Monday, September 4, 2017

Facts vs Faith

There is a common indictment made by skeptics and critics of religion, that Christianity is based on faith while science is based on facts. These skeptics view faith as a vice because, in their opinion, faith is not based on evidence and blindly accepts religious dogma. The biologist Richard Dawkins has said, "Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence," and "Faith, being belief that isn’t based on evidence, is the principal vice of any religion." The biologist Jerry Coyne writes, "Indeed, by relying on faith rather than evidence, religion renders itself incapable of finding truth."

These statements which supposedly define faith reflect the most inaccurate understanding possible of what Christian faith actually is. As a physicist and a thinking rational person, if faith were actually believing something without evidence, I would definitely not be a Christian. I simply cannot consider something to be true unless there is sufficient evidence to render that belief as the most probable conclusion that explains the evidence.

True Christian faith is always based on evidence. A word that better conveys the meaning of Christian faith in our current culture is probably "trust." You would be a fool to trust something or someone that has no evidence of being trustworthy, or has been shown to actually be untrustworthy. If you send your money to a Nigerian prince because the email you got sounded sincere, you can say bye-bye to that money. If you ride a roller-coaster that has been condemned, the consequences could be severe. But if you give money to a friend who has proven trustworthy and offers a legitimate business opportunity, you may actually benefit from that transaction.

Throughout the New Testament we see that Christian faith is based on evidence and factual events. Paul's treatise in 1 Corinthians 15 about the resurrection of Jesus is a great example of this line of reasoning. Paul says, "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead... . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile." Paul is clearly stating that if there was not a factual, historical resurrection then the Christian message is useless and our faith is futile. Christianity is based on the fact of the resurrection. It is not a belief based on the lack of evidence.

Thomas was a follower of Jesus who would not accept that the resurrection of Jesus happened unless he actually saw the evidence for himself. He said to his fellow disciples who had already seen the risen Jesus, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." That hardly sounds like the skeptics' definition of faith. Unless he saw actual evidence for himself, Thomas would not believe that the resurrection occurred. I like Thomas. I think he is the "patron saint" of all scientists who require evidence to believe. What was Jesus' response to this statement? He showed Thomas the evidence of the resurrection. At their next encounter, Jesus said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." See what Jesus did there? He asked Thomas to believe based on sufficient evidence, not the lack of evidence.

The gospels record the story of a man whom Jesus claimed had "great faith." The man was a Roman officer, or centurion. His servant was sick and he asked Jesus to heal the servant without even visiting his house. The centurion's message to Jesus was, "But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." We aren't told the back story to this event, but I can't imagine that a Roman officer, who has to calculate the most effective strategies to win a battle, would send such a message to Jesus based on "lack of evidence." I would guess that the officer must have done his homework about Jesus and had plenty of evidence to back up his belief the Jesus actually had the authority and ability to heal his servant. Again, faith is based on evidence.

Christian faith is not just an intellectual belief. It is the action of taking the evidence and then trusting one's life to Jesus based on the available evidence. If you were to examine a chair to see if it could structurally support your weight and, after examining it make the claim that you believe it could support you, that statement, in and of itself, would not be an illustration of Christian faith. Christian faith would require you to sit in the chair based on the evidence that the chair is trustworthy. Faith is always an action based on a belief that is, in turn, based on evidence. The Oxford mathematician John Collins states, "Faith is not a leap in the dark; It’s a commitment based on evidence."

Armed with a more correct understanding of Christian faith you can see that the statements made by skeptics in the opening paragraph are both uninformed and naive. I would think that if they want to criticize Christianity, they should at least understand it. But, apparently, they do not care to give an informed criticism of Christianity. That might require actually learning something new rather than simply relying on their biased presuppositions. If the skeptics are wrong about one of the most basic aspects of Christianity, faith, what else are they wrong about?

One of the primary reasons I am a Christian is because of the overwhelming objective evidence that Jesus actually arose from the dead. The faith I have is not based on "lack of evidence." Believing something without evidence is not faith; it's stupidity. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind." The only way I, as a scientist, know how to love God with my mind is to be able to think, discover the facts, consider alternative views, and follow the evidence where it leads. That is exactly what Christian faith asks us to do.

136 comments:

  1. Hi Mike,

    You did not finish the story of Doubting Thomas. What did Jesus (allegedly) say to Thomas after instructing him to check out his wounds? Answer: "Blessed are those who believe WITHOUT seeing [objective evidence]."

    I agree with you that good scientists should be like Thomas: They should demand objective evidence before believing any claim that defies the current "laws" of science. But according to the author of the Gospel of John, Jesus chided Thomas for being so "cerebral". Jesus (at least according to the author of the Gospel of John; the only gospel author who tells this story) wants people to believe that a three-day-brain dead corpse came back to life without objective evidence. He wanted people to believe a laws-of-science-defying claim based on what someone else claimed to have observed. No scientist should believe that the laws of nature have been violated based on what someone else claims happened. And unfortunately for conservative Christians, experts in the study of the New Testament have concluded that hearsay evidence is all the "evidence" that today's Christians have for this alleged first century event.

    The majority of experts in New Testament studies believe that the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses nor the associates of eyewitnesses. Even New Testament scholar NT Wright, a scholar whom conservative Christians frequently quote for his belief and support of the bodily resurrection of Jesus, states the following:

    "I do not know who the authors of the Gospels were, nor does anyone else."

    Therefore, you are correct, Mike, it is incorrect to say that Christian faith is "blind faith"; that it is based on zero evidence. I would suggest that a better definition is this:

    "Christian faith is belief in a particular claim based on INSUFFICIENT evidence. It is wishful thinking, hoping that better evidence for one's desired belief exists but has not yet been discovered; evidence that will justify one's hopes."

    The Christian claims that a three-day-brain-dead first century corpse came back to life and later flew off into outer space is based on HEARSAY evidence, and hearsay evidence is NOT admissible in most courts of law.

    Therefore, I would encourage all scientists (and in fact everyone) to be like Thomas. Doubt! Doubt all extra-ordinary claims (especially those that defy the laws of science) until very, very good, OBJECTIVE evidence is presented that overturns that law of science.

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    1. Gary: Read the whole book of John, while you're at it. The book is a paean to empiricism. John is in love with evidence.

      All scientific claims are believed on the basis of testimony: that of one's own mind, or of other minds. There is no exception.

      NT Wright, whom you cite, wrote a warm review to Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, which argues forcefully that the gospels are, in fact, based on first-hand and close second-hand evidence. In addition, as I show in Jesus is No Myth: the Fingerprints of God on the Gospels, dozens of different kinds of evidence support the essential historicity of the gospels.

      There is very, very good evidence for the gospels, but not "objective" evidence, because nothing we believe is fully objective. (Since fallible humans are the subject of all sense impressions on which all empirical reasoning is based.) But of course the gospels do not "overturn the laws of science," nor pretend to. That shows a complete misunderstanding of what a miracle is.

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  2. There are so many problems with your response that it is hard to know where to start. I'll elaborate on my previous comment about the conclusions of the so-called "experts."

    Let me use your statement about "the majority of experts" to show the bias of the so-called experts. The experts date the gospel of Mark to after 70 A.D because Jesus predicts the destruction of Jerusalem in Mark 13 and Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. Since the "experts" start with the presupposition that Jesus couldn't possibly make accurate predictions about the future, Mark must have been written after the destruction of Jerusalem. So the entire dating of Mark (and the conclusion it is not written by an eyewitness) all is based on the biased presupposition that Jesus could not predict the future. I disagree with the so-called experts because of their bias which sets a date based, not on scholarship, but on a presupposition.

    As far as Jesus' words to Thomas, you are totally misunderstanding what is being said. Jesus has just affirmed the importance of evidence by showing the evidence to Thomas. It would by hypocritical for Jesus to then "chide" Thomas. The actual quote from Jesus is, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Jesus is aware that first person eyewitness evidence is the best evidence and Jesus realized that others who believe will have to accept the testimony of the first eyewitnesses. It is much harder to accept the testimony of an eyewitness rather than be the eyewitness yourself, so Jesus is affirming that it will be harder to believe based on the evidence of others' testimony alone rather than actually experiencing the event yourself.

    My point is affirmed by the fact that you don't accept the eyewitness testimony of others. Your staunch refusal to accept the eyewitness testimony of others because it contradicts your worldview is a great example of how bias affects peoples' conclusions and of the challenge of accepting eyewitness testimony that you find to not fit your worldview.

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    1. Is it really a "biased presupposition" that people cannot predict the future? It sounds to me like a reasonable conclusion based on knowledge and experience.

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    2. Thanks for your question VinnyJH57. If your presupposition is that there is no supernatural realm, then regardless of any amount of evidence, you will come to the conclusion that nothing supernatural has occurred. To me, that is basing a conclusion on presupposition rather than evidence, which would be biased. I welcome your comments.

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    3. I don't think that my conclusion that people cannot predict the future is based on any presuppositions about the supernatural realm any more than are my conclusions that people cannot make themselves invisible, transform themselves into animals, or breathe underwater unaided. I think that they are simply reasonable conclusions based on the available evidence. If the evidence were different, I might well reach a different conclusion.

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    4. The bias is the "a priori" statement that there is no supernatural so no supernatural events can occur. The bias is not the conclusion based on the evidence, but the presupposition before any evidence has been examined. I would suggest you read my blog article on "Extraordinary claims and extraordinary evidence." The bias is the refusal to accept a supernatural event even in the face of overwhelming evidence simply because of the philosophical presupposition that the supernatural does not exist.

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    5. What is the overwhelming evidence that I am ignoring that people can predict the future?

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    6. Here is the logic that is biased.

      1) There is no supernatural
      2) Therefore people can't predict the future
      3) Therefore the claims that Jesus predicted the fall of Jerusalem must not be true.
      4) Therefore the gospel of Mark must have been written after the fall of Jerusalem.

      I'm not saying whether or not Jesus did predict the future or when Mark was written. I'm saying that line of reasoning above is based on a biased philosophical statement (1), not on evidence.

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    7. Of course, I believe that people can't predict the future. But if there is a supernatural realm, then it is possible that a supernatural being could predict the future. If there is no supernatural, then that is not possible.

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    8. ...or
      1) There is no supernatural
      2) Therefore miracles are impossible
      3) Therefore no miracles have ever occurred.

      Again, the above is not a statement about whether or not miracles have occurred. That is a separate question. All I'm saying is that the logic is based on a biased philosophical statement, so this logic doesn't lead to its stated conclusion. The conclusion could ultimately be correct, but you can't logically get to that conclusion along this path without a biased presupposition.

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    9. Regardless of whether a historian thinks that miracles happen or not, he or she must start any inquiry from the entirely reasonable premise that natural things do happen and that they happen with great frequency and regularity. Evidence is an effect from which a cause is in inferred and the basis for the inference is the regularity of natural processes.

      If we come across a body with a knife sticking out of its back and the knife's handle is covered with little swirly patterns that match the patterns on a specific person's, we have evidence of who inserted the knife in the back. This is because we understand the natural processes of cause and effect that lead to the appearance of fingerprints on objects other than fingers. If we didn't understand these processes e.g., if we thought these swirly patterns appeared randomly or by divine fiat, fingerprints wouldn't be evidence of anything. We could not announce triumphantly "It was Colonel Mustard with the knife in the library!"

      Even if a historian accepts the existence of a supernatural realm, I don't think he can claim to be doing history if he begins his inquiry by looking for supernatural causes for the evidence.

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  3. The acknowledged historical expert on the sufficiency of evidence in the context of admissibility in a court of law, Simon Greenleaf, published his treatise
    on the relability of the apostles testimoney regarding the resurrection of Christ as well as His entire public ministry. He declares the evidence presented by the apostles is reliable, convincing and would pass every legal standard for admissibility.The book to read is Testimomy of the Evangelists. His plus magnum was Treatise on the Law of Evidence.

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  4. "Let me use your statement about "the majority of experts" to show the bias of the so-called experts. The experts date the gospel of Mark to after 70 A.D because Jesus predicts the destruction of Jerusalem in Mark 13 and Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. Since the "experts" start with the presupposition that Jesus couldn't possibly make accurate predictions about the future, Mark must have been written after the destruction of Jerusalem. So the entire dating of Mark (and the conclusion it is not written by an eyewitness) all is based on the biased presupposition that Jesus could not predict the future. I disagree with the so-called experts because of their bias which sets a date based, not on scholarship, but on a presupposition."

    This is a blatantly false statement. You need to step away from your physics books for a few moments, Mike, and read the latest in New Testament scholarship. The truth is that the majority of New Testament scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark was written sometime between 65 CE and 75 CE. The temple and Jerusalem were destroyed in 70 CE. Therefore, the correct time frame still exists for Jesus' prediction of the destruction of the Temple to have been a prophesy.

    See how reasonable I can be? I accept the evidence. Period. I accept expert consensus opinion. Period. I accept evidence and expert consensus opinion regardless of whether it fits with my theory of what really happened in the first century or not. Can you say the same, Mike?

    "As far as Jesus' words to Thomas, you are totally misunderstanding what is being said. Jesus has just affirmed the importance of evidence by showing the evidence to Thomas. It would by hypocritical for Jesus to then "chide" Thomas. The actual quote from Jesus is, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Jesus is aware that first person eyewitness evidence is the best evidence and Jesus realized that others who believe will have to accept the testimony of the first eyewitnesses. It is much harder to accept the testimony of an eyewitness rather than be the eyewitness yourself, so Jesus is affirming that it will be harder to believe based on the evidence of others' testimony alone rather than actually experiencing the event yourself."

    Conjecture, conjecture, conjecture.

    Read the works of prominent theologians and you will see that most theologians and NT scholars believe that the author of John is attempting to demonstrate that Thomas has sinned: Thomas did not exercise faith; he was behaving like the Pharisees who demanded a sign. Jesus was rebuking him not praising him, as you suggest. Your conjecture that Jesus was setting up a verifiable chain of eyewitness testimony has no evidence whatsoever to support it, and in fact, is very much contrary to the teachings of Jesus. Jesus repeatedly criticized those who demanded evidence and repeatedly blessed those who believed with the faith of a small child. Small children do NOT insist on objective evidence.

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    1. Gary, in the future I will not publish any of your comments that ask me if I will "accept the consensus of experts." I've explained many times why I think that to fall into the fallacy of the majority is an unreasonable and simple-minded thing to do, often leading to wrong conclusions. I accept the consensus of experts when there is an unbiased overwhelming consensus based on the evidence, with other alternatives lacking in evidence or unable to explain all the facts.

      By the way, I have taken college classes on how to interpret literature and my comments about Jesus and Thomas are based on the most important principle of interpretation: context. Jesus shows Thomas the evidence he needs and does not rebuke, but just makes a statement that Thomas has seen and believed. A statement of facts is not chiding. Again, you seem to not understand basic language like when I had to keep telling you the dictionary definition of transcendent and you refused to accept it.

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    2. There you go again. Threatening me with not publishing my comments simply because I am challenging your position. Why are conservative Christian bloggers so insecure?

      Please answer my question: Why does NT Wright, a very respected scholar who happens to agree with conservative Christians that Jesus was bodily resurrected from the dead, believe that no one knows who wrote the Gospels? How is he "biased"?

      So what that you have taken some classes on interpreting literature! You are NOT an expert in literature or New Testament studies. It would be like me challenging you on principles of physics just because I took a physics course in college.

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    3. Your disdain and suspicions (conspiracy theories??) about experts is very disturbing. As I have stated before, public trust in experts is the bedrock of any advanced democracy. Here is an excerpt from an article discussing this issue:


      "This divide between experts and citizens is a cause for deep concern. Representative democracy is based not only on universal suffrage, but also on reason. Ideally, deliberations and votes result in rational decisions that use the current state of knowledge to deliver policies that advance citizens’ wellbeing. This requires a process in which experts – whose competence and honesty are trusted – inform decision-makers of the available options for meeting voters’ stated preferences. Citizens are unlikely to be satisfied if they believe that experts are imposing their own agenda, or are captured by special interests. Distrust of experts fuels distrust of democratically elected governments, if not of democracy itself."

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    4. I would chose to not publish your comments because you would be repeating a request that I have answered many times. Your asking the same thing over and over and me answering with the same response is not a valuable dialogue in any search for truth.

      Why do you say "disdain and suspicions". I have pointed out obvious bias of some "experts" and discussed the difference between overwhelming expert opinion without reasonable alternatives and bare majority expert opinion with many reasonable alternatives. Those are very different things. Do you treat a 51% majority expert opinion with a 49% dissent the same as a 99% expert opinion? Do you treat a biased expert opinion the same as an unbiased one? I don't treat the above as the same. You can call that "disdain and suspicions" if you want. I just call it smart.

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    5. I have pointed out to you that it isn't just agnostic and atheist scholars who doubt that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels. The majority of NT scholars are Christian, and even if we ignore the scholars who are liberal Christians, there are Christian scholars such as NT Wright who believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus who would still refuse to agree with your claim that we can be confident that eyewitnesses definitely wrote the Gospels.

      You are trying to paint all scholars who disagree with your position as biased, but how in the world can you accuse someone like NT Wright of being biased???

      The truth is that currently the claim that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels stands on very shaky ground even if it is 51% against and 40% in favor. (I would bet it would something more like 80/20). If even experts who are proponents of the bodily resurrection of Jesus are now stating that they are uncertain as to the authorship of the Gospels, your claim that I am biased for not accepting your claim of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels is a gross exaggeration.

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    6. Gary, why is it that when I point out a logical fallacy in your reasoning you continue to use the fallacious argument? I have pointed out that the lack of certainty of the author is not the same as not being an eyewitness. You even acknowledge that as true, but then you make the same false parallel in your last paragraph above. It is frustrating trying to dialogue with you because you continue to make the same logical mistakes even when pointed out to you and even when you acknowledge the veracity of the logic.

      If I know that eyewitness testimony was written down by an unknown scribe, the testimony is eyewitness, nonetheless. Your claim that not knowing the author is the same as not having eyewitness testimony is just fallacious. Please do not use such fallacious reasoning again if you want to have a reasonable dialogue.

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    7. You have got to be kidding me, Mike. If you don't know whose testimony it is, how would you know that it is eyewitness testimony???

      Attorney: Your Honor, I want to present eyewitness testimony to the court, but I don't know whose testimony it is.

      Judge: If you don't know whose testimony it is then it is NOT eyewitness testimony, it is hearsay, and hearsay testimony is not allowed in a court of law.

      It is YOUR logic that is questionable, Mike.

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    8. “Your Honor, I want to present eyewitness testimony, however, I can’t identify the eyewitness nor can I identify who wrote down the testimony of the eyewitness. But I am sure it is eyewitness testimony and therefore it should be admissible in your court.”

      Seriously, Mike??? If you don't know who said it and you don't know who wrote it down, how in the world can you know that what was said is eyewitness testimony?

      Who is being illogical here?

      The majority of all NT scholars (conservatives, moderates, and liberals) believe that the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses nor the associates of eyewitnesses. (Here is a link to all the sources which state that this is the current state in New Testament scholarship: here) If you then add to that the number of NT scholars who are uncertain about the authorship of the Gospels, we have an even larger majority of NT scholars who disagree with Mike who claims that Christians can be certain that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels. And the fact that scholars such as NT Wright, a favorite scholar among conservative Christians due to his belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, are uncertain as to the authorship of the Gospels shows just how shaky Mike’s claim is that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses. It also contradicts Mike’s previous claim that scholars who doubt that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels are “biased” against the supernatural. How can NT Wright be biased against the supernatural when he believes in the bodily resurrection of Jesus?

      Why is that so hard for Mike to understand?

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    9. Actually, anonymous eyewitness sources are used all the time by journalists and others and accepted as valid and trustworthy sources of information. Maybe you've never heard of that before.

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    10. So are you now changing your story and trying to imply that not knowing the author's identity is the same as not having eyewitness testimony? I'm confused because I'm pointing out a single logical fallacy that the two are not identical and you're trying to bring in something about court cases which is a totally different subject as to whether or not you are committing a logical fallacy.

      This is why conversation with you is so frustrating and challenging. You seem to not be able to follow a step by step logical discussion. The first step in this progression would be to establish that eyewitness testimony and knowing the writer are two different things. (I thought you agreed with that but now I can't tell).

      Once that has been established (or not) then we take the next step as to whether an anonymous writer can quote an eyewitness. Of course he can. Then we take the third step which would be to ask if eyewitness testimony written by an anonymous author is reasonable or valid. I'm trying to establish a logical progression.

      The first step, or premise, that you seem to be basing your conclusions on (equating anonymity with not being an eyewitness) is incorrect so it is impossible at this point to say if your conclusions are valid or not. They are certainly based on a false premise. Let's take the discussion premise by premise and see where it leads.

      Will you agree with the first premise that anonymity and being an eyewitness are two different things. You seem to equate them as the same and that is the only logical fallacy I am trying to establish at first. If they are different then what would be your second premise on which you are trying to build a case?

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    11. There is a big difference between an anonymous eyewitness source who the professional journalist has vetted (and his paper has vetted) and a collection of four books whose authors are unknown.

      You can't claim that a statement is eyewitness testimony if you don't know whose testimony it is, Mike. Why is that so hard for you to understand?

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  5. (cont'd)

    "My point is affirmed by the fact that you don't accept the eyewitness testimony of others. Your staunch refusal to accept the eyewitness testimony of others because it contradicts your worldview is a great example of how bias affects peoples' conclusions and of the challenge of accepting eyewitness testimony that you find to not fit your worldview."

    What in the world are you talking about, Mike? Whose eyewitness testimony am I refusing to believe. Please be specific.

    You have not addressed why one of the most prominent New Testament scholars; a favorite of conservative Christians for his insistence on the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus; does NOT believe that anyone knows who wrote the Gospels. How do you explain that, Mike? How and why is NT Wright "biased"?

    You are making an unfounded, conspiracy charge against the majority of New Testament scholars, when most of them happen to be Christian believers, and most of them believe in the supernatural! It is unbecoming to see an educated man and scientist as yourself buying into such a shameless conspiracy theory.

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    1. Not knowing who wrote it is a different than saying it wasn't written by an eyewitness. You are assuming those two statements are the same which they are not. It is simple logic.

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    2. No, they are not the same but they would have the same effect in a court of law. That is the point. Testimony that "we have no idea whose testimony it is" is just as much hearsay and inadmissible as testimony from someone who all agree is definitely NOT an eyewitness.

      Admit it, Mike. Without the Gospels being eyewitness testimony, your ship is sunk. That is why you cling so desperately to a minority scholarly position.

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    3. Baloney. Wright would not have praised Richard Bauckham's book so forcefully if he denied that the gospels could have been written by eyetwitnesses -- which your quote does not, in fact, say. (And when and where did Wright say that? Do you know that "know" may be synonymous with "be certain of?"

      I am almost certain that the gospels were written by people who were very close to the facts and intended to tell the truth, for reasons I give in Jesus is No Myth. 30 separate threads of "forensic evidence" within the gospels themselves, shared by no known fiction, point to their essential historicity. One of those threads is one that Wright himself has developed in great detail and profundity -- double similarity, double disimilarity. There are 29 or so more.

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    4. Hi David,

      Are you a NT scholar? If not, your opinion on the authorship of the Gospels is just as consequential as my opinion on the newest discovery at CERN. Bottom line: a large majority of NT scholars do not believe that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels. The fact that even some scholars who believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus (such as NT Wright) hold this view is proof of just how large this majority opinion is.

      Here is a Youtube clip in which NT Wright gives his position on the authorship of the Gospels:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FszDfiERnhk

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    5. There are many NT scholars who say that the testimony is eyewitness testimony but you don't believe them. You're overstating your willingness to accept what scholars believe. You blindly accept the majority opinion regardless of the size of the majority, their reasoning, or their bias. As one other commenter said, your appeal to authority as your main reason for accepting something really doesn't help your case. It makes it seem that you have no ability to reason for yourself but blindly accept whatever the majority believes at this time, despite the fact that in the past the majority has often been wrong, and completely ignoring the size of the majority, their reasoning, or their bias.

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    6. "Blindly accept"???

      Must I remind you of the long list of books by Christian scholars that I have read and reviewed? Let's look at one of them: Richard Bauckham, the darling of conservative Christians. Bauckham believes that the Apostle Matthew did NOT write the Gospel of Matthew. Bauckham believes that the Apostle John did NOT write the Gospel of John!

      How strong is the evidence for the traditional authorship of the Gospels when conservative Christian scholars can't even agree on the authorship of the two Gospels which they believe were written by actual eyewitnesses???

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  6. Hi Keith,

    Simon Greenfield assumed that the Gospels were primary source documents, written by eyewitnesses. Now that the majority of scholars no longer believe that to be the case, Greenfield would lose his court case. His sources would be seen as hearsay evidence and thrown out of court.

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  7. If you are implying that Simons expertise on the quality and admissibility of evidence is in question given that his book on Evidence is used even today in major law schools means you have no ability to judge the relevance of his works. I assume you are not a legal scholar of his magnitude and therefore have zero credibility in your rather silly assertion that he would not be able to admit the NT writing into court. By the way I note you commit the sophomoric fallacy of composition of two distinct concepts the scribe whomever and the source of the material being an eywitness. As a CIO in the Fortune 500 years back I dictated my memoranda to my Exec Asst.which she took in shorthand and then typed. I signed it and no one questioned whether the material was firsthand tho in the strict sense I didn't write it and wherever my report was claimed as eyewitness or direct personal experience based there was no issue.Further it is fallacious to note Wright believes in the raising of Christ which is one of the best accepted historical events and then conclude that that makes him absolutely authoritative on the question of eyewitness accounts as the basis of the texts, regardless of who penned the writings. I commend for your review the article on the instant case in The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics on Greenleaf of 288-289.when you have properly grasped the Ancient Document Rule and associated Chain of Custody in the case of 5he NT writings perhaps your vision will be cleared. In closing your appeal to authority vita Wright and ad populum support from UNIDENTIFIED SCHOLARS is less than impressive...perhaps even cherry picking.

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    1. Good morning, Keith:

      I have not read Simon Greenleaf's work, but I have read the work of one of his pupils, Craig Parton, an attorney, graduate of Simon Greenleaf School of Law, Christian apologist, and co-author of at least two books on the subject of the truths claims of Christianity, "Making the Case for Christianity" and "The Resurrection Fact".

      In both of these books, Mr. Parton builds his case for the historicity of the Resurrection/the veracity of Christianity upon the assumption that the Gospels are primary source documents; that they were authored by eyewitnesses.

      According to the majority of NT scholars, this assumption is incorrect. Therefore in a court of law, Mr. Parton (and Mr. Greenleaf) would first need to contend with the fact that the position they are defending contradicts the position of the majority of experts in the field in question. They would not get a court of law to agree to a claim that the primary documents are de facto primary source documents if the opposing attorney can easily present evidence that the majority of experts disagree with this claim. Parton(and I assume, Greenleaf)build an entire case on an assumption. The majority of scholars at one time may have believed that the Gospels are primary source documents that is no longer the case. So it would be no different than an attorney arguing for the earth being the center of the galaxy and using the majority expert opinion which existed prior to Copernicus.

      Parton and Greenleaf are using out-dated expert testimony.

      Now, you and Dr. Strauss have brought up the issue of whether or not a document dictated by an eyewitness, but written down by a scribe, is still eyewitness testimony. I WOULD AGREE THAT IT IS! I don't know where both of you obtained the misunderstanding that I did not.

      However, that it NOT what the majority of New Testament scholars believe is the case with the Gospels. The majority of experts in the field of New Testament Studies believes that the authors of the STORIES/CONTENT in the Gospels (regardless of who wrote the stories down) were NOT eyewitnesses nor the close associates of eyewitnesses. They were persons living in distant lands who received their information from stories circulating about Jesus in their communities; stories which had been circulating, in oral form, for several decades.

      THAT is the issue, folks. The majority of experts do NOT believe that the authors of the Gospels were eyewitnesses or associates of eyewitnesses. It is irrelevant whether these authors penned their Gospels themselves or dictated their stories to a scribe.

      Is it possible that some of the stories in the Gospels are historically accurate facts? Sure! The problem is, since the authors of the Gospels are unknown, we cannot know what is historical fact and what is not for the MAJORITY of the stories told in the Gospels. Did Jesus really turn water into wine at Cana? We don't know because we have no CONFIRMED eyewitness source for this event.

      Some of Paul's genuine epistles are believed to have been penned (written down) by someone else, such as a scribe. This fact does not disqualify these letters from being attributed to Paul as the author. I accept that position. I accept that at least some of the letters of Paul are genuinely Pauline letters, even if they were written down by a scribe.

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    2. Keith,

      What makes you think that any major law school uses Greenleaf's book today?

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  8. Gary I refer you to the same reference book in determining the authenticity of John as from an eye witness. See pages 388 - 394 wherein each objection by liberal scholars is analyzed and dismiss3d with. other evidence and argument. Nofewer than 12 of our most respected scholars are referenced including A. T. Robinson who dates John to as early as AD 60.

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    1. I realize that there are some scholars who disagree with the majority. But the fact remains, if the majority of experts disagrees with your position, the best you can say is that your position is contested. You can't say, as Dr. Strauss has said, that the Gospels ARE eyewitness sources. They may be. They may NOT be. We don't know. That is the HONEST answer.

      And that is my point: Modern, educated people should NOT accept as fact, claims of alleged supernatural events such as the resurrection of a first century three-day brain-dead corpse, from documents which the experts cannot determine with a high degree of certainty are primary source documents; the information in those documents are derived from primary sources (eyewitnesses).

      I would bet that most Christians would not accept supernatural claims outside of their religion as fact if the source(s) of information were so contested among the experts as are the Gospels. So why do they do it for the supernatural claims of their religion? Answer: They so desperately want these claims to be true for emotional issues (sense of security, fear of the unknown after death, etc.) that they are willing to take a leap of faith (wishful thinking) instead of waiting for better evidence and a consensus among the experts.

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  9. Michael To save time and effort and avoid Pearls Before Swine. I suggest the YouTube video by John MacArthur a total rebuke of N.T. Wright as a false teacher. Nothing else is necessary.

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    1. Keith,

      How do you feel about NT scholar Richard Bauckham? Bauckham believes that the Gospel of Matthew was NOT written by the Apostle Matthew nor that the Gospel of John was written by the Apostle John. Bauckham also believes that the (unknown) author of Matthew invented some of his material.

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  10. We atheists/agnostics have found that Christians often have more than one definition of faith. I personally have found that Christians will often appeal to evidence to justify their supernatural beliefs, but when caught in a corner, they will respond with: "Belief in the truths of Christianity is ultimately a matter of faith. God either gifts you faith or he doesn't."

    But wait a minute! You just said that you could prove the Christian truth claims with EVIDENCE. It's one or the other, dear Christians.

    Here is an excerpt from an excellent article which discusses how many Christians often vacillate between two different definitions of "faith" when attempting to justify their supernatural beliefs:

    ---Theists use the word “faith” in several different ways, often without acknowledging or even realizing that they are doing so. In fact, by surreptitiously switching between uses, theists use the term “faith” as a tool by which they can, quite unfairly, avoid justifying their belief and sidestep awkward atheistic arguments (“But belief in God is a matter of faith, not reason!”),
    to disguise the fact that atheism is far, far more reasonable than theism (“But they’re both faith positions!”), and to borrow, quite illegitimately, some of the positive sheen that attaches to having “faith in others” in order to gild their own more dubious “faith in God”. I must confess that, as an atheist, I find this sort of sleight-of-hand with “faith” highly irritating. I wish the theists would stop it.

    To read the entire article, go to this web link:
    https://humanism.org.uk/about/humanist-philosophers/faq/whats-so-wrong-with-faith/

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    1. There you go again, Gary, making false claims. I have never said you could prove anything regarding historical events or even scientific claims. I said that faith is based on evidence and backed it up from the Bible, where Christians should find their proper definition of faith. I'm not discussing how "theists" use the word faith. I'm discussing the proper biblical use of the word faith, which is quite consistent. So your comment is totally irrelevant.

      Your claims are unfounded as well. Belief in God in the Bible is always based on evidence and reason. I don't know where you get your information. Certainly, the humanism society is not going to be the authority on biblical faith. But since you go with the "majority" regardless of their bias or presuppositions, maybe you'll want to go with what they say anyway.

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  11. Gary You're singular premise is that the majority of NT scholars admit to no known authors and whomever they were they were not the named authors of their reports. However, it is your burden to justify your claims with references to some authoritative body that has gathered this consensus directly and commissioned the statement in some publication.A loose assertion with two names one a discredited theologian hardly meets the standard.

    I in turn refer you to the DTS published Bible Knowledge Commentary prepared by Woolvard and Zuck as editors with book by book editors some twenty PhD and Thd scholars and seminarians. As regards the four gospels they state that all were written before 80 AD, the authorship was attributed to the named by the entirity of early church father's based on both internal and external evidences. In the case of John he States We have SEEN His Glory. I anticipate your evidence of detailed support for your primary premise. Your distain for historical authorities is a known logical fallacy.

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    2. Christian scholar Raymond Brown (An Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 159-60) likewise acknowledges:

      (No one describes Raymond Brown as a "liberal". He is considered a moderate by both sides.)

      "That the author of the Greek Gospel was John Mark, a (presumably Aramaic-speaking) Jew of Jerusalem who had early become a Christian, is hard to reconcile with the impression that it does not seem to be a translation from Aramaic, that it seems to depend on oral traditions (and perhaps already shaped sources) received in Greek, and that it seems confused about Palestinian geography."

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    3. "Therefore it seems best to admit that we are not sure whether the author of the Lukan writings was ever a companion of Paul."

      Source: http://bibleresources.americanbible.org/resource/luke-the-gospel-writer

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    4. "Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did not write the Gospels says biblical historian Gary Greenberg in his latest book, Who Wrote the Gospels? Why New Testament Scholars Challenge Church Traditions. At least, not the Matthew, Mark, Luke or John of Church tradition, he adds. Controversial as this view is, he notes that it is widely accepted among New Testament scholars. Yet few members of the lay public know about this modern scholarly consensus, let alone why scholars hold these views."

      Source: http://ggreenberg.tripod.com/bookpages/gospelspage.html

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    5. "It is the near-universal position of scholarship that the Gospel of Matthew is dependent upon the Gospel of Mark. This position is accepted whether one subscribes to the dominant Two-Source Hypothesis or instead prefers the Farrer-Goulder hypothesis.

      It is also the consensus position that the evangelist was not the apostle Matthew. Such an idea is based on the second century statements of Papias and Irenaeus. As quoted by Eusebius in Hist. Eccl. 3.39, Papias states: “Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.” In Adv. Haer. 3.1.1, Irenaeus says: “Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome and laying the foundations of the church.” We know that Irenaeus had read Papias, and it is most likely that Irenaeus was guided by the statement he found there. That statement in Papias itself is considered to be unfounded because the Gospel of Matthew was written in Greek and relied largely upon Mark, not the author’s first-hand experience."

      Source: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/matthew.html

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  12. Well, if you are only going to look at the position of evangelical/fundamentalist NT scholars then of course you are going to find a majority who believe that the Gospels are eyewitness sources. Without eyewitness testimony, the conservative Christian argument for the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus is left with nothing but hearsay, and as everyone knows, hearsay evidence is very unreliable.

    But let's look at what scholars from across the spectrum say is the current position of the majority of scholars in the Academy on the topic of the authorship of the Gospels:

    Let's start with probably the most popular conservative Christian NT scholar today, Richard Bauckham:

    “The argument of this book [Jesus and the Eyewitnesses]–that the texts of our Gospels are close to the eyewitness reports of the words and deeds of Jesus–runs counter to almost all recent scholarship."

    Now, Bauckham is not stating here that he agrees with "almost all recent scholarship", but he is admitting that a significant majority (almost all) of recent scholarship favors a non-eyewitness authorship of the Gospels. That is my point. I am not trying to prove the majority position correct. I am simply trying to establish that a majority opinion exists which directly contradicts Dr. Strauss' claim that we can be confident that the Gospels "are" eyewitness testimony. I would like to see Dr. Strauss admit that the best he can say is that the authorship of the Gospels is contested.

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  13. What is the position of most Roman Catholic NT scholars:

    "They [the Gospels] were anonymously written. In fact most scholars today do not believe that the evangelists were eyewitnesses for the simple reason that their chronology of events and theological interpretations are different. The titles of the gospels were added in the second century and very well could designate the authority behind the finished gospel or the one who wrote one of the main sources of the gospel. The [Roman Catholic] Church takes no official stance on their authorship. It is important to understand that the Church by its authority and the guidance of the Holy Spirit canonized these four gospels over many others that were circulated and read in the early centuries."

    Source: http://www.aboutcatholics.com/beliefs/what-are-the-gospels/

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  14. The traditional authors of the canonical Gospels–Matthew the tax collector, Mark the attendant of Peter, Luke the attendant of Paul, and John the son of Zebedee–are doubted among the majority of mainstream New Testament scholars. The public is often not familiar, however, with the complex reasons and methodology that scholars use to reach well-supported conclusions about critical issues, such as assessing the authorial traditions for ancient texts. To provide a good overview of the majority opinion about the Gospels, the Oxford Annotated Bible (a compilation of multiple scholars summarizing dominant scholarly trends for the last 150 years) states (pg. 1744):

    "Neither the evangelists nor their first readers engaged in historical analysis. Their aim was to confirm Christian faith (Lk. 1.4; Jn. 20.31). Scholars generally agree that the Gospels were written forty to sixty years after the death of Jesus. They thus do not present eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings."

    Source: https://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/why-scholars-doubt-the-traditional-authors-of-the-gospels/

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  15. In this video, NT scholar Bart Ehrman very succinctly presents the evidence for why most scholars believe that the Gospels were NOT written by eyewitnesses:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhM5lbVBgkk

    I have now given multiple sources, from conservative Richard Bauckham, to moderates NT Wright and Raymond Brown, to agnostic scholar Bart Ehrman, all of whom state that the majority of scholars do not believe that the Gospels were authored by eyewitnesses.

    Therefore, conservative Christian bloggers should be honest with their readership and admit that the authorship of the Gospels is disputed, but that the majority of NT scholars, the overwhelming majority of whom believe in the supernatural (they are theists), do NOT believe that eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels. They may be eyewitness testimony present in the Gospels, but we cannot know for sure either way.

    Therefore, the Gospels cannot be used as "eyewitness testimony" to confirm the alleged resurrection of Jesus. These documents must be viewed as any other non-eyewitness testimony: hearsay.

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    1. Would you please provide documentation that the overwhelming majority of the NT scholars who do not believe that they gospels were written by associates of eyewitnesses do believe in the supernatural?

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    2. Scholar Jacques Berlinerbau:

      “Show of hands: Who here’s an atheist?” If a keynote speaker were to pose that unlikely query to an audience of 1,000 scholars gathered at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature my guess is only about a couple of dozen or so would publicly confess to infidelity.

      Nonbelievers are few and far between in biblical scholarship. Not counting the theologians employed by seminaries who have yet to come out of the closet, the cohort is so small that we literally all know one another by name.

      Accordingly, atheist biblical scholars, very much like conservative scholars in liberal arts colleges, are full of complaints.

      Many of us argue that job opportunities are denied to nonbelievers. Sometimes this policy is explicit (and defensible), as in the case of theological seminaries that wish to hire co-religionists.

      Sometimes this policy is unstated (and preposterous), as when a religious studies department in an otherwise secular (i.e., non-religiously chartered) institution is staffed by graduates of the aforementioned seminaries who don’t fancy nonbelievers.

      The lack of non-believers certainly influences the ideational drift of the field. Editorial boards of leading journals in the discipline, I have alleged, will tend to dismiss scholarship that is overly critical of traditional assumptions about scripture."

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    3. Source for above quote:
      http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/a-brief-thought-on-atheists-in-biblical-scholarship-stimulated-by-professor-bauerleins-haidt-speech-post/32462

      Gary: Evangelicals and other conservative Christians may question who is and who is not a TRUE Christian among this grou, but that is not the point. If the overwhelming majority of NT scholars claim to be Christians who believe in the Christian god, then they are theists: If you believe in the existence of a god or gods you are a supernaturalist (a person who believes in the supernatural) by definition. People in this group may not believe ALL the supernatural claims in the Bible but they do so for reasons other than that they deny the reality of the supernatural.

      I notice that Keith below is arguing that not only should we ignore the scholarship of non-believers (which Dr. Berlinerbau says is a very small minority of Bible scholars) but we suggests that we also ignore the scholarship of "heretics". Wow! I hope that Dr. Strauss does not advocate this! Talk about stacking the deck! What Keith wants is that we only accept the scholarship of scholars (experts) who are in full agreement with him on Christian doctrines and interpretation of the Bible. (He refers to NT Wright as a "heretic"!)

      So I have shown that the majority of scholars are theists and by definition a theist believes in the supernatural. So Dr. Strauss must now admit that the majority of NT scholars do not believe in, are unsure of, or question, the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels AND that the overwhelming majority of these same scholars are BELIEVERS in the supernatural.

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    4. Here are two quotes from a long list of scholars who state that New Testament scholars are overwhelming Christian, therefore overwhelmingly theist. In order to be a theist, you must believe in the supernatural. Therefore an overwhelming majority of NT scholars believe in the supernatural:

      From James Crossley: To date the study has been approached too narrowly, “being dominated by Christians”.

      As it stands presently, NT scholarship will always get largely Christian results, be they the nineteenth-century liberal lives of Jesus, the Bultmannian dominated neo-Lutheranism, or the results of smaller subgroups, such as the social reformer/critic Cynic Jesus associated with the Jesus Seminar: all different but all recognizably Christian. (p. 23)

      Crossley quoting Maurice Casey:

      But when 90 percent of the applicants [to New Testament studies] are Protestant Christians, a vast majority of Christian academics is a natural result. Moreover, the figure of Jesus is of central importance in colleges and universities which are overtly Protestant or Catholic, and which produce a mass of books and articles of sufficient technical proficiency to be taken seriously. The overall result of such bias is to make the description of New Testament Studies as an academic field a dubious one. (p. 23)

      Source: http://vridar.org/2015/04/17/unrecognized-bias-in-new-testament-scholarship-over-christian-origins/

      Gary: To read the statements of more scholars on this subject, click on the link above.



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    5. Gary come on. I did the same Google search and got the same results. That is why I would like you to give me an actual documented source, not just heresy from a Google search. In reality, many NT scholars are like the Jesus Seminar with the presupposition that there is no supernatural so that anything claimed to be miraculous must be a fable.

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    6. I think this is a reasoned discussion.
      https://theway21stcentury.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/which-new-testament-scholars-should-we-trust/

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    7. Wow. A non-believing scholar says that he can count on one hand the number of unbelieving scholars (non-theists)in the academy, and you won't accept his statement as a "documented" source.

      What exactly is your definition of a documented source, Mike?

      Let's turn the tables: I challenge YOU to name TWENTY living Bible scholars who are non-theists (non-supernaturalists). There are hundreds of Bible scholars in the academy. Give me TWENTY names of non-theists. I don't think you can do it.

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    8. How about TEN New Testament scholars in the Academy who are non-theists (do not believe in the supernatural). If there are so many as you seem to imply, it should be easy to come up with TWENTY names, but I'll be generous and only ask for ten names. I'll even give you two names:

      1. Bart Ehrman
      2. Jacques Berlinerblau
      3.
      4.
      5.
      6.
      7.
      8.
      9.
      10.

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    9. Have you given up trying to find more non-theists in the Academy, Mike?

      You should at least admit you were wrong and admit that most NT scholars ARE theists, therefore, most NT scholars are NOT biased against the supernatural, as you claimed above.

      You thereore need to find another reason/excuse for not accepting the majority scholarly opinion that the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses nor the associates of eyewitness. The assertion that this majority scholarly position is due to a bias against the supernatural is blatantly false, unless you can start naming more NT scholars who are non-theists.

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    10. No, I've just been too busy to answer any long comments. But I can name 50 off the top of my head. There are 50 biblical scholars associated with the Jesus Seminar, all of whom say there is no supernatural.

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    11. Whoa!!!

      Just because someone doesn't believe that Jesus performed any supernatural deeds does NOT necessarily mean that they do not believe in the supernatural. The only member of the Jesus Seminar that I can think of off of the top of my head who was an atheist (non-supernaturalist) is Robert Price. (I have now given you THREE of the ten requested names.)

      Please give me specific names of NT scholars who reject the reality of the supernatural. If one believes in an invisible God who possesses supernatural powers, one believes in the supernatural. Marcus Borg and other prominent members of the Jesus Seminar considered themselves to be Christians and claimed to believe in the Christian God, therefore, you cannot include them in our list of non-theist/anti-supernaturalist NT scholars.

      Your claim that the majority of New Testament scholars reject the traditional authorship/eyewitness authorship of the Gospels due to the fact that they have a bias against the existence of the supernatural is FALSE until you can list some more names.

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    12. I'm sorry Gary, but you are wrong on this. There are people who claim to be Christian who do not believe in a supernatural Jesus. They reject the Jesus of the gospels. The foundational presupposition of the Jesus Seminar is that Jesus did nothing supernatural. That is an a priori belief of the Jesus Seminar scholars and that, as a presupposition, is exactly the kind of bias that I am referring to. You can reject the 50 if you want, but you asked for 20 and I gave you 50 just off the top of my head. Again, you ask me a question, I answer it, then you reject my answer. Why are we having a conversation?

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    13. Because you are moving the goal posts.

      Your initial statement was that the majority of scholars are biased against the supernatural. Now you are tweeking that statement and saying that the majority of scholars are biased against the supernatural deeds of Jesus.

      Those are two very different positions.

      If the majority of the scholars in the Jesus seminar believe in the supernatural but do not believe that Jesus performed any supernatural deeds, that does NOT prove that they are biased against the supernatural as you claimed.

      These scholars would say that the EVIDENCE does not support the claims that Jesus performed supernatural deeds. That is VERY different from saying that they a priori rule out the supernatural, which was your original claim.

      The fact that you do not like their position on the strength of the EVIDENCE for the claim that Jesus performed supernatural deeds and therefore discard the majority scholarly position on other issues is YOUR bias.

      Your argument fails. You have not proven your original statement that the majority of NT scholars are biased against the supernatural and this is why they do not believe that the Gospels were authored by eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses.

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    14. Do you see what you are doing, Mike? You have set up the parameters of the discussion so that your position cannot fail.

      "We know that Jesus performed supernatural deeds (such as resurrecting himself from the dead) because the experts who agree with my position that Jesus performed supernatural deeds believe the evidence shows that he did."

      You have completely eliminated any possibility for your position to be wrong. That is NOT how educated people should look at the evidence for any claim.

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    15. The whole conversation has been about how to interpret the events described in the New Testament about Jesus. If a scholars' presupposition is that none of those acts can be supernatural, then that scholar, by definition, cannot come to the conclusion that Jesus did a supernatural act. If I was not clear that we were talking about the bias inherent in trying to determine what events are true about the life of Jesus, then I apologize. But that is what I thought we have been taking about all along. That has always been the preconceived bias that I have been talking about.

      I am not requiring the experts to agree with me. I'm just requiring the experts to approach their investigation with the unbiased position that hasn't, a priori, ruled out the possibility of supernatural acts by Jesus. Again, I thought we both knew we were talking about supernatural acts surrounding the person of Jesus and whether or not the scholar had preconceived notions about that. We're certainly not talking about some theoretical, nonspecific idea about whether or not there might be some deity who can perform supernatural acts.

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    16. So here is again where you are wrong. It is not the EVIDENCE that is the reason those scholars reject the supernatural claims of Jesus. It is inherent in the starting point of those scholars and many others that there are no supernatural events surrounding the person of Jesus. It has nothing to do with EVIDENCE and everything to do with a philosophical presupposition. You can read the Jesus Seminar guidelines to see that.

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    17. That is your assumption, Mike.

      If the majority of these scholars believe that the supernatural is possible (they believe in God) then they do not have an a priori bias against the supernatural. Their position on whether Jesus performed miracles is based on evidence. Can you point me to any statement by the Jesus Seminar which states the following: "We know that Jesus did not perform any supernatural deeds because we know that it is impossible for any human being to perform supernatural deeds."

      If they said that, then, yes, they are biased.

      If they do not say that, but simply state that they believe that the evidence for the claims that Jesus performed supernatural acts is insufficient to believe these claims, that is NOT a bias.

      Imagine if I said that the reason that the majority of NT scholars believe that Jesus was a real historical person is because they are biased in favor of Christianity.

      Ridiculous, right?

      I believe that your claim, without better evidence to support it, is just as ridiculous.

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    18. Here is a website that discusses the Jesus Seminar Assumptions. http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-t017.html. The seventh assumption it lists is "Historical analysis cannot admit the supernatural as an explanation for an event." Their starting point is that a supernatural explanation cannot be admitted regardless of the evidence.

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    19. Bart Ehrman also says that "a miracle can never be be shown, on historical grounds, to have happened - even if it did." He also has an, a priori, assumption that the evidence is irrelevant in whether or not to conclude a miracle has occurred. So he could NEVER come to the conclusion that a miracle occurred, EVEN IF IT DID (his words). He has determined beforehand, apart from any EVIDENCE, that his conclusions cannot include miracles. I would hardly call that a sincere search for the truth about what really happened in history.

      https://ehrmanblog.org/historians-problem-miracle-members/

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    20. Before we can even think about interpreting events, we first have to interpret the evidence in order to reach a conclusion about what events, if any, were most likely to have caused it.

      In this case the evidence consists of a collection of ancient writings of largely indeterminate authorship. These writings were composed decades after the events they purport to describe based on unknown sources. The writings are filled with fantastic stories that were removed an unknown number of times in an oral tradition from their originators who may or may not have been eyewitnesses to any of the events in question.

      That's pretty weak evidence for even the most mundane of events.

      Historians draw inferences about the likely cause of evidence based on observed processes of cause and effect. Unfortunately, supernatural events don't happen according to any regularly observed processes; they happen according to divIne fiat. In the case of stories of supernatural events, the causes most often observed are human foibles such as superstition, ignorance, gullibility, wishful thinking, exaggeration, and prevarication. Even if one allows for the supernatural, there is no objective criteria that can point to it being a more likely explanation than these common human shortcomings.

      The problem for supernatural claims is not the bias of historians, but the limitations of historical methodology. Historians infer causes from effects based on the regularity of nature. They have no means to identify effects that are the product of supernatural causes.

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    21. Excellent point, Vinny. There is a very big difference between "Historical analysis cannot admit the supernatural as an explanation for an event" and "The supernatural does not exist; it is impossible".

      Dr. Strauss, How would you suggest that historians analyze supernatural claims? Should we accept all supernatural claims as historical facts based solely on the fact that there are alleged multiple eyewitnesses to the event? If that is the case, we will be forced to accept as historical fact, ghost sightings, Martian sightings, and, of course, the multiple Virgin Mary sightings throughout the last 2,000 years, including the one this summer to a large crowd of several hundred people in Ireland.

      Is that what you are endorsing?

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    22. Let me ask you Gary. What evidence that would have been available to a handful of first century people and could be passed down to us in the 21st century would you accept as sufficient evidence to establish that a supernatural event most probably occurred?

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  16. Gary When you choose to discredit the DTS scholarship out-of-hand you demonstrate a distinct bias against some of the most first rate theologians and scholars of the last 75 years. The words evangelistic is a badge of honor among the True Church while fundamentalist is ill defined and of no importance. The DTS commentary states that of course the Gospels are "anonymous" in the strict technical sense because none of them are self -referenced. The great conviction of being based on eye witness accounts is that there are different views of certain events and different distinctions in style. Had they been essentially identical no one would have claimed independent observations but rather some sort of conspiracy. No one claims these Gospels were written contemporaneously with the events recorded but were reflections perhaps notes taken and personal remembrance and discussions among the 12 who were eye witnesses. I of course could appeal to the established doctrine of plenary inspiration to account for truth, accuracy and dependability, but that doctrine I'm sure your heretical community would deny. The entirety of the OT is based on oral tradition and eye witness reflection and careful transcription over decades and yet the historicity has maintained over the ages by archeological findings. I find it eye-blinkingly astounding that you would mention the Bauckham book as some inkling of support for your position. The Bauckham book is considered perhaps one of the most important scholarly works on the NT of our day. He is in essentially perfect accord with DTS et al and for that matter the Catholic position in significant ways. See the review by Gobry. "It’s kind of striking that the historical framework that makes the most sense of the historical evidence we have about the New Testament also matches up really well with Catholic ecclesiology.".
    Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/inebriateme/2014/09/book-review-richard-bauckham-jesus-and-the-eyewitnesses/#iwsa8LRJscyrZT0o.99

    Further https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/reviews/jesus-and-the-eyewitnesses/

    Your assertion that Greenleaf's evidence would be hearsay based on current NT ad populum argument is without merit. It assumes that one of America's great legal minds did not understand the basis of the hearsay rule which is ridiculous on its face. Further the gospels as evidence would most certainly be admitted under one or more of the thirty exceptions recognized in any court.





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    1. Wow. There is a lot to reply to in this comment.

      First, you said: "When you choose to discredit the DTS scholarship out-of-hand you demonstrate a distinct bias against some of the most first rate theologians and scholars of the last 75 years."

      I am not discrediting these scholars, I am simply saying that their position on the authorship of the Gospels is a minority position among all NT scholars, that's all. In this discussion, I am not trying to prove that the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses or their associates I am only trying to demonstrate the current status of this issue within the Academy.

      You said, "The great conviction of being based on eye witness accounts is that there are different views of certain events and different distinctions in style. Had they been essentially identical no one would have claimed independent observations but rather some sort of conspiracy."

      Gary: Christians frequently infer that if one disagrees with the traditional authorship of the Gospels then one is inferring that the authors of the Gospels LIED. This is not the case. The anonymous authors of the Gospels NEVER state that they are eyewitnesses nor that they are writing down testimony taken DIRECTLY from eyewitnesses. The authors of the Gospels were writing "Gospel tracts"; tools of evangelization, written in the genre of Greco-Roman biographies.

      You said: "No one claims these Gospels were written contemporaneously with the events recorded but were reflections perhaps notes taken and personal remembrance and discussions among the 12 who were eye witnesses."

      Gary: The word "perhaps" in your statement should be bolded. In this statement you are admitting that we really don't know whether the Gospels are or are not eyewitness reports.

      You said, "The entirety of the OT is based on oral tradition and eye witness reflection and careful transcription over decades and yet the historicity has maintained over the ages by archeological findings."

      Gary: Conjecture. The majority of scholars state that it is impossible to know for sure who wrote many of the books of the Old Testament, in particular, the Pentateuch.

      You said, "I find it eye-blinkingly astounding that you would mention the Bauckham book as some inkling of support for your position. The Bauckham book is considered perhaps one of the most important scholarly works on the NT of our day. He is in essentially perfect accord with DTS et al and for that matter the Catholic position in significant ways."

      Gary: Have you read Bauckham's book or simply a review??? I read the book, and review it chapter by chapter. I'll post a link to my reviews.

      You said, "Your assertion that Greenleaf's evidence would be hearsay based on current NT ad populum argument is without merit. It assumes that one of America's great legal minds did not understand the basis of the hearsay rule which is ridiculous on its face. Further the gospels as evidence would most certainly be admitted under one or more of the thirty exceptions recognized in any court."

      Gary: I never said that Greenleaf didn't know hearsay rules. What I said was that he assumed that the Gospels were primary source documents when the majority of scholars TODAY say that is not correct.

      Delete
  17. Gary Bart E. Is an unbeliever. He should spend some time with C.S. Lewis to recover his faith and get past the problem of pain. Bart would be the last person you use in argument.

    As you say you have an open mind so I can recommend the Evangelic Record in Smith's book In the Days of His Flesh.

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    1. Yes, just one more book will finally convince me. Have you seen the list of books by NT scholars that I have read???

      Have YOU read a similar number of books by skeptics? If not, why not, if you are really seeking the truth and nothing but the truth?

      Delete
  18. Seeking truth from unbelieving heretics like Bart E. and Wright is unfruitful.

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    1. Unlike you, I investigate the evidence from all sources. That is why I have read a very long list of scholars, including very conservative scholars, such as Bauckham, Licona, and Craig. Simply reading material from sources that you know will confirm your preconceived position is the epitome of being biased and closed minded. That is NOT how to find the truth!

      Delete
  19. Gary How do you find truth from unbelievers and heretics as Bart E and Wright?

    You would profit from "The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah" as to gaining an inkling of understanding as to the revered, centuries old technique of the Jewish oral tradition, gathering this primary information into combined writings, in the first instance carefully edited by first hand observers and copied with near supernatural accuracy and preserved. In the NT such are even more reliable as to the less than 70 year time separation from observation to compilation and editing as in the gospels. The New Geneva Bible scholars hold to the proofing editors of the Gospels as Being eye witnesses and from the twelve.

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  20. Gary Regarding the efficacy of John as eye witness testimony and John as author as well as date the introduction. to John in the New Geneva Study Bible states: The writer was a Jew with detailed knowledge of customs, festivals, beliefs. Likely a native of Palestine. 19:35 States writer was an eyewitness to major events recorded. Refers to the desci0le whom Jesus loved ..singularly.The witness who testifies of these things written. 21:24. John is quizzically not mentioned by name tho The others are called out by name..indicative that John wrote the compilation and saw no reason for self referencing.
    Finally the Early church traditions such as writer Irenaeus attributes the Gospel to John. The scholarship of the new edition is among the best.

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    1. Which "John" are you speaking of, Keith?

      Although all evangelical/conservative Christian scholars believe that the Gospel of John was written by an eyewitness named "John", these same scholars are divided on the identity of this "John".

      For instance, Richard Bauckham believes that the Gospel of John was written by a man named "John the Elder" of Ephesus, a man who at one time was or (stood in for during some high holy days) the chief priest of the Temple in Jerusalem prior to its destruction in 70 AD.

      Bauckham does NOT believe that this John the Elder is the same person as the Apostle John, son of Zebedee. Bauckham also does NOT believe that John the son of Zebedee was the "Beloved Disciple". Bauckham believes that this mysterious "John of the Elder", former chief priest, was the beloved disciple. In other words, Bauckham believes that the disciple "whom Jesus loved" was never mentioned by name in any of the Gospels.

      So do you see the problem, Keith? Evangelical/conservative Christianity can't even provide a united position on an issue about which they are already a minority opinion! That does not speak well of the strength of their position.

      Delete
    2. Among the scholars I respect and have read and interacted with for decadesthere is little or no disagreement. As to the resurrection I am confident that even your cherry picked writers are in score with the Church writ large. Surely you won't waste further futile effort to sew discord or effect a scintilla of doubt in my evidence based faith by reference to historically speaking outlier positions.

      Delete
    3. DTS and the contributing scholars to their work also those editors of the New Geneva are quite United ad finitum for the evangelical community. Be assured your cherry picked outliers and heritics are persuaive only of your community and certainly not mine.

      Delete
    4. "Among the scholars I respect and have read and interacted with for decadesthere is little or no disagreement. As to the resurrection I am confident that even your cherry picked writers are in score with the Church writ large. Surely you won't waste further futile effort to sew discord or effect a scintilla of doubt in my evidence based faith by reference to historically speaking outlier positions."

      There are so many disturbing elements to this comment.

      First, you are demonstrating to the entire world your profound bias. It is obvious you are not interested in the truth, you are only interested in defending your position. You admit that you only read scholars who agree with your position. I would certainly hope that Dr. Strauss will call you out on this. To determine what is true and what is false one must look at ALL the evidence, even evidence presented by experts who don't agree with your position.

      To refer to the majority of scholars as "outliers" is the height of chutzpah.

      To say that your "faith" is based on evidence is a joke if the only evidence claims you look at are those that agree with your preconceived conclusion. You have your head in the sand, sir.

      Delete
  21. Gary Straining at a knat..really If you bothered to check New Geneva pn John it is clear they are concerned with the Son of Zeebeede.

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    1. Yes, your one source (New Geneva) is the one and only source of truth. Since the authors of this one source believe that John the Son of Zebedee wrote the Gospel of John, everyone should believe he did.

      Bad logic.

      You have not explained why one of your preferred scholars, Richard Bauckham, does NOT believe that John son of Zebedee wrote the Gospel of John (or that Matthew the tax collector wrote the Gospel of Matthew).

      Face the truth, Keith: Evangelicals and other conservative Christians can't even agree on who wrote the Gospels of Matthew and John, the only two books traditionally ascribed to actual eyewitnesses. If your side can't even agree on the identification of the authors of these texts, how strong is the evidence that eyewitnesses wrote these ancient texts?

      Answer: very weak!

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  22. Gary You really should define and understand your terms that form the basis of your arguments. Your stated definition of hearsay is at odds with Blacks and Findlaw.

    A cursory review of the listed 26 exceptions illustrate several other exceptions that would apply to Greenleaf's analysis.

    "The rule against hearsay is deceptively simple and full of exceptions. Hearsay is an out of court statement, made in court, to prove the truth of the matter asserted. In other words, hearsay is evidence of a statement that was made other than by a witness while testifying at the hearing in question and that is offered to prove the truth of the matter stated."

    Further among the 28-30 exceptions to the hearsay rule is this one.

    Statements in authentic ancient documents (at least 20 years old)

    The is of course part of the Ancient Document Rule in evidence.

    I further note you are demonstrating the rather precise definition of cognitive dissonance. You have quoted a list of NT scholars you have read across the supposed spectrum and identified several as part of a majority opinion that insists the gospels are not primary source documents prepared by eye witnesses. But almost without exception these same scholars declare their firm convicti0n in the bodily resurrection of Christ. Thus you suffer the unacknowledged discomfit of using these people's argument as to eye witness accounts while simultaneously considering them to be mentally deficient, confused, blind faith for the supposed absurd position of holding the position that a"three day brain dead corpse" came to life. Perhaps you need to talk with another skilled discipline.

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    1. "Statements in authentic ancient documents (at least 20 years old"

      The key term is this sentence is "authentic". I'd love to see you evangelicals present this case to a modern court:

      Evangelical Attorney: Your Honor, We would like to submit the Gospels of Matthew and John as authentic, de facto eyewitness testimony as to the life, death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus due to their status as ancient documents.

      Judge: Who are the authors of these two books?

      Evangelical Attorney: Well, your Honor, some of the experts on our side believe they were authored by Matthew the Apostle and John the Apostle, son of Zebedee, but some of our experts believe that they were authored by someone else.

      Judge: So you are telling me that your side can't even agree on the authorship of these texts???

      Evangelical attorney: Yes, your Honor. But we are CERTAIN that they were written by eyewitnesses!

      Judge: Ok...
      Opposing attorney, will you agree to the motion to accept the Gospels as de facto primary source documents; the testimony of eyewitnesses?

      Opposing attorney: Absolutely not, your Honor. I can present multiple experts who will state that the majority of experts in the field of New Testament studies doubt that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses.

      Judge: Motion denied!

      Delete
    2. Based on your logic, Muslims could submit THEIR ancient document (the Koran) to a court and have it automatically accepted as fact that the Prophet Mohammad really did fly on a winged horse to heaven in the seventh century!

      Delete
  23. The standard of authenic has nought to due with the claims of the document. It merely means there is support for the documents as being genuine not fraudlently prepared and are considered by scholarship as being ancient 20 yrs or older). The evidence is then included for consideration by the trier of fact or jury after such cross examination as is performed. You don't get to redefine the Ancient Document Rule or write Howdy Doody trial transcripts. I have no problem with the submission of Koran because the mere submission has nought to do with the determination as to fact or claims to truth...that's what juries do.Nice try at creating a combination strawman/red herring..the fallacy meter is pegged on your input as usual.

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    1. Why does conservative NT scholar Richard Bauckham disagree with your position on the authorship of the Gospels?

      Delete
  24. Gary Why not address your cognitive dissonance and stop assuming my preferred NT scholars include your cherry picked scholars. Still working on that vast documented independent survey of the hundreds, perhaps thousands of qualified NT commentators. Id start being worried as to credibility if my arguments were so easily disposed. You vain imaginings as to the truth of your assertions is painfully illogical.

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    1. One of your "preferred" scholars, conservative NT scholar Richard Bauckham, says you are wrong on the traditional authorship of the Gospels. That's a BIG problem for your position, Keith.

      Delete
  25. Does this mean that Merriam Webster is incorrect: "firm belief in something for which there is no proof"?

    Or Dictionary.com: "belief that is not based on proof"?

    Or Google Definitions: "strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof"?

    Or the Oxford English Dictionary: "Strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof."?

    Are these all incorrect definitions?

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    1. Actually they are incorrect in that nothing in spiritual matters, like GOD's existence, is empirically provable. But neither are most scientific so called laws. There is however evidence that in each subject which when developed over time by rational methods converges toward certainty without ever reaching such "proof". It is referred to as an increasing probability that the position held as true is close to one tho never being one. In religion one certainly accepts a lower standard of accumulated evidence than in science, perhaps the degree of evidence supported conviction is a measure of faith.

      Delete
    2. Interesting. So you, Keith, hold the true definition of the term faith. The scholarly documents and dictionaries are "incorrect". Is that correct?

      Delete
    3. It is easy to pick one of the many definitions in any dictionary which support your preconceived beliefs without reading all the definitions.

      Merriam Webster also says, "belief and trust in and loyalty to God" using the idea of trust as I have said. The first definition from Dictionary.com is "confidence or trust in a person or thing" while you chose the second definition. The first definition from Oxford is "Complete trust or confidence in someone or something" while you chose a later definition. And finally, Google's first definition of faith is, "complete trust or confidence in someone or something."

      So in order to try to support your point you ignored the first definition in just about every dictionary and chose the definition that supported your belief. Nate, this seems to indicate to me you don't really want to determine what is true or care what is really true, but rather either just want to argue or just want to hold on to what you already believe.

      Why have a conversation if you deliberately distort the facts by only picking what supports your preconceived notions while completely ignoring what doesn't support your ideas? It seems you already have your mind made up despite the facts.

      Delete
    4. I'm "distorting the facts", but your selected definition is correct? Is that a true statement?

      You've also made some big leaps in your assessment of me. Thank you for that.

      Delete
    5. I sincerely do apologize for any leaps in assessment or judgement. I do not like the tone of much of the dialogue on the web so I apologize for any way which I may have contributed to a lack of civility and to making wrong assumptions.

      But I do, then, have a question as to why you systematically chose one of the definitions in all those dictionaries while ignoring the definition which basically aligns with the definition of faith described in this post.

      Now, as far as my selected definition being "correct". I don't know what correct is but I do know that my selected definition aligns with the use of the word faith in the Bible. I'm not trying to be arrogant or anything, so I welcome you to do a word study for yourself on how faith is used in the Bible. The correct definition of Christian faith as described in the Bible is as I have described in this blog post and is in line with the idea of trust (based on evidence of trustworthiness) as indicated in all dictionary definitions. It is certainly not believing something without evidence.

      Delete
    6. Last I checked, this is the Bible's definition of "faith":

      "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1

      That sounds a lot more like the definitions that Nate has given than the one you are giving, Mike. I'm not saying that Christians do not have several definitions of faith (I think they do) but based on this passage in Hebrews, you can't say that YOUR definition is the preferred Christian definition when the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews disagrees with you.

      Delete
  26. "stop assuming my preferred NT scholars include your cherry picked scholars"
    "One of your "preferred" scholars, conservative NT scholar Richard Bauckham, says you are wrong"

    You simply can't make such bad argumentation up.

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  27. Still playing dodgeball with your dissonance, fallacies, ignorance of how our legal system works...I think we're just about done here. Get some new material, your arguments are unsound,fallacy laced, misstated and now stale. My sympathies.

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    1. Over the last two decades, hundreds of people have been released from prison after being exonerated by DNA testing that was not available at the time of their convictions. In many cases, the conviction was obtained by eyewitness testimony. Nevertheless, when faced with a choice between eyewitness testimony and scientific knowledge, the law goes with the latter. No court has ever considered the possibility that some supernatural event might explain the discrepancy between the eyewitnesses and the DNA.

      Even if it could be established that anything in the gospels could be traced back to eyewitness accounts, it is absurd to think that they could be used in a court to establish facts that are contrary to scientific knowledge.

      Delete
    2. What an amazing insight, Vinny!

      Delete
    3. Thank Gary, although "amazing" may be a bit strong.

      Delete
  28. Vinny Those stats seem exaggerated. Its best to provide evidence rather than make assertions. Courts do allow eye witness testimony just as they definitely do and would allow the Gospel accounts under the Ancient Document Rule. In each case including scientific evidence it is subject to cross examination...etc. Ultimately its up to the jury as trier of facts to attach weight to each piece of evidence. That's how the system works.

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    1. A statement from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine discussing just how malleable our memories really are:

      "Eyewitnesses play an important role in criminal cases when they can identify culprits. Estimates suggest that tens of thousands of eyewitnesses make identifications in criminal investigations each year. Research on factors that affect the accuracy of eyewitness identification procedures has given us an increasingly clear picture of how identifications are made, and more importantly, an improved understanding of the principled limits on vision and memory that can lead to failure of identification. Factors such as viewing conditions, duress, elevated emotions, and biases influence the visual perception experience. Perceptual experiences are stored by a system of memory that is highly malleable and continuously evolving, neither retaining nor divulging content in an informational vacuum. As such, the fidelity of our memories to actual events may be compromised by many factors at all stages of processing, from encoding to storage and retrieval. Unknown to the individual, memories are forgotten, reconstructed, updated, and distorted. Complicating the process further, policies governing law enforcement procedures for conducting and recording identifications are not standard, and policies and practices to address the issue of misidentification vary widely. These limitations can produce mistaken identifications with significant consequences. What can we do to make certain that eyewitness identification convicts the guilty and exonerates the innocent?"

      Delete
    2. A 2016 study put the number of DNA exonerations at 420.

      Could you please provide me with the evidence to support your assertion that major law schools still use Simon Greenleaf's treatise?

      Delete
    3. Regarding the ancient document rule--even assuming it could be applied to documents whose age is measured in millennia--I am hard pressed to see how you could ever establish that it is what you claim it to be, I.e., eyewitness accounts. Neither do I think it likely that a court would conclude that the gospels are in a condition that creates no suspicions about their authenticity given the gaps and variations in the manuscript record.

      While it is true that a jury is a trier of fact, the court may direct a jury's verdict when it finds the evidence insufficient as a matter of law. A court may also take judicial notice of well established scientific facts. Abraham Lincoln once won an acquittal for a client accused of murder when the court took judicial notice of the fact that their was no moon on the night of the crime, so that the prosecution's witness could not have identified the defendant in the moonlight as he claimed. Science trumped eyewitness testimony.

      Delete
    4. A blood-soaked body is found alongside a highway. There are multiple stab wounds to the body. A murder has been committed.

      Eleven men step forward to the authorities and claim that they all witnessed the crime. They claim that the killer was John Smith—a man who had died three days earlier by public execution at the hands of state authorities; whose death was confirmed by multiple medical authorities and whose body was buried in a sealed, air-less vault. Shockingly, employees at the cemetery had earlier that morning called to report that the deceased man’s vault had been opened and the body is gone!

      However, police investigators have collected DNA samples at the location of the bloodied body along the highway which match a known criminal in the state’s DNA data bank. A search of the known criminal’s home reveals blood stains in the trunk of his car and on his shoes. The blood stains are examined by experts with DNA testing: they match the blood of the murder victim.

      Who will the court believe regarding who committed this crime: the eleven eyewitnesses or the scientific evidence?

      Delete
  29. Source: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/18891/identifying-the-culprit-assessing-eyewitness-identification

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  30. It may be true that our legal system has depended on eyewitness testimony to prove innocence or guilt for centuries if not millennia. But that does NOT prove that eyewitness testimony is reliable. This is something many Christians confuse. When it comes to the supernatural claims of the Bible, in particular the resurrection of Jesus, we are not really interested in which side can convince a jury of the veracity of their position. We are seeking THE TRUTH. And if experts have found that eyewitness testimony is often unreliable for ORDINARY claims such as the identification of a murderer, just how reliable is it for EXTRA-ORDINARY claims?

    Read this from a scientific journal:

    IN 1984 KIRK BLOODSWORTH was convicted of the rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl and sentenced to the gas chamber—an outcome that rested largely on the testimony of five eyewitnesses. After Bloodsworth served nine years in prison, DNA testing proved him to be innocent. Such devastating mistakes by eyewitnesses are not rare, according to a report by the Innocence Project, an organization affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University that uses DNA testing to exonerate those wrongfully convicted of crimes. Since the 1990s, when DNA testing was first introduced, Innocence Project researchers have reported that 73 percent of the 239 convictions overturned through DNA testing were based on eyewitness testimony. One third of these overturned cases rested on the testimony of two or more mistaken eyewitnesses. How could so many eyewitnesses be wrong?

    (continued)

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  31. Source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-the-eyes-have-it/

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  32. Gary Progress at last, you accept the Gospels as being based on eyewitness testimony, but that eye witness testimony is unreliable in some percentage of cases tried. I feel quite vindicated, thank you. DNA is surely an excellent tool to present to the trier of fact, jury. I know of no one who disagrees but rather insures the evidence so obtained follows all appropriate forensic and evidentiary procedures. For the record I accept fingerprint evidence as well.
    The gospels AS to the resurrection the NT records multiple eyewitness account of the resurrected Christ: the women at the tomb, two on the road to Emmaus, to the ten, to the eleven, to the seven, at the great commissioning, to five hundred, to Paul. Since you now,likely begrudgingly, accept the eyewitness accounts as historically true it is seemingly impossible that six eyewitness accounts at different time and places involving more than five hundred people would be less than convergent to near certainty and thus passing the most extreme standard of preponderance of the evidence in civil cases.

    Now that you have accepted the gospels as being based on eyewitness accounts and surely that they are indeed probabilistically certain should we move on to another line of argument.

    "DOJ recommends eyewitness ID best practices for all federal law enforcement"

    "The recommendations apply to all federal law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Marshals Service, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Office of the Inspector General.  Nineteen states have already adopted these best practices through law, policy or court action, and many jurisdictions around the country have voluntarily adopted policies embracing these practices."

    Eye witness testimony and the evidentiary procedures have been improved ..not obviated or diminished by DOJ.

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    1. Nice try, Keith. NOWHERE in any above statement did I say that I accept the Gospels as based on eyewitness testimony. What my comments and quotes from experts do show is that the experts confirm that eyewitness evidence can be unreliable, and, that scientific evidence such as DNA trumps eyewitness testimony.

      You are again confusing the purpose of our discussion: Are we trying to win a court case or discover the truth???

      Yes, eyewitness testimony is still an important element of a trial. But scientific knowledge (and the evidence presented by that scientific knowledge) ALWAYS trumps eyewitness testimony.

      If 500 people claim they saw a spherical UFO yesterday racing through the sky at the speed of light, but the military can provide satellite photos that it was a non-spherical rocket, moving quickly, but not at the speed of light, the court will side with the satellite photos and NOT the eyewitness testimony!

      Extensive scientific knowledge (evidence) confirms that three-day-brain-dead corpses do NOT come back to life. Period. I don't care how many first century people believe they can.

      Delete
  33. Gary, Dan Barker had this in a book years ago where he posted the "Easter Challenge for Christians" (https://ffrf.org/legacy/books/lfif/stone.php). I've seen other variations of this quiz and also ready the many different responses from the sophisticated theologians who all claim to have the correct answers (yet, interestingly enough, still don't agree).

    "Another analogy sometimes used by apologists is comparing the resurrection contradictions to differing accounts given by witnesses of an auto accident. If one witness said the vehicle was green and the other said it was blue, that could be accounted for by different angles, lighting, perception, or definitions of words. The important thing, they claim, is that they do agree on the basic story--there was an accident, there was a resurrection.

    I am not a fundamentalist inerrantist. I'm not demanding that the evangelists must have been expert, infallible witnesses. (None of them claims to have been at the tomb itself, anyway.) But what if one person said the auto accident happened in Chicago and the other said it happened in Milwaukee? At least one of these witnesses has serious problems with the truth."

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    1. You are correct, Nate. Matthew only has appearances (to the male disciples) in Galilee, while Luke only has appearances in and around Jerusalem. But of course, Christians have harmonizations for this discrepancy.

      The bottom line is this: Research and the advent of DNA testing demonstrates that eyewitnesses are often wrong. Science has a much better track record in revealing the truth than eyewitnesses. I suggest that in the case of an ancient claim that a three-day-brain-dead corpse came back to life, we side with science and modern medicine, and NOT with the alleged eyewitnesses.

      Delete
    2. Hey Gary,
      Yes, christians have harmonizations. Those harmonizations are a reflection of their personal beliefs and human mind. If all of this were truth, then we could expect an agreed upon harmonization. Instead, there are multiple harmonizations from those who believe they have just the right answer and understanding of the scriptures. In all of this there is no subject (deity) to clarify anything. In their individual minds they are all correct. They do what Pete Enns calls "moving the goal post."

      Delete
  34. Nate and Gary Let's clarify: Theologians in the Christian community from the first century until today believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ after three days in the tomb following Roman execution. If anyone states they do not believe in this fundamental aspect of Christianity, they are not a Christian.

    Tossing aside another strawman from Gary the wheatking, no one believes that people routinely rise from the dead in the everyday happenstance..period.

    You keep saying "the search for truth" ad finitum and holding up our legal system conjoined with scientific advances in forensics, DNA et al as both adding to the search for truth and its superiority to eye witness testimony. But no one disagrees with these modern advances or their beneficial effect in such search. And DOJ has formally preserved the use of eye witness accounts and codified their recommendations for the collection and use of such.
    Their were no eye witnesses to the bodily resurrection in real time. But there were at least six separate instances in which the Lord appeared in bodily form to from one to 500 people and most of those were to members of the twelve and gospel writers. So far you have red herrings, strawmwen, ad populum, false co-joining, false analogy...any argument that is not fallacy filled..thought not.

    After your arguments, I feel more convinced and secure in the evidence of the resurrection and biblical truth because it caused me to refresh my reading of the historical record, writings, analyses not only of the scripture and theological thinkers but intellects like C.S. Lewis, Greenleaf and respected others across twenty centuries.

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    1. Hi Keith,
      I’m not interested in ad-hominem attacks, but I am interested in your responses.

      There are at least thousands of human beings on this planet today who believe that the earth is flat. Should I believe, due to the volume of believers, that they must be correct? Many people believe many false things en-masse. There are other religions using this very argument to re-inforce their beliefs in their deity and holy books. Why should I believe your claims over theirs?

      You seem to be able to decide who is a Christian and who is not a Christian: “If anyone states they do not believe in this fundamental aspect of Christianity, they are not a Christian.” I’ve heard that before from the likes of Ken Ham in regards to his literal interpretation of Genesis. Christians all over use this “No true scotsman” approach to try and separate themselves from others. They have the One True Way™ and those that don’t believe are not part of their in-group. So, I would ask you, in your terms, what does it mean to be a Christian? What beliefs must one hold to fit your definition?

      With the resurrection I tend to take many steps back. I won’t believe in a resurrection if there’s so many incompatibilities leading up to that event. If I were to only look at the resurrection story the most basic of questions I can ask are around the idea of sacrifice. The whole point of a sacrifice is that there is the permanence of death. To say “Jesus died for my sins” is simply false in this belief. It would be more correct to say “Jesus withstood a few hours of pain for my sins.” Jesus predicted his own death. He knew that there was no permanence. That, coupled with the inconsistencies of the writers (and the humans that selected the books in the first place), leave me with much doubt on these claims.

      Delete
    2. For thousands of years, thousands of grieving family members and friends of the recently departed have claimed to have seen their dead loved ones appear to them, speak to them, and even touch them.

      You don't believe these stories, and I don't believe yours.

      Delete
  35. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by classic scholar F. F. Bruce; Can We Trust the New Testament? by world renowned skeptic J. A. T. Robinson; Who Moved the Stone? by Frank Morrison; Oxford scholar N. T. Wright’s massive work, The Resurrection of the Son of God; The Case for Resurrection, by Lee Strobel. Also consider the work of Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne who transposed the documentary evidence of the resurrection into current probability theory, concluding that there is a 97% probability that it actually happened.
    I comment to anyone the work of Gary Habermas and for ease his videos on youtube, The Minimal Evidence Approach to the Resurrection. Also his work on the Gospel record as historically reliable documents.

    Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness ... Bauckman concludes the gospels are essentially eye witness testimony.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Bauckham

    Have a nice life.

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    1. Bauckham also states in the same book that the Apostle Matthew did not write the Gospel of Matthew and the Apostle John did not write the Gospel of John. His reasoning for claiming the Gospels are eyewitness testimony is based on assumptions and conjecture. I am happy to discuss those assumptions and conjecture with you if you wish. I've read the entire book. Have you?

      Delete
  36. Gary keeps positing a truism, as though it was news, that DNA evidence has overturned convictions based on eye witness testimony. Who ever denied that?

    So I am awaiting the relevance to the Gospel record which at this point stands affirmed by many reputable scholars as reliable, affirmed and supported by 2000 years of study from several literary, historical and theological perspectives. Even one or more of your referenced scholars have affirmed the essentially eye witness nature of the Gospel and NT writings. So am I missing some DNA based evidence not yet revealed by your team that overturns the state of the argument? The world awaits.

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  37. Dr. Strauss, being the physicist that you are, I think you will really enjoy this video by Dr. Bruce Gordon that was just loaded on Youtube this morning:
    - The Incompatibility of Physicalism with Physics: A Conversation with Dr. Bruce Gordon - video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wk-UO81HmO4

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  38. When several different witnesses testify of what they observed at the same complex event, seldom do they all report the exact same thing; however, if they are all reliable, their accounts should be able to be pieced together to form one single consistent story. If they all reported in a court room the exact same thing and they were all friendly to one side, there would be reason to suspect they had met and decided to fabricate their accounts so they could frame the accused. On the other hand, if their accounts contradicted each other there would also be reason to consider their testimonies unreliable. Real testimonies usually fall some place in between accounts that report the exact same information and accounts which are impossible to make consistent. Since the 5 different testimonies of the New Testament report the resurrection of Jesus was a complex event, it is of interest to compare their accounts to evaluate their reliability.

    To read the rest of the article select "Resurrection Puzzle" link at this website https://sites.google.com/site/s2hinrichs/home

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    1. If 500 people in rural Guatemala claimed that they all saw a man turn into a lava-spewing volcano, should we believe them?

      No! Eyewitness testimony is not sufficient for very extra-ordinary, laws-of-science defying claims.

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  39. Naturally, critics often select interpretation of Gospels passages in a way that maximizes alleged contradictions. The process of maximizing alleged contradictions is the business of salesmen, not scientist. The way to definitely determine contradictions is to first investigate if there are plausible interpretations or possibilities that do not imply contradictions. If there are no plausible interpretations or possibilities with no contradiction, then there is a valid argument that there really is a contradiction. I do not claim there are no valid arguments for contradictions in the Bible. The Bible should be investigated for definite contradictions rather than a process of maximizing alleged contradictions.

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    1. Mormons and Muslims can do similar "harmonizations" for all the alleged discrepancies in their holy books. So should we believe that an angel gave Golden Plates to Joseph Smith and that a man in Arabia flew on a winged horse to heaven?

      No.

      Just because a story can be harmonized does not mean it is true.

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  40. The world of biblical scholarship across the spectrum of literature, language, theology, historical research in MAJORITY opinion have declared Bauchams treatise on eyewitness testimoney is the most important book on the gospel record in the last five centuries paticularly because it marks the return to the father's of historical research methodology the Greeks who believed the optimum approach is to gather, interview and edit the eye witness testimoney into final form while the witnesses were living.

    Gary's arguments consist of ad hominem attacks, ignorant rants about trial evidence that ignore established precident of Ancient Documents, the role of Juries in out system and the rather silly transparent red herring fallacy of DNA evidence and the preposterous notion that he alone has access to the entire population of NT scholars, has access to a statistical survey of their opinions and is qualified to declare a majority opinion.

    And of course Eiderschiem the 18th century scholar has based his enormous body of work on the reliability of the Torah and the Gospels. Against these works we have the rants and screeds of unenlighted atheists and agnostics whose names are listed in the definition of confirmation bias.

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    1. "The world of biblical scholarship across the spectrum of literature, language, theology, historical research in MAJORITY opinion have declared Bauchams treatise on eyewitness testimoney is the most important book on the gospel record in the last five centuries..."

      Keith: Would you kindly give a reputable source for this statement?

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  41. Well I did not claim just because something written about reality has no contradiction makes it true as some suggest.

    But I do claim the rational way to substantiate supernatural intervention is by the process of eliminating natural explanations. You can read about this approach in the link “Rational Methodology for Identifying Supernatural Intervention” found at my webpage https://sites.google.com/site/s2hinrichs/home.

    Also, I do claim that based on this rational approach there is some supernatural evidence for Jesus as the Messiah. You can read about this evidence in the link “Daniel's Messiah in the Critics Den” also found at my webpage. Granted the strength of this evidence does not meet the high “compelling standard”, but still the strength is significant. I have studied and read through many sacred religious text and this evidence in terms of a single item is the strongest I have found in any sacred religious text.

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    1. "I do claim the rational way to substantiate supernatural intervention is by the process of eliminating natural explanations."

      Would you please demonstrate this technique by eliminating the natural explanations for the early Christian bodily resurrection belief? And would you please clarify your criteria for "eliminating" natural explanations? Do you eliminate a natural explanation because it is absolutely impossible or because the natural explanation is improbable...IN YOUR OPINION?

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