Saturday, May 21, 2016

First Century Jews did move the Bodies of the recently Dead

In my ongoing discussions with conservative Christians on Theology Web, I have been told repeatedly that first century Jews would never have moved a recently dead body, therefore, the idea that anyone moved Jesus' body from Arimathea's tomb between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning is highly implausible.  However, during an online search for archeological articles regarding the alleged location of the Empty Tomb, I came across the following archeology journal article (The topic of the article is the alleged newly discovered "Jesus' family tomb" in Jerusalem). The author is a Jewish archeologist who does not believe that this tomb is authentic. However, she makes a very interesting comment. She states that the burial descriptions in the Gospels accurately reflect first century Jewish burial customs! Christians should love that! However, she also makes the following comment:

"When the women entered the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea on Sunday morning, the loculus where Jesus' body had been laid was empty. The theological explanation for this phenomenon is that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. However, once Jesus had been buried in accordance with Jewish law, there was no prohibition against removing the body from the tomb after the end of the Sabbath and reburying it. It is therefore possible that followers or family members removed Jesus' body from Joseph's tomb after the Sabbath ended and buried it in a trench grave, as it would have been unusual (to say the least) to leave a non-relative in a family tomb."

- See more at: https://www.archaeological.org/news/....Ojuu0rpi.dpuf

If this Jewish archeologist is correct about first century Jewish burial customs, her statement above blows the conservative Christian argument that the family of Jesus/some of his disciples/Arimathea/the Sanhedrin would not have moved his body on Saturday night...right out of the water!

Here is the bio on the archeologist:

Jodi Magness is the Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received a Ph.D. in classical archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. in Archaeology and History from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has participated on more than 20 excavations in Israel and Greece, and currently directs excavations in the Roman fort at Yotvata, Israel. Her publications include an award-winning book on The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Eerdmans 2002) and an article entitled "Ossuaries and the Burials of Jesus and James," Journal of Biblical Literature 124 (2005).

Conservative Christians can no longer claim that it would have been unheard of and highly improbable that any first century Jew would have moved the body of Jesus from Arimathea's tomb between the Friday afternoon and Sunday morning after Jesus' crucifixion. 

In the above article, Magness states that if the Gospel stories are true, it would have been a matter of practicality for the Sanhedrin to temporarily bury Jesus body in Arimathea's family tomb so as not to violate Jewish burial laws on the Sabbath. (It would have taken too long to dig a grave.) However, once the Sabbath was over (Saturday sundown) it would not be unusual for the family to have then been given the body to bury wherever they wished. However, since the family of Jesus was poor, they most likely would have buried Jesus in a dirt grave after removing him from Arimathea's family tomb.

As mentioned in previous discussions, there is no evidence that anyone in the second or third centuries knew the location of the Empty Tomb.  It is therefore very possible that the Empty Tomb is a myth/legend. But even if it is not, experts state that it would have been custom, and allowed by Jewish law, for the family to have moved the body after the Sabbath was over (Saturday at sunset). According to Magness, it is highly implausible that the body of a non-family member would have been allowed to remain in Arimathea's family tomb.

Conclusion: Christians CANNOT claim that natural explanations for the early Christian Resurrection Belief are implausible. With the above evidence, not only are natural explanations plausible, based on collective human history and experience they are the MOST LIKELY explanation for this very extra-ordinary, ancient belief.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Many Christians Cannot Accept Deconversions from Christianity based on Evidence

Excerpt from a recent conversation with Christians on the Christian forum, Theology Web:

Conservative Christian on Theology Web:  As a number of us here have been saying all along, Gary's issue from the start is that he never actually studied the scriptures for himself to see if they were true before making a commitment to Christ. He allowed a blind faith born out of black and white fundamentalist indoctrination to guide his steps, and just as Jesus predicted in his parable of the sower, without deep roots his faith withered in the sun. Sad thing is, he hasn't learned his lesson. In the same way that he zealously attempted to evangelize with an ignorant brand of faith, he now attempts to evangelize with an ignorant brand of skepticism. His faith was built on emotionalism, and so is his skepticism. The facts are not as important as attempting to debunk a form of "supernatural belief" that he now believes "is bad for humankind" ...The same supernatural belief he himself lauded while claiming to be a Christian... Not very rational to me.

Moderate Christian on Theology Web:  I think your characterization of his deconversion is unfair. Statements of that sort have a wicked way of coming back around to bite one in the hind quarters.

Gary:  That is kind for you to come to my defense, but his reaction is very typical, and not just for my deconversion. Ask anyone who has deconverted from Christianity and they will tell you that Christians will often tell them, "If you had only understood TRUE Christianity, you wouldn't have deconverted." They then hand you a stack of books by NT scholars and expect you to read them. If you do not, you are told you are being obstinate and that your deconversion is obviously not based on evidence but based on your anger against God or a desire to lead a life of sin. Christians like Adrift just cannot accept that someone thoroughly investigated the evidence for Christianity and found it wanting.

Notice I did not immediately deconvert when I found out about the scribal additions and deletions. I investigated them and discussed them with pastors. I was then able to accept them as insignificant. I did the same with the discrepancies in the Resurrection accounts. I found them disturbing but was able to accept that these discrepancies had no impact on the overall historicity of the crucifixion and the Resurrection. The problem was when the dominoes continued to fall.

--Hell was an invention of the ancient Egyptians, adopted by the Greeks, adopted by the Jews under Greek occupation, adopted by Christians.
--The Book of Daniel is very likely a work of fraud.
--only seven of the epistles attributed to Paul can be confirmed to have been written by him.
--the canon of the New Testament has a very shaky claim to being the "Word of God". Jesus nor any the eleven apostles authorized or "blessed" any of the 27 books.
--the first six or seven books of the Old Testament have no historical or archeological evidence supporting their historicity or veracity.
--We have no solid evidence that Paul saw anything more than a bright light on the Damascus Road. Hardly proof that he saw a resurrected body.
--Paul's statements in Galatians and his alleged statements in Acts regarding his activities in the Arabian desert and his visit to Jerusalem contain significant discrepancies.
--even if we accept Matthew's guards at the tomb, there was at least a short period of time when someone could have moved/stolen the body of Jesus from the tomb.
--there is strong evidence that the first five books of the Old Testament were written in the seventh or sixth century BCE.
--there is no evidence than any of the Eleven were alive when the first Gospel was written to verify its accuracy.
--vague statements by Papias are the only evidence the Church has to link the Gospels to the Eleven or their immediate disciples.
--why did Christians forget the location of the Empty Tomb if such a place existed?

and the list goes on and on. I have studied each of these issues. I spent four months studying these issues before I deconverted.

Many Christians would never be satisfied that I had thoroughly investigated the Bible and Christian teaching even if I were to read every NT scholar and graduate from a Christian seminary with a divinity degree IF I still claimed that the Christian belief system is based on superstition.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Refuting NT Scholar Craig Evans on Whether the Romans allowed Jews to bury persons Crucified for Treason

Ok, let's all look at the full article by NT scholar Craig Evans on the subject of whether or not the Romans allowed the Jews to bury persons crucified for high treason:

Read Mr. Evans article:  here

Evans opens his article with a quote from a Roman document called the Digesta:

(FYI: Justinian's Digesta was written in the sixth century.)

§1 Ulpian,  Duties of Proconsul, book 9: The bodies of those who are condemned to death should not be refused their relatives; and the Divine Augustus, in the Tenth Book of his Life, said that this rule had been observed. At present, the bodies of those who have been punished are only buried when this has been requested and permission granted; and sometimes it is not permitted, especially where persons have been convicted of high treason. Even the bodies of those who have been sentenced to be burned can be claimed, in order that their bones and ashes, after having been collected, may be buried.
§3 Paulus, Views, book 1: The bodies of persons who have been
punished should be given to whoever requests them for the
purpose of burial.

"More than forty percent of Justinian’s Digesta has been drawn from the writings of the jurist Ulpian (c. AD 170–223). One of his frequently cited works is his officio proconsulis (Duties of Proconsul). In the first paragraph of chapter 24 the Digesta quotes an opinon from the ninth book of officio proconsulis: “The bodies of those who are condemned to death should not be refused their relatives.” Ulpian supports his opinion by appealing to the precedent of the great emperor Augustus (ruled 31 BC – AD 14), which was expressed in his autobiography written near the end of his life."

Gary:  Augustus was NOT the Roman Emperor when Jesus was crucified. Tiberius was emperor. Evans is making the assumption that Roman burial policies for crucified criminals was exactly the same under Tiberius as it had been under Augustus. How does Evans know this?

Evans: "But what about Ulpian’s comment, “sometimes it [burial] is not permitted, especially where persons have been convicted of high treason?” Was Jesus “convicted of high treason” (maxime maiestatis causa damnatorum) and therefore permission might not have been granted for the burial of his corpse? It seems most unlikely that Jesus was condemned for “high treason,” given the discussion of treason (maiestas) in Digesta 48.4.1–11. Cited authorities include Ulpian, Marcian, Scaevola, and others. Almost all of the examples discussed in chapter 4 of book 48 involve serious violence against the state, “against the Roman people or against their safety,” including plotting the death of the emperor, plotting or attempting to assassinate a Roman official, raising an army, failing to relinquish command of an army, siding with an enemy of the empire, fomenting armed rebellion, turning an ally against Rome, etc. Jesus did nothing that approximated these kinds of actions."

Gary: The Gospels state that thousands of Jews greeted Jesus as the King of the Jews who would bring about the re-established Davidic Monarchy on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Even Jesus' disciples were expecting a military revolt---some of them were carrying weapons of war. Jesus' disciples assaulted an officer of the law. They were not pacifists. Jesus, yes. His disciples, no. They believed that they were leaders of a revolution against the hated Romans and that they would rule over the new Davidic kingdom with Jesus. They had quarreled over which of their princely thrones would be closest to Jesus. With Jerusalem bursting at the seams with Jews from all over the world for the Passover holiday, the city was simmering to explode with revolt. Jesus was very much a threat to Roman rule that Passover weekend...if the gospels are historically accurate.

Evans: "The opinion of Paulus (Views, book 1), or Julius Paulus Prudentissimus, a jurist who flourished in the late second and early third centuries AD, is cited without qualification or exception: “The bodies of persons who have been punished should be given to whoever requests [petentibus] them for the purpose of burial.” Bodies of the executed should be allowed burial, but official requests must be made; bodies cannot simply be taken down from crosses or gibbets without permission. Josephus (AD 37 – c. 100) himself makes such a request of Titus, son of Vespasian, and it is granted (Life 420–21) It is clear from the early laws and opinions cited in the Digesta that in most cases the bodies of the executed, including those crucified, were permitted burial, if requests were made."

Gary: Note that the only quote from Julius Paulus is this: “The bodies of persons who have been punished should be given to whoever requests [petentibus] them for the purpose of burial.” Ok, punished for WHAT? Standing naked next to a statue of the Emperor? This brief statement cannot be stretched to include persons crucified for treason without a little more information from the original author. I'm curious where Craig got this statement, it is not in quotes, "bodies cannot simply be taken down from crosses or gibbets without permission". Is Craig paraphrasing here? Since it is not in quotes, who is making this claim?? For all we know the statement in quotes refers only to Roman citizens who have been beheaded, not peasant Jews who have been crucified for claiming to be a usurper to the throne of Caesar.

Evans: "It is clear from the early laws and opinions cited in the Digesta that in most cases the bodies of the executed, including those crucified, were permitted burial, if requests were made. We see this in the case of Jesus, whose body for burial was requested by Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish council (Mark 15:42–47 parr.). This is completely consistent with Jewish law and custom, which placed the burden of burial on the Jewish council (or Sanhedrin) when it condemned and executed someone."

Gary: WRONG! Mr. Evans has only shown evidence that a sixth century document quotes a late second century document which purports to describe the burial procedures during the reign of Caesar Augustus for persons condemned to death. It does NOT prove that this was the custom during the reign of Tiberius nor does it state that this practice pertained to all Roman executions of all subjects of the Roman empire or only Roman citizens. Even if it applied to all subjects of the Empire, does this statement cover persons executed for high treason? No. It specifically says that persons executed for high treason were typically not afforded the privilege of an honorable burial. Then Evans tries to say that Jesus was not executed for high treason! What gall! How does this man know that Jesus was not executed for high treason??? Mr. Evans ASSUMES that the Romans viewed Jesus in the same light as Mr. Evans does: the loving pacifist Jesus who wouldn't harm a fly. However, this view is a major Christian assumption that the descriptions in the Gospels of the timid, hand-wringing Pontius Pilate is historically accurate. The historical evidence says otherwise. If the Jews wanted a trouble maker executed for treason, the historical evidence indicates that the real Pilate would have been more than happy to oblige. The idea that he would then hand over the body of someone he had just crucified for treason to some rich Jew to receive a proper burial is preposterous.

Evans: "This is completely consistent with Jewish law and custom, which placed the burden of burial on the Jewish council (or Sanhedrin) when it condemned and executed someone."

Gary: And this gentleman is a scholar??? The Jewish council did not execute Jesus. The Romans did! Romans were not obligated to follow, observe, nor did they give a rat's behind about Jewish burial rites. Once Jesus entered the Roman penal system as a traitor to Caesar, all Jewish religious sensitivities would have been ignored.
Evans: "The most pertinent statement comes from Josephus, who complains of the crimes of the rebels during the great Jewish revolt (AD 66–73). He finds particularly heinous the rebels’ treatment of the ruling priests, whom they murdered:

'They actually went so far in their impiety as to cast out the corpses without burial, though the Jews are so careful about funeral rites that even malefactors who have been sentenced to crucifixion are taken down and buried before sunset.' (J.W. 4.317)

What Josephus says here is especially relevant for the question of the burial of the crucified Jesus. Josephus is speaking of his own time, that is, from the time of Pontius Pilate, prefect of Samaria and Judea, to the time of the Jewish revolt. He clearly states that those executed by crucifixion were “taken down and buried before sunset.” "

Gary: As Bart Ehrman has pointed out on his blog about Craig's statement here, we know as an historical fact that General Titus crucified FIVE HUNDRED JEWS A DAY during the siege of Jerusalem. Does anyone really believe that Titus let Jews from inside the city come out every afternoon to bury all these Jews prior to sunset??? Ridiculous. So most Jews crucified by the Romans during Josephus lifetime were NOT buried on the same day before sunset. And Jesus was never referred to as a "malefactor" such as a common thief. Jesus was condemned as a traitor to Rome and was executed as one.

Evans: ". If condemned by the Jewish council, it was incumbent on the council to arrange for the burial of the executed (m. Sanhedrin 6.5–6; more on this below). This was done out of concern for the purity of the land, not out of pity for the executed or his family (Deut 21:23)."

Gary: The Jewish Council did NOT condemn Jesus to death. They did not have that power. If they had, they would have taken Jesus out that very night and stoned him. They needed the Romans to condemn and execute Jesus to get rid of him. The ROMANS condemned Jesus to death and therefore the disposition of his body was a Roman matter.

Evans: "There is also archaeological evidence that corroborates the literary evidence. One thinks of the crucified remains of one Yehohanan, crucified under the authority of Pontius Pilate. Though crucified, he was nevertheless properly buried (with an iron spike still embedded in his right heel). The skeletal remains of at least three other executed persons have been recovered from tombs and ossuaries, as well as dozens of nails and spikes, many of which had been used in crucifixion."

Gary: Nails have been found in many graves from ancient Palestine...they were seen as good luck charms. It doesn't mean the person was crucified. As for the case of Mr. Yehohanan, how long had he hung on the cross before his body was taken down? Does Evans have any proof that his body was taken down the same day as his crucifixion and put in the ossuary? For all we know his body hung on the cross for weeks and when what remained was taken down weeks later, it was given to his (probably aristocratic) family...because he had been crucified for standing naked next to a statue of the emperor, not that he was executed as a traitor like Jesus.

Evans: "The evidence in hand probably represents only a small fraction of what existed at one time. This is because the small bones (hands and feet), which provide evidence of crucifixion, rarely survive intact. Moreover, we should assume that the remains of most of those crucified were from the lower classes and so would not have been placed in ossuaries in secure tombs, as were the remains of Yehohanan, who evidently belonged to a family of means. The archaeological evidence, as limited as it is, supports the literary evidence in suggesting that in Palestine in the time of Jesus the crucified were in fact buried."

Gary: Wow! Evans finds one heel with a nail in it and he is ready to claim that the caves of Palestine are full of undiscovered ossuaries full of the remains of Jews who had been crucified for treason against Caesar. Pathetic.

Evans: Roman authority in Israel normally did permit burial of executed criminals, including those executed by crucifixion (as Josephus implies), but it did not during the rebellion of 66–70.

Gary: Where does Josephus imply that the bodies of persons crucified for treason were allowed a proper burial during the time of Jesus??? Sorry, I must have missed that.

Evans: "There is another important point that needs to be made. The process that led to the execution of Jesus, and perhaps also the two men crucified with him, was initiated by the Jewish Council. According to law and custom when the Jewish council (or Sanhedrin) condemned someone to death, by whatever means, it fell to the council to have that person buried. This was the role played by Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish council (Mark 15:43). The executed were to be buried properly, but not in places of honor, such as the family tomb. This is clearly taught in the earliest writings of the rabbis: “They did not bury (the executed criminal) in the burying-place of his fathers. But two burying-places were kept in readiness by the Sanhedrin, one for them that were beheaded or strangled, and one for them that were stoned or burnt” (m. Sanhedrin 6:5, emphasis added; “strangled” would include those hanged and those crucified). The place reserved for burial of criminals was sometimes referred to as a “wretched place”: “Neither a corpse nor the bones of a corpse may be transferred from a wretched place to an honored place, nor, needless to say, from an honored placed to a wretched place; but if to the family tomb, even from an honored place to a wretched place, it is permitted” (Semahot 13.7)."

Gary: Ok, I will have to look into that. If the Sanhedrin initiated accusations against Jesus, did that make them responsible for burying the body? I don't know. However, the more important question to ask would be: Would the Romans have cared??? If Jesus was executed for treason, then all Jewish sensitivities would be ignored. The entire reason for the Romans to crucify a Jew who claimed to be the King of the Jews would be to humiliate and torture him so horribly in front of his fellow Jews as a warning to OTHER JEWS not to make the same claim. It is just ridiculous to suggest that the Romans would hand over the body of a Jewish traitor against Caesar to Jews so that he can have a proper Jewish burial.

Then there is this discussion about Jesus being buried in the Sanhedrin's criminal plot. Do the Gospels say that??? If we believe the author of the Gospel of John, Joseph of Arimathea was a (secret) disciple of Jesus. Why would ol' Joe stick his neck out to ask Pilate for the body if he knew that the Sanhedrin had automatic dibbs on the body??? That is ludicrous. And if Joe knew that the Sanhedrin required executed criminals to be buried in a wicked place; a place of dishonor, what makes him think that the Sanhedrin is going to allow him to bury Jesus in his brand-spanking new, hand-hewn, family mausoleum???? Who is making this story up, for Pete's sake?

Evans: "In view of the evidence relating to burial, whether in the Roman Empire in general or more specifically in Israel whose Jewish population was greatly concerned with protecting the purity of the land, it seems highly probable that Jesus and others who were executed were in fact buried. Discussion of the resurrection of Jesus should assume that Jesus had been buried. One must then ask in what sense the first Christians would have spoken of “resurrection,” had the body of Jesus remained in a tomb, awaiting the future gathering of its skeletal remains for interment in the family tomb? It seems to me that the burial of Jesus has profound implications for the discussion of his resurrection."

Gary: Nope. The Jews may have been very keen in keeping the land of Israel "pure" but the Romans couldn't have cared less about land purity when they believed someone had committed treason against Caesar. Evans has failed to prove that Jesus was not crucified for high treason. He only assumes he was not because of his own biases.

Discussion of Jesus should most likely assume that Jesus was buried, or at least what was left of him after hanging on the cross for days exposed to the elements and scavengers was buried...but not in a rich man's tomb. Romans just didn't do that for traitors. Thieves and other "malefactors", yes. Traitors, no. In what sense did the first Christians speak of a "resurrection", Evans asks. Well, the most likely scenario is that Jesus body hung on the cross for days and what was finally left days or weeks later was tossed into a common criminal grave and covered over with dirt, as was the Roman custom. Some of Jesus' disciples may have witnessed this common grave burial of Jesus. Then, some time later, one or a couple of disciples "sees" Jesus in a vivid dream, vision, false sighting, or misperception of natural phenomenon (a bright light)...and the resurrection legend begins.


Addition (May 17, 2016)

Conservative Christian on Theology Web:

 Upon what authority do you make your own proclamations about what did and did not happen. Your years bumbling around between denominations as you struggled with a strict surface reading of the bible in English?

Gary:

Our discussion has involved this question: For what crime was Jesus crucified? I think we both agree it was treason, however, you and Evans believe is was a less serious form of treason, and based on the comments in the Digesta, if Jesus was crucified for a lesser form of treason, it is more likely than not that his body could have been released for proper burial.

I do not contest that it is possible that Jesus' body was given a proper burial, I only question the probability. For one thing, the activities for which one could be charged for "Treason-Lite" were things like insulting the Emperor's name or standing next to a statue of the Emperor naked. Jesus claimed to be the true and proper king of the Jewish people. Caesar was the king of the Jewish people in the first century. So the question is, would a totalitarian dictatorship view someone's claim of usurping the throne of Caesar on the same level as standing naked next to his statue? Would it make a difference to a military dictatorship if the person claiming to be king had no known military force and sounded like a looney pacifist? I don't think so. I think that any challenge to the legitimacy of the dictator would be squashed like a bug on the wall, no matter how insignificant its real threat to the system it may have been.

But I can't prove that Pilate saw it that way. But neither can Adrift prove that he did not.

But my point has never been to prove that it is IMPOSSIBLE that Jesus was buried in Arimathea's tomb, only that it is improbable. And I believe that Christians' use of the stories in the Gospels to support their position on the Empty Tomb has some real issues. Let's look at Evans claim that if the Sanhedrin "initiated" a claim of treason against a Jew, the crucified body would be returned to the Sanhedrin to be buried in a "Sanhedrin tomb for criminals"; a place of dishonor.

So if Pilate and the Romans had an established protocol for persons crucified for "treason-lite" worked out with the Sanhedrin by which the Sanhedrin had automatic rights to the body for burial, why did Arimathea, a secret disciple of Jesus, go to Pilate and ask for the body??? That doesn't make sense. If the Roman guards at the cross knew that the Sanhedrin had the right to take the body of Jesus to their "criminal tomb", why did Arimathea need to bother going to Pilate to ask permission? And if Evans is correct about this "Sanhedrin criminal tomb" in which the body of the victims had to decompose "in a dishonorable place" before it was finally given to the family for burial in the family plot, why on earth would the Sanhedrin allow Arimathea to place Jesus' body in his new, hand-hewn, PERSONAL, FAMILY tomb???

The story makes no sense.

Doesn't it seem more likely that the author of Mark simply invented the Arimathea tomb detail for theological purposes? As told in the Gospels, it just doesn't make sense. If Jesus' body was automatically the property of the Sanhedrin, who wanted to bury him in a place of dishonor, why in the world would they tolerate Jesus' body being placed in a place of extreme honor: the mausoleum of a rich man? And if Arimathea acted on his own, wouldn't he have put himself in danger with the Sanhedrin for defying their wish to bury Jesus in their place of dishonor? Shouldn't we read something about their outrage and complaints to Pilate about Arimathea's violation of the Roman-Jewish pact regarding the burial of persons executed for "treason-lite"?

To me the only way to get out of this dilemma is to pull a "Stein": deny the historicity of part of the story, specifically "John's" claim that Arimathea was a secret disciple and that the tomb was Arimathea's personal, family tomb. If one sticks to the entire story, without deleting the parts that are contradictory as Stein does, I think the probability of this event goes way down to "implausible".

Conservative Christian:  "Having established that Jesus was dishonorably buried, even if in Joseph's tomb, do you know of any manuscript evidence that specifically forbade dishonorable burial in a member of the Sanhedrin's tomb? We do have manuscript evidence that there existed criminal tombs for the crucified that were prepared by the Sanhedrin, but even in that document we see nothing about the special case of burial in a personal tomb of the Jewish Council, only that it could not be in the executed's family tomb (at least not until the flesh had decayed away)." Gary:  Come on, Christians! Do you really believe that the Jesus-hating Sanhedrin would allow Arimathea to bury Jesus in Arimathea's personal, family tomb if they already had a "criminal tomb"? To what ridiculous lengths must you take this story to keep in intact??? Is it POSSIBLE that the Sanhedrin allowed Arimathea to bury Jesus in his family tomb just because the "criminal tomb" had just filled up and they needed to get him in the ground before sunset that Friday? Sure!! It's possible. But just because something is possible, doesn't mean it is probable.

And that is the problem with this Christian supernatural tale. It is held together with so many "possible" scenarios. Isn't it so much more probable that a natural explanation is behind the Resurrection Belief and not this long, strung out, miracle (magic) laden story filled with all kinds of assumptions and "possible, but improbable" scenarios?

Christian:  "At any rate, why should it be surprising that scholars, Christian ones at that, acknowledge certain embellishments in the gospel record (and to be clear, the issues that McCane thinks are likely embellishments is the newness of the tomb, and the heavy use of spices to perfume the body)? I doubt that any of the scholars I've cited are Biblical literalists or even inerrantists. Yet, the majority of scholars, even critical scholars, accept the empty tomb tradition. The historical evidence supports it."

Gary:  There is zero hard evidence for an empty tomb other than scholarly opinion which is considered a very weak form of soft evidence. The majority of scholars are Christian believers. And among evangelical scholars, which today form a large percentage of NT scholars, their very eternal salvation is based on believing that the Resurrection was a literal, bodily event. So claiming that the majority of NT scholars believe in the historicity of the Empty Tomb is not like saying the majority of historians believe that Alexander sacked Tyre or that Titus destroyed Jerusalem. There is a heavy bias for the former.

The more important point is that except for a few fundamentalist scholars, most NT scholars believe that the Gospels contain some embellishments. So if the Gospels contain embellishments, many of the unsubstantiated claims could also be embellishments such as the Virgin Birth, the Ascension, and an Empty Tomb. We have ZERO evidence, outside of the Gospels, that any first or second century Christian knew the location of the Empty Tomb. To me, that is very strong evidence that "Mark" made it up!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Did Romans typically allow Persons Crucified for Treason to have Proper Burials? Bart Ehrman says, No.

Christian NT scholar Craig Evans believes that the usual Roman practice in Palestine during the lifetime of Jesus was to hand over the bodies of persons crucified to the Jews for proper burial following Jewish burial customs.  His strongest evidence for this claim is this claim by Josephus:

 
“They [this is referring to the Idumeaens, a group of foreigners that Josephus considers impious and evil] actually went so far in their impiety as to cast out their dead bodies without burial, although the Jews are so careful about burial rites that even malefactors who have been sentenced to crucifixion are taken down and buried before sunset” (Jewish War, 4.317)


Bart Ehrman, noted agnostic NT scholar, responds to Craig's claim and comments on this statement from Josephus on his blog, here.  I will summarize Erhman's comments below:

Note in the statement above, that Josephus does not say that the burial of crucified Jewish victims on the same day before sunset had been the Jewish custom for the entire period of Roman occupation of Palestine.  He is writing about events which occurred  35-40 years after the death of Jesus, during the time of the Roman-Jewish Wars; very different circumstances than during Jesus' day.  Therefore it is not clear that we should understand Josephus to mean this always, or typically, happened.  We can only say that it was, according to Josephus, something that took place in his day.

More importantly, Josephus' statement is simply not true as a description of general Roman practice.   During the Jewish Wars there were massive numbers of crucifixions.   At one point, the Roman general Titus was capturing and crucifying 500 Jews a day in front of the walls of Jerusalem!  Does any scholar believe that Jews inside Jerusalem were leaving the safety of the city to ask the Roman commanders for permission to take down the crucified bodies because they wanted to bury these crucified Jews before sunset...in compliance with Jewish law?  Come on!  It was war.  The Romans would have strung up these Jews too!

So what conclusions can we draw about Josephus' statement above?  Answer:   If Josephus’s statement was true, it was not true all the time, but only in some circumstances, when the conditions allowed.  And for most of the crucifixions that occurred in the first century, the conditions did not allow.

So what were the conditions like during the time of Jesus?  For one thing, there was no war.  Jerusalem was not under siege.  When Josephus says that “even malefactors” who were crucified were given decent burials he uses the generic term (καταδικη).  He uses the term or its derivatives 17 times in his surviving writings, always to refer generally to someone who is condemned to something (e.g., slavery, dishonor, or crucifixion).   In none of the 17 times that he uses it does he use it to refer to someone who was condemned to crucifixion as an “enemy of the state” or an “insurrectionist.”   In the New Testament Jesus is never referred to with this term (translated here as “malefactor”).   When he is crucified, he is not simply “condemned.”  He is charged with calling himself the King of the Jews.  This is a charge of political insurrection.  Jesus was executed as an enemy of the Roman state.

So with this background,  it is possible that during Jesus' lifetime, Jews were sometimes given the right to bury some crucified victims when they were guilty of lesser crimes, when they were simply “malefactors,” as opposed to being “enemies of the state.”  In summary, not only during war but also in times of (relative) peace the Romans publicly humiliated and tortured to death enemies of the state precisely in order to keep the peace.

A person who declared war on Rome by calling himself a self-appointed king would be publicly tortured and humiliated, left to rot on a cross so that every person passing by would receive fair warning not to ever think about crossing Rome.  There was no mercy.   There was no decent burial, precisely because there was no mercy or reprieve in cases such as this.   After Romans had made their point, the body could be dumped into some kind of pit or common grave, but not until the humiliation and the punishment were complete.  

In summary, even if Josephus is stating a general practice among Jews, it is not a practice that applied to times of war or threats of war.  It did not apply to enemies of the state.  Jesus was an enemy of the state, crucified for calling himself King of the Jews.

http://ehrmanblog.org/josephuss-clearest-claim-about-the-burial-of-crucified-victims/

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Empty Tomb is Most Likely not Historical


Even most Christian apologists agree that there are embellishments in the Resurrection Stories in the four Gospels of the Christian New Testament.  In particular, Matthew's tale of dead saints coming out of their graves to roam the streets of Jerusalem on the day of the Resurrection.  In addition, many Christian apologists agree with skeptics that Matthew's story of Roman guards guarding the tomb of Jesus is most likely an embellishment.  Only the most ardent of Christian fundamentalists believe that these two Matthean tales are historical.

So what if there are other embellishments in the Resurrection Story?  How can we know?  Since it has been two thousand years since the death of Jesus, it is going to be extremely difficult to say for sure what happened and what did not, but's let look at the little evidence that does exist and make an educated guess as to the probability of this event in ancient history.

The most common argument used by conservative Christian apologists today for their belief in the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus is the Empty Tomb claim.  But even if, for the sake of argument, skeptics accept the historicity of the Empty Tomb, the high probability that Matthew's Roman guards is an embellishment would leave the tomb unguarded for three days and two nights.  Couldn't the body have been moved or stolen?

"Highly implausible!"  cry conservative Christians.  "No Jew would move a recently dead body.  A miracle is more probable than an unheard of violation of Jewish Law and custom by a first century Jew."

This logic seems very odd to non-believers such as myself who view miracles as the least probable of all explanations for any event.  But what if there was no Empty Tomb?  And what if there was no tomb at all?  What if Jesus' body was left for days on the cross to be picked apart by scavengers, and then, what was left of him was tossed into an unmarked common grave with the remains of other executed persons of that particular week or month?  What would that do to the Christian argument for the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus?

"But that isn't what happened! The majority of New Testament scholars believe that the story of Joseph of Arimathea burying Jesus in his tomb is historical fact." protest Christians.

Christians make the claim that the Empty Tomb is historical fact based on a "study" by conservative Christian New Testament scholar Gary Habermas in which he claims that 75% of New Testament scholars believe in the historicity of the Empty Tomb.  Many skeptics question the quality and accuracy of this study, but if we agree to accept it as fact, that still leaves a sizable minority of NT scholars who don't believe that the Empty Tomb is historical fact.  Twenty-five percent in not a "fringe".  And one must ask this question:  "Based on what evidence do the seventy-five percent of NT scholars hold this belief?  Did Habermas' study explore this question?  Is it possible that since the majority of NT scholars are believing Christians that their belief in an Empty Tomb is based at least in part on faith---their devout desire for it to be true?

So it would be good to see the evidence for why the majority of NT scholars believe in the historicity of an Empty Tomb, and not accept it as historical fact simply because it is their opinion.  Scholarly opinion alone is a form of weak evidence.

The popular Christian belief that four independent eyewitnesses (the Gospels) make this claim and therefore their testimony should be given the same weight of evidence as the testimony of four independent eyewitnesses to a traffic accident has been proven false by scholars.  The majority of scholars do not believe that the four gospels are fully independent of each other nor that they were written by eyewitnesses.

And what if the majority opinion of scholars is wrong on the Empty Tomb?  What if the story of an Empty Tomb was an embellishment of the author of the Gospel of Mark, a book written circa 70 AD when most eyewitnesses to the events of Jesus' death would have been old or dead?  What if the author of Mark added the story of an Empty Tomb to the Jesus Story for the same reason that the author of Matthew added the stories of dead people roaming the streets of a major city and imaginary guards at the tomb of Jesus:  Theology.  Maybe these stories were never meant to be understood as literal, historical events.

"But it was Roman custom to give the body of persons crucified to the family so the Empty Tomb story is very probable," claim many Christians.

Really?  Let's look at the evidence.

Christians like to quote Josephus and his account of General Titus ordering three of Josephus' Jewish friends to be taken down off of their crosses and cared for due to Josephus' tearful request as proof that it was Roman custom to give the bodies of executed persons to their families?  Really? 

Three cases do not a pattern of behavior or a custom make.

Christians also point to ONE ossuary of one rich Jew who shows signs of being crucified as an indication that Romans allowed some persons who were crucified to be given to their family and buried in the family plot.  Are you kidding me???  Tens of thousands of Jews were crucified in the first century and Christians find ONE corpse with signs of crucifixion as the cause of death and claim that this proves that it was Roman custom to give the body of one crucified to his family.  Give me a break, folks.  Where are the bodies of all the other Jews who were crucified in Palestine?  Answer:  most probably, in unmarked holes in the ground! 

One corpse in a family ossuary does not a pattern of behavior or custom make.

Then Christians use the writings of Philo as evidence for this alleged universal Roman custom of allowing the body of one crucified to be given to his family for burial.  But let's see what Philo actually says in his own words (emphasis, mine):

Rulers who conduct their government as they should and do not pretend to honour but do really honour their benefactors make a practice of not punishing any condemned person until those notable celebrations in honour of the birthdays of the illustrious Augustan house are over… I have known cases when on the eve of a holiday of this kind, people who have been crucified have been taken down and their bodies delivered to their kinsfolk, because it was thought well to give them burial and allow them the ordinary rites.  For it was meet that the dead also should have the advantage of some kind treatment upon the birthday of the emperor and also that the sanctity of the festival should be maintained.

Note that releasing the body of persons crucified to the family was an exception; only done for the birthday of the Emperor; the wording suggests it may have only been done for certain families (probably the aristocracy); and this discussion only applies to Alexandria, Egypt.  We have no proof that this was a universal Roman custom, and in particular, no proof that this custom was observed in Palestine.  Regardless, releasing the body to the family was a rare exception to the rule, not the rule.

So the evidence indicates that the bodies of most persons crucified by the Romans were not given to the family for a decent burial.  Here is what usually happened to the bodies of persons crucified:

Horace, a Roman author, describes a slave protesting to his master that he had done nothing wrong, to which his master responded, “You shall not therefore feed the carrion crows on the cross” (Epistle 1.16.46-48).  Juvenal, a Roman satirist, commenting on crucifixion said this,  “The vulture hurries from the dead cattle and dogs and corpses, to bring some of the carrion to her offspring” (Satires 14.77-78).   Artemidorus, the famous Greek interpreter of dreams, said this in describing crucifixion, “a crucified man is raised high and his substance is sufficient to keep many birds” (Dream Book 2.53).  Satyricon of Petronius, a one-time advisor to the emperor Nero, spoke about a crucified victim being left for days on the cross (chs. 11-12).

So the Roman custom was to leave the crucified dead body up on the cross for days, allowing carrion to pick apart the corpse, for every passerby to witness as a vivid reminder not to mess with Roman authority, NOT to quickly hand over the body to the family on the same day the crucifixion took place.

So now we come to Pontius Pilate.  The Gospels paint Pilate as a man of conscious, or worse, a timid man who feared the wrath of Jewish mobs.  But let's look at the historical record:

When Pilate first assumed office in Palestine, he ordered symbols of the Emperor to be put up in Jerusalem, the Jewish holy city.  The Jews howled.  Did Pilate back down?  Yes, but only after the Emperor ordered him to do so.   (Antiquities of the Jews, 18.3.1).  In another situation, Pilate wanted to build an aqueduct.  To pay for it, he raided the Temple treasury.  The Jews gathered in the tens of thousands to protest.  Did Pilate back down?  No, he had undercover Roman soldiers infiltrate the crowds and club many of them to death. (Antiquities 18.3.2)  Pilate was not conscientious, nor was he timid and afraid of Jewish mobs.  He was a ruthless, brutal man.  This is how Philo of Alexandria, a contemporary of Pilate, described him after Pilate was forced out of office by the Emperor:

“his venality, his violence, his thefts, his assaults, his abusive behavior, his frequent executions of untried prisoners, and his endless savage ferocity.” (Embassy to Gaius 302)

So is it possible that the Sanhedrin caught Pilate on a good day and were able to persuade him to give them the body of the crucified Jesus, the self-proclaimed "King of the Jews" (The crime for which the Romans executed him.  Even most Christian scholars agree on that point)?  Sure!  Anything is possible!  It is even possible that a last minute order arrived from the Emperor ordering Pilate to leave Jesus alone...and this document is lost to history.  And many other scenarios are possible.  But what is the likelihood that the brutal Pilate would release the crucified body of someone convicted of treason against Caesar to his family...uh, er...the Sanhedrin...even if he, Pilate, was in a good mood that day?  The evidence suggests, not likely.

Christians like to quote a sixth century document which allegedly summarizes first century crucifixion practices as proof that this is a strong possibility:

The bodies of those who are condemned to death should not be refused their relatives; and the Divine Augustus, in the Tenth Book of his Life said that this rule had been observed.  At present the bodies of those who have been punished are only buried when this has been requested and permission granted; and sometimes it is not permitted, especially where persons have been convicted of high treason.  Even the bodies of those who have been sentenced to be burned can be claimed, in order that their bones and ashes, after having been collected, may be buried.  (Digest 48.24.1)

Do you notice one very important phrase in this sixth century document? 

"sometimes it is not permitted, especially where persons have been convicted of high treason."

This statement clearly says that the bodies of persons who had been crucified due to being convicted of high treason were usually NOT given to their relatives!  Get that everyone?  The bodies of persons crucified for high treason were usually not given to their families!

Jesus was crucified for high treason.  Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the brutal Pilate would give his body to his family, or anyone else, even if he were having a good day...because Jesus was guilty of treason against Caesar!

So dear Reader.  Ask yourself this question.  Which is more probable:  The brutal Pilate gave the body of a man executed for high treason against Caesar to Joseph of Arimathea for a decent burial, or, the author of the gospel of Mark invented this story and decades later, the other three gospel authors simply added their own embellishments to Mark's fictional story of an Empty Tomb?  Remember, Paul says not one word about an empty tomb.  The first time we hear about an empty tomb is in the Gospel of Mark, written many years after Peter and Paul's deaths and possibly the deaths of all the Apostles.

Was this how Jesus was really buried?

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Thirty Percent of New Testament Scholars do not believe in the Empty Tomb

The Empty Tomb
Fact or Fiction?

Christians often say that there are no plausible, alternative, natural explanations for the early Christian Resurrection belief. However, this statement is typically used in relation to the Empty Tomb claim. What if there was no empty tomb? What if there was no tomb at all? What if Jesus' body was taken down from the cross and tossed into an unmarked common grave/hole in the ground as was the Roman custom? What if the location of this unmarked hole in the ground was known to only a few Roman soldiers who never told anyone?

Remember, only 70% of NT scholars (if Gary Habermas is correct) believe that there was an empty tomb. That means that a sizable minority of NT scholars do not believe that there is sufficient evidence to state that the empty tomb story is historical. The majority of NT scholars could be wrong on this issue.  Thirty percent is not a fringe position.

"But what about the post-death appearances of Jesus?" Christians will counter.

I acknowledge that the majority of NT scholars believe that the early Christians had experiences which led them to believe that they had seen a resurrected dead Jesus. The disciples did not make up this belief out of thin air. But I think you will find a sizable number of NT scholars would refrain from describing these "experiences" as literal sightings of a walking/talking dead body. Whether these experiences were vivid dreams, visions, hallucinations, or misperceptions of natural phenomena, (non-evangelical) NT scholars are usually hesitant to say.  So Christians cannot claim that the overwhelming majority of NT scholars are convinced that the disciples saw a literal, resurrected dead body.

If the sizable minority of New Testament scholars who don't believe in the historicity of the Empty Tomb is correct, we are left with no need to explain an empty tomb with natural explanations, but only the post death appearances. And if the majority or a sizable minority of NT scholars are unwilling to state that the evidence strongly indicates that the disciples saw a literal, resurrected dead body, Christians are left on pretty shaky ground in their claim that no plausible natural explanation exists for the early Christian Resurrection Belief.

Therefore, a plausible natural explanation for the early Christian Resurrection Belief could be this: Jesus' body was dumped in a common grave, the location unknown to the disciples. However, three days after his death, one or a few disciples had trances, vivid dreams, or visions of a resurrected Jesus, based on his prediction to be killed but rise again on the third day. Soon more and more disciples were having trances, vivid dreams, visions and misperceptions of natural phenomena, such as a large group of people seeing a bright light at the top of a hill and believing it to be an "appearance" of Jesus.

And that is possibly, and plausibly, how the early Christian Resurrection Belief began.

Christians can say they believe that a literal bodily resurrection is more probable than this natural explanation based on their theistic worldview, but they cannot say that this natural explanation is implausible.

 Scholarship says otherwise.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Evidence Skeptics Demand to Believe the Resurrection


Christians often ask me what evidence would cause me to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. Let me give you a scenario to demonstrate the kind of evidence that skeptics would like to see to consider this claim even remotely possible:

April, 33 AD

The Roman occupied lands of Judea and Galilee teeter on the brink of rebellion against Caesar. A man from Galilee named Jesus has crisscrossed Palestine preaching that a new "kingdom" is imminent and telling his immediate followers that he is the long awaited Jewish Messiah.

According to Jewish teaching, the Messiah will restore the ancient kingdom of Israel, sit upon the throne of David, and defeat all Israel's enemies. The armies of the world will bow before this great king.

Rome sees this man as an insurrectionist and as a traitor to Caesar. They are happy to learn that the Jewish leadership is not happy with Jesus either. The two groups conspire to arrest Jesus on the grounds of treason against Caesar and blasphemy against his religion. Jesus is arrested, tried for treason before the prefect, Pontius Pilate, and condemned to crucifixion. All of Judea turns out for the crucifixion of the "King of the Jews". The Romans brace for a riot. Caesar sends word to Pilate that under no circumstances is he to allow the situation to get out of control. Pilate sends emissaries to surrounding governors and rulers, asking for assistance if he should need it. The entire eastern Mediterranean is on edge.

Jesus is publically crucified. The Romans document the event. A letter is sent to Caesar documenting the execution and that all riots have been put down. The Jews document the event. Both parties state that Jesus died but that after dying a spear was plunged into his side to make sure he was dead prior to taking him off the cross.

Both the Romans and the Jews document that a Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body and placed it in a newly hewn tomb next to Golgotha. Both the Romans and the Jews document that the body was guarded at all times by a company of soldiers, the tomb was sealed, and guards were placed round the clock. The Jews also ordered some of their guards to stand by and watch the tomb to prevent the disciples from stealing the body.

However, three days later, the tomb was empty. Later that day, followers of Jesus began reporting that Jesus had appeared to them in the flesh. They even touched him and ate fish with him. These reports were initially seen as hysteria. However, then Jesus appeared to a large crowd in the temple. The Sanhedrin and the Pharisees witnessed the appearance and multiple members of the Sanhedrin documented the event. Then Jesus appeared to Pilate and his court. Then to Herod and his court. Both accounts were recorded by multiple members of the court and the testimonies corroborate.

Then Jesus appeared on the top of the temple after calling Pilate, Herod, the Sanhedrin, and all the people together to preach to them. At the end of his sermon, the entire crowd watched as he slowly ascended into the clouds. This event was recorded by multiple Romans, Jews, and Christians. The accounts all corroborate. A report was sent to Caesar by both Pilate and Herod of these events. The two reports corroborate the story. The Sanhedrin also documented these events and this report corroborates the reports of Pilate and Herod.

Gary: Now this would be incredible evidence. It would be very hard to refute. We have multiple, contemporary attestation from antagonistic sources. So why didn't Jesus do this? Why didn't he make his post death appearances to multiple non-believers and not just one---Paul? If Jesus really loves the world why wouldn't he do really spectacular appearances to prove to the world he is God the Creator?

Answer:  Jesus wants people to believe by faith, not by miracles.

Huh? Then why do Christians point to miracles today as proof of Jesus' divinity?? Why do Christians make the claim that the reason that Jesus only heals a few of those who pray to him is to show his power and glory, not to heal? And why did Jesus do SO MANY miracles, in public, with huge crowds, in the Gospels, if miracles are not for the purpose of convincing people to believe???

Dear Christians. Don't you see? The reason that the Resurrection appearances were only to believers and to one non-believer on a dark, desert highway is because they didn't ever happen! These stories are most likely legends, or, inventions by the Gospel authors for theological purposes. Think, guys! The preponderance of evidence points to these miracle claims as being fiction.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Jesus never taught the Doctrine of Atonement


Agnus Dei, Francisco de Zurban (1598-1664)
Agnus Dei
by Zurbaren

There is not ONE single passage in the Synoptic gospels where Jesus says that belief in him atones for sins (except for in the long ending of the last chapter of Mark, "Believe and be baptized..."; a known, blatant, scribal addition). The doctrine of atonement first appears in the last Gospel written, the Gospel of John, at the end of the first century, as a means for the Church to control the masses through the sacraments. Read here:


 Of course, some Christians will respond by saying that you have to add up all the Gospels together to get the complete story. However, the key point here is that if Jesus actually said that you had to believe in him in order to be saved, then Matthew, Mark and Luke would have at least mentioned something about that somewhere! If it was central to Jesus' teachings that you need salvation by faith, then why didn't they mention it at all in the first three Gospels? The logical reason is that they never heard of nor supported that idea, because it didn’t evolve until later when the early Christians decided to add that doctrine, as in the Gospel of John. So we can logically conclude that if Matthew, Mark and Luke were with Jesus when he was on earth (assuming they are even eyewitnesses which isn’t even claimed), then Christ probably never said anything about faith, belief, or the atonement either!



Since the atonement and salvation by faith concept isn’t taught until the Gospel of John, therefore it is logical to conclude the following. About 50 years after the first three Gospels, the Church decided that a Gospel based on simple good works and kindness was not enough. They needed more power over people. And they needed a way for people to feel totally powerless in their own works so that they could be completely dependent on the church and its salvation sacraments. They needed the belief from their followers that they alone were the only way and religion. So they added the salvation by atonement doctrine to Christianity, in order to justify the church’s sacraments that were required for the salvation of souls, which in turn gave them power over people. That's why the newest Gospel, John came into play. The Gospel of John was a result of the developing theology of the Church at that time. That book is where the verses about salvation by faith, being "born again", the atonement, and having to believe that Jesus died for your sins came from. On many pages in it, you will find Jesus saying something about having to believe in him.

When Christian cite Gospel verses about being saved, they always refer to John. (No wonder many Christians say the book of John is their favorite book.) Just take a look at a Christian pamphlet or tract, and you'll see that the verses they mention about faith and believing on Jesus are from the book of John, such as John 3:16 and John 14:6. When they quote Jesus, they usually refer to this book. Yet this book did not come for at least 50 years after the first three Gospels. Therefore, logically whatever Jesus actually said would have been recorded more accurately in the earlier Gospels, which emphasize good works and charity instead.From this it is apparent as to how the Salvation theology evolved in the Church while the New Testament books and letters were still being written. Another fact that indicates this as well is that according to Mark, Christ was a man. But according to Matthew and Luke, he was a demigod, while John insists that he was God himself. That also shows an evolution of the concept of Jesus from a man gradually to a deity status. This is common with religious founders throughout history, because no matter what they claim themselves, their followers eventually try to deify them and make them into a God to worship.
...

Conclusion

There you have it, THREE Gospels of good works being enough to satisfy God, versus ONE Gospel of faith and atonement. Three against one! Again the central doctrine of the Evangelical Christian Gospel loses by the numbers (as the doctrine of infallibility did in Argument # 1). Case closed.

This is in fact good news for people, because it means that Jesus probably never preached that you had to believe that he died for you to be saved, which means that billions of people now and throughout history who didn’t convert to the Christian Gospel won’t spend eternity in hell after all, like Evangelicals warn. Therefore, for those worried about either themselves or their unsaved loved ones, this takes a huge burden off their shoulder. Now they can rejoice, celebrate, and yell “Hallelujah!” (See also Evolution of heaven and hell in the Bible from Zoroastrianism – Good news for the fearful)

Source: http://www.debunkingskeptics.com/Deb...ans/Page25.htm

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Why doesn't Jesus perform Indisputable Miracles in front of Television Cameras?

The Raising of Lazarus
by Rembrandt

Conservative Christian:  Well, according to Jesus, "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas."   Quite honestly, in my estimation, the reason it (miracles) happens in third world countries is because they haven't been taught that miracles don't happen anymore.  (Jesus doesn't perform indisputable miracles in front of TV cameras and cellphones) because He came to seek and to save them which were lost, not do flashy stuff to entertain skeptics.
 
Gary:  It is certainly possible that the reason why the resurrected Jesus does not perform indisputable miracles in front of TV cameras or cellphone cameras is because he wants people to believe by faith, but could you admit that it is possible that the reason no indisputable miracles are performed in front of video recorders is because miracles aren't real; they are misperceptions of reality?

And if Jesus wants people to believe by faith, why do so many Christians like Nick Peters and Craig Keener go to such lengths to use evidence to prove the veracity of the Christian Faith???  To me, the excuses for why Jesus won't perform indisputable miracles today is no different than when a child claims to have an all-powerful invisible friend who performs miracles. So you ask the child,

"How do you know that your friend is there?"

Child: "He talks to me and performs miracles."

"Would you ask your friend to speak to me or perform a miracle for me?"

Pause.

Child: "My friend says that you don't really believe so he isn't going to speak to you or perform a miracle for you."

"But I would believe in him if he would speak to me or perform a miracle."

Child: "He wants you to believe first."

"Ok. I believe."

Pause.

Child: "My friend says you are only pretending to believe."


And on and on and on it goes. Bottom line: You can't prove that the invisible friend is really there or not because the child has created a defense mechanism to prevent you from disproving his friend's existence. I believe that this is what Christians have done to protect their belief in their imaginary friend, Jesus the Christ.

Note: Both the child and the Christian truly and sincerely believe that their invisible friend is real and is present with them. They are not trying to be deceptive. They are simply trying to protect their belief from outside attacks, and because their belief is so central to their psychological well-being, any excuse will be created to defend it.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Eyewitness Testimony is not Sufficient Evidence for Very Extra-Ordinary Claims



Dear Readers:

 Consider this,

The overwhelming majority of educated people in the Western World today do not view eyewitness testimony as sufficient for very extraordinary claims.  To demonstrate this point, ask yourself if most educated people would believe the following claims based solely on alleged eyewitness testimony:

---an abduction by little green Martians in which the captive human spent three days on the Red Planet.
---the appearance of Abraham Lincoln to guests at a recent dinner party in which he ate broiled trout.
---a man levitated off the surface of the earth, without any mechanical assistance, and then flew off into the sunset at the speed of light, again without mechanical assistance.

Even if one thousand people claim to be eyewitnesses to these events, and even if their testimonies are relatively similar, the overwhelming majority of educated people are NOT going to believe these claims without extensive, additional evidence.

Eyewitness testimony is only considered sufficient for ordinary life events. 

When it comes to the alleged Resurrection,  Christians don't even have eyewitness testimony for their very extra-ordinary (alleged) claim. They only have hearsay in four anonymous books.