The Instigator
Bible-Defender
Pro (for)
Losing
14 Points
The Contender
CosmicAlfonzo
Con (against)
Winning
63 Points

The Resurrection of Jesus meets the criteria of historicity

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 14 votes the winner is...
CosmicAlfonzo
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/8/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 12,026 times Debate No: 14323
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (198)
Votes (14)

 

Bible-Defender

Pro

I believe that the Resurrection of Jesus is a historical event that probably happened. It is impossible to reach 100% certainty. However, that should not detract from the discussion since that is the way it is in all of history. One can only prove what probably happened. The historical methodology used to ascertain whether something is to be considered a historical fact is the same that secular historians use, is whether the reasons for accepting it outweighs the reasons for rejecting it.

"A position is demonstrated, when the reasons for accepting it significantly outweigh the reasons for not accepting it... A finding of historicity is essentially a default position, meaning that we have no other reasonable way to account for the presence of a story in the text."
-Robert Miller, "Historical Method and the Deeds of Jesus: The Test Case of the Temple Demonstration." Forum 8 (1992): 5-30

Others include Principle of Embarrassment, Enemy Attestation, Multiple Attestation, etc. Also if the theory explains the facts more so than alternative theories, then according to historical methods, it probably happened. Therefore the Resurrection stands on good ground. Take crime scene investigation for example. One collects all the facts, then has to come up with a theory as to what happened. The theory that takes into account all the facts without adding one theory upon another and that far outstrips alternative theories, then it is reasonable to believe that such and such happened. The reason why I used crime scene investigation is that because they use many of the same guidelines as historians do. For both are trying to discover what happened in the past.

As historian C. Behan McCullagh says in his book "Justifying Historical Descriptions":
"If the scope and strength of an explanation are very great, so that it explains a large number and variety of facts, many more than any competing explanation, then it is likely to be true."

Also: "But if the evidence is support of an explanitory hypothesis is strong, and there is no alternative hypothesis supproted nearly as well, it is reasonable to believe it is probably true" McCullah, "The Truth of History."p.23

That means if the facts remain, then my opponent has to provide an alternative explanation that accounts for those facts better than the resurrection.

For evidence, my case is cumulative. IF Jesus was crucified, IF his disciples honestly had what they considered to be experiences of the risen Jesus, IF it can be demonstrated that Paul had suddenly converted, IF James who was skeptical brother of Jesus suddenly converted, and IF the tomb was found empty, and IF the alternative theories are not able to provide an adequate answer for the aforementioned facts, that lends strong evidence for the Resurrection. It is my contention that each of these are indeed facts. In fact, they are admitted by most if not nearly all scholars both believing and skeptical to be historical events. It is also my contention that there are no alternative theories that can adequately account for the facts as well as the Resurrection. Therefore, the reasons FOR the accepting the Resurrection outweigh the reasons for rejecting it and thus meet the requirements for historicity, which is called argument to the best explanation.

As for naturalistic theories I will not comment on them as yet. I want to know what my opponent thinks happened. How does he account for those facts? I don't want to waste time and refute something that he himself might not believe in. However, whether my opponent wishes to discuss the particulars in the above mentioned facts or just go ahead as discuss what alternative he thinks is a better explanation, he too, according to historical methodology has to provide evidence. As historians admit:

"Third, evidence must always be affirmative. Negative evidence is a contradiction in terms--it is no evidence at all. The nonexistence of an object is established not by nonexistent evidence but by affirmative evidence of the fact that it did not, or could not exist."
-Hackett, "Historians' Fallacies", Harper: 1970 p.62

That means that if someone wants to posit an alternative theory, or say that, for example that Jesus wasn't crucified, but instead something else happened, then the burden is also upon him to provide historical evidence for that.

It is my contention that:

1.Jesus was indeed crucified and buried. This is attested to not only in the Gospels, but also by Paul and extra-biblical sources. And is admitted to as fact by almost all scholars.
2. Jesus' disciples believed that He rose from the dead and appeared to them. This is attested to by the fact that they willingly suffered for that message. That is accorded to in Acts, as well as extra-biblical sources and is also accepted as historical fact by nearly all scholars.
3. Paul, who was an enemy of the church suddenly changed. This is stated by Paul himself in a number of N.T. texts and have claimed to have seen the risen Christ. Usually people will convert on the word of someone else, that is a secondary source. But Paul's conversion is due to something that he himself experienced. That is a primary source. Again, almost all scholars accept this as fact.
4. James, the skeptical brother of Jesus, suddenly changed. This is attested to in the Bible, and extra-biblical source reports that he was a strict Jew. The Bible also testifies that after the Resurrection, James became a leader of the church.
5. The tomb was found empty. This is accepted by the majority of scholars also (Gary Habermas did a study on the state of scholarship to date. He reports that 75% of scholars agree that the tomb was indeed found empty).

So, the historical question remains. What happened that fateful Easter morning? What happened that could make disciples believe something so much that they willingly suffered and died for? What happened that changed the enemy of Christians (Paul) to suddenly convert without any prior motive to? What could have happened that changed the once skeptical brother of Jesus (James) into becoming a leader of the Christian church in Jerusalem? What happened at the tomb that emptied it?

It is also my contention that since there are no naturalistic explanations that can account for the above facts, the only explanation left is that Jesus has indeed been raised from the dead and therefore it is reasonable to believe that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. That is in accordance to historical methodology. And why is it important? Because it establishes the truth of Christianity. A resurrection, by its very nature is a miracle. Only God has the power over death. Jesus claimed to be divine. To back up that claim, he stated that he would give one proof, to raise himself from the dead. No other person in history made such a claim. There are other resurrections in the bible (though a rare event). However, it was always God working through a disciple or prophet. No disciple or prophet could raise himself from the dead. So even up to that point, many believed that Jesus was only a prophet. However, when Jesus made the claim He was going to raise himself, and the reason why he could do so is because He is God. Then resurrection is proof of His claim.

However, did He rise from the dead? It is my belief that it is historically reasonable to believe He did for that is where the facts point to.

CosmicAlfonzo

Con

I will point out that the reference from the source "Historical Method and the Deeds of Jesus: The Test Case of the Temple Demonstration." should not be taken seriously as accepting the historicity of a document is not the default position. Those who assert the truth of a historical document have a burden of proof that must be met. The same can be said for those who discredit the truth of a historical document. The default position is to suspend judgment. Because of the title of the book and the absurdity of the quote, I have not bothered to check to see if this was a quote mine. I assume that is probably the kind of message the author quoted was trying to get across.

Skipping ahead to the quote from David Hackett Fischer, if you read the rest of the quotation it becomes obvious that the context of this quote is very important, and this little instance of quote mining paints a misleading picture about what the original author meant, and it also helps my point about suspending judgment.

http://books.google.com...

Page 61 and onward. The section is titled “The Fallacy of Misplaced Precision”

Also, the quotation from C. Behan McCullagh is a paraphrasing of a method that he lays down, which I feel the need to quote as it makes for a perfect way to rebut my opponent's position.

http://en.wikipedia.org...

With the whole method laid down, right away if our hypothesis is that “The story of Jesus' resurrection is false” it holds a lot better than “The story of Jesus' resurrection is true”.

Without even looking at historical texts we can see how the second hypothesis conflicts with our own knowledge of how the world works. A man coming back to life after being dead for 3 days is something that has never observably happened. People who die do not come back from the dead. This already causes the hypotheses to fail at steps 4 and 6. It is not plausible, and goes against accepted beliefs.

At the same time, my opponent believes that his hypotheses can only be explained by something beyond naturalistic means. His argument hinges on the belief in a supernatural being that is not known to exist. Right there, this violates the 5th step in McCullagh's historical methodology.

Taking that all into account, it becomes obvious that the position of Jesus' resurrection being false is more probable than it being true. So the hypothesis of the resurrection being true fails at the 3rd step as well.

I would say that this previous argument alone places the belief of Jesus' resurrection firmly outside of the realms of historicity and into the realm of faith, however, I will go a step forward and show how the texts that deal with this particular “event” are unreliable.

First of all, none of the reports of the resurrection are from first hand sources. The gospels themselves were not written by anyone who had ever known Jesus, let alone saw him resurrected from the dead. This is a fact that scholars actually do agree on. The gospels also do one thing in particular beautifully, and that is contradict each other on the events surrounding the resurrection.

According to Matthew 28, an angel descended from heaven and informed the 2 Marys that Jesus was not there. According to Mark 16, the 2 Marys found a man dressed in white who told them that Jesus wasn't there. According to Luke 24, there were TWO men. According to John 20, Mary Magdalene alone went to the tomb, and there was no one there. The gospels all say that Jesus was resurrected, but when it comes to the details, all 4 of them contradict each other. Besides that, there are many other factual errors and contradictions between the gospels that make them less credible sources of information.

Outside of the gospels, the only other account of the resurrection that I can recall is one that is allegedly written by Josephus Flavius.. The authenticity of this writing is in great question, for many reasons.. According to Louis Feldman, a Hellenistic scholar who specializes in works of Josephus Flavius, wrote in his book “Josephus and Modern Scholarship”, that he counted 87 articles published during the period of 1937-1980 that question the authenticity of the Testimonium Flavius either in whole or in part. In addition to that, if you look at the testimony itself...

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com...

Flavius was a Jew. If he actually made this testimony, he would have been a Christian, something that he was definitely not. It would be absurd to take this as an authentic testimony. At the same time, Flavius certainly never witnessed any type of resurrection.

Wrote more, out of room.

This documentary on Youtube demonstrates that early Christian fanaticism isn't that special.

Debate Round No. 1
Bible-Defender

Pro

I thank my opponent for his effort, however it falls dreadfully short of a refutation. >The default position is to suspend judgment.<
Not so. If that were true, there would be very little left of ancient history to know about. Conversely, that reference is written by a historian. So, for my opponent to just snibly shrug it off doesn't help. Even in science, and criminal investigation, that quote applies. Something can be accepted as fact when the reasons for accepting it outweigh the reasons for not accepting it. Sorry, but that is how it is done.

My opponent then points to McCullagh and I say AMEN to that! However, I do not appreciate the implication that I am being intellectually dishonest. That is why I also supplied the other quotation from his other works. He is absolutely right. There are indeed 6 steps to test competing hypothesis! However, this only helps my case. I believe that it passes all those tests.

My opponent then tries to simply say that it fails certain steps in his tests. However, I noticed that my opponent failed to provide an alternative theory that passes those steps (by passing those steps, the theory accounts for the data).

The statement "The resurrection is false" is not a theory. For example, the five facts I provided in my opening, for the resurrection to be challenged, he would have to posit that something else happened (ie someone stole the body). And then we would see which theory passes those steps, my opponents theory or the resurrection.

Straw men. My opponent has committed a number of them. I am not arguing that I believe the resurrection because Josephus says so. I agree Josephus didn't witness the resurrection. However, no one doubts that he reports the death of Jesus. He was a historian in the first century. I agree he was certainly NOT a Christian. Are there interpolations in his accounts? Sure are. Does that mean the entire quotation is thrown out? Absolutely not. All a historian does is discount the portions that are questionable and take what is remaining. For example:

"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, ... He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. ...And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; ... And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."

Notice that the interpolations were taken out. So, what do we have? Yes still have Jesus condemned to die on the cross. Which is my first fact. Also, there is another version that surfaced in 1972, which is shorter, with no interpolations, which no scholars has trouble with. However there are arguments for the entire passage being authentic, but they are unnecessary. In fact his own reference to Louis Feldman holds to a partial authenticity of Josephus!

Another Straw man. Next he tries to disparage the gospels. I never said that I believe in the resurrection because the gospels says so. However I do hold that Jesus was crucified. Why? Well you have independent, early documentation of the fact, not just from friends, but enemies as well, which would be Paul, and Josephus. So, unless my opponent has superior historical evidence that points to the fact that Jesus wasn't crucified, my first point still holds.

Contradictions, yet another straw man. I am not basing my debate on the general reliability of the New Testament. Just on what is well evidenced historically. But again, it has nothing to do with my five facts.

>The gospels themselves were not written by anyone who had ever known Jesus,< Historical evidence of this claim is????

>First of all, none of the reports of the resurrection are from first hand sources.< And that automatically makes it unreliable? Evidence for this claim?.

And it can be easily shown historically that if they weren't they did have as their sources primary sources. For example, Paul himself writes that he interviewed the apostles. Paul is using primary sources. Paul's own letters where he describes his conversion is a primary source.

So, in the end, what do we have so far?
1. Jesus was died by crucifixion and was buried.
2. Jesus' disciples' had experiences that they believed was the risen Jesus
3. Paul, an enemy of Christians suddenly converted
4. James, the skeptical brother of Jesus, suddenly converted.
5. The tomb was found empty.

So far none of these has been refuted, and none of them are even supernatural!

So, back to the test of historiography. Does it pass the tests laid out by historians? My theory is that Jesus rose from the dead. To paraphrase William Craig:
1. It has great explanatory scope: it explains why the tomb was found empty, why the disciples saw Jesus alive etc.
2. It has great explanatory scope: it explains why the body of Jesus was gone, why people saw Jesus alive etc.
3. It is plausible: given the context of Jesus' own life an claims, the resurrection serves as confirmation of those claims
4. It is not ad hoc or contrived. it requires only one additional hypothesis, that God exists. And even then that needn't be an additional hypothesis if one already believes that God exist.
5 It is in accord with accepted beliefs. The hypothesis "God raised Jesus from the dead" doesn't in any way conflict with the accepted belief that people don't rise from the dead naturally. The Christian accepts that belief as wholeheartedly as he accepts the theory that God raised Jesus from the dead.

6. It far outstrips any of its rival hypothesis in meeting conditions 1-5. [Especially since no other theory has been given.]

So again to quote McCullagh:

"If the scope and strength of an explanation are very great, so that it explains a large number and variety of facts, many more than any competing explanation, then it is likely to be true."

Also: "But if the evidence is support of an explanatory hypothesis is strong, and there is no alternative hypothesis supported nearly as well, it is reasonable to believe it is probably true" McCullah, "The Truth of History."p.23

So far, I think I am on solid ground.


CosmicAlfonzo

Con

Fail dreadfully short of a refutation? I beg to differ. You claim that the default position is to believe a text as soon as it is found. This is both foolish and impractical. If historians were to actually do this, then basically any text lucky enough to survive instantly becomes historical fact.

This is patently absurd, and false. If you or anyone who reads this debate takes the time to actually read the link I posted to Fischer's book or even the link I posted to McCullagh's “Argument to Best Explanation”, it will be obvious that my opponent has a very poor grasp of historicity.

My opponent is right though when he comes to the conclusion that there would be very little left of ancient history to know about. This is true. There is very little of ancient history that we can honestly say we know about. We can only paint a vague picture. Up until fairly recent times, the human race has not been very effective at documenting moments in time. Even now, if some catastropic event were to occur, the people of 1,000 years ago would have trouble painting an accurate picture of life in contemporary times.

I am making no straw man of my opponent's position. His hypotheses is that Jesus of Nazereth rose from the dead after being deceased for 3 days. I explained how his hypotheses does not pass the rigors of McCullagh's methodology. My opponent has a very weak understanding of epistemology, and would rather put his faith in crack pot theologians and apologists(Like Gary Habermas and Robert J. Miller) than geniune historical scholars. There is a reason that you don't find the Resurrection of Jesus in history books.

I would also like to add that I never claimed that my opponent believed in the accounts because of the gospels, I simply stated that they are historical documents that reference a resurrection, and that they are unreliable. However, my opponent's username, his opening statement saying that his hypotheses is contingent on the super natural, and statement that if his hypothesis is true proves Christianity should make it pretty obvious that the gospels do play some part in my opponent's beliefs concerning this matter.

According to “Understanding the Bible” by Steve Harris, Contemporary Scholars date Mark(The earliest gospel) to being written around 70 AD. It is believed to have been written by a disciple of Peter named John Mark, though the majority of Scholars say it is unknown. Matthew and Luke derived most of their material from Mark. The author of Matthew is unknown, but most biblical scholars agree that it was not written by a disciple of Jesus. Luke was obviously not written by a disciple of Jesus, as this is plainly explained in the introduction. The author of the book of John has been debated as early as the 2nd century, but most scholars agree that it was probably not written by an actual disciple of Jesus.

However, all of this is irrelevant, because your own hypothesis does not meet the standards of historicity.

As for Paul, he claims that Jesus spoke to him in a vision, not physically, and the events surrounding the supposed meeting are fairly extraordinary. It is something that is firmly placed in the realm of faith, and outside the realms of historicity.

Anyway on to your little 5 points that you feel are not refuted.

Point 1 is not even known to be true.

Points 2,3, and 4 are refuted by the video I posted which shows the real inner workings of a cult, and exposes a lot of their psychology. Watch until the end. After the world was supposed to have ended, and they still believe. Right now, their cult leader is locked up for child molestation. He still has followers who believe.

Point 5 is not even known to be true.

You don't have a case at all. The historicity of Jesus' resurrection is not accepted by most scholars, and for good reason. It doesn't pass the rigors of historic methodology. Any claim that you make to the contrary is simply false. I do not even have to offer an alternative explanation. If we continue this discussion further, I will attempt to present a more plausible explanation.

That said, I don't feel I need to, as the historicity of this event has already been proven false. It relies on too many suppositions and things that contradict what we know about how the world works. To believe in the resurrection is a leap of faith. It goes against things we know to be true in the natural world(supernatural by definition), and for that reason alone it should not have historicity.

There is nothing inherently anti-Christian about this stance. A position that the resurrection lacks historicity is not a position that the resurrection didn't take place. It is a position that is neutral on the matter, and admits that we can't know if it really happened. This is a more honest stance than claiming the resurrection is historical, and this is the stance of any historical scholar who isn't a crackpot.

Debate Round No. 2
Bible-Defender

Pro

First, I am unable to watch the video so I cannot respond to it. I think you meant Hacket and McCullagh, I have both books.

>I explained how his hypotheses does not pass the rigors of McCullagh's methodology.< Where? And I have shown step by step that it does, especially since you have not provided an alternative explanation. However, as I said before, I am not able to watch the video so if you could write down what is so devastating I would be happy to respond.

>would rather put his faith in crack pot theologians and apologists(Like Gary Habermas and Robert J. Miller) than geniune historical scholars.< Ad hominem fallacy and a genetic fallacy. In answer they have PhD's from respectable universities. I'm sorry, where did you get yours?

The only part the gospels play a part is concerning the crucifixion, that the gospels report that the disciples had experiences that they believed were encounters with the risen Jesus. That is all.

Dates: Lets say my opponent is right. Does that mean it is automatically in error? Nope. You still have early documentation of the facts. And what of Paul's writings. Most scholars date 1Corinthians well before the gospels (and portions well before that!). However I am not convinced that this is the majority view concerning the dates of the gospels. But again, my argument doesn't depend on the general trustworthiness of the gospels.

As to the first fact, that Jesus died by crucifixion, does my opponent have historical evidence that is superior, ie earlier written by eyewitnesses or had as their sources eyewitnesses? Nope. So according to historiography, the reasons for accepting it outweigh the historical reasons for not accepting it.

The same can be said of the disciples sincere belief that they experienced the risen Jesus.

>As for Paul, he claims that Jesus spoke to him in a vision, not physically,< You still have to account for his sudden conversion.


>Point 1 is not even known to be true.< That is what we are trying to find out. What is YOUR evidence to the contrary? And is accepted almost universally by critical scholars.

As for the other facts they are also accepted almost universally. But since I cannot see the video I will not respond until my opponent lays it out in writting.

The Empty tomb. All my opponent says is that it is not known to be true (like the first). That is not a refutation. What are your evidences against it?

>It doesn't pass the rigors of historic methodology. Any claim that you make to the contrary is simply false.<That is what we are trying to discover isn't it. So far you have as yet disprove any of the facts above.

>That said, I don't feel I need to, as the historicity of this event has already been proven false.< Really? Where did you prove that. I have shown, according to the rules of historiography that you so aptly pointed out that the resurrection does indeed fit the criteria. However since you no longer want to provide an alternative that better takes into account the facts (none of which you have refuted thus far by the way)

>It relies on too many suppositions and things that contradict what we know about how the world works. To believe in the resurrection is a leap of faith. It goes against things we know to be true in the natural world(supernatural by definition), and for that reason alone it should not have historicity.<

Ah the "ste" argument again I fear. That didn't work so well last time. Which scientific discovery disproved the existence of the supernatural?


However according to McCullagh's fifth test:

5 It is in accord with accepted beliefs. The hypothesis "God raised Jesus from the dead" doesn't in any way conflict with the accepted belief that people don't rise from the dead naturally. The Christian accepts that belief as wholeheartedly as he accepts the theory that God raised Jesus from the dead.

So far it looks as though you are starting to reneg on your promise to provide an alternative theory that better fits the facts.

So, we are right back to where we started.

Jesus's death hasn't been refuted.
The disciples' sincere belief that they had experiences of the risen Jesus hasn't been refuted.
Paul's sudden conversion from enemy to believer hasn't been refuted.
James, the skeptical brother of Jesus, who suddenly converted hasn't been refuted
The Empty Tomb hasn't been refuted.

If you have refuted any of these, please point to the historical evidence you posted and I shall answer them.

All my opponent says pretty much is that my hypothesis doesn't meet the criteria for historicity. Yet, in my last post I have shown that it does, and with no alternative explanation to fit the above facts, according to historiography, it wins out.

>and admits that we can't know if it really happened.< If that is true, which it is not, then how can you be so sure that it didn't happen, hmmm? That is what this debate is about, to see if it is reasonable to believe in the historical resurrection.

>This is a more honest stance than claiming the resurrection is historical, and this is the stance of any historical scholar who isn't a crackpot.<

Ah, so if any scholar accepts (and there are plenty) the historical resurrection, they are crakpots eh? Great ad hominem. Any more logical fallacies you wish to commit? You are on a roll so far.


CosmicAlfonzo

Con

First of all, I did offer an alternate explanation. My alternate explanation is that the story is a myth, something that was made up. I myself already wrote step by step how the explanation that the story is false better fits the criteria of historicity than any other explanation. Now, that said, just because something doesn't meet the rigorous standards of historicity doesn't mean that it didn't happen, it just means that there isn't enough evidence for it to be considered history. It means that while it is unlikely that it ever happened, in all honesty, we don't really know.

While science has not disproved the existence of the supernatural, it has not proven it either. It is outside our realm of knowledge, and is thus epistemically improbable. This places it outside the realm of historicity as it already fails the fourth and sixth steps of McCullagh's method when put up against the claim that the resurrection simply didn't happen. Since the resurrection relies on the supernatural, which is not known to exist, you create an ad hoc scenario which causes it to fail against the opposing hypothesis on the fifth step as well. Everything else crumbles after that, which I already explained in my first response.

Also, no, I am not guilty of making an Ad Hominem or genetic fallacy, Gary Habermas as stated on his own website that he went to school to answer religious question. He has a P.H.D. In philosophical theology. Robert J. Miller has written plenty of religious books, but I can't find anything about this guy having a P.H.D. In anything to do with history, or anything for that matter. He certainly doesn't go by "Dr. Robert J. Miller". Neither of these guys are reputable historic scholars, and if they were real historic scholars, they would be the equivalent of the geologist who claims that the Earth is 2 miles thick. They are apologists, and like all apologists, bad ones, because they are defending a position that doesn't have any support. Apologists are only really effective when they try to explain one of their religion's many holes to someone who already believes, or wants to believe.

Saying that the writings of believing disciples carries weight to historicity is like putting weight to the letter a mother who writes to the dean of a school saying that her son didn't steal another kid's lunch money. This is no fallacy, this is just sense.

Now let me explain what the video I posted showed to hammer this point in.

The video is a documentary that follows a cult in the middle of New Mexico. This cult has been run by a man for 20 years who claims to be the son of god. The followers of the cult are devoted to the leader, and treat him as if he is what he says he is. The leader takes advantage of the women sexually, and even the husbands of these women allow it because the cult leader just tells them to take it up with god who is ordering him to do it, not him. The husbands of these women actually believe that the cult leader is helping them through this! The cult leader even slept with girls who were under the age of consent(he is now in jail because of it).

The leader of the cult predicted long ago when the cult first started that the world was going to end, and the documentary follows the cult in what they think are to be the end days.

When the last day on Earth finally comes, absolutely nothing happens. Despite this, the followers of this messianic figure still cling to him, and delude themselves into thinking that the world actually ended. Even with their cult leader in jail, many of the followers STILL believe in him.

What this demonstrates is that there is nothing special about the fanaticism of the early Christian church. Especially when you take into account that one of Jesus' failed prophecies was that the world was going to end before the generation living then had all passed away (Matthew 24). When you combine this message of a coming apocalypse with a mythical figure who rose from the dead and is able to bend the laws of nature at a whim, it doesn't seem too hard to believe that people would be dead serious about it. Hell, Paul always wrote his letters as if the end was coming soon.

Now if you want to know who is making the logical fallacy here, it is you. Your whole position is basically an argumentum ad ignorantiam. Also known as an argument from ignorance. Which, in case you are unfamiliar, is the act of asserting a proposition is true simply because it has not been proven false. You are demanding that I prove your argument false, when I do not have to at all. The burden of proof is strongly on you.

You have already lost this debate, you have absolutely no case at all. I do not feel the need to continue.
Debate Round No. 3
Bible-Defender

Pro

So, let me get this straight. Your whole thesis is that it was a lie. Ok fair enough. How does that stack up against the resurrection according to historiographical guidelines?

Since my opponent is pretty vague as to who lied about what I will assume he means the disciples are the one's that are guilty of mythologizing (though, by my opponents admission, he has no idea who did the mythologizing).

Does it explain the five facts as well as the resurrection? I do not think it does. Here is why.
1. It doesn't explain the death of Jesus. My opponent offers absolutely no historical evidence as to what "really" happened to Jesus. He implies that the gospel accounts are biased. But does bias automatically mean that they are in error? No. For example, the Jews of the holocaust, when writing of their experiences, are biased. But bias can be an asset. In fact it was their bias that ensures it's accuracy. As McCullagh points out: "The fact that people have certain preferences does not mean they cannot reach true, justified, conclusions about the past." – The Truth of History, 1998.

So, we are still left with early, testimony, written within the lifetime of witnesses. We also have testimony of those who were antagonistic (which would have the opposite bias) to Christianity, namely Paul and Josephus. And it is a fact admitted by almost all scholars who studied the subject.

As Bart Ehrman states: "One of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate." - Can Historians Prove that Jesus Rose from the Dead? (debate with Mike Licona, 2008)

2. It doesn't account for the disciple's sincere belief that they had experienced the risen Jesus. Their willingness to suffer torture repeatedly and martyrdom speaks of their sincerity. This is admitted by biblical and extrabiblical testimony that is early. Again my opponent offers no historic evidence for this.

Again to quote Ehrman: "Why, then, did some of the disciples claim to see Jesus alive after his crucifixion? I don't doubt al all that some disciples claimed this. We don't have any of their written testimony, but Paul, writing about twenty five years later, indicates that this is what they claimed, and I don't think he is making it up. And he knew at least a couple of them whom he met just three years after the event (Gal 1:18-19)" – The Historical Jesus: Lecture Transcript and Course Guidebook. p.261-262

3. It certainly doesn't explain Paul's sudden conversion from an enemy of Christianity to an apostle. How would you get Paul on board and lie about the resurrection?

Again Ehrman, "There is no doubt that [Paul] believed that he saw Jesus' real but glorified body raised from the dead." – Can Historians Prove that Jesus Rose from the Dead? (debate with Mike Licona, 2008)

4. It doesn't explain why James, the skeptical brother of Jesus during his lifetime, would suddenly convert. Again how would you get him to go along with the lie?

5. It doesn't explain the empty tomb. Was it empty or not?

My opponent then tries to say that the early church is that like the video. So he believes that the disciples, after Jesus died, opposite from feeling dejected that their Messiah, died a humiliating death, aside from feeling frightened that they had to hide, they decided to become fanatical. Why? What counter evidence were they faced with that they still said that they were going to believe anyway? And what of Paul and James?

It fails every one of McCullagh's tests for weighing hypothesis.

It lacks (1) explanatory scope and (2) explanatory power since it fails to account for the disciple's belief and Paul, as well James' and the tomb and is completely vague.
(3) It is not as plausible, especially if we live in a theistic universe.
(4) It is more ad hoc, since it must rely upon further presuppositions to account for Paul and James, as well as the tomb. As well as making more presumptions as to other why other enemies were silent.
(5) It goes against accepted beliefs, since these five are taken as facts by the overwhelming majority of scholars that have studied the subject. Even Bart Ehrman concedes the first three as historical facts, to include that Paul really believed that he experienced the risen, physical Jesus.
(6) It certainly does not outstrip the rival hypothesis.

Here is the resurrection hypothesis and McCullagh's tests.
1. It has great explanatory scope: it explains why the tomb was found empty, why the disciples saw Jesus alive etc.
2. It has great explanatory scope: it explains why the body of Jesus was gone, why people saw Jesus alive etc.
3. It is plausible: given the context of Jesus' own life an claims, the resurrection serves as confirmation of those claims
4. It is not ad hoc or contrived. it requires only one additional hypothesis, that God exists. And even then that needn't be an additional hypothesis if one already believes that God exist.
5 It is in accord with accepted beliefs. The hypothesis "God raised Jesus from the dead" doesn't in any way conflict with the accepted belief that people don't rise from the dead naturally. The Christian accepts that belief as wholeheartedly as he accepts the theory that God raised Jesus from the dead.

6. It far outstrips any of its rival hypothesis in meeting conditions 1-5. [Especially since no other theory has been given.]

Again with the ad hominem attacks on authors. But, what of McCullagh? He is an eminent historian, and a skeptical one at that. In his book "Justifying Historical Descriptions":"If the scope and strength of an explanation are very great, so that it explains a large number and variety of facts, many more than any competing explanation, then it is likely to be true."

Also: "But if the evidence is support of an explanatory hypothesis is strong, and there is no alternative hypothesis supported nearly as well, it is reasonable to believe it is probably true" McCullagh, "The Truth of History."p.23

Logical Fallacies: If what you say is true and I am arguing from ignorance, then as an investigator, I wouldn't be able to do my job. We use the same guidelines. We gather facts, then come up with theories that try to explain those facts, it is called inference. It, like history and science is based upon probability. We do not know with 100% certainty what happened. But that doesn't stop the historian, nor the investigator, nor the scientist from inferring from the facts as to what probably happened. It is hardly an argument from ignorance.

>While science has not disproved the existence of the supernatural, it has not proven it either.<

Then you cannot be dogmatic and say that it is impossible can you?

Ad hominems, yes you are. You are making personal attacks because, although they have earned their Ph.D.'s you call them crackpots. If I were to call Richard Dawkins an idiot, you would be in the right to charge ad hominems. Mr. Miller is a skeptical scholar of the Jesus Seminar who is a professor of religious studies, who earned his Ph.D. in Clearmont. In other words, he is one of yours. But I am not here to defend them, you can contact them and challenge them if you'd like. Habermas holds a Ph.D in history and Philosophy of Religion from Michigan State, and that from his own website… Guess you missed that part.

The next point he brings up is some sort of blind faith even in the face of contrary evidence. But this shoots his argument in the foot. If that is what happened to the disciples, it still shows their sincerity. Hence, they couldn't have consciously made it up. Not only that, but it still fails to account for Paul, James and the empty tomb.

So, according to historiography, my theory out performs my opponents, henceforth can be awarded as historically probable. Until my opponent gives an alternative that out performs mine or disproves any of my facts, then I am still on solid grounds according to historiography.
CosmicAlfonzo

Con

Ok, let me take a look at your "facts"

"Fact" 1. There is nothing special about Jesus dying. Either way, there are no reliable extra biblical sources that document this event happening. All extra biblical accounts were written long after the fact. While it is probable that a man named Jesus lived and was crucified, it doesn't pertain to this discussion. Paul didn't write when he was antagonistic to Jesus, so your point is misleading. Also, I already pointed out the controversy regarding the writings of Josephus.

On another note, if you are going to keep using the "it is a fact admitted by almost all scholars" point, back it up with statistics, because most of the things you claim that a majority of scholars back.. They don't. The burden is on you to back up these claims.

"Fact" 2. The video I posted which puts into perspective the psychology of those who are brainwashed into cults casts considerable doubt into the authenticity of these extraordinary claims. Either way, this "fact" isn't sufficient evidence to prove the historicity of the resurrection.

"Fact" 3. With the growing number of Christians popping up talking about how the world was going to be ending in their own lifetimes, it doesn't seem all that weird.

Also, that point that your quote is trying to put across is absurd, because it's easy to doubt that he believed what he saw. He could have been an ancient day Peter Popoff or Jimmy Swaggart. To say that there is no doubt is to deny the plausibility that he could be lying to further some kind of agenda or personal need. Assuming Paul was honest about meeting the risen Jesus, Paul himself never knew Jesus before his alleged crucifixion. He could have just as easily ran into a guy claiming to be Jesus.

That said, whether Paul believed or not, whether he was honest or dishonest is irrelevant. His testimony is not enough to justify the historicity of a highly implausible resurrection.

"Fact" 4. Facts 2, 3, and 4 are basically the same fact. Plenty of people converted to the side of Jesus. I'm sure there were many more skeptics who ended up converting. Hell, you claim to be one, and you didn't even live back in those days to witness these events. Do I need to go into detail about how it isn't even known if James the Just was literally the biological brother of Jesus? Also, what source do you draw from to say that James was a skeptic at all?

"Fact" 5. What is your evidence for an empty tomb? The contradicting gospel accounts? Either way, don't you think it is quite a stretch to say because a tomb is empty, that means that the deceased rose from the dead?

Yes, I contend that the early church in all likelihood was like the church in the video I posted. The early disciples probably didn't need counter-evidence, because like the people in the cult video I posted, they were more than likely highly deluded and unreasonable.

As for your putting this "theory" up against McCullagh's historical method, it simply does not stand against the "theory" that the resurrection is a myth. Once again, you completely ignore the fact that I have stated my "theory" twice now. I do not feel the need to pit it up against yours again, because it should be patently obvious to anyone with an inkling of sense that you are advocating a crackpot theory. I don't expect to convince you, but I hope the people voting on this debate have that sense.

I feel no need to attack McCullagh's method, and I feel that I am fully capable of dismantling your argument with the method that you prefer to use.

I also feel like it would be an insult to the intelligence of the people watching this debate to even address the rest of my opponent's post this round, because it is obvious that he doesn't really have a case, but I would like to establish how bad my opponent's understandings of the facts are.

I am not making an "Ad hominem fallacy". Especially when it is fairly obvious that the person has had an apologetic agenda straight from the start of their college career. Having a PhD does not guarantee you know what you are talking about. I'm discrediting him not for his belief in Christianity, but for believing that there is enough evidence to give the resurrection historicity status(which is clearly false). If someone with a PhD in Zoology told me that a bat was a bird, I'd call them a crack pot too.

Also, pardon me for the error on Habermas' degree, on the biography section of his website, he doesn't mention a degree in the "History and Philosophy of Religion", he just mentions "philosophical theology and the world religions.". I looked at his resume, and he does indeed mention that as his Doctorate Major being in the "History and Philosophy of Religion". This doesn't look like a degree in history to me...

http://religion.concordia.ca...

Which means you are probably unintentionally making an argument from authority. I hold the same opinion of Habermas.

As for Miller, It was a mistake for me to not look up this quote, because it is indeed taken out of context. First of all, this is a quote from Graham Twelftree(a biblical scholar obviously), and even that quote is missing a part in the middle. So you are not quoting Robert Miller technically, and saying so is misleading. Where did I find this? A book written by Habermas!

Look at the last paragraph of page 32 and go down....

http://books.google.com...

I'd be willing to bet that this book is probably where my opponent gets most of his faulty information, because if you go down to the sources.. You see that Habermas used the exact same cite that my opponent used for the Miller quote.

Either way, I extend my arguments.
Debate Round No. 4
Bible-Defender

Pro

Fact 1: There is no reliable extrabiblical evidences of the crucifixion? Why discount the biblical narrative concerning the crucifixion? They are early independent sources. Then you also have Paul, then Josephus, both of whom were antagonistic. Paul did comment as to when he was antagonistic and how he felt towards Christians. And I have already answered Josephus, something my opponent has yet to answer. Again, plz point to some historical evidence that is superior that states that something else happened.

As for the fact of almost all scholars admit these points I simply point to Habermas how did an actual head count of scholarly opinion concerning the facts.(1)

Fact 2: As to brainwashed disciples, it would seem that if they were "brainwashed" they wouldn't have deserted him and become dejected (as in the vid). They would have continued to believe (as in the vid). But they didn't. Also it still doesn't explain why Paul and James converted.

Fact 3. It is quite relevant what Paul said. He is the earliest witness as to what happened, what the earliest disciples believed, was James saw etc. But we are right back to where we started. Why did they convert? What historical alternative do you have that meets the criteria better than the resurrection?

Fact 4. James is known to be a skeptical brother of Jesus is in the gospels. Why do scholars admit this? Principle of Embarrassment, to admit this is contrary to spreading the gospel. Why would one believe if his own brother was skeptical? It would be easier to just leave that part out. Including it is a marker in integrity. That is why historians accept it.

Fact 5: The empty tomb. Most scholars accept the empty tomb on the following reasons:

(A) The Jerusalem factor. It is conceded by everyone that the disciples first started their preaching in Jerusalem, right where everything is said to have taken place. Since the resurrection is a bodily one (Jews who believed in a resurrection held that it was a bodily event to happen at the end of time). N.T. Wright, in his landmark study of what the ancient pagan and Jewish thought of the resurrection is that it is a bodily even. However, that being said, if the tomb was not empty, Christianity would be dead right out of the starting gate.

(B) There is no historical evidence whatsoever that those who opposed Jesus produced a body, which again would have destroyed their preaching.

(C) The testimony of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul mentions the crucifixion, burial and resurrection. Since, according to ancient Jews who believed in a resurrection, it is a physical, bodily event. Therefore, since Paul, an enemy of the early church, clearly believes in a resurrection, it implies an empty tomb. Therefore we have a first century historical witness, even before the gospels!. Why is that? Paul himself states that what he is passing on he received, from the apostles. It is universally accepted that the apostles preached the resurrection. Since that is so, it again implies an empty tomb.

(D) The testimony of the women. Female testimony in the first century was not considered entirely trustworthy. Especially in matters of great importance. Again most scholars who comment on this state that if they were making it up, they would not have used women as the first witnesses. This is called the principle of embarrassment.

(E) As my opponent already admitted, the apostles really did believe in the resurrection. But, to proclaim a resurrection is to admit an empty tomb. And they were in a position to know (right place, right time) if indeed the tomb were empty or not. If not, then they would have been found liars, but, as my opponent admits they were sincere, therefore not conscious liars. This leads to my next clue.

(F) The earliest polemics against the Christians from their opponents admit and empty tomb. From Matthew (Matthew 28: 12-13) to Justyn Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho) to Tertullian (De Spectaculis 30), we know that the Jewish opponents were, for over two centuries, trying to explain the empty tomb. Which means that they too believed it to be empty.
Therefore, since there are reasons leading to the fact of the empty tomb, and no historical evidence against it, it is reasonable to believe that it was indeed empty, as the majority of critical scholars admit.

So, basically you contend that the someone made the resurrection up. (Who, when, why, how, my opponent doesn't say, nor does he supply any historical evidence for that claim. To account the disciples, they were just brainwashed. To account for Paul and James, nothing is offered. Just "well other skeptics converted, so?" Question remains, why? The resurrection, or something else, my opponent never explains. As for the empty tomb? Again no explanation is given.

So, not only does my opponent fail to refute my facts, he offers no real challenge to the resurrection.

It lacks (1) explanatory scope and (2) explanatory power since it fails to account for the disciple's belief and Paul, as well James' and the tomb and is completely vague.
(3) It is not as plausible, especially if we live in a theistic universe.
(4) It is more ad hoc, since it must rely upon further presuppositions to account for Paul and James, as well as the tomb. As well as making more presumptions as to other why other enemies were silent.
(5) It goes against accepted beliefs, since these five are taken as facts by the overwhelming majority of scholars that have studied the subject. Even Bart Ehrman concedes the first three as historical facts, to include that Paul really believed that he experienced the risen, physical Jesus.
(6) It certainly does not outstrip the rival hypothesis.

So, what of the resurrection?
1. It has great explanatory scope: it explains why the tomb was found empty, why the disciples saw Jesus alive etc.
2. It has great explanatory scope: it explains why the body of Jesus was gone, why people saw Jesus alive etc.
3. It is plausible: given the context of Jesus' own life an claims, the resurrection serves as confirmation of those claims
4. It is not ad hoc or contrived. it requires only one additional hypothesis, that God exists. And even then that needn't be an additional hypothesis if one already believes that God exist.
5 It is in accord with accepted beliefs. The hypothesis "God raised Jesus from the dead" doesn't in any way conflict with the accepted belief that people don't rise from the dead naturally. The Christian accepts that belief as wholeheartedly as he accepts the theory that God raised Jesus from the dead.
6. It far outstrips any of its rival hypothesis in meeting conditions 1-5. [Especially since no other theory has been given.]

>also feel like it would be an insult to the intelligence of the people < Appeal to emotion.

"The accuser can meet the burden of proof by offering a certain quantum of evidence, which varies depending upon the nature of the accusation, for example-in the context of legal disputes-proof beyond a reasonable doubt for criminal charges or, for civil charges, proof that makes the truth of an accusation more probable than not."
- Annet Gordon Reed, law professor of New Your Law School, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy (Charlottesville, Va.: University Press of Virginia 1997)

How does one do that? ""If the scope and strength of an explanation are very great, so that it explains a large number and variety of facts, many more than any competing explanation, then it is likely to be true." - Justifying Historical Descriptions

Or "But if the evidence is support of an explanatory hypothesis is strong, and there is no alternative hypothesis supported nearly as well, it is reasonable to believe it is probably true" - The Truth of History.

Again, according to the rules of historiography, the resurrection wins.

(1) http://www.garyhabermas.com...
CosmicAlfonzo

Con

Sorry to disappoint those who would hope for me to spend my last round of the debate refuting my opponent's last set of points, but I trust that I have presented a good enough case. I have faith that the majority viewing this debate will make an informed vote.

To close, I would like to remind the Christians who are watching this debate that even though the resurrection clearly does not meet the criteria of historicity, that does not mean that the resurrection did not happen. All it means is that there is not enough evidence to consider such an event a fact. It can't be taught as such in school text books to children. Because of the remarkableness inherent to the event being described, it would be foolish to say that we know it happened with an accurate degree of certainty. It should be up to the individual whether or not they want to believe these extraordinary claims. The resurrection lies in the realm of faith, not the science of history.

Even though I strongly disagree with my opponent, I'd like to thank him for being willing to debate me, despite his skepticism that I would be able to pose a challenge. This was a fun first debate for me. I'd also like to thank him for making me have to look up and re-look up things.

Peace and love, thank you all.
Debate Round No. 5
198 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by warpedfx 6 years ago
warpedfx
J.Kenyon how is that a bad argument? Time is required for ANY action to take place.
Posted by CosmicAlfonzo 6 years ago
CosmicAlfonzo
And even when you do hit it, don't stop there. It's a never ending journey, ya dig?
Posted by CosmicAlfonzo 6 years ago
CosmicAlfonzo
That is why I suggest you learn more about it.

I've lived around people who claim to be able to do supernatural things. Right now, I live in a pentecostal church.

Demons castin out, faith healing and everything.

It's all a bunch of horsesh!t, I've lived around this my whole life, and I've never seen any of this stuff being done convincingly... Yet the people who come and go believe it is happening..

Hell, they've tried to cast demons out of me. It's all psychological BS, that's what it is. It's all fake, and only the weak minded and emotionally compromised fall for it.

So yeah, shoot, go for it. Some of the best experiences you'll ever have in this matter will be firsthand. Go to churches. Go to the real crazy holy roller type churches. Go to churches of all different types.. Hell, don't just stop at Christianity, go all around. Immerse yourself completely in your religious studies.

Don't rely on other people's interpretations, do it yourself. Holy texts are filled with metaphors, and interpreting is good brain excercise.

If you stay honest with yourself the whole time, and KEEP GOING.. you'll hit it. It'll hit you like a ton of bricks. Just remember, honesty is the most important thing.. Keep an open mind. You might go through periods of getting pretty radical or even crazy, but as long as you stay true and honest with yourself, you'll be able to go back home.

So no, you aren't talking to a run of the mill atheist here, I'm not a mindless, misinformed, Dawkins quoting, pretentious fool like the majority of atheists seem to be. I've actually seriously studied this sh!t, and spend years OBSESSIVELY doing so.

er... eh.. pardon me for getting preachy.
Posted by gavin.ogden 6 years ago
gavin.ogden
MIKEHARRIS describes himself as an agnostic, which I do as well. Of course, we cannot prove the existence of a god, but the evidence does point the other way.
Posted by gavin.ogden 6 years ago
gavin.ogden
Theist>>Atheist: Makes sense
Atheist>>Theist: No, Sir
Posted by MIKEHARRIS 6 years ago
MIKEHARRIS
I understand the difference between weak and strong atheism. It was strong atheism that I was referring to. However, I am open minded to consider all arguments and weigh them I try not to discount anything a-priori, even when it goes against my worldview. Because I acknowledge that I may be wrong. I acknowledge that I have not seen all the evidence for or against god. It very well might be that the evidence lies in an area that I have not explored. So, I reserve judgement. However, I do not count something as absurd, or impossible. No atheist I know can be dogmatic, and if you can't then it seems that the existence of god is possible. If that is the case, then it seems logical that miracles are possible.
Posted by J.Kenyon 6 years ago
J.Kenyon
@Mike
I'm confused, it's pretty obvious you're a theist, so why do you feel the need to deny it?

Btw, Antony Flew was a deist, dawg, not a theist. And yeah, he was pretty senile towards the end of his life. Kind of sad to watch; he was one the 20th century's greatest minds.

@Warped

Lol, that's not a good argument. Jus' sayin'
Posted by warpedfx 6 years ago
warpedfx
Anthony Flew clearly suffered mentally towards the end of his life. The fact that his "conversion" book doesn't even pretend to even deal with his previous atheistic arguments, and the fact that they were ghost written by an apologist speaks volumes. As for god, the christian god (or of that type) especially of the flavor that Craig espouses, CANNOT exist. A timeless, spaceless, omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent mind cannot exit, because for it to think requires time for the process to occur. For it to be omnipotent means it needs to be able to DO anything, but the fact that it's "timeless" means ANY action is IMPOSSIBLE.

Oh, and then there's this:
"Craig also does well in debates."
HAHAAHAHAHAHA Well he is a fairly smooth talker, in terms of throwing in well masked fallacies and such. But that's not saying much really is it?
Posted by MIKEHARRIS 6 years ago
MIKEHARRIS
gavin.ogden, are you really that stupid? So Anthony Flew was not an atheist? Nor am I saying that I am a theist. So, in your view, it is impossible to change one's belief?? What about those who were Christian and turned atheist? Are they liars also?
Posted by CosmicAlfonzo 6 years ago
CosmicAlfonzo
Obviously you think it is untennable because you don't understand what burden of proof is.

Also, there is a difference between weak atheism and strong atheism.

A position of weak atheism is simply saying that you do not believe in the theistic concept of god, because it has not been proven to you. Basically, you have no reason to believe it. This can even be considered an agnostic position.

A position of strong atheism is the assertion that there is no god.

Obviously, one position is easier to support than the other. If you are a weak atheist, you aren't making any claims, you are taking the default position of.. "Hey, I don't see any evidence, why should I believe in it?". If you are a strong atheist, you are making the claim that there is no god.. This is as impossible of a concept to disprove as it is to prove.

I'm willing to honestly communicate here, but I don't get the impression that you are being fully honest.

Personal honesty is the best policy. If you HONESTLY seek truth, you will find it. When you do find it, you will sh!t bricks. Educate yourself, forget about the school system. If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want to LEARN something, go to the library.

I'm a straight autodidact. I never learned anything from school. There are people who have PHDs who are STILL complete idiots. There is nothing you can learn in college that you can't learn on your own.. The only thing college is good for is taking all your money, and getting a piece of paper that says you know something. It's a scam.

Hell, Jesus pointed me in that direction.
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