Why Arguments From Silence Are Weak

Does silence on cases involving Jesus reveal a problem? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

One of the #1 arguments used by people like Christ-mythers is the argument from silence. Surely if Jesus was a historical figure, more people would talk about him! This was the Son of God! This was someone going around doing miracles! Why isn’t he being talked about everywhere?

Some people compare this to the modern world. If some great phenomenon happened, such as, say, a meteor hitting Mt. Rushmore and destroying it immediately, this would be talked about the world over immediately. You would suddenly have bloggers writing everywhere! News teams would swamp the area! Even as far away as the other side of the world, people would be talking.

Yes. Yes they would be. The problem is these modern comparisons fail. Let’s note some important differences.

First off, this all takes place after what Brent Sandy and John Walton have called in their book “The Lost World of Scripture”, the Gutenberg Galaxy. (The title is not original with them) Readers interested in The Lost World of Scripture are invited to listen to my interview with one of the authors, Brent Sandy, here and read my review of it here.

After Gutenberg everything changes. People can produce books much more quickly and efficiently. As a result, the number of books goes up and the cost to make them goes down. Because of this, literacy will go up as more books can be distributed to the public and there is in fact more leisure time rather than much time spent on the tedious task of copying a manuscript. Of course, it’s still not as efficient as today’s methods, but it is much more efficient.

Move forward to today and everyone can get their opinion out there. As soon as you see a story on the news, someone can comment on it and it can be anyone. Twitter is an excellent example of this. A news story takes place and people are immediately sharing it and in fact sharing links to it.

Over Thanksgiving while visiting the Liconas, we were watching a football game on Thanksgiving night. (I say we loosely. Allie and Mike were watching. I was reading more. Football just bores me honestly, but my wife and father-in-law are both Ravens fans.) Mike was getting tired and so was Allie and we all decided we’d just go to sleep.

Now this game was not played in the city where we were, but there was no doubt that when we woke up in the morning, we would be able to tell who won. In fact, immediately when the game was over, we could have been told who won. The age of mass communications has made this kind of knowledge much easier to come by.

Second, if literacy is up, then it turns out that the written word can often become the best way to spread information, though even this is not always the case. Today, we can use videos on YouTube or for news just go to a news broadcast. The visual is still a powerful aid to get the message out. Something that made the Vietnam War so different was we could really see the images of it. People who heard the Kennedy/Nixon debate for the most part said Nixon won. Those who watched for the most part said Kennedy won. The visual is definitely having an impact.

Third, when information is written down more and more, memory will take less and less place in society. An oral culture thrives on memory far more than we do and seeks to have all its information not so much in individual memory, but rather in collective memory. (Again, see Sandy and Walton above) You could change some secondary details in a story, such as some chronology, but the primary details had to stay the same.

We still do this today. If I have Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons visit me, I will certainly call my own parents to give an account of what happened, but my parents are not apologists so I give a basic account. When I call Mike then or my former roommate or write it out here, the account gets more and more detailed. Why? Because these are the people that know the language and I can communicate it to them in a different way.

It’s not for these reasons alone that written sources were not used the most in the ancient world. As alluded to earlier, cost was an issue.

Here is what one writer says about the issue who happens to have a PH.D.

“By the estimates of William Harris, author of Ancient Literacy (1989), only 20% of the population could read anything at all, fewer than 10% could read well, and far fewer still had reasonable access to books. He found that in comparative terms, even a single page of blank papyrus cost the equivalent of thirty dollars—ink, and the labor to hand copy every word cost many times more (p. 195). As a result, books could run to the thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars in value each. Consequently, only the rich had books, and only elite scholars had access to libraries, of which there were few.”

Of course, I already am sure that several out there are saying that this is just another Christian excuse for not having writing. It’s a convenient little remark that is meant to explain away a problem. For those who think that, there is a problem. Here is the source for this statement.

“Richard Carrier, Sense and Goodness Without God, 2005. p. 232”

Carrier himself is a Christ-mythicist, but I have no problem with this here. To get just the papyrus of a single page could cost $30. Ink and labor would cost more. Add in as well that for these books someone else would have to deliver the book which would be a delivery charge and you’d have to make sure someone was there who could read the book. Usually, the deliverer would serve as a reader and he would have to know the content well enough to be able to explain it to the audience, properly read it with all the nuances in speech, etc. This was a costly enterprise!

So let’s compare these methods.

One method, writing, costs an exorbitant amount to produce and reaches only about 10% of the population at the most. Oral tradition, which in the ancient world was just as reliable if not more reliable, was absolutely free and could spread the word far and wide to everyone who could speak the common language.

Which one will be done? Decisions decisions….

Today we value the written word the most, but the problem is this is an anachronism on our part where we throw our modern mindset back into the ancient world. It is saying “We value writing today and seek to write things down immediately. Weren’t the ancients the same way?” No. No they weren’t.

Another point when it comes to Jesus is as I have written about elsewhere, Jesus would have essentially been a nobody in the ancient world. He could have been popular in some circles where he was, but that does not extend everywhere.

Many a town can have its own celebrities and such. Politicians in states can usually be known in their states, but unless they do something really big or have a scandal of some sort, that fame won’t likely extend much beyond that. A professional athlete who’s not that well-known can still be a celebrity in his own town.

Jesus lived in an area that was important as a trade route that connected three continents, but it was not viewed as important for its culture. The culture was certainly tolerated by the Romans due to it being old, but it was not something that they celebrated. What was Rome interested in? Power and glory. What were the Greeks interested in? Knowledge.

So who was Jesus?

Jesus was a rabbi. He was a preacher who supposedly did miracles (Oh who would believe in that stuff? Not an educated Roman). He never ran for political office. He never as an adult traveled outside of his own country. He never led any troops into battle. He was such a weak figure that it only took a small cohort to arrest him. The Romans didn’t have to call in an army or anything. The movement was put down in a weekend. (Of course, the resurrection did change that) Worst of all, He was crucified, the most shameful death of all, something that any Messiah and Son of God claimant would surely avoid.

It’s quite amusing to hear Jesus then being compared to other people at the time who we have records of such as, say, the Caesar on the throne. Yes. We all know that a Jewish rabbi should get as much attention as the reigning Caesar at the time. Let’s keep in mind that some who have made the mistake of thinking that the sources are equal have in fact admitted it was a mistake. See here for details. Of course, we all will make mistakes in our research from time to time. By all means, check all claims from everyone.

Yet we are told that there are no contemporary eyewitness accounts for Jesus. Indeed, there are none for Alexander the Great. Tim O’Neill at Armarium Magnum gives a comparison with this in using Hannibal. As he says:

“To highlight how easily a peasant nobody like Jesus could very easily pass without any surviving contemporary notice at all, I held up the example of someone at the other end of the scale of fame and significance to Jesus and who, despite this, also has zero contemporary references that have survived to us. Hannibal was about as far from a Jewish peasant preacher in terms of fame and significance as you could get in the ancient world, yet we have no contemporary references to him at all. None. This shows that the nature of ancient source material is such that we have contemporary references for virtually nobody, including people much more significant than Jesus. So making an argument about the existence of any ancient figure based on the lack or otherwise of contemporary references is patently ridiculous; doubly so for a peasant preacher.”

Source here.

And once again, before someone writes this off as another Christian grasping at straws, please keep in mind Tim O’Neill is an atheist. He has no desire to promote Christianity, and while I disagree with him on his historical conclusions concerning who Jesus is and what He did, I have great respect for his methodology and for his also not putting up with atheists making bad historical arguments.

If Hannibal does not receive this then why should we expect such for Jesus?

In fact, all of this assumes that the gospels are not contemporary and are not eyewitnesses or based on eyewitness accounts. Luke explicitly says he spoke to the eyewitnesses. Few people in fact I see are actually responding to a work such as Richard Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” to see if it could be that the gospels are eyewitness accounts.

As for contemporary, I recently had Dr. Paul Maier on my show which can be heard here who said no scholar he knows of who studies the ancient world would accept the idea that only contemporary accounts are to be used. If we followed such an account, we would have to throw out much of ancient history. In fact, Carrier saying why he thinks the accounts of the crossing of the Rubicon are more reliable than that of the resurrection says the following:

“Fourth, we have the story of the “Rubicon Crossing” in almost every historian of the period, including the most prominent scholars of the age: Suetonius, Appian, Cassius Dio, Plutarch.” That can be found here. Little problem with this. Not one of those scholars is a contemporary.

Let’s consider Appian. From Livius.org, we get this. This tells us that Appian would have written in the second century A.D. Carrier dates the crossing of the Rubicon to 49 B.C. This means that Appian wrote at least 149 years later and unless he wrote when he was 5 years old, it could have been written around 200 years later.

Information on Suetonius is here.

What does this mean? Suetonius was born 120 years after the event and would have written later as well of course.

Cassius Dio is even worse. We are told he started his work in the 190’s and wrote the Roman History from 211-233. So let’s go with 211 being the date of the writing of the event just to be as generous as possible.

This is 260 years later!

Finally, there’s Plutarch. Plutarch’s information can be found here.

This means Plutarch was born 95 years after the event.

Now if all of these are acceptable to be seen as accounts of historians of the age writing about these events, then if the gospels are before 125 A.D. (30 + 95) then we should be on good grounds. In fact, most liberal scholarship today would date the gospels to around 80-95 A.D. This isn’t even counting the Pauline Epistles which speak of these events even earlier. If 95+ counts for Caesar, why does it not count for Jesus?

In fact, James Crossley has argued for an early date of Mark, perhaps going into the 40’s. Once again, I’d like to remind readers that Crossley is not a friend of evangelical Christianity. He is an atheist. See an interview here.

Another claim is that the gospels are anonymous. We are not told what this has to do with the price of tea in China. I suppose if every skeptic was immediately convinced of traditional authorship, then they would suddenly accept them as valid historical accounts.

Yet as Paul Maier told me on the show, this is really a weak argument. A large number of works from the ancient world are anonymous and we know about who wrote them from outside sources. Besides, even if there was a name on them, why think that would be accepted? The Pastorals have the name of Paul on them, but most critics do not accept Pauline authorship of those works. To establish authorship of a document requires more than having the name on the document. This will require a methodology of determining authorship. Unfortunately, most skeptics today have no such methodology and just want to shout out “anonymous!” as if that alone is an argument. For those interested, I plan on writing in the near future why I consider the gospels to be by their traditional authors. Those interested in more right now can look at my interviews with Dr. Tim McGrew and with Andrew Pitts.

Let’s also not forget something else. Much of the writing of the ancient world has sadly not survived. Some of it was destroyed intentionally unfortunately, but some of it is just lost due to the ravages of time, and this includes Christian writings. Much of what we could find about Jesus would be in the area of Jerusalem and yet we are told by Josephus that after its destruction one would never know a city had been there.

It is for all of these reasons that arguments from silence is weak. The principle to follow is that where we would expect silence anyway, the argument from silence is weak. The rest of the world would not have been interested in a failed Messiah who was crucified and never ran for office or led an army. Miracles would only be scoffed at.

What is required? Doing real history which will require real work, including reading as much as one can on an argument. Too many atheists for too long have been using simple arguments without doing the heavy lifting of real historical work. They may think they are damaging the Christian cause, but in reality, they are only hurting their own cause.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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25 Responses to “Why Arguments From Silence Are Weak”

  1. Bunto Skiffler Says:

    The Man-God itinerant miracle-worker who NOT wanted fame

    Tonto say that NT bible either lying or white men who apologize for fairy tales… me thinkum latter.

    Can’t have your cake and eat it too Nick 🙂 Either standby the ‘eyewitness’ narrative or not. Jesus was a walking Lollapalooza fest (free food & wine, healing, wisdom sayings, pharisee-slamming, emo thrash at a stadium sized temple, etc, etc & etc).

    -b

    Admission: of course I do realize that the GOSPAN (and Acts) need allegory & metaphor to work as heroic stories in the first place (especially with the Jesus story). I just don’t think its very fair what you apologist do with this material. My bad for caring

    Happy Holidays!

    ps. [NPeters] “The rest of the world would not have been interested in a failed Messiah who was crucified and never ran for office or led an army.”
    Please. How about the sun darkening for hours, earthquakes, massive curtains tearing, saints coming back from the dead… common stuff I know but maybe just a little noteworthy?

  2. ksed11 Says:

    Hi
    Some apologists say that Acts (and thus Luke and Mark) are written early (no later than mid-60s) because Acts makes no mention of the deaths of Paul and Peter, the Jewish war, and the destruction of the temple.

    Do you think this is a legitimate way of arguing? I ask since this seems like an argument from silence (i.e. Acts is silent on these matters thus it was written early).

    Or perhaps one could say this argument is not illegitimate because the lack of mention of these events doesn’t imply that these events never happened. This is in contrast to the examples you give in your post where the absence of something is taken to imply that that something actually never happened.

    Thanks,
    ksed

  3. apologianick Says:

    Hi Ksed, Thanks for the question.

    There is a saying that sometimes silence is golden. Others, it is just plain yellow. There are times where silence can be evidence, but it’s not enough to say it alone is evidence. I outlined the principle in this statement.

    “The principle to follow is that where we would expect silence anyway, the argument from silence is weak.”

    Let’s suppose for instance that we talk about the Gospel of Barnabas. (This is not to be confused with the epistle of Barnabas.) Was this an authentic early gospel of Jesus? It’s important to realize no one refers to a Gospel of Barnabas and this includes even in early Muslim/Christian debates. It only shows up much later. Add that in to having no manuscripts and you have a strong case. Another Christian example would be the Johannine Comma. This would certainly help with debates with Jehovah’s Witnesses, but we know of no place in the Nicene debates where such a verse was used and again, there’s a lack of manuscript evidence.

    Now let’s look at Acts. What do we see?

    First, the life of Paul is extremely important to what Luke is writing about. It would certainly help show anyone that Christianity was no threat if Luke had Paul die an honorable death. (Unlike crucifixion, beheading was an honorable way to die and Paul would have died that way as a Roman citizen) Also, Luke has a strong interest in trials. He records numerous trials and times where Paul gives a defense, but decides to leave out the most important one? The destruction of Jerusalem would have been an important feature to mention as well and yet there is not even a hint that the Jewish war has even begun in the book of Acts.

    Of course, this in itself is not conclusive, but it should be counted as evidence. If asked about Jesus, there has been given no reason why Jesus should be mentioned by so many people. Frankly as I’ve said, I’m surprised anyone mentioned him at all other than his students, to which for most great teachers, their students are the only ones who write about them.

    For more on this, I urge you to go to a local university, library, seminary, etc. and get books on Acts and look at the dating. I have asked Keener if he would like to come on to discuss Acts and that is a possibility. Darrell Bock will be my guest on March 15th to discuss Luke and the historical Jesus. You can listen to the show on November 30th to hear Paul Maier talking about the dating of Acts as well.

    Hope this helps!

  4. David Says:

    “Frankly as I’ve said, I’m surprised anyone mentioned him at all other than his students, to which for most great teachers, their students are the only ones who write about them”

    It should surprise no one that a small-time preacher/rabble-rouser was executed with narry a mention from contemporaries. However, Christians believe that God did a re-boot with humanity and made the ultimate sacrifice by having his son/self murdered for our lousy sins. According to the gospels, this is an event of unimaginable spiritual/existential significance- a cosmic paradigm shift that would forever affect man’s relationship with the divine. The gospels claim Jesus performed so many miracles they couldn’t all be written down.

    So jesus is allegedly NOTHING like anyone before or after. The affect such a person/god would have on society would be beyond anything witnessed by man. That’s why the argument from silence should make believers hesitate to declare wild miracle claims factual. It certainly is not sufficient to disprove Jesus performed wild miracles- but to reply with “well, most events in history are not preserved by contemporaries,” actually concedes that whatever happened in ancient palestine, it was demonstrably not astonishing enough to be jotted down by anyone. nada.
    If god were concerned with, for example, how future generations would see his universe-transforming incarnation, he could have done a much better job of proving the alleged events happened. For instance, having simply ONE established historian note the unprecedented commotion (or better, the miracles themselves!)- this would make a world of difference to many on the fence. It wouldn’t persuade everybody. but it would certainly lend far far more credibility than the thin evidence christianity rests upon today.
    there are just far too many holes in the story to believe that the gospels outline a story of universal significance. Unless you believe god doesn’t much care for americans, australians, sub-saharan africans, polynesians, asians, then it’s a bit hard to swallow that god’s master plan meant that most of these people wouldn’t even hear of these incredible second-hand stories for 1500-1900 years. Occam’s razor makes this quite obvious; it’s a man-made religion.

    fwiw, i agree that many atheists use shoddy arguments. and many have jumped on the Jesus-didn’t-exist bandwagon. the argument from silence to me says nothing about whether or not Jesus existed (while references by Josephus and Paul to Jesus’s brother makes it reasonable to conclude he did exist), but it certainly does present a hurdle for anyone arguing for the universal significance of the Jesus of the NT. Note- I do NOT say that this proves miracles didn’t happen. Just saying that it’s yet another drop in the bucket indicating that christianity is no more divine than any other religion.

  5. ksed11 Says:

    Nick,
    Thanks for your reply. And I’ll check out those resources.
    Appreciate it.

    ksed

  6. apologianick Says:

    Good on you Ksed. It is always best to educate yourself. Even if someone disagrees with me then, I prefer an informed disagreement.

    Meanwhile, looking at what David said, it’s still the same problem.

    No one would take Jesus seriously as a God-man claim after He had been crucified and considering he never led an army, held political office, etc. He was not at all like what was expected. Again, why should they take him seriously? Meanwhile, we have four accounts of his life and numerous epistles that speak of him and our sources outside Scripture give much affirmation of what He did, such as Celsus and the Jewish opposition affirming that He worked wonders.

    Besides, I think Cornell is still waiting for you to explain how God could have done better.

    • Bunto Skiffler Says:

      [NPeters] “(blah, blah, regular obtuseness)….He did, such as Celsus and the Jewish opposition affirming that He worked wonders.”

      I think that last one is particularly brazen mister apologist. Why not lose your quite silly & useless bias for ONCE and perhaps retain a modicum of integrity when given the chance to discuss the difficulties honestly?

      David, just keep on pointing out the difficulties… even though it is almost certain you’ll NEVER receive an honest answer here. And I really do not think that this problem is any defect of Fundamentalist scholarship, it’s just to mislead for the sake of misleading I’m afraid.

      -b

      ps. not ad hominem Peters, just observation & advice. Maybe you could re-calibrate that canard somehow to mean what you imply… but I really don’t think so in any case. Celsus never affirmed any xian lies as far as I know. Please lemme know otherwise so I can ask my historian friend why he never told me such.

    • David Says:

      “I think Cornell is still waiting for you to explain how God could have done better.”

      Did that in several posts, thanks. It was quite easy.

      “No one would take Jesus seriously as a God-man claim after He had been crucified and considering he never led an army, held political office, etc. He was not at all like what was expected.”

      Cite your sources. Explain how with relatively few sources you can categorically, without exception, rule out normal human invention. Yes, even implausible invention.
      You talk about this birth of a religion as if either it made rational sense or it would be impossible to succeed- when all the observable new sects of religion (and most in history) are NOT (primarily) rational.
      Somewhat related, the earliest scriptures describe congregants as ecstatic worshippers, experiencing god viscerally, not intellectually (today we can see people apparently experiencing something similar :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whpHwKlM_8M Whatever they are experiencing). To the point that Paul had to write letters regulate such ecstatic behavior.

      You simply haven’t made the case that EVERYONE would reject christian claims. Of course, the fact is, most people did. christianity was small for it’s first decades. Most people did precisely as you predicted- they rejected it. That simply bolsters the case that the lord and master of the universe really didn’t leave a paradigm-shifting message of vital importance to all of humanity. The historical record shows nothing other than there was a small group of fanatical devotees. That is NOT sufficient to declare their claims of wild miracles true.

      P.S. according to your logic, no one would take Joseph Smith seriously as a prophet of god when the dubious nature of his character and the absence of golden tablets (among other salacious character flaws!) became clear. Once again, another case of people fervently believing in faith without adequate evidence. There are other factors than rationality when we are talking religion.

  7. apologianick Says:

    I’ll leave the Cornell point to him if he wants to debate it.

    David: Cite your sources. Explain how with relatively few sources you can categorically, without exception, rule out normal human invention. Yes, even implausible invention.

    Reply: Rule it out? No. Decide that it is highly unlikely based on the evidence? Yep. What are my sources? From a scholarly perspective, a leading work on this is David Instone-Brewer’s “The Jesus Scandals.” I interviewed him on my show on this topic back in April. Though written by a non-scholar by his own admission, J.P. Holding’s “The Impossible Faith” is an excellent look at this topic and in fact one I at this point plan to turn into a PH.D. thesis when I get to that point in my educational career. An atheist even paid Richard Carrier $5,000 to write a response to it. Carrier did. Holding issued another response that Carrier has never replied to. Others are the fact that crucifixion is the most shameful aspect of all. Even Bart Ehrman says this repeatedly. Here is one such example:

    Christians who wanted to proclaim Jesus as messiah would not have invented the notion that he was crucified because his crucifixion created such a scandal. Indeed, the apostle Paul calls it the chief “stumbling block” for Jews (1 Cor. 1:23). Where did the tradition come from? It must have actually happened. (Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. Third Edition. pages 221-222)

    Also, N.T. Wright’s whole series on Christian origins is highly helpful reading.

    David: You talk about this birth of a religion as if either it made rational sense or it would be impossible to succeed- when all the observable new sects of religion (and most in history) are NOT (primarily) rational.

    Reply: If one religion is true, it follows the others are false and woudl therefore have some non-rational aspects to them. Why should that surprise me?

    David: Somewhat related, the earliest scriptures describe congregants as ecstatic worshippers, experiencing god viscerally, not intellectually (today we can see people apparently experiencing something similar :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whpHwKlM_8M Whatever they are experiencing). To the point that Paul had to write letters regulate such ecstatic behavior.

    Reply: Yes. Ecstatic worship does still happen, but this assumes there is no intellectual component. Ehrman tells us in “Misquoting Jesus” that Christianity was a religion of the book early on, something unique to it. Only Judaism could really claim that at the time. Islam claims it later of course, seeing as it is highly dependent on Christianity.

    David: You simply haven’t made the case that EVERYONE would reject christian claims. Of course, the fact is, most people did. christianity was small for it’s first decades. Most people did precisely as you predicted- they rejected it. That simply bolsters the case that the lord and master of the universe really didn’t leave a paradigm-shifting message of vital importance to all of humanity. The historical record shows nothing other than there was a small group of fanatical devotees. That is NOT sufficient to declare their claims of wild miracles true.

    Reply: Actually, no. It doesn’t. Tacitus shows for instance that by the time of Nero it had made it all the way to Rome and was a sizable enough group that even Nero personally issued a response in seeking to kill the Christians. (And this group despite abundant persecution was increasing.) The book of Acts highly documents the spread of Christianity and archaeology has been an excellent friend to Acts showing more and more how reliable Luke is as a historian. For more on this, see the show I have coming up on March 15th of next year with Darrell Bock on Luke and the historical Jesus.

    David: P.S. according to your logic, no one would take Joseph Smith seriously as a prophet of god when the dubious nature of his character and the absence of golden tablets (among other salacious character flaws!) became clear. Once again, another case of people fervently believing in faith without adequate evidence. There are other factors than rationality when we are talking religion.

    Reply: This is a common misconception. What must be asked is how these cultural situations differ. My contention is that Christianity would not survive in an agonistic society due to it being a belief of great shame especially with a crucified Messiah. Let’s look at the differences.

    Roman Empire – Novelty was rejected by and large and viewed with suspicion.
    America – New ideas should be explored and we should be open-minded.
    RE – The community ranks above the individual. One’s personal worth comes from the opinion of the community. In an agonistic society, one who stands out from the group is viewed as deviant and ostracized.

    America – In individualism, each man is an island to himself. It is seen as wrong to not accept another person’s beliefs

    RE – Tolerance was not a virtue. Conformity was to be expected.
    America – Tolerance is the norm. One should accept that which is different from the group.

    RE – Shame was the main reason to avoid a belief. Honor was what everyone sought.
    America – Honor and shame mean very little. Self-esteem and self-worth are the main ideas. Your goodness comes from yourself.

    Furthermore, Joseph Smith had much to gain from what he did. He has a record as a con man beforehand. What he gained was personal glory and of course plenty of sex with polygamy. The apostles on the other hand had nothing to gain. They were setting themselves up to be shamed and persecuted. They were making themselves outsiders to their own Jewish society and traitors to Rome by declaring Jesus to be another king. Now you can say “But YHWH doesn’t exist!” Irrelevant. They were sure that He did and knew that if they were wrong, they were guilty of the highest blasphemy against Him.

    The mistake is in only looking at what is similar (Beliefs that are different) and ignoring what is different (Different cultures and motivations for the belief). It would be like saying apples and oranges are the same because they’re both fruits while ignoring all the differences.

    • David Says:

      Ok, now you backtrack from saying this: “No one would take Jesus seriously as a God-man claim after He had been crucified and considering he never led an army, held political office, etc”
      to saying “it is highly unlikely based on the evidence.” The nuance is refreshing, thanks.

      You keep defending the crucifixion and I have not challenged that. It’s time to retire that straw-man.

      “If one religion is true, it follows the others are false and woudl therefore have some non-rational aspects to them.”

      Yes, just as it follows that if all religions are false, they all have non-rational aspects to them. We KNOW christianity has non-rational aspects to it (read the ridiculous rationalizations of the quasi-polytheistic trinity; the fact that god makes a covenant just to israel (full of completely irrational restrictions) then, in one small part of the world, sends his son to be murdered in order to save humanity, while leaving most of humanity ignorant of this vital message; etc…) and you most certainly have not proved it true.
      So we agree religions have non-rational elements. Good. that was my point, thank you.

      You are again wrong. The historical record indeed shows christianity was quite small for the first few decades. Especially the first decade. Even more so the first few embarrassing years after Jesus death. The smaller the number of devotees proximate to the alleged miracles, the less likely there were actual miracles. Considering the uncountable number of alleged miracles in the NT, it’s preposterous that such a game-changing figure of ultimate consequence (who went well beyond your average huckster and literally raised the dead and flew up into space) would affect such a small number of people (and of course, completely preposterous that the alleged events have universal significance). This is common sense. I’ll repeat. The historical record is unambiguous that christianity was a tiny minority in the decade following jesus’s death. Which is perfectly in harmony with the idea that most people rejected it- even the thousands who allegedly witnessed the son of god perform wild miracles.

      Of course you need to rationalize away comparisons of other people following false religions. Your reasoning depends on, once again, sweeping generalizations about societies that do not hold up to scrutiny.
      The US, in Jo Smith’s time, was quite conservative compared to today. There was indeed heavy group pressure to conform. the Mormons themselves attracted the ire of their countrymen and had to flee across the country for survival. Tolerance was the norm?! Ha, ask the indians that, or slaves who wanted to keep their ancestral religion. Or italians or irish when they came here in droves. Or wiccans. Or homosexuals. Oh sure, I’ll grant that it was not the same society as ancient palestine, but to pretend the early US was just a big tent welcoming everybody is troublingly ignorant of actual US history.
      In the roman empire, society was more fluid than you characterize. People indeed joined cults and different sects of judaism (including weird ones with non-obvious benefits like essenes); you claim “novelty was rejected by and large.” Thankfully you said “by and large” because we KNOW that novelty was in fact accepted by all those who switched sects and joined cults.

      I also believe Jo Smith was fradulent. You missed my point, which is that people invest devotion into beliefs that are demonstrably irrational. my point stands.
      “The apostles on the other hand had nothing to gain.”
      Completely false. And you are well-read enough to know better. Scoring with girls is not the only way for people to find meaning or belonging in a group. I do not think you are soo ignorant of psychology, sociology, and history to seriously claim that people joining a group of believers who treat each other like family have “nothing to gain.” I assume your zeal got the better of you for a moment and you didn’t think before you made yet another sweeping generalization that doesn’t hold water. Or maybe, admitting the obvious here would undermine your desperate certainty that only miracles can explain the NT, when history is chalk-full of people acting irrationally.

      Cornell knows that I easily showed how much better god could have done. When confronted with common sense, he is forced to mumble about god’s intellect being far beyond our comprehension…
      Haha, ok, great answer!
      Are you seriously unable yourself to imagine a better way to spread the gospel, and to ensure the fidelity of the message, than what the NT describes??! I bet you can do it! Don’t let pride compel you to defend the intellectually indefensible.

  8. apologianick Says:

    David: Ok, now you backtrack from saying this: “No one would take Jesus seriously as a God-man claim after He had been crucified and considering he never led an army, held political office, etc”
    to saying “it is highly unlikely based on the evidence.” The nuance is refreshing, thanks.

    Reply: The two are highly consistent. If you want me to believe an improbable scenario, you will need to provide evidence.

    David: You keep defending the crucifixion and I have not challenged that. It’s time to retire that straw-man.

    Reply: You keep missing the point. I am not having to show that Christ was crucified. I know you accept that. What needs to be accepted is just the magnitude of how shameful that was and what a major stumbling block it would be. To say Jesus is Lord was mean to stake one’s entire identity on a man on a cross. To a Jew, He was under YHWH’s curse. To a Gentile, He was a traitor to Rome. Siding with Him was claiming both of those for oneself.

    David: Yes, just as it follows that if all religions are false, they all have non-rational aspects to them. We KNOW christianity has non-rational aspects to it

    Reply: Don’t include me in your we. I know no such thing. I know Christians have irrational interpretations. I don’t know of irrational beliefs in Christianity. I know of difficult to understand beliefs, but not logically contradictory beliefs.

    David: (read the ridiculous rationalizations of the quasi-polytheistic trinity;

    Reply: Or you could read the scholarly evidence based on Second Temple Judaism from scholars like O’Collins, Hurtado, Bauckham, etc. The Christological system fits in perfectly with Second Temple Judaism and in fact, the earliest Christology is the highest Christology. They came right out at the start granting Jesus to be included in the divine identity. Why do that to a crucified man?

    David: the fact that god makes a covenant just to israel (full of completely irrational restrictions)

    Reply: Another assertion. Saying you don’t understand it does not make it irrational.

    David: then, in one small part of the world, sends his son to be murdered in order to save humanity, while leaving most of humanity ignorant of this vital message; etc…) and you most certainly have not proved it true.

    Reply: I have not really given an argument yet for the resurrection, though mine would rest on the work of leading scholars again such as in the case of Wright and Licona. As for appearing to one part of the world, why yes. I don’t see that as irrational. I in fact see it as a way of demonstrating that the message did not spread by power or having sudden intellectual insight.

    David: So we agree religions have non-rational elements. Good. that was my point, thank you.

    Reply: Some do, but you have not shown all do. I consider atheism to have far more non-rational ideas.

    David: You are again wrong. The historical record indeed shows christianity was quite small for the first few decades. Especially the first decade. Even more so the first few embarrassing years after Jesus death.

    Reply: Actually, the problem is your statement was vague. You referred to a small group. How big is that? I would say it was at most about 10% of the population of the Empire, but that is not what I’d consider a small group and there is no doubt that it had reached Rome. I would contend it had reached Rome by the time of Claudius. Paul could say in his time that the gospel had reached the whole Roman Empire. It does not mean everyone believed it of course, but that it had been spread everywhere.

    David:The smaller the number of devotees proximate to the alleged miracles, the less likely there were actual miracles. Considering the uncountable number of alleged miracles in the NT, it’s preposterous that such a game-changing figure of ultimate consequence (who went well beyond your average huckster and literally raised the dead and flew up into space) would affect such a small number of people (and of course, completely preposterous that the alleged events have universal significance).

    Reply: Why would it not be the caes that a local event had universal significance. The Reformation happened in one spot. Revolutions start in one spot. Also, the same problem comes. Most historians would not be vacationing in Palestine. They would hear these stories and be skeptical of them not being eyewitnesses. Even hearing eyewitnesses they would be skeptical. Why do you think they’d even consider treating the claims seriously?

    As for miracles being done, again, there has not been given an argument against miracles and I’ve presented arguments for, such as Keener and Earman. Also, we have Paul’s testimony in 2 Corinthians that the signs of an apostle were done. In 12:12, he claims that he worked miracles. Why is this relevant? This is an undisputably Pauline letter written to a church that was questioning Paul’s record and asking if he was really an apostle. There were several enemies of his there and he is certainly not going to make a claim that they all know to be false and can call him on.

    David: This is common sense. I’ll repeat. The historical record is unambiguous that christianity was a tiny minority in the decade following jesus’s death. Which is perfectly in harmony with the idea that most people rejected it- even the thousands who allegedly witnessed the son of god perform wild miracles.

    Reply: Correct, though we have to be clear what a tiny minority is. An excellent look at the demographics can be found in Rodney Stark’s “The Rise of Christianity.” I contend that it was indeed a strong minority, but I would not say a small group.

    David: Of course you need to rationalize away comparisons of other people following false religions. Your reasoning depends on, once again, sweeping generalizations about societies that do not hold up to scrutiny.

    Reply: Gotta love that well-poisoning.

    David: The US, in Jo Smith’s time, was quite conservative compared to today. There was indeed heavy group pressure to conform. the Mormons themselves attracted the ire of their countrymen and had to flee across the country for survival.

    Reply: Yes, but what for? Was it because of strange beliefs or was it because their behavior was seen as deviant? Considering that Joseph Smith was also traveling with an army called the Danites, we can see why people would also see Smith as a dangerous threat.

    David: Tolerance was the norm?! Ha, ask the indians that, or slaves who wanted to keep their ancestral religion. Or italians or irish when they came here in droves. Or wiccans. Or homosexuals. Oh sure, I’ll grant that it was not the same society as ancient palestine, but to pretend the early US was just a big tent welcoming everybody is troublingly ignorant of actual US history.

    Reply: I still would contend tolerance was the norm although there are certainly blotches. This does not mean that every person practiced that kind of tolerance, but most people did have a live and let live belief with ideas. The difference between the agonistic and individualistic cultures cannot be understated.

    David: In the roman empire, society was more fluid than you characterize. People indeed joined cults and different sects of judaism (including weird ones with non-obvious benefits like essenes);

    Reply: Yes they did and Judaism also got a free pass because it was an old belief. The Roman Empire then just tolerated them and did not force them to worship the emperor or the Roman gods, though they were to still pray for the Emperor. There were Romans who had tried to force their way at times on Palestine, including Pontius Pilate. Josephus records that these did not go well.

    David: you claim “novelty was rejected by and large.” Thankfully you said “by and large” because we KNOW that novelty was in fact accepted by all those who switched sects and joined cults.

    Reply: And here’s the difference. YOu could certainly come up with a new system, but it would only be allowed if that new system was to conform to the Roman system. By all means bring Mithras in! Just make him part of the Roman pantheon and don’t deny the other gods! If you do that, then disaster will befall us all! Christianity went against it all! It denied the other gods entirely, refused emperor worship, separated itself from Judaism, and still maintained its belief system in a shameful Messiah despite persecution.

    David: I also believe Jo Smith was fradulent. You missed my point, which is that people invest devotion into beliefs that are demonstrably irrational. my point stands.

    Reply: That has never been questioned. WHat has been questioned is that Christianity is one such belief.

    David: Completely false. And you are well-read enough to know better. Scoring with girls is not the only way for people to find meaning or belonging in a group. I do not think you are soo ignorant of psychology, sociology, and history to seriously claim that people joining a group of believers who treat each other like family have “nothing to gain.” I assume your zeal got the better of you for a moment and you didn’t think before you made yet another sweeping generalization that doesn’t hold water. Or maybe, admitting the obvious here would undermine your desperate certainty that only miracles can explain the NT, when history is chalk-full of people acting irrationally.

    Reply: No. Your proposal I find preposterous in fact. If the disciples wanted group acceptance, they already had it in Judaism. They had a community that would welcome them and affirm them there. Why reject a larger community for a much much smaller one and one that would put them on the outs with YHWH and with the Roman Empire? If the apostles wanted what you say they wanted, they would have abandoned Jesus entirely. Quite likely had they wanted a Messiah, they would have gone with James, yet we find no record that James was ever considered.

    David: Cornell knows that I easily showed how much better god could have done. When confronted with common sense, he is forced to mumble about god’s intellect being far beyond our comprehension…

    Reply: You have this strange habit of saying what people know that they really don’t.

    David: Haha, ok, great answer!
    Are you seriously unable yourself to imagine a better way to spread the gospel, and to ensure the fidelity of the message, than what the NT describes??! I bet you can do it! Don’t let pride compel you to defend the intellectually indefensible.

    Reply: Oh I have thought on it several times and each time, I have come up with problems with each theory that is presented. This includes reading the atheists who have “better” ideas.

    Besides, it is not my argument anyway. It is yours. It is up to you to provide this better way.

    • David Says:

      “Why would it not be the caes that a local event had universal significance.”
      When you repeat the exact question I’ve answered several times, it becomes hard to believe you are debating in good faith. I’ll give you a hint- it has something to do with assertion that the NT describes an unprecedented event of the utmost cosmic significance…

      “What needs to be accepted is just the magnitude of how shameful that was and what a major stumbling block it would be.”
      We’ve covered this too. And I agree that it would be and factually was a stumbling block- hence the low numbers of christians (and the resulting historical silence). The issue is not whether or not it’s shameful, but whether or not shameful/irrational beliefs are prohibitive to the point of excluding EVERYONE. History, sociology, archeology, psychology are unambiguous; such stumbling blocks are NOT universally effective. History is replete with examples blah blah said this many times.

      “Saying you don’t understand it does not make it irrational”
      Speaking of poisoning the well! I guess nothing is irrational then; things are simply beyond my comprehension. Somehow, I doubt you can provide any rational for the staggering number of tedius laws on everything from food to textiles to isolating menstruating women… I mean, it’s actually easy to understand why primitive man would come up with such- but that an all-powerful god who would give us the simple message of Jesus?! absurd.

      “As for appearing to one part of the world, why yes. I don’t see that as irrational.”
      Me neither, so long as christianity is a provincial off-shoot of a provincial man-made religion. Makes perfect sense, in fact. As for a new, vital, divine re-ordering of the universe for the purpose of universal human salvation, you got a problem (still unaddressed) since most of humanity would be in the dark for nearly two thousand years…
      Occam’s razor makes this easy. It’s man-made.

      ” Paul could say in his time that the gospel had reached the whole Roman Empire. It does not mean everyone believed it of course, but that it had been spread everywhere.”
      Precisely my point. Paul was writing at least 30 years from jesus’s death. That tells us nothing about the numbers in the first few years after jesus death. From the scant historical information, it was a very marginal, small group of fanatics. My point stands. The closer to Jesus, the smaller the group.

      “They would hear these stories and be skeptical of them not being eyewitnesses. Even hearing eyewitnesses they would be skeptical. Why do you think they’d even consider treating the claims seriously?”
      Come on, please remember the subject! An omnipotent god who cared about future skeptics could at the least have one established, reliable historian note the amazing events.

      “This is an undisputably Pauline letter written to a church that was questioning Paul’s record and asking if he was really an apostle. There were several enemies of his there and he is certainly not going to make a claim that they all know to be false and can call him on.”
      Irrelevant to the specific miracles of the gospels, which were of an order of magnitude beyond “ordinary” miracles.

      “I still would contend tolerance was the norm although there are certainly blotches. This does not mean that every person practiced that kind of tolerance, but most people did have a live and let live belief with ideas.”
      More ahistorical assertions without evidence.

      “Christianity went against it all! It denied the other gods entirely, refused emperor worship, separated itself from Judaism, and still maintained its belief system in a shameful Messiah despite persecution.”
      First, it’s irrelevant to the truth claims (falong gong). Second, your characterization is not accurate, since initially christianity, according to the words of Jesus, did not separate itself from Judaism. Due to Paul’s influence, it indeed evolved to something distinct, but the gospels outline a sect that saw itself as being completely Jewish.That christianity clashed with other jewish sects is irrelevant- each sect believed they were the correct one (i.e. they thought the others were false).
      “If the disciples wanted group acceptance, they already had it in Judaism. They had a community that would welcome them and affirm them there. Why reject a larger community for a much much smaller one and one that would put them on the outs with YHWH and with the Roman Empire? If the apostles wanted what you say they wanted, they would have abandoned Jesus entirely.”
      Back to square one again with this. You talk with complete certainty about people about whom we have only fragmented evidence. What exactly was Peter’s home life like before Jesus? Which sect was he a part of? How well was he treated in his sect? How did his sect get along with neighboring sects? How did he feel about roman occupation? How did he feel about his sect’s stance towards the romans? What did he think about the Messiah claims of his sect? or the other sects? How well did he get along with his rabbi? How supportive was his family? What about Bartholomew? etc… Obviously, you know next to nothing about these guys pre-Jesus. You don’t know anything other than that some illiterate guys followed a charismatic leader, claimed he worked miracles and rose from the dead, despite persecution. You do NOT know any substantial pre-Jesus biographical detail of any of the players here (Jesus aside, and we vehemently disagree on the reliability of the gospels regarding Jesus). When history is silent, you should be extremely careful with sweeping pronouncements. Yet here you are telling us how accepted they were, how irrational joining a new exciting cult would be. You don’t address the influence of charismatic leaders upon followers. There’s plenty of examples that show that such leaders can indeed inspire fervent devotion, despite being rooted in falsehood. History simply doesn’t give anyone enough certainty to describe accurately the individual social/psychological environment of the first christians for you to assert “they couldn’t have thought X”. You draw sweeping conclusions from a paucity of evidence. Unfortunately, history is too often quite opaque- full of tantalizing clues but short on psychological specifics for most of its subjects.

  9. cornelll Says:

    “Cornell knows that I easily showed how much better god could have done. When confronted with common sense, he is forced to mumble about god’s intellect being far beyond our comprehension…
    Haha, ok, great answer!
    Are you seriously unable yourself to imagine a better way to spread the gospel, and to ensure the fidelity of the message, than what the NT describes??! I bet you can do it! Don’t let pride compel you to defend the intellectually indefensible.”

    I know that you are out of mind if you truly think that you can play God, so why don’t you check out my response and shoot me another reply, I need another good laugh!

  10. apologianick Says:

    David:
    When you repeat the exact question I’ve answered several times, it becomes hard to believe you are debating in good faith. I’ll give you a hint- it has something to do with assertion that the NT describes an unprecedented event of the utmost cosmic significance…

    Reply: Which again is not an answer. Because an event is unprecedented, that does not mean it cannot be both local and have a universal impact. Much of history is this way.

    David: We’ve covered this too. And I agree that it would be and factually was a stumbling block- hence the low numbers of christians (and the resulting historical silence). The issue is not whether or not it’s shameful, but whether or not shameful/irrational beliefs are prohibitive to the point of excluding EVERYONE.

    Reply: Actually, the issue is shame. People do not willingly take on shameful beliefs in an agonistic society unless they have a darn good incentive. What incentive could the Christians offer? None. If the people wanted to be accepted by the group, the last thing they would do is join the Christians. That would be exchanging the favor of the majority and their honor for the favor and honor of the minority. Why do that, especially for the wealthy?

    David: History, sociology, archeology, psychology are unambiguous; such stumbling blocks are NOT universally effective. History is replete with examples blah blah said this many times.

    Reply: And here’s something else. In agonistic societies, those examples all died. Attis’s cult is no longer around. Christianity was the one that survived and it had everything going against it.

    David: Speaking of poisoning the well! I guess nothing is irrational then; things are simply beyond my comprehension.

    Reply: No. To say that because something is not understood does not mean its irrational does not lead to the idea that nothing is irrational. You need a reason beyond “I don’t understand it.” I have seen zero interaction with scholarship regarding Second Temple Judaism so why should I take your claim seriously? Frankly, I’ve seen ZERO action on your part with any NT scholarship. Why should I take your claims seriously?

    David: Somehow, I doubt you can provide any rational for the staggering number of tedius laws on everything from food to textiles to isolating menstruating women… I mean, it’s actually easy to understand why primitive man would come up with such- but that an all-powerful god who would give us the simple message of Jesus?! absurd.

    Reply: Actually, yes I can. You can find the rationale in such works as David DeSilva’s “Honor, Patronage, Kinship, Purity. The whole purpose of the Law was that Israel was to be a nation of priests set apart for showing the holiness of YHWH to the world around them, and that required purity in everything. That is a short answer, but a stepping stone to a much larger system.

    David: Me neither, so long as christianity is a provincial off-shoot of a provincial man-made religion. Makes perfect sense, in fact. As for a new, vital, divine re-ordering of the universe for the purpose of universal human salvation, you got a problem (still unaddressed) since most of humanity would be in the dark for nearly two thousand years…
    Occam’s razor makes this easy. It’s man-made.

    Reply: Not so. Christianity did spread quite rapidly. As I argued earlier and others understood properly, it had reached the entire Roman Empire before too long making it all the way to Rome. I have been given no reason why God is obligated to make the plan known to everyone immediately nor have I even been told a way how this would be possible.

    David: Precisely my point. Paul was writing at least 30 years from jesus’s death. That tells us nothing about the numbers in the first few years after jesus death. From the scant historical information, it was a very marginal, small group of fanatics. My point stands. The closer to Jesus, the smaller the group.

    Reply: Again, this is a vague term. Stark does give us some good averages in “The Rise of Christianity.” That the group had reached Rome and even become a significant presence there from what we gather especially to the epistles to the Romans written in the mid 50’s, we can be sure the group was small but not too obscure. It would be well known.

    David: Come on, please remember the subject! An omnipotent god who cared about future skeptics could at the least have one established, reliable historian note the amazing events.

    Reply: Why? Is it this idea that if God is omnipotent, then He must act the way you want Him to and if He doesn’t, then He is not omnipotent? If you do not think that, then your entire argument fails as He could act contrary and still be omnipotent. If you do think that, then you must explain how it is that you reached this divine knowledge.

    David: Irrelevant to the specific miracles of the gospels, which were of an order of magnitude beyond “ordinary” miracles.

    Reply: And what constitutes an ordinary and extraordinary miracle? Anyone of them is anathema for an atheist. The accounts in Acts include even a resurrection on Paul’s part and miraculous healing. Each of these would be testament to the reality of miracles.

    David: More ahistorical assertions without evidence.

    Reply: Religious wars were not exactly prevalent in our early American history. Political wars? Yep. Land wars? Yep. Wars over religion. Nope. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, and others did not receive this treatment.

    David: First, it’s irrelevant to the truth claims (falong gong).

    Reply: Entirely relevant. The shamefulness of Falon has not been shown nor has it been shown that this is an agonistic society. Furthermore, Falon is a new belief system. Time will tell. The argument is not that new beliefs will not rise up, but that shameful beliefs will quickly die out. In fact, it is doubtful we can have a parallel as there is a watching world scene now that has several organizations that will step in and help a belief being persecuted.

    David: Second, your characterization is not accurate, since initially christianity, according to the words of Jesus, did not separate itself from Judaism.

    Reply: Actually, it did. It held to a crucified Messiah who made a claim considered blasphemous. It also observed baptism based on the life of Jesus and the Lord’s Supper. Furthermore, it said following the Law including circumcision was no longer necessary, the temple was no longer necessary, and the Sabbath was now on Sunday. The early Roman Empire at the start did not see a distinction, but Jews immediately did. Christians saw themselves as being faithful to the Jewish system and Jews still living in an old system.

    David: Due to Paul’s influence, it indeed evolved to something distinct,

    Reply: E.P. Sanders put this idea to death about 40 years or so ago. You really have to learn to keep up with modern scholarship.

    David: but the gospels outline a sect that saw itself as being completely Jewish.

    Reply: Yep. Paul saw himself as a Jew in fact and wrote to the Corinthians calling them former Gentiles and referring to the fathers of all of them who went through the Red Sea.

    David: That christianity clashed with other jewish sects is irrelevant- each sect believed they were the correct one (i.e. they thought the others were false).

    Reply: It’s not that they clashed, but that their beliefs were in fact seen as blasphemous and if false, would put them on the outs with YHWH. Why risk that?

    David: Back to square one again with this. You talk with complete certainty about people about whom we have only fragmented evidence. What exactly was Peter’s home life like before Jesus? Which sect was he a part of? How well was he treated in his sect? How did his sect get along with neighboring sects? How did he feel about roman occupation? How did he feel about his sect’s stance towards the romans? What did he think about the Messiah claims of his sect? or the other sects? How well did he get along with his rabbi? How supportive was his family? What about Bartholomew? etc… Obviously, you know next to nothing about these guys pre-Jesus.

    Reply: Actually, these are interesting questions and quite irrelevant to. Knowing their individual beliefs does not say anything about where they would go to find acceptance. To find the honor of the group, they could stick with any of the accepted groups in Judaism. To go with a Messiah that had been publicly seen as a failure and to stake their identity, including their eternity, on Him. The easier way would be conformity to the larger group, not deviancy within a smaller group.

    David: You don’t know anything other than that some illiterate guys followed a charismatic leader, claimed he worked miracles and rose from the dead, despite persecution.

    Reply: Actually, Matthew was quite likely not illiterate being a tax collector and the fishermen would have had a basic literacy since such records were necessary for fishing. Further, who cares if they were illiterate? What does that have to do with anything?

    David: You do NOT know any substantial pre-Jesus biographical detail of any of the players here (Jesus aside, and we vehemently disagree on the reliability of the gospels regarding Jesus). When history is silent, you should be extremely careful with sweeping pronouncements. Yet here you are telling us how accepted they were, how irrational joining a new exciting cult would be.

    Reply: Except my claim is not about the individuals. My claim is about the group dynamic. These claims can be found backed by the group of scholars known as the Context Group and seen in such works as Jeffrey’s “The Greco-Roman World.” Richards and O’Brien’s “Misreading Scripture WIth Western Eyes.” Pilch and Malina’s “Handbook of Biblical Social Values.” etc.

    Do you have any scholarship that argues otherwise?

    And if not, why should I go with your beliefs with no scholarly backing when I have the arguments of scholars right here?

    [QUOTE] You don’t address the influence of charismatic leaders upon followers. There’s plenty of examples that show that such leaders can indeed inspire fervent devotion, despite being rooted in falsehood. History simply doesn’t give anyone enough certainty to describe accurately the individual social/psychological environment of the first christians for you to assert “they couldn’t have thought X”. [/QUOTE]

    Actually it does. The context group specializes in this. We have something in common for all Messiah movements in Judaism. When the Messiah died, they went home.

    David: You draw sweeping conclusions from a paucity of evidence. Unfortunately, history is too often quite opaque- full of tantalizing clues but short on psychological specifics for most of its subjects.

    Reply: And this assumes an individualist approach to history, which is wrong from the get go. My understandings are found within the work of the context group of scholarship.

    What scholars are your claims rooted in?

    • David Says:

      Agh! I posted a long response, and it got deleted because it couldn’t “find the page”.
      Darn, somebody might wanna call Keener- i guess there really are miracles!

      i’ll summarize by saying you dichotomize too much. You paint ancient palestine as a homogenous society that can be spoken of in categorical terms. You correctly note some aspects of its society (conservative, honor-based) but then pretend that’s the end of the story. History shows that people in fact made unlikely choices, even in ancient palestine, choices that led to persecution and death (i.e. seemingly unlikely choices that went against conventional common sense and self-preservation).

      You dichotomize by saying christianity “offered nothing.” That’s flat out false. . groups, including christianity, do offer incentives; if nothing else, psychological ones. A small cult can effectively function as a family. Christians shared material comfort and pooled resources. At the time, there was quite a bit of social unrest and great social injustice/inequality– christianity’s message of help to the weakest would obviously appeal to those on the bottom rung of society. And evidently, it did just that, attracting notably few of elite class for decades after Jesus’s death.
      It’s just historical and epistemological hubris to assert that NOBODY could gain anything from christianity absent miracles. MOST people indeed rejected christianity, initially. It’s not inconceivable that a small percent would find it attractive. It’s consonant with normal human activities, yes, even in agonistic ones with such a mixed cultural heritage and revolutionary, desperate, anti-imperial sentiment.
      But you basically say it’s IMPOSSIBLE for christianity to have found ANY followers. That’s categorical nonsense.

      P.S. please stop changing the subject to longevity whenever i mention Falon Gong- it’s staying power is irrelevant to the following point:
      it’s existence demonstrates that people in a relatively conformist, homogenous society can and do choose to join cults that attract stigma, persecution and torture. Why? If it offers nothing, why join? Well, let’s throw in the towel and say it must because Falong Gong is true. There aren’t any other explanations!

  11. apologianick Says:

    David: i’ll summarize by saying you dichotomize too much. You paint ancient palestine as a homogenous society that can be spoken of in categorical terms. You correctly note some aspects of its society (conservative, honor-based) but then pretend that’s the end of the story. History shows that people in fact made unlikely choices, even in ancient palestine, choices that led to persecution and death (i.e. seemingly unlikely choices that went against conventional common sense and self-preservation).

    Reply: Some examples would be nice. Even when people did strange things, it was for the cause of honor, which would show the point. Let’s consider the people who came out and spoke against the temple before the great war. They were doing it for the honor of God. The reason the Christians would do something strange is they believed God had acted. Why would they believe that without reason? They would not think that if the body was still in the tomb. THey would not think that if they were not sure they had seen the risen Lord. Both of those are essential and both need to be explained.

    David: You dichotomize by saying christianity “offered nothing.” That’s flat out false. . groups, including christianity, do offer incentives; if nothing else, psychological ones. A small cult can effectively function as a family.

    Reply: And Christianity caused them to be ostracized from their families and society, a heavy cost. Especially since the earliest followers were JEws, why abandon the proven way of YHWH to them for a new offshoot group that had a crucified Messiah?

    David: Christians shared material comfort and pooled resources.

    Reply: Only in Jerusalem and even then there were squabbles. Acts 6 records arguments concerning the distribution of food. Acts 5 already has fraud going on in the early church. The reason things were done in Jerusalem differently was because they knew the place was soon to be judged. No sense holding on to property or material goods there!

    David: At the time, there was quite a bit of social unrest and great social injustice/inequality– christianity’s message of help to the weakest would obviously appeal to those on the bottom rung of society.

    Reply: No it wouldn’t. We have no indication that there would be sympathy for Jesus, especially amongst the poor. These are the very people that would get the strongest message from the crucifixion. Why would they want to make their situation even worse by identifying with a crucified man? The idea of modern sympathy like that for Jesus is just that, sympathy.

    And in fact, let’s suppose for the sake of argument they did have sympathy. What would they most likely say? “That’s a nice story, but I have no reason to believe it.”

    David: And evidently, it did just that, attracting notably few of elite class for decades after Jesus’s death.

    Reply: Actually, people like Meeks say the church grew quite well in the middle and upper class, most likely because these were the people who had the means to verify the accounts by sending out their own investigators.

    David: It’s just historical and epistemological hubris to assert that NOBODY could gain anything from christianity absent miracles.

    Reply: Anything they could supposedly gain, they’d get better from staying where they were.

    David: MOST people indeed rejected christianity, initially. It’s not inconceivable that a small percent would find it attractive. It’s consonant with normal human activities, yes, even in agonistic ones with such a mixed cultural heritage and revolutionary, desperate, anti-imperial sentiment.
    But you basically say it’s IMPOSSIBLE for christianity to have found ANY followers. That’s categorical nonsense.

    Reply: No. I don’t say it’s impossible for it to have any followers. I say it would not have lasted. Christianity should have died out incredibly quickly. It didn’t. It had everything against it politically, socially, culturally, etc. It survived and conquered its enemies.

    David: P.S. please stop changing the subject to longevity whenever i mention Falon Gong- it’s staying power is irrelevant to the following point:
    it’s existence demonstrates that people in a relatively conformist, homogenous society can and do choose to join cults that attract stigma, persecution and torture. Why? If it offers nothing, why join? Well, let’s throw in the towel and say it must because Falong Gong is true. There aren’t any other explanations!

    Reply: Except longevity is part of the case. Furthermore, there is still not a parallel because in our day and age, there are enough amnesty groups to interfere with most any belief system. Christianity had not government agencies that would be protecting it.

    • David Says:

      “The reason the Christians would do something strange is they believed God had acted. Why would they believe that without reason? They would not think that if the body was still in the tomb. THey would not think that if they were not sure they had seen the risen Lord. Both of those are essential and both need to be explained.”
      False. You pretend humans are always reasonable. Demonstrably, irrefutably false. All it takes is conviction, and faith. Outside the gospel narrative (which of course includes tales of visible angels, rising dead, flying man/gods) we have no evidence that any converts checked to see if the tomb was really empty.
      Also we have no reason to assume first christians were empiricists. Paul’s letters certainly indicate otherwise. Constant appeals to his divine authority; constant antagonism towards the wise (those more inclined to be empiricists!); to scripture; to prophesy; to claims of superstitious ‘healings.” this is how Paul defended christianity. Not by saying, “And you checked the tomb, checked with the roman authorities for other explanations….” Nope. Nada. So your assurance rests on fallacious reasoning that is undercut by your own scriptures.

      “And Christianity caused them to be ostracized from their families and society, a heavy cost. Especially since the earliest followers were JEws, why abandon the proven way of YHWH to them for a new offshoot group that had a crucified Messiah?
      You don’t know this. We have evidence from the scriptures, actually, that entire families would indeed convert when the head of a household converted. We know plenty of jews were quite unhappy with “the proven way of yahwey,” which is why so many converted to different sects. Jesus saw himself within judaism; therefore the religion was sold NOT opposed to judaism, but the truest embodyment of it. So a convert would not believe he was abandoning yahwey, but rather, obeying him. You know this, come on. Why join a group that had a crucified messiah? Well, the first christians offered plenty of “reasons.” If you forgot, please read your bible.

      “We have no indication that there would be sympathy for Jesus, especially amongst the poor. These are the very people that would get the strongest message from the crucifixion.”
      False. Please read your bible. Jesus’s message was aimed particularly at the poor. I cannot believe you are asserting this. The issue is whether or not Jesus’s message, when he was alive, would resonate. It did. Not much apparently (depsite allegedly performing countless miracles and flying up to space!), but it appealed to some. After he was dead, the message of jesus’s followers emphasized huge rewards- in the afterlife. We have no evidence what MOST of those post-crucifixion followers really believed (i.e. whether or not they believed in bodily resurrection). all it took to make a cult successful is for it to have an appealing message, offer social/psychological support, or to have a charismatic, influential leader who inspires followers.

      “people like Meeks say the church grew quite well in the middle and upper class, most likely because these were the people who had the means to verify the accounts by sending out their own investigators.”
      I’m familiar with the source material- within there is NO evidence that christianity “grew quite well in middle and upper class.” Meeks might make things up, but he’s not getting it from the first sources. What is YOUR opinion? What is your evidence? How many followers did christianity have before J’s death and the decade following it? In fact, in Jerusalem, where people actually could verify the claims, there were evidently VERY few followers! Makes ya kind of wonder. In fact, Romans 11 reinforces this.

      “Anything they could supposedly gain, they’d get better from staying where they were.”
      “Anything?!” You know this how???!! Again, your sweeping dichotomizations cloud your judgment. You simply do not and cannot know the psychology of each convert! there’s not remotely sufficient data for such sweeping, broad, categorical assertions (which, btw, would not explain why anyone would join other zany cults like the essenes, and nazoreans…), yet you categorically assert the above. That’s the hubris I’m talking about. Epistemological arrogance. You don’t know, so you just assert. You’ll apparently say anything to support your narrative.

      “I don’t say it’s impossible for it to have any followers. I say it would not have lasted. Christianity should have died out incredibly quickly. It didn’t. It had everything against it politically, socially, culturally, etc. It survived and conquered its enemies.”
      False. It did not have EVERYTHING against it. It offered social belonging. that’s sufficient, as any casual glance at history, psychology, anthropology shows. Some ideologies/cults survive. DOES NOT PROVE TRUTH CLAIMS. sorry you are incapable of admitting it. It’s a simply matter of elementary logic.

      ” Except longevity is part of the case. Furthermore, there is still not a parallel because in our day and age, there are enough amnesty groups to interfere with most any belief system. ”
      Yep, you’ll say anything to defend your faith, regardless of the truth. Falong Gong followers are not protected by amnesty groups. Its members are persecuted and tortured, and membership is stigmatized by society.
      Longevity is NOT logically part of the case. It does not follow logically that a sects longevity is related to truth claims. all longevity demonstrates is that the sect in question met needs of a community. That’s it. You can keep lying to yourself and to me that longevity ONLY IN CHRISTIANITY’S CASE does it signify truth claims of wild miracles. but you will fool nobody but your self. Please stop repeating false lines of reasoning. They are beneath you, and certainly beneath anyone claiming to be a follower of christ.

  12. apologianick Says:

    David: False. You pretend humans are always reasonable.

    Reply; Oh I know they’re not. New atheists definitely exist for instance.

    David: Demonstrably, irrefutably false. All it takes is conviction, and faith.

    Reply: A modern definition of faith. Do you have any evidence the ancients had a similar definition?

    David: Outside the gospel narrative (which of course includes tales of visible angels, rising dead, flying man/gods) we have no evidence that any converts checked to see if the tomb was really empty.

    Reply: So that means people willingly took on a belief system that set them apart from society, was viewed as new and deviant and thus making them social outcasts, would bring them shame in the public square, would identify them with a crucified traitor to Rome and put them under the curse of YHWH, and they did all of this without checking the facts? Especially the middle and upper-class who had the means to do so?

    What a man of faith we have here!

    David: Also we have no reason to assume first christians were empiricists. Paul’s letters certainly indicate otherwise. Constant appeals to his divine authority; constant antagonism towards the wise (those more inclined to be empiricists!);

    Reply: Actually, hardly constant and in fact, Paul makes claims to what can be seen and to what is accepted as authority. Christ was accepted as an authority as were his apostles so Paul could point to himself. The Scriptures were an authority. Paul could point to them. Oral tradition was an authority. Paul pointed to it. When he starts his resurrection chapter, Paul points to eyewitness testimony (Empirical!) and when validating his own authority in 2 Corinthians, points to the signs that were done. (Empirical!) Paul points to his own lifestyle that he lived with the Thessalonians (Empirical!) and to the way the Galatians treated him when he visited. (Empirical!)

    For many of these matters, what empirical evidence would you like gathered that circumcision was no longer to be practiced for instance?

    David: to scripture; to prophesy; to claims of superstitious ‘healings.” this is how Paul defended christianity. Not by saying, “And you checked the tomb, checked with the roman authorities for other explanations….” Nope. Nada.

    Reply: Why should he remind them of how they came to the faith? They already knew.

    David: So your assurance rests on fallacious reasoning that is undercut by your own scriptures.

    Reply: Asserted but not shown!

    David: You don’t know this.

    Reply: Yeah we do. Christianity led to ostracism.

    David: We have evidence from the scriptures, actually, that entire families would indeed convert when the head of a household converted.

    Reply: Is this the time when the Scriptures give a historical account? Yes. Families would often follow the lead of the man, but what if the wife converted and the husband didn’t? Peter and Paul both write to such issues.

    David: We know plenty of jews were quite unhappy with “the proven way of yahwey,” which is why so many converted to different sects.

    Reply: We do? Got any evidence of this?

    David: Jesus saw himself within judaism; therefore the religion was sold NOT opposed to judaism, but the truest embodyment of it. So a convert would not believe he was abandoning yahwey, but rather, obeying him. You know this, come on.

    Reply: Um. No. No one would think they were obeying YHWH by following a man who was crucified putting Him under the curse of YHWH. The only way they would think that is if they believed YHWH had somehow vindicated this man. What would be a good way to do that? Resurrection works.

    David: Why join a group that had a crucified messiah? Well, the first christians offered plenty of “reasons.” If you forgot, please read your bible.

    Reply: The reason they offered was the resurrection. Exactly the point.

    David: False. Please read your bible. Jesus’s message was aimed particularly at the poor. I cannot believe you are asserting this. The issue is whether or not Jesus’s message, when he was alive, would resonate. It did. Not much apparently (depsite allegedly performing countless miracles and flying up to space!), but it appealed to some.

    Reply; While he was alive, sure, but it would not give sympathy to the poor to hear that someone who spoke this way was crucified. It would in fact discourage them. They don’t want the same thing! Even if they had sympathy, it would not mean they would identify with Jesus. It would mean that they just heard a good story and that was it.

    David: After he was dead, the message of jesus’s followers emphasized huge rewards- in the afterlife.

    Reply; So the people were told to take shame, ostracism, being social outcasts, loss of honor entirely, etc. now, for something that they could not verify now?

    Sounds good to me! Sign me up!

    Most other religions offered positive benefits then, allowed one to keep their honor position, and still get benefits later on.

    David: We have no evidence what MOST of those post-crucifixion followers really believed (i.e. whether or not they believed in bodily resurrection).

    Reply: Yeah we do. Gundry put that issue to rest long ago with “Soma in Biblical Greek.”

    David: all it took to make a cult successful is for it to have an appealing message,

    Reply; A crucified savior is not an appealing message.

    David: offer social/psychological support,

    Reply; Christianity didn’t have that. One was cut off from the larger community.

    David: or to have a charismatic, influential leader who inspires followers.

    Reply: And when the leader was crucified or died, everyone went home and the movement died out. This even happened in the Bar Kochba rebellion.

    David: I’m familiar with the source material- within there is NO evidence that christianity “grew quite well in middle and upper class.” Meeks might make things up, but he’s not getting it from the first sources.

    Reply; So you’re willing to say a scholar of early Christianity is making things up without even looking at the evidence presented? Yeah. And this from someone who claims to be open to evidence.

    David: What is YOUR opinion? What is your evidence?

    Reply; My evidence is leading scholarship on the issue. Please. If they’re wrong, do feel free to contact Meeks and tell him by what authority you know he’s wrong without reading his work.

    David: How many followers did christianity have before J’s death and the decade following it? In fact, in Jerusalem, where people actually could verify the claims, there were evidently VERY few followers! Makes ya kind of wonder.

    Reply: No it doesn’t. It’s what I would expect with a shameful belief like Christianity.

    David: “Anything?!” You know this how???!!

    Reply: Reading scholarship! You should try it! You can actually have an informed opinion on the ANE!

    David: Again, your sweeping dichotomizations cloud your judgment. You simply do not and cannot know the psychology of each convert!

    Reply; Got any evidence of individualists existing in the ANE?

    David: there’s not remotely sufficient data for such sweeping, broad, categorical assertions (which, btw, would not explain why anyone would join other zany cults like the essenes, and nazoreans…),

    Reply: Sure there is. I’ll use the Essenes for instance. They were a group highly numbered and did not have a shameful leader. They were formed in response to political events that had happened in Israel. They had their opposition of course as did every group, but they did not identify with a shameful leader or take a position that would be seen as directly opposed to Judaism.

    David: yet you categorically assert the above. That’s the hubris I’m talking about. Epistemological arrogance. You don’t know, so you just assert. You’ll apparently say anything to support your narrative.

    Reply: No. I just go with what the context group of scholars has pointed out. You’d know this if you had read them. It’s epistemological hubris instead to comment on scholarship without reading it, such as done with Meeks above and as done previously with Wright and Keener.

    David: False. It did not have EVERYTHING against it. It offered social belonging. that’s sufficient, as any casual glance at history, psychology, anthropology shows.

    Reply; Sure! Come to us! You’ll be cut off from everyone else, be viewed as deviant, shamed wherever you go, likely not allowed to act in the marketplace, be the target of persecution, etc., but hey! We’ll like you! Great benefits! Exchange social belonging from a large group for a small group.

    Maybe you’d at the same time like to trade $2,000 for $20.

    David: Some ideologies/cults survive. DOES NOT PROVE TRUTH CLAIMS. sorry you are incapable of admitting it. It’s a simply matter of elementary logic.

    Reply: Okay. Let’s look at the ANE.

    Mithraism. Where is it today?
    How about the Roman Pantheon? Where is it?
    How about Attis’s followers? Where are they?
    How about the Norse gods? Where are they?
    How about Zalmoxis? Where are his followers today?
    How about the followers of Dionysus? Where are they?

    All these sects died out when they in fact offered more of the bonuses. Christianity survived and conquered when it offered the costs.

    ” Except longevity is part of the case. Furthermore, there is still not a parallel because in our day and age, there are enough amnesty groups to interfere with most any belief system. ”
    Yep, you’ll say anything to defend your faith, regardless of the truth. Falong Gong followers are not protected by amnesty groups. Its members are persecuted and tortured, and membership is stigmatized by society.
    Longevity is NOT logically part of the case. It does not follow logically that a sects longevity is related to truth claims. all longevity demonstrates is that the sect in question met needs of a community. That’s it. You can keep lying to yourself and to me that longevity ONLY IN CHRISTIANITY’S CASE does it signify truth claims of wild miracles. but you will fool nobody but your self. Please stop repeating false lines of reasoning. They are beneath you, and certainly beneath anyone claiming to be a follower of christ.

    • David Says:

      “All these sects died out when they in fact offered more of the bonuses. Christianity survived and conquered when it offered the costs.”
      Congrats, you’ve finally grasped the idea of darwinian evolution- most things do not survive! Bravo!! Christianity, islam, hinduism, zoroastrianism, buddhism; these ideologies survived. and ALL of them are unique in their own way. And all of them evolved to meet the needs of followers. most cults, like those of mithras, didn’t.
      Dullards and half-wits will claim the longevity indicates the truthfulness of the claims within. Skeptical, critical thinkers will simply note that these ideologies met the needs of the followers, REGARDLESS of foundational truth claims. Half-wits will dig in their heels and pretend that miracles are the only way to justify their crazy beliefs.
      Good day.

    • David Says:

      “So that means people willingly took on a belief system that set them apart from society, was viewed as new and deviant and thus making them social outcasts, would bring them shame in the public square, would identify them with a crucified traitor to Rome and put them under the curse of YHWH, and they did all of this without checking the facts?”
      Yep. happens all the time (see islam). people embrace a faith because it speaks to them- it’s a visceral, rather than intellectual experience for many. i guess this is news to you.
      “Paul makes claims to what can be seen and to what is accepted as authority. Christ was accepted as an authority as were his apostles so Paul could point to himself. ”
      Paul explicitly claims his gospel is from visions in his head. and yes, i too can claim that jesus appointed me an apostle, just like paul! you see, shrewd thinkers just don’t jump at claims of divine authority.
      “The Scriptures were an authority. Paul could point to them.”
      Precisely my point. people back then had very low standards of evidence- they were easily persuaded (aka fooled). Thanks for making this so easy.
      “No one would think they were obeying YHWH by following a man who was crucified putting Him under the curse of YHWH”
      Oh dear, you see, the first christians didn’t think yahwah cursed jesus. please re-read your bible. it’s vapid to judge how insiders viewed christianity by the criteria of outsiders. unless you like being disingenuous…
      “The only way they would think that is if they believed YHWH had somehow vindicated this man. What would be a good way to do that? Resurrection works.”
      Yes, that’s one very unlikely way. Another way would be to interpret the death and resurrection metaphorically (and, as you very well know, there are scriptures that support such a hypothesis (that there are contrary scriptures merely indicates competing legend and likely represent subsequent mythological christology). and that just happens to be orders of magnitude more likely. Hmmm, occam’s razor says choice b. Fervent, disingenous apologists ignore that option and cling to A. ‘
      “The reason they offered was the resurrection. Exactly the point”
      False. there are many recorded reasons in the NT, and for you to pretend it’s only the resurrection again points to your dishonesty. in the gospels, jesus gained followers because of his flashy miracles and because of his perceived righteousness. paul persuaded people with his sorcery, scriptural arguments, and by being a good, moral guy. there’s nothing in the NT that indicates that anyone was converted by checking for the empty tomb. you are false, and since you know better, dishonest.
      “So the people were told to take shame, ostracism, being social outcasts, loss of honor entirely, etc. now, for something that they could not verify now?”
      Nope. More dishonesty. You know exactly what paul claimed they were offered, and it wasn’t what you list above. I implore you to argue with honesty and integrity.
      “Most other religions offered positive benefits then, allowed one to keep their honor position, and still get benefits later on.”
      Most, and not all. Most people rejected christianity. no problem here, thanks.
      “Yeah we do”
      Nope. the earliest, indisputable christian we have documented is Paul. that’s DECADES after christianity’s birth. you lie again.
      “Christianity didn’t have that. One was cut off from the larger community.”
      More lies. read the epistles. Plenty of support. you are absolutely lying or inexcusably ignorant if you think that a small group cannot offer social/psychological support. Islam’s beginning show a similar dynamic. please please stop lying.
      “So you’re willing to say a scholar of early Christianity is making things up without even looking at the evidence presented? ”
      If they assert beyond what source material can show, then yes. It’s bogus and should be laughed at. It’s a sad reflection on the christian community that they stoop to such dishonest apologetics to defend the faith. I know the source material. It doesn’t argue that.
      “It’s what I would expect with a shameful belief like Christianity.”
      Me too, if it didn’t have all the miracles! Subsequently, the religion evolved to explain it all away, and then, especially in the pagan world, it got quite a following.
      “Reading scholarship! You should try it! You can actually have an informed opinion on the ANE!”
      No scholar worth his salt would make the categorical statements you make, since they make no acknowledgement of the complexity of ancient palestinian society. You are reading frauds, or you are misunderstanding what they assert. Quote them supporting your sweeping, categorical assumptions, then we can see for ourselves
      where you get your nutty assertion…
      “My evidence is leading scholarship on the issue”
      Right, among those ‘historians’ who believe that miracles better explain christianity’s origin than normal human ones. What a group of bold, skeptical thinkers!
      “They were formed in response to political events that had happened in Israel. They had their opposition of course as did every group, but they did not identify with a shameful leader or take a position that would be seen as directly opposed to Judaism.”
      moving the goalpost. the first jesus-followers were NOT following a shameful leader (see the gospels pre-crucifixion). christianity evolved, like every other religion, and accommodated inconvenient facts. Happens quite often; sorry you are completely unfamiliar with comparitive religion. I encourage you to read about the subject and get up to date! There’s soooo many interesting aspects to this subject about which you are soooooo ignorant! good luck!
      “You’ll be cut off from everyone else, be viewed as deviant, shamed wherever you go, likely not allowed to act in the marketplace, be the target of persecution, etc., but hey! We’ll like you! Great benefits! Exchange social belonging from a large group for a small group.”
      Yes, and you are a consummate fool completely ignorant of sociology and psychology if you are unaware that people indeed join cults despite lethal persecution. complete fool.

      You have demonstrated that you are dishonest, disineguous, ignorant, arrogant and a flat-out liar.
      congrats, smart guy! jeebus is happy! you have perfectly encapsulated all that is wrong with people who choose faith over reason. if you have any integrity, your silly religion suppresses it in order for you to spit out your illogical dogma. i’ve patiently corrected you over and over on your dishonest characterizations of my opinions, yet you still revert back to dishonest summaries. you have nothing but special pleading and specious reasoning.
      The truth has set you free, and you choose ignore it in order to justify your belief in ancient sorcerers. Bravo.

      • derekhowardm Says:

        David, aside from the insults and bluster you have shown once again that you have no clue what is even being discussed. It is one thing for an amateur to know his place but quite another to see someone behave like yourself. You are painfully ignorant of the scholarship in this area and apparently proud of it. Congratulations on proving Dallas Willard’s statement:

        “We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the skeptical person is always smarter than one who believes. You can almost be as stupid as a cabbage as long as you doubt.”

      • David Says:

        Derek, you might be illiterate, but if you criticize me without criticizing Nick, who repeatedly lobbed insults at me in posts in which I did not directly criticize him, then you are as dumb as Nick.
        You offer no refutation. Just pious outrage (but only directed at the non-believer).

        If you had any evidence for why ancient miracle claims should be given authority over demonstrably common human behavior, you’d give it. but instead you pick on my style without touching a single SENTENCE of the substance. typically stupid christian- all outrage and no logic. at least Nick, for all his understandable dishonesty (given the impossible task of reconciling silly beliefs with critical thought), gives arguments (however fallacious and disingenuous)..

        You’ve offered no arguments on any thread. just blind deference to your silly apologists.

      • David Says:

        You are so devoid of rational thought that it didn’t even occur to you that your quote is demonstrably incoherent. You see, ALL doubters/skeptics have beliefs– beliefs that passed the test of reasonable doubt.
        Willard sets up what smart people refer to as “false dichotomy.” I know, those are big words. But if you read more and look beyond your simpleton faith, you will gain an understanding of these things.
        The truth shall set you free.

      • derekhowardm Says:

        David Cabbage, actually I gave you a chance in our first interaction to reflect and try to be rational about what you were trying to comment about. You ignored it all and plunged headlong into the abyss of ignorance and have done so with others as well. I cannot force you to think in a rational manner and you seem violently opposed to it. Nick has been more than gracious with you.

      • David Says:

        Derek Cabbage,
        As repeatedly noted, you offer no arguments. Just pious finger-wagging. That’s all you got.
        Got proof that ancient palestinians were uniquely incapable of forming myths like every other culture?? Nope. Nor does Nick. You just blow smoke and change the subject.

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