Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Others. Evidence for the Resurrection, Part 5


A popular ploy is just to claim there is great evidence. A couple of examples, the first from here:
I believe the resurrection of Jesus Christ is an historical reality. The resurrection is on solid historical grounds, independently of what I am about to talk about. Jesus appeared to His disciples---the original skeptics of the resurrection---over a period of 40 days, offering them "many infallible proofs." They in turn went out and turned the Roman Empire upside down with the message of the cross and resurrection.

In addition to the massive historical evidence for the resurrection,...
The second from here:
Greenleaf concluded that according to the jurisdiction of legal evidence the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the best supported event in all of history!
Really? Better than the Normandy landings? When people makes claims as wild as this, they lose all credibility right from the start.

The False Dichotomy

Here is a great example:
Easter is not primarily a comfort, but a challenge. Its message is either the supreme fact in history or else a gigantic hoax.
Once you have claimed that, it is trivial to show the aspostles were sincere, as so many were martyred, and so the resurrection must have happened, right?

Well, no. There are other possibilities. The apostles could have been mistaken (they thought they saw Jesus resurrected, but did not), they could have believed something subtly but significantly different (a spiritual resurrection, not a bodily resurrection).

Unwarranted Assumptions

A lot of web sites are preaching to the choir - they are there to reassure Christians that the resurrection happened. Consequently, they make certain assumptions that Christians will accept as true, despite the lack of support for them. Here is one:
At this point I would like to move on to the direct evidences for the resurrection of Christ. There are a certain number of historical facts that we can glean from the biblical records. They are: Jesus died by crucifixion, he was buried in a tomb known to the authorities, his disciples were distraught because of his death, his tomb was found empty, the disciples believed that they saw Jesus risen from the grave, this experience changed their lives, the message was central to early church teachings, and it was preached in the very city in which Jesus died (Miethe, Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?, p. 19, 20). These historical facts will be the basis of our argument for Jesus' resurrection.
A fact is something we know to be true. These are not facts. They might seem to be facts to Christians who assume the Bible is accurate, but we nevertheless cannot be sure of anything from back then.

In particular, the evidence for an empty tomb, as discussed on a previous page, is conspicuously lacking, and yet this is vital to the argument being presented.

This web page would also like us to think the empty tomb is a historical fact.
6.1 Three Well-Established Historical Facts
6.1.1 The Empty Tomb
He then offers the usual evidence, including discovery by women, the supposed account by Paul and claims the gospel accounts are true as well. It all adds up to something that might be true, but probably is not.

This page by ICR is an excellent example of how, if you assume the Gospel accounts are true, it is easy to prove the resurrection. But that is a huge assumption. Sure, for Christians who want their beliefs confirmed that is enough, but not for anyone.

The Turin Shroud

Amazingly some Christians still cling to the Turin Shroud as evidence fore the resurrection.
The faint image on the Shroud was not painted on. It was lightly burned on. It's as if at the moment of the resurrection, Christ's body let off a burst of radiation, as His body changed from mortal to immortal.
Right, so Jesus got this brand new body - but he still had the crucifixion marks in his hands, according to John.

There is no mention in the Bible of a burst of radiation. The author is just making this up to fit the evidence, and then claiming the evidence fits his claim!

The methodology for the radiometric dating is given in detail here, and gave a date of 1260 - 1390 AD.

The link above claims this was because the sample was taken from an area that was later repaired, but there is no evidence that that is the case besides the author's desire for the shroud to be authentic - again, he is making stuff up to fit the evidence. Indeed, the methodology described specifically says "The strip came from a single site on the main body of the shroud away from any patches or charred areas."

Historical Evidence for Christianity

This web site attempts to make the case that the evidence for early Christianity is evidence for the resurrection. However, this evidence is what we would expect to see if the alternative scenario presented earlier is correct.

Authenticity of the Gospels

From here:
The Gospel of Matthew, dating around the 70's C.E., was written in Greek for the largely Greek-speaking Jews of the time. (14) Matthew draws heavily on the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. The book of Matthew is the most contested book concerning its authorship since no clear indications appear to validate Matthew as the author. But the best indication for Matthew's authorship (as well as the other Gospels' authorship) is found in Eusebius' citations of Papias which is probably reliable.
Whether this guy is clueless or deliberately trying to mislead, I do not know. Here is the citation he mentions:
"So then Matthew wrote the oracles in the Hebrew language, and every one interpreted them as he was able."
As the author states, Matthew was written in Greek, what Papias was talking about was written in Hebrew. How can he possibly think they were the same text?

From the same page:
Concerning the internal material, Mark's work on the passion and Resurrection of Jesus reads more like a straightforward account in a biographical format. This differentiates from later apocryphal gospels that are embellished and theologically charged.
It also differentiates it from the later Biblical gospels, which also indulge is embellishment and theology. Seems we can reject those accounts too.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Witnesses. Evidence for the Resurrection, Part 4

Christians have a strange blind spot on the question of witnesses in this area. For this page, I am going to look at this document, by Josh McDowell of Josh McDowell Ministry:
The New Testament accounts of the resurrection were being circulated within the lifetimes of men and women alive at the time of the resurrection. Those people could certainly have confirmed or denied the accuracy of such accounts.
The first gospel, the Gospel of Mark, was written thirty to forty years later. Was it immediately then circulated amongst the people of Jerusalem? We have no way of knowing. Suppose it was, and people came forward, saying it was false, would we have any way of knowing?

There is a saying that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It should be used judicially, and in particular you should think carefully about whether evidence would be expected. In this case we would not expect the gospel authors to record people coming forward to say it was false even if that did happen.

Remember that the Gospel of Mark originally claimed only there was an empty tomb, and the only people who knew about it never spoke of it. Let us suppose Mark made it all up. What would people who remembered the events object to exactly? Mark has built a narrative that is armoured against these denials - which makes me think it is made up, and certainly refutes the author's claim here.

Later gospels made bolder claims, but they might be sixty years after the event. Who was around to refute them? During his ministry, Jesus appeared to huge crowds, but post-resurrection his appearances were to very small groups. Were the apostles going to say that actually no, Jesus never appeared in Jerusalem? Of course not - for one thing, most had been martyred by then.

Over 500 Witnesses

Several very important factors are often overlooked when considering Christ's post-resurrection appearances to individuals. The first is the large number of witnesses of Christ after that resurrection morning. One of the earliest records of Christ's appearing after the resurrection is by Paul. The apostle appealed to his audience's knowledge of the fact that Christ had been seen by more than 500 people at one time. Paul reminded them that the majority of those people were still alive and could be questioned.
Exactly what did those 500 people see? For reasons the author goes into, it seems reasonable to suppose this is no idle boast by Paul (he was writing at a time when his claim could be checked). We might quibble about the numbers, but I will let that pass.

But let us recall what Paul saw:
Acts 9:3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’
5 ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.
‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 6 ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’
7 The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
This was no bodily resurrection. This was a bright light. Paul's version of the new glorified body of Jesus presumably. What was it the 500 saw? Jesus in his original body, completely with nail holes in his wrists, or a bright light? Paul would have understood either to be Jesus resurrected, so this claim of 500 witnesses is consistent with either of the scenarios being considered (see part 1).

Hostile Witnesses

Another factor crucial to interpreting Christ's appearances is that He also appeared to those who were hostile or unconvinced.

Over and over again, I have read or heard people comment that Jesus was seen alive after His death and burial only by His friends and followers. Using that argument, they attempt to water down the overwhelming impact of the multiple eyewitness accounts. But that line of reasoning is so pathetic it hardly deserves comment. No author or informed individual would regard Saul of Tarsus as being a follower of Christ. The facts show the exact opposite. Saul despised Christ and persecuted Christ's followers. It was a life-shattering experience when Christ appeared to him. Although he was at the time not a disciple, he later became the apostle Paul, one of the greatest witnesses for the truth of the resurrection.
Paul saw something that made him change his life. I accept that that happened. I do not accept that Paul saw the bodily resurrected Jesus, and if you read the account on Acts, it really does not sound like that is what Paul saw.

As a witness to the bodily resurrection, this fails. All we can say here is Paul saw something that he took to be Jesus in his new glorified body. This fits perfectly with the alternative scenario I am proposing.
The argument that Christ's appearances were only to followers is an argument for the most part from silence, and arguments from silence can be dangerous. It is equally possible that all to whom Jesus appeared became followers. No one acquainted with the facts can accurately say that Jesus appeared to just "an insignificant few."
Previously the author was using the argument from silence to support his claim ("The New Testament accounts of the resurrection were being circulated within the lifetimes of men and women alive at the time of the resurrection. Those people could certainly have confirmed or denied the accuracy of such accounts."). Now he warns against such an argument.

Yes, an argument from silence can be wrong - that does not invalidate all arguments from silence. The question is, should we expect evidence? An absence of evidence when evidence is expected is indeed evidence of absence.

Let us differentiate here between the bodily appearances of Jesus and the rest. The appearance to the 500 cannot be claimed as a bodily appearance as already discussed, and for similar reasons I will not consider any of the appearances Paul cites. Instead, we will consider the gospels and Acts.

If we read the gospel accounts (and Acts) it is clear that no one in those accounts became a Christian after seeing Jesus alive again, despite the author's suggestion. He appeared exclusively to those already following him.

Mark: Mary Magdalene, the disciples
Matthew: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the Eleven disciples
Luke: disciples
John: Mary Magdalene, the disciples
Acts: disciples

The issue here is what we would expect from the scenarios proposed. Why did Jesus make no attempt to contact anyone but the two Marys and the disciples? Why were his appearances so often in obscure places or behind locked doors? I suggest that this was because these events were made up, and the authors wanted to restrict those present - possibly to those already dead when they were writing.

The simple fact is that the Bible records no hostile witnesses to the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Friday, 22 November 2013

An empty tomb. Evidence for the Resurrection, Part 3

The first mention of an empty tomb is in Mark. The earlier epistles of Paul give no indication of an empty tomb, and indeed 1 Corinthians 15 is quite clear that Paul believed Jesus had a new body, so no reason to suppose the old body had gone.

No Venerated Tomb

The tomb would have been the single most important site in the new religion; why was it not venerated? Why is there no mention in Acts or the Pauline letters of anyone visiting the tomb after the resurrection to see if the body had really gone, or indeed, visiting just because this was the place Jesus overcame death?

This was supposedly the single most important event in Christian history - God resurrecting Jesus. Why was the place not venerated for that reason? Look at how Lourdes is venerated today. There is no body there, just a place where a girl claimed to have a vision. That is insignificant compared to the one place on Earth where God resurrected Jesus.

The most like explanation is that the empty tomb idea only appeared with Mark wrote his gospel, 30 to 40 years later, and no one really knew where this supposed tomb was.

Biblical Witnesses

Craig says this:
Mark’s source didn’t end with the burial, but with the story of the empty tomb, which is tied to the burial story verbally and grammatically. Moreover, Matthew and John have independent sources about the empty tomb; it’s also mentioned in the sermons in the Acts of the Apostles (2.29; 13.36); and it’s implied by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian church (I Cor. 15.4). Thus, we have again multiple, early, independent attestation of the fact of the empty tomb.
Craig is playing hard and fast with the truth here. Matthew is clearly derived from Mark, so is immediately discounted as a witness. This may also be true of John, though it is not as clear.

He cites a verse in Acts; what is the source for that? Acts could have been written some 70 years later (from its possible dependance on Josephus), and there is near universal agreement that it was written by the same author as the Gospel of Luke; we would expect the author to be towing the party line and writing about a bodily resurrection by that time.

Okay, how about the Pauline epistle. That was much earlier, so should be much more reliable.
1 Corinthians 15:4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
But this does not prove what Craig would like us to think it does. Paul is quite clear in 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus was raised in a new body.
1 Corinthians 15:35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?
36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:
37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:
38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

Discovery by Women

Craig also presents the argument that the finding of the tomb by women proves it was not made up.
In patriarchal Jewish society the testimony of women was not highly regarded. In fact, the Jewish historian Josephus says that women weren’t even permitted to serve as witnesses in a Jewish court of law. Now in light of this fact, how remarkable it is that it is women who are the discoverers of Jesus’ empty tomb. Any later legendary account would certainly have made male disciples like Peter and John discover the empty tomb.
But in fact a perfect good explanation is that Mark invented the women as discoverers of the empty tomb to get around the embarrassing fact that no one knew the tomb was empty until he made it up 30 to 40 years later.

Summary of Craig

This page summaries Craig's argument for an empty tomb in ten points. Let us see what we have...
The historical credibility of the burial story supports the empty tomb.  If the burial story is accurate, the site of Jesus’ tomb would have been known to Jew and Christian alike.  Anyone could have, and would have, just marched to the tomb and produced the body.  In fact, the burial story is widely recognized as a historically credible narrative.
Here is the conflation of a credible burial with the claim Jesus was buried in a special tomb. All the evidence points to a tomb containing not just Jesus, but several corpses of criminals. Far from empty.
Paul’s testimony implies the fact of the empty tomb.  The sequence in 1 Cor 15 is death- burial – resurrection.  Surely this sequence implies a tomb, or else where would Jesus be buried?
Paul says there was a burial, and so a tomb. To claim this implies an empty tomb is ridiculous, and shows how low these people stoop to find evidence.
The presence of the empty tomb narrative in the pre-Markan Passion story supports its historical credibility.  Scholars believe that Mark’s sources from which he wrote his Gospel contained the Passion story of Jesus.  Therefore, this source material would have been very old and date back to right after Jesus’ death (about A.D. 37).
But we do not have that pre-Markan Passion story, so we have no idea if it included an empty tomb or not. More "evidence" they have made up!
The use of the “first day of the week” (Mark 16:2) instead of  “on the third day” points to the primitiveness of the tradition of the empty tomb.  Scholars believe that the “third day” motif found in the New Testament developed later in Christian preaching.  The fact that Mark leaves those words out speaks to a very early date for the material in Mark.
All this establishes is that the empty tomb tradition existed before the third day tradition. Unless we know the date of the latter, how can this possibly date the former? By using the word "primitiveness", however, the author leads us to think it must have been very early, despite the evidence not supporting that claim.

Alternatively, we may note that the  “on the third day” motif is associated with the resurrection, not the empty tomb. Mark may have been making the point that the women were visiting the tomb the day after the Sabbath, hence, on the first day of the week is used to establish that.
The nature of the narrative itself is theologically unadorned and nonapologetic.  Mark’s account of the empty tomb is simple and straightforward.
How can these people claim the empty tomb is unapologetic, even as they use the empty tomb themselves for apologetic purposes? Of course it is apologetic, and to claim otherwise looks frankly dishonest to me.
The empty tomb was discovered by women.  Given the low status of women in 1st century Jewish society and their inability to serve as legal witnesses, it would be nonsensical for the New Testament writers to fabricate the story of the women finding the empty tomb.  The most reasonable explanation is that they really did.
In fact, the finding of the empty tomb by women is readily explained by scenario outlined above. Mark invented women as the discoverers specifically because their testimony of women was not highly regarded - that was how he rationalised away no one knowing about an empty tomb before.
The investigation of the tomb by Peter and John is historically probable.  The visit of the disciples to the tomb is attested both in tradition (Luke 24:12, 24; John 20:3) and by John himself.
It is only probable if the early church had believed in a bodily resurrection. If they believed Jesus had been given a brand new glorified body - as Paul described - then the old body would still be there in the tomb for criminals up to a year later. An investigation of the tomb would be pointless, and possibly dangerous too.

The visit of the disciples to the tomb was an embellishment added decades later.

The Gospel of Mark even say as much! In the original version the man in white tells the woman Jesus will see the disciples in Galilee, not Jerusalem.
It would have been virtually impossible for the disciples to proclaim the resurrection in Jerusalem had the tomb not been empty.  When the disciples began to preach the resurrection in Jerusalem and people responded, and when the religious authorities stood helplessly by, the tomb must have been empty.
The disciples preached a resurrection in a new body, as 1 Corinthians 15 makes clear. The status of the tomb was a non-issue until Mark invented the empty tomb some thirty years later.
The earliest Jewish polemic presupposes the empty tomb.  Matthew tells us in Matt. 28:15 that the Jewish opponents of Christianity did not deny that the tomb was empty.  They claimed the disciples stole the body.
We know this is the earliest Jewish polemic how exactly? The reality is that this was a polemic against Mark's claim of an empty tomb decades later, too late for anyone to check for themselves.
The fact that Jesus’ tomb was not venerated as a shrine indicates that the tomb was empty.  It was customary in Judaism for the tomb of a prophet or holy man to be preserved or venerated as a shrine because the bones of the prophet lay in the tomb.  The only reason Jesus’ followers would not have venerated his tomb is because it was empty.
Another reason is that the empty tomb was made up thirty years later, and no one knew what criminals' tomb Jesus had been in.

Why Did The Romans Not Produce The Body To Refute Christianity?

This is a claim from this website. The argument goes that if there was a body, then the Romans would have made sure that they found it, and then used it to refute the early religion.
Even if Jesus' disciples hadn't checked the tomb, Rome would have been fully aware of what had transpired there. Elite Roman Guards units, operating under penalty of death, must have scoured the area before reporting Jesus' body as missing.
So whether the disciples checked the tomb or not is irrelevant. If Rome could have produced Jesus' body, it certainly would have done so.
The reality is, I suggest, that the early religion did not claim a bodily resurrection. Jesus was resurrected in a brand new glorified body. The existence of the body was irrelevant, and they made no claims that the tomb was empty. No one checked on the body because no one cared.

It was only thirty years later, when Mark invented the empty tomb, that it became an issue, and by then, Jesus' body would have been unrecognisable.

Gospel of Peter (added 19/Jun/16)

Elsewhere I have seen argued that the Empty Tomb was in the pre-Markan passion narrative, and the evidence cited for this is the Gospel of Peter. The original Gospel of Peter is dated to before Mark, and the version we have does indeed mention the empty tomb. However, evidence points to this being a later addition.

From the conclusion of this book:

Sometime in the middle of the second century, a Christian author composed a new story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He did this by using as his primary sources the NT Gospels and other pieces of tradition with which he was acquainted. In the rewritten gospel there are many details that differ from the antecedent works, changes that were made in order to make the story more fitting for the new setting in weghich the author wrote. ...
...GP is best understood as a "rewritten gospel," and that criticism from and competition with those outside the Christian movement played a formative role in the reworking of earlier gospel accounts. ...
Chapter Four reviewed the account of the guard in GP. The writer retold the Matthean story and has altered in in seven was in an effort to assure readers that the tomb of Jesus was secure. ...
... While none of the NT gospels describes the resurrection - the actual emergence of Jesus from the tomb - the noncanonical author adds this scene in an attempt to prove a better case for the reality of the event. ...
So we have a first edition, dated to mid first century, which no long exists, and a second edition, written a century later. Sure the second edition has the empty tomb, but we have nothing to suggest the first edition did.


Peel away the veneer of dubious evidence and the claim for an empty tomb seems hollow indeed!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Where Was Jesus Buried? Evidence for the Resurrection, Part 2

Was Jesus buried in a tomb for criminals or an unused tomb?

Jewish Burial Procedure

The standard procedure for crucified Jews at that time was for a member of the Sanhedrin to ask Pilate for the body to be buried before nightfall, and this is exactly what Mark recorded for Jesus.

This is from Josephus, writing about the Great Revolt, 66 AD, and referring to this very procedure.
Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their dead bodies without burial, although the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun.
In fact, the Bible has the law from which this procedure was derived.
Deuteronomy 21: 22-23 "if there shall be against someone a crime judged worthy of death, and he be put to death and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree: but you shall bury him on the same day, for cursed of God is anyone hanged."
See also here:

All bodies (criminal or not) would be left in their tomb for up to year for the flesh to rot away, and then the bones placed in an ossuary. For a crucifixion victim, the family would be permitted to collect the bones to be placed in an ossuary in the family tomb.

We can be sure, then, that Jesus was buried. Was he buried in an unused tomb or as a common criminal? There may be a case that rebels against Roman law were held in high regard by the Jewish people, and so were buried honourably, but I would question how the Romans would regard such an act.

Roman Influence

The standard Roman practice was for crucifixion victims to remain on the cross long after death as a warning to others, and Pilate was making a concession to the Jews allowing them to bury their dead immediately. Judea was a hotbed of rebellion destined to erupt a few decades later, and Pilate was charged with keeping the Jews in order. Allowing them to keep their religious laws, such as immediate burial of the dead, was part of that (not that the Romans were always sensitive to the Jews beliefs, far from it on many occasions).

Can you see Pilate allowing Joseph of Arimathaea to take down the body of a rebel against Roman for an honourable burial? That would be entirely contrary to the Roman practice. Pilate wanted to maintain the peace. Allowing the Jews to keep their religious observances would do that. Allowing the Jews to honour a rebel against Roman law would definitely not.

Also worth remembering that Jews at that time made a big deal of honouring the tombs of their holy men. The last thing the Roman's wanted was the tomb of a new martyr who had stood against them (and as the proclaimed "King of the Jews" Jesus automatically stood against Rome).

And then there is the fact that Jesus was considered a blasphemer by the Jewish priests. This makes it very unlikely that Joseph of Arimathea would even want to give Jesus an honourable burial (in later embellishments,  Joseph of Arimathea gets repainted as a Christian himself, perhaps to get around
this problem, but in the original, Mark, that is not the case).

Gospel Accounts

Perhaps now is the time to look at Mark:
Mark 15:42 And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathaea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus.
44 And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead: and calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. 45 And when he knew it of the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.
46 And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre.
47 And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses beheld where he was laid.
So Mark has Jesus buried on the day he died, and in a sepulchre, hewn from rock, with a stone over the entrance. Not in Joseph of Arimathaea's tomb, not in an unused tomb, not in a special tomb at all. It is only in the later telling that this tomb is Joseph's own tomb, and that it is brand new, leading me to think that these were embellishments added later.

Compare Mark's account to John's:

38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. 39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. 40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. 42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

By the time John was written, Joseph had evolved into a Christian, and Jesus' body was laid with 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes, and the tomb has gained a garden. To me, this reeks of embellishment - later Christians want to play down the dishonoured burial of their messiah.

John was written significantly later, and claims like this could be made because people who knew better were dead.

Burial Implies Burial in Joseph's Tomb?

Sadly, some Christians attempt to conflate evidence for a burial with evidence for burial in Joseph's unused tomb. A particularly obvious case is seen here, by WL Craig:
2. As a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin that condemned Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea is unlikely to be a Christian invention.

There was an understandable hostility in the early church toward the Jewish leaders. In Christian eyes, they had engineered a judicial murder of Jesus. Thus, according to the late New Testament scholar Raymond Brown, Jesus’ burial by Joseph is “very probable,” since it is “almost inexplicable” why Christians would make up a story about a Jewish Sanhedrist who does what is right by Jesus. 1

For these and other reasons, most New Testament critics concur that Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb. According to the late John A. T. Robinson of Cambridge University, the burial of Jesus in the tomb is “one of the earliest and best-attested facts about Jesus.”
What Craig does here is use the fact that Joseph was likely to be hostile to Christianity to argue that Jesus was buried (and this I agree with). But that very hostility makes it very unlikely Joseph would have buried Jesus in his own unused tomb.

These two web pages do likewise.

Just A Spare Tomb?

There is an argument made occasionally that Joseph of Arimathaea needed to find a tomb in a hurry (he had to get the body buried by sunset at about 6 pm; Jesus expired at 3 pm, and Joseph had to see Pilate in those three hours), and so used his own tomb as a temporary abode. Was Joseph's tomb closer to where the criminals were crucified than the tomb for crucified criminals? Sounds unlikely, but it is certainly possible. If you subscribe to this position, then you are admitting the Bible is wrong where it claims Joseph was a Christian.

There is also the issue that Joseph would want the body out of there fast. The Sabbath was over by sunset the next day; it is entirely likely that Joseph would have moved the body to the proper tomb then. The next day, the women come to the tomb, and find it is empty... So the claim of Joseph using his own tomb because he was running out of time actually helps to explain away the empty tomb on Sunday morning.

However, the real problem here is that there is no evidence to support it.

Yohanan Ben Ha'galgal

From Wikipedia:
Johanan ben Ha-galgol is the name of a man whose remains in an ossuary were discovered by archaeologists in 1968 near Jerusalem. The remains show clearly that the man had been crucified.
Some Christians take this as evidence that Jesus was buried in a decent tomb, eg here:
Know also that conjecture about crucifixion victims being disposed of in a common pit for the executed near Jerusalem suffered a deadly blow in June of 1968 with the discovery of the remains of Yohanan Ben Ha'galgal, a man who had been crucified, yet was then plainly buried in a family tomb.
This argument fails to consider the usual practice of the time. Of course there was no "common pit"; that would contradict Jewish law of the time. Instead, there was a tomb for crucified criminals. the bodies would lie there for several months to a year, at which point the family could collect them, for storage in their own tomb in an ossuary.

Clearly this is consist with Johanan ben Ha-galgol. He was crucified and then put in a tomb for crucified criminals. Later his family collected his bones, leaving them in the ossuary that was discovered.


The most likely scenario from the evidence we have is that Jesus was buried in a tomb, but it was a tomb for criminals.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Evidence for the Resurrection, Part 1

The resurrection of Jesus is fundamental to the Christian faith, so I thought it might be interesting to see what evidence there really is for it. Some Christians claim the evidence is overwhelming, and the only reason not to believe is you do not want to. Is that reasonable?

Two Scenarios

I am going to consider two different scenarios, and see how they stack up against the evidence. That certainly does not mean no other scenarios are possible; I am just picking two that seem significant to me.

The first scenario is standard Christian doctrine:

1. Jesus was resurrected in his original body, and seen in that state by the apostles, first in Jerusalem, and later in Galilee, before ascending to heaven.

The second scenario is rather different. It has two forms, but the effects are the same (i.e., what people experienced, and therefore the evidence we have, will be the same either way).

2a. Jesus was resurrected in a new glorified body, and seen in that state by the apostles in Galilee.

2b. Jesus was not resurrected, but the apostles saw something that they believed was Jesus in Galilee.

Assumed Evidence

There are a few points I am going to assume are true. we cannot be sure they are true, nearly 2000 years after the event, but they do seem likely, and I think it perfectly reasonable to give them the benefit of the doubt.

1. I am going to assume that Jesus existed, and indeed that the main protagonists of the gospel accounts and acts all existed. They were all there at the right time and place.

2. I assume Jesus really was crucified.

3. I assume Jesus was buried in some way by Joseph of Arimathaea (or under Joseph's instruction). The evidence is slight, but I see no reason for Mark to have made it up, so this seems likely to me.

4. I assume the early apostles believed they had seen Jesus alive after the crucifixion. I think Christianity is based on this belief; it could not have flourished unless this was so. It is claimed many of them died for their beliefs, so they are more than likely to be sincere.

5. I assume Paul was originally an enemy of Christianity, had an experience he believed to be seeing Jesus, and later became a convert.

6. I assume the Gospel of Mark was the first gospel to be written. Of all these assumptions, this is the one Christians may well disagree with, but it is the opinion of most Biblical scholars.

The two scenarios above are both consist with these six facts.

Facts vs speculation

This web page lists some curious claims as facts.





The problem with discussions about the resurrection is that Christians take these claims "as gospel". From a Christian point of view, these events really are facts. Of course they are true, they are in the Bible! Unfortunately, if you want to know what really happened, you cannot start from the assumption that the Bible must be true. If you do, it is trivially easy to prove the resurrection - of course it is, it says so in the Bible.

In the next few posts I will look at some of the claims in detail.

Alternative Scenario

This is what I proposed could have happened in more detail, scenario 2 above, differing from Christian doctrine in that that was no empty tomb and no appearances in Jerusalem.

When Jesus was arrested, the disciples fled Jerusalem (see Mark 14), and went back to their original lives.

Jesus was tried for treason against Rome, having claimed to be King of the Jews, and crucified. He was buried in a shallow tomb for criminals, following the standard procedure of the time.

He was later seen (or thought to be seen) in Galilee, first by Peter, whilst out fishing (see John 21). The apostles started spreading the word that Jesus was risen, and the apocalypse that Jesus had prophesied was imminent.

After Paul has a vision of Jesus (possible a seizure), Paul becomes a convert. Now a Christian, Paul was clearly expecting this apocalypse soon too, as in 1 Corinthians 15 he talks about that moment.
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
When he says "We shall not all sleep" he means that some of those he is communicating with will still be alive when the last trump sounds.

The early Christians wondered about how Jesus died, and start to put together a "passion narrative". As none of them were in Jerusalem at the time, this is based on guesswork and scripture. As Paul says, Jesus rose on the third day according to scripture (1 Corinthians 15:4); that is, they looked at verses in the Old Testament to determine what had happened (Jonah 1:17). No one actually saw it happen.

Later it became clear that the apocalypse was not going to be arriving quite as soon as they thought, and only now was it thought worthwhile writing down the formative events of Christianity. There was no point scribing a gospel if the world was going to end in a few months. However, if it is still going to be here in 100 years, then it becomes worthwhile.

So Mark writes his gospel. It is mostly a history, based on an existing oral traditional plus the passion narrative, but it is also an apologetic work, so it needs a triumphant ending. Why Mark did not describe the appearance of Jesus is odd, but clearly he chose not to, merely alluding to that event in his narrative. Instead, he invented the empty tomb as his great ending.

But he had a problem. People alive when he was writing had never heard of the empty tomb; they would wonder what he was talking about. Thus, the tomb was discovered by two women. At that time, women were not considered at all reliable, so it would be considered perfectly reasonable that the women would find the tomb empty, but not to tell anyone. Thus Mark has his empty tomb, and also could explain why no one had heard of it before hand.

Mark originally ended:
Mark 16:1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, ‘Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?’
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”’
8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
Here is Paul again:
1 Corinthians 15:4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
No mention of an empty tomb by Paul - Mark had not invented that detail when Paul was writing. Note also that Paul says Peter saw Jesus first; none of the canonical gospels say that... but the Gospel of Peter does, and many scholars consider it to be very early.

The post-resurrection accounts in the gospels are pure fiction. The authors of Luke, Matthew and John each have their own made up story, and with no factual basis, the stories are wildly disparate. Why did the figure in the tomb in Mark say the apostles were to go to Galilee if Jesus would be wandering around Jerusalem? It makes no sense, but the gospel writers needed more and more evidence made up to counter their enemies.

To counter claims the apostles stole the body, Matthew makes up the guard on the tomb (also prominent in Peter, likely due to subsequent revision):
Matthew 27:2 Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, 63 Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. 64 Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.
65 Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can. 66 So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.
To counter the claim that it was merely a ghost (generally believed to exist at that time), John claims:
John 20:25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
In subsequent posts in this sequence I will look at the evidence that Christian cite for a bodily resurrection.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Contradiction: The Nature of the Resurrection

There are plenty of anti-Christian sites that list Biblical conradictions. I think most are trivial. Okay, if you are against inerrancy, each contradiction is significant, but otherwise I do not think many really matter.

However, the resurrection is fundamental to Christianity, and the contradiction there strikes me as very significant.

Jesus as Prototype

First, we need to consider how Jesus is relevant here. Paul is quite clear:
1 Corinthians 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.

Jesus was the prototype. His resurrection was the first, but all good Christians can expect to be resurrected in the same way.

A Spiritual Resurrection

Paul goes on in his epistle to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 15:42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: 43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

A clear distinction between the natural, flesh-and-blood body, and the spiritual body. Now I would not take that to mean necessarily insubstantial, but rather to mean a body composed of a different kind of matter; the same matter that angels are made of, say.

Indeed, Jesus confirms this idea when talking to the Sadducees, discussing what happens in the afterlife to a woman whose husband dies, and she marries again. Whose wife is she?
Matthew 22:30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.
She is noone's wife! Marriage, sex and even gender are irrelevant in the afterlife, because people are no longer flesh-and-blood, and so worldly concerns are forgotten. Instead, everyone will be like angels; composed of spiritual matter.

It is also worth looking at the vision Paul saw of Jesus.
Acts 9:3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
Again, this was no flesh-and-blood person, this was a spiritual being, akin to an angel.

What is heaven like?

Sure the way heaven is portrayed it is usually with people walking around looking pretty ordinary, but does that actually make sense?

Does anyone think you need to go to the toilet in heaven? Of course you do not! And the reason is that you are no longer flesh-and-blood.

Do you think people with physical disabilities still have them in heaven? If you live to be ninety, are you resurrected as a ninety year old? How about if you have spots, are they gone? A big nose? A bit of excess weight? Are there clothes? Fashions? Modesty taboos? All these things would seem to be required if people come back to live in their original bodies. Do you think that makes sense?

New bodies

It is also clear that the body you have in this life does not end up in heaven. The bones of many saints are still around, for example, but none of the flesh. If there really is a resurrection, it must be the case that God gives the good a brand new body. Now it is possible that he gives everyone a brand new body that is identical to the old one, but surely it makes sense to give everyone a spiritual body for a spiritual life.

The soul

What is it that goes to heaven? It is not the body, it is the soul. A spiritual entity.

A Flesh-and-Blood Resurrection

The problem is that such a view is contradicted by the gospel resurrection accounts, especially that of John.
John 20:26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
This is a very different resurrection to that described by Paul and indeed Jesus himself! This is Jesus coming to life again in the original body. This is Jesus complete with holes in his hands from the crucifixion!

If this view of resurrection is correct, then people who died in car accidents can expect to end up in heaven a tangled mess of limbs!

Remember that the absence of a body was of great significance.
Mark 16:6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.
In this resurrection, a person comes back to life in his or her original body. According to Paul, everyone except Jesus gets resurrected on the same day; to bad if you were cremated or died more than a few months before the resurrection and have started to decompose. Perhaps you think people go to heaven straightaway? Obviously not - their bodies are still here.

Using the Spiritual Resurrection as Evidence for a Bodily Resurrection?

Curiously, Christians are happy to cite Paul sayimg Jesus was resurrected in a new body to support their claim that Jesus was raised in his original body!

This is from Answers in Genesis:
Crossan’s “Christian faith” is not Christian at all, since a denial of the bodily Resurrection of Jesus is actually a rejection of the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15:12–21; Romans 10:9).
That is quite a stretch of logic there, but I guess that feel confident most people will not bother to both read 1 Corinthians 15 and think about what it actually says.


On the one hand we have the early tradition of Paul; Jesus is the prototype for resurrection, and everyone is resurrected in new spiritual bodies. On the other hand we have the later tradition of gospels; Jesus' resurrection is special, he was raised in his old body. A clear contradiction in the most fundamental claim of Christianity.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Can We Make Moral Judgements of God?

I was reading a web page at Christian Thinktank. One of the claims on the page (about 10% of the way down) is that people are just not morally fit to judge God:
We must note that, in the first question, we (somewhat insignificant 'carbon-based life forms') are presuming to judge God's morality and character on the basis of our own! For a human being, with the incredible paucity of data we have about the universe, morality, reality, and complexity, to decide that God is less kind, less noble, less compassionate, less moral, less 'humane' than they, seems quite bizarre, in my opinion.
The author considers two cases:
In the latter case, we have a God that somehow creates a derivative, "smaller" creature (i.e., human) with a superior morality and better heart! So, when a person says "I refuse to worship such a heartless god" we have the absurdly strange situation in which the "effect" is somehow greater than/superior to the "cause". (If you haven't read Aristotle recently, perhaps now is a good time to read his discussion on causality, to see what problems this might include (sardonic smile).) This is pure and naïve presumption...(Notice that the analog of this--"I have a greater intelligence than the absolute source of all intelligence" makes the absurdity even clearer.)
The question here is whether an immoral or amoral entity could create humans with a superior morality.

The author's position is that it is absurd to claim that "the "effect" is somehow greater than/superior to the "cause"." If we take that to be true, then his conclusion follows, but is that a reasonable claim? I think not!

I have to hold my hand up and admit I have not read Aristotle recently. I did find this web page about Aristotle and causality, and found nothing to support the author's claim, but maybe others can. Then again, perhaps the author should read up on the Butterfly Effect!

Mankind has built computers able to do calculations faster and more accurately than their creator, he has built machines that are stronger, buildings that are taller, cars that are faster, aeroplanes that can go higher, submarines that go deeper. There are plenty of examples in which the created may exceed the creator.

Is this only true for morality? If you want to argue that, then please go ahead. However, please note that the author of this web page is claiming this is a general law, and applying that law to the specific case of morality.

Then there is his supposed analogy; "I have a greater intelligence than the absolute source of all intelligence". For the Christian, of course this is absurd. God, the absolute source of all intelligence, is infinitely intelligent. But this presupposes the very thing the author is hoping to prove! The issue is whether God really is a superior morality or not (in the analogy, the question would be whether absolute source of all intelligence is itself super-intelligent).

The author's argument seems to come down to labelling it "pure and naïve presumption"; ironic given the presumptions with which he was arguing.

The author then looks at the situation for materialism. Along the way he slips in a few barbs about Darwinism that really do not help his argument if he is hoping to convince skeptics - maybe he is really just "preaching to the converted"?
... we have a creature that has climbed from the slime to some kind of superiority (i.e., "top of the food chain"!) by wholesale application of 'survival of the fittest' (read: "extinguishing" or "subjugating" others) Vast amounts of human evil--the responsibility for which is borne in this scenario solely by the human, since there are no other agents to pin this on or share the blame with--have been perpetrated and are inexorably justified, under the evolutionary leveling of all to 'self-interest'. The elimination of countless species of life in this evolutionary, ceaseless, and random struggle; the very atrocities that are used as examples of 'the problem of evil'(!);...
That this has happened is a historical fact. Mankind has a long history of extinguishing other species (with numerous other endangered). Within the human race, numerous groups have sought to achieve superiority through wars, with entire races occasionally wiped out (the Bible even documents some instances). The author asserts that mankind must take full responsibility in the material view; given he has made this distinction, and he is not a materialist, does the author believe that God is partly culpable for these atrocities? Or is he using Satan as a scapegoat here? Personally, I will stick with the materialists, who accept mankind's responsibilities for mankind's actions.
... and the wholesale failure of the human race to produce anything in the area of human rights at all but the most insignificant scale,...
Human morality is evolving. A few centuries ago, slavery was consider acceptable. Now it is not. Gradually the area of human rights is improving. This is what we would expect for a species that is having to work it out for itself.
... makes me question the 'moral superiority' of such a creature...
I guess the author has to decide for himself if he is capable of making moral judgements.
Indeed, since his moral judgments will eventually reduce to thinly-disguised but cosmetically-complex positions of 'self-interest', why should they be taken as 'objective' in any sense?
Hmm, sounds like he is deciding that he is not capable of making moral judgements. I think most people can. I would accept that our judgements are often biased towards our own self-interest, but we can, say, consider hypothetical cases in which we are not ourselves involved. Sure, it might be in my interests to steal that money, but in the general case, is it morally right for person A to steal from person B?

There is a large body of philosophy that revolves around this area.
Despite Herculean efforts to construct systems of evolutionary ethics to account for altruism, cooperation, and "animal rights" type of oddities, while attempting to avoid the racist and biological supremacist implications of the early Darwinian exponents, we are stuck with our own bloody and shameful history of action. [Recent studies on advanced forms of cooperation in higher primates(cf. PH:GN) only pushes the problem 'down' and 'early' a little further.]
Just for the record, racists and supremacism predated Darwin by thousands of years, and plenty of Christians are among them.

And we are all stuck with that bloody and shameful history of action. How on Earth does that weaken the materialist position?
To agree that a "mudball, with hair and teeth, red in tooth and fang" can transcend this history to the point of making authoritative statements about morality and character, is well beyond my skeptical limits... 
So this is what it comes down to; an argument from incredulity. Well I find the claim that God exists is well beyond my skeptical limits.
The very fact that I believe that I can make moral judgements about my actions and the actions of others, presuppose that my source of origin has at least as good an ethical standard as I.
Why is that? When I try to determine if something is right or wrong, I go though a mental process - I think about it (for example, I might relate it to a similar situation, I might consider the consequences on the people involved, I might remember what my parents taught me). This does not come from some mystical external source, it comes from my ability to think (the author might believe my ability to think comes from God, but that is not what he is arguing here).
For me to believe that I can make objective moral judgments, and then take the position that my ontological source of ethical abilities is inferior to me, borders on the self-stultifying.
Fortunately, the materialist does not suffer from this handicap.
Now, strictly speaking, the skeptic is certainly warranted in raising the question of God's character--on the basis of his individual exegetical and theological construction--I would not fault him in the least for this. We often do this; something strikes us morally 'odd' about a passage or a doctrine, and it forces us to examine it more closely and more carefully and more open-mindedly. Often in the this process we discover our 'hidden baggage' that we bring to the text. In the skeptic's case, however, instead of having an independent basis (such as a warm personal experience of God or a careful and informed understanding of the life and character of Jesus Christ) for giving God the "benefit of the doubt" and suspending judgment until he has time to turn all the possible understandings over, he instead hits the "Finish" button and arrives at the conclusion.
This highlights the problem in the discussion. The Christian starts from the believe that God is perfectly good, and will therefore interprete the Bible from that point of view. The Christian cannot find anything immoral about what God does in the Bible; he starts from the presupposition that there is not, and works from there.
The main problem is one of sequence. The skeptic foregoes deciding about the more 'objective' issues such as "was prophecy fulfilled beyond reasonable plausibility?" or "did the resurrection really occur?", or "how did Jesus feel about this God?", and instead starts the process with a subjective moral judgement of God's character, based on his fundamentalist-like understanding of Genesis and some of the other texts (some of the stranger texts in the bible, I might add). In normal life, one generally tries to move in the opposite direction--from the more-sure to the more-questionable...
Who is it that gets to decide which the "stranger" texts are?

Other than that, he makes a good point. The Christian is so sure that God is perfectly good that anything in the Bible must be read in that light. The skeptic starts from a whole different set of foundations (what is actually written in the Bible, the existence of so much natural and man-made Evil in the world, etc.).

Monday, 4 November 2013

The Bible On Rape

In an article about the Moral Argument, Craig puts forward his case that an objective morality proves God.
Although you present your reservations as worries about (2), it’s evident that you agree that (2) is true, for you say not only that you are “morally repulsed” by child rape, but that you think “child rape should be universally condemned.”
That issue was discussed earlier, but it is curious to consider where the Bible actually condemns child rape. Surely if this is an objective morality, and further if this type of crime is the basis of his argument for an objective morality, then there will be clear condemnation in the Bible, right?


Craig attempts to show that the Bible condemns child rape thus:
Copan observes that there are three cases considered here:
1. Consensual sex between a man and a woman who is engaged to another man, which was a violation of marriage ( Deuteronomy 22.23 ). Both parties were to be executed.

2. Rape of a woman who is engaged to another man ( Deuteronomy 22.25 ). Only the rapist is executed; the woman is an innocent victim.

3. Seduction of a young woman who is not engaged to another man Deuteronomy 22.28 ; cf . Exodus 22.16-17 ). The seducer is obliged to marry the young woman and provide for her, if she will have him; otherwise her father may refuse him and demand payment of the usual bridal gift (rather like a dowry) anyway.
In short, rape was a capital crime in ancient Israel.
Point 1 can be discarded at the outset; it is not about rape (fair enough - that may not have been what Copan was discussing). Point 2 is the special case of a woman who is both betrothed and being raped in the countryside.
25 But if out in the country a man happens to meet a young woman pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die.
Now it is likely that most women were betrothed at quite an early age in those days, but this is supposed to be an objective morality - one that holds for all cultures.

More importantly, we are considering here child rape. Was it the practice that girls were pledged to be married right from birth? Of course not. In fact it is very unlikely a girl was pledged to be married before the age of 12. This verse in fact does not cover child rape at all.

This brings us to point 3, and the horrific Biblical pronouncement that a woman who is raped must marry the rapist.

Craig quotes Copan saying it is "Seduction", but let us read how it is usually translated:

28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels[c] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

Bible says "rape", Christian apologist say "Seduction".

Actually the Hebrew is not clear either way (more on that later), but let us suppose Craig (and Copan) are correct. That leaves only point 2 addressing rape. One verse, Deuteronomy 22.25, that only covers rape of a woman pledged to a man, who is raped in the country.

That is all Craig has to support his claim that "rape was a capital crime in ancient Israel", and gives us no indication at all that child rape was even considered immoral.

Women As Property

I suspect the reality is that the opinion of the woman was not an issue. Whether she was raped and forced to have sex against her will or was seduced and had sex voluntarily was neither here nor there. Who cares what the woman thought and whether she suffered? She was, after all, just a special form of property.

The extramarital intercourse of a married man is not per se a crime in biblical or later Jewish law. This distinction stems from the economic aspect of Israelite marriage: the wife was the husband's possession (of a special sort, see *Marriage), and adultery constituted a violation of the husband's exclusive right to her; the wife, as the husband's possession, had no such right to him.

Woman as the Spoils of War

Here are a number of passages in which women are treated as trophies of battle (if they are virgins, otherwise they get killed). As usual, the opinion of the women is of no consequence, any more than the opinion of the rest of the spoils of war.

Judges 21:10-24
Numbers 31:7-18
Deuteronomy 20:10-14
Judges 5:30 (not clear if this is condoned or not)

God even has laws about forcefully taking a woman as a trophy of battle:

Deuteronomy 21:10-14

Rape As Punishment

God uses (or at least threatenes) rape to punish:

Isaiah 13:16
2 Samuel 12:11
Zechariah 14:1-2

Note that it is not the women being raped who are deserving of punishment. No, God is punishing the men by having women raped. The women are mere property, and their concerns are insignificant.

See also:

How can anyone claim the Bible condemns rape when God uses rape as a form of punishment?

Apologetics on Rape

None of this stops Christian apologists making claims like this:

The Bible does address the issue of rape. As expected, when the Bible mentions the crime of rape, it is depicted as a gross violation of God’s design for the treatment of the human body (Genesis 34). The Bible condemns rape whenever it is mentioned.
Of all the rapes that occur in the Bible we see that God is vehemently opposed to it ...
Seriously? I have cited several verses already; can the apologists point to condemnation associated with each and every one? In particular, let us see where rape is condemned in Isaiah 13, 2 Samuel 12 and Zechariah 14.

The first article linked to goes on to claim "This passage (Deuteronomy 22:13-29) spoke directly against forcing a woman into a sexual encounter against her will, or what we know today as rape." No. It spoke directly about a man damaging another man's property. It makes no distinction between consensual sex and forced sex.

If fact, that he says "what we know today as rape" is the salient point. Nowadaya we have a word for rape, back then they did not. Why was there no word for rape? Rape and consensual sex were regarded as pretty much the same thing - the opinion of the woman just did not matter.

Rape is okay if you marry her first

This appears to be the position of many apologists. The author above goes on (talking about the passage in Numbers 31):
Critics make the accusation that this is an example of the Bible condoning, or even promoting, rape. However, the passage says nothing about raping the captive women. It is wrong to assume that the captive women were to be raped.
It is interesting to note that the author provides links to most Bible passages cited, but not to this one. Let us see what the author is embarrassed about:
Numbers 30:17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.
Okay it does not spell it out, but exactly why do you think these girls were saved, but not the boys? Why specifically keep the virgins? What difference does it make to the soldiers? Unless the intent is to have sex with them.

Oh, wait... Does this guy think they would be willing to have sex with the warriors who had just killed their mothers and fathers and destroyed their homes?
Did the captive women likely eventually marry amongst the Israelites? Yes. Is there any indication that rape or sex slavery was forced upon the women? Absolutely not.
Well, I guess if you live in cloud-cuckoo land these things make sense. And that is the problem. These people assume the Bible is perfect, and so then have to twist around what it says to make it fit their distorted image of it.

The text in Numbers makes it clear that these women are to be married and allowed to mourn first. But the point here is they get no choice. They are forced to marry the men that had killed their families and destroyed their homes.

This was cited earlier in order to show that there wasn't rape, see the process at the end of #1. The process showed that they must be married in order to have sexual relations. None of this was forced, including the marriage. There's not rape, once again EB inserts a very disturbing misinterpretation.
Judges 5 paints a different picture.
Judges 5:28 The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariots?
29 Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself,
30 Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two; to Sisera a prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil?
This was not setting up the women in homes, then courting them with a view to marrying them if the lady was agreeable. This was soldiers plundering a city, and capturing "a damsel or two" to take home. The Jews had strict purity laws about sex, and this pillaging had to fall within those laws, so there was the month's wait, and the marriage requirement. But there was no allowance for what the woman wanted. She was just property, a trophy of battle.

A General Command To Be Nice

It has to be acknowledged that the Bible does have a command to be nice to people. 
Matthew 7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

Jesus is probably referring to Leviticus 19:18 and 34 here. It is interesting to note that the KJV translation uses the word men (and that is how the word is usually translated in all versions).

At best the Bible has a general command to be nice to people, which will preclude rape. Certainly there is no specific condemnation of rape, nothing to suggest that rape is any worse than calling someone an idiot, say. Nothing to support Craig's claim that rape was a capital crime. No specific condemnation of child rape.


Let us put this in perspective. The Bible is quite clear that the eating of shellfish wrong:
Leveticus 11:9 These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat. 10 And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you: 11 They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination. 12 Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.

Why is rape not condemned as clearly? Sure, raping a woman pledged to a man while she is in the country is condemned - that is a capital crime. Raping a woman not yet pledged, however, does not rate a mention.

The conclusion is that rape of an unpledged woman is less important to God than the eating of shellfish. And that is the "objective morality" that Christians use to prove God exists.

See also:

Friday, 1 November 2013

The Moral Argument for God

The Moral Argument for God is another favourite of WL Craig. He sums it up here:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

Let us think about whether it actually holds water. First, I will note that the argument is valid - i.e., if we assume that premise 1 and premise 2 are true, then the conclusion must necessaily follow. But is the argument sound? Are the premises really true?

As evidence of premise 2, Craig offers the example of child rape being universally considered wrong.
Although you present your reservations as worries about (2), it’s evident that you agree that (2) is true, for you say not only that you are “morally repulsed” by child rape, but that you think “child rape should be universally condemned.”
But does it them follow that there must be an objective morality? The argument would seem to be that if there is an issue that all humans agree on, then that can only be because there is a universal standard somewhere, and the only place that universal standard can be is God.

Is it not possible that we all agree on an issue that exists in our own minds? For example, we all agree that two plus two is four. Do we need that fact to be in god? I see no reason to suppose we do.

Christian objective morality

The curious thing about this argument is that there is no such thing as a single Christian objective morality. If there was, Christians would universally agree on moral issues like abortion and homosexuality.

A few centuries ago pretty much all Christians thought slavery was moral, nowadays, no Christians do. While I applaud this change around - and recognise that it was Christians who made it happen - I have to wonder how that can happen if there really is an objective morality.

The Old Testament has several passages clearly condoning genocide. Christians today consider genocide to be morally wrong. If genocide is right when God wants it and wrong otherwise, that is the very antithesis of an objective morality.

Remember, Craig's argument is predicated on there being some moral issues that we universally agree on. And yet, when it comes to some big issues, like slavery and genocide, that is not true.

Despite that - and despite being an atheist - I do think there is likely to be an objective morality, so let us see premise 1 in more detail.

If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

Why must this be so? Is it not possible that moral values exist in the abstract?

Think about the rules of geometry. For example, the interior angles of a triangle always add up to the same value, which is exactly half the total of the internal angles of a quadrilateral, which is itself equal to the external angles of any triangle or any quadrilateral. These rules were not invented; they are intrinsic to the shapes. They were true before mankind discovered them. They will be found by any sufficiently advance races of extra-terrestrials. They exist in the abstract - they do not need a mind to store them, they just are.

Why can objective morality not be similar?

I could not find a web page where Craig supports his claim (he may well do so in one of books), so let us look at a couple of other web pages.

If there is no God it is difficult to see how there could be any objective foundation, any universal standard for good and evil. How do you get ethics from only different arrangements of space, time, matter and energy? A purely materialistic universe would be morally indifferent. We would have only individual or cultural opinion, but no objectively binding moral obligations!
Great. An argument from ignorance, followed by a baseless assertion. The author goes on:
But if God does not exist, the critical assumption that human beings are objectively valuable is not available.
Why is it not available? The author offers us no clues.

Here is a guy who tries to defend premise 1 on his own blog. He establishes morality is (at least in part) non-physical, then says:
To begin with, think of how truly bizarre nonphysical objective moral properties are on a naturalistic worldview (they are also rather strange on atheism, but let’s set that aside for the moment). A property like moral wrongness is a nonphysical property of unconditional oughtness (e.g. an action is morally wrong for subject S only if S ought not to do it) that somehow exists independently of human belief and perception of it. On naturalism this sort of objectively existing ought-property is rather strange, utterly unlike anything in the natural universe. And how is it on naturalism we could know that these nonphysical ought-properties are attached to actions in the physical world, like a man stealing a television having the nonphysical property of moral wrongness?
And yet atheists have no problem with abstract concepts like tomorrow, love, success, freedom. Do these seem "truly bizarre" to the author?

The properties of polygons, as discussed before, "somehow exists independently of human belief and perception of it". Is that "truly bizarre"?

Like much of apologetics, this argument is designed to reinforce the faith of the Christian, and not to convince the non-believer. Craig is preaching to the choir.