Boxing Pythagoras

Philosophy from the mind of a fighter

It’s elementary, my dear Wallace

Yesterday, I took Christian apologist J. Warner Wallace to task for his mishandling of “Two Hidden Science Facts” which he purported to exist in the writings of Luke and John. Wallace’s primary claim to fame is that he is a former cold-case homicide detective who uses the forensics skills he learned on the job to show that the evidence for Christianity is true. If yesterday’s article wasn’t sufficient to show that Wallace’s skills as a detective do not translate well to history, then today’s certainly will. I went back, a couple of weeks, through the PleaseConvinceMe.com blog, and found this article from April 7th, “Is the Bible True? The Cumulative Case for the Reliability of the Gospels.”

J. Warner Wallace is being entirely dishonest when he pretends that a dispassionate view of the evidence supports the case which he presents.

I do have to thank Mr. Wallace for the orderly presentation of his claims in “Is the Bible True?” which will allow me to respond to each of his points, specifically, by referencing the numbers he assigned them. That saves me from having to quote most of his article, in my response, while still making it very easy for my readers to see exactly which of his points I am addressing. To that end, we will start at the beginning of his outline.

Premise #1: The Gospels Were Written Early

In (1a), Mr. Wallace asserts that the best explanation for purported “missing information” in the Acts of the Apostles is that this account was written prior to 61 CE. Except that he ignores a much better explanation for this allegedly “missing” data: it is entirely irrelevant to the purpose and message of the Book of Acts. The Acts of the Apostles is not presented as a general history of Roman Palestine, nor is it intended to be a biography of the men it describes. Acts of the Apostles was intended– counterintuitive as this may sound– to describe the actions undertaken by the apostles, especially Peter and Paul, as they are sent out to preach the good news (“apostle” comes from the Greek ἀπόστολος meaning “one who is sent out”). The Siege of Jerusalem and the Destruction of the Temple have absolutely nothing to do with the apostles. Neither do the deaths of Peter, James, and Paul have any evangelical purpose (as opposed to the death of Stephen, for example, which is recounted in Acts).

Of course, there’s an even bigger problem for Mr. Wallace. As he correctly notes in (1b), the Gospel of Luke was written by the same author who wrote Acts, and the former was written prior to the latter. Why is this a problem? Because Luke 21:5-30 does describe the Siege of Jerusalem and the Destruction of the Temple, and does so in greater detail than Mark 13, which was his source for this pericope.

Wallace then claims that Paul is copying from Luke in a few passages in his own work, which shows that Luke must have been written prior to these epistles. There’s a fairly large problem, though: neither of the examples which Wallace gives show Paul quoting from Luke, in the first place. Even the majority of conservative Christian scholars agree that 1 Timothy was not actually written by Paul, let alone the almost unanimous view of mainstream scholarship on that book. The books 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus are collectively referred to as the “Pastoral Epistles,” and it has been the conventional view of scholarship for centuries that these are pseudepigraphical– that is, that they were written by someone else claiming to be Paul. Conventional scholarship dates 1 Timothy to the late 1st Century, or early-to-mid 2nd Century.

Wallace’s other example text actually does come from one of the letters which is generally believed to be authentically Pauline. However, if one were to simply read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, they would find that Paul explicitly tells us his source for this passage– and it is not Luke. He is recounting a story which he “received from the Lord.” Paul is claiming to have gotten this information from a revelatory experience, not from a written source.

Wallace correctly points out, in (1d), that Mark was written prior to Luke. He’s being a bit misleading when he says that Luke “references” Mark– in fact, most scholars would say that Luke rather blatantly plagiarizes Mark, though such an act need not have carried the stigma which it does, today. But that’s simply nitpicking. The vast majority of New Testament scholars ascribe a date of somewhere between 65-70 CE for Mark, fully two decades after Wallace’s proposed date. This same scholarship typically date Matthew and Luke to around 80-85 CE, and John to around 90-95 CE. Such dates would place them after “the same generation as those who witnessed the truth,” meaning that Wallace’s claim that they could “have been cross-checked by those who were still alive and would have known better” is untenable.

Premise #2: The Gospels Have Been Corroborated

The idea that the gospel accounts have been “better corroborated than any other ancient historical account” is absolutely preposterous. I could quite easily point to, say, Suetonius’ account of Julius Caesar’s life, which finds corroboration in Plutarch, Cassius Dio, Appian, Caesar’s own writings, architectural inscriptions, sculpture, coinage, pottery, and even graffiti. That is far more corroboration than anything which exists for the Gospels. That said, let’s look at Wallace’s specific claims.

He begins, in (2a), by noting that archaeology corroborates many people, locations, and events in the Gospels. In (2c) and (2d) he also states that the Gospels accurately identify some local geographical details and some historical figures. These three points are absolutely correct! However, archaeology does not corroborate any of the most important people or events in the Gospels. There is no archaeological corroboration for Jesus, or any of his disciples, or for Joseph of Arimathea, or Nicodemus, or Lazarus, or the vast majority of people in the texts. Nor is there any archaeological corroboration for the Slaughter of the Innocents, or the ministry of Jesus, or his miracles, or the crucifixion of Jesus, or the Empty Tomb. A great many texts from antiquity with very obviously legendary embellishments also have people, locations, and events corroborated by archaeology and other historical documents. The fact that Aristotle references many people, places, and things which actually did occur in history doesn’t mean that he is historically reliable when he claims that Pythagoras had a thigh made out of solid gold. Similarly, the fact that the Gospels actually reference many people, places, and things which actually did occur in history doesn’t mean the Gospels are historically reliable in all of their claims.

In (2b), Wallace claims that “Ancient Jewish, Greek and Pagan accounts corroborate the outline of Jesus’ identity, life, death and resurrection.” This is simply not the case, at all. Within 100 years of Jesus’ death, there are exactly three non-Christian writers whose works mention him, at all. The earliest of these comes from about 92 CE, with the Jewish historian Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews. Unfortunately, the authenticity of the passages mentioning Jesus are in dispute. It is universally recognized that the references to Jesus in Antiquities are largely interpolations from later, Christian scribes; and some scholars argue that the passages are wholly inauthentic. Anything so obviously manipulated and altered as these passages cannot be seriously considered as good corroboration to the Gospel accounts. The other two writers who mention Jesus are Romans, writing in the early 2nd Century. Combined, their references total two lines of text. Suetonius says, “Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, [the Emperor Claudius] expelled them from Rome;” meanwhile, Tacitus gives us a little bit more: “Christus, from whom the name [Christian] had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus.” There are no ancient Jewish, Greek, Pagan, or otherwise non-Christian accounts which corroborate Jesus’ identity, ministry, or resurrection. His death is corroborated by only one Roman source, and possibly one Jewish source.

Wallace’s claim in (2e) is simply perplexing. He states that, “Mark’s repeated reference and familiarity with Peter corroborates Papias’ description of Mark’s authorship of the account.” Papias was a Christian bishop writing sometime in the early 2nd Century. In one of his works, now lost  to history, Papias mentions that Peter’s secretary, Mark, wrote down an account based on his memories of Peter’s testimony. This is the earliest known source of the tradition that the historical Mark actually wrote the Gospel which now bears his name. That said, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the work which Papias references is the same as our current Mark. Papias doesn’t quote from our Mark, he doesn’t summarize our Mark, he doesn’t even make reference to any pericope which is found in our Mark. And there are very good reasons to think that our Mark was not written by the historical Mark. For one thing, Acts tells us that Mark was a lower-class, Aramaic speaking Jew from Palestine. The author of Mark, on the other hand, was a highly-educated, Greek-speaking person who was not likely Jewish, and who was not likely from Palestine. Wallace’s assertion in (2e) is completely illogical. To illustrate, I’ve restated his claim as a syllogism:

  1. Papias claims Peter’s secretary wrote an account.
  2. We have an anonymous book which talks about Peter.
  3. Therefore, the anonymous book which we have must be the book Papias described.

It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to identify the problems with that nonsense.

Finally, in (2f), we find another fairly ludicrous claim.  Wallace states that, “The authors of the Gospels support one another unintentionally with details obscure details (sic) between the accounts.” However, the prevailing scholarship on the matter is that there was nothing unintentional about it. In fact, both Matthew and Luke are extremely likely to have utilized Mark as a source for their gospels. In numerous places, the two later works copied Mark’s text nearly verbatim. Other passages with word-for-word similarity between Matthew and Luke indicate that the two likely had another shared source, as well: a lost collection of Jesus’ sayings which scholars have called “Q.” This isn’t just a case of two witnesses to an event independently reporting similar facts. This is a case of documents literally plagiarizing other documents. To claim that this amounts to corroborating witness is absolutely preposterous.

Premise #3: The Gospels Have Been Accurately Delivered

I actually agree with most of Wallace’s third premise. His points in (3a), (3b), and (3c) are reasonably accurate claims. The New Testament documents really are the most textually reliable documents from antiquity in the world. By that, I mean that we can be more reasonably sure that what we have, today, faithfully represents the original text for the documents of the New Testament than we can be for any other literary documents from that time.

That just leaves (3d). Even when I’m so close to being in complete agreement with Mr. Wallace, he throws in another misrepresentation of the evidence. He claims that, “The earliest caretakers of the text considered it to be a precise, divinely inspired document worthy of careful preservation.” However, all of the available evidence from manuscripts of New Testament texts shows precisely the opposite, as is well-described in Bart Ehrman’s scholarly work, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. Far and away, the earliest period of manuscript transmission is the period which introduced the most textual variation, emendation, and redaction. This has been the relatively uncontroversial and almost unanimous conclusion of scholarship on the subject for decades. In this early period, the numerous disparate factions of Christianity were all fighting with one another over doctrine and theology, and each faction claimed apostolic authority and Sciptural justification based on their texts. They were not above intentionally altering the text of the New Testament to make it better fit their beliefs.

Premise #4: The Gospel Authors Were Unbiased

This entire premise is so incredibly laughable, I would heretofore have only expected the worst of Internet forum trolls to make such an argument. But, alas, Poe’s Law is once again affirmed. Our esteemed detective, J. Warner Wallace, wants us to believe that the men who worshiped Jesus of Nazareth as a god were unbiased when describing the accounts of Jesus’ life. This claim is so inordinately preposterous, I can’t even begin to fathom why Mr. Wallace would think it makes a good argument.

In (4a), Wallace argues that the authors were convinced of their beliefs by their observations. Of course, the manner in which someone attains their bias is completely irrelevant to the question of whether or not they are biased. The fact that an unbeliever can be convinced to believe says nothing about whether that person’s subsequent work is biased.

In (4b), Wallace says that the authors were not driven by financial gain, sexual lust, or power, therefore they could not be biased. I’ll even set aside the fact that Wallace claims these authors all “died without any of these advantages,” despite the fact that our detective has absolutely no evidence to support such a position. The simple fact of the matter is that the pursuit of money, lust, and power are most certainly not the only sources of bias. There are numerous examples of poverty-ridden racists to prove that.

In (4c), Wallace claims, “The testimony of the authors was attested by their willingness to die for what they claimed. There is no evidence any of them ever recanted their testimony.” Of course, there is no evidence that they were willing to die for what they claimed, either. There is no evidence that anyone ever even requested that they recant their testimony, let alone threatened these men with torture or death in order to coax them into such a thing. Even if they were willing to die for what they claimed, that would not be an indication that they were unbiased. Thousands of slave owners willingly went to their deaths, in the American Civil War, to defend their beliefs. That didn’t make them any less biased.

Your Honor, I Move to Dismiss This Case

Now that I have completed my analysis of Mr. Wallace’s evidence, allow me to admit that there certainly are scholars who would agree with him on almost all of the points he makes– the dating, the authorship, the corroboration by other sources. However, these scholars are in the extreme minority of New Testament scholarship. Even amongst conservative, Evangelical Christian scholars, most of the claims Mr. Wallace makes in “Is the Bible True?” would be considered, at best, against the grain of the consensus; and often, on the complete fringes of scholarship. He is building his entire case off of very flimsy evidence.

J. Warner Wallace’s entire approach to apologetics is set up as an analogy to building a case in the criminal justice system. Unfortunately for his analogy, if Mr. Wallace were to present a court with evidence like this, he would undoubtedly lose the case. When the vast consensus of expert witnesses brought before the court stands in opposition to your view of the evidence, the Judge and Jury are not likely to conclude that you have proven your case beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s not even likely that a Judge would allow such a case to continue to trial, based on such sparse evidence. Wallace may like to claim that he is simply presenting a dispassionate, unbiased, and detective-like view of the evidence, but the truth is that he is manipulating his crime scene. He only presents the evidence that fits his claims, and intentionally obfuscates all of the evidence to the contrary.

J. Warner Wallace isn’t acting like a good detective. He’s acting like a crooked cop.

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5 thoughts on “It’s elementary, my dear Wallace

  1. Let’s keep in mind that Wallace isn’t claiming that any one piece of evidence that he presents is enough to make the case. Quite the opposite, in fact. One of the great pulls that he uses is that he is making a cumulative case. Thus pulling any one piece out is easy to knock down. However, using abductive reasoning with every piece of evidence presented, the case is much stronger. That’s when we must make the most reasonable inference possible from the evidence. 
    I agree that the information isn’t directly pertinent to the book of acts, but there are lots of other extra details that aren’t either. This one piece of evidence could easily go either way. We need to find the rest of either view’s siblings before we can determine which family it belongs to. 
    Also, the passages in Luke do not describe the temple being destroyed or the siege of Jerusalem; Jesus is prophesying about it. Now if we assume that prophecy is inherently impossible, then your case is quite valid. However, if we are open to the idea that prophecy might indeed be possible, then the later historical events confirm the prophecy. I believe the unassumptive approach is the most reasonable. 
    For the writing of 1 Timothy etc. by Paul, the wikipedia article you listed does not say that is the claim of conservatives but “critical scholars.” I’ve never heard any conservative pastor say that these were not written by Paul with the exception of Hebrews, of course. Paul identifies Himself as the author, thus we must see evidence that he is not if that’s not the case. And as I said in the comment on your last post, if Paul or people who knew Paul well when he was alive found someone forging his name they would have called shenanigans. 
    For the Corinthians passage, the gospel accounts were considered to be holy scripture early on, so Paul would certainly refer to them as a word from the Lord. The piece of evidence as you phrased it isn’t sufficient in and of itself. Do you have more you could iterate?
    I don’t think the later dating in untenable. Some people were kids when Jesus died. They would certainly be around the call out any lies spreading about it. If it was 100 years or more then that point would be solid, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that people lived to be 30-60 years old at the time. 
    Corroboration: I agree if we exclude internal corroboration. We have far more copies of the books of the Bible than any other ancient document that can be checked against each other. When combined with the external corroboration of the Bible, Wallace’s claims ring true. 
    I agree that the Bible isn’t %100 corroborated by archeological evidence, but all the evidence so far has been corroborated. None of it has contradicted the Bible. That’s a lot of evidence for and none against. To make the claims that the Bible is therefore false, requires either that all the evidence is reinterpreted or that contradicting evidence is found. If %100 of what we have so far is good, then it’s unreasonable to deny it. With the validation so far, we have no reason to doubt the rest of it. 
    Again, stating a lack of a sufficient sources is not a contradictory source when all of those available are still tenable. We need contradictory sources in order to invalidate them. Wallace devotes an entire chapter to this in his book. He sites many more sources as well, including the only account of Josephus’ believed to be unaltered. Also, is there a reason that we should rule out the gospels as a historical source? Do we have any other ancient documents from where Jesus was at the time? Any contradictions? Without those there is no reason to doubt them. 
    I agree that the Mark referenced here may not be the Mark who wrote the book, but again, what evidence do we have to the contrary? If we have one piece of evidence that says yes and zero that say no, then it is more reasonable to go with yes until more evidence is revealed. It may be a stretch, but it’s the only reasonable stretch so far. 
    Were they plagiarizing? Ok. That’s fine. The details Wallace is talking about are the ones that are different, not the ones that are the same. Maybe some things are directly copied, but if there are ones that don’t coordinate, then that’s something else entirely. Sometimes eyewitness may use the same phrase as another, but if one says it was cool outside and the other says it was evening, then that’s a sign of reliability due to two facts that can be true at the same time unintentionally written.
    Sure, early Christians would argue about what the scripture meant (we still do), but do we have evidence they actually changed anything? The books were heavily protected as we can see from the thousands of copies we have obtained. The margin of error is incredibly small. For the most part, I think we agree on this last point. 
    Lastly, if they were not motivated by sex, money, or power, what were they motivated by? Even a racist gets off on a feeling of superiority. Were the apostle ever shown to seek that kind of power? Perhaps they never were offered the chance to recant, but they were still killed for their beliefs. Wallace presents a perfectly reasonable case for their lack of other motivation. They could easily have gained other things by quieting down about Jesus. For instance, not dying. Also, all of them were tortured, imprisoned, and otherwise maligned for what they were saying. That being said, if they were biased, what were they biased of? Christianity doesn’t support superiority like racism. It says to treat others as better than yourself. What bias would send them voluntarily into torture and death?
    I think it would be an enthralling court case to watch you and Wallace go at the evidence together. I’m not too worried about the consensus though. To quote the little mermaid, “I want to be where the [evidences] are.” 🙂

    Thanks again for another great post. I love that you think heavily and research all of your topics.

  2. You gave me quite a bit to work with, so my answer is going to be fairly long. Please forgive me if I’ve omitted any of your points! I tried to touch on everything, but it can be difficult with comments of this size.

    Let’s keep in mind that Wallace isn’t claiming that any one piece of evidence that he presents is enough to make the case. …using abductive reasoning with every piece of evidence presented, the case is much stronger.

    I’ll wholly disagree with this. A person can string together as many weak premises as they can find, but that will not make a strong argument. The sum of weak premises is a weak argument.

    For example, I could say something along the lines of:
    (1) All apples are red.
    (2) All red foods are delicious.
    (3) No delicious foods are nutritious.
    (4) Non-nutritious foods should never be consumed.
    (5) Foods which should never be consumed should be burned.
    (6) Therefore, apples should be burned.

    Every single one of the premises in that argument is poorly formed. The conclusion that “Apples should be burned” is not stronger simply because there are many premises.

    …if we assume that prophecy is inherently impossible, then your case is quite valid. However, if we are open to the idea that prophecy might indeed be possible, then the later historical events confirm the prophecy. I believe the unassumptive approach is the most reasonable.

    There is a difference between remaining “open to the idea that prophecy might indeed be possible” and accepting an ancient document’s claims at face value, as I’m sure you’d agree if we were discussing any non-Biblical claim of prophecy.

    The fact of the matter is that Luke certainly makes reference to the event which Wallace claims was omitted by Acts. If a person wants to claim that this reference represents an actual prophecy made by the historical Jesus, the burden to prove such a claim rests squarely on that person’s shoulders.

    I’ve never heard any conservative pastor say that these were not written by Paul with the exception of Hebrews, of course. Paul identifies Himself as the author, thus we must see evidence that he is not if that’s not the case. And as I said in the comment on your last post, if Paul or people who knew Paul well when he was alive found someone forging his name they would have called shenanigans.

    I’ve certainly heard conservative pastors say that the Pastoral Epistles were not written by Paul, but rather by followers of Paul writing in the authority of their master. Such pastors generally claim that this was a common practice in schools of philosophy, at the time. Unfortunately, both of these claims are fairly untenable.

    There is quite a bit of evidence from writing style, vocabulary, historical critical content, and theology which has convinced scholars for a very long time that the Pastoral Epistles were almost certainly not written by Paul. Similar evidence has called Colossians, Ephesians, and 2nd Thessalonians into question, though scholarship is more divided on these.

    Generally, the Pastoral Epistles are thought to have been penned much later– about 40 to 50 years after Paul’s writings– which would certainly call into question the idea that anyone might be able to “call shenanigans.” However, even if such people did exist and were aware that someone was writing falsely in Paul’s name, how do you suppose they could “call shenanigans?” There was no central authority of Christianity, at the time. There was no Internet, nor even printing presses. Disseminating information was an extremely expensive process, with absolutely no guarantees that anyone would take your work seriously, in the least. What do you propose someone could have done to correct misinformation which others had accepted?

    I agree that the Bible isn’t %100 corroborated by archeological evidence, but all the evidence so far has been corroborated. None of it has contradicted the Bible. That’s a lot of evidence for and none against.

    This is not true. For example, Luke claims that when Herod was king, Quirinius was governor of Syria. However, we know from archaeology and history that Quirinius did not become governor of Syria until 10 years after Herod’s death.

    Luke also claims that there was a solar eclipse lasting from noon until three on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion; however, basic astronomy would disconfirm this claim.

    Similarly, Matthew claims that there was an earthquake following the crucifixion, however the geological record disconfirms this claim.

    It is certainly untrue to claim that all of the evidence from archaeology and history are corroborative of the Biblical narratives.

    Also, is there a reason that we should rule out the gospels as a historical source? Do we have any other ancient documents from where Jesus was at the time? Any contradictions? Without those there is no reason to doubt them.

    I am not saying that we should “rule out the gospels as a historical source.” Quite the opposite. I am arguing that we should treat the gospels exactly in the same manner as we treat other historical documents. I would certainly consider Suetonius an invaluable source of history, but that doesn’t mean that I have to uncritically accept his claims that Julius Caesar was a divine son of Venus who was assumed into Heaven at his death. Similarly, we can ween actual historical data from the gospels without taking them completely literally and at face value.

    As far as other extant ancient documents from Jesus’ location at the time of the New Testament’s authorship, I know only of Josephus’ Antiquities and Jewish Wars.

    As for contradictions, there are a great many. My favorite, which is a fairly blatant and obvious one, is the fact that Matthew 1 and Luke 3 list two entirely different genealogies for Joseph, father of Jesus. They don’t even agree on who Joseph’s father was, with Matthew claiming that it was Jacob son of Matthan son of Eleazar, while Luke claims that it was Heli son of Matthat son of Levi.

    However, even without any of these things, there are certainly reasons to doubt many of the claims made by the New Testament documents, just as there are reasons to doubt many of the claims made by Herodotus and Josephus and Tacitus and Suetonius, despite the fact we garner great historical value from their works.

    Sure, early Christians would argue about what the scripture meant (we still do), but do we have evidence they actually changed anything? The books were heavily protected as we can see from the thousands of copies we have obtained. The margin of error is incredibly small. For the most part, I think we agree on this last point

    Actually, we really don’t agree on this point, at all. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    While I would agree with the statement that we can be reasonably assured that the critical text which we have, today, fairly accurately represents the text which was originally composed, that is not the same as saying that Christians never made attempts to alter the text. It is precisely because Christians made many, many changes to the manuscripts in their copying that we can compare such documents to one another to best decide which variants are most likely original.

    The two most common examples of Christians changing the text are Mark 16:9-20 and John 7:53-8:11, both of which have been known for centuries to be later scribal interpolations into the Bible. These passages were not in Mark and John when they were originally written. They were added, later, by Christian scribes.

    Lastly, if they were not motivated by sex, money, or power, what were they motivated by?

    Religious fervor. That seems fairly obvious.

    Perhaps they never were offered the chance to recant, but they were still killed for their beliefs. …Also, all of them were tortured, imprisoned, and otherwise maligned for what they were saying.

    There is absolutely no evidence that the authors of the gospels were all “tortured, imprisoned, …maligned,” or martyred for their beliefs. We have no idea who these authors were, let alone any of the details of their lives. Furthermore, even on the minuscule chance that these books were written by their traditional authors, the legends which claim that these men were all martyred are far later traditions with no contemporary evidence. The idea that the gospel writers all suffered for their beliefs is simply untenable.

  3. In the example you give about cumulative cases, I agree wholly. The problem with the example is that it makes wild inferences without evidence. That kind of reasoning should certainly be eliminated. What Wallace does in the book is collect all the facts and use abjective reasoning to make the most reasonable inferences. None of these inferences are unbased and none of them have only one interpretation. Thus we must make the case cumulatively. This is exactly how cases from the distant past must be handled due to the lack of direct evidence available. Without this method of reasoning we cannot know anything for sure without DNA or the ability to cross-examine eyewitnesses. It’s super hard to get answers out of dead people.

    I agree that we shouldn’t accept them the claims at face value, but the Bible claims that they are prophecy that history later records as an actual event. That’s evidence in itself. To make a case to counter it requires then that those who say “it didn’t happen that way” to take the burden of proof on themselves. Every historical record we have says that it was prophecy thus far. To say it wasn’t requires other evidence.

    For the Pauline pastorals; It’s fair to say that if ghost writing was a common practice that no one would call it out. That being said, as for the early dating, even written years later these would still place the gospels as being written early enough and well spread enough to be quoted by the authors. Thus the work of Luke would still have to predate it by several years and have been considered scripture longer. I don’t think that drives the dates far enough away from the earlier dating to be a problem.

    An excerpt about Quirinius from “Cold Case Christianity”: “Archeological discoveries in the nineteenth century have provided additional information to remedy this apparent contradiction, however, revealing that Quirinius (or someone with the same name) was also proconsul of Syria and Cilicia from 11 BC to the death of Herod. Quirinius’ name has been discovered on a coin from this period of time, and on the base of a statue in Pisidian Antioch.”

    For the earthquake and eclipse, a non-Christian writer Sextus Julius Africanus wrote “History of the World” and in it quoted Thallus’ third book of history wrote about the day that Jesus died, “on the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down.” He was an unbiased source simply reporting what happened. There are more sources on this, but for brevity I’ll leave it at that.

    Other extra-Biblical documents that conform Jesus existence are Thallus (as mentioned above as quoted by Sextus), Cornelius Tacitus who wrote the “Anals” of AD 116, and then Jewish non-Christian writers such as Mara Bar-Serapion in personal letter to his son, and Phlegon who wrote a historical record in approximately 140 AD.

    As for the genealogy of Jesus, it’s actually quite simple. Luke 3’s genealogy was of Mary and Matthew’s was of Joseph. Luke mention’s that Jesus was “the son (as was supposed) of Joseph.” That doesn’t rule this out as a contradiction. It simply means that the “supposed” father was mentioned and not Mary.

    Those texts were added, we knew about them and noted that. None of them change any doctrine or beliefs if removed or added. If it’s a problem, toss them out. It does no harm to either side. If they were put in and not noted, that would be different. However, there would need to be evidence to support that claim. The fact that Christians have always called those verse out actually supports the validity.

    Religious fervor? Do you simply mean insanity? Unless they believed that they had an eternal life coming they would not act this way. If they made it up themselves they would know it was a lie and wouldn’t die for that.

    I believe it is still most reasonable to let the traditional authorship stand until there is evidence of the opposite. After all, as you stated, we have no idea who the authors were otherwise. Nearly all martyrdoms are found in non-Biblical sources. The apostles certainly suffered and were killed for their beliefs. I don’t see any reason that that is untenable.

    • Thus we must make the case cumulatively. This is exactly how cases from the distant past must be handled due to the lack of direct evidence available.

      I agree that cases are made based upon accumulation of good evidence. My point is that Wallace does not accumulate good evidence.

      the Bible claims that they are prophecy that history later records as an actual event. That’s evidence in itself. To make a case to counter it requires then that those who say “it didn’t happen that way” to take the burden of proof on themselves.

      You’re simply begging the question, though. The gospel claims that Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple, therefore we should believe that Jesus made such a prophecy. Would you also say that we should believe that the Oracle of Delphi actually prophesied the destruction of the Lydian empire, simply because no contemporary sources contest that view? Of course not.

      For the Pauline pastorals; It’s fair to say that if ghost writing was a common practice that no one would call it out

      Ascribing one’s own work to a more famous author was considered just as unethical, in that time, as it is today.

      That being said, as for the early dating, even written years later these would still place the gospels as being written early enough and well spread enough to be quoted by the authors. Thus the work of Luke would still have to predate it by several years and have been considered scripture longer. I don’t think that drives the dates far enough away from the earlier dating to be a problem.

      I certainly agree that Luke predates 1st Timothy by several years. I’m not sure what you are attempting to say, here.

      An excerpt about Quirinius from “Cold Case Christianity”: “Archeological discoveries in the nineteenth century have provided additional information to remedy this apparent contradiction, however, revealing that Quirinius (or someone with the same name) was also proconsul of Syria and Cilicia from 11 BC to the death of Herod. Quirinius’ name has been discovered on a coin from this period of time, and on the base of a statue in Pisidian Antioch.”

      Does Wallace mention a source for that claim? According to everything I’ve read about Quirinius, he was proconsul in Crete and Cyrenaica before being elected to Consul of Rome in 12 BCE. I’ve never read a source linking Quirinius to Syria prior to the banishment of Herod Archelaus in 6 CE, and Luke’s mention of the taxation census– which Quirinius carried out in 6 CE– would still seem to be problematic for Wallace.

      For the earthquake and eclipse, a non-Christian writer Sextus Julius Africanus wrote “History of the World” and in it quoted Thallus’ third book of history wrote about the day that Jesus died, “on the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down.” He was an unbiased source simply reporting what happened. There are more sources on this, but for brevity I’ll leave it at that.

      Whether Thallus mentions it or not is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that simple astronomy shows that no solar eclipse occurred at that time, in contradiction to Luke’s report, and there is no geological record of an earthquake, in contradiction to Matthew’s report. The fact that Thallus may also have reported such inaccuracies is of no consequence.

      Other extra-Biblical documents that conform Jesus existence are Thallus (as mentioned above as quoted by Sextus), Cornelius Tacitus who wrote the “Anals” of AD 116, and then Jewish non-Christian writers such as Mara Bar-Serapion in personal letter to his son, and Phlegon who wrote a historical record in approximately 140 AD.

      Thallus does not mention Jesus or Christians in any of the fragments of his writing which are still extant. Tacitus is mentioned in my article, where I acknowledge that he did actually mention Christ. Mara bar Serapion makes a vague reference to the “wise king” executed by the Jews after laying down a “new law;” it’s certainly possible that this is a reference to Jesus, but that is far from being clear. Phlegon of Tralles also does not mention Jesus in the fragments of his writing which are left to us.

      As for the genealogy of Jesus, it’s actually quite simple. Luke 3’s genealogy was of Mary and Matthew’s was of Joseph. Luke mention’s that Jesus was “the son (as was supposed) of Joseph.” That doesn’t rule this out as a contradiction. It simply means that the “supposed” father was mentioned and not Mary.

      This is a very common, but completely untenable, claim. The text of Luke 3:23 reads “Joseph son of Heli” (Gk., Ἰωσὴφ τοῦ Ἠλὶ), and Mary is not mentioned at all, in the genealogy. Meanwhile, Matthew 1:16 explicitly states that Joseph was the son of Jacob (Gk., Ἰακὼβ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰωσὴφ). These are contradictions.

      Those texts were added, we knew about them and noted that. None of them change any doctrine or beliefs if removed or added. If it’s a problem, toss them out. It does no harm to either side. If they were put in and not noted, that would be different. However, there would need to be evidence to support that claim. The fact that Christians have always called those verse out actually supports the validity.

      Christians have most certainly not “always called those verses out.” They were included in manuscripts as if they had always been a part of the text. It was not until the advent of modern textual criticism, nearly 1700 years after these documents had originally been written, that scholars began to develop critical texts noting that these passages were likely inauthentic.

      Religious fervor? Do you simply mean insanity? Unless they believed that they had an eternal life coming they would not act this way. If they made it up themselves they would know it was a lie and wouldn’t die for that.

      You don’t need to be insane to have religious fervor. Nor did I ever claim that the gospel authors “made it up.” I simply said that it is preposterous to claim that people who worshiped Jesus of Nazareth as a god were unbiased in their reporting about Jesus of Nazareth.

      I believe it is still most reasonable to let the traditional authorship stand until there is evidence of the opposite.

      There is quite a bit of evidence of the opposite, which is precisely why the vast majority of mainstream scholarship disassociated from the traditional authorship quite a long time ago. Not the least of this evidence would be the fact that the traditional authors were lower-class, Aramaic speaking men while the gospel authors were highly-educated Greek speaking men.

      Nearly all martyrdoms are found in non-Biblical sources. The apostles certainly suffered and were killed for their beliefs. I don’t see any reason that that is untenable.

      None of the purported martyrdoms are recorded in any contemporary sources, including the New Testament, with the possible exceptions of James the Just and James son of Zebedee . All of them are far later traditions which arose within a culture which absolutely celebrated martyrdom and which produced quite a bit of legendry about those characters. There is no good reason to suspect that the traditions about the martyrdom of the apostles have any basis in history.

      • If the Bible is accurate in many other ways, why should we doubt that Jesus said what the Bible says He did? It’s not an answer before the question. We have every reason to believe that Jesus did say it, and every reason to believe that the temple was destroyed. My logic is not, because the Bible says it, so it was. My logic is, the Bible in generally quite accurate about the times and locations, has passed many test of verifiability, and also records what Jesus said. Therefore we should believe that Jesus said these things after the document has been internally and externally verified. I think our contention here is in our stance for Biblical reliability. As long as we disagree on the core of the issue, we won’t come to an agreement about the rest of it. I appreciate that we can have this conversation in a civil way despite our dispute.

        If ghost writing was just as unethical, due to the mass spread and popularity of the work, someone would have called shenanigans. The early church fathers wrote against heresies constantly. Someone would have down the same here.

        The comment on Luke was originally in reference to early dating. Even if Paul didn’t write 1st Timothy I don’t think that makes Luke’s report have a later date.

        He does! Here’s how it’s cited in the book: for the coin;
        Jerry Vardaman, from an unpublished manuscript (The Year of the Nativity: Was Jesus Born in 12 B.C.? A New Examiniation of Quirinius [Luke 2:2] and Related Problems of New Testament Chronology) as cited by John McRay, Archeology and the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), Kindle edition, kindle locations 6332-6334.
        for the statue;
        Sir William Ramsey, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (Primedia eLaunch, 2011), Kindle edition, Kindle locations 3446-3448.
        I’ve heard the Census argument before as well. It’s possible that there was more than one census. There’s no direct evidence, but I don’t think a lack of a record is evidence against the possibility. There’s simply not enough to know either way.

        I think it may very well be of consequence that someone who had no reason to make it up or confirm something they didn’t want to be true would be willing to say anything at all. Why would they add anything like that if it wasn’t true? I think it’s reasonable to say that these events would have been literal acts of God considering the timing. If God exists, he certainly could make that happen. I know that’s not much of a case, but I would retort that it would be highly difficult to make a case for astrology from the distant past. Much of what we know about it is from historical testimony to begin with.

        I agree that Thallus made no mention of Jesus, but the point I was making with his testimony is in reference to the darkness and earthquake. it corroborates the story from the Bible though not Jesus directly. Mara did only mention a wise king, but what other person could possibly be the wise king of the Jews? It may not be super clear, but Jesus is still the most logical answer. Phlegeon doesn’t mention Jesus in the parts of his writings that remain, but Origen the Alexandrian-born paraphrases some of what we’ve lost to time from Phlegeon, which does mention Jesus directly. Once again, none of these are great proofs in and of themselves, but what is the most reasonable inference that we can ascertain from all of them? Unfortunately, we lack other documents from the time and place of Jesus and the disciples, but that lack of evidence doesn’t explain away the bits and pieces of evidence that we do have.

        I don’t think that it’s unreasonable to say that one is the genealogy of Mary. The Jews were renown for their record keeping, especially of lineages. It’s not reasonable to believe that they would make that kind of mistake, considering that large chunks of ancient jewish documents are committed to it. Someone would have called shenanigans quite quickly. Someone would have known immediately that Joseph didn’t have two different fathers. And on another point, what advantage would Christianity get from conflicting genealogies? How could that possibly be helpful? If they were lying, then we must find some alternative motive. That’s the best explanation is that these are two genealogies that both end at Jesus.

        That’s fair about the Biblical additions. I apologize for my ignorance. However, that emphasizes my point. We’ve had these critical examinations for quite some time. To say that there were other additions would still require proof. Christianity’s leg up on this is that we’ve actually criticized our texts in this way for hundreds of years.

        Ok, why would they be biased?

        I would love to see a post with evidence for the gospel writers not being their namesakes. As far as their education, Matthew was a tax collector and would have some education, Luke was a greek doctor (and an inadvertent historian) thus would be highly educated, Mark was writing for Peter according to early church fathers and was a trained scribe, John wrote his last and had the longest time in which to learn greek etc. Greek was the most universal language of the time and so it’s not unreasonable to say that they would learn and know greek relatively well, especially when they started writing formally or scribes were copying down what they wanted to say for them.

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