Justifications for believing a historical narrative

A major bone of contention between us (TSZ) and our friends at Uncommon Descent is origins, how things came to be.
It is pretty clear from their recent writings that despite earlier protestations to the contrary, UD is a Christian apologetics website looking to boost and support the Christian story of origins.

Barry has claimed: “The documents constituting the New Testament are vouchsafed with the blood of the martyrs. Nothing else comes remotely close.”
http://www.uncommondescent.com/off-topic/73021/

Islam and the Heaven’s Gate cult also have had people willing to die for them. So, they come close. Also, not all of them can be true given their contradictory truth claims. We can therefore rule out wanting to die for something being a guarantee of truth.
KirosFocus looks to bolster the argument with “with 500 core witnesses, not one of whom could be turned by the threats or inducements of state agents determined to uproot what they saw as a potential source of uprisings”, but as far as I can tell this is poor thinking, he is citing the bible to support the biblical account (1 Cor 15:1) – So the number is irrelevant, we are still left with only the primary source.

KF also tells us, “we have four eyewitness lifespan biographies, one of which is volume 1 of the earliest history of the Christian movement, credibly initially complete c 62 AD. a two-volume work that has been abundantly vindicated as to habitual, detailed accuracy and capturing nuances of setting in ways not plausible for people projecting back from later times. This consciously historical work uses a second biography as a major source, reinforcing the conclusion”

This is closer to the truth; there are four accounts that were written at the earliest decades after the purported events all of which are part of the bible, not independent support for it. I image that people at that time would understand the nuances of biblical times far better than we do, so I’m not sure there’s any argument about ‘good context’ to be made.
See also (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synoptic_Gospels#The_synoptic_problem)

So my question is, outside of the bible, what historical evidence do we have for the story of Jesus? Having been told by Barry “The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most reliably documented events in all of human history.” (http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/on-why-liars-lie/#comment-580232) I’d like to see those documents, the non-biblical ones.

The scientific aim is obviously to have a consilient picture of events, multiple independent and reinforcing narratives, like this: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

257 thoughts on “Justifications for believing a historical narrative

  1. Neil Rickert: As far as I know, a birth certificate is usually a public document.Anyone with enough specific information can order a copy of the document.

    You’re teasing me.

    I understand that philosophers love to play games like this, but the US State Department has issued a passport to me on the basis of that birth certificate. The Social Security Administration has given me a number that – as far as I know – is shared by nobody else on the planet that has the information in that birth certificate. Etc., etc.

    In my view, if stuff like that is good enough to establish to the satisfaction of those agencies that I am the person with the name and date on the birth certificate in my safe deposit box , I’m satisfied that I have sufficient warrant to know my name without the intervention of a logos.

    Do you really know your name? I mean really?

  2. Pedant: That’s marvelous, but how do you determine the source of the revelations you receive?

    quote:
    We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
    (1Jn 4:6)
    end quote:

    Pedant: For extra credit, how do you receive these revelations? Through your senses, or by some other modality?

    The same way you do for the most part through my senses and mental faculties. But God is not constrained to any particular method or means.

    peace

  3. Pedant: I’m satisfied that I have sufficient warrant to know my name without the intervention of a logos.

    Really, you are pretty selective in your skepticism.
    What if you were in the matrix or a Boltzmann brain? What if you were accidentally switched at birth?

    peace

  4. fifthmonarchyman:

    Pedant: That’s marvelous, but how do you determine the source of the revelations you receive?

    FMM: We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
    (1Jn 4:6)

    I don’t see how that quotation answers my question. You can presuppose all you want, but Satan could still fool you, couldn’t she? You wouldn’t be the first one!

    What is your method for determining the source of the revelations you receive?

  5. fifthmonarchyman: Pedant: For extra credit, how do you receive these revelations? Through your senses, or by some other modality?

    FMM: The same way you do for the most part through my senses and mental faculties. But God is not constrained to any particular method or means.

    Superlative!

    Would you care to share with the audience the particular modalities of sensation that comprise your revelation receiving system?

    Eye, ear, nose, etc.?

  6. fifthmonarchyman: Really, you are pretty selective in your skepticism.What if you were in the matrix or a Boltzmann brain? What if you were accidentally switched at birth?

    peace

    How do you judge the selectivity of a person’s skepticism?

    Your method, if you please.

  7. fifthmonarchyman: revelation.
    but you already knew that

    No, I don’t know that meaningless blather at all. If you had something to which it referred that differs from known human thought, then you might at least be discussing something. How are you discussing anything beyond vague generalities?

    Please elaborate,

    It refers to nothing demonstrable.

    I think my presupposition is the only thing that adequately explains the universe and everything in it.

    Apparently only because you believe that, and use a definition that reflects said belief.

    It’s possible that there is another set of presuppositions that might explain but I don’t know of any. That is why I ask

    How would you recognize as much, since you make no sense with your own presupposition?

    How could you observe parallel lines that touch?

    Ever pull on two strings? Do a sighting down straight lines? And no, you don’t observe them touching, you observe that they do not touch. You would observe them touching if they did in fact touch.

    Actually, parallel lines can appear to touch, but if you continue down the train tracks, well, they don’t. Only limited observations, of course, but parallel lines were initially used in fairly limited conditions.

    It that anything like observing a square circle?

    Why would you think so? Be specific, as you never manage to be.

    1) It’s called the law of contradiction. Do you accept it?

    I don’t accept such a glib and worthless response as anything but that. The real question is, what is God? Your meaningless assertions don’t answer that.

    2) is the truth of a claim contingent on it’s usefulness for discussion?

    No, you just fail to make sense altogether, in or out of a discussion. That problem comes up in a discussion.

    a) how do you know this?

    How do you know what “this” is?

    Because the existence of the Christian God is necessary for knowledge AFAIK

    Trouble is, you can’t tell us how you “know” this in anything but a self-serving way.

    Do you know of another presupposition that works?

    I know that presuppositions like yours are worthless. So no, I don’t know of another bunch of BS that works, just as I know that your bunch of BS doesn’t.

    No God is a not like a circle except that just as circle can not be not a circle and God can not be not God

    Oh, I see, you can’t specifically tell me anything about God, as you resort to the usual vague claptrap.

    this is true non matter how you try and define them

    Oh, so you compared the definition of God to the definition of a circle, but they’re very different. Like we can actually define a circle meaningfully and represent it, while with God we can do neither. They’re incomparable, but you compare them because you’re content with vague and meaningless claims.

    1) He tells me so

    How do you know he tells you so? Please be specific and meaningful, as you have never done previously.

    2) If he did not reveal stuff to me I could not know anything at all

    How do you know that you could not know anything at all if God did not reveal stuff to you? As it is, I’m not very impressed with what God has revealed to you, most of it apparently being fallacious nonsense. But please, be specific. You know, go out and learn enough to discuss epistemology, as you seem incompetent to do so at all.

    If you ask clarifying questions it will make this easier. But I’ll give it a go

    If you wrote meaningfully, it would make this easier. But one gives up on that.

    1) Truth is what God believes

    How do you know that (skip the reference-free “definition”)? Please be specific, unlike the unspecific junk above.

    2) the Logos is the exact image of God, his thoughts and his beliefs
    …..Therefore the Logos is truth

    How do you know that? Please be specific and referential, not repeating vague nonsense that you believe, and/or that holy books claim.

    If this is not the sort of thing you are looking for let me know

    Like I didn’t let you know that.

    Wow that is quite a charge.
    It doesn’t sound very open minded

    Really? Is open-mindedness a matter of giving up critical thought, and believing the vague generalities you trade in?

    1)Do you have evidence that it is inherently muddled and meaningless?

    Do you have evidence that it is not inherently muddled and meaningless?

    Oh, I myself do have that evidence, your whole approach to the issue, the countless non-referential generalities that you have written in lieu of actually meaningful responses to questions. However, you appear unable to cognize your very inability to deal with human knowledge.

    2) How exactly do you know that the concept of the Christian God is inherently muddled and meaningless

    Why do you equivocate, since I was addressing your muddled and meaningless view, not the concepts of the Christian God in toto. Please be specific, since it would be useful to know why you equivocate.

    3) Since you believe that the concept of the Christian God is inherently muddled and meaningless

    Why do you believe that my rejection of your vague and meaningless presuppositions amounts to rejection of the concept of the Xian God as inherently muddled and meaningless? Please be specific, as one needs to know why you equivocate and understand dully, if at all.

    how can you claim to be unbiased in judging evidence in support of the existence the Christian God?

    Where did I claim to be unbiased in judging evidence in support of the existence of the Xian God? I doubt I can be. On the other hand, if you could make sense, rather than blather on with vague and meaningless assertions, I could at least entertain the notion. Until then, I reject such anti-intellectualism.

    The biggest problem you have is that you think presuppositions really are all equal, except as to the “consequences.” Utter tripe, good presuppositions are not at all like yours, they are what are inherent in our perceptions and conceptions, and they are neither taken as basic truth nor are beyond questioning, but some are necessary as being part of human reasoning. Yours isn’t needed for anything, except for your religious conceits.

    Glen Davidson

  8. Pedant: I don’t see how that quotation answers my question. You can presuppose all you want, but Satan could still fool you, couldn’t she?

    I am not disagreeing with you. The point is if God does not reveal stuff to me I can not know anything so whether Satan is fooling me or I am fooling myself the result is the same.

    If God chooses to reveal I can know stuff. Whether he actually does is a different matter entirely.

    Pedant: How do you judge the selectivity of a person’s skepticism?

    I’m just following the lead of this site

    “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.”

    If you don’t think you could be mistaken you are not a skeptic. Correct?

    peace

  9. hey Glen Davidson

    You asked lots of questions I’ll get some today and the rest later. bear with me

    GlenDavidson: You would observe them touching if they did in fact touch.

    If you observed them touching they would not be parallel. To call them parallel is to say they don’t touch. It’s a definitional thing

    GlenDavidson: Do you have evidence that it is not inherently muddled and meaningless?

    In your worldview what qualifies as evidence?
    What criteria did you use to make this determination? Do you have evidence to support your decision?

    GlenDavidson: Where did I claim to be unbiased in judging evidence in support of the existence of the Xian God? I doubt I can be.

    So you admit you don’t give evidence for things like the resurrection a fair hearing.

    If you are unwilling to look at the evidence from a neutral place it is no wonder you find it unconvincing in the end.

    peace

  10. fifthmonarchyman:
    hey Glen Davidson

    You asked lots of questions I’ll get some today and the rest later. bear with me

    If you observed them touching they would not be parallel. To call them parallel is to say they don’t touch. It’s a definitional thing

    Really? What about in hyperbolic geometry? A definitional thing? Actually, it is definitional in theoretical mathematics, but in real life we want to know. Euclidean geometry was meant to deal with real life, and it does to a good approximation.

    In your worldview what qualifies as evidence?

    Where’s your evidence? You’re the one with the BS claim, provide evidence, and not junk. I’m not into your open-ended BS questions.

    What criteria did you use to make this determination? Do you have evidence to support your decision?

    Do you have any evidence that courts would accept? That’s the question. I don’t owe you years-worth of learning that you don’t even care about because your BS trumps everything, in your benighted view.

    So you admit you don’t give evidence for things like the resurrection a fair hearing.

    No, that’s an extremely disingenuous misinterpretation of an honest response to another disingenuous statement that you previously made. I just admitted bias, like everyone has.

    If you are unwilling to look at the evidence from a neutral place it is no wonder you find it unconvincing in the end.

    I am willing to look at it as objectively as I would the decision I was voting on as a juror, but have enough knowledge of psychology not to suppose that I am unbiased (I’m not sure which way the bias tends, overall, however). You only have worthless presuppositions and disingenuous accusations, and those hardly call for careful consideration.

    Glen Davidson

  11. Pedant: You’re teasing me.

    Actually, no.

    I find it somewhat amusing that we rely on birth certificates for identification, but they don’t really prove what we assume that they prove.

    As far as I know, there have been cases of people creating a fake identity (“stolen identity”) by finding someone of about the right age, researching that person and ordering a birth certificate. They probably pick someone who died as a child, to reduce the risk of conflicting information showing up.

  12. I find it somewhat amusing that we rely on birth certificates for identification, but they don’t really prove what we assume that they prove.

    My BC has my footprint on it. I never had reason to have the print checked against my adult foot but I assume it is mine. Granted this is the hospital BC and not the official record which a simple form printout.

  13. I could mention DNA as evidence fo descent. That’s possibly a better kind of evidence than eyewitnesses.

  14. GlenDavidson: I am willing to look at it as objectively as I would the decision I was voting on as a juror, but have enough knowledge of psychology not to suppose that I am unbiased

    What does that mean? You are biased but you choose to look at the evidence from a neutral perspective? How can you do this? You have already admitted that you can not be unbiased.

    If a perspective juror told the court “I think the defendant did it and I don’t think I could ever change my mind but I’m willing to look at the evidence objectively before I vote”

    Do you think he would be selected as a juror?

    GlenDavidson: Do you have any evidence that courts would accept? That’s the question.

    No the question is how do you know stuff in your worldview? You are not the Judge and God is not on trial. I never cease to be amazed at the hubris that some folks display.

    As I said in another thread it’s like the little girl who must climb on her fathers lap in order to slap his face

    I know this might come as a shock but God’s existence is not contingent on your own finite biased intellect.

    Instead God’s existence is necessary for you to know anything.

    If you don’t think so all you have to do is tell me how you can know anything at all with out him.

    peace

  15. GlenDavidson: good presuppositions are not at all like yours, they are what are inherent in our perceptions and conceptions, and they are neither taken as basic truth nor are beyond questioning, but some are necessary as being part of human reasoning.

    How about listing yours here for us to examine. If you did so we could compare and you could demonstrate how they are superior to mine.

    peace

  16. fifthmonarchyman: I never cease to be amazed at the hubris that some folks display.

    Indeed. Hubris like this:

    fifthmonarchyman: if you define species in just the right way and squint real hard any difference at all would qualify as speciation.

    oh, wait, that was you.

  17. fifthmonarchyman: What does that mean?You are biased but you choose to look at the evidence from a neutral perspective?

    What do you mean? Do you think you’re unbiased, you of the extreme bias?

    Do you know why judges recuse themselves from cases where they have ties of some kind? Why jurors who lost relatives to drunk drivers aren’t put onto juries deciding DUI cases? It’s because humans simply are never completely free from bias, but we can be biased and yet be reasonably fair in a lot of matters, yet it’s pretty doubtful that we’ll be fair enough in issues that involve us deeply even if we try.

    How can you do this? You have already admitted that you can not be unbiased.

    Oh please, it’s like you’re five or something, you know almost nothing about epistemology, psychology, science, or anything else. You might have a specialty that you understand, and that’s it.

    Even Licona says you can’t be unbiased, if you’d watched his debate with Ehrman, but then he seems to think he can get around it completely (he really seems to say that). One can set aside biases, not completely in my view, but enough to be as fair as anyone can be (rather more than you, for instance). As in, I certainly would trust myself to be far more fair about these matters than you, but since you seem the epitome of unfairness, that doesn’t mean much. Since you’re pretty much ignorant about everything, though, you’re virtually incapable of understanding (or even imagining) the complexities of life.

    If a perspective juror told the court “I think the defendant did it and I don’t think I could ever change my mind but I’m willing to look at the evidence objectively before I vote”

    Well, you just seem such a dogmatic ignoramus that you can’t even imagine how human minds actually work, assuming that you’re not being disingenuous. I never wrote anything like that because it’s not like that, but I’m afraid that you’re unlikely to understand anything much more than that you’re completely wonderful in your simple-mindedness and anyone who disagrees is just wrong.

    Do you think he would be selected as a juror?

    Do you think you have a clue?

    No the question is how do you know stuff in your worldview?You are not the Judge and God is not on trial.I never cease to be amazed at the hubris that some folks display.

    Yeah, you think you know God and truth due to a set of presuppositions that lack any basis for consideration, let alone belief. It’s about as hubristic as anything I’ve ever seen.

    As I said in another thread it’s like the little girl who must climb on her fathers lap in order to slap his face

    Well there you go, you should rethink your life.

    I know this might come as a shock but God’s existence is not contingent on your own finite biased intellect.

    I know this might come as a shock, but God’s existence isn’t contingent upon your continued ignorance.

    Instead God’s existence is necessary for you to know anything.

    Again with the hubris, you just blankly state what you utterly fail to demonstrate.

    If you don’t think so all you have to do is tell me how you can know anything at all with out him.

    If you think you have anything worth saying, why can’t you state it?

    Glen Davidson

  18. fifthmonarchyman: How about listing yours here for us to examine. If you did so we could compare and you could demonstrate how they are superior to mine.

    How about you learn something about cognition, psychology, epistemology, and the rules of evidence? I wouldn’t compare actual knowledge with your cut-and-paste chants that mean nothing.

    Glen Davidson

  19. Richardthughes: You’re so close, Mung! You can’t ignore the truth claims of other religions because you don’t like them.. But yet you have, or have picked one of many. Why is that? What mechanism did you employ?

    Mung, are you there? OTF is waiting for you….

  20. GlenDavidson: Yeah, you think you know God and truth due to a set of presuppositions that lack any basis for consideration, let alone belief.

    I never said I lacked bias but then again I don’t set my self up as a judge of God’s existence. That is the difference between me and you.

    GlenDavidson: How about you learn something about cognition, psychology, epistemology, and the rules of evidence?

    Does that mean you are unwilling to even state your presuppositions so we can compare? I wonder why that is?

    Peace

  21. GlenDavidson: I wouldn’t compare actual knowledge with your cut-and-paste chants that mean nothing.

    If that was the case your presuppositions would put mine to shame. I wonder why you are unwilling to even share them?

    peace

  22. fifthmonarchyman: I never said I lacked bias but then again I don’t set my self up as a judge of God’s existence. That is the difference between me and you.

    Well yes, you do, as Neil notes.

    I just judge whether or not there is sufficient evidence to say if God exists, not the disingenuous crap that you assert that I do. Try to understand what’s at stake here. I know it’s hard for you to figure out, what with it being told to you again and again.

    Does that mean you are unwilling to even state your presuppositions so we can compare?

    I’ve stated some, but in fact they’re difficult to enumerate, especially since most were tacit initially, thus require a good deal of knowledge and nuance to make a list or some such thing.

    I wonder why that is?

    Do you think it may be due to your inability to understand anything more difficult than simplistic slogans? Pretty likely.

    Glen Davidson

  23. fifthmonarchyman: If that was the case your presuppositions would put mine to shame.

    Yes, and you wouldn’t have a clue.

    I wonder why you are unwilling to even share them?

    First, you could give up being mendacious. I’ve shared some, but don’t care for your lack of openness, your tendency to make up shit about others to fit your many prejudices, and your general ignorance.

    I’m unwilling to act as if you have ever carried on a decent intellectual discussion, because you haven’t.

    Glen Davidson

  24. Neil Rickert: Of course you do.

    No,

    That God exists is the default understanding of mankind. Atheism is a conscious choice to reject that understanding. Theism is the innate and hardwired condition for humans.

  25. GlenDavidson: I’ve shared some

    I must have missed it

    GlenDavidson: I’m unwilling to act as if you have ever carried on a decent intellectual discussion.

    That is certainly your prerogative. I can’t force you to share your presuppositions.
    Just don’t be surprised if I continue to assume you have no basis for knowledge in your worldview.

    Have a good day

    peace

  26. fifthmonarchyman: I must have missed it

    You miss a whole lot.

    That is certainly your prerogative. I can’t force you to share your presuppositions.
    Just don’t be surprised if I continue to assume you have no basis for knowledge in your worldview.

    Oh, I’d be surprised if you would rightly characterize my position no matter what I wrote. Hence I have no compunction about telling you that you’re a worthless interlocutor to whom I will not feed information that you do not have the ability to understand.

    Have a good day

    Enjoy your passive-aggressive nastiness.

    Glen Davidson

  27. fifthmonarchyman: Really, you are pretty selective in your skepticism.What if you were in the matrix or a Boltzmann brain? What if you were accidentally switched at birth?

    What if? Why wouldn’t I still know my name?

  28. fifthmonarchyman: I am not disagreeing with you. The point is if God does not reveal stuff to me I can not know anything so whether Satan is fooling me or I am fooling myself the result is the same.

    If God chooses to reveal I can know stuff. Whether he actually does is a different matter entirely.

    So you don’t know whether God has chosen to reveal anything to you.

    You may think that you know, but you really might be guessing and guessing wrongly. For all you know, Satan may have revealed to you the one religion that will damn you to hell.

    The only salvation I see for you is that you realize that your revelations are spurious.

    Whether they come through your eyes, ears, nose, etc., or any other portal.

  29. Neil Rickert: Actually, no.

    I find it somewhat amusing that we rely on birth certificates for identification, but they don’t really prove what we assume that they prove.

    As far as I know, there have been cases of people creating a fake identity (“stolen identity”) by finding someone of about the right age, researching that person and ordering a birth certificate.They probably pick someone who died as a child, to reduce the risk of conflicting information showing up.

    I thought you were off on some kind of tangent.

    Any of that is irrelevant to my knowledge of my name.

  30. Pedant: So you don’t know whether God has chosen to reveal anything to you.

    It’s like this, either God has chosen to reveal stuff to me or I can know nothing. It’s revelation or despair.

    We can discuss why I am confident (but not certain) that God has revealed stuff to me if you like. just say the word

    peace

  31. Neil Rickert: That looks like nonsense. Somebody is thinking too hard (and making stuff up).

    It’s all based on per-reviewed science nothing controversial.

    However it does not surprise me that you would reject it that is what I have come to expect from folks here

    Do you have any specific criticisms of the science or do you just not like the implications that flow from it?

    peace

  32. Mung: If you want to catch my attention say something interesting.

    You’ve employed some discriminatory mechanism to choose one religious origins narrative over the others. Would you care to share with the group?

  33. Pedant: So you don’t know whether God has chosen to reveal anything to you.

    I’ve thought about it and I am certain God has revealed at least one thing to me. I can go into that one as well just say the word. It will take some unpacking.

    peace

  34. fifthmonarchyman: I’ve thought about it and I am certain God has revealed at least one thing to me. I can go into that one as well just say the word. It will take some unpacking.

    peace

    Thank you for asking. (I appreciate your generosity.)

    Unpack, please.

  35. fifthmonarchyman: It’s like this, either God has chosen to reveal stuff to me or I can know nothing. It’s revelation or despair.

    Despair? Why?

    Is that the only conceivable dichotomy? (As if we require dichotomies.)

  36. Richardthughes: You’ve employed some discriminatory mechanism to choose one religious origins narrative over the others. Would you care to share with the group?

    Unlike you, who just rejects all historical narratives?

    What I’d like to know is specifics. What historical claims have I rejected and how do you know? Do you think I am a holocaust denier?

    And what on earth is a religious origins narrative? Is that why you reject the Gospels, because you consider them to be religious origins narratives?

    Is that a justification for not believing a historical narrative? Or do you jsut believe the Gospels to be a-historical? What about Acts, also a-historical?

  37. All of these religions have ‘boots on the ground’ in their stories, Mung. Lots of different religions, lots of stories. Most set in places we know of today! Rather than tap dance, why not tell us which you accept and or reject, and why? I personally reject them all because they don’t rise to my personal (arbitrary) standard of belief. What about you? What made the ‘winners’ stand out and the others fail?

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