bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 7: More Problems with Objection #2

WHERE WE ARE
Here is my clarified version of Peter Kreeft’s argument constituting his Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory:

1a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus were simple, honest, moral people.

2a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

THEREFORE:

3b . The testimony of the witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus is credible.

B1. IF the testimony of the witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus is credible, THEN the Hallucination Theory is false.

THEREFORE:

A. The Hallucination Theory is false.

In Part 4 of this series of posts, I argued that premise (1a) is DUBIOUS because it implies 102 historical claims about various people who lived 2,000 years ago and yet Kreeft provided NO HISTORICAL EVIDENCE in support of ANY of those 102 historical claims.
Six of those historical claims are about Mary Magdalene.  Kreeft’s most important claim about Mary Magdalene is that she had an EXPERIENCE of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  In Part 5 of this series of posts, I argued that the available HISTORICAL EVIDENCE not only FAILS to prove or establish this key historical claim about Mary Magdalene but that a careful and critical examination of the relevant HISTORICAL EVIDENCE indicates that this key historical claim is probably FALSE.
In Part 6 of this series of posts, I pointed out that 66 of the 102 historical claims implied by premise (1a) are about “the eleven” disciples and I argued that we know very little about eight of those eleven disciples so that any attempt to prove the truth of the 48 historical claims Kreeft implies about those eight disciples is doomed to FAILURE.  Thus, most of Kreeft’s historical claims about “the eleven” cannot be shown to be true because there is insufficient HISTORICAL EVIDENCE to rationally evaluate 48 historical claims out of the 66 historical claims that he implies about “the eleven” disciples in premise (1a).
In the light of these serious problems, we are fully justified in REJECTING premise (1a) as being DUBIOUS, and unworthy of belief and acceptance.  Objection #2 FAILS because premise (1a) is DUBIOUS.
 
PREMISE (2a) IS REDUNDANT
Premise (2a) of Kreeft’s argument constituting his Objection #2 goes like this:

2a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

If someone was a “witness” that implies (in this context) that he or she had an EXPERIENCE of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
Anyone who had such an EXPERIENCE would clearly have “firsthand knowledge of the facts”.  That is to say, such a person would be in a position to provide an accurate description of what his or her EXPERIENCE of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus was like, and would be in a position to provide an accurate description of his or her circumstances at the time that this EXPERIENCE took place.
Thus premise (2a) merely spells out explicitly an implication of premise (1a), and it does not ADD any further information beyond what premise (1a) already contains.  The truth of premise (1a) would logically imply the truth of premise (2a), so we don’t need to consider the question of whether premise (2a) is true or false.  We only need to evaluate the truth or falsehood of premise (1a).
 
 THE INFERENCE FROM PREMISE (1a) to PREMISE (3b)
So, the main question to consider next is whether (1a) logically implies that sub-conclusion (3b) is TRUE (or whether (1a) provides a strong reason that makes (3b) highly probable):

1a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus were simple, honest, moral people.

THEREFORE:

3b . The testimony of the witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus is credible.

 
Although I have made a significant effort to clarify the third premise of Kreeft’s argument, it would be helpful to clarify what is now the most important term in this premise: “credible”.
The first and most basic point to note about “credible” testimony, is that it can be FALSE.  In other words, “credible testimony” does NOT MEAN “true testimony”.
What does it MEAN for testimony to be “credible”?    We should try to answer this question BEFORE we attempt to evaluate the inference from (1a) to (3b).
 
WHAT DOES “CREDIBLE TESTIMONY” MEAN?
My American Heritage College Dictionary (4th edition) gives two definitions of the word “credible”:

credible…adj. 1. Capable of being believed; plausible. …2. Worthy of confidence; reliable.

The first definition seems more descriptive than evaluative, and the second definition is clearly evaluative.
Obviously, the Christian movement grew in the second and third centuries, so MANY people in fact believed the claim that Jesus had risen from the dead, and that some of his original followers experienced a living and embodied Jesus in the days and weeks following his crucifixion.   So, the alleged “testimony” of some of Jesus’ followers was clearly “Capable of being believed”.   The main problem with this descriptive definition of “credible” is that MANY PEOPLE ARE FOOLS, especially uneducated religious believers living in Palestine in the 1st Century, especially when it comes to SUPERNATURAL or MIRACLE claims.  It is no surprise, for example, that MANY people in that time and place believed that demons were a cause of various sorts of diseases.
Educated people in the 21st century believe that diseases have physical causes, like parasites, microscopic organisms, injuries, toxins, and genetic mutations.  Most of us do not accept SUPERNATURAL explanations of diseases.   The MIRACLE claim that “God raised Jesus from the dead” is something that uneducated religious Jews living in superstitious and pre-scientific age would be inclined to accept without any firm factual evidence.  Therefore, the fact that this MIRACLE claim was “Capable of being believed” by MANY uneducated superstitious religious believers in the 1st Century does NOT help to make the case for the truth of this MIRACLE claim.  If we interpret the word “credible” in terms of the first definition above, then premise (3b) will not help Kreeft to make his case against the Hallucination Theory.
The second definition, which is clearly a positive evaluation, would be more useful for Kreeft’s case.  If the alleged testimony of some of Jesus’ original followers asserted that they saw and spoke with a living and embodied Jesus in the days or weeks following his crucifixion and if that testimony was “Worthy of confidence”, then that testimony might well give us a good reason to think that Jesus had in fact risen physically from the dead.  So, in order for Kreeft’s argument to have any chance of success, we need to interpret the word “credible” in premise (3b) in terms of the evaluative definition, the second definition given above:

The testimony T of person P is credible IF AND ONLY IF  the testimony T of person P is worthy of confidence.

But we still need to figure out what makes a given instance of testimony “worthy of confidence”.
 
TWO WAYS TESTIMONY CAN BE UNWORTHY OF CONFIDENCE
It seems easier to start with the opposite idea: testimony that is UNWORTHY of our confidence.  Christian apologists have traditionally focused on two different ways that the testimony of a person can be UNWORTHY of our confidence:

  • DECEIVER
  • DECEIVED

Christian apologists argue that the eleven disciples who were members of “the twelve”, his inner circle of followers, were neither DECEIVERS nor were they DECEIVED.  Clearly, these are two different ways that the testimony of an original follower of Jesus about an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus might reasonably be set aside as being UNWORTHY of our confidence.  If we have reason to believe that a person is a DECEIVER on the subject at hand, then the credibility of his/her testimony is damaged or destroyed.  If we have reason to believe that a person is DECEIVED on the subject at hand, then the credibility of his/her testimony is damaged or destroyed.
Why might a follower of Jesus intentionally give FALSE testimony about an alleged experience of an appearance of the risen Jesus?  What motivation could someone have for doing this?  Here are some possible motivations for intentionally giving FALSE testimony about such an experience:
DECEIVER

  • PEER PRESSURE
  • THREATS/BRIBES
  • ATTENTION/ADMIRATION
  • SOCIAL STATUS/AUTHORITY
  • LOVE/FRIENDSHIP
  • FOOD /MONEY /PROPERTY

People who give FALSE or INACCURATE testimony about an event have different motivations for doing this.  One thing we do to determine whether the testimony of T by person P is worthy of our confidence is to examine their interests and possible motivations that might influence them to give a FALSE or INACCURATE account of the event in question.
Another way in which testimony can be UNWORTHY of our confidence is if we have reason to believe that the person giving the testimony was DECEIVED concerning the subject about which they are testifying.  There are different possible causes of deception or error in the case of testimony about an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus:
DECEIVED

  • FOOLED/MISLED/GULLIBLE/SUPERSTITIOUS
  • INTOXICATED/DRUGGED
  • MISTAKEN IDENTITY
  • POOR EYESIGHT/POOR HEARING
  • UNRELIABLE MEMORY/FALSE OR DISTORTED MEMORY
  • HALLUCINATION/DREAM
  • MENTAL ILLNESS/PHYSICAL STRESS/EMOTIONAL STRESS

People who give FALSE or INACCURATE testimony about an event sometimes honestly and sincerely believe that their testimony is TRUE and ACCURATE, but they are mistaken.  One thing we do to determine whether the testimony of T by person P is worthy of our confidence is to examine their behavior and character and their circumstances and state of mind at the time of the event in question to see if there is reason to believe that one of these possible causes of deception or error was operative in his/or her case, reason to believe he/she was DECEIVED or mistaken in relation to the subject of the testimony.
If a person’s motivations do NOT appear to push them towards giving a FALSE or INACCURATE description of the event in question, and if that person’s motivations appear to push them towards giving a TRUE and ACCURATE description of the event in question, then that gives us reason to view his/her testimony about that event to be worthy of our confidence.  If a person’s behavior, character, and circumstances do NOT appear to provide a cause for their being DECEIVED or mistaken about the event in question and appear to indicate that their sincere and honest beliefs about the event are TRUE and ACCURATE, then that gives us reason to view his/her testimony about that event to be worthy of our confidence.
I don’t intend to investigate the behavior, character, and circumstances of each of the eleven disciples (of whom Kreeft claims that they all testified about having had an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus) to determine whether alleged testimony by any of these disciples is worthy of our confidence.  I have argued previously that we have little or no knowledge about eight of the eleven, so we are clearly in no position to make a reasonable evaluation of any alleged testimony by most of the eleven disciples concerning experiences of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  There is simply not enough INFORMATION to make any sort of confident judgment about whether they might have been DECEIVERS or might have been DECEIVED.  For all we know they were all DECEIVERS, or all DECEIVED, or some were DECEIVERS and others were DECEIVED.
Most importantly, however, we don’t actually have TESTIMONY about their supposed experiences of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus.  The only first-hand account of an alleged appearance of Jesus that we have is from Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament.  But Paul was not one of the eleven, nor was Paul a disciple of Jesus, nor did Paul know Jesus when Jesus was a preacher and faith healer in Palestine.   Because Paul never met the historical Jesus, Paul would not be in a position to IDENTIFY anyone as being the historical Jesus.  So, the only first-hand account of an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus was written by a person who was in no position to IDENTIFY anyone as being Jesus.
 
THE MAIN PROBLEM WITH THE INFERENCE FROM (1a) to (3b)
 
Here again, is the inference from (1a) to (3b) in Kreeft’s argument constituting Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory:
 

1a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus were simple, honest, moral people.

THEREFORE:

3b . The testimony of the witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus is credible.

 
Suppose that (1a) were true (even though there is good reason to doubt this), would premise (3b) follow from that assumption? Clearly, (3b) does NOT FOLLOW from (1a), because (1a) only addresses one KIND of reason why the testimony of a person might be UNWORTHY of our confidence.  Premise (1a) only addresses the possibility of the witness being dishonest or deceptive; it only (at most) eliminates the possibility that the witness is a DECEIVER.  Premise (1a) does NOT eliminate the possibility that the witness was DECEIVED or MISTAKEN concerning his/her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Simple, honest, and moral people can be DECEIVED or MISTAKEN, and premise (1a) does NOT rule out ANY of the various potential causes of deception or error listed above.

Furthermore, just as we have insufficient evidence to conclude that all of “the eleven” disciples were “simple, honest, moral people”, so we also have insufficient evidence to conclude that all of “the eleven” disciples were free from any of the potential causes of deception or error  INCLUDING HALLUCINATIONS.  Because of our IGNORANCE about most of “the eleven” we simply don’t have enough information to make a reasonable evaluation about whether they were subject to being DECEIVED or MISTAKEN, just as our IGNORANCE about most of “the eleven” means that we don’t have enough information to make a reasonable evaluation about their honesty and moral character.
 
EVALUATION OF OBJECTION #2
We have good reason to REJECT Objection #2, because premise (1a) is clearly DUBIOUS, and because premise (3b)  clearly DOES NOT FOLLOW from the premise (1a).  Premise (1a) only deals with the potential issue of the witnesses being DECEIVERS but does not deal with the equally important potential issue of the witnesses being DECEIVED or MISTAKEN.  Because Objection #2 is based on a DUBIOUS premise and also relies on an ILLOGICAL inference, we ought to reject Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory.
NOTE: The inference from (1a) to (3b) could (theoretically) be repaired by the addition of further factual premises.  However, in order for this inference to be solid, those additional factual premises would have to rule out HALLUCINATION as a potential source of ERROR in each testimony by each relevant witness.  But in that case, Kreeft would be REFUTING the Hallucination Theory in order to make this inference work.  But the point of the inference is to be the first step towards a refutation of the Hallucination Theory.  In other words, it appears to me that the argument that constitutes Objection #2 BEGS THE QUESTION, and does so unavoidably.  Before Kreeft, or any other Christian apologist can fix this argument, they will have to FIRST REFUTE the Hallucination Theory!  But the purpose of the argument is to do just that.  So, this argument CANNOT BE FIXED even with the addition of more factual premises.  In other words, to make the inference in this argument work, one must eliminate the possibility that the witnesses were DECEIVED or MISTAKEN, but in order to do this one must FIRST show that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE.

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 6: The Ignorance of Peter Kreeft

WHERE WE ARE
There are at least two kinds of pleasure for a skeptic who critically examines the arguments of Christian apologists:

  • First, there is the pleasure of shooting fish in a barrel.  When I am dealing with the arguments of intellectually deficient philosophers like Peter Kreeft and Norman Geisler, finding problems with their crappy and pathetic arguments provides the pleasure of shooting fish in a barrel.
  • Second, there is the pleasure of winning a chess game against a chess master.  There are some brilliant Christian philosophers, like Richard Swinburne and William Alston, who argue in defense of Christian beliefs.  When I find a serious problem in an argument by Swinburne, I experience the pleasure of winning a chess game against a chess master.

Although I have already provided sufficient reason to conclude that the first premise of Kreeft’s argument (constituting his Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory) is DUBIOUS, I’m going to continue to hammer on this premise and show that there are further good reasons for rejecting that first premise.  In other words, I’m going to enjoy shooting a few more fish.
Here is the first premise of Kreeft’s argument constituting Objection #2:

1a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus were simple, honest, moral people.

Premise (1a) implies at least six claims about each of the alleged “witnesses”:

______ EXPERIENCED an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.

______ TESTIFIED about his/her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.

We currently possess the TESTIMONY of ______ about his/her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.

______ was a SIMPLE person.

______ was an HONEST person.

______ was a MORALLY GOOD person.

Eleven of the seventeen alleged “witnesses” who Kreeft points out are from an inner circle of Jesus’ disciples known as “the Twelve”.  One of “the Twelve” was Judas Iscariot who allegedly betrayed Jesus, and so left (or was kicked out of) the group, leaving eleven disciples in the group.  Here is a list of the eleven remaining disciples:

  • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
  • Andrew (Peter’s brother)
  • James (son of Zebedee)
  • John (son of Zebedee)
  • Philip
  • Bartholomew
  • Matthew
  • Thomas
  • James (son of Alphaeus)
  • Simon (called the Zealot)
  • Judas (son of James)

Premise (1a) thus implies six different historical claims about each of these eleven disciples.  So, Kreeft implies 66 different historical claims about these disciples of Jesus.
In this post, I will argue that not only did Kreeft FAIL to provide ANY HISTORICAL EVIDENCE to support ANY of these 66 different historical claims but that if someone were to try to provide sufficient HISTORICAL EVIDENCE to establish these 66 historical claims, they would inevitably FAIL.  Therefore, we ought to reject premise (1a) as being a VERY DUBIOUS claim.
 
THE IGNORANCE OF PETER KREEFT
One of the benefits of a good education is that it teaches a person some intellectual humility.  The more one knows the more one realizes how little one knows.  IGNORANT people think they know everything when they actually know almost nothing.
Millions of IGNORANT Americans believe they know better than experienced expert epidemiologists about the danger of COVID, the safety and efficacy of vaccinations for COVID, and the efficacy of wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID.  It is likely that about a million Americans will die as a result of such IGNORANCE because so many Americans are blissfully unaware of their own IGNORANCE about COVID.
Peter Kreeft is an IGNORANT person because he is blissfully unaware of his own IGNORANCE.  This is particularly the case with respect to his IGNORANCE about Jesus’ inner circle of disciples.  Kreeft thinks he knows a lot about the character and the activities of “the twelve” disciples who were the inner circle of Jesus’s followers.  But Kreeft is in fact IGNORANT about the character and activities of “the twelve”, for the same reason that we are all ignorant about “the Twelve”: The New Testament tells us very little about the lives of the apostles.
 
JOHN MEIER’S  MAGNUM OPUS: A MARGINAL JEW
The full-strength antidote for the intellectual sloth involved in Kreeft’s Objection #2, is to read Chapter 27 of A Marginal Jew, Volume III: Companions and Competitors by John P. Meier (hereafter: AMJ3).  However, I will provide a healthy dose of Meier’s medicine by presenting some of the key points made by Meier, points supporting my claim that: The NT tells us very little about the lives of the apostles, especially about their lives after the alleged resurrection of Jesus.
John Meier:

…is a professor of the New Testament at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.  He has been both president of the Catholic Biblical Association and the general editor of the Catholic Biblical Quarterly. (from the back flap of AMJ3)

Meier is a leading scholar concerning the historical study of Jesus.

The Last Supper, a depiction of the last supper of Jesus and his Twelve Apostles on the eve of his crucifixion. Painted by Leonardo Da Vinci.

 
OUR IGNORANCE ABOUT INDIVIDUALS IN THE TWELVE
The assumption of the actual existence of “the Twelve” does NOT mean that we can assume anything in particular about the individual people who make up that group.  In the opening pages of Chapter 27, John Meier indicates that we have very little knowledge about these people:

With the exception of very few of them, the lives of the Twelve, however full and exciting they may have been in the 1st century, have been lost to our ken forever.  (AMJ3, p.198)

If we restrict our question to what we can know about the individual members of the Twelve during the public ministry of Jesus, then the answer, apart from a few special cases, must be almost entirely negative.  In fact, even if we extend our glance into the early church, the result is still zero, with a few precious exceptions. 
>>>If we document this inverse insight (i.e., one comes to know that there is nothing further to know), I will examine in turn each member of the Twelve, touching only in passing on the endless pious legends or gnostic fantasies of a later period.  Most of the space given to each individual will be taken up with pointing out that later legends yield no historical data for our quest. (AMJ3, p.199)

In the end, of all the members of the Twelve, only Peter, and, to a lesser degree, the sons of Zebedee emerge from the shadow of the group to stand on their own as knowable individuals. (AMJ3, p.199)

Setting aside Peter, James, and John, we know very little about the remaining eight disciples in the group of eleven disciples about whom Kreeft makes several specific historical claims.
Since Kreeft makes six specific historical claims about each of the eleven disciples, he makes a total of 66 specific historical claims about the eleven disciples, and he makes 48 specific historical claims about the eight disciples about whom we know very little.  Thus, MOST of these specific historical claims are about disciples about whom we know very little.  So, anyone who attempts to provide sufficient HISTORICAL EVIDENCE to establish the 48 specific historical claims about eight of the eleven disciples is doomed to FAILURE.
 
THE IMAGINARY APOSTLE
The Gospel of Matthew provides a list of the Twelve, and that list includes a person who probably did NOT exist:

…and Matthew the tax collector…(Matthew 10:3)

The author of the First Gospel was probably NOT Matthew the apostle.  One reason for doubting that Matthew the apostle was the author of the First Gospel is that the list of the Twelve contains an imaginary Matthew.  Although there probably was a person named “Matthew” among the Twelve, Matthew was NOT a tax collector, so far as we know.
The author of the First Gospel used the Gospel of Mark as a primary source, but revised and edited the material from Mark, including changing the name of a person:

The variations in the second block of four names [in the lists of the Twelve] are likewise due to the First Evangelist’s redactional activity: he changes the name of Levi the toll collector in Mark 2:14 to that of Matthew the toll collector in Matt 9:9.  He thus assures that every named individual who is directly called to discipleship by Jesus winds up in the list of the Twelve.  The First Evangelist hammers home the identification by appending the designation “the toll collector”…to the name of Matthew in the list of the Twelve.  (AMJ3, p.132)

In other words, Levi the tax collector was NOT one of the Twelve but was just an ordinary disciple, but the author of the First Gospel (the Gospel of Matthew) changed the story that came from his primary source Mark, to turn Levi the tax collector into one of the Twelve by changing his name to “Matthew”, the name of one of the Twelve in Mark’s list.  So, Levi the tax collector was probably an actual person, but he was NOT among the Twelve, and there probably was a disciple named Matthew who was among the Twelve, but Matthew was NOT a tax collector (at least it is very unlikely that Matthew also happened to be a tax collector).  So, the person called “Matthew the tax collector” probably did not exist.  This is a fictional character created by combining features of two different characters from the Gospel of Mark.
 
MEIER’S CONCLUSIONS ON OUR IGNORANCE ABOUT SPECIFIC MEMBERS OF “THE TWELVE”
Here is a summary of some of the key points about “the Twelve” apostles from Chapter 27 of John Meier’s A Marginal Jew, Volume 3:

  • There is a little bit of information about Andrew during the ministry of Jesus, and there is NO INFORMATION about Andrew after the crucifixion and alleged resurrection of Jesus.
  • We know VERY LITTLE about Philip.
  • We know NOTHING about Bartholomew.
  • We know NOTHING about Matthew.
  • We know almost nothing about Thomas.
  • James of Alphaeus is a member of the Twelve about whom we have ZERO knowledge.
  • We know almost nothing about Simon the Cananean.
  • We know almost nothing about Jude of James.

Claims that Kreeft makes about the alleged activities and good character of these disciples cannot be established on the basis of solid historical evidence.
 
CONCLUSION
The main problem with premise (1a) of Objection #2 is this: we know very little about the lives of “the Twelve” apostles, so there is insufficient historical knowledge to back up Kreeft’s many historical claims about these disciples, particularly the 48 specific historical claims that he makes about eight of the disciples from the inner circle of “the Twelve” disciples, about whom we know very little.
Kreeft does not make ANY effort whatsoever to provide HISTORICAL EVIDENCE to support ANY of his 66 specific historical claims about the character and activities of the eleven apostles who he claims to be “witnesses” of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus, but even if he were to someday make a serious effort to support his historical claims with HISTORICAL EVIDENCE, he would still FAIL, because the historical evidence that he needs for this objection simply does not exist.
==================
NOTE: Kreeft raised a similar objection in his case against the Conspiracy Theory, another skeptical theory about the alleged resurrection of Jesus.  I wrote a series of posts in 2019 arguing that Kreeft’s case against the Conspiracy Theory was a miserable failure.  In some of those posts I argued that we are IGNORANT about the lives of most of “the Twelve” disciples because the New Testament provides very little information about most of “the Twelve”.  Most of my post above is taken from those previously published posts.  If you want more details on this question, please check out the following two posts from 2019:
Defending the Conspiracy Theory – Part 5: Our Ignorance of The Twelve
Defending the Conspiracy Theory – Part 6: More about Our Ignorance
 

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 5: Historical Evidence about Mary Magdalene

WHERE WE ARE
In Part 4 of this series, I argued that Peter Kreeft’s Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory was a MISERABLE FAILURE.  This is because the first premise of his argument constituting this objection implies 102 specific historical claims about people who lived two thousand years ago, and yet Kreeft FAILED to provide ANY historical evidence whatsoever in support of  ANY of those 102 historical claims.  Kreeft’s Objection #2 is a clear example of EVIDENCE-FREE Christian Apologetics (a type of IDIOCY that, unfortunately, is not confined solely to the writings of Peter Kreeft).
Kreeft’s Objection #2 is a BAD JOKE.  It is a steaming pile of dog crap.  And we have only just begun to evaluate this objection.
 
WHAT DOES THE NEW TESTAMENT SAY ABOUT MARY MAGDALENE?
Here is the first premise of Kreeft’s argument constituting Objection #2:

1a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus were simple, honest, moral people.

Premise (1a) implies at least six claims about Mary Magdalene:

  • Mary Magdalene EXPERIENCED an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
  • Mary Magdalene TESTIFIED about her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
  • We currently possess the TESTIMONY of Mary Magdalene about her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
  • Mary Magdalene was a SIMPLE person.
  • Mary Magdalene was an HONEST person.
  • Mary Magdalene was a MORALLY GOOD person.

Kreeft provides NO HISTORICAL EVIDENCE in support of ANY of these six historical claims.
However, it is obvious that if pressed to provide HISTORICAL EVIDENCE for these claims, Kreeft would point us to various passages in the New Testament, specifically to some passages from the Gospels.
I am familiar with the Gospels, so I am aware of the passages in the Gospels that talk about Mary Magdalene, so we can consider those passages and determine whether or not they provide strong HISTORICAL EVIDENCE in support of Kreeft’s historical claims.

Appearance of Jesus Christ to Maria Magdalena (1835) by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov.

DID MARY EXPERIENCE AN ALLEGED APPEARANCE OF THE RISEN JESUS?
Let’s start with the first historical claim listed above:

  • Mary Magdalene EXPERIENCED an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.

Did Mary Magdalene EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus?  The occurrence of such an EXPERIENCE would not by itself settle the larger issues here because such an experience could be explained as being a hallucination or dream or as an ordinary sensory experience of someone who looked like Jesus (a case of mistaken identity).
According to the Gospel of Matthew, Mary did have such an experience on the first Easter Sunday:

1 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.
3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.
5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.
6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”
8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.
10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”  (Matthew 28:1-10, New Revised Standard Version)

This passage does not explicitly state that Mary Magdalene experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, but Mary Magdalene is named as one of the women who visited Jesus’ tomb around dawn on Sunday morning less than 48 hours after Jesus’ dead body was allegedly placed in the tomb.  This passage talks about an angel speaking to “the women”, which would have included Mary Magdalene, and then the passage states that “Jesus met them” referring again to “the women”. The passage also states that “they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him”, which clearly implies that “the women” believed themselves to be in the presence of a living (risen) Jesus, and since “the women” included Mary Magdalene, this passage implies that Mary Magdalene had an EXPERIENCE of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on the first Easter Sunday.
The Gospel of John also implies that Mary Magdalene EXPERIENCED an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on the first Easter Sunday (see John 20:1-18).  So, it might initially seem that Kreeft was right about this first historical claim about Mary Magdalene.  But upon further investigation, it turns out (as we shall soon see) that the historical evidence indicates that Mary Magdalene DID NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, and that Kreeft’s first–and most important–claim about Mary Magdalene is probably FALSE.
Although Matthew and John agree that Mary Magdalene EXPERIENCED an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, their stories about this contradict each other on several key points, and this seriously undermines the credibility of both of these accounts about what happened on the morning of the first Easter Sunday.
In Matthew’s account two or more women go to the tomb on Sunday morning. In John’s account, there is no mention of anyone going along with Mary Magdalene to the tomb.  In Matthew’s account, there is “a great earthquake” and an angel descends dramatically from heaven.  In John’s account, no earthquake is mentioned, and there is no dramatic descent of an angel from heaven.  In Matthew’s account, there are soldiers present who were guarding the tomb.  In John’s account, there is no mention of any soldiers being present at the tomb.
In Matthew’s account, the women are first spoken to by ONE ANGEL present at the tomb, who gives them a message to take to Jesus’ male disciples, and then they leave the tomb to take the message to those male disciples.  In John’s account, Mary finds the tomb empty and there is no mention of an angel or of an angel giving Mary a message to take to Jesus’ male disciples.  Mary leaves the tomb to get Peter and another disciple and brings them back to the tomb, and there is still no mention of any angel being present.  Later Mary is standing near the tomb and sees TWO ANGELS inside the tomb, and they speak to her.  But they do NOT give her any message to take to the male disciples.
In Matthew, both the angel and Jesus ask the women to take a specific message to the male disciples:  Jesus is heading to Galilee and the disciples are to do the same in order to meet Jesus in Galilee.  But in John, the angels do NOT request that Mary take any message to the disciples, and Jesus says NOTHING to Mary about heading to Galilee nor about Mary giving a message to his male disciples to meet him in Galilee. In fact, John has Jesus stay in Jerusalem and go visit his male disciples that evening, contradicting his own message (in Matthew) that he was heading to Galilee.
Clearly, if Matthew’s account is true and accurate, then John’s account is false and inaccurate, and if John’s account is true and accurate, then Matthew’s account is false and inaccurate.  It is also quite possible that both accounts are false and/or inaccurate.   The two primary pieces of historical evidence supporting Kreeft’s first claim about Mary contradict each other and cast serious doubt on the credibility of each other.
There are further contradictions between the various Gospel accounts of Mary’s visit to the tomb, and those contradictions point us to the conclusion that Mary did NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on the first Easter Sunday.
According to the Gospel of Mark, the women who visited the tomb on Easter Sunday find a “young man” in the tomb who tells them to give a message to Jesus’ male disciples.  The women do NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of Jesus in Mark’s account of this event:

1 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.
2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 
3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 
4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 
5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 
6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 
7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 
8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  (Mark 16:1-8, New Revised Standard Version)

Clearly, the “young man” in the tomb was NOT Jesus, because he specifically tells the women that “Jesus of Nazareth…is not here.”  If the “young man” was Jesus, then the first words of the risen Son of God were a LIE!  But Jesus is supposed to be “God incarnate” and thus a perfectly morally good person, so Jesus LYING to these women would be powerful evidence that Jesus was NOT the Son of God, NOT “God incarnate”.  It is not an option for Christian Apologists to claim that the “young man” inside the tomb was actually the risen Jesus.  They would be shooting themselves in both feet with such a move.
In the verses immediately following the above passage, it is stated that Mary DID EXPERIENCE the risen Jesus and DID TELL his disciples about this:

9 Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.
10 She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping.
11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.  (Mark 16:9-11, New Revised Standard Version)

This is rather CONFUSING!  Mark just finished telling us that the women visiting the tomb only met a “young man” in the tomb, and then “fled from the tomb” and “they said nothing to anyone”.  Now he says that the risen Jesus appeared to Mary and that she “went out and told those who had been with him” (his disciples) that she had seen the risen Jesus.  Why does Mark CONTRADICT HIMSELF in the verses immediately following his initial account of Mary’s visit to the tomb given in the first eight verses of Chapter 16?
The solution to this puzzle is very simple.  According to most NT scholars, verses 1 through 8 were part of the original Gospel of Mark, and the remaining verses in Chapter 16 were added sometime after the Gospel was initially published (circulated).  The earliest and best manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark end at verse 8.  Furthermore, it appears that the added verses were derived from other Gospels in a clumsy attempt to reconcile the ending of Mark’s Gospel with the endings of the other Gospels.
Mark is the earliest of the four canonical Gospels.  It was composed between 60 and 70 CE.  Matthew and Luke were composed later, between 75 and 85 CE, and John was the last of the Gospels, composed between 90 and 100 CE.  So, Mark, as the earliest of the Gospels, is the best historical source we have on the life and ministry of Jesus.  When Mark’s account of an event conflicts with the accounts found in some other Gospel or Gospels, Mark’s account should be preferred other things being equal.
Mark’s account of the visit of the women to the tomb given in verses 1-8 of Chapter 16 conflicts with the accounts given in Matthew and John, in that Mark’s account implies that Mary Magdalene DID NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, but the accounts in Matthew and John imply that Mary did experience an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Because Mark’s Gospel was composed earlier than Matthew and John, we should prefer Mark’s version of this event to the accounts in Matthew and John other things being equal.
Furthermore, we have already seen that Matthew’s account contradicts John’s account on several key points, so those two Gospel’s undermine the credibility of each other’s accounts of the visit to the tomb.  So, things are NOT equal in this case–things (relevant considerations) FAVOR Mark’s version of this event over Matthew’s and John’s accounts.
John is the least historically reliable of the four canonical Gospels, so we can reasonably ignore the contradiction between Mark and John on this matter, and cast John’s account aside.  But what about Matthew’s account?  Could it be that Matthew’s account is accurate and Mark’s account is not?  That is possible but unlikely.  Not only was Matthew’s Gospel composed later than the Gospel of Mark, but Matthew’s Gospel, especially the ending of it, is filled with DUBIOUS events and details not found in other Gospels.
Furthermore, the Gospel of Matthew relies heavily on the Gospel of Mark as a primary source of information about the life and ministry of Jesus, so Matthew’s reliance on Mark is a vote in favor of the reliability of Mark, but the reverse is NOT the case.  Mark does not use Matthew as a primary source, nor does Luke, nor does John.  No canonical Gospel relies on Matthew as a primary source of information, so no Gospel provides a vote of confidence for the reliability of Matthew.  Also, if Mark provides an historically UNRELIABLE account of the life and ministry of Jesus, then so does Matthew because Mathew uses Mark as a primary source of information about the life and ministry of Jesus.
In Matthew’s Gospel the women go to the tomb on Easter Sunday “to see the tomb” (Matthew 28:1).  Mark and Luke provide a much more plausible reason for the visit to the tomb: to anoint the body of Jesus with spices.  Thus the very first sentence in Matthew’s account raises doubt about the accuracy and reliability of this account of the visit to the tomb.  The second verse in Matthew’s account also raises doubt about the accuracy and reliability of this account of the visit to the tomb:

2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.  (Matthew 28:2, NRSV)

There is no “great earthquake” mentioned in Mark’s account of the visit to the tomb, nor in Luke’s account.  There is no earthquake of any sort mentioned.  There is no dramatic “descending from heaven” by an “angel of the Lord” in Mark’s account of the visit to the tomb, nor in Luke’s account.
In verse 4, Matthew provides us with another reason to doubt the accuracy and reliability of his version of the visit to the tomb:

4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. (Matthew 28:4, NRSV)

Matthew’s Gospel includes stories about soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus to prevent his disciples from stealing the body of Jesus (and then falsely claiming that Jesus had risen from the dead).  These stories about there being guards at the tomb of Jesus are found ONLY in the Gospel of Matthew.   No soldiers or guards at the tomb are mentioned in Mark, or Luke, or John.  Many NT scholars view these stories about soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus as an apologetic legend.  These stories were probably invented by early Christian believers as a response to Jewish objections that the body of Jesus had been stolen by his disciples so that they could fool people into believing that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Verses 9 and 10 provide further reason to doubt the accuracy and reliability of Matthew’s version of the visit to the tomb:

9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.
10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:9-10, NRSV)

This is not plausible, from a Christian point of view.  If Jesus is the divine Son of God or “God incarnate”, then Jesus had previously commanded the angels at the tomb to give this message to the women.  If Jesus is “God incarnate”, then he is all-knowing and knew that the angels had already delivered his message to the women, so there is NO POINT in him meeting the women to give them the same message a second time a few minutes later.  Also, it looks suspiciously like the author of Matthew simply borrowed the words of the angels to the women (taken from Mark’s account of this event) and stuck them into the mouth of Jesus.  It looks like the author of Matthew is just making this shit up, using his primary source Mark and plumping the story up by adding in this appearance of Jesus.
The ending of the Gospel of Matthew is filled with DUBIOUS events and details that are NOT FOUND in other Gospels, and that have the function of making the end of this Gospel DRAMATIC.  The Gospel of Matthew is the Steven-Spielberg version of the end of the life of Jesus.  There is one final bit of evidence for this that occurs near the end of Chapter 27, the previous chapter of Matthew (just before the chapter about the resurrection and the visit of the women to the tomb on Easter Sunday):

50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 
51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 
52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 
53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.   (Matthew 27:50-53, NRSV)

Mark’s account of Jesus’ death makes no mention of tombs opening up and dead Jews walking around in Jerusalem.  Luke’s account of Jesus’ death makes no mention of tombs opening up and dead Jews walking around in Jerusalem.  John’s account of Jesus’ death makes no mention of tombs opening up and dead Jews walking around in Jerusalem.  That would have been a pretty AMAZING and DRAMATIC event, but somehow NONE of the authors of the other Gospels ever heard about this.  It seems much more likely that this is simply a legend invented by early Christian believers that the author of Matthew gullibly believed (or made use of without any concern about the veracity of this story) and included in his version of events surrounding the death of Jesus.
Michael Licona is an Evangelical Christian and an apologist who defends the resurrection of Jesus, but even Licona could not accept this story in Matthew as being an actual historical event.  He questioned the historicity of this event and got himself into hot water with other Evangelical Christians, particularly with the Evangelical Christian apologist Norman Geisler.  If an Evangelical Christian apologist who defends the resurrection of Jesus finds this story in Matthew 27 to be implausible and unhistorical, then it is certainly reasonable for a critical thinking non-Christian to doubt the historicity of this story.
So, we have very good reasons to doubt the accuracy and reliability of the stories found at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, and thus we have very good reasons to prefer Mark’s account of the visit to the tomb over Matthew’s account of that event.
Furthermore, Luke’s account of the visit to the tomb agrees with Mark’s account on the key point at issue:  Mary Magdalene does NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Mary and the other women with her experience “two men in dazzling clothes” but not the risen Jesus when they find the tomb of Jesus empty (Luke 24:1-11, NRSV).
According to Mark, Mary Magdalene did NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on Easter Sunday.  According to Matthew and John, Mary DID EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on Easter Sunday, but Luke agrees with Mark that Mary did NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on Easter Sunday.   Because the Gospels contradict each other on the main question at issue, we cannot determine with any certainty what actually happened on the first Easter Sunday.  However, since Mark is the earliest of the four Gospels, we should give preference to Mark’s version of the story of the women visiting the tomb other things being equal.  Furthermore, the Gospel of John is viewed by NT scholars as last of the Gospels to be written and as the least historically reliable of the four Gospels.  So, in the conflict between Mark and John about what Mary EXPERIENCED on the first Easter, we should toss John’s account aside, and prefer Mark’s account.
That still leaves us with a conflict between Mark and Matthew concerning what Mary EXPERIENCED on the first Easter.  Because Matthew used Mark as a primary source of information about the life and ministry of Jesus, and because Mark was composed before Matthew, we should give preference to Mark’s version of the story of the women visiting the tomb on Easter other things being equal.  Since the end of Matthew’s gospel contains a number of dubious events that are very dramatic and are found in no other Gospel, and since Luke agrees with Mark that Mary did NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, we have very good reason to doubt the accuracy and reliability of Matthew’s version of these events and to prefer Mark’s account of these events over Matthew’s account.  Therefore, although we cannot be certain that any of these Gospel stories are true or accurate, it is MORE LIKELY that Mark’s account is correct on the point in question than that Matthew’s account is correct.  So, according to the HISTORICAL EVIDENCE found in the four canonical Gospels, it is PROBABLY the case that Mary Magdalene did NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on the first Easter Sunday.
 
CONCLUSION ABOUT PREMISE (1a) OF KREEFT’S ARGUMENT CONSTITUTING HIS OBJECTION #2
So, Kreeft provided NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER in support of ANY of the 102 historical claims implied by the very first premise of his argument that constitutes his Objection #2, and after critically examining the relevant HISTORICAL EVIDENCE concerning Kreeft’s first and most important historical claim about Mary Magdalene, it turns out that the EVIDENCE from the New Testament goes AGAINST his claim!  Based on the EVIDENCE of the NT, it is PROBABLE that Mary Magdalene DID NOT EXPERIENCE an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on the first Easter Sunday.  Furthermore, if Mary did NOT have such an experience, then any TESTIMONY that she might have given about having such an experience would be FALSE or INACCURATE.
So, it would be reasonable at this point to remove Mary Magdalene from Kreeft’s list of alleged WITNESSES.  It would obviously take a good deal of time and effort to critically examine each of the 102 historical claims implied by premise (1A) of Kreeft’s argument.  Since Kreeft did not bother to provide ANY evidence for ANY of those claims, and since the first and most important historical claim he made about Mary Magdalene is PROBABLY FALSE, I think it is unnecessary to continue to take premise (1A) seriously.
Kreeft just barfed up a whole lot of historical claims without any serious thought and without any concern about whether those numerous historical claims were true or supported by relevant evidence.  So, we have no obligation to take premise (1a) seriously, and we have good reason to view that premise as being DUBIOUS.  Given the large number of claims implied by (1a) about people who lived 2,000 years ago, it was LIKELY from the start that many of those claims would turn out to be FALSE or DUBIOUS, and we see that is indeed the case with the first and most important historical claim Kreeft makes about Mary Magdalene.

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 4: Were There Qualified Witnesses?

THE CLARIFICATION OF KREEFT’S ARGUMENT FOR OBJECTION #2
In his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA) Peter Kreeft presented his Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory in just two brief sentences:

Presenting an argument for the falsehood of the Hallucination Theory in just two brief sentences is IDIOTIC.  One reason this is IDIOTIC is that this argument is UNCLEAR, and yet Kreeft provides ZERO clarification of it.
However, in Part 3 of this series I fixed the argument for Kreeft so that his argument is now much clearer:

1. The witnesses were simple, honest, moral people.

2. The witnesses had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

THEREFORE:

3. The witnesses were qualified.

B. IF the witnesses were qualified, THEN the Hallucination Theory is false.

THEREFORE:

A. The Hallucination Theory is false.

Furthermore, I have previously clarified the meaning of premise (3) as follows:

3a. The testimony of the witnesses is credible.

Although Kreeft does not make this explicit in his statement of this argument, the witnesses of interest to Kreeft are witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus.
So, premise (3) can be further clarified to make this qualification explicit:

3b . The testimony of the witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus is credible.

 
FURTHER CLARIFICATION OF KREEFT’S ARGUMENT CONSTITUTING OBJECTION #2
Because premise (3) has been significantly revised to make the meaning of that premise clear, the rest of the argument also needs to be revised accordingly:

1a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus were simple, honest, moral people.

2a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

THEREFORE:

3b . The testimony of the witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus is credible.

B1. IF the testimony of the witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus is credible, THEN the Hallucination Theory is false.

THEREFORE:

A. The Hallucination Theory is false.

 
 

 
CLARIFICATION OF “THE WITNESSES”
There is one remaining problem of UNCLARITY in this much-improved version of Kreeft’s argument: who are “the witnesses” who testified about the alleged appearances of the risen Jesus?
The phrase “the witnesses” in Kreeft’s argument refers back to the people he mentioned in Objection #1, and I have previously spelled out who those people are:
INDIVIDUALS

  • Mary Magdalene
  • James (the “brother” or cousin of Jesus)

GROUPS

  • the disciples minus Thomas
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • Andrew (Peter’s brother)
    • James (son of Zebedee)
    • John (son of Zebedee)
    • Philip
    • Bartholomew
    • Matthew
    • James (son of Alphaeus)
    • Simon (called the Zealot)
    • Judas (son of James)
  • the disciples including Thomas
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • Andrew (Peter’s brother)
    • James (son of Zebedee)
    • John (son of Zebedee)
    • Philip
    • Bartholomew
    • Matthew
    • Thomas
    • James (son of Alphaeus)
    • Simon (called the Zealot)
    • Judas (son of James)
  • two disciples at Emmaus
    • Cleopas
    • an unnamed disciple at Emmaus
  • the fishermen on the shore
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • James (son of Zebedee)
    • John (son of Zebedee)
    • Thomas
    • Nathanael (= Bartholomew?)
    • the beloved disciple (not one of “the twelve” disciples)
    • a second unnamed disciple by the Sea of Tiberias
  • five hundred people
    • unnamed males and females in an unknown location and with unknown religious and cultural backgrounds

 
EVALUATION OF PREMISE (1A)
Here is the first premise of Kreeft’s argument that constitutes his Objection #2:

1a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus were simple, honest, moral people.

The phrase “The witnesses” refers to the above list of people.  The first person on Kreeft’s list is: Mary Magdalene.
In applying the term “witness” to Mary Magdalene, Kreeft implies that Mary satisfies one or the other of the following two definitions of “witness”:

Definition 6a: One who can potentially furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.

Definition 6b: One who actually furnishes evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.  

In the context of Kreeft’s argument against the Hallucination Theory, only Definition 6b will help Kreeft make his case.  If Mary Magdalene were merely POTENTIALLY able to furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, then that would be of no use or help to Kreeft, because his argument is about the CREDIBILITY of a witness’s TESTIMONY.
There can be no TESTIMONY from Mary Magdalene unless Mary ACTUALLY furnished evidence by giving a firsthand account of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  The mere POTENTIAL or POSSIBILITY that Mary could have or might have provided such evidence is IRRELEVANT.  The only way that Mary Magdalene is relevant to Kreeft’s argument about the CREDIBILITY of the TESTIMONY of witnesses is if Mary actually testified about an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Apart from actual TESTIMONY from Mary, there is nothing that can be evaluated as being CREDIBLE TESTIMONY from Mary.  Only Definition 6b implies that TESTIMONY EXISTS about experiences of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus that can be positively evaluated as being CREDIBLE TESTIMONY.
So, when Kreeft calls Mary Magdalene a “witness” he implies not only that Mary could have or might have furnished evidence by giving a firsthand account of an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, but that Mary actually did furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Kreeft’s argument about CREDIBLE TESTIMONY will work ONLY IF he uses the term “witness” in accordance with Definition 6b.
Premise (1a) implies at least six claims about Mary Magdalene:

  • Mary Magdalene EXPERIENCED an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
  • Mary Magdalene TESTIFIED about her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
  • We currently possess the TESTIMONY of Mary Magdalene about her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
  • Mary Magdalene was a SIMPLE person.
  • Mary Magdalene was an HONEST person.
  • Mary Magdalene was a MORALLY GOOD person.

NOTE: If we do NOT possess the TESTIMONY of Mary Magdalene about her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, then the CREDIBILITY of her testimony is WORTHLESS and IRRELEVANT for use in Kreeft’s argument which is focused on the question of whether or not the TESTIMONY of some particular witnesses is CREDIBLE.
If ANY one of these six claims about Mary Magdalene is FALSE or DUBIOUS, then premise (1a) is FALSE or DUBIOUS.
Premise (1a) implies the same six different specific claims about EVERY person in Keeft’s list of  “witnesses”.  If one of those six claims about ANY of the people in his list is FALSE or DUBIOUS, then premise (1a) is FALSE or DUBIOUS.
So, even before we examine any evidence on these questions, it seems obvious that it is VERY LIKELY that premise (1a) is FALSE or DUBIOUS because this premise asserts six different specific claims about many different people who lived about 2,000 years ago.  Even if we set aside “the five hundred” alleged “witnesses” we still have eleven apostles, plus Mary Magdalene, plus James (the “brother” or cousin of Jesus), plus “the beloved disciple”, and Cleopas, and two other unnamed disciples.  Seventeen people times six claims equals 102 claims.
Setting aside “the five hundred” alleged “witnesses”, with premise (1a) Kreeft has implied 102 different specific historical claims, and thus he needs to provide historical evidence supporting each of those 102 specific historical claims, and it seems very likely that one or several of those claims will turn out to be FALSE or DUBIOUS.  We should at this point set aside “the five hundred” alleged “witnesses” because Kreeft’s third objection is focused on “the five hundred” alleged “witnesses”.  We should evaluate the significance of “the five hundred” separately when we critically examine Objection #3, and ignore “the five hundred” alleged “witnesses” for now, while we are critically examining Objection #2.  
Now that we have fully clarified the meaning of the first premise of Kreeft’s argument that constitutes his Objection #2, we see that (a) he is making 102 specific historical claims, and (b) he has provided NO HISTORICAL EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER for any of these 102 specific historical claims:

This chart makes it very clear that Kreeft’s Objection #2 FAILS miserably, because of the IDIOCY of attempting to make an argument against the Hallucination Theory in just two brief sentences.  Kreeft has provided us with a perfect example of EVIDENCE-FREE APOLOGETICS.  He makes 102 specific historical claims in the very first premise of his argument but provides NO HISTORICAL EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER in support of ANY of those 102 specific historical claims.  Only a MORON (or fan of Donald Trump) would be persuaded by such an intellectual turd as Kreeft’s Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory.
 
TO BE CONTINUED…
 

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 3: The Witnesses Were Qualified

WHERE WE ARE
Peter Kreeft’s first three objections against the Hallucination Theory in his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter HCA) can be summarized this way:

Objection #1:  There were too many witnesses(HCA, p.186, emphasis added)

Objection #2: The witnesses were qualified. (HCA, p. 187, emphasis added)

Objection #3: The five hundred [eyewitnesses] saw Christ together at the same time and place. (HCA, p.187 emphasis added)

In Part 2 of this series, I argued that we should understand the term “witness” in terms of one or the other of the following two definitions:

6a. One who can potentially furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.

6b. One who actually furnishes evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.  

I think Objection #1 is going to take a fair amount of time and effort to critically examine, so I will get us started with Objection #2, which I think I can dispatch more quickly and more easily.

 
OBJECTION #2: THE WITNESSES WERE QUALIFIED
Here are the entire contents of Kreeft’s Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory:

Here is Kreeft’s argument in standard form:

1. The witnesses were simple, honest, moral people.

2. The witnesses had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

THEREFORE:

3. The witnesses were qualified.

The most obvious problem with this argument is that it says NOTHING about the Hallucination Theory!   In order for this argument to be RELEVANT to the question at issue, it must say something about the Hallucination Theory (duh!), namely that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE.  So, if this objection is RELEVANT to the question at issue, then the logic of Objection #2 goes like this:

1. The witnesses were simple, honest, moral people.

2. The witnesses had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

THEREFORE:

3. The witnesses were qualified.

THEREFORE:

A. The Hallucination Theory is false.

On the face of it, this appears to be a non sequitur.  The conclusion (A) DOES NOT FOLLOW from premise (3).
However, we can repair this logically broken argument by adding an additional premise:

1. The witnesses were simple, honest, moral people.

2. The witnesses had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

THEREFORE:

3. The witnesses were qualified.

B. IF the witnesses were qualified, THEN the Hallucination Theory is false.

THEREFORE:

A. The Hallucination Theory is false.

Now the argument is more logical and is RELEVANT to the question at issue.  However, the additional premise (B) seems rather dubious, but I’m going to hold off on evaluating the argument until I have clarified it further.
Premise (3) is UNCLEAR because the subject of (3) is UNCLEAR and the predicate of (3) is UNCLEAR.  Before we can evaluate the sub-argument for premise (3), we need to understand what (3) means, and in order to understand what (3) means, we need to CLARIFY the subject of (3) and CLARIFY the predicate of (3):

  • Subject: “The witnesses”
  • Predicate: “were qualified”

 
THE MEANING OF THE PHRASE “THE WITNESSES” IN PREMISE (3)
The SUBJECT of premise (3) is “The Witnesses” and we can clarify WHO this expression is talking about based on the fact that this expression refers to “the witnesses” previously mentioned in Objection #1, and also based on the NT passages relevant to specific alleged appearances of the risen Jesus mentioned in Objection #1 (see the ADDENDUM at the bottom of this post for the details):
INDIVIDUALS

  • Mary Magdalene
  • James (the “brother” or cousin of Jesus)

GROUPS

  • the disciples minus Thomas
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • Andrew (Peter’s brother)
    • James (son of Zebedee)
    • John (son of Zebedee)
    • Philip
    • Bartholomew
    • Matthew
    • James (son of Alphaeus)
    • Simon (called the Zealot)
    • Judas (son of James)
  • the disciples including Thomas
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • Andrew (Peter’s brother)
    • James (son of Zebedee)
    • John (son of Zebedee)
    • Philip
    • Bartholomew
    • Matthew
    • Thomas
    • James (son of Alphaeus)
    • Simon (called the Zealot)
    • Judas (son of James)
  • two disciples at Emmaus
    • Cleopas
    • an unnamed disciple at Emmaus
  • the fishermen on the shore
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • James (son of Zebedee)
    • John (son of Zebedee)
    • Thomas
    • Nathanael (= Bartholomew?)
    • the beloved disciple (not one of “the twelve” disciples)
    • a second unnamed disciple by the Sea of Tiberias
  • five hundred people
    • unnamed males and females in an unknown location and with unknown religious and cultural backgrounds

 
In referring to these people as “The witnesses” Kreeft implies that each of these people was a “witness”, meaning that he is claiming that each of these people satisfies one of the following definitions of a “witness”:

6a. One who can potentially furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.

6b. One who actually furnishes evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.

What is the “something” about which these people can allegedly give a firsthand account?   To say that these people can give a firsthand account of an interaction with a physically resurrected Jesus would BEG THE QUESTION.  One cannot “give a firsthand account of an interaction with a physically resurrected Jesus” if Jesus remained dead and the experiences of these people were just hallucinations about Jesus.  Kreeft cannot ASSUME that the Hallucination Theory is false, and that the resurrection of Jesus is a fact, because that is precisely the issue that skeptics and Christians disagree about here.
The “something” that some people might be able to give a firsthand account about in this context is an experience had by one or more people which SEEMED to them to be an experience of a physical, living, and conscious Jesus.  Whether it is reasonable to accept this interpretation of such an experience is a separate question from whether such experiences were had by particular people in particular places at particular times.
An important question here is whether Kreeft is using the term “witnesses” in the sense of someone who could POTENTIALLY furnish evidence, sense (6a), or in the sense of someone who ACTUALLY furnished evidence, sense (6b).  This distinction makes a big difference in terms of whether Kreeft has any ACTUAL EVIDENCE against the Hallucination Theory.
 
THE MEANING OF THE PHRASE “WERE QUALIFIED” IN PREMISE (3)
The predicate of premise (3) is also UNCLEAR:  “were qualified”.  What the hell does that mean?  Presenting an argument to disprove the Hallucination Theory in just two brief sentences is IDIOTIC.  But it is even more IDIOTIC to assert as your main premise a statement that has such a VAGUE and UNCLEAR predicate as “were qualified”, and then provide ZERO explanation of what this means.
Presumably, Kreeft wants us to take these “witnesses” seriously; he wants us to believe the TESTIMONY of these witnesses, to BELIEVE what they have to say about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus.  So, my initial guess is that the term “qualified” is just a rather STUPID substitute for the clearer notion of credibility:

3a. The testimony of the witnesses is credible.

However,  I have noticed that William Craig, another Christian philosopher (who specializes in defending the beliefs that Jesus rose from the dead and that God raised Jesus from the dead), also uses the UNCLEAR term “qualified” in relation to “the witnesses” of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus:

Humphrey Ditton in his Discourse Concerning the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (1712) argues that the apostles could not have been mistaken about the resurrection.    In the first place, the witnesses to the appearances were well qualified.  There were a great many witnesses, and they had personal knowledge of the facts over an extended period of forty days.      (Reasonable Faith, 3rd edition, p.237)

Craig, like Kreeft, FAILS to define or clarify what the term “qualified” means here.  But Craig is just summarizing the reasoning of the Christian apologist Humphrey Ditton, so it appears that the use of the term “qualified” to characterize the various people who were “the witnesses” of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus goes back at least to early in the 18th century when Ditton published his case for the resurrection of Jesus.
 
DITTON AND THE MEANING OF THE UNCLEAR PHRASE “WERE QUALIFIED”
It is likely that premise (3) of Kreeft’s argument can be traced back to Ditton’s case for the resurrection, so we should look at how Ditton used the word “qualified” and see if his use of this word is any clearer than the UNCLEAR use of it by both Kreeft and Craig.
In looking over passages where Ditton uses the terms “qualifications” and “qualified” (actually “qualify’d” in Ditton’s 18th century English), it is clear that he was in fact talking about the CREDIBILITY of the TESTIMONY of witnesses.  Consider, for example, pages 162 through 164 of Ditton’s Discourse Concerning the Resurrection of Jesus Christ On page 162, Ditton uses the phrase “credibility of testimony” three times, and uses the term “credible” to describe “testimony” three times:

On the very next page, Ditton uses the phrase “Qualifications and Conditions” as being what determines the “Degree of rational Credibility” of a particular instance of “Testimony”:

Note that the phrase “Credibility of Testimony” occurs four times and that the word “credible” occurs twice as a description of “Testimony” on the above page.
On page 164, Ditton is still clearly focused on the “Credibility of Testimony” but he uses the phrase “well qualify’d” to describe some “Witnesses”, again implying that the “qualifications” of witnesses help determine the CREDIBILITY of their testimony:

Furthermore, it is clear that Kreeft’s Objection #2 has historical roots in Ditton’s defense of the resurrection because the considerations briefly mentioned by Kreeft line up with some of Ditton’s reasons why we should take the “testimony” of the apostles (Jesus’ inner circle of disciples) about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus to be “credible”.  Recall the first premise of Kreeft’s argument constituting Objection #2:

1. The witnesses were simple, honest, moral people.

Here is how William Craig summarizes Ditton’s reasoning on this question:

A second popular argument against the disciples’ being deceivers was that their character precludes them from being liars.  Humphrey Ditton observes that the apostles were simple, common men, not cunning deceivers.  They were men of unquestioned moral integrity and their proclamation of the resurrection was solemn and devout. …Finally, they were evidently sincere in what they proclaimed.  In the light of their character so described, asks Ditton bluntly, why not believe the testimony of these men?                    (Reasonable Faith, 3rd edition, p.340-341)

Ditton asserted that the apostles were “simple”  and that they were “not cunning deceivers” (i.e. they were honest people) and that they had “moral integrity”. These are among the reasons Ditton gives as the basis for taking their TESTIMONY to be CREDIBLE.
Kreeft’s use of the odd and UNCLEAR term “qualified” to describe “the witnesses” of alleged appearances of a risen Jesus suggests that Objection #2 derives from Humphrey Ditton’s case for the resurrection, but in addition to that, the very reasons that Kreeft gives in support of his UNCLEAR sub-conclusion, premise (3), are the same as some of the reasons that Ditton gave in support of the CREDIBILITY of the TESTIMONY of the apostles, in Ditton’s case for the resurrection.  Clearly, Objection #2 has historical roots in Ditton’s argument about the CREDIBILITY of the TESTIMONY of witnesses who allegedly had experiences of a risen Jesus.
Because Keeft’s Objection #2 was derived from Ditton’s case for the resurrection of Jesus, it is reasonable to interpret premise (3) of Kreeft’s argument constituting this objection, in the way that I initially suggested prior to learning about the relationship between Kreeft’s objection and Ditton’s discussion about the credibility of the testimony of the apostles:

3a. The testimony of the witnesses is credible.

We can toss aside the VAGUE and UNCLEAR term “qualified” used by both Kreeft and Craig, and substitute the clearer idea about the CREDIBILITY of the TESTIMONY of a WITNESS,  because that was the focus of Ditton’s argument concerning witnesses of alleged appearances of a risen Jesus, and because Kreeft’s Objection #2 derives from Ditton’s argument on this question.
 
TO BE CONTINUED…
 
*The image above of the quotation of Objection #1 is taken from a web page, and the web page mistakenly substituted the word “fisherman” for the word “fishermen”.
========================== 
ADDENDUM: FIGURING OUT THE PEOPLE REFERRED TO BY THE PHRASE “THE WITNESSES”
========================== 
The phrase “The witnesses” in premise (3) is a referring expression, and it refers back to the people that Kreeft was talking about in Objection #1:

The expression “The witnesses” in premise (3) refers to this list of people.  The list gives us only three named “witnesses”:

  • Mary Magdalene
  • Thomas (one of “the twelve” disciples)
  • James (the “brother” or cousin of Jesus)

This list also contains a number of expressions that need to be clarified:

  • the disciples minus Thomas
  • the disciples including Thomas
  • two disciples at Emmaus
  • the fishermen on the shore
  • five hundred people

Although Kreeft does not bother to clarify these expressions, those who are familiar with the New Testament can easily connect these expressions to specific stories or passages in the NT:

  • The expression “the disciples minus Thomas” is a reference to an appearance story found in the 4th Gospel (John 20:19-25).
  • The expression “the disciples including Thomas” is a reference to an appearance story found in the 4th Gospel (John 20:26-28).
  • The expression “two disciples at Emmaus” is a reference to an appearance story found in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 24:13-32).
  • The expression “the fishermen on the shore” is a reference to an appearance story found in the 4th Gospel (John 21:1-14).
  • The expression “five hundred people” is a reference to the mention of an appearance found in one of Paul’s letters (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

Unfortunately, the NT passage that corresponds to the phrase “the disciples minus Thomas” does NOT SPECIFY who “the disciples” were:

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
[…]
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. (John 20:19-25).

However, this passage does hint at the meaning of the phrase “the disciples” by pointing out that Thomas was “one of the twelve”.  Presumably, “the disciples” includes other members of “the twelve”, making the absence of Thomas an exception.  According to the gospels, Jesus had selected TWELVE followers to be an inner circle of disciples.  So it seems like the expression “the disciples” in the above quote from Chapter 20 of John includes most of “the twelve” disciples who were selected by Jesus to be part of an inner circle of his followers. The Gospel of John, however, does not provide a list of “the twelve” disciples.  So, the phrase “the disciples” in this passage is an UNCLEAR reference.
But the Gospel of Luke has a similar story about Jesus appearing to some of his disciples in Jerusalem on the evening of the first Easter Sunday.  In Luke’s version, Thomas was present at this event, so Luke contradicts the appearance story in John.  In Luke’s account of this appearance “the eleven and their companions gathered together” in the evening of the first Easter (Luke 24:33).  The reference to “the eleven” by Luke is a reference to “the twelve” minus the disciple Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus.  The Gospel of Luke, unlike the Gospel of John, provides a list of “the twelve” who made up the inner circle of Jesus’ followers, so we can use Luke’s list of “the twelve” to determine who at least some of “the disciples” were in the appearance stories found in Chapter 20 of John:

13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles:
14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew,
15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot,
16 and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.      (Luke 6:13-15, NRSV)

We can remove Judas Iscariot, because he betrayed Jesus and thus was no longer part of the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples who (allegedly) gathered together in the evening on the first Easter, according to Luke:

  1. Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
  2. Andrew (Peter’s brother)
  3. James
  4. John
  5. Philip
  6. Bartholomew
  7. Matthew
  8. Thomas
  9. James (son of Alphaeus)
  10. Simon (called the Zealot)
  11. Judas (son of James)

According to the Gospel of John, Thomas was not present during this Easter Sunday event, so no more than ten of “the twelve” were present for this alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, based on the account in the Gospel of John.
Who were the “two disciples at Emmaus”?  The passage in Luke where this appearance story is found (Luke 24:13-32) only names one of the two disciples who allegedly saw the risen Jesus:

Cleopas (Luke 24:18).

Luke makes it clear, though, that neither of these two disciples was part of “the eleven” (Luke 24:33); neither of them had been selected by Jesus to be part of his inner circle of disciples.
Who were “the fishermen on the shore”? This phrase refers to an appearance story found in the 4th Gospel (John 21:1-14). In this story, the author of the 4th Gospel provides more information about who was present:

1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.
2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 
(John 24:1-2)

Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, and the sons of Zebedee are part of the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples.  The “sons of Zebedee” are “James” and “John” mentioned third and fourth in the above list of disciples by Luke.
Additionally, in this group of fishermen, we have “Nathanael of Cana in Galilee” and “two others of his disciples”.  Who were these other people?
In the Gospel of John, Jesus specifically calls Nathanael to be his disciple, so the Gospel of John makes it seem that Nathanael was one of the twelve disciples, one of the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples.  However, none of the lists of “the twelve” include the name “Nathanael”.  One plausible hypothesis is that “Nathanael” is the same person as “Bartholomew”.  There are a few reasons that support this hypothesis.  First, the Gospel of John never mentions a “Bartholomew”.  Second, “Bartholomew” means “son of Ptolemy” which implies that this disciple had another name, a first name. Third, the first two names in Luke’s list of “the twelve” are brothers: Peter and Andrew, and the second two names in Luke’s list are also brothers:  John and James (the sons of Zebedee), so it might well be that the next two names in Luke’s list were also brothers (or close friends): Philip and Bartholomew.  In the story in the Gospel of John where Jesus calls Nathanael to become his disciple, there is an indication that Philip and Nathanael were close to each other (see John 1:3-51).  So, I think it is reasonable to assume that the “Bartholomew” mentioned in Luke is the same person as “Nathanael” mentioned in the 4th Gospel, and thus that Nathanael was one of “the eleven”, part of the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples.
What about the “two others of his disciples” who were among “the fishermen at the shore”?  One of them was Jesus’ “beloved disciple” (John 21:20).  There is much debate and disagreement over who this person was, but the evidence is fairly clear that this person was NOT among “the eleven”.  The beloved disciple appears to be a follower of Jesus from Jerusalem or near Jerusalem, not from Galilee.  The 4th Gospel was probably written by disciples of “the beloved disciple” a follower of Jesus who founded a Christian church or community in the first century.
So, “the fishermen on the shore” refers to the following group of people:

  • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
  • James (son of Zebedee)
  • John (son of Zebedee)
  • Thomas
  • Nathanael (= Bartholomew?)
  • the beloved disciple (not one of “the twelve” disciples)
  • a second unnamed disciple (by the Sea of Tiberias)

Who were “the five hundred” people who allegedly experienced an appearance of the risen Jesus? We don’t know the name of a single person in “the five hundred”.  We don’t know where these people were when this event took place.  We don’t know whether any or all of them were Jewish followers of Jesus or non-Jewish Christian believers at the time this “appearance” happened. We know virtually NOTHING about “the five hundred” because there is only one brief sentence about them in one of the letters of Paul:

6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.  (1 Corinthians 15:6)

The phrase “brothers and sisters” here does not mean biological siblings; it means male and female Christian believers.  Paul does not say whether some, most, or all of these people were already Christian believers when this alleged “appearance” of Jesus took place.
The SUBJECT of premise (3) is “The Witnesses” and we can now clarify who this expression is talking about.  It is talking about two individuals and five groups of people:
INDIVIDUALS

  • Mary Magdalene
  • James (the “brother” or cousin of Jesus)

GROUPS

  • the disciples minus Thomas
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • Andrew (Peter’s brother)
    • James
    • John
    • Philip
    • Bartholomew
    • Matthew
    • James (son of Alphaeus)
    • Simon (called the Zealot)
    • Judas (son of James)
  • the disciples including Thomas
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • Andrew (Peter’s brother)
    • James
    • John
    • Philip
    • Bartholomew
    • Matthew
    • Thomas
    • James (son of Alphaeus)
    • Simon (called the Zealot)
    • Judas (son of James)
  • two disciples at Emmaus
    • Cleopas
    • an unnamed disciple at Emmaus
  • the fishermen on the shore
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • James (son of Zebedee)
    • John (son of Zebedee)
    • Thomas
    • Nathanael (= Bartholomew?)
    • the beloved disciple (not one of “the twelve” disciples)
    • a second unnamed disciple by the Sea of Tiberias
  • five hundred people
    • unnamed males and females in an unknown location and with unknown background(s)

bookmark_borderFeser’s Perverted Faculty Argument – Part 2: Clarifying the Conclusion of the Core Argument

WHERE WE ARE
Edward Feser has put forward a version of the Perverted Faculty Argument (hereafter: PFA) against homosexual sex, so I will now examine that argument in the hopes that it is an actual argument consisting of actual claims.  Based on his book Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Feser understands the need to define and clarify the meanings of keywords and phrases in philosophical arguments.  I am hoping that in his presentation of PFA,  Feser will define and/or clarify the meanings of keywords and phrases in his version of PFA so that it constitutes an actual argument that is composed of actual claims.  If I find his effort to constitute an actual argument, then I will attempt to rationally evaluate that argument.
In Part 1 of this series of posts, I attempted to clarify the core argument in Feser’s PFA, based on his summary of that argument in his book Neo-Scholastic Essays (hereafter: NSE) on pages 403 and 404.
 
THE REVISED CORE ARGUMENT OF FESER’S PFA

3a. A situation where a human being uses the sexual faculties belonging to that human being in a manner that is contrary to the procreative and/or unitive ends of the sexual faculties of human beings AND where that activity is good for that human being is a metaphysically impossible situation.

4a. In any situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts, that human being uses the sexual faculties belonging to that human being in a manner that is contrary to the procreative and/or unitive ends of the sexual faculties of human beings.

THEREFORE:

5a. A situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts AND where that activity (of engaging in homosexual acts) is good for that human being is a metaphysically impossible situation.

This revised core argument is significantly more CLEAR than the statement by Feser.  However, all three sentences here still make use of UNCLEAR words and phrases, so I’m not yet willing to admit that these three sentences make actual claims, nor that this is an actual argument.  It depends on whether Feser defines or clarifies the various UNCLEAR  words and phrases in these three sentences.
In this post I will address this crucial question:

Does Feser provide useful definitions or clarifications of the meanings of the keywords and phrases in these sentences that are, apart from such efforts, too UNCLEAR to make it so the sentences may reasonably be treated as actual claims?

 
WHAT DOES THE CONCLUSION MEAN?
Because the conclusion of an argument is the main point of the argument, it is generally best to start an examination of an argument by focusing on the conclusion.  Because CLARIFICATION is often needed to understand the meaning of a statement and thus be in a position to rationally evaluate the statement, it is generally best to start an examination of a statement by working to clarify the meaning of that statement.  I have already made one attempt to clarify the conclusion of the core argument in Feser’s PFA, but it is still UNCLEAR.  So, I will continue to work at achieving a better understanding of this statement:

5a. A situation where a human being engages in homosexual acts AND where that activity (of engaging in homosexual acts) is good for that human being is a metaphysically impossible situation.

There are at least three UNCLEAR phrases in this statement:

  • human being H engages in homosexual acts
  • activity A is good for human being H
  • situation S is a metaphysically impossible situation

Because NONE of these three phrases has a clear meaning, (5a) is UNCLEAR and cannot be rationally evaluated as it stands.  These are three main parts or components of the statement (5a), and each part must be CLARIFIED.  Apart from a definition or clarification of each one of these phrases, it will not be possible to have a clear understanding of the meaning of (5a), and apart from such a clear understanding, it will not be possible to rationally evaluate this statement, nor to rationally evaluate an argument given in support of this statement.
Breaking down (5a) into its main parts or components, into these three phrases, is part of the process of ANALYSIS.  The point is to take a big task or problem, like CLARIFYING (5a), and turn it into smaller, easier to manage problems.  So, instead of having one big problem, we now have three smaller problems to manage.
 
WHAT DOES THE PHRASE “ENGAGES IN HOMOSEXUAL ACTS” MEAN?
In my previous examination of a PFA presented by Tim Hsiao one of the reasons that I rejected that argument as a worthless piece of intellectual garbage is that Hsiao made NO EFFORT to clarify the meanings of the key phrases “homosexual activity” and “sexual activity”.  So, we are walking down the same path with Feser’s version of a PFA.  The main question now is whether Feser made any effort to clarify the meaning of the UNCLEAR phrase “engages in homosexual acts”.  If Feser attempted to clarify the meaning of this phrase, then his version of PFA might be able to go beyond the FAILED attempt by Hsiao to present a version of PFA.
According to Feser, his article “In Defense of the Perverted Faculty Argument” in Neo-Scholastic Essays is his most detailed and systematic treatment of sexual morality (as of June in 2015):

 
The phrase “homosexual acts” occurs not only in the conclusion of the core argument in his PFA but also in the ultimate conclusion of PFA:

Feser uses the phrase “homosexual acts” thirteen times in his article defending PFA.  However, he NEVER DEFINES what this phrase means, and he NEVER attempts to CLARIFY the meaning of this phrase.  Because the phrase “homosexual acts” is an UNCLEAR and AMBIGUOUS phrase, we don’t know what the hell the conclusion of the core argument in PFA means, and thus it is not possible to rationally evaluate the core argument of Feser’s PFA.
 
THE GENERAL UNCLARITY OF FESER’S PFA
This lack of clarity is not confined to just the key phrase “homosexual acts”.  There are other key phrases in Feser’s PFA that he also FAILS to DEFINE or to CLARIFY:

The phrases in bold red font appear in Feser’s summary of the PFA, and the other terms and phrases in blue font are closely related terms that appear in the article.  There are a total of 73 instances of these terms and phrases in the article, and as you can see from the chart above there are ZERO DEFINITIONS of these terms, and ZERO attempts to provide CLARIFICATIONS of these terms by Feser.
Although the phrase “sexual faculties” does not appear in the conclusion of Feser’s PFA, nor in the conclusion of the core argument in PFA, it does appear in three out of the six premises of his PFA, and is clearly a key concept in the argument:

 
I don’t know what Feser means by the key phrase “homosexual acts”, nor do I know what Feser means by the other key terms and phrases in his PFA.  So, it is NOT possible for me to rationally evaluate this argument.   CLARITY is a gateway standard of Critical Thinking.  If a statement is UNCLEAR, then one literally does not know what that statement MEANS, and one cannot rationally evaluate a statement when one does not know what that statement means.

 
CONCLUSION
Feser’s PFA is just as UNCLEAR as the PFA presented by Timothy Hsiao.  In both cases we are dealing with a PSEUDO argument, something that looks and sounds like an argument, but that is composed of UNCLEAR statements which cannot be rationally evaluated, and thus neither “argument” is an actual argument, because an argument consists of CLAIMS, statements that are clear enough to be understood and to be rationally evaluated.
According to Feser his article in Neo-Scholastic Essays defending his version of the Perverted Faculty Argument is the “most detailed and systematic treatment of sexual morality” he has ever written, but that article is a pathetic piece of intellectual garbage that presents us with a PSEUDO argument that only pretends to be an actual argument.

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 2: “Witnesses”

THE “WITNESSES” OBJECTIONS
In his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA) the first three objections that Peter Kreeft raises against the Hallucination Theory are all about “witnesses”:

Objection #1:  There were too many witnesses(HCA, p.186, emphasis added)

Objection #2: The witnesses were qualified. (HCA, p. 187, emphasis added)

Objection #3: The five hundred [eyewitnesses] saw Christ together at the same time and place. (HCA, p.187 emphasis added)

Before we examine these three objections, I think it would be helpful to do something that Kreeft FAILED TO DO: get a clear idea of the meanings of the key terms “witnesses” and “eyewitnesses”.

Heinrich Buscher as a witness during the Nuremberg Trials.

 
WHAT IS A “WITNESS”?
Here is how my American Heritage College Dictionary (4th edition) defines “witness”:

witness…n.
1a. One who can give a firsthand account of something.
1b. One who furnishes evidence.
2. Something that serves as evidence; a sign.
3. Law a. One who is called on to testify before a court.
3b. One who is called on to attest to what takes place at a transaction.
3c. One who signs one’s name to a document to attest to its authenticity.
4. An attestation to a fact, statement, or event; testimony.
5a. One who publically affirms religious faith.
5b. Witness A member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The first couple of definitions appear to be relevant, so I will keep those in mind.
Kreeft is clearly talking about people, so definition 2 (about “Something”) does not apply here.
Kreeft is not talking about people who “testify before a court”.   However, people can “testify” in other less-formal circumstances too (e.g. to a police officer or detective who is investigating a crime, or to a group of people engaged in an inquiry that is not part of a legal or courtroom process.)  So, I will keep definition 3a for now, with the understanding that it could be stretched beyond a legal or courtroom setting.
The appearances of a risen Jesus are not “transactions”, so definition 3b does not apply here.
Kreeft is not talking about people signing any documents, so definition 3c does not apply here.
Although “attestation” is not a person, it is something that people do, and such attestation seems relevant to what Kreeft is talking about here, so I will keep definition 4 in play.
Although a Christian believer who publically affirmed the religious belief that “Jesus rose from the dead” would constitute a “witness” according to definition 5a, such a “witness” would provide no help to Kreeft’s case for the resurrection or against the Hallucination Theory UNLESS that person could also provide an account of having personally SEEN a risen Jesus.  So, simply affirming the religious belief that “Jesus rose from the dead” does not count as the sort of “witness” that Kreeft is talking about in these first three objections.  Definition 5a does not apply here.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are a modern religious phenomenon, and so definition 5b has nothing to do with the “witnesses” that Kreeft is talking about, who are all people who (allegedly) lived in the first century C.E.  We can toss aside definition 5b.
Here are the remaining definitions of “witness” that might help us clarify what Kreeft means by the term “witnesses”:

1a. One who can give a firsthand account of something.
1b. One who furnishes evidence.
3a. One who is called on to testify before a court [or to a person or group who is investigating something].
4. An attestation to a fact, statement, or event; testimony.

There is an interesting and important difference between definition 1a and definition 1b.  “One who can” give a firsthand account of X might, nevertheless, NOT give a firsthand account of X, just as “One who can” beat his elderly mother to death might NOT want to do so, and thus might well NOT beat his elderly mother to death.  The fact that person A can do X does not imply that person A has done X, nor does it imply that person A will do X.  Thus, someone who is a “witness” in accordance with definition 1a might not ever have given a firsthand account of the event in question.
Compare that definition with definition 1b.  One who “furnishes evidence” by giving an account of an event must necessarily give an account of the event.  So, if we are talking about someone “giving a firsthand account” of some event, then definition 1a includes people who CAN do this (including people who DO NOT actually do so), while definition 1b only includes people who ACTUALLY give a firsthand account of the event.  So, there is a BIG difference between definition 1a and definition 1b.  Because Kreeft never bothers to clarify the meaning of the term “witnesses”, he FAILS to make it clear which of these two sorts of “witnesses” he is talking about.
Both definition 3a and definition 4 make reference to “testimony”.  Definition 3a speaks of someone being called on “to testify”, and definition 4 speaks of an “attestation”, and puts the word “testimony” forward as a synonym.  Also note that definition 3a has the same hypothetical character as definition 1a: someone “who is called on to testify” might, nevertheless, decide NOT to testify, or they could die or become mentally incapacitated before they get the chance to testify.  The fact that person A has been “called on to testify” on matter X does not imply that person A has in fact testified on matter X, nor does it imply that person A will testify on matter X.  Being “called on to testify” about some event does NOT mean that the person in question has or will ever testify about the event.
Compare that with definition 4 which talks about an “attestation to a fact, statement, or event”.  If there is “attestation” to an event, then someone necessarily has already testified about that event.  If there is “testimony” about an event, then someone necessarily has already testified about that event.
Thus, the contrast between definition 1a and definition 1b is similar to the contrast between definition 3a and definition 4.  In both cases, the difference is between potentially giving a “firsthand account” (or “testimony”) and actually giving a “firsthand account” (or “testimony”).
There is another interesting and important difference between definition 1a and definition 1b.  While definition 1a talks about a kind of ACTIVITY (i.e. giving a firsthand account of something), definition 1b talks about a PURPOSE for that activity (i.e. furnishing evidence–by giving a firsthand account of something).  So, both definitions leave something outDefinition 1a leaves out a specification of the PURPOSE of giving a firsthand account of some event, and definition 1b leaves out a specification of the sort of ACTIVITY by which the purpose of furnishing evidence is accomplished.
One could give a firsthand account of an event for the PURPOSE of entertaining people.  People like to tell stories about events they have personally experienced.  When one tells such a story, one is giving a firsthand account of the event, but the PURPOSE of giving that account is NOT to furnish evidence to the audience who is listening to that account.  But entertaining people with a story about an event that one personally experienced does NOT make one into a “witness”.  To be a witness, one must have a particular PURPOSE for giving a firsthand account, namely: furnishing evidence.  I, therefore, recommend that these two elements be combined to provide a fuller definition of “witness”:

6. One who furnishes evidence by giving a firsthand account of something. 

But we must still keep in mind the important distinction between someone POTENTIALLY doing this, and someone ACTUALLY doing this, so I will divide my proposed definition into two alternative definitions:

6a. One who can potentially furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.

6b. One who actually furnishes evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.  

There is a third important distinction that is suggested by the definition 1a.  The phrase “a firsthand account” suggests that there could also be “a secondhand account” or a “thirdhand account” of an event.  In our legal system, there are significant constraints on “hearsay” testimony.  A person who is called on “to testify before a court” is usually a person who is believed to have been present during a relevant event and who observed or experienced that event.  Such a “witness” can furnish evidence by giving a “firsthand account” of that event.  But there are exceptions to this general rule, so in some instances, a “witness” can be called upon to provide “hearsay” testimony, an account of what someone else said about an event:

Hearsay evidence, in a legal forum, is testimony from a witness under oath who is reciting an out-of-court statement, content of which is being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. In most courts, hearsay evidence is inadmissible (the “hearsay evidence rule”) unless an exception to the hearsay rule applies.

For example, to prove that Tom was in town, a witness testifies, “Susan told me that Tom was in town.” Since the witness’s evidence relies on an out-of-court statement that Susan made, if Susan is unavailable for cross-examination, the answer is hearsay. A justification for the objection is that the person who made the statement is not in court and thus is insulated from cross-examination.  (from the article Hearsay in Wikipedia)

Although there may be some exceptions to the general rejection of hearsay evidence from a witness, hearsay evidence is a weak and substandard sort of evidence.  There can be a “witness” who furnishes evidence by giving a SECONDHAND account of something; however, such witnesses will not help Kreeft make his case for the resurrection of Jesus, because in order to show that a miracle has occurred, one needs to provide strong and solid evidence, and a witness who gives only a SECONDHAND or THIRDHAND account of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus will not be furnishing the strong and solid kind of evidence that is required to prove a miracle.  Although the term “witness” can in some cases be applied to a person who gives a SECONHAND account of an event, this use of the term “witness” does not apply to Kreeft’s attempt to prove the resurrection of Jesus.  Therefore, we can use definition 6a and definition 6b as potential interpretations of Kreeft’s use of the term “witness” even though those definitions exclude people who give only a SECONDHAND account of an event.
What about definition 3a and definition 4?  Both of those definitions focus on testimony.   Definition 3a talks about testifying “before a court”, but I pointed out that less formal and even non-legal situations can involve a “witness” who “testifies” about his or her experience of an event.  So, being a “witness” in a court trial is a paradigm case of a “witness” who “testifies” about an event, but these words are used beyond that particular sort of situation.  Definition 4 is very close to definition 3a, but definition 3a talks about “One” who is called to testify, whereas definition 4 talks about “testimony” which is basically the content or information provided by a “witness” who “testifies” either in a courtroom or in a more informal setting.  Because the term “witness” as used by Kreeft refers primarily to PEOPLE, definition 3a is better than definition 4 for interpreting what Kreeft means, and since definition 3a captures the idea of “testimony” in terms of the action “to testify”, it is reasonable to set definition 4 aside.
I think we may also set aside definition 3a, because the action “to testify” is already captured in my proposed definitions.  To “furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of something” is “to testify”.  So, definition 3a is redundant in relation to definition 6a and definition 6b.  So, it seems to me that we have two clear and useful definitions of “witness” that are sufficient to help us clarify the key concept of “witness” in Kreeft’s first three objections:

6a. One who can potentially furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.

6b. One who actually furnishes evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.  

 
WHAT IS AN “EYEWITNESS”?
According to my American Heritage Dictionary, an “eyewitness” is:

A person who has seen someone or something and can bear witness to the fact.

This seems a bit too narrow.  A blind person, for example, can be an “eyewitness”, even though a blind person cannot SEE someone or SEE something.  A blind person can HEAR someone or HEAR something, and can “bear witness to the fact” about what he or she heard.  Although seeing someone or something might provide more detailed information than hearing that someone or hearing that something, sometimes the words a person says or the sounds a person makes on a particular occasion are very important information for a criminal trial, and a blind person can have firsthand knowledge or information about such sounds.
The point here is that seeing someone or something is a kind of firsthand experience that provides a good amount of detailed information about that person or thing at the time when they were being seen.  But there are other senses besides vision that can provide firsthand experiences of people, things, and events.  So, I suggest revising this definition to make it a bit broader:

A person who has on a particular occasion seen, or had some firsthand sensory experience of, someone or something and can bear witness to what he or she experienced on that occasion.

Given that this is a clear and accurate definition of the term “eyewitness”,  the term “eyewitness” means basically the same as “witness” in the senses that I have defined above.   Remember, definition 6a and definition 6b both require that a “witness” give (or be able to give) a “firsthand account of something”, so in order to be a “witness” in the senses I have defined, one MUST be an “eyewitness”, one MUST be able to give a “firsthand account” of something.
 
CONCLUSION
As we examine Peter Kreeft’s first three objections against the Hallucination Theory, it will probably be useful to keep in mind the following two alternative definitions of the term “witness”:

6a. One who can potentially furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.

6b. One who actually furnishes evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.  

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 1: Kreeft’s Case for the Resurrection

MCDOWELL’S CASE AGAINST THE HALLUCINATION THEORY
I recently examined Josh McDowell’s case against the Hallucination Theory in his book The Resurrection Factor (hereafter: TRF), and I showed that each one of the seven objections that McDowell raised against this skeptical theory FAILS, and thus that his case for the resurrection of Jesus also FAILS.
The Hallucination Theory is the view that one or more of the disciples of Jesus had a hallucination (or dream or some sort of false or distorted experience) that seemed to be an experience of a physical living Jesus, an experience that took place sometime after Jesus had died on the cross.  This theory also asserts that this experience had by one or more disciples led to the mistaken but sincere conviction that Jesus had risen from the dead, and to the preaching of this belief by some of Jesus’ disciples in the first century, not long after Jesus was crucified.
In the most recent version of his book Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2017, co-authored with his son Sean; hereafter: EDV), McDowell appears to largely abandon his previous case against the Hallucination Theory and instead points us to Peter Kreeft’s case against this theory (see EDV pages 291-292).
However, Kreeft’s case in his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (1994; hereafter: HCA) has thirteen objections against the Hallucination Theory, many of which seem very similar to McDowell’s seven objections in The Resurrection Factor.  Since the first publication of TRF was in 1981 and HCA was published in 1994, it seems likely that McDowell’s objections in TRF strongly influenced Kreeft’s objections in HCA.  McDowell also presented a similar list of six objections against the Hallucination Theory in an early version of EDV, which was published in 1979 (see EDV pages 247-255).  Since Kreeft appears to have borrowed heavily from McDowell on this subject, Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory is probably not much different than McDowell’s case against it.
 
KREEFT’S CASE FOR THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS
The logic of Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus is given in Chapter 8 of HCA.

Dr. Peter Kreeft believes there are only five possible theories about the alleged resurrection of Jesus, and the Hallucination Theory is one of those theories:



In Chapter 8 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (co-authored with Ronald Tacelli), Peter Kreeft attempts to disprove the Hallucination Theory, as part of an elimination-of-alternatives argument for the resurrection of Jesus.  Kreeft thinks that by disproving four skeptical theories, he can show that the Christian theory is true, that Jesus actually rose from the dead:

The question is this: Which theory about what really happened in Jerusalem on that first Easter Sunday can account for the data?

There are only five possible theories: Christianity, hallucination, myth, conspiracy and swoon.

[…]

Thus either (1) the resurrection really happened, (2) the apostles were deceived by a hallucination, (3) the apostles created a myth, not meaning it literally, (4) the apostles were deceivers who conspired to foist on the world the most famous and successful lie in history, or (5) Jesus only swooned and was resuscitated, not resurrected.

[…]

If we can refute all other theories (2-5), we will have proved the truth of the resurrection (1).

(HCA, p.182)

If Kreeft FAILS to disprove the Hallucination Theory, like McDowell FAILED to disprove it, then Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus also FAILS.
 
KREEFT’S CASE SMELLS LIKE FAILURE
Because Kreeft’s objections against the Hallucination Theory are very similar to the objections raised by McDowell, I strongly suspect that all thirteen of these objections will FAIL, just like all seven of McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory FAILED.  But Kreeft’s objections are not identical to the seven objections raised by McDowell, and McDowell apparently believes that Kreeft has done a better job of making a case against the Hallucination Theory than he had previously done, so perhaps some of Kreeft’s objections are strong and solid, in spite of their being inspired by McDowell’s pathetic objections.
It is not merely the fact that Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory seems to be based largely on McDowell’s FAILED case against that skeptical theory that leads me to believe Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory will FAIL.  I suspect that Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory will FAIL, because Kreeft’s case against the Swoon Theory FAILED completely and because Kreeft’s case against the Conspiracy Theory FAILED completely.   Kreeft has already demonstrated that he has no intellectual ability to distinguish between a strong and solid objection to a theory and a weak and faulty objection and that he is capable of presenting collections of several objections all of which are weak or illogical or dubious.
Furthermore, a brief glance at Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory reveals that it suffers from the same basic problems as McDowell’s case. First, it is ridiculously short.  Kreeft presents his thirteen objections in less than two (full) pages of text (see HCA, p.186-188).  This results in two major intellectual problems:

(1) empirical claims about the nature of hallucinations are often UNCLEAR and are NOT supported with appropriate scientific evidence and scientific reasoning, and

(2) historical claims about Jesus and his disciples are often UNCLEAR and are NOT supported with appropriate historical evidence and historical reasoning

McDowell and Kreeft both generally make many factual claims and assumptions, and they almost never back them up with appropriate evidence and reasoning, even when those claims are crucial to their case.
 
FIVE SETS OF OBJECTIONS
Kreeft actually presents fourteen objections against the Hallucination Theory (although his own numbering of the objections ends at Objection #13).  I have divided those objections into five groups, based on key problems or aspects of the objections:

I. The “Witnesses” Objections (Objection #1, #2, and #3)

II.  The Equivocation Objections  (Objection #4 and #5)

III. The Dubious-Hallucination-Principles Objections (Objection #6, #8, #9, and #10)

IV. The Self-Defeating Objections (Objection #7 and #14)

V. The Empty-Tomb Objections (Objection #11, #12, and #13)

Having examined these fourteen objections against the Hallucination Theory, I am now convinced that they all FAIL to refute that skeptical theory, and that Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory FAILS, and thus that his case for the resurrection of Jesus FAILS.  For the remaining posts in this series I will work my way through the five groups of objections, and will argue that each of the fourteen objections FAILS.

bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 13: False Claims and Assumptions in Leviticus

WHERE WE ARE
One important reason for rejecting the view that Leviticus was inspired by God is that this book contains several FALSE claims and assumptions.  I have already argued that Leviticus contains FALSE historical claims and assumptions and that it also contains logical contradictions, so I have already shown that Leviticus contains FALSE claims and assumptions:

  • In Part 8 of this series, I presented some general points in support of my fourth reason for doubting the inspiration and authority of the book of Leviticus:

4. Leviticus is NOT an historically reliable account of actual events.

  • In Part 9 of this series, I presented a number of examples of contradictions between Leviticus and other books in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) to provide additional evidence in support of this fourth reason.  There are dozens of contradictions between Leviticus and the other books in the Torah.  Nearly all of these contradictions cast doubt on the historical reliability of the book of Leviticus and also cast doubt on the historicity of the books of the Torah in general.  If the book of Leviticus is historically UNRELIABLE or if it contains a number of false or dubious historical claims and assumptions, then we can draw two conclusions: (1) we cannot rely on Leviticus to present accurate information about what Jehovah communicated to Moses (even if Jehovah actually existed and if Moses was an actual person), and (2) Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.  Both conclusions are good reasons to reject using the content of Leviticus as a basis for the moral condemnation of homosexual sex.
  • In Part 10 of this series, I gave examples of internal contradictions in the book of Leviticus, which shows that half of those claims or assumptions are FALSE.

 
SCIENTIFIC ERRORS IN GENESIS AND LEVITICUS
The book of Genesis contains several scientific errors.  It is a book that discusses the origins of the universe, the sun and the moon, the planet Earth, plant and animal life on Earth, human life, and the origin of human languages, the origin of death, and the origin of rainbows.  This is all bullshit invented by ignorant pre-scientific goat herders a few thousand years ago.  But Leviticus does not discuss the origins of anything (except the origin of the nation of Israel, and what it says about that are FALSE historical claims).
Leviticus is primarily a book of laws, rules, commands, and instructions for the performance of various religious rituals.  So, there is not much in the way of scientific claims or assumptions in the book of Leviticus. Nevertheless, in addition to making FALSE historical claims and assumptions, and in addition to asserting some logical contradictions, the book of Leviticus does contain a few scientific errors in Chapter 11, and these scientific errors provide further evidence that Leviticus was NOT inspired by an all-knowing and perfectly truthful deity:
1. Rock Badgers Chew The Cud (FALSE).

5 The rock badger, for even though it chews the cud, it does not have divided hoofs; it is unclean for you. (Leviticus 11:5, NRSV)

2. Hares Chew The Cud (FALSE).

6 The hare, for even though it chews the cud, it does not have divided hoofs; it is unclean for you. (Leviticus 11:6, NRSV)

“chews the cud” means that the animal regurgitates food from its stomach back into its mouth and then chews on that food some more before swallowing it again. See this post: “On Rabbits and Rumination – A Response to Christian Interpretations of Leviticus 11:5-6“. Rock badgers and hares do NOT regurgitate food from their stomachs and then chew on that food some more before swallowing it again.

Young Hare, a watercolour, 1502, by Albrecht Dürer

3. Bats are Birds (FALSE).

13 These you shall regard as detestable among the birds. They shall not be eaten; they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the osprey,  14 the buzzard, the kite of any kind;  15 every raven of any kind;  16 the ostrich, the nighthawk, the sea gull, the hawk of any kind;  17 the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl,  18 the water hen, the desert owl, the carrion vulture,  19 the stork, the heron of any kind, the hoopoe, and the bat. (Leviticus 11:13-19, NRSV)

An all-knowing deity would know that bats are mammals and that birds are NOT mammals, and thus would know that bats are NOT birds.
4. Some Insects have four legs and four feet (FALSE).

20 All winged insects that walk upon all fours are detestable to you.  23 But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you. (Leviticus 11:20 & 23, NRSV)

5. Locusts, Crickets, and Grasshoppers have four legs and four feet (FALSE).

21 But among the winged insects that walk on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to leap on the ground. 22 Of them you may eat: the locust according to its kind, the bald locust according to its kind, the cricket according to its kind, and the grasshopper according to its kind.  23 But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you.  (Leviticus 11:21-23, NRSV)

Insects, including locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers have three pairs of legs.

 
CONCLUSION
My Reason #7 for rejecting the view that Leviticus was inspired by God is this:

7. Leviticus contains false information.

I have shown that Leviticus makes FALSE historical claims or assumptions and that it contains some logical contradictions (implying that half of those claims are FALSE), and that it also contains a few scientific errors or FALSE scientific claims or assumptions.  Therefore, we have good reason to believe that Reason #7 is TRUE and that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.

bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 12: What is Potentiality?

WHERE WE ARE
In his book Philosophy of Religion  (hereafter: POR), Norman Geisler provides an argument in support of the second premise of his Thomist Cosmological Argument (see pages 194-197).  Here is my understanding of the argument that Geisler gives in support of that premise:

52. But no potentiality can actualize itself.

THEREFORE:

53a. There is some actuality outside of every composed thing to account for the fact that it actually exists.

 51a. Every limited changing thing is composed of both an actuality (its existence) and a potentiality (its essence).

THEREFORE:

L1. There is some actuality outside of every limited changing thing to account for the fact that it actually exists.

THEREFORE:

2b. The present existence of every limited, changing thing is caused by another thing.

Before we can evaluate this part of Geisler’s argument, we must first have a clear understanding of what these claims mean.
 
CLARIFICATIONS NEEDED TO UNDERSTAND GEISLER’S ARGUMENT FOR THE 2ND PREMISE
This part of the argument is clearly steeped in concepts from Thomistic metaphysics.  If Thomistic metaphysics is fundamentally mistaken or confused, then this part of the argument is likely to fail under close examination.  If Thomistic metaphysics is fundamentally correct and logical, then this part of the argument is likely to be successful.
In any case, this part of the argument is UNCLEAR apart from careful and clear definitions and explanations of some basic concepts of Thomistic metaphysics.  The main question at issue for now is this:
Q1. Does Geisler provide us with clear definitions and explanations of the basic concepts that he makes use of in this part of his argument?
Premise (52), for example, MAKES NO SENSE, at least as it stands, apart from an explanation of Thomist metaphysics.  So, our main question at issue can be focused further:
Q2. Does Geisler provide us with clear definitions and explanations of the basic concepts in premise (52), so that we can have a clear understanding of what this premise is asserting?
Premise (52) consists of two main concepts, and so Geisler needs to provide clear answers to at least two questions of clarification:
Q3. What is a “potentiality”?
Q4. What does “X actualized Y” mean?
Furthermore, it is NOT obvious that (52) is TRUE, so Geisler also needs to provide some justification for this claim:
Q5. Why is it not possible for a “potentiality” to “actualize itself”?
 
WHAT IS A “POTENTIALITY”? (QUESTION 3)
Here is a passage where Geisler attempts to clarify the concept of a “potentiality” and attempts to answer Question 3:

Geisler states that a “potential” is “the mere capacity to have a certain kind of existence.”  That is a crappy definition. What the hell is “a certain kind of existence”?  How many kinds of existence are there?  Something either exists or it does not exist.  Do some things have SUPER existence? Do some things only have QUASI existence?  Do some things have MEGA-DOUBLE-SECRET existence? Talk about kinds of existence sounds like WOO-WOO pseudo-science bullshit.
However, Geisler does then go on to provide some specific examples, and that might help to clarify what the hell he means by the manifestly UNCLEAR phrase “a certain kind of existence”.   Geisler talks about “the potential for steel to be a skyscraper” and “the real potential” of an “empty bucket” to “be filled”.  So, steel has the potential to either be girders stacked into pile on the ground, or to be assembled together as the framework of a skyscraper.  A bucket has the potential to either be empty or to be filled with water.
We would NOT normally speak of these potential states as being “kinds of existence”, so the Thomistic terminology here is foreign to how we ordinarily talk about such things and states of things.  Steel has the potential to be used as the framework of a building, and buckets have the potential to contain water (and other liquids).  Air, at ordinary temperatures and pressures, does NOT have the potential to be used as the framework of a building, and (as Geisler points out) the flat surface of a desk top does NOT have the potential to contain water (or other liquids), at least not in any sizeable quantity (You could spray a mist of water onto the surface of a desk top, and the water would remain in place for an hour or more until it evaporated. But this would be a very inefficient way to transport water from one location to another!).

By some measures, what came to be known as a “skyscraper” first appeared in Chicago with the 1885 completion of the world’s first largely steel-frame structure, the Home Insurance Building. It was demolished in 1931.

But a particular steel girder either exists or it does not exist.  It’s “kind” of existence doesn’t change when it is moved from a pile of girders and assembled into the framework of a new building.  It existed in the pile, and it continues to exist in the framework of the new building; it does NOT take on some new “kind” of existence in this process.  The bucket exists when it is empty, and it continues to exist when it is filled with water; it does NOT take on some new “kind” of existence when filled with water.  So, when Geisler defines “A potential” in terms of the capacity “to have a certain kind of existence”, he is just muddying the water and failing miserably to clarify the meaning of this term.
It appears that there are not degrees of existence, and this casts doubt on the whole idea of “kinds of existence”.  However, the “potential” to be used in the construction of the framework of a skyscraper does appear to be a matter of degree.  Air clearly does not have the “potential” to be used as the primary material for constructing the framework of a skyscraper, nor does liquid water have such a “potential”.  But if water is frozen into large columns and bars, it could be used to construct a temporary framework for a one-story building.
Ice would, however, melt in warm temperatures, so it would be a poor choice to use it in the structure of even a small building (except for igloos in areas that stay freezing cold year round).  Ice also is not as strong as wood 2x4s.  You can use wood to construct the framework of a two or three-story building, and it would be sturdy and stable, in both cold and warm weather.  But wood  2x4s are not as strong as steel girders, so wood 2x4s would not work for construction of the framework of a skyscraper.  We can see that there are different degrees of suitability of materials for construction of the framework of a skyscraper:

Air & Liquid Water:  useless for constructing a framework for any building.

Frozen Water:  can be used to construct a framework, but not strong enough to support multiple stories, and melts in warm weather (over 32°F).

Wood 2x4s: can be used to construct a framework that is strong enough to support a few stories, doesn’t melt in warm weather, burns up at high temperatures (over 570°F), but is not strong enough to support dozens of stories.

Steel Girders:  strong enough to be used to construct frameworks for buildings with dozens of stories, will not melt in warm weather (steel melts at 2,500°F), and does not burn up at temperatures where wood burns up (steel burns at 1,500°F in pure oxygen, and at 2,246°F in air).

The suitability of a material for use in constructing the framework of a building is a matter of degrees, because (a) there are different degrees of strength, and there are different degrees of susceptibility to melting, and  different degrees of susceptibility to burning.  Thus, there are different degrees of “potential” of different materials for use in construction of the framework of a building, and of a skyscraper.
The “potential” of something to be used for a particular purpose is typically a matter of degrees and typically is a matter of more than one criterion.  Some things or materials might be completely unsuitable, while some things/materials are somewhat suitable, and some things/materials are very suitable or ideal for the purpose at hand.  The “potential” of something to be used for a particular purpose depends on the properties or characteristics of that thing that are relevant to the particular purpose under consideration.
Steel girders have “great potential” for use in construction of the frameworks of skyscrapers because they are very strong (stronger than wood 2x4s), because they don’t melt in ordinary temperatures, and don’t burn, except at extremely high temperatures.  These various properties or characteristics of steel girders are what make steel girders very suitable for this particular purpose; they are what give steel girders this “great potential” related to the purpose of use in construction of the frameworks of skyscrapers.
Here is an summary (in more abstract terms) of how we understand the idea of the “potential” of a steel girder to be used in the construction of the framework of a skyscraper:

The “potential” of thing T to perform function F depends on various properties of T that are relevant to how well it can perform function F

How do we determine whether thing T has the “potential” to perform function F well?

  • One obvious way of making this determination is to observe T performing function F, and evaluating how well it is performing that function.
  • Another way of making this determination is by making inductive inferences about T based on how well other things that are SIMILAR to T perform function F.   We might observe many wood 2x4s in the frameworks of many different buildings, and based on many such observations, we may reasonably infer that some particular 2×4 is well-suited for use in the construction of a framework for a two-story house or apartment building, and based on many such observations we may reasonably infer that some particular wood 2×4 is NOT suitable for use in the construction of the framework for a 40 story office building.
  • A third way of making this determination is on the basis of relevant properties, such as strength in the case of materials for use in constructing the framework of a building.  Strength tests could be made on a particular 2×4 to determine whether it was strong enough for the intended framework that is to be constructed.
  • A fourth way of making this determination is on the basis of relevant properties of things that are SIMILAR to the particular thing in question.  Strength tests can impact the thing being tested (the test itself can break or weaken the thing), so we might run tests on things that are very SIMILAR to the particular thing in question.  We might run tests on a random sample of 2x4s from a particular source of lumber, and if 100% of the samples pass the test, we might reasonably infer that other 2x4s from that source of lumber are also strong enough to pass the test, and thus suitable for use in construction of a framework for a specific building.

So, we can either (a) observe the particular thing performing the desired function, or (b) we can observe SIMILAR things performing the desired function, or (c) we can check or test the particular thing for the relevant properties that make it suitable for that function, or (d) we can check or test SIMILAR things for the relevant properties that would make them suitable for that function.  There may be other ways to determine the “potential” of a thing T to perform a function F well, but these are some of the important ways we have of making such determinations.
 
POTENTIAL VS. POSSIBLE VS. ACTUAL
There are three closely related concepts that I think we need to understand in order to have a clear understanding of what the term “potential” means in the context of Geisler’s Thomistic Cosmological Argument: potential, possible, and actual.  I think we need to understand how these concepts relate to each other.
In Aristotle’s theory of change, whenever any change occurs some potential has been actualized.  When a green banana turns into a yellow banana, we say that the green banana had the “potential” to become a yellow banana.  We KNOW that this particular green banana had this potential because we observed that it actually became a yellow banana.  In other words, when a property of a thing ACTUALLY changes, we infer that the thing had the POTENTIAL to have the new property.  The banana was ACTUALLY green, and had the POTENTIAL to become yellow, and then at some point it was ACTUALLY yellow, and no longer green.  The change in color of the banana was a POTENTIAL that became ACTUAL.
Because this banana is now ACTUALLY yellow, we know that is is POSSIBLE for this banana to be yellow, because what is ACTUAL is necessarily logically possible. But does having the POTENTIAL to be yellow the same thing as it being logically possible to be yellow?  I know that Ed Feser rejects equating these two concepts.  But I’m not sure whether Geisler distinguishes these two concepts.
One important difference, it seems to me, is that the POTENTIAL to be yellow ceases to exist when the thing in question is ACTUALLY yellow.  But the logical possibility of being yellow does NOT cease to exist when the thing in question is ACTUALLY yellow.  When the banana turns yellow, it no longer has the POTENTIAL to be yellow, and it is ACTUALLY yellow.  But we infer that it HAD the potential to be yellow previously, when it was still completely green.  In the case of logical possibility, when the banana turns yellow, it is still logically possible for that banana to be yellow, even while it is ACTUALLY yellow.  We infer not only that this was logically possible when the banana was completely green, but that it is still logically possible now that the banana is completely yellow.
Having the POTENTIAL to be yellow is a kind of physical possibility for the green banana.  We know from many experiences with green bananas that they often turn yellow over a period of days.  The chemical and biological nature of bananas makes it so that they tend to turn yellow as they age.  So, a banana turning from green to yellow is NOT merely a logical possibility, it is a tendency of (some varieties of) bananas to go from green to yellow over a matter of days after being picked.  This tendency is based on the chemical and biological nature or composition of bananas.   It is logically possible for a green lime to turn yellow a few days after being picked, but limes don’t tend to do this.  The mere logical possibility of some change in properties is NOT sufficient to bring about that change.  Limes don’t have the POTENTIAL to turn yellow in a matter of days after being picked, but they do have the logical possibility of turning yellow days after being picked.  Bananas have the POTENTIAL to turn yellow in a matter of days after being picked, because they have a nature or composition that gives them a tendency to do so.  This tendency to turn yellow in a matter of days is MORE THAN just a logical possibility for a banana, it is something more like a physical possibility for bananas to turn yellow.
Does an ACTUAL change in property logically imply that a thing had MORE THAN just a logical possibility of undergoing that change? Some changes are random and extremely rare.  According to quantum physics, it is possible for all of the air molecules in a room to quickly move to one small area in the corner of the room, causing any people or animals in the room to asphyxiate.  But this possibility is so extremely unlikely, so extraordinarily improbable, that we can safely assume this will never actually happen.  Since the laws of chemistry and physics are based upon such extreme improbabilities, it is logically possible for a law of chemistry or physics to be broken.  I take it that this means that an ACTUAL violation of a supposed law of physics is logically consistent with that law being a true law of physics.
 
TO BE CONTINUED…
In the next post on this topic, I will try t clarify the meaning of Geisler’s term “X actualized Y” (Question 4), and look into why he thinks it is not possible for a “potentiality” to “actualize itself” (Question 5).
P.S.  I hope that when I get around to examining Feser’s Thomist Cosmological Argument, that Feser will make more of an effort than Geisler to define and/or clarify the basic concepts in his argument.  The fact that Geisler makes so little effort to define or clarify his most basic terms leads me to suspect that he himself is UNCLEAR about the meaning of those basic terms, and that he literally does not know what he is talking about.