The Martyrs - Responses
My replies are in bold
3rd July 1998 - By Kevin Love Kevinl@agsimpson.com
I will look at the arguments in each of your paragraphs in turn and see if they discredit the evidence that Jesus is risen. In your first paragraph you state:
The textual discrepancies that you note in your articles fall into the category of detail that does not affect the conclusion that Jesus really died and truly rose again. Even you are not able to show that any text that supports the conclusion that there was no resurrection was dropped by a mendacious scribe. Quite simply, your argument suffers from the logical error of "does not follow." Your conclusions simply do not follow from the evidence presented in your articles.
So you simply don't care that your evidence, the New Testament, was altered after it was written, because all the alterations were additions rather than dropping text.
Your argument has the same logical error as that of Ernst Zundel. Mr. Zundel denies the Second World War Nazi genocide of Jews. His views are published in his books, for example the one entitled "Did Six Million Really Die?"
What Mr. Zundel does is look at the main sources used by historians to establish the extent of Nazi atrocities. He then exposes all of the contradictions of fact in the detail of these sources. He then goes on to demonstrate that since 1945 there has been a consistent anti-Nazi bias in the recording of eyewitness accounts and the handling of historical documents. He demonstrates that even official documents produced by allied governments contain several outright anti-Nazi lies. One example of this is when the Soviet government blamed the Nazis for the Katydin Forest Massacre (which, in fact, was perpetrated by the USSR). He then goes on to conclude that these contradictions in factual detail, systematic bias and fraudulent government statements mean we cannot trust these documents and eyewitness accounts. Therefore, there is no clear proof of Nazi genocide.
How charming of you to compare me to Holocaust deniers. Your argument is contradictions and lies in the Bible don't matter because people have used contradictions and lies in Soviet propaganda to try to discredit the Holocaust???
Your argument is exactly the same as that of Mr. Zundel. You have demonstrated inconsistencies in the detail of the historical record and claim that this discredits all the documents, even although in the "big picture" they all agree and say the same thing. In both your cases, your conclusions simply do not follow from the evidence presented. Mr. Zundel is right in noting that there are contradictions of fact in the detail of documents and eyewitness accounts. Mr. Zundel is right in noting a consistent anti-Nazi bias in the recording of eyewitness accounts and the post 1945 treatment of these events. Mr. Zundel is right in stating that allied governments produced lies and falsehoods. However, Mr. Zundel is wrong in concluding that this means we cannot trust these documents and eyewitness accounts and cannot conclude that the Nazis were guilty of genocide.
Similarily, you are right in seeing discrepancies in the detail of the historical record, but wrong in saying that this discredits what all the sources agree upon: Jesus is risen!
Where did I say that the apostles were horribly martyred? The word I used was "many." This "many" referred not only to the apostles but to all those who witnessed to the resurrection. This group does include the apostles. I presume that you simply made a mistake in reading what I wrote. I cannot claim to have never made the same mistake. If I do while communicating with you, please draw this to my attention. Be warned: If you make a consistent habit of misrepresenting my statements in order to set up a straw man to demolish, you will find our dialogue coming to a swift end.
The only thing that I will say about all the apostles is that they were all flogged. See Acts 5:40. I presume that this was not a very pleasant experience.
The Bibe says that they were all flogged. The Bible is true. Therefore they were all flogged. They would not have been willing to be flogged if the Biblical accounts were not true. Therefore, the Bible is true. Beautiful reasoning.
Let us look at the New Testament evidence of the fate of the two main leaders, Peter and Paul. Peter's martyrdom was predicted by Jesus (John 21: 18-19).
And, of course, it must have happened because it was in the Bible and everybody knows that all Biblical prophecies came true.
Paul had many people that tried very hard to kill him. See Acts 9:23 and 23:12. In spite of this he kept on preaching a resurrected Jesus. Paul lists the dangers and hardships he underwent in 2 Cor 11: 23-29.
Another apostolic martyr is James (Acts 12: 2). Another who was martyred for his witness to a resurrected and glorified Jesus is Stephen.
This is particularly interesting for two reasons. Firstly, it was precisely Stephen's witness to a resurrected and glorified Jesus that triggered Stephen's martyrdom (Acts 7: 56-58).
According to Acts, Stephen had a vision of Jesus in heaven which nobody else could see. Did the early Christians die because of their belief in visions of Jesus in heaven? According to Acts, Stephen told his hearers he saw the Son of Man. Why did the crowd think he was referring to Jesus? Surely they didn't believe Jesus was the Son of Man?
Secondly, it marks the introduction of a wide-scale persecution in which the apostles have to go underground and everyone else had to flee or else be thrown into gaol (Acts 8: 1-3).
I note that your article falsely states that Stephen was a gentile. Stephen says that he was a Jew. In Acts 7:2 he states that he was a descendent of Abraham, and in verse 19 he refers to the Jews as "our race." See also verses 44 - 45. Where did you get the idea that Stephen was a gentile?
I have altered my article. Stephen was a Hellenistic name.
What Paul means by a resurrection is best explained by Paul himself. See 1 Cor 15. This seems orthodox to me.
Well, if it seems orthodox to you, what more authority could anybody need?
Paul himself states that his beliefs were the same as the apostles. See Gal 2:2. Are you suggesting that at the same time as he was spending so much time and energy persecuting Christians because of their beliefs he did not know what those beliefs were?
Perhaps you could provide some evidence that Paul says that the apostles were preaching a bodily resurrection?
(About my miracles article)
Once again, this paragraph suffers from the logical fallacy of "does not follow." The facts noted in your articles are perfectly consistent with Jesus being the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy. As for "clearly fictional," that is simply false. You have not demonstrated that even one miracle is "clearly fictional." Saying so does not make it so.
It is refreshing to see such a detailed refutation as 'saying so does not make it so'. So much easier than looking at the evidence I gave.
Once again, your argument has the same logical error as that of Mr. Zundel. He correctly notes the World War One German atrocity stories which were demonstrated false after 1918, and concludes that World War Two atrocity stories are also false. That conclusion suffers from the logical error of "does not follow" and so does yours.
Your argument is that correctly demonstrating that some miracles are false does not mean that I have demonstrated that all miracles are false. This is quite true. Perhaps you would like to demonstrate that some miracles in the Gospels really did happen.
(I had written)
As for 'die for a lie', there is quite good evidence that the apostles could have been 'free for a fee'. Ignatius (110 AD) has to write to the Roman Christians and ask them not to try to free him, as he wanted to be martyred. Bribery and corruption worked just as well in those days as it does today. Of course, this was much later than the earliest days of the apostles. It is worth remembering that the Colosseum in Rome was not even built until 80 AD. Even Acts shows that the Romans hardly bothered with Paul and were quite happy to let him go, if he had not wanted to take the case to Rome. Hardly the sign of people hell-bent on persecuting any Christian they came across.
I do not see any evidence that the apostles could have bribed their way out of captivity. Quite to the contrary, on at least one instance the gaoler feared that he would be in big trouble if he could not produce them (Acts 16:27). Where is this "good evidence" to which you refer?
Ignatius makes clear that people could be freed, but I admit this is later. Do you have any good evidence that all the apostles, Thomas, Matthew etc were in captivity?
I think that you are misunderstanding Ignatius. Even today it is the official policy of the governments of Canada, the USA and the UK that no ransom will be paid for government personnel taken hostage. There is at least one example of a government official who urged this policy to be upheld as he himself was being taken hostage. A USA diplomat did this as he was being taken hostage during the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis. Does this mean that he wanted to be killed?
As for people "hell-bent on persecution," persecution of the early church came in waves. It was not of the same harshness at all times and places. However, at least the threat was always there. It is reasonable to compare it to persecution of Christians in the 20th century by Communist governments. In these countries, millions upon millions of Christians were brutally persecuted by atheists. It is not true to state that this persecution was equally harsh at all times; there were periods of relative tolerance. It is also not true to state that at any one time, persecution was equally harsh in all these countries. However, it is true that everyone at all times in these countries knew that becoming a Christian was an extremely dangerous thing to do since it could easily result in a one-way ticket to a concentration camp. Similarly, everyone in the early church knew that being a Christian meant at least official disfavour and could lead to flogging, banishment or death.
(I had written)
Perhaps you could tell me where Paul, a primary witness, ever names a Christian who was actually killed for his beliefs?
Paul does not. Did you expect Paul to give lurid details of his involvement in Stephen's martyrdom? Or of his plans to kill more Christians (Acts 9:1)? In his shoes, I would have felt heartily ashamed of this past. Greatly to his credit, Paul does admit to persecuting Christians. See Gal 1: 13-14
All the early Christians were persecuted. Many of them were killed. The significance of this is that this establishes their credibility as witnesses. The documents that record this witness do have some minor discrepancies in detail, but all agree that Jesus is risen. These minor discrepancies were preserved intact in later manuscripts, and are evidence that the scribes were honest copyists. If they were not, the discrepancies in detail that even the casual reader can see right away would be the first things to be changed.
Here is the conclusion: Credible witnesses reported in accurate documents are all saying the same thing: Jesus is risen!
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