The Christianity Merry Go Round

Or how to debate Christian apologists like Gary Habermas and win……..

Real Christians are defined by their unshakeable belief that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem. In reality they simply choose to believe what can never be proved. It’s called faith!!! Churches are very adept at peddling the resurrection myth, knowing full well their flocks will swallow both their assurances & their arguments, either because they know no better, or because it satisfies their own personal need to believe. Usually it’s a combination of both. However, when push comes to shove, the circular nature of the Christian argument soon surfaces. This circular argument can be started more or less anywhere in the circle [see 1-5 below], and initially at least, the apologist argument appears very cogent. The trick is to keep pushing them round and round the loop until the penny eventually drops, and even they eventually recognize the futility of their circular argument.

We can use Habermas’ own claims to illustrate the nature of the Christian merry go round. It goes something like this:

  1. The resurrection happened because the gospels say so
  2. The gospels say so because Paul said so [1-Corinthians]
  3. Paul said so because Peter said so [Peter & Paul’s first meeting c 36 CE]
  4. Peter said so because he was there
  5. Peter was there because the resurrection happened
  6. The resurrection happened because the gospels say so
  7. The gospels say so because Paul said so [1-Corinthians]

And so & so on………..Claims 4 &5 are both unjustified claims, because there’s still no credible independent evidence to back them up. In reality they’re both just necessary unverified assumptions, and I find it amazing that Christianity has managed to survive for 2000 years. Initially it was not unlike the many rival pagan religions, but its existence today pays tribute to its three saving graces, namely, like all religions, it thrives best on poverty, ignorance and a liberal top down application of the tried & tested mushroom policy [keep them in the dark & feed them plenty of shit].

In trying to convince us that the resurrection claims in the gospels can be trusted, Habermas unintentionally draws attention to Christianity’s Achilles heel, and in doing so, he inadvertently opens the door to a rational counter argument that even he would have great difficulty dismissing. Because claims 4 & 5 are both unverifiable assumptions, we can legitimately revise them as follows:

  • Peter said so because he lied
  • Peter lied because there was no resurrection

This is the Achilles heel counter argument which even Habermas would find difficult to dismiss. It’s both simple & straight forward, and it puts paid to the endless apologist loop. The resulting revised model of Christianity does better fits the known/accepted facts, but it also come with a significant downside that’s unacceptable to Christians. In the revised model Jesus is relegated to mere mortal status. Anyway, enough of the distracting generalisations, Back to Habermas and the specifics of Christianity.  To justify both this Achilles heel counter claim, and my earlier assertion that his argument is circular in nature, we must look very closely at what Habermas actually says about Peter & Paul’s critical first meeting in Jerusalem c 36 CE. He actually says far to much about certain aspects of this meeting, and far too little about other equally relevant aspects of this meeting.

In all his many gospel presentations , Habermas always tries to imply both James & Peter were equally significant players. He says the same thing in every presentation, namely that Paul spent 15 days with Peter & Jesus’ brother James. He also speculates far too much about what may or may not have happened at this critical meeting. Galatians 1:19 does appear to indicate that James was present at Peter & Paul’s first meeting at some stage, but we have nothing to indicate why he was present, or for how long. Christianity has no choice but to assume Paul’s entire knowledge of the alleged Jerusalem resurrection was actually gained at this meeting. However, who exactly, said what exactly, has to be pure speculation, because we have no record of this meeting other than what Paul  tell us in Galatians 1:18-19. Habermas chooses to ignore all this, and he make all sorts of wild speculative claims about the nature of this meeting. I can only assume he does this to strengthen the unacknowledged weakness in the orthodox model of Christianity, namely a distinct possibility that Paul’s first meeting with Peter was not witnessed.

Habermas also says nothing at all about the very strange circumstances surrounding this critical first meeting, circumstances that all suggest the quick reference to James in Galatians 1:19 is probably just a simple interpolation added by unknown hand to obviate any suggestions that this critical first meeting was in fact just a simple one to one meeting without witnesses. There were plenty of motives to do it and plenty of time to do it. Our earliest reasonably complete version of Galatians is dated c 200 CE. There’s already been considerable debate concerning possible interpolations in Galatians 1:19, but so far, this debate has focused entirely on querying the identity of James, rather than questioning his presence at this first meeting. Christianity obviously has no incentive to recognize this interpolation, and certainly no wish to acknowledge it.

Well that’ the general outline of my case. Now for the supporting evidence.

In Galatians 1: 18-19 Paul specifically states:“Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother”. That last simple phrase “only James, the Lord’s brother” in Galatians 1:19 seems to be just a simple after thought but in actual fact, it’s one of the most significant phrases in the New Testament, because without it, Paul’s first meeting with Peter does revert to a simple 1:1 meeting without witnesses. This would mean Paul’s entire knowledge of the alleged resurrection in Jerusalem was based on one man’s uncorroborated and unsubstantiated hearsay claims that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem. This uncomfortable fact, if true, would be extremely embarrassing for Christians, and very awkward for Christianity, because it would seriously undermine Christianity’s credentials, and further weaken an already weak orthodox model of Christianity.

This simple phrase “only James, the Lord’s brother” is therefore both highly significant and extremely convenient. It’s authenticity is also very questionable, because it’s a very surprising claim, given this meeting actually occurred in Jerusalem only 5-6 years after the alleged resurrection of Jesus. According to Christians, this supernatural event was allegedly witnessed by over 500 people, including by Peter, James and the other apostles, and presumably most of these alleged witnesses were still living in Jerusalem at the time of Paul’s visit. Many of these alleged witnesses were also presumably now members of the early Jerusalem church led by Peter & by James. Under these circumstances, it seems incredible that Paul saw no one other than Peter & possibly James during his 15 day stay in Jerusalem.

If you combine the enormous significance and enormous convenience of that simple phrase “only James, the Lord’s brother” with the ease with which it could have been inserted sometime later, and then add in this surprising lack of visitors throughout Paul’s 15 day stay with Peter, then in my opinion, you have more than enough reason to start questioning the authenticity of this simple phrase, and thus, to start querying James’ presence at this meeting. The surprising lack of visitors during Paul’s 15 day stay with Peter, the transforming nature of that second statement, its extreme convenience and the ease with which it could have been inserted into the text anytime during that 150 year time gap, all suggest this simple phrase “only James, the Lord’s brother” is indeed just a simple interpolation designed to rectify what, for early theologians/scholars, was a very awkward situation. Once the early church recognized the problem existed, it was only a matter of time before someone was tempted to add this simple interpolation. Having James as a single solitary witness to this first critical meeting in Jerusalem was obviously not ideal, but it had to do, because restrictions imposed by Paul left them with no choice.

Paul had already dictated who witnessed this alleged resurrection in chapter 15 of 1-Corinthians   [……..he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me…….]. Paul had also specifically stated in Galatians 1: 19 that he met none of these other apostles. Those wishing to engineer this critical interpolation were thus faced with Hobson’s choice. A simple process of elimination left James as the only potential candidate to “act as a witness” at this crucial meeting. It’s worth noting at this point, that the total absence of visitors, including James, during Paul’s 15 day stay with Peter, is exactly what one would expect following the crucifixion of the historical-Jesus, because in this alternative scenario, there would be no resurrection to witness, and hence no witnesses and no visitors to worry about.

We have good reason to believe it was the historical-Jesus who was crucified in Jerusalem. We also have good reason to believe Paul just hallucinated on the road to Damascus. Hopefully you’ll now agree we also have good reason to believe Peter and Paul’s first meeting in Jerusalem c 36 CE was a just simple 1:1 meeting without witnesses. If you combine all three very rational beliefs, with the universal acceptance, that Paul’s entire knowledge of the alleged Jerusalem resurrection was gained at this meeting, you are left with one inescapable conclusion, namely that Peter must have lied to Paul about this alleged Jerusalem resurrection. Christians howling in protest at this outrageous suggestion should note that we end up with Christianity and the associated New Testament, regardless of the veracity of Peter’s claims.

Well that’s the evidence I offer to back up my claim that Habermas’ is really basing his “reliable gospels argument” on a simple circular argument that does not withstand close scrutiny. Sorry if I’ve yet again pricked Christianity’s balloon [nah-not really], but in my humble opinion, it’s been floating around full of nothing but hot air for far too long……..

8 thoughts on “The Christianity Merry Go Round

  1. Paul had already dictated who witnessed this alleged resurrection in chapter 15 of 1-Corinthians…

    […]

    Paul had also specifically stated in Galatians 1:19 that he met none of these other apostles.

    Ken, this is an excellent point. The glaring ambiguity and contradictions in ‘resurrection details/facts’ as well as other Gospel empty tomb accounts strongly suggest the unreliability of all these accounts if not their invalidity. This is further supported by the fact that Galatians — the very first manuscript written of all in the Canonical New Testament — was written by Paul BEFORE his letter to the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians! Nowhere in ANY of Paul’s seven (7) verified/authenticated ascribed letters does he speak about an empty tomb in relation to Jesus’ resurrection.

    If you combine all three very rational beliefs, with the universal acceptance, that Paul’s entire knowledge of the alleged Jerusalem resurrection was gained at this meeting, you are left with one inescapable conclusion, namely that Peter must have lied to Paul about this alleged Jerusalem resurrection.

    And what sources, what earliest verifiable sources do we have about Peter’s (Šimʿōn bar Yōnāh) character, personality, and integrity regarding his testimonies/story-telling accuracy? There are only three: New Testament Canon (took over 300-years to find, translate, scribe, & compile all component books), fragments of the Gospel of the Hebrews (c. 100-130 CE), and “Early Church oral traditions” (c. 30-70 CE). To further support your excellent blog-post Ken, none of these sources give a sufficient profile of Peter, BUT…

    all four Gospels do agree on one trait about Peter: he denies knowing Jesus THREE TIMES. Peter lies and does it easily if it suits his own purposes.

    Hence, as a whole… the veracity, accuracy, or basic essence of these “Christian” accounts are at best HIGHLY suspect and at worse totally bogus propaganda by Greco-Roman bishops seeking power and position within a great political-military empire.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of necessity the Christian church portrays Peter as a paragon of virtue, and it conveniently forgets, that actually, at the time of interest, he was just an unsophisticated peasant fisherman from Galilee. As you know, I’ve suggested the initial purpose of these gospels was to furnish the missing biographical details about Jesus’ life before his death. They were a simple responses to growing demands from early pagan converts to know more about Jesus before he died. In essence they were attempts to put flesh on the bare bones of Paul’s sparse claims in 1-Corinthians 15: 3-9. This explains both the existing diversity and the existence of the notorious gospel gap. Once created it was inevitable that the early church authorities would use these gospels to further their own interests. It’s probably no coincidence that Christianity’s ascendancy coincided with the descent of the Roman Empire. A classic opportunity for the newly established church in Rome to fill the ever increasing power vacuum. Rome’s early aspirations to use the ever increasing popularity of Christianity as a simple cost effective method of self regulating crowd control eventually backfired as Rome’s authority slowly declined, and the master eventually became the slave. The rest is history……

      Liked by 2 people

      1. It’s probably no coincidence that Christianity’s ascendancy coincided with the descent of the Roman Empire. A classic opportunity for the newly established church in Rome to fill the ever increasing power vacuum. Rome’s early aspirations to use the ever increasing popularity of Christianity as a simple cost effective method of self regulating crowd control eventually backfired as Rome’s authority slowly declined…

        Rome’s sociopolitical internal deterioration and collapse indeed, and its crumbling outer borders, particularly in eastern and central Europe. If I may Ken, from my blog-post Constantine: Christianity’s True Catalyst/Christ, a quick summary…

        Taking a brief step back in time to early 2nd century CE and the Roman province of Bithynia in modern-day Turkey, how did a small floundering Jewish reform movement turn into one of the world’s largest religions today? The simple answer: Four historical events and Constantine’s recognition of the greatest political opportunity:

        Pliny the Younger in Bithynia and Emperor Trajan invent a new social welfare system using Christians.
        Too many martyrs being created by Rome’s ruthlessness only fuels the rising Jewish Sectarian movements, e.g. Paul’s new cult.
        Standardize all the rampant, heated discord among various Christian groups: Orthodoxy. Then eliminate heretics.
        Orthodox Christian Socialism by patriarchal hierarchy with the Emperor at the very top (Pope), then “blessings” flow down to the masses in a spirit of Equality.

        Great stuff Ken. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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