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Jesus and the historians: ‘fact’ and faith

May 8th, 2014

Books about Jesus

Last post I looked at one aspect of the historical evidence for the life of Jesus – Were the gospels written a long time after the event? Another question often asked, or a claim often made, relates to how much evidence there is for the events and teachings outlined in the gospels, and how much is faith.

Here’s how I see it.

Historical evidence

Did Jesus really exist?

It doesn’t take long to answer this. Almost all ancient historians, whether christian (e.g. NT Wright), Jew (e.g. the late Geza Vermes), atheist/agnostic (e.g. Bart Ehrman) or noncommittal (e.g. EP Sanders), whether New Testament historian (e.g. Maurice Casey) or first century classical historian (e.g. the late Michael Grant), believe the evidence points to the conclusion that Jesus really did live and we can know significant information about him.

Check out a list of quotes from many of the world’s most eminent historians.

Historical facts about Jesus that are “almost beyond dispute”

EP Sanders is one of the world’s most respected New Testament historians. (I don’t make this statement idly – historians such as Mark Powell, Paula Fredriksen, Maurice Casey and Craig Keener have identified him as one of the most respected of NT scholars.) In The Historical Figure of Jesus, p10-11, Sanders lists the following important facts about Jesus as being historically “almost beyond dispute”.

1. Jesus was born c 4 BCE near the time of the death of Herod the Great

2. Jesus spent his childhood and early adult years in Nazareth, a Galilean village

There are those who claim Nazareth didn’t exist at the time of Jesus, but the archaeological evidence indicates that it did, and I’ve never come across a reputable historian who doubts this fact.

3. Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist

4. Jesus called disciples

5. Jesus taught in the towns, villages and countryside of Galilee (apparently not the cities)

In addition to this general statement about Jesus’ public teaching, there are many of his specific teachings that would be accepted as genuine by many, if not most, historians (though my assessment here must be subjective). Examples include:

  • parables such as the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son and the Dishonest Steward;
  • substantial sections of the so-called Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), with their teachings on non-violence, forgiveness, etc;
  • accounts of arguments with orthodox religious teachers;
  • statements where Jesus called people to follow him and accept his authority as prophet, teacher and future judge,;
  • teachings and parables (e.g. the Workers in the Vineyard) that suggest Jesus saw himself as God’s viceroy, if not son; and also ….

6. Jesus preached ‘the kingdom of God’

7. About the year 30 Jesus went to Jerusalem for Passover

8. Jesus created a disturbance in the Temple area

9. Jesus had a final meal with the disciples

10. Jesus was arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities, specifically the high priest

11. Jesus was executed on the orders of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate

12. Jesus’ disciples saw him (in what sense is not certain) after his death

This may be surprising to some, but a review by Gary Habermas a few years ago found that almost all critical scholars conclude that the disciples had some sort of visionary experience which they believed was the risen Jesus (e.g. EP Sanders, Maurice Casey, and the Jesus Seminar).

These ‘facts’ are not very controversial among historians.

Historical facts about Jesus we can be fairly sure of

In addition to Sander’s list of almost certain facts, a few other “facts” seem to be accepted by the majority of scholars

13. Jesus was known at the time as a healer and exorcist.

Most scholars agree on this, though they take different views on the explanation:

  • genuine miracles
  • non-miraculous “folk healings”
  • legends or untrue stories
  • a matter which historical study cannot determine

14. Jesus’ tomb was found empty

Habermas also found that about 75% of all academic papers surveyed were written from the viewpoint that Jesus’ tomb was found empty. Classical historians Michael Grant and Robin Lane Fox take this view.

15. Jesus called on his hearers to repent

I am not sure whether a majority of scholars believe this but Grant, Casey, Sanders and others certainly do, and I think that agreement is probably indicative.

16. Jesus believed his death would be redemptive

Again, I am not sure whether a majority of scholars believe this but Grant, Casey, Burridge, Thiessen and others do, and I think a majority probably do. Most would see this as being redemptive for Israel, possibly but not necessarily for Gentiles, as the modern church believes.

17. Jesus believed he was speaking on behalf of God

Most scholars draw this conclusion, but they express it in different ways. Many (e.g. Ehrman, Casey, Sanders) say Jesus should be described as an end-times prophet or a last messenger from God, but many also conclude that he saw himself as God’s Messiah, viceroy or king (e.g. Sanders, Wright).

There is much discussion among scholars about how soon his followers saw him as Messiah and divine. The evidence seems to point to those titles being given to him very soon after his death (within a decade).

How do historians know this?

There isn’t space in this post to discuss this at length. But briefly, historians work with the New Testament text, treating it the same as other ancient documents (the fact that the writers had a religious agenda is little different to other writers, most of whom had religious or political agendas, which historians take account of). Factors which may encourage them to accept a story as historical may include:

  • if there were multiple independent sources which agree about a particular event or teaching (which is often the case with the NT), particularly if the sources are relatively early, it gives greater confidence in it being historical;
  • if the event is in some ways difficult or embarrassing, it is unlikely to have been invented;
  • if the account fits with what we know of history and culture at the time, it gives greater confidence;
  • sometimes the texts shows signs of having been translated from an Aramaic original, which makes it more likely to be older and closer to Jesus’ lifetime.

Scholars present their conclusions in peer-reviewed papers, in books published by reputable academic publishers and at conferences. This process ensures that any bias (e.g. religious or anti-religious bias) is mostly filtered out. Most of the scholars referenced above are not christian scholars.

Faith and belief

Where I start from

If we accept the consensus of scholars, it seems to me that there are only two basic conclusions to be drawn:

  1. Either Jesus saw himself as a teacher and prophet to Israel, but he was mistaken in some of his beliefs, or
  2. Jesus was a prophet and teacher, but also made subtle but implicit claims to divinity which were actually true.

Obviously my conclusion is the second one, for several reasons:

  • The philosophical arguments for the existence of God, plus human experience of the divine (e.g. in miracles of healing) lead me to conclude that God exists, so I have no philosophical reason to reject the supernatural.
  • I think the best explanation of Jesus’ ministry, teaching and claims is that he was telling the truth, and that he was truly divine.
  • The evidence for the resurrection is strong for someone who brings no anti-supernatural views to the question, so I believe it is a unique indication of the truth of Jesus’ claims.
  • Believing in Jesus makes more sense of the growth of christianity than believing he was mistaken.

I understand others don’t come to the same conclusion. But once I have reached the point, based on the historical evidence, of believing Jesus was sent by God to establish his rule on earth, I can accept, in faith, facts about Jesus which the historians cannot verify, or reject because of the supernatural element.

Matters which I believe in faith based on the historical evidence

  • the miracles, including the resurrection, really happened;
  • Jesus truly was, in some sense which christians have always struggled to explain, divine – best expressed as the unique son of God – though he was cautious in making explicit claims which could easily be misunderstood;
  • his death was indeed redemptive and forgiveness of sin is available because of it;
  • the gospels record honestly and reasonably accurately the things he did and said;
  • John’s gospel has a significant basis in history, but was written to explain theology as much as record history.

Things I still have doubts about

There are some aspects of the gospel records that remain difficult, though none of these affect anything substantial (to my thinking):

  • some, perhaps many, aspects of the stories of Jesus’ birth may be unhistorical – we cannot really know – though I believe the virgin birth is true;
  • the stories of the dead coming out of their graves at the time of Jesus’ death, and of Jesus telling his disciples to look for a coin in the mouth of a fish, seem more legendary than historical;
  • there are some minor inaccuracies or differences between accounts in different gospels (e.g. the alternative names of the territory of the Gadarenes, Gerasenes or Gergesenes), but these generally make little difference to the stories and teachings; some may be simply copying errors;
  • the stories of the resurrection are not easily harmonised, though it can be done;
  • John’s gospel includes significant reflection on the ministry of Jesus from some time after the event; some events have been placed out of chronological order to make a point; it isn’t always easy to tell what words come from Jesus and what come from John; and many of the discourses may reflect the sense rather than the true words of Jesus.

Summing up

I see no reason to believe that the gospel records were kept from all error, but I believe on the basis of the historian’s conclusions that they are substantially accurate. We can therefore draw reasonable conclusions about Jesus – who he was and why he is important for us.

There will always be matters we cannot fully understand or explain. I don’t expect to understand everything, but I believe we can understand sufficient. I believe this is a sufficient basis for placing my life’s trust in Jesus.

I can understand that others cannot agree. I think mostly they haven’t analysed the historical evidence adequately, but I understand that isn’t always the case.

I hope readers will use this post as a basis for their own open-minded review of the evidence.

Thanks for reading! Comments are welcome.

Read more

There is a series of pages addressing these matter in more detail, at Jesus.

30 Comments

  1. some, perhaps many, aspects of the stories of Jesus’ birth may be unhistorical – we cannot really know – though I believe the virgin birth is true;

    Based on which piece of scripture?

  2. What I find interesting about an article of this nature is how much leeway you (and an ever growing number of Christians)are prepared to give the bible.
    In relative terms it wasn’t too long ago that the bible was considered innerent; the sole preserve of the clergy and one could be put to death for reading/owning a copy.
    How times have changed

    And now all and sundry can read it to their hearts content and are even allowed to question its contents, thus prompting a plethora of supposed scholars whose sole job is to allay the fears of believers who might question the bible’s veracity and explain away gross inconsistencies, obvious mythological nonsense and blatant historical error, and still come up smelling of roses and all smiles.
    This is the essence of faith. Continued belief in the face of an ever shrinking
    circle of biblical ”facts”.
    And yet, there are still sects of Christianity that consider the bible is the word of god, from the first page to the last, some even decreeing which particular version is the One and Only and to the detriment of generations of children, indoctrinate them with such palpable nonsense it truly is unbelievable that governments don’t step in and legislate against this level of abuse.
    (But then, they haven’t exactly come out guns blazing where actual physical abuse is concerned, now have they?)

    Of course such fundamentalism is smiled upon benignly by most normal Christians even though people like Ken Ham and his cohorts are somewhat of an embarrassment to the average christian who think dinosaurs coexisting with humans mildly amusing, yet many of these moderate types have killed each other in the past over doctrine concerning the nature of Jesus. Most odd.

    Archaeological consensus has written off the Pentateuch as fiction as have a great number of serious scholars from all fields and Christianity has had to adjust to this…largely by ignoring it, it seems, but the goal posts have been shifted once again, ever so slightly, and new apologetic arguments are being formulated to demonstrate that even a fictional character such as Moses is no longer crucial to the ‘faith’, and his fictional status does not affect Jesus’ historicity or even his divinity.

    Perhaps the entire Old Testament will one day be written off as meaningless?

    So liberal is theological interpretation these days that even the Resurrection is open to debate in some quarters as not being necessarily literal, and yet such believers still consider themselves Christian.

    One truly has to smile at the lengths some people are prepared to go to hang on, tooth and nail. One wonders what will happen when the paint runs out and that little unpainted corner of the room is all that remains?

  3. If God truly loved “The World” that he gave his only begotten son, why has Christianity only effected about 1/3 of the world ? God could surely come up with a better plan than that. OR maybe God realized he did create people differently and conveyed his message in different ways (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism , Hinduism, etc, etc) Wouldn’t this seem more plausible ?

    I have to believe there is an unkleE in Islam who is just as certain about his faith as you. Is he wrong ?

  4. Thank you for the article! It was really interesting to see the analysis between faith, and historical evidence, I haven’t really read anything like that before, so that was really cool. We live in a time now when many people work to disprove the Bible, and even those that believe the Bible, discredit most of it as actual fact, so it was interesting to see your conclusions. As a Christian who also believes Jesus to be the Son of God, I have come to develop faith in him as my Savior and Redeemer, and I know as I strengthen that faith that I will continue to grow in happiness and have more purpose. We all struggle with doubts to one degree or another, but as we work to deepen our faith, I believe that we can develop a personal relationship strong enough, that nobody could ever take it away from us. I would like to leave you with a link for another really good article I read about faith that I think you and your readers will really enjoy, it comes from a website full of uplifting, Christian articles, here’s the link. http://goo.gl/3vJe50 Thanks again for your post, keep up the great work!

  5. “Based on which piece of scripture?”

    Hi One Sceptic. Just the usual passages. You note I didn’t claim it as fact, but just what I believe. It seems reasonable to me.

    “In relative terms it wasn’t too long ago that the bible was considered innerent”

    Only in some circles. I would guess that it was a very minority view for most of christian history, and even now only majority in some parts of christianity. My early christian culture was Reformed, and they didn’t believe in inerrancy.

    “a plethora of supposed scholars whose sole job is to allay the fears of believers who might question the bible’s veracity and explain away gross inconsistencies, obvious mythological nonsense and blatant historical error, and still come up smelling of roses and all smiles”

    This shows how little you have understood. These scholars are not apologists – the scholars I referenced most of the time (Casey, Ehrman, Grant, Sanders) are not christians at all. It seems like you make such inaccurate statements to distance yourself from historical facts you don’t like.

    “This is the essence of faith. Continued belief in the face of an ever shrinking
    circle of biblical ”facts”.”

    I don’t think this is the case for the NT either. 50-100 years ago scholars had all but written off the gospels as history, but that has all been shown to be wrong, and what I wrote here is the consensus. So the facts have grown, not declined.

    “Perhaps the entire Old Testament will one day be written off as meaningless?”

    I have written on this elsewhere. There is a wider range of opinion on the OT (I think), but the centre seems to be that Genesis is mostly legendary, Exodus to Samuel is a mixture and Kings onwards is largely historical. But the NT supersedes the OT, so it doesn’t make much difference for a christian (IMO).

    “One truly has to smile at the lengths some people are prepared to go to hang on, tooth and nail. One wonders what will happen when the paint runs out and that little unpainted corner of the room is all that remains?”

    Interesting and revealing comment! I present a whole lot of historical “facts” and you dismiss it all in this way. Who’s refusing to look at the evidence?

  6. Hi Ken,

    Christianity is still growing fast in Asia, Africa and South America. And since I (and I believe the NT) am inclusivist, I have no problem with believing people from other religions can be accepted by God – even though I think it is contrary to logic to think, as you suggest, that they are all true in some way.

    Doubtless there are Muslims who believe strongly. But we judge truth not by making observations like that, but by looking at the evidence. I believe the evidence points clearly to Christianity being far more likely to be true than Islam, and I can explain that.

    What do you think of the historical evidence I presented here?

  7. Hi Tyler, thanks for visiting and sharing. I’m glad what you read here was a little different.

  8. Hi unkleE,

    I think most of the evidence you gave is plausible except #12.

    I see you reference the “Jesus Seminar” for this. Here is what the Jesus Seminar actually said, “The empty tomb is a fiction – Jesus was not raised bodily from the dead.
    Belief in the resurrection is based on the visionary experiences of Paul, Peter and Mary Magdalene.

  9. Hi Ken, Yes, the Jesus Seminar didn’t accept the empty tomb as historical, although apparently 75% of papers came to this conclusion. But they did conclude, as most historians have, that disciples believed they had seen Jesus alive, though the Seminar didn’t believe he actually was resurrected. I think they may have done better if they had carefully distinguished history from belief as I have tried to do. Thanks.

  10. “Based on which piece of scripture?”

    Hi One Sceptic. Just the usual passages. You note I didn’t claim it as fact, but just what I believe. It seems reasonable to me.

    The usual passage you refer to I presume is Isiah 7:14 etc?
    This passage clearly refers to King Ahaz and has absolutely nothing to do with any future Messiah.
    Even the supposed double prophecy thing is clearly an apologetic to try to make this fit for Jesus.
    There is not a single Jewish scholar that I am aware of that will recognise this passage as referring to a Messiah.
    It is clear even to the casual reader who has taken five minutes to read the passage in context and find out the meaning of betulah and alma that the writer of Matthew has manipulated this OT passage for his own ends.

    How do you see this as reasonable?

    This shows how little you have understood. These scholars are not apologists – the scholars I referenced most of the time (Casey, Ehrman, Grant, Sanders) are not christians at all. It seems like you make such inaccurate statements to distance yourself from historical facts you don’t like.

    A scholar such as Ehrman is quite clear on historical facts regarding biblical text.
    For what its worth you have referenced Habermas on several occasions, including here,again, and I have pointed out to you that he is a rank apologist and teaches at an institution that endorses Creationism.

    I don’t think this is the case for the NT either. 50-100 years ago scholars had all but written off the gospels as history, but that has all been shown to be wrong, and what I wrote here is the consensus. So the facts have grown, not declined.

    Interesting. To which facts do you refer? I am unaware of anything that has changed or been revealed that has altered perspective regarding any moves toward a more factual Christianity?
    In fact, doctrines such as Hell have all but been abandoned by churches such as the C of E and most liberal theologians.

    More and more editions of the bible are including up to date translations including such things as the ending to Mark and ( so I have heard) a correct explanation for the Virgin Birth.

    Exodus to Samuel is a mixture and Kings onwards is largely historical. But the NT supersedes the OT, so it doesn’t make much difference for a christian (IMO).

    Clever and ever so slightly ambiguous!
    Let’s be clear. The Pentateuch is regarded as fiction by every respected archaeologist, scholar and many Rabbis and open-minded Christians across the globe. In fact, if you could find a single Rabbi willing to put his name on a paper claiming Moses was a real historical figure I would probably eat my hat.

    If the NY supersedes the OT why are you siding with the ridiculous notion of the Virgin Birth for example?
    If you consider the OT not important to Christianity how do you account for
    Jesus referencing Moses, The Law, Abraham and a whole host of OT paraphernalia?

    Interesting and revealing comment! I present a whole lot of historical “facts” and you dismiss it all in this way. Who’s refusing to look at the evidence?

    Oh, I always look at the facts. Always. And I ensure to make a very clear distinction between what is fact and what can be agreed upon by consensus and then tacitly interwoven with personal conviction, or in your case, faith.

    Much of the expert opinion you quote is quite dated and it would be interesting to see how more modern scholars view these issues.
    From what I have gleaned from your blog you hold Professor Carrier in scant regard merely because he is not part of the consensus and doesn’t hold a full time position, apparently. Yet his academic qualifications are beyond reproach.

    If you merely presented the facts then your posts would be a lot shorter.

  11. Hi, first, I took the liberty to fix up one of your tags so the comment came out the way you intended.

    “The usual passage you refer to I presume is Isiah 7:14 etc?”
    No, nothing to do with Isaiah – I’m aware of the context in Isaiah. I was speaking of Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38 etc. Since Matthew and Luke had two quite separate sources for their birth stories, the things that were in common, including this, are quite likely to be true, or at least believed to be true.

    “the writer of Matthew has manipulated this OT passage for his own ends.
    How do you see this as reasonable?”

    What you say is generally reasonable until you get here. The Jews of Jesus’ day, and for years before, had developed an approach to scripture interpretation that allowed new ideas to be added, fanciful interpretations to be made and a lot of creativity used. They weren’t necessarily using the scriptures as “proof texts” as you seem to think, but as a launching pad for new ideas. You can read more about this in Interpreting the Old Testament.

    So what Matthew did was quite reasonable for his day. The problem is when we take what he wrote and apply modern standards of referencing to it.

    “you have referenced Habermas on several occasions, including here,again, and I have pointed out to you that he is a rank apologist”
    I didn’t use any of Habermas’ opinions, just the results of his research. Do you have any reason to doubt his research?

    I find it interesting that when you quote someone you agree with (like Ehrman) you praise him as a scholar, but when you refer to someone like Habermas you call him a “rank apologist”. Do you notice what has happened here? I quote and approve people who hold a different view to me (Casey, Ehrman, Grant, Sanders, Fox) but you only accept those who you agree with. Doesn’t sound very evidence based to me.

    “To which facts do you refer? I am unaware of anything that has changed or been revealed that has altered perspective regarding any moves toward a more factual Christianity?”
    Like I said, 80 or so years ago, many leading scholars had virtually written off the gospels as history, but now scholars are much more convinced that they contain good history (not everything of course). The list of 17 “facts” I quoted here would not have been made even 50 years ago. Read up on the second and third quests.

    “The Pentateuch is regarded as fiction by every respected archaeologist, scholar and many Rabbis and open-minded Christians across the globe. In fact, if you could find a single Rabbi willing to put his name on a paper claiming Moses was a real historical figure I would probably eat my hat.”
    So, if I find a reasonable number of scholars who conclude differently, you’ll retract?

    “Much of the expert opinion you quote is quite dated and it would be interesting to see how more modern scholars view these issues.”
    So can you please tell me the dates of works I have quoted by Casey, Ehrman, Grant, Sanders, Wright, etc? And can you list for me who has more recently shown that the consensus has moved on from them?

    This is important, so please justify these statements.

    ” you hold Professor Carrier in scant regard merely because he is not part of the consensus and doesn’t hold a full time position, apparently. Yet his academic qualifications are beyond reproach.”
    His academic qualifications are the same as thousands of other scholars and would-be scholars. Why do you single him out to believe rather than the consensus I quote, from people who are actively working in this area, which he isn’t?

    I will be very interested to see your answers to my questions please. Thanks.

  12. No, nothing to do with Isaiah – I’m aware of the context in Isaiah.

    23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[d] (which means “God with us”).
    This still refers to a virgin and it is derived from the fallacious interpretation of Isiah. Alma….
    Besides, the story is a later addition. It does not feature in Mark and the Catholic church do not regard it as factual. I think it best to take their expert opinion, don’t you ?

    What you say is generally reasonable until you get here.
    The rest of your reply is all over the place I’m afraid and bears little relevance to the fact the writer of Matthew who wrote in Greek, manipulated the text just as he did with the nonsense of the Dead Saints walking about Jerusalem.
    I fail to see what point you are making, sorry. *shrugs*
    The text is what it is – an attempt to shoehorn Christian dogma into the story. Plain and simple.

    I find it interesting that when you quote someone you agree with (like Ehrman) you praise him as a scholar, but when you refer to someone like Habermas you call him a “rank apologist”. Do you notice what has happened here? I quote and approve people who hold a different view to me (Casey, Ehrman, Grant, Sanders, Fox) but you only accept those who you agree with. Doesn’t sound very evidence based to me.

    Habermas is an apologist and using him to bolster your post reduces its credibility rather than enhances it, so why on earth use a scholar of dubious merit?
    You may as well include Strobel and Licona in that case.
    I have no serious regard for any biblical scholar that may harbour a Christian agenda when they are discussing such issues.

    Why no Dominic Crossan, Robert Price, Professor Richard Carrier?

    So, if I find a reasonable number of scholars who conclude differently, you’ll retract?
    You mean you don’t know them already? And what’s a reasonable number?

    Who are more respected than Finkelstein, Devers, Herzog, Wolpe etc?
    And the consensus is what counts, yes?

    So can you please tell me the dates of works I have quoted by Casey, Ehrman, Grant, Sanders, Wright, etc? And can you list for me who has more recently shown that the consensus has moved on from them?

    I did say much of , yes? Not all.
    I also said it would be interesting to see how more modern scholars viewed these issues. Carrier for instance.

    His academic qualifications are the same as thousands of other scholars and would-be scholars.
    Are they the same? And who are some of these thousands of scholars?

    Would be scholars? Really! That backhand remark says it all really.
    You expect me to acknowledge Habermas yet treat Carrier in this fashion?

  13. Even if I live to be 969 years old I suppose I will never understand why people who strongly oppose a certain viewpoint spend so much time “heckling” those who hold that view. However, I will put in my two cent’s worth here as one who disagrees with you, but I hope not in a disagreeable way.

    I have to go with conclusion 1: “Jesus saw himself as a teacher and prophet to Israel, but he was mistaken in some of his beliefs.”

    Christianity is the religion of my youth and, truth be told, because of that I suppose it holds a special place in my heart. But deeper thought has led me along the lines of religious pluralism. I find what I consider to be (personal opinion, obviously) spiritual “truths” in many of the world’s religions. But I tend to think those “truths” are presented in the different garbs of the various religious traditions. That being so, while I think they may prove helpful when discussing a more generic and far-embracing spirituality with various adherents of the many religions of the world, I don’t think they are necessary in order to perceive those spiritual “truths.” (I used scare quotes here only in an attempt to avoid being unnecessarily controversial.)

    Jesus was certainly a strong voice crying out against the evil of the powerful grinding into dust the weak. He certainly did a great service in his attempts to get people to look beyond the “letter of the Law” and distinguish between right living and vapid ritualism. (I suppose I and many of us “spiritual but not religious” types have taken that even farther). He seems to me to have been (at least as presented in the canonical gospels) a bit of an extremist, but I’m willing to give consideration to the times in which he lived. But I don’t have to believe in his divinity in order to appreciate the main thrust of his message.

    All things considered, you may find you have more in common with folks like me than with the majority of the orthodox Christians. And certainly I could embrace your inclusive, progressive Christianity far quicker than I could the New Atheism. (But not having that choice forced on me, I don’t .) 🙂

  14. I have not read Michael Grant, but as you reference him I looked him up and found this rather telling review.

    https://journals.psu.edu/index.php/wph/article/view/3524/3355

    Like all scholars, the only real source for Jesus is the gospels and thus this is fraught with danger because of what we know and what is interpreted.
    And at what point does one acknowledge that their content is likely to be mostly embellishment and outright fiction?

  15. Hi One Sceptic, I think all that you say comes down to the following three points ….

    1. The virgin birth.

    I quite clearly didn’t include this among the historical ‘facts’, but among the things I believe because I accept the basic truth of the gospels. I don’t expect you to believe it. Most of what you say reflects your disbelief and overstates things (words like “shoehorn”, “fallacious interpretation”, “manipulated” etc). I don’t think you have tried to understand how first century Jews interpreted their scriptures (“I fail to see what point you are making, sorry. *shrugs*”) – did you read the reference I posted?

    2. Credentials of scholars.

    I have made a genuine attempt to understand the consensus of scholarship, by reading both christian and non-christian scholars, both respected and “fringe” scholars and even non-scholars. To avoid bias, I tend to quote the non-christian and slightly sceptical scholars.

    I don’t see any evidence of this in you. You tend to disparage or ignore scholars who say what you don’t want to believe, and cherry pick sceptical or fringe scholars when they say what you want to believe. I’m sorry, but I have little respect for such an approach, so much of what you say loses any force.

    I have written on this matter, so if you want to at least understand where I’m coming from (and hopefully learn something more about historians), please read Which historians should we trust?. To summarise, there is a spectrum of people writing about Jesus and history. We can broadly define 5 categories:

    1. At the “far right” are christian apologists such as Strobel, McDowell, etc – they generally base their writings on group 3. I don’t quote them.

    2. Equal and opposite to these are anti christian apologists such as Doherty, Fitzgerald, Salm, etc. They have little or no credentials and no-one who values evidence-based history should take much notice of them.

    3. Then there are christian scholars who write within a christian culture – a christian university, etc (e.g. Witherington, Blomberg). They are genuine scholars (i.e. they have the right qualifications, they actively work in the field and they publish in peer-reviewed journals) and they do good work but it sometimes has a clear christian bias. I don’t usually reference them

    4. Equal and opposite to these are non-christian scholars – genuine scholars but they write from an extreme sceptical viewpoint (e.g. Price, Jesus Seminar). Their more extreme views are not accepted by the majority.

    5. Finally there are scholars in the centre of scholarship and most respected by their peers – including christians such as Wright, Keener, Bauckham, Evans, Dunn; Jews such as Vermes; non-christians like Ehrman, Sanders, Casey, Ludemann. These are the ones I reference, and most other scholars reference, because they are the most experienced and have the best judgment (in the eyes of their peers). I generally reference the non-christian scholars the most (and I bought Casey’s book for that reason) so I can be fair-minded.

    I would like to see you show more fair-mindedness yourself. Instead of using fringe scholars not so much respected by their peers, if you really want to have a properly-based view and recommend it to others, why not stick to those who best represent scholarship?

    Your championing of Carrier is a case in point. You asked about his qualifications. He has a good PhD in history, no question, but so do thousands of other historians, anthropologists and archaeologists working in the field. But Carrier has published very few papers in peer-reviewed journals and has been unable to win a position so he is not actively working in the field. And he doesn’t have the respect of his peers – few major scholars reference him (not surprising since he hasn’t done much) and those that do (e.g. Ehrman and Casey) are very critical of him. So whatever his merits as a historian, he hasn’t done anything yet to merit being considered an expert – unless you have a particular viewpoint that isn’t supported by mainstream scholarship.

    So it’s really up to you. Do you just want to argue for an extreme viewpoint without caring about the real evidence, or do you want to base your views on the best evidence available?

    3. The historical evidence

    I am pleased to see that you haven’t questioned any of the 17 “facts” that I outlined. Does that mean you accept them all as being reasonably well based in historical scholarship?

  16. Hi Doug, I really appreciate this comment, for you disagree in a way that promotes interesting discussion. (I think “heckling” probably occurs when people are either offended or threatened by someone else’s view.)

    1. I obviously expected that you would hold conclusion 1 about Jesus. I believe Jesus objectively is the son of God, but I recognise that the jump from historical facts to faith is a personal one and people cannot generally be argued into it. So I generally speak quite strongly about what are essentially factual matters, but leave people to make their own minds up about belief.

    2. Again, you would expect I wouldn’t agree with you about world religions, though I don’t totally disagree either. If we are just talking about personal spirituality, or if God is distant and doesn’t care that much what we believe but only what we do, then I would agree with you. And I think to some degree God is indeed like that, so I believe people of other religions or no religion can please God. But because I think God is more involved with us than you would allow, I think Jesus really is a more complete revelation of truth than other religions offer, and those who gain God’s approval or forgiveness from other religions only do so (I believe) because of Jesus, even if they don’t know it.

    3. I agree with you that Jesus was a bit of an extremist. I think he would make most modern christians, including me, feel uncomfortable. And I agree we don’t have to believe in his divinity to appreciate his ethical teachings. But his strong teachings on the kingdom of God didn’t come true in a literal sense as his fellow Jews understood it, and I think can only be seen to be true if we see the kingdom in a more spiritual sense and him as the “viceroy” of God at the head of it.

    4. Thanks for your positive comment about “my” form of christianity. I do find much in common with people like you, but I also have much in common with orthodox protestant christianity (I believe Jesus was son of God, crucified for our sin, resurrected, etc). I think many I meet on the internet judge christianity by its worst forms (which are generally US fundamentalism), either because that is their experience or it suits them polemically to do so. So often, both christians and atheists choose to emphasise differences, but if we identify commonalities, there are obviously a lot.

    Thanks again.

  17. The virgin birth.
    I reiterate, and this topic illustrates precisely the way you present your posts.
    I am perfectly aware what you claim regarding this issue, yet you frame your response in such as way that it blends in with your faith, this is also clearly evidence in the way you write you conclusions.
    The Virgin Birth is a piece of narrative fiction. There is no truth in it whatsoever and the writer of Matthew took the story in Isiah and
    used it for his own religio-political ends. Period.

    That you know this and are still prepared to consider it speaks volumes regarding your approach.
    Absolute honesty would demand you acknowledge that your faith will always trump fact.

    The same is often true of the way you reference scholars
    In this reply you state you do not quote Strobel, yet I have pointed out to you that on several occasions that Habermas is an apologist and teaches at a college that endorses Creationism yet you still quote him when it suits your cause. yet you cleverly make no mention of him in this latest reply.
    You could at least acknowledge that you know he is an apologist

    Sanders is from a Christian background and I can find nothing that suggests he is non-christian in his outlook.
    I’ll give you Casey, but you only seem to include him because of his claim there was an Aramaic source for the gospels, a view only he still holds, apparently. ( I stand under correction on this point, though)
    I offered the link to a review of Grant’s book and the reviewer clearly states that he shows bias.
    It seems a pattern. Start with an assumption and work from there.
    If this were it the case then there would be no need for faith.

    Whether you like Carrier or not, and I suspect it may be because he has no tolerance of any form of shamming, and is forthright to the point of being quite rude on occasion, does not diminish his position as a scholar and historian.
    As an example, for years he has held mythicists in contempt but after much study he appears to be softening his approach in this regard.
    Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t come out with a book refuting the historical Jesus.
    He has already shredded Ehrman over his book on Jesus.

    I will have no truck with any scholar who has any sort of Christianity in this regard, not NT Wright or anyone else, simply because bias is unavoidable, as it is with you.
    Faith is the bedrock of what you believe, not evidence.
    An atheist is not interested in faith in this regard.

    It is not enough to say ten scholars think the tomb was likely empty when we don’t even have the tomb,any history of the characters involved and only the bible to work with. Especially when such text contains innumerable spurious passages.

    That you continue to write “facts” is enough to realise they are not quite as factual as you or any other christian would like, and once you strip away every bit of Christian bias all that’s left is the possibility of an eschatological preacher who may have been crucified by the Romans.
    And that is it.

    I have posted the link to Raymond Browns (Church sanctioned)response to a scholarly Hebrew inquiry regarding some of the core issues of the tenets of Christianity and his reply pretty much confines them to the realm of myth and fiction.
    Would you like me to post the link again for you?

    I respect the fact that you re entitled to believe what you like and can promote it any way you wish, but you must also expect to be challenged in an open forum.
    If my view of the way you conduct your blog were singular then one could dismiss my criticism without a thought ( lol…you still can, of course) but your critics all seem to be of a similar mind and that makes me believe that what is write is correct.
    You posts are underpinned with faith and this you ensure is woven into your presentation rather than separated to convey a more honest unbiased approach.

  18. Hi One Sceptic,

    Re virgin birth: you write with apparent certainty about matters which no-one can be certain. I have agreed that the historians don’t think there is good historical evidence for it. But we have different opinions, and no amount of your pretending certainty makes it any more than your opinion.

    Re scholars:

    I never quoted Habermas as a NT scholar for he isn’t one, he’s a philosopher. I have quoted a piece of his document research where his personal belief is irrelevant unless you wish to accuse him of blatant dishonesty? Sanders says he’s a “secularised Protestant” and if you read him, you’ll see there’s no religious agenda there. Grant’s book is old now, even in the second edition, and that review was of the first edition. I don’t know anything about the reviewer, but Grant was not a christian and subsequent scholarship has confirmed the views expressed by Grant more than those expressed by the reviewer.

    If you prefer Carrier over Casey, Wright, Sanders, Ehrman, etc, then by all means do so, but it isn’t a view that will be respected by many who know much about it. He didn’t “shred” Ehrman (that was only Carrier’s self-promoting rhetoric). He landed a few punches, but overall Ehrman and his views are still respected far more than Carrier’s.

    “I will have no truck with any scholar who has any sort of Christianity in this regard”

    This is a revealing comment. You prefer dogma (yours) over scholarship. If I said the same about non-christan scholars, I wonder what you would say? But I have learnt heaps from Casey, and you could no doubt learn heaps from Wright. This is such a one-sided and biased view, how can anyone respect it?

    Re: facts “almost beyond dispute”

    I find it very sad that you claim to be objective, and accuse me of bias, when it is you who won’t accept the verdict of the most recognised scholars. Yet for all that, you’ve offered no real argument against any of the 17 “facts” I outlined.

    Instead of accusing me of bias, let’s limit our discussion of what the historians have concluded and what we believe or disbelieve based on that.

  19. Instead of accusing me of bias, let’s limit our discussion of what the historians have concluded and what we believe or disbelieve based on that.

    Excellent! Let’s do just that.

    We can start with Finkelstein, Devers, ( a former Christian) Herzog, and almost very other respected Archaeologist, and Egyptologist All hold highly respected positions, have all been peer reviewed, all are published and considered in the highest echelons in their field.
    The Pentateuch is now regarded as fiction.
    This is recognised by the consensus.
    To further qualify, there was no sojourn or slavery in Egypt, no Exodus, and no conquest of Canaan as described in the bible.

    Now let’s look at that the historian says about the Virgin Birth, because this is one of the foundation stones of Christianity.
    Lets’ read what the the Catholic Church have t say, as after all they are the ones who put together the bible. We can agree on this I am sure?
    Here is what Raymond E Brown had to say:

    And here is the link for you that confirms Brown’s credentials and deals with certain other issues. ( the resurrection for one)

    http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Christian_Credibility.htm

    “The virginal conception under its creedal title of ‘virgin birth’ is not primarily a biological statement.”[14] He stresses that Christian writings about virginal conception intend to reveal spiritual insights rather that physical facts. Because record of the virginal conception appears only in tow Gospels, and there only in the infancy narratives (which Brown suspects are largely fictional), the Catholic theologian tactfully concludes that “biblical evidence leaves the question of the historicity of the virginal conception unresolved.”[15]

    Brown mentions the possibility that “early Christians” might have imported a mythology about virginal conception from “pagan or [other] world religions,”[16] but never intended that that mythology be taken literally. “Virginal conception was a well-known religious symbol for divine origins,” explains Brown, citing such stories in Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Greco-Roman and ancient Egyptian theologies.[17] He proposes that early Christians “used an imagery of virginal conception whose symbolic origins were forgotten as it was disseminated among various Christian communities and recorded by evangelists.”[18]

    So, If I am expected to accept the verdict of the recognised scholars you cite then I would expect you to be equally as Honorable in this regards.

    In Conclusion.
    We can see, based on the overwhelming expert opinion that the Exodus etc ( Moses, Ten Commandments, conquest of Canaan) is fiction.

    The Virgin Birth, based on the statements of the highly respected expert theologian, Raymond Brown whose comments are sanctioned by the Catholic Church, is also fiction.

    I hope you will also now consider scholarship over dogma?

  20. “Excellent! Let’s do just that.”

    Hi, I’m glad to hear this. That means, presumably, that you accept my 17 points as a fair statement of what is broadly agreed by NT historians. Note I don’t say they are all certainly true, just that many of the most respected scholars think those things are probably true.

    “Now let’s look at that the historian says about the Virgin Birth, because this is one of the foundation stones of Christianity.”

    This is clearly not a foundation stone for many people’s christianity. It is not one of the 17 “facts” and I wouldn’t be too worried if it was not in the NT – and NT Wright holds a similar view.

    I have already said that I recognise that it isn’t something with strong historical support and most scholars would agree with that. But that doesn’t mean they say it is “fiction” as you do. Again and again you find one historian who says something you can interpret how you want and you make a strong statement on that basis.

    But the reality is that while some things can be shown to be contrary to the evidence, many things in ancient cannot be shown to be supported by evidence or contrary to evidence, and historians have to pass comment based more on their own judgment and views than anything else.

    Take the birth stories of Jesus. Most historians accept the date offered by Matthew (just before Herod’s death) as historical, and therefore most believe Luke’s apparent date in wrong. But for most of the other parts of the story, there is no real evidence either way, and the stories may be “unhistorical” for that reason, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are “fiction” either. There are a range of views. Let’s look at that range.

    Casey regards most of the birth stories as unhistorical and legendary, including the virgin birth. Wright, on the other hand, argues that while much of the stories are questionable, there is a reasonable basis for thinking some parts, including the virgin birth, are true. Both eminent historians, each coming to the personal conclusion that you’d expect knowing their beliefs. And thus showing that there isn’t clear historical evidence for the virgin birth either way.

    This isn’t all that surprising. We don’t have clear evidence for billions of ancient events.

    Let’s look at Brown. I’m not a Catholic, so I don’t pretend to understand everything that church thinks, but I feel sure that many different views on many matters are allowed within the church, and to paint Brown as the one official spokesperson is misleading.

    I note that the official Catholic view, as far as I can determine it is that the virgin birth really occurred. Then when I read the reference you gave, I found Brown’s conclusion was not at all as you claimed. He said: “biblical evidence leaves the question of the historicity of the virginal conception unresolved” – “unresolved”, which is exactly what I said, and you even quoted that conclusion! The furthest he goes in the direction you want is to say he “leans towards” a natural explanation.

    So I suggest you have in no way made a successful case for the virgin birth being “fiction”. Your own reference supports the evidence from Casey and Wright that the historical evidence cannot resolve the question, and we each can choose based on our own beliefs.

    That is exactly the position I have put forward all along.

    “We can start with Finkelstein, Devers, ( a former Christian) Herzog, and almost very other respected Archaeologist, and Egyptologist”

    This post was specifically about Jesus. I have read far less about the OT, and I can only offer a few comments.

    1. I have written elsewhere that my present view is similar to that of christian scholar and writer CS Lewis, who suggested that the OT started in myth, and slowly became more historical by the time of the kings of Israel and Judah. My christian faith doesn’t require me to have any particular belief about how historical any accounts are.

    2. Unfortunately, it appears that you have again found some archaeologists who support what you want to believe, and then made overstatements about current scholarship.

    It is true, as far as I know, that Finkelstein, Hazor, Dever, et al are among the most respected figures in that game, and it is true that most scholars hold a fairly sceptical view of the “history” of the Exodus and conquest. But there is a far wider range of views than your comments suggest.

    There are minimalist and maximalist positions, there are a growing number of reputable archaeologists who believe the latest evidence shows that Finkelstein and co have overstated their case. (This discussion centres on David and Solomon, but it illustrates there is a range of views, and this blog argues for a middle road.)

    Even Finkelstein doesn’t make as strong a statement as you do – saying that “The Bible may even preserve some sort of a very vague memory or myth or folk tales about the turmoil of the 12th century. Who knows? I always say to my students that I will not go to court to say that there was a Joshua or an Abraham, and I will not go to court to say there was no Joshua or Abraham. There may have been some sort of a figure in the very ancient past. I don’t know.”

    Hazor says: “these events did not happen on a national level. Some of these events could have been the local experience of a few families that were later nationalised into one coherent description.”

    So most historians agree these stories are highly legendary, but even the most sceptical agree they could have a basis in actual events, and many think there could be more of a basis than that. It doesn’t make much difference to my belief in Jesus either way.

    Conclusion

    I don’t have a dogmatic dog in the fight about either the virgin birth or OT history – my faith in Jesus is built on the 17 “facts”. You on the other hand do have a dogmatic dog in the fight, and this has led you to be very selective about quotes and references, leading you to overstate the historical evidence to accord more with your own views.

    So, we both apparently accept the historians’ 17 facts, I accept the historians’ lack of conclusions about the virgin birth (I’m not sure where you’ll jump on this now), which I believe and you don’t, and we both accept that much of early OT narrative is not historical. That’s progress!

  21. The Virgin Birth very definitely is Roman Catholic doctrine and the Immaculate Conception of Mary has been elevated to dogma just to assure Jesus couldn’t get any Original Sin from his mother’s side. That effort would make little sense if Jesus could still have inherited Original Sin from Joseph.

  22. Hi, I’m glad to hear this. That means, presumably, that you accept my 17 points as a fair statement of what is broadly agreed by NT historians. Note I don’t say they are all certainly true, just that many of the most respected scholars think those things are probably true.
    I will accept only what all scholars agree upon and no smudging of lines.
    Terms such as broadly, generally, mostly I am not interested in, and quite frankly, as a pursuer of truth, neither should you be.

    So I suggest you have in no way made a successful case for the virgin birth being “fiction”. Your own reference supports the evidence from Casey and Wright that the historical evidence cannot resolve the question, and we each can choose based on our own beliefs.

    If I thought quoting Brown would compromise my position I would not have included his statements and I would have expected that a man of your integrity would not only have read all the text but been able to read between the lines and understand Brown’s position.
    I seems maybe I have erred in this judgement and your faith has come to the fore once again.
    You have failed to mention the other link regarding the Isaiah passage and Matthew.

    I don’t have a dogmatic dog in the fight about either the virgin birth or OT history – my faith in Jesus is built on the 17 “facts”. You on the other hand do have a dogmatic dog in the fight, and this has led you to be very selective about quotes and references, leading you to overstate the historical evidence to accord more with your own views.

    So, we both apparently accept the historians’ 17 facts, I accept the historians’ lack of conclusions about the virgin birth (I’m not sure where you’ll jump on this now), which I believe and you don’t, and we both accept that much of early OT narrative is not historical. That’s progress!

    Your faith in Jesus is contingent on the Old testament for otherwise Jesus’ place in history is untenable. For you to continually dismiss this as somehow moot is disingenuous.
    What you don’t note regarding Finkelstein is that he is emphatic that no Exodus as described in the Bible ever took place, rather you choose to cherry pick his comments to,once more, muddy the water in our discussion and simply fall back on your 17 facts and to hell with every thing else ( excuse the vernacular)

    This truly is cherry picking at its worse, by subjectively disconnecting OT history as and when it suits.

    Every reference and link I offer you cherry pick or are dismissive or even ignore.
    Honesty decrees that your position is firstly based on faith and then what you consider evidence to back this and not the other way around.

    You either accept the bible as is or not at all.
    To regard one supernatural biblical story as fiction and another as actually happened is nothing but confirmation of gross bias and very likely a degree of religious indoctrination.

  23. Hi One Sceptic,

    I’m sorry, but I cannot make any sense of your first comment, and most of the rest is personal comments that I won’t even try to respond to. I feel there is little left to say on the main matters we were discussing, so I will let my previous reply stand.

    “Your faith in Jesus is contingent on the Old testament for otherwise Jesus’ place in history is untenable.”
    “You either accept the bible as is or not at all.”

    And I can’t see how you, or anyone else, could justify this. Certainly that’s not what I think, nor do I think any historians would agree.

  24. If we are to only apply historical data that all relevant historians agree upon then your 17 point list does not reflect the view off all scholars, and, in deference to your continued anathema toward him, I am not even including Carrier.

    Therefore if you are prepared to revise this list with only the things all biblical scholars/historians agree upon then I will revise my previous comment.

    The New Testament is in large part considered fulfillment of prophecy.
    We have been over some of the relevant points but time and again your faith obfuscates your judgment in such matters and this is reflected in your somewhat ambiguous replies at times.

    The biblical character, Jesus of Nazareth mentions Old Testament characters numerous times. And at least one of these figures, ( I will not bother with the others )Moses, is fictitious, so what is Jesus doing referencing him and the so called Law?

    Without the Old Testament most if not all of what is recorded in the New would be utterly meaningless, and this is why Marcion’s gospel was rejected
    and it has been suggested was the catalyst for the church to establish a canon.
    For you to state the Old testament has little or no bearing on your faith comes across as disingenuous, I am disappointed to say. It would be a breath of fresh air if you would actually clarify this issue once and of all.
    Thanks

  25. Hi One Sceptic, I am glad we have persisted with this discussion, because you have now made two things very clear.

    1. “if you are prepared to revise this list with only the things all biblical scholars/historians agree upon then I will revise my previous comment”

    I don’t believe this view is tenable. You even disregard it yourself in your opinions on the virgin birth and the Conquest of Canaan, when you ignore views held by some scholars, and even take a view stronger than the scholars you quote. And imagine if we used the same principle in evolutionary science – we couldn’t accept evolution while there was one reputable scholar who held to creationism or ID! There are always scholars who disagree with the consensus – in history, science, everything.

    2. “I will have no truck with any scholar who has any sort of Christianity in this regard”

    And I think this position makes any discussion untenable. You seem to think that bias can only go one way. Imagine if I too the same view of unbelieving scholars! We would have no basis on which to even discuss history. (Fortunately, I accept scholars from all viewpoints if they are respected by their peers.)

    So I will withdraw from this discussion. I cannot discuss anything with you, because you continually take an unreasonable position shown by these two statements. (You also seem unable to understand what I say, but keep saying what you think I ought to say, then when I try to correct you about what I believe (which I ought to know) you repeatedly call me disingenuous.)

    You are welcome to keep commenting here, but until you move away from this anti-intellectual position, discussion would be pointless and frustrating.

  26. Any scholarly position that may be motivated by faith, no matter how small, will jeopardize any meaningful discussion.
    From a scientific point of view this is plainly evident with archaeologists such as Kitchen and Albright before him, whose methodology is in some quarters considered what not to do re: Biblical Archaeology.

    To claim my position is unreasonable is simply demonstrating that you are only willing to discuss such matters providing they include a Christian perspective, which will no doubt have allusions, not matter how tenuous , to the supernatural.

    You would have no tolerance with such an un-scientific approach to geology, paleontology or similar yet you are prepared to subtly turn a partial blind eye to discussions pertaining to Jesus and the New Testament,
    citing over and over consensus. Yet when I raise the issue of the Old Testament: Moses and the Exodus you get in a huff and ask if I will withdraw my comment if you can provide enough archaeologists that refute the consensus that it is fiction!
    And you suggest I am unreasonable. Good heavens’.
    I read somewhere that you consider this blog primarily for atheists to read and interact. Unfortunately there are so few to at least offer a broader secular viewpoint.
    I could not recall the number of times you have been ultimately dismissive of my p.o.v.

    My position is far from anti-intellectual; in fact I am quite willing to to accept that there was someone like Jesus who was an historic figure.
    And I agree with much of what scholars like Ehrman state.
    I also agree with Krauss, De Grasse-Tyson, Devers, Finkelstein , Herzog, Sagan, Kenyon and a host of other highly regarded intellectuals who also think that much of the bible is erroneous nonsense.
    But the character as described in the New Testament is fictitious.

    That you try to combine science and faith is where the trouble begins.
    And one only need to look at Kitchen or Albright to see where this leads.
    If what you believe required no faith we would not even be having this discussion. And that is a fact.

    Until you recognise that it is your position that relies on anti intellectualism then this is the impasse we will always arrive at.

    Of course you may choose to withdraw from any discussion; it is after all your website.
    But if the search for truth is truly your aim, then to do so merely suggests your argument has run its course, and faith is the bedrock and not fact.

  27. I’ve enjoyed reading the contents of the article as well as the comments posted, but I’d like to say one thing- there is always, in any account, ONE truth. We can debate beliefs and feelings and viewpoints all day long, but there is always one truth. Two different people see the same accident and their “truths” or how they recall what happened are entirely different because they are human… and their minds are fallible. In reality, how the accident was caused and what happened as a result only came to be in ONE way. The same is true across the board for any subject. It doesn’t matter how well studied you are, how philosophical you are, or how well you can debate your belief. At the end of the day- there is ONE TRUTH. JUST ONE. How this world was made, and what this life is all about- there’s only ONE TRUTH… because that’s all there ever is. That’s not debatable.

  28. there is ONE TRUTH. JUST ONE. How this world was made, and what this life is all about- there’s only ONE TRUTH… because that’s all there ever is. That’s not debatable.

    Exactly! Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs but they are not entitled to their own facts.

  29. The definition of a belief is,
    “1 : a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing 2 : something believed ; especially : a tenet or body of tenets held by a group 3 : conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence” Merriman Webster

    Beliefs are what we accept as truths or facts if you will. I would never believe something that I did not accept as a fact… So, I suppose, One Skeptic, your reference is a bit confusing to me. Why would anyone believe something they did not think was factual?

    I do get that you’re a skeptic, your self- ascribed name plainly states so…. Obviously you are a skeptic of Christianity, perhaps of religion in general, but even skeptics have to believe in something. So, what do you believe in then?

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