Tuesday, 26 June 2012

@JesseLeeEvans Let's discuss this here

The claim: William Lane Craig's three arguments for the existence of a historical Jesus; the resurrection appearances, the empty tomb, and the origin of the Christian faith. 

The players: @mygodlesslife, @JesseLeeEvans and @TedTheAtheist

Highlights of the text;

  • "The resurrection touches history as a tangent touches a circle-that is, without really touching it."  - Karl Barth
  • And modern man cannot be reasonably asked to believe in nature miracles before becoming a Christian. Therefore, the miraculous elements of the gospel must be demythologized to reveal the true Christian message [So in order to believe in miracles, one must accept them as true on faith alone to prove that they are true, but only to those that have already made the leap themselves? If this is true, then you present a tautology, not truth or evidence; you believe because you have made a concious decision to believe despite evidence]



  1. So we are told that there are three facts which support the existence of Jesus. I'd love to hear what these facts are from him, and why he feels they should be scientifically accepted.

    1. He seems to be confusing the facts, as he calls them, with the claim.

      WLC's argument id that the historicity of Jesus, the resurrection and the empty tomb are the facts that prove the claim of the facts.

      And around and around we go.

    2. First, this presentation is mixed up. The three historical facts dealt with in Craig's essay are given in support of the resurrection of Jesus, not to establish His existence. To claim that Jesus neve existed is to ignore what the overwhelming majority of historians agree is a historical fact.

      Second, this is a topic dealing with historic events and people. Scientific evidence doesn't really figure in.

    3. Well, if we don't know he existed, we certainly can't touch upon any supposed resurrection of his.
      I don't care if you feel that somehow disputing the claim of Jesus' existence goes against what "other people have concluded". That's irrelevant.
      What's relevant is what evidence we have *OF* Jesus' existence.
      There might be other people that decide that they feel Jesus existed, but without sufficient evidence, who cares what they say?
      Have you ever been to http://jesusneverexisted.com/ ?

    4. Yup. Corrected that.

      Now, I don't know one way or the other whether Jesus existed or not, which is why I like to examine the evidence. Let's look at what you have provided us with so far.

      Er.. none.

      What you have done is this;

      1. Claim you believe he did exist
      2. Make an unsubstantiated claim that 'the overwhelming majority of historians agree he existed

      Well, 1. can be taken for granted. You wouldn't be here otherwise. 2. Not even a simple majority of biblical historians believe he did, let alone a majority of all historians. The fact is that positions on Jesus' existence by biblical historians is evenly split http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_Jesus#cite_note-128

      Your second point introduces dealing with historic events and people, but you do nothing to state what or who they are for us to establish the veracity of their actual existence.

      This far, I think we have got to the point where it would appear that you would like to discuss, not the historical Jesus, but his resurrection, the empty tomb and the origin of the Christian faith. If I am right, please continue. If I am wrong, tell me what you would like to argue for.

    5. Tris, you seem to have misunderstood the essay.

      Claim: Jesus of Nazareth was resurrected.

      Historical facts (evidence):
      1) the tomb of Jesus was found empty on the Sunday after his burial.
      2) many people had what they believed were actual encounters with the physically resurrected Jesus.
      3) the Christian faith started in hostile Jerusalem and grew rapidly among the Jews.

      Those are the three facts, put in my own words, that were presented. The essay gives historical and religious context for first century Israel. It also gives logical reasons why the various explanations that deny the resurrection are insufficient to explain these three facts.

      The quotes you included from the essay (if I'm not mistaken. I'm out and on my iPhone so can't confirm at the moment), are from previous, discredited theological positions that were abandoned when people started to seriously look at the historical evidence.

    6. Nice line of thought there, Ted, but I feel it is moot if Jesse is not going to use Jesus' historicity as a part of his defence of the resurrection, the empty tomb and the origins of Christianity. If he succeeds in that, it would be reasonable to accept his historicity anyway.

      So, Jesse, how do you prove the resurrection, the empty tomb and the origins of Christianity without begging the question of Jesus' historicity?

    7. 1) The "tomb of Jesus" is a story, and in no way verified by history.
      2) This is in the Bible, and you can't use the Bible stories to prove itself.
      3) Irrelevant.

      Those are not facts, and although 3) might be true, it's irrelevant when we want evidence that Jesus actually existed.

      Yes, we know that Craig might be talking about the resurrection, but we are speaking to YOU about the evidence FOR Jesus' existence. That's what we are after. The three sentences you gave above do not assist us to that end.

    8. OK. You have presented some 'evidence'. Let's examine it.

      1. The empty tomb's whereabouts are not even known to this day. For all we know, if it is discovered, we may find his skeleton there. An empty tomb in itself is better evidence for the fact that its proposed inhabitant did not get laid to rest there. Surely you would admit that if you bought a bottle of wine only to find it contained nothing at all, you would come to the rational conclusion that the bottle was not filled prior to sealing, rather than assuming that it had been filled, and that its contents had miraculously turned into the divine spirit of Jesus that ascended to Heaven? As an argument, it is inadequate, as a statement of fact, it is risible.

      2. 1 in 3 Americans believe that thy have been abducted by aliens. The 'might is right' argument, especially concerning that which has not been established empirically, can be easily countered by the fact that there are considerably more people that have not believed that they were contacted by the physically resurrected Jesus. Yes, yes. I know I just used the might is right argument myself, but it does highlight its absurdity, don't you think. For every Christian that claims one thing, there is a statistical likelihood that at least 3 others will counter that claim.

      3. Not quite. There were no 'Christians' as such, just preter-messianic Jews. Sure, they would have been persecuted by their Jewish and Roman peers, but this is because they were bucking the 'party lines' that existed at the time. As it was, it did not grow rapidly, although the persecution in places like Jerusalem certainly helped spread the new faith across the Mediterranean - notably Antioch - where Paul allegedly wrote a number of his epistles, far away from the events back in Judah. We would have to wait until the 4th century CE before Constantine officially recognised the growing faith and spread it by force across what was then the modern world.

      Quite how any of this is evidence for the historical resurrection of the Christ evades me.

      What else you got?

    9. I have considered that my response might be seen as a little evasive. Let me be a little more specific to the claim.

      1. As Ted pointed out, the only reference we have for events as they are purported to have transpired, are the biblical ones in the Gospels. As I mentioned to you earlier on Twitter. The bible is not the evidence (although I will grant you that it does get some historical events correct, but then so did Spiderman comics), it is the claim.

      2. As Ted points out again, you are 'begging the question' by using the bible as your source of factual source of reference. I'll repeat, because so few Christians seem to understand this; the bible is the claim, not the evidence.

      3. I don't really know if I agree with Ted on this or not. I think it could be relevant, but only if the facts as you present them are based on the actual resurrection of the Christ, and as that is what we are trying to establish here, it is churlish to use the origin of the claim to the origin of the claim. It's a sloppy tautological and circular mess.

      You are really going to have to try harder.

      May I suggest you use sources other than the bible that can corroborate what it claims? Although, I have to warn you that Josephus' writings are nothing more than hear-say, and edited, very likely forged hear-say at that.

    10. Just as a quick aside, would you mind clarifying exactly who found the empty tomb as described in the bible? It might help to establish which of the Gospels you think are in error.

    11. More than that Josephus paragraph was pulled out of someone's ass, but I'm willing to listen. :)

    12. This is the first chance I've had to get back on here so I'll address what I can of what's been posted.

      Tris: Your claim that not even a simple majority of scholars believe Jesus was a historical person is just false and the Wikipedia footnote you listed didn't even deal with the subject. It was to Ehrman commenting that Jesus cleansing the temple would have been considered treasonous.

    13. Ted: As to the existence of Jesus, He is mentioned by Josephus (even if you completely disregard the entire "testimonium flavianum", which many Josephus scholars don't think is justified).

      Josephus, Antiquities Book 20: chapter 9:
      "Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he[Ananus]assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned:"

      There is no controversy over this citation.

      Tacitus also referred to Jesus as Christus and stated that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate.

      Tacitus Annals 15:44:
      "But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the Bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements Which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero From the infamy of being believed to have ordered the Conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he Falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were Hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was Put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign Of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time Broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief Originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things Hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their Center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first Made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an Immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of Firing the city, as of hatred against mankind."

      Additionally, there are the letters of Paul and the four Gospels. The books and letters contained in the New Testament, contrary to your claim, are justifiably used in attempting to determine what actually happened. Historians approach them the same way they do any other ancient texts. They examine them critically and don't treat them, for the purpose of historical investigation, as inspired by God or inerrant. You're going to have to really give a good reason to dismiss them for the purpose of establishing the historicity of Jesus.

      There is more but this is more than sufficient to establish that Jesus was a historical figure. You may not accept the divine claims but I don't see how you can reasonably cling to a "Jesus Myth" hypothesis. (And yes, I have read some of what's posted on that sight as well as others. I've also listened to the arguments he's given, as well as read some of the articles by Daugherty (not sure of the spelling), Wells (who gave up the Jesus myth hypothesis), and others.

    14. As for the empty tomb, there is historical evidence for it. The creed that Paul uses in 1 Cor. 15:3-8 has been dated to within a few years of the death of Jesus at the latest and clearly indicates that the earliest believers in Christ (many of whom were inhabitants of Jerusalem in Judea, the very place that the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection were claimed to have occurred)believed that Jesus (1)Died (which would require His existence) for our sins (2) Was Buried (3)Was raised from the dead three days later (i.e., the grave was empty) (4) Appeared to Peter and the apostles as well as many others including James (the brother mentioned by Josephus). This creed is one significant piece of historical evidence for Jesus' existence, death, burial, and resurrection.

      Since this creed is so early and already contains claims of Jesus that many hyper-skeptics like to attribute to later legendary development, it is a very significant piece of evidence. It also shows why the formation of Christianity, or "The Way" (as they called it at first), is also a significant piece of evidence, despite you claim that is irrelevent. Christianity started in Jerusalem, the heart of Judaism, just days after the execution of Jesus of Nazareth.If the tomb was not empty, as was claimed by the disciples, and indicated in the early creed, Christianity would not have been able to get off the ground in any significant way. It could have been squashed from the very outset. Instead, it grew quicly and spread quickly. There were already significant numbers of Christians in Rome within 20-30 years after the crucifixion.

      I've got to crash but I'll post more sometime this week.

    15. I think part of the issue is that an atheist needs to consider what evidence they require to believe 1. that Jesus existed and taught, and 2. that he was killed and raised. We are never going to have a movie of it so the best we will have is a group of evidence from which one would have to make a judgment.

      Jesse Evans on 7/9 made a couple of very good posts about the evidence that does exist. I would not say that this evidence is knock me down drag me out evidence, but I would say that it is somewhat compelling.

      What I find most compelling is that in addition to the evidence presented by Jesse, I have put myself into the role of Paul or one of the other people who dedicated their lives to Jesus after these events. I try to think of what had to happen for them to be so willing to be tortured and executed, to evangelize at all costs, and for all of them to feel that way, if this were not true. There would have had to have been one heck of collusion to present Jesus as raised when he was not. And worse yet the apostles would have been the likely ones to engage in the collusion yet they were also the ones that were willing to follow it to their deaths.

      I find that on balance it is more likely than not that those events did indeed happen. Conclusively? No. But I find it likely.

      And given that I find it likely, then I am left with a rather odd predicament. If this Jesus really did do what the multiple stories and eyewitnesses say, then that compels me to do something.

      One more note. Please don't think of the bible as a single book and lump it all in together and saying that you have to look at it as some magic book. Each piece of the bible is a stand alone piece that was not assembled until 300 years after Jesus. When you read the letters that Paul wrote, it becomes quite clear that there was a guy named Paul, and this guy used to torture and kill Christians, and something happened to him that totally changed his perspective (yes he could have had a stroke but I don't think so). And his teachings, when studied, fit together in ways that would have been difficult to make up.

      As I study the bible more and more, and i definitely do so with skeptical eye, I become more convinced that it is likely that this Jesus did indeed live, die and rise. It really is quite amazing.

      But it is still a conscious decision on my part. I have decided that it is worth the chance to dedicate my life to pursuing the teachings of Jesus because if it is true then it is probalby the most important thing that I could do. I mean, what is more important than that?

    16. @Jesse.

      1) My claim that there isn't a simply majority of scholars that believe Jesus was a historical person is not false, and the reference provided gave the title of the paper where the claim was taken from. For the record, the Wikipedia quote;

      "Most scholars believe not everything contained in the gospels to be historically reliable"

      and the link refers to the paper it was taken from;


      2) Written some 60 years after Jesus' alleged crucifixion, the works of Josephus reflected, not a definitive history, but a diarist's reckoning of events as they were portrayed to him. By this time, Christianity was - although still a small movement - growing in size and much of the Christian lore had been codified in what we now call the New Testament.

      It should come as no surprise to anyone that during this time, early Christians would have been very eager to share their story with Josephus in order to add weight to their beliefs. This can be seen no more clearly in the widely held belief that the references to Jesus in the Testimonium Flavianum are, in fact, later Christian interpolations.

      Whilst Josephus' accounts give a good historical basis for the existence of James, the evidence as it is presented by Josephus and the interpolators for the existence of Jesus the Christ is nothing more than hear-say.

      Interestingly, The 2nd century chronicler Hegesippus also left an account of the death of James, and while the details he provides diverge from those of Josephus, the two accounts share similar elements, but does not mention Jesus by name. It is almost as if The Lord is an historical insignificance.

      3) Tacitus, writing over 80 years after the alleged events, describes the crucifixion of Christus by Pilate, but makes numerous errors in the historical data which - as with the gospel of Luke already written by this time - damns the viability of his writing as next to useless.

      4) Using the bible as evidence of the bible is a fallacy I'll not so much as begin to countenance. I have said before, but it bears saying again; the bible is the claim, not the evidence. Without firmly establishing the credibility of its authors, it serves no useful function in this debate, especially considering the influence it so clearly had in establishing the secondary evidence that you are putting forth here. Even if I were to allow for the possibility that both Paul, Luke and Tacitus were, in fact, describing the same event properly, the fact that the errors are mirrored in each of their accounts is something that must be approached by the historian before we can accept it is historically significant. And this has yet to be established.

      5) You are right about me not accepting the claims of divinity, but as I have established here, there are reasonable claims that the historical record of the actual historicity of Jesus is questionable.

      I think I have already shared with you that I think it likely such a historical character did exist, but the jury - if it is to be a fair jury - is not so much still out, but hasn't been presented with enough evidence to even suggest they should be considering a verdict.

      6) You are using the bible to prove the bible again. Paul's creed is the claim, not the evidence. You must try harder.

      It is irrelevant, because it does not present any evidence. I shall say this only one more time; the bible is the claim, not the evidence. If you insist on presenting the claim as the evidence, you are likely to get very short shrift from me. Could you please be honest enough with me to accept that the bible is the claim and no the evidence? If you can't, we are done here, and you have proved that theists are incapable of unravelling what they believe from what they claim the evidence for this belief is.

    17. @DRT

      1) What evidence would I accept? Well, an extant first hand account of events verified against other extant first hand accounts would be ideal. Recorded history starts around the 4th millennium BC, with the invention of writing, and was not as uncommon a phenomena as some would like to claim. Although, extant texts of such antiquity are a rarity, they do exist.

      2) People die for their beliefs every day. All of them will feel justified in these beliefs to the extent they they are prepared to lose their lives over them, regardless of whether these beliefs have an y validity or not. This is not so much compelling an argument, as not an argument at all.

      3) "When you read the letters that Paul wrote, it becomes quite clear that there was a guy named Paul..."

      The same can be said of Spider-Man, what level of fantastic are you prepared to accept as truth whilst dismissing other levels of fantastic as... well... fantastic?

      4)"I mean, what is more important than that?"

      Following any of the other faiths that make similar claims about one's eternal salvation? Not wasting your life on any of them if they all turn out to be wrong; what could be more important than that?

    18. Jesse, Josephus was an interpolation. If writers like Tacitus and Josephus and all of them DID write such stories, why didn't any Christian apologist use those works in their arguments after they were written?! They didn't! Not until WAY WAY after they were "supposedly written" by them! Plus, Josephus' work flows better without that bad paragraph.

      And why are you using the buybull to prove itself? Fail?

      DRT - Jesse didn't present any evidence.
      He only presented fail.. nothing relevant to his assertion that would back it up.

      Why can't people just learn to think? O_o

  2. Yup. So we not only need the evidence of Jesus, but now we need the evidence of those other three claims to even GET to the evidence as he has presented them.

  3. As I mentioned before, I am out and about. A debate wasn't on my schedule for this evening. I'll respond to your other posts when I get back to my office either late tonight or tomorrow, so I can use my computer. Posting here on the iPhone is tedious. As far as the existence of Jesus, I would reccomend you check out Bart Ehrman. He's not a Christian and he recently released a book about the existence of Jesus. It's a good place to start, at least.


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