The Instigator
ApostateAbe
Pro (for)
Winning
9 Points
The Contender
Gileandos
Con (against)
Losing
6 Points

The authors of the four gospels sourced from myths, not directly from eyewitnesses (debate #2)

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Post Voting Period
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after 3 votes the winner is...
ApostateAbe
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/15/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,723 times Debate No: 17521
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (51)
Votes (3)

 

ApostateAbe

Pro

Debate #1 is here: http://www.debate.org...

For this debate, I am accepting "Only a member who is ranked as good as or better than me."

Resolution:

The authors of the four gospels sourced from myths, not directly from eyewitnesses.

To clarify, the authors of the gospels, titled "Matthew," "Mark," "Luke" and "John," were neither eyewitnesses nor had direct access to the testimony of eyewitnesses with respect to the events of the life of Jesus Christ, and the claims contained within their writings were sourced primarily from myths among Christians. The gospels are neither first-hand nor second-hand accounts, but they went through many more mythical iterations (roughly at least ten) before being composed.

Definitions:

  • When I say, "myths," I do NOT mean complete falsehoods, but I mean chains of communication. A "myth" is a system of linguistic information (i.e. story) that is contained at one end of a long successively-branching and evolving chain of communication, either written, spoken or both.
  • An "eyewitness" is someone who has directly observed the events pertaining to a claim in question.
  • A "first-hand" account would be an account in which someone observes an event and tells it.
  • A "second-hand" account would be an account in which someone observes the first-hand account of an event and he retells it.
  • For other definitions, I defer to http://oxforddictionaries.com...

Rules:

  1. First round is for acceptance. You may describe your position or present new definitions, but do not present arguments.
  2. If you wish to forfeit, then post it. Don't let the time run out.
  3. The burden of proof is shared equally between the two of us. The winning case is the more probable case, not the certain case.
  4. The Christian faith is not assumed. Though Biblical texts qualify as legitimate sources, the claims of the canon should not be assumed to be historically reliable. They will be treated roughly the same as other written sources from ancient history--either trustworthy or untrustworthy, as the evidences and sound arguments suggest.
Gileandos

Con

I accept. I await my opponents evidence that the Scriptures were tall tales handed down from previous generations.

Though I do believe my opponents position is impossible to prove and he is up for one heck of task, I do look forward to the discussion.
Debate Round No. 1
ApostateAbe

Pro

Introduction

I thank Gileandos for participating with me in this challenge. I will adapt my introductory arguments in favor of my position from the previous debate.

The Christian tradition has it that all four gospels were either first-hand or second-hand sources. Two of the gospel authors were reputedly first-hand accounts--disciples of Jesus (Matthew and John), and the other two were reputedly second-hand accounts--close associates of the disciples (Mark and Luke), not necessarily direct associates of Jesus (though potentially so).

On the other hand, I share the belief generally held among modern "critical" scholars, which is the position that the authors were neither eyewitnesses nor direct associates of the eyewitnesses, neither first-hand nor second-hand accounts, but they all sourced from a tradition of myth, traced back to the historical Jesus only through a long line of myth (or “tradition”) [1].

There are many reasons for this position, and I list five of the reasons as follows:

1. The problem of language and education
2. The problem of lack of self-referencing
3. The problem of miracles
4. The synoptic problem
5. The problem of literary seams of John

Each of these five problems is a problem for the traditional hypothesis, but they each find a solution in the hypothesis that the gospels were sourced from Christian myths. I describe each problem in detail below.

1. The problem of language and education

We know from the gospels that Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic as their primary language (see Mark 5:41, 7:34, 11:9, 14:36, 15:34, Matthew 5:18, 5:22, 27:6, 27:46 and more). The canonical gospels, on the other hand, are written exclusively in the language of fluent [1] speakers of Koine Greek. Since Jesus and his disciples were uneducated and untrained (Acts 4:13) rural Galileans (i.e. Mark 14:70), it is unlikely (and unevidenced) that they spoke Greek as a second language.

The critical hypothesis expects this evidence, because we know that Christianity became most popular primarily among Greek speakers, not Aramaic speakers, in the first century and onward, as the remainder of the canon and the writings of the 2nd-century church fathers are composed in that language.

I would like to know how Con explains this problem. For example, one apologetic proposal is that the gospel authors spent many years of their lives learning Greek before writing the gospels. Another apologetic hypothesis holds that it was very common for Greek to be spoken as a second-language even among the uneducated fishermen in rural Galilee. For any proposed solution, Con should show its probability, not just its possibility.

2. The problem of lack of self-referencing

It has always been a well-known problem that the gospel authors do not identify themselves by name in their own writings. The earliest evidence of attribution of the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to the respective gospels are in an ambiguous part of the second century (Papias via Eusebius).

But, the problem goes well beyond the lack of self-naming. If the gospels were eyewitness accounts, then we would expect that, at least occasionally, the author identifies or alludes to his own role in the narrative, such as by writing with a singular first-person pronoun ("I" or "me"). For example, we strongly expect the author to sometimes write something like "Jesus said to me..."

This consistency of the gospel style of narration is not expected of an eyewitness account. However, it is strongly expected of ancient Greco-Roman biographies that are sourced from myths, such as those of Plutarch, Suetonius and Tacitus. Such authors were not part of the narrative, so the lack of first-person pronouns is fully expected.

To be fair, the book of Acts is thought by critical scholars to be written by the same author as the gospel of Luke, and, though it does not use a singular first person pronoun ("I" or "me"), it does make plentiful use of plural first person pronouns ("we" and "us"), in addition to plural third-person pronouns (“they” and “them”). With no "I" or “we” in Luke but both "we" and “they” many times in Acts, it is a problem that demands a solution, and the best solution seems be that "we" is the vestige of the author of Acts sourcing from a written itinerary of the journey of Paul [2]. This source would indeed be an eyewitness account. Unfortunately, neither Acts nor this speculated source concerns the life of Jesus, and the resolution stands.

3. The problem of miracles

The gospels contain many attestations to miracles and other unlikely attestations to suit the interests of Christian authors and their audience, but miracles are simply not expected of eyewitness accounts. However, they are expected of myths. For example, the ancient accounts of Alexander the Great, Apollonius of Tyana, and Pythagorus all contained miracles and were all sourced from myths, not eyewitnesses.

This argument is not merely an argument from personal incredulity, but it is based on the patterns of history and the modern age.

4. The synoptic problem

The “synoptic problem” is the problem that the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke share their textual content very heavily with each other. The solution to this problem (based on the specific clues of the patterns of commonalities) is that the gospels of Matthew and Luke each used prior written sources: the gospels of Mark and Q (the gospel of “Q” is now lost). This solution is a strong difficulty for the hypothesis of eyewitness sourcing, because ancient eyewitnesses seemingly never had to use prior written attestations to compose their own first-hand accounts. Neither Hannibal nor Pliny nor Suetonius nor Marcus Aurelius nor Horace nor Caesar nor Cicero nor Juvenal nor the Apostle Paul nor any other confirmed eyewitness author ever used prior written sources to borrow the old text for his own new account. It would be greatly unexpected, because it simply would not be necessary.

It is, however, expected of myth. For example, per the well-established Documentary Hypothesis, it is almost universally accepted among Old Testament scholars that the non-eyewitness myths contained in the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers each sourced from prior written texts [3].

5. The problem of literary seams of John

"John" is reputed by tradition to be a core disciple, but this author, too, very seemingly sourced from prior written texts, weaving at least three different texts together into one account. Among the many solid arguments for this, the strongest is the presence of many apparent "literary seams." Since the details of the argument would be lengthy, I will leave out the details. If Con strongly objects to this claim, then I can describe the argument in a later round. Otherwise, the arguments are described on pages 164-166 of reference [1].

Conclusion

There are many other solid arguments for the non-eyewitness mythical sourcing of the gospels (such as the serious contradictions, the problem of the dialogue with Pilate, and the evolving theological perspectives of the gospels). But, the five listed arguments alone, described in this round in detail, provide a sufficiently strong case against the hypothesis of direct eyewitness sourcing of the gospels, in favor of the hypothesis of sourcing from myths.

If Con would prefer to focus heavily on only a subset of these arguments, of his own choosing, let's say only two of these arguments instead of all five, then that will be acceptable to me, and I hope the voters will be equally generous. I have strong confidence in all five arguments, and I am willing to grant Con the advantage.

Modern References

[1] Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 3rd edition, 2004, pp. 58-59.
[2] Martin Dibelius, "The Acts of the Apostles as an Historical Source," in Studies in the Acts of the Apostles, 1956, p. 104.
[3] Richard E. Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible?, 1987.

Gileandos

Con

I thank my opponent for this debate.

New Testament Scholars from the earliest ages have been overwhelmingly in favor of the Gospels as early accounts within the first two generations. Whether they are believed to be accurate, or false does not change the vast majority from concluding an early date.

Additionally, I wish to point out that my opponents heavy overuse of minority opinions are comparable to citing a pimple to ascertain the overall dermatological health of a patient.

“My God! You have a pimple… your flesh is rotting!”

We are not overly concerned with unsubstantiated minority opinions. After all, History Channels airs “critical” experts that believe the Moses Arch was an alien Quantum Machine that killed people when turned on---

All of these new “hypothesis” to solve problems of errant understanding by the “critical” scholars are largely just absurdities in a landscape of prestige posturing and getting airtime.

Contention 1 – The Greek Manuscripts show no evidence of change.

Fact – Early Scholars and Historians had a vast bulwark of Greek manuscripts available to them. Far more manuscripts were available to them than we have today. They had them all.

- St. Jerome 350-400 A.D. applauded the consistency of the Greek manuscripts and was very critical of the Latin variations.

- There was a scholarly process very early on that checked for “generational” changes to the Gospels. None were found. No generational changes within the Gospels can be pointed to today or have been found even to today.

- When additional books, that were unknown to the Church, appeared on the scene they were rejected due to the fact they were unknown to prior generations. There was a process to stop “mythical” concepts from being added to the Gospels and even the Bible as a whole.

Conclusion:

We have zero evidence pointing to generational revisions of the original manuscripts that my opponent suggests. We in fact have very stable manuscripts and scholars reviewing those manuscripts within just a few generations of their original creation.

The Gospels only manifest stability.

http://www.gettysburgseminary.org...

Contention 2: The Gospels historical citings date well before even the second generation.

Fact:

- Act’s (the sequel to Luke’s Gospel) details ends prior to the death of Paul and even his final incarceration. It does not give a complete account of Paul’s life. It would have had the author known of his death. This places the Gospel of Luke well in front of Paul’s death in 68 A.D.

- The fall of Jerusalem was predicted in the Gospels. Yet there is no mention of the fulfillment.

- the Rylands Papyri that was found in Egypt that contains a fragment of John, and dates to A.D. 130. From this fragment we can conclude that John was completed well before A.D. 130 because, not only did the gospel have to be written, it had to be hand copied and make its way down from Greece to Egypt.

- Dead Sea Scrolls Cave 7. Jose Callahan discovered a fragment of the Gospel of Mark and dated it to have been written in A.D. 50. He also discovered fragments of Acts and other epistles and dated them to have been written slightly after A.D. 50.

- Bishop of Antioch, wrote a letter before his martyrdom in Rome in A.D. 115, quoting all the Gospels and other N.T. letters

There is of course tons of information I could post but these destroy any argumentation of a speculative nature my opponent has already posted.

http://bible.org...

Rebuttal to 1. Language and literacy problems

My opponent is asserting a false dilemma fallacy:

My opponent asserts –

- They were rural bumpkins

- They only spoke Aramaic

- They were uneducated

Conclusion they could not have written the Gospels much less in Greek.

As with most things in life asserting a false dilemma is absurd.

There was of course another option, which is what actually happened.

Fact:

- The Roman Culture had a scribe in every agora. You need only hire a scribe for a small sum of money and any rural bumpkin could write anything that he wanted in any language.

http://rsc.byu.edu...

- Additionally, all you needed was a few fellow believers in your “new” Gospel to write it as you dictate it.

- The majority of the Roman Empire was Greek speaking as Greek was the common language. This also includes outside of the Roman Empire East into Bactria and India.

We see proof as the Book of Romans even had a scribe name himself, a believer who was recording Paul’s letter that was being dictated to him.

Romans 16:20

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

21 Timothy, my co-worker, sends his greetings to you, as do Lucius, Jason and Sosipater, my fellow Jews.

22 I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.

23 Gaius, whose hospitality I and the whole church here enjoy, sends you his greetings.

Erastus, who is the city’s director of public works, and our brother Quartus send you their greetings

Any critical assertion or complaint/critique of the Gospel scriptures by citing literacy rates, grammatical hiccups, multiple authorship and so forth is blatantly absurd and shows a lack of understanding about the Roman culture and their use of scribes.

Rebuttal on 3 Miracles:

Not a problem if you believe in God---

This is only a problem if you are presupposing naturalism as the only possible background of a text.

Is my opponent suggesting that the miracles in the ancient “mythical” texts were not legitimate? How can he hope to prove that? I have not seen any proof that secular documented miracles were not in fact true.

We have countless healing miracles documented for us via CBN that have happened today. The Catholic Church has also graciously recorded and documented miracles from God.

I personally have experienced direct communication from God. I have witnessed my own son be healed miraculously.

My opponent states

But miracles are simply not expected of eyewitness accounts.”

What on earth could possibly make that statement true? You may need to rephrase.

I just gave an eyewitness testimony above about my own son being healed. It did not take five generations---

Here are miracles attested to by St. Augustine in his own time and him giving an eyewitness testimony.

City of God Book 22 Chapter 8

“The miracle, which was wrought at Milan when I was there, and by which a blind man was restored to sight”

He goes on to cite many confirmed miracles. Is my opponent stating St. Augustine and myself are not giving eyewitness accounts?

Rebuttal on 4. The synoptic problem

This is just creating a problem then asserting a solution to that problem and getting everyone to discuss the solution rather than even if the problem exists.

Why does there have to be a Q document and not just the actual event?

Why must it be from a previous document? These guys spent decades together reciting the same event over and over again.

This is just an assertion.

Provide a Q document.
Otherwise the Historical view is far more reasonable:

- These guys spent decades together sharing the details of the same event over and over again with each other and their converts. Why would they not relate a consistent event?

Conclusion:

You do not have to be a Christian to recognize it is scholastically inept to call the Gospels a generational story building myth as the resolution states.

They could be dead wrong, full of lies, a laughable story or even a Pauline conspiracy. No matter what you believe about them we know the resolution is false.

We will drop 2 and 5 for the debate as per the guidelines from my opponent.

We will take my two positive arguments instead due to character constraints.

Debate Round No. 2
ApostateAbe

Pro


Response to Con's introduction


Con claimed, "Additionally, I wish to point out that my opponents heavy overuse of minority opinions are comparable to citing a pimple to ascertain the overall dermatological health of a patient."


My claims were presented in the form of arguments based on ancient evidence, not mere authoritative opinions, so they should be treated as arguments and not brushed aside in favor of majority opinions. The majority opinions of New Testament scholarship are especially irrelevant, because, unlike almost all other academic fields, the majority of New Testament scholars are explicitly slanted in favor of religious ideology. For example, all of Con's sources have religious statements of faith. Among them is the vision statement of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg [4]:


"Bearing witness at the crossroads of history and hope, the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg proclaims Jesus Christ to a restless world by preparing students for faithful discipleship. As we listen to God’s Word in community, the Holy Spirit empowers us to lead in church and world through worship, education, service and encouragement.”


This is a reminder of the faults of argument from authority in this field, not an attack on Con’s sources (I welcome Con to cite academic arguments that reinforce his position, as I will do likewise).


Response to Con's Contention 1


Textual reliability should not be conflated with firsthand sourcing or historical reliability. The debate concerns sources, not the development of the texts, and the consistency of texts does not relate strongly to sources. The surviving textual copies of "The Life of Apollonius" may be very consistent, but it does not follow that the author Philostratus sourced from eyewitnesses, because the two matters are largely unrelated.


Response to Con's Contention 2


Con claims, "[Acts] does not give a complete account of Paul’s life. It would have had the author known of his death."


Only a biography is strongly expected to account a character's death, and this silence in Acts can be explained by the book of Acts being a literary genre different from a biography [5], such as a history or a novel. If Paul did not have an extraordinary death related to the history of the church, then the account of his death would not be expected to be contained in Acts. There is a church tradition that Paul was beheaded dating to the 4th century [6], but this tradition is late and it fails the criterion of dissimilarity--Christians were strongly interested in martyrdom stories of the apostles.


Con claims, "The fall of Jerusalem was predicted in the Gospels. Yet there is no mention of the fulfillment [in Acts]."


This silence can be explained by the timeline of the narrative of Acts preceding 70 CE. Why should we expect events outside the timeline of the narrative?


Response to Rebuttal on 1


Con claimed, “The Roman Culture had a scribe in every agora. You need only hire a scribe for a small sum of money and any rural bumpkin could write anything that he wanted in any language.”


This argument requires that the original gospels were translated from spoken Aramaic to written Greek. Yes, there are some quotes of Jesus within the early gospels that make sense only through translation from Greek back into Aramaic, indicating at least some Aramaic origins (i.e. Mark 2:23-24).


However, there are other passages that make sense only in Greek. An example is John 3:3-8. This passage is difficult to sensibly explain in English, and equally difficult in Aramaic, but it makes elegant sense in Koine Greek, because it rests on a double entendre that exists only within the Greek language. The Greek word, “ἄνωθεν,” has two meanings in Greek. It is often translated, “again,” but it is also means, “from above.” Jesus seemingly said, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” (John 3:3 NRSV). However, the listener Nicodemus misunderstood Jesus, thinking that he said, “…without being born again.” Jesus then corrects him by saying that he actually meant, “…born of the Spirit.” It is a dialogue that makes sense only when the reputed conversation was first invented by a speaker of Greek who believed that the spiritual realm was in heaven above (John 3:31). It could not have originated from an Aramaic speaker, because the double entendre is exclusive to Greek.


Response to Rebuttal on 3


Con claims, “Miracles: Not a problem if you believe in God---This is only a problem if you are presupposing naturalism as the only possible background of a text.”


On the contrary, as I already clarified in Round 2, the argument is “based on the patterns of history and the modern age.” I gave three examples of literature that was sourced from myths: the ancient accounts of Alexander the Great, Apollonius of Tyana, and Pythagorus. They all contain miracle accounts. A bit later, I listed many eyewitness accounts (Hannibal, Pliny, etc.) None of them contain direct eyewitness testimony of miracles--not even the Apostle Paul!


I am not claiming that direct eyewitness testimony of miracles is impossible. People do indeed at times attest to observing miraculous events. But, it is simply not expected from what we know of the patterns of history. Miracles are far more common in myths than in eyewitness testimonies. Remember, I am not arguing for the falsehood of the gospels. I am arguing for their sources being myths.


Response to Rebuttal on 4


Con inquires, “These guys spent decades together sharing the details of the same event over and over again with each other and their converts. Why would they not relate a consistent event?”


The first answer is that people who spend time together telling the stories together are not expected to compose entire paragraphs that are the same word-for-word, though it is of course possible. This evidence is far more expected, however, if the gospel authors sourced each other, and Con must show the greater probability of his own position per Rule 3.


To do this, the proposed hypotheses should greater satisfy criteria of good historical methodology. For example, the third criterion of the historical methodology of “Argument to the Best Explanation” is “greater explanatory power,” which requires that a hypothesis “must make the observation statements it implies more probable than any other.” [7]


The second answer is that the specific details of the similarities between the synoptic gospels create a pattern that is not expected of any explanation except the hypothesis that Matthew and Luke sourced from prior sources including Mark, not just shared narratives in common with each other. Sometimes, Matthew uses the same words as Mark, but Luke is significantly different (i.e. Mat 4:19, Mark 1:17 and Luke 5:10). Sometimes, Luke uses the words as Mark but Matthew is significantly different (i.e. Mat 3:6, Mark 1:4 and Luke 3:3). However, there is never a time when Matthew uses the same words as Luke but Mark is significantly different! This is a universal rule that demands a very good explanation, which cannot possibly involve putting the authors of Matthew, Mark and Luke all on the same level.


Con demands, “Provide a Q document.”


The Q source is inferred from the commonalities between Matthew and Luke that are not found in Mark. But, if Con is not even willing to grant Marcan priority (that Matthew and Luke borrowed from Mark), then this issue should be dropped, as the Q hypothesis follows from Marcan priority. The case for Marcan priority is much stronger, more direct and more relevant.


References


[4] http://www.ltsg.edu...


[5] Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 3rd edition, 2004, p. 133.


[6] Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine, III.VII.XXVI, via http://www.ccel.org...


[7] C. Behan McCullagh, Justifying Historical Descriptions, 1984, p. 19.


Gileandos

Con


I thank my opponent for his response.



His complaint is that it is “known” that the New Testament field is rife with religious bias….



Is this calling the kettle black or what?


He cites unbelievers who are adamantly asserting viewpoints that support their now “non-belief” and asserting reinterpretations of scholarship to support their unbelief.



It was a great laugh. Why would you not stop and think about this before posting?



It is also presuming that our bias is clouding our judgment more than your bias is clouding yours.



My opponent entirely missed the point it seems:



My point on the minority opinion is not that they are opposing viewpoints with alternating levels of bias--- my point was the minority opinions are as factually based as the History channel’s critical minority scholars. These are not fact based assertions but reinterpretations of a miniscule amount of data.



The minority critical scholars point to a pimple of data and state this should be used to interpret the mountains of data supporting the majority view.



Example: I have one Egyptian glyph that appears to be a “light bulb” and claim super advance society and ignore the countless glyphs that showed a Bronze Age existence with Bronze Age tech.



Concerning my positive arguments that show without a doubt of an early existence:


Contention 1 -


My opponent fails to understand the contention.



Let me give a layout of what has occurred.



My opponent creates a resolution that claims the Gospels are later generational myths and not eye witness accounts.



- I prove that these documents did not change over time or “evolve”.



- I prove they were early and within the lifetime of the Apostles



- I prove there was no manuscripts claiming these Gospels were faked, by the “real” Apostles.



- I show there are ZERO competing theological documents with as early a date as the Gospels and even Acts.



My opponent states this contention is irrelevant. All I can do is lead a horse to water.



Contention 2 –



Evidence 1 - Luke Being Early – Acts not including the account of Paul’s Martyrdom:



My opponent states:



:“ Only a biography is strongly expected to account a character's death…”



Martyrdom of Paul is an “act” and well within the purpose of the book of… “acts”. Has my opponent read the book to realize this? It is a book about the “acts” of the early church and its founders.



Additionally, if Paul had died with a mundane death as my opponent suggests…



My opponent is suggesting the author who wrote the book of Acts, who included the following “made up” details that “spiced up the mundane” never happened:



- Paul resurrecting a dead man



- Peter’s mere shadow healing



- Angelic escapes from prison



- Miracles galore



Then ends the book while knowing Paul’s death to be mundane did not “invent” a similar scenario? After all the mundane “acts” already converted to supernatural ones, the author just misses this one?



I could do one! “Paul was taken up to heaven by the chariots of fire just like Elijah!”



This is a monumental amount of special pleading from my opponent.



Evidence 2 – The fall of Jerusalem not recorded.



My opponent then states:



: “This silence can be explained by the timeline of the narrative of Acts preceding 70 CE. Why should we expect events outside the timeline of the narrative?



My opponent is suggesting a myth built way later than the first and second generation, way later than 70 A.D. --- So the Author that made up Luke, that included a prophecy about the fall of Jerusalem missed including it in the “acts” portion of his story? Oops?



One of the most catastrophic occurances in Jewish History known throughout the empire and oops?



Again extreme special pleading.



The rest of the Evidence:



My opponent appears to concede to the evidence and agree with a very early date and not respond to the rest of the factual data showing the dates for the gospels were well between 50-70 A.D.





- the Rylands Papyri that was found in Egypt that contains a fragment of John, and dates to A.D. 130. From this fragment we can conclude that John was completed well before A.D. 130 because, not only did the gospel have to be written, it had to be hand copied and make its way down from Greece to Egypt.



- Dead Sea Scrolls Cave 7. Jose Callahan discovered a fragment of the Gospel of Mark and dated it to have been written in A.D. 50. He also discovered fragments of Acts and other epistles and dated them to have been written slightly after A.D. 50.



- Bishop of Antioch, wrote a letter before his martyrdom in Rome in A.D. 115, quoting all the Gospels and other N.T. letters





Source (Ibid)



Concerning My opponents Positive argument 1:



To break this down:



- My opponent appears to ignore the fact that his argument possessed two false dilemma fallacies in his line of argumentation.



- He now continues to assert they must be bumpkins



- I never conceded they were bumpkins but even if they were there is no problem with a scribal system in view.



- The scribes could have listened to dictations in Aramaic and written them down in Greek. I showed proof of this from the Historical Record contained in the Book of Romans cited in the previous round.



My opponent’s new twist is also largely humorous.



My opponent points to a double “entendre” only possible in Greek.



My opponent’s new assertion is the following:



- Nicodemus believed Jesus said “born again”



- Jesus really said “born above” (same Greek word means two different things)



- This double entendre is only possible due to the Greek word.



“Jesus only spoke Aramaic, Nicodemus only spoke Aramaic, this entendre is only a Greek speaking possibility thus myth”



Wow, my opponent’s above concept is really rich with fallacious concepts.



- Deductive fallacy presuming that the characters only spoke one language



- Deductive fallacy ignoring that Greek was the common language of the day



Nicodemus is even a Greek name again pointing to the “Hellenisation” of the area.



To compound these deductive fallacies layered upon a false dilemma fallacy is the fact that this assertion is entirely presumptive upon his “new” interpretation of the scriptures being even remotely correct.



The traditional interpretation:



- Jesus said you must be “born again”.



- Nicodemus thought Jesus was talking about a physical second birth.



- Jesus was actually talking about being born again through the Spirit not the womb.



This is not a double entendre. I reject my opponent’s interpretation.



Pointing to a pimple:



Despite the vast majority of the New Testament seemingly Aramaic, why cite this one possible Greek problem and conclude the opposite of all of the other amounts of overwhelming information pointing to Aramaic conversations?



And still I do not concede that they ONLY spoke Aramaic. They all could have spoken Greek poorly/well. On top of that they could have spoken it and been able/not able to write it and had a scribe write it grammatically correct in the Greek.



Concerning my opponent’s Point 3 - Miracles


I believe my opponent missed how his assertion was addressed.



I disagree that miracles were inserted after the fact within the secular records.



I believe they were genuine records of the happenings.



For my opponent’s assertion to have any bearing he must show that these miracles did not occur and were indeed inserted later as the myth developed in every single secular record.



Concerning my opponent’s Point 4 – The Q Document


For my opponent’s assertion that any proto-document existed he would have to provide the document.



The Historical and majority view of historians that a direct shared witness can account for ALL of the similarities and BETTER accounts for ALL the dissimilarities.

Debate Round No. 3
ApostateAbe

Pro

Response to Intro R3


To reiterate my previous defense, I stated my introductory arguments as arguments based on ancient evidence, not as arguments from authority, and therefore my arguments should be rebutted as arguments based on ancient evidence. My references contain both believers and non-believers, but the related arguments are in the form of probabilistic explanations of the evidence. Rebutting these arguments will require both proving the improbability of my own explanations and presenting better explanations, not presenting opinions of the majority of (religious) scholars.


Response to Contention 1 R3


Con claims that I am missing the point of his contention.


He claimed, “I prove that these documents did not change over time or ‘evolve’.”


I will restate my argument, as I believe that Con is the one who is missing the point. The resolution is (emphasis added): “The authors of the four gospels sourced from myths, not directly from eyewitnesses.” If a text sources from oral myths, then the text may or may not change over time with further copying. If it can be shown that a text did not change from the original written, then that fact says nothing about its sources, and the converse also holds. As it happens, very solid arguments can be made that some of the gospels did indeed change significantly (additions of the ending of Mark and the Pericope Adulterae in John). However, these points are irrelevant to the resolution, so I leave them out.


Con claimed, “I prove they were early and within the lifetime of the Apostles.”


Con did make a point related to this in R2:


“When additional books, that were unknown to the Church, appeared on the scene they were rejected due to the fact they were unknown to prior generations. There was a process to stop ‘mythical’ concepts from being added to the Gospels and even the Bible as a whole.”


This is a good argument to the effect that the canonical gospels can be dated earlier than other persisting gospels, such as the Gnostic gospel of Thomas, which is the earliest persisting non-canonical gospel and dated by most scholars to the mid-2nd century [8]. It is, however, a poor argument to the conclusion that the gospels can be dated to within the lifetimes of the apostles. The conclusion simply does not follow from the premises.


This and other arguments (i.e. Rylands Papyri, Bishop of Antioch) are arguments for a maximum date of composition of the gospels to the 2nd century. They are not arguments for early 1st century composition nor authorship by eyewitnesses, at least not at expense of the hypothesis of composition by late 1st century anonymous Greek-speaking Christians.


On a related note, there were most certainly other early gospels that served as sources for the canonical gospels, such as Q and the sources for John, and these sources became lost. An argument for Q is covered in Problem 4 of R2.


Con claimed, “I prove there was no manuscripts claiming these Gospels were faked, by the ‘real’ Apostles.”


This was neither part of Contention 1 nor any previous argument. Con did not present this argument. Perhaps Con is getting this debate mixed up with another?


Con claimed, “I show there are ZERO competing theological documents with as early a date as the Gospels and even Acts.”


This argument is also seemingly unstated in previous rounds, though it may be closely related to the point already discussed above: “When additional books, that were unknown to the Church, appeared…”


Response to Contention 2 R3


Con claims, “Then ends the book while knowing Paul’s death to be mundane did not ‘invent’ a similar scenario? After all the mundane ‘acts’ already converted to supernatural ones, the author just misses this one?”


My position is that the book of Acts, like the gospels, sourced largely from myths. A writing that sources from myths does not follow the same patterns as a writing that “invents” stories on the spot. The author of Acts was telling what he believed to be the truth, and he would not make up the death of Paul if he knew the contrary, and he would likely find the mundane death of Paul to be an “act” that is too irrelevant for inclusion in his writing.


Con claims, “My opponent is suggesting a myth built way later than the first and second generation, way later than 70 A.D. --- So the Author that made up Luke, that included a prophecy about the fall of Jerusalem missed including it in the ‘acts’ portion of his story? Oops?”


Again, the author of Acts was writing what he believed to be the truth. He did not include the events of 70 CE for largely the same reason that a modern chronicler of the administration of Jimmy Carter would not include in the account the fall of the Soviet Union. The events fell outside the chronological context of the account--either all or most of the apostles were dead by 70 CE. This is not special pleading. It is expected of the evidence and historical patterns.


Con claimed, “Dead Sea Scrolls Cave 7. Jose Callahan discovered a fragment of the Gospel of Mark and dated it to have been written in A.D. 50. He also discovered fragments of Acts and other epistles and dated them to have been written slightly after A.D. 50.”


For this claim, Con sourced an article by Probe Ministries on Bible.org, which, in turn, cited Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. When I researched the matter on Google Scholar, I discovered the true nature of the evidence.


“The trouble is that the fragments are so tiny and contain so few Greek letters that they can be identified with almost anything.” [9]


“In addition, and staying with 7Q5, even reading the fragment as O'Callaghan would like, it can only be made to agree with Mark 6:52-53 by supposing a textual variant (the omission of three letters) not witnessed by any manuscript. However, the strongest argument of those who oppose the identification is that other identifications (such as various texts of the Old Testament or apocryphal literature, which are also more plausible) are equally possible or even more probable, since they involve none of the changes of letters required by O'Callaghan. And if several identifications are possible, none of them can be considered as conclusively established. And still less can it comprise the starting point from which one can claim to alter the course of exegesis. In other words, although the hypothesis of identification is in itself interesting, it has such a meagre foundation and implies so many questionable factors that nothing solid can be built upon it.” [10]


Response to “Concerning My opponents Positive argument 1”


“’Jesus only spoke Aramaic, Nicodemus only spoke Aramaic…’”


I request that Con please not summarize my claims with quotation marks unless it is an exact quotation. I do not think that Nicodemus only spoke Aramaic. The conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus in John can only be between two imagined Greek speakers. The historical Jesus probably spoke only Aramaic, and we don’t know about the historical Nicodemus, but the Jesus in the gospel of John is quoted entirely in Greek.


“Deductive fallacy presuming that the characters only spoke one language.”


This was not my presumption. This was Con’s premise! I presented my evidence from the gospel of John as a way to rebut Con’s point that: “The Roman Culture had a scribe in every agora. You need only hire a scribe for a small sum of money and any rural bumpkin could write anything that he wanted in any language.”


Con is getting mixed up. He should settle on one and only one position concerning which and how many languages the original apostles spoke. Was it Aramaic? Was it Greek? Or was it both?


Unfortunately, I have run out of characters, so I will have to drop the other issues. I appreciate my opponents continued participation.


References


[8] Darrell L. Bock, The Missing Gospels, page 63.


[9] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins, page 24.


[10] Florentino García Martínez, et al., The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, page 14.

Gileandos

Con

I thank my opponent for his response.
My point still stands you cannot interpret the mountains of data for the majority view based upon “one off” evidences here or there that are based on fallacies and bad interpretations.

Again the Example:

I have one Egyptian glyph that appears to be a “light bulb” and claim super advance society and ignore the countless glyphs that showed a Bronze Age existence with Bronze Age tech.

Again the layout of what has occurred.
My opponent creates a resolution that claims the Gospels are later generational myths and not eye witness accounts.
He now contends they could be either written or Oral traditions and the Gospels were written after two generations.
He now does not concern himself if they are true or not. (But suggests miracles by default are not true get added to the mundane and serves as evidence to mythological accounts..)

My first positive argument Contention 1:

- I prove that these documents did not change over time or “evolve”. These are static documents (I cited Jerome’s early work in 300’s A.D. )
**This is important because if they were from written local documents you would expect to see variations that would be substantial. Considering the massive number of theological ideas after 150 A.D. in key areas of the world you would certainly expect it and yet Jerome found none.
- I prove definitively they were early and within the lifetime of the Apostles (See Contention 2)
- I prove there was no manuscripts claiming these Gospels were faked, by the “real” Apostles. (I point to Jerome again)
** How this has bearing is the fact that you would expect to see documents “correcting” inaccuracies to these Oral Gospels or written Gospels that existed. Well after the life of the Apostles expired. You would see battles over whose account was accurate. Instead you find only citations from the Early Church fathers in the second and third generations directly to these Gospels. You do not see statements like “it is orally give to us by Mark” and “it is recited from Luke” in all churches.

- I show there are ZERO competing theological documents with as early a date as the Gospels and even Acts. (I again cited Jerome’s work on the Vulgate)
** How this applies, if this again was Oral no one undertook to write it down? If they were written why not some false gospels that date as early as the others to seriously confuse Jerome?


How long is my opponent stating it now takes to become an oral myth? One year? Ten? 150?

The church asserts that the life and accounts of Jesus were shared orally before the Gospels were written. These Oral accounts are recorded however within two generations.
He has already stated outside of two generations is this now changing as he is becoming convinced these are early documents?

Contention 2 –

We have seen five evidences from me that are definitive that these accounts are early.
2 are abstract
3 are direct evidences
(There are a vast number I could cite but I am limited due to character constraints.)

Evidence 1 - Luke Being Early – Acts not including the account of Paul’s Martyrdom:
Luke would have included the death of the main Character of the book of Act’s and the key historical figure of the book that was a mere few years of later from the conclusion of the book.

My opponent is “re-speculating” on what Luke did or did not believe. How does he know Luke genuinely believed what was being told him?
My opponent’s statements are rife with speculation.
You are telling me with all of the other myths that were handed down but made up by other people, the late author would not include this one where Paul was a martyr? Or Luke could not find one miraculous one to believe since he believed all the other miraculous ones?

Still special pleading.

Evidence 2 – The fall of Jerusalem not recorded.

My opponent drops the fact that the fall of Jerusalem should have been included in a late authorship of Acts but mysteriously was not. The entire world knew of this event. Luke wrote the Gospel with the prophecy and failed to record the fulfillment in Acts?

The rest of the Evidence:
My opponent appears to concede the following evidences.

- the Rylands Papyri that was found in Egypt that contains a fragment of John, and dates to A.D. 130. From this fragment we can conclude that John was completed well before A.D. 130 because, not only did the gospel have to be written, it had to be hand copied and make its way down from Greece to Egypt.
My opponent then concedes this to be factual?

- Bishop of Antioch, wrote a letter before his martyrdom in Rome in A.D. 115, quoting all the Gospels and other N.T. letters. My opponent then concedes this to be factual?


FINALLY something more than speculation from my opponent!
His sources have a different opinion than O’Callaghan and Theide but what are scholars for!

- Dead Sea Scrolls Cave 7. Jose Callahan discovered a fragment of the Gospel of Mark and dated it to have been written in A.D. 50. He also discovered fragments of Acts and other epistles and dated them to have been written slightly after A.D. 50.

My opponent takes issue with the above.
To respond:
Carsten Thiede supported O’Callaghan’s work with an evidence that this was a clear reference to the first century name for the Sea of Galilee within the text.
https://www.eisenbrauns.com...

There are no other competing theories to this document. The other scholars are just uncertain.

There are other documents that could be cited to be New Testament in the caves as well.


Concerning My opponents Positive argument 1:

I have shown that this line of speculative reasoning is false and not good evidence to support the resolution. This is a false dilemma fallacy clear and simple. There are so many other possible solutions that are more likely than the dilemma that is created.

My opponent asserts that Jesus and the Gospel writers more than likely only spoke Aramaic.
- That is unlikely considering the deep Hellenisation underwent by Antichous Epiphanes and the Selucid Empire in the Jewish country.

My opponent also asserts a low chance of education and literacy by Jesus and the Gospel writers.
- Though this is also speculative it is irrelevant due to the scribal system in the Roman Empire. Any uneducated bumpkin could write any concept in any language.
- We see that Jesus was teaching in the Temple at the age of 12. He received quite the education to achieve this.
- The Gospel writers themselves spent 3 years traveling and training under Jesus. That includes Greek areas.
- The Gospel writers were well traveled for decades after their calling.

My opponent asserts a Greek only problem after laying out the false dilemmas.
- This is not a problem considering the vast amounts of Aramaic statements translated into Greek in the Gospels.
- Second this “new” interpretation is not proven to be correct.
- The traditional interpretation is as follows:

The traditional interpretation:
- Jesus said you must be “born again”.
- Nicodemus thought Jesus was talking about a physical second birth.
- Jesus was actually talking about being born again through the Spirit not the womb.
- No concern for a double entendre

Concerning my opponent’s Point 3 - Miracles

Summary:
My opponent has done nothing to show that miracles get added to texts that are of a later origin.
This is just speculation. How could this possibly be known by anyone?

It must be assumed that miracles are not true and get added.
I reject this assumption and state that all miracles are true even ones recorded in secular documents. Prove me wrong!
Neither he nor I can prove or disprove that miracles get added to texts after a certain set time frame. Only a presumption based on naturalism would make this statement a certainty and warrant for evidence.

Concerning my opponent’s Point 4 – The Q Document

Summary:

The Historical and majority view of historians that a direct shared witness can account for ALL of the similarities and BETTER accounts for ALL the dissimilarities.

Debate Round No. 4
ApostateAbe

Pro

This has been a wonderful debate, and I will do my part in closing it by addressing those issues that seem to be of greatest importance to Con.

“My opponent drops the fact that the fall of Jerusalem should have been included in a late authorship of Acts but mysteriously was not. The entire world knew of this event. Luke wrote the Gospel with the prophecy and failed to record the fulfillment in Acts?”

Excuse me, but I did not drop this fact. I addressed it in R4. Do a word search for “Jimmy Carter,” and you will find it.

“Rylands Papyri… Bishop of Antioch… My opponent then concedes this to be factual?”

I do, in part. The Rylands Papyrus (P52) accounts for the gospel of John, and the writings of Ignatius account for Matthew (not all of the gospels), and Matthew and John are each given a maximum date of the early 2nd century CE, based on this external evidence. I prefer internal evidence, however, for dates that are earlier than that. The gospel of Matthew can be dated to ~80 CE, given its reliance on the gospel of Mark (minimum ~75 CE), and its maintenance of the apocalyptic deadlines of Jesus (maximum ~85 CE). I would settle on 80 CE for Matthew. The gospel of John contains evidence of embarrassment of the apocalyptic deadlines (John 21:20-23) and silence about the apocalyptic prophecies. This provides a minimum of ~85 CE. The maximum is provided by external evidence as Con has described, ~115 CE. I would settle on the date of John being 100 CE.

A narrow date range is established with minimums and maximums. The reasoning is: minimum < x < maximum, so choose the most probable value for x between those limits. Con’s reasoning seems to be: x < maximum, therefore the proposed value of x is confirmed.

The most controversial assertion I have made is possibly the point that John 21:20-23 reflects embarrassment of the apocalyptic deadline. Since this is the last round, I don’t want to open that new can of worms. It is meant only to explain that a minimum date is necessary, not just a maximum date. The relevant point is that Con’s evidences reflect merely maximum dates, not narrow date ranges of authorship, and he should explain how his maximum dates are relevant to confirm his dates at the expense of the dates held by myself and/or critical scholars.

Concerning the Dead Sea Scrolls, Con claimed, “Carsten Thiede supported O’Callaghan’s work with an evidence that this was a clear reference to the first century name for the Sea of Galilee within the text.”

Con then gave a link:

https://www.eisenbrauns.com...

Unfortunately, the link goes to “The page cannot be found,” and I have failed to track down the scholarly source of this argument.

Con adds, “There are no other competing theories to this document. The other scholars are just uncertain.”

Following from the arguments I presented per reference [10] of R4, there are no competing theories, nor should there be, exactly because of the uncertainty--the fragment can fit anything, including some known texts that are allegedly a fit than to the gospel of Mark, including “various texts of the Old Testament or apocryphal literature.” Since the Dead Sea Scrolls are known to be made up entirely of Old Testament and non-Christian Jewish apocryphal literature, it is a more plausible hypothesis than the proposition that the fragment is part of the gospel of Mark.

I before dropped the points on miracles and Q for lack of characters in the last round, but Con is persisting with them, so I will address them again now.

“For my opponent’s assertion to have any bearing he must show that these miracles did not occur and were indeed inserted later as the myth developed in every single secular record.”

“My opponent has done nothing to show that miracles get added to texts that are of a later origin. This is just speculation. How could this possibly be known by anyone?”

The argument is very basic.

1) It is a pattern of history that miracles are demonstrably far more likely to be present in myths instead of eyewitness accounts.
2) The gospels contain accounts of miracles.
3) Therefore, the gospels are far more likely to be myths.

I have no need to prove the negative that the miracles did not occur, because I need only to show the pattern that miracles tend to occur in myths, not eyewitness accounts, for the argument to hold. I gave examples of myth sources with miracles in Problem 3 of R2, and I listed ancient eyewitness accounts without miracles in Problem 4 of R2.

Concerning the Q document, Con claimed, “The Historical and majority view of historians that a direct shared witness can account for ALL of the similarities and BETTER accounts for ALL the dissimilarities.”

Since Con has resorted to arguments from authority, I can work with that. On page 89 of reference [11]:

“Most scholars think that Q must have been a written document; otherwise it is difficult to explain such long stretches of verbatim agreement between Matthew and Luke.”

The author, Bart D. Ehrman, is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill [12], accredited by the regional Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools [13]. The textbook is intended for “undergraduate and seminary classes in the New Testament, Biblical Studies, and Christian Origins” [14].

If Con wishes to put aside arguments from authority, which I believe is more than appropriate, then my argument for Marcan priority in R3 still stands.

Con has one last round to address these arguments, and he will have the final say. I hope he makes the most of it!

Thank you, Gileandos, and cheers.

References

[11] Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 3rd edition, 2004, p. 89.
[12] http://www.bartdehrman.com...
[13] http://oira.unc.edu...
[14] http://www.amazon.com...

Gileandos

Con

I thank my opponent for this debate.

The historical view of the eyewitness accounts stands completely undefeated in this debate.

To recap we saw from my opponent mere speculations. If you had inserted the words “this could possibly be” in front of each of his proposals you would wind up with the same debate.

To summarize:

You do not have to be a Christian to recognize it is scholastically inept to call the Gospels a generational story building myth as the resolution states.

The Gospels could be dead wrong, full of lies, a laughable story or even a Pauline conspiracy. No matter what you believe about them we know the resolution is false. They indeed were written in the lifetime of the Apostles between 50-70 A.D. and we have zero documentation from the real Apostles that demands these are fakes.

My opponent at the end stopped asserting that the Gospels were many generations later and even agreed to them being written well within two generations due to the overwhelming evidence.

My Positive Contention 1:

-I prove that these documents did not change over time or “evolve”. These are static documents (I cited Jerome’s early work in 300’s A.D. )
-
I prove definitively they were early and within the lifetime of the Apostles (See Contention 2)
-
I prove there was no manuscripts claiming these Gospels were faked, by the “real” Apostles. (I point to Jerome again)
-
I show there are ZERO competing theological documents with as early a date as the Gospels and even Acts. (I again cited Jerome’s work on the Vulgate)

My opponent refutes none of this.

My Positive Contention 2:

- I gave several (but there are literally hundreds of early citations of the Gospels that could be given) early citations of the Gospels.
- My opponent agreed to these early accounts.


My opponent has only chosen to attempt a refutation at a couple of the positive evidences.

Dead Sea Scrolls Evidence:

I disagree with my opponents view as clearly these scholars assert that the fragment is from Mark. They point to the first century term for the Sea of Galilee as clear evidence and the verse is very close to that of the Gospel of Mark.

The other scholars are uncertain and simply state that it is unidentifiable.

Luke should have included Paul’s death within Acts:

I cannot see how my opponent suggests that it is outside of a given frame of the historical narrative, when he cannot give any metrics for the story to exclude the death of Paul.

We know that if you are writing a historical book about the “Acts” of the church you would write it up to the most current point or at least at a logical stopping point.

The only logical conclusion is that the author chose this stopping point due to the fact it was up to current events.

The only other natural and logical stopping point would be through the Life of the Apostles who headed the Church as the book clearly follows their lives and ministries rather than some unnamed concept my opponent merely speculates at.

Fall of Jerusalem:

My opponent again asserts that the Fall of Jerusalem was outside of the historical narrative intended for the book of “acts”. He again fails to give the metrics we could possibly use to ascertain that.

It is only logical that you would include major events within a historical narrative. I cannot think of a reason that someone documenting the early church would ignore such a powerful event.

My opponent failed to give any metric, much less a viable one, that this event should be excluded.

Jerusalem was a major factor, part of Jesus’ life, the ministry of all of the Apostles and even of the prophecy of the cities fall recorded in the previous document written by Luke. The fall of the city should have been included.

This places Luke well before 70 A.D.

My opponent was unable to refute any of the early citations:

As my opponent was unable to refute any citations of the early church fathers that place these Gospels within the lifetime of the of the Apostles this evidence stands.

I have no idea why my opponent would suggest the Gospels to be written around 100 A.D. when a Father quoted the Gospels in 115 A.D.

Is he suggesting that within 15 years this written Gospel became scripture and no one questioned its authenticity? This is mere speculation.
It is far more likely that his teacher taught from this Gospel and was handed to him. This is far more likely.

Simply put the evidence is overwhelming for eyewitness accounts. To assert anything else only comes from a deep desire for it not to be true. My opponent’s claims are merely minority speculations with no corroborating evidence.

100 A.D. (which my opponent stated he agrees with) still places the timeframe of the Gospels well within the second generation. The resolution is clearly false.

My opponents 1st Positive argument:

Again,
I have shown that this line of speculative reasoning is false and not good evidence to support the resolution. This is a false dilemma fallacy clear and simple.

I have proven with the Book of Romans that scribes were used the Empire over.

Even if my opponent's speculative claim of illiterate apostles that only spoke Aramaic was true-

ANY illiterate bumpkin could have dictated anything to a scribe and produced a document in any language.

Such a system would explain grammatical errors, mulitple authorship etc.

Concerning my opponent’s Point 3 - Miracles


Summary:
My opponent attempts a different layout for his argument- He precedes to layout the following:

1)
It is a pattern of history that miracles are demonstrably far more likely to be present in myths instead of eyewitness accounts.
2) The gospels contain accounts of miracles.
3) Therefore, the gospels are far more likely to be myths.

This is an arbitrary point of comparison that has no point of reference:

Let me show you:

1)
The pattern of history shows that miracles are demonstrably far more likely to be present in eyewitness accounts. (Examples, Tanach, New Testament, Quran)
2) Works believed to be myths contain miracles
3) Therefore, works believed to be myths are eyewitness accounts.

This so obviously does not work in the opposite. Why?
- Miracles alone are not a justifiable method to reclassify a myth into an eyewitness account.
- Miracles alone are also not a justifiable method to reclassify an eyewitness account into a myth.

Let us look below, I will merely take my opponents exact formula and swap out the word Miracles for the word Love:
1) The pattern of history shows that Love is demonstrably far more likely to be present in myths instead of eyewitness accounts.
2) Gospels contain accounts of Love.
3) Therefore the Gospels are far more likely to be myths.

Why does this not work? Doesn’t everyone know that nearly every work of fiction and myth contains love? When few eye witness accounts even discuss Love?

It does not work because:
- The purpose of every eyewitness account is not necessarily an accounting of Love (same as not every eye witness account is meant to log miraculous happenings).
- The reason nearly every myth contains love is due to its nature as “special” for a host of reasons.
- Miracles are in nearly every myth for the same reason. They are “special” for a host of reasons.

You are just presuming that miracles are not real for this to work and you are asserting two differing types of narratives should be called the same thing due to a really bad method of reclassification.

This shows you a PhD does not mean smart.

Concerning my opponent’s Point 4 – Q Document

Your response was not even a valid argument from the majority of authority. You just cited two people with PhD’s. I can do that with Alien conspiracies.


Your problem again is that your scholar is pointing to one or two possible interpretations by ignoring the mountain of evidence for the mainstream scholars conclusions.

Again such a document is proven not to exist by all of the Dissimilarities. If they were copying they did it badly. Yet every manuscript copy after that was nearly ”spot on” with few variances?
Cheers to shoddy guesswork.
Debate Round No. 5
51 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Gileandos 2 years ago
Gileandos
@ Abe,
I believe when you ask your question--- "if a document can be textually reliable without being historically reliable"--- what you are referring to is whether or not a document was duplicated reliably. Like your Erhman's book examples. All of the copies will be exactly the same.

This is different than textual reliability; the duplication process is only an element. The reason we trust in Erhman's book being duplicated properly would be a printing press. If you had a process of duplication akin to two thousand years ago, you ad in the element of enemies, criminals profiting etc. the textual reliability would certainly go down in the duplication process by massive degrees.

Textually reliable is more relevant to scribed texts over centuries.

Concept - if you had two competing documents
Document 1 - 1,000 copies dating from within 300 years of the event
Document 2 - 10 copies dating from within 300 years of the event

The certainty of validity by the scribes is the only reason such a document would be copied in such numbers and at such an early timeframe. The scribes copying documents in such numbers would be viewing the documents as authentic.

We have no other documents in history with such attestation from scribes to its prolific copying.

You compound that we have a vast quantity of quotations from the Gospels by early period fathers who's belief was clearly and early (within two generations) on that scribes viewed these documents as authentic to the event.

1) So scribes started very early on copying these documents and sending them throughout the empire as authentic witnesses to the actual events.

We as scholars would and could not make such a commitment to the event with only a few sporadic documents as example of Document 2. We would scholastically conclude that the scribes and historians of the day would not have held those documents as authentic as they were not meaningfully preserved or copied.
Posted by ApostateAbe 2 years ago
ApostateAbe
Thanks, Gileandos. Please don't get the wrong idea--I was well aware of how assessment of historical reliability is done, though maybe you and I have different ideas of what that practice constitutes.

Your criteria 1, 2, 3 and 6 would concern "textual reliability"--do the copies of the text match the original writing (i.e. is "Mark" in the extant manuscripts roughly the same as the original "Mark")? Your criteria 4 and 5 would concern "historical reliability"--do the claims within the text match the objective historical realities (i.e. is "Mark" correct in claiming that the historical John the Baptist baptized the historical Jesus)?

I do think that "textual reliability" is an essential part of "historical reliability," but those two principles are not the same, and I need to know if you are with me on that point. Can a text be textually reliable without being historically reliable? Yes or no?
Posted by Gileandos 2 years ago
Gileandos
@Abe,
I see that you are not familiar with the process of how a manuscript critic ascertains the historical reliability of any given text.

To be a historically reliable eyewitness account these factors must be weighed:
1: Early Date – The documents must post within two generations of the accounts discussed.
2: Attestation – We must look to people that offer credibility to the accounts. We need to see it quoted and sourced. We see that the early church gave near universal credit to these accounts as "Scripture" and they were quoted as such.
3: Lineage – We need to see that many different geographical areas of the church handed down the same eyewitness accounts. We do indeed see that geographically secluded areas of the Church did just that.
4: External Evidence – We need to see geography etc that matches reality. We see that the Bible does this. A couple of examples would be the book of mormon that has zero archeological or even present day verification of the places and such recorded.
5: External verification – We can interact with the lands and themes recorded in the eyewitness accounts. We can see if the Gospels claim that Rome did something like performing a census, and then we can verify that in any remaining possible records from that time period from Rome.
6: Internal consistency – We look to general parameters of consistency. Understanding that scribes were writing these documents we look for major themes that match.

Here is a great book that is short and succinct that speaks to these issues. (Darren Hewer – book is free online)
http://www.whyfaith.com...

Contention 1 worked to address all of these. Everything pointed to in contention 1 resolves this. If you had worked through each of these areas I could have pointed to it in the debate.

I did not realize you were unfamiliar with the process of determining historical reliability.
Posted by ApostateAbe 2 years ago
ApostateAbe
Gileandos, I have been trying to illustrate a distinction between textual reliability and historical reliability, and I need to know if you understand it. Again, "textual reliability" is the consistency of texts between various copies. If a text evolves, then that makes it less textually reliable. If a text stays the same among its copies, then that makes it more textually reliable. Textual reliability is very different from historical reliability."Historical reliability" is the accuracy of the claims put forward by a text. A text can be very textually reliable--thousands of copies can be exactly the same, and not one word of it has ever changed--and it can at the same time be mostly or completely hogwash. Books like that fill the shelves of any public library. Protocols of the Elders of Zion is very textually reliable.

Conversely, a text may NOT be textually reliable, but it may be historically reliable, because those two matters are separate. If an eyewitness account started out perfectly accurate but the text evolved, then we need only to infer the contents of the original eyewitness account in order to have historical reliability.

Do you understand and accept this distinction between textual reliability and historical reliability?
Posted by Gileandos 2 years ago
Gileandos
I am sorry for taking so long on the reply.
I was typing two debates.

Thank you both for the feedback.
Posted by Gileandos 2 years ago
Gileandos
@Meatros,
Contention 1 laid out this process
1) Were they early?
2) Were there multiple variations? Did the storyline evolve?
If it is verifiably early and there is shown to be a static storyline that has not evolved,
we check one more area:
3) We look to see if there are competing documents.
- Competing documents would be theological documents of the actual teachings that date as early that correct wrong teachings and documents that "tear" down and correct what "really" happened.

Proximity alone was not the assertion.
Proximity however is necessary and must be shown before concluding an eyewitness document.

Do you see how contention 1 fulfilled all of these three points? Do you see why these three point to an eyewitness document?

Thank you for the feedback. I will be certain in future debates to spell out the process in the first round and not later rounds as it appears to be missed in the middle.
Posted by Gileandos 2 years ago
Gileandos
@ABE
Sorry I was completing two other debates.

When we review a manuscript series to ascertain or verify its authenticity we look to several key factors:

1) Were they early?
2) Were there multiple variations? Did the storyline evolve?
If it is verifiably early and there is shown to be a static storyline that has not evolved,
we check one more area:
3) We look to see if there are competing documents.
- Competing documents would be theological documents of the actual teachings that date as early that correct wrong teachings and documents that "tear" down and correct what "really" happened.

Contention 1 shows that all three of these check out. We would certainly conclude they were eyewitness accounts.

The above is the process of manuscript criticism, dating and validating.

I took for granted in the debate that this process was known to you.

I believe that Erhman knows of these things but discounts the process to assert his own viewpoint.

Craig Evans was not discussing variations in grammar but in evolution.
If each copy of Erhman's book all told a slightly different "story" we would certainly concluded they had been fiddled with.

Additionally, the claims made within the Gospels assert divine authority and divine example.
Erhman's works have even less of a claim of trust as he is a poor scholar at best.
Posted by ApostateAbe 2 years ago
ApostateAbe
Sure, I would love to. I talk about this subject all of the time. You can PM me your email address.
Posted by modivarch 2 years ago
modivarch
No problem we can skip that one. I am up for any of the others if you like. Honestly, I could care less about the debate. I'll give you my e-mail and we can discuss any of these points and more back and forth for the next 10 years if you want.
Posted by ApostateAbe 2 years ago
ApostateAbe
modivarch, I have recently concluded that Point 3 (the problem of miracles) is not compelling as I thought before, at least not in the way that I formulated it. The Apostle Paul did indeed attest to witnessing a resurrected Jesus at least once in his writings, for example. I am not sure I would like to continue to stand behind that point. Maybe a variation of that point could still be made about the differences in concentrations of miracles in myths (high concentration) versus eyewitness testimony (low concentration), but I am not ready to make that the focus of a new debate. Sorry.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Meatros 3 years ago
Meatros
ApostateAbeGileandosTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro's sources were better - and he successfully criticized Con's sources (ref Gosp Mark, luke's early date). Con's conduct suffered due to unnecessary rhetoric (borderline inflammatory). Pro's contentions were better sourced and Pro showed they were more plausible. Con did not show how early dating made the texts more plausible (less mythical), nor how they make it more plausible that the sources were from eyewitness or as opposed to myths (Pro's primary contention).
Vote Placed by KRFournier 3 years ago
KRFournier
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Reasons for voting decision: Argument to Con as Pro's position begs the question. The "problems" are all grounded in presuppositions about what is possible and isn't possible, but there was no mention of what myths these texts originated. In the end, it was just begging the question.
Vote Placed by ReformedArsenal 3 years ago
ReformedArsenal
ApostateAbeGileandosTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Con's argument was better, but he got a little snooty toward the end. There was some unnecessary posturing that lost him conduct points. Pro also had more copious and reliable sourcing.