Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why Is Paul's Honesty Taken for Granted?

When someone claims to have encounters with supernatural beings and receive revelations from God, it seems to me that one of the possibilities that must be considered is that the claims are the product of an over active imagination.  The person making the claims might be perfectly sincere, but he he might be delusional or he might be a pathological liar.

In the 19th century, Joseph Smith managed to convince many literate people that he had encountered a supernatural being and that he had received revelations from God.  Some of his followers made similar claims.  Most non-Mormons seem to think that Smith was a huckster or a lunatic.  In the 1st century, many illiterate peasants became convinced that a supernatural being had made appearance to various people and that God had given revelations to some of the people who had witnessed those appearances.  Nevertheless, I have never seen any serious discussion of the possibility that the resurrection was an invention of someone's imagination.

108 comments:

  1. I guess it depends on what you mean by "serious discussion". Many atheists have steadfastly insisted that Christianity if a product of the excited imagination.

    I think that Paul's honesty is generally taken for granted because of his personality and his life. He didn't gain much from his Christian beliefs. Joseph Smith at least got influence, power a couple of wives...etc.

    Paul had a certain kind of influence, but not staying in one place and dealing with people who didn't have a lot of money to give him anyway kind of undercuts the traditional motivations for him to just "make stuff up". That doesn't mean that he couldn't have unusual motivations, it just isn't easy to decide what those motivations were if he didn't truly believe what he did.

    You could always call him delusional....but I'm not sure if that would fit either.

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  2. Terri,

    As far as Paul’s honesty being taken for granted, I’m thinking of liberal scholars like Bart Ehrman or the members of the Jesus Seminar. I’ve read quite a bit by Ehrman and I’ve never seen him discuss the possibility that Paul might have painted a false picture of his own activities and motivations.

    If we had the same kind of independent attestations to Paul's life and character as we have to Joseph Smith's, I might feel differently. However, everything we know about Paul comes from Christian sources, most of which were written long after the fact. If everything we knew about Smith came from official Mormon histories, we might well think that his character was every bit as noble and unselfish as Paul's seems to be. I think we have to at least allow for the possibility that Paul and his followers might have fudged the facts as much as Smith and his followers tried to do.

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  3. Joseph Smith may have been a Free Mason trying to emulate Muhammad, and Muhammad might have been a Jewish Pawn against Christianity turned against his masters. But I see no need for a Christian to presume that. If the worse comes to the worst, they are no worse than Odin according to Gylfaginning.

    I find it quite possible that Joseph Smith and Muhammad received what we call Private Revelations, some of which are true, some of which are false. So did Numa Pompilius, so did Hesiod. Whether Scipio and Krishna come in here or along with Siddharta and Plato, I do not pretend to know. I find it quite possible they were no worse than being conceited enough to find themselves worthy of a decisive revelation from God.

    The true Private Revelations - St Bridget's, St Malachy's about the Popes (we are like running out of time according to them, but that does not make them decisive) - are only minor exposures and admonitions within the general framework of Public Revelation. They depend as much on taking the Gospels for granted as Nathan upbraiding King David did take the Torah for granted.

    And Public Revelation is altogether another league.

    None of the Poly- or Monotheistic religion founders on Private Revelation come even close to Public Revelation - getting expelled from Eden, landing on Ararat, dividing the Red Sea, causing the Sun to stand still, or witnessing Christ risen from the dead. This need not be a difference in honesty, it is a difference in what they are witnessing.

    Also, none of Numa, Krishna, Buddha, Muhammad, Joseph Smith raised dead. Elijah did. St Luke saw how saint Paul did (ch 20 of Acts is part of the We Passages). St Martin of Tours did and St Patrick did. God does not work such miracles for liars.

    None of Numa, Krishna, Buddha, Muhammad, Joseph Smith died for what they had witnessed. Martyrdom comes later to their folllowers, and proves these followers honestly deluded. But the martyrdom of St Paul proves his honesty without leaving delusion (whether demonic or pathological or philosophical) as a possibility.

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  4. Hans-Geog,

    Thanks for stopping by. My son lives in your fair city and my wife and I will be visiting soon.

    The distinction between Private Revelation and Public Revelation is an argument that I have only come across recently and I haven't looked at it all that closely yet. As far as I can tell, Paul does not personally claim in his letters that he received any Public Revelations.

    As far as dying for what he had witnessed, I think it is hard to make the case with Paul. Tradition has it that he died in the persecution carried out by Nero. However, Nero did not kill the Christians because he cared what they believed. He killed them because he needed a scapegoat for the fire that he had himself started. There is no reason to think that Paul could have escaped death by recanting.

    I personally think that you can make a better case for Joseph Smith dying for his beliefs. Smith had the opportunity to flee rather than submit to arrest in Carthage, Illinois. In fact, he had already crossed the Mississippi river into Iowa in contemplation of doing so. Nevertheless, he chose to return knowing the likelihood that he might be murdered. That would seem to bespeak the sincerity of his belief in the revelation that he had received.

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  5. St Paul belongs to the public revelation:

    1) in so far as he publically made miracles AND

    2) in so far as he witnessed the fact that 500 men "most of whom are still alive" had seen Christ risen.

    God speed your journey well!

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  6. Wasn't Paul put in prison?

    Doesn't that prove his innocence? A guilty person would not go to prison for a lie.

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  7. We are considering TWO things: a) whether St Paul was honest, and yes, going to prison and getting beheaded at what is now San Paulo Fuori le mura for what you say proves pretty much you believe it, b) whether he was right.

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  8. Hans-Georg,

    Joseph Smith was murdered by a mob in Carthage, Illinois. Does that prove that he really believed that he had translated the Book of Mormon from Golden Plates that were given to him by the Angel Moroni?

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  9. Joseph Smith was murdered by a mob in Carthage, Illinois. Does that prove that he really believed that he had translated the Book of Mormon from Golden Plates that were given to him by the Angel Moroni?

    If they gave him a chance to recant and he refused, I will believe his honesty, yes.

    The linguistic miracles involved are:

    - infusing knowledge of a non-studied tongue in a man: which can be done by God, by good angels and also by evil angels, but not by man;

    - inventing a language for the purpose: which can be done even by man, as J R R Tolkien proves.

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  10. Hans-Georg,

    If Paul was killed under Nero's persecution, I cannot see any reason to think that he would have been given an opportunity to save himself by recanting. Nero put Christians to death for starting a fire, not for their beliefs.

    As far as I know, Joseph Smith was not given the opportunity to recant. However, he did have the opportunity to save himself by fleeing, but he turned himself in rather than abandoning his followers even though he knew the likelihood of mob violence.

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  11. I actually think Joseph Smith might have been honest then.

    More on his book of Mormon here, this link:

    http://filolohika.blogspot.com/2011/03/on-reformed-egyptian-of-nephites.html

    Tacitus does so NOT say any Christian confessed to setting fire on Rome, but that after Nero decided the group as such was culpable, any individual confessing to belonging to it (and implicitly refusing to denounce it as involved in the plot) was put to death.

    Vellejus Paterculus and Strabo are last non-Christian historians to write before this happens. Tacitus is, on the Latin side, the first non-Christian historian after this happens. Flavius Josephus too is writing after year 70.

    It was not a period that was politically and mediatically healthy enough for a claim such as Christians setting fire on Rome getting seriously investigated.

    If St Paul had denied being a Christian, he could have saved himself. If he had claimed having been a Christian and finding evidence for fire plot, and asking for clemency, he could have made a fortune. Not that we know of any Christian who did, I think more of what happened under Charles II about Catholic hunting.

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  12. Tacitus writes that “Nero fastened the guilt [for the fire] and inflicted the most exquisite torture” on Christians. He goes on to say that “an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.” I think that the logical interpretation of that passage is that Nero used torture on some Christians to extract confessions to starting the fire. I think Tacitus is indicating that the fire was the reason that was given for convicting them even though the real reason was something else, which would indicate that they had pleaded guilty to arson. However, even if we interpret “pleaded guilty” as a reference to being a Christian, the passage tells us that a great multitude was convicted upon the information obtained from the first ones who confessed. If everyone was given the opportunity to save themselves by recanting, then the only people who would have been convicted were those who personally confessed to being a Christian. No one would have been convicted based on information obtained from someone else.

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  13. I don't personally think that Smith's actions are sufficient to prove his sincerity. At the time he submitted to arrest, all his power, status, and wealth was the product of his position as leader of the Mormon Church. If he fled, he would lose everything that he built up over the prior two decades. He might simply have decided to gamble on the possibility of surviving his arrest.

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  14. I think that the logical interpretation of that passage is that Nero used torture on some Christians to extract confessions to starting the fire.

    You think so.

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  15. I think what I have written is as logical a way to read Tacitus.

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  16. There is nothing in that passage to indicate, except to one clinging for any trace of legality in Nero, that any Christian ever admitted to arson.

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  17. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace.

    Note the order: fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures - your reading would imply the reverse order. Maybe with an ut replacing et.

    Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.

    An arrest was made of all pleading guilty of what? Ah, yes, they first pleaded guilty of arson, then were arrested, then tortured so as to plead guilty of arson *hope you see the sarcasm about your interpretation*!

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  18. As they were already hated by everyone else, if they had on top of that admitted arson, even under torture, would Tacitus later have written so much about suspicions on Caesar?

    I think not.

    Would he have written: convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind?

    I think not.

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  19. Source for quote

    I do not think your proposition about Joseph Smith gambling for survival and retrival of position necessarily is more likely than a false apparition. But even if so, it does not give St Paul any parallel motive. Once he cannot live off the Church and resorts to tent-making. His Church is not a refuge where he stays out of minor martyrdoms. He is seen as too exacting in his Church. Hardly an enviable position for which to scramble back by any kind of gambling. And he is not alone.

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  20. Nero's goal was to get rid of the report that the fire had been started on his order. If he could get someone to admit to starting the fire, that would help him. I don't see how convicting someone of being a Christian would have done him any good. Moreover, I don't see how letting one of the Christian leaders gain his freedom by recanting would help Nero if he wanted the people to believe that the Christians were responsible for the fire.

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  21. The "wouldn't die for a lie" argument fails. 900 people voluntarily gave up their lives believing in the Heaven's Gate Cult, 918 in the People's Temple cult, and 50,000 Islamic soldiers defending their religion in the Siege of Baghdad were killed. I don't think the Christian apologist would accept the "wouldn't die for a lie" argument in any of those cases, as clearly it is common for people to be willing to die for their religion, even if they don't have any evidence for it.

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  22. @ Nightvid: I call your reply STRAWMAN.

    Both cases people died for lies (human or diabolic) which they themselves thought true.

    The real argument about St Paul & other Apostles is wouldn't die for a KNOWN lie. Wouldn't die for something they KNEW themselves to be a lie.

    St Paul not being mistaken either requires another argument. I've touched on that too, but we are talking about St Paul's honesty.

    The people who died for Hassan and Hussein sons of Ali at Kerbela honestly believed Mohammed to be God's prophet and his grandchildren legitimate successors of his. The people who killed them and were as ready to die, as honestly as the other set believed that the same prophet had left the Ummah in succession, to chose the Kaleef, and that Umaar should be accepted according to the vote. I have also already stated that Joseph Smith would hardly have died if he had been a forger and knew it. Also, since I believe there are things that are evil but can appear as angels of light, I am not obliged to explain either Mohammed's or Joseph Smith's revelations as human forgeries.

    @ Vinny: we are not trying to interpret first and foremost Nero's wishful thinking, but what actually happened according to Tacitus. He did NOT say any Christian was tortured and then admitted arson.

    Now let us go on into your half of the plane, Nero's motivation.

    If everyone hated Christians already - or everyone who counted - he might have wanted, but not very badly, Christians who confessed to arson. If he could pull off mass hysteria anyway, he did not need actual admissions. After that all he needed was people admitting to being Christians, and then throwing them to the lions or lighting them as torches so his men could say the Latin equivalent for: "him the arson? you kiddin? just look how he is going in for the arsons!"

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  23. And if you have any doubt about how mass hysteria AGAINST a group can be pulled off ... especially under a tyrant whom everybody wants not to offend.

    Vellejus Paterculus ceased writing in AD 29. Strabo died around AD 31. Next few authors who wrote anything pertaining to history were the Three Synoptic Gospellers. They wrote when noone else dared write. By the time St John had written the Apocalypse and undertook writing the last Gospel, they were dead. St Luke it seems peacefully, in Greece.

    St Mark: According to Eusebius (Eccl. Hist. 2.24.1), Mark was succeeded by Annianus as the bishop of Alexandria in the eighth year of Nero (AD 62/63), probably, but not definitely due to his coming death. Later Coptic tradition says that he was martyred in AD 68

    St Matthew: The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church each hold the tradition that Matthew died as a martyr.[3][19]

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  24. The real argument about St Paul & other Apostles is wouldn't die for a KNOWN lie. Wouldn't die for something they KNEW themselves to be a lie.

    There are a number of unjustified hidden assumptions you are attempting to smuggle in to the argument. You need to explicitly state what they are and what evidence you have, that is, under exactly what circumstances the disciples (be specific as to which ones, don't treat them as interchangeable!) would be convinced that their belief was false, and what evidence you have for that . Hyper-exaggerationalism, sensationalism, fanaticism, and appealing to emotion are not allowed. This is something that, in my experience, Christian apologists have never done, not even once. And so long as it remains this way, my argument is most certainly not a straw man.

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  25. Tacitus does not say that anyone confessed to “being a Christian.” What he says is “Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.” If they didn’t plead guilty to firing the city, then they must have pleaded guilty to hatred of mankind or to the abominations for which they were hated. There is no suggestion that simply being a Christian was a crime of which one could be convicted.

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  26. @ Vinny: Unless the confession of being a Christian was simply treated as synonymous with "hating mankind". Which it could very well if accusations such as those of Celsus were believed.

    That accords better with the text of Tacitus:

    a) seeing that it is pretty rare to confess without torture in order to be arrested and tortured to have set fire on a city - but not so rare for Christians, Catholics to confess being so and be arrested for firing a city under Nero or plotting against the Queen under Elisabeth;

    b) seeing that we live in an era when some people treat an admission of being Catholic as synonymous with an admission of being a pedophile.

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  27. Nightvid: have you even read what you just did write?

    You are asking me to specify under what conditions exactly a disciple would consider his belief false? Under none at all, of course! The moment he considers a set of beliefs false, he is not its disciple! He may pose as such, but he is not. And a man who poses as disciple is not likely to die as a martyr for his merely posed belief.

    And what do you mean by not treating the disciples as interchangeable? It was you who brought up disciples of recently dead people as parallels to Early Christians.

    I am not saying the people who died for Heaven's Gate Cult or People's Temple Cult considered their beliefs false. I think they ought to have and even ought to have spoken up before each other about mere misgivings. But if they had rankly believed that their cult was false, they would not have assembled for those fatal meetings.

    My argument is not that Christian Martyrs are more convinced than everyone else dying for their beliefs, except insofar as they have better reasons for them, which is a question about how and why they converted, which is previous to their martyrdoms.

    My argument is that:

    A Martyrdom proves certain Key Witnesses, including but not limited to St Paul honest;

    AND

    B
    Content of their honest witness is not compatible with being wrong about it.

    Nothing in this argument depends on saying that fanatics do not also believe what they die for. The B part includes saying the first Christians, according to what they said, presumably honestly, did a much better check-up on what to believe than the fanatics did. The A part does not make a total difference between the one and the other, and does not need to, since the difference is in the other part, and the resemblance is to the credit of fanatics, not to the discredit of Christianity.

    That said, even in the A part, as in dying for something, there is a difference between facing execution calmly and dying in battle, or dying in battle and committing suicide by poison. As I think was done by some of your examples. In those examples, despair or battle fury as in anger can take the place of real and full conviction.

    Will look to your link in a moment, this was to your text.

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  28. Nightvid, I cannot click your link from here. Do you use the <a... just to colour text blue?

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  29. Nightvid, I am not sure what you mean?

    Are you asking under exactly WHAT circumstances I would consider the belief of disciple X of belief Y as including a belief in its own falsity?

    Of course not under any circumstances at all!

    Except possibly that of an atheist drawing up straw men.

    The argument from martyrdom includes presumption of the honest belief on part of any martyr.

    Now, something being honestly believed is no guarantee it is right. When we deal with the belief of a martyr, we deal with two different questions: a) did he honestly believe what he died for (presumably yes, or he would not have died for it) and b) is it a right belief he died for, which is not a question about when he died but about when he converted or had corroborative evidence (or not, as the case may be) after conversion, and what kind of evidence he accepted.

    You cannot ask us to demolish our argument by denying it.

    There are cases in which the dying person's case for proving honest belief weakens, as in a battle mere wrath and in a mass suicide mere despair may take the place of conviction. But there is no case - that I can think of - in which it would prove not believing in what he died for, unless it were a religion forbidding martyrdom.

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  30. Sorry for double-writing/double-posting argument. Delay in show.

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  31. Not your fault. For some reason, the first one got caught in the spam filter and I released it.

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  32. Celsus wrote more than a century after the Neronic persecution and sixty years after Tacitus. This was a period of rapid growth and development for Christianity. To assume that the attitudes of Romans in 64 A.D. were the same as those in 177 A.D. is wishful thinking.

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  33. Not quite.

    First of all, it is not conditions I would like to live under.

    But I said "accusations such as" those of Celsus, not exactly his.

    The Jews as refusing polytheism were hated enough even before this period - I think III or IV Maccabees argue that. Christians were seen as same but worse since not national = not legal under Roman policy of tolerating national religions.

    Now this was at once a methodological starting point and a motive for Nero, Poppaea being half Jewish.

    For Romans to accept the accusation confessions to arson were not needed. Remembering how Jews burned down a temple of Zeus under the Maccabees and seeing Christians as similar monotheists - remember the modern Atheist cum New Age craze against Abrahamic religions - under a régime as corrupt as Nero's arguably was, was enough.

    Arguably corrupt, I said. Indeed, Vellejus Paterculus and Strabo stopped writing, and according to traditional dates the three Synoptic Gospellers came next, decades before any Pagan wrote history again. Maybe Flavius Josephus too predates Tacitus' comparatively timid early works Agricola and Germanica.

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  34. How narrowing a demonisation from a national cult to a partyicular sect within it - as Christianity was first seen - works is not difficult to see, when Communists have been able to broaden understandable demonisation of Nazis to encompass fascists as motivated by Communist violence as Franco or as peaceful as Dollfuß. Especially in attitudes developed under the Communist dictatorships.

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  35. So far to argue historic possibility of my reading of Tacitus, as for textual plausibility I already made my point earlier and your counterargument was basically historic circumstances now answered.

    But beyond martyrdom, there is another argument for St Paul's honesty. God does not make miracles for liars or nitwits so they can fool the world, and St Paul raised a boy who had broken his neck and died. This was in the presence of St Luke, since the latter a few verses on and a few verses earlier refers to himself, St Paul and maybe some others as "we". Acts also is a work predating Tacitus, and being a few years before St Paul actually was martyred.

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  36. Hans-Georg Lundahl (hereafter "HGL"),

    Sorry for the apparent contradiction and lack of clarity, my fault. What I meant was "convinced that their professed belief was false". Simply read "beliefs" as "professed beliefs" in my earlier post.

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  37. But beyond martyrdom, there is another argument for St Paul's honesty. God does not make miracles for liars or nitwits so they can fool the world, and St Paul raised a boy who had broken his neck and died.

    The problem with this argument is that it is methodologically supernatural. By this, it is meant that inferences are being made which rely on some assumption about supernatural processes. Any time you attribute emotions or intentions to "God" you are employing methodological supernaturalism, that is, making an inference based on some assumption about supernatural processes.

    Unfortunately, all human experience to date points to the conclusion that methodological supernaturalism is useless and bogus.

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  38. Unfortunately, all human experience to date points to the conclusion that methodological supernaturalism is useless and bogus.

    ALL human experience? Or all recorded one EXCEPT all the records of miracles that you discount because they are records of miracles?

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  39. Simply read "beliefs" as "professed beliefs" in my earlier post.

    Will try.

    You need to explicitly state what they are and what evidence you have, that is, under exactly what circumstances the disciples (be specific as to which ones, don't treat them as interchangeable!) would be convinced that their belief was false, and what evidence you have for that.

    OK, change to:

    You need to explicitly state what they are and what evidence you have, that is, under exactly what circumstances the disciples (be specific as to which ones, don't treat them as interchangeable!) would be convinced that their professed belief was false, and what evidence you have for that .

    Well, if for instance someone avoided martyrdom by avoiding to profess his earlier professed belief, that could be a situation in which he could be considered to have believed his profession false. He could also have professed something against his convictions if it was in order to avoid martyrdom. Deciding which if either professed belief of them was the one he was hypocritical about is anyone's guess.

    Any one facing death and being able to escape it by three grains of incence but refusing those to the Emperor and dying for it has a motive based in his conviction.

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  40. HGL:

    Unfortunately, all human experience to date points to the conclusion that methodological supernaturalism is useless and bogus.

    ALL human experience? Or all recorded one EXCEPT all the records of miracles that you discount because they are records of miracles?


    The argument does not assume either that miracle claims are genuine, or that they are not. I think you are confusing ontological supernaturalism with methodological supernaturalism.

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  41. Suppose we have two photographs of a scene, one with a bathhouse in front of a lake with a tree some distance to the left, and the other with a pile of rubble in place of the bathhouse but the other stuff remaining. Both are from "February 1993". Neither image shows any sign of construction work going on.

    From our knowledge of natural processes, we know that it is feasible that the bathhouse got destroyed in under a month, but it is harder to imagine it getting built in under a month without a construction site being present. Thus, we can infer the image with rubble came later. This is methodological naturalism. (cont'd in next post...)

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  42. (cont'd from previous post...) But suppose, on the other hand, that we had a bathhouse in one photograph and a huge monument of Abraham Lincoln in the other. Which came first? Suppose, hypothetically, that we had 27confirmed reports of buildings turning into statue monuments spontaneously, but none of statue monuments turning into buildings. We conclude that the building photograph came first, inferring from our knowledge of which supernatural process is more common. This inference would be methodologically supernatural, since it would be based on reconstructing what happened using supernatural processes.

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  43. I assure you, that if anyone developed a technology or methodology that proved academically or commercially useful (including gathering data about the past such as in my "building to statue" example) that was based on supernatural processes, there would be a Nobel award and they would probably be the most famous person ever (or possibly second most) immediately.

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  44. HGL:

    Well, if for instance someone avoided martyrdom by avoiding to profess his earlier professed belief, that could be a situation in which he could be considered to have believed his profession false.

    How long must such a person be silent to count against what he/she believed? One year? Five years? Ten years?

    He could also have professed something against his convictions if it was in order to avoid martyrdom.

    Cite definite historical documents written by contemporaries to show they were given an opportunity to recant, and what specifically they needed to recant. Then you might be on to something.

    (...)

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  45. Paul says Christians were persecuted on the issue of circumcision.

    Did Bernie Madoff have a chance to admit that he was a fraudster?

    If he had done that, he would not have gone to prison.

    That is Christian logic. Simply admit to being a fraudster, and you walk free - an innocent man.

    Isn't Christian logic wonderful?

    Fraudsters are innocent if they are found guilty of fraud.

    Of course, people don't die for a lie, when they can be free for a fee. Bribery and corruption work wonders!

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  46. According to 'Matthew',Jesus told people to flee persecution.

    Why die for a lie when you can just walk to the next town, following the advice of your saviour?

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  47. According to Acts, the Romans could not find anything at all to charge Paul with.

    Not one thing,according to the Christians Old Book..

    And yet Christians keep whining that the Romans persecuted Christians.

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  48. HANS
    Any one facing death and being able to escape it by three grains of incence but refusing those to the Emperor and dying for it has a motive based in his conviction.

    CARR
    All you have to do is name a Christian killed for refusing to offer incense to the Emperor.

    And a date.

    Naturally, you will not find a 1st century Christian who had to do that.

    If you had any knowledge of history, you would know that.

    Robin Lane Fox in Pagans and Christians documents how Christians avoided this Emperor-worship by getting their slaves to offer the incenses on their behalf.

    Or simply forging the certificate saying they had sacrificed.

    Or bribing the official to say it had been done.

    Bribery and corruption work wonders!

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  49. Steven Carr:

    1) St Paul could not be charged with anything for the reason that Nero had not yet made Christianity a crime when Acts were written. Obviously therefore before the martyrdoms of Sts Peter and Paul;

    2) Christians were never individually charged with fraud. They were charged with being a conspiracy dedicated to things that would include setting fire to Rome: when you deal with revolutionaries - real or in this case presumed - you do tend to give drop-outs a bargain, so they can brand and design their fellow conspirators.

    This is why it is logic that St Paul would have got a good bargain if he had dropped out.

    Later than this - early 2d C. at least, if that is when Pliny wrote, they were charged with refusal to adore the Emperor. As far as things have come down to us, this legislation dates from Nero.

    3) The counsil to flee one city if one is persecuted there was often enough heeded by St Paul - once he was lowered from city walls in a basket: nevertheless, the command is not to keep fleeing martyrdom by staying on the run, city after city: there is also a time for standing up for Christ.

    4) We Catholics are far from denying that some avoided both martyrdom and Emperor worship by the kind of corruption described, we know very well that the Council of Nicea fixed such and such a term of penance for the libellatici - those getting a lying certificate - and a harsher one for the thurificati - those who against their convictions did burn incense.

    We do however say that surviving by corruption is lowering to ones morals, so that a persecution involving such options of survival would normally have resulted in Apostasy getting general.

    We have the Waldensian heretics, whose heresy forbade them using oaths when required in civil intercourse, they did survive for some time, but were so demoralised by the practise of denying their tenets that they reverted to Catholics in so far as they did not become Protestants. Only in Piemonte did they survive as a separate sect, and that is because mountain villages are hard scenarios for pulling persecutions effectively through, and because a real trek was actually made there.

    By contrast, after 280 years of surviving by lazy officials and in some cases dishonesty, Christianity was flourishing enough for Constantine to pull through a legalisation, which some 70 years later became exclusive of Paganism.

    After Theodosius, we have a few straggling Pagans surviving here and there, but though the only persecution they suffered, if free, was seeing their temples torn down, it ended Paganism.

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  50. You need to scroll down to XCVI - XCVII - XCVIII.

    Note that Trajan's time seems to have seen a revival of Paganism after desertion of temples. Note also that Trajan was far from as cruel a persecutor as Nero or Domitian.

    Here is the martyrdom of St Polycarp, disciple of St John who had miraculously survived a martyrdom under Domitian: scroll down to 9:2, 9:3 for a quick look at the conditions of escape. 4:1 = opportunity to recant taken (not by St Polycarp of course).

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  51. @ / about Nightvid:

    Did anyone notice how his denouncing of "methodological supranaturalism" (regarding a God who makes miracles as a volontary cause) only added up to pushing Hume, like testing a God who makes miracles in such a way as to deprive him of free will to grant or not to grant?

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  52. But if anyone says we do not have contemporary evidence that persecution under Nero gave a chance to apostates, I answer we have very little evidence contemporary to him for anything: Feel free to comment.

    Even supposing an apostate had no chance, some bishops had the chance to flee, and did not. As is the case with St Peter.

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  53. 'Here is the martyrdom of St Polycarp, disciple of....'

    So no eyewitness to this alleged resurrection then.

    And you don't even have any charge against Paul.

    You admit yourself that nobody was charged with preaching a resurrection.

    There is nothing in your case.

    Try to find somebody who claimed to have seen a flesh and blood resurrected Jesus fly into space on his way to Heaven.

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  54. No, just one removed.

    St John saw the resurrection. St Polycarp saw St John. St Irenaeus says that Papias also, like himself was disciple of St Polycarp. Both St Irenaeus and Papias identify St John as author of the Gospel.

    If you had followed the discussion in above comments, you would have known very well that:

    1) I took the persecution and chances of St Polycarp as a minimum of what St Peter and St Paul had to face under Nero, and both of them WERE eyewitnesses to the resurrection;

    2) St Polycarp as well as earlier Christian martyrs were charged with being Christians.

    YOU have no charges against this or that or sundry martyr under Nero that he was personally charged with arson. And they weren't. If so, we would have had someone named in Tacitus, saying that Nero tried to fasten the fire on such and such who were Christians. But we have not.

    Nero said Christians - as such - were perpetrators of the arson. Then he went out to prove himself a bold firefighter by hunting Christians - whether they were personally involved in the arson or not. That is the only story a sane man can make of the evidence, but your problem is that, as an atheist you are not quite sane, so you try to read something quite else into the evidence.

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  55. 'St John saw the resurrection. St Polycarp saw St John. St Irenaeus says that Papias also, like himself was disciple of St Polycarp. Both St Irenaeus and Papias identify St John as author of the Gospel.'

    What a trail of hearsay evidence that is!

    And even Catholic dogma says John was not martyred....

    Just find ONE person who named himself as seeing an empty tomb or seeing a flesh and blood Jesus.

    Just one, rather than tangled of web,of he saw him, and he saw him,and he saw him, and person A was killed for something not to do with a resurrection....

    That is all totally worthless,and a joke to suggest that these bizarre third-hand tales are evidence of anything.

    How different from Mormon testimony where named witnesses went to the grave demanding that their personal testimony about the Book of Mormon be put on their tombstone.

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  56. St John was martyred and miraculously survived it, then sent to Patmos.

    As said, he said he saw the open tomb in his Gospel.

    I was not citing Sts Polycarp and Irenaeus with Papias for nothing. These are men who knew what they were talking about when they said St John wrote the Gospel. And that he was one of the original twelve apostles.

    Now that was St John, that is one, and I have already given two others, St Peter (who did not write a gospel but two epistles) and St Matthew.

    The title of above message refers to another man who said he saw Christ risen.

    You asked for one, I gave you four.

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  57. The Roman historian Tacitus wrote in 115AD of ‘an immense multitude’ following Jesus despite his ‘suffering the extreme penalty…under Pontius Pilate’. How can we explain the extraordinary growth of Jesus’ followers if that penalty (crucifixion) had really been the end of his story?

    A reverend you have been debating with.

    I agree. Confer Spartacus.

    You raise the card of Joseph Smith, I answer he did not have to rise, since he could already refer to Christ risen, since in a way he was a Christian. So were in the same way his followers. He is more like a competitor to Sts Polycarp and Irenaeus than to Jesus. They or Joseph Smith are two different responses to "who carried on after Jesus and St John," a false response in the case of Joseph Smithg it seems, and a true one in the case of Sts polycarp and Irenaeus.

    Oh, by the way, your diatribe about tangled web of hearsay trying to make it sound as if first records left us were quite remote from the actual events, with quite many in-betweens, shows either one or other or even both of two things:

    1) not paying attention to what your opponent writes;
    2) not understanding history.

    Historic evidence is not courtroom evidence: it is courtroom evidence plus so much more that would or might be discounted in a court as hearsay.

    What is your evidence there were the founding fathers (if you are from US, especially) or Oliver Cromwell (if you are English) or King Alfred (if you are either) or Brian Borumha (if you are Irish)?

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  58. 'As said, he said he saw the open tomb in his Gospel.'

    Oh dear,anonymous books which never mention an author are not worth the paper they are written on.

    Can't you get somebody who named himself as seeing an empty tomb, rather than somebody who hid his identity, the way frauds liar and crooks do?

    At least the Mormons have named witnesses who were prepared to give their names,rather than anonymous unprovenanced works, which are worth nothing,apart from to wrap fish and chips in.

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  59. 'St Peter (who did not write a gospel but two epistles) and St Matthew.'

    Oh God preserve us from this.

    If there were a god, he would put a stop to such spokesmen in his name.

    Even your Catholic church has stopped pretending the author of 2 Peter was honest.

    And 1 Peter never mentions any empty tomb, or flesh and blood Jesus.

    And 'Matthew' is another one of those anonymous unprovenanced works.

    Fraudsters and liars hide their names.

    Honest people do not.

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  60. 'St Peter (who did not write a gospel but two epistles) and St Matthew.'

    Oh God preserve us from this.

    If there were a god, he would put a stop to such spokesmen in his name.

    Even your Catholic church has stopped pretending the author of 2 Peter was honest.

    And 1 Peter never mentions any empty tomb, or flesh and blood Jesus.

    And 'Matthew' is another one of those anonymous unprovenanced works.

    Fraudsters and liars hide their names.

    Honest people do not.

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  61. 'St John was martyred and miraculously survived it...'

    What? He was plunged alive into boiling oil?

    Is there no end to the credulity of people who claim that their religion is not founded by frauds and liars and that all other religions are frauds?

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  62. I have not seen any statement from Benedict XVI saying II Peter is forgery, and if I do, I cease counting him as Pope.

    The "Catholic" scholars you talk about are contradicting §17 in Providentissimus Deus of Pope Leo XIII, not only in conclusion, but also in methodology.

    The fact that their conclusion is so welcomed by you and gets back to scholars who as little as you believed the resurrection (Bauer or von Harnack) makes their claim to base the conclusion on "internal evidence" fishy - in a way a good fisherman would push back into the sea.

    Yes I believe St John was boiled alive in oil.

    No, I do not believe all other religions to be founded on merely human fraud. Has it not yet dawned on you after reading my remarks on your Resurrection debate blog?

    I believe Hesiod, Numa Pompilius, Muhammed and Joseph Smith might have been a bit uppish but apart from that honest as "honest seekers" go, and that the devil exploited that.

    I believe Buddha and Krishna were philosophers who came to wrong conclusions, like the writers of the Upanishads. A bit worse than Plato and Aristotle, a bit comparable to Plotinus, a good deal better than Mani.

    I believe Odin was not just a fraudster but also a magician to pull it through.

    So, where is my inconsistency?

    Who of all these can point to a resurrected body, an empty grave?

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  63. Your take on St Matthew is a bit curious. On one occasion he actually hides his name under the general designation Levi - when admitting to being involved in dishonest dealings with money.

    As for the rest, starting a book (book, not epistle!) by a prologue with your name or that of a wanted reader adding a motivation for your writing was a Greek custom, not a Jewish one and St Luke who does it twice is Greek.

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  64. 'Yes I believe St John was boiled alive in oil.'

    Says it all.....

    There is one born every minute.

    And he ends up defending anonymous unprovenanced works, by absurd claims that he doesn't need people to identify themselves as they were Jews.

    And that Catholics actually believe Peter wrote 2 Peter- the work of a fraudster and liar, as almost all Bible scholars agree.

    No wonder Christianity has no credibility, when fraudulent works are defended by claims that Jews hid behind anonymity.

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  65. With that kind of acid from you, I wonder: why is YOUR honesty taken for granted?

    If you care to restate the same arguments in a polite way, I might see if I have not already answered them, and if not, I would tend to answer them.

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  66. I'm not the one (unlike Tertullian) who claims people were plunged alive into boiling oil.

    Tertullian wrote about the start of the 3rd century, so his claims about what happened to John are as credible as present Mormon claims about Joseph Smith.

    Of course, the gullible just need to read about a miracle in a book and they will believe it, no matter how late the date of the Christian who made it up.

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  67. Ah, Tertullian is first record of this?

    Well, it was accepted by the Church, and would not have been if he had made it up.

    I do accept most Mormon claims about Joseph Smith or Muslim ones about Mohammed. I do not see why you keep bringing it up as a refutation. Neither of them, according to followers' own claims either made or went through miracles saving from death or from deadly processes. Both their miracles' are within the powers of lesser powers than God. EVEN according to their own followers' claims about them.

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  68. I will accept the claim that Cú Chulainn and Romulus were fathered and the first tenno and Aineias born of creatures naturally higher than man - only I will not accept Cú Chulainn's father or the mother of the first tenno as really the sun, the angel who stood still for Joshua and refused to shine on Calvary.

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  69. 'Well, it was accepted by the Church, and would not have been if he had made it up.'

    Amazing logic! 'The Church said it. I believe it. That settles it.'

    I guess if something was accepted by the Mormon church, it would not have been if somebody had made it up.

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  70. Well, it was accepted by the Church, and would not have been if he had made it up.

    I've got to side with Steven on this one. That is an absolutely terrible argument.

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  71. Not at all.

    You believe George Washington admitted to cutting down a cherry tree because it was accepted by US.

    You believe King Alfred escaped from Danish Vikings time after time and burnt the bread when watching an oven for a woman - because that was accepted by the English. OK, maybe it is already in Asser, that is one category stronger as evidence.

    But my point is you would not accept if someone today made up that King Alfred shook hands with George Washington. You would ask who handled the time machine, at least!

    It IS a hard thing to make up things about a past already known.

    In situations where bottlenecks of information occur, it can happen. I do not think it did so between St John and Tertullian. Least of all about St John or any other major figure staying in Roman Empire.

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  72. It is interesting that you should use that example because I do not in fact have any reason to believe that George Washington actually admitted cutting down a cherry tree because I know that the story comes from the biography that Parson Weems wrote in 1800 which was filled with unverifiable anecdotes that sought to portray Washington as the most heroic and virtuous man who ever lived. The story gained acceptance because it reinforced what Americans wanted to believe about their first president, not because there was any reason to think that it really happened. It is precisely because I know how easily such pious fictions can be created and embraced that I recognize the absurdity of relying on miraculous stories about the apostles just because the early church accepted them as fact.

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  73. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  74. In 1800? Absolutely close enough for those "unverifiable" anecdotes, as they are now apart from him, to have been very easily verifiable back when he wrote.

    Yes, I do believe he cut down a cherry tree (whatever his reason was, if he disliked cherry jam or there were too many birds or he wanted to practise axemanship on the least daunting tree, I have not so far heard why) and his father got angry, and he admitted it was he.

    And I do not at all agree that such stories make him out as the most virtuous man who ever lived, it is enough if he was a virtuous man, apart from being a Protestant and Freemason.

    It is precisely because I know how easily such pious fictions can be created and embraced that I recognize the absurdity of relying on miraculous stories about the apostles just because the early church accepted them as fact.

    But you are not knowing for a fact the cherry tree story was made up. You are guessing it. You are taking the one guess as proof for the other guess.

    You atheists and agnostics do a lot of guesswork denigrating the trustworthiness of human record - and whitewashing under hand the trustworthiness of such critique.

    I do not stand in absolute awe for his telling the truth, unless he had been by same father often hit hard on the bottom, which the story does not state: except for such a case, I might have told the truth myself. As for me, I tell the truth now, I am not able to use the axe well enough to cut down a cherry tree. AND I like cherries and other sweets too much to do so anyway.

    So I admire him for being able to cut down the tree. No, I am kidding, telling the truth was a better thing, but it is not like cutting your mantle in half to clothe a beggar, like St Martin did.

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  75. Or, to be more precise: you are taking the one guess as proof that then other guess is possible.

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  76. Actually 1800 was more than sixty years after the cherry tree incident was alleged to take place so it is difficult to see how anyone could verify that the incident took place at all, much less verify it easily.

    I find it interesting that you don’t want me to think critically about stories that I cannot verify because you want me to believe that others would have thought critically about stories that they couldn’t verify.

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  77. Cousin aunt knowing the incident would pretty well be within the lifetime of the writer. Then he would have written it down much later than hearing it.

    Easy as cherry pie.

    Your take on "thinking critical" about stories is way over rated.

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  78. Imagining that Weems might have had a credible source for the story is easy, but verifying the source takes a little more effort.

    If God created me, it was He who gave me the capacity to reason. If I don't use that capacity, then I am like the servant who hides the talents in a hole in the ground.

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  79. Source is given in the biography, I think. I saw that in wiki article.

    Even if it were not, it would be bad use of reason to assume therefore that he just put in extra things with no sources at all, until oneself looks at them.

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  80. Unfortunately, I cannot look at everything for myself. Sometimes I consider it more rational to rely on the judgment of scholars in the relevant field. Since the consensus of historians is that Weems biography is not reliable, I proceed on that basis absent some pressing need to take a closer look at the question. If you can make some case that scholars have misjudge Weems, I would be interested to hear it and it might arouse my curiosity sufficiently that I would look more closely at the evidence for myself.

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  81. Unfortunately, I cannot look at everything for myself.

    Neither can I. Which is why I consider it more rational to look for the oldest historians and chroniclers who are likeliest to have had opportunities.

    If you can make some case that scholars have misjudge Weems, I would be interested to hear it ...

    The fact that they do not seem to think old chroniclers better placed than modern scholars for judging those matters.

    Cf. Fernseeds vs Elephants, an Essay by C.S.Lewis.

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  82. The fact that they do not seem to think old chroniclers better placed than modern scholars for judging those matters.

    You need to work on your critical thinking skill if you believe that is the reason that scholars find Weems’ work less than credible.

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  83. Hans-George is Frances version of Ray Comfort. I wonder if he has a banana video also?

    Hans, you are one sad,deluded man.
    What a terrible shame to live ones only life within the confines of religious absurdity. And what a terrible waste of a mind.

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  84. The fact that they do not seem to think old chroniclers better placed than modern scholars for judging those matters.

    You need to work on your critical thinking skill if you believe that is the reason that scholars find Weems’ work less than credible.

    Sorry, but I did not say I found that their stated ground, I say I find it their non-stated mission statement, actually stated by a scholar called Weibull - a Swede, a compatriot - under which they say that this or that man is 60 years too late to be considered a source for fact. Not sixty years as in exceptional cases, like born 60 years after deluge = not eyewitness to antediluvian culture, but they say anyone writing 60 years after the facts is too late to be taken into account.

    The anecdote was first reported by biographer Parson Weems, who after Washington's death interviewed people who knew him as a child. = "first reported" = "first reported in published writings known to us"

    Interviewing people who knew a man when alive is a very valid method of verifying things. It is not 100% excempt from some of them adding pious lies, more usually excusing what they though otherwise unexcusable than adding praises as if he was too little praised without them.

    After 1890 however, historians insisted on scientific research methods to validate every story, and there was no evidence apart from Weems' report. Joseph Rodman in 1904 noted that Weems plagiarized other Washington tales from published fiction set in England; no one has found an alternative source for the cherry tree story, but Weems' credibility is questioned

    So much worse for scholars after 1890, then. As for specific argument proferred, the charge of plagiarising fiction includes the unverifiable assumption of the fiction and Weem having no common source in facts: just as with Genesis and Atrahasis, by same set of scholars, or approximately.

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  85. Oh, after reading the story in the Pastor Weem article, it is not even very much to GW's credit.

    Nor as much to his discredit as I thought.

    It is not much to the credit technically, since it does not mean hacking down a tree, just wounding it so it dies. It is not as much to his discredit either, since it was an accident.

    But if he was six years old, not trusting his capacity for lying or not being cynical enough to chose it is no exceptional credit to his honesty.

    It does say two things about his father: that he could very well have smacked George's bottom thoroughly and made him weep very much if he had knewn the story from someone else and G had just confirmed it or in whatever manner would have pleased him less than the actual one - otherwise the words about heroism are meaningless - and it also shows he was also very effusive of affection when in a good mood to his son.

    Six years old is not an age in which children are generally capable of deliberate lies. Down's syndromers aren't, and they even get the intelligence level of eight or nine year olds, in some ways. Seven is the usual age counted as a man (=human being) getting to be "capax doli".

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  86. Pastor Mason Locke Weems - what kind of father could he have to give him such atrocious names! - was too kind to the lady who spent her childhood often in the Washington house in thinking this a revelation of exceptional honesty.

    Modern scholars are too unkind to GW, the lady and Pastor Weems too:

    - to GW by saying at age six he would naturally have told a lie in such a case, which is unkind to six years old in general;

    - to the lady by saying her memories from childhood fooled her (it is quite possible she could by then no longer remember where she put her glasses, if she used such, but that is quite another matter: Alzheimer affects short range memory, not long range as in going back to childhood);

    - and to Pastor Weems, if they assume he invented the lady or that story from her.

    1890 was a very bad year for historical scholarship, if - as I think this is - the verdict on cherry tree story is typical.

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  87. Besides, it is a bit prophetically symbolical that a nation capable of dropping Little Boy and Fat Boy on a country whose most innocent pagan festival (I think licit for Catholics) is the cherry blossom feast, should have had a founder capable of clumsily killing a cherry tree.

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  88. Sorry, but I never claimed that you found it to be their stated ground. I knew perfectly well by your use of the word “seem” that you were reading between the lines to divine some sort of “non-stated mission statement.” Of course the fact that people are known to have unstated agendas is the very reason for thinking critically about sources.

    You seem to be perfectly willing to categorically reject the consensus of historians about Parson Weems based on your ability to discern that their conclusions are driven by their unstated agenda rather than the evidence. However, in doing so you make yourself oblivious to the possibility that Weems himself may have been driven by an unstated agenda rather than evidence. In turn, you are oblivious to the possibility that Tertullian may have been driven by his own unstated agendas.

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  89. There are other unstated things than agendas.

    Like prejudice. Or simple methodological laziness.

    This said, you have tried an argument by parallel, and I am as rejecting - and I think I should be and you should have been too - of the pseudo-scholarship in rejecting parson Weem's biography as of the pseudo-scholarship saying that the fact the first account WE, NOW find of St John being boiled in oil and miraculously surviving it proves this story to be spurious.

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  90. I am not at all oblivious of the possibility that Tertullian might have been driven by this or that to state what he knew about St John. That possibility is not compatible with his inventing the story.

    As for being driven to lying, sorry, but there was not just one writer who lied and a later writer that believed his lies, there was a Church around the first writer, and if it had been a lie, how come the Church accepted him as truthful or his statement as truth?

    That is the kind of lazy methodology you accept when criticising old miracles, but refute single-handedly if someone attacks a new marvel like the Armstrong on the Moon.

    My post on a blog, it deals with this in comments - post of other writer who had made the refutation on "moon hoax conspiracy theory".

    Asking every source to be contemporary as historians have done since 1890's, is making a big hole in the History of the Roman Empire too.

    Tacitus was no better than pastor Weem as "contemporary witness".

    And a good deal worse than St Luke or St Matthew, of course.

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  91. Asking every source to be contemporary as historians have done since 1890's, is making a big hole in the History of the Roman Empire too.

    It is hard to keep up with you when you change course so abruptly. Earlier you said that is was “more rational to look for the oldest historians and chroniclers who are likeliest to have had opportunities.” Now you are finding fault with historians who prefer the earliest possible source material.

    BTW, I had not realized that you were in denial about the moon landing as well. That clears up a lot and convinces me that there is no point in further discussion. Life is too short.

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  92. HGL:

    I am NOT pushing Hume's view at all. Hume's position was that it would be extremely difficult to epistemically justify a supernatural event claim. I am not relying on that to make my case. Stop setting up this kind of straw man, please.

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  93. If an early source and a late source contradict each other about a fact, I try to get to where there is a misunderstanding.

    But the cherry tree episode in Weem does not contradict what we know from say Lafayette - whatever that might be - or from English loyalist sources in the least.

    And the boiling in oil alive episode from Tertullian - if that is the earliest source for it - does not contradict what we know about Saint John from his spiritual grandsons Papias and St Irenæus the least either.

    Modern scholarship - whom you rely on - is not in the least in the same kind of position as the later of two near contemporary sources close to beginnings of Christian Church or United States.

    How much facts about Tiberius are actually different between Vellejus Paterculus (whose extant writings do not continue to the end of his reign) and the later ones Tacitus and Suetonius?

    Suetonius is later than Tacitus, by some decade or two, but how many contradictions about fact are there between him and Tacitus?

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  94. Nightvid, saying miracles cannot be accepted after the event because they fall outside of ordinary course of events like Hume or saying miracles could be verified if they fell into a kind of automatic patterns - like non-sentient natural processes - like you just did is not a very big difference of statement.

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  95. Those who think credulously are satisfied with lack of contradiction. Those who think critically desire confirmation.

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  96. Desiring confirmation is one thing.

    Denying credibility to a thing confirmed only by one comparatively late testimony is another.

    I do not find your distinction between "thinking credulously" and "thinking critically" logically grounded. Unless perhaps it were to the detriment of "thinking critically".

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  97. HGL:

    Nightvid, saying miracles cannot be accepted after the event because they fall outside of ordinary course of events like Hume or saying miracles could be verified if they fell into a kind of automatic patterns - like non-sentient natural processes - like you just did is not a very big difference of statement.

    I never said miracles had to fit into patterns to be verified using evidence interpreted using naturalistic means. What I said was that nothing can be verified by evidence claimed to have resulted supernaturally from what one is trying to demonstrate, without independent, natural confirmation that it happened. This is akin to the "building turning into a statue" thought experiment I gave earlier: It is one thing to verify, using naturalistic reporting and obervation methods, that it supernaturally occurred, but another thing to use it to infer that the bathhouse photo came first. The former is what Hume objects to, the latter is what I object to. Very different.

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  98. HGL:

    I do not find your distinction between "thinking credulously" and "thinking critically" logically grounded. Unless perhaps it were to the detriment of "thinking critically".

    This is an argument from ignorance. Just because you can't think of a difference doesn't mean there isn't one. I can think of lots of differences and I'm sorry if your small brain can't.

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  99. What I said was that nothing can be verified by evidence claimed to have resulted supernaturally from what one is trying to demonstrate, without independent, natural confirmation that it happened

    No, you did not, but you are doing it now.

    Eyewitnesses giving their accounts, in own writings or interviewed by St Luke or St Paul are precisely the independent natural confirmation I rely on.

    Confer private revelation, where only Hesiod, Mohammad, Numa Pompilius, Joseph Smith had direct access to the supernatural content.

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  100. I can think of lots of differences and I'm sorry if your small brain can't.

    Name one.

    But make it a logical one.

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  101. Denying credibility to a thing confirmed only by one comparatively late testimony is another.

    I am not denying the credibility of anything that has been confirmed
    by any testimony. I am denying the credibility of a supernatural tale whose origin is impossible to determine.

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  102. HGL:

    My first comment to you on "methodological supernaturalism" was in response to you saying "But beyond martyrdom, there is another argument for St Paul's honesty. God does not make miracles for liars or nitwits so they can fool the world"

    This claim is an inference which takes some claims about supernatural processes as its strating point, not eyewitness testimony by Paul or "St. Luke" (keep in mind the Gospel of Luke is anonymous). For you to then implicitly accuse me of applying it to a claim of having naturalistically manifesting evidence of a supernatural postmortem appearance or vision is dishonest, plain and simple. That wasn't the context of my accusation.

    I thought I was being quite clear when I said on March 24 "The problem with this argument is that it is methodologically supernatural. By this, it is meant that inferences are being made which rely on some assumption about supernatural processes. Any time you attribute emotions or intentions to "God" you are employing methodological supernaturalism, that is, making an inference based on some assumption about supernatural processes."

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  103. HGL:

    "Credulity" amounts to an over-reliance on confirming tidbits without any attempt to see if falsifying evidence exists. Skepticism, on the other hand, involves a sincere attempt to find and look at evidence on BOTH sides an make an evaluation based upon those.

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  104. And to the last post, I should add the third position, namely denialism. This refers to only looking at falsifying evidence without a sincere search for, and look at, confirming evidence. Thus skepticism is the intermediate position between credulity and denialism.

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  105. @: I am denying the credibility of a supernatural tale whose origin is impossible to determine.

    What about natural tales whose origins are still less possible to determine? Like in Tacitus?

    @ Thus skepticism is the intermediate position between credulity and denialism. (with the definitions of the three before):

    You claim to be sceptics and I claim you are denialists about certain miracles and - for Vinny's part - a cherry tree story I do not find very laudatory to the man concerned.

    I claim my credulity is "scepticism" as defined by you - though not by common usage - and you pretend it is not.

    @ BOTH:

    You are - at this stage - in a clear preferrence for restating generalities I have not denied over proving my inconsistency with them. Or you own consistency with them. In the cases concerned.

    I rest mine.

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