It seems that folks on this thread still do not understand how history is done and what amounts to historical evidence; analogies between N.T. studies and present day courtroom scenes are madeâ€” since we cannot cross examine so-called eyewitnesses of the N.T., clearly Christianity is a sham. As if we could cross examine ANY historical figure!
As Aristotle pointed out to us, every science yields its own degree of knowledge and to require more is not an indication of the scienceâ€™s weakness but of your own. History is conducted by analyzing and comparing documents; the degree of knowledge it yields ranges from implausible to beyond reasonable doubt. One can always doubt an historical claim; whether one can do so reasonably is another question. Anybody claiming on a thread entitled â€œHistorical Evidence for the Resurrectionâ€� that â€œeyewitness testimony is not evidenceâ€� simply does not know what he is talking about and should refrain from commenting on such threads. There is just no point in debating with such a person on the level of historyâ€”stick to geometrical problems.
To reinforce the initial preliminary, I quote DI
This is an historical investigation. Please drop all questions about the ancient documents' "divine status"; all assumptions that you know what "Christians believe" or even what "Christianity has believed" about the Bible are to be suspended. We will treat them as we treat Josephus or an anthology of ancient Roman historians.The reason that Christianity is a "sham" is because it doesn't merely claim to be history, it claims to be the TRUTH. And it even accuses everyone who refuses to believe in it of having "rejected God" and having chosen evil over good etc.
To begin this thread, I analyze what is probably the earliest Christian creed we have, from 1 Cor. 15. I ask that we do some real, mature history: the kind of history done with all ancient documents.
I care very much for structure, and so here is how Iâ€™ve structured my argument: 1) I give the proposition with a defense; 2) I voice a common objection; 3) I meet that objection in a rejoinder; 4) I give my conclusion.
1 Cor 15:1â€”8: (I have italicized what is probably not part of the original creedâ€”that is, certain phrases which disrupt the rhythm of the Greek, and are â€œPauliocentricâ€�. These are most likely editorial or introductory remarks from Paul. I have also emboldened two key words. Everything in plain print I (as well as numerous scholars) believe to be original to the oral tradition.)
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,
2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received,
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 and that He was buried,
and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
5 and that He appeared to Cephas,
then to the twelve.
6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;
7 then He appeared to James,
then to all the apostles;
8 and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. (1Co 15:1-8 NAS)
Proposition #1 Paul recalls to the Corinthians a list he received of persons whom he claims saw the risen Jesus.
Defense: The two terms in bold are in this context technical terms signifying both the transmission of oral tradition and its receptionâ€”Jews highly valued the importance (almost sanctity) of oral tradition; Paul was no different, even when the tradition was regards Jesus and not Torah (Cf. Gal 1:14). The Corinthians received what Paul handed over to them; what Paul handed over to them Paul claims he himself received.
Objection: Paul is lying.
Rejoinder: 1) This is conjecture without any historical warrant: you are just making stuff up. 2) If Paul were lying, he would surely have left out all names, and said that most if not all of the recipients of this encounter were dead. That is how good liars workâ€”leave no room for investigation or keep the circle very, very small. Instead, Paul gives leads for readers to investigate: Peter, James, and just less than 500 whom the Corinthian church couldâ€™ve inquired into (i.e. we know they sent him a letter; we know he had visited them). 3) And yet we have no paper trail calling Paul out for a lie. We know that the Corinthian church was not shy of criticizing Paulâ€”yet they never cried out â€œLiarâ€� regards his list of witnesses. What we do have is at least three independent attestations of one apostle, James (1 Cor, Acts and Josephus). Outside of the Corinthian correspondence we have named apostles who are resident at the letterâ€™s designation (Rom 16:7). People traveled back then more than today; they didnâ€™t have the telephone or the internet; traveling is how information was conveyedâ€”someone somewhere was always traveling with some news. A lie on the level of Paul in 1 Cor. (as well as in other letters where he names apostles) would have exposed him as a sham and the probability of that sham appearing in history is overwhelming--the very fact that Paul's letters continued to circulate as authoritative is evidence that no one called "liar"--and we know from his own letters (GAlatians and Corinthian correspondence) that people were willing to impugn him publicly.
So, 1) We have ZERO paper trail of Paul lying about this list 2) the list itself is vulnerable to investigationâ€”it gives names and is made up of at least 500 individuals.
Conclusion: 1) Paul delivers a list of persons who claim they saw the risen Jesus, and this list includes two explicitly named individuals, and perhaps eleven or twelve implicitly named individuals (that no one in Corinth would've asked "who are these twelve?" is preposterous). 2) This list is prior to Paulâ€™s writing to the Corinthians: scholars (of ALL types) agree that the letter was composed about 50 AD (twenty years after the dead of Jesus); hence the creed itself is prior to 50 AD. 3) The list is comprised of eyewitnesses of post-crucifixion appearances. This list, in light of the considerations above, counts as eyewitness testimony. It is not FROM those eyewitnesses; but then we are not in a courtroom--we are doing history. Most of your historical beliefs are based on eyewitness testimony at multiple removes.
Next Question (after hearing reasonable responses): When did Paul receive this creed and from whom? Is there a paper trail of this transmission?