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We get YouTubes (Historicity of Jesus part 2)

As mentioned in the previous post, this is the video posted by Aaronk1994.

A little after the one minute mark, Aaron accused Jen of misrepresenting the argument that she was trying to address. Jen said: “The claim is the Jesus must have been divine because his disciples wouldn’t have died for something that they knew was a lie. So they must have known that he was the son of God, and was resurrected.” Aaron calls this a straw man, claiming that no apologist would say such a thing. Then he goes on to rephrase almost precisely the same argument.

The point, Aaron says, is that “because they died for it, that proves beyond any reasonable doubt that they really believed it. Which, then, you have to explain the origin of the belief in the resurrection.” And of course, Aaron’s explanation is that they were correct. Maybe you can tell the distinction between this and Jen’s “straw man,” but I think it’s beyond splitting hairs and into splitting nanoneedles.

Why does anyone have to explain anyone else’s belief? In the next clip, Jen points out, correctly, that the 9/11 hijackers died for their beliefs. As George from NY mentioned when he called, there’s the Heaven’s Gate cult. There’s Jonestown. If you asked me whether those people died because they sincerely believed whatever nonsense their leaders were peddling, I would say “Absolutely yes!” Does that require me to explain that belief? Certainly not. Should the default position in that case be “They believed it because it’s true”? It’s a judgment call, but in that case I would certainly say no.

Aaron dismisses the reference to the hijackers by using the magic words “straw man” again, and describes it as “another stupid analogy.” He explains that the difference between a disciple of Jesus and a 9/11 hijacker is that the disciples were eye witnesses to the events of their religion, while the hijackers were not.

Which, of course, is the whole problem. We have no way of knowing that, and no amount of eye-rolling, sarcastic inflection, or dismissal of the opposing claims as “ridiculous” is going to fill that knowledge gap. As I was saying in my previous post, whether or not you accept that a guy named Jesus existed doesn’t say anything about whether the rest of the stories in the Bible were true. If the stories about Jesus’ miracles were embellished after the fact, the martyrs who died wouldn’t have been dying for “a lie,” they would be dying for some holy cause that they believed to be true because they had been told that it was without requiring strong evidence for it.

Yes, just like Muslim suicide bombers. Just like Jonestown cultists. Just like Japanese kamikaze pilots who believed that Hirohito was a god. You simply can’t make any claims about what they supposedly knew to be true without providing solid evidence for the specific part of the Bible that says that Dead Jesus showed up before the apostles. And folks, a brief mention in passing by a historian reporting secondhand information eighty years later is simply not going to do that, any more than a story told by a Greek poet will establish that there is an island where men get turned into pigs.

When Aaron actually called into the show, starting at around the nine minute mark of this clip, he took issue with Matt’s point that Tacitus was not a contemporary of Jesus. Aaron challenged: “Contemporary evidence is not a requirement. You don’t have to have a contemporary source. If you’d like to claim that, then could you please cite me a historian who specifically says that you need contemporary evidence?”

Aaron goes on to say, back in his framing video, that Matt had said earlier that contemporary evidence is the ONLY kind that can establish a claim. Then he accuses Matt of being hypocritical.

There’s a problem with Aaron’s understanding of historical standards here, and it goes way beyond what historians say. It really comes down to what people regard as proof of something. Yeah, it’s true. Not everything in history needs to be verified by a contemporary source. There is a lot of secondhand information that is regarded as solid. But not uncritically. Once again, there’s a huge difference between the kind of evidence it requires to insert Julius Caesar into the history books, and the kind it requires to insert “Julius Caesar was a God” into the history books. There’s a difference between saying that Jeff Dowd is “The Dude,” and saying that Jeff Dowd foiled a kidnapping plan orchestrated by a fake millionaire poseur. One is fact, and the other is embellishment.

Aaron tries to gloss over this detail by quickly blurting out that you certainly don’t need a contemporary source to prove that something as commonplace as a crucifixion took place. Haw haw! How silly anyone must be to suggest that! But come on, be serious here. Aaron, like other apologists, wants to use the text of the Bible to prove a thoroughly unprecedented, unique, and unbacked-up claim like the resurrection. He wants to prove that this Jesus chap rose from his grave.

And in this case, I’m sorry, it’s going to take more than a few passing remarks to prove that. If I told you, right now, today, that I saw a guy rise from the dead, I don’t think you would believe me. And that’s not even getting into the fact of whether I’m a primary source or whether I’m contemporary with the event. I suspect that even Aaron would balk at the suggestion that he should accept this claim on my say-so, and would want to hear more information before accepting this as true.

The fact that it didn’t get written down until 70 AD is, in actuality, the least of the problems with this claim. And to say that the written word in the book is in any way proof that it happened, or that historians reporting several decades later about what Christians claimed of their savior provide independent corroboration of an event they never saw… yeah, that’s gonna be good enough for the modern history books.

Just ask Julius Caesar, the god.

Comments

  1. says

    Come on you guys were totally pwned. aaron deflected the strawman argument you put up."I would say "Absolutely yes!" Does that require me to explain that belief? Certainly not. "Well actually it is. Indoctrination in the case of the Muslims and other explanations are availible."Aaron dismisses the reference to the hijackers by using the magic words "straw man" again, and dismisses it as "another stupid analogy." He explains that the difference between a disciple of Jesus and a 9/11 hijacker is that the disciples were eye witnesses to the events of their religion, while the hijackers were not."Please refute this . You never address it.Are you sayinga) Peter , James , Paul .. etc were not witnesses to the crucifixion of Jesus , empty tomb ,resurrection appearances .. etc?b) Peter and James and Paul were eyewitnesses but you don't care?That's the whole point. Peter ,and James and Paul did witness these events and could verify them. The muslim hijackers lived over a thousand years after Mohammed and could not know what he did.

  2. says

    "If the stories about Jesus' miracles were embellished after the fact, the martyrs who died wouldn't have been dying for "a lie," they would be dying for some holy cause that they believed to be true because they had been told that it was without requiring strong evidence for it."Again Peter and the other disciples had been following around Jesus for some time , James was Jesus' brother and Paul was hostile and persecuting the early Christian church.These were no the type of people to just accept claims about Jesus uncritically. If you had been following around your teacher all that time you would be in a position to know if the miracles were embellished.

  3. says

    "you certainly don't need a contemporary source to prove that something as commonplace as a crucifixion took place!"True" Haw haw! How silly to suggest that! But come on, be serious here. Aaron, like other apologists, wants to use the text of the Bible to prove a thoroughly unprecedented, unique, and unbacked-up claim besides the resurrection."Usually from the books I've read , New testament scholars like Nt Wright and apologists usually examine the mundane events, like the fact that Jesus was crucified , that he was buried, that some people found his tomb empty , that his followers had experiences that led them to proclaim he had rise bodily from the dead. (In fact these events are accepted as historical by the majority of New testament scholars and historians so they aren't alone)After establishing these mundane events they then work up to what the best explanation of all these things is and if it was a resurrection.If you watch Gary Habermas' or W.L. Craig's debates this is the approach they take.You have to distinguish betweena)mundane factsb) The interpretation of these facts

  4. says

    But he's just a kid! How could you pick on a kid?! Surely real apologists who have been at it for many years could provide better arguments! Surely!

  5. says

    "I don't think you would believe me. And that's not even getting into the fact of whether I'm a primary source or whether I'm contemporary with the event. I suspect that even Aaron would balk at the suggestion that he should accept this claim on my say-so, and would want to hear more information before accepting this as true."I would think more information , like other witnesses , are you sincerely willing to die for that fact ..etc"The fact that it didn't get written down until 70 AD is, in actuality, the least of the problems with this claim."Psst .. Someone should tell Kazim that Paul was writing about Jesus' death and resurrection since the 50's Ad. And even Robert Funk and Gerd Ludemann (2 of the most liberal skeptics in NT studies) think there are early creeds going back to within 5 years of the event.

  6. says

    "But he's just a kid! How could you pick on a kid?! Surely real apologists who have been at it for many years could provide better arguments! Surely!"He seems pretty smart. I follow his channel. he reads a lot about New testament history and philosophy

  7. says

    …Freethinker, You are an idiotPaul wouldn't be an eye witness even if the vents were true since by the myths own story HE NEVER BLOODY MET JESUS WHILE HE WAS ALIVE!!!!

  8. says

    You know there really is again no reason to address Freethinker. He misses the point so baddly even when it's highlighted for him that he must go to the imperial stormtrooper marksmanship academy.

  9. says

    While I disagree with Aaron completely, I do commend him on his ability to argue and debate at his age. If only ALL young Americans were reading and debating then the intelligence of public discussion would be raised up a notch. I will add that the QUALITY of his argument and the DEPTH of his research belie his youth and hopefully as he ages he will broaden his material to include subjects that question/challenge his religious beliefs.

  10. says

    I think FT's and Aaron's mistake is that they willingly (and pretty much dishonestly) confuse contemporary evidence and eyewitness. Peter, James, John, what have you, they are alledged contemporary of Jesus and eyewitness. But the Gospels are no contemporary evidence, they are propaganda texts written to convert, not to make an acurate account of real events. The events the characters of the Gospels take part in therefore cannot be claimed as historically acurate, even if some of them could have been based on real events. I am a medievalist and I studied La Chanson de Roland. It is based on a real, documented historical event, the destruction of Charlemagne's rear guard by unknown enemy troops (Basques or Gascons). Charlemagne existed, and maybe even Roland, Ganelon and other characters featured in the Chanson. That said, none of the characters depicted in the Chanson are acurate depictions of their historical counterpart. Same goes with the Gospel: they were written decades after the facts, we cannot even be sure if any of the characters depicted in them were acurate to their historical counterparts. And we already know the Gospels were wrong on a number of issues: the prophetised Parousia, the Census (never happened), the freeing of Barabbas (such tradition did not exist), the Magi (pure fiction), and so on. Why would the Resurrection be any more historically acurate? As for Paul, he was no eyewitness, he never met Jesus in his life and his perception of Jesus differs sensibly from what was written in the Gospels. Paul believed that Jesus was a descendant of King David, for instance. (Not that King David ever existed like he was depicted in the OT, but that is another debate).

  11. says

    And about the sincerity of early Christians, including contemporary of Christ, I wonder how Aaron and FT can consider it a proof of anything. It is pretty plausible that, having lost their leader in traumatising circumstances, the disciples of Ieshua (one of the many Messiah wannabes in Israel at that time) had some experiences that somebody foreign to their faith would have considered equivoqual at best, at worst some self-delusion but that they considered genuine manifestation of Jesus, and they dwell on it to build the story of resurrection. I don't know how Aaron and other apologists can consider that the disciples were so rational to begin with. And it's not like the story of the resurrection is not messy and full of inconsistencies to begin with. And regardless of the nature of the believer (eyewitness or not), I think what Jen said in the episode was fair. People believe all sorts of things from personal experience, that does not make them true. And what about those who refuse to die for their belief? Was Galileo incorrect about the Earth moving because he refused to die for what he knew was true?

  12. says

    Mr FreeThinker is fond of stating "facts" and not surprisingly certain apologists enjoy using the term too. They concur the best explanation of the "facts" is some supernatural intervention. So are they "facts" ? Nope I say they are not established facts using our common understanding of the term “fact”. Apologists like W L Craig assert that because more than one book of the bible discusses Jesus’ burial then it's a fact. All a bit too circular for my liking. A book whose authors are unclear, no original copies, lacks contemporary extra biblical accounts, written generations after said events are supposed to have occurred, been subject to fabrication, forgery, plagiarism and re-translation over centuries, laden with supernatural claims and interestingly there's evidence to suggest some or all perhaps of the bible is the ultimate product of religious syncretism. Therefore stating these biblical events are “facts” is a theological bastardisation of the word. A book like the bible is near useless if one’s aim is to establish historical authenticity.As Bart Ehrman suggests “The Gospels were written 35 to 65 years after Jesus’ death—35 or 65 years after his death, not by people who were eyewitnesses, but by people living later. The Gospels were written by highly literate, trained, Greek-speaking Christians of the second and third generation. They’re not written by Jesus’ Aramaic-speaking followers”The best explanation for the “facts” are surely it’s a myth.

  13. says

    Russell you have hit the nail on the head. You are correct that it doesn't matter if there ever was a real true Jesus (which I think there probably was). What matters is if the Bible is an accurate telling of his life as a preacher (which I do not think it is even close).You are also missing the great example of Joseph Smith. He was jailed, ridiculed, persecuted, ran out of town and assassinated (martyred) for the religion he made up. He suffered as much as any apostle of Jesus, by the logic of Aaron and MFT here, then we should all convert to Latter Day Saints. For Joseph Smith must have had the truth.

  14. says

    Er, I don't understand the controversy here and I never have.Why is anybody impressed with anyone's knowledge of what the bible says? Or impressed about any evidence one way or the other than any of it is a historical account of the existence of any of the people in it?I don't understand how this is important at all.Seems to me we first need to establish whether the god described in the book exists at all.After that it would be sensible to take up the issue of whether the book is that god's "inerrant revealed word" or not. Until then we're kind of flailing around with a teleology at best, something along the lines of:Q: how do we know god exists?A: because of the existence of the bible as his/her/its revealed word.Q: how do we know the bible is the xian god's revealed word?A: because it describes the xian god.and repeat….Russell is right – it is of no consequence if there's corroborating evidence that there was someone named Jesus, etc.The only thing consequential would be whether there's evidence that that Jesus _was the son of a god_ or otherwise _a god incarnate_.As far as I can tell the only support for that claim is merely the assertion to that effect in the bible itself.Same thing with the existence of its god – all we have are the assertions in the bible and those of its followers.Maybe I'm just restating the obvious or have just been listening to too much xian apologism on youtube. But it all seems like so much wasted effort to me.LS

  15. says

    "Paul wouldn't be an eye witness even if the vents were true since by the myths own story HE NEVER BLOODY MET JESUS WHILE HE WAS ALIVE!!!!"Of course that's just dismissing the vision he did have of the resurrected Jesus."You know there really is again no reason to address Freethinker. He misses the point so baddly even when it's highlighted for him that he must go to the imperial stormtrooper marksmanship academy."Stay far away fro specifics so I can't nail you. Good one

  16. says

    "I think FT's and Aaron's mistake is that they willingly (and pretty much dishonestly) confuse contemporary evidence and eyewitness."No we don't"Peter, James, John, what have you, they are alledged contemporary of Jesus and eyewitness."I agree."But the Gospels are no contemporary evidence, they are propaganda texts written to convert, not to make an acurate account of real events."One might as well say the Halocaust museum is "propaganda" not recording real events. You have to back those accusations up."I am a medievalist and I studied La Chanson de Roland. "Which a a fictional poem. The gospels are ancient biographies (see studies by Burridge on the genre of gospels). There is no comparison here."And we already know the Gospels were wrong on a number of issues: the prophetised Parousia,"ever heard of preterism?" the Census (never happened)"How do you know it didn't?"the freeing of Barabbas (such tradition did not exist),"Never heard of abolitio?"the Magi (pure fiction)", How do you know this?And on the flip side what about all the stuff that happened that has been confirmed by archeology and other sources?(Pool of Bethseda , Jacob's Well , John the baptist, geography , people in power)"had some experiences that somebody foreign to their faith would have considered equivoqual at best, at worst some self-delusion but that they considered genuine manifestation of Jesus, and they dwell on it to build the story of resurrection."Of course one wonders how they could go around preaching thngs like an empty tomb and no-one realised they were just deluding themselves.

  17. says

    "Mr FreeThinker is fond of stating "facts" and not surprisingly certain apologists enjoy using the term too. They concur the best explanation of the "facts" is some supernatural intervention. So are they "facts" ? Nope I say they are not established facts using our common understanding of the term “fact”. "From what I have read, they are called facts becausea)they are supported by several lines of evidence and argument b) accepted by most New testament scholars and historians"Apologists like W L Craig assert that because more than one book of the bible discusses Jesus’ burial then it's a fact."Have you ever raid Craig? He supports it with several lines of arguments. It is attested in all 4 gospels and implied by Paul. (multiple attestation there). There are also some great studies by an archeologist McCane on Burial in the Roan and Jewish world."All a bit too circular for my liking."Nothing circular , just historical evidence"A book whose authors are unclear"Is the authorship of Tacitus' work unclear also?"no original copies, lacks contemporary extra biblical accounts"We don't have original copies of anything written on a scroll or codex from that time. Is all history invalid too?"written generations after said events are supposed to have occurred"So when a historian writes about events of a previous generation we should discard his work?"been subject to fabrication, forgery, plagiarism and "nice set of accusations without evidence"re-translation over centuries"Psst. Nobody tell this guy that we have greek manuscripts that are in the same alnguage they were written in."laden with supernatural claims"Oh noez the supernatural!!!"interestingly there's evidence to suggest some or all perhaps of the bible is the ultimate product of religious syncretism."Ha ha, are you one of those Zeigeist/flemming fundy type atheists?Pony up the evidence for syncretism or shut up.". book like the bible is near useless if one’s aim is to establish historical authenticity."The bible isn't 1 book first of all, and your extended rant just consisted of accusations without evidence and misunderstanding history."The best explanation for the “facts” are surely it’s a myth."Nope.

  18. says

    "You are also missing the great example of Joseph Smith. He was jailed, ridiculed, persecuted, ran out of town and assassinated (martyred) for the religion he made up. He suffered as much as any apostle of Jesus, by the logic of Aaron and MFT here, then we should all convert to Latter Day Saints. For Joseph Smith must have had the truth."Christian apologist JP Holding refuted this some time ago.http://www.tektonics.org/uz/yeswayjose2.html"There is another matter, more poignant. Skeptics have said that "in every religion people die for their beliefs." They do, but in most cases the beliefs in question are not grounded in historical data. One who would readily die for the belief that there were three or five gods, or that the dead received salvation, or that one will receive a certain eternal reward, may not be so ready to die for a belief that Washington did (or did not) cross the Delaware.With all of Mormonism's historical claims either inaccessible (Book of Mormon events) or rooted in private events (revelations to Smith and others), Mormonism was more like the former on this account than the latter.One exception may be argued: The witnesses to the gold plates. On this point I would note that I have no doubts that Smith possessed some item or items which were purportedly gold plates. What they were is a matter beyond our scope. However, possession of such items is far less significant in scope than claiming observation of and extended interchange with a resurrected man."

  19. says

    @Ft-So you bring the Holocaust argument. Can Godwin's Law be applied here? The Holocaust has been documented by various sources, there are physical proofs of it, nuff said. The Bible, inclduing the OT, has close to none. Hence my example of the Chanson de Roland, based on history but not history itself. The Gospels basically work this way and are in no way evidence in themselves of anything, let alone something as extraordinary as the resurrection of a man. This is not an accusation, I am merely stating the nature of the text: it is PR stuff, biography or not. The early Xians were wrong on a number of issues: the end of days did NOT happen during the lifetime of Jesus's generation, neiher did Jesus came back on earth. For the Census, such event would have been recorded somewhere else than in the Bible, had it happened (that would have been the whole purpose of it, after all). Outside the Gospels, there is no mention of a Census in Palestine at the time. About the Magi, if they existed, can you please care to identify them? You have the burden of proof, show us how an unspecified number of Eastern statesmen came to visit a child in Bethlehem. As for the amnesty on Barabbas, was any such practice ever enforced during the Jewish Passover in Roman Times, outside of the amnesty in the Bible? Again, you have the burden of proof. So far, much of the Bible seems pretty made up to me. As for archeology, these places might have been associated with various Biblical episodes, that does not mean that such event took place or that they took place the way the Bible tells them. Again, I will use my experience as a medievalist. Merlin has a tomb, which I have visited, even though he never existed. Many events of the Arthurian legend have settings in the real world. That does not make them more real.As for the people in power…you must be joking. It means nothing more that they set their story during real events, something that a lot of writers did, actually. Mentioning Pilate (who was not a procurator but a prefect) does not make the trial of Jesus more real, even if Jesus was really executed by the Romans.

  20. says

    @IsI think the argument Aaron (and other apologists) make is far more nuanced than that .Usually it goes like.Skeptic: How do you know there is a God?Apol: Well here is this good evidence (appeal to things like the cosmological argument and the big bang , fine tuning , existence of objective morality .. etc)Skeptic: I don't know. Perhaps there is some kind of deistic God. How do you know it is the Christian God?Apol: I think there is good evidence that Jesus is God and proved it by the resurrection.Skeptic: What facts do you have to support this?Apol:Well there are these facts accepted by the majority of New Testament scholarsSkeptic:How do you know these facts are reliable?Apol: Well there are these criterion historians use, for example criterion of embarrassment , multiple attestation , corroboration … etc to decide if a fact is reliable. This fact is supported by X criterion … etc.I believe aaron does something along those lines

  21. says

    "Stay far away fro specifics so I can't nail you. Good one"I'm not afraid to stray FRO the specifics. a) One you're a concern troll which is pretty much a valid reason for dismissing youb) Extraordinary claims need some evidence. Russel explained that there's a reason we ignore the first hand claims that Caesar was God, or Muhammad split the moon in two. These have as much valid as the claims of the bible and are similarly dismissed as unreasonable. That's the whole point. Muslims were willing to go to war for their belief (following Muhammad himself). I'm not willing to claim a hallucination vision from an admitted mass murderer zealot as "meeting Jesus". Having contemporary writings on Jesus would help the claim to his character as described in the bible. The fact that truly extraordinary claims seemingly went unnoticed by a fairly active scribe community is evidence against positive claims. Think of it this way, did the Rosewell crash happen? WEll…maybe in that there may have been an event that inspired the story. But was it an alien ship that lead to a massive conspiracy and cover up with project blue book and secret hangers and area 51 and all, no. It might have been but even the eye witnesses claiming to see aliens pulled from the wreckage hasn't convinced me of it, and for good reason. There's enough historical doubt to presume the story is itself fiction. Any real event does not resemble the meat of the myth.That's the point. I like how Freethinker defines "Most" when it comes to historians as "those who agree with him"

  22. says

    FT, which evidence, OUTSIDE the Bible are you talking about? You always seem to go back to the text, and sometimes to some archeological findings, which can be pretty ambiguous to begin with. You don't have to dismiss a text to be careful about it, especially when it was written decades after the alleged events, and even moreso when it was written to make special claims, none of them proven.

  23. says

    "I think the argument Aaron (and other apologists) make is far more nuanced than that ."Well, no, those arguments are not much more nuanced than that, that's my point. I.e:"Skeptic: How do you know there is a God?Apol: Well here is this good evidence (appeal to things like the cosmological argument and the big bang , fine tuning , existence of objective morality .. etc)"This is not "good evidence". The cosmological and fine-tuning arguments aren't really arguments at all. They're basically just permutations of the same old arguments from ignorance which have already been shown to not pass muster as evidence.They've been refuted multiple times by multiple people already."Skeptic: I don't know. Perhaps there is some kind of deistic God. How do you know it is the Christian God?Apol: I think there is good evidence that Jesus is God and proved it by the resurrection."Good evidence that there merely existed a historical person named Jesus?Or do you mean good evidence that there was a historical figure named Jesus _and_ that he was your god incarnate?The former claim is ordinary and ordinary evidence (historical evidence, etc) will suffice to support that claim.But the latter claim is _extra_ordinary and therefore the burden of proof is extraordinary as well. The mere attestations of a few figures from 2000 years ago that they saw someone walking on water or witnessed a resurrection isn't going to suffice in that case. It may be workable as evidence for the existence of a person, but not that that person was a god and did extraordinary, godly things."Skeptic: What facts do you have to support this?Apol:Well there are these facts accepted by the majority of New Testament scholarsSkeptic:How do you know these facts are reliable?Apol: Well there are these criterion historians use, for example criterion of embarrassment , multiple attestation , corroboration … etc to decide if a fact is reliable. This fact is supported by X criterion … etc."Again, you have to do better than that to support the more extraordinary claim that these historical figures not only existed but were also your god walking the earth in some form.You're a long long way away from supporting your claims with only this. No reason to abandon the skeptical position yet.LS

  24. says

    Well, I had a lot to say but Guillaume pretty much covered it. Well done.Some thoughtments…1) I've always found the whole Barabbas Amnesty thing interesting.Here is this bizarre, unprecedented, apparently unique occurrence which JUST HAPPENS to involve a pivotal moment in the life-story of Jesus. The name of the released man JUST HAPPENS to be "Son of the Father," the symbolic significance of which hardly requires literary scholar to discern.Of course, there is precisely zero extra-biblical confirmation of this event.

  25. says

    FT, I am not a "pure" historian, but I did study history and I spent a lot of time listening to historians and debating with them. I even know a few theologians. And I can tell you that the consensus that you seem to think there is in the academic world about the historicity of the Gospels is inexistent. Nobody in his right mind would interpret the episode when Nicodemus meets Jesus at night as the acurate account of a real, historical encounter between a Pharisee named Nicodemus and Jesus. They interpretation is always literary, never literal. Now you could say that such episode is rather anecdotal and its historicity is irrelevant. But bigger events have not been accounted anywhere else than in the Gospels: the Census which I mentioned before, the Massacre of the Innocent (a rewriting of a similar story in the Exodus) the freeing of Barabbas, etc. Even some major claims the Gospels make were not believed by early Christians: Paul does not think that Jesus was born from a virgin and, while Christians believed that Jesus was the Messiah, even the Catholic Church admits that they did not consider him God incarnated until later. And you would want us to believe all this and more, and for all "proof" is the story of an empty tomb that was written decades after the alledged events, not from eyewitnesses? There might not even have been one and the apostles still could have believed in jesus's resurrection, especially at a time when Messiah wannabees came a dime a dozen and supersition was rampant!

  26. says

    While I disagree with Aaron's argument, I agree with Declan that his ability to reason and argue a point are impressive – dismissive sighing and eye-rolling notwithstanding :) – especially compared to some theists I have seen (VenomFangX anyone?) It's encouraging, I hope he continues to think intelligently about these issues, and although I am really hoping he eventually comes over to our side, I look forward to at least having a worthy opponent in the debates here unlike certain "free thinking" persons I could mention.-sin77

  27. says

    2) NT Wright and others continually, and I think deliberately, elide the difference between historical authenticity and factual accuracy. Imagine that a scroll is discovered next week which contains the entire, intact Gospel of Mark. Furthermore, imagine that it is provably written in and irreproachably dated to the mid-1st Century AD.Finally, it accords entirely with the Gospel of the same name we now have… in other words, that "our" Gospel of Mark has been faithful all along to the original.This would prove exactly what about Jesus being the Messiah and rising from the dead?Nothing. Not one thing.It would prove, to any fair standard of history, that this person believed that and wrote his beliefs down.

  28. says

    >He explains that the difference between a disciple of Jesus and a 9/11 hijacker is that the disciples were eye witnesses to the events of their religion, while the hijackers were not.The point here would be, however, that people can have very, very strong beliefs without sufficient evidence. This undermines the boy's argument that we should consider strong belief as an indicator of truth value.In other words, to say "Christian martyrs actually claimed they saw these things, and they died for their belief they saw these things."Well, if people die for a belief in something they didn't see, then we can know the level of belief is the same in a Muslim martyr who we know is not an eye-witness to Muhammed.So, convincing evidence is not a requirement, obviously, of deep-seated belief.So, why be concerned with what Xians believed? Obviously they might believe any number of things–including "I saw this guy come back from the dead," be totally wrong and base that belief on horribly weak evidence (like the non-Xian martyr), but really, really believe it.

  29. says

    It's also important to note that eye-witness testimony is one of the weakest sources of evidence. Here in Texas, we're releasing rape convicts left and right because they're being released by DNA evidence after being "identified" by victims. And law classes use dramatic classroom techniques to show students that eye-witness and memory recall are not good things upon which to base a case.Don't get me wrong, they're very convincing to juries (see all the wrongly convicted in Texas leaving the prisons–article in today's Statesman about it), they're just horrible sources of evidence.I mean, how many people in Mexico saw the Virgin Mary in the sky recently? How many people have "seen" Nessy? How many people have seen aliens they met after being abducted? And these are people who lose a lot of dignity and credibility–no small sacrifice, your reputation (like John Mack), because of what they believe they were eye-witnesses to. Many, many people can claim to have seen a thing–and be dead wrong and bat-shit crazy–and report seeing the very same thing.

  30. says

    Just to clarify–Mack was ruined by the mere mention that we should give credence to these alien-abductees. Not even a witness himself, he lost his reputation–built over years–in no time flat. That's commitment.

  31. says

    Adding to what Tracie wrote… the unreliability of eyewitness testimony is very reason why the scientific method insists on repeatable, independent experiments and tests."I did X and got Y, therefore Z. I personally saw it. You can trust me."No, we can't. We won't. We shouldn't. Nothing personal.

  32. says

    Aaron's 9/11 metaphor refutation too, belies a rather horrible implication not yet mentioned when you play with his rationale. If eye-witness testimony to miraculous events of prophets/messiahs is more likely a reason to accept the follower's faith as fact and/or such prophets as divine, are we to believe that if the Muslim hijacker's were told directly by Muhammad himself to blow up the trade centers and the Pentagon, that Aaron might respect the Muslim faith more, or may even be convinced their horrid acts were justified because they were directly divinely inspired? Are the eye-witness stories of miracles by the followers of modern day cult "deities" (e.g. Masami Tsuchiya of Aum Shinrikyo) something Aaron might accept as reason to believe MORE in the divinity of these modern day prophets than he currently does, simply because their followers can provide him with eye-witness accounts of miracles (and in many cases, like Sathya Sai Baba, even produce video)? I am always amazed when Christian apologists (big and small) fail to apply even a base-level intellectual scrutiny to their own ideas — like applying their same reasoning to another faith to see if it looks silly. They so often prefer to jump right up and proudly throw up a video on youtube (or worse, publish a book) and show the world just how well their feet fit into their mouths. What bothers me is, not that they are always so stupid, just that they are always so narcissistic.

  33. says

    I object to dismissing Aaron purely on the basis of his age. While a bit rude, he is more articulate than a lot of our theist callers.

  34. says

    @Sparrow/KazzimAaron really reminds me of things I would have said and argued when I was his age…to me that's more than enough to dismiss him ;-P

  35. says

    Aaron kind of reminded me of Kabane The Christian, another young youtube-apologist-caller from a while ago. I found it funny that Aaron actually made the same fallacious argument (on the air, not in this video) regarding the Roman historians (Suetonius, Tacitus, etc) that Kabane also attempted to make before both were flayed by Matt for, generally, not listening carefully enough to the argument being presented on their respective shows. I wonder if there's an "Idiot's Guide to Christian Apology" circulating about somewhere….

  36. says

    Do you need contemporary evidence to establish that there was a second gunman who shot JFK?So why do you need contemporary evidence to establish that there was an empty tomb?No Christian in the first century put his name to a document which said he had heard of an empty tomb, Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus, Lazarus, Bartimaeus, Joanna, Salome, the other Mary, Simon of Cyrene, Barabbas, Jairus, Judas.But so what?Nobody mentions any second gunman until years after JFK was shot.But historians don't rule out a second gunman, simply because nobody at the time mentioned it.

  37. says

    Paul says in Galatians 6:12 that Christian leaders were persecuted on the issue of circumcision, and that they would compromise their beliefs, and so avoid persecution for the cross (NB not resurrection) of Christ.There is no evidence that anybody died for preaching a resurrection.But if they had died, that would prove these people were not frauds.Why would fraudsters get punished for a fraud?Would Bernie Madoff have gone to jail, if he had not sincerely believed his money-making schemes were legitimate?If he had been a fraud, he would simply have said so and avoided jail.But he was jailed for his belief in his money-making schemes.So that proves Bernie Madoff was genuine.

  38. says

    @GeorgefromNY: "Well, I had a lot to say but Guillaume pretty much covered it. Well done."Thank you! I didn't catch up that one before, there are too many comments here (including my own).

  39. says

    The Gospels are childish nonsense.Allegedly, Moses (!) returned from the dead, walked the earth and spoke to Jesus in front of the disciples.My life would be transformed if Moses appeared to me.And I'm not even Jewish.The Gospels seriously maintain that Moses returned from the dead, appeared to these Jews, and their lives were not transformed.What do they think we are? Idiots?Can you imagine what would happen if Muhammad returned from the dead and appeared to a Muslim sect?And no member of the Muslim sect mentioned it for 30 years?This is just plain stupid.Christian apologists claim these disciples were willing to die for their belief that Jesus returned from the dead, while Paul did not even so much as mention the fact that MOSES had returned from the dead.Ludicrous. Stupid, childish nonsense.Come on guys, wake up and smell the coffee!

  40. says

    ..well, Moses probably never existed in the first place (neither are the events of the Exodus), so him appearing in front of Jesus would have been like Batman appearing to us.

  41. says

    ..well, Moses probably never existed in the first place (neither are the events of the Exodus), so him appearing in front of Jesus would have been like Batman appearing to us."Yes but Batman could convert us…with prep time of course.

  42. says

    i'm with Declan. the kid is intelligent and well-read. i do hope he shifts gears and starts stuffing his brain with other subjects as he matures. here's hoping that bookshelf behind him isn't stuffed with nothing but apologetics….

  43. says

    I too suppose I should reject the criticism of Aaron based solely on his age.True, I was becoming politically active at his age, bitching about Nixon and Watergate at school sometimes, but I was still nowhere near the level of thought of this kid….LS

  44. says

    I'm skeptical and reluctant to proclaim him "gifted". I've seen more than my share of people who appear smart until you get them far enough off script and realize they've just memorized the intricacies of one strategy.

  45. says

    I'm skeptical and reluctant to proclaim him "gifted". I've seen more than my share of people who appear smart until you get them far enough off script and realize they've just memorized the intricacies of one strategy.I totally concur with you, Ing. I have several friends who aren't necessarily super-bright, but they were debate team junkies, and when prepared, they also appeared to be far brighter than they actually are in real life. Once you take away their scripts and the competition time limits, and just began discussing things over coffee (and apply REAL logic and reason to the arguments), their limitations became quite apparent. I suspect this would be the case with Aaron as well. He seems to be more about presentation, without much attention to substance.

  46. says

    "The claim is the Jesus must have been divine because his disciples wouldn't have died for something that they knew was a lie. So they must have known that he was the son of God, and was resurrected."The claim is not that the disciples must have known that Jesus was divine because they have died for their believes, it's that they must have SEEN JESUS RISEN because if they haven't, they must have know he wasn't resurrected and must have know that the resurrection story was a lie and thus they must have died for a lie, which nobody would do. The 9/11 hijacker is really a horrible analogy, because they don't know they "truth" is actually a lie and thus they are willing to die for it, thinking it's true. But when you're willing to die for something that you must have known was a lie if it was… that's what makes people accept that you have seen what you claim to have seen.!!!—HOWEVER—!!!The YouTube user by the name of ProfMTH has made 8 outstanding 10-min videos dealing with that argument. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh38ygMiY5I&feature=PlayList&p=8D71CEDB225E5AE0&index=0He deals with 3 points there. 1) Failure only reinforces one's believes. That has been seen numerous times when prophesies fail. And although ProfMTH didn't say this explicitly, I think the point was, that Jesus' disciples believed he was sent by God before he was crucified. And when they saw him dead, instead of turning away from the belief, that failure reinforced it and they made up the story that he was resurrected. That's like there's people who would die for Jesus and people, who would lie for Jesus and the disciples are both. Now after that whole explanation one could say that the 9/11 hijackers is a good analogy, but if the 9/11 is the whole rebuttal right off the bat, then it is a "straw man" 2) The scriptures disagree with some of the names on the "Did They Died For A Lie" list 3) We don't know how and why the rest of the people on the list diedBottom line is, when christians use this argument, they very conveniently forget to enlighten us Who is on the list, Why they died and How that makes them dying for the resurrection lie.

  47. coladict says

    Don't overwork yourselves responding to aaronk1994. Even the YouTube Christians are telling him to shut-up because he makes them look stupid.

  48. says

    Okay, we have examples of adherents dying for their beliefs who were not eyewitnesses to any religious event. I missed the part where it is supposed to mean MORE if they die saying they WERE eyewitnesses. The argument only holds water if it were true that people only died for their beliefs when their beliefs are true, or when they were eyewitnesses. How this blowhard thinks the eyewitness distinction helps his argument is beyond me.

  49. says

    For some reason the insistence that "believers died for their beliefs" makes me think of General Paton (paraphrased) "The idea isn't to die for your country/beliefs, the goal is to make the other poor bastard die for his country!"The point I'm trying to make is, as many or more people probably died for other or opposite beliefs. Christians killed Pagens who died for their faith. If I recall right they dragged a female mathematician nude through the streets, flayed her alive on the floor tiles of a church, and then burnt her. Romans probably cracked down on heretics and barbarians who threatened the pax romana like the Christians did making them "die for their beliefs." Hitler made Jews, liberals, Gays, Christians, die for their beliefs (and race/creed/etc). Stalin made people die for their beliefs. The pope is making people die for HIS beliefs. 9-11 hijackers died for their beliefs. The fact that some 'poor bastard' died doesn't make the beliefs right, or even honorable. We respect people like MLK who died for their beliefs because those beliefs were honorable and objectively (to me at least, irony intended) noble. Galileo's refusal to die for his beliefs didn't make his idea wrong. Ok you have a good body count, whoopty fricken do.kero

  50. says

    >The claim is not that the disciples must have known that Jesus was divine because they have died for their believes, it's that they must have SEEN JESUS RISEN because if they haven't, they must have know he wasn't resurrected and must have know that the resurrection story was a lie and thus they must have died for a lie, which nobody would do.Succint and correct.>The 9/11 hijacker is really a horrible analogy…The suicide bomber, I agree, should not be used as "analogous." What the bomber rather demonstrates is how little evidence a human requires to be convinced of the truth of a claim he would then be willing to die for.The idea then becomes, even if we had "eye-witness" letters from many adherents who subsequently died for that belief, we still could never know if they were as gullible as the bombers–believing on as little evidence. Upon what did they base their belief in resurrection would still not be answered.I could only ever know what they _believed_ they saw–however I would never know, based on testimony alone, what actually transpired. And their deaths would not be helpful if offered as evidence for the validity of their beliefs. Strength of belief? Yes. Validity or truth value of belief? Not in the least.What convinces the suicide bomber the Koran is god's word through the prophet? Childhood indoctrination. There is no "evidence" supporting the belief. It boils down to "they were told it was so."With eye-witness testimony, I don't doubt alien abductees have sincere belief. But I think they're "convinced" based on what I would not consider acceptable evidence. I don't see any reason I should accept Jesus rose any more than aliens are stealing people out of their beds. And whether or not some subset of wackaloons will go balls to the wall for their odd beliefs offers nothing to demonstrate the beliefs or the claims are valid.So, the question becomes–why even bring "they died" into the equation? It's not evidence of anything except that some people believed Jesus rose. People believe it today as well, and it takes precious little to get them to believe it or to say they'd also die over it. People believe life-altering crap on very little evidence so commonly I'm stunned this argument persuades anyone.

  51. says

    @MT – The point is that if that people will give up their lives without having to be eyewitnesses to something, why does it mean any more that they would give up their lives after claiming to be an eyewitness? 1: "I am going to give up my life for my beliefs."2: "Oh well, a lot of people give up their lives for their beliefs, that doesn't mean they are true." 1: "Oh yeah, well I am going to give up my life AND I am an eyewitness!"2: "I BELIEVE YOU! Now I know what you say is TRUE!"

  52. says

    @traciehCertainly people believe things for a lot of different reasons and some people believe some things on insufficient evidence. But the whole issues is why they believed. They believed in these things (empty tomb , appearances ..etc) because they claimed to have seen then.Every New testament scholar/historian agrees that shortly after Jesus' death a group of his followers went around proclaiming that he had risen from the dead and appealing to an empty tomb and appearances.Now every now and then some dumbass skeptic will say his followers concocted the whole thing to gain new money/converts.However what they got was being killed and persecuted for their beliefs."What convinces the suicide bomber the Koran is god's word through the prophet? Childhood indoctrination. There is no "evidence" supporting the belief. It boils down to "they were told it was so.""Right but what caused the disciples to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and left an empty tomb. Because they saw it. And I think you agree they believed it strongly and were not lying . Childhood indoctrination is not an option in this case. Aaron clearly distinguished between those who believed based on being an eyewtiness versus those who believe for other reasons.There's a difference between believing some book your parents taught you and claiming to have personally seen an empty tomb and have you and your buddies have extended conversations with a physically resurrected man.seeing as you example of childhood indoctrination is inapplicable here and of course we need to consider other things with alien sightings (like perhaps they saw some swamp gas or a weather balloon and were mistaken).So I don't think people are as wildly gullible as you say and the cases you cited are clearly disanalgous.

  53. says

    @MrFT-"Now every now and then some dumbass skeptic will say his followers concocted the whole thing to gain new money/converts.However what they got was being killed and persecuted for their beliefs."You are assuming here that the skeptic says that the followers basically made a scam. I don't think it is the claim of anyone here. For my part, I think the disciplines genuinly believed that Jesus rose from the dead, they might even thought they had witnessed it one way or another, but that does NOT mean that they were right. Even in the Gospels, they do not witness the actual resurrection, but only the presence of Jesus afterwards. That is very equivoqual to say the least. And this is from what we read in the books promoting Christianity, promoting that Jesus was the Messiah! The reality might have been far less impressive. And what about the alledged witnesses of the resurrection? Those Roman soldiers, those temple guards who just found out that the Sanhedrin were wrong by seeing the angels moving the stone, they did not say anything afterwards? Didn't some of them want to convert? Or at least, tell their side of the story to someone who would have put it in writing? It is as if they never existed (just like the Census, the visit of the Magi, the liberation of Barabbas, the Massacre of the Innocents, etc.)"Right but what caused the disciples to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and left an empty tomb. Because they saw it."We DON'T KNOW if they saw an empty tomb, the Gospels CLAIM they did. We don't know how much the story of the resurrection changed from the moment the disciples claimed it happened and the time it was written in the Gospels, which are propaganda texts to convince, not prove, the veracity of Christianity's claim. In any case, eyewitnesses are NOT impervious to mistakes, misinterpretations and fabrication. Memory is not infaillible, and people have a tendency to remember the way that fits them best. "And I think you agree they believed it strongly and were not lying. Childhood indoctrination is not an option in this case. Aaron clearly distinguished between those who believed based on being an eyewtiness versus those who believe for other reasons."You can be an adult and still be indoctrinated, I don't see why you neeed to make it exclusive to children. Hell, the disciples believed Jesus was the Messiah before he died, they just adapted new events (the death of their leader) to their faith. In a time of grieving and emotional stress, when they were particularly vulnerable to self-suggestion, of course they started seeing their beloved sect leader risen from the grave!The problem with what Aaronk1994's argument and yours FT, is that you basically take a presumption of impossibility (I don't know if it's the right term, but you get what I mean). My religion teacher used to do this too to prove God's existence. Basically you say something like "X exists, X cannot be rationalised, therefore X has to be supernatural/divine in origins". You presume that the disciples saw an empty tomb and that it was IMPOSSIBLE to be both sincere and wrong. You presume the Gospels are genuine accounts of what happened, therefore you don't think they can be questioned. You presume that a sincere believer cannot invent claims of miracles or even delude himself.

  54. says

    "What the heck were all the people yiu listed eyewitnesses to?"I listed the Roswell crash which has eye witnesses. Why don't you believe them but believe the bible? I think you can actually find some still alive to talk to."So I don't think people are as wildly gullible as you say and the cases you cited are clearly disanalgous." 80% of all people believe themselves to be above average intelligence. Apparently you are one of them. /snark. I don't think it is "disanalgous(sic)" people are notoriously easy to fool. If you don't think people are gullible and sheepish beyond all reason you clearly don't get out enough. Fuck, all Palin had to do was use the word "Death panel" to get people to believe that.

  55. says

    "Right but what caused the disciples to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and left an empty tomb. Because they saw it. And I think you agree they believed"You know what, Fucking prove it happened. Cause the only place I see this story being told was in the bible. Unless we get some freaking outside source we might as well be arguing why the Klingon's don't have bumpy heads pre TNG. You say they saw it, I saw they made it up. Neither of us can back it up since we both have zero reliable evidence to go on.

  56. says

    Gary Habermas claims it is a fact that James was converted by the resurrection of Jesus and that James was a witness to the resurrection.Acts 1 14They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. 15In those days Peter stood up among the believers….Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection." So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. So the very brothers of Jesus were believers and they weren't even in consideration to become witnesses to the resurrection?So how did James make the list in 1 Corinthians 15?Why did Luke introduce the brothers of Jesus only to immediately disqualify them as even being considered as candidates for witnesses to the resurrection?How could James have been a witness to the resurrection, when Acts says the entire church discussed the matter and chose between two other people to become witnesses to the resurrection?If Habermas is convinced of the resurrection by the 'fact' that James, the brother of Jesus was converted by this alleged resurrection, why does Acts rule out every brother of Jesus as a candidate for the position of 'witness to the resurrection'?

  57. says

    @Steven CarrCan we please establish that the gospel is an actual viable source before we reference it? I mean, I know I said it before, but right now we're basically arguing whether Decker was an android.

  58. says

    I think the only thing we can establish, or at least presume from the Gospels is that: 1)there was a Jewish sect in the early first century that was based on the teaching of a Messiah wannabe named Ieshua, from Nazareth. 2)Said Ieshua probably had dealings with another Messiah wannabe known as John the Baptist, then departed from the Baptist's group for ideological disagreements. 3)Ieshua at some point scared the Jewish establishment and the Romans and got executed. That's it.

  59. says

    @Ing-Well, I am 50-50 on the question of Decker being a replicant.As for the Gospels, what I have written is all very theoritical, I would however defend that it is plausible. Much moreso than any claim of miracle.

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