Reasoning to atheism

lewis

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80 thoughts on “Reasoning to atheism

  1. Oh dear,
    Another classic bit of sheer sophistry from CS Lewis.

    Again he falls into the trap (or plays the trick perhaps) of mis-describing his case, in order to put it over. He assumes that the reader won’t go looking at the premises behind his logical exercise otherwise they would see through it.

    One moment I recall, he was telling us that there is a particular view about Jesus that we simply MUST NOT hold. (Must not????) Then there was his oft quoted bit about how Jesus was only to be identified as either Liar Lunatic or Lord. (Some of us have figured out a list of three or four extra and alternative possibilities, you know!) Now he seems to be telling us that we are delusional if we claim to be using our thinking faculties if we are atheists. I’m sure glad that he didn’t try to put over on us the old one known as Pascal’s Wager!

    There are many fallacies in his argument in this case today. One is the assumption that our thinking is to be (and has ever been) considered as a means to FIND or uncover ‘Truth’, (whatever that artefact actually is. Fact maybe, but hardly Truth. Scientists dont claim that Evolution is ‘truth’. No, they describe it as ‘fact’.) Then the logical conclusion from his argument appears to be that belief in a god (of some sort) is the only way to be confident about the validity of our thinking and in order to bring one to a reliable finding of truth. Another is how he seems to assume that each of us enters this life (created) with a fully fledged ability to think in all possible ways.

    So he ignores the fact that as new-born babies we simply don’t have or exhibit the capacity for thinking that only develops and grows as we experience the world about us. Further, the ‘thinking’ that we first learn to do and apply is not automatically effective. Our thinking at the start is largely animal-like instinct, responding to the stimuli about us, until before long, certain of the more obvious rules of Cause and Effect get to be seen and taken on board. Then we may get to be efficient at recognizing and dealing with the other so-called Laws of Nature, as we learn to coordinate with them. But we might not!

    Most of us tend to get a bit of a shock when for the first time we learn the rules of logical syllogisms, and for the greater majority of us, the processes of deeper and more abstract thinking follows on with difficulty, if at all. Then the prevalence of Superstition in all communities just shows how unrelated truth can be to thinking even in the grown adult. (And after all, superstitions can actually appear perfectly logical, cant they?)

    Really, I guess, for the greater part of our lives, the major thinking we do is essentially based on pragmatic judgement, when not based on feeling. Surely it can only be logically sensible for many to reject the belief in a god. Everything else in life can be observed or measured or assumed from the things about one. Unlike the obvious things about one from birth, no god can be detected, and so therefore does without such a being or thing, in one’s reckoning.

    Rian.

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      • “Good speech Rian, Now can you translate that in English for the rest of us?”

        Happy to help davinci! What English words or phrases are you struggling with?

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    • “…how Jesus was only to be identified as either Liar Lunatic or Lord. (Some of us have figured out a list of three or four extra and alternative possibilities, you know!)”

      3 or 4 extra … Such as ?

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      • Okay, let’s go through them Henry.

        Sincerely mistaken,
        Legendary
        Misquoted
        Misremembered
        Fabricated
        Ideal dream image of Messiah out of various Old Testament quotes.

        Those are the ones that immediately come to mind. There may well be others.
        Cheers, Rian.

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      • Bryan,
        Where’s the evidence for any of these? Little more or less than for any of the original three that Lewis put forward, perhaps it might be said. Now, I was asked just what extra alternatives, – and I gave them, – in fact 6 of them!

        Any actual evidence for Lewis’s Trilemma is purely circumstantial. No-one has come up with any direct and verifiable evidence for them.

        Rian.

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      • “You can’t come up with any evidence so it’s just conjecture Rian.”

        It’s unreasonable to criticise Rian for conjecture when that’s what he was asked to do. Presumably you’d go for option C in the trilemma Byran – what evidence do you bring to bear?

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      • Bryan,
        As I said, no more or less evidence for ANY of them. Yes, as you state there, the three alternatives of Lewis’s are definitely conjecture along with those on my list. Thanks for that.

        Each of them can appear to be possible, and certain of them much more likely than others, in the absence of real proof.

        If you read any similar claims in the traditions or sacred writings of any other religion you would come up with a similar list, wouldnt you?
        Rian.

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      • “First read the gospels and Acts and get back to me.”

        Non of the biblical accounts of Jesus were written (or even purported to be written) by eyewitnesses.

        “The non-biblical accounts have been listed here many times before Stu.”

        There are no non-biblical eyewitness accounts of the biblical Jesus.

        Remember, an eyewitness is a contemporary first hand witness to the events they describe.

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      • “I’m afraid you ignorance of history is showing Stu.”

        I look forward to your demonstration of my ignorance in due course Bryan! In the meantime words from a biblical scholar who is certain Jesus existed:

        “…the Gospels of the New Testament are not eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus. Neither are the Gospels outside the New Testament, of which we have over forty, either in whole or in fragments. In fact, we do not have any eyewitness report of any kind about Jesus, written in his own day.”

        “Scholars today, outside the ranks of fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, are virtually unified in thinking that none of these ascriptions of authorship [to the Gospels] is probably correct.”

        “Within a century of the traditional date of Jesus’s death, he is referred to on three occasions by Roman authors. None of them wrote, as we have seen, during Jesus’s lifetime or even in the first Christian century. They were all writing about eighty to eighty- five years after the traditional date of his death.”

        From: Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth Bart D. Ehrman

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      • I meant no disrespect about your ignorance Stu. But it’s clear you are not student of history, particularly biblical history. It’s why you made grand statements without researching the facts.

        As for Bart Ehrman, this was published recently. There’s much more on his writings on the Net if you bother to look it up.

        For those who don’t know, Ehrman is something of a celebrity sceptic in the United States. A professor of religion at the University of North Carolina, he was formerly a fundamentalist Christian who de-converted to agnosticism, and now writes books exposing the apparently fallacious claims of traditional Christianity. He has several New York Times best-sellers to his name, including Misquoting Jesus: The Story of Who Changed the Bible and Why, Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible and Forged: Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are. Ehrman is a regular on the talk-show circuit, frequenting programs like The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, Dateline, CNN, and National Public Radio.

        A genuinely erudite scholar of ancient texts and a fierce debater, Ehrman is the bane of traditionalists and the champion of sceptics. A pity, then, that he is almost always wrong.

        http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2014/04/16/3986412.htm

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      • Bryan,
        As has been said over and over, the fact that there are accounts of a life of Jesus in the Gospels doesnt make them history nor does it prove that the details of the stories are accurate.

        The non-Christian sources of information dont start till the end of the first Century. Neither you or anyone else has come up with eye witness evidence directly from the first 30 odd years of that century, – or for that matter, the first 50 or 60 years. No verifiable first hand accounts have survived, nor eyewitnesses about the details. Even Paul doesnt tell us anything about the words or actions of Jesus, other than the Passion and institution of the Eucharist. None of that includes the extravagent ‘I am’ sayings, or the miracles.

        Anyway, you cant complain about me bringing up the extra 6 alternatives to the Trilemma. If you and most Christians can allow the Liar and Lunatic alternatives as the only possibles, why shouldnt I come up with a few more? To you, ALL of those alternatives are EQUALLY unsustainable. N’est ce pas?

        Cheers, Rian.

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      • As has been said over and over, the fact that there are accounts of a life of Jesus in the Gospels doesnt make them history nor does it prove that the details of the stories are accurate.

        Nor inaccurate

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      • Oh dear, here we go again, Bryan.
        The present debate is NOT on the question of whether a ‘Jesus’ actually existed back in the first century. Our topic is on whether such a character was actually a Liar, a Lunatic or Lord, (or any of the other alternatives)

        As far as the celebrated Bart Ehrman is concerned, I pointed out months back that since the good fellow wrote his famous book on the historicity of Jesus, a large volume was published by several scholars that debunks a very great deal of what Erhman says in that book. Title is ‘Bart Ehrman and the Quest of the Historical Jesus of Nazareth’. This is edited by Frank R Zindler and Robert M Price, and published by AAP. . It shows that he is guilty of writing in a hurry and of much very shoddy scholarship. AND this is the opinion of skeptics who are otherwise strong fans of Ehrman.

        It is still quite true to say that regardless of whether or not a Jesus of Nazareth existed in the first Century, there is simply NO genuine evidence to prove and demonstrate that the Jesus of the Gospels lived and spoke as he claimed., or that the picture painted of him there is truly the work of eye witnesses.

        The only testimony that Paul produces is in the bare facts of the Passion and the Resurrection. Curious how Paul can quote no other details of the life of Jesus, or even of his miracles and words. The popular Christian claims are purely pious conjecture and are rooted in faith only.

        Rian.

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      • “But it’s clear you are not student of history, particularly biblical history.”

        I don’t need to be a biblical scholar to state facts, backed up by scholarship. I’ve asked you to provide the biblical and non biblical eyewitness testimonies of the contemporaries of the biblical Jesus. So far zilch. And you won’t be able to because there aren’t any. How do I know? Because I’ve read all of the biblical accounts, and researched the available extra-biblical evidence and arguments. Maybe those historical methodology units were of some use to this ignoramus after all!

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      • Not to disparage the wonderful message of Jesus himself, nor the different but important preaching of Paul., but I really wonder if, as stated, the bible carries the truth of history, why so many Jews failed to be convinced, both then and now.

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      • Yes Strewth,
        I totally concur. The Christian message just never got across to more than a handful of Jews. There was just no way that the Christian apologetic could convince them. And the incredible attempt to ‘prove’ its claims by quoting bits from their Scripture and calling them prophecy, is just so easily discredited by Jewish scholars.

        In that regard, I remember a few months back, I took three or four of the standard ‘prophecies from the OT and demonstrated just how hollow they were. It is very easy to show just how poorly they stand up to inspection.
        Rian.

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      • .There are a number of ancient classical accounts of Jesus from pagan, non-Christian sources. These accounts are generally hostile to Christianity; some ancient authors denied the miraculous nature of Jesus and the events surrounding His life: Thallus (52AD) Thallus is perhaps the earliest secular writer to mention Jesus and he is so ancient his writings don’t even exist anymore. But Julius Africanus, writing around 221AD does quote Thallus who previously tried to explain away the darkness occurring at Jesus’ crucifixion: “On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.” (Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18:1) If only more of Thallus’ record could be found, we might find more confirmation of Jesus’ crucifixion. But there are some things we can conclude from this account: Jesus lived, He was crucified, and there was an earthquake and darkness at the point of His crucifixion. Tacitus (56-120AD) Cornelius Tacitus was known for his analysis and examination of historical documents and is among the most trusted of ancient historians. He was a senator under Emperor Vespasian and was also proconsul of Asia. In his “Annals’ of 116AD, he describes Emperor Nero’s response to the great fire in Rome and Nero’s claim that the Christians were to blame: “Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.” In this account, Tacitus confirms several historical elements of the Biblical narrative: Jesus lived in Judea, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and had followers who were persecuted for their faith in Christ. Mara Bar-Serapion (70AD) Sometime after 70AD, a Syrian philosopher named Mara Bar-Serapion, writing to encourage his son, compared the life and persecution of Jesus with that of other philosophers who were persecuted for their ideas. The fact Jesus is known to be a real person with this kind of influence is important. Mara Bar-Serapion refers to Jesus as the “Wise King”:.

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      • “Hey Stu, There’s plenty of evidence for Jesus if you’re open. I suspect you’re not mate.”

        Are you saying I’m not open to the existence of a historical Jesus? You are wrong on that: it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the evidence was found somewhere/sometime. You claimed eyewitness accounts which don’t exist: the onus is on you to provide one contemporary eyewitness account and end the debate.

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      • The earliest gospel written, Mark, was probably by a disciple of the apostle Peter. It is therefore a contemporary account. The gospel of Matthew is believed by most scholars to be an authentic eyewitness account. The gospel of Luke was written after, it claims, interviews with eyewitnesses. John was obviously written by an eyewitness to the events in Jesus’ life. How’s that for a start Sunshine?

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      • “Yes Rian. Bart Ehrman has been debunked. Funny that people who don’t know that use him as evidence. Poor scholarship.”

        Does this poor scholarship apply to to you Bryan, given you cited Ehrman back in March this year to support your position?

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      • “Sincerely mistaken,
        Legendary
        Misquoted
        Misremembered
        Fabricated
        Ideal dream image of Messiah out of various Old Testament quotes.”

        Rian … Life get’s busy and sometimes we make stupid statements which makes us look silly because of it, so let’s just chalk your original statement and follow up response as “one of those moments”.

        We both know Lewis’ argument about lunatic / Lord, and unlike your rushed clutches as straws, his argument is backed up with historical context and facts.

        You do get credit though for starting out saying there’s “4” other alternatives – finding yourself in a hole – but then continuing to madly dig by providing us with “6” un-thought out / no facts alternatives … Oh, and loved the “could be more” finish … I’m sure there is, Rian, I’m sure there is …

        Lewis’ correctly stated you either accept Jesus as a lunatic or our Lord, saviour God who became man … I’d be interested in your choice, Rian … Lunatic or Lord?

        (It’s a one word response, Rian …. I don’t need or have the time to read fluff)

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      • Hi Henry

        No, absolutely NO. I cannot describe my ‘acceptance’ of Jesus as any of those three. And as far as my list of other alternatives is concerned, you must take my word for it that I put together that list some ten or more years ago, and have debated it out with a number of others during that time. I just loved your superior and patronising mood as you referred to me ‘finding myself in a hole’, and digging madly.

        My answer is that first and foremost, I dont have enough direct and verifiable evidence to absolutely class Jesus for myself as any of the list. I am very much inclined I suppose, to point to a combination of Misquoted and Legendary, along with the Ideal dream image of Messiah from various Old Testament quotes. This latter has frequently been mooted as an alternative to the dubious practice of seeing the quotes as ‘prophecies’. Our brothers of the Jewish faith, who know far more and more accurately about their own Scriptures than we (who have purloined the same), have demolished the idea completely.

        Lewis’ argument is not at all well backed up with historical context and facts. Whereas the alternatives on my list prove themselves over and over again in records about many other figures who are claimed to be historical. The image of Messiah put together from Old Testament quotes is quite feasible. When quite a few years after the presumed death of Jesus, the Gospels were being assembled, just too many weaknesses and gaps were found in the record, and so the writers just mined the Old Testament for ideas which were written into their accounts, and so were claimed to be ‘prophecies’. This is a welll established argument that has been put up many times.

        One last thing about Lewis. He is actually quite famous for delivering arguments by means of offering an incomplete choice of alternatives. You find this happening again and again in his apologetics writings. This trick was actually mentioned in the text of the famous play about his marriage to Joy Donaldson, called Shadowlands. You are playing the very same game, and clearly havent woken up to it.

        Quite likely I guess that the original Jesus was something of an itinerant Jewish holy man and exorcist. But Lewis tells me that I MUST NOT declare Jesus as essentially a wise teacher. Words fail me there. How dare he!

        Cheers, Rian.

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      • “The earliest gospel written, Mark, was probably by a disciple of the apostle Peter.”

        Was “probably” written by “a” disciple? According to the references I found (happy to provide them) current scholarship rejects the tradition which ascribes Mark to a disciple of Peter and regard it as the work of an unknown author. But you could read Mark yourself and work that out.

        “The gospel of Matthew is believed by most scholars to be an authentic eyewitness account.”

        Here’s two sources that directly contradict your statement:

        Nolland, John (2005). The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Eerdmans.

        Harrington, Daniel J. (1991). The Gospel of Matthew. Liturgical Press.

        Besides, we already know that Matthew draws from Mark (as does Luke), hence the three gospels being called “synoptic”.

        We don’t need scholars to tell us that they are second hand (at best). A cursory reading of the Gospels shows that none of the writers ever identifies himself by name or narrates any of his stories about Jesus in the first person. The Synoptics and John talk about what “they” did (not what “I” or “we” did).

        “The gospel of Luke was written after, it claims, interviews with eyewitnesses.”

        Name the eyewitnesses and provide the accounts the author of Luke draws from. A reference to an eyewitness account is not an eyewitness account.

        “John was obviously written by an eyewitness to the events in Jesus’ life.”

        John was obviously not written by an eyewitness to the biblical Jesus for the reasons I provided above. Need some authority for this? Try:

        Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985. p. 302-310 and page 355

        “How’s that for a start Sunshine?”

        Sorry, back to your books Cupcake. And while you’re there, you may want to tell us why Ehrman is good source when he supports your conclusions, and “poor scholarship” when he doesn’t.

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      • Hi Stu, You can search the Net and find anything to justify almost any view. You are obviously not a scholar of history, and particularly Jewish/Christian history, Otherwise you would look a little further.

        Here are Not my words but worth you considering if you truly have an open mind.

        I’m sometimes surprised skeptics resist the claim (at least) that the gospels are written as eyewitness accounts. We can argue about whether or not the gospels are pure fiction, or whether or not they are accurate. But the idea that the gospels can be read as eyewitness accounts is rather unremarkable to me. The gospels record events from the perspective of writers who either saw the events themselves or had access to those who did. The author of John’s gospel describes a meeting between Jesus and his disciples. This meeting appears to include the author and he makes the following claim: “This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true.” (John 21:24) It certainly appears that the author considers himself to be both a participant in the narrative and a reporter (eyewitness) of the event. That seems rather unremarkable to me. Even if the author is someone other than John, the claim (at the very least) that the author is an eyewitness seems plain. In addition, the author of Luke’s gospel describes himself as a historian who had access to the eyewitnesses: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word…” Even if the author of Luke was not himself an eyewitness, it does appear that he believed he was recording true history as delivered to him from eyewitnesses. Once again, this seems unremarkable. The Gospel Accounts Are Written By Known Authors But what if we don’t know precisely who wrote the gospels? Does this invalidate them as eyewitness testimony? I don’t see why it should. Let me offer a simple observation. Most people who claim that the gospels have been attributed to people who are not the true authors argue that the early Church attempted to validate the texts by attributing them falsely. If so, why use Mark and Luke as attributions? Why not use someone with more status? Have you noticed that the late fictional gospels (like the gospels of Judas, Mary, Phillip or Thomas) are far more likely to have been attributed to authors who were close to Jesus and close to the action? Meanwhile, two of the four accounts that appear earliest in history (the four canonical gospels) are attributed people who don’t even claim to have been present during Jesus’ ministry! If I were trying to pull one over on gullible potential converts, I would have pick better false attributions for these two gospels. And concerning the gospels of Matthew and John, I’m not sure why it matters if they have been properly attributed (although I believe they have). The real question is simply whether or not these accounts can be trusted. Are they reliable? The Gospel Accounts Were Written Early The most important issue, it seems to me, is whether or not the gospels were written early enough to be verified or falsified by those who actually lived at the time the events transpired. I’ve already written quite a bit about the early dating of the gospels and the chain of custody that guarantees their reliability, so I won’t write about that again in this post. Instead let me make a simple analogy. Imagine that I told you about an amazing event in the past. Did you know that there was once an inventor in the late 1700’s who, using crude supplies, was able to construct a computer and invent the Internet? That’s right, the computer and Internet were actually invented in the 1790’s. But while this inventor became famous for his invention, he eventually died and no one was able to replicate his work. It was nearly 170 years before the technology was replicated. If I told you this story and claimed that it was true, I bet you would doubt my claim. If for no other reason, you would ask yourself why you had never heard of such a thing prior to my assertion. After all, the invention of the computer and Internet would certainly have left an impression on people at the time. Wouldn’t somebody have written about it? Shouldn’t you have hears something about it prior to my claim? Something? It seems to me that it would be even more difficult to make a claim about a miracle-working man who rose from the dead and once lived in your part of the world. Wouldn’t the second or third century Galileans wonder why it was that they hadn’t heard something about this man? Something? It seems unreasonable to me that a late historical claim about a man like Jesus would be palatable to people who were at least familiar with their own history. The Gospel Accounts Have Been Consistent Over Time If the gospels are early, the only question left to ask is if their content has been modified. And that’s where the writing of Church Fathers is extremely helpful. The writings of Ignatius, Polycarp and Clement paint a picture of what was being taught by the Apostles in the first century. No one doubts that the Apostles lived in the first century; skeptics simply doubt that the Apostles wrote anything or that their writings have survived uncorrupted. But the teaching of Ignatius, Polycarp and Clement closely mirror those of their teachers (John and Paul). Skeptics can quibble about specific gospel details if they want, but the overarching picture of Jesus as a miracle-working man who claimed to be God and rose from the dead is just as clear in the writing of these first students as it was in the writing of their mentors, the very people who claimed to be eyewitnesses of the risen Christ. So why do skeptics deny the early dating of the New Testament documents? Is this based on some manuscript discovery that demonstrates the late arrival of the text? No. The more we discover related to ancient manuscript evidence, the earlier we are able to date scraps and partial texts of the gospels. It turns out that skeptics deny the early dating of the gospels primarily on the basis of their naturalistic presuppositions. Jesus, after all, predicted the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 24); skeptics can’t accept the supernatural attributes of prophecy, so this passage must have been written after 70AD (the date of the destruction). In addition, other miracles described in the gospels must have been written long after any living eyewitnesses could have lived to deny them, right? I think there is more than enough evidence to place the gospels early in history and determine their reliability from the writings of those who sat at the feet of the Apostles. Skeptical resistance may have less to do with the evidence here than with the presuppositions held by those who are examining the evidence – See more at: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2012/can-the-gospels-be-defended-as-eyewitness-accounts/#sthash.UFK5tLto.dpuf

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      • Futhermore Sunshine

        The earliest writings of the church fathers simply confirm the eyewitness nature of the Gospel authors. Papias, for example, described Mark’s Gospel as a record of Peter’s teachings related to what Peter saw and heard from Jesus. According to Papias, while Mark was not himself an eyewitness to the events described in his Gospel, he did accurately record the firsthand experiences of his teacher and mentor, Peter.

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      • “You can search the Net and find anything to justify almost any view. You are obviously not a scholar of history, and particularly Jewish/Christian history, Otherwise you would look a little further.”

        Bryan, you’ve made two claims: one about the majority scholarship claim as to Gospel authorship and another about the existence of contemporary eyewitness accounts of Jesus. Both are demonstrably false.

        Then there’s the matter of reading the bible verses themselves. An independent reader simply could not read John and come to the conclusion that the author was writing an eyewitness account.

        It would seem that J Warner Wallace and yourself are searching for “evidence” to support a predetermined conclusion. Perhaps this is why Ehrman is good source when he supports your conclusions, and “poor scholarship” when he doesn’t.

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      • You haven’t read the gospel of John have you Stu?

        The author claims the book is an eyewitness account, the testimony of the unnamed “disciple whom Jesus loved.” (“This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true” [John 21).

        Also, the authors of 1 John and 2 Peter identify themselves as eyewitnesses who directly observed Jesus. But I guess you haven’t read them either

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      • “…earliest writings of the church fathers simply confirm the eyewitness nature…”

        How has anything the early church fathers wrote confirmed an eyewitness account? Please provide an account by an early church father that identifies an eyewitness and provide that account of that eyewitness.

        “…Papias, for example,”

        Is not a scholarly majority viewpoint (want source with that?)

        Sorry Cupcake, keep trying.

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      • “It is still quite true to say that regardless of whether or not a Jesus of Nazareth existed in the first Century, there is simply NO genuine evidence to prove and demonstrate that the Jesus of the Gospels lived and spoke as he claimed., or that the picture painted of him there is truly the work of eye witnesses.”

        I’ve been reading David Limbaugh’s blog Rian. He’s the author of “Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel.” In his thread titled ‘Did Jesus Really Exist?’ he writes:

        October 2, 2014
        “A piece in the Daily Mail by writer Michael Paulkovich, argues that “Jesus never existed.” He says there is no extra-biblical evidence that Jesus was a historical figure.

        Few, if any, serious scholars make this claim anymore, as there are numerous non-Christian references to Jesus, from Jewish historian Josephus to first-century Greek historian Thallus to early-second-century Roman legate Pliny the Younger to Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius to Greek writer Mara bar Serapion to Greek rhetorician Lucian of Samosata to pagan critic Celsus.

        Thallus spoke of the darkness that spread during Jesus’ crucifixion. Pliny the Younger wrote to the Roman emperor Trajan to ask his counsel on how to handle Christians who would not worship the emperor and who sang hymns “to Christ as if to a god.” Tacitus reported that after Pontius Pilate’s execution of Christ, the “pernicious superstition (Christianity) broke out afresh in Judea.” Regardless of Tacitus’ low opinion of Christianity, he corroborated Jesus’ death and Jesus’ followers’ formation of a religion after it. Suetonius referred to Jews being expelled from Rome during the reign of Claudius because of a riot incited by Chrestus – a corrupted reference to Christ. Mara bar Serapion referred to Jesus as a “wise king” of the Jews. Lucian of Samosata, who lived from A.D. 125 to 180, in his “The Death of Peregrinus,” mocked Christians as those who come “after him whom they still worship – the man who was crucified in Palestine for introducing this new cult into the world.” Celsus acknowledged Jesus’ existence, though mocked claims concerning his divinity.

        The only non-Christian source Paulkovich acknowledges is Josephus, but he says his references to Jesus were added by later editors. Nice try, but that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. As I concede in my book, it may well be true that later editors embellished the Josephus account, but New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg cites a growing scholarly consensus that though his writings may have been edited, Josephus did say that Jesus’ followers reported seeing Jesus alive after his death on the cross and that Jesus was perhaps the Messiah. Even if later scribes altered the text, Josephus still provided “admissible testimony on the death of Jesus” – and thus, obviously, that he existed.

        Another truly bizarre claim by Paulkovich is that the Apostle Paul never referred to Jesus as a real person. Paul, he says, considered “the crucifixion metaphorical.” Surely, Paulkovich jests.

        Has he read 1 Corinthians? “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2). In other words, the cross and Christ’s crucifixion, along with his resurrection, were central to Paul’s teachings.

        A few verses earlier, Paul wrote, “But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23).

        Later in his letter, Paul said: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive” (1 Corinthians 15:3-6).

        Note what follows a few sentences later: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. … Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:13, 18-19).

        I hate to break it to Mr. Paulkovich, but a mythical person cannot be bodily resurrected, and Paul and the other New Testament writers made clear that Jesus died and was physically resurrected; they touched him, ate with him, talked with him. The entire religion of Christianity, as Paul proclaimed, hinges on Christ’s resurrection.

        Christ changed the world. He continues to change the world. So his critics will continue to criticize him – some even taking the absurd position that he never existed.

        You can rest assured that those who are alleging that Christ is a mythical figure are the real mythmakers.”

        Cheers

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      • >>>The earliest gospel written, Mark, was probably by a disciple of the apostle Peter. It is therefore a contemporary account. The gospel of Matthew is believed by most scholars to be an authentic eyewitness account. The gospel of Luke was written after, it claims, interviews with eyewitnesses. John was obviously written by an eyewitness to the events in Jesus’ life. How’s that for a start Sunshine?>>>

        Oh Bryan Bryan,
        You are simply wrong there regarding the Gospel of Luke. I have just been looking up no less than five Bible translations from my bookshelf, and confirmed that in his opening dedication, Luke does NOT assert that he had interviews with eyewitnesses. Each version makes it crystal clear that the sources Luke took his material from had their origins in information that had been HANDED DOWN from eyewitnesses. Please acknowledge and keep that bit of information for future reference.

        Now, the best scholars in the world have for some time now stated that the authors of the four Gospels are specifically anonymous. The authorities in the Vatican resources make that very very plain too. Just look up Raymond E Brown, of whom John Paul II stated that he dearly wished he had more exegetists like Brown. We still do not know who wrote them. Wasnt it Irenaeas at the end of the Second Century who allotted the four names to the Gospels? It was just traditions that associated particular Disciples and followers to them.

        Further, if the writers responsible for the Gospel texts (if indeed there WERE only four of them) were truly independent in their separate testimonies, then why for heavens sake are Matthew and Luke just so clearly dependent on Mark as their mainstay for their info? Very obviously, when you take a clear and hard look at their texts, you see that neither of the former was satisfied to leave the writing just as he had it. They sanitised it, they elaborated on miracles etc in order to build up the story. Then on top of everything, a totally different Jesus is preached in the fourth Gospel of John!!

        There is actually no evidence that the four Gospels were circulating widely prior to the second Century. And as for the absurd claim that IF the four had got it wrong then plenty of better informed folk would have complained… Oh please! What do you imagine would have happened then? Would they have included a fifth Gospel according to X, that would start out by stating something to the effect that ‘Well the previous ones got it wrong, and here is the true story’?

        As a matter of fact there actually were people – and many people at that quite early in the piece, who were protesting at the accuracy of the stories that Paul and the others were telling. Look how Paul condemns those who were preaching ‘another Jesus’. Look how the Epistle of John is expressing horror about those who claim that Jesus hadn’t actually appeared in the flesh. As I pointed out the other month, there are over 30 texts in the NT that refer to splits and breakaways in a very divided Christianity.

        Clearly by the end of that first century, there was a hard core of Christians who were making sure that a standardised account of the life and teaching of Jesus was being promoted, according to those official Gospel definitions. And in the process, they did their level best to destroy, to flatten and to eliminate all the oppositions. Mind you in the next three centuries or more, they were still doing their mightiest to get rid of Gnostics, Arians, Marcionites and etc, who still hung on around the traps and were getting convers.

        Cheers, Rian.

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      • Luke 1:1-4 reads:

        1:1 Since many have undertaken to arrange in proper order an account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as from the beginning the eyewitnesses and those becoming ministers of the Word handed down to us, 3 so also it seemed good to me, accurately following and investigating everything from the first, to write to you in order (an account), most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the words (of the gospel) you have been taught.*

        We can learn at least four things about the importance of eyewitness testimony in Luke’s preface.

        First, the key word is eyewitnesses, which in Greek is autoptai (plural of autopt?s) (v. 2). Today we get the word autopsy from it. However, in Luke’s preface it is not a medical term, nor does it have a legal meaning per se, but a historiographical one (history writing). It means those who are first hand observers. One scholar translates it as “those with personal / firsthand experience: those who know the facts at first hand” (Alexander, p. 120).

        Another scholar also says that the notion of principal eyewitnesses having to go back to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry was just plain commonsense. The Gospel of John also has the word beginning as a criterion for reliable and authoritative testimony (John 15:26-27) (Bauckham, p. 122). John writes in the relevant clause (Jesus speaking): “You also [in addition to the Spirit] are to be witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning” (v. 27). (See also John 6:64; 8:25, 44; 1 John 2:7, 13; 3:8; 2 John 6). These parallel data in Luke and John indicate that “the principal eyewitness sources of [Luke’s] work were qualified to provide a comprehensive account of the events ‘from the beginning’” (Bauckham, p. 122).

        https://bible.org/seriespage/10-eyewitness-testimony-luke-s-gospel

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      • “You haven’t read the gospel of John have you Stu?”

        From end to end, many times Bryan.

        “The author claims the book is an eyewitness account, the testimony of the unnamed “disciple whom Jesus loved.” (“This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true” [John 21).”

        Never mind that John 21 is regarded as a later interpolation, a firsthand eyewitness account would read “I AM the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and I know that MY testimony is true”.

        “Also, the authors of 1 John and 2 Peter identify themselves as eyewitnesses who directly observed Jesus. But I guess you haven’t read them either”

        1 John certainly doesn’t claim witness to an earthly Jesus, point me to the bit you think does. While your at it, point me to the majority scholarship which support your interpretation.

        2 Peter is a pseudepigraph, a forgery. Read up on why scholars think so. Then you may want to show us the bit where Peter 2 is witness to any thing Jesus actually did.

        You may want to stop guessing at what I read and don’t read.

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      • Hi Kel,
        many apologies if this is a repetition of one I sent in earlier. cant determine if I did send it, and have no record. trying again.

        Thanks for that commentary. I realize now that when the late lamented Joseph Smith along with some six associates left signed and sealed guarantees that they had seen at first hand (done an autopsy on?) those remarkable original gold plate copies of the Book of Mormon, they are to be taken as being honest and reliable.???!!! Good to know!

        Reading the translation you offer there of the Lukan dedication, I still see exactly what I read in the several editions in my library. IF the writer really intended to say that he had been informed of the facts at first hand directly from original eye-witnesses, then why the heck doesnt he say so? Each of the translations I read describe how Luke (or whoever the writer was) points out that the information was HANDED DOWN via other previous persons. It’s a bit like those two very revealing verses in the Gospel of Matthew, to be seen at Matt. 27.8 and at Matt 28.15. These are notations that make it plain that the events happened some considerable time before and are old history or tradition.

        If the Gospels are just so totally reliable and compiled independently, and have not been seriously compromised by tampering, then again, WHY do Matthew and Luke pinch so many identical words and phrases from Mark, as well as near identical occurrences? And then Luke as we have just seen, despite getting his authentic information from some who knew eyewitnesses OR the eyewitnesses themselves, still needs to use so many of Mark’s words????

        Now if John’s Gospel is just so so historically accurate, why in heavens name, is it so different to the Synoptics? Why, when you read it and compare with those others, does it so clearly describe a very different Jesus, and indeed a very different message? Look, Luke is supposed, as you say, to be giving the authentic account, but next you and others tell me that John is supposed to be just so incredibly true. They simply cannot BOTH be accurate! You are aware I take it that John’s Gospel was treated with suspicion by many when it first appeared? Some I understand, thought that it was something of a Gnostic document, until it became accepted mainstream.

        I am thoroughly familiar with the verse about the disciple…. ‘and we know his account is true’, I was probably reading and hearing it preached before you were born. But how does such a line actually prove anything, especially when the whole Gospel is so different from the others?

        Actually in view of some of the things I quote above, it would seem pretty certain that the Gospels were all written two or more generations following the Crucifixion, AND as well that the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70, how the heck did these guys miles away in other countries, actually manage to find any original eyewitnesses to give the information? I say again, and I think it is a crucial point, that the Gospels show NO SIGN of circulating prior to the second century.

        There is still not a single shred of evidence to prove once and for all that the depiction of Jesus in any of the four Gospels is accurate. As I stated in another posting here, it is obvious that many of the little details that are given in them are just too too much like the numerous texts from the Jewish Scriptures, that when examined are simply NOT in any way to be verified as prophecies. It is very easy to show that the ‘prophecies’ are just not valid. As I’ve said lately, I gave some examples of such non-prophecies. And if you get rid of the OT prophecies, then much of the case for the NT just collapses.

        Cheers, Rian.

        Like

      • Hi again Kel,
        Well, I’ve just been glancing through a couple of other translations of the Christian Testament, to see how they depict Luke’s dedication to the illustrious Theophilus. Interesting that one places the testimony of eye witnesses even further back. Doesnt even include the mention of eyewitnesses in the same sentence as Luke’s own informants are mentioned.

        From Catholic New Testament by Monsignor Ronald A Knox…. “Many have been at pains to set forth the history of what time has brought to fulfilment among us, following the tradition of those first eye-witnesses who gave themselves up to the service of the world.”

        Over to you.
        Rian.

        Like

      • Hi again Kel, (hope this is not a duplication)
        Well, I’ve just been glancing through a couple of other translations of the Christian Testament, to see how they depict Luke’s dedication to the illustrious Theophilus. Interesting that one places the testimony of eye witnesses even further back. Doesnt even include the mention of eyewitnesses in the same sentence as Luke’s own informants are mentioned.

        From Catholic New Testament by Monsignor Ronald A Knox…. “Many have been at pains to set forth the history of what time has brought to fulfilment among us, following the tradition of those first eye-witnesses who gave themselves up to the service of the world.”

        Over to you,
        Rian.

        Like

    • But if he can’t trust the arguments leading to atheism, then he can’t trust the arguments leading to theism. Cuts both ways.

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      • No it doesn’t Strewth. CS Lewis was stating the position of the atheist when the atheistic philosophy is allowed to run to its own conclusion.

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      • ” when the atheistic philosophy is allowed to run to its own conclusion.”

        Perhaps if you explain what you mean by “the atheistic philosophy” and then identify the conclusion you refer to, then it may have been worthwhile posting a comment. I doubt it though.

        Like

      • Atheistic philosophy is:
        – “There is no God,” therefore the logical conclusion is that there is no intelligent designer. This is disproved by the fact that the whole world is intelligently designed from the atom to the star.
        – “Things organised themselves into the universe we see today without an intelligent design.” To prove this atheists rely on intelligent scientists to design experiments to prove that the whole universe was not intelligently designed. Go figure!
        – “Instead of relying on science, people of faith say that magic did this (referring to God)”. Science as practiced by atheistic worldview assumes (without proof) that the universe assembled itself magically as well, first into elements, then into compounds, then life, becoming more complex each time. Much like the analogy of CS Lewis with the spilt milk, or the Boeing 707 arising from an explosion.

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      • “Atheistic philosophy is: “There is no God,””

        Some atheists may claim this, but it hardly makes it a philosophy.

        “Science as practiced by atheistic worldview assumes (without proof) that the universe assembled itself magically…”

        If you truly believe this, you don’t understand the first thing about science.

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      • “OK. So explain creation scientifically Stu.”

        I don’t claim to have anything but the most rudimentary understanding about what science says about the origins of the universe.

        What I do not for certain is that there is no science which claims that the universe assembled itself magically, or that magic has anything to do with the scientic method.

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      • “OK let’s take away the word magically. Do you believe the creation happened by accident?”

        You’ll need to take away the words “believe” and “creation” as well. I think that the universe is the result of natural causes on the basis of the absence of credible evidence for the supernatural.

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  2. It’s actually a totally hopeless argument, and his analogy with a milk-jug is a false one.
    Clearly C.S Lewis has no understanding of evolution and it’s exactly the same for all believers who oppose the theory. They are attacking their own (misunderstood) Straw-man version of the operation of the theory. It’s the same with the Boeing 707 hypothesis. It’s absolutely nothing like what happens in nature with evolution by natural selection.
    Such people are incapable of following a logical progression without ASSUMING the premise of a designer and then either trying to distort the facts to fit, or positing an “end purpose” from the beginning..
    Many believers simply do not understand what a scientific theory is. The theory of gravity is “only a theory” if you like, but it’s still as true as anything you are ever likely to find. Same with the theory of evolution. It is not really “just a theory”. It IS a scientific theory that has NEVER been contradicted by EVEN ONE piece of evidence from ANY scientific discipline EVER, and there are many that could easily do so if evidence could be found. .
    And you certainly can’t say that about the theory of God.

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    • Except none of you clowns have been able to prove any evolutionary process without introducing an intelligent designer somewhere along the way. Natural selection does not diminish the need for an intelligent designer, it merely takes the role of intelligent designer itself.

      Like

      • Apart from losing the argument by referring to people on this blog as “clowns”, you might want consider proving how evolution requires an intelligent designer, submitting you findings for peer review, then showing us all your Nobel Prize.

        Did you get cut off in traffic on the way home tonight davinci?

        Like

  3. People believe what they believe. One group believes everything came from God and God one day may reveal all. Another group believes everything came from nothing and science one day may reveal all.

    Like

    • Another group, Dom, believes that God works in ways that science has revealed – in fact God reveals his work through man’s scientific quest.

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      • Hi Strewth

        I considered that to be the first group. God releases knowledge as God wills.

        In many cases science is the past centuries is just stumbling across what prophets have said much earlier.

        Example
        Scientists are just finding out Iron on Earth was not created on Earth but came to Earth from distance stars. This was all revealed 1400 years ago.

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  4. So with all those religions ,billions of believers,thousands of years and the supposed claim of “modern times” we still have the mumblings and passing the baton to someone else either on the other side of the world and or back in time.
    That person of course also believes in themselves deserving a reward.
    C,S Lewis is that person this time.
    Next will be Einstein again with a image of a seventy year old poking a tounge out.
    Demi gods .

    Like

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