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I Promise To Obey Jerry Coyne’s New Rule

Posted on Jan 26, 2013 by Tom Gilson

If the time comes for me to criticize Jerry Coyne again, I promise I’ll obey his new rule, which goes like this:

However, if you’re going to go after me on your own site, you will have to have the guts to reveal your own name—after all, I do.

[From New roolz « Why Evolution Is True]

I used to write about him fairly often. I slowed down when he jumped the shark with his “Sophisticated Theologian™” nonsense. If I ever mention him again, though, I promise not to create a pseudonym for the purpose.

Because after all: the first rule of Logic™ is that if you don’t know who’s making the argument, it’s automatically invalid. Right?

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99 Responses to “ I Promise To Obey Jerry Coyne’s New Rule ”

  1. Tom Gilson says:

    Here’s a good example of how Coyne has lost touch with any good sense. Apparently he thinks this makes fun of something relevant to religion.

    R-i-i-ight.

  2. Ray Ingles says:

    Tom Gilson – If you want a more verbose explanation of the point of that cartoon, you could look here.

    And Coyne’s only asking you to avoid a pseudonym if you want to post on his site. Did you miss that?

  3. Tom Gilson says:

    He said,

    However, if you’re going to go after me on your own site, you will have to have the guts to reveal your own name—after all, I do.

    I’m well aware of the cartoon’s intended point. My point is that biblical miracles, like walking on water for example, were not the kind of thing that could be faked in that way. Either they happened or they didn’t. They were not tricks. So the cartoon has nothing whatever to do with biblical miracles.

  4. Victoria says:

    One obvious point that the cartoon misses is this:
    If the tide was so low that the fisherman could appear to walk on water while really walking on the seabed in that area, then:
    (a) how is it that the much larger boat has not run aground? (okay, so perhaps the guy is walking on a sandbar just below the surface and the boat is in deeper water just off the sandbar)
    (b) there was not one single person among the witnesses who realized that it was low tide at that time of day, that nobody saw additional evidence of a low tide (is it that hard to miss)?

  5. Ray Ingles says:

    Tom, just a bit further down, he said:

    Therefore, if I become aware of a poster eviscerating me on his/her own website, that person will be allowed to post here only if they reveal their real name. That seems reasonable to me.

    Seems pretty clear…

  6. What? Jerry Coyne is allowing Christians to rebut his arguments on his site, now? Wow, I guess it is time for him to talk about courage, then.

  7. Ray Ingles says:

    Tom Gilson –

    My point is that biblical miracles, like walking on water for example, were not the kind of thing that could be faked in that way. Either they happened or they didn’t.

    I still think the New Testament shows signs of exaggeration over time. (Despite Victoria’s “plausible” reconciliation.) It’s not at all clear how closely the Biblical miracles as recorded correspond to the actual events on the ground.

    Ancient history in particular is full of that. I pointed out the case of Marathon, and older than that, the gods themselves are supposed to have directly participated in the seige of Troy.

    Stories grow in the telling. We know that. People mistake Venus for a UFO. I’ve got my own incidents that were interpreted as miraculous by others. It seems like the bar should be very high before we should accept that a miracle’s ocurred.

  8. Tom Gilson says:

    Ray, whether you think that or not, the cartoon isn’t relevant to the NT miracle accounts. See Victoria’s comment #4 for more.

  9. Ray Ingles says:

    Tom – How many people attribute, say, a cure for cancer to prayer and miracles when the sufferer was also getting chemotherapy?

    And I linked to a documented case where sober witnesses mistook the planet Venus for a UFO. Humans make mistakes and we’re not nearly as good observers as we think we are.

  10. Tom Gilson says:

    What does that have to do with biblical miracles, Ray?

  11. Victoria says:

    @Ray
    In your claim of exaggerations of Biblical miracles, you have overlooked an important point, which I did bring up in our old discussion.

    The early church strongly resisted and fought against exaggerated claims of Jesus’ miracles. These are found in the non-canonical gospels and the pseudonymous writings of the second and third centuries. The miracles that these writings attribute to Jesus are truly outrageous. These writings are non-canonical for good reasons – they proclaim false Christianities, which deviate from what the NT authors wrote, and they claimed Jesus said and did things that the NT authors knew He never said or did.
    Regardless of other miracle claims that may have arisen in the early centuries of the Christian Church, they were very conservative when it came to the Biblical miracle accounts. When the occasional scribal comments and marginal notes from an older manuscript were copied into a new manuscript as part of the text, well, thanks to Textual Criticism, NT scholars have been able to identify such things as such.

    The example of exaggeration that you put forth is pathetically weak – Matthew’s abbreviated account of Jesus cursing of the fig tree and Mark’s fuller account of the same events; the explanation I put forth is not mine, it is from professional NT scholarship. You may not find it convincing, but that says more about your presuppositions and your ignorance of NT scholarship than it does about the facts of how Matthew composed his accounts relative to Mark and Luke.

  12. Ray Ingles says:

    What does that have to do with biblical miracles, Ray?

    “It’s not at all clear how closely the Biblical miracles as recorded correspond to the actual events on the ground.”

  13. Tom Gilson says:

    Ray, we knew that. I mean, we knew a lot of people think that way.

    Think about it, though: the cartoon has nothing to do with the miracle as recorded. Jesus’ walking on water, as it is recorded, could not have had anything to do with tides, sandbars, or any other such thing. No one believes in a Jesus who would have or could have pulled such trickery. No one believes in any Jesus miracle account that could have anything to do with such trickery.

    So the cartoon has nothing to do with biblical miracles, as recorded.

    If you think it has something to do with some other kind of event that was never recorded, then go ahead and think that. For Christianity and the Bible, though, that too would be completely irrelevant.

    And the sad thing is that Coyne thinks he’s making fun of Christianity, while being utterly irrelevant. He’s still at it, by the way. His continuing display of ignorant derision is worthy of knowledgeable compassion, pity, sadness, and of course correction, for it is foolish.

  14. Debilis says:

    Yes, that is an odd rule, but I’ll be sure to follow it if I ever get the urge to post on his blog (all signs point to “never”).

    I’m not sure what personal issue keeps Coyne from seriously considering the arguments, but two things should be clear at this point:

    1. There are many atheists who have taken the time to understand (and, therefore, respect) theism, even if they happen to disagree with it themselves.

    2. Coyne is not one of these people. He seems much more intent on socio-political activism and cheap giggles than figuring out what is true.

  15. Ray Ingles says:

    Jesus’ walking on water, as it is recorded, could not have had anything to do with tides, sandbars, or any other such thing

    As it was eventually recorded, yes. Did Pan talk to Pheidippides during the famous Marathon run, as recorded by Herodotus, the “Father of History”?

  16. Tom Gilson says:

    The religion that Coyne mocks is the religion that was recorded. Unrecorded events are unrecorded and irrelevant.

  17. Ray Ingles says:

    The religion that Coyne mocks is the religion that was recorded. Unrecorded events are unrecorded and irrelevant.

    The Athenians built a temple to Pan after the battle of Marathon, and held annual sacrifices in the god’s honor, because of Pheidippides’ report. The story didn’t get recorded until later.

  18. Tom Gilson says:

    Your point is…?

  19. Victoria says:

    Actually, Pheidippides’ story is still not like the NT miracle accounts in that his encounter with Pan was completely private, unlike the NT miracles of Jesus, most of which were done in public, witnessed by many people, and were being proclaimed by the apostles while most of these witnesses were still alive, including hostile witnesses.

    The gospel accounts were written some years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, to be sure ( 50’s to mid-60’s for the Synoptics for certain, John’s gospel perhaps later than that), but it is a mistake to think that the gospel material was hitherto unknown to the early Church. The Christian community from the beginning, from the preaching of the apostles and Jesus’ disciples who had seen Him after His resurrection, knew about His life and what He did, from day one.

    Did Pheidippides have some sort of supernatural encounter during his ultra-long endurance run, or did he just imagine it in his depleted and exhausted state? Unlike the NT miracles, we have no way to test any historicity here.

    (I know after running just 26 miles I’m happy if I remember my own name :) Actually, it’s not that bad – the months of consistent and smart training usually pays dividends, so most runners cross the finish line looking very strong :) ).

  20. Ray Ingles says:

    Victoria –

    most of which were [recorded by Christian chroniclers as being] done in public, witnessed by many people, and were being proclaimed by the apostles while most of these witnesses were still alive, including hostile witnesses.

    And for some reason weren’t recorded by contemporary historians.

  21. SteveK says:

    Ray,

    And for some reason weren’t recorded by contemporary historians.

    Those same historians failed to record other significant events. What’s your point?

  22. Tom Gilson says:

    Ray, you still miss the point.

    Let’s try it this way. Let’s suppose the NT account of Jesus walking on the water was entirely a concocted fable with no relationship to any truth whatsoever. Let’s suppose you’re right about that, even righter than you might dare think.

    Now supposing that, would there be any relationship between that concocted story and the cartoon? What would it be? On the one hand we have a con man walking on a sandbar at low tide, one which doesn’t cause a nearby boat to go aground and which none of the witnesses (except a savvy waitress) recognizes is there.

    On the other hand we have a story of a man walking into deep water and being greeted by fishermen who know the waters well.

    What’s the connection? How does some people’s gullibility with respect to a sandbar bear the slightest relation to people’s error (if it were that) with respect to the story of Jesus walking on the water?

    Coyne calls this “making fun of religion.” The cartoon isn’t about religion. That’s what I’m saying. It’s not about anything resembling religion. But he’ll grasp at anything to laugh at, given the slightest hint of an opportunity. Because he has to mock. It’s in his soul.

  23. Victoria says:

    Which contemporary historians in the Roman Empire would be interested in recording the details (and explaining their theological significance) of the life of one Jewish carpenter turned preacher in Judea? Certainly not the Jewish authorities – they would not want to perpetuate anything about Jesus or His followers except to discredit the stories. Roman historians? Josephus, a Jewish historian writing for his Roman masters? He only makes passing references to Jesus and provides very little detail, saying that He was known as a miracle worker. As Christianity spread over time through the Empire, it started to draw attention to itself by its stubborn refusal to offer the customary and required tributes to Caesar as Lord and King, and that this ‘pernicious superstition’ as Pliny the Younger writes to the Emperor Trajan, is becoming a problem, going against the social order. Pliny describes what he learns from Christians who recant under pressure about their practices. Get yourself a good history book on the Roman Empire (As the Romans Did: A Sourcebook in Roman Social History, 2nd Edition, by Jo-Ann Shelton is a really good one, or read Tacitus, Annals or Pliny the Younger’s Letters.

    Only Christians had a good reason to write down the apostles’ teachings about Jesus and what He did, and what it all meant. They had good reasons to preserve these records and make sure that they were passed on to the next generations of Christians. The Christian authors were the contemporary historians writing their history, the history of Christianity. What part of that do you not understand?

    All of history is like this, and it is up to historians to fit all the little pieces together to see the bigger picture.

  24. Keith says:

    Victoria: I could agree to the “who cares about the Jewish carpenter” defense, except there are places where it’s insufficient. I think the clearest example is Matthew 27: the historians of the time would have been interested in earthquakes and “many” dead people walking the city.

  25. Victoria says:

    Hi Keith :)
    How are you? It looks like you are having an interesting time over on the the Atheism True/False discussion thread :)

    Yeah, there is that.
    1. Earthquakes are not uncommon in the Middle East, and so an earthquake in and around Jerusalem, especially a relatively small one that didn’t do much damage to buildings, would probably not have generated a lot of excitement in the surrounding regions, and certainly not to Roman historians.

    There is this
    http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/crucifixion/jesus%E2%80%99-crucifixion-reflected-in-soil-deposition/

    I think you have to be a member of BAR to see the entire article – try the link. If you can’t see it all, let me know and I’ll copy over some of the salient details for you.

    2. Again, the Jewish authorities themselves would probably not want to record this story either, especially the part about the tombs being opened and people being restored to life, right?

    3. Matthew says

    Matthew 27:51–54 (NASB95)
    51 And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.
    52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;
    53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.
    54 Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

    So the centurion experiences the earthquake, maybe he tells his friends, maybe not. Maybe he reports to his commanding officer and tells him what happened. Did that report end up in some official records? Who knows? Unless we get really lucky to find those records, we have no way of knowing that.

    As for the ‘dead people walking’, Matthew doesn’t say how many there were, and how many people saw them. How many is many? 10’s, 100’s?
    Don’t forget, it was late afternoon on the Friday (the day of preparation for the Sabbath, and a High (Passover) Sabbath at that). At that late hour (after 3pm or so) I would think that most people would be at home, getting the Sabbath meal ready. Maybe none of the Jewish authorities were among the many who saw them.

    Space and time (space-time? :) sorry, my physicist slip is showing again) don’t permit me to go into more detail, but I would suggest you read Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony by Richard Bauckham for a more thorough discussion of these types of details.

    You are trying to make a case from silence and historical ignorance (not yours :); a lot of the details of history may not be of equal importance to all contemporary authors and so not all will record them – some may even deliberately not record them, and who knows how much that was recorded is now lost to us?)

  26. SteveK says:

    You are trying to make a case from silence and historical ignorance

    This is true. Keith’s imagination is filling in the blanks with a conclusion that he cannot rationally defend.

    Seriously, Keith, please think this stuff through.

  27. Victoria says:

    I guess Keith is entitled to fill in the blanks, to interpolate the missing details, as are we. All historians have to do this, since there will always be pieces missing from even the most accurate and reliable historians. A contemporary author, writing about some event or situation that was current for him but is now in our past (and the distant past at that) often assumes a context that his contemporary readers will know, but that is lost to us. He may not explain that context in his writing, because it is common knowledge. If we are to understand what he wrote, we have to hunt elsewhere for that context (maybe other contemporary authors’ writings, or other works of the same author). I think that this can happen when our documents sources come from correspondence between individuals and/or communities…like Pliny writing to Trajan, or Paul to the Corinthians, or Matthew to Jewish Christians, Luke to Gentiles, etc.

    The problem with filling in the blanks, though, is that in the absence of supplementary information, we are all prone to interpret and interpolate based on our own presuppositions and worldviews. Keith is a skeptic (ex-Christian? forgive me if I’m assuming too much there, Keith :) ), and so he interprets and interpolates from a skeptical viewpoint. We are Christians, persuaded by the indwelling Holy Spirit, and we interpret and interpolate from that position. Skeptics doubt, and we give the benefit of the doubt :) Also, skeptics seem to be pathologically predisposed to stop when they encounter things in the NT documents that appear to confirm their skeptical position and unbelief, whereas we will see the same issues and dig deeper to understand them and to confirm our beliefs. As Tim McGrew demonstrated so clearly in his presentations, the skeptics overlook details (deliberately?) that would answer their objections.

  28. Keith says:

    Hey, Victoria. I’m good, I hope you’re the same. I am totally getting my butt kicked on the other thread, but sometimes people take the time to explain why they’re so angry, and that’s keeping it worthwhile. And who could resist the subtle attractions of any thread containing liberal application of the word “chowderhead”? I had to look it up: it’s a British dialectal variant of “jolterhead” (but that one I couldn’t track back).

    Your point is taken, and I would agree we all create narratives around our points of view that make sense to us — then we have to decide if/when we find each other’s stories compelling enough to alter our opinions.

    I disagree with “Skeptics seem to be pathologically predisposed to stop when they encounter things in the NT documents that appear to confirm their skeptical position and unbelief, whereas we will see the same issues and dig deeper to understand them and to confirm our beliefs.”

    There’s a common goal shared by the skeptic and the believer, and both stop when their goal is reached. We’re all predisposed to stop once we find confirmation of our positions, and we all, skeptic and believer alike, dig until we find confirmation. Sometimes the believer has to dig farther, sometimes the skeptic, but I suspect we’re all pretty much the same. Ditto the details/objections: confirmation bias and belief perseverance explains the behaviors, we’re all wired to ignore information that contradicts our views.

    Random tangent: It never occurred to me to ask until this moment, but why do we suffer from confirmation bias? Maybe I’m missing the terribly obvious, but why would we be wired that way?

    [Insert 20 minutes of my life lost to the web.]

    The argument is we have these “blind spots” in our thinking because they contribute to winning arguments, that is, even though being less rational might mislead us about what is true, it will help us win arguments, and that’s a more valuable ability.

    Guess I better work on winning more arguments: I’ve been thinking all this time I would be a better person if I tried to figure out the “truth”. :-)

  29. Victoria says:

    @Keith
    Yeah, sometimes the threads can get really interesting when the comments become that colorful :)

    You should spend some time looking at the ‘Faith is Rationalization’ discussion threads, and you will see what I mean, or head over to http://www.apologetics315.com and look for Tim McGrew – he has some great presentations on the Gospels and answering the critical objections and claims (of Bart Ehrman for example)

  30. Victoria says:

    @Keith

    Ditto the details/objections: confirmation bias and belief perseverance explains the behaviors, we’re all wired to ignore information that contradicts our views.

    I think wire to ignore might be a little strong. I’m not even sure if we are as hard-wired as you may be implying. Perhaps ‘predisposed to resist [the implications of]’ evidence and information that contradicts our views, especially when the stakes are high and we have a vested interest in not changing our positions. However, we all know that this can be overcome.
    Historians call it ‘getting past their horizons’, for example.
    We all know that this can happen – I used to be an atheist, now I am a Christian. It seems you took the reverse path :)

  31. Keith says:

    @Victoria: Thank you for the reference to Tim McGrew, I’ll take a look. I’m a little familiar with Ehrman but I hadn’t found McGrew.

  32. Ray Ingles says:

    Tom Gilson –

    Now supposing that, would there be any relationship between that concocted story and the cartoon?

    I linked to this before, but now I guess I’ll have to quote from it:

    Let me tell you a story from 1967. It’s a UFO story. There were reports of a strange object appearing nightly over a nuclear power site in Wake County. The police investigated; a police officer confirmed it was about half the size of the moon, and it just hung there over the plant. The next night the same thing happened. The deputy sheriff described a large lighted object; the county magistrate saw—and I quote—:

    A rectangular object, looked like it was on fire, we figured it about the size of a football field; it was huge and very bright.

    There was, in addition, hard data, a curious radar blip reported by local air traffic control.

    Now what’s the best explanation of these reports? We have multiple attestation, we have trained eyewitnesses, police officers’ putting their reputations on the line by reporting a UFO. We have hard, independent confirmation, that blip on the radar scope. Surely, then, it’s highly unlikely these witnesses were, say, all hallucinating, or lying, or just saw a planet. Clearly, by far the best explanation, you might think, is that they really did see a large lighted object hovering close to the plant.

    But here’s the thing: we know pretty much for sure that what was seen by those police officers was the planet Venus! Journalists arrived upon the scene, were shown the object, and chased it in a car. They found they couldn’t approach it. Finally, they looked at it through a long lens and saw it was the planet Venus. That radar blip was just a coincidence.

    Many people misinterpret the data they see. Pretty much everybody does it sometimes. Keith and Victoria have just been talking about things like confirmation bias. Many times, something a little unusual gets magnified even at the scene – like Venus being viewed as rectangular.

    The point is, given that people are so frequently such poor witnesses, it’s hard to tell what relation that record bears to the incident that inspired it (if any). From the link:

    …we all know that some hard to explain reports of miracles, flying saucers, and so on are likely to crop up anyway, whether or not there is truth to these claims… So the fact that an otherwise baffling, hard to explain case has shown up, provides us with little, if any, evidence that a miracle has occurred.

  33. Tom Gilson says:

    See Victoria @#4.

  34. Tom Gilson says:

    Cf. also my comment #22.

  35. Ray Ingles says:

    Victoria –

    Which contemporary historians in the Roman Empire would be interested in recording the details (and explaining their theological significance) of the life of one Jewish carpenter turned preacher in Judea?

    Was he a carpenter turned preacher, or a miracle worker, though? If miracles are such striking proof, then they are of historical interest. If the miracles did not, in fact, stir up much of note at the time that people outside the flock would be cognizant of, that’s an issue.

    Again, these miracles are supposed to be the proof that Jesus is what he’s claimed to be. (The miracles of Mohammed are also supposed to validate his message, note.) So we need to be really sure that the miracles actually happened. Given things like confirmation bias, shouldn’t we look for external confirmation?

  36. Victoria says:

    @Ray
    To the Romans, Christianity was just a superstition – they had no particular interest in the details. When I said ‘carpenter turned preacher, that was their attitude (and they probably didn’t even care about the carpenter part). They took notice of it as it grew, with its followers refusing to pay homage to Caesar and when it began to affect revenues in the temples, well, that really rankled.

    The Jewish authorities, even those who had seen and heard what Jesus was doing, but who had no interest in becoming His disciples, were most assuredly not going write accurate history in regards to Jesus. You can bet that they would put their own spin on it (like His disciples came at night and stole His body, for instance). They had every reason not to record His miracles and teachings, for it exposed their own sin and failures as Israel’s spiritual leaders. They knew what Jesus was saying in John 10 (about the Good Shepherd and the hired hands who ran away).

    Gee, how many times do we have to explain the same thing over and over again, eh Tom?
    I will say this for the last time, and if you still don’t get it, Ray, then I am not going to waste any further time on you.
    The NT authors were the contemporary historians with the reason and motivation to record Jesus’ teachings and ministry to pass on to posterity.

  37. Keith says:

    @Victoria

    I would agree the NT authors were the contemporary historians with the strongest reason/motivation to record Jesus’ teachings and ministry, but for exactly the same reasons they also had the strongest reason/motivation to misrepresent the events. You can’t have one without the other.

    That’s why people focus so much on external documentation, it’s an effort to find someone without a “dog in the fight”.

  38. Victoria says:

    @Keith
    Considering the stakes and the moral excellence promoted in the NT documents, it is a real stretch to think the authors were deliberately misrepresenting (aka, lying) what they had seen and heard.

    What reasons would they have had to misrepresent the events? Those events, especially seeing Jesus Christ alive again after they saw Him die on a cross and buried, changed them forever. If they had misrepresented Jesus’ bodily resurrection, then surely the Jewish authorities at least would have done everything in their power to demonstrate that, and kill Christianity before it even got off the ground. What changed devout Jews, steeped in Second Temple Judaism ?
    If they were merely mistaken, why didn’t the Jewish authorities demonstrate that, and again, kill Christianity before it had a chance to get off the ground?

    These questions have reasonable answers.
    See here for a good set of resources.

    This will give you something to chew on
    http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/num9.htm

    The fact is that the two sets of parties who were closest to the events in question and would have known what actually happened both have ‘dogs in the fight’, and those who didn’t have a vested interest were too far removed from the events geographically and in time to know the all the facts, and they didn’t care anyway.

    We (Christians) explain these things over and over again, but seems to fall on deaf ears and hard hearts and corrupted human wisdom that cannot discern spiritual truths.

  39. Keith says:

    @Victoria:

    Wikipedia on the Book of Mormon:

    In addition to Smith’s account regarding the plates, eleven others signed affidavits that they personally saw the golden plates and, in some cases, handled them. Their written testimonies are known as the Testimony of Three Witnesses and the Testimony of Eight Witnesses. These affidavits are published as part of the introductory pages to the Book of Mormon.

    Considering the stakes? Mormons were dying for their faith less than 40 years after Joseph Smith translated the plates.

    Moral excellence? The Book of Mormon contains moral excellence.

    My guess is you don’t “believe” the BoM for many of the same reasons I don’t “believe” the New Testament.

    To veer off to a more general view: there are, without a need for debate, errors in the New Testament and some of those errors have theological relevance. You and I can probably agree on that.

    For me, that poisons the well. I would agree with John Wesley: “If there is one error in the Bible there might as well be a thousand; if there is one falsehood in the word of God, it did not come from the God of truth.”

    I understand your frustration this should be so obvious to you, yet others miss it. I was taught that without God’s election, you cannot discern spiritual truths, discernment is a gift from God, and without its granting, it simply makes no sense. But, I was one of the elect then, I’m not sure what that means for my ability to discern now! I was taught that election was irrevocable and eternal, but perhaps the gift of discernment can be withdrawn.

  40. Victoria says:

    @Keith
    Well, then there is nothing I can do for you, then, or any other entrenched skeptics.

    The ‘errors’ that you refer to are not nearly as damning to the Bible as you have been led t believe (just look at all the debates and refutations of Bart Ehrman’s apostate works – if you know of him, but not scholars like Tim McGrew and Darrell Bock and Daniel Wallace and N. T. Wright and Craig Blomberg and James Bauckham, then little wonder you were deceived). If I did agree with you, then I wouldn’t still be a Christian either, but in 35+ years of being one, I have never had cause to give up my confidence in my faith and trust the God of Christianity. The objections you present here are nothing new – most have been known in the scholarly Christian community for decades, if not centuries.

    Personally, I don’t think anyone who would give up their faith so easily ever had the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, and even if he or she did, there were probably darker, more deep seated reasons why he or she could not hear His voice. Jesus’ parables of the sower and the seed and the wheat and the tares should give you pause to think about your position.

    No, I do not agree with you on the errors and their theological relevance. If you would care to pick one and discuss it, then we can do that, if only to show other readers of the blog that such charges have answers, and to make sure that entrenched skeptics will be left without excuse for their unbelief when they come before God.

    It is my hope and prayer that what I write here will be used by the Spirit of God to help those readers who are genuinely seeking to know Him, and just need to know that if they do search for Him, there is good reason to be confident that they will find Him in the Person of Jesus Christ.

  41. Keith says:

    The best example of which I’m aware is 1 John 5:7, the Johannine Comma: it’s an error (it was either removed or added, take your pick), and the church has been fighting over it for centuries because of its focus on Trinitarianism.

    You can argue the passage is required to support the Trinity or not, but sincere, smart, well-educated people will strongly disagree with you for good reasons, no matter which side you pick.

  42. Victoria says:

    @Keith
    That is the best you can do? Point to a copyist’s marginal note that accidentally got copied into another manuscript? (see here for an excellent article by Daniel Wallace). An issue of textual transmission??? Really? See here for that discussion. Wallace doesn’t specifically mention the passage in 1 John in the second article, but he provides a good description of how the methods of Textual Criticism (which is the recovery of an original text from extant manuscript copies) does its job, and very well at that

    The doctrine of the Trinity is well-supported even without that particular text.
    I refer the interested readers here for a good summary.

    This is good as well: http://bible.cc/1_john/5-7.htm

  43. Keith says:

    Copyist’s marginal note, huh? Odd the church fought about something so simple for so long. (Or maybe it’s not surprising since most of Christianity didn’t give up on absolute inerrancy until what, 50 years ago?)

    I know Victoria knows more about this than I do, but for people that don’t:

    The short version is that in the 4th century, Arius believed God made Jesus, so Jesus was subordinate to God. Athanasius believed Jesus was the same as the Father. In the First Council of Nicaea, there’s a big fight, Athanasius wins, and we get the Trinity and the wording that eventually becomes the first Article of Religion of the Anglican church.

    Was Athanasius right? There’s certainly nothing in the Bible that’s declarative on the topic, it’s easy to argue either way. Obviously, if Jesus isn’t actually God Himself, it throws a big wrench into the “Jesus’ suffering paid the price for all of us” theology.

    Which is one of the reasons this particular error is interesting.

    The doctrine of the Trinity is still unsettled: none of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, Mormons or Islam believe it.

  44. Melissa says:

    Keith,

    Was Athanasius right? There’s certainly nothing in the Bible that’s declarative on the topic, it’s easy to argue either way. Obviously, if Jesus isn’t actually God Himself, it throws a big wrench into the “Jesus’ suffering paid the price for all of us” theology.

    You’ve got it exactly backwards here. It is Christ’s death on the cross, his resurrection and his dealing with sin (something only God can do) that leads to the early church’s formulation of the trinity. It is the gospel story and the experience of the early church that comes first. Early trinitarian formulations occur as the early church processes the implications of these experiences within the Jewish monotheistic worldview. At Nicea the church met, assessed the reasons for and against and made a formal declaration. The trinity didn’t just arise out of thin air at this time, generally the church would meet to clarify and formalise the church position in response to teaching that was controversial.

    The doctrine of the Trinity is still unsettled: none of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientists, Mormons or Islam believe it.

    It’s hardly surprising that non-Christians don’t believe Christian doctrine.

  45. Victoria says:

    @All
    It is not as simple as Keith makes it out to be, for one. The formulation of the doctrine was (a) to establish what was Core, Essential Christianity, based on the explicit teachings of the NT authors, and (b) in response to heretical assertions that arose in the late 1st century, and onward.

    It was necessary to codify what should be considered the authentic heart of Christian truth, and the Church councils put a stake in the ground to affirm apostolic Christian faith. They essentially constructed a systematic theology from the Biblical documents.

    It is completely misleading to hang the dispute over the Trinity on this one passage, and to claim that a scribal insertion renders the whole NT teachings on the nature of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit up for grabs. The Trinity is the doctrine that makes sense out of the clear affirmation by the NT authors that the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are each fully God AND the OT teachings that God is One.

    Historic Biblical Christianity affirms the doctrine – it is disputed by those who preach a false gospel, like JWs, CS’s, Mormons, and why Islam is even listed is a new one for me.

    @Readers
    Follow the links I have provided. Don’t take the skeptics’ word for it

  46. Keith says:

    @Victoria

    I said, “this is one reason this error is interesting. I agree it would be wrong to link the dispute to this one passage; fortunately that is not what I said, because otherwise I’d have to apologize! :-)

    To say the doctrine of the Trinity was in response to heretical teachings is fair. But it’s only half the story; as far as I know, the Trinity was being figured out at this time, so it’s equally fair to say Arianism was in response to the heretical teachings of the Trinitarians. I believe Arianism was around before Arius, Arius just went head-to-head with the Bishop of Alexandria and things got rough.

    The problem is there’s simply nothing definitive on the Trinity in the New Testament. References to the Trinity in the Bible are vague at best. For example, I don’t believe Paul ever mentions it, and if there’s a doctrine in the Bible, generally Paul has his hands all over it.

    There are texts that support Arianism:

    Colossians 1:15, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” If Jesus is “firstborn”, how can he be God?

    Or John 17:3-4, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” If the only “true God” sent Jesus, how can Jesus be God?

    Or Matthew 24:36, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” If the Son is God, why doesn’t He know?

    And yes (of course!) you can find as many or more verses that support the Trinity. I’m only saying it wasn’t terribly clear at the time, and that’s why the early church had such a problem with it. Add the fact that other religions of the time worshipped multiple gods, and the conflict doesn’t get better.

    Finally, the phrase “false gospel” doesn’t mean anything. In this particular case (as in many others), all that phrase means is “you won, they lost”. I know of no reason to think of Trinitarianism as “right” in any sense other than “it won the argument”.

    Most Christians think the doctrines of modern Christianity are the doctrines Jesus & Paul jotted down in the Bible, and that’s simply not the case.

    @All

    For people wanting more, I recommend Wiles’ “Archetypal Heresy: Arianism through the centuries”.

    Obligatory fun fact to know and tell: Sir Isaac Newton (yes, that Sir Isaac Newton), was an Arianist.

  47. Tom Gilson says:

    “Firstborn” was a title of rank and authority, in the context of the culture.

    The Father is the only true God. So is the Son, and so is the Holy Spirit. That’s simply restating one aspect of the doctrine of the Trinity.

    Jesus laid aside (Phil. 2:5ff) some of his divine power to become born as a human. That’s part of standard Christology as well as theology.

    The Trinity wasn’t terribly clear at the time, you’re right about that. But it’s clear in the NT that the Holy Spirit is described as God, the Son is described as God, and the Father is described as God. It’s clear that all three are described as persons, and that they are not the same Person.

    From there the Trinity follows. It’s a difficult conception, yes, but it came in due time.

    “False gospel” doesn’t mean “losing gospel” because “false” ≠ “losing.” To treat it as if it were so is intelletually lazy.

    And whether “most Christians” believe our doctrines were “jotted down” is irrelevant. It’s probably also false, but whether it is or not doesn’t matter, does it?

  48. Melissa says:

    For example, I don’t believe Paul ever mentions it, and if there’s a doctrine in the Bible, generally Paul has his hands all over it.

    Phil 2:5-11.

    Finally, the phrase “false gospel” doesn’t mean anything. In this particular case (as in many others), all that phrase means is “you won, they lost”. I know of no reason to think of Trinitarianism as “right” in any sense other than “it won the argument”.

    Wrong. Either the interpretation is correct or not, and correspondingly, labelling something a false gospel is either true or not. Trinitarianism “won the argument” because people thought there were reasons to think it was right. Now they may have been wrong, you would need to look at the arguments to judge that.

    Most Christians think the doctrines of modern Christianity are the doctrines Jesus & Paul jotted down in the Bible, and that’s simply not the case.

    I doubt that very much. No one I know thinks Jesus jotted down anything in the bible for a start.

  49. Victoria says:

    @All.
    If you want more, I recommend resources like The New Bible Dictionary, J. D. Douglas (the organizing editor), published by Eerdmans.

    The Bible is not a book of systematic theology – it is God’s revelation of Himself through His acts in human history, His Word, written in human language, by human authors borne along by God’s Spirit. Knowing and understanding its truths is a process of getting to know a Person, not just a collection of facts and propositions about that Person.
    Having said that, it is possible to derive a systematic theology from it. The authors of the Bible did not attempt such a comprehensive formulation, although Paul works out the implications of Jesus’ death and resurrection in considerable detail.

    @Keith
    The argument for Arianism from those passages is very naive and weak, and one-sided. You are not considering all of Scripture and everything it has to say about Who God is. The Trinity is the inference to the best explanation of the full teaching of the Bible on this issue, and the Trinity makes sense of even those passage, especially when coupled with the doctrine of the Incarnation, that Jesus is both fully God and fully human, two natures integrated into a single Person.

    In order to truly understand Scripture, one cannot simply take each core Christian doctrine in isolation from the others – they form a wholistic unity, and the thread that ties them all together is the Person of Jesus Christ. Like a work of mobile art, when one suspends the work from the proper point, everything is elegantly balanced. Jesus Christ is that point, and His resurrection is put forth by the NT authors as the proof of His claims.

  50. Keith says:

    @Tom/Melissa:

    Agreed on Phil 2:5.

    Just looking around now for other notes on those verses and Arianism, it seems the Arians used those verses to argue for Arianism: “Here they stressed the rewards the Son received for being obedient. How could the Son advance in position, they asked, if he was fully God and incapable of change?”

    http://www.arian-catholic.org/arian/early_arian_history.html

    When you say the Trinity follows, that’s true, but the Trinity wasn’t the only possible explanation, and we have no proof the Trinity is the correct explanation.

    Anyway: the error exists and the error has theological implications. That’s what I was asked to show, and I think I did.

  51. Victoria says:

    @Keith
    Other explanations may exist, but show me one that is as all-encompassing of all of Scripture as the Trinity, coupled with the Incarnation.

    You brought up one error, but you have failed to show how it affects in the slightest the doctrine of the Trinity. You simply assert that it does.

    Like all heresies and muddled thinking about the Bible, this is what you get when you fail to account for what Christians know to be the ‘balance of Scriptural truth’. Failure to do so has resulted in so many people making shipwreck of their faith.

  52. Keith says:

    @Victoria

    I’m not arguing Arianism is correct; there are Arianists alive today, I’m sure they’d be willing to discuss if their theology is naive and weak. I’m not qualified.

    But realize this wasn’t an academic discussion where logic prevailed and the losers convinced. Clergy were punished/exiled, books were literally burned and it took several rounds of negotiations to iron it all out. It was 50 years from the first Nicene creed until the government/clergy finally “converted” everybody who disagreed, and it arguably turned on the doctrine of the person in power at the time.

    The doctrine of the Trinity almost lost, and the fact it won isn’t a story about truth winning out.

  53. Victoria says:

    And in the years since then, the core doctrines of Christianity have proven their worth. I for one have no doubts about what is Truth.

    The battle for truth is not always a clean one, since we do not fight against flesh and blood. This is a spiritual battle, and the enemies of God (and those humans who side with them or have been deceived) will stop at nothing to deceive, if possible, even the elect, right? It is a battle between those who have the indwelling Spirit of God and those who do not.

    These things have won out because the Spirit of God gives to His people the gift of spiritual discernment, to recognize the Truth when they see it.

  54. Keith says:

    @Victoria:

    I wasn’t being snarky when I said ask the Arianists, I hope you didn’t hear it that way, and if you did, I apologize.

    I’m not qualified to argue the question, but I think it’s clear that smart, sincere people have been arguing it for roughly 20 centuries, so I’m hesitant to jump into the pool. There are Arianist Christians alive today, and I’m sure they have reasoned arguments worth reading (Islam too, this is a real issue for them).

    The interesting fact for me (although Tom may whack me sideways into next week for saying it this way), is that 400 years after Jesus died, Christians were still trying to figure out if Jesus and God were the same or different.

    And hold on: I never said the error affected the doctrine of the Trinity. I said the error was theologically relevant. I don’t think it’s accidental there’s a big fight and somebody just happens to insert a parenthetical comment that resolves the whole thing. I don’t think that likely at all.

  55. Victoria says:

    @Keith
    Ah, but the disputed passage is not found in any manuscripts that date back to the time of the Council of Nicea ( 325AD if I recall correctly)

    See http://bible.org/article/textual-problem-1-john-57-8

    Just to save readers the effort:

    This longer reading is found only in eight late manuscripts, four of which have the words in a marginal note. Most of these manuscripts (2318, 221, and [with minor variations] 61, 88, 429, 629, 636, and 918) originate from the 16th century; the earliest manuscript, codex 221 (10th century), includes the reading in a marginal note which was added sometime after the original composition. Thus, there is no sure evidence of this reading in any Greek manuscript until the 1500s; each such reading was apparently composed after Erasmus’ Greek NT was published in 1516. Indeed, the reading appears in no Greek witness of any kind (either manuscript, patristic, or Greek translation of some other version) until AD 1215 (in a Greek translation of the Acts of the Lateran Council, a work originally written in Latin). This is all the more significant, since many a Greek Father would have loved such a reading, for it so succinctly affirms the doctrine of the Trinity.2 The reading seems to have arisen in a fourth century Latin homily in which the text was allegorized to refer to members of the Trinity. From there, it made its way into copies of the Latin Vulgate, the text used by the Roman Catholic Church.

    The Trinitarian formula (known as the Comma Johanneum) made its way into the third edition of Erasmus’ Greek NT (1522) because of pressure from the Catholic Church. After his first edition appeared (1516), there arose such a furor over the absence of the Comma that Erasmus needed to defend himself. He argued that he did not put in the Comma because he found no Greek manuscripts that included it. Once one was produced (codex 61, written by one Roy or Froy at Oxford in c. 1520),3 Erasmus apparently felt obliged to include the reading. He became aware of this manuscript sometime between May of 1520 and September of 1521. In his annotations to his third edition he does not protest the rendering now in his text,4 as though it were made to order; but he does defend himself from the charge of indolence, noting that he had taken care to find whatever manuscripts he could for the production of his Greek New Testament. In the final analysis, Erasmus probably altered the text because of politico-theologico-economic concerns: he did not want his reputation ruined, nor his Novum Instrumentum to go unsold.

    Modern advocates of the Textus Receptus and KJV generally argue for the inclusion of the Comma Johanneum on the basis of heretical motivation by scribes who did not include it. But these same scribes elsewhere include thoroughly orthodox readings—even in places where the TR/Byzantine manuscripts lack them. Further, these KJV advocates argue theologically from the position of divine preservation: since this verse is in the TR, it must be original. But this approach is circular, presupposing as it does that the TR = the original text. Further, it puts these Protestant proponents in the awkward and self-contradictory position of having to affirm that the Roman Catholic humanist, Erasmus, was just as inspired as the apostles, for on several occasions he invented readings—due either to carelessness or lack of Greek manuscripts (in particular, for the last six verses of Revelation Erasmus had to back-translate from Latin to Greek).

    In reality, the issue is history, not heresy: How can one argue that the Comma Johanneum must go back to the original text when it did not appear until the 16th century in any Greek manuscripts? Such a stance does not do justice to the gospel: faith must be rooted in history. To argue that the Comma must be authentic is Bultmannian in its method, for it ignores history at every level. As such, it has very little to do with biblical Christianity, for a biblical faith is one that is rooted in history.

    Christians were not trying to figure out if Jesus was God or not, it was a battle between those who held fast to the apostolic teachings of the NT documents and those who held to teachings that were contrary to those same documents. It was a battle between Truth and Error, and in the long run, the Holy Spirit saw to it that Truth prevailed.

  56. Keith says:

    Tom: When you say “firstborn” was a title of rank and authority, in the context of the culture, it looks to me like the Greek word is the same and there’s no difference other than the interpretation you choose? Is that correct?

  57. Victoria says:

    Once again, we have to emphasize that one cannot take any passage in isolation and build a doctrine (or deny one) around it. One has to consider everything that the NT has to say about the Person and nature of Jesus Christ.

    The understanding of Paul’s use of firstborn ( Gk prototokos) has to be kept in balance with other passages in the NT that teach Jesus’ deity and equality with God (the Father). Thus, in balance, the interpretation that best fits all of Scripture on this (for we must include things like Isaiah 53, which the NT alludes to in reference to Jesus (1 Peter 2:22 ), and the fact that John wrote an entire Gospel devoted to showing that Jesus is the great I AM ) is that firstborn of creation refers to His pre-eminence over creation, not that He is a created being.

  58. Keith says:

    @Victoria

    Good point: I had not noticed the error was so late, and I agree a gap of (at least) 600 years weakens the argument the error was a response to the original Trinitarian arguments.

    When you say the Holy Spirit saw to it that Truth prevailed in the long run, it makes it hard for us to continue this discussion. Especially when “the long run” is half-a-millenium.

    No matter how awful any particular doctrine of the past or how long it took to get it right, you can simply reply the Holy Spirit just hadn’t gotten around to correcting it yet.

  59. Tom Gilson says:

    Keith, the word “firstborn” has different meanings in different contexts, yes.

    However, in the first place, the possibility of multiple meanings would at best mean that Arianism was a possible interpretation, not that it was “supported” by the term.

    In the second place, let me quote at length from the Bible Knowledge Commentary:

    Second, Christ’s supremacy is shown in His relationship to Creation. He is the Firstborn over all Creation. Though it is grammatically possible to translate this as “Firstborn in Creation,” the context makes this impossible for five reasons: (1) The whole point of the passage (and the book) is to show Christ’s superiority over all things. (2) Other statements about Christ in this passage (such as Creator of all [1:16], upholder of Creation [v. 17], etc.) clearly indicate His priority and superiority over Creation. (3) The “Firstborn” cannot be part of Creation if He created “all things.” One cannot create himself. (Jehovah’s Witnesses wrongly add the word “other” six times in this passage in their New World Translation. Thus they suggest that Christ created all other things after He was created! But the word “other” is not in the Gr.) (4) The “Firstborn” received worship of all the angels (Heb. 1:6), but creatures should not be worshiped (Ex. 20:4-5). (5) The Greek word for “Firstborn” is prōtotokos. If Christ were the “first-created,” the Greek word would have been prōtoktisis.
    “Firstborn” denotes two things of Christ: He preceded the whole Creation, and He is Sovereign over all Creation. In the Old Testament a firstborn child had not only priority of birth but also the dignity and superiority that went with it (cf. Ex. 13:2-15; Deut. 21:17). When Jesus declared Himself “the First” (ho prōtos; Rev. 1:17), He used a word that means “absolutely first.” “Firstborn” also implies sovereignty. The description “firstborn” was not a fairly common Old Testament designation of the Messiah-God. “I will also appoint Him My Firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth” (Ps. 89:27). While this regal psalm refers to David, it also refers to the Messiah, as seen in Revelation 1:5, where Christ is called “the Firstborn from the dead (cf. Col. 1:18) and the Ruler of the kings of the earth.” So “Firstborn” implies both Christ’s priority to all Creation (in time) and His sovereignty over all Creation (in rank).

  60. Victoria says:

    @Keith
    Well, yeah :) The Holy Spirit’s ministry in the lives of His people is fundamental to Christian truths and understanding of God’s Word.

  61. Melissa says:

    Keith,

    And hold on: I never said the error affected the doctrine of the Trinity. I said the error was theologically relevant. I don’t think it’s accidental there’s a big fight and somebody just happens to insert a parenthetical comment that resolves the whole thing. I don’t think that likely at all.

    Maybe you could unpack what you mean when you argue the error is theologically relevant? I thought you meant that the errors call Christian doctrine into question, but that’s obviously not you meant.

  62. Victoria says:

    @Tom
    Logos Bible Software is worth every penny I paid for it, a dozen times over :)

  63. Keith says:

    @Victoria 57: I think I can reasonably take a passage in isolation and build a doctrine or deny one around it. That is what early Christians did, they didn’t have anything like what we consider the Bible. At the least, all of the New Testament letters must stand alone (unless the Corinthians waited to read them until the Catholic church decided on the rest of the Bible and they could consider the letters in context). :-)

    Saying a verse in 1 Peter alludes to a verse in Isaiah which is necessary to our understanding of a verse in Colossians: well, I would agree that statement makes my argument for me.

    @Tom 59: Agreed, I only meant to ask if it was a reasonable interpretation, not to imply it was either the best or only possible interpretation.

    @Melissa 61: All I meant was the common use of the word relevant, “appropriate to the matter at hand”. There are a few hundred thousand variants of the surviving manuscripts, but most variants aren’t interesting, they’re copy mistakes; some variants are related to theology, and I was trying to distinguish between the two cases.

  64. Victoria says:

    The reader interested in the history of this discussion can find it here, linked from
    http://www.tyndale.ca/seminary/mtsmodular/reading-rooms/theology/trinity

  65. Victoria says:

    @Keith
    Then you truly do not understand the nature of the Divine Inspiration of Scripture. Little wonder you shipwrecked your faith so easily. You simply have no idea of what you are talking about.

    Early Christians had the entire Jewish Bible, and even Peter refers to Paul’s letters (2 Peter 3:14-17), and the community as a whole had the teachings of the apostles. Paul himself confirmed what he was presenting to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:1-10). We also know that Jesus understood the Jewish Bible as referring to Himself (John 5:39-47 and Luke 24:25-27)

    The Holy Spirit is the ultimate author of all of Scripture, and because of that, it is a unified whole, and must be read in that light. The NT authors supported much of what they wrote from Moses, the Psalms and the Prophets. That alone should clue you in.

    When Jesus spoke of Himself being the Good Shepherd in John 10, just what do you think He was alluding to? Something out of thin air? No. The whole theme of the Good Shepherd and the Shepherd of Israel is woven into the Old Testament – Jesus was claiming to be David’s “Yahweh is my shepherd’ of Psalm 23, the Shepherd in Psalm 28:9 and Psalm 78:70-72, the Shepherd in Micah 5:4-5 (which also refers to the Messiah as being born in Bethelem), the Shepherd of Isaiah 40:11 (and in context, Shepherd is an attribute of Yahweh, who is being described in the entire passage), and most assuredly, the promised Shepherd of Ezekiel 34 and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 3:15 and Jeremiah 31:10).

    John makes it clear that we should understand Jesus’ I AM statements in this light, for he explicitly tells us his purpose in writing his gospel in John 20:30-31.

    “Scripture is its own best interpreter” is a long standing principle that Christians need to understand and apply. The NT authors were writing within a context, under the auspices of the Holy Spirit.

    And, finally, as Tom’s post and quote indicates, the interpretation of firstborn in Colossians that we are arguing for makes complete sense in the context of the letter as it stands on its own. This understanding is only reinforced when one considers the full context of the NT and the complete context of the entire Bible

    Perhaps you should think about what you say and do your homework before posting anything in here, since you seem to get it all wrong every time.

  66. Ray Ingles says:

    Victoria –

    Considering the stakes and the moral excellence promoted in the NT documents, it is a real stretch to think the authors were deliberately misrepresenting (aka, lying) what they had seen and heard.

    Were the county magistrate and the police and the air traffic controllers deliberately lying about the UFO?

    surely the Jewish authorities at least would have done everything in their power to demonstrate that, and kill Christianity before it even got off the ground.

    How would you disprove that, exactly? (Again, c.f. Mormonism; how do you disprove the magic plates?)

  67. Victoria says:

    @Ray
    Why don’t you learn to read more carefully?
    My first answer was to Keith’s point about the NT authors had reason/motivation to misrepresent the events of which they wrote.

    As to the second, read Matthew 28:11-15.

  68. Victoria says:

    And furthermore :)
    Paul’s letter to the Colossians was not written in a theological vacuum either. He was writing to Christians in that region/city, people who had already heard the gospel. He was writing to explain and clarify and expand on what they had already learned. The same is true of all of the NT letters.
    Colossians does not stand completely independent of Corinthians or Romans or Galatians or Ephesians (etc) because they are all Paul’s letters. They are linked together because of that – they deal with different issues, but all come from Paul’s understanding of Jesus Christ, and that comes from the Spirit of God Himself.

  69. Keith says:

    @Victoria 65:

    I don’t believe the “community as a whole had the teachings of the apostles”, I know of no reason to believe there was any kind of uniform understanding at the time, or for hundreds of years after the time.

    I think this is fully demonstrated by the fact it took the church hundreds of years to determine which texts were divinely inspired and which texts were not. (How do you decide if a text is divinely inspired, anyway? Since the major branches of Christianity still don’t agree, I’m going to assume it’s a difficult process. For example, Martin Luther didn’t believe Hebrews was correctly included.)

    This same argument serves to demolish “Scripture is its own best interpreter”, unless you can show the divinely inspired scriptures were correctly selected by your particular branch of Christianity and incorrectly selected by everybody else.

    As far as “firstborn”: I never said the verse didn’t make sense the way you and Tom read it. I only asked Tom if it also made sense to read the verse as the Arianists read it. Yes, the verse makes sense in a Trinitarian interpretation, and I never said otherwise.

  70. Victoria says:

    @Keith
    I suggest you read a very nicely written book called Cold Case Christianity, linked to in Tom’s post

    http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2012/12/cold-case-christianity/

    It is clear that we are arguing from completely different points of view :)

  71. Keith says:

    @Victoria 70:

    Sure, but where’s the utility in arguing with someone who fundamentally agrees with you?

    I come here because I want to know where I’m wrong, not how many people agree with me.

  72. Victoria says:

    As to the canon of Scripture, as usual, the skeptic overstates his case. Disagreements in the canon in the 2nd-4th centuries were between heretical teachers and those who held fast to the apostolic authority of the NT authors.

    For the interested reader:

    http://bible.org/topics/420/Canon

    http://bible.org/seriespage/bible-holy-canon-scripture

    http://bible.org/article/non-pauline-epistles

    (for that last one, pay attention to the background on Hebrews).

    @Keith
    Well for one thing, you were certainly wrong about 1 John 5:7 and its importance to the doctrine of the Trinity in 325 AD :)

    Which branches of Christianity in the 21st century disagree about the canon of the Bible?
    You have this very annoying way of saying but not citing, of asserting without backing things up. When I was a university professor, a student pulling that kind of nonsense would fail my classes :), and it doesn’t impress me much here.

  73. Ray Ingles says:

    My first answer was to Keith’s point about the NT authors had reason/motivation to misrepresent the events of which they wrote.

    And the response makes the point that conscious misrepresentation isn’t the only kind of misrepresentation.

    It’s interesting that the account of the guards appears in only one Gospel, isn’t confirmed in any other account, and includes details that are… er… suspect. “Even after the resurrection (according to the story), it took the disciples a long time to catch on that Jesus was supposed to die and rise again. Yet here Matthew is telling us that the unbelieving Pharisees, using only misunderstood metaphorical references to a resurrection, figured out before any of the disciples did that someday there was going to be a resurrection story.”

    And, again – how would you disprove that Smith’s golden plates weren’t spirited away by an angel? Can you give me a breakdown or outline of how you’d go about it?

  74. Keith says:

    @Victoria 72:

    It’s hard to know what’s common knowledge and what isn’t; I’ll try to do better!

    The most obvious example of current disagreement is the Apocrypha, which Catholic and Orthodox Christians consider canonical, but which is not considered canonical by most Protestants. The Catholics and Orthodox declared those books canonical in 1500-1600, the Protestants went the other way about the same time. The Apocrypha is in a lot of Protestant Bibles (versions of the KJV included the Apocrypha until around 1800).

    The Catholics and the Orthodox also diverged, for example over the book of Enoch, which is not canonical for the Jews or Catholics. The book of Jude quotes from the Book of Enoch, but that wasn’t enough to save it: Jude was in, Enoch was out (unless you’re Orthodox, in which case Enoch is the inspired, authoritative Word of God).

    Have you ever wondered about Joshua 10:12-13, the sentence “as it is written in the Book of Jashar”? The reference wasn’t enough to save it, Joshua was in, Jashar was out (which is good, because I don’t believe we even have a complete copy of Jashar).

    There are other references in the Old Testament to other books the authors obviously considered trustworthy, but there you have it, they didn’t make the cut.

    Martin Luther didn’t believe that Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation were canonical; he left them in his Bible, but separated them from the rest of his New Testament. That was around 1500 or so.

    Finally, when you say disagreements in the canon in the 2nd-4th centuries were all about heretical teaching, well, you can’t possibly know that. While we know there were lots of writings, little has survived.

  75. Victoria says:

    @Ray
    Take a course in remedial reading comprehension, why don’t you?

    Matthew 27:62-65:

    The next day (which is after the day of preparation) the chief priests and the Pharisees assembled before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember that while that deceiver was still alive he said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give orders to secure the tomb until the third day. Otherwise his disciples may come and steal his body and say to the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “Take a guard of soldiers. Go and make it as secure as you can.”So they went with the soldiers of the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

    Your reference is so incompetent and inept that he can’t even quote the account correctly, and neither can you, apparently.

  76. Victoria says:

    @Keith
    Read and understand the links that I gave you.

  77. Victoria says:

    @Ray
    The chief priests and the Pharisees understood full well what Jesus had said, and they wanted to make sure that His disciples didn’t act on that. So they get a guard posted, and when the tomb is found empty, they concoct a story (which was still in circulation when Matthew wrote his gospel) that the disciples came and stole the body out from under the noses of the guards..while they were sleeping.

    And with that, I am done with you, again.

  78. Melissa says:

    Keith,

    All I meant was the common use of the word relevant, “appropriate to the matter at hand”. There are a few hundred thousand variants of the surviving manuscripts, but most variants aren’t interesting, they’re copy mistakes; some variants are related to theology, and I was trying to distinguish between the two cases.

    OK, well maybe you need to explain then why these errors poison the well for you because they haven’t had a significant bearing on the formulation of Christian doctrine.

    I think I can reasonably take a passage in isolation and build a doctrine or deny one around it. That is what early Christians did, they didn’t have anything like what we consider the Bible. At the least, all of the New Testament letters must stand alone (unless the Corinthians waited to read them until the Catholic church decided on the rest of the Bible and they could consider the letters in context).

    I think I remember you mentioning in another thread that you went to seminary and all I can say is that either it was dodgy seminary or you did not listen at all.

  79. Keith says:

    @Melissa 78:

    When I say “poison the well”, I mean the errors are sufficient to make me doubt there is anything supernatural associated with the Bible. Obviously, we haven’t discussed anything other than this single error in this thread, but in answering your question I’m forced to branch out. In short, the contradictions, implausibilities and errors we attack and defend are, when taken as a whole, sufficient to cause me to doubt.

    And I fully understand and agree the contradictions, implausibilities and errors can each be individually explained and defended.

    To explain why the explanations and defenses are insufficient for me is a little more complicated. It may be due to being raised in a denomination that taught absolute Biblical inerrancy, so in a short period of time I was forced to move from inerrancy to accepting errors; perhaps it wouldn’t have so affected the faith of someone who was taught a truer version of the early church and Bible.

    Regardless, I do believe Sagan’s statement that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, and the Bible is, in many ways, an ordinary book.

    Yes, in another thread I mentioned seminary, and that wasn’t true. I attended a small Bible college with an attached seminary (and “seminary” in the name), and I typed “seminary” like an idiot when I should have very clearly said “Bible college”, and didn’t notice until it was too late. I was never (ever!) on the path to being a minister, and I apologize sincerely for misleading anyone, that was not my intention.

    Finally, I stand by the statement you quoted: not only did the early church not have parts of our Biblical canon, but it also had other texts believed to be canonical.

    Please correct me if I’m missing an explanation, but it seems to me each New Testament letter would have had to stand on its own, separate from most of the rest of the New Testament, and almost certainly in conjunction with other texts that would eventually fail to be included in our Biblical canon.

    If the text could stand on its own at that time, I see no reason not to require it stand on its own now.

  80. Tom Gilson says:

    Keith,

    I have difficulty understanding why you could think each NT letter would have to stand on its own. They were letters, after all. They were written to specific recipients for specific purposes. These recipients had other sources of teaching, of which Paul, Peter, James, John and the writer of Hebrews would likely have been aware.

    Almost every letter in the NT was written to someone the sender knew well, and/or a place the sender had ministered. Most of these letters were addressing very specific questions or problems. Why would every one of them have had to explain every aspect of every teaching all over again?

    One notable exception to what I just said is Paul’s letter to the Romans. He had not yet been there–though he knew many of the people there (see the lists of greetings at the end). In this exceptional case, though, we do see Paul explaining the Gospel message from first to last.

    Even there, though, he couldn’t reasonably have said everything. He didn’t tell them what he told Euodia and Syntyche (see Philippians 4), since that wasn’t part of the church’s issue (though see 12:18). He didn’t remind them as he did the Thessalonians that they ought not give up working in view of the coming Parousia, because the Romans apparently weren’t making that mistake.

    At any rate it’s impossible reasonably to suppose what you are here. The NT letters did not stand on their own. They were part of a complex of teaching that their recipients had already been given, and which the letter-senders could count on them having heard.

  81. Melissa says:

    Keith,

    Finally, I stand by the statement you quoted: not only did the early church not have parts of our Biblical canon, but it also had other texts believed to be canonical.

    The early church was in a very different position to us in that the apostles were alive or recently deceased. You are imposing back into that context our biblical concepts, it just doesn’t work. I can elaborate on this if you wish but I’m not sure there’s much point.

    Please correct me if I’m missing an explanation, but it seems to me each New Testament letter would have had to stand on its own, separate from most of the rest of the New Testament, and almost certainly in conjunction with other texts that would eventually fail to be included in our Biblical canon.

    You are right that the early Christians did not have the bible (in the sense that they had the Hebrew bible but not the NT), but wrong in your further conclusions. The New Testament letters would not have had to stand on their own for a number of reasons. Firstly the letters were written to churches to address particular circumstances in those churches at that time. They build on the teaching that had already been received. There is no indication that the letters were in any way meant to be an all encompassing exposition of the faith but rather to expand on particular issues or correct errors of understanding. Secondly many of the letters were shared between churches.

    It may be due to being raised in a denomination that taught absolute Biblical inerrancy, so in a short period of time I was forced to move from inerrancy to accepting errors; perhaps it wouldn’t have so affected the faith of someone who was taught a truer version of the early church and Bible.

    Yes, I’ve noticed in my interactions here that those who have had a more fundamentalist understanding of the Christian faith tend to continue with their black and white thinking even after they deconvert, often embracing some degree of scientism.

  82. Keith says:

    @Tom 80:

    I agree each letter would have been to specific recipients already known by the letter-writer, based on both shared context and shared texts.

    By shared context, I mean what shared information caused the writer to write the letter. After all, we only know a little of the motivation and none of the details, because the writer won’t repeat information already known to both sender and recipient. We don’t have this stuff.

    By shared texts, I mean the shared text including both canonical and non-canonical gospels of Christianity. Again, we don’t have much of this stuff.

    When you say I cannot expect the letters to stand on their own without all that shared information, I agree. But we cannot know which pieces of the possible shared information writer and sender have, so where does that leave us?

    When we use one letter to explain some other part of the text, it might be OK to do so and we know it (we know somebody had both), it might be bad and we know it (dates tell us somebody probably didn’t have something), or it might be good or bad and we don’t know because we simply have no way of identifying what was shared outside of the letter itself.

    In other words, what did Euodia know, and when did they know it, are unanswerable questions for us.

    Our mistake is to think of our Biblical canon as the same as the early church’s.

    Where we see the problem is when we take verses from different places and argue their mutual explanatory power: it might be valid, it might not, and we often have no way to know.

    What do you think?

  83. Keith says:

    @Melissa 81:

    When you say “You are imposing back into that context our biblical concepts, it just doesn’t work”, my immediate response is “Exactly!!”, so I must be missing something. :-)

    A minor point: many of these arguments were going on for hundreds of years after the apostles death.

    When you say “they build on the teaching that had already been received”, I’m mostly OK with that. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought we have no way to know what teaching each church had received or not received (other than their specific letters), and we have no information as to how or when they shared letters or communicated with each other. Are these guesses or facts?

  84. Melissa says:

    Keith,

    When you say “You are imposing back into that context our biblical concepts, it just doesn’t work”, my immediate response is “Exactly!!”, so I must be missing something.

    Remember where this discussion began – with you arguing that it is a legitimate practice to use a single passage of the Bible to build Christian doctrine while ignoring the rest of scripture. In support of this you made the claim that the early church did this because they didn’t have the Bible as we know it. What you are missing is that although they didn’t have the Bible as we know it they also didn’t treat the writings they did have as we treat the Bible either. Therefore you can’t argue that they built doctrine from a single passage. The specific writings of the New Testament were collected in later generations as the authoritative account of the experience of the early church, recording both the life of Jesus and the work and teaching of the Holy Spirit in the early church. The early church didn’t need the writings in the same way we need them because they were living it.

    You raise other questions but I’m not prepared to move on to them until we have resolved this issue. There is very little point in discussing the Bible with someone who thinks proof texting is fine.

  85. Ray Ingles says:

    Victoria – Oddly enough, Matthew’s the only gospel where Jesus is at all explicit about the resurrection. In John he uses metaphors and riddles (John 2:18-19), he’s nowhere as clear in Matthew and Luke. And Matthew’s the only gospel where Jesus’ enemies believe the words more than his disciples.

    (I know you’re done with me, but I wish you’d told me how to disprove Smith’s plates before you finished.)

  86. Victoria says:

    @Keith
    Did you not read the passages I quoted here?

    Early Christians had the entire Jewish Bible, and even Peter refers to Paul’s letters (2 Peter 3:14-17), and the community as a whole had the teachings of the apostles. Paul himself confirmed what he was presenting to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:1-10). We also know that Jesus understood the Jewish Bible as referring to Himself (John 5:39-47 and Luke 24:25-27)

    The Holy Spirit is the ultimate author of all of Scripture, and because of that, it is a unified whole, and must be read in that light. The NT authors supported much of what they wrote from Moses, the Psalms and the Prophets. That alone should clue you in.

    Peter was already referring his readers to Paul’s letters, suggesting that these were in circulation when Peter wrote his letter (why else refer to something that his readers would know nothing about? That’s just common sense :) )

    In Acts 2:42, we are told that the community was devoting itself to the apostles’ teachings – the Gospel message had to start somewhere. Acts refers to Paul’s 3 missionary journeys where he brings the gospel to the Gentiles, a gospel that was approved by the other apostles. Put the pieces together, for Pete’s sake…follow the dots :)

    Look at Paul’s salutation in his letters. He is writing to Christians who got that way by hearing the gospel. The letters were in the way of followup explanations to the gospel message, of answering specific questions and addressing issues of individual communities.

    A good historian takes the pieces of history that she has at her disposal, and tries to fit them together.

    One of the amazing things about Scripture is its ‘undesigned coincidences’ that make this sort of thing possible. I’ve just given you an example of how these pieces fit together in regards to the dissemination of the gospel to the early Christian community. We don’t have to guess, as the clues are all there for anyone to find, if he takes the time to look carefully and dig deeper, which skeptics don’t do, it seems.

    I wish I had more time right now, but I’m at my day job :)

  87. Victoria says:

    Lest I leave Ray’s misleading comments about John’s gospel left unanswered:

    1. The implicit assumption in his comment is that the Gospels are mutually exclusive and contradictory portraits of Jesus. That is just plain wrong. Sure, there are differences on the surface, but there is also a deep rooted harmony, as things like the undesigned coincidences show.
    Thus, in John’s gospel, He has selected elements from Jesus’ life and ministry that illustrate what John wants his readers to understand (John 20:31), and he also tells us that Jesus said and did many other things that John has not included (John 21:24-25). Thus Jesus’ use of metaphor in His discourses and answers to questions as described by John does not preclude His speaking more plainly, as described by the Synoptics.

    2. One has to understand the Gospels in their 1st century Second Temple Judaism historical and cultural context. Many of Jesus’ metaphors are drawn from the Jewish Scriptures, and everyone (well, Jews at least) would have understood the references, even if they didn’t understand how they applied to Jesus. The problem was that people had expectations of the Messiah as a conquering King, not as the Suffering Servant, so when Jesus spoke of His death and resurrection, people (including His disciples) did not understand how this could apply to the Messiah. They knew what He was implying, but they just didn’t get it.

    3. The Pharisees and Chief Priests were shrewd and astute men – they were nobody’s fools, so that’s why they asked for a guard at Jesus’ tomb – they didn’t believe for a minute that He was going to be raised from the dead, they just wanted to make certain that His followers didn’t steal the body and then claim He had been risen. A wise course of action on their part, but it actually backfires, because now there is no way the inept disciples would ever be able to overpower trained soldiers (in the garden at the Mount of Olives, Peter takes a clumsy swipe at Malchus and only manages to cut the man’s ear off – he was no swordsman).
    The Pharisees have to concoct an implausible story now, claiming that the disciples stole the body while the guards were sleeping.

    The Gnu atheists claim to be ‘brights’, but if you ask me, the lot of you skeptics and atheists combined lack the common sense that God gave to a goat.

    As to the Golden Plates, Ray incorrectly assumes that Christians have disprove the occurrence of all supernatural events other than specifically ‘Christian’ ones. Not so.

    The test of a supernatural event that God’s people are to apply is whether or not it is in agreement with God’s revealed Word (see here: http://bible.org/seriespage/false-prophets-part-i), specifically

    Testing the Prophets
    (Deut. 13:1-5)
    1 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 “You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. 5 “But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.”

    We would not be surprised to be told that false prophets will appear from without, trying to “come in” amongst the people of God. Sad to say, however, in both the Old Testament (above) and the New (see Acts 20:28-30; 2 Corinthians 11:1-15; 2 Peter 2:1ff.), we are warned that false prophets will arise from “within” the people of God. In our text (Deuteronomy 13:1), we are told that these “false prophets” are able to perform “signs and wonders,” which will convince the nave that they are truly speaking for God. We should be aware that false prophets, if empowered by Satan, may be able to do that which is extraordinary (see, for example, the fortuneteller in Acts 16:16ff.).14 No wonder there are “psychics” who amaze those who seek guidance from them.

    The ultimate test of a prophet is whether or not he (or she) leads you to worship the One True God in the way He has prescribed. And so it is in verse 2 that we are told that even though a “prophet” performs amazing feats, he is a false prophet if he urges men to follow other gods, new gods which they have not known before. Such prophets must not be given a hearing. While they do not realize it, these false prophets, like their master, Satan, are being used by God to test His people. By allowing them to arise, God puts His people to the test, to see whether or not they will follow Him with their whole heart and soul (verse 3).

    False prophets confront the people of God with a choice—either they will hear and obey God, or they will follow the false gods who are promoted by the false prophets. If the Israelites choose to cling to God and to His commandments, then they must take these false prophets and put them to death. They must not tolerate them. There was to be no “religious pluralism” in the land of Israel. They were to follow Him who had redeemed them from their slavery in Egypt, by eliminating those who would seek to seduce them to forsake their God for another. In this way, Israel would purge the evil from among them.

    Christianity is anchored in the resurrection of Jesus Christ – it is that event which validates His claims to be both the Son of God, and it validates the Gospel as taught (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) by the apostles. Any supernatural event or claim that contradicts the core truths of Christianity are not in accordance with God’s revelation in and through Jesus Christ.

    So because, Joseph Smith’s “revelations” contradict historic apostolic Christianity, I know it is not of God. If he had a supernatural encounter, it was not with God or His messengers. More likely Satan and his minions (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

    I’m sure that this will not be sufficient for a skeptic, not having the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but that is the way it is, and I’m not going to waste anymore time on dealing with skeptical nonsense.

  88. Victoria says:

    Ah, a specific article that deals with the Canon of Scripture and the Apocrypha:

    http://bible.org/seriespage/canonicity

    and on the arguments for the authority of the Bible

    http://bible.org/article/authority-bible

    Note: the confidence that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the best explanation for the historical information about the events surrounding His death and subsequent appearances alive does not rest on the assumption that the NT is the Word of God. They only have to be historically reliable according to the same criteria used for other documents dating from the period.

  89. Ray Ingles says:

    Victoria –

    As to the Golden Plates, Ray incorrectly assumes that Christians have disprove the occurrence of all supernatural events other than specifically ‘Christian’ ones.

    To use your own words – but applied to the “Ray… assumes” part of the phrase – “not so”.

    I didn’t say that Christians had to disprove non-Christian claims of supernatural events. To paraphrase the discussion so far:

    Victoria: “If they had misrepresented Jesus’ bodily resurrection, then surely the Jewish authorities at least would have done everything in their power to demonstrate that.”

    Ray: “How would you disprove that, exactly? (Again, c.f. Mormonism; how do you disprove the magic plates?)”

    Victoria: “Christians [don’t] have [to] disprove the occurrence of all supernatural events other than specifically ‘Christian’ ones.”

    But that wasn’t what I asked. I asked how one would go about disproving a miracle at all. I gave a specific example: how exactly would you disprove that Smith’s golden plates were taken back to heaven?

    But feel free to pick a different example. You’re a first-century Jew inclined to beleive that Jesus was resurrected. What evidence could the Pharisees produce that would incline you to disbelieve that? (C.f. Sathya Sai Baba.)

  90. Victoria says:

    Well, let’s see…I’ve heard Peter’s sermons (Acts 2:1-47), seen the miracles they performed (Acts 3:1-10, for example), heard that the authorities arrested them afterwards, but released them (Acts 4:1-23). I’ve heard the story that’s been going around about how Jesus’ disciples stole the body out from under the noses of trained Roman soldiers while they were all asleep, but I’m not such a fool as to believe that (and neither are a lot of other people, for that matter), especially since neither the Jewish nor Roman authorities did anything about that, and I know Roman military efficiency and brutality all too well. I know my Scriptures well enough to see how Peter’s sermon fits together. I may have met Jesus or at least heard Him on a few occasions.

    Not only that, we later learn that there are at least two members of the Sanhedrin and the Pharisees are believers (Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus) and more become believers as well (Acts 15:1-7) [Well that undesigned coincidence at least gives us a hint as to how Matthew and Luke would have known what was going on behind the closed doors of the High Council (Acts 5:17-42, especially Gamaliel’s advice, which proved to be prophetic)].

    To top it all off, I come to believe that Jesus really did rise from the dead, and I become His disciple myself, and I receive the indwelling of the Spirit of God, and nothing is ever the same again (thank God)

    I provided you with our (Christians) reasons for testing the character of prophets and supernatural events, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. If it is not good enough for you, then that is your problem.

    Read the books I mentioned.
    Now I am really done with this thread.

  91. Ray Ingles says:

    Victoria – Again, you misunderstand the question. You provided evidence for, and I asked for (hypothetical) evidence against. How would you disprove it?

  92. Victoria says:

    @Ray
    1 Corinthians 15:12-19 is your answer. How would you demonstrate that a man who was crucified, dead and buried was still dead and buried? That would have ended Christianity right then and there.

    If Jesus’ disciples stole the body, the authorities had 50 days to try to find it, for as soon as the guards came and reported what had happened at the tomb (Matthew 28:11-15) they could have done everything in their power to find both the body and the disciples.

    Unlike your beloved golden plates (which nobody knew existed until Joseph Smith found them), Jesus was a known public figure – He went around in plain view of the people and the Jewish authorities, preaching His message, and when He was crucified, it was a very public execution – most everyone in Jerusalem knew what was going on, certainly the Sanhedrin.

    They made sure that the disciples could not steal the body, and when the body goes missing, they claim that which they went to great lengths to prevent? C’mon, get real – use some common sense.

    Furthermore, as I mentioned previously, members of the Sanhedrin, the priests and the Pharisees came to believe (Acts 6:7 and Acts 15:4-5) – surely they knew that the cover story the council had concocted was false. Whatever Saul (Paul) thought about that, he was going to put an end to Christianity by persecution, arrest and imprisonment, until he encountered the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus.

    Now, please give it up, as this is going nowhere. Don’t bother to reply or ask me any more questions!!!

  93. Ray Ingles says:

    How would you demonstrate that a man who was crucified, dead and buried was still dead and buried?

    Given 1st century embalming (or lack thereof), even in a desert environment, a dead body isn’t going to stay recognizable all that long. If the story of the bodily resurrection took even a few weeks to take off, well… DNA forensics weren’t all that common then.

    Again, Mormon cases are illustrative. It’s really remarkable what a true believer can rationalize, or recollect afterward.

    It’s not clear that the ‘cover story’ as related in Matthew was… er… contemporary with the events. As Keith pointed out before, “I would agree the NT authors were the contemporary historians with the strongest reason/motivation to record Jesus’ teachings and ministry, but for exactly the same reasons they also had the strongest reason/motivation to misrepresent the events. You can’t have one without the other.”

  94. SteveK says:

    Ray,

    ….but for exactly the same reasons they also had the strongest reason/motivation to misrepresent the events.

    What reasons are those and how did you become aware of them – or are you just speculating?

  95. Victoria says:

    Darn you anyway, Ray, dragging me back in :)

    Matthew reports that some of the guards went to the chief priests later that same day (that Sunday) to tell them what happened at the tomb that morning.

    Unless you can prove otherwise, we are entitled to accept that statement at face value, and unless you can prove otherwise, we have no indications that the NT authors actually misrepresented events.

  96. Ray Ingles says:

    SteveK, I’ll answer your question with a reply to Victoria.

    Eleven people signed affadavits that they saw and/or handled the golden plates that Smith translated. Unless you can prove otherwise, Mormons are entitled to accept those statements at face value.

  97. Victoria says:

    The reason we reject Mormonism is not because we think their miracle claims are false (as in they didn’t happen)- I am quite prepared to say that they were spiritual counterfeits, supernaturally engineered by Satan – he can do that. The reason we reject Mormonism is because it teaches a gospel that is contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the apostolic Gospel delivered to us by those who knew the resurrected Jesus, and were commissioned to write about Him (see Paul’s list in 1 Corinthians 15).

    That may not be enough for an unbeliever, but to Christians filled with the Spirit of God, it is everything.

  98. SteveK says:

    Unless you can prove otherwise, Mormons are entitled to accept those statements at face value.

    They are. I’m no expert on Mormon history. I’ve heard that some of the witnesses later said things that tarnished their credibility regarding the gold plates. Didn’t some eventually leave the LDS church? I don’t know, I’m asking.

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