outside of Pemberton and, since it is the entire POINT of Ms Austen’s book, the subsequent marriage between the two.

    Whatever happened or didn’t happen visa vis ’empty tomb’ — and I favor the theory that Mark’s gospel (written first and less likely to have been buffeted by false memory) ended with the disciples in a state of anarchic terror and the short and unconvincing passages that follow were tacked on several years after the account was written — the “point” of Christianity is the ongoing presence of Christ resurrected which has been a feature of Christian spirituality for nearly 2000 years.

    Whatever is accurately ‘remembered’ about the historical events that transpired in Jerusalem in the early spring of 29 AD are, like Firth’s ’emergence’, inconsequential when compared with my (and everyone else’s) ongoing lived experience.

    I wonder if your readers will even understand the point I’m trying to make.

    Paul

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  4. Thanks for all the comments!

    Howie, I also never bought the “not enough time for myth” argument. It’s a bit like the “death panels” thing with the Affordable Care Act, and that took no time to get off the ground. I never really thought about your point concerning the Gospel of Peter — you’re absolutely right!

    Hi Cap’n,
    Nice to hear from you! I do agree with you that whether or not the TV series actually showed Firth emerging from the lake is of no consequence — it’s just a minor point that would be easy for people to think they had seen.

    At the same time, it does serve as a good illustration of how people’s imaginations sometimes take over their view of reality. Several years ago, there were some major tornadoes in Alabama, where I live. Several cities, including Tuscaloosa and Cullman, sustained major damages. Within those first few days after the tornadoes hit, rescuers were stretched to the limit trying to respond to all the missing persons reports. It turned out later that several of those reports, including some reports of children that had been thrown into a nearby lake by the storm, were completely inaccurate. It doesn’t seem that any of them were outright lies — they were just passed on by well-meaning people who had heard rumors from other well-meaning people.

    To me, the literal truth of whether or not the details in the gospels actually occurred is very significant. If Jesus didn’t actually do the miracles that are attributed to him, and if he didn’t actually come back from the dead, then I see no reason to believe in him. At the same time, I get that there are some people who believe for more personal reasons, and while that doesn’t work for me, I can acknowledge that it works for them. Usually, people who believe for those kinds of reasons tend to be less dogmatic than more fundamentalist, conservative Christians, and I view that as a good thing.

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  5. Of course, but understanding you and agreeing with you, are two different things. Believe it or not, I was thinking about asking, just the other day, “Has anyone heard from CaptainCatholic lately?” but decided instead to let sleeping Catholics lie.

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  6. Hi Nate, I don’t suppose you expected me to ignore this? 🙂

    It is one thing to show a possible analogy. It is another to show that there is any evidence that the analogy works.

    Have you any evidence that the supposed parallels between then and now actually apply?

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  7. Interesting analogy. Just like archy, I was wondering where you were going with this.

    Just tell UnkleE you were not there and end of story. I heard that line is used by Ken Ham a lot.

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  8. I like it. Fast forward to the gospels, written two to three generations after, pus following a war, and we have a rather well-primed canvas for imagination.

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  9. UnkleE,

    I think it’s more of a point than an analogy. The point being made was aimed at the assertion that 20 years was not enough time for facts to become embellished, therefore we should trust that the bible is accurate. I would ask, “where’s the proof for that?” but we’d be steering off topic.

    The video and the story illustrate how things can be embellished and mis-remembered, by a lot of people, in a very short amount of time, thereby deflating the aforementioned christian excuse.

    Make sense?

    William

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  10. I remember seeing Santa fly across the sky when I was a child. Now I wonder: active imagination, memory of a dream, or maybe, just maybe, Santa is Real!

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  11. There have been numerous sightings of santa, and many more who have experienced his direct benevolence and leftover cookie crumbs – who can deny such proof?

    Those hardhearted souls who reject santa do so to their own detriment. Arrogant individuals who believe that they know a better way to deliver toys to their children. May they perish eternally in ToysRus.

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  12. “It is one thing to show a possible analogy. It is another to show that there is any evidence that the analogy works.”

    Rozwell crash site and alien citings , Elvis seen after his death just to name 2 of many. These 2 examples started almost immediately after the original occurrences and continue to this day.

    Surely you have to concede unkleE , the world is full of legends based on some historical fact(s).

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  13. “[I] decided instead to let sleeping Catholics lie.”

    Thanks, Arch. I was, as you point out, “let lie” during Holy Week; but after three days under the covers I woke up and emerged from my bedroom! Now, no one actually SAW me wake up — but many noticed the unmade bed and concluded that I must be awake.

    Some, I’m sad to say, doubted that I actually woke up. Some still doubt. My explanation for this is that, even though they “really know” I’m awake, they’re mad at me and want to pretend that I’m not going to ever return to post more comments.

    Paul

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  14. Of course, if they haven’t seen you, then doubting that you woke up may have nothing to do with anger but just be a result of having little evidence…

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  15. Oh Captain my Captain, please don’t worry yourself about those that are unfaithful. Rest assured there are those like myself who through our experiences know in our hearts that our changed lives are evidence that you, our Captain, are still in charge of our ship. Whatever transpired during that historic Holy Week in the 50th year of our Captain is inconsequential when compared with my (and everyone else’s) ongoing lived experience.

    May we all be blessed with the Crunch of our Captain. Amen.

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  16. Howie,

    Your captain is in his 60th year, not his 50th. I may not be persuasive, but I am certainly old!

    As for your concluding prayer, it does seem to me that you’re being a tad bit unwelcoming by urging my “crunching”; but as they say, we can be sure only of crunching and taxes.

    Which reminds me of one of Paula Poundstone’s quips: “The wages of sin is death, but after taxes are withheld all you’re left with is an overall crummy feeling.”

    Paul

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  17. I’m thinking that, at this point, I’ve contributed my fair share of silliness to the thread. I’ll try to say something heartfelt and sincere but — as I said before — I’m not sure whether you wonderful atheists actually understand what I’m saying. I’m quite certain that most “Christians” don’t understand.

    You do realize, I hope, that the god you don’t believe in is the god I don’t believe in.

    I believe in the resurrection. The homily at this morning’s Mass, interestingly enough, centered around the idea that all of theology is just so much tapestry. It can be set aside. The ‘core’, the thing that matters, is the resurrection.

    I assert, just as Father asserted at Mass, that resurrection is the very thing that I need and the very thing that you need — and that any other thing a human being can strive after is a pathetic distraction. Do you really think that, by ‘resurrection’, I’m referring to the veracity of a particular historical event? What possible “event” could possibly satisfy the longing in my soul?

    You say that there’s insufficient evidence for the Church’s claim of resurrection. What sort of ‘evidence’ are you looking for? Would you be satisfied to have it proven that, on such and such a Sunday morning, in such and such a tomb, in such and such a part of Jerusalem, the battered and bloodied corpse of Jesus reanimated and began to walk around?

    Eeeewww!

    That would certainly be remarkable; but it wouldn’t be proof of resurrection. It would be proof of zombies! I don’t happen to believe in zombies, but even if I’m wrong and zombies are real I’m certainly not going to entrust my soul to zombies. I will, and do, entrust my soul to the resurrection.

    Resurrection isn’t something that “happened”. Resurrection is an ongoing encounter. It’s the experience of my own death being replaced with life. The death and resurrection of spirit isn’t something that can be demonstrated by science. There’s nothing in it for science to investigate. Nothing for science to confirm, nothing for science to debunk. It’s about the core of being, the core of life.

    I have absolutely no idea what ‘happened’ three days after the historical Jesus was executed. I don’t even know what I’d be looking for. Certainly nothing that ‘happened’ would convince me of the resurrection. It isn’t something that happens ‘out there’ in the realm that we explore with our senses — even when our senses are augmented by reason, mathematics and technology. It’s something closer to ‘consciousness’ or ‘will’ or ‘experience’. I really can’t see what sort of “evidence” would prove or disprove those things — but I believe you know what I’m talking about when I mention them.

    Am I just baying at the moon here?

    Paul

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  18. “Make sense?”

    Hi William, of course it makes sense – if you are willing to ignore the evidence. Read what historians say about how information was transmitted for the New Testament and then see how close that is to Nate’s examples of Pride and prejudice and Chinese Whispers.

    “Surely you have to concede unkleE , the world is full of legends based on some historical fact(s).”

    Hi Ken, the world is also full of good information based on historical facts. How are you going to choose which is which – by some dodgy analogy or by checking what historians say?

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  19. Hey Paul – I’ll stop the silliness as well and I sincerely want to apologize if I offended. I really enjoy joining in the fun to get some smiles but I for damn sure never want to be unwelcoming.

    One thing about me is I’m more than willing to admit that I am a blockhead, so it may very well be that I am missing your viewpoint entirely. I kind of think I understand your point on this post though and it reminds me of John Dominic Crossan’s view on the resurrection (perhaps it’s a little off from his or maybe I’m way off, but it’s the closest viewpoint it reminded me of), and I do understand his view.

    There seems to be a view of my own atheism (and I know for sure several others on this blog) that you are definitely missing. You said this:

    You do realize, I hope, that the god you don’t believe in is the god I don’t believe in.

    I don’t believe in any gods, Paul. Seriously. I’m not saying I know for sure no gods exist, but I don’t claim belief in any of them. I don’t believe in incorporeal minds, simple and plain. Could I be wrong, sure, but it is a fact that I do not express belief in those things. So it turns out that I don’t believe in the god of the fundamentalists as you are pointing out. But Paul, I also don’t believe in yours. Are you missing that or was your statement just not carefully written?

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  20. Howie,

    I took less offense than it sounded.

    I did say, “the god you don’t believe in is the god I don’t believe in”, I certainly did NOT say, nor do I believe that “God, as I understand God, is a god you believe in, or should believe in, or could believe in.”

    It’s not a question of whether I agree with or disagree with fundamentalists. It’s more a matter of my impatience with childish discussions among childish minds. I keep hearing atheists say (and I totally get where they’re coming from) that “Christians” are impervious to reason and logic. I have the same problem when I talk to them.

    I’m not insisting that you agree with me, only that you take note of the fact that I have no intention of talking nonsense.

    By the way, I don’t even know what an “incorporeal mind” would be if it DID exist.

    Paul

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  21. Paul – ok, I’ll take your word for it. It’s just that “the god you don’t believe in is the god I don’t believe in” sounds very suggestive of what we hear very often in the blogosphere from liberal theists who want us to know that the only reason we don’t believe is because we have one very specific idea of what a god could be like (i.e. the fundamentalist Christian version). I bet this is true for some atheists but this is not true for a lot of the ones I know.

    I think all of us say childish or illogical stuff sometimes. I do it all the time.

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  22. Quite likely, some actually HOPED that that would be the case, but certainly not yours truly – you’re the most honest theist I know (the most honest thief among thieves, however, should probably not go on a resume –).

    Currently watching a “House” rerun – a girl says to House, “So you don’t believe in god?” He answers, “I did, but then I grew my curly hairs –!”

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  23. I can see where he’s going with this, guys – he has some cherry-picked historians in his hip pocket, and he keeps dangling the word out there before you as bait, hoping you’ll bite – literally a fisher of men.

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  24. Howie, I’d have to say the Captain is playing with at least a 51-card deck, and that’s not bad, it could be SO much worse!

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  25. Thanks, Arch. Your insight that my deck has but 51 cards finally explains why it’s so hard for me to win at Solitaire!

    I address this to all of you when I say that I ‘get it’. It makes sense that you’re understandably wary of “wily Christians” who are bent on hoodwinking you into believing in God — or in some sort of god. That really isn’t my intent. My intent is to make clear what I mean when I say that I believe in God and give you the opportunity to challenge my beliefs. The “challenges” that you’ve applied so far haven’t been challenges to what I believe. The arguments you guys make only cause me to shrug my shoulders and say, “whatever.”

    From that I conclude that I haven’t done an adequate job in conveying what I mean when I say that I believe in God.

    Let me offer this — it might not get me any closer to success than my other attempts have gotten me, but I’ll give it a try anyway…

    Take a peek at Matthew 5, 45. Let me begin by stating clearly that I’m not asserting that the verse has authority simply because it appears in the Bible, nor am I assuming that the manuscripts we possess are accurate renderings of what the gospel writer actually wrote. I’m not saying that our translations from the Greek are reliable. I’m not insisting that Jesus actually said those things, or denying that someone might have said the very same thing before Jesus said it. I’m perfectly fine with the idea that people have said it better than the way Jesus is depicted as saying it. None of those things matter to me, so if you try to engage me on any of those points I won’t have a whole lot of interest in promoting one side of the argument or the other.

    All that matters to me is that we have the IDEA of a god who loves Indiscriminately available to us here and now and that we can have a conversation about it.

    I’m interested in having that particular discussion about that particular verse because it is bluntly dichotomous to what most ‘believers’ believe. It’s even dichotomous to what ‘non-believers’ believe.

    If you want to understand what I believe, understand that particular passage. Look over the entire section (Matt 5, 43-48) and think about it. I’m not asking you to believe it, I simply want to get us thinking about what the ramifications of that idea would be. In what ways would people behave differently if they put that teaching into practice?

    If I understand the idea correctly — and I most certainly believe that I DO understand the idea correctly — the whole idea of rewarding ‘good’ behavior and punishing ‘bad’ behavior is antithetical to the God Jesus preached about and the God I believe in.

    I point this out because most people who describe themselves as ‘Christian’ believe that good behavior IS rewarded and bad behavior IS punished. In fact, that’s pretty much the core of what they believe and I’m here to insist that the idea itself is a defiant attack on the truth.

    I recently read a blog post written by an atheist who differentiated her beliefs from “Christian beliefs” by stating that she doesn’t believe that there’s someone ‘watching over us’ nor does she believe in the afterlife.

    I have nothing to offer to any debate about either of those two points. I don’t even know where I STAND on those issues. Is there a conscious mind observing our behavior? You got me beat! I will say, however, that I don’t believe that there’s a conscious mind JUDGING our behavior. As far an an afterlife goes, all I have to say is that I’m convinced that any time I spend speculating about the hereafter is time better spent on attending to the life I’m actually living now.

    What interests me about the ‘mind watching over us’ or the ‘afterlife’ isn’t whether the ideas are true or not. The thing that interests me is why people would be so anxious to advance those particular ideas. My take is that these ideas are cherished by people who desperately need to believe that good behavior is rewarded (their good behavior in particular) and that bad behavior is punished. Obviously, even a cursory examination of ‘reality’ refutes that belief so you need to posit an omniscient judge and a final disposition of the soul in order to prop the notion up.

    It’s not simply that I don’t BELIEVE that good behavior is rewarded and bad behavior is punished, I go much further and say that the belief itself is destructive — fundamentally destructive, and in fundamental opposition to the passage I’m highlighting from the ‘Sermon on the Mount’.

    The issue of WHETHER God exists is far less important to me than the issue of WHETHER the notion of rewards to the good and punishments to the bad is truthful or sound. Truly, I don’t have much to say about God’s existence — only about God’s nature.

    Is any of this the least bit enlightening?

    Paul

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  26. And THAT is exactly why I classify you as being the most honest theist I’ve ever known. You’re just a tad short of agnostic, but I won’t hold that against you —

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  27. Yeah I’ve read Brandon’s (ANaiveThinker’s) comments on Matt’s and Neuro’s blogs Arch and I understand what you are saying. Brandon’s had very kind convos with me so far and I’ve enjoyed them. Social dynamics are a complicated thing. Things go south in some cases but not in others depending on who’s involved and how much coffee, sleep or lack of food people have had.

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  28. Cap’n,

    I think I see what you’re saying.

    I will say, however, that I don’t believe that there’s a conscious mind JUDGING our behavior. As far an an afterlife goes, all I have to say is that I’m convinced that any time I spend speculating about the hereafter is time better spent on attending to the life I’m actually living now.

    I agree with this completely. I’ve mentioned several times before that I’m a huge fan of Marcus Aurelius’s quote:

    Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.

    I even like Bill and Ted’s simpler rendition: “Be excellent to each other.”

    Is this similar to what you’re saying? If I understand correctly, you’re saying that the idea of a God that loves unconditionally opens us up to treating one another with real love and compassion. I tend to see it more like Aurelius laid it out, but regardless of the approach, your view and his view seem to land us in the same place. I can get behind that — the rest just seems to be semantics.

    Am I understanding correctly? Thanks as always for your comments!

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  29. Hey Paul – I’m very glad you made the extra effort for people like me who sometimes are too dense that they do need others to spell out their views more clearly. If we were in person I’d give you a tap on the shoulder and say “now that wasn’t so bad was it?”

    I loved what you said in this last comment (at 11:22pm). I love so many parts of the sermon on the mount. I think our world would be a much more wonderful place to live in if all of us put these practical ideas you reference here into practice. Maybe the conversations you have here don’t get much further than you want them to because we don’t have much to really disagree about. I want to also hi-light something you said which I like quite a bit:

    As far an an afterlife goes, all I have to say is that I’m convinced that any time I spend speculating about the hereafter is time better spent on attending to the life I’m actually living now.

    I’d like to also offer a few other thoughts I have:

    – Part of why people like Nate and I run our blogs is because we know a lot of people who want to give us a hard time for not believing in supernatural things like minds watching over us or afterlife (and we get it from conservatives, moderates, and even liberals sometimes). We also know a lot of conservative Christians who give us an extra hard time with this stuff. So this causes us to feel that it is worth our while to express what we believe and don’t believe and try our best to make that clear. I myself blog for several reasons but one of them is to try and help others understand the mind of atheists like myself with the hope that it will bring some better understanding and better relations. So when you read Nate’s blog posts it may help to keep in mind that he is sometimes responding to conservative ideas and pressure that are shoved down his throat perhaps 24/7 (ok, exaggeration, I couldn’t resist).

    – I’d like you to reply to my comment with what you think about what I’ve said here. You seem to like ignoring direct questions or inquiries for clarification sometimes. Please don’t get me wrong I’m totally cool with that – maybe you are busy or maybe you don’t think we are sincere, or maybe you don’t want to engage in useless talk, or maybe whatever – it’s cool. But I would like to gently suggest that if you do that you may be part of the cause for why you get so frustrated with being misunderstood.

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  30. “How are you going to choose which is which – by some dodgy analogy or by checking what historians say?”

    Sometimes unkleE, you have to set aside the scoreboard and use good old common sense. Do you base everything you believe in by the general concensus of other people ?

    In this case, Nate’s story like so many I have read and heard of over the years makes sense to me . I , with my own eyes and intellect can see where this same thing could have happened with the story of Jesus. It’s not a far stretch, unkleE.

    You can continue to believe that Jesus was divine, but if you want to be honest, you would have to admit the analogy Nate gave could have happened with the Jesus story. You don’t have to warp your thinking to believe this like Christians sometimes have to do with bible stories.

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  31. Oh and Arch, I realize I didn’t directly respond to what you were getting at re ANaiveThinker. I try to make an effort to truly understand the perspectives of everyone I talk to while leaving the character judgments by the wayside. I realize this approach is idealistic and for sure doesn’t work for others, but it’s my way of keeping things positive. I think the only person online I have not been able to do this with so far is Silence of Mind.

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  32. Ken, I like your question.
    Does he tell that bread in his house is rotten based on consensus. I think sometimes this appeal to consensus is to refuse to think for oneself

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  33. Unklee,

    Nate’s analogies may not be precise and perfect, but they are meant to show that humans have a proclivity to remember things not quite so precisely and also have a proclivity to expand on stories as they are passed on. And you are right, ancient times were different from today, but not different in the sense that their histories were more trustworthy, rather the opposite. It was a time when practically everyone was superstitious, fact checking was nowhere near the standards of today, and people were less focused on accuracy of events and more focused on the ideals and values that were represented by the stories. Bart Ehrman in his resurrection debate with William Lane Craig even describes how he thought the stories progressed, and his description sounds awfully familiar to these examples (again there may be subtle differences). Ehrman may have been going off on a fringe expression of thought that goes against consensus in that debate, but my reading of Dale Allison’s “Resurrecting Jesus” gives me the same impression of that viewpoint. And Dale Allison was one of 2 people that Mike Licona (who is very conservative) mentioned as the most unbiased scholars in the field.

    I’ve also read that the consensus of scholars in the field is that there is some legendary embellishment in the gospel stories especially surrounding the resurrection, but what there is no consensus about is how much embellishment occurred.

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  34. As far as consensus goes, it’s my understanding that the general consensus says Jesus was likely a real person who was crucified by the Roman authorities. He was an itinerant preacher from Galilee who had some followers. The gospels were likely written by Greek Christians a couple of generations after Jesus died — not by the actual disciples whose names are attached.

    Does anyone know of other points that the scholars are in general agreement over?

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  35. Nate-
    Thought I’d drop a line to let you know I’m still around (I knew you were wondering)!

    I think it’s good for Christians, especially those who believe and push that our beliefs can be proved beyond doubt, to see things like this and think about what it really means. We worship a God who has chosen to reveal himself in the least, lost, broken, and outcast of the world. We should be careful to claim too much confidence in undeniable proof of anything if this is the God we truly believe exists, and this is how he reveals himself. For whatever reason, He has chosen not to make his existence undeniable. I wish that wasn’t the case, but even Scripture makes the case that this is how God has chosen to operate.

    Thanks, as usual, for the post, Nate.

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  36. Naive may not even realize it, but despite his new-found relationship with Cheesus, he suffers from the biblical sin of Pride – but what do you expect, when his own god admits to being guilty of the biblical sin of Jealousy. A sincere worshiper would go off and quietly worship, but he chooses to come on these boards, not to convert anyone, he knows he can’t do that, but rather to show himself and possibly his Cheesus, how much more intelligent and clever he is, than we are. If he can manipulate one or more of us into moving from our position, he feels his day has been made.

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  37. “Until I was twenty I was sure there was a being who could see everything I did and who didn’t like most of it. He seemed to care about minute aspects of my life, like on what day of the week I ate a piece of meat. And yet, he let earthquakes and mudslides take out whole communities, apparently ignoring the saints among them who ate their meat on the assigned days. Eventually, I realized that I didn’t believe there was such a being. It didn’t seem reasonable.”
    –Alan Alda

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  38. Arch-
    Not sure if that was meant for me, but I’m feeling that it was. Regardless, I freely admit that I do suffer from the sin of pride, as well as pretty much every other sin you or anyone could find in the Bible. I’m as guilty of them, if not moreso, than anyone I know. And, no, I’m not above manipulation, either :).

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  39. Oh, Josh, they were talking about someone else! Don’t worry — I think everyone on here has a high opinion of you, whether we agree or not!

    But kudos on taking the criticism so well, even though it wasn’t meant for you! 🙂

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  40. Nice quote, Nan. I had a similar feeling after the tsunami that hit Myanmar in 2009 or 2010 — whenever it was… And also the big earthquake in Haiti. Considering these places were primarily populated by the “lost,” and how their lives were already living hells, in many respects, why would God allow so many to be wiped out in such ways? If anyone needed more time to find the “truth” surely it was them?

    Just one of the many questions that plagued me at the time…

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  41. I know the quote had little to nothing to do with the original topic of your posting, but from the comments of others throughout your blog, it just seemed appropriate.

    The other thing I find interesting is that when things go the way a person wants or there’s a positive result, it’s all about thanking God. But there’s no mention of God when things turn out badly. Hmmmmm.

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  42. I don’t know why I didn’t get a notification of your comment, Josh, but for whatever reason, I didn’t, so I’ll have to piggy-back off of Nate’s – we were talking about Brandon, or “naive thinker,” sorry for the misunderstanding.’

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  43. Besides, you big lug, you should know by now I’d never say anything bad about you, you’re one of the good ones, you never proselytize.

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  44. Thanks, Arch! And, apologies for the misunderstanding. I don’t know if I’d say I “never proselytize”, but maybe that’s just my manipulative proselytization at work 🙂

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  45. Arch — Hate to use Nate’s blog, but I’ve sent two emails to you and no response. I’d hate to think you’re ignoring me and would rather think you haven’t ever received them …

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  46. SUDDENLY, at 3:55 (my time), your comment, Josh, just popped into my email – again, sorry for the misunderstanding, but I have NEVER said anything negative to, or about, you, and can’t imagine I would ever have occasion to do so.

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  47. Well, if you can pull it off so subtly that even I can’t detect it, I’d say you’re home free.

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  48. No, I’m ignoring you, because I can’t seem to find the review I wrote, and I’m ashamed to admit it. But I’m still looking, if that makes you feel any better.

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  49. @Howie,

    “I’d like you to reply to my comment with what you think about what I’ve said here. You seem to like ignoring direct questions or inquiries for clarification sometimes. Please don’t get me wrong I’m totally cool with that – maybe you are busy or maybe you don’t think we are sincere, or maybe you don’t want to engage in useless talk, or maybe whatever – it’s cool. But I would like to gently suggest that if you do that you may be part of the cause for why you get so frustrated with being misunderstood.”

    Oh, I wish it were only that I “like ignoring direct questions”. I’m so dense I honestly don’t understand what you’re talking about. It’s not that I’ve decided to ignore your question(s) I honestly don’t realize there’s a question hanging in the air.

    I think, a long time ago, you asked me if I based my belief on any author’s writing. I couldn’t think of any. Most of the time, when I read literature aimed at exploring Christian “controversies”, I get more and more uncomfortable with every page I read. The things some people write! Just plain stupid.

    I prefer orthodox, devotional stuff actually.

    Spoon feed me. Ask me one question. Ask slowly and speak distinctly. Imagine that you’re speaking to a cognitively impaired person. (That’s how my wife handled me and it worked out best that way.)

    🙂

    P

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  50. But if it makes you feel any better, your two emails are sitting at the top of my, “To Be Answered” list —

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  51. Oh no worries Paul. I was curious in this post if Nate and I understood your main point this time. From our responses last night what did you think? Are we still missing your point?

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  52. I may be way off base here, but what I get from Paul’s (CC) many comments is that he feels he has a relationship with God. Period. He’s not concerned about all the trappings that go with that relationship (e.g., the hereafter, judgment, resurrection, etc.). He just focuses on what God means to him and how he can live a better (and more benevolent) life in the here and now with his God’s help.

    How close am I, Paul?

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  53. @Howie,

    I am both impressed and delighted with the attentiveness and open-mindedness both you and Nan have demonstrated in your conversations with me.

    It’s not just a question of your “understanding” me; it’s also a question of me figuring out what really, really matters to me and what it is that I’m interested in discussing with all of you.

    I am by no means promising that this will be my “final word” on the subject since these conversations are, for me, as much a matter of exploration as they are of exposition; but lately I’ve become very interested in figuring out which points of philosophy and/or theology are really important to get to the truth about and which points are less important. In other words, I think there are some issues where — even if your belief is false — your false belief is basically benign; whereas there are other issues where — if you get it “wrong” — your false belief is malignant.

    For example, let’s consider the issue of the afterlife. Two people might disagree about whether our souls continue to have some sort of life experience even after our bodily death. We could reasonably assume that one of these people is “right” and the other is “wrong”. I personally have never collected sufficient evidence in favor of the existence of an afterlife to become convinced that we actually continue after death. On the other hand, I haven’t collect sufficient evidence disputing the reality of afterlife to convince me that there is no afterlife.

    The big obstacle — for me — preventing a firm conclusion is that no one has ever “come back” and given us a report. I’m perfectly willing to accept an answer to this question on the basis of ‘scientific evidence’; but there are actually no experiments on the subject for us to consider. You can’t say that a belief in the afterlife is ‘unscientific’; but neither can you say that a rejection of belief in the afterlife is ‘unscientific’. No one can apply the scientific method to matters that have no experimental results.

    So, if half the people in a particular group believe in an afterlife and the other half believe there is no afterlife we know that half are right and half are wrong. We just don’t don’t which half is ‘right’ and which is ‘wrong’. It’s an interesting question to many of us, but since one must die in order to know, very few of us are sufficiently interested to become impatient to find out.

    You might be right in your belief about the existence of the hereafter, you also might be wrong. It is my opinion, however, that if your belief is wrong your false belief is benign.

    On the other hand, if you are wrong in your belief about whether your mistakes or wrongs or sins (or whatever you want to call them) make you deserving of punishment, your false belief is malignant. I think it’s very, very important to get that one right. Getting the “right” answer to the question of whether God exists or not is actually far less important, at least in my assessment of the matter, than getting the right answer to the question of whether your wrongdoing causes you to deserve punishment. If you get that one wrong, you’ll not only make yourself miserable, you’ll make other people miserable as well.

    I’m not going to make a big deal of a disagreement between myself and somebody else on the question of God’s existence, or on the question of the afterlife, or on the question of whether the ‘miracles of Christ’ actually happened or not. I think it won’t cost you any points if you get those questions wrong, so I’m not going to put a lot of effort into promoting my opinion on those matters. Actually, I don’t think it’s worthwhile to put ANY effort into such arguments.

    On the other hand, I think it’s really, really important to be right on the issue of whether or not you deserve to be punished. It’s even MORE important to be right on the issue of whether other people deserved to be punished by you. I’ll push my convictions on those matters because I’m convinced that your beliefs about it will definitely affect others — including me. It’s actually a matter of my own self preservation to encourage you to reach a correct decision on that question.

    How do you like them apples?

    Paul

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  54. “Sometimes unkleE, you have to set aside the scoreboard and use good old common sense. Do you base everything you believe in by the general concensus of other people ?”

    Hi Ken, when there is expert opinion that I lack, I try to listen. You are suggesting that I dismiss the experts (when we haven’t even discussed what they say) in favour of your personal wishes. If I did that on some other topic, I would doubtless be accused of having blind faith – not sure what it should be called when you do it. So thanks, but no thanks.

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  55. RE: “no one has ever ‘come back’ and given us a report” – ah, but according to your own owner’s manual, Lazarus did – isn’t it surprising he didn’t have more to say on the issue? Of course, if he were only a literary device, a “precursor” of things to come, there’d have been no need for that, would there –?

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  56. And CC, come on, you are FAR too intelligent not to see the concept of “celestial punishment” for what it is, an effort by religious authorities to control the behavior of a population —

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  57. “Nate’s analogies may not be precise and perfect, but they are meant to show that humans have a proclivity to remember things not quite so precisely and also have a proclivity to expand on stories as they are passed on.”

    Humans also have an ability to remember an amazing amount of stuff very accurately – like this guy who memorised the value of pi to almost 68,000. So where does the NT fit in that range?

    Imagine if I quoted this article (dunno how reliable it is, but what the hey!?) about a girl less than 4 years old who has memorised the entire Quran, and said this proves that the disciples could easily have memorised Jesus’ teachings. Would you happily accept the argument??

    Now I know Nate wasn’t suggesting his analogy was a complete answer to the question, but how do we decide whether the New Testament is closer to people’s memories of Pride and Prejudice, or people’s memories of pi or the Quran?

    No-one seems interested in that question, and yet there is good information on it.

    “I’ve also read that the consensus of scholars in the field is that there is some legendary embellishment in the gospel stories especially surrounding the resurrection, but what there is no consensus about is how much embellishment occurred.”

    Let’s accept this as the scholarly consensus (interesting that we find it easy to accept scholarly consensus when we like the outcome, but not when we don’t!). Does that make the NT closer to Pride & Prejudice or to feats of memory? You still haven’t answered the important question!

    I suggest there is much information to resolve that question, but no-one seems interested. I say again, when christians disregard evidence like this, we are accused of blind faith, but when atheists (and other non-believers) do it, a christian critic such as me is called subtle names (not by you, I hasten to add), and the discussion remains pretty much evidence free.

    I feel a blog post coming on!! 🙂

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  58. Only 3% of the world’s population possess eidetic memories, which means that there is a 97% chance that pseudo-Matthew, -Mark, -Luke and -John did not.

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  59. Paul,

    How do you like them apples?

    I like them apples quite a bit and I’m not joking. After these latest comments of yours I’m realizing that I’ve been misunderstanding you somewhat. I kind of had some gist of your views but it’s becoming a lot clearer now and while I was saying before that you and I have similar viewpoints with a bit of tongue in cheek, now I will say it with all seriousness. Obviously they aren’t the same, but there are some striking similarities when it comes down to what really matters. There isn’t anything in this last comment of yours I want to disagree with, in fact just the opposite.

    if you are wrong in your belief about whether your mistakes or wrongs or sins (or whatever you want to call them) make you deserving of punishment, your false belief is malignant

    Yes, I agree, I think that kind of viewpoint could and in fact does lead to detrimental effects that none of us want in our societies.

    And Paul, if you believe in God (even a “mind watching over us” kind of God) it doesn’t bother me one bit. I sometimes have a bit of a hard time understanding why some (and I actually do not believe it’s most, but I do believe “most” is the right word if we are talking about the most vocal ones) atheists want so badly to eliminate all “religious” or even “pseudo-religious” beliefs. I have several friends who tell me that they just have a hard time themselves understanding how all this stuff around us could be here without some kind of thinking higher power existing, but that they realize that they could be wrong in that conclusion and that they respect that I think differently because they realize that I am a different person from them – different genes, different experiences as I say all too often. I say the same back to you – I don’t blame people one bit for having wonder and coming to conclusions like your own with the kind of healthy perspective that you add to it – in fact I appreciate it. Thanks for that! It’s people like you that I can work together with to make our world a better place. I have an appreciation for interfaith groups welcoming of both faiths and non-faiths that try to make that happen.

    You asked us before if anything was enlightening in your comments, and I’d vote your comments to be by far the most enlightening on this post – way above my own.

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  60. Nate,

    Does anyone know of other points that the scholars are in general agreement over?

    I’m not really sure Nate, but these things would be good to know. There are links to polls in philosophy on consensus (or lack thereof actually) and there are certainly many places in important physical science fields of polls on consensus, but they don’t seem to have them for history of religion. Perhaps there are good practical reasons for this.

    I will venture some educated guesses though from my own reading. First I think you are correct in your own list. I’d also add that there is some consensus on date ranges for when the books of the bible were written (of which this is a good resource you are probably aware of.) Another related thing I’ve heard is that there is consensus on the following: “the early followers of Jesus had group experiences that convinced them that Jesus had risen from the dead.”, but I’ve been told that what “group experiences” actually means is not clear and that’s where there is not consensus.

    I’m sure there is consensus on lots of other minutia but probably not things of huge significance to the topic at hand otherwise Mike Licona would have been very sure to make use of them.

    But I find it shocking that you are asking this Nate! Because as you and I both know, atheists are not at all interested in consensus. They only use it against others when it agrees with their viewpoints. 😀

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  61. Supposedly, there is also a consensus that he was baptized by John the B, but I’ve yet to see any evidence that John ever existed either.

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  62. @UnkleE

    Let’s accept this as the scholarly consensus (interesting that we find it easy to accept scholarly consensus when we like the outcome, but not when we don’t!).

    As you and most other Christians do not particularly like or accept the archaeological consensus or the scholarly consensus that states that Moses the Exodus and the Conquest of Canaan is all fiction.
    And of course this impacts horribly on the character of Jesus his references to the Old Testament , the Patriarchs and other OT stuff. Then there are the supposed prophecies, not least the Virgin Birth
    Yes, consensus is a bugger sometimes, is it not?
    But, hey, we have a consensus that say someone called Jesus probably was around.
    And when all that fails, why, you still have faith, right?

    The consensus is moving toward agreement that Hell doesn’t exist. ( of course it never did and was just another corrupt piece of fiction invented by the Church)

    And the consensus now states that Limbo does not exist.

    What next on the consensus ”hit list”, unklee?
    You will notice that consensus in all fields of religious endevour seems to be agreeing about a whole host of things that at one point in time would have had the Church building bonfires everywhere to cope with the heretics.
    Ironic that you, unklee, would likely have been trussed up and thrown on the woodpile.

    Consensus might well decide that the man god Yeshua was actually just a man.

    He was only a man, of course, but we just have to wait a while for the believers to catch up with the normal people. But we’re a patient lot.

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  63. “Does anyone know of other points that the scholars are in general agreement over?”

    About 20 years ago, EP Sanders, on of the most respected of all NT scholars, wrote this (The Historical Figure of Jesus, p10-11):

    I shall first offer a list of statements about Jesus that meet two standards: they are almost beyond dispute; and they belong to the framework of his life, and especially of his public career. (A list of everything that we know about Jesus would be appreciably longer.)

    Jesus was born c 4 BCE near the time of the death of Herod the Great;
    he spent his childhood and early adult years in Nazareth, a Galilean village;
    he was baptised by John the Baptist;
    he called disciples;
    he taught in the towns, villages and countryside of Galilee (apparently not the cities);
    he preached ‘the kingdom of God’;
    about the year 30 he went to Jerusalem for Passover;
    he created a disturbance in the Temple area;
    he had a final meal with the disciples;
    he was arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities, specifically the high priest;
    he was executed on the orders of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate.

    From my reading, there would be few scholars who wouldn’t agree with that minimum. Most I have read would add quite a few more ‘facts’, as does Sanders himself (this statement was at the start of his book, it was his starting point, but after historical analysis he concluded other matters were historically true also).

    Other ‘facts’ that most scholars would agree on would be his reputation as a healer and exorcist and his disciples having visionary experiences of him after his death. For a recent comprehensive assessment, I would recommend Maurice Casey’s ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. Casey is a non-believer, a respected scholar with about 40 years in the field and an expert in Aramaic, and he would accept all the above as historical, and more besides.

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  64. they are almost beyond dispute;

    Which in plain English means every single point could be challenged.

    You keep touting this age old minimum facts argument. There are several scholars that have demonstrated just how weak this argument truly is, not least because it begins with a premise that cannot be verified and simply builds upon it.

    Even if it were all true ,all we have is an itinerant eschatological preacher who was likely delusional or worse who was nailed up and died. Period.

    Everything else that has been built upon this character is spurious nonsense.

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  65. Where’s the evidence, unk, except in the gospels, written at minimum, 40 years after he allegedly lived, by four anonymous authors who never met the man, ?

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  66. “Where’s the evidence, unk, except in the gospels, written at minimum, 40 years after he allegedly lived, by four anonymous authors who never met the man, ?”

    Hi Arch, I was answering a question about the consensus of scholars. They don’t come to this consensus lightly, but based on detailed study of the historical evidence. If you want to know why they conclude that way, you’d need to read their books. But in very brief summary:

    1. 40 years is very close to the events for ancient history.

    2. There are multiple independent accounts, passed on in writing and orally, in different locations. If the stories were legendary, it is extremely unlikely that multiple independent accounts from different locations would invent the same legends. This is far better than most ancient history.

    3. Scholars see some parts of the existing NT as being credal statements formulated very early (within a few years). Other parts are seen as being translated from early Aramaic originals. This takes us back very close to the events.

    4. Casey believes Mark’s Gospel was written about 40 CE, though few other scholars agree with him on that. But even at about 70CE, Mark is still within living memory for many people.

    5. The original “authors” or originators of these stories almost certainly met Jesus, but the authors or compilers of the gospels probably didn’t, though this isn’t as certain as you say.

    6. Josephus is recognised as a good independent source about the basic facts of Jesus’ life. (Yes I know the text has probably been tampered with, but the evidence is that there is a good solid historical core – and that is the majority view of scholars these days.)

    That’s just a brief summary. What we have looks exactly like a series of basically true stories passed on in writing and orally by all different people, the core passed on accurately but with some variation and some details creatively embellished, and then compiled and written down by believers who shaped the material they had to promote their belief.

    That’s what the majority of the leading scholars think – if you don’t want to believe me, check out EP Sanders, Maurice Casey, NT Wright, Richard Bauckham, Bart Ehrman, Geza Vermes, Craig Evans, Michael Grant or Craig Keener – all leading scholars I have read on the subject. Some of them are christians, some are not, but all would conclude something like what I outlined. Take Bart Ehrman as an example – he writes about lots of variations in the text, but when you look at the details, they are not very significant, and he still says that we know a lot of good historical information about Jesus. And classical historians sometimes say that NT historians are more sceptical than their classical colleagues.

    So that’s a quick summary. I suspect you and most others here know all that. The question is (again) whether we choose to believe the consensus of what the best, most respected, scholars conclude, or choose to believe less respected and more biased scholars or even non-scholars – or even simply what we wish was true. It isn’t just christians who can be very selective!

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  67. “1. 40 years is very close to the events for ancient history.”
    So if I told you, in 2003, that John Kennedy did or said such and such in 1963, though I wasn’t there and never met the man, but heard it from someone, who heard it from someone, who heard it from someone, you’d accept that as fact —

    “2. There are multiple independent accounts, passed on in writing and orally, in different locations. If the stories were legendary, it is extremely unlikely that multiple independent accounts from different locations would invent the same legends.”
    Are you kidding? What multiple accounts? Even the four anonymous gospel writers can’t get their stories straight!

    3. “credal statements” by whom? “translated from early Aramaic originals” of what? Written by whom?

    4. Try at least 72 CE, established by a number of authorities, including Bart Ehrman.

    5. “The original ‘author’ or originators of these stories almost certainly met Jesus, but the authors or compilers of the gospels probably didn’t, though this isn’t as certain as you say.”
    Bingo!

    6. “Josephus is recognised as a good independent source about the basic facts of Jesus’ life.”
    To begin with, Josephus didn’t even begin writing about Jesus until about the same time as Mark, after the destruction of the Jewish temple in 72 CE, DID not know Jesus, or to the best of anyone’s knowledge, anyone who did, and was considered by his own people, to have been a traitor – hardly a sterling recommendation.

    “The historian E. Mary Smallwood writes:

    “[Josephus] was conceited, not only about his own learning but also about the opinions held of him as commander both by the Galileans and by the Romans; he was guilty of shocking duplicity at Jotapata, saving himself by sacrifice of his companions; he was too naive to see how he stood condemned out of his own mouth for his conduct, and yet no words were too harsh when he was blackening his opponents; and after landing, however involuntarily, in the Roman camp, he turned his captivity to his own advantage, and benefited for the rest of his days from his change of side.”

    Interestingly, after he turned traitor, and became a Roman, he was given a captive Jewish woman as a wife – even she left him! But yeah, unk, he’s definitely someone I’d turn to for truth —

    Hey, you know what? I have a life! And I intend spending this weekend living it, not refuting your nonsense. Later —

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  68. @Arch “And CC, come on, you are FAR too intelligent not to see the concept of “celestial punishment” for what it is, an effort by religious authorities to control the behavior of a population –”

    Yes. That’s true. I do see that. But I see more than that. I see that the ACTUAL punishment human beings inflict on one another keeps us all ‘under control’. In fact, I’m likely to “see” us enslaving and being enslaved every minute of every day. Yeah, religious authorities do it all the time. Plenty of evidence for that! But don’t be so sure that you can rid the human species of its inclination to enslave just by abolishing religion.

    Look, I like listening to what atheists have to say. You guys complain about things that ought to be complained about. Good for you! But I think you’re all too sure you’ve found the root of the problem.

    My own opinion is that a belief in God is actually benign, and a belief that there is no god is also benign. (I’m repeating myself here but I don’t think I’m getting through.) It’s ‘control’ that’s malignant. What, do you imagine that if somebody thinks there’s no god he (or she) is magically going to stop ‘training’ and ‘coercing’ and ‘controlling’ other people through the use of reward and punishment? Our dear friend Mr. Stalin did a pretty good job of pushing folks around without having to resort to a god. It’s not the belief in God that keeps people down, it’s the certainty that the authorities will punish any behavior that threatens their power that keeps people down.

    Instead of encouraging people to stop believing in God (which isn’t going to matter at all in the long run), you should encourage people to stop slapping each other around.

    Paul

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  69. “Hey, you know what? I have a life! And I intend spending this weekend living it, not refuting your nonsense. Later –”

    Enjoy your life!

    1. One of the basic mistakes in historical study is to apply modern standards to ancient history as you have done. The scholars say what I said, so it is safer to believe them than you. But even on your own terms, people collect reminiscences from holocaust survivors, which is about the same time after the events, and virtually no-one doubts that they are recalling true events.

    2. If you don’t know this stuff, why are you arguing so strongly? We have discussed this before. There are many different sources recorded in the gospels – scholars differ about the exact number (it’s probably somewhere between 5 and 8 at least), and all would agree with that statement – plus Paul, James, Josephus, etc. The things the scholars agree on (which is what we are discussing) are preserved in most or all of the sources, though some details vary.

    3. Again, if you don’t know about this, why are you so confident? There are several sections in Paul’s letters (written about 15-35 years after Jesus) which scholars identify by their form and wording as early creeds (e.g. Corinthians 15:3-8 Philippians 2:5-11) dated only a few years after Jesus’ death.

    The NT is written in Greek, but Jesus probably spoke Aramaic most of the time (he may also have known some Greek). Aramaic scholars like Maurice Casey look behind the Greek text of the gospels and find Aramaic idioms (which are sometimes quite distinctive), which indicate an original Aramaic source for those sayings or stories. Since the christian community spread widely from Palestine into the Greco-Roman world, and most of the NT was written “out there”, an Aramaic original is almost certainly quite close to Jesus in time and place.

    4. I find it interesting that you make this confident statement based on one person. We need to consider the consensus. The consensus is divided between pre 70 and post 70 (the date of the final destruction of Jerusalem and the temple), but few believe it is very far from that date either way. 72 CE is no different from 70 CE in practical terms. I used 70 to reflect the mid range of the commonly assigned dates.

    5. So we are agreed on something!? I’ll put a mark on the wall! 🙂 And that is a sufficient basis for the scholars to draw “safe” historical conclusions about the matters under discussion.

    6. I’m guessing you looked up Josephus in Wikipedia and found this quote. And it has no relevance to the question we are asking, likewise your comments are irrelevant. The historians use all sources with caution for possible biases and the writer’s individual perspective, and they find Josephus generally reliable. For instance Bart Ehrman writes (in ‘Jesus Interrupted’, p150):

    “It is certainly worth knowing that the most prominent Jewish historian of the first century knew at least something about Jesus— specifically that he was a teacher who allegedly did wonderful deeds, had a large following, and was condemned to be crucified by Pontius Pilate. This account confirms some of the most important aspects of Jesus’ life and death as recounted in the Gospels. But it doesn’t indicate exactly what he did or said, or what circumstances led to his accusation and death”

    So Arch, it seems that far from “refuting” what the scholars say, you have shown that you haven’t read them very much or very well. I’m sorry to have to speak so strongly, but there is no other way to answer what you have written. Whether you wish to learn, by going back to the sources I reference and reading what the experts say, or continue to argue against them, is for you to decide. But I suggest dropping the discussion until you have done some more reading.

    Enjoy your weekend!

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  70. That’s one thing, about which, you and I are in total agreement. (I never thought I’d hear myself say it!)

    “So many Gods, so many creeds,
    So many paths that wind and wind,
    When just the art of being kind
    Is all this sad world needs.”
    — Ella Wheeler Wilcox —

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  71. Nate,

    I heard an interview a while back between Mike Licona and Luke Muehlhauser that I thought was very educational on this topic. As you know Mike is a conservative evangelical who affirms the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy. Those who affirm that always bring up a red flag in my mind and I always hold what they say at arms length. But nevertheless I got the sense in that interview from several things that he said that he was being honest about the list of things that there is consensus on that are relevant to the subject of the resurrection of Jesus, and on top of that I haven’t seen non-Christians try to refute the claim that there is large consensus across scholars of all persuasions on those items he mentioned. As you and I have talked before, contrary to what some might insinuate about me, I don’t believe it is wise for a layperson like myself to claim that those things are false unless I have some incredibly well researched reasons and have made an effort to advance those reasons with other scholars. So all the things that you and I listed cover Mike Licona’s list and if Mike had thought there were other items relevant to his case for resurrection he would definitely have brought them up – if he didn’t then he is not near as smart as I think him to be. So I really don’t know for sure about Unklee’s list and obviously a lot of them aren’t even relevant to the question at hand. But I’m more than willing to accept facts that truly are consensus across the board of persuasions.

    Now what I found was that trying to build a case with those minimal facts did not build up a strong case at all for resurrection. It built about as strong or perhaps less of a case than one you could make that the virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and John the evangelist appeared at the Knock Shrine in Ireland. Now I don’t think a lot of people would fault me or say I was being inconsistent or loose with facts for doubting that those appearances were veridical. I really haven’t been convinced why I should be faulted for doubting stuff that was way farther distant in history when the environment was as I described before (near everyone superstitious, little fact checking, etc.)

    And frankly if people believe that Mary, Joseph and John showed up at the Knock Shrine I don’t feel a need to convince them otherwise or to suggest they are being dishonest with facts, but I also don’t see the need to feel like I am being dishonest with my own conclusions on the subject.

    I also am not quite seeing why any of the things that are being listed here as consensus even if they really are consensus would lead me to believe that the resurrection story is veridical. I’m also not quite seeing how it would lead me to believe that the aspects that you mentioned in the original post did not contribute in the growth of the stories. Is there some core truth to the stories that then grew into bigger stories? Yes I think it likely, but a core of truth that includes a literal resurrection of a human body – I’m doubtful.

    Nate or others: any thoughts or constructive (<- keyword) criticism on what I've said here?

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  72. Hi Howie,

    FWIW, I think you have been quite fair, though of course I disagree with some of your judgments.

    1. My reading of the experts is that:
    2. All agree Jesus was executed by crucifixion by Pilate.
    3. Almost all believe he was buried in a tomb (a few believe his body would have been dumped on a refuse heap and left to be eaten by animals & birds).
    4. A number, possibly a majority, believe his tomb was later found empty.
    5. About three quarters believe his followers had some visionary experiences of him after his death, though of course several explanations are offered.
    6. Most agree that belief in the resurrection was a significant factor in them believing he was son of God and in their vigorous efforts to spread the word.

    I would therefore disagree with your statement “It built about as strong or perhaps less of a case than one you could make that the virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and John the evangelist appeared at the Knock Shrine in Ireland.”

    Anthony Flew called the resurrection of Jesus the best attested miracle claim in history, and even when he was a strong atheist he and others lost debates on the historicity of the resurrection (debates have been won by both sides). That shows that the stories have at least some credibility beyond what you give them.

    But beyond that I wouldn’t argue. Each person has to decide for themselves. But I think yours is a thoughtful and well-based view, even where I disagree.

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  73. “even on your own terms, people collect reminiscences from holocaust survivors, which is about the same time after the events, and virtually no-one doubts that they are recalling true events.”
    Events that happened to them, and/or their loved ones, not some delusional, itinerant preacher, running around Galilee in a robe and sandals.

    “2. If you don’t know this stuff, why are you arguing so strongly? ” Because I DO know this stuff.

    “There are many different sources recorded in the gospels – scholars differ about the exact number (it’s probably somewhere between 5 and 8 at least), and all would agree with that statement – plus Paul, James, Josephus, etc.”
    Name them.

    3. “There are several sections in Paul’s letters (written about 15-35 years after Jesus) which scholars identify by their form and wording as early creeds (e.g. Corinthians 15:3-8 Philippians 2:5-11) dated only a few years after Jesus’ death.”
    Written by a man who never met him —

    “The NT is written in Greek, but Jesus probably spoke Aramaic most of the time (he may also have known some Greek).”
    As the son of a carpenter, I doubt that he could either read or write, much less have linguistic abilities beyond his native Aramaic, brought back from Babylon, which entirely replaced Hebrew as the language of the land.

    “Aramaic idioms,” found within Greek, by authors who spoke Aramaic as their day-to-day language, but wrote in Greek, their Lengua Franca of the time? And yet you find this unusual, and indicative that it implied a time, “almost certainly quite close to Jesus in time and place”? I suspect the key word there, is “almost” – at least within a hundred years or so.

    “So we are agreed on something!?” – what would that be? If I ever agree with you on anything, just shoot me.

    “It is certainly worth knowing that the most prominent Jewish historian of the first century knew at least something about Jesus— specifically that he was a teacher who allegedly did wonderful deeds, had a large following, and was condemned to be crucified by Pontius Pilate.”- your quote from Bart Ehrman.

    So what Ehrman is saying, is that a man, at least 42 years after the alleged event, “knew at least something about Jesus— specifically that he was a teacher who allegedly did wonderful deeds, had a large following, and was condemned to be crucified by Pontius Pilate.” How did he know these things, except via hearsay testimony?

    “I suggest dropping the discussion until you have done some more reading.” – I’ve done quite enough reading, thank you – I suggest dropping the discussion until you have done some more thinking. Or possibly, even SOME thinking. TTFN!

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  74. “4. A number, possibly a majority, believe his tomb was later found empty.” – who would those be?

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  75. Hi ARch, let’s remember that we are discussing what the consensus of scholars is, not your or my personal views. So again, you have generally got the experts wrong:

    1. What you say is irrelevant to what the experts say, and just a rant (words like “delusional” have no place in this discussion of what the scholars say). So you have offered no further “refutation” about the time period.

    2. Again, why do you ask me to name them if you have read this stuff? The ones most commonly agreed on by scholars are these (gospel sources plus 2 non-gospel):

    (i) Mark
    (ii) Q (some say one source, some say several, very few say this material came from other known sources)
    (iii) M – Matthew’s other source(s)
    (iv) L – Luke’s other source(s)
    (v) John’s ‘sign’ source
    (vi) Other material in John
    (vii) Paul
    (viii) James

    3. What you say about Paul has zero relevance to his use of early christian creeds.

    As a travelling rabbi, and as the son of a tekton, Jesus probably could read and write in Aramaic, maybe a little in Hebrew and maybe Greek. But that is irrelevant to the question we are discussing. This point is based on Jesus’ spoken language.

    You “suspect” here that the Aramaic sources were maybe much later, but on what basis? Scholars such as Casey say it was much closer, and therefore that your “suspicion” is unjustified. Why do you disagree with them?

    4. We seem to be agreed on the rough date of Mark’s gospel.

    5. You said “bingo” about eyewitnesses. I presumed that meant agreement. If not, perhaps you could explain where and why you think differently.

    6. Josephus was a historian who lived in Palestine for much of his life. He would almost certainly have met christians, and he could well have met eye witnesses or people one step removed from eye witnesses. Expert historians believe Josephus wrote reasonable history – why do you disagree with them?

    So Arch, what is the substance to your objections? I can’t see any beyond your “suspicion”.

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  76. “4. A number, possibly a majority, believe his tomb was later found empty.” – who would those be?”

    In 2005 Gary Habermas did a review of all the scholarly papers on the resurrection he could find (1400 in all), They give a pretty good sample. He found about 75% of papers concluded the tomb was empty. He doesn’t mention specific names, but I’m told classical historian Robin Lane Fox accepted the story as genuine, as I imagine most christian scholars would.

    That is why I phrased my statement so generally.

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  77. “1. One of the basic mistakes in historical study is to apply modern standards to ancient history as you have done. The scholars say what I said, so it is safer to believe them than you. But even on your own terms, people collect reminiscences from holocaust survivors, which is about the same time after the events, and virtually no-one doubts that they are recalling true events.”

    BIG difference here unkleE. We have pictures, movies, gas chambers and bones as evidence of the Holocaust.

    We have NO original documents or anything original from the NT . We have copies of copies of copies. Ever been to the Holy Land ? ALL of the tour guides use the words “Tradition tells us” NOT “History tells us”. There is a reason for this.

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  78. Hey Unklee: your list of 6 items in your comment at 9:37pm seems to match pretty close to what I understand. I think the Knock Shrine has some extra evidential support in that there were 2 commissions of inquiry including depositions of witnesses still alive with conclusions that there was not any fraud, that no natural causes could be offered and the testimony of the witnesses was trustworthy and satisfactory. A scholar and historian was involved in one of the inquiries. It also has the extra benefit of having happened in 1876 which was many years after the enlightenment period.

    The flew thing isn’t too convincing for me because he was a philosopher and not a historian. I’d wonder more about the consensus of historians regarding his statement about the resurrection. But I don’t think that’s something that can be found out. And people lose debates when trying to affirm evolution but you and I both agree that it is reasonable to place some doubt on evolution denial, so people losing debates is not a great indicator in these kinds of subjects.

    I like and I agree very much with what you said here and feel the same toward you: “Each person has to decide for themselves. But I think yours is a thoughtful and well-based view”.

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  79. “let’s remember that we are discussing what the consensus of scholars is” – see, a lot of people don’t know how you operate. You appear to seek a “consensus of scholars,” which you have defined as a median view of all of the scholars available, yet you really can’t say that you have reviewed all of the scholars available, so unless one is inclined to do an exhaustive search – and trust me, you’re not worth it – one can never be sure whether you’ve actually done that, or simply cherry-picked.

    Let’s take a look at your sources:
    (i) Mark – pseudo-Mark never met Jesus, wrote about 72 AD.
    (ii) Q (some say one source, some say several, very few say this material came from other known sources) – some say that he MAY have written down some sayings of Jesus, but like pseudo-Mark, pseudo-Matthew, pseudo-Luke and pseudo-John, unidentified, and ergo, unreliable. “Judge, I have a witness, I can’t tell you his name or anything about him, and he can’t be cross-examined, but I’d like the court to take everything he said – which by the way, we also don’t actually have – as being the truth.” I wonder how that would play out in a courtroom?
    (iii) M – Matthew’s other source(s) – pseudo-Matthew never met the man, wrote a few years after pseudo-Mark.
    (iv) L – Luke’s other source(s) – never met the man, wrote a few years after pseudo-Matthew.
    (v) John’s ‘sign’ source – pseudo-John never met the man, wrote sometime between 90 and 150 ADE.
    (vi) Other material in John – ditto
    (vii) Paul – never met the man
    (viii) James – if by this, you mean the Epistle of James, it never mentions Jesus.

    “Jesus probably could read and write in Aramaic, maybe a little in Hebrew and maybe Greek.” – you DO have evidential sources, I presume.

    You “suspect” here that the Aramaic sources were maybe much later, but on what basis?

    I said, “Bingo,” based on your “5. The original ‘authors’ or originators of these stories almost certainly met Jesus, but the authors or compilers of the gospels probably didn’t.” But then we know nothing about the “authors or originators of these stories,” or even that they and the authors and/or compilers of the gospels, weren’t one and the same.

    “Josephus was a historian who lived in Palestine for much of his life. He would almost certainly have met christians, and he could well have met eye witnesses or people one step removed from eye witnesses.” – before he turned traitor to his own people, until the destruction of the temple in 72, when he capitulated, Joseph was a member of the resistance, and had little time for the compilation of history. Even so, he never met Jesus, and had no more access to information about him than anyone else, which equates to second-, third-, or fourth-hand information.

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  80. So of those 1400, how many were there that morning, and personally witnessed the empty tomb, which is actually irrelevant – were any there, awake, overnight, and watched the tomb to make sure no one stole the body? Or maybe to witness the actual rolling away of the stone.

    If not, their testimony is really rather worthless, isn’t it?

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  81. <i."So of those 1400, how many were there that morning, and personally witnessed the empty tomb, which is actually irrelevant – were any there, awake, overnight, and watched the tomb to make sure no one stole the body? Or maybe to witness the actual rolling away of the stone.

    If not, their testimony is really rather worthless, isn’t it?
    "
    I have to assume you’re joking. No, no modern day historians have lived for 2000 years, we can agree on that!

    Their testimony is of what we can conclude from the historical sources. And their testimony is better than yours or mine on that score. And their testimony is what we are discussing right now.

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  82. “Their testimony is of what we can conclude from the historical sources.”
    So are you saying there WAS someone there, awake, overnight, and who watched the tomb to make sure no one stole the body? Or maybe to witness the actual rolling away of the stone? And that that person left their name and full credentials, so that we can verify his/her story?

    Hey, that’s great, just give me the details, and we’ll go to press!

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  83. Hi Arch, I think it’s time to take stock.

    In our first discussion, I outlined a number of points that the majority of scholars think are well established about the life of Jesus. I can’t recall you offering any evidence that I misrepresented the scholars, only that you had questions about what the scholars concluded. So we can take it that if you haven’t done it by now, you haven’t got any evidence that I have misrepresented the scholars. So let’s tick that off.

    But you have offered some questions and critical comments. Here’s the state of play:

    1. I said that the gap from events to writings was not large by ancient standards. You haven’t offered any contrary evidence. Tick that one off.

    2. I said there were multiple independent accounts./ You haven’t offered any evidence that there weren’t. All you have done is put “pseudo” in front of a few of the names (which means nothing – the debate on the authors is considerably more complex than that!), given a couple of dates (one of which is wrong) and made a few statements about them that are totally irrelevant to what competent scholars say. Tick that one off too.

    3. You showed you didn’t understand the importance of early creeds and Aramaic sources, and said nothing to negate what scholars say about those things. Same again.

    4. Mark’s gospel date. We agree the scholars say it was probably within a few years of 70 CE. No argument.

    5. You have made a lot of comments about eye-witnesses and transmission of information, but none of them show any awareness of how scholars believe information was transmitted, recorded, memorised, etc, nor the fact that there are multiple independent sources. Somehow the scholars seem to have overcome the “problems” (should I put a ‘pseudo’ in front?) you mention – could it be they know more than you do? Again, the scholars’ conclusions stand.

    6. Finally you say some disconnected facts about Josephus, none of which add up to evidence that he isn’t a useful historian. Again, tick that one off.

    So the scholars’ work stands unchallenged by you, and no wonder, because their conclusions have gone through the usual academic peer review process.

    In our second, shorter, discussion on the resurrection, you haven’t really been serious, simply making meaningless but humorous remarks about who was there at the time. But we weren’t talking about who was there – we were discussing the consensus of scholars. And you haven’t really offered any reason to even question my summary of that.

    So I think I will stop at this point. I don’t this discussion has proved a lot, but it has shown that you have made statements that are not based on the best available evidence. I understand you disagree with me about belief in Jesus, but that hasn’t been what we were discussing.

    Perhaps you and I can now go and enjoy the rest of our weekends. 🙂

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  84. “Jesus was born c 4 BCE near the time of the death of Herod the Great;
    he spent his childhood and early adult years in Nazareth, a Galilean village;
    he was baptised by John the Baptist;
    he called disciples;
    he taught in the towns, villages and countryside of Galilee (apparently not the cities);
    he preached ‘the kingdom of God’;
    about the year 30 he went to Jerusalem for Passover;
    he created a disturbance in the Temple area;
    he had a final meal with the disciples;
    he was arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities, specifically the high priest;
    he was executed on the orders of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate.”

    I think all of this is possible, unkleE. Where is the overwhelming consensus of Jesus’ bodily resurrection and him being divine? I was happy to see you used Geza Vermes as one of your scholars. He didn’t believe in a bodily resurrection however. According to wikipedia, “Vermes described Jesus as a 1st-century Jewish holy man, a commonplace view in academia but novel to the public when Vermes began publishing.[4] Contrary to certain other scholars (such as E. P. Sanders[17]), Vermes concludes that Jesus did not reach out to non-Jews. For example, he attributes positive references to Samaritans in the gospels not to Jesus himself but to early Christian editing. He suggests that, properly understood, the historical Jesus is a figure that Jews should find familiar and attractive. This historical Jesus, however, is so different from the Christ of faith that Christians, says Vermes, may well want to rethink the fundamentals of their faith.

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  85. Hi Ken, all we’re talking about here is the consensus of scholars. Someone asked the question, I tried to answer it. I didn’t include “Jesus’ bodily resurrection and him being divine” because that isn’t part of the consensus. I think I will leave christian belief on those matters to another discussion thanks.

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  86. 1. I said that the gap from events to writings was not large by ancient standards. You haven’t offered any contrary evidence.
    No reason to, your point means nothing! What does, “not large by ancient standards” even mean? That the human memory was more accurate a couple of thousand years ago, than it is today? That more care was taken then, than now, to preserve chains of evidence? What is my need to refute nonsense? Just look at the four stories told by the Gospel writers, to see how inaccurate “ancient standards” were. Untick that one.

    2. I said there were multiple independent accounts. You haven’t offered any evidence that there weren’t.” Have there been multiple accounts of UFO sightings? Yup. Does that mean UFO’s are real? Nope. What we’re requiring here is multiple CREDIBLE accounts, and you’ve offered none. You’ve offered up only those who weren’t there, or whose credibility can’t be verified. Untick.

    3. You showed you didn’t understand the importance of early creeds and Aramaic sources, and said nothing to negate what scholars say about those things.” And you neglected to establish the relevance of those “early creeds and Aramaic sources” – no need to negate the irrelevant. Untick.

    4. You’re only a couple of years off.

    5. We keep going back to, “multiple independent sources,” without the inclusion of the word “CREDIBLE.” Again, I must refer you back to the multiple independent sources that give eyewitness UFO accounts.

    6. Finally you say some disconnected facts about Josephus, none of which add up to evidence that he isn’t a useful historian.” Oh, I have no doubt that Josephus is quite useful, to you, as he says what you want him to say. I maintain that due to flaws in his character, to which you refer as “disconnected facts,” and of course the glaringly obvious fact that he wasn’t there and had to rely on multiple-handed information, with no way to verify the credibility of his sources or even any indication that he tried, make him an historian short on credibility. Untick.

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  87. Without credible – yeah, there’s that word again – eyewitness testimony, your “consensus of scholars” can only surmise what is “possible,” and in some cases, “probable,” but it cannot tell us what was, no matter how peer-reviewed they may be.

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  88. Arch,

    Under this line of scepticism what is considered to be credible eye witness testimony?

    How about the Great Fire of Rome – Did Rome actually burn?

    After all, No one alive now witnessed it, all we have now passed down to us are a handful of secondary accounts by Suetonius, Cassius and Tacitus.

    Say someone was to claim – what evidence do we have to suggest that there was such a huge fire in Rome? After all, where is the credible eyewitness testimony?

    The primary accounts, which possibly included histories written by Pliny the Elder have been lost. These primary accounts are considered contradictory.

    In antiquity, credible eyewitness testimony was written down and collected.

    Just would be interested to know, what exactly in archaic times could provide the level of validation you are demanding, we can’t personally ask those who were around in the time of Jesus, just like we can’t verify the accounts made of those who witnessed or were alive during the burning of Rome.

    Through these standards could you really even believe that the Great Fire of Rome even occurred?

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  89. Arch,

    To put the question in another way,

    If you used the same standard of scepticism you apply to Christianity on say the Titus become emperor of Rome?

    could you really then accept that The Visigoths sacked Rome? or Rome captured city of Veii?

    Come to think of it, could you really accept any history of antiquity, whether or not it was supported by a “consensus of scholars”?

    Actually, could you be sure anything “really happened” beyond the 17th century onwards?

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  90. sorry, meant to write:

    If you used the same standard of scepticism you apply to Christianity on say, did* Titus become emperor of Rome?

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  91. Smile. I really do have laugh at the tired, worn-out arguments put forward by apologists who repeat the same old diatribe.

    For a change, let’s exercise a little common sense and not allow ourselves to get caught up in the utter nonsense being proposed here by the Christian element.

    The Resurrection is the key to Christianity. The bottom line is that this is the ONLY aspect that matters.

    All the rest is merely smoke and mirrors.

    And let’s be very, very clear. The only evidence to work from are the gospel texts. Nothing in Josephus, Tacitus or any other source makes a blind bit of difference to the crucial claims of people like unklee.

    There is no evidence to suggest any claims of divinity and this alone is where the conversation needs to be nipped in the bud, and all the Mike Licona’s, William Lane Craig’s, and …unklee’s of the world can stand on their head.

    The evidence leads to one conclusion and one alone. The biblical character Jesus of Nazareth as described, is a narrative construct. Period.

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  92. Based on the evidence, or rather the lack of it, that you’ve provided me, I would have to say that it can’t be proven conclusively. However, stone chars, and there could well be some archaeological evidence still in existence, though I’ll admit, I haven’t been sufficiently concerned about it to attempt to find any.

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  93. Arch,

    Fair enough, I didn’t provide a great deal of evidence for The Great Fire of Rome, I honestly don’t know if there is actually a lot available.

    the main point I was trying to convey with the example of The Burning of Rome was that:

    If the same level of scepticism that some people seemed to have applied to Christianity was extended to be applied in other areas of history, what would they actually accept as historical?

    Even considering localised accounts in more recent history, there would be huge gaps of doubt that substantial events even happened,

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  94. actually to clarify,

    I didn’t provide any evidence for The Great Fire of Rome , I just referenced Suetonius, Cassius and Tacitus as secondary sources, and Pliny the Elder as thought to be a possible primary. The evidence is in their accounts.

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  95. But…but…but…Ark, what about the consensus of scholars….?

    Honestly? It really does not matter at all.
    The Christian worldview is solely reliant on the character being divine/raised from the dead.
    The rest, in terms of point scoring is meaningless.
    Let the consensus bleat all it wants.
    And you will note that these scholars do not once reference the supposed prophetic Old Testament links to the character Jesus , or discuss his reference to the fictional character Moses and the Law, which brings into the picture the state of mind of Jesus even if one is going to consider him an historical character, which is by no means unanimous.

    But crucially, there is no evidence to support a Resurrection as described or believed by Christians.
    And there are far more scholars that simply disregard the Christian perspective about the Resurrection.

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  96. “Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.” ~ Marcel Proust

    A great post here, Nate. Ark brought it to my attention. A couple of things came to mind. Two being the power of suggestion and mass hysteria. I’ve only skimmed through the first page of comments so I’m not sure if these have been mentioned. But for what it’s worth, I’ll post my two cents.

    In 1932, Sir Frederick Barliett conducted an experiment in which his subjects were told a series of stories. Later, they were asked to recall the stories they were told and the subjects embellished the original stories that fit their own pattern of thought (schemas).

    One example was a story of a battle. Some subjects claimed — “insisted” — that there were many wounds. Yet the story never mentioned any wounds. Due to their pattern of thought, and the fact that battles tend to inflict many injuries, that part of the story was embellished, and not just by one person.

    Professor Elizabeth F. Loftus, from the University of Washington, has done extensive research on the power of suggestion. She showed subjects a video of a car accident. The accident took place at an intersection. Half the subjects were told that the intersection had a yield sign, yet the video clearly showed a stop sign. Later, they were asked to recall details of the accident. The subjects that had been told there was a yield sign indeed recalled having seen a yield sign. The other half remembered accurately. http://southernhoney.hubpages.com/hub/The-Danger-of-False-Memory-A-Psychological-Review

    And regarding mass hysteria: I’ll post an abstract of a 1989 study:
    ——————
    “Between April 1968 and May 1971 hundreds of thousands of people reported seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary over a Coptic Orthodox church in Zeitoun, near Cairo, Egypt. When photographed, these phenomena appeared as irregular blobs of light. Primarily there were two types of events: small, short-lived highly kinetic (‘doves’) and more persistent coronal type displays that were situated primarily over apical structures of the church. More detailed descriptions of the phenomena , such as visions, often occurred as ‘flashes’; their details usually reflected the religious background of the experiment.

    The characteristics of these luminous phenomena strongly suggested the existence of tectonic strain within the area. Psychological factors determine more elaborate details of the experiences because there are both direct stimulations of the observers brain as well as indirect contributions from reinforcement history.’ Analysis revealed that ‘luminous phenomena in Zeitoun increased during the month of or the month before an increase in regional seismic activity’

    [Derr, John S. & Michael A. Persinger ‘Geophysical Variables and Behavior: LIV. Zeitoun (Egypt) Apparitions of the Virgin Mary as Tectonic Strain-induced Luminosities. Perceptual and Motor Skills 1989, 68, 123-128]”
    ———————

    Anomalous luminous phenomena are generated by brief, local changes in tectonic strain that can precede earthquakes. So basically, they saw a natural phenomena. But because it happened over a church, they associated it with their religious beliefs. All it took was for one person to make the suggestion based on schemas and start mass hysteria. There are many more examples of this. No seismic activity required.

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  97. @Victoria

    Your “consensus of scholars” makes a whole lot more sense that the biblical ones. Solid evidence always outweighs conjecture.

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  98. Some testimony has an agenda, other testimony is mere conjecture or supposition, which is why the credibility of those testifying is important. I always ask what a court would accept. But realizing that we are dealing with people long dead, I also work under the premise of the “death-bed confession” rule – i.e., I work under the assumption that, being religious, they would be more likely telling the truth than not, fearing eternal punishment, and so I allow their testimony, providing that they otherwise fit the criteria of a credible witness – were they there? Did they witness the events for themselves to which they’re testifying, or did they hear it from a friend, who heard it from his cousin, who heard it from his Aunt Mabel? If the latter, witness excused.

    Genesis, for example, has Pharaoh giving Abraham camels, in exchange for the lend-lease of his wife in 2300 BCE, while camels, credible archaeologists tell us, weren’t even domesticated until 1000 BCE – gotta go with the archaeologists.

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  99. Oh, I know, I was just filling in for unklEgregious, in his absence – he likely won’t be returning until you’re counting sheep or whatever it is you count. This being his Sabbath, he’s probably out knocking on doors, asking people who’d rather be left the hell alone, if they’ve heard the “Good News.”

    If I can see them coming, I usually like to answer the door naked, with a can of beer in my hand. They rarely come back.

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  100. The more people such as Unklee are allowed to jam their foot in the doorway of reason, the more they will simply trot out this form of diatribe and attempt to derail any such discussion.

    Introducing people like Habermas, who is an outright apologist who teaches at a college that supports Creationism is disgusting. Credibility? It’s laughable! People like Craig and Licona are the same.
    Rank apologists and a disgrace.
    But again, nothing of what these people say makes any difference to the core issue.
    Unklee and his ilk can introduce 10,000 scholars who consider an historical Yeshua really existed.

    Before anything they say is afforded any sort of respect at all in this regard, they must be obliged to offer verifiable evidence of their claim pertaining to the divinity of the biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth and the further claim that he is the Creator.

    For this is the only reason they are arguing the point of the historicity in the first place.

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  101. “I think the Knock Shrine has some extra evidential support in that there were 2 commissions of inquiry including depositions of witnesses still alive with conclusions that there was not any fraud, that no natural causes could be offered and the testimony of the witnesses was trustworthy and satisfactory.”

    Hi Howie. I know nothing about the Knock Shrine, so I assumed your reference was to a rather silly modern miracle claim. I’m sorry, my bad! You were actually saying that both claims were challenging but you nevertheless don’t accept either. Thanks for sorting that out.

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  102. I like the analogy, Nate. I never really understood what the 20 or 30 years had to do with a myth creeping in. When thought about logically, that’s why police want more than one eye witness, and even they eye witness accounts differ – sometimes wildly – just mere moments after an event.

    Have you ever played the gossip game? You get a group of people in a circle and one whispers a ‘fact’ in the ear of the person next to them. The ‘secret’ gets passed around the entire circle. It’s amazing how much has changed by the time it gets back to the original ‘teller’.

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  103. @Ryan, “Under this line of scepticism what is considered to be credible eye witness testimony?

    How about the Great Fire of Rome – Did Rome actually burn?”

    YES Rome did burn and it matters not who reported it. We have archaeology to thank for the real evidence .

    Copied from PBS.com “Archaeologist Andrea Carandini provides the most convincing evidence to corroborate the implication of Tacitus — that Nero circumvented the senate by burning Rome so he could build his palace. Carandini, who has been digging in Rome for twenty years, has examined the ancient layers of ash left behind by the fire. “Everything was destroyed,” he says. “There was not one single house standing.” Specifically, Carandini explains that fire destroyed the portion of the Forum where the senators lived and worked. “All these houses were destroyed, so the aristocracy didn’t have a proper place to live,” he says. The open mall in the middle of the Forum remained, but it became a sort of shopping mall, a commercial center “built on the top of aristocratic Rome … so it’s the end, in a way, of the power of the aristocracy in Rome.”

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  104. I don’t think Ryan is with us any longer, KC – I believe he realized early on that he’d brought a rock to a gunfight.

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  105. Oh Arch, always with the funny business. You keep us all amused. Thought I’d let you know, since demeanor is always an important thing for you, that once you get to know Ryan you’ll find he’s similar to Josh; and we all know Josh is your favorite Christian. You’ll also get used to the fact that he likes to triple, quadruple and sometimes even quintuple post when commenting. @Ryan – it’s ok, we’re all used to it, so no worries, and in fact if you stopped doing it we’d all probably wonder if it was an imposter commenting. 😉

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  106. Arch, I think you are right. Further more, I doubt Ryan has spent any time in Rome or he wouldn’t make some of the statements he did. Christians like Ryan want to debate writings because that’s all they have to defend their religion. We have as you have stated many times before, Archaeology in addition to writings.

    As I mentioned to unkleE earlier in this post, when you visit the “Holy Land”, the tour guides will use the term, “tradition tells us” 95% of the time. Yes there has been a lot of Archaeology done in Israel but you won’t hear a lot about it on your tour there because it doesn’t always support what the tourists have been led to believe. 🙂 When you visit the British Museum in London, the Louvre in Paris, the Cairo Museum, etc, you are looking at Archaeology not tradition.

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  107. Yeah, Josh is alright – CaptainCatholic isn’t bad either, but he does look a little funny in those tights and cape – they just don’t quite mesh with horn-rimmed glasses.

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  108. Hey Arch, I’m still here 🙂

    Just don’t really have a lot to add at the moment.

    kcchief1,

    Hows it going? Thanks for the information, I haven’t come across that article before.

    “YES Rome did burn and it matters not who reported it. We have archaeology to thank for the real evidence”

    I agree that if we have the archaeological evidence then it matters not who reports it, providing that the reporting is accurate.

    The archaeological evidence proves there was a huge fire, although can this evidence determine who the fire was started by?

    This is where you would have to look at the written accounts available I suppose, if the accounts are reliable.

    I have never travelled to Rome, but I’d love to go one day 🙂

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  109. Tornadoes have tried unsuccessfully, on three occasions, to get me – I’m beginning to consider myself tornado-proof.

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  110. Ryan, you are most welcome and I do hope you get to spend some time in Rome. I have been there 3 times and have just scratched the surface of its ancient history.

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  111. The really odd thing about this piece and those who think it shows some point is that there is no question in the story that the Colin Firth Character DOES come out of the water. So as a reflection of the reality of what is in the story its accurate. the only thing it proves is that people will visualize what is real (within the story) even if they do not actually see a particular frame in the film. Not surprising in the least since film is a visual imagination experience

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  112. When the first stories were told about the stone being rolled away and an empty tomb was found , you don’t think people could visualize this as well ? Truthful or not ? I would suspect people had more vivid imaginations 2000 years ago . They didn’t have TV, Radio or the Internet to help them. Oral traditions over an open fire surely stirred the imagination.

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  113. Kcc you missed the point entirely. Firth coming out of the water WAS FACTUAL to the story. He went in and he comes out. To the extent that viewers polled even had the image in their heads as represented by the statues it would have been a visualization of something factual to the story. As a comparison to the NT it would do nothing but tell us that people visualize what is factual not what wasn’t.

    It just doesn’t work logicaly

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  114. “As a comparison to the NT it would do nothing but tell us that people visualize what is factual not what wasn’t.”

    No you’re missing the point. People visualize what they have been told, not necessarily what is factual.

    Nate’s correlation makes perfect sense.

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  115. Hey just wanted to throw a question out there,

    Since much focus seems to be on looking at arguments why people don’t believe in God

    Conversely, what are some of the strongest arguments or cases for God that you have come across? For the sake of balance 🙂

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  116. Excellent question! In fact, I think I may add it to my blog!

    The only thing I might add is “besides subjective experiences.”

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  117. Interesting — not knowing the series, I was glad to hear about it since my daughter and I will be visiting England this summer. Nice to know the myths *floating* around.

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  118. @Captain Catholic – sorry I couldn’t leave this directly beneath your comment, as I would have preferred:

    “Whatever is accurately ‘remembered’ about the historical events that transpired in Jerusalem in the early spring of 29 AD are, like Firth’s ‘emergence’, inconsequential when compared with my (and everyone else’s) ongoing lived experience.”

    With one significant difference, Your Captainship – whatever “historical events” that transpired in Jerusalem that Spring, would have occurred (or not) in “real life,” whereas those “lived experiences” of which you speak, took place only in your collective, subjective, heads.

    “Insanity is believing your hallucinations are real. Religion is believing that other peoples’ hallucinations are real.”
    — Dan Barker —

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