Episode 42 presents the “minimal facts” approach to the resurrection of Jesus.
This episode doesn’t just present the argument in order to persuade you, it’s also meant to show you what the argument is like so that you can use it yourself (if you find it persuasive of course). It starts out with four facts granted by the majority of New Testament critics, and then works towards an explanation of those facts.
In this episode I refer to other blog posts and podcast episodes, and as promised here are links to those:
Episode 19: Osiris and Jesus
Is there No Evidence that Jesus Even Existed?
Is there No Evidence that Jesus Even Exited? Part 2
Is there No Evidence that Jesus Even Exited? Part 3
- Episode 038: Zeitgeist
- Episode 019: Osiris and Jesus
- Please update your links
- Internet Sceptic Meets Real World: Reginald Finley and Bart Ehrman
- Hey Glenn, why are we always waiting for stuff?
43 thoughts on “Episode 042: The Minimal Facts Approach to the Resurrection”
Is there any chance that you will do transcriptions of your podcasts? I’d like to read them (rather than listen).
Hi Alex – While I do prepare my podcast in script form, they’re generally not really “transcripts” to be read. For example I might have a part that says [elaborate] where I’ll offer some comments off the cuff. So the short answer is no.
Some of the scripts are written in a more polished form than others. Is there a particular episode you have in mind?
This one in fact, although given that I greatly enjoy reading your stuff, any and all would be appreciated
Thanks for summarizing the minimal-facts approach Glenn. It has been some time since I considered it and I found had forgotten a few things.
So far I’ve only listened half way through the podcast, but I’ll get the other half later today. I had some minor quibbles I’d like to comment on though. In the podcast you make it seem like Carrier is pulling his model out of the blue, but as far as I know it he based it on studies of the ancient world-views regarding what happened to people when they died. The way you presented it, made it sound as if it was a purely ad hoc explanation. I could be wrong of course, so feel free to correct me.
The minimal facts approach has been on my mind for some time. I’m a naturalist, so I’m obviously looking at this argument ‘from the outside’. I hope my comments will be valuable for that reason. If I have to figure out if Christianity is true, then this will be one of the most important things to consider.
Personally, I’ll admit that I don’t exactly trust the broad majority of new testament scholars, mostly because I’m told that they tend not to treat the stuff the same way they’d treat regular historical texts. Whether conservative or liberal, that they treat it differently than they would other sources sets off alarm bells in me. Ever since I’ve heard about the Jesus Seminar deciding what Jesus had said, by voting, I’ve felt rather disillusioned. And with conservative scholars have their own bias to add to this. Of course this is not an argument against the minimal facts approach, this is just a personal explanation for why I feel a bit of a hesitation on the subject. I wouldn’t dispute any of the minimal facts, but I still feel a bit unsure about them.
On Paul receiving doctrine in 35 that was formulated (much?) earlier, you quoted someone who said it was written down ‘a few months after Jesus death’ or something to that effect. It seems the date of the formulation of the early doctrine is getting earlier and earlier every time I hear about it. I guess next time we’ll be down to ‘weeks after Jesus death’. How can it be so early dated when there’s literally no sources, except the gospels and the letters all of which are from a later date? Perhaps you can help me bridge this gap in my understanding, but it looks to me like some biased guess work to say something so specific. Especially if you want to use it as a fact, and not just a reasonable conclusion.
And finally about the explanation that has the broadest scope and greatest plausibility, here’s an interesting parallel I’ve been thinking about. I spent a lot of time years ago investigating UFO and alien visitation claims. I was a believer in that stuff. Now there are plenty of examples of sightings of UFOs that can be attributed either to weather phenomenon, or constellations, or the moon, or lights from man made objects such as airplanes, weather balloons, kites, military flare drops, in addition to birds and other mundane phenomenons. There are however some sightings that, assuming the reports are correct, we don’t have any mundane explanations of. Some of these stories are only a couple of years old, and are gleaned from eye witness testimony revealing embarrassing facts, as well of sometimes coming from people who used to be “skeptics”. There’s an interesting case where several police cars from across a county simultaneously chased after some strange light in the sky. Again with no explanation. On top of a handful of such strange unexplained stories, you have a seven foot stack of blurry and shaky camera recordings, noisy photos, log reports about odd radar sightings, etc… All of which have we can give an explanation, using only the mundane things we are aware of. A UFO believer would say that all of those things can be simple explained, if we accept the “modest” suggestion that aliens are visiting us in saucer like crafts. They claim it would also then explain other phenomenons such as abduction stories. Whereas the skeptics who wish to ‘hide from the terrible conclusion’ need to use hundreds of different explanations depending on the circumstances, whereas the UFO believer simple has to claim that it was a genuine visitation.
The simple reason (among others) I don’t accept that claim of ‘alien visition’ is that the concept of ‘alien visitions’ isn’t a simple proposal at all. It consists of a large complex of ideas, each of which has to be simultaneously true for it to work. For the same reason I’m not sure I can buy into traditional theism, to speak nothing of the theological worldview of Mere Chritianity, just from that argument. No matter how you cut it, or how far down you whittle the theology to make it as simple as possible to have something like God, raising an a jewish apocalyptic preacher like Jesus from a state of death to back to a state life, its still a huge thing to arrive at from just the minimal facts approach.
I think it might work as a case for Christianity if something like Traditional Theism could be shown to be true independently of the Minimal Facts approach. In fact, in the later chapters of The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus Habermas and Licona do just that. But all things being said, I am impressed by the argument. Its exactly the sort of thing I would consider a proper argument for the truth of Christianity.
Carrier’s view of the resurrection is certainly an oddity in New Testament scholarship. Any studies he did of the ancient world may indeed have been studies about beliefs on spiritual experience after death, but his conclusions certainly don’t sit well with Judaism prior to the second century (namely, the crucial period in question). Virtually nobody – believer or otherwise – in New Testament scholarship would back Carrier’s claims, and in my view he’s simply out of his depth in a field of study not native to him, with a whopping great agenda.
“How can it be so early dated when there’s literally no sources, except the gospels and the letters all of which are from a later date?”
Well, Paul’s written formulation in his letter was early-mid fifties. But he makes it clear that he’s relating what the Apostles passed on to him. We know from Paul’s travels that he met with the Apostles in Jerusalem in around AD35, and that’s the likely source of the traditions that the Apostles first passed on to Paul at the outset of his missionary work, sort of making sure he was on the level with them.
It probably wouldn’t have been “written down” within months of the events themselves, but as a creedal tradition that’s probably when all the events were linked into one repeated saying (namely, a creedal formulation). But it’s true that this is speculative. To be safe we could say within a year or two. The important fact that we certainly can be sure of is that Paul, who met with the Apostles in the mid 30s, can appeal to a tradition of belief that they passed on to him, which does suggest a very early origin.
As for the UFO explanation, the issue is going to be whether or not the explanation is contrived, fits well with what we know and explains the facts better than other explanations. I have my doubts about all of these. But you’re right, the deciding factor in how much we let the evidence lead us towards a proposed conclusion is what we already believe. Naturalism is, I think, an especially strong thesis and overcoming it takes, quite frankly, more than evidence.
Minimal facts of David Koresh:
1. We have multiple and independent attestation of his life and death in 1993, and no reputable Koresh scholar dispute this.
2. We know he is buried at Memorial Park Cemetery, Tyler, Texas. No reputable Koresh scholar disputes this.
3. His follower believed that he has spiritually raised from the dead and he is a God. We can believe that because the early origin of their belief. His followers were also ostracized. Consensus of Koresh scholars that his resurrection is the best explanation to his followers beliefs.
“My point is that these facts are historical and scholars agree on these”. Christians “address this extraordinary haste and they don’t take time to look at these facts.”
The best explanation is that David Koresh was risen from the dead, and is God and, the creator of the universe.
Peter, the trouble is quite clearly with fact 3, for a couple of reasons that aren’t too hard to appreciate.
Firstly, it’s simply not a fact. None of Koresh’s followers, as far as I know, started claiming that he had been raised to heaven or that he is God and creator of the universe. You’ll have to provide quotes from them. In fact as an offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventists, follower’s of Koresh would never have called Koresh God. So it’s just not a fact in need of explanation, since it’s no fact at all.
Secondly, the fictional scenario you describe is inadequately described. Merely forming a belief about a person’s invisible, undetectable actions in heaven is one thing. But how they describe the acquisition of that belief is another. In the case of Jesus you’ve got people who suddenly formed the belief that they had seen him in the flesh again. It’s hard to be mistaken that you’ve had that experience. In the fictional scenario you invented, we don’t know how people formed this belief or what they say led to this belief.
You claimed in your podcast that people attacking Christian minimal facts are ignorant, yet you have not done your homework how Koresh’s followers are going. Start by Googling: “18 years after Waco, Davidians believe Koresh was God”.
“follower’s of Koresh would never have called Koresh God”
Amazing how quickly religious leaders become God after they die… Does this ring a bell?
“Merely forming a belief about a person’s invisible, undetectable actions in heaven is one thing”
Who said David Koresh’s actions are undetectable today? He blesses his people as they testify that. Surely they are not mistaken.
“In the case of Jesus you’ve got people who suddenly formed the belief that they had seen him in the flesh again. It’s hard to be mistaken that you’ve had that experience.”
Glenn, you did not have that experience. For you it is enough to read old writings telling about third party experience. And you believe this. (but selectively; just religious experiences and eyewitnesses of your own religion, just like Koresh’s follower)
Koresh’s followers are like Christians before Paul. They had traumatic experience, initial revelation of Koresh being God and now some writings. They now need a strong leader having visions like Paul to make the next step. Perhaps they will have 20 Gospels about Koresh by year 2100 and by year 2150 they will select the best four of those. Their canon will be closed by year 2400. They will formalise their first creed by 2150 and revised by 2360. Who knows what they will believe in year 4000 about Koresh.
Peter, I like your Koresh example but Haile Selassie is right on the money. In this regard, I commend a reading of Edmund Standing’s Against Mythicism: A Case for the Plausibility of a Historical Jesus Think 24, Vol. 9 (Spring 2010): http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayFulltext?type=1&fid=7191800&jid=THI&volumeId=9&issueId=24&aid=7191792
Those who remain of Koresh’s followers do not believe he has been resurrected yet:
If you can find any documentation that Koresh followers believe he was “spiritually resurrected,” I would like to see it.
I believe the article you were referencing is this one:
Note that the article makes no mention of any postmortem encounters or even postmortem subjective experiences of Koresh. You said “he blesses his people as they testify that,” yet I could not find any documentation of people claiming a blessing from Koresh after his death, or even any indication that he maintains a spiritual or existential presence.
Even if his followers testified to subjective experiences of “blessing” from an invisible Koresh, this would not be comparable to the experiences of the early Christians. In the latter case, the apostles’ experiences led to a steadfast belief that a deceased person had been physically, bodily raised from the dead – an event which none of the apostles were anticipating.
You seem to suggest that the “initial revelation of Koresh being God” followed the “traumatic experience of Waco,” but in fact it appears that the belief that Koresh was God or the Messiah is based entirely on his teachings and was fully in place before his death. Again, I cannot find any documentation of postmortem encounters with or experiences of Koresh, or any post-Waco events or miracles that Koreshites claim vindicate him as the Messiah.
In other words, the example of David Koresh is entirely incomparable to that of Jesus of Nazareth, and does not contain nearly as many facts that require an explanation.
Peter, with Dave I have to simply put it to you that actually you’ve got it wrong. If there are some people in existence somewhere saying that David Koresh is God, they certainly are not representative of either David’s own teaching (which denied any such claim) or of the continued beliefs of those associated with him who are still alive now. Compare that with Jesus of Nazareth, all of whose followers suddenly came to believe that he was alive again. You’re genuinely reaching here.
You’re also quite obviously reaching for a false comparison with people who have subjective experience of somehow… sort of … being blessed and maintaining that David is somehow behind those blessings on the one hand, and people who actually came to believe that they had seen Jesus again in the flesh. The cases are not alike in terms of subjectivity and available explanations.
I realise that it would be rhetorically useful to be able to draw this comparison, but it falls flat in every way.
Well, well, well! I just Googled “18 years after Waco, Davidians believe Koresh was God.” I read the article of that title that Peter refers to. Peter claims that this article will show that actually Koresh’s followers did believe that he was God, and did believe that he had been spiritually raised from the dead. I note two things.
First, in the article that Peter cited as proof of his claim, none of David’s followers who are quoted call him God. Zero. The only person to make that suggestion is the author of that article in an aside comment NOT drawn from an interview.
Secondly, there is no suggestion – none – involving the term “resurrection.”
The closest thing is this: “Branch Davidians believe that when people die, they are simply “unconscious,” waiting to be resurrected so they can travel to a kingdom cut off to nonbelievers.”
But the thing is, this is what ALL SDAs believe. It’s no more than the doctrine called “soul sleep,” the belief that when you die you go nowhere, remaining in the grave until the future resurrection of the dead. Now of course, belief in an invisible spiritual resurrection to heaven without seeing the person in the flesh is not at all a good comparison to make with the one claimed by the first followers of Jesus anyway, but even THIS claim about Koresh’s followers is bogus. The article that Peter refers to therefore proves that his claim is untrue. The do not believe that Koresh was spiritually resurrected.
In short Peter, having checked your source it now appears that you may have actually lied to make your comparison. Is there anything you’d like to add?
I listened to this podcast and enjoyed it. It has opened my mind to new ideas.
“Those who remain of Koresh’s followers do not believe he has been resurrected yet”You are wrong because you don’t read your own links. So:
– 2003 article states that during early 90’s “God spoke through him [Koresh] and then early 00’s “they believe that manifestation of God was David Koresh”
– 2010 article explains how “they affirm to each other that David Koresh was God in the flesh”, “David is the messiah, and he’s coming back” and “Branch Davidians believe that when people die, they are simply “unconscious,” waiting to be resurrected so they can travel to a kingdom cut off to nonbelievers.
Early followers called Jesus as “servant of God” (Didache). Then suddenly in Gospels Jesus, now son of God, is promoted to be God. Does this escalation of belief ring a bell?
So Koresh was not part of “people” because he is God and his people are waiting for his second coming… Does this belief ring a bell?
“the apostles’ experiences led to a steadfast belief that a deceased person had been physically, bodily raised from the dead – an event which none of the apostles were anticipating.”
So? Koresh followers experienced something which lead them to believe Koresh is God. Their numbers are increasing even when they are ostracized. You can read all about their experience once their Gospels are written by the year 2070 and scribes have modified them by year 2200. I bet those Gospels will have amazing stories which Koreshian apologist will defend by year 4000. Who knows maybe then they also believe in a “physical body” that can go through walls?
I find it interesting that you did not comment “You claimed in your podcast that people attacking Christian minimal facts are ignorant, yet you have not done your homework how Koresh’s followers are going.” Then you rely on Dave’s comments which he got wrong. Please don’t ever complain that someone has not done their homework on Christianity.
“You’re also quite obviously reaching for a false comparison with people who have subjective experience of somehow… sort of … being blessed and maintaining that David is somehow behind those blessings on the one hand, and people who actually came to believe that they had seen Jesus again in the flesh.”
If you would take your Christian apologist hat off you would see from outside experiences of Koresh’s and Jesus’ followers were about the same and lead to same kind of outcome. You just reject Koresh postmortem actions just like non-Christians reject Jesus’ postmortem actions. Please study a bit Koresh’s followers to understand what it takes to start a religion and you’ll understand a lot more about your own religion.
“First, none of David’s followers cited in that article call him God. Zero.”
The article said: “Sheila Martin and Clive Doyle have gotten together to pray and discuss the Bible. They affirm to each other that David Koresh was God in the flesh.”
Did you even read the article?
“Compare that with Jesus of Nazareth, all of whose followers suddenly came to believe that he was alive again.”
All of them? yeah right, Christian did keep writings of people who doubted like Celsus. And Jews just ignored the fact that temple curtain was ripped, darkness fell when Jesus died and long dead saints came back alive and lived happily ever after. Weren’t they like Trypho the Jew?
“Branch Davidians believe that when people die, they are simply “unconscious,”
Remember Koresh himself is God and does God die?
So now the point of my short comparison to Koresh:
This Habermas/Graig/Peoples 7/5/4 minimal facts approach is just childish and silly. Who cares of X lived, died, had empty or full tomb, had historical records or what their followers believed. Always the last “fact” about X is supernatural and when people buy all the previous plausible facts they are fed the last one. This is an old car salesman bate and switch trick only works if you already believe it. Just like non-Christians don’t believe the last minimal Christian fact, Christians challenge the last item of any non-Christian minimal facts.
BTW now Koresh’s followers can point to your blog as hostile and independent witness of their belief. Now they have better and earlier hostile record than Jesus had!
One more thing: I don’t think Koresh’s followers believe yet that He created the universe. They can add that statement to their canon around year 2400. Just like Christians added “God who created all things through Jesus Christ” to Ephesians 3:9 and some Bibles still have it there (NKJV, KJV, WEB, WBS; check bible.cc website).
Peter, why are you saying that I relied on Dave’s comments? I did no such thing. I read the article you referred to from start to finish. This should have been clear to you from the fact that this is just what I stated. Remember: “Well, well, well! I just Googled “18 years after Waco, Davidians believe Koresh was God.” I read the article of that title that Peter refers to.” And now you assume I was just making it up, didn’t read it at all, and relied on Dave?
Your own quotation actually agrees with my reading of the article, showing that the only person who suggested that anyone calls David Koresh God was the author, not anyone being interviewed. And now you, oddly, ask me if I even read the article. Just have a critical look at what you quoted, Peter. Read it again.
And as for David Koresh being spiritually resurrected, that’s falsehood #2. Nobody in that article made any claim like that. So your entire comparison was based on falsehoods.
But again I have to remind you, the prior issue here is what you’re trying to compare (even though your basis for comparison is a fabrication). Forming a belief about invisible things that you don’t claim to have seen is a very different from being willing to die for your claim to be an eyewitness to a physical event. A range of explanations may exist for the former that just doesn’t exist for the latter. This is the trouble with half-baked hasty comparisons like yours. You’ve not even put the slightest amount of thought into it.
As for your rhetorical quips about car salesmen – that really does seal the impression that you don’t actually have serious criticisms to make. When you decide to have a serious discussion about historicity, I’m keen.
“Those who remain of Koresh’s followers do not believe he has been resurrected yet”You are wrong because you don’t read your own links. So:
– 2003 article states that during early 90?s “God spoke through him [Koresh] and then early 00?s “they believe that manifestation of God was David Koresh”
– 2010 article explains how “they affirm to each other that David Koresh was God in the flesh”, “David is the messiah, and he’s coming back” and “Branch Davidians believe that when people die, they are simply “unconscious,” waiting to be resurrected so they can travel to a kingdom cut off to nonbelievers.”
I did read the articles, but I wonder if you did. None of the articles indicate a belief that Koresh has been resurrected. The 2003 article quotes a Davidian as saying that Koresh “is going to be resurrected.” That means that, by their beliefs, he hasn’t been resurrected yet. What about this is difficult to understand?
Then you said:
“Early followers called Jesus as “servant of God” (Didache). Then suddenly in Gospels Jesus, now son of God, is promoted to be God. Does this escalation of belief ring a bell?”
Actually, the Gospels concur that Jesus was a “servant”:
Mark 10.45. “For the Son of Man came not to serve but to be served, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
You seem to be suggesting that there was an “escalation of belief” between the writing of the Didache and the writing of the Gospels. But that assumes that because the writers of the Didache refer to Jesus as “servant” they must not have believed him to be in some sense God. But a Wisdom Christology would have allowed them to affirm both (see here: http://www.tektonics.org/jesusclaims/trinitydefense.html).
In any case, belief in Jesus’ bodily resurrection was in place very soon after Jesus’ death, prior to the writing of the Didache, so your point is not really relevant.
And then you say:
“Koresh followers experienced something which lead them to believe Koresh is God.”
Again, none of the evidence indicates that Koresh followers derive their beliefs about Koresh from something that happened after his death. Their beliefs appear to have been in place prior to his death.
You make a similar comment to Glenn:
“If you would take your Christian apologist hat off you would see from outside experiences of Koresh’s and Jesus’ followers were about the same and lead to same kind of outcome. You just reject Koresh postmortem actions just like non-Christians reject Jesus’ postmortem actions.”
You still have yet to show that Koresh is believed to have performed any “postmortem actions.” Please cite specific instances from any of the articles indicating that Davidians believe that Koresh has performed actions after his death. Even if the Davidians attest to subjective experiences of Koresh’s spiritual presence (which they don’t) this is incomparable to the early Christian disciples’ beliefs that they had had real space-time encounters with a man who had been raised physically from the dead and remained on earth for a period of time.
You also say:
“All of them? yeah right, Christian did keep writings of people who doubted like Celsus. And Jews just ignored the fact that temple curtain was ripped, darkness fell when Jesus died and long dead saints came back alive and lived happily ever after. Weren’t they like Trypho the Jew?”
I am not sure why Celsus is relevant, since he lived in the second century and was not a contemporary of Jesus. The ripping of the Temple curtain, the darkness at the crucifixion, and the resurrection of the saints were never the basis for the disciples belief in Jesus’ resurrection, so the fact that the Jews at large did not deduce a belief in the resurrection from these events is irrelevant.
And then this statement:
“This Habermas/Graig/Peoples 7/5/4 minimal facts approach is just childish and silly. Who cares of X lived, died, had empty or full tomb, had historical records or what their followers believed. Always the last “fact” about X is supernatural and when people buy all the previous plausible facts they are fed the last one. This is an old car salesman bate and switch trick only works if you already believe it. Just like non-Christians don’t believe the last minimal Christian fact, Christians challenge the last item of any non-Christian minimal facts.”
You appear to be suggesting that the last “fact” of the minimal facts argument is the resurrection of Jesus itself. But this is not the case. The resurrection is a CONCLUSION as to the best explanation for the minimal facts derived from critical historical study.
With regard to this supposed parallel between Jesus and Koresh, it is important to keep in mind that apologists are NOT arguing that the mere persistence of belief in Jesus as the Son of God after his death is proof of his resurrection. The disciples might have affirmed that Jesus’s spirit had gone on into heaven to rest with the patriarchs, or that he would be resurrected at the end of time to complete his mission (which Davidians affirm of Koresh), or that he had experienced some postmortem divination akin to the Roman emperors. But they didn’t; they affirmed that their Messiah had been raised bodily, tangibly from the dead, leaving an empty tomb, and had sojourned for a brief period in the spatiotemporal realm. And in this way the story of early Christianity is utterly dissimilar from that of the Davidians.
The idea that there was an “escalation of belief” prior to the Didache, where Jesus was called son of God, is just bizarre. The earliest writings we have on Jesus are the writings of Paul, written in the 50s AD. Paul called Jesus the Son of God AND a servant.
I find it interested how much you fight other religion’s minimal facts approach, but plainly refuse accept that your “minimal facts” argument is silly.
“the only person who suggested that anyone calls David Koresh God was the author, not anyone being interviewed”
So your theory is that both CNN authors just made it all up. I guess according to your standard Jesus wasn’t God because he never said “I’m God” and he wasn’t against gay marriage because he never said “gay marriage is doom”.
You still imply that they believe Koresh was God but he is dead now. Strange.
“Forming a belief about invisible things that you don’t claim to have seen is a very different from being willing to die for your claim to be an eyewitness to a physical event.”
You are right. Koresh’s followers were willing to die for their beliefs and were eyewitnesses to a physical event. Modern Christians believe in things they haven’t seen.
I like how you talk about my “rhetorical quips” but then state “When you decide to have a serious discussion about historicity, I’m keen.” I think you are starting to like me.
“The idea that there was an “escalation of belief” prior to the Didache, where Jesus was called son of God, is just bizarre. The earliest writings we have on Jesus are the writings of Paul, written in the 50s AD. Paul called Jesus the Son of God AND a servant”
During the time of James the Brother and Didache tradition Jesus was son/servant (pais) of God like David (compare to Koresh 1993). 20-30 years later he was deified resurrected God and Messiah, a lot more than David (compare to Koresh now). By the time gospel of John was around Jesus was elevated to eternal God (Koresh year 2100) and later to a creator of the universe.
Just try to reason with the followers of Koresh, Haile Selassie and Sabbatai Zevi with your minimal facts and you’ll notice the brick wall and their own “facts”.
“The 2003 article quotes a Davidian as saying that Koresh “is going to be resurrected.” That means that, by their beliefs, he hasn’t been resurrected yet. What about this is difficult to understand?”
Note how in 2003 article does not state Koresh is God. 2011 article claims that Koresh is God.
Note the Christian escalation:
Servant of God (pais) -> Son of God (pais) -> God (eventually part of the Trinity) -> Creator of the Universe (Ephesians 3:9). Does this ring a bell?
“But that assumes that because the writers of the Didache refer to Jesus as “servant” they must not have believed him to be in some sense God”
Of course. The meaning of last supper in Didache is more primitive and not flesh and blood of Jesus. People using Didache did not think Jesus was God no matter what “Wisdom Christology” makes possible.
“In any case, belief in Jesus’ bodily resurrection was in place very soon after Jesus’ death, prior to the writing of the Didache, so your point is not really relevant.”
This is typical apologist assertion. Show me the evidence, not just a reference “scholarly consensus of people who believe like me” or “1 Cor 15 implies..”. Didache tradition is more primitive and more likely to earlier than Gospels. So evidence please.
“Even if the Davidians attest to subjective experiences of Koresh’s spiritual presence (which they don’t) this is incomparable to the early Christian disciples’ beliefs that they had had real space-time encounters with a man who had been raised physically from the dead and remained on earth for a period of time.”
Yes, experiences are different. Koresh’s believers experience their belief today and their eyewitnesses are still alive. Christian can read from a book about someone else’s experience. See how easily a charismatic religious leader becomes God while eyewitnesses with cameras are still alive.
“I am not sure why Celsus is relevant…”
Because Christians did not preserve writings debunking Christianity but they have to invent know-nothing Trypho.
“The ripping of the Temple curtain, the darkness at the crucifixion, and the resurrection of the saints were never the basis for the disciples belief in Jesus’ resurrection, so the fact that the Jews at large did not deduce a belief in the resurrection from these events is irrelevant.”
Those doubtful Jews just could link Jesus’ resurrection and saints raising from the dead left and right. They also forgot to record the temple curtain and darkness during the full moon. So these unbelievable events were bases of their belief NOT to believe in Jesus?
Jews rejected Jesus exactly like how you reject Koresh.
“The resurrection is a CONCLUSION as to the best explanation for the minimal facts derived from critical historical study.”
Ok let’s say you are right. Then what do you think is the best explanation that Koresh’s followers believe Koresh is God?
“You still imply that they believe Koresh was God but he is dead now. Strange”
No, Peter, that’s untrue. Have another read. I denied that they called him God. In fact I even gave you a theological reason for this denial: As Seventh Day Adventists they could not have believed that Koresh was God. Now you’re attributing to me claims that I clearly denied!
“You are right. Koresh’s followers were willing to die for their beliefs and were eyewitnesses to a physical event”
Peter, earlier your (fabricated) claim was that branch Davidians believe that Koresh was spiritually resurrected and is God. I pointed out that this is a) false and b) different in kind to the resurrection witnesses of the first century, since the resurrection witnesses of the first century formed a belief based on seeing something. And now you turn around and say that the followers of Koresh did they same – they saw a physical event! What? They saw Koresh resurrected as God?
You are not keeping your version of events straight.
This just gets sillier and sillier.
Yep. I’d just like the pod cast to progress beyond buffering and hear what Glenn has to say…
Ciaron, the player functions fine on the few computers I’ve tried. How many computers have you tried it on?
I wonder where the notion of late dates of the Gospels crept it? Why not assume rather, that they wrote very soon after the events? Here is an interesting take on it:
Drew Griffin, CNN:
“…Koresh, described by [Clive] Doyle as a “manifestation of God in the flesh.”
Ashley Fantz, CNN:
“Davidians believe Koresh was God”
“I denied that they called him God”
“If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove that they should value it?”
Because early Church father did not quote Gospels just Paul. Because they reflect anti-Marcionite views. Because Scholars think birth stories and GoMark and GoJohn endings were added. Because mid second century Justin still writes about different birth narrative (closer to Matthew). Because John is glued together from 3+ different texts and seams are clearly visible. Because of the content of Eucharist. Because…
The list is endless.
Glenn, I’ve followed your podcasts with interest but I’m just not sure about this one. Typically you state that the views expressed are not ness. the only way of thinking but here you close all the doors.
You seem to think that anyone who claims that Jesus didn’t even exist or die is not someone that you can have a discussion with. While I think that there was a historical Jesus, there are plenty of theories and different conclusions that others come to, often with allot of merit.
When we approach the topic with only one conclusion in mind we’ll end up dismissing these other theories out of hand as you do.
I’m happy to accept that Shakespeare was fictional or maybe didn’t write all of what is attributed to him, and discussing every possible angle adds to the debate.
You set up a straw man and mock it when proposing the hypothetical solution that the disciples dreamed up their visitations with a risen Christ.
I think you’ll find it refreshing to open your debate to all theories and discuss their merits in turn. A foregone conclusion is never a healthy thing.
Peter, I think you lack the ability (or perhaps in this case, the willingness) to read critically – plus I daresay you are wanting in a bit of honesty.
I went back to the article you referred to by CNN where Clive Doyle is interviewed (http://articles.cnn.com/2011-04-14/us/waco.koresh.believers_1_waco-sheila-martin-david-koresh?_s=PM:US). Nowhere in that article is Doyle quoted as saying that Koresh was God manifested in the flesh. Yet you now suggest that I didn’t read the evidence.
After that I searched and found a different article, the one you have now quoted: http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2011/04/11/%E2%80%98cnn-presents-waco-faith-fear-and-fire%E2%80%99-debuts-sunday-april-17/88981/ It is dishonest of you to imply that I neglected to read the line that you quoted, when it is actually from a different article. But even in this new article, nowhere is Doyle interviewed. We don’t get to hear a single word from him. All you’ve got is the third party claim that this is what Doyle believes. As a Seventh Day Adventist however, this claim is highly dubious, and I’d want Doyle’s word before believing it. But even in the (very unlikely event) that this is true, you’d have one person. But your claim was much larger than that. Remember, you said:
“His follower believed that he has spiritually raised from the dead and he is a God. We can believe that because the early origin of their belief.”
I assume that you meant “followers” rather than “follower.” Now, this is a claim about all of his followers, or at least his followers in general. But now that I have held you feet to the fire and required evidence, you’ve retreated to the much smaller claim that a reporter claimed that one of Koresh’s followers said that he was a manifestation of God (and your claim about resurrection has slipped away). If nothing else, I suppose I have made you slightly more careful, and I’m sure you won’t be repeating your claim about Koresh’s followers again. You’re welcome.
So, to recap:
First and foremost, the beliefs you (incorrectly) describe on the part of Koresh’s followers are different in kind from those of the first followers of Jesus. The beliefs you describe are beliefs that were not formed on the basis of having witnessed anything. You don’t, for example, witness the fact that a person is God, and you don’t witness an invisible spiritual resurrection. By contrast, Jesus’ first followers were actually in a position to know whether or not they had witnessed anything, and quite clearly believed that they had. So the comparison fails. This alone ends the argument.
But secondly, the facts about Koresh’s followers just aren’t facts. You claimed that they believe that he was spiritually resurrected into heaven, but there’s not a single source from them saying anything of the sort. As for the claim that they thought/think he was/is God, this fails too. As Seventh Day Adventists this is a pretty far fetched claim from the outset, and the very best evidence you were able to scrounge together was a reporter claiming that one individual thought that Koresh was a manifestation of God in the flesh. Inadequate evidence to say the least! No interviews, no creeds/statements of belief, no corroboration, nothing.
In short, the comparison fails in every possible way to serve as a counter example.
The truth is, I don’t think there’s even the slightest merit to the view that there literally wasn’t a historical Jesus who was killed. It’s true that I like to keep an open mind where intellectually defensible options other than mine exist, but to give the “Christ myth” view any creedence in the name of keeping an open mind is, I think, intellectually foolish. Not a single professional historian that I am aware of denies the historicity of Jesus. It’s about as valid as holocaust denial or flat earth theory.
As for discussing the merits of theories, I posted some links in the notes above to my series on the historical Jesus where I take a measured, evidence based approach to that specific question.
Glenn, I thoroughly enjoyed this podcast! And I’ve enjoyed reading your back and forth in this comment thread 🙂
All those reasons smack of higher criticism. I know why HC take the Gsmas late: disbelief. My question pertains even to conservatives.
I could just as easily poiny out the chiastic structures of John and Rev as proof of their early dating. Your reasons only remind me of disbelief and nothing less.
Somewhat confused on the sources for the death of Jesus. What sources actually attest to or confirm the death of Jesus on the cross? I’m not saying that he didn’t die, I’m just wondering about the sources used that attest to his death. Thanks.
Hi Glenn! I enjoyed this episode. It was highly informative, and also your characteristic wit made it enjoyable as always.
My question, though, is in regards to our inferring the Christian God as the agent behind the Resurrection. If we are willing to allow the possibility of supernatural agents, then why must it be the Christian God? Perhaps it was something akin to Stephen Law’s Evil God, giving false hope to the disciples. Or Evil God produced a mass hallucination with the 500? Impossible physically, but Evil God could certainly accomplish this feat! Point being, is there a non-question begging way to posit the Christian God as the explanation when you could introduce a myriad of other supernatural explanations that explain the data equally well?
All the best, I love the show and blog.
Jonny, well I think that there are independent reasons to reject the Evil-God hypothesis, as discussed in my podcast episode on the subject. So that would put a stop to that.
But that aside, we can agree that if the evidence shows what it appears to show, then it affirms Christian theism. If it does not (and this would be the case if the evidence was all fake and we can’t, in effect, trust our senses on the matter), then perhaps it does not affirm Christian theism.
So the point of difference between the Christian theist and the evil-God theist here is whether investigating the facts and depending on the evidence we find is a way of getting at the truth. I submit that thr affirmative answer makes for a more parsimonious worldview as a whole, whereas the radical sceptic on THAT question is going to be inconsistent with himself when it comes to pretty much any other question. Indeed, in his book “Believing Bulls**t,” Stephen Law 9although not referring to the evil god challenge at the time) described this as “going nuclear,” destroying the very possibility of rational argument and tearing down all reasoning to the same, completely unreliable level. He also rejected that sort of argument, pointing out that it’s never sincere and those who raise it never live that way on other matters.
Fortunately, most people see this right away, and intuitively realise that the best way to get through life – and this issue – is to assume that we should follow what evidence appears to say unless we have a credible reason for thinking that it’s misleading.
If the Minimal Facts Argument is such good evidence for the bodily resurrection of a dead first century prophet, why do most modern, educated, non-Christians reject it?
First, I don’t see the force of the challenge. People fail to accept good cases.
Second, what’s your source on what educated Christians accept? A link to the research is fine.
I said NON-Christians not Christians.
Go to any Jewish or Muslim website and they will tell you that the scholars/experts of their respective religions believe that the Christian resurrection belief is a legend (or a lie).
The overwhelming majority of Christian, Muslim, Jewish historians and scholars believe that Caesar crossed the Rubicon and that Alexander the Great sacked the city of Tyre. There are no significant disputes regarding these historical claims.
Some conservative Christian apologists claim that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is just as good as these two events or any other event in Antiquity. But that is nonsense. If the evidence for the alleged bodily resurrection of Jesus was so good, more historians would believe it really happened. But with very few exceptions, the only historians/scholars who believe in the historicity of Jesus’ bodily resurrection are Christian—and many liberal Christian historians and experts doubt that Jesus was bodily resurrected! So Christians can’t even agree on the historicity of this alleged event.
The best that can be said of the evidence for the alleged bodily resurrection of Jesus is that it is disputed. And that is being generous. Gary Habermas’ “minimal facts” are just that—minimal. They do not help make this event any more believable.
Oh, well if you just mean that people who have religious beliefs that clash with Jesus’ resurrection don’t believe in Jesus resurrection, then I concede.
Humans are a bit like that. There are even people who don’t believe in the Big bang because they have religious beliefs that clash with it. Hahahahaha, ah… people. Gotta love them.
Obviously you’d be wasting my time by continuing to talk about what these people or those people believe. People believe stuff. Some of them are right and some are not.
You are right, Glenn. Let’s not waste our time examining what “these people” or “those people” believe. Let’s believe science. Science is the most accurate, most reliable, most reproducible method known to humankind for investigating the truths of our universe.
And science has not found any evidence of the reality of the supernatural. Not one shred.
Does that prove that the supernatural does not exist? No. But it does mean that modern, educated people can ignore spending any time worrying about the reality of the supernatural (or unicorns) until science discovers confirmatory evidence for its (their) reality. And according to statistics, that is exactly what millions of modern, educated people of all cultures are doing all over the world. Belief in the supernatural is dying, particularly in the educated West. Religion is dying in the educated West. Let’s redouble our efforts to bring a higher standard of living, a public university education, and easy access to the Internet to the rest of the world so that they too can escape the disastrous effects of supernatural belief.
Vacuous rubbish, Gary. Do better. Low effort, no thought, genuinely bigoted, and not on topic. As is my standard practice, such comments in future will not be approved. I only replied to this one so that people could see that the non-appearance of your comments is justified.
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