Monday, September 30, 2013

Are Atheists Smarter?, Part 1, Zuckerman IQ Study,

 photo iq-bell-curve_zps96c4c392.png

A new major study on IQ and religious belief has been released, it's already caught the buzz in atheist circles. It's got a sophisticated and scientific approach to statistical methods, although that doesn't mean it is free of biases. The study, done by Miron Zuckerman and Jordon Silberman of the University of Rochester NY and Judith A. Hall, Northeaster University, Boston. The Study is major since it combined a statistical meta-analysis of a larger number of studies, the largest ever done before; its findings are overwhelmingly in favor of atheism. They used 63 studies showing a significant negative association between intelligence and religiosity."[1] (the study has been removed from the scribd source linked to)
The study for all its statistical sophistication, is beset by some basic flaws that are more or less part of the package of buying into the atheist dogma about intelligence.

Before really getting into I want to point out what atheist will do with this on the popular level. We already see it on U.S. Message board  where they are saying the study finds "Religious people are less intelligent than atheists." The study never says that. It says there's a stronger correlation between higher IQ and unbelief than between higher IQ and belief. It doesn't say why, correlation is not cause. Let's let assert that this "says" what they  want it  to say.

The 63 studies used range from 1928 to 2012. "The authors look at each study’s sample size, quality of data collection, and analysis methods and then account for biases that may have inadvertently crept into the work. This data is next refracted through the prism of statistical theory to draw an overarching conclusion of what scholars in this field find." [2] The major findings are sumarized by Rathi, "Out of 63 studies, 53 showed a negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity, while 10 showed a positive one. Significant negative correlations were seen in 35 studies, whereas only two studies showed significant positive correlations." As the abstract of the study puts it,  "The association was stronger for college students and the general population than for participants younger than college age; it was also stronger for religious beliefs than religious behavior."[4] "Stronger for beliefs than behavior," In other words the relationship between being smart and being unbelieving holds more in terms of the beliefs themselves than for just going to chruch. I would also make that assumption. People might feel expected to go to church without believing the ideas.

  photo mironzuckerman_zpsb75a7211.png
Miron Zuckerman

Before analyzing the findings there are problems with the assumptions that must be understood. The study defines intelligence as "ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly,comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience.”[5] There are other forms of intelligence but we can bracket that for the moment. No real problem there. There is a problem with the way they use religiosity:

Religiosity can be defined as the degree of involvement in some or all facets of religion. According to Atran and Norenzayan (2004), such facets include beliefs in supernatural agents, costly commitment to these agents (e.g., offeringof property), using beliefs in those agents to lower existential anxieties such as anxiety over death, and communal rituals that validate and affirm religious beliefs. Of course, some individuals may express commitment or participate in communal rituals for reasons other than religious beliefs. This issue was put into sharp relief by Allport and Ross (1967),who drew a distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic religious orientations. Intrinsic orientation is the practice of religion for its own sake; extrinsic religion is the use of religion as a means to secular ends. This distinction will be referred to in later section.[6]
We start to see some problems of bias here. The concept of "belief in supernatural agent." This would no doubt be the hi-jack version of supernatural, not mystical experience, which is the original meaning of the term.[7] Not only would they ignore the mystic but also, depending upon how closly they define "using beliefs in those agents to lower existential anxieties such as anxiety over death, and communal rituals that validate and affirm religious beliefs," they might be defining religion too conservatively.That becomes important becasue it might lead to leaving out liberal theological types form the mix of "religious." If liberal theology tends to draw more intelligent people then one would be leaving the more intelligent religious people out of the count. In other words they are biasing their take on religiosity to include only the more conservative and fundamentalist types. Supposedly the findings determined that differences in education didn't matter for the correlation,[8] but that would be distorted by the leaving out of the liberals, who might tend to have a better theological education. It might also be that literalism implies less intelligence so by letting out liberals they might be letting out the more intelligent religious thinkers.

Another indication of the way biases might play a role is found in the opening paragraphs of the study itself in recounting the history of the study of the topic. In their brief history they show that findings seem to be correlated with the times. From the Early period in the 1920's to the 1960s the findings tended to be pro-correlation, intelligent people tend not to be religious. That coincides with a lot of things in that era, including the rise of reductionism, positivism, the secularization. In the 60s-90s the finding went the other way and tended to draw more intelligent people to knowledge of and belief in  religious ideas. [9] Findings show mystical experience increased a great deal in the 60s and due to both growing interest in eastern religion and mediation and "Jesus movement," religious interest increased.[10] During the remainder of the century the tendency seemed to be toward findings that affirmed there is no valid correlation between intelligence and religious beilef or lack there of. [11] Since the advents of this century the major studies have been pro-correlation again, correlating lack of religious belief with higher intelligence. That move is associated with the rise in popularity of atheism the decline in popularity of organized religion and the rise in scientism and reductionism. This history really tells the whole story, it illustrates not only the basis as they show up in the masses, urged on by trends in society, but also the biases of the researchers.

The studies done since Francis (late 90s) are not only badly done but they are also biased toward atheism. Some of these facts in no one of them biasing the Zuckerman study in a major way. Yet there are some red flags. To undrstand this we have to look at one of the major researchers of this century: Nyborg, Hamalton, Lynn, and Kanazawa. These have attracted attention for their biases. [12] We will focus on Kanazawa because he's going to have a special relationship to the Zuckerman study. Kanazawa assumes the Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis which basically implies that atheism is an evolutionary advance. That assumes there's a gene for atheism and and it's a beneficial mutation. That is not only an extreme idea but one we would be hard pressed to find much support for in the ranks of modern science (ironic that the head of the genome project was a Christian). [13] Kanazawa has been roundly attacked for making  racist assumptions, for example by PDF by Belayneh Abate who changes biased data collection.

Data Collection Problem: Kanazawa admits borrowing secondary data from different places. He borrowed the IQ data from Lynn (Northern Ireland) and Vanhanen (Finland) Table-1. According to him, IQ was directly measured only
in eleven Sub-Saharan African Countries and the rest was predicted using prediction methods Kawakawa tried to show that the IQ measurement was valid by analyzing the directly and indirectly measured data separately. It is true that no method of measurement is perfectly accurate or precise. However, one has to ask how the samples were drawn, and how the results of the sample IQ’s were translated in to national average. Whether IQ measures general intelligence
or not is another story. For the moment, let’s assume it does. Most IQ tests include both verbal and written tests. How valid will be the IQ test in Sub-Saharan countries where almost all sense organs of the people are turned dysfunctional
by dictator rulers who are supported by major powers of the world? In addition to that, IQ measurement is not entirely objective. Our daily life proves how people are prejudiced towards one another irrespective of educational status.
Therefore, to what extent should we believe the validity of the IQ measurements of Lynn and Vanhanen? What about the possibility of differential misclassification errors in the IQ measurement?[14]

Kanazawa was fired from Psychology Today for these views (and racist implications that brought charges of racism). He was also disciplined by London School of Economics for these implications.  In the oct 22, 2012 post of this blog I wrote:

Kanazawa is a reader in management at the London School of Economics, he has set him about the task of doing battle with what he calls "political correctness." He bases his theoretical orientation in evolutionary psychology. Meaning, behind his assumptions lurk the dragon of sociolo biology, so we should suspect a link to the "Bell Curve" sort of thinking. LSE has forbade him to publish in non peer reviewed sources for a year as a result of the controversy surrounding his work.(BBC News London, He was fired from Psychology Today for the Blog (which I criticized on Atheistwatch) "psychology today," it was Savanna principle primarily that got him the sack (, changing the color of Democracy June 1, 211).

Unfortuntely Kanazawa plays are more important role than just having his data included as one of 63 studies. He actually performed some of the statitical analysis that went into the study. A note under "acknowledgements" states:


We thank the investigators who provided additional information about their studies at our request. We are particularly grateful to... Satoshi Kanazawafor performing a number of statistical analyses on his data, andinvariably sending us the results on the same day he received our query.

1. Kanazawa conducted these analyses in response to our request(S. Kanazawa, personal communication, April 2012).2. The formula for correcting
for range restriction is (Sackett &Yang, 2000):
-4 scale); standard deviation

I have not reproduced the data in the example as it doesn't copy accurately. But it is listed on page 23 of the study and one can read the formula. This is one example of what they call "a number of statistical analyses." Not only does this raise a red flag in terms of their findings, but raises questions of bias and the author's own identification with the ideological commitments of Kanazawa. While we must be careful to avoid guilt by association, one can't help but wonder why they would allow him to be the one to contribute that analysis? While that is not proof off any kind of wrong doing, it must raise a caution.

Over all the argument is that the data from before the "humanistic era" of counter culture (60s-70s) and after that era are both suspect. Of course that's  a two edged sword. They might argue that the data from the 60s is biased the other way. It would seem the study methodology is better in that era since Kanazawa didn't get his data originally but used that provided by Nyborg et al. Nyborg's data is suspect (see FN 12 below). Nyborg's data is also criticized most seriously by William T. Dickens and James R. Flynn (Brookings institution). [15] Nyborg quotes Lynn and Lynn uses Hamilton and both use Knazawa and he uses them. It's a citation circle and it's all based upon genetic superiority (echoed in the Psychology today blog with Barber and Kanazawa) and it links genetic superiority to atheism. It's clearly the outlines of a massive ideology based upon some unsavory ideas that represents the basis of IQ/Religion research in the first decade of the century and the Zuckerman study is plugged right into it. It may not mean that Zuckerman is biased and I'm certainly not trying to tar him with the same brush in racist terms, but it has to effect his data not only he uses the studies but the guy who did one  of them contributed to his statical analysis.

There we have to ask do they have a way to really fail safe themselves against the possibility of dogmatic bias? They think they do becuase they say the have statistical means of overcoming bias. But can they really do that when the problem is at such a fundamental level as their very definition of religion? Many of the studies going into their analysis are seen as bad. Can they make up for that?
The most recent period of studies (this century) appear to have their biases. Above I alluded to the possibility of bias in the early period (1920's-60s). Now it's time to find examples that might indicate the probability of this bias. Zuckerman and his colleagues quote the first Argyle study (1958), For example,  the first Argyle study found that "intelligent students are much less likely to accept Orthodox beliefs and rather less likely to have pro-religious attitudes."[16] That could just as easily mean that "Orthodox includes conservative religious ideas but not theologically liberal ones." Does "rather less likely to have pre religious attitudes" equal being atheists? One could self identify as a member of a religious tradition and have some attitudes that are classified as "not pro religious." I have atheists habitually asserting that liberal theological views are not pro religious. One site on the net where an atheist has argued the IQ issue for a long time, and he makes that assumption. The Inconclusive nature of Argyles findings is born out by the fact that his second study (with Beit-Hallahmi--1997) draws no conclusion in the matter of the corrolation between intelligence and religous belief, saying "there is no great difference in intelligence between religious and non religious." [17]

How do Zucekrman et al classify that? Do they count the first study as "pro-negative" (correlation between intelligence and religion) and the second as no correlation? What of the implications of the first study in relation to a more liberal understanding of religion? Moreover the Thomas Simington Study (1935) finds that: "There is a constant positive relation in all the groups between liberal religious thinking and mental ability There is also a constant positive relation between liberal scores and intelligence." Thus establishing the link that liberal theological types are high IQ scorers. Oddly enough Zuckeman leaves out this study. Not listed on his bibliography.[18] Thus there is good reason to suspect that they are only using studies that measure the conservative end of belief thus are leaving out the IQ ranges of the more liberal theology inclined. They might also be leaving out the more deeply spiritual as their definition of belief seems to revolve around a more literalistic supernatural "agent" rather than mystical experience. I can't help but remember a statement from one of the studies on mystical experience:

 Overall then we have reason to believe that the studies finding negative correlations has anti-religious biases of the times. They didn't accept liberal theology as religious and sought to compare secular thinking to conservative forms of religion, or they supported the savannah theory of genetics and thus see atheism as an advance in human evolution (among other biases). While the 60's studies that tend to find a positive correlation (religion and intelligence) might also have the bias of its own day we would have to examine the specific data to determine its significance.

There is also a point to be made about the numbers of studies and what's being left. Rathi claims that Zuckerman found 53 out of 63 studies with negative correlation. That's overwhelming unless the 63 studies are bad and the other 10 are good. While that's probably not likely we can raise more questions about the quality of the studies used. Another striking feature is the conspicuous absence of studies known to have findings of a positive correlation. Several studies that I know are positive in correlation are not found in the Zuckerman study:no Simington, no Pratt, no Rummell, no Corey. All of these are found in the list by Steve Kangus (the atheist list) (see Note 17). Using his list (some of this were put in the wrong category) I have 6 negative (that high IQ not religious) vs. 17 either positive (High IQ are religious) or no correlation. Yet Rathi counts only 10 that dont' support Zuckerman's correlation. That means somewhere seven studies at least are being overlooked. Fancis says in his first study that the  greater number was with the negative. That doesn't mean the quality studies were negative. So even though it may be that the majority of studies find negative correlation, that doesn't prove that this is the answer. The studies left out (I know there are more than 10 that are not in line with the negative) are conspicuous by their absence.

Zuckerman et al says the reason for leaving studies out is:
Studies were included in the meta-analysis if they examined the relation between intelligence and religiosity at the individual level, and if the effect size (Pearson r) of that relation was provided directly or could be computed from other statistics. For several studies, intelligence and religiosity were measured, but the authors did not report the relation between these two variables. Authors of such studies were contacted to obtain the relevant information. If authors did not respond to our first request, two more reminders were sent. When necessary, second and/or third coauthors were also contacted. Studies that examined the relation between intelligence and religiosity indirectly (e.g., comparisons atgroup levels, comparisons between scientists and the general population) were excluded
Simington seems to report it. We can't really know more without actually getting hold of the studies but I think this is enough to raise concerns.

Summary: four arguments have been made to the effect that the Zuckerman study may have some problems that bear scrutiny.

I. Studies reflect bias of their times.
II. Direct influence from biased soruces.
III. View of religion used is too conservative
IV. Study doesn't include several known studies with counter findings.

First, that in examining the history of the topic study findings seem to move with the biases of the times. Secondly, for the latter period the studies may be tainted by the biases of a extremist view of life and even perhaps racism. Thirdly, too conservative view of religion and leaving out of liberal religious views biases the findings. Fourthly, that too many positive correlated studies are left out and this raises questions about bias. The authors claim to have used statistical methods to control for bias that can only work to the extent that one includes all the relevant studies. If the biases of the studies use for too fundamental to the assumptions and if the person doing analysis shares the bias then it's not goign to help.

There are even more devastating arguments in part 2. In that section I move form study inducement to counter arguments, that arguments that seek to disprove the relationship between intelligence and atheism or seek to disprove the conclusions atheists might draw from Zuckerman.


[1] Miron Zuckerman, Jordon Silberman, and Judith Hall, "The Relation Between Intelligence and Religiosity: A Meta Analysis and Some Proposed Explanations." Personality and Social Psychology Review. Sage Publications (August 6, 2013 online first version of record). URL:

accessed 8/13/13.

totally unfair the Zuckerman study has been removed. Accessed to it can be purchased here.

[2] Ashat Rathi, "New Meta Analysis Checks the Correlation Between Intelligence and Faith," ars technia: Scientific Method,Science/Exploration (April 11, 2013) on line  accessed 8/13/13.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Zuckerman, et al, op. cit.

[5] Ibid, abstract. 1.

[6] Ibid. 1.

[7] Empirical Supernatural article

[8] Rathi, op. cit.

[9] Zuckerman, et al, op cit, 2.

[10] find

[11] Zuckerman, op cit, 2.

[12] "Atheist IQ Scam, Bad Science and Atheist Assumptions: Kanazawa, Nyborg, Lynn, and Hamilton.
Atheist Watch, (Jan 22, 2012) blog,
 accessed 8/12/13.

[13] Atheist Watch, "Atheism's Psychology Today Scam," (Oct 3, 2010) accessed 8/12/13

[14] Belayneh Abate "Poisoned with defective theories, Kanazawa Insults Others “Mentally Retarded”pdf (10/10/2006) accessed 8/12/13

[15] Willam T. Dickens and James R. Flynn, "common Ground and Differences," pdf  accessed 8/12/13.

see also Denyse O'Leary, "Does Religion Rot Teenager's Brains?" MercatorNet, (July, 25, 2011)
Monday, 25 July 2011
Monday, 25 July 2011 accessed 8/12/13

 Ron Unz, "Unz on Race/IQ--Response to Lynn and Nyborg." The American Conservative
(August 4, 2012)
accessed 8/12/13
I also quote Brown in the American Guardian, just in case people want to make something out of quoting form the American Conservative.

Lynn's data was criticized: "The positive correlation between intelligence and atheism was a strong one, but the study came under criticism from Gordon Lynch of Birkbeck College, because it did not account for complex social, economical, and historical factors." See Rathi above. Lynn is important and could be considered one of the top researchers but he's also known for supporting the idea that IQ is racial.

[16] Zuckerman, Op. Cit., 2 (from first Argyle study, 96).

[17] Steve Kangus, editor, Liberalism Resurgent,  (accessed 8/12/13) this is a page combatting the myth that religious people are more intelligent. The site apparently sees religious belief and scinece as oppossies and as opponents, mutually exclusive.

The IQ argument is found here: (accessed 8/12/13) my rebuttal is here: In "who is smarter" on Doxa: Christian Thought in the 21st century.  I feel I rather put the matter to rest.

[18] The Simington study was originally listed on the original website I was rebutting (see previous note). that was years ago and the site has changed its list over time. He now includes studies that show no correlation as though that proves his point. It is actually a disproof as he is trying to that atheists are smarter. No correlation means there's no link bewteen intelligence and beilef. The list still includes Simington.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Part 2 of Story of Empty Tomb Dated MId First Century

Part 1 is what was published in J.P. Holdings book on the Resurrection, this is the part that's not in the book Defending the Resurrection. It was not turned because it's bad but becuase it made the overall article too long.

Authorship and Inspiration

Skeptics tend to assume that redaction means no inspiration. They tend to have a very fundamentalist view of inspiration, the author is a robot essentially or doing automatic writing and just copying words God speaks in his head. We need to not assume this. Avery Dulles, in his fine work Models of Revelation, shows that many of the major conservative evangelical theologians who deal with inspiration have different views of what inerrancy means. Here are the examples that he uses:

*Inerrency of original autographs and divine protection of manuscripts.
Proponents of this view include Harold Lindsell.

*Inspiration of autographs with minor mistakes in transmission of an unessential kind.
Carl C.F. Henry.

*Inerrency of Textual intention without textual specifics.
Clark Pinnock.

*Inerrancy in Soteric (salvation) knowledge but not in historical or scientific matters.
Bernard Ramm

*Inerrent in major theological assertions but not in religion or morality.
Donald Blosche and Paul K. Jewett[23]

These are conservative Evangelical options remember. Anyone of these options could include the redaction process by a community, this does not rule out the process of inspiration.
Skeptics also tend to assume that if the autographs were not written by the name sakes, Matthew not written by Matthew, John not written by John, then it can’t be inspired. Many conservative evangelicals in the pew believe this as well but I am not sure any serious evangelical theologians argue it. I do not accept this idea. The names were put on latter; we only go by what the apostolic fathers told us. But we need not assume that even the Apostles were not part of the process of authorship. Modern scholars think of authorship more in terms of community now then of a single author, but as will be argued below that does not remove inspiration form the picture. While the final products as we know them (ie “Matthew,” “Mark,” “Luke,” “John”) are more the products of communities than of single authors that need not indicate that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John themselves were not the originators of that process. For one thing Mark and Luke were not Apostles, we all know this. No one ever claimed they were. In fact I really see much less reason to doubt those authorship's because why would anyone trying to lend prestige to a manuscript by ascribing it to a great authority choose Mark and Luke rather than Peter or Paul? Mark and Luke were secondary figures, they were not very well known and don’t play major roles in Acts (aside for writing it). So while authorship by a community for Mark or Luke is not the death knell of those gospels, it is not necessary to assume that they not authored by Mark and Luke.
Why would Mark and Luke use the Ur Gospel reading when they had Peter and Paul to draw from? Luke also had Andronicus and Junia (Romans 16) who were apparently in on the early days of the faith, and others? Luke tells us he consulting the many attempts already made at writing the account of Jesus life. Mark, Papias tells us, recorded the Memoirs of Peter, but not in order.[24] The lack of chronological order could be significant because it would furnish a reason why the redactors would redact it; to change the chronological order to one that was known from other witnesses to be more accurate. In fact we can assume perhaps the Ur Gospel would be that source. Mark himself could have used the Ur Gospel of the reason but the redactors after Mark could have done so. The theory of an Ur Mark, a primary core to the Gospel of Mark has been circulating since the nineteenth century. The Ur Mark could be the original core that Mark recorded.[25] We know that Matthew and Luke did not use quite the same versions of Mark, so Mark was a work in progress that started very early around a core set of data and continued to be worked out in many versions.[26] There are reasons to assume that Mark did hear from Peter and used his memoirs as the basis for the work, because the action in Mark tends to center around Galilee. Galilee is the realm of goodness in Mark, as opposed to the evil city.[27] Luke Timothy Johnson states: "Two main preoccupations characterize the study of Mark's Gospel today. The first takes seriously the ability of Mark's Gospel to reveal something of the historical setting it addressed, and seeks to find within Mark's narrative clues for the deciphering of history."[28]
Matthew need not be removed from the proceedings either. As a child it always bothered me when I learned that Mark was written first and Mat copied him, why would an Apostle who was there follow the outline of a non Apostle who was not? Latter I learned to rationalize by saying because he knew Mark followed Peter’s account. There’s a much better explanation. There is a way Mat could have bee responsible for the gospel that bears his name without having it written it. Papias says that he wrote the Gospel in his own language (presumably Hebrew or Aramaic) and “everyone copied it and translated it as best he could.”[29] The translation would be one level of removal from Mat. Moreover, Papias refers to Matthew’s works as “the Logia.” This literally means “the words.”[30] Thus is could well be that he wrote a saying source, and someone else latter worked the sayings into a narrative. Again here’s this idea of a core work looking for a narrative order. The same chronological order that Mark’s core was pumped into also could have served as the narrative framework for Mat’s saying source. Mat’s Logia could have been Q for that matter, although that is getting a bit fanciful.[31] We might also speculate that the names were applied to the community and the gospels named after the communities that produced them. Thus the “Matthew community” followed Matthew and produced the Gospel of Matthew by redacting the saying source with a narrative frame.
My feeling has been to remove John the Son of Zebedee (John the Apostle) from the process, and this has been my view for some time now. Cullman, in The Johnnie Circle, effectively argued the Apostle out of authorship.[32] Richard Buckham doesn’t buy authorship of John the Apostle and seems to think the beloved was the Elder John whom Papias mentions.[33] What seems pretty clear is that it’s doubtful the Apostle would call himself “that disciple who Jesus loved.” There are other reasons Cullman and Buckham use, for example places where the “BD” (beloved Disciple) is mentioned In addition to the son of Zebedee. It also doesn’t make sense that the author would set up anonymity by calling himself “the Beloved disciple” then blow it by naming himself as John the son of Zebedee. It may not make much sense that he would call himself “that disciple whom Jesus loved” at all, but we can understand this as an addition by redactors, the same redactors who make their appearance at the end of the book and attest to the greatness of the author “this is that one.” We have always known this group of other people stuck their say on the back of the gospel. Why assume they had no other hand in its production than this? It makes perfect sense they would redact it and call the author “the beloved disciple.” They did feel authorized to stick their say on the end of the book. In so doing they also give us the indication of communal authorship, the elders of emphasis who actually produced the book in its final form and in so doing they all attest to its eye witness nature. They are at least if nothing else eye witnesses to the teachings of this disciple who Jesus loved.

Community as Author

The idea that the whole community was the author may be confusing to some. It really does explain the facts far better than the idea that the gospels were written by their name sakes. The fact of redaction is obvious; anyone who compares the gospels in a gospel parallel has to realize this. The idea of four or two (Matthew and John) telling what they saw from their own perspectives cannot be the same because no two witnesses could match up on exact syntax and have all their sentences clearly related to one another. Yet the community authorship thing also means eye witness testimony is the basis of the documents. The idea skeptics argue for, wild rumor spreading unchecked has nothing to do with it. The community told the story in controlled and orderly fashion so that each and every member would understand it and know it by heart. It makes no sense that eye witnesses such as Matthew would copy non eye witness John. To deny that conservatives get into dyeing what the vast majority of scholars see, that Mark was written first. But the communal authorship theory explains it. The community told the stories in communal setting, the eye witnesses probably began the process and then latter as the eye witnesses died off the other members demonstrated their memorization and told the stories with those who heard them countless times checking to make sure they got it right. Eventually he church began to grow and spread beyond Jerusalem and they could not hold that sort of transmission together forever. But they only had to hold it together for about 20 years, and then began to circulate the written documents. Of course this is speculation. How do we know this is what happened? There are good reasons to believe that here was some sort of controlled telling in a communal setting.

Fist, by “controlled telling” I don’t mean too controlled. They did not have the modern concept of “court rooms” and “eye witness testimony.” They were not telling the story to prove to skeptics that they had eye witnesses. They were telling it for reasons related more to the life and health of the group. They wanted to remember the events and the teachings of Jesus, not to prove to anything to anyone, but as a devotion to their beliefs. But the expectation of literal history is a false one. The Gospel of Mark is not a biography; it doesn't provide enough information to be a biography. Nor is it an attempt at writing a history book. In fact the Church's claim for the document is that Mark wrote the memories of Peter but he did not record them in order. Rather he records units placed in order by narrow bridge passages which are often rather veg. These units are known as pericopies and they are the point of the work; they are like pearls on a string, placed in a certain order to get across a point. That point is not a literal blow by blow description of what happened in the sense of a literal history book; rather, they are there for the edification of the church. The Gospels are primarily oriented around the needs of the church community and pertain to worship rather than apologetics.[34] We should not expect to find that the material is arranged in such a manner as to form a history book. While the mistakes in geography and other aspects of Palestinian Jewish life do indicate that the author is not Jewish, there is also an indication that the "author" is really a redactor. It is not the original source of the material that is not Jewish but the redactor who put it in its present form probably in Syria around A.D. 70. But a much older layer of material stands behind this surface reading, a layer of historical material which does link the Gospel of Mark with he original events and may actually link the work with its namesake and with Peter's Testimony. Secondly, the period of “controlled telling” would not have lasted long. After just 20 years the movement has spread to other cities[35] and began to change and grow to an extent that there could not have been even one eye witness in every group. The controlled nature would have fallen apart. On the other hand it’s obvious certain facts had been set into stone even at this early period, since there are a basic set of facts common to all tellings of the Gospel story even in non canonical Gospels; he’s always crucified in Jerusalem at noon, his mother is always Mary, his side kicks are always Peter and John, and there’s always an empty tomb. That configuration only had to hold together for about 20 years before it began to circulate in writing, by that time the facts had been established.

It makes sense to think that they had controlled telling, by “controlled” I mean they conformed to known methods of oral tradition that can be found in all bardic cultures and in the Hebrew culture for oral traditions. The earliest Christian groups lived together communally. They are reputed to have shared everything, studied together and to have been of one mind.

Acts 1:12-15

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olive Grove, which is near Jerusalem--a Sabbath day's journey away. 13 When they arrived, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 14 All these were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers. 15 During these days Peter stood up among the brothers--the number of people who were together was about 120--

From the first time the community is mentioned we see the story is being formed and the attitudes toward it are being shaped.

Acts 2:42-47

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers. 43 Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. 44 Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. 46 And every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added those being saved to them.

Devoted themselves to the Apostle’s teaching has to include a recitation of the events of Jesus life and his arrest, death, and resurrection. Why they devote themselves to the Apostle’s teachings but not mention what happened at the end, or discuss the great confirming miracle that grounded everything in the stamp of God’s approval? Moreover we see the communal structure that extended to ever facet from eating to studying the teachings.

Acts 4:32-37

32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles' feet. This was then distributed to each person as anyone had a need. 36 Joseph, who was named by the apostles Barnabas, which is translated Son of Encouragement, a Levite and a Cypriot by birth, 37 sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

In this quotation we see they were using the resurrection as testimony and they were talking about it the communal setting. In spite of the fact that we can be sure this was an idealized account, few scholars believe Luke just fabricated the events in Acts. He had some people from that era to draw upon. Paul got in on the end of it, Andronicus and Junia were there, and Pricilla and Aquialla were around. The four daughters of Philip of Hiropolis probably served major sources for Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. Even though some of this is an exaggeration, he could easily have known the basic flavor of the times and the events.
Moreover, we know that the Hebrews had an oral tradition, and as an oral culture they knew how to keep orally transmitted information straight and correct.

"No one is likely to deny that a tradition that is being handed on by word of mouth is likely to undergo modification. This is bound to happen, unless the tradition has been rigidly formulated and has been learned with careful safeguard against the intrusion of error"

This is exactly the way in which the tradition was handed on among the Jews. IT is precisely on this ground that Scandinavian scholar H. Risenfeld in an essay entitled "The Gospel Tradition and its Beginnings (1957).”[36]

Oral tradition in first-century Judaism was not uncontrolled as was/is often assumed, based on comparisons with non-Jewish models. B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans:

"...[T]he early form criticism tied the theory of oral transmission to the conjecture that Gospel traditions were mediated like folk traditions, being freely altered and even created ad hoc by various and sundry wandering charismatic jackleg preachers. This view, however, was rooted more in the eighteenth century romanticism of J. G. Herder than in an understanding of the handling of religious tradition in first-century Judaism. As O. Cullmann, B. Gerhardsson, H. Riesenfeld and R. Riesner have demonstrated, the Judaism of the period treated such traditions very carefully, and the New Testament writers in numerous passages applied to apostolic traditions the same technical terminology found elsewhere in Judaism for 'delivering', 'receiving', 'learning', 'holding', 'keeping', and 'guarding', the traditional 'teaching'. In this way they both identified their traditions as 'holy word' and showed their concern for a careful and ordered transmission of it. The word and work of Jesus were an important albeit distinct part of these apostolic traditions.*

"Luke used one of the same technical terms, speaking of eyewitnesses who 'delivered to us' the things contained in his Gospel and about which his patron Theophilus had been instructed. Similarly, the amanuenses or co-worker-secretaries who composed the Gospel of John speak of the Evangelist, the beloved disciple, 'who is witnessing concerning these things and who wrote these things', as an eyewitness and a member of the inner circle of Jesus' disciples. In the same connection it is not insignificant that those to whom Jesus entrusted his teachings are not called 'preachers' but 'pupils' and 'apostles', semi-technical terms for those who represent and mediate the teachings and instructions of their mentor or principal..[37]

The classical skeptical argument that the Gospels were written sixty years or latter after the original events so myth developed and changed and evolved into a resurrection that never happened, is invalidated by the fact that the empty tomb was part of the early telling and circulated in writing from a period only twenty years after the events. For only two decades (at most) the infant church had to hold together the truth as passed on to them by eye witnesses, and they would have had eye witnesses among them to help keep it in check. The argument that myth takes a long time to develop is not saying that it takes a long time to make up a rumor. Skeptics have pointed this out always, myth could begin in one afternoon, but what takes time is a concrete from of story telling. A mythos is more than just a bunch of wild rumors; it’s a literary work that includes a standardized form. This standardized form is seen clearly in the canonicals. Due to this fact we know there are traces of an earlier from shared by the canonicals and latter finished works such as the Gospel of Peter. This standardized form includes the empty tomb. These facts speak clearly to presence of the empty tomb as an early historical event that was part of the earlier telling of the resurrection and existed in the life of the community from the beginning.

[23] Avery Dulles, Models of Revelation, New York: Double Day, 1985
I highly recommend Dulle’s book for anyone interested in thinking through the nature of Biblical inspiration and understanding the major schools of thought in modern theology.

[24] Richard Buckham, Jesus and The Eye Witnesses: The Gospels as Eye Witness Testimony. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing co. 2006, 203

[25] Neil, 239

[26]Koester, 289

[27] Neil, 239

[28] Luke Timothy Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament, Philadelphia: Fortress Press p.1986, 148

[29] Papias quote on Mat’s logia, in New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, online version, URL: . article on “st. Papias.” Visited 1/19/10

[31] Buckham remarks in fn 1 that he does not translate the term “logia” because its meaning not clear and its disputed. But he also says it would mean “something like “amounts of what Jesus did and said.” My attempt at translating as “the words” is based upon my pigeon Greek derived form three years of struggle to fulfill my undergraduate language requirement, but that is literally what the words mean. That doesn’t mean my translation is good as a finished product. As Buckham says “it means something like…”

[31[Major scholars such as Koester have speculated that Q could be the Logia because Q contains many Q sayings.

[32] Oscar Cullman, the Johanine Circle, Philadelsphia: Fortress Press, 1976

[33] Buckham, 411-420.

[34] Neil,.234, 258

[35]Johnson 117.

[36] Neil, 250

[37] B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans* (eds.), Authenticating the Activities of Jesus (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998): 53-55

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Story of Empty Tomb Dated to Mid First Century (part 1)

Helmutt Koester

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.

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.

Part 2


[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

Monday, September 23, 2013

Answers from My Discussion With an Atheist: Logic Lad.

  photo aristotle20and20plato.jpg

I have been have a bit of a discussion with this atheist blogger "logic lad" who goes on message boards and argues about God. Something I've been known to do form time tot time (like every waking moment of every day for the last decade and a half). LL is a nice guy he's putting with my crankiness pretty well so I appreciate that. I don't like the answers I gave him on his blog. So I'm making more answers here. Why did I give bad ones? Well not but not satisfying. It has it has to do with the hour of the morning, the level of cafine intake and so on.

Logic Lad:
All the great minds that have built this intricate theology also all started from the point of view that there is a god so we better explain how we know that, not the scientific approach of look for evidence and then formulate testable hypothesis, and test them. Also I find it more than slightly telling that as human understanding of the workings of the universe moves forward so the philosophy that hides god from being testable also moves forward, almost as if the more we lift the curtain the more we must be convinced that god is in the small bits still in shadow.


 What may appear to be better ways to hide something are just really more dependable realizations about the certainty of it. The thing of which we are more certain is the nature of God that outstrips any sort of empirical nature. He spoke of an evolution of understanding in God talk. That's the appraoch I've taken in that discussion. It's basically like the appraoch I took in my blog piece of recent months on the evolution of God (part 1, part 2). So what evolves is not God but our understanding of God. Thus as our understanding evolves we gain a deeper sense of the magnificent of the God concept and it's transcendence of any human ability to pin it down or produce it through empirical data. What they are going to simply have to understand is that God is not a thing. God can't be controlled he's not going to subdued and conquered and understood as though he some kind of bit of nature that performs on demand for scientists. They can carp all they wish about not fulfilling their dreams of being charge but they are not and they are not going to be. God will say God. We can't expect the basis of reality to conform to being a small part of the whole. I think the wish to move beyond the limitations and get to the bottom of God is actually the sense of cognitive dissonance that one has when reality suddely doesn't match the paradigm that our ideology has led us to feel that it should.


If there was obvious and unambiguous evidence for god, we would not be having this conversation, the fact that may great people have believed is a simple argument from authority with a little argument from popularity thrown in, lots of very bright people believe unsubstantiated and unproved things that doesn’t prove that what they believe is true, or do you think homeopathy works based on noble winning scientists thinking they have proved it?
 "unsubstantiated" and "unprovable" doesn't equate to "stupid" or "not believable." Scientific theory of today has produced many aspects of thought that are unsubstantiated and unprovable:

Dark Matter

various opinions stated on that page but that's the point, it's not provable now and while one might "hope" or have "faith" that it will be, we don't know. 

String membranes
 Not even wrong is a blog ran by physicist Peter Woit who is not on the band wagon for string theory he's not the only one. He thinks it's unprovable. so do many others.
No emprical evidence for Multiverse and there may never be.

These ideas are science they are blessed by the priesthood of knowledge that says we may think of them and support them. Atheists mock and ridicule any idea that's not backed by empirical proof but they accept non empirically probable ideas when the priesthood of knowledge says they must. That's the demand for empirical proof on God rather laughable. They have to accept the fact that there's a different set of rules, not scinece but logic and its' part of knowledge too. It doesn't have to all the be scinece, there can be other methods for acquiring knowledge of truth. There can be logic and phenomenology. Physicists can't control that stuff so the reduce it out of the world of thought. It lends itself to supporting belief in God so atheists reduce it out of the world of thought. It's still there, it's still valid, and one simply has to learn it to be a real thinker.

Let’s ask this straight, do you believe in the Christian interventionist god? If so give me a good piece of actual evidence, not scripture, not philosophical musings, actual evidence that this being exists.

 The problem with that concept is that it's based upon the straw man atheist version of supernatural(SN) that was foisted in the enlightenment. I've written about that too in recent months. The counterfeit SN is God breaking into a closed system that doesn't allow him. The true concept originally was the notion of God raising the natural to a higher level. The SN is the power of God to draw us to a higher level of consciousness, and at times natural effects bend toward the higher law. God isnt breaking in nature is reaching up. You might try to charge that this is just a cleaver way of  spinning it but (well hopefully cleaver) but it's more than that. SN (which is the power of God) is the ground and end of nature. So nature is moving toward God's end for it anyway. If natural law is not perspective but description then descriptions are open to various witnesses. Some people do observe miracles and and amazing things that atheist refuse to accept. The atheist is in the dilemma not the believer. If natural law is prescriptive then the idea of mind as the basis of it is more important becuase it's more parsimonious than having a bunch of disembodied laws floating around with no reason for them to be. If it's descriptive, which is the bias of modern science, then it has to be open to different descriptions which do include miracles. Either way the former materialist closed realm of discourse has to open up. The empirical evdience that supports this is Lourdes. See my article on medical historians who find in the academic journal The History of Medicine and Allied Sciences* that Lourdes miracles are still inexplicable. See my miracle pages on rules of Lourdes and some of the results. There are also backing Protestant miracles.

I am not afraid to listen to actual thinkers, but the problem with philosophy is that at some point you need to test your thought experiments against reality, if your god exists and he can have an effect in the world then there should be evidence of it.

 The Lourdes stuff establishes that and the other protestant miracles. Even more accessible to pining down is the body of empirical work around mystical experience. The results of mystical experience in so far as they transform the lives of the experiences in a vital and postiive way are what we should expect form the divine. That fits exactly with the concept of God having a effect upon the world that can be empirically tested. Thanks to Ralph Hood's M scale these experiences are testable, predictable and can be documented as empirically valid. They are linked to the divine by both their content and their results.

 If not then all the philosophy in the world does not make the imaginary real. If you have evidence let’s get on to that, you need to convince me that there is a god, specifically a Christian god (as that is your chosen faith) before I commit the time and energy to looking in to any deeper truths
Of cousre that's just begging the question. These things can only be real if they fit the criteria that I set and that support my view. If the things that support my view are not used as the only criteria for truth then I reuse to accept it. That's basically what he's saying, and that is the standard line of atheist mentality these days. Nothing but begging the question, as he begins with the assumptino that it can't be real. "philosophy does not make the imaginary real." Why is it imaginary just becuase it doesn't fit the criteria that supports his view?

This is one of the great shams of the atheist movement. They want to take over truth by eliminating any other view rejecting other scientific views. Their libel and slander of the empirical studies on religious experience re nothing short of shameful. I've been getting that on atheist boards for years. Logic is not fantasy. We don't have to go looking for square circles, we know they don't exist. We can prove that logically without every having to look for them. They not the kind of thing that requires empirical proof, that sort of purely logical issue is beyond the empirical. It may be easy to prove God that pure logic alone but the point is there are aspects of reality that are open to different methods, everything doesn't necessarily revolve around the same kind of empiricism that supports the atheist view point. There are phenomenological answers that support belief, for example. There are kinds of empiricism such as the mystical experience concept that support belief. That is what they are doing by construing the fortress of facts strategy. They are touting a truth regime that replaces real thinking with the aspects of thought that put turth under their control.

 Bernard Francis et al, “The Lourdes Medical Cures Re-visited,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Oxford: Oxford University Press. (10.1093/jhmas/jrs041) 2012 pdf downloaded SMU page 1-28  all the page numbers given are from pdf
Bernard Francis is former professor Emeritus of medicine, Unversite Claude Bernard Lyon. Elisabeth Sternberg taught at National Institute of Mental Health and The National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. Elisabeth Fee was at National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.