A Bad Reason for Disbelieving the Bible

A commenter on this blog recently wrote the following about the Bible:

“It’s clearly cobbled together in order to try and make a complete statement, but the sources are so diverse that it does not succeed. If Roman Catholics accept this mess cobbled together by committees (“OK guys, which books should we include? What do we want our Christianity to be? If there is a God then he hasn’t made that clear so we better do the job for him.”) It’s history has no more credibility than the Book or Mormon or the Scientology story – all made up by men.”

I’ve run into this argument a few times before. It denies the credibility of the Bible because of when and where it was put together (or “cobbled together,” for those who prefer emotive language). In other words, “the Bible obviously isn’t the inspired word of God, because we know that it was put together cobbled together by committees somewhere around 400 A.D.!”

This cold, hard logic comes as a crushing blow to all those silly Christians who believe the Bible (King James Version!) fell from the sky on a silver platter.

Except Christians don’t believe that.

Seriously though. I’m pretty sure there are exactly zero Christians who believe that.

Christians believe the books of the Bible were written over the span of hundreds of years by numerous individuals who were directly inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16). Christians believe God worked through these writers to deliver His message. So it’s not at all unreasonable to think that God could have worked through men on committees to ensure that the correct books were included in biblical canon.

TL;DR – Christians believe the Bible was inspired by God. And penned by human authors. And collected and distributed by humans. None of this is surprising or disturbing.

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33 thoughts on “A Bad Reason for Disbelieving the Bible

  1. The problem is that any sources were left out. Now that could also be attributed to God making sure the rubbish wasn’t included and only the good (true) stuff was.

    The problem is that this whole business makes the bible indistinguishable from a set of books cobbled together by a committee trying to make the best of a bad lot. And not surprising really given that it occurred in a time were there were several different sects quibbling about issues like the trinity.

    It looks like you’re claiming that this super-duper God character was capable enough to perform all this engineering over all those years (and is still active today as he makes twists and turns to accommodate inconveniences that the church has to deal with, such as making the serious sin of contraception suddenly a slightly lesser sin in the face of criticism over the church’s position on contraception and HIV), and yet he wasn’t quite up to making it all rather more straight forward by some super one-off miracle revelation that would last for all time. All just seems a little bit fake.

    Your response is exactly what we should expect from someone trying to justify a collection of books unconvincingly cobbled together in some more gullible and less inquisitive times that is having to deal with yet another inconvenience of modern people being able to hold the bible up for closer inspection.

    Of course bizarre logic in the church’s rationalisation isn’t unusual. Sometimes it’s downright creepy:

    http://www.michaelnugent.com/2014/04/18/should-priests-report-child-rape-audio-and-transcript-of-my-discussion-with-a-priest-on-rtes-liveline/

    • Actually, He did make it “more straight forward by some super one-off miracle revelation” that is the whole basis for Christianity. The virgin birth can be debated, but I think even that can be confirmed by the revelation that is Jesus’ life and teachings as justified by the miracle of His resurrection.
      If you (for most of this response, this is a general “you” and not necessarily you, Ron Murphy) refuse to believe that the accounts as found in the New Testament, then this debate is meaningless. However, if indeed most of the Gospels and most of the letters were written in at least the first Century if not before the years 66-70, then there would have been plenty of witnesses that could have easily dispelled many of the beliefs the Early Church espoused.
      I offer these basics:
      1) Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried. For starters, to deny Jesus even existed is to commit intellectual suicide. If you do not believe this, stop reading. Why waste either of our time? Not to be rude or mean, but if you refuse to think this will not help. Jesus’ death was not only possible but probable when we consider the flogging He received before being beaten some more before being nailed to and hung from a cross and then having a spear thrust into His side. Whether it was a full 72 hours spent in the tomb or He followed a more traditional Jewish understanding of part of a day equaling a day and thus coming to about 40 hours, He also spent three days without food or water after this grisly beating and crucifixion.
      2) His disciples largely ran away in fear for their lives after their leader was killed. The majority of the Jews who believed in a coming Messiah (except, for example, the Sadducees) who would overthrow the oppressive Gentile rulers. Of course they would be afraid if this did not happen and their supposed Messiah was killed. Rome had already killed so many others for trying, so why not these men (and women)?
      3) Amazingly, something changed in them to make them willing to suffer and die for this Man who was killed. With this …
      4) The man tasked with stopping the young Church, Saul of Tarsus, became one of the most ardent believers, Paul. I lump both of these together for the same reason: why would these men (and women) be so willing to suffer and die for a dead man? Either a) the authorities could have produced the body to end all debate, b) outsiders would have seen the disciples as “of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19), or c) they themselves would have known about the truth of the body and most likely not have changed. With this last option, even if they were willing to die for this belief/delusion, why would Saul of Tarsus, the most ardent of opponents, have changed?
      It would have been so easy to stop the fledgling Church from spreading if the miraculous resurrection proving the revelation of Jesus Christ had not happened.
      All of that being said, by the time Jesus walked the Earth the Jewish leadership largely was already agreed on what constituted the Hebrew canon as evidenced by ancient writings (such as the Mishnah and Talmud, for example). As for what became the New Testament, those committees began with standards that:
      1) The writings must correspond with the rest of Scripture;
      2) The authors had to be Apostles or close companions of the Apostles (i.e. Mark and Luke being disciples of Peter and Paul, respectively, and James and Jude being Jesus’ half-brothers and early leaders);
      3) The writings had to be historically and factually accurate as attested to by the Early Church Fathers who often knew the Apostles directly.

      As far as the bizarre logic and rationalization in other matters, we agree. There have been many bad decisions made in the name of the Church and God that were justified (wrongly) to protect people who should not have been protected or interests that should not have interested the Church. Hence events such as the Reformation (which admittedly had its own issues) and so many of the denominational splits. While sad and many times unnecessary, these show Christians have often tried to distance themselves from these examples of “bizarre logic and rationalization” (even if sometimes the splits came about by the same standards).
      Thanks for reading along!
      Daniel

  2. Pingback: A Bad Reason for Disbelieving the Bible | The Liberty Herald

  3. I suppose people who make this kind of argument against the Bible are making two kinds of arguments: first, that this “committee” process seems inherently non-credible to them, and second, that the particular committee process, as it was followed in the history of the church, makes the whole thing look rather shabby.

    The first commenter above, Mr. Murphy, seems to agree with this first argument when he writes, “yet [God] wasn’t quite up to making it all rather more straight forward by some super one-off miracle revelation that would last for all time. All just seems a little bit fake.”

    I think the truth is very nearly the opposite. The commenter originally quoted at the top mentioned Mormonism and Scientology. (I would even add to that Islam, but if that adds a distracting side controversy, leave that for another day.) In both cases, the religion was started when one man claimed to have a special message that no one else had. In the case of Mormonism (and Islam), the man claimed to have received a message dictated to him from God (through an angel) that was, in effect, a new Bible. In a way, these religions claim to offer exactly what Mr. Murphy is asking for. But I think it makes them immeasurably less credible, not more so. They have the ring of egotism and invention. In other words, those religions strike me as sounding exactly as we would expect a religion to sound that had been simply made up by one man.

    By contrast, the scriptures of Judaism and then Christianity were written by several men over the course of centuries; they were not self-aggrandizing but humble—almost none of them claimed to have the whole truth or to be offering a new religion, and many of them are frankly presented with all their flaws in those scriptures (King David was guilty of adultery and murder, etc.). Yet the books together offer a remarkably unified religion—almost as if there were some other Power outside of those men with a larger plan than any one man’s imagination could offer.

    To the second argument—that the particular way it played out in the history of the church seems shabby—I would say that that is not my understanding of the history. I think even secular historians will agree that it’s not really the case that some guys got together in A.D. 300 or 400 and arbitrarily chose some books and not others; rather, the church had been circulating and using a number of epistles and other books for generations, and the Council of Nicea mainly just ratified and formalized the set of books that were already in use.

  4. Chillingworth,

    The claims of individuals are claims of individuals. They could be revelations from God, but are indistinguishable from mere claims of individuals.

    Christianity relies on the lone man, the egotistical Jesus, who didn’t merely claim to receive a revelation but to actually be God. That he might use ancient prophecies to support that claim makes the falsehood all the easier to pass off. That Jesus relies on older stories from Judaism is no different from Islam, which sees Jesus as a prophet, along with Moses. Even for Judaism it could be claimed that all of its history is based on some early character. So your one-man-source rejection of Islam doesn’t work in favour of Christianity.

    As it happens they do not offer what I was suggesting would be better. All the quirks of all religions point to a rather inexact and messy God at work; even a committee of gods that can’t seem to agree on their story.

    “I think even secular historians will agree that it’s not really the case that some guys got together in A.D. 300 or 400 and arbitrarily chose some books and not others; rather, the church had been circulating and using a number of epistles and other books for generations, and the Council of Nicea mainly just ratified and formalized the set of books that were already in use.”

    Really? So the Council of Nicea had nothing to do with trying to get everyone on the same page, when there were such disagreements over even one of the most central aspects of Christianity, the trinity? The Arian controversy? Constantine wasn’t even a church leader. The bishops appealed to him for arbitration because they couldn’t even get their own theology straight. It happened in the midst of serious changes to the Roman Empire, and for Constantine was likely more a means of preventing fragmentation within the church that might further fragment the Empire. It was political as much as theological. As such the result was theologically arbitrary. Pretty much any perspective would have been sufficient in order to maintain unity.

    We’ve seen this in the Church of England and Anglicanism generally as they struggle with women and homosexual bishops. I presume an omnipotent God knows the score: women bishops god or bad; homosexual bishops god or bad. Why is his church having such a hard time getting his message on this?

    • To the first point, I understand you to be moving on to a different topic. I’m happy to discuss with you why I think Christianity is true and Jesus’s claims are credible, if you’d like, but that’s a different topic from the original one, with respect to which I think I’ve made the argument.

      To the second point, which books specifically are you saying the church should have or might have included in the canon that it did not?

      I see that my impressionistic understanding of history wasn’t entirely accurate. (According to Wikipedia, at least, “A number of erroneous views have been stated regarding the [Council of Nicea]’s role in establishing the biblical canon. In fact, there is no record of any discussion of the biblical canon at the council at all.” But I suppose that that makes your argument more difficult, rather than easier.) In any case, feel free to answer with respect to that council, some other council, or no council in particular: With respect to Arianism or the Trinity, which books specifically are you saying the church should have or might have included in the canon that it did not?

  5. Chillongworth,

    My first point, about the claims of individuals being such that there is no way to distinguish between genuine revelation and inspiration and just someone’s opinion is precisely the point. There is nothing that objectively determines that any content of the bible is revealed or inspired other than the say-so of those that wrote its many parts or of those that such as yourself who claim the divine authenticity.

    Try this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Development_of_the_Christian_biblical_canon

    It clearly is cobbled together over time, and there were books left out that could have been included. That modern theists claim that those included were rightly included and those excluded were rightly excluded is just another form of the first point, that the cobbling together of various sources into one bible amounts to nothing more than the opinions of a number of theists.

    The validity of the claims to the authenticity of the bibles divine source cannot be made in the bible itself, because that is circular and amounts to no more than the Liar’s Bible:

    “This book is written by an honest person, honestly.
    You should believe the content of this book and what it tells you about the author.”

    From the content you cannot tell if the book is truthful and factually correct or not.

    • You’ve done little more over the course of this brief discussion than commit the genetic fallacy, trying to prove a belief false by demonstrating how it came about. Based on this alone, your argument is invalid.

      I think most of us here are more than willing to discuss the Bible and related topics, but if you’re going to try to argue, your argument must be sound.

  6. Jordan,

    I’m not sure how you missed what I was saying. Check some of the things I’ve said.

    “The problem is that this whole business makes the bible indistinguishable from a set of books cobbled together by a committee …”

    “The claims of individuals are claims of individuals. They could be revelations from God, but are indistinguishable from mere claims of individuals.”

    Perhaps you’re confused by my use of the word ‘false’ in this sentence:

    “That he might use ancient prophecies to support that claim makes the falsehood all the easier to pass off.”

    I wasn’t actually claiming that Jesus made a false claim, but thaat it would be indistinguishable from a false claim.

    I spell out the point again for you later:

    “My first point, about the claims of individuals being such that there is no way to distinguish between genuine revelation and inspiration and just someone’s opinion is precisely the point.”

    In fact if you look that that last one, the comment you replied to, you should be able to see clarly the point I’m making when I use the analogy of the Liar’s Bible.

    “From the content you cannot tell if the book is truthful and factually correct or not.”

    So, to spell it out once more: I am not asserting that Christianity is a false religion, and I’ve not provided an argument to prove it false. What I am asserting, based on argument, is that there is not sufficient reason to suppose it is true. One aspect of the problem is the ‘cobbled together’ problem.

    This clearly isn’t the genetic fallacy, because I’m not arguing that Christianity is false because of its sources. I’m arguing that it’s sources are not sufficient to make it a reliable belief system.

    Maybe Christianity is true. Maybe Islam is. Maybe there are fairies.

    The problem is that to a great extent it’s Christians that commit the genetic fallacy, by taking the word of a book that asserts its own content to be true.

    Here is is in simple form:
    http://www.logicalfallacies.info/relevance/genetic/

    “Examples
    (1) My mommy told me that the tooth fairy is real.
    Therefore:
    (2) The tooth fairy is real.

    (1) Eugenics was pioneered in Germany during the war.
    Therefore:
    (2) Eugenics is a bad thing.

    Each of these arguments commits the genetic fallacy, because each judges an idea by the goodness or badness of its source, rather than on its own merits.”

    Let me add another, and show the compounded circular nature of Christianity:

    (1.1) There is a God that reveals the Bible
    Therefore:
    (1.2) The Bible is true

    From (1.2)
    (2.1) The Bible is true
    Therefore:
    (2.2) What the Bible tells me about God must be true

    From (2.2)
    (3.1) What the Bible tells me about God must be true
    Therefore:
    (3.2) There is God that reveals the Bible … go to 1.1

    … keep going round in circles.

    The point isn’t that it is absolutely definitely false, but that it is insufficient to believe in it, because exactly the same circular argument can be made for all religions that make claims from old books (or from prophets and ancient folk lore).

    • Thank you for clarifying your point. While your argument is appropriate against the “God said it, I believe it” types, you fail to address the Bible’s claims itself (I often wonder if those folks have actually read what God said).

      The Bible makes no circular claims about its own truth and instead appeals to outside evidence (Elijah and the prophets of Baal, God blessing tithers, Jesus’s miracles, natural theology expanded upon by Paul, personal religious experience, Peter’s command that Christians be ready to “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”). The closest example of self-reference is Rahab recounting God drying the Red Sea in Joshua 2, but given that most of the Bible isn’t a book of theology but a collection of stories, I’m not sure that can count as circular logic.

      Further, early Christians had appealed to evidence outside Jewish scripture for Jesus’s resurrection. Christian apologists and scholars have consistently used external evidence (history, logic, cosmology, etc) to demonstrate the truth of the Bible.

      While a truly unfortunate number of people, Christians and skeptics alike, insist that Christianity is true based on self-reference, this isn’t the claim made by the Bible itself, nor too terribly many apologists or scholars. Now that I’ve properly understood your argument (again, thank you for clarifying), it’s sound, but largely irrelevant to any discussion trying to ascertain the truth of the Bible’s claims.

  7. Hi Jordan,

    I still think you are missing the point.

    “While your argument is appropriate against the “God said it, I believe it” types, you fail to address the Bible’s claims itself (I often wonder if those folks have actually read what God said).”

    I’ve read the Bible, and it’s the Bible that contains the claims about what God said. This is still part of the circular argument. So your whole case is really: the Bible said that God said, I believe it. Why do you believe it? Because, as you just said, because God said it. How do you know that God said it? Because it says so in the Bible. How do you know that the Bible is true? Because it says so in the Bible. … and round it goes.

    “The Bible makes no circular claims about its own truth and instead appeals to outside evidence (Elijah and the prophets of Baal, God blessing tithers, Jesus’s miracles, natural theology expanded upon by Paul, personal religious experience, Peter’s command that Christians be ready to “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”). ”

    All of which is from the Bible. The Bible is the source of what you now claim are external references, which we know about only from what’s in the Bible. Where do you get information about Jesus’s miracles? The Bible. And Paul’s conversion? The Bible. And where do you find out what Paul said? The Bible? Or Paul’s letters. Which form part of the Bible. These are not independent sources, but dependent sources, all dating back to claims prior to Jesus’s (or rather claims about what Jesus claimed, because for what Jesus is supposed to have said, we have? The Bible.) It goes all the way back to claims from the OT. It the OT wasn’t reliable then anything Jesus said, or was supposed to have said, would have been bogus. Of course the OT could be true and Jesus bogus – he could have been a delusional rebel thinking he was receiving a message from God, just like Mohammed; and his followers could have elevated him to a divine being.

    Really, if the crook Joseph Smith, and the crazy Sci Fi writer Ron L Hubbard. If they could start bogus religions so late in the Enlightenment and on into the 20th century, then it seems pretty obvious that it is easy to stir up religious believe based on very slim and suspicious evidence.

    “The closest example of self-reference is Rahab recounting God drying the Red Sea in Joshua 2, but given that most of the Bible isn’t a book of theology but a collection of stories, I’m not sure that can count as circular logic.”

    Where’s Joshua 2? The Bible. Cobbled together collections of stories. If they make any claim about God then that’s a theological claim. They might have had some other purpose originally, as some sort of folk lore or traditional story about history – think about the folk lores of any historical peoples. Do you suppose the Norse gods are real because they are included in stories?

    The Bible starts off in Genesis with claims about what God did. The NT is all about what God did and said, in the form of Jesus. The Bible is full of direct quotes, or the type, “The Lord God said unto…, commanded …”, or claims about what God did. How is that not a circular reference to claims about God in the Bible that require you to believe what the Bible says about God.

    So of course I’m addressing the Bible’s claims. That’s the whole point. You only have the Bible’s claims.

    “Further, early Christians had appealed to evidence outside Jewish scripture for Jesus’s resurrection. Christian apologists and scholars have consistently used external evidence (history, logic, cosmology, etc) to demonstrate the truth of the Bible.”

    Think about this for a minute. Do you think the novels of Raymond Chandler are fictional novels? I take it you do. Take “The Big Sleep”. It’s set in LA, California. Wow! LA is a real city, so that means Philip Marlowe is a real person?

    Let’s go further back. Is Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” pure fiction or does it contain some details from recorded history?

    Don’t you think it would be strange if the Bible contained zero references to historical events? Do you think that the Bible would be believed if Jesus was supposed to have come from Mars? Well, again, I give you Scientology. And look, Scientology includes scientifically accurate stuff – atom bombs.

    It would be odd if a myth was being passed off as historically factual set of events did not have at least some factually correct information about places and people.

    I’m not claiming with any certainty that there was no Jesus person at all. I don’t know. Most scholars that claim he is a real person (divinity aside) are Christians. Among non-Christians the best that can be said is that it’s an open question about what is a real reference to a (mortal) man called Jesus that corresponds to the Jesus of Christianity. There is zero evidence of any miracles outside claims in the Bible. The best you’ve got is that there might have been a man; but exactly what he said and did has less substantial evidence that any portrayal of historical figures by Shakespeare. Here’s the nature of the problem, regarding Shakespeare’s history versus the real events: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/william-shakespeare/10106855/Shakespeare-did-he-get-his-history-right.html. And that’s from a time with far better records than the times and lives of Jesus in some corner of the Roman Empire. For Jesus there is no recorded history, only stories written after the event. There are no independent portraits, as there is for all the English Kings Shakespeare wrote about. The Jesus stories really are mostly inventions, not records, even if there was such a man.

    Personally I do take it that it seems like there was some character named Jesus, but the external sources are pretty thin. What there is can’t distinguish him from some Jewish rebel prophecy figure – ten a penny in those times. Sure, there are inconsistencies that I wouldn’t hold against the story particularly, exact times and places. We know how difficult it is to get exact details from modern witnesses to events. Look at the Malaysian Flight MH17 incident in Ukraine – even with all our technology it’s hard to get at the exact truth when interested parties are hiding evidence. There wasn’t even the concept of forensic historical evidence back in the times of the Bible. We expect mistakes, inconsistencies, gaps.

    But all that is not adding to the Christian case but casting real doubt on it. When making claims in the absence of evidence, or with sketchy evidence, even if it contains some historically accurate details, it is not enough to make the grand claims about the actuality of a God or of a Christ figure, when throughout history there are similar claims about other religions that you reject.

    Cosmology? What cosmology?

    “While a truly unfortunate number of people, Christians and skeptics alike, insist that Christianity is true based on self-reference, this isn’t the claim made by the Bible itself, nor too terribly many apologists or scholars.”

    It is. Tell you what. Throw away the whole of the Bible. Really. Can you tell me exactly what there is left of Christianity, or indeed the Abrahamic God or Judaism, Christianity and Islam? Without the Bible there is nothing. All there is is the Bible. Therefore the Bible is the self-sustaining self-referencing source.

    What do you think is happening when it talks of Jesus as Messiah. A group of Jewish believers who became the first founders of Christianity were convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was their promised Messiah. Where was a messiah promised? In the Bible. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. A messiah is predicted? OK, this guy must be him.

    When you say you are relying on the Bible, that’s exactly my point.

    • “So your whole case is really: the Bible said that God said, I believe it. Why do you believe it? Because, as you just said, because God said it. How do you know that God said it? Because it says so in the Bible. How do you know that the Bible is true? Because it says so in the Bible. … and round it goes.”

      The Bible is a collection of books written by different authors across a span of centuries. If they corroborate one another (or make predictions that are fulfilled centuries later, or refer to locations and events that get confirmed by archaeology thousands of years later), that lends a certain degree of credibility.

    • “How do you know that the Bible is true? Because it says so in the Bible. … and round it goes.”

      Now it’s you who’s misunderstanding my point. The Bible is overwhelmingly corroborated by external evidence that you either haven’t happened across or ignore.

      http://carm.org/evidence-and-answers (list of links)
      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-evidence-for-jesus
      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/what-price-biblical-errancy

      “The Bible is the source of what you now claim are external references, which we know about only from what’s in the Bible. Where do you get information about Jesus’s miracles? The Bible.”

      This is a handy tool that skeptics use, disqualify historical literature because it happens to be collected into a compendium called the “Bible.”

      http://carm.org/can-trust-new-testament-historical-document
      http://carm.org/old-testament-corrupted

      “Really, if the crook Joseph Smith, and the crazy Sci Fi writer Ron L Hubbard. If they could start bogus religions so late in the Enlightenment and on into the 20th century, then it seems pretty obvious that it is easy to stir up religious believe based on very slim and suspicious evidence.”

      A claim that relies on the evidence being “very slim and suspicious.” As myself and others have pointed out there’s plenty of evidence to demonstrate the truth of the Bible’s claims, none of which you’ve sought to refute, relying, again, on the genetic fallacy and ruling out reliable historical information simply because it’s contained within the pages of a compendium.

      “If they make any claim about God then that’s a theological claim.”

      Theology is a system of beliefs and can be developed and extracted from stories, but stories about God aren’t necessarily theological.

      “Do you suppose the Norse gods are real because they are included in stories?”

      Good use of rhetoric, but it’s a non sequitur. The stories of Norse gods aren’t corroborated by physical or historical evidence.

      “So of course I’m addressing the Bible’s claims. That’s the whole point. You only have the Bible’s claims.”

      You’ve done no such thing. You’ve only a priori disqualified everything within the pages of the Bible because it has the words “The Bible” on the spine. You have yet to address one historical claim on any other grounds. A simple google search reveals reams of evidence and counter-evidence for the claims in the Bible, none of which you’ve interacted with.

      “Think about this for a minute. Do you think the novels of Raymond Chandler are fictional novels? I take it you do. Take “The Big Sleep”. It’s set in LA, California. Wow! LA is a real city, so that means Philip Marlowe is a real person?”

      This entire point you attempt to develop is, again, non sequitur. It doesn’t follow that because some legends contain historical tid-bits that therefore everything written more than a few hundred years ago is false. You also ignore criteria for qualifying the existence of historical persons. A statement like “…and So-and-so was honored to carry Caesar’s armor.” is evidence enough to reasonably conclude that So-and-so existed. Why are four biographies, multiple letters, writings of early Christians and texts by historians Tacitus and Josephus not enough to qualify the existence of Jesus?

      “I’m not claiming with any certainty that there was no Jesus person at all. I don’t know. Most scholars that claim he is a real person (divinity aside) are Christians.”

      ” Among non-Christians the best that can be said is that it’s an open question about what is a real reference to a (mortal) man called Jesus that corresponds to the Jesus of Christianity.”

      The evidence that Jesus of Nazareth lived is virtually uncontested among historians specializing in the relevant area of history. What the religious beliefs of beliefs of Bible scholars are is irrelevant, you can examine their claims.

      http://www.strangenotions.com/an-atheist-historian-examines-the-evidence-for-jesus-part-1-of-2/

      “For Jesus there is no recorded history,”

      The history of Jesus is written in four separate biographies. Of course, as we’ll see, you’ll reject it on the grounds that they’re contained within a compendium, rather than using tools of historical research to rule out the events described.

      “only stories written after the event.”

      Which is when history is written, unless you have some insight on how to write history before it happens. If you do, please let me know, we’ll split the profits 50/50.

      “Personally I do take it that it seems like there was some character named Jesus, but the external sources are pretty thin.”

      Given that Jesus was, at the time to His non-followers, a tax rebel and false Messiah, there would be no reason for anyone to write about him. Yet, we have four separate biographies, and his constant reference in letters that date within a few years after His death on the cross.

      http://www.gotquestions.org/did-Jesus-exist.html

      “What there is can’t distinguish him from some Jewish rebel prophecy figure – ten a penny in those times.”

      While you’re correct to note that messianic figures were rather common during the Roman occupation of Israel, the fact that Jesus lead no military uprising against Roman authorities demonstrates that He is easily distinguishable from other attempted messiahs.

      “Cosmology? What cosmology?”

      The Leibnitzian cosmological argument, the Kalam cosmological argument, the fine tuning argument, and others I’m sure I’m forgetting incorporate cosmological evidence with strong theistic implications to contribute to the case for God’s existence. The Kalam argument is William Lane Craig’s baby, I recommend his work for a run-down on what the argument entails. Others can be found via google.

      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/kalam

      “Tell you what. Throw away the whole of the Bible. Really. Can you tell me exactly what there is left of Christianity, or indeed the Abrahamic God or Judaism, Christianity and Islam?”

      You still have the universe which requires an explanation, you still have the history of the Jewish people, you still have Jesus of Nazareth.

      “What do you think is happening when it talks of Jesus as Messiah. A group of Jewish believers who became the first founders of Christianity were convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was their promised Messiah.”

      You forgot the gentiles, and they were convinced Jesus was the Messiah based on evidence of His resurrection.

      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-resurrection-of-jesus

      “A messiah is predicted? OK, this guy must be him.”

      Nobody believed Jesus was the Messiah until after his follows believed He appeared to them. The Messiah was supposed to do battle against Rome and liberate Israel. Jesus got nailed to a tree. As you said, messianic figures were a dime a dozen.

  8. Matt,

    Not if they are all dependent on each other and have no original multiple sources for comparison.

    They do not corroborate one another. They are a sequence of stories, each based upon the other. There were various religious systems in place, and somewhere along the line Judaism struck on the grand idea of monotheism, which may not have been original. It was already 2000 years old by the time it came to Jesus. In such a small area of the Middle East it seems inconceivable that any Biblical source was independent of this story. Most religious stories of the time report on other tribes believing different things. But once a sect takes hold then of course the stories will be correlated – they wouldn’t be deemed to be the same religion if they weren’t.

    This is not corroboration but perpetuation and extension of and the co-operation in a single story line.

    Take a look at this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek_spin-off_fiction

    Multiple authors continuing, adapting, furthering a generalised theme, making them generally consistent along the way with a few twists and turns here and there. Imagine the outrage as some new author takes the story in a quite different direction, leaving the original behind. A bit like Christianity branching off from Judaism. Or Islam being based on the Abrahamic religions. But within the OT they generally stick to the same theme.

    I agree it does lend a degree of credibility, but only to the fact that they are sticking to the same general fictional plot. It does not lend any credibility to the claims about God contained in any of those stories. It does lend some credibility to the notion that some believers of fiction can take an existing story and extend it. It would be a big flop if it didn’t.

    The OT lends some credibility to Christianity and Islam – in fact more to Islam because Islam had no need to go further than Judaism in requiring only prophets. As long as they had someone to tell them what God thought and what he wanted from them, this is all that was required of a monotheistic religion about an unseen God. In fact it’s very convenient if God is unseen and if there are only a few special people who he speaks through.

    Christianity is the odd-ball in going back to polytheistic themes, and then having to go through a period of debate about the trinity until some sort of hash could be cobbled together.

    The making predictions that are fulfilled centuries later is utter rubbish. There are three easy explanations, equally viable, and much more likely than actual predictions based on foreknowledge.

    1) Luck. This is like the Greek Atomists. If one wonders about what might happen if we cut things into ever smaller and smaller pieces it seems to have one of two possible outcomes: either you can keep cutting forever, or there comes some point where you cannot divide further. Whichever turns out to be the case makes that one the lucky guesser. For the latter you postulate atoms. But note that this is not some prescient foretelling of what we call atoms.

    2) Change the past. Post hoc rationalisation or the back-fitting of history. This is where some current even has some slim bearing on a story from the past, so re-write the account of the historic story so that it looks like a prediction of the current events.

    3) Change the present. Inventing a current event to match the prediction – self-fulfilling prophecies. The Messiah construct: Jesus, some simple rebel complaining about the status quo is re-invented by followers and later believers to be the Messiah predicted from the past.

    Of course if you believe all that really is prophesy then you really should believe in Islam too, because exactly the same sorts of claims are made about the Koran.

  9. The discussion seems to have moved on, but to the extent that I’m still having a conversation with Mr. Murphy, I would say that you seem to have conflated the original topic (whether the way in which the canon of the Christian Bible was formed tends to prove that Christianity is not true) with the larger question of whether Christianity is true.

    With respect to the latter: I haven’t made the case that Christianity is true here. I do believe that Christianity is true, but that’s not what we were talking about. I certainly don’t believe that Christianity is true just because the Bible says so; I agree with you that that would be a circular argument. I have made no such argument.

    “So, to spell it out once more: I am not asserting that Christianity is a false religion, and I’ve not provided an argument to prove it false. What I am asserting, based on argument, is that there is not sufficient reason to suppose it is true. One aspect of the problem is the ‘cobbled together’ problem.”

    But your arguments prove too much. To the extent that you were still discussing the original topic—the “‘cobbled together’ problem”—you have suggested both that having a single source and having many sources tend to prove that a religion is not true.

    —First, you said, “It looks like you’re claiming that this super-duper God character was capable enough to perform all this engineering over all those years . . . and yet he wasn’t quite up to making it all rather more straight forward by some super one-off miracle revelation that would last for all time. All just seems a little bit fake.”

    —Then, when I said that several religions (such as Mormonism) claim to offer exactly that (God’s one-time perfect revelation through one man rather than books inspired by God through many men over many centuries), part of your argument against Christianity was that it’s in basically the same category (the one man being Jesus, or Moses, or both).

    This suggests that you’re making the same kind of question-begging argument you seemed to accuse me of: At bottom, you believe (for other reasons that we haven’t had the chance to argue about) that Christianity is not true, and you’re not particular about whether the Bible comes through one man or many men, or the exact process whereby the canon historically was formed.

  10. Chillingworth,

    Perhaps some clarification is in order.

    Title of the post: “A Bad Reason for Disbelieving the Bible”

    Disbeliving what with regard to the Bible?

    That the Bible exists as a book? That there are Christians that use the Bible to varying degrees as either origin, support, affirmation, hint, about their religious beliefs? That the Bible contains some factual information that all hsitorians would agree with to some extent, such as the general and specific historical places and some of the people mentioned in it?

    I don’t see any reason to disbelieve the Bible in any of these respects, and as such it is just one more holy book.

    But I take the title to mean more than that. A bad reason for disbelieving the specifically religious claims in the Bible about God, Jesus, miracles and other claims teased out of it? I think there is very good reason for disbelieving the Bible in this respect, and that the ‘cobbled together’ nature is one contributing reason.

    And it clearly has a direct bearing on the question of whether ‘Christianity is true’. The only meaningful sense of the phrase ‘Christianity is true’ is with regard to its religious claims.

    “I haven’t made the case that Christianity is true here.”

    I don’t think any Christian has, anywhere.

    “I do believe that Christianity is true, but that’s not what we were talking about.”

    Well, it sort of is.

    “I certainly don’t believe that Christianity is true just because the Bible says so”

    I’d be interested to know on what basis you think Christianity is true then. Really, without any reference to anything in the Bible?

    “you have suggested both that having a single source and having many sources tend to prove that a religion is not true.”

    No I haven’t. I’ll clarify.

    I haven’t claimed it has a single source. The dispute as I see it is that Christians don’t see a problem with the multiple sources, ‘over time’. In an earlier response I suggested that because the sources are multiple and spread over time does not mean that the are good independent sources of corroborating evidence but rather stories written by people who are writing to and extending an existing narrative.

    I used the Star Trek stories. If two people, completely independently, came up with Star Trek stories with the same characters, the same general plot lines set in similar settings, then that would be curious and of interest. But we can go to any later author of Star Trek storis and find that he had read and heavily bought into the fiction, the narratives, of earlier Star Trek novels, films and TV programmes. They are not independent sources and so there is nothing special to take from their similarity. One would expect similarity.

    So it is with religious narratives. Anyone who buys into them fully, and then has mental experiences they cannot understand, they will place them in the context of that narrative in order to give them some meaning and understanding. And fellow believers will see how the new story fits into the narrative and will buy into that too. There need be no truth, with regard to the mystical content. Again, I think you’ll agree that this is the case with Mormonism and Scientology – people buy into incredible stories with the slimmest of grounds for doing so.

    There are a couple of problems for long term religious stories.

    The first is that the stories, as a collective, can pick up inconsistencies that one wouldn’t expect if the origin was the direct inspiration of God at work – is he so useless he can’t get a consistent message across? Maybe it’s the fault of the receivers of the message, not getting it quite right? Well maybe they didn’t get it right to the degree that they got it completely wrong and it wasn’t a message from God at all, and that they merely thought it was, given their prior beliefs?

    What about Paul. He wasn’t a Christian. Yes, well Paul had been persecuting Christians, and whatever his experience was, it is quite reasonable to think he was so disturbed that he saw in terms of the Christianity he had been persecuting. Many people on this site will have no trouble thinking that Scientology believers have been duped or have fooled themselves into false belief; and Muslims too. But the believer has a habit of thinking all religious beliefs false, erroneous, except for their own. And when people like Paul have sudden conversion, you think it a genuine experience of God. But that’s exactly what believers of other religions think when they meet sudden converts that put their conversion down to some religious experience.

    The other problem relates to diversions from the religion. Judaism is OT based. Christianity is a diversion. Those that hold to the original and don’t accept the diversion claim the diversion false. Christians see it as an improvement, a clearer message to correct some of the misunderstanding of earlier messages, or a prophesied direct intervention by God. But that’s also the argument we hear from Muslims. Mohammed corrects the error of Christians.

    Each religion takes the cobbled together stories and uses them to extend their current religion, or to branch off into a new one. Sects within the main religions work in the same way.

    The result is that different religions, and different sects within religions, use cobbled together stories that fit what they want to believe, and there is never any corroborating evidence to support the religious claims within these stories. The religious use the fact that multiple stories about he same religion exists as evidence for the truth of the content of these stories. The discrepancies are either glossed over of blamed on misinterpretation – but never the misinterpretation of the current believer making the current claims. There will be Christians commenting here that have quite divergent interpretations of their religion, and each will think they have the right interpretation – but based on their interpretation of the same general set of stories, perhaps with varying emphasis on different ones. But never ever on completely independent corroborating evidence.

    I repeat, the only evidence presented is that which supports the existence of the religion as a social system, but never ever anything that supports the important stuff: the claims to supernatural, or anything actually about God. Telling me what Joshua did, heard, experienced, reported, believed or did, regarding God, is not evidence that God actually did, said or commanded what was reported.

    “At bottom, you believe (for other reasons that we haven’t had the chance to argue about) that Christianity is not true”

    I’ll spell it out:

    It is a religious belief with no supporting evidence of its relevant claims to the divinity of Jesus, miracles, or, most significantly, God. There is simply no reason TO believe it. All supposedly supportive evidence is only ever evidence that prior people believed it too, and is not evidence of the content of their belief. The claims made for evidence are so much like the claims of other distinct religions, like those of competing Abrahamic monotheisms, and of the varying contradictory sects within each religion that one cannot rationally believe one to be true and the others false. The ONLY rational assessment of all religions is that they are all man-made social constructs built on superstition. So, in addition to having no reason TO believe it, if it were the only religious belief system, this latter comparative perspective provides good reason TO NOT believe it. There’s more, regarding God and other deities, cosmology, metaphysics, the capacity to know stuff, and so on, that isn’t directly relevant to this post but is on my blog: http://ronmurp.net.

    “and you’re not particular about whether the Bible comes through one man or many men, or the exact process whereby the canon historically was formed.”

    No, I’m not ‘particular’ about that, in that I don’t see that as the only reason for thinking it a false belief system. But that aspect is significant.

    Scientology is a completely independent creation of one man. Mormonism is too, but leans on Christianity for its base. Islam comes from one man, but leans on Christianity, seeing Jesus as a prophet, and to a greater extent of the OT – people of the book.

    Christianity is trickier, because there is less evidence that it was created specifically by Jesus with the intention of creating a religion separate from Judaism. It seems likely that he saw himself as a Jew, that saw the theological background of his religion applying to all people, not just the Jews. As such he was a rebel. It’s difficult to separate this theological detail from the political and social aspects of his thinking, given the social and political times he lived in. The problem is that we don’t actually know anything of what Jesus said. We have stories, not all consistent, which isn’t a problem with regard to minor detail, but is regarding the meaning of the main message. But the main distinction is that Christianity is a religion started by the followers of Jesus, and not necessarily by him. And the diverse sects of Christianity are further creations of people that followed. They can’t all be true. They are probably all false.

    Judaism is the one religion that has the greater lineage, and were the variation comes in over a long period, going back perhaps 4000 years. Plenty of time for stories to be ‘cobbled together’.

    So, in the end, regarding just Christianity, it is both a collection of stories cobbled together to form the theistic background, which if false (i.e. there is no God) means everything theistic about Christianity is false. But even if God exists, as some deity we know little about, Christianity is clearly a cult religion based on one man, whether he had any say in it or not.

    • “I don’t think any Christian has, anywhere.”

      In an earlier post when you said “Cosmology? What cosmology?” I suspected we were dealing with someone who hasn’t bothered to look into even the beginner-level arguments for God’s existence and interacted with them, and your statement quoted above proves my suspicion.

      “I’d be interested to know on what basis you think Christianity is true then.”

      My guess is that he believes Christianity is true on the basis of the evidence leading to a reasonable conclusion.

      “Really, without any reference to anything in the Bible?”

      Man, it sure would be nice to know what this Murphy fellow thinks and what claims he makes, but it would (somehow) be “circular reasoning” to ask him or read what he’s written. You’re automatically rejecting any claims made in the Bible because the claims are made in the Bible rather than examining the claims based on logic and evidence.

  11. Jordan,

    “The Bible is overwhelmingly corroborated by external evidence that you either haven’t happened across or ignore.”

    I have both come across them and not ignored them. I’ve even given above challenges to some of those you’ve just given me, but you fail to address them. The links you now give simply repeat the same claims, with even less credible ones added. This is Christian apologetics: ignore objections to your ‘evidence’, and simply present the same ‘evidence’ again in some other source.

    What you are engaged in is not making an argument for why the Bible should be treated as a reliable source of information about God or Jesus or miracles or any of the significant features of the Christian religion. You are engaged in link flooding. Multiple links that say the very same thing, or link back to each other. And you fool yourself that there is a wealth of evidence. There isn’t.

    They are not evidence of the truth of the Bible. They are not even evidence about Jesus. They are evidence that some people (e.g. Josephus, Tacitus) reported information on Christians, and reported what Christians claimed.

    This is called hearsay. It is not evidence. This is a fundamental error that Christians CHOOSE to ignore and a game they continue to play.

    I’ve raised objections to Josephus and Tacitus, so why not come back and tell me why you think them reliable. Instead, you give me links to links to links. And where do they end up? …

    • “This is Christian apologetics: ignore objections to your ‘evidence’, and simply present the same ‘evidence’ again in some other source.”

      Your objections, still, are repetitions on the theme “it’s in the Bible, therefore it’s wrong.” The links I provided demonstrate that, when the tools of historical research, combined with other logical and historical evidence, are used to examine the Bible, it’s more reasonable to believe the account it gives is true than false. What level of demonstration of truth are you looking for? A mathematical proof or provision of reasonable certainty? I’ve provided the second, nobody can give you the first.

      Again, you write off evidence about Christianity because the sources are Christian, and on no other grounds. Using your logic, should I write off the criticisms of atheists or should I examine their claims?

  12. Jordan,

    Let’s try some of the links, those actually making some attempt at providing evidence.

    http://carm.org/non-biblical-accounts-new-testament-events-and-or-people

    Surprise! There’s Tacitus and Josephus. Look at all examples on that page. They are not presenting evidence of Jesus. They are presenting their reports of their view of what Christians were claiming. This is not evidence.

    Tale point (1): “Note: There is dispute as to the reliability of the Josephus accounts. However, there is no textual/manuscript reason for doubting them since the extant Greek manuscripts all agree with the texts in question, namely, the quotes shown on this page. However, the reason the quotes are in doubt is that the text in italics in the various quotes; they seem a little too favorable regarding Christ. Also, it appears that the writings of Josephus were transmitted to us through the Christian community.”

    Note the slimy trickery of rhetoric here:

    “there is no textual/manuscript reason for doubting them since…” Yes. There may be no reason to doubt that Josephus heard from Christians about their claims about Jesus, God, the bible. But that’s not evidence of the truth of the Bible and its accounts of Jesus. At very best it can be said that Josephus wasn’t misrepresenting Christian claims.

    But: “Also, it appears that the writings of Josephus were transmitted to us through the Christian community.”

    Double whamy! Not only is Josephus not reporting on the truth of the bible but on what Christians were claiming. And on top of that, it might all be manipulated anyway, so the actual Josephus might not have been that much in agreement with later Christians over what earlier Christians were claiming.

    A quick flip to another page: http://carm.org/regarding-quotes-historian-josephus-about-jesus “The problem with the copies of Antiquities is that they appear to have been rewritten in favor of Jesus and some say too favorable to have been written by a Jew. Add to this that the Christians were the ones who kept and made the copies of the Josephus documents throughout history, and you have a shadow of doubt cast upon the quotes.” But “all is not lost. First of all, there is no proof that such insertions into the text were ever made”. Well, there’s no proof that there ever was a Josephus if you’re going to pluck that excuse out of thin air. And still, it is only ever evidence that there were some Christians that made claims about Jesus. It is not evidence for or about the actual Jesus.

    Back to the list of sources…

    Thallus: his writings aren’t even available, but is presented as citations of others. Third, fourth, who knows haw many times removed. This is only ever evidence that some historian Thallus discussed Christians. Who is disputing that there were Christians? That’s not in dispute. Who is disputing that Christians believed their religion? That is not in dispute. This is no better than me reporting that my mate John reported that C.S Lewis was a Christian and that he wrote some Christian apologetics. That’s not in dispute. But that someone believed, and that someone else reported on that person’s belief, is not evidence of the content of belief.

    If you really think all this rubbish counts as evidence then you should believe that Islam is true when I report to you that there are some people calling themselves Muslims who believe the Koran is the true word of God as revealed to Mohammed. You can’t have your sloppy ‘evidence’ count and that not.

    Pliny: “They the Christians…” He’s reporting on what Christians were telling everyone. This is not evidence of the truth of the Bible.

    Lucian: “Though Lucian opposed Christianity, he acknowledges Jesus…” Well so what. What if some 120-ish CE non-Christian accepted some things about what he was told about what Christians believed, it’s still hearsay. He’s still reporting on what was being claimed. This is not evidence of truth of the bible.

    Let’s move on to another link: http://carm.org/manuscript-evidence

    What utter nonsense. “If the critics want to disregard the New Testament, then they must also disregard other ancient writings by Plato, Aristotle, and Homer.”

    Well, yes we do disregard them in as much as they make extraordinary claims about Gods and the supernatural. We don’t disregard them as sources of actual content. We could quite happily reject Aristotle’s claims to being the author of the ideas about logical reasoning, such as the use of syllogisms, because whoever came up with them they still work as logical arguments. It doesn’t matter if Socrates was an entirely fictional character of Plato because we can still derive wisdom from some (not all) of what Plato wrote. But we can disregard all of them as evidence for gods, because they don’t provide evidence for gods.

    Just as we can be suspicious about the existence of Socrates, so we can about Jesus, but perhaps less so. On the one hand it does appear that there was some active Jewish rebel, who may have been Jesus, who may or may not have made claims himself about his own divinity. It’s quite possible that he did make such claims. But there is no more evidence that those claims, made by him or his followers, about his divinity are true, than there is than Greek gods are true, or that Scientology is true.

    “There are presently 5,686 Greek manuscripts in existence today for the New Testament”

    Well, so what. There are lots of manuscripts that report on what some religious sect. Look at the dates. Many after the Milan Edict when Christianity became tolerated – so of course Christians could write more about their religion then. And once it became the official religion then of course there is more written.

    Does this mean that all the Roman accounts of pagan gods means pagan gods are real, simply because there is evidence that some people believed in them? No. So this page is not evidence of the truth of the Bible but rather evidence that some people, the Christians, believed it. And some of this stuff gets cobbled together into the Bible. How is this page not circular in its references?

    Note that this link says “Evidence and Answers is where you can easily find information defending the Christian faith.” It isn’t. It is really just restating what Christians claimed.

    This page would be significant only if someone made the ridiculous claim that the Bible was inventing in 1800. In that case it would be ancient documentary evidence that the Bible had sources earlier than that. Nothing more.

    Another link:
    http://carm.org/archaeological-evidence-verifying-biblical-cities

    I’ve already addressed this above. This is not evidence of the truth of the Bible. The Bible would be pretty unconvincing even to Christians if it contained entirely fictional places and events. Of course there is some historically valid content. How do we know that? Because we really do have independent evidence of many of these references in the Bible. Many of the places named still exist. The Bible mentions the Romans, and we have plenty of evidence that there were Romans pretty much as described in the Bible.

    But none of this is evidence of the important Christian religion claims of the bible.

    If the claim of Matt’s main post is: “The Bible is a reliable collection of material about life, times and beliefs of peoples from roughly 4000 years ago to just over 2000 years ago.” Then that’s both reasonable but yet amazingly trivial. We could all happily agree on much, disagree on much for lack of corroborative detail, but basically recognise it as giving some important clues about the life, times and beliefs.

    It is accepted by everyone I think that it gives accounts of what many Christians thought, though it is also pretty reasonable to suspect it has been manipulated, selectively constructed, that is cobbled together, as a book that is supposed to support the Christian religion.

    • Writing off evidence again because of the source. The early Christians said it, therefore their accounts should be totally discounted.

      The dispute over Josepheus’s account of Christianity has been known in historical research for a while now and shouldn’t surprise anyone. If you’ll pardon me quoting Wikipedia’s “Josephus on Jesus” article: “The general scholarly view is that while the Testimonium Flavianum is most likely not authentic in its entirety, it is broadly agreed upon that it originally consisted of an authentic nucleus, which was then subject to Christian interpolation or forgery by fourth-century apologist Eusebius or by others. Although the exact nature and extent of the Christian redaction remains unclear, there is broad consensus as to what the original text of the Testimonium by Josephus would have looked like.” (citation numbers removed)

      “Double whamy!”

      Much ancient Greek literature was transmitted through and translated by Christians living around the Mediterranean. Should we scrap Aristotle because those icky Christians got their hands on his work? You have yet to make a positive case for manipulation or lies on the part of early Christians writing about what they experienced (aside from the one passage in Josepheus, which is a fair point), your argument is personal incredulity.

      ” We could quite happily reject Aristotle’s claims to being the author of the ideas about logical reasoning”

      On what grounds? Absent a defeater, there’s no reason to think Aristotle didn’t write what historians claim he’s written and it’s perfectly rational to believe he did. The same goes for claims of history, including Biblical claims and claims about the Greco-Roman pantheon. If the pantheon exists or existed, we should expect logical and/or historical evidence, but we have no logical evidence that doesn’t apply much more soundly to monotheism and defeaters to the belief that the pantheon existed historically.

      “Just as we can be suspicious about the existence of Socrates, so we can about Jesus, but perhaps less so.”

      Again, on what grounds? What defeats the belief that Socrates and Jesus both existed?

      “Well, so what.”

      And you accuse me of ignoring evidence? If nothing else, at least Matthew 7:5 is true.

      “I’ve already addressed this above.”

      As have I. What defeater do you have to believe the ancient Jews and early Christians were lying about what they saw aside from personal incredulity?

  13. Jordan,

    http://carm.org/old-testament-corrupted

    It sceptics doesn’t matter if the OT corrupted or not, regarding the truth of its claims. It does not provide anything to back up its supernatural claims. Again, beware of thee taking the correctness of some historical facts to imply the truth of its supernatural claims. Otherwise Mary Poppins is real because the story is set in London.

    “Jesus’ testimony is important due to his unique claims.”

    No! Circular reference! Bible tells us about Jesus, believe what the bible tells us about Jesus telling us about the Bible.

    And, you do not know they are his claims. And even if they were, he is simply echoing what any pious Jew would have told you.

    This whole page would only be relevant if we e=were claiming the Bible was written in 1800. All this is only giving us evidence that an OT existed for a long time. It is not evidence of the truth of its supernatural content. If it were then Egyptian hieroglyphics would be evidence of Ra.

    This is are really poor stuff, as evidence of the truth of the bible.

    It’s actually good evidence that it is a collection of stories from religious myth, cobbled together to support that myth.

    • Again, personal incredulity. We can take a look at logical evidence for God, examine his nature, apply it to the Bible and make a reasonable claim that if He exists, it’s reasonable to believe He inserted himself into History.

      “And, you do not know they are his claims.”

      There are no good reasons to think they aren’t His claims.

      “And even if they were, he is simply echoing what any pious Jew would have told you.”

      Jesus butted heads for three years with pious Jews over scripture and it’s right interpretation and application. Jesus’s claims were nothing short of radical. No Jew would claim what Jesus claimed:

      http://www.crossrhythms.co.uk/forum/?topic=12538

      “If it were then Egyptian hieroglyphics would be evidence of Ra.”

      There are defeaters to belief in the Egyptian pantheon, and no defeaters-to-the-defeaters. It is reasonable to believe the Egyptian pantheon doesn’t exist.

  14. Jordan,

    Let’s go to another of your links: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-evidence-for-jesus

    Well what a surprise, William Lane Craig.

    “The so-called apocryphal gospels are forgeries which came much later and are for the most part elaborations of the four New Testament gospels.”

    Well, now Craig is using the very same arguments that his critics use about his Gospels. He’s happy to gloss over the fact that his Gospels are written about Christian beliefs some time after the actual events, and that some are clearly suspicious at best, but he asserts categorically that the apocryphal gospels are forgeries. He doesn’t like it when we suggest his gospels are not evidence but is happy to assert it of these.

    “The Jewish historian Josephus is especially interesting.”

    Well, no kidding. Josephus again. Remember, at worse, Josephus is a fraudulent document written by Christians that merely reports on what Christians believed and that they speak of a man Jesus. At best it is a genuine report of what Josephus thought Christians believed about a man called Jesus. Josephus has heard of Jesus and John the Baptist. Where’s the evidence he met these people? Why aren’t we supposing he got their details from Christians?

    “There have also been interesting archaeological discoveries as well bearing on the gospels. For example, in 1961 the first archaeological evidence concerning Pilate was unearthed in the town of Caesarea” – Well, yes. Nobody is disputing that the Bible contains some factual references about times, places and people. This is not evidence of the truth of the Bible. Without any accurate stuff the Bible would clearly be fiction. But claiming it is true because it contains some factual stuff is like claiming Mary Poppins is true because it references parts of London known to exist. This is childish stuff.

    Burden of proof: “Are they innocent until proven guilty or guilty until proven innocent? Sceptical scholars almost always assume that the gospels are guilty until proven innocent”

    “But I want to list five reasons why I think we ought to assume that the gospels are reliable until proven wrong”

    Reliable about what? Proved wrong about what?

    1) That the bible contains some factual information about places and people, like Juruselem, Pilot? Yes, there is corroborating evidence about things like this.

    2) That the man Jesus existed? This is sketchy. At best there is evidence of Jewish rebel who was stirring up trouble.

    3) That Jesus said all it is claimed he said? The only evidence that Jesus made claims about his own divinity are the reports of later Christians, and there is no evidence that they did not get their information from the same sources. There’s the issue in Roman Catholicism (not sure if it still applies) that any the sanctity of a priest depends on that of his ordainer and those going back in time. If you were married by a priest, and it turned out his ordaining Bishop, or his in turn, were not legitimate,, then you are not truly married in the eyes of God. Not sure if this still applies, but the point here is that this is the nature of the Gospels: they all go back to someone reporting from someone on this Christian religion. We have only the words of the later gospel writers that what they heard about Jesus came from authoritative sources. Of course they are lost in time.

    4) That there is a God, and a divine Jesus, and that the Bible reports fact in these matters. Not a jot of evidence.

    The problem is that WLC, and all other Christians, use (1) and (2), and then make great leaps to claim that (1) and (2) are support for (3) and (4). It’s utter nonsense.

    WLC is a dishonest rhetorician with some atrociously disgusting apologetics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol-A_SU3m5c

    And you can go on giving me links to WLC, such as your next one, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol-A_SU3m5c, and I can keep giving you objections to his arguments, and links to objections to his arguments. But if you’re simply going to keep giving me stuff that repeats the same rubbish without actually answering the specifics of my objections then you’re just going round in circles.

    • “Well what a surprise, William Lane Craig.”

      Shocker, I cite eminent Christian philosophers to support my arguments, or as you call it, “link-flooding.”

      “Well, now Craig is using the very same arguments that his critics use about his Gospels.”

      The difference being that the criticisms directed at the apocryphal gospels actually stick. They contradict earlier (and thus reasonably assumed to be more accurate) sources. This is expanded upon later in the article.

      “Why aren’t we supposing he got their details from Christians?”

      Why would that have any bearing on the truth of their claims? You’re an atheist, supporting an atheist position. Should I write off your claims and criticisms as merely being partisan nonsense? You seem to be under the impression that early Christians had something to gain by spreading the gospel. If they did, that could certainly lend credence to the idea that they were lying, but unless you count beatings, lashings, immolation and being thrown to the lions* as a plus, this is a dubious notion.

      “Reliable about what? Proved wrong about what?”

      That Jesus lived, worked miracles, died on the cross and was raised again. In other words, the central claims of the gospels.

      “This is sketchy.”

      No, it isn’t. I’ve demonstrated before that there’s no good reason to think that the man Jesus of Nazareth didn’t exist.

      “The only evidence that Jesus made claims about his own divinity are the reports of later Christians, and there is no evidence that they did not get their information from the same sources.”

      The original gospels, in essentially their current form, were likely written around 60-80AD (some scholars suggest as early as 52AD, but that seems a bit optimistic). Again, what reason do you give to think that Jesus did not claim what Christians say he claimed?

      “That there is a God, and a divine Jesus, and that the Bible reports fact in these matters. Not a jot of evidence.”

      It’s clear you’ll reject whatever evidence anyone provides, so why bother? Why don’t you tell me what kind of evidence you’re looking for, and I’ll do my best to look it up?

      “The problem is that WLC, and all other Christians, use (1) and (2), and then make great leaps to claim that (1) and (2) are support for (3) and (4). It’s utter nonsense.”

      Your objection is based solely on your personal incredulity.

      “WLC is a dishonest rhetorician with some atrociously disgusting apologetics:”

      If you want to demonstrate what a villain Craig is, you really shouldn’t post a debate where his opponent is acting like a child. Again, your objection is personal dissatisfaction. How is Craig’s rhetoric, dialectic or evidence he presented “disgusting”?

      “And you can go on giving me links to WLC, such as your next one, and I can keep giving you objections to his arguments, and links to objections to his arguments.”

      Okay, great, that’s exactly what debate is. Just because an argument or piece of evidence has an objection doesn’t make it automatically wrong, nor does it automatically give anyone cause to doubt the argument or evidence. Descartes had a hypothetical objection to the idea that what he was seeing was actually real. For a reasonable person, should this do anything to persuade us that what we experience is not real?

      “But if you’re simply going to keep giving me stuff that repeats the same rubbish without actually answering the specifics of my objections then you’re just going round in circles.”

      What specific objections? “It’s in the Bible, it’s wrong!” is your objection. I’ve provided reasons to believe the Bible is sound history with external sources and you’ve rejected them because you don’t want to believe the central point is true. Your objections aren’t sound.

  15. Jordan,

    “As myself and others have pointed out there’s plenty of evidence to demonstrate the truth of the Bible’s claims, ”

    No you haven’t. You’ve been making assertions or providing links that make assertions, some of which I’ve objected to; and you have not only not replied to but have re-asserted them in the form of et more links to the same stuff.

    “none of which you’ve sought to refute, relying, again, on the genetic fallacy and ruling out reliable historical information simply because it’s contained within the pages of a compendium.”

    I’ve explained why it’s not the genetic fallacy and why Christian apologetics fit that fallacy better. Now you have not reponded to my argyument but merely restated your own assertion.

    “Theology is a system of beliefs and can be developed and extracted from stories,”

    Well, yes. That’s the problem. They are beliefs extracted from earlier beliefs, with no evidence to support the earlier beliefs. They are myths built on myths. This is demonstrably so, given the ancient and modern lack of any evidence for any of the supernatural claims. You continually mistake the stating of myths as evidence in support of the truth of those myths. Something you refuse to do regarding other religions. You believe your myths for the very same reasons you should believe others, or you disbelieve other myths in just the way you should disbelieve yours.

    “but stories about God aren’t necessarily theological.”

    Of course they are. The clue is in the name: ‘theo’, ‘theism’: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=theist.

    Theology is merely the arguing of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It’s speculative myth built on speculative myth; the construction of ever more ridiculous arguments intended to apologise for prior ridiculous arguments that are seen to be ridiculous.

    “The stories of Norse gods aren’t corroborated by physical or historical evidence.”

    Well, Norsemen believed in them and told stories about them. That’s all you’ve got for Christianity. That’s the point I’m making.

    “You have yet to address one historical claim on any other grounds.”

    I’ve addressed the historical claims. where they match genuinely independent corroborating evidence I accept them. I accept that when the Bible tells us there were Romans that there were actually Romans. When it mentions Jerusalem I accept that it’s referring to the Jerusalem we know. I accept that Biblical content because there is other evidence. I’ve given plenty of reasons now why supernatural stuff is unevidenced and why the ‘external’ sources you refer to are offering nothing but evidence that some people believed there were Christians, but give no evidence of the truth of the belief of the Christians.

    “A simple google search reveals reams of evidence and counter-evidence for the claims in the Bible, none of which you’ve interacted with.”

    Well, I can only interact with what I’m offered. You hadn’t offered anything. Now you have. But it happens to be the same old stuff that we’ve seen many times before. And it turns out that it is NEVER reams of evidence. It is REAMS alright, of the same regurgitated stuff. Always with Josephus at the lead. And all it reveals (if it’s really his genuine reports) is that he’s heard Christians tell their stories. It’s not evidence of Jesus that corroborates Christian reports, but reports of those Christian reports. It merely corroborates that there were Christians and that they followed what they claimed to be Jesus.

    “It doesn’t follow that because some legends contain historical tid-bits that therefore everything written more than a few hundred years ago is false. ”

    Your right it doesn’t. But that’s not the point I’m making. The point I’m making, by analogy, is your claim (rather the claims you refer to in links) that the historically accurate details in the Bible is not evidence of its supernatural claims.

    “Why are four biographies, multiple letters, writings of early Christians and texts by historians Tacitus and Josephus not enough to qualify the existence of Jesus?”

    Because they report on what Christians say about Jesus. There is nothing in those writings that demonstrates that the information contained therein about Jesus actually came from first hand or quite separate independent sources. As such it is nothing more than Christian hearsay. Look, I can make a statement, “Harry Potter was a young wizard.” It’s a statement about a someone JK Rowling told me about in a book. When Josephus writes words that contain a reference to Jesus there is no indication that he is writing about anyone other person he necessarily believed existed, or had evidence existed. It is clear that he is writing about Christians and what they believed. The same is true of the other sources. This is hearsay.

    “The evidence that Jesus of Nazareth lived is virtually uncontested among historians specializing in the relevant area of history.”

    It is not virtually uncontested. Your words here hide much nuance. It may be accepted there was a Jewish rebel. It is not at all clear that he said any of the worlds put into his mouth. The problem here is that research is biased by Christian apologetics that works in an entirely different way than other research.

    Remember, a historian of other facts can make assertions that are later proved to be wrong. That’s not a problem. They correct their history. Not so with Christian apologist researches. They are always looking for affirmation and twist evidence that is inconvenient. The same very small number of sources are rehashed, with thousands if not millions of cross references all leading back to a very few examples that don’t stand up to any scrutiny that justifies the Christian belief. Even finding there was an actual man called Jesus is not evidence for the Christian belief based around him.

    “Why are four biographies, multiple letters, writings of early Christians and texts by historians Tacitus and Josephus not enough to qualify the existence of Jesus?”

    Because the references are minute and are merely references to what Christians were claiming. If I write my biography and it contains references to my discussions with Christians that is not evidence of either the existence of Jesus or of any of the supernatural stuff. It is only ever evidence that I claim I had discussions with Christians about their beliefs. It’s such a poor argument to claim these biographies, not all sure to be genuine in detail, are evidence of the truth of the claims of the bible.

    “Which is when history is written, unless you have some insight on how to write history before it happens.”

    You miss the point. The point isn’t that prescience is the alternative, but that records from the time are better. There are no records from the time of Jesus about Jesus. There are no independent sources. The only sources you keep offering are the writings of Christians written when the Christian story is under way. Whether the autobiographies are of Christians reporting on their Christian beliefs, or other people reporting on what Christians believed, they are written post-events, by some considerable time when the myth is already under way.

    “Yet, we have four separate biographies, and his constant reference in letters that date within a few years after His death on the cross.”

    Again, once a myth is under way then there will be autobiographies from believers and references to them in letters. Of course they communicate if they want to perpetuate the religion, if they believe it, whether their beliefs are true or false.

    “He is easily distinguishable from other attempted messiahs.”

    Only by the myth constructed over time. Some myths are constructed much later. So much of the Roman Catholic religion is made up by popes and others that has nothing to do with early Christianity, and yet believers believe it. That people believe stuff doesn’t make it true. Else you’d believe Islam too.

    • “No you haven’t.”

      I’m providing links to how history is done and why the Bible qualifies as history, and that its claims are more reasonably true than false, as long as one doesn’t a priori reject the possibility that God exists. You continue to reject the evidence I provide because a) it doesn’t meet your personal criteria and b) other possible explanations exist to explain the claims (which says nothing about whether or not the alternatives are more reasonable than the original claim). Neither of these are good grounds to rejecting the consideration of the Bible as history and examining the claims along with the battery of other evidence supporting Christian theism.

      “That’s all you’ve got for Christianity. ”

      The evidence I and others have presented in this thread demonstrate otherwise, but you refuse to interact with it, choosing instead to write it off on irrational grounds.

      “I’ve addressed the historical claims.”

      You’ve rejected the historical claims from the outset, settling for selective hyper-skepticism in regards to the Bible.

      “I’ve given plenty of reasons now why supernatural stuff is unevidenced”

      Pooh-poohing evidence that supports your opponent’s claims isn’t providing reasons why something doesn’t exist or didn’t happen. I’ve reread all of your posts in this thread, and aside from your syllogism regarding the circularity of the bible and examples of the genetic fallacy, you haven’t made any positive arguments for your viewpoint, you’ve merely presented alternatives to the Christian position without giving good reasons to think the alternatives are true or more reasonable to believe.

      “Well, I can only interact with what I’m offered.”

      If by interact you mean dismiss without good grounds or given positive reasons to think the gospel accounts are fabrications, you’ve certainly done that. Presenting an alternative explanation doesn’t undermine the original position unless the alternative is more reasonable true than the original. It’s certainly possible that the gospel accounts are utter fabrications, concocted by a madman in a fever dream, but is it more likely than the explanation that the gospels are accurate accounts of the life and works of Jesus?

      “The problem here is that research is biased by Christian apologetics that works in an entirely different way than other research.”

      Now who’s making assertions? Do you have any evidence to support this claim that New Testament and other Biblical scholarship is so tainted by partisan ideologues that the field should be abandoned entirely? I’m certainly not going to contest that a handful of Christian researchers have let their beliefs taint their work, but that same criticism can be turned right back at the atheists. How many have a priori rejected, say, the resurrection account because they don’t believe in God and therefore cannot believe in miracles?

      “Even finding there was an actual man called Jesus is not evidence for the Christian belief based around him.”

      Again, you’re rejecting evidence. Determining the man Jesus of Nazareth existed lends credence to the idea that the gospels are true accounts. This isn’t SUFFICIENT evidence, but it is evidence that contributes to the position that the gospels reflect what actually happened. The same is true about Pilate, the pool of Bethesda, etc. They all contribute to the case.

      “You miss the point.”

      I was making a lame joke, not a point. The Gospels date to 60-80AD, putting them well within the generally accepted time frame for a reliable historical account.

      “The only sources you keep offering are the writings of Christians written when the Christian story is under way.”

      You haven’t given a good reason to reject these sources before even considering them. By the time the gospels were written, there simply wasn’t enough time for them to take on mythic properties.

      http://y-jesus.com/can-the-new-testament-be-used-as-evidence-for-jesus-existence/

      And a criticism of the idea that legends surrounding Jesus didn’t have time to develop:
      http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/2013/kom378030.shtml

      “So much of the Roman Catholic religion is made up by popes and others that has nothing to do with early Christianity”

      So much of the Roman Catholic religion is doctrine specific to the denomination, methodology for how the Christian religion is to be practiced, and the logical supports for their specific practices, or the Catechism.

      “That people believe stuff doesn’t make it true.”

      Neither of us are making that claim. I think you and I both want to know not only what people believe but why they believe it and if their reasons are good reasons.

  16. Jordan,

    Cosmology…

    “Kalam cosmological argument, the fine tuning argument, and others I’m sure I’m forgetting incorporate cosmological evidence with strong theistic implications to contribute to the case for God’s existence.”

    This is more William Lane Craig stuff that’s been dealt with so easily so many times. I’ve answered these on this very blog.

    “The Kalam argument is William Lane Craig’s baby, I recommend his work for a run-down on what the argument entails.”

    Read it. Many times. Heard it. Many times. I can easily find fault with it. But you need to look now for arguments against the Kalam cosmological argument. It’s no good that this is thrown up all the time when it’s so easily dealt with

    Start here: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/William_Lane_Craig#Kalam_Cosmological_Argument

    But basically the problem with all these boils down to this: Humans have limited knowledge about the internal nature of this universe. We have made some inferences about its early stages based on cosmological observations, particle physics, and much theory that has not been verified by observation. At the very most we can infer reasonable that our universe expanded from some prior state. What we have absolutely zero information about is what actually came before, or even if that notion actually means anything. We have no idea about how many universes there might be, or even how many dimensions they all might exist in, though there are many speculative theories. We have no clue why causality appears to work. We don’t even really understand the fundamental nature of time. No one, and especially jumped up apologists like WLC, and that other fraud Alvin Plantinga, have the faintest clue about how our universe came into existence. The arguments are philosophically poor, and have no empirical evidence to support any of the premises. Everything from these clowns is based on the one presupposition with no justification: there is a God. It’s hopeless. And it’s bogus, because although WLC and others make these arguments as if they stand alone, they wouldn’t be making them if they didn’t believe in the bible in the first place.

    The upshot is that the Bible and all its myths, that cobbled together collection of inter-related myths, is the source of Christian belief and it is entirely bogus when it is claimed that the bible is not the one source (cobbled together from compliant myths and those massaged to fit the story). Nothing you have provided demonstrates anything more than this.

    “You still have the universe which requires an explanation”

    But you don not have that explanation. None of us do. This is the God of the Gaps argument. We can’t explain it so our mythical God does. Where do you get the story about this mythical God, the Koran? No, in your case the bible. It all comes back to the bible as the source of Christian claims, and the bible is cobbled together collection of ancient myths and some history, which without the history even the most faithful of Christians would have a hard time explaining.

    • I’ll deal with the claims made in the wiki one by one:

      “The first premise of Craig’s argument is flawed.”

      The author of the article cites certain quantum events being “uncaused.” This is not the case. As of August 2014, the causes of certain quantum events are causally indeterminate, not uncaused. Further, this flawed objection relies on a misunderstanding of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. There are also fully deterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics which explain the data equally well.

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

      “The second premise of his argument is also flawed.”

      The author provides alternative models of the early universe but provides no support for them. This does nothing to dissuade one away from the Standard cosmological model. As it stands, the best explanation (and the one for which the totality of the evidence supports) is the Standard model; that the universe came into being, seemingly from nothing, just shy of 14 billion years ago.

      i) Before the expansion started, the universe existed in a stable state eternally.

      There’s no reason to think that a stable quantum state could exist from eternity then suddenly fluctuate into the universe we find ourselves in.

      ii) The multiverse could have existed before our universe started.

      Where are all these other universes? Did the author loose them?

      iii) There could have been a Big crunch that finished occurring before the big bang

      This is contradicted by the cosmological constant and the evidence that the universe has been expanding for its entire existence. Further, unless the universe were exquisitely fine-tuned to allow expansions and collapses, the universe would simply collapse into a super-massive black hole. Additionally, no mechanism has ever even been proposed that would allow a universe to collapse, then re-expand.

      iv or iiii if you’re a Medieval clock-maker) Something else entirely could have existed.

      What an objection! I concede the point and hang my head in shame.

      “Even if we reason that the universe has a cause, we know nothing about the nature of this cause; certainly not enough to ascribe godhood (with properties such as awareness and intelligence) to it.”

      The Kalam posits no such thing, merely that the universe has a cause. Ascribing properties to this first cause is the job of a different argument.

      “Begging the question”

      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/barkers-objection-to-the-kalam-argument

      “Compositional errors”

      “[Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence (either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause)] is the premise that the atheist typically rejects. Sometimes atheists will respond to premise 1 by saying that it is true of everything in the universe but not of the universe itself. But this response commits what has been aptly called “the taxicab fallacy.” For as the nineteenth century atheist philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer quipped, premise 1 can’t be dismissed like a hack once you’ve arrived at your desired destination!

      It would be arbitrary for the atheist to claim that the universe is the exception to the rule. The illustration of the ball in the woods showed that merely increasing the size of the object to be explained, even until it becomes the universe itself, does nothing to remove the need for some explanation of its existence.”

      http://www.reasonablefaith.org/argument-from-contingency (search for “taxicab fallacy” within the page)

      “Defining essentials”

      Dr. Craig has defined his terms throughout his work on the Kalam, this isn’t a valid objection but a request for clarification.

      “Who created God?”

      The author misunderstands causality, aseity and necessary existence, ignoring other logical evidence for God and miscasting Him as a minor, caused, being on the basis of His sentience. I think his argument is valid, but unsound.

      You’ve presented plausible-sounding alternatives. Fantastic, but the question is not and has never been whether or not the arguments for God’s existence are the only explanations, but whether they are the most rational to believe, given the evidence. Given the argument, the supporting evidence, and lack of a good defeater, I find the Kalam entirely rational evidence for a first cause.

      But of course there are alternatives. Bishop George Berkeley held that reality doesn’t really exist, that there are only minds and ideas in those minds. Should we believe this? (One of my favorite authors and small-time Christian philosophers, John C Wright does hold that position, actually http://www.scifiwright.com/2007/12/immaterialism-the-long-answer/)

      “We have no clue why causality appears to work.”

      We know that it does from our uniform and repeated experience and can reason soundly from there.

      “The arguments are philosophically poor, and have no empirical evidence to support any of the premises.”

      The Kalam, as I’ve demonstrated, is philosophically valid, evidentially sound and is supported by our current understanding of cosmology (disregarding wholly speculative multiverse hypotheses).

      “Everything from these clowns is based on the one presupposition with no justification: there is a God.”

      THAT would indeed be poor philosophy, however the Unmoved Mover or First Cause arguments date back to that excellent Christian philosopher, Aristotle. God is not a presupposition or specially plead, His existence and nature are conclusions. You haven’t demonstrated why any of their arguments beg the question, you just call them names.

      ” And it’s bogus, because although WLC and others make these arguments as if they stand alone…”

      I’ve never heard make any cosmological argument in isolation as if it were sufficient (the Kalam, as I’ve mentioned, is not sufficient to arrive at the Christian God). Cosmological arguments are usually presented as part of a battery of arguments and evidences for the existence of God.

      “…they wouldn’t be making them if they didn’t believe in the bible in the first place.”

      Aristotle believed the Bible? Was he doing that future-history thing?

      “But you don not have that explanation.”

      I have a rational explanation that fits the current state of the evidence and supported by valid logic. As the evidence changes, so will the argument to accommodate it. If the argument can no longer accommodate the evidence, it will be discarded. And again a screed against the Bible.

  17. Jordan,

    “you still have the history of the Jewish people, you still have Jesus of Nazareth” – The Bible.There is nothing about the Jewish people regarding their theistic beliefs that does not come from the OT, or other sources based on it. There is nothing significant in Christianity that doesn’t come from the NT, backed up by the OT. Myths built on myths. claims to external sources only ever come back to what Christians are telling them, based on the Christian bible, some of it as it is being constructed. All circular. All self-referencing, even if passed off as some ‘external sources’.

    “You forgot the gentiles, and they were convinced Jesus was the Messiah based on evidence of His resurrection.”

    What gentiles? How do we know about the gentiles? More biblical stuff? More of the bible is true because the bible says so, or the bible is true because hte bible tells us about people who say the bible is true? Or here are some ‘external’ sources telling us about what Christians believed, so what Christians believed must be true?

    It’s a comedy of errors.

    “Nobody believed Jesus was the Messiah until after his follows believed He appeared to them.”

    How do we know he appeared to them? It says so in the bible. Corroborating evidence? Not from the bible?

    “The Messiah was supposed to do battle against Rome and liberate Israel. Jesus got nailed to a tree. As you said, messianic figures were a dime a dozen.”

    And Jesus was just one more. Got nailed to tree. Exactly. And Mohammed was some guy of who it is claimed that he claimed had a vision and a revelation of the final word of God. But the Koran is believed to be true too. That there was a prophecy, and that some guy dies, and that some later followers attribute his death to him being the Messiah is really not helping your case.

    • As I’ve pointed out up-thread, your rejection of the Bible as worthy of consideration as historical evidence (strangling any further argument in the cradle) is irrational. You’ve presented no sound reason to reject the Bible as valid history aside from your assertion that citing the Bible as evidence of what was going on in first-century Jerusalem is circular reasoning. If the Bible were presented alone, in a vacuum, you’d have a point, but your syllogism presented above is unsound. The methods of historical research and textual criticism can be applied to the Bible, just the same as any other work, and the claims can be assessed alongside other lines of evidence that support or refute the Bible’s claims. Absent a defeater, there’s no good reason for rejecting what the Bible has to say about the events of Jesus of Nazareth.

      http://www.bible-researcher.com/title.html

      “And Jesus was just one more. Got nailed to tree. Exactly.”

      But wait, I thought Jesus didn’t really exist?

      This was in response to your claim that Jesus was accepted as Messiah as part of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I demonstrated that this is not the case. First-century Jews had no reason to think that Jesus was the Messiah until after He appeared to his followers after being resurrected. The notion that Jesus was a convenient choice to fulfill the prophecy is false.

      At this point in the thread, I don’t think anything I say is going to persuade you not to reject the Bible out of hand, which cuts any argument I, or any New Testament scholar or historian, could hope to make for the life of Jesus. You further reject first-cause arguments on the accusation that proponents of the arguments presuppose their conclusions when this is simply not the case. I don’t think either of us are going to profit from this discussion any longer (though going over RationalWiki’s objections to Dr. Craig’s Kalam argument was fun).

  18. Jordon,

    If we could focus on Josephus, could you explain what type of evidence you think it is, and what you think it is evidence of, exactly.

    Phrases like ‘evidence of the bible’ aren’t very clear.

    Here’s how I see Josephus. These are two extremes, and perhaps it lies somewhere in between. In the following I’m assuming there was a Jewish man called Jesus. I’m not using any of theis to actual claim that Jesus the man did not exist.

    1) The source documents that we are calling Josephus are the actual writings of Josephus.

    2) The source documents that we are calling Josephus are based on the actual writings of Josephus, but have been altered by Christians to give an explicit reference to Jesus.

    That, so far, are the two possibilities covered by scholars, as you yourself seem to agree, given your quote from wiki. At best, that wiki quote suggests (2) is the case, but that there is enough of the ‘core’ of the original not to depart too far from (1).

    And whether we read Josephus as (1) or (2), what is it actually saying? What is the content of Josephus?

    Josephus, the documentary source, as it stands right now, reports very little detail, but does actually mention what we are presuming to be our man Jesus. Some scholars, such as Richard Carrier, dispute that. But even if we put that aside and presume the original was really reporting on our man Jesus, what is it actually reporting?

    At best the original Josephus is reporting about what Christians, and perhaps other observers of Christians, were saying about Jesus. That alone makes it hearsay, not evidence.

    Did Josephus meet Jesus? No evidence of that. Did Josephus read any official documents about Jesus, such as might have been prepared for his execution? No evidence of that. All we have then is this hearsay.

    Even if Josephus is reporting accurately what Christians were telling him, it is not independent evidence of the Bible, but only independent evidence that there were Christians telling the Christian story at that time.

    Here’s a timeline for Josephus. He’s born after the death of Jesus, so no direct evidence about anything relating to Jesus. He’s a pious Jew, associated with Jewish groups. There’s a lot going on.

    Let’s look at some of the text (http://www.josephus.org/#testimonium download of the Antiquities of the Jews)

    This is what we have now, with what we assume is the Christian adaptation:

    “3. Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, (9) those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; (10) as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful
    things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”

    Suppose the original had said this, or something like it:

    “3. Now there was said to be about this time Jesus, a wise man, who the Christians say was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. They said he was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, (9) those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for, they said he appeared to them alive again the third day; (10) as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”

    You can see how a Christian adaptation still leaves the ‘core’ intact. Not that scholars ever say that the ‘core’ actually is.

    It’s all such a flaky mess.

    Either way, what is it telling us? It is telling us either what Josephus really thought that the Christians believed and he did too; or it is merely telling us what Christians believed. Either way, he gets his material from Christians. This is hearsay, even if he actually wrote the current version and believed it, even if it wasn’t fudged by Christian adaptation.

    What is it not telling us? It is not additional evidence of the supernatural claims of being true!

    It’s bad enough that you think this is evidence of the actual existence of Jesus. Suppose Josephus had added, “Though these Christian reports are everywhere, official reports I’ve seen said he didn’t do anything special at all, …” Do you think the Christian’s would have let anything like that stay?

    But, you say, what evidence do you have that such distortions took place? Well, I don’t need explicit evidence of that. The evidence that it looks like it’s been changed is enough to cast doubt on it. Even so, I can still accept it as evidence that Christians believed in a man they called Jesus. It is not evidence of his divinity. It is not evidence that ‘the Bible is true’ in the meaningful supernatural claims it makes.

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