If you’ve taken the time to read through this entire series, I commend you. The resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in human history. If it occurred, the Christian worldview is true. If it did not occur, then we need to search for worldview truth elsewhere. However, we saw throughout the last 9 blog posts that the historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is shockingly strong.
You know, there have been times when I myself gave refuting the resurrection a shot. But I could never think of a naturalistic theory other than ones I refuted in part 7 of this series. And according to Dr. Habermas, scholars are the same way. The fact that non-Christian historians admit the 5 minimal facts, and have basically just given up trying to explain them only bolsters my confidence in the resurrection’s historicity.
A Message To The Non-Christian Reader
If you were a non-Christian who became convinced by these arguments in this series of articles that Jesus has risen, I want you to know that you can’t just stop here. It isn’t enough to acknowledge that Christianity is true, you have to place your trust in Christ for salvation. This is the difference between “Belief That” and “Belief In”. Those aren’t my terms, I got those from Frank Turek and J. Warner Wallace. “Belief That” is an acknowledgment that God exists, that God is a Trinity, that Jesus died and rose from the dead, etc. While “Belief That” is certainly a necessary condition for obtaining salvation (see Hebrews 11:6), it is not a sufficient condition. After all, James 2:19 says that even the devil believes that God exists yet Revelation 20:10 says he’s going to Hell! Acknowledging that Christianity is true isn’t enough to get you into Heaven. You need belief that and belief in. What is “Belief In”? Belief In is when you act on what you know. It’s when you place your trust (the actual definition of faith, by the way) in Christ for your salvation. It’s when you receive Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and devote your life to serving Him.
Lee Strobel explains this in mathematical terms. Believe + Receive = Become. Become what? A child of God (see John 1:12 – “To all who received him, he gave the right to be called children of God.”). “Belief That” is the first part of the equation. “Belief In” is the second part. For years, I had only the first part of the equation until God wore me down and brought me to my knees.
You’re a sinner according to Romans 3:23; “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” The “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a) because God is holy and just (Psalm 9:7-8, Psalm 9:16, Psalm 10, Psalm 11:16, Psalm 103:6). But God isn’t only just, He is also loving. In fact, 1 John 4:8 says that love is a vital part of who God is. “God is love”. Because God’s very nature is love, He “so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). God loves “the world”. Are you a part of the world? If you are, then this verse applies to you. God loves you and gave his son Jesus to die on the cross to atone for your sins (cf. 1 Peter 3:18). Jesus was crucified in order to experience the wrath of God. He experienced God’s wrath so that you wouldn’t have to. God’s word promises that if you place your faith in Christ, He will be registered as your substitute. His blood will cover you, and God will look at you as though you had never sinned. He will see you the same way he sees Jesus; as a son who is without sin. This is the gift that God offers you. It’s a free gift. You don’t have to work for it. “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23b). Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not of yourselves. It is a gift from God. Not by works lest anyone should boast.”
Will you receive this gift? Will you receive the free gift of salvation that God offers you? If so, call upon God and ask Him to save you. You don’t need a special “Sinner’s Prayer”. God knows your heart. Just call out to him. “For all who call upon the name of The Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Your prayer doesn’t have to be eloquent or scripted. It can be as simple as “God, I now know that this Christianity stuff is true. Now that I’m convinced, I want you to save me. Please give me salvation in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
If you have received Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, I’d love to hear from you. Send me an e-mail at CerebralFaith@Gmail.com to tell me about your decision. I’d love to know that typing all these blog posts made an impact on someone’s eternity. Also, I’d be happy to talk with you about finding a church to attend.
A Message To The Christian Reader
For readers who are already Christians, I hope you study these articles or the e-book adaption soon to come out and master these arguments so that you will “always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15) and be able to “demolish arguments and any pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. Taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5). One of my goals as an apologist is to equip my fellow believers like you to be able to give people the reasons to believe that Christianity is true. Not every unbeliever will take the time to read an apologetics book or even a single article. Either because they just don’t like to read, or maybe they just don’t know that good answers to their questions are available. However, they may be more than happy to engage in a conversation with you about God. You may be the only apologist they ever hear or you may be the first one they ever hear.
You may be thinking “This is interesting and all, but I’m just not smart enough to be an apologist. Don’t you have to get Ph.Ds and spend years in seminary?” Let me tell you a story: I can still remember my first exposure to Christian Apologetics. I was 18. The year was 2010. I had been wrestling with doubts for months, but I didn’t tell anyone, not because I was ashamed of my doubts, but because I was worried that I would spread them around like the common cold if I expressed them. One night, while I was scrolling my timeline on Facebook, one of my Facebook friends had posted a link to a YouTube video. It was the documentary adaption of Lee Strobel’s “The Case For A Creator”. I was blown away at what I was seeing and hearing; several credentialed scientists were talking about scientific evidence for the existence of a transcendent Creator (from the origin of the universe, the cosmic and local fine-tuning, the information content in DNA etc.). My faith was restored. I bought Strobel’s books and read them. And although the evidence from science and history were good, I wasn’t able to articulate the arguments very well because I had only gotten the gist on my first read. I would try to share my faith with non-believers online, and they would pelter me with questions and objections that I couldn’t answer. When I prayed for their souls, I prayed that God would send someone to them who could walk them through the evidence for His existence and for the reliability of The Bible.
One day, after I prayed for these atheists a few times, I prayed once more “Lord, please lead these people to salvation. Lead them to a saving relationship with yourself. If they need reasons to believe, please send someone who can articulate the reasons for them.” And then I felt The Holy Spirit say to me “I want you to give them the reasons.” I was confused. I was terrible at articulating the Cosmological Argument or the case for the resurrection. How could God want me to be the one? The very next day, I was scrolling my Facebook timeline, and I saw a captioned image that said; “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” That’s when I realized that although I wasn’t currently equipped to deal with the challenges the non-believers I tried to witness to brought my way, I could, through rigorous study and training, become equipped. If God really wanted me to be a Christian Apologist, then he would help me learn the stuff I needed to skillfully contend for the faith (Jude verse 3). I read Lee Strobel’s books cover-to-cover several times, trying to remember what I read. My Mom helped me by getting me several books on Christian Apologetics as presents for my 19th birthday. Those books were “On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason and Precision” by William Lane Craig, “Who Is Agent X: Proving Science and Logic Show It’s More Rational To Think God Exists” by Neil Mammen, “The Holman Quicksource Guide To Christian Apologetics” by Doug Powell, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist” by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler, “Intelligent Design 101” by multiple authors, “The Apologetics Study Bible”, and “The Case For Faith” by Lee Strobel. I didn’t just read these books, I studied them. I read them cover-to-cover multiple times. My copy of Tureks and Geisler’s book is actually starting to fall apart due to overuse.
I joined a Facebook group called “Christian Apologetics Alliance” and I would frequently ask questions that had either occurred to me or was posed to me by someone I was dialoguing with on the internet. I downloaded lectures and debates from Apologetics315.com to my MP3 Player and would listen to these lectures over and over while I did housework and yard work. Later in my 19th year, I attended The National Conference On Christian Apologetics so I could learn even more. I bought Hugh Ross’ book “The Creator and The Cosmos” and Josh McDowell’s “The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict” at that conference. Over the years, I’ve bought many different books by many different authors on theology and apologetics, and I have read many of them multiple times.
In 2012, I decided to start a blog to share what I was learning; Cerebral Faith (www.cerebralfaith.blogspot.com). Since then, I’ve written nearly 500 posts on a variety of different topics; arguments for God’s existence, the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection, the problem of evil, the Arminianism/Calvinism debate, the creation/evolution debate, and others.
As of this writing, I confess that I have never been to seminary (though I hope to be able to attend some day). All of my knowledge comes from the self-taught method, with the mindset that I was going to learn and master apologetics no matter what. I was hell-bent on improving my skills. Through hard work, discipline, and determination, you too can become a skillful defender of the faith. The knowledge isn’t locked away in universities. You can gain it simply by studying the books. However, it won’t be easy, and it won’t come quickly. You will have to be dedicated to learning this material, but it’s worth it. It is so satisfying to be able to go toe to toe with unbelievers.
J. Warner Wallace, in a talk called “Call Of Duty” given at 2017’s National Conference On Christian Apologetics, said; “We don’t need another million dollar apologist. We need a million one dollar apologists.” 1 What is a million dollar apologist? What is a one dollar apologist? My friend Zachary Lawson gave this helpful analogy: A million dollar apologist is like Led Zepplin while a dollar apologist is like your friend who can play the guitar really well. A million dollar apologist is someone who has many letters after his name and probably belongs to a few philosophy clubs, and they are experts in their respective fields; people like Dr. William Lane Craig, Dr. Alvin Plantinga, Dr. Gary Habermas, Dr. Michael Licona, Dr. Craig Blomberg, and Dr. Hugh Ross would fall under this category. One Dollar Apologists would be people like me; who do a lot of reading and then write about what they learned. Or they’d be people who didn’t get a degree in a field relevant to apologetics (like philosophy, physics, ancient near eastern culture) but got a degree in apologetics itself.
I don’t mind being called a “One Dollar Apologist”. I don’t find it demeaning or insulting. I believe we need both the million dollar apologists like Craig and Plantinga, but we also need One Dollar Apologists.
This world is full of people who don’t know Jesus. A lot of them don’t believe simply because they don’t want to. They are in rebellion against their Creator. However, there are those who are earnestly searching for the truth, who are open to following the evidence wherever it leads, and if asked “If you knew Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?” would answer with a resounding “Yes”. We need to be equipped to reach these people. Don’t be like I was. Don’t pray “God, please send someone like Evan Minton who can answer all their objections.” God wants you to be that person. Jesus said, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). We are all called to share our faith, and since in many cases, questions will arise, it logically entails that we are all called to defend our faith as well.
I’ve heard way too many stories of people either going to their pastor, their parents, or their Christian friends with tough questions about and even arguments against Christianity, and honestly wanted to know if they could be successfully answered. These people were either rebuked for questioning The Bible, told “You just need to pray and God will give you more faith”, or were simply told that they didn’t know how to respond. Their doubts grew until they finally ended up leaving Christianity entirely, often once they went to a university. You may at some point have someone like this attend your church. Your pastor may not be equipped to deal with the challenges he brings up. But if you take the time to study this blog series/e-book, and some of the other resources I’ve mentioned (e.g my own blog, and some of the books I’ve mentioned reading in the preceding paragraphs), then you will be equipped to deal with them. You will be the friendly neighborhood apologist, and people will start to take notice and will begin coming to you when they have questions. I have often joked that I’m “The Bible Answer Man” of my family. My friends and family come to me with questions all the time. Questions like “What happens to a person who commits suicide?”, “Can people lose their salvation or not?”, “Why did Jesus say He didn’t know the time of His second coming if He’s God and God is omniscient?” are a few examples.
No, you don’t have to go to seminary to get the skills you need to defend your faith. You don’t need to have an IQ of 130. You just need to study hard, and you should. This world can never have too many apologists. It will be well worth the time and effort you pour into it, I promise you.
C.S Lewis put it well: “If all the world were Christian, it might not matter if all the world were uneducated. But, as it is, a cultural life will exist outside the Church whether it exists inside or not. To be ignorant and simple now — not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground — would be to throw down our weapons, and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.”2
Let us be salt and light in this skeptical era.
1: This talk can be downloaded as an MP3 file at http://www.catapes.com/viewresults.cfm?cid=363
2: C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses,
This Post Has 18 Comments
I find it reasonable to accept the Christian scholarly majority view which says Mark 3:21, 6:3-4 and John 7:5 are teaching that Jesus' own family rejected his claims before Jesus was crucified.
I also find it reasonable to deny that Galatians 1:19 and anything else in the NT expresses or implies that James the Lord's brother ever converted to the faith.
I also find it reasonable to say that among the various extra-biblical accounts about James the Lord's brother, the one we get from Josephus, ie., the one that attributes no specifically Christian faith to this James, to be the most historically reliable version.
I also find it reasonable to say that the other similar accounts about this James as supplied by Hegesippus, Eusebius and Jerome, which sometimes make it seem James was a Christian, are less historically reliable, so that not even the extra-biblical information about James which seems to impart Christian faith to him, is sufficiently historically reliable as to compel an objective person to accept it…leaving me with no good reason to think this skeptical brother of Jesus EVER converted to the faith…implying that he found nothing too compelling in the reports of his contemporary Christian friends about Jesus rising from the dead.
I also find that because the Christian scholarly majority translation/interpretation of Mark 3:21, 6:3-4 and John 7:5 give skeptics a certain bit of ammo, these passages are thus "embarrassing" and thus pass a criteria of embarrassment which other NT texts, which say Jesus did real miracles, don't pass…so that it is reasonable to say these particular passages have greater claim to historical truth than those which say Jesus did real miracles. That is, the NT stories which say Jesus did miracles, are trumped by these three passages.
I have considered the various ways Christian apologists might try to "reconcile" or “harmonize” the biblical truth that James was skeptical of his brother Jesus, with the other biblical truth that Jesus surely did rise from the dead (i.e., maybe James was always out of town when Jesus did a magic show, or maybe James was always drunk, stupid, looking the other way, etc, etc), and I find all such attempts to be purely speculative, far more lacking in historical support than my own theory that says James was skeptical because Jesus' miracles really were fake.
I therefore conclude, reasonably, even if not infallibly, that Jesus was nothing more than the first-century equivalent of Benny Hinn, i.e., long on whipping people up into a religious frenzy, but short on actually delivering the miraculous goods).
It's a very small conjectural leap from "the miracles Jesus did were fake" to "God likely would not premise his Second Covenant on the words and works of a deluded deceiver (i.e., the God of the OT likely wouldn't raise a deluded trickster from the dead for the purpose of ratifying or promoting the Second Covenant)."
My main contention is that if a person can be reasonable to "accept Christ" and thus conclude the bible is the word of God, at a time in their life before they know how to refute the skeptical arguments of bible critics, then fairness and consistency dicatate that you extend that courtesy to skeptics, and acknowledge that they likewise can also possibly be reasonable to conclude that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, at a time in their life before they know how to refute the arguments set forth by Christian apologists. Reasonable requires neither confirmed accuracy nor exhaustive comprehensiveness.
If you would be willing to challenge the thesis that says the skepticism toward Jesus by his brother James reasonably justifies denying that Jesus rose from the dead, I'd be willing to dialogue with you about it, either by private email, or by responding through whatever blog or website you wish.
I find this position you take on James to be strange. You say "I also find it reasonable to deny that Galatians 1:19 and anything else in the NT expresses or implies that James the Lord's brother ever converted to the faith." — but Galatians 1:9 says "I saw none of the other apostles-only James, the LORD's brother." The meaning of this verse is obvious, The Lord's brother James was an apostle. Now, since you conceded "the Christian scholarly majority view which says Mark 3:21, 6:3-4 and John 7:5 are teaching that Jesus' own family rejected his claims before Jesus was crucified." on what grounds do you say that we "no good reason to think this skeptical brother of Jesus EVER converted to the faith"?
If Galatians 1:9 says James was an apostle and Mark 3 and John 7 say that he was an unbeliever in his brother during his brother's lifetime, then it entails that James went from unbeliever to believer at some point for some reason. The only way to deny this conclusion is to say that Mark and John independently fabricated the embarrassing detail of James' skepticism or say that Paul has a completely different James in mind in Galatians 1; a proposal I have not heard from either Christian or non-Christian scholars. Or you could say that James was lying about his conversion, but his martyrdom at the hands of the sanhedrin make this option untenable.
You said that the historical attestation for James' martyrdom is less reliable in Hegessipus and Clement. Fine. You still find Josephus a reliable source, right? Okay, so perhaps if you're right, Jame's martyordom isn't multply attested. But it is still, even by your reckoning, found in a source very close to the execution (i.e Josephus) which makes it pass the criterion of early attestation. Why not just trust what Josephus has to say?
Moreover, what exactly is the issue with saying "maybe James was always out of town when Jesus did a magic show, or maybe James was always drunk, stupid, looking the other way, etc, etc"? From my reading of the gospels, I get the impression that while Jesus was doing a lot of traveling, his family for the most part stayed at home. James probably didn't witness a good majority of the miracles, but only heard reports of them. In fact, the text even says that most of Jesus' miracles weren't done in his home town (see Mark 6).
In any case, you should take into account ALL of the minimal facts; Jesus' death by crucifixion, His empty tomb, His postmortem appearances to the disciples and Paul. Even if you were skeptical of the appearance to James, these would still be historical facts in need of an explanation. And I have found no naturalistic explanation that satisfactorily explain even just those 4.
As further reason to believe that "skepticism toward Jesus by his brother James [[does not]] reasonably justiy denying that Jesus rose from the dead" consider the fact that there have been times that I haven't even mentioned this minimal fact, mostly due to time constraints in dialogue, instead opting to mention the empty tomb and appearances to The Twelve and Paul. Take away the appearance to James if you want. The case only loses one line of evidence.
Thanks for the reply.
My consistent experience is that apologists routinely mistake my comprehensiveness with "flaming". So while in the past I would post here my extensive point by point reply, I avoid doing so, I instead posted it at my blog. Most apologists insist that atheist bible critics are fools, so perhaps you can understand why we don't think a few words here and a few words there gives the world a realistic impression of how powerful our arsenal really is.
For now, two issues:
First, even inerrantist Christian scholars admit that the meaning and proper translation of Galatians 1:19 cannot be resolved with reasonable confidence. They would hardly make such concession if what the verse meant was "obvious". So the issue between you and I will now be whether I can be reasonable adopt the same view taken by some Christian scholars.
Second, you opine that Jesus' family "for the most part stayed at home" while Jesus was running around the landscape. That is, you were trying to come up with a plausible and historically justified manner of understanding what James was like, that will make it easier to reconcile his undeniable skepticism, with your other theory that Jesus' miracles were genuinely supernatural.
I find this attempted harmonization scenario unconvincing in light of John 2, which has Jesus’ family running around with him in his travels for a while.
And there is good NT precedent for saying that calling somebody insane meant they were demon possessed, so that the Christian scholarly majority translation and interpretation of Mark 3:21 has Jesus’ family and thus James committing the unpardonable blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (calling Jesus insane) as they set out to put a forceful stop to his public ministry, and doing all this at a very early stage, obviously earlier than the events mentioned in John 7.
I could say more, but I've already run the risk of being characterized as a flamer with even this little bit of reply. The reply at my blog is more substantive. I'm not expressing or implying that you should reply to me at my blog, I couldn't care less about traffic at my blog, I'm just giving you the link in order to be thorough. We can dialogue through your own blog if that is what you prefer.
I look forward to further dialogue.
First, which scholars are you referring to. Of all of the scholars I've read, Christian and non-Christian, I haven't found one who doesn't think Galatians 1:19 isn't referring to the same James mentioned in John 7. Moreover, who do you think Galatians 1:19 is about if not James? What do you think is meant by "James, the LORD's brother."? Or do you even think that's what the verse is supposed to say? If it isn't meant to refer to "James, The LORD's Brother", then who is it about? I asked this question before, but you didn't answer it.
Secondly, John 2 gives no indication that Jesus' family traveled with him as he walked all over preaching, performing miracles, etc. John 2 only says Jesus's family went with him to the wedding held at Cana. To extrapolate from this that therefore Jesus' family frequently went where He went is an unjustified assumption. It's quite a leap to go from "Jesus' family went with him to Cana" to "Jesus' family went with him on most of his journey". The burden of proof is on you to prove the latter.
And if Jesus' family did accompany him on most of his journey's, why are they never mentioned? You get the impression that it was only he and his disciples that were there.
Jesus performed one miracle at the wedding at Cana; the turning of water into wine. This is, perhaps, Jesus' most subtle miracle. All he does is command servants to pour the water into jars and take them to the guests. The guests taste it and declare it to be the best tasting wine. We have no idea if James even knew his mother had run out of wine, or whether he was in the room when Mary made the request of Jesus. If you want to say that he was, again the burden is on you to back that up.
You wrote \"And there is good NT precedent for saying that calling somebody insane meant they were demon possessed, so that the Christian scholarly majority translation and interpretation of Mark 3:21 has Jesus’ family and thus James committing the unpardonable blasphemy of the Holy Spirit."\ — but there isn't a universal consensus on what the unpardonable sin is. The majority of Christian preachers, theologians, and scholars think that the blasphemy of The Holy Spirit is resisting The Holy Spirit until death. James didn't deny Christ or The Holy Spirit until the day he died. Neither did Paul, whom we have much better evidence for his conversion from an anti-Christian mindset than we do with even James.
Finally, as I said before, In any case, you should take into account ALL of the minimal facts; Jesus' death by crucifixion, His empty tomb, His postmortem appearances to the disciples and Paul. You don't like the 5th minimal fact. Fine, let's throw it out. How do you account for Jesus' empty tomb, and the experiences of the 12 disciples and Paul that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead? If these historical facts aren't best explained by a miraculous resurrection, what would you suppose we put in its place?
I can answer all of your concerns, but experience tells me that point-by-point replies often become so large so quickly that it becomes nearly impossible to continuing to answer everything. Therefore, while I plan to answer all of your concerns, I think the goal of scholarly objectivity would be best achieved if I limit my replies to singular issues.
The first issue I'll limit myself to was that Christian scholar whom I said admitted Galatians 1:19 was fatally ambiguous. You asked who he was, but I quoted him in the link I provided at the end of my prior post, George, T. (2001, c1994). New American Commentary, Vol. 30: Galatians. On p. 74 he says:
1:19 Paul claimed that he saw none of the other apostles except James, the brother of Jesus. The expression is ambiguous in Greek, so we cannot be sure whether Paul meant to include James among the other apostles. Did he mean: “The only other apostle I saw was James,” or “I saw no other apostle, although I did see James”? Probably he meant something like this: “During my sojourn with Peter, I saw none of the other apostles, unless you count James, the Lord’s brother.”
You said the meaning of that verse was "obvious", so I think I am reasonable to focus attention exclusively on the following question: "If an inerrantist Christian scholar can be reasonable to claim Galatians 1:19 to be problematically ambiguous, and do this without giving the reader a monograph addressing contrary arguments provided by other scholars, can an atheist bible critic be reasonable to accept what this Christian scholar says as true, without examining the contrary arguments offered by other bible scholars?"
Of course, I'm aware of the other arguments, but I claim that because even Christians can feel reasonable to draw conclusions before considering what the other side has to say (i.e., they routinely accept Jesus before they know about the arguments atheists can throw at them), then you are going to have to admit that an atheist bible critic can possibly be reasonable to accept the findings of a conservative Christian bible scholar, and refuse to pursue the matter further.
That is, reasonableness doesn't require comprehensive knowledge, perfect accuracy, or a mind-set that automatically shifts into neutral on an opinion every time contrary evidence shows up.
Okay, so what you're saying is that multiple interpretations are available for Galatians 1:19. Those interpretations are
1: “The only other apostle I saw was James,”
2: “I saw no other apostle, although I did see James”
3: “During my sojourn with Peter, I saw none of the other apostles, unless you count James, the Lord’s brother.”
Each one of these says that Paul saw James, Jesus' brother. So what would be the issue with saying any one of these is correct? No matter which translation you take, you end up saying that Paul met with James, so what is supposed to be the problem?
And again, I still think you're missing the forest for the trees by focusing on the legitimacy of one minimal fact in The Minimal Facts case. As I said before, if you don't think we can establish the postmortem appearance to James with historical certainty, fine. Throw it out. Let's look at the other minimal facts and how to account for them.
Well first, you started out saying that the meaning of Galatians 1:19 was 'obvious'. But having discovered the negative comments admitted by T. George, can you agree with me that the meaning of that verse is something less than "obvious"?
Second, not sure why you are asking me what would be wrong with the truth that emerges from all of the possible interpretations, i.e., that Paul went to see a brother of Jesus whose name was James. I see nothing wrong with that truth. My argument doesn't say James wasn't an apostle or wasn't a brother to Jesus, only that there is no good historical evidence that James the brother of Jesus ever came to Christian faith.
My "problem" is that Galatians 1:19 cannot be reasonably considered a good rebuttal to me if the only part that might imply he had a Christian faith (i.e., the part that says he was an apostle) is considered ambiguous by even conservative inerrantist Christian scholars, who otherwise have every motive to view the biblical evidence in light most favorable to their conservative Christian belief that James came to believe Jesus rose from the dead.
You say I'm missing the forest for the trees by focusing so much on the legitimacy of one minimal fact. There are two problems with this:
1 – I've refuted ALL of Habermas' "minimal facts", you just haven't seen these arguments of mine yet.
2 – The statements supporting James' skepticism toward Jesus (Mark 3:21, 6:4, John 7:5) are more historically likely than other biblical statements that Jesus did real miracles, because these three passages fulfill a historical criterion that the others don't; the criterion of embarrassment. That is, James probably REALLY WAS skeptical of Jesus' claims at all points between the start of Jesus' public ministry and the crucifixion…because this is not the type of claim that a forger would likely invent…while the claim that Jesus did miracles clearly IS something a forger would find useful to invent.
I maintain that the contention that Jesus' family saw nothing supernatural about Jesus' miracles, will always have at least a bit more historical plausibility than any excuse apologists can come up with to reconcile their belief that Jesus' miracles were real, with the undeniable NT fact that his own family found nothing about his miracle-ministry very convincing.
Can an atheist bible critic's belief that Galatians 1:19 is fatally ambiguous about James' apostolic status, be rendered reasonable in light of conservative inerrantist Christian scholars who admit the meaning of this verse cannot be determined with any degree of confidence? If so, then kindly move away from that verse and give me another piece of historical information that you think reasonably shows that the specific James known as "the Lord's brother" ever came to adopt the Christian faith at any time in his life.
How *DO* you explain the undeniable NT fact that Jesus' own family maintained skepticism toward him throughout the duration of his earthly miracle ministry? You don't want to say they caught him deluding gullible crowds with purely naturalistic tricks…so your options are quite limited, choose wisely:
"Jesus' family was skeptical of him throughout the duration of his miracle-ministry because whenever Jesus was doing miracles…"
-they were out of town
-they were always looking the other way
-they were always drunk
-they were mentally disabled
-they were too jealous of Jesus' popularity to reason correctly
-Mark 3:21, 6:4 and John 7:5 are textual corruptions
-the majority Christian scholarly translation/interpretation of Mark 3:21, 6:4 and John 7:5 is incorrect, the NT never says anybody in Jesus' family were ever skeptical toward him
see my blog for the rest of my answer, which apparently went over your blog's word limit
So you concede the following historical statements
1: James' brother was a hardened skeptic of His brother during His ministry.
2: James had Christian faith after the crucifixion of Jesus.
You concede that both of these historical facts? Am I correct?
Also, whether a **person** is reasonable to adopt a certain proposition or hypothesis is irrelevant. I'm more concerned about whether the evidence favors more strongly a given hypothesis than another, and what is more reasonable in light of that evidence.
You want other evidence that James was a Christian? He's called one of the "pillars" of the Jerusalem church. This is mentioned in both the book of Acts (21:17-20) as well as by Paul in his letter to the Galatians (2:9). Paul and Luke are independently reporting this. Thus, we know this on the principle of multiple attestations.
From the criterion of embarrassment, as you yourself said, we saw that he was a skeptic prior to the death of Jesus. Yet from the independent attestation of Acts and Galatians that James converted after the death of Jesus. This prompts the question: WHAT HAPPENED to James to cause him to go from thinking Jesus was an insane con to the risen Lord of Lords? I would argue that what happened was that he saw His brother alive after His death. Now, we can debate the nature of this postmortem appearance experience if you want to. We can debate whether it really was a miraculous resurrection or whether it was a hallucination, a dream, a Twin of Jesus, or whatever. But that James had an experience which he at least believed was the resurrection of his brother is the best explanation for why he went from skeptic (Mark 3, John 7) to pastor of the Jerusalem church (Galatians 2, Acts 21).
Also, notice that I made this argument tossing Galatians 1:19 completely to the side. That's the beauty of the minimal facts method. I can concede so much and yet still make my point.
"How *DO* you explain the undeniable NT fact that Jesus' own family maintained skepticism toward him throughout the duration of his earthly miracle ministry?"
Simple: Jesus traveled. His family didn't. James had better things to do than follow his brother around like a lost puppy. He had a job. He had bills to pay. And we're explicitly told that Jesus didn't do miracles in his home town (see Mark 6). You seem to be under the impression that Jesus did all of his miraculous feats in his own backyard. But if Jesus were in other towns and villages (and he was) and James and his family stayed at home (which is never explicitly said in the text but is a likely inference), then the reason they would be skeptical is that they simply didn't witness the miracles firsthand. Why? Because they weren't even in the same town.
If you want to contest this, you need to produce some good evidence that James and his brothers did accompany Him on all, most, or many of his travels. You cited John 2 as one example, but as I said, that miracle was so subtle that it could have easily been missed. It was perhaps the most quiet miracle Jesus ever performed.
You raise too many points to justify trying to answer them all, so let's just focus for now on your belief that the Christian faith of James the brother of Jesus is proven from the fact that you think this is the specific James who is being called a "pillar" in Galatians 2:9.
Since you admit you can still prove your case even by forgetting about Galatians 1:19, ok…but even assuming James the brother of the Lord is the pillar-James Gal. 2:9 is talking about (a possible but by no means necessary inference), you are still inferring "Christian faith" from "pillar". I don't think that is necessarily inconsistent or wrong, but because Josephus says the more scrupulous Jews objected to the execution of this James, this tells me that the kind of "faith" James went around preaching, did not offend the more scrupulous Jews at all…which is a shocking departure from Jesus and Paul, whose preaching was highly offensive to the more scrupulous Jews.
And I have good reasons to be suspicious of Paul's credibility, so I wouldn't find it very compelling if indeed Paul meant to say James the Lord's brother was an apostle with true Christian faith. That's just Paul saying something, hardly the end of the debate, and this would justify an inquiry into his general credibility, since such a statement cannot be independently corroborated and thus it's truth turns exclusively on Paul's credibility.
Notice: Paul curses the Judaizers in Gal. 1:8. Then he calls Peter a pillar in 2:9, then he gloats that this pillar and two others gave him the right hand of fellowship (2:9), then he describes Peter as a hypocritical Judaizer in 2:14. The issue then is how smart it is to suppose that Paul's choice of description of other people is sufficient to establish historical likelihood where his assertions are without independent corroboration. As you probably know, conservative 19th century Christian scholar J. B. Lightfoot famously remarked that the beginning few verses of Gal. 2 are a "shipwreck of grammar"
So my theory about Paul's confusing of concepts could indeed be correct; that is, when Paul says somebody is an "x", it is legitimately debatable whether he would agree to all the implications of his chosen wording that a reader might normally draw.
So how could you be a "pillar" of the Jerusalem church, (alongside which Paul mentions Cephas/Peter and John) without being in the Christian faith. Let's look at what the verse actually says
"James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. "
And look at the entire context. What did Paul go to James, Cephas, and John to talk about? Whether or not he and they were preaching the same gospel (see Galatians 2:1-2). Paul wanted to make sure he and the other apostles were preaching the same message. What was the result of such an inquiry? Paul says "They added nothing to me." (verse 6). Now, this seems very indicative that James was a believer in Christ. Not only the does the context seem to demand this, but if James wasn't preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ whereas Paul clearly was, he couldn't say that he and James were on the same page.
"And I have good reasons to be suspicious of Paul's credibility" — Why would you? Don't you think a man who endured as much hardship for preaching as he did (as his multiply attested by himself and Luke in the book of Acts) would make sure he got his info correctly? I know that if I went through as much turmoil as Paul did, I would want to make darn sure my credibility didn't suffer in the course of my preaching.
As for Paul calling Peter a hypocritical Judaizer, I'm looking at the passage right now on BibleStudyTools.com and I don't see that anywhere even hinted at the text. Rather, what I see (and this is the interpretation I've heard the majority of the commentators that I have read make) is that Peter trying to compromising with the Judaisers to get on their good side, not that Peter was a Judaiser himself. Paul says Peter ate with the Gentiles, but when the Judaizers came, he stopped.
"For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. " (2:12-13).
Are you going to answer my prior question? Was I reasonable to use an inerrantist Christian scholar’s admission that Galatians 1:19 is fatally ambiguous, to justify disagreeing with your belief that the meaning of that verse was ‘obvious’?
Also, the debate we’re having might need to take a different turn, since you are assuming the truth of various Pauline statements, while I don’t find Paul very credible. Of course, I’ve done a massive amount of research on that single topic, and I cannot give you all the reasons here and then go back to discussing the issue of James.
When I said my theory of Jesus not rising from the dead because James’ lifetime skepticism cannot be more reasonably accounted for by any other theory, I did not express or imply that I could reconcile my theory with every statement made by anybody in the NT. All I committed to was the premise that I can show that my theory to explain the biblical data has stronger epistemic warrant, than any Christian theory.
Would you like me to justify my contention that it is reasonable for a modern day person to be suspicious of Paul’s uncorroborated assertions? That's a whole 'nother discussion.
For now, Acts 15 and 21 do not show James the brother of Jesus to be a pillar, only that a “James” was, and once again, there were two fully qualifying “Jameses” among the original 12 apostles, who were not the brother of Jesus. Things are NOT as simple and straightforward as your bible-believing faith makes it seem.
You puzzle over how James could be a “pillar” in the church if in fact he didn’t have Christian. But the early church’s beliefs and the degree to which they cared about Jesus are plagued with mystery. For example, the gospels all attest that Jesus had just as big of a ministry to Gentiles as he had to Jews, which would make it reasonable to infer that the post-resurrection church was quite aware of the reality of Gentile salvation.
And that would be a reasonable deduction if the NT contained nothing beyond the 4 gospels. But in Acts 11, they only learn such truth from Peter and his “vision”, and in v. 18 they respond as if Gentile salvation was some new shocking unexpected theological development they’d never have guessed was true unless Peter reported that vision.
One apologist has tried to get around this rather unexpected bit of ignorance in the early church by trifling that the church was only marveling that Gentile salvation was a one-step process instead of a two-step process, but that’s foolish. The words of the church in 11:18 are “God has granted to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life”. They are marveling that God has granted REPENTANCE to Gentiles, i.e., they marvel that God has enabled the Gentiles to take that very first step toward salvation, thus implying they never previously believed God had ever done this. They would hardly marvel about the “repentance” being granted, if they believed Gentile repentance was made possible by God previously. If that early church was so unexpectedly ignorant of something the gospels present as almost a daily reality (Gentile salvation), the door opens to the possibility that the early church's "pillars" were less compliant with the gospels that one might otherwise expect.
In other words, we engage in unreasonable error if we simply read common Christian presuppositions back into the early post-resurrection church.
so did you want to continue discussing this? Remember, there are two sides to every story. In my experience, both Christians and non-Christians are equally guilty of telling themselves that one person's side of the story is all there is to say…because hearing only one side make them feel more comfortable in turning away from uncomfortable truths.
I read your comment. I just decided to let you have the last word. I don't find your arguments convincing. I don't even feel their force in the slightest. But even if I did, that would just remove one of several minimal facts that need an explanation. A few times, I've responded to your objections, but you just responded with "You're raising too many points".
Ok, then let's just stick to one point at a time. You asserted that the meaning of Galatians 1:19 was "obvious", and I attempted rebuttal by citing an inerrantist Christian scholar (George, T. (2001, c1994). New American Commentary, Vol. 30: Galatians. On p. 74) who says we cannot be sure whether Paul did or didn't mean in that verse to include James the Lord's brothers as a member of the apostolic group.
Can I be reasonable to believe, upon the basis of that scholarly quotation, that you were wrong to say the meaning of that verse was "obvious"? Or is there a reason why I should say George, T. was mistaken to say this verse is that ambiguous?
Thank you Mr. Minton.
Belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus defies good critical thinking skills and common sense.
If God the Creator came to earth in human form, performed numerous fantastical miracles including raising people from the dead; was publicly tried, convicted, and executed by a governor of the Roman Empire; but three days later, rose from the dead and appeared in “heavenly form” to multiple groups of eyewitnesses, including one crowd of over 500 people, SOMEONE would have recorded the dates of these events. But no one did. These stories are legends, folks. If these extraordinary, fantastical, but undated claims were made by any other religion you would laugh and not give it another second of your time. Jesus may have existed, but the fantastical tales about him are clearly legends. Period.
No one did? I think Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul did! lol
I don’t think you took the time to read this entire series. Even if you did, you certainly chose not to interact with any of the arguments I’ve given. All you’ve done is state a bunch of skeptical assertions. Anyone can make assertions. Why is it that I have to defend my belief Jesus rose from the dead with lots of arguments and historical facts but all you just have to is just make dismissing remarks? This is not intellectually responsible, especially for such an important topic as this. If you haven’t taken the time to read through this series, I recommend you do so. Then come back and tell me why my arguments fail.