A Response to Clubschadenfreude on the 500

Is there a case here? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

For some wondering about a final reply to Matt Ferguson, we will be having a debate so I figure rather than reply, wait and save everything I see problematic for the debate, entirely my prerogative. This will likely be a month or so into the future. I’m thinking around mid-September would be the best for me. Yet meanwhile, someone has linked me to a writing on the appearance to the 500 on a blog by a Clubschadenfreude, whom I will be calling CS from now on. The first part can be found here. There is a link to part two and I do not consider it necessary that I give links to both parts.

Unfortunately, one has to wade through much of CS complaining about the way apologists and such think, which ironically I find to be really the exact way fundamentalist atheists like CS actually think. Claims of “Nothing more than a story”, etc. show up. Does any interaction with real NT scholarship show up? Well, we already know the answer to that one.

So let’s try and cut to the chase.

Note CS is responding to some others in this post so let’s see what is said first.

Now, for the claims SS and Ben have used about their religion to be true, for example that JC was a man/god and that his body vanished by magic and he came back from the dead, we need a story *and* evidence to support it. We have nothing that does so that cannot be used for other religions. You have offered stories, not the evidence that supports them. A claim that 500 people saw JC is not evidence. I can claim to have 500 people in my backyard. What would be evidence for this claim? Maybe a photo, crushed plants (I have a wee back yard), a police report from my neighbor who doesn’t like me, etc.. We can have a believable “report” if we have that corroborating evidence. A story does not stand on its own. I have no more reason to believe the stories of Indian gods being with people than I have to believe the Christian claim that there was a demigod. I ask Ben and SS: Do you believe that the gods interacted with the ancient Hindus? Or do you think that they are just stories? What would make you believe that such claims are true? For me, it would be again corroborating evidence as I have listed.

The language here is quite revealing. At the start, I am not arguing for the incarnation. I am simply arguing for the resurrection. Is the incarnation important? Yes. Do I hold to it? Yes. Yet right now, I am simply arguing for the historical claim and the ramifications of that come later. The claim is as follows:

“The historical figure known as Jesus died.”

“This same person was alive afterwards.”

That is it. If those two are established, will I move on from there? Yes, but CS does not understand that this is not an all-or-nothing game. It is not the case that unless one proves the incarnation, then one has not shown Jesus did not rise.

To refer to this as a story is also problematic. I know of no NT scholar who says the account is simply a story. All of them take it seriously, even Robert Price in saying that this has to be an interpolation.

If Paul is trying to make a convincing argument to the Corinthians, we should realize something. Even if the account is wrong, Paul certainly believes it to be true. Not only does he believe it to be true, he is willing to put himself on the line by offering it to be challenged by saying most of them are alive though some have fallen asleep. In other words, he is saying that the people are there to be questioned.

“But their names are not mentioned!” One wonders why Paul should have to write out a list of say 400+ people in an age where writing was timely and expensive. The oral tradition would take care of this and these people would have been well-known in the community.

So if Paul believes it to be true, either Paul is wrong entirely, or there’s a misunderstanding. If Paul is wrong entirely, then we need a reason to know why no NT scholar is making this claim. For instance, consider a non-Christian like Ludemann.

“The only thing that we can certainly say to be historical is that there were resurrection appearances in Galilee (and in Jerusalem) soon after Jesus’s death. These appearances cannot be denied” (Gerd Ludemann. .”What Really Happened To Jesus?” p. 81

CS’s position is one of hyper-skepticism. Now we could just as well say that perhaps this event did happen then, but it was a mass hallucination. Fair enough, yet if CS wishes to argue it was a mass hallucination, then it is up to CS to back that claim.

For our purposes, it is important to note that Paul compares this to our resurrection. CS is urged to read two works that show Paul is talking about a physical resurrection despite interpretations to the contrary. The first is Gundry’s study “Soma in Biblical Greek.” The second is Michael Licona’s work on pages 403-37 of “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.” For another view, since CS could think I’m begging the question by citing Christian scholars, they could consider chapter 5 of Dale Martin’s “The Corinthian Body.”

Note, this would require CS do some reading in NT scholarship. As we’ve seen, this could be problematic.

CS also says a story does not stand on its own. This is extremely problematic as there is no rule in historiography that says “If there is only one testimony to an ancient event, that event cannot be accepted as historical.” If CS thinks there is such a rule, it is up to them to show it.

Let’s move on.

In the story of Jesus Christ, we have four differing stories of what should be the most important event in history, and no one else in the world noticed events that should have been pretty obvious.

Unfortunately, this is moving away from the 500. How does it work to show “Paul must be wrong because the later gospels are wrong?” It doesn’t. If that’s the standard, then anyone could have disproven Christianity supposedly by just writing an account that contradicted the gospels early on. One must weigh each claim on its own.

Also, CS seems to wonder why no one else would notice these events. Here’s why. It’s quite simple. No one else would really take them seriously.

Suppose you are an official in the Roman Empire and you have a servant come to you and say “Sir! There is a report that in Jerusalem, there is a rabbi who has been traveling and teaching and though crucified, he has risen from the dead!” What are you going to be thinking?

Jerusalem…A strange area in the world known for trouble-making and rabble-rousing. The people there have strange beliefs and have been known to have rebellions regularly.

Miraculous claims-Something we don’t need to take seriously. The gods are not intervening in our lives and if they are, they certainly won’t choose a place like Judea. They would choose us.

A rabbi. Why on Earth would I take the idea of a rabbi seriously as being a Messiah figure? If anything, we’ll just send a squadron of troops down there if these people get problematic and squash them like we always have.

Why would you not be paying attention? Because you are skeptical as most people were in this time. We know, for instance, that the world did not immediately convert to Christianity despite the fact that Christians from the beginning were teaching the resurrection. Why did they not? Because people did not believe every claim they heard. Today, we know how important the claim was. Back then, it would be seen as just another claim.

If CS thinks otherwise, it is their burden to show why such a claim should have been taken seriously, especially with would-be Messiahs on every corner practically in Israel.

For example, how the Titanic sank was up for debate when it was just competing stories, but the actual ship shows what happened. Stories can be told about such things, but that doesn’t mean that the there was one ridiculously large blue diamond on board. If we have no good reason to believe in what is claimed, an event that has no evidence to have happened of to have *ever* happened, having contradictions about the event shows that there is even less reason to believe it. For instance, the bit about whether Jesus can be touched or not. If one touches him and one is not supposed to, then what? They are struck down like Uzzah? That JC ceases to become holy? He was certainly worried about it in one story, but not the others. If I can’t trust JC’s words in this, why trust it when he says “Him that believes in me shall have everlasting life.”?

With a mess like this, it is hard to know where to get started. For instance, with the Titanic, the central claim is still the same. It is the same for the resurrection accounts. The central claim is still the same. It is a wonder that the same skeptics who speak about the accounts “copying” one another and thus not being independent traditions, then say that the accounts contradict one another. We can expect that there would be some differences in the accounts. This is common for eyewitness claims. In fact, in writers like Plutarch, the same event is described differently by the exact same author. Are we to throw out Plutarch?

As for the part about touching JC, I wonder what on Earth CS is going on about. Did CS bother doing any real study on what the word touch means in John? Did CS look up any commentaries or consult with NT scholarship on the issue? I do not think we really have to ask the question. We already know the answer.

CS then goes on to talk about the standards given to juries in CA and says this in part of the reply:

People do honestly forget and make mistakes; however, there is no evidence of an honest mistake in something written decades after the supposed event. And indeed, two people may witness an event differently.

It is as if there is something to the account being written decades after the events. Does CS not know that this is common in ancient literature? The best account we have of Tiberius overall would be Tacitus, which is about 80 years after Tiberius lived. Plutarch wrote about events that happened centuries before he lived.

CS gets this idea from living in a Post-Gutenberg society where it is thought “If you want to get the truth out there, write it down!” The ancient person would not have thought that. For them, the oral tradition would in fact be more reliable. It is something you can question and interact with. In fact, a written account would reach fewer people since few people in the Roman Empire were capable of reading. Not only that, does CS know nothing about the time it would take to write such an account as well as the cost of writing such an account? It would not matter to say that they wanted to or had great motivation. One might as well say because I would love to build my wife a barn and buy her a horse to put in that barn, that despite not having money, I should be able to go out and do that right now.

CS goes on:

As in all cases, the evidence for someone existing is dependent on evidence, not only stories. I can claim that Thor Odinsson existed but unless we can find corroborating evidence, my claim has no basis in reality. Can we make an educated guess at the probability of someone existing? Yes. In this case, Thor is a god, and since we have no evidence of gods or the supernatural, the probability of his existence approaches zero. Did Julius Caesar exist? Well, we know that there was a Roman empire, there were generals and there were emperors, so the likelihood of his existence is high. Can we accept all that is claimed about him with no question? No. Same with Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Saladin, King Richard the Lion-hearted, etc. In archaeology, we can be pretty sure that a stone mason or blacksmith existed, but we may not have a name to put with the artifacts in a village.

I do not accept the so-called supernatural/natural distinction, yet we sit back and eagerly await the disproving of all theistic arguments by CS. I especially await her disproving of the Five Ways of Aquinas. If philosophy is approached the same way history is, I suspect I will be waiting a long time.

If CS also wants to go with archaeology as the main source, they will encounter problems. For one thing, one has a bare minimum of what the ancients had in archaeology. It is usually said one has 1% of 1% of 1%. What archaeological evidence would CS expect to find for some people accepted as historical. What could we expect to find of Gamaliel, for instance?

Suppose CS says we need to find coins. Why should we expect that? To begin with, a Jew would not have a coin stamped with the image of a person created. That would go against the 2nd commandment for them. Second, why should the Roman Empire have coins depicting Jesus or Gamaliel or any other Jew of that time?

Finally, there are numerous people written about in history that we would not find specific evidence for except the writings of the historians themselves. CS needs to tell us why it is we should be skeptical of such writings otherwise if we need corroboration. Should I doubt a figure in Tacitus existed if I cannot find something archaeological to back them?

Now, let’s look at the claims of about James. We have the Bible claiming he existed, as the brother of Jesus Christ, son of God. We have Josephus mentioning him: “Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.” However, if one reads about James, there are problems with calling him a “brother” if one accepts one sect’s version of Christianity. Is he brother or cousin? Or was he either? We have a few mentions in Acts, this mention in Josephus and mentions hundreds of years later. At best, we can say that there probably was a person who led the Jerusalem Christians. He may have been called James, since that seems to be a fairly common name (in regards to common names, Josephus mentions 20 men called Jesus aka Joshua, a common Jewish name). He may have been the brother to a rabbi who claimed to be the messiah. But we have nothing that shows he was the brother to a demigod. And that is the person that Christains need to show existed. I could say “sure, there was a man who thought he was the messiah. Per records from the time, there were bunches of them.” I ask Ben and SS and our other Christians here: “And then what? We know that this is not the character you wish to prove existed. I have no problem with you denying the divinity of Joshua ben Joseph, but I think your religion does. “Who do you say that I am?”

And again, we have this same problem. One must show this Jesus is in fact the incarnate Son of God supposedly. That is not what must be shown to show the resurrection. This is the kind of all-or-nothing thinking that is common to fundamentalist atheism. Note also that there is nothing here about archaeological evidence of James, yet his existence can be accepted. (In fact, do we have archaeological evidence of Josephus? Maybe he never existed.)

Yes. There are some who think James was a cousin and not a brother. What of it? Both sides agree James existed and was a relative of Jesus and was skeptical of him beforehand. Yes. There are several people named James. Again, what of it? Note this one is particularly noteworthy since he is identified by his brother who was called Christ. This must have been a famous Jesus that would have been known by an earlier reference, and indeed there is one earlier in the work of Josephus, though granted it has interpolations. Few scholars say it is a wholesale interpolation, including Josephus scholars. Most if not all Josephus scholars would say some the testimonium is authentic.

Since there is evidence for neither Horus nor Jesus Christ, there is no reason to think either theist claims to be true. Parts of Josephus, like the bible, may contain accurate information. But we know that all of it does not. This shows how some Christians cherry pick their sources. They wish to say that since Paul mentions James, James must exist. All we have are Paul’s claims, nothing more. Paul mentions demons, again, nothing shows that they exist either. In that we have stories about characters that non-Christians find true, and believe to be non-fiction, that should mean that SS, for example, should accept them for truth as much as he thinks I should accept his claims as truth. I think I am fairly safe in guessing that SS isn’t going to proclaim the authenticity of the deeds of Heracles or Hanuman anytime soon. And thus, if that isn’t proof enough that Heracles and Hanuman didn’t exist, then” nothing, simply nothing will convince you or anyone else. “

Again, this shows CS is one of three things.

CS is piggybacking on Carrier.

CS is ignorant of NT scholarship.

Or finally, both. My money is on both.

For instance, has CS dealt with the references in Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, Pliny, Mara Bar-Serapion, etc. The reality is that the idea of a Christ-myth is simply a joke in NT scholarship. Most scholars would barely even give it a foot note. If CS wants to make claims about Hercules and others, let the evidence be presented. In fact, if there can be shown to be good evidence that there was a person named Hercules in history, even though there could have been legend built up around him, then it is necessary that we accept it.

For now, let’s move on to part two.

I have said that there are only stories that Paul existed as claimed. That includes his supposed conversion. I can also say that there are only stories that Simon Magus flew around since that also cannot be shown as true either. There are many stories that have no evidence supporting them. We have the claims that King Solomon used demons to build the Temple of Solomon. I ask our Christians: Is that a story or is it the truth? How can you tell? We have no evidence of such a temple so who knows how it was built, if it existed at all. This also applies to the supposed empty tomb. We have no tomb so we have no idea if anyone was in it, or if anyone disappeared from it.

Not even Richard Carrier would accept the claim that Paul never existed! This just shows the extremes that CS is willing to go to. Has CS given a historiography by which to show that a person is historical. As for these other claims, let CS feel free to give the evidence for them. I do not discount them ipso facto, but I do ask to see the evidence.

For instance, consider the claim about Simon Magus flying. These are in works that are believed by NT scholars to be apocryphal. This is the kind of account that CS wishes to compare to the gospels, which are Greco-Roman bioi. (See Richard Burridge’s work.)

What CS doesn’t realize is that one should accept a claim that there is good evidence for, regardless of if that claim goes against one’s worldview. If it does, then one should be prepared to change the worldview, unless of course one wants their worldview to interpret the evidence.

For instance, if I refuse to be open to the possibility that there is no God, then is it proper for me to interpret all evidence in that light and whenever any evidence goes against my position, just have to re-interpret it somehow? If my central claim of my worldview is false, it would eventually catch up to me. If I would not be allowed to do that, why should CS be allowed to do the same?

CS goes on to say more about Acts being a story, though I would be impressed to see her find the scholar who says none of Acts is historical, and I suspect the only possible name that could come up is Carrier.

And yes, I do say that the appearance to the 500 is just a story. It comes from 1 Corinthians, written by Paul, some decades later than the supposed event. There is no evidence this is from some “ancient creed”, it is solely found in 1 Corinthians.

We await the news that CS has discovered that is not known to even skeptical groups like the Jesus Seminar. We eagerly await their interacting with the scholarship on this such as Dunn, Hurtado, Ludemann, Crossan and Borg, Bauckham, etc. that all say that this is a creed. If CS simply wishes to say there is no evidence, then this is a sufficient reply.

There is evidence.

If CS can make an assertion without an argument, there should be no objection to my doing the same. The difference is, I do have an argument and it is one rooted in NT scholarship. Number of scholars I’ve seen referred to by CS thus far? You could count that with all your fingers cut off.

Paul indeed says that ““Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.” SS, you claim that this should be “self-explanatory”. However, it isn’t, and I ask you to do so

It is not self-explanatory indeed, but CS has not done the research on this. We know from Josephus that this is the Pharisaic language used to indicate the passing on of tradition. It is saying “I got this from my rabbi and now I am passing it on to you.” One gets the impression that CS reads no scholarship and does not argue for their claims really but simply has the position of “If Christians do not prove their claims, mine are right!” If so, that is simply wrong.

We see SS making baseless claims again when he claims that “myths of dying and rising gods never really took off in Palestine”. Well, one could make the argument that they certainly did, with the ideas being co-opted into the Jewish myths with Jesus.

One could, but CS certainly doesn’t! Has CS gone through the relevant material in Boyd and Eddy’s “The Jesus Legend”? Has CS interacted with Craig Evans in “Fabricating Jesus.” CS is simply relying on scholarship that most scholars today do not take seriously. Indeed, the internet is the place where zombies live most as dead ideas get resurrected to new life to those behind on scholarship. Not even Bart Ehrman takes these claims seriously.

If CS wishes to show that the Jews decided to copy a pagan idea, then I leave the burden of proof to CS. I suspect CS has never even read a work like Ulansey’s on a figure such as Mithras. I can assure CS that I am not impressed with Google scholarship.

No, he [Hercules] is taken to heaven and made a full-fledged god. Just like someone else we know, eh?

Why am I not surprised that CS’s source on this is Wikipedia? Hercules undergoes an apotheosis. This is not the claim of Jesus, but it is again irrelevant right now as all seeking to be shown is the resurrection. Perhaps if CS thinks this is true they can give us a general timeframe of when this happened, like NT scholars can do with Jesus. Perhaps, CS could also show the difference between a deity in a polytheistic system vs. the deity in Second Temple Judaism and how Jesus as God’s Wisdom would strongly differ from a polytheistic concept.

In the Jewish prophecies, we have no claims of being killed and returning. The messiah will come and then reign, with all of the world’s leaders respecting him. Didn’t happen so much with JC. What’s the possible answer? That the idea of a returning god is co-opted into the story to explain an inconvenient death.

We can thank CS for saying that there was no such prophecy at the time of Christ understood this way. In fact, it is only after the event that this starts being seen in Christian tradition. This would go against the idea of Jesus being made up based on the OT.

As for what didn’t happen with Jesus, as an orthodox Preterist, I only find it humorous.

I would ask SS how one could show a connection between the resurrection myths and Jesus. What would be possible ways to do this? Hmmm. Well, we have the cultures intermixing, either normally through trade and conquest, or if you believe the bible, through the supposed enslavement of the Israelites by one big culture all about resurrection, the Egyptians. We can see how religions infect each other with the modern examples of voodoo and Santeria. So we have an actual observed phenomenon versus an unsupported claim that the authors of the bible came up with the idea of resurrection on their own. Perhaps it is more important to ask: How can one show that the authors of the bible didn’t copy the myth?

Once again, CS needs to interact with Boyd, Eddy, and Evans, who go to great work to show that even in the diaspora, Jews clung tightly to their guns. Sure, they would interact with Gentiles, but they did not imbibe their ideas that way. They could learn the language, but that did not entail accepting the beliefs of people who spoke that language.

CS can point to modern examples, but to say people do this today in a belief system shows the Jews did so in theirs is just fallacious. Each claim must be taken on its own and considering the Jews were quite opposed to intermixing, especially after their having gone to Babylon for doing so earlier, the burden is on CS to show that this happened.

As for the claim that Craig is being used, I would say there is a good possibility Craig is not being used. The pointing to the creed is more along the lines of the minimal facts approach. Craig does use minimal facts outside the creed, which makes his approach more problematic. It seems CS does not know about the minimal facts approach, which again shows they are behind on NT scholarship.

If CS wishes to challenge this, then this is my challenge. Come to TheologyWeb.com and look for me there in the Deeper Waters section. Feel free to send a message there and tell me you’re here to accept the challenge. I eagerly await to see if CS shows up.

And as expected, throughout, we have seen no interaction with NT scholarship. A shame. Perhaps CS would benefit by going to the library more than going to Google.

In Christ,
Nick Peters