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Monday, April 14, 2014

Story of Empty Tomb Dated to Mid First Century


I am getting the jump on Eastern. Usually I wait until two weeks after and say "I should do something on the Resurrection." I decided this year I'm devoting all three blogs (Metacrock's, AW, and Cadre) to the Res. This is my contribution to a book Called Defending the Resurrection edited by J.P. Holiding. I urge the reader to buy it as there are many fine arguments made in it. Not all of this article was used. This is its original form it was changed substantially in several ways, such are the needs of editors.


Skeptical machinations are endless, anytime the tide turns toward the apologist the skeptic will take a further step back and seek to change the ground rules in a fundamental way. So it is with the perennial resurrection debate since the tide was shifted by McDowell and then by Craig, years ago. One of the major tactics used by skeptics to change the ground rules has been to uproot all points of the compass so the apologist can’t get his/her bearings as to what events are actually historical and thus defensible. To accomplish this, the skeptic has partly pulled off a resurrection of his own, by resurrecting old ninetieth century clap trap that was dismissed ages ago. One of the major examples is the historical nature of the empty tomb. McDowell then Craig both did fine jobs of demonstrating that if the facts about the tomb are in place the debate goes to the apologist. But then the atheists used the Jesus myth idea, long disproved and discarded, to set up a new round of doubt about the historicity of the tomb. For skeptics today the four Gospels are not even factors, they are totally ignored as though they offer no evidence at all, and all that they proclaim is regarded as pure fiction. It is of paramount importance, therefore, to establish some historical facts about the case and to nail down some of the points of reference. In this department of points of reference pertaining to the narrative there can be no more important point of reference than the issue of when the story of the empty tomb began to circulate. This is a crucial issue for several reasons: (1) it’s the lynch pin upon which is hung all the empty tomb logic arguments of the major apolitical moves of the last fifty years. That means two things: (a) it would mean the writing is too early for the events to allow for development of elaborate myth; (b) it would mean that a large number of eye witnesses were still around, depending of course on how close to the events the writing could be placed. (2) The earlier the date the more it would undermine the Earl Doherty’s Jesus myth theories by distorting their time table. Thus in this article I will be focusing upon the one issue: when did the empty tomb story begin to circulate in writing?

There are a few assumptions that must be discussed up front. Why focus on writing if we can assume it was told orally first? Obviously whatever point at which the writing started, we can assume the material was orally transmitted before that point. Writing gives us a concrete means of pinning down a time frame. There’s no way to trace oral tradition as to when it began except in the most general of terms. But dating a text, however, we can be much more precise as to when the circulation began. The other major assumption that must be understood is that no one single individual wrote the Gospels. There were redactors and they came out of the communities and the communities are regarded as the authors now, not merely individuals. These communities of which I speak are those into which the earliest follows of Jesus began to group after the events which ultimately come to be represented in the Gospels. Each of the Gospels is taken by scholars today as representative of its own community.[1] So there was a Matthew community, a Mark community, a John community, and perhaps a Luke community, although I tend to attribute Luke to the Pauline circle as a whole and to the individual Luke himself. The problem this sets up for the Evangelical apologist is that it may open some other areas of conflict depending upon how deeply committed one is to an inerrant view of the Gospels. I have encountered atheists who just assert that redaction itself is proof enough that “it was all made up.” No serious scholar believes this and it’s simply a matter of understanding the more adult and sophisticated view to dismiss that bit of amateurish thinking. Yet accepting the liberal assumptions may create more problems for apologetics than it solves, this is a major issue that must be solved, and it must be solved it in the most decisive way. I will suggest solutions to the problems that are more evangelical friendly, and I assert these positions for the sake of argument, to show that even granting the assumptions of liberal scholarship the resurrection still enjoys the support of the evidence. Be that as it may my one overriding concern in this article is in proving that the resurrection circulated, in writing, by mid first century period. Therefore, I will be using the assumptions of liberal scholarship and the evidence of liberal scholars. My reason for doing this is to demonstrate that the case can be made not merely with materials from writers skeptics expect to take the conservative side, but with fairly liberal scholars who skeptics would expect to be skeptical.

In order to understand what we need to answer we must first understand the skeptical claim. The major point undermining the historicity of the empty tomb is the argument form silence; the tomb is never mentioned as such in any of the epistles or any other early Christian literature until the middle of the second century. Dale Allison remarks: "Paul did not know about Jesus' grave, and if he did not know about it, then surely no one else before him did either. The story of the empty tomb must, it follows, have originated after Paul."[2] For certain kinds of skeptics that seems like a crushing indictment. It’s actually not as powerful as it seems since it’s only an argument form silence, and argument from silence doesn’t prove anything. The apologist is apt to answer that some of the passages in the Pauline corpus imply the empty tomb, even though they don’t actually speak of it directly. While these are good points, we can do better. There’s some pretty strong evidence that the story of the empty tomb was circulating, in writing, as part of the end to the Passion narrative as early as middle of first century. The great scholar Helmutt Koester argues for a conclusion of textual criticism that can be demonstrated by scholarly methods. The point he’s making is that all four canonical Gospels and the non canonical Gospel of Peter all share mutual connection to an earlier text that included the passion narrative and that ended with the empty tomb. He says:

"Studies of the passion narrative have shown that all gospels were dependent upon one and the same basic account of the suffering, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. But this account ended with the discovery of the empty tomb.[3]

[and again]

"John Dominic Crosson has gone further [than Denker]...he argues that this activity results in the composition of a literary document at a very early date i.e. in the middle of the First century CE" (Ibid). Said another way, the interpretation of Scripture as the formation of the passion narrative became an independent document, a ur-Gospel, as early as the middle of the first century![4]

He is talking in both cases about the original passion Narrative of “Ur Gospel” that he sees standing behind these five works. Here he tells us that this original work, this “Ur gospel” was circulating at the mid century point and that it contained the story of the empty tomb. Thus, the empty Tomb was part of the Gospel narrative as early as mid century. If we take the conventional accepted dates it was within 20 years after the original events. How does he prove this?

The argument Koester is making comes from another scholar named Jurgen Denker, a textual critic. The basic proof of the argument is the result of textual criticism. Textual criticism is a science. Though many on both sides of the fence, skeptics and apologists find textual criticism assailable, they both assume and use it when it suits them. The atheists who argue for Q as a proof that “it’s all made up” have to accept the validity of textual criticism in order to support the idea of Q. Evangelicals, who quote Josh McDowell talking about how the NT text is 98% reliable, are actually accepted whole sale the validity of textual criticism, because that is how such a figure is arrived at. The evidence of an Ur Gospel in the passion narrative comes from readings in several manuscripts which seem to date from periods much latter than the canonical Gospels. This is deceptive, however, because even though the texts are latter than the canonical gospels, the readings in the texts are much earlier. That sounds contradictory but it is not because the manuscripts (MS) are copied from earlier readings. The earlier readings leave traces of their original sources in the way they read. In other words if we had a book written in 1950 it would probably read like a 1950’s book. The speech, the form of the language, the slang would all be like the 50s. But suppose parts of that book were copied from a book written in Shakespeare’s time. In addition to the fifties slang you would have some parts that would read like Elizabethan English. Those parts would be easy to pick out and we would know that the author was either copying something old or trying to sound old. The situation with these MS is similar. For example one of them called “The Diatessaron” is an attempt by Tatian at making a harmony of the four Gospels. This attempt dates to about 170 AD. But some readings in the Diatessaron seem to from a much earlier time. So we know by this that they are copied form very early copies that were written in a more Jewish style.

 Helmutt Koester
There are a couple of other aspects of this copying phenomenon that need to be understood. First of all, one often hears conservatives saying things like “there is no textual evidence for Q.” The reason for that is that when Q was incorporated into the synoptic people stopped copying it and eventually stopped using it, because it was incorporated into a text that seemed more complete. Overtime the copies of Q rotted away and on one bothered to copy it further. Secondly, as to the assumption that redaction (which simply means “editing”) in and of itself is proof that “It was all made up,” this is manifestly wrong. The assumption is based upon the fallacy that no one could purposely combine two holy books without believing that they were not “inspired.” But the reason this is a fallacy in relation to the New Testament is because at the time the process of redaction on the Gospels started the redactors did not imagine that they were editing “the New Testament!” They were not regarded as holy books. While some might think that’s a green light to make things up, its’ also reason why they would not make things up, because while they did not have a concept that they were writing the Bible (thus no need to conjure up the fabricated essence of a new religion) it does not prove in any way that they had no respect for the truth. They were neither making up the Bible nor creating the rudiments of a new religion; they had no idea of either of those things. They were merely producing a sermonic document for the edification of the community. They intended these works to be read by people they were living with and perhaps to spread into a larger circle of those who worshipped with them. But they did not think of themselves as writing “the Bible.” The process is more analogous to a modern preacher writing a sermon for Sunday; he doesn’t want to fabricates thing that aren’t true, but he’s free to change certain aspects of the order, combine different portions of other “sermons” and place ideas in different contexts and create a document that will hold the audience’s attention and teach them things, but in so doing communicate truth and a story they already knew. No intention of “make things up” need be read into it.

This is not to say that the redactors did not have great reverence for the sources they used. They saw the prior sources as testimonies of holy men signifying holy truth, even if they did not see them as scripture. As we move up in time to the post apostolic age they have an ever greater reverence for anything that tells them about the origins of the faith and the words of Christ. Yet that doesn’t mean they thought of themselves as writing the Bible. They were free to quote and blend the quotes in with other quotes from other valuable sources, but not free to “make thing up,” not free to lie or fabricate. Thus we have the creation of the works we know as the canonical Gospels as “patch works” put together out of prior sources. They didn’t see themselves as producing the canonical Gospels, they saw themselves as accurately reflecting truth for the edification of their flocks, and pulling together the great sources of truth left to the church into their own little humble sermonic contributions. In so doing they left traces of early versions and as their products were copied some of those traces hung on and they continue to testify to us of the earliest roots of the faith. Several traces of these early documents, these lost “Ur gospels” show up in the latter works of non canonical gospels, some of which are tainted with Gnosticism. The famous Nag Hammadi find The Gospel of Thomas is such a work. While it is clearly set within a heavily Gnostic framework of the third century, some of the passages prove to be an early core some of which are thought to be authentically spoken by Jesus, some of which have been theorized as making up the Q source. While Thomas is Cleary Gnostic some very anti-Gnostic traces are left. The same process of redaction we see at work in the canonicals is also at work in the non canonical gospels. So we find traces of an earlier age. Of more direct bearing on the resurrection story is the non canonical Gospel of Peter.

Gospel of Peter and the Empty Tomb

The Gospel of Peter (aka “GPet”) was discovered in the ninetieth century at Oxryranchus, Egypt. It was probably written around 200 AD and contains some Gnostic elements, but is basically Orthodox. There are certain basic differences between Gospel of Peter (GPet) and the canonical story, but mainly the two are in agreement. Gpet follows the OT as a means of describing the passion narrative, rather than following Matthew. Jurgen Denker uses this observation to argue that GPet is independent and is based upon an independent source. In addition to Denker, Koester, Raymond Brown, and John Dominick Crossan also agree.[5] It is upon this basis that Crossan constructs his "cross Gospel" which he dates in the middle of the first century, meaning, an independent source upon which all the canonical and GPet draw. But the independence of GPet from all of these sources is also guaranteed by its failure to follow any one of them. Raymond Brown, who built his early reputation on study of GPet, follows the sequence of narrative in GPet and compares it in very close reading with that of the canonical Gospels. He finds that GPet is not dependent upon the canonical, although it is closer in the order of events to Matt/Mark rather than to Luke and John. Many Christian apologists think it’s their duty to show that GPet is dependent upon the canonical gospels, but it is basically a proved fact that it’s not. Such apologists are misguided in understanding the true apologetic gold mine in this fact. The fact that GPet is not dependent enables it to prove common ancestry with the canonicals and that establishes the early date of the circulation of the empty tomb as a part of the Jesus narrative. As documented on the Jesus Puzzle II page, and on Res part I. GPet is neither a copy of the canonical, nor are they a copy of GPet, but both use a common source in the Passion narrative which dates to AD 50 according to Crosson and Koester. Brown follows the flow of the narrative closely and presents a 23 point list in a huge table that illustrates the point just made above. I cannot reproduce the entire table, but just to give a few examples:

Helmutt Koester argues for the “Ur Gosepl” and passion narrative that ends with the empty tomb. He sees GPet as indicative of this ancient source. Again, the argument is not that GPet is older than the Canonicals but that they all five share common ancestry with the Ur source. There is much secondary material in Gpet, meaning, additions that crept in and are not part of the Ur Gospel material; the anti-Jewish propaganda is intensified, for example Hared condemns Jesus rather than Pilate.[6] Koester believes that the epiphanies (sightings of Jesus after the resurrection) are from different sources, while the passion narrative up to the empty tomb is from the Ur Gospel. It is on this latter point that he Differs with Crosson, who believes that the epiphanies were part of the Cross Gospel.[7] GPet was at first thought to be a derivative of the four canonicals but some scholars began to doubt this because it seemed like a collection of snippets from the four and as Brown pointed out, that’s not the way copying is done. Koester points out that Philipp Vielhauer following Martin Dieblius,[8] noticed that in GPet the suffering of Jesus is described in terms of the OT (though literary allusion) and lacked the quotation formulae (such as “he said to him saying” or “as it has been written”) which indicated that it came from an older tradition, since it would not be nature to take those out. Koester also points out that Jurgen Denker argues that GPet is dependent upon traditions of interpretation of the OT rather than it is the four canonicals, it shares these traditions with the canonicals because they all share the same prior source.[9] Crossan uses Denker and takes it further, they both see dependence upon Psalms rather than the canonicals as a sign of being earlier than the canonicals, but Crossan theorizes the date as mid first century. Koester says in describing it, “he argues that this activity resulted in the composition of a literary document at a very early date, in the middle of the first century,” (notice he does not say “around” mid century but “in the middle”).[10] He argues that the earlier source (the Ur Gospel) was used by Mark as well as Matthew and Luke and even John, as well as Gpet.
Koester agrees with Crossan and Denker about the passion narrative (what he calls the Passion Narrative—which includes the empty tomb) circulating early. He disagrees with three specific points none of which negates this basis thesis. The three points are these: (1) Reliability of the text (of Gpet) which comes to us from one latter fragment and could have been influenced by oral traditions and the canonical gospels as read by latter copyists. (2) Crossan believes that all the variations in Gospel tradition came from a core nucleolus of very early writings that form the cross Gospel and that is the basis of the canonical Gospels (combining a saying source (Q) with a narrative Gospel). But Koester believes that the oral tradition was still going up to the early part of the second century,[11]and that it was a fountain of information for various gospel writings all along the way. (3) Crossan holds that the epiphanies (resurrection sightings) were all from the Cross Gospel; Koester holds that they were from various sources. But none of them negates the basic core thesis which all three of them hold to, which is that the Ur Gospel passion Narrative includes the empty tomb and that it circulated early, perhaps mid century. Koester tell us his true opinion when the sates at the end of his list of these three problems:

“The account of the passion of Jesus must have developed quite early because it is one and the same account that was used by Mark (and subsequently by Matthew and Luke) and by John and as will be argued below by the Gospel of Peter, However except for the story of the discovery of the empty tomb, the different stories of the appearance of Jesus after his resurrection in the various Gospels cannot derive from one single source. They are independent of one another. Each of the authors of the extant gospels and of their secondary endings drew these epiphany stories from their own particular tradition, not from a common source.”[12]

What is he saying? First he is not disputing that the story of the empty tomb circulated early, he affirms it. He says “except for the story of the empty tomb” he means that is included with the original material, the other resurrection related sightings came from other sources.[13] Are those other sources fictional? In Koester’s mind they may be, but his conclusions are based upon the logic derived from the texts and the fragments of readings found in them, so they could be fictional or factual. They just don’t happen to be from that one original Ur Gospel; there’s noting in logic that prevents them from being part of other eye witness accounts. When he says the authors got these stories from their “own particular tradition” he means each of the communities that produced the individual canonical gospels has their own tradition sources, so these could well have been eye witness sources. Let’s bracket this for now and get back to it toward the end of the essay.

Koester sets out to demonstrate his first objection to Crossan by showing that the evolution of the gospel traditions were not set in stone and were fed by the oral tradition, I am not conserved with, but in so demonstrating he also illustrates one of the major arguments through which we know that there was an Ur Gospel passion narrative that preceded the canonical gospels. His argument against Crossan on the side point also serves to illustrate the major issue here before us in this essay. By “gospel traditions” he does not mean new fictional material was being made up, he means the way the story is told. By mid century how one told it was just as important as the content. The particular order, and traditions these were still evolving but were shaping up into a style and the style was being codified. That point is alluded to earlier where it is said that reliance on the psalms to describe Jesus suffering is earlier and that lack of certain kinds of quotation allusions are earlier than the canonical writing, that’s saying that telling it a certain way was forming up and when we see that formation not present that is an indication of an early source. When he says that Jesus’ suffering is described in terms of the psalms he is not saying the psalms gave them the idea of making up Jesus’ suffering. This is close to the idea of midrash. The Jews liked to tell things about history in terms of the Scriptures, it was like reinforcing the truth to show that what God is doing today unfolds in ways that allude to earlier acts of God. So they tell the story by making a bunch of literary allusions to the scripture.
Two such examples: the way Pilate speaks corresponds to Psalms and the response of the people to Jesus’ crucifixion is patterned after Deut. 21:8 in guilt of the people is expressed in tones that mock the prayer in the ritual:[14]

Matt 27: 24-25 Ps 26: 25-26
“so when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing….he took water before the crowd saying: ‘I am Innocent of this man’s blood, see to it yourselves.’ I hate the company of evil doers and I will not sit with the wicked, I wash my hands in innocence and go about thy alter, O lord.
“and all the people answered, his blood be upon us and upon our children.” “Set not the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of thy people O Israel.”

In acculturating these points Koester also, without explicitly saying it until latter, shows that no one would copy anything in this way. Ray Brown will make the same point as well and with a much more elaborate chart. Here are elements from one of Koester’s small charts that demonstrate the point; this deal with the mocking of Jesus after the trail before Pilate.

Gpete 3:6-9

And they put him in a purple robe Mark 5:17 they dressed him with a purple robe
Matt 27:28 they stripped him and put a scarlet robe upon him
Luke 23:11 they put a shining garment on him
John 19:2 and arrayed him in a purple robe
And sat him on the judgment seat and said judge righteously o King of Israel. John 19:13 and he sat down on the judgment seat
And one f them brought a crown of thorns and put it on his head Mark 27:15 /Matt 27-19 and plaiting a crown of thorns John 19:2 and the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns and put it on his head.

And others who stood by spat on his face Mark 14:65 one of the servants standing by struck Jesus with his hand

The supposition most skeptics will make is that the author of Gpete merely copies the existing gospels that were already known, changing a bit here and there to suit his own taste. The problem is there are so many allusions it’ clear the author was copying a tradition, and it’s a tradition a kin to the canonicals in some way, either as the common source they used or the canonicals themselves directly. No one copies in the way that it that it seems to have worked. No one would say “I want to talk about the purple robe so I’ll copy ‘they dressed him with a purple robe’ from Mark but I’ll say ‘put’ rather than dressed like Luke does.” No one copies by breaking down actual sentences from the difference sources and using a word from this and a phrase from that to make nuclear fragments like a sentence all the way thought the whole document. It could be that one would take a chapter from one and chapter from another and wedge in between still another segment from a third source, not for each and every sentence. This is a disproof of the idea that the author of Gpete merely copied the canonicals. No one copies this way. As Raymond Brown states in The Death of the Messiah:

GPet follows the classical flow from trail through crucifixion to burial to tomb presumably with post resurrection appearances to follow. The GPete sequence of individual episodes, however, is not the same as that of any canonical Gospel...When one looks at the overall sequence in the 23 items I listed in table 10, it would take very great imagination to picture the author of GPete studying Matthew carefully, deliberately shifting episodes around and copying in episodes form Luke and John to produce the present sequence. [Brown, Death of the Messiah,[15]

"IN the Canonical Gospel's Passion Narrative we have an example of Matt. working conservatively and Luke working more freely with the Marcan outline and of each adding material: but neither produced an end product so radically diverse from Mark as GPet is from Matt."[16]

Brown proves the tradition that Gpet follows is old and independent. It’s much less likely that the author of Gepet merely copied all his material form the canonicals. One copies an exegetical tradition, and that tradition by the time of Gpet (late second century) was already formed up in one way, and GPet shows examples of another form which should be considered earlier because it’s based upon the Psalms not upon Mark or Matthew. No one would copy in such a way as to instill all four from of the canonicals into the text, but traces of an original might be combined with latter works in that way. The arguments that Brown makes are elaborate, he presents several huge charts (no. 10 mentioned above). I can’t reproduce them here, but the marital is very important. The arguments Koester makes are extremely intricate. I do not have the time or space here to present these arguments because they take up whole books, but suffice to say many scholars, in fact the majority agree with Koester on these points. “Nevertheless, the idea of a pre-Markan passion narrative continues to seem probable to a majority of scholars. One recent study is presented by Gerd Theissen in The Gospels in Context, on which I am dependent for the following observations.”[17]

The issues are enormously complex and due to their complexity they lead to confusion when people try to argue and prove things. May of Koester’s statements have been misinterpreted by skeptics seeking to refute my use of his material merely because they don’t read the book or consider the context. I urge the reader to read Koester’s book, Ancient Christian Gospels, and Brown’s book Death of the Messiah, as Well as Crosson’s Cross Gospel.

"The Gospel of Peter, as a whole, is not dependent upon any of the canonical gospels. It is a composition which is analogous to the Gospel of Mark and John. All three writings, independently of each other, use older passion narrative which is based upon an exegetical tradition that was still alive when these gospels were composed and to which the Gospel of Matthew also had access. All five gospels under consideration, Mark, John, and Peter, as well as Matthew and Luke, concluded their gospels with narratives of the appearances of Jesus on the basis of different epiphany stories that were told in different contexts. However, fragments of the epiphany story of Jesus being raised form the tomb, which the Gospel of Peter has preserved in its entirety, were employed in different literary contexts in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew."[18]

The other major reason for assuming the earlier date for readings in Gpet, aside from the fact that no one would copy the synoptic the way the readings indicate it would have to be copied if it was based upon the synoptic, is that the reliance of these readings upon the OT indicates a stage of transmission prior to the development that would obtain after the synoptic. In other words, as said above, the story comes to be told in a certain way; even historically true stores develop hermeneutical traditions. When a reading demonstrates characteristics prior to that development, we know it was written earlier. The Synoptic do show some reliance on the Psalms. That’s because those are traces hanging on from the Ur Gospel that show up in the synoptic. The four canonical gospels and Gpet all use these readings as they draw from the Ur Gospel but they also use other readings and had Gpet been dependent upon the canonicals exclusively it would not show such total reliance upon the Psalms but would include a great dependence upon the canonicals. Brown’s charts prove this reliance of Gpet upon the Psalms and not upon Matthew or the other canonicals.[19]

Koester shows that the scenes of mocking Jesus were based upon Isaiah 50:6, Zach 12:10 and the scapegoat ritual are also brought into it. One can understand the meaning in drawing parallels between Jesus passion and the scapegoat of atonement for Israel. The robe and the crown of thorns are derived form the scapegoat ritual as well.[20] The Gospel of Peter reveals a close relationship between the mocking to the exegetical scapegoat tradition. He argues that these parallels are closer than those drawn between that tradition and the canonicals. He presents a fairly large chart to prove it. This compares seven examples between the scapegoat tradition, Gpet and all four canonicals.[21]

“It is evident that alone in the Gospel of Peter all three Items form the Isaiah passage appear together while John only includes the first and second (scourge and strikes) and Mark and Matthew only the first and third (scourge and spitting). Moreover, only the Gospel of Peter contains the same Greek terminology for scourging in agreement with Isaiah while Mark and Matthew substitute the common Roman term for this punishment only Isaiah and the Gospel of Peter mention the cheeks explicitly with respect to the strikes.” The piercing with the reed from the scapegoat allegory is preserved only in the Gospel of Peter while John has used this item for the piercing of Jesus’ side after his death; Mark and Matthew misread the tradition and change it to “strikes with a reed.”…the relationship of the Gospel of Peter to the parallel accounts of the canonical gospels cannot be explained by a random compilation of canonical passages. It is evident that the mocking scene in this gospel is a narrative version that it is directly dependent upon the exegetical version of the tradition which is visible in Barnabas.[22]

That tradition he argues is earlier than the canonicals by virtue of his greater adherence to the OT. The date of mid first century fro the circulation of the Ur Gospel with empty tomb is based upon old rule of thumb assumptions that textual critics always work by, ten years for copy time and ten years for travel time. In other words, travel time means the time it took for it to be copied and travel times mean the time it too to circulate to other places. Counting back from the 70, the standard assumption for the Date of Mark, twenty years is about 50 years. That is how Koester explains it.


[1]Stephen Neil, The Interpritation of the New Testament 1861-1961. London, NY: Oxford University press, 1964, 239.

[2]Dale C. Allison, Resurrecting Jesus: “The Earliest Christian Tradition and It’s Interpreters,” Journal for the Sutdy of Pseudepigrapha: supplement. T & T Cllark Publishers (September 30, 2005) 305-6.

[3]Helmutt Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels, Their History and Development. Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990, 208.

[4] Ibid. 220

[5] Ibid, 218

[6] Ibid. 217

[7] Koester, find

[8] Ibid, 218

[9] Ibid.


[11]That’s based upon Papias reportedly saying he enjoyed hearing the voices of the great men speaking the words more than reading it on paper. That does indicate that there was some use or oral tradition at that time but if Papias was really old then he could have been referring to practice that had died out in his youth.

[12]Ibid, 220

[12] Ibid., 231 fn 3 he again clarifies his position from that of Crossan. Atheists reacting to material on my website where I speak of this habitually quote Koester assuming that the issue between him and Crossan is Koster’s objection to the idea of a pre Mark redaction that includes the empty tomb. That is not it at all. He makes It quite clear he agrees with that. The issue is entirely about how material after the initiation discovery of the tomb cam to be in the account, was it original (Crossan) or latter (Koester).

[14] Ibid, 221

[15]Raymond Brown, Death of the Messiah: From Gethsemane to the Grave, A commentary on the Passionnarratives in the Four Gospels. Volume 2. New York: Dobuleday 1994 1322

[16]Ibid. 1325

[17] Peter Kirby, Early Christian Writings, Website, URL: last visited Jan 3, 2010.

[18] Koester, 240

[19] Brown, find

[20] Koester, 224-25

[21] Ibid, 226

[22] Ibid, 226-227

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Classic Lesson in Atheist Reductionism: Losing the Phenomena

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On CARM Fleetmouse does his thing with another post justifying reducing miracles to lost phenomena:

I've been trying to come up with a snappy name for the "I dunno, therefore God" kind of reasoning that goes on a lot in atheist / theist debates. Well, David Kyle Johnson has a good one: mysterium ergo magus:

[...] when one commits what I like to call the “Mysterium ergo magus” (“Mystery therefore Magic”) fallacy — it is to believe that an inability to think of a natural explanation is a good reason to appeal to a supernatural one.


This is a favorite argument of theists - we can't fully explain something complex at the cutting edge of our fields of knowledge - consciousness, cosmology, etc. - therefore, this entitles us to "reach for the wand" - to appeal to magical and supernatural explanations. And of course, the supernatural explanations one reaches for will slot neatly into one's own religious views - Christians will not explain anything in terms of Hindu religion and vice-versa - it all seems to depend on where one was born.

However as Johnson continues in a note:

Having no proof that there is a natural explanation is no good reason to think that it is false that there is a natural one. Why? For one, we have made this mistake in the past — declaring, “nothing else can explain this but the supernatural,” only to find an embarrassingly obvious natural explanation latter. But mainly such reasoning is fallacious because it is more likely that the reason you can’t find a natural explanation is because you can’t think of one — not because there isn’t one.

How often do theists engage in the mysterium, ergo magus fallacy? I bet we can find ten posts in the last week. I can think of two examples regarding cosmology in one of my recent threads.

Also note that some will not drop magic even when there ARE solid naturalistic explanations - see the evolution board for examples.

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 This is just the circular reasoning that atheists always use to dismiss SN and miracle claims and anything to do with God. It's just moving the goal post when the evidence is met.

It's nothing more than "we have always dismissed this i the past so we are justified in doing so now."

 just the typical atheist quesiton begging gimmick. Find a label to stick on it and it's done away. one of the classic moves of philosophical reductionism, re-label it as a prelude to losing the phenomena.

the whole move is right out of the reductionist play book because it's just a means of losing phenomena. whatever happens we can label as false in some flashy way and that is justified by past labeling. then it's automatically gone because it's now this gimmick rather than a miracle or whatever.

All of this relates back to anti-phenomenaoloyg. Pehom would allow the sense data to suggest it's own categories. The opposite of that reaches for the preconceived categories to file the phenomena away under so it wont be bothersome.

 Originally Posted by fleetmouse View Post
Supposing that mysteries have natural explanations just like previously mysterious things that turned out to have natural explanations isn't circular - it's a perfectly legitimate use of inductive reasoning.
You are doing more than that. When you give it a little label you are saying we can move the goal post. If you meet the requriement I set up then I'll just claim this is a case X (whatever the label is) and move goal post again.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Can Science Disprove the Soul

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In “Can a Machine have a Soul?” Bill Lauritzen claims to have disproved the soul.[1] He’s considering the issue of weather or not transferring human consciousness into a machine would give the machine a soul? His solution is to disprove that humans have souls then there’s no soul to worry about. In my view the soul is a symbol and it’s the spirit that lives on after death. So there’s no question of proving or disproving the soul since there is no question or proving or disproving symbols. For the sake of this issue I’ll use his terminology. He assumes the soul is the thing that lives. After all, he would make the same argument against the spirit. That argument is made by the bogus method of merely assume what he thinks human ancestors must have thought about after life and what they based it on. Basing it on something we know is false such as an literalized analogy between smoke is the afterlife of fire, and breath sustaining life, being like smoke, therefore like the smoke form the flame breath must live on as soul. That’s his conjecture. Of course he assume this is the only reason to think there might be a soul and thus he’s swept it out of the way with modern doubt! That really is his only answer. Rather he asserts that it was the attempt to explain oxygen. He’s using as breath in that sense. It’s really breath that he means.[2]
            To reinforce it all he goes through a mock play where two cavemen has things out and this is supposed to be actual proof. It’s nothing more than detailed speculation. His little play is nothing more than taking us through the steps on might go through to arrive at the conclusion of after life after having witnessed death: He sees the blood, he reasons from past experience, that when people lose a lot of this stuff they stop living. He sees the blood evaporate. He understands that it’s going from a liquid to gaseous state (would he understand that)? So he puts it all together and reasons. Of course it’s really a modern person “reasoning” his way to answers he already knows. Is that proof that this actually what happened? No it’s totally theoretical.  He even shows a series of pictures of a goat dying and rotting away to reinforce how one might come to the conclusion that there is some mysterious thing in the air that makes us life (like he would really know evaporation pus gas in the air).[3] “So early humans thought there were ghosts and spirits living in the air. They didn’t want a ghost angry with them, so they would kill and burn animals, so they would kill and burn animals, even humans in some cases, in other word they would make a sacrifice, to feed these ghosts and spirits. Sacrafice as the root word sacer, meaning sacred.”[4] I don’t think I’ve heard of sacrifice being a meal for ghosts. That’s a conjecture and perhaps not a good one. It really is a minor point.
            Then he goes on a long triad about how science discovered oxygen to show that science is so much better than religious thinking. Of course since he made the whole thing up and its’ conjecture and he’s stepping over a bunch of steps that took thousands of years it’s a rather meaningless point. Of course he totally ignores the fact that modern science was created by Christians and one of the chief discoverers of oxygen was Robert Boyle who was a devout Christian and who did science as form of Christian apologetics. I say one because the actual discover was a complex process involving several people. Joseph Priestly was anther of those and he actually discovered it but Boyle paved the way.[5] Both men were Christians. [6]. [7] It’s absurd to compare primitive thinking to modern and try to pass that off as proof that science is better than religion. We have modern thinkers who are both scientific and religious, and modern science owes a great debt to religious thinkers such as Newton and Boyle, and even Priestly. In fact part of his rendition of the discovery of oxygen includes a lot about Robert Boyle, he never does actually indicate that was a Christian, so it appears as a rebuke to religious thinking.
            He then takes a long detour though a discussion of thing that really could be just left out of the issue. These are matters of brain size vs the kind of diet we have its suitability for hunter gatherer society. It really has nothing to with the issues. He discusses alchemy and how the understanding of blood evaporation and smoke might contribute to correlations between the basic elements and alchemical knowledge. It’s not relevant but I surmise that he includes it to indicate how wonderfully predictive his theories are. He can predict the nature of alchemy with it, of course we already know how it turns out so it’s not as though he’s predicting the unknown. Realizing he has strayed from the topic he springs back to summarize the issue on the soul:

Getting back to the original question: can a machine have a soul? Of course, there may be some mysterious energy we know nothing about. However, if we apply Occam’s razor, I think we can see that we have a simple theory that covers all the facts: the “soul” and “spirit” are convenient terms invented by early humans who knew nothing about atomic theory. The “soul” and spirit probably do not exist except perhaps in this ordinary sense, “a person’s moral or emotional nature or sense of identity.”[8]
The reference to atomic theory pertains to the reality about atoms and molecules and a modern understanding of what happens with evaporation. He says we have a simple theory that covers the facts. The problem here is he doesn’t know the facts. He has not given us any facts. He has literally just concocted a speculative idea with no empirical proof to back it up. He’s merely assuming correlations are cause and that he’s exhausted the facts merely because he’s brought out a few facts that back his view. Since he doesn’t value religion he doesn’t even try to understand what really went into understanding the soul or the spirit. He offers just enough facts to explain it away and then claims he has the facts. Moreover, notice that he puts his theory in terms of probability, and not in terms empirical proof. It can’t be a real disproof if it’s just a probability. There are other aspects of the spirit that he had failed to come to terms with. Basically, he has made the assumption that all knowledge is scientific so therefore the soul was invented to explain scientific questions, the physical workings of the world. It’s more likely the soul was a means of explaining religious and spiritual truth not physical truth. We don’t’ know what al that entails.
            It’s probably related to the need to explain mystical experience, or the sense of the numinous. It’s bound to be related to spiritual needs, that would relate to the special sense that engenders concept such the Holy. First of all we know that those aspects of the sacred that issue forth in mystical experience, the sense of the numinous, are used to with complex psychological issues. 

Atheists and skeptics reduce everything they critique and then lose the phenomena in the reduction. Thus, they only see the explanatory aspects of ancient religion and never try to think beyond the simple assumption that people were doing this to explain things. This is the “Og no like noise in sky” Idea. Stupid primitive people without science try to explain simple things they don’t understand so they make up religion. That is all the skeptic can see. But those who are aware of the mystical consciousness can see more. I am sure the skeptics will argue that they are reading it in. All I can do is to assert that if the reader will read Maslow and if the reader is aware of Maslow’s acuity as a scholar, one will place a great deal of confidence in the notion that Maslow was discovering and not reading in. Maslow   interpreted everyday psychology as laced with the trace of the supernatural, because for him “supernatural” just meant a deeper level of consciousness about ordinary things. His views of human psychology were laced with Jungian notions of archetypes. He equated the archetypes with “supernatural.” In speaking of the relationship between men and women and their relation to the psychological archetypes, he finds that the same symbols are always used for the same meanings. This comes out in psychological studies across the board. He marks archetypical thinking, as B and D. B analysis has to do with the higher, ideal, abstract, D has to do with the earthy human aspects of our existence; the practical the earthy. These are roughly equivalent to St. Augustine’s terms: height and depth. An example of what he’s talking about is the male tendency to seek two of womanhood, the goddess and the witch (or well itwhat rhymes with “witch”). Maslow says that psychology tells us that we need a bit of both. A woman put on a pedestal and seen only as a goddess is unapproachable and cannot be pleased. A woman seen only as the ‘other’ can’t be respected and won’t make a good partner. Of course this goes vice versa for the way women view men: the “good guy” vs. “the outlaw,” the rebel, the “bad boy.” Materialists are going to find that this point is trivial and just a part of daily living, and that’s the point. The reason ancients have a tendency to sacralize these kinds of ordinary relationships is because they sense a connection between them and the transcendent. That is the sense of the numinous. The same symbols turn up again and again, according to Malow, in all kinds of psychological study. Psychologically there is a link between the use of certain symbols in mythology and religion, and the transcendent.
            He makes this connection himself. Iin speaking of the dichotomy of most religious life between the “mystical” or ‘inner.’ ‘Personal’ to the organizational (he doesn’t use the phrase but the “doctrinal”) “The profoundly and authentically religious person integrates these trends easily and automatically. The forms, rituals, ceremonials, and verbal formulae in which he was reared remain for him experientially rooted, symbolically meaningful, archetypal, unitive.”[9] He is revealing a link between the rituals of the primitives, mythology, and religious experience (especially “peak experience” or Mystical consciousness). That link is in the archetypes, the psychological symbols that ground us in a sense of what life is about and give us a connection with these concepts of height and depth, or the ideal and practical. In appendix I. “An example of B analysis,” He states:

This can also be seen operationally in terms of the Jungian archetypes which can be recovered in several ways. I have managed to get it in good introspectors simply by asking them directly to free associate to a particular symbol. The psychoanalytic literature, of course, has many such reports. Practically every deep case history will report such symbolic, archaic ways of viewing the woman, both in her good aspects and her bad aspects. (Both the Jungians and the Kleinians recognize the great and good mother and the witch mother as basic archetypes.) Another way of getting at this is in terms ofthrough the artificial dream that is suggested under hypnosis. It can also probably be investigated by spontaneous drawings, as the art therapists have pointed out. Still another possibility is the George Klein technique of two cards very rapidly succeeding each other so that symbolism can be studied. Any person who has been psychoanalyzed can fairly easily fall into such symbolic or metaphorical thinking in his dreams or free associations or fantasies or reveries.[10]

He is relating this to the mythological symbols of the grate mother, the goddess, the witch, the demon, and one might also think of Lilith or for men the Shy Father, vs. the demon the trickster. The link between mythological symbols and mystical consciousness is further born out by another psychologist, David Lukoff who made the link between the high incidence rate in the general population found by the Greely study and the use of archetypes. Lukoff framed schizophrenic delusions as private mythology.
 “This method derives from the discipline of comparative mythology but goes beyond to decipher the psychological truths embodied in the symbol-laden stories. Campbell’s (1949) study The Hero With a Thousand Faces is the premier example of this method. Lukoff (1985) treated the account of a psychotic episode as a symbol-laden personal myth and attempted to uncover themes that parallel the structure and content of classic mystical experiences.”[11]
Other studies, such as Buckley and Galanter (1979) have observed individuals in the midst of mystical experience when exposed to religious ceremonies.[12] Some might see this as undermining my own argument because skeptics do argue that religious experience is a form of mental illness. But there is a distinction between some mentally ill people having religious experiences and saying that mystical experience is mental illness. Many studies disprove this assertion (see chapter on “studies”). But as Lukoff shows, this does not mean that some mentally people can’t have mystical experiences.
Maslow talks about the psychological necessity of being able to maintain a transformative symbology. He is not merely saying that we should do this, but that this is what we do; it is universal and through many different techniques and psychological schools of thought he shows that this has been gleaned over and over again. What Jung called the Archetypes are universal symbols of transformation, which we understand in the unconscious[13] , and we must be able to hold them in proper relation to the mundane (the Sacred and the Profane) in order to enjoy healthy growth, or we stagnate and become pathological. It is crucial to human psychology to maintain this balance. Far from merely being stupid and not understanding science, striving to explain a pre-Newtonian world, the primitives understood this balance and held it better than we do. Religious belief is crucial to our psychological well being, and this fact, far more than the need for social order or the need for to explain thunder, explains the origins of religion.

As Maslow says:
“For practically all primitives, these matters that I have spoken about are seen in a more pious, sacred way, as Eliade has stressed, i.e., as rituals, ceremonies, and mysteries. The ceremony of puberty, which we make nothing of, is extremely important for most primitive cultures. When the girl menstruates for the first time and becomes a woman, it is truly a great event and a great ceremony; and it is truly, in the profound and naturalistic and human sense, a great religious moment in the life not only of the girl herself but also of the whole tribe. She steps into the realm of those who can carry on life and those who can produce life; so also for the boy’s puberty; so also for the ceremonies of death, of old age, of marriage, of the mysteries of women, the mysteries of men. I think that an examination of primitive or preliterate cultures would show that they often manage the unitive life better than we do, at least as far as relations between the sexes are concerned and also as between adults and children. They combine better than we do the B and the D, as Eliade has pointed out. He defined primitive cultures as different from industrial cultures because they have kept their sense of the sacred about the basic biological things of life.

“We must remember, after all, that all these happenings are, in truth, mysteries. Even though they happen a million times, they are still mysteries. If we lose our sense of the mysterious, or the numinous, if we lose our sense of awe, of humility, of being struck dumb, if we lose our sense of good fortune, then we have lost a very real and basic human capacity and are diminished thereby.”

“Now that may be taken as a frank admission of a naturalistic psychological origin, except that it involves a universal symbology, which is not explicable through merely naturalistic means. How is it that all humans come to hold these same archetypical symbols? The “primitives” viewed and understood a sense of transformation, which gave them integration into the universe. This is crucial for human development. They sensed a power in the numinous, that is the origin of religion.”[14]
Ceremonies and rituals about ordinary things such as puberty, sex, marriage, birth, death, these are attempts at mediating the Ultimate transforromative experiences that all religions take to the resolution of what they identify as the human problematic. Pre historic man says “I see a connection between my place in the universe, and this sense that I get when I reflect upon nature as a whole. I sense that I am one small part in a great unity, and I sense this in everything in life, falling in love, having children, death., I have a place in the universe in relation to whatever that is I sense beyond the stars…” The skeptic reduces this to “Og like girls, but girls make Og nervous.” So he makes rituals about sex and relationships to ward off the evil spirits that make him nervous. But it’s clear, while pre-historic man probably wasn’t an existentialist and perhaps wasn’t that sophisticated about it all, he did sense a connection between life and the numinous. Of course this doesn’t mean that the primitive humans had any special insight into relationships that we need to follow.  This is strong evidence that people have always had a sense of the numinous as far back as we know. This is an indication of some form of this sense because it clearly shows a connection between ordinary aspects of life and the transcendent. It also means that the typical skeptical explanation for the origin of religion is just losing the phenomena, taking out the real indications of a form of consciousness and reducing what they find to nothing more than a simplistic explanation for things.

While it is true that these experiences and their psycho-social uses have probably evolved over time, it is equally true that they were probably being put to the same uses all along because we can see the relationships between religious symbols, spiritual concepts, and psycho-social aspects. It makes more sense to think they were used in that way all along. the cocnept of the soul is just some simple idea of saying "what keeps me living?O it's some ghost in the machine" but rather why do I feel this strange sense of importance of life and the world when I stare at the stars all night? Then to explain mystical experience they come up with the realization that consciousness probably transcends the material world. From that it's easy to think it lives on after life. Then if the associate it with the wind in the trees and blood and breath and life, that's scientifically mistaken but it's not completely off track. It does at least link the feelings of mystical experience with the reality and meaning of the world and the after life.

Mystical experience is at the base of religion itself. "Mysticism is a manifestation of something which is at the root of all religions."[15] 

David Steindl-Rast,
The question we need to tackle is this: How does one get from mystic experience to an established religion? My one-word answer is: inevitably. What makes the process inevitable is that we do with our mystical experience what we do with every experience, that is, we try to understand it; we opt for or against it; we express our feelings with regard to it. Do this with your mystical experience and you have all the makings of a religion. This can be shown.

Moment by moment, as we experience this and that, our intellect keeps step; it interprets what we perceive. This is especially true when we have one of those deeply meaningful moments: our intellect swoops down upon that mystical experience and starts interpreting it. Religious doctrine begins at this point. There is no religion in the world that doesn't have its doctrine. And there is no religious doctrine that could not ultimately be traced back to its roots in mystical experience – that is, if one had time and patience enough, for those roots can be mighty long and entangled. Even if you said, "My private religion has no doctrine for I know that my deepest religious awareness cannot be put into words," that would be exactly what we are talking about: an intellectual interpretation of your experience. Your "doctrine" would be a piece of so-called negative (apophatic) theology, found in most religions.[16]

It makes sense that if every doctrine has it's roots in mystical experience that the doctrine of the soul does as well. Now it could easily be that the basic idea was invented by observing breath i the body and wind in the trees then backed up by these emotional experiences. That's ok it means there is no Casper the friendly Ghost-like entity in us waiting to get out. We do not need to hold to that view of the soul or the spirit. Spirit is mind, the word in Greek means mind, it's perfectly logical to understand consciousness as the aspect that lives on. A connection through mystical experience would be quite logical for the spirit. So the reality of consciousness as enduring connection with God and the infinite got mixed up with hoaky notions about wind in trees and evaporation and produced this idea of the ghost. That doesn't mean there is conscoiusness that survives death and unites us with God or not spirit that is reinvigorated when we give our lives to Christ. 

This tendency to want to destroy ideas of religion through scinece is nothing more than the illusion of technique. This notion harkens back to a book form the 70's by William Barrett.[17]Perhaps because science is misunderstood by many as thriving upon proof, and it is seen as the umpire of reality because its ability to prove empirically, (apologies to Karl Popper) the illusion of technique is created in the minds of those who misunderstand science in this way. I will say more about this in the next chapter. It is not the scientists who create the illusion but the needs of science groupies who expect it to ground their metaphysical needs that create the illusion. The tendency to reduce all knowledge to one thing enables the illusion to work. The illusion works in the way that reductionism works. If some aspect of reality can’t be gotten at by our methods then we assume it doesn’t exist, because that means it’s not something we can control.

"The illusion of technique," the modern dream of a single method that would apply in all areas of human concern. Such hegemony encourages thinking in terms of a "will to power," seeing things as 'manipulanda', that which awaits reshaping by humans. Barrett contrasts this with the "will to prayer," an attitude which, inspired by Platonic 'eros', seeks, not control, but active engagement leading to personal transformation.[i]

Thus the only knowledge there is, is in our control. In other words, the facts always support our view. So naturally our manipulation of the world is absolute and produces all the knowledge there is. If there seems to be anything beyond that we can reduce it and lose the phenomena and we explain it away. Religious experience is reduced to brain function, brain function is reduced to chemistry, chemistry has no room in it for transcendent sprits and thus they don’t’ exist. The illusion is backed by the fact that we can always manipulate more and more stuff and thus demonstrate our view of the world works.


[1] Bill Lauritzen, Abstract, “Can a Machine Have a Soul,” Journal of Personal Cyberconscienceness. Vol. 8, Iss 1 (2013) 30-39, 30-31.
[2] Ibid.31
[3] Ibid. 32-33.
[4] Ibid. 33
[5] Zbigniew SZYDŁO, “Who Discovered Oxygen?” Proceedings of ECOpole, Vol. 1, No. 1/2 (2007)
[6] Kevin de Berg, “The Enlightenment and Joseph Priestley’s Disenchantment with Science and Religion.” Christian Perspective on Science and Technology, ISCAST Online Journal, (2012) Vol. 8.   accessed 4/7/14.
[7] Margaret Jacob, The Newtonians and The English Revolution 1689-1720. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1976. Boyle’s Christianity and apologetics are discussed throughout  the work.
[8] Bill Lauritzen, Ibid. 38.

[9] Abraham H. Maslow  Religiooins, Values and Peak-Experiences, “preface” to the 1970 edition.
[10] Ibid, appendix I. “An Example of B Analysis.”
[11] David Lukoff “the Diagnosis of Mystical Experiences With Psychotic Features” Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, (1985) 17, (2) 155-81 in Lukoff and Lu, Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, (1988) 20, (2) 182.
[12] Ibid
[13] Abraham H. Maslow, Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences
Appendix I. An Example of B-Analysis

[15] Frank Crossfiled Haphold, Mysticism: A Study and Anthology. New York:Penguin Books, 1979, 16
[16.]David Steindl-Rast. "The Mystical Core of Organized Religion," ReVision, Summer 1989 12(1):11-14. Used by the Council on Spiritual Practices with permission. 1989
 on line:  
accessed 4/8/14.
Brother David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B., is a monk of Mount Savior Monastery in the Finger Lake Region of New York State and a member of the board of the Council on Spiritual Practices. He holds a Ph.D. from the Psychological Institute at the University of Vienna and has practiced Zen with Buddhist masters. He is author of Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer and Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey Through the Hours of the Day.
[17] William Barrett, The Illusion of Technique: a Search for Meaning in A Technological Civilization.
New York:Anchor books, 1979.

[18] Raymond D. Boisvert, “The Will to Power and the Will To Prayer: William Barrett’s The Illusion of Technique 30 years Latter.” Journal of Speculative Philosophy: A Quarterly Journal of History, Criticism, and Imagination.” 22, (1), 24-32.