My Response to Jerry Coyne and his Readers on the Resurrection

Reply to “Why Evolution Is Not True”

 

Jerry Coyne, on his popular blog: “Why Evolution Is True” (WEIT) posted about Kenneth Miller’s theistic evolution position—”Catholic biologist Ken Miller talks about God and evolution.” In it, he commented:

Miller adds that he sees Jesus as divine and as “saviour of the world.” That being the case, Varg should immediately have asked him if he thought Jesus was resurrected from the dead. I don’t think Miller would have been on as firm a ground if he had said that that, too, might just have been just a story to underscore Jesus’s “teachings”. For if Miller really thought that, he would be flying in the face of very important Church dogma, and in fact could hardly call himself a Catholic. (If Jesus wasn’t crucified and resurrected, on what grounds do we consider him saviour of the world? And isn’t a denial of the Resurrection a heresy?)

In response to that quote, I sent in a comment that stated “Jesus did rise from the dead; there were over 500 witnesses.” Dr. Coyne then generated a new blog post “Jesus Delusion” featuring my comment. Later that day he posted my reply to “Jesus Delusion” in a new blog post entitled “McLeroy replies about the crucifixion.”

This blog post is my response to Dr. Coyne and the WEIT readers who made almost 400 comments to these two blog posts.

First, I would like to thank and complement the many who took the time to thoughtfully reply to my two comments on the 500 eyewitnesses. Daniel Dennett touts “Sturgeon’s Law” which says that 90% of all comments are rubbish, but here, this is clearly not the case. Most were very serious reflections and reasonable statements and questions.

Biblical scholars differ on the resurrection. I admit that I am only well-read among the conservative scholars and my familiarity with the liberal scholars is limited to the critiques of them by the conservatives. Definitely not the best policy. The only skeptical book I have read is Russell Shorto’s Gospel Truth: On the Trail of the Historical Jesus as he had interviewed me for a major essay in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Just as the scholars differ so do I and the readers. I accept a scholarship that dates the Gospels as written between 40 and 65 A.D. whereas most readers believe they were written 65 to 100 A.D. or later. These later dates allow for conspiracy theories and myths to be more easily developed. I don’t think any reader held the early dating gospel view.

But no matter which scholars are correct, we still have to account for the phenomenon of Christianity and its powerful influence over the last 2000 years and today. And, we have to account for the fact as to why my simple comment about “500 eyewitnesses” could stir up so much interest? Christianity seems to draw a lot more interest than it should. Of course, atheism and evolution do the same for me. I admit that I enjoy following many of Dr. Coyne’s blog posts. I like keeping up with the evolutionists and atheists; I want to understand how the atheist mind thinks and reasons. I believe that Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins are much clearer thinkers about the implications of evolution than Kenneth Miller and other theistic evolutionists.

Specific Objections

 

Overall, I found the objections raised to the resurrection to be focused on plain skeptical thinking about miracles in general, the accuracy and reliability of the scriptures, contradictions in the gospel story, and especially, the lack of corroborating evidence of biblical accounts concerning the resurrection—especially the dead coming out of their graves and seen walking around Jerusalem.

Specific to the resurrection, no one advocated the swoon theory, and only a few commented that they thought the disciples hallucinated. Most focused on the idea of a conspiracy of early Christians or the gradual development of Christianity as myth. Also, no one was impressed with the experts I cited—Andreas Kostenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw, Peter Kreeft, Norman Geisler, Frank Turek, Lee Strobel, James Hannam, Moyshe Averick, Rodney Stark, Ravi Zacarias,G. K Chesterton, Paul Johnson, Abraham Kuyper, C. S. Lewis, and David Brog.

I do not know why there is no mention of the dead coming out of their graves and seen walking around Jerusalem in non-biblical accounts. But, it does seem odd though for a bunch of conspirators to add such a detail that could easily be dismissed unless it actually happened.

While we do not know their names or have the testimonies of the 500 in question, we do for Paul and James and Peter and John and Mark and Matthew. I am not too bothered about the actual number of eyewitnesses. As noted in my comment to McLeroy replies about the crucifixion the testimony of just two eyewitnesses is very powerful. Even so, if Jesus did actually rise from the dead and spent around a month among the people, it seems logical the claim of the 500 witnesses could have happened. And, Paul is issuing a challenge to those skeptics reading his words to go and ask these folks—many who are still alive. This is not something you would do if making up a myth or a conspiracy.

Another good point the readers made are why some disciples did not recognize Jesus immediately. I don’t know. Again, it does seem odd though for a bunch of conspirators to add such a detail that could easily be dismissed unless it actually happened. I can only speculate as to why he was not recognized; my speculations are not very important.

I am not in a position to debate the strength and weaknesses of Bart Ehrman’s scholarship. As noted in my first reply in Jesus Delusion I have my own set of experts I trust. I will let them have that debate.

As for Paul’s claims he saw Jesus on the road to Damascus, it certainly was more than a vision. There was light and all present heard Jesus speaking.

One reader stated that Christianity “attained its current heights due to” purely naturalistic causes. I hold the view that Christianity reached its lofty status because it is based on truth—truth about the nature of God, the nature of man and the nature of the world.

One reader asked if I would still believe if there were no eyewitnesses. A good question. I can only speculate because the account says they were eyewitnesses. With no witnesses, the biblical accounts would have been totally different and history would have been completely different. I don’t know what I would believe today if that were the case.

Biblical Trustworthiness in General

 

It seems to me that the starting point for many of the readers in rejecting the resurrection are an anti-supernatural bias and assumption that the Bible is not reliable or authoritative. I believe the supernatural exists and miracles happen. Miracles can happen; the greatest miracle was the creation of the world. For me, I have found the Bible to be extremely reliable; this is not the case for many of the readers; I see no way of resolving these differences here.

Other Questions

 

A very good question raised by Dr. Coyne and others is why I believe I am right when I have not studied other religions for 29 years. Could I be wrong? Yes, I could be wrong. I try to understand what others believe or don’t believe. This is one reason I listen to the podcast “Point of Inquiry.” They have fascinating discussions about issues such as these. Again, my testimony of “How I became a Christian” can be found on my website.

The timing of events during the “Passion Week” is difficult. I do not know for sure. A lot had to happen if the “Last Supper” was Thursday night and the crucifixion was Friday. For me, this is not insurmountable.

One reader asked “What would it take to change my mind?” This is a good question. Since my whole life is wrapped up in my faith—my friends, my church, my sense of who I am, it would be very difficult to give it all up. I believe I am honest enough to do so if I was presented evidence of a viable alternative.

This works both ways. For those of you who are atheists, how can you hold to something with so little evidence? You have to have something from “Nothing.” If “Nothing” is defined as “what a sleeping rock dreams of;” I would think you have a serious problem.

For those of you who are evolutionists, how can you hold to something with so little evidence? To explain all the diversity of life on this planet by unguided natural processes requires a titanic amount of evidence. I think the best evidence you have is the fossil record. You say the present is the key to the past. Yet, present animal life consists of life so discontinuous that it is unimaginable how the gaps could have been bridged , and the fossil record shows the same gaps—with some transitional fossils. This is not enough! There should be “zillions” of them. And, when it comes to explaining the evolution of  biochemical processes in the cell, you have nothing.

Therefore, I find my biblical beliefs to be much more reasonable. For any other alternative, the evidence doesn’t support it.

In conclusion, all of us reasoning creatures hold some irrational beliefs. I find mine to be less of a problem than the way I understand yours; this is why I read your blogs—to better understand your beliefs. However, I must admit that after reading your responses to these two WEIT blog posts by Dr. Coyne, I find your reasoning much more coherent and evidence based.

Thank you.

Don McLeroy

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23 Responses to My Response to Jerry Coyne and his Readers on the Resurrection

  1. Pingback: Don McLeroy tells us why he believes in the Resurrection and its 500 witnesses « Why Evolution Is True

  2. Reginald Selkirk says:

    It seems to me that the starting point for many of the readers in rejecting the resurrection are an anti-supernatural bias and assumption that the Bible is not reliable or authoritative. I believe the supernatural exists and miracles happen. Miracles can happen; the greatest miracle was the creation of the world. For me, I have found the Bible to be extremely reliable; this is not the case for many of the readers; I see no way of resolving these differences here.

    Do you find Leviticus chapter 11 to be “extrememly reliable” when it says that bats are a type of fowl, that rabbits chew their cud, and that insects have four legs? Do you find Genesis chapter 30 to be “extremely reliable” when it says you can breed animals with stripes and speckles by putting sticks near their watering trough?

    Do you find the Gospels (e.g. Matt 25:36) “extremely reliable” when they have Jesus Christ say “Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.”? Do you find the genealogies of Joseph given in Matt 1 and Luke 3 to be “extremely reliable”, even though they blatantly disagree with each other?

    Do you find the accounts of who discovered the “empty tomb” (Matt 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20) to be “extremely reliable” when they disagree with each other on such details as 1) the number and identity of people who went to the tomb 2) whether the tomb was already open, or whether a sudden earthquake rolled back the stone 3) whether they met an angelic being, and how many 4) whether this angel(s) was already present or descended to meet them 5) whether one of them then saw Jesus then in the tomb, or only at a later time and place?

  3. Reginald Selkirk says:

    I admit that I am only well-read among the conservative scholars and my familiarity with the liberal scholars is limited to the critiques of them by the conservatives. … Also, no one was impressed with the experts I cited—Andreas Kostenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw, Peter Kreeft, Norman Geisler, Frank Turek, Lee Strobel, James Hannam, Moyshe Averick, Rodney Stark, Ravi Zacarias,G. K Chesterton, Paul Johnson, Abraham Kuyper, C. S. Lewis, and David Brog.

    You admit that you select scholars with whom you already agree, and then seem surprised that no one is impressed with your list of “experts.” Do you understand what a circular argument is?

  4. Ben Goren says:

    Mr. McLeroy, you seem to rely a great deal on the “principle of embarrassment,” or whatever it is that apologists call the concept: that the authors wouldn’t have included incredible or embarrassing details unless they actually believed it. While superficially plausible, sadly, this turns out to merely be the favorite trick of the con artist. Sure, there may be some real-world instances when an honest person honestly includes actual embarrassments to their own detriment…but, almost as a general rule, when somebody is doing so and citing the embarrassment as all you need to know to prove the facts of some other claims, you can be pretty confident that they’re actually trying to pull one over on you. It’s actually a pretty common tactic; the straight-laced murder suspect says he can’t have been at the crime scene because he was playing illegal poker at a titty bar while snorting coke. He wouldn’t damage his reputation by admitting that sort of thing, would he? So you just know his alibi is valid.

    To two of your specific points…if we’ve learned anything about how the Universe works, it’s that there’re certain types of conservation laws that we have overwhelming evidence have never in a baker’s dozen billion years ever been broken, and that there’s no conceivable means by which they could possibly be broken. At the heart of those conservation laws is that you can’t turn “nothing” into “something” or vice-versa. You yourself likely believe this unquestionably on a personal scale, and would laugh in the face of anybody who tried to sell you a perpetual motion machine. If we are to take those laws seriously — and, again, physicists take them even more seriously than stuff like gravity and the speed of light — then the only reasonable conclusion is that there never could possibly have been “nothing,” however you want to define it. We may never know what came before the Big Bang — or even what it would mean for something to be before it — but we can be even more confident than you are that the Sun will rise in the East tomorrow that it wasn’t “nothing.” (And “nothing” is itself rather incoherent…the best one can generally do is that it’s what married bachelors do north of the North Pole in their idle frenzies.)

    And as for your ignorance of the mountains of evidence confirming the fact that all life shares a common ancestor — that the bananas are cousins with the banana slugs, and that the yeast in your beer is an even closer cousin to you than the bananas are to the banana slugs…well, you’re not going to find a better explanation for why that is true and how we know it to be true than Jerry’s own book, Why Evolution is True. If you ask nicely, he might even send you an autographed copy. It’s a delightful read, clearly organized and rather short. It’d make a great biology textbook for high school students; no special knowledge is required. Most important of all, Jerry gives you all you need to confirm the claims for yourself. You can, for example, travel to museums with relevant fossils, and confirm their details for yourself. Radioisotope dating is something accessible to advanced high school or beginning college students. Dendrochronology is accessible to pre-schoolers so long as they’ve already learned how to count.

    Lastly, if I may suggest, the real reason you hew to your religious beliefs are the social ones you set forth here — your whole family, your entire life is wrapped up in your religion, and acknowledging that you don’t actually believe in the fantastic story at the heart of it all would mean loss of family and friends and other things almost as important to you. I’ve never been in such a position personally, but I can sympathize; it must be agonizing to even consider what would happen were you to publicly lose your faith.

    But…if that’s the case, then your faith is likely already gone, and you no more believe in Jesus than you do Santa — even if you pretend as hard as you can so the other kids don’t find out and tattle on you and thus end the Christmas presents.

    I don’t know the circumstances of your personal life. It may well be in your best interests to continue to live a lie…but you should at least have the courage to be honest with yourself and acknowledge to yourself that that’s what you’re doing. You may also wish to open yourself to the possibility that your true friends wouldn’t abandon you over loss of faith — and that those who would abandon you aren’t truly your friends.

    If any of that rings true, I encourage you to (discreetly) contact the Freedom From Religion Foundation. One of their reasons for existence is to provide support for people in such circumstances. One of their current projects is a confidential outreach program to members of the clergy who no longer believe, and to help them rebuild lives that they now realize were built in faery castles in the sky.

    It wouldn’t be easy…but, as a wise man once said, “There is no coming to consciousness without pain.” If it helps, just as with setting a broken bone, putting it off only makes it worse….

    Cheers,

    b&

  5. John Crisp says:

    I think you give your answer to the question of the “500 witnesses” yourself, when you write: “Since my whole life is wrapped up in my faith—my friends, my church, my sense of who I am…” I am an informed layman when it comes to evolution. I am also an informed layman when it comes to religion, having had no more than the compulsory religious instruction imparted to me under the British education system for my first 18 years. On the other hand, I am old enough to be able to understand the human need for belonging, human credulity, and the human capacity for deception and self-deception. I think that explains well enough the 500 witnesses and your reluctance to give up the “whole life” constituted by your friends, your church, i.e. what you call your sense of what you are. Evolutionary psychology is an emerging discipline that perhaps makes too many claims for itself, but its ideas about the importance of “in group” and “out group” thinking are only too well evidenced by current events around the world. Compared to the culture of first century Palestine, we live in a world that is full of information, often contradictory: which of us is able to decide whether the competing propaganda claims of Hamas and Israel are trustworthy? Or to take another example, I live in Northern Ethiopia, a place that has been Christian since the fourth century CE. If you visit its churches and monasteries, the priests will tell you that they all date back 1700 years. Archaeologists tell a different story. If you listen to local people, many of whom are not probably not so different from your “500 witnesses”, miracles happen all the time (though always to someone else, or always told by someone else). Like cures for cancer, like winning the lottery, like being “miraculously” spared… There are better qualified people than me to talk about evolution, but what do you think happens when a condition like tuberculosis, that had mostly been eradicated or was curable until recently, suddenly re-emerges and begins to threaten again. Forget about your zillions of transitional forms: that is evolution and natural selection in action. If you don’t believe it, you don’t need to take the antibiotics.

  6. Reginald Selkirk says:

    This works both ways. For those of you who are atheists, how can you hold to something with so little evidence?

    Do you understand what a “null hypothesis” is? What is the appropriate position to assume before you start evaluating any evidence with regards to religion?
    Do you accept the claims of other religions (e.g. Hinduism) that have equal merit to the claims you accept for Christianity?

    For those of you who are evolutionists, how can you hold to something with so little evidence? To explain all the diversity of life on this planet by unguided natural processes requires a titanic amount of evidence. I think the best evidence you have is the fossil record.

    I think the best evidence is that there are multiple lines of evidence, and they all agree.

    Geology and astronomy agree that the earth, and the universe, are billions of years old. The rocks beneath our feet and the stars above our heads are in agreement on this.

    The fossil record is good. We actually have plentiful examples of transitional fossils, including whole series of them. I recommend Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters by Don Prothero (ISBN-13: 978-0231139625) for a good assortment of transitional fossils.

    The evidence from molecular genetics is, to my mind, even more convincing. For one, it agrees so well with the sequence laid out by the fossil record. Sequence comparisons show the “nested hierarchy” and “branching tree” we would expect, given what we know from fossils. They also go beyond the fossil record to show our ancestry with plants and microbes.

    The evidence from the geographical distribution of life is also pretty convincing. The standard scientific, evolutionary explanation is certainly much better than anything the Bible has to offer for explaining why kangaroos and pre-kangaroos fossils are both found in Australia, for example. And the assortment of species we find on islands is an especially strong argument.

    There is actually a great deal of scientific evidence, and it all coheres into one explanation. Rather than look at the whole panoply of scientific evidence, Creationists dismiss one datum at a time based on their pre-conceived beliefs. In doing so, they introduce wild inconsistencies that are far more outrageous than anything science has to offer. Consider for example the Young Earth Creationists who propose that radioactive decay happened much faster in the past, without realizing that the heat released would have cooked the earth and all the life that it bears. Or the Noah’s Ark believers who cannot explain how the millions of species of animal life found today could have diverged from the few thousand specimens which could have fit on an ark.

    Consider then the severe and fundamental differences between the Young Earth Creationists and the Old Earth Creationists. The only thing they agree on is that “mainstream” scientists are wrong. It needs to be pointed out that the YE and OE explanations are tremendously incompatible.

  7. Reginald Selkirk says:

    But no matter which scholars are correct, we still have to account for the phenomenon of Christianity and its powerful influence over the last 2000 years and today.

    We also have to account for the phenomenon of other large religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Does the fact that these other religions are large and influential constitute evidence that they are true?

    We also have to account for the phenomenon of more recent religions, such as Mormonism and Scientology. Does the tremendous growth rate displayed by these religions constitute evidence that they are true?

    And, we have to account for the fact as to why my simple comment about “500 eyewitnesses” could stir up so much interest? Christianity seems to draw a lot more interest than it should.

    If Christians like you stopped trying to use the power of government to force your religious beliefs on others, then perhaps ignoring you might be an acceptable stance. But you personally, through your former position with the Texas Board of Education, have had an influence on public education, and you used it to insert your religious beliefs into the public sphere. Other people send their children to Texas public schools. Some of them are Christian, some are not. And not all of the Christians are Creationists like you. Those children deserve a good education, free from the imposition of your religious belief. You have made the case to us that ignoring you is not wise, and in no way does this constitute evidence that your position is true or accurate.

  8. Reginald Selkirk says:

    I believe that Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins are much clearer thinkers about the implications of evolution than Kenneth Miller and other theistic evolutionists.

    I agree with you about implications, but Miller has written clearly about the evidence for evolution itself. His book Finding Darwin’s God has one of the clearest explanations I have seen for isotope dating. That’s pretty impressive considering he is a biologist, not a physicist.

  9. Reginald Selkirk says:

    I do not know why there is no mention of the dead coming out of their graves and seen walking around Jerusalem. But it does seem odd though for a bunch of conspirators to add such a detail that could easily be dismissed unless it actually happened.

    If there is secular corraboration for this tidbit, that is evidence of its truth. If there is not secular corraboration for this tidbit, that is also evidence of its truth. You’ve got all your bases covered here.

  10. Reginald Selkirk says:

    When it comes to explain the evolution of the biochemical processes in the cell, you have nothing.

    How do you explain the similarities and differences of cytoplasmic malate dehydrogenase and mitochondrial malate dehydrogenase? These two enzymes found in different locations within your cells have similar function and similar structure, which is consistent with common ancestry. Yet, if they do share ancestry, the divergence of their sequences indicate a great deal of time has passed since the common ancestor. And how do you explain that the cytoplasmic form has closer sequence similarity to certain kinds of bacteria, while the mitochondrial form has closer sequence similarity to other kinds of bacteria. Why, it’s almost as if this constituted evidence for 1) common ancestry 2) great age and 3) endosymbiosis.
    What is the competing Creationist explanation? God made the two forms of mammalian malate dehydrogenase – why? And why did he make them look exactly as if they had diverged for billions of years? Why did God make the evidence look just exactly as it would if evolution were true?

    Also, why does the sequences of cytoplasmic malate dehydrogenase and mitochondrial malate dehydrogenase, when compared across animal species, and even across plant species, give the appearance of divergence from a common ancestor? is God some sort of trickster?

  11. Reginald Selkirk says:

    When it comes to explain the evolution of the biochemical processes in the cell, you have nothing.
    From the link:
    The following two Biochemical Pathways Chart interactive thumbnails, when printed, cover 27 square feet; they are packed with cellular complexities. And, all of the molecules and pathways need an evolutionary explanation.

    Those charts, and the data behind them, are filled with evidence for evolution. Setting aside the difference in sequences between species, which is excellent evidence for divergence from a common ancestor, even the molecules within a single cell show evidence for evolution. Would you deny the similarities between alpha and beta hemoglobin chains, and that this constitutes evidence of divergence form a common ancestor gene? Or between those and delta hemoglobin? Or between hemoglobin and myoglobin? Or any of the other globins? Likewise, there are other “families” of enzymes which show clear similarity at the sequence or structural level; phosphatases, dehydrogenases, methylases, etc.
    When you get into the details of the molecules in those charts, rather than stand agog at their complexity, you may start to see the patterns. Patterns of evolution.

    What is the Creationist explanation? That God made it all appear as though it evolved? Your God must be the Trickster, Loki, the Coyote.

    • Reginald Selkirk says:

      If evolution were true, we would expect the critical catalytic residues of related enzymes to be highly conserved. We would find interior residues of the core structure to be less well conserved. And we would find exterior residues to be much less well conserved, unless they were part of something like a binding site for protein-protein interactions. That’s at the protein level.
      We would expect the coding region of the genes at the DNA level to be less conserved, since the genetic code is degenerate. We would expect non-coding regions of DNA (introns, portions between genes) to be less well conserved, unless they were part of a regulatory region.
      So what do we see? Exactly the above.

      Meanwhile, what does Creationism predict about sequence conservation in proteins and DNA? Nothing, really. God (presuming He exists, for the sake of argument) might choose to make biopolymer sequences in any way He chose. That He apparently chose to make them look just exactly as they would if they evolved is very curious.

      I have seen it suggested that God would engage in “code -re-use,” to make sequences of the same enzyme the same in different species. This is unsupportable, because code re-use is an efficiency step that would serve no purpose for an all-powerful creator. Also, as already mentioned, sequences for the same enzyme are not the same in different species, the show differences that give the appearance of divergence due to randomness and selection over great periods of time.

  12. Doug Jens says:

    Unless you have some knowledge that your god has degraded the human ability to provide accurate I witness accounts over the most recent 1950 years or so, you will need to admit that any actual I witness accounts recorded by the authors of the christian handy book are open to suspicion. I make that statement based on my reading of studies of the accuracy of first person accounts of events. The studies that I have seen show the accounts to often lack accuracy. It isn’t really so much the fault of witnesses as it is an embedded human frailty, our senses aren’t difficult to fool.

    That is one of the reasons why the application of scientific methodology is so important in a search for clarity. It is prudent to minimize the fact that human fragility can have a grossly undesirable impact on our understanding of what is real. It is very important that we get our understanding of what is really happening correct because small changes now can have severely detrimental, or, positive repercussions on future generations. This really needs to be stressed to any grandparent that cares in the least for their grandchildren. What we feel and want to believe needs to be throttled by a very real obligation to not ignoring the implications of our actions that conflict with natural processes. If you care about your grandchildren and therefore care about their enjoyment of their futures, you should carefully think about the consequences of your decision to risk the viability of future generations based on a feeling of what you would like to be true, while ignoring all of the contradictory evidence. Evidence that has been studied while minimizing the fragile nature of human emotional responses.

    If a substantial portion of the human population is unwilling to plan and act in a way that provides a sustainable future to provide for life on the planet for many generations to come, we will all lose. I will have no direct descendents, so my win only comes if a comfortable and happy existence can be experienced by the inhabitants of the planet for thousands or millions of years into the future.

    While your joy comes from your deity’s professed desire to disrupt life within the next fifty years, just as each generation has been promised since the invention of christianity some 1950 years ago. I admit to resenting your reliance on purely emotional responses to the musings of the religious and political “leaders” of that time.

  13. Vaal says:

    Hello Mr. McLeroy,

    I appreciate the courteous tone of your reply in this post.

    On to some issues. I’m sure we an agree that there are a tremendous number of beliefs that people hold in this world, and that includes many false supernatural beliefs (even in terms of sheer logical contradiction, many supernatural beliefs must be false). When someone else offers their justification for a supernatural (or any type of) belief you think is false, you find it simple to recognize when the are giving themselves an easy time, glossing over a substantive issue, in order to pretend their beliefs are cogent. If someone from another supernatural belief system offered your quote below, you’d immediately recognize this as not really a substantive answer to the problem.

    “I do not know why there is no mention of the dead coming out of their graves and seen walking around Jerusalem. But it does seem odd though for a bunch of conspirators to add such a detail that could easily be dismissed unless it actually happened.”

    What is obvious to any outside observer to such an answer is the strangeness of that response.
    Essentially, you imply that it is “odd” that someone would make up a story about 500 zombies rising from the grave, while just ignoring on the other hand how “odd” that there are NO OTHER accounts of such an incredible event. Nothing left by any of all the relatives who saw their dead rising, nothing told by any other outside observers, and more bizarre, NOTHING BY ANY OTHER GOSPEL WRITERS on the event! It’s just a one-off mention by Paul…and that’s it. Is it not seriously “odd” for such an astounding miracle of 500 resurrections to go on without being mentioned by any other of Christ’s disciples, without having become an essential part of the documenting of the miracles associated with Christ?

    Further, you seem to take it as more “odd” that someone should make up a wild claim in support of his religious story than it is odd that 500 people actually rose from the grave! Your bar for what you will call “odd” while accepting other oddities speaks of a very biased cherry-picking approach to accepting miracle claims. And when you imply that 500 people rising from the dead isn’t all that surprising given you believe miracles can happen….where is the evidence for such miracles in the first place? Oh, right, it’s those claims in the bible that you’ve found convincing. But it’s those very claims that you are supposed to show to be reliable! So you can’t say you find miracle claims in the bible reliable on the grounds the bible has made miracle claims you believe! I wonder: are you familiar with circular reasoning and why it is fallacious?

    There is nothing even remotely odd about people making outrageous, unsupported claims that can be checked and dismissed. At any point in time you can find plenty of examples. Why in the world would Young Earth Creationists make a claim about a 6,000 year old earth that can be so easily dismissed by the weight of the entire scientific enterprise? Same with homeopathy. Same with the claims of psychosis like Sylvia Brown whose claims of solving police cases magically can easily be checked to be found to be lies. Why would Mormons make ridiculous claims about the Israeli heritage of North American natives that are so easily checked and dismissed by historical and scientific evidence? The examples are endless of people making wild claims that don’t hold up to scrutiny. You’ve got them for virtually every fringe, new age, supernatural belief system there is.
    People have always gladly made stuff up in order to bolster their particular supernatural beliefs.
    It’s human nature. That you’d gloss over this and simply accept the claim of 500 rising dead from a single author in the bible shows a very blatant lowering of the bar for what you’ll simply accept in your own personal beliefs – not one born of actual careful rational or skeptical inquiry.

    Vaal.

  14. Vaal says:

    And when you are done with all the miracles Sathya Sai Baba, there are plenty of God men left. You can move on to Sai Baba of Shirdi, a deceased Godman of similar reputation. He too wielded all manner of miracles, not to mention claims of his post-mortem appearances:

    “Testimonials come pouring in from all quarters of the tangible reappearance of Sai Baba. In many cases the Master gives darshan (appearances) in actual flesh and blood, not only to those who had been his close disciples during his life time, but also to many others who had not even seen him or heard of him.”

    Sai Baba of Shirdi

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sai_Baba_of_Shirdi

    Sai Baba’s millions of disciples and devotees believe that he performed many miracles such as bilocation, levitation, mindreading, materialisation, exorcisms, making the river Yamuna, entering a state of Samādhi at will, lighting lamps with water, removing his limbs or intestines and sticking them back to his body (khandana yoga), curing the incurably sick, appearing beaten when another was beaten, after death rising on third day, preventing a mosque from falling down on people, and helping his devotees in a miraculous way. He also gave Darshan (vision) to people in the form of Rama, Krishna, Vithoba and many other gods depending on the faith of devotees.[36]
    According to his followers he appeared to them in dreams even after he left his body and gave them advice. His devotees have documented many stories.

    Claims of his resurrection:

    “The physical form of the gracious Guru was laid to rest in the central hall with all due formalities and obsequies, but his eternal spirit rose from the tomb to proclaim to his followers again and again the indisputable evidence of his resurrection and life. The master had often promised that his tomb would speak and move with those who made him their refuge, that even after his mahasamadhi, he would appear the moment a devotee called upon him with implicit faith and love; and happily even today, though 53 years have passed away, these promises are abundantly fulfilled. The Master manifests himself in different ways to different devotees. His voice is not hushed. Nor is his physical presence lost to his devotees. Testimonials come pouring in from all quarters of the tangible reappearance of Sai Baba. In many cases the Master gives darshan in actual flesh and blood, not only to those who had been his close disciples during his life time, but also to many others who had not even seen him or heard of him. This deliberate choosing of fresh disciples and devotees by vouchsafing to them some kind of mystical experience is very characteristic of the Saint of Shirdi.“

    Cheers,

    Vaal

  15. Don McLeroy says:

    I am on a weekend trip; I will have time to answer questions sometime late Sunday.

  16. Matthew 27:52-53 doesn’t say how many bodies came out of their graves. It only says “many”. It’s a minor detail so Vaal’s point remains the same. The only other thing I would add is that no one knows who wrote Matthew or any of the Gospels. Most scholars put the authorship of Matthew at 50 to 60 years after Jesus’ life, with none of the Gospels being attributed to actual apostles.

    When you view the claim of “many bodies” rising from their graves and going into Jerusalem through the lens of belief in Old Testament writings -not to mention a pre-scientific mindset; minds which were certainly steered by all currently-known cognitive biases- it’s not odd at all that such a claim would go so uncriticized. If you’re among people 2,000 years ago who already believe in prophetic claims such as the one found in Daniel 12 verse 2- “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake”, it’s very conceivable how and why a claim such as Matthew 27:52 would be made, and even embraced by some without scrutiny.

    In that regard, I think the New Testament makes much more sense when viewed in terms of theological arguments rather than historical claims. For example, try squaring the birth and childhood narratives of Jesus in Matthew and Luke. They tell two different stories of where Jesus was during his childhood. The authors of each Gospel are clearly fudging things to get this baby born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth, per the Old Testament I assume. They both used extraordinary claims to ‘make’ it happen, and no historian or writer living at the time seemed to notice what was supposedly happening, such as when Herod ordered the slaughter of all babies in the area; no one mentions this event outside of Matthew. As far as I can tell most or all of the stories about Jesus could be theological arguments.

    Regards

  17. One clarification on my comment above: I meant to say both authors, of Luke and Matthew, are crafting stories to get Jesus born in Bethlehem and end up in Nazareth. In Luke’s story, Jesus and his family simply return home to Nazareth after his birth. The author of Matthew, however, finds an opportunity (a theological argument) to have Jesus fulfill even more prophecy -Hosea 11:1- by making him go directly to Egypt after his birth and live there for his first 5 or 10 years.

  18. Michael Sommers says:

    “I do not know why there is no mention of the dead coming out of their graves and seen walking around Jerusalem.”

    The simplest and most likely explanation is that it never happened. Surely, if you heard someone claiming that such an event had happened recently, you would dismiss the claim without hesitation.

    “But it does seem odd though for a bunch of conspirators to add such a detail that could easily be dismissed unless it actually happened.”

    You are assuming a conspiracy, without considering other possibilities. One likely possibility is that the passage was never meant to be taken literally, that it was allegorical.

    “Even so, if Jesus did actually rise from the dead and spent around a month among the people, it seems logical the claim of the 500 witnesses could have happened.”

    You can deduce anything from a false premise.

    “And, Paul is issuing a challenge to those skeptics reading his words to go and ask these folks—many who are still alive. This is not something you would do if making up a myth or a conspiracy.”

    Why wouldn’t you put such a claim in a letter to people in Corinth, knowing full well that the recipients will almost certainly not be able to go to Palestine, and even if they did manage the trip, you haven’t given them enough information to find any of the alleged eyewitnesses?

    Actually, I would guess that Paul believed what he wrote, having heard it from others, but that does not mean it was true.

    “As for Paul’s claims he saw Jesus on the road to Damascus, it certainly was more than a vision. There was light and all present heard Jesus speaking.”

    That’s what Acts says; Paul doesn’t mention being with others, or what they might have seen or heard. Paul says, “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (1Cor 15:8) Since this is at the end of a list of who the dead Jesus appeared to, why wouldn’t he say, “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me and my companions.” if that is what actually happened? There are a number of discrepancies between Acts and Paul’s letters. You can’t just pick the one you like and ignore the other.

  19. Reginald Selkirk says:

    Why the Gospel of Mark Is Likely NOT an Eyewitness Account

    How do we know that Mark wrote the gospel of Mark? How do we know that Mark recorded the observations of an eyewitness?

    The short answer is because Papias (< 70 – c. 155) said so. Papias was a bishop and an avid documenter of oral history from the early church. His book Interpretations was written after 120 CE.

  20. Vaal says:

    Mr. McLeroy,

    Were you planning on responding to the posts in this comments section? If you have already done so, could you direct me with a link? Thanks.

    Vaal

  21. Reginald Selkirk says:

    3 Papers Discuss The Molecular Toolkits We Share With Flies And Worms

    “Although separated by hundreds of millions of years of evolution, flies, worms, and humans share ancient patterns of gene expression and it’s all in our genomic data…”

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