Refutation of “Christ Revealed” docu-series Ep. 2
Thanks to social media, I heard the other night that “Revealed Films Inc” produced a series of 9 documentaries called “Christ Revealed” exploring and examining the “scientific evidence” of Jesus Christ’s life and resurrection, and will be revealing one episode every night throughout the week. On the ChristRevealed website, it claims: “We’ll visit the sites of some of the Savior’s most powerful miracles, and discover astonishing facts that prove without a doubt the existence of Christ.” That’s a bold claim, and it’s right up my alley. Let’s see if they pass the test. Hearing that, I could not help the urge to jump on the bandwagon and critically analyze each documentary as they came out throughout the week. Bear in mind that these docu-series are about an hour-and-a-half long, I may leave minor bits out and just focus on the meat of the arguments.
Unfortunately, I missed the first episode. Deepest apologies to my readers, I’m just as upset as you are. But hey, I’m watching these series to save you the trouble of migraine-caused facepalms, so let’s call it squared.
The docu-series is hosted by Patrick Gentempo…. the chiropractor from “Vaccines Revealed” (another 9-part docu-series of anti-vaccine conspiracy bunk, which included interviews with evil-incarnated Andrew Wakefield. You can read a blog review of it here). That should give us all the indication of what to expect in this cinematic abomination: conspiracy, half-assed research and interviews with quacks and people not qualified in the appropriate fields that focus on emotional appeals rather then evidence-based discussions. As for Gentempo, he may or may practice pseudoscience chiropractics lately, but he definitely runs a holding company that owns, among other entities, Circle of Docs, a networking group for chiropractors.
By now you maybe thinking “if this show has sunk as low to host someone like Gentempo, how bad are the other “experts” in this series?”
Well, the “experts” they claim will be featured in these docu-series include Gov. Mike Huckabbe (anyone else surprised?), Gary Habermas (oh boy, bring out the liquor) and, according to Gentempo, “top historians and apologists including Dr. Sean McDowell, Associate Professor in the Christian Apologetics program at Biola University, and Greg Koukl.” No “historians” mentioned there. Sean McDowell has a double Master’s degree in Theology and Philosophy. Greg Koukl is an apologist. Neither of them are Historians. Even my BA Degree in History makes me more qualified then them.
Christ Revealed Episode 2
The first greeter in the film is Gretchen Jensen, beauty pageant titleholder who won Miss USA 1989, and Gentempo himself.
First interviewee of the film: J Wallace
Author of “Cold Case Christianity,” J Wallace boasts himself as an ex-atheist and a ex-detective who used his detective skills to examine the gospels and concluded they were authentic and became a believer.
Key thing to remember: This guy is NOT a historian. He has ZERO relevant degrees in the field he is pretending to be an expert in (or at least what the docu-series is pretending he is an expert in). It wasn’t all that long ago I already address J Wallace in a previous post with Christian “Twitter Apologist” SJ Thomason. I don’t understand why Christian apologists are quick to bring Wallace into the spotlight. Even though apologists like SJ Thomason know he is an ex-detective and not a Historian, nevertheless she says “he brings a unique perspective” to the historical investigation.
Newsflash: “Unique” is not synonymous with “accurate” or “honest.” Keep that in mind as we go along.
Wallace opens up with a bit of his backstory. He claims that he grew up while not being surrounded by Christians and came to the “faith” late at around age 35 because his wife was religious and Wallace wanted to investigate the religion before determining if it was okay to teach Christianity to their kids.
Wallace says when he went to a church, the pastor made profound statements like “Jesus was the foundation of Western Civilization” and “the greatest man that ever lived” and taught things that were “counter-culture teaching of the time, counter-intuitive even today” and that got Wallace interested to learn what did Jesus say. He then went and bought a Bible, read it, and saw that the stories were being “pitched” as historical narratives, so Wallace decided to check if these narratives were historical or mythological. So Wallace says he looked, and he notes that he “wasn’t trying to disprove it” but thought it was obviously false given that the stories that included a man rising from the dead.
So Wallace then applied his detective techniques to the gospels… and found them reliable eye-witness accounts.
Wallace then goes on to examine whether the gospels accounts of the Resurrection are true.
He says based on his experience in court cases, when examining the reliability of eyewitness accounts to jurors, there are several things they have to follow. Broadly, about 4 of them are the following:
1) Was the person who is making this claim really there to see what it is they said they saw?
2) Is there a way we can corroborate, verify, the story?
3) Has the source changed their story? Has he been honest and accurate?
4) Finally, Bias. What motivation is there for this person to lie?
“In every way I have tested eyewitness accounts, these passed the test.”
1) None of the gospel writers were eyewitnesses!
None of the gospel writers claim to be eyewitnesses. It is common knowledge throughout the academic census that the anonymous gospel authors were not eyewitnesses.
This is why you should interview a historian, and not a detective trying to play historian.
To answer the question for Wallace, the answer is NO.
History is limited; it can only confirm events that conform to natural regularity. This is not an anti-supernaturalistic bias against miracles, as is sometimes claimed by believers. The miracles may have happened, but in order to know they happened, we need a different tool of knowledge. Yet except for faith (which is not science), history is the only tool Christians have to make a case for the resurrection of Jesus.
Examining a miracle with history is like searching for a planet with a microscope.
When Historians want to discover what happened in the past, they want contemporary sources. Closer to the event the better. They want LOTS of sources, preferrably accurate and unbiased ones.
What kind of sources do we have in respects to the gospels? The gospels are our sources about the resurrection of jesus. Are they the kind of sources historians would want when establishing what probably happened in the past? The answer is no. The dates of the gospels are not contemporary to the events they narrate. The earliest gospel was written about forty years after the death of jesus, but Paul was writing earlier –but that was twenty years after the event, so it is still not contemporary. We do not have someone who was there at the event writing about it. Second, none of the authors were eye witnesses. Paul himself indicates he never an eye witness to jesus. We do not know who wrote the canonical gospels, they are all anonymous written in the third person. The followers of jesus were Aramaic speaking peasants from Galilee. Lower class men who were not educated, in fact Peter and John in Acts 4:13 are literally saying they are illiterate. They could not read or write of course not; they were fisherman who did not go to school. The vast majority of people in ancient times never learned to read and/or write. The gospels were written in Greek by highly educated rhetorically trained writers who were skilled in Greek composition. Probably not the disciples and dont claim to be the disciples. Where did the authors get their stories from? If they were not the disciples, then they must have heard it from somebody, who heard the stories from somebody who heard the stories from somebody. Stories about jesus had been in circulation year after year after year from the time the disciples knew that jesus got killed. They were telling stories to convert people; they improved and changed the stories sometimes. The gospels have gotten modified in the process over the course of decades before anyone wrote them down. These stories are based on oral reports that have been in circulation for decades. What happens to stories in oral traditions after decade after decade? It changes. What evidence do we have that the gospels were changed over the years is clear to anyone free to read the bible for themselves.
These are not reliable historical accounts, there are too many discrepancies. The accounts are based on oral traditions that were in circulation for decades. Year after year, Christian try to convert others told them stories in order to convince them that jesus rose from the dead, and they changed their stories while they were trying to convince people. These authors were not eye witnesses. These are Greek speaking Christians living 35-65 years after the events they narrate. They are telling the story that Christians have been telling during all these years. There was no one there at the time of jesus’ death taking notes. Many stories were invented, most were changed. For these reasons, their accounts are not as useful as we would like them to be for historical sources: they are not contemporary, they are not disinterest, they are not consistent.
Historians try to establish what most probably happened in the past. That is the task of historians. You can only give evidence of the past, and some evidence is greater than others. What are miracles? Miracles, by definition, are the least probable occurrence of an event. History can not prove someone can walk on water, nor can anyone repeat the event for it to be repeatably tested. Historians can only establish on the basis on the surviving evidence on what most probably happened, and by definition miracles are the least probable occurrence, or else they are not miracles. This creates the dilemma for the historian and is the reason why historians cannot prove jesus was resurrected. Historians by their very nature establish what most probably happened in the past, but a miracle by its very definition is the least probable occurrence in the past. The least probable occurrence cannot be the most probable. This is the problem with the resurrection. Even if it did happen, then it defies imagination and cannot be accepted as a historically proven event. Belief in the resurrection, if you believe in the resurrection then it is for theological reasons. The resurrection is a theological assertion of what god did to jesus. It is not, and cannot be, based on historical proof.
3) Have the sources changed the story? Ugh, YES. Since this docu-series tries to highlight the Resurrection, just look at how the Resurrection story kept changing as more Gospels were written.
4) When kick-starting starting a brand new mystery cult, it is practically expected to lie your ass off. You do it for political power, or even for personal power (just as Ron L. Hubbard).
American patriot Thomas Paine, in The Age of Reason, asked: “Is it more probable that nature should go out of her course, or that man should tell a lie? We have never seen, in our time, nature go out of her course; but we have good reason to believe that millions of lies have been told in the same time; it is, therefore, at least millions to one, that the reporter of a miracle tells a lie.”
The Bible is FULL of biases, even among the political views between Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. The Bible is filled with so many diametrically opposite viewpoints that if they were present in a human being we would probably label that person bipolar or, even worse, schizophrenic.
And it’s not just opposing views with the first 4 gospels, it’s with a handful of forged epistles claiming to be written by Paul but we know for a fact they weren’t (this is called Pseudepigraphy, aka Forgery). Bart Ehrman pointed out in his recent book, Jesus Interrupted, the ancients used words such as pseudon (a lie) and nothon (a bastard child) to describe forgeries. Pseudepigraphy was not considered “okay” by the ancients and anyone who wrote such a piece of work must have been aware of the morally repugnant nature of what he was doing. Yet the works of such people as these made it into the NT. Here are some motivational reasons Paul Tobin provides why people would want to forge a story:
- For profit.
- To oppose an enemy.
- To oppose a particular point of view.
- To defend ones one traditions as divinely inspired.
- Out of humility.
- Out of love for an authority figure.
- To see if you can get away with it.
- To supplement to the tradition.
- To counter other forgeries.
- To provide authority for one’s own views.
After Wallace says that they “passed his test” the next issue was that they included miraculous events. Wallace says at that point he would have accepted that these accounts included real events AND some fiction. But then Wallace asked why is he separating these things into different categories, thinking that parts of the stories couldn’t have happened? Wallace answers, “I have a presuppositional bias against anything miraculous. So what got me over the hump was to test my biases.”
Wallace doesn’t say how he tested his biases (so why bother use the word “test” if you didn’t?). Rather he says he went back to examining the First Cause and essentially and deliberately dropped the ball. And by that, I mean he purposefully suspended the “burden of proof” and thus any form of healthy skepticism he had left.
“I was always someone who believed in the standard cosmological model. This idea that everything in the universe (space, time, matter) comes into existence from nothing. And when we say nothing, we don’t mean space, time or matter. Space is not nothing, space is something. So we are stuck with either redefining the term “nothing” or having to account for some First Cause that is not spacial, temporal, or material. Now if that First Cause is also “personal” — that is it is not an impersonal force, it’s a personal being — that’s still an option, I think, in Big Bang Cosmology. I still think this is a reasonable credible option for us. And if there is a being that is powerful enough to blink everything into existence (all space, time and matter) I’m betting that being could probably walk on water. So what I think that did for me was that I was focusing on much more smaller miraculous activity, much less miraculous then the beginning of the universe. Genesis 1 would be the penultimate miracle in all of Scripture.“
In other words: presuppose the existence of the Christian God to explain the resurrection to prove Christianity. Circular reasoning at it’s finest folks.
Wallace said that he wanted to “test” his biases, but where in the above story did he “test” anything? Does he understand what the word “test” means? I would hope so considering he was a detective. Because from what it looks like, he didn’t test anything, he just presupposed something mystical to be true to justify explaining the unexplainable. Sorry, explaining a mystery with another mystery is no answer at all.
Even if you could prove that the universe was made by a God, how then could you prove 1) that God entity is still alive 2) if there is more then one God or 3) if God really even is a God, perhaps it’s a trickster?
Thinking that the universe can support life therefore means that it was created with us in mind is just as nonsensical and wishful thinking as a puddle in a pothole thinking that the pothole was made just for it (and btw, that worldview is disproven once the sun comes up and evaporates the puddle). The point is the universe was not made for humans, we are the result of life adapting to it — not the other way around.
Wallace then goes on to ask “how do we account for the accounts?” Are they lies? Did they imagine them? Wallace says that when examining such things, he has to examine multiple explanations and eliminate the bad ones. “We either eliminate those explanations that are impossible based on evidence, or less reasonable based on evidence.” He notes that even Jurors do this, “which of these two explanations is more reasonable in light of the evidence?” In other words: Inductive reasoning. Wallace says he applies this to the claims in the gospels. “Okay, we’ve got some bear minimal pieces of evidence that we need to account for. It certainly emerges pretty quickly about this idea of the resurrection. We got what appears to be an empty tomb and no body available. I think that’s a reasonable conclusion given the fact that you could end this entire story in the 1st century simply by taking the body of Jesus and displaying it. It would be over. That never happened. But you can explain that in a number of ways. Does it mean that the resurrection occurred? But you have to explain it.”
Why has no one in history produced the body of King Arthur? The legend has it that King Arthur didn’t die but was taken to the mystic Isle of Avalon. No body means that he must’ve gone to Avalon, right? If anyone presented a body, the debate would’ve been over. But since there is no body, that must mean the “One and Future King” will return to England, right?
Do you not see the issue here? Wallace is presuming there was a body to begin with to display. Newsflash, if the whole thing was a legend to start with, there would never be a body to begin with. Ergo, the non-Christian Jews couldn’t provide a body, especially considering that the earliest gospel, Mark, was (best scholarly estimates) written 45 years AFTER the supposed death of Jesus. Who the hell is going to try to disprove a claim about a resurrected body that happened 45 years ago? Even if there was a body, it would be bones by then. So how can ancient Jews with no forensic science whatsoever identify the remains of a body (or a skeleton) that a cult of people claiming it came back from the dead 45 years ago???
If I started to start a cult claiming that HH Holmes, America’s first serial killer, somehow broke free of his concrete-filled coffin, crawled 10 feet through the soil to the surface, and was back from the dead, researches could check to see if the body is still there (and in fact recently they did, but the only way they could do any identification tests on the body was the teeth. Flimsy at best, I could probably get all cult-like and claim that the researches were frauds planting evidence or that dental identification isn’t good enough to disprove my cult’s faith). In this day and age, you can find the records of where HH Holmes was buried and we have forensic science to identify body. Back then, where are the burial records of where Jesus was buried, and how would you identify a 45-year-old corpse back then? How could you rule out that the Romans claimed they buried the body behind a rolling stone, but in reality tricked the public and buried him another tomb completely off the record? (and those two guards mentioned in the story were just stationed there for show).
“We’ve also got to account for the eyewitnesses never recanted during any of this time in the first century. Clearly the second way to make this go away quickly if you are opposed to Christianity if you don’t show the body of Jesus, well at least get those people who claim to have saw him alive to recant. And we see this in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation of Christians, people who weren’t eyewitnesses, but they were trusting the testimony of eyewitnesses. Some of those people were tortured, and we have reports going back to the Emperor that some of these people recanted. But you have absolute historical silence about the eyewitnesses ever recanting. I could see how someone who didn’t know if it was true or not just trusting somebody else story might want to recant the story under pressure, but the eyewitnesses — we have a collection of martyrdom stories, and even if we don’t if all of those martyrdom stories are necessarily reliable, we do know that we have no record of anyone ever recanting and they went to their graves with this claim.“
We have no evidence even one of them died for anything in the Gospels, much less all of them. (Nor any evidence confirming none ever recanted anything, either.)
Let’s assume that 1st generation Christians were arrested, how do we know they were arrested for their faith? How do we know they were tortured? And if they were, how do we know it was to make them recant of their faith? And how do we know that NONE of them recanted? Is it too hard to imagine that there were no martyrs, and the later Christian leaders of the church invented martyrs to strengthen their recruitment agendas? That’s a great motivation right there to make up such stories. For all we know, even if there were early Christians arrested for their faith, then tortured, then they recanted…. only to have the church fathers claim that they “never let go of their faith” and kept that message circulating within their church and preserved it in history. After all, where is the Roman side of the story???? Where are the Roman prison records? Where are the wardens testimonies that the inmates were tortured, and whether they recanted or not?
Do you not see the problem facing Historians. We only one have one source for the bold claims of early Christian martyrs: from Christians. It’s a one-sided story with no way to verify it’s claims.
Plus it gets worse when we examine who these 1st gen. martyrs were and who recorded these events and when. What do we find: no eyewitness accounts, everything is based on hearsay, and most are not even contemporary sources.
In other words, we have have a very shady story that is one-sided and reported by non-eyewitnesses with no secondary sources and unbiased sources to verify any of it. Any self-respecting Historian would take these martyr stories with a grain of salt.
Then Wallace ends this bit with this: “So the question to ask: Does that make it true? NO, again there are ways to explain that. So we are looking at a few facts: the empty tomb, the transformation of the disciples, the fact they never recanted their story, there are a number of simple facts I’ve started to assemble.”
Nothing else. He admits that the “evidence” he just provided doesn’t make the resurrection story true…. so why bother including this then? Why not give us something SOLID?
As of right now, we know that we don’t have enough data to prove that the disciples were martyrs who never “recanted,” but even if we did apparently Wallace admits that wouldn’t prove the validity of Christianity.
Then Wallace goes into Motivation. He notes that “there are 3 reasons why a person commits murder [or anything you’ve done wrong in your life].” Pursuit of money, sex or relationships, and power. “Those three things will motivate people to do what they ought not do.” And this is what Wallace found compelling: no motive of why the disciples would not recant under torture.
Apparently Wallace has never heard of the Salem Witch trials. Or the Inquisition. Or even Ron and Dan Lafferty, the Mormon brothers from Utah who killed a mother and a baby girl by slicing her throat open, all because God told them to kill them (the were planning to kill more but they were stopped by the police). That wasn’t for power, or money, or even for sex… it was (air-quotes) “God’s Will.” Squeeze that into your top motivations for murder.
Seriously, how does a detective fail to mention this particular motivation? By now almost every American has heard of ISIS. Plus a lazy look at History reveals that one of the primary motivators for war is all about faith. Hmmmm, maybe the “motivation” for Wallace failing to include this is because he’s now a Christian apologist with an agenda to cover the atrocities committed by those with strong feelings of faith?
Plus, what kind of self-respecting “detective” narrows the motivation for “doing bad things we ought not to do” to just 3 reasons?
Ignoring that Wallace’s point rests on the assumption that the disciples were tortured to begin with, did it the option that they were insane or schizophrenic ever occur to Wallace to explain the motivation why they didn’t recant? (assuming they didn’t recant) Or did it never occur to Wallace that the account of the account is the liar, that the one spewing hearsay is the one lying, and the lie could be for any of those three reasons such as power: make up a martyr story to draw people into your cult, and once they believe it, they’re under your thumb. (And hey, sex could be on the table too for recruiting people into the faith… just ask any Catholic priest within sniffing distance of a preschool)
Wallace then goes on to address 5 of 7 common alternative explanations. 1) it’s all true (which is what Christians accept). 2) they hallucinated (which Paul admits happens). 3) Jesus didn’t die on the cross but resuscitated. 4) An imposter sat in for him. 5) This is a late legend of an early version of Jesus that was twisted over the years until it became supernatural Jesus. Wallace says, an atheist, he accepted one or two of these alternative explanations. So he then asked himself the same questions he would ask a Juror, look through the evidence and see which explanations fit the evidence. Wallace says he went through all the explanations and concluded that the Christian explanation “accounts for the basic facts best.”
Ignoring that his “basic facts” are completely sketchy if not flat-out wrong, has the option “Legend” never occurred to Wallace? Did Wallace give the “hallucination” option a good hand shake?
Perhaps Jesus is a mixture of both. We know that the gospel authors were pretty much the ancient version of today’s “Bible coders” trying to find hidden secrets in the Torah, living in a time of Rome-occupied Israel and unable to fulfill the commandments concerning sacrificing animals in the Temple, so they needed to find a way to please Yahweh… cuz any student will tell you, when you screw up, Yahweh will kick your ass. So, living in a Hellenistic-influenced Israel with a desire to find a Messiah to drive out the Romans, or a the “perfect sacrificial lamb” to loophole themselves out of requiring to sacrifice any animal in the Temple, mixed with some good old hallucinations… seems very possible for Christians to conjure up the idea of “Jesus Christ.”
In 1 Corinthians 12:5-8, the verb ophthe simply expresses Paul’s claim that Jesus “appeared” too them. The use of ophthe within the context of Paul’s statement is significant. Paul’s use of ophthe in expressing both his own visionary experience and those allegedly seen by the disciples is significant because his supposed encounters with the risen Jesus are never with a tangible form. In claiming the same experience for himself as experienced by the disciples, Paul is relating that “what was seen” by the disciples is also a visionary experience devoid of any physical component.
In Acts 22:17-18 it is said that Paul “saw” (idein) Jesus while in a “trance” (ekstasei) in the Temple. The word ekstasei is a combination of stasis, “standing,” and ek, “out.” It suggests the idea of standing out of oneself, that is, the nature of a trance. In this description, Paul uses a different verb for seeing the apparition then he uses when describing the experiences of the disciples.
For his and the disciples’ experience, Paul used the word ophthe (“appeared to“). Yet, when he described his vision while in a trance in the Temple he used the word idein (“saw“). “Have I not seen [heoraka] Jesus our Lord?” Paul asks rhetorically in 1 Corinthians 9:1.
In summary, according to Paul, both his experience and that of the disciples were respectively not with a material bodily form. So according to Paul himself, did Jesus really rise from the dead? Or, as Richard Carrier noted here, perhaps Paul and the disciples believed that Jesus was not a historical person but a celestial being like an archangel.
Paul is a man whose entire ministry rests on a man he never met, only relying on “visions” and “revelations” he had about a figure he credits to be Jesus. In Gal. 1.11-12, Paul says he learned the gospel only from a hallucinated encounter with Jesus (a ‘revelation’) whom he experienced ‘within’ himself (Gal. 1.16). He confirms this in Rom. 16.25-26, where Paul says, “My gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ is according to a revelation.”
And Paul was not the only one having visions, he lists many believers hallucinating in Acts.
- Acts 7, Stephen hallucinated Jesus floating up in the sky, but no one else there sees it.
- Acts 9, Paul hallucinates a booming voice and a beaming light from heaven (and suffers hysterical blindness as a result)
- Ananias hallucinates an entire conversation with God.
- Acts 10, Cornelius hallucinates a conversation with an angel, and Peter falls into a trance and hallucinates an entire cosmic dinner scene in the sky.
- Acts 27, Paul hallucinates a conversation with an angel.
Many Christians receive spirit communications (‘ prophesy’), as indicated in Acts 19.6 and 21.9-10. Paul says (meaning the apostles), ‘God revealed [the secrets of the gospel] through the Spirit’ (1 Cor. 2.10). Likewise, in Rom. 12.6, Paul says Christians in all congregations ‘have gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us; if it be prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith’ (and Paul indicates that these prophets were communicating with spirits, which were under the prophet’s control: 1 Cor. 14.19-32).
So what we have is the word of a guy, his mates, and whole congregations that all engage in hallucinations and visions… and Christian apologists would have us believe they are reliable and trustworthy sources.
But Wallace says even though the Christian explanation fit the best, there was one fatal flaw in it: the Resurrection itself. So Wallace found himself investigating if a supernatural event could ever happen. “I’m investigating whether or not a supernatural event like the Resurrection could ever be a reasonable explanation, but I would’ve said “nope, I don’t believe in the supernatural” so I’m starting off then with the conclusion when that is the very thing I’m supposed to be investigating.“
Then you suck at investigating Wallace! You should rule out the supernatural first and foremost, because if you don’t you’ll start making theories to fit facts. Even a fictional British detective is better at detecting then you.
Answer: Wallace never found any. Not one. All he did was assume the possibility rather than proving the possibility of the supernatural. So basically what he did was drop the “burden of proof” in favor of make-believe.
So Wallace then said he suspended his doubts and acknowledged that one of his problems was his “presuppositional bias against the supernatural.” Wallace says he can name (but end’s not sharing them) 5 or 6 reasons why certain conspiracies did not happen, and yet when it comes to Christianity “it doesn’t have any of those kind of fatal flaws, the only flaw that it has is that I don’t like supernatural explanations.” And when he realized this, then suddenly he started using the supernatural to explain things like consciousness, apparent fine-tunings in the universe, the origin of life, objective transcendent morality, and so on.
Magic can explain things now, apparently.
Did Wallace ever consider maybe the murder weapon was an actual unicorn horn?
Or maybe it wasn’t a suicide, maybe it was Freddy Kruger?
Notice also that when Wallace suspends the “burden of proof” to allow the supernatural explain certain things, he doesn’t try to investigate if the God the Bible is the one true God. Otherwise, where is his tests that the God of the Bible is what it says it is and not a trickster? Where is the evidence that he “checked behind the curtain” of reality to verify if Yahweh really is Yahweh and not a trickster? Or is Wallace just taking everything on faith, aka make-believe?
Even if I assume that J Wallace was an atheist for most of his life, he apparently was a very shitty skeptic and a poor rationalist.
Later on Wallace delves into testimonies, and notes that nobody will ever find a case where two witnesses agree on absolute everything. Does that mean that the testimonies are unreliable or lying? Wallace answers No.
How does he know that two “witnesses” will never agree on absolutely everything? What about sources that copy from one another? Luke doesn’t just repeatedly copy Mark verbatim, he repeatedly copies Matthew verbatim!
If it were the case that “reliable eyewitness accounts always differ slightly,” it follows that the Gospels cannot be reliable eyewitness accounts. Obviously, they are colluding: simply copying each other’s testimonies, verbatim, with minor variations, and sometimes major ones, but that’s exactly what colluding liars often do, too. This disproves Wallace’s contention that the Gospels are independent eyewitnesses or even using eyewitnesses.
Wallace moves on and raises the question why did nobody ever come along and correct the contradictions in the gospels?
Answer: people were correcting the contradictions in the gospels. Those people were called Matthew, Luke, and John.
These guys copied from Mark and each other, and they were always correcting and improving on Mark’s and other’s stories.
Gentempo: “So what you’re saying is, in reality, when the New Testament was being assembled, they could’ve scrubbed it. And basically adulterated change, varying accounts to line up better. So it’s almost the fact that they do have departures, what you’re saying in your mind as a detective, the implication drawn is that they left it alone.”
Wallace: “And there were early Christians in History that really made an effort to kind of harmonized the accounts. There’s like this impulse we have. Well it’s interesting that nobody is doing that immediately, that these four accounts are bringing a slightly nuanced variations between the accounts.”
Wrong wrong wrong.
There was an immediate attempt to correct the gospels authors, they were doing that to each other, numerous times.
Seriously, read a book.
Wallace later mentions that he heard that Mark was not an eyewitness, but was in Rome at the feet of Peter writing what he heard. So Wallace does his detective skills to see if there are elements of Peter in Mark. Wallace admits in his research he didn’t know anything about Biblical history, but pressed on anyway using “forensic statement analysis.” In the end, Wallace felt “comfortable” of Papias’ claim that Mark’s source was Peter.
You can’t use “forensic statement analysis” on the Gospels, because they are not eyewitness testimonies! As all mainstream experts agree, the gospels are literary constructions of unknown later authors whom the defense can’t even establish knew any witnesses, much less faithfully recorded anything they said.
If Wallace knew that Mark was not an eyewitness, he surely seems to suddenly forget when he calls the gospel authors “eyewitnesses” and seems to be unaware that the other Gospel authors virtually copied almost everything from Mark (cuz they too were not eyewitnesses, otherwise there’s no need to copy).
After a bit of story telling of Wallace’s personal life, Gempleton notes that Wallace entered Christianity not by “a leap of faith,” but Wallace took a “intellectual path” to Christianity.
If anything, Wallace took a misinformed path toward Christianity. Every step of his “investigation” is full of holes because, as Wallace admitted, he didn’t know anything about Biblical History and assumed that every word was based on eyewitness accounts.
Wallace: “You may believe you get warts from frogs. You don’t get warts from frogs, we already know what the science is behind this. We know it doesn’t happen that way. So if you hold that belief, you are holding it in spite of evidence to the contrary. That’s an unreasonable belief. I don’t believe that Christianity is that kind of belief. It’s not, there is no evidence to the contrary that you could point out that says “this is unreasonable”—
Pot meet kettle.
Where’s Wallace’s scientific proof that Resurrection after three days is possible?
We have ALL the evidence to the contrary that points to a beaten, crucified, and stabbed body resurrecting after three days of being clinically dead is impossible, ergo Christianity is a unreasonable belief from top to bottom.
—but you could say “yeah, but I think that faith is blind in the sense isn’t faith the thing you do when you don’t have evidence?” Well, that doesn’t appear to be how Jesus taught, because Jesus never operated that way. He continually said “hey, if you don’t believe what I’m telling you, at least believe the evidence of these miracles that I’ve presented in front of you.”
What acid-fueled dream world did Wallace slip into?
For someone who says that they were obsessed for 6 months studying the Bible every day, you’d think that they wouldn’t make a stupid mistake like this.
As told by the Gospel authors, Jesus operated the exact opposite of what Wallace claims. Jesus didn’t say “believe X in front of you.” Jesus said “blessed he who has not seen and believe” (John 20:29). Wallace tries to use the disciples of John the Baptist in his argument, but the whole point of that story was to convince John the Baptist who was not present, therefore could not see what happened. Jesus was expecting John the Baptist to believe despite not seeing. (Plus how convenient that we don’t have a shred of historical proof of these disciples of John, nor anything left behind them that reveals what they saw).
Second Interviewee: Clair Pfann
Claire Pfann, Instructor in New Testament at the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem. She received her Master of Arts in Bible from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.
After the long talk about her upbringing, education and travels and encouraging Christians to basically pilgrimage to Jerusalem as a Muslim would to Mecca, when we finally get to something worth addressing regarding Jesus, she wishes people to study the Gospels in Jerusalem in their Jewish context and understand the Jewish society where the gospels were written. She also notes “archeology is very helpful. To know the archeology of Jerusalem, to know the archeology of the country and its discography.”
I’m going to stop her right there.
First of all, during the 1970’s one can be forgiven for thinking that archeology is the best friend of the Bible (back then, one archeological dig after another seemed to confirm it again and again). Given that Pfann started studying the Bible in the 80’s, she likely only ever heard the echos of biblical discoveries. But the fact is this is no longer true. Scholars are questioning the whole paradigm of “biblical archaeology,” which starts with the assumption that the Bible is a reliable guide for field research. Indeed, there is now so much contrary evidence against the historical accuracy of the Bible that the term “biblical archaeology” has been discarded by professional archaeologists and Syro-Palestinian archaeology has been suggested by some practicing in the field as a more appropriate term.
There was no Exodus; there was no Global Flood; the conquest into Canaan is full of holes — ex. the story of Jericho is off cuz there was no “wall” during the era of the conquest; Moses is considered a Legend; there was no Adam and Eve; the Tower of Babel was a huge exaggeration (construction only stopped because after it was put on pause, the schools shut down, many years later people didn’t know how to read the instructions; and the project was abandoned); there was no Roman census during the time of Jesus’ supposed birth; there was no huge earthquake or hours of darkness; Nazareth doesn’t appear in history; the size of David’s kingdom was greatly exaggerated; and more.
Even if we grant that the New Testament accurately portrays Jerusalem or sites throughout Israel, does that mean the extraordinary tales are true? Consider Homer’s Odyssey, for example, which describes the travels of Odysseus throughout the Greek islands. The epic describes, in detail, many locations that existed in history. But should we take Odysseus, the Greek gods and goddesses, one-eyed giants and monsters as literal fact simply because the story depicts geographic locations accurately? Of course not.
However there are many errors and unsupported geographical locations appear in the New Testament. For instance, Mark’s poor knowledge of the geography of Israel has made many consider the strong possibility that he was not a local. A classic case is his bizarre itinerary for Jesus leaving Tyre to go north, then south-east, then back east again, to reach is final destination. It is likely that Mark wasn’t a local and just copying bits from the Old Testament (in this case, perhaps Isaiah 9:1). In fact, most of the major details about Jesus was plagiarized from the Old Testament. And although one cannot use these as evidence against a historical Jesus, we can certainly question the reliability of the texts. If the scriptures make so many factual errors about geology, science, and contain so many contradictions, falsehoods could occur any in area.
If we have a coupling with historical people and locations, then we should also have some historical reference of a Jesus to these locations and people. But just the opposite proves the case. The Bible depicts Herod, the Ruler of Jewish Palestine under Rome as sending out men to search and kill the infant Jesus, yet nothing in history supports such a story. Pontius Pilate supposedly performed as judge in the trial and execution of Jesus, yet no Roman record mentions such a trial. The gospel portray a multitude of believers throughout the land spreading tales of a teacher, prophet, and healer, yet nobody in Jesus’ life time or several decades after, ever records such a human figure. The lack of a historical Jesus in the known historical record speaks for itself.
Eventually Gentempo and Pfann bring up Jesus including women in his ministry and telling women to share the message. Pfann says that was very “unusual.” She note that women’s testimony at the time was not trusted, “women were not allowed to testify in courts.”
I am sick to death of hearing this “women weren’t trusted back then” BS.
By any chance did she not ever read the Gospel of John? Because in it he attests the testimony of a woman could be and were accepted: “many of the Samaritans from that city believed in Jesus because of the account given by the woman who testified” to his psychic powers (4:39).
This is one of the biggest reasons that irritate me about Christian apologists. Once they hear a narrative from another apologist, they don’t bother researching it. This narrative that “back then, women were not trust worthy” is utter crap.
Just because it was unseemly for a woman to appear in court does not mean her testimony was not trusted. It is improper to argue from courtroom decorum to everyday credibility. The Gospels are not court documents. To the church leaders, they are testimonies. Revelations. The church leaders are not trying to win a court case, they are trying to win over people, which is not an impossible task. Just ask the Scientologists who were won over by a group started by a fiction writer.
Using women as sources for historical claims, there is no evidence of distrust—any more for women than for men of comparable status or condition (ex. in Contra Celsum 2.59-60, Origen does not show Celsus, a pagan critic, objecting to Mary’s testimony because she was a woman, but because she was not of sound mind). Christians love quoting Josephus, but Josephus himself used women as the only eyewitnesses. For example, has his entire account of the heroic sacrifices at Gamala and Masada from no other source than two women in each case—yet shows no embarrassment at this. There are times when Josephus forgot to mention his sources for certain particular stories, yet here he goes out of his way to report his only sources were women. That makes no sense if women are unworthy embarrassing sources, unless Josephus regarded his sources as quite respectable, and therefore actually worth mentioning.
Bottom line, women were trustworthy sources for historical claims. Hellenistic Roman-Greek courts allowed women testimony (read about the case between Cicero and Verres. Cicero calls for female witnesses, Cicero trusts them and they’re permitted to be witnesses. Digest of Justinian 22.5.18 says “women have the right to give evidence at trial”; cf. also Digest of Justinian 184.108.40.206, 12.2.26.pr., 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168, etc). Even the Pharisees, as stuck up as they are, the rules did not exclude women from being trustworthy witnesses in court (Mishnah, Sanhedrin 3:3). So women were trustworthy sources to historians, the Hellenized Palestinians Jewish courts and to the Gentile courts. There is no reason to assume that women were untrustworthy embarrassing sources in general, especially when used in a new religion.
Pfann eventually brings up the Dead Sea Scrolls. Gentempo asks her to share some interesting bits. She mentions 4Q246 because when Luke 1 was written regarding the proclamation of Gabriel, no other Jewish literature of the time did not talk like this that the Messiah would be called the “Son of God” (thus a divine figure) and such until 4Q246 was discovered. So Pfann argues that the first Christians were merely reflecting Jewish beliefs of the time, not inventors of new mythos.
Here’s what Pfann left out… this wasn’t direct at Jesus.
There was a prophecy in Daniel of a major military victory, but it failed. The Christian religion could in a sense be explained as an attempt to explain away Daniel’s failed prediction of a divinely supported military victory for Israel over its Gentile oppressors (which continually didn’t happen), by imagining (unlike Daniel) a ‘spiritual’ kingdom instead of an actual one, and repeatedly postponing the actual one to an ever-receding future. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example, in what’s called ‘The Son of God’ text (4Q246), we have a redaction of Daniel in which it is predicted that one day a great and righteous man will be born and be called the son of God and rule an eternal kingdom. Though here it was still imagined as a kingdom achieved by conquest, followed by an eternal reign of peace, it’s an easy thing to explain the failure of this to happen time and again by relocating that conquest into the spiritual realm. And that’s exactly what the Christians did: they imagined a righteous man was born and was called the son of God and now rules an eternal kingdom— a kingdom that no one can see. And they imagined this happened exactly when Daniel appears to have predicted it would. And they imagined it followed the death of their Christ exactly as Daniel had said it would. And their own Gospels cite this passage in Daniel as confirmation. So the book of Daniel was clearly a seminal text in the development of Christianity, influencing the core of the gospel itself, including belief in the crucifixion and its prophetic importance. This is all the case whether Jesus existed or not, so this does not answer whether he did; it only entails he didn’t have to.
Pfann then mentions the “Pierced Messiah” text about a kingly princely figure who will be put to death unexpectedly.
The Dead Sea Scrolls here are speaking of two messiahs, one ‘Messiah of Aaron’, who would be the ‘true high priest’, and a ‘Messiah of Israel’, who would be a kingly warlord figure. See Evans and Flint (eds.), Eschatology, pp. 5-6; and Peter Flint, ‘Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls’, in Historical Jesus in Context (ed. Levine, Allison and Crossan), pp. 110-31; and Florentino García Martínez and Eibert J.C. Tigchelaar (eds.), Qumranica minora, Vol. II (Boston: Brill, 2007), pp. 13-32. But it’s debated whether these are actually two messiahs, or what kind of messiahs they are: see L.D. Hurst, ‘Did Qumran Expect Two Messiahs?’, Bulletin for Biblical Research 9 (1999), pp. 157-80 (although note that his conclusion is reversed when we adopt my definition of messiah rather than his). It’s also debated whether one of the Qumran fragments says one of these messiahs ‘will be pierced’ and killed, or whether he will pierce and kill someone else, and I consider that question presently unresolvable (the manuscript is too damaged to tell). See Helmut Koester, ‘The Historical Jesus and the Historical Situation of the Quest: An Epilogue’, in Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluation of the State of Current Research (ed. Bruce Chilton and Craig Evans; Leiden: Brill, 1994), pp. 535-45; and Craig Evans, ‘The Recently Published Dead Sea Scrolls and the Historical Jesus’, in Studying the Historical Jesus (ed. Chilton and Evans), pp. 547-65 (553-54); and the debate between Hershel Shanks, ‘The “Pierced Messiah” Text— An Interpretation Evaporates’, Biblical Archaeology Review 18 (July/ August 1992), pp. 80-82; 80-82; and James Tabor, ‘4Q285: A Pierced or Piercing Messiah?— The Verdict Is Still Out’, Biblical Archaeology Review 18 (November/ December 1992), pp. 58-59; as well as the discussion and scholarship cited in Martin Abegg, ‘Messianic Hope and 4Q285: A Reassessment’, Journal of Biblical Literature 113 (Spring 1994), pp. 81-91.
The third text is about the disciples John the Baptist sends to Jesus. John the Baptist is by far more popular at the time, but when John is thrown in prison he begins to wonder if he got it wrong. And he knew Jesus was going around preaching the good news, but Jesus was not what the Jews expected the Messiah to be: a ruler who drove out the Romans and restore Jewish independence. So John sends disciples to check if Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus then performs miracles in front of them: Jesus heal the sick, cure the blind, the crippled walked again, and he raised the dead. Pfann notes that scholars at that point saw a problem, nobody expected the messiah to raise the dead…. until they found 4Q521 that lists what the Messiah will do: the lame will walk, the blind will see… and the dead will rise. Pfann then says that the message Jesus sent back to John the Baptist was this interpretation of Isaiah 61 that the role of the Messiah was to do good for the people, not drive out the Romans.
So earlier we have the “Pierced Messiah” in the Dead Sea Scrolls that says the messiah of Israel will be a kingly warlord, and now we have a tale where Jesus says the Messiah will not be a kingly warlord? And Christians are taking Jesus’ word for the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Torah?
It’s almost like a Monty Python sketch where the believers will try to make anything stick, no matter the cost.
Later on Pfann tries to repacked Paul in a pretty bow, thinking that people in general have a negative view of Paul. So when asked what makes Paul likeable, Pfann delves into should Gentiles convert to Judaism. A hot topic: should Gentiles eat Kosher or not. Pfann says Paul ended the debate in Romans when discussing a pot-luck. Paul basically tells the Gentiles to abstain from bringing or eating meat to a kosher pot-luck, because it’s not about the freedom of eating whatever you want, it’s displaying an “act of righteousness.”
Acts 15 says the Apostles, the guys who walked with Jesus, instructed Gentiles who want to be Christians that they should not eat meat offered to idols.
It seems clear that from Acts to Paul: Christians are still meant to follow those old Jewish laws, not just the “moral laws” but also the dietary laws.
Then Pfann continues to paint Paul in a better light with the Epistle to Philemon where Paul asks Philemon to forgive a run-away slave and accept him back.
Bear in mind that Pfann is trying to re-brand Paul as a nice likeable guy and change people’s perception of him… yet she reminds us of this story???????
Paul returns the runaway slave, Onesimus, to his “rightful owner,” Philemon, asking him to receive him just as though he were Paul’s very “own bowels.” This was, of course, a great opportunity for Paul (and God) to condemn slavery — if he had anything against it, that is. But he didn’t. So he returns the slave to his owner without a word against the institution of slavery.
From the bottom of my hear, FUCK YOU PAUL!
Pfann can bugger off. Paul is an absolute asshole. Even fictional Tom Sawyer is morally superior to a self-proclaimed man-of-god who returns slaves to the slave-masters on a silver platter.
Later on Gentempo shares a statistic that he heard that 80% of Christians who go off to college drop their faith, and asks Pfann to share her thoughts. Pfann dances around it by talking about life and education in Israel. Pfann basically just says “let the dialogue keep going and listen to diverse opinions” and suggests not sheltering kids from these opinions and tough questions.
Pretty sure hearing diverse opinions is what led a lot of students out of the faith. Why? Because, I suspect for most of them, their whole childhoods was all hearing one side. But when they enter college and hear multiple sides for the first time, this exposure gets them to question and investigate, and this investigation leads to unbelief.
In response to this Gentempo notes that the over-protective guardian who shelters their kids from this might have a backfire effect.
This coming from the guy who was on a docu-series promoting the idea of gullible over-protective parents sheltering their kids from the boogy-man in white called “the Doctor” (no, not the kind with the Police Box) and his life-saving vaccines. Yet in this comparison, the “backfire effect” is kids kidding fatal diseases and dying as a result, as well as spreading diseases to other kids around them.
Pfann makes a comment that I could not help remarking on, “to bring healing, a relationship, and hope. The love of God is best reflected in how Jesus laid down his life.”
If God and the “holy spirit” wanted to bring healing and seek a relationship, then why not do that the moment Genesis says God kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden? If God knew that the one way to redeem all humankind was that he would have to sacrifice himself unto himself to appease himself, he could’ve done that the minute Adam and Even got the boot out of Eden. Yet God didn’t, and instead God waited until the world was heavily populated then FLOODED all of them (save for 1 family on a floating fuck-zoo). Just as God waited and waited until the Egyptians pursued Moses and the Jews into the parted seas. God could’ve closed the water gap, but no, he waited until the Egyptians were inside then he collapsed the sea on top of them and killed them. This isn’t a God who wants to bring healing and a relationship, this is a god who wants blood and gullibility.
“if people can come to an understanding of how deeply God loves them as individuals. God is the perfect father, he’s not like us. We fail, we get angry, but God is the prefect Father.”
And cyanide is the best health food on planet Earth.
If you have/want children, would you want them to have free will? Or would you rather have them be robots?
If you want your child to have free will, would you at least train them to understand right from wrong as early as possible? If so, what rationalization is there to make obtaining the knowledge of “right and wrong” from them? What excuse is there to punish your child from finally obtaining the knowledge of “right and wrong”?
If you want them to have free will, do you as a parent bear responsibility protecting your children? Or is a parent completely absolved the moment they are born? When is it acceptable for a parent to say “when my child reaches the age of X, they are no longer my problem therefore I bear no responsibility of protecting them”? Or does a good parent never stop protecting their child regardless how old they are?
If a child “freely chooses” to wonder off toward the edge of a cliff, do you as a parent (who has the ability to help them) run over and save them, or do you do nothing and let them fall off the deep end? If a parent fails to act to save their children from a easily preventable death, wouldn’t that make them a terrible failure of a parent?
If you are a parent, do you at least protect your child from predators? (like the type that tempts your child to disobey your rules or trick them into eating poison?) And if you do have the responsibility to protect your child and but do nothing, what does that say about you?
If you are a parent, wouldn’t it be wise to at least give your child the tools to protect themselves from harm and evil before it strikes? (and if you are all-knowing and know what form evil takes, then you ought to know what to tell your child to guard themselves from, how to identify it, familiarize them with evil’s tactics so they will know how to protect themselves) For example, if you know scorpions are poisonous, you can tell your kids what they are, what they look like and how to avoid them. Parents warn their children to avoid suspicious strangers who offer them rides or candy, and to contact the authorities. How easy would it be to tell your children how to identify and avoid a suspicious stranger when you yourself created the suspicious stranger in the form of a talking snake?
If you are a parent, would you leave your toddler alone in a room with a large open canister full of rat poison? Wouldn’t you, as a responsible parent, remove the canister and/or place it elsewhere where your child couldn’t reach it? If you knew something was dangerous to your kids, why place it within reaching distance and leave it so accessible? A parent can easily move the canister into a locked garage. (and if you happen to be a god, why place a cursed tree in the same garden as your creations? Wouldn’t it be smarter to place the cursed tree on a far away island, or on freaking Mars?! Seriously, did I just out-smart God?)
If the God character (the ultimate judge) deems it unnecessary to jump in and prevent a person from doing a bad thing, doesn’t that logically follow that humans should not jump in and prevent other people from doing bad things? If I saw a person about to rape someone, should I just do nothing since God will not get involved? If God (the ultimate judge) doesn’t do anything to stop evil, who are we to stop evil?
If God deems it unnecessary to jump in and punish people after committing terrible acts, why should we imprison anyone for criminal acts? Therefore, should we just free every prisoner because God didn’t lock them away himself? Aren’t we robbing the criminals of their “God given” free will by forcing them to obey the rules and laws of morality and society? Or what about forcing them to obey the rules of the Ten Commandments? If God doesn’t deem it necessary to force humans to obey, why should we force criminals (and all humans) to obey?
“He is a ferociously loving Father. So much so that he would allow Jesus to model his love by laying down his life.”
Consider this: you’re walking down the street of your neighborhood, but the new neighbor runs out and stops you and tells you this: “Hey neighbor, I’ve got good news! I decided not to torture you!”
You ask what the hell he’s talking about, so he explains, “well, you didn’t love me like the way I wanted you to, so I built a large torture chamber in my basement. It had everything: spikes, hammers, nails, acid, electric clamps, everything and I was going to trap you down there and torture you day in and day out. It’s still there, but it’s okay now! I decided to send my own child down there instead of you. He was only down there for three minutes, but now he’s no longer down there. He’s in the living room now eating lunch, he’s totally fine. But after what he did, I no longer have to torture you. Isn’t that great! To celebrate, now you can worship me, kiss my feat and praise my name. If you do that, I will let you live in the upstairs bedroom… otherwise if you don’t worship me, I will send you to the torture room and throw away the key. Wanna come in for coffee?”
If some stranger came up to another strange and threatened him like that, the only rational and right thing to do would to call the cops and get away from that sadistic and mad individual.
For an eternal being, dying for three days is not much of a sacrifice. If Jesus stayed in Hell permanently and be tormented forever while everyone else goes to Heaven, THEN that would be a meaningful sacrifice. If Jesus was God, 48 hours of torment in Hell is NOTHING to an eternal being like God. An omnipotent being cannot be harmed by definition, and if Jesus was God, therefore not even the worse of Hell could harm him. So what’s the point? Where is the meaning in such a sacrifice? There is none. The solace that Christians find in “Jesus’ sacrifice” is a lousy fantasy.
Pfann ends her interview by trying to share a warm fuzzy-cozy message to Christians, one of which is to relax and “be like a child.”
I never understood the appeal of this. Why be a child? Children are naive and not as educated as us. Hell, children believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. Children are expected to obey the orders of parents.
Instead of being children, why not tell us to grow up?