“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32
The following blog is in response to a rebuttal of one of my blogs by an historian called Richard Carrier. The blog is entitled “Resolving controversies surrounding Joseph of Arimathea and the women who discovered Jesus’ empty tomb.” While reading Carrier’s rebuttal, I came upon a number of assertions, which I have numbered and italicized in bold print in the following list. After each of his assertions, I have offered a response. Carrier’s blog can be accessed here: https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/12786
- Paul does not mention the empty tomb, Jesus’ burial, or a missing body.
Paul does not need to mention the empty tomb, Jesus’ burial, or a missing body for his account of his encounter with the risen Jesus to be true. As examples, a mother does not need to detail a hospital room in order to prove she gave birth to a baby; a widow does not need to detail the burial site to prove her husband died and was buried; a lunch date does not need to detail the house she left to prove she left her house when meeting for lunch. These are parts of the account of Jesus’ resurrection, which is valid with or without their inclusion.
Yet, shockingly, Paul DOES provide us with the information that Carrier suggests he omits on Jesus’ burial and the empty tomb! In Acts 13:29-31, Paul states the following about Jesus: “They took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead, and for many days He was seen by those who had traveled with Him.”
Jesus’ resurrection itself is of the utmost importance to Christianity. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul quotes a Creed that the earliest Christians memorized. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me, as to one abnormally born.”
In 1 Corinthians 15:20, Paul states “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
In other words, Paul stated that he witnessed the risen Jesus, as did the early Christians he referenced in his letter to the Corinthians.
- The Gospels name no authors. Instead they use the word “kata,” which “never meant author” but only meant “source.”
The Greek word kata precedes the names of the Gospels and translates as “according to.” In other words, the Gospel of Mark is the Gospel according to Mark. This is consistent with my assertions that the Gospels are attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, regardless of whether four men with those names wrote the Gospels themselves or used scribes, which was a common practice in their time.
Bart Ehrman advanced the position that if the Gospels were not authored by the four traditionally accepted authors than they must not be valid, yet it is not authorship that determines validity of historical documents. Content determines validity. According to William Lane Craig (2014), the following criteria, which are met by the Gospels, help to establish their validity:
(1) Historical congruence: The message fits in with known historical facts concerning the context in which the message is said to have occurred.
(2) Independent, early attestation: The message appears in multiple sources which are near to the time at which the message is alleged to have occurred and which depend neither upon one another nor upon a common source.
(3) Embarrassment: The message is awkward or counter-productive for the persons who serve as the source of information for same.
(4) Dissimilarity: The message is unlike antecedent Jewish thought-forms and/or unlike subsequent Christian thought-forms.
(5) Semitisms: Traces in the narrative of Aramaic or Hebraic linguistic forms.
(6) Coherence: The message is consistent with already established facts about Jesus.
For people who discount the Gospels’ validity, we offer extra-biblical support for Jesus. Within 150 years of the resurrection, we have 42 sources that provide support for the New Testament (Habermas & Licona, 2004). Turek (2015) and others have found that these sources indicate that:
- Jesus lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar
- He lived a virtuous life
- He was a wonder-worker
- He had a brother named James
- He was acclaimed to be the Messiah
- He was crucified under Pontius Pilate
- An eclipse and earthquake occurred when He died
- He was crucified on the eve of the Jewish Passover
- His disciples believed He rose from the dead
- His disciples were willing to die for their belief
- Christianity spread rapidly as far as Rome
- His disciples denied the Roman gods and worshipped Jesus as God
In other words, even without the Gospels, we have enough evidence to support the life and resurrection of Jesus.
- The Gospels all copy Mark and Matthew copies Mark “verbatim, and adds and alters freely.”
Many Gospel scholars believe that the authors of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) either built their materials from a shared Q document or Matthew and Luke built their Gospels from Mark’s Gospel (Green, McKnight & Marshall, 1992). John’s Gospel, however, is different. The book of John gives an outline of Jesus’ life, yet he reports five miracles not reported by the other authors. Only two miracles reported in the other Gospels are reported in John and the book contains no parables. John emphasizes the miracles that prove that Christ is God, yet shows that He is human through his emotions and physical needs (tired, sad, hungry, and thirsty).
Even if we had only one Gospel account of Jesus’ life – the Mark account – we would still have enough extra-biblical support for His virtue, miracles, disciples’ beliefs, and resurrection. The fact we have three additional Gospels, and one (John) is unique, gives us the ability to establish a strong case for Jesus.
- The women who went to the empty tomb “never” told anyone as per Mark 16:8.
At the end of the Gospel of Mark 16:8, Carrier indicates that the women who went to the empty tomb and were told by a young man wearing a white robe that “He is risen” never said anything to anyone. Yet the Gospel does not say never. The Gospel says “They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid” at the point in time in which they had left the empty tomb. That’s where the Gospel ended. Yet the other three Gospels picked up where Mark left off. They tell us that the women encountered Jesus and they shared news of their encounter with the apostles. The other Gospels complete the account.
- Tacitus reported that Nero had people killed “for a specific act of arson,” not because they were Christians. Additionally, “hardly anyone is ever even threatened with death.” Stephen and James were martyred, but Christians only faced “random acts of violence.”
Yet in Tacitus’ Annals, Tacitus details the great fire which consumed Rome before stating the following:
“But neither human help, nor imperial munificence, nor all the modes of placating Heaven, could stifle scandal or dispel the belief that the fire had taken place by order. Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians. Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus, and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judaea, the home of the disease, but in the capital itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue. First, then, the confessed members of the sect were arrested; next, on their disclosures, vast numbers were convicted, not so much on the count of arson as for hatred of the human race. And derision accompanied their end: they were covered with wild beasts’ skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fastened on crosses, and, when daylight failed were burned to serve as lamps by night. Nero had offered his Gardens for the spectacle, and gave an exhibition in his Circus, mixing with the crowd in the habit of a charioteer, or mounted on his car. Hence, in spite of a guilt which had earned the most exemplary punishment, there arose a sentiment of pity, due to the impression that they were being sacrificed not for the welfare of the state but to the ferocity of a single man.”
Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 15:30, Paul states “And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour. I face death every day – yes, as surely as I boast to you in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In 2 Corinthians 11:23-26, Paul says “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and have been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.”
The authors of many of the books in the New Testament met gory fates. Peter was crucified upside down, James was killed by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12: 1-2), and Paul was beheaded by Nero in Rome. These were confirmed by the Eusebius, the first church historian, in his book “Ecclesiastical History.” The martyrdoms of Peter and Paul were also documented by Dionysius of Corinth, Tertillian and Origen. The martyrdom of James was also documented by Josephus, Hegesippus, and Clement of Alexandria (Habermas & Licona, 2004).
In summary, the martyrdoms and persecution of early Christians were well-documented historically and extra-biblically. These were not merely “random acts of violence.”
- “Plenty of religions are begun with visions.”
Yes, plenty of religions are begun with visions, but they’re begun with the visions of a single man. Christianity, in contrast, was begun with the testimonials and visions of dozens of men and women who proclaimed that they had witnessed the risen Jesus. People may have visions, but people do not have shared visions of a man whom God resurrected from the dead. Early Christians such as Peter, Paul, and James refused to recant their testimonials, as they preferred to die gory deaths to proclaim what they knew to be the truth.
Of the major religions in the world (and aside from Judaism), only one is based on a collection of books penned by multiple (at least thirty-three) authors: the Christian Bible. Hindu’s Bhagavad Gita is attributed to the Sage Vyasa, who said its message came from the Supreme Being, Sri Krsna, or Lord Krishna. Legends indicate that Vyasa was the son of the ascetic Parashara and an aboriginal princess named Satyavati. Islam’s Quran was inspired by Muhammed, who stated that the angel Gabriel appeared to him. Muhammed was a caravan merchant of the powerful Hashemite clan of the Quraysh tribe. The Quraysh tribe controlled Mecca, but Muhammed was unable to convince people in Mecca on the authenticity of Islam, so he moved to Medina where he wielded considerable political, legal, and religious power and authority (Wawro, 2008). Confucianism is a set of beliefs developed by a wise man called Confucius. Confucius was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher. Another Chinese philosopher named Lao-tzu inspired Taoism. Finally, Gautama Siddhartha, who was trained as a prince, inspired Buddhism.
Furthermore, the Bible differs from other religious texts due to the martyrdoms of many of its authors. In addition to the aforementioned martyrdoms in the New Testament, these include prophets in the Old Testament such as Zechariah, Habakkuk and Jeremiah, who were killed by stoning (e.g., 2 Chronicles 24), Amos, who was tortured and murdered by the priest of Bethel and Isaiah who was sawn in half under the orders of Manasseh (Epiphanius; 2 Kings 21; Hebrews 11:37; Babylonian Talmud; Jewish Talmud; Williams, 1995). Zechariah, the son of Berachiah, was murdered by Joash the king and his blood was sprinkled between the steps and horns of an altar (Bar Bahlul).
Unlike the authors of some other religions, particularly those rooted in land acquisition and power, most of the biblical authors lived modest lives, reaping no financial or tangible rewards for their message or (in some cases) their bravery. Their treasures awaited them in heaven.
- “Luke, meanwhile, never says he witnessed anything.”
Luke begins the book of Acts by speaking in the third person, yet in the sixteenth chapter, he starts to refer to himself in the first person as he accompanied Paul on his trips. Acts 16:11 says, “From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. Acts 21:1 says “After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. Acts 27:1-2 states, “When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and we put out to sea.”
Though Luke likely did not see the risen Jesus, he certainly embraced His message by painstakingly documenting Jesus’ life and the apostles’ early experiences in the book of Luke and Acts. In other words, Luke had first-hand contact with eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life and ministry.
William Lane Craig (2014) states: “Was the author reliable in getting the facts straight? The book of Acts enables us to answer that question decisively. For Acts overlaps significantly with the secular history of the ancient world, and the historical accuracy of Acts is indisputable. This has been demonstrated anew by Colin Hemer, a classical scholar who turned to New Testament studies, in his book The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1989). Hemer goes through the book of Acts with a fine-toothed comb, pulling out a wealth of historical detail, ranging from what would have been common knowledge down to details which only a local person would know. Again and again Luke’s accuracy is demonstrated: from the sailings of the Alexandrian corn fleet to the coastal terrain of the islands to the peculiar and shifting titles of local officials, Luke gets it right.”
“According to the classical historian A. N. Sherwin-White, ‘For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. Any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd.’ The judgment of Sir William Ramsay, a world-famous archaeologist, still stands: ‘Luke is a historian of the first rank . . . . This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.’ Given this author’s care and demonstrated reliability, as well as his contact with eyewitnesses within the first generation after the events, this man can be trusted when it comes to matters in the life of Jesus for which we do not enjoy independent confirmation.”
- “We have no eyewitness testimony from Peter (2 Peter is recognized by all mainstream scholars as a forgery; and 1 Peter never claims to have witnessed anything).”
Peter was one of the disciples to discover Jesus’ empty tomb and after that, he was among the disciples to whom Jesus appeared. Luke’s reports of Peter’s actions in the book of Acts make it quite clear that he believed in Jesus’ resurrection. His speech to the crowd following Jesus’ resurrection into the heavens (Acts 2:14-40) included “But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him” (Acts 2:24).
In Acts 11:16, he says “Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. So if God gave them the same gift He gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?’”
In 1 Peter, Peter writes a letter of encouragement to the Christians living in the Northern part of Asia Minor. In 1 Peter 1:3-4, he states “Praise be to God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade.”
Even if we dispute the authorship of 1 or 2 Peter, we cannot discount the content of those books or Acts, which state clearly that Peter believed in Jesus. Biographies are an acceptable means of communicating messages; autobiographies are not required.
- “In Judea, only Stephen is killed—and not by having been convicted of anything, but by in effect a rioting mob.”
This assertion is patently false, as detailed in Acts 6:8- Acts 8. Acts 6:8-13 states, “Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called) – Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia – who began to argue with Stephen. But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke. Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, ‘We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.’ So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin.”
They testified against him in Acts 6:14, stating “For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” Acts 7 details Stephen’s response to the accusations, which infuriated the Sanhedrin.
Acts 7:54-58: “When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.”
- “Christian Apologist wants to claim Mark and Matthew are eyewitnesses (and admits Luke is not), yet Mark and Matthew have no knowledge of Peter ever seeing an empty tomb!”
Peter and Matthew are among Jesus’ disciples. Peter was at the empty tomb (John 20:3; Luke 24:12) prior to returning to the place where the disciples were staying (John 20:10). John 20:19-29 details Jesus’ appearance to His disciples, first without Thomas’ present and second with Thomas’ present. There is no reason to believe that Peter would not have mentioned the empty tomb at some point while meeting with the other disciples with whom he was staying. The empty tomb was certainly noteworthy!
- In dating the Gospels, J. Warner Wallace, an ex-cop, is cited.
Rather than examine J. Warner Wallace’s message, Carrier opts for an ad hominem attack, questioning Wallace’s credentials. Interestingly, Wallace’s unique credentials offer a fresh perspective on Christian apologetics as he examines Christianity from the viewpoint of a cold-case detective. His methods are sound and his books logically formulated and well-researched. J. Warner Wallace has been a tremendous asset in Christian apologetics. His book Cold Case Christianity, as one example, received accolades from a variety of well-respected Christian apologists, such as Dr. Rick Warren, Josh McDowell, Greg Koukl, Mark Mittelberg, J.P. Morgan, Craig J. Hazen, and Sean McDowell.
- Papias said nothing about authorship of the Gospels and Eusebius is not credible.
An excellent reference for information about both Papias and Eusebius can be found here: https://taarcheia.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/papias-and-the-gospels.pdf
Support for Papias’ assertions on the authorship of the Gospels is provided, along with his relationship to and documentation by Eusebius.
- “But the bigger problem is that harmonizations like hers are not credible. Because that is not how any real police investigator or historian reconstructs events. All real investigators, when encountering contradictory stories, correctly assume someone has the facts wrong. They never assume every single claim made by every single witness must be true, and therefore the “whole” truth must be some contrived keystone-cops narrative that explains how they are all completely right. Because that’s extraordinarily improbable.”
The major events in the Bible are not “contradictory stories” and we have no valid reason to assume that “someone has the facts wrong.” The Bible is God-inspired and its recorded events were written under His influence. Why would anyone come to the conclusion that the omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent Creator of the universe would have the “facts wrong?”
The more I read the Bible and study the works of the Lord, the more I develop an appreciation for its inerrancy. The Gospels piece together like a puzzle, each providing relevant information to fill in gaps and complete a larger picture of the truth. Witness the way noted above that Luke, Matthew, and John helped to fill in the gaps left behind at the end of Mark. The accounts of the women’s discovery of the empty tomb, when considered together, build a much more robust and complex account of what happened early that first Easter morning.
- Jesus would have been buried in the Sanhedrin tomb complex – “left there on one of countless shelves among hundreds of other corpses in varying states of decay.”
No single statement could be more offensive than this statement made by Carrier. Yet rather than express my disgust – and fear for his future (which is never an effective approach with atheists), I’ll direct readers to several additional reasons to support Christianity and to consider the resurrection of Jesus as valid and true.
Jesus and His Disciples Overcame Monumental Odds
Of all of the great kings who ever reigned or of all of the great men and women who ever lived, only one still reigns and will live and reign forever: a Jewish carpenter, Jesus Christ, who was born, raised, and lived in humble circumstances. Yet unlike all of the kings who ever reigned, Jesus had few material resources. He made friends with people of humble means, including fishermen (Andrew, Peter, brothers James and John, and possibly Thomas and Bartholomew), a tax collector (Matthew), a religious zealot (Simon the Canaanite), and tradesmen (Philip, James the son of Alphaeus, and Judas) (AllaboutJesusChrist.org).
When Jesus called on His apostles to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19), His apostles turned the world upside down (c.f., Acts 17:6). The chances that men of such humble means could turn the world upside down, fueling the growth of the world’s most practiced religion, seem extraordinarily low. Yet with God, nothing is impossible.
Paul’s Conversion and James’ Skepticism
Furthermore, the conversion of Paul speaks volumes. Paul started out as Saul of Tarsus, who actively pursued Christians for imprisonments and deaths. He first appears in the Book of Acts as a witness of the stoning of Christianity’s first martyr, Stephen. Yet something happened to Paul on his way to Damascus: Jesus Christ appeared to him and he converted, to become one of Christianity’s greatest missionary apostles. Historians don’t dispute that Paul wrote at least six or as many as thirteen books of the New Testament. In these books, he shares his testimony and the way he willingly endured multiple beatings and imprisonments before being beheaded by Nero in Rome.
James, Jesus’ half-brother, also has an extraordinary story. James was initially skeptical of Jesus, as noted when he and his brothers and mother showed up to see Jesus preach (Mark 3:31; Luke 8:19; and Matthew 12:46). They wanted to stop Him, because they felt He was “out of his mind” (Mark 3:21). Yet something happened to James after Jesus was crucified. He witnessed the risen Jesus.
James went on to become a missionary and an author of the book of James in the New Testament. Eusebius (c. 263 – 339 A.D.), the first church historian, wrote Ecclesiastical History, in which he cited a variety of authors and described the martyrdoms of Peter, James, and Paul.
Why were the early disciples so brave?
- Early Christian disciples saw the risen Christ.
- They braved gory deaths to praise and worship Him illegally
- See item #1
Jesus Did Not Give Us the Choice to Deny His Divinity
To sum this up, C.S. Lewis (1952) says it best.
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
- Joseph of Arimathea is “symbolic and allegorical” from a “fake town.”
William Lane Craig (n.d.) offers an interesting perspective on Joseph of Arimathea:
“As a member of the Jewish court that condemned Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea is unlikely to be a Christian invention. There was strong resentment against the Jewish leadership for their role in the condemnation of Jesus (I Thess. 2.15). It is therefore highly improbable that Christians would invent a member of the court that condemned Jesus who honors Jesus by giving him a proper burial instead of allowing him to be dispatched as a common criminal.”
“No other competing burial story exists. If the burial by Joseph were fictitious, then we would expect to find either some historical trace of what actually happened to Jesus’ corpse or at least some competing legends. But all our sources are unanimous on Jesus’ honorable interment by Joseph.”
“For these and other reasons, the majority of New Testament critics concur that Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. According to the late John A. T. Robinson of Cambridge University, the burial of Jesus in the tomb is ‘one of the earliest and best-attested facts about Jesus.’”
Thank you for your time.
If you would like to hear a discussion about this article that I had with the “Escaping Atheism” group, please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?a=&v=KhVSU1VqQb8&feature=youtu.be&app=desktop
Craig, W.L. (2014). Gospel authorship – who cares? Accessed September 30, 2017 at: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/gospel-authorship-who-cares#ixzz4uCRJYqk5
Craig, W.L. (n.d.). The Resurrection of Jesus. Accessed September 30, 2017 at: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-resurrection-of-jesus
Green, J.B., McKnight, S. & Marshall, I.H. (1992). Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.
Habermas, G.R. & Licona, M.R. (2004a). The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.
Lewis, C.S. (1952). Mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis Pte. Limited.
Ramsay, W.M. (1915). The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, London: Hodder & Stoughton, p. 222.
Robinson, J.A.T. (1973). The Human Face of God, Philadelphia: Westminster, p. 131. Accessed September 30, 2017 at http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-resurrection-of-jesus#ixzz4uD1zn2Pg
Sherwin-White, A.N. (1963). Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, Oxford: Clarendon Press, p. 189.
Tacitus. The Annals of Tacitus. Accessed September 30, 2017 at: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/e/roman/texts/tacitus/annals/15b*.html
Turek, F. (2015). Stealing from God. USA: Navpress, p. 220.
Wawro, G. (2008). Historical Atlas: A Comprehensive History of the World. Elanora Heights, Australia: Millennium House.
Williams, J. (1995). From-The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament R.H. Charles Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913. The Martyrdom of Isaiah. Accessed at http://wesley.nnu.edu/sermons-essays-books/noncanonical-literature/the-martyrdom-of-isaiah/
12 Replies to “A Fifteen Point Christian Response to Richard Carrier”
Nearly every response, “False, it is in the Bible.” Great argument.
Why, do we assume the Biblical documents to be false a priori? Do we assume that about all the other documents from antiquity?
Hello Francesco. Great piece. Did you watch the debate Carrier had with Dr. Craig on the resurrection? If not, watch it. You will be begging Carrier to just concede. Seemed like he spent more time plugging for his book then dealing with actual points.
I have been reading a massive volume titled An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, Vol. 1 (1821) by Thomas Hartwell Horne and I am amazed how bad of a historian Carrier really is. But I have a question for all those atheists who yap about “no outside” sources of the bible. If, when the documents of the New Testament were circulated, where is the evidence refuting the New Testament at the time they were in circulation? Surely someone would have written refuting what the Apostles have written and yet, there isn’t any, nada, zilch. No writer of the first century set out to prove Christ never existed. Horne alone destroys Carrier’s arguments. But I do not expect any atheist to read this book, rather, the four volumes Horne wrote. By doing so, it turns ALL of Carriers argument upside down.
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Not convincing at all, but outright lies?? “An eclipse and earthquake occurred when He died”
Even the Christians admit this isn’t true:
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From the verse note in the NET Bible:
The wording “the sun’s light failed” is a translation of τοῦ ἡλίου ἐκλιπόντος/ ἐκλείποντος (tou hēliou eklipontos/ ekleipontos), a reading found in the earliest and best witnesses (among them P א B C* L 070 579 2542 pc) as well as several ancient versions. The majority of mss (A C [D] W Θ Ψ ƒ M lat sy) have the flatter, less dramatic term, “the sun was darkened” (ἐσκοτίσθη, eskotisthe), a reading that avoids the problem of implying an eclipse (see sn below). This alternative thus looks secondary because it is a more common word and less likely to be misunderstood as referring to a solar eclipse. That it appears in later witnesses rather than the earliest ones adds confirmatory testimony to its inauthentic character.
sn This imagery has parallels to the Day of the Lord: Joel 2:10; Amos 8:9; Zeph 1:15. Some students of the NT see in Luke’s statement the sun’s light failed (eklipontos) an obvious blunder in his otherwise meticulous historical accuracy. The reason for claiming such an error on the author’s part is due to an understanding of the verb as indicating a solar eclipse when such would be an astronomical impossibility during a full moon. There are generally two ways to resolve this difficulty: (a) adopt a different reading (“the sun was darkened”) that smoothes over the problem (discussed in the tc problem above), or (b) understand the verb eklipontos in a general way (such as “the sun’s light failed”) rather than as a technical term, “the sun was eclipsed.” The problem with the first solution is that it is too convenient, for the Christian scribes who, over the centuries, copied Luke’s Gospel would have thought the same thing. That is, they too would have sensed a problem in the wording and felt that some earlier scribe had incorrectly written down what Luke penned. The fact that the reading “was darkened” shows up in the later and generally inferior witnesses does not bolster one’s confidence that this is the right solution. But second solution, if taken to its logical conclusion, proves too much for it would nullify the argument against the first solution: If the term did not refer to an eclipse, then why would scribes feel compelled to change it to a more general term? The solution to the problem is that ekleipo did in fact sometimes refer to an eclipse, but it did not always do so. (BDAG 306 s.v. ἐκλείπω notes that the verb is used in Hellenistic Greek “Of the sun cease to shine.” In MM it is argued that “it seems more than doubtful that in Lk 23 any reference is intended to an eclipse. To find such a reference is to involve the Evangelist in a needless blunder, as an eclipse is impossible at full moon, and to run counter to his general usage of the verb = ‘fail’…” [p. 195]. They enlist Luke 16:9; 22:32; and Heb 1:12 for the general meaning “fail,” and further cite several contemporaneous examples from papyri of this meaning [195-96]) Thus, the very fact that the verb can refer to an eclipse would be a sufficient basis for later scribes altering the text out of pious motives; conversely, the very fact that the verb does not always refer to an eclipse and, in fact, does not normally do so, is enough of a basis to exonerate Luke of wholly uncharacteristic carelessness.
I’ve read 3 of these blogs and they’re all the same. Every point is the same. Your rebuttle to everything is to point to a bible verse as if an atheist doesn’t know what a bible is. Atheists are aware of what is in the bible, in most cases atheists know more about the bible than their religious counterparts. The part you don’t seem to understand is that we reject the idea that the bible to true and accurate. So, rebutting an atheist argument with a bible verse is pretty stupid. It’s circular. The bible is true because the bible says it is. Do you not understand how weak, pathetic, and stupid that logic is?
The argument is not that the Bible is true because the Bible says it is. The argument is whether the Bible is a collection of reliable historical documents. It need not be perfect, scientifically accurate (it would be stupid, as atheists do, to demand 21st-century scientific accuracy from 1st-century documents), or written according to 21st-century historical standards.
So, what is weak, pathetic, and stupid is to demand that a collection of 1st-century documents be written according to 21st-century standards. That is the stupid logic followed by atheists.
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yet when Christians wish to establish the validity of their documents, they use 21st-century methods to do this. they employ modern scholarship. even if every document was historically reliable, it does not even come close to saying all the supernatural events were true. it says only that there was a reason people believe this nonsensical account of “magic and supermen”. plus if you take into account that they wrote the NT to sell their new religion to the non-jews, then you will begin to understand what the bible really is. nothing more than a book.
When we establish the validity of ancient documents, we use today’s standards. When they wrote the documents, they used their standards. This is obvious.
It’s true that “historically reliable” does not automatically mean that the supernatural events described are true. Many, if not most, ancient books, even by historians, pepper their accounts of historical events with the supernatural, simply because the supernatural was part of the ancient worldview.
As for the Biblical accounts of miracles, I find them believable. Why would anyone in the age of science find miracles believable? Because, in one way or another, we all believe in miracles.
What is extraordinary to some (Jesus’s miracles) is not extraordinary to others—the Being that invented the laws of physics and chemistry can easily convert water into wine, which, after all, is only advanced technology, not magic: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/10/magic-versus-metaphysics.html
On the other hand, what is not extraordinary to some (a purely naturalistic origin of universe AND laws of nature AND chemistry AND genetic code AND abiogenesis AND sexuality AND consciousness) is mind-boggingly extraordinary to others, especially because we have no naturalistic evidence for any of them, let alone all of them, not even “dubious” evidence like the Gospels. https://evolutionnews.org/2017/07/origin-of-life-researcher-admits-its-a-long-long-way-to-luca/
This leads to the second issue, that of the materialists’ double standard when it comes to evidence. They strain out a gnat (Gospels) and swallow a camel (naturalistic origin of universe, laws of nature, genetic code, life, sexual reproduction, consciousness): https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/the-materialist-extraordinary-claims-double-standard/
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Carrier says the claimed resurrection appearances detailed in the pre Pauline Corinthian Creed could simply be run of the mill hallucinations, as has been the case for the genesis of countless cults since the beginning of time, or they could have been noble lies. On this latter possibility, Carrier writes:
“Of course, a case can be made for the apostles dying even for a hoax: all they needed was to believe that the teachings attached to their fabricated claim would make the world a better place, and that making the world a better place was worth dying for. Even godless Marxists voluntarily died by the millions for such a motive. So the notion that no one would, is simply false.”
I have done a blog post analyzing The Noble Lie Theory of Christian Origins here: http://palpatinesway.blogspot.ca/2018/03/examining-easter-peering-behind-veil-of.html
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