Friday, 8 February 2008

Steven Carr March 19 2008

It is surprising to be in a debate where your opponent cannot answer your points and just ignores them.

In my first post, I wrote the following :-

'Even when trying to talk about the nature of a resurrected body, Paul never draws on any alleged personal experience anybody ever had. The Gospels give a wealth of alleged facts about the nature of a resurrected body, but Paul never uses any, even when trying to refute the claims of people he calls 'idiots'. Why doesn't Paul simply rub their noses in the fact that their own Lord and Saviour, the very person they worship, had allegedly claimed that a resurrected body was made out of 'flesh and bones', and yet they still were asking with what sort of body a corpse comes back with?'

On this, and many other of the points I have raised in the debate, John has been unable to come up with any answer, not even an unconvincing one.

I see that John has pretty much abandoned any attempt to show there is evidence for the Gospel stories of a corpse rising, and is now resorting to attacks on me , with statements like ' I sense even if he had been sitting by the tomb of Jesus as it burst open, he would question.'

I remind him that early converts to Christianity scoffed at the idea of God choosing to raise a corpse.

They , and Paul, were in a much better position to judge than John is.

Paul can produce nothing better than vague 'appearances' to Christians. Early Christians believed that what happened in dreams, visions and trances was real. The New Testament is full of passages which assume that what happened in dreams, visions and trances was real. Even if the New Testament stories about Peter having a vision of foods being declared clean is unhistorical, clearly the writer thought the story was credible.

Paul believed he had gone to Heaven. He also believed Jesus had appeared to him. If you think that what happens in trances and visions is real, then he really would have believed that Jesus appeared to him. Paul might even have had a vision of Jesus appearing to 500 people, just in the same way as stories I have heard of modern Christians who have had visions of the walls of Jericho being destroyed.

Paul produces no more than claims of 'appearances'. That is it. Paul literally cannot flesh out those stories of 'appearances'.

This is not evidence, no more than claims that spirits appeared to Red Indian medicine men is evidence of spirits.

And Paul simply trashes the idea that corpses rise. Corpses dissolve into dust, and this is what Paul thought of the idea of resurrected beings made of dust. 'The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God...'

Paul thought that bodies were destroyed. 'For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands'

Paul thought of resurrection as changing clothes, or moving from one building to another.

To Paul, Jesus had left his earthly body behind, to be destroyed, and moved into a heavenly body.

That is why Paul attacks the converts in Corinth whose model of a resurrection was that of a corpse rising from the grave. As they had never heard of a corpse rising from the grave, they scoffed at the idea of a resurrection. Paul regarded this as idiocy, because in his view, resurrection did not involve a corpse rising from the grave.

John claims that 200 years of critical scholarship have not dented the reliability of the Gospels.

He should get out more.

This claim of his is simply an empty claim, which not even John tries to back up with any actual evidence.

The earlies Gospel is anonymous. It is written by somebody who never attempted to state his sources, never gives any indication of who, why or when he was writing. The author never gives any attempt at chronology, or use any of the standard literary conventions that indicated to ancient readers that the work was even meant to be taken as history.

The third Gospel at least attempts to be taken as history, However it too gives no indication of authorship or date. The anonymous author of 'Luke' also used Mark as his main source, and simply changed whatever in Mark did not suit his own private agenda.

Using anonymous sources, without telling anybody, and rewriting bits of them to suit yourself, are not the hallmarks of a good historian.

These are elementary facts, yet John can state that the Gospels survive critical scholarship. This is a totally empty claim, without any substance.

John claims that doubting vague reports of 'appearances' by somebody who claimed to have gone to Heaven is on a par with doubting the crossing of the Rubicon.

This illustrates the remarkably low level of knowledge of historical method by Christians.

There is nothing wrong with not knowing how real history is done, provided you do not say that your beliefs are based on historical events.

Let us look at some of the evidence for Caesar crossing the Rubicon, and see if we can do better than somebody claiming he had a revelation of Caesar crossing the Rubicon, or that he saw Ceasar crossing the Rubicon in an 'appearance'.

First of all, do we have followers of Julius Caeasr scoffing at the whole idea that Caesar had an army which crossed the Rubicon?

No we do not.

Do we have a book by Julius himself. claiming that he got from Ravenna to Ariminum, a journey only possible by crossing the Rubicon? (Unless Caesar ascended into the sky, like Jesus allegedly did)

Yes we do.

Do we have 3 letters by somebody dated in the same year as this Rubicon crossing, pointing out that Ceasar was preparing to invade Italy, and then had invaded Italy?

Yes we do.

And this source is Cicero. He is a named source, and somebody who was in a good position to know, and somebody whose reliability can be investigated.

And he doesn't claim that Caesar 'appeared' to cross the Rubicon.

Other people also recorded the event. Livy and Pollio , for example.

Do we have letters by Pilate or Joseph of Arimathea , from the same year as this alleged resurrection, claiming that something bizarre was happening,even if they doubted it was true?

No we don't. There might be good reasons why such evidence is missing, but the fact remains that there is just no such evidence.

John just has no evidence for a resurrection, other than some anonymous books which also record that Jesus travelled into the sky, and some letters by somebody who claimed that Jesus became a spirit, and that he himself had gone to Heaven.

John has less evidence for the resurrection than there is for the miracles of Glycon, the snake-god.

John seems to be reduced to claiming that the Shroud of Turin is evidence, when all the historical and scientific evidence is that it is yet another hoax produced by Christians.

There is so little evidence for Christianity that evidence has had to be forged.


  1. Hi,this is an interesting debate.I am a questioning christian and so far in my opinion steven is winning the debate. The problem John has is that he is trying to use to much circumstantial "evidence". Christianity claims to be a supernatural faith,so the only real evidence for the resurection has to be supernatural. This is how the early followers of jesus were confinced he was who he claimed to be. Now, the problem for believers is,where is such evidence today? Hence until God once again does evidential miracles confirming His truth, the resurection can never be proved.

  2. Thank you for your comments.

    John is indeed using the 'No smoke without fire' argument.

    But he would reject the rapid growth of Mormonism as proof that something miraculous happened, although there are millions of Mormons.

  3. Hi,as a believer myself I can understand why it is difficult for a christian debater to be objective. For John this is more than mere philosophical or intellectual. Recall Paul in corrinthians15 says,if christ be not risen you are still in your sins. Hence the whole christian message depends on the ressurrection. Indeed according to Paul,a persons eternal destiny is at stake.I think this goes some way to explaining why christian appologists can become illogical and so frustrading at times.

  4. Well, nobody is entirely objective.

    And everybody is illogical at times.

    What is irritating though, is John's claim that I take things out of context, as he does in his latest post.

    This is irritating because John is unable to say what the context is. (This is because what John means is that it contradicts his beliefs)

    And I gave the context for 'Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of god'

    Mind you, John seems to be even more illogical in his latest posting than even the wackiest conspiracy theorists.

    Apparently, Paul 'hints strongly' at the raising of a corpse and an empty tomb.

    We can do better than that.

    Was John F. Kennedy shot by a second gunman?

    Conspiracy theorists claim there was a second gunman who fired a bullet.

    This hints strongly that there was a second gun that was fired.

    But if there was a second gun that was fired, then that proves there was a second gunman.

    John Twisleton has similar arguments.

    Paul claims there was a resurrection, and this implies there was an empty tomb.

    But an empty tomb implies there was a resurrection.

    So the resurrection is proved.

    Pardon me for not being convinced.

  5. from my reading of the new testament it seems to imply that what was raised was not a corpse. An annology from chemistry might help. When two elements combine they form a compound.The compound has different properties than the oringinal components.
    Now what came forth from the tomb was different than what went in. Jesus had been transformed. He no longer had the merely natural mortal body but a metamorphised one, i.e a spiritual phyisical one. So when Paul teaches that flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of God,surely he means mortal flesh. Also from modern physics we now know that there are more than three dimensions, which could imlply that Jesus ascension did not mean a lengthy trip through the cosmos. Some further thouhts. Why did jesus still have the scars? I think to show both then and forever,what it cost for humanities redemption. Again I would argue that it is impossible to "prove" the resurrection either scientifically or historically today (the bible itself says that it is based on faith). Also I think it can be dangerous to push a figure of speech as used in the bible too far. Examples: this is my body,all the region of jordon went out to hear him, our tent should be destroyed etc. A lot of problems with biblical understanding could be resolved with a little bit of common sense. Finally,I would contend that one of the best witnesses to the bible, is fulfilled and yet to be fulfilled prophecy.

  6. Paul never talks about 'mortal' flesh.

    For him, all flesh was mortal. It was an earthly thing.

    Flesh was mortal. That is why he calls the Jesus-worshippers foolish for discussing how a corpse of flesh can be raised.

    If you think that Paul teaches that there is flesh that is mortal and flesh that is not mortal, you need to find Paul writing that there are 2 different kinds of flesh.

    But such passages cannot be found.

    Paul trashes the idea that resurrected beings are made out of the dust that a corpse becomes - 'The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God...'

    Paul regarded heavenly things like a resurrected being as being as different to earthly things as a fish is different to the moon. Paul gives a whole host of categories of different things - man, animals, birds, fish, the sun, the moon - none of which turn into each other, to stress to the Corinthians how wrong they were to think that a resurrection involved a corpse turning into a resurrected being.

    None of this makes any sense if all Paul had to do to persuade the Corinthians of a resurrection was to persuade them that a corpse rose from the grave.

    But it makes perfect sense on Paul's view that the body was destroyed, and that we get new bodies. Paul is clear on this in 2 Corinthians 5 'Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.'

    Paul uses metaphors for resurrection like changing clothes and moving to a new building, because he believed that Jesus left his earthly body behind at the resurrection and moved to a new body. Jesus had changed bodies in the way that we change clothes.

    This is why Paul never refers to a corpse rising or the resurrection of the flesh. He did not believe in it.

    'Now what came forth from the tomb was different than what went in.'

    The Gospels have the same body being sown and raised, right down to having flesh and bones and wounds.

    The Gospels have the same body, made of the same materials, but death could no longer touch those materials.

    The rules had changed in the Gospels.

    Paul has a different body made of different materials, materials that death could not touch. (Because heavenly things do not decay)

    For Paul, the rules had not changed. Flesh was still mortal 'Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God'.

    But Jesus no longer had Adam's body, and so had no mortal flesh.

  7. 'Also from modern physics we now know that there are more than three dimensions, which could imlply that Jesus ascension did not mean a lengthy trip through the cosmos.'

    Christians chose the Greek word for 'sky' to be the word they would use for their 'heaven'.

    Acts shows Jesus disappearing into a cloud, with the disciples looking into the sky.

    This is told in the same matter of fact style as the appearance to Thomas.

    People did ascend to Heaven in those days.

    Christians were writing nothing different from what pagans wrote.

    Justt Martyr in chapter 21 of his apology writes 'And what of the emperors who die among yourselves, whom you deem worthy of deification, and in whose behalf you produce some one who swears he has seen the burning Caesar rise to heaven from the funeral pyre?'

    If you think heaven is somewhere above the sky, and that special people can sometimes make that journey, you write stories of them doing just that.

    Modern Christians cannot buy into such stories, so change them into travelling into an extra dimension.

  8. As this is my first attempt at online debating, I can say that it is most enjoyable.

    steven said;

    Modern Christians cannot buy into such stories, so change them into travelling into an extra dimension.

    Is this criticism fair? If for example, we read an account from ancient peoples who believed in a flat earth, but now explain what happened to a ship etc: with modern knowledge. Surely this would be legitament!

    Returning to the resurrection.

    1corinthians15,42: when the body is buried, it is mortal (subject to disease,death,decay), when raised it will be immortal (so a radical change has occurred to the mortal body,as with jesus).

    Verse42: when buried, it is a physical body, when it is raised,it will be a spiritual body (note; he did not say it would be a spirit, but a body).

    To me Paul is referring to the same body, but it has undergone a supernatural change.(obviously beyond our comprehension-as is God-).

    Verses 51-52: Here Paul is describing how those who are alive, at the final resurrection, will be changed (not destroyed). A mortal living body changed instantly, to an immortal one.

    Surely, the changed person will still have the same appearance, mind, personality and memories (just like the resurrected jesus).

    steven, science has revealed to us that this universe is a very mysterious place. With possible parallel dimensions, quantum uncertainty, singularites, God (it most be a possibility).

    My which is,that some person could prove the resurrection. Being mortal, I am not immune to doubt.

  9. You have to change Paul's words.

    There is no 'it is sown a physical body'.

    There is no 'it'.

    The Greek reads 'A physical body is sown. A spiritual body is raised.'

    But Paul deliberately avoids any Greek words which tie the two (NB two) bodies together.

    There must be a reason why he deliberately avoids saying that the body that is sown is the body that is raised.

    And that can only be because he regards the Corinthians as foolish for having an image of a resurrection as a corpse rising.

    Paul's whole argument in 1 Corinthians 15 is that earthly things cannot become heavenly things, hence his reminding the Corinthians about fish and the sun.

    A fish does not turn into the sun...

    '“For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will rise immortal, and we shall be changed”'

    The word is better translated as 'exchanged', although the two meanings overlap.

    Also note that Paul takes care not to say that dead bodies will rise. or that our bodies will be changed.

    The verb 'allaso' usually occurs in the context of exchanging one thing for another thing.

    For example, it is in Hebrews 1 , where the world is compared to worn out garments, and is exchanged. Garments are exchanged, not changed. You throw away the old garments and get new garments.

    The verb 'allaso' is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament to mean exchanged. For example, Exodus 13:13 (changing animals) , Leviticus 27:10, 27:27 and 27:33 , talking about substitions.

    Or even Acts 6:14, where old customs are going to be exchanged for new customs.

    So Paul's use here is quite consistent with the view that Paul believes we will exchange one body for another at the resurrection, in the way that we change clothes or change houses.

  10. some observations for consideration.

    1.Why did the followers of jesus find it so diffucult to believe that he had risen from the dead? This seems strange after all the miracles they had seen.

    Peter walked on water, Lazarus raised after four days, the mount of transfiguration and jesus own personal instruction about his future resurrection. Their phycological state is baffeling.

    2.The historical general observable events.

    The earthquakes, mass resurrection and appearence in Jerusalem-the followers of jesus act as if unaware of these things-. For example; Peter preaching on day of pentecost, does not refer to this stupendus event when trying to convince the jews that Messiah had risen.
    Why is there no secular historical record of the star of Bethlehem, and the killing of the young children.

    If the accounts recorded in the gospels and acts are true, then it was easy for them to believe. Afterall, we do not inhabit a world like that today-if only-.

    So, for John to win this debate, he will have to produce some substantial evidence. I fear this will not be the case.
    Ask the catholic church for the evidence of transubstantuation.

    I have taken this more sceptical view, as I want to try and approach it from both directions.

  11. Tom Davis typed: "God (it most be a possibility)."

    Mr Davis is categorically wrong. All gods including "God" are impossible. The following argument against all creator gods is based on the writings of the founder of Objctivism, Ayn Rand.

    1. To believe that a theistic creator deity exists, the believer must imagine their deity was in some timeless fashion akin to "before" existence alone in a timeless, non-spatial, void, without matter, energy, location, dimensions, fields, concepts, knowledge, symbols, perceptions, physical natural law, logic, or referents and that it then wished existence to instantiate.

    2. Consciousness is an axiomatic irreducible primary that at the most common denominative rung on the ladder of complexity consists of a process of awareness of existence.

    3. Consciousness of consciousness necessarily requires primary consciousness to first obtain as a process of awareness of existence.

    4. Prior to existence there could not have been anything to be aware of.

    5. Without anything to be aware of, there could not have been any awareness.

    6. Without awareness there could not have been any consciousness.

    7. From 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 there could not have been a primordial consciousness prior to existence.

    8. Creator gods are defined as primordial consciousness.

    9. From 7 and 8 Creator gods cannot exist.

    Any process of awareness of existence presupposes the metaphysical primacy of existence. Consciousness cannot obtain unless existence have had already obtained.

  12. Paul might even have had a vision of Jesus appearing to 500 people, just in the same way as stories I have heard of modern Christians who have had visions of the walls of Jericho being destroyed.

    The fact that so much of what St Paul writes is about him having visions, is not evidence for this reference to the 500 seeing Christ being one of his visions. That is quite dishonest as hermeneutics.

    Indeed, it is evidence of the reverse, that since he does here NOT go out of his way to state he had a vision about this, but DOES go out of his way to state that most of the five hundred "are still alive", he is talking about what he heard when interviewing them.

    Are you arguing that the five hundred had one and the same vision? It is as probable they all really saw the risen body from the tomb.

    It is not even remotely plausible to construct this as one of St Paul's visions, this time involving them.