CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Much has been said (often with good reason) about the failing of popular-level Christian apologetics. I must admit that I have trouble surpressing a sigh when I pick up a volume by McDowell or Zacharias and find the same oft-refuted cliches repeated over and over, with no attempt to seriously engage the issues with sophistication and intellectual modesty. But of course that is also true of popular (and even more sophisticated) atheist apologetics as well. When I heard of the forthcoming publication of Victor J. Stenger's God: The Failed Hypothesis, given his training in physics and previous engagement with religion-and-science (see his Has Science Found God?) I was expecting a major new defense of atheism that would take a great deal of thought and effort to refute. To say I was disappointed when I finally picked it up is an understatement. The book is short, simplistic and unsatisfactory at every turn. But I'm not going to review the book here. I want instead to list (in a rather satirical fashion) the 'ingredients' of a (undeservingly) successful popular atheist apologetic, as I have noticed after reading quite a bit of it myself:

1) The most important point you can make (and you should make it early on to impress your readers with the profundity of your religious thought) is that everyone is a skeptic...with respect to everyone else's religion! Having awed your readers with this deep insight, you should go on to give specific examples of defunct religions that no one (or almost no one) believes in, such as Norse mythology, the Gods of Olympus and of course the final slam dunk...the flying Spaghetti monster! Ask in a benignly condescending tone if creationists would accept the teaching of all these other religions along with creationism in the science classroom. Of course don't bother to do serious comparative and philosophical work on the phenomenology and vitality of these belief systems, because you might discover that the proposed analogy is weaker than daytime television and doesn't get you ANY argumentative mileage whatsoever (for rebuttals to this and other equally fascile skeptical 'arguments', see here and here). Acknowledge in advance that your arguments (good as they are) are not likely to convince any 'true believers', but if it can at least open some eyes then your work will not have been futile.

2) If you do happen to dip your wick into the history of religion, limit yourself to a poorly documented repeat of the standard (and false) story of the transition from animism to mythology to religion to science. Religion started out when nobody knew what was going on, see, and so it is nothing but the first stories that people told to make sense of a frightening world, before Science (capital S) came along and people starting using Reason (capital R). A quote (but no more than that) from David Hume's Natural History of Religion to the effect that religion results from the attempt to put labels on the unknown causes of everyday phenomena would not go amiss.

3) Devote no more than a few pages to dismissing (oops, sorry, I mean disproving) the classical philosophical arguments for God's existence, after helpfully informing your reader that these are theism's only shot at an intellectually respectable case for belief. Even better, refer them to Richard Dawkins' sharp, witty yet intellectually impeccable 'critique' in The God Delusion. If you anticipate that someone will complain that Dawkins is no theologian and how would a biologist feel if a musician tried to criticize current biological models, turn it (oh, the irony!) back at them and shrewdly observe that if even a non-theologian can do such a good job at demolishing theological arguments, theology must not be a very respectable discipline at all!

4) Having closed off the philosophical front (perhaps with a final assessment that it is so much 'metaphysical hand-waving' anyway) move swiftly on to the design argument. Quote a few lines from Paley, then triumphantly announce that Darwin with the help of Richard Dawkins has proved him WRONG, referring the interested reader to The Blind Watchmaker (N.B. the cool thing here is that you don't actually have to have read any of the above, Darwin himself least of all! Just show that you've heard of the books in question and that instantly elevates you in the eyes of your now captive audience of readers, who later on in amazon.com reviews will recall that they found themselves 'ticking off points' in their head in agreement with your judicious and careful examination of these arguments). But for heaven's sake (which you don't believe in anyway) leave out any mention of Richard Swinburne, Rodney Holder, Holmes Rolston, Mark Wynn or Robin Collins. The interested reader might find that the conversation has moved on just a bit since Paley. Close with an insinuating remark about how Intelligent Design (which is so clearly ID-iotic, another chuckle of agreement from the captivated reader) is just 'creationism redux' and is part of a sinister effort to corrupt our children's education.

5) Religious experience is easy to dismiss: it's all in the head. Remind your readers that Freud proved that religious beliefs were just illusions (without asking exactly what he meant by that word) and then make a reference to Michael Persinger's "God Machine" and the psilocybin trip you took during your hippy days in college (it was, like, intense, man, one-with-everything and all that). And of course any attempt by theists to argue that neurology and God might not be competing causes of religious experience is just a desperate attempt to ward off the relentless advance of science. Don't bother to mention the work of Caroline Franks Davis, Fraser Watts or Philip H. Wiebe. The latter in particular will cause serious trouble.

6) Your chapter (does it really have to be that long?) on the historicity of Scripture will be greatly aided by two heaven-sent (again the vacuous use of that word!) authors: G.A. Wells and Earl Doherty. Didn't you know it, they actually proved that Jesus never existed! Actually, your chapter can consist almost entirely of quotations from their books, as they do the job so well. If you do quote any scholars from 'the other side' limit your selection to Josh McDowell (it doesn't hurt to add that when you were in high school you thought that his arguments were iron-clad and dared any of your skeptical friends to disprove him), maybe Lee Strobel at a pinch (helpfully referring your readers to, who else, Earl Doherty's refutation in Challenging the Verdict). Jesus didn't exist, or if he did exist the Jesus seminar has proved that he was a wandering cynic talking head who certainly didn't think he was God and certainly didn't rise from the dead (after all, biology proves that 'dead bodies stay dead', right?). Don't bother with James D.G. Dunn, N.T. Wright, John P. Meier, Ben Witherington, Gregory Boyd or Craig Blomberg. They're all just theologians dabbling illegitimately in history anyway, as Earl Doherty points out.

7) In the field of religion and morality, Sam Harris is your go-to man. His eye-opening expose of the harm caused by religion throughout history is matched only by Christopher Hitchen's delightfully witty and sarcastic god is not Great. Pluck some OT verses out of context, accuse God of promoting genocide and slavery and your job is done. Don't so much as breathe names like Alasdair MacIntyre, Servais Pinckaers, Richard Hays or Robert M. Adams (chances are you haven't heard of them anyway).

8) Having led your captivated readers on a whirlwind tour of the case for atheism, end with some calm and humane remarks about what we can replace religion with. Remind your readers that they don't have to believe in God to appreciate the beauty of a sunset or even enjoy an oratorio of Handel (your knowledge of the name will also indirectly establish that you're something of a Renaissance man, as all good atheists are). The future will be bright indeed if we abandon our childish beliefs in God (the metaphor of growing up is always helpful here; no need to mention the countless believers throughout history who converted as adults) and trust in Reason and Science to show us the way.

This is not to suggest that all atheistic apologetics is like this. But unfortunately it does represent a rather large cross-section. Even more unfortunate is the fact that it seems to convince so many people. Maybe we are really the irrational, gullible species that skeptics take us to be.

38 comments:

You know, I think I've read that book over and over and over . . . .

Very perceptive.

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You don't even need to bring in Earl Doherty and GA Wells when discussing the New Testament. Hitchens has shown that a few vague comments (they don't even have to be true!) will suffice. Like "There were many lives lost in the struggle over which gospels should be put in the bible" or "The Gospels can't agree on anything of importance" or "We can't even find Q, the primary source for all four Gospels." It's also helpful to act as if Bart Ehrman's book contains radical findings that represent brand-new earthshattering knowledge.

The sad thing is, people are so uneducated about the texts (even on our own side of the aisle where we have no excuse for them _not_ to be), BE's book probably _does_ contain 'radical findings' representing 'brand-new earthshattering knowledge' to those people! (I mean where it has actual content and not invented content.)

Heck, a couple of years ago I read a bishop trying to shock his listeners into believing Christianity was inherently violent by appealing to the fact, apparently recently discovered by him, that the cross was an instrument of torture. Uh....... aside from the goofy logic involved there, what bishop managed to get through to a bishopric without reading somewhere like, oh, in a Gospel for instance, that a cross was used to execute people by torture?!?!! Obviously he didn't go to a parochial school, either: the guy nailed up on the big plus sign there means those nuns are _really_ serious about their math! {g}

JRP

Excellent! Humorous and insightful... Very well done.

JD Walters,
What is the best though provoking atheistic book you have read and why?

I'm currently reading a book you mentioned and I can relate to your points!

you forgot to 'not mention' Alvin Plantinga

Anon,

As far as general atheistic apologetics go, I would have to say "The Ghost in the Universe" by Taner Edis is the best of the lot. Unlike many others, Edis has actually immersed himself in the best theistic philosophy of religion and apologetics while at the same time he impressively applies his own considerable expertise in the physical sciences to create problems for ID-style arguments. His tone is also more composed and rational. While I don't buy his overall argument, he certainly gets you thinking.

Other generally good atheist apologetics:

Victor J. Stenger, "Has Science Found God?"

Louise Anthony, ed., "Philosophers without Gods"

Avoid Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins and Onfray like the plague. Not because they pose disturbing challenges to belief, but just the opposite.

I don't know to what extent it counts as atheistic apologetics, per se (not having read it yet myself); but Victor Reppert had 'high quality' compliments to give to the adversarial God and the Reach of Reason by Erik Wielenberg. It's a comparison/contrast of Hume, Russell, and Lewis.

The amazon link can be found here.

JRP

All apologists recommend not to read the popular atheists Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins and Onfray books, which do reflect some of the popular secular views. These ideas should be read, analysed and discussed openly like any other ideas. If Christians have the truth and are right, they do not have to worry about the atheist ideas.

Every apologist also recommends not to read Earl Doherty dismissing his ideas crazy. I haven't seen many arguments against his ideas or explaining his theories from the Christian point of view. Apologists just completely deny his ideas, like putting the head in the sand.

Apologists seem to have the old (and still current) Catholic Church "banned book list" mentality in their heads. They want to read atheist books, analyse, comment and distribute only their own views of the books and recommend that those books should be avoided like plaque. If someone tells you to avoid something like plaque, it is a red flag telling that something strange is going on. Apologist need to come to the 21st century and realise that people can think themselves.

Every apologist also recommends not to read Earl Doherty dismissing his ideas crazy. I haven't seen many arguments against his ideas or explaining his theories from the Christian point of view. Apologists just completely deny his ideas, like putting the head in the sand.

What planet are you from? Seriously. How can you complain that Christians don't believe in engaging others in argument when you are so obviously ignorant of the many refutations of Doherty online?

I have several articles of my own responding to the Jesus Myth and Doherty that you can find at my Virtual Office.

We engage him regularly on points here on this blog, here, here, here, here, here, and here. There are more but I got tired of copying and coding.

You can find other responses to Doherty at our historical Jesus page.

And obviously Tektonics has a bunch of stuff on Doherty.

New Testament scholar Darrel Bock has been going through Doherty's Jesus Puzzle one piece at a time, engaging and responding to Comments.

Talk about putting one's head in the sand. Say hello!

Not counting the substantial cottage industry of books that popped out concerning _The Da Vinci Code_ and are in the process of popping out concerning the New Atheism movement, quoting the NA apologists in depth and discussing their ideas. (I'm interviewing David Marshall currently concerning one of those books, to be posted here on the Cadre journal eventually; also on the popular Lost Gospel fad.)

There's a difference between worrying about atheistic ideas because they're harmful and needlessly disturbing; and worrying about them because gosh they might be true after all. This is a principle Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, et al, agree with themselves: simply sending John and Mary Smith to go read those Christian books and see for themselves how meaningless, fraudulent, hurtful etc they are, doesn't work. Because the popular Christian writers rely on mere rhetoric to appeal to the masses, and the scholarly level Christian writers (if there even are any--the New Atheism movement tends to imply there aren't really) are discoursing on philosophical and historical matters so complex that it's easy to get lost (and thus easy for those scholars to run shell games on readers who don't have access to all the data and lack the training to follow dense arguments for validity).

Besides, historically speaking it has clearly proven worse than useless to send John and Mary to just go read those Christian authors, because history shows us THIS IS LIKELY TO MAINTAIN AND INCREASE CHRISTIANITY! Which obviously the New Atheist authors don't want, duh. Which is why they're trying to write their own popular apologetics now, to inoculate people and warn them off from getting involved with those crazy Christers anymore.

Everyone can't read everything, so people depend on professional authors to at least give them pointers about quality of the material (or lack thereof so the rest of us don't waste our time on trying to pay attention to it).

In any case, if (Christian) apologists were really doing the sort of thing you were complaining about, would that mean you'd recommend that those apologists (unlike the NA ones?) should be avoided like the... um... plaque?

And if so, would that recommendation count as a red flag telling that something strange is going on?

JRP

Hi,

Apologies if I was not clear enough before. My main point was that if apologists recommend Christian defence books, to be fair they should also recommend some of the atheist books. I'm sure both side "run shell games on readers". I would not recommend Hitchens' latest book to the Christians, but I don't understand why you have Dennett on your list. On the other hand, I would recommend people to read the Bible; most Christians have not even fully read it.

I would not recommend to avoid anyone like plague; people need to make up their own mind. I would not recommend Josh McDowell, but I think C. S. Lewis is a good to read. I recommend people to listen Bob Enyart and Matt Slick as well as Harris and Dawkins. Dawkins' debates are usually good as he tends to pick worthy adversaries and both sides have strong arguments.

Layman, most of the reviews have one or two paragraphs of a book following by a critique, while failing to address the bigger picture like why Christianity originally had so many similarities to other religions, why you can still see the traces of ancient solar worshipping in Christianity and why Christianity had caused so many wars. Especially JP Holding's (tektonics) often valid views seem to be vershadowed by so many ad hominem attacks, causing many non-believers to dismiss his articles.

Hey, um, Anon!

(It's entirely possible to put some kind of name at the end of your comment, btw, so that we can distinguish between various people who don't register with Google/Blogger/Booger. Which I can hardly blame you for. {g})

{{My main point was that if apologists recommend Christian defence books, to be fair they should also recommend some of the atheist books.}}

Which in fact we had done in the comments section, before you sent in your post making this main point. My apologies if therefore we thought your main point was something else.

As for myself, I prefer to recommend a respect for some particular atheistic arguments rather than for some particular atheistic books. But that’s only because I prefer to deal with the principles involved; similarly I don’t usually go out of my way to recommend particular Christian apologetic books, either.

{{I would not recommend Hitchens' latest book to the Christians, but I don't understand why you have Dennett on your list.}}

In my experience, Dennett ends up giving the same arguments as Dawkins, Hitchens, et al; he just does so in a somewhat (sometimes only slightly) more sophisticated style. Content is what I judge by, though.

We aren’t going to recommend something we think has very faulty content; but we do frequently discuss contents we think are very faulty, as well as contents we think are considerably more respectable. Most of the writers here are better than I am about pointing to an example in print, and providing links for people to go check it out for themselves. (I do, too, when I have a particular topical source in mind; it’s just that usually I’m thinking in terms of principle analysis and application, so particular topical sources are less relevant. That doesn’t keep me from indulging in some solid appreciation of sceptical arguments, though; as this recent entry among others readily testifies.)

I’ve been meaning to write some things in appreciation (as well as criticism) of Keith Parsons’ attempt at an “atheist manifesto”, too--I’ve just been distracted by other projects recently. (One among them being the marketing of a novel that happens to contain a surprise application of the argument from evil, yanking the carpet out from one of the main protagonists, that most readers have complimented me on.) But I did take time to make mention of Keith’s attempt here, until I could get around to it myself; and gave him some general compliments in passing. Relatedly, I’m also routinely on record as stating that I scored Keith a win by a solid edge in the famous 90s debate with William Lane Craig. One of the reasons I was drafted to be part of the Cadre was due to an exchange I had with Keith on Victor’s DangIdea board, concerning Res theories, where I went to a lot of trouble to grant him credit (and even correct a serious mistake on my own part!) in the midst of my criticality. Heck, I even wrote a fairly long post entirely predicated on treating John Loftus with intellectual respect in his scepticism--an apologist who (despite his protests) I frankly consider to be one of those New Atheist types.

I’m currently planning to post up entries on an archetypal ontological argument for naturalism, and on the argument from evil, both of which I drafted in respect for the arguments (and which I’ve posted up before in various comments over at DangIdea); and also beginning a series on basic metaphysics where I’ll routinely be making nods in the direction of sceptical criticism. (First I have to cap off my series on ethics, though--hard to do since it’s taken from a very large book I wrote years ago, and leads into about 150 more pages of ‘stuff’ than I want to get into right now.)

That’s just me. Other writers here do their own occasional appreciations of sceptical complaints/criticisms/arguments; and even when they’re being critical, they’re typically providing a way for readers to go check contexts for themselves. We’re hardly advocating a head-in-the-sand approach.

{{Dawkins' debates are usually good as he tends to pick worthy adversaries and both sides have strong arguments.}}

Dawkins (and/or his publicist) does tend to pick worth adversaries. As to whether he has strong arguments, frankly I disagree--he tends to make blantant logical errors and leaps, as well as relying (inadvertently or not) on factual errors and a lot of mere rhetoric. If anything, he’s gotten worse at this since 1996 (when I spent 500 pages closely analyzing his 10-yr anniversary release and supposedly re-edit of TBW. Incidentally, when I eventually tallied up my comments, I decided that 64% of that book was of decently high quality, and the rest of it wasn’t necessarily all less than medicore. But dang, when he does make mistakes...)

I'm willing to do an analysis on a debate of your choice, if you like; but be aware, it won't be a short analysis.

{{most of the reviews have one or two paragraphs of a book following by a critique, while failing to address the bigger picture}}

In other words, most reviews of his (I suppose you mean Doherty’s?) book-plus-length of material aren’t book-length themselves and focus only on particular claims.

That’s partly due to reviews having a limited space/time to work in; partly because sometimes there are particular topics which, if tanked, undermine the particular relevance of largescale arguments; and partly because the “bigger picture” topics you mentioned have been routinely debated for the last 200 years at least in dozens or even hundreds of books, pro and con. They still get debated, critiqued and answered on a regular basis by proponents and opponents of those arguments; including here on the Cadre site. If a reviewer doesn’t think an author is doing anything new with them, the reviewer is likely to spend time focusing on the relatively new and more distinctive arguments instead, and save discussion of those more routine issues for the next time the reviewer decides to talk about the more routine issues--at which time Doherty may or may not be reffed as one of the dozens of writers in the past 22 decades who’ve been trying to make use of such arguments.

JRP

Anoyn,

When you say Christians avoid responding substantively and stick their heads in the sand and are then faced with examples of Christians responding substantively and obviously well aware of the opposition's arguments, you say you didn't mean what you said. That is not a promising start.

Layman, most of the reviews have one or two paragraphs of a book following by a critique, while failing to address the bigger picture like why Christianity originally had so many similarities to other religions,

I get it. The details are all wrong but the big picture is correct?

We all admit Christianity has similarities to Judaism. What other religions did you have in mind?

why you can still see the traces of ancient solar worshipping in Christianity

Such as? And don't give me examples that can only be traced back to the fourth century.

and why Christianity had caused so many wars.

Right. Because there were so few wars before Christianity arrived on the scene.

Especially JP Holding's (tektonics) often valid views seem to be vershadowed by so many ad hominem attacks, causing many non-believers to dismiss his articles.

JP makes good points and sometimes makes fun. That is not my style, but the point is that he often does provide substantive responses.

JD Walters,

I take you point about signing my posts. I actually posted the 10/02/2007 04:54:00PM comment because you did not recommend any atheist books, my mistake not signing my post. I agree your book recommendation principles are solid. Do you have a post where you have reviewed an atheist book and recommended it to everyone?

Problem of evil is a unique topic. Anyone living in a western country who has not permanently lived in one of the hell holes in third world countries, seeing the lives, suffering and deaths of little children on the street will usually look silly arguing about evil. Most people with Internet access have no perspective or idea what real evil is.

If you have a chance to comment the debate a week ago between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox. Lennox definitively made better points and had upper hand there. Lennox obviously knows the theology and the Bible better.
http://www.richarddawkins.net/article,1707,Debate-between-Richard-Dawkins-and-John-Lennox,Richard-Dawkins-John-Lennox
Or alternatively please comment the next Dawkins' debate. He usually has one every two months or so. BTW what is/are the main idea(s) where Dawkins goes wrong?

Layman,


When you say Christians avoid responding substantively and stick their heads in the sand and are then faced with examples of Christians responding substantively and obviously well aware of the opposition's arguments, you say you didn't mean what you said. That is not a promising start.


When asked why the Christianity is so similar to the other religions, tektonics' typical answer is "it is not" or earlier "religions copied from the Christianity". To me that is not a satisfactory answer after reading about the earlier religions.

I get it. The details are all wrong but the big picture is correct?

Sorry, that is a logical fallacy. You don't agree with the argumet(s) an author put forward. That does not make them wrong. With that logic if find a single contradiction or inaccuracy in the Bible, you need throw away the whole book.

What other religions did you have in mind?

Osiris/Horus worship, Mysteries of Mithras and it's Persian version, Dionysos cult, Worship of Apollonius of Tyana and couple other gods of vegetations.

why you can still see the traces of ancient solar worshipping in Christianity

Jesus is a one year circular story starting from the Aquarius, miracles on the spring time, walking on water like previous gods, mid summer transfiguration, riding of constellations colt and ass, death winter solstice and plenty of more.

Right. Because there were so few wars before Christianity arrived on the scene

I agree with you. There were plenty of wars before and after 0 CE. The Christianity did not improve the situation. It only introduced another non-tolerant (after 391 CE) exclusivity demanding movement which started to implode after 30 year war.


Sorry I digressed

-Peter

Peter,

Some small clarifications, and then other points, roughly in topical order:

1.) I think I’ve been conflated with JD Walters. Which is flattering in a way {g}, but I’m Jason Pratt.

2.) You did in fact ask for a thought-provoking atheist book recommendation before JD and I answered. (Though my answer was at second-hand, to be honest.)

3.) JD’s remarks about avoiding certain authors like the plague was written in contrast to other authors he explicitly had recommended. Consequently it seemed more than a little weird when someone (who might have been ‘someone else’ for all we knew at the time) went off on JD as though he was merely giving an ‘avoid book’ rec and had done nothing else. Especially in the case of at least three of those authors (Harris, Hitchens and Dawkins) whose works have been ‘discussed openly’ by Christians almost to the point of encroaching boredom.

4.) I don’t do book-review posts for the most part anyway, so it’s a moot question if you were asking me about an atheist book rec. (As noted, I do recommend non-Christian arguments when I find ones worth rec’ing; and I do write journal posts on that.) Whether JD or anyone else here has done oppositional book recs as posts, I don’t know. It’s a good question, though.

5.) In regard to exposure to evil and suffering as being some kind of component to the sceptical argument from evil (or to Christian replies to the argument??): we do have these things called ‘history’ and ‘the news’, you know, which we even read and watch occasionally and which every once in a while feature stories about evil and tragedy (or so I gather). Also, some of us have these things called ‘families’ where evil takes place on a regular basis. On top of this, some of us live in things called ‘communities’ where assaults, rapes, abuses and quieter evils happen on a not-infrequent basis. This isn’t counting mere(?) tragedies like having children and neighbors killed by tornados, cancer, degenerative diseases, drunken drivers.

Moreover, some of us even are sinners ourselves. {s} My whole approach to discussing the problem of evil per se in the “Ethics and the Third Person” series of journal articles here on the Cadre site (starting roughly here), is primarily predicated on analyzing the implications of my own transgressions without pointing fingers at other people. My sins may not ‘look’ very ‘big’ compared to other people’s; but part of the point (which could even be picked up and used by a careful sceptic!) is that the problem from evil is still a legitimate problem to be addressed, even when the examples seem relatively ‘small’.

That being said, I don’t normally (or ever, really) find sceptical arguments from evil bothering to proceed from their own transgressions; so the archetypal version I’m planning to post up (and have posted up elsewhere occasionally) doesn’t proceed from that ground either. It is, however, based on and expanded from a version attempted last year by Richard Carrier, whom you may have heard of as a popular internet apologist (and now co-author of a book or two with some popularity), and whom I used to correspond and debate privately with in the past with some frequency.

Granted, I’m not aware that the atheistic apologist Richard Carrier has permanently lived in one of the hell holes in third world countries, seeing the lives, suffering and deaths of little children on the street (or even in one of the similar hell holes in this first-world country!); but I’m willing to grant that he has some perspective or idea what evil really is. At least, I’ve never yet heard of any sceptic (or Christian either) saying he looks silly arguing about evil for _that_ reason.

(Admittedly, Richard, like some other sceptics, has a peculiar habit of supposing that ‘religious’ people currently live and apparently have always lived in some kind of pocket universe where such things don’t routinely happen, thus explaining why the religious people might get the idea that a good God exists. As someone whose professional field of study is supposed to be history of ancient religions, Richard ought to know better than that; but still he does it anyway, including in the debate last year from which I’ve borrowed and expanded his AfE. I don’t include _that_ rather silly element in clarifying his argument, though.)

6.) I’ll slot the commentary request, keeping in mind my schedule is pretty full at the moment, including at ‘work’ work (I have a pile of quotes on my desk staring at me. Those I get paid for. This I don’t. {g})

Fwiw, I’m an equal opportunity critic (comes from instructing and judging fencing, perhaps); so it’s entirely possible I’ll tag Lennox on more places than you may be expecting! (Indeed, for all I know in advance, I might even score Mr. D the winner between the two on that debate... {shrug}{g} It isn’t impossible. If anything, I scored Tom Wanchick slightly lower than Richard in the debate last year I previously mentioned. Not that I was one of the official judges, but Victor Reppert, who was one of the official judges, polled his compatriots for unofficial scoring before he sent in a final result; and we happened to agree for most of the same reasons.)

7.) The main idea(s) where Dawkins goes wrong? Oy, on what topic... we’re talking about someone who once wrote (p 14 of the 96 version of TBW--has this been corrected _yet_ in more recent drafts??), in all sincerity, as if it made a single lick of sense, that the “fundamental original units” which we must postulate “in order to understand the coming into existence of everything” are either “literally nothing”(!), or are “units of the utmost complexity” (so he could get the universe that exists today out of them) “far too simple to need anything so grand as creation.” He didn’t even change sentences!--he didn’t even put more than a comma between those two clauses!

Like many sceptics in my actual experience, Professor Dawkins has a bad habit of contradicting himself at a moment’s notice--so long as he’s opposing a religious position (or what he thinks is one) by doing so. Christians and other religious types are not exactly immune from this habit either (in fact I have a cynical expectation that Mr. D learned the habit from his early religious years!), but I don’t recommend it in either case.

If I had to pick one key place he goes off the tracks, though, it would be this: Richard Dawkins knows perfectly well, and shows on a regular basis he knows perfectly well, that a fundamentally non-rational basis of reality, and thus of behavior, provides zero grounds in principle (not just in a lack of experimental success) for real-though-derivative rational action. He also knows perfectly well, and shows on a regular basis he knows perfectly well, that human reasoning (especially including his own, though far from restricted to that) involves and requires real-though-derivative rational action. Consequently, he has to deny one and affirm the other.

What he affirms is the former, which logically requires him to deny the latter; but then he can’t really deny the latter without undercutting his own appeal as a rational agent to rational agents.

This leads him to wildly flipflop back and forth between affirming and denying the latter position at a moment’s convenience--so long as he can somehow be affirming the former (which itself is a denial of theism, as he is also perfectly well aware and routinely avers) by doing so.

Not entirely sure I’ll be able to point to an overt example of this in the Lennox debate (depends on what the topical spread is), but the use he’s made of memetic theory in the past 20 years is one example of the result. He’ll paint memes as being utterly non-rational behaviors (which has some plausibility) generating ir/non-rational behaviors in human ‘hosts’ (which also has some plausibility), and he’ll appeal to this process as a way of explaining the rise and constituency of human epistemic behavior generally so that he doesn’t have to appeal to anything other than non-rational behaviors for the constitution of human thinking (which has some surface plausibility at least); and he has no compunction at all about leaning extra-crispy heavily on this as a way of denigrating religious belief (which has even more surface plausibility at least)--

--but _then,_ he’ll turn around and make regular, frequent and plain appeals to some completely _other_ kind of human thinking: a kind of human thinking that is manifestly _not_ the same thing as memetic behavior, because otherwise it would make no sense for him to appeal to people to do _this_ kind of thinking on a topic _instead of_ mere memetic behavior thinking on a topic (specifically religion).

This can only be pointing to a kind of thinking, important and even necessary for ‘rational’ instead of ‘irrational’ thinking, that is qualitatively different from mere reactions (of whatever effective complexity) to non-rational stimuli.

But mere reaction to non-rational stimuli is all in principle he can build from. Which he himself knows perfectly well, too.

Until that problem is fixed, he’s going to at least be inculcating and encouraging a habit of bouncing from one position to another whenever things get inconvenient for him.


8.) Anticipating Chris’ reply: if the details of a largescale theory are largely wrong, or even if key details (depending on what they are) are wrong, then the largescale theory will with proportionate (or even deductive) likelihood be wrong, too. Comparing this to finding a single contradiction or inaccuracy in the Bible and so throwing the whole book away, is itself a fallacious comparison. (Except where a proponent is defending an all-or-nothing hard inerrancy. Which few religious proponents among Christians do, even inerrantists.)

It’s true that if we don’t agree with an argument put forward by an author, our disagreement doesn’t make the author wrong. But it does mean we’re obligated to say we think he’s wrong on that particular argument; and then also (where logically viable) on corollary positions, insofar as they depend on that argument. Surely it isn’t only sceptics or opponents who have a right to do that!

9.) I know what the standard answers are to the claim of pre-Christ parallels. Unless Doherty has new information, the answers remain exactly where they were since the German History of Religions school of thought was abandoned (by the sceptics themselves) back in the early 20th century. Occasional revivals of the attempt every so often do not constitute new evidence; only ignorance of previous attempts and results (or maybe desperation). I would discuss the standard answers here, but I suspect you’re going to be thinking in terms of Doherty’s attempts, and since he isn’t my balliwick around here I don’t think it would be fair to him for me to opine on him specifically without having gone over his arguments myself in more detail.

10.) Of course there’s solar and stellar imagery in the OT and the NT (not counting post-canonical material). When one wants to talk poetically about such concepts, and/or when one doesn’t have the advantage of being able to discuss it in terms of technical metaphysics, the sun and stars make a very handy reference. I do it myself in CoJ. So do most Christian or even merely theistic mythopoeticists.

That being said, there’s a difference between making use of the imagery and only meaning that imagery, as any student of metaphor in language ought to know (and as anyone trying to learn about religion ought to learn.) There’s also such a thing as forcing spurious parallels, such as attempts at trying to synch up the 12 Apostles as being only derived from 12 ancient zodiac signs. (A project made more spurious by the little-known fact that we really can’t tell for sure who all the 12 apostles were! There’s an amusing application of sceptical argument for you, btw. {g})

11.) Trying to make out a “one-year circular story” counts as an attempt at forcing spurious parallels, for numerous reasons. Not least of which is that the story contexts themselves abrogate identification with the supposedly thematic seasons. Any mythologizer who was coming up with a fantastic way of talking about cosmic seasonal cycles would not have made his key incidents exemplifying such things occur in completely different seasons of the year; and if the cosmic seasonal cycle was so religiously important to subsequent followers (as to be the whole original reason for doing the religion in the first place), then historicizers trying to add in historical details later (assuming for purposes of argument the original ‘myth’ had no and needed no such historical earmarks) would have only been immediately crippling their acceptance by _not_ synching up the supposedly historical details with the far-more-important religious detail of the mythical seasonal cycle. This is aside from the question of why anyone would bother to fictionally historicize an originally purely mythical figure so completely anyway, much less do so in ways that still leave them practically begging the Roman government of the time to zorch them as rebels against the Empire. It certainly doesn’t fit the supposed pattern of pre-Christ figures, either!

The attempt to try to start from a purely mythological paganish Christ and then have a later invention (100+ years later!) of a pretty historically grounded Christ, is frankly a backhanded testimony to the difficulty of trying to ‘explain’ the story in the usual and (prima facie) more sensible sceptical fashion of a historical man eventually divinized by his Greco-Roman followers. (Like, oh, say, Apollionius. Whose cult, such as it was, remained less popular than the established Christian cult even at the time the Apol cult peaked in the 2nd century. Really, it would actually make more sense to treat Augustus as a pre-Christ source parallel. Except that he’s still a historical man divinized by his followers. Which this particular theory runs completely opposite to.)

12.) Not to sound callous, but the warfare record of Christianity, whatever it has been, doesn’t have much of anything to do with a “big picture” theory about its origin as a belief. Consequently, it’s spurious to complain that picking at details concerning a particular theory of origins doesn’t take the history of Christian war (centuries after its origin) into account. The most that would be relevant would be the attitudes of Christians in the 1st and 2nd century where these can be testified to. If a proponent of that theory doesn’t think referring to those attitudes is enough to bolster the theory, and so has to appeal to warfare behaviors centuries afterward as some kind of evidence about the origin of Christian belief, then that’s the proponent’s problem--not ours.

One might have supposed that sceptics wouldn’t be so willingly credulous about such a theory, too.

JRP

Peter,

Before I spend anymore time responding to you, could you explain how "Christianity originally had so many similarities" to the worship of Apollonius when the entire Christian canon was written before we have any record of Apollonius' life?

Here is a post I wrote a while back on Taner Edis' book:

http://toegodspot.blogspot.com/2006/08/some-remarks-on-ghost-in-universe.html

Ah, but if Peter buys into the argument that the canon was largely written _after_ stories of Apoll had been circulating around (or even after the earliest doc that talks about him), then that doesn't become a problem!

Of course, that argument has to be established on its own merits instead of circularly appealing to comparisons with Apoll. {wry g} Glad it ain't _my_ job!

Otherwise, I suppose it could be possible to argue that Apoll was popularly divinized (after defending himself to the Emperor _against_ such claims?!) and had a cult with popular stories established sometime between his life (roughly concurrent with the Pauline epistles) and GosMark (standardly considered by most sceptics to be the first Gospel, and rarely put later than 70 even by most hypersceptics nowadays.)

But then, if a sceptic wanted to appeal to _that_ theory, there would be no reason why Jesus couldn't have gotten the same treatment as a historical man equally as quickly, eh? {g}

JRP

Apparently there was some misunderstanding about the last paragraph of my previous comment. It was intended as an ironic comment comparing and contrasting the (very outre) theory of late-development-of-pseudo-history-from-pure-myth to the far more conventional sceptical theory of Jesus being a historical figure (represented more-or-less accurately by one or more of the canonical Gospel accounts) who was subsequently divinized by followers.

In order for a borrowing-from-Apollonius legend theory to have a chance at working, the Apoll legend as a divus has to be solidly established already, before the Gospels are composed. (Also it has to be perceived as being something worth borrowing from.)

The problem is that we have no evidence of this earlier than the early-mid-2nd century. For the theory to work, then, we have to have the 'historical' portions of the canon created during or after early-mid-2nd century--which is a theory that has to be established on its own merits, not by circular appeal to an Apoll cult as precedent--or else we have to sheerly hypothesize an Apoll cult established, in the teeth of NO EVIDENCE AT ALL pre-70. Which in turn would also require that Apollonius was divivized very quickly between the time of Paul's letters and GosMark's composition.

But then the argument (even from this sheerly hypothesized early divivation) becomes entirely venial: it would be simpler for the sceptic to just try having Jesus divinized that quickly, back in the early days of Paul. Which of course is a popular sceptical tactic.

Thus, why bother with this sheerly posited early Apoll cult result, when the sceptic can just apply the same thing to Jesus and save time? The borrowing from Apoll isn't necessary even in that case.

(To which can be added the problem that, out of the mosh of scattered Apollonius sources, including what can be reconstructed pre-Philostratus, which isn't much, it's clear that the Philostratus cult couldn't have gotten going later than the late 90s, because the man himself must have died around then, whether or not he was actively teaching in the 60s, for which our sources are scant.)

As an example of a writer highly sceptical of Jesus divinity claims (clearly buying into the notion that Paul created the divinity claim as a Greco-Roman innovation from a merely 'human' Jewish messianic figure), but whose thorough analysis of the Apollonius material finds precisely zero reason to appeal to 'borrowing' from an Apoll legend, I can recommend Jona Lendering's extensive article. It's full of interesting factoids, such as Eusebius quoting (favorably!) from what looks like a legitimate saying of Apoll.

JRP

JD Walters,

You book review of Tanner Edis' "The Ghost in the Universe" seems to be quite negative. I understand that as an apologesist you need to be inspirationally pro-Christian, but I think there was too much biased in that review. I throw you a challenge to find one non-Christian religion related book which you can review and rate higher (including the language used in the review) than a poorly written pro-Christian book. That could create a good dialogue.

You also wrote in that review:

"This is a common flaw amongst skeptics: they think that the scientific method somehow stands pure and apart from other 'biased' points of view"

Could you please put forward your competing method of how to investigating things. Maybe you could post it as a new article on the blog (not here as a comment), so more people will find it and comment it.

Cheers
-Peter

Jason Pratt,

Thanks for taking your time to post a lengthy reply, you raised many good points. My comment about the evil was that both Christians and non-Christians do not seem to fully understand the evil of 20000 children dying on malnutrition every day in poor countries unless they have experienced it (News, TV and local "evils" do not convey evil in a similar way). That usually makes arguments very shallow.

I'm not sure if I fully understand your point about Dawkins going of the track. Maybe you could expand that as a post on your blog rather than a comment here to get more responses.

You wrote:
"a fundamentally non-rational basis of reality, and thus of behaviour, provides zero grounds in principle ... for real-though-derivative rational action"

I think we see that all the time. Jesus and the Christians propagate the idea (mini meme?) the demon possession causes deceases, yet the Christians go to the doctor when they get sick. All knowing, non-changeable god Yahweh stated that we need to stone our disobedient children to death (mini meme?), yet the Christians do not do that. Jesus said that his to get a place in heaven we should give all our possession to the poor (mini meme?), yet even apologist don't seem to do that. This list can go on for a long time. This illustrate that religious beliefs and action do not necessary correspond.

Has anyone of you written about this dilemma? It would be a good topic on a blog (not only here in the comments)

Your point 8 was in interesting. Maybe you could to a blog entry about if you believe the bible inerrant or not, why, and if not how do you deal with the contradictions if you see and accept those.

You point 12 is absolutely correct that all Christian wars have nothing to do with the Christian origin. The problem many atheist writers today have is all the post 391 Christian behaviour, bigotry, phobias, persecutions, force conversions and wars. Most modern apologetics probably have some their ancestor force converted to Christianity. Few people would have problem with original Christians (Ebionites, Nazorean, early Christians), but the blood trail later Christians have left behind is not pretty. I don’t think the Christianity has proven to be the best (or right) religion. I even remember reading polls some years ago that the Christian USA president was seen as bigger threat to the world than any maniac dictator. On the other hand no modern Christians want to become like Ebionite, Nazorean or live like early Christians with Jewish laws and theocratic society. Again if you have a lengthy comment please post it as a new blog entry to get more audience.

Cheers
-Petri

Peter,

When I said that Taner Edis was the best overall atheistic polemic, I did not mean to imply that I found it convincing (which should be obvious, since I remain a Christian even after having read it). I think there are some serious flaws in his case, despite the fact that he's 'done his homework' in a number of fields. In my review I commented on some of those flaws. Where exactly is the bias?

I thought I was clear in praising the book for its virtues. I said it contains criticisms of pro-theistic arguments which theists should pay attention to. And I would rate the book considerably higher than I would, say, books by Josh McDowell or Ray Bohlin. Again, though, that doesn't mean that I found it convincing. Otherwise I would have become an atheist! I think there are convincing answers to many of his critiques and that some of them are just off the mark, particularly in New Testament studies in which he is out of his field.

About the methodology of science: I can see that I wasn't clear in that particular statement about the point I was making. I was commenting on Taner Edis' turn from philosophical arguments (which he thinks is so much 'metaphysical hand-waving') to scientific arguments as if science is a universal arbiter of truth. I was trying to convey my sense that that is misguided. Scientific theories must be interpreted in a certain way in order to yield either a theistic or a non-theistic view of the world. Now I think that in some sense the data of science constrain possible metaphysical interpretations of the world, but I'm not sure how that works yet. I have the rest of my career as (hopefully) a religious scholar and philosopher to figure it out. But I'll definitely consider writing up that article.

Layman,

Apollonius lived about the same time as Jesus. Some sources say he was born 3 BC, some books state around 40 AD. We know he existed, while Jesus' and Paul's existence are debated. Still in the third century Apollonius was more popular that Jesus. Followers of Apollonius claimed that the Christians copied their teachings, the Christians mostly denied it. I'm not sure how much the canons are influence by Apollonius, their teachings were already pre-existing and surely had earlier source. As we know most Christian teachings were not new, but ideas were around. We do know that the Christians copied pre-existing stories like the catch of 153 fish from other sources.

If you read the Life of Apollonius and Acts, you'll find many almost identical events, so it is easy to imagine one was partly inspired by another. Would you say that Paul is like a long lost twin brother of Apollonius? ;-) It is hard to image the identical events are just coincidences. The link Jason Pratt provided has good stuff. Again if you have a lengthy comment, please post it as a blog entry to reach a wider audience.

Cheers
-Peter

Peter,

Please give primary citations to prove any of this. What sources are there for Apollonius' life? When were they written? By whom? What sources have the Apollonians claiming the Christians copied them? When were they written?

The story of Apollonius was only put to pen well after the Christian canon was written and widely distributed. How could the Christians, then, have based their religion on Apollonius?

The existence of Jesus and Paul are far better attested than that of Apollonius. But few atheists think they can score points by foisting baseless theories about the mythical Apollonius, much less even more ridiculous theories about Paul, whereas they find it a cheap tactic to pretend there is any serious dispute about Jesus' existence.

Layman,

Relax. If you run a Christian apologist web site, publish provocative articles and invite people to comment and engage in a good spirited conversation, please drop the attitude. I would image that you would like to build a site where the Christians and non-Christians can discuss issues. Jason Pratt and JD Walters offer long and insightful comments to my atheistic (and maybe ignorant like you called) comments and that will drive the traffic to your website and give you exposure. Trust me that you will help the Christian cause by being nice, the attitude will drive the non-Christians away and they will consider your site non-tolerant. I'm not here to score points or try to make any cheap tactics, I even started commenting only as anonymous user and you as an admin have the power to delete posts and ban IPs. Please be nice.

- Peter

Peter,

The problem I have with you is that you do not know what you are talking about when it comes to history. You make blanket assertions with no citation to any authority. You claim Christianity's origins are based on Apollonius worship, but ignore the fact that Christianity's entire canon was written before the one real source about Apolloniu's life (even if we date the Christian canon radically late into the second century). When challenged by this, you cannot back up your assertions. Indeed, you dropped a litany of baseless assertions with no back-up. I picked one obvious one to which you should have been able to respond, had you known what you were talking about. But you could not even handle the one issue.

If you want to participated in "good spirited conversation," please offer something worth conversing about. Instead, when challenged, you feign offense and still offer nothing substantive.

You've read too many atheist best-sellers and websites and taken them at face value. Which means you are left ignorant about the matters you want to discuss.

And your last paragraph is bizarre. No one has threatened to delete your posts or ban your IP. I have only asked that you back up your unfounded assertions. Instead of doing so, you whine.

Peter,

If you’ll check back at the very first of this thread, you’ll find ample evidence that if Layman wanted to delete your post, being a non-registered Anonymous wouldn’t help you in the least. Neither would it help you against an IP ban, which has nothing to do with registering on Blogger. Besides, there are far more truly annoying posters than you who insist on commenting here on a semi-regular basis--either the admins don’t know how to do an IP ban, or Blogger doesn’t allow it, or they aren’t interested in using them.

You can count that as reassuring, I guess. {shrug}

I’ll break my Apoll comments (such as they are) into a separate comment, for a modicum of topical convenience.


{{My comment about the evil was that both Christians and non-Christians do not seem to fully understand the evil of 20000 children dying on malnutrition every day in poor countries unless they have experienced it}}

I have trouble imagining that a sceptic is going to take it very well if I retort to his attempt at an argument from evil that unless he’s actually experienced the evil of 20,000 children dying of malnutrition every day then his argument is (probably?) very shallow.

Most people realize that it’s possible to rationally understand the importance of something in principle without needing to be hit with the emotional weight of it. And in principle, even one child dying of malnutrition even once in human history (in a poor or a rich country either one) counts sufficiently for an example of a theological problem to be addressed. Larger numbers are more emotionally disturbing, and that’s natural, but in principle they don’t really add anything more to the problem. (That’s part of the difference between real philosophy and mere rhetoric.)

This can be verified (even in the sceptic’s favor, notice!) by doing a conceptual test: would the sceptic be willing to grant that only one child (or even one adult) unjustly dying of malnutrition (or unjustly suffering in any regard) would be acceptable to them?--would pose no problem of evil to them?

I know I wouldn’t (and don’t) accept that. (And before you ask, yes I have posted on the main journal saying as much--but you didn’t want to read it earlier, so I’m not going to repeat the link now. Look back in previous comments.) I haven’t yet found any sceptics of my acquaintence who, once they stopped to think about it, would accept that either. But, maybe you’ll be the first to accept that one child dying this way would make no theological problem for you, in principle, especially if it happened way over there and not in your immediate presence.

Personally I hope (and frankly expect) that you’re a better person than that. But it isn’t impossible you aren’t, I suppose.

Incidentally, I’d be willing to bet a Coke that Richard Dawkins wouldn’t accept, that only one child dying unjustly in misery way over there where Mr. D himself wasn’t at, wouldn’t be a theologically important problem for him. I know I’d be disappointed in him, if he was willing to accept that. And in his favor, I certainly don’t expect it.


{{I'm not sure if I fully understand your point about Dawkins going of the track. Maybe you could expand that as a post on your blog rather than a comment here to get more responses.}}

Ewwwwww, asking me to expand on a point, is a dangerous proposition... {g} I’m more than prolix enough as it is.

I’ll try to clarify it later in its own journal post, though. First I want to do the commentary you asked for. (And before I do that, I’ll need to get a written summary of the debate worked up for general acceptance and contribution. That’s on schedule for this weekend, unless something else more important comes up.)


Until then, perhaps I can make clearer what I didn’t mean, at least.

When I said that Mr. D and I both agree that a fundamentally non-rational basis of reality, and thus of behavior, provides zero grounds in principle for real-though-derivative rational action, I was talking about something a lot more foundational than whether or not “atheism” (or “some idea promoted by Richard Dawkins, insert particular idea here”) is incorrect, or based on merely faulty logic, or just stoopeed or whatever, and so people diss it even if they might have been supposed to be in favor of it.

Admittedly, whenever Mr. D may talk about something being “a fundamentally non-rational basis of reality” (or similar language), he probably is only talking about something of the sort you mentioned, that an opponent of his believes but he doesn’t. That’s because he isn’t very good at metaphysics (but insists on blundering around in metaphysical topics anyway), and also because a lot of his approach involves mere rhetorical bluster. Calling the proposition of “demon possession causes disease” “a fundamentally non-rational basis of reality” would probably sound pretty good to him, and I don’t doubt he’d use that phrase in that regard (just as he has used similar ones in that regard), simply because it sounds impressive.

But I’m talking about something very much else than that kind of complaint. Which I really would have to do as a main journal post, to go into more detail about.

(Incidentally, what I wrote concerning this key place where Mr. D goes off the tracks, is directly related to the answer I gave the annoyed anon over in Bill’s “News Flash” post; and that answer doesn’t have technical language. But neither does it have rigorous principle detail and analysis, either. There are tradeoffs either way.)


{{Has anyone of you written about this dilemma?}}

I recently did even more than that--I wrote here in the journal (not only in the comments) about what it means when I myself intentionally disregard what I otherwise believe to be true. Which I connected directly to the problem of evil; with myself being the problem in that case. (But you’ve already disregarded that post as being of any interest to you, so I won’t bother to repeat the link here. It’s still up in a previous comment if you change your mind and decide that it’s relevant after all.)


{{Maybe you could to a blog entry about if you believe the bible inerrant or not, why, and if not how do you deal with the contradictions if you see and accept those.}}

Different Christians have different ideas about inerrancy; and on a public shared blog, that can be problematic to bring up in a main journal entry. I’m a guest here, as well as a member, so I try not to rock the boat in ways that will cause trouble among us as a group--this journal is for apologetics, not for intertheological dispute per se. Which is also why I’m careful not to get too far into the topic of western orthodox universalism (of which I am a very strong proponent), for instance, in the main posts. (Which doesn’t keep me from mentioning it obliquely on occasion in the main entries, to which I can provide links for you if you want.)

If I had my own journal, though (which I don’t at this time); or if this journal was set up for the purpose of interChristian disputation (which it isn’t, primarily); then I would have no problem putting up a main post on my own belief about inerrancy. Nor do I have much problem stating it here in the comments, as I routinely do elsewhere when the topic comes up and when I think that it’s relevant to give my own belief on the matter. Thus my answers to your questions, in order would be:

1.) I do not at this time believe the Bible to be “inerrant” or “infallible” either one.

2.) Mostly, this is because I believe the terms to be category errors when applied to scriptural texts. The proper question is whether I believe such-n-such texts to be inspired by God. And then we get into at least seven ways (off the top of my head) that inspiration could occur, and whether any particular portion of text counts as any one or more of those ways, and why I would think that it does (or doesn’t); which in turn is likely to be an in-depth discussion in itself, not to mention highly dependent on dozens (or even hundreds) of prior topics having been considered and accepted.

3.) I deal with apparent (and sometimes actual) contradictions on a case by case basis, just like I do with any other text. See answer 2 for scope of criteria.

For what it’s worth, my position in most cases is indistinguishable in result from that of most scholarly Christian “inerrantists”; except that I don’t call myself a proponent of inerrancy, partly for reasons stated in answer (2), and partly because I think it doesn’t make much sense to hold positions similar in practical fact to what most inerrantists hold and still call myself an inerrantist. {shrug} But, opinions obviously differ. That’s why there is such a thing as interChristian debate; which is not the main topic of this journal.


For what it’s worth, I’m also aware that the Christian bigotry, phobias, persecutions, etc., predate the accession of Theodosius in 391; they do in fact go back to Constantine, even if not quite to the degree that sceptical apologists would like to make out. And to some degree, both in principle and in fact, they precede Constantine, too. I don’t like it, but it’s there, and I try to be realistic about it. (I also connect it with accepting a technical heresy of gnosticism, little ‘g’ not big ‘G’. Which, being hyperorthodox, I reject. Insert irony here as appropriate. {lopsided g})


{{Few people would have problem with original Christians (Ebionites, Nazorean, early Christians)}}

The Roman government had severe problems with some of those early Christians--mainly due to the authority claims being promoted by them, in connection with the man whom they worshipped (with honor and authority far outstripping what the Emperor claimed as his due, even as a divus) having been officially executed as a rebel against the Empire. It wasn’t because the early Christians were engaging in some mere syncretistic cosmic mystery-religion appreciation, borrowed from established cults that the Roman government had no problem with.

True, the persecutions were less extensive than outrage would naturally paint them as being. Actually, the Roman government had a long-running and rather schizophrenic attitude toward the Christians, which probably shifted around based on whomever was Emperor at the time (and what else was going on inside and outside the Empire at any given time), not even counting relatively local socio-political factors (who was governor where at what time, what their interests were, etc.) But the persecutions did happen; and they happened for reasons related to the core doctrines Christians were teaching and insisting on (and converting others to). Even accounting for misunderstandings, those claims are not the sort of mere proto-Gnostic (big ‘G’) claims which certain sceptics now want people to think the Christians were (only!) engaging in before the 2nd century. (G)nosticism, even with Christian trappings, was a fairly safe religion or philosophy to be engaging in, including in the 2nd c and afterward. When the Imperial police show up at your door, demanding you turn over your texts (after which they’re going to search your house anyway, and they’d better not find that you’ve been holding back!), it really does make a difference whether what they find is GosThom and Pistis Sophia, or whether what they find is GosMark and GosJohn.

Which probably goes far toward explaining, in various ways, why the Christians began doing the same thing once they were in top political influence themselves.


{{I even remember reading polls some years ago that the Christian USA president was seen as bigger threat to the world than any maniac dictator.}}

Uh-huh. This is the same guy who couldn’t even get Congress to pass an amendment to the verbal effect that marriage is recognized to constitute the union of one man and one woman. Considering him more dangerous than any maniacal dictator in world history, current or otherwise, requires either imaginative ignorance or a total lack of realism.

Despite what Richard Dawkins and his compatriots would have their readers believe, we Americans do not live in a religio-facist state, and the vast majority of conservative Americans don’t want such a state to happen--which means, since we really are a republic in a democracy (unlike most nations using the terms ‘democracy’ or ‘republic’ in their names), it isn’t going to happen.

It’s sheer rhetorical garbage to paint him as being some kind of threat exceeding, say, the dictator of North Korea. I’m far from being GBW’s biggest fan; I’ve flatly stated in print, in years past, that he ought to be impeached on charges of lying to Congress and to the American public about WMD evidence shortly before the Iraq War kicked off. (Before then he had legitimate excuses to believe they were there; even Hans Blix was convinced Hussein had them before then, and there were official UN Resolutions still on the table for Hussein to disarm or face the consequences.) But neither do I agree with the kind of propaganda campaign being waged against him, including by people who are looking for anything they can find or imagine to diss Christianity with.

The point here is not a dispute over whether some set of Christian doctrines is more or less true than some other set of non-Christian doctrines. Nor is the point a dispute over whether theocracy would be a bad thing. The point here is simply that it’s a flat lie (or gross ignorance) to say Bush is actually more dangerous than any maniacal dictator.

{{On the other hand no modern Christians want to become like Ebionite, Nazorean or live like early Christians with Jewish laws and theocratic society.}}

True, mainly because we realize from long experience (including when we did do it ourselves) that theocracies don’t work very well and offer a wider scope of abuse than any other system of government. Which means that when Richard Dawkins or anyone else tries to scare you into thinking we’re already a theocracy, or are planning to become one, or even are at any serious risk of becoming one, you ought to be mocking them for trying to trick you like that. And then wondering why they're bothering to do so.

Let’s not be distracted from my original point, either, by your digression: when someone’s theories about the development of orthodox Christianity are being critiqued, it’s only a rhetorical dodge to try to disarm or dismiss the critique by appealing to wars fought centuries later (for whatever reasons) by proponents of a long-established orthodoxy. Appealing to utterly non-realistic anti-Bush rhetoric, as a tactical dodge, is worse, not better.

JRP

Regarding Apollonius:

1.) The reason some sources say one thing and some another about Apoll’s date of birth, is because the sources are a scattered mosh, only half of which (at best) predate the turn of the third century--and some of those are only fragmentary references in other works. (This dating of the sources is not in dispute by anyone anywhere, btw; probably because everyone realizes that nothing of any great importance hangs on it. {wry s}) What everyone who mentions the topic seems to agree on, though, is that Apoll died in the late 90s. The typical date is 98 CE.

2.) Only a bare handful of scholars, even among the hypersceptics, try to doubt that Jesus really existed; and up until recently I had never even heard of any scholar anywhere trying to doubt Paul’s existence (though I was expecting for years that it would start happening). I don’t mean to simply diss an extreme minority position without due process; but it’s highly naive to mention them as if they aren’t an extreme minority position. There are probably as many scholars meandering around (i.e. almost none) who are willing to doubt the existence of Apollonius of Tyana, especially given the very fragmentary nature of the textual record concerning him. The difference is that doubting Jesus’ existence gets more attention (including far more profitable attention).

3.) I’m trying to figure out by what criteria Apoll is supposed to be considered “more popular than Jesus” during the 200s. Apoll worshippers aren’t being persecuted; I guess that counts as ‘popular’. Do we have any serious numbers at all for this?? We have an extremely good idea sociologically what Christian population growth was in the Empire (as Rodney Stark once pointed out years ago in his sceptical days)--for Apoll to be more 'popular' numerically, significantly more than a quarter of the Empire would have to be worshipping or following him in the 200s. Is there any evidence at all that synchs with this? If so, I'm not aware yet of any having been put forth as such, even by Apoll-ogists. {g} As far as I can make out, Apoll’s popularity had peaked by the time Philostratus worked up and expanded a 2nd century text (purportedly by Demis, a main disciple) for his Imperial patroness around the turn into the 200s. Which is probably why Philostrat could get away with ending his synthesis by carefully deriding Apoll to his Imperial patroness, and recommending she look to someone whose work had actually made a lasting difference in the life of people if she wanted to consider someone divine. Like, say, for instance, a carpenter.

In any case, the timing is totally wrong for using this observation (even if it was true), since no one at all is claiming the Jesus stories were created in the 200s!

4.) The theory of borrowing from 2nd c stories of Apoll, depends on establishing the Gospel accounts as being created no earlier than mid-early 2nd c. This has to be established on its own merits. Which aren’t very good; which is why almost no scholars even bother trying to put key canonical document composition later than 1st c (only maybe a Pastoral Epistle here or there). Which in turn, though, is why I get the impression that in such 2nd c composition theories Apoll is being brought in to help try to give some credence to a theory of 2nd c composition. Which in turn, though, makes it completely pointless to make a challenge against the canon’s ideas and incidents, about so many similarities supposedly existing. There is no challenge unless the canonical docs were composed deep into the 2nd c; and the Apoll comparison is being brought in to try to prop up that theory.

5.) The Christians “mostly” denied copying Apoll’s teachings? You mean some orthodox Christians affirmed they were following Apoll’s teachings and applying them to Jesus?? That would certainly be newsworthy! (It must be the fundamentalistic Christian news media that’s blocking this information from being known to the people of the world... {cough}) Anti-Christian accusations are made in some of the Letters of Apollonius, some of which admittedly can be traced to the 2nd c (though I’m not sure any of those particular letters can be, in their composition.) Philostratus’ _Life of Apoll_ seriously postdates even 2nd century attempts at dating the composition of Acts, and no one to my knowledge denies that Philostrat was making not-very-careful use of a wide range of prior sources to spice up his account. Implicitly tease-appealing to that doc as source material for Acts shows a lack of critical skill. Or maybe desperation.

6.) Even most hypersceptics trying to early-source Christian teaching somewhere else than from Jesus, try to appeal to traditions earlier than Apoll; as you yourself (eventually) admitted. There’s a reason why they don’t really appeal to Apoll, except at most as an example of someone ‘similar to’ Jesus (as an attempt at making Jesus look less distinctive). The reason is because the timing for source borrowing is crap.

7.) Chris (Layman) asked you to explain how “Christianity originally had so many similarities to the worship of Apollonius.” Aside from his linked question about canon development (which you ignored, but which is utterly essential for trying to get source development); not only did you give exactly zero examples of how their worship was so similar “originally” in each case, you didn’t even give examples of how they were so very similar in their mere teaching! If they’re really so very similar, shouldn’t it have been easy to come up with an extensive list of similarities in teaching (and worship), instead of trying to pass off the story of the 153 fish to some earlier non-Apoll source? And then trying to palm similarities off to the life of Paul in Acts (just as completely vaguely)?

It should be noted that the link I provided, which you agreed had good stuff (on Apoll I suppose you meant), doesn’t remotely agree with the borrowing theory at all. The author also doesn’t come up with much parallel between the two characters, despite the fact that the author totally buys the theory that Paul divinized Jesus for Greco-Roman audience consumption.

8.) If Layman asks you a simple question, and you don’t give him any examples at all of what he’s asking for, and he points out that you didn’t give him any examples at all of what he’s asking for (with the corollary that you probably don’t know any after all and shouldn’t therefore be making such assertions as part of any kind of a ‘case’), and you then chide Layman for being hostile to you as if you were supposed to be some kind of real threat but you still don’t bother to provide the data that is supposed to be so threatening... then I have to go with Chris: you’re not actually discussing the topic. Be an actual threat, please, before supposing we’re reacting in fear of you.

JRP

Opps... too late, my reply to the annoyed anon was taken down too (at my own request), when he insisted on taking advantage of Bill's tolerance.

I would reprint it here, but I've forgotten the wording. And it was a romantic love letter anyway. {s} Not the sort of thing to be simply repeated, like a recipe or mere argument.

Oh well. The short of it, is that I love and respect one particular non-believer more than anyone else in the world; and that's exactly why I believe Christianity to be true. If I take her reality as a rational and moral agent seriously, the math slowly but steadily works out that I should believe orthodox Christian theism to be true.

She isn't a believer (last time I checked), nor her husband (ditto); but I believe for their sake, to protect them and their love together. And for the sake of all other people in the world, too, whether they're believers or not.

It's that important. _You_ are that important, too, Peter. (The vulgar and upset anon, too. {s})

JRP

jason pratt,

Thanks for the lengthy reply. I never said anyone wanted to delete my post. I stated that anonymous users can not score points.

About the evil. I have noticed that there are at least two sides of that problem. One is the existence of the evil and the other one is the amount of evil. I have noticed that popular apologist try to answer both of those in that order. My comment is more (not only) applicable to the second one.

But you’ve already disregarded that post as being of any interest to you, so I won’t bother to repeat the link here

I did not disregard your links, sorry if I missed something. What is the topic of your article in the Journal "Balthasar, Hell, and Heresy"? I did read your linked article "ethics-and-third-person-minimum", but I think you wanted to refer to a not linked "Ethics and the Third Person--contradiction and ethical failure" article. That article seems to have a lot of ideas what are the methods god interacts with an individual. Is that the article you referred?
I think you would win a Coke regarding Mr Dawkins and one child.

Richard Dawkins and his compatriots would have their readers believe, we Americans do not live in a religio-facist state

I don't think so. Dawkins has said that religious fundamentalist are a small minority in the USA and I have never heard him say/write/indicate anything like "religio-facist state" regarding the USA. Would you have a reference to this?

Regarding Bush, I only stated what people believe; true or false. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NLy_y0zYRo

I did not try do dodge the other questions by talking about the war. See the earlier post, both issues were introduced at the same time and discussed parallel. I also suggested making some of the points to a main blog entries, so those can be discussed individually. Layman asked me examples of the "traces of ancient solar worshipping in Christianity", I provided examples yet he never commented the issue and now I'm accused of dodging. Come on.

----

Your Regarding Apollonius post:

1) I agree

2) Looking from the outside it of course looks like almost all scholars/people who believe that Jesus was resurrected believe he was a historical person. And anything less could have got you killed not so long ago. The best non-biblical sources apologists cite are Josephus and Tacitus, neither one lived when Jesus died and Josephus' comment seems not to be reliable. At the same time he have no record entire Roman world census, earthquake with zombies in Jerusalem, Herod killing babies around Bethlehem and other significant events in the Gospels. I just can not see why you have to be "hypersceptic" not to believe in historical Jesus. Imagine that there are no reliable independent records of the most famous man who performed miracles to thousands of people, while we know about nobodys like Joshua ben Ananias.
Regarding Paul... What are the best non-biblical records of him? Clearly someone wrote his letters, even though some of them probably not by him. Everyone seems to agree that at least seven of those were Paul's.

3) I should have been more accurate in my statement, popular was not the best choice of words. Many temples (R. W. Bernard mentioned seventeen temples) were build for Apollonius by his influential and wealthy followers and Romans, while Christianity seem to have developed as a less visible lower class religion. Here is a minority view of it. http://www.mountainman.com.au/Apollonius_the_Nazarene_0.htm

4-5) The theory of borrowing from 2nd c stories of Apoll, depends on establishing the Gospel accounts as being created no earlier than mid-early 2nd c.

That is only true if we ignore the oral tradition and destroyed writings of the followers of Apollonius (speculative, I know). Both stories were around before they were written. Everyone seems to agree Paul and Apollonius lived around same time and somehow the story of Apollonius got to Philostrat. And like you pointed out it has miracles that many previous holy men and gods also performed. Story probably grew over time and Philostrat had an artistic license.

6) Of course you right. Golden rule, personal salvation, final judgment, heaven, hell, bodily resurrection, idea of trinity and many other Christian ideas predate Jesus. These were only repackaged 2000 years ago. I don't understand your "eventually" comment.

7) For example Robert M Price (the incredible shrinking son of man) sees parallels of John 20 and Apollonius, but let’s look at the Acts. Both Paul (Saul) and Apollonius (Apollo = Sol) has similar first name, grew up in Tarsus, travelled, taught, performed miracles, fought the beast in Ephesus, spoke to people of Athens after noticing the altar dedicated to the unknown divinities. Both of them miraculously escaped from the prison, were shipwrecked, visited Puteoli (near modern Napoli) and were trialed in Rome. Demas traveled with Paul, Apollonius’ companion was called Demis. I'm sure you know couple of more similarities. Maybe those are just coincidences, but I think there is something more going on here. The point of my comment of 153 fish was that we know Christians copied earlier stories. Jesus and adulterous women, trinity and Marks ending were later additions. Paul's conversion story is similar to what happened in Euripides 5th century CE play. Stories got around.

8) I understand you want to defend your friend, but like I said Layman asked me examples of the "traces of ancient solar worshipping in Christianity", I provided examples yet he never commented the issue. I pointed out the mistake he made about "the big picture", he did not comment. I commented his "few wars before Christianity" statement, but he did not response.

Layman also stated: "You claim Christianity's origins are based on Apollonius worship". Which I never wrote. I stated "why Christianity originally had so many similarities to other religions". After that false statement Layman claims that I don’t know the history and calls me ignorant several of times. Is that a strawman? I'm sure I'm not a threat to anyone's belief. Especially to Christian apologists who surely know the bible, the history and the ancient religions better than I do. I also never supposed that you are reacting in fear of me. I'm sure you have debated much more knowledgeable and less ignorant people that me.

Again there are many issues in the post. If you have a length reply on any issue, please do it as a main blog entry to attract wider audience.

-Peter

For example Robert M Price (the incredible shrinking son of man) sees parallels of John 20 and Apollonius,

What are we supposed to do with this? You don’t even provide a reference to Price, much less to Apollonius. You don’t identify the supposed similarity or offer any explanation as to why it is relevant to the discussion?

Both Paul (Saul) and Apollonius (Apollo = Sol) has similar first name, grew up in Tarsus, travelled, taught, performed miracles, fought the beast in Ephesus, spoke to people of Athens after noticing the altar dedicated to the unknown divinities. Both of them miraculously escaped from the prison, were shipwrecked, visited Puteoli (near modern Napoli) and were trialed in Rome. Demas traveled with Paul, Apollonius’ companion was called Demis. I'm sure you know couple of more similarities. Maybe those are just coincidences, but I think there is something more going on here.

Again, you give us no references to any sources. And once again, our sources on Paul are much, much earlier and widespread than those for Apollonius. The Life of Apollonius is a third century documents. Paul’s letters and Acts are first century sources. More than that, there are hundreds of references by other Christian authors to Paul and his actions in the intervening years. And, of course, there are even later sources about Paul, such as the Acts of Paul, which have little historical value but were still written well before The Life of Apollonius.

The evidence is incomparably superior for Paul. Obviously knowledge of Paul was widespread across the empire and Paul’s letters and Acts were already being used in the second century by dozens of other Christians. The Life of Apollonius wasn’t written until even decades after that. So, to answer the question, if these are something more than similarities, then it is obvious that Apollonius is somehow based on Christian sources.

And about these similarities.

Saul is a common name for a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, whose most famous member was King Saul from the Old Testament. Sol is the sun. And the link between Apollonius and Sol is rather tenuous. It does not mean Sol. It is based on Apollo, who himself is linked to Sol. So this hardly counts as a startling or significant similarity.

Tarsus was a notable city for its time and we know it had Jewish citizens like Paul. But while Paul was born in Tarsus Apollonius only arrived there when he was 14. By the time Paul was 14, he likely was in Jerusalem working on his Jewish studies. Lots of people traveled and taught in ancient times. So too with shipwrecks. Typical hazard of the well traveled ancient.

And while Paul was awaiting trial in Rome, there is no record of that trial such as is found in detail in The Life of Apollonius (along with his acquittal). Arrival at Puteoli is hardly a surprise. It was the port of entry for Alexandrian ships, such as the one Paul and Company were on. It is kind of like being amazed that two different Irishman reached America through Ellis Island. Nor is it surprising that Paul would find people to welcome him there. We know there was a significant Jewish community in the port and Christianity had already reached the Italian peninsula.

In any event, any copying or influence is clearly flowing from Paul to Christianity to Apollonius and The Life of Apollonius.

I understand you want to defend your friend, but like I said Layman asked me examples of the "traces of ancient solar worshipping in Christianity", I provided examples yet he never commented the issue.

You did not provide any examples. You asserted them. You provided not a single source supporting your assertions.

I have learned that when someone starts making unsupported assertions about similarities to other ancient religions, you cannot take them at face value. You cannot even begin to have a meaningful discussion about such claims until the primary sources are offered as back up for these supposed similar practices. You have not done this and so have held up the debate.

I had picked Apollonius out as an example that we could explore in more detail, but you have yet to offer a single citation to works about him to back up your claims. You have failed to acknowledge that our primary source for him is a third century document of dubious value and that before that document there are only the slightest references even to the fact of his existence, none dating within 40 years of Apollonius’ life.

I pointed out the mistake he made about "the big picture", he did not comment.,

No, you just disagreed with me. And the last person to comment does not win. The argument has to stop sometime and people can make up their own minds.

I commented his "few wars before Christianity" statement, but he did not response.

Because your admission seemed to at least establish that Christianity has not uniquely contributed to warfare. We could get drawn into a lengthy debate on whether Christianity has done more harm than good for humanity, but I doubt we could resolve it here in these comments. Especially given your immunity to offering even the most basic sources to back up your assertions.

Layman also stated: "You claim Christianity's origins are based on Apollonius worship". Which I never wrote. I stated "why Christianity originally had so many similarities to other religions". After that false statement Layman claims that I don’t know the history and calls me ignorant several of times. Is that a strawman?

I am trying in good faith to understand your arguments. If by casting doubt on Christianity you refer to its similarities to other religions—including Apollonius worship which you then argue has several similarities to Christianity--and I understand that to be a claim that Christianity is based in some way on Apolloinus worship, then you are free to correct me. Notably, you have not disagreed with my understanding of your argument. Indeed, you seem to be still trying to make hay out of the supposed similarities. If you are not claiming that Christianity is based on Apollonius worship and agree that the sources for the latter are much too late to be anything but the result of either coincidence or the copying of Christianity, then please clarify.

Peter,

I did have some questions about this statement:

That is only true if we ignore the oral tradition and destroyed writings of the followers of Apollonius (speculative, I know).

Who destroyed the writings of the followers of Apollonius? When did they do this? What were the writings? And what sources tell us about this destruction of documents?

I know some Christians destroyed some documents, but these were usually Christian documents deemed heretical. Moreover, the targeted documents were usually in the possession of the church as they were church documents in the first place later deemed heretical.

And for most of these documents we actually have learned quite a bit, as the early Christians tended to identify their opponents and refute them in detail, such as Tertullian's response to Marcion.

So, I am genuinely curious about this claim of yours and would 1) like to see it clarified per the questions above, and 2) like to see the sources for your information provided in response to 1.

Peter,

Because of the wide range of topics, there’s a macro-post comment on the way (about 17 pages), and that doesn’t count no less than four topics reserved for main journal entries eventually.

It seemed best to first answer a question you asked that won’t in fact have much relevance to the other topics (I think); but I do try to answer questions when asked. {s}

{{What is the topic of your article in the Journal "Balthasar, Hell, and Heresy"?}}

I can’t call that an article; it’s barely a paragraph.

First Things ran a three part debate between two Catholic theologians (Dr. Pitstick and Fr. Oakes) on whether Hans Urs Von Balthasar was being heretical in his teaching about Christ’s descent into hell (among other things). (Dr. Pitstick was soon to release a book on the topic, at that time.) In the third issue the debate appeared, FT printed a very large number of letters that had been sent during the previous two months, and the disputants tried to acknowledge and (where applicable) answer some of them.

The editors excerpted one paragraph from a three-paragraph letter I had sent, addressing a technical issue regarding the descent and orthodoxy. Fr. Oakes tried to respond, but admitted he had no idea what I was asking about so he made a guess. The guess happened to coincide (more-or-less) with a position I actually affirmed in one of the two unprinted paragraphs, so I don’t know whether he had even seen the other two.

The technical issue was that, if I had understood both disputants correctly, Balthasar was tacitly and/or explicitly requiring either a division of the hypostatic union of Christ or else a schism in the substantial unity of the 1st and 2nd Persons. I don't believe either such dis-unity is at all necessary for a descent into hell to be both true and of utmost theological pertinence; but I do think one or the other unorthodox disunity is necessarily entailed in an attempt to get a descent into hell on Catholic theology, which Balthasar was (I agreed) faithfully trying to do.

Dr. Pitstick and Fr. Oakes had been primarily debating (and continued to do so) on a more sociological ground of orthodoxy, in the sense of tracing a received teaching of the church. While I thought that was somewhat interesting, I didn’t think it addressed the primary issues involved, which (unlike their own main dispute) has relevance to all branches of Christendom professing orthodoxy, including in what we all (whether RCC or not) may and should be including in our witness to the world.

Incidentally, while the descent of Christ into hell has some relation to universalism (I would say even moreso than Balthasar thought), the debate didn’t have much to do with that. But that’s okay; it would be necessary to clarify one’s position on the descent before discussing the question of universalism in relation to the descent.

Jason

And lo, the 17-page comment doth commence... (Portions reserved for main journal entries at some later time will be noted where applicable.)

Peter,

First, some corrections on our part:

{{I never said anyone wanted to delete my post. I stated that anonymous users can not score points.}}

Ah! Sorry. When you wrote “I even started commenting only as anonymous user and you as an admin have the power to delete posts and ban IPs”, I’m certain (in hindsight) that I misread the ‘and’ in the middle as a third ‘as’. My fault, not yours. I only meant to be reassuring anyway; if Chris was going to delete you, he’d have done it long since.

On a more important correction:

{{Layman also stated: "You claim Christianity's origins are based on Apollonius worship". Which I never wrote. I stated "why Christianity originally had so many similarities to other religions".}}

Among which you included Apoll, but also several other things.

The problem here is that when you state that Christianity originally had so many similarities to other religions, we’re not impressed by so many insubstantial similarities to other religions. If the charge is supposed to be borrowing-from-these-to-create-those-stories, then we want to know what was substantially borrowed. Otherwise, coincidences can be more reasonably explained as thematic or situational coincidences with no borrowing necessary. (Note that this would be true even if the hypothesis of mere invention is retained. When writing CoJ, I actually constructed a scene, purely out of requirements for narrative design, largely similar to a throwaway comic joke in the Disney movie _The Emperor’s New Groove_.)

As it happens, though, what you really meant is that Christianity has some slight hint of similarities to Apollonius (which you proceeded to then very vaguely describe and hint about); but when those slight hints are put together with other various slight similarities from other religions, the total looks like “so many similarities” with those other religions. And this is taken to mean something important about Christianity’s origin.

Except that it doesn’t. Not least because of various timing issues involved; but also because the thematics simply don’t match up. Slight parallels are only slight parallels; they do not produce a Gospel in aggregation.

It does, however, very adequately explain why you never bothered to come up with any important similarities between the stories/teaching/worship of Christ and of Apollonius: you had never intended to mean that there were any in the first place. (Unlike the supposed “like a twin-brother” attempts to linke Apoll with Paul, which you eventually mentioned, and which I’ll get to later.) But we misunderstood you to mean that there were substantial similarities that were supposed to undergird this theory of origins, with Apoll being included in that list of substantial similarities. But you didn’t.


{{I did not disregard your links, sorry if I missed something.}}

I had replied that Christians do not exist in some vacuum away from personal suffering: not only do we routinely hear about such things, we routinely experience them in our own daily lives involving our own neighbors and loved ones. Moreover (I added), some of us are even sinners ourselves (being a bit facetious--one common Christian doctrine is that all of us, including all of us Christians, continue to inflict injustice to one or another degree on the world); which is why my whole approach to discussing the problem of evil per se in a recent series of Cadre journal articles (to which I provided a link at roughly halfway through the series) is primarily predicated on analyzing the implications of my own transgression without pointing fingers at other people. i.e., I myself contribute to the problem of evil, so that’s where I focus primarily on, when I get to that topic.

Your answer to this, though, was to reiterate and clarify your point: news, and “local” evils do not convey evil in a similar way, Christians do not seem to “fully understand” the evil of 20000 children dying every day of malnutrition, thus their arguments (and those of non-Christians also appealing to such things??) are (not just seem) made “very shallow”.

So, not only are the local experiences of evil dismissed, but the most personally pertinent element--my own intentional sinning--is completely ignored.

Maybe you didn’t intentionally ignore the importance of my own acknowledgment of responsibility in contributing myself to the problem of evil (both in principle and in practice); but you did intentionally and explicitly dismiss the other things I had mentioned. And then also ignored my own application topically.

I do appreciate your attempt to rectify the situation, though; and in a way I wish I had pointed you to an entry more obviously about that topic rather than to an entry which only begins mentioning it.

{{I did read your linked article "ethics-and-third-person-minimum", but I think you wanted to refer to a not linked "Ethics and the Third Person--contradiction and ethical failure" article.}}

The linked article was the earliest place in the series where I set up my own responsibility; the principle becomes increasingly applied throughout the next several articles--each one features more focus on my own responsibility for injustice in the world.

I do synthetic metaphysics: a logical progression carefully covering points as I go along (and uncovering new ones, too, as I go). I don’t like pointing to an argument or claim without context, if I can help it; and in this case I can help it. {s} So I found the earliest place in the series that seemed feasible as an introduction into the topic, and pointed there. The topic increases in centrality to the posts from that point onward; until around about here. (After which the topic naturally shifts somewhere else.) That’s a lot of articles, and not short ones either.

{{I have noticed that there are at least two sides of that problem. One is the existence of the evil and the other one is the amount of evil. I have noticed that popular apologist try to answer both of those in that order.}}

It isn’t only popular apologists who go at it from that order--they’re following the lead of more technical apologists. The problem of evil is a problem even for perceptively very ‘minor’ evils. Appealing to large numbers is a normal part of poetic imagination (and I mean that positively, not as a denigration), because by tautology more noticible instances get more noticed. But it would be like an apologist pointing to the existence of certain human capabilities but then appealing constantly and emphatically to 6 BILLION OF THESE ENTITIES walking the planet at any given time, as if their existence in these numbers created any more of a problem for scepticism than the existence of a single such entity.

The problem of ‘What can we do to help?’ really is made worse as a problem by the numbers involved. The problem of ‘Why is it like this at all, especially given such-n-such a theological claim?’ is not a problem made worse by the numbers involved, because it’s a problem of principle.

Keep in mind that the immediate first result of this correction is to make the sceptical case stronger, not weaker. Someone who understands the principle of the problem would be rightly insistent on exhorting us not to forget or dismiss those ‘minor’ or normally imperceptible instances, if we lived in a near-utopia. But the unreflective apologist would be saying ‘yes, yes, but mostly things are going fine--the system is working, mostly, so why rock the boat?!’

{{I think you would win a Coke regarding Mr Dawkins and one child.}}

Well, I hope so anyway. {s}

Moving on to Mr. D, then:

{{Dawkins has said that religious fundamentalist are a small minority in the USA and I have never heard him say/write/indicate anything like "religio-facist state" regarding the USA.}}

Well, it was a pretty strong theme in The God Delusion!

This is one of those things that would in fact be better for a main journal post. However, since I’m currently working up an interview with David Marshall (who has recently published a book on the topic), I don’t want to upstage his interview ahead of time by blogging on it. I’ll probably get the interview done and posted first, and then do a follow-up post in the main journal as necessary.

Meanwhile: you didn’t know Mr. D was fond of talking about “the American Taliban”?? As in, “The Afghan Taliban and the American Taliban provide a horrifying modern enactment of what life might have been like under the theocracy of the Old Testament.” (p 288 of TGD) The Taliban wasn’t just a religious group, it was an actually oppressive theocracy. (Which, incidentally, was decisively overthrown by the so-called “American Taliban” for being an oppressive theocracy that was endangering not only their own people but others, too.)

He isn’t shy about condemning Bush as an example of this “movement”, either; and he spends time across more than a hundred pages in TGD trying to convince his readers that marginal radical cases, and popular pundits who earn their living by making outrageous statements in order to get attention (and so sell airtime/book copies), represent “mainstream” Christianity.

For goodness sake, he doesn’t even bother to get all-real quotes from Pat Robertson--it isn’t like the man is that hard to find saying goofy things, but Mr. D has to refer to a spoof site where a pretend quote was made up about him in satire, and present that as if we’re supposed to be thereby seriously scared of a has-been who tried running for President once 20 years ago and was soundly rejected by the voters of his own party. Actually, Mr. D is fond of promoting total political failures who couldn’t even convince their own supposed audience to elect them to any public office, like Randall Terry.

Notwithstanding all this, “If secularists are not viligant,” he warns (p 319), Christians will establish “a true American theocracy”. Just as Kevin Phillips warns in American Theocracy (published 2006) which is cited by Mr. D.


{{Regarding Bush, I only stated what people believe; true or false.}}

You connected that observation directly to “I don’t think the Christianity has proven to be the best (or right) religion.” So this wasn’t supposed to be an example either for or against that contention, then?

Granted, pointing out that it’s merely ridiculous to think that Bush is more dangerous than any maniacal dictator, has nothing to do with evaluating Christianity being the best (or right) religion, per se. But inoculating against merely rhetorical appeal toward bolstering that contention--and people do make that kind of appeal to try to bolster that contention--is a good discipline.


{{I did not try do dodge the other questions by talking about the war. See the earlier post, both issues were introduced at the same time}}

I did see the earlier post, which I was replying to. The issues were introduced, by you, almost exactly three days apart. Not at the same time. And the war issue was introduced, by you, as an example of how critiques of a particular theory of origin “fail” even when they are “valid”.

Later you clarified you meant they counted as evidence that “I don’t think the Christianity has proven to be the best (or right) religion.”

(Immediately after which, incidentally, you stated, “I even remember reading polls some years ago that the Christian USA president was seen as bigger threat to the world than any maniac dictator.” As if this was supposed to mean something, though now you seem to be saying you didn’t intend for it to mean anything one way or another.)

Now--if, by bringing up wars, you were trying to say (in effect) ‘yes, okay, these critiques of this particular theory are right, but they fail to establish that Christianity is the best-or-right religion, and these wars over here tend to lend weight against the truth of Christianity,’ then my answer would be, ‘duh!--of course not, that wasn’t the point to the critiques!’

To the extent the critiques are correct, they might implicitly or explicitly lend weight to some other theory of origin being true, such as the far more conventional theory that the teachings can be traced back to things Jesus actually taught and did. But that admittedly isn’t the same thing as establishing that Christianity is the best-or-right religion. (Though where true, such a theory of origin would certainly would lend some inductive weight in the direction of establishing that people ought to accept Christianity as the best and truest religion.)

But the critiques of the unconventional origin theory were never supposed to be, in themselves, some kind of positive all-embracing establishment of Christianity as the best-or-right religion. Consequently, while it’s okay to bring up other issues along that topic, it isn’t very apt to do so as evidence that the critiques simply (without any other qualification) “fail” even if they’re “valid”. You introduced the topic of war, and weren’t clear why you did so; only that the existence of wars somehow rendered the critiques a failure.

When we hear that a critique of a theory is a failure, we want to know why the critique failed to do what it was intended to do: in this case, address particular claims of a particular theory of origins. Not why the critique failed to do what it wasn’t intended to do.


All that being said, you admittedly didn’t dodge topics related to that particular theory of origins.

That being said, neither then nor at any other time afterward did you substantially address the particular critiques of elements of that theory. You simply said that they failed because the particular critiques didn’t address the “big picture”, wars being part of that big picture.


{{Layman asked me examples of the "traces of ancient solar worshipping in Christianity", I provided examples yet he never commented the issue}}

Probably because I had already commented on your examples (such as they were; which weren’t much).


Moving on to the Apollonius topic.

Actually, Robert Price, in the article you reffed, was drawing comparisons with Luke 24, not John 20 (he thought they fit better with Luke.) This is one of those places where a main journal entry would in fact be better, and if Layman or someone else hasn’t done so already I’ll put one up. You were right not to regard this as being a substantial parallel and thus as no good evidence for borrowing, but I appreciate you bothering to finally give some kind of reference under repeated requests to do so. However, other people somewhere may not realize this isn’t all that much of a borrowing source example, and an in-depth study of it is kind of fun, so when I get the time to do it (and if it hasn’t been done already yet) I’ll put it up.


Clearly you think the attempt to link Apoll with Paul is far more substantial, though, since you not only tried to give substantial parallels but also teased about them seeming to be long-lost twin brothers. That’s worth a main journal post, too; so I’ll slot that into my (already rather overfull) schedule, and hope to get around to it eventually. Again, the comparison should be pretty fun, especially when two of your examples of material-supposedly-borrowed-for-Acts are not only not even in Acts, but are not even remotely the same kind of things when they’re found somewhere else than in Acts! (Since those are the funniest ones, I’ll save them for last. {g} Hindsight note: Layman has already tagged some of the obvious rebuttals, but missed the funniest ones. If you know which two I’m talking about, don’t spoil it Chris!)


The 153 fish thing is actually more interesting; but given the complexity necessary for it to count as perhaps some sort of borrowing, I’ll save it for a journal entry, too.


On the topic of whether doubting the existence of Paul and Jesus counts as being at least hypersceptical:

{{Looking from the outside it of course looks like almost all scholars/people who believe that Jesus was resurrected believe he was a historical person}}

As do almost all scholars who either don’t believe Jesus could have possibly been resurrected, or else who don’t have any solid opinion on that matter.

{{And anything less could have got you killed not so long ago.}}

500 years ago, maybe. Sceptical scholars have had a very long period of attacking Christianity since about 250+ years ago (they were safe from being killed since long before that), pretty much in total safety. Not least because we Christians made socieites where it was increasingly easy for them to do so, because we thought it was fair and important to have popularly available critical dissent on any topic. (It was one of the outcomes of those interreligious wars between denominations.)

There was a period in the 19th century when it was a little popular (though still a minority position even among sceptics) to try to claim Jesus never existed. That position was virtually destroyed through sustained analysis (on all sides) and better developments of historical methodology.

Which, again, is not to dismiss new attempts without due process. But trying to present new attempts as if they were on a parity simply by their existence, is like trying to criticise a provisional acceptance of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory simply because a handful of scholars happen to be trying to get early-19th century Lamarckism off the ground again.

Anyway, appealing to Inquisitional bogeymen as spooking sceptics from trying to argue that Jesus is only a myth, shows a significant lack of historical perspective in itself! Sceptics don’t usually try it, because sceptics usually think that they know better than to try it--and not because 500 years ago they might have been burnt at the stake or something. (And even that was relatively rare in the history of the faith. Most of the time, dissenters were simply recognized officially as not being in the church anymore with the expectation that God would do the zorching sooner or later, not us. And then everyone on both sides would get to take verbal shots at each other. Good times. {lopsided g})

{{The best non-biblical sources apologists cite are Josephus and Tacitus, neither one lived when Jesus died...}}

...and Tacitus never bothered to add, that even unto his day the abominable atheists whom Nero set on fire to divert public attention from his suspected arson attempts, were only engaging in a mythical-mystery religion about a non-historical divine figure. Well, maybe he didn’t think it was relevant. Or maybe he was fooled by the terminology into thinking they were talking about some real man who had lived and died less than a hundred years before. Either one is technically possible.

{{Josephus' comment seems not to be reliable.}}

That, however, is rather badly oversimplifying things. The vast majority of even sceptical scholars think Josephus’ comment is mostly reliable. The theory of Christian interpolation relies entirely on some reasonable guesses about one or two things that wouldn’t seem to make sense for Josephus to write. (The phrase “He was the Christ”, and maybe one other phrase.) The rest of the passage is not under contention by anyone except one or two scholars who need it all gone in order to keep it from counting against a merely-mythical-Jesus theory.

{{At the same time he have no record entire Roman world census}}

We do, and on a regular repeating basis; but not before 6 or 8 CE (I forget which.) On the other hand, we also have evidence of two governorships of Syria by someone (or two someones, impossible to tell for sure) named Kyrenius; one of which would have been at the first official census, and one around about the time of Herod’s death. The overlap could be easily conflated by accident, especially if a local census by Herod for Roman taxation purposes was involved. These are fairy standard answers, well-known in the field, and I shouldn’t have to bring them up--your own sceptical sources at least should have told you about them. Also, the observation has exactly nothing to do with the question of whether Jesus actually existed.

{{[no record of] earthquake with zombies in Jerusalem}}

Why one earthquake in Jerusalem would have been thought worthy of being mentioned anywhere by anyone officially, in any source that would have necessarily survived until now, not explained.

Ditto “zombies” in Jerusalem (which aren’t even mentioned by other canonical writers, including where we might have expected them). Josephus does relate that the priests were remembering some kind of dire portent that happened 40 years before the Temple was sacked, as pointing toward that event, but aside from a special lamp going out he doesn’t go into details. Also, the observation has exactly nothing to do with the question of whether Jesus existed.

{{[no record of] Herod killing babies]

Herod sending a squad of troops one time to kill up to 10 kids (if that many) in a small sheepherding suburb of Jerusalem, near the end of his life, would not necessarily have been of note to anyone anywhere who would have left any record. As you ought to already be well aware, but apparently aren’t. Also, it has exactly nothing to do with the question of whether Jesus existed.

{{[no record of any] other significant events in the Gospels.}}

There is plenty of textual (and even a little archaeological) corroboration of early 1st century events and people and places mentioned in the Gospels. As again you ought to be well aware of, but apparently aren’t. There is no textual (and couldn’t be any archaeological) corroboration of the existence and ministry of Jesus (per se) outstide the NT canon (and some other Christian docs) in the first century, except for Tacitus and Josephus; but then there is no textual corroboration of James JesusBro or JohnBapt, either, from that time period, except for Josephus.

So: the dissing of the Gospels (and Acts) as textual references, requires calling coup on a handful of peripheral details found in one text each, purely on the grounds that they aren’t mentioned anywhere else outside the canon (when in fact they wouldn’t be); plus the occurrence of a local earthquake not mentioned anywhere else (when in fact it wouldn’t be); and then pretending that there is no corrborative evidence of other events that might actually be of normal significance to people outside the events.

I think you have mistaken the content of the canon with the content of the Mormon docs.

{{I just can not see why you have to be "hypersceptic" not to believe in historical Jesus.}}

Considering that even most otherwise-hypersceptical scholars do believe Jesus historically existed (and not because they’re scared that Inquisitors 500 years dead will come back to kill them), I’d say this automatically classifies a person as at least hypersceptical by default comparison.

Ditto if this involves a theory about mid-2nd-century Gospel/Acts composition.

This isn’t like you’re only being sceptical of, say, the Res or the other miracles. You’re being sceptical of practically everything. How is this not being hypersceptical?? And why would you even bother trying to pretend that it isn’t?!

{{Imagine that there are no reliable independent records of the most famous man who performed miracles to thousands of people}}

Yes, and the same records also indicate that this man would rather not have been doing that, because it encouraged a shallow appreciation easily replaced by whatever new fancy would come along next. All the crowds start to care for are the wonders, not the teaching or the repentence or the charity. Next year it’s someone else, like that Egyptian guy who led his people out into the wilderness to start a rebellion against Rome (and then gets promptly zorched by the Roman troops. Whom, incidentally, we hear about both in Acts and in Josephus. But whom, not incidentally, would have been of no interest to 2nd century readers of a popular merely mythological mystery cult.)

{{Golden rule, personal salvation, final judgment, heaven, hell, bodily resurrection, idea of trinity and many other Christian ideas predate Jesus.}}

Each of those can be found exactly where Jesus and His followers said they were getting them: the Jewish scriptures and contemporary Jewish theology. There doesn’t have to be ‘borrowing’ from anywhere else, even for sceptical theories (I suppose).

It’s the Incarnation claim that makes sceptics keep trying to synch this up with pagan source parallels somehow. Which is very funny because many of these same sceptics will then turn around and try to claim that the Synoptics and even the epistles don’t present Jesus as having made divinity claims! Any stick is good enough, you see. {wry s}


{{Regarding Paul... What are the best non-biblical records of him?}}

None!--which is why I’ve been expecting someone to start going after him, now, for several years. Despite the fact that, once again, virtually all scholars, even otherwise-hypersceptical ones, not only agree that he existed but that he wrote most of the Epistles attributed to him.

It’s a necessary tactical requirement to shoot for him, if one is also trying to pass Jesus off as a completely fictitious invention; not least because if even hypersceptics routinely accept Paul’s existence and authorship of certain docs, then by comparison that can only make one’s dissing of Jesus’ existence look more needlessly renegade.

Also, if Rabbi Solly (as one sceptical author likes to call him) really existed and really wrote particular letters collected in the canon, then one has to really take seriously his basic claims that Jesus was a real man who really lived and really died (not even counting his claims that this man who really died really rose again).

Doubtless, it will now be asked why someone would be classified as hypersceptical (at least) for doubting or denying Paul’s existence. As if this was some kind of moderate position on the topic, or didn’t involve being even more sceptical than practically all of the Jesus Seminar.

I believe and promote dozens of points of orthodox Christian theology; so why exactly would I ever bother to state that I just cannot see why someone would have to be hyperorthodox to believe all that? Believing and defending all that, makes me really really orthodox by classification! It would be ridiculous for me to pretend otherwise! Why would I even want to pretend otherwise??

{{Clearly someone wrote his letters, even though some of them probably not by him.}}

Uh, no, if Paul didn’t exist then NONE OF THEM were written by him. Period.

{{Everyone seems to agree that at least seven of those were Paul's.}}

That’s right: everyone. Not just us. I recall hearing of one person somewhere recently (with more than just internet cachet) who was seriously trying to start arguing that Paul didn’t exist, but this fellow is way hugely the odd man out.

Which means it’s even more naive to present Paul’s-existence-being-debated as some kind of important contrast to “knowing” Apollonius existed, than it is to present Jesus’-existence-being-debated.


Back to Apoll again...

{{I should have been more accurate in my statement, popular was not the best choice of words.}}

How many temples of outright pagan deities, meanwhile, were built and maintained not only by influential and wealthy Greco-Roman followers, but by lower-class ones, too? I’m thinking the number exceeds 17 by a substantial amount. (Civic statues, meanwhile, are not quite the same thing as temples and worship congregations. Statues are usually put up by a city board or a private donor.)

The point is that if Jesus followers were only engaging in a harmless popular Greco-Roman cosmic mystery religion until early-mid 2nd c or thereabouts, there wouldn’t have been any reason for them not to have been doing the same thing, and far more prevalently--more on the scale of the populations involved.

Except that Rome didn’t want them doing it. Why? The texts themselves show why Rome wouldn’t have wanted them doing that, at any time, ever. (Even though the texts themselves are, for the most part, cautiously ambivalent-to-friendly about Roman government!)

Statues or even small temples to Apoll?--not a problem in the least for the Roman government. Mere house churches (much less temples etc.) for Christians? Very much more of a problem. And not just starting in mid 2nd-c, either.

{{That [timing composition problem in the 2nd c] is only true if we ignore the oral tradition and destroyed writings of the followers of Apollonius (speculative, I know).}}

Yes, well, I’ll just keep ignoring the speculative destroyed writings of the followers of Apoll, I think. I don’t ask opponents to pay attention to speculative destroyed writings of the followers of Jesus as some kind of counterweight to a position.


The topic is now moving to amazing substantial similarities between Paul and Apollonius (for purposes of trying to suggest that Acts fabricated Paul’s adventures largely from copying Apoll), which you did try to give examples of. As noted previously, I’ll save a more detailed analysis of given (or attempted) parallels later. Until then...

{{Everyone seems to agree Paul and Apollonius lived around same time}}

Except the one or three people disputing Paul’s existence, of course, which was supposed to impress us compared to our knowledge of Apoll’s existence.

{{somehow the story of Apollonius got to Philostrat.}}

250ish years later. And he himself tells us how he got it: oral tradition of his time, plus various sources: mainly the account of Damis, given to him by the Empress to work from, plus an account by someone else whom he actually doesn’t much like for ideological reasons, plus at least some of the Letters apparently. None of these are claimed to be any earlier than 2nd c (except oral tradition, of course; though the Letters where we can detect borrowings would theoretically count as 1st c somewhere. Incidentally, are there any scholars anywhere who seriously treat the Letters as being substantially 1st c in composition? I mean for any purpose other than trying to promote some kind of explicitly anti-Christian theory.)

{{Story probably grew over time and Philostrat had an artistic license.}}

Honestly, it’s pretty standard Greco-Roman sage hagiography stuff. Even Philostrat didn’t have a high opinion of it, at the end. Any ‘growing’ didn’t get overly far. True, Apoll’s name was being used in demonic-control spells by the 2nd century or therearounds, but that’s pretty normal, too, if he had a reputation as an exorcist to start with.

The thing is, Paul about 20 years later is telling his readers about this man who lived and died and rose again, who really was (not just for nifty rhetorical flourish) the one and only unique ho theos Incarnate, fulfilling the Jewish religious promises thereby and reconciling everyone and everything to God by sending away sin through His sacrificial death for the sake of His own enemies. And, btw, don’t go getting into Greek philosophy or religion (Paul adds)--some of you came out of that, but it’s a bunch of meaningless gas, so don’t get sucked back into it! You’re supposed to be being grafted now into Israel, so read your Bibles and get your heads out of that Gentile stuff. I know (he adds), I used to be a super-Pharisee, and a zealous persecutor of the faith; but I got saved, because I saw Jesus, and I went off to meet with the other Jewish people I used to fight with and found I agree with them as to doctrine now (except insofar as they sometimes still try to make doing particular deeds like circumcision and avoiding certain foods a requisite for salvation).

Those people are still around, too, according to Paul in those letters, and in contact with the congregations--the congregations can check his refs if they think he’s running a con game on them.

Paul isn’t teaching them about some merely mystical cosmic savior, but about a man born of woman who suffered and died on a real cross and was really buried (etoff├ęd as I like to put it--same word in the Greek! {g}) and really rose again with the same real (but transformed) body.

200 years after Apoll dies, Philostratus is collecting together everything he can find out about Apoll (and getting him mixed up, on rare occasion, with at least one and maybe two other Apolls in the process)--and at the end of the day, after all the hagiography is said and done, he recommends his Empress should pay homage to a carpenter instead as someone who really did make a lasting difference in the world, if she wants to regard some formerly living man as a divinity. Because Apoll just doesn’t amount to much.

(Which always leaves me wondering if he had some particular divinized carpenter in mind... {g})


{{Jesus and adulterous women, trinity and Marks ending were later additions.}}

We all know the adulteress pericope is a later addition to GosJohn already, thank you. (Which doesn’t stop sceptics from appealing to it themselves anyway when they want to accuse us of not being like Jesus, but that’s beside the point. {wry g}) And this is copied from where, exactly?--and has relevance to the creation of the original text of GosJohn how, exactly?

I’m trying to figure out which remark about the “trinity” is supposed to be a later addition to the Gospels, but I’m coming up totally dry. I suspect you’re talking about a medieval-era (or later) insertion into one of the Epistles, which has absolutely nothing to do with Gospel composition (or even with Epistle composition).

Mark’s ending is typically recognized as being tacked on, due to the language style and lack of proper textual evidence, that’s true. I shouldn’t have to note that this is hardly a great shocker to anyone here, much less that the material is clearly dittoed from the other three Gospels, not from Apollonius (for instance). And it also has absolutely nothing to do with original Gospel composition.

{{Paul's conversion story is similar to what happened in Euripides 5th century CE play.}}

Uh, yeahhhh... anyone else want to take this one? My fingers are getting tired, and I feel like I’ve wasted a whole day already chasing down false leads from our rather overcredulous sceptical friend here. Fun journal entries though they might otherwise make.

JRP

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