Did Peter and Paul Die for Their Belief that Jesus Rose?

On 27 September I posted a blog entitled “My 200 Word Resurrection Witness.” My 200 word witness ended with this: “So here’s my question: if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, then why would the first disciples die for what they knew was a lie?”

Subsequently, several skeptics have challenged the concept that the first disciples did die because they believed Jesus was raised and they have asked me to cite the evidence.

Presently, my intention is to do this as the first of an occasional series on the martyrdom of the disciples, and so in this one I am going to focus on the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul.

To do this I need to explain the historical background.

First, we know that Christians were being tortured to death in large numbers very early. In A.D. 109 the Roman historian Tacitus chronicled what happened to the Christians in A.D. 64:

Consequently, to get rid of the report [that Nero had set the city on fire], Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. [1]

Sensibly, none of the skeptics challenged this point on my prior blog: Christians were being torturously killed by A.D. 64. Remember that Jesus was crucified A.D. 30.

Second, the early Christians gave their lives precisely because they believed Jesus rose from the dead. After all, believing and preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ is, and always will be, central to Christianity. Consider the words of Paul in 1 Cor. 15:1-8:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.  

Paul says this is of “first importance.” Holding that Jesus died for our sins and was raised is Christianity. By the way, it is important to note that most scholars, even skeptical ones, believe that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in the mid 50s AD. [2]

Notice also that Paul wrote “what I also received.” In other words, what Paul wrote here was a creedal statement that was passed on to him prior to the mid 50s. But don’t take my word for it. Consider the words scholar James G. D. Dunn wrote, “This tradition, we can be entirely confident, was formulated as tradition within months of Jesus’ death.” [3] Also, the unambiguously non-Christian, skeptical scholar Gerd Ludemann wrote: “We can assume that all the elements in the tradition [of 1 Cor. 15:3-8] are to be dated to the first two years after the crucifixion of Jesus.” [4] 

From this we learn that from a very early date the Christians began preaching that Jesus was raised. Even atheist Michael Martin, in The Case Against Christianity, agrees that it “is correct that the Resurrection was proclaimed by the early Christians.” [5]

Why else would they have maintained their proclamation that Jesus was raised? If Jesus wasn’t raised, they wouldn’t have been emboldened to die for Him. The second century satirist Lucian commented on their boldness in facing death: “These misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and it was impressed upon them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.” [6]

So what do we know? We know that within 35 years of Christ’s crucifixion that many Christians confessed to being Christians even though it resulted in their torturous deaths. What they believed and preached was that Jesus was raised from the dead.

Third, so now we come specifically to Peter and Paul. Clement, a contemporary of the apostles (see Phil. 4:3) put it this way:

Let us come to those champions who lived nearest to our time. Let us set before us the noble examples which belong to our generation. By reason of jealousy and envy the greatest and most righteous pillars of the Church were persecuted, and contended even unto death. Let us set before our eyes the good Apostles. There was Peter who by reason of unrighteous jealousy endured not one but many labors, and thus having borne his testimony [martyresas] went to his appointed place of glory. By reason of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the prize of patient endurance. After that he had been seven times in bonds, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, had preached in the East and in the West, he won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith, having taught righteousness unto the whole world and having reached the farthest bounds of the West; and when he had borne his testimony before the rulers, so he departed from the world and went unto the holy place, having been found a notable pattern of patient endurance. Unto these men of holy lives was gathered a vast multitude of the elect, who through many indignities and tortures, being the victims of jealousy, set a brave example among ourselves. By reason of jealousy women being persecuted, after that they had suffered cruel and unholy insults as Danaids and Dircae, safely reached the goal in the race of faith, and received a noble reward, feeble though they were in body. [7]

So we learn from a contemporary of the apostles that Peter and Paul were killed and that their testimony encouraged those who heard them to likewise endure torture and death.

Polycarp, another contemporary of the apostles, a disciple of the apostle John, and himself burned at the stake (155), wrote:

Now I beseech you all to obey the word of righteousness, and to endure with all the endurance which you also saw before your eyes, not only in the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and in the other Apostles; being persuaded that all of these “ran not in vain,” but in faith and righteousness, and that they are with the Lord in the “place which is their due,” with whom they also suffered. For they did not “love this present world” but him who died on our behalf, and was raised by God for our sakes.[8]

Notice that Polycarp related Paul’s suffering to Jesus’ resurrection. Around 200 Tertullian wrote:

That Paul is beheaded has been written in their own blood. And if a heretic wishes his confidence to rest upon a public record, the archives of the empire will speak, as would the stones of Jerusalem. We read the lives of the Caesars: At Rome Nero was the first who stained with blood the rising faith….Then does Paul obtain a birth suited to a Roman citizenship, when in Rome he springs to live again ennobled by martyrdom. Then is Peter girt by another, when he is made fast to the cross. [9]

Here Tertullian says, if you don’t believe me, check out “the archives of the empire”! We may not have those archives today but only those who don’t want this to be true could argue that Tertullian was just making that up.

Similarly, the church historian Eusebius (236-339) points to additional evidence:

Thus [Nero] publicly announcing himself as the first among God’s chief enemies, he was led on to the slaughter of the apostles. It is, therefore, recorded that Paul was beheaded in Rome itself, and that Peter likewise was crucified under Nero. This account of Peter and Paul is substantiated by the fact that their names are preserved in the cemeteries of that place even to the present day. [10]

Here Eusebius tells the reader to check out the cemetery where they were executed because it still exists!

I could go on but this is already my longest blog to date so I’ll stop for now. I intend related blogs to follow in the months to come.

Acts 17:31 “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”


[1] Tacitus, The Annals, http://classics.mit.edu/Tacitus/annals.11.xv.html.

[2] Bart Ehrman: “The earliest Christian writings that still survive are those of the apostle Paul, written around 50-60 CE.” Bart D. Ehrman, Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code (Oxford: OUP, 2004), 77-78. John Dominic Crossan says 1 Cor. “Written from Ephesus in the winter of 53-54 C.E…..”  John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), 427.

[3] James G. D. Dunn, Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), 855. Emphasis his.

[4] Gerd Ludemann, Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1995), 38.

[5] Michael Martin, The Case Against Christianity (Philadelphia: Temple University, 1991), 90.

[6] Lucian, The Death of Peregrine, http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/luc/wl4/wl420.htm.

[7] 1Clem 5:1-6:2 http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/1clement-lightfoot.html.

[8] Polycarp, Philippians 9:1-2, http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/polycarp-lake.html.

[9] Tertullian, Scorpiace XV, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.v.x.xv.html. Also, regarding Peter Ignatius of Antioch (c.35-108), who himself was sentenced to be killed by lions in the arena, wrote: “For I know and believe that He was in the flesh even after the resurrection. And when He came to Peter and those who were with him, He said to them, ‘Take, handle me and see that I am not a spirit without body.’ And straightway they touched Him and believed, being united with His flesh and spirit. Therefore also they despised death, and were found to rise above death.” Ignatius, The Epistle to the Smyrneans. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/srawley/smyrnaeans.html. It is true that these comments by Ignatius don’t specifically say that they were killed for their faith but at the very least it says that they were willing to die for their faith.

[10] Eusebius, History of the Christian Church, 2.XXV.5. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf201.iii.vii.xxvi.html.

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142 Responses to Did Peter and Paul Die for Their Belief that Jesus Rose?

  1. Russell Kaufman says:

    Good word! Is it not the resurrection truth that motivates most believers to face adversity of every kind in “far off” places in order to proclaim said truth? True believers have already died in Christ and need not fear physical harm. Amen!

  2. Vinny says:

    Did they plead guilty to being Christians or did they plead guilty to starting the fire?

    • Clay Jones says:

      Hi Vinny,
      Tacitus, who obviously despised the Christians, didn’t believe the Christians were responsible for firing the city but instead blamed Nero. Also, Tacitus reports that the citizens of Rome began to feel pity for the Christians. Do you think that would have happened if the citizens really did believe that the Christians started the fire?

      • Vinny says:

        My reading of Tacitus is that Nero blamed the Christians for starting the fire and used torture to extract some confessions. Once he had obtained some confessions, he expanded the persecution to all the Christians that could be found. At first, the Roman probably did believe that some Christians were responsible for the fire. After all, why would they have confessed. However, as the violence expanded, many Romans came to see that the vengeance was going far beyond the whoever the culpable parties might have been and began to feel sorry for the victims of the persecution.

        Sadly, such incidents are well known throughout history. Pogroms often began with a specific charge against specific individuals–often fabricated–which was used as an excuse for attacks against whole communities. American history is replete with examples of mob violence against blacks and massacres of Indians that began in similar fashion. The Mormons have been both victims and perpetrators in such incidents. The Holocaust is but the largest and most horrifying example.

        In all such incidents, the actual beliefs and activities of the persecuted minority have little to do with the persecution. Indeed, the attacker often have little knowledge of what their victims actually believed or did. Pogroms were justified by the belief that Jews killed Christian babies in their rituals. The Romans believed that Christians practiced incest and cannibalism because they called one another brother and sister and they celebrated the Eucharist. There is little reason to think that Nero knew or cared what the Christians actually believed.

        Nero needed a scapegoat and the Christians made a convenient target because they refused to worship the Roman gods. Polytheistic pagans wouldn’t mind Christians worshiping Christ, however, they wouldn’t like the fact that Christians refused to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods whose favor the Romans thought they needed. Thus, when a disaster like the fire occurred, it was easy to think that the pagan gods were displeased and it was easy to blame their displeasure on the Christians.

        As a result, I don’t think that there is any reason to think that any of Nero’s victims would have been given the chance to avoid persecution by renouncing their belief in the resurrection. That is without even addressing the issue of whether there is any reason to think that any of his victims had first hand knowledge of the resurrection.

        • clayjones says:

          You make a good point, Vinny. I agree that it is possible, maybe even probable, that initially some bearing the name of Christ could have confessed, under torture, to firing the city. I say “under torture” because anyone who did confess to trying to burn down the city would know that they would be executed for such a confession so the only way such a “confession” was going to occur would be under extreme duress.

          In time, however, as Nero was rounding up Christians, the real question would be whether the person in custody was a Christian or not. I don’t agree that some of them wouldn’t have been able to get out of their execution by proclaiming “I am not, nor have I ever been a Christian.” I would suspect that some of those were able to deny Christ and get away with it, while others would have steadfastly maintained their witness as happened when governor Pliny was killing Christians.

          This being said, as you know, Christianity continued to flourish after Nero, and the many persecutions which followed, and that meant that those alive must have been so impressed with the apostles testimony that they were willing to risk their lives to own up to it.

          As for the Peter and Paul, they knew that preaching Christ crucified and raised could result in their own deaths and both were imprisoned for their resurrection proclamation prior to their ever getting near Rome (and Paul had been beaten many times). Stephen had already been stoned and James had been killed by the sword. Also, I agreed with James Sinclair (who posted below) that the overarching point is that the first disciples unambiguously understood the penalty for proclaiming Christ raised. One of the points of this blog is that it ultimately did end in their executions.

          Because of your comments I have amended one sentence of my original blog.


          • Vinny says:

            In the 19th century, many people were so impressed with Joseph Smith that they gave up their homes and property and endured hardship and persecution to follow him to Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois where Smith was lynched, after which they followed Brigham Young to Utah. In short, the willingness to endure hardships and risks on behalf of a charismatic leader doesn’t provide any evidence of the truth of that leader’s claims.

            • Terri says:

              Joseph Smith did not claim to be God or to have risen from the dead.

              • Vinny says:


                If he had made those claims, would his followers willingness to endure risk and hardship be evidence that the claims were true?

            • RobertH says:

              Only is there superficially are there any similarities. 6 of the 11 witnesses of the gold plates left the Mormon Church. Joseph Smith was not martyred but died in a shoot out trying to save his life! And there is no evidence to back up the Book of Mormon (archaeology, translation, etc).

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  4. Tim and Lydia McGrew argue, in their defense of the resurrection in the Blackwell companion to Natural Theology (as I recall), that the relevant issue here isn’t whether the opponents of Christianity actually followed through on the threat to the apostles by executing them. Rather, did the apostles have a reasonable belief that their lives were at risk (whether they died or not), yet still follow through with their witness? The evidence that they did follow through with their witness, that they did know the risk(see Paul’s other testimony in his letters to the travails he had suffered) and that the risk was real in incontrovertible. So it is not necessary to count executions (or the supposed level of confidence in the historical sources for such).

    • clayjones says:

      I agree, James! The most important issue is whether the apostles considered their life at risk yet still maintained their witness. That being said, I think it is helpful to document that at least some of the apostles did pay the ultimate price for their witness.

      • I agree that if you are giving a concise witness and you are there personally to respond to questions, then demonstrating the actual sacrifice of the apostles is helpful in making the case concise. Being concise helps understanding, and makes it possible for more Christians to act as apologists.

        What concerns me is that the cost these days of leaving out the caveats has risen. Virtually anyone with Google access can very quickly find the most sophisticated objection by the most sophisticated scholars to a particular argument (whether they understand it or not). Honest seekers may then be turned off by the apparent fact that Christian defenders either can’t or won’t respond to the best objections, or may even seem unaware of the skeptic’s case. Those looking for a reason for unbelief will find their next crutch and look no further.

        If that person is helped along by a Richard Carrier or a John Loftus, I think such opponents would be glad to add an implication that us Christians are being deliberately dishonest by omitting this or that salient fact or argument.

        Now the answer to this is not to present a PhD thesis for every argument (which is beyond the capability of most of us and beyond the attention span of all but the most dedicated listener). The fact is, the opponent wins either by winning the argument, obscuring the argument, or putting the argument beyond the attention span of the typical listener. This is why you can’t argue an unbeliever into the kingdom of God; one needs the Holy Spirit’s input. (I’m sure you agree with this last part and that it is part of your usual teaching.)

        Nonetheless, I am a strong proponent of both Resurrection apologetics and Natural Theology. What I’m saying is that you have to be on the lookout for cases where an attempt at being concise can and will be exploited by the opponent. In this case, for example, the opponent can say that the historicity of the martyrdom of Paul and Peter can be called into question. Only the letter from Clement would be early enough to, perhaps, be written by someone with direct knowledge and/or experience of the event. The other sources may be relating legend even if we take the authors as sincere. But, with respect to that letter, we are not sure who wrote it, when it was written, and whether the salient passage was intended to refer to martydom. Now, it looks to me to be reasonable to believe the majority scholarly view: ‘Clement’ was associated with the early church (although we don’t know which Clement); the letter was probably written around AD 95, and it is immensely plausible (given the other circumstantial evidence) that Paul and Peter did perish in the persecution in Rome carried out by Nero. But there is exploitable doubt here. I think the argument offered by the McGrews is less vulnerable. I think the argument used by Habermas/Licona is even better. In that case, the onus is now on the opponent to make the complicated argument as to why 3400 pieces of scholarship over the last 35 years near unanimously agree on the sincerity of the apostles’ belief.

        Another thing I suggest when making a concise case is to get ahead of the objector by suggesting that the issues are of necessity more involved than can be noted in a sound byte, and then to suggest sources where the person can go for more detailed information. If nothing else, doing so insulates one against the dangers that I noted earlier.

        • clayjones says:

          Thank you for the advice, James. I agree with you and will approach future blogs with that in mind.


  5. DagoodS says:

    Clay Jones,

    Thank you for the well-thought, sourced blog entry.

    (I am curious whether you obtained this from Dr. Licona’s new book Resurrection of Jesus. I ask because I was putting together a blog entry regarding Dr. Licona’s sources regarding the apostles fates, and you use the exact same outline. The exact same sources (in the same order.) And skip the exact same sources. Hence my curiosity.)

    A few ground rules to retain our previous direction.

    First, we are discussing the argument from the perspective of people willing to die for what they saw–not what they learned. As you aptly pointed out in your 200 Word Resurrection Witness blog entry, many people are willing to die for what they learned. Today’s Muslims, today’s Christians, Hindus, freedom fighters, cult followers, etc. The focus—the idea this is different–is to point out people willing to die for what they actually saw. Not something they picked up second or third hand.

    We all agree Christians were persecuted (to some extent) in the first centuries. However, for this argument to have force the only Christians we focus on are those who claim to have seen a physically resurrected Jesus. Otherwise we fall into the predicament you precisely point out—people die for what they heard all the time and it is no measure of verity.

    Therefore, while Tacitus gives us some background information, he does not list any specific person who was killed, and does not provide us an individual helpful to this argument. The reason we “sensibly” did not argue against Tacitus claim is that we don’t have to! No where does Tacitus indicate, “People who claimed to see Jesus resurrected were killed.” I could equally say you “sensibly” did not respond to our question if any of the persons referred to by Tacitus claimed to have seen a physically resurrected Jesus.

    Further, Tacitus does list the reasons the Christians were despised—and it isn’t the claim a person was resurrected from the dead. Tacitus states Christians committed “abominations,” retained “superstitious” beliefs (careful we utilize the Roman concept of “superstitions” and not our own) and “hatred of mankind.” You would need to flesh out the argument it was their resurrection claim and not some other perceived issue (like monotheism, cannibalism or incest) which caused them to be persecuted. Bringing me to my next point…

    Secondly, we have to be careful to avoid the hammer/nail problem—when we hold a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Yes, early Christianity preached Christ resurrected. But was that why they were persecuted? Just because they stated it, doesn’t mean every time they were pursued it was for this reason.

    For example, John the Baptist preached baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. (Mark 1:4). Is that why he was killed? No—it was for criticizing Herod’s choice of wife. (Mark 6:18) Stephen was killed for calling the Sanhedrin names. (Acts 7) According to Acts, Peter was to be killed because it pleased the people. (Acts 12:1-4)

    Polycarp was accused of being a monotheist and preaching to not sacrifice to other Gods. As I previously pointed out, Peter was killed for telling wives not to have sex with their husbands. So was Andrew. According to the first source we have, Paul was killed because Nero feared another king was developing a kingdom. And, as you pointed out, the Christians in Tacitus were killed as scapegoats, since Nero couldn’t find any other means to absolve the fire’s blame resting on Nero.

    Or your example in the 200 word resurrection witness—James, the brother of Jesus. He was killed for breaking the law. (Presumably the Jewish law.) Not for his claim about Resurrection.

    This is important because if they weren’t accused of Resurrection belief—recanting said belief may not have helped them! Imagine Peter telling Albinus and Agrippa, “Fine. I don’t believe Jesus was raised from the dead.” They would scratch their heads and say, “What do we care about THAT?! We are killing you because you convinced our wives to not have sex with us.” Or imagine the Christians telling Nero, “We recant the resurrection.” Nero would reply, “What do I care about THAT?! I am killing you because I need a scapegoat to avoid this pernicious rumor I started the fire.”

    All a long way of saying we need two things:

    1) A person claiming to see a physically resurrected Jesus; and
    2) Recanting that claim would absolve them of punishment.

    With this in mind, let’s look at your sources.

    1 Clement. Whether he is a “contemporary” of the apostles is a matter of some dispute. While some early church fathers refer to Clement, Bishop of Rome as an associate of Peter, 1 Clement itself is curiously lacking in making this claim. Indeed, 1 Clement 44:1-3 indicates the current (95 CE?) generation was once and possibly twice removed from the apostles. (And we have the additional problem of dating and authorship on 1 Clement. It could be as late as the middle second century and wasn’t necessarily written by Clement, Bishop of Rome.)

    Additionally, as the author is arguing the Corinthian church should retain its leadership, it is curious he would not utilize his own relationship with Peter, and his own appointment either by Peter or Peter’s representative. There is absolutely nothing in 1 Clement connecting the author to Peter.

    The author does not give any details surrounding Peter or Paul’s death. We don’t know when, we don’t know where, we don’t know by whom (Roman? Jewish? Other?), and of course the most important—we don’t know why.

    The author is deliberately giving examples of steadfastness, and listing the travesties occurring to these individuals. He states that Peter suffered “many labors”—but skips the bit about Peter being crucified? He gives specifics about Paul—seven (not six. Not eight) times in bonds, exiled and stoned—but skips the bit about Paul being beheaded for his belief!?

    The author talks about Abel being slain for “jealous and envy.” The author says Joseph was persecuted “unto death” (although not dying). If the author is willing to say some were killed because of “jealous and envy” but others were only persecuted “unto death” (but not killed) for jealously and envy, and our subjects Peter and Paul fall in the “unto death” category, it would seem in line with the author’s intentions they were NOT martyred.

    Licona also notes not every time “unto death” means the person was actually killed. And Licona notes the word “testimony” did not become “martyr” until after Justin Martyr. Licona does give the qualified statement, “Clement reports that Peter and Paul suffered multiple attacks and most likely refers to their martyrdoms, although the latter is not without question.” Pg 367. “Most likely” and “not without question” does not instill confidence.

    Polycarp provides us no new information, other than stating Paul suffered. However, the Martyrdom of Polycarp (around 150 CE) does provide a new and interesting twist. The story indicates Polycarp baffled his captors, was allowed to give long-winded speeches, and ended with his dying a glorious, miraculous martyr’s death. Almost immediately following this writing we see a genre of writings giving similar accounts surrounding Peter’s glorious, miraculous martyrdom, Paul’s glorious, miraculous martyrdom, Andrew’s glorious, miraculous martyrdom and eventually (with Hippolytus) the martyrdom of every disciple except John. (who still had a glorious, miraculous death.)

    Further, martyrdom became revered in the church, allowing martyrs immediate access to heaven, and those condemned but released special offices in the church. Unsurprisingly, within such an environment, we begin to see stories surrounding the deaths of the disciples. Stories non-existent with contemporary writers.

    Tertullian didn’t have access to any “archives of the empire”—this is rhetorical flourish, like having access to the “stones of Jerusalem.” Tertullian obtained his information regarding Peter and Paul from Acts of Peter and Acts of Paul. It has absolutely nothing to do with “wanting it to be true” or not—it is simple, common historical practice in determining one’s sources.

    Look, Tertullian, in De Baptismo refers to the Acts of Paul. He knows of its existence (obviously) by reference to it. Tertullian states Paul was beheaded. This is the first time in all recorded history that claim is made with one exception—Acts of Paul. The book Tertullian indicates he knows.

    If a writer in 200 CE says, “Fact F happened” (where fact F was almost 140 years earlier) and also indicates “I know book B” (written earlier than the writer) and Book B contains Fact F why would we possibly say anything BUT the writer obtained Fact F from Book B?

    This has nothing to do with us “wanting Tertullian to make it up” or otherwise. It is the most simple, basic historical analysis.

    Eusebius, of course, is far too late to be of any use, especially as he is utilizing sources we either cannot confirm (Clement of Alexandria, Dionysius), or sources we already have (Tertullian.)

    Finally, the question that continues to plague me. We see anecdotal evidence in the sources we have (Hippolytus, 2nd Apocalypse of James, Hegesippus, Acts of Peter, Acts of Paul). Why, if Christians were motivated to make this up later, can we presume they were not motivated to make it up earlier?

    • clayjones says:

      You bring up things I agree with and, of course, many things I disagree with in your 1,542 word post! Even though I have more time, I just can’t take everything on all at once. So, let me just begin with one thing. I wasn’t suggesting that the disciples died because they said, “I saw Jesus raised from the dead.” My point is that the first disciples were so convinced that Jesus was raised from the dead that they were willing to die for the Gospel.

      • HeIsSailing says:

        Thanks for addressing this issue, Dr Jones. I have read a lot of the ancient sources, but of course not everything. I will follow the trail you laid and see where it leads

        In the meantime though, I cannot help but you mention that it appears you are retreating a bit from your original 200 word resurrection defense. In it, you state:

        “…the first disciples were testifying to seeing Jesus raised from the dead, which, if they hadn’t seen Jesus alive would mean they were dying for what they knew was a lie.”

        So it seems to me that you ARE suggesting, that the first disciples were testifying to seeing Jesus raised from the dead. In fact, that is an exact quote from you. But, in contrast, you now state:

        “…I wasn’t suggesting that the disciples died because they said, “I saw Jesus raised from the dead.” My point is that the first disciples were so convinced that Jesus was raised from the dead that they were willing to die for the Gospel.”

        to which argument you rightly addressed, also from your original argument:

        “The most common reply is, “Yeah, but people die for lies all the time.” And I say, “That’s true. People do die for things they think are true that turn out to be a lie.”

        So how is your new position any different from any other martyr dying for any other position that they believe in? Regardless, it appears you are now retreating to such a position.

        Please clarify, so I know exactly what it is that you are arguing. What exactly are you claiming was the cause of the Apostles’ martyrdom? Are you still claiming that they were killed because of their testimony as personal eyewitnesses to Jesus’ physical resurrection? Or are you now saying that they were killed because of their mere belief in a physical resurrection, regardless of whether or not they they personally witnessed the resurrected physical body?

        • Clay Jones says:

          Hi Heissailing and Dagoods,

          I am not shifting nor is there a contradiction. The disciples gave their lives because they sincerely believed Jesus was raised from the dead. But that they said Jesus was raised from the dead wasn’t what motived those who killed them to kill them. Ultimately, it was, as Vinny put it, that they refused to worship the emperor.


      • DagoodS says:

        Clay Jones,

        I apologize if my comment was long; I tend to be enthusiastic about the topic. *grin*

        I am quite certain we disagree (and agree) at points. If there is anything inherently woven in biblical studies it is disagreement/agreement even amongst those who share doctrinal positions. While interesting, I am more interested in the arguments both for and against our respective positions. Sure, we most likely will not convince each other—but this is how we can discuss the issue and recognize why those disagreements exist.

        I agree with He Is Sailing—I see a bit of shift here. After reading your comment, I went back and re-read your 200 word witness. It appears you are utilizing the deaths of apostles as proof for a specific historical event, NOT the promulgation of a theistic position. Unfortunately, “the gospel” becomes an elusive target—what do we mean by “the gospel”? Take the various writers position regarding the Law, and we see various proclamations, which each would include within their “Gospel.” Besides, if I wrote 1500 words on just the resurrection—imagine the length on the broader topic of “Gospel”! *wink*

        The question I was hoping you would address right away is if you obtained the source list from Dr. Licona’s recent Book on the Resurrection of Jesus.

        • Clay Jones says:

          Hi DagoodS,

          I’ll further the broader discussion below but let me address the Licona thing since for some reason that is important to you. I’ve taught with full-blown PowerPoint presentation on whether the disciples died for their belief that Jesus rose from the dead long before I even know Licona was coming out with a book on the subject. Sure, I’ve read his latest book. And I read the one he wrote with Habermas and books by Wright, Craig, and a host of others. I didn’t intentionally copy his outline.

          I think your comment is a little odd as I don’t believe Licona mentioned Tertullian or Eusebius (just a little aside here but your writing of Tertullian’s comments as “rhetorical flourish” is no more than a wishful assertion. You don’t know that. Just as you don’t know that there weren’t grave markers outside the coliseum mentioning Paul and Peter).


          • DagoodS says:

            Clay Jones,

            I wish I could claim some clever argument or nefarious reason for asking you about Dr. Licona. Alas, it was just curiosity and like the Elephant Child’s, could not be contained.

            The reasoning, once given, is not very interesting. Vinny asked me a few days ago what sources Dr. Licona used in his recent book. I happened to review them the evening before your post. I have debated “not willing to die for a lie” for a number of years, and I don’t ever recall the Letter to Smyrnaeans or Polycarp to the Philippines being utilized. And coincidentally I encountered it for the first time in both Dr. Lincona’s book and your post.

            Further, most apologists utilize Tertullian’s Against Heresies 36 rather than Scorpiace 15 as Against Heresies more clearly states Peter was crucified. (Scorpiace’s “Peter was struck” is not clear whether it means crucifixion or being beaten.) Again both you and Dr. Licona used Scorpiace and not Against Heresies. You both utilized the same passage on Eusebius, although Dr. Licona does cite the additional HE 3.1. Neither of you address the important Acts of Peter and Acts of Paul–the basis of Tertullian’s claim.

            Hence, I was curious. See?—told you the reasoning becomes very uninteresting in the telling.

            You are correct, I only assert Tertullian’s claim, “the archives of the empire will speak” is rhetorical flourish. Primarily because I thought it rather obvious. However, an argument supporting my claim may be instructive as to what I mean by providing argument surrounding our sources. So let me back up this assertion:

            1) Tertullian was a lawyer. Like all lawyers, he loves rhetoric. Countless examples abound throughout his writing; we can focus on this passage.

            a) “James is slain as is a victim at the altar.” An allegorical description of James, son of Zebedee, being killed. Was he actually killed at an altar? No—Tertullian is using descriptive words to invoke an emotional response. Rhetoric.

            b) “that Paul is beheaded has been written in their own blood.” Tertullian is not claiming someone utilized Paul’s head as an inkwell to write the account of his death. Again, rhetoric. Poetry. Analogy.

            c) “as would the stones of Jerusalem.” Tertullian is not claiming the accounts regarding their deaths was etched in any stones, resting in Jerusalem. Like Jesus, proclaiming “The rocks will cry out” this is hyperbolic speech. Rhetoric.

            d) “Then does Paul obtain a birth suited to Roman citizenship, when in Rome he springs to life again ennobled by martyrdom.” This one might be more interesting for you. So far, I have been pointing out statements meant to be allegorical and poetic—not literal. Which one does this fall under? See, in the Acts of Paul (Tertullian’s source) Paul comes back in a vision to Nero after being beheaded. This is what Tertullian is referring to. If you claim this is literal, we see two things:

            i) Further support Tertullian’s source is Acts of Paul.
            ii) We could claim Paul was resurrected! If Paul claiming to see a vision of Jesus constitutes support for a “physically” resurrected Jesus then Nero’s claiming to see a vision of Paul constitutes support for a physically resurrected Paul!

            e) We have allegory, rhetoric, hyperbole, poetic language throughout this paragraph, yet the one (1) solitary instance the apologist would like support to sustain their claim, they claim it is literal. I question whether the method is being applied consistently.

            2) How reasonable is it such archives would exist?

            a) Why would the Romans keep track of people they killed? Historians agree Romans were good record-keepers, but toward a certain end—money and power. They kept track of laws, decrees, wills, marriages, divorces, land transfers and census results because such records influenced money and power.

            How do the names of 200 people killed in Gaul further the Empire’s need for information regarding wealth and power? Bringing me to…

            b) The Empire killed millions. Again…the Empire killed millions! I understand Christians tend to focus on Christian’s being killed, but we need to look at this claim from the Roman standpoint. They were killing Jews and Christians and Gauls and Romans and Syrians and Egyptians and Ethiopians and…well… the list goes on and on.

            If we are making the claim the Empire is keeping some record (for unknown reasons) of people they killed, we need to include ALL the names. And this list would run into the millions. For some unknown reason. Taking up precious resources, time and material.

            c) How would one archive such a list? Again, this would be millions of names. On countless pieces of parchment. Would they be indexed by name? By year? By Country? By Emperor? By law? Imagine going into a warehouse of just parchment, and digging through all of it, to find some list where we see the name, “Paulos.” How would even possibly know it is the “Paulos” of the New Testament? We would need further information on the list.

            Meaning more writing. With more resources spent.

            d) I am unaware of any historical record or claim that such lists were preserved. Is there any support for such an archive?

            So…we have a writer who frequently uses rhetoric make this statement (within a sentence using rhetoric) OR we have this unsupported, unknown, unreasonable list existing.

            I’m on pretty confident ground to call it “rhetorical flourish” without it being wishful.

            Now, if you believe otherwise, I would be happy to review arguments presented to the contrary.

    • DagoodS,

      Do you agree that the relevant issue here is the sincere belief of the apostles that they saw a bodily resurrected Jesus (as an ontologically real extra-mental event)? Given that you read Licona’s book, and thus are familiar with the scholarly consensus regarding this point, do you disagree with it? If so, what are your grounds?

      • DagoodS says:

        James Sinclair,

        You make a very wise point in your comment. Personally, I think “not willing to die for a lie” should be completely abandoned, as the argument lacks any force, and anyone with any internet research skills can quickly discover the sourcing for the claim is problematic at best, and completely legendary at worst. Be that as it may, your presentation on the topic, and 1 Clement, was reasonable. That is what I was looking for, something presenting the source, admitting both its pro’s and con’s, and then making the best argument for the proposition one can. Will it convince everyone? Obviously not. *shrug* That is life.

        While the claim of continued belief in the face of potential persecution has better sourcing (albeit still with issues), it faces problems of its own. Namely that even people perpetuating a lie do a cost/benefit analysis and if the benefit outweighs the cost, will continue the lie. If the disciples considered the gain (power and wealth) worth the cost (potential persecution), they would continue their belief.

        Finally, I would be happy to discuss my position on the minimal fact of the Disciples believing they saw a physically resurrected Jesus, but I fear it would be off-topic to this particular blog entry. Do you have a particular forum to continue the discussion there? I would suggest my blog, if you like—or you can choose elsewhere.

        • Vinny says:

          On June 25, 1844, Joseph Smith surrendered to the constable in Carthage, Illinois and two days later a mob attacked the jail and killed him. Smith had the opportunity to flee and knew the risks of surrendering. If I were to follow the logic of Christian apologists, I would have to take this as evidence that Smith really did see the Golden Plates and the Angel Moroni. However, as Dagoods suggests, people will take risks on behalf of a lie based on a weighing the costs and the benefits. Smith feared losing the status and power he enjoyed in the Mormon community if he fled and he chose to take the risk of surrendering.

          The virtue of “the die for a lie” argument is the starkness of the choice. When it comes to steadfastness, the cost/benefit analysis is much less clear. To a sustenance peasant in first century Rome or Palestine with limited life expectancy, the specter of death would always be present. Would membership in an unpopular sect be seen as significantly increasing the uncertainties of life? If the sect came under persecution, would abandoning the sect be a viable alternative? The “die for a lie” argument is far from airtight, and the problems increase exponentially with “steadfastness for a lie.”

  6. DagoodS says:

    I posted a comment. Perhaps it is caught in spam filter. Or perhaps it was moderated out. *grin*

  7. Pingback: Did Peter and Paul Die for Their Belief that Jesus Rose? | Clay Jones

  8. In addition to the specifically historical objections that Dagood raises (far more ably than I myself could ever hope to), I must raise philosophical objections.

    We are talking not about some subtle or controversial natural issue, but rather a supernatural event. By definition, supernatural events are both ontologically and metaphysically implausible. Indeed their importance depends upon their implausiblity: if miracles happened every day, they would cease to be miracles; they would be ordinary, prosaic events for which we would — even if you grant (which I of course do not) some insurmountable a priori bias of natural scientists — fix upon some natural explanation. It would hardly be compelling to assert that Jesus fell asleep each night and awoke each morning, however scientifically mysterious we found the phenomenon of sleep.

    Furthermore, a claim about a supernatural event entails the metaphysical claim that natural law really is true, but nonetheless a counterexample actually exists. Miracles must be extremely rare. They must violate not just what we happen to believe might possibly be true, but what we confidently *know* to be true; indeed they must violate what we know to be true about the natural world without invalidating that natural knowledge.

    (Of course, there is a school of theology that holds that “miracles” are indeed everyday, ordinary events: God must exist because the world is and must be “miraculously” sustained from moment to moment. But this is a theological horse of a very different color from that which Dr. Jones offers us here.)

    One cannot, I think, honestly claim (as do some apologists, perhaps William Lane Craig?) that the resurrection is not “supernaturally” implausible. If something must be rare, it is ipso facto improbable; if something must by its very nature contradict confident natural knowledge it is ipso facto implausible. An inherently implausible claim requires a correspondingly stringent standard of proof.

    Furthermore, accepting as true the resurrection of Jesus requires more than just assenting to some individual fact: it requires a deep commitment that touches every level of one’s life. Again, if you want me to simply assent or deny some fact — if, for example, you would like me to simply assent that George Washington was a mythological figure — you would have a (relatively) lower standard of proof. If you want me to make a major change — if, for example, you wanted me to deny the legitimacy of the Constitution as the basis of American law — you would face a much higher standard of proof.

    I have grave doubts whether *any* historical evidence — much less ancient history, where relatively little documentary evidence has survived today — can rise to these higher standards.

    Even leaving aside whether the inferences are justified, it seems apparent to any skeptical inquiry that many important claims embedded in Dr. Jones’ position rest on chains of inference. *At best* we must rely on chains of inference to decide that any such person as Jesus actually existed and was actually crucified. We must rely on chains of inference to decide that Jesus even *appeared* to rise from the dead. We must rely on chains of inference to decide that any apostle actually witnessed Jesus apparently rising from the dead. We must rely on chains of inference to decide that any apostle was ever executed. We must rely on chains of inference to decide that any apostle could have spared himself by renouncing *only* the resurrection of Jesus.

    Relying on chains of inference is inherently problematic in two senses. First, errors *multiply*: The more indirect the conclusion, the less confident we can be about that conclusion. More importantly, chains of inference rely on the *immutability* of natural law. We cannot, for example, infer that an apple lying at the bottom of an apple tree fell from that tree unless we have accepted that things *always* fall when you drop them, that it is impossible for the apple to have fallen from a tree a thousand miles away. Natural knowledge fundamentally depends on Holmes’ metaphysics: when you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, *however improbable*, must be the truth. And we must at some point rely on the premise not just of improbability but of impossibility if we are to naturally understand improbable events, i.e. we must be able exclude where justified more a priori probable explanations: we must find the more probable explanation *impossible* to consider the a priori less plausible explanation.

    Metaphysically, then, it seem at best enormously suspect to employ a process — drawing conclusions about chains of inference — that relies in some substantive sense the impossibility of supernatural phenomena to draw the conclusion that some supernatural phenomenon is not just possible but actual.

    If one has been directed by the “spirit of the Lord” to believe the resurrection, then one would therefore believe the resurrection took place — and the apostles died for their belief — because of some prior causality. I have little to say about such a position other than that if the Christian God were to exist, He has — for His own good reasons, no doubt — seen fit to withhold that spirit from me and many other atheists and non-Christians. But the idea that one believes that the resurrection actually took place using only a firm commitment to natural, skeptical inquiry seems at best fatally weak.

  9. Clay Jones says:

    As those who have read my blog for some time will attest, I will only (for the most part anyway) deal with one point at a time. Several people have already brought up many points and as I kept pointing out to Moonsray Thea in a past discussion, because I don’t address them doesn’t in any way mean I have conceded them. I am only going to examine one point at a time.

    So when it comes to advancing my argument as to whether the disciples were willing to die for their testimony that Jesus was raised from the dead (and, in fact, some of them did actually die for the Gospel because they were emboldened by seeing Jesus raised from the dead), I come to this question (a la Habermas): Did the disciples have experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus?

    • Vinny says:

      Did the disciples have experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus?

      Paul reports that the risen Christ appeared to him and others, only three of whom he identifies, Peter, James, and John. Paul gives us no details and we have no other first person reports. I don’t doubt that Paul sincerely believed in the reality of these experiences, but I don’t think that I can know enough about the content of his experience to make “literal” a particularly useful adjective.

      What I don’t know is how much the accounts were embellished before they were written down both in details and numbers.

      • Clay Jones says:

        Hi Vinny,
        I’ve read your post a couple of times and I’d like to make sure I understand you. So do you agree then that at least four of the diciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus?

        • Vinny says:

          I have very little doubt that some early Christians, particularly Paul, had experiences that they understood to be appearances of the risen Christ. As I reread 1 Corithians 15, I see that Paul only identifies Peter and James, not John as among those Christians. It is hard for me to come up with any way to estimate how many people actually had these experiences. As the stories were retold it would be very natural for the numbers to be embellished and it would be natural for some who didn’t have the experience to claim they had.

          I’m not sure what it means to refer to the appearance as being “literal.” As I said, Paul doesn’t give any details about the experience that allow me to give any content to that term. I am also not certain that the people who witnessed the appearances were “disciples” as Paul never uses that term to describe them.

          • J. Paul says:

            Paul did mention the apostles Vinny. Not only that, but the author of the Gospel of John makes an independent claim to be an eye witness as well. Craig Keener, Ben Witherington and others have argued quite extensively and persuasively for its historical credibility. Although the author is still being debated, in the long run, it only lends more support for the resurrection, rather than diminishing it.

            • Vinny says:

              John 21:24 is a third person reference to the author of the rest of the work. It is note from someone else claiming that the author of the rest of the work is an eyewitness. It is not the author himself making the claim.

              Paul does mention other apostles, but he never says anything about them having been disciples of Jesus during his lifetime. As far as we know from Paul, these were men who like Paul had witnessed appearances of the risen Christ. They could have been followers of Jesus during his earthly ministry, but Paul never indicates that they were.

              • J. Paul says:

                To suggest that Paul was referring to a separate group distinct from the original apostles seems a bit ad hoc.

                Taking the Gospel narratives into account, along with Paul’s personal visit with them and it becomes pretty straight forward that he was referring to the original apostles.

                Considering Luke, who traveled extensively with Paul referred to the original apostles in the same generic term, “the apostles,” and it goes without saying.

                • Vinny says:

                  According to the gospels, the other apostles had been Jesus’ disciples during his earthly ministry. Paul never mentions this. As far as we know from Paul, the other apostles that he knew were men who, like Paul, had witnessed appearances of the risen Christ.

                  Personally, I don’t think that anything “goes without saying.” Since I think it possible that Christian beliefs changed and developed over time, I think it is important to be precise about where different details are found.

                  • J. Paul says:

                    Scholars date this text between 18 months and eight years after the resurrection; not much time for legendary development.

                    I still think that Paul’s mention of “the apostles” point to the original disciples (excluding Judas, obviously). Since he was reciting an early oral tradition, it becomes even more clear that they were the point of reference.

                    For the sake of argument, lets say, they were separate witnesses. In this case, it only strengthens the resurrection report by making it even more broad in its historical scope. As with the testimony of John that I mentioned above, even if it was not referring to the original disciples, it nevertheless, reinforces the historicity of the testimonies.

                • DagoodS says:

                  J. Paul, it is difficult to determine who Paul was referring to in 1 Cor. 15:5-7, as none of those appearances are specifically listed in the canonical gospels. (Your statement, “Taking the gospel narratives into account…” is unclear for the same reason.)

                  Paul lists:

                  1) An appearance to Cephas. Presumably Peter. Not documented in the canonical Gospels, only inferred in Luke 24:34.

                  2) An appearance to the Twelve. Again, not listed, as there weren’t twelve—Judas was dead. There is the weak argument this is a Title. However, this fails to consider the sources. The canonical Gospels that whack Judas (Matthew & Luke) refer to the Eleven when talking about appearances. Matt. 28:16; Luke 24: 9, 33. Mark is silent regarding Judas’ demise and appearances. John is silent regarding Judas’ demise, retaining “the Twelve.” John 20:24.

                  Simply put, those sources killing Judas are comfortable with reducing the title “the Twelve” to “the Eleven” when referring to appearances. If 1 Cor. 15:5-8 is part of creed pre-dating both 1 Corinthians and the canonical gospels, it is curious only 1 Corinthians retained “the Twelve” and other sources abandoned said creed for “the Eleven” reducing the argument’s strength regarding the historicity of the creed, or the canonical gospels or both.

                  I do believe it is a general reference to appearances surrounding the twelve disciples; “the Twelve” is problematic.

                  3) Over 500 brethren—not in canonical gospels.

                  4) James—not in canonical gospels.

                  5) All the apostles—not in the canonical gospels.

                  6) Paul. (Although not in the gospels, we wouldn’t expect it, so this doesn’t count.)

                  The problem with the creed is how the later works completely fail to utilize it, calling into question its historicity (or the historicity of the canonical gospels.)

                  (Anticipating a concern over “argument from silence”—because one account doesn’t list an appearance doesn’t cause a conflict—I recommend taking all the appearances and trying to list them in order. When doing so, problems arise demonstrating the difficulty aligning 1 Cor. 15 with the canonical gospels.)

                  Look, this argument—“not willing to die for a lie”—depends on demonstrating precise people (witness of physical resurrection)—died in a precise manner (recanting would save their life.) We have exactly 14 candidates: The eleven disciples, Cleopas, James and Cephas (if one agrees with Clement of Alexandria this was not Peter.) [I am not listing the women; they are not utilized in the argument.] Designations such as “500 brethren” or “all the apostles” are unhelpful as we cannot determine who they are, or how they died.

    • DagoodS says:

      Clay Jones,

      Determining what happened in history is a matter of probability. Technically, we wouldn’t say, “This absolutely happened” or “This absolutely did not happen.” However, some things are of such high probability (Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon) we simply use the vernacular, “This happened” or of such low probability (King Arthur pulled the sword from the stone) we say, “This didn’t happen.”

      So really, we don’t ask, “DID the Disciples see a physically resurrected Jesus, Yes or No?”—It is a matter of probability.

      I think it is possible (not more likely than not) one or more Disciples saw a vision of what they thought was Jesus after his death. As we have less information whether such sighting was interpreted as physical or spiritual, naturally there is less probability (meaning it is even less possible) to determine whether the Disciples interpreted it as “literal” (dangerous word, I am presuming you mean “physical”) appearance of Jesus.

      I think it very possible (almost evenly divided) Paul saw a vision of Jesus post-mortem. It is more likely than not Paul interpreted that as being a vision, not a physical appearance.

  10. clayjones says:

    Vinny and DagoodS,

    I know you are both familiar with Christian apologetic literature and that Gary Habermas has been documenting the positions of conservative and skeptic New Testament scholars for many years. And you also know that the conclusion of the majority of these scholars is that “The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus.”

    I won’t bore you with a lot of examples you are already familiar with but I will mention two. As the former Christian, now non-Christian New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman put it: “Historians, of course, have no difficulty whatsoever speaking about the belief in Jesus’ resurrection, since this is a matter of public record. For it is a historical fact that some of Jesus’ followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution” (Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium [Oxford: OUP, 2001], 231).

    Also, even the non-Christian NT scholar and resurrection critic, Gerd Ludemann, wrote: “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.” And, “The only thing that we can certainly say to be historical is that there were resurrection appearances in Galilee (and in Jerusalem) soon after Jesus death.” And “Only vague conjectures are possible about the historical background to this individual vision, which must have represented a kind of conversion of James. Because of 1 Cor. 15.7 it is certain that James ‘saw’ his brother” (Gerd Ludemann, What Really Happened to Jesus?, trans. John Bowden Louisville: [Westminster John Knox, 1995], 80, 81, 102).

    But, since you don’t agree with these scholars, I guess we will have to back up and examine the evidence upon which they base their conclusions (this may take a long time). So here goes: do you have any evidence that Paul was not the author of 1 Corinthians?


    By the way, please keep your comments to 500 words or less. That’s more than enough to make most points (if you are trying to make one point at at time, anyway). I’m shortly going to limit the total number of words that can be in a comment. Also, although this doesn’t apply to you gentlemen, I’m also going to start deleting posts where the majority of the post is off topic.

    • Vinny says:

      For purposes of this discussion, I have no problem with Ehrman’s formulation and I have no reason to doubt the scholarly consensus that 1 Corinthians was written by Paul.

  11. J. Paul says:

    Interesting article and well argued. Good discussions as well.

  12. DagoodS says:

    Now if you could only get Dr. Habermas to release his database, explain his criteria for “scholar,” and give their probabilities, rather than “yes” or “no.”

    In answer to your question, the evidence 1 Cor. 15:3-8 was interpolated is not convincing. I believe Paul wrote it.

    • clayjones says:

      Hi DagoodS,

      I don’t mean to sound nitpicky here but I’m not willing to immediately be backed off to just six verses. Do you agree with Vinny that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians?


  13. HeIsSailing says:

    Dr Jones,
    Thanks for this article, and continuing the discussion as we requested.

    In your original ‘200 word resurrection witness’ article, you make the distinction between Apostles actually claiming they had witnessed the Resurrection, and dying based on that witness, and dying for the mere belief in the Resurrection. You state:

    But as I just mentioned, the first disciples were testifying to seeing Jesus raised from the dead, which, if they hadn’t seen Jesus alive would mean they were dying for what they knew was a lie.

    I read all the sources that you cited in this article, and I cannot see how any of them do not fall into the category of merely dying for belief, and not actual eyewitness of a physical resurrection, as you claim they do.

    For instance:

    In reference 1, Tacitus reports nothing about a resurrection, witnessed, believed in or otherwise. Only that one ‘Christ’ suffered the extreme penalty under Pontius Pilate, that ‘Chrestians’ had spread to Rome, and they are reported to have done certain things. Sorry, maybe I am missing it, but I don’t see the relevance.

    In reference 2, you state:
    Second, the early Christians gave their lives precisely because they believed Jesus rose from the dead. After all, believing and preaching the resurrection of Jesus Christ is, and always will be, central to Christianity. Consider the words of Paul in 1 Cor. 15:1-8:

    Where again, you admit that the Apostles died for a belief. 1 Cor 15:1-8 makes the claim Christ was raised on the third day and that he appeared before Cephas, then the rest of the apostles, to which you add:

    If Jesus wasn’t raised, they wouldn’t have been emboldened to die for Him.

    Dr Jones, I do not doubt that Christians were preaching the resurrection of Jesus from the beginning. As you say – that is what Christianity is. But I don’t see any justification for your claim that the Resurrection was the only thing which could have emboldened them to die for Faith in Jesus. I don’t even think Scripture justifies this. The Gospel of Mark gives no details about the Apostle’s actions after the Resurrection. Matthew describes the Great Commission, but gives no details about the convicting power of the Resurrection. The Gospel of John has a post-Resurrection episode near the Sea of Tiberius where it appears that Peter and some of his friends are content to resume their fishing occupation. Only in Luke and Acts do we get a hint about how the Apostles become emboldened with power – from Luke 24:49, the post-Resurrection Jesus commands his disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they are ‘clothed with power from on high’. Even after the Resurrection then, the Apostles apparently are not empowered – not yet. This occurs in Acts chapter 2 with the filling of the Holy Spirit, and Peter, finally, rises to preach with power for the first time beginning in Acts 2:14 after the filling with the Holy Ghost, i.e. ‘clothed with power from on high’. I think it is clear that Scripture does not teach that the Resurrection emboldened anybody, at least not that I can see. Rather, the Holy Ghost filled the believer with Power as a gift from God.

    Although it may appear so, I do not believe this discussion of what ‘emboldened’ the disciples is off-topic. If you are claiming that holding a belief so strongly that it would embolden one to die for that belief is therefore evidence that that belief is true, you have to provide some evidence that said belief actually provided the dunamis, the dynamic power to die. All Scriptural evidence that I know of points to this as a gift of the Holy Ghost, whether or not the believer is a witness to a resurrection or not.
    You have several more citations, but I fear this comment is running a bit long. Sorry.

    Dr Jones, I do not doubt that Peter and Paul were real people, who were really martyred for their Faith. None of your citations, however, show or describe how their belief or witness to a physical Resurrection necessitated their deaths, or what part these beliefs played in their martyrdom, if any at all. Further, I simply do not see how any of your citations do not fall under the category of ‘dying for belief’ as opposed to ‘dying for witnessing a miracle’, as you claim they do.

    I am sorry this comment is so long – but Dr Jones, these are complicated issues, the number of sources is vast, and the objections are many, and I think legitimate. I am sorry, but I just don’t think you can win over educated skeptics in 200 words or less.

  14. clayjones says:

    As I mention above, Heissailing, I’m only going to examine one point at a time as I just don’t have time to do more than that.

    I will say one thing, however. It never entered my thought process that my 200 word witness would be successful against the educated skeptic. I wrote it for the average man or woman one might encounter at an airport or a soccer game.

    I’m letting your comment stand even though it is almost eight hundred words but I’m not going to let that happen in the future. I realize these are complicated issues but people do not have to make every point they want to make in every comment.

    In the mean time, since you are an active participant in this discussion, do you have any evidence that Paul was not the author of 1 Corinthians?


  15. HeIsSailing says:

    Dr Jones asks:

    do you have any evidence that Paul was not the author of 1 Corinthians?

    Dr Jones, I never made that claim, unless I misunderstand your intent. I am personally convinced that Paul did not write much of what is attributed to him in the New Testament. 1 Corinthians is not among those. So no, I have never read a compelling argument nor seen any reason to think Paul did not write 1 Corinthians.

  16. clayjones says:


    If Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, do you agree that Paul believed that the disciples that he referred to in 1 Cor. 15 had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus?


    • Vinny says:

      I don’t know whether that is what Paul believed or not.

      Since Paul never tells us anything about his own experience, it is very difficult for me to reach any conclusion as to what he thought others had experienced and what he thought those others believed about their experiences. For example, I am not sure whether Paul thought that every individual’s experience was identical. Paul may well have thought that he had received a fuller and more complete revelation.

      One thing I have noticed is that Christians sometimes exaggerate the quality and quantity of the evidence that supports their claims. I am doubtful that Paul actually interviewed five hundred people about what they experienced. I think it more likely that he was passing along a story he had heard from one or two people. Moreover, it wouldn’t surprise me if Paul embellished the story himself. I couldn’t begin to guess whether Paul thought that all five hundred people had had an experience identical to his own.

      • J. Paul says:

        When you are accusing Paul of exaggerating, you seem to be interjecting “guilt by association.” Do you have any direct evidence that Paul himself exagerated or is this just an assumption? No matter, the text in question did not originate with Paul anyway. But, bear in mind, scholars date this between 18 months to eight years following the resurrection event. This is hardly the necessary time to pull off such an historical lie, not to mention, without the natives becoming restless. Furthermore, this is not the flowery Gnostic account as found in the Gospel of Thomas. It is a straight forward piece of data reasserting the news of the day, affirming the faith of the Corinthian believers, that it is based on historical fact, rather than hallucinogenic drugs or mere wishful thinking. It neither bears the aspects of exaggeration nor that of an interpolation.

        Vinny, I Tried to reply to the above thread, but there was an error on the page and it was lost (second time that’s happened). Will try to repost.

        • Vinny says:

          Any time that I read stories of events that violate the observed laws of nature, I have to consider the possibility that some exaggeration has taken place.

    • HeIsSailing says:

      Dr Jones,

      My answer is no. I do not believe that “Paul believed that the disciples that he referred to in 1 Cor. 15 had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus”

      I elaborated at some length on my reasoning, but the resulting comment was about 880 words long. Since you have warned me about comments longer than 500 words, I shall let that answer stand as is. However, if you would like me to elaborate on my answer and let me explain my reasoning, just let me know and I will be happy to do so.

    • DagoodS says:

      Clay Jones,

      Thanks for answering my question.

      Like Vinny, I don’t know what Paul believed about the Disciple’s appearances.

      I think there were early tenets (pre-50 CE) about Disciples having experiences—whether it was claimed those experiences were physical appearances, literal appearances or visions is not stated. The fact our canonical writings have conflicts about who, what, when and where is not encouraging there was uniformity as to the “how”—i.e. physical compared to visionary.

      I think Paul felt compelled to record similar claims to justify his own authority. Whether Paul believed the Disciples had experiences of literal appearances…I don’t know. The sources are insufficient and incongruous. Did Paul believe he required at least similar bona fides when writing to the Corinthians? Yes.

  17. DagoodS says:

    Clay Jones,

    Now it must be my turn to nitpick. What do you mean by “literal” in “literal appearances”? Would a vision be a “literal appearance”?

  18. J. Paul says:

    Clay, it might be more appropriate to ask if they believe Paul existed. 😉

  19. J. Paul says:

    Matthias was chosen to replace Judas, so if “the twelve” referred to the twelve disciples/apostles than it is not in error. Whichever way one wishes to take, it is a confirmation of the eye witness testimonies.

    I was unaware of Clement’s views of Cephas. I would think that Luke (as per his Gospel) and Paul would be on the same page on this one, but I do not know all the details.

    I do not claim to be a scholar, but I am familiar with some of the issues at hand. The critics that I have seen, tend to weigh in with their own brand of special pleading with an unwarranted scepticism. It usually hinges on the rejection of miracles (and of course their relevance as to the identity of Jesus).

    The NT is the most unique piece of literature that we have from the ancient world. Multiple attestations and archelogical verification, along with what scholars consider, an embarrassing richness in manuscripts, make it a force of historical proportions that leaves the most knowledgable sceptic at want for a reason not to believe.

    • DagoodS says:

      J. Paul,

      I am uncertain whether Cephas and Peter are the same. (It is only minimally relevant to this conversation, I think.) However, part of the reason I engage in these discussion is to learn and maybe…once in a while…inform others. If you learned Clement of Alexandria considered them two (2) different people from my comment, then I had a good day today.

      As to the Twelve…even if Matthias was considered part of the Twelve, the same problem remains. According to this theory an early creed (you indicate 18 months to 8 years post-crucifixion) used the term “Jesus appeared to the twelve.” Yet later sources, Matthew and Luke, freely indicate “Jesus appeared to eleven.” (Luke even uses, “the eleven” if I recall correctly)

      Why did the later sources (which coincidentally are the ones reducing it to eleven) abandon the title, “the Twelve,” if they were aware of the creed? (Worse, why did they not list Peter, the 500, all the apostles and James, if they were aware of the creed? Why were they that off?)

      Do you think Matthew and Luke knew the 1 Cor. 15 creed? If so, what argument do you make for why they abandoned the title “the Twelve” and went with “the Eleven”?

      • J. Paul says:

        Good questions. I would say that if the Gospels had reported the same thing, then you would likely say that they copied from each other’s manuscript, thereby narrowing their historical verifiability. As it sets, they are clearly separate and independent attestations of the resurrection. Personally, I do not think there are any real problems here. The Gospels were not so much focused on the post resurrection events as mentioned in the Book of Acts (such as the replacement of Judas, taking the Gospel to the Gentiles, the conversion of Paul, etc.), as they were with the general life of Christ, that the Messiah had come.

        We can easily be fooled into reading our historical methodology into their culture, which would be a mistake. We have the privilege of reading history while for them it was current events. The variations, while remaining faithful to the essentials, only reinforce the events that they attest to. Just because they did not use this in the Gospels does not mean that they were unaware of it.

        • DagoodS says:

          Thanks, J.Paul, but I wasn’t exactly certain what your answer was to my question. The Synoptic Gospels did copy (and make modifications) from each other’s manuscripts (regardless what I would or would not say about it. *grin*) Luke copied from Matthew and Mark. Matthew copied Mark. (And I would argue portions of John were influenced by Luke and Matthew, without necessarily having the manuscripts.)

          They comfortably copied and modified from other sources…what I am wondering is whether they did from the 1 Cor. 15 creed. Let me try a different way—I have two questions:

          1) Regarding the 1 Cor. 15 creed, did Matthew and Luke:

          a) Know it;
          b) Not know it;
          c) We don’t know; or
          d) ____________ [another option]

          I don’t want to limit your choices to only the first three. My second question:

          2) What are the supporting argument(s) that your answer to Question 1 is more plausible than alternative answers?

          • J. Paul says:


            Although most scholars have no problem with Mark being the being first, there is no consensus. It is also claimed that Mark gleaned from Matthew. John is said to have had access to the synoptics, while writing completely independently.

            My point was that, if the Gospels writers had utilized the exact same tradition found in 1 Cor 15:1-8, then it would be argued that Paul just copied from their text or vice versa. But, as it sits, it becomes an obvious independent oral tradition, that while dependent upon the apostles’ testimonies and teachings, dating closest to the original sources, it is unique from the Gospel forms.

            So what we have is seperate attestations that independently verify the apostles’ eye witness testimonies to the resurrection. The testimonies are distinct while maintaining historical parallel.

            I think we can reasonably presume that Paul received this from the apostles that were in Jerusalem. It looks like he double checked with his sources later on as well. Of course this implies that the authors of the Gospels would have come into contact with it.

            • DagoodS says:

              Thanks, J.Paul.

              If I am reading you accurately (feel free to correct me!) you are answering the first question as “Matthew and Luke did know the 1 Cor. 15 Creed.” (If you prefer Matthean priority, that’s O.K., I think the argument from fatigue and more difficulty statements support Markan Priority, but that is tangential to our discussion.)

              But I was still not clear on your argument for the second question. Why (what arguments would you use) to support that they knew the creed? Other than assuming Paul got it from the Disciples (although this is speculation and not stated in the documents) AND assuming Matthew, Mark, Luke and John equally obtained information from disciples.

              Obtaining information from the same source does not necessarily mean one obtains the SAME information from the same source.

              Worse, I am not sure how one gets around the problem the Gospels freely utilize other sources (you even include more than I do with John) without explaining why they would not utilize this supposed source.

              Even more problematic (and what should be addressed) is why every single appearance in the 1 Cor. 15 creed is NOT addressed in the Gospels with one inferred exception. The Gospels don’t include a first appearance to Peter (except referred to in Luke), nothing about the Twelve, the 500, all the apostles or James.

              Luke happily uses the appearance to the eleven from his source Matthew, but ignores the appearance to the Twelve, while knowing the 1 Cor. 15 creed? Luke changes his sources’ statement of the angels from “Go to Galilee” to “Remember what he said in Galilee” and completely ignores the appearances in 1 Cor. 15? Does not say much for his considering them history!

              Why would I, as a skeptic, believe they knew the 1 Cor. 15 creed when they so freely utilize (and modify) other sources, yet apparently completely ignore this one? It seems far more plausible (to me) they did not know it.

  20. clayjones says:

    A fair question DagoodS! By “literal” I mean that the disciples believed that what they experienced was a mind-independent reality, they actually believed that Jesus actually rose bodily from the dead. There was an extra–mental correlate and it was not just a projection of their own brains. Threfore it was not purely subjective but corresponded to reality (I’m borrowing from Antony Flew and W. L. Craig here).

    I’m sure you’ve noticed that at this point I’m only asking about whether this is what the disciples believed (I wish I could italicize “believed”). They believed that what they experienced was more than a vision or hallucination.

    • Vinny says:

      In Matthew 1:20, we are told that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take Mary as his wife. Is there any doubt that the author of Matthew thought of that as a “real” appearance as opposed to merely a projection of Joseph’s mind. I don’t doubt that Paul thought that others had experienced “real” appearances of the risen Christ. I just can’t be sure that Paul wouldn’t have accepted many things as real that wouldn’t meet my understanding of the word.

  21. clayjones says:

    Sorry for the delay, I had a very busy day yesterday.

    So let me see if I can sum up where you guys stand. I’m sure you’ll tell me if I’m mistaken. 🙂

    Your position is that the disciples had experiences of the risen Jesus that they took to be no more than visions sent from God. So the list of “appearances” of the risen Jesus found in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 where “he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve,” “then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep,” “then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,” and and then “he appeared also to me” were all only visions that you gentlemen would characterize as no more than halluncinations.

    Is this correct?

    • HeIsSailing says:

      Dr Jones,
      I cannot speak for the others, but this is not my position at all.

      Based on 1 Cor 15, I believe that Paul believed that Christ appeared to Cephas, James, et al, not in a physical, corporeal body, but in a transformed, glorified, celestial, incorruptible, spiritual body. If you were to ask me to define these terms, I confess I cannot, but I do not believe that he meant ‘hallucination’.

    • DagoodS says:

      Clay Jones,

      No, that is not correct. My position is that we do not have enough information within 1 Cor. 15 to say with any specificity as to what the disciples were indicating. It is possible they were claiming a physical resurrection. It is possible they were claiming a vision. It is possible they were in an Altered State of Consciousness where they interpreted visions as real. (How familiar are you with Dr. Bruce Malina’s work?)

      Further, it is not an “all or nothing” prospect. Indeed, the strongest kernel of historicity is with the claim regarding the disciples. There is less plausibility (albeit still possible) with the appearance to the 500, to James and to all the apostles (again, in whatever form) as we have no other canonical sources confirming those appearances. (Not sure if you want to cite Acts of Pilate as a source!)

      • clayjones says:

        Wow, HeIsSailing, thanks for that. Although I’d need to ask some clarifying questions to make absolutely sure I understand you, I think that’s about what Paul was claiming, but I need to understand what the others are saying first.

      • clayjones says:

        Hi DagoodS,

        I’m only marginally familiar with Malina’s work (I’m sure that’s going to change) but if I understand his position it is that the 1st century Christian culture is so removed from our 21 century culture that it is difficult to know exactly what the Christians were claiming. That seems to align with what you are also saying. Is this correct?

        • DagoodS says:

          Clay Jones,

          I was first introduced to Dr. Malina’s Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels when I saw it recommended as a “Must Read” by both J.P. Holding and Richard Carrier. Anyone familiar with those gentlemen would know they are about as far on the opposite spectrum regarding New Testament studies as one could be.

          Any book recommended by both must be very good, indeed.

          Actually, his position is that first Century Mediterranean culture is extremely different to our culture to the point we must re-think how we approach what would be written during that time. We do not live in a honor/shame culture. We do not utilize the patron/client system. We are only slightly apocryphal. Not “we can’t know it”—far from it! Rather the opposite—“it looked like this” and how the writing should be approached, in light of what it looked like.

          One thing discussed is Alternate States of Consciousness, and the society’s familiarity with them.

          See below for my position as to where we currently are.

      • clayjones says:

        Hi Vinny,

        So if I understand you correctly, you are holding a position somewhat similar to what DagoodS holds. Would you and DagoodS be comfortable with this statement: “The disciples had experiences which they believed to be appearences of the risen Jesus?” You will notice that I have removed the word “literal.”

        I’ll be checking back on Monday.

        Do you gentlemen ag

        • Vinny says:

          Dr. Jones,

          I would put it this way: I believe it is probable that Paul had an experience which he believed to be an appearance of the risen Jesus. I also believe that it is probable that some other apostles had experiences which they believed to be appearances of the risen Jesus. I hope that is clear.

          I have participated in a number of discussions with Dagoods and I’m pretty sure our positions are very close. I haven’t participated in as many with Heissailing so I’m not as sure about how close our positions are, but I haven’t noticed anything he he has written here with which I would disagree.

    • Vinny says:

      That is not my position either. My position is that some of the apostles had experiences that Paul described as “appearances.” I cannot be any more precise than that because I am not sure exactly what Paul meant by “appearance.” As I noted above, the author of Matthew says that an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, so it seems to me that “appearance” as used in Paul’s time might incorporate a wide range of experiences.

      I do think that Paul understood the experience to be something initiated by God rather than something that was manufactured in the mind of the apostle, but I cannot say much beyond that.

      • J. Paul says:

        Vinny, I think that it is clear to say that if what Paul meant by “appearances” was merely dreams or some sort of projection then why all the fuss? I mean, this would be completely insignificant to the religious leaders who were constantly breathing down their necks. Something ignited persecution (for both the Jews and the pagans). It wasn’t that they contended for a vision.

        • Vinny says:

          The pagans did not care what the Christians believed. They cared about the fact that Christians didn’t make the sacrifices that were needed to keep the pagan gods happy. Moreover, the pagan persecutions were not constant. They were sporadic.

          I don’t think we have anything to indicate that the details of the appearances played any role in conflicts with Jewish leaders who would have felt threatened by the Christians who preached a new Messiah and a new revelation from God. Just as it is hard to know what Paul considered an appearance to be, it is hard to know what the Jewish leaders would have thought. If the Jewish leaders believed that God could appear to people in dreams, then they would have felt just as threatened by someone who had claimed to have heard from God that way as they would by someone who claimed to hear a voice in the desert.

          • J. Paul says:

            So, you don’t think there was really anything to the persecution of Christians and for the few who may have gotten in trouble, it was most likely over them doing something stupid, like calling Jesus the long awaited, albeit failed messiah? I mean, after all, he was suppose to deliver them from foreign oppression at the very least and he didn’t even do that.

            Look, I understand that the pagans maintained their rule, in part by managing the religious customs of the day. This was encouraged by Plato himself. Sporadic, the persecutions were, but absent, they were not.

            The Pharisees actually believed in the resurrection of the dead. To say that the appearances were spiritual encounters would do little to account for the intolerance that was expressed in the day. They were forbidden from preaching in the name of a dead man? They were willing to suffer beatings and stonings for a failed messiah? I’m sorry if I’m just not convinced.

            • Vinny says:

              Our earliest source of information about Jewish persecution of Christians is found in Paul’s letters. These letters tell us almost nothing about why the church was persecuted or what the scope of that persecution was and they do not give us any details about the appearances. Given that silence, I don’t think that we can reasonably draw any conclusions about the nature of the appearances from the nature of the persecution suffered at the hands of the Jewish authorities. The data is simply too scanty.

              • DagoodS says:


                I would even indicate there is nothing directly in Paul’s letters about a systematic persecution of Christianity by the Jewish authorities. Yes, Paul refers to his own persecution, but he does not indicate doing as an official policy, nor doing with others.

                We only have one writing—Acts of Apostles—indicating systematic persecution of Christianity by Jewish authority. Plenty of writings about Roman persecution. Only one with Jewish.

                • J. Paul says:

                  I find it no convoluted stretch, that after the Jewish authorities were set against Jesus, that his followers found themselves out of favor as well. While this does not prove massive persecution, it is the logical outworking from the Gospels that the Jews were in fact set against the whole lot. Josephus also mentions James’ death at the hands of the Jewish leaders.

                  Furthermore, as the author of Acts, Luke is considered a first rate historian. What we have is an accumulation of data derived from Josphus, Acts and the Gospels, while the latter is more implied.

              • J. Paul says:

                What part of the information is too scanty?

              • DagoodS says:


                But why would the Jewish authorities even bother persecuting Christianity? Didn’t they already have their hands full?

                The Sadducees had the political power, but no public support. The Pharisees had public support—no political power. The Essenes considered both incorrect. As did the Samaritans (who also considered the Essenes incorrect.) The Galileans were just stirring up trouble with the Romans, causing apoplexy for everybody.

                The Herodians were doing…well…we don’t know what. The Qumran community (only recently discovered) was aching for the day the current Judean authorities were deposed.

                The Jewish government was divided into different geographical areas, with no unifying King until Agrippa, and he only lasted 3-4 years.

                On top of all this, the Roman Government was a constant source of irritation as the Emperor appointed new prefects or procurators, who promptly appointed a new High Priest.

                Not to mention wars with other countries, Roman armies within Judea, Galilee, Samaria and Perea, famine, taxes, religious troublemakers like John the Baptist, and the constant bombardment of a polytheistic society offering social status for joining in.

                And along comes (yet another) religious up-start claiming the Messiah came and went, and couldn’t even agree amongst themselves whether converted Jews must continue to maintain the law or not. A religion that fairly quickly began focusing on converting Gentile pagans.

                Why would the Jewish authorities bother? They had their hands full with real problems.

                And the only source we have of this Jewish persecution is a Christian polemic writing. Like reading a Branch Davidian Diary describing how the U.S. Government was horrendously persecuting them, whereas the government barely had them on their radar, and we would probably never even know they existed short of an ATF raid that went terribly wrong.

                No Jewish authority would bother persecuting the Christians.

              • Vinny says:


                As I think we have both discussed on other occasions, persecutors are often mistaken about their victims’ beliefs. Jews have never used the blood of murdered Christian babies in their rituals, but many pogroms have been inspired by this falsehood. Early Christians committed neither incest nor cannibalism although these charges were used as excuses for persecutions by pagans.

                Even if we had a letter from a Jewish official that said, “I didn’t mind when the Christians said that the risen Christ appeared to the disciples in a dream, but I had to put them to death when heard they believed that the risen Christ had a meal with the disciples,” we would still have to reckon with the possibility that the official was simply wrong about what the Christians believed.

  22. Ted says:

    Just piping in to add a voice of appreciation to the continued discussion of this topic.
    But this exchange has been bothering me:
    James Sinclair said – “…you can’t argue an unbeliever into the kingdom of God; one needs the Holy Spirit’s input.”
    Clay Jones said – “… I agree with you…”

    Makes me wonder why God, if He cares about whether or not we believe in Him, would have us resorting to speculation about fragmentary documents from antiquity in order to establish His existence and agency.

    • J. Paul says:

      Well Ted, I tend to agree with you, but probably not in the way that you think. It seems that Bible critics will always have a question about its contents and no matter how many questions are answered, more questions pop up. This is the reason why mere arguments will never convert a skeptic, it is a matter of the heart. The heart has its own reasons.

      Logically speaking, there is no good evidence that throws the historicity of the Gospels into dispute. Some might call into question innerrancy and inspiration, but these are different subjects all together. If you will examine the questions above, what you will see is very clear presuppositions against miracles and thereby the existence of God, particularly as revealing Himself through Jesus.

      • Vinny says:

        J. Paul,

        Imagine trying to write a history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints with no information about its first seventy-five years other than the writings of Joseph Smith and his most devoted followers. If you took seriously the possibility that these men were either deluded or lying, you might be able to come up with a narrative that was accurate in its broadest details. If you took the writings at face value, however, you would probably come up with a narrative that was wrong in countless major and minor details.

        If there really is there is no good evidence that throws the historicity of the Gospels into dispute (which I do not think is true), might that only be because everything we know about the early years of Christianity comes from men who were fanatically devoted to the new faith? Without some information from an outsider’s perspective, any attempt to draw definitive conclusions about what really happened based on such sources is fraught with risk.

        • J. Paul says:

          The LDS church is a wonderful example of how history can be examined to test the reliability of the BOM and Joseph Smith in particular. But, as I pointed out, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, dates from 18 months to eight years. While there were a few explanations early on, such as, the disciples stole the body as reported by Matthew, there is no record of their development. Furthermore, they only serve to support the narrative, such as the empty tomb. This argument is the earliest one by far and is relayed to us by apostolic testimony and thereby subject to criticism by those who already consider the Gospels guilty until proven innocent. There are no shocking revelations that throw them into dispute, but there is pleanty of conjecture from our modern natural methodological witness stands. Can anybody say the word, B-I-A-S-E-D. Everyone certainly has their bias, both for and against miracles, but it does little to reinforce a cynical view.

          • Vinny says:


            I am not talking about the reliability of the claims that the Book of Mormon makes about the Nephites and the Lamanites. I am talking about the reliability of the claims that Mormons make about the activities of Joseph Smith and the history of the Mormon Church. If we only had writings produced by Mormons, we might not even know that Joseph Smith wasn’t the faithful husband of a single wife. It is only because we have non-Mormon sources that we can paint any sort of accurate picture of the life of Joseph Smith and the history of the church he founded.

            Unfortunately, we lack any non-Christian sources for the early years of the Christian church. We are in the same position that we would be if we lacked any non-Mormon sources to tell us about the life and activities of Joseph Smith. We only have one side of the story. The other side might confirm the side we have, but experience and history tell us that we should allow for the possibility that it would not.

            • J. Paul says:

              Actually, the official literature from the LDS is enough to know that Smith was a polygamist. Albeit, if the text of Corinthians is historically accurate, then why would we be surprised that there is nothing to show the contrary?

              We have more than enough non-Christian sources and archeological corroboration. By the way, any testimony that would bear witness to the Corinthian text would automatically either be considered a Christian interpolation or Christian authored (and thereby dismissed out-of-hand). No one forced Paul, Clement, Polycarp or Tertullian to become believers. It was the exact opposite, they had nothing to gain and everything to lose. Even if we were to reject the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul, history clearly reveals that the death sentence given to such believers was not an exception to the rule.

              Furthermore, it was Paul who helped carry out the sentence of the stoning of Stephen, on account of blasphemy. This wasn’t “thirty years” later, rather it was likely, right on the heals of the resurrection. Paul was no wondering shepherd without a thing on his mind and nothing in the world to do. He was a Pharisee and a zealot at that. What Paul saw on that fateful day turned his life upside down and made him the hunted rather than the hunter. In this, there is no parallel to Joseph Smith, neither in life, death or historiography.

              • Vinny says:

                There is also LDS literature that paints Smith as a faithful husband and warns Mormons not to be deceived by stories told by outsiders who want to destroy the Mormon church.

                Official LDS histories contain boatloads of facts about places and dates and people that can be corroborated. Smith really did have a wife named Emma and he really was killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois on June 27, 1844. That doesn’t mean that we should believe that there were really eight witnesses of the golden plates.

                Joseph Smith had the opportunity to flee the authorities and chose not to do so despite knowing full well that it might cost him his life. His followers accepted great risks and hardships. If I’m not justified in questioning the reality of the resurrection appearances, I cannot see how I would be justified in questioning the appearances of the Angel Moroni.

                • J. Paul says:

                  Well Vinny, we’re probably chasing a rabbit trail here. My point was that there is enough internal official teachings to assertain major inconsistancies regarding the life, character and teachings of Jospeh Smith.

                  Not only that, but there are numerous external references that cast a shadow on his honesty and credibility, in regard to his treasure hunting, his fake treasures and his inability to translate what he claims to.

                  Getting beyond Joseph Smith, I understand what you are trying to say. My point is that when we examine those who have made themselves the enemy of Christ, what we find is that they, unknowingly, corroborated certain facts in their attempt to discredit him and the disciples. These hostile witnesses have come to be considered extremely powerful historical statements, verifying various teachings, healings, family heritage, etc.

              • DagoodS says:


                I wondered who this comment was addressed to. What “non-Christian sources and archeological corroboration” do we have regarding how Peter or Paul or any of the Disciples or James died? This is what we have been discussing.

                Further, I confess slight disappointment at your statement, “By the way, any testimony that would bear witness to the Corinthian text would automatically either be considered a Christian interpolation or Christian authored (and thereby dismissed out-of-hand).“

                Has anyone here claimed interpolation? Has anyone here dismissed “out-of-hand” a Christian-authored writing? Indeed, I wrote extensively on 1 Clement. I referred to numerous Christian sources like Acts of Peter, Acts of Paul—the ones that first referred to the details of their deaths–and no person has even responded them. I gave extensive argument regarding why Tertullian utilized them as sources, and why his statement regarding the “archives of Rome” is rhetorical flourish.

                I have referred to Matthew, Luke, Mark and John. I have provided argumentation, using these sources; I am still waiting for your argumentation why they would not use 1 Cor. 15 when they demonstrate use of other sources.

                Nothing in response to many of my references.

                Now, I understand why, Clay Jones explained he prefers a system of answering one question at a time and moving on. Fine, while we may whine a bit, I see we are following the format he desires without too much complaint. *grin*

                But how can one say we are dismissing “out-of-hand” Christian sources, when I have actually referred to them repeatedly, and addressed them, and no one has responded to many of them?!

                • Vinny says:

                  I think J. Paul was discussing the general trustworthiness of the gospels. I reinserted the “die for a lie” issue in our exchange.

                • J. Paul says:

                  Clay Jones cited Tacitus above which very clearly points out Nero’s persecutions. Josephus also speaks of James being stoned. Both are non-Christian sources.

                  As per your question regarding the absence of corroboration between 1 Cor 15 and the Gospels, I have already offered a satisfactory response. Why are you so bothered that they would use independent language and structure to say the same thing? There are no contradictions here, only confirmations.

                  Forgive me for upsetting you. Sometimes we all need patience (referring to myself).

                • DagoodS says:

                  J. Paul,

                  I don’t know where my head was at. Of course Josephus wrote on James. Perhaps I was thinking of all the subsequent Christian accounts associating his death for Christian reasons.

                  Tacitus (and any other non-Christian accounts) does not name anyone, let alone Peter or Paul. There are no archeological accounts regarding the Disciples death.

                  As to the appearances, here is my suggestion to start seeing the conflicts.

                  For your own edification (no need to do it here), write down the order of appearances from 1 Cor. 15, Matthew, Luke and John. BUT (and this is important), you must do two things:

                  1) Include every appearance; and
                  2) It must conform with the claimed facts.

                  For example, John 21:14 says the John 21 appearance was the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples. Therefore, in the list, this must be the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples; we can’t fudge it into a different one.

                  And John 20:24-29 cannot occur after Jesus has already appeared to Thomas. Plus it has to be one (1) week after Resurrection Sunday.

                  You will end up making the Luke 24:36-49 the first appearance to the disciples (conforming with John 20:19-23), which raises the problem:

                  If Luke 24:33 has an appearance to ten (minus Judas and Thomas), why does the later source (Luke) call this the Eleven, when apologists claim the earlier source (1 Cor. 15) says the Twelve?

                  It is an interesting study.

      • HeIsSailing says:

        JPaul says:
        “It seems that Bible critics will always have a question about its contents and no matter how many questions are answered, more questions pop up”

        “If you will examine the questions above, what you will see is very clear presuppositions against miracles and thereby the existence of God, particularly as revealing Himself through Jesus.”

        JPaul, look through the comments of this thread and tell me where you find it evident that we have a presupposition against miracles. I don’t think that subject ever came up. The bottom line is that our questions regarding the Apostles’ deaths were not sufficiently answered in this article. The whole Die For A Lie argument fails for many reasons, only one of which is that no ancient sources can be cited to back up the claim. Can you piece together under what circumstances and for what reason any of the Apostles of Jesus were killed based on the references cited by Dr Jones in this article? Do they back up the claims of the ‘Die for a Lie’ argument? Tell me where our questions have been answered.

        I continually ask questions because I don’t think the answers I get are sufficient. Please don’t resort to some suppossed “presupposition” that we hold.

        • J. Paul says:

          HeIsSailing, I will grant you that my charge of prejudice against miracles is only inferred by the above comments, by the unnecessary opposition in taking the multiple historical references at face value, regardless of the lack of any evidence that says otherwise. The “who would die for a lie” argument is an issue separate from the historical appraisal of the text and is argued on the basis of the text. The only rational reason that I can think of [in this discussion] for the rejection of the text is the presupposition discounting the miraculous. Perhaps you are a Muslim who rejects the crucifiction on the basis of a seventh to eighth century manuscript?

          • HeIsSailing says:

            J. Paul says:
            “…unnecessary opposition in taking the multiple historical references at face value…”

            J. Paul, I am taking all the ancient texts cited in this article at face value. I have read each and every one of them. They tell me nothing about what Peter, James, or any other Apostle claimed to have witnessed, which is what Dr Jones is arguing that they died for.

            Because I, a hispanic, middle-aged, man from El Paso do not know the beliefs and personal convictions of Galileean individuals 2000 years in the past, and can’t see any way of possibly knowing this information especially given the sources cited – you immediately jump to – my predispisitions about the miraculous???

            No J. Paul, I will not grant you that. If you have an historical argument to make, make it on the basis of what history you have, not by trying to conclude what my personally held beliefs and convictions must be.

            I just told Clay Jones that I would not comment further on this thread. I say the same thing to you, and give you the last word, or invite you to comment on my own blog. If you have an argument to make, then please make it without resorting to what my ‘predispositions’ or ‘worldview’ must be.

  23. DagoodS says:

    Clay Jones,

    My position is better stated, “Some disciples reported having appearances with Jesus.” Again, what they meant by “appearances” is not clear—visionary, literal, physical or even completely fabricated.

    Let me give a scenario (I am NOT convinced this is what happened. This is an example.) Imagine, after Jesus’ death, Peter has a sleep paralysis moment convincing him Jesus is angry for Peter not continuing Jesus’ ministry. So he says to the remnant, “Jesus appeared to me, and wants us to continue.” He gains prestige, power and honor as a holy man. He finds out with this prestige, he can direct followers, simply by proclaiming, “It is what Jesus wants.”

    Others see how Peter gains this prestige, and make up stories about Jesus appearing to them as well, to equally share in the honor. (Of course disagreements arise.) Within a short period, a select few are honored because they “saw Jesus.”

    It is then conglomerated into one statement of “Jesus appeared to the Twelve” without indication he appeared to them simultaneously. The story grows to include other appearances to unnamed, indeterminate people.

    Paul is converted, and realizes a necessary bona fide is to have a “Jesus Appearance” so he makes one up as well.

    Imagine that was what happened—our documentation conforms to those events happening! In other words, we could have one (1) vision to Peter, the rest are entirely made up, yet 1 Cor. 15 would still be possible as a creed.

    Or, imagine Jesus did physically appear to all Eleven (but titled “the Twelve”) post-mortem. (I don’t believe that happened either.) Again, our documentation conforms to those events; 1 Cor. 15 could still result.

    In other words, our documentation provides for a wide range of possibilities, anywhere from a physical resurrection to an almost complete fabrication. To declare affirmatively, without weighing the plausibility of numerous hypotheses is not substantiated by the scant documentation.

    I personally think the greatest plausibility is that some (but not all) of the Disciples had Alternate State of Conscious experiences that they interpreted as Jesus appearing to them. More likely a Jesus in a heavenly state, but possibly interpreted as Jesus in a physical form on earth. But I equally recognize we are talking degrees of plausibility, and upon learning new information or arguments, it is possible some other theory would sustain.

    • clayjones says:

      Wow, DagoodS, if I understand you correctly, you aren’t willing to even grant that the disciples probably believed that they had seen the risen Jesus. Of course, it is entirely understandable that a skeptic wouldn’t agree that Jesus rose from the dead. And, as you will soon see, although it is a minority position, I’m willing to continue a discussion with those who aren’t willing to grant that the disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus. If I understand HeIsSailing and Vinny, correctly, they are willing to grant that it is at least probable that the disciples believed they had seen the risen Jesus.

      But to argue that their culture was so different from ours that we don’t even know for sure that they believed that Jesus was risen from the dead, I find so extreme, even for atheist historians, that I’m not, at this time, even willing to argue about it (although there’s a very good chance I will take it on in a future blog). As I mentioned above, Bart Ehrman summed it up very well when he wrote: “Historians, of course, have no difficulty whatsoever speaking about the belief in Jesus’ resurrection, since this is a matter of public record. For it is a historical fact that some of Jesus’ followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution” (Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium [Oxford: OUP, 2001], 231).

      Now, again, I know that truth isn’t decided by a majority vote but this is the place for me where the position is so obvious (and granted by the overwhelming majority of atheist New Testament scholars and historians) that this kind of discussion will just have to wait for another time.

      • DagoodS says:

        Aye, Clay Jones. I’ve always known our conversation was doomed; it was only a matter of time once you indicated:

        “I’m building a case and I am doing it one point at a time. I never move on from that point until the person I’m dialoging with either agrees or shows me that I’m wrong.”

        Eventually we were certain to reach an impasse. While I appreciate Dr. Ehrman (and the gaggle of scholars) I place greater value on Dr. Habermas’ statement in his debate with Ehrman (paraphrased), “We don’t claim something historical by scholarly majority; we review the facts underpinning the scholarly majority’s conclusions.”

        I prefer reviewing the actual arguments and facts, rather than citing scholar’s quips and majorities. Unfortunately in apologetics, we have become so comfortable with this “majority rule”—it seems no one wants to look at the actual facts and arguments any more.

        The conflict between the earlier 1 Cor. 15 creed and the subsequent Gospel accounts (unaddressed so far) forces me to question the historicity of the earlier 1 Cor. account. If Luke willingly used earlier Matthew and earlier Mark—why not use the earlier creed too? If Matthew willingly used earlier Mark—why not use earlier 1 Cor. 15? (The additional conflicts between the gospel accounts further reduce credibility.)

        Sure, if we looked at 1 Cor. 15 solely, I would happily grant it “probable” (meaning “more likely than not”) the disciples had appearances interpreted as post-mortem Jesus. But I don’t look at evidence piecemeal. I must look at all the evidence, causing me to question, “There is concern here. How do these subsequent evidences fit into our previous hypothesis?”

        When attempting to align the accounts, no one theory prevails. Numerous possibilities remain plausible enough to prevent one from being necessarily probable. Would I intuitively consider Peter and Paul experienced events they believed were post-mortem Jesus appearances? Yes—but history is not determined by my personal preference. Indeed, Licona points out (and I agree) we come to this study with biases (mine being 37 years of Christianity entrenching said accounts.) When I remove my bias (as best as possible) and demand the evidence alone presents the hypothesis, I see how it is not necessarily probable the disciples had such experiences.

        Do you think their culture was the same as ours? Are you disagreeing with the vast majority of cultures entertaining Alternate States of Consciousness, with intermixing of visions and reality? Are we limited to ONLY the possibility that ALL the disciples saw a physical Jesus or ALL saw an external apparition?

        I would think (I would hope!) if my view–considering appearances to some followers as more plausible than other theories, but not necessarily probable–was so fringe, so “obviously” incorrect, you could easily decimate it in 500 words or less by facts and argument.

        • clayjones says:

          Hi DagoodS,
          The trouble is that (as I think you will agree) if we take up what you have suggested we are moving farther and farther away from even discussing the resurrection but the discussion becomes one of exactly how we can even understand what people meant when they talked religiously in 1st Century Palestine and whether we could really understand what their words mean in today’s culture. Of course, I certainly think we can, but, that is a very long conversation (esp. point by point).
          Vinny seems to think that I may be misunderstanding your position, so, just to be clear, do you agree or disagree with this statement by Bart Ehrman: “Historians, of course, have no difficulty whatsoever speaking about the belief in Jesus’ resurrection, since this is a matter of public record. For it is a historical fact that some of Jesus’ followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution.”
          Vinny has said that He is willing to accept Ehrman’s statement but I don’t think you are willing to do that. Am I mistaken?

          • Vinny says:

            Dr. Jones,

            Actually, I think you are misunderstanding Ehrman as much as Dagoods.

            Note that Ehrman’s statement doesn’t even mention appearances. In that statement, Ehrman is not making any assertion whatsoever about which followers came to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead or what caused them to believe it.

            I share most, if not all, of Dagoods reservations. I am willing to go along with the formulation from Ehrman because I don’t think that it asserts too much certainty on any of the points about which I remain uncertain. However, I appreciate that Dagoods would like to state his own position more precisely.

            • clayjones says:

              Hi Vinny,
              You are correct that the quote I presented “doesn’t even mention appearences.” Ehrman’s next sentence, however, is this: “We know some of these believers by name; one of them, the apostle Paul, claims quite plainly to have seen Jesus alive after his death.” And, one of the things that isn’t too hard to determine is what Ehrman himself means by his own quote since he talks at some leagths about this matter in his book. For example, just two pages earlier (229) Ehrman writes, “What I think we can say with some confidence is that actually Jesus did die, he probably was buried, and that some of his disciples (all of them? some of them?) claimed to hae seen him alive afterward. Among those who made the claim, interestingly enough, was Jesus’ own brother James, who came to believe in Jesus and soon thereafter became one of the principal leaders of the early Christian church.” Also, Ehrman doesn’t equivocate as it being the very first disciples (or at least some of them) who proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection.

              Would you disagree with Ehrman regarding this?

              • Vinny says:

                Ehrman’s next sentence, however, is this: “We know some of these believers by name; one of them, the apostle Paul, claims quite plainly to have seen Jesus alive after his death.”

                Rather than backtracking two pages, why don’t we just look at the next sentence after that to better understand Ehrman’s point: “My point is that for the historian, Christianity begins after the death of Jesus, not with the resurrection itself, but with the belief in his resurrection.” I think this is a very fair statement of the problem. The sources are not sufficient to establish with any certainty the details of the process by which the early church came to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead. They only establish that the early church did come to believe that.

                I do not share Ehrman’s certainty about Jesus’ relationship with the first people who claimed to believe in the resurrection: “On one important point, however, Paul does stand in agreement with our early Gospel accounts: those who initially came to understand that God had raised Jesus from the dead were some of Jesus closest followers, who had associated with him during his lifetime.” (p.232) My problem here is that Paul never says anything about Peter, the twelve, or the apostles having been Jesus associates during his lifetime. Paul does identify James as “the Lord’s brother” but doesn’t indicate that he followed Jesus during his lifetime. As far as I can tell, the only contacts with Jesus of which Paul was aware were the appearances of the risen Christ. I don’t see Paul expressly agreeing to what Ehrman thinks he agreed to.

                By the way, I will be on the road this weekend helping my daughter move so I may be unable to comment again until Monday at the earliest.

              • DagoodS says:

                Clay Jones,

                I agree with Vinny’s statement, “The sources are not sufficient to establish with any certainty the details of the process by which the early church came to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead.”

                If it helps to clarify our position by responding to Dr. Ehrman’s statements, I am happy to oblige.

                “We know some of these believers by name; one of them, the apostle Paul, claims quite plainly to have seen Jesus alive after his death.” [emphasis added]

                Very probable. Paul does in 1 Cor. 15:8. I highlighted “claims” to emphasize this is different than “belief,” nor does this statement describe the basis of that claim.

                “What I think we can say with some confidence is that actually Jesus did die, he probably was buried, and that some of his disciples (all of them? some of them?) claimed to have seen him alive afterward. Among those who made the claim, interestingly enough, was Jesus’ own brother James, who came to believe in Jesus and soon thereafter became one of the principal leaders of the early Christian church.”

                Highly probable Jesus died. All humans die. Highly probable he was buried. Dead people are. Very Plausible some (only possible “all”) disciples claimed to have seem him alive afterward. Whether “alive” means in a vision, hallucination, physical or spiritual is all “possible.”

                As to the second sentence, I would say barely possible, although not very likely.

                In short some I slightly agree, some I agree more firmly, some I completely agree, and some I disagree.

                Hope that helps.

              • Vinny says:

                To be clear, I share Dagoods’ doubts about James being Jesus’ biological brother. I don’t think that Paul’s passing reference in Galatians is sufficient to establish that relationship with any certainty.

                • clayjones says:

                  Vinny and DagoodS,
                  Your comments were indeed helpful. I have a couple of minor writing projects to get done (they won’t take very long) so, like Vinny, I won’t be able to get back to this until Monday.

          • DagoodS says:

            Clay Jones,

            I agree with the Ehrman quote; I am uncertain how it progresses our conversation. The second sentence: “For it is a historical fact that some of Jesus’ followers”—who?—“came to believe”—how? When?—“that he had been raised from the dead”—Physical body? Spiritual Body?—“soon after his execution”—again, when? Agreeing with his quote leaves so many unanswered (and crucial) questions, why bother?

            Sure, we all agree by the writing of 1 Cor. 15 “some followers believed Jesus was resurrected.” But is belief enough? Isn’t the imperative question what actually happened? Indeed, after your 200 Word witness you stated,

            “People do die for things they think are true that turn out to be a lie. But as I just mentioned, the first disciples were testifying to seeing Jesus raised from the dead…[original emphasis]”

            If Jesus’ followers died for things they believed to be true, but were not—what makes them any different than martyrs for numerous other causes? You’ve indicated the first disciples were “testifying to seeing Jesus raised from the dead”—THAT is the focus I prefer. How do we know that? What sources do we use?

            I am sorry it will take longer doing this point by point…but how can we talk about religious topics without talking about what people meant by these words in First Century Mediterranean? How can we jump into claiming “resurrection” or “vision” or “spiritual” or “law” or a variety of words, without first grasping what the author(s) of the time meant?

            Further, we must carefully guard against assuming we can fully understand what these words mean. By sample size and independent verification, we can be more certain of some than others, but still must exercise caution. We falter in understanding other cultures existing today where we can communicate and received feed-back, let alone a culture 2000 years ago, with books written in a dead language!

            Clay Jones, (I am saying this in the nicest possible manner)—you may think to stop, re-group, and re-think your approach here. Numerous times you have stated, “So your position is….” and all three of us (Vinny, HeIsSailing and me) have responded, “No!” Granted, we have observed each other in previous similar conversation, but I already know when they will disagree; Vinny has admirably stated when I will agree (with Ehrman,) and why.

            We are, if you will, educated skeptics. Instead of telling us what our position is—ask us! (I understand you are reiterating to make sure you have it correct, but looking back, how many times has it been wrong?) If you disagree…fine. Choosing to remain with your stated style causes the conversation will end. If you want it to progress, you may have to provide argumentation for your position, we will provide argumentation for our own, and probably neither convinces the other. *grin*

      • Vinny says:

        Dr. Jones,

        I’m not sure what the problem is. Ehrman’s summary doesn’t make any assertions about which followers came to believe that Jesus had been raised from or how they came to believe it, which seem to be the areas about which Dagoods has been expressing uncertainty. What part of Dagoods’ position do you find inconsistent with Ehrman’s formulation.

        Dagoods can correct me if I’m wrong, but I haven’t seen him disputing that some of Jesus’ followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead. Dagoods’ area of uncertainty seems to be which followers and how they came to believe this. I share this uncertainty.

      • HeIsSailing says:

        Dr Jones says:
        “…If I understand HeIsSailing and Vinny, correctly, they are willing to grant that it is at least probable that the disciples believed they had seen the risen Jesus.”

        Dr Jones, I suppose anything is possible, but probable might be overstating it. Frankly, I have no idea what the Apostles saw, if anything.

        Let me repeat what I said HERE, just to clarify:

        Based on 1 Cor 15, I believe that Paul believed that Christ appeared to Cephas, James, et al, not in a physical, corporeal body, but in a transformed, glorified, celestial, incorruptible, spiritual body. If you were to ask me to define these terms, I confess I cannot, but I do not believe that he meant ‘hallucination’.

        Dr Jones, I do not place a lot of historical value on the resurrection accounts in the Gospels, especially since they do not seem to corroborate the type of resurrected body described of Jesus that Paul describes of the resurrected Christ in 1 Cor 15. I can only read Paul’s description of what he thinks happened, and he describes it with adjectives like “transformed, glorified, celestial, incorruptible, spiritual”, then goes on to say that “that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” (v.50) This directly contradicts the accounts which are depicted in the Gospels, particularly in Luke, where post-resurrection Jesus explicitely tells his disciples, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39) Why should I believe this when I have Paul in 1 Cor 15 telling me Christ was not ‘flesh and bones’?

        Again, to clarify, my position is that we have an account of what Paul believed the Apostles to have seen, and no direct description from the Apostles themselves what they think they saw. I have no idea what the Apostles saw, or what they think they saw, if anything.

        • clayjones says:

          Hi HeIsSailing,
          So just to be clear, as I asked DagoodS, do you agree or disagree with this statement by Bart Ehrman: “Historians, of course, have no difficulty whatsoever speaking about the belief in Jesus’ resurrection, since this is a matter of public record. For it is a historical fact that some of Jesus’ followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution”

          • HeIsSailing says:

            Dr Jones,
            I must confess that I share DaGoodS’ frustration with the direction this conversation is taking. In my last couple of comments, I explained as carefully, and as completely as I could for a short blog comment, what I believe about the belief in the Resurrection of Christ as held by Paul based on 1 Cor 15. I do not know what Cephas, et al believed they saw, I only know what Paul thoght Cephas, et al saw. Paul believed that Cephas and friends saw a transformed, glorified, celestial, incorruptible, spiritual Resurrected Christ, not a physical Resurrection. We have that – whatever that description means. I do not have any idea what the Apostles themselves think they saw, if anything.

            Is my explanation not clear enough? If not, what part is unclear to you? I wish you would deal with what I actually say that my position is, rather than have me agree/disagree with a particular textbook quote that you provide.

            Here is the thing – I don’t necessarily disagree with Ehrman, but I don’t agree with it either. It is just that I would not state my position in exactly those words, simply because ‘Resurrection’ as Ehrman uses it, is not defined. As I tried to explain in my last comment, ‘Resurrection’ means one thing to Paul, the author of 1 Cor 15, and it meant something different to the author of the Gospel authors, particularly Luke. So what does Ehrman mean by ‘Resurrection’? It is tough for me to tell from Ehrman’s textbook quotation which has been ripped out of any context.

            So the bottom line is, I don’t know if I agree with Ehrman or not. I would feel more comfortable making a position on this quote if it had some context behind it. Instead, Dr Jones, I ask, can you just take my position, as I tried to express it in my last few comments, and just work off it? I have tried to be as clear as possible, but if it needs clarification, please ask me to clarify my own words instead of asking me to agree/disagree with a position that I am not certain about.

            In the meantime, my frustration also comes from the fact that you still have not addressed how we know the Apostles were proclaiming their witness to Jesus’ Resurrection, even unto death. Everything you cite in this article boils down to disciples (sometimes generic disciples) that died while proclaiming a belief, the very thing you admit people have often done through history. What I, as a skeptic, am asking you is, when you make statements like

            “…the first disciples were testifying to seeing Jesus raised from the dead……”


            “…what’s really amazing is that many [Apostles] testified to his resurrection even to their own torture and death…”

            I ask, why should I believe these to be true, when the sources you cite do not back up these claims?

            • clayjones says:

              Hi HeIsSailing,

              I think I understand your position and I’m guessing, as you will see from my clarification below with Vinny, that you don’t agree with Ehrman (I know you don’t have to). 🙂

              As for my style of argument, I am building a case, very slowly, point by point, and my modus operandi is to get people to agree or disagree with a statement and then to either build on that or backtrack until that statement is clarified.

              I’m trying to see if we can establish some historical bedrock but so far that has been elusive. Until we hit bedrock, there is nothing to do but keep drilling.

              That’s the way I build a case.

  24. MajorMajor says:

    I am following this dicscussion closely it is very interesting. I appreciate the generous attitudes of the participants.

  25. clayjones says:

    Hi DagoodS, Vinny, HeIsSailing,

    Apparently DagoodS was correct to write that “eventually we were certain to reach an impasse” and I think we have.

    Although Habermas has shown that the majority of scholars agree that “The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus,” you gentlemen weren’t comfortable with “literal, so I was willing to back off to this statement of Ehrman’s: “Historians, of course, have no difficulty whatsoever speaking about the belief in Jesus’ resurrection, since this is a matter of public record. For it is a historical fact that some of Jesus’ followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution” (Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium [Oxford: OUP, 2001], 231). I thought it was just DagoodS who disagreed with Ehrman’s statement, but now turns out that none of you are willing to completely agree with Ehrman’s statement.

    Of course, it’s a free country! And as I’ve acknowledged several times in this discussion, we all know that truth isn’t decided by a majority vote. I considered for a couple of days developing the case to support Ehrman’s statement, one point at a time, examining each piece of evidence in each individual account for each of the appearances but then I decided that it just wasn’t valuable to spend who knows how many hours (I think it might take a year) trying to argue something that a majority of scholars already takes as obvious or “historical fact.” Of course, if you completely agreed with Ehrman (and the majority), it would provide a sound foundation for my further argument. But, since you don’t, and I suspect your positions are hardened (you’re not seekers, after all) I doubt it’s valuable trying to get you to agree with the majority.

    Thank you for the respectful discussion!


    • DagoodS says:

      Thank you, Clay Jones for the discussion.

      Curious we always run into the same problem. The apologists we engage are happy to pull Habermas and Licona out, but when we ask for the actual basis—the actual facts and arguments—to support the claims, the apologists find this too much work and stop. Worse, we’ve already read Haabermas and Licona and Craig and already know the inherent weaknesses in the underlying claims!

      Clay Jones: Although Habermas has shown that the majority of scholars agree …
      May I point out a minor quibble here? Yet an important one. No, Dr. Habermas has not shown any such thing. He has claimed to have a database of names (last I heard it was 600 pages long!) and his extrapolation from those names generated certain statistical data whereby he uses terms like “majority.”

      But I haven’t seen the data. I haven’t been “shown” any. As I said before, what criteria did Dr. Habermas utilize to define “scholar”? It would not surprise me the criteria would include you, because you have the necessary academic credentials. I suspect it would not include me, because I do not.

      Yet we apparently have done enough research, the scholar finds it unlikely to convince me. Should I be excluded from this list?

      I do think Dr. Habermas has such a list—but we are skeptics. It would behoove him, if the data is so clear, to release the list (in book form?), provide the criteria, and let us dive into the data on our own.

      Finally, you are correct, we are “hardened” as in we have researched many of the same trails as you, and not been convinced. It would have been interesting to see if there was something new. But it is not just us in this thread. There are lurkers—people who are genuinely questioning their Christianity and are anxious to see how the Christian apologist answers the skeptics. How do they support their claims, beyond, “agree with the majority”?

      I know, because I was one such Christian lurker once. And I watched apologists walk away time and time again. Eventually I began to suspect who had the stronger arguments.

      Dr. Jones, you only have so many hours in the day. No need to spend them on your personal blog, arguing with us skeptics! *grin* Go out enjoy the day. Have breakfast with a friend. Spend your time wisely, and your efforts with efficiency.

      Thank you again for the conversation.

    • Vinny says:

      I would like to offer a couple of general thoughts about your step-by-step approach and probability theory.

      Suppose that I concede that it is 85% probable that the disciples had experiences that they interpreted as literal appearances of the risen Christ. That still leaves a 15% probability that the story is a product of hoax, legend, or delusion. Now suppose for the sake of argument that I were to concede that there is a 75% probability that the tomb was found empty (even though I would guess that it is much smaller). Then suppose I concede that there is a 65% probability that the resurrection was first proclaimed in Jerusalem as opposed to a 35% probability that it was actually first proclaimed in Galilee with the disciples only returning to Jerusalem after considerable time had passed. Let’s toss in a 95% probability that Jesus’ body was buried and a 5% probability that the Romans followed their usual practice of letting the body rot on the cross as a warning to troublemakers. Even though I would be conceding that each of the four propositions is more likely true than false, the probability that all four are true is 85% x 75% x 65% x 95% or less than 40%.

      There is obviously no way to accurately estimate percentage probabilities for the truth of any of these propositions and the calculation is complicated by the possibility that each proposition is not completely independent. Nevertheless, the basic principle is unassailable: as the number of propositions (or steps) increases, the probability that all of them are true becomes smaller and smaller even though the probability that each one is true individually remains reasonably high.

      If you follow the approach that many apologists seem to follow, you are going to argue that the resurrection is the best explanation for all those propositions that we have agreed to be probable. However, basic probability theory tells us that it much more likely that one or more of these propositions is false than it is that they are all true. As a result, an explanation that depends on all the propositions being true may not be as good as an explanation that is robust enough to withstand one or more of the propositions being false.

    • Vinny says:

      “Historians, of course, have no difficulty whatsoever speaking about the belief in Jesus’ resurrection, since this is a matter of public record. For it is a historical fact that some of Jesus’ followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution.” Bart Ehrman

      I was perfectly willing to agree with that statement. I don’t agree completely with every other statement that Ehrman wrote in Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millenium, however, I would be happy to do so if you would do so as well .

      • clayjones says:

        Hi Vinny,

        Your comments of 21 January led me to conclude that you only agree with Ehrman’s statement if taken in isolation. But you do not completely agree with it in the context of what Ehrman means by it.


        • Vinny says:

          Dr. Jones,

          I am not agreeing with Ehrman’s statement only if taken in isolation. I am agreeing with it in the exact context of the paragraph and the section of the chapter in which it is written. Ehrman makes it perfectly clear what he means by that statement when he concludes that paragraph and that section by saying “My point is that for the historian, Christianity begins after the death of Jesus, not with the resurrection itself, but with the belief in his resurrection.” There is nothing about that point with which I disagree. Can you say as much?

          • clayjones says:

            Hi Vinny,

            You wrote on 21 January: “I do not share Ehrman’s certainty about Jesus’ relationship with the first people who claimed to believe in the resurrection.” I don’t have time to argue the point with that not being granted. Ehrman is right that it is the majority view. Consider that the New Testament scholar, and atheist, Gerd Ludemann grants as much: “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ…. The only thing that we can certainly say to be historical is that there were resurrection appearances in Galilee (and in Jerusalem) soon after Jesus death.” Gerd Ludemann, What Really Happened to Jesus?, trans. John Bowden (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1995), 80, 81. In fact, as I’m sure you know, Ludemann also agrees with Ehrman about James: “Because of 1 Cor. 15.7 it is certain that James ‘saw’ his brother” (102).

            Regarding the other point you bring up from Ehrman, in a very real sense the Christian religion began when the disciples first believed Jesus’ teaching. The crucifixion discouraged them and they fled, the resurrection then emboldened their belief leading them to be willing to suffer and die, if necessary, for that belief.


    • HeIsSailing says:

      Dr Jones,
      I sat on this comment for over a week, trying to decide how to respond.

      After you ignored my own opinions and thoughts on your questions, tried to get me to agree/disagree to a historical opinion from a textbook, then after you called me (and others) ‘hardened’ for asking you to actually deal with my own ideas, thoughts and opinions on the subject – you then decide to… punt the ball?

      This is your Resurrection Witness defense??

      How should I respond? I wrote. I typed. I read from all the ancient sources that you cited in this article, and conclude that we have no idea what Peter thought he witnessed. I tried to explain that. I expressed my frustration at how you retreat from “They died for their witness to Resurrection” to “they died for belief” all while pretending to argue for “witness”. I critiqued your tactic of ignoring my actual answers to your questions, while trying to get me to sign on to a Party Line on matters of historical conjecture.

      I have been trying to do this, all in under 200 words – as eloquently and unemotionally as I could.

      I give up. I want to write on my own blog again.

      Here is the bottom line-

      Your 200 Word Resurrection Witness fails for numerous reasons. Only one reason was touched on here. Your article does not contain a single citation that tells us that the Apostles died because they, not believed, but personally witnessed a physically resurrected Jesus. What further proof do you need of this, than that you yourself did not try to ‘build a case’ based on any of the ancient sources that you cited, but from a quotation made by a modern historian!

      I am ‘hardened’? I am “not a seeker’? Please… Dr Jones, you have no idea who I am, or the know spiritual path I have been on and continue to travel. I would never try to tell a blog commenter what their personal convictions of belief are. Please do me the same courtesy.

      Dr Jones, I am going to ask you, seriously, to think about who you are writing these apologetic arguments for. Even if you are doing this for the average person at the soccer game, or to bolster the faith of the believing Christian, remember – bad arguments made by the Christian apologist will cause Christians to leave the Faith. Believe me on this. I left the Christian Faith for this reason. DaGoodS says he left it for this reason. Time and time again I have read and heard this same thing from countless others. Search the blogs – it happens. All the time.

      I will leave no more comments on this thread – I give you the last word if you wish.

      • clayjones says:

        Hi Sailor,

        I wasn’t trying to get you to agree with Ehrman (in fact, that’s why I said I wasn’t going to continue arguing this point). I was just asking if you agreed, and, none of you do. But it’s not just Ehrman. I was using Ehrman as a representative example of even skeptical New Testament scholarship. Here’s another, Keith Parsons, a critic of the resurrection:

        Jesus’ crucifixion marked the bitter end of a failed mission. He had come to Jerusalem full of messianic fervor and gripped by an apocalyptic vision. Yet the predicted apocalypse did not occur. Instead Jesus was seized… beaten, humiliated, and subjected to a painful and shameful death. His disciples, despondent and fearful for their own lives, scattered and hid…. Then something extraordinary happened. The former followers of a failed and disgraced prophet became convinced that their executed leader had risen from the grave. Soon they were back in Jerusalem, fearlessly proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection to all that would hear. What happened? From the earliest days, the best argument for the historical veracity of the Resurrection has focused on these facts. What other than the actual appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples could account for their radical transformation from terrified and dejected fugitives to evangelists and missionaries quite willing to risk their lives to preach their gospel? Obviously, the disciples were convinced that Jesus had risen.

        Keith Parsons, “Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli on the Hallucination Theory” in Robert M. Price and Jeffery Jay Lowder, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2005), 433-434.

        Parsons goes on from there to argue for the hallucination theory but you guys won’t even grant what Parsons or what most New Testament skeptics grant and I simply do not have the time to try to get you to agree with those who actually are scholars in this field.

        As why you left Christianity: God gives enough evidence so that those who want to believe will have their beliefs justified but not so much evidence that those who don’t want to believe will be compelled to feign loyalty.


  26. J. Paul says:

    As pertaining to strict chronology, Craig Keener (interestingly enough, formerly a hardened atheist) has pointed out how there is not a single ancient text that he is aware of that gives first priority to the chronology of events. Coming from his Commentary on John, in which he includes 20,000 references, I’d say he knows his stuff. Keener also makes the point that they would put things in their own language. They were not accustomed to our modern day standards of historiography. Even in regard to the prophets, the Gospel writers did not find it “out of sorts” to recite a verse with a degree of liberty. Sometimes a little bit of common sense can help relieve our stuffy heads. As I mentioned before, it is important to keep in mind, that they were living and writing in their present tense, without the blessing of hindsight.

    Furthermore, if the chronology and laser precise exactitude of events remains a major stumbing block, then I would argue that it can only call into the issue of inerrancy. In that case either our understanding of inspiration needs to be reevaluated or perhaps go with a more broader definition of inerrancy. One thing is certain, variations in the reports only solidify the historicity of the resurrection testimonies. They may call into question who saw what and when, but there can be no denial that what the “what” is that they saw was the resurrected Jesus.

    • DagoodS says:

      J. Paul,

      Good idea to move this discussion here.

      I presume, then, you will not be doing a list of appearances? Even for your own edification?

      While I agree we cannot apply our own standards of history to the writings of First Century—I am not certain this helps the apologists. If the authors felt freedom to include events, timing, words, names, locations that did not actually occur, but fit within the arch of their account, doesn’t this mean our accounts are less likely to correspond to what happened?

      And less resourceful to substantiate claims regarding what they meant by Jesus’ post-mortem appearances?

      For example, the author of John 21 may have been writing what he thought it would look like if Jesus physically reappeared after some disciples went back to fishing and what he thought Jesus would say to Peter in order to rehabilitate him. Not what actually happened. Perfectly acceptable within the historical methods of the time. But no actual physical appearance.

      And the reason we are questioning the use of these sources to make specific claims.

      I am uncertain why variations “solidify” historical accounts. It would depend on the amount, the extent, the timing of the documents, etc. John varying from Mark…understandable. Luke varying from Mark and Matthew is a problem, since Luke is utilizing them as his source! If he is varying—does this mean he is disagreeing with them?

      Bringing me back to the same question. If the 1 Cor. 15 creed was disseminated amongst the early accounts, why did none of the later accounts that arguably utilized it as a source, vary from it if they agreed with it?

      • J. Paul says:

        HA-HA! Well with that kind of historiography, I think we can surmise that the disciples probably didn’t even know what it meant to “believe.” It was likely that they didn’t even think that they would be killed. I mean, nobody really was persecuting them and there was pleanty of fortune and fame to be spread among them. If they could only plant mind altering suggesions in the minds of the “faithful” thereafter, they would be more powerful after death then Nero was in his life. Only believe! We’re not sure what, but believe anyway!

      • J. Paul says:

        Alright, back to Earth. Dagood, it is common for multiple witnesses to testify in varying degrees without holding them in contempt of court. Now, that’s a modern example.

        It doesn’t strike me odd, in the least, for Paul to offer a short simple oral account, that while remaining faithful to the events, does not go into explicit detail as the Gospel accounts do.

        I have a question Dagood. Let’s suppose you were to have a dramatic experience as you were getting into your car. Blinded by light from heaven, you hear an earth shaking voice that says, “B-E-L-I-E-V-E!” You turn to your neighbor’s house and they run out the door exclaiming, WHAT WAS THAT? Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that this really did happen to you. Would you believe? I mean, would you believe that God is real? Would you believe that God really can communicate? Would you believe that supernatural miracles are really possible and that you actually experienced this first hand? Or would you dismiss it as dishonest or at least not to be trusted?

      • DagoodS says:


        I have no clue what I would do upon such an experience—become a fervent missionary or a serial killer. Remember, not all Damascus Road events generate the same results.

        But that isn’t what we have…

        We have Neighbor Luke writing about Neighbor Paul having an event. However, in all of neighbor Paul’s writing, Paul doesn’t indicate any knowledge of the event happening. Worse, Luke’s details conflict with other details of Paul.

        [Fun experiment #2. (since you didn’t like my last one. *grin*) Read Acts 9:1-28, preferably in a version without verse numbers. At some point in the story, you must insert a three-year time period. Not easy figuring out where inserting it conforms with Paul’s writings.]

        Wouldn’t most people assume (if this was outside biblical studies) Neighbor Luke made it up?

        Secondly, Apologists vehemently assert 1 Cor. 15:3-7 is anything BUT Paul’s “short simple oral account.” Indeed, they insist this isn’t Pauline at all—that it is an earlier creed fashioned by the apostles. The same claimed sources of our later gospels. Leaving firmly in place the question why the later sources abandoned this creed, when supposedly hearing it from the same people!

        Thirdly, J.Paul: …it is common for multiple witnesses to testify in varying degrees without holding them in contempt of court.
        Well…yes and no. Not held in contempt of court; instead they aren’t deemed credible.*

        This is a (common) analogy Christian apologists really need to abandon. I am pretty familiar with witnesses providing conflicting details (I am a trial attorney), and I can assure you this is exactly what courts utilize by prying into those differences, demonstrating how unreliable the testimony is.

        Juries do not shrug off one witness saying “The Angel told us to see Jesus in Galilee, so we went to Galilee and saw Jesus” and another stating, “The Angel said remember what Jesus said in Galilee, so we stuck around, and saw Jesus, who said stay in Jerusalem” and a third stating, “So after Jesus said, ‘Stay in Jerusalem’ we went to Galilee” as simply “varying degrees”!

        Especially when those varying details multiple between witnesses. More so when the variances favor the testifying witness.

        Finally, while I realize you were being facetious, have you ever considered how, in the First Century economic system, Peter obtained the resources to rise from a Galilean fisherman to owning a house in Jerusalem? Perhaps “fortune” is not as ludicrous as one might think…

        *Credibility entails more than outright deception. It includes memory, bias, opportunity to observe, etc.

        (I apologize if this comes across a bit…short. I do not mean it to be; I am enjoying the conversation. I am trying to be judicious with my 500 word limit. *smile*)

  27. Pingback: Peter and Paul Die for their Beliefs — Renew-Your-Mind.org

  28. J. Paul says:

    It’s hard to believe that you would draw from Berkowitz, a self-confessed Satanist. But, since you’ve decided to reply with a non-answer, in the traditional political sway, I think it sufficient to say that you, not only deny the miraculous, but cannot even conceive of believing your own eyes and ears in such a case. It seems a bit disingenuous that you would challenge the testimony of another, when you would not even believe your own testimony.

    That being the case, how is it that such a person could be capable of extracting any historical value from the texts referred to by Dr. Jones?

    On another note, don’t you think it might be just a little arrogant to dismiss the historicity of the Gospels, the Pauline epistles and Acts based on your own personal subjective experiences and prepositional bias against the miraculous? How could such a contention hope to find a viable position against those who have witnessed the affirmative in regard to the miraculous?

    Now, before you backpedal, I have read enough to know that you are not just here to learn. You have a very specific agenda, while it may include learning, more specific, it is to thwart the historical claim of the resurrection. The fact that you would reject Ehrman’s take on the historical claim reveals a deep underlying cynicism, one that is completely unwarranted.

    There is no logical reason to reject the New Testament biographical accounts, except for an extremely biased prepositional attitude against miracles and thereby the existence of God.

    We could go on, but I hardly see the point. You pick and choose what you wish, and that without warrant.

    By the way, why would it seem so unthinkable for Peter’s family to have a house? Where else would he live? A house boat, perhaps? (laugh) Did you know that even people in Africa live in houses? We can presume that his mother (and father) had a house, usually such property is passed down. Keep in mind, it was used not only for his family, but also for church meetings. Acts also records money that was bundled together. It may very well have been a commune.

    Again, I disagree that independent reports imply conflict. Regarding the resurrection, some details may be distinct to particular testimony, but if they corroborate together in regard to the incident in question, then it is not far fetched to consider the event, factual. Indeed, these unique testimonies reveal independent verification, which gains more historical power, not less. this is called multiple attestation. What we have, according to your own account, is internal multiple attestation. You may very well continue to ask why the Gospels did not “continue” to use this testimony, but the more important question would be, why did they all testify to the risen Christ?

    May I suggest a few reading materials:
    The Historical Jesus of the Gospels by Craig Keener,
    The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright,
    Jesus and the Eye Witness: The Gospels as Eye Witness Testimony by Richard Bauckham

    • DagoodS says:

      J. Paul,

      Concerns over “presuppositional bias” carry little weight. First, as a Christian, I was bias for the Bible’s historicity—it was argument from skeptics and applying consistent methodology causing me to reconsider. Second, the only way to change such predisposition is by argumentation.

      Let the arguments be strong enough to convince even those inclined to disagree. What value apologia if it only persuades the already persuaded?

      Of course I question my own senses; as a human I am prone to human error. Haven’t you ever thought you saw something or heard something, to later discover you were mistaken? My wife swears I hear a completely different conversation than what she states! I am uncertain why this is contentious.

      I do not dismiss the Gospels or Pauline corpus entire historicity. Some bits I find historical, some not; the rest varying possible/probable degrees. Just like we treat Josephus or Suetonius. Just like (although no one wants to talk about it) Christian apologists apparently treat Acts of Peter–accept Neroian time frame as historical; reject Peter’s teaching of sexual abstinence being the reason he was killed as ahistorical.

      We skeptically consider all other historical works, including non-canonical Christian writings. We weigh historical viability–reviewing authorship, credibility, archeology, context—at times accepting history, at other times rejecting it.

      Yet when the same critiquing method is applied to the canon, this is perceived as “disingenuous,” “arrogant,” and “deep underlying cynicism.” No…it is consistency.

      You facetiously questioned the disciple’s maintaining Christianity for “fortune.” But you now recognize Peter could have obtained a house through the Christian communal giving. No, it would not be his parent’s house—they lived in Galilee. This wasn’t the 21st century where one sold their business on ebay, and used the proceeds to retire in Jerusalem! Peter’s only social contacts, his honor, his status, his sole income source was in Galilee.

      First century economics involved the country (poor laborers) providing for city dwellers. (generally land-owners.) Yes, there would be housing for city laborers (somewhat)—but Peter was a fisherman. Not a lot of fishing in Jerusalem!

      I appreciate the book suggestions—may I suggest Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels by Malina to understand how phenomenal the transition from Galilean fisherman to Jerusalem home-owner would be?

      I find it slightly ironic when I treat the Gospels and Pauline corpus as historical, you speculate how it is not. Nothing in the canon about Peter inheriting property. Nothing about the house being a church or commune (where were all the others the 15 days Paul was there?) We have a Galilean fisherman, leading a religion that pools resources, who obtains lodging in Jerusalem. Why should we ignore the potential fortune implicit in those claimed events?

  29. J. Paul says:

    Should have read:
    There is no logical reason to reject the New Testament biographical accounts, except for an extremely biased presuppositional attitude against miracles and thereby the existence of God.

  30. J. Paul says:

    I think the ultimate issue is what would qualify as evidence in regard to a miraculous claim for a skeptic that doesn’t believe in miracles or God. When W.L. Craig debated B. Ehrman on the resurrection this same spear point got to the heart of the matter, that being a biased skepticism against miracles. Our presupposition is crucial here and it effects how the evidence is weighed.

    One might say that because I believe in God, I therefore am biased toward belief in the Bible. That may very well be true, on the other hand, my personal experience in relation to miracles, also biases my postive affirmation of belief in God and effects how I hold the Bible. As a matter of fact, it was my personal experiences that caused the Bible to come alive to me.

    One might even say that one believes what one wants to believe. The way data is collected and accumulated is effected, right along with our interpretation of it. When I talk with my skeptical friend who recently left the faith, I make sure he knows this. There is ample evidence that Peter and Paul believed that Jesus was bodily resurrected, sacrificing greatly for it, but if we decide to reject that evidence, then it is a decision of the will rather than abundant evidence to the contrary.

    Thus, it is not only our presuppositional “biases” that effect the way we see the evidence, but it is also a matter of the “will.” Most of the conflicts in the world today, including marriages are associated with these issues. To get over these obstacles is vital if a resolution is to be had. For the skeptic, or religious person (as I once was), it might require a miracle, not necessarily overdramatic as some, but at least just as real.

    We could go back and forth, probably until our motherboards burn up, and believe you me, I have pleanty more I could say on the topic, but there is a foundation that must be layed before one can build.

  31. HeIsSailing says:

    J. Paul,
    I promised to let you have the last word in this comment thread, but I want to let you know that I wrote an article on my blog in response to this. It is not on the Resurrection debate, but on your particular charge of “presuppositional bias”. I invite you to read it. Just click on my name.

  32. J. Paul says:

    Thank you sailor, but my last post was primarily connected to my discussion with Dagood. My point here is quite simply, there is no good reason to reject Matthew, Mark, Luke, John or Paul. Minor variations do not disprove their historicity, they validate them as individual testimonies. The only motivation to reject them is on account of a bias against miracles which point to God, not rationalism. I read your blog and it adds nothing new to the discussion except for the fact that you don’t “like” the point I’ve made about presuppositional biases. It does nothing to discredit the fact that Peter and Paul were willing to die for their belief in the resurrection. Of course, you are more than welcome to throw all evidence aside and shoot for a more imaginary story, but then that is a matter of faith and bias.

  33. Phoenix says:

    Your supposed knowledge of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is greatly in error.

    I wish you well in your future endeavors, but you have no idea what you are talking about.


  34. clayjones says:

    Hi Phoenix,
    What is it that is misunderstood?

Comments are closed.