The Resurrection of Jesus: What Really Happened?

Following is an excerpt from my book: Things I Never Learned in Sunday School: Facts about the Christian faith that will surprise and astound you.

Like many other believers, I had a vision of what took place on that eventful morning. Several women visited and found an empty tomb. There was an earthquake. An angel appeared and said Jesus had risen. The guards became like dead men. The women were told to go and tell the disciples what they had witnessed.

But is this what really happened? Upon closer examination, I was surprised to find the gospel writers each had a slightly different version. In fact, they agreed on only three things: (1) Mary Magdalene visited the tomb, (2) it was on the first day of the week, and (3) the tomb was empty.

They did not agree on: the precise time the women visited the tomb; the number and identity of the women; the purpose of their visit; the appearance of the messenger(s) — angelic or human; what the women were told, the women’s response.

How are we to account for these variations? Considering that none of the gospel writers were eyewitnesses, plus the fact the gospels were written several decades after the death of Jesus, it is highly likely the resurrection accounts were based on oral tradition. In fact, as previously noted, the writer of Luke commented at the beginning of his gospel that he was writing about things that had been “handed on” to him.

Many feel the noted differences are unimportant. They point to the theme that runs throughout each story — Jesus was not in the tomb. For them, the words written over 2,000 years ago about a dead man missing from a grave is all they need to affirm their belief in the resurrection.

When we consider the resurrection story from a rational perspective, the only thing we can say for certain is that Jesus died. What happened after depends on whose view you favor among the four that are offered.

As with many other passages in the bible, the inconsistencies are rampant. Yet, believers refuse to question them, preferring to accept whatever version is presented to them by their church leaders.

The interesting thing about the resurrection is that there is no mention of a man named Jesus returning to life anywhere but in the scriptures. Not one word. Surely seeing a dead man walking around and talking to people (at one point, 500 at a time) would have prompted other writers to record the event. But to date, no historic or scientific evidence has been uncovered to validate this extraordinary phenomenon.

For those of us who prefer facts over faith, it seems the resurrection story must remain in the skeptical file.

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69 thoughts on “The Resurrection of Jesus: What Really Happened?

  1. I remember driving myself crazy trying to figure out the correct day of the crucifixion and the three days and three nights thing. These passages are all too familiar of that.

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  2. What can one really say of the gospel writers? Well, as one of the characters in the movie Life of Brian calls out, “He’s making it up as he goes along!”

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  3. Not forgetting, the oldest synoptic gospel, Mark, didn’t even contain a resurrection in its original form. Mark (the real Mark) ends with the women running away. The End.

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    • I wasn’t familiar that there was no resurrection description in the original text of Mark. Where can I find more information on this?

      You are correct about the ending, however. The current consensus is that the gospel ends with these words: “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

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      • That’s it. That’s where it ends. The oldest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament (the Codex Sinaiticus and Vaticanus), both have no ending for Mark. And The Alexandrian (NIV) omits the longer ending (Aleph and B). That is to say, no 9 to 20. Clement of Alexandria and Origen [early third century] show no knowledge of the existence of these verses, and Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them.

        Best guess, it was added somewhere in the 4th century.

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        • Oh, OK. When you wrote that Mark “didn’t even contain a resurrection …” I thought you meant there was no narrative of the resurrection in his gospel. Now I understand. You meant the “church-accepted” ending for the resurrection (vs. 9-20) was not there in the earliest manuscripts. Got it!

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  4. There is not much mention of TONS of things at the time. Almost EVERYTHING written was political in nature; no one (who could write) cared about anything else. There really isn’t mention of Josephus either; the only historian of the time, who was apparently important in Roman circles. We have very little writing of anybody at the time; most were illiterate. Yet we have the writings of 4 individuals that document Jesus; we have the writings of Paul and James that document the beliefs and traditions of very early Christianity. Speculations (and rationalizations) are easy, but experts like Bart Ehrman (agnostic, New Testament scholar) acknowledges Jesus lived, died, and was buried, and a movement started based on (at least belief in) resurrection sightings. Ehrman just published “Did Jesus Exist” to respond to all the nonsense about denying a historical Jesus.
    All the best in the search for truth

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    • You are correct. Most of the people of biblical times were illiterate, which is why nearly all of the bible stories are based on oral accounts. Even Luke writes (1:2) that he is recording information that was “handed on” to him.

      You mention that we have the writings of four individuals that document Jesus. Actually, we have the writings of many, many more, but it was these four that came to be the “accepted” gospels after the death of Jesus — and this was primarily due to the influence of one man, Irenaeus, Bishop of the Church of Rome. Interestingly, several of the other accounts related to Jesus say little about Jesus’ death and resurrection.

      Please note that I did not make any reference to the actual existence of Jesus in my post. My discussion centered on his resurrection. I tend to believe the man Jesus did exist; however, I believe he came with a message for the JEWS. It was Paul who transformed it into a message for the Gentiles.

      Your comments are appreciated.

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  5. Sure, but the “many more” were later and contradict the earlier writings, so get rejected. Yes, the message was for the Jews, who rejected it, so it progressed to the gentiles. The key questions are What is the message? Is it accurately represented? What is the message based on? The message is that Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead to pay the price for our sins. Why would the apostles go through martyrdom for something they NEW to be a lie? Even Paul acknowledges in 1 Cor. 15 that “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” From a historical perspective, the accepted facts (by conservative, even secular historians, like Ehrman) are that 1. Jesus died on a cross, 2. His tomb was empty, 3.many claimed to see Him alive after his crucifixion, and 4. Christianity started based on the previous 3. The debate is over what is the best explanation for the facts. I would only argue that it is not unreasonable to accept the conclusion that Jesus really rose from the dead. The only reason to ABSOLUTELY deny that conclusion would be to, apriori, reject supernaturalism (which is what Ehrman does).
    All the best.

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  6. A problem I have, is simply that no one, without a Christian agenda, provides us with any testimony that Yeshua (his real name, “Jesus” was only the Greek translation) ever existed, and even Ehrman acknowledges that.

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  7. “Why would the apostles go through martyrdom for something they (K)NEW to be a lie?”

    If you know of evidence from a non-Christian source, John, that the apostles were actually martyred, I’d love to have it —

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  8. “Most of the people of biblical times were illiterate”

    Coincidentally, Nan, I was just reading something about that today, and posted it on Nate’s site – I believe the conclusion was a 3% literacy rate, and that only amount the aristoratic elite and the upper-level priests. The “Commoners” relied on the Torah being read to them in temple or synagogue. Neither Peter, nor John, son of Zebedee, both of whom were simple fishermen, would have been able to read or write any of the books attributed to them.

    “I believe he came with a message for the JEWS. It was Paul who transformed it into a message for the Gentiles.”

    While I agree with you that basically, Paul hijacked the Christian religion, I would have to question where Yeshua got his message – was he a Western Union delivery boy?

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  9. Yes, John, some do accept your first 2 “facts.” Note, however, in the third “fact” the word CLAIMED. There is absolutely NO proof that Jesus (or anyone else for that matter) has ever returned from the dead. Claims are not facts.

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  10. Arch, you are such a smartass! A brilliant one, but still a smartass.

    As a good Jew, Yeshua surely believed in Yahweh. Along with many others of his time, he was hoping for the messiah that had been promised. I tend to think he felt this leader was due to show up anytime and this is what he wanted to share with his people. He wanted them to know that although things looked really dim, Yahweh had not abandoned them. And their job, until the big event arrived, was to love God with all their heart, etc. etc.

    Just my take on the story. 🙂

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    • “Arch, you are such a smartass! A brilliant one, but still a smartass.”

      Why thank you, Nan – THAT’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said about me!! You and Laurie ought to get to gather and form an anti-Arch fan club!

      I have no issue with your take on the story, as long as it contains at least the implied, “if he ever existed” —

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  11. Hey … I’m not “anti-Arch”! Did you miss the part about brilliant? I meant that. Besides, I don’t own any goats.

    OK. I will concede your last point.

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  12. “As a good Jew, Yeshua surely believed in Yahweh. Along with many others of his time, he was hoping for the messiah that had been promised. I tend to think he felt this leader was due to show up anytime and this is what he wanted to share with his people. He wanted them to know that although things looked really dim, Yahweh had not abandoned them.

    There were some rumors from the time (the source of which I have in notes somewhere, but no time to look them up) that little Mary had been impregnated by a Roman soldier, whose Latin name, or possibly his nickname, was “Panthera, or “Panther“). In any case, suffice to say that little Yeshua (IHEE – If He Ever Existed), grew up knowing Joe was not his father. How difficult would it be to imagine this child, steeped in Judeo religion and its promise of a messiah, imagining that possibly the Hebrew god was his father? He certainly wouldn’t have been the first illegitimate child to imagine someone famous or important to have been his father.

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  13. How are you able to extract a quote and put it in a box? I am sorry I am not up to speed in that arena.

    Arch: With respect to “proving” the apostles were martyred, I do not know of any death records, especially of fringe religious groups. There is plenty of Greek, Roman and Jewish documentation of Christian martyrdom. Given the persecution of Christians at the time, it does not seem unreasonable to conclude the apostles were martyred and I don’t see any reason to doubt Christian tradition at that time; if it was an issue, why is there no challenge to the claim that the apostles were martyred? Claims were being made early enough that counter-claims could have been made: ie “hey I know for a fact Peter died of old age”…no one documents that. Again, what did the early Christians have to gain other than persecution?

    Arch, why are you not able to accept the reasonableness of Jesus existing based on sparse , but reasonable information, yet you are willing to entertain fanciful tails about Roman soldier impregnation, and you feel comfortable restating Jesus’ message into : “He wanted them to know that although things looked really dim, Yahweh had not abandoned them”…certainly that is not a revolutionary message. You still must explain the radical transformation of the apostles and early Christians. You have not provided a compelling alternative (and certainly have provided no evidence) for the Christian narrative.

    Nan: Yes, the 3rd fact in the 4 facts accepted by historians is that the apostles (and others) CLAIMED they saw the resurrected Jesus, AND they based the Christian faith on that. If previous claims have been validated (ie Luke and others get other facts straight), AND there can be shown no good reason for them to lie (ie, it only got them persecution), then it seems not unreasonable to accept their claims….UNLESS you disregard supernaturalism a priori, which you seem to do when you say there is no proof that “anyone else….has been raised from the dead.”

    I am only making a very conservative claim: Supernatural events are possible, and given that, it is not unreasonable to conclude from the evidence we have that Jesus resurrection happened. I don’t think it is unreasonable to doubt it either, but we can only move forward together if we can see things from the other side.

    Good discussion. Happy New Year to all.

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    • I’ll get to the rest of your post in a bit, John, but let’s deal with first things first:

      “How are you able to extract a quote and put it in a box? I am sorry I am not up to speed in that arena.”

      You’re talking about the use of HTML, HyperText Markup Language, which consists of a combination of words and symbols that the computer understands, and which tell it what to print on the screen. I once tried to explain to another commenter, how to use HTML, but in the process of demonstrating the words and symbols, the computer, which doesn’t under context all that well, decided I was telling it to do what I was showing my pupil HOW to do, and did it, making the actual words and symbols invisible, as in the quotation above.
      This is the briefest, most comprehensive source of HTML I know of – copy it or bookmark it, but after a time, I think you will find you’ve memorized it.

      Good luck.

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    • I should have added, John, that the instructions you find at that link refer specifically to WordPress sites, which Nan’s is – it may or may not work on other sites. How can you tell? Usually, at the bottom of the page, you will find something that says, “Powered by WordPress” – my own site is not, so I had to get used to the difference.

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    • Arch, why are you not able to accept the reasonableness of Jesus existing based on sparse , but reasonable information, yet you are willing to entertain fanciful tails about Roman soldier impregnation

      I’ve yet to see any “sparse, but reasonable information,” as for the, “fanciful tails about Roman soldier impregnation,” I merely offered it as yet another word-of-mouth tale, similar to the, born-in-a-manger, three-kings-following-a-star, shepherds-grazing-their-sheep-in-midDecember, turning-water-into-wine, leper-healing, dead-raising, water-walking tales of which the NT is riddled – which ones of those strike you as, “reasonable information?

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    • I see little relevance to be found in determining whether or not, “the apostles were martyred,” as I’ve yet to see any evidence that the apostles existed. In this day and age, it’s not hard to find some radical religious extremist willing to die for his belief system, which assures him he’ll have 70 virgins waiting for him by dinnertime.

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    • What exactly do you mean when you say, “You have not provided a compelling alternative (and certainly have provided no evidence) for the Christian narrative“? What exactly are you calling, “the Christian narrative?” A great number of the salient points of what I can see as, “the Christian narrative” were borrowed from dozens of other cultures – even Odin was nailed to a tree for a week, and that must have made an afternoon on a cross seem like a walk in the park.

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  14. First, I think it’s important to note that it was not Arch who made the comment about Yahweh not abandoning the Jewish people. I made that remark. And I stand by it. I do NOT believe Jesus came as a “savior” of the world. I know this goes against Christian teachings, but from my study and research, I believe the Jesus/God/Savior perspective of Yeshua is way off base … for a number of reasons which I won’t go into on this blog. Much too time-consuming. Arch, however, may have some thoughts to add on this.

    The claims of the FEW, in my opinion, do not outweigh the facts — people do not return to life after death. And they DEFINITELY do not visibly float up into the sky.

    One needs to understand the mindset of the people living during the first century. They were already inculcated by the “miracles” of the Old Testament (Noah’s flood, Moses and the Red Sea, Jonah and the whale, Joshua and the battle of Jericho, etc.) so to accept the resurrection would not be that unusual.

    Finally, the only evidence that is available related to the resurrection is in the bible. You seem to be a believer, so obviously this is the basis for your conservative outlook. However, for those of us who do not see the bible as an authoritative source, we simply cannot accept the many and varied claims within its pages.

    Happy New Year to you as well. Let me say again, I so appreciate you stopping by and offering your comments. It makes having a blog so much more interesting!

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  15. “from my study and research, I believe the Jesus/God/Savior perspective of Yeshua is way off base … for a number of reasons which I won’t go into”

    Just a bare bones outline of your evidence and reasoning here would be sufficient. If you believe Jesus existed, and he was written about, who do you think he was and what was he trying to communicate, and what sources or evidence do you have to support that perspective? You have more evidence than the gospels and the letters of Paul, James, and Peter? Earlier evidence? Evidence by eyewitnesses? As I said, even skeptical historians like Ehrman accept that Jesus existed, was buried, persons claimed to see him resurrected, and a new, radical religious movement formed. Your narrative needs to explain all those accepted facts or you need to provide evidence against the accepted 4 facts, THEN provide a NEW narrative that best explains all the facts.

    If you start by saying “people can’t be raised from the dead”, then, of course, no one will be able to prove to you that “people can’t be raised from the dead.” You are assuming answer to the question. In logic, that is called begging the question.

    Since you brought up the mindset of the people of the first century, I will make a comment. The Jewish community of the first century was expecting a political leader as their messiah, not a crucified savior, so the narrative of Jesus was really not something expected. In fact, that is why the Jews STILL expect their Messiah, because Jesus did not fulfill their expectations. With respect to being inculcated by miracles; it had been 400 years since the last prophet, so miracles was not really something in their common, recent experience.

    So what if the evidence is the Bible? The Bible is a collection of ancient manuscripts written by several authors. Why wouldn’t we treat those manuscripts like any others and evaluate them as any other manuscript?

    Thanks for letting me participate.

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    • “Just a bare bones outline of your evidence and reasoning here would be sufficient.

      Wow, John – you really haven’t figured out how this works, have you? Nan has no need to provide evidence for her disbelief, if you come on her website making a claim, you need to bring evidence for your claim with you, not expect Nan to provide it for you. Learn the rules!

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  16. Arch: Thanks for the formatting link; much appreciated.

    Not sure what you mean by figuring out “how this works.” In polite discourse, when someone makes a claim, they usually provide some reasoning. And, in fact, Nan says she “has a number of reasons” to believe that the interpretation of Jesus is “way off base.” Is it not reasonable to ask for an outline of those reasons? Especially if there are “a number” of them; maybe just one or two to pique my interest and to keep the discussion going? I thought THAT is what discourse was about; give and take of thought.

    I am only affirming the claim made by scholars like Bart Erhman who acknowledge Jesus’s existence and the basic historical facts (or narrative) of Christianity: Jesus was crucified, was buried, was claimed to be seen resurrected, and a radical new religion started based on the beliefs of the apostles. Those are the minimally accepted facts by the experts. If you and Nan want to make an alternative claim, is it not unreasonable to ask for the reasons?

    And speaking of experts, in Ehrmans recent book “Did Jesus Exist,” he dismisses (with reasons, as do other mainline scholars) the idea that Christianity borrowed from pagan stories, so claiming similarities in that arena would also demand evidence or a line of reasoning.

    The “word of mouth” tales you reference are not just “word of mouth.” They were recorded in 3-4 manuscripts by 3-4 separate authors within 10-40 years of the event. And we have thousands of copies of them. I merely asked if the Roman impregnation story has similar documentation.

    You seem overly defensive and unwilling to provide reasons for your beliefs. You are claiming Paul hijacked Christianity, that Jesus never existed and that the apostles never existed. If we were face-to-face and I said “That is interesting, I haven’t heard that. Why do you believe that?” Would you say. “I don’t have to give reasons for my position, you have to defend your position.”? It wouldn’t be a long discussion. I am trying to be open to why you believe what you believe.

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    • “Jesus never existed and that the apostles never existed.”
      “Jesus was crucified, was buried, was claimed to be seen resurrected.”

      What I said, John, is that there is no verifiable evidence that any of these things happened, but if you have some, please feel free to trot it out.

      “They were recorded in 3-4 manuscripts by 3-4 separate authors within 10-40 years of the event”

      I do hope you’re not referring to the Gospels, the earliest of which was written after 72 CE, and all four of which were written anonymously, greatly reducing, if not entirely eliminating their credibility.

      RE:the idea that Christianity borrowed from pagan stories
      The Jesus story is very close to that of Krishna, then there is Tammuz, Zoroaster, Quetzalcoatl, Mithras and even more that I don’t have time to dig up for you. Of course you realize that Christianity is a pagan story to a Hindu. 300 years earlier, Confucious said, “Do unto others what you want done unto you.” So many examples, so little time – try reading something for a change, that doesn’t confirm your bias.

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    • OK, John, I’ll give you evidence. Read my book. In it, you will find information about Jesus — who he was, his role in history, why the resurrection story was believed, and much more. You will also discover how, where, and why several popular doctrines in the Christian Church came about. Plus, in one of my more extensive chapters, I examine Paul’s role in Christianity and why I agree with Arch that he “hijacked” the Christian religion. The book includes over 200 references and numerous biblical quotations so you can be assured the information provided is supported by numerous authors and other sources. If you want, you can read more about it here.

      BTW, while I greatly admire Bart Ehrman (I quote him several times in my book), he is not the be-all, end-all to religious scholars. I trust you are not putting all your faith into his perspective on Jesus.

      Oh, and one other thing. I did not say “people can’t be raised from the dead.” I said “people do not return to life after death.” Probably the same meaning, but I wanted to point out you quoted me incorrectly. I also added that they DEFINITELY do not visibly float up into the sky. Is this also “begging the question?”

      You state that it “had been 400 years since the last prophet, so miracles was (sic) not really something in their common, recent experience.” Do you really think the Jewish people had forgotten these stories? It was tales like this that were probably shared over sheep-herder campfires, for goodness sake!

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  17. I picked Ehrman because he is a mainstream, conservative Bible scholar. He is not the only scholar who poo poos the borrowed-pagan-myth idea. He just happens to be popular, recent and with evidential reasons provided for the position.

    “The Jesus story is very close to that of Krishna, then there is Tammuz, Zoroaster, Quetzalcoatl, Mithras and even more that I don’t have time to dig up for you. Of course you realize that Christianity is a pagan story to a Hindu. 300 years earlier, Confucious said, “Do unto others what you want done unto you.” So many examples, so little time” Unsubstantiated assertions. Ehrman addresses all those, so based on Nan’s response, I can say “just read his book.” Hey, that IS easy.

    If the gospels and the rest of the NT were written after 70 AD, why is there no mention of the Jewish wars or the destruction of the temple in 70 AD? Geez that would have been a great prophesy to trot out on Jesus behalf: “I will destroy this temple.” Why are women the first eyewitnesses in a culture where women’s testimony is disregarded? Why does Jesus say embarrassing things like “only the Father knows..”.. Jesus doesn’t know…hardly the mark of God. Why do the apostles embarrass themselves.. Peter especially.. hardly the actions of a hero, hoping to be the leader of a new religion. So many simple interpretive issues need to be addressed if you recreate the Christian narrative. These embarrassing details are part of textual criticism that address the reliability of the gospels and other NT letters. But, I guess this is not that type of forum; where you consider other ideas and positions.

    I notice that you demand evidence from me, but don’t really want to give any evidence on your side; remember polite discourse…”just read my book” is a cop out.

    “Reverse the onus of evidence…an old trick” Providing evidence or rational support for beliefs is part of civil dialogue. Part of discourse that involves an exchange of ideas, opinions, reasons, etc.

    Gosh, I thought I was asking some good natured questions relative to what this camp believes. Instead, it seems to be a snarky support club where you pat each other on the back. Wrong blog. Sorry for interfering. “Read a book”. “old atheist trick”..so much for civil dialogue.

    It is interesting to me that initially my participation was welcome, but as soon as the surface gets scratched a bit, the ad hominems fly.

    All the best in your search for truth, justice, and meaning.

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  18. Wow! Talk about snarkiness!

    Most of what I believe related to Jesus and his resurrection is addressed in my book. As this “conversation” has grown, it has reached the point where I would be simply repeating much of what I wrote about. Therefore, I felt the best way for me to “provide evidence” and “rational support” for my beliefs would be for you to read my book.

    I’m sorry if you felt I was evading “discourse” with you. This was not my intent.

    As for your “old atheist trick” comment, I’m not an atheist. I never much liked using labels, but I guess I would describe myself as a free-thinker, with a little humanism thrown in.

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    • “…with the passing of time, the apocalyptic notion of the resurrection of the body becomes transformed into the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. What emerges is the belief in a heaven and hell, a belief not found in the teachings of either Jesus or Paul, but one invented in later times by Christians who realized that the kingdom of God would never come to this earth. This belief became a standard Christian teaching….”
      ~ Bart D. Ehrman ~

      I don’t have any desire to deconvert you, John, in fact, I don’t care what you believe – I don’t care if you think you’re going to be raptured next week, except to say, check back with me in a month and let me know how that worked out for you. I have reams, written by a number or reliable Biblical scholars that I could use to refute everything you’ve said, but it would involve taking hours of my time, since they’re not at my immediate fingertips, to dig them all up, going back through all my books, checking for highlighter, and guess what? Once that’s done, you’ll come up with another round of questions, taking up even more of my time, and to be honest – and I say this with all due respect – you’re just not that important.

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  19. Arch: I didn’t ask for reams. I asked only for a simple line of reasoning; one or two bits of evidence that compare to the reams of manuscripts of the NT. Of course I would have questions; that is what dialogue is about. But my observation is that you DO have time the time to throw out criticisms of MY evidence and thinking, but you DON’T have time to support YOUR own. You don’t even provide ONE bit of evidence.

    Your quote from Ehrman is interesting, but does not relate to what we are discussing: the resurrection of Jesus. Ehrman references several Christian doctrines: immortality of the soul, resurrection of the body, and heaven and hell. Invented later? Were those not all Jewish ideas? I thought you said Christianity stole from the pagans. Which is it: they stole from the pagans or they invented things later? Or is it a progression of Jewish thought, which is the claim of the NT, and seems a reasonable conclusion.

    Christianity is based a single event, the resurrection of Jesus. This event is document (by reams of manuscripts) by (1) several different individuals, who claim to (2) be eyewitnesses, who wrote (3) early (10-40 years after the event, which you provide no evidence to refute), with (4) embarrassing details that make late creation unlikely, and by individuals with (5) no motive to lie (all it got them was persecution). Given those 5 lines of reasoning, it seems reasonable to accept the NT manuscripts at face value. That seems a simple collection of evidences. For someone like you, who seems to have so much resources at hand, why are you not able to articulate a simple line of reasoning to support….Roman impregnation, or Paul hijacking Christianity or…Jesus never existed…or the apostles never existed…or the NT was written after 70 AD?

    I am not trying to convert anyone either. I have mentioned a couple times that I only make a modest claim: it is reasonable to accept the NT at face value.

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    • You’ve mentioned your evidence, John, but I’ve yet to see any.

      “This event is document (by reams of manuscripts) by (1) several different individuals, who claim to (2) be eyewitnesses, who wrote (3) early (10-40 years after the event, which you provide no evidence to refute)….”

      Who were these, John?

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  20. Nan: as a communicator (writer of books, and blogger), repetition is par for the course. I only ask for a reasoned line of evidence; an outline, a summary.

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  21. John, if you will go back and re-read my original posting on this subject, you will see that I already revealed (“repeated”) information that is in my book. I then added some additional thoughts (which were essentially also included in my book).

    Then, when you entered the discussion, I added more thoughts (that I had covered in my book). Yet you continue to ask for more. If I had wanted to share what I discovered through several years of research in a blog, I would never have written the book.

    What you don’t seem to understand is that both Arch and I have reached our current positions through extensive reading and research. To go back and find the “evidence” that you continue to ask for would mean searching through reams of information that we have accumulated over the years.

    Suffice it to say that neither of us are able to accept either the OT or the NT at face value. There are just too many inconsistencies, not to mention scientific and archaeological information that contradicts much within the pages. Thus, when you present your reasoning (which is based on scripture), it carries little weight.

    I am not saying any of this to shut down the discourse. I just think you need to understand what it means when you ask (what you seem to think) is a simple request for evidence.

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    • “Suffice it to say that neither of us are able to accept either the OT or the NT at face value.”

      John seems to believe it will bolster his case to quote admitted agnostic Ehrman, but Bart seems to agree with us, Nan:

      “When I started studying the Bible as a teenager, with more passion than knowledge (lots of passion; no knowledge) I naturally assumed this book was given by God. My early teachers in the Bible drove it home for me, with increasingly sophisticated views of how God had inspired Scripture, making it a kind of blueprint for my life, telling me what to believe, how to behave. and what to expect when this world came to a crashing halt, soon, with Jesus appearing on the clouds of heaven.

      “Obviously, I no longer look at the Bible that way>”
      ~ Bart Ehrman ~
      Jesus, Interrupted

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  22. Now, having said all that, I find I must address one of your questions. You asked if the Christian doctrines of immortality of the soul, resurrection of the body, and heaven and hell were invented later or were they all Jewish ideas. Essentially, they were invented later. The early Hebrews did not believe in any of them. For them, death was associated with sheol.

    Resurrection of the body was introduced by the Persians (Zoroastrians), with whom the Hebrews lived for about 200 years. Immortality of the soul was an Egyptian belief (the Hebrews lived among them for 400+ years). Hell was also part of the Zoroastrian belief but was enhanced through the imaginative writers of Israel’s post-exilic period (primarily through the Book of Enoch).

    Paul (the inventor of Christianity) carried forward and amplified all of these doctrines in his teachings.

    You can find evidence of all of this in a number of books, as well as several reputable websites.

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    • “You asked if the Christian doctrines of immortality of the soul, resurrection of the body, and heaven and hell were invented later or were they all Jewish ideas. Essentially, they were invented later.”

      I’ve already quoted his own reference source, Bart D. Ehrman, as saying those exact, same things, Nan.

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  23. Nan: Thank you, thank you, thank you for a thoughtful response.

    As I said, I did not request detailed references as much as a reasoned line of argument. Your initial post suggests you doubt the resurrection because of internal inconsistencies, late authorship, no eyewitness accounts and information passed orally. You also said “the only thing we can say for certain is that Jesus died.” Then you claim Paul invented Christianity.

    I jumped in to relay my understanding of what even secular historians like Bart Ehrman conclude: 1. Jesus lived and was crucified. 2. He was buried and his tomb was empty. 3. Numerous persons claimed to see him alive. 4. A radical new religion formed based on 1-3. I asked for evidence or reasons why you veer from mainline scholarship.

    Why would Paul, clearly a well-schooled Jew, constantly referencing the OT to argue for the gospel, create a new religion, based on paganism? Why would he contrast paganism with his new religion, if it was based on paganism. This idea needs some fleshing out for me. Or are you saying Judaism was also hijacked paganism? And if so, why did they go through so much efforts to set themselves apart from pagans. Clearly there was a difference because of the conflict between the Jews and the Romans (ie, war). And if you doubt the NT out of hand, what information are you using to make conclusions about Paul? And what was his motivation?

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    • “Or are you saying Judaism was also hijacked paganism?”

      Judaism is a goulash of hijacked pagan mythologies.

      The flood story, for example, was based on an actual Mesopotamian flood which occurred in 2900 BCE, 3-400 years before most who attempt to date the OT maintain that Noah’s “flood” reputedly took place. The Euphrates River overflowed it’s banks to a depth of 15 cubits (exactly the figure used in the Bible), and flooded a plains area amounting to what we today would think of as three counties. The actual, historical king of Shurupak, Ziusudra, escaped drowning by boarding a trading barge loaded with cotton and cattle and beer (Oh, My!). The story was later incorporated into the first known work of fiction, “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” in which historical King Ziusudra was fictionalized and called, Utinapistim, who sent out birds to test the waters long before old Noah was a figment of anyone’s imagination. When old Ut disemb-arked, he made a sacrifice to the gods which, according to Ut, hovered around it like flies because they smelled the savor, or to quote him, “they smelled the sweet savor.”

      Gen 8:21 “And the Lord smelled a sweet savor….

      Word for word! And that’s just one of many, MANY examples, but if you think I’m going to sit here and list them all for you, while you sit back and file your nails, again, i can only stress you think too highly of yourself.

      And still no answer to my earlier question —

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  24. Arch: are you trying to be condescending, or is it just your nature?

    “Who were these”?….. Come on, you know what we are talking about: The writers of the manuscripts we know now as the New Testament. No other thoughtful historian ignores them out of hand; why do you? Maybe some basic line of reasoning (from your extensive research) would be in order. Finish the sentence: I dismiss the NT out of hand because…1, 2, 3. My explanation of the writings of the NT is…1, 2, 3.

    Bart does NOT seem to agree with you with respect to the facts. That was the reason I entered here and why I use him to support my position. You do not acknowledge Jesus existed or that the apostles existed. You, therefore, deny he was crucified and buried. As I keep harping, even Ehrman accepts that Jesus existed, was crucified, tomb was empty, persons claimed to see him alive, and a new, radical religion formed. The debate is over what best explains those facts; he says nothing supernatural explains it because he says “supernatural” cannot be a historians answer. So, Ehrman accepts the testimony of those writers of the NT, at least to some degree. I am merely asking for some line of reasoning for your denial of what even secular NT experts acknowledge. I also asked for some line of thinking that would support a Roman impregnation of Mary; I have to assume it is better evidence than the thousands of manuscripts of the NT we have; dated early, by reliable sources.

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    • “‘Who were these’?….. Come on, you know what we are talking about: The writers of the manuscripts we know now as the New Testament.”

      I haven’t time to play guessing games with you, either you can list those who claim they witnessed his death, the empty tomb, and saw him alive afterward, or you cannot – which is it?

      “You, therefore, deny he was crucified and buried.”

      I did not deny anything, I asked what verifiable evidence you have that that was the case, and so far, you’ve presented me with none. You came here with a bunch of beliefs, now back them up with evidence.

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  25. John, I so wish you would get a copy of my book as I go into considerable detail about Paul’s role in the establishment of Christianity. I’ll try to touch on a few things here, but I hope you understand why I can’t give away too much.

    Sidenote: I think you might get an eyeful about Paul if you visited the Finding Truth blog (listed above in my Check These Out section) and read the posting (and comments) entitled Paul: An Assessment.

    First, I don’t believe Paul saw or heard a disembodied Jesus. If you look closely, the event was reported in Acts by a friend and admirer of Paul (the general consensus among scholars is the writer of Acts was a Greek-speaking Gentile who supported Paul’s cause). Paul himself writes only that he “received a revelation.”

    Secondly, the message that Paul “received” about reaching out to the Gentiles came from Ananias, a devout Jew. This is difficult to understand since the gospels report that Jesus told his Jewish followers to “Go nowhere among the Gentiles …”

    Third, the Gentiles were essentially Greco-Roman pagans. To them, Jesus was nothing more than a Jewish spiritual leader. His death was a mere blip on their radar. How was Paul going to convince them that they should accept this “risen” Jew for their salvation? Easy. He transforms him into a replica of one of their gods by, among other things, changing his title from the Hebrew mashiach (Messiah) to christos (Christ) because this title was more familiar to them. Then he added “lord” because the Greeks generally referred to their deities as kurios (lord in Greek).

    Paul goes on to alter many other things in his determination to win over the Gentiles, including removing the Mosaic Law (even though it’s reported in Matthew that Jesus said “whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven”). After making the Law defunct, he then comes up with the idea of “original sin.” Since sin is no longer based on following the Law, he declares everyone has sinned and thus in need of salvation (through his Jesus, of course).

    This is just a small sample of why I believe Paul invented Christianity. There are many more reasons (all addressed in my book), but hopefully this will give you a sense of why I feel the way I do … and provide you with the evidence you keep asking for.

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  26. Nan: “you can’t give too much away”? ….Why not?

    I just read an excerpt from your book; chapter 4: Paul: A Man with a Mission. You say Paul’s challenge was “How was he ever going to get these people to accept Jesus as the messiah?” You acknowledge that Paul thought Jesus was the Messiah, and you acknowledge he was trying to convince gentiles of this. I assume you believe this because of what the NT documents say (you quote scripture to back your claims). I am curious as to what you think Paul’s motivation was? Power, money, fame, or was he just crazy? Why suffer all the torture, prison, etc.? If Paul was a renegade what of Peter and James support of Paul’s ministry?

    Also from a response in your blog in the “About Me” section you say: “Jesus’ primary mission was to deliver two great commandments to the Jewish people: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength, and You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30 and 31, NRSV).” So, again you are using scripture to back up your claims. Why is it you will use scripture to back your claims, but deny scripture when it does not? You say “neither of us are able to accept either the OT or the NT at face value,” yet you quote New and Old Testament to back your claims. How are you deciding which parts of scripture are accurate and which are not? Shouldn’t you be using non-biblical sources to back your claims.

    And I do not really follow your logic with respect to Paul’s experience with Jesus:
    You say you don’t believe Paul saw Jesus because:
    1. It was reported by someone else. So?
    2. he received a message from Ananias, who was a Jew. So?
    3. the Gentiles were Greco-Roman pagans. You imagine, therefore, that he created a Jesus myth to appeal to their religious sense by appealing to similar pagan gods (I assume you have some evidence for this, or are you just interpreting it from the NT, which you don’t accept at face value?) You see, this flies in the face of Acts, where Paul preaches to the Greeks at Athens where he clearly does not bend to their polytheism. You have created a Paul that is not present in the NT . Why would an expert in Jewish law, with potential for a successful life, give it up to be a renegade pagan-religion founder; to get tortured?

    I did investigate your suggested blog, Finding Truth. I think I will have to defer to the author who admits: ” I’m no scholar, so my ideas of Paul and his motivations are worth very little. They’re likely a good bit off the mark.” Based on mainstream Biblical scholarship, they are pretty far off. I hope this was not a substantive part of your evidence and research for your book.

    Hey, thanks for indulging me.

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  27. Arch: You are just being silly. You know as well as I do that the NT documents include claims of eyewitness accounts. The point I keep trying to make is that based on the documents that make up the NT, a record is present of a person (Jesus), who was crucified, his tomb was empty, persons claimed to see him resurrected, and a new, radical religious movement started based on the previous 3 events. Historian accept these facts after evaluating the NT as any other ancient document: historical reliability, textural criticism, language used, etc. So “I came on here with a bunch of beliefs” that are mainstream historical “beliefs.” As a follower of Jesus, I accept the reasonable explanation that the NT records an actual supernatural event. Anti-supernaturalists, like Ehrman think there is some other explanation. Others, on the fringe, like you, deny Jesus and the apostles even existed.

    Methinks you doth protest too much: ” if you think I’m going to sit here and list them all for you, while you sit back and file your nails, again, i can only stress you think too highly of yourself.” My goodness!……so tense!……. calm down! Why the agitation? Obviously very defensive here. Was it really that hard to provide that information; I actually appreciated it, but I don’t want you to have a heart attack, so I will try not to engage you anymore. I think I have said my peace, and you and I don’t seem to be on the same wavelength anyway.

    Go get a massage or have a drink…. workout…….something. If it’s not civil, it’s not fun.

    All the best.

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    • “You know as well as I do that the NT documents include claims of eyewitness accounts.”

      Still waiting for the names of the authors of those documents, John – and you wonder why I’m tense – how many times do I have to ask you for the same something? One would think you’d be excited to share your “Good News” with me!

      “Others, on the fringe, like you, deny Jesus and the apostles even existed.”

      This will be, what, the third or fourth time I’ve told you I don’t deny Yeshua (his real name) and his posse existed? – I’m just waiting on you to provide some verifiable proof before deciding. How hard could that be? But you seem to value my time so little, you insist I ask repeatedly without getting it – you’re beginning to make me wonder if it, or the names of the authors of those documents, even exist, otherwise —

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  28. In answer to your first question, John — because I’m selling the book. Why would I give away its contents for free? That sorta’ defeats the process, doesn’t it?

    I use scripture here (and throughout my book) because that’s what you (and my intended audience) relate to. I also feel it’s necessary because it validates some of the points I make (Jesus’ words vs. Paul’s actions). I don’t deny scripture. I just don’t take it literally, as many believers do.

    Responses to:

    1. Why didn’t Paul write about the incident himself? It would seem it was a pretty big deal if it changed the direction of the existing religion. Yet he never mentions it except to say he “received a revelation.” What does that mean exactly?

    2. If Ananias was the devout Jew that the bible claims, why would he tell Paul to go against Jesus’ words about not going to the Gentiles? Even if he didn’t believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Hebrews were a “set apart” people. Their “religion” was established by Yahweh, whom the Gentiles did not accept.

    3. The evidence is primarily in a book by Timothy Freke, a philosopher & author, and Peter Gandy, an internationally respected authority on ancient pagan mysteries and early Christianity.

    If you were to read Paul’s letter through the eyes of someone like Nate (Finding Truth) instead of seeing his words through the church’s interpretation, you might find this Paul is indeed present in the NT. And, if you were to scroll down on the post I referred you to and read the list of scriptures that kcchief offered, you might find Paul is not the humble servant he pretends to be.

    Mainstream biblical scholarship is obviously your primary source of information. I, and others like me, have branched off into other areas because we simply can’t accept what mainstream Christianity presents. Thus, you and I will most likely never have a meeting of the minds. But it’s interesting to work at it, right?

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  29. Arch: As I have said we are not on the same wavelength. I didn’t realize you wanted some names. Why don’t you just ask the question again to clarify? Does being obtuse make you feel smarter, or is it just part of the condescension shtick you have going on?

    You said: “little Yeshua (IHEE – If He Ever Existed” and “I’ve yet to see any evidence that the apostles existed” Why would I not conclude that you doubt Jesus existed and the the apostles existed?

    Just to move us forward, I will say what you have been waiting for: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter. Church tradition names the Gospels, but I am aware that there is controversy in this regard. But what does it really matter? We have a bunch of manuscripts that document a person, and an event; that is what we are discussing. Geez, The Iliad is a collection of oral stories written by a someone whose name was Homer (theoretically), but it may have been written by multiple authors, or someone whose name was Elmo…does that really change our assessment of the document? Why don’t you just get to the point you are trying to make?

    “…reluctance to be forthright, is beginning to go against mine.” Let me help your communication skills: Just ask: “What were the names of the authors of the manuscripts to which you are referring?” Your time is SO valuable, why can’t you cut to the chase? If your time is so valuable and I am “frankly, not worth it,” get to the point. I happen to think all fellow persons are valuable as are their ideas, so I persist, despite your hoytee toytee, I-am-smarter-and-more important-than-you attitude. Believe it or not, I have things to do as well, so you have wasted so much time being obtuse that I may not be able to get your point of view; the weekend calls and family responsibilities press. Can’t understand why you can’t answer my questions while waiting for my response. Time is precious (remember?)

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    • FINALLY! Like trying to squeeze blood out of a rock!

      The Gospels of “Matthew,” “Mark,” “Luke,” and “John,” your witness, were all written anonymously, surely even you are aware of that.

      What does it matter? Oh, I don’t know, John – try going into court and telling a judge, “See, we have this witness who witnessed this event – well, he says he did, but no one seems to know his name, so we can’t check his credibility. OK if I go ahead and put him on the stand, Judge?”

      Should you ever do that, I suspect you will quickly learn what it matters, but let me know in advance, I’d love to be there.

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  30. Nan: Thank you for a brief summary of your thoughts. I am not compelled by a strong argument line , but I will chew on what you have offered.

    After 2000 years of scholarship, usually if an idea is way off, it is way wrong, but not always, so I will consider.

    All the best in your search for truth, justice, and meaning.

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  31. If you would just get to the heart of your issue that would help. You don’t even see how obtuse you were being. “Surely you are aware of that”…….YES, I WAS, so WHY didn’t you just state the fact and move forward (ie answer my questions or make your point)? Why?…..because your goal here is to be argumentative, instead of communicative. And then complain because your feathers get ruffled. Nice.

    Just to be complete (and the mature one), I will finish my thoughts here, since you obviously don’t want to share your thought beyond the OT rehashing of pagan narrative (the only helpful, although snarky, contribution you have made). See, now I have to apologize for being snarky, but you really have brought it on; and I am sorry you really don’t see it.

    Historical evidence is not quite like courtroom evidence: You obviously have no one to put on the stand. All the evidence is circumstantial, to stick with your analogy. The circumstantial evidence is not necessarily diminished by lack of a name. Credibility in historical manuscripts is assessed by accuracy in other arenas, internal assessment (textual criticism), external corroboration, etc. Lot of manuscripts of the time were written anonymously. The point is that there were MULTIPLE authors, written EARLY enough to be eyewitnesses, with NO DOCUMENTED CHALLENGES, with EMBARRASSING details that make late authorship unlikely, and no reasonable MOTIVE to lie.

    Not knowing the names of the authors has not stopped mainline scholars (who also know that the manuscripts are anonymous) from accepting the basic facts I have elaborated several times: 1. Jesus was crucified 2. His tomb was empty 3. Numerous persons claimed to see him resurrected and 4. a radical new religion began as a result of 1-3. The task of the scholar or skeptic is to explain those 4 facts in a coherent fashion or to provide evidence to refute the facts. Not knowing the authors of the manuscripts doesn’t seem to bother other smart folk who specialize in that stuff. My simple question has always been what evidence or line of reasoning do you have for veering from mainline scholarship?

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    • “See, now I have to apologize for being snarky, but you really have brought it on; and I am sorry you really don’t see it.”
      Maybe you should – I don’t know – go get a massage or have a drink…. workout…….something.

      Possibly you can base your life on suppositions of what someone may or may not have said two thousand years ago, in a world with a long history of inventing gods, as long as you’re willing to admit that’s what they are, but don’t try to call it evidence.

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    • Here’s a challenge for you, John, that should help you relax, since it’s such an easy one: provide an example, if you can, of a single instance of a miracle, as recorded in the Bible, which can be verified by a non-Biblical record of a direct witness to the event.

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  32. Arch: Oh one more thing. If you want to get into the circumstantial evidence thing, check out the work of J Warner Wallace, who has a book called Cold Case Christianity. He investigates the claims of the NT from a detective’s perspective. His website has much of the information: ColdCaseChristianity.com, I think. He, unlike Nan, is less about selling books, and more about sharing information.

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    • RE: Cold Case Christianity – did you mean the one with the button that reads, “BUY NOW“? I was looking for a button that read, “READ FOR FREE, but I couldn’t find one. Guess Nan’s not the only one.

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    • Wow! Check out his Upcoming Events calendar – no wonder, “He, unlike Nan, is less about selling books, and more about sharing information,” (although we’ve proven that’s no more true than the Gospels), he makes a fortune on the lecture circuit!

      I’ll bet he could even afford to buy me a copy of your book, Nan!

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  33. John, your snide remark about me “selling books” did not go unnoticed.

    BTW, it doesn’t appear that YOU have a blog. Apparently, it’s easier to stay in the shadows by commenting on other blogs that it is to put yourself out there where others can see who you are and what you believe.

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  34. wrt Cold Case Christianity: All the information is available on his blog/website. The book just gathers the information together. Yes, he has a busy lecture circuit, during which he collects no fees. I have met him and talked to him; he is a nice guy. To be honest, if you asked him, he probably WOULD give you a copy of his book. I notice no comment on my response and reasoned line of thinking regarding NT manuscripts; only ad hominems. So nasty you have become now, as Yoda might say. You have turned to ridicule over rational discourse. Too bad.

    Although WAY off track for whatever reason: One example of a miracle recorded in the Bible, verified by science (but, sadly no eyewitnesses): The Big Bang (even sounds like a fairly tale): All time, space and matter from nothing (no time space and matter). If everything can come from nothing, raising a man from the dead is like a walk in the park. Your question is irrelevant to the discussion at hand, which I have tried to focus on: the four facts accepted by most NT scholars and why you veer from those facts.

    Sorry, Nan about the snide comment, but did I speak a falsehood? You said you didn’t want to share information because it might interfere with sales of your book. Therefore sales of your book is more important than sharing information; that seems a reasonable conclusion. Sorry, if I offended.

    Sorry to have stepped on your toes, all. I do not see a response to my question (ie why veer from mainstream scholarship?), only ad hominem attacks, so I will step out. No, I don’t have a blog; but what does that have to do with my arguments or questions? As Arch commented, “I am not worth it” anyway, so why start a blog?

    All the best.

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  35. ” There’s no discussion to be had with a man who calls four books, written by anonymous authors, describing events they never witnessed, “evidence.“ ”

    Seems that this evidence (along with other manuscripts) is good enough for people who actually study the stuff instead of name-call, belittle, and argue for the fun of it.

    I am content to let anyone who reads the thread decide who and who was not trying to appeal to reasoning and evidence via polite discourse. I responded to questions when actually stated directly, then when the answer is inadequate the other party uses that as a reason to not answer my questions: Why veer from mainline scholarship with regards to the facts of history? Why deny Jesus existed? Why deny the apostles existed? Why is anonymous authorship disqualifying? What evidence is there that Mary (why assume SHE even existed???) was impregnated by a Roman soldier.

    I provided resources from an expert in circumstantial evidence. I appealed to skeptical experts. Not sure what else to do.

    Then the other side runs away, without answering any questions (well, one, about the Jewish religion; none directly related to the discussion).

    Y’all can go back to your camp and pat yourselves on the back, I guess.

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