Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Macleans and Jesus doubt: Just trying to sell magazines

This poor sod in Macleans magazine, Brian Bethune, questions whether or not Jesus ever existed.

And here we have John Tors, who basically refutes everything Bethune says.

Kind of like a big "Ouch".

I sometimes wonder, and I'm pretty sure I know the answer, if such articles as Bethune's are written for the simple reason that the media loves to tear apart Christianity. Sort of like a blood sport.

You should just read both articles to see for yourself how poorly researched Bethune's article is researched.

The most glaring problem with Bethune's piece is that he posits that the Gospels were written four decades after Jesus died; that the Gospels were written based on oral remembrances; and that these oral memories are unreliable. False, false and false.

"In fact, the Gospel books comprise two direct eyewitness testimonies by two apostles, Matthew and John, and apostles were the people best placed to know the facts about Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection.  A third, Mark, would be accepted in a US. Court of Law as the direct eyewitness testimony of the apostle Peter.[6]  Luke, the author of the remaining Gospel book, tells us that his account is based on data “just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us” (Luke 1:2) 
Nor were these Gospel books “written decades after [Jesus’] death,” as Bethune blithely asserts.  A careful examination of the evidence reveals that Matthew was published around AD 40-41, eight years after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, not “decades.”  Mark was published two years later, in AD 43-44 (and not later than AD 45), and Luke probably five years after that, in AD 48 (and not later than the early 50s).  Only John’s was written “decades after,” in AD 64-65 (though not in the 90s, as is often asserted).[7] 
In sum, then, we have three eyewitness accounts (and a fourth based on eyewitness testimony) of the life, ministry, miracles, and death and resurrection of Jesus written at early dates by men who emphasized that they were writing what they had personally seen[8] and who were writing “that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Luke 1:4).  This constitutes better and more certain documentation for the events of the career of Jesus than there is for any other ancient personage, including Alexander the Great (whose earliest surviving biography, by Diodorus Siculus, dates to more than 300 years after his death) and for the two emperors who ruled Rome during the life of Jesus, Caesar Augustus and Tiberius.[9] 
It should be understood, therefore, that there is absolutely no possible justification for any of the assertions made in Bethune’s article, viz. that “the truth of the son of God lies beneath the surface of Gospel accounts written decades after his death”[10] and that it is necessary to “separate the historical wheat from the theological chaff in the Gospels.”[11]  This sort of claim is manifestly absurd and, inasmuch as these same historians accept the accounts of Alexander, August, Tiberius, and others with little question, it is also special pleading of the first water.   And the subheading to the article, which states that there are only a “few things we knew about Jesus”[12] is utter nonsense.  With this in mind, let us continue on to examine the claims detailed in Bethune’s article."
And this:
"It should be noted that, inasmuch as the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus are the best attested facts of ancient history, as we have seen, if these claims about the untrustworthiness of memories were true, we would have to throw out everything we know about ancient history.  Naturally, mythicists never suggest doing that; such claims are wielded as weapons solely against the historic truth of Jesus, not against anything else (though it is hard to quell the suspicion that if turning all of ancient history into a black hole is the price of discarding the truth about Jesus, it is a price mythicists would be willing to pay). 
Fortunately, most people already know that these claims against the trustworthiness of memories are nonsense.  The studies do show that with a maximum of effort to mislead subjects, including lying to them, you can under certain circumstances get a small fraction to have faulty memories about unimportant things; that does not change the fact that memories are generally reliable."
And this:
"Not surprisingly, Bethune offers not the slightest shred of evidence either for the late dates he assigns to the Gospel books or that Mark was the first one written or that there was a period of oral transmission between the events and the writing of the Gospel books.  We should not be surprised, as there is no such evidence and never was.  Liberal scholars proclaimed the date of AD 70 as the earliest possible date for a Gospel book for one reason and one reason only:  Jesus foretold the destruction of the temple in Matthew 24:1-2/Mark 13:1-2, an event that came to pass in AD 70, and since liberal scholars dismiss the possibility that Jesus could foretell the future, AD 70 became the terminus post quem for the writing of the first Gospel book, as the “predictions” about the destruction of the temple could only have been written after the fact.[30]  Needless to say, this is not evidence; it is metaphysical bias."
Finally this:
"...the skeptics and the mythicists absolutely require that there be a lengthy period (“decades”) of oral transmission between the events of Jesus’ life and the writing of the first Gospel book.  Without such a gap, the case of the skeptics and of the mythicists collapses.  And, as we have seen, the evidence shows that there was no such gap; the Gospel books were written early (the Synoptic Gospel books between eight and fifteen years after Jesus’ ascension) and by eyewitnesses directly writing their own testimony (in the case of Matthew and John) or an agent writing the direct eyewitness testimony of Peter (in the case of Mark), or a man writing down what he heard directly from eyewitnesses (in the case of Luke).  Not one of the Gospel writers was writing down “oral tradition” handed down through decades.  Game over for the skeptics and the mythicists."
Tors total refutation is long but is worth the read.

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