Habermas & the Gospel Evidence

Those fully conversant with Gary Habermas’s latest views about the authenticity of the gospels will appreciate the subtle but highly significant differences between the two simple arguments summarized below.

Habermas’ argument can be summarized as:

Peter told Paul about the resurrection in Jerusalem. Paul then propagated Peter’s claims. Unknown gospel authors then immortalized Peter’s claims in their gospels

My slightly different version can be summarized as:

Peter lied to Paul about the resurrection in Jerusalem. Paul then unknowingly propagated Peter’s lies. Unknown gospel authors then unknowingly immortalized Peter’s lies in their gospels

I can’t prove Peter lied to Paul and Habermas can’t prove he didn’t and the final outcome is exactly the same either way, namely resurrection claims in the gospel that are based entirely on unsubstantiated hearsay claims made 2000 years ago by an unsophisticated peasant fisherman from Galilee [aka Apostle Peter]. Peter’s unverified hearsay claims still remain unverified.

The evidence backing up my claim that Peter lied to Paul was published originally back in 2014, but a revised & updated version of The Christianity Myth can now be read online free of charge [click here if interested]. It’s a 2-3 hour read about the death and alleged resurrection of Jesus in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. Although it addresses the very roots of early Christianity, it’s an easy cogent read, offering a decent overview of first century Christianity. It gathers together all the available factual information relevant to the alleged Jerusalem resurrection and it establishes a timeline of relevant events. Many other far more knowledgeable authors have already done this, and done it in far greater detail, but this book does what most of these other authors fail to do, namely it examines the authenticity and veracity of the assembled data to see if it will withstand close scrutiny. It then uses the results of this close scrutiny to ascertain what really happened 2000 years ago. The primary goal of this book is not to reinforce the existing orthodox dogma, nor to maintain the existing status quo. The primary goal of the unique book is to ascertain the real reason why, 2000 years ago, many people came to believe Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem. Christians daring to read this book will find it a disturbing and challenging read.

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The real origins of Christianity?

 

Like it or not, and Christians definitely don’t like it, there are now two ways to explain the origins of Christianity. There’s the 2000 year old conventional way, with two divine interventions by god, and there’s Thackerey’s new, twenty first century way with no divine interventions of any sort. Both ways utilize the same known facts and the same chronology of events. Thackerey’s way simply exploits our much better understanding of temporal lobe epilepsy and offers us a much simpler, more pragmatic interpretation of the Apostle Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus. In doing so, Thackerey eliminates all need to believe in gods and all need for divine intervention from said gods. Thackerey also suggests the origins of Islam can be explained in a similar manner.

Anyone interested in finding out more can now read Thackerey’s book free of charge at https://keebostick.wordpress.com/2016/08/28/godless-christianity/

 

Christianity in a Nut Shell

There’s no independent evidence supporting Christian claims that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem.

Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus can now readily be explained using our current knowledge of temporal lobe epilepsy.

The existence of the New Testament Gospels can now readily be explained without resorting to divine interventions.

The orthodox model of Christianity is therefore a load of bollocks, and the sooner we all grow up and accept this fact the better.

You Ripped Me Off!

The Christianity Myth has been available via most of the usual online book retailers for about four years now, and during that period, several disgruntled customers have accused me of ripping them off. I agree the book is overpriced, but unfortunately, the set asking price is outside of my control. I tried on several occasions to get the price reduced, but to no avail. This was the main reason I eventually decided to “republish” this book as a blog, thus making it available to read online, totally free of charge, albeit to a limited audience.

The book documents my intellectual journey from slightly informed church going agnostic to better informed church going atheist. I had hoped those finding the book interesting would flag it up to others who may share their view, thus widening its appeal, but so far there’s little evidence of this happening. So, either the book is failing to spark any interest, which is a distinct possibility, or the book requires more than the usual short attention span, a definite certainty, or I’m attracting too many “blogging ghosts”, those people who just descend, devour & move on, leaving no trace of their visit & no indication of their reaction to what’s being offered.

 

A Critique of Gary Habermas’ Fatally Flawed Argument

Gary Habermas is a Christian scholar, leading Christian apologist and he also stars in several U-Tube videos, including one called the resurrection evidence that changed current scholarship.

Habermas takes it for granted that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem and he spends an hour trying to convince us he’s right. His argument is based on the following events.

Event 1:     Jesus is resurrected in Jerusalem c 30 AD

Event 2:     Paul meets the resurrected Jesus c 32-33 AD

Event 3:     Paul visits Peter & James c 35-36 AD

Event 4:     Paul visits Peter, James & John c 49-50 AD

Event 5:     Paul writes Galatians c 54 AD

Event 6:     Paul writes 1-Corinthians c 55 AD

Event 7:     Mark’s gospel appears c 70 AD

Event 8:     Matthew’s gospel appears c 80 AD

Event 9:     Luke’s gospel appears c 85 AD

Event 10:    Acts of the Apostles appears c 90 AD

Event 11:    John’s gospel appears c 95 AD

All the above consensus dates are well established and well documented, based in part on evidence provided by Paul in Galatians and 1-Corinthians. In Galatians 1: 11-24 Paul tells us about his first meeting with other apostles c 35-36 AD, and in Galatians 2: 1-10 Paul tells us about his second meeting with other apostles fourteen years later. In 1-Corinthians 15: 3-9 Paul tells us what he learned from other apostles during his first visit to Jerusalem. Habermas claims that Galatians 2: 6 proves all the apostles, including Paul, were preaching the same gospel. Habermas also tells us that expert scholars now believe the basic gospel elements [simple creedal statements characterizes as deity, death & resurrection] could have been in circulation only six months after the alleged resurrection of Jesus c 30 AD.

Having now summarised Habermas’ argument [see video for details], let’s have a closer look at what he claims.

First he claims Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem c 30 AD. There is some scant independent evidence which suggests a historical Jesus was probably crucified in Jerusalem c 30 AD, but the only evidence for the alleged Jerusalem resurrection is that found in the New Testament itself. This NT evidence consists of three gospel accounts, all proclaiming the resurrected Jesus was  seen by numerous alleged eye witnesses [Mark doesn’t qualify because it was amended later for consistency]. Also, we have Paul’s testimony to this resurrection in 1-Corinthians 15: 3-9 which states:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas [Peter], and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters 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 also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God”.

Now it’s a forgone conclusion that the late dating of the gospels [c 70-95 AD], more or less proves that the resurrection accounts found in these gospels must be second-hand hearsay accounts, based entirely on Paul’s above claims which he obviously made many times whilst establishing his many early “christian communities”[see also section below dealing with gospel dates].

The total lack of credible independent evidence does not bothered Christians. They claim the very existence of the gospels proves Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem, because their existence cannot be explained any other way. This claim has held true for centuries, despite numerous efforts to discredit it, but it is no longer a valid claim, because  the existence of these gospels no longer proves conclusively that Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem. For more details on this topic see earlier blogs called Why you cannot prove Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem and Was Jesus Resurrected in Jerusalem?.

Second he claims Paul met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus c 32-33 AD. There’s no doubting Paul genuinely believed he met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus. However, unlike Paul 2000 years ago, we now fully understand the true nature of Paul’s conversion experience and today we can explain it in a simple & rational manner. Today’s medical literature is full of similar conversion experiences, all of which, we now know are caused by psychotic hallucinations triggered by temporal lobe epilepsy. I’ve already dealt with this issue in greater detail in an earlier blog called Religiosity-Biology or Brain washing? Given today’s medical & scientific evidence, I think we can now safely assume that Paul did not meet the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus, not that Christians will ever agree of course.

Third he claims Paul visits Peter & James c 35-36 AD. Our knowledge of this first meeting comes from Galatians 1: 11-24, and in Galatians 1:18-19 Paul specifically says:

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 [This wording is taken from the N.I.V Bible].

So, having told us when & where this meeting happened, Paul tells us he stayed with Peter for 15 days & he also tells us that, at some point during this stay, he also met James. Paul doesn’t indicate when & how long James was present, and he says absolutely nothing about what actually transpired at this meeting. We have to infer what transpired at this first meeting, and today we now accept the obvious conclusion, namely that, at this meeting, Paul told Peter & James about his meeting with the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus c 35-36 AD, and Peter & James, in turn, told Paul about how they had witnessed the alleged resurrection of Jesus in Jerusalem c 30 AD.

So Paul entered Jerusalem c 35-36 AD believing Jesus had been resurrected on the road to Damascus for his own personal benefit, and 15 days later, he left Jerusalem believing Jesus had also been resurrected in Jerusalem for the benefit of the apostles. Habermas works hard to suggest Paul deliberately visited Peter & James, to check out this Jerusalem resurrection. However, it’s doubtful Paul knew anything about this Jerusalem resurrection before he arrived in Jerusalem, and it’s thus reasonable to assume that Paul just accepted  Peter & James’ hearsay claims at face value. This would be a perfectly reasonable thing for Paul to do, given his own personal experience on the road to Damascus, and given the status of both Peter & James.

However, if we assume that Paul just accepted these hearsay claims at face value, we must address another significant problem, one that Habermas again fails to address. Paul specifically states in Galatians 1: 19 that he saw nobody else during his 15 day stay with Peter, so how do we now verify Peter & James’ 2000 year old hearsay claims? The answer is simple – we don’t, because we can’t.

Therefore, we are forced to accept that Peter & James’ claims about an alleged resurrection in Jerusalem are, at best, unverified & unverifiable claims, and at worst, they may be just downright lies. Why, you might ask, would Peter & possibly James [see next paragraph] deliberately choose to lie to Paul about an alleged Jerusalem resurrection that never happened? Well, if you read The Christianity Myth you’ll find out.

Galatians 1: 19 also raises another issue not addressed by Habermas. In this verse, Paul specifically says he saw none of the other apostles, only James, the Lord’s brother. Now given the alleged circumstances surrounding this 15 day stay with Peter, Paul’s claims seem very unusual. we know the alleged resurrection occurred only 5-6 years earlier, and we know it was allegedly witnessed by over 600 people, most of whom were presumably still living in Jerusalem, and many of whom were now probably members of the alleged early Jerusalem church allegedly led by Peter & by James. Under these circumstances, it seems incredible that Paul saw none of the other apostles & none of the many alleged witnesses. However, if the alleged resurrection never actually happened, then this state of affairs would be perfectly acceptable. One is then left wondering whether Paul really did meet James at this meeting. The belated reference to James could so easily be just a simple interpolation, added later to obviate any suggestion that Paul met only Peter at this first meeting. A simple 1:1 meeting without any witnesses would weaken the orthodox model of Christianity significantly.

Now according to  Wikipedia, the earliest reasonably complete version of Galatians dates to approximately 200 AD, approximately 150 years after the original was presumably drafted. This papyrus is fragmented in a few areas, causing some of the original text to be missing but according to the Wikipedia entry, scholars can be rather certain about what the original text probably said. This state of affairs leaves plenty of scope for somebody to add this potential interpolation sometime during that first 150 years. The motive is obvious. Without this belated reference to James, this meeting becomes a simple 1:1 meeting with no other witnesses. In which case, it’s not unreasonable to consider a scenario in which there was no resurrection, no eye witnesses and no James to worry about. In this alternative scenario, Paul would still meet with Peter, but there would be no other witnesses, and verse 19 would simply say “I saw none of the other apostles“. Purely speculative of course but it would make more sense. However, I’m not expecting the Christian mindset to pursue this possibility any time soon.

Fourth he claims Paul visits Peter, James & John c 49-50 AD. Galatians 2: 1-10 deals with Paul’s second encounter with other apostles, and it confirms that this time Paul met with Peter, James & John. Habermas claims Galatians 2: 6 also proves all four apostles were preaching exactly the same gospel. The N.I.V version of Galatians 2: 6 states:

As for those who seemed to be important —whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance—those men added nothing to my message“.

In this short verse, Paul is effectively saying “As for those who seemed to be important – all probably Jews but I don’t care – those men added nothing to my message”. Habermas maintains the phrase “those men added nothing to my message” [he actually uses the phrase “they added nothing to me”] means that Peter, James & John had nothing new to add to Paul’s message. However, Habermas’ interpretation totally ignores the tensions existing between Paul and the other apostles. These tensions, all centred round the relevance of circumcision and the Jewish law, are a common theme found in Paul’s epistles.

For example, in Galatians 2:14-16 Paul says

“When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas [Peter] in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”

And later, in Galatians 5:2-6, Paul also says

 “Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”.

 [Being justified refers to the state of being alright in God’s eyes]

And in Philippians 3: 1-3 Paul warns:

“Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh”.

Other instances confirming these tensions between Paul & the other apostles, include Galatians 2: 1-5, Galatians 3: 1-5, Galatians 3: 11-13, Galatians 3: 23-25, Galatians 5: 11, Galatians 6: 11-15, 1-Corinthians 7: 17-20, Romans 2: 25-27, Titus 1: 10-11 and Titus 3: 8-11. [Titus was one of Paul’s cohorts & Titus is not one of the seven genuine Pauline epistles].

These tensions all point to the existence of essential differences between Paul’s message & the message being preached by the other apostles. Paul had a universal message, which he aimed at Jews & Gentiles alike, and Paul believed Jesus was the son of God, sent to save mankind. The other apostles believed Jesus was the long awaited Jewish Messiah, sent by a Jewish God to save the Jewish people. According to these other Apostles, only circumcised Jews, and those prepared to be circumcised and become Jews, could be saved, and then only if they obeyed the Jewish law.

Again Habermas totally ignores these obvious tensions, and he does so because he wants to interpret the phrase “they added nothing to me” as meaning Peter, James & John had nothing new to add to Paul’s message. However, in the light of these tensions between Paul & the other apostles, a more logical interpretation of “they added nothing to me” would be Peter, James & John had nothing relevant to add to Paul’s message. Habermas is thus cherry picking his data to prove what he wants to prove, & he seems blind to this more rational interpretation of Galatians 2:6. This is not really surprising, because apologists are renowned for their habit of letting their own emotional needs cloud their intellectual objectivity.

Claims 5-11 – Dating of Canonical Gospels & Relevant Epistles. The dating of the Gospels indicates that all resurrection accounts found in these Gospel must be second hand hearsay accounts based on Paul’s earlier claims in 1-Corithians 15: 3-9. This assertion explains why all Gospels portray the resurrection as a near invisible event noticed only by a handful of Jews, despite the fact it allegedly happened in a city teeming with Jews. Most Christians seem totally oblivious of this point, but then most Christians know little or nothing about the origins of their faith.

If we accept the gospel resurrection claims are based on Paul’s claims in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-9, then we must also accept that these same gospels claims are based entirely on Peter’s [& possibly James’] unverified hearsay claims, made in Jerusalem some 5-6 years after the alleged resurrection. As indicated earlier [see section dealing with Habermas’ third point], at best, this means the resurrection claims found in the gospels are based on unverifiable claims, and at worst, it means these resurrection claims could be based on downright lies.

Christianity also fails to explain the existence of the gospel gap, a problem that has plagued Christianity for centuries. The gospel gap is the 40-65 year gap between the alleged resurrection c 30 AD and the appearance of the four canonical gospels c 70-95 AD. Scholars & apologists readily acknowledge the existence of this gospel gap, but so far none have successfully explained its existence.

Given the above weaknesses of the orthodox model of Christianity, and its abject failure to answer many other obvious questions, perhaps the time has now come to discard the old orthodox model and embrace a new revised model that rectifies most, if not all, of these problems. Christians will never do this of course, because it means accepting a very unwelcome truth about the alleged resurrection, and for Christians at least, this is definitely a bridge too far . However, for those able to bring a little more objectivity to the table, my revised model of first century Christianity may prove more satisfying intellectually.

Details of this revised model can be found in an earlier blog called The Christianity Myth. I would also recommend reading Professor Taboo’s excellent in depth examination of Paul’s pivotal role in the development of early Christianity, especially his section called “The Gospel Jesus v The Jewish Jesus” which can be found in Saul the Apostate Intro to Part 2.

And finally, a few comments triggered by Habermas’ closing comments about a very early “deity, death, resurrection” gospel message, and his claim that this gospel message was being preached by all apostles more or less immediately after the alleged resurrection. My understanding is that the alleged “true nature of Jesus”, the one now portrayed in Nicene Christianity, took some considerable time to evolve. The fluidity of early ideas about Jesus’ true nature manifests itself in the four canonical gospels which were only adopted sometime after the first Council of Nicea in 325 AD. Mark’s gospel c 70 AD portrays Jesus as a simple envoy sent to warn of the impending apocalypse. Matthew’s gospel c 80 AD & Luke’s gospel c 85 AD both upgrade Jesus to the son of God, born of a virgin, and John’s gospel c 95 AD elevates Jesus to God, the word made flesh. How all this ties in with Habermas’ claims eludes me.

10 More Atheist YouTube Videos

A nice U-Tube collection selected by TheClosetAtheist

The Curious Atheist

Hello! You may or may not know that I am, and always have been, a big fan of YouTubers. Last January, I shared with you fifteen of my husband’s and my favorite atheist YouTube videos in order to take a break from all my coming-out horror stories. Well, I’m not having any coming-out drama anymore, but I’ve gotten back into watching lots of atheist YouTube again after taking a short break, so I’m taking this chance to keep you updated on what some of my recent favorites have been.

1. I’m an Atheist Activist in the Closet – Genetically Modified Skeptic

So I was slightly disgruntled that this video was published less than a month after I posted my list of my favorite YouTube videos last time… because this would have been #1. I highly recommend that you check out Drew’s video on hiding his beliefs—and his entire YouTube channel—from…

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I’m So Lucky

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been told how lucky I am to be still fit & active in my late seventies, with no signs [as yet] of any of the many debilitating physical diseases and mental illnesses that seem to afflict most people of my age. And yes, people who say I’m lucky are right. I really am lucky. Lucky that I can ignore my early morning aches & pains and force myself to do my little routine workout before getting ready for the day. And very lucky in deed, that come rain or shine, I can force myself to go out everyday [well almost] for a brisk three mile walk. And whilst out on these walks, I’m amazed at how lucky I am to be able to walk on pass those two eating establishments offering reasonably priced all day breakfasts consisting of bacon, eggs, sausages chips & baked beans. Well lucky on most days anyway. Occasionally my luck runs out, and I find myself having to endure one of those delectable brunches.

Most of the time, however, my luck holds and I return home ready to force myself to eat more sensible food. But don’t get me wrong. I’m no veggie. I like meat & junk food as well as any man, but because I’m so lucky, I’m usually able to resist the temptations to snack all day on crisps & chocolate etc and lucky enough to be able to force myself to eat a more healthy diet. And come the evening, whilst relaxing in front of the goggle box or listening to Classic FM, my luck prevails and I’m able to force myself to reach for my mini dumbbells, ready for an upper torso work out whilst enjoying the entertainment.

So yes, when all is said and done, I really do feel very very lucky. But my two luckiest breaks both occurred back in 1983 when I got married & settled down. Both of these lucky breaks resulted in dramatic changes to my lifestyle. Lucky break number one occurred when I finally managed to quit smoking [some 30-40 a day for over 25 years]. Lucky break number two followed shortly afterwards, when I managed to give up my serious drinking habit [some 6 pints a day on weekdays and 10 pints a day at weekends]. I say lucky enough to give up serious drinking deliberately, because I still enjoy a couple of pints every now & then. But the funny thing is, neither of these lucky breaks left me feeling any better off financially. Guess that’s married life for you.

So, although none of us can escape the fact that we are all basically products of chosen lifestyles that dictate what we do/don’t do & dictate what we eat/don’t eat, only we lucky ones seem able to make the right choices. The rest, the unlucky ones who seem to live on junk food diets and adopt sedentary lifestyles, have to accept the inevitable consequences. If you just slob around and eat nothing but shit most of the time, be prepared to look shit & feel shit in later life,.

Life really is so unfair.

 

The Firebrand — via Rdxdave’s Weblog

The last paragraph of Rdxdave’s blog says it all.

//We shouldn’t disrespect people just because they think differently than us. We can disrespect the ideas, but purposely attacking their person just because of their ideas? No. Fight the idea because ideas can be changed as rare as that is//

 

Getting more involved in an atheist/skeptic group has reawakened some of the harder disparities within a single movement. While everyone seems to have the same general goal, the method of getting there seems to always be in dispute. This is quite important because how you get to a place will no doubt speak to the […]

via The Firebrand — Rdxdave’s Weblog

7 Tips for Closeted Atheist Teenagers

The Curious Atheist

Over the years, I have received a lot of emails and messages from other closeted atheists asking for advice. Most of these messages have been from atheists in high school, wondering what to do in regards to having this secret among Christian friends, parents, and church members. Thanks to a tweet from Godless Iowan, I decided that compiling my advice together could hopefully prove helpful for at least one of my younger readers.

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Religiosity v Objectivity

Just a couple of quick points following on from the religiosity spectrum concept introduced in my last blog 

First point. I think it’s fair to say most people can be classified either as needy theists, passive theists or non theists. Needy theists are those with a strong intrinsic need to believe what they do believe & they often have great difficulty understanding why others do not share their beliefs. Passive theists are those who blithely follow where their parents lead, and they seem happy to just accept what they are told without too much questioning. Passive theists presumably tailor the extent of their belief & the depth of their belief  to match their own intrinsic needs. Non theists have a natural immunity to all religious influences, & eventually they come to view all religions with sceptical disbelief. They often have great difficulty understanding why others believe what they do believe.

Second, and slightly more contentious, point. I think it’s fair to say that needy theists with strong intrinsic needs to believe cannot possibly remain objective when assessing the veracity of the available evidence. They will automatically classify “evidence” as relevant/true or irrelevant/untrue according to how it fits in with their intrinsic needs. More often than not, they will do this completely unconsciously. Therefore, needy theists will  always end up finding the evidence/proof they so desperately need. Only non theists who are immune/indifferent to religious influences can hope to assess the evidence in a realistic & objective manner. They alone have no emotional baggage invested in the final outcome. They alone have no interest in preserving the status quo.

My apologies to those who think this smacks of grandmothers & eggs but there are still some people out there who just don’t get it.