Joshua featured on Veritas Forum

(Peaceful Science) #41

A few quotes from a review of are helpful here…

Thus, it was crucial for McDowell to establish what “martyrdom” really means—especially for Christ’s apostles. McDowell therefore sets up the parameters of martyrdom in his book to mean “death for confession of the Christian faith." So, why is the martyrdom of Christ’s apostles an important topic to investigate? As McDowell rightly states, “their willingness to face persecution and martyrdom indicates more than any other conceivable course their sincere conviction that, after rising from the dead, Jesus indeed appeared to them.”[2] While there are many hypotheses argued by skeptics to account for the empty tomb, and responses to these theories [3], there is yet no hypothesis which can adequately explain the rapid growth of the Christian church other than that the apostles really did see the resurrected Christ and were willing to die for their belief.

“Even though there are undeniable impediments to the investigation, careful historical analysis revealed that the apostles were willing to die for their faith, and that in fact many did. The strength of their convictions demonstrates that they were not fabricating their claims about Jesus, but that they actually believed their claims that Jesus had risen from the grave.

Notice, McDowell is not claiming that they all died for teaching the Resurrection (which is false). Rather, he provides evidence they were willing to die non-violently because of the Resurrection.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #42

I don’t think I / we have double standards in play – or at least not in this way. If Jesus hadn’t done great things I don’t think he would have inspired the persistently dedicated followership that he did. Your points are well-taken that hyperbole can be a part of gospel accounts given by zealous converts, (such as stating that ‘everybody in region so-and-so was healed’ or the Pharisees complaining that the ‘whole world’ has gone after him). But the core truths must still remain essentially intact for these things to unfold as they did within that first generation after Christ. I know you don’t find that convincing, but I don’t find the contrary case convincing. We may just have to leave it respectfully at that. These are the joys of a pluralistic society. I hope you can accept that these are the convictions we bring with us into the public square and I hope you can understand and tolerate them even if you don’t agree. That is what (I hope) I extend to atheists and others as well. Call me on it if I don’t.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #43

Lets take that statement. Is this really true? Are there rapid growth of “false” religions and cults?

And, how do we know the disciples were scared? As far as we know, the twelve, except Judas, remained with Jesus consistently throughout his ministry. After Jesus was killed, they stuck together.

As I’ve stated previously, the Gospels are just stories. Look, there is a story in GMatthew 10: 1 Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness…

Luke 9: 1 And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. 2 And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. …

Luke 9:10 When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all that they had done.

Luke 10: 17 The [seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” 18 And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”

So, there was already a ministry of the disciples before Jesus was even killed. Did something change?

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #44

But then we would have to agree that Mohammed (Islam) and Joseph Smith must have done great things too, no?

(Peaceful Science) #45

What are the great things you think these two leaders did?

Both did not present any evidence for their claims. So, invoking my skepticism, I have a hard time believing them. I ask for evidence here, as I do with Jesus. The evidence, however, points elsewhere. We look at their movements and their stories, it has all the hallmarks of something manmade. For me, that is not enough.

For me, I follow Jesus because I found he is the one thing that is not manmade in all of history. Churches have lots of problems, but in Jesus I find no fault. But just as importantly, he gives us evidence that he is authentic, evidence I just do not find for any other religious claims (including Christian religious claims).

(the above added for context)

@SuperBigV thank you for staying with us a little longer. Thank you also for refraining from a Gallop of Disconnected arguments, to which it is not even worth responding. That makes me want to answer your questions.

You left out a lot of context. We are not saying that “Christianity spread” therefore “Jesus rose from the dead!” Nor are we saying, “Christianity grew” therefore, “it is true!” Those arguments are transparently bad, and no one could make them with a straight face.

Rather, we are asking a different set of questions that we are attempting to answer with evidence. To lay out the key observations.

  1. It is unanimously agreed that the early Church spread across the globe with unprecedented reach (before airplanes existed!) in the first few centuries.

  2. This changes with Rome, but for centuries they spread non violently, without an army, without political power, against the dedicated efforts of the Roman State and their Jewish countrymen working to slaughter them.

  3. Large numbers of them are murdered, asked only to recant their faith. Their response is that they are not afraid to die, because they believe that Jesus rose from the dead and will raise them too.

  4. Immediately we see people from all cultures and backgrounds coming to believe this faith, based on personal and communal experiences with what they think is a Living God from a someone outside their culture. This includes Romans, Ethiopians, Indians, Africans, Palestinians, and more. While Acts follows the story for those that go to Rome (Paul), church history carries stories very similar about the spread of this faith through the globe; it is anything but a white religion at this time.

Let’s start by facing that there is no comparable movement in all of history.

  • Islam did not spread non-violently, and did not spread so far so quickly, nor did it claim that the Prophet rose from the dead.
  • Mormonism did not spread so far so quickly, nor did it claim that Joseph Smith rose from the dead.
  • Judaism did not spread so far, and never crossed ethnic boundaries like this, nor did it every claim any of its leaders rose from the dead.
  • Sai Baba did not spread so far, and never crossed ethnic boundaries to like this, nor did it claim its leader rose from the dead.
  • Yes, David Koresh did claim he would raise from the dead, and some followers believe this, but look at his movement? That is what you expect of movements founded on such ridiculous claims without evidence. Movements die as they should.
  • The closest to Christianity is the Bahai faith, which did spread far (but not as far as Christians) non-violently (to their credit). They however followed the second pattern, of replacing their leader with another, and did not claim that he rose from the dead.

All other movements (from that time and beyond) where leaders are executed end with either (1) total dispersal of the movement into oblivion or rumps (as we see with the Branch Davidians) or (2) replacing the leader with one of equal stature (usually a family member or early father that assumes the role).

Why did not the movement around Jesus do the same and die? Or come up with the normal solution on finding a new leader? Why claim Jesus rose from the dead?

Why is this movement unique among all others in rapid non-violent while claiming this was because their leader had risen from the dead? How was this possible during the lifetime of all the eyewitnesses they claimed?

This faith, by all accounts, was going down the path of #1 (and certainly did not do #2). Instead, they claimed that Jesus had bodily risen from the dead. This becomes the early creed of the church. Why are they they only rapidly spreading movement all of history to make such a ridiculous claim, and be willing to nonviolently die for it.

It takes either willful blindness or ignorance not to see this stunning mystery in history. And this is the question we are trying to ask. Why and how? What happened 2,000 years to allow this to happen?

So I would agree…

On theory is that they did not really believe this, but that they had stolen the body from the grave. But does this make sense (we ask)? It is clear that all of the apostles were willing to die, and they explained themselves why, saying it was because Jesus had risen from the dead. So the question is, do we believe them or not? At least, did they think that He rose from the dead?

It is hard to dispute that point, because they all were willing to die non-violent deaths for this belief? There is no precedence for mass and independent and non-violent death by a group of disconnected co-conspirators decades after the conspiracy. Please provide an example that even begins to equal this unique moment in history.

It is absurd to claim that the disciples did not believed the Resurrection. They certainly did. Even if they were ultimately wrong, it is an evidence free stab in the dark to deny this.

So how did they come to this belief? It was not just the empty tomb. They tell us why. It was also (they claim) that (1) they saw him die, (2) the tomb was empty, (3) no one ever produced a body, (4) they came to several direct experiences of seeing him, including eating with him and touching his wounds, and (5) hundreds of others had these experiences too. And it is indisputable that the church grew during the lifetime of these witnesses.

The question is, if they are not explaining their best account of what they saw, how do we make sense of this? If not that their account is accurate, this fits absolutely no precedence. It does not have any of the hallmarks of a conspiracy. If it is a cult, there is no other cult like it.

This is the big question then. How do we respond to their testimony? With curiosity? Or with blindness. Trust? Or with silence.

Yes there was a ministry.

It died.

We know from several trials (natural experiments) in history that it should have stayed dead. Then, somehow, it came back and spread non-violently like a wildfire across the globe. Never has anything like this happened before or since.

The grand mystery of all of history…Why? How?

It is impossible to construct world history without this movement, and we have no good explanation. We are left with a movie missing a key scene.

What was in the missing scene?

(Mervin Bitikofer) #46

Joshua beat me to responding, but I’ll post what I had intended since it could be a slightly different take than Joshua’s although I don’t think it’s really a disagreement in the end.

Exactly right. And we go on to see what they exhorted their followers to do which means we won’t be confusing Hitler and Jesus. Some can be “great” leaders for evil and others great leaders for good – Jesus being an ultimate one of the latter variety. Most, like Mohammad or Joseph probably (like all of us) fall somewhere on that continuum, though they all seem to have a charisma that you or I or most normal people probably don’t have.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #47

And I should hasten to add that even on the “charisma” spectrum of leaders, Jesus is still somewhat of an enigma. We don’t see charismatic leaders today trying to escape big fawning crowds or bringing their most outrageous claims to the forefront to inject sobriety into their would-be fans.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #48

My point was to show that religions are created for various reasons. Mohammad followers believe he had a divine message. I don’t agree with them, nontheless, there is a large following that may soon be larger than Christianity. This is true of all religions. Before Christianity, there were other religions that believed in Deities, that allegedly died and were resurrected. Jesus’ story is not that unique.

I also don’t follow your claim of Jesus giving us evidence. What we have are anonymous Gospelers, writing in Greek about events alleged to have happened in Aramaic and Hebrew speaking Judea and Galilee. And we have the Epistles. That’s it. We have stories and claims, as far as documentation goes. Jesus, as far as we know, did not write any stories (short of scribbling something in the sand).

I have already stated that Jesus’ claims can be tested and they are clearly false.
Matt. 21:18 Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. 19 Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He *said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.20 Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, “How did the fig tree wither all at once?” 21 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

Here, I have not removed the context. Jesus here is teaching his disciples (and us, since this is recorded as God’s word) about how faith and prayer supposedly works. Well, you can ask Jesus to heal an amputee right now. Nothing will happen to the amputee. In fact, we find nothing extraordinary happening to Jesus followers vs atheists/agnostics. Is this not an example of a failed promise? Imagine I make the same promise that Jesus made. At what point would you be allowed to conclude my promise is worthless?

Regarding point 1, the spread of religion has nothing to do with it’s being truthful. At best, it shows that people resonate with the message. This is true for Islam, Mormonism and other religions. Besides, I think we need to be clear that Christians were not all united. Even in the New Testament we see divisions and heresies being addressed. For example, there were believers who resonated with James, who upheld the Law of Moses and were, for all intents and purposes, Pharisees that believed in Jesus. Then there were Paul followers who believed that Christ is the end of Law. There were Gnostics too, there were Christians who did not think Jesus had a human body, or that Jesus was only a man and not God. Christians were not a single, unified movement. In fact, the very first Christian Canon was compiled by Marcion, the Heretic Gnostic!

  1. I’ve quoted Acts already, where it is said that James followers were zealous for the Law and perhaps many of the thousands wanted Paul seized in the Temple. Which group spread the most? How many heretics had to be banished before a unified Catholic Church can proceed?

When I was a believer, I held to a minority, antinomian view of justification. Here is an article that comes to mind, lamenting the ‘wrong’ theology of the early church fathers

There were Christians who abstained from sex, becoming eunuchs for Jesus. So, when you say that the movement spread, I think we need to recognize that the movement was not a single force, but various factions, each having own doctrinal variations.

  1. I don’t know how many early Christians were murdered for their faith. Do you have actual numbers or percentages of the early Christians killed?

  2. I will grant you that Christianity, even in the book of Acts, appears to have a Hellenistic start. For example, we are told there were about 120 people immediately after Jesus ascention (Acts 1:15), and then, at the Pentecost, where there were Greek speaking Jews present, you find thousands of believers. Hint that we are given, is that even with Jesus’ efforts, the message was more popular among the Greek speaking populace. A prophet is without honor, I guess.

Regarding Islam, I cannot confirm it’s spread was violent only. Perhaps people converted out of their choice. I don’t know.
Mormonism was non-violent, as far as I know. Joseph Smith’s lack of resurrection is besides the point, in my view. A moment does not require a resurrection to spread quickly.

With respect to Christianity, had it not been for the Rome, I don’t think it would have gotten so popular. I am from the USSR (Kiev City, which is now Ukraine). It is commonly assumed that Kievan Rus became Christian in 880s AD. King/Prince Vladimir baptized everyone in Dnieper river. And Christianity gained thousands, if not millions of converts. Perhaps similar means were used in the beginning, who knows? If the moment encouraged brotherhood of all, I can see how Roman slaves or those who were down on their luck would become enchanted with it. And there is power in martyrs. Rosa Parks, for example, started a movement by simply refusing to give up her seat. Perhaps a similar catalyst worked in Christianity’s favor? So far, you have not given me a reason to think that Christianity could not have spread short of a bodily resurrection.

Besides, Paul himself never mentions his desire to visit Jesus’ tomb, to walk in Gethsemany or to spend time in the room where the Last Supper has taken place. Why is that? Perhaps these things were irrelevant.

I mentioned already that I’m a Jesus mythicist. There are hints in the Epistles that my view can be suppored by the New Testament.

Romans 16: 25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, 26 but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; 27 to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.

As far as Paul is concerned, he is the one who is revealing a mystery, hidden in the Scriptures of the prophets (i.e. Old Testament). Paul receives revelations and doesn’t require traditional teachings.

1 Cor 9:1 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?

Paul does not seem to be aware of the approx 3 years (maybe less) of Jesus’ ministry and Jesus’ selection of the disciples to be with him and to learn from him. Otherwise, his question makes no sense. There is a world of difference between seeing Jesus in a vision vs eating bread with him, right?

Good question, but you may not like the answer. There is a book titled when prophecy fails. Infor on wikipedia here
Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses stick around after their organization has shown to make false predictions? Why do televangelists who are exposed for their misdeeds continue to be popular? Some things defy reasoning, in my view.

Jesus predicted to return before the generation he was speaking to passed away. I know Christians who reinterpted these passages to mean anything other than what they say. I think the idea of eternal life and a bliss can be too comforting for some.

This atheist site explains that Christian growth is the same as what Mormonism experienced. Get this… there are Mormons who still believe Joseph Smith correctly translated ancient Egyptian language. No amount of arguments will sway them. They have a burning in the bosom.

Billy Graham stated that even though he found Bible teachings problematic and he could not reconcile some passages, he decided to trust it anyway. Some people can’t be swayed by reason. And if it works for them, who am I to blame them?[quote=“Swamidass, post:45, topic:35602”]
It is absurd to claim that the disciples did not believed the Resurrection. They certainly did.

But what kind of a Resurrection?

Eph. 2:6…and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

Paul here claims that he (without dying) and the Christians in Ephesus were already raised from the dead. You may respond that he was speaking metaphorically, but it just makes my point. The term was thrown around and may have had meanings other than what you and modern apologists want it to mean.

Paul says this about resurrected body

1 Cor. 15:35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” (My response—GOOD questions!!!)

36 You fool! (My response - Uh oh)
That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; 37 and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. 39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
Is he talking about a body transformation here? Who knows what he means?

Lastly, we know that religions borrow from one another. Judaism was experiencing a crisis. They had the Torah and the Tanakh, which told them the God will bless them if they follow his laws, but, instead, they found themselves enslaved by the people who lived in total opposite of what the God expected. (i.e. worhshipped idols, ate pork, no circumcision). So, the Jewish person either concludes that Yahweh is a liar, OR there must be a different interpretation. Perhaps God’s laws are true not in this life, but in the afterlife! Bingo… Another dimension (no doubt borrowed from the Greeks and Persians) is introduced. Couple that with a brilliant teacher, such as John the Baptist or Jesus (assuming historicisty) or Paul and bingo… you have a movement. And if this guy can hear God speak to them, all the better.

(Peaceful Science) #49

Thanks for your comments @SuperBigV.

I still think you are not really hearing my point. It is hard to engage when it is clear that circular paths are being beaten. At no point did I claim…

I’m not saying that “because is spread it is true.”

I hear you, but we may have to part ways in disagreement here, at least for now. Its almost as if you didn’t read what I wrote. Literally the exact opposite…

Yet here we are, with you thinking that is this absurd argument is the argument I am making. We are officially going in circles

The claim is that it is the only religion that spread across the globe non-violently during the lifetimes of purported witnesses (most of whom died for this belief) that claimed they had seen Jesus raise from the dead. There does not appear to be anything else like this in history. None of the examples you raise appear to be the same, and all of them look very manmade to me.

It is not that “it spread” but it is how belief in the Resurrection spread under those circumstances.

Yes, but which of these religions spread contemporaneously with the witnesses of this event? None. In these cases, these stories were thought of us as metaphorical myths, even at the time. The difference in this story of Jesus, is that they disciples did not see it as a myth.

Regardless, I think we are coming to an end here. I respect that you disagree on these points, and I appreciate your kind engagement here.

I also appreciate you sharing about your background some.

I was raised Christian too, and almost left it because it seemed so manmade. Then I found this one thing that really looks like it isn’t man-made. It is hard to see these things, at least for me, because it required sorting through all these other negative experiences. I honestly would have left if it hadn’t found me.

I can agree with you that not all Christians or churches are good. Many are caught up in clear power plays and efforts to control. I found them to be nothing like Jesus. He, however, was worth following. He is greater than those that claim to follow Him.

Any how my friendly atheist, it is a pleasure meeting you. Peace.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #50

@Swamidass, this was your original question, where you did say you are not pointing to the spread of Christianity as proof of it being true, but you also said that we must explain what happened, which included the spread of the religion. I did provide examples of other religions starting. If you think about it, any religion that has large followers started small at some point. The same question can be asked about those religions. Christianity is not unique.

And, the point that you need to consider is that Christianity was not a unified movement. Just as Jews had Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Qumran commity, Hellenistic Jews (like the Philo), Christians had Gnostics, Catholics, there were believers in Christian Deification (which is probably very close to Mormonism). How many of them can be considered the original followers of Christ? I know Paul certainly can’t be considered the original. He is very analogous to Joseph Smith of Mormonism. Visions and Revelations is how he got his information.

I will provide a bit of a personal story here. You see, I was born in a very religious household, but in a very anti-religious country, formerly known as USSR. I was born in 1976, a time during which the Soviet system was in the beginning of the end. Before I turned 10, Gorbachev’s restructuring/perestroika happened and religious freedoms (along with freedoms of expression, etc…) increased. My parents and grandparents tell me stories about being fined for preaching the Bible. Christianity made sense to me, because it appeared to be true. We were persecuted for our faith, just as Jesus said we would. But… there was another appeal. We believed we have the Ace up our sleeve, and that is the White Throne judgment. We can stand up to the system, no matter how strong and we can overcome it.

And… there were people purposely instigating the law enforcement. I was told a story by my father, how on one of the services, a police colonel showed up, in full uniform, along with a junior officer. During prayer (we were Baptist), we would stand. It was not permitted for men to have hats on. This colonel had a military hat. The pastor presiding over the service chastized the colonel and shamed him for not respecting religion. This angered the colonel who responded by giving some jail time to this pastor. Voila, persecution. How many martyrs in the old days similarly encouraged persecution and even volunteered perhaps?

I imagine that the Jewish people, the Roman slaves and the lower classes of Rome had aspirations of victory and power. It didn’t matter how strong the government was, they will be victorious in the end, in another world. Such ideas don’t require a literal resurrection to be true. A strong belief is sufficient.

Ah… but even in the book of Acts, we find that Christianity spread among the Gentiles and the Hellenistic Jews more so vs the original Aramaic communities. It’s not disputed that all of the Christian writings are in Greek!

Also, Mormonism spread contemporaneously with the witnesses, right?

And, I am not sure if you saw my point on Satanic influences. Assuming the Devil is real, why couldn’t Christianity spread based on the deception? I’m not arguing that it was the case (I can’t prove it), but why isn’t this a consideration?

Thanks for sharing your story as well. I will say that my de-conversion was not easy. It started relatively harmless. In my early to mid 20’s, I decided to really study Christiany in debth. I began with the study of Christology. I wanted to be sure that Christ was divine. (Bart Ehrman has a joke, that a clearest proof of Jesus’ divinity is in John 15, where Jesus says that he is The Vine, and we are the branches). It is then that I began to see how ambiguous the teachings can be. I was conversing with Christadelphians, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and learned that what I thought was clear, was really not as cut and dried. In my mid to late 20’s and early 30’s, I moved on to the doctrine of justification and found that the New Testament (and the Bible) is very vague on the subject. It is amazing how much harmonization is required to reconcile various teachings. The more I studied, the more human the Bible became.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #51

@Mervin_Bitikofer, perhaps Jesus was not charismatic at all. May be his followers had all of the charisma?

(George Brooks) #52

I think part of the first wave of Christians were pretty obviously gnostic… they believed their body was a prison, and the afterlife was the real deal.

This position is frequently counter-productive in terms of this mortal sphere…

The majority of the Gnostics got wiped out because the Romans had a pretty efficient justice system (compared to others in that day) … and they obligingly slaughtered the willing martyrs.

This thinned out the ranks so much that by the time we get to the 300’s and the Nicene council, organizers said “Enough of the martyr thing!”… and Christianity got hardwired against it.

I’m not posting this to prove anything @SuperBigV… .but if you can use bandwidth arguing about the proof of Christianity on a Christian forum … then I think I can use some bandwidth showing how Christianity was forced to evolve by its own success!

^^^ Hey!, notice what I did there in the last sentence ? :smiley:

(Mervin Bitikofer) #53

There may be some truth in this … if one can imagine uneducated fishermen (and decidedly normal – that is cowards and doubters like any of the rest of us) stepping up into such a costly and risky leadership role. Jesus didn’t seem to need charisma. People were (and persisted in being) after something that they thought they could get from him. If all of his healings and works were just later exaggerations of charismatic myth-builders, it is then interesting that he had to go to such efforts to keep crowd enthusiasm at bay.

(Peaceful Science) #54

I agree. That is what I find so convincing about it. It is not a faith rooted in agreement about doctrine. And it drew people from several different points of view. The diversity here is strong evidence against it being like any cult. No other group has spread in history with that type of diversity. How is that possible?

Which is to make my point exactly. The early church was not defined so narrowly. They were all moved by encounters with Jesus, not by specific doctrines. It is very sad that your church experience misrepresented our faith so badly. I can see why you rejected that false gospel, that false jesus. That is courageous.

This is pretty well established that early Christians were under intense persecution. Tacitus writes that Nero burned Rome and blamed it on Christians, and liked to light his garden by burning bodies hung up crosses.

As for the disciples, I already provided a reference:

And this is not restricted to distant history.

We can see the same in India, Communist Russia, Nazi Germany, Communist China, and the Middle East. In some of these places this persecution continues to this day. In the middle east right now it is particularly intense, and it is also non-violent.

This is different. Mormonism did not spread during the lifetimes of witnesses claiming to have evidence that Joseph Smith rose from the dead. And they also have the benefit of modern technology, which did not exist 2000 years ago. It is not comparable.

I do not follow Jesus because the Bible makes sense all the time. You seem to be parroting your upbringing here.

I follow Jesus because the evidence indicates he rose from the dead, and then I encounter Him too.

Once again, these are great amatuer hypothesis, based on very little understanding of Scripture, and no understanding of ancient culture.

Go test them with evidence. There are books written on this topic, and I encouraged you to look at NT Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God. You will find that this is a fun amatuer hypothesis that just does not match reality. Then you will have to decide if you will let it go.

Like I said, at one point or another we have to decide if evidence is important to us or not. Hypotheses are great, but evidence can tell us when they are true and false.

You have to decide if you care about the truth or not.

I sympathize with you because you were in a church that pointed you to manmade doctrine instead of Jesus. That was wrong, and they severely misguided you.

There is, however, something that is not manmade here, if you choose to seek it.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #55

Dr Joshua, it’s not about drawing people from all points of view, but people calling themselves Christians (while being called “heretics” by other Christians). There is no singular movement that called themselves Christians until the later centuries, when Catholicism beat the heretics into underground movements and burned their holy texts. It does not require a supernatural influence at all. It happens all the time, actually.

As I suspected, you have examples of Roman persecutions of believers in Rome. These are not eyewitnesses of the Jews of Judea. In fact, it is very telling (in my view) that the earliest Christian movement traces themselves back to Rome, and not to Jerusalem. The Roman Christians were persecuted for their beliefs, not for their eyewitness testimony.

Where as Paul in Galatians admits that his persecution was based on the teaching against the circumcision! And, we find Pharisees in Acts finding nothing wrong with Paul’s teachings on the resurrection. I’m sorry, this is not a clear testimony of persecutions portrayed by the Christian apologists.

Joseph Smith did not claim to have risen from the dead, but people still believe he communicated with the divine agents, as proven by translations of ancient writing. My point about Mormonism is that it is widely considered a false teaching, which spread rapidly, just as rapidly as Christianity. And, I would argue that the technology and education would tend to slow down the spread, not encourage it. Which was the advantage 1st Century had over Mormonism.[quote=“Swamidass, post:54, topic:35602”]
Like I said, at one point or another we have to decide if evidence is important to us or not. Hypotheses are great, but evidence can tell us when they are true and false.

You have to decide if you care about the truth or not.

Well, there you go. I did provide evidence from the Christian writings where the term “resurrection” and “raised from the dead” was used in many different ways. I do care for the truth, and this is why I cannot accept the apologetic claim.

Look, in 1 Cor 15, Paul claims that Jesus APPEARED to him, as a proof of Jesus’ resurrection, but appearance to Paul was a visionary one! Totally unlike the Gospel appearances.

(George Brooks) #56

Brothers… when 2 nice people start disputing “Did Jesus really resurrect” … it’s time to take it to a tavern…

(Chris Falter) #57

Hi Super -

Love the alias!

Since you’re looking for some testimony on a subject, allow me to mention some:

  • Peter and John are arrested in Jerusalem (Acts 4:3)
  • “The apostles” are arrested in Jerusalem, flogged, and commanded to stop preaching about Jesus (Acts 5:40)
  • Led by the Sanhedrin, residents of Jerusalem stone Stephen (Acts 7)
  • Followers of Jesus in Jerusalem are subsequently dragged off to prison. Except for the apostles, they scatter to various places, such as Samaria (Acts 8:1-4)
  • Paul is arrested in Jerusalem, narrowly rescued from a mob, and barely escapes an assassination plot (Acts 21-23)

Do you find these accounts helpful?

Chris Falter

(Peaceful Science) #58

@SuperBigV this, once again, is a nice theory that turns out to be false.

We Christians in Africa (remember the Ethiopian eunuch?) and India in the first two centuries.

You have not presented evidence. Instead you have quote mined an english translation with total disregard for the original translation. This is not the evidence for what you think it is. It is really impossible to read the New Testament this way in the original context.

If you cared to understand this, you could read the vast body of scholarship on this exact topic. It does not even appear that secular (non-Christian) theologians take your view any more. It has been so soundly dismissed as ahistorical.

At the very least, please watch this 10 minute exchange between NT Wright and the chair of philosophy at Harvard (who is not a Christian)…

If you’re quote mining project is so bulletproof, why doesn’t this Harvard professor use it?

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #59

@Chris_Falter, thanks, I tried to pick the best alias I could think of :slight_smile:

I did mention the accounts of persecution of Acts, but there are no indications for the reason for the persecution. In Galatians, Paul plainly says that it is the circumcision teaching that is the cause of persecution for himself (and likely his followers). Which strengthens the claims that Christians were divided among themselves and persecuting each other.

Acts 21: 20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law.

Acts 21: 27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.”

Notice, the issue appears to be observance of the Law of Moses.

When the issue of the teaching of the resurrection comes up, Paul is supported by the Pharisees (according to Acts 23!)
Acts 23:6 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” 7 When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.)

9 There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. “We find nothing wrong with this man,” they said. “What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?”

Christian apologists make it seem as if the Christians were persecuted for preaching the resurrection of Jesus, while the Bible itself paints a different picture.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #60

@Swamidass, thanks, I’ll check out the video. But I do notice this article by NT Wright, who admits Paul had a visionary appearance of Christ, and NT Wright says this

On the basis of 1 Corinthians 15 we cannot, therefore, set up the Damascus road event as a model and assimilate the other resurrection appearances of Jesus to it; nor may we regard Paul’s conversion experience of Jesus as being the same sort of phenomenon as his own subsequent Christian experience, however ecstatic, or that of his converts.

See, NT Wright wants Paul to make a distinction, but Paul does not do that in 1 Cor 15

1 Cor. 15: 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

The same word for “appeared” is used, But this appearance was Damascus road, as NT Wright admits. It was not a fish eating, fully human body

Edit: I just watched the video and I find it incredible that NT Wright thinks it’s incredible people would just make up stories. People make up stuff, that’s why we have so many religions. Making things up is what people do.

Secondly, NT Wright and Christian Apologists ignore the Jewish belief if John the Baptist’s resurrection, in the person of Jesus

Here is how NT Wright addressed this question:

It’s all a play on words, in my opinion. New Testament is clear. Jewish people could think Jesus (before he died) was John raised from the dead.

Luke 9: 18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” 19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

Hm… sounds like a resurrection to me. But, because this is a ‘false’ belief, it can be pushed away by apologists. As a seeker of truth, however, I can’t do that. I’m sorry.